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Growing In Your Faith - Are You Doing It Wrong?

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I was reading an article this week about how a prominent Christian leader, who had (until now) wisely eschewed all of the culture wars rhetoric, made the mistake of getting embroiled in a controversy on social media because of some ill-worded tweets.   As he began to be backed into a corner, this Christian leader doubled down on his poor theological choices, and simply declared that since the Bible was his ultimate authority, he couldn't possibly be wrong about what he said.  And he also assumes that his interpretation of the Bible is the right one, of course.   This whole thing got me thinking about how so many of us Christian-types seem to use the Bible for our own purposes---to prop our arguments, to bolster our own world view, and even to weaponize our words to further divisions or even to create them.   You see, the Christian leader in question has the idea that the Bible is immutable, unmoving, and unyielding in the face of cultural change and transformation.  He believes tha

Forgiving and Loving Yourself Sets You Free

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I have this small whiteboard that lives between my computer and my keyboard, and I write notes on it throughout the week as I move from meeting to meeting.   Sometimes the notes that end up on my whiteboard are just one-word reminders of things that I need to get done or the name of someone I need to call.  I also jot down short phrases of ideas that I want to pursue.  I have to confess that there have been more than a few times when I have written down a word or a phrase and then forgotten why I wrote it down.  Also, my handwriting is terrible, so there have been some moments when I haven't been able to decipher what I scribbled down.   When these moments occur, I often get angry with myself for being such a goof.  I berate myself for not having the foresight to use better penmanship or to just be focused enough to write down enough information.    It astounds me how quickly my whiteboard can become an instrument of self-judgment and criticism rather than a helpful tool that merel

Third Sunday of Easter - "Resurrection and Broiled Fish"

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Today is the 3rd Sunday of the Season of Easter---Happy Easter y'all!  Hey, and guess what?  Christ has still risen! The passage of Scripture that we'll be exploring today takes us into a meal that the Resurrected Jesus has with his followers... and a moment when they realize that everything has changed.   But first, let me ask you a question...  What's the best meal you've ever had...  and why was it the best meal you ever had?   I did a little survey this week on social media, asking people that question and I'm going to share some of those in a moment, but before I do that, let me share with you my favorite meal...   I got to thinking about why we remember these "best meals," and what that might mean.   Charles Spence is the head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at Oxford University, a lab that looks into how our senses interact.  Spence did a TED talk a few years ago where he explained why our best meals, are our best meals.  He said that the way

Prayer As An Uprising

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To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world. - Karl Barth Have you ever prayed that God would do something for you... give you something... grant your wishes, desires, hopes, and dreams?   Even though most of us probably figured out a long time ago that it doesn't work that way, we secretly try it anyway---long past the moments we realized it.  I recently stopped myself in the midst of pleading with God to grant me a wish, and muttered out loud: "Who am I kidding? You're not really listening anyway, are you?"Then, I sort of shyly cast my gaze up to the stars and said, "Sorry."   I know, right?  I'm the guy who has written many of these devotionals about prayer and how it works, and what happens when we do, and there I was doing the thing that I said not to do... treat God like a slot machine.   I was reading an essay by Peter Counter from the collection Empty The Pews: Stories of Leaving the Church, and

Don't Be Talked Out Of Your Joy

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When I was in middle school my football team won the state championship for our school association in Colorado.  I was a starter and played tight end and defensive back.  Now I'm not one to brag, but... I was pretty good.  I caught a handful of TD passes and ran for a couple more over the course of that season, and added a few interceptions as well.  I loved playing football.   We moved the next year to a new state,  and I was quickly recruited by my new classmates to join the high school football team, which I gladly did.  Because I loved playing football.  And then I didn't love it so much anymore.  My coaches the previous year in my old school were tough, fair, encouraging, and they knew how to coach kids well.  The coaches on my new team were tough, but that's all they had in common with my former coaches.  They sucked the joy for the game right out of me.   I remember one practice, an assistant coach (who was the angriest, meanest Baptist I've very met) picked up a

I Could Tell You About The River--Or We Could Just Get In

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I was listening to "Rivers to Ocean," a +song by singer/songwriter Bill Callahan, and there is this line in the song that caught my attention, so I wrote it down and have been thinking about it ever since.  Well, I  could tell you about the river, or we could just get in…  This morning when I read it again, I was struck with a vivid memory of my twelve-year-old self all dressed up in a too-big short-sleeved dress shirt, a garish clip-on tie, and carrying a massive Bible.   I was doing door-to-door witnessing with a group from the fundamentalist Baptist church we went to at the time, and I was dressed up for it.  I'd even slicked my hair back with some Bryl-cream, which gave it a greasy, shiny kind of sheen.   We went out that night to an apartment complex near our church--knocking on doors and asking people, "If you died right now, would you go to heaven or hell?"   Door-to-door evangelism is not unlike door-to-door sales, except you get more doors slammed i

Is God Visible In Your Church?

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Soren Kierkegaard once wrote a parable about a man who authored a best-selling book on God's faithfulness during hard times.  Then came a day when the man suffered incredible personal hardship, and he began to doubt his own writings.  Out of desperation, the man reached out to a pastor who didn't know him personally in hopes that he would find some objective comfort and guidance.   After listening to him relate all of his doubts about the goodness of God, the pastor told the man he didn't have any real words of comfort, but he did have a recommendation for a book to read about the love of God.  It was the book the man had written.   Sometimes I feel a bit like that guy---especially over the course of this past year.  As a pastor, I'm often asked to make sense of the senseless and point to where God is in the midst of suffering and awfulness.   And there have been more than a few times when I had no idea what to say because I was struggling to see God at that moment, too