How to Celebrate Christmas without Feeling Guilty

It’s almost Christmas, and at my house we’ve unpacked the boxes in the attic full of special decorations we only use this time of year.   My wife and I have loads of stuff. The Christmas tree decorations are my particular favorites—everything from the first bauble we bought as a newly married couple over thirty years ago to the set of loopy ceramic penguins that presides over our home from the most visible position on the tree.   Then there are the manger scenes (maybe a half dozen), lights, seasonal candles, table runners, china and so many knick-knacks I lose count. At Christmas we pull out all the stops and make our home as […]

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Thankfulness Is What Keeps Life on Track

In a recent blog, Father Stephen Freeman raises the bar of thanksgiving from a simple holiday to the higher place it should hold in our hearts: The act of giving thanks is among the most fundamental acts of love. It lies at the very heart of worship – in which, in the words of Archimandrite Zacharias of Essex, there is an exchange. In giving thanks we make an offering which itself is always inferior to what we have received – but which is itself an enlargement of the human heart. To live rightly in the presence and communion of God is to live in a state of constant thanksgiving. For […]

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Lexington, SC—What a Praying Community Looks Like

Prayer is as close to a unifying core value as you can find here in Lexington, SC—and that helps explain why living here is so attractive.   To be sure, different parts of our community have core value statements that try to capture each one’s essential purpose. For Lexington Town Hall it’s “Building Partnerships.” Lexington One School District sets its direction with “Where Children and Learning Are One.” The Chamber of Commerce looks to “Promote Business Prosperity.” Lexington County opts for the well known, “In God We Trust.”   Lexington believes in the power of prayer   When you survey our community’s landscape as a whole, though, one value stands […]

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The Sutherland Springs Church Shootings Put All Churches on Notice

The murder of twenty-six innocent people at First Baptist Church Sutherland Springs, Texas last Sunday put all churches on notice. I was as horrified as everyone else—for the victims and their families, of course, but as a pastor I also grieved for congregations everywhere. Not even churches are safe from the mindless violence sweeping the nation, and security is now a crucial part of ministry.   When 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley put on black tactical gear and walked into the middle of the worship service with a semi-automatic weapon, he encountered no barriers or obstacles. The church was wide open to him.   We’re confronted with the reality of evil […]

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Pastors Need to Become Spiritual Fathers

Modern American pastors need to return to the role of spiritual father.   A chance remark by one of my younger staff members this week brought this truth home to me. She told me how she’d described my ministry to some first-time guests to our church. “He’s fatherly,” she said to them.   My first thought was she meant I was old and sometimes needed help climbing the stairs (not true) or maybe hard of hearing (true). Later I realized she was describing my approach to ministry as parental in addition to theological and organizational—and to that charge I’m happy to plead guilty.   The pastors in the Bible were spiritual fathers […]

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When God Heals Your Baby

Last week my family prayed for a miracle and we’re still trying to get our heads around how our prayers were answered. Figuring out how and why God does what he does isn’t as simple as some people seem to think.   Our daughter Katie lives on the West Coast and is pregnant with her second child, a little girl. Several weeks ago, her 20-week ultrasound indicated something was potentially wrong with the baby’s heart. As a result, Katie was referred to a high-risk doctor last Tuesday for more in-depth testing. At that appointment, the doctor did in fact find a defect, a structural deformity in which a key blood […]

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Why Churches Should Stop Playing It Safe and Begin Taking More Risks for the Gospel

Planting a church isn’t for the faint of heart—only those with an appetite for risk and impatience with the status quo should apply. Maybe more churches should take that attitude to heart.   I realized the importance of risk-taking all over again last week while visiting Portland, Oregon, one of America’s premier cities but also one well-known for its resistance to the gospel. My church sent one of our young families there last summer to start a new congregation and my wife and I went to check out how they were doing.   Kevin and Jenn Lott along with their four children left their long-time home here in South Carolina […]

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The Las Vegas Shootings Were Evil—and Why We Don’t Want to Admit It

Stephen Paddock’s murder spree was the latest in the growing list of American encounters with evil in its purest form. But I’m not sure we’re ready to admit it.   Last Sunday night at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival near Las Vegas, Nevada, the 64-year-old Paddock took aim from his suite in the upper stories of the hotel across the street and began pouring automatic weapons fire into the 22,000 people gathered at the concert. When the 11-minute barrage ended 58 people lay dead on the ground and over 500 were wounded. Even for a nation grown numb with murder Paddock’s act stands alone. He killed more people than […]

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What Millennials Want in Worship

The collective wisdom of denominational analysts, church leadership gurus and congregational consultants is that Millennials reject traditional worship music in favor of contemporary music and churches that want to reach them must adjust their style of worship accordingly. I’m not so sure.   The millennial generation is the age cohort born from the 1980s through the early 2000s. Now coming into their own, Millennials are raising families and moving in large numbers into the workforce and positions of authority throughout the country.   But it’s from the perspective of religion that Millennials occupy such a strategic place for the church because so many studies seem to say that the group […]

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How Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers Proves the Priority of Discipleship

HOW GREEN BAY’S AARON RODGERS PROVES THE PRIORITY OF DISICPLESHIP. The Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers is according to most analysts the best quarterback in the NFL—Tom Brady’s five Super Bowl rings notwithstanding. He’s the all-time career leader in passing efficiency and holds records in more passing categories than anyone else in NFL history. His team won the Super Bowl in 2010 and he was recognized as the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2011 and 2014. In this, his tenth year at the Packers’ helm, his team will once again be among the favorites to play in the Super Bowl.   Rodgers proves the priority of discipleship and should be […]

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