Wednesday, February 28, 2007


For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. A paraphrase from the heart of Jesus. I have a credenza in my office that has a lot of objects from life on it. There are two rocks from Green Valley Bible camp given to me by the girls in Cabin #1. They are "Rock" Awards that they give every summer. There's the glass crystal eagle given to me by our Spanish minister at the church in Arkansas. He gave it to me right before we left for Nashville. There's a wooden clothspin I comfiscated from Mom's house after she died. Not the kind you buy today with the spring, but one made from a single piece of wood. I used to make airplanes out of them when I was a kid. There's a miniature model of the Eiffel Tower I bought from a man right before I went up in the real thing in Paris several years ago. A broze rose from my Mom's casket sits in a place of honor near the front. There's a piece of the old Berlin Wall. A rock from the beaches of Normandy. I still have a bracelet that turns my wrist green given to me by Vladimir, a man I baptized in Vladivostok, Russia. If you were to offer me money for any of these items, I would turn your down. I don't think anything are worth much to anyone anyway. But they are priceless to me. Why? Because they represent things in my life. A trip made with my family. A game played when I was little. Camp. A mission trip.
These things are valuable to me because I received them on my journey called "Life." The New International Version of the Bible translate that word as "life." The King James Version as "walk." I prefer the walk image. They are valuable because they represent times in my walk when I crossed paths with someone. They mean something deeper than the value of the object. They are so deep in valuable to me that I will pass them on to the future generations in my life. There will be more things that I accumulate along the way. But it's not the things that are important, it's what they represent. Jesus said a man's life doesn't consist of the abundance of his possessions. So I would like to invite you to walk with me on this journey. Let's enjoy the good and the bad, the family and friends, the blessings given to us by God. Have a great day...and enjoy the walk. JW

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

My Favorite Bible

I've been teaching a class called Letters from Dad taken by a book by Gregg Vaughn. What has struck me in this class is the disconnect between fathers and their sons. (I know there is also a disconnect between fathers and daughters sometimes, but I'm dealing with the sons who are now fathers in my class.) There are deep-seeded emotions present when we talk of these things and they want to make sure that the mistakes of the past are not continued to their children. Tears come easily and quickly. Emotions run high every time we have class.
This got me thinking. Four of my most valuable possessions sit in my office. They are my father's Bible, my mother's Bible, my Grandfather White's Bible, and my Grandfather Garloch's Bible. They each have a different reason for being precious. Dad's Bible is the first NIV Bible he ever owned. I gave it to him. He underlined things that were of importance to him. So when I need a dose of Dad, I go to what I call "The Gospel According to Ed" and read some things he deemed important. Mom's Bible is precious because it looks exactly the way it was the day she died. It has a bulletin tucked in it as well as a tissue (with a verse written on it, Proverbs 29:20. "Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him." Why she wrote that verse down, I don't know. But perhaps I should listen. My Grandfather White's Bible was given to him by my parents on December 25, 1943. He also has a Bible verse written--Titus 2:12. "Teaching us that denying ungodliness and wordly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world." Finally, my Grandfather Garloch's Bible, once again, given to him this time by my mother on December 25, 1940. Written inside is the price...$5.50. Granddad wasn't one to write in his Bible, but the pages are dirty and worn, obviously from use.
Why are you talking about this? I gave my 23-year old, married daughter my Bible the other day. It was the one I had been preaching from for the last several years. It's getting worn and used. I've written so many notes in it, that I love to have it when I'm reading. But I thought, "Why should she wait until I die to get this?" I wanted her to have it to see that her dad depended on God. I loved her comment when I gave it to her. She said, "What about Nathan?" (My son). I told her there would be another Bible with more notes and worn out like that one. I thought she would tuck it away, put it with the things she would save. Instead, I picked her up for church services (Her husband was working and there was snow on the ground. She isn't driving in snow right now. That's another blog, another story, another time). She was carrying that Bible. Tears are in my eyes right now as I recount this. Never did I know that it would be one of her valuable possessions.
My call to you fathers out there, never underestimate what your love for your children does. Don't hold it back. Don't be ashamed to show it. And leave them a legacy for your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Let them know that you chose to follow God. Have a great day. JW

Monday, February 26, 2007

Absurd Statements

We had another snow Saturday night. After all, this is Nebraska. Anyway, I was listening to one of the meteorologists and he was talking about the weather today. He said we would probably have some sun and it would melt some of the snow because the snow did contain a lot of water. Duh! There's a new revelation! All these years I thought snow contained marshmallows, but now this guy tells me it's mostly water.
Have you ever heard any other absurd statements? How about in John 8 when Jesus was talking to the Jews about His teaching. He said that if they would hold to His teachings, He would make them free. Their response? "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone." Can you believe that? What about all of their occupations in the Old Testament? What about their captivity? What about at the very moment they are speaking? Are not the Romans holding them under their rule of an iron fist?
What about Peter? "I will never forsake you." I think he probably believed that. We give Peter a hard time, but the Scripture says the rest of them said the same thing.
What about us? Do we ever make rash statements that are absolutely absurd and untrue or just plain stupid? I have to admit, I'm the king of that one. Promises I make to God, not owning up to my own mistakes, making it sound like I've got everything under control. Maybe that's why Jesus told us to make sure we got the plank out of our own eye before we take the splinter out of our neighbor's eye. Perhaps we would do better to mind our own business and work on our own lives instead of condemning everyone else. So raise your hand and repeat after me. "I promise not to make rash statements today. I will not speak until my brain is fully engaged. And I promise not to deny the obvious working of the Lord in my life." Have a great day. JW

Thursday, February 22, 2007

All My Life

One of our newer members is a gentlemen who has a great talent for painting. He has had several of his art works displayed at the request of the Audubon Society. He moved from Alaska, so naturally his paintings are of nature (no pun intended on the "naturally" comment). All of us who see his works ask him, "How long does it take you to paint one of these?" I love his answer. He says, "All my life."
So many times we think the walk of Christianity is a quick fix. Become a disciple, "get" baptized, and we immediately think good thoughts, never say an evil word again, and generally just act as a Christian should. Instead our response should be like my friend's. "How long has it taken you to become as you are?" "All my life....and I'm still not there yet." Have a great day. And keep going on your journey. JW

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I Saw God This Morning

I saw God this morning. No, it wasn't one of those "out of body" experiences or anything similar. I was walking toward the east when I saw the morning sunlight hitting the clouds. The beauty in the purple and pink hue of the marshmallow-like clouds reminded me that God is still in control of everything.
But that wasn't all of what I saw. Even though it's been above freezing during the day and melting the snow, during the evening it gets below freezing again and changes everything,. The water that runs down the street from the melting snow lies in a motionless way still looking as if it is still running. The ripples frozen in place give a a illusion of water running even though it's frozen. And the frost on the concrete makes thousands of gold and silver sparkles. I remember this scene from an earlier time in my life. Walking on the beach in southern California near San Diego, I remember seeing similar sparkles. They call it "fool's gold" out there. I'm not sure what they would call frost on concrete.
The thought went through my mind, "Of course, the clouds are beautiful. They've always been that way." But the concrete is old and hard and cracked and grey. But if God can take something that old and cracked and grey and make it into something beautiful, what can He do with a life that's old and cracked and grey?

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:20

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." Psalm 14:1

As I finished my walk today, I heard the song sung originally by Rich Mullens, but this time by Michael W. Smith, "Everywhere I go I see you. Everywhere I go I see you." Thanks, guys, for the reminder. The cloud by day, the fire by night. Everywhere I go, I see You. Have a great day. JW

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Unwholesome Talk

Piggy-backing on yesterday's blog, have you noticed how much criticism there is in the world? Everyone has an opinion. Sometimes we're vocal, sometimes we vent only to those around us. But it spreads into the church. Two groups of people are the targets of a lot of criticism. Preachers, for one. "His sermon was soooo boring!" Or, "I just didn't get anything out of the sermon today." But, in my humble opinion, most criticism is guided toward elders/shepherds. They don't do enough to suit me. They did too much. Just do something. I had an elder tell me one time that elderships were the statues and the congregation was the pigeons. How sad! What gives us the right to do such a thing?
The Scripture is full of instructions concerning this. Don't believe me?

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. I Timothy 5:1

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

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. Philippians 4:8

"Well, it's true!" seems to be our only rallying cry when it comes to gossip. Unwholesome talk. Interested phrase. What is "unwholesome talk?" Sounds to me that it's anything that doesn't build up. Join me, would you, in trying to be a positive influence, in saying only things that build up. Let's not gossip. Let's not criticize. Let's encourage. Let's not tear down. Let's extend this courtesy to all. I think that's part of loving your neighbor as yourself. Have a great day. JW

Monday, February 19, 2007

Winning the Argument

I'm a little tired of the political bickering that goes on the news channels of today. It seems the one who yells the loudest, interrupts the most, or demeans his opponent is the one who is deemed the winner.
I think that's how we think we win the argument when speaking of spiritual things. "Be ready to give an answer!" we proclaim. I find Jesus' response very interesting. Brought before Herod, he says nothing. Before Pilate, once again relatively nothing. "Well, you don't understand, they wouldn't have listened anyway." Probably true. But Jesus could have answered more profoundly and could have had a tremendous influence. He could have even won the argument. But he still would have been put on a cross and crucified.
Which brings me back to my original point. I'm not sure the argument is to be made. Paul's statement concludes his statement about giving an answer with "gentleness and respect." Jesus didn't respond. Often we win the argument and lose the war. Perhaps a we need more who are gentle in spirit, soft-spoken, and don't have to be right all the time.
"Are you saying we are not to defend our Christianity?" No, I didn't say that. I'm saying to defend our Christianity doesn't mean we have to win the arugment. Perhaps a life well-lived or a gentle word or a sweet spirit will be a better answer than we can imagine. Raging anger never seems to win the day even when the words may be right. I'm thinking we ought to take the Lord's example more often and just let our actions speak. Have a great day. JW

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Just the Facts

I remember as a college student hearing Jim Woodroof say that we should read a gospel after every book of the Bible we read. In other words, read one of the 66, then read one of the gospels, read another book, read a gospel. The gospel of John remains my favorite because it tells so many different stories of Jesus' life. Today I started reading the gospel of Mark.
Remember the old Dragnet series? You had Detective Joe Friday who started every episode with, "This is the city...Los Angeles, California..." And when he questioned people he would say, "Just the facts, ma'am, just the facts." That's what I get from the gospel of Mark. He begins with with Jesus, switches briefly to John the Baptist, then tells the story of Jesus by John the Baptist. Then he says he went out into the desert with the wild animals. Whereas Matthew and Luke spend a little more time on the temptation of Christ, that's it for Mark. There's a quick story of driving out a demon, then my favorite healing story. The story of the leper. Nine words by the leper, "If you are willing, you can make me clean." Five words by Jesus. "I am willing," he said, "Be clean!" I know, he speaks some more later, but don't you get the impression there's more to that story than those few words. Don't you feel there was more than "just the facts, ma'am."? Maybe I'm wrong, but I think there's a lot more.
Last night in our Bible study, we wondered about Judas. Did he have a choice? We know he fulfilled the Scriptures. But there are so many questions. I have a Bible study on Thursday with a lady in a wheel chair. Often we come across things that we really don't have an answer for. It both instances, I say the same thing. "Make a list." We'll ask about it when you get to see Jesus. Then we'll get more than "just the facts." Have a great day. JW

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's History

Happy Valentine's Day! I had a church member chastise me one time for speaking of Christmas in a sermon. (He also didn't think I should use the New International Version of the Bible, only King James Version). Being the smart fellow I am, I asked him if he had ever given his wife roses or a card on Valentine's Day. Yes, I had him. "No, I haven't!" he said emphatically. Shucks, I thought I could get him on that one. "How sad," I thought that you wouldn't even do something like that for your life's companion.
I decided to do a little research on Valentine's Day. Seems, as usual, it was originated to take the place of a pagan holiday. Once a year the pagans would have a lottery for the men to select the women they could, well, have sex with for the next year. Once a year they would do this so that every year one would get another partner. The Catholic Church didn't approve of this practice. In about the 3rd century A.D., the emperor Claudius outlawed marriage. He felt that married men made horrible soldiers. There was a bishop by the name of Valentine who would surreptitiously marry those who were in love. He was jailed and eventually martyred. Thus, the Catholic Church began to honor this. Also, it's said that Valentine fell in love with the jailer's blind daughter. He allegedly healed her blindness and in a farewell message wrote to her, "From Your Valentine." Let's hear the collective "ahhhhhh," from the women folk out there. There you have it.
May it never be said that this blog is occasionally educational. I hope your day is good. Be kind and nice to your Valentine. Have a great day. JW

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


I've spent a lifetime trying to understand grace. So far, I'm stumped. But then again, that's usually not too hard to do for me. It seems to me that people either kind of get it or they don't. It' s the difference between freedom and have to. And it changes everything.
Paul talks about grace often. He uses Romans as his jumping off point. Then he uses Ephesians to unveil more of his description of grace. He calls it "his glorious grace." (Eph. 1:6). He talks of forgiveness of sins by saying it is in "accordance with the riches of God's grace." (Eph. 1:7). Later he says, "It is by grace you have been saved. (Eph. 2:5). He once again calls it the "imcomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus." (Eph. 2:7). And once again, just for emphasis in the same passage, he says, "For it is by grace you have been saved through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God..." (Eph. 2:8). What's your point, Paul?
I was once told by an elder than we can preach too much about grace. Huh? Tell that to Paul. It was one of his themes. He, if anybody, truly understood it.
When we understand grace, it makes us look at others differently. We're not as harsh on them. We give them the benefit of the doubt. We extend grace to them. When we understand grace, we see God differently. We see His benevolence and His love. We fall on our knees in gratitude for what He has done for us. When we understand grace, we see ourselves differently. We try harder to please God. Not because we have to, but because we want to. It changes our motivation from fear to love. It gives us a positive outlook on life.
When we don't understand grace, we become legalistic. We follow the rules, and then and only then, God will give us grace. We see no room for mistakes in us or anybody else. When we don't understand grace, we think we are to work as hard as we can to earn God's approval, then He'll take care of the rest. Kind of like we don't have quite enough to pay the bill, but God steps in and takes care of the shortfall and the tip. But you know what? That's an extremely shallow (and wrong) view of grace. God paid it all. The meal was on Him all along. And there is nothing, nothing I can do to earn any part of it. Praise God!
Grace is kind of like God's love to me. It seems as if Paul tends to describe it in the superlative as much as possible. And I'll never understand it. But I will accept it. Have a great day. JW.

P.S. There is a gorgeous snowfall going on right now. We've gotten another 4 or 5 inches. More snow. More white.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Good Intentions

I've mentioned the book Margin by Dr. Richard A. Swenson before on this blog. We are using his (out-dated) video series right now. It may be a little dated, but it is as true and accurate as it was when it was produced. In fact, his words ring prophetically even more in the 21st century. One of the things he said in last night's video was that "...our children are lying wounded on the ground and run over by our good intentions." That hit me right between the eyes.
How many times have we intended to say an encouraging word instead of a rebuke, intended to give a hug instead of a wave, or intended to say, "I love you," instead of "put your coat on." There are so many times when my teenage son seems fine, yet inside he is roiling with teenage angst. And although he acts as if he's fine and doesn't really want me hanging around, he truly needs the solidity of dad's love. That's not the time to have good intentions. That's the time for actions.
I've had a daughter go through this, I need to remember the lessons learned from that and to realize that raising a boy is different than raising a girl. So parents, join me if you will. Don't let good intentions get in the way of truly loving your kids. Make sure you are the solid foundation they need. Make sure they know you are constant in their lives. Make sure they know that any foundation they get from you is only because you have put your trust in Jesus. Don't be ashamed of that. Have a great day. JW

Friday, February 09, 2007

More Snow

I'm not usually here on Fridays, but I'm here and decided to blog a little bit. We got another two inches of snow last night. So I was out bright and early shoveling it off the driveway. I tried the best I could to come up with some kind of spiritual application, but it was a little hard when the attitude wasn't the best. Another snow. The last snow from two weeks ago is still on the ground. It's supposed to snow another 3-6 inches tomorrow. It may snow again Monday.
I know the Scriptures say, "Wash me and I will be whiter than snow." But that's been used before. I started thinking about grace. Underneath the snow is the dirt and the sand of the trucks trying to clean off the road. Once again, it's pure white. Then it comes again, spraying the filth on the snow. More white stuff. Kind of a good comparison, but God doesn't leave the dirt underneath. When He makes us white as snow, the dirt isn't there anymore. It isn't covered up, it's gone.
So my quest to find something good about the snow is messed up again. I know, I know, the moisture is good. But really, other than that, what good is snow? Have a great day. JW

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Legacy II

My son is in a play at school. It's Arthur Miller's All My Sons and it takes place just post World War II. Since my wife and (grudgingly) I are working with concessions, my wife decided to decorate one of the tables with memorabilia. "I have a bunch of pictures of my uncles in WWII. Then there are several of my great-uncle and my grandfather during WWI. They are really cool pictures. As I looked at them, I recalled riding on the tractor with my great uncle Seldon as we baled hay. I saw my Uncle Les whom I'm named after. And even my son asked, "Is this Uncle Russell? Uncle Pud?" Pud was the name we affectionately called him later. There was my grandfather as a young buck ready to take on the world. I mostly remember two things about him. First, him dying of lung cancer and black lung disease (he was a coal miner). But second, was in church at St. Joe, Ohio when we prayed. You see, he would kneel every time a prayer was said. Not only him, but every man in the building.
What a wonderful legacy these people have left for me. It made me think of Aunt Maud who taught our Bible class at Bearwallow when I was just a little boy. My Aunt Evelyn gave me my first job at C & E Super Valu in Athens, Ohio. She was an elder's wife and always treated everyone with great integrity. She was so trusting to let a young 16 year old take her car home in the evenings and to let me even live with them for a summer. She still writes and asks when I'm coming back to a reunion. She understands the value and worth of family.
Now it's my turn....and yours. What will your kids remember about you? Will they remember a servant's heart and a soul turned towards the Lord?
So many times I think of situations when I didn't act the way I should. When something was way more important to me than it should have been. Or I was stubborn and obstinate over frivolous things. Is that what my kids will remember? Is that how my friends will remember me? I hope not. When I was in graduate school, one of my professors had us do a little exercise that brought all of this home to me. He had us write our own epitaph. Do that some time and see that it's not as easy as you think.
So here's to my the legacy left to me by godly parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. I have been so blessed to be in the family I'm in. But if you haven't been so blessed, why don't you break the cycle and begin being a blessing to your kids. Be the kind of person that they remember with great fondness and gratitude for your gentle spirit and godly attitude. Leave them something to remember you by. I hope your day is filled with wonderful blessings. JW

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


You don't hit the horn because they are turning into the lane you're not driving in, going the same direction, but you trust that they are going to stay in your lane. So you continue at the same speed. If you didn't trust them, you would honk your horn and slow down. Slightly trusting would be to place your hand on the horn preparing to honk if needed and maybe lifting your foot off the accelerator.
We've all watched the shriners with their fez hats and their little motorcycles. They are in the local parade and all of a sudden they go into figure eight pattern. They zip in and out looking as if they are going to run into each other. But again, they trust each other and they know their partners will be where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be.
What's the operative reason for this? I can give it to you in one word. Trust. They trust each other. We trust the person turning into the opposite lane. When there is trust, things continue on the way they have been. When there is no trust, we hit the brake, we slow down, everything comes to a relative standstill.
We used to sing the song, "Trust and Obey." We don't sing it anymore because it's "old school." That's a shame because as has been noted by several blogs lately the old songs often have wonderful words. "Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey." Notice when we trust, we don't panic, things go smoothly, there is no braking or slowing down. The Psalmist said, "Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you." Psalm 9:10. I hope your day is a good one. JW

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Lessons from a Little Boy

It happened so quickly that if you weren't watching you missed it. Our worship leader had dismissed the kids to Wee Worship. It's not unusual for the kids to high-five our worship leader as they exit the auditorium. But this one was different. He was purposeful and committed. A little tow-headed boy around five years of age marched right down the aisle straight up on the podium and grabbed our worship leader around his legs and gave him a big hug. Having done that, he filed out of the auditorium toward Wee Worship.
He was stunned. Choked up. I could tell he had a hard time starting the next song. But after services he explained to the crowd what had happened. He said that he and his wife had been teaching the Bible class this little guy was in. "The reason you teach not to receive certain things, he said, "but that was worth every minute of it."
Why did the little guy do that? I don't know. But it was the right thing to do. He knew that this man loved him and the only way he knew to return the favor was to lay aside any fear of the crowd watching and go up and hug him. Hmmmmm. You make the connection. Is it any wonder that Jesus said the Kingdom of heaven belongs to the little children? Have a great day. JW

P.S. Franklin, I hope you're out of sun-tan lotion. It's supposed to warm up to 27 degrees today. A virtual heat wave. Maybe by this time your burn is pealing! Have fun in Florida!

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Lord's Way

I don't know about you, but I got a little tired of hearing that this was the first time two African-American coaches made it into the Super Bowl. Don't misunderstand me. I am glad that black coaches are getting the opportunity on this level and are being successful. But did you hear these men as they talked to one another?
Instead of the "kill the other team" and "win at all cost" and "he's the enemy" rhetoric, it was wonderful to hear them speak to one another in kind terms. They said that Tony Dungy didn't curse. That both coaches were not ranters or screamers. I heard one interview where the two were seated next to another another and Tony Dungy said, "We're friends. And I hope that we will always be friends."
Although I don't think God particularly cared who won the Super Bowl, Tony Dungy said on national television, "I want to thank the Lord. We did it His way." That's what I've been talking about! How do we proclaim God in an extremely hectic world? He should be our life! It's not what we do, it's who we are. And Coach Dungy understands that. Too bad the press doesn't. Too bad we don't. Thanks, Coach, for showing us. Have a great day.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Foolish Thoughts

As any of you who write blogs know, sometimes the thoughts just don't come. Or, even worse, they do come and you can't really express what you're feeling. So it just comes out sounding pretty lame. There are times when you just want to say something pithy or deep or meaningful. Instead, it comes out with misspelled words, silly conclusions or inane thoughts.
But one thing I've learned from preaching, God can do unbelievable things with what you offer Him. I've come out of the pulpit thinking I should go back to college admissions. And about the time I think I am a fool, someone calls and tells me how much the sermon meant to them. So I don't discount anything that God can do. Oh, my words are still misspelled and my conclusions may still be silly and my thoughts completely inane. But God can take anything and make it into something good.
So for those who read my foolish words, I'm sorry. Second, thank you. Third, praise God that He can take my simple thoughts and make them what He wants them to be. May we always be instruments for God available when He needs us, ready to serve at a moments notice. Have a great day...what's left of it. JW

"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:9