Showing posts from February, 2017

Hush Your Mouth & Follow Jesus

I recently read about a psychological test where people were placed in a room with buttons to push and told that they had to figure out a sequence of pushing those buttons that would cause a light to flash.  They would then be awarded a point.  

The object was to get as many points as they could in a thirty-minute period.   

So, the participants would start pushing buttons and eventually the light flash.  Then they would try to repeat the sequence, but it wouldn't work (because the light had nothing to do with the buttons).  

As a result, the participants would start doing other things: jumping up and down then pushing the buttons, tapping their feet , standing on one foot... Each person came up with their own unique sets of beliefs about how to get the light to flash. 

And they were convinced they were right. 

I've noticed something sad in common Christian culture over the past several years.  There seems to be a near-obsession with being right.  As a result, common Christian cult…

Sabbath & Sanctuary

The kitchen was the first room in our new house to get completely set up and "live-in" ready.  Considering it's the one place where everyone tends to gather, it was a good choice to be finished first.  

When you are moving, it's important to get at least one room completely finished and looking the way it should.  It becomes your island in the middle of the chaos, the one place you can go to sit down and breathe for a while before wading back into it.  

You might say that such a place acts as a sanctuary.  

I looked up the formal definition of the word sanctuary and discovered that it means "a place of refuge or safety."  I would also add as part of my own definition, "a place of refuge or safety where you find peace." 

When I was in seventh grade I used to ride my bike to a small Lutheran church that was not far from my house.  I was always careful to go there when I was sure not to find a soul around.  There was something about that place that spoke…

The Rich Man & Lazarus

Today we're going to continue the sermon series  "The Divine Storyteller."  This series is focused on a rethinking of some of the more challenging parables or stories that Jesus told.  

The parable we are going to be exploring this week is the the Parable of the Rich Man & Lazarus.  But before we dig into the text today from Luke chapter 16, let me share a story of my own...  

I had only been at my former church for a few months when I met James. 

James was living in a patch of trees and brush behind our church at that point.  He had been kicked out of the latest place where he'd been staying because of a domestic dispute.  It was raining cats and dogs the night I met him the first time and he asked me for help. 

I let him stay on the screened-in porch outside the church office that night, got him some food and scrounged some extra clothes for him to change into.  So began our seven year relationship, which was decidedly one-sided. 

James lived on the screened-in porc…

Go To Where I Will Show You

The LORD had said to Abram, "Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you. Genesis 12:1
I had to go back to our "old house" (as we are calling it now) to work this morning because I don't yet have internet service in the "new house."  

We had all of the furniture moved yesterday from the old house to the new house, but we left the desks standing in anticipation of this particular moment.  

It's odd to look up and see the familiar landmarks in our rented house are now gone.  We only lived here for three months, but it didn't take long for it to feel like home.  Even in the short time we lived here, we made memories together.  

At the end of a very long day yesterday, we finally gathered in our jumbled living room, ate pizza and began to laugh a bit, which we needed to do.  Moving is no fun--especially across the street.  

I didn't think about it in the moment, but I wish now I had said something importa…

Your Circumstances Don't Care

It's easy to get mad at your adverse circumstances.  Chances are, they deserve it. 

That trying situation you are going through?  It probably needs to be called out and vilified for being so awful. 

And that bad thing that happened to you...  You have my permission to let off some steam by calling it every name in the book.  

But you need to realize something as you are railing away at the unwanted circumstances, situations and awful things that have happened to you:  They could care less.  

I read this amazing quote from the ancient Roman playwright Euripides today.  He wrote, "You shouldn't give circumstances the power to rouse anger, for they don't care at all."  

It doesn't matter how mad you get, frustrated, or full of despair--circumstances aren't concerned about your feelings.  They are not people that can respond to your frustration, and no amount of anger is going to change that fact.  

I struggle with this something fierce.  

When I am running late, an…

Words Get In The Way

Words are powerful.

Words have the power to give life or to take it away.  

Words have the power to heal or destroy.  

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue," Proverbs 18:21 states.  In Proverbs 21:23 we read, "Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue, keeps himself out of trouble."  

I am ashamed to admit that there have been times in my life when I have used my words to hurt or destroy others.  

Sometimes I've done it unintentionally, but there have been more than a few times when I've used hurtful and killing words out of malice and anger.  And most of the time, the person I've said those words about never heard them.  

We have this mistaken notion that the things we say are somehow harmless if the person we're referring to can't hear us say them.    

What I've learned about the power of words is that even though the person about whom I am speaking my angry, hurtful words isn't within earshot---they are hurt by them all the same.  


Lessons From The Lobster

One of the most often-asked questions I get asked as a pastor has to do with pain and suffering. In my experience,  people who are going through difficult seasons almost always want to ascribe some kind of meaning to what is happening to them.  

But sometimes, there doesn't seem to be any meaning to ascribe.  

"It seems so pointless sometimes," a church member, who was going through a very rough patch of life told me once.  "I am fine with accepting God's will, and I get that sometimes stuff just happens, but this just feels meaningless to me.  It's like God's cruel joke."  

In the past I have been guilty of answering these kinds of questions with platitudes.  "If God brought you to it, then God will get you through it," comes to mind.  

There's truth in platitudes, don't get me wrong.  But it seems to me that what we need most in our valley-of-the-shadow seasons is to be able reframe our suffering and hardships in a way that leads us …

It's Your Move

 "Unless you move the place where you are is the place where you will always be."   - Ashleigh Brilliant 
I'm moving again.  

I calculated the other day that Merideth and I have now moved 22 times in 25 years of marriage.  Within the last year, we moved three times, including one that took us across the country.  

This particular move is across the street, though.  Literally, the house I am moving into is right across the street, and one house down.  It's a miracle how we got that house--the house where our entire family, including my parents will be living.   

I'm thinking that this move I am making now needs to be the last move I make for a very long time.  I am also thinking that I need to rent a huge dumpster and get rid of a bunch of stuff.  

Additionally,  I am realizing that I've been wearing the same work clothes for two days straight. This is not a good trend.  

All this moving caused me to recall a book by Reggie Joiner that I read some time ago.  In his b…

The Parable of the Sower

Today we're going to continue the sermon series  "The Divine Storyteller."  This series is focused on a rethinking of some of the more challenging parables or stories that Jesus told.  

Whether it was a city high on a hill, two women grinding grain or---as we'll see today--a man planting seeds in a field, Jesus knew how to draw his audience in to his stories by using everyday, common and ordinary things that he could see around him to teach deep and abiding spiritual truths about the kingdom of God.  

This week we're going to be exploring a parable that is fairly well-known but in many ways underestimated in common Christian culture: The Parable of The Sower.  This parable truly causes us to have to confront the truth about who we really are.  

In fact, before we dig into the text today, let me ask you a question.  How would you want to be remembered after you die?  As you think you are or as you really are?  

Last week I read this fascinating story about a guy named…

God In The Middle of It All

I've been thinking a lot lately about transitions.  Check that.  I've been thinking a lot about transitions because I've been immersed in one transition or another for almost six months.  

When you're in the middle of a transition, it's hard to put your finger on exactly how it feels, or how it's going to look on the other side of it.  

I used to wonder if people who lived through the great moments in history paused to reflect, and say things like: "This Great Depression sure is something!"  or "How about this World War II?"  or even further back, "Man, this Protestant Reformation thing seems to be really changing some stuff."

It's only when you look back that you can see all the changes and transformations a bit more clearly.  It's only with hindsight that you can see how it all fit together to get you where you were going--even though you had no idea exactly how it would all turn out. 

And when we look back, we can also see m…

The Days Are Long & The Years Are Short

Today I recalled something I heard a couple of years ago about the busy times when you're parenting (or grand-parenting) and hustling through life.  It went something like this:  "The days are long, but the years are short."  

That's one of the truest things I've ever heard, and some days it's truer than truest.  Right now Merideth and I are in the midst of the blur of moving three times in just under a year, kids' school and social activities, work and everything else in life.  

We have gone from one big decision to another more times than I can count this past year.  It's easy to look back and wonder where the time went, how we got here, and to focus only on those big moments, the huge things that marked our time. 

But sometimes we can miss out on the glory of God, the beauty of God's will and the joy and peace that comes from simply being fully present in the every day moments, the ordinary times---when we practice being still and know that God is…

Life, In Between The Beeps

There's a smoke alarm with a dead battery somewhere in my house this morning.  Every thirty seconds or so it emits an annoying chirp.  I think it's upstairs--at least that's where the chirping seems to be coming from.  

Whoever designed the system by which smoke detectors inform you that their batteries are dead was an evil genius--schooled in the art of psychological torture.  

I want to go and change it, but I'll need to fetch a ladder, and there will be noise and commotion as a result.  At the moment, everyone in the house is sleeping peacefully, and I don't want to awaken them just yet.  

So, I sit here waiting for the next beep, dreading it until it happens.  

In between beeps, a couple of questions that have always plagued me come to mind:  I wonder how much of my life I've spent dreading what comes next?  And, how many blessings and experiences with God in the present did I miss as a result?   

I know that I'm not alone in pondering those questions.  In m…

Feel the Love

I went to the H-E-B (our local grocery store, for my non-Texas friends) last evening with my youngest son to pick up some Valentine's Day cards and treats for his class party today.  

I was feeling kind of guilty for doing it all last minute, but I think our family deserves a little grace, considering we're in the process of moving again.  

At any rate, as Jacob and I walked in to the store, we realized we were definitely not alone.  The place was mobbed with people buying Valentine's day paraphernalia.  

I took a look around at all of the people holding flowers, heart-shaped candy boxes and the like.  I wondered if it was guilt that dragged them out late on a Monday evening to make sure they didn't stiff their significant other on Valentine's Day.  

As I looked around at all of the people crowding the H-E-B, my heart broke a little, and then I got self-righteous.  "Love shouldn't be commercialized," I thought. "It shouldn't be something you expr…

Holy Imagination & Holy Discontent

Recently, I discovered a great mental exercise that John Maxwell included in his book Developing the Leaders Around You.  In this exercise, which is designed to help you identify your dreams, you ask yourself two question:  "If I had________________," I would_________________."  

If you had unlimited time, money, information, anything you asked for, what would you do?   Whatever your answer is to the second question is what you're dreaming for your life, Maxwell asserts.  

The genius behind this kind of exercise is that once you start thinking about the possibility of your dream, you start to wonder if you might either already have all of the resources you need to achieve it or at least a way to acquire them.  

I got to thinking about how this applies to our journey with Jesus, and the struggles we often have to imagine a world that has not yet been made right.  

I'm afraid more than a few of us Jesus-followers spend a lot of time wondering why things are so bad in …