Penn State scandal: An adult steps into the room

“Joe Paterno is no longer the football coach, effectively immediately.”With a single sentence, Penn State Board of Trustees Vice-Chairman, John Surma, brought clarity, maturity and leadership to the child molestation scandal engulfing Penn State University. An adult finally stepped into the room.For the last week, the unfolding story of assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s alleged sexual abuse of a series of young boys, actions that apparently took place for over a decade, in Penn State football facilities and with at least some knowledge by Coach Paterno, rocked the university. With a half-dozen victims whose lives were ruined, official accusations, denials, finger-pointing, mounting legal liabilities and a national spotlight exposing, at the […]

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Courageous

It’s tough to be a dad today. Fathering has never been easy, but it just seems today that men face so many pressures and temptations that their children often get pushed to second place or worse. No guy gets up in the morning and says, “I’m gonna be a rotten father today.” I mean, neglecting our kids isn’t a conscious decision we men make. We simply don’t pay attention—to  our kids, our lives, our future, or what our selfish decisions end up costing the people around us, especially the ones most dependent on our attention and guidance. And the result of our lifestyle is a generation of kids who don’t […]

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Dancing bears or the River of Life?

It’s no accident that the prophet Ezekiel used the image of a river to describe the experience of worship the Lord wanted for the ancient Jewish people. In Ezekiel 47 the prophet describes how the river of worship has its origins in God’s temple then flows through history with a life-giving flow. His vision is an amazing revelation of the true nature of worship and how the local church can connect with worship in a more authentic way. Ezekiel’s vision focuses first on the altar located in Jerusalem’s temple, an unsettling sight because the temple in fact was destroyed some years before. The people to whom Ezekiel speaks were in […]

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Why church leadership isn't easy

The experience of Mary, mother of Jesus shows better than any other passage in Scripture the position pastoral leaders must take between submission and subversion in order to help our churches discover their unique identity.   Luke begins his gospel with the miraculous account of how a young Jewish woman stood at the center of God’s redemptive plan for the world. She was an unlikely person for such a position. Living in a backwater of the Roman Empire, member of a powerless race, without personal means or family resources, her future predetermined by an impending marriage to a local carpenter, no more than sixteen or seventeen years old—Mary was yet […]

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Why Ministers Seem Phony

The spiritual director and writer Basil Pennington writes of two different ways of experiencing personal identity, a distinction that has special application to ministry and churches. The false self results from thinking our identity consists of what we have; what we do; and what others think of us. What we have is particularly noticeable in how ministers and their churches regard each other. When I as a minister of a local church believe my church is something I possess then I’m building a false self. It drives me nuts to hear ministers speak about their churches in the first person. “I needed a new building so I raised two million […]

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The Challenge of Raising Teens

Pam and I have been leading a class for the last few weeks for the parents of teen-agers.  Called “The Age of Opportunity,” we’re reading through Paul Tripp’s book by the same title and learning together a little more about being better parents. Our latest topic was how we help our teens respond to the surrounding culture. “Culture” is simply the sum total of the stuff around us: school, friends, career choices, social media, movies, internet, styles, thought patterns, behaviors and all the rest of the ways we rub up against the world outside ourselves and our homes. While evangelical Christians (at least) focus on the unbiblical values and lifestyle […]

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Stumbling into Prayer

Pam and I visited her parents in the upstate Sunday night, and on the way back home yesterday made a detour through Abbeville. I had read of the opening of a new religious-type establishment and wanted to check it out for myself. The establishment, if you want to call it that, was actually a monastery and somehow had been built over the last couple of years in the backwoods of South Carolina, in as much a blue-collar agricultural district as you can find anywhere. You just drive down these country roads, with pastures and cows and soybean fields stretching out in the distance and then, there it is, the Paracletos […]

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The Redemptive Power of Subversion

I once was the guest speaker at a church with a fairly large congregation. It had an expansive cemetery next door, where generations of church members were buried. The pastor was a nice enough guy, but I thought him a little odd. Tall, thin, soft-spoken, he walked with a peculiar, hunched-over posture that made me think of an undertaker. I kept expecting him to rub his hands together and ask which funeral package I thought would best serve my family. Following the worship service, my host led me through the main hallway of the church toward the room where lunch was to be served. Halfway down, on the most prominent […]

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Subversion: Finding Life in a Culture of Death

As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.   -1 John 2:27 Subversion is the last thing in the world most ministers want to think about. Subversives are Molotov-cocktail throwing young people wearing scarves over their faces. Or terrorists scheming to overthrow the government. Ministers, on the other hand, are the paragons of respectability and conformity. We dress in suits and urge people to abstain from all the behavior that makes life interesting […]

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Raising Christian Kids

Pam and I have two children, Katie and Will, and like all Christian parents, our prayer always has been that they would grow up and embrace Jesus as we have done.  Praise God, they have, but it’s more a tribute to divine grace than parental skills. The two of them are grown now, in their twenties, and out on their own. I once had a guy on staff with me, an older guy, who would proudly introduce himself by saying, “I have two self-supporting daughters.” That’s not a bad claim to fame—particularly in today’s economic climate—and my wife and I are fortunate in being able to say the same thing. […]

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