Saturday, May 31, 2008

New Picture

The Night Before Sunday And All Through the House

My oldest son Adam and his bride Shonda are here with us, having driven down from Warner Robins, GA for a couple of days. It's great to have a chance to spend some time with family.

This is a pretty quiet house most of the time, except when Sean is playing guitar, but tonight we're having an abnormal amount of noise, which is okay.

I've just finished the powerpoint slides for tomorrow's sermon "Connect the Dots" where I hope to bring the congregation a deeper understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit and present them with the opportunity to surrender to His indwelling presence and direction.

We'll trace the work of the Spirit throughout the Scriptures, and then zero in on the incredible happenings in Acts chapter 2. I'm praying that the Spirit will connect the dots for people as He leads them to faith in Jesus.

Stay tuned.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Trying To Connect the Dots



It was one of those far ranging conversations you can only have with someone who knows your heart and soul. Bunny and I were talking as we headed out about how God is at work in our individual lives, and then as so often happens, I started talking about what I think God is leading me to do as a teacher/preacher.

I'll condense the conversation for you. :)

For many of the people in our congregation, the most important thing I can do now is to connect the dots of what they know about the Bible together so that they can see God's overarching plan - and their place in it.

I am fully convinced that a lot of people know a little bit about the Bible. A great deal more of the people I see week in and week out know a pretty good bit about it. But most have never really changed the way they live day to day as a result. When they trusted Christ for salvation, it was a moving event. But then another day came and went, and another, and they still weren't in heaven.

So they went back to living.

Maybe they were more considerate as they remembered Jesus' love. And perhaps they TRIED harder to "live a good life and treat people like they would want to be treated."

They had plenty of facts, but no story to place them into. They knew they ought to love because they were loved, but they never connected it to NOW and to the people they found themselves living with. They just could not see where anything they did could really make any difference.

And yet the Bible is brimming with examples of ordinary people doing extraordinary things because God was with them. And when you move into the New testament from the Old, you find that those who knew the most "Bible" seemed to have the poorest handle on what it really called them to do.

So what if we could transmit the Big Story - the HUGE narrative of how God worked, and how He is working, and how He can work through us and create opportunities for each of us to live it out?

What if we could connect the dots?

Stay tuned for Sunday. As we look at Acts, we'll try to tie the work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament to His coming on Jesus and to His living in us today to God's plan to change the world.

Church Matters















Love cannot exist in isolation: away from others love bloats into pride. Grace cannot be received privately; cut off from others it is perverted into greed. Hope cannot develop in solitude—separated from the community, it goes to seed in the form of fantasies. No gift, no virtue can develop and remain healthy apart from the community of faith.-Eugene Peterson


The longer I'm a pastor, the more I see the value in the community of those who fell and were restored to wholeness through Christ.

If that community is focused and attentive to Jesus, it can do incredible things - things that can only be attributed to the supernatural power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Lord, keep us close to You.
Lord, let us see Your Way and give us the courage to follow it.
Lord, fill our hearts to overflowing with the same love you have for us.
Lord, let us be Yours together and gather others for the glory of Your Name.
Lord, make us one.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Take Tab "A" and Insert in slit "B" doesn't seem to work here


Once upon a time it seemed to me that all a Southern Baptist church had to do was to follow the program and things would move along very smoothly. You'd do Sunday School using the Lifeway Curriculum, then head to worship where you'd sing out of the Baptist Hymnal, read your KJV (personal or pew copy) as you followed along with the preacher standing behind a pulpit and wearing a suit.

Then you'd do it all again at 6PM that evening.

On Wednesday night, you'd have Royal Ambassadors for the boys, Girls in Action for the girls, some sort of youth group, and then "prayer meeting" and some sort of Bible study.

And it worked. And it was easy because all you had to do was work the system and the system would produce baptisms and growth. Or so it seemed.

It was like assembling something. Just follow the directions and you'd find success.

Well, not in this context. I do not know one church here who follows that model anymore, except maybe a couple who are on life support.

When the program was proved to be ineffective, there was a gasp, and then a scramble for the next program. Some churches moved quickly to the Willow Creek model, which meant moving away from Bible study and worship by believers to seeker sensitive.

Others couldn't go that far, and found a friend in Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Church model. It was far higher in the commitment level expected of each member, and just sort of felt right, like the next evolution of things.

For a while, churches had success, some of them anyway, with these models.

I think the age of the "Model" is fading fast.

It's being replaced by a couple of things - franchises and cafeteria style.

Franchises are those church plants that are simply extensions of the mothership. Not really stand alone, and many are just video venues where the main church teacher is broadcast to. A church in Texas decided it needed a branch in Miami. Makes sense, after all, the NT says the gospel spread from region to region... or was it house to house?

Then there's the cafeteria. In the absence of a true Model, churches are taking a bit from this mega or denomination, and a bit from that one. You'll see churches that are Purpose Driven but using Andy Stanley's Northpoint children's materials, or Willow Creek's small group stuff.

For the smaller church, things get a bit dicey, because most of what the mega models call for requires size. Resources are always spread thin. If Lifeway would only wake up and realize that smaller churches are under served by any of the current models, and use the collective power of people across the SBC, maybe, just maybe they could enjoy some part of the success they had long ago.

Right now, we are struggling and praying about how to connect our efforts in one area so we can maximize our effectiveness. There's so little out there that's not fluff, or dry, or not too expensive. We have to make hard choices all the time, knowing that we will do the best we can with passion and determination to glorify God.

I just wish there were more options.

Now THIS Is Fun!



Sean bought this Saturday and it wore me out on Sunday afternoon.

Easily the most fun I've ever had playing anything like a video game.

Look for a "Battle of the Bands" at New Hope on the BIG SCREEN sometime this summer.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Sacred Ficus Exists??



For years, some of my friends in ministry and I have laughed and groaned when we've considered those traditions in our churches that didn't contribute to the work of the Kingdom. One of them used the term "sacred ficus" to describe them, after he got in trouble for tossing some long faded and dog-eared fake plants off their stage. When he was called out for it, he said that he replied "I didn't know the ficus was sacred."

Well, the picture above is of a "sacred ficus."

Apparently, to the Hindu, this variant of the fig tree actually is sacred.

Made me laugh again, just thinking about replacing those fake ficus (ficusi? ficusisis?) with two of those and explaining that to my friend.

Some examples of "sacred ficus" that I've heard about from some of my friends (and these cross several denominational lines and are spread out across the country)?

The pulpit. Has to be number one with a bullet. No matter that it takes up 4 feet of the stage, or that the preacher doesn't spend any time behind it. It is "the sacred desk" and must not be removed.

The communion table. Again, you might only serve the Lord's Supper once a quarter, and use it the rest of the time for a flower stand or place to put a big Bible no one ever reads, if it has always been there, it always should be there.

The hymnal. Sure, you've finally invested in that whole media package with projector and screen. And it's great for sermon outlines and memorial pictorial displays. But the words of Charles Wesley, Fanny Crosby and Bill Gaither should never be projected.

I'm sure there have to be more. Any particular ones where you are?

Premarital Counseling







I couldn't resist. :) No, this is not how I do premarital counseling. It would be fun, though.





I'm getting ready to head out to a premarital counseling session in a few minutes. There's so many reasons to try everything you can do to help strengthen marriages. Our county leads the state in the number of divorces. Part of that is the military families I'm sure, but we've already been touched by divorce in our congregation. That experience led me to look around for a better way to do premarital counseling, and to refuse to participate in any wedding where the couple would not agree to go through it - fully.

The materials I use are called Zoe Marriage Preparation and they are really very good. Based on biblical principles and bolstered by sound research, they really seem to give the couple an "outside looking in" perspective of what they believe and how it will relate to their marriage. Zoe was recommended by my Lutheran friend Troy Neujahr and I'm very glad he did.

Take a look at the samples and see if Zoe might work for you too.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

After Sermon Thoughts


It's late Sunday evening, and I'm about to follow my wife to bed and call it a day. It's been a full one. But like most of the people called "preacher-creatures" by my friend Ian Anderson, I keep thinking about this morning's sermon and wondering - did I do it? Did I give them what God wanted them to hear? If I did, did I do it well? Who heard it? Who responded to it, even though I may not know?

It's funny, because today I was preaching out of Acts and one of the parts I touched on was Peter's first sermon.

3000 people - hostile people - the people who put Jesus to death - get SAVED!

It's your first sermon. You're not a preacher, you're a fisherman. But it happens.

Can you imagine what Peter thought? "That went better than I expected."

I can so see him turning around and asking the other guys...

"Is it going to be this way every time?"

One of the things you learn to do - if you're willing and capable of learning from what you do - good or bad - is to analyze your part in the process, make sure you did the best you can do, change if you didn't, and leave the rest to God.

There's no way Peter was able to do what God did through him that day. God can use anyone, anytime.

And fellow preacher-creatures, regardless of how you did today, God can use it.

So let him.

Now, about next week's sermon. :)

New Hope @ Worship 05/25/08

Memorial Day weekend down here usually means about half a congregation. People are so busy that if they can take some time and get away, they will. But today we really had a good crowd even with several families out of town.

Prior to the service we played a clip honoring the sacrifices of America's veterans and I closed with a brief introduction to what Memorial day means. Then we began our worship.

All the Earth Will Sing Your Praises
Blessed Be your Name

Nothing But the Blood
Breathe

Jesus Paid It All



I used a clip at the end that was the story of "Team Hoyt." Dick and Rick Hoyt are an amazing story of courage and love.

video

Audio available here: Church Cloud New Hope

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Memorial Day - Lest We Forget



Over 1,000,000 Americans have given their lives to preserve the freedoms we now enjoy.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Rumors of Another World - Phillip Yancey



I didn't get it.

Phillip Yancey is a really good writer, and I've enjoyed several of his books, and his articles over the years in Christianity Today, but I just didn't get this book. It felt like a Leonard Sweet type quotation fest laced with some of the Yancey-isms from earlier books.

The only section I really was drawn into was about the Elephant Man and his struggles and triumph. Maybe 4 pages of the whole book.

Oh well. Next?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

When Love Breaks Through - A Glimpse of New Hope

25 Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer: "Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You've concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. 26 Yes, Father, that's the way you like to work."

Matt 11:25-26 (MSG)


So it's Wednesday night at New Hope, with all the warmth and frenzy that we some how manage to hold in equal portions. We've made it past the frantic preparation of the meal and its consumption. The different groups have scattered and I'm in with the adult prayer and Bible Study group.

A few years ago, instead of calling on someone to lead and close in large group prayer, we went to small table groups. It's made a huge difference in participation. Almost without exception, everyone prays out loud.

Praying out LOUD is Tommy's specialty. He's developmentally disabled, but really seems to enjoy coming for the fellowship, and he takes part in the prayers. Tommy, like many people with that affliction, tends to fixate on an either / or, black or white, good or bad - on everything. And that extends to pretty much everything - baseball, football, and politics.

Somehow, Tommy became a Republican. And his prayers reflect that. One of our kindest members had to instruct him to calm it down about the politics when he's here at New Hope, because we aren't about that. We're serious about following Him Who can make a real change - in us and in the world He created. But still, Tommy's prayers tend to be laced with appeals for God to smite the evil Islamic terrorists, create democracy, and to make America great again.

So he launched into his prayer last night. Pretty much as I described - he really doesn't know any better.

But then he asked God to give His mercy to Ted Kennedy and his family. To reach out and touch him with His peace. To heal him.

Maybe Tommy knows more about God's grace than we realize.
Maybe God used him last night to speak a word of grace and mercy into our lives. As far as I know, no one else had prayed for the Senator.
Maybe love broke through. After all, that's the way the Father likes to work.

Have a great Memorial day weekend, giving thanks for those the Father has given us who gave their all for us.

Grace and peace,

David

--
Visit with me at my blogs:
http://davethepastor.vox.com/
http://itslikeherdingcats.blogspot.com/
Or visit New Hope!
http://www.newhopevalp.org/
http://www.churchcloud.com/new-hope-valp/
When Love Breaks Through

25 Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer: "Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You've concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. 26 Yes, Father, that's the way you like to work."

Matt 11:25-26 (MSG)


So it's Wednesday night at New Hope, with all the warmth and frenzy that we some how manage to hold in equal portions. We've made it past the frantic preparation of the meal and its consumption. The different groups have scattered and I'm in with the adult prayer and Bible Study group.

A few years ago, instead of calling on someone to lead and close in large group prayer, we went to small table groups. It's made a huge difference in participation. Almost without exception, everyone prays out loud.

Praying out LOUD is Tommy's specialty. He's developmentally disabled, but really seems to enjoy coming for the fellowship, and he takes part in the prayers. Tommy, like many people with that affliction, tends to fixate on an either / or, black or white, good or bad - on everything. And that extends to pretty much everything - baseball, football, and politics.

Somehow, Tommy became a Republican. And his prayers reflect that. One of our kindest members had to instruct him to calm it down about the politics when he's here at New Hope, because we aren't about that. We're serious about following Him Who can make a real change - in us and in the world He created. But still, Tommy's prayers tend to be laced with appeals for God to smite the evil Islamic terrorists, create democracy, and to make America great again.

So he launched into his prayer last night. Pretty much as I described - he really doesn't know any better.

But then he asked God to give His mercy to Ted Kennedy and his family. To reach out and touch him with His peace. To heal him.

Maybe Tommy knows more about God's grace than we realize.
Maybe God used him last night to speak a word of grace and mercy into our lives. As far as I know, no one else had prayed for the Senator.
Maybe love broke through. After all, that's the way the Father likes to work.

Have a great Memorial day weekend, giving thanks for those the Father has given us who gave their all for us.

Grace and peace,

David

--
Visit with me at my blogs:
http://davethepastor.vox.com/
http://itslikeherdingcats.blogspot.com/
Or visit New Hope!
http://www.newhopevalp.org/
http://www.churchcloud.com/new-hope-valp/

It's AD 30 All Over Again

Reggie McNeal is one of those rare folks who came from the typical SBC background and is able to step out and look around and see where God is working. His book "The Present Future" is a required read. This talk should be.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

On Preaching In Faith

This quote is from one of my most treasured books "Correspondence With A Cripple From Tarsus - Romans In Dialogue With the 20th Century" by H. Beecher Hicks Jr. Of all the commentaries I have on that great book from Paul's hand and God's heart, none rise to the level this one does when I consider how that book would have been written today. It is well worn, my copy, but fresh every time I come back to it.

Hicks is in dialogue with Paul who writes:

"Beecher, you know this, but I must remind you that God reserves the right to be God. Mysterious. Awesome. There is none like Him. Not one.

Moreover, God makes hard statements. God makes stern demands. God asks hard questions. What makes you think hard questions will have answers? What makes you think that we need to know all the answers? or that if we knew the answers we would understand what they mean? Abraham discovered that God will do right. Is that enough for you?"


Yes it is. It is enough for me.

With Arms Open Wide

Every now and then I'll be reading the Bible and come across something that I've seen before, but never SEEN before. That ever happen to you?

So here I am today in the middle of the minefield of Romans 9 through 11.

You can lose a theological leg here.

Well meaning believers have been beating up other well meaning believers over what's in those three chapters for centuries, while the world walks by looking for the love of Jesus. After all, those three chapters are about who's in and who's out. How God is going to handle the Jews. All that interesting stuff.

Admit it - you skipped them.

You need to stop by again.

20 And later Isaiah spoke boldly for God:
"I was found by people who were not looking for me. I showed myself to those who were not asking for me."Romans 10:20 (NLT)

Could be you. Maybe you're off the gospel train, haven't been to church in a while, but something's been bugging you, or you've been wondering a lot lately about "things." Good news - God's available for a sit down anytime. In fact He's been pinging you for a while.

Of course it could be you've taken an inventory of your soul practice and found yourself a little messed up in the whole holiness department. When you get that way it doesn't seem to take long for people to turn away from you. Thing is you know you are doing it, but something in you causes you to wind up doing it anyway.

Well, God's so BTDT

"All day long I opened my arms to them, but they kept disobeying me and arguing with me."

Romans 10:21 (NLT)

Listen, friend.

Please?

God is waiting with arms open wide for you to come home, or to come home again. "All day long..." gives testimony to just how good, and patient, and loving He is. Do NOT base your opinion of God on how those of us who try imperfectly to follow Him live out what we believe. Trust Him to be Who He says he is in the Bible.
I just saw again today how He's waiting for all of His rebellious and stubborn children - With Arms Open Wide.

Turn around.

David
--
Visit with me at my blogs:
http://davethepastor.vox.com/
http://itslikeherdingcats.blogspot.com/
Or visit New Hope!
http://www.newhopevalp.org/
http://www.churchcloud.com/new-hope-valp/
With Arms Open Wide

Every now and then I'll be reading the Bible and come across something that I've seen before, but never SEEN before. That ever happen to you?

So here I am today in the middle of the minefield of Romans 9 through 11.

You can lose a theological leg here.

Well meaning believers have been beating up other well meaning believers over what's in those three chapters for centuries, while the world walks by looking for the love of Jesus. After all, those three chapters are about who's in and who's out. How God is going to handle the Jews. All that interesting stuff.

Admit it - you skipped them.

You need to stop by again.

20 And later Isaiah spoke boldly for God:
"I was found by people who were not looking for me. I showed myself to those who were not asking for me."Romans 10:20 (NLT)

Could be you. Maybe you're off the gospel train, haven't been to church in a while, but something's been bugging you, or you've been wondering a lot lately about "things." Good news - God's available for a sit down anytime. In fact He's been pinging you for a while.

Of course it could be you've taken an inventory of your soul practice and found yourself a little messed up in the whole holiness department. When you get that way it doesn't seem to take long for people to turn away from you. Thing is you know you are doing it, but something in you causes you to wind up doing it anyway.

Well, God's so BTDT

"All day long I opened my arms to them, but they kept disobeying me and arguing with me."

Romans 10:21 (NLT)

Listen, friend.

Please?

God is waiting with arms open wide for you to come home, or to come home again. "All day long..." gives testimony to just how good, and patient, and loving He is. Do NOT base your opinion of God on how those of us who try imperfectly to follow Him live out what we believe. Trust Him to be Who He says he is in the Bible.
I just saw again today how He's waiting for all of His rebellious and stubborn children - With Arms Open Wide.

Turn around.

David
--
Visit with me at my blogs:
http://davethepastor.vox.com/
http://itslikeherdingcats.blogspot.com/
Or visit New Hope!
http://www.newhopevalp.org/
http://www.churchcloud.com/new-hope-valp/

Facing Forward

Taking a break from some Romans Chapter 10 heavy lifting and thinking about the way forward here.

- Another increase in our insurance premium on the buildings. A 42% one to be exact. That's roughly (IIRC) a 400% over the last 4 years.
- Another increase in the power bills.
- When you total it all up, upwards of 4 our of every ten dollars New Hope receives in tithes and offerings goes to the mortgage, insurance, and upkeep of the buildings, which are often empty, except when they are too full. (It happens on Sunday mornings sometimes)

We have hosted Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Junior Gardeners, and recently a home schooling collective, but ironically, they are moving because they've run out of room - too.

Maybe it's time to look across the street again at the elementary school or down the road a little bit at Lewis Middle School. At some point, I'm wondering how many churches will look at the amount they put into their buildings and at the amount they put into their mission and make the connection.

Talking to people who do "portable church" over the years has given me the sense that people who are involved in such churches have a greater sense of just why they are doing the Sunday morning gathering than others do. But I guess when you arrive at 6AM to set up everything you need to have worship, then stay after to break it all down and clean up, an amazing commitment to why you are there HAS to be everywhere, or you would not make it for long.

And small home groups have to be a focus because otherwise you have nowhere to get discipleship done. But we have the buildings now.

...processing....

Monday, May 19, 2008

What I would do differently

Scot McKnight has been running a series of posts from pastors asking them this question - Knowing what you know now, what would you focus on from the beginning of your ministry?

There have been some great responses. I'd suggest you preacher-creatures head over and check them out.

In my case, I came into the ministry rather late, having spent a number of years after I married my soulmate in the business world. It was 1990 when God tapped me on the heart and said "I want you to serve me as a pastor." I had just finished a long delayed degree in Business from Mercer University in Macon. I had just received a hefty raise and a wee bump in responsibility with Procter and Gamble. And I had two sons (who have since grown to be fine men.)

But that was when God called so that was when I followed. I began seminary as well as a Masters in Education program since I had left P&G with a year's compensation in a restructure that seemed to happen at just the right time. In a year I'd have an M. Ed. with a guaranteed position with the Bibb County School Board teaching math and science, and be well into the three year Masters of Divinity program at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

But three months into that my Mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and two months later she died. During those five months we all dropped everything we could to care for her. So I was off track and out of time. I reentered the work force. It would be 1999 before I became a full time pastor here at New Hope. During the interim years, I was frequently frustrated because few jobs fit with bivocational pastoring, and those that did really caused our family to suffer.

So Scott, not that you asked, but if I had it to do all over again, I would focus on preparing myself for the challenges of working in the smaller church by doing exactly what I set out to do then. Get a seminary degree AND a Masters in Education so as to teach in the public school system. I would prepare to serve God in both, and take care of my family better. We're still behind the curve on that.

For today's environment, where church plants are needed everywhere but funds for planting are scarce, I would think that a plan such as I would execute would make it much easier to accomplish planting.

By the end of this year I will have a Masters in Ministry leadership from Rockbridge Seminary. Then I'll work next year on finishing the New Orleans Seminary's longest running Masters candidate's program. I need 5 on campus courses for a Masters in Christian Education. That's it. Then we'll see if there's more out there educationally.

I love the local church, and see no end to my calling to pastor, but I would love to teach at a local extension or at an online seminary like Rockbridge. Maybe I can help someone else be more effective for Christ and grow the Kingdom more.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Baptist Association Revisited

New Hope had a business meeting tonight to discuss the plans our local Baptist Association has for building on the lot next door. We talked about what that would mean for the association, for our neighbors here in Valparaiso, and for New Hope. Then we talked about what our response would be.

As the Holy Spirit worked among us, we worked through misunderstandings, moved past the quick and easy snap judgments, and arrived at common ground and a graceful response. I know some people have a problem with the words "Baptist Business Meeting", but if you feed Baptists dessert beforehand they are much sweeter. :)

I'm sitting here now about to go to bed and thinking about how I wish, wish, wish the association would relate to us as a smaller church. Back in January I took this up and wrote:

First: Quit trying to do the work of the local church.

Second: Quit hurting the work of the local church. Every dollar spent on associational buildings and people that cannot be justified by a resultant effect in growing the Kingdom through the work of the local church is wasted. Wasted.

Three: Help our pastors help our churches. I know we're a prickly bunch and not easily led or helped, but we are the people that God called and placed in the churches of the association to help see His will done on earth as it is in heaven. And we are the ones who will have to give an account for what we have done and haven't done. We need help - especially (but not limited to) those of us who pastor smaller churches. Every new initiative we undertake - someone has BTDT. We need the DOM and the association to serve as facilitator and network respectively. Hook us up when we get a wild idea with someone who knows how to pull it off. Help us find the resources to accomplish it. Maybe the association could serve as part file cabinet, part rolodex, part storage building.

Personally I'd love to see our association buy a trailer like they use during emergencies to feed people. Self contained kitchen etc., but with a PA system and a few of those "jumpy toys" and stuff like a rock climbing wall so we could do block parties and cross church fellowships. But that's just me.

Perception is that the current system of funding the DOM position makes him far more attentive and reactive to big churches and big church pastors. It ought to be just the opposite. YMMV. I'd love to see that position become a Missionary position again with the small church and church planting through all the churches be the focus. I know there are a lot of DOM's who do a great job of looking after the needs of smaller churches, but not all of them do.

Finally (for now) - Help us see the bigger picture. Fight us to help us see it. By that I mean the DOM has to be working to take what the pastors dream and see if it will synergize into something that will not only allow the local churches to fulfill their calling, but will help other local churches do the same. We need to see more of that birthed out of what God is telling the local churches, not out of the Lifeway catalog or a DOM association meeting.

For me, this is sort of a final attempt to try to work through what an association ought to be and do. In the small church I serve, we're not going to nod our heads anymore and send our money to anything that doesn't help us do our job more effectively than we could do alone.


Since then, none of those things has happened, if anything the local association has moved in the opposite direction. But New Hope has worked on its own to build relationships with a local Presbyterian church and the City of Valparaiso, and we'll be seeing some real impact come from those.

We just don't have the luxury of spending time worrying about them - too much to do.

If anyone anywhere can give me some examples of an association that's working to help the average sized Baptist church reach their neighbors, let me know.

New Hope @ Worship 05/18/08

We had an elderly deacon suffer a fainting spell in the men's SS class this morning and had lots of visitors - but they were paramedics and ambulance folks. He is one of the finest Christian men I have ever known and one of the most loved. Robert Hughes is doing better tonight, though in the ICU. That event did send us into worship with some shocked and sad people, but God is good, and met our request to meet with us today. Lots of visitors in worship too.

Music

O Worship the King - Tomlin - Just an awesome redo of a great song
Thank You Lord
Come Thou Fount - rearranged
Ancient Words - great modern hymn

O I Want To Know You More

I was led into bringing a message about what our mission is and what our vision is for accomplishing it. So to do that I used our motto - New Life, New Joy, and New Hope! We started late and I did cut some but I believe I was able to lay out the basis for why we do what we do.



Audio is available here: Church Cloud

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Once again, into the breach



Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more,
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility;
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger:
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood.
"Henry V" (5.3.44-51)


I do love Henry V. There's something about what Shakespeare portrays in that play of commitment lived out with passion, and men fighting for something bigger than themselves that has always reminded me of the job Christian leaders have for even greater stakes than a country's fortunes in war.

I'm about through with the powerpoint for tomorrow now. I'm an endless tinkerer and editor right up to the end, so that's not unusual. But for two weeks in a row, the work I did during the week on the next sermon in the "Blind Spots" series was put aside in favor of another more pressing need. Some things are happening in our association as well as in our area that could take our eyes off the path God has placed us on.

Friends, vision leaks.

Over time, regardless of how great your church began, even regardless of what you're doing, the reason you are doing those things begins to fade away. That doesn't mean that people stop caring, stop loving, stop serving. But what it does mean is that they begin to lose sight of the reason they are doing those things. And from time to time enough of them lose sight to cause a real breakdown if a decision needs to be made about the next step to take.

In those times, operating in rote muscle memory won't cut it.

This is one of those times.

So I'll be preaching tomorrow through the vision God gave us for the group of Christ-followers known to the world as New Hope. I am not using "us" in a Queen Elizabeth sort of way where "we" really means "me". What we are and what we hope to be has been forged together with the core of people who are the heart of New Hope.

Our motto is: New Life, New Joy, New Hope! That will be the springboard to launch into the Word tommorrow.

Like Henry, I'll be praying before the battle.

All Wilsons Dance the Dance of Joy Today



Because our 2002 Kia Sportage is PAID OFF!!!!!!!!

Just put the last payment in the mailbox and am looking forward to the upcoming "I CAN HAZ TITLE?" celebration.


What does this have to do with theology, pastoring a church, and New Hope?

If as C.S. Lewis quipped, "Joy is the language of heaven", then we are practicing our future native dialect today. :)

Friday, May 16, 2008

It's what you learn after you learn it all


Well, had the final final pretrial talk with lawyer #2 this morning. We're making a counter settlement offer that I hope will be accepted.

It's been since September of 2006, this trip through the legal education system.

I've learned a lot.

It's funny, even that which I counted on as being safe and secure - the 25% of the house and land my Mother left me when she passed away, proved not to be - as vandals savaged it, stealing the heat pump, copper plumbing, and wiring.

Now the tornadoes which struck Macon last weekend damaged it more, and destroyed many trees around it.

This is one of those times in life, when as a believer in Jesus, I look to see where He and His will for my life is at work in all this. Echoes of "In this life you will have trouble..." flit through my memory. But I know that He will not waste any of this in His passion to conform me to His image. Yes, I trust Him. Though everything else I count as in my possession be stripped away by theft, by tornado, I trust Him.

So I'm having a "consider the lilies moment" today and praying that God will continue to meet our needs. That I'll resist the urge to want anything other than His will. That I will completely trust Him in everything and not take anything for granted - it's all grace.

For a while after I began to follow Jesus it was easy to see how things would all work together for the good, because I believed I had the power to make them work. I was smart enough, worked hard enough, and I had the right skills to make life work.

Well you know what?

I don't.

What I have is God.

After that, nothing else is secure. But you know what? Nothing else matters.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Scars

He was a 23 year old on the island of Okinawa, was my father. When though he was behind some cover from the defending Japanese, he lifted his head to take a look at what was in front of his position and Pow! A bullet creased his scalp and blew his helmet off.

The young man from Georgia had seen a lot of fighting by that day's events, and he was to see some more before the war was done, but that was the only scar he carried... that was visible.

It was very hard to get him to talk about what happened as his 24th Division hopped across the Pacific. As boys, we wanted to know the details. He was not interested in giving them. All we could see was the scar.

I was in a meeting yesterday afternoon with two people from our community. Since I am followed by the tag "Baptist preacher" people seem to react in such situations in a couple of ways, generally.

They will either try to remember how their momma taught them they were supposed to act, in that case I hear a lot of "Reverend" dropped here and there, or they will at some point in the conversation let me know how great their church is or how they have been hurt by churches in the past.

It was the latter yesterday. "You don't want to know," was the response when I asked what happened. And the door/subject was quickly closed.

But here's the thing. I DO want to know. Because in this world marred by people hurting people, I probably can identify. And then I can share who helped me heal.

Jesus.

Friends, there are times when "church" drives me up the wall. It is so difficult sometimes to see past what people do to what they are - in all their imperfections and propensity to injure each other - they are the Bride of Christ - the Church. And in that is a reason to keep loving and learning to love. In that is the hope that Jesus and His amazing love will work out the divisions we've created between us and get His heart's desire. Which is...

21 May they all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so that the world may believe You sent Me. 22 I have given them the glory that You have given to Me. May they be one just as We are one. 23 I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so that the world may know You sent Me and that You have loved them just as You have loved Me.

John 17:21-23 (HCSB)

Friends, everyone has scars. Everyday has enough trouble. We have to ask God to grant us the grace not only to stand under our burdens, but to help our neighbor bear his.

We were made to love God and each other, and placed together in places like New Hope to do more than we could ever do separately.

Pray for your church - for your pastors, your deacons, your teachers, your nursery workers. Find something to praise them for. Give them the gift of encouragement. There are far too many self-inflicted wounds on the Body of Christ.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I See It Everywhere


We've been looking at vehicles to transport the Wilsons around the area and on vacation. Since one of the Wilsons has black fur and four legs, and since that family member weighs 155 lbs and stands 42" tall, most vehicles won't work for us. Couple that with Henley the Great Dane being a little gimpy in his old age, and it narrows the field even more.

Enter the Honda Element. It's styling is... unique. :) But as a dogmobile it is almost perfect. So we've been researching them, and you know what, I see them everywhere we go now.

Tonight, I was teaching through Romans and we came to Romans chapter 9. Many an argument has been begun in those verses as Calvinists and Arminians duke it out over predestination and election.

But you know what?

All I can see is God's love.

25 Concerning the Gentiles, God says in the prophecy of Hosea,

"Those who were not my people,
I will now call my people.
And I will love those
whom I did not love before."

26 And,

"Once they were told,
`You are not my people.'
But now he will say,
`You are children of the living God.'
Romans 9:25-26 (NLT)

All the way down to the end.

"I am placing a stone in Jerusalem that causes people to stumble,
and a rock that makes them fall.
But anyone who believes in him
will not be disappointed. "
Romans 9:33 (NLT)

God is good, all the time - even in Romans 9.
Let's agree on that and argue about the rest some other time.
Okay?

Servant Evangelism


Steve Sjogren offers ten practical reasons for using Servant Evangelism in your church:

1. It opens doors into the heart of your community.
2. It develops a doable ministry in your church.
3. It creates an opportunity for the church to "get involved."
4. It allows a few to touch many.
5. It gives practical tips for public considerations.
6. It is simple, non-aggressive and inexpensive.
7. It doesn't require extensive training.
8. It offers many evangelism and outreach strategies.
9. It nurtures team efforts and team-centeredness.
10. It is a lot of fun! (HT: BTW, you should be reading Steve's stuff)

And sometimes Rockbridge Seminary prof and all around great thinker/leader Gary Rohrmayer adds why he thinks they are important to the mission of the local church here. (HT) Notice how Gary sees the biblical basis behind what seems to many a radical, even emergent church practice. It's biblical to serve, folks.

Quoting Gary here: (And you should be reading his stuff too!)

I would add the following:

1. It promotes an incarnational spirit of evangelism. Getting people out of the building and onto the streets. John 20:21
2. It helps to identify the "men and women of peace" in our communities. Luke 10:5-6
3. It reinforces the gospel in the life of the participants.Philemon6
4. It shines a light in a dark world. Matthew 5:14-16
5. It is easily delegated to lay leadership. Professionals are not needed!
6. It promotes the values of kindness, generosity and servanthood.
7. It leverages permission based marketing.
8. It unleashes outreach creativity with the church. Ideas are limitless.
9. It provide an avenue for "Research & Development" in the local church.
10. It fills peoples buckets through a positive emotional experience.


New Hope folks, if you're reading this, how can we serve Valparaiso and our area in ways that surprise people with the grace of kindness and compassion, and give testimony to our love for Jesus and people?

Stay tuned, there could be a big announcement about that later today. :)

Worship

 

I'm sitting here just now trying to put together the music for worship on Sunday morning. And wishing we could just worship.

To bring people into the presence of God...

And yet I look at pictures like this, with the simple grace that the seabreeze bestows on the reeds and know - in nature it happens all the time.

So what does it say about us, that we need music?

Now back to your regularly scheduled life.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

This time last year

 

I was with Bunny in St Augustine, taking our first vacation in 8 years, and our first vacation as a couple in 21 years. We took another in June, also in St Augustine. We LOVE that city and would move there in a heartbeat.

But wherever we are, I know I am a blessed man.
Posted by Picasa

It's 4AM, Do You Know Where Your Great Dane Is?



That's a picture of Bunny and Henley the Great Dane from a couple of years ago. Henley is 42" tall and 155lbs.

Last night, at 4AM, I awoke to a small whining noise. I finally got the light on, and looked around the room - no Henley.

He was stuck UNDER the bed.

In an action I'll probably pay for later, I picked up the king sized bed and Bunny coaxed him out.

I'm still waiting for my explanation from Henley. :)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Book Review - The Shack



A friend on a pastor's forum asked us if we had read "The Shack", a novel by William Paul Young. No one had, but several of us had heard a lot about it. Since I was curious, we went out this afternoon and bought it, and I spent a couple hours reading it tonight.

The fear for this book is that people will treat it as theology, instead of the story a father wrote for his kids. For some reason, people in America will take fictional material and try to use it in ways it wasn't intended. I do not understand how that can happen, but I am sure that it does.

Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill in Seattle, and an outspoken Calvinist, addressed the book specifically in a clip that's on You Tube. Just search for the shack and driscoll and you'll find it. He blasts it on several fronts - for "making a graven image of God", for "encouraging goddess worship", for "the heresy of modalism", and for dissing the Puritans. Okay, not the latter, I just get tired of hearing about them. I think he was way over the top on the graven images and goddess worship but on track on being careful about what could happen to people who aren't discerning of this fictional work.

As for the book, it's the story of a man who suffers some great pain - first from an abusive father who he poisons, then from the loss of a daughter to a serial killer. He struggles with "the Great Sadness" which robs his life of joy and color. He gets an invitation from "God" to the shack in which his daughter was killed.

And he goes.

The book spends a good deal of time after the first 60 pages, exploring the relationship between the Trinity as they deal with Mack, the focus of the novel. The author seemed to deliberately push some buttons by casting "Papa", the father as an old black woman, Jesus as a typecast middle eastern male, and the spirit as an asian woman. Sophia, the wisdom of god personified, shows up later.

Mack is helped to fully trust god and come out of the Great Sadness by the members of the trinity, and he deals with both of the worst events in his life. He comes away changed, and then there's a twist.

So...

If you are capable of separating fiction from theology, it's a good quick read. There's something inspiring about even fictional characters dealing with their demons, and it's nice to see god referred to as always loving and enthralled with his children. But again, it's a novel so we need to be careful not to port anything in it over to life that doesn't square with Scripture.

If you get your theology from Oprah, you'll be right at home. Not sure how you'll work that into the rest of the speculation from the Secret or Tolle's work, but maybe Oprah can help you figure it all out.

Monday, Monday



I actually don't hate Mondays. Though I know a lot of preacher-creatures do. For me it's a time to rest up and reflect on how we did as a community over the past week, and look ahead without a pressing deadline.

But this Monday began with immediately trying to fix what ailed Bunny's PC. It showed up with a strange window on the screen showing a pctsgui.exe error, with an input field wanting you to send in an error message. PC Tools Spyware Doctor didn't want to run, so we had to trot out Spybot and have at it. Then we found a couple of weird additions including one possible key logger.

Key loggers make most PC techs blood run cold because they capture everything you input into your keyboard and send it away to someone else. In this day of online convenience where we buy online, you can quickly lose your identity and your money. Both of us are very fussy about sweeping our PC's and using safeguards, but I am absolutely paranoid about it and run far more protective software than she does.

But I think we were able to eliminate the threat before it captured any data. (If it really was that type threat.) We both run the much safer Firefox browser, but I add NoScript to mine to eliminate any unwanted program execution without my approval. Bunny tried to do it as well, but the "nagging" that NoScript does finally got to her. We have a hardware firewall too, and Bunny runs the Windows SP2 firewall, but I add another on my laptop and have security set high. I may have to revisit what we're doing on Bunny's PC and add another layer of protection.

And it all happened before 9AM.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

New Hope @ Worship - May 11, 2008 Mother's Day

Originally, I had planned on continuing the "Blind Spots" series. We formed the music set expecting that to be the case. Then at the last minute, I felt led to go back and preach a message more tied to Mother's Day about Hannah from 1 Samuel.

Lord I Lift Your Name On High - a New Hope favorite
Forever - Chris Tomlin is such a blessing

I really enjoyed Joe Stoy's children's message in between the two groups of songs. He does a great job every week, but this week was exceptional.

All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name - updated arrangement
Be Thou My Vision - updated version

Just As I Am - classic version :)



The link to the audio is on our Church Cloud website.

If you compare the notes to the audio, you'll see a significant deviation at the end. I'm crediting the Holy Spirit with bringing that out.

If Hannah Were Here - Mother's Day 2008

*Note* This was a draft of the sermon I presented for Mother's Day at New Hope. Because I changed direction in the last two days before Sunday, I had to compress a week's work into a shorter period of time. Writing out my thoughts in a manuscript helps in that. So while there are many elements of what eventually came to be the sermon for Sunday, there were also areas where it did not synch with this. -end note

If Hannah Was Here

It was February, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky, as a mail carrier was making his way through the small group of people always centered on the watering hole. "What's happening around here?" "Oh, nothing ever happens around here." "Oh, there is some talk of a national bank." "Some people said that there is trouble brewing between the United States and Britain." "Mister, nothing ever happens around here." "We did hear some news about Nancy Hanks and Tom Lincoln having a little boy last night. But nothing ever happens around here."

You never know, do you, what the children God grants you will turn out to be. In Mary Todd Lincoln’s case, little Abe grew up to be the man who saved a nation. The more I read about old honest Abe, the more amazed I grow at just how perfected he was fitted for the task he had. But there was no way that his mother knew what faced him.

You should know that I was not planning on a Mother’s day sermon. No, I was going to continue looking at those blind spots that prevent us from seeing how the world sees us. But in the last couple of days, as I’ve prayed about today and thought about why it is such a big deal for so many people, I really believe that God would have me share from His Word on this topic.

Turn with me to 1 Samuel Chapter 1.

When I looked for a text to use today, I had a lot of options. Mothers and Motherhood are spotlighted in the Scriptures again and again. And over and over again, the children of those Mothers went on to make an impact we still read about today. Now remember, in the culture of that time, children were critical for the survival of families and of nations. Having children was considered a sign in the Jewish culture of God’s blessing.

5 But he gave Hannah a special portion because he loved her very much, even though the LORD had given her no children. 6 But Peninnah made fun of Hannah because the LORD had closed her womb. 7 Year after year it was the same—Peninnah would taunt Hannah as they went to the Tabernacle. Hannah would finally be reduced to tears and would not even eat.

8 "What's the matter, Hannah?" Elkanah would ask. "Why aren't you eating? Why be so sad just because you have no children? You have me—isn't that better than having ten sons?" 1 Sam 1:5-8 (NLT)

So Hannah was clearly loved by her husband. That’s obvious from the way he went out of his way to honor her and how he was very attentive to not only her needs but her feelings. And how “male” is that last verse there? That could have been said by any of the guys here today. We always want to remind you women just what you’ve been blessed with, don’t we? “You’ve got me…”

But that wasn’t enough. Hannah wanted to be a Mother.

Now this is where I’m supposed to make some comments about how a woman can be perfectly fulfilled in life without getting married and without having children. And after the experiences I have had so far in seeing women overcome adversity, I am sure most can cope. But there’s a reason the Hollywood stars with everything culture has to offer suddenly put their lives on hold and have a baby- or two. God created men and women to complete each other and to continue His work of creation by having children.

As you and I read this today, instead of a culture where childbirth and motherhood is celebrated, we live in a country where 1/3 of babies conceived never make it to birth. Large families are thought of as somehow “not right.” Young men and women decide to favor a career or more stuff rather than sacrifice themselves and their ambitions and greed and bring another miracle into this world.

If Hannah were here today, the first thing she would tell you to do is:

“Turn Away From the Culture.”

Hannah endured ridicule for YEARS. She could have turned bitter. She could have blamed her husband. She could have blamed God. But if you’ll notice, she and her family kept going to worship God. In her culture, if a woman had no children it was assumed that there was a reason – that God had something against her. No, just as when Jesus was asked “who sinned, this man or his parents” when He was about to heal a blind man and Jesus went on to say, “this happened so that the power of God might be revealed through Him”… Hannah is struggling for a reason alright – and God had one - to get her to completely rely on God in a culture that was just phoning it in.

Friends, it’s not a coincidence that you are alive today. We who are followers of Jesus have a great opportunity to live out our faith in a culture that no longer embraces the values the Founders wrote into the Constitution. We are here to make a difference – to show the world what really matters – how to live for things that have eternal value, like the sanctity of human life.

Up on the screen is a picture of an operation that took place in 1999. Surgeons intervened within the womb of a woman to save the life of a baby. Other doctors had told the mother she would be better off terminating the pregnancy and killing the baby within her. But a team of surgeons believed they could save the baby’s life.

The picture is one of the most amazing ever taken in my opinion. If you look closely inside the yellow circle, you’ll see that a tiny hand of 21 week old Samuel Arias has grasped the finger of the surgeon working to save him. The surgeon said that that moment would be burned in his mind for eternity. He prayed a silent prayer that God would grant him success. The operation ended, the womb was stitched up, and little Samuel was carried to term. Here he is six years later meeting the photographer who took the picture.

Our cultural value is for the quick fix, the easy way, whatever makes sense. Hannah should have just shut up and blamed God, or lashed out and become bitter. She did neither. She turned away from that culture. We need to turn away from ours and toward God.

Go back to the passage again with me.

9 Once when they were at Shiloh, Hannah went over to the Tabernacle after supper to pray to the LORD. Eli the priest was sitting at his customary place beside the entrance. 10 Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the LORD. 11 And she made this vow: "O LORD Almighty, if you will look down upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the LORD, his hair will never be cut." 12 As she was praying to the LORD, Eli watched her. 13 Seeing her lips moving but hearing no sound, he thought she had been drinking. 14 "Must you come here drunk?" he demanded. "Throw away your wine!"
15 "Oh no, sir!" she replied, "I'm not drunk! But I am very sad, and I was pouring out my heart to the LORD. 16 Please don't think I am a wicked woman! For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow."
17 "In that case," Eli said, "cheer up! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him."
18 "Oh, thank you, sir!" she exclaimed. Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad. 1 Sam 1:9-18 (NLT)
If Hannah was here today, she would tell all of us to not just turn from the culture, but turn TO God.
Hannah kept going to the Tabernacle, kept drawing near to God. Unlike so many of us – men and women, instead of withdrawing into self pity and wondering whether God is even there, she prays one of the boldest prayers in the OT.

She is in essence asking God to glorify His name through her.

Look at what she says. "O LORD Almighty, if you will look down upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the LORD, his hair will never be cut." 1 Sam 1:11 (NLT)

She says to God, if you honor my request to be a mother, to join with you in creating life and bringing it into this world, I will honor you by returning to you what you have given to me.

She’s not just praying for her needs and desires to be met here. Now we’ve already seen that she has paid a price for years and has agonized over not having children, so it would be certainly understandable if she begged God for a child. But I get the sense from the text here that Hannah had been praying that sort of selfish prayer for a long time.

On this day, Hannah was broken and open before the Lord. Hannah had turned everything over to God.

This was no demand she made, and it certainly wasn’t the desperate cries she had made many times before. No, this time, on this day, Hannah called on God not just to meet her needs, but to generate through her the praise, glory, and honor due His Name. We’d call that publicity today, wouldn’t we?

Hannah vows to give her son back to God and to do everything in her power to present him as a true man, holy and set apart for God’s service. How would people know that had happened? Well certainly people would notice if Hannah was to become pregnant. Word gets around. And they would know her son by how he kept his hair uncut as a sign that he was a young man dedicated to God’s purposes.

It didn’t take long for someone to notice Hannah, did it? Eli was in his customary place that day at the Tabernacle entrance. No doubt he had seen thousands of people in prayer, and apparently had seen some who were less than holy. For his first thoughts upon seeing Hannah was that she was drunk. But Hannah poured out her story, and Eli rewarded her with what must have seemed like water on dry and thirsty ground to her.

17 "In that case," Eli said, "cheer up! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him."
18 "Oh, thank you, sir!" she exclaimed. Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad. 1 Sam 1:17-18 (NLT)

It’s especially critical that you see Hannah’s reaction here. Remember, she was wailing and crying bitterly before. But now, she is trusting in God.

Listen very carefully my friends. "You can do everything else right as a parent, but if you don’t begin with loving God, you are going to fail."

It’s not enough to turn away from the culture, or to acknowledge God. You have to turn your life over to Him.

If Hannah was here today, she’d tell you to turn your life, and the lives of your children over to God.

I’m here today, doing what I’m doing right now, because God used my mother and her mother to steer me this way. It was my mother who read me Bible stories - the scriptures. It was my mother who taught me how to pray. And my mother who made sure I made it my practice too. It was my mother who enrolled me in Sunday School as a baby - they called it the cradle roll back then.

All through my life, she consistently applied both the gospel and at times the flat palm of her hand to my life, each where they would do the most good. I am thankful for what God did in my life through my Mother.

But I want to be clear on this, friends. The culture has told us this is Mother’s day, and we’re reading a passage that spotlights a mother’s faith, but not a single person in here has a pass on what Hannah’s example would show us – what God expects of us ALL. Had my Father been a Christian, it would have been his responsibility to be the spiritual leader of the household – to make sure His boys were placed in a routine of exposure to worship, instruction, and godly fellowship through the church to have the opportunity to come to know Jesus as savior. But he wasn’t a believer until after I was grown up, married, and on my own. So my Mother stepped up and made it happen.

What do you think it said to Hannah’s husband that the child she had pleaded for, endured ridicule in all those years of barrenness, when he came – was given away to the Lord? Remember, sons were a prize in a man’s life. We’ve already seen how much this husband loved Hannah. Is there any doubt that he would have loved this little one fiercely? But in those months after Hannah realized God had blessed her vow, they had plenty of time for Hannah to explain how she had given God sovereignty over her entire life – whatever happened. And how she would honor Him by giving Him back what He had given her. Elkanah knew it was still going to be hard, “may the Lord help you keep your promise.”

And she did keep it.

24 When the child was weaned, Hannah took him to the Tabernacle in Shiloh. They brought along a three-year-old bull for the sacrifice and half a bushel of flour and some wine. 25 After sacrificing the bull, they took the child to Eli. 26 "Sir, do you remember me?" Hannah asked. "I am the woman who stood here several years ago praying to the LORD. 27 I asked the LORD to give me this child, and he has given me my request. 28 Now I am giving him to the LORD, and he will belong to the LORD his whole life." And they worshiped the LORD there. 1 Sam 1:24-28 (NLT)

Here’s something I noticed upon rereading this story again – and thinking about the way that we so often live compared to how Hannah did. How many times have we asked for and received something from God that we really wanted. Then after receiving it, we held onto it so tight making it our very own, afraid even that God just might take it back.

When, in fact, the best thing we can do is to dedicate everything that He has given to us--give it right back to Him for service--our spouses, our children, our ministry, our homes, even our cars so that we can use them for His glory!

In doing that everything that we hold so dear is in the most capable Hands and taken care of better than we ever could. Hannah probably never even 'worried' about Samuel once she left him in God's wonderful care, where he was learning to serve Him. Her prayer seems to indicate a deep faith in God. Hers is the only prayer of a woman recorded in Scripture, and yet Rabbis use it as a model for how everyone should learn Jewish prayer.

Hannah’s prayer shows the depth of her faith in God as her advocate, her “Rock.” And down through the years, as Samuel grows up, she stays attached in his life. Her son became one of the most important men in the history of Israel. He was used by God to help the people of Israel transition from tribes of people to a monarchy. He was the most effective of the judges, anointed Israel’s first two kings, and is listed in the Hall of Fame in Hebrews chapter 11.

I’d say what Hannah gave back to God proved to be for His glory. Once she turned both the control and the destination of her life and the life of her child over to God, he used that act of faith in a mighty way. She had no way of knowing just how much her son would do for God.

A few years ago, wildfires struck the beautiful countryside of Greece. Fires like that hadn’t happened in hundreds of years. Several towns were overrun by the flames before they could be evacuated. One tragic event involved a Greek mother whose town was threatened by wild fires. She got her kids together and tried to flee. They were found to have perished together, with her arms around them. Her home was untouched by the flames. She made a decision. There's absolutely no way she could have known for sure that her house would have been spared. What she did, even to the last, she did out of love.

She meant well, she just didn't know. I’m rolling to a stop here, but I want to review what Hannah’s example is telling us. If Hannah was here, she'd tell all of us...

Turn FROM the culture. Don’t allow it to shape your worldview. Value what God values and teach your children to as well.

Turn TO God as your Rock, your Strength. We are so prone to rely on ourselves and our abilities - so prone to trust in ourselves. The Bible tells us that we all are deeply flawed and stained by sin. That there are none righteous, not even one. That we all have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard.

It’s the final principle that Hannah finally learned that made all the difference.

Turn OVER your life to God.

All of it. Your marriage. Your kids. Your job. Your possessions. Your relationships at work, in your family, with your neighbors. All of them – all of it.

Life is a dress rehearsal of sorts to see if we are ready to meet God. We're given everything we need to succeed at it. The very Spirit of God takes up residence in us and gives us all the strength, courage, and wisdom we need - if we will surrender our ordinary days to Jesus.

At the end of our lives, I don't believe we'll be looking back on how many hours we put into that project at work, or how well we did in middle school band, high school chorus, or any of those things that we're valuing over walking with Jesus now.

When we stand in the presence of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, saying "I meant well" just isn't going to work.

Turn it over, all of it, to God. Pick up His plan, His scheme and walk in it. Don't get distracted by those things that ultimately won't matter at all.

Don't just mean well.

Follow Jesus.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mother's Day Sermon Help

Okay, I had forgotten how many hits I get every year on the website from folks looking for Mother's Day sermon help. So I went back and grabbed some of the stuff I've written over the years. Yes it's late, but if you are still searching, here it is.

Mama Tried
(This week I'm writing about women who have made a difference in my life)

41Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. 42One poor widow came up and put in two small coins--a measly two cents. 43Jesus called his disciples over and said, "The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. 44All the others gave what they'll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn't afford--she gave her all." Mark 12:41-44 (The Message)

When I think of my grandmother, I see her hands. Small, wrinkled and scarred from years of work - first picking cotton in the fields of Southwest Georgia, then in "Mr. Willingham's Mill" where she worked from age 7 to age 72. She had lost portions of some fingers in the twine rolls there, but continued to work 6 days a week to feed her family. Her hands were seldom idle, even in the last few years of her life. But when they were, she'd rub them together over and over, as if she could wring the last bit of pain from her life. Often, I'd see her bowed over her Bible, her hands clasped in silent prayer.

She buried her husband early, after he was struck by a car, walked home, then died the next day. Then came her daughter, set ablaze while lighting the stove and in her fright, racing away and preventing anyone from helping. Soon the car in which her oldest son was riding in was struck by a train within earshot of his home. She gathered the remaining children together and loved them even more.

The depression came, but I'm not sure she noticed much. They were bitterly poor, but rich in what matters - so rich that when two other children needed a home, she took them in. Took me decades to figure out that Aunt Barbara and Aunt Peggy weren't really related at all. Others came and went - folks used to say that Bertie was a "soft touch", but in those years when people were often wanting, Mama did all she could do.

She raised her family, made sure they got an education, and lined them up every Sunday and marched them across the railroad tracks to Rebecca Baptist church. There they would hear about someone who loved them no matter what. His name was Jesus. They learned that He gave His life for them. Mama made sure her kids knew Jesus.

My mother was one of those who was baptized in that little church, and after coming home from WW2, settled into a home next door to raise her family. I don't remember Rebecca Baptist, but I was told that on more than one occasion my Mother took me to the front porch to lay on hands.

When Mama died, there wasn't much for the family to divide. My Aunt Geneva got her sometimes sharp tongue. My Mother kept her giving heart. All I got was a memory of a woman who spent her life giving to her family everything she had - one day at a time. Maybe she couldn't make her kids lives better than hers, but mama tried. Her legacy was a family who loved God and each other.

Fiercely loyal, surprisingly warm, always faithful. When her life was over, it was clear she had put into her family all she had. They might not have been perfect, but Mama tried.

I thank God for women like that. What a difference they make!

May God bless all those women who give their lives away to their God and to their families.

Mothers and the Boys Who Love Them

1Three days later there was a wedding in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there. 2Jesus and his disciples were guests also. 3When they started running low on wine at the wedding banquet, Jesus' mother told him, "They're just about out of wine."
4Jesus said, "Is that any of our business, Mother--yours or mine? This isn't my time. Don't push me."

5She went ahead anyway, telling the servants, "Whatever he tells you, do it."

6Six stoneware water pots were there, used by the Jews for ritual washings. Each held twenty to thirty gallons. 7Jesus ordered the servants, "Fill the pots with water." And they filled them to the brim.

8"Now fill your pitchers and take them to the host," Jesus said, and they did.

9When the host tasted the water that had become wine (he didn't know what had just happened but the servants, of course, knew), he called out to the bridegroom, 10"Everybody I know begins with their finest wines and after the guests have had their fill brings in the cheap stuff. But you've saved the best till now!"

11This act in Cana of Galilee was the first sign Jesus gave, the first glimpse of his glory. And his disciples believed in him. John 2:1-11 (The Message)

It's been many years now since my Mother went home to be with Her Lord. But it hasn't gone away.

There are days when it's easier, when you remember silly little things, like the way she used to fix the boys instant cheese grits with torn up bits of sliced processed cheese, and they treated it like manna. "No one else could make grits the way Grandmother did," they'll say. Bunny and I would shake our head and laugh. Some days are laughing days.

Certain songs bring her memory closer. Old show tunes, big band numbers, and any song where someone yodeled. Yes, her first brush with fame was singing with "Uncle Ned" on the radio, and yodeling. A strong voice would come in handy later on when two boys competed for how far away from where they ought to be they could get. Oh and anytime the Star Spangled Banner is sung, I think I hear her too. Some days her memory is like a picture in my wallet.

Certain seasons too. No one ever was a bigger kid, or got more of a thrill out of Christmas than my Mother. Every year, no matter how old we got, under the tree we'd always find a couple of gifts from "Santa" or if she was pressed for time "SC." I'll probably never know how far in debt she went some years to get my brother and me what we wanted for Christmas, or for our birthdays. Of course as soon as our two boys were born, our benefits were cut in favor of the grandsons.

Seemed reasonable.

After a somewhat rocky start, ("You're going to what?") my Mother and my wife got along pretty well. The fact that they both had two boys, and both loved them fiercely, helped a lot I'm sure. There's something about the way a mother loves a boy. Girls most often grow up with mothers, boys grow away toward their fathers. But that love from their mother never leaves.

So when I read the passage above, particularly in the emotionally charged paraphrase by Eugene Peterson, I see a real mother and son relationship and out of that, the Son is recognized for what He really is - Messiah.

No one but Mary could have "pushed" Jesus and assumed He'd agree to be moved to action. No one except His mother. Mothers know their sons for who they really are, and mothers see what they can become. As they raise them to maturity, they fade into the background, but they never leave.

Women are unique in all of God's creation inherently. But a Mother takes that unique gifting and gives it away - willingly, gladly, joyfully. As one who continues to benefit from that gift, and who is grateful to be married to someone who continues to give, my prayer is that God will bless each Mother who reads this with a glimpse of just what you've given and it's lasting effect on your children. Lincoln was right - no one is poor who has a godly Mother.

Grace!



David Wilson

She Meant Well

18 Place these words on your hearts. Get them deep inside you. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder. 19 Teach them to your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night.

Deut 11:18-19 (MSG)

I've been sitting here for the last few minutes praying through our church directory. The people in it are all lined up nice, neat and alphabetical. Most are smiling, and I get to look at how they were on whatever Sunday morning their pictures were taken. Then I balance that snapshot against what I see happening in their lives, and I pray. Hard.

Most any of us can suck it up and look like we have it all together for the length of time it takes to have our picture taken, or the time it takes to "do church." But life invariably requires more of us that that, and we find that some are having trouble we'd never see in a snapshot of time.

As a pastor, my job is as one writer has put it is "to keep the congregation attentive to God".

Way over my head. I need a lot of help. So I pray. A lot. When I talk to my friends who are pastors, they echo the same feelings I have. Just different places, different names. People are people, I guess.

For some people seem determined to do everything else except focus on their walk with Jesus. I know personally what a heartache it is to look back over the course of your life and realize I had taken control and not let God order my days - it breaks my heart to know others are going down that same, well traveled, road.

The man who puts his work ahead of his family.
The woman who does the same.
The teenager or young adult who lets the culture or their friends determine their values and morals.
The parents who push their kids to be involved in every sort of extracurricular activity, even if it conflicts with worship or Bible study.

I know, they mean well.

But I get a horrible picture when I think about the consequences. That of the Greek mother last week whose town was threatened by wild fires. She got her kids together and tried to flee. They were found to have perished together, with her arms around them.

Her home was untouched by the flames.

She made a decision. There's absolutely no way she could have known for sure that her house would have been spared. What she did, even to the last, she did out of love.

She meant well, she just didn't know.

For a Christian, meaning well while in effect denying that your life and day planner has been surrendered to the cause of Christ just won't cut it.

We know better.

Life is a dress rehearsal of sorts to see if we are ready to meet God. We're given everything we need to succeed at it. The very Spirit of God takes up residence in us and gives us all the strength, courage, and wisdom we need - if we will surrender our ordinary days to Jesus.

At the end of our lives, I don't believe we'll be looking back on how many hours we put into that project at work, or how well we did in middle school band, high school chorus, or any of those things that we're valuing over walking with Jesus now.

When we stand in the presence of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, saying "I meant well" just isn't going to work.

Turn it over, all of it, to God. Pick up His plan, His scheme and walk in it. Don't get distracted by those things that ultimately won't matter at all.

Don't just mean well.

Follow Jesus.

Grace!

The Keepers of the Springs - Mother’s Day Sermon

2 Timothy 1:5-7, 3:14-15

Note from David -This sermon is dedicated to my Mother, Lodie Marie Bowden Wilson. Mother went home May 29, 1991. In her life she was a daughter, sister, wife, WAC, civil servant, Mother and Grandmother. Not a day goes by that I do not miss her, but I know where she is, and one day, I will see her again. She was truly a Keeper of the Springs.


Peter Marshall, one of my favorite preachers from days gone by, told this story.

Once upon a time, a certain town grew up at the foot of a mountain range. It was sheltered there in it’s shadow, so that the cruel wind that threw sleet at the windows and howled through the cracks of homes on the other side, when it came to the foot of the mountain, was a wind spent.

High up in the hills, a strange and quiet fellow took it upon himself to be the Keeper of the springs. Whenever he would see a spring, he cleaned its brown pool of silt and fallen leaves, of mud and mould., and took away all foreign matter, so that the water that bubbled up from the springs was clean and cold and pure.

It leaped sparkling over rocks and dropped joyously in crystal cascades until swollen by other streams, it became a river of life to the busy town.

Millwheels were turned by its rush. Gardens were refreshed by its waters. Fountains threw it like diamonds into the air. On its surface swans swam lazily, and children laughed and played on its banks in the springtime.

But the city council was a group of penny conscious businessmen. They scanned the budget and found within it a salary for the Keeper of the Springs. The CPA said, "Why are we paying this invisible man? He is never seen. We don’t need him. Why if we build a reservoir, we can do away with the position entirely.

So they did. The water filled the concrete basin, but it didn’t seem the same. Where before it was sparkling and clear as it moved past the city, now it sat, brown and languid. Soon, it began to show the signs of a green slime. There were constant troubles with the pumps after that, and the swans found a cleaner place above town.

Finally, an epidemic broke out, and the sickness reached its cold hand into every home in the city. The City Council met again, realizing the error of its ways, and called for the Keeper of the Springs to make it right again. It wasn’t long until it was right. The springs were cleaned and the water joyfully leaped down the mountain. The Millwheels turned as of old. The swans returned. And children played again by the banks of the stream.

Now by now you are wondering, where is he going. Well, I do not exaggerate when I tell you this morning that I think of women and mothers as keepers of the springs.

It was my mother who read me the scriptures. My mother who taught me how to pray. And my mother who made sure I did. It was my mother who enrolled me in Sunday School as a baby - they called it the cradle roll back then. All through my life, she consistently applied both the gospel and at times the flat palm of her hand to my life, each where they would do the most good.

She was following too, her mother’s example. Now I will insert here my Mother’s Day disclaimer. I am talking on Mother’s Day about the influence a godly WOMAN can have on our lives. If you are not a Mother, that by no means excuses you from the responsibility to seek to influence other people for Christ. Men, you know that we need sometimes to stand back while our women work and praise God for their tenderness, their patience - I really like the KJV word to describe a mother’s love - loving-kindness. So I am not giving anyone a get out of the sermon free card today. There is something for us all in a godly example and its results.

It’s not an easy thing, this motherhood. For anyone who is entrusted with the care of children needs 189 moveable parts, 3 pairs of hands and the ever popular eyes in the back of her head. Norman Bates of All About Families ministry says, "She’s got to be as insightful as a psychologist, tough as a Marine Corps DI, gentle as a nurse. She’s got to be a labor and management negotiator, a teacher, an electrician, a plumber and a carpenter. It requires a massive amount of patience, endless energy, and iron will, and the ever present reality that if she gets sick, she’s got to get well before the end of the day." And all the Mothers say, Amen!

But oh what a difference a godly woman can make.

Abraham Lincoln was once quoted as saying, "No man is poor, who has had a godly mother." There is no position ordained by God with more influence than that of a Mother. That cuts sharp at times though, doesn’t it.

I remember watching a TV show where the lead character, a woman, catches herself in the middle of an act that she remembers from somewhere, but just can’t quite figure out where. She continues for a few moments, and then it hits her. She rushes over to the mirror, and screams, "I’ve become my Mother!" How many of us can find things we do, or say that we can trace right back to something we learned maybe without ever realizing we did.

It is a powerful influence.

When attending the funeral service for Mrs. Ruby Mimbs last week, I was touched as example after example of her influence was testified to. I myself felt it just last Sunday too, as I was told that my use of the word D-A-R-N (I spelled it hoping to sneak it by), would have earned me a trip to discipline city. Of course I’ve never been there before. Well, let me be a little more accurate. Only recently can I pass a chinaberry tree without involuntarily putting my hand behind me in hopes of deflecting a switches’ blows.

Paul is giving credit where credit is due. Timothy had become a Christian, and a strong believer, thanks to the influence of his Mother and his grandmother, Lois and Eunice. The seeds they sowed with little Timothy had produced fruit pleasing to God.

It was a Powerful Influence, but it was also a Perpetual Influence.

Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:15-17 ‘that from childhood you had known the Holy Scriptures." How did little Timothy learn them? In his Mother’s and Grandmother’s lap. I have seen that picture played out in the life of my sons, as their grandmother read the Bible stories to them in a way that made them seem to jump off the pages. Then their Mother drilled into their hearts with a question that was asked and answered hundreds of times. Over and over Bunny would ask Adam, then Sean, "who loves you best?" At first they would say "Mommy." Bunny would then lovingly correct them, "no, what did Mommy tell you? Who loves you best?" Then each boy would answer, "God loves me best."

It is that consistency of virtue that does "train up a child in the way he should go" that produces "and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Plant those seeds of salvation beloved. Men and women alike must dedicate themselves to making disciples of those loved ones that they are in regular and sustained contact.

Now some of you this morning may have a prodigal in a far country. Let me give you assurance that God’s Word will bring them back. One day they will realize just who loves them best, if you made a diligent effort to plant the seeds of salvation.

Paul referred to a "sincere faith" that made the difference. Now I am not going to get personal here, but if the Holy Spirit decides to, then you blame Him. Is your faith sincere? I have known many people over the years that seemed full of faith on the outside, but were not sincere. And you know what, time will tell.

My oldest son is dating a young woman who told us just last week that her parents dropped her off at church, but didn’t go themselves. They wanted to make sure that she read the bible, but didn’t themselves. Now when their child is a woman of 22, they want her to have the faith that they do not have. Today more than ever, we need sincere faith. I’ve sure seen a lot of the false faith. Many times it is so covered in Christian cliches that it’s like peeling a onion to get to the truth, but it always is revealed.

I came across a quote this week that rings with truth. "You can do everything else right as a parent, but if you don’t begin with loving God, you are going to fail." Beloved, parenthood is a partnership with God. We are given God’s most precious creation, a baby, warm and helpless, and for 20 years or so we work with God to bring His work to completion. It is in exact parallel to our following of God’s plan for our lives that we see success in giving back to our Creator, a man or woman fit for His service.

Can I ask you another question? What do you see as most important for your child to know? Algebra, computers, or Christ? Softball, soccer, or the Savior? Many of us think nothing of making sure little Johnny or Susie get here and there on time and on budget, but when it comes to church activities, well, he or she just has too much going on right now.

Well beloved, you have to decide what you want your child to value. If they choose, you can be sure that Madison Avenue, Disney, and the like will entice them away from faith. Choose to put God first in your life and then your child’s and all the rest will fall into place. But if you don’t start the trip to adulthood with Christ, it gets more and more difficult to go back and get Him on board as they get older. Choose this day who you will serve said Joshua. You too have choices to make that will have eternal consequences.

It’s a powerful influence, a perpetual influence, but at times it is also a painful influence

I think Mary understood this well. On the day she took her son Jesus to be dedicated at the temple, she was told, "a sword will pierce your heart also." How many times did I see my Mother cry over me. And for twenty years as a father, I’ve seen my wife cry over my sons. There’s something I’ve come to realize about those tears though. They are not tears of defeat, in fact, they are a sure sign of victory.

When those times come when Mother’s cry it is this washing of their soul that prepares their hearts again for battle against all that Satan can array against her. How powerful are a Mother’s tears? One tear from a Mother can move even the strongest man to do what he would not for any other reason under the sun do. One tear from a wife can move a man past his pride and cause him to become a real minister to his family. Did you notice Paul’s comment about Timothy’s tears? Brothers, don’t be afraid to show you hurt. Real life hurts sometimes. Real grace heals it.

Still, can I confess that there are times when I just don’t get it? When I feel outside the great secret that is Motherhood.

The story is told of a family’s pet dog that died one morning, and they were discussing it later at the dinner table. Mother was quite sad and one of her sons said, "Don’t feel bad Mother, we can get a new dog tomorrow." The father then chimed in his support and concern by saying, "Yes honey, and you know yourself that Rover was old and sick and ready to pass over to doggie heaven." But the Mother was not satisfied.

"You just don’t understand," she said. "To you he was just a dog, but I was the one that held him and fed him as a puppy. I took care of him everyday and cleaned up his messes. It was me that took him to the vet every time he got sick. That dog was part of my heart."

I’ve experienced that love myself. When I doubted I could ever finish college, my Mother and my wife said, "You can do it." When I was faced with difficult decisions, time after time, I’d turn to the Bible my Mother gave me. When it seemed no one else believed in me, my Mother and my wife did. Friends, when a woman gives you their heart, treasure it, for it is beyond price.

Almost 8 years ago today, on a Sunday morning like this one, I held my Mother’s hand for the last time in this world. I was watching as she fought for life. The cancer had ravaged her body. Her lungs were filled with fluid and couldn’t be drained again. I prayed to my God to take my Mother home. One last beat of her heart, one last pulse through her arteries. I was holding her wrist when I felt what I believe was a release of all the cares of this world. She was home.

Beloved of God, my mother held my hand so many times when I crossed the street. If I needed her, she reached down and grabbed my hand in hers and made sure I was okay. I believe she did it one last time that Sunday morning as she made sure I understood just how to go home.

Do you know how to get home? The Bible tells us that this world is not our home. Our home is with Jesus Christ, and we cannot get there to Him unless we claim His salvation through faith in His sacrifice for our sins, and His resurrection as our eternal hope of glory.

As I wrote this last line of the message, it came to me what you need to know before you leave here this morning - Yes, your Mother may love you, but God loves you best. Will you come and claim that love?

"Blue is my favorite color"

Mark 10:15 (Msg)
"Mark this: Unless you accept God's kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you'll never get in."

While I was checking the mail this morning, a mother and her daughter walked by. I had seen them in the neighborhood, so said hello and asked how they made out in the hurricane.

The mom then explained...
about the loss of power,
the loss of everything they had in the freezer,
the loss of income since her business was closed for a few days,
and the loss of shingles from their roof.

Then she said:
"We went and got tarps from FEMA to cover the damage until the roofers get around to us. They don't look too good, that blue really sticks out on a gray roof."

Her daughter looked up and me and smiling said, "blue is my favorite color."

Sometimes children teach their parents, if we'll listen.

Think about it.

The mom was telling me about things that had happened, lamenting really, about losses that had occurred. She was working in the past, from what was wrong.

Her little girl, like all children, was living in the now. And that folks, is where we have to live too.

We've been given today - because today is all we can handle. So find a reason to praise God in the midst of wherever you find yourself.

"Blue is my favorite color."

Mine too.

Grace!

David

Just Another Day?

On July 15th, 1920, on the wrong side of the tracks down on Roff Avenue near "Mr Willingham's Textile Mill", a little girl was born to Henry and Bertie Bowden. Her parents were millworkers who had moved from the farm to the city in search of a better life. Each had lost a spouse to death before they met each other, and the family was a blend of Fosters and Bowdens.

The little girl grew to adulthood in that shotgun house, becoming the first of her family to get a high school diploma. During those years, she saw a sister die in a fire, a brother killed when his car stalled on the railroad tracks that ran parallel to the road. When she was 12, her father was hit by a car and died the next day. Hurt came often to Roff Avenue. The family grew tight - they had to. Somehow the widow "Bertie" raised all their kids and another couple of girls besides. Lodie was the big sister now, and she went to school and worked in the mill too. Whatever it took to help, she did.

She met a young man who lived in the same mill village, and just as World War Two began, they married. He was sent away, and in a year or so, she enlisted herself. They saw each other once during the War, in Manila.

After the war, they had both changed. Everything had.

They divorced, and then love found them again, and they remarried.

One day they got the news she was pregnant with twins. Nine months later they got the news the babies wouldn't survive. Delivered, they lived less than a week. But a couple who had seen so much pain and held so much heartache, just wouldn't give up hope. One year later, I was born - the young woman was my Mother - Lodie Marie Bowden Wilson.

She passed away 15 years ago. But today would have been her 86th birthday, and I remember her on it. No other person had more influence on who I became than she. Not one day in the years we shared on this earth did I not awake knowing that my Mother loved me deeply.

When you are the recipient of love, like a Mother's love, most of the time you are blind to it. Days come and go, sacrifices are made for you. Some you might realize but poorly comprehend. Others you miss completely. When your children come along, understanding does too, and then when the giver passes away, the gifts are made visible in the loss of the one who gave them.

I cannot give her anything now. All I can do is give to others as I have been given to. When I was reading Philippians the other day, I came across this. Those of you who read it, do as I have done today and think about your life, and what someone years after you are gone will write about it in review. Will it be God-honoring? Will it be praiseworthy? What will be your legacy? Will you have pointed your family to Jesus? Can you write as Paul does here?

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:9 NIV

Remember, we love, because He first loved us.

It's called...

Grace!

David