On turning 54…

•October 11, 2016 • 1 Comment

I turn 54 years old today.  Some things I’ve learned…

I’m a bigger sinner than I ever thought I was but God’s grace is more than enough to cover it.

I’m broken in more ways than I can imagine but Jesus loves me anyway.

I don’t like the gray hair that’s coming in but somehow it’s a trophy for battles fought, scars attained, pain endured, and lessons learned.

It’s not the quantity of your friends…it’s the quality of your friends…that counts. 

People need less condemnation and more compassion.

I’m sure there’s more but that’s it for now.

Lost

•October 7, 2016 • Leave a Comment

The Bible describes people outside of Christ as blind, lost, dead.  These are not condemning terms.  It’s just the way Scripture uses metaphor to describe life without Christ.  Christians are never to use these terms in derision, condemnation, or in an “us vs. them” manner.  We have ALL been “lost”.

The good news is JESUS LOVES LOST PEOPLE.  Jesus told three stories (Luke 15) about things that were lost.  A lost sheep; a lost coin; a lost son.  In each story…

  1. Something of value is lost.  Be it the sheep, the coin, or the son.
  2. The owner goes to great lengths to find the lost thing.
  3. When the lost thing is found … a great party is thrown.

We are the sheep, the coin, and the son.  Jesus is the Shepherd who finds the lost sheep, the woman who finds the lost coin, and the Father who embraces the lost son.

We don’t “find” Jesus.  Jesus finds us.  We are the ones who are lost.

And when he finds us, he brings us home … where he throws an outrageous party for us.

I once was lost … but now I’m found.

We need deeper preaching.

•September 30, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Deep preaching flows from a life that has been deepened by pain, suffering, failure, repentance, and a persistent cry for God’s mercy.  You can’t get to depth by taking a homiletics class, crafting amazing outlines, finding killer illustrations…or dressing “cool”.  Deep preaching flows from a heart wrecked by the realization of one’s own sinfulness and suffering, and a heart shaped by God’s stubborn grace.

Pete, Perry, and Pastors in general.

•September 20, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Pastor Pete Wilson resigned from Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tennessee…the church he founded in 2003 and which grew into a congregation of 7000 people.  He’s a great pastor, author, and person.  The reason for the resignation?  Weariness, burnout, tiredness, and brokenness brought on by the pressures of being a pastor.

Pastor Perry Noble resigned from New Spring Church in Anderson, South Carolina…the church he founded in 2000 and which grew into a congregation of 32,000 people.  He’s a great pastor, author, and person.  The reason for his resignation?  Alcohol abuse brought on by the pressures of being a pastor.

Two fine preachers.  Two fine pastors.  Two burned-out lives.  Two suffering families.  Two empty pulpits.

And it’s not just the “big church” pastors.  Sadly, this is becoming the norm in American churches.

Some people say pastors have it easy.  Hey, they only work one day a week, right?  (By the way, pastors HATE that “joke”.)  Pastors see and deal with more pain, grief, blood, gore, chaos, craziness,and death in a month than the average person will see and deal with in a lifetime.

Granted, some pastors DO have it easy.  They’ve built churches on great marketing and “how to have a great life” preaching that tickles the ears of their congregants. They set their own salaries, make lots of money, drive nice cars, live in gated communities, send their kids to the best schools, have the best health care, and travel the world.

But this is NOT the norm for most pastors.

While ALL jobs are hard (including yours), a pastor’s job, while maybe not harder than your job, is at least as hard as your job.  You try…

  • keeping wandering people lined up with the vision God has given you for the church,
  • resolving conflicts between selfish congregants,
  • challenging people to say “no” to their comfort, consumerism, and convenience and say “yes” to following Jesus,
  • attempting to make 50, 500, or 5000 people happy all the time,
  • changing your personality to adapt to the personalities of 50, 500, or 5000 other people,
  • making sure the church’s bills get paid,
  • exhorting people to read their Bibles, pray, and be generous,
  • and then, spending 15-20 hours a week hovering over the Bible and theology books preparing a sermon that they pray with every fiber of their being will point someone to Jesus that weekend.

Heck, just try getting the average church member to come to worship two weeks in a row!

Perhaps it’s time for church Leadership Teams, Pastoral Search committees, Elders, Deacons, Finance Committees, and Personnel committees to get schooled in how to minister to and take care of their pastors and their families.

Pastors shouldn’t have to beg for a livable wage, decent healthcare, or time off.  He and his family should be able to live at least at the level the average person in his congregation lives.  Here’s two great links for more information…

http://www.lifeway.com/pastors/2016/09/16/6-things-church-members-need-to-know-about-pastor-burnout/

http://www.soulshepherding.org/pastors-under-stress

So we pray for Pete and Perry and a thousand other weary pastors today.

And for my fellow pastors:  Follow your God-given vision.  Preach well-prepared Gospel-centered messages that exalt Christ.   Shepherd the flock God has entrusted to you.  Take care of yourself and your family.  Finish the course.

 

 

Finger Dancin’

•March 19, 2016 • 1 Comment

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(My dad, me, my brother, circa 1964)

I wrote this for the old man several years ago…

______________________________________________________

FINGER DANCIN’

My father never danced, but his fingers did.

I remember seeing the muscles of my father’s sun-baked arms flex as his work-worn fingers danced upon the fret board of an old Martin guitar playing the bluegrass and gospels songs of his mountain youth.

I remember knowing that my father was an unemotional man except when he played his music and in hearing his music I could see the passion of his heart.

My father never danced, but his fingers did.

I remember as a child in the living room of our old home place watching him play and dancing to the music of my father – and nobody told me I couldn’t.

Time has taken my father from me and I wish I could have him back – if only for a moment, for I would once again like to dance to the music of my father.

My father never danced,  but his fingers did.

______________________________________________

Miss ya, Pop.

Bowing to Beyonce

•February 8, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Bruno Mars, Coldplay, and Beyonce brought the music (?) to the Superbowl half-time this year.  Not my taste … but that’s another discussion.  Just a few thoughts on Beyonce…or, more importantly, what she represents and serves as an illustration of…

Beyonce’s net worth is over $450 million dollars. She and husband Jay Z’s combined net worth is reported to be over $1 billion dollars. They seem to be doing pretty well in anti-black America.  Bow to Beyonce.

Michelle Obama is good friends with Beyonce and one of her ardent admirers calling her a “great role model” for her own daughters.  Bow to Beyonce.

The song Beyonce sang at this year’s Superbowl is called “FORMATION”.  It is an ode to black power, heritage, and race.  Fair enough.  It’s good to be proud of who you are and where you came from.  I celebrate with Beyonce who she is and where she came from.  But I wonder if the same latitude and opportunity would be afforded to someone celebrating a different race or heritage?  Bow to Beyonce.

Additionally, concerning this song, have you listened to all the lyrics?  You can read them here:  http://genius.com/Beyonce-formation-lyrics.  It is laden with profanity and one verse speaks of rewarding her significant other (?) with a trip to Red Lobster and the mall if he performs well during sex. How degrading to … men.  A male singer (even a rapper) wouldn’t be allowed to sing this way of a female at the Super Bowl (at least, I hope not) but we let Beyonce do it.  Bow to Beyonce.

Beyonce’s performance consisted of dancers admittedly dressed like Black Panthers.  You can read about the Black Panthers here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Panther_Party#Ten-point_program.  The Anti-Defamation League and The Southern Poverty Law Center include the Black Panthers in their list of hate groups.  But once again … bow to Beyonce.

Beyonce’s Super Bowl half-time performance solidifies that fact that you can say/sing what you want to say/sing in America (at one of the largest and most viewed events of the year, no less) as long as you are politically correct.   But in America, free speech is only for those who are saying/singing the politically correct things.  Bow to  Beyonce.

This is not an attack on Beyonce as a person.  She’s just another broken sinner like I am needing all the grace she can get from a loving God.   But it is an honest appraisal of current state of affairs in our society concerning race, heritage, money, entertainment and free speech – and the one-sidedness and hypocrisy of it all.

Bow to Beyonce.

 

Thanksgiving 2015

•November 26, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Thanksgiving 2015.

Today I’m grateful for …

FAITH.  I can’t brag about my faith.  It’s not mine.  It is the faith God has given me.  Even faith is a gift from God.  I’m grateful he has given me faith in his great grace for me.  I’m grateful that through faith and grace he is delivering me from Pharisaic, self-righteous, judgmental fundamentalism.

FAMILY.  I’m grateful for my wife who … a) never complains, b) is not a diva, c) is a hard worker, d) puts up with my complicated issues, e) is a good friend to others (that’s why she has so many friends), f) is an awesome mom and grandmother.  I’m grateful for our three sons who are all handsome, hardworking, talented, and self-sustaining.  I’m grateful for two beautiful and talented daughters-in-law who are great wives to two of our sons (one son is still single).  I’m grateful for an awesome little granddaughter named Charley.

FRIENDS.  I’m grateful for good friends.  Friends that minister to our family and love us as we are.  Friends who enjoy spending time with us and are never in a hurry to be somewhere else.  Friends that share our joys and sorrows.  Friends who have our backs.

FELLOWSHIP.  I’m grateful for the fellowship of Jesus’ church.  Specifically, Watermark Church, the church that allows a sinner like me to be her pastor.  I’m privileged to pastor people full of grace who accept anyone, anywhere, anytime.  I’m grateful that our Watermarkers are not defined by the religious rules they keep but the righteous rest they enjoy in the finished work of Christ.

FAILURES.  Yes, I’m grateful for my failures…and there have been many…and there will probably be many more.  I’ve learned more from my failures, especially about God’s grace, than I have my successes.

Grateful.

2015.

Consistent Trivialization

•October 22, 2015 • Leave a Comment

The-Contemplative-Pastor

An unfortunate description of modern American Christianity…

“Such people are subject to consistent trivialization.  They find it impossible to tell what may be important.  They buy things, both material and spiritual, that they will never use.  They hear the same lies over and over again without ever becoming angry.   They are led to entertain, and for brief times practice, all kinds of religious commitment from magazine moralisms to occultic seances.  In none of it do they show any particular perseverance.  But neither do they show much sign of wising up – of developing a historical sense, of becoming conscious that they are part of a continuing people of God and growing beyond the adolescent susceptibilities to novelty and fantasy.”  (Eugene Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor)

When Jesus “nuts up”

•September 30, 2015 • 1 Comment

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All four Gospel writers tell the story of Jesus turning over benches & tables and driving out business people and animals from the Temple (Matthew 21:12-17;  Mark 11:15-19;  Luke 19:45-48;  John 2:13-17).  Not what you’d expect from the “peaceful” Son of God.  What caused Jesus to  pitch such a fit?  Was he just having a bad day?  Was he just throwing a temper tantrum?  Understanding what was actually going on will help …

a.  Money changers were exchanging sincere traveling worshipers’ coins for pennies on the dollar and charging them an exorbitant service fee for the “service”.  They needed this local currency to pay their Temple Tax and the religious profiteers took advantage of their plight.

b.  Animal-sellers were charging exorbitant prices for sacrificial animals that sincere traveling worshipers needed for their sacrifices.  Worshipers could bring their own animals but the Temple inspectors would find “flaws” in them and reject them for sacrifice thus forcing sincere worshipers to purchase Temple animals at exorbitant prices.

c.  Animal-sellers were selling the same animals over and over again.  A family would purchase their sacrificial animal, walk away, then, the seller would bring at the same animal and resell it to another family.

d.  It was all happening in the Court of Gentiles.  God graciously included the Gentiles in Temple worship but the Jewish religious “dealers” had set up shop in the very place where worship was supposed to take place.

… and it ticked Jesus off.

It ticked Jesus off because honest, sincere worshipers who were seeking God were being ripped off by the very people (Pharisees, Sadducees, Priests & Levites) who were supposed to be helping them find God and get closer to him.  They were selling religion for profit.  They were pulpit pimps; money ministers;  holy hustlers.

Many of our current airwaves and bookstores, churches and pulpits are filled with religious hucksters, pulpit pimps, who sell religion for profit.  They rip off the vulnerable and the poor, the sincere and the seeking, the lonely and the lost, the isolated and the ignorant.

It is called the PROSPERITY GOSPEL.  It is no Gospel at all.

And Jesus is ticked about it.

Weddings and Worship

•September 25, 2015 • 2 Comments

My wife and I were honored recently to attend the rehearsal dinner and wedding of the son of dear friends.  Observations…

a.  There was a big crowd there and it was awesome!  Friends and family drove in and flew in from all over the country to celebrate the momentous occasion with this young couple.  It was the result of  … relationships.   Worship is the same.  Worship is the natural outflow of our relationship with Christ and with one another.  Christians should be looking for more ways and times to celebrate together … not just on Sunday mornings.

b.  There was music and dancing and it was awesome!  People let down their guards and had a good time.  There was laughter, dancing, conversation, and joy.  Worship should be like that.  Christians celebrate an awesome Christ who has redeemed us with awesome grace and delivered us from darkness to light.  Music and dancing is appropriate (OK, if dancing in church is too much for you then at least some smiles, handshakes, and hugs).  Worship should be characterized by joy, happiness, gladness, and encouragement.

c.  Nobody wanted to leave and that was awesome!  I sat at a table with other middle-aged high school friends and/or church friends and no one was in a hurry to get home.  Everyone had to go to work the next morning (Monday) … but we didn’t want the party to end.  That’s the way worship and Christian events should be.  I know Christians who are the last to arrive and the first to leave – they’re really giving me a complex! Beginning to think they don’t want to be around me!  People are not projects and Christianity is not just an item on your agenda that you hurriedly check off and move on to the next thing.  It is a life, a lifestyle.  It is people … and Jesus … and fellowship … and time.

Leave it to religion to minimize the “party” element of Christianity that Jesus so longs for us to enjoy.

Grateful for the moments of celebration God has given us.  Moments like weddings and worship, sunsets and solitude, music and merriment, leisure and lounging, food and festivities.  Let’s make the most of them.

Let’s have a big crowd.

Let’s dance.

Let’s not be in such a hurry to leave.

 

 
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