Georgia Is Being Governed By Demetrius The Silversmith

Football America

You’ve probably never heard of Demetrius the Silversmith. No, he’s not a rapper. He was a businessman who lived a long time ago. But, in some ways, it’s like he’s still with us today, using his influence to get things done in the state of Georgia.

Demetrius lived in a place called Ephesus. Ephesus was a large, wealthy city that was home to some 250,000 people. It was what we might today call a progressive city because of all of it’s art, industry and educational opportunities. Above all of that, Ephesus was known for it’s gigantic temple which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. This temple was devoted to the worship of a goddess named Artemis.

In Ephesus, worshiping Artemis was big business. It’s the reason why over 20,000 people kept coming back to fill that giant temple. And the reason why people like Demetrius made a good living. He sold little silver gods for people to keep in their homes.

But then some guy named Paul came to town and messed everything up.

And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily. Acts 19:17-20 (ESV)

A lot of people in Ephesus who used to partake in the national pastime of worshiping Artemis heard the gospel that Paul preached and responded by repenting of their sins. They became new people. The old was gone. Included in that old was all of their Artemis worshiping products. But they didn’t just quit using them. They burned them. The value of what was destroyed was somewhere around $6 million dollars.

That was bad news for our friend Demetrius the Silversmith. He was losing his customers. His reaction shows us that the god he really worshiped was not Artemis. It was money.

About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.” Acts 19:23-27 (ESV)

Allow me to translate Demetrius for you.

“Hey, these Christians are coming in here and preaching this gospel and it’s cutting into our profits. We can’t just sit back and let them stop our cash flow. And what about our giant temple? If this keeps up, it’ll just sit empty. On top of all of that, this Paul had the nerve to say that our god wasn’t really a god since it was made with hands. What’s with the hate speech? Someone has to put a stop to this.”

All of this kind of sounds familiar, doesn’t it? We still pretty much have the same players – the Christians, the agitated business leader and the angry mob.

When Governor Nathan Deal vetoed the religious liberty bill earlier this week, he didn’t do it because he cares about diversity or the LGBT community. He did it because he didn’t want his state’s brand new temple to be sitting empty on Super Bowl Sunday.

And when Coke and Disney and Hollywood threatened to leave the state if the governor didn’t veto the bill, it’s not because they care so much about LGBT rights. They care about profit. And in this case, just like in Ephesus 2,000 years ago, profit and the Christian message simply could not coexist, if I may borrow a term from the progressive crowd.

The true gospel can never fully coexist with the culture. At some point the two come to odds with one another. When that happens, there are only three options. Either the culture can repent, the gospel crowd can abandon their message or the culture can start a riot and throw the gospel crowd out of town. Or veto them. Whichever is more politically appropriate at the moment.

This week, we found out that the people of the state of Georgia do not have the voice that they thought they had. Even our elected officials don’t have quite as much power as we would like to believe.

The functional leaders of our state, we learned on Monday, are the NFL, Hollywood and Disney. To put it another way, in Georgia, we are being governed by Demetrius the Silversmith.

Earlier in Acts 19 we read an interesting account of seven men who were absolutely humiliated by a demon (19:16). We have no record of a riot breaking out because the people were mad at the demons filling their city. There is no record of mass protests due to the fact that Artemis could do nothing to stop the evil that lingered over the city. The only riot is the one we read about that broke out when all of the gospel conversions started to cut into the false god industry. It was Paul, not the demon, that got under the skin of the Ephesian Chamber of Commerce.

 

One way of knowing that you belong to a corrupt society is when blatant evil is accepted simply because it’s good for a few politicians and the businessmen behind them.

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Green Mamba Parenting

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I have a fear about parenting. It doesn’t have so much to do with my specific context of parenting. It has more to do with what parenting will look like in the future.

The pendulum likes to swing. Sometimes, in response to a particular error or evil, we like to carry things to the complete other end of the spectrum, thus creating an entirely new error or evil.

The error and evil that many kids have been growing up under over the best several years is what has come to be known as Helicopter Parenting. And make no mistake, this approach is erroneous at best and sometimes even evil. It has left many kids with no idea how to navigate through the complexities of adulthood once mom and dad and their money aren’t around anymore. To put it another way, it has left us with thousands upon thousands of people in their late 20s and early 30s who are still kids. But, on the bright side, those kids do have a ton of trophies for their efforts or lack thereof.

Here’s where my fear comes in. I’m afraid that in response to this terribly flawed parenting technique, many moms and dads will go to the other extreme. So rather than Helicopter Parents, we’ll see a rise in Green Mamba parents.

The Green Mamba is a deadly African snake. Now I don’t know this from personal experience and I don’t care to but I’m told that the Green Mamba has nothing to do with the tiny green killers inside her eggs once they have hatched. Nice knowing you, kids. Watch out for farmers with shovels. See you in another life. Good luck!

Our kids do not need us to hover over every aspect of their lives. But they do need us. They do not need a trophy just for participating in a sport. But they do need to be praised when they do something right. Our kids do not need us showing up with them on job interviews but they do need us preparing them for when that day comes. And such preparation requires our presence.

There is a difference between neglect and training our kids to learn responsibility and how to take calculated risks on their own. I’m afraid that many parents aren’t seeing the difference. For them, neglect is rationalized as preparing their kids for the real world. This does great harm to kids. Sure, maybe they’ll learn how to fend for themselves but without parental encouragement, approval and grace at the appropriate times they’ll go looking for those things elsewhere. This never ends well.

By all means, let your kids play in the backyard while you take a nap. Let them take the 50 yard walk from your car to their school on their own. Tell them the score when they lose and let them know why not everyone gets a trophy.

But don’t be afraid to hug them. Ask God to give you wisdom so that you’ll know when it actually is a good time for you to step in for their protection. Reward them for a job well done.

The results of Helicopter Parenting are 30 year old kids who are lost when it comes to making decisions and takings risks.

The results of Green Mamba Parenting are young men and women who go through life angrily looking for the approval and affection that they never got at home.

So don’t be a Helicopter Parent.

And don’t be a Green Mamba Parent.

Just be a parent.

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Your Church Is More Influential Than You Think It Is

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The size of your church doesn’t matter as much as you think it does. What matters more is what your church teaches.

When Governor Nathan Deal was reminding us all of how religiously devout he is while in the process of preparing us for his veto of the religious liberty bill, he mentioned that he is a life long member of a faith-based community. The name of the faith-based community to which the Governor belongs is the First Baptist Church of Gainesville.

Now perhaps you’re wondering how a life-long member of a Baptist church could vote against something that would protect pastors. Well, just as simply having the word Republican after one’s name doesn’t make him a champion of liberty, having the word Baptist on the sign out front doesn’t mean that the people inside the building belong to the body of Christ. Words can be misleading.

The First Baptist Church of Gainesville belongs to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a denomination that doesn’t exactly have the high view of Scripture that many Baptists are known for. Bill Coates is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Gainesville. In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage, Coates encouraged church goers to err on the side of love and grace and figure out a way to accept the new normal.

The First Baptist Church of Gainesville is not a particularly large church by megachurch standards. And many may assume that it is less influential than it actually is. Your church may not use curriculum from the First Baptist Church of Gainesville. This church may not have had any of their worship leaders invited to the Grammy’s. But when news broke yesterday of Nathan Deal’s decision to veto the religious freedom bill, the impact of the First Baptist Church of Gainesville was felt statewide. Perhaps even nation wide. As Al Mohler said, “If it can happen in Georgia it can happen anywhere.”

What your church believes matters much, much more than how many people go to your church. And while your church may not be in a large, influential city, it is still influential. That can be good news or bad news. If you are faithful to the Bible this means that you can, in varying degrees, expect to raise up disciples who value the word of God so much that they are willing to joyfully obey it no matter the cost.

But if you abandon the difficult texts or the controversial topics found in the Bible in favor of short sermons on how to better connect with strangers or how Jesus’ resurrection is really about how all of us can rise again from our disappointments if we just try a little harder or believe a little more you will most assuredly produce disciples also. Disciples of the culture’s whims. Disciples of convenience. Just not disciples of Christ.

This helps us to understand what Governor Deal meant when he said that his decision was based on the fact that, “the world is changing around us.” And we wouldn’t want to not change with the world now would we?

There will come a time when the people of our congregations will be pressed. It might be cancer. It might be persecution. It might be a difficult political decision. And what those people have been taught in their church will have a lot to say about what comes out of them during their difficult times.

No matter the size, your church is much more influential than you think it is.

On Easter Sunday I watched a bunch of kids in our church sing a song. Two of the kids on that stage belonged to me. But I am responsible for all of the kids on that stage. I have an obligation to teach them the Bible and encourage their parents in doing the same. Perhaps one of those kids will grow up to be a governor. Maybe not. Maybe she’ll grow up to be a mom or maybe he’ll grow up to teach at a school. Either way, they’ll be pressed.

And when they are, I hope that Christ-centered theology is what comes out rather than whatever it is that they have to say in that moment to keep up with the world.

Theology matters. The church must not abandon the Bible. Without it, we cease to become a church and instead become a factory that produces deceived religious folks who cave to the pressure of the world rather than standing on truth.

Maybe your church is small or far removed from an influential metropolitan area. That’s okay. If you are training up men and women who love Jesus and obey his word, you are far more influential than you may think. A church that settles for teaching members how to change with the world will never change the world. A church that strives for biblical faithfulness will in some way change the world while at the same time pleasing it’s Master. Faithfulness and obedience, not attendance records and influential members, are the instruments that the Master likes to use in accomplishing his will.

For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. Ezra 7:10 (ESV)

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There’s Nothing A Nathan Deal Veto Can Do About That

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On Monday, Nathan Deal, the governor of Georgia, announced that he would veto House Bill 757, otherwise known as the Religious Liberty Bill. Deal said that he had received numerous calls over the bill. He said that nuns threatened him and pastors questioned the legitimacy of his faith if he decided to veto the bill. On the other side, Hollywood film studios, professional sports leagues and big money corporations said that they would make Deal pay if he signed the bill into law. In the end, Deal decided that being known as the state where Ant Man was filmed and hosting another Super Bowl that would almost certainly not involve the team from his state was more important than religious liberty.

If it weren’t for all of the trampling of our freedoms, all of this hypocrisy would make me laugh. The same industry where pedophile rings are as common as peaches in Georgia wants to threaten the state to bow to the homosexual agenda. The same league that all but sanctions domestic violence suddenly wants to take what they think is the moral high ground by threatening to leave the state if the governor doesn’t force bakers to make cakes for gay weddings. Look, I’m no politician or anything but maybe our state would be better off without the pedophile rings and leagues of wife abusers.

If only we had a governor with enough backbone to say, “So you’re threatening to take your pedophilia and domestic abuse out of our state if I decide to protect churches and small businesses? Well, I-20 is that way.”

But apparently it’s just too much for our governor to risk loosing such a cinematic masterpiece as Ant Man.

Typically, many have called this bill a hate bill. That’s because the LGBT community is trying as hard as it can to be the black civil rights movement of the 1960s. But unless I’m watching the wrong channel, I’m just not seeing a whole lot of southern, Democratic politicians sicking dogs on gays like they did to blacks all of those years ago. But I am seeing quite a few Republicans and Democrats sicking their attorneys and paid agitators on those with the nerve to still have a conscience.

As a pastor, I have refused to perform more than one wedding ceremony. There have been some couples who just don’t meet the Biblical qualifications for marriage. Others couldn’t go more than five minutes without broadcasting their major issues right in front of me. When I tell them that I will not perform their wedding, they’re usually not too happy with me. They call me terrible names like fool, hypocrite, Republican and other words that should not be spoken around children. But they never try to sue me. The message from our governor on Monday was, “But now’s a good time to start.”

This is all the natural result of a government that has gotten far to big for anyone’s good. And both gays and straights, religious and non-religious are responsible for allowing it to happen. When a private baker says that he doesn’t want to participate in a  homosexual wedding ceremony, rather than finding the next baker, there are those who feel the need to go to a court and make someone pay in the name of social justice.

On the other side, Christians have for far too long looked to the state to sanction what the Bible already has. Why do we think that marriage has to be a government issue? Baptism isn’t. And praise God for that. But now that I’ve put the idea out there, I’m sure that there will be a bill before the Georgia General Assembly next year requiring churches to baptize unrepentant atheists in the name of diversity. I know of a few churches that are already ahead of the curve. Hey, whatever it takes to get the numbers.

Nathan Deal is a Republican. Hopefully Monday’s actions will remind us that simply voting for the lesser of two evils because he is a Republican is foolish. Before Nathan Deal was a Republican, he was a Democrat. And now, he’s acting an awful lot like a Democrat. But quite honestly, I’m having a hard time telling the difference.

Nathan Deal is not up for reelection. He doesn’t have to worry about losing the Christian vote in a few years. But one thing that should concern him is his legacy. What will Nathan Deal be remembered for?

To many, he will be remembered as the man who cared more about Ant Man than he did for the people who elected him to protect their freedoms.

Christians, this is a time to stand up. Not in hate. Not so that you can show the homosexuals a thing or two. And not strictly out of anger like a bunch of Donald Trump supporters. We must stand in love. But do not believe the lies of those self-proclaimed Christians who value getting along and being relevant more than the Truth. It is possible to stand up against something in a loving way. There are some Christians who pretend that aligning themselves with the LGBT community at the expense of the gospel is somehow speaking up for the voiceless and the marginalized. You know, the voiceless and marginalized who have the full support of Hollywood and the NFL. But what of the marginalized baker who just lost his business because he doesn’t want to bake a cake for Dan and Billy? Crickets chirping. Oh, and when does Ant Man 2 come out because, you know, it was filmed right around the corner from my aunt’s house?

We must stand for truth and we must do so in love. But Christian, as you do, expect some opposition. The Hollywood elite, the NFL, big business, and yes, even your governor, if you live in Georgia, have you surrounded. But that’s okay because just like Elisha before us, “those who are with us are greater than those who are with them.” And there is nothing a Nathan Deal veto can do about that.

When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:15-17 (ESV)

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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

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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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