The Offended Olympics


There’s nothing like the Olympics to remind Americans of our favorite sport. No, it’s not swimming or gymnastics or track and field. It’s getting offended. And, so far, we’re leading in the medal count.

The good people at CNN were kind enough to remind us of the latest thing we’re supposed to be mad about. Women athletes, it appears, just aren’t being treated fairly by the sports media. No, Rowdy Gaines, NBC’s ultra enthusiastic swimming commentator, didn’t say that Katie Ledecky was a dumb broad who needed to get out of the pool and in the kitchen. But he did commit the sin of mentioning another swimmer’s husband and the role he played in helping her win a gold medal.


That swimmer’s husband, by the way, also happened to be her coach.

Double gasp!

Others are jumping in on the supposed injustices. Like when a gymnastics commentator dared to imagine that one of the young girls on the dominate US gymnastics team might be at a mall if it weren’t for the Olympics. The leftist, activist side of the Internet went nuts over the idea that a teenage girl might be at a mall. Here’s a tip, Mr. Gymnastics Commentator. The next time one of the girls on the gymnastics team wins gold, say something like this.

“Wow! What an accomplishment. And to think that she would be using her own bare, calloused, large hands to dig wells for orphaned transgendered penguins if it weren’t for the Olympics.”

One journalist committed the unpardonable sin of making the link between a female Olympic athlete and her NFL playing husband. How dare a writer even think about trying to make us connect with a female athlete who won a bronze medal in a sport which, until about three minutes ago, we didn’t even know existed by informing us that her husband plays for a team that even non-sports fans are vaguely familiar with?

All of this leads me to the following conclusion. We aren’t just watching the Olympics. We’re in the Olympics. The Offended Olympics. These games are different. Rather than jumping over hurdles, we have allowed our feelings to become hurdles that others must figure out how to navigate their way around. Oh, and our hurdles are connected to land mines so good luck. Instead of shooting at targets with bows or rifles, we set our digital aim on anyone who dares to question the narrative or break off from the reservation. Our dream team doesn’t have names like Kevin Durant or Gabby Douglas, athletes who excel to such a degree that they make other really good athletes look average. No, our dream team is made up of CNN and some blogger from the Huffington Post or Salon who in their continual victimhood make everyone else look like cavemen. Just as Durant and Douglas can be counted on to come through in the clutch, the members of this dream team can always be relied on to remind us of what should be offending us and of how evil we are for not already noticing.

Well, I’m sitting this Olympics out. Not the real Olympics. I’m still into those. I’m talking about the Offended Olympics. Sure, there are things I see that I don’t like. For example, on Monday night while watching the games with my wife and sons, there was a Nike commercial praising a transgendered athlete. Rather than starting up a boycott against Nike or going on a hunger strike until they release a new line of Bible-based footwear, I used it as a teaching opportunity to remind my boys that the world’s ways are not God’s ways and to encourage them to think critically rather than merely consume. I want them to be the type of men who question why it is that a gay man is validated by biology because, “he was born that way,” but a transgendered man is validated in his actions because he was born the wrong way.

But most people will continue to play the games. Rather than using their power to keep scrolling or change the channel or just forget about it, they’ll moan and ache and complain and fight until they get their way.

And then there will be no more games left to play and no words left to say. Sooner or later, everything will be too offensive.

In the Offended Olympics, everyone loses.

But hey, we all get gold medals.

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School Isn’t The Only Place Where The Satanists Have A Club


They say that they don’t really worship Satan. He is, they tell us, just a symbol for their rational thought and atheism. All of that is just another way to say that they really do worship Satan. And now, they want to start a club in public schools. We were all shocked when we heard reports of this earlier in the week. That’s natural. But a deeper look reveals that we really shouldn’t be surprised that Satanists want to meet in public schools.

They’ve been meeting in our churches for years.

Satanism isn’t what you think it is. Sure, there’s an element out there that likes to sacrifice goats and drink blood while sitting around and listening to Slayer in the graveyard. But there’s another faction of Satanism that’s much harder to spot. As is usually the case with the devil’s schemes, this particular brand looks really good on the outside. To understand it better, we have to trace it back to its New Testament roots.

Things were changing in Jesus’ ministry. He was switching gears by talking to his disciples more and more about his death. For a group of people who were expecting their Master to be a mighty warrior sent to wipe out the Romans, this was absurd. So Peter pulled the Sovereign King of kings and Lord of lords over to the side to explain a few things to him. There would be no cross, Peter told him. But he didn’t just tell Jesus. He rebuked Jesus. No cross!

Jesus’ response is one of the most cutting in all of Scripture.

But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Matthew 16:23 (ESV)

It’s one thing for Jesus to tell you that you’re missing the point. It’s quite another for him to call you Satan. That’s precisely what Jesus did to Peter. But why? We know that Jesus, the perfect God Man, never sinned so this wasn’t the result of a bad temper. Jesus’ rebuke was righteous, not sinful. Satan was working through Peter to tempt Jesus to avoid the cross. He had attacked Jesus with the same temptation face to face at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry without success (Matthew 4:1-11). Now he was giving it a another shot by using one of Jesus’ closest friends. The last thing Satan wanted was the crucifixion because he knew that it meant the beginning of the end for him.

When I was growing up, my church was always having these rock music seminars where we were taught what rock and roll bands were saying backwards in their songs. It was terrifying. And, to be honest, quite entertaining. The speakers at these seminars would always devote some time to showing us Satanic art work and hand symbols, the most common ones being the pentagram and upside down cross.

If we understand our Bibles correctly, it will be obvious that the symbol which best represents Satan is the invisible cross, not the upside down one. He can work just as easily through the eager church-goer as he can through the devout graveyard dweller. Just ask Peter. And his ultimate goal for both is the same. No cross. Since the cross has already happened, he’s now doing everything he can to turn our attention from it. A quick look at many of our churches reveals that he has been quite successful.

All of those backward masking seminars and record burnings in the 1980s were no threat to Satan. He’s okay with us getting rid of pentagrams, just as long as we don’t replace them with talk of the cross where Christ was crucified in obedience to his Father for the salvation of his people.

And today, Satan is okay with our large, relevant churches and small traditional churches just so long as none of those churches spends anytime preaching about, singing of and trying to live out the cross.

They may not be wearing black, hooded robes and slaughtering goats, but the Satanists are already in the churches. And, like Peter, these proponents of the sneaky brand of Satanism probably don’t even know what they’re spreading. But it doesn’t matter. Every Sunday school or small group lesson about becoming a better person and every sermon about taking your life to the next level or getting more money are what we might call the sacrament of the Satanic church – no cross.

No doubt, Christian groups will do what they can to try to keep the Satanists out of the public schools. They’ll file petitions and contact school board members. Perhaps, before that happens, Christians should address the Satanism in their own churches. After all, it’s hard to stand victoriously against the obvious brand of Satanism on Monday when we embrace the more subtle variety on Sunday.

Our victory will not be found in a court room or a school board meeting. It is found rather at the cross where Jesus won an eternal victory for his people.

We are, be definition, a people of the cross.

Anything less is simply Satanic.

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Colossians 2:13-15 (ESV)

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Gospel Malpractice And A Picture Of Cross-Carrying


Thurston is a hard worker. Maybe one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen. And Thurston is a real man. A while back, when his daughter was going through a difficult time, Thurston stepped up to the challenge like few men would. I’ve never known a Thurston before. Well, unless you want to count Thurston Howell III. I’m glad that I got to know the real Thurston a few days ago.

When Thurston found out that I was a pastor, our conversation quickly turned to church. He’s a church man too. His dad devoted his entire life to leading churches. Now Thurston plays music for the church. When Thurston asked me about the city where I pastor, I told him. He had been to my city before to visit another baptist church.

When he showed up to that other baptist church, everything started out like a normal visit to a new church. At some point during the morning, Thurston and his wife got separated from one another. When they finally met up again in that old baptist church building, Thurston’s wife had tears in her eyes. Like any husband, especially one in a new place, Thurston was concerned and asked his wife what was wrong.

She told him that one of the leaders in the church told her that she and her husband needed to find another church to go to. Their kind wasn’t welcomed at this church.

You see, Thurston and his wife had committed the sin of being black and visiting a white church. This would all be bad enough if it had happened in 1942. This particular instance of gospel malpractice happened just a few years ago.

Thurston told me that these kind of comments never really bothered him. He said that they always bother his wife. I’m white. I don’t know what it’s like to be told that my “kind” isn’t welcomed somewhere. I can’t relate to the pain that Thurston’s wife felt that morning. Even still, I’m with her. Those words really bother me. And they bother Jesus too.

I know that race gets hyped up sometimes. Stories about racism get a lot of views and clicks and attention, whether they’re true or not. But we must not let this blind us to the reality that racism really does exist. Thurston told me about a time when he first started selling cars and he took a few guys out on a test drive. They took him out into the middle of the country, dropped him off and drove off with the new car. This was the days before cell phones so Thurston’s only hope was knocking on doors and asking to borrow a phone to get a ride back to work.

At the first house he went to, Thurston had a gun pulled on him just for walking on the property. And, in his words, he, “wasn’t even dressed up like a thug.” He had on a shirt and tie. But that wasn’t enough to atone for the color of his skin. The next time you’re tempted to think that racism is nothing more than media hype to sell more advertising, I wish that you could ask Thurston about his experiences.

As he drew closer and closer to his death, Jesus devoted more time to teaching his disciples about the significance and meaning of the cross. Those are lessons that we would do well to learn from today.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 (ESV)

Not, “Repeat this prayer after me.”

Not, “Raise your hand, walk the aisle, hug the pastor’s neck, sniff snot and sign a card.”

Just, self-denial and cross carrying wherever Jesus leads.

If we have truly denied ourselves, we will not cling to our color tribes. We won’t find our identity in the color of our skin or our politics. Rather, we will obey Jesus. Even when it’s hard. And if we’re carrying our cross, in a small way, we’ll be doing what Jesus did. We’ll be moving toward people who are different from us. We’ll be moving toward them in sacrificial love.

I’ve often wondered why race is such a problem in the church. Why are youth ministers yelled at for bringing in black kids? Why are black families wishing to worship Jesus told to take it somewhere else? Part of me thinks that the answers are far too complex for any of us to ever understand. But another part of me thinks it’s pretty simple.

We have abandoned the cross.

So rather than denying ourselves, we deny others. Rather than taking up our cross, we settle for hanging it up on a wall. And instead of actually following Jesus, we admire him from afar because after all, he might lead us some place we don’t want to go. For many in the church, the cross has become like the American flag. We respect it. We don’t want to see it dishonored. We have certain days devoted to it. But it has nothing to do with what we’re doing, saying or thinking on a Tuesday afternoon.

If we truly are a cross-centered people and not just the kind of people who like to add it to our decorations, we will be a different people. We will remember that, without the cross, we’re all outsiders as far as God’s concerned. But because of the cross, through faith and repentance, we are welcomed in.

Thurston finally got a ride home that day when he was left out in the middle of nowhere by those car thieves. An old white lady drove up and asked him if he needed any help. He explained to her what happened and told her that he didn’t have any weapons or ill intentions. She wasn’t hearing any of it. She just told him to get in the car. Thurston obeyed. He walked around back and opened the door. Again, she wasn’t having it.

She told him to sit up front.

That old lady in her car gives us a good picture of self-denying, cross-carrying discipleship.

There are Jews, Gentiles, whites and blacks who are following Jesus.

But there is no backseat.

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“So what are we supposed to do?”



For the first time in their lives, there are many Christians who have no idea what to do when it comes time to vote for the president in November. They’re used to stepping into the booth and voting for their guy without a second thought. Those days are over. The lies, corruption, arrogance, injustice and disregard for human life displayed by both major candidates is simply too much to ignore. And it’s certainly too much to condone.

So what are we supposed to do? I get asked that question a lot. It is not the purpose of this blog post to tell you what name to write-in or what third party to go with. But I can tell you what Christians need to do.

We need to pray very hard for God to help us to love and obey him more. When we blow it, we need to ask God to forgive us rather than comparing ourselves to those who we think are worse sinners than we are. We need to ask God to help us to love the hurting, the forgotten and the hard to love. We need to make the effort to know God as he is presented in his word.

Husbands, you need to love your wives as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25). Wives, respect your husbands. Pray that they would lead your family, not as tyrants, but as servants of Christ. Pray that the Holy Spirit will work in both of  you in such a way that you find more delight in sacrificing for the good of the other than you do in your own personal comfort.

Parents, pour into your kids. Use their victories and their failures in sports and academics to teach them what it means to be men and women. But teach them also that there is more to life than their victories and failures in sports and academics. Take on the challenge of teaching them about the Trinity. It’s worth it. Kick soccer balls, play Legos and play on the rope swing in your backyard. Don’t let the panic industry bleed into your family.

Pastors, ask God to help you to be like Ezra, who, “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). By God’s grace, use your position to teach people, in word and in deed, biblical concepts like discernment, holiness, sacrifice, faithfulness, repentance and cross-carrying. Don’t settle for appeasing the congregation. Stand for truth and holiness, even if it means being called self-righteous. This is going to get harder as the days move on. The pressure to sit down and shut up until someone needs you to preach a wedding or funeral will be even more real than it already is. Don’t believe those who tell you to, “Stick to the word,” whenever you have the nerve to actually say what the word teaches about some new sin the church in on the verge of embracing. Stay strong. You are not alone.

Listen to music. Laugh. Cry. Rest. Stand. Learn. Repent. Often.

If you’re not voting for either of the two main presidential candidates, there are those who will tell you that you’re wasting your vote. You’re not. The system doesn’t work that way. But it is possible for you to waste your opportunity to stand while others bow and shine while others blend in. Don’t waste that.

I still don’t know whose name I’ll be writing in on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. I do know that on Wednesday, November 9, 2016, Jesus will still be God. His command for his people to love him and to be a voice for the voiceless will still be binding. His protection from evil will still be sufficient. His plan for how we should lead those he has put under our care will still be relevant. A body of believers remembering those truths and living them out is far more powerful than any president.

Church, remember that our Savior is not elected. In his grace, he has elected us (Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 2:1-10). And we are his body (Colossians 1:18), not an extension of the Democratic or Republican parties.

And church, remember that 0ur identity is found on a bloody cross on Skull Hill, not in a white mansion on Capitol Hill.

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Four Things That Every Christian Has Been Given


Peter knew suffering. And he knew suffering people. But that didn’t crush his hope. In fact, it strengthened it. Here’s what Peter, the man who would later know what it’s like to be crucified for his faith, wrote to a community of fellow believers who were all too familiar with persecution.

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. 1 Peter 1:3 (ESV)

That’s a short verse but it’s loaded with encouragement for believers. You may not be facing death for your faith. Perhaps you haven’t lost a parent to persecution. But, no doubt, there have been times when you have felt like all hope was lost. Well, if you’re a Christian, it wasn’t. And it never will be.

Usually when people talk about hope, we roll our eyes. Hope seems like one of those nice things we like to talk about but never actually realize. That’s a fair assessment of the world’s hope. But Christian hope is different. It is rooted in an actual person – Jesus Christ. It’s traced back to an actual event – the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. And it is directed toward a specific people – those who have been set free from sin by Jesus Christ.

When you became Christian, God gave you so much more than a Get Out Of Hell Free card. He has given us more than we could possibly ever imagine. Focusing on these four gifts from God will help us to see that, no matter how hot the fires burn against us, we are never without hope.

Christian, God has given you a Savior. 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!”



Because of the grace of God the Father and the sacrifice of God the Son, we have belonging in the family of God. Because of your Savior, Jesus Christ, you have a Father who is in heaven. You have been adopted out of the slums of hopelessness and into the family of God. There is One who hears your cry. There is One who calls you his own.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:4-7 (ESV)

Christian, God has given you mercy. 

This isn’t NFL Draft Day where the elite shine and all of the teams fight for the player they need the most. We have nothing to offer God. God was doing just fine without us. He does not need us. He never was lonely without us. But he has still chosen us when he had every right to crush us. That’s called mercy. It’s God not giving you what you deserve. The last thing you want from God is what you deserve.

David realized that after his great sin with Bathsheba.


Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions. Psalm 51:1 (ESV)

God does not wash away our sins according to our goodness. God’s washing away of our sins is solely the result of his goodness and mercy.

Christian, God has given you new life. 

Born again is a phrase that those of us who have grown up in the church have heard a lot but often forget what it means. We think that it was invented by a presidential candidate or some gospel singer. It goes back long before that.

One night, Jesus talked to a Pharisee named Nicodemus and told him that he must be born again. Nicodemus was blown away. He was thinking of a physical rebirth. But Jesus cleared things up.

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3 (ESV)

Being born again gives us more than just a new status in this life. It gives us a new dwelling in the next life. Since you have been born again, you have a place for all eternity in the kingdom of God. And as Peter goes on to tell his readers, nothing can take that place away from you.

Christian, you have real hope. 

There are millions of gods in our world but the one thing that sets our God apart from the rest is the empty tomb. Muhammad died. The Buddha died. And Jesus died. But Jesus didn’t stay that way. He has no final resting place, at least in the sense that we use the term. And because of that, your final resting place will be in a new heaven and a new earth. Finally and forever, you will rest from sin and death and temptation and worry and hopelessness.

So Christian, stop allowing your fears, your adversaries and the scary world you live in to defeat you. You come from a long line of suffering saints who didn’t give up. Rather, they looked back to an empty tomb and they looked ahead to eternal joy. That is to say, they looked to Jesus.

In him, you have victory.


And that’s real hope.

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Be Careful What You Fear


Fear can make you do some crazy things. It can physically shut your body down. It can convince you to make decisions that you’ll later regret. It can convince you to buy some products and get rid of others. As followers of Christ, we have to be very careful of what we fear.

None of us are taught how to fear. At varying degrees, we just enter the world that way. And to make it all better, our parents lie to us. They tell us, “There’s nothing to be afraid of.” As we get older, we realize that they were lying to us. There’s plenty to be afraid of. It might not be under our bed but it’s certainly outside our door. If not, we tell ourselves, why do we have security systems on our cars and homes? But then we get even older and we tell the same lie to our kids. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. Go back to sleep.”

Jesus doesn’t work this way.

Consider the story of Ananias. Ananias doesn’t get much attention. I don’t know of any VBS themes devoted to him. But if you’re a Christian, it’s very likely that the story of your salvation could be traced back to Ananias. All by God’s grace, of course.

God came to Ananias in a vision one day. Ananias responded like any good follower of Christ. “Here I am, Lord.”

By the time Ananias found out what God was requesting, perhaps Ananias was wishing that he wouldn’t have answered so quickly.

There was a man named Saul. He was well known among Christians for all the wrong reasons. He wanted to kill them. And God wanted Ananias to meet Saul.

Ananias was afraid. So afraid that he felt compelled to talk the Sovereign God of the universe out of his plan.

But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” Acts 9:13-14 (ESV)

As if God would say, “Oh. Good point. I didn’t think about that. Scratch that. My bad.”

When I read this, I picture God laughing when a frightened Ananias talks about the “authority from the chief priests.” Do you remember one of the last things that Jesus told his disciples after his resurrection? In Matthew 28 he told them that, “All authority in heaven and on earth” had been given to him. All authority. Ananias had either forgotten that or hadn’t learned it yet. And the same seems to be true of us.

In this age of fear over elections and Supreme Court appointments and terror strikes it is important for us to remember who the authority really belongs to.

It’s not Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

It’s not ISIS.

It’s not the Supreme Court.

It’s Jesus. And any authority anyone on this earth has ultimately rests under his authority. He gives it. He takes it away. All for the good of his Church.

When the Lord responded to Ananias, he didn’t say what parents usually say. He didn’t say, “There’s nothing to be afraid of.” And he didn’t even promise that Ananias would be safe. He just said, in so many words, “Go, because I’ve got a plan for Saul and you play a part in the beginning of it.”

So Ananias went. He wasn’t given the assurance that his going would be free of difficulty or danger. But he wasn’t going alone. He was going with the presence of his Lord. And he was going in the fear of the Lord.

The fear of the Lord is different from the fear of man. The fear of man sees man as ultimate and leads to paralysis. The fear of God sees God as ultimate and leads to worship and obedience and joy.

It’s a scary world that we live in. There is plenty to be afraid of but we must be careful what we fear. It is impossible to simultaneously live our lives in fear of man and obedience to God. Our only hope is to fear God.

If we allow the fear of man to consume us we will eventually embrace evil. Our fears will convince us that evil is our only option. But if we fear God, that is, stand before him in reverential awe and obedience, we will see the world in a whole new way.

Yes, the world will still be a frightening place when we fear God.

But the terrors of this world will have no control over us.

That’s because our eyes will be fixed on the Authority that is over this world.

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I Really Need You To Pray For This Woman That I Know


I usually don’t devote this space to prayer requests but this is an urgent matter. I really need you to pray for this woman that I know.

I’ve known her my entire life. Although she’s a good bit older than me, she’s still beautiful. But right now she’s hurting.

She’s in a strong marriage but it’s like she keeps forgetting her vows. She repeatedly forsakes her husband in favor of lesser men. Men who do not care for her. Men who only wish to use her for their own pleasure and advancement. Repeatedly, they abandon her once they are done. Each time, I think she’s learned her lesson. Each time, I’m wrong. She keeps going back to what she knows is destroying her.

It wasn’t always this way. Early on, she lived her life with purpose. She helped others. She loved others. Part of what drew so many people to her was the way that she refused to blend in. She was so different. But that’s changing. Now, she’s becoming like everyone else. And I’m afraid of what it’s doing to her.

Have you ever seen mug shots of a meth addict? Usually in the first arrest picture, the person looks normal, healthy and even attractive. After ten or twenty arrests, it’s like you’re looking at a completely different person. Teeth that were once white are now gone. Strong facial features are now covered with blotches and bruises. It’s really sad to see. Well, that’s sort of like my friend. I don’t have any mug shots to prove it to you and she’s not on meth but she’s changed. You might say that the years haven’t been kind to her.

The lady who once spoke up for those who have no voice now shouts them down.

The lady who built her reputation on moving toward the hurting now seems to do everything she can to shelter herself from them.

There was a time when this lady was ridiculed by the world for being so different. Her holiness was seen as offensive to a dark world. Now even that same dark world blushes at her embrace of evil.

She used to love the truth. She loved to hear it. She loved to make it known. Now she questions the very concept. She has traded in what is right for what works. Or even worse, for what is popular.

Now, just like the people in those mug shots, you can’t hardly recognize her anymore.

And it’s breaking my heart. I hate to see her like this. She never was perfect but there was a time when she was much better than this. I’m really worried. So that’s why I’m using this space to ask you to pray. It’s all I know to do.

There have been interventions, bold confrontations, threats, close calls and all of that. None of it seems to work for more than a short time.

So I’ve decided to do a better job of praying for her and I would really appreciate it if you would join with me. In the end, I know that she’ll make it through okay. Sometimes that’s hard to believe but I still believe it. But along the way, I worry about the ones who will be led astray by her. The very ones she was supposed to be helping. That really bothers me.

So if you get a chance today, pray for my friend.

My hurting, misguided, nearly unrecognizable friend.

By now, I’m sure you’d like to know what name to call her as you lift her up in prayer.

The Church.

Please pray for the Church.

For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:2-3 (ESV)

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Beating Hillary And The Judgment Of God


On Wednesday night I got to do something with my sons that I haven’t done in quite some time. I made them sit down and watch a man give a speech. I wanted them to see it because it was history in the making. By the time it was over, I was using the speech as an example of what it looks like when a man with a conscience stands for what he believes in, regardless of the consequences.

Ted Cruz was not my first choice for president. There are many issues where he and I disagree with one another. And Ted Cruz is no savior. No politician is. Our country needs another Great Awakening more than we need a great president. But with that being said, I was thankful that my sons got to see some integrity on display, at great cost, during the presidential election.

I know. I know. Ted Cruz committed to endorse the Republican nominee, whoever it may be. And for his failure to sing the praises of Donald Trump last night, a man who ridiculed Cruz’s wife and accused Cruz’s father of playing a part in the Kennedy assassination, there are some who are attacking Ted Cruz’s integrity.

I cannot speak for all Trump supporters so I’ll just speak for some of the ones who I have spoken to personally. They’ve spent the past year very well aware of Donald Trump’s morality issues. They know about his adultery. They know about his lying. They know about his support for killing the unborn, even in the late stages of the pregnancy. But when confronted on this, they say the same thing. “I’m not looking for a pastor in chief. I’m looking for a commander in chief.” Or, in other words, integrity doesn’t matter. Well, until Ted Cruz didn’t give the speech they were looking for on Wednesday night.

Again, Ted Cruz isn’t my savior. But if the worst thing you can tell me about him is that he didn’t keep his word to throw his support behind a tyrant in waiting, I’ll take it. Space and time would not permit me to list the transgressions of Donald Trump. And if I did, I’d be accused of judging Mr. Trump, otherwise known as King David. And who am I, a self-righteous Baptist preacher, to judge Mr. Trump’s heart? For many, it’s okay to judge the actions of another politician, just as long as it’s not their politician.

On Wednesday night, Ted Cruz, like him or not, stood by his convictions. That’s something that cannot be said of most other national politicians. Remember Bernie Sanders? It amused me on Wednesday night when all of the booing started. Perhaps you noticed what got the biggest reaction out of the crowd of Trump supporters. It was the part when Cruz told Americans to vote their conscience and when he said God bless America. At least for the crowd in attendance last night, talk of God and conscience can be quite convicting.

Pastors are supposed to be silent on these kind of issues. “Stick to the Bible,” they tell us. Well, I am. In the Bible, I don’t find talk of trade deals or the military industrial complex. But I do learn about the value of human life, something that Donald Trump has never supported right up until the time when he decided to become a Republican and run for president. I speak up because it troubles me that many believers will abandon the cause of the unborn simply to beat Hillary. And it troubles me that many believers will endorse a man who draws attention to the menstrual cycle of women who do not play nicely with him, mocks disabled reporters who are doing their job, and hates having blacks count his money because, “laziness is a trait in blacks.” All because they want to beat Hillary.

But Ted Cruz is the man with the integrity problem because he showed up to the pep rally without wearing the Trump jersey.

I am very concerned about what Donald Trump will do to the Church. I’m not talking about his policies but rather our reputation. How are we to take a stand for the life of the unborn with a straight face when it is revealed that we supported a man who was okay with pulling a six pound baby halfway out of the mother and ending the baby’s life? How will we be able to honestly minister to the non-whites in our community when it is revealed that we threw our support behind a man who calls them all lazy? How will our church leaders sincerely preach against the sins condemned in the Bible when those same church leaders condoned those same sins with their vote? How can we honestly obey Jesus and pray, “Deliver us from evil” when we embrace evil in the voting booth. All just to beat Hillary.

I get that every candidate, and every voter, myself included, has a problem with evil. We’re all evil to some degree. But some of us recognize our need for forgiveness. Others don’t. Instead, they celebrate their evil.

For all of our problems, God has given us a unique privilege in the United States. We get to vote for our leaders. I believe that this is a gift that requires wise stewardship. It is a gift for which we will all be held accountable (2 Corinthians 5:10). It bothers me that many in the Church seem okay with standing before a holy God with the excuse of, “Well, we had to beat Hillary.”

I tremble at our holy God’s response.

Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!

Isaiah 5:20 (ESV)

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Stopping The Cycle Of Self-Righteousness


It’s called passing the blame. We all do it. We do it because it makes us feel better about ourselves. It gives us a sense of righteousness. But it’s a false sense of righteousness and Jesus doesn’t care for it.

Person A does something terrible and he gets caught. Red handed. There’s no getting out of it. He could repent but that would require a measure of humility, a lacking quality in the character of Person A. So Person A does what seems most logical. He takes a look at Person B and finds that Person B has done the exact same thing. Or, even better for Person A, something much worse. Problem solved. At the very least, Person A is no worse than anyone else on the planet. But most likely, as he sees it and in spite of his wrong doing, he’s actually much better than everyone else.

The problem here is that we are not called to meet the standard of Person B. We are called to meet the standard of a holy God. And we all fail miserably. So when we carry on about how much better we are than the other fellow we sound an awful lot like the out of shape man in his 30s who can’t quit talking about how good his high school football team was. No one cares. It doesn’t matter.

Jesus told a story to get across just how much he hates this type of self-righteousness (Luke 18:9-14).

A well-respected religious man went to the temple to pray. He would have been better off staying at home. Rather that pleading with and worshiping God, this man used his time of prayer to show God what a great guy he is.

“God, thank you for making me so awesome. I am so much better than all of the sinners out there, especially that heathen on the other side of the room. Oh, and I also wanted to remind you that I make the effort to tithe even more than I’m supposed to. I’ll bet you don’t come across very many people like me. You’re welcome.”

On the other side of the room, another prayer was being spoken. But this one was different. It was much more simple. And much more humble.

“God, I deserve death but I ask for your mercy. I am a sinner.”

The man who prayed the first prayer was a member of the religious establishment. He was well-respected and well-taught. The crowd listening to Jesus’ story was most likely expecting Jesus to commend this man, simply because he belonged to the right group.

But instead of commending him, Jesus condemned him.

It was the second man, a hated tax-collector, who Jesus said went home justified. His humble cry for mercy was heard and the transition was made from sinner to justified.

Pay attention the next time a politician or one of the toddlers living in your home does something foolish. You won’t have to wait long and, chances are, you’ll have a hard time telling the difference between the toddler and the politician. Notice the response when they get caught. More than likely, the response is something closer to self-righteousness than genuine humility.

“But he did it too!”

Now pay attention to your own tendency to respond in the same way when you are convicted or exposed in some particular sin. Remember, that you are not called to measure your sin against the sins of another. No matter how much better than the other guy you convince yourself that you are, you still fall short of God’s standard.

And that leaves you with only one logical prayer.

“God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

Sin will always be your master until you come to grips with your need for the Master’s mercy.

“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:14 (ESV)

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The Summer Of Rage And The Trembling Of Satan


Three more police officers had been murdered. Details were still coming in. I turned off the television and loaded my family up in my truck. As we drove, I thought about all of the violence that we have seen in our country this summer. That violence was the reason why I was driving with my family.

Last week our church decided to do something about the division in our country. We knew that we needed to pray but we didn’t want prayer to be the crutch that kept us from actually engaging the community. And we didn’t want to fall into the trap of writing angry Facebook posts in ALL CAPS and then patting ourselves on the back for “telling it like it is” or for not being politically correct as if that’s all the world needs.

So we decided to have a cookout. I know. What a shock. Baptists planning something involving food. Don’t judge. We had our cookout in a community that is mostly black and we invited the police. I was afraid when all of this was being planned. I was afraid that people wouldn’t show up. On the way over, I was afraid that the latest shooting in Baton Rouge would keep people away.

It didn’t.

I don’t know how many people came to our cookout. I do know that we prepared for 400 people and there weren’t a whole lot of leftovers when it was all over. And, when it was all over, I knew that I had just experienced one of the highlights of my pastoral career.

There were old white men who listen to Willie Nelson talking and eating and laughing with old black men who like to listen to Al Green.

There were white police officers throwing footballs and racing with little black kids.

There were high ranking members of my community’s police force making themselves available to answer tough questions.

Never once did I hear the phrases Black Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter or All Lives Matter. No one said anything about Sean Hannity or Al Sharpton. People just ate. And laughed. And talked.


You know, the stuff we used to do a lot before we started getting our tribal marching orders from Fox News and CNN and our favorite talk radio host or blogger.

The world is an angry place. Tensions are high. Blood is spilling. And people are looking for someone to lead. The words used to describe Israel in the final verse of the book of Judges could very easily apply to America today.

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 21:25 (ESV)

Some people’s eyes tell them that killing police officers is the right thing. For others, it’s more angry, divisive rants, sometimes in the name of Jesus.

If ever there was a time for the Church to be what Jesus called us to be, it’s now. If all we ever do is pick sides in a divisive culture, all we’ll ever bring the culture is sugar and more darkness. Jesus calls us to be salt and light. When we are obeying his command, we care less about proving a point or electing our guy than we do loving our neighbor. And if you really want to love your neighbor, you have to go to your neighbor. I think that the Church forgets that sometimes.

But when the Church remembers that, I believe that Satan trembles. I know that in our highly advanced day and age, talk of the devil is seen as silly. I’ll tell you what’s silly. Watching people who don’t believe in the devil, or even evil for that matter, trying to look smart while failing to come up with an explanation for all of the bloodshed during this summer of rage is what’s really silly.

When the Church forgets that we wrestle not against flesh and blood or budget plans or house bills or political opponents but against “cosmic powers over this present darkness” and “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12) it’s no wonder that we fail to have any influence in the world. Forget about losing the culture wars, we often lose the spiritual wars because we don’t even know that we’re in one.

Church, you must remember that your primary enemy is not the Black Lives Matter protestor or the police officer. Your opponent is the Thief who aims to steal and kill and destroy. And lately, business has been pretty good for him.

It doesn’t have to be that way. But that means that we have to step away from our tribe, away from our keyboard activism and across the street or over the railroad tracks to our neighbor’s house. It’s been said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one single step. Well, the journey of gospel-centered peacemaking begins the same way. People who live next door to each other but who in reality are a thousand miles apart from one another can come together when the Church takes the first step.

It may be a step with a Bible in hand or it may be a step that’s made while carrying hamburgers. But it’s a step that needs to be made.

There are people who are profiting off of the divisiveness in this country. Their book sales and Facebook likes and poll numbers reach new heights while we burn one another down. It’s up to the Church to put a stop to this. The Church should be the first to say to those who profit off of divisiveness that their business is not welcome in our communities.

Yesterday afternoon, while police officers in bulletproof vests raced barefoot kids, I got to see what happens when the Church takes the first step. It was a beautiful sight and I pray that there are many more steps to follow.

As we were cleaning up yesterday, I had several people come up to me and say that we need to do this kind of thing more often. I agree. Our communities need it.

The talking heads will always talk.

The social media activists will always ramble on.

And things will always be the same.

But when the Church acts like the Church, that’s when we begin to see things change.

That’s when people come together.

That’s when Satan trembles.

And that’s when Jesus Christ is glorified.

photo taken by Casey Harpe