Handsome Joseph Smith

I have never thought of past world or religious leaders as handsome or beautiful. As a general rule, my interest in these types of folks has nothing to do with whether or not their bone structure is rugged or if their hair is on fleek (or whatever the kids these days are saying). Apparently, not everyone is like me in this regard.

I found this out after a trip to McDonald’s where my 14-year-old daughter and her friend were talking about the cuteness level of Joseph Smith. Yes, that Joseph Smith. According to them, the founder of Mormonism was cute.

This revelation led to an interesting exchange:

Me: “You really think Joseph Smith was cute?”

My daughter: “Yes. And do you know who else thought he was cute?”

Me: “Who?”

My daughter: “His 40 wives.”

I laughed way harder than anyone ever should in a McDonald’s. Usually that kind of laughter is reserved for someplace fancy, like Chick-fil-A.

And she might be right. According to this article from the New York Times, after denying it for many years Mormon leaders in 2014 finally admitted that “Joseph Smith, portrayed in church materials as a loyal partner to his loving spouse Emma, took as many as 40 wives, some already married and one only 14 years old.”

Of course there no way to know for sure that they all thought Joseph was cute, but it’s certainly possible.

What is absolutely certain is that Joseph Smith and the religion he founded have led people into error and away from God.

To spare those of you who agree with time, I won’t go into the details of why I believe this way here. However, if you disagree with me, a good place for you to find a little of why I believe this way is this 2012 post by Joe Carter.

Really, though, it should come as no surprise that Joseph Smith is seen as handsome. Satan has a way of making that which is wrong look not only right, but appealing. Adultery, gossip, pride, an insatiable thirst for power – all of these things and so many more are indeed as wrong, even evil. But to so many they can be made to look so good.

Being aware of this tactic of our enemy is a good start. Setting up safeguards to prevent us from falling into his crafty hands is also important.

Perhaps the best strategy, though, is seeking to look at things through God’s eyes. Then we might be able to see that Joseph Smith wasn’t handsome; he was wrong.

And so is so much else of what our world sees as right. Or handsome.


Learning to Smile

If my wife’s dogs were children Honey would be the middle child. She’s a Chihuahua like the older two; she’s not a Doberman or a Siberian Husky like the younger two.

She’s a sweet dog except for that time she bit the seat of a church member’s britches. (It’s been a long time since I typed the word “britches.” It felt good.)

It isn’t like Honey doesn’t get any attention. She does. It just isn’t as much as she used to get when she was a puppy. Back then it was just the three Chihuahuas with Honey being the youngest. She was carried back and forth, talked to incessantly by my kids and named one of People Magazine’s most eligible Chihuahuas.

That last one isn’t true, but don’t tell Honey. She believes everything we tell her.

Ever since we acquired Beulah (the Doberman) and Sasha (the Husky), Honey’s circumstances have changed. The younger two have stolen her thunder and erased some of her attention.

What’s a Chihuahua to do? I’ll tell you what Honey did: she learned how to SMILE! I don’t know how she did it and I’m pretty sure she didn’t know the impact it would have, but Honey learned to smile.

I’m a sucker for dogs who smile. Seeing one makes me happy. If it doesn’t make you happy you probably also frown at rainbows and fat babies. A smiling dog is amazing. Honey (probably inadvertently) found a way to get back some long-lost attention.

Sometimes when people fail to get what they want or they grow stagnant, they try to change their circumstances. Honey wasn’t able to do that. Instead of changing her circumstance, she changed herself. She learned to smile.

Her smile isn’t perfect. It’s really more of a half-smile. But it was enough.

Stagnancy is bad, but it may not be a reason to make a major change. All you and I may need to do in some situations is learn how to smile.

A Lesson from Driver’s Ed

I found out the other day that my old high school no longer offers Driver’s Ed. While this wasn’t devastating news, it was still quite surprising.

Driver’s Education was one of my favorite classes. There was the driving simulator where we pretended to be put in dangerous situations while we pretended to drive. There were the Chevy Corsicas and Chevy Luminas we took turn driving around the mean streets of Strawberry Plains. And there were the two driving instructors.

One of the instructors was high-strung guy who called me by my full first name, but instead of saying “Matthew” he said “Maffew.” The other one was so laid back he was almost comatose. I liked them both even though I did get yelled at a few times.

There was one thing that happened in that class, though, that made me really angry. It involved a police officer who came into our class to talk about drunk driving.

During the first part of his spiel he asked how many people had never tasted any alcoholic beverages. Several of us raised our hands. He seemed surprised by this.

He then asked how many people had never tasted any alcoholic beverages–including wine coolers. This time only me and another guy raised our hands. That is when he made me mad.

He looked right at us and said, “You’re lying.”

I remember the rest of the class laughing. I remember shaking my head. And I remember him replying, “Yes you are!”

The thing was, I wasn’t lying. Up until that point in my life I had never tasted any alcoholic beverage. And I still haven’t. It was an aggravating thing, but that incident made me realize something.

People expect people to act like other people.

If a lot of people do a particular thing or act a particular way, some expect everyone to do a particular thing or act a particular way.

People expect people to act like other people so much so that we begin to expect ourselves to act like other people. In other words, we tend to go along with the crowd.

This wouldn’t be a problem if the crowd generally went a good, God honoring way. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Which is why Christians aren’t called to go along with the crowd. We are called to go along with Christ.

People expect people to act like other people. But Jesus expects His people to act like Him.

Thankfully He doesn’t leave us to our own devices to do this.

He expects His people to act like Him and empowers us to do so by His presence and His strength.

And for this I say “Hallelujah!” And that’s no lie.

Do your high school have Driver’s Ed? If so–what was the best thing about it?


One Angry Cookie

One Angry Cookie

My wife has 3 Chihuahuas which, as it turns out, is the exact number too many. The oldest of the three is Cookie. Cookie is generally a sweet dog with a tolerant disposition.

But in the above picture she looks a little psychotic.

Why? Here are the possibilities–see if you can guess which one is true…

1. She just listened to “Weird” Al Yankovic’s new album Mandatory Fun. It’s good. Real good. I should know–I’m a big ‘ol nerd.

2. She knows it’s almost Shark Week and was working on her best shark impression. Wouldn’t a Chihuahua Shark be terrifying?

3. I asked her what she thought about mayonnaise. Even Chihuahuas know mayonnaise is not fit for human (or canine) consumption.

4. She has an audition for an upcoming Colgate commercial and was working on her smile. It needs more work. A LOT more work.

5. We have a Doberman puppy that she DOES NOT LIKE.

If you picked #5, you are correct. None of our Chihuahuas like poor Beulah. That’s right, I named our puppy Beulah; mostly so I could call her crate “Beulah Land.” If you don’t get that lame attempt at a joke it means you haven’t spent much time in a Baptist Church.

Anyway, the Chihuahuas don’t like our new puppy and make sure she is aware of this as much as possible. But all of their growling isn’t going to change things; Beulah is here to stay.

When what they growl about isn’t going to change, their growling is a waste of time.

And the same is true for us. There are some things that can and will change; there are some things that will never change. Growling and griping about what will never change will give us less time and energy to work on those things that can be changed.

Maybe Cookie will one day learn this; hopefully we will, too.

What are some other reasons Cookie might look this way? How are you doing at not growling at things that you have no control over?


If Jack Bauer were a Pastor

I didn’t watch 24 during it’s initial 8 season run. Thankfully I rectified this oversight a couple of years ago by watching all 8 seasons on my Amazon Kindle. It quickly became on of my all-time favorite shows mainly for one reason….

Jack Bauer.

Played by Kiefer Sutherland, Jack Bauer has to be considered one of the greatest heroic characters ever on television. His devotion to his country and his take-no-prisoners approach to bringing down the bad guys caused 24 to be a consistently action-packed, twist-filled hour of television.

Because of this when I heard Jack was coming back I was pretty excited. And 24: Live Another Day did not disappoint. The season finale aired this past Monday and it was one of the best hours of television I ever remember seeing.

In honor of the finale I thought it would be interesting to think about what would happen if Jack Bauer were a pastor. You know, because I’m a nerd. So, without further adieu…

If Jack Bauer were a pastor his congregation would have to….

1. Listen very carefully to his sermons. Jack only said one phrase loudly and I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t use it in a sermon. Most of the time he spoke in intense whispers. If it wasn’t for DVR I’m pretty sure I would have missed roughly all of his dialogue this season.

2. Deal with a huffy secretary. Yeah, I’m talking about Chloe, the sometimes great/sometimes annoying Robin to Jack Bauer’s Batman. Can you imagine having to ask her to put something in the bulletin. *eye roll–“Well, I guess if it has to be in there.”*

3. Expect the worst when called to the pastor’s office. On 24 Jack would often get people to talk by shooting them in the leg or otherwise physically maiming them. I can only imagine what he would do in a Deacon’s meeting.

4. Get used to having one of the most annoying pastor’s kids ever. While Jack Bauer may be the best character ever on television, his TV daughter, Kim Bauer, is in the running for the worst. Bless her heart.

5. Wonder when he goes to the bathroom. Once, just once, I wanted to see Jack look intensely at Chloe and whisper, “I gotta go pee.” It never happened.

6. Be ok with either getting killed, half-killed, or kidnapped. Those closest to Jack tend to get killed, half-killed, or kidnapped. That’s a small price to pay for getting to hang around someone so cool.

On second thought, maybe it wouldn’t be such a good idea for Jack Bauer to be a pastor. He probably wouldn’t be a good one.

You know who could be a good pastor? The one you already have.

Whether you consider your pastor “good” or not, I am sure there are things he could improve about who he is or what he does. Why am I so sure of this? Because (as my Dad would say) I are one.

I’m not perfect; no pastor is. Some may say the best way to get a better pastor is to get a new one. I disagree.

The best way to get a better pastor is to pray for and support the one you already have.

I encourage you to do this.

And be thankful that you probably won’t get killed, half-killed, or kidnapped while doing so.

What else would “Pastor Jack Bauer’s” congregation have to do? What are some ways you can encourage your pastor?


I’m No Joey Chestnut

Last Friday, the 4th of July, I watched Nathan’s Best Hot Dog Eating Contest. Or whatever it’s called. The contest is one of stamina and stomach elasticity where contestants have 10 minutes to eat as many hot dogs as possible. It is both a sight to behold and to become nauseated by.

This year’s contest was won by Joey Chestnut who devoured 61 hot dogs. IN TEN MINUTES. It was Chestnut’s eighth win in a row. After winning his 8th straight title, his stomach reportedly went into hiding.

Thankfully, I ate my hot dogs before watching the contest. If I had eaten after the contest a couple of things could have possibly happened. It’s a possibility I would have tried to eat as many hot dogs as possible to see what my limit is. It would not have been pretty. Another possibility is that I would have gotten sick while eating my hot dogs as I thought about how gross it was seeing that many people eat that many hot dogs. This would not have been pretty either.

As it was, I ate 2 hot dogs. Just 2. I know–that’s nothing compared to Chestnut’s 61. It’s also nothing compared to how many I used to try to eat.

I’m no Joey Chestnut. Let me count the ways:

1. He ate 61 hot dogs in 10 minutes; I don’t want to eat 61 hot dogs in a year. Don’t get me wrong, I like hot dogs as much as the next overweight, American guy. But 61 hot dogs in a year is more than I want to eat. I mean, I eat 2 hot dogs every time I eat hot dogs. If I did that every two weeks, that would be 52 hot dogs. That’s about my limit. Don’t judge.

2. He’s far more romantic. Chestnut proposed to his long-time girlfriend before the contest; no word yet on how many wedding cakes they are planning on for the reception.

3. He’s got a better nickname. His is “Jaws.” Mine is “Big Ugly.” And only 2 people have ever called me that, which means it isn’t really a nickname.

I’m sure there are a lot of other reasons, but you get the point. I’m no Joey Chestnut.

And Joey Chestnut is no me.

If I was supposed to be Joey Chestnut, I would be Joey Chestnut. If I was supposed to be someone who competes in international eating competitions, that is what I would do.

But that’s not what I’m supposed to do. I’ve got a different agenda; a different purpose; a different path.

There was once a time when I would daydream about being someone else. A better athlete; a better looking guy. Maybe someone who never spits when talking. That time, mercifully, is long over. I am what I am because of God’s grace.

And, with His grace, I will continue to seek the path He has for me above all others.

How many hot dogs could you eat in 10 minutes? Are you comfortable with the path God has for you right now?


The Most Interesting Pastor in the World – Part 3

There is over $100k in his church’s annual budget for paint because when people say he preaches the paint off the walls, they mean it.

He knows who wrote the book of Hebrews. But he’s not telling.

No statue was ever erected in honor of a committee–until he was on one.

David Platt thinks he’s too radical.

His church’s softball team has never lost a game. Or cussed an opponent.

Volunteers follow him around with a rolling pulpit–just in case.

At his church, the front row is never empty. And neither is the baptistery.

People are dying for him to preach their funerals.

When he gets pulled over for speeding, he is never given a ticket because he convinces the officer that he’s allowed to “drive by grace and not by law.”

His church voted to celebrate Pastor Appreciation Month. Every month.

Chuck Norris isn’t on his security team; Chuck Norris is his security team.

He doesn’t make phone calls to visitors, they call him. And send him a thank you note.

When people from Israel go on Holy Land tours they go to his hometown.

The ushers at his church don’t use offering plates. They use wheelbarrows.

Every Friday everybody in his church wears a shirt that says “I Love My Pastor!” Everybody who goes to a different church wears a shirt that says “I Love Their Pastor, Too!”

He is….The Most Interesting Pastor in the World.

“Drink of the Living Water and never be thirsty again, my friends.”

What other facts can you think of for the Most Interesting Pastor in the World?

To read parts 1 and 2 click here and here.