Monthly Archives: April 2019

For Pastors, the Monday after Easter Means…

For Pastors, the Monday After Easter means…

  • Sleeping in. Hello pillow my old friend.
  • Two Words: Binge NetFlix
  • Queasy stomachs. Now you know why they are called “devilled eggs.”
  • Dress/Suit back into a closet until a funeral or next Easter whichever comes first.
  • Sugar high. For the No Candy during Lent crowd.
  • Caffeine rush. For the faithfully deprived coffee drinkers.
  • Back on Facebook following the Lenten fast. Scroll timeline for two minutes, realize it’s still a cesspool and life drain and decide to delete account.
  • Hangovers. Hey, Episcopalians recognize Lent too. (I’m joking, my Episcopalian friends)
  • Empty plastic eggs. Mostly under your bare foot at 2AM.
  • Ham leftovers. Ham and eggs for breakfast. Ham sandwiches for lunch. Fried ham and scalloped potatoes for dinner. Bean soup tomorrow.
  • Second thoughts. Wishing there was a little more Umpff in that “He is Risen!” line.
  • Calculating. How to get yesterday’s crowd to come back before Christmas?
  • Wal-Mart Trips. Easter candy 50% off.
  • Fake Easter Grass in the dog’s food dish, in between the couch cushions and in the ice maker. How did it get in there?
  • “Hello Pastor. This is Ima Grumbler. I hate to bother you on a Monday, but how come we didn’t sing all four verses of Up from the Grave He Arose. It ain’t Easter if we don’t sing all four verses of Up from the Grave He Arose. I’m sure the Baptists sang all four verses of Up from The Grave He Arose. I hope next year we sing all four verses of Up from the Grave He Arose.”There are only three verses in the hymn and its name is Christ Arose not Up from the Grave He Arose.“Oh. Nevermind. Good-bye.”
  • Free lilies! Anyone? Anyone?
  • Maybe the Easter Egg dye will come off my fingers by Mother’s Day.
  • Forget something at church? Sorry, no one answers the church’s phone on Monday.
  • 354 days until Good Friday (April 10, 2020).
  • He is still risen! He is still risen indeed.

An Easter Egg (and Chicken) Hunt — an Easter Invitation Story

Once upon a time there was a boy named Johnny Pullet but his friends called him Ducky. He was the youngest child, lowest on the pecking order you could say, in his family and he loved Jesus.  His older brother, on the other hand, put on a tough outer shell, a real rotten egg, and acted as if he’d never go to church. He scrambled like a wild chicken whenever Johnny would come over. Easy invitations to attend Easter services weren’t to be for Ducky. In fact, it was hard. Boiled by his brother’s refusal to even consider attending Easter service Ducky decided to pray that the brothers would not be unequally yoked but would one day be a big happy Christian family.

One morning, as he was walking around his house (he was on the sunny side) up ahead he spied his brother who seemingly had poached an out-of-season female pheasant, a hen.  His brother also saw Ducky and laid into Johnny as his eyes grew the size of ostrich eggs. “Benedict Arnold you will be, if you tell anyone what I did,” his brother in a Yoda-like manner said, while also thinking he had done a dastardly deed.

Not wanting to get his brother in trouble, but also not wanting him to be devilled by his ways, Ducky, again, decided to pray. In a moment of inspiration, Ducky hatched a plan. He got cracking, combed his hair and ran to his brother’s house. A small place, Johnny felt cooped up in it, but he boldly asked his brother, “If you aren’t in trouble with the game warden, will you come to Easter Services with me?”

“If I am not in fowl (sic) with the law, “omeletting” you know, I will give you a carton of my finest treasures AND go to church with you.”  Ducky quickly showed him that the “pheasant” wasn’t a pheasant but just a heap of feathers from a previous hunting expedition. His brother took a gander at the feathery mess and said, “Well, I’ll be a Gizzard’s uncle, you’re right! Let’s whisk off to church!”

Proud as a rooster, Ducky walked into the church with his brother by his side that Easter.  His brother loved it and has been coming ever since. He even met a nice chick and the two planned to get married as soon as they find a fryer (friar) willing to officiate their happy nuptials.

The end.

Moral of the story: Don’t keep your eggs in one basket. Keep praying and inviting people to Easter Services in as many ways as you can. The services will be Egg-citing and Egg-cellent and your friends will be glad you invited them!

The following 29 chicken and egg (which came first?) words were hidden in the story above: Carton, Chick, Chicken, Comb, Coop, Cracking, Devilled, Duck, Eggs Benedict, Fowl, Friar, Gander, Gizzard, Hard Boiled, Hatch, Hen, Laid, Omelet, Over Easy, Pecking Order, Poached, Pullet, Rooster, Rotten Egg, Scrambled, Shell, Sunny Side Up, Whisk and Yoke

How the Notre Dame fire and the Church of Jesus Christ will be remembered

It is Holy week and the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was on fire. You no doubt saw the video of the iconic church burn. All the world is heartbroken. The damage is in the millions. One billionaire pledged $339 million to help its rebuilding (even that will not be enough).

As I was watching the images of the fire, I wondered how historians will view this week’s events. Will they say the fire at one of the world’s oldest and most known places of worship during Holy Week is a symbol of the destruction of Christianity in the 21st century? It’s no secret that Christianity in Europe has been on the decline for decades. It is devoid of power and effectiveness. America’s Christianity isn’t far behind. So I wonder if some scholar in two hundred years will write on the “Rise and Fall of the Church of Jesus Christ,” and cite the destruction of Notre Dame to say “the best efforts of the firemen like the best efforts of a few true believers could not stop the destruction of the church. The church died in the 21st century.”

Most watchers of religious trends know that the “nones” (those people affiliated with no church and no religion) are the fastest growing group in America. They have passed the Roman Catholic adherents and every evangelical denominational membership in the last ten years. If not dead, many would say the church is dying. That’s the bad news.

Here’s the Good News: Jesus is still the head of the church. Paul wrote this:
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. (Colossians 1:15-18). In other words, the truth that should be most evident during Holy Week, Jesus specializes in resurrection.

In light of the Notre Dame fire and the fate of Christianity, what can we do? Like the French firemen dosing the flames of Notre Dame, we need to get to work. We can’t simply shake our heads and say to the church, “Rest in Peace.” Everyone who calls themselves a follower of Jesus must to be about the urgent business of Jesus. We need to be people of prayer. Committed to living and sharing the life of Jesus. We need to love our neighbors and our communities with our presence and with our mouths sharing Christ’s love and hope.

Begin today. This Sunday is Easter. Pray for your neighbors, friends and family members who might be likely to mark “none” on a questionnaire about their religious leanings. But don’t stop at praying, invite them to Easter Sunday services. Make the appeal of Jesus evident in your life. Determine that Christianity isn’t going to come crashing down on our watch. Let us live and embody Jesus’ words so much that the evidence of His resurrection is overwhelming.

Let’s proclaim the Good News so when our imaginary historian writes in 200 years of the fire at Notre Dame it will not be of the Rise and Fall of Christianity but instead it will reflect the “Rise and Fall and Resurrection of the Church of Jesus Christ!”

Your Pre-Easter MUST Do List (with appropriate hashtags provided)

  1.  Make sure the family has coordinated outfits for the Easter Photo Booth at Central Church. #SayCheese #easteratcentral2019
  2. Invite a Friend to Central Church’s Easter Celebration Services. #JoinMeAtCentralChurch
  3. Taste the jelly beans, peeps, chocolate bunnies, Cadbury eggs, Lindt chocolate carrots, Nerds’ bumpy jelly beans, Whoppers’ robin eggs, Reese’s peanut butter eggs, and Russel Stover’s marshmallow eggs just to make sure that they haven’t gone bad.Remind yourself you are making this “sacrifice” for the children. #BetterSafeThanSorry
  4. Hide eggs. Hint: Do not put them where curious dogs, cats, raccoons, mice or any other creatures in God’s Kingdom (including candy-starved dads) might find them. If the kiddos open up the plastic eggs and like the Easter tomb find nothing, there could be a riot. #HideThemInAnEggCarton #ThePerfectHidingSpot
  5. Invite a family member to Easter Services. If family members experience the Resurrected Jesus then you can stop the not-so-effective rhyming evangelism strategy. #TurnOrBurn #ShakeOrBake #ComplyOrFry
  6. Practice saying, “He is risen, indeed!” There is nothing more embarrassing than following the pastor’s declaration on Easter morning that “He is risen,” for someone to loudly asks, “He’s a raisin?” #HeIsRisenIndeed #EasterTradition
  7. Lilly allergy? Take your meds. (There will be a few lilies in the sanctuary, because everyone knows that Easter and Lilies go together like deviled and eggs) #AhhChoo
  8. Invite a stranger to Easter Services. Didn’t Jesus say, “I was a stranger and you invited me in (to Central Church)”?  Maybe not those last three words, but he did say the first part. #Matthew2535 #DoingWhatJesusSaysToDo
  9. Find your Easter Bonnet in the old trunk in the basement, put it on, get your kids and tell them a story beginning with this line (they love it when you say this, by the way): “When I was your age…” #WalkedToChurchUpHillBothWaysInWaistHighSnowWearingMyEasterHat
  10. Invite an enemy to Central Church for our Easter Celebration.#EnemiesNeedJesusToo

Here’s the Shorter version of your Pre-Easter Checklist: INVITE, INVITE, INVITE, INVITE!!!

You haven’t “arrived.” Here’s why

Here are some indicators that you might not have travelled as far down the highway of holiness as you would like to admit:

When you point out your wins and ignore your losses. When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. Proverbs 11:2

When there’s a pit in your stomach from scrolling through Facebook and seeing a post from someone who has wronged you. The post has nothing to do with you, but you get out-of-sorts just by seeing the profile picture of your accuser. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:15

When a co-worker gets recognized for something you’ve been doing all along. A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. Proverbs 14:30

When you linger too long on an Instagram post of a voluptuous woman (or handsome man, whatever the case may be). But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:28

When the driver in the car in front of you is reckless, cuts you off and your response is a four-letter expletive or a one finger wave. Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools. Ecclesiastes 7:9

When the opportunity to give to a worthy cause comes and goes because no one will know whether you gave or not. Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions. Luke 12:15

When you secretly wish that a church leader who slighted you might fail. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. Leviticus 19:18

When a fellow Christian confesses a struggle and you make a mental note to never allow him/her serve in a meaningful way. Do not judge, or you too will be judged. Matthew 7:1

When you spend more time on social media than you spend in devotion to the Lord. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. Hebrews 6:2

When you think none of these aforementioned scenarios apply to you. Jesus said, I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.(Revelation 2:23). In other words, you might want to think again about your actions and attitudes.

 An important characteristic of holy living is confession and being open to the Lord’s correction. Let us always strive to live a life open to God’s examination and receptive to His fine tuning of our hearts and minds.

How the Holy Spirit and Fire Overcome the Negative Winds in Your Life

This Little Light of Mine is a beloved children’s song that is known around the world. The anonymous song is an old negro spiritual that has been sung in Sunday schools and in cathedrals. The lyrics simply sing the truth that while we may only have a little candle light, when we don’t hide it, letting it shine and not allowing Satan blow it out, then the darkness flees!  I can appreciate that truth. Let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine.

Don’t throw stones at me (or hide me under a bushel? No!), but there’s a problem with little lights. The little candle’s flickering flame is easily blown out. It doesn’t take Satan to “poof” it out.  Any nasty wind will do. I’ve seen enough funniest home videos to know that everyone from grandmas losing their dentures to babies covered in frosting can blow out the little candle lights on a birthday cake. Little candle lights are fragile. They blow out easily.

A booming campfire, on the other hand, the type of campfire that has lots of wood, lots of flames and perfect for s’mores can’t be blown out by grandmas, babies or any other windy happening. In fact, wildfire experts know that forest fires are not reduced by the wind, they actually grow stronger by wind. Wind extinguishes a candle but it energizes a fire.

Throughout the Bible, fire represents the power and presence of God. Moses encountered God at the burning bush, and later God appeared in a pillar of fire to lead his people in the wilderness (Exodus 3:2; 13:21). On Pentecost, following the sound of rushing wind, Luke tells that something like tongues of flame rested on each of the disciples gathered. They were immediately filled with the Holy Spirit, and their lives and the world was changed forever. All of this fulfilled John the Baptist’s prophecy that the Messiah would baptize “with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11-12). That’s what we need too—to be baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire.

When we are empowered by the Holy Spirit and fire, even the hardiest winds can’t blow us out. Winds are going to come to everyone. Winds of discouragement. Winds of negativity. Winds of temptation. Winds of heartbreak. Winds of grief. Those winds are generated in some cases by the stuff of life, but other times those cold gusts come via the blowhards in our way. Difficult circumstances and negative, carnal people can try to extinguish your little light. But people who are consumed with the Holy Spirit and fire aren’t frail and failing like a little candle when the winds are blowing.  Instead blazing Holy Spirit filled believers look at the wind and those people in our life who are full of hot air and quote Paul,“We will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:14-15).

Don’t simply be a fragile little light in a dark, dark world, instead be empowered by the all-consuming Holy Spirit and fire! Even tornadoes are no match for the Spirit’s fire. Maybe a change of lyrics is in order. “This BIG light of mine is Jesus and “even the wind and waves obey him.” (Matthew 8:27). It’s not a catchy tune, but it’s true!


Killing the Power of the Pulpit in Six Easy Steps

The age old philosophical debate about a tree falling in the woods with no one around, could apply to many church sanctuaries these days. If a sermon is preached to empty pews or to folks who are half asleep or half dead, is it really heard? If preaching is falling on deaf ears in the best of circumstances, these steps will ensure the death of the pulpit in short order:

  1. Don’t Preach Evangelistically

Jesus talked about Heaven and Hell. You can too. In the last illustration from Jesus’ last sermon (see Matthew 25), he made it clear that there is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun. When preachers refuse to preach that heart change is needed and necessary, don’t be shocked when hearts aren’t changed.

  1. Preach Non-offensive messages.

In an effort to not offend anyone, preach weak, anemic sermons. No one will be offended and no one will be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit either. Paul said it best:Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Romans 12:1 (The Message)

  1. Preach Politics instead of Jesus

Against what some church goers might think, Jesus was not a democrat or a republican. If you must align yourself with a political party, let it not be with the donkeys or the elephants, march to the beat of the Lamb!  In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:12)

  1. Reject Biblical Authority

Many of the current debates in church circles really revolve around Biblical interpretation. What does the Bible really mean? The question is not even “Does the Bible speak against certain behaviors?” Rather are the behaviors that the Bible prohibits culturally and/or time sensitive or are the behaviors to be universally rejected. If I am going to err on either side of that debate, I want to err on the side of preaching what the Bible says. Many will reject such simplicity, but the preacher’s authority is not based on his/her words but the Word of God. Without the authority of the Word, the sermon is nothing more than a nice talk.

  1. Pray Little

Spend less time on social media and pray more. Complain less about uncommitted church folks and the gossips in your midst and pray more. Concern yourself less with politics and pray more, If you think you AREN’T PRAYING ENOUGH, pray more. If you think you are PRAYING ENOUGH, pray more. Just pray more! A sermon that is not prayed over might as well not be preached.

  1. Don’t Practice what you Preach.

Practically this calls the preacher to being a good neighbor (if you are going to preach about the Good Samaritan); it means loving your enemies (if you are going to preach from the Sermon on the Mount); and it means living in such a manner that your neighbors and even enemies recognize the power of the gospel at work in you. Your best sermons are the ones lived before your family, neighbors and church folks.

Follow these six easy steps and no more worrying about any annoying overcrowding in the sanctuary and no need to set aside an evening to disciple non-existent new believers. Soon parking will be a breeze in an empty church lot. Gathering a crowd to hear a sermon is tough enough these days, follow these steps and you won’t have to worry about it.