Lessons from a book sale

800,000 That’s how many books were for sale at the recent used book sale I went to. I make a point every year to attend the sale of the Metropolitan Library System of Oklahoma City.All paperbacks 50 cents and hardbacks a dollar!You can’t find better bargains than these.People roll in suitcases, storage tubs, boxes, wagons, and I even saw one guy with a giant trash can.With all these books for sale there are bound to be some treasures, right?
I headed over to the religion section and began fighting crowds to scan through.I pulled out Lloyd-Jones, Piper, and Carson. Some classics like Murray, Edwards, Calvin, and others can be found.What’s most amazing to me at a book sale is not what you want to buy, it’s what you don’t want to buy.
As I scanned the tables it was like looking over the recent history of popular Christianity.I can ride the emergent wave or get a Bible commentary by Jimmy Swaggart. There are piles of books that promise me to be the next big thing. Learn how to capture the Z…

Prime Time Gnosticism: Why MacGyver doesn't always know the answer

I don’t know how old I was when I first saw him. But I was fascinated by him.Here was a man who could do almost anything, who could fix it all, and who didn’t need a lot to do it.It made me think that I could do anything too! With that wavy mullet and cool name he was all I wanted to be as a little kid in the 80’s.MacGyver was the best thing on television as far as I was concerned.I already loved taking things apart, it was the putting them back together that proved to be a little more difficult.What MacGyver showed me was that you needed was a little knowledge and you could build the most amazing things. I had all those things he used around my house. All I was lacking was knowledge.
MacGyver was the epitome of knowledge is power. He constantly fought off the bad guys using only the knowledge in his brain, and that trusty swiss army knife.I was convinced that I could do the same thing, with a little knowledge like him.My parents were quick to tell me that I couldn’t go around taking …

A Review of Discipleship Essentials by Greg Ogden

If a person decides they want to work harder at discipleship, there is no shortage of resources for them to turn to. Discipleship was part of the great commission given to us by Jesus, and over the centuries Christians have wrote untold volumes about how to go about the process. 

In the current market, most of these books are no better or worse than the others.  What's most important is that whatever plan a person picks, they stick with it. That being said, there are books and plans that over time make themselves stand out and rise to the top of the genre.  Discipleship Essentials by Greg Ogden is one of those books.   In a newly revised and expanded version from InterVarsity Press, Ogden presents a clear and simple plan for discipleship. 

I had not heard of the book before it came across my desk, courtesy of IVP.  But as I read the book and looked over the plan, I was encouraged by the way Ogden writes.  There are many many books that tell us that we need to be making disciples. …

Buechner on Preaching

Frederick Buechner was an author, pastor, and writer who knew how to get right to the heart of the matter.  In the third part of his autobiography, he writes about teaching a preaching class at Harvard Divinity school.  Many of his students were professed atheists, and he reflects on how class changed his view of preaching.  
I HAD NEVER understood so clearly before what preaching is to me. Basically, it is to proclaim a Mystery before which, before whom, even our most exalted ideas turn to straw. It is also to proclaim this Mystery with a passion that ideas alone have little to do with. It is to try to put the Gospel into words not the way you would compose an essay but the way you would write a poem or a love letter—putting your heart into it, your own excitement, most of all your own life. It is to speak words that you hope may, by grace, be bearers not simply of new understanding but of new life both for the ones you are speaking to and also for you. Out of that life, who knows w…

Why you need to be around people who let you down

I wasn’t ready the first time it happened.I was a (very) young youth pastor, ready to take on the world.I had been teaching, preaching, and pastoring since I was 18.Now I was newly married and ready to become a full fledged church staff person. Or at least a part time youth pastor.My wife and I moved to a (very) small town of under 600 to lead these youth, and I was ready to start a revival. Before we left for summer camp, the music minister ( and local banker) told me that he needed to “put a bug in my ear about something.”That something turned out to be about the way my wife and I were doing things.There were some people that didn’t like they way we did things and they thought we should know better. So they talked to each other about it, and then finally someone talked to the music minister so that he would to talk to me. I was completely caught off guard. My wife and I were severely hurt by the way these people gossiped and made accusation against us.
I wish I could say that was the…

Your Garden Keeps Growing

Good neighbors are hard to come by, but I was lucky to have one in Jerry.He lived next door to the parsonage when we moved in, and was quick to come over and introduce himself and his wife.He loved to play golf, take care of his yard, and work in his garden. Gardening was one of his big passions. He had a large spot cleared where he grew all the staples of a retiree’s garden, things like tomatoes, squash, okra, green beans, and more.And he was always glad to share them with others.Too many times to count he showed up at a door with a bag full of fresh picked items.He shared at church, with all the neighbors, even with the nursing home. He put in the work, and let others enjoy the fruits (or vegetables) of his labor.
We had been neighbors for a few years when his wife got ill and passed away.Jerry still did those things he loved to do, but when I talked to him it didn’t seem like his heart was in it as much.Over time his health began to fail too. His yard wasn’t as neat as it used to b…

The Death of a Funeral Director

News travels fast in a small town.It went out over the police scanner that an ambulance had been sent to the local funeral home.That’s not normally a place that EMT’s work to save a life, but that day they were.The funeral director had suffered a heart attack in his chair on a Sunday afternoon, and his life was in danger.He is a church member as well as a good friend, and I got the call while I was in my office.I rushed down to the hospital to be there and get an update, but upon sight of the family it was evident I didn’t need an update.Roger didn’t make it.
I hugged his wife and grieved with his employees, who were there to collect his body.I had the privilege to help them load the funeral director into a car with name on the side.The gravity of the moment was overwhelming.Roger had grown up the son of a funeral director and had spent almost all of his life around death.He himself had stood in countless hospitals and homes around grieving families, not just to provide a service but t…

Resources Every Rural Pastor Needs

I had a conversation with a pastor from out of state at a conference. He told me he was from a small town in the Southwest. “How small?” I asked, as I am always curious about small towns.“Oh very small” he assured me.“Only 15 thousand people or so.”
Depending on your background, you might think that is a small town too.Or maybe you know some places to take that brother to show him what a small town really is.That’s more people than live in the whole county where I pastor.And my town of 3500 is the big city compared the towns of 1,000, 600, or 300 around us.Pastoring in rural communities has it own set of challenges and difficulties as well as it’s set of pleasures and privileges.Pastoring is a challenge no matter the size of the community, but having the right set of tools can make the job a little easier.
It’s possible to drive a nail with a rock, but it sure is easier with a hammer.It’s possible to pastor a rural church without these tools, but your life will be much easier if you kee…