Prayer is one of the most enigmatic subjects to consider. Everyone talks about it. When something bad happens or anxieties arise, we often say, “keep me in your prayers.” When a public official speaks after or during a tragedy, there is always an encouragement to keep those that have been affected in our prayers. They don’t necessarily mention whom we should pray to…but just to pray however we pray to whomever we pray on behalf of these individuals. Continue reading →
“The first step in overcoming a problem is admitting that you have one…”
One of my objectives in writing this blog has always been transparency. I believe that people appreciate it and I can’t tell you how many times people have responded with a word of approval for the blunt honesty that they’ve seen. It is sometimes a bit scary…it is sometimes a bit unnerving…and right before I hit that “publish” button…I think and pray. I concern myself with how it’s going to be received and the overall tone…but then, eventually, I hit “publish,” and then I pay attention to how it goes. The reason I get nervous is that I often speak about my personal weaknesses and battles…about my failures and my intentional struggles. As I stated at the beginning…the first step in overcoming a problem is admitting you have one.Continue reading →
The past week and a half of my life has been an incredible journey…and not necessarily a comfortable one. It began with a post on this blog: Why I don’t Like Your Church. Upon publishing an article, it usually takes a few days for it to have a few hundred views (if it gets that many). That article hit a few hundred within a couple hours. I was actually pretty surprised that it did because I didn’t think it would interest that many people. I thought that it was something they would see and perhaps gloss over. Within the next day or so, I had some individuals contact me about what I had said. None of it was negative or critical. All of it was quite supportive. People wanted to get together, and I quickly agreed. It was during those conversations and a couple others since then that I’ve come to a stark realization: humble pie tastes terrible. Continue reading →
Some reading this may take a bit of offense. I certainly don’t mean it that way. The point of what you are about to read is for us to strongly consider what we see happening within our cultural context… Continue reading →
I don’t know how many other pastors struggle with this particular problem…and I sure haven’t heard any speak about it much. Perhaps it’s an understood problem and therefore a taboo thing to bring up…but I can’t help it. I think I need to expose a serious problem in my life…my heart…my soul…my ministry. I need to expose it because if I don’t, then like black mold that grows and reproduces in the darkness…it will simply become a problem larger than I can deal with. It will take over. It will rule my life and my ministry. So here goes: I am going to tell you what’s wrong with any church but my own. I’m going to explain to you why I believe all other churches aren’t good enough. I’m going to tell you why I don’t like your church…whether your the pastor or the pew-sitter. Continue reading →
I hesitate to write this because many people may be somewhat offended by the content. It’s not my intention to offend nor to attack. It’s simply my intention to point out a truth that it seems like all adults agree upon. Being around an ill-behaved child is something that absolutely grates on one’s nerves. We then will often think of how much we would like to have that child for one day so that we could “straighten them out.” (This line of thinking isn’t at all based in reality, but it is something that often may go through our heads.) Whether the child is in our family or a stranger in the grocery store, this issue is a serious one in our society. Continue reading →
The ministry is a very dangerous field…but not because of persecution or hatred from non-believers. The truth is that it’s dangerous because many of us aren’t aware of why were are in the ministry…and therein is the danger…because some of us THINK that we went into it because we felt a supernatural call from God that we were hand-picked to go and preach the truth to the masses…and that is far from the truth…at least for it was for me… Continue reading →
I have wanted to write this for a long, long time, but I have been so afraid…but here goes anyway…
Several years ago my oldest daughter, Anna, said something that really shook me. Truth be told, the echo of her words bouncing around in my head has made me, at times, a nervous wreck. The irony is that these words are the kind that many fathers may live for…but not this one… Continue reading →
I’ve been in the ministry for well over 12 years now. A little over 10 years ago, I became the pastor of a small church in a rural community. During this time, I’ve counseled countless people. I’ve conducted numerous weddings as well as funerals. I’ve baptized people from all over the age spectrum, preached/taught over 1500 times, not counting the various teaching moments wherein someone requested my advice or knowledge on a subject. I have something to admit: I’m a fake. Continue reading →
There is a story in the Bible about a man whose strength was legendary. His name was Samson and his story is recorded in Judges 13-16. The kinds of things the Bible records about him would be things we would attribute to mythology outside of the Bible…like Hercules, or Beowulf, etc. The story says that God had blessed him with strength and essentially there was nothing he couldn’t physically do. He tore a lion into pieces, killed 1000 men with the jawbone of a donkey, picked up the gates of the city and carried them to the top of a hill, and many other things that we read and are amazed by.
People can drive us nuts. They can get on our last nerve…making us want to…well you know what I mean. (And by the way…we are people too.)
My wife sometimes drives me crazy. She has this habit we used to argue about, but have just both decided to let go (which translates to “she won”). We have a shower curtain, instead of a door. When she takes a shower, she aims the head straight back, and then when I get ready to take mine, and turn the water on to let it get warm…often times the water comes out the back, drenching the floor. I know, I know…I’ve since learned to check it before I turn it on, but that used to bug me to no end. I actually threatened to get one of those heads that always aims straight down so she couldn’t do it anymore…(trust me…I know how petty this sounds…just keep reading). Continue reading →
I remember from my childhood the old saying that we have two ears and one mouth, indicating that we should listen twice as much as we speak. It was one of those things that got tucked away in the “sage advice” section of my brain (a very rarely accessed area), but never really applied. Instead, for the last 36 or so years (the time since I’ve been able to speak), I’ve flooded the world with words…often when someone else was trying to say something….something important or heavy…and I would miss it, because I was too busy rattling on. I remember some years ago I was at a gathering of friends, and was visiting with someone that I had not seen in a while but had been very close to. As I rambled on and joked and went on and on…somewhere in the conversation…my friend mentioned the very recent and unexpected death of a sibling…I wish I could say that I stopped jabbering and gave the moment the attention it deserved…I wish I could say that…but I can’t. I had been talking so much…not just there and then…but throughout life in general…that I was callous to the sensitive sounds of agony and joy around me…and I didn’t even realize it until much later that evening… Continue reading →
a few years ago, i had an encounter with a young couple. they were visiting our church but belonged to another. the first sunday they were there, i just said, “great to see you!” the next week they showed up again, and i asked them what brought them our way. after talking for just a minute or two, it became apparent to me that this was going to be a longer conversation than we could have right then so i scheduled an appointment to visit with them. in the interest of total honesty here, let me say that i was going to their house with every intention of talking them into leaving their current church and joining ours…but that’s not what happened… something totally different occurred.
let me be honest: i’m an egotist. as a pastor, and as an egotist…i have a very big problem…because when egotism enters in to the mix of being the leader of a local body of believers, it very much affects what i care about and the things to which i pay attention. this all became real to me recently when i began to upload my sunday morning sermons to the church website. i record it and then come home and do just a little editing (not of content really but just of sound effects, in order to try and have a good quality). then i listen to it again…and i realize something…i’m not a great preacher…and that eats me up. some of you listen to me weekly and are very supportive and very appreciative and for that i am incredibly grateful and humbled…so let me explain what i mean when i say i’m not that great of a preacher…actually, bear with me for just a moment as i admit something else very much connected to this issue…
In the 8th century B.C., there was a prophet named Amos. Of his own admission, he had no particular prominence in the world (Amos 7:14)…he was essentially just a blue collar guy whom the Lord called out, placing on him a burning message. That message was a message of judgement. This was during the time period called “The Divided Kingdom,” when Israel was the Northern Kingdom and Judah the southern. He was sent to the Northern Kingdom and told to call them out for their sin and let them know of the ensuing subsequent judgment. They were guilty of many things but there seems to be one root problem…and it is a problem that is alive and well within our modern culture as well. The people had given in to the self-centered tendencies of human nature and had become very indulgent. When I say indulgent, I’m not necessarily referring to food, although that is somewhat symptomatic of the deeper and more systemic problem. To cut to the chase, in 4:1, Amos calls the women “cows of Bashan.” Bashan was a place rich with resources in which the cattle would become “fat and happy.” He goes on to speak in the same verse about how they constantly want to be served…and catered unto…and spoiled…and this was followed by a host of other injustices. Continue reading →
in astrophysics, there has been a pursuit for something called the “unified theory.” i don’t know much about this, but just some basics (i’m not an astrophysicist or a scientist of any sort, so please exercise grace with me on this). please stay with me for just a minute and humor me…i have a point…i think. the general point of the theory is to present a hypothesis for how the four major forces work together, the four being electromagnetism, strong nuclear force, weak nuclear force, and gravity. the pursuit has thus far been elusive because scientists have not been able to observe all the forces in action. they have determined that each of the forces must be carried by a particle and they are trying to determine how all these particles work together, hence a “unified theory.” such a theory may point us in some very interesting directions in the race for discovery. however, they keep running into roadblocks in trying to find the real substance upon which to form this theory…and the most common roadblock as far as i can tell is that they cannot observe the “graviton.” even though it sounds like the name of a transformer, it is the name of the particle that is thought to carry the force of gravity…but it’s never been observed…only its effects have been. without this particular issue the theory would be okay…but the gravity issue throws it a major curve ball, because even though its effects can be seen clearly, the full spectrum of its behavior is far from being understood.
a few years ago, i was at a men’s conference in a local church and i made a new friend. i was in a very disenfranchised and arrogant state of mind regarding church and all of its various attachments. at that point in time and i made a comment to him…i said, “the Bride of Christ is incredibly screwed up.” he didn’t miss a beat, responding to me, “yet, He still loves her immensely.” that was a major defining moment for me…it rocked my world…it literally made me stop and catch by breath as i re-thought my attitude and mindset regarding the church. it was then that i realized that i was part of the problem…in fact, perhaps the larger part…because in all of my ponderings and thoughts about how bad off the modern church is, i never stopped to consider the solution…instead all i cared about doing was pointing the finger of judgment at the church, calling it “judgmental” (irony at its finest), and feeling superior in what i felt was a keen insight on reality. meanwhile, there she was…floundering…struggling…trying… and there i was…not helping one bit… Continue reading →
Of all the things we teach our children, the one that seems to be hardest to drive home is that they are not the center of the universe. Everything in life is not about them…if I only had a nickel for every time I heard that while I was growing up. So, part of my job as a father is to disciple my children into the understanding that the world doesn’t revolve around them, and that it’s better to give than to receive, and so on. Simple enough, huh? Seems like it should be, as it is the attitude of Jesus all through the Gospel accounts, but then I turn on the radio one day and tune it to the local Christian radio station…then I become very troubled. Continue reading →