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So Casablanca ends up being about putting personal feelings aside for the more important effort of fighting for freedom in the war. Ilsa thinks her husband Victor is dead and falls in love with Rick who loves her back. Victor turns up alive and Ilsa leaves Rick when she finds out. As time goes by, she and Rick end up meeting again and she vows never again to leave him. In the last scene, the cynical and sidelined Rick becomes a hero when he joins the fight with this:

It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there but they say it could soon be a man-eat-dog world if we’re not careful. “In a piece that may not sit well with some pet owners, Erik Assadourian argues that pets are detrimental to the planet—and it's time to take action. ‘Two German Shepherds use more resources just for their annual food needs than the average Bangladeshi uses each year in total,’ Assadourian writes in the Guardian. ‘And while pet owners may disagree that Bangladeshis have more right to exist than their precious Schnookums, the truth is that pets serve little more societal purpose than keeping us company’—and our planet just can't keep supporting the millions of cats and dogs that inhabit it.”

While most people don’t like to pray, they certainly want the right to pray. Of course there are those who think they have a right not to be offended by the prayers of others. So it becomes a battle of rights rather than commitment to God or principle in the hearts of many. But that doesn’t keep us from praying or seeking to preserve God-given rights in a free society for the good of all whether they see the good or not. We believe God.

Educators are supposed to be educated. Yet a teacher and officials at a Broward County public school banned a fifth grader from reading the Bible during “free reading” time. Breitbart reports that Giovanni Rubeo, a fifth-grade student, decided he’d like to read his Bible “during the time in class where students are allowed to read anything they choose.” His teacher, Swornia Thomas, told him “he’s not allowed to read the Bible in her class and ordered him to put it away. Giovanni asked her to call his father, Paul Rubeo, about the incident. Thomas did so, leaving a voicemail that included, ‘I noticed that he [Giovanni] has a book—a religious book—in the classroom. He’s not permitted to read those books in my classroom.’” “Rubeo then contacted the school’s principal, Orinthia Dias, who brought in the school’s legal department. None of them are willing to acknowledge that Giovanni has a constitutional right to read the Bible.” So much for educated educators.

Okay – enough is enough. I’m caught up in the Madness like everyone else and was watching Virginia beat Memphis this weekend. No problem there. Suddenly, I saw a manly looking man in the crowd holding up a sign that said, “Man crush on Joe Harris.” There’s the problem. Can we just stop it with the “man crush” thing? And while we’re at it, let’s stop the “bromance” thing, the getting-in-touch-with-your-feminine-side thing, and any other thing that blurs the lines between the sexes, gender identity, and/or heterosexuality vs. homosexuality. Despite where the culture is trending on moral and gender issues (and where the culture is trending on those issues should be our cue to run in the opposite direction), and I mean this in an observational and not derogatory way, when a man says he has a man crush on another man he looks – well – unmanly. There are other words you could insert there.

I had an E.F. Hutton moment when I walked into a deli in New Orleans and ordered a roast beef sandwich on Friday during Lent. As soon as I realized what the stares were all about I quickly changed my order out of respect. At the same time, having lived in New Orleans for a number of years, I was asked more than once why I didn’t observe Lent. Depending upon who was doing the asking my typical reply might start with, “You mean aside from its pagan origin, its popish idolatry, and its cultural hypocrisy?” The quip about cultural hypocrisy was contextually related to Mardi Gras – you know, since we were in New Orleans and all – just saying.

Let’s be clear: I hate slavery and racism because God hates slavery and racism. The bible is clear that all human beings are created in God’s image and have essential dignity. That’s why any Christian who is pro-life must also be anti-racism. Just as murder is an attack on God Himself so too is racism (Gen. 9:6).

So why do I not celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday? It’s because he was neither pro-life nor anti-racism.

If we’re created to glorify God, then putting His reality and power on display in the midst of distress is where the rubber meets the road. When affliction is upon us, how do we keep it between the ditches? To change the metaphor, how do we keep from fumbling the opportunity God’s given us? In two previous articles, we talked about dealing with God and dealing with self. But there’s one more category we have to think about.

Earnest Byner will never forget the moment when he was about to score the tying touchdown in the 1987 AFC Championship Game and fumbled the ball instead. How can he? People like me bring it up from time to time (even though I have great admiration for his superlative football career). Not only that, the moment has been preserved for all time as it’s been dubbed famously, “The Fumble.” Nobody wants to fumble and lose a game like that. Nobody wants to fumble at all, Christians included. We don’t want to fumble, so to speak, when God gives us an opportunity to glorify Him even through a trial. How can we hang on to the ball and honor God even when we’re suffering in some way? Well, in a previous article, we talked about dealing with God; that’s first. But then, we have to do two other things.

Life is tough; there’s no doubt about it. I’ve seen people handle adversity well and I’ve seen others fall to pieces. Some trials are tougher than others and we can’t judge people harshly not having walked in their shoes. At the same time, trials are opportunities to put the glory of God on display. If at all possible, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, we don’t want to fumble those opportunities away. How can we keep from doing just that; how can we honor God when we’re hurting? Three things.

It’s shocking what’s shocking these days. Purity; honesty; things like that. But other things too; I read stuff from Lew Rockwell because the New Covenant vision for civil society is largely libertarian. Now there’s a shocking statement. What gives?

I’ve had more conversations about corporate worship than I care to remember; not because I don’t like talking about worship but because I’m out of step. We talk about style & flow, not to be confused with Hustle & Flow (which I didn’t see), though the key theme in both my conversation and the movie was the same: dissatisfaction and the search for something more. My problem is I’m not searching for something more. I’m satisfied. As one expert worshipper said to me, “You just don’t get it.”

Out in the West Texas town of El Paso it wouldn’t be hard to find a cowboy church. We have them in my neck of the woods too; I met a guy the other day who started one down the road. It made me think of our local biker church and other boutique churches popping up – though one doesn’t usually find cowboys, bikers, and boutique mentioned in the same sentence.

I’ve tried not to weigh in on the recent kerfuffle over reformed hip-hop. It’s dangerous because no matter where you come down you’re going to be misunderstood and excoriated. For the record, I’ve tried not to use the word kerfuffle either. But since a lot of others have used it concerning this – well – you know.

Auburn knocked off top-ranked Alabama on the last play of the 2013 Iron Bowl in a most unlikely fashion – and it was kind of a repeat. In their previous game Auburn had beaten Georgia with a Hail Mary touchdown pass on fourth and eighteen with seconds to go in the game. Auburn commentator Rod Bramblett shouted “A miracle in Jordan-Hare! A miracle in Jordan-Hare!” The play would later be dubbed “The Prayer at Jordan-Hare.”

We’ve all heard the story of the young wife who cut off both ends of the ham before cooking it. When her husband asked her why – she didn’t know; that’s the way her mom always did it. Sensing she was missing some valuable information she went to her mom with the question. Answer: “I only had one pan and it was too small for the ham.” Well that leaves one a little hungry in more ways than one.

I’ve called our church to keep visiting orphans and widows, adopting children, and ministering in the prisons. I’ve encouraged them to keep doing mercy ministry and working for social justice. Of course, I don’t want the church as the church to set up a program of feeding the hungry or clothing the naked. What? Let me explain.

Let’s draw a picture of Churched Harry and Mary. They go to church and love the worship; they often have jubilant or overwhelmingly emotional experiences there; they meet in small groups and add their opinions to everyone else’s as they discuss the pastor’s sermon; they meet with accountability partners and bear their souls each week; and they give a little when they can.

In an ongoing and increasingly broad discussion concerning R2K vs. transformationalism, D.G. Hart posted an informative exchange involving J. Gresham Machen (arguably the leading theologian of the twentieth century) when he appeared before congress in 1926 to oppose the formation of the Federal Department of Education. The brief post is a must read for the content of Machen’s answers. As Hart points out, Machen spoke:

We evangelicals have “been dazed and confused for so long it’s not true.” Well, it is true. Here’s a typical comment from a blog:

Seriously, I want to know why any pastor would ever promote any political position from the pulpit? A pastor’s charge is to preach the Word and care for his flock. Whoever is leading our country — or misleading our country as is most often the case — does not change who is ultimately in charge of our lives. Pastors are supposed to plant seeds that make room for the Holy Spirit to change hearts, not attempt to make people change their minds. … I suggest we ignore comments like these and quit extending the platform of pastor’s [who make political statements].