Showing posts from March, 2012

The Lord Needs It: Lessons From A Donkey

This Sunday is Palm Sunday---the beginning of Holy Week.

It's also one of those Sundays when you can't ignore the church calendar and just preach whatever you want.  I am sure that some people do just that, but they probably aren't Presbyterian, and I am sure that the liturgical rhythm of the Church is not first and foremost in their mind.

And they probably have had no trouble at all working on their sermon this week.

I'm not one to blindly follow tradition, but there are some things that you just don't do---and you can't just ignore the story of Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  

But this leads to a bit of a quandary...  In the short time I have been doing this whole preaching thing I have gone through the Palm Sunday story a few times.  After a while you sort of wonder if your congregation has heard your Palm Sunday riff a few too many times.

That sermon needs to get preached, though.  While we celebrate the cheers and palm waving …

Travel To Israel With Pastor Leon & Merideth in 2013!

When I went to the Holy Land last year, I had no idea how life-changing the trip would be.  But I did know that I wanted to return as soon as I could.  I'll be getting the chance to do just that in April, 2013 and I'm offering a great opportunity to folks who would like to join me.

Merideth and I are inviting our friends, family, church members or anyone who is interested in making a pilgrimage to the Galilee and to Jerusalem for a once-in-a-lifetime experience through Educational Opportunities Tours.

I'll be doing some on site teaching as we travel, and in the evenings we'll also be hearing from our tour leader and lecturer Dr. Larry Selig.

Jesus in the Galilee & Jerusalem:  10 Days of Biblical Discovery
April 2-11, 2013 all inclusive price of $3048 from Orlando, $2898 from Newark (or travel from a city near you)
ADD 2 DAYS IN JERUSALEM for just $307 (including gratuities)

Save $80 if you register before May 2
You have 105 d…

Rick Warren: The One Thing Growing Churches Have In Common

I was listening to a lengthy interview that the folks at Catalyst did with Rick Warren, and something that he said just blew me away.

He said that early in his career he sent out 100 letters to the 100 fastest growing and vibrant churches in America at the time.  He asked them to what they attributed their vibrancy, and he received a wide variety of responses.

But the ONE THING that he said that all of those churches had in common...
And the ONE THING that he said that all growing, vibrant churches have in common to this day is this:

"Strong leaders that believe God."

He clarified this a bit by saying that "believing God" meant that these strong leaders believed God more than they believed in their own strength, the institutional church, denominations, theology... any number of things that aren't God.

These leaders, he asserted, were not afraid to trust God to lead them and were willing to put it all on the line to respond to God's call.

And what might…

A Bite of the Guilt Burger

This week I am concluding the sermon series that I’ve been preaching throughout the season of Lent---a series entitled “Walls.”   Each week during the sermons I have been preaching, I have reiterated my belief that Christians who observe Lent have embraced a watered down version of it.  The foundation of Lent is Repentance, which is an inconvenient truth for most of us Christian-types.  When faced with the choice of truly repenting of the things that are keeping us from having a right relationship with God, or giving up coffee for forty days, we choose the coffee almost every time.   Repentance is hard.  It’s public.  It’s an about-face that can’t be accomplished under the radar.  When you repent, the junk that you’ve been carrying around with you gets brought into the open once and for all.  And most of us Christian-types would rather that no one ever really see how broken and messed up we really are.  Which is why we build walls, using the junk we’re carrying as building material.   Ou…

Grudges Are Poison

This week I am continuing the Lenten sermon series, "Walls: What Separates Us From God & Each Other?"

Once again, the subject matter has hit me pretty hard.  I needed to hear this sermon more than most people, I'm thinking.

I'll begin with a question or two...

Who has wronged you?  Think about them.  Picture them for a moment.  Do you feel your pulse quicken a tad?  What about the old blood pressure... starting to go up a bit?  What's up with those fists you seem to be clenching and unclenching?

Okay, what would you say to this person if they were in front of you?   I bet you've rehearsed it.

Listen, the reactions that we have when we begin to think about the people that we are holding a grudge against should tell us something about what it's doing to us.

Holding a grudge is like drinking bitter poison and hoping the other person dies.

It doesn't make a lot of sense, does it?  I bet that person that you were thinking of just then doesn't…

Gossip Kills

This week I am preaching the second installment of the Lenten sermon series, "Walls: What Separates Us From God & Each Other?"  The basic idea behind this series is that we carry around with us all of the building materials that we could ever need to create barriers between ourselves and God--and between ourselves and others.  

And we need to let them go.  

I had to make a decision about the "materials" that I would choose to highlight because we quite literally could spend each Sunday of the year addressing the bricks in our walls and never exhaust the list.  

So I thought I would identify what I saw as the most prominent "wall building materials" within the Church:  Division, Gossip, Grudges & Guilt. This week we're dealing with Gossip.  

First, let me ask this very important question which will be at the heart of our study:  Words kill, and words heal... Which words are we using?

I have to confess that this question haunted me all week.  I learn…

In Defense of Doing Something: Invisible Children & Kony2012

Wondering why your Facebook feed is suddenly full of links to the Kony2012 video, produced by Invisible Children?

Wondering why some of your Facebook friends are also posting links discrediting the Kony2012 video and Invisible Children?

Wondering what the heck I am talking about?

First, if you don't know anything about Invisible Children or the Kony2012 video:  watch it here

The 29-minute video, created by the charity organization Invisible Children, is a call for the US government to continue making the end of the Ugandan rebel group known as the Lord's Resistance Army.  The LRA has a long history of brutality and atrocities.

The LRA has abducted thousands upon thousands of children, forcing them to serve as soldiers, concubines or porters---in addition to getting them addicted to drugs, sniffing glue, etc.  Joseph Kony has been the leader of the LRA and has been likened to other lunatic despots like Hitler, Pol Pot, Kim Jong Il, etc.

Over ten million people have watched …

PCUSA Wrong on Israel...Again

It seems that at least once a week the leadership of my denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA) seems to find itself in the middle of controversy.

The latest is a continuation of a long line of what have been characterized as "anti-Israel" stances that at least one wing of the General Assembly Council has chosen to take. Here is the story reported from an Israeli point of view:

Listen, I know that there is plenty of blame to go around in the Middle East.   But I've been to Israel.  I've talked to Israelis and Palestinians.  I've seen first hand the close proximity of neighboring Muslim countries there who would like nothing more than to see Israel overrun.  I've also seen the Israeli settlements that are being built as fast as possible in areas where the "ownership" of the land is disputed.  I know that even among many Israeli's these are unpopular.

But I've also been …