Posts

Showing posts from August, 2016

The More You Learn, The Less You Know

Image
I was reading something that Christian mystic, monk, author, poet and theologian Thomas Merton wrote, and it was too good to keep to myself.  He said: 

"I do not know if I have found the answers.  When I first became a monk, yes, I was more sure of "answers."  But as I grow old in the monastic life and advance further into solitude, I become aware that I have only begun to seek the questions."  

Sometimes I start to believe I have things figured out.  I'm nearing the half century mark in terms of my age, for starters.  But then again, simply living a number of years doesn't make you wise.  So, I could fall back on all of the degrees I've managed to amass over the years.  But all of my study essentially brought me to the realization that (in the words of Bono), "the more you learn, the less you know."  

The Apostle Paul put things into perspective when he wrote in his letter to the Corinthian church: "For the foolishness of God is wiser than …

The One Thing That Is An End Unto Itself

Image
The Way of Jesus is easily the most counter intuitive journey you will ever take.  Once you start stumbling after Jesus, it doesn't take long for you to realize that when Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world," he wasn't joking.  

Think about all of the ways that Jesus said this to his disciples and they still didn't get it at first: 

"Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 10:39)


26 "But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28)


"And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."  (Matthew 18:3)

This message is so completely counter-intuitive for us in our curr…

What Tim Taught Me About Jesus

Image
When I was in seventh grade there was this kid named Tim, who annoyed me.  Truth be told, Tim annoyed everyone.  

One day Tim and I got into a fight in class.  It wasn't much of a fight, honestly.  Tim said something insulting to me for like the fourth time that day, and I jumped out of my desk and tackled him--while he was still in his desk. Tim, his desk and I all collapsed in a heap on to the floor of the classroom.  

By the time the teacher pulled me off of him, I had been pounding on Tim's head pretty good.  

Anyway, we both got sent the principals office and we both got paddled, which still happened back in those days.  I had to shake Tim's hand and act all buddy-buddy afterward, but when we were walking down the hall back to class I told him, "You mouth off to me again like that, and I'm going to kick your butt again."

Tim looked at me blankly and said, "If I get paddled at school, I get way worse when I get home. Way worse."  At that moment, for…

Jonah - Week 4: Jonah's Anger

Image
This week we are continuing the sermon series that we've been working on together for the past few weeks--it's the third installment, to be precise, of a series on the book of Jonah.  

I believe that the very heart of this book is about understanding and doing the will of God, which is not an easy task.  I asked this question last week, but it bears repeating.  How many of you here have struggled sometimes to understand to do the will of God?  Maybe you just struggled trying to figure out what God is up to... I feel you.  

When we last left Jonah, he had answered God's call to do God's will and had prophesied to the people of Nineveh that God was going to destroy them if they didn't repent.  

This was a huge shift for Jonah, because when he was FIRST told by God to go prophesy to the city of Nineveh to tell the people there to repent.  Instead of doing God's will, he got in a boat heading the other direction, and the boat is nearly sunk by a storm.  

The sailors dr…

Four Hundred and Ninety Reasons To Forgive

Image
While it seems to go without saying that forgiveness should be a huge part of what it means to be a Christian, most of us struggle to forgive those who have wounded us. And sometimes, even when we do forgive, we find ourselves in the unenviable position of having to offer forgiveness to the same person or persons more than once.  

When it comes to forgiveness, it's hard to know exactly how many times you should offer it to someone--especially when they keep hurting you.  There's a moment in the Gospel of Matthew when the Apostle Peter finally decides to ask Jesus just how many times he should forgive someone.  

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Some ancient rabbis in the first century taught that forgiving someone more than three times was useless.  In other words, if someone is so untrustworthy that they…

The Strange & Destructive Allure of Egypt

Image
When my family moved to Florida in 1982 we rented a small house not too far away from the church and Christian school where my dad would be serving as a schoolteacher.  

We had been filled with hope and excitement when we made the cross-country trek from Colorado to Central Florida.  My parents believed that God had been in the middle of their decision, and I was eager to make new friends and start a new life in what seemed like an exotic and awesome place. 

But the house was small and hot--my room didn't have air conditioning.  One evening, as I was reading a book for school on my bed, a huge cockroach crawled across my chest.  I didn't sleep well that night, or for the next several.  

The house didn't have a washer or dryer either.  My mom and I had to carry our laundry to a dirty laundromat every week.  We were sufficiently poor enough that my dad had to get a part time job driving a bus at Disney World to make ends meet.  

All of our hope and excitement started to fade.  W…

The God of Second Chances - Pt. 2

Image
When I was in my early twenties, I was driving back to my apartment very late after hanging out with my friends to the wee hours.  My car broke down in the middle of nowhere, but luckily not too far from a gas station and a pay phone.  

I was not living my life very well then, to be honest.  I drank too much, partied too much, smoked too much and generally did too much of every other bad thing you could think of--all of which made my poor parents worry.  

For about a half an hour I tried everything I could think of to get the car moving again, but to no avail.  I had one quarter in my car, which I found underneath the floor mat.  That's all the money I had on me, which meant that I had one phone call to make. 

So I called my dad.  

My dad disapproved of me big time.  He and I didn't get a long very much at all.  We disagreed on everything, mostly as it related to drinking, smoking, and other assorted poor behaviors on my part.  

But what I didn't know what that my dad also held…

The God of Second Chances - Pt. 3

Image
Twenty six years ago,  I heard my wife Merideth's voice on the answering machine after not speaking to her for nearly five years, and I thought I was dreaming.  

We had been high school sweethearts, but circumstances, pride, dumb decisions and a host of other factors had separated us and kept us apart.  Both of us had experienced hardships during those years.  We were broken inside, hurt, tired and resigned to the fact that we probably weren't going to ever be as happy in life as we once hoped we would be. 

An old classmate of ours ran into me, and was so concerned about how terribly sad I seemed that she called Merideth to ask her if she'd seen or heard from me.  Merideth was three weeks away from getting married to her fiancee of four years.  I was busy drinking, and smoking myself into numbness.  

And then she called me, and I heard her voice on the answering machine. 

Six months later we were married.  

There is a verse that I have come to appreciate very much from 1 Peter …

The God Of Second Chances Pt. 1

Image
I graduated from high school in 1986, and finally received my Bachelor's degree in 2000.  I am fond of saying that I was on the "fourteen-year college plan."  

For the first few years of those fourteen years of slogging through college, I wasn't all that serious about it.  In fact, I got a "D" in an Intro to Business course because I decided that if you didn't take the last couple of tests, including the final they would consider you "withdrawn."  

This was a policy created entirely in my mind, of course.  I'd had an "A" in the class up to that point, which makes the whole thing ridiculous.  I wish I could go back in time and shake 19 year-old Leon, and smack some sense into that idiot. 

At any rate, nearly fourteen years after that debacle, I was doing everything I could to keep a 4.0 average so I could overcome that bad grade and somehow get a scholarship to go on to post-graduate studies.  

In the middle of all of my efforts, I to…

Jonah - Week 3: "Jonah Obeys"

Image
This week we are continuing the sermon series that we've been working on together for the past few weeks--it's the third installment, to be precise, of a series on the book of Jonah.  

I believe that the very heart of this book is about understanding and doing the will of God, which is not an easy task.  I asked this question last week, but it bears repeating.  How many of you here have struggled sometimes to understand to do the will of God?  Maybe you just struggled trying to figure out what God is up to... I feel you.  

When we last left Jonah, he was being regurgitated on to the beach by a whale or a large fish.  And when I say regurgitated I mean regurgitated.  He was slimed. Covered in goop. 

And all of this happened after he was told by God to go prophesy to the city of Nineveh to tell the people there to repent.  Instead of doing God's will, he got in a boat heading the other direction, and the boat is nearly sunk by a storm.  

The sailors draw straws to see which pers…

When The Waves Keep Crashing

Image
I'm not a huge fan of swimming in the ocean.  I like looking at the ocean, walking on the beach, sitting on the deck of a fine restaurant eating seafood by the ocean and going on a cruise ship that traverses the ocean to exotic ports of call.  

I just don't like swimming in the ocean.  

To begin with, I have an irrational fear of being eaten by a shark.  And since sharks naturally live in the ocean, I feel that it reduces my chances of being eaten by one by simply not going in the ocean.  

Secondly, I don't like the feeling of being out of control when the waves are really crashing.  I've been turned upside down and all around by a wave when I was body surfing one time, hit my head on the sea floor, and had to struggle to figure out where the surface was as I was running out of air.  

When I finally stuck my head above water, I got hit by another huge wave, and then another, and another.  By the time I staggered to shore, I was exhausted, coughing and spitting up sea water…

Why We Do What We Do - Pt. 3 (For The Sake of The Kingdom)

Image
In 2002, Pastor Rick Warren published the book The Purpose Driven Life.  It went on to sell 30 million copies by 2007, and has spawned additional books, studies and videos for people in every stage in life.  It is one of the best selling books of all time.  

The first sentence of the book sums up Warren’s thoughts on your ultimate purpose.  He wrote, “It’s not about you.”  It seems kind of counter-intuitive to open a book about your ultimate purpose and read that first line, doesn't it?  

And yet, that’s exactly what it’s all about:  not you.  

I think that most Christians today have lost the plot of what it means to actually be a Christian.  We’ve gotten bogged down in culture wars, debates over interpretation of Scripture, and politics.  I get emails from Christian organizations every day expressing anxiety over what will happen to Christians if certain people get elected President.  

The purpose of Jesus was to declare the coming kingdom of God, and then to demonstrate what it look…

Why We Do What We Do - Pt. 2 (For The Glory of God)

Image
From time to time I will have someone come up to me after a worship service and say, "I just look forward to church all week because when I come here, I get my batteries recharged."  

Or they will use language like, "I love coming to church and getting my spiritual tank filled."  And sometimes people will say something like, "Coming to church just gets me through the rest of my week."  

While I completely understand what they mean (I've also have had some of the same kinds of feelings when I've attended church and came away feeling energized), I've started to question the perspective that fosters that kind of dynamic.  

Lately, when I hear someone say something like "I get re-fueled on Sunday," the question that comes to my mind is simply this, "What is happening when the weight of our day-to-day lives makes us feel like we are merely enduring things until we get to Sunday?"  

Is this what God wants for us?  To just get through…