I had a wonderful time at the Pepperdine Lectureship this year.  It truly is an amazing experience.  There was beautiful scenery, Christ-filled people, uplifting praise, and Spirit-gifted preachers and teachers sharing God’s word.  The theme was based in the letter to the Colossians.  Let me give you a snippet of the messages I heard.

Monte Cox and Rick Atchley shared very powerful messages that can be summed up in two very similar looking phrases: 1) Jesus is the only way, and 2) Jesus only is the way.  They look similar but are very different.

Monte Cox warned that in a culture as pluralistic as Colossae’s (and our own culture today) the message of the gospel is, “Jesus is the only way!” We need to preach it simply, yet powerfully.  There are not many ways, but only one way – Jesus!  He also shared with us the encouraging message that “you can never be more saved than you are right now.” I wish more of our churches could grasp this message.  This encouragement fit nicely with Rick Atchley’s sermon.

Rick Atchley dove headfirst into the legalism that seemed prevalent in Colossae.  Christians in Colossae were starting to judge each other according to what they ate or drank and what holidays they observed.  There were a lot of rules being thrown around – “Do not handle!  Do not taste!  Do not touch!” Legalism conveys the message that Jesus alone is not enough, but we need “Jesus and…”  While Monte’s message was about Jesus being the only way, Rick’s message was, “Jesus only is the way.” Christ is enough!  He closed by asking, “Are you a ‘Christ only’ follower, or a ‘Christ and’ follower?”

Another powerful reminder came from Rich Little, a preacher not too far from here.  His message was about Christ being in us.  This is a message that Paul emphatically teaches.  Rich’s reminder was that because Christ is in us we are the 67th book of the Bible, which is probably the most read book of the Bible.

There was so much more that I took away from Pepperdine.  It was a great experience, and I highly recommend you make at least one trip to their lectureship.  You will not regret it.


Pepperdine Lectures

I’m heading to Malibu on Tuesday for the Pepperdine Lectureship.  I’ve been saying Malibu a lot lately.  I’m super pumped because I have never been to California and my first ever trip will be to Malibu, California for some great teaching at Pepperdine.  The theme this year is The Lord of Creation:
The Preeminence of Christ in Colossians.

I’m looking forward to hearing some of my favorites: Rick Atchley, Mike Cope, Randy Harris, Don McLaughlin, Chris Seidman, Rubel Shelly, and Buddy Bell.

I’m also really looking forward to hearing some new (to me) voices: Rich Little, Monte Cox, Mitch Willburn, Brian Simmons, Curt Sparks, Josh Ross, and more.

I’m excited about seeing some old friends, meeting new friends, and just feasting on the Word of God.  It is going to be awesome!

ReThinking Church

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am currently reading Mike Erre’s book, Death by Church.  As I was reading a chapter this morning I came across a paragraph that I wanted to share with you.  He writes,

“Getting people to church can no longer be the end game of ministry.  Within a kingdom perspective, the church witnesses to the work of God in the world, pointing it out, celebrating it, nurturing faith, and reminding each other of God’s grace and truth.  The goal isn’t to get people to church and think that once that is done, everything else will take care of itself.  Church gatherings are instead the inevitable (and joyful) result of people joining with others who are living under God’s reign, pursuing Him and His purposes for them in the world.  Instead of getting people more inolved in the church and her programs, we should instead teach and equip disciples to prayerfully discern where God is moving in the rest of their lives and empower them to cooperate in that work.”

Like most of my fellow ministers reading this blog, I am ministering to a church that has multiple programs and ministries.  We enjoy it when large numbers of our people are involved in those programs.  Erre’s words are tough to swallow, but I like where he is going.

What are your thoughts?

Reading List

I’m such a slow reader.  That does not mean I actually read slow, while others read fast.  It means that I will read a chapter of a book and then I won’t get around to reading another chapter until a week later.  I have a bad habit of doing that.  I don’t just sit down and read through a book in a day, or a few days.  I read a little here and then I read a little there until a month or two later (sometime 3 or 4 months later) I finish the book.  I want to do a better job of being a disciplined reader.  OK, enough about that.  What am I reading right now?

I’m currently in three different books.  I have been reading through Philip Yancey’s book entitled Prayer for quite a while now.  I’m really really enjoying it.  He writes with such honesty, and this book on prayer is an honest portrayal of wrestling with prayer.  I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in prayer (which should be all christians!).

I am also making my way through Mike Erre’s book, Death by Church.  It is a powerfully written book about the Kingdom of God, and the churches mission to live Kingdom lives.  The back cover of the book reads:
“The early church was a vibrant counterculture – an ‘outpost of heaven.’ These fledgling communities lived in contradiction to the world around them and saw themselves as an entirely new expression of humanity. But today, much of the Western church is merely an increasingly irrelevant and powerless reflection of society’s values and priorities.  The church has ceased bearing witness to the dynamic and all-encompassing kingdom of God and has instead become an end to itself.”
This book does a wonderful job (my opinion) of explaining the “already/but not yet” aspect of the Kingdom.  And Erre tackles the question, “Is the church the Kingdom?”

The third book I am reading through is by Larry Osborne.  It is called 10 Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe.  It is a simple read and very practical.  Osborne deals with what he calls “spiritual urban legends.”  He hits myths like: faith fixes everything, God brings good luck, God has a blueprint for my life, and forgiving means forgetting.  I’m thinking about using it as resource for a future sermon series.

Is anyone else reading anything good right now?

Boxing up Baptism

John Mark Hicks’ discussions on baptism and children (Part 1 and Part 2) have made me think about the different imagery used in the NT for baptism.  I was taught to believe that baptism was for the purpose of washing away sins (and quietly we would add that we also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit).  I was also taught that if you did not come to baptism with this understanding then your baptism was invalid.

I still believe that baptism washes away sins, but is that the only way to approach baptism?  Have we put baptism in this little box, and then claimed that we have the final word on baptism?  Have we taken something mysterious and multi-faceted, and domesticated it to a single facet?

As I read through the scriptures I get a much larger view of baptism and its many different facets.  Jesus’ baptism had nothing to do with forgiveness (for he was sinless).  It was a moment of obedience and identity.  Cornelius and his family were known as devout, God-fearing people.  Their baptism seemed to be more for the purpose of belonging and acceptance, not for sin washing.  In Acts we find some people already being labeled “disciples” and they were baptized solely for the purpose of receiving the Holy Spirit.  In Peter’s first letter he indicates that baptism is about our consciences because baptism is “the pledge of a clear conscience toward God” (1 Peter 3:21).

Please note that I am thinking outloud more than anything.  I have not come to any strong conclusions on this issue.  I have a high view of baptism, so this is not about the neccessity/importance of baptism.  This is about the purpose(s) of baptism.  What are your thoughts?

Go to Jim Martin’s blog to see an amazing video and to be reminded that the outward appearance is not the best measuring stick for true beauty.

Surviving Tordandoes

Kate and I attended Middle Tennessee State University for college, which is in Murfreesboro, TN.  We have great memories of that place, and some of our best friends still live there.  Last week a tornado hit Murfreesboro and it killed a couple of people and injured many more.  David Young was the preacher at the church we attended (he left to preach somewhere else, but returned a few years ago).  He got firsthand experience with this damaging tornado.  Here are his words:

“I went running on the Greenway (off Thompson Lane) about 12 o’clock, ran a couple of miles. When it started lightning real hard and hailing, I went back toward the house. I got about behind Goff’s Barbecue, the hail was coming down pretty hard, and I got down near the river behind the bushes to keep the hail from hitting me. I heard the train coming. I said this is a tornado and I’m out here in it.

I wrapped my arms around a tree and curled up. About three or four seconds after that, I looked up and the tornado was right above me. I was in the tornado and trees were falling and flying through the air. There was debris, and a building flew over my head. My legs went out from under me and they  flapped in the wind like a flag.

The eye settled on me for a couple of seconds and I settled back down on the ground.

When the back wall of the tornado hit me, it knocked at least two trees on me, but they caught all the debris … and probably saved my life.

Within 15 or 20 seconds it was gone. I managed to crawl and hobble up on the parking lot where Design Landscape parking lot is. I was hobbling along and I must have looked worse than I thought. Two guys put me in the back of the pickup truck and took me to the emergency room. I suffered a concussion and a beat-up leg. Other than that, I’m all right.

Man, I looked up and I was in the middle of that tornado. I was thinking I’m gonna get to be on Oprah. Honestly, I wasn’t scared. Really what I was thinking, I was hoping nobody else was one the Greenway. When I got up, it looked like a nuclear bomb had gone off. That tree I was holding onto was the only thing standing. That tree and I were the only thing left. Everything else was wiped out …

While I was holding on to the tree I had a two-hour conversation with God in 15 seconds.”

Isn’t that an amazing story?