The Cruel Art of Labeling

The Cruel Art of Labeling

Labeling can stop a conversation.

Like the old children’s game, Pin the Tail On the Donkey, once the donkey is properly pinned, the game is won. If the enemy can be properly labeled or mislabeled, the verdict for destruction is in place.

This is not new. They called Jesus a friend of sinners, a glutton, and a drunkard. They called him a blasphemer. They suggested that he was somehow a threat to Rome and that anyone who looked the other way would be “no friend of Caesar’s.” Few of these “labelers” ever had a sit-down face-to-face with Jesus. They just knew he was dangerous. They were right. If his understanding of the world were to prevail, it would turn the world as they knew it upside down.

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One Moment in Time

One Moment in Time

If I could pull up a chair and observe any moment in the history of the world, it would have to be one of two events: either the birth or resurrection of Jesus.

I know how super-spiritual that sounds. And I’m not that given to mushy spirituality. But these moments changed the trajectory of human history more than any other moments, including the discovery of electricity, the printing press, or airplanes.

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You’re Invited To A Holy Conversation

You’re Invited To A Holy Conversation

Mr. Everett Whittington was the Sunday school superintendent in my first pastorate at New Salem, Mississippi. I was only sixteen, and he was about eighty. The little country church at the end of the gravel road could get hot as blazes in the humid summer South.

I preached to my little congregation of ten while standing six inches under a naked hundred-watt bulb dangling from a wire in the ceiling. I’ve always wondered if this was the beginning of a bald spot about the size of a light bulb’s heat pattern. Red wasps circled the bulb as I preached. The heat attracted them. I was always cautious about breathing deeply or gesturing liberally.

A local businessman heard of our “heated” summer services and graciously donated an air conditioner for the church sanctuary. I was elated. When I presented the gift to the church board, Mr. Everett immediately staked his ground. “I’m against it!” And with that, the discussion was ended.

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Miles: The Unwilling Sled Dog

Miles: The Unwilling Sled Dog

“Miles” was not a very good dog name. His owner wasn’t literary enough to be thinking about Miles Standish or any other famous Mileses. This dog was a “Heinz 57″ mutt. I think they named him Miles because he looked like he’d walked a long way. They got him at the Nashville pound.

Miles suffered through two children too young to understand the meaning of cruelty to animals. Being a pound dog, Miles figured it was those two kids or the gas chamber. So Miles stuck around.

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I Have A Dream

I Have A Dream

I HAVE A DREAM | Martin Luther King, Jr.

On this day, we remember the great leader Martin Luther King, Jr. I share one of his most famous quotations along with the Scripture passage upon which it is based:

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. —Martin Luther King, Jr.

A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’
—Isaiah 40:3-5 (NRSV)

What I’m Reading Right Now – 3 Books To Begin 2015

What I’m Reading Right Now – 3 Books To Begin 2015

You may recall that last fall I began a new series in which I highlight the articles, books, blogs, etc. that I find to be interesting reads.

3 Books I’m Reading Right Now

I’m eager to tell you about those today. They are three very different types of books, but each offers unique perspectives and insights.

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Heaven In Their Heart

Heaven In Their Heart

The church I grew up in was known as “a holiness church.” We didn’t handle snakes, speak in tongues, or cast out many demons—but we had our own brand of odd.

There was a lady who requested prayer on Wednesday nights for soap opera characters, going into great detail about the trouble they were facing. There was the man who brought his guitar to church and sat on the front row, hoping to be asked to play a special number. He was better than the rejects of “American Idol” ever thought about being. We had a Sunday school superintendent who thought we could improve Sunday school attendance by hosting a chitlin’ fry following church. (If you don’t know what part of the animal you’d be eating, don’t ask.)

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The Big Idea I’ll Be Working On In 2015:  Reduce College Student Debt

The Big Idea I’ll Be Working On In 2015: Reduce College Student Debt

I suppose universities can make New Year’s resolutions. So here’s mine for Trevecca Nazarene University in 2015.

I resolve to find a way to reduce the debt of graduating students at Trevecca while simultaneously reducing the growing cost of unfunded aid to students.

Our students graduate with an average debt of about $21,000. This means some have more, some have less, and some have none. I could write about how this $21,000 is similar to the cost of a good used car, which will decrease in value the minute they drive it off the lot—while their investment in a college degree will repay itself about 47.6 times across the next 40 years.  I’d invest in a proven return like this every day. But my resolve is to drive this average debt number into the teens and find a way to keep it there or lower.

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Growing Kids Who Embrace The Christian Faith

Growing Kids Who Embrace The Christian Faith

As Advent goes, we get Jesus in a manger and Mary pondering these things in her heart. And the next thing we know, Christmas is put away for next year and Jesus is thirty years old being baptized in the Jordan. From baby to grown man in a week of biblical texts.

As you’re taking down the tree and lights and looking ahead to a new year, once again consider Jesus. Luke 2:21-52 invites us to slow down and look into the Jewish world of religious ceremony and observance of the law—practices that began to form the young boy Jesus. Luke writes about circumcision, purification, dedication, naming, consecration, and ceremonial festivals. All of these rituals are packed into one text. Jesus grew up in the context of religious practices.

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Christmas Greetings

Christmas Greetings

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14