The political conventions have begun.  The speakers complain that ‘those others’ won’t reach across the aisle and work together.  At the same time they begin to attack the other’s views.  Next week it will be the same song; second verse.   There will be no love lost in the coming election cycle.

I am struck with how much of a politicized culture we are immersed in.  In the faith community we speak of covenant relationships; forbearing one another.  Yet , some meanest fights I’ve ever witnessed have taken place in churches. {Granted they may not be the most brutal, but it seems like church fights go to a place of intentionally leaving deep emotional wounds.  As a pastor I recall trying to reach out to folks who were ‘un-churched’ but found that many of those we were reaching had been ‘de-churched.’  In my messages when I brought up the area of being hurt by a church it was as if a bolt of electricity shot through the room!  There was almost a physical change in about 60% of the people.   Continue reading


Buying Happiness?

Marketing is an important part of modern companies.  I am aware of one company that completely abandoned manufacturing and became simply a marketing company.  People in other parts of the world now manufacture the items they used to produce.  This company buys the merchandise and focuses on marketing—telling people how much they need to buy these products.   They hire some very smart people so that they will be very effective in marketing.

A quote from an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer in December of 2008 came through my inbox this week.  It said:

“A consumer economy only works if consumption of goods provides only temporary pleasure. That is, if happiness is infinitely deferred, so that buyers continue to buy more and more goods and services. By definition, the consumer can never be satisfied, at rest or happy. Which means she will always feel lacking. The pursuit of this sort of happiness creates a vicious circle of growing anxiety and dissatisfaction.”–Tirdad Derakhshani Continue reading

Who Moved My Cheese?

The other day I was in a conversation with a friend about changes.  We talked about change and he said, “It’s not just one thing.  It seems to be everything!  And not one of the changes is one that I would choose. —It’s not just one piece of cheese, but all of them that have moved.”  He was referring to a motivational book that appeared in 1998 by Spencer Johnson titled, Who Moved My Cheese?   Spencer Johnson points out in this wonderful little book that often we can see change coming, we really ought to expect it, but when it comes we are too often unprepared and change can cause us to be afraid. Continue reading

Trying to live Upside Down

More and more I find myself aware of how different my world-view and values system are from the world around me.  At the same time, there are a number of places where I find that I have absorbed from the world around me that are not only indifferent to God’s word, but in some cases contrary to it.  Yet we are surrounded daily by a culture that tells us the ‘truth’ comes from somewhere other than God’s Word.  The smartest and best in our culture are employed to convince us that we need certain things to be complete or happy.  We are told we need to smell a certain way, use a particular brand of toothpaste, get more gusto from life by drinking a given brand of beer, etc.  Those things are easier to identify.  Subtle cultural messages about values in life can lurk under the surface without our seeing them for what they are: lies.

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Joe Paterno

Photo courtesy of Washington Post

The scandal at Penn State has been one of the saddest news stories of the year.  I know some Penn State alumni and even family members of some who have played football there.   Their uniform impression was that the football program at Penn State was a character-building program with high values almost in direct opposition to the media-driven portrayal that followed the accusations.  The picture played out in the press was one that suggested a culture of corruption where even the most heinous of crimes were routinely swept under the rug.  Continue reading

“When Tim Tebow loses, does God, too?”

The football playoffs are in full swing.  Perhaps there has been no football question I have received that is more frequent than, “What do you think of Tim Tebow?”  While that somewhat disappoints me,  (I would hope I could have other opinions about who might be really good and who will win) I guess my role as a pastor invites people to wonder what I think.  Saturday, Tebow’s Denver Broncos lost to the New England Patriots in an AFC playoff game in rather lopsided fashion.  It was a game that set a rating record. Continue reading

The Problem With Jesus

Jesus does not create much of a problem at Christmas.  There are those who object to the Christianization of culture and therefore want the greeting of this season to be “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.”  But the real rub with culture—and perhaps there are those who sense it as they try to push Christianity from the public square—is the exclusivity claims of orthodox Christianity.  This part of Christian teaching is anathema to a culture that suggests the only way to encounter God is through Jesus.  If we were to say that Jesus is one way that women and men can come to know god, or even a way that one can encounter the creator of all that is, there would not be the pushback from others in culture except for the dominant position Christianity has held in western culture and the distinctly Christian residue that helps make western culture what it is today.  If Christianity claimed that Jesus is one of the ways men and women can know God the reaction would be different.  To be sure, men and women can be spiritual without Jesus, the New Testament is very clear that there are other kinds of spirits and spirituality, often a spirituality that is inwardly focused.  But the rub is in the exclusive claim that Jesus is the only way to the Father is a problem in today’s world. Continue reading

Drawing a Line in the Sand

I have just finished reading Dietrich Bonheoffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet,  Spy, by Eric  Metaxas.  This biography is a significant volume that is both insightful and troubling.  I highly recommend it.  It is informative in that it gives the reader an insight into history and the things that led to World War II.  Metaxas does a masterful job of helping the reader understand how the German church became so affected by the rise of the Third Reich.  Continue reading

The Big Three

I’ve been told that all messages in the church, all preaching and teaching ought to answer one of three questions.  Interesting idea.  Just three?  That seems to be a challenge.  Yet, after consideration, I think there is incredible merit to the idea.  Maybe we try to over-engineer (forgive me Tech grads) the gospel.  It is and was simple enough for the least educated to understand.  It is also profound enough to occupy the greatest minds for centuries.  So what are the big three? Continue reading

Fitting In

This week I encountered a story about actress Rooney Mara and her role in the soon to be released film, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”  It seems that Ms. Mara beat out a number of what are known as ‘Hollywood heavyweights’ for the part.  Her roles to this point had not included that of a dark character.  She was told (presumably by her agent) to spend all night the night before her interview with Sony drunk.  (She ended up throwing up all night.)  After getting the role, her hair was dyed and shaved on the sides, her eyebrows shaved and they took her out for four body piercings.  One author, after hearing what she went through to get the role and then have done to her commented that maybe the other women in Hollywood thought that not getting this role was not such a bad thing.  What she was willing to do got her the role.  It seems that she would have done anything necessary to get the role.  The question was asked, “Was it worth it?”  At what point does one lose what we are to get somewhere or some approval? Continue reading