Straight A Haters


It’s a big problem in our culture.

We want to be big and strong but we don’t want to work out and eat right.

We want nice food and smart phones but we don’t want a job to pay for them.

“No problem,” says a significant number of influential leaders in our culture. “We’ll just level the playing field.”

Leveling the playing field never means encouraging people to work harder. It usually means rewarding people for the hard work that someone else has done.

Such was the case at a Maryland middle school where school administrators organized a pizza party and dance for straight A students. It sounds simple enough. But just to be safe, administrators decided to invite all of the rest of the students, you know, the one’s with a 13 average in PE, to show up near the end of the party after the smart kids ate all the pizza.

That’s where the problem arises.

“Why can’t my precious angel with a 13 average in PE have pizza too?” cried the parents of said underachieving students.

And then the second problem.

A local news station saw fit to make a story out of the parental crying. Apparently there were no apartment fires to report on that day. But this was more than a story, really. It was a commentary or an editorial disguised as a news story. That’s pretty much what all news is today.

Watch the reporter in the clip below as she talks to the straight A students as if they just threw pipe bombs at a nursing home. And then listen to the anchors at the end of the clip as one of them suggests a “special plaque” for all of the rest of the students. A special plaque?

A special plaque!

“John David, don’t forget to turn in your homework from last semester so I can give you your plaque.”

I have to ask again.

A special plaque?!

What’s so special about it, if everybody gets one.

This should have never been on the news. The fact that it was leads us to the moral of our story. It’s a lesson that we must all pay attention to if we want to know at least a little of what is behind our decline as a culture and what we can do to correct it, stop it or at least slow it down.

Here’s the lesson.

100% of all people want something. But only about 50% of those people are willing to work for it. And in the name of leveling the playing field, some in the media and politics are quick to denigrate those willing to work. In the end, one way or another, we all end up paying. All 100% of us.

The Super Bowl And America The Ugly


It was a good Super Bowl.

Nobody got naked. And the lights stayed on.

The game on the other hand was probably the worst one of the season but who watches the Super Bowl for the game? Besides, your team is never in the game anyway. Well, unless you’re one of those bandwagon fans whose two favorite teams just happen to be the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. In that case, congratulations. I guess.

Most people watch the Super Bowl for the spectacle. Even those of us who care about football usually don’t get to really watch the game. It’s too hard to hear what Troy Aikman has to say over the sound of you and 30 of your best friends eating chicken wings.

Then there are the commercials. We all get quiet for the commercials. And then about 30 seconds after each one, we get loud about the commercials. Real loud. Through social media we let the world know which one we thought was funny, which one didn’t deliver and which one was offensive. So in that regard, this year was just like every other Super Bowl.

I missed the Coke commercial where people sang America the Beautiful in different languages. I did not miss the fallout from it.

Allen West called the commercial “disturbing” and said that it was proof that we were, “on the road to perdition.” Someone else wrote something about never drinking another Coke because of that commercial. Yes. It’s true. This just a few days after doctors told us that dark colored soft drinks could cause cancer.

“Coke could give me cancer? Meh. Pass the Big Gulp, please.”

“Coke let somebody sing America the Beautiful in Spanish on one of their commercials? Call the National Guard! And pass a Big Gulp full of Pepsi while you’re at it.”

I get it. Immigration is a big deal in this country. Our border isn’t really a border and that’s a serious problem. A lot of people with bad motives are coming to this country illegally and throwing wrenches into the machine that makes America what it is. Even worse, some of our own politicians are supplying the wrenches and making the rest of us pay for them.

But a broken system is not a legitimate cause for doing away with the system all together. And you know what that system is, right? “Give me your tired, your poor,” and so on. For some of us, our forefathers came here to escape tyranny in their home country. And when they got here, there were already people living here. If we could talk to a Cherokee Indian who lived a couple of hundred years ago, I wonder how he would feel after hearing people sing about how beautiful his land is in some strange tongue called English.

Other forefathers didn’t want to come here at all but the guys running the auctions and the slave ships weren’t too concerned with what they wanted. And today others are still coming here and trying to do it the right way. Just because they want a better life. Because they don’t want their kids growing up in a war zone. Can you blame them?

There is a lot of pain and plenty of blurred lines involved with each family that somehow found its way to this country. But we’re here. Together. And that’s part of what makes America beautiful.

Like when my part Filipino son plays soccer with his Haitian and African teammates and I can’t understand too much of what the parents of those teammates are saying. But we are all there. Different language. Same game. Together.

Or when I share a Thanksgiving meal with my Filipino father-in-law. I always eat mashed potatoes. He’s not interested in that. Rice is his thing. But we’re both there at the table. A white boy from the southern suburbs of Atlanta and a Filipino from Hawaii. Different food. Same table. Together.

Part of America’s beauty, much like other beautiful things in our world, is how it gives you just a small glimpse of what heaven will be like. Not a perfect picture. Not even a complete one. Just a small glimpse. I don’t mean to say that our flag will be flying on the golden streets and that there will be a place for the Statue of Liberty right behind the gates of pearls. It’s deeper than that. It’s people who speak different languages all coming together to sing the same song. Only in heaven, we won’t be singing about America.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-10 (ESV)

When I was a kid, a man told me that there would be no black people in heaven. Black people, he said, were a cursed race and could not inherit God’s gift of eternal life. As I grew I learned that he was wrong. All he was doing was reading his preferences into the Bible instead of allowing the Bible to shape his preferences. Plain and simple, he didn’t want to be in heaven for all eternity with a bunch of black people. Unless that man has experienced some serious heart change in the 30 years since I have spoken to him, I don’t think that he’ll have to worry about being in heaven with anyone.

But that man’s thinking is part of what is behind some of the opposition to Coke’s commercial. We want everyone to be just like us. Whoever us is. And that’s the funny part. If we stop to look around we’ll realize that nobody is like us. That’s part of what makes America so beautiful. Purple mountains and fruited plains aren’t all that pretty when the people are all the same.

There’s a line in America the Beautiful that sticks out to me every time I hear it sung.

“God shed his grace on thee.”

We really need that grace.

We need that grace to remind us of the better home that awaits all of Christ’s people.

And we need it to help us to know how to love God and one another while we wait for that new home.

But for a long time, we’ve been trying to get by without that grace.

And the result has been anything but beautiful.

The Devil’s Dictionary of American Politics

One of the tricky things about our language is that words often have multiple meanings. Take the word dude, for example.

“What’s up, dude?”

Here, dude means fellow or friend.

But the same word can also be an expression of shock or awe.

“Hey, Cheese Puffs aren’t buy one get one free at Kroger anymore.”


Nowhere is the multiple meaning of our words more clear than in American politics. You’ve probably heard it said before that the Devil is in the details. In his book The Devil’s Dictionary of the Christian Faith, Donald Williams elaborates on that saying. “Remember: the definition is what the Devil wishes were true, period, and which is, in fact, true all too often.”

Here’s how the Devil is getting his wish in the language of American politics.

Affordable (adj.): When the government gives you something that neither you or they can afford by forcing a completely different group of people to pay for it thus making it free. Well, free for them at least.

Anarchist (n.): Any individual or organization that has a problem with the federal government spending trillions of dollars to make sure that your flower bed has the proper ratio of weeds to pine straw.

Bipartisan (adj.): When politicians who represent opposing viewpoints come together to really stick it to the American people.

Cut 1 (v., archaic): To decrease the size and spending of government; 2 (v., current): An act of terrorism that would prevent millions of Americans from being provided with much needed smart phones, Curious George cartoons and ridiculous pieces of art placed inside of funny looking library buildings.

Debt (n.): Money that American politicians borrow from other nations or institutions under the assumption that it will be used to help average American citizens. In the rare event that this money is ever returned, it will be at the expense of those same average American citizens. And their children. And their children’s children.

Democrat (n.): A member or supporter of the most compassionate and caring political party that has ever existed.

Extremism (n.): The belief that one should be able to say what he wishes, worship where he wishes, own a firearm and put as much pine straw in his flower garden as he so desires.

Freedom (n.): A citizen’s privilege to choose whether his rights will be taken away by a republican or a democrat.

Gun-Control (n.): The belief that government should use its own evil weapons to take away evil weapons from citizens that is grounded in the assumption that only government agents and American funded international drug lords have enough inherent goodness to overcome the evil of such weapons.

Politician (n.): A person elected to represent a group of citizens by acquiring as much money and power as possible, all for the good of those citizens, of course.

Republican (n.): A derivative from Latin meaning to sell one’s soul and cave in at the last minute.

Sacrifice (n.): A citizen’s patriotic duty of either voluntarily or involuntarily giving up rights so that government can protect him from himself.

Terrorist (n.): A Christian mother of five who drives a mini-van, loves her husband and kids, pays for her own groceries and voted for Ron Paul. Not to be confused with people who use anything at their disposal to do as much harm as possible to the American republic while benefiting themselves. See politician.

Tragedy (n.): A really awesome opportunity for politicians to acquire more power for themselves and take away more rights from citizens by appealing to the emotions or fears of those citizens.

War (n.): The political strategy of making a bad situation worse by talking about it more, “getting tough” on it and spending trillions of dollars on it. Examples include but are not limited to the War on Drugs, the War on Terror and the War on Poverty.

So now, the next time you turn on the news and hear about a bipartisan effort to bring about gun control, you can turn to your friend and say, “Dude! This ain’t good, dude.”

Here I Go Again

“How was school?”


“What about lunch?”


“Recess? Was recess good?”

There was a delay. I always ask my son these questions when I pick him up from school. He always says the same thing.


I have to interrogate for more details. But whenever there is a delay, I know that it’s not good.  On this day, apparently recess wasn’t good.

“It was just okay.”

The interrogation began. Answers came slowly. There was a girl involved.

My son was playing with his friend when the alleged female perpetrator walked up and gave her demand to my son.

“You can’t play with us. Leave.”

I asked him what he did.

“I just left and played something by myself.”

“Did you cry?”


“Were you sad?”


My heart broke. I know that there are lessons to be learned from this but it’s still no fun seeing your son with a crushed spirit. So I tried to lift him up. I told him how this kind of thing will happen to him from time to time. I reminded him that Jesus loves him and that his mom and dad do too. I told him that growing up and being a leader means that there will always be people who criticize you or are mean to you.

He waited politely for me to finish my speech.

“Can you turn it up?”

He wasn’t telling me to talk louder.


“Can you turn it up?”

He was talking about the radio.

It was playing Whitesnake.

Here I Go Again.

Sometimes a boy just needs some Whitesnake to help him deal with the pain of a broken heart.

But that’s never enough.

Most of the time he’s going to need a dad. An annoying dad. A dad that keeps asking questions.

It is those questions and the conversations that they lead to that help to shape him. Without those talks, boys are likely to grow up with bitter, hard hearts towards all girls, always afraid of getting hurt. Even worse, there is the chance of a boy growing up to treat girls as objects. Objects that exist for nothing more than his personal satisfaction. No matter the cost.

Here I Go Again was an appropriate song for my son to hear that day. He’s going to face that kind of rejection again. But it’s my job to guide him through it. It’s my job to remind him that nothing can separate him from the love of Christ. And it’s my job to teach him how to treat girls. Even the ones that reject him.

Eleven years ago, long before I had that conversation with my son, I had another conversation. A conversation with the girl who would one day be his mother. On a Halloween night on the banks of the Mississippi River in New Orleans, I pulled a ring from my pocket and asked her to marry me. There was no rejection. She said yes.

Two months before, I didn’t even know her. A day after I met her I knew that God sent a good thing my way. I pray that he does the same thing for my boys. And I pray that when he does, my boys are ready.

But right now, as young as they are, they are in the preparation phase. They are being shaped. Developed.

Shaped and developed on the way home from school and in a host of other scenarios.

By their father.

With just a little help from Whitesnake.

Jason Collins and the Dangerous Arguments of Time and Love

When Jason Collins went public with his homosexuality earlier this week, it didn’t surprise me. Not because I had some insider information or I always had my doubts about his sexuality. It’s just that anyone with any idea whatsoever about what is going on in our culture knows that an announcement like this was bound to happen. And it’s only a matter of time before more prominent athletes will be making similar announcements.

But what did surprise me was the response to the Collins announcement. It probably shouldn’t have but it did.

In examining the fallout of Jason Collins’ public statement and the controversy surrounding Chris Broussard’s response it seems as though everyone in the media began to fall all over themselves just to prove that the dreaded homophobe label didn’t belong anywhere near them.

In doing so they used two basic defenses. The first one is based on time and the second is based on emotion.

The time argument says, “I have no problem with what goes on in your bedroom. After all, it is 2013.”

This is a very dangerous argument but it is one that is to be expected when we have abandoned established truths like we find in the Bible and replaced them with fluid or relative propositions. It is dangerous because anything that is divorced from a set standard has a way of regressing. What may initially look like freedom turns out to be quite the opposite. Sort of like the kite that has worked its way free from that annoying string.

Human sexuality is no different. Today, with it being 2013 and all, homosexuality is completely acceptable. But in a little while, say maybe five or six years from now, don’t be surprised when you are expected to be tolerant of grown men who are sexually attracted to 12-year-olds. “After all,” we’re sure to be told, “it is 2018.”

The second defense, the emotional one, is equally as dangerous because it arrives at the same point. It says something like, “As long as two people love each other, why should they be kept apart?”

More often than not, love in our culture is synonymous with sex. Do a quick survey of the songs on the radio or ask the average guy on the street to define love and this is where you will end up. Christians with a basic understanding of the Bible see love as self-sacrifice that delights in the good of another. The best example of this is the cross (Romans 5:6-11). A culture, no matter how sincere, that has rejected the cross cannot fully understand or practice love.

And that’s why the love argument, taken to its next logical step, is a dangerous one. The man who really, really loves twelve-year-olds isn’t concerned with self-sacrifice that delights in the good of another. All he wants is sex. And for our culture that’s good enough to be considered love. And who are we to stand in the way of two people who really love each other?

To be clear, Jason Collins is not a pedophile. By all accounts he is a very well-educated and hard working individual who has achieved a level of success that few will ever know. But, as is usually the case, the story is bigger than the headline. Jason Collins is the headline. Our culture’s response is the real story.

And we should all be concerned.

Concerned, not just for what may happen to our nation or the family structure as we know it but for the souls who hang in the balance.

Sadly, for many Christians, their concern has only led them to proclaim that homosexuality is a sin. This is a true statement (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). But it is not the full story.

After listing examples of unrighteous behavior that will keep people from inheriting the kingdom of God, of which homosexuality is one, Paul gives a very clear picture of genuine grace.

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11

Homosexuality is a sin but it is not a sin that is beyond the reach of a loving and forgiving God. Christians do violence to the gospel when they only announce the sin and leave off the opportunity of forgiveness.

As a Church, may we not get too caught up in the media’s response and agenda. Yes, it is dangerous and it is important for us to know how to respond. But we must remember that Jason Collins and others like him are not agendas. They are not news stories. They are people.

And yes, they are sinners.

But that’s exactly who Jesus came to earth and died to set free.

And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them,“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:16-17 (ESV)

Not So Friendly

The dog at the end of my street is friendly.  Well, at least that’s what some kid told me.

I have my doubts.

While the kid was telling me all about animal friendliness, that dog had a look on his face sort of like a young Ozzy Osbourne might have while gazing at a winged creature.  My kid was standing next to me, scared to death.  I told him not to worry because the dog wouldn’t bother him.

Judging by the look on my kid’s face, he had his doubts.

A few days later, my morning run took me by that house.  You know, the one with the friendly dog.  As I ran by, he came out to tell me good morning.  Nice and loud.  He was even kind enough to chase me a little.  On the way back, he wanted to say hello again.  This time he showed me his teeth while saying it with a growl.  But this time, I had a stick.  A really nice stick.  An Old Testament stick.  It helped to keep the dog from being so, well, friendly.

People have a way of hiding the ugly truth.  No one ever says that their dog is an annoying nuisance to society that would be better off if it were shipped to some glue factory.

And the same is true of the human heart.

It’s like we are in a never ending theatrical performance where our job is to convince others, ourselves and even Jesus that we really are just fine.

But Jesus sees through the performance.

One day he sat down with a lady from the wrong side of the tracks.  A lady with a past.  A lady that wanted to keep that past a secret.  A genuine performance artist.

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”  The woman answered him, “I have no husband.”

“I’m just fine, Jesus!  Nothing to see here.  How about some water?”

Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands and the one you now have is not your husband.  What you have said is true.”  John 4:16-18 (ESV)

Jesus could have ended the conversation with that gotcha moment and continued on his way.  In fact, he could have avoided the conversation all together.  But instead he kept talking.

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ).  When he comes, he will tell us all things.”  Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”  John 4:25-26 (ESV)

And then something happened to the woman.  Her theatrical performance had come to an end.

So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did.  Can this be the Christ?”  John 4:28-29 (ESV)

The woman that wanted to hide everything was now celebrating the fact that a man cared enough to look beyond her act.

The beauty of the gospel is that Jesus sees through our performance to the very core of our heart.  Warts and all, as they say.  And he has every right to simply walk away.  But instead, he showed his love for us by laying down his life for our sins.

We never truly appreciate the love of Christ until we grasp the depth of our sin.

People like to say things like, “We are all God’s children” or “God is a friend of us all.”  But nothing could be further from the truth.  These are just lines from the theatrical performance.

Apart from Christ, we are not friendly with God.  We are children of wrath who fight against him.

But in Christ, we are no longer enemies with God.

In Christ, we are God’s children.

In Christ, warts and all, God calls us his friends.

You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.  John 15:14-15 (ESV)

Throwing Up and the Afterlife

Throwing up has a way of making you think that you’re going to die in the next three to seven minutes.

I think that’s why my son wanted to talk to me about heaven yesterday.

He woke up crying in the middle of the night.  I’ll never get used to waking up to that sound.  Nor will I ever get used to seeing my son laying face down in his own vomit like some 1970s rock star.

He was fine.  In fact he was laughing.  But he spent the rest of the day feeling weak and scared that he was going to throw up again.  When I got home from work we played Legos but he couldn’t handle it.  He still didn’t have his strength so he laid on the couch while I played Legos.  That’s normal, right?  Okay, good.

That’s when the questions started coming.

One son was asking questions about monster trucks while my nauseous son was asking questions about heaven.

“Will we wear clothes in heaven?”

“Are monster trucks loud?”

“Do babies go to heaven?”

“Why are monster trucks loud?”

“Who will we see in heaven?”

“Will there be monster trucks in heaven?”

I think that I needed that conversation just as much as my kids did.  Earlier in the day I was thinking about the best way to educate my two sons.  Most of my options involved monthly payments of $4578.23.  I thought about getting a second job as a monster truck driver but changed my mind when I found out that I’d have to grow another mullet.

When we think about the role of a father we typically only think about the responsibility to provide (1 Timothy 5:8).  But this is only part of the job.  Along with providing, fathers are also charged with instructing (Ephesians 6:4).  I once heard a father who did very well on the providing aspect of his job but neglected his role as an instructor make a chilling statement about his rebellious daughter.

“I don’t know where I went wrong.  I gave her everything she ever wanted.”

I think that’s where he went wrong.

It’s easy for fathers to hide in their work, constantly convincing themselves that they are providing for the family.  But the real work of fatherhood is not done in the office, as important as that is.

The real work of fatherhood is done in the living room floor surrounded by Legos and trying to answer theology questions.  It is there that my children learn what it means to live in awe of the glory of God.

And in their own way, that’s a lesson that they are also teaching me.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (ESV)

Church Drama

I met a pastor’s kid last weekend.  Whenever I meet a pastor’s kid, I always pay careful attention to what he has to say seeing as how there are two pastor’s kids living in my home.

The pastor’s kid that I met wasn’t a kid anymore.  He’s all grown up now and to the best of my knowledge he is no longer involved in a church.  That really got my attention.

The now grown pastor’s kid told me that he moved something like 50 times before he got out of his teenage years.  His father had a special calling.  He would look for churches that were either dead or quickly dying and come in to try to lead them in healing and restoration.

I was shocked.

“Man, I’ll bet that you’ve seen your share of church drama.”

The look on his face told me all that I needed to know.  It also explained why he’s not in church now.

I spend a lot of time wondering why it has to be this way.  Why does it have to be a curse for a kid to grow up in a pastor’s home?  There are a lot of answers to that question.  Some pastors neglect their families in pursuit of ministry goals and some pastors place heavy burdens on their children.  But another contributing factor has to be the church drama that the child of a pastor has to witness.  Simply put, sometimes a pastor’s kid can get caught in the crossfire between people who claim to love Jesus but just can’t seem to get along with each other.

In Acts 1, Luke takes the time to list the disciples by name who were gathering in the upper room waiting for the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised.  Among those names are two brothers whom Jesus nicknamed Sons of Thunder.  This is another way of saying that James and John were two tightly wound men who were probably hard to get along with.  There was also Peter who liked to talk a big game about himself.

But the two men on this list who really stick out are Matthew and Simon the Zealot.

Matthew was a tax collector.  Tax collectors in Jesus’ day were hated and considered thieves and traitors.  I know that’s hard to imagine but just stay with me on this.  Simon was a part of a group of people called the Zealots.  This means that if automobiles were invented back then, he would have had a truck with a Don’t Tread On Me sticker on the back.  And yet these two men, along with Peter, the Sons of Thunder and several other large, diverse personalities were in one accord, devoting themselves to prayer (Acts 1:14).

There is a big difference between unity and conformity.  Conformity is when everyone pretty much gets along because they’re all alike.  Unity is when people from different backgrounds can get along because they share a common link.  For the church in Acts, that common link was the resurrected Jesus and the promised Holy Spirit.

Church drama does not happen because too many different personalities from various backgrounds are sharing the same church building.  Instead, it is a direct result of too little Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

One day, a few decades from now, when someone asks my two sons about their childhood, I hope that they answer with a smile as they talk about the joy of growing up in a community of believers who each had their own quirks and personality defects but who shared a common link of a resurrected Savior and an active Holy Spirit.