Tuesday, April 29, 2008

God's Will

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Philippians 2:12, 13

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. Rolmanhs 12:2

Henry Blackaby, in his book Experiencing God says that we often say, "I want to find out what God's will is for my life." He says that's the wrong approach. We should find out what God's will is and then do what He wants. Now the $25,000 question is, "What is God's will?" There is a lady in my congregation that asks that of me all the time. "How do we know what God's will is?"
I've been trying to figure that out. How do I know that I'm doing God's will and that He is working in my life? Here's my thinking. You may agree or disagree. You may even add something because I don't have it figured out. Still learning. Still trying to know God's will.

1. I know the Spirit is working and I know God's will when I see Him in everything in my life. When a song comes up on the radio that encourages me. When somebody says something to me that seems so random, yet just hits me in the right spot at the right time. One of our problems is we are too busy and it's too noisy. But when we see Him and hear Him (yes, I said, "Hear Him"), then we can know that God is active and working. When someone's name comes to my mind and I know I should call and encourage, the Holy Spirit (I call Him the Holy Prompter) is working. Some people call it coincidence. I call it providence. And what's even more exciting, and it's what the verses above say, I can be part of God's working in the lives of others!

2. Some will say that I'm doing God's will when everything seems to be going well in my life. I'm sorry, I don't buy that. I know I'm doing God's will when in the midst of the biggest storms in my life, I sense a peace that God is there and He is working on me. To know that He holds me when I weep, that He rejoices in my triumphs, that He encourages when I'm down, that He holds me in the palm of His hand, that's when I know I'm in the center of His love and His will. When things seem utterly terrible and I can praise His name, I know I am in the center of His will. It doesn't mean I never question Him, I never doubt Him, or I never wonder where He is. It does mean I trust Him enough and have faith enough to believe that He is present and He's in control.

Now, is this easy? Heaven's no. But it helps me to know that it's not about me and that if He can be glorified by using my small, insignificant effort, then so be it. I just want my light to shine. Hide it under a bushel? No! I'm gonna let it shine. Do I have this down pat? No way. But I'm learning every day. I'm His student. I want to learn until I leave this earth, then on to learn more about His glory in eternity. I can't wait. I hope you can't either. Have a great day. JW

Monday, April 28, 2008


So, I'm at a trendy little restaurant with my wife and son the other day and ordering my meal. I'm not crazy about this place, but it was the lesser of two evils...at least in my sight. I'm getting the one of two things I pseudo-like on the menu when the girl taking my order asks me, "Would you like protein on that?" Now in my mind, they have a cauldron of protein slop in the back and they take a big dip of this stuff and plop it on the pasta I've ordered. I graciously declined, then noticed what the "protein" was. It was chicken or beef strips or tofu. Why didn't she say that? It sounds a whole lot better than "protein."
This incident got me thinking. We do the same in church. For years we didn't call the gyms we built "gyms." We called them "family life centers" or "fellowship halls" or one of many other names. I have laughingly called them "sanctuasiums." I remember one time being with the Time of Day, a singing group from Harding, when we were in one of these "family life centers." One of the guys looked around during the performance and he was thanking the people for coming out to the show. He said, "We're glad to be at the ______________________ church Family Life Center. You know, where I came from, we call this a gym."
Maybe it's time to call things what they really are. Let's call sin "sin," and grace "grace." Let's not sugar coat things. Let's call a spade a spade. Let's not put protein on it. Have a great day. JW

Friday, April 25, 2008

Tag--I'm "It"

My friend, Jackie Chesnutt, has tagged me so I'm supposed to list seven random facts about me. Then I'm supposed to contact five of you to ask you to read my blog and then to do likewise. Okay. Here goes.
1. My middle name is Leslie.
2. My first job after getting married was for a company called National Rejectors.
3. When I was in high school and college, I worked for an ice cream company putting fudgesicles, dreamsicles, popsicles, and ice cream sandwiches in boxes. The company's name was Yarnell's ice cream in Searcy, AR.
4. My undergraduate degree is in zoology.
5. I played basketball my freshman year on a scholarship (Yes, it was a basketball scholarship, Jackie!).
6. The first car I ever really owned was a Gremlin.
7. I have been to 46 states in the United States. I haven't been to North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and Oregon.

Let's see--Franklin, Brent, Karen, there's three I know who read my blog and I know they have one. So you three are tagged. I'll have to think of two others. Have a great day.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I Need Your Love

All right. Do this. Remember your earliest memory of any kind of church song. Now sing it with me, slowly, with feeling like you used to:

Jesus loves me, this I know.
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak, but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
The Bible tells me so.

I don't know why but the song often brings tears to my eyes. A children's song loaded with the message of God's love. How many times do you read stories in the Bible about Jesus having compassion on someone? In the Old Testament, you read of a God who agonizes over His people who leave Him over and over and over again. He lets them return many times over. Jesus tells of the Prodigal Son who returns and of a loving Father who runs to meet him. Paul tells of how God demonstrated (not just told us) His love for us by sending His son.
The passion that He has for us is overwhelming. The love He bears is unbelievable. And we break His heart with our sins, with our rebellion, with our obstinance.
I don't want to do that to Him. So today I want to pledge my heart to Him. I want to allow Him to come inside and break my heart and make me into what He wants. Please...join me in this.

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

I hope your day is a good one. JW

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Happy Birthday, Dad. You would have been 88 years old today. It's been almost 15 years since you went to your reward. That just doesn't seem possible. Fifteen years in my life, just the beginning of eternity for you. In that time, Mom has come to be with you. I know you've met some of my friends who have gone on in the last few years. I'm sure you were there to greet them when they arrived.
I have missed your laugh. I have missed being able to call you and tell you the latest joke I have heard. I miss having the opportunity to call and talk about anything. I wish you could see your grandkids. I have missed your wisdom and encouragement. But life goes on.
I have so much to thank you for. But it'll have to wait until I come to be with you. I don't know how or if they celebrate birthdays in heaven. But if they do, I hope you have a good one. Take care. Jim

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Pope's Visit

I have been somewhat bemused by the visit of the pope to the United States. I don't even think that's probably the right word. Perhaps I can use a number of others to better describe my thoughts. Amazed. Amused. Glad. Confused. I could probably come up with a few more, but right now I'm at a loss.
The pomp and circumstance that has happened. Limousines, helicopters, the popemobile; Holy Father, Reverend, Supreme Shepherd; Elaborate robes, miters, kissing of the hand, and on and on. I just heard a cardinal express their extreme loyalty to this man. I haven't heard the name Jesus very much. Mother Mary, yes. Our Savior. Some. But I really haven't heard Jesus' name. When you read Paul's epistles, over and over he invokes the name of Jesus. You get the impression he really does mean it when he expresses his devotion to Jesus.
I don't know. I don't see Jesus coming to this earth in the midst of this publicity. I see Him walking down the streets of New York City, not in the elaborate cathedrals of the city. I see Him talking to the poor and downtrodden, not to world leaders and those in positions of power. Perhaps I'm wrong. But I don't think so. I see Him speaking from the heart, not from a book held in front of Him. I see Him among the common people, not those wearing the fancy robes. Where do I get this? How many times die He heal and tell the recipient not to tell anyone? His popularity wavered, not declined.
There is an upside to this, though. How many are at least getting a glimpse, albeit a small one, of Christianity? How many are being called to repent? Only God knows the sincerity and the value of this. I'm just praying that the world will see Jesus as He is, not the pomp that is being placed before it. I hope your day is a good one. JW

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Predictions Come True

According to the Science Daily, there is a 99% chance of an earthquake of greater than 6.7 magnitude going to happen in California in the next 30 years. All right. I'm going to go out on a limb here. I want to make a prediction. In the next year, it will rain and snow here in Nebraska. I'm sorry, when I heard the news media predicting the earthquake as if it were something huge and phenomenal that anyone would make a prediction so bold, I just had to laugh.
Yet, in Scripture there were predictions so bold and so improbable, that it would be hard for anyone to believe. A Messiah would come. He would be from the root of Jesse. He would be born of a virgin. He would be born in Bethlehem. Hundreds of years earlier these prophecies were made and they came true. A reading of Isaiah 53 makes you feel as if you are standing right there observing the described man and the scene. Yet Isaiah was written hundreds of years before Jesus was born. None of this Nostradamus stuff where a prediction is made and then assign some event as the fulfillment. It's like Jean Dixon making predictions about world events. "This year, someone will be assassinated." Wow, there's a stretch!
So make your own predictions, but realize that God has always had a plan for you. He told you about it. He made it happen. His Son proved His love. Have a great day. JW

Monday, April 14, 2008

Only In Times of Trouble?

Here is a quote from one of the presidential candidates about religion. "...religion is a bulwark, a foundation when other things aren't going well. That's true in my own life, through trials and tribulations." It doesn't matter who said that. I'm not endorsing any particular candidate. But I think it's an indication of what we believe about faith in America.
First of all, the statement seems a little, I don't know, preacheresque. It sounds like stained-glass preaching. Who uses the word "bulwark" anymore? Who even knows what it is? According to the dictionary, it's a strong support or protection. This candidate probably got this from Martin Luther's song, A Mighty Fortress. The opening line goes:

A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing...

Good speechwriters. That didn't bother me as much as the other part of this statement. "...(it is) a foundation when other things aren't going well." No! It's a foundation when things are going well. It's a foundation when they aren't going well. It's a foundation when things are mundane. It's a foundation regardless! It's as Jesus told in the Sermon on the Mount, "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock." Paul said, "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ." No one builds a foundation for a house and uses it only during a storm. A wise man once said, "Sometimes the only time a person will look up to God is when he is lying flat on his back."
I'm afraid that "I'll trust God only when it's raining" mentality is what causes us to be fair-weather Christians. When David said, "God is my Rock, my Fortress," I can't help thinking he meant all the time.
I'm sorry for blathering on this, but it just hit me wrong. It scared me. But then again, it shouldn't. My Rock, My Fortress is the Lord. I trust in Him. There us no candidiate or any other elected official on which I should rely. Only in Him will I trust. Have a good day. JW

Saturday, April 12, 2008

God's Sense of Humor

God has a sense of humor. I know He does because today, April 12, here in Nebraska it's been snowing. April showers bring May flowers. At least that was the maxim I remember. What do April snows bring? Don't give me something like, "April snows bring May's rose." I guess I can't complain because out west they had 10-12 inches of the white stuff. It's not even sticking here.
Who would have thought this Ohio boy, transplanted to Arkansas would end up preaching in Nebraska? Had you asked me when I was in college where I would be and what I would be doing, I would have told you that I would be teaching science and coaching basketball. I ended up a youth minister. Then I went to Christian education. And had you asked me while I was in graduate school what I would be doing, I would have told you that I would be working at a university somewhere. Which I did. But the circumstances changed and God led me back into preaching. And here I am watching it snow in Nebraska in April.
What am I saying here? I guess, don't be surprise what God will do with you or where He will take you. You may tan easily, love the warm weather, and He might put you in a cold place where you are to warm people's hearts. I don't know. I wish I could tell you exactly what God will do with you. But I guess that's part of the fun. That's what makes life exciting. So, sit back, relax, and allow God to work His wonders....and watch out for His sense of humor. I hear Him chuckling right now. Have a great day. JW

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Lessons from Hurting Children

Yesterday was kid's day in my life. Oh, I certainly didn't plan it that way, but one of our couples at church had their daughter (less than 6 months?) in for some surgery. Seems she had a cluster of blood vessels on the outside of her skull just above the right ear. When the mom described what the doctor said about it ("It's really nothing serious.") I chuckled and said, "It's not his kid, is it?" I understand that. I've been through it with my own daughter. Don't tell me what is and what isn't serious. As I visited with the mom and dad, I told them, "Doesn't this make you realize God's love for you? What has that baby done for you? She's messed in her diaper, peed all over you, cried when she was hungry. To which the mom said, "She's given us so much joy." Isn't that what God feels, too? And can you imagine His thoughts when we really live to please Him?
Then it was off to see another one. This one was to welcome him into the world. He was sleeping when I saw him (and so was his dad. Mom was tired from the delivery, but smiling...you know how it is. I love that mother's smile.) Fun for both couples.
I did get an interesting earful as I waited in the waiting room (aptly named). One mother's son was in surgery. He had pneumonia and was struggling to breathe. That happens when you suck six kernels of corn down into your lungs. She wept as the doctor told her he was putting her precious into ICU. She hugged a lady sitting next to her and said, "You're such a good mother-in-law." I don't hear that often. Another doctor bounced into a mother and father and said, "He's fine. His appendix was really swollen. I had to make the incision just a little larger just to get it out. Here are some pictures." To which the mother took them and said, "These can go into his scrapbook." Can you imagine that one? Here's Johnny walking for the first time. Here he is on his new trike. First day of school." Then you turn the page. "AHHHHHHHHHH! What is that!" "Oh, it's just his appendix." Another young mother wept while she told of her son's anesthesia. She was relating the ordeal to her father when two others came in to cheer her up. Another I didn't even understand because they spoke another tongue. But they fretted and wept in the same language as me.
Wow. What a incite into God's love. I wouldn't trade it for anything. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." That's how much. Have a great day. JW

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Secrets of the Universe

A headline in today's USA Today: Physicist: Secrets of Universe Soon to Be Unlocked. That's it? Seriously, you're just now saying that the secrets of the universe will be revealed? I've known that for years. The secrets of the universe can be defined with one word.....God. The Bible starts with it: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Or how about Psalm 148:1-6: "Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise him in the heights above. Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his heavenly hosts. Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars. Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created. He set them in place for ever and ever; he gave a decree that will never pass away."
That sounds so glib for me to say that. But even in the days of Paul, people thought they were so smart. They knew everything. Paul said, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.' Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe."
I'm not saying for us to check our intelligence at the door. I'm not even saying that we shouldn't study the universe and it's complexities. I'm saying we should never leave God out of the picture. After all, He made it. He knows all the ins and outs of every aspect from the tiniest atom to the largese of the universe. As the psalmist says, "We are his people, the sheep of his pasture." We should never get too smart for our "britches." Instead: "Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens. He has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his saints, of Israel, the people close to his heart. Praise the Lord." Have a great day. JW

Thursday, April 03, 2008


I marvel at how much I continue to be like my grandparents. It seems the most important thing is the weather. It does happen to be raining here today. But in Nebraska, at least it's not snow. (We did have a little snow on the windshield on Monday, April 1--and that's not an April Fool's joke!) But it's warmer. Tomorrow, the forecast is even warmer. I saw a cardinal the other day. The trees are starting to get the most minute buds on them.
Summer's coming. We have a spring here in Nebraska. Quite unlike Arkansas where we go from a quasi-winter immediately to summer. I started thinking about the anticipation I feel for the warmer weather. I have to admit, the anticipation is slightly similar to my anticipation for heaven. When friends and church family die, it makes me sad. Yet, as the Scripture says, "we do not grieve as those who have no hope." Hope. What a wonderful word. It's not "wish." Wish is kind of like, "I wish I had that even though I know I'll never get it." But hope. Hope is the confident, eager expectation of what will happen. Hope is where I hang my hat. In talking to the Christians in Colosse, Paul tells them that the mystery that has been revealed to all is that everyone, even the Gentiles, now have "the hope in glory." To Titus, Paul says that we are heirs having the hope of eternal life. It's all over the place. And it's in my heart--more and more. It's the anticipation. It's the reality that something better is coming. What a great promise! What a hope! Have a great day! JW