Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Ordinary Time

Wow! Did we just celebrate Christmas? Time flies!

Here at New Hope, we had warm, Spirit filled worship, and great fellowship as we tried to get our hearts around the fact that because our God is so full of love for us, He sent His Son to live with us. Advent, the season of anticipation of our Savior's birth is over.

Now we begin what the church calls "Ordinary Time".

But is there such a thing?

This week will be one when people look back over the year past, reflecting on the events that occurred. I'm spending the week in prayer, asking God to help me learn the lessons He placed before me this year, and asking Him to prepare me to learn more of Him.

This morning in my devotionals, I came across this poem by Hugh Prather.

If I had only...
forgotten future greatness
and looked at the green things and the buildings
and reached out to those around me
and smelled the air
and ignored the forms and self-styled obligations
and heard the rain on the roof
and put my arms around my wife
.... and it's not too late.

Jesus said, "No procrastination. No backward looks. You can't put God's kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day." Luke 9:62 MSG

It's not too late friends. God is so close. Love means action. Do whatever it takes to live an extraordinary life in Jesus.


(headed home in a little while to put his arms around his wife)

Monday, December 26, 2005

I Wonder As I Wander

Today's the day after Christmas. The tree has come down, the decorations have been boxed, and if you came to our house today you'd have a hard time believeing we celebrated the birth of our Savior yesterday. We've moved on.

All except our hearts.

My wife was visibly moved yesterday during my sermon, and as I try to stay in eye contact with the crowd, I noticed her, seemingly in dismay. Then I forced myself to move on. While speaking the words to the congregation I had researched and prepared for all week, my mind was also going through a checklist of - was it something I just said? Did she suddenly confront a memory? When we talked later, she said that she just hasn't been able to get past the reason for the season - that we sinners needed a sacrifice paid for our sins, and it came within the package of a baby boy.

My heart is unsettled, as I'm wrestling with what to do, what to initiate - how to lead - deep and lasting change in the lives of the people God has given me to shepherd. In recent days, it's been made very apparent that the depth of commitment through lifestyle actions is shallower than I thought among our people. So what to do, I wonder?

One approach is to go "back to the Bible". Never realized we left it behind. Then too, I've met too many mean and hateful people who could quote chapter and verse. It never hit their heart - never changed their lives.

Another is the more terrifying. Get closer.

Closer to the people I serve, though intentional discipleship. Closer through small groups where intimacy and accountability coexist. That's foreign to our programmed SBC culture.

I've been wandering around bookstores, reading online, searching for a sign to guide me. Wondering as I wander is a good way to put it.

But I know this - I'm not going to intentionally fail at helping people know Christ and live in the Spirit.

So pray for me.



Wednesday, December 14, 2005

"How Much More"

I've scoured toy stores, searched discount store's back rooms, used every connection I had - just to get the right toys for my boys. You see I had this idea that if I made sure their Christmas gifts were up to their expectations, that what would result would be happiness on a level never before matched among humans.

Just so you'll know, it didn't work.

Some years, the very toys we fought to get them broke within 15 minutes on Christmas day. Other years, the toy they wanted - had to have - couldn't live without on December 14th, was old news on the 25th.

I'm not here today to tell you not to want to show your love to your kids, your spouse or your family through presents. Nope.

What I am here to do is to let you know someone else does it better.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
Matthew 7:11 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

That's one of my favorite verses.

"How much more?"

We are loving but flawed, giving to get.

Oh but our loving Father..

sets no limits on His love for His children. You are loved. Wholly and dearly loved by God.


David Wilson

Friday, December 02, 2005

To Know Him

One of the great privileges of being a pastor is watching people as they grow and mature. I've been here long enough now that some of the little kids are becoming the young adults.

Today I was listening to one who used to be "little Katie Shermer" as she practiced a song with Bunny. She was singing one of my favorite hymns, "What Wondrous Love Is This". I was awestruck by how this young woman was expressing her love for Jesus through the song.

What a joy!

I walked back into my study, and my mind immediately thought of these verses.

1From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in--we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. 2The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we're telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us.

3We saw it, we heard it, and now we're telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. 4Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!
1 John 1:1-4 The Message

That's why Bunny, Sean and I left home to come here. We had a need to share with others what Jesus means to us. All we want for Katie and every other person we meet is for them to love Him too. When it happens - and when on those occasions like today we can see (or hear) it expressed, that's the best present ever.

May you know Him more.


David Wilson


God's Timing

Christian churches around the world began the season of Advent this past Sunday. For those who came in late :), Advent is the 40 day period prior to the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It's usually celebrated with Advent wreaths and with readings each day of the prophecies and events leading up to Jesus' birth.

We celebrate in abundance.

But the event we celebrate was set among the poorest and most marginalized of people.

We open our Bibles knowing the full revelation of the Messiah's life and work both on earth and among us through the Holy Spirit.

But they only had the promises of ancient prophets and their hope.

Each godly Jew prayed daily for the coming of Messiah, hoping against hope that this would be the year. Yet years came and went, entire generations passing away. Reading the Old Testament, you'll come across people crying out to God, "How long, O Lord? How long?"

The apostle Paul must have been thrilled to put quill to parchment and write this:

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. (NLT)

"When the right time came..."

No one on earth could see what God saw - a common language among most of the people (koine Greek); a road system better than ever before (Roman Roads); and a people who turned back toward God - not religion, but God (Israel in Jesus' day).

The time for their release from bondage had come.

Friend, maybe you've been crying out to God about a hurt or a need in your life. Don't give up! God hears your hurts and even now is "working all things together for your good."

That's God's timing. And when He delivers His promises - they are awesome indeed.


David Wilson



Last Christmas, we decided as a family that the time had come for us to purchase a digital camera. We had one given as a free promotion (read that cheap), and really wanted to be able to take pictures we could instantly view, save, and email. So after a grueling study of all the available choices in our price range, we made our decision. On December 21st 2004, we made our choice.

A week or so ago, the camera started malfunctioning. After a search, we found the manufacturer's guarantee, and after reading through the mind-numbing fine print we read - the guarantee was one year. So now I have to box it up and send it to them for repair. We're hopeful of receiving our camera back in good shape, but we still don't know. It could be lost in postage, it could be misplaced once it arrives at the service center, there's a lot of possibilities that could keep us from receiving what was promised.

Today I was reading a familiar Advent Scripture.

6 For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. And the government will rest on his shoulders. These will be his royal titles: Wonderful Counselor,* Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His ever expanding, peaceful government will never end. He will rule forever with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David. The passionate commitment of the Lord Almighty will guarantee this!

Holy Bible : New Living Translation. 1997 (Is 9:5-7).

Usually, we focus on the beautiful promises contained within this passage. They've always warmed my heart, to know the love behind those promises.

But did you ever notice the last sentence?

"The passionate commitment of the Lord Almighty will guarantee this!"

Promises it is said, are made to be broken. That's the way we've learned down through the years.

Ah, but in this case, we have a guarantee! And not one designed to make it difficult to see whether the promise is good. This guarantee is shouted to us with very blessing we receive, within every instance when we realize we are God's chosen.

God's passionate commitment, beloved, is to you and me.

What wondrous love is this, Oh my soul, Oh my soul. Every promise comes with love.


David Wilson



It's that time of year again - when children and adults are making their lists and checking them twice. It begins early, this idea of sitting down and deciding what you want from Christmas. In our family, the boys used to grab the Sears "Christmas Wish Book" and circle what they'd like to have for Christmas. I can remember looking at the results of that with Bunny and laughingly saying "Is there anything on these pages that they haven't circled?"

A couple thousand years ago, it was the adults that were making lists. If God really loved them, He'd send:

A mighty warrior to throw off Roman oppression.

A king to rule them with law.

A provider, always willing to give them what they want.

And God sent a... baby.

14 All right then, the Lord himself will choose the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel—‘God is with us.’

Holy Bible : New Living Translation. 1997 (Is 7:13-14).

In the passage this was lifted from, the prophet delivers the message that Israel doesn't really understand what God's will is. What they are asking for, expecting to receive, isn't what God had for them. So finally, Isaiah was told to tell them to revise their expectations. "The Lord Himself will choose the sign."

Can I ask you something? As you make lists, and pursue that which you want, can you really sense the peace of God? There are times I wonder if we've swapped the Prince of Peace for the Prince of Stress.

Take a moment today and see if your expectations might need corrections.


David Wilson


Can You Spare A Few Minutes?

16We know what real love is because Christ gave up his life for us. And so we also ought to give up our lives for our Christian brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:16 (New Living Translation)

Maybe it's just me, but when I read passages like this a realization comes to me of just how far short of Christ's pattern of behavior most of us live. The apostle John is saying that since we know that Christ gave His life for us, we should give ours freely to our fellow Christ-followers.


What's your reaction when someone asks you if you can spare a few minutes?

Or for those who worship at New Hope, what do you think when you see Allan's number show up on your phone's caller ID? :)

You see dear readers, our friend Allan is a young man of 23 who is developmentally challenged. He loves New Hope, and New Hope loves him. However communicating with Allan, even about things he loves, like NASCAR, the Braves, or the Niceville Eagles, is difficult. Not only does Allan suffer from hearing loss, but he's not able to process the information well at times.

So conversations with Allan tend to go according to a pattern that He sets, and within that conversation, you may repeat the same pattern several times. He loves to talk, and can tell when you drift off or are distracted. So when you talk to Allan, you have to drop everything else and listen and respond.

We're used to that face to face interaction here, but since Allan took home a church directory - well, things haven't really been the same. He'll call the church, he'll call your home, he'll call your cell phone - sometimes talking for a half hour.

We love Allan. He knows that. Still, he needs to talk to people he loves and hear their voices. But those on the other end of the line have lives too. At times, it can be very inconvenient when he calls.

So when the caller ID reads his number, what do you do?

I was talking with Bunny about this just the other day, and she said "You know, you just have to decide to give Allan that time."

Love is a decision, isn't it?

Can you spare a few minutes?


David Wilson


Friday, November 11, 2005

Otters, Lions and ...

I did an assessment tonight about what my perceptions were of what a pastor needs to do the job. Later, I found out that John Trent was behind it. Should have guessed, when I read that I was a Lion, an Otter, and a Golden Retriever.

Now I'm cool with the Lion part. I mean, after all, who wouldn't want to be a Lion. King of beasts and all that (discounting entirely that cowardly lion abberation in the Wizard of Oz). And I have always loved Otters. Watching them, it really seems like God likes them too - they have a great time just being. Except for those seagoing ones that live in the kelp beds, some of whom wind up as shark snacks.

But a Golden Retriever? Please.

If I'm going to be a dog, I want to be a Great Dane.

Folks, I have one - our second, and I can tell you there's nothing like a Dane. Fiercely loyal, incredibly loving, playful, and capable of leaping tall buildings with a single bound. Okay, but they can snatch your sandwitch off the kitchen counter in a heartbeat.

The thing is, they don't live very long. But you know that going in, so you cherish every one of them.

As a pastor, I know that every day, someone I love could face unspeakable tragedy. The conversation we had over potluck, might be our last. So I have to concentrate on life by the drop. Not a bad ministry model.

Got to run. You don't want a Dane to wait when they are ready to go outside. Noahaic.



Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Training Days
7God is educating you; that's why you must never drop out. He's treating you as dear children. This trouble you're in isn't punishment; it's training, 8the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? 9We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God's training so we can truly live? 10While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God's holy best. 11At the time, discipline isn't much fun. It always feels like it's going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it's the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God. Hebrews 12: 7-11 The Message

Well friends, at 5:30 AM this morning, I dropped my youngest son off at the curb at the Pensacola airport. He was beginning a trip that would take him across the country by air, and then back again home in a car he purchased in California.

After coming home, later this morning Bunny asked me about how it went. "Did you drop him off or stay with him?"

"I dropped him off", I replied.

"It's much easier for Fathers, isn't it."

I wish.

God has blessed me with two sons. He gave me a limited amount of time to help them understand the most important things in life. The most important of all was that God, in His love for them, gave them life, placed them in our family, and was reaching out to them with the perfect love only He can give. That only He can give.

I was blessed to have a Father and later a Father in Love who are great men. They set high standards and continue to live out those standards even today.

Yet when first Adam, then Sean came into our lives, I can safely and without fear say that I knew that the challenge was mine. My shortcomings were and are most ably compensated for by Bunny's grace and humor, but men are uniquely called and equipped to raise boys to manhood.

Over the last 27 years, I've tried to do just that. It never felt good to have to spank them, or call them to account. It was always awesome to catch them doing something well and praise them. I've ranted at them, cried with them, laughed until I thought I would die. It has been my honor, my God-gift to be their Daddy. To watch them become men and begin their journey.

They do grow up. As I watched Sean walk confidently away to baggage check in today, I saw a man making his way, seeking life's adventures. There was nothing I could advise him on, nothing I could do further to protect him, so I drove away. Now we pray until he returns home safely.

Training days over for now, it is up to Sean to live it out.

Friends, each of us who follow Christ will have times of trouble, of trial where we wonder, "What's God doing?" We'll have those training days.

Consider the possibility that He's loving you through it, preparing you for your next great adventure of faith.


David Wilson

Monday, October 31, 2005

He Believed In Us

"13"You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it useful again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. 14You are the light of the world--like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. 15Don't hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. 16In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father." Matthew 5: 13-16 NLT

"You are salt. You are light."

Absolutely no question that Jesus believed that His followers could be agents of His Kingdom work here on earth. With all the failures of the church in reaching into culture, just the knowledge that Jesus Himself believes we can do it is both challenging and comforting.

I watched the movie "Kingdom of Heaven" this weekend. As Jerusalem is about to be attacked by Saladin's Muslim army, the defender of Jerusalem has every man who can fight kneel. He then recites the Knight's Code over them and has them rise as Knights.

The clergyman says sarcastically "So you believe they will fight better, just because you said a few words? Just because you made them Knights?"

"Yes. Yes I do."

Jesus believes in us.



Sunday, October 23, 2005

Batting .500 stinks

I'm beginning to think that the only one who could preach the sermon on the Mount was Jesus. Spent hour upon hour this week in background, in contextual study, in word study, in exposition and exegesis. (for the non-seminary geeked people who read this, that means I worked hard and pulled out all the stops). But frankly, when a clip from the Lion King is the highlight of the whole sermon, then you stunk. I stunk. As they said about Lazurus "but Lord, he stinketh". That was me.

Don't really know why except that my reach exceeded my grasp. So I'm praying hard for understanding and direction, reviewing what I did and limping away.

Tonight (yes a true Baptist 2x Sunday), I broke open the book of Judges to the story of Samson. I had a ball exposing the folks to this conflicted character's highs and lows (ok lows and high). It was everything that morning should have been. Application, inspiration, correction - all of that.


It's not enough in this vocation to bat .500.

Father forgive me. You'll do better through me next week, if I can get out of your way.

Grace - and Lord I need it!


Saturday, October 15, 2005

You Have Heard It Said...

"once more into the breach, men."

Tomorrow I bring the Sermon on the Mount to the people - again. My wife told me that when she hears me start to preach on passages like that or the Fruits of the Spirit, she instantly goes "yada yada yada".

When I read it though, I hear giants from the past calling out to me saying, "Tell it, brother. Make it ring." Like Clarence Jordan.

The story is told that after one sermon before a southern congregation, an
elderly woman approached Clarence and said, “I want you to know that my
granddaddy fought in the Civil War, and I’ll never believe a word you say.” Returning
her steely glare with a gracious smile, Jerdan replied, “Ma’am, your choice seems quite
clear. It is whether you will follow your granddaddy or Jesus Christ.”

That's how I want to preach tomorrow - to lift Jesus' words before the people assembled, and have them make a choice. Lord, make me fully yours.



Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Challenge of A Lifetime

Ephesians 5:2 (The Message)

2Mostly 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.

Since I've been a pastor, I've tried to "always be ready to give an answer". I've worked hard to "preach the Word."
Those are skills.

The verse above is the challenge of my lifetime. I can get to feeling pretty good about myself - good sermon, strong teaching, church growing, building bridges.... me - and then I read that verse and realize just how far I am away from God's ideal for anyone who shepherds His people.

But reread it. he gave us the secret for making it happen in our hearts. "Keep company with Him and learn a life of love."

Let me ask you a question.

How much time have you spent with Jesus lately?

Join me in admitting "not enough" and then let's see what God does as we spend our lives in close communion with Him.



Tuesday, September 20, 2005

What to do When Your Resources Are Low

Who knew?

I was minding my own business this morning, working on a sermon series, looking at PowerPoint, listening to music, and fielding and answering email when a little window popped up on my computer.

Your resources are dangerously low!
You should close open windows not in use.
Windows will adjust your virtual memory.

Okay, so I had 8 windows open. Shouldn't I be able to do whatever I want to do?

Your PC, like your life, can be adversely affected when you try to do too many things at a time. What generally happens when you are overloaded is that your stock of compassion, of optimism, of joy, and of hope wears away. You find yourself struggling to "be nice". You find it very difficult to listen as others share their struggles, all the while thinking "yeah, yeah, yeah...you just need to straighten up." The love of Christ that enables you to feel other's hurts and respond in love and kindness - your resource - is low.

What to do?

Well, if you cannot break away for a quick respite - say a breath prayer like "Lord, help me be like you right now."

Or take a five minute sabbatical from whatever it is you are doing. Yes, five minutes. No phone, no email, nada - five minutes alone with God. Just try it.

Let me ask you a question.

Are you busier than Jesus?

He had three years of ministry time, within which he healed the sick, raised the dead, gave sight to the blind, taught His disciples, sparred with the religious...

Yet despite Jesus' instructions, the report of his power spread even faster, and vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases. 16But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. Luke 5:15-16 NLT

and separated Himself regularly from all that to be alone with His Father.

When your resources run low, spend time with the Source.


David Wilson

Friday, September 16, 2005

What To Give God (Who Has Everything)

It's been an interesting week.

Back and forth to Macon, GA to be with my father as he awaited a doctor's report. Then directly into preparing and carrying out the funeral of a church member. And now this weekend, Sunday to be exact, is my father's 86th birthday.

Over the years I've given him some pretty interesting presents. He's not really into "stuff", though, and sometimes months later I'd find the present I thought was "just the right thing" still sitting in its box somewhere in the house. So I'm trying to think of just what I can give him, but not having much success.

I'll bet some of us have trouble trying to figure out what God wants from us too. I love the way Paul's instructions to the Roman Christians are phrased here.

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life--your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life--and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. 2Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Romans 12: 1-2, The Message








Is what God wants you to give to Him. Learning to see Him at work all around you, and then not losing focus on Him will help each one who does it become more like His Son Jesus Christ. Listening for His promptings and doing what He's asked you to do will help you develop a heart like His.

And that's what God wants.



Thursday, September 08, 2005

It's Not About You

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2 (New International Version)

Two prime ministers are sitting in a room discussing affairs of state. Suddenly a man bursts in shouting and stamping and banging his fist on the desk. The resident prime minister admonishes him. "Peter," he says, "kindly remember rule number 6," whereupon Peter is instantly restored to complete calm, apologizes, and withdraws.

The politicians return to their conversation, only to be interrupted yet again twenty minutes later by a hysterical woman gesticulating wildly, her hair flying.

Again the intruder is greeted with the words: "Marie, please remember rule number 6." Complete calm descends once more, and she too withdraws with a bow and an apology.

When the scene is repeated a third time, the visiting prime minister addresses his colleague: "My dear friend, I've seen many things in my life, but never anything as remarkable as this. Would you be willing to share with me the secret of rule number 6?"

"Very simple," replies the resident prime minister. "Rule number 6 is 'Don't take yourself so seriously.'"

"Ah," says his visitor, "that is a fine rule." After a moment of pondering, he inquires, "And what, may I ask, are the other rules?"

"There aren't any."

The hardest thing to do every day as a Christian is to die to your self. We all think we can do it, are willing to do it, but we're always looking for that real big thing God is going to ask us to do. We base our self-confidence in our belief that if that "Big Request" should roll into our heart from God, that we would be able and willing to do that "Great Thing".

So each and every day, we pass people who just need a word of encouragement, or a others who have a need we could fill, and go to bed that night confident that we are pleasing God, and will bless Him real good when our "Big Request" comes in.

Go back and re-read the Scripture above. The One who formed the universe, who placed the stars, who created daffodils and butterflies with merely a word...

humbled Himself and took the form of a slave.

It's not about you. (or me)

It's about Jesus, and returning His love.


David Wilson

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Tear Down the Walls

"For you ignore God's specific laws and substitute your own traditions." Mark 7:8

One of the most vivid memories I have of Ronald Reagan's presidency is his bold request while standing in front of the barrier that then divided East and West Berlin.

Facing a crowd of Berliners, the president forcefully stated his request -

"Mr.. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

The pressure of world opinion, coupled with unrest and turmoil within, eventually led to that very wall being dismantled, and we were all treated to pictures of families united and the newly liberated dancing with glee on top of the very barrier that had separated them for so long. The whole world watched and applauded when that wall came down.

Not too many years before, another wall came down, and I never heard about it until today.

In an article within the Palm Beach Post, writer Steve Gushee tells of the legacy of brother Roger, founder of the Taize' community in France. Brother Roger had a dream, that Christians of all denominations - Protestant and Catholic alike - come come together to worship God in Spirit and in truth. He founded the community on authenticity, humility, sacrifice, and service to Christ. And in the late 50's and 60's, thousands flocked to the little chapel Roger and his friends had built with their own hands to house two hundred. The people would sit outside in hopes of hearing a word now and then, or a measure or two of music.

One Easter morning, the crowd swelled so much that Roger and his leaders wept to see how many were still outside.

So without a word being spoken, Roger went to the back wall of the chapel he and his friends had built and began removing the stones they had placed there themselves, one by one, until finally the whole back wall was open to the fields the people were sitting in.

Now everyone was within the walls.

I wonder sometimes how willing we are to consider that those outside our communities of faith are there in some ways because of walls we've built ourselves. Our walls might be a tradition of worship style, or of dress. They might be a judgmental spirit or prideful hearts.

They could be unknown to us - those of us who have been inside for so long we've forgotten what a "wall" looks like.

Whatever they are, those things that we have built to keep others out, I believe Christ is calling out to us right now saying, "tear down those walls."


David Wilson
"Till My Trophies At Last I Lay Down"

Henley the big black dog and I were walking this morning, and it being Tuesday in Valparaiso, the curbs were cluttered here and there with trash and treasures. It happens every week here, because our incredibly efficient trash guys will pick up basically anything that's not moving or hazardous. So frequently people will leave things to throw away that someone else would take to Goodwill, or even keep.

This morning, as I walked by a stack of boxes, a glint of sunshine off gold caught my eye. I stopped and looked into the box and noticed it was full of trophies. There must have been a dozen trophies and plaques all thrown together in that box. There were other objects there too but since I'm under watch care by my wife as a recovering packrat, I walked on. But it got me to thinking.

At one time, everything that person had discarded mattered - maybe a great deal. Those trophies might have occupied a prominent place in his house. Those plaques might have been the center of attention, prominently displayed on a wall. They'd make sure each visitor say them. They'd use them to launch into stories of days gone by. But now they were trash.

Friends, I've spent some time lately with men who are looking past this life into the next. They've both been diagnosed with illnesses that mean their time on this earth is drawing to a close. For one that might mean weeks, for another the prognosis isn't sure yet. Both are receiving all the help modern medicine can provide. But death comes for us all, and for them sooner rather than later. When talking with them last week, one told me frankly "I haven't done everything I wanted to do. But I'm ready to go if it's God's will. " The other phrased it this way - "I've had a full life, now I'll just have to trust God through this."

You know, in the hours of conversations I've had with them lately, I never heard a word about "stuff" or trophies of any kind. All I heard was about people - about friends and loved ones, and about their God.

Jesus asked the question, "What good is it to gain the whole world and lose your soul?"

Well, from where I sit, these two men haven't lost anything. Instead, by holding onto their faith in Christ as their Savior, they've found peace in circumstances that might overwhelm any person. They might have to "lay their trophies down" soon, but they'll soon be wearing a crown.

Hallelujah, what a Savior!


David Wilson

Sunday, September 04, 2005

As To Dying Men

"I preached as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men."

I've spent a lot of time lately around dying men.

One lies in a hospital nearby, having already lost his arms, and soon to lose his life. I know him, but not well.

The other is my father, who at 85 is carrying esophageal cancer in his body.

Nothing like hanging with the dying to focus your preaching on what matters. Today I tried to do just that. In a series on the "Marks of a Christian" I focused on "Groups" or "Community" and laid out before the crowd the "one another" passages in the NT.

I was desperate to make them understand - to embrace and be embraced by God's plan for His people - redeemed and restored to rescue their neighbors.

I pray I got just enough out the way for that to happen.



Saturday, September 03, 2005

For thee

No person is an island entire of itself.
Every person is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were.
Any person's death diminishes me, because I am involved in humankind.
Therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls.
It tolls for thee.

John Donne

Sitting here today finishing tomorrow's message on Biblical community with this week's images fresh in my mind and weighing heavy on my heart. The coast of Mississippi lies devastated, as does that of Louisiana, its crown jewel flooded as its citizens become "every man for himself." It's raw, this descent into lawlessness. We recoil in horror and rightly so.

But what about when we cut another with our words? What about when we flood their soul with grief, when we imply that God doesn't care for them? What about when we look on each other and see anything other than God's precious creation - clothed with mortal flesh, but destined for immortality.

What then?

I pray I'm ready to point us toward grace tomorrow even as I rouse us from complacentcy into a deeper community.

Jesus, have mercy on me a sinner.


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Til I Met A Man...

There are good times and there are bad times in any area of life. The ministry isn't any different. On some days, it's glorious to be sold out to God - leading His people into worship and the Word.

Other days, well, let's just admit that church people can find a way to take all the fun out of church. It might be a fight over what to keep or what to toss on cleanup day, or who spent how much on what, or even my all time favorite - whether to open or close the curtain in front of the baptistry.

Had a few cat fights today to handle.

But they all pale beside the man I visited in the hospital who had his hands amputated Sunday.

As I was trying to help him - sharing the love of Christ, praying for Him, letting him know that he is loved by God and by God's people, I knew that I wouldn't face any challenge today bigger than his. And I knew that God would meet all our needs from His riches.

Someone told me once that the difference between the average painter and van Gogh was one word - perspective.

Now that I have that, I should be able to handle anything else - today.



Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A Living Illustration

My friend, the right reverend Arnold Hendrix, called me a "story teller" today. Now before you get all third grade on him, you should know I take that as a compliment. That means like my Master Jesus Christ, I take life and God's Word, and bring both to this life and the living of it. I tell stories. You can call them their proper name, "illustrations", as they are referred to in preaching textbooks too. Every now and then I even bump into one.

Reading this weekend, I came across this passage.

16So we're not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. 17These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. 18There's far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can't see now will last forever.
2 Corinthians 4 The Message

Then today I went to see the illustration.

Rick Barton is a man with a host of troubles. A long time diabetic, recipient of a donated kidney that's failing and requires dialysis three times a week now, finger tips that have turned black from lack of circulation - the body that encloses Rick's soul is in need of repair. But Rick's a man that doesn't depend on his own will to live, though that is fierce. Rick depends on God's grace, and though he needs all of it he can get, Rick's still looking for people to share it with.

Rick's roommate Lloyd has heard from Rick about the grace that God is giving him. And in the most unlikely place, at the most unlikely time, from the one who outwardly seems to be falling apart - Lloyd met Jesus, and was embraced in God's love himself. Now Lloyd calls everyone "brother" and "sister", and has a real faith growing each day. Nursing home evangelism might be Rick's ministry gift. It was a great thing to see.

Friends, God shows us the truth of His Word not just in the splitting of infinitives or parsing of ancient languages. He illustrates it in life. I saw two men both experiencing hard times, who have turned their eyes away from this life's standard of living toward the next. They are living for forever. That's real life.

Take a look around today friends. See whether you're living for the soon past or the forever future. You can make a difference for eternity.


David Wilson


Monday, August 22, 2005

Who, me?

Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. Philippians 3:17 (New Living Translation)

Was talking with a young man recently, and as he was speaking of his life as he saw it, he blurted out "I want life like you have it."

We finished our talk, but that hadn't finished resonating with me. When he said it, part of me wanted to laugh, part wanting to scream "are you kidding me", and part of me just was shocked. I am blessed with a great family. I am blessed to be doing meaningful work. I am blessed to be healthy and well taken care of. But someone wanting my life?

How do you handle that?

My life isn't without heartache. Not a day goes by that I don't think of my granddaughter's death. Even the tragic loss of our dog 4 years ago still scars me. There are events that have happened here as we worked our way to a healthy church that still are dull aches. (Consolation - that's better than open wounds)

My life's not without fear, or doubts, or worries - all that's common to man.

But I do have a faith in God. I do have a certain knowledge of His love for me. And if I died tonight, it would be fine with me. Maybe that's what he wanted.

Funny isn't it, that without a sermon being preached, people still hear the message - and want it to be real in their lives. I pray my friend finds what I have and more.



Thursday, August 18, 2005

It Moves Me

Living in Florida has done a lot of things to me. I've learned that jeans are for dressing up, that shorts can be worn year round, and that a portable generator is as indispensable as a refrigerator. I've changed from someone who really didn't pay attention to the weather, to a person who knows how to plot tropical storms by latitude and longitude, and who just has to have live weather instantly available on my PC. My Earth Science teachers would be so proud.

Yesterday, I was reading about the weather and stumbled across an article in which the writer (overzealously I thought) tried to connect every dot of activity across the globe to a corresponding weather phenomenon. His premise was that if a tree fell in Africa, or a butterfly flapped its wings, the earth everywhere would be affected.

I'll have to mull that over for a while.

But I know this, when I see a butterfly amidst the flowers as I walk along the bay - it moves me.

Psalms 33:4-5 (MSG)
4 For God's Word is solid to the core; everything he makes is sound inside and out.
5 He loves it when everything fits, when his world is in plumb-line true. Earth is drenched in God's affectionate satisfaction.

Why does it affect me?

Because I know to the very core of my being that our God loves me enough to create a world I can never cease to be amazed by - just so I'll remember His love toward me. He is the One who holds everything within His power, Who caused everything to be...

and He loves me.

Yeah, that moves me.


David Wilson


Friday, August 12, 2005

The Real Deal?

On the way to the church today, fashionably late, and already thinking about the day, I reached my last turn and was blocked by men, trucks, and asphalt. The ditch they had dug across our road and left two weeks ago was getting fixed at last.

Now to go another way is a pain, and there are times when the combination of A: late, B: busy, and C: inconvienced would mean a David not exactly exhibiting grace. I'm a long way from the days when I'd have saluted them or yelled, but murmuring is within my skill set.

But today, I whipped the car around, cut across and parked.

On the way into the office, I looked over at the workers standing maybe 100 yards away. I was thanking God for the victory over my emotions, when one of them waved.

Then it dawned on me. He had connected the dots between guy, car, church parking lot and pastors office. And I hadn't let him down.

Thank you God for giving me the strength to reflect Your grace... today. :)

Sunday, August 07, 2005


Having the best job in the world is a great feeling. But if you do it long enough there will be times when you just aren't "up" to the task. In my case today, I was running on fumes because of a terrible nights sleep the night before. "I slept like a baby" wasn't even accurate.

Yet every time I laid back down, I knew that in a few hours I would be called to be a representative of Jesus. We had a 101 class scheduled, communion within the service - and I wasn't happy with the message for either service.

What to do? I prayed. Most of the time that I was lying in bed hoping the heartburn would cease, or willing my lungs to place nice and give me a breath - I prayed. But I left the house for church feeling like I was carrying a weight.

Upon arrival, I was stunned by how many people were in our gathering before the Bible Study hour, and amazed at how many were in the 101 class. But nothing prepared me for the biggest crowd of the whole year in worship.

Praise be to our God, Whose power is perfected in weakness.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Reproducing Disciples

I can't tell you how happy I am to learn that many members of your congregation are diligent in living out the Truth, exactly as commanded by the Father. 2 John 4

I was sitting in my office today, talking to a man who just got back from a mission trip to Indonesia. He nad his wife were missionaries there for a while, and they returned for a month to help tsunami relief.

For me, missionaries have always been heroes, so much so that I picture them coming back to America and feeling let down at our lack of fervor. But not today.

You see this man works with youth, and while he was gone, two of the people he had asked to fill in began to really learn to love our youth. So much so that they want to continue teaching them at another, additional time each week.

he was telling me about the welcome home party the youth had given him and his wife, and about these two women steppingup, and then it was if a light went off in his brain when he realized - "Hey! They are growing!"

Yes they are. And that's why we do what we do.



Friday, July 22, 2005

We're All Learning

How does God do it?

I'm sitting here this afternoon on a pretty quiet Friday, and in the sanctuary, separated from my office by a wall, but with a heating and A/C return box running the length of it that lets me hear events in there as if they are... next door. My wife is busy teaching piano to a series of little children. They are playing very simple melodies. Some are doing better than others - they change every 30 minutes. But their halting way of playing doesn't.

Each is supposed to have practiced daily, preparing for their lesson. Piano is one of the subjects you learn where each lesson builds on the last, so mastery of one needs to be accomplished before the next.

I'm guessing practice was sporadic this past week.

But they are trying, and Bunny is encouraging.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

On the other side of the wall where I sit, having been given God's Word to show me how to live, His Holy Spirit to guide me into truth, and a congregation and friends for encouragement and accountability...

I sometimes live as haltingly unsure a life as the music I'm hearing.

Is that it? No this. mmm.. Maybe this way.

How does God stand it? Well, just to remind you, it's not about our performance. It's about His love.

If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Romans 8:31 NLT

Just keep loving Him with all your heart, soul, and mind. He's heard every wrong "note" you've ever made. But He loves you - and that will never change.


David Wilson

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Comings and Goings

Well, as I sit here tonight, fresh from another brush with a Hurricane - in this case Dennis - life is as good as Florida can be without electricity or air conditioning. I'm thinking there was a reason why no one lived here pre- A/C.

But if you are going to live near the ocean, you should expect to see nights like this.

In the two days of preparation leading up to today's event, I walked down to the bay and saw the ships resting at anchor. Many were placed there Friday and Saturday, hoping to take advantage of the relative shelter of the bayous. There were two boats though, that had been there.

The first sits in about ten feet of water, with the mast and jib the only testimony that a boat lies there. There for the last ten months, I'm fairly sure it may never sail again without heroic measures by someone whose dream is to see it underway.

The second lies at anchor - just as it has every day, every night since September. Though it made it safely through Ivan, and now through Dennis, the only thing it has done that a boat needs to do is float.

As the day begins tomorrow, many boat owners will come and check to see how their boats fared. They'll weigh anchor and set sail for tommorrow's adventure and yes, possibly for another day's storms.

Given that storms come to us all, can I ask you a question?

Where's your life taking you?

Maybe you feel defeated - sunk, and cannot see yourself any other way.

Maybe you are tied down to grief, to heartache, to past deeds and misdeeds. So afraid of the future you won't "raise your anchor."

My friend, storms will come - but so will sunshine and balmy breezes. You were made to live in freedom from defeat, from fear, from your past - you were made to set sail and glorify God with a life lived for Him.

Do this. Take Jesus at His word.

Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)
28"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. 29Walk with me and work with me--watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 30Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

Just as a sailboat was meant to slice through the waves - but only can when freed from its moorings - you can only live the life you were created for when you are letting Jesus live through you. Leave that past and embrace a future with Jesus.



Wednesday, July 06, 2005

What's Wrong?

There's too much news available today for us to absorb. Hearing about atrocities in Darfur, Sudan, or Iraq, or horrible incidents right here in America can make you want to turn off the TV, close your browser and stop delivery of your paper. But as Christ-followers, this is the time we were placed within to make a difference. So we watch society grow richer and poorer at the same time. Today I read of something that moved me to speak to you.

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, apparently called the parents of a 15 year-old New Yorker killed for his iPod, tennis shoes and cell phone. Jobs offered his condolences and offered to help in any way he could. That's a wonderful gesture, and Jobs should be commended for reaching out in that way.

After the conversation the father of the boy talked to the New York Times...
"We live in a world which is changing rapidly...We have the technology that can give us the iPod and everything else, but it's not all these things. We have to work on the minds and the hearts.

We're failing these kids. We're not loving them the way we're supposed to."

Jesus spoke directly to what really matters many years ago when He said:

What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?
Matthew 16:26 (The Message)

Friends, love isn't giving stuff, making wishes come true, or placating the greed that lies within us.

Love is giving yourself. Love is living the life upfront and personal, showing your kids the joys and the heartbreaks that life is, while pointing them in the direction of the One Who is Life.

What's wrong? We've lost our way.

If you're realizing that just now, there's real hope available for you. Start reading the account of how Jesus spent His life here on earth in the book His close friend John wrote. See if you can spot why people wanted to spend their lives with Jesus instead of gathering money or possessions. Write me, and I'll send you a separate email with a chapter a day of that book from the Message, a contemporary version of the Bible that speaks to people today.

And pray that God will show you what's wrong.


David Wilson

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

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Thrill Is Gone

The thrill is gone
It's gone away from me
The thrill is gone baby
The thrill is gone away from me
Although, I'll still live on
But so lonely I'll be - B.B. King

One of the major causes of pastoral failure is burnout. Having worked in the secular world for years before becoming a pastor, I really wasn't prepared for the onslaught that burnout is.

For example, this is the week before Vacation Bible School, one of my favorite weeks of the year. Being able to relax and enjoy helping kids learn about Jesus, and even helping some begin their journey of faith with Him is usually a thrill. Physically tiring - but emotionally rewarding.

The danger in vocational ministry it seems to me is not in the special event periods like VBS, but in the everyday, week in and week out routine. People placed in your care, people you are accountable to God for - are needing to find God's will, or His peace, or strength and you are the bridge for many until their own faith has "legs" to stand on.

So within the routine, you take their hurts to the Father in prayer, and you reach out to them. This all happens while you are preparing multiple messages, working on the next leap forward for the church, examining future small group materials, missions opportunities, publicity campaigns and on and on.

And while in the secular job, you can drop your briefcase inside the front door, here your heart won't let you.

Then there's your wife and family that you so often give the leftovers of your good humor to.

Right now, the thrill is gone.

Well, there's always that promising blues guitarist career to fall back on.

So what do we do about it? (my son Sean's favorite question as a toddler)

1. Stay close to God at the exclusion of all others. You can't give away what you don't have.
2. When you feel it coming, take a break. Maybe it's a day, maybe it's a week, but usually there's a way to spend some time doing something totally unrelated to church.
3. Grow replacement appendages. :) Make it part of your mission to grow strong pastoral help in deacons or family ministry teams.

So I'll be practicing what I preach this week and taking some time. You should too.



Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Thin Places

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

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

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

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

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

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

And God showed up.

Jacob's real journey with God began that night.

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

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

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

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

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

Lead them home.


David Wilson

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

Sunday, June 26, 2005

What Every Pastor Needs

Ran across a quote today that I had forgotten.

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

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

"The mind of a scholar"

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

"The heart of a child.."

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

"The hide of a rhinocerous..."

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

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

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

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



Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Not Worthy

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

John 1:26-27 (HCSB)

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

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

Last week, I got a gentle reminder.

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

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

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

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



Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Free Fish

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

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

Today, a local lady offered Bob.

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

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

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


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

How to cope?

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

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




Sunday, June 05, 2005

A Holy Discontent

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

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

And it bothered me.

It still does.

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

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

I want that. It's a holy discontent.

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

Saturday, June 04, 2005

That Magic 5 years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's good work.



Friday, June 03, 2005

"You're the One"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But not God.

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

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

17They turned a deaf ear, they refused

to remember the miracles you had done for them;

They turned stubborn, got it into their heads

to return to their Egyptian slavery.

And you, a forgiving God,

gracious and compassionate,

Incredibly patient, with tons of love--

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

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

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



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

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Warts and All

I was reading a sermon today and caught this:

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

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

I remember warts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


You Have To Want To Hear It

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

I'm here, ready to be found

by those who haven't bothered to look.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can I ask you a question?

Do you really want to hear from God?

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

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

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

You are loved.



It's called...



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

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

Monday, May 30, 2005

Omnia mihi lingua graeca sunt

Omnia mihi lingua graeca sunt

Yesterday was a milestone in the life of one man, and a millstone around the neck of another - me. As a church, we ordained a man into the ministry last night, concluding the service with the very moving laying on of hands.

That morning, he had delivered a sermon to our church on "walking worthy". It was well contructed, well rehearsed, well delivered, and well supported. He skillfully used media, both powerpoint and video. Though it was long, no one could say it wasn't effective in transmitting what was in the text. So in a seminary sense, it delivered.

But I never sensed what all effective sermons have - that lifting past skill, through delivery, and across the distance into people's hearts that characterizes all great sermons. I'm sitting here tonight trying to figure out why, because I love the man, and I'm in a role of a mentor to him as he sets out into ordained ministry.

It's bothered me ever since the sermon was over, but I attributed it to my critical bent, or perhaps my passion for incarnational preaching. My wife even asked me if I was a little insecure about it. I answered no.

Then last night, the charge to the candidate was given by a seminary professor I respect as a man of God and as a teacher. That same feeling came rising up. I found myself asking "Is this what preaching is or should be?"

When I followed him in giving the charge to the church, it was with one of the few episodes of nervousness I have ever had in the pulpit. It quickly passed as I got into the sermon, but it was there, and it bothered me that it was. So I've been reflecting on both sermons all day.

More than anything, when I preach, I want to connect the Word to the world - that is to people's lives. I want to be the guy that delivers biblical truth in a way that people feel the truth - that God is present, that He hears and sees how we live, and that He through His Word, can give direction, can give comfort, can deliver a peace that is beyond imagination, and that He does it out of His love.

I felt very alone in that yesterday.

Each preacher was very logical, point by point in his approach. A person with any Bible knowledge at all could have outlined where they were heading after the first point.

Each trotted out their language tools and pointed out that even though our English Bibles said that the word was "____" , in the GK it was the word _____ which could also mean ____. That always bothers me, because I used to be the guy in the pew who loved God and read his Bible, but felt inferior when the preacher would trot out the original language. I now have those tools, but very, very rarely use them for that reason and one more. By doing that, I have the feeling that people who aren't very far along in their walk or are just investigating the faith have one more reason to doubt the words they see before them on their translation's page.

But I used to be those guys, before I fell in love with my people.

Now instead of preaching to them, I try to preach with them, or from among them, giving them "hooks" to tie onto, anchors to hold onto, and "canvas" that through the Spirit's force can move them farther along. It's Truth, expressed in a way that speaks into their context, that feels less like a principal's lecture and more like a Father's instruction.

My millstone is that what I do isn't what will get me acclaim, or a better placement, or a position that would allow me to influence others to look at preaching in this way. And for the life of me, I cannot do anything else.

I just don't get it. Just as you, unless you read Latin, don't get the title of this blog entry, which is "It's all Greek To Me." But I'm committing myself to become even better at this "foolishness called preaching" and make sure every sermon has everything I can do to bridge the gap into it.

Pray for me.



Sunday, May 29, 2005

Got Grace?

My beloved bride watches a lot of different TV shows than I do. I'm not even sure she's looking forward to Monday's Steven Segall Marathon.

One of the types of shows she likes to watch takes a person who is "fashion challenged" and helps them present themselves in a much better light. Many times the person's whole attitude changes just because they feel as though they look better. But sometimes I get the feeling that deep inside, though their clothes have changed, they still are the same inside.

I was reading today about a guy who was totally sold out to one way of thinking. He had gone to school to learn more about that way, and graduated magna cum fanatic. Not content to let people decide what to do with their lives, he went around telling them how to live and throwing them in jail if they wouldn't do things his way. He had power and wasn't afraid to use it.

Funny thing though, he didn't impress anyone with his speech, and as far as his looks went, he was a candidate for an extreme makeover. One writer wrote about him and said " he was small in stature, bald-headed, bow-legged, and barrel chested with meeting eyebrows and a slightly hooked nose." Can anyone say "unibrow"? Yet he was having a ball kicking people around until he met Jesus.

That meeting changed everything. The guy even changed his name. Now Paul, who was driving people away from Jesus with the power of the law behind him, began calling them back to him with a word he had never used before.


His letters would begin with grace, and end with grace. Paul never got over what God had done for him, and when he thought about it the first word that came to his mind was...


May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you his grace and peace.
2 Cor 1:2 (NLT)

Over and over you read that verse. Different churches, different times, but Paul had the same prayer for each of them - that God would give them grace.

Paul never ever got over grace. After getting blindsided by Jesus' grace he stopped worrying about his life, his work, even whether he lived or died. All he cared about, all he lived for, was to spread the good news that God's grace was available to everyone.

Even angry, bitter, power mad, short, bald-headed, bow-legged, barrel-chested uni-browed, hook-nosed men like him.

Everything changed when Paul met grace.

Oh, and afterwards, he was still short, still bald-headed, still bow-legged, still barrel chested, hook nosed and uni-browed. But I left off the last line that the ancient biographer wrote in his journal about Paul. Yes, he wrote all those unflattering adjectives, but then he wrote...

"full of grace."

That sort of change will do a body good. It's a makeover of the soul.

Got grace?


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

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Praise 101

1 Praise the LORD! Praise God in his heavenly dwelling; praise him in his mighty heaven!

2 Praise him for his mighty works; praise his unequaled greatness!

3 Praise him with a blast of the trumpet; praise him with the lyre and harp!

4 Praise him with the tambourine and dancing; praise him with stringed instruments and flutes!

5 Praise him with a clash of cymbals; praise him with loud clanging cymbals.

6 Let everything that lives sing praises to the LORD! Praise the LORD!

Psalms 150:1-6 (NLT)

In one of the most famous of the many anecdotes people told about the great football coach Vince Lombardi, my favorite is the one where he brings the world champion Green Bay Packers to the center of Lambeau Field after a particularly bad practice. He asks for silence, and when the players have all quieted down, he reaches into the equipment bag and pulls out a familiar shape. Holding it up so everyone can see it, he yells "gentlemen, we are going back to the basics. This is a football." You could have called that "Football 101."

Last night we had one of those opportunities you remember for a long time. A chance to see God at work in all His glory, in a way that left you thanking Him again and again. We got to see New Hope's own Emma dance in a production you could have called "Praise 101."

If you looked at Emma, you'd be hard pressed to see the soul of a dancer within her. She's pretty serious for a little girl going on eight. My impression is that she likes things done right - precise. People like that don't usually gravitate to the arts. But when they do... watch out!

There were a bunch of kids on the program Friday night, and they were in full possession of all those gifts God gives to help kids enjoy life, and that give those who are charged with getting them to do what's needed - indigestion.

We saw little boys who were supposed to be twirling streamers as a "peace" candle glowed - smack each other.

One little girl was so out of synch with the others at one point, I thought she'd be trampled.

One little boy, fresh from a "talking to" over the "peace" incident, stood and cried silently on stage, even as he waved his flag - though limply.

The idea was to teach kids to worship. By letting them express their joy and love toward God with dance, tambourines, and drums, they could learn how to give their all to the One Who made them the wonders they are. It's just that sometimes I wondered if the kids would come through it without being hurt by a flying flag, or whirling streamer, or in a collision of dancers occupying the same spot on the stage at the same moment.

That possibility kept you on the edge of your seat. Seeing all of the miss-steps and the kid happenings was something you could have spent the night doing. Watching for mistakes could have kept you busy all night.

I decided to watch Emma. Emma danced for God.

She concentrated on her steps. Her movements were graceful and precise. She took great pains to make sure she was at the right place, at the right time, doing the right movement. And through it all, she rejoiced. She's still little, but she knows how to praise God with her all. Her shy smile as she was brought down front to be recognized came from the knowledge that she had done all she could do for Jesus that night. They asked her how long she had been praising God and she said two years (her parents said 4). Time flies.

I think Emma's passed Praise 101.

To all you adults out there who haven't - come to worship God this Sunday with all your heart, soul, and intellect. Give it everything you've got - just like Emma did. Make God smile.



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

Thursday, May 19, 2005

School Days

11They won't go to school to learn about me,
or buy a book called God in Five Easy Lessons.

They'll all get to know me firsthand,

the little and the big, the small and the great.

Hebrews 8:11 (The Message)

There they were, at Valparaiso Elementary's graduation day - all those 5th graders we met 5 years ago when we first came to New Hope. As we walked into the cafeteria, their voices rang out "Miss Bunny", "Brother David", and we grinned and waved back. How they have grown! As the program began, each of the kids was called for one award or another, and it was hard to keep from cheering out of turn.

I watched them as they accepted the awards, and I looked carefully at the teachers as they presented them. Bunny and I don't really know who the best teachers are, not by any statistics at any rate. But as I looked at their eyes and saw the way they interacted with their kids, I formed some opinions. When we were talking afterwards with a parent, it turned out I was right. The teachers that I saw loving the kids and that the kids loved back by visibly trying to make sure they made their teacher proud were the ones every parent wanted their kids to have.

"Some families drive 30 miles just so they can have Mr. ____ as their child's teacher", one parent told me. That's a pretty amazing testimony of the influence one person can have with a child. Teaching really can be a place to serve God and society. What a difference they can make!

But now, fifth grade has ended, and that teacher is forever part of the child's past. Their influence may last a long time, but they will never be with "their kids" again. It was bittersweet realizing that one period was ending in the kid's lives, and they move into 6th grade next year - the great unknown - without the teachers and staff of Valparaiso Elementary that have known them most of their lives.

There is always some apprehension when changing schools, meeting new teachers, leaning new routines. We love these kids, and prayed that they'd go on and have a great time next year. Still, I was leaving with a little sadness. We'll just have to trust God, I told myself.

Then this verse in Hebrews popped into my mind, "They'll all get to know me firsthand, the little and the big, the small and the great."

Not only will this teacher never be left behind, but He'll also make sure every single "student" has His full attention. I thank God for that. For after the books and FCATs are long past, the relationship those kids have with Jesus will continue. They'll never be out of His care.

Nor will you!



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