Demands of the Season

It turns out that you can’t just go in and look around in such an important place. The place demands more of you.

When We Have to Choose: The Indecisiveness Roadblock

God’s word is packed with informative insights for Christians who want to move around the roadblock of indecisiveness. In addition, many characters introduced to us in Scripture flesh out these insights in their lives.

Assumptions about the Word of God

At the end of Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 film The Ten Commandments, Moses and the future leaders of Israel stand on Mt. Nebo surveying the promised land.

Hard Things Are Hard

Hard things are hard. Sometimes life is just plain hard. You can’t escape it or get around it; you just have to live through it.

The Issues Paradox

Churches in the modern age troll for pastors who know how to grow a church. They are desperate for men and women who know how to promote, market, and sell. When the pulpit becomes empty, churches now look for sales-types, the same kinds of people who would succeed in real estate and life insurance.

Catching a Glimpse

The first Christmas comes and goes, and most people don’t notice. Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and a few others catch a glimpse of what is happening, but they’re just a handful.

Waiting During Advent

In the Advent/Christmas season, let me encourage you to learn how to wait. I know we don’t want to do that.

Facing Grief, at Christmas and Always

I am neither a nihilist nor a pessimist. For heaven’s sake, I am pastor of America’s home of Positive Thinking. I am, however, a realist. And as such, I have a theory about life. Here it is: Life is not the last five minutes of the movie.

Meditations on Luke: Our Given Identities

When my wife was pregnant with each of our daughters, we felt a degree of stress in coming up with names for them. For one thing, we didn’t want to offend anyone in our families of origin. Use names from only one side of the family and you may alienate folks on the other.

An Invitation to Joy

If we relied on Mark, we would have to stretch to get a story worth a Christmas carol. Mark has no shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night, no Mary, no Joseph, no manger, no wise men, no Herod.

“Special Diagnosis”

In a lower desk drawer in his study in Greensboro, Randall maintained a confidential file he labeled “Special Diagnosis.” Recorded within the file were names of individuals who had made him aware of potentially life-limiting health circumstances.

Reminders To Be Generous

Begin this month by thinking about generosity. If you live in gratitude, you will naturally be a more generous person—generous with your attention, generous with your support for others, and generous with your material resources.

Saints, a Reminder of Life’s Beauty

Renowned writer and philosopher Fyodor Dostoyevsky said it best: “The world will be saved by beauty.”

Death and Life

We lose so many good people. When Jesus finally arrives at his friends’ home, Lazarus has been dead for four days.

Fight or Flight

“No one ever loathed conflict more than Jesus.” So observed Randall Lolley as he addressed the congregation on Sunday morning, in the early months of his First Baptist Church pastorate in Greensboro.

Time and Patience

In my work with mediation and conflict resolution, there are two major tools: time and patience.

Faith Postures: Noticing When We Obstruct Christ

I did something one weekend of which I am ashamed. I did something I can never take back and something for which I can never be sure of the ramifications.

The Baggage We Carry

My excitement about being on El Camino De Santiago—the Way of St. James—walking in the footsteps of the millions of pilgrims who came before me, carried me for the first portion of my journey. My feet were still in good shape—no soreness or blisters, not even any calluses yet—and I was sticking to the schedule I’d designed to keep myself from overdoing it.

A Plain Vanilla Alabama Boy

While the US census ranks it in the upper 4 percent of surnames, not many people actually know someone named Lolley. The state where one is most likely to encounter a Lolley is Alabama.

A Worship Hour Outline: Dreams

We come to dream with you, Spirit of Hope. We confess that some of our dreams have been selfish ambitions, and that we have often been driven by personal gain and little interest in others or your will.

Learning to Walk on Water

I once saw a saying that really spoke to me: “Be like Jesus; rebuke the storm, and if it persists, walk on it.” How many times have storms taken control of our lives?

Interviewing Randall Lolley

Among the first questions a friend asked when I floated the idea of a Randall Lolley biography was, “Is Randall able to help?”

Just the Way You Are

Like millions of kids who grew up between 1970 and 2001, our son watched Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood almost every weekday for many years. Generations of kids loved and trusted this caring adult who spoke directly to them in the most personal and respectful way.

Soul: Fire in Preaching

In my experience, eighty percent of the fuel for preaching comes from sources outside the study. I do not mean scouring the countryside or the urbanside for sermon illustrations.

Meditations on Luke: The Last Laugh

The ministry of Jesus is such a ridiculous thing that it draws laughter. Everywhere he goes, he says and does things that are so out of step with what seems to be obvious reality that people think he is crazy. Imagine what the neighbors said when Jesus, somewhere around the age of thirty, walked away from his father’s vocation as a carpenter.

Examining the Wreckage

A poem from On Paying Attention.

I am drawn to plane crashes….

A Wilderness Point of View

In Harper Lee’s classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus tells his daughter Scout that there’s a “trick” to getting along with all kinds of people.

Between What We Dreamed and What We Got

After all those years of stumbling around in the middle of nowhere, dealing with all the conflict and controversy of his contrary constituency, you’d like to think that Moses would get to lead the parade into the land of promise.

Equipping a Congregation for Digital Literacy

Many church members are newcomers to the digital world, and they need extra help navigating this new space. There is some irony in that we have had the technology for years now to reach our homebound members with the Sunday message.

Education Is a Faith Issue

School starts back soon, and my friend Molly Wright visited Stephanie and me in Boone this week. She has been a dear friend since high school, when she was the cool senior who gave me (the lowly freshman) rides home in her Jeep Cherokee.

Leadership on the Edge

It was a wonderful spring morning. The trees were dressing out after a winter of nakedness. The flowers were beginning to decorate the earth.

Human Rights and the Gospel

Jesus’ inaugural address begins with these words: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.”

Overcoming Ethnocentrism

A major barrier that impedes growth in multicultural, multiracial churches is known as “ethnocentrism,” the tendency to view the norms and values of one’s own culture as absolute and to use them as a standard against which to judge and measure all other cultures. Many times this tendency is cloaked under the attitude that “they don’t do it like us.”

Prayer When in the Wilderness

The wilderness imparted some new insights about the practice of prayer. As the preceding chapters make clear, I prayed virtually every day. Some days I felt circumstances closing in, and as a result, my prayers glowed with a white-hot intensity.

Responding to the Apollo 13 Miracle

We hear a lot about miracles today, and there is a large volume of work addressing the subject—more than I could address in this book. In my experience on the Lunar Module team during Apollo 13, I felt moved in a special way by what I felt was answered prayer and the miraculous recovery of the crew.

The Hybrid Church

The pandemic of 2020 forced all of us into innovation mode for a short time, and in some places there was great pressure either to continue online or to return to in-person worship in the building.

Christian Flag Breaking

An excited patriot handed me one of those 10-inch flags that you stick into your lawn on July 4. The plastic red, white, and blue was intact, but the pole that once held it together was broken three stripes from the top.

Thou Shalt Remember Thou Art Creative

The question I get more than any other—more than “What’s the meaning of life?”, or “Why do people suffer?”, or “Why are the New England Patriots so . . . them?”—is “Can I learn to be funny?”

Live the Stories: Jesus Gives Peter Instructions

Remind the children that many of the disciples who followed Jesus were fishermen before they left their jobs to learn from him. When Jesus died, they returned to their jobs of catching fish.

Meditations on Mark: Family in the Kingdom of God

Few wounds cut deeper than those inflicted on us by our families. I have known plenty of otherwise strong and accomplished adults who still carry in their spirits the pain of broken relationships with parents, siblings, or children. This is an indication of the family’s importance in God’s plan for humanity.

Before I die . . .

When the waitress brought our food, I tried to find a way to ask, “How am I supposed to eat this?” I had to think fast.

Of Spirit and Mind: A Pentecostal’s Battle Against Depression

She stopped eating and looked at me. “Are you serious?” She was more commenting than questioning. “Why would you go see a counselor? They don’t have any wisdom. They can’t help you. Are you depressed?”

Presenting Portraits of Jesus

When Mark sketched out our first Gospel account of Jesus, he was not simply writing a direct history or creating a photo account about Jesus. He was doing something far more significant than recording a Vine. He was providing a testimony about the figure he believed was the most important person who ever lived.

Wrinkles

Most of us can remember the exact moment when we looked in the mirror and saw our first gray hair or the first noticeable wrinkle on our face. We were still young, perhaps only in our twenties.

Souvenirs: A Meditation for Teachers

We collect souvenirs so that we will not forget special people and places. Sometimes the memories that return when we see or touch a momento are more wondrous and inspiring than the actual experience. Often our favorite souvenirs are the simplest ones: a Christmas tree ornament, a shell, or a postcard.

The Helper’s Paradox

Ministering from a stance of personal deprivation is both foolish and ineffective. That is why the Helper’s Paradox is important to remember: The best way to take care of others is to take care of yourself.

Homeward Bound

“I want to go home” is not just the plaintive cry of kindergarten students on the first day of school; it is the longing of every person who pays attention to his or her heart. For some, nothing is better than going home.

Live the Stories: Noah’s Ark

Remind the children of how Adam and Eve made a mistake in last week’s story. That mistake caused the world to be an unhappy place where people didn’t treat God or each other the right way. Begin by asking the children if they know what an ark is. They may respond by stating that an ark is a boat or something that Noah built.