Authentic Cliché

When I hear the term “authentic” in reference to faith, I die a little on the inside. It’s been reduced to a Christian cliché along with terms like “real” and “relevant”. The truth is that we are trying too hard at branding ourselves as if Jesus is a product to be consumed.

We are all hypocrites. We are all broken. It’s time that we stop trying to look like the world in an attempt to lure goats into church. Watered down gimmicky theology saves no one. It damns them. To preach “love” without preaching repentance is not loving at all. To share a pseudo-gospel where God wants you to have “your best life now” inoculates people from the real Jesus.

It’s time we stop telling half-truths in an attempt to make Jesus palatable and share the whole Gospel which includes Jesus’ command for repentance so that people might be saved. We can be loving and compassionate in sharing the truth, but if we confuse “niceness” with love by ignoring the seriousness of sin because we are scared of hurt feelings, we are complicit in the subsequent damnation of the very people we are trying to save.

BBQ Chronicles:  Pecan Lodge–Dallas, TX

It’s been a month and a half since I last noshed on barbecue.  Last time I was in Nashville, TN, and in Rooster Cogburn fashion, it didn’t hold a patch to Texas BBQ.

I was inspired by the Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ joints some time ago, and I always enjoy the adventure, though there are times when Texas Monthly boogers up their ranking–they apparently like Cousin’s BBQ.  I’ve had it and I’ve had better BBQ at Dickey’s, and they serve crap. 

A nice variety of meat to gauge Pecan Lodge’s deliciousness.

Let’s start with the brisket.  I ordered both fatty brisket and some from the flat for my less enthusiastic family members.  The fat was perfectly rendered and the meat was incredibly tender.  I was immensely happy with the flavor, but it’s not as good as Lockhart in Dallas or Black’s BBQ in Lockhart.  I also have to say that Bartley’s BBQ in Grapevine, TX produces superior brisket.  Regardless, their brisket was noteworthy.

The sausage was also nice.  We tried both the regular smoked sausage and the jalapeño/cheddar sausage.  Both were enjoyable.  The skin had a beautiful snap when you buy into it and the meat had a coarser grind than typical.  This sausage was definitely better than average.
While the spare ribs were tender, they didn’t have a lot of flavor.  Stanley’s in Tyler, TX is far superior. 

These links weren’t magical, but they were good.
 The beans were adequate.  They didn’t taste as if they came straight from a can, but they weren’t stellar, either.  Normally, I would gorge on beans, but these weren’t gorge-worthy.  Again, Stanley’s beats Pecan Lodge.  But if it’s beans you’re after, try Hutchins in McKinney, TX. 
These beans look fantastic, but it’s the unassuming slices of brisket in the background that are the winners here.
 Texas Monthly gives Pecan Lodge high marks with a 4.0/5.0.  Because of the shortcomings, I think I’ll have to award a 3.4/5.0.  


I told my physical therapist the other day that this angry flare-up makes me want to drown myself.  She asked, “With vodka?”  I replied, “No, in the tub.”  That is still apparently serious voodoo in the medical field.

I was only half-joking, but she told me to call them if I ever feel that way again.  I told her that I’m not going to do anything–I’ve had chronic pain for six years and I always pretty much feel that way.

I’ve dealt with these thoughts since I was five or six.  They are only magnified now that I cannot escape this cloak of agony.  Let me be clear–I am not going to harm myself.  Still, the endless loop in my mind isn’t puppies and rainbows.  

I push those thoughts out almost daily.  I don’t dwell on them.  They invade my mind.  And the images are graphic.   

From “The Message of Daniel” by Dale Ralph Davis
 Anyone who has dealt with terrible pain has struggled to hang on just five more minutes.  Then another five minutes.  You wake up one day and realize that five minutes turned into a year.  Then two.  Now six.  I told my wife last Saturday that I don’t know if I can do this another thirty years.  I’m only forty and every day is a marathon, yet I still have hope.

Witnessing to Witnesses

This morning I was greeted by two Jehovah’s Witnesses.  They were trying to give me some pamphlet when I said that I was a Christian.  One of the guys responded that people have a misconception about Jehovah’s Witnesses.  He said that they are Christians and that we believe the same things.  I set the record straight by telling him that we share a lot of beliefs, but the differences that we have are eternal.

I quoted John 1:1 and then told him what his bible says.  The difference is a simple article.  A doctrinally sound translation says, “the Word was God.”  The Witnesses’ translation says, “the Word was a god.”  

For thirty minutes we discussed the differences in our view.  They believe that Jesus is the Son, but not God.  Then one of the gentlemen quoted Colossians 1:15 to prove Christ’s position as the firstborn of all creation, not God.  In my studies, I have come across CARM which I believe explains this verse not as a matter of physical position, but as a matter of headship.  Genesis 25 establishes this by naming Jacob the firstborn over Esau even though he was physically the second-born. has an extensive explanation of the prototokos concept.

I gently told them that they were going to hell if they do not believe that Jesus is God.  I told them not to take my word for it.  I advised them to read other translations.  Even better, with the Internet, they can easily see what was written in the Greek and the Hebrew.

I don’t know if I was able to reach them or not, but at least they heard the truth.  We live in an age where we don’t want to offend or hurt feelings, but regarding eternal matters, we must not be squeamish. It seems that people only want to emphasize some “permissive love,” which is not loving at all.  God is not some zen swami witch-doctor who teaches hippy love.  God will judge us all accordingly and I would not want to end up in hell because someone did not want to undertake the distasteful task of telling me that I’m wrong and must repent and believe in Jesus Christ.

We are tasked with proclaiming the Good News.  Let’s not forget to warn of the bad news.

On the Kentucky Canard

I have seen a lot of news regarding the county clerk in Kentucky who refused to issue marriage licenses in protest to the homosexual “marriage” debacle.  To be honest, I don’t know what to think about Kim Davis and her refusal to carry out her duties.  

As a Christian, my knee-jerk reaction was to simply obey the law of the land as dictated in Romans 13.  After all, she could resign to satisfy her conscience.  Then I read Matt Walsh’s article and determined that my initial response may have been rash.

I’m still considering Romans 13–specifically Romans 13:2, “Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”  At the risk of sounding circular, all rulers are ultimately appointed by God.  History is rife with unjust rulers and government, but are we forbidden from ever opposing the government?  

I’m aware that many people are in agreement with same-sex “marriage”.  Even many professing Christians support this movement.  I’m left wondering if they are even familiar with the Bible or if they are rejecting parts that they feel are unreasonable.  If they reject parts of the Bible, why accept Christ’s resurrection?  Why believe at all?  These people are already demonstrating that the Bible is untrustworthy.  All that aside, this particular situation should focus on Kim Davis’s conscience.  Even if she is wrong, should she be compelled to violate her conscience?

Had Davis simply resigned, we would not be having this discussion.  This is a perfectly reasonable response and her conscience would be unblemished.  I think this is the approach I would have taken.

I also have to consider Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego and the firey furnace in Daniel 3.  They could have bowed to the idol and avoided the furnace.  They don’t have to mean it, they just have to obey the law of the land, right?  Their dilemma was whether they should obey God or man.  They chose the former so Nebuchadnezzar cast them into the fire.

Ultimately, I believe this is an individual matter for the Christian.  I think one could construct a biblical case to support Davis’s resignation or her decision to refuse to issue marriage licenses.  The Bible does not consent to the participation in the commission of sin, though.

If anything, I think Davis’s conviction (however misguided it may or may not be) is commendable.  How many of us would crumble so that we could avoid jail or even an unpleasant glare?  Do you have any convictions worth defending at any cost, or is it all relative?

More of the Same–Only Worse

It’s days like this that really make it hard to live.  Even before I was stricken with ankylosing spondylitis, I found it exceedingly difficult persevere at times, but now it’s unbearable.  What happens when the pain gets worse?  Is life more unbearable?   

This was fifteen days ago. It was a Sunday morning and as you can see, it was a pretty good day.
You would think that once you reach the point where you cannot possibly bear any more pain, it increases.  It multiplies.  It goes beyond unbearable.  It shatters all notions of normalcy and grinds you to dust.

I’ve been dealing with a minor flare up for a couple of months, but the past week or two, the pain has been increasing exponentially where I’m continually thinking that I’ve hit my plateau.  As I unwrap a new day, I find that I was horribly mistaken and the previous day could easily be compared the greatest landmarks of my life–my wedding, the birth of my children, or the first time I tried hot chicken.

It’s times like these where I cannot hide from…myself.  I still have dreams and aspirations.  Granted, these have been muted as I have come to realize that my life has been forever changed.  Oftentimes, these dreams and aspirations have been reduced from the realistic (I mean who doesn’t want to be an astronaut), to the impossible–like twenty minutes of normalcy.

It’s funny that I have a disease that traps me inside a shell of myself.  It’s amusing that I’m cocooned in a broken body in which there is no escape.  It’s comical only because I am what I have always feared–a cripple.

Of the many things I have feared, two are notable:  fear of pain and fear of being trapped from within.  

I remember a small cut or insignificant burn could ruin my day.  It sounds ridiculous now that there is no such thing as life without pain, but if I stubbed my toe or skinned my knee, it was time to close up shop because my day was wrecked.  Life was on hiatus.  

When life wasn’t interrupted by bruises and scrapes I was occasionally overcome by the dread of living in a body that didn’t work.  More specifically, I was afraid of being paralyzed.  I still am because I know how quickly it can happen.

One Minnesota winter night when I was nineteen, I was outside in the snow with a bunch of friends.  I was teasing my buddy Shawn and the angrier he got, the more delighted I became.  Apparently, I went too far because he punched me right as I turned to walk off.  No warning.  I just remember the jolt of electricity that shot through my body as he punched me in the back of the neck.

I instantly dropped to the ground as my body folded under itself like a marionette.  My body was numb and I couldn’t move.  I went from surprise, to terror, to anger in about three seconds.  I was laying in the snow on my back with my limbs askew when I began cursing Shawn for paralyzing me.  I thought my neck was broken.

Between my shouts for an ambulance and my colorful insults, everybody thought I was playing around.  I’m surprised the neighbors didn’t call the police as this went on for ten minutes.  By then, I was getting my feeling back.  I was able to clumsily flail my arms like a drunken infant.  I was staggering, then walking in short order, but the experience made me even more fearful of physical disability.

So here I am today passing the time on the couch waiting for bedtime.  Tomorrow morning will arrive too quickly for another day of work followed by an afternoon of couch surfing.  I’m not going to assume that today will be my worst day, but I’m not going to hold my breath for a better one either.

Imago Dei

I saw a homeless man guarding the entrance to the Walmart parking lot the other day.  I brought him some cold water and a gift card, but I also sat with him and spoke with him for ten–maybe fifteen minutes.  

I just got off work so I still looked presentable in my khakis and without my trademark baseball cap.  My nose told me that James–he told me his name was James–was probably sweating off a hangover and needed a shave, but he felt human again as someone was willing to listen to his story.

Several people shoved cash into his hand as they passed, and no fewer than five cars opened their wallets to him.  It was so unusual that James joked that he needed to keep me around as his good luck charm.  I estimate he collected twenty bucks in ten minutes and I’m left wondering if my presence made a difference.  

Do people give more if a “respectable” man is in the presence of a homeless man?  If so, are they motivated by some collective altruism or is it out of guilt?  I don’t know but James didn’t go hungry that night, and he told me that he was going to pool his money with some homeless friends to get a hotel room.  Perhaps he did get a room.  Perhaps he had a hot bath and enjoyed the a/c for the evening.  Perhaps he watched Pawn Stars or Swamp People.  

I don’t know what he did that evening, but when we hugged and parted ways, he saw what I saw.  I didn’t see a homeless guy or a seedy character I needed to guard against.  I saw a man created in God’s image and I hope he never forgets that.

Don’t Rue the Roux (A Homophonically Hackneyed Glorification of Gravy)

I’m a gravy animal. I like gravy on anything. In my world gravy deserves the coveted foundational spot on the food pyramid. But the pyramid I grew up with has been has been replaced with something bizarre.  I first encountered this new layout at Kroger when I saw some strange crop circle-esque food diagram.

I couldn’t decipher this new age pyramid as there is no base to build on. That’s not a proper food pyramid. I learned about nutrition from Slim Goodbody, the stalwart, creepy body suit wearing crusader. Mr. Goodbody may not be a gravy advocate, but I’m not deterred.

I’m such a gravy proponent that years ago I used to have listeners consume a thirty-two ounce glass of cream gravy when I was a disc jockey.  If you are a radio personality and need a game that is devoid of originality but will make some listeners say, “Eww,” you can steal this bit that I undoubtedly stole from some unimaginative liner jock who used it as a vehicle to giveaway blue plate lunches during his lunchtime request hour.  It’s amazing the lengths some people go to score a CD from some never was band like Zug Izland. Remember that band? Me neither.

I’m definitely no expert on sauces, but I have gained enough experience to make a half decent gel of grease and flour. Making roux for gumbo is a skill I have yet to perfect.  Gravy is easy.  At least for me, death-defying dark roux is not only challenging, but all of that stirring can be exhausting.  

I love a really dark roux, but I have had gumbo where the roux was scorched.  Needless to say, that restaurant isn’t around anymore.  When I make a roux, I always plan on making it the color of dark chocolate.  Once it looks like peanut butter I start getting nervous, and I invariably chicken out when the roux almost looks like milk chocolate.  

Justin Wilson terrifies me with this über-dark roux.  I can’t find the rest of the clip to see if the gumbo turned out.  I’m certain it was perfect, but next time I set out to make a dark roux, I’ll have to battle another bout of flop sweat or I’ll get tired and ditch the whole gumbo idea and bust open a can of biscuits and make a pan of cream gravy.

Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack–Nashville, TN

Last week I was in Nashville, TN to attend the Send North America Conference.  Listening intently to the likes of Al Mohler and Johnny Hunt works up an appetite and I had already sampled Hattie B’s Hot Chicken the previous evening.  Before I left town, I determined to try Nashville’s standard for firey fowl–Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack.

Nestled in a seedy part of town, I was reminded of a now-defunct catfish restaurant here in Shreveport, LA.  I never went at night because I was scared of getting stabbed, but this place was filthy and the ceiling was falling apart due to a leaky roof.  I was concerned about food poisoning, but the catfish was worth any risk.

Handle with care.

I wasn’t feeling like liquidating my innards, so I just ordered the hot chicken.  I didn’t order the hottest on the menu and there was mild wuss chicken so that wusses could eat too.  I ordered the middle-of-the-road “hot” and the heat level was perfect in that it satisfied my sinuses and my mouth and esophagus enjoyed a low burn for a couple of hours. 
Much like the Sun, if you look directly at this fire, it will burn your retinas.
What I found lacking was flavor.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the flavor profile was rather one-dimensional.  It was hot and not much else.  Don’t get me wrong, it was good, but easily outshined by Prince’s budding competitor.

You’ll wait in line for an hour when you go to Hattie B’s.  It’s time well spent.

Of Course There Is A God

Relationships can and do change once you repent of your sins and put your trust in Jesus Christ. The change is so radical that sometimes relationships die.  I know this firsthand as I have at least one friend that fell away months after my conversion.  Don’t get me wrong, this Negative Nelly was actually a drain on me spiritually for a variety of reasons, but mainly because he wanted change in his life but was essentially unwilling to leave his house.

It’s not easy finding a wife while hiding at home.  You have no right to declare unhappiness if you refuse to do anything other than play video games in the dark.  Christianity aside, you cannot expect any sort of happiness when the closest thing you have to a bride is a screenful of pixels and your narcissism keeps you from being bothered with others’ needs and fears.

I occasionally check out his musings on his YouTube account to see what new thing he is raging about.  I find it unlistenable as he peppers his tirades with profanity and he is always yelling.

James Burns, former friend and host of The James Burns Show, fancies himself a political pundit and adroit social commentator.  That’s terrific, but when he wades into the realm of religiosity, I actually have something to say when I witness so much error placed upon a mountain of fallacy and wishful thinking.

According to him and his latest jeremiad, he describes how he has been Catholic, a reincarnationist, a formerly born-again Christian, and is now something of a pantheist and panentheist with a dab of mysticism and animism.  He changes beliefs more than he changes underwear.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up deleting his philippic, and I certainly don’t recommend spending a quarter hour listening to his anemic screed, but if you want to hear what it sounds like to rail against God, be my guest.

I found this podcast troubling, but the most disconcerting allegation is that he claimed to be something that he is not, nor ever was.  He said that he used to be a born-again Christian.  If genuine, no one can undo his second birth any more than his first birth.  Clearly his theology is demented, but once false Christian claims (though unintentional) are made, it is time for somebody to set the record straight.

If someone becomes a born-again believer, it is impossible to become an unbeliever.  Jesus says, “I give [my sheep] eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”” (‭‭John‬ ‭10:28-30‬ ‭ESV‬‬)  If this is true, then no one can snatch them out of Jesus’ hand.  That includes the individual.  If I truly belong to Jesus, I cannot unclench His grasp.  If I was able to wrestle away from Jesus to become an unbeliever, God is not omnipotent and nothing is sure.  Not only would that make God puny, but it would make Him a liar as well.  If Jesus cannot keep this promise, how can we trust that there is any measure of reliability in the Bible?  You can’t.  But that doesn’t keep this man from building his house on sand.

At the 2:13 mark, Mr. Burns establishes his premise on a fallacy by asserting that the United States is predominantly a Christian nation. If we rely on the Pew Research Center, we see that 70.6% of Americans claim to be Christian, while the Barna Group determined that 38% of Americans are unchurched, or those who have no religious affilitiation.  This only records claimants, but according to his littany of belief systems over the years, one only needs to decide what flavor of belief he will hold for the day.  Now, do either of these statistics show us the percentage of real Christians (those that agree on biblical essentials)?  Certainly not.

The Barna Group conducted another study to get an idea of what Americans believe about Jesus.  The study reveals that 92% of Americans believe that Jesus was a historical person.  That is promising.  But then the study shows that only 56% of Americans believe that Jesus is God.  That one is problematic.  Worse still is the fact that 52% believe that Jesus committed sins.  According to the Bible, Jesus is God and never committed any sin.  If we narrow our scope, we can see that according to this study only 48% of Americans are potentially born again.  I’m certain the real figure is much lower.  This information shows that Mr. Burns is pulling his “facts” out of a hat because we certainly are not “predominately Christian.”  I doubt we ever were, unless only a declaration is all that is necessary.  In that case, I’m a black woman.

At the 2:42 mark, he fleshes out his false belief system.  He perpetuates the Genetic Fallacy, and adds that morality, raising a family, working hard, and being a great (yes, he said great) friend should count as something.  At 3:03, he loses his temper when he says having the wrong religion will land one in hell (I’m assuming this is according to the Bible).  At 3:15, he makes the absolute declaration, “I, for one, cannot fathom a god that would punish good people who were born in a religion that was not ‘his truth,'” which is an example of the Personal Incredulity Fallacy.  Mr. Burns tipped his hat.  He is angry at God.  He also makes the false assumption that people are good.  Jesus says, “No one is good except God alone.” (Matthew 10:18 ESV)  Romans 3:10 says, “No one is righteous.  No, not one.”

Mr. Burns relates how he tried really hard to be a Christian by reading the Bible, praying, and being good.  In essence, he thought he could do all of this work so that he could save himself.  Paul explains this in Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)  Paul then writes in his letter to Titus, “[Jesus] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit…” (‭‭Titus‬ ‭3:5‬ ‭ESV‬‬)  The text is clear–we cannot save ourselves.  Any works we perform for this purpose are in vain.

As his animus escalates, he almost comes unglued at the 4:25 mark when he declares that it is possible for all views to have some truth.  So now he is an intolerant pluralist.  Which is it?  You cannot be intellectually lazy and just accept whatever enters your brain as long as it runs contrary to Jesus.  Do all roads lead to heaven?  It is self-refuting as that would include Jesus as a way to heaven.  Yet, Jesus declares that he “is the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)  Even if Jesus is mistaken, his claim refutes the assertion that “all roads lead to heaven” as both are definitive claims.  Either Jesus is telling the truth, or both claims are false.

At 5:57, Mr. Burns stands on yet another fallacy–the False Dilemma.  He states, “Either we are all god’s children…or there is no god.”  This guy just cannot make up his mind.  (If you would like to see more of his fallacy schizophrenia, click here.)  It makes just as much sense when I say, “the mail didn’t run today, therefore I’m Ringo Starr.”  It’s okay to believe intellectually feeble reasoning, it’s just reasonable to keep it to yourself.

To illustrate Mr. Burns’ confusion, he decides upon pantheism at the 7:05 mark, changes his mind to panentheism at the 7:30 mark, and at 8:00 he throws in speciesism for good measure.  At 8:12, he begins to abandon all reason as he unveils his inner mystic with his Jeff Foxworthyesque vision reminiscent of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy set in a bus station.  At this point my head explodes as I have never experienced a cacophony of fallacies before.

At 10:21, Mr. Burns explains that “God wants you to feel…blessed for not being born [disabled]”–which is the Appeal to Emotion Fallacy.  He asserts that we have heard this before–a mixed fallacy of sorts–the Bandwagon Fallacy based on something that may or not be anecdotal.  In a sense, the False Bandwagon Fallacy.  If we consult the Bible, John 9:3 says that God allows sickness and disability to glorify Himself.  The works of God are displayed in weakness and disability.  God did not cause this.  All illness and disability can be traced back to Adam.  We are broken because of sin and it is God’s desire to redeem us.

I could go on, but attributing our lives to god, aliens, and/or luck (at 10:40 and 13:22) just seems silly and contrived after running the fallacy gauntlet.  This is the house built on shifting sand instead of the Rock of Christ.

Image courtesy of Cory Doctorow.

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