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

Top Five Tuesday — Top Five Things That Give Me A LITTLE MORE COMFORT Than They Should

Some years ago, I turned a “Top Five Tuesday space into a confessional of sorts — I came clean on five of the ways I’m more than a little anal-retentive.

In that same vein, I’ve noticed that as I get older, there are certain things in life that bring me little more comfort than they should. read more

Brave, Week 2 — The “What I Made The Devil Do” Sermon Rewind

Yesterday’s message ….

  • Hinged on the Lord as “hurler” and Satan as “hurlee” in Revelation 12;
  • Suggested that many times when we claim “the devil made me do it” it is actually avoiding responsibility for things we got into all by ourselves;
  • Landed at a bottom line that was so heavy on wordplay it wasn’t as clear as I would have liked: The devil doesn’t make you because he’s made to.  

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Some of you remember comedian Flip Wilson, whose “Geraldine” character had her signature line: The Devil Made Me Do It. (AV) It got both laughs and ratings back in the day (and I mean back in the day!). Yet the phrase has stuck and I hear it in all kinds of ways from all kinds of people in all kinds of situations as folks offer their own versions of the original.
It’s the guilty husband: “Satan just got hold of me.”
It’s the woman who lost it in road rage: “I don’t know what came over me just then. Must have been the devil!”
It’s the 60 year old prodigal who says emphatically, “Satan’s had me for 50 years now and I realize he is nothing but a liar.”
It’s the observer of US culture who put it this way in a piece called “If I Were The Devil”: read more

When A Good Thing Happens To A Good Man

One of my best preacher friends is starting a new ministry position this week.

Claude Kayler, who served as the founding pastor of Good Shepherd from 1991 – 1999, was recently named the Chief Ministry Officer of the Intentional Growth Center in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.

Here’s Claude. I don’t know why he’s holding a goat. read more

Good Shepherd + Good Hope = Revival

Here I am with Joseph Fulk, the pastor of Good Hope United Methodist Church near Lexington, North Carolina.

That church invited me to start their revival series this past Sunday night, so after launching the Brave series here in Charlotte, I journeyed up I-85 and delivered a talk called “For The Church.” read more

Top Five Tuesday — Top Five Questions To Ask In Growing Self-Awareness

Self-awareness prevents self-destruction.

And a lack of self-awareness hastens it.

I believe that self-awareness contains an essential understanding of how you come across to others — and it can be a thin line indeed between being appealing and annoying.

So here are five questions I ask myself and encourage others to ask of themselves as they grow in self-awareness: read more

Brave, Week 1 — The “Everyone Needs A Hand To Hold On To” Sermon Rewind

Yesterday’s message …

  • Opened the Brave series, a series that is itself based on the book of Revelation;
  • Explained that the genre of Revelation is more Virtual Reality Tour than it is Crystal Ball Study;
  • Contrasted John’s use of “was, is, is to come” and “Alpha and Omega” with the marvelously delicate touch God gives him with his “right hand” in Revelation 1:17;
  • Led to this pointed point: God goes to INFINITE lengths to give his INTIMATE touch.

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Have you ever had those times when you needed a steady hand? When there was so much turbulence & uncertainty that you couldn’t stand up straight WITHOUT a hand on you? Like this guy? (Vid clip weather guy in hurricane).
Other times, I guess, you need that steady hand in ways that are slightly less literal. Julie and I were maybe 24, married a couple of years, and were visiting her parents for Xmas; at that time they lived in PA. Anyway, I got some kind of stomach something, it actually got kind of serious, and I had to spend a night or two in the local hospital. Merry Xmas! (The lengths some of us will go to avoid holidays with in laws!) Anyway, her g-mom was there visiting as well, and was in declining health & often had a tenuous relationship with reality. So there I am at the hospital and Julie falls asleep on the couch (because taking care of me is EXHAUSTING) and she wakes up to g-mom hovering over her and saying, “He was so young! I am so sorry for your loss! Such a young man!” Well as you might imagine, groggy Julie needed a steady hand to process THAT.
Of course, even with Julie, there have been more real times of needing that hand: dad has a real heart attack, brother in NYC during 9.11, son has an anaphylactic shock. We certainly have not had a large # of crises or even setbacks, but there are those moments when you’re so overwhelmed, so bewildered, so unsure of what’s next, that you need someone providing a steady hand.
You know what I’m saying. It’s when you get that diagnosis, either about your own body or the health of someone you love. It’s when you get the pink slip. It’s when you’re a newcomer to the city and you’ve got to navigate traffic insanity. It’s even at the beginning of yet another year and the pace of change in culture is so rapid (no one TOUCHES music anymore!!) and the wide polarities of our land and people and politics and even increasing opposition to Jesus AND to apple pie. When life is so uncertain and head spinning, it robs you of courage. You can’t be brave; you’re just trying not to drown. You need a steady hand.
Which is precisely where John finds himself as Revelation opens up. This John is probably the same John as John 3:16 John but he is a great man & author nonetheless. Now: most of us come to Revelation with so much misunderstanding, the primary one of which is that it is some kind of bewildering chart of future events involving Russia, North Korea, the European Union, ISIS, and the Kardashians. You decipher its codes and you’ll know precisely what will happen next & when it will happen. Nope. It’s the real experience of a real man who wrote from a real place to encourage a group of real people who were going through a real hell. And before this real guy, John, could write of his real experience to encourage those real Xns, he need a real steadying hand. Here’s why.
Look at 1:9:
I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. read more

“Brave” Begins!

Brave

One thing is
certain: we live in uncertain times.

On the inside, our
nation is sharply divided along political, religious, and ideological
lines.  On the outside, wars and rumors
of wars form the drumbeat of the nightly news. 
Outrage is the currency of the day.

Where is it all
headed?  Will things get worse before
they get better?  Will they bet  better before they get worse?  Or will history simply keep repeating itself? read more

The Massively Small

One day awhile back, I took one of our staffers along for a pastoral visit with a family in the early stages of grief.

As some of you know, it’s the kind of work that I find challening but invigorating.

On the drive back to the church, my Good Shepherd colleague and I processed the visit. We re-hashed the things said, the things not said, the body language involved. read more