Posts

Showing posts from November, 2017

Doors

Image
I was talking to an acquaintance some time ago about an opportunity that I thought was a sure thing until it wasn't.  I was bemoaning the loss of this opportunity, when my friend offered this bit of advice: "Hey brother, when God closes one door, he opens another." 

First, I need to let everyone know that even though it sounds kind of biblical, "When God closes one door, he opens another," is a phrase that appears a total of ZERO times in the Bible.   

I did some research and it is actually more closely attributed to Alexander Graham Bell, who said "When one closes another opens," and Helen Keller, who said "When one door of happiness closes, another opens..."  

BUT I did discover a verse that talks about God and doors in the book of Revelation in my own daily Bible reading today.  Revelation 3:7-8 reads like this:  
"When [God] opens a door, no one can close it. And when [God] closes it, no one can open it... I have put an open door before…

Yearning

Image
One year ago today, Merideth and I drove into Austin, TX with our two little boys, our dog and our two cats.  

It had been a long journey to our new town.  We were moving into a house neither one of us had seen in person, enrolling our kids in schools we knew next to nothing about, and launching a ministry with a new congregation. 

We had no idea what to expect, but there between us there was a surge of joy at the adventure we'd begun.  And we knew that what had started us on our journey was a yearning to go where God would have us to go and do what God would have us to do. 

That yearning for God and us in God's will has carried us through some of the most trying times of our lives.  Even in dark moments when we've very nearly felt our faith slipping away, that yearning has sustained us, and lifted us up. 

I recently read a quote from author Josh Larsen that spoke to me profoundly.  He wrote: 

"Yearning is perhaps our truest testimony, a constant reminder to myself that ev…

Cone

Image
Our poor little dog had knee replacement surgery a little over a week ago.  The veterinarian told us that he most likely fell on it in just the wrong way to make it happen.  

So now he has to be carried up and down the stairs, and can't run or jump for six weeks.  And, to add insult to injury, he has to wear one of those big plastic cones around his head to keep him from worrying at his stitches.  

When he has his cone on, he can't see what's happening to his left and right, and has to constantly keep shifting his head back and forth as he walks in order to see where he's going.  

As I was watching our little dog navigating his restricted environment this morning, I started thinking about how limited my own perceptions are--especially when it comes to experiencing God around me.  

I think most of walk around in life as if we're wearing spiritual cones that limit our perception, and keep us focused mostly on the six inches in front of our face.  

And then we begin to bel…

Another Year Older

Image
Yesterday was my birthday, and I got to spend it doing some of the things I love the most.  I was blessed to be able to preach and spend the morning with my church family, and to be reminded once again how amazing it is to serve as their pastor.  

I also got to go on a bit of an adventure with friends and family as we continued our quest to find the very best BBQ in this part of Texas.  But mostly, I just relaxed, laughed and rested, which is kind of the best way to spend your birthday I'm thinking.  

I've learned a lot in this past year.  I would have just as soon not learned some of those lessons--especially the ones that had to do with loss and grief.  But still, it's all part of this journey I've undertaken to keep stumbling after Jesus.  

The older I've become, the more I've come to understand that possessing the willingness to be transformed by God is probably at the top of the list of requirements to follow Jesus more fully.  

But so many of us grow comforta…

The Messenger - Week 4: "Readiness"

Image
Today we're going to conclude the sermon series, "The Messenger," our study in the book of Malachi.  This series is helping us to prepare for the coming of the season of Advent.  

And guess what?  Advent begins next week. 

The word Advent means "expectation" and our expectations should be pretty high this year.  

Our expectations should be high because things have been pretty icky for a while.  There have been horrible mass shootings in America, but also around the world.  Over 250 people died this week in Egypt from an act of terrorism.  There are wars and the rumors of war.  

We could use a lift.

I'm expecting one.  I think that God is still in the miracle business.  I think that joy is coming and I choose to believe that peace is going to happen.  I also want to straight up claim some joy and some love, too.  Can I get an "Amen?" 

I want so desperately for the Church, the Body of Christ to believe the same thing--that God is still in the business of …

Attitude of Gratitude - Pt. 3

Image
All good things must come to an end---or so we have been taught to believe.

But what if I told you that there was one thing that didn't come to an end?  And that this one thing assured that all of the really good things don't have to come to an end either...  What would you say to that?

Check out this verse from the book of Lamentations in the Bible...

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

Another way to translate that verse is "his mercies--his loving-kindnesses---never come to an end... they are renewed every morning." 

What if Lamentations read something like this:  "The wrath of God never comes to an end... it is renewed every morning..." 

That doesn't sound all that awesome does it? 

If you listen to the sermons that are being preached across America today in countless churches, you would think that God is angry... that God is vengeful... that God&…

Attitude of Gratitude - Pt. 2

Image
This week as a we reflect on what it means to be filled with gratitude, we need to talk about remembering the "Ebenezers." 

The Ebenezers aren't a New Wave 80's band that dressed like characters from a Charles Dickens story.  Although, that would be cool.  

Ebenezers are literally "stones of hope."  They are stacks of stones, monuments that were erected by the ancient Hebrew people to help them remember momentous occasions when God did something incredible in their lives. 

We all have Ebenezers.  They serve as memorials that we can look back on our life and see scattered throughout our time line.  I have some Ebenezers of my own.

My wife and I were apart for five years before we got married.  I was recently divorced, which she didn't know.  She was about to be married, which I didn't know. Because of a chance meeting of an old school friend on a random night in the middle of an arena full of people we found each other again. 

I think about every job I…

Attitude of Gratitude - Pt. 1

Image
Consider this... 

The universe is expanding, and is beyond our comprehension... 

The Earth is shifting, spinning, turning, rotating, slipping, sliding... There is no universal up, no universal down, no objective stationary place of rest, no absolute viewpoint only views from a point... And the sun, which is one of those stars that we gaze so longingly at in the evening, is made of matter, but is also energy... at the same... time. 

And then there's you.  A combination of water, carbon and a few other things that stumbles around in the dark looking for a flashlight for about eighty years--if you're lucky--before you go back to being dust for other things. 

"What is man, O God, that you are mindful of him..." 

You are small.  You are dust.  You are only here for a breath of time.  And all it takes is a glance into the sky at night to be reminded of just how crazy-awesome-wonderful that all of Creation is, and how tiny, insignificant and not-that-awesome you seem to be. 

Exce…

The Messenger - Week 3: "Generosity"

Image
Today we're going to be continuing the sermon series, "The Messenger," a study in the book of Malachi.  This series is preparing us for the coming season of Advent

Today we're going to be focusing on one of the many prophetic words that the prophet Malachi offered to the people of Israel.  And in this one, the prophet really doesn't pull any punches.  

He tells the people that they have been robbing God by their lack of generosity.  And, not surprisingly, they wonder how that could possibly be...  

More on that in a bit.  

When I was a kid, I was taught that you were supposed to tithe back to God 10% of all the money you earned. So, if I earned a dollar, I owed God ten cents.  

There was a time when I would get really excited about giving my tithe. I would drop my coins into the offering plate, slowly... letting them hit and make a lot of noise.  

But the older I got, I started thinking to myself: "10% seems like a lot.  I mean, God really doesn't need my meas…

The Kingdom Within

Image
In the Gospel of Luke chapter 17, Jesus is questioned by a group of overly-religious people: 

"Jesus, grilled by the Pharisees on when the kingdom of God would come, answered, 'The kingdom of God doesn’t come by counting the days on the calendar. Nor when someone says, ‘Look here!’ or, ‘There it is!’ And why? Because God’s kingdom is already among you.'" 

Another way to translate that last line is: "Because God's kingdom is within you." 

Two things occur to me this morning:  1) It's important to understand what Jesus means by "God's kingdom, and 2) It's also important to understand why he wanted his followers to know that God's kingdom was "within" them.

Frederick Buechener described God's kingdom like this:  

"The Kingdom of God is where our best dreams come from and our truest prayers.  We glimpse it at those moments when we find ourselves being better than we are and wiser than we know." 

Another way of describi…

Turn Your When Into Now

Image
As we approach the season of Thanksgiving, I have been thinking more and more about generosity, and it's inextricable connection to following Jesus.   

Recently, I read a thirty-two year old quote from Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.  In 1985, he was being interviewed and delivered the following intensely personal revelation:

"My favorite things in life don't cost any money. It's really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.  As it is, I pay a price by not having much of a personal life." 

Jobs was notoriously driven to succeed.  He was known for working hopelessly long hours, and relentlessly pursuing perfection.  Jobs turned Apple into one of the most powerful companies in the world.  

But after all was said and done, I wonder if those words he spoke over thirty years ago came back to him when he was diagnosed with the terminal cancer that would eventually take his life.  

So many of us constantly pour ourselves into what we believe is preparation f…

Paid In Full

Image
The other day my dad took his car in for service at his local Toyota dealer.  As he sat in the waiting area, he struck up a conversation with a young woman, who was there having her car serviced as well. 

They had a warm, friendly conversation, nothing in-depth--just passing the time.  

Her car was ready before my dad's, and so she bid him farewell, and went out to pay her bill and pick it up.  A few moments later, a customer service representative came out to let my dad know his car was finished.  

"I've got some good news," he told my dad.  My dad joking replied, "Let me guess, it's all free."  The man looked at my dad quizzically, "How did you know?"  

He went on to tell my dad that the young woman had paid my dad's entire bill.  My dad was floored.  

We could only guess that the young woman might have been moved to her act of kindness because he was wearing a hat that identified him as a Vietnam veteran.  

She had no idea what kind of month …

No Fear

Image
I decided this morning to tune in to one of the cable news channels to get a bit caught up on the news of the day.  I almost immediately wished I hadn't.  

I have been shying away from the 24 hour news channels for some time--mostly because they end up depressing me, and I don't need any more negativity in my life.  

This morning, on the cable news channel I was watching, the news host was arguing with a United States Congressman, and the two men were essentially talking over one another, raising their voices and making their respective arguments unintelligible.  

Both of these people claimed that all they wanted was the truth.  The thought occurred to me as I listened to them shouting at one another that getting at the "truth" was pretty far down on their to-do list.  

What they really seemed to want to do was fire up the viewership and generate some outrage.  They were going for the lowest common denominator--playing on people's fears.  

Fear seems to be at the core…

Hope That Never Fails

Image
The last few weeks have been pretty lousy.  

The world around us seems to be going to hell in a hand basket.  

My mom died.  

A pipe broke under our house, which will cost a zillion dollars to fix. 

Our car is in need of repair.  

My oldest son's college tuition is due.  

Our dog had a freak accident and dislocated his knee cap and needs surgery.  

And on top of everything else that has been happening in my life--I caught a nasty cold.  

I should not have been surprised at this considering the fact that my two youngest kids were deathly ill last week, but I thought I'd escaped unscathed.  

Someone told me yesterday, "That sounds like a bad country song." I couldn't agree more. 

Last week, during the class I am teaching on the book of Romans, I read out loud the following verse: 

 "...we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love …

The Messenger - Week 2: Commitment

Image
Today we are continuing the sermon series "The Messenger," a series based on the Old Testament prophecies of Malachi---the last book of the Hebrew Scriptures.  

The name Malachi actually means "my messenger."  


The role of the prophet in ancient Israel was a dangerous one--especially if what you were prophesying was unpopular.  And the message that Malachi had for the Hebrew people was a hard one to hear.  


Times had become challenging for the Hebrew people, and their commitment to God had taken a hit.  The prophet calls the Hebrew people out on their lack of commitment in the second chapter of Malachi, which will be the focus of our study today.  


But first, I want to share something with you that I think might help us prepare to learn together today. 


I've learned over the years that most of my biggest regrets have been due to a lack of commitment on my part.  Let me explain.  


When I was in high school I played basketball.  Our team wasn't half bad.  We …