Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Thin Places

10 Meanwhile, Jacob left Beersheba and traveled toward Haran.11 At sundown he arrived at a good place to set up camp and stopped there for the night. Jacob found a stone for a pillow and lay down to sleep.12 As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from earth to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down on it.

13 At the top of the stairway stood the LORD, and he said, "I am the LORD, the God of your grandfather Abraham and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I will give it to you and your descendants.14 Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will cover the land from east to west and from north to south. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants.

15 What's more, I will be with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. I will someday bring you safely back to this land. I will be with you constantly until I have finished giving you everything I have promised."

16 Then Jacob woke up and said, "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn't even aware of it."17 He was afraid and said, "What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God--the gateway to heaven!" Gen 28:10-17
Today is Wednesday, and I've been preparing for our Bible study tonight on Genesis 28 - the "Jacob's Ladder" passage. Now if you were thoroughly indoctrinated in church as a child, please fell free to start spontaneously singing "We are climbing Jacob's Ladder."

Word of caution though, if you are reading this at work, on a plane, or in a coffee shop, don't be surprised if people look at you funny.

Jacob has a pretty spotty reputation in most circles, being labeled a "trickster", "Schemer", "deceiver" and even "thief" by some. Whether those are accurate I'm not sure, because I've searched in vain to find where God has said he's a bad man. But one thing is clear, he's not a godly man at this point. On the night in question, perhaps the loneliest one Jacob has ever known, he's fleeing his brother, and has left his mother and father forever. It was a cold, dark night.

And God showed up.

Jacob's real journey with God began that night.

Up to that point, he was living on borrowed faith - his parent's. He grew up hearing about God, but God wasn't real to him. In a way, he reminds me of many people I've met through the years. But that night, God came near. And Jacob responded in worship.

The ancient Celtic Christians spoke of "thin places" where the separation between earth and heaven was not so wide. They built their churches at those spots - where a mountain meets the sea, or a large tree stood alone. "A person could see God from there", one wrote describing his church.

You know, my hope is that you and I as Christ followers can provide "thin places" for others who don't know Him. In service to others, in our care for God's creation, in living our lives with purpose and hope - that people could see Jesus through us.

Thomas Merton wrote "Life is simple. We live in a world that is absolutely transparent, and God is shining through us all the time."

Maybe someone will see you living out your faith and come to realize that God is - and they never knew it.

Lead them home.


David Wilson

A Glimpse of New Hope is my attempt to share the hope I have found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Should you no longer wish to receive it, or find that you have received it in error, please write me at and I will immediately remove you. Past "Glimpses" are archived at Thanks and God bless, David Wilson

Sunday, June 26, 2005

What Every Pastor Needs

Ran across a quote today that I had forgotten.

Stuart Briscoe writes, "Qualifications of a pastor (or any Christian leader): the mind of a scholar, the heart of a child, and the hide of a rhinoceros."

Maybe one of the most succinct but accurate assessments of what a pastor needs ever written.

"The mind of a scholar"

The congregation wants you to know God intimately and His Word as completely as it can be. You can toss that off with a flippant answer such as "I'm no theologian", but that's exactly what they want you to be. They come to you for answers - yes, sometimes because they haven't done the work, but more often it seems because they trust you to put what it says in context for them.

"The heart of a child.."

What does that mean? My theory has always been that in the jaded cynical world in which we live, people want to know someone really believes - that someone really loves - that someone is really amazed and in awe of God. Too many have lost the ability along the way, and they draw on yours.

"The hide of a rhinocerous..."

So many of those in the ministry go forth in love, believing that because they do, people will love them back, and like them. Not necessarily, and if you set yourself up as needy in those areas, it can be devastating. Listening to someone tell you everything you've ever done wrong, every area you are deficient in, and dismissing your every attempt to help them understand your actions can shred your psyche, unless you do not take every criticism of your actions personally. You have to be able to take it. Ministry is not for the thin-skinned. You are dealing with people in need, people in crisis, people trapped in sin - they will hurt you. A thick skin is a real asset. It enables you to endure the blows, and actually learn from them.

Briscoe left one thing out though. Just as the Rhino typically does not go through life alone, neither can the pastor.

We need friends. People who we can open up to, share joys and heartaches with - people who love us for who we are, not for what we are doing.

I thank God for those I have. May their tribe increase.



Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Not Worthy

26 “I baptize with water,” John answered them. “But among you stands Someone you don’t know. 27 He is the One coming after me, whose sandal strap I’m not worthy to untie.”

John 1:26-27 (HCSB)

I never have been comfortable with the idea of being a "stand-in" for God. Nice to know I'm not alone in that. Thing is, no matter how hard you work at being open, and transparent about your walk with Christ, like it or not - the pastor's role means people look to you.

It's not something I think about much, preferring to spend my time agonizing over other things. But occasionally it makes itself known. Early here, it leapt out when I was told that suggestions from me had the force of "do this." I thought it was ridiculous, until it was explained to me that in the military, when the "boss" suggests something needs to be done, well, it gets done. Wish that was always true. :)

Last week, I got a gentle reminder.

Our friend Allan, who is developmentally challenged, brought me a Father's Day card. In it, he had written a personal note. Like everything he does, it was absolutely untainted by any wrong emotions or desires. And it just slayed me.

Who am I? Only God can claim to be father to the fatherless.

Then after walking around with that angst for a couple of days, I stumbled across the verse I began with. It was if God was telling me "don't sweat it, no one will confuse us."

So I'll hang around and try to point Allan and others in the right direction. No, I'm not worthy - but I'm available.



Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Free Fish

One of the things I do to give back to society is moderate a Freecycle list. Freecycle was founded a few years ago as a way to keep stuff out of landfills. The basic philosophy is summed up nicely by "One man's trash is another's treasure."

It's wildly popular with tens of thousands of groups all over the world. The items posted as "needs" or "wants" are very varied with anything from couches to chinchllas beig offered and given away for free.

Today, a local lady offered Bob.

Bob may well be a Baptist. I'll let you read her description and decide.

I have a med sized(about 7-8 inches) oscar named
other fish seem to like to beat him up, so I need to find
him a new home. He needs a large fish tank and
unfortunately he will eat anything that could fit into his
mouth so no smaller tank mates!

So Bob has needs, has been hurt before, and will devour others if given half a chance.


The absolute hardest thing in my opinion for a pastor to do is to keep a church healthy. That means to keep the "Bobs" from getting beat up, and keep "Bob" from acting out of his disfunctional past and eating someone else alive. Notice in the post that "Bob" ideally needs a large fish tank all to himself. I've known people like that.

How to cope?

First - model kindness and compassion. It may be that you don't have the gift of mercy. Fine, but you can make a pretty good imitation for short periods. Do it. Step out of the comfort zone and care.
Second - model conflict resolution and teach how to resolve disagreements Biblically. That's going to mean that you don't let things go until they boil, but you proactively call people to work it out. Accept nothing else. The biggest mistake I've ever made in pastoring was thinking "it will work out."

There are millions of people like "bob" out there - hurting and.. hurtful. Our job is to help them change into the image of Christ. Probably still wouldn't trust them near baby Christians for a while though.




Sunday, June 05, 2005

A Holy Discontent

O ! might those sighs and tears return again
Into my breast and eyes, which I have spent,
That I might in this holy discontent
Mourn with some fruit, as I have mourn'd in vain.
John Donne

It should have been a joyous occasion - since it was my first time preaching on Sunday morning in five weeks. Normally, preaching is a joy. But all week long, I couldn't grasp anything solid out of the text - except that it told me a lot about where we weren't now as a congregation.

And it bothered me.

It still does.

Most sermons I've done are finished when the invitation is given, and I've done all I could. This one, it isn't finished with me, and I pray it isn't finished with New Hope.

Nehemiah 9. Worship. Real, authentic, God focused, God honoring, people seeing who they are, people realizing who He is - confessing, praying, praising - committing to change - Worship.

I want that. It's a holy discontent.

So this Monday, I won't think about quitting. :)

Saturday, June 04, 2005

That Magic 5 years

Today has been one of those frames that you can see life through.

Friday for me has always been the day I get serious about writing the Sunday morning sermon. Up to this point in the week I've done my study of the text and spent some time walking around with it within me, listening for God to speak. (When I wrote that I knew someone out there would read this and laugh out loud, because every preacher knows God only talks to you on Saturday night.) :)

So I got into the office and did something I almost never do - I left the blinds closed. It's the universal symbol for "leave me alone, I'm doing important stuff!"

I had been at it five minutes when a knock came on the door, and into my world walked the reason I am what I am. She wanted me to know how much she appreciated my wife Bunny's prayers, and our love and care for her family. She spoke of what they were going through, and what she was going to do. I prayed, she left.

And my heart ached for her and her husband. They face tough days ahead, and it hurts to know that.

I'll be here six years in August. For the first couple of years, I was trying to do a job. For the next two I was trying to build a church. Now I'm trying to be God's hands and feet as he loves these people. Going from worrying about sermon construction, flow, and delivery to agonizing over what the people who face me every Sunday go through has made a real change.

Used to I'd have gone right back to work after an experience like that. Today instead I went right back to praying for her, and that led into an extended time of prayer for several others within the congregation. The sermon didn't get written.

But I know I did exactly what God wanted me to do.

Lest you think it's because I've learned so much about the people here, you should know that the vast majority have come in the last two years. Different faces abound.

But after 5 years, the pastor showed up for work.

It's good work.



Friday, June 03, 2005

"You're the One"

Last night, I listened to a Mother tell the story of her prodigal son. And I heard her heart in every word as she walked back to his first steps away from the place of safety, of warmth - home, and she gave the condensed version of how many times he had come back, vowed to do better, and fell back. I heard her hopefully telling of his return again a while back, and how since then he was living a changed life. Amazement leapt out in the words she used to describe the transformation. Excitement pressed hard behind every word she used to describe just what he was doing, who he was living with, and how he had come back to God.

"I've been asking God to show me He was real for 15 years," he had said to her - "and He has!"

"And I've been praying for you every day for 15 years," she answered.

He might have thought that his mother didn't love him, because she had told him his behavior would lead to ruin and despair. But God knows she never stopped.

There are times when I really don't understand how people can look at God and see anger, and bitterness - seeing Him as always looking to hurt, to punish, to extract vengeance for people's sins.

If ever there was a people on earth that deserved a good Old testament "smiting" it was the people of Israel. If you've ever had a child cut up at the mall, or had to drag them away from the cereal in the supermarket and had them go limp and start screaming - right in front of some people you work with; well, just imagine a whole group of people that are your chosen ones, doing that all over the known world all the time.

My tendency was always to walk away from my kids when they did amazingly embarrassing things, then walk back saying, "wonder whose kids those are? Someone should really do something." :)

But not God.

I won't drop the whole 9th chapter of Nehemiah on you (that's Sunday's sermon), but here's a snippet.

16But they, our ancestors, were arrogant;
bullheaded, they wouldn't obey your commands.

17They turned a deaf ear, they refused

to remember the miracles you had done for them;

They turned stubborn, got it into their heads

to return to their Egyptian slavery.

And you, a forgiving God,

gracious and compassionate,

Incredibly patient, with tons of love--

you didn't dump them. Nehemiah 9 (The Message)

God never will. He won't walk away, give up, pretend you're not His, or bring out the smiting tools. He loves you. He's proved that over and over. The only real way we can return that love is to love Him back. How?

Give Him your life. Your everyday walking around, stumbling, bumbling life. Decide today you are going to love others the way God loves you. Spend time with God. Hang out with His people. Learn how to love Him, and them better. He's right where you are. You're the one He's come to see.



A Glimpse of New Hope is my attempt to share the hope I have found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Should you no longer wish to receive it, or find that you have received it in error, please write me at and I will immediately remove you. Past "Glimpses" are archived at Thanks and God bless, David Wilson

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Warts and All

I was reading a sermon today and caught this:

"The place was England, during the years of the Protectorate under Oliver Cromwell. The Protector himself addressed the famous French painter, Mr. Peter Lely, saying: "I desire you would use all your skill to paint my picture truly like me, and not flatter me at all; but remark all these roughnesses, pimples, warts and all; otherwise I never will pay a farthing for it."

Cromwell's blunt words have since served as a forceful way to express a desire for honest description. "Warts and all---that's the way I want it!""

I remember warts.

During the most geeky period of my life, between the third grade and senior high, I was plagued with having a couple of warts appear. One was on my left thumb. I tried several of the over the counter remedies, a couple of stupid ideas, but was still left with warts. So my ultimate solution? Hide them.

Funny this should come up today. A big "wart" appeared while talking with our administrator.

For all the success we have had at New Hope in the last year, for all the people we've seen come to know Christ, all those we've added to the kingdom and to our family, all the growth we've seen in our outreach, our fellowship - in almost every area...

We have a wart. Our finances are ugly. They don't reflect a people who trust God and are in love with Him. Even after 40 Days to Financial Freedom came and went, our practices haven't changed. How do we change it?

I'm starting with me. I've got a few days until Sunday, and I'm going to be looking at what I'm doing and the spirit in which I'm doing it. I have it on good authority (my wife) that not practicing what I preach is a wart everyone that matters can easily see. How many times have I bought something just because I wanted it? How much more could I, should I be giving with a joyful heart, not with a wonder if we'll make it to payday? Or if payday will come?

So God, remove the wart. Change my heart. You are my rock, my tower, my fortress. To You I run for what I need to become the man you see when you look at me.

I know you love me, warts and all, but help me lead from example to precept into trust, and bring all of New Hope with me.


You Have To Want To Hear It

"I've made myself available
to those who haven't bothered to ask.

I'm here, ready to be found

by those who haven't bothered to look.

I kept saying "I'm here, I'm right here' Isaiah 65:1 (The Message)

One of the biggest blessings I ever received was being placed so near the ocean. To those of you who know me exceedingly well, that might come as a shock, given my absolute belief that there are sharks who see me as a Krystal Hamburger, Whopper, ( ___________ insert your favorite fast food here) and lie awake nights dreaming of the day that I will present myself on their table.

Ain't gonna happen boys and girls. Try the sushi.

Yet almost every morning, as I walk along the road that parallels the bay's shoreline, I am in touch with the ocean. Over the years, I've developed some ability to see what is happening there too. From the blue heron standing almost motionless and silent as he waits for breakfast, the loud chatter of the gulls as they discuss the morning's catch, the screech of the osprey as he calls to his mate, I'm able to look into the life of the sea.

All those sounds are easily picked out of the background noise though. And there is noise. Almost every morning, the US Air Force reminds us that they are flying jets by sending one to the end of the runway and asking the pilot to make sure the afterburners work. And in the land of blue tarps, you can be sure to hear a hammer hitting a nail somewhere. Then add the neighbors leaving for work, and it is very rarely quiet.

Still, every now and then, if you are listening for it, you'll hear a sound that to most people wouldn't mean a thing. It's not unusual in itself, in fact, throughout this spring's pollen wars, I've heard variations of it hundreds of times. People at church, at school, all have been coughing.But when I heard that this morning as I walked along the shoreline, I didn't turn to look and see if someone was on the front porch of the home I had just passed.

I quickly turned to the water, just in time to see a dolphin's fin slice through the waves. He had just come up for air, and cleared out the water with a cough. As he rose again, I saw three more alongside their mate.

It's one of my favorite things to see in all the world, and I'd have missed it, if I didn't come to the shoreline every day knowing what I wanted to hear, and knowing that at any given moment, I could hear it and know that a dolphin was near.

It's funny how things like this always make me think about God.

But I know that He wants to be seen, to be heard - to be found. He's pointed to that longing for relationship in so many ways. Given that, I wonder every day as I pray for heaven to come down here, how many are listening? How many really want to hear His voice?

Can I ask you a question?

Do you really want to hear from God?

You can be honest, it's just you and your PC here. If not, there's probably a reason. Maybe some things you know He wouldn't like to know about you. So you think that like your friends, your family, your Boss, it's better if you don't let on what you fear, what you are failing at, or where you doubt.

Well - He knows all that. And He loves you anyway. Doesn't mean He doesn't want you to be right with Him - He does - because He knows better than we do what's best for us. But He's willing to let us learn, and grow, and fall, and get up, and fail, and get up, and live and love. And forgive us, and give us the strength to change.

But you've got to want to hear you're loved.

You are loved.



It's called...



PS- If you ever have questions about what I've written or about God, or whatever I can help with, just drop me an email. Thanks again.

A Glimpse of New Hope is my attempt to share the hope I have found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Should you no longer wish to receive it, or find that you have received it in error, please write me at and I will immediately remove you. Past "Glimpses" are archived at Thanks and God bless, David Wilson