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Showing posts from September, 2017

Everybody Hurts

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There is a fantastically melancholy song by the band R.E.M. called "Everybody Hurts," and the lyrics go something like this:  

If you're on your own in this life/The days and nights are long/When you think you've had too much of this life to hang on/Well, everybody hurts sometimes/Everybody cries/Everybody hurts sometimes/And everybody hurts sometimes. 

It's actually a pretty uplifting song--just melancholy.  And it highlights something that is true for each and every one of us.  Everybody hurts.  Every person in here today has experienced hurt in their life--we've been wounded, let down, disappointed, betrayed... or worse. 

One of the many things we learn in the Bible is that the things of earth will one day pass away, but those things that are of God's kingdom will last forever.  

The hurts that we've experienced will not be present in the kingdom of God.  There will come a day when all things will be made right when God will wipe away all tears when th…

Regrets. We've Had A Few.

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For the next couple of days, I'm going to be writing about how we can be set free from some of the things that might be haunting us and keeping us from living an abundant life in Jesus.  

Today, we're going to spend some time talking about regret, so I thought I would share a few of my own regrets.  

I regret not buying Microsoft stock before the 90's.  I also regret not buying Apple stock before the 2000's.   

I also regret kissing this one girl when I was fifteen, who was missing a couple of teeth---a fact I didn't really notice until it was too late.

I seriously regret my hairstyles in the 80's---sort of parted down the middle and feathered on both sides.  I could go on... but I won't.  I regret saying too much already.

There is a good side of regret, according to Psychology Today magazine.  Regret can help us make sense of the world--when we see both the positive and negative implications of our actions.  

However, the same study also studied the effects of l…

Of Phones & Sabbath

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I've been thinking about the idea of Sabbath rest lately, and how it's so difficult to carve out Sabbath time in our increasingly busy and over-connected lives.  

St. Augustine once wrote, "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our soul is restless until it finds rest in you."  

In the book of Hebrews we have this bit of wisdom: 

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 

So how do we find rest in a world where it's becoming increasingly difficult to carve out space for quiet and rest---a world that is being shaped by our constant reliance on social media and technology? 

There is actually a recognized phobia that has now become widespread and totally associated with smartphone technology.  It's called Nomophobia--the fear of being away from your phone.  

For many of us, our phones are the last thing we check before we go to bed at night, just to see if …

Gut-Feelings

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In the Gospel of Mark, there is a short, odd story about how Jesus healed a man with leprosy.  

40 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” 41 Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” - Mark 1:40-41

One way of translating the phrase "Jesus was indignant" in Greek is by saying something like, "When he saw the man, it was a gut-wrenching moment for Jesus."  

Do we get angry when we see injustice, disease, poverty and evil in the world?  Do we feel for people in gut-wrenching ways when we see them lost, lonely, miserable, sick and afraid?  

Or are we too engrossed in our own lives, our own junk to notice the pain and suffering in the world around us?  Or to put it in the terms of our current culture: Are we so obsessive over what's happening in our Facebook feed that we can't even see the people who are posting on it?  

Social media has give…

God Doesn't Want You To Be Happy

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The other day I was running late, and my day was shaping up to be tougher than it needed to be.  On my way out the door, I grumpily said to my kid, "90% of life is having to do things that you don't want to do... you better get used to it."  

He just nodded and went back to playing video games.  

It's easy to equate all of the things that are inconvenient to us, that thwart our plans, make our days stressful, our lives mundane as somehow outside of God's will.  

Because God just wants me to be happy, right?

The problem with this kind of thinking is that it reduces God to a happiness slot machine.  We throw enough effort into our faith to consider whatever we've done for God as an investment, coins that we've dropped into the machine.  

And then when we pull the lever on this happiness slot machine and it doesn't work out for us, we not only feel like we might be outside of God's will, we also are tempted to wonder what the heck God is doing.  

Would it …

A Safe Place

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In a former church, I helped launch ministries and worship that were designed to attract unchurched and de-churched people.  

Most of the newcomers were young, and some were covered in tattoos and piercings.  There were a couple of single moms, a young man who had just come out as gay to his family, more than a few skeptics, and a smattering of recovering alcoholics.   

It didn't take long for some of the existing church members to begin complaining about the kinds of people who were showing up on our church campus.  

Finally, after a few weeks of listening to their various gripes, I told them that they needed to get over themselves and that the church was a hospital and not a country club.  

They got offended.  Some of them wrote me nasty emails.  One of them came to my office to harangue me about how our ministries and worship were "ruining the church."  

I was angry, I felt they should have been offended by the way they said one thing and did another--at how they claimed t…

Get In The Game

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When it comes to a life of faith, there is a difference between being in the game than being on the bench. When you're not in the game, it's easy to keep a "bench" mindset.  You can find a comfortable routine, stay in the same sort of ruts, so to speak and just be content watching other people play.  

We've all been in bench mode at one point in time or another in our faith journey.  Maybe some of us are in bench mode right now.  We're bored with church and with religion.  We're too busy to really commit.  We're too distracted by other things in our life, or maybe we're too disillusioned by religion itself to stand up and get in the game. 

Some of us have been on the bench so long we don't even know how to play.  Some of us don't even know if we're on the team. 

And most of us feel like there is no way that God would ever want us to do big important things like telling his story.  We never would suspect that God would actually want us to …

Inside Out

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When I say that faith is a "heart" rather than a "head" thing, what does that mean to you?  Which one sounds better than the other, just right off the top of your head.  What's the difference between the two?  

Here's the thing, what you tell yourself about yourself matters far less than how you act.  You can tell yourself (and others) that you are a "good person," but if you live unethically and selfishly, and exhibit hatred, judgment, prejudice, and anger throughout your life---you're actions speak much louder than anything you might be saying. 

Lots of people call themselves Christians and claim to have experienced transformation--the kind of transformation that we've been discussing this week.  But their lives, their actions, the way they conduct themselves show very little evidence that anything about them has changed.  

I know I struggle with this, too.  I have really good intentions to live congruently--to make my outside match my insi…

Belonging To Jesus

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The Greek word christianos, which means "follower of Christ" comes from the word christos which means "anointed one."  But the ending to the Greek word christianos is borrowed from the Latin to denote belonging to, as in property.   

So to say that you are a Christian is so much more than saying that you are a follower of Jesus Christ.  When you say you are a Christian you are essentially saying that you "belong to Jesus" or as Paul puts it, you are "in Christ."  

When we say that we follow or belong to Jesus, we are identifying ourselves as part of something that is far greater than we are--we are declaring that we are set apart from the ordinary.  We have no fear of the future because we are filled with unbelievable, childlike hope.  

As I mentioned yesterday, we have been emancipated from our past, and from the things that used to define us.  And we declare unequivocally that we are no longer owned by the things of this world--our allegiance is …

New

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Almost every day of my life, I do things that make me dissatisfied in myself.  I yell at my kids.  I get impatient when I am driving around slow people, when I'm waiting in line at Chipotle, when I can't do all of the things I need to in a day...  the list is pretty long.  

If we are being honest, most of us struggle to be the people we know that we should be. 

And what we tend to hear most of the time from other Christians is that we can get it all together, we can overcome our feelings of inadequacy by reading that next Christian self-help book about 13 ways to be a better parent/wife/husband/child/church member/American... or going to church more often, being more religious, trying harder, keeping more rules...  

But as Craig Groeschel writes: Religious behavior can make you nice, but it won't make you new.  

As Christians we say we believe that following Jesus makes you new.  You can be a new creation. Like the Apostle Paul said, "the old has gone, the new has come.&q…

The Creed - Week Five: The Forgiveness Of Sins

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I was five years old when I learned a valuable lesson about confession and forgiveness--a lesson I have never forgotten to this day. 

Can I tell you that at five years old, I was a straight up theologian?  

Seriously.  By the time I was five I had heard scores of sermons, endured countless altar calls in the little Baptist church we attended, and because of this I knew one unalterable fact:  If I sincerely asked God to forgive me---no matter what I had done---God would forgive me.  

So on that fateful day in the grocery store when I was--to coin a very Southern term--acting a fool, and my mom, who is the most patient human being on the planet told me I was getting a whooping when I got home... I decided that the only thing left to me was to bring it to God. 

I found a spot by a stack of canned beans and started to pray.  The fact that I can recall that I was praying by a stack of canned beans is beyond me.  Of all of the details of things I can't remember about yesterday---I can remem…

Just Like Riding A Bike

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My littlest boy just turned seven and received a "big boy" bike for his birthday.  

His new bike sits a little higher, brakes differently and is a bit harder for him to handle than his old bike.  Still, every day he rides he gains more skills, and becomes more and more confident.

But I have noticed that when he encounters atypical circumstances--a hard turn, a sudden drop, a steep hill--he tends to lose that confidence and overcompensates by sticking his leg out to stop, turning too hard, or any number of things that result in a spill, and occasionally some frustrated tears.  

What I know that he doesn't is that at some point he'll become adept enough at riding that he won't be moving out in front of his skill.  

This realization got me thinking about how so many of us often find ourselves in circumstances that invite us to move ahead in our faith into unfamiliar territories and new paths--sometimes beyond our comfortable beliefs and traditions.

Oswald Chambers once w…

Rescued

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Yesterday I was listening to a news story about an American couple who were vacationing on the island of  St. Maarten when Hurricane Irma made landfall.  They spoke of their harrowing ordeal, the destruction of their hotel, and eventually their rescue.  

Think about what it means to be rescued.  Here, maybe this will help... think about the greatest rescue movies of all time. What would be on your list?  Here's a short list of mine:

1. Schindler's List - I mean come on, this has to be number one.
2. Black Hawk Down - more than just a guy flick
3. Last of the Mohicans - "whatever shall occur... I will find you!"
4. The Searchers - classic John Wayne movie
5. Taken - Liam Neeson comes for his daughter and kills everyone else
6. Castaway - Tom Hanks & Wilson traverse the ocean
7. Rambo I, II, III, IV, Whatever 

Every one of these movies taps into something that is at the heart of each of us---when we are in trouble, when the way forward isn't clear, we want to know that …

Habits Is As Habits Does

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It takes discipline to achieve the things we long for in life--to be the people we want to be.  And discipline is nothing more than developing the right kinds of habits. 

This is the point where some of us check out. We hear the word discipline and we think all kinds of things--most of them bad.  

When I was in second grade I got paddled in school just about every day for a period of a month or so.  It seems I couldn't remember to pick up the proper folder from my cubby when we changed subjects in the classroom.  When you forgot your folder you got a mark on the board.  After a few marks on the board you got a paddling.  When I think of discipline, that's what I tend to think about, so I get it.

We might believe that we aren't disciplined enough to effect transformation in our lives, but we always do what is important to us.  We will develop habits around these values---and we become what we repeatedly do. 
But true discipline--the kind that matters, the kind that can truly ch…

More Than Words

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One of the many things I struggle with in my journey of stumbling after Jesus is the way I often use words to tear down rather than to build up.  

In Proverbs 18:21 we have the following incredibly wise saying from Solomon, the wisest man in the Bible:  "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love to talk will reap its consequences..." 

The things we say have the power to give life or to take it.  When we speak we can speak life---or we can speak death.  We can produce good, life-giving, beautiful things with our words---or we can produce evil, death-dealing, ugly things. 

Thoughts become words.  Words become actions.  Our thoughts can become words that produce actions that not only shape our lives, but the very world around us... 

As Pastor Craig Groeschel writes, if you want to change the life you have---you have to change the words you speak.  Small changes in the words we speak can make a big difference in the life we live.  

How we speak of things has the …

God Draws You Close

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Sixteen years ago today, on September 11, 2001, the world was forever changed by an unspeakable act of terrorism and violence.  

I remember parts of that day clearly, but most of my memories are less about the details of the day, and more about how I felt in the moment.  The feelings of disbelief and horror... the sorrow and loss... it was all overwhelming.  

At some point during that morning, my wife Merideth and I decided that we needed to get my son from school.  He was six years old at the time--a first grader.  I don't really remember how we decided it, but it felt right to get him out of class and take him home with us.  

When the world feels like its falling apart, you want your loved ones close to you--particularly your children, no matter how old they are.  

When the winds of Hurricane Harvey began to howl through Texas, I took a lot of comfort in knowing that all my boys were under one roof together with us.  My greatest desire was to have them close when the storm came.  

La…

The Creed: Week Four - "The Church & Communion of The Saints"

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This is our fourth installment of the sermon series, "The Creed" a series focused on the basics of Christian belief as outlined in the Apostles Creed, the oldest statement of faith in the Christian tradition.  

Today we're going to be focused on the part of the Creed that speaks of our belief in the Church.  But before we dive into that, let me take you on a quick trip down my memorly lane---the church version.  

The first church I remember attending when I was a kid was the Fairfield Road Baptist Church in Greenville, SC.  Here is a photo of it: 



This tiny little church was where I first learned what it meant to be part of a church family.  I knew everyone and everyone knew me.  

I remember sitting on hard wooden pews, smelling that old musty church smell, walking super slow to the bathroom in the middle of the service to try to make the one visit I was allowed last as long as I could.  

When I was a teenager I attended the Calvary Baptist Church in Winter Garden Florida.  I…