On February 24, 2022, after weeks of signaling to the world that war was imminent, Russian forces invaded Ukraine.
Three days later, I stood before the congregation wondering how to speak about it.
I wasn’t so concerned about what was necessary. Prayer was certainly needed. Ukrainian lives were being lost, homes and...Read More »
The last “old post” reminded me of this post, which I shared with fellow pastors on Sept. 15, 2020. The response from the pastors was notable. The pain was shared. The contents were a mystery to no one.
I wrote this quite a long time ago and filed it for another day. I’m posting now, long after the incidents surrounding these feelings, because I think that the thoughts I had then are still relevant, even if I do not feel them in quite the same way now.
I, like...Read More »
Within the discipline of community are the disciplines of forgiveness and celebration. Forgiveness and celebration are what make community, whether a marriage, a friendship, or any other form of community.
What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is to allow the other person not to be God.
Forgiveness says, “I...Read More »
Into the cave, I call to my best friend:
Hello! Says I.
Hello! Says he.
Good morning! I say to him.
Good morning! He says to me.
He never intrudes, never imposes,
Never assumes, never supposes.
Asks nothing of me that I would not ask of him,
And if I shout for...Read More »
When I was a kid, I noticed a bird dangling from the telephone wires that stretched across my back yard. Somehow, that bird had flown directly into the intertwined wires and had gotten its head caught between strands. It was flapping its wings in desperation to free itself, but it...Read More »
Here’s a video I put together for our church back in April. I hope you find it encouraging!
...Read More »
The whole world has divulged into primordial chaos. At least, that’s what I’m being told. Between pandemic worries, political worries, church worries, family worries, health worries, mental health worries, economic worries, and worries about worry, the world around us feels chaotic and frightening.
A friend recently wrote, “ Instead of asking...Read More »
When your day is long
And the night
The night is yours alone
When you’re sure you’ve had enough
Of this life
Well hang on
Don’t let yourself go
‘Cause everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes
-R.E.M. – Everybody Hurts
I was at a socially distanced, outdoor gathering recently and came to...Read More »
Some churches are uniquely situated to thrive during COVID-19, and they all share a few common traits. It has little to do with how good their technology is, their video-editing skills, or the strength of their worship team, and everything to do with how they are organized. Internally-focused churches are...Read More »
Pastoring through a pandemic, as it turns out, is really, really hard. Every pastor I know has been caught in the whirlwind of moving services online, managing health concerns, and trying to remain connected to the congregation but constantly feeling disconnected despite our efforts. I have not yet known a...Read More »
There is little denying that the church is changing in response to this pandemic. More churches than ever before have begun broadcasting their worship services online. The church’s reach has increased, and many people worship with more than one congregation, often choosing to engage with at least one church outside...Read More »
If you could see the world through your enemy’s eyes, you would see God. You would see God in greater detail than you have ever known him, if you could see the world through your enemy’s eyes.
As I was writing my last post, I was searching...Read More »
Every good story requires a shared understanding of context. If a person tries reading John Steinbeck’s masterful “The Grapes of Wrath” with a 21st century context instead of properly understanding its early 20th century context, details of the story will seem absurd. Farming in the 20th century was...Read More »
I recently received a phone call from a friend who I had not spoken with in several years. I was thrilled to receive the call – but there was one small problem: I was in a movie theater. As I removed my vibrating phone from my pocket and...Read More »
“Today, you will witness the death of your brothers and sisters.”
I have spoken these words many times to many people, and whenever I do I watch as a look of confusion and mild concern spreads across the faces in the room. Then, before a crowd of people who know exactly...Read More »
January 6 is a lesser-known Christian holiday known as Epiphany.
I found out long ago that my voice has a credit limit. Like a credit card, once I hit my “spending” limit, my voice is no longer accepted.
It’s why I stopped speaking about politics.
Here’s what I mean:
If I have spent my time speaking about politics, and I am speaking in...Read More »
As I write this, we’ve just started a small break from packing up moving boxes. My family is preparing to move from our church of five years in Indiana to a new church in Michigan. We’re excited for a new beginning, new opportunities, and a fresh sense of...Read More »
If you need me in the evening at any point in the next 15 days, you’ll have to pry me away from the Olympics. Carmen and I both love watching the Olympics. Thea was born during the 2016 Summer Olympics, and we watched them together in the hospital...Read More »
Every fall, I look forward to the first hard freeze. The first freeze means I can go outside without covering myself in deet because most of the mosquitos were killed by the cold. Frost is a world-changing force.
When I lived in Oklahoma I knew that springtime meant hail and tornado season. ...Read More »
Lately, I have found myself engaging with leaders outside of my theological “home.” I have listened to sermons from more liberal and more conservative preachers, and engaged with theologians who are more academically-minded, as well as church leaders who are more charismatic in nature.
If I’m being...Read More »
Dialogue is dead. Welcome to the age of a million monologues. Welcome to the day when people shout angrily at empty space rather than conversing with one another. Today is a day of hearing but not listening, when accusations are made without understanding, and when we fight against one another...Read More »
My first post, “Politics and Jesus,” opened with a brief observation about how we use labels to embrace or dismiss others. I want to offer a few concluding thoughts in this post that build on that observation.
First, I would note that the...Read More »
Jesus’ ministry began with a bold declaration that the world was entering into a new era. It was not merely a spiritual declaration, and it was...Read More »
During a recent sermon, I spent time talking about how we are prone to using labels to dehumanize people and disregard their opinions, perspectives, and feelings. Though I didn’t fully venture into a political discussion, politics is where this is perhaps most apparent. If someone labels themselves as a Republican,...Read More »
In my last post, we looked at the Hebrews as they stood outside of the Promised Land and saw (real or imaginary) giants who threatened their entry. In this post, I want to take a look at two times when Israel faced giants, and make a few observations about...Read More »
I recently photographed my youngest daughter taking some of her first steps. My first pictures were from my perspective –...Read More »
16 A man approached Jesus and said, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to have eternal life?”
17 Jesus said, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There’s only one who is good. If you want to enter eternal life, keep the commandments.”
18 The man said, “Which ones?”
Then Jesus said, “Don’t commit murder....Read More »
I cringe when I hear those words: “We’re only human, after all.”
I understand the sentiment that motivates these words most of the time. It is a way to extend forgiveness to others by sharing in their fallenness. Of course, the phrase takes a different turn when applied to ourselves: “I’m...Read More »
Life is better in community.
Life is wonderful and messy and joyous and painful and dangerous and delicate, and all of it is beautiful. And it is intended to be shared.
It was created to be shared. We were created to live in community.
Community is more than...Read More »
We read in Matthew 10 that as Jesus was preparing his disciples, there came a time when he commissioned them to proclaim and enact the good news of his kingdom. So he sent them into Jewish villages with this instruction: “make this announcement: ‘The kingdom of...Read More »
This is a short story that I wrote a few years ago. It’s a bit rough in a few places, but I think it still accomplishes what I was trying to accomplish.
It might seem strange if I told you that I vividly remember the night I died. I was at...Read More »
It occurred to me recently that I cannot think of a time when I have heard the concept of sanctification linked to a kingdom eschatology. The concepts fit together so neatly that it is baffling that we don’t talk about the two ideas together.
I have spent the last few days...Read More »
Every year I purchase Bibles for high school and college graduates, and each year I am excited to explore the new study Bibles that are available. In the past, I have purchased and recommended CEB and NRSV Wesley Study Bible (CEB is a great, accessible...Read More »
Psalm 62:1-8 (NIV)
1 Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
2 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
3 How long will you assault me?
Would all of you throw me down—
this leaning...Read More »
N.T. Wright’s upcoming book, The Day the Revolution Began, is an exploration of atonement. It comes out on October 11 of this year, and I was privileged with the opportunity to obtain a pre-release copy to review.
Wright has a unique talent for making complex theological perspectives easily accessible for...Read More »
Psalm 139:1-16 (NIV)
1 O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
2 You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
3 You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
4 You know...Read More »
There is an amazing and overwhelming sensation of love that overcomes a parent when they hold their child for the first time. I felt it a few weeks ago, for the third time in my life, when I held my new baby girl, Thea Joan. The love I...Read More »
Jesus’ ministry led to crucifixion. His gospel message led others to martyrdom. His instructions to those who wanted to be his followers was “Take up your cross and follow me.”
The Gospel is a divisive, peace-bringing word – not the paradox it seems, but not as straightforward, perhaps,...Read More »
A few brief thoughts from my reading today of Genesis 10-18:
The people of the earth acquired a new technology: the brick. The technology of the brick empowered them to do things they previously could not do. They could build predictable and uniform structures, and they could...Read More »
A few years ago, while working as a bi-vocational church planter, I formed a friendship in my secular employment with a Muslim. He knew I was a Christian pastor, and I understood that he was a committed Muslim, and we enjoyed many conversations comparing various aspects of our faith. He...Read More »
If the lies we told left a taste in our mouth… it would be the horrible taste of the death we are speaking.If the lies we told left a taste in our mouth, and if the rumors we spread left stench on our...Read More »
It is normal (and good) to wonder what good a church can do in the world. Sometimes, though, when you are a part of a small church, it can be common to doubt that the church can do any good. “We don’t have the resources,” we say. “We lack the...Read More »
I remember the first time I read a Brian McLaren book. “A Generous Orthodoxy” was something like an exotic trip in a forbidden land. It was like McLaren was giving voice to all the dark corners of my mind, expressing the thoughts that I (thought I) was forbidden...Read More »
Resource Review: A Preacher's Guide to Lectionary Sermon Series: Thematic Plans for Years A, B, and C
Lectionary preachers have the sometimes daunting challenge of exploring and discovering thematic consistency if they plan to preach in series. While there are fantastic resources online, such as my personal favorite, CatchyLecty, there are times when even our favorite resources leave us wanting. That’s part of the reason...Read More »
Who is Jesus without God and the Holy Spirit?
Who is the Holy Spirit without Jesus or God?
Who is God without Jesus or the Holy Spirit?
Without all three, the picture is incomplete. We do not understand God without Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Unless we understand God in terms of community...Read More »
Recent Barna research shows that only 20% Christians are involved in some sort of discipleship activity. That means that four out of five people who profess faith in Christ are not a part of any regular gathering that is intended to foster spiritual growth in their lives.
Of those 20%,...Read More »