If you are new to this blog....

Welcome! The primary purpose of this blog is to explore and encourage around what it means to be winsome and sent into the world for God's glory. If you are new here, the definition of "lighthouse-searchlight" or our missional journey is a good place to start. Come peruse the blog and add me to your RSS feed!

Thursday, October 29, 2015


I was recently quoted in an article by Jodi Craiglow entitled, "Is there hope for PCUSA evangelicals today?"  I thought I would bump my old article to the top of my blogs in case anyone wants to read the quote in its fuller context.

In mid-January 2012, Moderator Cynthia Bolbach and a group of other ruling and teaching elders posted a video entitled, "Hope for the PC(USA)."  They invited others in the church to share with the church why we believe "this to be the beginning, not the end, of what God has planned for us."  What follows is my answer to that invitation...

I have great hope and conviction that God is alive and well and at work in this world in which we live. That was just confirmed in person as I sat at the corner coffee shop and had a conversation with the manager who has become a friend, who shared some of her own personal burdens, the help she gains from her recent faith, and her desire to follow God's leading in her work and life. That she had no church background or desire to know God did not stop God from pursuing and finding her. Thankfully. Mercifully. Gloriously!

I have great hope that God is alive and well and at work in the part of the Church called the PCUSA. I see it as I share stories with friends across the presbytery and across the country. For instance, I see it in my good friend's church - a "transformation church" that has struggled to cling to life, battled the prospect of change, and embodies new life in Christ. Despite struggle and tears, even accusations and opposition, I have heard and seen the Gospel of Jesus Christ SHINE through her and those remaining to become God's church in their neighborhood. I see our presbytery responding to a vision of becoming less about institutional maintenance (survival?!) and more about asking what God is already doing through the congregations of our presbytery. Despite resistance to change, guarding of territory, and fear of the unknown, I have seen the Spirit stir and move in and among our presbytery.

I am not ignorant or indifferent to the challenges before us. John Vest's "Pathos" post was piercingly truthful about the ways we fail and fall short. But my hope is not pinned to institutional "success," human merit, or theological position. Honestly, I have been disappointed by people all across the theological spectrum; I have also been greatly encouraged, challenged, and witnessed to by people all across the theological spectrum. People are people... and they sure aren't God. My hope comes from a conviction that God's ability to move, work, help, and save is not dependent on human success or faithfulness. That doesn't let us off the hook in terms of faithfulness or obedience, but it sure keeps me from becoming hopeless.

Finally, I have great hope because of my own congregation and ministry. And lest that seem obvious or self-promoting, that hope comes precisely because of my own keen awareness of my limitations and failures. One of the ways I describe our congregation is "ordinary people; extraordinary God" - and I mean every bit of that. There is nothing I would deem good or bad, faithful or unfaithful, Jesus-centered or wayward as Hell, in the denomination that I don't also encounter in my own congregation and my own life. And God keeps showing up, stirring us up, calling us back, cleaning us up, and sending us out under the Word, sealed in the Spirit, and following the Son.

Thankfully. Mercifully. Gloriously!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

::SCOTLAND ROUND-UP:: [repost]


A trip to Scotland in summer of 2014 was enjoyable and wonderful in and of itself; it also occasioned significant reflection, as demonstrated in a number of blog posts. Here is an index of those posts.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

missional life in the small(er) church [repost]


Some key posts gathered into one list.

  • Wednesday Night Experiment (series) - initial description and follow-up reports of our experiment of pushing the Wednesday night church meeting outside the walls into the neighborhood.  Some exciting results!!  Continue reading about year two HERE.
  • Missional Identity in the Small Church (series) - this series chronicles the visioning, communication, implementation, etc... of a missional identity at Good Shepherd.  This material was compiled for a workshop I taught, but comes from an officer retreat in 2006.  The initial link has links to the successive posts.
  • Each One Bring One - our September 2012 outreach emphasis with a home-grown video from our drama and children's ministry
  • VBS on the Road - the story of taking our Vacation Bible School outside the walls
  • Searchlight-in-Training - a missional look at parenting my young daughter
  • More than Cookies - narrative of two memorable days in ministry that highlight our growing missional mindset along with the mess and the glory of being a lighthouse and searchlight church
  • Truth and Error (series) - study of truth and error in the local church from 2 Timothy 2
  • Frost Defines Missional (part 1, part 2, part 3) - blogged through Michael Frost's presentation on missional church at the 2007 Presbyterian Global Fellowship conference
  • The Talent Challenge - a real-life missional "parable of the Talents" exercise; two follow-up reports below
    • Mission Benefit Concert - a $20 talent turned into a fabulous fund-raising concert for our missionaries in Spain; raised $1800!
    • Family business in Nicaragua - a $20 talent sent to our missionaries in Nicaragua purchased equipment for start-up sewing classes

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

this is grace [repost]


After the messages on "Grace and Truth" I saw this description of that worship service posted on Facebook. I'll also include my follow-up comment and another... to be sure there are days when we don't get it right, but then there are days like this where we catch a glimpse of God's purposes in the Church... and it's pretty glorious if you're looking (or as more than a few spiritual directors have named it: "cultivating the discipline of noticing" God's presence)!

PRISCILLA: One of the many reasons I love having the opportunity to celebrate communion Sunday with all of you is the kids. For whatever reason, even the youth seemed to be sitting with family today, my own daughter sat with me. As service progressed and I would glance around I saw so many children being physically loved on in the pews. This was not just the little ones either. Teenagers were getting and openly receiving love all around the sanctuary. Middle-schoolers ended up on someone's lap or holding a hand. One family's 3 elementary aged children all ended up on the 2 parents laps. These visuals added so much to the service this morning. Thank you all for sharing your precious children with this community of believers!
ROBERT (me): I also heard babies cooing, giggling, and fussing (and wouldn't trade it for anything); I saw our good friend with the stroke pat a young boy on the back as they arrived at the Communion Table to leave something in the Ten Cents a Meal basket; I saw a couple of guys from the men's group home worshiping all-out; I saw some new faces eagerly engaged in worship; I saw some folks I know are struggling with the whole idea of faith, but are there checking it out because someone they love is there. It is a very beautiful thing and I am beyond blessed to pastor this flock.
RUTH: For here is Jesus, welcoming all into HIS family - the young and the old, the strong and the weak, the puzzled and the calm, the grieving and the peaceful, the lonely and the scared. All looking so diverse on the outside, yet all made in HIS image, all with eternity set in their hearts by HIM. And this is what LOVE is - this is GRACE.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

grace and truth [repost]

Monday Musings are reflections on things I've been pondering lately. They may be a result of the previous day's sermon or come from my own life or the ministry I'm involved with. As with any of my posts, I invite your comments, questions, or further reflection. Thanks for stopping in!

Early in 2014 I was preaching on truth and grace and one of the dear members of the church was led to create a grace and truth banner for our sanctuary.

I used that banner as a sermon illustration and it grew into this graphic, which spelled out a little more of what I think Jesus was teaching.

The gist of the idea is that real grace and real truth are inseparable. There is a false grace ("license") and a false truth ("legalism"), but the real thing is held together in Christ (literally, IN Christ - embodied in as well as taught by).

Further, in that space between grace and truth there is FREEDOM, specifically two freedoms. There is FREEDOM TO FAIL, which is an important freedom. It is the freedom to hear the truth of God’s Word and be found both guilty and still wanted and loved. We settle for believing we are not guilty or for finding others who look worse than we are. Yet we are not righteous before God. And here’s the Good News: we are not cast out, but we are chosen, wanted, and loved.

And in understanding that, accepting that, and rising in that, there is the FREEDOM TO LIVE. That’s also in that space and tension between grace and truth, in the presence of Christ. It’s a freedom to obey God’s Word, not because we have to, but because we want to. It’s the freedom that comes from failing and experiencing forgiveness. It’s the freedom God has designed us for. And it exists there in the middle space.

That's the main idea I'm continuing to muse upon. You can read more in the three sermons linked below (especially the second one, where I first used this graphic).

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