Tuesday, November 26, 2013

God Believes in Love

Over the last few days I had the opportunity to watch a conversation between Gabe Lyons and Gene Robinson on the issues of the LGBT community and God.  I say the word "conversation" very intentionally, as I was blown away by the respect that these two men had for one another.  In most cases these types of things are debates, and what unfortunately happens in most debates is that the two parties speak at one another rather than to one another, and true listening and empathy are rare.  I felt that these two men were honest with their beliefs, both in the things they feel solid about as well as the areas in which there are still questions, and I was so encouraged as they both sought common ground and a way forward, which is so key in an issue that has caused this much hurt and division.  No matter what you think about this issue, you owe it to yourself to take some time and watch this.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sabbatical Reading List Part 2

I've enjoyed having extra time for reading during my sabbatical.  Here are the books that I've been reading these last few weeks...

1.  Love Does, by Bob Goff - Mandy read this book a few months ago and shared with me some of the extraordinary stories that he tells.  I have to admit that as I heard and then read them, I was a bit skeptical.  So I decided that one of my prayers during sabbatical was that I would grow young; in other words, I would recapture faith and be less of a cynic.  I must say that this book has both challenged and helped that prayer.

2.  Sensing Jesus, by Zack Eswine - This is a beautiful and challenging book.  It has given me the desire to live a slower life in which I experience life the way Jesus experienced life.  It exposes over and over again the discrepancies between our view of greatness and God's.

3.  Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown - Her talk at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit was outstanding.  The call towards vulnerability, shame resilience, and wholeheartedness, though challenging (a theme with these books it seems), are timely and critical.  Mandy is currently listening to her previous book, The Gifts of Imperfections.  I'm looking forward to that one as well.

4.  Straight Flush, by Ben Mezrich - I'm a sucker for his books.  The movies The Social Network and 21 were based off of two of his previous books.        

5.  Dad is Fat, by Jim Gaffigan - This is the hilarious book by the comedian who lives with his wife and FIVE young children in a 2-bedroom apartment.  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sabbatical Reflections

I am two weeks into my 2-month sabbatical.  For background, here's a post that Meredith Pace, one of our Leadership Team members, wrote a couple of months ago, and here's a post I wrote sharing with our church my heart and plans for this sabbatical.

So far the sabbatical has been marked by travel.  We started out with our second annual micro church trip to the water park, with a stop at Heifer Village on the way.  Two days later the four of us headed east.  We stopped overnight in Atlanta, staying with my Uncle Jack and Aunt Marlene.  Then we drove to Uncle Bruce and Aunt Ginger's Marsh House just a little outside Savannah.  We spent one night there, then two nights at their home in Savannah.

Then we headed to Tybee Island.  It's been a very restful trip so far, and we have two full days left.  Our condo is not completely ocean-front, but it will do.  Here's the view from our balcony.

We've spent most of our time at the pool or on the beach.  The first few days were cooler and windy, which made the waves a bit rough for the boys, but which also made the evenings on the balcony amazing.  We've also eaten a lot of seafood, which is always a good thing.  I introduced the boys to crab legs the other night.  They both loved it.

Yesterday we spent the day on Bruce and Ginger's sailboat.  The boys went fishing and Micah caught two sharks.

On Saturday we begin our drive back home.  We'll be spending the night in Atlanta, and arriving in Memphis on Sunday afternoon.


Sabbatical Reading List Part 1

One of my goals during my sabbatical is to read a lot.  Most of the time I am producing and pouring out.  During this sabbatical I am resting, which means no producing or pouring out.  Instead, I am receiving and being poured into.  One of the ways I'm doing this is through reading.

During this first month I've decided to limit my reading to the Bible, novels, history, and parenting resources.  So here's what I've been reading.

1.  The Epistles (Letters) in the New Testament
I bought a new NIV Bible right before my sabbatical started, and I'm using this chronology I put together for our series on Acts a few years ago.  I'm currently in 2 Corinthians.

2.  1776, by David McCullough
I'm just a third of the way through it, but so far it's a fascinating read.  Some that I remember from school, but lots that I didn't know.  I love reading about George Washington.  Such a great leader.  And I've enjoyed Henry Knox's story, especially the capturing and transporting of the guns from Fort Ticonderoga.  Fascinating.

3.  Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys, by Stephen James and David Thomas
This one has been on my Kindle shelf for awhile.  So glad I'm reading it now.  If you have boys, you need to read this.  The authors utilize the themes from Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are to show the progress of a boy's life.  There's also a ton of practical advice for raising boys.

4.  The Hit, by David Baldacci
I love David Baldacci and have read most of what he's written.  This one was a great read.

5.  Inferno, by Dan Brown
I checked out the kindle version from the library before my sabbatical but didn't finish it, so I then checked out the audio version and am listening to it as well.  This is the fourth book in the Robert Langdon series (The Da Vinci Code)

As I begin to move into the second half of my sabbatical, I'll be shifting gears to spiritual formation, leadership, and ministry/mission.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Over the past few months I've been developing a new habit.  It's not perfect, but it's been accomplishing its purposes.  The habit is rest, and more specifically, it's what the Bible refers to as Sabbath. For these past few months I've been taking off on Wednesday mornings.  From Tuesday evening until around noon on Wednesday, I don't produce anything.  I might have to take a phone call or respond to an email every now and then, but I'm pretty much tech free.  I read, I exercise, I pray, I take a walk.  When Mandy is able to Sabbath with me, she sleeps in a bit, and we either do breakfast or lunch together and actually have time for healthy conversation.

I find that it's a time to regain perspective.  What do I mean by that?  Well, I often forget that God wants to direct my steps and take care of me.  I so often believe the lie that if I don't produce, it won't happen.  Rest goes to battle against that lie.  I also find that it's a time for God to renew my spirit and refresh my dreams.  Almost every Wednesday I come away with one or two big ideas, and the amazing thing is that I wasn't trying to produce a big idea.  It just comes because my heart is at rest.

I've always heard that Sabbath rest is a gift, and I'm starting to really understand this.  When Tuesday rolls around I start looking forward to my morning.  As I said at the start, I haven't perfected the art of rest, but the fruit that has come from it has been so good.  I'm very thankful for that!    

Saturday, March 09, 2013

NC Series on 1 Corinthians

A few weeks ago I began  new teaching series on Paul's first letter to the church in Corinth.  Every year I try to teach one long series.  Last year it was a series on Jesus; the year before on Ephesians.  This year's series will stretch close to five months.

A lot goes into preparing for a series like this.  I've been in prep mode for the last six months.  What does prep mode look like for a series like this?

First, I've read 1 Corinthians many times.  And as I've read, I've thought not only about what God said to the church in Corinth, but about what he wants to say to our church.  In a lot of ways we're very different than the church in Corinth, separated by time & culture in big ways.  But in a lot of other ways this church is our sister.  So not only have I read this letter; I've also prayed it.

Second, I've taken notes as I read.  I sometimes do this on my computer, but this time I used a spiral bound notebook.  I went chapter by chapter, noting observations, questions, words that needed further study, etc.  That in-depth study then helped me discern how to break up the letter for our series.  If you want to know more about how I've broken it up, you can read an intro paper I wrote.  You can also see the Sunday night schedule here.

Third, I've read a lot of commentaries.  Some of my favorites have been by Gordon Fee, Anthony Thiselton, Richard Hays, Craig Blomberg, and Ben Witherington (not a commentary but very helpful).

Fourth, I've listened to sermons from other pastors and teachers.  My favorites have been from Trinity Grace, Soma, & Imago Dei.

Through all of this I've continued to internalize this letter, and as I've done that the teaching has been flowing out, not only in sermons but in discipleship and coaching.  I'm grateful that God continues to speak through such an ancient book, and I'm grateful for how He's going to work in our church this year through it.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Emotionally Healthy Church Planter

I read a great book this week.  Two great things about it:  it's short, and it's free!

It's called The Emotionally Healthy Church Planter, but don't let those last two words throw you.  You could insert any profession into this and the book would be beneficial.  The e-book is by Pete Scazzero, and it's based off his books Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and The Emotionally Healthy Church.

Listen to what he says here, and again, insert what you do in place of church planting.  This is more a symptom of our overall culture than anything else.

Church planting can be like an addiction—only it is not an addiction to drugs or alcohol, but to activity and doing.
Our bodies cannot seem to physiologically get off the adrenaline rush in order to slow down. We battle to make the best use of every spare minute we have. We fear how things might fall apart if we slow down or stop, so we just keep going. We end our days exhausted from the endless demands being placed on us. We know we need to rest and recharge, but who has time for that when the church plant is hanging by a thread? Soon even our “free time” becomes filled with demands as we try to squeeze more “doing” into an already overburdened life.

Doesn't that make you feel tired just reading it!

In this book Scazzero makes the case that emotional health cannot be separated from spiritual maturity.  He talks about how we cultivate a relationship with God, what it looks like to really rest, what a rule of life looks like, and how our interior lives impact our marriages and our leadership.

I highly recommend this ebook.  You can download the kindle, mobi or pdf version here.

Monday, January 21, 2013


Mandy and I have written some posts on the NC Blog about the history and DNA of Neighborhood Church.  

How This All Began

Our Current Reality

Our Posture

Dreaming of What Could Be

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Two Tales of Redemption

As I wrote a few days ago, Mandy and I went to see Les Miserables and loved it.  Neither of us have ever read the book, but we've both seen the stage version several times, and it's always been one of our favorite musicals.  Watching the movie made the story come together even more for me, though.  Particularly through the theme of redemption.

Redemption is a key theme in Jean Valjean's life.  He, like many others in that day, was dealt a difficult lot in life.  What got him arrested was stealing food to feed his nephew.  Not much of a crime, yet it put him in prison for 19 years.  Once he was let out of prison, he still wasn't a free man, and because of his "yellow ticket-of-leave" he would always be marked and would never have much of a life.  After trying to get a job and continually being denied, he stumbled upon a church and was given food and a bed for the night.  The film does a great job showing the turmoil going on inside Valjean's mind.  He is grateful for the charity, but knows it can't last.  He makes the decision to steal from those who have taken him in.

Valjean doesn't get very far before he's arrested and taken back to the church. The bishop, though, does something surprising and frankly unthinkable, at least in Valjean's eyes.  He tells the police that he had given those pieces of silver to "his guest," but he had actually forgotten to take all of them.  After the police leave, the bishop looks into Valjean's eyes (and heart), tells him to use these things to start a new life, and tells him that God has redeemed him.

It was this act of love that set Valjean free to be the man that God had created him to be.  Valjean understood the weight of his sin.  He received the gift of grace and forgiveness, and he was changed.  Instead of looking out for number one the rest of his life, he sought to do good and to pass this grace on to others.

This is a beautiful tale of redemption, but it's not the only tale in this story.  The second one occurs many years later.  It's the story of Inspector Javert, who has been chasing Valjean all of these years.

At the barricades, towards the end of the story, Javert is captured and Valjean has an opportunity to kill him.  Years ago, he wouldn't have thought twice.  But he's a different man now.  He holds his knife up to Javert, but instead of killing him he cuts his ropes and tells him to leave.  Javert assumes that Valjean has struck some kind of deal, but then he realizes that he hasn't.  Valjean, the man he pledged his life to find, is offering him mercy, and he has no idea what to do with it.  Javert tragically chooses to end his life rather than receive mercy from his enemy.

Before watching the movie I had never noticed that the melody that is used as the songs for both of their reflections after being offered mercy is the same.  Same beautiful melody, but polar opposite reflections.  Valjean, the sinner, receives the free gift of mercy and grace with humility, and he goes on to live a beautiful life of freedom and generosity.  Javert, on the other hand, who happens to be known as a man of the law, cannot receive this free gift because of his pride.  Whereas these two enemies could have become brothers due to experiencing the same type of grace, Javert couldn't do it.  Javert would rather die than receive grace from a thief.

Each of us has been offered redemption, no doubt in many ways but especially by God.  What will we do with that redemption?  Receive it with humility or reject it because of our pride?

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

A New Kind of Journal

In the spirit of New Years' Resolutions, here's a new kind of journal that you might enjoy.  Mandy and I both received one of these from Santa this year.

It's called a Journal 10+.  Each page represents a day of the year, but it's that day for the current year plus the next ten.  It's not meant for long journal entries as much as it is for brief daily recaps or thoughts.  And the idea is that you're able to capture memories much better.  I love the idea and am glad that Mandy and I will be doing it together.

You can order one here.