Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What's More Important?

I receive a monthly bulletin/commentary from a minister in another state. It is not part of my reading material because I enjoy reading it. I read it because it is so sad. He spends much of his time bashing others in the church who are "change agents" (his words) and bemoaning the fact that they are reprobates, heretics, and any other nasty thing he can call them. Personally, it's sad to me that someone has some much hatred and vitriol in his heart. Second, we constantly harp on each church being autonomous, yet he insists on policing everyone else's church. Thirdly, I never hear any mention of his church; the church where he ministers. Could it be that he's so uptight about everyone else that he's neglecting his own flock? I hope he finds peace and grace and mercy.

This gentleman causes me to wonder about the church and her proponents. Do those who demand strict compliance love God more than those who are being labeled as these change agents? I think a good question to ask is, "Would Jesus be considered a change agent?" He said that "not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen" would disappear from the law until they had all been fulfilled. Yet, Jesus was constantly bombarded because He was changing things. He wasn't following the law.

This blog today is not intended to be a formal, long treatise on this subject. Just an observation or two from a flawed minister. The call of the New Testament has always been to be like Jesus, not to adhere to rules. I hear you now. "Oh, so you say we shouldn't obey the Scriptures." No, I didn't say that. We follow what Scripture says because we're trying to be more like Jesus. We don't adhere to the law because of an obligation and without heart. We love Jesus so we'll follow what He says...not obey the rules because He demands that we do. It's the difference between motivated by love and motivated by will or have to or duty. To me, that's a profound difference. Don't misunderstand me. I think duty is a wonderful motivation in some cases. But Jesus didn't say the most important commandment was to follow the Scriptures. He said the most important command was to love God with everything you have. Big difference.

So now that I've roiled the pot, I call on us to love God more. I want us to be more like Jesus. It's my prayer that we let His Holy Spirit guide us in everything we do. And we do it because we love him...period.

I hope your day is a good one. JW

Monday, September 16, 2013


Some of you may remember when it was time for church services to start and people were still talking, we would often sing this song to quiet things down.

The Lord is in His holy temple,
Let all the earth keep silence before Him.
Keep silence, keep silence,
Keep silence before Him.

Beautiful song. Bad theology. Habakkuk is complaining to God that He just isn't listening to him. Why, if he (Habakkuk) were in charge, things would be a lot different. Habakkuk just thinks God is allowing injustice to go one and that He (God) is doing nothing about it. God doesn't come out and really answer Habakkuk's question. But basically, He says, "I am God and you are not. Maybe if you were to just be quiet for a moment, maybe, just maybe, you might just get a glimpse of who I am." (MOV--My Own Version) Hence, we have Habakkuk 2:20--But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.

It's similar to Psalm 46:10 where David writes, "Be still, and know that I am God..." So often our busyness makes us so oblivious to God's presence that we so often overlook Him. God tells us two things. One, He is God and we are His creation. Who are we to tell God what to do? Two, as we often have to tell a little child who is constantly moving around, "Be still!" For in our stillness, we may finally catch a glimpse of His glory.

My encouragement to you....stop and hear God. He wants a relationship with you. He wants you to hear His voice. He wants to communicate. But we cannot hear Him when our volume is turned all the way up and our lives are on the fast track. Be still. Keep silent. He wants you to hear Him.

I hope you have a good day! JW

Monday, September 09, 2013

Starbucks and Grace

I am not a coffee drinker. But that doesn't stop me from being a regular customer at Starbucks. Nearly every morning I stop in and order my venti no-water chai. Rain or shine, snow or sleet, there is nothing that gets my blood flowing quicker than a sip of this wonderful drink.

Last week I went to one of my favorite (I have several favorite Starbucks stores.....don't judge me) Starbucks. Instead of going inside which I normally do, I went through the drive-thru. There was quite a line of cars so it took a little while in order for me to make my way to the window to receive my wonderful drink to get my day started right. I was greeted in the normally friendly way and the young girl handed me my drink. Then she asked an interesting question. "Would you like a free breakfast sandwich? We made it for the lady in front of you and she didn't want it. You can have it if you like." "Sure!" I replied. My first thought was one of great gratitude. This will be nice. Not only do I get my wonderful drink, but I'll get a free sandwich out of this. That makes my day! What a wonderfully, serendipitous moment! Then another ominous thought entered my mind. This one was not as grateful. In fact, it wasn't grateful at all. "I've spent enough money on my chai here every day. I deserve getting this free sandwich. After all, I am probably one of their best customers."

All right, here's the theology lesson. And I realize that this metaphor doesn't carry over in everything, but hang in there with me. Isn't this a lot like grace? We respond to God's grace in several ways. My experience at Starbucks introduced me to two of those reactions. When God showers me with grace, I can respond thankfully. His grace is given to me with no strings attached and my response can and should be one of thanks. One of the members at my church will often give me a compliment after a sermon. I try to be humble and reflect this compliment. Then he says to me, "Just say, 'Thank you.'" Perhaps other than a dedicated life filled with love and devotion, our best response to God's grace should be a simple, but overflowing feeling of gratitude.

On the other hand, our response to God's grace could be like my second reaction to the free sandwich. "Well, I've served God when others didn't. I am valuable to God so I deserve this grace I am receiving. I believe the Greek word for that is "baloney." Although it sounds ridiculous, often that's my reaction. The sense of privilege and right come through in this attitude. Paul makes it plain that we are in no way deserving of the grace God gives us. "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." Then in the same passage, he says it again. "For it is by brace 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." (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9).

So perhaps my advice to anyone who hears the call of grace and doesn't know exactly what to say. May I offer a suggestion? Just say "thank you." And don't be surprised the lessons you can learn as you go about your life. Sometimes, those lessons can come even from a little visit to Starbucks. I hope your day is a good one. JW

Tuesday, September 03, 2013


It was a beautiful, cool evening. One of those Nebraska evenings that come in the last part of August (although this year, we had several really hot nights!). But this evening was cool with a gentle breeze blowing in. A perfect night for a baseball game. My family went to watch our minor league team play one of their last series. Afterwards, there was promised a fireworks display. There's nothing like a good fireworks show to get my blood stirring. Those loud booms and the beautiful, colorful streamers of light that light up the evening sky, the report from the exploding fireworks, all of these are things I really like. The louder, the better. The crowd would ooh and ahh as each of the explosions went off. I have to admit I was taken back by the beauty of the night sky.

We were sitting in the perfect position to watch these detonations of light and sound. Seated right behind home plate looking up into the sky in right/center field, we were able to see everything as it careened in the dark night heavens. But I noticed something. There was something that caught my eye. It was sneaking over the horizon just to the right of the display of light that was exploding overhead. It was one of those full moons that you see in the summer. In fact, I think it was what is called a blue moon. The moon wasn't blue, but a blue moon occurs when their are two full moons in one month (at least that's what they said on the weather report). Hence the saying, "Once in a blue moon." My eyes were drawn away from the fireworks and drawn to this wonderful display of God's creation. It was almost as if God was saying to the fireworks people, "Is that all you got?" I was humbled and somewhat ashamed to think that I was impressed with a little firework show when God reminded me that His power and might are far, far greater than anything humans can produce. I smiled and pointed out the moon to my family. And I pondered the message God sent me that night.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 119:1

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Psalm 8:1

How foolish of me to be impressed with the greatness and power of humankind when in plain sight every day is God's power shown in glorious ways. I would be better served to open my eyes more widely to see the majesty of the true King and to enjoy the works of His hands.

I hope your day is a good one. JW