I Can Have Enemies

- - Uncategorized
*This is a re-post from one year ago. It seems relevant to events taking place in our world and country this year. With just a handful of days left in 2014, it feels like this year refuses to go quietly or peacefully. In this Advent Season, I’m especially longing for the Prince of Peace to come – as the Isaiah prophecy says: “In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all.” —Isaiah 11.6

*          *          *          *

I used to believe it was OK to have enemies.

Because Jesus said to love them, bless them, pray for them… I kinda took it as permission to collect ‘em.

Like Jesus was saying, “It’s OK to call people or groups of people your enemies.”

But I don’t believe that anymore. I don’t believe it’s OK to collect or have enemies.

Here’s what I mean… Read More

Have You Had Your Own Dark Night of the Soul?

I will give you treasures, hidden in the darkness. —Isaiah 45.3

I recently preached a sermon entitled, “Finding God in the Dark.” I was attempting to describe those times of uncertainty or transition where things aren’t the way they used to be and our hearts cry out, “God, where are you in all of this?”

The term “Dark Night of the Soul” is borrowed from 16th century Spanish poet St. John of the Cross – and is often used to describe a crisis of faith.

In these times, the familiar lamp posts that previously illuminated our lives are no longer there, so we must learn to walk in the dark.

Barbara Brown Taylor wrote a book called “Learning to Walk in the Dark.” I loved it. Here are some quotes:

“New life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark.”

“There is a light that shines in the darkness, which is only visible there.”

“During the day it is hard to remember that all the stars in the sky are out there all the time, even when I am too blinded by the sun to see them”

I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light…

*          *          *          *

Below are two different stories of individuals learning to walk in the dark. I think they’re worth… Read More

Longing For A More Colorful Table (Not A Colorblind One)

*note: image above – Introduced on July 31, 1968, Franklin was the first African American to be included in the Peanuts comic strip. I don’t know why he’s all alone on that side of the table, but I’m glad he was invited.

*          *          *          *

Last week, I received a letter from my national church leadership asking me and all the other pastors of our 12,792 churches in the U.S. to observe #BlackLivesMatter Sunday (you can read that letter here). The request was to acknowledge the day and pray. So I did that.

I’ve been surprised at the amount of pushback I’ve received. Some of it has been thoughtful and kind and caring. Some of it has been harsh and judgmental. Quite honestly, in 22 years of full-time ministry, I’ve never ruffled this many feathers.

Ruffling feathers isn’t something I live for. I don’t get energized by offending people.

Right now I’m in the process of listening and evaluating. I’m hearing what people are saying. I’m searching my heart for… Read More

Why #BlackLivesMatter Makes You Uncomfortable

*note: image above – harassment during a civil rights sit-in at the Cherrydale Drug Fair in Arlington, VA June 10, 1960.

On Sunday at NWLife Church, we stood in solidarity with our brothers and sisters – declaring #BlackLivesMatter.

We prayed for justice and reconciliation and healing and comfort. We mourned the loss of life. We affirmed that all black lives matter.

This wasn’t the first time we’ve prayed for the black community. Recognizing #BlackLivesMatter on Sunday, December 14 was done at the prompting of the National leadership of the Assemblies of God and the Church of God in Christ (our heritage is with these movements).

I know this makes some folks uncomfortable. I know because I have received feedback. Of course, I don’t have the oratory chops of Bishop… Read More

See the Beauty

Each year, we put on a huge party for our community—the annual Halloween Kid’s Carnival.

There’s a big circus tent, food trucks, music, inflatables, prizes, carnival games… and tons of candy.

Two hundred volunteers serve. About three thousand people attend.

It’s one of our biggest outreach events of the year.

I spend part my time at the carnival standing at the entrance—greeting families as they come in.

It’s fun seeing all the kids and their costumes.

There are bumblebees and ladybugs, Spidermans and Ironmans, princesses and cowboys, and Elsa and Olaf from Frozen…

And there are also zombies, monsters, werewolves, and other creepy-looking costumes.

My natural instinct is to… Read More

Seven Things I’m Learning In Seven Years As A Lead Pastor

Seven years ago, we were unanimously elected (which is a miracle for church people to ever agree on anything that much) as the new lead pastors of NWLife (known as Fairwood Church at that time). I have often described myself as a “rookie pastor,” having never been the lead pastor before.

In many ways, I still feel like a rookie – I’m learning the ropes, and I’m well aware that I am not an expert on anything.

I don’t know if I can keep using the “rookie pastor” thing as an excuse any longer – now that it’s been seven years. And while I don’t know everything, I am learning some things…

So here are seven things I’m learning in… Read More

That Beautiful Song’s Backstory

At NWLife, we’ve been singing Bethel Music’s beautiful remix of the classic hymn It Is Well.

Having grown up in the church, I heard the backstory on this song a number of times – but as we’ve been singing this newer version, I realize many, if not most, of my NWLife church family don’t know the story.

Here is the story behind… Read More

I Fell In Love With A Table

This is the story of how I fell in love with a table…

From growing up in the church, there are two things I remember about communion:

1) I remember it passing me by because I was too young, apparently. So I watched my parents receive. I could smell the grape juice on their breath when they would whisper something to me afterwards. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t included – because I knew that I was included in every other meal my family had.

2) When I was “old enough” to receive, we had another pastor at that time. What I remember was how this pastor seemed bored with communion and in a hurry to get on with the real show. He said the same exact lines every time at the speed of an auctioneer.

Twenty years later, I have… Read More