Thursday, December 30, 2010

Recent Economic History

I will be the first to tell anybody that Economics is not my strength.  I took an Economics class in college and was confused by many of the charts, theories and ideas. 

So when I found this video, I was impressed.  It makes recent economic history easy to understand through the use of technology and innovative teaching. 

It was too good not to share (I stole it from Scot McKnight's blog, one  I highly recommend, in fact, the link is on the left side of this blog):

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Post Christmas Anticipation

Like most people, I have pre-Christmas anticipation.  I find myself excited about watching the children open their presents and if I'm honest, I also get excited about opening my own presents as well. 

However, I get to experience post-Christmas anticipation as well.  There are several  reasons why:

First,my second daughter's birthday is on the 28th. 

Second, my birthday is on the 31st.

Third, it has become a tradition to celebrate Christmas at my parents house with all the brothers and sisters and nephews and niece's during New Year's eve and day.

Fourth and finally, we have other family to celebrate Christmas with well into the New Year.

I look forwad to giving and receiving presents for upcoming Birthdays and Christmas's. 

Afterall, just becuase the 25th has come and gone it does not mean that Christmas should end. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Other Miracle

We celebrate the miracle of Jesus' conception to a virgin this time of year and we should.  However, I think there's another miracle we should celebrate at Christmas that we may not think about.  

In his letter to the Colossians Paul wrote in 1:15-17 that everything was created by Jesus (and for Jesus).  If its true that Jesus participated in the creation of the earth, then Jesus is eternal and pre-existent just like God the Father and God the Spirit.

Therefore, for Jesus to come to earth as one of us, he had to leave the beauty, wonder and paradise of heaven behind.  He left what was safe, familiar and comfortable to walk among us and use the bathroom like us and feel pain like us and be born just like we are born.

I think it is just as much of a miracle that Jesus chose to leave heaven to be among us as it is that he was conceived in the womb of a virgin.  He did it because He loves us.  He did it to bring healing and rescue to a world and a people desperately in need of it.

So this Christmas, remember both miracles of the birth of our savior.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I'm blessed to have the friends I have.

Let me explain.

I'm finishing up the ordination process in the United Methodist Church.  As part of the process, each candidate has to submit work to the Board of Ordained Ministry.

Part of that work is to film a Bible study to submit.

I knew I would be extremely nervous doing this Bible study.  And I knew that one way to address that nervousness is by doing a Bible study with friends. 

So I e-mailed a friend of mine about doing it at his house in Charlotte.  He said yes and took the initiative to send an e-mail out to a very select group of friends.

The Bible study took place last night and they all showed up!  Even as busy as the Christmas season is, they took the time to support me and be a part of the ordination process.

I felt loved, blessed and supported.

So I wanted to publicly say a huge THANK YOU to each of you that came out for the Bible study.  Your time and support was a wonderful Christmas present.

And I think there is nothing more appropriate for my 200th post than to recognize the importance of friendships in our lives. 

I hope each of my readers are as blessed as I am with amazing friends.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


The title and the picture is the number of posts I have made on this blog.

It reminds me of Christmas.

The anticipation of getting to 200 is like the anticipation of getting to Christmas day.

Okay, so Christmas day will be WAY better than post 200!

I think Christmas might be the except to the general rule that the anticipation of an event is often better than the event itself.

The anticipation is exciting and gives us something to look forward too and creates a hope and a purpose.

Then the event happens and it's over.  And all of a sudden all that excitements and hope and looking forward is lost.

What makes Christmas day different, is that in Christ's birth the Kingdom of God was ushered in on earth.  The kingdom of God on earth has begun.  Which means we have a ton of hope, purpose and joy now and we have a ton of hope, purpose and joy for our futures.

So we have both something to participate in now and something to look forward to in the future.

It's the best of both the anticipation of the event and the event itself.

It's a beautiful belief and it all started with the birth of Christ.

So in the midst of the busy-ness of the Christmas season, may we remember that we are part of the Kingdom of God now and for eternity, all because God had a birthday on earth.

Friday, December 10, 2010


For many of us, the Christmas season means invitations to various parties, events and church functions.

The invites are great, they make you feel wanted and loved.

However, sometimes they can get a bit overwhelming.

It's easy to say "yes" and hard to say "no."  And too many "yes's" can lead to resentment while participating in the event you are supposed to enjoy.

I feel a bit overwhelmed right now, not just from invites, but from other things as well.

One way I cope is by recognizing that life is a series of different seasons.  Each season brings it's own joys and challenges.

While this Christmas season is busier than ones in our past, our two daughters are probably at the best ages for experiencing Christmas (6 and almost 3).

So tonight we all hopped in the van and drank hot cider, ate Moravian sugar cookies, listened to Christmas music and drove through a live nativity. 

As cheesy as some of it felt, we all had fun, especially our girls.

So even in the midst of really busy seasons in our lives, we can take time to have moments that matter so that we can make memories for the future.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Like in any profession, sometimes pastors have off days.  This last Sunday at the 10:30 service was one of those days. 

I'm not sure why? 

The series is a good one.
The message was prepared.

The message was true.

The point of the message was something we need to be reminded of.

However, I just didn't seem to have the language I wanted to communicate what I wanted to communicate.

Even in the preparation, I knew the point was good and biblical and challenging for the church, I just couldn't seem to get the language to communicate as effectively as I would've have liked.

It felt as though I had let the church down.

I didn't like that feeling.

Thank God I feel like I've had more "on days" than "off days" in the ministry.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Eating with Dirty

In Matthew 9 Jesus eats with "sinners" and "tax collectors" just after inviting a tax collector to be his disciple.

"Sinners" and "tax collectors" were considered unclean by most of the Jewish community and especially by the Pharisees.

So the Pharisees challenge Jesus' disciples about why he's dining with these "dirty" people.

Jesus responds with three powerful interrelated statements.

1. It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick.

2. Go and learn what this means "I desire mercy not sacrifice" (this is a quote from Hosea).

3. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

These three statements are packed with implications for Jesus' ministry and for what He expects of those who are a part of His kingdom.

Want to know more?  Come to Catawba UMC this Sunday.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Tough one to Define

What is the Kingdom of God?  That's a tough one to define in one sentence. 

I gave it my best shot in the sermon this last Sunday, see what you think:

The Kingdom of God is God’s action and presence in the world through Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the past, present and future to bring humanity freedom from and victory over sin, evil and death.

I think it's pretty good, but it still seems to be missing something.  What would you add or change?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Christmas Series

This Sunday we are starting a new series at Catawba United Methodist Church.  It's called A Kingdom Christmas.

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Christ and at Easter we celebrate the death and resurrection of Chirst, what about the life of Christ?

My angle for the series is that Jesus' life has everything to do with the Kingdom of God.

So what is the Kingdom of God?

Why don't you come to Catawba UMC this Sunday and find out!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Weird Sunday

This last Sunday was weird.  My wife preached Sunday morning then I preached during a joint service at the Baptist church.

My wife Chrys did an excellent job.  She shared a little about her own life, then talked about how Christians should be the change that Jesus wants in the world.  She challenged us to truly live out the gospel by making decisions that make the world a better place to live instead of just believing in God.

It was a weird Sunday, but it was good Sunday.  I guess sometimes weirdness can be a good thing.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Animals in Heaven?

I said I would offer some thoughts on the questions posed in the last post.

So here ya go.

Do animals go to heaven?

This was our dog growing up.  Her name was lady.  She was a member of the family.  (Yeah baby, I'm sporting the baseball pajamas!)  So this question has a personal dimension for me.

I want to walk through a few things about this question.

First, I think it's important to recognize that the biblical understanding of heaven is the new creation.  The new heavens and new earth.  In Revelation 21 there's a New heaven and new earth brought about and God says "I am making everything new."

Second, in Genesis 1, on the sixth day, God creates animals and calls them good.  Also, the only two living things that are said to have "the breath of life" in Genesis 1 and 2 are animals and people.  What sets humanity apart from animals is that we are created in the image of God, however, what makes us equal is that we both have the "breath of life" in us.

Third, the last part of Isaiah 65 is a description of the new heavens and new earth.  Verse 25 is especially interesting for this question:

The wolf and the lamb will feed together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
and dust will be the serpent’s food.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,”
says the LORD.

Conclusion: It looks like the natural order of things will be transformed.  In this new heaven and new earth there will be animals, but their relationship to one another will no longer be predator and prey; there will be no killing of one another i.e. "they will neither harm nor destroy."

There are other examples as well, this is just one sampling.  Biblically, I think it is clear that there will be animals in the new creation.  Also, if this new creation is better than what we now experience on earth and we have loved a pet on earth, then I don't see why our pets wouldn't be a part of the new creation. 

Biblically, it seems clear that animals are a part of creation, however, the Bible isn't clear about whether we will know the animals that were our pets on earth.  I am speculatively hopeful Lady (my dog in the picture) will be part of the new creation.  If God is defined by love and Lady was a member of our family on earth that we loved, I think it is likely that we will know her and she will konw us.

Maybe it's a little cheesy and mushy.  And maybe it's just a selfish hope, but I do believe that the Bible is clear that animals are a part of the new creation, so why not the animals that were our pets?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Questions Round 4

This Sunday I will be answering several more questions in the final part of a series at our Church called Text Message. 

Some of the questions include:

Do animals go to heaven?

Can a Christian lose their salvation?

Do Christians go directly to heaven when they die?

There are other questions as well, these are just a sampling.

I'll share some thoughts on these questions after this Sunday.  So if I've piqued your curiosity, come back after Sunday!

Monday, November 8, 2010


At the church I serve, we've been in a series called Text Message.

We're in a part of the series where I've been answering questions previously submitted by the people.

While I could have answered all the questions, I decided to call in reinforcements for three particularly tough questions that I needed help on.  His name is James-Michael Smith (you can see his work here) and here's the questions he addressed:

1. What is the church's stance on evolution and intelligent design?

2. What about the parts in the Old Testament where God tells his people to kill everyone, including women and children?

3. Did Judas (the one who betrayed Jesus) have free will?

If you want to listen or download how he answered these questions, you can go here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Randomness within Planning

We've been in a series at Catawba UMC called Text Message. 

These last two weeks have been a time of answering questions that were taken by the congregation beforehand. 

This last Sunday most of the sermon was about the books around the time of the Bible that were not included in the Bible. 

I also talked about different translations and decisions translators have to make when it comes to bringing the original language of the Bible (Old Testament: Hebrew, New Testament: Greek) into English.

The risk with doing a Q & A type of message is that some people may not care about the questions you are answering. 

So, these last two weeks I have had just a few moments within the sermon I titled "Humorous Interjection."  These funny quotes and stories have been random, they've had nothing to do with the teaching.  

It's been a hit.  According to comments, some people have enjoyed the teaching, while others have enjoyed the humor.

While the humor has nothing to do with the teaching, it's been worth it just for fun and kicks.

If you're curious about the answers to the questions or the humor, you can listen or download the last two sermons here.

It has freed me to celebrate randomness and not always try to make every part of a message connect to one another.  Which goes against all of the traditional teaching about how to put together a sermon.

I would rather choose what is effective in a sermon over that which is traditionally taught all day long.

Here's to randomness!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Marketing Conspiracy Theory

*Disclaimer* - This post is of absolutely no spiritual import.

I've seen a ton of infomercials recently that are pushing the new mini-blender called the Ninja.

I immediately loved the name, it actually kind of made me want one, even though we would never use it.

As I thought about it, I realized that it's biggest competitor is the Magic Bullet. 

In case you are in the dark, one of the greatest questions among my generation is this:

who would win in a fight, a pirate or a ninja? 

Don't believe me, google pirate vs. ninja.  There's even games like Pirate vs. Ninja dodgeball for the Xbox 360.  The question is for real. 

I wonder if it's just a coincidence that the inventors of the Ninja named it the ninja.  It could be a conspiracy. 

I wonder if the inventors of the Ninja named it as such to show once and for all that a Ninja would dominate a Pirate.  Afterall, a pirate uses bullets and the Magic Bullet once ruled the all important mini-blender market. 

Maybe the inventors of the Ninja mini-blender are a secret society of Ninjas who are convinced that the question of the pirate vs. ninja has far more implications than just fantastical curiosity?

Could it be that the question of our generation will come down to the sales of mini-blenders?

*Disclaimer* - Like I said, this post is of no spiritual import.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Billy Graham and Martin Luther King Jr.

Among Christians and Christian leaders, there's a tendency to lean towards one of two approaches to the gospel.

The Billy Graham approach is about: salvation

The Martin Luther King Jr. approach is about: social justice

I just wonder why so many people are split between the two when the Bible so clearly teaches that both are essential to God's mission in the world.

Ephesians 2:8-9 is a scripture verse that many people love, especially those who tend towards the salvaiton side of the spectrum.  Paul says that we are saved by faith through God's gift of grace in those verses. 

Most people stop there, Paul didn't. 

The very next thing he says sounds a lot like social justice.  Paul says "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

The whole reason God gave us the gift of salvation is so that (in Paul's words "for we are") we do things to make this world a better place to live.  Why?  Because it's not ours, it's God's and He created us and re-created us to take care of it. 

May we be the kind of people that pursue both.

Monday, October 18, 2010


When I'm with other Christians who tend to be more fundamental in their theology, I find myself feeling more liberal. 

Then when I'm among Christians who are more liberal in their theology, I find myself feeling more fundamental. 

Is it because I want to rebel against whatever the situational theological norm is in the context in which I find myself at that moment?

Is it because I can see value in both theological perspectives?

Is it because I'm uncertain of my own theological beliefs?

Is it because I'm not bold enough to take a position and claim it for myself?
Is it because I'm a conflict avoider and just want everyone to get along?

Is it because I'm actually open minded?

It's probably a little of all of the above.

I feel torn because I believe most Christians genuinely have good motives. 

I guess I don't have to choose sides, I can simply follow the leading of the Spirit.

Two verses come to mind that seem to work complimentary when such a situation arises:
Mark 12:31 "Love your neighbor as yourself..."
1 Peter 3:15 "...Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with genteness and respect..."

May you love people you disagree with enough to have a prepared answer for the hope you have in Christ and may you offer that answer out of gentleness and respect.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Personal Tension

I recently read a quote that created quite a bit of tension in me.  Maybe you'll see why:

"An Atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An atheist believes that deed must be done instead of prayer said. An atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanished, war eliminated."

Substitue "Christian" for "Atheist" and see if it creates tension for you, it would look like this:

"A Christian believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. A Christian believes that deed must be done instead of prayer said. A Christian strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanished, war eliminated."

It raises the question for me: "Where have Christians gotten it wrong?"

I'm not advocating atheism or not praying or not building church's, but I am advocating honestly reflecting on what the priorities should be for a Christian.

I hope it sparks some thinking of your own and I would love to hear your comments.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The last two days

So over the last two days I attended a conference at Duke.  It was amazing.  I met two of my heroes: N.T. Wright and Rob Bell.  If you are not familiar with either of them, google them now.  Better yet, go to Amazon and order Wright's book Surprised by Hope and Bell's Velvet Elvis.

I also met Richard Hays and Ben Witherington. 

I'm still on a high, it was an amazing weekend. 

I feel renergized and ready to change the world!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Secular becomes Sacred

God is good at redemption.  I don't limit His skills to just our souls.  He's good at redeeming anything and everything. 

I've been listening to the new Linkin Park album.  Musically, it's quite unique.   

I don't know the band's intentions behind some of the songs, but I often find myself connecting with God through some of their music.

That's what I mean by God redeeming it.  Some of the songs have colorful language and there's definitely unresolved anger that comes through.  However, I believe God is big enough to use this music for his purposes, whether the band meant for that to happen or not. 

Here's a few sets of lines that come to mind:

The Messenger
"When you've suffered enough, and your spirit is breaking

You're growing desperate from the fight
Remember you're loved, and you always will be
This melody will bring you right back home

When life leaves us blind
Love keeps us kind"

"Do you feel cold and lost in desperation

you build up hope, but failure's all you've known

Remember all the sadness and frustration
and let it go, let it go."

The Catalyst
"God save us everyone,

Will we burn inside the fires of a thousand suns?

For the sins of our hand
The sins of our tongue

The sins of our father
The sins of our young"

Be on the lookout for where God can redeem things of this world for His purposes.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Story of the Bible

This Sunday we looked at how the overarching story of the Bible is one of people running and hiding and God chasing and finding.  We also talked about the makeup of the Bible.  The books of law and history record the events just as a photo album does.  The books of poetry, prophets and letters are the journal: the story behind the events.  The illustration of photo album and journal can really help you understand what's going on as you read a particular passage of scripture. 

Many of you shared that the light bulb went off for you and I'm so glad for it (you can listen or download the message here).  My purpose for this series is that people would read their Bibles.  My hope is that the teaching would help you do just that.

As you read, you will have questions.  Please submit them.  I will keep your name anonymous and starting on Sunday, October 24th, I will answer to the best of my ability.

Also, on Sunday, November 7th, I'm bringing in reinforcements for those questions that I may struggle with answering.  My friend and self proclaimed Bible nerd James-Michael Smith will be teaching.  You can find his work here and here.
It's going to be a good month of teaching!

Thursday, September 30, 2010


I've been collecting questions for a sermon series we are doing called Text Message.  On Sunday, October 24th, I will start tackling some of those questions. 

It's been an interesting assortment.  Everything from life application questions to specifically Bible questions.  I'm loving it and I look forward to answering them.  I don't necessarily enjoy the research and background work, but I do enjoy what I get out of research and background work and I love sharing what I've learned with others. 

I'm getting ahead of myself, which is easy for me to do.  We still have two weeks of pre-determined messages and I think this Sunday's will create an "aha" moment for many people and I'm excited to share it.  It's something that created an "aha" moment for me while on staff here.

See you this Sunday!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Library

The Bible is not a book, it's a library.  I've known that a long time, but didn't have the language for it until Good Shepherd UMC did a sermon series called Text Message.  They stole the idea from Andy Stanley and I stole it from them. 

I hope the people of Catawba UMC will start referring to the Bible as a library.  I shared that with them this Sunday.  To hear the whole message from the first sermon in our Text Message series, you can go here.

Think about it: the Bible has over 40 authors, 66 different books that have been written over the span of thousands of years.  It is not in chronological order and it is full of different genres of writing.  The Bible is not just a book, it's a library.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Simplifying the Complicated

Methodists have something that their church's are responsible for every year called Charge Conference.  It basically involves meetings, paperwork and finding people to serve in various areas of the church.

It's not fun.

I was at a seminar earlier this week and I told another pastor whose been doing this longer than I have that I wasn't sure what I was doing.  He took out a sheet of paper and started writing on it.  He handed it to me.

He had simplified the entire process in 10 minutes.

I told my secretary that every new pastor needed that piece of paper. 

I think organizations often make things more complicated than they really are. 

This piece of paper would've helped much earlier in getting things ready for charge conference, but at least it doesn't seem as daunting as it did.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Moving On

Well, the last message in the "We are the Church" series was all about how we are pursued by God.  You can listen or download it here.

The new series starting next week will be called "Text Message."  

It will be all about the nature and design of the Bible.  

I'm excited about it and think God can and will use it to draw many people deeper into his word. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Last of the Church

This Sunday will be the last message in the series we've been doing at Catawba UMC about the Church.

I'm excited about the message, it involves tapping into a specifically Methodist understanding of grace.

I'm also really excited about the next series.  I think it's going to challenge people and open their eyes to new understanding.

I'm keeping it vague so it will be a surprise.  Come this Sunday if you want to know what the next series will be. 

I will post it after this Sunday services.

Monday, September 13, 2010


The main idea from the sermon this Sunday was: To be the church is to be consumed. 

The text was from Hebrews 12:18-29.  I recorded the entire service on DVD and I am going to submit it to the proper Methodist people as part of finishing my ordination.

If you're interested, you can listen or download it here.

To be consumed by God means we aren't consumed by anything else.  We aren't consumed by fear, worry, selfishness, pride, greed, lust or anything else that gets in the way of living the Christian life.

To be consumed by God means he is at the center of everything we do.  It's not about putting God first, family second, friends third, work fourth and recreation fifth.  It's about making God a part of everything we do.  Whether we are at work or with our family or having fun, God wants to be at the center of it.

To be consumed by God means we want to share the goodness and faithfulness of God with others.  Just as we have experienced something good, we want other to experience the same thing, so we invite them into a relationship with Christ.

May you be consumed!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Nines

There's a free online Christian leadership conference tomorrow called the Nines.  It will go all day and well into the evening.  If you want to learn more about it or log into it tomorrow, just go here.

The premise behind the conference is simple: they've asked Christian leaders from around the world to submit a video of what they would say about Christian leadership in 9 minutes or less.

So it is basically 9 minute videos from different leaders across the globe. 

Last year the content was excellent, add the part about it being free and I'm in.  I'll probably watch it for at least a couple of hours.  It starts at 11:30am.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Refuge

I preached from Hebrews 4:14-16 yesterday.  My favorite part of the text is an invite to "approach the throne of grace with confidence." 

As the church, we are to extend that same invite to others.  And just as the invite is available to us before and after we've entered into a meaningful relationsihp with Christ, the church (not to state the obvious, but the church is the people, not the building) is to invite others into the church to taste that same grace.

So the main idea was: The church is to be a refuge for sinners not a social club for saints. 

For the entire message, you can go here.

May we be the kind of people that let the church be a refuge for sinners, not a social club for saints.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Expanding a Series

I'm in only the second sermon series that I've ever put together as a pastor.  It's going well, it's all about the church.  You can listen or download the messages here (the audio of this past Sunday's message was defective so that one will not be online).

Anyway, what I've discovered in these last two series' is that I think of new things during the series and want to add to them.

It's makes for more difficult planning, but hopefully it is Spirit led and what I'm supposed to be doing.

So for this series on the church, I've already added the titles Consumed and Pursued.  I thought about adding another one after Pursued, titled Victorious but that would get in the way of the next series, which will start September 26th. 

Besides Victorious is a great title for a series all on it's own.  I'll have to plan that one for next year.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Q

This past Sunday I preached from 1 Corinthians 12:12-31.  In this passage, Paul uses the body as an illustration for the church.  His point is that just as every member of the body is important for the body to be a body that functions as it is designed, in the same way every member of the church is important for the church to be the church that functions the way God designed it.

In other words, Paul is saying that every member is indispensable.

I started the sermon talking about how in the board game Scrabble, the "Q" can be difficult to use, especially if you get stuck with it towards the end of the game and all the "U's" are used.  Therefore, the casual scrabble player does not want the "Q."  The "Q" is undesired, unwanted and often un-usable.

At the end of the service, I said that some people may feel like the "Q" in the church.  Unwanted, undesired and un-usable.  However, there are two things about the "Q" that need to be mentioned.  First, the "Q" is worth more points than any other letter in scrabble, which means it actually carries the most value.  Second, there are words you can make in Scrabble with the "Q" that do not demand a "U."  One example is "QAT."  What both of these facts mean is that the "Q" actually has the most untapped potential of any letter in Scrabble.

In the same way, there are people in the church who have been told (either by the enemy, a person or by themselves) that they don't have a purpose or a calling or a mission.  They have been lied to.  And I believe that those people might have the most untapped potential of anyone in the church.  Because they will give God the credit for good things that happen in ministry instead of taking the credit for themselves.

If you've ever felt like the "Q," just know that it has the most untapped potential of any other letter in the church.  Put the "Q" in the hand of a professional Scrabble player and they will make the most of it.  In the same way, we are all in God's hand and He is a professional working through our weaknesses to fulfill his purpose and mission through us.

May you know and realize that you are indispensable to the church.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Failure is an option

This last Sunday I preached from Exodus 6.  The one point for the sermon was: We are to trust in God's promises not in our own inadequacies.  Exodus 6 follows the first time Moses went to Pharaoh.  It was a terrible failure.  Pharaoh made the work load of the Israelite slaves worse than it already was. 

God then gives Moses some amazing promises which Moses then shares with the Israelite people.  The Israelites do not believe Moses and get discouraged.

God then tells Moses to go to Pharaoh again.  But Moses says "If my own people will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh, besides, I speak with faltering lips."

Moses failed once even after God told him to go to Pharaoh, then Moses fails at least 10 more times before Pharaoh lets the people go.  Even when God calls us to a mission, failure is an option.  The key is not to focus on what we can't do, but what God can do.  We are to live in His promises, not in our in inadequacies.  

May you trust in God, even when your circumstances appear to be a failure. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What's your agenda?

Christians who share the gospel often have an agenda to save people.  I understand the motive.  It's actually a good motive.  However, often those same Christians are perceived to be judgmental, uncaring and only concerned about getting someone saved.

What if, instead of having an agenda to save someone, our agenda was simply to bless people.  Afterall, if you think about it, we can't save anyone, only Jesus does that.

I think this come down to trust.  Do we trust God enough to free us up to simply strive to be a blessing to people so that the rest is up to him?  We often believe we have to do all the work.  When we think and act out of that, we're not trusting God's Spirit to do any of the work.  And I promise, He's better at saving people than we are.  

Instead of leaving a terrible tip when you get bad service at a restaurant, leave a note that says "It seems like you're having a rough day, I hope this extra tip blesses you" along with a generous tip.

Instead of paying for just your own food in the drive through, how about paying for the food of the people behind you without any strings attached - no note, no message, just the blessing.

Instead of assuming a homeless person who asks you for food is a bum who doesn't want to work, how about offering to take them to lunch to feed them and sitting down to listen to their story.

Instead of returning anger with a harsh word, what if you actually started talking softer and apologized and walked away if you needed to.

Being a blessing is about getting out of the "tit for tat" mindset.  Imagine if God acted out of "tit for tat;" we would all be in trouble.  But God is a God of blessing and he blesses us daily with His grace and love.  He loves us perfectly in spite of the fact that we can't return that love perfectly.  It's not a "tit for tat" relationship.

Our purpose is to share His love in tangible ways.  Our purpose is not to save people, our purpose is to bless people.

May you be a blessing!

Monday, August 16, 2010


The sermon this Sunday was from Genesis 12:1-5 (for listen or download, you can go here) and was the first message in a series we are doing called We are the Church.  It focuses on Abram's call and mission to leave everything and go to a place God will show him.  It's easy to casually read over Abram's willingness to follow God in this situation.  It would've taken Abram tremendous trust and faith to leave everything and do what God is calling him to do.

I believe the point of the text is the purpose of the church.  God establishes this mission for Abram, then in Exodus, God expands the mission to apply to an entire people group: the Jews.  Then in the New Testament letter to the Galatian church, Paul writes in 3:29 that "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs to the promise."

In other words, the promise God gave Abram is still active for those who belong to Christ.  What this means, is Abram's mission is the church's mission.  And that mission, if you read 2-3 carefully, is to be a blessing.  The main idea I shared on Sunday is that we are blessed to be a blessing.

And we are blessed with everything that we have in Christ.  Being blessed isn't only about being wealthy, or healthy or getting our way, the kind of blessing I'm talking about is spiritual.  God's love, grace, mercy, justice and forgiveness that's available to anyone who chooses to belong to Christ, that's the blessing.  We have the greatest blessing to share, we just have to share it without an agenda.

I'll talk more about that in the next blog.  For now, I pray that you might be a blessing to someone this week, because if you belong to Christ, then that's your mission, that's your purpose, that's your calling!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hammering Away

About a week ago I went by a Lutheran church to see their set up with flat screen TV's.  The church I serve is looking into either a projection system, or flat screen TV's.  So I wanted to check out a church that had the flat screens and just see how it looked and how it worked.

Anyway, while there, I met the pastor and we spoke briefly.  He was very nice and took the time without an appointment to show me the sanctuary and answer some questions.  One thing he said really struck me.  He said: "We just keep hammering away at sin." 

It wasn't until later that I thought, "didn't Jesus hammer sin away on the cross...literally."  Now that is not to disresepect that pastor or to say that his way is unbiblical or that he wasn't right, because the Bible does teach that sin is to be avoided.

However, it got me thinking about the content I focus on when I preach.  Now to be fair, I've only been preaching weekly for 6 weeks, however, while I do reference sin and some of the problems it creates, I probably focus more on God's love and goodness and mercy and faithfulness than on anything else.  I think that's the good news.  I think that's not only what people want to hear, but need to hear as well.  And I think its biblical.

Anyway, that pastor's comment really helped me take a closer look at the content of what I preach and I may just be a little more careful about how I handle sin in my preaching.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


The formula for the songs I like on the radio right now are a female chorus with rap lyrics.  The two songs are Airplanes (by B.O.B. featuring Hayley Williams) and I Love the Way you Lie (by Eminem featuring Rihanna).  I'm just waiting for a Christian female singer and Christian rapper to get together and use the formula for a Christian song.

The thing about formulas is that when they work they work, however, they only work for so long, because soon people get tired of the formula. 

I think about the formula I use for preaching, its basically:
1. Catchy Introduction (that connects with the text and point)
2. Something personal (If I've dealt with it, most likely, someone else in the audience has as well)
3. Scripture (Explanation of context and gist of the text)
4. Application
5. Conclusion (Ideally one that bookends something from the introduction)

Its working so far, but I do look forward to trying new things to keep it fresh.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pastor's Favorites

The sermon this last Sunday was the final message in a 5 week series called "Pastor's Favorites."  The text was from John 6:60-66 and while those verses are not necessarily my favorite, the point I shared from them is.  Its a mantra I try to live by.  The point was this: When the truth hurts, lean in.  (If you're interested, you can listen to it or download it here).

In the text, Jesus says some hard things for his disciples to accept.  The term "disciples" is used for a much broader audience than what we assume is the 12 disciples.  What he says is so hard, so offensive, so abhorrent, that some of these disciples turn away and no longer follow him.

They decide not to lean into the truth.  They decide to run from it.

We do the very same thing.  Maybe not literally or physically, but what about in our beliefs, thoughts, feelings and actions.  Often times when we are confronted with the truth, whether the Holy Spirit convicts us or a person challenges us, we often don't like it and our natural response is to run away from it, deny it or fight it.  All three responses take a lot of energy.

Leaning into the truth takes energy too, but its energy used for a much greater and bolder purpose.  

When we lean into painful truth, the pain passes so much quicker.  When we lean into the truth, we are in alignment with the Spirit's guidance in our lives.  When we choose to lean into the truth, we choose a life of freedom, because as Jesus said and still says: "The truth will set you free."

When you disagree with your spouse and you know you messed up, lean into the truth.
When God calls you to a risky endeavor, lean into the truth.
When you lose a loved one, remember them, feel the hurt, lean into the truth.
When you have an addiction, lean into the truth.
When you know your wrong but you want to be right, lean into the truth.
When you think you need something but you really just want it, lean into the truth.

What situations can you think of that we all could do a better job of leaning into the truth?

I would be interested to see them in the comments section.

May you lean into the truth, even when it hurts.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Did you know there's 86,400 seconds in a day.  That's a lot of seconds.  How are you spending those seconds? 

Sometimes I think we struggle with our purpose in life because we aren't spending those seconds in a way that honors God. 

When we spend our time volunteering and/or serving others, we get outside ourselves which leads to becoming more selfless.  Which leads to having purpose.

How are you spending your 86,400 seconds?

May you spend them in a way that honors God.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Koran Burning - Ugh!

My friend and fellow GCTS grad recently posted an article on his National Examiner site about a church in Florida that is going to have a "burn-a-Koran" day to commemorate the events of 9/11. 

Instead of being redundant and writing anything about it on my blog, just check out his article here

My question is this: How does an action like that make the grace Jesus offers something people want?

I would love to hear your response to the question.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Imperfect Faith

Mark 9:14-29 is one of my favorite stories in all the Bible and verse 24 just might be my favorite verse. 

In the story, Jesus and three of his closest disciples come down from a mountaintop experience (and literally a mountain) to meet argument, an evil spirit and the inability of the disciples to heal a boy. 

Jesus is frustrated with the whole situation and talks to the father of the boy with the evil spirit.  The father says "if you can do anything, take pity on us."  Jesus says "all things are possible for those who believe."  Then the father says "I believe, help me overcome my unbelief."

I love it.  The father has a mixture of faith and doubt and is honest with Jesus.  And Jesus honors his honesty by healing the boy.  Jesus doesn't chide the father for not having 100% faith, because its not about our faith.  Its about the power of God.  And I believe one way to unleash God's power in our lives is simply by being honest with Him, just as the father was.

That was my point in the sermon today: Jesus honors our honesty. 

May you choose to be honest with God and in doing so find a God who honors your honesty.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Trading up

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This video is the story of a teenager who traded an old Nokia cellphone for a Porsche Boxter.  Yep, you read that correctly.  Of course, it wasn't a straight up trade.  It took Steve Ortiz two years of trading to go from the cellphone to the Porsche. 

He turned something that wasn't worth much into something extremely valuable.  It reminds me of what God does when we surrender our lives to Him.  There's a song whose opening lyrics share this same truth:

I'm trading my sorrow
I'm trading my shame
I'm laying it down for the joy of the Lord

I'm trading my sickness
I'm trading my pain
I'm laying it down for the joy of the Lord

We can hold on to our junk and let it keep us from really living if we want to, or we can "trade up" for God to take it, redeem it and turn it into something beautiful.

Its what He does and He's good at it!

Monday, July 19, 2010

What's the good?

Romans 8:28-30 is one of my favorite verses.  I'm also aware that's its one of the most overused and abused verses in all of scripture.  I preached on in this past Sunday, if you want to hear it or download it, you can go here

There's a lot going on in these verses and I'm well aware that I didn't cover everything in the sermon, for this blog I just want to hilight one thing and share the main idea.  That way, you can fill in the blanks from the last blog entry. 

Paul says in verse 28: "all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose."  We miss the point if we think this verse is just about our good.  Its not about our good is it?  Its about the good.  So what's the good?  I believe his purpose is the good.  Then the question is what's his purpose?  Paul tells us that people who have embraced Christ are chosen (he uses predestined) "to conform to the likeness of his son" in the very next verse.  There's his purpose.  His purpose for us is to "conform to the likeness (or image) of Christ."

If we do that, then we understand its not about us.  And we will subscribe to this point: God's good in our lives does not always equal our happiness.  Jesus knew that His life was not about Him but about the will of the father.    If we are supposed to emulate the the kind of life that Jesus lived, then we will know that its not about our happiness, but its about his purpose.  And his purpose is for us to conform to Christ.  Which means:
-to love with the same compassion that that Christ loved with,
-to invite people into the kingdom with the same kind of boldness that Christ invited with,
-to serve with the same kind of humility that Christ served with,
-to forgive with the same kind of willingness that Christ served with,
-to speak truth with the same kind of conviction that Christ spoke with,
-to pray with the same kind of eagerness that Christ prayed with

May you strive to conform to His image and in doing so find a life of purpose, fulfillment and joy.