(Or Ministry… Or Job… Or Spiritual Gifts… Or Life Mission… Or…)
Years ago I had the privilege of visiting South Korea and preaching in two different evangelistic crusades. One day our hosts took us to a beautiful national park – a very busy place, with lots of booths, a walkway up a small mountain, and a Buddhist temple.
As we were walking down the mountain and enjoying the beautiful scenery along the wide walkway, a young Korean woman approached me and asked if I was from America.
“Could I talk to you as we walk?” she asked. “I’m learning to speak English and it helps to practice with someone who speaks it.”
She spoke English pretty well, albeit with a beautiful Asian accent.
“What do you do for a living?” she asked.
If you travel overseas or have any experience speaking to an ESL (English as a second language), it’s pretty common to try to simplify your vocabulary in order to be understood. I was a pastor at the time, and was pretty sure she wouldn’t know what a pastor was. So I chose a different word…
“I am a minister,” I said.
Her whole countenance changed. Suddenly she was in the presence of someone important!
“Oh! You are a government official?”
Yes, I know I shouldn’t have… but I literally laughed out loud. Then I tried to explain to her that in the U.S. we use the English word “minister” in a different way.
I think she was disappointed. Anyway… [click to continue…]
Surrender to the lordship and authority of Christ isn’t the goal of the Christian life.
It’s the means to the goal.
And that’s the problem, because in many Evangelical circles we’ve made surrender the target. In our audience-spectator-based worship services, we sing songs, give money, enjoy some fellowship, and hear a passionate call, all around the same theme – Jesus is Lord, and wants to be Lord of your life. Then we appeal to non-believers to surrender in faith to His Lordship for salvation, and to believers to surrender to His Lordship for sanctification.
Okay. Now what? [click to continue…]
When they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost” (John 6:12)
An interesting instruction from Jesus after the feeding of the 5,000. And certainly an object lesson. Jesus wanted his chosen Twelve to see something. To learn.
He returns to this theme a few verses later, when He says in verse 39, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.”
Into the lives of these twelve men, Jesus was building the quality of being a gatherer. And He was starting by showing them something He would actually do for them in the near future. When Jesus was arrested, they all scattered. They “forsook Him and fled.” Yet He gathered them up.
He also sent them to be gatherers of men. [click to continue…]
We were standing in a line. A food line, snaking its way into the church fellowship hall.
It was an interesting mix of people. Some of our church members, who were hosts. Most of our youth group, over which I presided. And a touring youth choir from Kentucky. It was a fun atmosphere, and everybody was having a good time as they got to know each other and anticipated the concert later that evening.
Standing at the rear of the line there in Lumberton, Mississippi, were the pastor of the Kentucky church and the pastor of the Mississippi church – my friend Rick. The Kentucky pastor made an interesting observation, especially for somebody who hadn’t been there very long.
“There’s something different about this church,” he said to Rick.
Little did he really know. But he would soon find out.
And it all started at camp. [click to continue…]
I’ve been wanting to do this for a while now, and this seems like a good time as another semester has drawn to a close. Ever since I’ve been teaching on a college or graduate level, I’ve had the privilege of reading – and learning – from some pretty profound writers.
In this case, I’m not talking about the great books and journal articles I get to lead students through. I’m referring to the papers and other written assignments that I have to grade. At my peak earlier in the year, I was grading bout 25 papers a day.
As you may expect, most of the things I read are rather average, and some are, um, well, below average. But every once in a while, somebody blows me away with their ability to creatively, powerfully express a truth. Sometimes it’s just a sentence. Sometimes it’s a paragraph.
Over the years I have collected my favorite student quotations. So in the tradition of my “Half-Baked Ideas that I’m still thinking about,” I wanted to share seven with you.
Drink these in slowly. Let them “bake in your oven” for a while. You’ll be richer for it. Click here and brace for impact!
During the days of the American Old West, a tribe of Apaches captured the army paymaster’s safe. The Apaches had never seen a safe, but they did know that it held a large amount of gold. So they went to work on it.
First, they pounded on its knob with stones. No results. Then they used their tomahawks on the tempered steel case. When that failed, they roasted the safe because they knew that iron can be softened by fire. But that didn’t work, either. Then they threw it off a cliff. All that did was break one of its wheels. Next, they soaked it in the river. Finally, they tried to blast it open with gunpowder, which only resulted in some of them being injured.
Totally frustrated, they tumbled the safe into a ravine. When the army found it, the gold was still inside.
As you lead your organization, reach out to friends, teach that class, or spend time loving children, remember that in any endeavor involving the hearts of people, are “going after the gold.” And like the gold in the safe, many people have encased their hurts, their failures, and their “real selves” with a protective shell and a “keep out” sign. [click to continue…]
…the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.
Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me (Song of Solomon 2:12)
Be like the dove, He said… [click to continue…]
What turned my head was the sign for Aunt Beaut’s pan-fried chicken.
Why is it when God wants to get my attention, the easiest way to do it involves chicken? My belt really is a leather fence around a chicken graveyard.
Anyway, last week we were in downtown Charlotte on vacation. And there on the corner of West Trade and Tryon Street was the King’s Kitchen. Open for lunch or dinner, the restaurant trumpets “New Local Southern Cuisine.”
They had me at “Southern.”
True, I can get fried chicken anywhere. But when was the last time you went into a restaurant that had collard greens, cream corn, and butter beans all on the menu for lunch?
So I staked the place out, and the next day my wife and I walked the block from our hotel to sample the King’s Kitchen for lunch.
I immediately knew something was different about this place when I read the quotation on the wall just inside the door [click to continue…]
I think I’ve found another reason to identify with Simon Peter, that famous-for-so-many-reasons disciple of Jesus. I can already relate to the fact that I feel like I’m supposed to be the first to show off when I think I know the answer to a question.
I can so relate when it comes to answering supernatural statements with in-the-natural answers or observations.
Most of all, I can relate to wanting so bad for my screw-ups to be the secret kind, only to have them aired out for the whole dang world to see.
But there’s another characteristic I see in this impetuous, impulsive, impassioned fisherman that I totally understand:
You just get the idea that Peter’s mama must have had a time trying to get him to do his homework. The very image of Andrews’s brother planning ahead for anything is laughable.
Ready. Fire. Aim. Uh oh. Sorry. Shutting up now.
So get this scene. Jesus has been crucified and risen from the dead. Peter, having denied the Lord publicly had become a reproach and embarrassment to the Lord, himself, and his companions. But he had also met the risen Christ and experienced the wonder of being forgiven by Christ.
So what now to do? [click to continue…]
You up for a little side trip? This one rolls down Memory Lane in a church bus with papered-up windows, wide-eyed teenagers, and me in handcuffs in the back of a police car. This is the (true) story of what happens when non-planning randomizers like me actually take the time to plan something. This is the story of The Underground Project.
Once upon a time (hey, I said it was a story), I was a youth pastor in Lumberton, Mississippi. I was fairly new, and school had just let out for summer. For the folks at First Baptist Church, that meant one thing: Vacation Bible School. And I was expected to have something each night for the youth group. So I planned to do something unique and special each evening. Can’t remember which night it was for sure – I think it was Tuesday. But on the promotional information, I said very little. I just said come later – at 8:30 – for The Underground Project.
Use your imagination. Be an energetic teenager in a small, south Mississippi town in the early summer. You arrive at the church to see a painted sign attached to the chain link fence that says, Closed by Order of the State. (What’s funny about that is that the old church building actually had a bad flood/mold problem and had been ordered closed within a year or so.)
Ex-pec-tant and excited, you enter the fellowship hall, where you are asked to have a seat and wait for instructions. Then in groups of 6 or 7, you are invited into a room. There I explain that I have some important information for you. [click to continue…]