Showing posts from February, 2016

Daily Devotion - Monday, February 29, 2016

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. - Romans 2:1

I've had more than a few conversations in the past several months with people who have given up on church.  The common thread in all of those conversations was the role that the judgmental attitudes of Christians played in their decisions to walk away from church.  One of my friends who left church told me, "I just got so tired of having to pretend to be someone I wasn't."   

Far too many churches are not exactly the places you go when you need to bare your soul, share your scars, express your doubts, or (as in the case of my friend) simply be yourself.  Over the course of my life in the church, I've heard so many stories from so many people who were wounded by the judgement of Christians who condemned them.  

I've been on the receiving end of that kind of judgm…

Third Sunday of Lent - RE: "Renew"

This week I am continuing the sermon series that we started a few weeks ago, a series that will take us all the way through the season of Lent.  This series is entitled "RE" playing off of the Latin prefix "re" which denotes change or transformation.  

Over the course of this series we'll be discovering some important practices for Lent, as we seek to symbolically follow Jesus through this season to the Cross and ultimately to Easter.  We'll learn what it means to remember, repent, renew, restore and remain.  

Today, let's talk about what it means to practice renewal for the season of Lent.  First, let me say something extremely important about renewal--in fact, it's the one thing that I hope you remember from this sermon:  Renewal God's way is an inside/outside process. 

Let me ask you a question.  What did you do this week to make your life better?  I am sure that you did something.  Even those of us who are walking around morose and miserable tr…

Daily Devotion - Friday, February 26, 2016

3 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. - Revelation 3:3-2

I was acting as a guest moderator of a neighboring church's elder board meeting several years ago when I had an epiphany.  I had been listening to them discuss how to keep the neighborhood kids off of the church property after school was dismissed in the afternoons, and early evening. 

Apparently, kids were skateboarding through the campus, and playing on the grounds as they were passing through on their way home, and this had become an issue for the church members.  

I looked around the table.  There wasn't a person sitting there who was under the age of 65, and the majority of them were pushing 70 and beyond.  The church's weekly worship…

Daily Devotion - Thursday, February 25, 2016

6 On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. 7 Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. 8 I cling to you; your right hand upholds me. - Psalm 63:6-8

If you've every suffered from insomnia, you know the pain of being mortally tired and not being able to sleep.  Not long ago, I found myself bone-weary but wide-eyed and sleepless in the middle of a Saturday night.  I read for a while, then I watched TV until nearly 3 AM. I knew then that my alarm was going to sound in two hours, and I was going to have to get up and get going.  

I started to pray at that point.  I thought about what I would be preaching later that morning.  I prayed brief, fleeting thought prayers over my family, friends and my church. I prayed that God would grant me rest, and at some point rest came, and I slept.  

As I read the lectionary Psalm for today, this moment came to mind when I passed over Psalm 63:6-8.  "On my bed I remember you; I think of you throug…

Daily Devotion - Wednesday, February 24, 2016

15 This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s... 17 You will not have to fight this battle.Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’” - 2 Chronicles 20:15, 17

In today's Old Testament lectionary reading, the ancient Hebrew people are facing insurmountable odds.  Neighboring tribes are threatening to attack them, and they are outnumbered.  The leaders of the Hebrew people pray to God for help, and they are given a prophetic answer to their prayers.   

"Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army," the prophet declares to them,  "For the battle is not yours, but God's."  Then he goes on to say, "You will not have to fight this battle.  Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliveran…

Daily Devotion - Tuesday, February 23, 2016

12 Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. - 1 Corinthians 10:12-13

I was having a hard conversation with a church member many years ago.  She was telling me all of the difficult things that she was going through at the time.  Not only was she struggling with her own illnesses and physical challenges, she was also heartbroken over her son's marital problems, and to top things off she was in deep financial distress.  

"I am so sorry that all of this is happening to you," I told her.  "I don't have a lot of answers as to why we sometimes have to go through these hard seasons of our lives."  She smiled brightly, "It's okay, pastor.  The Bible tells us that 'God doesn't give us any more …

Daily Devotion - Monday, February 22, 2016

1 O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples! 2 Sing to him, sing praises to him, tell of all his wonderful works! 3 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! 4 Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his presence continually!  - Psalm 105:1-4

A couple of years ago my wife and I had the great fortune to spend some time in the wonderful city of Vancouver, British Columbia.  While we were there, we decided to visit Christ Church Cathedral, a beautiful, historic Anglican church in the middle of downtown Vancouver.  

As we typically do when we visit beautiful churches around the world, Merideth and I decided to spend some time in prayer while we were there.  I claimed a spot among the seats facing the altar, and began to pray and journal.  I was praying fervently about some things that I was struggling to understand, and was seeking wisdom and discernment.  

 "God," I remember praying, "if you could just le…

Second Sunday of Lent - "RE: 'Repent'"

This week I am continuing the sermon series that we’re going to be working through together for the season of Lent, a series entitled “RE.”  “Re” is a Latin prefix that denotes change or transformation, and each of the sermons in this series begin with that transformative prefix, and they also are connected to a Lenten practice that I’m challenging us to take up during this season of Lent. 

As we learned last week, Lent gets its name from the Latin word for “forty.”  Excluding Sundays there are forty days between Ash Wednesday and Easter.  Forty is a number that is often used in the Bible to indicate a time of trial, testing or refinement.  The idea behind the five practices that we’re going to be challenged to take up is connected to this notion—that hroughout the season of Lent we are going to be challenged and tested as we seek to draw closer to Jesus during this symbolic journey with him to the Cross.  

During this series we’re going to learn what it means to: Remember, Repent, Rene…

Daily Devotion - Friday, February 19, 2016

The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. - Psalm 27:1-2

I was watching a cable news channel the other morning when I was getting ready for work, and after about fifteen minutes of listening to an endless stream of negative and anxious “news,” I started feeling poor.  

Based on what I was hearing, it felt like the world was about to come to an end.  It sounded like war was about to break out between us and Russia, North Korea was going to start a nuclear holocaust and half of the Muslim countries in the world were about to mobilize and rise up against the U.S. 

My stomach starting to hurt, and I tried to think about anything else but what I’d just heard, but couldn’t shake the uneasy feelings I…

Daily Devotion - Thursday, February 18, 2016

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ - Philippians 3:7-8

Years ago, I preached a sermon on the these verses from the lectionary passage for today. In the verses preceding these, the Apostle Paul addresses some people in the church to which he's writing the letter.  Apparently, these people were seeking to discredit him because he was teaching non-Jews that they could be Christians without having to convert to Judaism.  So Paul goes off--listing all of his "Jewish" credentials.  

He tells them he was born into the best Jewish family group, well-educated and endowed with every pedigree that you could possibly want to be considered the best of the best when it comes to Jewishness.  Paul had, in fact, studied under one of the greatest rabbis in Je…

Daily Devotion - Wednesday, February 17, 2016

20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped.21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lordgave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:20-21

I was relating to my friend all of the crazy things that had happened to me that week.  It had been a pretty bad one, at least in my way of thinking.  Everything that could have gone wrong, seemed to have gone wrong.  It felt like there had been a line of people at my office door lodging complaints.  

Plus, my car was in the shop and taking longer to fix than the mechanic had previously told me.  I had upset my wife with something dumb that I said, and I had handled a situation with my kid pretty poorly and was feeling bad about what I said to him.  On top of everything I was battling a cold, and felt like garbage.  I ended my diatribe with saying, "I have no idea how I am supposed to preach this week feeling like this.&q…

Daily Devotion - Tuesday, February 16, 2016

"They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” - 2 Peter 2:19

I probably needed to give up Facebook for Lent. It would have been a good antidote to the poisonous habits I've developed with my phone.  I am always on my phone.  I am constantly texting, emailing or talking on my phone.  When I'm not doing any of those three things, I am probably checking Facebook for messages, or posting something I am doing (Here's a random photo of some food I am about to eat!)  

The other day I was with a bunch of pastors at a day-long workshop.  Someone's phone vibrated on the table, indicating that they were getting texted or receiving an email.  All of us--literally all of us reached for our own phones at that moment.  I KNEW that it wasn't my phone that buzzed, and yet I reached for my phone because I've become programmed to do so every time I hear that buzzing sound. 

Plus, I thought for a …

Daily Devotion - Monday, February 15, 2016

Throughout the season of Lent, we'll be focusing on some of the Scriptures that are included in the daily lectionary readings each week of the season. I'll be sharing portions of those passages that speak to me and reflecting on them.  
6 I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. 7 Show me the wonders of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes. 8 Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings 9 from the wicked who are out to destroy me, from my mortal enemies who surround me. - Psalm 17:6-9Many years ago, when Merideth and I lived in South Florida, I would accompany my father-in-law (who was a season ticket holder) to all of the Miami Dolphins home games.  I would always cheer for the Dolphins, even though my heart belonged to my beloved Denver Broncos.  I even owned a Dolphin t-shirt or two and a couple of caps that I would wear to the games. 

One Monday nig…