The Main Thing

Leadership guru, the late Stephen Covey, once said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Covey was talking about focus, the importance of spending time on what’s most important and avoid being sidetracked. I’ve got to admit this is a problem for me. I love new ideas. I have to constantly remind myself to stay focused.

But when it comes to a life of faith, what is the main thing anyway? Worship? Prayer? The Bible?


If asked to identify “the main thing,” I wonder how many Christians would agree. You would think that if Christians actually agreed on the main thing, the church in North American would be in a lot better shape.

Jesus is the main thing, isn’t he? But what about Jesus is the main thing? Love? Truth? Mercy? The cross? Justice?

In 1st Corinthians 15:1-11, the Apostle Paul says, “What I received I passed on to you as first importance.” This is Paul’s synopsis of the main thing. It’s worth knowing.

My take:

Jesus is Lord. He’s the main thing.

The main thing about Jesus is the Gospel, the news of what he came to do: Jesus lived, died, and was raised from the dead. In doing that he paid the price for sin, joins his followers to God, and gives them eternal life.

The main thing about the Gospel is the raising part, the resurrection. Jesus is breathing new life into everything, including his followers, beginning now.

As followers we most often get off track, not from doing outright evil, but from turning good things into main things.

Bicycle Heaven

This week I finally made it to heaven.

“Bicycle Heaven,” that is, the part-museum, part-bicycle shop on Pittsburgh’s North Shore. Bicycle Heaven is featured in the new book, 100 Things To Do In Pittsburgh Before You Die, by Beth Geisler. With all the references to heaven and dying, I figured that I better check it out. I am a minister after all.

Oh my. If you love bikes, my guess is you will think you died and went to heaven. Walking in the door you’re met with hundreds of bikes, old and new, covering the floor, walls, and ceiling. That’s just a sample of what’s ahead. There are thousands and thousands of bikes, memorabilia of all kinds, plus mountains of bike parts and tires, all lovingly maintained and displayed. It’s overwhelming. The word that kept going through my head was “passion.” The person who made this happen had to have a passion for bikes and wanted to share it with others.

Isn’t it interesting how we speak in ultimate terms when we talk about our passion?

The thing is, followers of Jesus Christ don’t need bucket lists. The joy we experience in our favorite places here is simply a taste of the new life God has in store for us. We have an eternity to live our passions, and it begins here and now.

It seems to me the fact that people love to talk about bucket lists suggests there’s an enormous longing out there. It’s up to us in the church to be so different that people will look at us and say “I want that.” I want that peace, that contentment, that passion for caring for others. It’s up to us to show the new life that’s only available through the incarnate God of the Universe, and to give folks a glimpse of heaven on earth.

Holy Breathing

When I was in grade school my Dad had a heart attack. After he came home from the hospital, I remember that when he took a nap, I would sometimes just go in and watch him breathe.

Breath means life.

The Bible says that the breath of God is creative, powerful, and life-giving.

In Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament, there’s only one word for wind, breath, and spirit, the word, ruach. We have three separate words, they had one. In the New Testament, the Greek word pneuma means nearly the same thing.

In Genesis 1, one of the first things we’re told is that, at creation, the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the water. God spoke and things started to happen.

In Genesis 2, God reached down into the dust and water and formed a man. God breathed into his nostrils, and the man became a living being.

Every single one of us has the very breath of God in us.

God’s breath is the creative force behind all of life. So it’s not surprising that the risen Jesus commissioned his followers and sent them out by breathing on them. What God did at creation, breathing life into the first human being, God did again after the resurrection. The breath of God is what gives power to life and mission.

And yet we can miss the power that’s available to us. There are lots of reasons, but I think the main one is that we’re so busy with our own agendas. Breathing is such a good metaphor for the work of the Spirit because it is integral to life, but we can do it all day and not even notice.

After my Dad’s heart attack, I no longer took his breathing for granted.

Are you breathing right now? It’s the power of God in you.

Marathon Sunday

Its 5:45 on Sunday morning and it’s still dark, but there are more people on Sixth Avenue than in the middle of a normal workday. It’s Marathon Sunday in Pittsburgh. I’m helping Victor set up the new sound system on the front porch of the church when a lady in running clothes comes up the steps. She’s on her way to the Point for a group photo with her relay team, but first she needs a blessing.

Praying with people before the race is one of my very favorite things about being a minister of this church. Most Christians are reserved about sharing their faith, not sure how they’ll be received. But not Christian runners on race day. They know they depend on a higher power.

We played motivational Christian music over the loudspeakers which you could hear a block away. People loved it. One lady came down the street singing along to Mandisa’s “Overcomer.” Four guys from New York had seen the ad for “Blessing the Runners” and asked me to pray for them. A trembling woman grabbed my hand and asked me to pray for a loved one. A mom asked me to pray for her kids. I approached a big group posing for a picture in front of the church and asked if they wanted to be photobombed by a minister. They joyfully put me right in the middle of their group and asked me to pray for them. Still others left wiping away tears.

I prayed with folks in small groups or one-on-one, and other times I spoke over the loudspeakers to the hundreds of people walking down the street to their corrals.

Adam from New Castle checked in on the church Facebook page: “I wanted to give a shout out to you guys. As I was trying to navigate my way early Sunday morning to my corral for the marathon, I got turned around and started to panic a bit (which I almost never do). I called my wife and asked her to pray as I was nearly in tears because I couldn’t find my way. At that moment, playing loudly from your outdoor sound system was Casting Crowns’ “Courageous”. I immediately became at peace, turned the corner, and directly in front of me was the area with which I needed to be. Thank you so much for the encouragement. Also, praise to Him for helping me on my way.”

What a privilege to serve Christ in the heart of the city.