Showing posts from November, 2016

Moving Day, Trust & Comfort Zones

The Daily Devos will be a bit sporadic this week--as I'll be en route to Austin Texas as of this evening!  I'll be doing my best to keep up with them during this transition, but I expect that it won't be until next week that we'll be back on a regular schedule (As if anything in our family was "regular"!).  

Today is moving day--my last day in Central Florida for what could be a long while.  We'll be driving away today for what will be a two day trip for us (with a one-night stopover in Tallahassee and another in New Orleans) to our new home in Austin Texas.  

My house is full of boxes and most of the rooms are already empty.  The moving company got everything packed over the last two days and over half of my worldly goods are already loaded on to a truck.  They just called to let us know that they are on their way to finish the job this morning. 

It's strange to be moving again---so soon after we moved into this house. As everything was being dismantled…

I Was Just Coming To Work

Today's post-Thanksgiving devotion is a bit more personal than usual.  Earlier this week my family had the unbelievable privilege of celebrating with my dad when he retired from Walt Disney World, after working there for nearly 34 years.  

For the past 20 years or so he's worked in Guest Relations at the Magic Kingdom, and he became an institution--the patriarch of the department in more ways than one. 

One after the other, his colleagues, supervisors and friends spoke of all the ways my dad has impacted their lives--through his words of encouragement, admirable work ethic, kindness to everyone, a shoulder to cry on, a sympathetic ear, a hug when one was needed...  

His co-workers and supervisors treated my dad like royalty, and us along with him.  He was honored like no other Disney World Cast Member, and that's saying something.  There were things that were done for him that we were told had never been done for anyone--ever.  

People my dad has worked with over the years sto…

We All Need a Roller Coaster Shaped Faith

I'm not good at riding roller coasters.  In fact, on the rare occasions when I do find myself on a roller coaster, it is almost always followed by queasiness, vertigo and a general sense of wishing I was dead.  

I wish I could ride roller coasters without feeling wretched afterward.  Years ago, I psyched myself up to ride the Rockin' Roller Coaster at Disney Studios.  It goes from 0-60 mph in like three seconds, which was amazing.  Then it started doing loops, and twists and turns.  For three seconds I felt like a million bucks and then for the rest of the ride I felt like a crumpled up dollar bill in a gutter.  

In the end, my lack of desire to ride roller coasters comes down to the simple fact that I am not willing to trade control of all of my faculties, and hours of misery for a few moments of exhilaration.  

Don't you wish that you could make the same kind of choice when faced with the twists and turns of life?  

I don't know about you, but some days feel it feels as …

God Is In The Used Car Business

In May of 2002, and my wife Merideth and I were in a strange situation, and about to do something crazy.  

We were leaving our beautiful home, and a wonderful life in Tallahassee Florida to move to downtown Chicago so I could go to seminary.  And on top of that, we had to sell our house and my car—by the end of June. 

We did, in fact, find a buyer for our house—unexpectedly and right on time.  The sale of the house closed right at the end of June, precisely when we needed it, and on the very day that we drove away in our rented moving truck with all our worldly goods inside it.  

And my car—wait until you read this.  I had resigned myself to the fact that the sale of the car wasn’t going to happen while I was still in Florida and I’d made arrangements to leave it with a friend to keep it on the market.  

ONE WEEK to the day we left, we were holding a garage sale, and a guy approached me about the car, and asked if it was for sale.  He ended up buying it on the spot.  So I got to drive my …

The Truth About Serving The Church

In Acts 20:28 (the Scripture I preached from yesterday), the Apostle Paul said the following: "Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that God allows us to serve, and to be a part of the ongoing Story of how God is saving the world--not necessarily because he needs us but because he wants us to be a part of it.  

Yesterday was a bittersweet day.  

It was my last official day as the pastor of the church I've been serving for the past eight years, and the end of a long week of "lasts" and goodbyes.  I have been overwhelmed by the touching things that people shared with my wife and I about how our ministry had a positive impact on their lives.  

One of the things that made parting yesterday bittersweet is the way so many people in our new congregation have expressed their prayers and well wishes to …

The Importance Of Having A Prophet In Your Life

I had a pastor friend many years ago, who asked me if we could work together to improve our preaching. He offered to listen to my sermons and offer critique if I would do the same with him.  

I soon discovered, however, that my friend had no real desire to hear anything negative about his preaching, but was pretty keen on critiquing mine. After a few weeks, I pointed this out, and after that it didn't take long for my friend to stop asking to meet altogether.

In Shakespeare's Pericles the title character decides not to reveal what he knows about King Antiochus of Antioch, because what he knows would prove embarrassing to the king. When asked to explain why he prefers to keep silent, Pericles says, "Few love to hear the sins they love to act."  

We all love to offer constructive criticism, but we rarely love to receive it.

I think everyone needs to have someone prophetic in the their life--that one person who is unafraid to tell us like it is, even if it means risking th…

Parting Words: The Last Sermon

On the Saturday night before my first Sunday here at First Church, I decided to come to the church to practice my sermon and to pray.  I'd spent a hectic first week moving, getting settled, meeting people and trying to get my bearings.  

All of the noise was gone that Saturday night and I stood in the historic Sanctuary with the street light streaming through the stained glass windows, and I sat down in one of the pews.  The historic Sanctuary here has this certain smell--an old church smell.  It's the smell of hymnals, old wood and something else that's hard to place, only you know it when you smell it. 

As I sat there I spied some writing on one of the larger windows, and got up to investigate.  The window was dedicated to the first pastor of the church.  His name, and I can't make this up, was James Hair Potter.  He pastored this church for 20 years, after retiring from pastoring up North.  

So there we were--just me and James Hair Potter in that room that night.  It m…

Would Jesus Have Subscribed To Netflix?

Last night Merideth and I spent about ten minutes scrolling through all of our possible TV watching choices on Netflix.  We couldn't seem to find anything that we both wanted to watch, so we just kept searching.  

There are thousands of choices on Netflix between television shows and movies.  It's overwhelming at times to try to pick something.  Finally, we just gave up, shut the TV off and went to sleep in short order, which we should have done in the first place. 

I did a quick search today to find out if other people had the same issue with the vast amount of choices on Netflix.  I discovered there are actually entire websites and web applications that exist just to help people navigate Netflix and find something to watch. 

Not only do we have an overwhelming number of choices at our fingertips, we also have an overwhelming number of ways to help us make those choices.  It's all kind of... overwhelming.  We're living in strange times, my friends.  

When was the last tim…

Letting Go of Toxic Relationships

As a pastor, one of the most difficult and frequent questions I get asked goes something like this:  "How long do I keep forgiving people who constantly hurt me?"  

It's a good question, because Jesus clearly taught that as his followers, we should forgive those who persecute us, and even taught that you should forgive as many as "seventy times seven" times if necessary.  

What I've learned over the years, however, is that there is a difference between forgiving someone who hurts you, and being in relationship with someone who hurts you.  

Forgiving someone for hurtful words or actions toward us is something that we are compelled to do as followers of Jesus.  We have been given radical and saving grace that we did not deserve, and in turn we are to offer that same kind of grace even to our enemies.  

Forgiveness is, among other things, the act of setting yourself free--free from pain, free from guilt, anger, bitterness and anything else that keeps us from being…

The Best Way To Share Your Faith

The churches I went to when I was a kid encouraged (strongly) door-to-door evangelism.  In fact, by the time I was in high school I was a veteran of door-to-door evangelism.  I was also a veteran of getting doors slammed in my face.  

Our technique for witnessing to people when we went door-to-door was almost completely lacking in any kind of tact whatsoever.  The opening spiel went something like this:  "Hello, my name is Leon from __________Church.  I'd like to ask you an important question.  If you died right now would you spend eternity in heaven or hell?"  

As you can imagine, our success rate on winning souls was somewhere between Nothing and Zero.  

I think there are a lot of Christians who so desperately don't want to seem like door-to-door evangelists that they never really develop healthy ways to share their faith.  In fact, I talk to a lot of Christians, who confess that even when they have opportunities to talk about their faith with other people, they more …

The Lost Art of Listening Like Jesus

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed yesterday, and came across a post from an old seminary classmate.  He declared that he was angry, and that in the coming days he was going to be posting things that some people might find offensive, but he didn't care if they did.  

He went on to say something like, "If you no longer want to be my friend because of what I am going to say--so be it."  

Lately, lots of people seem to have adopted that attitude.  I was watching a cable news channel the other day and the host of the program had two people on his show who had differing viewpoints on the recent election.  

Neither one would allow the other to speak. They shouted over each other as they tried to make their own particular point be heard, which resulted in no one being able to understand anything they were saying.  

Our culture is full of people who seem to only care about their own stories, and have little interest in listening to the stories of others.  Civility is on it'…

Community Isn't Easy

These past few days after the presidential election have been interesting to say the least.

Some people are still grieving the outcome of the election, and are being forced to come to grips with the fact that roughly half of their fellow citizens deeply disagree with them on the direction our country should take.  

Still others are being confronted with the grief of their fellow citizens, and are struggling to understand it.  I've spoken with some of these folks, who are flummoxed and angered by the protests that are springing up in all over the U.S.  

Being in community is not easy.  

Accepting others and their differences is not something most of us do all that well, if we are being honest.   Most of don't do empathy with a great deal of ease, either.  And forget about identifying with others completely.  There are so few of us who are able to do that, it's shocking.  

The Church ought to be a place where these things are the rule and not the exception, but those of us who ma…

When You Can't Figure God Out

I've spent a lot of time in the past several months trying to figure out God.  I struggled to understand what God was doing, where God might be leading, and whether to interpret the things I was feeling and experiencing as signs from God or just my own desires or wishes.  

Over those months I pored over the Bible, sought inspiration from a variety of Christian authors, poets and songwriters.  I asked for advice from friends--hoping they would help me figure out God in my context even if they couldn't figure God out in their own. 

And then I remembered something that I witnessed many years ago, while on a mission trip in Mexico.  

One of the older teenage girls, who had been on multiple mission trips to the same site with us, came to me with a lament.  She launched into a long, convoluted diatribe about how she just wasn't "feeling it" on that particular trip.  She told me that she just wasn't feeling God "this time," and she'd been counting on that…

For This Reason I Bend My Knees

Well, we are down to my last two sermons as the senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church. As I mentioned last Sunday, I estimated that up until last Sunday I have preached 368 sermons since I arrived in 2008.  

That's a lot of preaching, and it doesn't seem fair to only have two chances left to say all the things that I want you to hear before I go.  But, I am going to do my best.  The title of this last sermon series is "Parting Words," and we're working toward my final sermon to you all, which will be from Acts chapter 20, and the Apostle Paul's farewell address to the church at Ephesus.  

There are so many things I want you to know.  But today we're going to focus on just one.  We're going to talk about how everything you need to know and show Jesus in amazing ways is right here... right here among you... 

Let's travel down memory lane just a bit.  I want you guys to watch one of the first videos we shot to pump up our church members to embrace …

Post-Election Grace and Peace

The election is over.  I figured that no matter who won yesterday, there would be people I know and care about, who would wake up today and think the Apocalypse had come.  I also knew that there would be people I know and care about, who would be rejoicing.  
Today I am reaching out both to those who are rejoicing this morning, and to those who are filled with dread.  
First, to those who feel as though the world has come to an end.  It hasn't.  The sun rose outside my window.  Creation still speaks of the glory of God.  Jesus is still risen.  The fact that your candidate of choice didn't win doesn't change who you are, and more importantly who you are in the eyes of God.  
You have work to do to be reconciled to those with whom you disagree, but if you must mourn, don't try to suppress it.  Mourn today, and then gather your strength tomorrow to be renewed in the Spirit as you take up once again the work of embodying the kingdom of God on earth.  
To those of you who are f…