Wednesday, August 31, 2005

God be Glorified, Even in Times of Pain

I'm somewhat at a loss as to what to write today. Yesterday, I spent some time calling friends and others in Louisiana trying to find out the best way to help. The loss is devastating. Having spent two weeks working at the World's Fair in New Orleans in the 80s, I hurt for the city and the people who live there. The other side of that coin is, I really don't like the city of New Orleans. Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, Mardi Gras and all the junk that goes on down there just kind of turns my stomach. But then I'm torn again because of the suffering of the people. Nobody, I'm sorry, nobody--good or bad--should have to go through what they've gone through.
So what does one pray for? I pray that God will be glorified. Through all of this, I pray that God's love and goodness and care is shown through us, through the good Christian people of New Orleans, lower Mississippi, and Alabama. I pray that people will see those who, as Paul said, shine like stars in the universe. Lands knows they need to see some kind of light in the darkness in which they are now living. Be grateful for what you have today. JW

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Our Tsunami?

As a country we are so arrogant. Please don't misunderstand me because I think the devastation in the South from Hurricane Katrina is horrible. I hurt for so many of the people who are now without a home or have lost loved ones. But when I hear statements such as, "This is our tsunami," I am just amazed.
Let's compare. The tsunami in Asia hit without warning. It came after an earthquake in the middle of the ocean and the people had virtually no time to respond. Two, in Asia more than 100,00 people died in that tragedy. Many were never found, washed out to sea to be consumed by the life in the open ocean. Three, after the tsunami help came from all over the world because the Asian countries hit were finanacially strapped and in many ways unable to help themselves.
Now, Hurricane Katrina. How long has Katrina been rumbling around the Atlantic? I know one can't predict exactly where these things come ashore, but they travel at the blazing speed of 35 mph. At one point she was traveling north at 15 miles an hour. There were mandatory (I thought mandatory meant you had to) evacuations in New Orleans and other southern cities. But there were some were didn't have the money to go elswhere. So shelters were opened such as the Louisiana Superdome. Others just chose to ignore the advice of sensible people and stayed home anyway because, "Nobody's gonna tell me what to do." I understand that many of the casinoes in that area didn't even close their doors until Sunday night. So there was plenty of warning. People just chose to ignore the warnings. Two, the last count I knew 4 people lost their lives in Florida. There were over fifty dead in southern Mississippi. There was confirmation of some deaths in Lousiana. But if the death toll climbs to 100, that is .1% of the deaths that occurred in the Asian tsunami. Once again, let me put in my disclaimer, I think that any loss of life is tragic. I can't imagine losing a loved one in such a horrible storm. But remember my original premise. Third, our federal government already has help on the way. State governments have mobilized their means to help in any way possible. The Superdome alone had over 9000 people stay there and they were fed. Who paid for that? Who comes to our assistance when a tragedy hits us? But I digress some.
My point is, we tend to act like the little kid who, with his friend, gets ice cream cones. Then they argue which is bigger while the ice cream melts. I'm not comparing this tragedy to an ice cream cone. I am just amazed at how we compare things that happen to us as if we're the only country where something bad happens.
It is my prayer that God is glorified in all of this. That churches will step forward and show the love of God in all of this and that God gets the praise and the glory. If you can help, please do. This is something that will affect that area for a long time. Aren't we fortunate to live where we do? Have a good day. JW

Monday, August 29, 2005

It's For All

I had a first for me yesterday. I baptized someone. Now that's not a first and where we baptized is not a first. (By the way, it was in the baptistry at church). I've baptized in swimming pools, in creeks, in church baptistries. But this is the first time I've baptized someone who was disabled. Let me tell the story.
Not too long ago I received a letter in the mail from someone seeking God. She had been studying the Bible via the internet. She mentioned that her background had been in another church and she obediently complied with her parents, but it was senseless to continue attending that church (which was closer to her house) if she didn't believe what they taught. She said that she felt that what we taught was closer to what the Bible taught. I e-mailed her back and told her I would contact her soon. It was a difficult time for me--we had had one of our teenagers at church murdered, my daughter's wedding, yada yada yada. Shame on me! I don't know, perhaps Satan was using me, perhaps I felt that this was another one of those letters that wouldn't pan out.
But she persisted. I called her and set up an appointment. As we met for the first time to discuss the Scripture, she already had a wonderful sense of the importance of the Word. Before she opened up the Word to study, she said she prayed that God would open her heart to what she needed to hear.
We have studied for several months now and Thursday she decided she needed to put on Christ in baptism. It took two of us. Baptistries are not made for this, but we made it. What it re-enforced in me was this--the gospel is for all.
I've heard the Polish minister of religion (who was an atheist!) speak to our congregation when I worked in Louisiana, I've seen the Gospel translated to the hearing impaired, I've been to Russia and to Trinidad, I've been to camp and my conclusion is, the gospel is for all! Red and yellow, black and white, able, disabled, Arab and Muslim, the gospel is for all! When we quit deciding who should hear the gospel and who shouldn't, then God will bless us and use us mightily! But it will happen one soul at a time. God can't affect change in the world until He affects change in me.
Lord, please change me. Change my heart, change my thoughts, change my life. I want You to come in and lead me, guide me. Take me where You want. Use my lips, my mind, my feet, my hands, my heart. I pray in Jesus' name. Amen! Have a great day! JW

Saturday, August 27, 2005

29th Anniversary

Twenty-nine years ago today about this time, I was getting ready to marry my high school sweetheart. On this day, I realize I am the most fortunate man alive. She is still beautiful to me and I want to spend as much time as possible with her. We have changed over the years. And that's good. But I wouldn't want to change a thing with her. I met her when I was 15 years old--36 years ago. She is still my best friend and I love her. Happy anniversary, Martha! I truly married above myself. JW

Friday, August 26, 2005

Finding Jesus, Finding What's Right

Every year at camp we tell kids to look for Jesus. Find Him in the counselors, the cooks, their cabin mates, their fellow campers, just find Him, look for Him. At other camp sessions I've attended, we've been told to find what's right. The only problem with that is, we can never get it right. We'll mess up somewhere, we'll gee when we should haw, we just can't quite make the standard. When we do that, we miss Jesus altogether.
For years I think we've had it wrong. I think it's the difference of Martha and Mary. Finding Jesus--finding what's right. If we find Jesus, we'll find what is right and we'll find peace. If we try to be right, we'll be frustrated and have no peace.
I read one time a quote from someone who said, "Love God and do what you want." That scares some people, but I think it's right. (There I go again with that "right" thing!). Search for Jesus today. Find Him in places where you never thought possible. I'd like to hear from you to find out where you found Him. (No, this isn't a blatant attempt to get comments, I'd really like to know!) Have a great day. JW

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Praise from the Rubble

I started another post today, but cancelled it. Have any of you bloggers ever done that? I have to think through it a little more before I spring it on you. So I'll go to plan B.
My mother and father grew up in the Great Depression. Dad said they always had something to eat because they lived on a farm and grew a lot of their own food and raised cattle and pigs. Mom on the other hand was a coal miner's daughter. When my grandfather lost his job, they had little money to buy food and necessities. He lived on what he made working for the WPA which was precious little. They didn't have a lot to eat, they ate the same thing every day, and they might have a little different treat, i.e. add meat to the beans on Sunday. I have never lived through that kind of poverty. We have always had plenty to eat. Even when Martha and I first got married, we didn't have a lot of money and we didn't eat out, but there was plenty of food.
I said all that to talk about Jeremiah and the destruction of Jerusalem. I can't imagine the desolation that occurred when Jerusalem was destroyed during his watch. He's known as the Weeping Prophet and for good reason. People were eating their own children (Lamentations 2:20), the priests and elders died in the city looking for food (Lamentations 1:19), and they came under God's own winepress (Lamentations 1:15). When you read the book you get depressed. In the midst of all of that, there is a glimmer of hope. When you think it will never get better, when you think God is not there, He shows Himself in the most incredible ways. In the middle of all of the despair and gloom, Jeremiah writes some beautiful words. Imagine as he looks out over the city that looks like it's been bombed out during World War II. Smoke is still rising from the rubble. You see people wearing rags foraging through the garbage to find even a morsel of food to eat. Moaning is heard in the background. Mothers are weeping and throwing dust in air to show their utter helplessness. And Jeremiah writes these words.
"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'"
Do you recognize that cheery song that we sing? "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion says my soul. Therefore I will hope in Him. Therefore I will hope in Him."
Could you sing that when you've lost your best friend? Could you sing it when you don't know where the next meal is coming from? Could you sing it when your spouse has left you? Could you sing it when you've lost your child? The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. Have a good day. JW

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A Salute to Moms

I know it's not Mother's Day or anything. And since my mom has gone to her reward, I guess I can celebrate Moms anytime I want. Well, today is the day.
Usually, I am the last person to leave the house in the morning (since I'm a preacher and only work two days a week!). Nate wanted to go to school a little early and since Martha was getting ready for work, I obliged. Not a problem. Just throw on the jeans and put on a hat and some glasses and I'm good to go. When I got home, Martha was ready to leave so I've got the bathroom all to myself. Now, not to be gross, but the bathroom time is something one doesn't rush. But the dog really wanting to go outside. I mean, this dog is so tame she slinks in the corner on most occassions. But when she's jumping up on your leg with this, "I gotta go now!" look on her face, I knew I had to stop whatever I was doing (no matter how inconvenient) and get her outside. Sure enough, she wasn't lying. So now back to finish the task. My cell phone rings and it's my wife. "Honey, I forgot my white tennis shoes this morning. Could you bring them up here?" My reply? "Now??!!" "Well, I have to start my patient in ten minutes, so yeah." So the clothes go back on, I find the shoes, and off I go. It's not too far to where she works, but it is morning and there is somewhat of a rush hour in Omaha, Nebraska. It's only 5 or 10 minutes over. But you have to realize that it's then 5 or 10 minutes back also.
Now I like to be at work around 8:00 most mornings. But now I haven't even started getting ready and it's 8:15. I've taken my son to school, I've let the dog go outside to do her business, I've taken my wife's white tennis shoes to her at work and I haven't had any time for myself!! And that's when it hit me. This is what Moms do all the time. The only difference between Moms and me was they do it with a smile on their faces and I had a snarl on my lips.
And so today, I salute those Moms who give their lives unselfishly to make the day go well. They prevent disaster, they make the day go smoothly, and they love doing it. Thank you, Moms. Make sure you thank your mother or your wife today. If you don't have a Mom, thank somebody else's Mom. They truly exemplify the spirit of servanthood that Jesus talks about so frequently in Scripture. Have a great day! (If you do, it'll probably be on account of your Mom helping!) JW

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Norton Security and Conscience

I have a cool device on my computer that works pretty well. It's an ad blocker. I also have it so that it works on my e-mail and it works surprisingly well. Those of you in blogger land know what this is, so it's nothing new to you. But it blocks any unwanted ad or e-mail from making it to your screen.
Don't you wish you had one of those devices for your mind? A little sin thought here and wham! it's put in a file where you don't see it. You see something you shouldn't and boom! it's off to another place in your brain. We do have something that does that. It's called "conscience." When programmed just right, it does just that...removes those thoughts, those images, those things that mess up the mind. But when our consciences are "seared with a hot iron" as Paul says, the Norton Security of the Brain doesn't work.
Where do we get this device for the brain? It comes from the Scripture and it's maintained and driven by the Holy Spirit. I have heard people complain that they just can't keep these thoughts from going through their heads. To which I heard somebody say, "You can't keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair." Have a great day. JW

Monday, August 22, 2005

Teachable Moments

As the father of a teenager, (not only a teenager, but a 15-year-old--not only a 15 year-old, but a 15-year-old that's nearly 16), I find the time for teachable moments are short. So I try to take advantage of them whenever I can. Sunsets, beautiful clouds, sparkling days, etc. are times when I try to mention something of God and His goodness.
Today as we were going to school, we kept hitting the red lights. Usually it's a pretty straight shot since we are going in the flow of the traffic and the green lights are friendly. But we hit four out of five red lights today. "You know," I said, "you don't always hit the green lights in life." We went on with our conversation. He made a smart remark right after that as most teenagers do. So my first thought was he didn't hear it. But since I've raised one other teenager (his sister), I know that many times words said that are ignored often don't go unnoticed. So maybe it took.
I hope he heard me. Because it is important that we understand that life doesn't always go our way. It's not at all like you see on television. As a father, I want him to hit all the green lights. But I know that growth doesn't occur until there is some kind of tough spot, a crisis to work through, a dream broken. I don't like it for my son, but I know he has to have it. I wonder if our heavenly Father feels the same way about us? Have a good day. JW

Friday, August 19, 2005

Run from the Tigers

Read where some girl in Kansas was getting her senior picture made with a tiger. The tiger overwhelmed the trainer and killed the girl. Now what's wrong with this picture?
Didn't Sigfried and Roy have something similar happen to them? One of them was clipped by one of the tigers and the thing carried him away. He still hasn't recovered and to this day he claims the tiger is his friend. Grabbed him by the neck and he nearly bled to death and the thing is still his buddy?
What do tigers do? They kill and eat. They are carnivores. That's what they do. You don't have to train them. In fact, I know of no vegetarian tiger. It just comes naturally.
Some many of us do the same thing with sin in our lives. We know it's there. We know what it will do. Yet for some reason it's our best friend. I know how to handle it. I've got experience with this. But Satan, whom Jesus called the father of lies, says, "sin can be your best friend. Nothing to it. It won't really hurt you. Relax."
I believe Isaiah said, "Woe unto them who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter." The Scripture also says to flee evil desires. Joseph when confronted with Potiphar's wife fled. That's what you do when next to a tiger. You run. You get out of there. That's what you do with sin.
Peter said that the devil is like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Run! Have a good day. JW

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Intelligent Design and my Van

It's supposed to be 92 degrees in Nebraska today. It's a little bit unusual because this is the time of year things really kind of begin to cool off. Why would I mention temperature in a blog? My van does not have air conditioning. Hasn't for two years. Two years ago about this time, Nate and I were on our camp in Arkansas when the van made a strange whining noise, then a a bump, then no air conditioning. The mechanic said it was the compressor that went out. Now I could spend at least $2000 on a van with over 152,000 miles just to maybe, possibly retrofit a new compressor (new government standards placed while my vehicle was aging) or drive it without air. I chose the latter. Actually it hasn't been too bad until this summer.
What does this have to do with anything. Okay, I'll make my point. You know me. I'm a preacher and it takes 20 minutes for the introduction and 5 minutes to make the point. See? There I go again. The internal combustion engine and the vehicle that goes with it is a marvelous invention. Thousands of moving parts working in synch so that I can cruise down the streets of Omaha and the highways of Nebraska at amazing speeds. What would you say if I told you my van looks better, runs better, and is a better vehicle than the day I bought it? What would you think if I told you I purchased it at a wrecker service and it had been involved in an accident? It used to be a Ford Festiva, but over the years with a wreck here, a fender bender there, wear and tear there, it has become a Mercury Villager. I know the air doesn't work, but I anticipate that I'll have some work done. It does have a ding or two on the exterior, but that will eventually go away and it will look like new. You would probably say, "What has been in the Starbucks chai you've been drinking!"
Yet, in a similar way, that is what the scientific world of the day is trying to say about human beings! A little mutation here, a little natural selection there and voila! Here we are. There's been a huge debate about the intelligent design "theory" and whether it should be taught in our public schools. People have nearly blown a gasket (back to the car illustration) because sane people would (heaven forbid) even think about suggesting that there has to be a Great Designer who created us.
Look at the wonders of our bodies. The Psalmist even knew it when he said, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made." (Psalm 139:14) We heal ourselves...blood clots, skin heals, scars are formed and we are as good as new. "We still have to have surgery! It's like getting the air conditioner fixed!" But look at our bodies. The brain is an unbelievable organ. The eye is better than any digital camera ever made. The heart is an unbelievable muscle. Our filtering system for our blood and body's nutrients are finer than any waste management system in the country. And it was an accident!?!? Please. That take more faith than.....well, faith! I am fearfully and wonderfully made. There is an Intelligent Designer. I just talked to Him. He's shaking His head at all of the "smart" people of our world. Have a great day. JW

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Golfing for Life

I've just finished a round of golf that has left me completely worn out. I don't usually play on real nice courses, but this is the Arnold Palmer Player's Club Course here where I live. Now I have a pretty good take on golf because I'm not very good and it is purely recreational for me. So I don't usually get too upset because there is nothing riding on it.
On the other hand, I thought of the professionals who go out every day and hit the ball. A missed fairway here, a sand trap there, a yip on a short putt over there and they lose thousands of dollars. No wonder they get upset. I dont have to worry about that.
But I wonder what would happen if we took our lives that seriously. A broken relationship here, a lost soul there, a ill-used word over there. Praise be to God who gives us the mulligans (extra shots when you muff one, for those of you who are non-golfers), let's us have the gimme's (don't have to putt the ball if it's reasonably close to the hole), and doesn't make us count every shot because we completely miss the ball. We serve a God of forgiveness. Golf is not a good metaphor for life because there are strict rules that must be obeyed or you sustain certain penalties. I'd like to golf with God. In fact, I think I just did. Have a good day. JW

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Forced from Home

I was reading about the Jewish residents being forced out of their homes in the Gaza Strip. How many times has this happened? Look through biblical history and see that it happens over and over again.
The soldiers were coming into their homes and giving them their eviction notices. While there, the soldiers were given pictures by the children of the evictees. Can you imagine the tug of the heart strings as these little children are run out of the only home they've ever known? Where do they go now?
Paul Harvey mentioned today that it's like Fiddler on the Roof where the people are driven from their homes. This time, not by the tsar or a pharoah or a conquering king, but their own countrymen.
Peter writes his letter to "strangers." (I Peter 1:1) He says to live our lives as strangers. (I Peter 1:17) He tells us that, as aliens and strangers, we are to abstain from sinful desires. (I Peter 2:11) Perhaps we should live as the Jewish settlers in Gaza. Knowing that our homes here are only temporary. Many of my favorite hymns are the ones about heaven.
"This world is not my home. I'm just a passin' through."
"To Canaan's land I'm on my way where the soul never dies."
"On Jordan's stormy banks I stand and cast a wishful eye."
"Just one glimpse of Him in glory will the toils of life repay."
"O Zioin, Zion, I long thy gates to see."
"No tears in heaven, no sorrows given, all will be glory in that land."
And then there's Chris Rice's Untitled Hymn. "With your final heartbeat, kiss the world goodbye. Go in peace and laugh on glory's side. And fly to Jesus. Fly to Jesus. Fly to Jesus and live."
I pray that we won't have to be forced from this earthly home. It's kind of like Paul's "rock and a hard place" speech in Philippians. "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but is more necessary for you that I remain in the body." (Philippians 1:21-24) Keep your eyes looking up. Continue to look for His coming. I'll see you there someday, if not before.
"Won't it be wonderful there, having no burdens to bear? Joyously singing with heart bells all ringing. O won't it be wonderful there?" Have a great day! JW

Monday, August 15, 2005

Another Moment

Not too long ago, I told you of an incident that happened at Nebraska Youth Camp where my fifteen year old son kissed me goodbye. Well, Karen, go get the Kleenexes.
This time it was Green Valley Bible Camp and it was Saturday night. Sunday is when everyone shows up, but we got there early for obvious reasons. My co-directing partner was going to be a few days late (turns out he didn't show up until Thursday), so I was by myself in the camper. I had been praying for each camper. Then I picked up a book I was reading and began perusing the pages. When I heard footsteps. Tap, tap, tap on the door. "Come in," I said. It was my son. The distance from his cabin to my cabin was quite a distance. And it was down hill one way and obviously up hill the other. "I just wanted to say goodnight, daddy." He still calls me "daddy" in private moments. Once again he came over and kissed me. And then he was gone.
The book I had been reading? God is Closer than You Think by John Ortberg. He talks of seeing God in the small things, the small moments. It was as if God was saying, "Okay, Jim. I'm going to knock your legs out from under you." Okay, okay. I get the picture. Pay attention to the little moments. There may be huge events happening in the kisses, the whispers, and the slight touches. Be looking for God in everything. Have a great day! JW

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Learning from Church History

We've been doing a study of church history at our congregation for nearly three months. I have been fascinated by the thread that weaves throughout history to get us where we are today. Several observations on this study.
1. Events don't happen in linear ways. I think we try to portray history as one event followed by another followed by another, etc. What I'm finding is that events pop up all over the place. Zwingli here, Luther there, Calvin in yet another place. And although some have criticized us for saying that these were good men, they were good men. Did they have their faults? Absolutely! But so do I! And I would venture to think, so do you. Back to the original point. These men came to conclusions in many cases quite separately from the other. They would read each other's material (especially after the invention of the printing press) and it would reaffirm what they had already concluded.
2. The Scriptures are so important. I know that sounds like one of those statements that seem so obvious. However, that's what all of the Reformers and Restorers keep coming back to. The importance of the Scripture. There has to be a standard by which all things are measured. We must continue to return to Scripture.
3. We don't have a corner on the market on the truth. Now listen to me here. Do I believe in what I teach? Yes, I do. That truth, however, must come from diligent search into context and hermaneutic. For instance, I had a friend of mine who was an elder/minister for the non-Sunday school church. He mentioned to me one day that the Sunday school issue was not a big deal to him. The reason? He said he was reading the passage where they get that specific belief and he realized when that was written, there was no such thing as Sunday school. It would do us good to talk to our friends in other beliefs. Challenge our thoughts and our interpretation of Scripture. I'm afraid we've gotten into the "it was good enough for my mom and dad and it's good enough for me" mode.
4. Remember, the Restoration Movement was a unity movement. We have assigned to Stone, Campbell, Scott, Lipscomb, Harding, Hardeman, and a number of other people things they never really said. We have taken things out of context (much like we do Scripture) just to satisfy what we believe. Listen to what Barton W. Stone said in his Christian Messenger. "I blush for my fellows, who hold up the Bible as the bond of union yet make their opinions of it a test of fellowship; who plead for union of all Christians; yet refuse to fellowship with such as dissent from their notions. Vain men! Their zeal is not according to knowledge, nor is their spirit that of Christ. Such antisectarian-sectarians are doing more mischief to the cause, and advancement of truth, the unity of Christians, and the salvation of the world than all the skeptics in the world. In fact, they create skeptics."
There are more things I have learned from this exercise. But these are just four. I hope you have a good day today. JW

Friday, August 12, 2005


I have mixed feelings this time of year. School is beginning to fire up again. (In my other life, this was the time of year I lost sleep waiting to see what the enrollment was going to be.) But the days are getting shorter, the temperatures start to cool down, and we get into a routine again. It reminds me that another year past and the cycle begins again. It means that even more so now than it does at the end of the year.
Here are my mixed feelings. My kids are another year older. My first baby is now married. My second baby will be sixteen in just four months. That means I'm another year older. With the fall temperatures there is a reminder that winter is right behind. The leaves will fall from the trees and the cold returns. And although the Nebraska winters aren't really as bad as everyone thinks, they are still cold and it does snow.
It's the cycle. God made everything that way with the seasons, the years, and everything that comes with it. Recently I read something talking about an older person being in the winter of life. Personally, I don't like that. That makes it sound like it' s the end of everything. My understanding is that's just the beginning and there is no end. So when we're born, why isn't that the summer of our lives? Then through our teenage and young adult years we go through the fall of our lives. After that comes middle age, the winter and then old age, the spring. Then from there the rest of our eternity! I know that sounds weird and like I'm trying to split words, but isn't this what we truly believe? I don't know, just something to think about. Have a great day! JW

Thursday, August 11, 2005

If You Love One Another

What are we known for in the church? We're known for a capella singing. We're known for taking the Lord's Supper every Sunday. We used to be known as the people who thought we were the only ones going to heaven. (I think I'll leave that judgment up to the One who is better suited to determine that).
But Jesus said, "By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35). How many church splits do you know about? How many spats are going on in your church as we speak? How many all out fights, i.e. people not talking to one another, gossip, etc. are going on right now where you attend?
I say it's time to be known for what we are to be known for. I have only heard this about a church one time in my entire life time. How sad. It was a little church in McRae, Arkansas. I used to go down and lead singing there when I was in high school. They were sweet to each other. They enjoyed each other. And the people of the town knew it. I remember going out and knocking doors one time when I heard the comment. "Those people really love each other over there." It's the first and last time I've heard it.
Now we worry about church growth. We hire the finest consultants to tell us how to greet visitors (although you're not supposed to call them visitors). We hire youth ministers, involvement ministers, personal evangelism ministers, worship leaders, etc. (DON'T GET ME WRONG!! I don't think any of these are bad.) But if we want to grow as the Lord wanted us to, I mean really grow, why don't we start loving each other? Wow! What a novel approach. God forbid that we try something Jesus told us to do. Please have a good day. By the way, I love you! JW

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Change Agent

I am somewhat amused by the term "change agent." When you see that phrase in an article, it always means something bad. It sounds so devious and secretive. It's like someone has a trench coat going around dropping little bits of advice and controversy just to see change happen. And heaven forbid, we don't want any change.
Now I have to admit, I'm one who really doesn't like a lot of change either. But over my lifetime I have come to realize that change is inevitable if not necessary if not totally essential. For instance, what happens when we become a follower of Christ? Change. What happened to King David when confronted with the facts that he had committed adultery and had murdered? Change. To use a sports example, the athlete that no coach wants is one who is not coachable, i.e. cannot change. If I approached life from the same maturity level I had when I was a teenager, everything would be a train wreck. Why? Because I have changed, praise God!
Now here's my point, we want to affect change around us. We want to have an effect on the world and we want to change the way the world does things. We want change in our churches, change in our homes, change in our workplace. And when people don't change, we get frustrated and downright ugly because "they just don't understand!" "If they would just change their lives, then.... (you fill in the blank)."
I learned a long time ago that I can't change anybody. Now I've argued with people about this, but I believe it is true. Over my entire life (and it's getting longer everyday) there is only one person I have had a profound impact on and been able to If you want to be a change agent, change yourself. If you want to be able to change the lives of others, change your life. If you want to influence others for good, you yourself should come under the influence of the Great Physician.
A friend of mine attended a Christian college lectureship a few years ago where the crowd was grilling a preacher about some of his writings. They were bringing up some things he had written in previous books when he was younger. His reply? "I've changed my thoughts on that since I wrote those words." To which one preacher sauntered up to the podium and made the statement, (Read this in the most arrogant voice you have) "I have been preaching the gospel for 35 years and I have never changed my beliefs about anything!" How sad. He's right in one respect. Jesus never changes. But if I don't, something is really, really wrong.
So I say, if you want to bring about change, start with yourself first. Besides that, you're wasting your time if you try to change somebody else. The best way to do that is to change yourself. Didn't Jesus say, "Get the 2 X 4 out of your own eye before getting the splinter out of your brother's eye."? Have a great day. JW

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Real World

One of my pet peeves is these reality shows that are on TV right now. I happened to be at the Nebraska-Baylor football game when they were filming the reality show with Tommy Lee. They shot one "reality" scene with him probably three times before they got it the way they wanted.
I say that to say this. One of the things we do at camp is to separate the young men and young women and have them talk to each other. We want them to reflect on the week and let others know how much they mean to each other. One of the young men got up and talked about how much he enjoyed camp, but when they would go back to the real world, they would be challenged in their lives. One of the youth ministers stood up and made a terrifically insightful comment. He said, "This is the real world. Outside of the gates of the camp is a sham. This is the way God created us and intended us to be."
You know, he's right. God created the Garden of Eden so that He could have a relationship with Adam and Eve. But they messed it up. He made a covenant with Israel so He could be their God and they would be His people. But they followed other Gods. He gave them several chances and they continued to turn their hearts away. Then He sent His own Son. He wanted to write His law in our hearts. Now what do we do?
Do we live in the real world? Or do we continue to chase the dead-end streets that Satan continues to throw at us day in and day out? A relationship. That's all God wants with us. "And He walks with me and talks with me, and He tells me I am His own." "My God and I go in the field together. We walk and talk as good friends should and do." Now that's reality! Have a great day. JW

Monday, August 08, 2005


Well, I'm back! Most of you, if not all of you, are saying, "Were you gone?" Been at Green Valley Bible Camp in Rogers, Arkansas. It's a little bit of heaven on earth. It's what God intended the world to be.
I could write from a number of experiences from camp. And I think I will. My friend and camp director (technically, I'm the co-director) didn't show up until Thursday. He was coaching a thirteen-year-old Babe Ruth baseball team in a regional tournament. His youngest daughter was anticipating his return. She was contemplating dedicating her life to Jesus and she wanted to talk to her dad. Unfortunately, (fortunately for him) his team kept winning. They won the winners bracket and then lost two in a row to place second in the tournament. But when my friend's daughter learned her dad had another night to play baseball, she wept. When he did show up on Thursday, she was sooo excited. Her eyes lit up. She hugged his big neck. It was a tear jerker. (My eyes are filling up with tears as I write this) He baptized her on Thursday night. It's been my privilege to see him baptize all three of his children.
What went through my mind was the anticipation of a father's return. Are we looking forward to the return of our Lord as Marissa was looking for her father's return? Do our hearts ache when he doesn't return? (The next question we can't answer, but I'll ask it any way.) Will we be as excited to see Him return as Marissa was to see her dad?
Paul said, "Come, O Lord!" The word is maranatha. Right before this, Paul said, "If anyone does not love the Lord--a curse be on him." (I Corinthians 16:22). The word for curse is anathema. Encouragement or curse? Where are you today? Lord, come quickly! Have a good day. JW