Showing posts from July, 2017

A Few Words About The Spirit - Pt. 6

Today we are going to conclude this week's study on the Holy Spirit through our Daily Devos.  

In the Jewish tradition there are literally prayers for all aspects of life--because, according to the ancient rabbis, being open to God requires a shift in your understanding about what is sacred and what is "profane"---another word for what is seemingly earthy and not holy. 

In fact there is a very old "privy" prayer that is meant to be prayed after you have finished doing your business in the privy, which is the old English word for bathroom.   

Listen to this from Rabbi Abayei:
"Abayei said, when one comes out of a privy he should say: Blessed is He who has formed man in wisdom and created in him many orifices and many cavities. It is obvious and known before Your throne of glory that if one of them were to be ruptured or one of them blocked, it would be impossible for a man to survive and stand before You. Blessed are You that heals all flesh and does wonders.&q…

A Few Words About The Spirit - Pt. 5

Today we are continuing our series in the Daily Devos about the Holy Spirit. 

As you recall from earlier this week--we are constantly exchanging the atoms that make us us with one another and everything else.  Energy is flowing around us, in us and through us all of the time.  And to think that we aren't affected by this billions-of-atoms-a-second energy exchange is ludicrous. 

So there's all of this energy flowing back and forth between us--energy that bears the very DNA of a God who is not far away in his holy temple tuning in occasionally to hear our puny prayers.  This God is here, present, flowing through us in what Christians call the Holy Spirit.  And I believe this God is speaking, laughing, guiding, whispering and creating in the midst of all of it. 

When we read about the way Jesus always seemed to be speaking to God, sharing something special with God, maintaining an open channel, so to speak with God... it makes you wonder if this was exactly what Jesus was trying to …

A Few Thoughts About the Spirit - Pt. 4

Today we'll be continuing our exploration of the Holy Spirit of God through the Daily Devos. 

I went on a cruise to Alaska a few years ago.  While on the cruise my wife and I joined some new friends for an evening of karaoke and drinks.  Actually drinks and then karaoke.  Trust me, the order is important.

For the final number my friend Stuart was asked by the DJ to come up and sing Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive."  As the first strands of the song played over the speakers, every woman in the crowd it seemed was on her feet singing along, "At first I was afraid, I was petrified...." 

And then they came to the dance floor.  Young women in the twenties.  Teenagers.  Single moms.  Middle-aged women in super high heels.  An elegant woman in her mid-seventies.  Two lesbian couples.  A couple of old ladies who couldn't walk very well...

And Stuart. 

They sang at the top of their lungs.  In unison.  Triumphant, proud, hopeful and full of unbelievable joy. 

It was on…

A Few Thoughts About The Spirit - Pt. 3

Today we're going to be continuing a short Daily Devo series on the Holy Spirit of God.  

Some years ago, I remember having a conversation with a young woman who told me that she had come to point in her life where she knew she believed in God, and that this belief had ultimately led her to experience Jesus. She said that "there is just too much good in the world for this not to be true...."

The first time I heard a sermon on grace was when I was twenty four years old in a Presbyterian church in Ocoee, Florida.  I can't remember exactly what the pastor preached, but I couldn't stop crying.  I'd been an agnostic for some time.  I was bitter.  I had spent years trying to fulfill the longings of my heart by appeasing one god or another. 

And I thought that the God I had learned about in Sunday school was angry and required negotiations.  There wasn't anything imminent about that God, and by imminent, I mean up close, personal, and real.  

But then there I was he…

A Few Thoughts About The Spirit - Pt. 2

For today's Daily Devo, we're going to continue thinking about the Spirit of God, and how the Spirit of God works in and through us.  

I believe that the Spirit of God within us creates a longing to connect not just with other people, but with God, who knows us better than we know ourselves. 

We long to know and to be known.  We long to truly feel.  To not give in to the despair that comes from the resignation that this is all there is, and there is no Creator or Designer, no plan or purpose. 

Because when we resign ourselves to this--even slightly--we end up trying to fulfill our longings with other things, other feelings or even what some might call other "gods." 

But when those longings are met for real. We know it.  When we realize (sometimes surprisingly) that there really is a God, and that God is actually connected to us.  It draws out emotions, feelings we didn't know we had. 

And when we respond to these emotions we often sing... or pray... or weep... or stan…

Created For A Purpose - Week 1: "Armor"

Today we're going to be launching a brand new sermon series entitled Created For A Purpose: God's Great Plan For Your Life

What does it mean to be "created for a purpose?" 

In our culture, discovering your purpose is a billions dollar industry.  I did a quick search for the wealthiest self-help gurus in America today and there were at least a dozen who made $15 million or more a year---giving people advice on how to discover their purpose. 

Here's a sample of the kind of advice that landed some of these gurus on that list: 

Write down your values every six months.  Compare them to the ones you wrote down six months ago.  And... And... create a personal purpose statement.  

Passion + Action = A Purposeful Life.  

Get out of your personal bubble.  Stretch yourself.  

If you want to be be successful.  Do successful things.  

I am not making this up.  You can take your pick from a plethora of people who are coming up with stuff like this---and people are basically telling th…

A Few Thoughts About The Spirit Pt. 1

I want to spend some time over the next several Daily Devos talking about the Holy Spirit of God. 

Because one of the great mysteries that Christians struggle to understand who/what the Holy Spirit is, and the way the Holy Spirit of God moves, calls, guides, convicts and teaches us.  

I'll begin by talking about atoms, energy and the Holy Spirit.  First, lets talk about atoms.  
In simple terms, we are made of atoms and other assorted sub atomic things that are constantly in flux.  We give off energy, and we receive energy from the people and things around us.  

So here we are, exchanging atoms (energy, if you will) with each other in ways that are hard to describe and almost impossible to imagine---and yet it's happening. 

We give off energy.  And we receive it. All of the time. 

This is why when we are sitting down to dinner with friends and the food is good and there is laughter in the air, and everyone is just full of joy and anticipation---you feel something.

This is why when yo…

Would You Pray For The President?

I saw a photo today in my Facebook feed of a bunch of evangelical Christian pastors and church leaders laying hands on President Trump in the White House as they prayed for him.  

Out of curiosity, I glanced at some of the comments to the photo, left by scores of people who saw it and interpreted it in a variety of ways.  Not surprisingly, the reactions ranged from gushing approval to absolute revulsion.  

I have to confess that I'm pretty cynical about White House photo opportunities. White House photos are worth a thousand words, and they can easily be used to manipulate, distract or pander.  

I'm also not all that keen on the ways that politicians try to co-opt Jesus for their particular agendas.  And, since we're being honest, I'm not at all a fan of Christian leaders who use their proximity to power for their own benefit---whatever their political bent. 

But the photo prompted me to ask myself a question:  If I was invited, would I go and pray for the President?  The …

Sometimes God Makes A Window

I read once that the great architects are always intentional about the placement of windows in the buildings they design, but not always for the reasons you might think. 

Designers ultimately want to create experiences, and sometimes a wall of windows looking out over a beautiful view might seem like a way to do just that.  But when a view is discreetly framed, it can enhance the experience by narrowing the focus. 

You see, a broader view through lots of windows might give you more of what you think you want, but it also might distract you from what really matters, and your experience would be diminished.  

Urban designer Matthew Fredrick writes, "As a designer, work to carefully shape, size and place windows such that they are specific to the views and experiences they address." 

Fredrick's quote got me thinking about recent conversations I have been having with friends and church members about the problem of pain.  

When things are not going well, when we're experiencin…

Pure Imagination

I was having a conversation with a young friend yesterday about discovering God's plans for your life, and how messy that process can be at times.  

I told him that almost exactly a year ago, I was standing in the kitchen of my newly renovated "dream" home, in Florida, reflecting on the vibrant ministry I was leading and how my life just seemed to be in a wonderful groove.  On that day, I remember telling my wife the following:  

"I can't think of anything that would get me to leave this---it would have to be something pretty special."  

I feel like God was listening in as I said that, and then responded by saying, "Challenge accepted, my friend!"  

Only one year after that moment in the kitchen, I find myself living halfway across the country in a community I have come to fiercely love, and serving in a church that is growing and thriving in incredible ways. 

I would have never imagined that kind of plot twist.  

Consider this... 

Twelve years ago today…

Finding A New Sabbath Rhythm

Yesterday, after church and lunch I had an appointment to get my hair cut and beard trimmed. On my way home, I decided to stop off at the grocery store to pick up a few things before I went home. I know what you're thinking:  Pretty exciting stuff, right?  

It's true, these activities in and of themselves are not all that interesting.  But thirty years ago, they would have been almost impossible to have done on a Sunday.  

I'm typically not the guy who pulls the "back-when-I-was-a-kid" card, but I'm about to do just that. 

When I was a kid, grocery stores were closed on Sundays, and you sure as heck wouldn't have been able to find a barbershop open to get a hair cut.  If you were lucky, there might be some gas stations still doing business, and maybe a convenience store, but not much else. 

As much as I love the convenience of being able to get so many things done on a Sunday afternoon, there was a different rhythm to life back then---no denying it.  But the …

In The Beginning - Part 4: "Falling Upward"

This week I'll be concluding the sermon series, "In The Beginning" the Story of Creation. Over the past several weeks we have been thinking together about the implications of our being created by a creative and loving God... What it means to be created in God's image, to be created to care for the Creation that cares for us...  

Today we are going to be journeying into Genesis chapter 3--the chapter where it feels like everything starts to fall apart in the Creation story.  

When I was a kid, this part of the story was often referred to as "The Fall," or the moment when "Original Sin" entered into the world.  It's also the part of the story where lots of misguided theologians have done real violence to the Gospel by blaming women, and reading all kinds of things into the text that aren't there. 

What I want to focus on, however, is a bit different.  The one thing I want us to hold on to as learn together today is simply this: 

"The story …