When A First Sunday EVER In Church Is At Home

My friends Jonathon and Bailey Upchurch began daughter Stella’s church involvement early this past Sunday.

When we say faith “starts at home,” we mean it.

Top Five Tuesday — Top Five (Or More) Unrelated Odds & Ends

I work on two messages per week . . . researching and writing one that I will preach in eight to ten weeks and then internalizing one that I will deliver on the upcoming Sunday.  For some reason, I’ve never gotten the two confused.

Of all the doctrines that different Christians hold, dispensationalism with its secret rapture is my least favorite. read more

And It Came To Pass …

Here I am with Laura Raiford, helping to celebrate her Master’s In Christian Counseling degree from Gordon-Conwell Seminary here in Charlotte.

It’s actually a journey that started in 2002.

At that time she was Laura DePalma, somewhat new in her faith, and made an appointment with me to talk over some life decisions she was facing. read more

#Brave, Week 4 — The “The More Things Stay The Same, The More They Change” Sermon Rewind

Yesterday’s message:

  • Hinged on two architectural details in John’s description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21;
  • Poked a bit of “fun” at the all-too-Methodist combination of inflexible methods and flexible message;
  • Gave shoutouts to Thomas Oden (T.O. for short in theological circles) and Winfield Bevins;
  • Landed at this bottom line: When God brings what we’ve never seen he builds on what’s always been.

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I brought some products up here with me today. Consumer products! And do you know what they have in common? All these products are designed to become obsolete and out of date very quickly. Or they are designed to STOP WORKING very quickly. So here we’ve got a traditional light bulb (pre-LED, I know!). And now here is a college textbook. Remember these? $500 a book and when do you ever look at them after the class is over? Here are some panty hose. A tennis ball (just because I want to). An iPhone. You know the primary purpose of an iPhone 10, don’t you? To make you lust after the 11! And, finally, here are the keys to my car, a 2009 Nissan Maxima. Even this thing I love is designed to make me want the 2019 souped up version. And guess what? I DO!!! read more

#TBT — Kindergarten At Highland Park Presbyterian Church, Spring, 1968

Here is my kindergarten class picture from the spring of 1968. You should be able to identify which one is me.

I remember I had a crush on the teacher, but I can’t remember her name. Maybe Marc Whitman Taubenfeld can help me out.

The Spiritual By-Pass

One of my friends who is quite open with me about his journey out of addiction and into recovery told me of a phrase the recovery community uses:

The Spiritual By-Pass

What is that?

It’s the desire on the part of many addicts to receive ONE prayer, ONE pill, or ONE deliverance and voila! … addiction healed without the painful work of recovery. read more

Top Five Tuesday — Top Five Reasons We Have A “Bible Lifting” Moment At Good Shepherd

Our photography team caught this moment during a recent Good Shepherd worship gathering.

It’s that moment where, just before I pray and preach, I invite the congregation to lift their bibles (or their worship programs or phones or iPads … wherever they have the words of Scripture). I acknowledge that this is a strange thing for newcomers but then declare that it is “a moment of oddity that shapes our identity as a community.” read more

Brave, Week 3 — The “What To Do When Your Hotel Room Number Is 666” Sermon Rewind

Yesterday’s message …

  • Reiterated that Revelation CAN’T mean to US something that it did not mean to THEM;
  • Assured listeners they don’t need to spend any time worrying about the identity of ‘666’ or the look of the ‘mark of the beast’;
  • Instead pointed out that the issue for Revelation’s first audience had to do with compromise, not fortune telling;
  • Landed at this bottom line: Your worst disaster starts with your first compromise.

So I want to take a quick tour of a particular movie genre with you, if that’s OK. We don’t do this kind of thing very often together, so I’m pretty sure you’ll indulge me in it. But it’s Disaster Flicks. Remember those? Some natural disaster wrecks the lives of untold thousands of people, ends the lives of thousands of others, and the survivors starring in the movie endure the ultimate survival tests against all the onslaught of what they call in the insurance industry “acts of God.” In the 60s, Hitchcock gave us The Birds (AV) which was just creepy and gross and made it so I never wanted to go for a walk in the park again.
And then in the 70s the genre came into its own with Earthquake (AV), The Towering Inferno (AV), and my favorite, The Poseidon Adventure (AV) where a ship capsizes and Ernest Borgnine has to lead people to freedom and air. Then Disaster Flicks skipped the 80s because that was the decade where girls just wanted to have fun, but the 90s picked it backed up with Twister (AV) and Armageddon (AV). In the 21st century the most compelling one was Contagion, perhaps because it seemed so plausible or maybe because I went to it to see Gwyneth Paltrow and she was dead 10 minutes in.
All of what I’ve talked about have you on the edge of your seat, covering your eyes, sometimes laughing, other times weeping, all the time grateful that you’re watching that movie and not in it. Those are disaster movies you have SEEN.
But then there are the disaster movies you’ve been in. These tend to be more like home movies. Sometimes you’re not only in the disaster movie, you have the starring role. Some of you brought it in here with you this morning. It’s the marriage and family that blew up. It’s the job you lost. It’s the debt-induced bankruptcy. It’s the college that asked you to leave. It’s the fact that you hope against hope you never have a background check because then your record will get exposed. It’s the idea of for a conversation you’re convinced will “clear the air” and it ends up fracturing a friendship. It’s even the great idea you had for church that sounded so good in words and looked so good on paper but when you actually put it into place, it bombed.
And I don’t know about you, but sometimes I look around in the middle of the disaster and I ask, “how did I get here? I was OVER HERE and now I am STUCK RIGHT HERE in the middle of the disaster. I’m knee deep in the hoopla and I have no idea how it happened!” You know what I’m saying. You’re in divorce court, you’re locked up, you’re simply alone again on a Friday night – sometimes even with a morbid desire to harm yourself – and you ask, “how did all this come to pass?” It’s a Disaster Movie – a bad one at that – and you’re the headline star.
And the vitally important answer to that most urgent of questions comes, ironically enough, from one of the most ominous verses in Scripture, Rev. 13:18:
18 This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man.[a] That number is 666. read more

When You’re Part Of A Book That’s #1 Before It’s Even Released

How’s that for the title of a blog post?

I am one of twenty-four authors asked to contribute a chapter to a new book about the murky future of the United Methodist Church. Called Where Do We Go From Here?, the book is the brainchild of Kevin Slimp, the President of Market Square Books, a new & nimble publishing house dedicated to all things Methodist. read more

A Healing Service, A Widow, A Book, A Truth

This past Monday evening, we had our monthly healing service at Good Shepherd.

And the most interesting thing happened.

A woman who is actually a member of another United Methodist Church in Charlotte came and as the service wound down, she made her way to my prayer station. After introducing herself, she said that she had been widowed a year ago and that The Storm Before The Calm had helped her get through her grief.   read more