Happy Birthday To The Boy Who Wouldn’t Breathe

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My firstborn child turned 8 today. For a while there, I didn’t think that he’d make it this far.

It took a while for fatherhood to set in with me. It didn’t happen in those months leading up to my son’s birth when my wife and I watched videos of some woman teaching us how to breathe. It didn’t happen on the afternoon I spent putting together baby furniture with John Mayer providing my soundtrack.

It didn’t even happen the day before my son was born. A self-proclaimed expert told my wife that she was several weeks from going into labor. She said that she could tell by the way that the baby was laying. She said that she’s never wrong on those things. My wife went into labor a few hours later.

Fatherhood still never set in.

It didn’t set in while I was speeding to the hospital with my wife and sister-in-law along for the ride. One was telling me to slow down. One was telling me to speed up. I’ll let you guess which one wanted me to go faster.

I figured that the feeling of fatherhood would come once my son was born. When I finally heard him cry, that would probably do it. Finally, my son was being born. All that was needed was the cry and then my fatherhood would feel official. Things were moving along like clockwork, as they say.

That clock turned out to be broken.

My son was delivered. But he wasn’t crying. For four minutes he wasn’t crying. Four minutes. The fatherhood came anyway. I just didn’t know how long that feeling would last.

Those were the longest four minutes of my life. It’s never a good thing to see a nurse running down a hall. It’s even worse when she’s holding a baby. The other nurses hurried behind her. The rest of us were worrying. And praying. Except for my wife. She was just praying. Out loud. Calmly. That feeling of motherhood had already set in with her a long time ago. So had that feeling that comes when you know that God is holding it all together.

My son finally took his first breath. Doctors and nurses were still worried about potential damage. He also had what those doctors refer to as shoulder dystocia. It wasn’t a happy sight seeing him on the other side of that glass with all of those tubes hooked up to him. I wanted to hold him. For a while, they wouldn’t let me. I felt like a father anyway.

After we got out of the hospital, another self-proclaimed expert told us that our son, “might not have any developmental difficulties.” I just smiled. My smile was only on the outside.

It’s hard to believe that eight years have passed since I saw nurses with worried looks on their faces trying to figure out what to do with the baby who wouldn’t breathe.

Right now, I’m looking at pictures of him. In one he’s skateboarding while wearing shorts and boots. There are no signs of developmental difficulties. Fashion difficulties maybe. All boys have that. But no developmental difficulties.

The boy who wouldn’t breathe can’t stop reading books.

The boy who wouldn’t breathe plays soccer with his friends and runs the mile course in front of his house with his mom and dad.

I’ve had the feeling of fatherhood for eight years now. Five years ago, I got a double dose. I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything. I don’t know what the future holds for the boy who wouldn’t breathe or his brother. Sometimes that can be scary to think about.

But then I remember that the One who took care of my son during those four frightening minutes is the same One who will take care of his future.

And I know that everything is going to be just fine.

Happy birthday, son.

I live in Jackson, Georgia. It’s a small town.

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I live in Jackson, Georgia.

It’s a small town.

If I want to see a professional baseball team play, I have to drive an hour north. That’s assuming of course that we’re classifying the Atlanta Braves as a professional baseball team.

In Jackson, there are no stores for a woman to buy a $700 calfskin leather Louis Vuitton purse. But we do have a few dollar stores and an Ingles. I’ve bought my wife a handful of flowers from Ingles several times. They seemed to make her happy. She’s never mentioned anything about liking calfskins.

In Jackson, there are no traffic jams. It’s always fun to listen to the Atlanta radio stations talk about how bad the traffic is on I-20 as I drive down a dirt road. You should try it sometime. The closest thing I’ve seen to a traffic jam in Jackson, Georgia was the time when one of Mr. Luke Weaver’s cows got out and decided to have rest time in the middle of the road. I waved at Mr. Luke Weaver when I finally got to drive by him trying to get his cow back. I didn’t stop. The next day he told me that I was therefore unqualified to ever preach on the Good Samaritan. Point taken.

People like to put down small towns. They say that everybody is into everybody else’s business. Maybe that’s true sometimes. But maybe that’s not always so bad. Maybe that’s part of the charm of living in a small town.

A few nights ago the power went out at my house. I didn’t think that it was any big deal. People lose power from time to time. But when I looked outside I noticed that all of my neighbors had power. That was kind of scary. So I did what any reputable Southern Baptist pastor would do.

I asked my wife if we paid the power bill.

She checked our records and we were good.

So I called the power company to tell them that my power was out. I had to tell my story to a computer. The computer promised to get back to me as soon as possible. While I waited for the computer to call me back, I walked outside where I pretended to have some idea of how to restore power to my house.

That’s when my phone rang.

It was the power company. I could tell that it wasn’t a computer because my wife was laughing and saying, “Hold on, let me let you talk to him” as she brought the phone my way.

Justin was on the other end. He works for the power company. We go to church together. He promised to have my power back on in no time. And then he told me that I could not in fact restore power to my home by rubbing two screw drivers together while standing next to the circuit breaker. Who knew? So I put down my screwdrivers and waited for help to arrive.

A few minutes later, one of the big power trucks stopped in front of my house. Seeing as how it was 11:00 on a Friday night, I wondered what kind of person might be getting out of that big truck. And I wondered if he would be angry for getting pulled out of bed on a weekend. The man in the truck turned out to be Ron. Most of his family goes to church with me. He said that he’d have the problem fixed in no time.

He was right.

But I swear that I saw him rubbing two screwdrivers together.

Either way, my power was back on. And there I was, talking to Ron at 11:00 on a Friday night in my yard in Jackson, Georgia.

It’s a small town.

It’s usually pretty quiet in Jackson, Georgia.

The other night my wife and I sat on our back porch and ate cereal. The only lights we saw were from our neighbors next door and the stars up above. The only noise we heard was the sound of dogs barking and kids trying to use up their last few nights of staying out late to play before school started back.

Not a lot happens in Jackson, Georgia.

But when it does, you can count on a friend or someone from your church being around to help out. Well, unless you’re trying to retrieve your cow and I happen to be the one driving by.

I live in Jackson, Georgia.

It’s a small town.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Parents, If You Want Something To Be There, Something Will Be There

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One of the best parts about having kids, especially boys, is that you get to play with Legos again. When someone sees a 40-year-old man playing with Legos by himself, they call the authorities. When someone sees a 40-year-old man playing Legos with his 8-year-old son, they call it good parenting. Hooray for good parenting!

Several months ago, like a lot of other good parents, I took my kids to the theatre to see The Lego Movie. We loved it. They thought it was hilarious. So did I. But there was something else that I liked about it.

I liked the message.

As I saw it, the story was about the importance of bravery, non-conformity, creativity, friendship and being a good dad.

It turns out that I was all wrong. Well, at least according to a few Christian parents on the Internet. As they saw it, the movie was an attempt to feminize boys, make them dependent on the government, turn them away from religion, huff gasoline, kick grandma and lock the dog in the deep freezer.

I grew up in the era of hidden messages. Preachers used to visit my childhood church and play Led Zeppelin records backwards. Find the nearest vacuum cleaner, turn it on and try pronouncing this word in a deep loud voice.

Warweepfloogojamma.

That’s what everyone in the room heard. Well, everyone except for the traveling anti-rock and roll evangelist. He heard, “Satan wants to make your kids huff gasoline, kick grandma and lock the dog in the freezer.”

Suddenly, everyone was terrified. So they all burned their rock and roll records. Remember those Columbia House mail outs you used to get where you could buy 12 albums for a penny? The reason why those things worked so well is because people like me used it to buy back all of the music they burned when they were kids.

But sometimes the message is there. Sometimes, you don’t even have to play things backwards to find the bad message.

In college I was in a popular children’s store in the mall. There was a large television playing a popular children’s cartoon. My friend said something about there being hidden sexual symbols in the movie. I laughed it off. One of the employees overheard our conversation and interrupted. I thought we were about to get thrown out.

Instead, he affirmed my friend’s theory about the hidden messages.

“Oh yeah. That stuff really is in there.”

And then he grabbed the remote to fast forward to all of the parts in question. He was right. It really was there. And then he gave us a mini seminar on subliminal messages in children’s movies. I just hope that the three-year-old girl who just happened to be there watching her favorite movie has gotten all of the therapy that she needs.

I’m not denying that there are evil messages in movies and music. I’m just denying that those evil hidden messages are in all movies and music. That’s where discernment comes in. A lack of discernment will convince you to let your thirteen-year-old spend hours and hours alone in his room “doing homework” on the Internet. A lack of discernment will also lead you to believe that every form of entertainment not endorsed by Jonathan Edwards is sent from hell for no other reason but the destruction of your children.

Here’s the problem with discernment. It requires work. You can’t be both a lazy parent and a discerning one. Laziness is nuking all forms of entertainment, news and other media. Discernment is using a scalpel to cut out what does not belong so that what’s okay can be more fully enjoyed.

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out The Lego Movie. It’s really good. And it’s out on DVD so if you don’t have kids, no one will know that you watched by yourself. If you do have kids, and they start kicking grandma and locking the dog in the deep freezer, it’s probably not the movie’s fault.

It might just be yours.

But not many parents want to do the hard work that comes along with self-examination.

It’s much easier to find something from a movie to blame it all on.

And rest assured, if you want something to be there, something will be there.

Encouragement For Dads

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Nick Diaz punches like a girl.

In fact, he doesn’t even really punch. It’s more like a slap.

That’s what Nick Diaz’s opponents say before they fight him.

And then, more times than not, they get knocked out.

When we think of fighters, we think of big men throwing huge punches. We don’t think about Nick Diaz. He’s tall and thin. His stance is open, leaving his face vulnerable for attack. His punches are, well, sort of like slaps. His punches are small.

But those small punches add up over the course of a fight with Nick Diaz.

Small punches win fights.

It’s easy for fathers to think that being a good dad means big trips, big purchases or some combination of the two. So we buy our kids tickets to the Super Bowl. And then we beat ourselves up for the next six years as we try to save up for the next big ticket item that proves our fatherly worth.

But the stuff good dads are made of is different. Anyone with enough money can buy ponies, tickets and nice cars. Only good dads make the effort to train, love and guide their kids in the day to day.

Good dads know that small punches win fights.

Like when your kid wants to tell you about something that he built on Minecraft. And you put down your iPhone. And you listen to what he has to say.

Or all of those times when your daughter sees you open the door for your wife.

Or the days that you turn off the TV and lead your family in a short time of Bible reading, prayer and singing. No impressive musical productions. No three-point sermons. No Latin. Just you taking some time to tell your family about how good Jesus is.

Those are the things that will never get you on the cover of a magazine.

Your kids may not even talk about those things the next day to their friends.

They’re just small punches.

But they win fights.

When your son grows up to have a wife and kids of his own, there’s a good chance that he’ll be an engaged husband and father because that’s all that he saw from you.

When your daughter starts to consider her options for marriage, she’ll stay away from smooth-talking fools because they just don’t measure up to the way that she saw you treat her mother.

When your kids go to church, they’ll know that Jesus isn’t just to be worshiped on Sunday mornings. Tuesday nights right before bed are good too.

Small punches win fights.

But beware.

This works both ways.

Your family is open to attack. But it’s not what you’re probably thinking. Most likely, a bunch of guys in ski masks driving a creepy van aren’t coming into your home tonight to mess up your family. Your enemy is subtle.

He knows that the images on your computer can do a much more destructive job on your family than any gang of van-driving hoodlums.

He knows that if he can just get you to listen to the couch when it calls your name after a long day at work and let your wife take care of the kids and the house, he’s well on his way to victory.

He knows that if he can convince you that the spiritual leader of your family is your pastor or some guy on TV, anyone but you, he’s got a good shot at making sure that you raise kids who will abandon the faith when they grow up.

Nothing big.

It’s easy to miss if you’re not paying attention.

Small punches win fights.

Nick Diaz wins fights, not because of his big swings but because he’s relentless. He never quits. Not until the fight is over. Even then he sometimes keeps fighting. One time, after a loss, he tried to settle the score with his opponent in the emergency room where both men were being examined after their official fight.

That’s the kind of father that you should be.

Never give up.

Never settle for stumbling from one big ticket event to the next.

Focus on the small, every day tasks that come with being the leader of your family.

It is there that the fight is won.

And lost.

If you’re not paying attention.

 

 

Two Men Are Playing A Game

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Two men are playing a game.

Early on in the game, one of the men accumulates a lot of points. He’s thrilled with the developments but he tries to keep his excitement to himself. The other man remains silent.

As the game progresses, the man with all of the points keeps earning more points for himself. But now it’s harder for him to contain his excitement. His smile gets bigger. He pumps his fist in the air. He never imagined that victory would be so easy. The other man remains silent. His focus is steady. His face is expressionless.

By the end of the game, the score has gotten worse and the man with all of the points is celebrating with even more enthusiasm than before. At the end of the game, not only did he have the most points, he had nearly ten times as many points as his opponent. He was glowing.

But there was one thing that was bothering him.

Why was his opponent, the man who remained silent and expressionless as the game’s point differential grew larger and larger, suddenly smiling now that the game was over?

So he had to ask.

“Why are you so happy now? You barely said a word for the entire game. You barely even smiled the whole time that we played. Now that we’re done and I have ten times as many points as you do, you’re happy. Why? I’m the one who’s supposed to be happy. I’m the one who had the most points.”

The man who had spent the whole game celebrating was now perturbed.

He wanted an answer.

But he didn’t want the answer that he got.

“I know that you had the most points. But that’s not how you win this game.”

And the man picked up his golf clubs and walked away.

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Mark 10:29-31 (ESV)

 

It’s All God’s Fault

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We’re good at blaming other people. Sometimes we even blame God. We’ve been doing it since the very first sin (Genesis 3:12). A lot has changed since the Garden of Eden. A lot. But not everything. We still like to blame God.

Here’s what we tell ourselves.

My bad temper is all God’s fault. He’s the one who gave me red hair.

My alcoholism is all God’s fault. He’s the one who gave me addicts for parents.

My cheating is all God’s fault. He’s the one who gave me a learning disability.

My marital infidelity is all God’s fault. He’s the one who gave me an emotionally distant husband.

My lustful thoughts are all God’s fault. He’s the one who gave me these desires.

We’re willing to do whatever it takes to avoid dealing with our own sin. Even if that means blaming God for our sin. James tells us that such accusations could not be more off base.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one. James 1:13 (ESV)

Our problem is not that we blame God. It’s just that we blame him for all the wrong things.

When everything around me is falling apart, I have a solid foundation. That’s all God’s fault (Matthew 7:24-29).

When the rest of the world is against me, the only One who really matters is for me. That’s all God’s fault (Romans 8:31-39).

When the future looks dim, I still have hope. That’s all God’s fault (James 1:2-4).

When Satan accuses me, there is One who stands in my defense. That’s all God’s fault (Luke 22:31-32).

When Satan seeks to shame me, I’m protected by the One who has already put Satan to open shame (Colossians 2:13-15).

When death knocks at my door, eternal life turns it away (John 3:16).

Our sin is ours to own. We are at fault. We are the ones to blame. Sin is our identity. It defines who we are.

Until Jesus takes it away from us and gives us his perfect righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

That’s when everything changes.

I have eternal life.

And it’s all God’s fault.

Is Your Church Sort Of Like An Air Force Base?

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I try not to be so negative. Really, I do. But when my phone rings, I just can’t help it. When my phone rings, I expect there to be someone on the other end telling me that the world is on fire. Maybe it’s just my sin nature. Maybe it’s part of being a pastor and hearing a lot of really bad news. It’s probably some of both.

A few weeks ago, my phone rang.

Before I even saw who it was, I got scared. I hoped that the world wasn’t on fire.

I answered.

My fears could not have been more ridiculous.

The lady on the other end was a friend and a member of the church that I pastor. She wasn’t mad about a stain on the carpet. Nobody parked the bus in the wrong spot. No one had died.

She was calling with another need. A need that was not her own.

People from my church spent most of the summer delivering meals to families in our community. These families lived in a trailer park and were barely getting by. They were poor. The summer months can be a hard time for poor families. At least when school is in session the kids can get fed five days out of the week.

Not during the summer.

So our church partnered with the county school system and other churches to deliver meals to families like these. It was a good thing. But to the woman who had just called me, it wasn’t enough.

She wanted to know if it was alright if she helped our student ministry lead a week-long Bible study for the families in that trailer park. What a difficult decision for me to make right there on the spot. I agonized over this one. I fasted for three days. I sought counsel.

Not really.

I said yes.

And last week people from our church spent their nights making bracelets, teaching Bible stories, eating chicken sandwiches and playing kickball with kids in a trailer park.

I’ve been married for almost eleven years. My wedding day was a bit unusual. There were heavily armed men involved. Not many people can say that there were guys with machine guns at their wedding. Yet another thing that Ted Nugent and I have in common.

The heavily armed men were there because I got married on an Air Force base. That’s what happens on Air Force bases. People work really hard to keep strangers out while also protecting what’s inside. That’s how it should be on bases.

Sadly, the same scenario plays out in a lot of churches. Guns may not be involved but people still work, whether directly or indirectly, to keep strangers out and to protect what’s inside. That is not how it should be in a church. Unless you want that church to die.

Budgets and sound systems are important. But it is very easy for things like that to be all that a church cares about. As a result, such churches become centered on themselves only to wonder, a few years down the road, why new people don’t come anymore.

In his letter to the Philippian church, Paul urged the believers to keep that scenario from playing out with them.

He did so by reminding them of their foundation in Christ.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, Philippians 2:1 (ESV)

Funny things happen when a church realizes and acts upon its foundation in Christ. People start getting along. Fights over carpet color and flower placement are suddenly seen for the foolishness that they really are. When Christ is the foundation of a church, that church will be unified. Not perfect. Not always agreeing on every thing. But unified.

That’s how Paul finishes his sentence.

complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Philippians 2:2 (ESV)

But unity in a church should never be an end in itself. God is not glorified in a church where everyone is on the same page but no one is on mission. Unity always exists for a greater purpose. That purpose is mission.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV, emphasis mine)

It’s interesting that Paul did not say, “each other.” That would justify a church where we all get along just fine in our gospel bunker as we await the return of Christ. But Paul did not say, “each other.” He said, “others.” Twice.

That means that a church must not function as a base.

Instead, it must be more like a hospital.

Hospitals, the good ones at least, are ready when sick people come to them. And when the people are too sick to come to them, hospitals, the good ones at least, are ready to go get those sick people.

Is your church functioning as a base or a hospital?

Four Things For Christians To Remember When It Gets Tough

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One time I heard a preacher say that we were all either coming out of a hard time, in the middle of a hard time or about to go into a hard time. That sounded a bit too bleak to me, as if every smile came with a frown close by.

I’ve heard plenty of other preachers say the exact opposite. If you are a Christian, they proudly proclaim, you are the King’s kid and the King’s kids do not suffer. All you have to do is claim your destiny.

As I grew and spent time waiting and praying with loved ones in hospitals and funeral homes, I learned that the first preacher was closer to the truth. Hard times are always close by. Planes fall out of the sky. Sometimes they get shot out of the sky. Cancer comes back. Marriages dissolve.

It really can be a bleak world that we live in.

But that doesn’t mean that we have to be bleak. Christians, perhaps more than any other group of people, know what it means to suffer. And Christians, certainly more than any other group of people, know what it means to have hope when everything seems to be falling apart.

The book of James begins by reminding us of that hope. And this is no pie in the sky hope. Inspired by God, these words come from the pen of a man who knew what it meant to live a hopeless life. They come from a man who knew what it meant to suffer. They come from a man who considered it all joy.

Since we are all either coming out of a time of pain, living in a time of pain or about to enter into one, we would be wise to listen to what James has to say to us about hope. Here are four things for Christians to remember when it gets tough.

1. God is working on you.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 (ESV)

James is not telling you to be happy about your cancer or your husband’s affair.

“Hooray for cancer!”

That’s not joy. It’s phony happiness. James is reminding us that the source of our joy is the One who sets us free, not the circumstances that we live in. When he tells us to be joyful as we endure various trials he is reminding us that God is working on us to bring us to maturity. That’s the source of the Christian’s joy in trials.

When we suffer, we are tempted to think that God has abandoned us. A careful look at Scripture reveals just the opposite. If we pay attention we can see that it is in our times of suffering that Jesus makes his presence most known.

He is working on you.

He is making you more like him.

Consider it joy.

2. God is guiding you.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8 (ESV)

A few years ago, I decided to start taking God at his word on this one. I started praying for him to give me his wisdom. Nothing reminds you of your need for more wisdom quite like when your three-year-old asks you how dinosaurs make babies.

When I started asking God for wisdom, the strangest thing happened. He gave it to me. Just like the Bible said that he would. Generously. No rolled eyes. No huffing. Generously. Sometimes his wisdom would come to me before I could even finish my prayer. Other times my request would be given in a few weeks. God never promised how or when he would give us his wisdom. He just said that if we ask, he will give it.

There is one condition. We should not bother asking if we aren’t willing to believe that God will give us his wisdom. This is an easy trap to fall into. Even the strongest believers can experience times of doubt. Some Christian leaders have even tried to turn doubt into some kind of a spiritual discipline.

According to James, doubt is a roadblock. It’s an indication of a faith that is divided between Jesus’ sovereign control over his universe and our worries regarding this life. But we should not let our tendencies toward doubt to keep us from praying. Instead, when doubt creeps in as it often does during trials, we should pray with the man who desperately wanted to see his son healed. “Help my unbelief” (Mark 9:14-29).

Suffering and trials require wisdom. God has not left you alone. He has promised to give you his wisdom. Just ask him for it in faith. It’s one of those prayers that he loves to answer.

3. God has something better for you.

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. James 1:9-11 (ESV)

Maybe you’re flat broke. You have no idea where your next paycheck will come from. You’ve lost count of all the people you owe money to. When the phone rings, you panic.

God has something better for you.

He has not promised riches to his people on this earth. But he has promised a life in eternity where we will never be in need. And he has promised to be with us and give us satisfaction as we wait for that day to come.

Maybe you’re filthy rich. Perhaps your biggest problem is trying to adjust your schedule because the guys who are supposed to install the gold countertops in your third house said that they can’t make it out until Wednesday afternoon.

God has something better for you.

Being filthy rich is not a sin. But it can lead you into sin if you start to center your life around your possessions. To help keep that from happening, remind yourself that no matter how good you have it here, your possessions will not last. Remind yourself that God has something better for you in eternity.

4. God will see you through to the end.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12 (ESV)

It may be the most frequently debated topic in all of Christianity. Can a true Christian lose his salvation? All of the debating has left a lot of us confused. But the Bible could not be more clear.

James did not say, “He might receive the crown of life but we’ll just have to see how things work out.”

For those of us who truly belong to Jesus, God has given the promise of eternal life. He does not break his promise just because we fall short. Instead, he keeps us. He restores us. And for that reason, we have hope.

You can lose all of your money.

You can lose your family.

You can lose your health.

You can lose your church.

But Jesus can’t lose you. If you really belong to him, you belong to him forever. Remember that as you endure trials of various kinds. And consider it joy.

Whatever happens, don’t give up.

Jesus is not finished with you.

That’s why, no matter how bad things get, there is no such thing as a hopeless situation for followers of Christ.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 (ESV)

Change Is Coming

I’m writing a book.

The book will be about the importance of parenting and my goal is to have it released later this year. This is all new territory for me so I will appreciate your prayers and continued support. As the project moves on, I’ll be keeping you updated with my progress and ways that you can help to get the word out.

In order to focus on doing my best on this and other responsibilities, I will be cutting back on this blog. For the past few years I have written something for this blog five days a week. While I work on this book, that will change. My plan is to post new material here only once or twice a week.

Thanks for letting me keep you updated. I didn’t want you to think that the NSA had gotten to me and told me to put an end to my pastoral ramblings. That hasn’t happened.

Yet.

I’m looking forward to writing this book and sharing it with you.

Thanks!

Mark Richt Is Helping To Provide An Answer To A Very Important Question

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Things didn’t work out the way Paul Oliver had planned.

He was supposed to go off to college to be a football star. That much happened.

He was supposed to go to the NFL where he would make a big name for himself and a lot of money. That never happened.

Oliver made it to the NFL but the fame and fortune part of his plan didn’t materialize.

So, for reasons none of us will probably ever know, Paul Oliver took his own life. He left behind a wife and two sons. He also left behind a lot of grieving teammates from the University of Georgia where his football career climaxed. Someone else on that campus was grieving too.

Oliver’s old coach – Mark Richt.

But Coach Richt did more than just grieve. He decided to do something for his other players. The ones still playing for him. The ones who used to play for him. Even the ones who he had to kick off of the team for disciplinary reasons.

Here’s how Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herlad describes Richt’s actions after attending the funeral of his former star defensive back.

“A week later, Georgia football coach Mark Richt huddled with some 40 or so former Georgia players after Oliver’s funeral at Burnt Hickory Baptist Church in Powder Springs. Richt vowed to make good on a promise he made to them when he recruited them, that he would take care of them while they were in Athens and afterwards.” 

They call it the Paul Oliver Network. It’s a tool for former Georgia players to learn how to handle life after football. It’s a system where they can get connected to businesses seeking employees. It’s a fraternity where guys who have just had to give up the game can find encouragement from guys who stepped away long ago and thrived.

Listen to what Coach Richt says about the Paul Oliver Network. His words are a stark contrast to the usual “One game at a time,” “It is what it is,” coach speak that we’ve all grown so accustomed to.

“I’m not going to be presumptuous that if Paul had a good job waiting for him afterwards or if he had hope for a good job or he was on the path for a good job that he would be here today, but maybe. I want that to be one thing to check off the list. I do know this: A man, I think he is divinely created to provide for and protect his family. I think if he’s not doing that or doesn’t feel capable of doing that, I think it hurts his spirit.”

I have two sons. They don’t play football. Futbol is their sport. Or soccer, as we like to call it here in the states.

As they continue playing, I hope that they get to grow under the leadership of coaches like Mark Richt. Too often, coaches are at odds with what parents are trying to do in the lives of their kids. Good parents are thinking long term. They’re thinking about developing their boys and girls into men and women of integrity who will one day develop their own boys and girls into men and women of integrity. Some coaches only care about developing a boy into a quality fullback who, when his time is up under that coach, will remain a boy.

It’s good to see that Richt is doing things differently.

I love sports. But they are an idol in our country. You could even make they case that sport is one of the leading religions in our nation. As a result, kids are being sold a false gospel. Work hard. Start as a freshman. Impress a college scout. Make the jump to the league. Find a place to keep all of your money.

But what they are not told is that there will come a day when they will not play anymore. It may be in high school or it may be in the NFL. Either way, their time as an athlete will end.

What’s next?

Good parents will work hard to provide the best possible answer to that question. A few good coaches will too. Mark Richt is one of them.

I’ve been a Georgia fan all of my life. The Bulldogs won a national title in the 1981 Sugar Bowl when they beat Notre Dame 17 to 10. I was five years old. The commemorative Coke bottle sits on my desk as I write this. The Georgia football team hasn’t won any national titles since then. Friends who cheer for other schools like to remind me of that.

That’s okay with me.

Because something bigger is happening at the University of Georgia.

A coach is doing what he can to develop more than just linebackers with speed and strength. He’s trying to build men. Men who are ready for that question that every athlete must answer when his playing days are over.

What’s next?

Go Dawgs!

And go Coach Mark Richt!