Monday, May 18, 2015

Harry Potter and the Hope Eternal


As a young boy, I read every Superman comic I could plead for, later enjoyed the works of Mark Twain, and others who took me to places and times I'll never inhabit - except through their prose.

As a pastor, over the years I have received different responses from people about the Harry Potter series when they found out I had read them all. And at times I've had questions from parents about whether their children should read them - those questions coming not because of what they knew personally about them, but what they had heard.

Well after finishing the last of the Harry Potter series again recently, I'm not sure that as time goes by we might not see theologians treating the books and their author much more kindly. For in this book I found words I have always treasured in the most uncommon places.

When Harry ventures back home to where his parents are buried, he comes across the gravestone of his mentor Dumbledore's mother and sister. The Mother was killed trying to protect the daughter from herself, and later the daughter died too. On the gravestone were these words.

Where your treasure is, there your hearts will be also.

This of course comes from Christ's words in Matthew 19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matt 6:19-21 (NIV)

Then Harry finds himself at the graves of his parents, who both died trying to protect him from an evil wizard, and the reader sees these words on their monument.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Coming again from Scripture - 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 1 Cor 15:24-26 (ESV)

The themes of "the Greater Good", of sacrifice, of selflessness, of laying down your life for your friends run all through this last book. If you cannot see that, it's not that you have read too much fiction.

It's that you have read too little Scripture.

Reading for information isn't enough.

You have to read the Bible with a sense of anticipation - of wonder, relief and amazement that God - this God - the One and Only God - would sacrifice His One and Only Son - for you.

And that through your love for Him, you would lay down your life for your friends - no matter what.

You know you are flawed, but that He is able to use you to change lives for eternity.

And you have to be convinced in your very soul that your life matters to God - that what you do matters. You have a part in the Big Story of God's reconciling the world to Himself.

If you can see that connection with your own life's walk, then it will be easy to spot it wherever it appears in any variation whether explicitly Christian or not - even in fictional books like the Harry Potter series.

I'm grateful for J.K. Rowling's work, and the treasures I found in The Deathly Hallows. But I'm immeasurably more grateful to the God who through the sacrifice of His sinless Son, gave me freedom from guilt and shame, a purpose for living, and the hope of eternal life with Him, when death will be destroyed and love triumphs over all.

Shalom,

David

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Red Ink and Laughter - A Teacher's Influence


If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching.8 If your gift is to encourage others, do it! Romans 12:7-8 (NLT)

How many people have you met in your lifetime? You probably can't count that high. Okay, how many can you say made a real difference? Chances are, out of a list of the top ten, there will be a teacher in there somewhere. Think back - who would you choose? What teacher affected you the most?

You'd probably not choose someone who laughed at you while scrawling a big red "F" on your essay. But that's exactly why I'd put Dr. Catherine Futral high on my list of women who've affected my life.

After a long time away, I had returned to Mercer University in Macon, GA to finish my undergraduate degree. I was majoring in business, because that's what my company would pay for, and was checking off the squares of required courses when I ran head on into Dr. Futral. A fixture for years at Tift College in Forsyth, she was teaching in the evening college after Mercer had absorbed her beloved campus. My goal was to get all my English courses out of the way as quickly and as easily as possible. Her goal seemed to be the destruction of the ecosystem by flooding the world with red ink.

To give you a mental picture of her wouldn't be hard. Think English teacher. That was harsh. Okay, think English teacher with a great smile and eyes that twinkled as she explained just how miserable she would be making our lives for the next 12 weeks.

She was a woman of grace, peppering her lectures with humor, and her comments on our work with wit. A committed Christian, and member of First Baptist Church of Forsyth, she'd often bring her faith experiences into her lectures. She'd quote Shakespeare, Faulkner, and the Psalms all in the same example of how to write a compelling paragraph. But when she evaluated your work - well, you'd better be ready to hear the truth.

I'll never forget one paper I wrote which received this comment: "Until the very last line of this paper, I felt that it was one of the best I had read. However, your thoughtless comma splice in the last phrase ruined it for me - and you." Beside that snippet she inscribed a large red "F".

Can I call that the gift of encouragement?

It was for me. My mission from that point on was to make Dr. Futral see the error of her ways. She kept trying to change my style, wanting me to use less punctuation - create shorter sentences - eliminate the passive voice. At one point, I ran a paper through a grammar checker program (new technology at the time) and handed it in. Her comment? "This isn't your work." "Oh yes it is," I replied, "and it's perfect." "It may very well be perfect as far as grammar is concerned," she shot back," but it is perfectly awful prose." You've never seen a smile leave anyone's face as fast as mine did. "You can do better," she said now smiling as she handed it back to me, "write it like David this time - from the heart."

Maybe she was from another time, when teachers could demand more and not worry about their student's self esteem. All I know is that she gave her best and expected ours in return. I think of her often and thank God for her. In a sense I'm still writing partly for Dr. Futral. She believed in me. Every time I write I remember, "from the heart."

Do you remember someone who encouraged you along the way? Someone who helped you become the person you wanted to be?

Let them know it. 

They gave you their gift - pass it on.

Grace!

David Wilson

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Hey! Little Help Here!


What do you know about this picture without any doubt whatsoever?

That turtle did not get on that fence post by himself. Someone else had to put him there.



That popped into my admittedly strange mind when I was reading the first of the letters attributed to the apostle Peter. That rough hewn Galilean fisherman is one of my favorite characters in all of Scripture simply because of his so obvious flaws in character. Impulsive, unlearned, rough, crass, and with an opinion of himself that didn't square with who he really was, Peter was as they say all over the South, "a real piece of work." Now for those of you who are not clued into Southern expressions, that one has more to do with how much work is yet to be done than it ever has with what sort of person the "piece of work" is now.

Peter needed work.

A LOT of work.

Oh he had his moments, but there were always others coming down the road that showed everyone just how short of the mark he was. At root, Peter was all about Peter and how things affected him. He's the absolutely last person I would ever expect to write something like this.

8 Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything.
1 Peter 4:8 (MSG)

See, I read that and it made me go "Whoa! How'd he get there?"

I'd say Peter had help getting to that point in his life. He'd been led past "what's in it for me?", and made his way by "what difference does it make?" To "Christ is all. He is enough. He is here- for me -no matter what."

Now, with everything he has within him, he's practically begging his fellow followers of Jesus to make love the end all be all of their lives - of every waking moment.

What changed Peter?

His great failure, and Christ's great forgiving grace.

Peter never forgot just what Jesus had done for him. Have you?

Do you need a touch of God's amazing grace today?

Open your heart, confessing your need and accept His love as help for your soul. Find the freedom that only a life hid in Christ's love can give.

You can't get there without help.

Grace and peace,

David

Monday, April 27, 2015

Sharing Jesus As A Grace Driven Church

We're walking through a series of messages that examine the purposes of the Church through the lens of grace. Today, we looked at evangelism. When I laid out the series,I felt that this would be the hardest to deal with. Now after I have delivered it, I still think that's the case.

We need to live out our love for Jesus in such a way that even those who oppose our worldview admire the way we live it. It means holding those beliefs tightly, but opening our hands and hearts to be good neighbors, regardless of whether those neighbors agree with us on a number of areas.

It means seeking the common ground that the apostle Paul wrote about.

My prayer is that we at New Hope would be people of grace, always ready to give an answer to the question of why we love God, love each other, and love others. And that we give that answer gently, gracefully, with respect for the person who asks.




Here's the You Tube link.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Taking It Personally


1 Thes. 5:11 (Msg)
So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you'll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you're already doing this; just keep on doing it.
 

One day a young boy came home from school with a note. It suggested that his parents take him out of school. Partially deaf, the boy was having problems keeping up with the other students. But rather than help him, they sent him away. The note said that the boy was "too stupid to learn." 

When the boy's mother read the note, she said, "My son Tom isn't 'too stupid to learn.' I'll teach him myself." When Tom, then known as Thomas, oh and Edison was his last name - died many years later, the people of our nation paid tribute to him by turning off the nation's lights. which he had invented, for one full minute. Thomas Edison invented not only the light bulb we read by, but also motion pictures and the rec­ord player. He has over one thousand patents to his credit. You might very well have known all that. 

But you wouldn't have if Thomas Edison's mother, Nancy, hadn't taken that offense personally and set out to prove the school system wrong. Edison himself later said of her, "My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me, and I felt I had some one to live for, some one I must not disappoint." 

Everyone needs someone like that. And many of you are that "someone" to others around you. You are making a difference, most of the time going unnoticed and unappreciated. That's why I'm writing this. 

I'm writing today to thank all of you who have heard society tell you that teenagers won't amount to anything - then set out personally to prove the critics wrong by investing your lives into those of countless boys and girls. 

I'm writing today to thank all of you who hear all the time about how churches don't make a difference any more - and have dedicated your lives to proving them wrong by serving your communities in countless ways, sometimes at great cost. 

I'm writing today to thank all of you who have been told that your church was dying - and took it personally - telling the devil and all his henchmen - "Not on my watch" - and are doing the hard work of loving people and inviting them to come and meet God in worship. Heart by heart, you are building God's church. 

And I'm writing today to all of you who see the wrongs and try to right them, who see the hurts and try to heal them, and who never hear one word of praise. That aggravates me. You could say I take it personally. 

Thank you for what you do. It matters. May God bless your efforts. Keep on doing it. 

Grace! 

David Wilson 

Today



Come, ye disconsolate, where'er you languish,
Come at the shrine of God fervently kneel;
Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish—
Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal.
~Thomas Moore, c.1813, published in Sacred Songs, 1816

It's been thirteen years today.

Countless moments have passed. Our love of Ana has never ceased.

Heaven is healing. Heaven will ultimately heal completely.

And one day, we will meet our granddaughter.

Until then, we will love our family fiercely. We will seek every opportunity to live this all so precious life with them. 

So if you're reading this, Wilson clan, know that you are loved more deeply than words could ever express. ALL of you - sons by birth, daughters by marriage - ALL of you.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Plan B Is A Blessing


Well, we at New Hope sure had to be this weekend, as an electrical problem caused us to lose the use of our sanctuary's air conditioners - and we're in Florida - so we need to know we can call on them. That meant we had to move to the fellowship hall for worship. Very different but we pulled it off. Plan B only changed the location, not the object of our worship - Jesus.

Here's the YouVersion link for this week - YouVersion

And thanks to Jonathan McGee, here's a very rare (but hopefully not so rare from now on) video of me delivering the message.

Hopefully we'll be back in the sanctuary come Sunday, but if not, we'll not lose anything in the sweet fellowship, warm worship, and the presence of the Holy Spirit with us.


Thursday, April 02, 2015

The Cost of Freedom and Forgiveness



The Cost


So this was the cost
the price you had to pay for me
to be with me
to save me
to redeem me

You laid down here for me
Hung here for me
Died here for me

You laid down here for me
As they laughed at you
And said who’s hitting you
You laid down here for me
As they nailed you
Impaled you
You laid here as nails cut you, pierced you, ripped you
You laid down here for me

You hung here for me as they mocked you
Jew King, here’s your crown so come down and be king
You hung here for me as your breath wouldn’t come
And the blood wouldn’t stop
and nails or no nails you still are God
and could have come down
and made the pain stop and made the laughs stop
but you hung here for me

You died here for me
As you said
it is finished
And now there is nothing left,
But the horror of this place
And I want to turn away, to walk away, to run away
To just forget without regret
All the horror of this place
Of the blood on your face
And the pain of the nails and the hole in your side
But I can’t turn away cause I need to be saved

And if this is what it takes for me to know you
To be with you
to find you
if this is what it takes for you to save me
Then I can’t look away
Cause I need you to save
this soul that cries out for you,
dies for you,
reaches for you
If this is what it takes then I all I can say is
Crucify! Crucify! Crucify!
Cause I need to be saved
And I...

I can’t pay the cost