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The Cliffs of Preaching

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I wouldn't say I'm afraid of heights. I'd just say that I don't like being up high. This came into full view recently with my first visit to the Grand Canyon. Being in Gods nature has always been good for my soul, and this was no different. The glorious views remind me of Gods goodness, power, and glory. 
But when I walked up to the edge the first time, I was torn between my desire to look over the edge and take in the view, and my overwhelming desire for personal safety and to step away from the edge. Sometimes there was a railing, which I made it a little better. I gripped with white knuckles, forcing myself to look out at the view and not look down. Other places there was no rail, just cliffs. I wanted to do it, to see it, to take in the view. We hiked a trail down the side of a cliff, with severe drop offs, and I loved every minute that I wasn't terrified. 
Loving it when I'm not terrified also sums up the way I feel about preaching.  When I was called to pre…

Functional Jeffersons

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At the age of 77, Thomas Jefferson was already an established man in the newly formed America. By the year 1820 he already had enough accomplishments for two or three lifetimes of lesser men. As author of the Declaration of Independence, and President of the United States, Jefferson left many volumes of work for us to judge him by.  But in 1820 he published something that he had been working on for a long time.  What came to be known as “The Jefferson Bible” actually carried the title “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.”  Jefferson was a deist at best, and was called a “howling Atheist” by opponents in the 1800 presidential election.  So for him to publish a religious book might have been a surprise.  Jefferson pored over six copies of the New Testament, in Greek, Latin, French, and King James English.  Then, with careful precision, Jefferson cut out the pieces of the New Testament that he didn’t agree with. All references to the supernatural, to miracles, and things “contrary …

The Order matters

As the Israelites came into the promised land, Moses began telling them their history.  A whole generation had passed away while in the desert, so it was important for them to have everything straight before they crossed the Jordan.

In Deuteronomy chapter 7, the warnings come from Moses about the importance of Israel staying away from the gods of other cultures.  Just so they know who they are, just so they don't forget where they came from, Moses reminds them.

For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.  "The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples,  but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh …

The Forgotten Part of Prayer

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It’s no surprise that the Apostle Paul talks about prayer a lot.  Living on the road, sharing the gospel, or being shipwrecked, beaten, or jailed are things that would drive anyone to pray.  In his books in the New Testament Paul mentions prayer (prayers, prayer reports, prayer requests, exhortations to pray), 41 times.  One of those times you might be familiar with in Philippians instructs us to pray, but also reminds us about the most forgotten part of prayer, and it’s benefits.  Philippians 4:6-7 is a pretty well known passage, and for good reason.  
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  Phil 4:6-7
Many, many sermons have been preached on these verses. They are full of deep theological truths that have brought comfort and peace to multitudes.  But the little phrase tucked in the mid…

Social Media Discipleship

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I had a conversation with another pastor about two church members of my church that were fighting on Facebook.  He lectured me a little about the need to be careful with Facebook.  He’s 30 years or so older than me and told me “that is why he’s not friend with young people on Facebook.  They just don’t know how to control themselves.”  The advice he gave was sound, but the problem is that a 75 year old was fighting with an 85 year old online!
The world of social media is a new one for most everyone to navigate.  By that I don’t mean about figuring out how to get an account or follow somebody.  I mean figuring out how to deal with conflict, differing opinions, and even threats on social media.  There are many, many, many ways that a person can get in trouble online, and social media can just make it all worse.   And there are many ways that it is used to hurt, harm, and spread gossip rather than inform and unite.  There is one way, though, that you can use social media can be a blessing…

When did you start to die?

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June 28, 1914.  Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary,  was assassinated by Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip in in Sarajevo.  

Sometimes it's easy to look back and see the beginning, how something started,and what events led to the place you're at today. The Great Recession can be traced to Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929.  World War 2 began with September 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland.  Even in your own life you might note when you first met your spouse, your first date, or your wedding day.  The death of a loved might also mark change in your life, easily traced back to the day of their first signs of illness or diagnosis.

Other times, it's not so easy to see the beginning.  It's harder to pinpoint when you begin to get old, when a marriage begins to fall apart, or when a church begins to die.

I recently saw two churches, within one mile of each other. They  actually had the same name, (NW Baptist vs NW Christian) Bo…

The true meaning of Revitalization.

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Four times a year the Oxford English Dictionary updates its entries, adding hundreds of words each year.  Long the gold standard of the dictionary world, the OED has to update quarterly because of the massive influx of words today.   Words or phrases that 20 years ago would be nonsense are now part of every day language, even used in newspapers and on the nightly news.  This past December 2016, words such as Brexit, fulled, hakbut of crochet, Fulfulde (n. and adj.), glam-ma, YouTuber, and upstander were added to the list.  (No I don’t know what all those mean)
Every so often in the Christian subculture there are new words and phrases that catch on and become buzzwords.  You might remember when words like missional, emergent, emerging, church planting, or more first began to be circulated.  Often due to influential books, authors, or preachers, these words help put a point on something that need to be expressed in the current moment. 
In the last few years the phrase “church revitalizati…

What's left when a church closes

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Some skills are God-given. Some are acquired through hard work.  Through years of practice and hard work, I have learned to spot a garage sale sign at great distances.  Driving through the city recently my eye caught a big one.   Not only was it a going out of business sign, it was at a church.

I drove to a big old church building that backed up to a high school in one of the older parts of the city.  It was a mainline protestant church, and as I entered the old gym, the sights and smells were familiar.  It looked and felt like almost every older church I have been in.  Like my church, even.  I wandered around the building some, and it had all the problems older buildings have. Dated decor, lots of stairs, and it was probably difficult to direct people in the maze of hallways.  One table in the back had a picture of the congregation taken a few years back. The church shared little demographically with the high school you could see out the window.  I talked to a few of the ladies work…