“We Can’t WAIT For October 4!”

Yesterday my friend Fabian Avigliano sent me this message:

What is the big deal about October 4?

It’s when Good Shepherd returns to live, indoor worship as a community.

The times are changed.  The setting will be different.  The expectations altered.  But the Gospel is the same.  Here’s what you need to know: read more

Top Five Tuesday — Top Five Songs Involving Rivers

Julie and I spent the early hours of Labor Day hiking alongside the Catawba River.

Which, of course, got me thinking:  what are some good songs that capture the movement and mystery of rivers?

Here they are:

One. River, by Jason Isbell.  This is the newest — and best — on this list as it comes from Isbell’s 2020 release, Reunions.  It begins with at the intersection of poetry and meteorology: read more

Guest Blogger Ron Dozier: The “Embrace The Grace” Sermon Rewind

My friend and colleague Ron Dozier, who has served on staff at Good Shepherd since 2007, delivered the message yesterday.  Called “Embrace The Grace” and coming from 2 Corinthians 8, here it is:

2 Corinthians 8:1-5, 9
“Turning Obstacles into Opportunities”
I just finished preaching at a church in Kenya located in the heart of the Kibera slums. Well, to my amazement, the church announced they were taking up an offering to give to me. The people celebrated as they brought forth their gifts. The worship didn’t stop me from thinking to myself; there is no way I am going to accept that money. I thought, how can these people who are living in extreme poverty afford to give me an offering. I was relieved when they informed me that the offering wasn’t for me. I was to give it on their behalf to the orphanage our team was going to next, the House of Hope.
Still, I was amazed at their generosity despite their poverty. I allowed their poverty to block my view of their opportunity to give. I saw an obstacle. They saw an opportunity. Yet, that is precisely what obstacles do; they block our view. The opportunity is there, yet we cannot embrace it because we have chosen to embrace the obstacle instead. It’s the couple who have decided not to pursue a Beautiful Marriage; because they have embraced the obstacle of irreconcilable differences. It’s the teenager who chooses not to let their light shine; because of the obstacle of peer pressure or the desire to be popular. It’s the believer, regardless of color, who decides to do nothing to fight against injustice—choosing instead to embrace the obstacle of the fear of man rather than the will of God.
We are facing multiple obstacles in the form of pandemics. They are obstructing our view of joy, peace, love, patience, and even unity within the Body of Christ. It’s hard to see beyond the obstacles, even though every obstacle is an opportunity in disguise. The very obstacle you face just creates space for something extraordinary that God provides.
Take it from someone, me that has allowed obstacles to get in the way of opportunities. So, listen, I’m there. I love to walk. My wife Sanya and I walk together, but we have a different pace. I have to overcome the obstacle wanting to walk my fast pace so we can walk and talk together. Sometimes, okay many times, okay most times I miss the opportunity of togetherness, yet God has so much better for us.
Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians, writes to encourage them not to allow an obstacle to get in the way of an opportunity. This is the most autobiographical of Paul’s letters. In it, he bears his heart. He is open about suffering for the sake of Christ. Paul writes to remind them to follow through with the opportunity to help the church at Jerusalem, who were suffering financial hardship.
So, turn with me to 2 Corinthians chapter eight, verse one, I will read. “And now brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.
Paul used a tactic that other speakers and writers employed, which is appealing to a positive model for imitation. He did so by lifting the example of the Macedonian churches, which were located in the northern part of Greece. The Corinthians were in the South. His overall purpose was to make sure they put aside the money they promised to help the church in Jerusalem. Despite the agony that has come between Paul and the church after his first letter, he encourages them to complete the task. They allowed the obstacle of relational indifference to keep them from doing what they promised. In first Corinthians, He challenged them to live differently.
So, Paul encourages them to do what’s right by talking about the gift given by the Macedonians, whose contribution is a visible expression of God’s grace.
GRACE is one of Paul’s ‘big’ words that he often used to describe the undeserved and unearned gift and kindness of God. God’s grace enables us to overcome the obstacles we are facing. Grace is the supernatural power of God. God’s grace provided the Holy Spirit so that we can be all that he wants us to be and do all that he wants you to do.
He says, I am talking about the gift, but I am pointing to the grace that is available to you too!
That Grace, if embraced, allows us to live differently than the ordinary. Instead of being intimidated by the obstacle, we turn to God, allowing Him to empower us by His grace.
Turn to chapter eight, look at verses two and three. “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.
They gave despite their conditions. You have severe trial yet that had produced overflowing joy. They had extreme poverty, yet they gave generously. How do you get this, out of that, it just doesn’t add up? Pain doesn’t equal joy, and poverty doesn’t add up to generosity. That’s not natural.
The different response by the Macedonians provides direction.
Paul said they went “OUT OF” and “INTO.” Let me just pause to say that just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean that God can’t do it.
Has the obstacle has blocked your view of figuring out your circumstances? Move out of and into.
Exchange your wisdom for the wisdom of God.
Exchange your strength for the strength that God provides.
The Macedonians went from merely trying to trusting all of this made possible by the Grace of God.
They let go of the obstacle and embraced the opportunity to help someone else. They went beyond themselves to benefit others.
In other words, they “Embraced Grace to help others.”
The concept of Grace became concrete through their actions.
They allowed the power of God to penetrate their lives so they could help someone else. It is the same truth that I am passing on to you. read more

#TBT — A Thoroughly Modern Texas Tennis Throwback

The CURRENT ISSUE of Inside Tennis Magazine , Texas Tennis History Issue, has a special cover from way back in 1977.

That’s right.  As part of an October 2020 issue celebrating Tennis History in the Lone Star State, the magazine included the cover of the 1977 Texas Tennis Association Yearbook and Guide.  Here it is: read more

When The Brewmaster Gave The Preacher A Theological Vocabulary Lesson

My son-in-law Nate Underwood is the Co-Founder and Brewmaster of the Harding House Brewing Company in Nashville. That’s him, third from left, in the photo below.

The beers Nate creates are creatively crafted, uniquely local, and seasonally brewed.

To those descriptors, we could add purposely religious.  read more

Top Five Tuesday — Top Five Benefits For That Thing We ALWAYS Say (Not Book; Is Library!)

We say it a lot at Good Shepherd:  the bible is not a book; it’s a library.

We say it so much, in fact, that an elementary schooler in our church actually corrected her school teacher who had dared to refer to the bible as a book.  “No ma’am,” the Good Shepherd student interjected.  “It’s a library.”  (And my heart was strangely warmed upon hearing that story.) read more

HelpI I Need Somebody!, Week 2 — The “I See Living People” Sermon Rewind

Yesterday’s message …

  • Benefitted from a mid-week bottom line upgrade … a helpful example of “sounding out the sermon” in advance, realizing the existing bottom line was ‘meh’ and a new one emerged;
  • Began with the shared trauma of the middle school lunch room trauma that many of us share;
  • Observed that the world is divided into insiders and invisibles.
  • Built on the “visual” pattern in Ruth 2 … “in your eyes” and “that you notice me” recur throughout;
  • Led to this bottom line:  When you choose to see the invisible, your impact will be incredible. 

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Is there anything more terrifying than the middle school lunch room? Many of you remember it, others of you are scarred from it, and then others are in the middle of it right now. Because you’ve got tables and you’ve got pecking orders and you have the American version of the caste system. The cool kids are at one table, and those seats are by invitation only!, the tweeners are at another table and then the misfits or outcasts or invisibles at still another table. And the cool kids don’t even SEE the un-cools. The world, it seems isn’t so much divided between INSIDERS and OUTSIDERS but between INSIDERS and INIVISIBLES. read more

How A Good Shepherd Couple Has Endured Pandemic

Chris and Shevon Rowe are terrific.  I think you’ll like their story:

The Rowes COVID-19 Series

"God has shown us that each day is a gift"Watch this amazing testimony of the Rowes about how God has blessed them during this season of COVID-19.#beautifulmarriage

Posted by Good Shepherd Church on Tuesday, August 25, 2020 read more

What I Realized From Psalm 48:9

Not long ago, I read Psalm 48:9 as part of my weekend version of starting the day in the Word and not in the world.  Here’s what it says:

“Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.”

So what happened when I meditated on his unfailing love?  I realize that he … read more

Top Five Tuesday — Top Five Vintage Hymns

I’ve spent more time than you might suspect in traditional churches. After all, when I first started going to church there were no other options! So I’ve spent time in high church Presbyterian, middle church Methodist, low church Baptist, and all points in between.

That includes nine years at a traditional-becoming-blended church in Monroe, a time in which I got to know the United Methodist Hymnal very well. read more