All Hallows’ Eve

All Hallows’ Eve

It’s All Hallows’ Eve!

I’ve never jumped on the bandwagon of fighting Trick-or-Treat. I have no problems with Christians who do. I suppose we are not all called to fight the same battles.

Tonight you will find me in our neighborhood driving my John Deere riding mower, pulling a large cart with six grandkids in it. They will be costumed as cute creatures of an imaginary world – probably no demons or darkness. Their mothers are all children of the Light. They’ll go door to door in our neighborhood because our neighbors give out better candy than their neighbors. And because it is a family tradition. It is also tradition that I, the designated driver of these six  2-to-10-year-olds, get all the Snickers. They usually tip me with one or two, but I don’t believe they have yet been converted to total obedience to the law that all Snickers belong to Papa. Please join me in praying for them.

And then the next day, we remember the saints and celebrate All Saints’ Day. Our parents and grandparents, the people from the church who graced us with love, and the odd ones who never seemed to be entrapped in the glitz and glitter of a dark world. We recall their names and give thanks to God for their lives.

My prayer is that the people costuming and hauling kids around on All Hallows’ Eve night will become the same people that are remembered the next day when they are gone.

The Deadly Sin of Lust

The Deadly Sin of Lust

The deadly sin of lust seems to meet us at every turn.

Today, we swim in a cultural ocean of blatant eroticism, sexual advertising, accessible pornography, seductive clothing, and body mania. Men are applauded for sexual conquest. Women draw attention by looking and acting seductive. Pre-marital sex is quietly becoming commonplace. Affairs are quickly excused.

I could write post after post about “how bad it is out there,” but the truth is, it has always been bad out there. Except for the “Good Old Days.”

I think there were about three of them.

We find them in Genesis 1-2, where the world as God made it is a sinless nudist colony in a sensual garden where a man and a woman live together in perfect fellowship with their Creator. There has never been better sex than in the Garden.

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My Favorite Villain

My Favorite Villain

Flannery O’Connor used to say that any playwright has a problem when they introduce the devil into a script—how to keep him from becoming the main character. In literature, every great story needs an enemy of some sort. Somebody has to play the villain.

Miles Turner used to cast my Christian daughters as the evil characters in his high school dramas. They played murderers in Agatha Christie scripts, heart breakers in romances, and wild women in contemporary plays. When I asked him why, he said it would develop their character reach since everyone knew they were not normally like that—and he could trust them with evil. I think he just wanted to see the local pastor squirm.

I think my favorite villain of all time is Javert in Les Miserables. I know; he was actually a religious character, though quite enslaved to the law. I guess I am mesmerized by him because I see how easy it is to move from self-assured religiosity to evil.

In my favorite movies, books, and plays I am always intrigued by the characters that seem to hold the moral power and use it in ways that diminish people. Whether it is the administration of Mr. Holland’s school (Mr. Holland’s Opus), the administration of Mr. Keating’s boys’ school (Dead Poets Society), or the administration of the prison (Cool Hand Luke), I find misuse of power villainous.

Maybe I am seeing my own dark side in them. Could it be that villains are nothing more than projections of us at our worst? And they have something wise to tell us—if we have ears to listen.

Who is your favorite villain?

The Deadly Sin of Pride

The Deadly Sin of Pride

Pride. We’re not talking about a healthy sense of self-worth or a proper self-esteem. We’re talking about the deadly sin of pride, the kind that is snobbish, patronizing, condescending, rude, impatient, demanding, unkind, cruel, insensitive, pompous, egocentric, haughty, vain, superior, and arrogant.

This is the pride of Lucifer himself, the once-upon-a-time heavenly angel of light who decided that he’d rather play first fiddle in hell than second fiddle in heaven. His carnival mirror was bloated beyond reality and Lucifer thought himself too important to stand in the shadow of the Almighty. So he split.

Deadly Sin of Pride

Pride is so easy to see in others, but so hard to see in self. It is especially easy to see in a junior high daughter. She has life all figured out. She knows more than her stupid parents. They are an embarrassment to her. The world revolves around her. The sun waits for her to get out of bed every morning before it dares to shine. She should not have to wait for her turn in the bathroom. The family meals should be what she likes. Her favorite program trumps all others. The parental taxi should be at her beck and call to whisk her to her essential appointments.

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Is Left Behind Movie’s Rapture Biblical?

Is Left Behind Movie’s Rapture Biblical?

Is the rapture biblical?

If the vote were taken in the pews of evangelical churches this Sunday, I’m guessing the majority vote would be a resounding “yes.”

So to be honest right up front, I’m in the minority, which for many, brands me a heretic. But before you gather wood to burn me at the stake of your judgment, may I explain?

There is a single text in all of scripture that seems to depict the popularized idea of a rapture.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

— 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NRSV)

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The Deadly Sin of Sloth

The Deadly Sin of Sloth

What exactly is sloth? I’m not talking about the two-toed creature.

What is Sloth in the Seven Sins?

Sloth can look like this:

  • Hitting the snooze button repeatedly
  • Drinking straight from the milk jug
  • Leaving dirty clothes on the floor
  • A love affair with the remote control
  • Never returning calls or writing thank-you notes
  • Leaving exactly two sheets on the toilet paper roll
  • Falling asleep every night in front of the TV
  • Living for sports
  • Tenured professors coasting intellectually
  • Troubled marriages passing on the marriage retreat
  • Knowing TV characters better than family members
  • Preaching other people’s sermons
  • Wandering the mall, killing time, mastering small talk
  • Amusing ourselves to death
  • Letting discipline slide
  • Indifference

Lethargy.

Apathy.

Spiritual amnesia.

A deadly sin.

That’s sloth.

Deadly Sin of Sloth Began in the Garden

Every deadly sin has its origin in Eden. The feeding cycle of the garden is simple. Empty. Full. Empty. Full. With the repetitiveness of a ticking clock, humans live their lives in cycles. Morning. Evening. Morning. Evening. Sleep. Work. Sleep. Work. The connection between creature and creator is rhythmic. And the chief end of man is to worship God and enjoy him forever.

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What I’m Reading Right Now: Remarkable Book

What I’m Reading Right Now: Remarkable Book

Today, I launch a new monthly series called, “What I’m Reading Right Now.” Each month, I’ll share what articles, books, blogs, etc., have piqued my interest. I hope you enjoy it. Leave me a comment to let me know what you are reading right now and why you find it interesting.

Peter Drucker used to say, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” It was his way of saying that the organizational culture of an institution trumps any grand plans and visions for the future. Your vision statement can be scintillating, your strategy map inspiring, your processes airtight, your deliverables measureable—and you will still fail if your culture is incapable of carrying the weight.

Remarkable Book by Randy Ross & David Salyers

So I’ve been reading about organizational culture. Remarkable! book by Randy Ross and David Salyers is a parable about a company. It doesn’t take many pages to know that the principles they write about in their fictional story rise from a Christian perspective on power and people.

Culture is how we behave as a group of people. It is what we have the capacity to build by hiring and firing, rewarding and confronting, highlighting and dismissing. Our daily choices move us closer to or farther from the culture that sustains good work and keeps good people.

One of my takeaways is that leaders need to spend less time on flowery vision statements and strategies, and pay a lot more attention to how their choices inform the culture.

I am praying for grace to do that.

The Deadly Sin of Gluttony

The Deadly Sin of Gluttony

Food. The Bible begins and ends with it: from forbidden fruit in Eden to a sumptuous wedding banquet in the Revelation. What we do with food is a clear reflection of our relationship to God.

The provision of food is an expression of God’s creating activity. The interesting fact is that both the human and the food we humans eat comes from dirt. The difference is that God breathed into our dirt the breath of life and we became creatures capable of relationship with God, while the food-trees are not so blessed. When God breathed into our nostrils we became a living being – nephesh. The root of this Hebrew word is throat, a passageway from outside our body to the inside. It is this passageway through which all that sustains us passes – air, water, food. We are empty and need to be fed. We cannot retain our food or water or air, and need replenishing. We are open throats, walking thirsts, human breathings. Chutes. And God is the one who takes initiative to fill our emptiness. God is our provider, our feeder.

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SEC Football and the Worship of God

SEC Football and the Worship of God

I was sitting in a Trevecca chapel service and noted some exuberant worshipers. They were in a distinct minority in their expressiveness.

Now mind you, I am a cerebral worshiper myself. I find God better in quietness than noise. My hands are normally in my pockets and my eyes often closed as I absorb and reflect on what is being said and done. Things don’t need to get frisky for me to believe that God is among us.

But on this day, my mind raced to SEC football. Without doubt, it is the best college football played anywhere in the world. Look at the trail of championships, the players in the pros, and the passion of the fans. Every team in the SEC has rich, long-standing rituals. They have chants that all the fans know. There is a run-up of smack-talking on Facebook as the weekend game approaches. Websites dissect the games ad infinitum. And the standings are better memorized than John 3:16.

So you expect me to ask, “Why are we so passionate about SEC football and lifeless in our worship of God?”

I won’t. I just want people to leave me alone when I go to a ballgame and don’t care to stand and yell.

Oh that we could all be exactly who we are in worship and play.

The Deadly Sin of Envy

The Deadly Sin of Envy

Anastasia and Drusilla. These two give stepsisters a bad name. They are cold and cruel. They want to reduce Cinderella to cinders, rags and ashes. They degrade her, demean her, and dehumanize her. They experience her beauty as emptiness inside themselves. They experience her quiet peace as something they lack. Her presence causes them the pain of self-awareness. They feel persecuted by the good in her. Not only do they want what she has, they want her not to have it.

There is a name for this – envy. And it is a deadly sin. Those who practice it will never know life happily ever after.

Of course, Cinderella isn’t the only classic story about envy.

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