January 27, 2009

A Pedantic Pronouncement on Profanity

The prolific profusion of profanity presents a profound purgatory for any who pursue purity of phraseology. This is no puny peccadillo. Poverty of pensiveness is reaching pandemic proportions perpetuating pitiable practices of pondering. The resulting penury projects a pallor across the palette of polite people.

Paucity of propriety promotes the prosperity of pernicious progenitors of problematic products. While I can pardon the patchy presentation I am piqued by the persistent perpetration of pubescent parlance. This paradigm is perpetually pushed upon a populace prostate from the parade of phonetic pap.

Perhaps pressure properly presented can prevent prevailing patterns from proceeding. Alas, I predict a pariah's popularity is my probable prospect. Some will perceive me as paranoid or pessimistic, others a peevish parent when, in principle, I am pussycat. I am persuaded that I am not partnerless in this pursuit. Please provide me proof positive of this postulation.

Rather than protract this palaver I present my precious Papaw who perspicaciously proclaimed, "Profanity is simply a weak mind trying to express itself forcefully."

Preach on Papaw.

January 26, 2009

Monday Morning Message - The State of the Church

Rather than rehash the photos and observations about our local church family from yesterday I want to share some thoughts on the state of the church in a broader sense. This is a totally off the cuff, stream of consciousness post. What follows has not been thoroughly thought out or researched. These are simply my thoughts and observations about the state of the church as a whole.

We've gotten side tracked and in so doing have been hijacked by our own thinking. Secondary issues have taken on primary importance. This must be corrected. The world knows what we are against, they are not so sure what we are for. We spend more time and energy bashing the latest beast to appear in the culture war than we do loving the smallest and the least among us. I fear we reflect the character of the Pharisees of Jesus' day more than we reflect the character of Jesus. Perhaps it is time for the church to drop its weapons and embrace a fallen culture with the love of Jesus, remembering that we too were once enemies of God.

This in no way implies we should apologize for the truth we uphold. Sin should be revealed for the destroyer that it is. We should never apologize for speaking the truth. However, I believe we have many apologies to offer for the times we have spoken the truth in anything but a loving manner. As the writer of Hebrews states, "The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword..." (Heb. 4:12). Handle it carefully. It cuts both ways.

There is a marvelous renewal of missions. Our Baptist missions sending agencies report an increasing number of individuals engaged in short and long term missions, both close to home and far away. The world has shrunk and I can now be in contact with all kinds of people from all kinds of places. Exhibit A, this humble blog has been accessed in 34 nations recently. From the Philippines to France people have had the opportunity to have an encounter with an unapologetic follower of Christ. I have had the privilege of personally watching individual's view of the world change as they worked side by side with believers from another country. Suddenly the family of God becomes a little bigger in their minds and foreign countries don't seem quite so foreign. They are nations of people who need to hear that Jesus offers them salvation, free of charge!

The 'Emergent Church' has emerged, and surprise, surprise, it looks a lot like a lot of other churches. Physically, sure it's different with very little stained glass and nary a pew bench in sight, but structurally its not much different at the end of the day. There is a pastor (teaching, senior, vision, lead, etc. - a pastor by any other name is a pastor), some staff members with some wonderfully creative names (Associate Pastor of Prayer and Desperation Ministries), a group which has responsibilities of accountability, and a veritable army of volunteers to carry on the work. After a whole lot of semantics wrangling we've arrived back at church.

Opportunities abound. I have shared with the flock I shepherd that the culture in which we live looks like and sounds like the culture in which the early church existed. Does this list sound familiar? "Repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved;divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable additions; ugly parodies of community." It's Paul's description of the world found in the letter he wrote the church in Galatia. Kinda' eerie isn't it?

Rather than fall prey to despair and become angry over the changing culture let us rejoice that now, more than at any time in our lives, the world stands ready to listen to good news, euangellion, the gospel. In a world seeking meaning the church offers purpose for living. In a world weary of death the church offers life. In a world worn and torn by hatred the church has the opportunity to offer grace filled, unconditional, Christ-like love. May it be. May it be.

January 19, 2009

Monday Morning Message - Thoughts Count

"The ultimate freedom we have as human beings is the power to select what we will allow our require our minds to dwell upon. We are not totally free in this respect. But we do have great freedom here." - Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart

The first, and according to Jesus, the greatest commandment is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." (Matthew 22:37) This may be the most disobeyed commandment in all Christendom, particularly that last bit about loving God with all our mind.

I fear we have entered an era of lazy Christianity which is content to let others do their thinking for them. A believer who does not think about their faith is in danger of believing just about anything. Some prime examples of this kind of lazy thinking are:
  1. "God wants everyone to be healthy and wealthy." - How do you reconcile this with the fact that Jesus had no place to lay his head?
  2. "God hates fags." - How about the liars, the arrogant, the immoral, the gossips, and the hypocrites, just to name a few?
  3. "It doesn't matter what I believe, just as long as I believe something sincerely." - Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6).
Dr. Fisher Humphries states in his book Thinking About God, "The single most important thing about an individual is what they think about God." I must agree wholeheartedly as one's thinking about God shapes everything they do. If we insist on being lazy in our thinking about God we will likely insist on being lazy in our living for God.

The thoughts count. Many will say I've thought about God and there's just not much there. May I invite you to take a second look? Mark Batterson relates an experience one of his church members had in thanking God for the miracles he was receiving at that moment. With a degree in biology this member's list began to run long with things like the unique properties of the amino acids which form the basic building blocks of life. He says, "By the time I was thanking God for the fact that all organisms that form amino acids have the same chirality so that my body can reuse the mutrients and cellular building blocks of the food I break down, I found myself in absolute awe of His creation."

J.B. Phillips wrote a now classic work entitled, Your God Is Too Small in which he states, "We can never have too big a conception of God." It is time to put our minds to work, as those sainted ones before us have done, and consider again the greatness of God and the marvel of His grace toward us. It will result in a life of continuing praise and purpose.

January 13, 2009

A Shepherd's Intent

"Sermons, rightly understood, are primarily forms of food. They are articles of diet. They are meals served by the minister for the sustenance of spiritual life...When I preach, am I doing a shepherd's work? Am I feeding the lambs or am I elevating myself? Am I playing with words or am I breaking bread? Am I building beautiful pyramids or am I drawing water? Am I soaring like an eagle or am I satisfying hunger? Am I a hireling, preaching for applause, or am I a herder and feeder of souls?"

Charles Jefferson, The Minister As Shepherd

Jefferson's series of lectures continues to be a significant source of guidance and encouragement. I pray that I am doing a shepherd's work, feeding lambs, breaking bread, drawing water, satisfying hunger, and feeding souls. This is my intent.

January 12, 2009


I simply love the Greeks for recognizing time is more than the tick of the clock. I am eternally appreciative for their finding a "just right" word for that "just right" kind of time. They called it kairos. Pregnant time. Time full of potential just waiting for the right moment to show up.

Truth be told, this is the kind of time in which we live and breathe and move. Sure there are the constraints of the 9 to 5 and the overly full calendar which seem to dictate our lives. The deadening meter of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, and centuries, relentlessly devours our lives. But it is never the tick of the clock which gives us meaning. The clock only measures and a measurement does not a moment make.

moment - noun - 1 a brief period of time. 2 an exact point in time. 3 formal importance

I've had a few of these lately. Brief periods of time, at exact points, filled with importance. They give meaning, texture, and life to the lifeless ticking of the clock. Moments when it was abundantly evident that somehow I had managed to hear and to heed that still small voice.

These moments were born from simple things; an unplanned stop while running mundane errands which leads to a conversation I have been looking to have for a long time; hauling a postcard around with me for weeks on end wondering why I keep forgetting to mail it only to discover that it arrives in kairos; preaching yet another sermon on yet another Sunday which reaches people at their exact point of need; sitting at my kitchen table with my family and knowing with glowing certainty that this is exactly where I am supposed to be at this moment.

Here's to kairos! Throw away your watches and day timers! Be ever vigilant for the times that give meaning to the seconds and minutes and hours and days. Don't miss the time of your life!

"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time [kairov], because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:15-16)

January 8, 2009

Just Because I Don't See Him...

The family made our annual pilgrimage to the Great Smoky Mountains over the Christmas and New Year's holidays and as always it was a wonderful time to unwind, rewind, and renew. I love to walk in the mountains and I had ample opportunity to do just that.

One morning I rose early and made my way to a favorite trail, alone. A steady pace soon carried me to where the quiet majesty of the mountains enveloped me and the noise of the world receded to a faint whisper.

I am always on the alert for wildlife on this trail. I have had a near face-to-face encounter with a grand old whitetail buck - I'm not sure who was more surprised when our eyes locked at less than 10 yards. I have trailed a flock of gobblers who had little concern for my presence and contentedly scratched a pecked for their breakfast. I have seen the hind end of the fabled black bear as it skittered across the ridge top away from me. Not to mention the numerous small animals that are ever present.

The signs of life were abundant this cool, clear morning. Fresh dung from coyotes, bears, turkeys, and deer was in evidence. The scratchings and rootings of wild hogs were in abundant display. Even an old snag of a tree showed the persistent and potent work of a woodpecker. I fully anticipated seeing an animal of some sort at every turn of the trail. But my stealthy gait and sharp eye brought no satisfaction.

I finally found a tree with a welcoming set of roots to sit against and tried to let the woods forget I was there. Perhaps a deer would wander across this glade or a turkey would strut his stuff for me. The minutes passed. The stillness deepened. I was certain there were wild eyes watching me. The only disturbance was a single squirrel who paid me no attention.

I knew they were there. I had seen the signs and I desperately wanted to lay eyes on their marvelous wildness. But on this morning it was not to be.

As I sat there against that gnarled old tree in silence God quietly spoke and I strained ever so hard to hear as He explained that just because I don't see Him does not mean that He is not there. The evidence of His presence is abundant. There will be times when He surprises me by stepping out of the shadows of my busyness. There will be unexpected encounters with His greatness along the way. But in those in between times there will be abundant evidence of His passing if only I will take time to see.

January 6, 2009

Monday Morning Message - The Words Matter

Wanted: Man to take care of cow that does not smoke or drink.

A pretty remarkable bovine, wouldn't you say? There are other examples of words gone awry like this one...

For sale: an antique desk suitable for lady with thick legs and large drawers.

It doesn't take a doctorate in English grammar to understand the importance of the words we use. Words are powerful tools and should be handled with corresponding care.

Our founding fathers were wise to the power of words and guaranteed the freedom of speech in the Bill of Rights. But even this protected speech comes with some limitations. You may be free to say something about a bomb while walking through airport security but you will quickly find your other freedoms severely restricted for a while! Why is this? Simply because words are powerful.

As much as it matters what we say, it matters, in equal measure, how we say it. If you put the emPHASis on the wrong sylLAble the MESsage gets distorTED! (Say that last bit out loud to get its full impact!).

A personal example of this comes from my marriage to My Beloved. I really thought she was mad at me for the first two years of our marriage. You see, I came from a home where voices were rarely raised and when they were raised it was due to anger. My Beloved, on the other hand, came from a family of loud talkers and in order to be heard one had to raise their voice. Thus my difficulty. When My Beloved was speaking to me about ordinary, run of the mill, kinds of things it sounded to my little ears like she was mad at me. My moment of clarity came one Thanksgiving when I observed a kitchen conversation which included most of the members of her family and it dawned on me that no one in the conversation was mad at any of the others. They were simply being loud. Imagine my relief at discovering that I was not living with an angry woman!

Words matter. Psalm 19:14 offers this prayerful request, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my strength and my redeemer."

The simple question is this; are your words acceptable in the sight of God?

Why not make this your prayerful pursuit for the new year? I assure you it is a worthy pursuit as James 3:2 states, "If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man." Your spouse, the children in your life, your neighbors, your co-workers, and even the strangers you meet will be blessed by your pursuit of words that are acceptable to God.

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my strength and my redeemer." Ps. 19:14