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Living Out Our Baptismal Commitments

Last Sunday we baptized Edward Grady Meyers, son of Sarah and Matt. Edward was locked in the whole time, as you can see from the photo above! Baptizing babies is a core belief of United Methodists. Do you know why? It has to do with grace. We believe God's love is active within us from birth. God is continually guiding us into relationship. Once we commit to Christ, God's grace doesn't stop; we are continually being shaped from the inside out by love. Babies participate in that love too! Baptism has nothing to do with understanding or accepting grace; it has everything to do with responding to the grace already active within us.
Matt and Sarah reaffirmed their faith in Christ at Edward's baptism. They also committed to "nurture him in Christ's holy church, that by your example he may be guided to accept God's grace for himself..." Then the congregation also commits to Edward: "We will surround this child with a community of love and forgiveness, …

First Day of Fail?

This morning I came into the church hot. I know it's Texas, and it's September. It's also the first day of Fall (technically). But I walked into my office from my car, probably 50 feet away, sweating. I've had it with this awful, sticky weather. Anyway, I decided to go to the Celebration Center for my daily devotional time. I gathered up my tools:

The Book of Common PrayerMy prayer beadsMy weekly guide for prayerBibleDaily reader When I sat down on the front row, I glanced down at my new fitness tracker I purchased the other day. I wanted to re-focus on my fitness goals, and I thought a built-in accountability partner on my wrist might help. Yesterday I met my goal of 10,000+ steps. So far this morning, I saw, I was over 5,000. I also noticed my heart rate was around 100; it's usually closer to 70. Like I said, I was hot and sweaty. So I swiped to the right on the tracker a few times and found the Relax setting. I set it for five minutes of breathing exercises.

Breat…

Whatachurch??

I've been encouraging everyone to invite friends and neighbors without a church home to visit Grace for some time. Personal invitation is still, by far, the most effective way to bring new people to church. A few months ago I began to think that as a leader I could not in good nature encourage others to do something I was not doing. Being somewhat new in town, I do not have many non-church relationships, so I began to pray for a way to reach unchurched people to bring the gospel to them. As part of our Healthy Church Initiative work, I read about a pastor who set up shop at a local coffee house for a couple of hours each week. He only brought a sign with him that basically said, "I am a pastor. Stop by if you'd like to chat." I couldn't get this out of my mind; I even dreamed about it. But in my mind it didn't happen at a coffee shop. It happened here:


I knew this would be a radical thing for me to do, but I could not get it out of my mind. So a couple of mon…

The DACA Decision

The decision to end the DACA program grieves me to no end. It has me thinking of immigrant families and their struggles. If you'd like to learn more about the situations many of those families find themselves in, I'd recommend the following for your media consumption. They are all light hearted comedies, but with a real message for where our society finds itself:


Hasan Minhaj is a correspondent on The Daily Show. Homecoming King, his story of growing up in California with his immigrant father, is amazing. This show rocketed onto my Top-10 of the year. It is amazing, emotional.. It's on Netflix.


Master of Noneis one of the best series on TV. It's about living the single life in New York. There are two seasons on Netflix.

The Big Sick was one of my favorite movies of this summer. It's still in cinemas, and is now also available for streaming at iTunes or Amazon.
Immigration is an extremely complicated issue. I've preached about it for years. But we're not talkin…

The Cross and Harvey

Matthew 16:21-28
How many times have you used, or heard the cliche, "Well, it's my cross to bear!" Usually the person is describing an inconvenience they are enduring. For example, I drive a very gas-thirsty car. I filled it up on Wednesday, the day before the gas frenzy happened in North Texas, because our son James had a football game in Sulphur Springs Thursday night (90 minutes each way). I filled up at our local grocery store because I had amassed a significant discount: 80 cents/gallon. So I paid only $32 to fill up my tank. After the road trip and going to Dallas yesterday for a funeral, I needed to fill up again. This time it cost $50. Would you say paying the extra $18 was my cross to bear?
No. Well, you might, but you shouldn't. My task today is to eliminate that cliche from our common vocabulary. The Cross is not an inconvenience. It is not something that causes us frustration. It is a direction for our lives as followers of Jesus Christ. To say a slight i…

Prayers of Safety and Comfort for Those Suffering from Natural Disasters

People suffering from Harvey have probably had about enough of images like this. But these prayers may offer comfort and assurance in the midst of their suffering. Please share!

A Prayer of Confession All: Almighty God, we confess our need of you.
One:
We take so much of our lives for granted, but in the end
we cannot rely on our own strength or that of others.
All: Almighty God, we confess our need of you.
One:
We have enjoyed the blessings of self-reliance, but in the end
we cannot rely on our own selves to do what is right or good.
All: Almighty God, we confess our need of you.
One:
We have built cities, and levees, and power grids to overcome the power of nature,
but in the end we cannot rely on even the best things we have built.
All: Almighty God, we confess our need of you. We can rely only on you.
Into your hands we commend our lives,
for you are our Rock and our Redeemer.
Have mercy on us, Lord. Have mercy.

Popsicles Are a Means of Grace

Last Saturday night was going to be an amazing evening. Months ago, Janet Hayes and I reserved the Splash at Fairview Park as a Back to School event for families in Sherman. This would be a free event, a gift to bless the kids of our community. I created an event page on Facebook. This was just meant to communicate that it was happening. It was not a paid advertisement. Surprisingly, 349 people said they would attend (the place only holds 400!), and 1,500 people indicated they were interested. 1500! About three hours before the event was to begin, thunder rolled and lightning crashed. Eventually the City of Sherman closed the water park and the event was cancelled.
I was not in a great mood for several hours. This was the kind of gift I had dreamed of the church offering the community. As I posted the news on Facebook, people said things like, "Thank you and bless you. This was a great idea." I hope we do something like this again next summer.

On Monday of this week, a doze…

My Approach to Preaching

I received many comments after yesterday's sermon, following the events of this past weekend in Charlottesville, VA. Thank you to everyone for your support and feedback! You can listen to the audio recording of the sermon here.



The experience of writing and delivering that sermon has me thinking this morning about the nature of Christian preaching as I understand it. Preaching is deeply personal and relational between:
preacher and Godpreacher and the local congregation/community/parish one servespreacher and the denomination s/he represents, when applicable Every preacher has their own models for sermon development, and ministry in general. Some preachers consider preaching the least important part of their work; they are more caregivers, for example. Others see preaching as a mode for teaching, so the sermon has more of a lecture style. From the beginning of my ministry, I decided preaching best fit my gifts, and had the capacity to deliver the gospel to the most people. When I w…

A Christian Response to White Supremacy

My sermon from August 13, 2017, following the events of this weekend in Charlottesville, VA
Matthew 14:22-33
The other night, Christy and I took Linus to Dilligham Intermediate School to get his new schedule and meet his teachers. There are nine elementary schools in Sherman, which go from K-4th grade. Then all 5-6th graders attend the same school. It's not the way I would have drawn up the school system, but it is what it is, at least for now.

Anyway, as we walked through those halls, it was very evident to me what it looks like when one takes every kid from every school and puts them together in one school. The kids and their families were beautifully diverse: immigrants speaking a second language. Second generation kids. African American kids. Latino kids. Caucasian kids. You get the picture. As I looked around at the different faces and heard different accents and even languages of kids and families who will share the same space as my son, I did not feel threatened or isolated.…