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Showing posts from April, 2018

The Good You Do

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As part of my daily reading this morning, I happened upon a short testimonial by a pastor, who declared that Mondays "were the worst."  
This pastor confessed that on Mondays, he would wonder how his sermon had been received, what he could have done better, how the worship service could have been improved, etc.  Then he would move on to whether anything he had done had made any difference at all.  

"The tricky part," he declared, "is that more often than not, the results of our efforts are not visible." 

I have to admit, there are some Mondays when I find myself wondering the same things as that pastor.  And while most of it is a desire on my part to develop better skills, sometimes self-doubt creeps its way into the mix. 

But then again, pastors don't have a corner on the market on wondering whether their efforts to do good and change lives are having an effect or not.  All of us deal with this to some extent.  

Let's face it, much of the good that we…

Speak Now - Week Four: "This Is Love"

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Today is the Fourth Sunday of the Season of Easter, and it's also is the fourth installment of our sermon series on the New Testament book of 1 John entitled "Speak Now."

Throughout this study, we'll be focusing on what it means to not only follow Jesus but also how to speak about our faith in life-giving ways.

As we identified last week, the problem that we have in our culture right now is that when someone says "I am a Christian," it's hard to tell exactly what that means.  So many people in our culture have negative feelings about Christians and what they believe Christians stand for. 

And the reasons they have these negative feelings is because the people who are speaking the loudest in our culture about what it means to be a Christian have completely lost the plot.  My hope is that this series will help give us the tools and the empowerment we need to speak up in love about what Jesus has done for us. 

Last week we learned that what we do reveals more …

(Holy) Workin' For A Living

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There's a strange notion that many people have when it comes to what they consider "spiritual" activities as opposed to "non-spiritual."  This contrast has also been described as the difference between what is "secular" and what is "sacred."  

For example, going to church has often been classified as a "spiritual" or "sacred" activity, whereas meeting friends for dinner at the pub is described as "secular."  

Some people might take this farther and extend the descriptions to vocation.  Being a pastor, for instance, is considered by many people to be a sacred vocation, whereas being a businessperson is considered a secular one.  

I can't tell you how many times I've had conversations with people about their life of faith and they will say things to me like, "Well, I'm just a banker, not a pastor..." or "I'm only a stay at home mom, not a minister..."  

The great Christian mystic Th…

Knowing Me, Knowing You

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Yesterday I wrote about silences, and the rhythms they create in the song that is being sung over us by God.  I felt like I had stumbled upon an important and life-giving truth.  

And then today the majority of my devotional and Scripture readings, the music I'm listening to, the poems I've read... they all speak of God's presence, and the depth of meaning behind God's silence. 

I suppose you could call it a coincidence, but I'm going to choose not to dishonor the beauty of this feeling by relegating it to the realms of chance.  

Instead, I prefer to think of it as God's sly and loving way of telling me I am known.  

I also prefer to see this a grace-filled invitation for me to embrace my uncertainty with confidence--the kind of confidence that comes when I surrender all my outcomes to the One who is the center of all things. 

Bob Goff writes,  "What a shame it would be if we were waiting for God to say something while He's been waiting on us to do somethin…

Enjoy The Silence

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I'm having one of those days when it feels like I have a lot more questions than answers when it comes to God.  

My training and education tell me that I am processing loss--struggling through it, searching for answers.  I've read the books and taken the classes on all of this--six years worth of higher level learning.  

But then again, nothing teaches like experience.  

I've had my fair share of shouting matches with God over the years.  In a strange way, I feel like God likes it when we get angry and mix it up with God.  Maybe it's just me, but I've always felt heard after one of my angry tirades with the Almighty.  

Over the past few months, however, I have found that I can't seem to summon the energy to be truly angry or to lament to God about my struggles.  I started to feel like the answers weren't going to come--at least not in the way I wanted them.  

I felt like God had gone silent on the topic of my grief and sadness.  I felt like God wasn't speaki…

His Eye Is On The Sparrow

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This morning my wife and I were sitting outside enjoying the crisp Spring air---at the outset of what is shaping up to be a beautiful day here in the Hill Country of Texas.  

We have a variety of birdhouses and birdfeeders in our backyard, scattered among terraced flower beds, and rose bushes.  One of those houses has become the home for a family of sparrows.  

While we sat and watched this morning, the mother sparrow would fly from the birdhouse and then return minutes later to feed her babies.  As soon as she would perch on the outside of the house, we could hear the little sparrows begin to cheep in unison.  

The mother went back and forth, tirelessly.  Never stopping.  It was a beautiful rhythm.  I felt like I could sit and watch her forever.  

As I sat there, I couldn't help but recall Jesus' words of comfort to his disciples when he said, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care." (Matthew 10:29)

Up Close And Personal

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Sometimes things look a lot more put together and beautiful from farther away.  

From a distance, the basket of flowers on my front porch look dazzling and perfect, but when I move in and inspect them from a few inches away, I can see the blemishes on the petals, and the individual flowers that have begun to brown.  

The closer I get, the more I am able to see them as they really are.  

It's then that I have a choice to make.  I can choose to remain close and aware of their blemishes and find beauty in them anyway, or I can keep my distance and maintain an unmarried (and incomplete) view of them.  

The poet Mary Oliver wrote of this choice in her poem "The Ponds." She acknowledges that close proximity brings a more intimate relationship, but it's sometimes tempting to simply hold the world at arm's length.  

Still what I want in my lifeis to be willing to be dazzled--to cast aside the weight of factsand maybe evento float a little above this difficult world. 
I think t…

Speak Now - Week 3: "Let Us Not Love With Words"

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Today is the Fourth Sunday of the Season of Easter, and it's also is the third installment of our sermon series on the New Testament book of 1 John entitled "Speak Now."

Throughout this study, we'll be focusing on what it means to not only follow Jesus but also how to speak about our faith in life-giving ways.

As we identified last week, the problem that we have in our culture right now is that when someone says "I am a Christian," it's hard to tell exactly what that means.  So many people in our culture have negative feelings about Christians and what they believe Christians stand for. 

And the reasons they have these negative feelings is because the people who are speaking the loudest in our culture about what it means to be a Christian have completely lost the plot.  My hope is that this series will help give us the tools and the empowerment we need to speak up in love about what Jesus has done for us. 

Last week we learned that the definition of a Chris…

Something There Is That Doesn't Love A Wall

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I spent the last three days of this week honing my leadership skills and learning some new ones with a group of lead pastors from around the country (and one from Canada).  

I was the only Presbyterian in a room full of non-denominational, Pentecostal and Baptist leaders, which was a bit outside of my comfort zone.  

Whatever our theological differences might have been, however, we didn't dwell on them.  Every single one of us in the room was after the same thing: We wanted to be better pastors and leaders--for the purpose of sharing the Good News with a world that needs to hear a word of hope.  

Every so often I find myself grieving over the seemingly hopeless divisions between Christian groups, churches, and denominations.  And sometimes my grief turns to anger, and my anger leads me to create barriers.  

The walls that have been up between Christians have done very little to advance the kingdom of God, which was the focus of Jesus life and ministry, and the task he gave to his foll…

Forgiving As You Have Been Forgiven

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Years ago, I had a conflict with a church member and youth group volunteer who was spreading lies about me both in the church and in our community.  When the truth came out, and she knew that she had been exposed, she never returned to the church.  

For several months, I did my best to try to arrange meetings, sent her emails, called and left voice messages on her phone and even sent her a written letter pleading with her to speak with me so we could be reconciled.  She never responded.  

I eventually grew angry at her and stayed angry for a long time.  She'd done a lot of damage to my ministry and had done her best to divide our church.  Further, because of her unwillingness to work it out, the bad feelings between us simply festered.  

I don't remember when exactly, but I eventually found myself feeling sorry for her.  Because of her shame over being caught in a lie, she'd lost her church family, her community support, and the ministry she loved.  

Bob Goff recently wrote, &…

Hearing What You Need To Hear

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On March 10, 1983, MTV played the video for Michael Jackson's "Bille Jean" for the first time.  

Up until that time, MTV executives refused to play the video because they claimed the fledgling music video channel was dedicated to "rock-n-roll."   They only agreed to air the video after the president of CBS Records to pull all of his artists from the channel if they didn't do it.  

Before it aired "Billie Jean," MTV was on its way to bankruptcy.  It had lost $50 million and was projected to lose even more.  Michael Jackson's next three videos off of his Thriller album saved the channel and helped it turn a profit just a year later.  

The problem was, MTV execs had surrounded themselves with people who had the same tastes in music as they did---a move that created an echo chamber where they were only hearing from people who agreed with them.  

Far too many Christians today seem to be doing the very same thing as those MTV execs did.  

We'll spend…

God Right Here

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Some years ago, I asked the students in a confirmation class I was teaching if they would attempt to draw a picture of what they thought God might look like.  

Several of the students sketched a portrait of an old man with a long white beard.  Others toyed with the idea of God as a flash of light.  A couple of students drew ancient symbols of the Trinity.  And a handful of others simply left their pages blank.  

What do you picture, when you try to conjure up images of God in your imagination?  

If you're like most people who believe in God, you probably imagine God much like those students did.  And I would also wager that you tend to think of God as being "somewhere else" looking down upon us.  

Richard Rohr once wrote, "The belief that God is "out there" is the basic dualism that is tearing us all apart." The idea that God is somehow above and unconnected to our material reality is a destructive notion.  It affects the way we treat the earth, our bodie…

The Face and Heart of God

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Just giving people commandments on tablets and stone doesn't change the heart. It may steel the will, but it doesn't soften the heart like a personal encounter can. 
 - Richard Rohr 

Some years ago, when I was working on my Master's degree at Florida State University, I was walking with some fellow students through one common of the many areas on campus when we encountered a street evangelist, who had attracted a crowd. 
The evangelist's name was "Brother Jed," a loud and obnoxious self-appointed preacher, who makes a career out of protesting on college campuses all over the United States.   
Jed's modus operandi is to say as many offensive, bigoted and hateful things as possible in order to start arguments with people, which he then records on video to post on his website.  
In short, Brother Jed is a jerk.  
On this particular day, Brother Jed had a huge sign that was using the word "gay" as an acronym to spell this unbelievably horrible sentence, &…