Jesus (Don't) Take The Wheel

We are teaching my middle son how to drive.  Prayers are appreciated.  It's been over a decade since I did this with my eldest son, and I haven't changed a lot in my teaching style, which could best be described as: acute resignation mixed with a healthy dose of panic and a generous sprinkling of fear.  Lately, I have decided that in order to mitigate my anxiety whilst driving with my kid, I would take a different kind of approach.  Basically, I decided I was going to be as calm, and as matter-of-fact as I could be about the situations he guided us into.  For example, when he comes barreling up on cars stopped at a stop light, I have taken to simply saying quietly:  "I would apply the brakes if I were you." Or when he blows through a stop sign, I'll softly add:  "Not that it matters now, but you blew through that stop sign."  And when he refuses to get into a turn lane until the last moment, I'll offer up the following statement: "You may want …

Now That Is Good News

"What kind of church do you pastor?" The guy asking me that question had just spent the better part of ten minutes telling me all about his church, his thoughts on the "lost" culture of our country and how everything had gone to hell in a hand basket ever since "they" got rid of prayer in schools.  We were at a community event, and I was doing my best to just blend into the background, drink my beer and not "talk shop."  But he was insistent.  I told him that I was the lead pastor of a Presbyterian church in Austin, TX, and his brow furrowed a bit as he took in what I was saying.  "I don't know that much about those kinds of churches," he said.  "I guess what I want to know is if your church preaches the Gospel. Because a church that doesn't preach the Gospel isn't any kind of church at all."  "I have a question for you," I said to him.  "What do you mean when you say, 'preach the Gospel?'&q…

Rebel - Week 4: We Have Left Everything

Today we're going to conclude the sermon series Rebel.  This series has been focused on one very simple, but life-changing idea:  Following Jesus isn't easy.  It was never meant to be.  The Way of Christ sometimes demands a radical, countercultural and even rebellious kind of sacrificial love.  Today we're going to be exploring a passage of Scripture where Jesus makes a ridiculously radical demand on his followers... but before we get there, let's talk a bit about heaven, and how to get into it.  Nice segue, right? I call this little side street on our journey "Getting Into Heaven" or Adventures in Missing the Point.  Here's what I mean... There is a significant cross section of Christians who believe that the reason why you become a Christian is because you get to go to heaven when you die.  Spoiler alert:  Getting "into heaven" is not the point.  It never was, really.  Jesus rarely talked about heaven... or hell, for that matter.  He was more …

Why The World Needs You To Tell Your Stories

I  remember the day I met with the chair of the committee I was supposed to meet with in order to begin my process of becoming a pastor.  I was full of energy and enthusiasm, idealistic and ready to begin. 
Then he laid before me a piece of paper that contained a list of over a hundred steps that I would have to complete before I would be ready to be ordained.  
I  stared at that list, and swallowed hard.  Then he asked me a question that I would have asked of me over and over again over the next four years.  "Why do you want to do this?"  
The answer I gave then was suddenly tempered by the weight of the process that I would have to enter into, and I can't honestly recall exactly what I said in that moment.  
The gist of it was simple enough, though.  I wanted to be a bridge for people who had been wounded and hurt by religion, and who had given up on the Church to heal their their broken heart. I  wanted to spend my life showing them that there was more to Christianity tha…

What If 2020 Is The Year We've Been Waiting For?

I don't know about you, but I've caught myself more than a few times over the past several weeks wishing that this year was over.  At this point, I would love nothing more than to put 2020 in the rear view mirror, and drive away as fast as I can.  
Let me put it bluntly.  2020 has been a dumpster fire.  
I know what some of you are going to say, so let me just head you off at the pass there friend...  You want to tell me, "Now Leon, there have been other bad years, don't get all melodramatic."  
Okay, okay... but let me just put this out there...  
In addition to a global pandemic, election nonsense, fires, floods, riots, and much, much more, 2020 has thrown us another curveball: zombie storms.    
Seriously, I  just read that there's a "zombie storm" out in the Atlantic Ocean--a hurricane that had all but dissipated only to regain strength and come back to life, confounding meteorologists.  What the heck, man?  A zombie storm?  
With everything that has …

How To Avoid Selective Memory

The other day I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and I saw some posts from several friends that I used to work with years ago when we were all young.  Upon closer inspection, I realized with some surprise that these old friends of mine were posting words of hope from the Bible, photos of their children's first communions, baptisms and the like.  I had to smile because I remembered them differently from the wild, late-night parties we went to in our youth, the crazy escapades we shared and an absolute absence of anything that resembled religiosity, church or any of the things that mark our lives now. I also realized that when my old friends see my posts, and watch video of me preaching it has to be a bit of a shock for them, too.  Let's just say I wasn't always a pastor...  The funny thing is, when I remember my friends, I often forget my own role in our past, choosing instead to fast forward past those stories of mine to brighter and more "honorable" ones.�…

That's What They'll Say About Us

I was at the grocery store yesterday and I walked up behind a young father who was shopping with his little baby.  I usually don't spend a lot of time studying other people's kids, but for some reason this little guy and his dad caught my eye.  
The baby was sitting in the child safety seat in the front of the cart, intently watching everything his dad was doing.  The man stepped away for a moment to pick something out of a cooler, and the baby's eyes widened, and a concerned look flickered over his face.  
Then the man returned to the cart and he received an enthusiastic greeting from his little son, whose legs began to kick wildly and he jabbered a bunch of nonsense that seemed to make sense to him, but no one else.  He squealed as he pointed to the sky, and then the cooler. 
It was almost like he was saying: 
"You came back!  You came back!  And I thought for a minute you weren't going to come back, but you came back!  And you brought something that you got from th…