Thursday, April 27, 2006


Sunday my thoughts drifted back to a day over 35 years ago. I was between my sophomore and junior year in high school and I was driving my first Cadillac across the causeway spanning Lake Ponchartrain in Louisiana. Seems that my friend Charles Ganus and his father Dr. Cliff Ganus, president of Harding at the time (I'm not dropping names by the way. Charles is still a friend and Dr. Ganus is one of my heroes.) James Ganus, Charles' uncle, and Robert Ganus, his cousin put a 20 foot boat in the White River near Searcy and floated all the way down the Mississippi to New Orleans. I was asked to go with Mrs. Ganus and drive the Cadillac down with the boat trailer behind. After several days in New Orleans eating at three or four of the Ganus cafeterias, we flew home on the school plane. I was in high cotton. I had never been to Lousiana before, let alone go all the way to New Orleans.
Thirty-five years later, I was driving north on the same causeway crossing Lake Ponchartrain to get some training for a trip we'll take with our church group in June. Indeed there was a lot of water under the bridge! I thought about my life, things that had happened since that day in 1970, and wondered where the time had gone. I finished high school, went to college, married a wonderful woman, had two kids, worked as a youth minister, worked for four Christian colleges, got my master's and doctorate, preached along the way, and now here I was crossing the same bridge years later. So much has changed. I'm heavier, grayer, older, hopefully wiser, slower, on and on ad nauseum. But the one consistent in my life has been my Lord. He has never left me. He has never forsaken me. He will always be there. I know. He promised me. And because of that, even though all else may change, I know that he will be beside me.
One day I'll cross another bridge. This time it will be for good and I can continue my road on eternity's path. And once again, He'll be right there by my side. Praise God!! Have a great day. JW

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Hurricane Katrina

Several have asked me how my trip to New Orleans went. If you've read my previous blog, you'll understand kind of what is going through my mind. I told them, "I'm excited, I'm depressed, I'm sad, I'm hopeful, I'm just about every emotion you can think of. The reality of this really hit home.
But I want you to pray for the Tammany Oaks Church of Christ. I want you to pray for all the people of New Orleans. I want you to pray for all the Christians in New Orleans. I want you to pray for all who have worked, who are working, and who will work in New Orleans.
Why did this happen to New Orleans? Some will tell you because of the evil, wicked city that it is. I've just met a long of wonderful people who love God and are doing their best to spread the name of Jesus in the city...and they live there. Why did it happen to them? (We could get into a major discussion of the book of Job here!).
It happened because of warm fronts and cold fronts, merging in such a way and crossing into the warm waters of the gulf. It's the world we live in. It happpens because of atmospheric conditions. It has nothing to do with punishment or anything else other than it's the way the earth works.
But once again it does bring up the importance of using every opportunity--including a hurricane--to show God's love and what He will accomplish. Have a great day. JW

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Ward 9

Sorry I haven't been here recently. I just returned from New Orleans. Right now my heart is heavy as I had the opportunity to see just a little of the suffering that has gone on in that city. There is trash everywhere, piled up by the houses, along the interstate, on the street corners. It looks like a third-world country. Two things really brought all of this into something that is very real: 1. Seeing the spray painted X's on the house giving the date when it checked and the numbers indicating the number of bodies or pets found, and 2. Seeing the water marks on the house. Being able to see just how high the water made it up on the houses and buildings.
Ward 9 is a ghost town. You drive through and you see through the houses, empty, some "mucked" all the way down to the studes. We'll be working down there in about six weeks, me and 21 others from Southwest. I don't think we even know what we're about to face.
What I did see down there was hope. There have been over 4000 people who have come to the Tammany Oaks Church of Christ just since Katrina. Many have been members of the church. Some haven't. But all come with the willingness to be salt and light in a community that lives in darkness in so many ways. There are stories of giving, stories of discovery, stories of love and sacrifice. Soon there will be another 500 of us converging on the city for JINO (Jesus in New Orleans). And I hope that's just what it will be.
I'll write more about some thoughts on this trip later. Right now I'm just glad to be home. I hope you've had a great day. JW

Thursday, April 20, 2006

April 20, 1920

He would have been 86 years old today had he lived. But God in his mercy took him from us in 1993. I used to call my mother on this day and talk to her and anything she wanted to. Then at the end she would say, "You know what today is, don't you?" To which I replied, "Of course, that's why I called." Now I can call neither.
I have visual reminders of him in my office. There are pictures that are part of my screen saver of him when he was a young preacher. I have another on my credenza of a young Meredith, probably about 2 years old, no hair, with Dad holding her. She's is serious and pointing at something. Dad has his mouth open in a wonderful laugh. Another picture sits on my desk. This time Meredith is about 10 years old and she's hugging Dad as I remember him so well. He's got on a white shirt, a tie, he has his plastic pocket pen holder in his shirt pocket full of pens. On the other side is Nate, a little 3-year-old holding Granddad's hand looking up at this tall man.
I can't help but think a metaphor here. Here's a little boy looking up to this man. And I, even to this day, look up to the man who molded my life. I miss him. But I know that he's enjoying his time with Mom and with Jesus. And even though he doesn't celebrate birthdays anymore, he's celebrating with the King he so faithfully served. Happy Birthday, Dad!
Have a great day. JW

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


I was going through the mass of e-mails that come in everyday. I use a filter, but they still find a way to leak through. So I was looking at each one determining which were valid and readable and which ones weren't. It was a weeding through process.
It got me to thinking, we do the same things with all the stimuli that come into our lives. A temptation comes along, we decide whether we want to deal with it or let it go. Unfortunately, we do the same things with the people who come in. We either visit with them or just ignore them, pretending to be busy.
What causes us to do this? Hopefully, we have trained our conscience to know what is good. But many of us (me included) allow things into our lives that shouldn't be there. We may think this is a modern problem. The introduction of the computer has made us this way.
Paul said centuries ago, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." Most of the times, we're lucky if we stop at the first thing. "Well it's true!" we might say when a piece of gossip comes our way. But did we hear the rest of the words? Noble, Right, Pure, Lovely, Admirable, Excellent, Praiseworthy. If it meets all of these criteria, then we are to think about such things. Wonderful advice from a man who never knew what a computer was. Have a great day! JW

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Sometimes I just have to be hit in the face to see something. I call it "God's Holy 2 X 4." Let me explain.
Yesterday, I was able to get a free venti no-water chai from Starbucks. The last time I had been in, I was randomly selected to do a survey. There was nothing in particular that I do or did to deserve receiving this freebie. But you can rest assured, I was willing to receive it. I answered a few questions, wrote down some verifying number, returned the receipt, and "voila!" a free drink.
At lunch, we were celebrating one of our colleagues' birthday. It's tradition. We go somewhere, birthday boy/girl's choice, and we all chip in for a free meal for the celebratee. While we were eating yesterday, one of our members came by the table and asked who was working at the church office. We laughed and explained that we were all enjoying a birthday party. Soon after, the waiter came over and told us that this person had paid for all of our meals. Another freebie. What a great stroke of luck!
In the middle of the night last night, it hit me. (Remember God's Holy 2 x 4?) A perfect example of Easter's wonder. I did nothing to deserve anything and luck had nothing to do with it. Yet I receive God's free gift everyday. Although it doesn't match up to the wonders of God's free gift of eternal life, it's a wonderful earthly example of spiritual concepts. In fact, God's grace is an every day gift, not just one in awhile. God's mercy, God's goodness, God's love...every day, all the time free gifts.
And who says Starbucks isn't good for you!! Have a great day.

Monday, April 17, 2006


As you already know if you read my blog regularly, I preached about the resurrection yesterday. As usual, I didn't do it justice. But I rely on the fact that in my weakness, God's strength comes through. What hit me this week was how much we focus in on the suffering of Jesus. The entire movie The Passion of the Christ was about Jesus' suffering. With the exception of the last 30 seconds which dealt with his resurrection, it was all about His suffering. We go to youth retreats and we play the sounds of death, the mockery, the ridicule. We shame people into following Jesus. I remember coming out of Mel Gibson's movie saying, "I did that to Him."
But for once, I would like us to focus on the resurrection, not His death. Please don't misunderstand me, I am grateful for His death. It is an important fact that He came and died. It shows God's justice. Isaiah talks about Him being led like the lamb before slaughter. When you really look at it, you'll see that the emphasis intended was our changed life as a result of His resurrection.
Jesus said, "I came that they might have life." Paul said, "I'm crucified with Christ, but I live!" In Romans 6, Paul says that we imitate Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection in the form of baptism. And we do so to be raised into a newness of life. It's the life we have now, the changed life as a result of what He did on the cross. Instead of guilt, burdens, feelings of dread and sorrow, we have life.
If Jesus were to walk into your office, your home, your presence today, what would He want to see or hear from you? Would He try to shame you into thinking about how your (my) sins killed Him? Or would He want you to show Him the difference He has made in your life? I think it's obvious. Have a great day. JW

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Driver's Ed is Over

Today is a bittersweet day. First, I'll get to pay a whole lot more money every month. By making that declaration, let me also issue you a warning. My son is getting his driver's license today. Stay clear on the streets, I have ridden with him. When I called the insurance office and told them my son was getting his license, the lady began laughing. Now I don't know about you, but I don't know if that was a laugh of consolation or if she was beginning to count the money.
Nate's been 16 since December. He's got the permit. But frankly, he's been too busy to take driver's education. Since this is spring break, he's finally got a break in his schedule and he is driving his final driving test as I write these words.
There's a side of me that looks forward to this. I don't have to drive him here and there to everything he's involved in. But there's the freedom thing that says, I can't be with him at every moment. I know this is every parent's dilemma and Martha and I are not exempt. I wonder about God allowing us the freedom to live. He could have made us robots, but instead he made us (as we used to say all the time) free moral agents. I never really understood that term. It just means we are free to choose. God made us free to chose. Free to believe. Free to accept. Free to live His life or not.
Paul tells us in Ephesians that we are in all things to grow up. God wants us to grow up much like we want our own children to do the same. Only, I have this pit in my stomach. Will he make the right decisions? Will he be safe? Will he come home at a safe hour at night? I take some assurance in the fact that God has felt the same about me. And now, His celestial arms embrace me with a knowing smile and He says, "I know how you feel."
Pad your cars. Get our schedule so I can tell you when he'll be on the street. Pray for me to let go. And have a great day. JW

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Spiritual Coach Potatoes

We've recently been in a youth minister search at our congregation. For some reason, the words seek and search popped into my head. There are those who think we (the youth minister identification team--great name isn't it? I would have called it the search committee, but that sounds so much more official) have just sat back and allowed the resumes to come in. They haven't seen us calling Christian schools, talking to others about those who might be interested, handing out job descriptions, and advertising the position. It has truly been a search.
Jesus told us to "seek and you will find." He also told us to "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness." There is something to be said about the effort made in seeking.
I'm afraid that we have developed into spiritual couch potatoes. We haven't searched much. We certainly haven't sought out the spiritual disciplines that are evident in so many spiritual people and groups. Instead, we (and I truly include myself in this group) have sat back and hoped and wished that we would become stronger spiritually simply by laying back. There has been no study, no prayer, no fasting, nothing. Only sitting back with the spiritual channel changer hoping God will allow us to grow stronger in our faith.
In high school, we had to run. Dr. Wilt Martin, I still call him "Coach," said we had to be in shape to play the game of basketball. It was discipline and effort. Was it pleasant? No, not most of the time. The gratification came when we were prepared in difficult situations to face whatever came our way. Why do we think our spiritual lives are any different?
I'm not advocating a salvation by works. I'm saying that if we intend to grow, it will take effort on our part. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling," Paul said. I think we all agree that anything worthwhile will take some planning, preparation, and effort on our part. Otherwise, we will indeed become lazy and unfruitful. Let's put the effort in to grow in our spiritual lives. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well. Have a great day. JW

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Beneath the Cross of Jesus

I've been thinking of the resurrection a lot lately. And, yes, I am going to preach an "Easter" sermon this Sunday. Like Christmas, we seem to want to give the obligatory, "We really don't know when...." But the death of Jesus, his resurrection came around the Passover, which is about this time of the year. Very similarly to the same time frame as we know today.
One of the things I've been thinking about is how much the resurrection dominated the apostles' lives. That was the theme of Peter's sermons all throughout Acts. He gave the classic three point sermon: 1. Jesus was born of God. 2. You killed Him. 3. That's all right, God raised Him from the dead. Then he had them sing "Just As I Am" for 30 minutes and they had a first century revival.
Paul said, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." He even said with tears that many live as enemies of the cross. Donald Miller says that in baptism, we identify with Christ. Romans 6:1-6 reiterates that sentiment.
The resurrection really is the Christian's high water point. It is his victory. It is his battle cry. It is his life. We should live in the shadow of the cross every day. Jesus even encouraged us to take up our crosses daily to follow Him. Crosses are for dying. And Paul reminds us that we are to be crucified with Christ. What I love about that passage is he doesn't stop there. He says, "Yet I live." Do you wonder why you struggle with life sometimes? Do you not have the peace that passes understanding? Perhaps you haven't been raised with Jesus.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie The Passion of Christ lasts only about 30 seconds. It isn't the beatings, it isn't the depiction of Satan, it isn't Judas dying, it isn't carrying the cross, it isn't the relationship between Son and mother, it's the end. There was no fanfare, just a risen Jesus with holes in His hands. The fanfare was and continues to be in our heavenly home.
Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand. The shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land. A home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way. From the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day. I take, O cross, they shadow for my abiding place. I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face. Content to let the world go by, to know no gain nor loss. My sinful self, my only shame, my glory all the cross! Amen! Have a great day! JW

Monday, April 10, 2006

Making History

I just finished a biography written by my good friend John Williams with Eloise Muncy on the life of her husband, Ray Muncy. It's entitiled Making History. I've never read a biography where I knew the person being written about and his family. David was their only child I really didn't know. I went to school with Marc, I knew their daughter Kandy, and Zac was a friend of mine when I later lived in Searcy. I never had Dr. Muncy for a class, but he and Eloise travelled to Harding University in Florence with my dad and mom. I knew the people involved in the book and was familiar with many of the places. It was also amazing to see the lives touched and what an influence one life can have for eternity. For example, Dr. Muncy baptized John Clayton. One life changed to change many, many other lives.
What struck me about the book was the sheer honesty of the lessons learned. They didn't cover anything up. They showed their family for what they were, people who made mistakes. And, frankly, Eloise depicted him in an almost heroic fashion. I asked my wife if I were to die if she would do the same. "Sure, honey," was her reply.
It was a wonderful illustration of what our lives are...they are good times and bad, happy and sad, a perfect illustration of Satan's destruction and God's healing. I remember going to visit Dr. Muncy at the hospital in Springdale just weeks before he died. I've seen his family experience some of their ups and downs. Yet in spite of it all, Dr. Muncy worshiped God. Same thing Job did. Same thing we should do. He lived a good life and his influence continues even to this day.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


It's slowly happening. The weather is slowly warming. The flowers are coming out. The trees are starting to bud. Tornado warnings are in the air. This morning, I heard the birds chirping. It's springtime! I love this time of year. I just wish we had some redbuds and dogwoods in Nebraska.
There's something about renewal that gets to me. Everything that has been dead, dreary, dull, is now coming alive. And although I'm not a fan of mowing grass, there's something about the green of the yards, the smell of freshly mowed grass.
Everyday, God renews us. He forgives. He makes whole. Whiter than snow. Pure. My favorite Bible verse, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." What a tremendous thought! Happy Spring! Happy Renewal! Have a great day! JW

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Music Video--Could Be My Big Break

This fall you need to look for a music video by Mannheim Steamroller. "Why?" you may ask. Because Martha and I are in it!! We spent an hour or so down at the Orpheum last night filming. I won't give it away, but we were a crowd watching a movie. We had to react to the movie and act like we were screaming. Frankly, that's all I know anyway. We were looking at a big green screen, the camera shot the back of our heads, and we got money for the Westside High School Music department.
Chip Davis was there and had a lot to say about the filming of the clip. He was very involved. This is probably my 15 minutes of fame. Oh well, it was fun anyway. Martha and I got to go downtown and have dessert!! That was the highlight. I hope you have a good day...and be watching for me in October! JW

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Cult Headquarters--The Church of Christ

If you have watched any of Nancy Grace and CNN this week, you'll have learned that the Church of Christ is a cult. Now I find it interesting that she asked someone else about us, took one opinion, and if you really look at it, he never really said, "cult," and after that she didn't want to hear anything else.
Now if she were being fair, almost any church group in America could be defined as a cult. The Catholic church is extremely exclusivistic. Many Baptist churches are. And what about the Islam faith? I don't hear anyone going around clanging the cymbal and calling them a cult.
Now maybe I'm a "glass half-full" kind of guy, but I see this as an opportunity. It's the opportunity to say, "Come and see for yourself." Come to worship and see what we talk about. Follow me for a day. Paul said, "Follow me as I follow Christ." It seems to me he was saying, "Watch me." Why can't we issue the same challenge? Why can't we say in our newspapers, in the streets, on television, "if you think we're a cult, we invite to you services this Sunday. We promise there will be no brain-washing, we'll not have Kool-Aid to drink, and you can see that we are Jesus believing, God fearing people, who want to make this world a better place.
My experience has been that when you're with people who believe very differently than you, they think you're going to blast them in a judgmental way. When they find out you're a regular person and nice and not obnoxious, they're actually surprised. Peter said to "Live such good lives among the pagans that they are ashamed." Maybe we've forgotten those lessons and carried our soap boxes around with us. Perhaps it's time to say as Philip did, "Come and see." I hope you have a great day! JW

Monday, April 03, 2006

Tornado of Life

We had a tornado come through Omaha last Thurday. It was an F-0 on the tornado scale. I've heard some interesting stories. My son and I were getting out of the car at our house when the sirens went off. There was no rain, not really a terribly dark sky. We looked at each other with some confusion. Were they testing the sirens again?
One of my shepherds had some damage. His insurance agent asked how fast the winds were going. I know there are a lot of good insurance agents out there. But that has to be one of the dumbest questions I've ever heard. As you drive through town, you can see some of the damage. Some windows blown out here, some debris there. All in all, we were very fortunate.
We had a tornado at church also. Oh, it wasn't the type I was just talking about. In fact, the damage was even worse. You see, we have marriages struggling, we have people dealing with illnesses, we have other strained relationships. The damage done by our tornado last week can be fixed. But in so many cases, relationships that are damaged are many times damaged beyond repair. Lives broken and scattered. Wounds that go far beyond the flesh.
I wish we would have some kind of warning system similar to the tornado sirens that go off when danger is imminent. When a relationship is about to go under, the alarm sounds. Instead, what happens is the relationship slowly dies and we don't find out about it until after it is seemingly beyond compare.
There is hope. David said, "Create in me a pure heart, O God." Create. Make something from nothing. Many times we can't heal the hurt, but God can. When the tornadoes of life come through and do their horrible damage, it may seem as if there is no hope. Ah, but there is is. As Mike Cope often says and as I like to sing, "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness." The next time you see one of those tornadoes coming, head to the shelter of Jesus' arms. There you'll find peace. There is safety. Have a great day. JW