Top Five Tuesday — Top Five Reasons I Have A Roger Federer ManCrush

It’s Wimbledon week which means I am both easily distracted and lacking in any objectivity.

I want Roger Federer to win his ninth. Whenever he plays, I want him to win.

I’m not alone in this. Will Skidelsky wrote a laugh-out-loud memoir called Federer And Me: A Story Of Obsession.  I could have written it.  Not as well, mind you, but with the same spirit.   read more

Look Intently At WHAT?

Think of all the things that get our double takes:

Beautiful people.

Sunsets on the beach.

Sunrise on the beach.

Mist rising from the mountains.

The colors in a kaleidoscope.

A city skyline at night.

Beautiful people.

And James throws in this line early in his sermon:  “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:27). read more

Proving A Point Or Shaping A Life?

I have recently realized that much of my bible reading is in order to prove a point.  If I am in a religious or political or cultural debate with someone, for example, then I’ll just pull out my Scriptures, point out the relevant verses, and voila!  Point proven.

Which in the grand scheme of things is a poor use of inspired words. read more

Top Five Tuesday — Top Five Bible Passages To Use In The Hospital

It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say I cut my ministry teeth on hospital visitation.

Whether it was Clinical Pastoral Education in seminary or a heavy dose of the “ministry of presence” during my time at Mt. Carmel UMC in Monroe and even now to a team of people who help, I have always attached great importance to what we as a church can do when folks are hospitalized. read more

Escape From Average, Week 5 — The “Dying To Go To Church” ‘Sermon’ Rewind

Yesterday we closed the Escape From Average series with what we call internally a “movement” service.

Rather than a straightforward music set followed by preaching, we had a service flow built around some different worship elements. We interspersed music and prayer within the message itself. read more

Escape From Average, Week 5 — “Dying To Go To Church”

If a Sunday goes well, we do less talking ABOUT the Scripture and more experiencing OF it.

In fact, that’s one of the more urgent points in the forthcoming book, Simplify The Message, Multiply The Impact. (See how I did that?) It releases on Feb. 4, 2020.

Anyway, as we wind up Escape From Average this Sunday, there will be virtually no gap between what I talk ABOUT and what you have an experience OF. read more

Paul & Mark Say EXACTLY The Same Thing In COMPLETELY Different Ways

Mark 4:35 – 5:41.  A perfectly designed and built
section where faith and art meet.  Remember: chapters and verses were not
original to Mark or any other book.

The first story of Jesus in the boat with the storm sets up the question of questions:  “Who is this man?” in 4:41.  (As an aside, this story alone is Chapter 2 of The Storm Before The Calm, called “Storm Chasers.”  Here is an excerpt: read more

What Happens At Good Shepherd Summer Camp DOESN’T Stay At Good Shepherd Summer Camp

I came across this story recently from a Good Shepherd mom regarding her eight year old daughter named Addy who is a student in our Summer Camp.

An amazing bedtime conversation with my 8 year old:

A: Mom, do you know that today is my spiritual birthday? Well, it was at 11:40 and I figured she was stalling for time. read more

Top Five Tuesday — Top Five Strategic Shifts In Going From Transactional To Relational

In the fall of 2018, we solicited the help of some outside experts — ok, call them what they are, consultants from Artistry Labsto try to help us reach our potential as a congregation.

Their most painful yet much needed feedback was this: “you feel more transactional than relational.” Meaning: the newcomer doesn’t really how to take you because you seem to want to get something from them rather than get to know them. read more

Escape From Average, Week 4 — The “Past Life” Sermon Rewind

Yesterday’s message …

  • Drilled down into ONE verse — Matthew 9:9;
  • Started with a Wheel Of Fortune moment;
  • Grew eerily quiet in two places … I suspect you can figure them out;
  • Concluded with an exercise involving writing a new story and receiving a new pen!;
  • Led to this bottom line: If you’re haunted by your past, invest in someone else’s future.  


So let’s start with a bit of audience participation, shall we? These shouldn’t be too hard but they do have a common theme. So you’ll see that it looks suspiciously like WHEEL OF FORTUNE up on the screen and you’ll also see that I look suspiciously UNLIKE either Pat Sajak or Vanna White. Anyway, we’ll give a good chunk of the WOF clue, and you fill in the rest. Ready?
ONCE UPON A _____.
(Homage to Cher!) IF I COULD TURN BACK .
I told you they wouldn’t be hard! All those have to do with before, the past, yesterday, last year, right? We can add one more to that, sort of a somber one: HAUNTED BY YOUR . Yeah, it’s sad but it’s true. If you spent a week where I sit and it is pretty clear that people have great difficulty escaping their past. Many times, the harder they try to escape, the harder they deny its reality, the longer they ignore, the deeper its hold on them becomes. This is why therapy & counseling exists, people! Yesterday – consisting both of the trauma inflicted on you AND the regret for things you did all on your own – has a vice grip on today. You know what I’m saying. It’s the abortion you had or paid for. It’s the marriage you wrecked. It’s the bruise – literal – you inflicted. It’s the wild oats you sowed that really did come up as thorns. The past haunts. One more classic quote; novelist William Faulkner said the past is not dead. It’s not even past. Tell me about it.
Yep. We’re escaping average together. And for some ppl here, average is awful because the past is shameful. But the good news in the midst of this humbling news is that you’re not the first and you’re hardly alone. Like, way before you there was Matthew. And I love the way Matthew puts together his gospel because every once in awhile he very subtly drops some autobiography into what is otherwise a biography about Jesus. Look at 9:9 and see the first thing it says about our author/subject: read more