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