The Harmony of God’s Image

Because of the interest in this article and because of its length I have also made  it available as a pdf for more convenient reading.  This also contains a summary/review of almost 30 different resources on the roles of gender in the church. Download:  The Harmony of God’s Image “The longer I look at ‘the patriarch’, the clearer it becomes to me that Rembrandt has done something quite different from letting God pose as the wise old head of a family. It all began with the hands. The two are quite different. The father’s left hand touching the son’s shoulder is strong and muscular. The fingers are spread out and cover a large part of the prodigal son’s shoulder and back. I can see a certain pressure, especially in the thumb. That hand seems not only to touch, but, with its strength, also to hold. Even though there is a gentleness in the way the father’s left hand touches his son, it is not without a firm grip. “How different is the father’s right hand! This hand does not hold or grasp. It is refined, soft, and very tender. The fingers are close to each other and they have an elegant quality. It lies gently upon the son’s shoulder. It wants to caress, to stroke, and to offer consolation and comfort.” – Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son (in reflection on the Rembrandt painting above) There are few issues within the church more divisive than determining what role gender plays in leadership, in […]

I Choose To Participate

(updated and expanded Nov 2017) In the book, Muscle and a Shovel by Michael Shank, a question is raised regarding instrumental worship:  “The instrumental music issue may or may not be a big deal in a person’s mind and heart. Ultimately, it boils down to a simple question.  Am I willing to do what God said to do?” I was raised in this tradition so I know this argument.  And my answer to the question posed by Shank is a clear and resounding, “YES.”   I am more than willing. But probably not in the way Shank is suggesting.  And so, as one who has recently planted a church that worships God in many ways, including with the musical instrument,  I present the question back to Shank. The church tradition from which Shank argues his perspective is the same one in which I grew up and have served in a full time ministry career.  Some within this tradition have strongly argued that worshipping God with an instrument is sinfully wrong.  It is a bold and condemning claim.  The argument is based upon two passages in the New Testament.  Ephesians 5:19 and Col. 3:16. Eph. 5:19 Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Col. 3:16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as […]

It’s Not YOUR Fault…Anymore

Like everyone I am stunned by the loss of one of my favorite actors. Robin Williams felt like a friend. Sunday night I was sitting with a friend who was sharing a deep struggle stemming from a tragedy long ago for which she blames herself. I immediately thought of one of my favorite all time movie scenes from the film, Good Will Hunting. Robin Williams delivers the powerful line repeatedly, “It’s not your fault” to a deeply troubled young man played by Matt Damon. These powerful words of release lead to deep healing in the film. Late Sunday night I told my friend, “If I have to bring Robin Williams here to say those words himself in order for you to believe them, I’ll do it.” 24 hours later, Robin Williams was gone. I pray that my friend will hear these words even more powerfully now than Sunday night. Because I believe Jesus speaks in unexpected ways, through surprising voices, and in unlikely places. May all who are hurting, who are blaming themselves, who are on the verge of giving up…find healing and life as you hear Jesus take your faults and shortcomings and brokenness upon Himself. “It’s not your fault.” Whether you are truly to blame or are an innocent victim, Jesus is there in the midst of it all, offering to take your guilt and your shame so that you can be free. “It’s not your fault.” Because only Jesus knows what you’ve been through and how that has […]

Shrewd Grace

I preached the following sermon this past week at a Preaching Workshop on the very difficult parable of the shrewd manager in Luke 16.  I really didn’t think it was all that good but my peers and colleagues gave me such overwhelmingly positive reviews that I thought I would share.  The Workshop was led by Dr. Charles Campbell who is the Professor of Homiletics at Duke Divinity School.  Part of our focus was on his book, Preaching Fools: The Rhetoric of Folly.  My sermon sought to show  this “foolishness” in my own story as it relates to this parable.   Shrewd Grace – by Rob Touchstone  In his book, Shrewd, author Rick Lawrence makes an astute observation about the film, The Young Victoria, in which viewers get a glimpse of the early years of Queen Victoria and her future husband, Prince Albert.  The couple will eventually lead the 19th century British Empire through some of its transformational years of revolution in serving the poor, fighting slavery, offering education, and rebirthing the arts and sciences. During a corrupt period of time before they will rule and even before they are married, Victoria and Albert are playing a game of chess.  Victoria expresses to Albert that she feels like nothing more than a pawn herself.  She laments, “I’m sure half the politicians are ready to seize hold of my skirts and drag me from square to square,” to which Albert replies, “ Then you had better master the rules of the game […]

A Shepherd Boy, A Stone, & Two Balloons

In my previous post I shared how much I couldn’t wait to reveal the future location(s) of The Well Coffeehouse.  I’ve been so excited to reveal what I thought God was speaking through the two balloons that I launched on that cool, rainy day in October.  And now I can tell you one of them.  You perhaps get to help shape what He’s writing on the other.  But first, let me let me tell you a story…. Two years ago I started drawing circles.  I’d read in a theology book about a 1st century rabbi named Choni The Circle Drawer.  The story became popularized in Mark Batterson’s recent book, The Circle Maker.  During a season of devastating draught in Israel, Choni took his staff and drew a circle around himself on the ground.  He then declared, “God, I will not leave this circle until you send the rain.”  God sent the rain.  The story is much richer and fuller than that (see here for the full Choni story) and I was moved by the boldness of Choni.  I had never talked to God that way before.  Not yet. A few years ago, I believed God had given me a vision for a coffeehouse that could change lives globally and locally.  I wanted to create a space where people could be loved into His kingdom.  I wanted to make money only to give it away to the poor, the impoverished, and the thirsty.  I wanted to change the world!  There was only one problem.  I had […]

Up, Up, and A WAY

Sometimes the teacher becomes the student.  And when that happens, true learning begins.  The picture above represents one of those moments for me…and so much more.  Many have asked about the future of The Well Coffeehouse.  Come with me on a short journey and I’ll let you know some very exciting news.  I know.  Why not just come right out and tell you?  Because the journey is as important as the destination. It was a cool October (2013) weekend in Mentone, Alabama and I had just finished leading 5 sessions as a guest speaker for a weekend retreat for about 50 teenagers and adults.  It wasn’t just any speaking engagement.  This was the church where I’d grown up in Marietta, GA.  I was invited by youth minister, Justin Moore, to join the group in Mentone for the weekend to inspire the students to put love into action by sharing stories of how I’ve tried to do the same. Much of my recent inspiration has come from Bob Goff’s Love Does, a book of Bob’s incredible stories of faith and whimsy.  Justin loves the book too and so the theme for the weekend was naturally, “Love Does.”  All weekend I stood before a youth group that I was once a part of and shared God’s Word and my own “Love Does” stories of how God had given me opportunities to love and serve people.  Many of my stories came from my interactions at and through The Well, a nonprofit coffeehouse I co-founded […]