Showing posts from June, 2017

How Dare They Drive On My Road

The other day I was trying to leave the parking lot of a shopping center during rush hour, and get turned around in the right direction for home.  
This meant that I was going to have to navigate my way to a narrow median, and then wait for a break in traffic before flooring it to get into the desired lane. Suddenly, I saw my moment--things were going to work out perfectly with the oncoming cars moving just in the right sequence. 
Everything was perfect until one of the drivers decided to make a turn, and the whole sequence fell apart.  
"Aaaaghhh!" I exclaimed.  My wife Merideth sat quietly for a second and then asked, "Did you seriously just get mad at the person for making a turn?"  "Yes!" I exclaimed, "They messed up my whole plan!"  "You're ridiculous," she told me.  I knew she was right, but I didn't admit it.  
Until now, that is.  
In one of my readings this morning for my own daily devotions, I ran across a quote from the R…

A Few Words About Circumcision

Today's Daily Devo is going to take a sharp left turn right out of the gate.  Buckle up. 

"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value."  
- Galatians 5:6a

Nothing like starting your day off with an awesome and inspiring verse about circumcision, am I right? 

This verse was part of a letter sent to a first-century church in Galatia (in modern day Turkey) by the Apostle Paul. 

Paul was responding to some critics of his, who had showed up at the Galatian church and began telling them that everything Paul had taught them about what it meant to be a follower of Jesus was wrong.  

These critics taught that the only true way to be a follower of Jesus was to convert to Judaism, which meant that you had to keep the 613 laws that are found in the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures), and you had to be... circumcised. 

Paul believed that keeping laws and being circumcised didn't make you a follower of Jesus.  If that was your thing (if y…

Today's Devo Is Late

I am late getting my devotion done today.  

My wife and I got up early and took my youngest son and his friend to camp all the way on the north side of Austin.  

Then we had a coffee meeting with some potential ministry partners, followed by an impromptu meeting to talk and dream about improvements to our church campus--improvements that would expand our ability to do ministry and help people grow in faith.

It was a busy morning.  

I wondered what I would write about today--considering I was feeling a bit guilty for putting all those other things ahead of my regular schedule of thinking and writing early in the morning.  

And then it occurred to me...  I was beating myself up for not completing an important task.  The reason I hadn't completed it, however, was because I was doing equally, if not more important tasks instead.  

But here was the problem:  I was diminishing the value and importance of those tasks because they somehow didn't seem to measure up to the "special-ness&…

When Jesus Wrecks Your Life

The other day I had a conversation with a church member, who told me that she had become hopelessly convicted to do something to help refugees.  She told me that she had begun to feel "uncomfortable" about her feelings, and that she couldn't shake them.  

She told me, "I really feel like this is something that Jesus wants me to do."  

I replied, "That pesky Jesus... always showing up and wrecking our lives."  We laughed, but not the kind of laugh that you would laugh at a joke or a video of someone falling into a pool.  It was a knowing laugh, tinged with a bit of trepidation.  

It was the kind of laugh that you laugh when you are about to jump off the side of a cliff into a lake or a river.  Even if you are scared out of your mind, you can hear yourself giggling madly in those moments right before you step off the edge.  

So, my church member and I laughed together about how Jesus was messing with her, and I think we both knew that things were probably g…

From 10:30 To Half Past Midnight

In 1654, the famed mathematician, Blaise Pascal had a profoundly mystical, and spiritually uplifting experience one night from 10:30PM until 12:30AM.  How do we know this?  He wrote it down on a piece of paper that he later sewed into the lining of his coat.  

We can only surmise that the reason he did this was to preserve it and keep it somewhere close to his heart.  It was only after his death that the paper with his words from that night were discovered.  

His note began: "The Year of grace 1654... From about ten-thirty in the evening to about half an hour after Midnight... Fire."  

Pascal continued his note by writing: "I separated myself from [Jesus]; I fled him, renounced him, Crucified him. May I never be separated from him!" 

And then finally this: "Total submission to Jesus Christ and to my director. Eternally in joy for a day of trial on earth."

I imagine Pascal sitting at a small seventeenth-century wooden desk, feverishly writing this all down with…

Presbytery Sermon

My wife and I have known each other since we were 13 years old.  We dated all through high school and were together until a bad breakup our freshman year of college.  

That breakup lasted five years.  We were still in love with each other, but had traveled life for so long apart that the idea that we might one day travel together wasn't even a possibility in our minds.

But all that changed one night that probably should have never happened.

My wife decided to try to call me on a whim, but she didn't know where I lived or what I was doing.  And she didn't have a number for me.  It was the five year reunion of our high school graduating class that year, and she had heard that I wasn't doing all that well in life.

So she called my mom.

Of course my mom gave her my phone number, and she called me that night.  I just so happened to be home alone when she called.  We had one of those old fashioned answering machines that had cassette tapes, and that you could listen to the voice …

In The Beginning - Week Two: "Creation Pt. 2"

This week we are continuing our sermon series entitled "In The Beginning" a study of the first few chapters of Genesis and the story of Creation.  

Before we get started today, I need everyone to do me a favor and draw something. You have paper in front of you, so pick it up and take just a few moments and draw the first thing that comes to mind. 

I'll wait. 

Now that you've had a chance to sketch something--share it with the person next to you.  
Now I want you to look at your neighbors sketch, and say the following with some measure of enthusiasm:  "I don't know if it's art, but I like it!"

Why did we just do that?  

Because I have a point I need to make, and I needed you to connect with your inner kindergartner, which is how some of you felt right then as you tried to draw.  Some years ago, I conducted a scientific poll of a group of kindergartners.  I asked a whole group of them this question:  How many of you are artists?

Guess how many of them raised…

Ending the Cycle

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

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

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

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

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"

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 …