Thursday, December 24, 2015

"Grace Under Pressure"

McKinsey Consulting is the crème de la crème of the consulting business. To employ McKinsey is serious business. What do their clients worry about?
  • Geopolitics
  • Technology
  • Cyber Security
  • Shift coming in economic power

What does that shift in economic power mean? It implies that in fifteen years there will be 2.2 billion people in the so-called Middle Class on this planet. That is a huge uptick!

McKinsey would say that leaders do not fear change but embrace it. They learn from adversity. They do things by design not by default. They are perpetual learners. They celebrate success. They have a sense of humor.

Every congregation I have served has leaders, followers, critics, and comics! As a leader in the Church, I deal in power currencies; connectional, relational and structural. Consistently, I pray for imperturbability, grace under pressure.

Warren Buffet said leaders need three attributes; integrity, intelligence and energy. Please don’t miss this, he added, without integrity, the other two are useless!

This a the imperative that drives me; Dream something big enough so that unless God is in it, it is impossible and will fail.

Friday, December 18, 2015

"God Loves Surprises"

The Salvation Army does an amazing redemptive thing all over the world. It must be Christmas time because the Salvation Army Kettles and bell ringers are out there.

Do you ever wonder what people put in these Salvation Army kettles? Many unique contributions make it into those red kettles. No, it is not just money. Often it is valuable coins, jewelry, wedding rings, earrings and watches.

God obviously loves surprises. In Jesus Christ, God took human form. The Gospel of John says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth.” That is a rip in the fabric of reason.  Why did God do that? Maybe God couldn’t watch us self-destruct? The Lord knows our alienation, estrangement, guilt, shame and sin. Reconciliation is what God wants for us. The Lord does not want a performance but a relationship. To help us he became one of us. The label was Emmanuel, “God with us.”

Grace is God’s unconditional love for those who don’t deserve it. That grace can move us from alienation to reconciliation. Only God could love us like that. Christmas began when God’s Word became flesh. Christmas continues when God’s Word becomes alive in our flesh and blood. 


Friday, December 11, 2015


We dare not put the nativity drama under glass with a Do Not Touch sign on it. It is fair to assume that Mary and Joseph found the naming of their impending child a subject for frequent discussion. After all, they were ordinary human beings. They were not puppets. They enjoyed freedom of choice. Their musings on naming their child did not last long. Their right to name their child was preempted by a higher power. Do you remember the directive given to Joseph?

“You shall call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins.” Wasn’t Jesus an ordinary, first century, common name? The name Jesus means save. No doubt the name Jesus is a common tag for millions. It is also an ironic tag for all those who fail to live up to that name.

Who would have imagined that Jesus would cry from the cross, “Father forgive them. They do not know what they are dong”? Who could have predicted that Jesus would free us from pride and save us from the tyranny of our own transgressions? It was Jesus of Nazareth who made the name great and not the other way around.


Friday, December 4, 2015

"Upside Down"

Every day more condiments on the grocery store shelves are turned upside down. The new plastic containers are designed to stand on their caps yet the label is right side up. No more watery stuff on the top, no messy gunk around the lid, no shaking, just pour!

The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem turned our world upside down! This backwater, boring town known as “The House of Bread,” though a trivial place, became of tremendous importance in the redemptive story of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.

Light flashed into a world doubled over with hunger, violence and darkness. The message was, “You will call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins.”

Suddenly, the world turned from the rational to revelational. Jesus Christ is the truth we cannot master but a truth before which we can surrender. God’s answer to meaninglessness was not a program or a principle but a person.

I hope in the season of Advent, you let something of Bethlehem’s joy seep into your celebrations. The writer of this carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem, put it this way, “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given….”  Let the serenity of this holy season wash over you.


Friday, November 27, 2015

"Don't Talk of Love, Show Me!"

It was Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady who said, “Words, words, words, I’m so sick of words.”

She saw her ne’er-do-well admirer as all talk. Eliza’s demand was appropriate; “Don’t talk of love, show me!” She sloshed through a sea of verbiage to reach the other shore.

As Christians, our hope is in Jesus Christ. The real enemy of Christianity is not militant skepticism but a pervasive philosophy of despair and materialism. Hope ought to characterize Christians. We are a people of hope. Because of the incarnation, we have tangible hope in Jesus Christ. By all counts, Israel should have been erased from the map! It survived an avalanche of empires; the Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Medes, Persians and Romans. God spoke by the prophets of a hope beyond the debris of history.

Remember, you are hope personified to someone! Martin Luther said God can carve the rotten wood and ride the lame horse. What does that mean? God chooses to use the likes of us in his redemptive program.

Christmas is almost on us. God knew that the best way to send guides was to wrap it in a person. In Jesus Christ, God was flesh; seen, heard, touched and hugged. In our hi-tech world there is a huge need for hi-touch. There is no substitute for that personal touch. Our hope is not in human achievement, goodness, institutions, government, or human systems. Our hope is about God’s redemptive program established in Jesus Christ.


Friday, November 20, 2015

"Love In Action"

When a wedding is portrayed in a movie, inevitably I Corinthians 13 is read. You know that passage; “Love is patient and kind, love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 

When I reached 1300 weddings over which I presided, I quit counting! I enjoy doing weddings.  Something always happens that makes each wedding unique and memorable. Yes, I enjoy reading from I Corinthians 13, the love chapter, at weddings. It has taught me four important truths:
1.       Love is essential, not optional.
2.       Love is a demonstration, not an inclination.
3.       Love is a magnet that draws us together, not a wall that keeps us apart.
4.       Love is a long-term investment, not a quick return loan.

One other insight regarding I Corinthian 13: This chapter is not a definition of love but rather a description of love in action.