Saturday, June 30, 2018

Jun 30 - John 6:53-54


Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day." - John 6:53-54


Holy Communion is way, way more than symbol! Nevertheless, sometimes Jesus spoke in symbolic language.


Bread and wine are symbols -- and surely way, way more than mere symbols -- for Jesus' body and blood. But today let's deal with them at a symbolic level.


In a symbolic way, the ancient world understood the body -- the flesh -- to be symbolic of life. While you are alive, you are living in the flesh; whereas, one day, you'll be beyond the flesh in the spiritual realms (with a new resurrected body, to be sure. But you get the point, right?) Flesh equals life.


Blood, on the other hand, represented death.  When blood is spilled, what happens? Death.


Now put this together ... in a symbolic way (and communion is way, way more than symbol, but in a symbolic way) what Jesus is inviting his people to do is to take part in his life and in his death. Indeed, we need to die to our life to take on his life. It needs to quit being about our wants and our desires and our purposes and our priorities; and it needs to start being about His goals and His purposes. It's His Way and His Truth.


Do you remember the old bumper sticker that said, "God is my co-pilot." Well, shortly after that saying arose, a new bumper sticker appeared: "If God is your co-pilot, change seats." Dying to ourselves is changing seats. It's allowing God to be in charge of our lives. It's allowing him to set the agenda.


How many of us start the morning with our plan for the day? And fail to stop and ask God for his plan for our day, our week, our year, our life? I confess that I'm too often on auto-pilot. Through bread and wine and many and various calls throughout the pages of Scripture, God invites us to die to our life and take on his life (to partake in his life).


In Christ's Love,

a guy who is flesh and blood

... only what I really need is

His flesh (His life) and

His blood (a symbol of

dying to what's killing me

and rising to real life)


Thursday, June 28, 2018

June 29 - Psalm 34:8


O taste and see

that the Lord is good;

happy are those who

take refuge in him.

Psalm 34:8


We've been talking a lot about food this week. Communion. The bread of life.


Well, one of my favorite verses is the call to "taste and see that the Lord is good."


We have a world that is starving. Marriages are failing. Children are estranged. There is job loss and financial turmoil. We're dealing with too much mental illness and depression. Despair is rising, and so are the suicide rates. Addiction is becoming more and more normative. People are angry and vengeful. Cancer and other illnesses keep eating their way into families. The is violence, abuse, bloodshed, and war. Life is hard.


And I don't know how people do it without God!


God is good. And if we let him, he reverses all these curses. Now, all the caveats apply: It's a broken world because of sin. People hurt us, and we hurt them. God offers help, but how many of us want to do it our way. But if we let him, God will reverse all these curses.


·         He can knit marriages back together.

·         He can return our prodigal sons.

·         He is the provider when things are tight.

·         He is meaning, rather than purposelessness.

·         He is hope, rather than despair.

·         He is a reality bigger than addiction.

·         He is forgiveness, quelling vengence.

·         He is a shelter in the midst of violence.

·         He is truth when abuse and lies demean us.

·         He is the healer of earthly ills.

·         And he is majestic hope as this temporary world fades and eternity beckons.


O taste and see that the Lord is good!


In Christ's Love,

a guy who is hungry

for God and his blessings



Wednesday, June 27, 2018

June 28 - 1 Corinthians 10:16


The cup of blessing that

we bless, is it not the

fellowship of the blood of Christ?

The bread that we break,

is it not the fellowship

of the body of Christ?

1 Corinthians 10:16


The Biblical word "koinonia" is sometimes translated as "fellowship." Other times it is translated as "communion." As a verb, it is "participating in" and "partaking of."


All of these meanings intersect in this passage! When we commune, we "partake of" the cup of blessing and the body of Christ. We "participate in" both a sacrament action and within a group of people called "the body of Christ." We call this act "communion," and we "commune with" and "fellowship with" both God and our brothers and sisters in Christ.


When we stretch out our hands at communion, there is intimate fellowship with God. When we approach the holy altar, God comes to meet us in a special, sacred, sacramental way. As Martin Luther said, "He is in, with, and under the bread." He is here! With us!


We also gather on typical Sundays with scores of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Through the week, we've been broken and scattered across our community, state, nation, and world. When we return to the altar, we are knit back together as the people of God. The week has been hard on many of us, so we return to partake in a cup of blessing and the promise of healing. We returned to be taught and encouraged and forgiven and nourished by our family of faith as we prepare to march back out into the world.


We need each other ... almost as much as we need God. That's how God designed the church. That's how he designed you and me.


In Christ's Love,

a who heard recently that

if you feel you're thirsty,

it's alreay too late; you're

already dehydrated.

Well, if you're weak, low,

doubting, despairing,

you're already tragically

low on the bread of life and

the blessing of communion

(in all its forms).

But it's never to late.

Come home.

Put out your hand.

Receive the bread.

Drink the cup of blessing.


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

June 27 - Luke 22:19-20


And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. - Luke 22:19-20


If I asked you to define "institution," what would you say?


·         The first thing we probably think of is a big organization, like a college or a bank.

·         The second thing we may think of is a long-standing societal custom. For example, we may about the institution of marriage.

·         But institution can also refer to an action that establishes a tradition. For example, when Jesus "took bread, gave thanks and broke it," he was instituting the sacrament of holy communion. Indeed, when reading through the Gospels (and even in 1 Corinthians 11), we call the words of Jesus at the Last Supper, "The Words of Institution."


What was he instituting? "The New Covenant!"


The Old Covenant given to Abraham and his descendants. If they would receive (and through the generation keep) the mark (circumcision), they would become and be God's people.


Now, some reduced this to a one-time, once-and-for-all, impersonal, external act. A required ritual. An excuse for a party as the little boy cries. Religious, but not personal: "If you receive the mark on the traditional eighth day after birth, that's all you need."


That's clearly not what God intended, though. And the prophets kept reiterating this. They kept saying that faith is not external actions, but a matter of the heart, a matter of faith. For example, Jeremiah said, "Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, remove the foreskin of your hearts" (Jeremiah 4:4). As the Apostle Paul would say later, "a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal" (Romans 2:29).


In the New Covenant, it isn't you or me or our little boy children who receive the mark. It was Jesus himself. He was "he was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; and upon him was the punishment that made us whole" (Isaiah 53:5).


Sadly, however, some reduced Christ's sacrifice to a one-time, once-and-for-all, impersonal, external act. It's true that Christ's sacrifice opened a door eternally, but God doesn't want for us to treat the cross -- or holy communion -- as mere ritual. He wants us bring the meaning of that external act into our hearts. We are invited to participate in Christ's death -- dying to ourselves and living for him.


In Christ's Love,

a guy who doesn't want

communion or any

sacramental rite to be

a dusty old institution,

but a living reality


Got any prayers for July?!

ASAP send me your

July prayers!

Monday, June 25, 2018

June 26 - John 6


Those following Jesus said, "Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven ... which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” - John 6:31-34


Do you remember the story of the manna?


After escaping slavery in Egypt, the Israelites were led out into the wilderness. And soon, they got hungry! And soon -- in response to their cries -- God fed them. Each morning bread appeared on the ground. It seemed kind of like dew on the morning grass. They called it manna. And God fed them every day.


Now, if you were hungry in the desert, the temptation would be to do what the Israelites did. When they found manna in the morning, they gathered enough for two or three days. But God said, "Take only enough for today." And the result of their (natural and very human) disobedience? The extra that they took spoiled.


And God had a point. He was (and is) the provider. He was trying to teach them to trust in him as their provider ... daily. And he, indeed, gave them daily bread.


As I said, I am 99.9% sure that I would have taken two or three days worth of bread. When you're in the desert, scarcity seems very, very real. Starvation seems very, very near. But what about us today? In modern America, we live under a myth of scarcity. We all have way, way more than we need ... and yet we keep buying. We hang onto so many things -- on the off chance that once in the next 17 years we might "need" it -- that an ever growing business is massive self-storage units. (By the world's standards, we own mansion, yet they're still not big enough for all our stuff.) And what about dieting. Experts say that one of the reasons that we overeat is the myth of scarcity. "This particular pizza is so good that I better eat extra now, because I may not get enough tomorrow."


We're taught by God-the-Son to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." It's essentially what God-the-Father taught the Israelites to pray and trust and act upon in the Wilderness -- "Take just enough manna for one day." And now Jesus is saying essentially that God is sending manna again. The people of Jesus' day couldn't grasp what the Messiah was teaching. They were wanting him to give them physical bread. Jesus was saying, "I am the bread. The Father has sent me to satisfy your spiritual hungers. And if you trust, I am enough for every day. Don't think you can stock up on Sundays or at a big retreat and be satisfied for a while. No, you need me daily."


In Christ's Love,

a guy who is on and off

the Keto diet with his wife

– which means “no bread.”

Fortunately Keto doesn’t

mean “no Jesus”!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

June 25 - Acts 2:41-48


Day by day … they devoted

themselves … to fellowship …

[and] to the breaking of the bread …

see Acts 2:41-48


If I asked you for another term for the “breaking of the bread,” you’d probably say, “communion.”


If I asked you for another term for “fellowship,” you could also say, “communion”! (In fact, the Greek word “koinonia” is often alternately translated “fellowship” or “communion” in the English version of the Bible.)


In terms of fellowship, who are we communing with? We are communing with one another, with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.


In terms of the breaking of the bread, who are we communing with? With God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Through this holy meal, our spirit intersects with God’s presence in a special, sacramental way. A relational way. Through this meal, we’re in “communion” (relationship) with God.


But there’s a second piece to Holy Communion. When you come to Church and process to the altar for communion, the “communion” you partake in is not just between “you and Jesus” (though Jesus surely meets you there). In that moment, you are also – simultaneously – communing with a hundred other brothers and sisters in Christ. Communion involves a community of faith.


This week, we’ll be looking at some of the ways Christian’s commune.


In Christ’s Love,

communion …

community …

communication …

I guess I’m a guy who

is increasingly realizing

that relationship

is important

Saturday, June 16, 2018

June 16-17 - Psalm 12:1


Help, O Lord, for there is

no longer anyone who is godly;

the faithful have disappeared

from humankind.

Psalm 12:1


Do you ever feel like the sentiment in that verse?


I’d agree that the percentage of the faithful seems to be decreasing. And it’s shocking. And sad.


Recently a local church was given a demographic study. In a five mile radius of their church, only about 9% of people attended church somewhat regularly. Only 9%! In Waxhaw! It’s shocking. And very, very sad.


But lest you get too discouraged, it matters which “studies” you listen to. Other “studies” suggest that the number of committed Christians has remained the same throughout the last few generations.


What does that mean?


There used to be a cultural “advantage” to going to church. “Everybody” did it. And if you were to be “anybody,” you needed to be at church. If you were to be viewed as a good person, you needed to be at church. In America, there was a time when the world was empty on Sunday morning because “everybody” was in church. So even in the midst of “good” congregations, there were a lot of “cultural Christians.” They were there because it was the right thing to do.


Now, it’s different. The world doesn’t care if you’re Christian. (In fact, sometimes the world mocks you for it.) When I first came to Spirit of Joy, Wednesday was a great night for church programming because it was “church night.” Schools, teams, and clubs didn’t schedule on Wednesdays. That was only fourteen years ago. Now not only has “church night” disappear in the South, so has any sanctity for Sunday morning. Now there’s a disincentive to be at church on Wednesdays or Sundays. And the once-incentivized “cultural Christians” are now drifting. But the faithful core is still here.


The Psalmist surely felt like “the faithful have disappeared.” Most pastors most days can be discouraged enough to feel the same way. But there is always a remnant. And the faithful core is still here!


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who is more sad

than discouraged;

too many are selling

their families to

a broken world

and are shocked

when they get

worldly results





Thursday, June 14, 2018

June 15 - Acts 2:42-43


They devoted themselves

… to fellowship … and awe

came upon everyone …

Acts 2:42-43


God designed humans for relationship. We see that stated clearly in the first pages of Scripture.


And … God designed the church to fulfill that need for relationship. We see that stated clearly in the first pages of Church history. Indeed, in Scripture’s first picture of the church, we see a “day-by-day” devotion to several key disciplines … including fellowship.


But … devoted fellowship is an increasingly hard sell in American culture.


·         First, our society is very individualistic. We do what we think in the moment is best for us … and fail to consider how our presence, absence, service, support, and fellowship enriches others.


·         Second, in our modern world, we’re overly busy. We’re exhausted. We don’t gather with church family day because we don’t have time.


·         Third, we’ve let culture define our priorities. We’re told by the world, for example, what will make our kids and our families successful. And American Christians increasingly chase worldly priorities … and then – simultaneously and ironically – complain that the world that they’re feeding their families to is falling apart. (Hint: Our culture is falling apart because we’re too individualistic, too busy, too exhausted, too deceived, and too involved in the world.)   


God’s first picture for the church (Acts 2:42-47) repeatedly talks about the “day-by-day” emphasis on God and faith and church. On fellowship! On being together. On coming to the church daily – to worship, pray, and serve.


And if you want a little more awe in your life, this passage tells us that awe and wonder comes in conjunction with the day-by-day prioritization of church as family.


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who can’t imagine

more than a day or two

without  my church family!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

June 14 - quote from the movie "Harvey"


Harvey and I sit in the bars... We've entered as strangers. Soon we have friends. … They tell about the big terrible things they've done and the big wonderful things they'll do. … All very large, because nobody ever brings anything small into a bar. And then I introduce them to Harvey... and he's bigger and grander than anything they offer me. And when they leave, they leave ______.

            Elwood P. Dowd in Mary Chase’s Harvey


Who is Harvey? Let me weave my way into a powerful theological answer!


In yesterday’s devotion – and in last Sunday’s sermon – I talked about the sense of community that many people find in a bar … or in a club … or on teams … or in some social or service organizations.


We all want places to belong, places where “everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came” (as the old Cheers theme song sings).


We also talked yesterday about Larson and Miller’s insight about how “the neighborhood bar is probably the best counterfeit there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give his church.”


In just a moment, I’m going to tell you a story about how a Christian can redeem his bar or team or club! But first … why do these organizations flourish? Larson and Miller say, “the bar flourishes, not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved, and many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers.”


Ironically, or maybe intentionally, Larson and Miller’s book from which this quote derives is entitled “The Edge of Adventure.” Seeking community is a huge hunger in every heart. But when we seek it in the wrong place, we’re only on the edge of God’s plan. We taste a counterfeit hint of the blessing and adventure that our Lord offers, but we miss the true feast.


Nevertheless … a few lines from the classic old movie, Harvey reveal a Christian purpose for if and when God’s people adventure into a club or bar or any secular organization. Do you know the story of Harvey?


In the movie version of Harvey, Jimmy Stewart plays Elwood P. Dowd. Everyone thinks he’s absolutely crazy. Why? Because his best friend is an invisible, 6’3½” white rabbit. Naturally, everyone views a man who talks to a giant, invisible rabbit as insane … but the audience is in on the joke. Harvey, the invisible hare, is real! Doors open. Things move. Shadows appear. And only Elwood – and the audience – see it.


And – and here’s the theological part – Elwood sees something the world doesn’t see. Likewise, Christians see things that the world doesn’t always see … like God! And like Elwood P. Dowd in the following quote, a Christian’s primary purpose for venturing out in the world is to introduce people to Harvey (to God). (In fact, any other reason we gather with the world is, as Larson and Miller suggest, counterfeit!)


Listen to Elwood’s words in my favorite scene:


Harvey and I sit in the bars... have a drink or two... play the juke box. And soon the faces of all the other people they turn toward mine and they smile. And they're saying, "We don't know your name, mister, but you're a very nice fella."


Harvey and I warm ourselves in all these golden moments. We've entered as strangers - soon we have friends.


And they come over... and they sit with us... and they drink with us... and they talk to us. They tell about the big terrible things they've done and the big wonderful things they'll do. Their hopes, and their regrets, and their loves, and their hates. All very large, because nobody ever brings anything small into a bar.


And then I introduce them to Harvey... and he's bigger and grander than anything they offer me. And when they leave, they leave ______.


As Christians, our primary reason to be walk into a bar or join or club must to introduce people to Harvey (to God). Why? Because the world is hurting. There’s “big terrible things they’ve done” and had done to them. There’s “big wonderful things they [want to] do,” dreams that are merely earthly and temporary until we find our greater purpose in God.


Yes, life is full of “hope … regrets … loves … and … hates.” And they’re “all very large, because nobody ever brings anything small into a bar.” And that’s where we have an opportunity! It’s at this moment that we can (and a called) to introduce them to The One who is “bigger and grander than anything they offer me” – God and the love of Christ.


If we take the world up on its “offer,” the best we get is a counterfeit version of fellowship – the drunken vulnerability in a bar, some worldly service in a club, and a bit of “rah-rah” on a team. And simultaneously are we sacrificing our time in Christian community – the building up of others in the church and our being built up by the Gospel and the Body of Christ.


I’ll tell you more about this tomorrow, but the only reason a Christian should be deeply involved in the world is to “introduce [people] to Harvey [who]’s bigger and grander than anything they offer me. And [then] when they leave, they[‘ll] leave [transformed].


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who has a


friend in heaven




June 13 - Acts 2:42-43


They devoted themselves

to fellowship … and awe

came upon everyone …

Acts 2:42-43


I remember sitting in my college dorm room when a new television series premiered. The show was okay … but I absolutely loved the theme song. I sang it in my head all week. I tuned in the next week primarily to hear the song again.


The show was Cheers, and Gary Portnoy’s famous song addressed one of humanities greatest needs: Belonging. (You’re welcome to listen as you read.)


Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you got
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot
Wouldn't you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they're always glad you came
You want to be where you can see
The troubles are all the same
You want to go where

Everybody knows your name.


Belonging! Starting with the Garden of Eden – and heaven’s observation that it’s “not good for the man to be alone” – we know that we’ve been built for community. We feel it in our bones. But from bars to teams to clubs, how many in our world keep seeking cheap counterfeits to the community we’re designed to find within the church?


Indeed, that’s the heartbreaking observation of Larson and Miller in The Edge of Adventure. They say …


The neighborhood bar is probably the best counterfeit there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give his church.


It’s an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality, but it is a permissive, accepting, and inclusive fellowship. It is also unshockable. It is democratic. You can tell people’s secrets and they usually don’t tell others or even want to.


The bar flourishes, not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved, and many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers.


You love people. You want a place to belong. But in what “communities” are you choosing to look for the counterfeit rather than the real.


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who doesn’t want

the Secret Service to

investigate me,

I want the real rather

than the counterfeit






Monday, June 11, 2018

June 12 - Matthew 5:14-15


Jesus said, “You are

the light of the world.

A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 

No one after lighting a lamp

puts it under the bushel basket,

but on the lampstand, and

it gives light to all in the house.”

Matthew 5:14-15


A young woman who grew up at our church recently posted a page from her devotional book. On it was a story about a church in England. A relatively modern church, most are surprised to find that the architect designed it without lights!




Well, when people join the church, they are each assigned a pew and are given a lantern. When they come on Sundays, they light their lantern and when the whole congregation gathers, the church is lit.


But what happens, asks the devotional, when one person doesn’t show on a Sunday? Not much. It’s a little dimmer, but it’s just one lantern, right?


But what happens when several families don’t show?!


The church is dark.


That’s a major problem in our culture today. The church – for a variety of reasons – is going dark. And because of that, our society is growing darker, and in the dark, our children are getting lost.


Jesus calls us to be light for the world. Citadels on the hills. Beacons in our communities. But … churches are growing dark because even “good Christians” no longer prioritize worship.


How brightly are you and your family shining?


In Christ’s Love,

a guy whose roots are

from the town that is

famous for Zippo lighters;

wanting to light must come

naturally for me

Saturday, June 2, 2018

All Ages Invited to 8:30 Discipleship Tomorrow!!!

At 8:30 tomorrow we’re going

to pray and teach and tell stories.


It will be deep for adults

and accessible for children.


Come for yourself!!!

And bring your family!!!