Archive for the ‘Storytelling’ Category


One of the great blessings of living where I live is that we are located about an hour from Sight and Sound Theater, in Lancaster, PA. What an amazing place! Yesterday a group from my church went to see their production called Jesus, and it was incredible. This was a top of the line production with elaborate sets and visuals that could rival even the very best Broadway stages, but with a fantastic Gospel message. The actor playing Jesus did a wonderful job, his portrayal of our Lord at Gethsemane was particularly riveting. He showed us a Jesus with a full range of human emotions and while no one compares to the real Jesus, I felt as if I was transported back to watch the events as they happened. The theater uses video and special effects to such an extent that the stage takes on whole new dimensions and one could literally feel like they were watching from the streets of Jerusalem, and the shores of Galilee. The scene where Jesus walks on the water is so realistic that you expect the waves to wash over you at any moment.

Of course it is hard to weave together all the elements of Jesus’ life into a single two hour show, and they took some liberties with the time line to get it all in, but other than this every scene was very accurate biblically. The use of live animals really added to the realism. It was quite impressive to be seated near the aisle as roman soldiers on stallions went riding up and seeing “Jesus” ride past you on a donkey on the triumphal entry was otherworldly. They also very effectively used “scenes within scenes” (for lack of a better word) to illustrate points. Jesus sitting on a hill teaching as the parables are acted out in front of us. Mary Magdalene singing about Jesus freeing her as the scene is acted out is another example, but none compares to Mary mother of Jesus, singing her heart out at the tomb juxtaposed against the nativity, as both “Mary’s” young and old, sing the story from their perspective. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was fighting back tears quite a few times, both tears of sadness and at times tears of joy as I witnessed “Jesus” doing the things I have read about so many times. I’ve often had mixed feelings of portrayals I have seen of Jesus in films and theater. This was far and away the best portrayal I have seen and I have seen many.

I loved this production, not just for it’s amazing quality, but for it’s clear presentation of the Gospel. It’s going to run a few more months before closing and if there’s any way you can get here to see it, you really should.


A few weeks ago, someone liked one of my posts on one of my sites from a web site that publishes stories of no more than 100 words. I thought that sounded like an intriguing challenge, so I tried and submitted. Unfortunately, my submission was not what they were looking for. That’s their prerogative, I limit things on here for content as well. Nonetheless, I thought I would share it here. I see it as a 100 word testimony of sorts. I really liked this challenge. It helps to learn to be concise. Not everyone will want to sit and listen to your 15 minute testimony. Can you express it in five?

The End
Bowing at the altar, I came to the end of myself. I tried everything to fix my mess. Nothing worked. Depressed, defeated, I reached for something that would make it alright—that would make me alright. I was not enough to fix what was broken. I gave up. I wasn’t sure why I was there. A strange force was drawing me in. Part of me wanted to resist, but that force kept beckoning. I fell to my knees as if this was the end. I cried out, “God help me!” and in that moment, I knew.
It would be alright.


Today was a blessed day of ministry. I was privileged to lead a deacon retreat for a church here in my area this morning (Little Swatara Church of the Brethren). A few of the deacons in this church are people I went to High School with, and working with them always reminds me of the 180 Jesus has done in my life from when I was in HS ’til now. Great group of people. While I’ve done leadership workshops before, this one was the first in this format. The people were very kind and participatory, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them and pray they were blessed and that the Lord uses the things he laid on my heart to build up the body at their church. Because it was groundhog day, I built my theme accordingly.

Then this evening, I traveled to Middletown PA for my second trip to the Rock Cafe. It was a rock band called Testimony, a rapper named Constant Battle and his crew and me. I really enjoy this type of ministry as well. The music is always great and the ministry is better. I brought a message based on Mark chapter 2 about the man who was lowered through the roof to see Jesus. I’m still working on a title for this message, at least in this format, but I’m thinking of calling it “The Greater Miracle.” This format gives me the opportunity to pare things down and work with shorter messages, which at times comes in very handy. Well speaking of shorter messages, it’s midnight and time to cut this one off and go to bed. I should be back on the regular schedule Monday, Lord willing. If you’re a person who likes rap and rock, get yourself to Middletown, PA on the first Saturday of the month. It’s always fun.

Thanks to everyone who gave me the opportunity to minister today, and to God be the glory. Good night.


At my church this year for advent, I wanted to address something that worries me, that, on the surface, sounds like it shouldn’t. I sometimes worry that we know the Christmas story too well. I know, right? You might be thinking, “Cry me a river, pastor. You think people might know a text too well.” Not exactly. What concerns me is that people know the story so well that they take it for granted, and cease to be blown away by how amazing the story actually is. I mean, this is the incarnation, God becomes a man and comes to earth, born a baby, to experience all of life as we do, set a perfect example, prepare the way for us to receive eternal life, teach us all that the Lord wants us to know and dying to secure the way to God for all who will believe. It’s a beautiful, nearly scandalous story that I never want to see people miss because they think they know it. So how to present this powerful story in a way that makes people really take it to heart? Well I got creative.

I started reading through the text, selected four people intimately involved in the story and really studied all that the Scripture says about them. This led to a series I called “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.” In the series I looked at four “men” (one of them was an angel, hence the quotes) and told the story as best I could, from their perspective as if I were them, dramatically. It was one of the most commented upon series I have ever done, but aside from that, it blessed me. I had to really delve into the story. I had to dig deep and I had to really put myself in their shoes, because I was going to quite literally put myself in their shoes. I had to think things like, “How would they have experienced this moment?” and “Would he really say that?” It was one of the most rewarding study experiences I have ever had.

The other thing was, I had no desire and felt no leading for costumes, but his would I get the people to forget it was me and imagine the person in question was speaking to them. I ended up doing what I do best, i.e., making art. I did a portrait of each of the people I was portraying and put them in the front of the sanctuary. Rather than speed painting these “live” since advent series’ tend to be very full, I took my time and painted them in my studio. This also ended up being a blessing, because I could really push myself artistically. I had a great time with this series, but that’s not why I share this. I share it to encourage you to take the familiar passages and find a different way to present them—a way that will be faithful to the text and yet creative enough to get people to see something they already know with fresh eyes. I believe God gave us our creative gifts for this very reason. How can you help people to really see God’s truth?

Here are the portraits. They are Gabriel, a shepherd (who I named Itzhak), John the Baptist (because if you’re going to talk about preparing the way for Jesus, he can’t be left out) and finally Joseph.


I just saw a Huffington Post piece that said the holiday classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is problematic. My first response was “Well, duh, what took you so long?” They point out that the reindeer was bullied and mistreated, and I thought “Man, you folks at the Huffington Post are so woke.” (See what I did there, I used the wrong tense of the term awakened to seem “hip” and “trendy” and “cool.”) The movie came out in 1964, when I was just over 1 year old, (you do the math) and I have been watching it literally my entire life and if it took the writers at Huffington Post this long to figure out the problems with Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, I feel genuinely sorry for them. As a bullied kid, I figured it out pretty quickly. Now please do us a favor, don’t launch a campaign to protect us from it. Strange as it seems, the problems with the movie are a big part of what makes it a classic. See there was a time when villains were bad and good guys were good and it was pretty remarkably easy to tell the difference. Of course the antagonists are bigoted, that’s kind of the point. Bigotry is bad and overcoming it is good.

One tweet shown into clip said “Yearly reminder that #Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a parable on racism & homophobia w/ Santa as a bigoted exploitative prick.” Okay first off, I can see a allusion to racism, well maybe, though I would argue all the reindeer are of the same species and the difference is more about a difference in ability than race, and the film shows that difference does not have to be a liability. And “homophobia” I missed the part where Rudolph was gay. I’m sure Clarice would be surprised. Someone needs to learn that misused outrage cheapens your position. As far as Santa goes. I’ve never been a fan, so the idea that he’s imperfect is good with me. Maybe seeing him with some flaws, will direct our hearts and minds away from the imperfect to the perfect one this holiday is actually all about.

At the end of the day, if it took you 54 years to understand there are problems with the way the other characters treat Rudolph, you’ve lived a charmed life. Rudolph overcomes the garbage people threw at him, showed his difference to be a very useful asset and saves the day. That make him a hero, someone who overcomes the bullies and the bigots, maybe even changing their beliefs in the process.

As a child and even through my teens, I was bullied, sometimes horribly so. The story of Rudolph in my early years, helped me to see it just might get better, and it did. Don’t deprive kids of this silly little kids story that actually shows one can overcome all kinds of adversity and gives some hope.

This politically correct nonsense has got to be stopped.


Last night I revisited the church that brought me to this part of Ohio four years ago, Bristolville Church of the Brethren, in Bristolville, OH. It was really nice to reconnect with old friends. It was the last evening of their spiritual renewal services, and I had a great time.

This was my second time presenting the Love Like Jesus presentation I started doing in August. I have to say I am really starting to love this presentation. The impetus for it was really simple. A camp I was invited to speak at had the theme Love Like Jesus and they asked me to do a presentation on that topic. Well needless to say I was excited about the theme but I quickly ran into a problem. How does Jesus love? Oh it’s not that I was having a hard time coming up with ideas. No the problem was I had too many for any kind of a clear and concise message. How do you describe the greatest love there has ever been in an hour or less? I decided I needed to go back to the tried and true three point sermon format, because sometimes you need to put boundaries on your message. Part of what helped was listening to the radio in the preparation process and hearing Cory Asbury’s song Reckless Love. I’ll put a video of it at the end of the post. It really does a great job of describing God’s love, overwhelming, never ending and in a way reckless.

Then I read a post where someone took issue with the idea of God’s love being reckless. After all, God is all knowing and all powerful, is anything reckless for him. Of course, for Him, though it may appear to us that it is, it isn’t, but if we look at loving like Jesus, I think it’s safe to assume that for us, it will definitely appear reckless if we choose to try to love as He loves.

I also looked at His love being unconditional and sacrificial. While we may not be able to pull off unconditional in perfection, we can certainly strive to love and choose to love in spite of circumstances that might lead us to do otherwise. As far as sacrificial love goes, of course we cannot reach the level that Jesus did, but because of what He did, we don’t have to. He is the once and for, all supreme sacrifice. What we can do is sacrifice our plans, our time, even our rights for the sake of loving on other people. Wouldn’t our world be a lot better if we loved in these three ways?

I think it would.

Here is the painting I did. I call it You Can’t Kill Love.

And here is that wonderful song by Cory Asbury.