Showing posts from August, 2019

(Holy) Workin' For A Livin'

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…

Maybe You've Done Enough

This one is from the archives, but it fits with what I've been preaching about lately, and I thought it would be good to run it again: 

I have a confession I'd like to make in today's Daily Devo: I have a hard time asking for help.  

At some point in my life I fully embraced the old adage that "If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself."  

Recently, I've been spending a lot of time studying the Enneagram--a system of understanding the human psyche that can be traced back to the 4th century.  

I'm a "3" in the Enneagram, which means that my resistance to asking for help is pretty high.  

The truth is, in the case of Enneagram "3s" that old adage should be "If you want something done the way that you want it done, you will most likely do it yourself, especially if you don't want to appear like you're not capable."

When it comes to matters of faith, however, what is true for the "3" is also true fo…

Holy Interruptions

When I was a kid, the faith communities that we were a part of were obsessed with "end times" theology.  

Among the people in the various churches we attended over the years, there was always endless speculation about what was commonly referred to as "The Second Coming of Jesus."

I also remember hearing more than my fair share of sermons about what was going to happen when "Jesus came back."  And brother, it wasn't good.  Especially if you "unsaved."  

There was this passage of Scripture that the preachers in my churches would often quote Jesus from the book of Mark:  
"Be awake. Be alert... You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning."  I used to lay awake at night praying to God not to let Jesus come back.  I was terrified that I would be on the outside looking in if he did return.   Those verses seemed full of judgment and anger.  

But Jesus wasn'…

There Is No Fear In Bike Riding

Today is the first day of school in our community, and my wife and I just saw our littlest boy off to his first day of 3rd grade. 

We took the obligatory "first day of school" photo and then he mounted his brand new bike, pulled on his sparkling new bike helmet and rode off down the street with a friend. 

It wasn't that long ago when he was frightened to ride to school on his own.  Now he pedals away with the confidence born of repetition, and familiarity. 

He's learned that his neighborhood is a safe place for him to ride.  Neighbors wave at him when he sails past them.  The little girl across the street calls him by name.  

It's hard to be afraid of what you know.  

I read something this morning that got me thinking about how fear affects us.  The great Christian mystic Anthony de Mello once said this:  
And there's not a single evil in the world that you cannot trace to fear.  Not one.  Ignorance and fear, ignorance caused by fear, that's where all the evil…

If You Are Looking For A Sign, This Is It

It is wonderful what you can do when you have to. - C. S. Lewis

Three years ago this month, I was at a crossroads.  I was facing one of the biggest decisions of my life, and I didn't know which path to choose.  I began to pray for a sign from God, mostly out of desperation and without any real hope of finding one.  

I got the sign that I was asking for, by the way.  It came in a miraculous-can't-be-explained kind of way.  But despite the miraculous nature of the sign I'd prayed for, I then found myself struggling to believe it.  

This morning, I felt a bit inspired to share the story a bit differently--so here's my attempt at a poem:   
I prayed for a sign to help me decide which way to go. 
And God, in God's infinite capacity for humor
Painted a really big one, and stuck it in a church
Six thousand miles from where I first prayed--waiting to be found.  
And I did find it.  After boarding a plane, flying for hours
Booking a cottage, renting a car, traveling for miles,
and th…

Made For Mondays: Week One - "A Theology of Work"

Today we are launching a brand new three-part sermon series entitled Made for Mondays.  Our Mondays have more meaning than we may give them credit.

Whether you’re in the marketplace, in the school, or in the home, God takes great joy in work done well. Together we will discover what it looks like to go from simply working a job to glorifying God with all you do.

What would it look like to go from simply working, to glorifying God with all you do?

Today we're going to be focusing on this one big idea:  Work done well lasts forever.  
It doesn't matter what kind of work you are doing--or where you are doing it.  Work done well lasts forever.  But before we dig further into this big idea, let me ask you a question: 
What is the worst job you've ever had? 
My worst job involved a Love Boat costume.  
Seriously.  I had a job for about a month where I was a supervisor for a hotel valet parking team.  After I went through the training, they handed my uniform, which was a stiff white shi…

Darkness Exists To Make Light Truly Count

In a couple of months, it will be two years since my mom passed away.  There are days when it seems like it was yesterday, but most of the time it feels as though she left us a long time ago.  

A lot of things have changed since she died.  My kids have grown.  We added a daughter-in-law to the mix.  Holidays have come and gone with new rhythms and traditions.  Our family was forced to adjust to the blank space that was created when she was no longer with us.  

I was feeling sad about it all the other day, and I recalled a song that had been important to me when I was reeling with grief.  

The song by Ryan O'Neal was written to a young man who had just lost his mother, and the singer is trying to help him find meaning in it all.  Here are the lyrics that I remember being so impactful: 
Maybe your light is the seed
And the darkness the dirt
In spite of the uneven odds
Beauty lifts from the earth
From the earth
You're much too young now
So I write these words down,
"Darkness exists to …

Made New

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 drivers, 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.&…

Does God Hear You?

Our words are feathers that fly on our breath. Let them go in a holy direction. - Jeanne Lohmann

Recently, my littlest boy Jacob was essentially an only child for an entire week.  His oldest brother moved to Chicago, and my middle son was on a youth trip.  

I've noticed that when his brothers aren't around, Jacob wants to talk more and share more about what he's thinking.  This translates into some fairly diverse conversations about things that happened at his day camp, a new video game he loves to play, Minecraft and much more. 

I've also noticed a bit of a pattern with him.  Jacob will chatter away for a while, and then will pause to make sure that I'm listening.  I completely understand why he does it.  He wants to know that I care about what he cares about to some extent, but deeper still he wants to know that I care about him.

We all have the same longings when it comes to our conversations with others.  We want to be heard when we're speaking our truths, reve…

Tingling Ears

I think over the course of my lifetime I've read the story of the call of Samuel the prophet from the Hebrew Scriptures at least two dozen times or more, but I saw something new when I read it today.  

As a young child, Samuel had a nighttime vision/encounter with God where God spoke to him and gave him a prophecy to relate to the high priest.  The translation of that prophecy that I read today goes something like this: 
And the Lord said to Samuel:  "See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle."  - I Samuel 3:11God shares with Samuel that what God is about to do will be spoken of, and the power of those descriptions of God's actions will tingle the ears of those who hear it.  
God's prophecy that Samuel delivered was against the abuses and excesses of the high priest Eli, and his family.  They had begun to use their position, influence, and power to further their own agendas, not God's, and there was g…

God Don't Make No Junk

Today's devo is from the archives--I've been thinking again about the idea of Original Blessing and this one spoke to me again when I read it.  Hope it speaks to you, too.  

In the church communities of my youth, we were taught that people were inherently awful.  You might think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not--not by a long shot. 

I have a distinct memory of some pastor or another preaching on how people are just born bad, and then he used the analogy of how deceitful and manipulative infants could be when they wanted something... like food... or their diaper changed. 

I know it's hard to believe but it's that kind of teaching that dominated Christian culture for centuries.  

And when the message of your inherent awfulness is one that has been drummed into you by people and institutions you trust, it's really hard to shake the feeling that you aren't all you're cracked up to be.  

No wonder there are so many Christians who are angry, argumentative... and …

Power Up - Week Nine: Consider it Joy

This week we are going to be concluding our summer sermon series entitled "Empowered."  We've been studying how the Holy Spirit of God empowers us to be the people that God longs for us to be.

What we didn't tell you---is that we've been outlining what is commonly known as the Fruits of the Spirit from Galatians chapter 5.  The nine ways that the Spirit works to help us follow Jesus more fully, and live into our most authentic selves.

And today we are going to be talking about how the Spirit empowers us to experience joy no matter what.

We're going to do a little group exercise...

Think of the worst season of your life.  When you went through the most incredibly difficult, challenging trials you've ever experienced...

Maybe you are going through it right now... 

So if you could sum up that time in one word... what would it be?  Think carefully about it.  You've only got one word.  And listen, if that word is not repeatable in public, then just keep that to …