Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Bricks We Build With

One of my mentors once told me that a single sermon doesn’t really make a difference. It is, he said, kind of like a brick. All by itself it doesn’t really do much good. But taken together over the course of time you can begin to really build something.

It’s interesting, that when Scripture opens up the story of God, God creates not by shooting energy out of his God like fingers, but by speaking. God speaks and he creates. I think so do those of us who preach and teach with our lives. We get the privilege of partnering with God in opening up possibilities to people who might be able to look at their life with God just a bit differently because of what we say.

So a few weeks ago, I read the book Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. It’s a good book about the great value of Jesus, and the tendency that churches and church leaders have to unintentionally forget about him. Over time we can forget that all our programming and structures and ministries are nothing but scaffolding to create a place where people can meet the Risen LORD. And one of the things Sweet and Viola mentioned was the way preachers use their words. These authors go to churches and intentionally count how many times, if at all, a preacher will mention the name of Jesus. In Sweet and Viola’s words:

The tragedy of our time is that countless preachers, teachers and healers are giving dozens of sermons, lectures, and messages, relegating Jesus to some footnote or a flourish to some other subject. At best He gets honorable mention. What is lacking is a groundbreaking revelation of Christ that boggles the mind and enraptures the heart.”

And that line really convicted me. Now is the time of year that the Highland Church Shepherds give me off to study and pray and reflect for the coming year. But I started wondering…do I do this? It’s very easy to put a disproportionate amount of passion into secondary things. So I made a word cloud of every sermon that I’ve given over the past 12 months at Highland. I know what I say I think is important, and the kind of people I would like to shape the Highland church into, but I wanted to get a view from 30,000 feet about what I was really doing.

So here it is. Continue reading The Bricks We Build With

More Than a Fish

So I love this version of Jonah!  This girls got some fire in her bones, and a little Shirley Temple. The whole thing is 8 minutes, She embellishes the story a quite a bit, Jonah has a collection of farm animals, and as you might see she does voices for Jonah’s inner dialogue. It’s brilliant, but my favorite embellishment if you watched it to the conclusion, is how she ended it.

I just finished a series on Jonah at Highland, and it’s one of the most surprising series I’ve ever done. We’ve developed all these ways to keep Jonah at arms length, we pretend that it’s a story about a guy and a whale, and try to reduce Jonah to some Veggietales story, but it’s not. It’s a story about national idolatry, and racism, and arrogance, and unforgiveness, and a story about people who speak for God but don’t really like God.

And if you read Jonah, you’ll find that he’s the most unlikable character in the entire book. He’s the jerk of the book, who whines and complains and runs from God and refuses to pass on forgiveness that God had just given him. But the truth is while we might not like Jonah, I realized that I was a lot more like Jonah than I cared to admit.

And that’s what so problematic about Jonah, Jonah’s ending stinks. Like so many of the Bible stories, the ending comes way to fast. Jonah is having an argument with God, and like always God gets the last word, but the word is a question. God asks Jonah:

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”

But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight.  And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”

And that’s it. No pretty bow, or resolution. Jonah fades to black with this little question just floating in the air.

But maybe it would be helpful to remember that Jonah is written to the religious people of the day. It was written to God’s people, and that’s our place in the story. Which means, if you are a Christian, this question is directed at us. Should God not forgive them just because you don’t like them?  Continue reading More Than a Fish

#eternalthreads

So this is a short video about the trip that Matt Pinson (The Highland Director of Communications) and I just got back from. We’d like to get the word out about what is happening in Nepal and ways that Gospel centered people are trying to stop sexual trafficking in creative and significant ways, so if you have a moment please click the share button at the bottom of this page to share this story with your friends. We’ve been looking for the “go viral” button on the internet but can’t find it anywhere. Continue reading #eternalthreads