Jesus Hates Religion. He Really Does. (via @FoxNews) Boom diggity. Read it. Remember it. I know I need to.

I think we as Christians have a reputation as conversation stoppers. When we engage people on the other side of an issue, most of the time, the conversation doesn’t end the way we want it to. It gets stopped short or our side of the issue ends up being misrepresented. And that’s largely our fault.  We prefer to be heard, as opposed to actually listening. We want the benefit of the doubt, but we’re reluctant to give it. Instead, we lead with our idea of what’s right and wrong – our belief – instead of leading with love.

 

First Things First. (via @_Jeff_J, HT @JasonYoungLive) Love this. Let’s not get so caught up in the bells and whistles that we forget the basics.

Second mile service behaviors will not create “wow” experiences if our guests are blinded to them because of the absence of excellence in 1st mile services. We can’t wow our guests if we can’t meet their most basic expectations. It doesn’t matter how many bottles of lotion, packs of mints, or what type of flowers adorn our restrooms if there is no toilet paper or the floor is dirty, or the garbage needs to be emptied (ever found yourself in this situation?). The “wow” simply doesn’t land.

 

An Octopus Unscrews a Jar from the Inside. (via @LaughingSquid) Welp, I’ll never sleep again. This is horrifying.

 

 

Almost finished with the Strawberry Black Pepper. Next up: Salted Butter Caramel.

Almost finished with the Strawberry Black Pepper. Next up: Salted Butter Caramel.

Haven’s pretty sure she digs the Black Pepper, too.

Yesterday was Father’s Day, which means one thing in our family:

Ice cream for dinner.

Father’s Day Ice Cream Dinner has become somewhat of an annual tradition, because (a) I’m the father and (b) I love ice cream and (c) I rarely win a dinner argument the other 364 days of the year.

But everybody in my family loves ice cream for dinner, and everybody in my family loves going to one of two local Durham ice cream joints: Locopops or The Parlour.

Locopops is on the inexpensive side. The Parlour…is not. You can drop five bucks on two scoops faster than you can say Espresso-Infused Whipped Cream. But you know what? I keep going back and gleefully handing over my money, because both of those shops are way different than my local 31 flavors.

Whether it’s the pint of Vietnamese Coffee at Locopops or the just-tried-it-last-night-for-the-first-time Strawberry Black Pepper at The Parlour (don’t love it till you’ve tried it), they just do it differently. They don’t subscribe to the normal roster of “exotic” flavors like chocolate chip cookie dough or Moose Tracks. Nope. They’re rockin’ Blueberry Buttermilk, Fluffernutter, Mango Chile, Lime Lemongrass, and Corn (yes, as in the vegetable).

When you do things differently, people take notice.

It works the same way in the church. Granted, we should all be dealing in the same “product.” There’s no need to repackage the gospel into a newer and better flavor. You don’t have to fancify it for different palates. The gospel has done pretty well for the last 2000 years, with or without the help of locally grown, pasture raised, antibiotic free ingredients.

But that may be the only place that we should draw the line on “newer and better.” Some of our churches are extremely cutting edge for 1963. We’re satisfied that we greet guests and sing songs the way we did back in our great-great grandparents’ day. We don’t want to change anything because we’re comfortable, regardless of how that impacts the comfort of our guests.

But when we do it differently, people take notice. When we give thought to the guest experience, we position ourselves differently than a lot of churches our guests have visited. When we consider their needs greater than our own, we set ourselves apart from the same old flavors they expect.

I believe that the gospel is offensive, but nothing else should be. I want to see a new lineup of flavors roll out so that people far from Jesus can get closer to him.

How about it? What’s your Strawberry Black Pepper on your menu? Comment below.

 

Get a Load of That Trash

…It was when I drove into my hometown that I remembered the twice a year trash amnesty week.  For seven days in the spring and a matching seven in the fall, you can put anything – anything at all! – out on the sidewalk and the city will pick it up.  Reader’s Digest magazines from 1952?  They’ll get ‘em.  Broken dining room chair?  Not a problem.  Rat-infested mattress that looks like several people may or may not have died on it not that we’re asking any questions if we know what’s good for us?  You betcha.

Read the entire original post here.

Jase Baptism

 

As weekends go, this one was huge.

We celebrated my oldest son’s high school graduation on Friday, and my dad’s 75th birthday on Sunday. Both are big milestones. Both were worthy of a big hoo-rah party.

But in the larger economy, neither of those compared to the celebration of my youngest son’s baptism. The first two marked achievements in this life. The latter tipped the scale towards another life.

Jase became a believer a little over two years ago when he was just nine years old. At the time, the notion of baptism freaked him out. Getting drenched in a room full of people? Not his thing. And so, we talked about it. Encouraged him towards it. Helped explain the obedience of it. And finally, the decision became his, not ours.

Sunday, of course, was not the day Jase became a Christ follower. But it pointed to that day in a big, loud, public way. It was a chance for his church family to celebrate what his earthly family had already been celebrating.

And my, what a celebration it was.

I had the amazing privilege of baptizing my 12 year old son as my brother. My tears mingled with the water in the tank. He was able to proclaim his faith in Jesus, his belief in him and him alone for salvation, and his promise to go wherever Jesus may send him in the future.

Evangelicals are fond of saying that they want their kids to have boring testimonies. I’ve said it, too. What we mean by that is we want to see our kids come to Jesus early…not wandering through life sowing wild oats before “settling down” in the faith.

But every testimony is far from boring, because ultimately our story isn’t about what we’ve done or not done. It’s about what Jesus has done for us. Jesus – perfect, sinless, righteous Jesus – took on the sins of a nine year old and exchanged them for his own holiness. Jesus – fully divine, fully human Jesus – gives a forty year old father the ability to rise and walk another day. It’s not about the worthiness of my son or the worthiness he sees in his daddy, it’s about the worthiness we both see in Jesus.

Boring testimony? Nope. Recognizing the miracle that is offered to us through salvation is anything but boring. Merriem and I recognize that just because our kids grow up in a Christian home doesn’t mean that they’ll be Christians. We understand that regardless of what we do (or sadly, what we more often don’t do) to point them to Jesus, it’s still the work of Jesus. It’s still his sacrifice. It’s still his mercy. It’s still his Spirit that draws us.

I’m thankful that 3/4 of our kids have placed their faith in Jesus. I’m praying that our youngest will come to that knowledge early. And I’m hopeful that at the end of the weekend, we weren’t celebrating the baptism of Jase.

We were celebrating the finished work of Jesus.

 

 

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

Pastors: they’re coming.

Easter weekend is one of the two largest church attendance weekends in any calendar year. People attend church with Grandma. Irreligious people come because it’s still the socially acceptable thing to do in some parts of the country. Folks who are normally sporadic in attendance wouldn’t think of skipping church on Easter.

And pastors…well, we pastors don’t generally know what to do with the new-found fullness of our auditoriums. So we freak out. We nervously resort to humor or snarkiness or futile attempts at bridging the gap.

We say things like, “We want to extend a welcome to the poinsettia and lily crowd!” or “Thanks for coming. We’ll see you again at Christmas.” (No seriously, I’ve heard both of these things said by a real pastor to a real congregation.) And while we think it’s cute, or funny, or disarming, it’s really anything but.

What we mean to be appealing is insulting.

What we hope makes a point is really pointless.

Instead of drawing people in, it chases them away. Instead of bringing comfort to the outsider, it just keeps them on the outside. And instead of helping your cause, it’s hurting your church.

I get it. Shoot, I’ve said things like this in the past. But what we have to remember is that any step towards the Church is still a step. It still takes effort. You’re going to have guests this weekend who wrestled with the decision to come, but in the end, they honored you with their presence. So please, don’t insult them with your comments and give them one more reason not to show up the following weekend.

Rather than snarky one-liners, how about grace? How about an easy next step? How about a way to connect to other people, and most importantly, to the cross?

Jesus took those who were on the outside and he brought them in. Regardless of how long it had been, regardless of how far they had wandered, regardless of how far they had to go…the message of Good Friday and Easter Sunday is that new life is available to anyone who asks and the grace of Jesus meets us at the point of our deepest need.

They’re coming. The Holy Spirit is drawing brand new honored guests to your services this weekend. How will you serve them?

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

We can believe that Jesus is greater than any earthly competition for his affection. We can say that his glory should eclipse all others in our life. We can sing of our love for him, our devotion to him, our passion for him.

But while we believe, we forget.

We get into the busyness of our day, and we forget. We get into the heat of a trial, and we forget. We wrestle with the same old sins, and we forget.

What we know to be true, we forget to be true.

Read the entire original post here.

(photo courtesy WRAL. Click for more.)

(click for photo credit)

Our Summit family lost a warrior this weekend.

Noah Spivey was a seventeen year old who had seen more than his fair share of suffering. For the last four years he’s battled Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone cancer that took him in and out of hospitals and clinics around the country as doctors struggled to find a cure, a treatment, anything that would bring healing or at least minimize his symptoms.

I met Noah for the first time a few days after his initial diagnosis four years ago. Yesterday, I told his mom Christine that I remember walking into Duke Hospital, trying to come up with something to say that would encourage him. One chat with Noah assured me that I never needed to worry about that again. That’s because whenever you talked to Noah, you were rarely the one doing the encouraging. You walked away challenged, you walked away humbled, you walked away grateful for how God was working in a young man’s life, even as his life was slipping away.

Noah wore his cancer as a badge. It wasn’t a badge of pity, but rather one of opportunity: he realized that with the cancer came the chance to put his faith on display.

And display it he did.

Noah never lost his love for Jesus. I never heard him question God’s faithfulness even in the midst of excruciating suffering. On the contrary: he said over and over that “What Satan meant to kill me, God is using to give me life.” Those weren’t just clever soundbites for a video, it’s what we all saw Noah live every day.

Even as cancer ravaged him, Jesus was restoring him.

We don’t know why Noah’s story turned out as it did. Our pastor reminded us this weekend that we may never find the silver lining in our suffering. And yes, as a church we prayed for an outcome that would be much, much different.

But the truth is, Noah was healed. Because as we worshipped through tears this weekend, Noah’s faith became sight. His journey with pain was over, but what he believed in his heart is now being seen with his eyes.

As you pray this week, would you pray for Noah’s family? John, Christine, Lisa, Brooke, and Timmy are just beginning life without Noah. Pray that they would live with the same gospel-driven strength they’ve shown throughout Noah’s illness. Pray also for Jason Gaston, our Family Ministries Pastor. I’ve watched my friend Gaston walk faithfully with the Spivey family, and was humbled to see him lead our church so well through a time of grieving reflection this weekend. No student pastor should ever have to bury a student, but he has shown us what it means to trust in Jesus even while dealing with his own pain.

Noah Spivey wasn’t just a special kid. He was a young man who led our church on a journey of faith. He preached the gospel to us constantly for the last four years. He reminded us that joy is not found in perfect health, but in Jesus. His faith led us to greater faith, and our church family is stronger because of what God did through him.

May we all live lives marked with such courage and faithfulness.

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

It’s Flashback Friday, kiddies, and around this corner of the webosphere that means that I scour back through the archives, dust off an old post, and repackage it for you.

Which, after you read today’s particular post, will really make you feel ripped off.

Somewhere up in Chocolate Heaven, Milton S. Hershey is laughing his chocolate milk mustache off. For decades, his company has been taking the same old chocolate – reshaping and repackaging it – and selling it to a bunch of suckers that are easily distracted by big bright letters that say BRAND NE…

…um, what was I saying?

I’ve noticed that we do the same thing with our religion. We tend to repackage the same old product and dress it up to sell it in a brand new way. I’m not talking here about contextualizing the gospel message to fit the culture we’re in. Nope, I’m talking religion. Pure, unadulterated, man-centered religion. The “guilted-to’s” over the “get-to’s.” The duty over the delight. The law over grace.

Read the entire original post here.

For those of us in ministry world, we hear that statement too many times. “I’m just a volunteer.” That statement can mean a lot of things: This job isn’t that big of a deal…I don’t have any real authority…What does it matter?…I don’t want to do that.

But however deep you dig, the statement is still wrong. You’re never just a volunteer. You’re way more than that:

So before you soft sell your service as a volunteer, remember: you’re never “just” anything. You’re an ambassador for the kingdom. A part of the royal priesthood. A living, breathing, functioning part of the body of Christ.

Are we putting too much emphasis on the moment of conversion? (via @_MichaelKelley) Sobering stuff to think about.

You, like me, probably know someone in your life who at one time or another had what seemed to be a really genuine encounter with the gospel. They heard the word of truth, accepted they are a sinner, and asked Jesus to forgive them and be the Lord of their lives. And though the decision seemed genuine at the time, over the years you’ve seen them slowly but surely drift from that original moment until now they are just another story of someone who prayed a simple prayer, maybe got baptized, but now seem to have no real affection for Jesus.

 

Should you teach the world a new word? (via @ThisIsSethsBlog) Before you ask, yes: Connections Pastor is a real thing.

Choose a new name when it helps you achieve your goals, not because you’re worried about some truth-in-taxonomy commission giving you a hassle. It doesn’t matter if you’re right, it matters if you are understood.

 

Sweet little old lady smiles and waves at passing kids every day(via @22Words) Every high school student in America needs a Tinney Davidson.