“Un”score One for the Good Guy

While all the American football fans are celebrating over the end of the referee lockout, did you hear what one soccer referee has to be thankful for yesterday?  In the Italian League top division, German national star Miroslav Klose does something unexpected but refreshing.  In this day of win-at-all-costs in professional sports, he tells the truth which takes away a goal for his team.

Early in the match, the ball was crossed over into the front of the goal.  Klose made a run at it and the ball ricocheted into the goal.  His teammates began to celebrate, because the goal would have given them the lead, 1-0.  The other team, however, was not as festive.  They started screaming at the referee arguing the goal was scored with the use of Klose’s hand.  In soccer, of course, this is a blatant rule violation and there is no such thing as instant replays.

Unexpectedly, Klose calmly walks over to the referee and whispers into his ear.  The referee immediately waves off the goal and the game continues, 0-0.  Klose’s opponents visually displayed their appreciation and admiration for his truthfulness and sportsmanship.  Klose’s team went on to lose the match, 3-0.  However, just for a moment, we were reminded why the world calls soccer, “The Beautiful Game.”

Hmmmm…  What would have happened if a Seahawks player or coach would have done that this past Monday night at the end of their NFL game when a blown call gave them the win?

What would you do if given the chance?

Smiling Tex

Yesterday, I received an email at the end of the day inviting me to an event coming to Oklahoma City in a few short months.  The event was sponsored by a famous preacher, who has sold millions of books around the world and possesses a smile the size of Texas.

Now, I have to admit, I too smiled when I received the invitation.  While I am quite certain this preacher is a great guy, I do struggle with the lack of theological foundation from which he preaches.  Don’t get me wrong, he is a great motivational speaker, but one would have to listen really hard to determine whether he was talking about Jesus at all.

But he does….

That reality got me thinking.  This morning, I pulled out the lectionary texts for the week.  Low and behold, look at what I read in the Gospel of Mark 9:38-41.

John spoke up, “Teacher, we saw a man using your name to expel demons and we stopped him because he wasn’t in our group.”

Jesus wasn’t pleased. “Don’t stop him. No one can use my name to do something good and powerful, and in the next breath cut me down. If he’s not an enemy, he’s an ally. Why, anyone by just giving you a cup of water in my name is on our side. Count on it that God will notice (The Message).

Now, I really doubt if I accept the invitation from yesterday, but I will offer a prayer for the event.  I pray that the thirsty will receive a drink of living water for their parched souls.  I pray that Christ proclaimed, even with a mention, has more power than the greatest orators on earth.

Go get’em smiling Tex and may the Lord be with you!

Native Roots

Over the last few months, Missy and I have been gathering information and filling out paperwork for my boys.  The reason for this gallant effort on our part is the hope to secure an Indian Degree of Blood Card for the boys.  The boys and I are descendants from the Muskogee People, better knows as the mighty and humble Creek Nation.

My grandmother, Okema Randall, on my father’s side, was the last full blood Creek in our family.  Because she and her descendants married non-Native people, that makes me one-quarter Creek and the boys one-eighth.  This process has been fascinating, looking back at my family, their roll numbers, and reflecting on our family’s history (My aunt deserves much of the credit for keeping our Creek History up-to-date).

When I started this process and people discovered what I was doing, it was always the same response.  They would say with an excited voice, “Wow, that’s great!  You guys can get some money for school and free medical treatment.”  Now, I have to admit that did cross my mind and has been an incentive for filling out the mounds of paperwork.  However, as I read the names of my ancestors and wrote them on the paperwork, something else began to take over.

Instead of dreaming about scholarships and free medicine, I began to dream about how our Native ancestors connect with future generations.  Now, our family has skeletons in our closets like every other family, but we also have a great sense of pride for where we have come and where we are going.  From my great-grandparents to the next generation of our family, the Creek blood that flows through our veins is important.

We attempt to maintain a connection to our culture through education and experience.  We celebrate the traditions of our ancestors, but look forward to a rising tide of emerging new Native American generations.  The Muskogee people come from a deep rooted culture and tradition, but the new generation of Creeks are evolving.  This does not mean they are abandoning their cultural heritage, but they are making strides in the world before them.

We have family in this emerging generation that are achieving great things in the world, like my young cousin, who is attending Oklahoma State University and interning in places like our nation’s capital.  My boys and nieces have the world before them with opportunities abounding.  I am confident they will go long distances and reach great heights, but I do hope they never travel so far they cannot hear the beat of the sacred drums of their people.

No matter who you are or where you come from, native roots can provide sustenance for future life and growth.  May all of our families know where they come from and where they are going.  The blood that flows through your veins is important, grounding us to rich pasts and offering us insight for bright futures.

Why NorthHaven? Missions

Acts 2:43-47

Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.


Ever been in a competitive race?  As some of you know, NorthHaven’s running compass group likes to tackle the occasional 5K or 10K race.  There is something special about those mornings.  Usually it is cool and everyone is in good cheer.  When arriving some are yawning with their morning coffee not quite kicking in yet.  Others are raring to go, immediately trying to discover the starting line and jockey for position before the start gun fires.

One of my favorite moments is scoping out the contestants before the race.  Some are wearing the latest gear, while others appear as though this might be their first time to lace up a pair of running shoes.  Regardless of appearance though, everyone is eager and excited.  Once the starting gun sounds, massive chaos ensues.  Some racers rush out to a quick start, while others prefer a more leisurely pace.

It’s about at the 1/2K marker you begin to realize the enjoyment of the moment.  For me, it not about who I beat or what place I finish.  I run fast and I try hard, but the real enjoyment of race day is realizing you’re part of something bigger than yourself.  Each individual has trained.  Each individual has sacrificed and worked hard.  Each individual has brought their best to this day.  For some reason though, individuality seems to fade on the course.  Individuality begins to blend into the ethos of the run.

Runners find themselves talking to other runners.  Passing an elderly man, you cheer him on in your mind.  He does the same when he passes me at the end.  Seeing children run through the streets reminds you of the joys of youth.  Noticing someone trying to catch their breath to take another stride motivates you to offer some encouragement.  Race day has always been a moment when I conclude it truly is the race and the people running alongside me that make the day so enjoyable.

First Century Church

As the first century church began to grow, we discover a people racing forward evolving into a thriving community with a deep rooted mission in their hearts.  They are encouraging each other.  They are meeting each other’s needs.  They are loving each other the way Jesus taught them to love, that agape kind of love with no restriction, no boundaries.  They are even finding new participants for the race.

In the book of Acts, Luke’s continuation of his Gospel story, we begin to catch a glimpse of Jesus’ disciples in the aftermath of his ascension.  Methodist scholar William Willimon reminds us that we are seeing these disciples as the “embodiment of the Pentecost enthusiasm” (Willimon, 39).  Back in Acts 2, we experienced a fresh movement of the Holy Spirit with Peter preaching that incredible sermon, disciples speaking in unknown languages, and others professing Jesus as God’s Messiah.  Indeed, it was an incredible day with reverberations continuing to build.

Four Foundations of the Early Church (Acts 2:42)

At the conclusion of chapter 2, we are introduced to the four “embodiments of the Gospel” (Willimon, 40).  The first Christians “devoted themselves to the apostle’s teachings and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”  These four embodiments were embedded into the heart of the community, establishing a missional component to their faith.

In other words, it was not enough to be recipients of God’s grace, mercy, and love.  The people experiencing the reverberations of Pentecost wanted to share those experiences with others.  They wanted others to join them in discovering the mysteries of God, the benefits of living in community, and the attributes of living missionally.

This brings us to Acts 2:43-47…

The Missional Community (Acts 2:43-47)

An “awe inspiring” faith.  Taking a deeper look into the first Christian community, we first discover an “awe inspiring” faith.  Ben Witherington III suggests the reason for this “awe” towards the first century Christians was the “zeal they possessed for their faith” (Witherington, 161).  They were not “lukewarm” as the church of Laodicea would become (Revelation 3:14-15).  They were burning white hot from the Pentecostal tide.

Living missionally begins with living an “awe inspiring” faith.  The Greek word for “awe” is “phobos,” which literally means “to be put to flight.”  Living an “awe inspiring” faith does not mean you need to be super-spiritual.  Living an “awe inspiring” faith does not mean you have to be a great biblical scholar.  Living an “awe inspiring” faith does mean your experiences with God inspire you to take flight…to move forward…to do something other than remain stationary.

Much of the church’s problems today, in my opinion, is a stubbornness to stay stationary in theology and the practice of faith.  In many cases, the churches of our time are more like the church at Laodicea in Revelation, lukewarm, rather than the church riding the waves of Pentecost.

At NorthHaven, we do everything in our power to live an “awe inspiring” faith.  Now, please do not misunderstand me.  This is not a “display window” kind of faith to demonstrate our piety, but a faith that inspires us internally to live out the love of Jesus to the world before us.  NorthHaven refuses to stay put, stay stagnant, or stay struck.  We are constantly looking for new opportunities, new partnerships, and new doors that God opens for us.

Together, we move forward.

Together forward.  The second attribute played out in the life of the first century Christians is their fellowship.  They were committed to Christ and to each other.  We are told they “were together and had all things in common.”  The Greek word for “together” is epi which literally renders “connection.”  The first century church was not only enjoying new friendships, but they were “connected” through their faith and mission in Jesus Christ.

Having “all things in common” stems from the notion of fellowship or koinos.  Koinos is the Greek idea of having something in common that joins people together.  In this instance, the koinos of the first Christians was their faith, but it was also the living out of that faith among their community.  Together, they moved forward actually living out the Gospel.

At NorthHaven, you will discover a community built upon the idea of freedom: Bible Freedom, Soul Freedom, Church Freedom, and Religious Freedom.  You will discover our willingness to engage and include anyone seeking community.  And today, you will discover a group of dedicated believers attempting to live out the Gospel in an intentional and missional way.  At NorthHaven, we love Jesus and we love people.

Therefore, together, we cast our gaze both inwardly and outwardly seeking to meet the needs of the those we see.

Your need, my need.  Another characteristic of the first century church was their willingness to sell their possessions and provide for others.  This is a deep contrast to the rich young ruler, but complementary to the life-altering decision of Zaccheus, the tax collector.  Zaccheus, you will remember, sold his possessions to give the money to the poor and refunded people more than four times what he had cheated them.  As Luke points out, the first century Christians followed suit, living a missional philosophy declaring your need is my need.

At NorthHaven, we recognize a world in need.  We often tease with the quip, we have not met a mission opportunity we have not liked.  From our global ventures to our local projects, NorthHaven is seeking to make a real difference in this world through loving people and meeting their needs; physical, physiological, and spiritual.

Through helping families with food and offering protection against diseases, we are committed to healing the body.  Through our CareNetwork, we are attempting to help individuals overcome trauma from childhood sexual abuse.  Through supporting missionaries and church starts, we are helping expand the kingdom of God.  Of course, there are many other projects and partnerships we are involved in at NorthHaven, but one thing remains consistent, we are committed to the missional lifestyle.

For us, here at NorthHaven, missions is not just about the church.  Being missional is about being the presence of Christ wherever we dwell, wherever we work, wherever we travel.  Being missional is a lifestyle, depicting the life and ministry of Christ.  More simply, it means embracing others with the love of Jesus as they have need.

Their needs are our needs.

Generosity attracts generosity.  Finally, what is our reward?  Why do we spend 15% of our budgeted receipts on missions?  Yes it is simply the right thing to do, but we also understand that generosity attracts generosity.  As we clearly witness in Acts, God continued to add to the numbers of the church.

People were being saved, but why?  Absolutely, it was the message of Jesus, but it was also the experience of encountering Jesus-kind of people.  People were being introduced to Christ through the fellowship and generosity of others.  Thus when someone feels as though they matter to someone else, they want to be a part of that endeavor to spread the love.

Similar to how Jesus demonstrated generosity towards others in feeding thousands of people, we too are called to portray generosity towards others.  Every chance I get, I tell people about what NorthHaven is doing to impact the world with the love of Christ.

I’m so proud of this church for how you rise up when one of our own is down.  I am so proud of how this church steps up when others have need.  I am so proud of this church, because we take the missional lifestyle extremely seriously.  I am so proud of this church, because we actually believe the words of our Lord, “Love God with all your heart, mind, and strength, and love others as you would love yourself.”


Back to race day for a moment.  After crossing the finish line, I grabbed some water and started to watch the rest of the racers make their way down the stretch to the finish line.

I was amazed at what I saw.  With each passing runner, the crowd cheered with enthusiasm.  They laughed.  They cried.  They recognized the feat of finishing the race.

Some runners sprinted to the finish line, while others completed their journeys by walking the remaining distance.

Some runners flew across the finish line alone, while others crossed laughing with a group.

Some runners finished with still some left in the tank, while others were completely spent.

Some runners were young and some were old.

Some were male and some were female.

Some had a smile on their face and others wore that, “I will never do this again” look.

Every one of them though, no matter who they were and how fast they ran, got encouragement and applause from the crowd.

Standing there watching all of this unfold, my mind began to wonder…

I wonder if this is what Jesus was thinking about when he established his church?  Think about it….

Look, there in the distance comes some others crossing the finish line.

There is the hungry boy who was fed because NorthHaven helped in providing food in his backpack.

There is the young family who got to stay in their house because NorthHaven paid their rent.

There is the Native American girl who learned about the love of Jesus because NorthHaven provided food to her local church.

There is the family who received a home which NorthHaven helped construct along with Habitat with Humanity.

There is the young boy now grown up who learned about the love of Jesus from an adult who cared enough to teach his Sunday School class.

There is the child with autism who learned the love of community in our Day School program.

There is the elderly Kenyan man who we gave a mosquito net to his mother years ago.

There is the Hispanic woman whose house we helped repair when NorthHaven sent a team to work alongside other Baptists in the Rio Gand Valley.

There is the young man from the Gulf Coast NorthHaven helped when a team went to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina.

There is the elderly lady who received a prayer shawl knitted by our NorthHaven ladies.

There is the Ghanaian family who were all baptized by Rev. Timothy Wilson, a pastor we support in the Northern Volta Region of Ghana.

They are all crossing the finish line because NorthHaven dared to be a missional congregation.  They are all finishing the race because you chose to make a difference.

Through your generosity of resources, time, and effort, people from Norman to Africa are experiencing the Gospel and love of Jesus.

Why NorthHaven?

Because we are free…because we are inclusive…because we freely invite you to be a part of a church who still believes in the “embodiment of Pentecost.”  We still believe the Holy Spirit moves.  We still believe the love of Jesus can change the world.  We still believe Jesus’ church has the responsibility to cheer all the runners on who are running the race.

Come join us, as we make a real difference to those we encounter.


Living Missional

When asked a question about the most important part of the law, Jesus responded not with belief but with action, “Love God with all your heart, understanding, and strength.  And, love your neighbor as you would love yourself.”

Therefore, how are you loving God and neighbor this week?

Choose Happy

In one of the lectionary readings this week, the Psalmist encourages us, “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night” (Psalm 1).

It is easy to give into the temptation of despair.  It is easy to conclude the darkness has overcome us.  It is easy to see the negative in everything.  It is easy to feel as though this world has beaten us down so much we just might not make the bell this round.  That would be tragic.

Life is filled with choices. There is no doubt life brings hard times, difficult circumstances, and dark days.  However, the choice remains in how we react to those moments.  Will we let our souls deflate?  Will we let our burdens drag us down?  Will we let the enemy win?  Or, will we choose to meditate on the law of the Lord, a law filled with grace, love, and hope.  God’s law gives us an alternative to choose.  We can choose hope.  We can choose happy.

Join with me today in making this choice.

Sermon: Why NorthHaven? Inclusivity

Matthew 11:28-30

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’


His first name was Eugene.  I never knew his last name.  Didn’t really care to know, to be totally honest.  At Walter Reed Elementary School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, during the 1970‘s no one paid too much attention to Eugene.  Looking back, no one even really liked him.  He was a trouble maker.  He said the wrong things, acted in the wrong ways, participated in the wrong activities, and – God forbid – wore the wrong clothes.  He lived on the “other” side of the neighborhood, where absolutely nothing good happened.  At least, that is what we kids were told.

Eugene was never chosen at recess, never allowed to participate in after school shenanigans with other kids, never ever asked to come over to play by another.  He was an outcast and everyone knew it.  And because everyone knew it, we excluded him.  We demeaned him.  We bullied him.

Eugene wore that exclusion on his face.  He walked through the halls with his head down.  He spoke with a quiet voice that grew quieter over time.  He began to blend into the lockers with no one really caring if he was there or not.  It is quite sad and shameful thinking about it as an adult.  Now, I would love to stand here and tell you how your pastor exhibited kindness and generosity towards this outcast in his time of need, but that would be an outright lie.  Kids will be kids and cruelty is always cruelty.

Over the years, when I find myself in a large crowd, sometimes I spot Eugene walking in the distance.  I never know for sure, of course, so I just smile trying to find a little forgiveness in small gestures.  Eugene still crosses my mind these days, especially when I start thinking about topics like today’s.  I always wonder, what if one of these times it really is him in the crowd.  Would I approach him?  What would say?  How would I act?  What would I do?

What would you do if it were you?

Inclusivity: Is it really that important?

Why NorthHaven?  Why inclusivity?  Aren’t there other things more important than this utopian pipe-dream ?

Let me be crystal clear on this one…NO!

If I could point to one reason Jesus was crucified upon a cross, in my opinion, it was because of his theology and practice of inclusivity.  The religious and political leaders of his day hated it!  The poor needed to remain in their class system, the outcast needed to remain outside the doors of everything, and the open minded need to keep their dang mouths shut.  Of course, thank the Lord we do not have to deal with any of that these days, right?

Even though society thinks we have come a long way, the reality remains exclusivity is on the rise.  Now, it may not look nor sound as direct as it once did, it may not even be as in-your-face as it was years ago, but make no mistake about it, deep rooted exclusivity is lurking in the shadows and peaking out every now and again to raise its ugly head.

Exclusivity (A.K.A. – discrimination, oppression, and/or marginalization) has settled into a more subtle practice.  Even though the glass ceiling has been cracked, women still experience the sting of the gender gap.  Even though race should not be a factor in how we judge people, take a look inside the American prison system and try to convince me racism does not exist.  Even though the poor are better off than years gone by, try telling a poor mother who cannot get medicine for her sick child.  There are many more examples I could list, but the idea is that a theology and attitude of exclusivity is on the move throughout our society.

So, where is the church when it comes to throwing open our arms to all that are “weary and carrying heavy burdens?”  Where is the church in applying inclusivity to its policies, procedures, outreach, ministries, and mission endeavors?  Where is the church when it comes to welcoming those who have been burned by religious intolerance, ecclesiastical brutality, or clerical rigidity?  Unfortunately, the church at times is one of the most egregious perpetrator in some of these practices.

Thankfully, at NorthHaven, we attempt to practice a radical inclusivity which stresses the love of Christ over the rigidity of religion.  We believe in the mercy of God winning out over the judgmental-ism of humanity.  Furthermore, we firmly believe the church is a place where anyone should be offered the opportunity to fall into the healing arms of God’s grace.

Falling into the Grace of God

This seems to me exactly what Jesus was trying to state in our text this morning.  “Come to me…take my yoke upon you,” are invitations by our Lord for people to discover the radical love and grace of Jesus Christ.   Jesus was reaching out to people who were feeling very much excluded.  From political to religious influences, the common person was not invited nor welcome to the table.  Jesus not only invited them into his company, he dinned with them, he relaxed with them, he fellowship-ed with them, he taught them, and he loved them.

Tax collectors, prostitutes, foreigners, and other outcasts were the people Jesus seemed more at home with than any other.  Ever wondered why?  Most likely, Jesus knew what it was like to be on the outside of things.  Not only was he from the other side Israel’s tracks in Nazareth, we mustn’t ever forget about how his culture treated him as “a child of questionable birth.”  On this side of the story we all know Jesus’ father, but the people in his day did not understand.  As far as they were concerned, Jesus was a child born out of wedlock and those kind of children had it rough.

Jesus knew from an early age what it meant to be excluded.  He knew from an early age the pain of being left out, not chosen, ignored because of something you could not control.  He heard the name calling.  He heard the “harmless” jabs people would make in his presence.  He overheard the sweeping generalizations and condemnations about him and his family.  So, make no mistake about it, Jesus knew the sting of exclusivity.

It is no wonder he practiced a radical inclusivity and encouraged his disciples to follow his lead…

Falling into the Grace of God’s Congregation

The church of Jesus Christ should always remains a healing place for those who are sick, those who are tired, and those who are lonely.  The church should always be a place where the weary can lay their head, the hungry can fill their stomachs, and the parched can quench their thirst.   The church should be a place where anyone can find sanctuary and residence, as they fall and keep falling into God’s grace.

Unfortunately, at times, the church has emphasized its exclusivity over that of being an open place for weary travelers.  Through doctrinal declarations and outright meanness, the church has often acted more like the world than the Lord we claim to follow.  As weary travelers consider knocking on the our doors, they do so with skeptical taps.  Why?  Because the church has gotten to be so unbearably noisy when it comes to their condemnation of the world, weary travelers feel as though the vacancy sign inside the church has been turned off.  There is no space for them in the inn.  They are not welcomed, nor are they really wanted.

It is for this reason, I am proud to be part of a congregation that throws open our doors to any weary traveler, to any parched soul, to any struggling individual, to any quizzical mind, and to any lonely person looking for a place to call home.

You are welcome.  You are God’s child.  You are loved.

NorthHaven is an inclusive community which seeks to be a haven for those who need the healing balm of a divine touch and a human embrace.  Therefore, let’s define what being an inclusive congregation means, but before we explore what inclusivity means, let’s make sure we understand what it is not.

Inclusivity: What it is not…

First, inclusivity does not mean the void of exclusivity.  From the moment the rich young ruler asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit enteral life and rejected that offer, there has always been an element of exclusivity.  This element is based on if you call yourself a Christian.  If so, then you should believe that Jesus was God’s Messiah, following his teachings, and place your faith in him.

Now, this is quite simple…

To be called a Christian one must profess Christ as Lord.

To be called a disciple of Christ one must enter the baptismal waters.

Christian exclusivity simply means there are distinguishing marks for Christians.

However, exclusivity should never be used to ostracize, marginalize, or demean.  While exclusivity has always been a part of the Christian tradition, it should never be used to isolate, to hate, or to kill.  Unfortunately, history and current events demonstrate it has been used in all three of those instances.

Second, inclusivity does not mean the absence of doctrine.  As insightful Christians, we posses a mind that forms thoughts and conclusions about God and his ways.  These thoughts and conclusions establish the doctrines and principles that guide our faith and practice.  Practicing inclusivity does not mean everyone gets to believe and act as they see fit.  Everyone has a responsibility to God and to each other to read the Scriptures, interpret them with a free conscience, and practice their conclusions within the realm of a Christian community.

Our doctrines define us, but they should not be used as harmful or hateful daggers to demean or destroy others.

Third, inclusivity does not mean the lack of a moral compass.  Those who are critical of churches practicing radical inclusivity argue the lack of a moral compass.  This means, of course, they contend churches like ours let people act without any boundaries.  Critics contend we never speak out against the moral decay of the world nor condemn behaviors contrary to their interpretations of Scripture.

Granted, to some extent they are right, but may it never be said we do not stand up for God’s justice in this world.  The problem our critics have with us is not that we lack a moral compass, but rather it is not stuck in the same direction as theirs.

So, what is radical inclusivity and why do we practice it at NorthHaven?

Inclusivity: What it is…

First, inclusivity means a willingness to embrace.  Jesus continuous selfless actions demonstrated for his followers the importance of including others into God’s mission.  Through his willing to embrace, even the most sketchiest of characters, Jesus practiced a radical love that could only come from his Father.

We must learn from this example.  If we are not willing to embrace the others in our lives, then we will never ascend to the kind of inclusivity Jesus practiced.  We must eliminate the barriers in our attitudes and actions that prevent this practice.  Barriers such as the gender gap, the race gap, the socio-economic gap, the political gap, and the religious gap, bar us from including others in our lives and in our faiths.

Think how rich our lives would be with other perspectives, other experiences, and other cultures teaching us.  We do not have to agree on every point of theology, politics, economics, or what ice cream is the best, but we should be willing to embrace in hopes to include others in our lives.  We share a common humanity seeking a common purpose…to live freely in order to live righteously.  If we fail in our willingness to embrace, then all else succumbs to the tragedy of Rich Young Ruler…the tragic failure to try.

Second, inclusivity means the motivation to engage.  After concluding we have a willingness to embrace, then we must engage other people in our lives.  In Matthew, Jesus expressed his willingness to embrace, but he clearly went a step further.  He sought to engage people.  Now, here is where the Apostle James helps us, suggesting faith without works is dead.

How many churches in the world provide piles and piles of “words” without ever providing one ounce of service?  How many people of faith talk and talk about making a difference, but never roll up there sleeves to get dirty in the mission fields of life?  How many people talk about wanting their churches to grow, but never invite a friend to worship alongside them?  Having a willingness to be inclusive is a good first step, but it is never the last step.

Third, inclusivity means living to love as God loves.  “For God so love the world, he gave his only Son,” are the words people cite.  Think about that for just a moment, will you?  The verse does not say, “For God so loved only the few…only the ones who interpret the Bible like me…only the ones who vote for the right party…only the ones who give the most to the offering plate…only the ones who attend church the most often.”  No, the verse simply and unequivocally says, “For God so loved the world.”

Why in God’s name can’t we not understand this simple truth?  Why can’t we see the world as God sees it?  Why can’t we exhibit the same grace as God exhibits towards us?  Why can’t we demonstrate the same kindness as Jesus demonstrated towards others?  Why can’t we love the same way God loves?

For anyone to embrace this notion of radical inclusivity and apply it to their lives, we must learn to follow in the footsteps of our Lord.  We must learn to set aside our biases, lay down our stereotypes, and destroy our preconceived notions.  We must learn to include others in our lives, because that is exactly what Jesus did in his life while he walked the earth and continues to do in his resurrected existence.

We must learn to reach out, embrace others, and love them as Jesus would love them.


Watching television one night and tinkering on a social media sight, I could not believe my eyes when his name popped up on my screen.  With one click, I saw a face staring back at me that was unmistakable.  The memories followed.  The jokes.  The laughs at his expense.  The exclusion he must have felt because of our actions.

It was Eugene all right.

For some reason, Facebook’s notorious “friend” question seemed uncomfortably different this time, as though it mocked me for even thinking about clicking it.

My mouse hovered over the “friend” button for a few minutes.  Frozen, I tried to decide if I had the guts to offer an invitation to a person I had once excluded.  I mean really, would he even accept my invitation?  Would he exclude me?  He had every right, I knew.

I closed my eyes for a second and thought, “Should I take the risk and click the word ‘friend?’”

What will you do when someone different or new comes across your path?

Will you “friend” them?


Sermon Addendum:

For those attending church when I preached this sermon, I know many of you wondered what I did regarding Eugene.  First of all, please know I changed his name to protect his identity.  Second, the reason I did this for the sermon is because I did click the button.  He accepted my friend request and we have exchanged some emails.  He is currently living in another state, married, and has two children.

Chaotic Moments and Peace Prayer

There are moments in time when chaos surrounds us.

There are moments in time when it seems as though chaos is winning.

There are moments in time when it appears chaos has taken over.

There are moments in time when we need to be reminded chaos can cease, with one breath from the Prince of Peace.

Pray for peace….

Mistaken Identity

While the world changed on September 11th, 2001, my world changed the following day on September 12th.  Stopping by a local coffee shop on my way into work, I was getting back into my car when a large truck slammed on his breaks blocking my car.  He rolled down his window, offered an offensive gesture, and sped away before I understood what was happening.

Quickly, I thought to myself, “What had I done?  Did I cut him off in traffic?  No, I had been in the coffee shop for the last fifteen minutes.  Was he in the coffee shop?  Did I take his coffee by mistake?  No, I remember him pulling into the parking lot from the street.  What in the world was going on?”  Then, like a ton of bricks, it hit me.  My brown hair.  My brown eyes.  My dark skin.  He assumed I was of Arab descent.  He assumed I was Muslim.  He assumed I was approving of the tragedy of the previous day.

Immediately, I began to feel outrage.  How could someone make such sweeping speculations?  How could someone be so obtuse to think just because of my skin color and features I somehow was supportive of terrorism?  How could I not see that this kind of attitude and ideology was all around me?  How could I not see that at times I was guilty of making those same sweeping speculations?

Indeed, the world changed on September 11th, 2001, but my world changed at that moment.  May we never assume and speculate about someone by the color of their skin, the religion they practice, or the name they are called.  When we begin to make these assumptions, be prepared, because there is always someone else willing to make an assumption about you.

Remembrance Prayer 9/11

Dear Lord,

May your grace shine down upon the dark memories of this day,

May your compassion surround those who shed tears,

May your strength engulf those who are still weak,

And may your peace descend upon the troubled soul.

Your children gather beneath your wings,

Seeking solace within a troubled world,

Seeking wisdom in the midst of confusion,

And seeking shelter from the evil of the day.

The offspring of Abraham search for hope,

The children of Isaac see your star,

The children of Ishmael see your crescent moon,

And the children of Jesus see your empty tomb.

On this day of remembrance we call on you,

We weep for the loss,

We reflect on the tragedy,

But we hope for the future.