Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Too Good

This story came from my niece who's son is in (I believe) kindergarten.

This afternoon we were reviewing the story of Jonah. When we review, I ask the ?'s and the children "tell the story". "God told Jonah to go to ..." A resounding "Ninevahhhhh" followed, "but Jonah said..." "NNNNOOOOOOO!!!!" "and Jonah got on a boat and headed to ...." They were stumped, finally Belle raised her hand and in a loud voice cried "TARGET!"

I hope this makes you smile as it did me. Have a great day. JW

Monday, January 28, 2008

There's a Time for Everything

I didn't know Ecclesiastes was so full of wonderful stuff. If you're not careful, you may come out depressed. By truly digging you can find some wonderful advice from a very wise man.
Read the following verses very, very slowly.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

He begins with birth and then death. Then follows with what happens in between. Listen to what he says right after this.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11. In other words, let God be God. We can never understand everything that happens. Now if we stopped there, we might be depressed. But listen to the advice he gives.

I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.

It's all temporary. God is in control. He is sovereign. Bad things will happen...but so will good things. Enjoy live, serve others.
This came from a smart man. Perhaps we should listen. I hope your day is good. JW

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I did another funeral this weekend. It's always difficult, even in good situations, to deal with the memories of a a lifetime. How do you handle the "stuff" that's been collected? I remember when Mom died, we hired a dumpster to be brought to the house. As we cleaned out the house, we threw away so many things she had collected through the years. Of course, there are some things we kept. I have a Bible of hers, some clothes pins, and other odd things. (Clothes pins? The old kind, not the kind with a spring. I used to put them together and make an airplane out of them.) Soon after we did this, my brother Charles sent a poem by Emily Dickinson.

The bustle in a house
The morning after death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon Earth.

The sweeping up the heart
And putting love away
We shall not want to use again
Until eternity.

Solomon said, "What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun?" I used the King James on purpose because of the word "profit." Profit is what you have in the end, when the bills have been paid, net. What do we have in the end when we die? There is no profit. The saying, "You can't take it with you," is true. Charles Swindoll says he's never seen a hearse with a U-Haul trailer attached.
So Emily's words are true. Our investment in things is "a striving after the wind." Instead, our investment ought to be in what survives into eternity...people. I hope your day is a good one. JW

Monday, January 21, 2008

York College Tragedy

Please remember York College in the tragic death of one of her students. Their van carrying their wrestling team was in a wreck on Interstate 29 in Iowa on Friday and one young man was tragically killed. Remember the entire campus and particularly the young man who's family is grieving the loss of their son and brother. No family should have to go through this. Pray that God will hold this family in the palm of His hand.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


There's a lot of talk about leadership these days. I have to admit, I talk a pretty good game about leadership myself. I complain about men not taking the leadership in the home, not taking the leadership at work, not taking the leadership at church.
Open up the book distributors and you'll find any number of books on leadership. Laws of Leadership, Talent is Never Enough, Leadership Handbook of Management and Administration. You get the idea.
No where in Scripture do I find Jesus calling us to leadership. At least, not the kind of leadership that's written and talked about. Our concept of leadership is warped by a worldview of what leadership should be. Taking charge. Taking the initiative. Volunteering. Jesus calls leadership something that nobody else does. He calls it, serving. It's leadership from our knees. He talked of giving cold water in His name. He wrapped a towel around His waist and washed the apostles' feet. He led by serving. That's our call today. That's what we should be doing. Rolling our sleeves up and getting sweaty and dirty. Not worrry about who gets the credit (except for the Lord). And you know, when you're working, it's hard to complain.
Lord, forgive me when I want the lead. By that, I mean the credit, the satisfaction of a job well done. Take the emphasis on me and let me be a servant, just a servant. And Lord, let them see my service and glorify You. I hope you have a great day. JW

Monday, January 14, 2008

Secular vs. Non-secular

I was involved in an interesting conversation over the weekend. The lady was a Jewish lady, raised in a Jewish home, married to a Jew, I think you get the picture. She doesn't attend synagogue anywhere, doesn't eat kosher, has nothing to do with religion per se. Again, I think you get the drift. When whe was young, she and her parents didn't go on vacation, they went to Israel. Again. She explained that there are two types of Jews--secular and non-secular. Many of the problems in the Middle East, in her mind, were between the secular and non-secular Jews. The secular Jews represent the intellectual. I would assume that the non-secular represents those who aren't.
Do you see anything amiss in all of this? Doesn't it seem ironic that someone who claims to have the background of God's chosen claims no connection at all to the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?
Yet, that's what I see in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Secular and non-secular. Those who were more concerned about political clout with the Romans and maintaining their status as opposed to those who truly wanted to follow God. I am incredulous even now thinking that the Jewish nation turned their backs on God in spite of His care over them on so many occassions.
I hope we as Christians learn our lessons from such things as this. It is my fervent prayer that we never turn our backs on God. That we understand that He is the Giver of life, the One who sustains. I never want to be considered "secular" in my spiritual life. Seems almost like an oxymoron, doesn't it? I hope your day is a good one. JW

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Synagogue or Shoreline?

William Barclay in his commentary on the book of Matthew makes an interesting point about Jesus. In chapter 13, Jesus begins by telling the parable of the sower. Barclay says this represents a significant shift in the ministry of Jesus because now He's preaching from the seashore. Before he was speaking from the synagogues. It wasn't that the synagogues were shutting Jesus out, but the door was slowly closing.
Often when I'm in meetings, someone will bring up a particular problem that needs to be addressed. Many times the comment will be made, "Let's have Jim preach a series of sermons on this." As if what I say will automatically change attitudes or actions. I think it represents a shortcoming in our thinking. Instead of "bringing them to church services to hear the gospel," we should be taking the gospel to them. Who is "them"? It's the unchurched. It's those who don't know Jesus. You are a walking, talking example of Jesus...or at least you should be. Just as Jesus left the synagogues and preached by the seashore, we should leave the church buildings and preach it at work, downtown, at the grocery store, everywhere we go. And I'm not talking about preaching the gospel from the street corners. I'm talking about living it. Reacting differently than people expect you to react. Being totally honest in dealings. Not honking and shouting and flailing when someone cuts you off. Instead, truly doing what Jesus would do.
"Let your lights shine so that they may see your Father and glorify Him." That's what the Scripture says. That's what we should do. It's time to go to the shore. Have a great day. JW

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

My Life of Basketball

I had a flashback yesterday. No, it wasn't a drug flashback. I walked into our gym (sorry, sanctuasium) here at church and there were three basketballs up on the counter. I wanted to walk over and pick one up and start shooting baskets. That's what the old me would have done.
You see, I loved basketball when I was young. That's not too strong of a word. In elementary school, my brother and I would use a tennis ball and a three gallon ice cream container as a basketball and basket. Later, we made a basket out of cardboard and taped it to the wall. A ping pong ball served as the basketball. Of course, in basketball season I loved to play in the "real" gym. The highlight of my life up to that point was playing an exhibition game at half time of the high school game in front of everybody in the big city auditorium.
In junior high, I made up a team...Western. I had names for every position...and by the way, we won every game. I had a tennis ball for the basketball and my basket was unusual. Between the wooden supports in our house ran two copper pipes. These pipes were probably six inches apart. If I could get the ball in between those pipes, it was a basket. I spent hours playing. We didn't have the TV coverage of basketball in those days or I would have been watching basketball all the time. The books I read for my book report were basketball books. I even remember the name of one of them...State Champs. In junior high, I began my "official" basketball playing. I made the 8th grade team my 7th grade year and was a starter my 8th and 9th grade year.
Without boring you even more, I played in high school and received a scholarship to play in college. Basketball was my life. I read about it. I thought about it. I watched it on TV. I watched it in person. I played whenever I could. It defined me.
Paul says, "Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ." His life was the Jewish life. It's what he ate, slept, drank. His goal? Perhaps to serve on the Sanhedrin. To reach the pinnacle of Jewishness. But now, he says, "For me to live is Christ, to die is gain." He met Jesus face to face and he changed. What mattered most to him now was nothing.
What matters most to you? Is it really worth it? Unless it's our Lord, I doubt it. And if you're struggling with something similar, I would encourage you to find the One, the only One who can bring you joy and who will never fail. Learn from the experience of others. Everything else pales in the light of the face of Jesus. The song says: "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace." Have a great day! JW

P.S. By the way, last summer I was shooting baskets at camp and one of the campers said, "You used to be good didn't you?" It made my day.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I'm Listening

I don't know why I thought of this today, but for some reason I remembered something from when I worked for a printing company. My boss bought three pieces of equipment from New York that were going to make him millions. There was a four-color printing press, a stitching machine (which made small booklets), and a paper cutter. When we received this wonderful items, they were painted a light, sky blue. It looked as if someone put these things on a dock and just took the paint gun and covered them. Now this is all well and good, but we're talking on moving parts. Parts that have to be frequently lubricated. To make a long story even longer, after spending tens of thousands of dollars on "fixing" this equipment, it never worked. Looked good in the beginning although printing presses on not supposed to be covered with sky blue paint. The equipment was old, worn out, and faultly and it never, ever worked.
I see two applications. Satan sugar coats things, too. He makes them look real good. Makes promises he never intends to keep. Sells you a bill of goods and then leaves you wallowing in your frustration because you got something you never really intended to receive. A kind of buyer's remorse. But by then, it's too late. You've invested your life and it's too late.
The other thing I see has to do with people who claim to be spiritual, but really aren't. They look good on the outside, but inside are as corrupt and polluted as the world. There were some in Jesus' day and He called them "hypocrites." Actors. That is the origin of the word. Greek actors wearing masks. Being something they weren't. He said they were white-washed tombs. They looked lovely on the outside, but inside were full of dead men's bones.
Striving to hear God's call is the answer to both of these. Difficult sometimes because there is so much "noise" in this world. It is possible, though. I remember when my children were little and I would be at a playground or other public place and there was the usual noise of commerce or play. Children would occasionally call out or cry. Funny, I knew which voice belonged to me. Why was that? I was tuned in. Same with God. We must tune it. Listen. Hear Him. Listen to Him. Follow Him. It's a good day today. Enjoy it. Listen for God. JW

Monday, January 07, 2008


God told Abram that his descendants would be like the stars in the sky. Then he warned them, "Know for certain that your descentdants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years." (Genesis 15:13) Instead of using "strangers," the English Standard Version uses the word "sojourners." Obviously, in context, God is talking of the Israelites in Egypt. Yet Peter uses similar language in his short epistle when he calls the Christians there strangers and aliens. Quite the definition of us, don't you think?
It reminds me of a song we used to sing:

Here we are but straying pilgrims,
Here our path is often dim.
But to cheer us on our journey,
Still we sing this wayside hymn:

Yonder over the rolling river,
Where the shining mansions rise,
Soon will be our home forever,
And the smile of the blessed Giver
Gladdens all our longing eyes.

Sojourners. Strangers. Aliens. Longing eyes. I have had the opporunity to travel a lot in my life including two trips to Trinidad, one to eastern Russia and one to France. What's the greatest sight I saw on these trips? Easy. Home. I love being with my friends on this sojourn, this journey on this earth. But it's not home. My longing eyes are looking ahead and asking that you join me on this wonderful trip. We'll be landing soon. Have a great day! JW

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Knowing Christ

Last night in small group, I asked these questions:
1. Who won the World Series last year?
2. What movie won the Oscar for best picture?
3. Who won the Oscar for best actor/best actress?

I have to admit, the only one I got right was the first one. I'd be hard pressed to tell you who it was two years ago. Paul warns us in Philippians that achieving things according to worldly standards is, at best, fleeting. He uses his own life as an example. He was circumcised on the eighth day, a Hebrew of Hebrews, from the tribe of Benjamin, full of zeal, righteous according to the Law, a Pharisee. In his world, he had made it. But he calls it rubbish.
What was it that changed his mind? Read Acts 9, 22, and 26. He tells his story three different times in the book of Acts. He says, "I want to know Christ."
There are a lot of us out there wishing that we could for just one moment catch the winning pass, be honored by our fellow workers as Employee of the Year, (really, Boss of the Year, forget this employee stuff), a plaque here, a certificate there. Paul says, these things are trash. What really counts is knowing (having a relationship) with Christ. What about you? Do you know Him? I mean, really know Him? If not, no wonder your life may seem out of whack. The cure is there. It's so simple, yet so profound, yet so consuming. But it works. I hope you have a great day. JW

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

January 2nd Jealous of January 1st?

I wonder if January 2nd ever gets jealous of January 1st? January 1st gets most of the bowl games, the cheese dip, the parties, the "Happy New Years." If it's fun, January 1st gets it.
On the other hand, January 2nd gets the broken resolutions, the heart burn from the cheese dip, the complaining about going back to work. You get the picture. Now I'm no scholar, but I would say the answer to my intial self-imposed question is "no."
"Jim's lost it and it's only January 2nd." I thought I heard a collective group mumbling something about me losing it. Well I haven't. Here's my thought process.
One of our problems in the church is selfishness. We're so concerned about getting credit, about making sure we're seen, and most of all, making sure others don't get credit either. "If I'm not getting credit, she/he shouldn't either." But we begin with the wrong supposition. It's not about me. It's not about you. It's about God. Rick Warren began his book The Purpose Driven Life with those words. When Paul is talking to the church in Corinth, he says, "How ridiculous if everyone wants to be an eye. If everyone were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?" I Corinthians 12 (MOV--My Own Version). Listen to what Paul said through the Spirit in that wonderful passage. This time, it's really his words.

But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. I Corinthians 12:24b-27.

Now, my goal for 2008 is to get out of the way. I want this year to be all about God. It isn't about jealousy or selfishness or self promotion or anything else that is evil in spirit. It is about making sure that God is glorified. Paul said it again in Philippians when he said, "...consider others better than yourselves." Amen. Have a great day. JW

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2008 is Here!

Here I sit in my recliner in the infancy hours of 2008 wondering what this year holds in store. 2007 was filled with activities and stunning world events, but Kingdom work was being done, too. While the world was all atwitter about global warming, presidential politics, and much, much more, Kingdom work was going on. It was unseen by many, but people were being fed, the Word was being sown, good deeds were happening all around, and Jesus' name was being proclaimed.
If you don't think the latter was occurring, why do you think Satan spent so much time trying to destroy it? When I worked in Christian education, people used to complain that there were bad things happening on our Christian college campuses. Therefore, (their argument) should I send my kid to a place where there is bad going on? At least we know the bad is supposed to go on at the state university. (Really brilliant thinking, don't you think?) My answer? Satan already has won the world. He doesn't have to spend much time convincing them. Where do you think he saves his best work?
It's the same with us here on January 1, 2008. Satan stands ready to discount and destroy. But he doesn't hold a candle to our God. So I stand here at the edge of this bridge called "2008." Plans have been made. I'll become an empty nester this year. God's work will be accomplished. I just want to be a part of those plans. How about you? Won't you join me in this wonderfully rewarding work? It doesn't get much attention here, but He who notices is really the one who counts. Where will God take us in 2008? I have no clue. It may be difficult times or it may be peaceful. I just want to be on the journey with my Lord.
Our plans have been committed to God. Let's pray for His guidance. Now, let's go on this wonderful journey together! I hope your year is a good one! JW