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Showing posts from June, 2017

Ending the Cycle

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Today's devo is from the archives--one that I stumbled across the other day, and felt like it needed to be re-sent.  I know that over half of our subscribers have never seen this one before, and those of us who have probably need a fresh read of it.  Blessings.  

I can't even count how many times in my life I have had negative encounters with people, who unleashed upon me a diatribe, angry criticism, personal attacks and the like.    

I also can't count how many times I have thought of something awesome to say to the person who is attacking me after they've unleashed their venom and then walked away. 

You know how that feels, right?  Whether it's moments or a day later, the thing you should  have said comes to you, and you find yourself saying, "Oh my gosh!  I wish I had said that!"  

There was one time in my life were I said exactly what I wanted to say to someone who had attacked me publicly.  It was when I was an assistant manager at Best Buy and another m…

If You Ain't First, You're Last

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I am about to share something with you that is deeply personal and vulnerable.  Once I share this, many of you may find that you either have something new and wonderful in common with me.  Or not.  

Here goes:  One of my favorite movies is Will Ferrell's Talladaga Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. 

Don't judge.  Remember what Jesus said about when you judge others, you get judged by the same measure.  I bet you've got a movie or two that you just love (like Ernest Goes To Camp, for example) that would make the rest of us go, "Huh?"

In Talladaga Nights, Will Ferrell's character Ricky Bobby is a NASCAR race car driver, who falls on hard times.  For his entire life he's held to a motto he heard from his ne'er do well father when he was a child:  "If you ain't first, you're last."  

When he's finally reunited with his father, Ricky Bobby has this exchange with him about that life motto: 

Ricky Bobby: Wait, Dad. Don’t you remember the tim…

Summer Solstice

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When I was a kid, summer was like magic.  During those summers long ago, I would wake up in the morning with a rush of possibility.  There would be this fierce sense of joy that would fill my chest as I contemplated the day to come.  

And those days would last so long, wouldn't they?  When I was young I wanted to wring every bit if adventure out of those summer days and nights.  I would stay outside as long as I could---until it was almost too dark to see.  

One memory seems to stand out for me today--it's one that I've brought to mind over and again throughout my life.  

In my mind's eye I can see myself at age 10, catching fireflies with my cousins in the gathering South Carolina dusk.  My parents are young--younger than I am now.  My grandmother, four uncles and my aunt are alive and laughing.  

It was a holy moment, and it is a gift to be able to recall it with such vivid detail.  

In the New Testament, there is a Greek word that gets used to describe holy time: the wor…

10 Years

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A little animated video showed up in my Facebook feed this morning, informing me that I have now been on Facebook for 10 years.  I first joined on June 20, 2007. 

Ten years ago, I was not yet 40 years old, and had just stepped into the role of interim pastor of the church were I had been ordained as an associate.  

Merideth and I were praying fervently about whether God was calling us to leave Florida or to stay.  

My oldest son Jay was in seventh grade at the time, and his brother Jackson had just turned two. My youngest son Jacob was not yet a twinkle in anyone's eye.  

A lot has happened in those ten years.  And as I look back on it all, I am overwhelmed by the unbelievably complicated, intricate way in which God has been at work in my life throughout the last decade. 

It's dizzying to think of all of the winding paths I've taken, the circumstances that just fell into place, the too-perfect coincidences that have been a part of my journey in stumbling after Jesus.  

It hasn&#…

Angels Dancing On A Pin

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I was watching a video the other day of three Christian pastors/authors, who were arguing about whether God causes all things (both good and bad) to happen to us.  

Two of the pastors argued that God does cause all things to happen to us--even the worst things--in order to teach us and shape us.  The other pastor argued that God doesn't cause all things, but that God is present in all circumstances and moments--both good and bad. 

I get that this is a topic that probably needs to be unpacked.  Lots of people have pretty negative opinions about God because they've been taught that God goes around smiting people with awful afflictions and circumstances---for their own good.

For the record, I don't hold that particular notion.    

But the whole thing made me recall an obscure question that certain medieval Christian scholars debated:  "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?"  

In 1619, theologian William Sclater offered the following criticism of seventeenth-cen…

In The Beginning Week One - "Creation Pt. 1"

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This week we are launching a brand new sermon series, entitled "In The Beginning." This four-part series will take us through the first three chapters of Genesis---the story of Creation.  

I am going to say something extremely shocking.  You will be blown away by this. Are you ready?  

"Lots of Christians have different interpretations and opinions about these first three chapters of the Bible."  

Shocking right?  I know.  I'm being sarcastic, of course.  We all know that Genesis chapters 1-3 has become a battleground of sorts when it comes to the debate between Science and Faith in Christian culture.  

And here's something else that's important for us to point out.  Some people read these first few chapters of Genesis and then give up on really wanting to know more about the rest of the Bible because they struggle to understand it.  

Before we dive into the story of Creation together, however, I want to share some things with you.  

To begin with, I have to …

A Better Harvest

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Many years ago, I was introduced to that old adage, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."  

As a pastor, I can call out that kind of insanity all day long.  I've been trained to see it, to ferret it out and do everything I can to help people change it.  

And, truth be told, I've gotten pretty good at it. In fact, there have been times in my life when I've felt pretty smug about being able to recognize the "insanity" in others. 

But when it comes to my own life, and my own insanity---now that's another story.  

At my church we reserve a portion of our worship service as a time of confession.  As a church we'll read what's known as a "corporate" confession, which typically contains an admission of how as a community we've both done and left undone things that obscure God's kingdom from being seen clearly.  

Then we have a minute or so of silence, so we can reflec…

See The Miracles In Front Of You

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In the book of Genesis, when Abraham and Sarah were told by divine messengers that they were going to have a child in their old age, Sarah laughed at the prospect.  I am sure she thought that her future couldn't possibly include such a miracle.  

Only it did.  

I've been thinking this morning about Sarah's laughter, and why that story has always resonated with me.  

I had the chance to spend the day with my middle son yesterday as we drove down to San Antonio to catch a Metallica concert.  He just turned thirteen.  It feels as though I blinked and he grew up, right in front of me. 

At the concert, we were sitting next to a young couple who looked to be about eighteen or nineteen years old.  If I squinted my eyes I could imagine that young couple as my wife and I in similar concerts over thirty years ago.  

My poor wife---I dragged her to so many rock shows back when we were kids.  

If a divine messenger had walked up to nineteen year-old Leon and Merideth at a rock show and told…

Carrying By The Right Handle

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In my years of being in and around churches, I've noticed that those of us who call ourselves Christians will say the darndest things. 

For example, some of us have the bad habit of waxing all poetic when we pray in public--using flowery, archaic language like "Lord we thank thee for this thine abundant bounty, which thou hast provided for us--in thy mercy."  

Translation: "Dear God, thank you for this food."  

Others of us love to quote Bible verses for every occasion...

Drive-thru Attendant: "Would you like fries with that burger, ma'am?" 
Christian-y Person:  "'Man does not live by bread alone, missy!'" 

But perhaps the most double-edged thing I have heard Christians say is this:  

"I'm just going to 'speak the truth in love' to you now."  

Typically, this phrase proceeds a criticism, nasty comment or a rebuke of some kind that is about as far from loving as you can get. 

In fact, "I'm going to speak the …

A Whole Lot of Jesus

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I am drinking my coffee this morning out of a mug that is emblazoned with the following inspirational manifesto: 

"All I need today is a little bit of coffee and a whole lot of Jesus."

For all you non-coffee drinking folk out there, this pithy statement probably doesn't ring all that true--at least the first half of it.  But trust me...if I didn't get my coffee this morning, it would take a whole lot of Jesus to make me bearable. 

At any rate, that little phrase got me thinking.  

I wholeheartedly agree with the fact that I need Jesus. If you asked me, I would unequivocally say that I need to experience Jesus in the world.  I would tell you how I need the example of Jesus to follow in order to live more fully into my true humanity and be the person God has dreamed for me to be. 

I would share how I need Jesus because I need to be rescued from the prison of my willfulness and pride.  I would affirm my need for Jesus because I long to be restored of my brokenness and frailt…

Pulse

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One year ago today... 

It was a Sunday morning, and I was at church getting ready for Sunday services when I heard the news that something terrible had happened in my then-home city of Orlando. 

With my heart sinking, I turned on the television in my office and learned to my horror that 49 people had been massacred early that morning in the Pulse nightclub--a club that had been founded as a "safe place" for the Orlando LGBTQ community to gather.   

It became evident very quickly that what happened was a hate crime against the LGBTQ community, perpetrated by a disturbed individual---an individual who had also been twisted and poisoned by religious extremism.  

I remember praying for peace and unity that Sunday in front of my congregation.  I prayed defiantly for peace and unity, but deep inside I feared that things would take a different turn.  

My hope was that the Pulse nightclub tragedy would be a wake-up call to our country.  I prayed that we would put aside all of the ways th…

Rooftop Plants

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I posted up in the best spot in the coffee shop where I am writing today.  I'm sitting in a comfy chair overlooking the roof of the building next door--a roof that is entirely covered in plants.  

Seriously, the entire roof is covered in native Texas Hill Country, drought-resistant plants, and it's beautiful. 

As I am sitting here, I can't help but wonder about the creative impulse that preceded the decision to put plants on a roof.  

At some point in the process of designing that building, someone floated the idea that the roof just might be a place where certain plants could thrive, and wouldn't that be an awesome way of utilizing what is ordinarily wasted space that simply radiates heat.  

So, they filled the whole roof with plants. 

I know there is a lot of debate happening right now in our culture about the environment. I've also realized that Christians seemed just as divided on environmental issues as everybody else. 

But here's the thing...  No matter where p…

The Process

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Some years ago, University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban crafted a philosophy known as "The Process."  Saban's idea was to teach his players to ignore the big picture---big games, championships, etc.---and to focus simply on doing the little things to the best of their ability.  

In Saban's mind, a single play, which lasts only a few seconds, could determine the outcome of an entire game, and consequently an entire season.  In other words, games and seasons, according to "The Process" are constituted by seconds. 

What Saban preaches to his players is to focus singularly on their job for the next play. And when his players do this, Saban's teams tend to win (much to my chagrin).  

Years ago, I got some advice from a college professor that I frequently bring to mind when I am starting to feel overwhelmed about the uncertainty of tomorrow.  

She said, "You need to be careful not to spend so much time planning and fretting over your future that you …

Lostness

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I was talking to a friend today, who told me that he was thinking about heading off on vacation and spending a month in Canada.  

I asked him, "Why Canada?"  He replied that he wanted to get as far away as possible from the crazy political climate and endless hysterical news cycle here in the States.  

My friend wants some peace, and I can't say I blame him.  

As a pastor, I want to speak grace and peace into the anxiety and uncertainty that so many of us feel.  I want to share how I know there's a better way for us to be humans being together on this fragile spinning rock.  

I want to share that Jesus offers abundant life--eternal life that we can begin living right here and now. 

But I also know that in order for me to share this with enough passion and power to be heard over the noise of our culture, I have to fully embrace it myself---as do all of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus.  

We need to be honest with ourselves and with one another---to give up our need …

Let's Talk About Sex

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Actually, today I would like to spend some time talking about sin, but I got you to read further, didn't I?  

Some of you probably paused for a second and debated reading beyond that first line, didn't you?  And the reason you did is almost assuredly because, like me, you have some baggage when it comes to conversations about sin.  

I have my own set of baggage when it comes to these things---well travelled baggage, in fact.  And this baggage has stolen my joy more than a few times.  

I think a lot of Christians lead pretty joyless lives precisely because they have some wrong-headed notions about sin.  They were taught somewhere (in church, most likely) that sins could be defined, classified and listed so that you knew what not to do.  

And as soon as you knew what not to do, you could steer clear of those things and everything would be fine and dandy.  

But what is "sin" exactly?  Is it simply doing things that are wrong?  Committing an act that offends the Almighty?  St…