Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It's Time--Green Valley Bible Camp

I'm getting ready for my annual trek to Green Valley Bible Camp. Since 1991, I think I've only missed two years. Before that, I used to go there in 1977-1979. Although there have been some changes over the years, there are some things that never change...and that's good.
My prayers have started already for the week. I've prayed for my co-director (he's really the director, I just tag along and get the benefits), I've prayed for the counselors, I've prayed for the campers, I've prayed for the day campers. By the time after it's all said and done, we'll have close to 300 kids there during the week counting night and day campers. It'll be hot, humid, the bathhouses are okay, the food will be fine, I'll try to play basketball. Really I just stand in one place while everyone else runs past me. I get to put away my phone, my keys, my billfold, and just be there.
What will happen will be God being glorified. The singing will be heavenly. The lessons will challenge. We'll all grow closer to God. Satan sits at the gate and waits for them all to come out and then he attacks them. The week is too good for him not to worry a little bit. But he usually waits for them to leave. Divide and conquer. That's his strategy.
But for one week out of the year, we get to see what heaven will be like. We'll encourage. We'll love. And maybe, just maybe, these young hearts will be changed. And someday, if they do wander from the Lord, they'll remember what they had at Green Valley Bible Camp. There's something special there. Everyone I know who's been there remembers it fondly (with very few exceptions). Pray for the week. Pray that lives are changed. What an impact this week is on the kids....and me.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

He's Watching

Everyday, I look to see if I can find his picture. Is he in the background there? There he is! Is he smiling or frowning? Is he having a good time? You see, my son has been counseling at camp now into his second week. Every morning, they post pictures of the previous day. Every day I look to see if his handsome mug is there. I'd do the same if my daughter were there, too. They're mine, you know. They belong to me. (Well, and to my wife.) But I think you get the picture. My son leaves for college in about a month. Then he'll be gone, well, for the rest of his life. I know, I know, he'll be back through. But not on the same basis that he has been for the last 18 years.
But here's my point, if I'm so interested in seeing how my son is doing, wanting to see him, wanting to know if he's happy, gleeful (yes, I said it. Gleeful) when he calls just so I can hear his voice, what does God do as He sees us in our everyday lives?

Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:9, 10

He will not let your foot slip--he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you--the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm--he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121 3-8

He's watching. Not the "All-Seeing Eye Watching You" song where you're afraid to do anything because God will zap you. But the care of a concerned parent. Wanting to know how you're doing. Wanting to hear from you (prayer). Gleeful at the sound of your voice. Have you noticed the passages that talk about God's love? Overflowing, poured out, lavished. He doesn't just tell us, he demonstrates it as Paul said in Romans. And He's watching us right now. Wondering how we're doing. Anxious to hear from us.
My son called yesterday. I was elated. He asked me to pray for him. You bet I will. You bet I have. Contstantly since he called and asked....yesterday. If I understand that. What does that do for our concept of God caring for us? Have a great day. JW

Monday, July 14, 2008

Five Years

Five years ago today I moved into the office I occupy today. After preaching 200+ sermons, this congregation still tolerates my musings. What I appreciate about this bunch is they (and I've called them this in their presence) are a Berean church. They don't take what I say for granted, they search the Scriptures. There have been many times when someone has come up to me and questioned me about something I said. "I looked that up. But what about this?" I love that. That means they have gone home and thought about the lesson. What I really appreciate, though, is that the questioning hasn't been done in an ugly manner. It's been a seeker, "really want to know because it's important" way.
Many things have happened in the last five years. Many weddings including my own daughter's wedding three years ago. A number of funerals. In fact, we've buried two our our teens in the last three years. One was murdered, the other killed in the recent tornado that destroyed the scout camp in Iowa. We don't want to go through any of that again, but it has brought us closer. It has taught us how to grieve, but not as those who have no hope. I seen elders pray for hours. People who we love dearly have moved away because they have taken other jobs in other cities. Military personnel have moved in and moved out. There have been a boatload of kids who have graduated and moved on to college (including my son this year! Uh, oh, empty nest) We've ordained new elders. We've put into place new deacons. We have developed a vision statement.
To say we've survived is probably somewhat of an understatement. But I have to say it's been a good five years. God has been good to us. It's a joy to come in and see the smiling faces on Sunday morning. As I look around the auditorium, I see a lot of people who struggle with the problems of life, but still survive knowing that this world is not their home. We're just a bunch of misfits, pilgrims, aliens, strangers...and my family and I sit in the midst of them. Because I am too. We keep looking for new ways to serve, for more ways to worship, and for more lives to touch.
Perfect? You know we're not. Searching? You bet. Who knows what the next five years will hold? But we will serve the Lord. Thank you, Southwest family for allowing me to stand before you every Sunday to preach. You have blessed me in more ways that you know. I love you. JW

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

July 8, 1993

Fifteen years ago. Wow, it just doesn't seem that long ago. I was in the middle of graduate school. Dad had been struggling somewhat with his cancer when I received a phone call that he was in the hospital. I sped down to Searcy from Springdale, AR to find him in traction. I said, "Did you fall?" Mom looked at me and said, "His hip is broken." The cancer had eaten right through the bone in his hip and it couldn't support his weight anymore.
The doctor decided that in order for his quality of life, he needed to have his hip fixed with a pin placed in his leg. The surgery took awhile and he was wheeled back into the room. I noticed that something didn't look right on his leg. Basically, the rod the doctor placed was not in the right position. He decided to take him back into surgery. His heart couldn't take it. It was beating around 160-180 beats per minute and Dad was in a coma. What we didn't realize was that the cancer was all through him. One of my doctor friends described his chest x-ray as "it looks like someone has shot him in the chest with a shotgun. His ribs are just pocked with holes where the cancer has eaten through.
Three of us four boys were there. We called Charles, the missionary in France and told him he'd better get here as soon as he could. We told Dad, even in the coma, "Hang in there, Big Guy, Charles is on his way." Charles had no longer arrived and seen Dad when within an hour or an hour and a half, he died. He was waiting on the last son. That was July 8, 1993.
I've missed him. There have been many times when I wanted to ask him about things in my life. There have been times when I just wanted to tell him something. I have to admit, that's the selfish part of me. These last 15 years have seemed like nothing to him. He's in the presence of God praising his name, greeting those coming in, probably telling his corny jokes, waiting for me. Waiting for the rest of us. I wouldn't take that from him for anything. In fact, that's what he ingrained into me. I guess so I would pass it on. So there you have it, Dad. I've passed it on on this day, July 8, 2008. Can't wait to meet up with you again. It'll happen.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Joy of the Holy Prompter

I'm preaching a series on the Holy Spirit. I know, brave, aren't I? Just in the first week, I've discovered that we are all over the page. Which says to me that it's probably a good idea to talk about this. As I got into my car this morning, I was humming a song.

The joy of the Lord will be my strength;
I will not falter, I will not faint.
He is my Shepherd, I am not afraid;
The joy of the Lord is my strength.

The joy of the Lord, the joy of the Lord,
The joy of hte Lord is my strength.
The joy of the Lord, the joy of hte Lord,
The joy of the Lord is my strength.

Why was I singing that song today? Most would say that the synapses in my brain just happened to line up in such a way that the iTune of my mind just put that at the top of my brain's playlist. To me the Greek word for that is "hogwash." I believe the Holy Spirit placed that song on my mind today. And by the way, I like to refer to him as the Holy Prompter. People come to my mind randomly. People that I haven't thought of in years. Songs come to mind. The list goes on and on. Now, I can chose what I do with them. I can respond by calling the people thought of, visiting them, or anything else I want to do. It's not God forcing Himself on me. Just a prompt, a hint, a nudge.
I can choose to sing the song on my heart, or I can move on with the everyday activities of my life. So right now, I've made my choice. and if you'll excuse me:

The joy of the Lord will be my strength;
I will not waiver walking by faith.
He will be strong to deliver me safe;
The joy of the Lord is my strength.

The joy of the Lord, the joy of the Lord,
the joy of the Lord is my strength........

Have a great day. JW

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


As you have probably heard, we had a massive storm hit Omaha last Friday evening. I was in my office and heard the tornado sirens go off, but when I looked outside there was nothing. It suddenly darkened in my office when I heard the second tornado siren go off. This time there was a massive white cloud moving as fast as I've ever seen a cloud move and it seemed to be only a block from me. I was scared. My mouth was dry and I went downstairs into the basement of our building. I saw limbs falling and the wind blowing so hard. Franklin, our youth minister, called me and asked if I was near a TV because he was in the basement of his house.
To make a long story short, there were straight line winds of over 100 mph. Massive tree damage. My yard was full of debris.
Everything is cleaned up. Life is back to normal. But what a display of power. And our God is bigger than it all. He is awesome!