Monday, September 29, 2008

When a Text Comes to Life

I am back from a few wonderful days in Abilene. Brady Bryce, the new director of ACU Summit, did a fabulous job this year. He is more than a director; he is a minister of the Lord.
I enjoyed:
-Brisket BBQ (though I like the pork)
-Hernandez bakery (my breakfast spot with M-Cope)
-A meal at Lytle (with a few preacher friends)
-Some quality time with my parents & lil' bro
-And the chance to listen to two of my favorite speakers--Kayci & my mother

It was good to be back at my home in Memphis.

I eagerly await every Sunday because I never know how God is going to work among us. As much as I love it when visitors leave SVC saying, "That was a friendly church," I want them to experience something greater and deeper and more profound. I want people to leave saying, "I felt God there." Not because God has taken up resistance at our building, but because He is alive in the way we sing, pray, gather around the table, talk about Jesus, and love the world.

Two Sundays ago, we had planned the baptism of Lee Brown. (To see pictures click here). Lee had been homeless in Memphis for 20 year and 7 months. He is a big man with bad hygiene--meaning that he rarely showers. He began studying with John Kennedy (a mighty warrior of God) a few weeks ago and Lee wanted to receive and experience the power of baptism.
However, before early service, Lee and John pulled me aside and Lee told me that his mind wasn't in the right place today. He had gone to pick up one of his homeless friends the day before to bring him to church but he walked upon his friend only to find him dead. The friend had drank himself to death.
I told Lee that we would continue to talk about the power of baptism, but then I asked if we could bring him up to the front, lay hands on him, and pray for God's anointing in his life. He said, "Yes."
During the Call to Worship, I led our people in a prayer exercise, and immediately after the exercise was over, Lee and John came up to the front row right by me, and Lee said, "Mister Josh, when you led us in that prayer time, I was sitting back there praying about what I need to give up in my life, and I know that right now I need to be baptized."
This is the part in a worship service that can drive some people crazy. There are people who act as if the worship order is a fixed agenda for the Sunday. As we say with Scripture so some say with the worship order--"Do not add or take away."
However, I love it when God refuses to be confined by a worship order, an agenda, or a time-frame.
Now, at this point in the story about Lee some may be saying, "Why didn't you wait until the invitation?" I have found it to be so much more powerful when we allow the baptism to become part of the worship service. It then becomes participatory in nature--it isn't just something we watch, but it becomes a moment that does something to us and for us. 1) We remember our own baptism. 2) We commit our own lives again to live in the power of the resurrected Lord. 3) We become participants in the life of the one being baptized.
So, with that said, we altered our service.
It was one of the most powerful baptisms I have ever witnessed. Lee came up out of the water with a fist in the air hooting and hollering. The guy truly received and embraced the power of Jesus.
That's not where the story ends.
John and Lee came up out of the water and they came to the Table together. John led us in communion thoughts from Luke 14:12-14 about what kind of parties Jesus commands. He and Lee, who both had a mic, took turns sharing stories. John prayed for the bread, (and hold your breath)--Lee prayed for the cup.
A man who had been homeless for 20 years and 7 months was baptized during our service, and then he led us in the prayer for the cup. That is something that doesn't happen every day in churches across America.

My sermon for the day was from Luke 5:12-16. It is the story of Jesus touching a man with leprosy. I say "touching the man" because the story is more about Jesus touching the untouchable than it is about Jesus healing an awful disease.
We saw this text come to life right in front of us with Lee Brown--a man who is now becoming one of the greatest ministers in our church and in the city of Memphis.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Yesterday was an amazing, powerful day at Sycamore View. God was truly present among us and some awesome events took place. It was one of the most Spirit-filled services I've been a part of in quit a while. (I'll have to write more later)

I drove from Memphis to Abilene yesterday after our late service. It was 9 1/2 hours of alone time with I-40, I-30, and I-20. Kayci and I will be here until Thursday attending ACU Summit. My mother spoke today and was absolutely inspiring. She is so gifted. Wednesday, I get to listen to one of my favorite speakers--Kayci. Please pray for her.

To all of you in Memphis, know that I'm enjoying Texas but I can't wait to get back to Tennessee!!!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Why I am a Husker Fan

People ask me all the time, "Josh, why are you a Husker fan?"

In 1992, Tommie Frazier, as a freshman at NU, became the starting quarterback for what would become the most dominate college football team of the 1990's.
Not only was Frazier a QB, he was an OPTION QUARTERBACK.
Around the same time he became the starter, I was entering into middle school. In 7th grade, I only played defense. I enjoyed covering receivers and having the chance to put my helmet into someone's chest.
As I entered into 8th grade, I was hoping that my coaches would give me a shot at receiver. I still wanted to play defense, but I wanted the chance to catch a few passes. I was pretty fast, quick, and had decent hands. However, my coaches refused to give me the shot at receiver. Instead, Coach Hicks told me that I was going to play QB. I had no say in it.
We were a running team who specialized in the option. After a few practices, I fell in love with it. For the next 5 years of my life I would go to sleep with a football in my arms. I was throwing routes and working out 12 months a year. There was something intriguing to me about being the field general; the one who has the ball in his hands on every single play.
Every Saturday and Sunday, I would watch College and NFL games...zoning in on the quarterback. I quickly realized that NFL qb's weren't the running type. If they did run, they would do the feet-first slide at the end of the play to avoid getting hit. But the college game was different, especially with Tommie Frazier. Option qb's refuse to slide. It is against their DNA. They aren't afraid of contact or to put their head down to take on the linebacker or strong safety.
I continued as the starting qb and cornerback as a freshman in high school. I played at a larger school in Mesquite (east of Dallas), so we played against some pretty stiff competition. As most of you know, high school football in Texas is the real deal.
One week before 2-a-days started my sophomore year, my coach called my house to request a meeting with me. He called me in to tell me that they were moving me up to varsity, and my number would be #15 because he knew that Frazier was my hero.
My high school, Mesquite Poteet, had a football program that mimicked everything that the Nebraska Cornhuskers would do. My offensive coaches would fly up to Lincoln in the spring to talk option football with Tom Osborne (one of the greatest coaches in College football history) and his assistants. They would discuss new schemes. Our coaches would come home with new plays, and believe it or not, the Huskers started to run a few of our plays after watching some of our film. My coaches would come back with new drills, plays, and hours of video. They would also bring me back t-shirts, shorts, and Husker paraphernalia from the Husker Bookstore.
As a junior, we had a tight-end who was one of the most sought after TE's in the entire country. I walked into the field house one day on a meeting he was having with Turner Gill, the qb coach for the Huskers. They invited me to come and sit with them for a few minutes. I think I had to throw those pants away because I am sure that I went all over myself.
Since I've been a fan, I've seen them play close to 8 times. There is nothing like it.
Even though they abandoned the option about 5 years ago, and even though they have had a rough time adjusting to the 21st century, my loyalties are firmly established.
I am a Husker for life.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Agree or Disagree

"If the church is alive,
it's because the pulpit is alive--
if the church is dead,
it's because the pulpit is dead."
--Billy Graham

(Don't you just love the word "pulpit")

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Words that won't let me go

The Lord God has given me:
the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens--
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.
Isaiah 50:4

Monday, September 15, 2008


Yesterday, I preached on discipleship from Luke 5:1-11.

For the most part, we have been more conversion-driven than disciple-driven. Youth ministers can come home from church camps and retreats and they can tell you exactly how many kids were baptized. Preachers can preach revivals and they can tell you exactly how many people came to the Lord.
I celebrate with them, but here is what I want to know--how many of those kids/people are making steps to deepen their faith 3 weeks after the camp/revival? How many mentors have risen up to walk with these new converts on this journey of faith?

We get people wet and then what...indoctrinate them?

I'm convinced that Jesus calls us to pour even more time and energy into people after baptism than we do before baptism.

What do we need to do in order to become people who are in the business of making disciples?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hurricane Ike

I've been receiving calls and text messages from my friends in Houston. So far, everyone is doing well.
Please pray for the city of Houston and for the Southwest Central Church.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


We all woke up this morning...remembering.
I pray this morning for God's shalom (that is God's peace) to reign in this world.

There were two main theological responses to this great tragedy.

1) There was the response that said that 9-11 happened because America has turned away from God. We have declined morally. We have allowed the nature of sin to become the norm. Therefore, God brought this tragedy upon the U.S. to wake us up from our slumber.
So what was God up to on 9-11? God planned this event to snap us back to reality.

2) There was the response that said human beings sometimes make choices that are destructive, violent, and catastrophic. People have the freedom to choose to fly planes into buildings.
So where was God on 9-11? The first tear to fall on 9-11 was a tear from heaven. It was a tear that flowed down the cheek of God as he mourned over humanity. This view doesn't say that God was behind 9-11 as the planner, but instead God responded to this tragedy to work his acts of redemption.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


My purpose for this picture isn't to show me in action while preaching (seriously, I tried to get rid of me), but I want you to see the crosses that were made to go along with the current sermon series. I'm calling this series "Life-Reframed." We are walking through the gospel of Luke from now until Easter Sunday. Each Sunday, we are going to be reframing Jesus-stories. We are in constant need of Jesus to reframe faith, belief, prayer, friendship, sinners, the lost, parties, the heart, purpose, rhythm, love, mission, sight, wealth, suffering, table, forgiveness, humility, and Lordship.

Our members donated frames to place on the cross. So, each week, our frames come together at the cross.

Thanks goes to Kip Long and Ken Cox--two talented Jesus-followers.
(The funny thing is that a shepherd took these pictures during my sermon)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Saturday Nights

I've learned to embrace Saturday night for what it always is...a night of 5-6 hours of sleep. I never sleep well the day before preaching. Here are a few reasons why:
1) I've been entrusted with truth.
2) As a minister, preaching draws you into relationships with people. By loving them, you want God to break through into their lives in extraordinary ways. Through the power of God, the word of the Lord can create new possibilities and dreams for people.
3) There is a heavy responsibility I feel on my shoulders, and I hope that this responsibility never leaves me. Weekly, it reminds me of my place in this world.
4) I love preaching! It's that feeling before a big game, or that special vacation, or possibly even the night before Christmas. Throughout the week, a word from God has been building up within me and by Saturday night I am ready to deliver it.

Saturday nights aren't for sleep.
Now, as for Sunday nights...don't call me before 9:30 on Monday morning.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Long week...

Therefore I have had little time to blog. Appointments, meetings, sermon prep, bible studies...

Here's what I need:
I need a Saturday of College Football. I live for Saturday's in the fall. The day begins with my good friends Kirk, Corso, Fowler, and Desmond Howard on ESPN with College Gameday. Then, I could easily sit in front of the tv and watch football from 11:00am-11:00pm.
However, Kayci doesn't go for 14 hours of ESPN/football, so I pick my games carefully.

I'm not predicting any big-time upsets this week.

Go Huskers!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Is God Silent?

In the midst of strenuous circumstances like hurricanes, tsunamis, and other forms of tragedies, some people will ask the question, "Is God silent?"
However, if the church (the people of God called to live with purpose) is truly embracing our calling from God which is to represent him here on this earth; then maybe the question isn't, "Is God silent during difficult times?" but, "Is the church silent?"

Labor Day

We know about "labor." Most of us are obsessed with overworking.
How many conversations do we have with people when the question is asked, "How's life?" and the response is, "Busy!"
In the 1970's, the average American worker added 190 hours to their annual work load. That is an entire month of work. Ironically, guess when the divorce rates began to skyrocket in the US?

I understand that there are people working today (on Labor Day), but I hope that each of us will attempt to discover the necessity of "rest" and "Sabbath" in our lives.