Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Randomness of the Plan

Seems like a lifetime ago that I last blogged. So much has happened in the last year,it's hard to come up with anything profound to say. And today is not an exception. Just some thoughts.
Planning is important. I've taken the graduate courses. I've been in the meetings. I've been on the committees. My head spins with Strategic Management, Master Plans, and Action Plans. Any organization must give thought to the direction and vision of the team, church, staff, or institution. Having worked in the field of education, I've also seen universities almost get completely bogged down....with planning. So much planning takes place that nothing ever gets done.
Corporations must plan to determine exactly how they will function. Oftentimes, those who lead corporations also lead the church. They decide that the church is run just like the corporation. May I make two observations? First, the church is not a corporation. Jesus never intended for us to run the church like a well-oiled corporation. Don't misunderstand me. I didn't say planning was wrong or misguided. I just said the church doesn't run like a corporation. You see, God is in control of the church. Corporations tend to make plans on the things they know. But the church goes on by faith. Second, sometimes we get so bogged down in our "church" plans that we miss the randomness life. Let me explain.
Remember when Jesus was on His way to heal Jairus' daughter, a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years came up and touched the hem of His robe. Jesus stopped and commended the woman for her faithfulness even though time was of the essence. Even though there was a crowd. Even though she was healed and He really didn't need to stop. In the randomness of the moment, Jesus stopped and encouraged. It wasn't in the day's plan. But it was a blip of the day.
How often do those moments come into our lives? We have the day scheduled. We have a breakfast meeting with one of the deacons. Staff meeting is first thing once we're in the office. Lunch is eaten on the run. There are hospital visits in the afternoon. Someone comes by your office without an appointment. A phone call comes at a really inconvenient time. It's not on the agenda. It's not in the plan. But you can rest assured, it's important.
May I encourage you to let the randomness of the day allow you to serve God mightily. In the smile that you give. The kindness you pass out. The encouragement shown to that "interruption" in your plan. That's God's work. Pray for those moments. Allow them to be a blessing and not a disturbance. Treat them as if they were Jesus. After all, isn't that what Jesus said we do when we visit the sick, feed the poor, and clothe those who are naked? That interruption just may be a visit from Jesus. Have a great day. JW

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Feeling Good

The last time I blogged was right before I found out if my cancer had spread. Since that time I have had a radical robotic prostatectomy. The cancer has not spread, but it was existent. So, nearly three weeks ago, I had surgery. At this moment, I'm sitting at my desk feeling wonderfully. No cancer, no prostate, no problems.
I have found out so much about God's church, God's goodness, God's answer to prayers...I have lived in a virtual classroom of God's nature. Am I going to die? The answer is "Yes." But so are you. The chances of me dying of something other than prostate cancer is a bigger possibility. I'll tell you more later of the things I have learned. But for now, I want you to know that I'm fine and feeling good. People are concerned that I'm doing too much. But I am doing well. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for your thoughts, words, and concerns. Thank you for everything you have done. And I thank God for His love.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I Prayed to God Last Night

I prayed to God last night. There's nothing unusual about that because I pray often. But this was different than any I've ever prayed. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
On July 8, 1993, my father passed away after a long battle with prostate cancer. The treatment back then was crude and he suffered as the cancer settled in his bones. The doctor would ask him how he was doing and he would answer, "Fine. My arthritis is just kicking up." What we know now was the arthritis he talk of was the cancer in his bones. Ironically, on July 8, 2010 I had 12 biopsies on my own prostate. Again, I'm a little ahead of myself.
Back in February I went in for my "annual" physical and check-up. Only problem was it had been two years since the last one. They always do all the standard stuff--the blood work, the blood pressure, the cholesterol, etc. Several weeks after the physical I received a letter from the doctor stating that my PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) count had climbed somewhat. What was 3.18 two years ago had gone up to 6.50 this year. A count of 4 or below is considered normal. He gave me two options. One, come back in several months and retest to see if the reading was accurate. After all, I did have a severe cold at the time and infections could affect the test. Or, two, I could see the urologist. I opted for number two. So I made the appointment and went to see a doctor highly recommended by two of my elders.
Once at the appointment, and once the doctor saw my PSA count, and once he saw my family history (my father had died, and my eldest brother had had his prostate removed), he said, "We need to do a biopsy." Within the week I had a biopsy scheduled. That took place last Thursday morning.
Tomorrow morning, I return to the doctor to get the results of the biopsies. Hence, the beginning of my blog. I prayed to God last night. I told him I wasn't coming to Him to bargain. After all, who am I to bargain with God and with what do I have to bargain with? What I told Him was it didn't matter to me what the results of my biospy was. I would still serve Him. He is good all the time. He is good when things are good. He is good when things are bad. And whether they are good or bad, I will serve Him. I will glorify Him in everything I do. Whatever happens, He is my God. Period. So, I still ask for your prayers. I don't expect anything to be bad. But if they are....He is still good and I will praise His name.
I hope your day is a good one. Mine is. JW

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Changing Our Culture

I asked my Bible class these questions. "How does the Christian change culture? Or does culture change us?" In a sense, this is a trick question. Kind of like in graduate school when you're asked, "Is _________________ (you fill in the topic) a science or an art?" If you say, it's a science, then the assumption is that you can teach anyone to do it. If you say it's an art, then you have to have the abilities, otherwise it's really not something that's learned, only "inherited." When in essence, nearly everything could be answered "both." I think the same is true with my initial questions to the class. The Christian changes culture and culture changes the Christian. And both of those are (mostly) good.
I know what some will say. "We should not be 'of the world.'" But in truth, we can't help being part of our world. Therefore, should we go back to wearing robes and togas just as they did in the first century? Perhaps we should all start wearing beards (women excluded) since many did in the first century. No, we are changed by our culture and we do so in order to reach our culture. Paul said he became all things to all men that he might win some. So in that sense, culture does change us and it's not a bad thing.
You would have to agree with me that there are evil things in this culture that the Christian should not be involved in. So how do we change our culture? I've listed six things. This is certainly not exhaustive. Let me know your take on this. Add to the list. These six that I list are not that profound. Those of you who know me personally know that I'm just me. Not that great a mind. Just one who wants to do what's right. Wants to serve my Lord. These are in no particular order. Here's how I think we can change our culture.

1. We must pray. That really sounds simple doesn't it. Paul tells us to pray without ceasing. In other words, never stop praying. Our God is the God of the impossible. Ask Abraham. Ask Joshua. Ask the virgin Mary. Ask Peter. When Solomon dedicated the temple, the Lord said to the Israelites, "...if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themsevles and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will hear their land." I think that still bears true today. There is nothing that ails us that God cannot heal. We serve the God who can do more than we can "ask or imagine." So praying is basic in our plan to change culture.

2. We must continue to search. It's what made the Bereans more noble. When we think we've achieved it, when we know all the answers, we've lost it. It is vital that we continue to think and rethink our hermeneutic. We must challenge our views daily making sure we are truly being the people we are supposed to be. Our continual setting of our eyes on Jesus is imperative if we are going to enact change. He is the One who makes it happen. We must truly be the people of WWJD. Really, what would Jesus do?

3. We must remember the power and influence of one. First, we often get caught up in causes and creeds we forget that change begins with us. We must change if we are going to change the world around us. It was said in Scripture that the apostles "turned the world upside down." How did they do this? One soul at a time. And it didn't happen until their lives were eternally altered. I love to read the story of Joshua. Why? Because his influence was phenomenal. The Bible says that as long as Joshua and those who served with him lived, the people of Israel served the Lord. If you go out into the Gulf of Mexico several hundred miles, you'll find fresh water. Where did it come from? It comes from the Mississippi River. Even though the river technically ends when it feeds into the gulf, it's influence into the briny waters of the Gulf of Mexico are felt hundreds of miles into the ocean. That's the influence we must have. To stand where no one else will stand. To put on the full armor of God and to be salt and light in this world.

4. We have to quit fighting useless battles. How petty we've become. And when we fight among ourselves, Satan wins the battle. As Leonard Allen says, we have a "balloon theology." We fill the balloon up with the air of the things we agree with. Soon it's nearly full, but we then disagree on one topic and the balloon is popped. How foolish. We have forgotten the very words of Jesus when He told us to love God with everything we have and to love our neighbor as ourselves. It's all about relationships. Too many times we've been so busy getting things right that we've forgotten about those who are crying out for help. "Don't bother me," we've said. "I'm correcting my brother of the grievous wrong he believes." And we've let our opinions override our care and concern for the world. Let's use some grace and change our culture together. United we stand...

5. And as I have just mentioned, and what seems overly simplistic, we should love God and love our neighbors. I believe it was C. S. Lewis who said, "Love God and do what you please." If we remembered the relational world we live in, my how things would change. We live in a world of iTouch, e-mail, and texting. We've forgotten the art (science?) of face to face. To peer into another's eyes and smile. To tell that person how much you love them...and how much God loves them. Isn't this command to love God and our neighbor what Jesus said was what all of the other parts of the law hung their hats on?

6. And finally, we must remember the Old Testament. What? That seems strange, but hear me out. Read through all the times that God brought the children of Israel out of certain death. Read the prophets as they spell out the doom and destruction that Israel will go through. Even in the darkest times, when their seemed no way out, God was working His will. As Jeremiah sat in the middle of the ruins of Jerusalem, he uttered these words. "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion says my soul. Therefore I will hope in him." (Lamentations 3:22-24). And when we think God is absent or silent or uncaring, remember these words. And remember that He can bring about the utmost surprises on our lives and the lives of those who live around us on this planet.

Whew! I was wound up. Join me, won't you in changing our world. And to God be the glory in everything we do. Have a great day! JW

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Prayer at Starbucks

It's my own little sanctuary....and it's not always at the same place. This morning it happened to be at the Starbucks across the street from our church building. As I settled in with my venti no-water chai, I propped my feet up in the chair beside me and I began to pray. Now, I'm normally a person who needs quiet for this to occur. But for some reason this works for me. Busy patrons were bustling in to get their morning fixes of coffee. They would come screaming up in their cars slamming on their breaks, jumping out and hurrying in and then out and then off to work. A work crew was destroying the parking lot and loading the chunks of concrete onto a dump truck. The drive through was just a few feet from where I was sitting, but no one paid attention to me. One of the busiest streets in Omaha was to the north of my seated position and there were hundreds, yea thousands, of cars streaming to work. The bank next to me had employees and patrons hustling to conduct the business of the day. But no one saw me as I prayed. Oh, I didn't bow my head nor face to the east while on my knees. No, I kept my eyes open and prayed to the One in control. I prayed for my family, I prayed for my church, I prayed for my friends, I prayed for the world, I prayed for just about everything. I told God how grateful I was for His spectacular goodness. I asked His forgiveness for my foolhardyness. (Is that a word?) And nobody noticed....except the Father. And I think He was pleased. I know it began my day with a beautiful sense of peace that passes understanding. And my day will be better for it. You should give it a try. I hope your day is a good one. JW

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sam and Sarah's Tree

It sits right outside my door. I walk past it everyday. Now there are green leaves and beautiful yellow and red tulips and daffodils around them. My thoughts and memories go back to two young people every time I see this beautiful scene.
You've read about, if you've kept up with this blog, the two teenagers we have lost over the last several years. Sarah was murdered in cold blood and to this day the perpetrator has not been apprehended. The other was a young Boy Scout named Sam who died at Little Sioux Scout Camp nearly two years ago when a tornado destroyed the camp. I have missed seeing them grow up. I missed seeing them grow from adolescence to adulthood. Sarah would have been in college by now, Sam would have been a sophomore in high school. We would have kidded him about driving. We would have kidded her about what she was majoring in....or something else. I miss these kids, but I love the gentle reminder I get every day. A reminder that says that we should make sure we take each day as it comes. Enjoy those who are around us. Love more deeply. Make each moment count. We have no guarantees of tomorrow...only the eternity God promises, so make it count today. JW

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

God Understands

I'm sorry I don't write more on my blog. It always amazes that people such as Terry Rush and others can write so much and have so much to say. It takes so much out of me to write something that I feel comfortable printing. And, I've been trying to send my son what we call a VOD (Verse of the Day) to encourage him while he's away at college. So my creative juices are pretty low. But I write when I've got something to say, so please bear with me.
Recently, I had an incident that shook me to the core. A man came up to me on our parking lot asking for help. It is pretty much our policy not to just hand out money to anyone who comes by, but we do have a food pantry to help those who need something to eat. This gentleman wanted money and if I have some money, I generally will give it out. On this day I had $8 in my pocket. Turns out the man wanted money for two nights in a hotel. Now, I've told him about three times that we don't do money. He then asks me for one night in a motel. I kind of chuckled and said we don't do money. That set him off. I was laughing at him. Me and my fancy car (I drive a Honda Element) and my fancy brief case (I've had this computer case for several years; it's literally falling apart); I live like a king. He called me every name in the book and told me that I ought to read the Bible. That if I lived his life for five minutes, I wouldn't have any faith.
It didn't stop at that. He left me a phone message telling me that I had spit in his face, not literally, but figuratively. He also left a message on our main phone telling the elders what a horrible person I was and how I had humiliated him. That he was on disability for mental illness and that he was suicidal. I had left it all die down when we received another phone call telling the same thing.
I've prayed for him a number of times. I wish it hadn't ended that way. I've questioned myself about whether I had handled the situation in the right way. It's helped me to see what a sinful, full-of-fault man I am.
Needless to say, this really has hit me hard. It's helped me to realize that what Jesus went through was hundreds, thousands of times worse. That people don't really think that anybody understands them. But our God is a God who can handle everything. He is El-Shaddai, All-Sufficient, Almighty God.
I hope your day is a good one. JW

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sovereign Lord,
As I gazed at the snow you sent, I see how the wind has blown the individual flakes into so many shapes, so many forms. They go where they are told to go. Some are smooth with glistening parts that shine almost looking like diamonds. Others are piled into other interesting, nearly comical shapes as they are blown against some barrier.
I also know,Lord, that you shape us and mold us, not unlike the snow. The wind of your Holy Spirit makes us into what You want us to be. Father, I pray that when you mold me it doesn't hurt too much. I pray I will be pliable and easy to mold. I pray that I will be made into what You want me to be.

Have Thine own way, Lord.
Have Thine own way.
Thou art the Potter,
I am the clay.
Mold me and make me,
After Thy will.
While I am waiting,
Yielded and still.

In Jesus name, Amen.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


We have a pre-school here at our building and the kids are fun to see. They are so full of excitement and they want to learn so much. Their energy is enviable and their smiles are contagious. I love when they come around the office with their Halloween outfits--princesses and football players, Power Rangers and Cinderellas, it is so much fun to have a brief conversation with them from time to time. And brief is what it usually is because they have an agenda to keep, someone to play with, another place to go.
This morning as I walked into the office, I caught of glimpse of something that struck my heart. Of course, living in Nebraska, we have our share of snow. And even though we haven't had as much as the East Coast this year, we've had our share of snow since December and haven't seen the ground since the early part of that month. On the sidewalk were hundreds of little footprints. I saw those precious feet as kids being led to all kinds of places. They were taken home by their parents or grandparents. Perhaps they were excited about lunch at Chuckie Cheese or Taco Bell. But they were being led. They didn't get into their own cars and drive themselves. That will come later. But the footprints struck me.
What if that parent were to lead their child somewhere that would harm them? Metaphorically, I thought about my path and where I had led others, precioius children full of trust, just holding my hand and going where I took them.
That's the kind of influence we have. Others with child-like faith may be looking to us. Wanting to know where we will lead them. As Jesus called His apostles, He said, "Follow me." Later, Paul says, "Follow me, as I follow Christ." That's what I truly want to do. Take these and lead them into the way of knowing how good and precious and full of grace our Lord is.
I thought of the song:

Sweetly, Lord have we heard Thee calling,
"Come follow me!"
And we see where Thy footprints falling
Lead us to Thee.
Footprints of Jesus, that make the pathway glow;
We will follow the steps of Jesus,
Where'er they go.

Indeed, let us lead in the paths and footprints of Jesus. I hope your day is a good one. JW

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"...and He healed them."

Happy new year! I realize it's nearly the middle of January, but I haven't blogged since before Christmas. I haven't been too inspired to write anything substantial, so I haven't written. My deepest apologies.
I have taken it upon myself to read the New Testament through slowly and with purpose. I know that sounds strange coming from a minister, but I think you understand. The Scriptures are so familiar to all of us that we tend to skim over them just to get our reading in for the day. It is my desire to slow down and catch what I've never caught before...and it's working.
One of my favorite hymns we used to sing at College Church in Searcy was the song with these words:

At even, when the sun was set,
The sick, O Lord around Thee lay;
O in what divers pains they met!
O with what joy they went away!

Once more 'tis eventide, and we,
Oppressed with various ills, draw near;
What if Thy form we cannot see,
We know and feel that Thou art here.

Thy touch has still its ancient pow'r;
No word from Thee can fruitless fall;
Hear, in this solemn evening hour,
And in Thy mercy heal us all.

What beautiful words! In my mind's eye I can see all of those who have an ailment, a sickness getting to Jesus however they can just to have Him touch them and heal them. I've read the story of Jesus clearing the temple many times, but I saw something in Matthew that I hadn't seen before. (See? This slowing down and being purposeful is working!) Jesus throws out those who are selling and making money and says to them, "My house will be called a house of prayer, but you're turning it into a gathering place for thieves." What caught my eye was the next verse. It says, "Blind and lame people came to him in the temple courtyard, and he healed them." Could it have been that there was no room for those who really needed Jesus? It was so full of those who were looking to satisfy self and make a profit that there was no place for the ones who truly were seeking God. And once Jesus made way for them, now there was a place for those who really wanted healing.
Is that what happens in our assemblies today? Do we gather to get our fix and occupy the place in the sanctuary only to crowd out those who really need to hear the gospel? When we complain, "I just didn't get anything out of that service!", are we hindering those who are doing everything they can to receive healing? Perhaps we've done the same thing as they did in Jesus' time. Are we "selling our souls" in our assemblies only to forget there is a whole world crying out to see the Lamb of God, but there's no room. Shame on us. Maybe our gatherings need to be more of revealing our weaknesses and faults, of seeing that we all struggle, rather than covering up our sins and acting holy. Our churches should be refuges, indeed sanctuaries, places of safety rather than arenas of self-inflicted battles. We should have halls of grace and mercy, not catecombs of correctness and attitude. Yes, they should be places of healing. What a difference we could make in this world if we could all just get this. Let's make room. Let's open our hearts to those (and it may be and probably is us) who need the wonderful healing power of our Lord. Have a great day! JW