Garbage In, Garbage Out; The Root

Yesterday I wrote about the thrill of dumpster diving for donuts. Those days are over (probably) but today I wanted to address a similar topic that hits at the root of a huge issue.

We’ve all heard the term “Garbage in, garbage out”, most likely coming from the lips of a parent or a well-meaning relative. It’s not just some old idiom thrown out to shame children into making better decisions and choosing better companions; Jesus himself spoke on this very issue.

In Matthew 12:33-34 Jesus declares, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree it known by its fruit.” That verse always stuck out to me because it begs for a standard. Jesus was addressing the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law, and calling out their hypocrisy. “How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” 

There is no compromise here.

Since boyhood, growing up around my brother’s friends and those older than me, I’ve always remembered verse 34 and sought to keep a narrow yet thorough opinion of people by their words. If we could hear people’s thoughts I bet we’d choose our friends with a bit more scrutiny. You become like the 5 people you spend the most time around. Who wants to hang out with someone who’s not like-minded and seeking to benefit from each other’s company? Even to benefit one another.

If garbage in, garbage out is true, then as believers what should our next course of action be? We must examine our lives and ask, “What kind of fruit am I producing? Am I benefitting those around me by what I say?”

Jesus, in a similar passage in Matthew 7 tells us that “you will recognize them by their fruits.” Though the context here is discussing false teachers, the message remains the same. “Every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.” He then reaches the climax by saying, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire”(Matthew 7:17-19).

I believed it as a kid and I still exercise the same practice of measuring people by their words. We all say foolish stuff we wish we could take back. I do it constantly. But thank the Lord for grace in our moments of stupid.

“The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil”(Matthew 12:35). 

To avoid beating a dead horse I’ll end with this: we talk about what’s important to us. The lives we live are evidence of what that is. There’s only room for one throne in our lives. Who will we allow to occupy it? Do we confess Christ and live accordingly or do our words convince otherwise?

The root of the issue is this: garbage in will always result in garbage out. So choose your words carefully.




Every metal, death metal, hair metal, metalcore, hardcore, mathcore, nintendocore, prog metal, djent, sludge, grunge, grindcore, “experimental”, screamo, “whatever-the-heck you think your band sounds Iike” band I’ve ever heard has a mosh call.

A mosh call is usually a one-liner command commonly filled with expletives that rings out over a dead silence in the middle of a song just before the big breakdown. The point of a mosh call is to amp up the crowd, causing them to come undone and tear the place to shreds. Then go buy t-shirts with said phrase printed on it in big block letters. Hey, mine did it too, minus the colorful language.

I won’t go into detail about some of the more memorable mosh calls I’ve heard but it certainly does cause a guy to wonder “what does he really mean?” Side note, I really love the bands that say something different every night to throw off their expectant fans: “Make this place look like a pile of bananas!” Chaos and confusion ensues.

Bananas? Really?

How can even a 5′ tall guy with a microphone have such a commanding presence and influence a crowd of strangers to go “bananas” and punch every living soul in the room in the back of the head? Why are they so willing to do what he says?

Why aren’t Christians as equally willing to step out and speak up in love? We know who’s talking. We know His voice. It’s a non-violent approach. It could get that way if we push the right buttons but we ought to do so anyways because the God of the universe says so. He’s not looking to sell t-shirts. He’s got one agenda: the rescue of sinners.

We are agents of the cause. We’ve got more than just a hallow one-liner to egg us on to doing something we don’t understand to hurt people we don’t know. We have the living Word of God to guide and instruct us to move our feet.

Matthew 28:19-20: Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe  all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Christ is the truth and Christ is enough. Let us be ever willing to share the truth in love.

May we be ever vigilant to share the gospel and move our feet.


P.S. As blasphemous as this may be, imagine Jesus as a front man. That would be a mosh call. He could make anything sound awesome and terrifying: “You brood of vipers!”(Matt 12:34)

What’s the best/worst mosh call you’ve ever heard?


Still one of my favorite band shirts of all time

Still one of my favorite band shirts of all time

Speak Up & Speak Out

The danger of not talking to strangers.

Last week I was meeting at Braum’s with a buddy of mine from the youth group. I got there a bit early and read up on Francis Chan’s “Crazy Love” before we got started. As I was leaving, after our study of Galatians, I held the door for a couple who was also headed for the parking lot. “That’s a great book!” the husband said as he passed me. His wife nodded in approval and repeated his comment.

Obviously they had seen my copy of “Crazy Love” clutched in my left hand along with my notebook and ESV Study Bible. I’m guessing they were Christians since they recognized Chan’s book and didn’t mind speaking up. They saw something in common with themselves and felt comfortable talking to a stranger about it.

It wasn’t until the following morning that I thought back on what they’d noticed. Or hadn’t noticed.

Do you think they would’ve said the same thing to me, a total stranger, if I was only holding my Bible?

Possibly. Maybe they would’ve seen it and thought, “Hey that’s great! I’m glad he’s reading God’s word and pursuing truth for his life.” Or maybe even, “A Bible. Hmmm, I wonder if he knows what to do with it.” God forbid, “I wonder his stance on pedobaptism.”

Why are we so quick to cast judgement on people? Especially as Christians, why is it so easy to make unfair assessments and jump on our legalistic bandwagons?

Everybody in America knows what a Bible is. I guarantee you every Christian would recognize a Bible if they looked at one. It makes no difference what book that stranger is holding; we are to speak out. We are the mouthpieces of the gospel.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
Romans 10:14

I’m sure you were told as a child not to talk to strangers. But how did Jesus gather His disciples? How did you first hear the gospel? Somebody before you chose to be obedient and speak up. So do likewise.

Speak up and Speak out


P.S. I do endorse Francis Chan’s “Crazy Love”. It’s a great tool for examining our place before a holy God and how we should respond to the life that He calls us to. Chapter 4 entitled “Profile of the lukewarm” is a huge eye opener

Does God Need Your College Degree?

Before someone jumps down my throat over the title, let me explain. 

Recently I was recommended the book “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser. The purpose was to help identify areas I could clean up in my writing. It’s been a fantastic tool and I’m already implementing a few of the ideas it mentions. One of the early chapters is about fighting clutter—trimming the wordiness fat and making clear what you really mean.

If anyone reading this post has an english degree you’ve probably already spotted plenty of things you’d love to mark with a red pen. So there you have it! God can definitely use your english degree to help you point out and argue my point, haha.

Here’s my real question: do we give the gospel a fair chance?

I think there are two ways we christians damage the gospel:

  1. We’re either too shy or scared to share our faith openly, afraid of doing it injustice.
  2. We’re over-confident in our knowledge and abilities and turn people off by our jargon and pomp.

Doesn’t God’s word promise to comfort us? I’m no public speaker though I’ve found confidence that the LORD will give me the right words to say at the right time. When you know the truth and are passionate about something, fears and uncertainties all seem to slip away.

When sharing our faith and proclaiming the mystery of the gospel “which is Christ”(Col 1:27) we also tend to scare people away by our methods of approach. Don’t let your presentation of the gospel fend people off by how you give it.

Will someone who didn’t grow up in church understand christian-ese when you speak it to them? Of course not! Don’t dialogue with someone you can talk to. Don’t interface with anybody.

Here’s a quote from Zinsser’s chapter about clutter: “By using a more pompous phrase in his professional role he not only sounds more important; he blunts the painful edge of truth.” 

Never dumb down the truth of the gospel by catering to the idea that people will always flee when you spotlight their sin. Jesus is offensive to our sinful nature. Be loving but firm. We’re all in the same boat; we all need a Savior.

What about the college degree thing? Oh yeah. We’re always trying to limit God’s abilities. Don’t let your occupation, social status or education level impede or impose on God’s use for you.

Remember: we are the plan. It is ultimately the Holy Spirit who convicts unbelievers of sin and compels them to repentance but we are the mouthpieces.

Be obedient and open your mouth; God will give you what to say.

Clean the clutter.

Simplify, simplify.


Foot-In-Mouth Faithfulness

I used to hate Arkansas.

Let me rephrase that: I used to hate I-40 east. But if you’ve ever driven even 10 miles down the interstate in my old ’93 GMC 15 passenger band van with 6 other sweaty dudes with no AC in July, you’d understand. Times have changed, freon has been recharged, vans have been totaled and replaced, and I’ve seen enough Arkansas Tourism commercials to cause me to completely recant my former beliefs. Cell reception aside, I’d take Arkansas over most anywhere else in America.

300x300 One night we played at a venue named “The Hole In The Wall” in Atkins, AR. Literally. I was standing behind our merch table watching a band perform when I sent out a tweet saying, “I still have yet to form an opinion about this…band?” Immediately after their set finished, one of the guys(who I didn’t know at the time) walked off stage, pulled out his phone and said, “Hey Clay, explain this tweet to me.”

Shocked at being called out, put on the spot and flabbergasted at the power of twitter, I started sputtering. “What the heck?” I thought. “You really can’t just say whatever you want and never face the consequences.” The band guys were gracious and humorous about the whole thing and we ended up becoming fast friends. They’re still two of the most far out and ridiculous people I’ve ever met.

Being confronted about my words really put me to thinking. Many of us are firm and decided in what we think, say, or post online but are we really faithful to what matters most when we’re up against the wall?

Many of us are faithful to our ideas about Jesus Christ, but how many of us are faithful to Jesus Himself? Faithfulness to Jesus means that I must step out even when and where I can’t see anything.

How about our faith itself?

Faith is not intellectual understanding; faith is a deliberate commitment to the Person of Jesus Christ, even when I can’t see the way ahead.

This is where obedience comes in. We must ask ourselves, “Am I going to obey and trust Him or will I compromise my words when the waters get rough?”

Thank God for grace.

Thank God for friends with a little extra salt in their pockets to sprinkle on a situation when I say dumb stuff. Our Father does the same thing.


Say What?—The Loose Cannon

What does it matter? It’s not like I’m not hurting anyone.

Continually we are commanded to be of good spirit and character. Yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah at least I’m not like you-know-who. Remember the loud mouth at the game last weekend? The woman in line at the check out who just couldn’t wait. What about the last time I got cut off in traffic?

Wait, hold on. We’re not talking about me, this is about someone else, right? Aren’t we all guilty of it though?

How easy is it to lash out when our defenses are down? If I could go back even 6 months ago and hear some of the things I said in a moment of flippant disgust. Truth. I’d be disgusted at my mouth.

This is where self-control comes in. Even though it’s the last mentioned fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5, it’s certainly not the least important. James reminds us that it is impossible to tame the tongue and Christ Himself spoke in truth when He stated in Matthew 12:

“How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Self-control isn’t pointed only at our command of the tongue but it’s certainly a prime place to start. We are so vulnerable when get offended and too often we take it out in the wrong places.

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. Proverbs 25:28

You can’t un-say anything and once it’s out, it’s out there for good. So remember to choose your words carefully. Show some self-control.

Don’t be that loose cannon.