Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Working Out at the Gym

There's nothing profound in my blog today. Just some observations from the gym. Yes, I have been working out at the gym. I know it doesn't appear so, but I have been fairly consistent over the last three months. Lately, I have fallen off, (i.e. Thanksgiving and then a serious chest cold), but I'm trying to get back in. Here are some things I've noticed where I work out. Some of the things are observations while others are just things I've noticed.

1. I find it interesting that people who work out at the gym try to get the parking spot closest to the door. (I know some will say they want to stay out of the cold, but shouldn't it be important to begin the workout by walking some distance to the door?)
2. The tighter the clothes, the fatter (ahem), larger the body.
3. I don't have enough tattoos to work out at this gym. I've seen legs covered, chests, arms, anywhere the clothes haven't covered there are tattoos. I say I don't have enough tattoos....I don't have ANY tattoos.
4. I honestly saw a guy working out in sunglasses the other day. What? Is the mob trying to find him? Are the lights so bright that he can't see? (I know, I know, some of you will say, "He just might have had some surgery to his eyes and the light bothers him. If he had surgery to his eyes, WHAT IS HE DOING WORKING OUT!!)
5. Big torsos, little legs. I'm not talking women here. I'm talking about these guys who bulk up their chests, but it looks like they have these little, tiny legs.
6. Why do people who look as if they have been in the concentration camps of World War II work out. I'm afraid their bones are going to snap.
7. The other day I saw a guy on one of the stationary bikes (I don't know what they call these bikes, but you recline slightly to do them) working on a cross word puzzle. Now if you are doing a cross word puzzle, how much exercise is really going on? I've seen others reading books. I get that a little bit more, but a cross word. How can you read what you've written?
8. I've noticed in the sauna that people wear their head phones to their Ipods, but you can still hear the music. Have I told you that I don't like rap music?
9. People tend to brag a lot in these places. Two examples. I heard two guys talking the other day and one told the other that he at one time held the world record for the 100 meter dash. Now, without being obvious, I just had to look. Then I heard him say, "Did you know I only had one leg?" "11.6 was my time." Maybe...maybe not. The other example isn't really bragging, just ignorance. Sitting in the sauna one day, and it was pretty warm....aren't saunas supposed to be warm (hot). One guy talking to another about how hot it was in there. And the one guy said, "It was 208 degrees in here the other day." Now correct me if I'm wrong. Isn't the boiling point of water 212 degrees? So he was saying it was only 4 degrees below boiling?

Oh, well, enough for now. These are just a few of the things I've noticed while working out. I'm sure there will be more. Hope your day is a good one. JW

Monday, November 14, 2011

Stained Glass Churches

We have a beautiful building. Our speaker on Sunday commented that he could tell that our church building was not built by a Church of Christ architect because of the design. It's a building in the round and it has a lot of stained glass. We all chuckled at the thought.
But as I contemplated what he said, I started to look at the glass. From the outside, as people drive by I'm sure there are those who would say, "What a beautiful building! Look at that stained glass." If they judge what is on the inside by what is on the outside, they would we are just the best people. But on the inside, we have people with problems. They are struggling with life. Some are hypocrites. Some are only Sunday Christians (if there is such a thing). But we have our problems. Still, wonderful people as a rule, but sinners nonetheless.
Those of us on the inside can't see out because of the windows. Interesting concept....can't see outside because the windows are stained glass. Sometimes we sit in our little enclosed pen and the world passes by and we don't see the problems that await right outside our doors because we can't see it. I'm praying now that we don't live in the stained glass church building. It's my desire to see us living in the world but not of the world. I want us to see what's happening so that we can show them Jesus. Not our church. Not our doctrine. Not our belief, per se. But Jesus. When they see Jesus, then they'll want to know more about us. Let's pray that's what happens. Have a great day.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The Way It Used To Be

I believe it was comedian Steven Wright who said, "Nostalgia just isn't what it used to be." As I age I begin to think so much about the way "it used to be." I have a friend who told me he just wanted things to go back to the way they were. I somewhat agree with what he said and I'll explain.
I loved it when we could ride our bikes all day long without worrying about traffic or people who had evil purposes. We never locked our doors. We didn't have to worry about what was on the television. Around my house, the most vile things on TV were the beer commercials between innings of the baseball game...and we had to turn the sound down so we didn't hear them. By the way, this was the day and age before remote controls so we literally had to get up out of our chairs and turn the sound down. On Monday nights we watched Andy Griffith and on Tuesday we watched Red Skelton. Many of the channels went off the air after the news. You knew when you heard the national anthem the station was about to shut down for the night.
In the summer, our curfew was when it started to get dark. My parents just wanted to know where I was and they seldom worried what I was doing. I spent my time playing sports. If I had no one to play with, I would make it up. I could play a nine inning baseball game with a pencil for a bat, a marble for the ball, and my baseball cards for a team. I would cut up bases out of cardboard and retire to my room to play a game. I could play basketball with a ping pong ball and a basket (once again made from cardboard) taped to the door. I played football in our yard (once again, by myself) with a softball. I could pass and catch the ball on the same play. And I could tackle myself. My team always won. I remember playing wiffle ball with friends for hours. Remember the imaginary runner? Oh, I loved those days.
Don't misunderstand me. I love my computer, my cell phone, and my microwave. I'm glad I've grown up and had a family of my own. I think what we're talking about going back to our values; going back to the days of God being important in the lives of our nation. Being concerned about praying for our country, our world. Living in a town where evil was rare and perverted and not accepted and pandered to. And being people of good character who look to the Bible for moral direction and not despise the Word as ancient and out-dated.
We can return to that, you know. How do we do it? One person at a time. You can change yourself and I can change myself. A single candle lit in the darkness makes all the difference in the world. In the next to the last chapter of the Bible, the new Jerusalem makes its appearance and God makes a statement that should give us a renewed hope of what we are talking about. God says, "I am making everything new!" He can do that....He's God. He can take a torn scattered life and make it brand new. He can take a nation that sues over everything, that rejects the very image of the cross, and that fights over the most insignificant things in the name of political correctness and make us whole and new again. We can go back to the way it used to be. Let's start praying today. I hope your day is a good one! JW

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Am I Making a Difference?

Not too long ago I lamented (openly, verbally) that I wasn't sure how much affect I was having in the Kingdom. Preachers do this...some more than others. I think I was just tired and feeling Satan's arrows. It was a down time for me. Was my preparation a waste of time? Were people really listening to me? Do people really care?
Dumb move. First of all, to wonder if I (meaning one person) is having an affect is useless and vain. Because, it's not about me. It's about the One we proclaim. "Let your light shine so that they may see your good works and glorifying your Father who is in heaven." So my first mistake was putting myself on the throne.
But God in His mercy pushed back the curtain just a little bit to let me see. I had a young father come to me right after a sermon I had preached. He told me of some struggles he was having with his son. I had just preached a sermon on the prodigal. The young father was ready to call it quits. My sermon had said never shut the door because God never shuts the door on us. He told me he would never shut the door on his son. Then I saw a facebook entry that talked of a wonderful service that we had had recently on Father's Day. He talked of how much it meant to him and that I had planned it.
I hung my head. Shame on me. I was worried about what people were thinking of me instead of letting people see how great He is.
Thank you, God, for showing me that Your words don't come back void. Forgive me when I get caught up in the preacher thing about really making a difference. Help me to see that it has nothing to do with me, but everything to do with You. I love you, Lord.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Bat Boy

It had been an exciting afternoon. It was my first trip to TD Ameritrade Park to see the very first game ever played there in the College World Series. Vanderbilt and North Carolina were locking horns trying to win to advance in the series. Players were playing hard. The game had started a little slowly but it had gotten interesting when I noticed him.
He looked like a miniature player for Vanderbilt. It was a young boy wearing a Vanderbilt uniform. He stood in the entrance of the dugout entranced in the game. On his back wasn't a number, but BB standing for Bat Boy. When a player would hit the ball and run out his hit, this young man would sprint (and I don't think that's too strong a word) to recover the bat and put it in its proper cubby hole in the dugout. When a foul ball was hit back toward the screen, he ran as hard as he could to retrieve the ball. The ball park had employed a young lady to collect all the foul balls. But it seemed as if this young man was on a mission to get the ball before she could hardly get out of her place.
He had no influence on the outcome of the game. The players virtually ignored him. The bats and helmets seemed supersized to this little boy. But he did everything with such enthusiasm, with such vigor, with such pride. I wonder if he received any credit from the team. Did anyone encourage him as he conducted his duties? Was he truly appreciated for picking up after the players? Basically what I saw was a servant.
Jesus said no servant is above his master. In describing a judgment scene, God is portrayed as saying to those who have been given entrance into heaven as, "Well done, good and faithful.....servant." Jesus got on his knees and washed the apostles feet, a task that was generally reserved for the household servant.
Servants seemingly get no credit, are often overlooked, and rarely acknowledged as valuable. But I would dare say that God has His eyes on those who make themselves servants. Because it's in serving that we find our place, our mission. And wouldn't you want to be noticed by the One who rewards those who are noticed by no one else? Kind of like that young man who was the Bat Boy. I hope you have a wonderful day. JW

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Why Are We Afraid of Grace?

Paul is very plain. He doesn't mince words....and he rarely did anyway. He was a straight shooter with many years of experience. He had been misunderstood before and mistreated and mis (you fill in the blank...he was). But there is no misunderstanding this statement. In Ephesians 2:4, 5, Paul says, "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved." And so there's no misunderstanding, he says it again in vs. 8 and 9, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast."
Now I see people all the time having to explain it. "Now you have to have the whole story. You have to get the entire picture." They go on to explain that Paul doesn't really mean that, he means there is more. I understand to an extent what they are saying. Paul says that God's grace is not without effect. But we are still saved by grace. What are we afraid of? Why can't we just accept that? Why can't we just take God, take Jesus, take Paul at face value? We will never be able to earn, or be worthy, or do anything that will make us deserve God's grace. Never.
Dear God, thank you for your grace. I want to accept it. I want it to change me. Help me to never take it for granted or use it as "cheap grace." But Father, help me to bask in your grace and not to be afraid to call it what it is....unmerited favor. In Jesus name, Amen! Have a great day! JW

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It Never Ends

Death is one of those things that just slaps you in the face. Three times this weekend my life has been impacted by death. I preached the funeral of a 91 year old lady who was a member here at our church. Sunday, I did the memorial service for the mother of one of our members here. And over the weekened, I had a 90 year old aunt die.
Each of these impacted me in different ways. Jessie was a lady with whom I loved to spar. I would give her a hard time and she would dish it right back. But we talked of her life several times as she got closer to her death. I was looking at her in the casket and she was wearing her watch...which was still working. I wondered what she needed it for anymore.
The second lady, as previously mentioned, was the mother of one of our members. I never met the woman that I know of. But I know her son. He is a man of character, one who works in the corporate world, yet knows what it means to give of his life. He helps to establish children's homes in Africa. He didn't just decide to be that way. He learned that from his mother.
The third is a lady I've known all my life. When I was in junior high, her husband, my uncle, died of a brain tumor. She lived all these years faithful to God never losing her faith although she had to raise two children as a single mother. And she did a wonderful job. All three of these ladies had eternal influence.
Last Friday, as I sat in the hearse with the funeral home director waiting for the family to show up at the cemetery, the grave digger came up to the director and spoke a few words. I wasn't really paying much attention to what they were talking about. As the conversation came to an end, I heard the man say, "In this business, it never ends." I just had to write that down. Truer words were never spoken. Truly in kingdom business, it never ends. Have a great day. JW

Monday, May 09, 2011

Old Acquaintances: The Stepperdine Experience

I tried to blog recently but lost the whole thing. I take that as a sign from God and realize that maybe what I said didn't need to be said. :). Anyway, last week my wife and I spent the week in Malibu, California at the Pepperdine lectures. What a tremendous experience to be able to listen to the caliber of speakers, one after another. I texted our youth minister one day with this: Rick Atchley, Rubel Shelly, Mike Cope, Randy Harris, Chris Seidman. That is my schedule for the day. If you are a member of the Church of Christ, you know that those are five heavy hitters in the church. What an enjoyable, tiring, emotional, physical, spiritual, experience it was.
But what meant the most to me was seeing people I haven't seen in a while. It helped me to understand and truly appreciate God's kingdom. I saw a man who I had in a Bible class I taught in 1975-76 at West Birmingham Christian School. He is now a preacher in Mississippi. I saw a friend of mine, a preacher, who lives just 40 miles away in Lincoln, NE. Two of my former ministers were there--Mike Cope and Rubel Shelly. I saw a man and a woman with whom I'd gone to school with (the wife in high school, the husband in college). He is a successful businessman, but takes time every year to attend these lectures to fill his spiritual bucket. Another man I saw there was a man I see maybe once a year. A preacher in the Kingdom who is always positive, encouraging, and funny. I saw a former colleague of mine from when I worked at one of our Christian schools. I hired him over 20 years ago. (In fact, I saw several former colleagues). I saw a man who preaches in the Kansas City area whose Dad was the education minister when I preached in Northwest Arkansas. What an encoouragement it was to be in their midst. To hear their stories, to hear their accomplishments, to hear their commitment to Jesus.
It helped me once again to realize the greatness of God's Kingdom. And what a joy it will be to enter heaven and spend eternity with these and many other people just like them. Have a great day. JW

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Leaky Faucet

I related this story in Sunday's sermon, but it bears repeating in the blogosphere. Last week I had gone to the restroom to do what men (and women) do in Anyway, I heard the water in the faucet running. Being the good steward that I am and not wanting to waste any water, I went to the sink to turn off the faucet that someone so carelessly had left so that a tiny stream of water was running.
When I turned the knob to the right, just the opposite of what I expected happened. Instead of the water shutting off, it blasted into the sink. In was flowing so hard that the drain didn't have time to, well, drain it. The sink was filling up quickly and I could just see the water filling the sink and then onto the floor. So I sprang into action. "Aha," I thought. "This must be one of those faucets that's confused and must be turned the other way in order to shut the water off. So valiantly turned the faucet the other way to shut this dramatic flow of water.
Now at this point, everything went into slow motion. When I turned the knob the other way, it came off into my hand. Now the water wasn't flowing through the spigot, it was flying horizontally out of the hole where the knob had been. So now I didn't have to worry about the sink flowing over onto the floor. The water was shooting out of the hole directly onto the floor....and the wall...and the extra toilet paper kept on the other side of the room....and me. Remember now, the scene is in slow motion. I dropped to my knees and crawled to the turn-off valves under the sink and cranked the first one I came to. Nothing happened because it was the hot water valve I turned. I reached for the other shut off and was able to get the water turned off, but not until it had made an utter mess of the bathroom. All I wanted to do was go to the bathroom.
Isn't this how Satan deals with us. We going about our daily life and just doing what we do. Then something comes doesn't look too bad, it's harmless. Perhaps it's a temptation. Maybe something that just catches our eye and we say, "Just this once. After all it's just a small thing. Just this time." Pretty soon that "just this once" ends up being the knob in your hand and everything out of control. Never underestimate the enemy. The Bible says he's a roaring lion. I can understand that one. But it also says he can disguise himself as an angel of light. That one's harder to spot. So be careful out there. Don't get into situations that quickly can get out of control. Instead, be vigilant. Be ready. Satan left Jesus after tempting Him, but for a more opportune time. So next time you turn that faucet knob, remember this little tale. Have a great day! JW

Monday, March 28, 2011

Liberal or Conservative

I received a call last week asking about our Wednesday evening services. We have no services on Wednesday evening, only small groups that meet. The gentleman asked about Sunday services and after giving him the information, we hung up. Several minutes later the same person called again and asked several interesting questions.
First, he asked what my position was with the church. Then he asked, "Are you liberal or conservative?" I chuckled and told him I couldn't answer that. To some we are liberal and to others we are conservative. He said he understood, then he asked the two questions that I assume were acid tests to him. (I'm not making this up.) He asked, "Do you use instrumental music?" I told him we didn't, but we did use videos that had instrumental music in them. "In classes?" he retorted. No, we use them in worship. Then came the next question. "Does your church have potlucks?" "All the time," I replied. He then hung up.
I may be wrong, but my assumption is this gentleman thinks we are liberal. Heaven forbid we have potlucks, especially in the building. This reminded me of an e-mail I received several years ago asking about divorce/remarriage, eating in the building, and a number of other things. I'm always amused at the way we determine whether a church is liberal or conservative. I hope I'm liberal with God's love. I hope I'm conservative with my criticism. It's my prayer that I'm liberal with God's grace and mercy and conservative with my judgments and speck finding.
This gentleman may have come to our services Sunday. Maybe he found what he was looking for. I'm more concerned that Jesus finds what He's looking for in us. Have a great day! JW

Monday, March 21, 2011

Letter to Landry

Dear Landry,
Since you are my first grandchild, I was just getting used to being your Papa. I had had a lot of practice with your mother and your Uncle Nate, but this was different. I could hand you back when you were crying. If you messed your diaper, I could have someone else change it (even Granna would do it....she is such a softie). I looked forward to our (nearly) every day conversations. I loved to feel your soft skin and smell your smell and see your smile.
It was really hard to leave you in Wichita the other day with your Momma and Daddy, but that's a good place for you. And although I won't get to see you every day, I need you to help your Mom and Dad. I want you to help them by being a good boy, by growing up and becoming a good young man, then becoming a great man. I want you to remember the times that I held you close to me as I sang "Jesus Loves Me" to you. By the way, it won't be the last time you hear me sing it. With Skype and visits, I'll have plenty more opportunities to do that.
But I want you to know that you wrapped yourself around my heart just like your little hand wrapped around my finger. Granna didn't see my tears while we were driving home in the dark. I could see your Momma's tears again as we drove off. But I need you to grow up and be a big boy. Know that your Granna and Papa love you as do your other grandparents, your Mom and Dad, and a host of other people. You are so fortunate to have them as your parents.
Most importantly, I want you to grow up and love God. I want you to give your life to Him. I want you to know that if Papa loves you, God loves you even more....although I can't imagine how much that is.
Grow up to be a big boy, we'll be down to visit as much as we can, and I know you'll come see us. Save some "Patty-cake" games for me. We'll see you soon. I love you....Papa.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Our Father

I went and heard James Taylor and his son, Ben Taylor, sing the other night. Now I cut my teeth (not really) on James Taylor's music. In college, it was the goal of all of the young men who could play guitar to play it like James and to imitate his voice. His songs had a soothing, yet soulful and haunting, nature to them. Mellow would be the way I would describe his music. And I was raised in the era of "the louder, the better" era of music with heavy metal, and crank it up volume. But James Taylor would come along and just soothe my soul.
His son looks a lot like him. He isn't as good a singer and he can't play the guitar as well as his dad. Yet there was JT promoting his son and singing with him and enjoying the concert as much as I did.
I couldn't help thinking about our relationship with our Father. He is awesome at everything He does. He creates, He is glorified, He is loving. And I try to imitate Him in my own meager sort of way. I'm not as good. I'm not as loving. Yet He sings with me and promotes me to be like Him. Kind of like JT and Ben.
At the end of the concert, JT hugged his son, smiled and took a bow. Just like God does with us. Am I taking this too far? I don't think so. That's how much God loves us. I hope your day is good. JW

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Story

I'm teaching the high school class on Sunday mornings. Wow, it's been a long time so it will be a challenge. Yesterday we talked about what makes a good story. There were a variety of answers from complications to tragedies to resolution of those tragedies. But one young teen called out the word "love." As they say on Family Feud, "Good answer, good answer!"
As we turned the discussion to the story of the Bible, we were able to see how all of Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is one single line of love. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son...." It's the story all throughout the Bible. As Adam and Eve fall, the march begins on a purposeful, resolute journey to the cross of Jesus. He loves us (you) so much! And He wants us to love Him too.
It's really very simple. We have studied it, analyzed it, argued about it, but it really comes down to the simple song that I sing to my new grandson. As I hold him and he cries, I simply sing softly in his ears the words of "the Story."

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 hope you have a wonderful day! JW

Monday, February 28, 2011

Free Will

I've been thinking a lot about free will lately. Or as we used to say in the church, "Free Moral Agent." That just sounds funny to me. But free will is not funny. It's what made Adam and Eve sin in the garden. It's what makes you and me different from anything else God has created.
C.S. Lewis has always been one to frighten me....simply because he's so doggone smart. And when I read his books, I find myself with my eyes rolled in the back of my head and dazed. Recently, I purchased a book of daily passages from Lewis and I've found I can take him in smaller doses. That way my brain doesn't get fried. But here's a passage from Mere Christianity that talks of free will.

God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata--of creatures that worked like machines--would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free.

Thanks, C.S. I couldn't have said it better myself. Have a great day. JW

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons

Gabe Lyons' *The Next Christians* is a follow-up to the book *Unchristian* co-authored with David Kinnaman. His description of the condition of the church is very telling and relies on his personal and statistical study. The introduction of technology, the presence of pluralism, and the onset of postmodernism has permanently changed the scene of religion in America. As we progress toward what has already happened in Europe, Lyons warns us of what is rapidly coming to our soil.

In describing the present condition of the church, he describes present day Pharisees and Sadducees. However, he also describes what must distinguish the "next Christian" in the years to come. These include: Provoked, not offended; Creators, not crtics; Called, not employed; Grounded, not distracted; In community, not alone; Countercultural, not "relevant."

In essence, in my opinion, he describes not what a "new Christian" is, but what God always intended for His followers to be. This book serves as a great resource for those who are wondering what is happening int he postmodern church and what it will take for Christians to be salt and light.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. To see a video clip about this book, go to or go to to read the first chapter.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Graduation Song

Happy Monday and Happy Valentine's Day!

I graduated from high school in May of 1972 from Harding Academy in Searcy, Arkansas. Yes, that makes me 56 (almost 57) years old. For some reason I was thinking about that day recently. How many of you remember who spoke at your high school graduation? I do. It was my father. Thirty-six years later I had the privilege of delivering the baccalaureate address for my son's graduating class. But I digress.
At my graduation several of the senior boys were asked to lead the audience in a hymn. I was given the task to lead one of those songs and I still remember what song it was. I pulled out the words the other day and I thought how interesting. It was a song of youth asking for guidance in our lives as we get older. Now looking back, I see the wisdom in those words as I approach the later stage of my life. Here is the song:

Take my life, O Father mold it in obedience to Thy will;
And as rip'ning years unfold it, keep it true and child-like still.

Father, keep it pure and lowly, strong and brave, yet free from strife,
Turning from the paths unholy of a van or sinful life.

Ever let Thy might surround it; strengthen it wth pow'r divine,
Till Thy cords of love have bound it, Father, wholly unto Thine.

Ageless words that still speak to me today. I hardly understood them these 40 years ago, but now they ring truer than they did then. I sing these words in my heart today and I hear the calling to be child-like in heart, holy, and wise enough to follow the Divine guidance of the only Holy One.

Dear God,
Please let me live by the words of this beautiful hymn. And my I ever fill the loving cords of Your love in my life. In His name, Amen.

I hope you have a great day. JW

Monday, February 07, 2011

C. S. Lewis

I haven't ever been much of a C. S. Lewis fan. It's not because I don't think he's a great writer, I just have a hard time understanding him. His thought processes are so far above my own, I just don't get him sometimes. I bought a book not too long ago called A Year with C. S. Lewis which has a year of readings from him. Perhaps broken up in smaller parts I can "get" him a little bit better. Today's blog is from his book Mere Christianity. I hope you like it. I did.

Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd. It is not neat, not obvious, not what you expect. For instance, when you have grasped that the earth and the other planets all go around the sun, you would naturally expect that all the planets were made to match--all at equal distances from each other, say, or distances that regularly increased, or all the same size, or else getting bigger or smaller as you go further from the sun. In fact, you find no rhyme or reason (that we can see) about either the sizes or the distances; and some of them have one moon, one has four, one has two, some have none, and one has a ring.

Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could have not guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that queer twist about it that real things have. --C. S. Lewis

Thank you, sir....I couldn't have said it better myself. I hope you have a good day. JW

Monday, January 31, 2011

Beware of Churches....

It's Monday and I have tried to keep my promise and resolution of writing on each Monday. Somewhere along the way I'm sure I'll miss or perhaps won't have anything to say. Thus far, however, I've had something creep into my feeble little mind and I'll write it down (which is something I've not done in the past) and write about it each Monday. I'm now five for five.
My thought for the week involves being wary of certain kinds of churches. Through my lifetime I have seen large and small, conservative and liberal, college churches and community churches and whatever kinds of churches you want to see. I've seen lives destroyed and hearts broken by churches. All too frequently I have seen churches be almost less spiritual than the world around them. So hence comes this blog.

Beware of churches that have all the answers. In some ways it would be nice to be able to go to a little instruction book that gives specific instructions on each situation in life. Some may say we have that in the Bible. I agree to some extent, but God in His wisdom left things seemingly ambiguous. Oh, I know there are some "Thou shalts" and "Thou shalt nots." But when asked for the greatest command, Jesus said to love God with everything you have. How do you do that? I don't know. And churches that tell you how to do that really don't know either. I'm not calling for a situation ethics lifestyle. But I am saying, sometimes we just have to love God and do the best we can.

Beware of churches that don't know about grace. Perhaps I should say that don't practice grace. We use grace as a tool, as a leverage. Grace makes us uncomfortable...and it probably should. But I would rather sin on the side of grace than to destroy someone who may be trying, but I have no clue what their motive is. "But what about justice?," some may ask. Personally, I'll leave that one up to God who is far better at it than I am.

Beware of churches that don't know how to weep. Actually, my feeling is, we're pretty good at weeping. But there are a few out there who still have the old "don't let them see your tears" mentality. Jesus was called a Man of Sorrows. After all, didn't Jesus weep? I read where He cried over Jerusalem. Perhaps we should be a church that cries more over the lostness of the world.

Beware of churches that don't know how to laugh. I read an article the other day where a gentleman complained that people were laughing during someone's baptism. He complained that there was a solemnity that wasn't being observed. I'm sorry this brother doesn't understand the wonder of laughter. Doesn't Scripture say that even the angels rejoice when one is saved? Didn't Jesus have a sense of humor? How can you not laugh when He tells the story of the man with a 2 X 4 in his eye trying to remove the speck out of another's eye? Laughing is healthy. Smiles are a lot more inviting than frowns.

Beware of churches that don't know how to worship. We're getting better at this. And I have to admit, I need some work on this myself. For too long we have stood in our pews looking at the back of the head of the person in front of us. We haven't shared our worship together. It hasn't been a joyful time. It hasn't been a time of shared remembrance or celebration. We've gone through the motions for too long thinking that God is pleased. Worship is individual. Worship is corporate. When my daughter was little I would love to come home from work. When I walked in the door she would begin jumping up and down and shouting, "Daddy!! Daddy!! Daddy's home!!! Daddy's home!!!" She would run up and hug me and cling to me. Now was that wrong? No, just a child's heart wanting to be with her Father. Which brings me to the next one.

Beware of churches that don't love kids. You can tell what kind of church you have by seeing how the children are viewed. Are they treated with special care or are they are necessary nuisance? Do they have a prominent place in your worship or do we try to keep them silent? Jesus Himself told us that we should be like little children.

Beware of churches that don't love old folks. Once again, do we treasure these saints or do we brush them aside? How do we treat these precious ones who more than occasionally closer to their reward than the rest of us? Shouldn't we honor their white hair? Shouldn't we listen to their wisdom? Shouldn't we help them as they are absorbed into the universe of God's heaven?

Well, these are just a few things that came to my mind. I'm sure there are others. If you have some others, just comment. I would love to hear from you. Have a great day! JW

Monday, January 24, 2011

God is not Doctrine

I was reading a little C. S. Lewis the other day (What I can understand of him is excellent!) and he made a statement that caught my eye. He said, "Doctrines are not God." I stopped and highlighted that statement because I think it hits a nerve.
We in the Lord's church today have made doctrine God. And contrary to popular belief, the "change agents" (I really don't like that term. What the term means is someone with whom I don't agree with. That's usually what change agents mean.) that are out there do not want to throw doctrine out the window. But in many cases, our doctrine has become the most important thing. "Don't tell me what God is about," "Don't explain to me about God's grace." Just tell me what to do and I'll do it. I'll condemn others for not doing it and I'll beat them over the head with my doctrine."
Wow, that is so unlike my Father. Yet, that is what, I'm afraid, many in the church see in God. There are so many passages that talk about knowing God and loving God. God is love. God is realtionship. God is justice, yes, but He provides our way to know Him better. I prefer the latter to the former. Just a few words for thought. I hope your day is a good one. JW

Monday, January 17, 2011

Prohibition or Freedom?

I've often said that we could answer most if not all of our church questions if one little conundrum were settled. Silence of the Scriptures; does it mean prohibition or freedom? Really, you can't have it both ways. That's what happens to most of my friends who believe that it means prohibition.
For example, they may place restrictions on some things in worship, but allow worship leaders, church buildings, song books, church vans, or many other things that we use. (I know we don't use church vans in corporate worship. I just threw that in for fun. But I think you see what I'm saying.) Now if silence means restriction, then how can we justify these preceding things that we so readily use? Expedience. That's the words my friends use to justify the use of unlisted items. So how can we pick and choose?
May I give an example that God allows some things that aren't necessarily mentioned in Scripture? If you read about Jesus' life on this earth, note where He went to teach. Most of the Gospels use a phrase such as, "as was his custom...." He went to the synagogue. Where do you find the synagogue in the Scripture? Where is the authorization? It's not in the Old Testament. It's not in the New Testament. We first read about it there in the first four books of the New Testament. When Paul went on his missionary journeys, where did he go? He first went to the synagogues. The synagogues developed in the 400 years between the Old Testament and the New Testament. They are not authorized places of worship, yet we find Jesus going there....and never saying anything about them. With that, He gave tacit approval.
Now, in the age we live in now, wouldn't the same be true? I'm not calling for "anything goes" because I think you can get a general feeling by reading the New Testament what is appropriate or not. But there is a freedom that is given to us that comes from silence of the Scriptures.
Now, I'm sure there are those who would not agree with me. That's all right. These are just my thoughts and this is my blog. But I would appreciate your consideration. I hope your day is a good one. JW

Monday, January 10, 2011

He Shows Up

I was reading John's version of Jesus' resurrection and something caught my eye. Mary Magdelene went to the tomb and noticed that the stone had been removed. Peter and John run to the tomb and look in. Even though they noted that Jesus wasn't there and believed that He had risen, they left. Verse 10 of Chapter 20 says, "Then the disciples went back to their homes." Peter was never one known for his patience. I don't know about John. But it was a kind of "we've seen all we can see here" mentality and they left.

Mary on the other hand hung around and was weeping. Jesus showed up. She didn't know it was Him and she thought He was the gardener. All Jesus had to do was to say her name. "Mary." What a moment! What joy must have run through her bones at the moment. Fact is, had Peter and John hung around, they would have seen Him, too. Instead, a little while later, they were locked in a room when Jesus showed up to them.

I wonder how many of us become impatient, wanting to see Jesus right there and they way we want and envision the way He should show up. We wait a minute or two and then leave, missing the entire visitation. I wonder how many times Jesus has shown up in our lives and we either didn't see Him or we left before He came. Patience is not one of our virtues. The culture of now seems to have overtaken us. It happened again with the gentlemen on the road to Emmaus. In that case, He was with them and they didn't notice. May we never become so involved, so faithless, so impatient, that we won't wait long enough to see our Lord.

Dear Lord, forgive our crowded lives. Help us just to wait, to be still, to slow down and wait for your appearing. Open our eyes that we may see you in the little moments as well as the big ones. Give us the sense to know it's You. In Jesus name, Amen. I hope your day is a good one. JW

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Papa White

I have been lax in blogging over the last year. So, I've decided to write more this year (One of my New Year's resolutions!). I realize that people who used to read this blog have quit looking to see if I written anything. So it will take time to build the readership back up. But I'm willing to do it. Once a week, at least, I'll write something. Sometimes it will be personal. Other times it won't. But I always hope you will enjoy the words.

Probably the biggest event in my life this year (yeah, already!) is the birth of my first grandson....Landry James Johnston. He was born yesterday, January 3, 2011. He was 7 lbs. 13 oz and 20 3/4 inches long. Everyone is doing well. I am proud of my daughter and son-in-law because they were wonderful during this process. And although they're moving away in March or April, they are going to be great parents.

I can't describe the first time I walked in the room just minutes after he was born. My daugther was holding her new son, "This is Landry," she said. I looked at her tired face, weary from childbirth, elated at this new stage in her life, and tears in her eyes. What is it that God built into women? That maternal instinct that is so tender, so wonderful to behold and so hard to describe. And I saw it in my wife as she set about to her grandmotherly duties. Smiling, cuddling, cooing, protecting. It truly is a joy to watch and experience.

I thought about the future. What a strange bookend of events. My first grandson was born on Monday and I go to my urologist for my cancer checkup on Friday. (By the way, everything is fine and I expect this check up to be good also. This is just the six month check up after my prostate surgery). This morning I thought of Travis and Meredith and I wished for them the same feeling I had when I saw my first grandson. I wish for them the same when they seen their first grandchild. I won't be around for that one probably. But that's all right. My goal, my job is to pass it on. Pass on the faith. Pass on the trust in the One and Only. I've already sung "Jesus Loves Me" to Landry. Maybe that's why he cried....But I want to be there for him to pass it on.

Wow! What an experience and what a jumbled mass of words. But you have to understand, I just became a grandfather for the very first time. Well, I can't wait to get out there to see him. I hope your day is as good as mine. JW Happy New Year!