Showing posts from May, 2017

Moving Beyond Stereotypes

Some of the most beautiful and awful aspects of being human are discovered in the frail and finite ways that we interact with one another.  

There is beauty to be found in the mystery of another human being--mystery that is contained behind the facade of a smile, an imperceptible nod or blush.  

We've all had those moments when we think we know someone, but then they surprise us with their wonderful secrets and closely held bright thoughts and ideas, and we realize (to our delight) we never really knew them at all.  

But there is something awful in this frailty, too.  More often than not we never try to look beyond the surface, and tend to believe the worst about a person before getting to know them properly.  

We also assume things about one another based on appearance, class, religion, gender and so many other cultural identifiers without critique, without any thought to how our stereotyping might be dead wrong.  

For those of us who follow Jesus, we have an example in him that chall…

Rejecting A Checklist-Based Faith

Some years ago I bought this book called The Art of Getting Started.  It's an interactive book designed to help you get your creative juices flowing when you feel stuck.  

The book has all of these exercises that are intended to jump start your creativity and nudge you forward a bit toward something other than staring blankly at your computer screen.   

Today, the section of the book I chose was one that didn't seem all that helpful at first.  The instructions began like this: "Physically crossing tasks off a list is one of the best ways to create feelings of achievement and motivation."  Okay, I am on board so far.  

Then the instructions took a strange turn:  "Cross out each of the tasks below using a different pen.  Find your favorite." Below the instructions were the words: "Task 1," Task 2," "Task 3," and so on.   What?!!

I figured I may as well give it a try, so I took out a handful of pens and started crossing out the "tasks…

Thorns In The Flesh

In his second letter to the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul confesses something extraordinary.  He reveals that he has a "thorn in my flesh," that torments him.  But then he doesn't reveal the nature of the thorn, and gives no other clues as to what he means by his cryptic confession.  

But he does reveal how he begged God to release him from his torment:  

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 
- 2 Corinthians 12:8

So what was Paul's "thorn?"  Scholars have debated it for centuries.  Some believe that it might have been some kind of physical ailment.  Others have argued that it might have been struggles with his vow of celibacy.  Probably the most convincing argument is that his eyesight was failing. 

I was thinking today about why it was important to me that Paul confessed this.  The truth is, despite all of the incredible things …

Deep & Wide - Week 4: "Divine Anticipation"

This week we are continuing the sermon series that we started last week--a series that is going to take us all the way through the month of May.  The series is entitled, Deep & Wide.  

We need to be the kind of church that is both deep and wide.  We want to be deep in our faith, and our love of Scripture, but we also want to have a wide embrace, welcoming everyone to journey with us.  

What we've been doing as part of this sermon series is studying the four biggest reasons that people give as to why they don't attend church, and then we've been turning those negatives into positives.  Our goal is to identify the ways that we, as a church, can overcome the objections that people might have as to why they don't want to go to church.

Over the last two weeks we've discovered the two biggest reasons people give as to why they don't attend church:  They feel judged, and they feel lectured, and they feel the church if full of hypocrites.

We've also learned that th…

Better Believing Glasses

I've been having a bit of trouble seeing what I'm reading lately.  This is a new development in the continuing saga of my getting older.  Huzzah.

The other day, on a whim, I tried a pair of my wife's reading glasses, and suddenly--as if by magic--I could actually see the words on the page in front of me without any fuzziness.  
So, I bought my first few pairs of reading glasses, and I've been shuffling back and forth between them and my regular glasses.  It's no fun to have to admit that my old way of seeing isn't adequate any longer, but it's a whole lot less fun than actually not seeing. 

Necessity, as it turns out, often gives birth to flexibility when it comes to these kinds of things.  My need to see has caused me to let go of some of my pride, and simply carry around an extra pair of glasses.  

I believe the same thing might be true for most of us Christians---especially regarding some of our tightly held beliefs.  At some point, we come to the realizatio…

Micah 6:8 Reformation

Anne Lamott writes, "Pope Francis says the name of God is mercy.  Our name was mercy, too, until we put it away to become more productive, more admired and less vulnerable." 

This is what I feel has happened to what I would best describe as "Corporate Christianity" in America.  It's lost it's way.  It's become triumphant and obsessed with bigger and better, and forgotten what it means to be merciful. 

But I've come to believe there is a "silent majority" of Jesus-followers who have grown weary of the pretenses and posturing of "Corporate Christianity" and are waking up at last to pursue their deep longing to simply be more like Christ.  

For all of the negative news stories that surface from time to time about a few angry, and loud Christians, who are boycotting things, banning books, shunning other Christians who don't agree with them, and the like, it's good to be reminded that there are far more Christians simply trying t…

Letting Go of Worry

This morning I am reflecting on the fragility of my well-thought plans.  I had some stuff all worked out, and now whatever I worked out is kind of falling apart.  

I have the best intentions when it comes to planning, mind you.  But it seems that no matter how much I fret and worry, my fragile plans often don't work out exactly the way I envisioned them. 

Worrying over the outcomes of our planning and arranging can keep us awake at night.  It can also steal our joy, and rob us of hope when our planning comes to nothing, and we find ourselves where we had no intentions of going.  

Oswald Chambers has a hard word for that kind of worrying and fretting:  

"It is not only wrong to worry, it is unbelief; worrying means we do not believe that God can look after the practical details of our lives..." 

Sometimes the best way we can renew our belief in God's sovereign love for us is to pay attention to the moments when our worrying and fretting fade away, and we simply rest, conne…

The Wind In Your Ears

I love being busy.  

Like a lot of people, I wear it like a badge of honor. 

Do you ever find yourself comparing busy schedules with your friends, and suddenly you feel as though you are in some kind of competition? 

"Well heck, that seems like you've got a lot going on there, Joe... but OUR schedule is absolutely insane by comparison.  When you get to insane-level scheduling, my friend... let's talk then. Until then, don't even think of stepping to me."  

It's easy to get addicted to the adrenaline rush of busy-ness, isn't it?  

But the problem I face when I am riding the emotional high of busy-ness is a significant one:  

It's hard to feel the presence of God when I'm rushing to and fro.  It's even more difficult to attune my spiritual hearing to hear God's voice speaking with all of the noise created by my busy-ness.  

When you're trying to hear God in the midst of busy-ness it's a lot like trying to have a conversation in a speeding c…

Deep & Wide - Week 3: "Genuine Humility"

This week we are continuing the sermon series that we started last week--a series that is going to take us all the way through the month of May.  The series is entitled, Deep & Wide.  

We need to be the kind of church that is both deep and wide.  We want to be deep in our faith, and our love of Scripture, but we also want to have a wide embrace, welcoming everyone to journey with us.  

Over the last two weeks we've discovered the two biggest reasons people give as to why they don't attend church:  They feel judged, and they feel lectured.  

We've also learned that the best way we can overcome those objections is by practicing Radical Hospitality (welcoming people just as they are) and having Fearless Conversations (not being afraid to listen, engage and be open to people with real issues). 

Today we're going to take a step further and discuss the third biggest reason that people have shared as to why they don't want to attend church--they think the Church if full o…

Constant Collisions

In my morning reading today, I read this incredible and uncomfortable quote from Anne Lamott's latest book Hallelujah Anyway: "The world has an awful beauty.  This is a chaotic place, humanity is a chaotic place, and I am a chaotic place." 

I do feel pretty chaotic most days.  Maybe you feel that way, too.  Much like the particles of the subatomic world that exists below our ordinary vision, we are constantly colliding with one another, exchanging energy and being transformed (for good or ill) by these constant collisions.

I hold to the belief that God is at work in our lives all of the time, and it is our own limited ability to perceive that keeps us from being aware of God's guiding, loving presence.  

Because of this belief, I also hold to the notion that God also places people in our paths (and us in theirs) for a reason.  

Sometimes it's easy to see the reasons when being with a particular person fills us life, light and love.  But it's more difficult to see…

The Bends In The Road

In architectural design there is a concept known as "denial and reward." Essentially, the idea is to offer users a view of their target, or destination.  It could be a staircase, a fountain, a ballroom, or the center of a city park.  

But then you divert the path so they can't see it, and reveal it again from a different angle to create intrigue.  You continue to reward them with additional experiences and views on their way.  According to author Matthew Frederick, "It makes the journey more interesting, the arrival more rewarding."  

I talk to a lot of people who struggle in their journey with Jesus because of their frustration over the unknown.  They speak to me about how they have had glimpses of a possible future where they are firmly in the will of God, but then confess they lose sight of it when circumstances divert their attention.  

The psalmist who wrote Psalm 25 offered this prayer: Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and…

A Church of Living Stones

As I mentioned yesterday, I've been attending some of the Festival of Homiletics, a preaching conference that is being held in San Antonio this week.  

Being in a room full of a couple thousand pastors and church leaders has been a great experience, but it also has been a sharp reminder of the very real issues facing the Church right now.  The Church is going through a reformation, and reformations are painful.  

Not all followers of Jesus who call the Church home, receive the evidence of that reformation with the same enthusiasm.  It's pretty clear that the Church is sharply divided over many of the same issues that divide our society.  

I read something today by E. Stanley Jones that spoke to me.  He wrote, [The Church] must be held together by a single-minded devotion [to Christ]; otherwise we begin to disintegrate."  

I've been watching the news lately, and it's disturbing on so many levels. Our society is seemingly being torn apart by constant partisan divisions …

Self Righteousness and Pants-Wetting

Gentle Readers, today's Daily Devo is coming to you late in the day.  I've been at the Festival of Homiletics yesterday afternoon, and most of the day today, soaking in some sermons from some of my favorite preachers in the world.  

The Festival of Homiletics is a preaching conference where pastors from all over the country (and the world) gather to listen to sermons, and lectures about sermons.  Throw in some highbrow worship services, and you have the trifecta of nerdiness when it comes to church-y stuff.  

In answer to the question that I get pretty often, "Where do you go to hear sermons, and get spiritually fed?" I would offer events like the Festival of Homiletics as perfect examples.

I heard some things over the course of the last twenty-four hours that shook me up and got me thinking deeply about some of the things I have been struggling with lately.  You see, I suffer from a tinge of self-righteousness when it comes to more than a few of aspects of my faith. 


God Delights In Broken Vessels

Today my littlest boy rode his bike to school for the first time without the benefit of his training wheels.  

I thought about how quickly he'd figured everything out, and was amazed.  He'd only learned how to ride his bike with only two wheels last week, and was already cruising away as if he'd been doing it for months. 

As I reflected on all of this, it occurred to me how, in spite of all of my failings, brokenness and the stupid things I do as a parent, Jacob is growing up as a confident, fearless little dude---despite the many mistakes I make.

It made me so grateful to God that God allows me to do good in the world in all of the various roles of my life, in spite of myself.  Because of the love of God, I am not defined by my past, by bad decisions and the mistakes I've made when I have tried to do life on my own.  

I never ceased to be amazed at how, in the words of Philip Yancey, "God wants to share power with the likes of me."  God could use hundreds of oth…

Deep & Wide - Week Two: "Fearless Conversations"

This week we are continuing the sermon series that we started last week--a series that is going to take us all the way through the month of May.  The series is entitled, Deep & Wide.  

We need to be the kind of church that is both deep and wide.  We want to be deep in our faith, and our love of Scripture, but we also want to have a wide embrace, welcoming everyone to journey with us.  

Last week we talked about how people have stopped coming to church.  The purpose of this series is to first uncover why people have stopped coming to church and then to discover what we can do to turn those negatives into positives... so we can work toward being that deep and wide congregation we need to be. 

Last week we discovered that the biggest reason people have stopped coming to church is because they feel judged.  We also learned that the way we can overcome those feelings of judgement is when we practice Radical Hospitality. 

This week we are going to find out what the second biggest reason why…