Saturday, July 31, 2010

When It's Hard To Love

So how's that training going? LOL

When the best dog that ever lived, Henley the Great Dane, died last year, we were heartbroken. Still are. It took us almost two months to get to the point where we, the ultimate dog loving people, could open our hearts to love again. The only reason we did it was because we LOVE dogs and life without them in it seemed so much less.

So Mick and Stevie, the Airedales, came into our life. They came from a rescue situation after being allowed to roam free outside (and live there most of the time, I think). The contrast between the Airedale we knew, from Bunny's friend, Bailey, and these guys was big - Bailey liked being loved. But the contrast between Henley and them was exponential. Henley sought you out to love him. These guys didn't care whether we were here at all - they could find a way to amuse themselves. See above.:)

It's been HARD. They just are stand-offish dogs who don't seem to need to relate to us, even though we pet,stoke,scratch, play with, hug, talk to - do everything in our power to make them love us. When they do come close, or rarity of rarities - jump onto the couch beside us - we go nuts over them. We're doing everything we can, but the two years they spent without a real relationship with humans has hard-wired them the wrong way.

I've known some people like that over the years - haven't you? Let me lay out some typical examples for everybody.

You've tried to share the love of God with them - tried to relate to them in unselfish love - and they have turned their back on you or worse. It can be frustrating, even maddening.

You've loved them as a parent or grandparent and tried to help them grow, gave them advice and even correction - all out of love and a deep desire to see them grow up to be good. But they aren't. They're still making mistakes and bad choices even though they know better.

You've been everything a wife or husband should be, believing that over time the serious flaws in their character or their lack of interest in all things "God" might change - would change. But it hasn't. And they haven't.

Now what? Is there an expiration date on love? Read this -

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. 2 Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
Eph 5:1-2 (MSG)

Don't stop loving. Don't give up. Loving to get something, even if it's a good thing, isn't the extravagant love that Jesus gave us. It doesn't have the power that loving for love's sake - like Jesus did - does.

Here at the Wilson house, we're committed to these most unloving dogs. We're going to love them every chance we get because we LOVE LOVING DOGS. Yes, these are hard to love, but that just makes those times when they do respond that much sweeter. We love loving dogs,so the emphasis is going to be on that, not their response.

We're going to "Love like that."

Try it with the hard to love people in your lives. Just love loving them - put your focus there and not on their response - and trust in God to provide the results in His time. Love like Jesus.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

How To Encourage Your Pastor

Hi there,

David Wilson here, just one of thousands of pastors across America and around the world. I've come to you today to offer you some insight on how you can do something that will encourage your pastor and help your church accomplish all that God wants it to do. I'm not going to drop an exhaustive list of things on you, or suggest you do anything that's beyond your ability to do. What I'm suggesting is simple and easy to get done.

Are you ready?

Here it is.

Grow in your faith, be faithful in your attendance, look for ways to serve, and be excited about God's Word and the work God has given your church to do.

That's it.

Try it and you'll see God at work in your life and in the life of your church.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What's In It For Me?

One of my favorite pastor/theologians is Ray Steadman. My friends at New Hope have heard that name many times over the years along with others like Charles Stanley, Chuck Swindoll, John Ortberg, and others. Two things all these men have in common is an awe of God and a great sense of humor. Today while studying Steadman's commentary on Hebrews, I came across this:

Some time ago a group of tourists were visiting in the city of Rome, and came to an enclosure where a number of chickens were penned. The guide who was taking them through the city said, "These are very unusual and distinctive chickens. They happen to be descendants of the rooster that crowed on the night in which Peter denied the Lord."

The tourists were very much impressed. One Englishman among them peered at the chickens and said, "My word! What a remarkable pedigree!" An American immediately reached for his checkbook and said, "How much do they cost?" But an Irishman there turned to the guide, and said, "Do they lay any eggs?"
Steadman goes on to make the point that many Christians aren't really in search of more of Jesus, they are simply in search of MORE.

Can this faith give me a more successful life?
Can it help me be a better person?
Can it keep me from worrying?

And a thousand other requests, which should be considered as trivial compared to the enormity of the crux of what our faith is all about -

Knowing Jesus and following Him.

It's not about you. It's about Jesus. Let Him live through you and He'll make your faith a life. His life.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Recap July 25th, 2010

This is me and my man Logan Marston, who has just schooled me on the latest going's on in the world of abstract art and general coolness. Logan's Dad is in Afghanistan for a little while longer and while Bunny and I have often offered to take him home with us, for some reason Logan's Mom Laura wants to hang onto him for a while longer.  Logan is so full of life that getting a picture of him being still only means you panned the camera at the same speed he was moving at. We love him and the rest of the kids God has given us at New Hope.

I think I made some relationships more active with the kids today by announcing that we will be giving "Bible Bucks" as reward/incentives to the kids for certain activities that we believe will help them grow in their knowledge of Jesus. Our Kidmo children's program is really geared to involve the parents in their spiritual education by providing a high quality and impactful children's "MAP" that relates back to that Sunday's lesson and gives parent and child a chance to go over it together.

So to encourage that, we're offering the Kidmo kids great incentives to bring their Bibles, return with the "MAP" completed and signed by a parent, memorize the "Compass Point", and also if they bring a friend they get rewarded as well. We'll have a Kidmo store with items they can redeem their "bucks" for and also they will be able to earn Dairy Queen treats, and at the top level - trips to the area attractions like the Zoo, Gulfarium, Dolphin Cruises, and movies! We're going to have fun and learn about how God wants us to love Him and others.

Summer is coming to a close rapidly here as the school year starts in early August, so we have people scattered all over the US. But the congregation we had today was great. It included our newlyweds - Mack and Lois Kirkland who got married at New Hope last Saturday.

We began with "Mighty To Save", then "Forever" and finally "Amazed". The idea was to get us all thinking about Jesus and build a sense or awareness of just how incredible He is. Our invitation was "Grace Flows Down." While we missed Pam on percussion and John on bass, I really thought the vocalists were so good this morning and that the band did well too.

We continued our journey into Colossians this morning with a leap into some of the richest and Christ honoring Scripture in all of the New Testament.

What can you say about that incredible Scripture?

I related a story Nancy Ortberg told about a friend of hers who took his 8 year old son to the Grand Canyon. They had been talking about how neat God's creation was and trhe Grand Canyon had come up, because they lived within driving distance. They had looked at pictures many times, but one day the dad decided that he was going to help his soon understand it first hand. So he got his son up way before dawn and told him they were going on a trip but would be back later that day. His son was sleepy but excited.

It took a couple of hours to get there, but they arrived and it was still dark. Sunrise was coming soon though,so the dad woke his son and asked him "do you trust me?" "Don't be silly Dad. Of course I do." Then the dad asked his son to take his hand and they would walk a little ways down the parking lot because he wanted his son to see something. "Okay" said the little boy. "But I want you to keep your eyes closed."


They walked to the edge of the canyon and in just a minute or two the sunrise began to appear over the rim on the other side. Once it had illuminated the canyon,the dad told his son to open his eyes.

The little boy did, but for a moment he was silent, and then he said "wow." A few more moments passed as he took it all in and then he added "I had no idea."

That's where I think a real look at Who Jesus is would leave anyone who really looked. Jesus is everything. He is all we need. He is the master of the universe. He is the first in everything. He is Lord of All.

I don't think the average person who considers themselves a Christian has embraced that fully. Functional atheism is the result. And it is so much less a life than Jesus died to give us. Read Colossians this week. Give the Word time to work and the Holy Spirit freedom to make the changes in you He wants to make.

New Hope - we are going hard after being known as people who know Jesus, who love Jesus, and who want more of Jesus. Come and see!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tomorrow's Message: Master of the Universe

I literally have read the passage I am about to paste below dozens of times this week from several different versions. At this point I have consulted the lexicons to examine whether any of the meaning inherent in the original Greek was lost in translation. I've looked at word order, tenses, and the context this text lies in.

During the week I learned about "Pauline Hymns" - passages that Paul inserted into the Scripture under God's direction that were being circulated and sung as hymns of praise. Commentaries and other pastor's sermons have been devoured as I kept driving deeper and deeper. Of Jesus and His mercy, power, and grace there is no end. The rest of my life could be spent studying and contemplating these few verses of Scripture.

Sunday cannot get here fast enough for me.

Jesus is MORE.
More than you ever could imagine.
More than you ever could hope for.
More than you'd ever deserve.
He is MORE.

C.S. Lewis wrote:

If we open such books as Grimm's Fairy Tales or the Italian epics, we find ourselves in a
world of miracles so diverse that they can hardly be classified. Beasts turn into men and men
into beasts or trees. Trees talk, ships become goddesses, and a magic ring can cause tables
richly spread with food to appear in solitary places. Now if such things really happened, they
would, I suppose, show that nature was being invaded. But they would show that she was
being invaded by an alien power. The fitness of the Christian miracles, and their difference
from these mythological miracles, lies in the fact that they show an invasion by a power
which is not alien. They are what might be expected to happen when nature is invaded, not
simply by a god, but by the God of nature, by a power which is outside nature's jurisdiction,
not as a foreigner but as a Sovereign. They proclaim that he who has come is not merely a
king but the King---nature's King and ours!

If you cannot get to New Hope tomorrow, then pick up your Bible and read this passage. Then let God speak of Who Jesus is.

15 We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God's original purpose in everything created. 16 For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. 17 He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. 18 And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body. He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he's there, towering far above everything, everyone. 19 So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. 20 Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the Cross. 21 You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. 22 But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God's side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. 23 You don't walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted. There is no other Message—just this one. Every creature under heaven gets this same Message. I, Paul, am a messenger of this Message. Col 1:15-23 (MSG)

Knights of the Round... Mower

I know, you were expecting something like that above. But I'm here today to pay tribute to another group of Knights. Men of no lesser stature, are these who eschew the chain mail of their earlier peers in favor of T-shirts and short pants. Who leave halberd and great swords to the past and pick up swing blade and weed wacker in defense of the realm.

I give you the Knights of the Round Mower.

Seriously though, there are things at churches that no one notices until it doesn't get done. And then if it is done, no one ever gives a thought to who might have done it. Well, I can tell you that having knee high bahia grass swaying in the breeze on Sunday morning can really make a church look like no one cares, even if it is filled with caring people who love Jesus and their church. So when I happen to run up to the church on Saturday and see that someone - a Knight of the Round Mower - has done their work and made the grounds look great - I give thanks to God for them.

Friends, it's what happens in smaller churches all over the world. People who just want to serve God and love their church get out in the heat, giving up their leisure time to do what they can to make sure everything is as good as it can be so that members and visitors can focus on Jesus. At New Hope we have one who works on the mowers and other lawn equipment to make sure the rest of the "Knights" can serve and several others who do the work. Men, if you are reading this - thank you.

The rest of you, if you want to be a part of a group of people who love God, love each other, and want to make a difference - come see us at New Hope.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Last night I started to notice that my Google Mail's "Spam" box was filling at a pretty rapid rate. One of the reasons I chose GMail to begin with years ago was because of its really good spam filters, but at the rate the numbers were climbing I began wondering if something was up. Oh, something was up all right. I had become (in the eyes of the unknowing world) a SPAMMER!

The email was the standard Nigerian scam of a bequest to the recipient that had fallen to the sender, in this case "me"  Rev. David Wilson, a parish priest in London England, to handle. The email address was slightly different than mine on the outgoing end but in the details they had "spoofed" my email address. It's stopped now - I guess Google figured out what was happening. But to the thousand or so people who go the spam sent under my name, I'm a spammer.

You could be too.

There's really not a lot you can do to prevent this. After checking to make sure it wasn't a hijack of my account (it wasn't) and alerting Google that was about all I could do. The spammers just take an email address they know is good to try and make their emails look safe so the filters won't catch them. But they normally do get caught by the better filtering technology. Still, it's no fun feeling like people all over the world think you are something that you know you are not.

Although... I've always wanted to live in England. ;)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Jesus Deficit Disorder

We were in Bible study last night - in Hebrews. The picture above is not from that study. :)

But at times it might as well be. The average American Christian has 9 Bibles in their home. There are 30 TV networks available on cable and satellite that are filled with Christian programming. Great teaching about Christ is available over the airwaves on TV and radio, and just a click away on the Internet. And yet, when I think about the average person I know who says that they are a believer, I have a sneaking suspicion that texts like Hebrews aren't where they spend their time (reading one of their 9 Bibles). Why have I come to that conclusion? Because I see the signs of "Jesus Deficit Disorder" all around me.

We've found ourselves lulled to sleep even though God has given us the Greatest Story Ever Told, because we think we know everything we need to know about Jesus. NO WE DON'T. Even if we have read the Bible multiple times. Even if we can recite large portions from memory. Even if we possess perfect attendance Sunday School pins that would give us the Baptist equivalent of General Petraus's medals - people who should be in love with Jesus should love to read, hear, or discuss what they've learned about Jesus again and again and again. It's like we think we've reached our "Jesus quota." Go back up and look at that picture again. The young woman on the right in the corner might not be asleep, but she certainly isn't enjoying herself.

We are spiritually anemic and as a result are weak in the ability to live the life God has laid out for us, and changing the world? Forget about it. As Keith Green put it, "Jesus rose from the dead, but you, you can't even get out of bed."

This can change. We can change. The antidote is Jesus. Praying to Jesus. Meditating on His Word. Studying His life. Sharing His love. We need more Jesus. True joy is not found in the ideal circumstances we all seem to wish and hope for. True joy comes from being in a living, active, growing relationship with the Son of God.

We've run forward and have dived into the deep water at New Hope. Opening our hearts and minds to God's Holy Spirit through two of the most Christ-centric books in all the Bible - Colossians on Sunday mornings and Hebrews on Wednesday night. I've read them devotionally over the past few weeks, and began the humbling task of breaking them down and crafting messages and teaching materials to use. The texts have amazed me, encouraged me, and excited me about Who Jesus is and just what I've received in Christ.

What you've received in Christ.

As the old song puts it "and the things of earth with grow strangely dim, in the light of His marvelous face."

Yes they do.

Take some time before Sunday comes and read Colossians 1:15-23. Take a step back and see if you can grasp just who Jesus is - and what power He has - and what He's done - what He is doing - and what He will do.

15 We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God's original purpose in everything created. 16 For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. 17 He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. 18 And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body. He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he's there, towering far above everything, everyone. 19 So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. 20 Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the Cross. 21 You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. 22 But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God's side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. 23 You don't walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted. There is no other Message—just this one. Every creature under heaven gets this same Message. I, Paul, am a messenger of this Message. Col 1:15-23 (MSG)

We need more Jesus.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


From It's Like Herding Cats - A pastor's life

For me, it's the call.

It's always about being faithful to the call.

I've been in service to God through several distinct "calls." There was the call to come and follow Jesus that I responded to at Bethesda Baptist Church. Then there was the call to teach a couple years later at Bethesda. Later at Mt Zion, I resumed teaching but knew God now wanted more. With the help of a spiritually discerning friend named Rickie Baucom, I was able to say out loud "I believe God has called me to be a pastor to His people." Then there were calls by churches to serve.

Ten years ago, almost eleven years ago now, I accepted the call to pastor a struggling but hopeful congregation in Valparaiso, Florida - a place called "New Hope." Ever since we moved here, leaving home and family behind, my family and I have poured our lives into God's service through this group of people. They were coworkers in Christ initially who have become over the years unforgettable friends. We dearly love them and would do anything in the world to help in any way we can. It's a great privilege to be invited into their lives.

It's also an enormous responsibility.

"Not many of you should desire to be teachers..." most of us remember from the Scriptures, and it's true. But somewhere in the margin everyone should write "and whatever you do, if you can do ANYTHING other than be a pastor - do THAT."

This isn't to trivially joke about the job. No, I'm very serious. The job is all encompassing. It's 24/7 and 365. It takes place at times when your family needs you. It takes place when you are ill. The telephone rings an hour after you get home from one ministry call and you instantly need to be at the top of your game in every way. Most jobs, when you are home - you're home and the job is back there. Not this one. The stakes are the highest they can be, so you will push yourself again and again to meet the needs. Oh and the joys - are the most fulfilling of any job. To see God at work - changing lives? Priceless. Worth it. Totally.

And yet, you need to set limits. Bunny asked me last night on our way back from praise band practice "How many hours a week do you work - 80?" Coming from her, who sees the 24/7 nature of ministry work play out every day, that was a shock. I really haven't given it a lot of thought. You do what you have to do to accomplish the mission. People around here do that all the time - when they are deployed they do it with mortar shells raining, and the ever present chance of ambush or IEDs. It's what you do when the mission matters so much.

Yet the military leadership knows that such actions cannot continue forever. As the leader of a church that does a lot more than people would expect, I'm wondering where the line should be drawn. If an activity isn't a clear win - in other words if it doesn't contribute directly to the mission - should we be doing it at all? Or should we relegate such activities to an occasional frequency and program them far enough out to manage the impact they have on people. I think one of the good things that come out of the church planting experience is the focus on the essentials. Thom Rainer's "Simple Church" model played a variation on that theme. What is New Hope doing that it doesn't need to be? And what could our people be doing if we dropped something that WOULD matter?

As for me, I'm beginning to grasp the concept of "sabbath" as being just as important as the Scriptures make it. If I were to take all the vacation I haven't taken through the years, I probably could be off from September to Christmas. But the work was always there and the resources haven't always been. I'm laying out some new boundaries though, and looking for times and places for Bunny and me to step out of the traces and rest and renew on a regular basis. Even just a trip to Destin's shores for an hour can make a difference.

Any of you who know of places we would enjoy that are within reach, shoot me an email. Pastor friends, if you know of one in your area I can get to, I'll be happy to give you a morning off and preach for you. Of course your congregation may never recover... but. :)

It's Like Herding Cats - A pastor's life

A cat herder's testimony.

Could be mine...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sunday Recap: July 18th 2010

What a weekend!

Mack Kirkland and Lois Somerville were married in a beautiful ceremony Saturday evening at New Hope. This was a joyous event for all of us at New Hope who love them both. It was awesome.

Sunday's worship was great too. Maybe some of that joy carried over, but people really seemed to be singing. The set included two songs that we hadn't done in over a year and for the life of me I don't know why, because they were awesome.

All the Earth Will Sing Your Praises - with a great lead-in from Sean
O Worship the King - David Crowder
Lord I Lift Your Name On High - complete with motions!
Made Me Glad - Hillsongs

Amazing Grace - All of it! That's right - we sang every verse and we SANG!

The message was the first in a series I'll be preaching from Colossians. New Hope has done so much ministry and service over the last couple of years, I've come to the conclusion that we need to spend some time exploring and discovering the riches of what we have received by God's grace. Jesus is everything. He is enough to meet our every need. But we sometimes seem to have a Jesus Deficit Syndrome and it keeps us in bondage to our emotions and a slave to our circumstances.

So we are tackling Hebrews on Wednesday night Bible study and Colossians on Sunday morning. Total immersion in Jesus. Had the best week of study I've had in a long time last week and attribute that to two things - first, I'm reaching for more time in the Bible and working with some of the old tools - pen and highlighter that I used years ago. Less laptop and more of an open Bible with notes scribbled on post-it notes and filling the margins. Yes, I have tons of help on the laptop, but for some reason the old school way made me slow down and really dig into the text.

The text Sunday was the first I ever preached at New Hope. It's one of those passages where Paul opens his heart to the reader and he lays out exactly what his prayers are for the people God has given him to care for. It was easier to identify with now than it was years ago. The people God has placed me in are dear to me, and I pray every day for them and for God to fill their lives with His grace and peace. So as we start our walk through these two great books,I'm believing that God is going to do great things among us.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Love IS the Answer

Accept one another (No matter what)
So reach out and welcome one another to God's glory. Jesus did it; now you do it!Romans 15:7 (MSG)

Admonish one another (Build our faith up, not tear down)
Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God!
Col 3:16 (MSG)

Bear one another's burdens (Compassion, helping each other)Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law. 3 If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.Gal 6:2-3 (MSG)

Bear with one another (Right or Wrong - Love!And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love,  alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.
Eph 4:2-3 (MSG)

Build up one another (Don't stand by - get in the game!)
So let's agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; 20 don't drag them down by finding fault.Romans 14:19-20 (MSG)

Care for one another (REALLY care, not lip-service The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don't, 26 the parts we see and the parts we don't. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.1 Cor 12:25-26 (MSG)

Be Devoted to one another (True friendship/brotherhood)
Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.Romans 12:10 (MSG)

Encourage one another (If you can't say something good - quote something good)
11 So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you'll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you're already doing this; just keep on doing it. 1 Thess 5:11 (MSG)

Forgive one another (So God CAN forgive you…we all need it)
32 Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you. Eph 4:32 (MSG)

Be Honest with one another (No such thing as a white lie - tell the truth)
9 Don't lie to one another. You're done with that old life. It's like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you've stripped off and put in the fire. Col 3:9 (MSG)

Love one another (You owe it to each other to love like you were loved)
8 Don't run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. Romans 13:8 (MSG)

Members one of another (You are part of something bigger than yourself)
5 The body we're talking about is Christ's body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn't amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ's body, 6 let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren't. Romans 12:5-6 (MSG)

Be of the Same Mind with one another (Pray that God will give unity)
5 May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. 6 Then we'll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus!
Romans 15:5-6 (MSG)

Serve one another (Real servants have no agendas or selfishness)
13 It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. 14 For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom.
Gal 5:13-14 (MSG)

Submit to one another (Trust God to Speak To Your Brother Too)
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Eph. 5:21)

Great Things Happen In Small Places

From It's Like Herding Cats - A pastor's life

The majority of churches in the Southern Baptist Convention are not filled with thousands of people. They're not filled with hundreds of people. The vast majority are smaller churches with less than 200 members. Of those churches the vast majority of them are not filled either. And yet, great things happen there.

Year after year, the churches that make up the SBC meet in their annual meeting and vote another large church pastor to shepherd the denomination's efforts. The size and scope of those efforts are immense. The largest number of permanently funded missionaries. The biggest number of seminaries and the largest number of seminary graduates. Disaster response on a scale that has the Red Cross and Salvation Army asking for SBC help. Maybe that's why men from large churches are always picked. They have first hand knowledge of large organizations.

Well, here in Valparaiso Florida USA and through small churches all over the SBC world, great things are happening.

I was asked the question recently, "What's the best compliment you have ever received in the ministry?"

That made me think. My answer came after reflecting on just what the church I have been given to serve and to care for has done over the years.

"Your church does more ministry with less than any church I have ever seen." It was a comment given at our "Advent Conspiracy" store's open house last November. The comment could have been said to any member of New Hope. We did it together.

From It's Like Herding Cats - A pastor's life

We have sent shoes to Soles 4 Souls twice and have the materials to do it again. The sight of people leaving their shoes behind in the sanctuary and walking out into the world gets me every time.

From It's Like Herding Cats - A pastor's life

We've fed, clothed and housed orphans through the SBC's and FLBC's system and through Amazima, World Vision, and Compassion. Individuals, classes, and the church as a whole now have sons and daughters all across the world.

We've given life to people dying for lack of clean water through our contributions and partnership with The Water Project as well as through the efforts of the SBC. Our first effort helped build a well in Kenya at GPS Coordinates: Latitude -0.355350 Longitude 34.628833 that is serving 400 people. This is what they had before.

Right now we are collecting money to drill a well for people in the Sudan. have any of us been there? No. But God is there and He's called us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Led by our girls ministry, we've given stainless steel bowls to kids in Haiti, formula to orphans in Honduras, VBS materials to the Ukraine, blankets to elder Navajo, and sent an amazing contribution to LOVE 146, an organization that is working to end human trafficking.

We've gathered, packed and sent off with love 20 "Buckets of Hope" that are feeding Haitian families as you read this.

From It's Like Herding Cats - A pastor's life

There's so much more, including what one of our Bible Study class did just a couple of hours ago feeding some tired and hungry World Changers over in Ft Walton Beach lunch and making sure the team of 15 teens and adults are well hydrated and cared for.

If you see our folks out and about long enough, chances are you'll see them wearing T-shirts like this one that helped a couple adopt an Ethiopian child.

From It's Like Herding Cats - A pastor's life

or this one that fed a child for three months

Or any of several others that made sure kids got treatment for HIV, or people got clean water, or you might see the Toms shoes on someone that by their purchase made sure someone else got a pair too.

There's more but here's the deal.


And God led, encouraged, and empowered the people of New Hope Baptist Church whose numbers don't seem to count for much in the SBC scheme of things to do them. It gives me chills to think that I was here when God did such amazing things that literally have changed the world.

So if you are looking for a place to learn about what God is like, what God's people do, and don't care what size the buildings are - if you want to worship, fellowship, love and serve with people who have a God THAT BIG - then come see us.

Cause Great Things Happen In Small Places.

Why enemy pilots don't sleep well! - from Snafu

Why enemy pilots don't sleep well! from Snafu

Got a call from my friend Hector Edwards this morning. This poster may soon be gracing the wall in my office. What a beautiful piece of engineering. What a generous act for someone to care enough to check into for their pastor (the airplane geek). That's going to be so cool.

Grew up outside Robins AFB watching B-52s and KC-135s roar overhead. Went on base with my dad who worked in maintenance there and got to run a C-130 engine sitting on a stand in the test block. Got to meet a General in my mom's office (who also worked on base). I have always loved military aviation, and Eglin AFB and the Gulf Coast with the Pensacola NAS and Tyndall AFB is one of the biggest concentrations in the US.

I remember putting together a Revell model of an F4 Phantom and thinking how cool it was. Well, the F35 is coolness squared.

In the Hurt Locker

You know, we've had quite a few Explosive Ordinance Disposal trainees worship with us over the years. It's a 12 week course - rigorous and intense. But it needs to be. The movie "The Hurt Locker" might not be authentic in every respect, but anyone who watches it comes away impressed with both the courage of the EOD techs who risk their lives to protect their friends, and the danger they walk into everyday.

Can't really elaborate, but let's just say I wish I had one of those suits sometimes.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

No One Does It Better

From my office window I routinely see the best that the world's aeronautical engineers can turn out. The finest of America's Air Force and occasionally the finest of other nation's air forces as well combine with commecial aviation and private planes to really give me a show. But today, this showed up.

Friends, we are not worthy of comparing ourselves to the Creator. You should have seen the way this kite turned and glided. It was amazing.

10 Creation and creatures applaud you, God; 11 your holy people bless you. They talk about the glories of your rule, they exclaim over your splendor, 12 Letting the world know of your power for good, the lavish splendor of your kingdom.
Psalms 145:10-12 (MSG)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Giving It All

It's the hand of a child in Uganda, being held loosely by an American volunteer who came to Africa to bring hope to the hopeless. Uganda has seen its share of trouble - from despotic dictators, to famine and unrest. But in recent years, as the heart of God's people was moved by the Holy Spirit to care for the poor, more and more Christians and others of like minds headed into the country, pictures like the one above have ceased to be taken there.

Here's another picture.  It's the picture of one of those Christians that came to Uganda to make a difference. His name was Nate Henn and he was a volunteer with Invisible Children - an NGO that hoped to reach and care for the children who had been forced into the wars as soldiers. This weekend Nate went to watch the World Cup final with some of "his kids."

Terrorists detonated bombs during the match that were designed to inflict the most damage possible. Nate perished in the blast along with over 60 others and some of the children were injured. A Somali- based Islamist group claimed responsibility for the blasts there and another elsewhere in Uganda. They hoped to sow fear and they succeeded. But they did not win. Nate gave his life for the kids - he didn't lose it.

My prayer is that the publicity surrounding Nate's death will cause a flood of even more people who are willing to come and serve and if necessary, die to be God's hands and feet to the poor and defenseless. Jim Elliot said it best - "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to find what he can never lose." The work Nate did here on earth will live on. But we mourn his passing tonight and pray for his kids.

Sunday Recap July 11th 2010

Odd how God works.

Tackled the next parable in a series where I'm trying to expose people to the way Jesus tied theology to life - everyday life AND eternal life. It was the parable known as "The Rich Fool." You know the one - it's about the guy that is so successful he has a little talk with himself about the future, then gets a wake up call from God. It starts though with a lead-in snippet about a young man asking Jesus to intervene in a probate matter.

Brothers and sisters, I know WAY too much about probate issues after my brother and I walked that road together in the wake of our father's passing. And Bunny has had a smidgen of the pain visit her as well just recently. So even though I was just tackling the next text, God knew when I'd approach and would use it to speak His Truth to our family as well as to the New Hope family. Had others thankful for the message as well. Thank God, folks. Thank God.

This week's context was the week after the 4th, and the occasion of a major advancement in our Fellowship Hall extreme makeover. The guys worked 11 hours Saturday (thanks again Craig, Scott, Taylor,and Mack) getting it done. And everyone was marveling at just how good it looked. More to come.

We chose some songs for that part of worship to engage people and lift Jesus and His work here among us.

God of This City - the Tomlin version but with a bluesy start that really was great
Indescribable - beautiful song for a beautiful summer morning
Your Grace is Enough - love this song's blending of OT and New
Come Just As You Are - "hear the Spirit's call..." yep, that's what to listen for

Had a good crowd and also had a very involved and responsive group at our church conference that evening. Of course the coffee and Bunny's caramel cake probably amped everyone up some. But we discussed what God was leading us to do and how to do it better.

Praying this week for Joe Stoy and the five boys he's bringing with him to RA camp. New Hope paid their way - boys from our neighborhood who need this - and we're praying that God will honor the investment with life changes that will last forever. This is the first time New Hope has sent boys to camp, and I'm really looking forward to hearing about what God did.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Amazed Again By The Power of Story

One of the perks of having Sean here is I get to read the books he reads. Growing up in the 60's, I loved comic books. I'd spend what allowance I had on the latest Batman, Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, or Sgt. Rock and read them cover to cover. A lot has changed in the world since then, so when I picked up the Batman "graphic novel" to read I'm not sure what I was expecting. This is where I'm supposed to say it was like being a kid again, right? Well, Batman has grown up too.

Bruce Wayne is a man who knows his place in life, his abilities and resources, and his flaws. His past still haunts him, but he also is able to draw strength from it. The "Hush" novel brings back almost all of the villains I remember plus some. The narrative was taunt and compelling from beginning to end. The Batman is a character I knew, with a past I was familiar with - but he was presented in a way that acknowledged that but took me to places I did not expect. I admired the author's skill.

I'll stand in front of a congregation of people Sunday and try to bring them into THE STORY.

Many of them will  have heard about the main character many times. They will know the major outline of the plot and even the way the story is proposed to resolve. Some will have a nuanced knowledge that will include additional characters' background and insight on the context they live in. Such a store of information opens some doors to the author/speaker and closes others. If open to being drawn into the Story again, they can find themselves swept up as new facets of the narrative are opened. But if they've reached a point where of their own decision the "book" has been closed and the Story fixed as it was... it's over.

Such is the power of Story. Life changing for those open to hearing it - even for the thousandth time.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Ouch! What's worse than a BAD praise band practice?

We've been meeting for a band only practice for several weeks now, and found it to be very helpful in our goal to bring more worship to our Sunday gathering at New Hope. It's a time to introduce new songs and get the dynamics of the music right. But tonight just wasn't happening. We had picked out some songs that we thought would move the congregation. Yet it seemed as if we were stuck.

Tried the usual ways to work it out - leave the song you are having trouble with and go to the next one. But then that one didn't gel either. Out of three songs we tried, only one really sounded good. But when we got that done, we were able to go back after the first song again. I think tomorrow night will be fine.

What's worse than a bad praise band practice?

No practice.


As I grew from boy to man on 40 acres of undeveloped land, I enjoyed the finest in entertainment activities.

I could ride a bike, climb trees, have nuclear war with my brother (using the approved weapons of course - the dirt clod, the china-berry or plum, and the dreaded hickory nut), shoot our BB guns, play baseball and football, and just have a good time. Later on when we were older, we rode motorcycles, played church softball and basketball, and went hunting and fishing. No XBox, no Wii, no iPod - I know, right? How in the world did we live while dodging raptors and looking for fire? :)

We have few if any pictures to look at and reflect on those times we had. We had school pictures, Easter and Christmas pictures, but none of my brother and me just living.

But I do have a physical way of remembering many of the things that happened in my life through the years. They are always with me. During the time of the Vietnam war draft, they served as my identification - what made me different than any of the other 18 year old boys worried about going off to war. Of course I've added new ones since then, life goes on after all. Now every now and then I happen to rub or scrape one and I'm brought back to the day it happened - to exactly what I was doing, just how it felt, what others did to help me, and how it all turned out.

What were they?

My scars.

If the draft board had come looking for me, they'd have picked me out of a crowd by my scars.

Was listening a while back to people as they talked about why they weren't in church anymore. "Just doesn't do anything for me." "I was hurt badly by someone and don't need that." "We had a split over how to ____ (you fill it in with anything from the color of the carpet to the pastor's office hours) and I just left." "I was burned out." Lots of reasons.

You know, I've read through the Scriptures several times over the years and spent a fair amount of time examining what they say.

Couple of things come to mind.

First, Christianity isn't for wimps. The people of faith didn't see a whole lot of amazing, colossal, awesome success. What they saw was a struggle to be true to their God in a world that was hostile to Him and them. Then there's the fact that you practice your faith with people just as messed up as you. It takes time for us to totally be made over by the Holy Spirit into the very image of Jesus. Old attitudes and actions have to die. So there will be times when Christians will still hurt each other - even deeply. We can heal those wounds in love if we'll follow our "owner's manual."

Secondly, rather than get distracted by the wounds they received while living out their faith - they used the scars they received as identification. They were also able to "show and tell" how the love of God healed them and empowered them to keep going in His service. Putting the distractions behind them, they traveled on.

Paul certainly did.

Galatians 6:17 (Msg)
Quite frankly, I don't want to be bothered anymore by these disputes. I have far more important things to do—the serious living of this faith. I bear in my body scars from my service to Jesus.


Jesus had said, "They will know you are my disciples by your love for one another." But loving one another is risky business. Even in ministry, people can hurt one another so deeply it leaves scars. Someone once told me "I've never been hurt as badly or as often than at church."

Friends, I've been there and done that. I could dwell on those, keep rubbing those scars, and get nothing done. Or I could thank God that He counted me worthy to be His ambassador for Christ and stay in the game.

I won't be called on to write any New Testament books, but in the serious living of this faith, I'm with Paul. If you've been hurt, wounded, even scarred while trying to serve Christ, just count your scars as a measure of identification.

When the Master comes looking for His disciples, you'll be easy to spot.


David Wilson

Monday, July 05, 2010

Sunday Recap: July 4th 2010

*It was a celebration of what God had done over the years in and through America and a challenge to find our place in the story that God is still writing.
*Very unusual day for us. We sang the Star Spangled Banner just prior to worship and then followed that with:
  • Revelation Song
  • Breathe
  • I Will Rise
  • I Surrender All (invitation hymn)
My main goal was to show how the Bible and a belief in God were the foundation for what happened on 1776 and as the nation was formed. To do that, I had to make sure I was cheering for what God had done and not coming off as some super-patriot. I'm a huge history nut, so I've read a lot of the source materials for the nation's founding.

Then too, I'm pretty intolerant of the political correctness and skimming of US history that occurs today. If today's students aren't outside readers, they'll only get a fraction of what we got going through elementary and high school. Turns out that the first exposure to US history is in a study of several cultures here, and that exposure is brief at best. Whereas I came out of the 7th grade expected to be able to recite or write out the preamble to the constitution and beginning and ending portions of the Declaration of Independence, today's 7th grader would not. The curriculum has been changed to match what the Federal government wants to test for.

Patriotism isn't a bad thing, as far as it goes. But a love for country isn't particular. You could love North Korea I suppose but what the government of that country does is not good. What I hoped to show was that the founders believed in God - in a God Who was active in the affairs of men, and Whose precepts and principles - learned from the Bible - were instrumental in the very core structure of America.

Using Psalm 33, I first made the case for Who God is and then what the founders saw Him doing during their time. Then using the second half of the Psalm as well as some quotes from those luminaries and others, I tried to show that the only hope for His continued blessings was a people today living out their faith just as the founders did. That our hope lay not in our strength of arms, but in the precious grace and merciful sacrificial love of Jesus Christ.

Structurally, it was a lot of quotes and Scripture. Bordered on "death by power point." There is SO much information and so much of it I believed to be brand new info,that I felt like I had to use as much as I did. You know going in that there's only so much time you'll get, so in a sense you hope to pique the interest of people on the History side of things to make them want to explore themselves. Yet you also want to bring the spotlight on today and the people in front of you to hear from God through the Holy Spirit and make a decision to live for Him - maybe in ways they never have.

I'll be praying that happens.

* BTW, band and praise team - you did a great job yesterday.
* Was great to take a step back and have John Anderson handle the welcome and announcements. Oh and showing his mad versatility, he later handled children's church too! He said that the Kidmo overflow was exactly what the kids wanted yesterday. It probably was like herding cats all sugared up.:)
* Great job by the girls and their guides on Wednesday night making the red white and blue ribbons with the crosses in the center. Exactly where we need to be.
*Thanks go out to Amy for getting the worship guide done early too.

Looking forward - Potluck fellowship meal this week means everything from tacos, kimchee, red beans and rice, Krystals, and Danny's Fried Chicken could be up for grabs. Come at 5:30 and taste the goodness that New Hope brings to supper.

Keep praying for Scott Marston in Afghanistan and for Laura and the kids here.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

It's Tough Out Here

Earlier in the week, one of the best and brightest in Southern Baptist Convention life, Ed Stetzer, posted on Facebook that he would like to talk with a couple of pastors whose churches' attendance ranged from 50-150. It was obvious pretty quickly that he wasn't prepared for the overwhelming response. After reading the responses, another thing was obvious to me - it's tough out here for pastors and smaller churches. Take a look at some excerpts.

"We are running about 80 to 120 in worship. we had a ugly church split last summer over the direction to move the church more missional. We now are working hard at doing just that."

"I took the pastorate 4 years ago (my first) and its been tough. We are down to about 40 members (we have hundreds in the 60s and 70s). Our membership resists change RIGIDLY!"

 "Our average attendance is between 60-80...just went through a bad split over doctrine and control issues...I could use some help. :-)"

"I have been at a small town First Baptist for several months now, and have never lived in a small town before this experience; unlocking the code is difficult, just get the same old same old from the denominational folks, some insight would be greatly appreciated."

"74 two Sundays ago, 56 last sunday. We were running 110 people 4 years ago or so."

I'm part of an online community of people, all of whom have been or are pastors. I've known these guys online for several years. Down through those years, a third have left the paid ministry and now make their living doing something else. That doesn't mean that they have left God's service, as each of them is still living out their faith in their new occupation. But what it does mean that a third of the twelve are no longer pastors?

This is a job where you could conceivably do everything right and still not meet expectations. It's a job where to succeed, you need to do everything you can do, but ultimately others are the ones who do the bulk of making it happen. It's 24/7, 365, everything matters work.

So what can you do for your pastor?


Some great ideas here