Showing posts from May, 2017

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…

Stop. Look. Listen. Live.

So, my daily devotion is a bit later today than usual because this morning I attended my littlest boy's kindergarten graduation celebration.  I was among the nearly two hundred parents and grandparents who gathered to watch the kindergartners sing and be recognized by class.  

I was also one of the obnoxious parents who wormed his way down front to snap some photos and take a video or two.  Sue me.  It's been sixteen years since my biggest boy "graduated" from kindergarten, and seven years since my middlest boy celebrated his. 

It struck me today that this is the last of the kindergarten celebrations in our house until (many years from now) there are grandkids to celebrate.  

Life happens when you're not paying attention sometimes.  

Seriously, you blink and your kids are grown up, and I am told the same is true for grandkids.  After my six year-old's celebration, my twenty-two year old son and I went out to breakfast.  For some reason, I just wanted to push back…

The Messy Garden of Church

Because of the recent sermon series I'm preaching, I've been thinking and writing a lot about the Church this week, and what it means to be part of a faith community.  

If you are interested in engaging in the sermon series, you can check out the first installment by CLICKING HERE

I was reading the newest book by Bruce Feiler this morning and something he wrote about the state of relationships in our current culture jumped off the page at me:  

"We have fewer friends, studies have shown, fewer people we can confide in, fewer people we can turn to in times of trouble.  Depression rates have surged; unhappiness is rampant; suicide is at an all time high."  

Could it be that the more we trade face-to-face engagement for screen time, and virtual connections, the farther apart we get from others, and the more alone we feel?
The ground breaking psychologist Erich Fromm offered these prophetic words that speak directly into this struggle: "We are social creatures," h…

A Graveyard for Gossip

Read these next three phrases, and ask yourself what you think when you've heard someone say one or more of them to you.  

"Have you heard...?"  

"You're not going to believe this...!"  

"You cannot tell anyone what I'm about to tell you...." 

As soon as someone begins a sentence with these words, we know that what comes next is going to be juicy. We've been trained to move to the edge of our seats when we hear those phrases being uttered.  

Because we love us some gossip, don't we?  

Unless it's about us.  

I've been on the wrong end of gossip before. As a pastor, it kind of comes with the territory.  I had a church member once who seemed to take great pleasure in making up fantastic stories about me, and sharing them with anyone who would listen. 

"No one really takes her seriously," a church staffer told me.  "They know she loves to gossip, and they just take everything she says with a grain of salt."  


The Surprising Jesus

I've been serving in ministry of some kind--either as a church staffer or pastor--for nearly twenty years.  I grew up going to church, and (other than a five year absence when I had a crisis of faith) I spent most of my life before ministry in some kind of church or another.

Not much surprises me any more when it comes to church and church-y folks.  In fact, it's easy at times to get a bid jaded about spiritual matters when you've been at this Christian thing for as long as I have.  

Whenever I have had church members express their dissatisfaction and then depart for another church, I always genuinely wish them well.  But what I know is that whatever drove them to dissatisfaction in the old place, will almost assuredly surface in the new place.  

Because the truth of the matter is that most of us Christian-types too-often take our eyes off Jesus and let our gaze fall on people, leaders and institutions instead.   And when we do this, we are almost always let down, or underwhe…

You Have One Job

Today I am struggling with feelings of judgement toward a few folks.  The irony of this is that I just preached on not judging people yesterday.  God has a twisted sense of humor, I'm thinking.  

I've been on the other end of "judge-y" Christians more times than I can count, so I know what it feels like.  

Once, I found out that one of the other pastors in town actually issued a warning to members of his church to stay away from my church and its members.  He felt that we would be a bad influence, and didn't want us poisoning his church.  

Some years ago, I ran afoul of a widely-read online Christian news website, and ended up getting hateful emails from people who called me a "false prophet" and an "apostate teacher," and a few more colorful things that don't bear repeating.

And yet, knowing all that I know, I still find myself feeling pretty judgmental today toward some people who self-identify as fellow-followers of Jesus.   Sisters and bro…

Deep & Wide: Week One - "Radical Hospitality"

This week we are launching a brand new sermon series entitled Deep & Wide---the basic premise behind this sermon series is that in order for us to be a thriving church in the 21st century--we've got to be both deep and wide as a congregation.  

Some churches are all about the deep.  These churches have doctrines and beliefs all nailed down. They can tell you all the things that Christians are supposed to do, read, believe and say. 

Other churches are all about the wide.  You can't find a statement of faith on their website to save your life.  You won't nail them down on any particular issue because they are all about just being open and welcoming--whatever that happens to mean to them. 

But to be a church that's both deep... and wide?  Now that's something to strive for--and that's what I want us to do as a family of faith.  I believe we are being called to be a church that is both deep and wide.  

And we need to figure this out because the Church as we know it…