Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thoughts on 2009 and the new year

2009 was a year of ups and downs for me like I am sure it was for many of you as well. I feel like I grew in my relationships with family and made new friends, but I feel as if my spiritual life suffered greatly during the year. This was due largely to apathy on my part and falling into the familiar patterns of going through the motions of being a spiritual person without the passion of commitment that I once knew.
I want to be better in 2010. I want to get to know myself better instead of being fake or false. I want to be genuine in my relationships with others. I want to put God first again instead of letting other things fill His rightful position in my life. I want to have good, clean fun. I want to live a good example before others. I want to be assured.

Monday, December 21, 2009

One, no, two weeks...

Well, it's been a while since I blogged here. Like many others I have been busy with the Christmas holiday festivities, church events and fighting the first-of-winter blues. Sometimes we just don't know how good we have it until "it" goes away. After years of a good thing, something soured in a couple areas of my life in the past few weeks that has made life (while more interesting) more difficult.
I am still abundantly blessed with a great family, a wonderful special friend, a unique and grand church family and in hundreds of other big and small ways. I hope to be back into posting here more often soon...
peace on earth, good tidings of great joy and merry Christmas!
-Will

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas parade...

Tonight I rode in a Christmas parade in the freezing temperatures to share some holiday cheer and advertise for the paper that I write articles for. It was a fun event and I love the fact that I live in a small enough place that I recognized many faces in the crowd. Some were faces of old school teachers, others of relatives, others of people I have worshipped with in the past and still others people I have helped and those who have helped me. For one moment all these people from the various points of my life were brought together around a common theme. Perhaps that one reason why Christ came to earth: to bring us all together and let us know that, why we are all unique, we all yearn for the same things.
I also sense that the heavenly paradise will be a little like tonight's Christmas parade. Old faces, familiar faces, lining the street to welcome us with cheers and shouts of joy. Instead of carols, the song of Moses and the Lamb. A truly great, festive day where we don't worry about the problems of this current life.

More to come...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Disturbed

I was thinking today as I lay vomiting in my kitchen floor. Not a pretty image I know, but bear with me. I thought about the Rich Mullins' song "Bound to Come Some Trouble." In the song, Mullins sings of the fact that trouble and tears will come in life but a solid relationship with Christ is vital to maintaining inner peace.

See full lyrics here http://www.kidbrothers.net/lyrics/btcst.html.

Lately, I have felt trouble has been stalking my life.
Between my physical health which has been up in the air, my mental health challenges, challenges in living as a spiritual person and relationships changing and evolving I have been in a roller coaster of trouble. "Trouble" can simply mean not necessarily a negative connotation, but merely a disturbance. That is how I feel lately: disturbed.
Hoping that Christ's peace will bring me peace,
-Will

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December arrives

I have tried several times in the last week to write a post for this blog, but due to to personal sickness and time constraints, I just haven't been able to produce a blog of printable quality. So today with a new month and a new start, I am attempting again.
December is a special time of year with Christmas and Hanukkah, New Year's Eve and World AIDS Day, December gives us many occasions to celebrate and remember the past and to look forward into the future.
I pray that God will bless you in this last month of the year as you set things right, visit family and friends, travel, make resolutions, try to complete last year's resolutions and celebrate.
blessings,
-Will

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thanksgiving



"The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great
delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with
singing." -Zeph. 3:17



I never ceased to be amazed at all the blessings that come my way in my life. Unearned and unexpected, these continuing dewfalls of physical, emotional, social and spiritual renewal seem to come from the heavens when I least expect them. It does seem as if God, at just the right moments, knows when to quiet me with love and at others to rejoice over me with songs of gladness. I give thanks for the love of God in my life and I give thanks for His allowing me to share that love with others.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sabbath

My mom was telling me today about the Puritans. Yes, we were discussing Puritans (it's almost Thanksgiving after all). Specifically, we talked about how they observed Sunday as the "Christian" Sabbath. While I realize Jesus never officially proclaimed a moving of the Sabbath Day or even commanded that it still be observed, I think we would do well to give ourselves at least a day off each week to rest from whatever it is that consumes us most.

Maybe I need a Sabbath from my job, or maybe a Sabbath from e-mail, cell phones, kids, sex, soft drinks or whatever. These things may not be wrong in and of themselves and may even be good and positive things in the right context, but too much of anything that takes control and focuses my life away from God being at the center immediately turns into a negative.

So ask yourself, what do you need to take a break from and then dare yourself to declare "a day of rest." The results might shock, challenge and scare you. And maybe that is just what God wants to do with you right now.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Yearning after God

One of my favorite songs is entitled "Yearn" by the artists Shane & Shane (Shane Barnard got really brave and married the great solo artist Bethany Dillon). These two guys are incredible artists and the song "Yearn" does just what the lyrics say: it makes me "want to burn with passion" for the God who made Heaven and earth. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Book Review: The Sacred Meal

In the next installment in the Ancient Practices Series, author Nora Gallagher writes a touching, personal book about her experience with Communion. With a Foreword by APS General Editor Phyllis Tickle, the book is big on relating to the Lord's Supper on a personal level rather than giving the reader lots of facts about various religious groups and their respective takes on this oldest of Christian practices. Coming to the book from a primitive church background, I was interested to learn about the practices that Gallagher and her fellow High Church brethren take to the sacrament. The book was eye opening to me and changed the way I look at Communion. Emerging themes run throughout the book and an open mind is needed to appreciate the book's underlying message of Christian tolerance in dealing with this ancient and often controversial practice. Overall, a strong book for the critical, self-examining reader.

Prayer of the Healing

I woke up this morning lame and now I dance,
I started today blind but now I view the stars,
I was possessed of self and death and now I breathe nothing but life,
I, alone and cold, warm and surrounded in fellowship now am,
God, You did it!
God, You did it!
And I never want to go back,
And I never want to go back,
What you have created in me create again and again anew and afresh everyday,
Dancing, praising, offering, communing, Paradise delivered unto me.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Supper of the Lord

At Lebanon on Sunday evenings our class has been "feasting" recently in the Gospel of Luke. We have studied the occasions at which Jesus is pictured by the writer as eating and sharing meals and fellowship with His disciples, Pharisees, sinners, tax collectors and the crowds. Jesus was a private Man often withdrawing into the quiet of the night to pray, but when He was about His ministry He never lost an opportunity to teach including meal times.

This week we arrive at the most famous meal in the life of Jesus. The most famous and the last. The final night in the first phase of the earthly ministry of Jesus was marked with love, tenderness, but also hatred and betrayal. The food and drink flowed freely much as the flesh and blood would in the hours to come.

In Luke 22, we read that Jesus says, "With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer..." On the last night of His first phase of physical life, Jesus longs to share His time with His followers. He longs to spend this meal time with them to talk of Kingdom things, and yet the hand of the betrayer is at the table with Him and the others argue about greatness. They still don't get it. This is the moment before the climax of history and yet they do not understand.

The prefiguring Passover is about to become a supper that looks back not to Moses and Goshen but to Jesus and Golgotha. The New Kingdom Seder meal will now no longer bear the blood of innocent lambs but the ever-flowing blood of the Spotless Lamb of God who came for the purpose of taking away the sins of the world.

Truly, this night is not like other nights...

More to come...

UNO...Part 3

I have learned that some friends are expecting a child and, of course, I am happy for them and excited for this change in their future. Having a child, raising a child, training a child in the ways of God is truly one of the highest callings people can respond to in the marriage relationship. Yet close, personal human relationships are some of the things that can distract us most from doing the will of God in our lives.

Remember the parables of the treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of great value (Matthew 13:44-46)? Jesus said that finding the kingdom of heaven and possessing it fully was worth sacrificing everything else completely. I think many times we read over verses like these and we think, "I am so lucky to be in that kingdom," or "Wow, I'll know that when I see it." Jesus is saying that possessing HIM in HIS completeness is worth giving up everything else if that what it takes. And perhaps, more often than we would like to think, it does. What stands in your way of possessing Jesus in His fullness in your life? From making Him your one thing? A relationship? A pet sin? A bad habit?

"Jesus, is NOW and ever shall be, sweeter than all the world to me..."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

UNO...Part Dos

So, as I have continued to study this week, I have come across some more thoughts that I wanted to share with you regarding the centrality of God. Here we go:

  • God does NOT exist to serve me, but rather I exist to serve Him. So many times we get caught up the idea of calling on God as a sort of Cosmic Butler (we pray just when we need Him, we only study the Bible to argue religion, we only attend worship for the uplift it gives us, etc.) We have to realize that we are just a tiny part in the story that God is telling. God is the featured actor in the store of the universe and we are an nonspeaking extra by comparison.
  • Though our part is small, it is still important that we play it well. Paul writing to the Corinthians said, ..."whether by eating or drinking or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31). My basic role in this whole process is to make God look good. As a recent CC song says, "Would anyone mistake me for Jesus?" Most of the time I doubt it, but just occasionally, I catch fire for Christ and let His life shine in my life. We have to learn to be on fire in our part all the time.
  • I recently had a friend who was named to be an understudy for a major role in a play. She will learn all the lines, practice the script, learn the stage directions, but yet everyone hopes she will not be needed to fill the role. We are to be understudies to Jesus (disciple literally means one who trains under). As we learn to imitate Jesus, we must be always prepared to imitate Jesus' every move while all the time realizing He is the perfect performer and we are lowly pupils.

Some of these ideas were stirred by reading portions of the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan. For more info on that work, see www.crazylovebook.com.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

UNO...Part Uno

What is the one thing that is at the center of your life?

While most people of faith will automatically answer "God," is that truly the case? How much time does the average person, even one who claims to be spiritual, spend in worship, meditation, prayer and spiritual discipline each day? Each week? Each year?

If God truly is to be the center of our existence as Christians, why is that the case? I would suggest we are not just reborn into the family of God so that we can go to Heaven at the end of this life, live more respectable social lives, or even be more pure and set apart to holiness. I will suggest that while all of those are reasons to believe, perhaps the greatest reason I believe in the teachings of Jesus and the God revealed in Scripture is because He gives me a way in which to view all other things in my life from a proper perspective. If God is central, then everything is is naturally and rightfully peripheral. And that is how it is supposed to be.

More to come...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

When you are wrong...

In my life, I have made a lot of mistakes. I have opened my mouth when I should have kept it shut and I have kept it shut when I should have opened it. When I contemplate the last few weeks, I see that I have been strong in some areas of my life, but weak in others.

I want to confess that I have been wrong. Wrong to use my bully pulpit to force my views on others when they wanted to be left alone, wrong to be obstinate when I should been loving, wrong to be stand-offish when I should have been embracing. Just wrong.

And I want to be right. So tonight I am loving the God who is a Restorer of Rightness. Praise Him.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Feasting in Luke

In our recent Sunday night study at Lebanon, we have been doing an in-depth look at the various situations in which Christ eats and tells stories about eating in the Gospel account. From Luke's perspective it almost seems as if Christ was constantly feasting...in fact, 1/5 of the scenes in the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts center around food and table fellowship. Luke was a doctor by trade, but apparently he enjoyed a good dinner on the grounds as well.
This coming Sunday evening, Lord willing, we will dedicate to the study of the first celebration of the Lord's Supper as recorded in Luke 22. I hope we will gain some insight into this sacred time of communion and sharing of the Body and Blood of the Lord. I plan on doing some intensive reading this week in preparation and I hope many of you will join us for this communion study at 5:00 PM on Sunday, November 8, 2009 at Lebanon.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

New study at Alamo


We finished our study in Romans this past Wednesday evening at Alamo. We followed Paul's wonderful flight of theology through the pages of his letter to the congregations at Rome and learned along with them about the power of God's grace and the importance of our growth in Christ.

After consulting with several members and the leadership of the church, it has been decided that we will next pursue a study of Paul's Corinthian correspondence. This will be exciting for me as I have never taught I & II Corinthians although they each contain some of my favorite passages of Scripture. I am looking forward to studying something new and translating those ideas to the class. I hope for a good deal of class participation and a great study. Please pray for this new study with the saints at Alamo.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Idle words?

I have had several interesting experiences this past week in which I and (Christ in me) was put to the test. It seems like the more we try to shed our Christian garment sometimes the more Jesus needs to use us to shine in the world. I give this as example:
I was eating out with some friends and the language had gotten worse and worse to the point of embarrassment. I had not spoken up (although I could tell another member of the group was offended by the language). Then, one of the girls in the group (who was also one of the most profane speakers) turned to me and said, "Will, I know you are a Christian. I have an f*&%& question. What possible difference can it make to God if I swear and cuss? I mean I like God, so why should it bother Him if I curse? If I drop my French book on my foot and say #*c&, why would that bother God?"

She wasn't asking to be rude or arrogant or mean...she just wanted to know. The situation caught me off guard a bit: most people I have met in my world just assume it is wrong to curse. They may do it, but they acknowledge it is a vice. This young lady's attitude was not argumentative or arrogant but more apathetic, "What's the big deal?"
So what is the big deal about sins that don't physically hurt others? What is the big deal about excess, profanity, drunkenness, pornography, etc? The verse that came to my mind in my conversation with this friend was Romans 14:7, "For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself."

While arguments could be made individually against all the sins mentioned above, I think one of the best ones to make with people engrossed in sin is one of influence. No reasonable adult wants little children to be profane, sex-crazed, drunken and foolish-talking. It is much easier to teach against these destructive habits when not practicing them in one's own life. While we obviously think of teaching children by example, we sometimes fail to see that we influence the adults around us as well. Remember, no one lives in a vacuum. The next idle word that falls might influence someone for a lifetime.
be blessed,
Will

New Beginnings

I have finally recovered my computer back after it being out of commission for two weeks. Much has transpired in the intervening time in which I have only been able to make an occasional visit/post on the blog. Here are some fast facts of what has been happening in my life:

  • I have now taught more graduate college courses than I ever attended. I was able to speak to graduate classes at Union and Freed-Hardeman about living with mental illness and by all accounts this went well.
  • I bought my house! The house I have been renting for over a year was offered to me for purchase and I decided to settle down in Alamo and purchase the home. It is a good, solid house and I am happy here.
  • I have been experiencing some stomach problems for several months and on Monday will have a procedure done to try and determine what exactly is wrong. I would appreciate your prayers.

These last couple of weeks have been high-stress with support group challenges, sickness and just overall busyness. I hope that after winding up October, November will be more stress-free.

Thanks for always being a support!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Book Review: Finding Purpose Beyond Our Pain

In Finding Purpose Beyond Our Pain, Drs. Paul Meier and David Henderson attempt to add to the conversation regarding God’s hand in the refining work of pain in our lives. Pain, they insist, is not always a bad thing, and in fact, maybe be the warning sign that motivates us to make much needed emotional and spiritual changes in our lives.

While the work has the advantage of being an easy read and having concise chapters, the book never seems to get beyond a surface level discussion of the difficulties that pain causes in our individual experiences. While using both experiences from their medical practices and the Bible, Drs. Meier and Henderson play it safe and secure with ideas that do not delve into uncharted waters but rather plot a course familiar to Christian counselors, ministers and spiritual leaders.

Readers who are looking for stretching their thinking, making theological shifts or new ways to confront the problem of suffering will need to look elsewhere while those looking for a practical book to help a loved one, family member or church member dealing with emotional pain may have found a great match.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mental illness leads to ministry

I have lately been considering why God has lead me to this particular place in my life. Several years ago I was invited to speak at many youth retreats, Gospel meetings and church activities. I spoke in front of congregations of hundreds and ministered on a campus of thousands of Christians. During my senior year at that Christian university, I became profoundly ill with bipolar disorder. This led to medications, hospitalizations, suicide attempts, self-injury and a great amount of suffering and emotional pain.

When I "came out" about being affected with mental illness, my speaking opportunities changed. Part of this was being in a different circle of people, but part of it, I believe was that I was being honest and open about a subject that most people were not willing to face in my conservative religious world. No longer was I speaking to congregations of hundreds but rather small gatherings of 10-15 in support group meetings. No longer was I being given awards for being "the student who most personifies the example of Jesus," I felt like I was literally becoming the hands and feet of Jesus in the the everyday ministry I was providing to the hurting, broken people with which I was dealing. God had broken me down, taken every shred of pride I had, but had, in due course, given me a new ministry. I was no longer a poster child or super boy preacher, I was a worker, a minister, a servant. God blessed me with a great congregation to support me, great new friends in this new work and a supportive family. We are still growing in this ministry of reconciliation, but God is hopefully being glorified through all He is doing in us and through us.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Do not destroy the Kingdom for the sake of food...

In the Wednesday night Bible study I am currently teaching, we find ourselves in the middle of Romans 14. Paul is talking to the Roman church(es) about the fact that some weaker brothers and sisters in the church are offended by the stronger members ability to eat meat that had been formerly unclean under Jewish law or had been used in pagan animal sacrifices and in the eyes of the "weaker" Christians was therefore tainted with sin. Paul urges his more seasoned brothers and sisters to "bear with the scruples" of the weak and to not destroy the kingdom of God for the sake of food.

I think this is great advice from the apostle. How often do we hear Christians today say things like, "Well, what I do in my own private time is my own business!" or "They can just get over it: It's my life!" These are not the reactions that Christ would have us to have. While in American culture, vegetarianism is not a major issue in the modern church, many social practices are that do not affect the primary mission(s) of the church. The major of church divisions I know of personally were over two issues: money and social issues. Only rarely are congregations' dividing issues matters of doctrine. While division always brings heartache, division over "doubtful things" and social practice on which a difference of opinion may simply be just that, is surely an offense before the throne of Almighty God.

We ought to, as Paul will say in chapter 15:7, "receive one another as Christ received you..." When we have the spirit of Christ, unholy division will be the last thing on our hearts and the most distant thing from our minds.

be blessed,
-Will

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lecturing successes & computer challenges

I was privileged to be able to give to guest lectures at Union University yesterday to Dr. Theresa Blakley's MSW students. The honor of teaching, transporting information about topics that are timely and valuable to a group of learners, is always something I cherish. While these lessons were primarily presenting the basics about mental illness, I was able to to share my personal experience and talk at length about how my ministry has been impacted by my illness and the relationship challenges and changes it has wrought.
I am typing this on a desktop in a family member's office due to fact my laptop is currently under the weather. I hope to have it back soon so that I can access my files, photos, music, etc.
I will be speaking to Dr. Mark Crowell's Death and Dying and Human Behavior: Childhood and Adolescence classes at Freed-Hardeman University on Thursday. I am looking forward to this opportunity to share a unique perspective on grief and loss and some of the story of what God has done in my life.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Minister Appreciation Sunday & Oswaldo

I had a friend ask me this week what my congregation had in mind for national Pastor Appreciation Sunday (which is tomorrow). I said I doubted any of them knew about the holiday since our religious group doesn't typically go singling out special Sundays throughout the year, but if they did know and did something for me, I would be most grateful. I decided to treat myself to a Minister's Appreciation Day today and do a couple of things out of the ordinary:

I decided to give up my $40 a month Starbucks habit and sponsor a child from Compassion International. This is a great way for me to spend that money in a godly way, support a child and help end poverty in the world. Rich Mullins was a HUGE supporter of Compassion and it has long been a charity I have wanted to get involved with. I chose a child from Ecuador (although I am sure Erin would have preferred Afghanistan) primarily due to the fact that I took the male child that was old enough to read that had been waiting the longest for a sponsor. Ironically, his name is Oswaldo (maybe named after Oswald Chambers?.. :) and he lives in the same area of Ecuador where Jim Elliot worked as a missionary among the Quechua peoples. Three of my greatest heroes of faith and his dire need combined led me to choose this young man to sponsor. I'll be looking forward to getting to know him and his family.

I have been reading the Bible with fresh eyes lately and the Word has been laid bare before me. I hope that each one of you will get to experience the joy that is found in reading the Bible purely for the sake of knowledge and not just as fodder to prove a theological position. God has richly blessed my focus and study lately and I am so glad He is allowing me to share some of those things with you on this blog.

Have a great Sunday tomorrow and, by the way, appreciate your minister! :)

Some of my favorite guys

Everyone has people they enjoy the company of more than others. I have blessed in my life to have a lot of individuals I enjoy being around. I have been blessed to be a small apart of the ministry of the Christian quartet, The HIMS, over the last several years. After a couple of lineup changes, the group currently consists of brothers Bobby and Brooks Rawson, Todd Sanderson and Brad Laman. I was able as a high school student to design the group's first album cover (before the days of so much technology) and help Bobby write a song for the group.
One thing that I love about this group of guys is, that although they don't sing at many events, they enjoy the roles they have as ministers in song. People in the community remark to me all the time how they had never heard a cappella music until they heard The HIMS perform. In a world where so many men and ministers are running after the praise of men, these guys just keep singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs carrying the message of Jesus. All four have ministry roles in the congregations where they worship (Todd and Bobby preach each week in addition to working full-time secular work and all four men are deacons) and all four work full-time jobs and are raising families.

If I have learned one thing from these four men, it is that God doesn't need us all to be super saints or even full-time workers, He just needs us to be faithful with the talents we have been given.

Check out the ministry of The HIMS at www.thehims.org

New adventure: Book Reviewing

I believe the written word is powerful. Words have a way of moving people and of shaping ideas, thoughts and emotions. Far more than empty rhetoric, a word fitly spoken in the phrase of my friend, Broderick Greer, can "transform reality."
I have recently taken up a new hobby: book reviewing. While I have always reviewed books I have read to friends and even on my old blog, I now have a new incentive: free books! I am writing 200-word reviews of books for Thomas Nelson Publishers and posting them here and to bookseller websites as well as Thomas Nelson's site. Thomas Nelson provides the books free of charge and I hopefully help sales with my reviews.

My official first book review for TNP will be of Finding Purpose Beyond Our Pain: Uncover the Hidden Potential in Life's Most Common Struggles by Drs. Paul Meier and David Henderson. I am about twenty pages into this one and I can already tell it is going to be a high scorer on my chart. It is a simple read, but it is grappling with seven issues that every person has experienced to some degree or less and these issues can either cause the growth or death of a person's spiritual life.
I look forward to posting my first review here in a few days.

Prayer: October 10, 2009


You alone are God, there is no one like You.

You have given me all that I have and all

that I have is nothing compared to my relationship with You.

You have made me complete in You. You formed me for Your namesake.

O, LORD God of my fathers, keep in mind Your covenant

with me that was made when I was a boy,

When I said "I will seek Your face."

Many times I have gone back to the ways of the world,

but never did Your plans for me falter.

You have known me from before I knew myself.

Your ways are higher than my own. Search me and know me.

Know if there be any secret thing within me. Purge me from my impurities.

Let me be whole again in Your holy sight. Serenity. Silence. Sanity. Amen.

Memorial stones...

Tomorrow (if death does not come and the LORD does not return in glory) will mark the beginning of the 14th year to the day since I publicly committed my life to Christ. The small town congregation I worshipped with was without a full-time minister at the time, and one of the elders there (Larry Harper) took my confession before the assembly and baptized me into Christ. As I look back on all the years since, I am thankful for many things and attempting to list them all would be impossible.
Here are just a few of the things I am I thankful for as I look back on these years of transformation:


  • I am thankful the church at Alamo encouraged me to preach at a young age. No one in my family had ever led a public prayer much less preached, but the church membership and leadership encouraged me from the point of my conversion to preach. People like Larry & Cindy Harper, Frank & Annette Kail, Billy and Louise Evans, the Rawsons, Mack and Mary June Goode, Judy and Judy, Harry and Jermie Fewell, Kimberly Kail and a host of others rallied behind me as a young man and wanted me to succeed in ministry. The church helped provide for me a Christian education at Freed-Hardeman University and I will always be in their debt for all this great congregation did and continues to do for me.

  • I am thankful for my close-knit family. My family has been my greatest support system through all of my struggles and my greatest cheering section in all of my triumphs. I love each of them completely and I only wish that we could have spent more of the last few years together. I am so glad we are now getting to make up that time living so close together and spending so much time in each others company.

  • I am thankful for the bonds that formed with other Christians in my time at Freed-Hardeman University, Sardis Lake Christian Camp and at all the retreats, Gospel meetings and events of which I have been a part over the years. I still receive calls and e-mails from Christians on different continents who I met through these connections and we share a unity that only Christ can bring.

  • I am thankful God sent me to Lebanon at just the right time for both of us. The church at Lebanon needed a shot in the arm spiritually and so did I and we united at just the right time in 2004. Our work together has been fruitful both in number and in Spirit. This church is where my heart is and I truly love each of the members there. God blessed me so much by bringing this church into my life.

  • I am thankful that God broke down to build me up again. I had never experienced anything like the devastation mental illness caused in my life. The loss of my longtime partner, the loss of my sanity, the loss of my ability to think and feel in a way consistent with my value system. I more than once with Job cursed the day of my birth. I prayed for death; invited death. God had other plans. God has led me in this experience just as He has in all others and is now using this experience to bring others to Himself. I feel as if I too, while still ill but in recovery, have received now my "double portion." A new, better relationship, stronger family bonds, a more fulfilling ministry and a greater sense of empathy than ever before.

God commanded Joshua and the children of Israel to build up a memorial of stones where they lodged after crossing the Jordan so that when their coming generations asked what the stones meant they might tell them of the power of Y----H. I hope my life is being built up into a powerful testimony for God so that when others ask how did you come this far, I can say, "By faith and faith alone."

Negative to positive

A few years ago, a body of believers I was a part of went through a very trying time when one man's opinion on certain issues led to division and distraction. Feelings were hurt, friendships damaged, spiritual lives put in shambles. Some people have still not recovered from the havoc wrecked by one man's honest efforts to do what he felt was the right thing.

On another occasion, I was floored when I read an article by a well-known preacher alleging some things that I knew to be misleading at best and untrue at worst. I went to this man directly (as I believe the Scripture would have us to) and he refused to speak with me about the article other than to say he stood by what he had written. I was both hurt and confused.


Why do I mention these two examples of negative experiences I have had with fellow Christians? Because I believe that God is bigger than the individuals that serve Him.


Though I believe both these men went about things in the wrong way and made mistakes, I know that, I too, make mistakes from time to time in my efforts to point people to Jesus. God can use my mistakes (and the mistakes of others) for His ultimate glory. God is bigger than me and my ministry and bigger than you and yours.


God took that opinionated man and sent him from local work to the mission field where he is making a great impact on believers around the world. While God did not change the heart of the second man, He lit a fire within my spirit to preach and teach a more compassionate gospel so that people will see the love of Christ living in me. Ironically, though this brother and I had disagreed strongly on this issue, I was supporting a member of his family in mission work in Africa unaware of their connection. God humbled me through that experience because I found myself praying that the heart of the one would be changed will the ministry of the other would be blessed.

There is always hope that the higher thoughts of God (Isa. 55:9) will swoop down and fill the minds of men for a brief moment. When this happens, our ministries will flourish and our paths will become clear and fulfilling in serving Jesus Christ.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Diversity of social practices

In the Wednesday night class I teach at the Alamo church, we have been paddling our way through a verse-by-verse study of the epistle to the Romans. We are nearly upon the distant shore and we reached last night the deep waters of chapter 14 where Paul discusses "disputes over doubtful things." I have heard several lessons in my time on this passage, but as I was reading in preparation for class and as our class discussion of the section continued, I made an observation that hitherto I had never before noticed: the disputes mentioned in Romans 14 have nothing at all to do with the corporate body of believers as they meet in the assembly and everything to do with the social customs practiced privately by individual Christians. In this case, it was the eating of all things versus the eating of only vegetables or the celebrating of holidays that were no longer binding but fine to celebrate as part of ethnic heritage. People still bind and loose these type issues on one another today and, worse yet, attempt to bind and loose them on entire congregations and the entire fellowship of believers.
Isn't it strange how congregations divide, split and rail against each other because of the private actions of one or two members? Certainly, the private lives of members reflect upon the church body as a whole (Paul says as much in this chapter, "none of us lives to himself or dies to himself...," etc.), but we also need to bear in mind that while I may not have a full and healthy fellowship relationship with one brother in Christ because of his private actions that does not taint the whole body of believers who may (or, in fact, may not) agree with him on his private opinion he practices in matters of "doubtful things."

Paul says it best in Romans 15:7 when he states simply, "Receive one another just as Christ also received you..."

Not living for self,
-Will

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Welcoming Committee

As a believer have you ever thought about who will welcome you to Heaven? We seem to have an idea that Peter will literally be holding a set of keys standing at the gate providing entrance into the eternal dwellings. Perhaps you picture the saints of Scripture standing on the street of gold waving to you as you are guided to your mansion by a choir of exalted angels. Do you envision friends and family members who have already crossed over waiting anxiously for your arrival?
I personally think heaven, while a place for all who accept Christ and His message of salvation, will be a deeply personal experience. Worshipping God forever will be amazing and awe-inspiring. God shall dwell among us and in us and all around us. The Glory of God will be the light of that eternal homeland. Truly a wondrous place.
Provided we do in fact recognize one another in some way on the shores of the beyond, who do you want on your heavenly welcoming committee?
Consider this video from the Hillside Christian Church as you ponder a response...


Livin' on a prayer


Prayer is such a unique gift from our heavenly Father. I was sitting at my computer this morning preparing to type a different blog post, and a friend called from a great distance away to say thank you for me praying for him. He believes that my intercession with God on his behalf made a difference in a difficult situation he was facing. Not only do I believe prayer has the ability to change God's immediate plans (while still He works out His ultimate will), I believe that, perhaps, more importantly, prayer changes us and our perspectives on the situations we face. Prayer and sharing prayer time with others is the ultimate form of baring one's soul and is greatly needed in our intensely depersonalized culture. When we pray we open a window into our souls and allow access to our innermost thoughts and feelings, desires and hopes.

There is a great website by author Phyllis Tickle for helping to establish a regular prayer life (The Divine Hours - http://www.explorefaith.org/) While some of the best and most heartfelt prayer is spontaneous, I believe it is wise to get into a ritualistic prayer life as well. Whether through the use of liturgy, daily devotional readings, praying the Psalms or simply setting a schedule, knowing that you have a "sweet hour (or at least a few moments) of prayer" is essential for our growth as Christians.

Praying that the God of all comfort will strengthen you,
Will

Monday, October 5, 2009

"Make me like one of your hired servants..."

Yesterday at the LEB, I preached a sermon entitled "The Prodigal Son: The Other Side of the Story." In this lesson I attempted to point out things that have come to me in reading the story of the lost son over and over in several versions and praying about the story and how it relates to my own life. I have also been leading two Bible studies recently on the Book of Romans, and I think studying this great work of Paul has influenced my thinking on how I read the Gospels and particularly the parables.
Some observations that I have made on the text of Luke 15 and the Prodigal Son:

I.) The father divided his livelihood to them. According to the OT, the elder brother would have received an double portion and since the Scripture mentions only two sons, this indicates that older brother got 2/3 while younger brother got a 1/3. This means the father has poured out all his good gifts on his children (notice the older brother seems to have forgotten this, i.e. "You never so much as gave me a young goat to make merry with my friends..."). One cannot help but think about how God has not kept back any good gift from us, but has left within us the ability to us those gifts for His glory or our own downfall.

II.) The prodigal son's speech of repentance is well-rehearsed. He plans to admit his sin both against God and his father, but then he also plans to include the fact that he will work for the father instead of being restored to sonship. When the father runs to embrace him, he allows him to confess his sin, but cuts him off before he can offer to "work off his sins." God is no different with us. He does not want us to repay Him with our works (our works are like filthy rags to His glory), but rather throw ourselves upon His mercy and be restored by His grace. We then work happily in his kingdom not as servants, but as sons and daughters.

III.) Which son was really the prodigal? If prodigal means wasteful or riotous, no doubt the younger son that spent all his blessings in the far country was such. But if the story is about being separated from the father, the older brother, though close in physical distance, was light years from the father's heart. Self-righteousness is a dangerous as fornication and idolatry in taking us from the heart of the father. Remembering that is a key to our survival as Christians.

Share a comment!

Have a blessed Monday!

-Will

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Meditation before action

I have a friend who is a deeply spiritual person. He spends quite a bit of time each day in focused thinking, quiet time and meditation. He freely shares the conclusion that some of his best and most productive thoughts come out of these times. While he is not a practicing religious person, he recognizes the importance of getting in touch with something greater than himself. Often those of us who more strictly observe a religious faith act as if we must always be speaking our creed, living our virtues or demonstrating our goodwill through assertiveness.
While faith without action certainly bears little fruit, action without a proper amount of reflection on what motivates it can often lead us into acting before we are mentally prepared for the consequences. Before the support group I am a member of begins its meetings, we pause for a moment of silence or sanity to collect our individual thoughts before embarking on our discussion. This is not a poor practice before we begin our worship or our service for God.

Pause. It only takes a few moments to stop and think and to consider the various paths that lay before us. Each time we take up something new for God we ought to consider who God is, who we are and what God is going to accomplish through us.

Philippians 4:8,
-Will

Boy Like Me, Man Like You

When we are kids, we identify with the personalities of the Bible through the narratives that our parents, Sunday School teachers and preachers relate to us about them. We can't read at all or not at least beyond a basic level, and so our ideas about God are highly impacted by what others tell us about God. This can be both a positive and negative experience for individuals and the development of faith.

People raised to respect, honor, love and be affectionate toward God oft grow up into adults who become some of our best church workers. Children taught to fear, dread, run from and mistrust God often blame God for the problems of adolescence and adulthood and have relationships with God that are far from healthy.

One of the best ways to relate people to God is by telling the stories of the life of Jesus. After all, Jesus is God personified in human flesh. We can relate to Jesus in a way that we cannot relate to the other 2/3 of the Trinity. Jesus had many experiences that we have shared. Birth. Growth. Friendship. Betrayal. Love. Family issues. Pain. Luke 2:52 tells us that Jesus, "...grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man." This four-fold growth takes place (or fails to) in the life of every individual. The Jesus of Luke 2 was a boy who, in many ways, was just like me.

Christian artist Rich Mullins wrote the following song entitled "Boy Like Me, Man Like You" to describe the comparison of his own childhood to that of Jesus.

"You was a baby like I was once
You was cryin' in the early mornin'
You was born in a stable Lord
Reid Memorial is where I was born
They wrapped You in swaddling clothes
Me they dressed in baby blue

I was twelve years old in the meeting house
Listening to the old men pray
And I was tryin' hard to figure out
What it was that they was tryin' to say
There You were in the temple
They said You weren't old enough
To know the things You knew

Well, did You grow up hungry?
Did You grow up fast?
Did the little girls giggle when You walked past?
Did You wonder what it was
That made them laugh?

CHORUS
Did they tell You stories
'bout the saints of old?
Stories about their faith?
They say stories like that make a boy grow bold
Stories like that make a man walk straight

You was a boy like I was once
But was You a boy like me
Well, I grew up around Indiana
You grew up around Galilee
And if I ever really do grow up
Lord I want to grow up and be just like You

Did You wrestle with a dog and lick his nose?
Did You play beneath the spray
Of a water hose?
Did You ever make angels in the winter snow?

Did You ever get scared
Playing hide and seek?
Did You try not to cry
When You scraped Your knee?
Did You ever skip a rock across a quiet creek?

And I really may just grow up
And be like You someday."

While the love of God is far beyond all we could imagine, we can see its demonstration in the life and ministry of Jesus. Not all of Christ's life was ministry; much of it was the ordinary daily events that you and I experience just as He did. I hope and pray we can meet all of life's challenges and opportunities with the mind, heart and spirit of Jesus.

blessings,

-Will




Deliver us!


"Now therefore, behold, now, the cry of the children of Israel has come up to Me and I have also seen the oppression with which they are oppressed..." -Exodus 3


When the LORD spoke to Moses and called him to return to land of his birth, the LORD said He had both heard and seen the oppression that the Egyptians exercised over the Israelites.

The LORD God is a sensory Being (or at least He chooses to relate Himself to man in a way that compares to man's senses). Jesus as a member of the human race felt fear, loneliness, grief, anger and love. When we cry out to God with our voices, we cry out to a God that once had ears that heard the recitation of Scripture written about Himself. When we show God our scars and broken hearts, God sees with eyes that once squinted in the glare of the Galilean sunshine. When we allow God to wipe our tears, He touches us with hands gentle, but firm from hours in the carpentry shop and the fishing boat.

It is when we hold things within ourselves that we rob God of doing His refining work in our lives. God wants so desperately to hold us, to hear us, to heal us. Consider the words of the song, "Deliver Us," and feel free to comment.


"Our enemy, our captor is no pharaoh on the Nile
Our toil is neither mud nor brick nor sand
Our ankles bear no calluses from chains, yet Lord, we're bound
Imprisoned here, we dwell in our own land

Deliver us, deliver us
Oh Y----h, hear our cry
And gather us beneath your wings tonight

Our sins they are more numerous than all the lambs we slay
These shackles they were made with our own hands
Our toil is our atonement and our freedom yours to give
So Y----h, break your silence if you can

Deliver us, deliver us
Oh Y----h, hear our cry
And gather us beneath your wings tonight

'Jerusalem, Jerusalem
How often I have longed
To gather you beneath my gentle wings'"

Have a great Sunday and a great week,
-Will

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Creeds

I am fascinated by creeds. Having grown up in a religious background that taught sharply against any form of creeds, I (as most people do when they are taught to avoid something) have studied quite a creeds in finding my own religious path. One of the amazing things is the journey has keep me in the faith of my youth, but with a better and broader understanding of what others believe about God, faith and our relationships and, more perhaps importantly, what I believe about God's relationship with me. Creeds (or statements of faith) are simply easy ways to remember what we believe and to codify that belief into basic, step-by-step forms.
I have found that far from being a religion without creeds, true Christianity is, in one-line of thinking, one HUGE creed {what is Scripture but a God-given creed (or the statement of what God believes)?}.
Ten Commandments? Proverbs? Sermon on the Mount? Lord's Prayer? All could be, in one sense of the word, considered creeds. Our English word "creed" comes from the Latin "credo" which simply means "I believe..." So what is your creed? Apostles'? Nicene? Wesley's? Calvin's? Campbell's? Graham's? Lucado's? Norrid's?

I hope and pray my creed is credo Christus. While I appreciate the statements of belief of others and I stand upon their shoulders to see God more clearly, I want my creed to not just be a recited statement or a transfered idea stolen from another man's soul: I want it to be a living flame of consuming belief.
Make some statements of belief and then challenge yourself to live by them. Professing a creed is not as difficult as living one.

blessings,
-Will

"Half my heart is in..."

I got behind a very large, very loud pick-up truck in my small town the other day and I couldn't help but notice that on the tailgate was a yellow ribbon magnet cling. Yellow ribbons have become a common sight in our country over the last seven years with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but this ribbon was different. Instead of the traditional "ribbon" shape, this logo was in the shape of a heart. Not the shape of the organ which is not so lovely, but the Valentine kind of heart. The heart was yellow on one side and torn down the middle and red on the other. It simply read, "Half my heart is in Iraq."

This person's spouse, child or lover is serving our country and they are torn. No doubt they are proud of his or her service otherwise he or she would not so boldly display these emotions bare before the world. Yet the heart was torn. Part of his or her life is occurring elsewhere; part of existence is happening away from the present scenery. Robert Burns wrote of this in his poem "My Heart is in the Highlands,"

"My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer -
A-chasing the wild deer, and following the roe;
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go."


Sometimes I feel like my heart (at least all of it) is not truly present with me in the here and now. Part of it is dwelling in my past perhaps still longing for things that will never be. Part of it is longing for my future daring to dream a future that currently seems beyond my grasp. Part of it is in other places with other people: little bits of heart that I have given away along the journey.

But I hope, in my heart of hearts, that I can learn to be fully awake and fully alive in the present. We may be living for a future home with God, but we cannot neglect the reality of the ministries we are called to today. We are called to service, worship, reconciliation, compassion, justice and the search for truth. Let us pursue these things with all our hearts.

peace,

-Will

Love that abides

One of the most tender stories recorded for us in all of Scripture is that found in Luke 15 of the son who loses his way and then returns to his father. How often I have felt as that lost son; distant, lonely, isolated from the love of God. Whether I find myself in the depths of sin in the far country or in the loneliness of unfulfilled ministry, surely there is a bit of that wasteful, riotous, spoiled child in all of us. Why did he stray so far from the teachings of the father? Was it just meanness? A cry for help? A genuine curiosity about what lay beyond the borders of his father's farm?

Perhaps we will never know. Dickens called it the greatest short story ever told. I agree. What are not recorded for us are the parting words of the father. He must have said, or at least demonstrated, that his love was continuous, even in the face of his son's rebellion.

Here is a song by Tracy Chapman called "The Promise." It speaks about the true nature of that kind of love. A love that stays put and waits for the wayward. A love that never lets go. A love that is set as a seal upon the heart. Love that abides.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Derek Webb

I had the opportunity to experience Derek Webb a few weeks ago at Union University. He is brash, outspoken and largely critical of modern Christians. He makes good points in this brief video about the nature of Christians isolating themselves and producing art, music and basically a cultural that appeals only to the already discipled. His solution? Go directly to the Bible to see how to live and counteract culture. Hmmm? Sound familiar, guys?

To Write Love on Her Arms

Crockett Goode introduced me to this organization, To Write Love on Her Arms (http://www.twloha.org/), a few years ago. As a sufferer and survivor of depression and self-injury, I have worn their shirts, carried their message, shared their pain and I wanted to share their story, Renee's story and the story of thousands of young people with you.

Peace,

-Will

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Worlds Apart

Having been reared to respect other people's values and opinions, being a morally conservative Christian is often a balancing act between being able to acknowledge and appreciate people's differences and believing in moral absolutes that should and are binding on all individuals. Issues of culture, sexuality, trust and choice are all faced by the Christian dealing with morality and issues of conscience in our modern time.

I find that one of the best ways to experience God's work in my life is to talk and interact with people who are different than me. After all, if I am kind and considerate to those who are my carbon copies in race, gender, socio-economic class, sexual orientation, etc., what does that prove? Are not the immoral and the infidel doers of the same? It is only when I learn to transcend deep divides of culture and society that I become one with the heart of Jesus. Jesus was a transcender of cultural boundaries and to be His disciple I must be as well.

More to come...

Happy Meals, Part II

The message of salvation and reconciliation is shared at mealtimes in the ministry of Jesus, but so is the blessing of thankfulness.

How often today to we pray the wrote prayer before the meal without really pausing to be thankful to the God who makes life, breathe and being possible? At the Last Supper, Jesus took bread and broke it giving thanks. It is important to remember that while we should be thankful for the physical nourishment imparted by the bread, our ultimate gratitude is for the spiritual reality personified in the Bread of Life.

In chapter 24 of Luke, two disciples receive a revealing when Jesus in His resurrected form is "made known to them in the breaking of bread." Suppertime is a spiritual time. With His prayer over the dinner meal, Christ reveals something that their inner selves already knew: that He was the One risen from the dead.

Let us pray that in our Christian communities in so often as we eat, whether it be the common meal of fellowship or the sacred assembly of the saints around the Lord's table, we remember that any meal with Christ as its Guest is a blessed feast indeed.

Happy meals

I was reading in preparation for Sunday about all the meals Jesus enjoyed in the Gospels particularly the account given by Luke. Whether Dr. Luke was just simply showing that Jesus was a Man concerned about nutrition is up for debate, but I would suggest that these meals are much more concerned with spiritual rather than physical health.

Take for example the meal at Levi's (Matthew's) house. Jesus's purpose is not to indulge for a night in a party with the sinners, to drink their wine and eat their grub, but rather to evangelize. He says as much when He says in chapter 5:27-39: "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

Meals also provide an opportunity for people to be reconciled to Jesus. The dinner at the house of Simon the Pharisee (chapter 7) provided an opportunity for the sinful woman to anoint the feet of Jesus with her tears and to have her sins forgiven. She was reconciled, not as a table guest, but as an uninvited character who needed the healing only Jesus could provide.

Check back later for part two of "Happy Meals."

Special thanks to Professor John Mark Hicks for compiling much of this info into helpful charts on his blog at http://johnmarkhicks.wordpress.com

Time flies...

It has been over 2 months since I last posted here! I know many of you have been keeping up with my lessons at Lebanon and at Alamo and I appreciate your great discussion in class so much. I hope now that the business and busyness of summer deadlines, vacations and meetings has died away to renew myself again unto this blog and be able to add something new here from time to time.

You will notice I have added a Twitter feed. I have been on Twitter a few months and update my status several times a day; mainly with quotes with what I am reading in preparation for Sunday. A person is limited to 140 characters of text, so longer quotes or points of interest I will have to feature here in the main portion of the blog.

Hope to have a new lesson up on love by the weekend that the folks at Lebanon got a sampling of last Sunday.

Also, check out the new feature "Off my Bookshelf" to see what I am currently reading. Some of this will be spiritual, some secular, but I think our knowledge of both impacts our knowledge of the other.

Peacefulness to you all,

-Will

Monday, July 20, 2009

Something to think about...

With summer upon us and baseball in full swing, this story and my comments below gives us something to think about as we live our lives from day to day...

Dick Wade, a Kansas City sportswriter, once decided to find out exactly how much "action" occurred in a baseball game. So, on June 21, 1956, he took a stopwatch to a game between the Kansas City Athletics and Washington Senators and counted the time it took a ball to leave the pitcher's hand until it arrived at home plate; then on all hit balls, he let the clock run until the batter was either out or safe. The total "action" during the two-hour, 28-minute game was 8 1/2 minutes. Kansas City won, 15-6.

Does this make you ponder how much "real" Christian action is going on in your life on a weekly basis? We meet for approximately 2 1/2 hours on Sunday, but some of that time is spent coming in and going out, turning pages in the songbook, etc. Even during the actions of worship our minds can be distracted. Besides the Sunday services, how much Bible study are you doing during the week? How much prayer? How many times do you catch yourself singing a hymn? Being benevolent? Checking on the sick and hurting? Reading spiritual material?

Remember being in the church building doesn't make you a Christian anymore than being in a henhouse makes you a chicken. It is the frame of our minds, the attitude of our spirits and the love in our hearts that determines how spiritual we truly are.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Prayer for urban justice

The following is a prayer which a friend penned for the city of Memphis. He works with MUM (Memphis Urban Ministries).

Father in heaven, hallowed be your Name.

This evening we offer prayer for your mission in this city. We do this not so much because it is our city, but because it is your city. We pray to see the borders of your kingdom broadened, Father. We pray as those in solidarity with the poor; as those who mourn; as humble servants; as those who hunger and thirst for justice; as peacemakers. Father God, we ask that your reign of mercy, equity, and peace would fall upon Memphis in a mighty way.

Father, we ask these things not as spectators, but participants. We implore you as your servants, as your co-laborers, your children, and Christ’s ambassadors. We pray your grace on us as we go about your redemptive agenda in Memphis. We beg of you the courage to love and to comfort. To proclaim your truth boldly and without apology. We ask you to prune every unfruitful branch from us: prejudice, fear, sloth, a judgmental spirit, dissension, hypocrisy, and whatever else would hinder your mission to reclaim, redeem, and restore this city. We ask that the believers of Memphis would be united as we face the task at hand, so that when you return we will not be found arguing in the kitchen while your poor, distressed people of this city are starving for the bread of life just outside our walls. We want to see this city with your eyes, and that your vision for redeeming Memphis would inspire and provoke every facet of our ministry.

We pray that churches will be planted throughout this city that will offer rescue to the lost, prosperity to the poor, food to the hungry, and shelter to the homeless, battered, and mind-addled. We pray that a generation of leaders would arise in our churches and in this city who will continue your mission of reconciliation and restoration. That the public cemetery would not continue to overflow with the babies who die every other day in Memphis due to lack of basic health care. That empty lots and blighted sprawl would be replaced by community gardens and housing for the homeless. That community meals would erase racial and economic barriers and we would clearly see that we are all your children.

We ask your grace, blessing, mercy, guidance, and protection on us as we go about your mission, Father. May it never be said of us that we have left your needy children at the mercy of a world without any mercy.

All of this we ask in Jesus’ precious name. Amen.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Jesus: Friend of Sinners, Part II

It is clear that Jesus does not condone the openly sinful lifestyles of these notorious sinners.
His words to the woman caught in the act of adultery in John 8 prove as much. "Go and sin no more" or "Go and leave your life of sin" proves that Jesus acknowledged the woman was at fault and He told her what to do: stop living as a notorious sinner. What Jesus did not do is condemn the woman in such a way that made her think she had no hope of redemption.

How often do we write people off as lost causes?

"He is just to into the party scene to ever come to the LORD."

"She has slept around so much not even God could forgive all that sin."

"They would never come to church with me unless we were having a drunken dance."

Of course, we may not say these things, but do we think them? I am afraid we often do. We believe some people are just to hardened of sinners to come to Christ. Yet, according to the Gospels, it was hardened sinners that most willingly responded to the message of Jesus when presented.

Think about in the Book of Acts when Paul has little success in Macedonia and Athens among the intellectual and spiritual Greeks, but reaches Corinth (Sin City of the ancient world) and he has a fruitful ministry.

Jesus came to seek and save the lost. That group 'lost' ranges from the church goer who has never obeyed the Gospel to the wildest, notorious sinner who has never darkened a church house door. When we realize that to be almost saved is to be totally lost, then perhaps we will go out and meet sinners where they are and bring them to Christ.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Jesus: Friend of Sinners

What was the mission of Jesus?

I was asked to address this topic and I keep coming back to the reason for this blog: to let people know that Jesus came to call sinners to Himself.

The calling of Levi (or Matthew) is the text for today's observations. Found in Matthew 9, Mark 2 and Luke 5, the story is strikingly similar in all three accounts. Jesus calls Levi, goes to a party at his house, the scribes question the disciples and Jesus responds.

Jesus says it is not the well who need the care of the physician but those who are sick. In the same way, He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Is your first repose to this statement thankfulness or repulsion? Did Jesus come to call you or are you too self-righteous to receive the message of Jesus?

Now, I think we recognize that all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), but Jesus seems to be talking about 'notorious' sinners. That's right. Prostitutes, addicts, adulterers and murderers...those are the ones Jesus came to call. Perhaps when we recognize that we also are as wrecked and wretched as any other sinners, then we can be more like Matthew's party guests and less like the scribes. More willing to accept Jesus and less likely to question His motives towards us and others.

More to come...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Great Commission, Part 2


We know as believers that we are called to take the message of what Christ has done for us and in us to others, but have we ever considered the reasons why?
Jesus said that the first and greatest commandment is to love God with everything you have and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:38-39). If we love God, we will want to take His saving message to others. If we truly love others, we will want them to hear that message as often and as clearly as possible.
"Go ye into all the world..." is not just a message for missionaries and gospel preachers. It could be stated as "Go me into all my world..." My world of school, work or, even yes, church to share the gospel message of good news for sinners. Jesus is calling people to repent, to change their lives, but He uses our mouths to do His ministry. It is much like the old song says, "He has no hands but our hands to do His work today, He has no feet but our feet to lead men to His way..."
If we love God and we love other people, living out the Great Commission should be second nature to us as Christians. We teach people to be followers of Jesus which leads them to repentance and baptism and then we continue to teach them to go out and convert others as well.
What a privilege to be given such a charge! Let's go out and live for the Master by fulfilling His Great Commission.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Great Commission, Part 1

Perhaps the greatest charge ever given in the pages of sacred Scripture was Christ's message to the apostles (and also likely other disciples) before ascending back into the heavens.
As Matthew records it, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you:and lo, I am with you always even until the end of the age. Amen. (Matt. 28:19-20).
Also recorded in Luke and Mark, as well as in the opening chapter of Acts, Jesus' words speak to the eternal mission of the church as well as to the eternal aim of His Heavenly Father.
The Great Commission is great because it was not a "hatched overnight" plan of Jesus. Rather, as Ephesians 3 shows, it was a divine part of the eternal purpose of God. Peter mentions this element of Christ's purpose in dying on the cross in the first gospel sermon in Acts 2 and notes in 1 Peter 1:19, 20 that Christ was "...truly foreordained before the foundation of the world..." to die, be buried and rise from the dead and that this was and is to be the message of the gospel.
With Christ as the seat of its authority and being a universal mission in scope, the Great Commission is clearly to be lived out in the day-to-day lives of believers. In fact the phrasing is not so much "Go" but rather "As you are going." This opens us as believers to the idea that wherever we find ourselves in life we are truly on the mission field. As we go from work to recreation, family to friends, we are to carry the word of Christ to all.
Check back for more on the Great Commission...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Terror, Love, and Assigned Ministry

Why do we tell (or fail to tell) our neighbors and friends about the life-changing relationship that we have with Jesus? Perhaps we have not considered the motivation that spurred on the apostle Paul and his companions to share the Gospel.

In II Corinthians 5, Paul speaks of the "terror of the LORD" as a motivation as to why he and his companions seek to persuade men to obey the Gospel. Paul must have no doubt remembered the fear he experienced on the road to Damascus and for the three days in darkness he spent waiting for the coming of Ananias. Paul knew what it was like to be separated from the LORD and knew the terrible position that indeed was.

Paul also mentions to the Corinthians that "the love of Christ compels us..." It is one thing to know the awesome, terrible power of God and quite another to know the tender touch of Christ. Knowing that Christ loved recklessly and without precondition, Paul says that that love (showed toward him and all men) pushes him forward to tell the Good News of Jesus.

Finally, Paul mentions that he and all Christians have been given the "ministry of reconciliation." He knows that the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is the reconciling event of history. Telling this story is what the job of every believer has as he or she lives from day to day.

Terror may motivate and love may as well, but until we realized that WE have an ASSIGNED MINISTRY to reconcile the world to Christ, we will never get busy in the work of spreading the good news.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Tomb Time

There is perhaps no greater privilege in the work of ministry than stand before the assembly and present the Gospel of Christ as a dying man to dying men and women. Those of us who have obeyed the teachings of the Scripture currently live between two lives. We have died to sin and a life ruled by Satan, but we are not yet glorified in the presence of God for all eternity. We are, in fact, "between two tombs."

The first is the tomb of baptism and self-identification with the death of Christ; the second is the place of physical death that we all must face provided Christ does not return in our lifetimes. As you consider your life, are you living on "tomb time?"

Have you been united with Christ in the likeness of His death so that you can be united in the likeness of the resurrection? If not, why not?

"Picture the Parade, Lads"

During World War II, England needed to increase its production of coal. Winston Churchill called together labor leaders to enlist their support. At the end of his presentation he asked them to picture in their minds a parade which he knew would be held in Picadilly Circus after the war.

First, he said, would come the sailors who had kept the vital sea lanes open. Then would come the soldiers who had come home from Dunkirk and then gone on to defeat Rommel in Africa. Then would come the pilots who had driven the Luftwaffe from the sky.
Last of all, he said, would come a long line of sweat-stained, soot-streaked men in miner's caps. Someone would cry from the crowd, 'And where were you during the critical days of our struggle?' And from ten thousand throats would come the answer, 'We were deep in the earth with our faces to the coal.'"

Not all the jobs in a church are prominent and glamorous. But it is often the people with their "faces to the coal" who help the church accomplish its mission.
The parade of heaven will not be all apostles, ministers, missionaries: many will be the "ordinary" Christians who stoked the furnaces of the heavens with thousands of lives well lived.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Happiness to bitternes and back again

In the early story of Naomi of Bethlehem, it seems that everything that can go wrong does go wrong. A famine breaks out in Israel and Naomi's husband leads her and their two sons to the idol-worshipping land of Moab. While there, her sons, Mahlon and Chilion, marry Moabite women. Tragedy strikes when Naomi's husband dies and, a few years later, both sons die. Naomi is then confronted with being a foreigner in a godless land.
Word comes to the land of Moab that the famine has ended in Israel, and Naomi determines to go back home. Though Ruth is faithful to her mother-in-law and returns to Bethlehem with her, Naomi is still grieved by her life circumstances. When she reaches her hometown and the women say to her, "Is this not Naomi?" she tells them to change her name to Mara. While the name "Naomi" means happiness or pleasant, "Mara" means bitterness.
Fast-foward a few short months. Ruth finds favor in the eyes of Boaz, Naomi's husband's cousin. He is wealthy and marries Ruth as the custom of marrying the dead relative dictates. The couple conceive and young Obed is born. Naomi becomes a kindly grandmother and nurse to Obed. The women of Bethlehem now say, "...your daughter-in-law, who is better to you than seven sons, has bore you a son in your old age..." Bitterness and loss are now turned to happiness and fullness. Obed grows up to become the father of Jesse, the father of David, the ancestor of Christ and greatest ruler of Israel.

Sometimes, just when life seems to be over, God steps in and through His bountiful providence He restores us even greater than we had before. A widow with no descendants, Naomi's prospects looked bleak. Her godly daughter-in-law, who sprang from a godless nation, and the kindness of a relative of her husband, makes Naomi full of happiness once again. Life is often cruel, but remember always that God can bring redemption from unexpected places.

Have a blessed week,
-Will

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Times for everything

As I waited in the hospital for hours with the Robinson family on Friday awaiting the birth of their first daughter/grandchild, I was reminded of the verses of Ecclesiastes 3.

"...a time to be born, a time to die..."

I have stayed with several people during their final moments of life. I remember sitting up all night with one aged brother as his breathing grew more and more labored and he slip into a coma and then passed away. All that night I sang hymns from an old songbook that someone had left in the room. Although I wasn't sure he could hear me, it seemed appropriate to be sung into Glory. As poor as my voice is, I know that the anthems of angels soon replaced my meager offering and welcomed that tired warrior home.

This experience with birth was totally different. Lots of people were gathered and the tone was happy and light. Even when complications were announced, we remained calm and prayed together. In the end, a child that only a few minutes before had been locked in an unseen world was being gawked over, cooed at and photographed. New life had been brought forth, and I could not help but think of all the future holds for this child and this family. I hope in a few short years that I will have the honor of baptizing this child as I baptized her father several years ago.

Truly to everything there is a season. I have had my times to mourn, and now I feel that I have had indeed a time to dance.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
-Will