Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ain't That America

A NASCAR race is a study in Southern culture. Even if you don’t care to watch cars go around in circles, it’s a great spot to simply watch people. Here are just a handful of sights I observed at the Coca-Cola 600 in Concord, N.C. over the weekend:
  • A Dale Earnhardt impersonator, complete with the white Goodwrench racing suit, mustache and mirrored sunglasses.

  • A pretty young girl, probably no older than 25 … with a dip of Skoal in her mouth.

  • A 6-year-old kid who confidently announced to me that “we gon’ have a good race today!”

  • Far too much exposed flesh (both female and male, attractive and not-so-attractive).

What really amazes me is the zeal that NASCAR fans have for their favorite – and least-favorite – drivers. This is especially apparent with the Dale Earnhardt Jr. crowd, who all but assign god-like status to the driver of the No. 88 car. These same fans of “Junior,” along with many others, harbor a comparable level of ill will (often expressed with extended middle fingers) toward Kyle Busch, who apparently is the very incarnation of the devil.

What also amazes me is the NASCAR policy that allows fans to bring their own beer to the track, as much as they can fit into a 14-by-14-inch cooler. When you take the above-mentioned zeal for men who drive fast cars, and combine it with large quantities of beer, you’ve got yourself a sure-fire recipe for rowdy adult behavior.

And yet, despite all the excesses, NASCAR races always begin with Christian prayer. Before Sunday’s race was postponed by rain, Billy Graham’s son Franklin gave the invocation and boldly proclaimed Jesus as the Savior before the crowd of 100,000-plus. Not so long ago – before hypersensitive political correctness became the norm – prayer in Jesus’ name was offered before many sporting events in America. I doubt many Muslims or Hindus were in attendance at Lowe’s Motor Speedway on Sunday, but even if there were, NASCAR clearly isn’t concerned about offending them, or anyone else, with public prayer.

And to that, I offer a hearty tip of my No. 48 Jimmie Johnson cap.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Eye of the Storm

We’ve had a lot of strong thunderstorms lately. A few weeks ago, I got caught in one while hiking in the Georgia mountains. As I huddled under a rhododendron bush, I wondered if there’s any significance to the fact that the “lightning safety position” bears a strong resemblance to a common prayer posture – head bowed, body low to the ground.

Whatever the case, I was doing a lot of praying while lightning popped and thunder boomed around me for a good half-hour. I think I started to get a glimpse of what Paul meant when he instructed his readers to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Another verse that kept coming to mind was Psalm 46:1, and I reminded God of it several times: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” That rhododendron bush was my earthly refuge, but in reality it was God Himself who was protecting me, even while His awesome power raged around me.

Now, in hindsight, without the fear of electrocution gripping me, I can say that lightning storm was an amazing thing to have witnessed first-hand. But I wouldn't want to experience it again.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Help for the Sudanese

Sudan has been ravaged by civil war for much of the last half-century, with more than two million Sudanese killed and over four million displaced. Granted political asylum by the U.S. government, thousands of southern Sudanese refugees are now scattered among approximately 38 cities across the U.S.

Aid Sudan is an inter-denominational, non-profit organization that serves the southern Sudanese in several targeted locations in Sudan and through U.S. offices in Dallas, Houston and Nashville. Whether in the U.S. or in Sudan, the organization's vision is to aid in growing strong southern Sudanese communities committed to serving Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, Aid Sudan is in a critical spot for funding and is seeking 150 people to give $30 or more per month for the next year. For more information, go to There is also an online form for contributions:

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Heavenly Health Plan

I recently met a businessman who has worked in a big city for much of his life. Now living on the South Carolina coast, he’s exercising more, he’s relaxing more, he’s enjoying the slower pace. “I feel like I’m adding years to my life,” he told me. Maybe so. Then again, maybe not – because not even the next minute is guaranteed.

Our culture is obsessed with health and longevity. Exercise programs, diets, vitamins, cosmetic surgery – we go to great lengths to delay the effects of aging. Not all of these things are bad. The Bible urges us to take care of our bodies. But it amazes me how much time, money and effort people spend on their physical wellbeing without any regard to their spiritual health.

Jesus said, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole word, yet forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). In that same passage, He revealed the key to avoiding such a fate: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (v. 25).

Be a follower of Jesus and eternal life is guaranteed. No diet plans, no exercise programs, yet in the end, every believer will get a new, perfect body. “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. … And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven” (1 Corinthians 15: 42-44, 49).

Until then, I take heart in the words of 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, which says of my current form: “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”