Thursday, July 31, 2008


Walk with me here for a few moments...

We (the church) have often functioned under this paradigm:
1) BEHAVE--an outsider must first prove to us that they can behave.
2) BELIEVE--if you prove to us that you can behave, then we will help you learn how and what to believe.
3) BELONG--once you prove to us that you can behave and we help you learn to believe, then we will let you belong.

If we take Jesus seriously, he works under a different paradigm:
1) BELONG--Jesus lives in a way that he gave value and dignity to every human soul. "Sinners" wanted to be around him. He gave them a sense of belonging.
2) BELIEVE--it was through belonging that Jesus taught people how and what to believe.
3) BEHAVE--after giving dignity and ushering people into a belief, there came a time and place to teach people how to behave.

I like Jesus' model better.
Many churches carry the slogan "Come just as you are" and/or, "All are welcome here," but...
Are we ready to embrace the 19-yr-old with blue hair?
Are we ready to give a seat next to us on our pew to the 28-yr-old x-con who has tattoos from head-to-toe?
Do we give a voice to the 21-yr-old woman who has 4 kids by 3 different men?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"My Kingdom is Not of this World"

John 18:33-38--It is an interesting conversation between Pilate and Jesus. The dialogue begins with Pilate taking the initiative, "Are you the King of the Jews?"

It's a loaded question. If Jesus says "yes," it is heresy. If he says "no," then he is made out to be a liar.

So, Jesus answers with typical-Jesus-fashion, he answers with a question of his own.
Pilate responds, "What have you done?"

Jesus' answer is astounding, "My Kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here."

What is Jesus saying about the Kingdom? (Brian McClaren has challenged me with this question in his book "Everything Must Change.")

One Suggestion
Maybe Jesus is pointing people to a kingdom that is to be experienced after they die. We die and we enter into a "spiritual" kingdom. Therefore, death ushers us from this evil world into a kingdom stored up for us in heaven. (This has been the basic interpretation of this text and how I have often heard this passage preached and taught.)

Another Suggestion
On the other hand, maybe Jesus is referring to a kingdom that is experienced here and now. In McClaren's words, Jesus is saying, "My kingdom is not of this world,' then, means the very opposite of 'My kingdom is not in this world.' Instead, it means my kingdom is very much in this world, but it doesn't work the way earthly kingdoms or empires do."

Maybe Jesus is referring to "this world" as the world dominated by the Roman Empire. He is standing in Pilate's headquarters, a place adorned with magnificent structures, statutes and paintings.

Either way, Jesus is portraying a kingdom that doesn't abuse its power in order to manipulate, de-humanize, and oppress. He came to create an alternative way of life...a life that we are still struggling to embrace.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Racial Reconciliation Conference

Yesterday was another powerful day at Sycamore View. God was present through the ministry of song, prayer, table, scripture, word, and fellowship. One of my favorite moments was when we were able to pray over and affirm all of our Life Group leaders and co-leaders.
Last Friday was truly a Friday to remember. Check out Josh Grave's blog. His 2nd paragraph puts my experience into words. Let us all continue to pray for God to give us dreams, visions, and fearlessness to live into "one" body...the body that Jesus lived, created, and died for.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Authentic Community

It is about 10:45 on Friday, and I am leaving in about 6 hours to attend a conference in Nashville tomorrow. I hope to make it there by breakfast. I'll blog more about the conference next week.
On Sunday, I will preach the 2nd to last sermon in a series I've done on some of the major threads that run throughout all of Scripture. Over an 8 week period, I've attempted to highlight some of the broad strokes we see weaving their way through the OT & NT.

This Sunday, I will be preaching on community. What is the church? What is the purpose of the church? Why do we exist?
My text will come from 1 Corinthians 12:12-26.

Just out of curiosity, what have been the most memorable moments you've experienced in community (church, small group, camp, mission trip, funeral, etc.)?

Minimum Wage

Hold your breath people, minimum wage is about to increase by 70 cents--from $5.85 to $6.55. By next year, they should be making $7.25 an hour.

Way to go DC! (he writes sarcastically) Those making minimum wage have gone from making a lowly $12,000/annually to a whopping $13,600. Next year, they will have it made with their $16,000 a year.

That doesn't include benefits, health care, transportation, childcare, paid vacation, sick days, etc.

Something seems to be wrong with this?
(I've changed the language from the original post. The word "sin" was too strong. Don't want that word to hinder this conversation.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Here are a few words that drive my prayer life, my ministry, my sermons, my theology, and every aspect of my life:
-Image of God

Here is a word that I'm trying to find in my life:

What words are driving you?

Monday, July 21, 2008


Did any of you watch the ESPY'S last night? It was a great show.
What was the best moment?
What did you think of Justin Timberlake?

I still can't stop laughing over Will Ferrell receiving Tiger Wood's award for the best male athlete of the year. One of the funniest moments ever on television.

Last night gave me a whole new appreciation for Tommie Smith and John Carlos. Two men who used their opportunity to speak out against injustice. They were not anti-America; they were anti-injustice. It was a wonderful moment as they received the Arthur Ashe award for courage.


On another note, we had a great day at Sycamore View yesterday.

Ty Jones shared a testimony that was convicting, formative, and inspiring. I'll let you know if we can get it on the web.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Have You Heard this Parable Before?

I just returned from a 2-day trip to Houston this week. For the 3rd straight year I was able to partner with my lil' bro. He is a talented worship minister!

Have you heard this parable?

A devoted Republican looks up to heaven and prays,
“God, thank you for my beliefs. I am pro-life because every form of life in a womb deserves to live. I am pro-marriage, because when I read Scripture, I am convinced that marriage was created to be between a man and a woman. Thank you for giving us, the Republican Party, our convictions to stand up for Christian morals, ethics, and principles. Thank you for not making us like those democrats."

A straight ticket Democrat puts their hands together and prays,
“Oh God, we care for social issues because you are a God who has always cared for the poor, the oppressed, and the least of these. You want all people taken care of medically with no regard of race or how much money is a wallet. Thank you for making me, and us, the champions of a greater cause than them. Thank you for not making us selective moralists like those Republicans."

An older person sat in church one day. They are disturbed by the service because it is senior Sunday and the youth group is doing everything in worship. They are up there singing all of "their" songs which are so totally different than the songs "we" grew up on--happy clappy and throwing hands up in the air. Praying informal prayers. And that sermon was more about stories and jokes than it was about the gospel. And worst of all, look at the way they are dressed—jeans, tucked out shirts and flip flops.
Then, one of teens says, “Bow your heads and let’s pray.” And the older person prays,
“God, thank you for how we did church years ago. You were so pleased with it. We were dressed in our Sunday best. We sang the songs that the apostles sung with Jesus, “How Great Thou Art,” “Gloryland Way,” and “Blessed Be the Tie that Binds.” We heard gospel sermons with 3 points. God, forgive them. And teach them the paths of maturity. Thank you for not making me like that."

A teenager sits in worship one Sunday morning. She rolls her eyes because three straight songs were sung that were written before 1980. "I feel like I’m at a funeral," she says. "Just bring out the pallbearers. Play the soft music. Someone must be going 6 feet under today. Man, what is up with these people. Oh no, is that Brother Bob getting up to pray? Oh man. Brother Bob prays those long prayers with all of those Thee’s and Thou’s. Nobody uses that anymore."

Then, she prays, “God, thank you for church camp because at camp we get to worship how we want to worship. We get to sing the good songs that actually brings smiles to your face. Thank you for making me young and not like those older folks."

Then, there walked in a 17-year-old girl. Her hands are clasped over her pregnant belly. Part of her wishes that she knew who the daddy was. The other half of her is glad she doesn't know. She felt the need to come to church one day. She walked in, but no one seemed to pay any attention to her. As is the case in most churches, all of the pews in the back were taken, so she walked to the front. Then, the song was sung, "Listen to our hearts. Here are spirit sing. A song of love that flows from those you have redeemed." With those words she fell to her knees and grabbed her heart praying silently to herself, "Have mercy on me, I am a sinner."

Who is justified in this story?


PS--if you haven't figured it out. Look at Luke 18.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Name of Jesus

I'm giving you about 5 minutes of my sermon from this past Sunday. I preached on the power of the name of Jesus from Philippians 2:5-11. I spent all week thinking about what I wanted to share with the church and the following flowed straight from my heart.

-His name has made people drop to their knees and a day is coming when his name will bring every human being who has ever walked on this earth to their knees again.
-His name has the power to sweep people off of their feet
-His name will be spoken on the tongues of those who confessed him while on this earth and his name will be spoken from the mouths of people who failed to confess him on this earth
-His name made the demons shudder.
-His name sparked curiosity in rulers like King Herod who weren’t even interested in a coming Messiah.
-His name has offered hope to the hopeless and encouragement to the faint-hearted.
-His name has been the source of comfort in waiting rooms and funeral homes throughout this world.
-In the words of a great author today, the name of Jesus “is good news for sick people and is disturbing for those who think they’ve got it all together. "

-This world is not in need of more churches with more programs; instead they are in need of people who understand the seriousness of speaking the name of the One and Only.
-The name of Jesus can’t be watered down to morality and good ethnics, though we’ve tried, but instead the name of Jesus is a way of life to be embraced and lived out
-His name is a name that demands better morals and ethics for our lives. We can be moral but not alive...Morally pure, but devoid of any life, joy, or celebration
-The name of Jesus isn’t just about bringing smiles to faces, but it is also about making knees knock, hands tremble, and voices quiver; because though he is a great companion, he is also the King of kings and the Lord of lords and the Lion of Judah.
-The name of Jesus transports us from complacency to action, from ordinary to something daring, from staleness to participation.
-His name is not an invitation to tiptoe through life, though I, and we, have tried, but instead his name begs people to run, hop, skip, and (heaven forbid) dance through life
-We are guilty of treating his name as if it is a battery than has run out of power and we are simply waiting for the day when God will come re-energize; instead of embracing the greater reality—that the name of Jesus still has the power to penetrate into the deepest places of our lives.
-In a world in which people live in fear of death each and every day—fear of terrorism, fear of tragedy, fear of sickness—the name of Jesus asks us, “Do we believe in the resurrection anymore?” Or do we truly believe that his name has the power to lift up the dead from the ashes, to resurrect dead bodies, and to make all things new right here and now?
-We, the churches of Christ have done many things well, I would not be ministering in a C of C if I didn’t like them, but one thing that we are guilty of is that too often we have tried to get Jesus into the heads of people, but we failed to get him into the hearts. We have emphasized study and memorizing and knowing, but we have failed to invest in the formation of the heart of our people.
-We’ve believed a person will gain access to heaven because he is knowledgeable about theology, because he can win at a game of religious trivia, do good things, associate themselves with Christian morality…” but faith establishes roots when Jesus enters into the center of our being (DM)
-Our world is not in need of more formulas attempting to piece together the biblical story; instead our world needs people who will lift up the name that is above every name. (We’ve messed around with formulas too long)
-We want the name of Jesus to cover over our sins, but in many ways we have become what Dallas Willard calls “Vampire Christians”—that we just want Jesus for his blood; not for his new life
-We have made Jesus to be the place of safety. We say to the world, “Come to Jesus and you will be safe.” Though he is the shepherd of his sheep and the protector of all his children…the presence of Jesus isn’t necessarily safe. There are safer ways to live than by being a Christian. His name is demanding, and all-consuming, and it embodies every form of sacrifice and selflessness.
-His name promotes safety but it also promotes danger. If Jesus preached in NY, LA, and DC what he preached on the hillsides of Judea, we’d lay him in his grave again.
-His name isn’t a key to financial success as so many write about today, because for his followers his name was motivation to live fearlessly. In losing everything, they gained everything.
-Our hands are not big enough to carry a wallet and a cross.
-It is a name that won’t allow us to point fingers at the world in attempts to tell them how dirty they are because his name is not a name used to demoralize or dehumanize. His name is a name that gives value and dignity to every human soul.
-His name has the power to calm the soul and stimulate the soul.

-The name of Jesus is above the every title of power that this world knows. His name is above every law in the land.
-His name lifts up the sinners. His name brings the dead to life. His name can heal the sick. Free the prisoners. And proclaim release to every captive. His name is what will drive the church into the 21st century.
-I want to live and minister as if I truly believe that his name is above every name, and that his name still has the power to bring people to their knees and confessions from our tongues.
-His name is the fire in my bones.

-It is the name that won’t let me go.
-It is the name that wakes me up in the morning.
-I want that passion. I want that passion for us.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Question for you Baseball fans

Who is better for baseball:
1) A-Rod
2) Manny Ramirez

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Living with Passion

One day I told the Lord that I would rather die than merely tread water throughout my career in the ministry...always preaching about the power of the Word and the Spirit, but never seeing it. I abhorred the thought of having more church services. I hungered for God to break through in our lives and ministry.

(These words from Jim Cymbala inspire me)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Political/Social Pornography

The emails and forwards are maneuvering their way through the internet-highways. Regularly, we open our inboxes and there they are. And with one click of the mouse, these forwards are sent from one person to twenty others.
You know what I'm talking about. They are forwards of the "obvious" (I write with sarcasm) facts that Barack is a closet Muslim, he is really a racist, he has a hidden agenda, etc.

Let's call this what it is--pornography and gossip! Plain and simple! No way around it!

Look, this email isn't about condoning Obama. I would be writing the exact same post if these emails were circulated about McCain or Clinton. However, sense the source of most of these forwards are from right-wing-Republicans, they target the "enemy" in a way to demoralize by proof-texting in order to strike fear in people.

It is a form of pornography--the depiction of acts as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction.
It is gossip.
And I am using my blog as a way to say, "This is sinful!"

I can guarantee that the majority of people sending these emails have never read "The Audacity of Hope." Someone with an agenda read it and snatched phrases and sentences without even giving the context. Let's be honest, maybe some of the statements fit the context, but this isn't the best way to obtain information. If so, we could proof-text any author and even places in Scripture to stir up negative emotions.

I am not writing to condone or condemn loyal-right-wing-Republicans who do much of this in the name of God. But will you please listen to the 18-35 crowd...the crowd that is fleeing from many of our churches because of the embarrassment of being lumped into a category of being fundamental-Republican-Christians.

These emails are circulated because:
1) People allow fear to serve as a motivator. Fear has always been and will always be a lousy motivator!
2) There are people who believe that the Republican party is the answer to the so-called spiritual decline of America.

Government cannot be the answer to Christianity or discipleship. When it becomes the answer, we have submitted to the powers of the world and we fail to truly embrace the all-supremacy, Lordship of Jesus. (May God forgive us)

A few suggestions:
1) Pray for God to stir within the hearts of all our political figures in ways that will draw them into the story of Jesus--a story of morals, ethics, compassion, service, sacrifice, unity, and truth.
2) Pray for the world--that peace and harmony will exist.
3) Do not let fear serve as the greatest motivator of your life. It will only lead you to explore desperate measures which will most likely lead to more fear and desperation.
4) Stop with emails and forwards that seek to dehumanize and demoralize people. This isn't the way of the cross.
5) And from my boy Troy Robertson, quit putting the power of government to solve problems over the power of Jesus.

Whew...I love getting stuff off my chest. :)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Sycamore View

Look, I know that Sycamore View isn't the perfect church. We have our flaws and failures.
With that said, I am honored to be able to minister at this place.
  • Our 18 shepherds are men who truly care about God, the church, and the mission of Jesus. Over the past 5 weeks, I have sat in rooms with people suffering from marital struggles, health issues, and spiritual concerns, and I have witnessed their (the shepherds) words of wisdom and compassion. I have joined them in the laying on of hands. I have seen the tears in their eyes as they wrestle with how to lead people to that next level of discipleship.
  • Our ministers are gifted. They are men and women diligently striving to lead the people of this church and this community to the very heart of God.
  • Our secretaries/assistants are second-to-none.
  • Every week, I am hearing stories from the people here...stories full of passion, courage, and enthusiasm. There is so much energy in the air right now; I just pray that God will continue to fan this flame.

This is a great place to do ministry, and these are exciting times for Sycamore View.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Hanging with Kiwi's

Our best friends from New Zealand left this morning after a 4-day visit. Our families became close when I preached in Ballinger and Troy was the youth minister. Every day we have with them is not long enough.
We did our best to treat them around the great city of Memphis. We visited the famous Peabody hotel, ate at Big Foot (where Troy and Taylor ordered a 4 pound burger), and spent a few hours at the Civil Rights Museum where MLK Jr. was shot and killed. (I'll have more to say about the Museum in another post.)
Troy led us to the table with Communion thoughts and prayers in both services on Sunday. It was a treat to partner with him again.

Here is Truitt hanging with T-Bone and Taylor.
On Friday night, the 3 guys (minus Truitt), drove to St. Louis to watch the Cards and Cubs play. We witnessed part of history as Pujuls hit his 300th homer. However, really in truly, what is 300 hours in the steroid era.
It was a beautiful stadium.


I have a lot on my mind to blog about this week, so I hope you'll come back.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Independency and Dependency

July 4th will always be an important day in this country. As long as the US remains the US, July 4th will be taught, remembered, and celebrated.
Our nation has changed over the past 232 years. We've become a melting pot in the world. We have lived into a truer meaning of "all men are created equal." The religious landscape has changed. We've advanced in technology, communication, transportation, and so much more.

On July 4th, the US celebrates independency.

However, as I prayed this morning, we as Christ-followers are called to a constant state of dependency...upon God, his Kingdom, and his mission in the world.

Enjoy your long weekend.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Video & Gas

This is a must see video. Sign her up!!!

I made a u-turn the other day because I saw gas for $3.79. I never thought the day would come when I got excited to see $3.79.

How much have you paid per gallon to fill up with gas over the past week?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Truth or Myth--"If it ain't broke; don't try to fix it"?

Last week, I had the privilege to preach the story of the Exodus. It is undoubtedly the greatest story in the OT. It headlines the festivals, becomes words for prophets/teachers, is recited to children, and still carries with it formative power.
Oppression and suffering comes before the parting of the Red Sea.
This is OUR story.
1) God is still moving us to new places. He is still leading us to new land.
2) The enemy continues to pursue and there are many moments when we want to "go back" to the regular, routine, and ordinary.

When chaos, worries, fears, and other forms of suffering take root within our hearts, they become our identity. When we allow these "forms of oppression" to drive us, then we become enslaved. And, when we become enslaved, freedom and liberty becomes a scary thought. This is why children who are rescued from brothels and child slavery have to be taught what freedom is. When the cages are opened and strangers are waving them to freedom, they hesitate because their cell is all they have known.
This is not only true for individuals; this is just as true for churches. When we allow the ordinary, routine, and regular to determine our future, then we are standing with the Israelites in Exodus 14:10-13 saying, "Let is go back. We don't freedom. We don't want something new." To operate with the mentality of--"If it ain't broke; don't try to fix it"--is a sure sign of defeat.
Few thoughts:
1) I want the church to have the reputation of being a place that frees people. I want the unchurched and the neighbors around the church to know us as people who are about setting humanity free. This is the cry from the cross!
2) We must pray for imaginations and for dreams. God is still doing something new among us. These are exciting times to be Christ-Followers.
3) We need to be able to affirm the traditions that root us in Scripture, prayer, and the will of God...yet, at the same time letting go of traditions that keep us from experiencing the freedom that Jesus is inviting us to live into.