Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Which Are You?

Dear Lord,
I'm so valuable to you. I'm not blatantly immoral like some others. My sins are only small and easy to forgive. I don't watch those television shows that make fun of you. I don't drink or smoke. I don't even swear very often. I go to church every time the doors are open (I know, I have to. I'm the preacher!). But even so, when I wasn't preaching, I was there. You are so fortunate to have me on your side. What would you do without me? I'm glad I'm not like those other people.

"God wasn't attracted to you and didn't choose you because you were big and important--the fact is, there was almost nothing to you. He did it out of sheer love, keeping the promise he made to your ancestors." (Deuteronomy 7:7,8, The Message)

"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:10-14)

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Tip of the Spear

I don't usually do this, but I want to recommend a movie to you. In a year where movies (and television for that matter)portray a perverse mindset that deserves only our prayers, I've seen two movies that are outstanding Christian movies. The first, of course, is The Chronicles of Narnia. Enough can't be said about that one. But I saw The Tip of the Spear last night. Please, if you want to see the story of Jesus acted out in a real, authentic, powerful way, you need to see this movie. It's not intended for small children. There is some violence that is quite graphic. Parents, I urge you to see it first before taking your children. You'll want to see it more than once anyway.
This movie is based on the true story of Nate Saint and his colleagues who went into the jungles of South America to teach them about Jesus. You've no doubt heard the story, but I won't reveal a thing. You must see this well-done movie. Stay and watch the credits afterwords and you'll see the real characters. Have a great day.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Distractions II

Ever been distracted? I see people all the time in that state. You'll see a car weaving in the road and then when you pass them you notice they're on their cell phone. Others have wrecks (I know of two, one of them fatal) because they were fiddling with their radio/cd player. The state of Nebraska is getting ready to pass a bill that will require distraction-free driving. (Good luck!!)
Satan has a number of tools in our lives. Distraction happens to be one of them. You want to read the Scripture, but the computer sits there ready to go. You want to talk to your children, but a good song comes on the radio. You want to tell someone your story, someone else interrupts. Besides busy-ness, I think distraction is Satan's best tool.
How do we combat this? The Hebrew writer tries to get us to lay aside all the weights (distractions), and run the race. He says, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus." The Greek word, I understand, is to stare. Stare at Jesus. Peter didn't when he tried to walk on water and look what happened to him. The same thing happens to us. Notice when you are getting closer to God how many distractions come up. Satan is hard at work. So, stare at Jesus. If you start to feel the water bubbling around your neck, you took your eyes off of Him. Have a good day. JW

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


We are to learn from the past. To paraphrase, "Those who do not know history are destined to repeat it." I've been reading through the history of Israel once again in my journey through the Bible. I've hitched a ride with them as they left Egypt. I've been re-amazed (is that a word?) with their rebelious spirit. They griped and complained while they were in captivity. They moaned the fact that they had it better in Egypt. Thus came the manna and the quail. They wondered where the next water would come from. God provided as usual. Then a man by the name of Korah came up and basically asked who made Moses the big guy. That's history just through the middle of Numbers. I haven't even listed all of them.
If you read the book of Jude, he lists the examples of rebellion. He mentions the Israelites and the Egyptian experience. Sodom and Gomorrah, angels (something we really don't know about), Cain, Balaam, and Korah.
It's easy for me to stand in judgement of this people and give them the "shame on you" speech. But I, too, am rebelious. Content to follow my own ways and seek my own purposes, demanding that God come to terms with my agenda, my time table. And the question comes, "What have we learned from the past?" What have I learned from the past?
So my prayer today: Dear God, please forgive my rebellious nature. Help me to seek Your will in all I do. Make your plans succeed, not mine. Allow Your Word to excel. All I ask is that you let me be in You. In Jesus name. Amen. JW

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

It's Nice to Be Nice to the Nice

We've been talking a lot about outreach at our congregation lately. When you mention evangelism to most, you think of international mission trips, Jule Miller film strips, and the evangelism committee meeting in room 8 (usually the smallest room at the building). But outreach is to be lived by all. I purposely used that word lived. Evangelism is not a program or a trip, but it is a way of life. The problem with that is we have to be nice.
I remember saying something ugly about someone and my mother saying, "Now, be nice." One of my favorite lines from M*A*S*H is "it's nice to be nice to the nice." The Roman writer says that we are to let "love be sincere." I heard someone say that if you can't be sincere, fake it. We're talking about being pleasant to be around. Being nice to people who don't deserve to be treated nicely. Having a smile on our faces. Being cheerful. Postively looking at life. Not complaining. Need I say more?
When we act that way we stand out. We are different. People will notice. And then, the opportunity comes to give the reason for the joy and the peace and the grace that makes you the way you are. And there it is, outreach. Poof, evangelism. It's being a light. It's being salt. It's being radically different from the negative, immoral world we live in and it's noticeable. I'm sorry. We preachers have made it theological, elitist, and specialized. Outreach and evangelism is the way we are and not a program we belong to. If we need programs, let's join the YMCA or Kiwanis. If we want to show Christ, let's put skin on Jesus and become the incarnational (oops, a theological word!) people that we should be. Now go out there and reach out! JW

Monday, January 23, 2006

Finish the Race

Losing is such a hard concept. Our world looks at those who do not take home the big trophies as failures. You hear sports personalities with quotable quotes such as, "Just win, baby!" to "If it doesn't matter if you win or lose, why do they keep score." Don't misunderstand me. As a former athlete, (about 100 pounds ago), I wanted to win as much as the next guy. I play to win even today if it's cards, HORSE, or any other game. But what ever happened to doing your best? And if you do your best and don't win, why are you the loser?
I say that because if you read my blog, you'll know I went to my son's show choir competition this weekend. I saw hundreds of kids who had practiced their routines thousands of hours do wonderful shows with smiles on their faces. You could literally see their sweat rolling down their faces. They were worn out at the end of their performances. And as they say, "they left everything out on the stage (court, field, whatever the venue)."
But because my son's group got 1st runner-up, they lost. I told my son, "Get used to having a lot of losses in your life." I know that sounds cold, but I can't put the entire conversation there. You know, I'm proud, you did great, get 'em next time, did you do your best?, etc.
I think that carries over into our Christian walk. I'm a sinner. I sin on a daily basis. Now I could compare myself to others and I'm better than others. I'm also a lot worse than many more. And when I set myself against the perfect standard of Jesus, my pitiful life seems very, very anemic. It's not about winning. If you didn't hear that, let me say it again. It's not about winning. It's about finishing. I like marathoner's attitudes. I know there are winners in these 26 mile races, but everyone stands and cheers for all who finish.
Paul said, "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, (Emphasis mine)I have kept the faith. Notice he didn't say he won the race. That race has already been won. Jesus is the winner. I just ride on His coattails.
Friends, let's relax a little bit. Let's relax a lot. We don't have to worry about the win. The "W" is already in the column. We just need to finish. Just make sure you're on the team. All right, enough of the sports analogies! Contentment, Trust, Joy, Peace--all of these terms should be in our vocabulary. Not only in our vocabulary, but in our life. Now go out and have a great day. JW

Saturday, January 21, 2006


Going to Lincoln, Nebraska today. My son's show choir is performing at the Lied Center today. Last week it was Wisconsin, two weeks it will be in St. Louis, in March it will be Branson. They've worked very hard on their show. And a proud papa (me) will root loudly. They'll make some mistakes. Someone won't sing the right note or they'll miss a step or won't come in at the right time. But so what? I'll still root loudly
God does the same for us. We do our best. We blow our chances, but we try. And God, not at a distance as Bette Midler sings, but right in the middle applauds our efforts even though there may be some missteps. What a wonderful concept! And it's true. For some reason after doing the best we can we think God will frown and complain. That's (some) earthly fathers. But not my Father. My Father is proud and He's right there cheering us on.
Have a great day. JW

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Small Deeds

A wonderful story from Max Lucado's latest book Cure for the Common Life.

During World War II, he (Bohn Fawkes) piloted a B-17. On one mission he sustained flak from Nazi antiaircraft guns. Even though the gas tanks were hit, the plane did not explode, and Fawkes was able to land the plane.

One the morning following the raid, Fawkes asked his crew chief for the German shell. He wanted to keep a souvenir of his incredible good fortune. The crew chief explained that not just one but eleven shells had been found in the gas tanks, none of which had exploded.

Technicians opened the missiles and found them void of explosive charge. They were clean and harmless and with one exception, empty. The exception contained a carefully rolled piece of paper. On it a message had been scrawled in the Czech language. Translated, the note read: "This is all we can do for you now."

A courageous assembly-line worker was disarming bombs and scribbled the note. He couldn't end the war, but he could save one plane. He couldn't do everything, but he could do something. So he did it.

What a wonderful story! I think we sometimes get overwhelmed by the size of our task. First we need to realize, God is greater than anything. Second, He can use whatever we have to offer and make it of use in His Kingdom. Don't believe me? He used David and his five stones to rock Goliath's world. He can use our efforts to accomplish His mission. I read somewhere that God is not so much concerned about ability as He is avail-ability. "Here am I, send me." Have a great day! JW

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


As I came out of Starbucks today, I noticed two things that I notice every day. The first was the temperature. It's featured prominently on the bank that is located just to the west of Starbucks. The other was the American flag. One to remind me of the reality of the moment. The other a symbol of the country in which I live.
The overriding question of the moment is probably...So? It started me to think of the fact that we need to be reminded. As I was driving in to work my thoughts were how I need to return to the excitement I had recently of God in my life. Not that it has disappeared, but seemingly not as strong as they were say maybe a week ago. My mind drifted to the Israelites and I realized that I am a lot like them. Constantly, I need to be reminded of God's presence, His goodness, His love. Why is that? Why do I get so frustrated having to be reminded so often? And does anybody else have these same feelings? I guess it's a result of me being a part of the human race.
So what does this have to do with the temperature and the American flag? I'm glad you asked. Reminders. They are reminders. The Israelites had reminders that let them know every day that God was present. A cloudy pillar by day and a fiery one at night. They had altars. They had things that were constantly before them. And so I need them, too. "Are you talking about icons and idols?" Of course not. But I do have three wall hangings that are directly in front of me that I see every day. One talks of knowledge that comes from God. A quote from Proverbs 8. Another talks of God's wisdom, a quote from Proverbs 9. Another is an old leaf from a Bible printed in 1540. A reminder that God's Word is timeless. I also have a crystal cross, a recent purchase to remind me of the sacrifice that Jesus made for me. Bibles owned by my grandfathers and one of my mother's Bibles sit on the credenza. All to remind me that God is present, that He is sovereign, that He cares, that He is my God. What's your reminder? I hope you have them. Look at them long and hard and remember how good God is. Have a great day. JW

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Light and Momentary

I talked to a friend of mine last night. He called and wanted to tell me that his house had burned down. It wasn't a cry for help. It wasn't a plea for pity. Quite the opposite. He was just informing me because he thought that, "I should know." This same guy has married off his oldest two kids (a daughter, then his son) in the last six months. He and his wife, after raising three kids of their own (the youngest is a sophomore in college) decided to adopt two abandoned kids ages 9 and 11 (I think). I think you get the picture. The man has had enough stress in his life for two lifetimes. On top of this, he is an administrator in a Christian school (parents griping, money raising, kids misbehaving, etc.).
He said he was at church recently when the teacher in Bible class was teaching from James. He said the teacher said something to the effect that if you are happy in the midst of trials you are lying. My friend said, he straightened him out. With all of this stuff happening in his life, he has seen the blessings. He told me that friends have come over to the house and are helping them rebuild, spending their own money to help my friend. Over protests, my friend's son said, "Dad, you have to let them serve you." He told me, "that was my line."
"We've been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we're not demoralized; we're not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we've been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn't left our side; we've been thrown down, but we haven't broken. What they did to Jesus , they do to us--trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us--he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus' sake, which makes Jesus' life all the more evident in us. While we're going through the worst, you're getting in on the best! (II Corinthians 4:8-12) Paul calls them "light and momentary troubles." Amen, Paul! And thanks, Bobby, for teaching me what really matters. Thanks for being such an example to all of us. Have a great day! JW

Monday, January 16, 2006

I Have A Dream

Today is Martin Luther King day. I know that he was a man who had many foibles, but he had a knack and a heart for getting to the core of the matter. His "I Have a Dream" speech is a once in a lifetime speech. I remember hearing it as a 9 year old, not really knowing the content or the significance. I just remember seeing him say the now famous words, "I have a dream..."
Ivory James used to come over to our house. He was a preacher with whom my dad and mother associated. I have a 8 mm movie of him at the Ohio Valley Lectures (Not to be confused with the Ohio Valley College lectures) where he stops us (he thinks) from filming him until he can cough and gain his composure for the picture. He thought we had a still camera; it was a movie camera. I remember hearing Mom and Dad laugh about that every time we saw that movie. He was the black preacher of the Church of Christ in our town and we associated with him freely. It was never an issue of skin color, for my parents loved the man and his heart. Looking back on this, it was the early 60s and my parents never thought twice about having a black man in our house to share a common meal.
Lot Therrio was a friend and club brother of mine from Harding. His name was really Laconia O'Neal Therrio. Take the three initials of his name and you get "Lot." He spent spring break with me at my house. My parents were gone and Lot had nowhere to go. I never thought twice about his skin color (he was also black). He was my friend.
I look forward to the day when we don't refer to our African-American brothers and sisters as our "black friends." Why not just our friends?
A few years ago I was visiting Arlington National Cemetery in Washington. The guide on the bus pointed out some small tombstones toward the back of the cemetery. Some of the oldest graves in the plot were those of former slaves who found themselves on the Northern side of the line during the Civil War. When they buried them in Arlington, they place their names on the tombstones and then the word "Citizen." It was probably the first time they had been called that. Ashamedly, it was after their deaths.
I hope and pray we will live by the words of Martin Luther King when he said, "I have a dream that my four little children willl one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Amen, Mr. King. Amen! Have a good day. JW

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Your Story

Why are we so afraid of testimonies? Is it a jealousy that someone else's story is better than our own? Or maybe a weird fear to unveil our hearts and make ourselves vulnerable?
Last night in class, we had two wonderful testimonies. One telling of a search for God in her state of physical disability. Another's search in the midst of climbing to the top of life, only to find himself stricken with cancer. Both clinging to God when everything else was tumbling in. What magnificent stories of faith! I looked around the room and saw many with tears streaming down their cheeks, touched by these simple, but powerful stories.
It's what we're supposed to do. What's your story? You need to be telling it. Nobody tells it better than you. The Psalmist said, "Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me." (Psalm 66:16) I want to hear your story. It's what brought you to where you are today. Have a great day. JW

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Been Down the Road

My father grew up on a farm in Southeast Ohio. You've heard me talk about the Bearwallow Church of Christ and my found memories there. It's where my grandfather went to church. I grew up hearing my dad talk of communities like Hemlock Grove, Darwin, and Floral. I've been through all these places and they don't exist! For instance, Floral was a store and a house. The house burned down when I was a kid and the store fell in. If you didn't know there was at one time a building there, you wouldn't know it today. It's the same with the other places. I really don't think there was much there when Dad was growing up either. The closest town of any size is Tupper's Plains which is nine miles away from the old home place. (With a name like Tupper's Plains, you know it still can't be of any size. At least you could tell people lived there and there was commerce going on.) Dad went to Olive Orange High School in Tupper's Plains. By the time I was going through, the building was an elementary school.
But Dad drove those nine miles from the farm every day. I can tell you that Highway 681 isn't a super highway. When I drove it as a sixteen year old, it was a windy, paved, two-lane road. As a kid going to my grandparents house, it was often covered with wet, black tar. When Dad drove it as a teenager, it was dirt, mud, and gravel. But he remembered every inch of that road. Every nook, every turn, every bump. I was in awe when I asked him to describe the drive. He would say something like, "you go up a slight incline and then the road would make a sharp left until it crossed the creek, then it would go down a little hollow and around a slight turn to the right..." You get the picture.
I was thinking about this when I read in Exodus how Jethro came to Moses and gave him advice. He told him how to judge Israel. He could have listened to others, but he listened to a veteran, one who knew, one who had been down the road before. I thought of Dad. Who better to get advice about being down the road before than one who had traveled it many times.
We're so arrogant. Why can't we just admit that we need help. And who better to go to? Those who have been down there before. Let's listen to those who have a few years on them. Those who have been down there and returned safely. "A wise son heeds his father's instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke." (Proverbs 13:1). Let's treasure the advice of elders. Let's not become mockers. Have a great day. JW

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Sense of Humor

I have a smile on my face right now. Why? Because I just read Mike Cope's blog. There are some funny things on there today about the top ten ways to improve church attendance. I've added some myself. What I appreciate about it is that there is humor. Sometimes we in the church have no humor whatsoever.
My dad loved to tell jokes. Sometimes they were real groaners. But at least he liked to laugh. It's time for us to lighten up. We should be the happiest people on earth.
Jesus had a sense of humor. Don't believe me. Read Matthew 7 when Jesus says you wouldn't take the speck out of the eye of someone when you had a board coming out of your own eye. Just envision that scene for a moment. We acted that out in our service not too long ago and it was one of the funniest things I've seen.
Are you happy? Why don't you let your face know about it? Have a great day! And smile!! JW

Monday, January 09, 2006

What If It's Not True?

What if it's not true? What if what everyone says is exactly right? There is no God. We are wasting our time. The universe is just one big, cosmic accident and we just happened to be at the right place at the right time and our bit of DNA just happened to make us into the fittest. We survived.
But then, what if it is true? What if there is a Supreme Being who created us and loves us and wants the best for us? I have begun reading the Bible anew this year. If you're not, please join me in this endeavor. This year, I'm reading from Eugene Peterson's "The Message." I've got to tell you, I've seen God. The Bible is about God. It's about God trying to get through our thick, collective skulls that He loves us and wants us to be His children. When you read of the Garden of Eden, you find God seeking a relationship with Adam and Eve. But they blew it. You find God in the covenant business with Noah and with Abraham. And He continues to try with Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses. Mistakes are made, sins are committed, God is relegated to an advisory position and it doesn't work...never does. That never stops God from trying to have a relationship.
And so it is with us. God pursues us while we run as hard as we can in the other direction until we hit the brick wall. Then we come running back to God to fix our hurts and heal our wounds. Soon, we are back to doing what we were doing before.
Some say the Bible is an ancient book that is old and out-dated. I find that we are continuing to act out the same story lines in our lives every day. And God is still standing with arms held out ready to take us back. Amazing! Have a great day. JW

Thursday, January 05, 2006

God Bopped Me

She had a smile on her face when she said it which makes the statement she made more remarkable. She said, "Sometimes God just has to bop me on the head." Now, remarks like that are usually accompanied by frowns or tears. But the story is a wonderful one.
She went to a Christmas party where the guests were to bring some kind of gift under $10. You know the kind of Christmas party we're talking about. Everyone gets a number, you pick a prize, the next person can take your prize. I never really liked the game because it seems that it increases greed and doesn't engender the attitude of the season. But, I regress. One person in the hustle of the evening didn't bring his gift. So my friend gave him an extra one she had bought for a possible door prize.
"I'll bring the gift to you later," he said, "and you can keep it for yourself." He did what he promised and he brought my friend the gift the next day. The gift was a "Purpose Driven Life" calendar. My friend said she had been wanting to read that book, but this had been a difficult time for her because of personal circumstances. She was determined to buy the book to read. Work wasn't scheduled for Monday so she was going to go to the bookstore to buy the book. (I failed to mention that in this traumatic time, my friend has moved to another location. You know what that does!! You can't find anything, etc.)
As she prepared to do her regular activities on Monday, she moved some papers and there on the table was the book..."Purpose Driven Life." It was a copy that had been written in, but had no name. She had no idea where it came from or how it got there. Turns out her brother had read it, thought she needed it, and gave it to her in a difficult time in her life. She didn't even remember him giving it to her nor how it go to the table.
I smiled and told her there must be an angel that put that book there. She told me she has been reading it, a better description might be engulfing it. And she said with a smile on her face, "It's been wonderful. I want to read ahead, but I'm doing it just like the book says." Who says angels aren't around today? Have a great day. JW

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Golden Arches

I have seen so many McDonalds on our recent trip to Florida (I even ate at one. Moment of weakness, we hadn't eaten all day and were in a hurry to get to a wedding.) What has fascinated me lately is the fact that in some places they don't even put the word "McDonalds" on the sign. They just put the golden arches. And when you see the golden arches, you think "McDonalds."
That's what Jesus meant when he said that the people would know we're his disciples by the way we love one another. "What church are you from?" "I don't know, but they must be that church that loves one another." We're known for so many things--being strict, tight laced, fundamentalist, non-instrumental. But are we known for our love? Have a great day. JW

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Amazing Things

So many thoughts come to mind as I write this opening blog for 2006. Martha, Nate, and I made a trip to Florida to attend a friend's son's wedding. Much could be said about that. Nate (my 16 year old) and I were able to really spend some really cool time golfing while Martha shopped. Good tidbits of insights into what's tweaking his mind right now. What's really crossing my mind is what's going to happen in 2006?
I guess we could look at it in a negative way, i.e. "This last year has had some really tough times. What does the future hold?" Pessimism could abound as we look at what's going to happen. We could say, "We really have no clue what's going to happen. Who would have thought what happened last year really did happen?" Kind of a floppy kind of outlook.
Right now, I'm choosing to take the positive outlook. "Who knows what wonderful things God has in mind for this year?" When I graduated from graduate school in 1995, I received a mug that said, "For I know the plans I have for you", declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11) That Scripture really means a lot to me. Or how about Paul's admonition in Philippians 3 to press on to the hope we've been called to? There are so many things that will happen this year. Personally, I'm excited about them. And I hope you are too. At the first of the book of Joshua, God is encouraging the Israelites and Joshua says to them, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you." I believe that. In 2006 God is going to do amazing things among us! Have a great day. Have a great year! JW