A digital commonplace for a Regular Guy called Charlie Pharis

Category: Preaching/Teaching (page 1 of 2)

About My Neighbor…

OK, boys and girls…here’s one for you…

Sometimes God has a sense of humor. And sometimes He uses that sense of humor to punch us right in the gut to get our attention. Today was one of those days.

We loaded up our church stuff in the car as usual this morning, and headed out of the driveway. About halfway between our house and the front of our neighborhood, we saw an olive-green car sitting at the bottom of the hill with its flashers on. As we approached to pass by, the driver was opening the door, and sitting with one leg out of the driver’s side.

My first thought was, “I wonder if she needs help?”

My next thoughts, in quick succession, were, “But I’ll be late to church,” “I don’t have time to stop now,” and “I sure hope she’s OK.”

When we got to the entrance of our neighborhood, I stopped at the stop sign. I had to wait for an approaching truck before turning left out on to the street. As the truck turned into my neighborhood, I thought, aloud to the lovely and gracious MrsCharphar, “I guess that guy will stop and help.” And with that, off we went to church.

Here’s where God’s sense of humor and the “ouch” came in.

Today’s message at The Crest was Part 6 of a seven-part series called Upside Down Stories. Throughout the series, we’ve been diving into some of Jesus’s parables. Today’s installment was from Luke 10, and dealt with…

…wait for it…

…wait for it…

…the Good Samaritan.

*Paraphrase of Luke 10: 3031…

“Jesus replied, ‘A woman was going down from her neighborhood to somewhere else in Cherokee County, and her car broke down, leaving her stranded at the bottom of a steep hill. Now by chance the pastor of Stonecrest Church was going down that road, and when he saw her he passed by on the other side.’”

Ouch, indeed.


Sunday Night Unwind, 08.30.15 (late, late edition)…

Awake late tonight for whatever reason. It may be the thousand things going through my mind and heart. It may be the bout of depression I can’t seem to shake. It may even be the Jittery Joe’s pourover I had earlier! Either way, since I’m up, I might as well share a little Unwind.

Here’s what’s rattling around in my head tonight…

  • We did The Golden Rule part of the Sermon on the Mount series today. Pretty brief. (We beat the Catholics and the Sovereign Grace folks out of church!)
  • The Golden Rule has its counterparts in almost every major religious tradition.
  • While on the surface, they look the same as Jesus’s teaching, there is a powerful difference in the way Jesus expresses this principle and the way the other traditions do.
  • Jesus’s command is positive, proactive, comprehensive, and sensitive. The others, by and large, are expressed negatively, they entail avoiding behavior, they pick and choose the situations in which the principle is applied, and there is virtually no risk for the person who chooses or neglects the principle.
  • I started the “big” Sermon on the Mount series the Sunday after Easter. It looks like we’ll wrap it up on September 20. That’ll be 24 weeks.
  • I love these long series because they help me stay focused on the material at hand. They also give me an idea of where my preparation needs to be.
  • I don’t like the long series so much because they tend to drag a little toward the end. I feel sometimes as though I’m belaboring the point. I also don’t like them because they end. And I have to figure out what’s coming next.
  • Oh…I said this before but it’s worth repeating: Isn’t it amazing how we think our 24-week explanation is more important and powerful than the original words, expressed in a few minutes by Jesus? Go figure.
  • I may be adding yet another side gig. Completed the application and a pre-hiring assessment. The assessment was pretty much a major stressor. (No, no, not this guy!)
  • Re-reading Henri J.M. Nouwen’s In the Name of Jesus. This little book is full of big ol’ “ouches.”
  • I’m wondering about the ways I and our church are involved (or not involved, as the case may be!) in the real life of our community. We have to work on that. And pronto!
  • To all a good night!

Sunday Night Unwind, 11.04.12…

2999692351 0f07eb78c3 b

Image via: flickr.com/photos/moonlightbulb/2999692351/

The crepe myrtles are fiery red at the old Just Charlie hacienda! They may be my favorite fall trees. They’re not the biggest or the most unusual, but they are to me, the very picture of fall!

Here’s what’s going through my head and heart right about now…

  • I do love fall, but I’m not crazy about the time change. It’s great that first morning, when you get an extra hour of sleep. But it’s kind of killer that first night, when you realize it’s really an hour past your normal bedtime! And there won’t be the extra hour tomorrow morning!
  • We continued our Grow! series today, and talked about personal ministry as one of the things God uses to develop disciples and grow their faith. I used the story from Matthew 14 about Jesus feeding the 5000.
  • Quick recap? OK, here you go…Jesus extends compassion to everyone, and He expects His disciples to join Him in that mission. His disciples (then and now!) find all kinds of excuses why they (we!) can’t do the task Jesus assigns. Jesus equips us for that ministry when we bring the excuses and our resources to Him. He expands our faith and helps us see amazing things happen as a result. How’s that ?
  • Oh, and I had a real! live! Venn diagram for a practical challenge at the end of the talk! The upshot of the Venn diagram challenge?
  • One circle is marked Ability, and it comprises my talents, skills, training, etc. Another circle is marked Passion, and it is indicative of what jacks me up, floats my boat, or whatever other cliche you want to use! the third circle is marked Need, and it represents the opportunities for ministry that are all around me.
  • The intersection of those three circles represents where i could likely start being involved in personal ministry.
  • “I can’t do everything at once, but I can start somewhere.”
  • I told one of my favorite Rick Warren stories, about the auto mechanic who thought Saddleback should do something to help people with car repairs: “Aren’t you a mechanic?”
  • I’m doing a lot of reading lately. It’s harder to remember some of the stuff I read on my Kindle. I guess I really am a paper kind of guy!
  • The election is Tuesday. I did the early voting thing the other day. For only the second time in my life (nine Presidential elections) I voted against a candidate instead of for another one.  We’ll see what happens…
  • Meanwhile, the Atlanta Falcons will try to stay unbeaten against the Dallas Cowboys tonight. I won’t be watching. (See point above about the effect of the first night of the return of Standard Time!)
  • All my Windham Hill A Winter’s Solstice albums are queued up and on shuffle.

To all a good night!

Sunday Night Unwind, 01.15.12…

Sunday Night Unwind, 01.15.12...

(Image via iStockphoto.com)

In honor of, and in solidarity with, my friend, Tony McCollum, the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack and a few other random disco favorites are powering the Sunday Night Unwind tonight!

Here’s what I’m thinking about tonight…

  • Long, LOOOOOONG message this morning at The Crest.
  • I started a series last week about facing the challenges of growing older. Today’s installment focused on regret.
  • BTW, I developed the series with help from our folks, who identified some of the most critical challenges they face while getting older.
  • BTW #2: Getting older is not a function of a particular age. You and I are older than we were yesterday, and in fact, whether we are 30 or 90, we’ll continue to get older until we die.
  • Anyway, I digress…I used the story of Samson to help us see some lessons about dealing with regret. This article was a springboard for the message.
  • The discomfort of discipline will help us avoid the pain of regret. Our choices now have consequences later.
  • We can’t change the past. But hopefully, we learn valuable lessons from the past.
  • It’s never too late to fulfill God’s purpose for your life. But time is running out. And it may not look exactly the same at 40 or 50 0r 87 as it may have looked at 16 or 21 or 30.
  • Fulfilling that purpose will likely – no, assuredly! – require us to lose our own selfish and prideful agendas, and follow His.
  • In other news, it was a real special day for my friend and former colleague Melanie Christianson. She celebrated her retirement after 43 years of musical service at my last headquarters. Melanie was (hopefully, still is!) a great friend, an excellent musician, an effective leader, and the best assistant I ever had! Thanks, Melanie, for everything! Well done, good and faithful servant! Oh, and how does someone who’s only 39 serve for 43 years?
  • The lovely and gracious Mrs. JustCharlie and The Boy continue their headlong plunge, lemming-like, into Apple fanboy-/fangirl-dom. They’ve plastered those little white Apple logos on their vehicles! And The Boy just went and traded in his two-week-old iPhone4 for the 4S.
  • Apparently, that Siri can be a real snit!
  • What’s next, I wonder..a MacBook Pro? (13″, 8 gigs of RAM, etc., etc.)? OK…twist my arm…
  • It was good to see some old friends at The Crest today.
  • No YMCA, no school tomorrow…hope you have a great night! Later!

Sunday Night Unwind, 05.02.10

In a jazz mood for tonight’s Unwind. The Bebop/Combo channel on Pandora is filling the bill quite nicely, thank you. At this moment, Stan Getz is playing a song called “Beatrice,” and it really is in that cool jazz mode.

Anyway, here’s what’s rolling around in my head and my heart, and dropping out on the keyboard…

  • Speaking of jazz, I would’ve enjoyed these guys at the Jazz Mass this morning!
  • And who knew Cartersville, Georgia has a live jazz place? Cartersville?!?! Get outta here!
  • Oh, and that bassist? yeah…he’s pretty much my musical hero!
  • Cartersville?!?!?
  • It was good to be back at The ‘Crest today, after a week away at Fusion Church.
  • I finished a series called “Running on Empty,” and talked about how we need to take the time to refuel and recharge in our walk with Jesus. I thought it was pretty good stuff!
  • Got to spend the afternoon with the lovely and gracious Mrs. Just Charlie and The Boy…a little lunch, a little clothes shopping, and little hanging out…a good time!
  • The Boy is hopefully winding down this this part of his academic journey soon.I really feel for newly-minted college graduates trying to find a real job in this economy.
  • Heard some disturbing new about one of our elderly members today that makes my blood boil! I’m not sure there’s anything we can do, but I sure am hacked off about it!
  • Getting back on track with my health and fitness again. It’s impossible to live today on what you did yesterday. Or four years ago.
  • I’m on the lookout for a new bag in which to carry my laptop and other assorted junk. I’m leaning toward the Timbuk2, although I haven’t really scoped out the specific model. If it’s good enough for Tony McCollum and Randy Bohlender, it’s good enough for me!
  • Yeah, yeah! I know…who’s got time to go to blogs anymore? That would be tonymccollum and rbohlender, respectively, thank you very much! Sheesh!
  • Dang! John Coltrane could play!
  • I’ve been a reader for as long as I can remember. This Kindle for the PC app has re-ignited a passion for reading though! I’ve just finished Peter Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, and Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson’s Rework, and I’m about to dive into Ben Arment’s Church in the Making, along with some classic Bonhoeffer and St. John of the Cross. How’s that for eclectic?

Well, this post that started out rather promisingly has now started to drag, so I’m going to quit, and read some, drink a cup of coffee, and get ready for the storm that’s on the way later tonight.

Sunday Night Unwind, 03.07.10…

Good evening, both of my loyal readers! Wait…there’s only one of you left! Anyway, here’s a long-overdue contribution to the old blog.

  • Hanging at home, with an iTunes Genius playlist fueled by the great Hillsong classic Mighty to Save. For some reason, that song never, ever gets old and tired to me.
  • The hanging at home thing is also powered by a French press full of Brazil Peaberry, one of my favorites from WeeklyRoast.
  • BTW…why aren’t you getting your coffee from my buddy Ken at WeeklyRoast? Well, why not?
  • I finished a series-within-a-series this morning on the parables of Jesus from Luke’s blog…uh…Gospel.
  • We looked at the familiar story of The Prodigal Son. No, not that one. The other one. The one that stayed around but was farther from home than his kid brother.
  • See, in the context of the story – see Luke 15:1-2 for the setup – the older son was the one that needed the dad to go find him. Even though he was right outside in the field.
  • Yeah, yeah…I know. We’ve always focused on the kid brother. It’s the twist that makes the story powerful, though. What twist?
  • I’m glad you asked!
  • Part 1 of the Lost and Found trilogy is about a shepherd with 100 sheep. One gets away. What does the shepherd do? He goes looking for the lost sheep. He expends energy. He does everything he can to find the lost sheep. And when he finds the little lamb, wandering in the wilderness, he loads it up on his shoulders and takes it home, rejoicing!
  • Part 2? A woman has ten coins, and somehow loses one. What does she do? She turns her house upside down trying to recover ten percent of her wealth. She expends energy. She does everything she can to find the lost coin. And when the coin turns up in the sofa cushion, she calls her neighbors for a little impromptu party! (I made up the part about the sofa cushion.)
  • Part 3 is the biggest chunk of the story. It’s about a man with two sons. The younger gets all uppity one day, says some horrible things about his dad, demands his share of the old man’s money, and splits! Get ready…here comes the twist.
  • Oh, wait…Third Day’s Your Love Oh Lord just kicked in on the iTunes playlist. Love those guys!
  • Where was I? Oh, the twist
  • What does the dad do in response to his immature brat of a kid taking his money, leaving for a far country, and blowing the whole wad on riotous living? Go ahead…I’ll wait while you tell me about the dad’s response…
  • Got it? Good! How far did the dad go to find the kid? How far was that again? If you said something like, “All the way to the far country,” or something like that, that would be a good guess. But it wouldn’t win the prize tonight!
  • The dad waited at home. Yep, he was there, everyday, watching, hoping, trusting. But he was waiting. And one day, the kid had come to his senses in the pigpen, and realized his need for his dad. He came home, and his dad was there, waiting for him. And the par-tay ensued!
  • What about the older son? He’s the one the dad had to look for. He’s the one the dad expended energy to find. The older son is the one that was far from the dad’s heart, and he was literally in the house the whole time!
  • And as far as we can tell from Luke’s careful reporting of the story, the older son still hasn’t dropped his resentment, self-centeredness, and superiority complex and joined the party!
  • Hmmm…how about that for a twist? And did you catch the connection to the setup? Yeah, I thought so…

Sunday Night Unwind, 10.18.09…

Hey, loyal readers…both of you! I’m unwinding tonight in Starbucks in Woodstock, Georgia. This is becoming a weekly ritual after long days. I’ve got the old iTunes kicked up , and I’m listening to a Genius mix based on Hillsong United’s great From the Inside Out.

Some things on my mind and in my heart tonight…

  • True confession time: Today was the first day in a long, long time I didn’t actually dread showing up at church. I know that’s weird for a pastor to say. Somewhere along the way to somewhere else, I lost that real sense of joy I used to have. Today was different, and I pray that’s going to be a regular thing again.
  • I don’t share that to whine, but just to lay it out there, and let you know that if you’ve got an extra prayer or two, I won’t try to convince you not to use them on my behalf!
  • I’m teaching through the powerful and practical epistle of James these days. It’s been good to get back to my roots, so to speak. For all the cool, hip, happening, relevant topical preaching out there, there is still something pretty powerful about opening up part of The Book and working through it in a systematic, deliberate way.
  • I want to be both Biblical and unboring.
  • I talked about facing the future this morning. I wondered aloud if I talk a lot about faith and all that, but live like a “practical atheist,” as though God really doesn’t exist and is not a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Ouch!
  • I wondered aloud if I presume on His grace when I assume things about tomorrow that may or may not be true. And yes, I used the great lesson of the word assume: you make one out of U and ME when you do it! Ouch, Number 2!
  • And I wondered aloud if I’m cruising through my life with God’s dream, purpose, and plans percolating on the inside, but not taking shape in my life. I wondered aloud what’s keeping me from fulfilling His plan and purposes. Big OUCH, Number 3!
  • I’m planning on talking about money next week.
  • I’m learning some hard lessons about trusting God to provide in the face of great need these days. At least I hope I’m learning the lessons. I don’t want this process to go on indefinitely!
  • Fasting without praying is just a cruel and joyless diet.
  • Action cures fear.
  • I’ve got at least 3 books in various stages of unread. I need to finish them and find something new.
  • I’m old and tired. That’s reality, but I tend to trot it out as a convenient excuse for not doing something.
  • I love Loreena McKennitt’s Christmas stuff!
  • I’m breaking my own rule and actually rooting for an orange team against another orange team next weekend. Hey, Perry…make sure your Tigers win, OK?
  • BTW, how ’bout them Jackets?!?!?
  • What the heck is a Hokie anyway?
  • There’s way too much math homework going on in here tonight!
  • My couple of hours of free wi-fi is about up, and my rambling has about rambled out.

Make it a great evening!

Wow. Just Wow. Un-freakin’-believable…

Here are some things I bet you pastor/preacher types out there weren’t aware of, until John Killinger said so, in a presentation today in Memphis…

  • Doctrine is a “thing of the past.”
  • Pastors are reluctant to preach from the Gospel of John, preferring instead to focus on the “human” side of Jesus found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
  • We need to be “a little less certain” about who Jesus was and what he was all about.
  • Jesus did not conceive of Himself as the Savior of the world and may not have viewed Himself a sacrifice at all until the crucifixion.
  • Salvation is more about “self-fulfillment and love” than any pesky old doctrine.
  • Daniel lied.


Guess we all need to be “re-evaluating” our stance in light of this “advanced” understanding of the gospel and its ramifications.


Taking the Pressure Off a Little…

As both of you loyal readers know, I serve a small traditional church as pastor. I just finished up a message series yesterday about our mission as believers. The final talk was a challenge to be “messengers of hope” in our neighborhoods and our city. Included in the talk was this statement…

You are not the hope of your neighbors. You are not the hope of our city, our county, our state, our nation, or our world. That job is already filled! Jesus – and only Jesus – is the hope!

I told our folks I hoped that would take some of the pressure off their lives. But then I said I wanted to put a little bit of it back on: The only way some folks in our neighborhoods, our city, our county, our state, our nation, and our planet will ever find the real Hope is if we start being messengers of hope ourselves.