Saturday, July 09, 2016

Well done, good and faithful servant

I just received word that the Anderson's beloved friend Lucy has passed away. Their hearts are broken at their loss. Please pray that God would provide the healing for their hearts and peace for their spirits at this very, very tough time.

It's the only flaw dogs have really, they live too few years. The following is the post I wrote when Lucy came home with them almost 6 years ago. 
"A dog is the only thing on this earth that loves you more than he loves himself." Josh Billings

Things are about to change at the Anderson's house.

Lucy the dog is coming to her forever home.

To look at the Andersons you wouldn't think they lacked a thing - they are a great family. Awesome dad and mom and great son -my friend Ian. They even have a cat.

But they've lacked something without really knowing it. They've lacked the love of dog.

From the earliest recorded history, people and dogs have been together. Of all the species that inhabit this earth, none has bonded with humans like the dog. Countless stories have been written about dogs that found their way home over hundreds of miles, that remained faithful to owners who had passed away, who gave everything they had as long as they could. Dogs have given their lives to save us, have rescued us from all manners of harm, and warned us of dangers we could never have seen. They've lowered our blood pressure and given us someone to talk to.

But their greatest work is in giving us a living example of how to love unconditionally.

The love of dog.

Sometime Sunday afternoon, Lucy the dog will come home.

And that home will never be the same.

Monday, July 04, 2016

First Things First

Today is July the 4th. Here at the Wilson home, we've finished the cookout and are getting ready for tonight's fireworks. One has to precede the other and well, we might as well eat. While we're waiting I started thinking about how amazing it is to be a part of it all- the great experiment that is America.

What made America different? Why, among all the nations that have come and gone, is she looked to as a model - a lighthouse to the world - that "City on a Hill"?

You can look over the incredible beauty of our land. You can see the works of the hands and the warmth of the hearts of our people. You can measure our strength and the valor of those who serve her. But first things first.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...

As the men who "pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor" wrote their explanation to the world in the form of a "Declaration of Independence", setting out on a course that would lead to America - before they unpacked their grievances with Britain, they found within them something pure and God-given.

Before one single battle was fought, before any laws were passed, before the first coin was struck, before a flag was flown, America wanted to be known as the nation who recognized that some things surpassed preferences, local culture, or national identity. "We hold these truths to be self-evident..."

First things first.

So how can we incorporate that in our busy and hectic lives? How can we make sure we are living purposeful lives? That we are putting our energies into what matters, and holding as convictions those things that place us into the center of God's will?

19 "Don't store up treasures here on earth, where they can be eaten by moths and get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal. 20Store your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves. 21Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be. Matthew 6 (NLT)

"Wherever your treasure is..."

A friend of mine in California has five kids - all boys under 15. They play every sport known to man and some that they just make up. He lives in a nice neighborhood where people take great pride in the appearance of their homes and their yards. The wear and tear on his yard doesn't help him keep up. One night after agonizing over what to do about it, he went back inside and walked past the bedrooms of his sons as they slept. Looking at them for a minute, he left and went into his garage and went straight from there out to the lawn.

The next morning, his neighbors who passed by noticed the new sign.

"We're raising sons now. Grass later."

First things first. Make God the center of your life. Look to Him and through His Word at your life, your values, your desires. Set your priorities based on nothing other than your love and devotion to Him. If you love Him, you'll hold His truths to be "self-evident" and your life as the "evidence" of His love.

Grace! And May God Bless America.


Sunday, July 03, 2016

Maybe this time... thoughts about Pickett's charge

Growing up a generation ago in Middle Georgia meant that I was presented with a worldview far different than that kids receive today. 

It was the South, before the advent of air conditioning, when the echoes of the civil war still were heard. Every child in school was taught a particular version of history, long on the heroic actions of people like Robert E. Lee and short on a real examination of why the war was fought.

I devoured the biographies, poured over the battles, and tried to imagine being there. Everything I wanted to know about what the war was like occurred during the first three days in July 1963 - at Gettysburg. I've fought that battle so many times - in turn by turn board games, computer simulations - and watched every movie ever made. 

And every time I did it I wondered, what was it like to walk out of the trees with General Pickett and walk directly into the hell of the center of the Union lines. To risk it all for a cause bigger than myself. To decide with that first step, to lay down my life if that's what it took.

I was not alone. 

From the pen of William Faulkner...

For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it's still not yet two o'clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it's all in the balance, it hasn't happened yet, it hasn't even begun yet, it not only hasn't begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armistead and Wilcox look grave yet it's going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn't need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think ...This time. 
Maybe this time with all this much to lose than all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble, the cast made two years ago. — William Faulkner Intruder in the Dust
But that victory was not to be. 
Thank God.
Though the men who fought for the South fought skillfully, bled and died sacrificially, and though most of them would have told you that they fought for Georgia, or Virginia or their home state, the fact that the leaders of the Confederacy decided to incorporate the continuation of slavery in their constitution meant they were on the wrong side of history. They had a valid point about state's rights. Had they acknowledged the wrong that slavery was, and then fought their battles, things could have been different. 
The boy I was didn't see that. 
All he could see was an open field, unfurled colors, and George Pickett raising his sword. The chance to have your belief measured against the real possibility of death. To offer your all for a cause.
Ironic I suppose that years later I surrendered to a cause far greater. And I step out of the woods and advance against the culture every day as a follower of Jesus. To give it all.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Admirer or Disciple?

One of the people whose works and writings have profoundly affected my view of God, or of following Jesus, and who still inspire me is Clarence Jordan. Clarence was a graduate of the University of Georgia with a degree in Agriculture, then went on to Southern Seminary and earned a Masters and Doctorate. He was a farmer and a New Testament scholar. In the early 1940's Jordan and his wife found a piece of property in Sumter County near Americus Georgia and founded "Koinonia Farm", an experiment in Christian community that crossed the racial boundaries that so characterized the South of that time.

During this time Clarence approached his brother Robert Jordan, later state senator and justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, asking him to represent Koinonia Farm legally. His brother replied, “Clarence, I can’t do that. You know my political aspirations. Why, if I represented you, I might lose my job, my house, everything I’ve got.” 

“We might lose everything, too, Bob,” Clarence reminded him. 

Jordan continued, “I remember, it seems to me, that you and I joined the church the same Sunday, as boys. I expect when we came forward the preacher asked me about the same question he did you. He asked me, ‘Do you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior?’ and I said, ‘Yes.’ What did you say?”

“I follow Jesus, Clarence, up to a point,” Robert replied.

“Could that point be…the cross?” asked Clarence pointedly.

“That’s right. I follow him to the cross, but not on the cross. I’m not getting myself crucified.”

Clarence said, “Then I don’t believe you’re a disciple. You’re an admirer of Jesus, but not a disciple of his. I think you ought to go back to the church you belong to, and tell them you’re an admirer, not a disciple.”


But isn't that true of more of us than we'd like to admit? We get squeezed between our professed love for Jesus and "the real world" of work, of money, of family, of status, of class, of rank, of whatever, and that old tempter starts whispering sweet nothings in our ear. And we listen, especially when we're hard pressed. Instead of setting our faces like flint, we gradually turn away from the hard path, the tough places thinking that movement away will bring the comfort and blessings we really want and believe we deserve.

29 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God,30 will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come.”
Luke 18:29-30 (NLT)

When are we going to learn that we cannot out give God? When will we realize that the way "forward" means leaving the values of this world behind? When will we follow Jesus past "that point"?

Lots of people are stuck because they use the wrong standard of measurement. Are you faithfully following Jesus? Then let no one keep you from continuing.

But if you are not... if you are primarily interested in how you benefit... if it's always about YOU.

Then go back in repentance to the church you belong to and tell them you are sorry and that you want to be a follower, not an admirer.

Monday, June 20, 2016

So, You Want To Be A Pastor...

So, You Want To Be A Pastor... 

One day as Jesus was walking along the shore beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers--Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew--fishing with a net, for they were commercial fishermen. 19Jesus called out to them, "Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people!" 20And they left their nets at once and went with him.Matthew 4:21-23 

There are times when I have to laugh about the position God has placed me into. Here's a guy who was after the American Dream - had a great job with one of the best companies on earth, great family, new car, new house.. etc. We had just finished a year within which we had reached a level of income we had never seen before. Our friends at church were great, the church was growing, and we were a part of it. Word within the church was I was a shoo in for deacon. 

Then God went and made me a pastor. I sure didn't see that coming, but it was clear to me and to others I trusted that God was calling me to serve His church.

Which leaves me wide open for questions like why? 

If it was in pursuit of accomplishment - well I'll have you know I had already achieved great success. 

For example, were you aware that I had sold the first full page color Pepto Bismol ad in the known world? Ha! Didn't think so. Or that I had sold 23 trucks full of Folgers coffee, marking the single biggest purchase on record for that brand? No? Well, now you know. And I hope you also know that compared to a person coming to know Christ or growing deeper in ther faith, that stuff's so lame.

If you decide to go into the ministry though, I should tell you that you'll have to learn a lot more about failure than accomplishment. And instead of trusting in your skill or passion, you'll have to learn to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit even when it seems He's nowhere to be found. Trust Him.

Now there will be times when everything goes well and people will single you out as a great pastor and leader, and then there will be times when things are running the wrong way and people look to you to make something happen and wonder if you can. But you have to know in your heart that all you've done from the very beginning is to love God, love His people, and try to give both your best. Any success has come from God and if it's dry right now, then He's still at work, just in a different way. Follow Him.

You'll have to come to grips with the knowledge that there will always be people who question your motives and wisdom. It'll happen more at first, but after almost 17 years here and over 20 years as a pastor, it still happens. Love them.

Sometimes there will be people who come but are at cross purposes with what the church is and hopes to be and that you still have to love them, but you don't have to let them have their way. In fact, you can't - because you're the pastor, and the good pastor lays down his life for the sheep. You'll pray for them, talk with them, and try to make them understand God's call on your church. Not the one across town or across the oceans. The church you serve. Stay true to that call. Follow the Holy Spirit's direction. 

Some people will leave, and you have to wish God's best for them, even if you believe they are leaving just that. Even if you've stood up for them to others. Even if you've given them your time. And then you have to believe that it is all part of God's plan and keep praying, keep loving, and keep preaching the Word. Does it hurt? Oh yes. Sometimes it rips your heart and that of your family. When you've prayed literally hours for someone and been there during some of the events of their life, it's tough. Guess it should be. If you don't care for people, don't you dare become a pastor.

There are stresses and strains in your life that no one will see. We've had to make use of the church food pantry too many times. Racing the Gulf Power cut off guy home gets old. We got really good and pinching pennies, but after over 20 years as a pastor I've never equalled what I made the year before I became one. When you get to the church on Christmas Eve, check the mailbox and find that your check has bounced, it takes a deep faith to stick that slip in your pocket and go lift people's eyes to the cross. My wife and my family have paid a price for my answering the call. It can destroy a marriage - it can ruin a life - several lives. I was blessed with a wife who has been more and done more for the churches I have served than anyone will ever know. And my sons - well I hope they saw that their Dad did his best. If money matters a lot to you, this is the wrong career field.

I have fewer years ahead than I have behind me, and I'm bivocational now instead of full time. But there's never a day that I'm not praying, not studying/ reading in some way to be a better pastor, a better communicator. I'm always looking for ways to see New Hope grow. We've tried some that did great, and some that didn't. But you have to keep trying to connect people to God and to people. It can be frustrating to have to build the consensus and gather the volunteers to get something done. But it's worth it, and there are many times that if you'll listen, some of the best ideas you will ever hear come from them.

One day I'll no longer be the pastor of a church. I'll still be God's servant, but I'll be serving in a different role. I don't know when that will be, but I know when it comes I'll be praying every day for my pastor, and seeking to do whatever I can to help him as he works for God.

Pastor - It's a hard, hard job. It's a thankless one from the world's point of view. But keep following Him. Keep loving His people.

For the knowledge that you served Jesus... now that makes it all worthwhile.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Every Day - devotional for June 1

There are a lot of people who can work hard for a while, care for a while, love for a while, give of themselves for a while. They leave behind them a legacy of inconsistency and frayed or broken relationships with people and with God. 

In their jobs, they can’t be counted on. 

As parents, they raise kids who never know what the boundaries are. 

As husbands or wives, they tend to make everything about them – the “me” trumps the “we” that makes marriage work.

What’s the answer?

24 Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. 
25 Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self.  Matt 16 (MSG)

The secret to a life that leaves a lasting legacy is in those verses. 

Let Jesus lead.

Embrace life’s hardships. 

Follow Jesus every day. 


Do it and find peace.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

To Live By Faith

With desperate and hungry people camped all over the church lawn, Jesus turns, then and now, to his followers and speaks what is either a cruel joke or lavish divine humor: "They need not go away; you give them something to eat" (M.t 14:16). The disciples, fully aware that their own resources are not up to the magnitude of the need (Mt 14:17) nonetheless trust that the jest is a divine one and obey Jesus.  Thomas G. Long
Jesus' words "You give them something to eat," are a "divine jest." They are a daily dare. He's saying "I dare you to take me at my word. And see what happens. "
A few years ago, a few New Hope folks began helping out with the "Supper on Saturday" meal distribution. It's a wonderful program that brings together people from the local Methodist mega-church as well as others from other churches in trying to meet the needs of the poor among us all. After that experience, we reasoned that if some were taking 6 meals for two people, then perhaps the need was greater than just on Saturday. We were already cooking meals for anyone who came on Wednesday night, so what's a little more?
You see the picture of the shelves above? That's our pantry for the meals. It looked pretty low when that picture was taken, and it's been lower. But for 4 years, we have cooked, packed, and delivered anywhere from eighty to one-hundred twenty meals every Wednesday night. We've never missed a Wednesday, regardless of weather or holidays.
It's been part of the "daily dare" that is the walk of faith at New Hope.
During the last six years, our church has weathered severe financial hardship, coming out of debt, and dealing with the lack of resources in a way that turned a challenge into a "see what happens" chance to truly see what God can do with our faith. Our treasurer and I on many occasions have shared a private laugh over what our bank balance was, what our obligations were, and how somehow, someway, God always, always, always got us through. One week I shared that we had $1.21 in the bank during a Wednesday night prayer meeting, and my beloved church family burst out in applause. "Look what God did tonight with $1.21" one man said. "We delivered 120 meals" for less than what you could find in the couch cushions."
Now we've done what we could. I've returned to bivocational status, working as a teacher to cut overhead. We're notoriously frugal as a church when it comes to spending on things. But I believe we are notoriously generous when it comes to spending on helping people - wherever they may be. And right now I sense God beginning to move us to do more.
Friend, we're just normal people. There are a lot of ways we could improve. But I don't think we can improve on the call of Jesus to come along and see what He can do with folks who don't have much, but are willing to see what He can do with it.
Shameless plug: If you want to be a part of a church that hasn't forgotten why we're here, and tries very hard to do as much as we can, for as many as we can - come join us at New Hope.  Oh and bring some green beans - we could use them for this week's meal. :)