Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Why Jesus?

I tend to pick a theme for a year and preach about it. Usually it's something that I've been reading about or something the Spirit lays on my heart (and yes, I do believe the Holy spirit does that). Picking a theme is not someething I take lightly, but after praying and reading and trying to assess the needs of the congregation, select the theme. Several years ago we had a committee select the theme. However, I asked if I could be the one who selected this since I was the one who had to preach about it. If I didn't have the passion for the theme, it would be hard to be passionate about the sermons. Thankfully, my shepherds gave the privilege and the task to select that theme.

Our theme last year was "The Amazing G(race). While preparing for it there would be little signs indicating I was going the right direction. Verses would pop out that I had never seen before. Lectures I attended spoke of grace. Speakers spoke eloquently about the riches of God's grace. Some would say I only saw those things because I was already attuned to notice such a topic. That's all right if you feel that way. I tend to see it differently. (You know....grace!)

Our theme for this year is "Jesus: (His)tory." Why did i choose that? Let me challenge you to read the epistles and note how many times Jesus' name is mentioned--directly and indirectly. Underline it in your Bible. Paul was notorious for talking of Jesus. The Hebrew writer says He (Jesus) is the author and perfecter of our faith. Paul said in Colossians that He was the firstborn of all creation. In the same passage, it says that in Him all things hold together. My assumption is, that outside of Him all things fall apart. In the gospels, John says that He was in the beginning and that, in fact, He is God. Once again the Hebrew writer tells us to "fix our eyes on Jesus."

I've asked others about good books concerning Jesus. I received such titles as:

Killing Jesus, Mansfield
Killing Jesus, O'Reilly
Jesus and the Victory of God, N.T. Wright
The Politics of Jesus, Yoder
Jesus: A Pilgramage, Martin
Jesus, Hero of Thy soul, McGuiggan
Jesus, Swindoll
The King Jesus Gospel, McKnight
The Jesus Creed, McKnight
Jesus and the Gospels, Blomberg
Jesus, the Pastor, Frye
Following Jesus, N.T. Wright
Jesus Christ, Porter
Putting Jesus in His Place, Bowman and Komoszewski
I Knew Jesus Before He was a Christian, Shelley
Who is This Man?, Ortberg
Beautiful Outlaw, Eldredge
Jesus: A Theography, Sweet and Viola
Jesus on Trial, Limbaugh

Of course, there is nothing more humbling and uplifting as reading Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to see how He interacts with those who think they have all the answers and those who come to Him seeking answers to life. I feel so inadequate trying to tell His story. Yet, I know that's what we need. We need to know Jesus as Paul says in Philippians. We need that relationship with Him. To that end, I just had something framed for my office. It very simply says, "Sir, we want to see Jesus." This will be my calling, not only for this year, but for the rest of my life. I want to introduce everyone I see to Jesus.

Dr. Jim White

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

About Your Minister/Pastor

I have hesitated to write this blog because I thought too many might think I have depression issues. I can assure you that I am fine and still am willing and able to get up every day and face the tasks that lie before me. But each of the following are thoughts and feelings that I have had in the past (and maybe still face). This is to encourage you to encourage your minister. Often he stands alone...or at least he feels he's alone. It's good for you to think about things from his side of the pulpit.

1. Your concerns are his concerns. A minister hears many stories during the course of his week. He hears of a wayward child or husband. Sickness is something that becomes a concern to him--both physical and spiritual. People, politics, and problems enter his office daily. And when he goes home at night, not only is he dealing and feeling your concerns, he has to deal with the concerns of his own family.

2. He feels inadequate. Trying to proclaim the awesomeness of God, the love of His Son, and the work of the Spirit is a wonderful task for the preacher. But he feels as if he can't really communicate the true meaning of our Lord's greatness adequately. Try to describe how much God loves you to someone else. At the end of his sermons, he often prays a prayer of apology to God that he has fallen far short of the goal of trying to describe the depths of God Himself. He has to wholly depend on God to use his shortcomings and weakness and allow God to work in the hearts of the people who have just heard his message.
But secondly, he feels inadequate as a sinner to proclaim the message of salvation and grace. He knows that you look at him as somewhat of an ideal Christian man knowing full well that he sins and sins often. His humanity often is hidden behind a shroud of seeming invincibility. When his sins do show up publicly, he feels as if he has totally failed his God.

3. He reads to present something timely and valuable often at the expense of his own spiritual well-being. Every preacher has a list of books he wants to read to help him in his own spiritual walk. Often that reading list takes a back seat in order to read and study for a lesson that is pertinent to the congregation. It's not that he doesn't enjoy the study that he does for his sermons. It's just that he feels as if he's reading to prepare a sermon rather than reading to enhance his spiritual life. How he would love to just read for the sake of enjoyment.

4. Often his family has to wait on hinm because he's dealing with a particular church problem or issue. The phone will ring in the middle of a family meal. There is a meeting on Saturday and it's imperative that he's there. A member is struggling with a teen who has run away or has threatened them with physical harm, and you're called to come to defuse the situation. Many "emergencies" take away from good, solid family time.

5. He is often the target of criticism for anything from doctrine to sermon preparation to fashion (or lack thereof). It's difficult to please everyone. Don't believe me? Try to please everyone in your own family. Let alone a church of 100, 200, 300, or a thousand. Our society has become such an opinionated lot, we are many times brutal in our assessment of the minister.
"He speaks too long."
"He doesn't speak long enough."
"He was boring."
"Wasn't his sweater horrendous?"
"I wish he would dress up more."
"He has really gone off the deep end!"
Whatever happened to grace? Since when is worship about us? When will we learn that all things are to glorfy God?

6. I have already briefly alluded to this one, but remember that his call to ministry never ceases. Phone calls, texts, and other messages come at all hours of the day and night. Even deaths don't care about vacations.

7. Sunday is a taxing day, both emotionally and physically. The preacher has to be "on" his game. Optimistic. Fresh. Enlightening. By the end of the day on Sunday, after all the sermons have been preached, when all the meetings are over, when the classes have been taught, one of the last things he wants to do is to be with people. All wants to do is go to bed because by the time everything is done on Sunday evening, he is exhausted.

8. Finally, and once again I have touched on this already, he is human and has flaws. No one is more keenly aware of this than he is. He knows that when he preaches about lust or greed or envy or anything else, he also struggles with the same issues. In fact, many of the sermons, if not all of the sermons, are preached because HE needs them. At the end of the day, he is brutally cognizant of the fact that he, too, is a sinner in need of God's grace.

This may not be true of all ministers/pastors. Perhaps some of these apply and some don't. And I'm not trying to say that ministry is depressing and cruel and I discourage anyone to follow the path of ministry. In fact, it often is some of the most rewarding work you'll ever do. You have a front row seat. You see the births, the triumphs, the crossing over into glory, in addition to all the other things. So, the next time you see your preacher, tell him how much you love him and appreciate him. More importantly than anything, tell him personally that you are praying for him. Accept him as another person, another follower of Christ who is doing his best to be a disciple...just like you.

Dr. Jim White

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


I was driving back into town recently when the bad weather prompted a warning. Coming down a major street my wife thought she heard something so she rolled down the window. It was a tornado siren. We probably shouldn't have been out and about at the time, but we were returning from a long trip and we were trying to get back to our home. Now, our first clue that things were bad was the warning we received on our televisions prior to leaving on the trip. We had checked the weather that morning and there were indications that the weather might be bad. The second clue was the ominous sky and the lightening that was streaking through the air. That rain was beginning to fall was probably another indication that there might be some weather in the area. Now we had the third reminder--the sound of the siren.

When I was a little boy, the church bell at my grandparent's church was rung thirty minutes before classes started, when classes officially started, and when the worship services started. There was a ministry of bell-ringing. That bell was a reminder to the community that something special was about to happen. (It also meant we better get into gear and get our clothes on!) The other day I was driving down the street of my home town and heard a bell chiming. It took me back to those days long ago and reminded me of times past.

While sitting in my office yesterday, I heard the wailing of a siren growing louder and then quieter as it passed our building. I wondered what the emergency was. Was it a house on fire? Could someone have been hurt in an accident? Was there an elderly person who needed assistance getting to the hospital? By law the vehicles in the road must yield to the screaming emergency vehicle. There was something that took precedence over a casual drive down the street.

Earlier this morning, our pre-school director informed us that they were going to have a fire drill this morning. The horn used for this warning is obnoxious and noticeable. I guess that means it serves its purpose. Children will file outside and be prepared in case of the unthinkable.

There was a commercial several months ago about a new car on the market. It would remind the owner that there were some things that needed to be attended to. In the commercial, the owner of the car would be ready to do something inappropriate when the car horn would sound. Wouldn't it be nice to have something like that in our lives? We have sirens to warn us of tornadoes, bells that chime to let us know church is ready to start, other sirens that warn us to get our of the way of emergency vehicles, and buzzers to tell us to get out of the building because there is a fire. But wouldn't it be nice to have some kind of warning system to let us know we are treading on dangerous ground?

We do have something. He's called the Holy Spirit. He's there to nudge, urge, prompt, encourage, and remind. He's there placing verses in our minds when temptation comes up. He warns us that there is an emergency and we should be alert. He lets us know that something special is about to happen. Our problem? We just don't listen. You rarely notice the ambulance until he's right up on you. Church bells, especially if they are regular, just become part of the white noise we experience everyday and we tend to ignore it. Fire drills, well, we blow them off as just a drill.

But God is very serious about listening to the Spirit's call. Paul tells the Galatians to live by the Spirit and not by the flesh. How will we know the difference? Listen to Paul's words. "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." (Galatians 5:24, 25) Keep in step. Hear the warnings. Heed the alarm. Listen to the reminders. One of the most significant problem in our lives today is we have too much noise in our much so that it drowns out the Spirit's calling.

I don't know why I've heard all of these "bells and whistles and warnings" lately. Maybe it's to remind me of the Spirit's lead in our lives. Listening, hearing, really hearing and willing to let Him lead us.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Big Sins, Little Sins

I grew up in a Christian home. Don't misunderstand me, I am truly grateful that I had a father and a mother who loved God and Jesus dearly. They devoted their lives to service in the kingdom. My father was a minister for many years until he received an advanced degree in English. After that, he spent another lifetime teaching in Christian schools. Then, preaching never left his blood. In the summers and on the weekends, he preached often for small, rural churches.

It was not part of my life to rebel, take drugs, drink until I was drunk or any other type of "terrible" sins. I just grew up knowing that Jesus was my Redeemer and that He died for me on a cross and rose from the grave so that I might have a new life.

But the question is, "What kind of new life?". I marveled as I grew up at speakers who told of their life before they came to know Jesus. They were horrible, cursing and swearing and doing all the "bad" things. It was almost like a badge of honor. They seemed to boast of their incursions into the world. It made me feel so....well, like I never did anything wrong. I'm not saying I've been perfect all my life. (Or even now, for that matter!) But when we sing, "Years I spent in vanity and pride; caring not my Lord was crucified....", I can't really join in.

When I, however, examine my life, I realize my sins have been great. Oh, I can't tell of finding myself in a drunken stupor only to find myself pulled up from the depths into a new light. No, I can only tell you of my doubts. Is God real or am I living this life in vain? Do I preach because I desire the accolades of those who hear me or because I want to hold up Jesus? Do people see the jealously in my life when things go their way and they have "things" that I don't have? I can only tell you of the arrogance I have felt when I felt I was better than others.

Now, define for me a big sin and a little sin. My only plea is "God, be merciful to me, a sinner." As the writer of the old gospel hymn said, "Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling." There is nothing special about me. I'm fortunate to have had the advantages I've had. But I've had to come to my own faith and the journey has not always been easy. My prayer is that I continue to seek His face. Paul said, "All have sinned and fall short of God's glory." All. That's pretty inclusive and the result is still the same. I need Jesus to forgive those sins.

So let's be honest with God. Let us invite Him into our hearts for a daily audit. Allow Him to enter as He pleases and let's not try to hide anything from Him. It's useless to do so anyway.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in my, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:24

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


I have struggled with something lately and I need your help. It's a matter of focus. As long as I'm studying something, I'm truly focused in on that subject. For instance, not too long ago I did a study of demons and angels. During that time I could see God working and I felt I could sense or see the presence of both entities. But since that time I have moved on to other things and I don't feel that presence around me as much as I once did. I did another study on the Holy Spirit. It was wonderful to feel His presence and to know that He was with me, leading and guiding me in every step of my life. But that has dissipated. Now I'm teaching a class on reading and studying the Bible; seeking to find the proper context of what Scripture is saying and not using the Bible as a proof text. I'm honed in on this like a laser beam for the moment. If past history is any indication, I will be gone from this as soon as I begin a new study.

What's my deal? Do you feel this way? In essence, I'm all over the place spiritually. And to be quite honest, it's frustrating. My conclusion? It came to me during my morning prayer. I'm focusing on the wrong thing. While all these former topics are good and should be studied, I've lost my focus on what really matters. What really matters is Jesus. If I were to focus on Him and walk with Him and develop relationally with Him, everything else would fall into place. He begs for that attention, yet I am like the rabbit that runs down another trail. So I ask God to forgive me this day. Help me to keep my mind and my thoughts and my direction on THE Way and THE Truth and THE life. Once I do that, I should be able to have the peace that passes all understanding.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Be Careful What You Pray For

God has a knack of teaching me (i.e. hitting me in the face with a 2 X 4). I recently started a series on "Grace." It's important to spend the year looking at the grace of God and what it should mean in our lives. What has happened has been a spate of incidences that make me look to myself in regards to grace.

Without being too specific, there have been divorces, sad judicial rulings, angry people, other people doing things I don't appreciate, and the list goes on and on. There was more going on than I had remembered in my ministry in a long time. It was really getting to me when I realized, "I prayed that God teach me about grace." GOOD LESSON #1--Be careful what you pray for, it may come true. I am having to learn about grace. About giving people a break. About realizing that in spite of what happens, I must react as God would react. I must realize that grace is so vital in our world.

So I'm trying to crawl out of the pit. It's a difficult concept to learn. I understand a little bit of what Job felt when God finally responded to his questions. (Although God never really answered Job.) These have been hard lessons, but I think they are helping me understand in some small way what God wants of me in regards to grace.

NOTE TO SELF: Don't preach a series on patience

Monday, February 10, 2014

That Made Me Sad

I had to laugh when my daughter told me about a recent incident at the doctor with my three-year-old grandson. He had been coughing and running a high fever so the doctor suspected he had the flu. It's just a simple test to determine the cause of his ague. The doctor just needs to swipe the inside of one of his nostrils and look to see if there are any flu bugs. Did I say this was a simple test?

Hearing my daughter describe the scene made it even funnier to me. She was holding his head with her left hand, she had his legs between her legs, and with her right hand she was trying to hold his right hand. This all the while the doctor is trying to swab his nose. Now, two adults are bigger and stronger than one three-year-old....barely. But with him flailing and crying, I imagine it was next to impossible to carry out said deed. It was probably like trying to give a cat a bath. What came next is what impacted me. Through his tears, once the struggle was over, he said, "That made me sad."

Know what makes me sad? A family who loses a parent way too soon. A couple who haven't been married very long who decide their marriage is not worth saving. Those who don't care what others think about them, so they mess up their lives with alcohol, drugs, or pornography. A mom and a dad who lose their son or daughter to the world because their faith is not strong enough. The word "cancer." Car wrecks. Apathetic attitudes toward Jesus. Those who blame all of their problems on the church or the preacher. Money over family. World over God. As a minister, in my own way I have flailed and beaten myself over many I have seen go through all of these. And I wonder, "Father, what is happening?"

But I press on. "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness." That song continues to ring through my mind. I know that God is faithful and He is greater than anything Satan throws in our way. Martin Luther's favorite psalm was Psalm 46.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

In verse 7 it says, "...the God of Jacob is our fortress." That's our God. More important than the Olympics. Greater than any president, prime minister, or king. He reigns over all the earth. When I become overwhelmed and sad, I remember words from my earthly father who wrote to me many years ago with the wisdom he received from others. He said to me, "Jim, just remember. God is still on the throne." I've got to tell you...that makes me happy.