Therapeutic or Theocentric?

As we continue to navigate what we want Good Shepherd to do and be and how we want it to feel, the following distinction keeps roaming around in my head:

Are our experiences therapeutic or theocentric?

Now those are big sounding words but they actually communicate relatively simple truths.

We live in a culture that is therapy-focused. We often redefine sin as sickness. Thus, the solution is therapy or healing as opposed to repentance and renewal. Broken people want to be put back together — often in recovery groups or individual counseling. Many times, our environments at Good Shepherd have that kind of vibe. I believe that’s both a strength and a weakness. read more

Top Five Tuesday — Top Five Phobias

There are some things about which I have irrational fears.

These are the kinds of things that keep me up at night or give that sinking feeling in my stomach if I’m already awake.

So here they are:

5. That I’ll drive up one Sunday and NO ONE will be at church. Of course.

4. Heights. When I was a kid, I went to the top of the Empire State Building . . . and loved it. Now if I’m in uptown Charlotte and I walk underneath a skyscraper and look up, I almost lose my lunch. Or breakfast. read more

ReGroup, Week One — The “When The Job’s Too Big And You’re Too Small” Sermon Rewind

Yesterday’s sermon …

  • Began with ‘the most jarring phrase’ in the biblical library;
  • Paused for the Apostle’s Creed;
  • Contrasted that which sizzles with that with substance;  
  • Included invitations for a daily email of Reading Prompts for Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians (Go Eat Pop Corn).
  • Landed at this bottom line: To prepare for the future, treasure the past.

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Well, we are going to start today with the most JARRING phrase in the entire biblical library. Because we’re REGROUPING during August and we diving into a small slice of the book of 2 Kings to do so. And we’re trudging along reading 2 Kings, remembering that chapters and verses WERE NOT part of the original, so the author didn’t necessarily want you to break where it breaks today AND we’re remembering that 2 Kings like the other books was written to be read OUT LOUD to a group of people who were largely illiterate. And the author is describing events that happened about 640 BC, or about 30 year BEFORE this Habakkuk cat we just finished belly-aching with.
Anyway, here’s what happens in 2 Kings 21:23-26 to a king of Judah (southerners!) named Amon: read more

REGROUP Launches With “When The Job’s Too Big And You’re Too Small”

We’ve all been there.

Those times when life overwhelms and in response you have to pause … to reflect … to breathe … to regroup.

But what kind of group surrounds you when you need to regroup? When life breaks apart, who is there to help you pick up the pieces? How do you make sure the people you enlist will actually bring good news instead of more harm? read more

#TBT — May 6, 1984

My college tennis coach, David Benjamin, attached this photo in a recent email. The picture was taken at the opening of the (then) brand new Lenz Tennis Center on Princeton’s campus late in my senior year of 1984.

What is most surprising about the photo (aside from the short shorts) is that I have almost no memory of the day or of the exhibition match. THAT’s surprising because of the heady company I was keeping on that occasion. read more

A Good Idea Involving Go Eat Pop Corn

For the last six months, my Men’s LifeGroup and I have been reading the same Scripture each morning. After I read the day’s segment, I then send an email to all the guys giving some background, context, and insight regarding what we’ve read.

Several of them have told me that if it wasn’t for that combination of accountability and resourcing, they wouldn’t read the bible at all. read more

Top Five Tuesday — Top Five Ways Preaching Is Like (And Even Unlike) Tennis

If you have spent any time in this space or if you know me personally, then you’re probably aware that two of the strongest passions of my life are preaching and tennis?

So: how are these things alike? How are they different?

It’s actually something I’ve thought about since I first began delivering sermons over 20 years ago now. Why does this whole process of preparing and then giving a message feel so much like getting ready for a big tennis match did back in the day? read more

The Fine Art of Belly-Aching, Week 4 — The “When Panic Attacks” Sermon Rewind

Yesterday’s message …

  • Began with the heavy — and heavily unorthodox — topic of panic attacks;
  • Dealt with the context that leads up to Habakkuk 3:17-18. Those verses are two of the most thrilling in the biblical library, even moreso when you know the setting;
  • Reminded people that worrying is simply another version of praying to yourself … and you are a really bad god.
  • Landed at this bottom line: “You won’t panic about what God’s not doing when you’re defined by what he’s done.”

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We’re going to start a little bit heavy today, and not in jest: panic attacks. Some of you have seen them, others of you know people who suffer from them, and then I know for a fact that more than a few of you have had them. Maybe even earlier today.
A Panic Attack SOMETIMES has a trigger that brings it on, like an important date or a big presentation or a Sunday morning sermon (!) or a difficult conversation where you can’t avoid the conflict anymore but actually have to address it head on. But just as often, Panic Attacks come completely out of the blue, with no circumstantial reasoning behind them at all. And whether there is a “reason” or not, the elements in a Panic Attack have a lot of similarities across the board: it starts with an intense wave of fear (usually WAY out of proportion to the impending situation), followed by hyperventilation, chest pounding, body sweating, and, in some cases, of feeling of certain and imminent death. They’re scary to see and worse to have. Here are the words of someone from our own GS family on their Panic Attacks: read more

Peter, Paul, And Scary

As part of our ongoing series “The Fine Art Of Belly-Aching” we’re
encouraging the people of Good Shepherd Church to begin their days in
the Word and not in the world. I am devoting this space to reading
prompts so that we can resource the same people we encourage.

This week’s readings reinforce last Sunday’s bottom line: YOU MAY BE POWERLESS TO PREVENT BUT YOU ARE EMPOWERED TO PREVAIL. read more

MORE GETTING CARRIED AWAY WITH PAUL

In 1986, I was in a dark place spiritually. I was living as a
mid-80s yuppie, feeling disconnected from any call into ministry, and
wondering at times if it wouldn’t just be easier to live without any
faith claim at all.

Yet prevenient grace intervened.

I made friends with an assistant pastor in our New Jersey town and he
wasted little time before directing me to Ephesians 1:15-23, one of
Paul’s most emphatic “carried away” sections: read more