The Washington D.C. Change Scheme

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The politicians in Washington D.C. like to talk a lot about change. Changing things is what they do, or so they tell us. Every national crisis is an opportunity for them to change something and thus another chance for them to remind us how important they are. And if there’s anything that the politicians in D.C. like more than talking about changing things, it’s reminding us how important they are.

That’s really what reform is usually all about in D.C. The actual change usually takes a backseat to the ego, status and bank account of the one talking about change. It really is a clever plan. Here’s how it works.

Step One: Crisis

In order for there to be a change, there has to be something bad that people want changed. This really is the easiest step for our federal leaders. They’re quite good at creating bad situations. Messing stuff up is what they do best. Most of the time, stuff gets messed up for two reasons. One, a politician wants more money. Two, the politician wants more power. Oh, I almost forgot the third and most dangerous reason. The politician wants more money and more power. Every time a politician acquires more money and/or power for himself he always takes it from the same source.

Us.

We the people.

Whatever your political leanings, an honest look at our nation’s scandals, of which there are many, will quickly reveal that they are the result of some politician’s thirst for more power, money or some combination of the two.

That leads us to step two.

Step Two: Outrage

The people get fed up. They’re tired of watching people from other countries set up camp in their backyard. They’re tired of waiting 18 months to see a doctor about a kidney stone. They’re tired of the IRS harassing them because they went to a Lee Greenwood concert.

So they demand change.

And the politicians are more than happy to meet those demands. It’s what they do, remember?

Which leads us to step three.

Step Three: The Fix

The politicians are fed up too. At least that’s what they want us to believe. So they call special hearings and draw up new bills that they assure us will fix the problem. They start talking like preachers. And they all come together to reach their final conclusion.

But before we get to that conclusion, we should address two warnings. First, whenever politicians agree on something, look out. What they’re agreeing on usually has something to do with taking stuff away from you. Second, use extreme caution when politicians start to talk like preachers. Whenever a politician who has a problem with a kid saying a prayer at his high school graduation starts talking about how, “we’re all God’s children,” you’re about to get hurt.

On to the conclusion.

After all of the debating, posturing and talking points, the politicians come to an agreement on the best way to fix the problem.

Money.

And power.

They need more money. And more power. In fact, if they would have had more money and more power which, remember, they get from us, none of this ever would have happened. So in a way, this was all our fault.

The VA crisis? Washington needs more money to fix it.

The border crisis? Washington needs more power.

And so we give it to them. Which always leads to another crisis. Which always leads us back to step one.

Wash.

Rinse.

Repeat.

So the moral of the story is this. Be careful when politicians in Washington D.C. come together to talk about change.

Most likely, it’s your change that they want.

I’d Like To Have A Word With Jeremiah Heaton

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I’d like to have a word with Jeremiah Heaton.

When someone wants to have a word with you, it’s never a good thing. No one says they want to have a word with you and then proceeds to ask for your opinion on last night’s episode of Wipeout. When it’s a word that someone wants to have with you, it’s always about something serious.

This is no exception.

I’d like to have a word with Jeremiah Heaton.

You might be asking yourself who Jeremiah Heaton is. He’s a king from a land near Egypt. Sort of. Actually, he’s just a dad. A few weeks ago he made a flag, traveled to some desert in Egypt, put said flag in the ground and claimed that 800-square-foot area of the world as his own. He’s calling it the Kingdom of North Sudan. King Heaton’s first order of business in his new territory was to name his daughter the princess of the Kingdom of North Sudan.

Here’s how he describes it.

“I wanted to show my kids I will literally go to the ends of the earth to make their wishes and dreams come true.”

Kids?

Did I read that right?

What exactly does King Heaton expect to do for his other kids? I can hear it now.

“Dad! You gave Emily her own kingdom so can I at least have a pony?”

The world’s newest king didn’t stop with his land grab. He’s also asking that people refer to his daughter as Princess Emily from now on so that she will be reminded of how much her dad loves her.

As you can imagine, the Internet is blowing up over this one. People are saying that Heaton’s actions are creepy and taking our nation’s princess culture too far.

Aside from the cost of air travel and the trouble of making your own flag, how are Heaton’s actions any different from a lot of other parents in our country?

You know, the parents who go thousands of dollars into debt, move across the country, spend every weekend on the road  and even take legal action all just to to make the wishes and dreams of their kids come true.

You know, the parents who never consider the option that maybe there’s more to parenting than making a child’s wishes come true.

Jeremiah Heaton is an exaggerated example of an all too common problem in our culture where dreams and wishes are more important than truth and training. The truth is that our kids don’t need us to discover a new country on their behalf. They don’t need us to drive them all across the country to another tournament 50 weekends out of the year. But they do need something much more important.

They need us to train them.

Making a flag, putting it in sand and calling the place your new kingdom is easy. A lot of parental dream-chasing under the guise of what’s good for the kids is easy as long as you have the time and the money. Training is much more difficult.

I’d like to have a word with Jeremiah Heaton.

If we had a chance to talk, I’d encourage him to focus more on the training and less on the dream-chasing. I’d tell him that dreams, even if they do come true, are dangerous in the hands of an untrained child. I’d tell him to skip the next trip to the desert and stay at home.

It’s at home where our children learn that it’s okay to pretend to be royalty as long as they know that it’s all pretend.

It’s in the home, from their own parents, that kids learn what it means to sacrifice for the good of another.

But again, that’s training and training is hard work. So why not just discover your own country and make your little girl the princess? Or sign your 9-year-old up for three tournaments in one weekend.

Here’s the thing about the culture of royalty many of our kids are growing up under. Princes and princesses don’t like to stay princes and princesses. Eventually, they’ll want a promotion. They’ll want to be kings and queens. Guess where that leaves you the parent.

You get to be the servant.

While servanthood is a noble necessity of parenting, it only serves to turn our kids into little tyrants if we are not also leading as we serve. Many times, leading means saying no. Leading means frequently reminding our children that they are not royalty.

I’d like to have a word with Jeremiah Heaton.

Six or seven years from now.

By then, King Heaton will have been overthrown. His kingdom will be handed over to another. His daughter. And he will be left as a lowly servant in this new tyrannical kingdom.

All because he valued childish dream-chasing instead of training.

I’d ask him if it was all worth it. Would he do it all the same if he had it to do all over again?

Jeremiah Heaton’s daughter is still young. There’s still time to make things right. But time is running out.

I hope that someone has a word with Jeremiah Heaton.

Before it’s too late.

USA! America!

Unless you just hate America, you’re going to want to include this little video in your 4th of July festivities.

Also, I think that we can all pretty much agree that had this video been played right before our soccer match with Belgium things would have turned out much differently.

0:15 – If I’m following this right, there’s supposed to be some kind of a terrorist attack happening in the sky. And on this guy’s Dream Team jersey.

0:33 – Ghosts on the beach!

0:44 – This is how the USA does oil spills!

0:52 – Can we possibly get some more Photoshopped imagery in this shot? Even one of the clouds looks like a mouse. A mouse from the USA no doubt.

0:57 – “Hey, do we have a pole to put the flag on?”

“No. Just put it on the side of that cliff. It’s what the founders would want.”

1:10 – Weird guy on the playground in 3, 2, 1…

“Teachers, we are going into lockdown mode. There is a man in a Dream Team jersey walking around the playground singing about the USA and throwing magic light on kids. Please remain under your desks with your students until further notice. The chair is against the wall.”

1:28 – Why isn’t Tim Howard’s face on that mountain? I want answers!

1:34 – I think that we’re supposed to assume that this woman’s husband died in a war. By the looks of that tombstone, it must have been the Civil War.

1:56 – This video is patriotic and all but what it really needs is a random cameo from a sea nymph.

2:05 – Goosed by an angel.

2:34 – The look on his face can double as the You-Boys-Are-Being-Silly-Face that your mom used to give you as well as the Man-I-Love-This-Country-And-If-You-Don’t-You’re-Just-Gonna-Have-To-Deal-With-It-Face.

This video lasted for a little over three minutes. The closing credits also last for three minutes. The closing credits for Saving Private Ryan didn’t last for three minutes.

USA!

America!

When They Come To Town

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Words like crisis and great get used too much. Waiting until 1:30 for lunch is often considered a crisis. Teams that almost make it to the playoffs are called great.

Sometimes those words are appropriate. Think Great Depression or Cuban Missile Crisis. Now is another time when those words are appropriate. What we are experiencing is a crisis. A great one.

But how will we respond?

Right now thousands of people from other countries are camped out on our southern border. For all of the problems in our country, it seems that people are still willing to make great sacrifices to come here. And now that they’re here, no one is quite sure what to do with them.

President Obama has tried moving some of these people to abandoned buildings in small towns. That hasn’t gone too well. Citizens in those small towns have made it very clear that these people, no matter how young or innocent they may be, are not welcome.

I’m a pastor in a small town. I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about how I would respond if a busload of undocumented kids came rolling into my town. Would I spit on them? Would I tell them that they are not welcome in my town? What role, if any, would the Bible play in my reaction?

Let’s be clear. This is all happening because of failed leadership. Keeping an eye on our borders is a basic job description of the federal government. Not handing out free phones. Not promising free birth control. Just guard the border. They have failed to do their job. They have failed us.

But that still doesn’t help me to answer my question. What do I do if a couple of hundred kids come into my town looking to settle? I know what I ought to do. But ought and want don’t always make good friends. That’s where the gospel comes in. It helps my want to fall in line with the ought.

When the Samaritan did his good deed to a man who had been nearly killed by robbers, he didn’t look for the proper paper work first (Luke 10:25-37). He wasn’t concerned with the social or political problems that led up to the man’s troubles. He just helped. And his compassion was sacrificial. He treated the victim’s sickness. He provided shelter for the victim.

And Jesus told us to do the same (Luke 10:37).

That’s how we’re supposed to react when they come to our town.

We would be naive to believe that only innocent children are crossing our border. There is no doubt that terrorists are easily making their way into our country. Our government has proven themselves unworthy of our trust. Not so with our Creator. Should we encounter those with ill will who are crossing our border illegally, God will provide us with the grace that we will need. But along with protecting ourselves from terrorists, we must be willing to protect those who are legitimately in need. Even if they don’t belong here.

It doesn’t mean that we have to help drive busloads of people across the border and deep into the heartland. We would be wise to do nothing on behalf of a government that uses children and borders as instruments for gaining more power. We need to hold our government accountable. But even still, there’s a good chance that those children currently camped out on our southern border could end up in our town squares and on our doorsteps.

When we see them, we can pass by on the other side.

But as we do, we will be forced to wrestle with the inconsistency of our so-called faith. How can we support the life of an unborn child while passing by on the other side of an older child, simply because he got here illegally? How can the one time enemies of God enjoy the benefits of belonging to the family of God while passing by on the other side of those who simply do not belong in our country?

Our nation’s leadership has blown it. But that doesn’t mean that we have to blow it too as we try to live under the consequences of corrupt and inept leaders.

How will we respond when those who do not belong come to our town?

If all we do is pass by on the other side, we will be a part of the crisis.

And it will be a great one.

“Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:45-46 (ESV)

 

The Tomato Man

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People remember you more for what you give away than for what you keep.

I learned that lesson pretty early in life.

There weren’t a lot of gardens in the neighborhood that I grew up in. I left the land of soybean fields and cotton when I was five for the land of cul-de-sacs and quarter acre lots. Every so often my grandparents would leave behind the agrarian world I once knew to come and visit us in the suburbs.

They never came empty-handed.

When they pulled into our driveway, my grandfather would step out of his Caprice Classic, open up the trunk and pull out huge grocery bags filled with tomatoes. One day the lady across the street was outside and he gave one of those grocery bags to her. In return, she gave him a nickname.

The Tomato Man.

Every time she saw us she would ask how the Tomato Man was doing. It was like he was some kind of superhero. To her, I guess that he was.

TV preachers like to talk a lot about sowing seeds and reaping a harvest. By that, they mean that we need to send them a check for $25 (that’s the sowing part) and that God in turn will give us a check for $25,000 (that’s the reaping part). It’s all a lie.

Paul does a much better job of breaking it down for us.

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 2 Corinthians 9:6 (ESV)

In a way, it’s like Paul was talking about my grandfather, the Tomato Man.

Imagine a man who was blessed with a lot of tomato seeds. He kept thousands, even millions of those tomato seeds stored up in barns. They were his security. They would be there for him if disaster struck. The man takes great pride in the wealth of tomato seeds that he has accumulated for himself.

But he never considers that he’s doing it all wrong. Parting ways with those seeds and putting them in the dirt seemed foolish to him. He preferred the false security that came with having those seeds stored away over the actual benefit of using those seeds for their intended purpose.

Paul tell us in 2 Corinthians 9:11 that we will be “enriched in every way.” That’s the favorite verse of most the health and wealth hucksters on television. But it’s only part of the story.

You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 2 Corinthians 9:11 (ESV)

Every good and perfect gift comes from God. But he never gives gifts just to make us feel special. The gifts he gives are never fully enjoyed until they are used for the good of others and the glory of Jesus Christ. In order to fully enjoy what God has given to us, we have to let it go. We have to put it in the ground. And we have to trust him with the harvest.

This should never be seen as a chore.

“I have to give to another missionary”

“I have to write a check to the church.”

Instead, generous giving should be something that makes us happy. Just like it makes the farmer happy to put seed in the ground. He knows that the really good part is just getting started. He delights in seeing that seed fall from his hand and into the ground because he knows that something better will come from it.

Paul goes on to say that God loves this kind of giving. You’ve probably heard it said before.

“God loves a cheerful giver.”

But why?

God loves the cheerful giver because he is The Cheerful Giver. It pleased him to give away his Son in order to set his people free from their sins. It pleased him to place his Son in the ground. He knew that better things would come.

God loves the cheerful giver because our gospel motivated generosity serves as an example of God’s grace and a vehicle for God’s glory. Generosity is a small picture of the cross.

The lady across the street never called my grandfather the Seed Man.

She called him the Tomato Man.

That’s because people remember you more for what you give away than for what you keep.

It was true for my grandfather.

It’s certainly true of our Heavenly Father.

And it should be true of us as well.

Don’t Be An Independence Day Scrooge

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Holidays have a way of bringing out the worst in us.

Take Christmas for example. For a few Christmas shopping seasons, I worked in a mall. It was always crowded, not with happy shoppers looking for a gift that expresses how they feel for their loved ones but mostly with irritable people who grew more irritable as they dealt with other irritable people. We see it every year. The practicalities of the holiday have a way of blinding us from seeing what the holiday is really all about.

Christmas is probably the best example.

But Independence Day is close behind.

There is a lot wrong with our country. People who care about liberty have a lot of work to do and the odds do not seem to be in our favor. If we’re not careful, we can end up no different than those shoppers who celebrate Jesus’ birthday by yelling at each other, fighting over parking spaces and cursing our kids while we wait in some line at Wal-Mart for whatever it is they want that year.

To keep this from happening to us on Independence Day, we have to do a better job of paying attention. We have to pay attention to our tendencies to only look at the negative. More importantly, we have to pay attention to the ways that God, in spite of our best efforts to ignore him, continues to bless us.

Here are a few of those blessings. Some of them are enjoyed in other countries. Many are not. Some may be slowly eroding. But for today at least, they are ours to enjoy. Some may seem silly while others are much more significant. But they are all important. I hope that these reminders help to keep us from becoming American Scrooges.

1. Three times a week I get up in front of a group of people and talk about Jesus. Not once have I been asked to have my sermon reviewed by some special government task force before it was time to preach. Not once have armed government agents entered our building to tell us to cut it out. I am thankful for the God-given freedom of religion that we enjoy in this country.

2. Almost every day of the summer, I devote some time to the eating of a watermelon. There is no candy on earth that can compete with this taste. I am thankful for God’s invention of the watermelon.

3. I enjoy watching our country compete against other nations in sporting events like the Olympics and the World Cup. I love to see the American fans shout our national anthem. I love how the American team, in almost any sport that we play, looks like a box of crayons. Players on teams from Japan, Costa Rica and Germany tend to all have the same color of skin. Not so with the United States. I am thankful to live in a diverse nation.

4. My kids go to a really good school. One where they are taught the importance of hard work, excellence and strong leadership. I am thankful for the opportunities we have in this country to educate ourselves and our children.

5. There are people in my church who have managed their money with wisdom. But they’re not content to shove it under their mattresses while they wait for Jesus to come back. They know that all of the money in their bank accounts, not just the ten percent they put in some offering plate, belongs to God. Throughout the year, these folks come to me in private and ask me if I know of anyone who needs help. Willful generosity for the glory of God is the best form of wealth distribution. I’m thankful to live in a country where people can earn a good living and I’m thankful to belong to a church full of people who know that their money exists for the glory of God and the good of others.

6. I’m thankful for backyard summer nights spent playing around a sprinkler, catching lightning bugs and jumping on the trampoline. Some times I even let my kids join in on the fun with me.

7. I’m thankful for the smell of a piece of meat cooking on a grill.

8. Several months ago my two sons helped me to empty a truckload of dirt in our backyard. A few weeks after that, they helped me dig holes and fill those holes with plants. Now, almost every day, they help me to pick vegetables off of those plants. I’m thankful for the privilege of showing my sons that food, the good kind at least, isn’t made in a factory. It comes from a Sovereign Lord who provides us with our daily bread.

9. I have strong opinions on a lot of things. They are opinions that people don’t always agree with. Sometimes, those disagreements cause me to reconsider my own opinions. Sometimes they make me more certain of what I believe. I am thankful to live in a country where people with differing opinions can share their beliefs in a civil manner.

10. I love well-written songs, finely crafted movies and books that are hard to put down. There is a lot of garbage out there but we live in a country that has produced some very good art. I’m thankful for that.

11. I’m thankful for the joy of marriage. My wife’s laughter drowns out all other noise and the smile on her face lights up the whole room.

12. I’m thankful for random text messages from friends reminding me that they’re praying for me.

13. I’m thankful for the example of men and women who aren’t afraid to make a stand, even when it looks like the whole world is standing against them.

14. I’m thankful for the opportunity to write something almost everyday as well as the likes, shares, feedback and new friends that come along with that. Thank you.

15. I’m thankful for the sight of an old married couple, slowly walking hand in hand through a store.

16. I’m thankful for that look on a person’s face right before I get to baptize them.

17. I’m thankful that I have never come in first place in any race or weight-lifting competition. It is a subtle reminder that just to be in the competition and not in a hospital is a blessing.

18. I named my two sons after Turk Holt and Gerald Fowler. My boys have some excellent examples to follow. We live in a country where our excellent examples don’t just come from history books. They also walk among us today and I am thankful for that.

19. There are a bunch of kids in my church who are serving in the military. I’m thankful for them as well as for those who served before them.

20. In June of 1981 I had nothing to offer God. I was just a five-year-old kid. But God gave me everything when he gave me freedom from my sins. He saved me. He is still saving me. And when my time here is done, I can be certain that I will be saved. I’m thankful that God, in his grace, put me in a country that was so impacted by the gospel message that I heard it and surrendered to it before my sixth birthday.

Our system is broken. It is the victim of years and years of citizens looking for handouts and leaders grasping for more power. There is a lot that needs to be fixed and Christians should be leading the way in standing up and speaking out.

But we should also lead the way in giving thanks.

So this year, be sure to stop to enjoy the sights of colored lights in the sky, the sound of a child’s laughter and the smell of burgers on the grill. They are all gifts from a loving and gracious God.

Don’t be an Independence Day Scrooge.

Hobby Lobby And The Fatal Flaws Of Progressivism

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Everyone wants the government off of their door step.

Unless, of course, the government comes calling with big bags of cash in hand.

That’s when the welcome mat gets rolled out.

Today’s Hobby Lobby decision is no exception. Progressives talk a lot about their boss and their government minding their own business and keeping their respective noses out of their bedroom. “My body, my choice,” the progressives tell us.

But as they fight to keep their bedrooms private, they’re also fighting to make sure that what goes on in that bedroom and what consequences may come from those goings on are paid for by, wait for it, their boss! Or, the government! Which is another way of saying, “Get out of my bedroom but leave the cash on the dresser.”

Progressives still haven’t learned that you can’t have it both ways. You can’t have “private” and “fully funded” at the same time. When someone is paying for something, they want to know how things are going. They want to get in there and snoop around. They want to see a return on their investment. They want the right to not fund what they don’t like.

It was true when your parents stopped paying your way through college when you came home one summer break with a 0.42 GPA.

And it’s true of employers with conscience and a backbone.

Remember the days when if you weren’t happy with the insurance package offered by your employer you simply looked for another insurance plan? Or another employer. Now, we’ve come to the point where we run to the president and ask him to fix it. That’s another fatal flaw of the progressives. They forget that when the government tries to fix something not involving bridges and/or bombs, that something usually ends up worse off. (See: War on Drugs. See also: War on Terror. See also: Immigration Reform.)

So now some progressives are threatening to burn down Hobby Lobby stores. Many have taken to social media to lash out in four-letter fashion against the chain of craft stores. All because the owners of the store allowed their conscience to dictate what they did with their own money.

Which points us to another great flaw of progressivism. We’re allowed to say, “My body,”
“My choice,” and “My bedroom.” But in the progressive arena, we’re not allowed to say, “My beliefs,” “My money” or “My business.” Thankfully, the Supreme Court has more authority than the progressive arena. For now, at least.

I don’t want the government at my doorstep. And I don’t want their money. I’d rather them be about the business of protecting my freedom to worship as I choose.

Today, thanks be to God, that happened.