10 Goofy Preacher Idioms

 Life usually doesn’t fit into nice neat little lists, but that doesn’t keep me from trying.  Welcome to my Tuesday 10, where I try to fit the messiness of life into a list of ten.

Preface: People I love, admire, and respect frequently say things from this list. This is me poking fun at my colleagues, friends, and mentors. It’s meant to be in good fun.  So, if you’re an oversensitive type person quickly close your eyes and turn off your computer before you get your feelings hurt.

1. “If I was going to title this message I would title it, ________.”
You just titled it.  Skip the whole first part of that.

2. “Pray with me.”
We are.  You’re the one with the microphone and a dozen floor monitors pointed in your direction.

3. “I’m preaching better than you’re shouting.” 
If you have to say this, then you are not, or you just don’t know your audience very well.

4. “Can I get a witness?”
Yes, we all just saw or heard you say that. What about it?

5. “Under the spout where the glory comes out.”
There simply has to be a better way to say this that doesn’t involve or imply strange claustrophobic plumbing imagery.

6. “God showed up and showed out.”
No, no he didn’t.  God is not an infant.

7. “I don’t know why people will shout more at a football game, than at church.”
Probably has something to do with that whole being reverent thing.

8. “Fire insurance.”
What kind of deductible does that come with?

9. “Take on hell with a water pistol.”
What about that whole our weapons are not carnal weapons thing?

10. “In closing…”
If you have to reassure us that you’re almost finished by making this statement then you took too long to get there.  I do this all the time, but pretend like I don’t know that I did by not making this statement.

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Jeremiah 6:14 "My People"

Lately I have been studying the Old Testament book Jeremiah during my quiet time with the Lord.  While reading through the sixth chapter the fourteenth verse really jumped out at me.  As I sat in my office I couldn’t get this verse off of my mind. So I decided to share my thoughts.

They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially,
Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace. – Jeremiah 6:14 NASB

My people is an easy enough phrase to grasp the meaning of in the context of this passage.  My meaning mine–as in God’s; and people meaning the Jews.  This prophetic writing is stating quite plainly that God is unhappy with the way that His chosen ones are being treated by the people (prophets and priests) responsible for directing them to Him.

Jeremiah has over fifty chapters.  Much of the content deals with the approaching judgement against the Israelites by the conquering Babylonian army.  And even though God is readying the judgement that many of Jeremiah’s later chapters deal with, He still stamps the Jews with His ownership in this early passage.

Something I believe that this helps to point out is the idea that God’s judgement is often redemptive in nature (for more on that read Jonah’s story in the book by the same name.)  God often used judgement in the OT to steer His people toward correction.  Of course, when we think of judgement in our modern era we usually think of some kind of terrible supernatural cataclysm (or a verdict rendered in a court); and while I believe those happen I also believe there are small judgements of a less obvious nature.

To me, the important thing to take away from this passage is the idea that once you’ve been adopted into God’s family (see Ephesians chapter one) you belong to His family.  That is something pretty awesome to consider.  It doesn’t free us from responsibility, or even correction, but instead it affords us the wealth of sonship that rests in the family of God.

Last thought:  People is not a singular term.  It is plural.  It is collective.  No Christian is an only child and I find it deeply unsettling when I happen across those within the faith who feel as if they are all alone.

Challenge:  Plug in to the people.  Find a faith family.  Find a place to be a part of the collective of the Body of Christ.  Find a church.  Become deeply involved and let those around you become deeply involved with you.  You will be all the better for it.

 

See the rest of the series here.

11 Books That Changed Me

 Life usually doesn’t fit into nice neat little lists, but that doesn’t keep me from trying.  Welcome to my Tuesday 10, where I try to fit the messiness of life into a list of ten.  Today I’m adding one.

I learned how to read when I was four and, except for a brief period during junior high when well-meaning English teachers tried to force me to read really boring girly stuff, I have been doing it pretty much ever since.  I’ve read a lot of books.  I won’t even pretend like I know the number.  Some were fun, some were serious, some were both; but a handful really made an impact on me.  Here is a list of ten books that changed me.  I hope you’ll pick one, or more, of these titles up soon.

1.The Holy Bible – Obviously this one was gonna make the list.  It’s a library in and of itself.  I’ve been reading it regularly for twenty years.  No other written work has, or could, impact me the way the Bible continues to on a daily basis.

2. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis – It took me almost two years to read it through for the first time because I didn’t want to move on to the next page without being able to absorb and understand what I had just read.  I’ve read it a few more times since and it gets a little easier every time, but it is always challenging.  More than any other apologetic work this book helped me learn to connect my brain to my faith in a way that no preacher, teacher, sermon, or Sunday School lesson ever could. Read it online for free here.

3. Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller – This is an interesting little book.  It challenged me in a lot of ways, but it changed how I look at people, including myself, forever.  This book explains the actual relational aspect of the Christian faith better than any other work I have ever read.

4. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl – Before I knew anything about Gene Wilder’s whimsical film adaptation, and way before Johnny Depp and Tim Burton vomited their nauseous “artistry” on the mythos; a teacher started reading this book aloud to my class.  I couldn’t wait for her to finish, so I checked out a copy from our school library and started reading it on my own.  As a kid with an incredibly active imagination, it was like candy for my soul.  I think my life has been a little sweeter because of it.  And my imagination is just as active now as it was when my little third grade self read the last words of the last page.

5. Wild at Heart by John Eldredge – During the darkest season, of the worst part of my life, a coworker who has sense grown to be a great friend told me to read Wild at Heart.  I didn’t learn a single thing reading this book; instead I began to understand myself with an acute awareness that connected me to my heavenly, and earthly, father in such a truly profound way.  In the time since I have taught it’s pages, walked dozens of guys through it’s principles, and witnessed that same light-bulb light up in other young eyes.  It is incredibly special to my heart.

6. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (and Huckleberry Finn) by Mark Twain – The same junior high English teacher that tried, unsuccessfully, to force me to read The Diary of Anne Frank introduced me to Mark Twain.  In fact, when I saw that Huck Finn was on the list I prepared myself by reading Tom Sawyer instead of the drab diary.  Because of the misadventures of two southern country boys I spent a lot of summers building tree houses and makeshift rafts–and thanks to young Tom, I love exploring caves.  Read it online for free here.

7. Servolution by Dino Rizzo – It’s a short story about a church called “The Healing Place” and how a pastor’s vision connected with his parishioners.  It has challenged me to love people without condition, and to serve them without any hidden agenda, because that’s what Jesus did.

8. Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer – I’ve been walking though this book a paragraph at a time with a small group of young men for the last seven months.  Each page is like unwrapping a delightful little package of theological wonder.  Truly what goes through someone’s mind when they think about God is the most important thing about them.

9. Jesus Freaks by The Voice of the Martyrs – I heard a lot of stories about persecuted Christians growing up; but this book colored in those old ambiguous tales with names, locations, and verifiable facts.  A volume that could easily be depressing if read with the wrong intentions is actually one of the most encouraging books on my shelves.

10. The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien – I grew up in an era when anything with magic, dragons, or imagination for that matter, was pretty much frowned upon by the American Church.  So, in the eleventh grade when my pastor, who was also my English teacher, handed me a copy of The Hobbit: There and Back Again and told me that I would enjoy it, I believed him.  I read it.  I enjoyed it.  In fact, I enjoyed it so much that it began a love for fantasy fiction that I still enjoy to this day.  It also taught me that people can really miss the boat sometimes, and that I should make up my own mind about issues, rather than letting outspoken naysayers make it up for me.

11. Mossflower by Brian Jacques – I worked in a library my senior year of high school for a very wonderful lady.  She frequently let me check out books and one week I picked up Mossflower.  It is a fantasy story about anthropomorphic animals (read “animals that walk upright and talk”) written by a former sailor and adventurer for blind children.  I absolutely fell in love with the writing style, the adventure, and the innocence of the story.  By the end of the week I had finished the first four books in the series, by the end of the month I had inhaled the author’s entire volume of work and was anxiously awaiting the next in the series.  The way that it changed me though has nothing to do with the story itself.  The best word I know to use is that something about the nature of the writing and the way it connected with me, unlocked a desire within me to write.  I’ve been writing ever since.  Some I share, some I keep in private to be enjoyed first by my family and friends.  One day I plan to publish a lot of it.

Books are more powerful than we often realize.  I connect with stories on a deep level.  Thanks for taking the time to read this.  This list could have easily been expanded to include twenty or more books.  What are some things that you’ve read that really challenged or changed you?

Jeremiah 6:14 "Brokenness"

Lately I have been studying the Old Testament book Jeremiah during my quiet time with the Lord.  While reading through the sixth chapter the fourteenth verse really jumped out at me.  As I sat in my office I couldn’t get this verse off of my mind. So I decided to share my thoughts.

They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially,
Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace. – Jeremiah 6:14 NASB

Jeremiah is often called the weeping prophet, and for good reason. Much of his writing has to do with the judgement and wrath of God and is delivered through a form of writing known as a lament.  His smaller canonized work even bears the name, “Lamentations.” Jeremiah lived during an incredibly tumultuous time in Jewish history.  He was a prophet before and during the conquest and exile of the Jews to Babylon. It seems to me that Jeremiah was uniquely qualified among his contemporary prophets to use the word.  The NASB uses the word brokenness  but the transliteration for the Hebrew word is sheber.  It means a fracture, something ruined; an affliction, breach, bruise, destruction, hurt, or vexation.

So what is Jeremiah 6:14 referring to as brokenness? A number of things come to mind. Among them is the moral bankruptcy of the time. God established the Law for His people to live by and, as I discussed in my last post, many clergy of the day had manipulated it to suit their own ends.  Through study of the various Old Testament prophets it becomes readily apparent that much of God’s judgement which led to the Babylonian exile is a direct result of the Jews’ national moral depravity.  I also believe brokenness refers to their state of being both during the conquest, and after the exile.  Obviously I’ve never lived through such a time, and find it difficult to imagine; but the conquest and siege which preceded the exile led to a truly volatile time in Israel.  A time in which both morality and morale were at a terrifying low.

Jeremiah witnessed mothers boiling their own children to avoid starvation. What kind of brokenness do you see around you today? What kind of fractured morality seems to be becoming the norm?

My prayer today is that God would open our eyes and hearts to those around us.  Not only so that we would be aware of the state of things; but that so we would be able to reach out and lovingly help those who are headed toward, or are already lost in, brokenness.  Unlike the prophets and priests of Jeremiah’s time, let us with compassion and selflessness shower and guide people in a way that truly directs them toward God, the only one who can actually “heal their brokenness.”

 

See the rest of the series here.

Jeremiah 6:14 "They"

Lately I have been studying the Old Testament book Jeremiah during my quiet time with the Lord.  Earlier this week while reading through the sixth chapter the fourteenth verse really jumped out at me.  Any time something like this happens while I’m reading I instantly make a note of it, and as I sat in my office today I couldn’t get this verse off of my mind.  So I decided to do what I often do in times like these as I contemplate a passage of scripture–share it.  For my next few posts I’ll be taking a deeper look at this verse.  What do I think it means?  Who do I think it is speaking to or about?  How does it challenge me?

They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially,
Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace. – Jeremiah 6:14 NASB

Who is “They” that this verse is speaking of?  You only need to go back to verse thirteen to see that it is referencing the prophets and priests of Israel.

For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, Everyone is greedy for gain,
And from the prophet even to the priest Everyone deals falsely. – Jeremiah 6:13 NASB

Other versions swap gain for money, profit, wealth, and other similar terms–but the point is made.  The prophets and priests, the people charged with communicating and conducting the people of Israel toward God had been corrupted.  And during this passage God was warning them through Jeremiah of the impending disastrous consequences of their actions.

Do you know of anyone today purporting to fill the role of prophet or priest while at the same time seeking to fill their pockets, promote their image, or presume their superiority?  Take care.  Look first for the humble heart, wise nature, and gentle spirit.

 

See the rest of the series here.

 

10 Tips for Twitterpating

 Life usually doesn’t fit into nice neat little lists, but that doesn’t keep me from trying.  Welcome to my Tuesday 10, where I try to fit the messiness of life into a list of ten.

In eight years of campus ministry far and away the thing I’ve counseled people about the most are their romantic relational issues. Love is easily one of, if not the most, talked about issue on the planet.  These are ten fairly blunt things I shared with a group of college students Sunday night.  This list comes from, not only years of discussing these issues with people, but from my own mistakes and experiences as well

  1. It’s okay to be single. Society treats single-hood as though it is something to be shunned, feared, or mocked; but that is wrong.  Being single is a lot better than committing relational suicide, sexual sin, or emotional masturbation.
  2.  The “you complete me” line from Jerry Maguire is a giant smelly fairytale lie.  Putting two messed up people together doesn’t make one whole person, it makes one messed up couple–and if you’re not already solid in God, it becomes a lot harder for you to be obedient to the changes He tries to make in you if you are distracted by romance.  When Jesus said a man and would unite as one flesh He didn’t mean actual human being.  He meant one unified representation of the goodness, likeness, and image of God.
  3. Know who you are.  If you have identity issues a relationship will only complicate them.  The healthy way to find your identity is by searching for where your heart and God’s heart are joined.
  4. Early affection is a warning sign.  Someone eager for early physical contact is dangerous to your sexual, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
  5. You probably don’t know what you want.  Guys are selfish.  Girls want to be wanted.  Sometimes those roles are reversed.  Both are horny.  Neither know what they want at 20ish years old.  Know what you want in a future Mr. or Mrs. you.  Make a list.  Check it more than twice.  Then check it again.  Then let people in spiritual authority over you check it.  Guys, if your list reads like a help wanted ad for a modeling agency, you don’t know what you want.  Girls, if your list sounds like a trailer for anything resembling a Disney, Nicholas Sparks, or Ryan Reynolds movie, you don’t know what you want.  Cultivate an expectation for a Christian union based around the the principles found in a Christian person.
  6. Relationships don’t change people.  A frog doesn’t turn into a prince just because you kiss him.  Just because she kissed you doesn’t mean you’re Prince Charming.  Relationships don’t change people; they magnify all the weird little parts of who they really are.
  7. You are no one’s puppet.  If every moment with someone is overshadowed by an expectancy to behave, act, or perform in a certain way you are in a poisonous relationship.  Leave now and never look back.
  8. Emotion is a slippery slope.  If it was a ski slope it wouldn’t even be a double black diamond.  It would be an uncharted run that required a helicopter dispatch and constantly ran the risk of avalanche.  If all that connects you is emotion–your relationship is destined to fail.  True love is so much bigger than emotion.
  9. Wait for sex.  Wait for sex.  Wait for sex.  If you’re not married, don’t do anything that can lead to orgasm, or anything that makes you want to do things that lead to orgasm.  The enemy will do everything he can to get you to have sex before you’re married, and everything he can to keep you from having sex after you’re married.
  10. True love is unconditional.  “Happily Ever After,” would make a better episode of Dirty Jobs than Mythbusters.  Can you picture yourself changing their diaper for twenty years?  What about pushing them in a wheelchair or carrying them to bed?  What about listening to them snore or putting up with a really annoying relative?

    Home: A Different Kind of Revival

    Growing up the word revival was always understood orinterpreted through the lens of congregational church gatherings.  Revival usually meant that I had to attendchurch not only on Sunday or Wednesday in a given week, but typically nearlyevery other night as well.  Growing up ina Pentecostal fellowship added its own number of connotations as well.  Revival was characterized by high energy,loud preachers, louder services, crying, dancing, and more music than usualbefore and after (and sometimes during) the preaching.
    It wasn’t until my twenties that I began to revisit the wordrevival, and exactly what I thought it meant to me.  I began to ask, and attempt to answer, “What is revival?” for my own life.  Not that I no longer believed in all thethings I experienced in revivals as a kid, I just felt like I wasn’t quitegetting the whole picture.  Like most of what I had considered revival was really just the combined outward display of some of the things that happen to people experiencing earnest revival in their lives.
    The answer to me, like so many things it seems, is found inthe word itself.  Revival meansreviving.  It means to revive—to take somethingthat is dead, or dying; and to regenerate, recuperate, revitalize it.  Like Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones regaininglife, it means taking a dry and dusty shell of something and allowing God tobreathe back into it His awesome breath.
    Revival to me means to find, have, understand, live, anddwell in divine inspiration again.  Likewhen God inspired scripture to be written, or dust to become man, I believe Heinspires His people—the Church—to wake up, to no longer be inanimate objectsfilling space and occupying time, and to reconnect with Him in a deeply, andsometimes uncomfortably authentic way.
    Understandingyour deep need for God is often an early step toward salvation.  And many times the first stirrings of revival begin with theauthentic whispering of spiritual unrest found within the Church.  Not unrest in the “let’s call a board meeting and rant about inconsequential matters ofbureaucratic-nonsensicalness” kind of way—constructive unrest.  Unrest birthed out of the sense that God doesindeed wish us to connect with Him in a more meaningful way than we are atpresent.  This is the kind of unrest thatseeks to topple the status quo.
    For a generation of people that have witnessed firsthand thepitifully inadequate attempt on the part of most youth ministries to competewith whatever is trendy and popular, we’re looking for something different.  We don’t need, and don’t want, to connectwith God through; fog machines, gluttonously-loud music, light shows, orproductions.  That stuff isn’t inspired.  Maybe it was, once upon a time.  But that ship has sailed.
    Do you know what inspires me?  Finding myself in right relationship throughredemption; knowing that I have forgiveness and freedom from sin in God.  Discovering authentic community; belonging toa body of fellow believers that actually care about each other and thecommunity around them.
    That’s what I am seeing lately.  It’s a different kind of revival than what Iremember as a kid.  It’s a lot quieter(so far), it doesn’t come across like a preplanned production, it isunexpected—though very much welcomed, it is beyond the control and comfort ofleadership and layperson, it is without walls or boundaries though it fits, andflourishes, in the hearts of those who deeply seek after earnest connectionwith God.  
    Revival is what happens whenthe Church rejects, or at least diminishes, everything that distracts fromseeking Him.  It is what happens when wefind the purity of purpose in pursuit of the Almighty.  Revival is taking in His breathe, filling ourlungs with it, and finding His waiting embrace. It is being revived, being inspired, and being returned—to where webelong in Him.  If salvation is aboutreturning a sinner to the family of God, revival is about returning the Churchto the will of God.  Revival is about cominghome.