They Have Seen Better Days

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This afternoon I’ll preach at a Good Friday service. It’s not at the Georgia Dome. No one is selling tickets to it. No Grammy winners will be there. But there’s is a very strong chance that a lot of the people there have been called Grammy a time or two in their lives.

This Good Friday service will be at the nursing home in the community where I live and work. There will be people singing off key. To be fair, I’ll be one of them. There will be people there who can’t hear or see very well. There will be strange requests for strange songs I’ve never heard of before. But, like the other years that I have been a part of this service, I’m really going to like it.

Being at that nursing home on Good Friday reminds me that Jesus didn’t just die for me. He didn’t just die for the younger generation. The cross wasn’t exclusively for church kids. Jesus didn’t die only for the young, fit and popular crowd. He also died for the old, the feeble and the dying.

He died for the lady struggling to play the role of mother for her aging mother.

He died for nurses and administrators who refuse to cut corners, even if no one else would notice, because they do their work as unto the Lord.

He died for his Church and some of the people who belong to his Church spend a lot of their days in a nursing home. Some because that’s their place of employment. Others because it’s where illness has left them.

But Jesus didn’t just die for his Church. He rose again for it. And that gives us a living hope, no matter how dire our circumstances are here on earth.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5 (ESV)

I’m guessing that five minutes or so after I’m done speaking to this group, most of them will forget what I said.

Their memory isn’t what it used to be.

They have seen better days.

But because of the grace of God and an empty Middle Eastern tomb, the folks in that nursing home who belong to Jesus have not yet seen the best days.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4 (ESV)

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The World Needs Religion

Can you hear this church organ playing 'Amazing Grace'?

I’m a people watcher. So while my kids were finishing off their dinner, I was watching the people in the restaurant. There was the guy who appeared to be sharing a meal with his kids before returning them to their mother. There was the extremely thin waitress. And the extremely fit cook in the back who looked like he was counting down the hours until the days third workout.

Suddenly, they all started to look at us. At least that’s how it felt for a second. They were really looking out the window behind me at a group of kids who had just showed up in the parking lot and weren’t exactly looking for something to eat. It seemed serious because all of the mangers were scurrying around like managers do in such situations.

When I got up to pay for our meal, I asked the girl at the cash register what was going on. She told me that the kids outside were waving flags from the back of a truck and yelling mean things at people. And she told me that an employee of the restaurant had gone out to confront the aspiring hoodlums. That employee from the restaurant was not Captain Workout, the buff cook in the back. It was the waitress. The extremely thin waitress.

I’m all for working out and being in shape. And while I’ve never been mistaken for a world class weightlifter, I have no problem with people who are. But what, if I may ask, is the point of being in good shape if all you do is look in a mirror when your muscles are needed most? There’s nothing healthy about keeping your good health to yourself and your mirror.

Faith works the same way.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22 (ESV)

What is the point of hearing a great sermon if it doesn’t play out in the way you treat your family? What good is believing all of the right things if those beliefs don’t impact the way you talk to your kid’s little league coach?

The world needs religion. Now you certainly won’t hear that on the news. Many church leaders would even disagree with such a notion. They like to remind us that faith in Christ is more about a relationship than a religion. While there are some truths to that, we must consider which religion we are talking about.

For example, Christianity is worlds away from Isalm.

And Christianity is also completely different from Mormonism.

Those two statements will get you a lot of Amens in this Sunday’s worship service but here’s one that might not.

Christianity is completely different from going to church.

Speaking in general terms, belief is what separates Christianity from religions like Islam and Mormonism. Sure, it all plays out in the actions but it starts with belief. The religions do not believe in the same God. But it’s the actions that separate Christianity from simply going to church. A church goer deceives himself into thinking that simply believing in the right God is enough. A true Christian’s beliefs catapult him into action, not to earn salvation but as a result of salvation.

Several years ago, Matthew Paris got a lot of attention. He wrote in the Times of London that, “Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa’s biggest problem.” That may not sound like a statement all that worthy of attention until you understand something about Matthew Paris. He’s an atheist. He continued, “As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God.”

This atheist realized something that many in the Church do not. The world needs religion. But not just any religion. Mormonism and Islam will do the world no good. And neither will the religion of church-goers who do not act on what they claim to believe.

The world needs pure and undefiled religion. The world needs Christianity.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27 (ESV)

A few days ago a man was crossing a busy intersection in China on a scooter. He didn’t make it. The automobile that hit him threw his body several feet into the middle of the busy four way crossing. For several minutes no one did anything. Pedestrians walked by. Busses drove around him. The man was ignored. While this is tragic, it should not surprise us. Such actions are consistent with the state religion of China, atheism, which teaches that we are all victims of chance and only the fittest win.

Christianity is different. Christianity recognizes that belief alone will do nothing for that man. True Christianity acts out belief. True Christianity stops traffic to help that man.

Fake Christianity just keeps on driving, believing that God will take care of the poor fellow in the street.

“Which one of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go and do likewise.” Luke 10:36-37 (ESV)

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The Myth Of The Bible Belt

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The man and his little boy were playing on the other end of the field. They seemed far enough away. But after just a few minutes, that little boy made his presence felt. And it felt bad.

My son and I were early for his soccer game so we were killing time on the opposite end of the field as the other little boy and his father. Not content to keep his ball on his side of the field, that little boy decided to kick his ball over to our side. Now normally I wouldn’t have a problem with that. The field was big enough for the four of us. But it got real small, real quick.

While the soccer ball that had just bolted from that boy’s foot soared through the air, I turned around, ignorant of what was about to happen to me. When the ball met my body, I didn’t know what had hit me. All I could do was fall to the ground. My son asked if I was okay. I told him that I was. I lied. I was in Old Testament style pain. It was bad.

The boy who kicked the ball sheepishly walked by me to say that he was sorry. And almost as quickly as his ball flew through the air, he was gone. I was still rolling on the ground with my son standing over me wondering what was wrong with his dad. I finally recovered enough to look up and investigate what kind of punishment that father would be giving to his son for assaulting a nice stranger like myself. The father had been sitting in a chair on his side of the field. As soon as we made eye contact he stood up. And he turned his back to me. And he walked away without saying a word.

The south is known for a lot of things. Sweet tea. College football. Humidity. Hospitality.

I can tell you from firsthand experience that southern hospitality is a myth.

Here’s another southern myth. The Bible Belt.

The Bible Belt is that region of our country that includes the southern states and much of the midwest. It’s the part of the country where there is a church on every corner, people still pray at football games and restaurants give you 20% discounts on Sunday afternoons if you bring your church bulletin.

While all of that is certainly a reality, the idea of this particular region having anything to do with the Bible is misleading.

Quick question. For all of our churches on every corner, what has that done to race relations in the south and midwest? Are they any better than they are in other parts of the country? And have our religious traditions done anything to curb gossip or extra-marital affairs? Not hardly.

Some will be quick to point out that this shows the inability of Christianity to change a culture. I look at it differently. It shows the inability of the Bible Belt to save a soul. That’s because true Christianity is a heart issue, not a geographical one.

I’ve been in church my whole life. Some of the most racist comments I’ve ever heard were in a church setting. I’ve seen arguments in church that make the GOP debates look like a newborn babe laughing at his grandpa. I’ve been to quite a few sporting events where things turned ugly and it looked like World War III was right around the corner. But none of that compares to the tension I’ve seen between two fellow church members when one of them had hurt feelings because the other one forgot to shake hands one Sunday morning.

Some politicians run on the platform of making the Bible Belt bigger. Preachers talk about getting back to the good old days when the Bible Belt was stronger and shinier. All the while, Jesus could not possibly care less about our Bible Belt.

If we really want to make a difference in our culture, we need to forget about the Bible Belt and get back to the Bible. All of it. Event the parts that are hard to live out. We need to remember that Christianity is not geographical or political. It’s cardiovascular.

A few days ago, a friend sent me the audio of Paul Harvey’s famous speech, If I Were the Devil. Harvey’s words are both prophetic and enlightening. And they made me think. What if I were the devil?

If I were the devil, I’d be okay with a church on every corner, just as long as those churches preached more about the Bible Belt than from the actual Bible.

If I were the devil, I wouldn’t mind all of the laws that keep people from drinking certain alcoholic beverages in certain places on Sundays, just as long as I could convince the non-drinkers that they’re less in need of grace than the drunks are.

If I were the devil, I’d even be okay with preachers who proclaim the grace of God but only if by grace, those preachers meant doing whatever you want whenever you want and asking for forgiveness later.

And If I were the devil, ten commandments on courthouse walls and prayers before football games would be fine with me. I’d even do all that I could to keep those words on the wall and those prayers on the lips of student athletes as long as the commandments weren’t actually followed and the prayers were only muttered on Friday nights and the occasional Sunday morning.

If I were the devil, I’d feel quite at home in the Bible Belt.

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Smiling, Laughing And Enjoyment Are No Longer Allowed

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Over the weekend I saw a story online about a little boy in a karate class who defended a little girl who he thought was being beaten up by the instructor. It was one of those heartwarming stories that we all need to see in our continuous news cycle of death, mayhem and corruption. My heart was warmed.

Until I read the comments section.

Before I go any further, there are two things that you need to know about the comments section. First, never read it. Nothing good can come out of reading the comments section. It’s basically the bathroom wall of the Internet. Misguided people write whatever they want there, they have no idea what they’re saying and they would never have the guts to actually say what they are writing in public. Don’t read the comments section.

Second, if you put up a picture on the Internet of a pretty flower with a delicate butterfly fluttering around it, within about twenty minutes someone would leave a comment about how your picture shows insensitivity to the people of Peru where butterflies are endangered and flowers are the number one carrier of the deadly Vuma disease. Someone else would just go to all caps to tell you that you are, “AN IGNORANT (insert your race here) WHO IS THE REASON WHY THE WORLD IS AS BAD AS IT IS.”

The heartwarming video of the boy defending a girl was no exception. Three days later I’m still kicking myself for being stupid enough to read the comments. Why couldn’t I just watch the story and move on? Maybe one day I’ll learn.

The first few comments were what you would expect. People said that they were glad to see a boy taking up for a girl. Grandmotherly types talked wrote about how cute the boy is and how their grandson would do the same thing. And then the fools came out to play.

One woman asked why everyone was celebrating the fact that a young boy assumed that a girl could not take care of herself. Wasn’t this really just a microagression? Wasn’t he saying that the girl was weak and aren’t we all just celebrating sexism by cheering for what they young man did?

I wish I was making this up.

And then the cop haters joined in. One lamented the fact that the boy in the karate uniform would probably grow up to wear a different kind of uniform. A police uniform. And he would hide behind it to kill black people.

Again, I really wish this was all just some sort of joke. Maybe it is but we’re just not laughing because we’re afraid that we might offend someone.

We have forgotten how to have fun in this country. Everything is a political issue. Everything that you enjoy is due to the fact that your privilege allowed you to take that joy from someone else.

Do we have a national motto? I’m not sure. If we don’t and we’d like to be honest with it, we should have one that says, “America: We’re All Victims, Especially Me.” And while we’re at it, can we go ahead and change our national pastime from baseball to being offended? It’s what we do to pass the time.

And boy are we good at it.

So instead of going someplace else when some baker doesn’t want to make a cake for their gay wedding, people file a complaint with some government office none of the rest of us even knew existed and sue that couple back to the days of Fred Flintstone. That’s because just going to the next store wouldn’t make enough noise.

If we’re really honest, the perpetually offended in this country only care about making noise. Well, that and making money or, at the very least, making sure that other people don’t get to make money. And believe me, there is a lot of money to be made and taken away in the never-ending game of being offended.

Hopefully enough of us can get together and resist what has become the new cool table in our culture’s high school cafeteria – the offended table. Let’s be different. Let’s not use someone’s picture of pizza on social media as an opportunity to remind that person of how many cows were killed in the making of that cheese that he’s about to consume. And no, I’m not making that up either. If you happen to be a vegan, that’s great! Just don’t stand in the middle of the street to keep the rest of us from going to Chick-fil-a.

And let’s refuse to use a karate class for toddlers as our sounding board for all that is wrong in society. Let’s just smile and move on when we see a heart-warming video about a boy who thinks his friend is in trouble and is willing to do what he can to help her out.

Otherwise, if you’re not careful, your heart will never be warmed. No amount of cute kitten videos, funny karate mishaps or great meals with friends will ever warm your heart once that heart has become too hard.

So I guess what I’m really trying to say is this. Lighten up, America. There are a lot of offensive things in the world. But there are a lot things that really aren’t that offensive. They’re meant to be enjoyed, not exploited. Stop getting the two confused. When you do come across something offensive, just keep moving. Ignore it. Go some place else. Save your crusade for a real need, something other than broadcasting your Savior complex.

There is a lot of anger in this world. Some of that anger is legitimate. But much of that anger is simply the result of people forgetting how to enjoy life. And in the absence of that happiness, they find what they think is a suitable replacement.

Being offended.

And, not to be too offensive or anything, it’s really ruining things for the rest of us.

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Do You Have Parent’s Syndrome?

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Parent’s Syndrome is a serious disease. Okay, it’s not really all that serious. And okay, it’s not even really a disease. I just made it up about 15 seconds ago. But I think that’s probably true of at least 78% of the drug commercials you see on TV and whoever is selling that stuff is making a lot of money. So as a service to you, and also in hopes of making a lot of money like the pharmaceutical companies, here are 15 signs that you suffer from Parent’s Syndrome.

  1. If you frequently walk into a room and forget why you walked into that room because you had to stop on the way to mend a broken heart that just lost a hard fought game, you are suffering from Parent’s Syndrome. Either that or you live in the Georgia Tech athletic dormitory.
  2. If you would rather have a tooth pulled in the back of a stranger’s van than step on a Lego, you know what it’s like to suffer from Parent’s Syndrome.
  3. If you call sleeping in waking up at 7:15 in the morning, you have Parent’s Syndrome.
  4. If 63% of your friends know you as Billy’s Dad rather than your actual name, you have Parent’s Syndrome.
  5. If you are a male over the age of 20 and you can recite the lyrics to two or more Taylor Swift songs, you have Parent’s Syndrome.
  6. If you frequently use the words stinky, passy, binky and boo boo you have Parent’s Syndrome.
  7. If you and your spouse have ever gone to Wal-Mart without the kids and considered that a pretty hot date, you have a Level 3, Double Urgent case of Parent’s Syndrome.
  8. If you’ve ever used the phrase, “Who wants to go to Bee-Bop’s house?” you have Parent’s Syndrome.
  9. If you’ve ever put your kids in the bathtub and told them to  scrub for a few hours until they get real clean while daddy watches the football game, you have Parent’s Syndrome. And no, I’ve never done this. You can’t prove anything.
  10. If you can drive your car at the top legal speed on a major highway while tying your child’s shoe, you are a high functioning sufferer of Parent’s Syndrome.
  11. You suffer from Parent’s Syndrome if you’ve ever said, “No you cannot have a cookie for breakfast. Now be quiet and eat your Pop Tart and pizza!”
  12. If you’ve ever been awakened in the middle of the night by a small child standing over your bed, poking you in the face, you have Parent’s Syndrome. Either that or you need to move to a new neighborhood.
  13. If you’ve ever thought that your friends were mad at you because they bought your kids drums for Christmas, you have Parent’s Syndrome.
  14. If you know what it’s like to have another person blow his nose on the shirt that you are currently wearing, you have Parent’s Syndrome.
  15. And finally, if you’ve ever used a wire coat hanger to fish a stuffed animal out of a toilet, you have Parent’s Syndrome.

As it turns out, there is no medication for Parent’s Syndrome. So much for my big pay day. But this disease does have a cure. Over time, as your kids grow into adults and move into their own houses, the symptoms of Parent’s Syndrome will go away. But, in my medical opinion, you shouldn’t waste your time waiting on that day to arrive. Parent’s Syndrome is the best disease anyone could ever have.

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Suppose That You Are The Chairman Of Your Church’s Pastor Search Committee

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Suppose that you are the chairman of your church’s pastor search committee. Most of the handwork has been done. You’ve figured out what type of candidate you’re looking for. You’ve put ads in all the right places. You’ve reviewed resumes. Finally, your search has been narrowed down to two people and you get to meet with them individually today.

Both men somehow managed to meet the standards that your committee has for its new pastor. They’re both young, married, look like a superhero, have 3.5 kids, have all the right letters after their last name and they drive a Buick. Classic pastoral traits.

Your meeting with the first candidate is over lunch and he leaves a fantastic impression. He’s well-dressed and personable. He convinces you that preaching the Bible would be a priority in his ministry. But that won’t be all. This candidate would be a busy pastor. He tells you about all of the ministries he has begun at his current location. There’s the men’s Bible study that he leads on Monday nights. Tuesdays are devoted to a cutting edge outreach program. The Wednesday night program at his church has grown exponentially during his time. On Thursday nights he meets with elders and other key leaders while he devotes his Friday nights to leading open gym. On Saturday nights, due to all of the growth at his current church, this pastor leads a worship service aimed at reaching younger adults who otherwise might not attend on a Sunday morning. And, of course, Sunday nights are devoted to small groups, one of which he hosts at his home.

The old line about a pastor only working one day a week is far from true for this candidate.

Eventually, conversation moves to his family. He tells you how much he loves his wife and 3.5 children. He speaks glowingly of his wife’s hard work of raising the children while he devotes himself to the many ministries of the church. After some small talk, the meal is over and the committee promises to call within the next week.

The second candidate meeting is over dinner. He leaves a different kind of impression. While talking about his current ministry position, his responses are short and to the point. He spends a significant portion of his time preparing sermons and Bible studies but he also frequently checks in on the sick and does quite a bit to lead his church in engaging the community.

This candidate finally starts to say a bit more when you ask him about his family. Like the previous candidate, he talks about how much he loves his wife and children. But he goes into more detail describing all of the nights they spend going to practices, ballet recitals, school meetings and just playing games at home together as a family. There aren’t really all that many evening church events on this man’s iCalendar.

Now it’s time for your committee to make the final decision. While the two candidates have a lot in common there is one thing that separates them. The first candidate is highly dedicated to the ministry of the church over any thing else in life. The second candidate, while certainly devoted to the church, values his ministry to his wife and children over any church ministry.

So which will it be?

The church man or the family man?

When Paul lists the qualifications for pastors in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, he does so in an interesting way. Most of the qualifications he lists are character traits. And those character traits, apart for “able to teach” should be true of all Christian men, not just pastors. In this list, Paul really only gives one responsibility, one thing that the man must do as opposed to the other things that he must be. And this one responsibility has nothing to do with being an entrepreneur, a visionary or a great story teller.

He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 1 Timothy 3:4-5 (ESV)

According to Paul, the most important responsibility that a pastor has, under his devotion to Christ, is his responsibility to love and lead his family.

Find a super-busy pastor and behind him you’re likely to find a church that praises him for doing what they like to call “the Lord’s work.” But behind them, you’ll find an abandoned wife and bitter children who resent him for failing to do what the Bible calls the Lord’s work.

Two candidates.

You only get to pick one.

Which will it be?

The one who devotes his life to the church’s work or the one who devotes his life to the Lord’s work?

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A Sad Psalm

First in a series of dried river bed rocks that have facial expressions at sunrise and sunset time periods.

Whether you love or hate election season, there’s one benefit of it for Christians of all political stripes. All of the negativity and frightening scenarios can make you step back and evaluate what kingdom you belong to. Everyone belongs to a kingdom. But there is only one kingdom that is worth belonging to.

Here’s what life in the kingdom of God looks like, regardless of election results.

A Psalm for giving thanks.

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100 (ESV)

This Psalm gives us no promises of better jobs or free college tuition. It points to something better. Joy. Gladness. Purpose. Belonging. Hope. Future. Love. Faithfulness.

Forever.

But sometimes that’s not enough for us. So we decide to live our lives for another kingdom. Rather than the kingdom of Christ, we devote ourselves to the Kingdom of America or our favorite political party. If we were to write our own version of Psalm 100 it would probably look something like this.

A Psalm for giving thanks.

Make a joyful noise to America, all the earth!
Serve her with gladness!
Come into its presence with singing!

Know that America, it is God!
It makes us who we are, and we belong to it;
we are its people, and the sheep of its pasture.

Enter its presence with thanksgiving,
and sing of it with praise!
Give thanks to it; brag about it!

For America is good;
its steadfast love endures forever,
and its faithfulness to all generations. 

How’s that for a sad Psalm? As Christians, we know that our identity runs deeper than what our passport says. Paul was a Hebrew of Hebrews who belonged to the tribe of Benjamin and he counted it all as nothing compared to life in the Kingdom of Christ. You might be American by birth and southern by the grace of God but you still need to reach the same conclusion that Paul did. Otherwise, you’ll be let down in a major way.

For the record, I love America. I like singing some patriotic songs. I think highly of those who defend our nation. I love watching our country’s national anthem during international sporting events. And as Christians, we should be politically engaged. We should pray for our nation and its leaders. We should work to make America a better place. But when our voices and efforts are drowned out by big money elites and godless authoritarians, we must not get discouraged. Rather, we must remember that we are visitors here. There’s a better home awaiting us.

Everyone belongs to a kingdom. But only one kingdom is worth belonging to. Unlike any other kingdom, the Kingdom of Christ does not need to be made great again. Sometimes we just need to step back so that we can see how great our true Kingdom is.

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What We Can Learn From Duke Lacrosse

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Sunday was the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the Duke lacrosse rape case. On the evening of March 13, 2006, a house where some players on the team lived was the scene of a party involving a female dancer. Shortly after leaving the party, the dancer, Crystal Mangum alleged that three members of the team raped her.

Those three players, their families and Duke’s head lacrosse coach would spend the next year defending themselves in the court of public opinion. There were rallies on campus calling for the team to be disbanded. There were mobs protesting outside the home of the incident. There were even signs calling for the accused to be castrated. Due process did not matter. Innocent until proven guilty did not matter. All that mattered was the narrative. And boy, did this story fit the narrative.

The Duke players were white and came from families that were relatively well off. In the court of public opinion, that’s about the same as showing up in a real courtroom with the murder victim’s blood on your hands. Crystal Mangum was black and lacked the financial resources of the Duke lacrosse players.

Eventually, the truth came out. Crystal Magnum was lying. The prosecutor, Mike Nifong, was disbarred and spent a day in jail for tampering with evidence. The media and the scores of people they had influenced had all been had.

Sunday night’s episode of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series was devoted to the Duke Lacrosse case. As I watched it, two things came to mind. These are two very important things that we either need to learn or be reminded of ten years after the fact.

First, you can’t trust the media. In my part of the world, such a statement will get you a hearty amen. But it’s not just the talking heads at ABC or MSNBC that you can’t trust. You can’t trust Breitbart and Drudge either. Whether right or left of the political spectrum, every form of media in the country has an agenda. Everyone is biased. If you look hard enough, you might find one or two media outlets that are biased toward the truth but for the most part all you’ll find is one news outlet pushing for more government control of something and another one trying to get their candidate, who also happens to be their biggest financial backer, elected as president.

There was a time in this country when news outlets cared about truth. Editors would walk around their bureaus repeating, “Truth! Truth! Truth!” to their reporters. Not anymore. Now I think that they say something like, “Narrative! Narrative! Narrative!” or “Money! Money! Money!”

And you’re the one who pays for it. We have more news outlets today than ever. But now, more than ever, it’s your job to be the reporter. It’s not enough to simply consume the stories that fit your agenda. You have to look for the truth, even if the conclusions are uncomfortable for you or your favorite candidate. Otherwise, you’re worse off than the uninformed. You’re misinformed. Uninformed people are dangerous because they simply do not care. Misinformed people are even more dangerous because they care deeply and act passionately but without all of the facts. Don’t be either one.

The second lesson is more important because it has to do with our sons.

Use your imagination and put your son on the 2006 Duke lacrosse team. Sometime around March 20, you hear a report on the news about a Duke lacrosse party that led to the brutal sexual assault of a woman. The entire team is put on trial in the court of public opinion. This troubles you because the entire team includes your son. He assures you that you have nothing to worry about.

A short time after the incident, police have the alleged victim look at a photo line-up. Rather than showing her several of the usual suspects with Duke players mixed in, every photo they show her is a player on the Duke lacrosse team. No matter who Crystal Mangum chose, she was going to choose a Duke lacrosse player. At random, she chooses three. One of them is your son.

Within what seems like minutes, he and two of his teammates are on the cover of magazines being portrayed as rapists. The three players hold a press conference. You are standing behind them, with the other parents as the boys stand trial in the court of public opinion.

The first boy declares his innocence and talks about the unfairness of these false accusations. He tells the media that the truth will be revealed soon.

The second boy says essentially the same thing and thanks his family and teammates for standing by him.

And now it’s your son’s turn. As he steps to the microphone, your heart races. You wish that you could speak for him but you can’t. He steps to the microphone with more confidence than his teammates and calmly states his name.

“I am innocent of the charges brought against me. While I planned on attending the party that night I decided not to. I went to the movies instead. Here’s my ticket stub and receipt.”

Watching the Duke lacrosse story inspired me as a father. It inspired me to raise sons who decide to go to the movies once they hear about there being a stripper at the party they were going to. You may call that pie in the sky. It’s not. It should be a goal of ever parent.

Our kids will make dumb mistakes. And when they do, they need our discipline, grace, instruction and love. But the problem for many parents is that they wait until the mistake has already been made before they ever think about discipline, grace, instruction and love.

It’s not enough to raise great athletes who get into a good college and perhaps go pro. Rather than trying to build the next James, Curry or Manning, we should be more interested in developing the next Joseph.

Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her. Genesis 39:6-10 (ESV)

Like the Duke lacrosse players, Joseph was falsely accused of sexual assault. However, justice was not served for him. He spent quite a bit of time in jail. But the truth didn’t stop being the truth. And Joseph didn’t stop being devoted to the truth.

Like any other parent, we would all be elated if we found out that our falsely accused sons were finally off the hook. But we should aim much higher than a mere not guilty verdict for our sons. We should aim for holiness.

When we do, like Joseph, things may not always work out the way that we would like in the court of public opinion. But there is a court that is much more important than that one. In the eyes of Jesus Christ, the righteous judge who knows no corruption, all that matters is truth and righteousness. Public opinion does not matter to him and it never will.

So as we go about the business of turning our sons into men, righteousness and truth should be what matters most to us.

There’s nothing you can do about a false accusation directed at your son. But there’s plenty you can do to disarm those false accusations. That work is done at the kitchen table where meals are eaten, at the bedside where prayers are given and on playing fields where instruction is given. Just make sure that how to effectively chase a ball isn’t the only instruction you ever give.

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. Deuteronomy 6:7 (ESV)

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