Showing posts from August, 2011

In the Meantime - Week Six "Woe!"

In 2006 a judge in New York granted Jose Luis Espinal's request that his name be changed to Jesus Christ. Espinal stated that his reason for wanting the name change was simple:  He wanted his name to match who he really believed he was on the inside.  Since he firmly believed that he was living like Jesus Christ, acting like Jesus Christ, thinking like Jesus Christ and speaking like Jesus Christ, he felt his name should be Jesus Christ.  There's kind of a perverse logic there...but there's a problem. He isn't Jesus Christ.  Several years ago a story broke in the news about a man named Werner "Jack" Genot, a politician in a small town, who was also a war hero.  Genot had dozens of medals, a couple of Purple Hearts, citations, and awards.  He had several uniforms he wore to special occasions that were festooned with his medals and ribbons.  He was honored on Veterans Day events, was a regular speaker at patriotic programs and easily won elections to his

In the Meantime - Week Five

This Sunday I'll be continuing the sermon series that I'm preaching on the book of Habakkuk entitled "In the Meantime."  This week we'll be focusing on Habakkuk 2:4,  the key verse for the book---a verse that is used by the Apostle Paul to help Christians understand their new life in Christ.  Before I dig into the Scripture I need to share something first so that we can all get on the same page.  This is what educators would call "getting into learning mode." I read a story this year about a group of IT workers in a New York business who always pooled their money and bought Mega Millions New York State Lottery tickets together.  There were eight workers altogether, and they'd been buying tickets faithfully for a long time.  It seems that one of the group decided that he wasn't going to participate on one particular week.  When his buddies asked him why he didn't want to kick in for a ticket, he told them "I don't feel lucky thi

Emergent No More (If Anyone Cares)

A couple of years ago I was grieved to hear that pastor, author and speaker Dan Kimball had officially separated himself from Emergent Village ---the "organizational" aspect of what people were calling the " Emerging Church ." Kimball was one of the main reasons why I started self-identifying as an "emergent" church leader, and heavily influenced my development as a preacher and teacher through his creative approach to multi-sensory worship, and his postmodern approach to transforming existing churches. So when I heard that Dan no longer felt that he could be a part of Emergent Village, I assumed that it had to do with his Baptist background, which probably imbued him with a great deal of suspicion toward more theologically progressive Christians.  His separation was gracious, however, and I continued to read his books and occasionally hear him speak.  But I never understood why he felt it necessary to disassociate from the movement he was such a pa

Collaborative Sermon Planning - Part 2

So something occurred to me as I have been reflecting on the recent Collaborative Sermon Planning Workshop that I just completed with about 15 staff members and church members... I have a paper due on September 1st on Pastoral Leadership, and I was going to write it about something else, but I just realized that this is better. So that was cool.  We came up with quite a few ideas for sermon series including some of the titles for the sermons and a few Scripture passages that will help guide the preaching.  Here they are in their embryonic form.  I submit them as a way for anyone following along to see what can happen during this process.  I have also indicated when the group suggested that we do the series and some of the ideas that that they had for creatively teaching. If you like any of these ideas---go for it, steal them.  Or you can wait for us to do them and you can download all of the finished product from my Sermon Share page at  At Sermon Share you

Collaborative Sermon Planning - Part 1

I recently attended the Drive Conference at Northpoint Church in Atlanta.  During one of the breakout sessions---on planning engaging sermon series---I learned that Andy Stanley , the senior pastor of Northpoint holds an annual two-day workshop with about 25 of his staff members to plan the sermons for the entire year.  The Northpoint staffer leading the workshop told us that the purpose of doing the planning sessions collaboratively rather than just leaving them up to Andy was fairly simple:  meeting congregational needs.  When more people were involved in the process, she told us, they were better able to determine what the congregation needed to hear, and where God might be leading the church. The moment that I heard this, I instantly wanted to try it.  The only problem was I didn't get a really good sense of how Northpoint conducted these two-day planning sessions, except for the fact that the participants were all staff members. I don't have 350 staff members in my

In The Meantime - Week Four

This week I am continuing my sermon series on the prophetic book of Habakkuk.  I continue to be amazed at how much these sermons have been speaking right into situations that I have been going through, people in my congregation are experiencing and what is going on in the world around us. God is good.  And this book for faithful people living in the meantime is "rolling up on us." There.  I used an urban reference to establish my street credentials.  Don't hate the player, hate the game. This particular sermon deals with some fairly serious issues for those of us who really want to believe in God.  One of the biggest obstacles that people claim keeps them from believing in and/or being in a relationship with God is their belief that God really isn't good.  Here's a question for most of us...             "Have you ever wondered if God's plans were really on target?"  Or maybe you thought that your plans were better... What happens when yo

In the Meantime - Part 3 - "A Terrible & Comforting Answer"

This week I will be picking up where I left off on the sermon series I was preaching on the book of Habakkuk . Since I've been gone for three weeks, I am going to have to spend a little time refreshing everyone's memory on what exactly we've been talking about, but that's all good. In this space, just suffice it to say that Habakkuk is a book for faithful people in any time or place who find themselves living in the meantime: between redemption and fulfillment.  It's a book for uncertain times. In the previous sermon we talked about how Habakkuk shouted at God, demanding that God do something to deal with the injustice the prophet was seeing all around him. This week we are going to be taking a long, and difficult look at God's answer in Habakkuk 1:5-11.  Here's what God has to say to Habakkuk: 5 “Look at the nations and watch— 
   and be utterly amazed. 
For I am going to do something in your days 
   that you would not believe, 
   even if you were told.

An Idiot Abroad in Scandinavia Pt. 3 - Finland

There are a few things that I can say  in conversations that I believe will not be one-upped by that person in every group that is a one-upper.  Don't know what a one-upper is?  Imagine you're talking to people and you say something like, "Did you try that new restaurant downtown?  It was really good?"  The one-upper in the group will respond by saying, "Oh, I've gone there twenty times this week." or "I own that restaurant."  So here are the things I can say that are hard to one-up: 1.  I once said "Holy Crap!" really loud in Westminster Cathedral in London. 2.  I took my wife to see Iron Maiden on her 18th birthday. 3.  I once spent an entire day with John Lithgow . 4.  I hiked to the summit of Pikes Peak in 6 hours. and now... 4.  I did a bicycle tour of Helsinki, Finland . First, I must tell you that Finland is awesome.  I realize that in the middle of February Finland might seem less than awesome because it'

God Behaving Badly - Book Review

Whilst on my wonderful and eventful vacation, I had the chance to read David T. Lamb's newest book God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist?   Lamb is the associate professor of Old Testament at Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, PA.  He has also worked with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship .  God Behaving Badly is the result of countless conversations that Lamb has had with his students over the years regarding the "God of the Old Testament," and the ways that the God of the Old Testament appears to be angry, petty, sexist, racist, arbitrary and capricious.  I have had these same kinds of conversations with people over the years.  Most often they will say things like, "I like the God of the New Testament, but the God of the Old Testament...not so much."  Recently, a lady in our church stopped attending one of our Sunday school classes that was reading through the Old Testament together.  She had never read thr