Wednesday, May 8, 2013


One thing I love about spring is being able to golf.  I am not what you would call an avid golfer.  Like many people I know, at times I show signs of absolute brilliance.  At other times, I play as if I had never picked up a club before.  Usually it's a mix of both when I play a round.

But like most things in life, I can't expect too much if I only hit the range once or twice a year.  Not much will happen if I don't hit buckets of balls before I play.  If I spend little time perfecting my shot, there's a good chance I won't improve.  When I only golf about every two weeks or so, it's hard to perfect my game.

However, last year my lovely wife got me three lessons to help me improve my drives.  I changed my stance, grip, how I addressed the ball (hello there white ball!), my takeaway and follow through.  And it worked!  My drives now go much further and most of the time straighter.

Like a Zen master of golf, I was able to: see the ball, feel the ball, be the ball.  And as a result I am enjoying the game as much as I ever have.

As the church of Christ, too often we don't practice, never seek to improve, are familiar with where we are, and yet wonder why our church is shrinking.  What do I mean?  There are many great books, seminars, and amazing church leaders who understand what it takes to grow a church.  But if we never seek to glean from them what we are able to apply in our own church setting, our, the church we are at will never get better.

Some folks believe that if we just pray harder, seek God, and improve sermons, the church will grow.  Though those are extremely important, I think we need more.

Like the occasional golfer who just keeps tinkering on his own to improve his game, frustration will set in.  And eventually he'll sell the clubs or throw them in the lake and go do something else for fun.  Likewise, we stop being the church when we refuse to seek, grow, learn, and be filled with wisdom from others God has placed in our path.

Therefore, I propose we all adopt a new mantra: SEE the Church, FEEL the Church, BE the church.  Are you ready to tee it up?  Let's be the church!

Monday, March 18, 2013


I've always been a bit suspicious when I am shopping for clothes and I read the tag, "one size fits all."  It doesn't work with pants, or gloves, or hats, or much of anything I've been able to find.  Inevitably I buy the item, get it home and lo and behold, it doesn't fit!

As a pastor serving a new church I wanted to find a crown of thorns to use as a visual aid for Holy Week and Easter.  I asked around.  No one had an extra crown of thorns they could spare.  Go figure.  So I did what most warm-blooded Americans do, checked the Internet.  I found little replicas that might fit on a gnomes head.  And I found some plastic ones.  Seemed kind of tacky.  And there were the "authentic" crown of thorns from the Holy Land with an certificate of authenticity.  But at $96.00?  No thanks.

I was getting frustrated by my lack of success when I came across something that stopped me in my tracks.  A crown of thorns advertised with my favorite tag, "one size fit all."  I stopped, grimaced, and tried to sort this out in my head.

But the more I thought about it, I think these people are on to something.  Granted, they probably did so unwittingly,  but there is some really good theology here.  After all, the crown of thorns Jesus Christ was forced to wear, was not for a select few.  Not by a long shot.  The crown he wore out of his love for mankind, was for all people.  

I've heard it said that it was our sin that put Jesus on the cross, but it was His love that kept Him there.  And as you look ahead to the coming Easter season, be reminded that you played a role in that tragic event.  That crown and those nails were what we deserve, but by his wounds we a forgiven, healed, and free.

Have a blessed Easter!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Some of you may remember Monte Hall, that big-smiling host of the 60's and 70's TV show, "Let's Make a Deal."  There's a new version on today.  New host, new stuff.  Not as good.

The object was to dress up goofy, compete for a prize, then be challenged to trade what we win for what's behind curtain number one, two, or three.  Sometimes it was a good trade.  Who wouldn't trade a pair of oven mitts for a cruise?  But other times contestants traded a Skidoo only to win a belly button lint remover.  Eeks!  Bad move.

Sometimes we come to God like that "Big Game Show Host in the Sky."  We often allow greed or emotion to guide our thoughts.  Yes, we have a pretty good life, but, "God, I want more!"  We've been blessed with a job, house, food on the table and most of our kids haven't been arrested.  We're blessed.  And still, we want more.

Or we come with disobedient lives, full of hypocrisy, and still want to make a deal with God so we can be blessed.  We say, "Sure God, I might have rampant sin going on over in this area of my life, but let's not talk about that.  What I really need is a new job." And then we wonder why God doesn't answer our prayer.

Or we fail to pray, worship, read His Word, serve and love others, and ask why God won't heal us when we are sick.  We forget what Isaiah shares in scripture, "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear'' (Isaiah 59:2 NIV) .

Could that mean what I think it means?  Most certainly.  When I continue to defy or ignore the life God has designed for me, that's my choice.   Free will allows me to choose my way or God's way.  But when I do, it's against God's nature to honor my prayers the way I would like or the way that will bring me peace and freedom.

When I call on God, seek His ways, humbly confess my sin, and turn from it, He will indeed hear from heaven, forgive me, and bring me health (2 Chronicles 7:14).  Such gifts will always be better than what's behind any curtain.  Amen?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


This year, more so than others, I have been moved by the idea that what we often seek and what Jesus offers creates a real tension in our lives. 

We tend to prefer a festive, ornate, sanitized, emotionally pleasing, joyful Christmas.  Though we are pretty sure there may be a glitch somewhere, we love to execute a plan and stick to it.  We may calculate a trip to grandma's being exactly 103 miles that should take us no more than 96 minutes.  Or we have a clearly orchestrated method of how we are to open presents (one at a time thanking the giver of the gift and acting like we mean it) for the fruitcake or knitted socks we received.

Have you noticed, pastors and church leaders even get a little wacky this time of year.  They want the service to be moving and often wrestle with how much traditional and outside-the-box new to incorporate.  Musicians, actors, pastors, and ushers better be on their game to make this a flawless Christmas service that will be remembered for the ages.

And yet, as you read the gospel of the conception, pregnancy and birth of the Messiah, it's anything but sanitized and without glitches.  Mary heard from an angel and then tries to figure out a way to inform family and fiance she is "with child."  Then she piles into a mini-van, er, on the back of a donkey to make the long trip to Bethlehem though she is 9 months pregnant.

And the birth.  In a stable?  Really?  Stables are nasty, stinky places.  Animal dung, flies, the smell and crudeness is all around you.  And into that setting comes Jesus.  Though songs try to convince us this was a small, quiet, adorable child, who doesn't cry, if you've ever been present or participated in the birth of a child, it's anything but quiet and clean.

And yet, this is how God chose to become Emmanuel...God with us.  Into a strained, imperfect, unsettled world, He came.  Into unfinished lives with lots of questions, He came.  And into our imperfect, unfinished lives and world...He comes.

So if this Christmas doesn't quite go as planned this year, don't sweat it.  Smile and thank God for the reminder.  And thank Him for His Son...the Savior of the world.  Have a blessed Christmas.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


You would think at age 57 I would know better.  But after years of not doing so, I allowed my wonderful wife to talk me into an exercise class.  It was a "good deal that we need" she said.  So I bit.

We attended our first class last week.  Here's some shocking news: I was the only guy there!  Nice.  So the class is set up to stretch and tone for 25 minutes and then peddle like you are in the Tour de France for another 25 minutes.  As we climbed hills and sprinted to the "finish line" I began to understand why some of those guys use steroids.

Now, after three sessions, I recognize that atrophy is not a character trait.  Activity can actually do some good. Though my muscles ache and I feel like my legs are stuck in cement when I am finished, I have to admit this is going to help me.  It better.  We are on the hook for another 11 sessions.

I am not the first to connect the dots between staying physically fit to working on our spiritual fitness.  The bottom line is, it takes time and hard work. But it is so worth it.

So I want to encourage you.  Pump up the music.  Here we go!!!  You'll need to start slow with some spiritual stretching.  Now pick up your biblical barbells and start lifting (up God) and turning (the page).  Dive in and and get that holy heart rate pumping.  Then get on your knees and begin those prayer Pilates.  Don't stop, you still have those repentance reps to complete.  And 5, and 4, and 3, and 2, and 1.  I can almost see that sinful sweat rolling off of you.  And stop...

Ephesians 6:11 says, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power."  Don't neglect the physical or the spiritual things.  When we do, God isn't glorified and we cannot be used for the workout the world will put us through. 

See you on sundae.  Oops, I meant Sunday.  Stay strong my friends.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Could it have been a stranger, more wild, quirky, or unusual summers?  For most of the summer months we got blistered with outrageously high temperatures.  And somewhere midsummer we experienced a storm that included something called a micro burst.  We watched as our grill tumbled across the yard, with our lawn furniture trying to play tag with it.  After the storm we went outside the next day to survey the damage.  There were shingles, limbs, and debris everywhere.  It was a mess.

The wind can be a powerful force.  Unharnessed, it can wreak havoc across the land.  It comes quickly and often, just as quick, it's gone, leaving the landscape different.  Recently we received some news here at the church that took some wind out of our sails.  We said goodbye to a longtime member and employee.  It left us flat and listless.  It was a hard time for us all.

But the wind can also be a good thing.  People who catch their "pneuma" (Greek word for breathe) after a particularly difficult time can actually use the event to grow stronger.  Resistance (oncoming wind) is actually what enables planes to rise from the ground.  And a healthy breeze behind us can help us set our sails and take off on a new journey in a new direction.

Churches sometimes are comfortable sitting in the harbor where it is calm and safe.  But the real joy of being a Christian, I believe, is not knowing what's next and still embracing it.  When people in the pews each wait for the wind, and trim their sails, anticipating a movement of the Holy Spirit in their midst, and all set sail together, it can turn into a downright Spiritual Regatta.

I think you'd agree that sleeping giant, the church, is overdue to wake up and set sail.  But that can only happen when each Christ-follower makes that choice as well.  We cannot harness the wind (God), but how we choose to adjust our sails will determine where we God takes us.

Friday, July 27, 2012


With the Olympics starting this week, I thought you would like to know that I have been asked to carry the torch.  Seriously.  Oh, not by the Olympic Committee, though that would be pretty sweet.  No, I've been asked to carry to torch of faith.  And the invitation comes from God.  He mentions numerous times in scripture to be the light unto the world.

Are you torchbearer material?  Are you able to "represent" the faith well?  Most of the Olympic torchbearers are former participants, or those who have made a difference and inspired someone to nominate them.  I suspect they also select those who can be trusted to keep the light burning.  After all, what happens if the person trips along a river, tumbles into the water, and the torch goes out?  "Oops" really wouldn't suffice."

Likewise, the torch God asks us to carry is a sacred trust.  It's not to be taken lightly.  To look back and consider the people God has entrusted to carry His light into a dark world, we can't help but be awestruck.  And we most likely feel small compared to them. 

Many Olympians in London, no doubt, were told they weren't good enough, strong enough, talented enough.  But did they quit?  No, they persevered.  The took the naysayers' challenge and used it as a motivation to succeed.

As disciples, we can't be stopped by those who say we aren't good enough.  We can smirk at those who say we will fail.  Why?  Because we are arrogant or pompous?  No.  We can continue and succeed as God's torchbearers as we claim for ourselves, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phil 4:13). 

You see, we do not strive and succeed on our own merits and abilities, but those of the Lord.  He is our Provider, our Sustainer, our reason for going on.

So carry the torch high and let it shine bright my friends.  Live a life worthy of a gold medal.