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A Pastoral Response

In the aftermath of yet another school shooting, which has ricocheted into multiple copycat threats throughout the nation – including our local community, I would offer the following pastoral reflection.  In doing so I realize that not all will agree with me, and it is not my intent to pick a fight or cause more division.  However, there are times in life when, as a pastor, you feel something of a kinship in grief with the things that grieve the very heart of God.  I have felt this burden for our homeland, it’s current state of political discord, and the spillover of all such things into the life of the church, for quite some time now.  Perhaps the events of recent days have served as something of a tipping point for me.

So, what’s a Christ follower to do?  What’s a Christ follower to think?  How do we respond?  I offer the following as a contribution to dialogue, thoughtful discourse and prayerful action: Continue reading

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Embracing the Lenten Season

This Wednesday, February 14th, in addition to being Valentine’s Day, is Ash Wednesday.  This day marks the beginning of the Lenten Season – a period of 40 days, plus 7 Sundays that ends with Easter.  The 40 days are modeled after Jesus’ 40 days of temptation in the wilderness (see Mark 1:12-13).  The 7 Sundays are intended to be 7 “little Easters” along the way – a respite of worship and celebration in the midst of our otherwise sober companionship of Jesus through his 40 day trial.

I did not grow up in a Christian tradition that emphasized Ash Wednesday or Lent in any fashion.  My first exposure to this season of the church year was during my seminary days as I served on the staff of a congregation that did observe the liturgical, or church, year.  I only attended my first Ash Wednesday service as a 35+ year old adult, and I’ve only led a very few Ash Wednesday services as a pastor.  (Being Baptist we often exert our “freedoms” when it comes to all things liturgical!)

Still, I find this day, and this season, to be increasingly important and significant in my faith – and I hope you might as well (no matter your faith heritage). Continue reading

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Jesus’ Prayer

We are in the midst of a 30 Day Prayer Challenge at First Baptist – Columbus, the congregation I am blessed to serve as pastor. This blog is addressed to that challenge and its participants, but I hope might speak to others beyond our faith community as well.

Most of us, if asked to identify Jesus’ prayer, or The Lord’s Prayer, would quickly think of the prayer he taught his disciples, found in Matthew 6 or Luke 11.  But there’s another, longer prayer of Jesus’ found in John 17.  In this prayer Jesus prays for us.  And he prays for all “those who will believe in me” through the witness of his followers.

Get that – Jesus is praying for our witness to others in his name.  He is praying that we who claim his name and the identify of Christ follower, will be purposeful in sharing the good news we’ve come to know and understand with others.  He is praying for the multiplication of the church, for the growth of his Kingdom, on earth as in heaven.

What does that do for you?  Does it give you courage to know that Jesus has prayed this prayer for you and I?  Does it inspire you to pray this same thing for yourself, for others, for your congregation?

Sharing faith, witness, evangelism . . . whatever “churchy” word you choose, is too often neglected in our prayers.  We are called to pray for those who are without Christ.  We are called to pray for our witness to, with and for them.

Will you join me in this prayer?

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Your 2018 Reading Plan

What will you read in 2018?  That may not be a question you’ve spent much time thinking about, but I would encourage you to do so.  Sadly we have moved into a time in modern culture that seems almost post-reading.  Tweets, texts, social media posts, even blog posts that are built around bullet points all illustrate a public who’s attention span has waned.  Could this mean that deep, meaningful and reflective reading may be, for some, a lost art – if it was ever a developed discipline?

I know, I may sound like an old grump who is a throw back to the days of the newspaper (which I’m told young people do not read), but I believe what we read matters.  It helps us think and develops in us the capacity to respond to life from a reflective platform.  Reading allows and encourages us to expand our horizons, improve our vocabulary, and deepen our understanding of life’s issues. Continue reading

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It’s a Wonderful Life – Treasure It

Christmas was for me, as is true with many children, a magical time of year.  I have fond memories of childhood Christmas experiences that involved my parents, siblings, extended family and church.  These memories have kind of all blended together as the years pass by, but one or two still manage to stand out.

A Christmas memory I treasure yet to this day concerns the year that our parents decided to give each other the same gift.  I’m not sure where the seeds for this gift idea were sown, or how long they had germinated, but as the Christmas season rolled around that year it was common knowledge that Mother and Dad had talked about a television for the dining room.   “Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to watch the morning news over coffee and toast, while seated at the dining room table, rather than just listen to the local radio station?”  An idea was hatched. Continue reading

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