Showing posts from May, 2012


Tonight I am attending the high school graduation ceremony of a friend's daughter. It's being held in a gymnasium that smells faintly of sweat and something else. It's not an unpleasant smell. It reminds me of things that are worth remembering.

On the night of my graduation from high school, I remember telling someone--I can't recall who now--"This is surreal."

It was surreal.

Most things that are life-changing tend to be.

This is what was surreal about that particular life-changing moment:

I had waited for years to experience it, and realized in the midst of it that it wasn't the end of something, it was the beginning.

And I felt tired for just a second.

It was a split second, and it didn't cause me to experience a huge existential meltdown--at least not right then. The full blown existential meltdown(s) would come later and often.

But it did make me tired, and in that split second I got a glimpse of what much of life is like: periods of great effo…

Blessed - A Sermon About Happiness & Money

I've been preaching on Happiness for the past two weeks.  So naturally, we had to get around to money.

Which supposedly can't buy you happiness.  But by looking at the way most of us live our lives in pursuit of happiness through money, it seems that none of us really got that memo.

Let's start with some Scripture why don't we?

Hebrews 13:5-6

5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.”
6 So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?”

The epistle of Hebrews was written to a group of Christians in the first century who were trying to figure out how to live the Christian life in a diverse context.

So we have nothing in common with them...

This discourse at the end of the letter discloses some important things, what I will call the "Signs of a Genuine Christian Life."

These signs include…

What The Apple Store Teaches Us About Church Growth

This is a post that I ran across and couldn't resist using it with some commentary.

10 Things You Can Learn From the Apple Storeby Guy Kawasaki. My friend, Carmine Gallo, has written a book called The Apple Experience: Secrets to Building Insanely Great Customer Loyalty. The Apple Store is the most profitable retailer in America, generating an average of $5,600 per square foot and attracting more than 20,000 visitors a week. In the decade since Steve Jobs and former head of retail, Ron Johnson, decided to reimagine the retail experience, the Apple Store not only reimagined and reinvented retail, it blew up the model entirely and started from scratch. In his research for The Apple Experience, Carmine discovered ten things that the Apple Store can teach any business in any industry to be more successful: 1. Stop selling stuff. When Steve Jobs first started the Apple Store he did not ask the question, “How will we grow our market share from 5 to 10 percent?” Instead he asked, “How …

Your Good Work: "Happy?" Week Two

I am in the middle of preaching a sermon series on "happiness," or more specifically how to discover what it means to find true happiness in life.

This week we are venturing into the arena of the workplace, which I think has become the unreachable and unknowable Font of Happiness for many people in our culture.  Most of us live under the mistaken impression that if we just do the right sort of work that we will find fulfillment and happiness.

We have been trained by our dominant culture to believe that there is a career out there, a job, a profession that is perfect for us.  And if we can only find that job that is perfect for us, we will find fulfillment, we know happiness.

What if we're wrong about this, though?  What if instead of thinking of "good work" as something created to give us fulfillment, we found fulfillment in the knowledge that we were created for good work?

I know.  That's pretty deep.  But even though the difference in thinking is only…

How To Know The Pastor Is Getting Fired: A Primer

Thom S. Rainer, the CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources recently posted an article about the "Eight Warning Signs For Forced Terminations of Pastors."  His list is compiled through the combined research of the National Congregations Study and the Review of Religious Research.

Rainer states, "...this research does not tell the why of terminations; rather it deals with certain categories where pastors are more likely to lose their jobs."

So let's get to it, and see what you think.  Here are the indicators that will let you know that the Pastor is going to "get sacked," as our friends in the British Isles would so eloquently put it:

1. If the church had a recent church fight.
(I guess if you show up as a new pastor and there's a boxing ring in the  
     Fellowship Hall, you know you'll be leaving sooner rather than later)

2. If the church is declining in attendance.
(I get this, church members tend to blame pastors---even if it's not completely 

You & Who You Are: Rob Bell on Identity & Transition

"Before you say 'no,' you have to say 'yes."

With this provocative and confusing statement, Rob Bell began a talk on Identity to a roomful of learners---mostly pastors and church leaders---at his recent 2Days With Rob Bell event in Laguna Beach, CA.

Then he shared a parable...

It seems a first century rabbi was journeying home late from a dinner in a nearby village.  There was a fork in the road that led to his village.  If he went left, he would find himself at a Roman military outpost.  If he went right he would find his way home.  It was dark and he had drunk a bit of wine and he inadvertently took the left fork.  Some time later he found himself at the wall of the outpost.  A Roman guard called out to him, "Who are you, and what are you doing here?"  The rabbi didn't answer.  "Who are you, and what are you doing here?"  The rabbi called back to the soldier, "How much are they paying you to do this?"  The guard was silent fo…

Happy? Hope From Hopelessness (Week One)

Are you happy?

It's a simple question.  You have a choice, to be honest.  Either tell the truth, or lay a bold faced lie on me.

You could say, "Yes, I am happy."  And you might actually mean it.  Things might be pretty good for you right now.  You're content.  Life is good.

Or you could say like most of us, "Yes, I am happy." But you don't really mean it.   In fact, you are lying through your teeth.  Life is not good.  You are not content.

You just said that you were happy because you didn't want to tell the truth.

Because telling the truth would mean that you would have to say, "No, I am not happy.  I am miserable.  I feel like crap.  Life is pretty awful right about now.  I don't see a way out of the mess I am in.  I am as far from happy as I could possibly get."

Like I said... you have a choice.

The fact of the matter is that when someone asks you how you are doing, they usually don't want to know how you are really doing.

Rob Bell on Criticism

When Rob Bell released his book Love Wins, both he and his wife began to realize that their lives had fundamentally changed.  The firestorm of controversy that the book created, followed by the tidal wave of harsh criticism that was leveled at Rob both shocked and surprised them both.

The Southern Baptist Convention essentially anathematized him.
A flurry of books was produced to refute the "heresy" that Rob supposedly espoused in Love Wins. 
John Piper, the renowned Baptist and scholar publicly renounced Bell with a dismissive tweet that simply said, "Farewell."

Then there were the bloggers who took to the Internet and said the most vile, hate-filled and unChristian things possible.  And I am talking about the Christian bloggers.

And throughout all of this, Rob never responded publicly.  He didn't take to the internet.  He held no press conferences other than the press that he did to promote the book.  There was an extended edition released for iBooks with …

Rob Bell On Preaching

There are three kinds of people in this world.

1. People who have heard The Rev. Rob Bell throw down a sermon that blows their mind and calls them to faithfulness.

2. People who have seen The Rev. Rob Bell's ubiquitous NOOMA video series where he throws down some teaching that blows their minds and calls them to faithfulness.

3. Everyone else.

If you are in the first two categories, you probably asked yourself while you watched or listened, "How in the world did he just do THAT?"  And then you sit there with your mind blown and your faithfulness stirring in a direction you did not expect.

And you wish you could preach/teach just like Rob.

Okay.  I admit, that last bit was pretty much just my baggage.

But I'll allow for the possibility that there might be others out there like me who would really love to get the chance to sit up close and personal and listen to Rob talk about the craft of preaching.

This past week, I had the chance to do just that.

And it was awes…