Friday, December 29, 2006

God's Gifts

I'm writing this inside a house that we found available right when we needed one, the sign being put out 15 minutes before we drove by.

Beside me on the floor sleeps a wonderful friend named Henley, a Great Dane who just happened to be available as a puppy right after we had suffered the loss of another good dog friend that devastated us.

I'm writing to friends and family, most of whom I'd never have known had I not agreed to go one night (as a mere lad of 20 years of age) with a friend I met the summer before, to the home of a girl I had never met before.

Her birthday is today.

And tomorrow we'll celebrate 33 years together as husband and wife.


Yeah, people find houses all the time.
And I'm sure you can make a case for your dog.
But God has this way of meeting our needs with way more than we expected. He delights in giving gifts to His children.

And no one who has ever lived has been given a more extraordinary gift than me, in the person of my wife Bunny.

I am blessed beyond measure. How great is our God that He in His infinite mercy and grace would look upon me, a wretch of a man and give me such treasure.

We are so guilty of looking for the Mt Sinai experiences and linger so expectantly outside the tomb of Lazarus that we forget sometimes just how often God uses life in all its daily experiences to teach us about His love. Our 33 years have not always been easy as the twists and turns of God's plan rolled on, but together we've seen God work again and again and again. And I've enjoyed hearing Bunny laugh. Yes, at me, but most of all with me. She's even more beautiful on the inside. Her grace and strength have helped me grow in God's grace and served as a great help to me as I have tried to follow God and lead His people. What a gift she has been and is!

She's my forever sweetheart and love.

Bunny's not here just now or I'd never have been able to write this. But friends, I thank God for her, and for what He has done in our lives together.

And I'm on firm biblical footing.

19 Husbands, go all out in love for your wives. Col 3:19 (MSG)

Praising God for all His gifts, but especially one of them.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Thinking and Praying

This is a different week for me. Usually I'm working hard at this point in three directions. I'm finishing Wednesday night's teaching, fleshing out where Sunday morning is headed, and beginning Sunday night.

Oh and praying about what music we'll use on Sunday. Wednesday morning is drop dead time for that, because Bunny has to get the music and ppt together which is a BEAST of a job that no one ever sees, but everyone involved in the music appreciates greatly.

But this week, there's no Wednesday meeting, which also means no worship team practice. And there will be no Sunday night worship. So it's only Sunday morning to prepare for.

I'm really trying to take advantage of this unique week, and rest and renew. I have three books going, am working on redoing the website, and praying daily about where New Hope needs to go in 2007.

We have challenges ahead.

Monday, December 25, 2006

What we see that the shepherds couldn't

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.

For everything,
absolutely everything,
above and below,
visible and invisible,
rank after rank after rank of angels
-everything got started in him
finds its purpose in him.
He was there
before any of it came into existence
holds it all together
right up to this moment.

Colossians 1:15-17
The Message

Mary held her son. The shepherds saw it and rejoiced at Messiah's coming.

What they couldn't see is what we know - He holds it all.

And we are held in love, by Him.

Merry Christmas from all the Wilson family.

In His grip of grace,


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It's Christmas

Yesterday was Christmas Eve and we had two services. The Spirit was there and the people were warm. We got to see a few people we hadn't seen in quite a while, and we got to meet some others for the first time. Though we had some of our worship team out, we had a great time of congregation songs - not one "special", and that's how I'd have it be. We come to worship together, not to watch others do it.

Last night we had our candlelight carols and communion service and after some rushing around because the candles were breaking the glass cups they were in, we had what Bunny would call a "lovely service."

We're always trying some different things to see if they will help people worship. Yesterday we did responsive readings in both services. That's so not the modern thing to do. Funny thing is people came up to me and told me they liked it.

The highlights for me yesterday were - having our friend Hector step up and do media when he had never done it before, and having our chairman of deacons read the Christmas passage from Luke last night in worship.

The lowlights were not being with my family in Macon. I don't know if it was because of the loss of my father this year, or wanting to be with our oldest son, but even though I had a great time last night and was in the company of people I care for, it still was sad not being there.

When the Jebusite wanted to give David the land to build the temple on, David said "I will not give God that which costs me nothing."

Bunny, Sean and I gave God and His people last night's service.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Can You Hear His Song?

We were out doing some almost last minute running around today, and Bunny and I got separated in the store. So she did what we've found to be extremely helpful - she called my cell phone. It rang and began to play the Charlie Brown Christmas theme song - "Christmastime is here."

I love Charlie Brown, and especially the Charlie Brown Christmas special. So I enjoy hearing that song. What was funny today was that everyone near me in the electronics section at K Mart heard it too. "I love Charlie Brown too," one older woman said.

I walked away thinking about that. It's Christmas. Maybe I should have had a ring tone that explicitly called people to remember the real Christmas, not just cartoons about it. For me, that would be "Joy to the World." When I hear that, I think about Jesus. It's just His Christmas song.

The funny thing about it is that "Joy to the World" also points me to those shepherds I wrote about yesterday. They received the news first when they heard the angels sing. You know in the time of Jesus, sheep would get to know the one who was their shepherd. Sure the lambs would wind up at the temple, but their parents, the ewes and rams, would be with the shepherds for years. I wonder if they were more like pets than we think.

Sometimes the shepherd would sing a song to them as they walked along. Or he would carry a little flute and play a tune over and over until the sheep would know what it was. This is still practiced today. Sheep don't respond well to "hey, you - woolly!" apparently.

Gary Burge writes about it. Gary's a professor at Wheaton College and an expert on the Bible, ancient societies, and wrote an excellent commentary on John which this quote comes from.

In the 1980's, the Israeli government was in conflict with a Palestinian village near
Bethlehem over taxation. The officer in command rounded up all of the village animals
because of this conflict and put them all together in a common pen.

Later on, a woman approached them and explained that she was a widow, and that these
animals were her only means not to starve. They were her only livelihood and she desperately needed them. He said, a little cynically, that there would be no way to locate her sheep, because there was no way he could find the animals that were hers.

She asked, If I could separate them out, could I keep them?

He answered, Sure. You could do that.

Her son was the one who usually watched the sheep. He would have been the "under shepherd" who served the owner. This was common in ancient times also. Her son pulled out a little reed flute and played a simple tune over and over and over. In the pen where all the animals were, there was a group of sheep whose heads started popping up.

Hey, that's our song!

And twenty-five sheep recognized that song, walked out of that pen, and followed the

Jesus said,
My sheep know my voice. (John 10:27)

You can't fool the sheep. They know their shepherd.

As we prepare for Christmas at New Hope, this will be the last devotional I write. We're going to celebrate the coming of Jesus with everything we have to give. We'll certainly sing my favorite.

Joy to the World , the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Friends the "Joy" is an offer from a loving God. But just like a song, you can choose not to hear it, drown it out with your own voice, or replace it with another of your choosing.

To truly hear the song of Christmas, you have to prepare your heart and surrender your will to the King.

Can you hear His song? Are you listening?


Lead Pastor, New Hope, Valparaiso

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Or visit New Hope!

Right Now

It's 1:15 in the morning, and I'm thinking and praying about the people God has given me to love.

Christmas is coming hard upon us, and it's going to be hard for the man who just lost his father. In the middle of all the joy, a young man will continue making horrible choices. Another man, who came to know Christ while I've been here, will lay down his life yet again for his grandchildren. Then there's the young husband who just wants his wife back for Christmas, and his wife who just wants to do whatever she wants to do.

Or I could focus on the little girl who prayed that mommy wouldn't get drunk at Christmas. Or maybe the one who's mom is considering moving away. Or the little boy and girls whose daddy sits in prison...

Or on any of dozens more.

There will be churches filled with hundreds, even thousands of people this Christmas. Pastors will bring their messages to them and across the airwaves to thousands - even millions more.

But none of those who hear matter more to God than the people He's given me to care for. There are no small places or insignificant people to God.

Right now, I hurt for them. I pray that God would touch them with His grace.

Sunday I pray God will use me to help them.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas - It's For All People

I grew up in the Deep South at a time when there were great differences in our society centered on the color of a person's skin. In restaurants, in schools, and at lunchroom counters, there were lines for white people, and there was a line for colored people. At Macon Georgia's Terminal station signs cover today what was once chiseled in stone - a "White" entrance and a "Colored" one. A person coming to Macon now wouldn't see what in my memory remains so clear - we were a divided people. Some of us were the "haves" and some the "have nots", and it had always been that way. We were so blind.

I cannot understand how a nation so dedicated to freedom for all could have been so wrong about this for so long. But finally, we did change. We struggled with the truth. We refused at times even when confronted with it to acknowledge its claims. I can remember protests against Judge Bootle, conflict at Mercer's campus church, and confusion as the times really were a changing.

But they did change. Voices arose from within the nation. A rediscovery of just why we were here took place. We were exhorted to not judge a person by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. And 40 years later for the most part, Americans do.

I had to turn on the "way-back" machine for you today because I am struggling to help you understand just how the people of Israel, who saw themselves as the "light to the nations", who understood themselves to be "God's chosen people", who had law after law to remind them to treat their fellow Jew fairly - how these godly people treated those who were employed as shepherds.

Shepherds were a permanent underclass in the nation of Israel. They were despised and rejected by their own. Even though they had contributed to the making of Israel - remember at one time literally all of the tribes were nomadic shepherds, and David even rose to be the most famous king of Israel ever - by the time Christ was born all that was ancient and forgotten history. Everyone despised shepherds. They were considered second-class and untrustworthy.

To be a shepherd was to be involved in an activity critical to the worship of the people of Israel. The production of lambs for ritual sacrifices was ongoing, and the standards for those lambs were quite high. No defects, illness, or blemishes would be tolerated. So a successful shepherd delivered lambs as close to perfect as possible, and timed the birth of the newborn lambs so that they would be of sufficient age at the Passover feast, when every family in Israel was supposed to come to Jerusalem and offer sacrifice.

It was hard work- even dangerous at times as lions, wolves and thieves could threaten the sheep. To prevent the sheep from straying, a shepherd would hem the sheep into a natural sheepfold and bar the entrance with fallen logs or sometimes with his body, placing himself at the mouth of the corral. Christ Himself referred to His role as the "Good Shepherd, who lays down His life for the sheep." I'm sure Jesus' audience just chalked those references up as foolishness along with His insane penchant for hanging with tax collectors and prostitutes.

Remember, they called Jesus a friend of "sinners." Shepherds were called "sinners" because they were ceremonially unclean. Jews were told not to trade with them directly on the assumption that whatever they purchased would be stolen property. The Mishnah, a collection of rabbinic sayings, refers to them as "incompetent" and in another place intimates that no one should feel obligated to rescue a shepherd who has fallen into a pit.

They were deprived of civil rights, not being allowed to hold judicial offices or serve as witnesses at trial. People would avoid them, spit at them, chase them away.

Again, I can remember when it wasn't so different here.

If you were a gentile, there was a place for you - the Court of the Gentiles. If you were a woman, there was a place for you - the Court of Women. But if you were a shepherd, though you were where David, the shepherd-king of Israel once reigned, you were relegated to the far courts.

The shepherds brought their flocks to the wall of Jerusalem and watched as gentiles collected the lambs. The shepherds never were able to worship as the "good" people did, being made to stay in the same place as the rest of the "sinners", even though their efforts made it possible for the "good" people to worship freely.

And yet God seems to have a special place in His heart for shepherds. The rabbis marveled at how in light of the despicable reputation of shepherds, God Himself was referred to by the Psalmist in 23:1 as 'my shepherd'.

When it came time to announce the birth of the King, the logical thing to do would have been to have the angels descend on the Temple in Jerusalem. They would be immediately in contact with the learned priests, scribes, and rabbis who could respond in worship and spread the news. The worship could then go on for months - even years. The best and brightest of the people of Israel would know what to do.

But instead, God went to the shepherds.

He ignored those who were sure they were first in His eyes and chose to meet instead with those "everyone" had decided He could never love.

He rushed past all the fine furnishings, the impeccable dress, and the well rehearsed priests and musicians when He chose the people to bless with His news. How odd of God.

The shepherds had no temple, no priest, and no choir. They had nothing and no one on their side. The only reputation they had was uniformly bad. No means of worship, no hope of being heard. They had been banished to the desert plains and given only their sheep as companions. So into this context of societal smugness and prejudice, far from the "right" places and the "right" people, God decided that the first people who needed to hear "It's a boy! Oh and He's Messiah!" were the despised and rejected shepherds.

God's light began to shine clearly into their dark place.

And a worship celebration broke through to earth from heaven.

8 There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. 9 Suddenly, God's angel stood among them and God's glory blazed around them. They were terrified. 10 The angel said, "Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: 11 A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. 12 This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger."
13 At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God's praises:

14 "Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him."

Luke 2:8-14 (MSG)

So the nobodies who couldn't worship freely since they weren't good enough got to experience worship like no one has ever seen. Those so despised that they were forced to live on the fringes were placed in the center of God's work. The last had become first. When they were shown the side door and relegated to the outskirts of God's neighborhood, the Lord Almighty simply kicked down the doors and redrew the map to include them.

Yeah, I think that qualifies as "great joy."

The news they received let the shepherds know that even if the world's standards for people stayed the same, God's new plan included them.

This good news was "meant for everybody..." for all people.

It still is.

May we walk into the light this Christmas forever remembering just how far we have to go before we see that joy and His peace break out everywhere.


David Wilson

Lead Pastor - New Hope, Valparaiso

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Fail Forward

One of the slogans we use at New Hope is to "Fail Forward." I'm not sure if I coined it before John Maxwell, or he picked it up listening to me, but basically in the way we mean it, it is to learn from your mistakes and keep trying new things.

We will complete a learning experience this morning with the close of our Christmas Vacation VBS.

There were successes in the attempt and those may prove very valuable as God's will plays out.

The majority of kids weren't known to us previously, so we got some initial conversations with them and their parents, and the kids seemed to have a ball.

Our adults served others, which when you are trying to roll missionally, is the big deal. And again, they served strangers, which is also a big deal.

The youth that helped - helped. They served as the kitchen magicians, shepherds for the kids, and always presented smiling faces and willing hearts.

And of course, we had a ball.

But ( or however, if I'm channeling Paul) we didn't have many kids at all. So the expenditure in time, energy, and money was way over the top for the number of kids we received. This was after publicizing it through the school and with our Christmas float. We put hundreds of flyers in parents and kids hands.

So now I reflect and pray though it. There's no doubt we need to find a way to connect the networks we live in better. There's also probably a better way to get the word out. And it may be that we didn't sell the concept well enough to our own kids - our best ambassadors.

So we'll celebrate the successes this morning and keep moving.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Whenever You Hold A Child

Christmas time always causes me to rummage around in my closet of memories. If you're like me, you've got stuff in there.

For me, back there past the 3rd grade report card I'm still grousing over from one December past, or the memory of the time the heat pump went out when I was 2200 miles away from a freezing Macon, GA, are memories upon memories of Christmases.

Some examples?

One Christmas when I was a child, I received a toy helicopter with a broken windshield. A note affixed read "sorry, dropped off the sleigh. - Santa". I come by my sense of humor genetically, obviously.

Another found Bunny and me walking away from a guitar store, not buying, but selling my guitar to pay for Christmas for the boys. We had smiles on our faces, thinking about how they were going to enjoy the toys. No regrets, only memories of their joy.

Or the Christmas we were working with kids at "My Friends House" in Niceville. I can still see the excited faces as those foster kids who had been abused, battered, and deprived all their lives ripped into the presents each was given. What a thrill it was to play with them that day, and to tuck them into their beds - exhausted - that night.

Really, most of my memories of Christmas revolve around children. I get excited every year to see the little ones as they begin to anticipate the day's coming. When I read the Christmas story, I remember what it's like to hold a newborn son. Joy floods your soul as you cradle this new life - full of promise, bathed in love, fresh from the arms of God. Sometimes Bunny and I will walk away from church after encounters with our New Hope kids and say "we need one of those." We love children.

So when I read Zachariah's "song" and see this

And you, my child, "Prophet of the Highest,"
will go ahead of the Master to prepare his ways,
77Present the offer of salvation to his people,
the forgiveness of their sins.
78Through the heartfelt mercies of our God,
God's Sunrise will break in upon us,
79Shining on those in the darkness,
those sitting in the shadow of death,
Then showing us the way, one foot at a time,
down the path of peace. Luke 1:77-79

When I visualize this scene, I see a man holding his son. Maybe John was sleeping - you like them to get in that routine early. Or maybe he was looking up at his daddy, fist in his mouth, or with arms outstretched. I can see those dimples on the backs of his hands, and his little bitty toes. A baby, held tight in the arms of love.

Zachariah, unlike most anyone else, had a clear understanding from God directly about what the result of his son's life would be. That passage is God's announcement of just what the life of John the Baptist would mean.

But remember, Zach and Liz couldn't just kick back and not do the work of being John's parents - just the opposite. God's plan for John's life required Zachariah and Elizabeth to do what they only could do, and that is to "train up a child in the way he should go..." Before John could show anyone else the "path of peace", he had to be taught the "way".

Friends, when you hold a child, you are holding God's investment into the future of this world. You are holding one of His masterpieces of creation. Snug within your arms lies the continuation of God's purpose and plan.

That child you hold may be someone like John, who will show many people the way.
That child you hold may be someone like Mary, whose life will be used to change the world forever.

Your part in that isn't just to hold them, but to mold them into people who grow up to live for Jesus. Whenever you do, you are touching generations yet to come with His love.

So this Christmas, why not take time each night to read the Christmas Scriptures? Talk with your kids about God's love for the world expressed through Jesus. Let them pretend they are shepherds, wise men, Joseph and Mary. Let them enter into the wonder and experiences that surround Christ's birth.

Make their memories of Christmas include Jesus.

And give them a hug for Bunny and me.


David Wilson
Lead Pastor - New Hope Valparaiso
Visit with me at my blogs:
Or visit New Hope!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

In the Wilderness

Seems like a most "un-Christmasy" title, doesn't it? But as I've been reading and rereading those texts which we use as the basis for our look at Christ's coming, this line jumped out at me.

80 John grew up and became strong in spirit. Then he lived out in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel.

Luke 1:80 (NLT)

It's referring to John the Baptist, and is placed immediately after Zachariah's prophetic speech about who his boy is and what he's going to become. And part of that "becoming" was a stint in the wilderness.

The wilderness is a harsh and unforgiving place. Back then the term signified places that you wouldn't see a single sign of man's presence. No houses, no farms, no roads. When you were there, it was just you - and God. I love the way Jesus explains what the wilderness is like when he responds to a crowd in Luke's gospel.

After John's messengers left to make their report, Jesus said more about John to the crowd of people. "What did you expect when you went out to see him in the wild? A weekend camper? 25 Hardly. What then? A sheik in silk pajamas? Not in the wilderness, not by a long shot. Luke 7:24-25 (MSG)

I get the idea that if you are headed to the wilderness, be ready for a lot more than some scenery. It's not a place that recognizes people by what they own, or by their status. It is what it is.

Jesus frequently made use of it.

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. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. Luke 5:15-16 (NLT)

At the height of His ministry. When the crowds around Him were like Walmart during Christmas season, Jesus went to the Wilderness.

If you're like we are here, the days between now and Christmas are stuffed - packed - nigh to bursting - with this party and that one, this activity and the other. You find yourself plunging again and again into the flood-tide of commercialism and trying to ford the deep waters of the crowds. It's tiring. It's aggravating. At this time of year, just when you want on a deep level to connect with the God Who left heaven and moved into our neighborhood, you find yourself in a mood not fit for man nor beast.

Maybe it's time for a wilderness experience.

Take 15 minutes each day beginning today. Unplug the telephones. Set your cell to stun - err vibrate. Turn off the TV and step away from IM and email. Find a place and meet with God. No one has to see you there. No one has to know. In fact, that's the idea of a wilderness experience. You have no One to turn to - but God.

Meet Him there today. And tomorrow. And the days after that.


David Wilson
Lead Pastor, New Hope Valparaiso
Visit with me at my blogs:
Or visit New Hope!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Follow That Leader

Tonight Bunny and I went out to Lewis Middle School to hear some of New Hope's kids play in their band's Christmas concert. This year, we had three involved - Nathan Fannon, Emily Shermer, and EJ Huston. It was a last minute thing for us - Emily popped into my office today and told me "we're playing the Charlie Brown music."

Well, of course, I had to be there since not only do I love New Hope's kids, but I am a huge Charlie Brown fan. His theme is my ringtone. So we braved the cold and made our way to a full and breezy gymnasium.

The concert was wonderful. They all did great and we are so proud of them. These are bright kids, full of promise. We have to figure out a way to use the tuba, saxophone and clarinet in our praise band at New Hope. I'm sure there's an arrangement of "How Great Is Our God" that features the tuba. What? Oh... Well still, they played great!

As I watched each ensemble play, one common thread ran through them all.

The band director, Mr. Tredway.

He was funny, engaging, fierce in his love for his students, and connected to the music by his heart. Racing with a microphone from musician to musician, he made sure each got their place in the spotlight. As he encouraged the audience to reward the performers with applause, it seemed to me that he was as excited about what each kid did as any parent could ever be.

It was fascinating to see this man, who no doubt has a great knowledge of and ability in music, get such joy out of every song, every measure, every note, even when sometimes every note wasn't perfect. His joy was infectious. To me it was obvious why the band did well.

But what really told me a great deal about him wasn't listed in the program. Or maybe I should put it this way - he, the band director and emcee for the evening concert - wasn't listed in the program. Thinking back, I remembered his dress was nondescript, and he deliberately withdrew from the front at times to give the kids every scrap of attention.

I think he made a conscious decision to do those things - to deflect, even disregard personal notice or acclaim.


It wasn't about him.

It was all about the kids and the music.

When I sit here tonight thinking about our "music" - the story of Jesus, I wonder - are we doing the same? Are we doing all we can to let people know that the reason we have our hope is all because of Jesus? When they see us make it through a tough scrape are we careful to point out Jesus' love or do we claim we figured it out? When we get that promotion or buy that new car, do we bask in the praise and think "I deserve this" or do we make sure we give credit where credit is due?

And do we sometimes forget that we were placed here on earth to help people find Jesus, not to make sure our needs are met? Are there times when we find ourselves thinking that we should be rewarded for doing what Christ expects us to do naturally?

Chris Tredway did an awesome job tonight of helping his kids shine.

What kind of job are we doing for Jesus?

We 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 (NLT)

Since Jesus has given us everything we have, let's follow His lead and give up our lives for Him.



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Thursday, December 07, 2006


Last night, I was at New Hope, trying desperately to bring some light onto what for most of us is a dark and dusty part of the Scriptures - Leviticus. I know, we're New Testament Christians, not under the law but under grace - got that. But I'm convinced that we've missed a great deal of needed background - even foundational materials when we pretend the OT doesn't exist. So I'm teaching through the OT on Wednesday nights and someone snuck Leviticus in there on me, right after Exodus - who knew?

So last night I'm in chapter 8, trying to relate to the people around me that some things have changed since that day and some have not. That the High Priest's clothing said things about how they were to relate to God and each other, just as how we live today in view of the people around us who are not yet followers of Jesus says things about whether we really do follow Christ.

Folks, I was really trying with everything I've got to make the connection that even though we aren't dressed up in easily recognizable "garments" that tell the world that we are a "kingdom of priests, a royal priesthood...", that in fact we are just that. And that in a world like ours, our humility, kindness, and servant nature - our being like Jesus - might just be more visible and more powerful than seeing the high priest walk by was then.

As I was teaching, trying to connect, I looked to my left and there sat both of my sons. A rare event now, as Adam our oldest still lives in Middle Georgia. It's been quite a while since he's heard his daddy teach. He and Sean were sitting together, listening.

They are men now themselves, at 23 and 28, and have seen me in all sorts of circumstances and among all sorts of people. I love them fiercely, always have, always will. That's not to say I've been perfect at it, but helping them grow up as men and introducing them to Jesus has been my goal from the first time my eyes saw each of them after their birth.

Frankly, at that very moment last night I prayed a brief silent prayer with everything I had to give, that nothing I have done has hindered them in their journey with God. Then I moved on, trusting in the love of the Father to fill the gaps in this daddy's attempts to love them like Jesus.

I've written all this to say - as you are putting time and energy into getting just that right gift for your sons or daughters this Christmas, please take a moment each day to pray to the Father for guidance on how to live in such a way that your life offers them the gift of Jesus' love reflected through your words and actions.

Those toys and electronics will be long gone one day, as they are with my boy's toys, but the ways you have given them Jesus' love will last forever.

Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it-because it does. Give yourselves to the gifts God gives you. Most of all, try to proclaim his truth. 1 Corinthians 14: 1


David Wilson
Lead Pastor, New Hope Valparaiso

Visit with me at my blogs:
Or visit New Hope!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Ornaments, Trees, and Memories

Our Christmas tree is up here at the Wilson house. This year there were some changes - different house, different tree. A special treat was having our oldest son Adam here on vacation when it was put up. I can still remember the first Christmas he spent with us and what joy we felt at the amazing blessing of a son. Having him here this time of year was awesome.

On our tree, if you examined it, you'd be able to find a time line of our family's history through the ornaments that hang from each branch. Over the years we've accumulated quite a few, and every one carries memories of where we were and what was happening in our family. In fact, there are some that don't usually make the cut on the tree - cheap hand painted ones done by all of us during some pretty lean years as we began our ministry career.

On two branches, there are felt ornaments with pictures of two little boys contained within them. Probably cost 25cents to make, but to us they are priceless. Sometimes the boys move them to the back. But they always seem to find their way out front again. On several are ornaments that are reminders of the years Bunny spent working as a manager of a Hallmark store in Macon Mall.

Bunny hung one last night that she said was one of her favorites when she was a little girl. There are others we got on shopping trips, or picked up because of what they said to us, like the one carved from any olive tree near Bethlehem. Then there are the dog bone ornaments for Daisy the mini schnauzer and Chloe the Great Dane, faithful friends absent now but who we still remember in love. And there are some ornaments gathered while we've been here in Valparaiso - like the Flip Flops one that makes me smile.

It's so easy for me as I look at the tree to turn it into a sentimental journey.

So each year, among the family ornaments, amidst the memories, we take care to place another ornament - a nail hung by a scarlet ribbon. It's placed near the inside of the tree, away from the lights and glitter, and you'd have a tough time spotting it unless you knew it was there. But we know it is there, at the center of it all.

It reminds us what we should be looking at every day, not just at Christmas.


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.

Col 1:15-16 (MSG)

I love my family, and appreciate the blessings we've been given and the memories we share. But more than anything else, I want to remember, I want everyone to remember to base our lives upon what God revealed through Jesus.

For everything, absolutely everything, not just Christmas, got started in Him and finds its purpose in Him. Whatever you do this Christmas, don't miss that.



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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Henley the Dane

If I can only be half the man my dog thinks I am. Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 04, 2006

Now and Not Yet

There are times when I dream about what it would be like if everyone could grasp the love of Jesus. And not just grasp as in a clinical or academic sort of way, I mean grasp it - well really, be held in His grasp. What would happen if people could see and respond to love in its purest form, without letting their past, pedigree or preferences get in the way?

No, I'm not under the influence of any substances. I'm just someone who follows Jesus. Oh, and someone whose life revolves around helping other people do it too.

And yes, I live firmly grounded in reality - in the now. But I place my hope in Jesus, God of both the now and the not yet.

Last night, the two came together.

New Hope opened her heart and her doors to the community to celebrate the Christmas miracle with us. In a celebration that included Eglin's bell choir and New Hope's praise team, we were treated to what Jesus pointed to as the key to the now and not yet - the sincerity of a child. (" Mark this - Unless you accept God's kingdom in the sincerity of a child, you'll never get in." Mark 10:15 MSG)

New Hope's kids sang like angels last night.

They put aside apprehension and fear, ignored a packed sanctuary with people sitting even in the lobby, and gave all they had to Jesus in praise. Bunny and I cannot believe just how well they sang. Our hearts are bursting with pride in them and praise for God's gifts.

What was also amazing was their attitude in doing it. There were no performers on the stage, just people trying to tell a story about God's love for us expressed through the birth of Jesus.

From Madeleine Huston, our wee first grader, to Robert Hughes, our elderly chairman of deacons, the love of Jesus poured out on us in song. If we are this blessed now here at New Hope, what must God have in store for us later?

I know life is hard for some now, and things around the world can make one wonder whether God is at work in this present reality. But think of it this way - it's like watching the bell choir last night - We see movement but cannot hear anything until the clapper strikes the bell. That does not mean the bell is not about to ring, just not yet.

When I see God at work like last night, I choose to look forward to the future joys - living in the now, but expecting the "not yet" of God's grace to break out any minute.

Kind of like one of those "And in the same country there were shepherds..." moments. :)

I thank God for allowing me the opportunity of seeing one last night.



(BTW -This Glimpse was specially commissioned by my wife Bunny, because she 'didn't have the words' since she was overcome with joy.)
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Saturday, December 02, 2006


And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2 (ESV)

It's Christmas card time again. I was looking for a lost scrap of paper yesterday and found year upon year''s stash of Christmas cards we had received.

Most of the cards seem to center on one of three main themes - Santa Claus and his gang, winter frolics, or cartoon characters. For a while there a few years back, angels were making a comeback, but lately they seem to have faded in popularity a bit. Some years the cards glitter more than others.

But overwhelmingly they are cheerful, wishing people the "best!" For some people, maybe most people (good, normal people) it's not a big deal. You just go buy some cards, perhaps they reflect the birth of Jesus, or maybe you pick some with Snoopy, Frosty, or Scooby Doo on them, write a note of good cheer inside, and mail them.

After reading and rereading the Christmas passages in the Bible this past week, one thing stood out about Christmas. It was anything but cheerful. People all over Israel were having to make their way back to their family home town (Ever been on a trip with whiny kids? Multiply.) Joseph and Mary wound up staying with the animals in a gritty, dirty stable. And the Son of God, love's purest light, found His first resting place in a spittle drizzled feeding trough.

Maybe that's why when I look at how God announces His acts in Scripture, overwhelmingly the number one way that chose to make them known was some variation on this - "Fear Not!"

Wonder why that was?

Some funny things about when God shows up:

He enters with a lot more authority than we are accustomed to.
He's especially adept at changing the status quo.
He's not particularly interested in hearing "we never did it that way before."
He frequently calls the person He visits to boldly go where they've never gone before.

Oh and there's that other thing...

-where He calls that person or persons to go in following Him might result in their poverty, sickness, terror, grief, or even death.

So "Fear Not!" for me.

Oh, and one other thing about God's announcements. Since they come from our Father, they always work out for our best. It's that "... good news of a great joy that will be for all the people..." part. And they called Him Jesus, for He would save His people from their sins.

Announcing -The greatest gift, from the greatest giver. Jesus! - So... fear not!



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Friday, December 01, 2006

It's Like Riding A Bike

The phrase, 'Just like riding a bike,' is one that can apply to almost anything. It's generally used when someone does something well that they haven't done in a long time. You do know that not all of those old sayings are universally true, right? I have a first hand report on this one. It ain't necessarily so.

Recently, two of the great people I serve with at New Hope gave me a brand new bicycle. I had made some noises earlier in the year about getting back into shape, and suggested that I might get a bike and try that instead of running. Well, one Saturday morning, they showed up here with a brand new mountain bike - a Jeep - in desert camo! As one of them told me the other night as I recounted my experiences with it, "be careful what you wish for." I'm so blessed by the people at New Hope.

So anyway, after some adventures around the neighborhood, I decided it was time to get busy. I jumped on it and headed off to church the other day, a distance of maybe a mile or less and almost died.

First, who knew that my legs had completely forgotten that peculiar motion?
Then there's these gear things - they may be wonderful, but I seemed to have the ability to pick whatever gear was the worst at any given moment.

So while I'm positive I'll get better and enjoy it immensely, I am living proof that you cannot count on picking up anything right where you left off. Even riding a bike.Especially riding a bike.

Including celebrating Christmas.

Friends, I've been scratching and clawing in my soul the past few days, eagerly seeking to get back into the "Christmas spirit". Anyone else out there finding it hard to do?

Part of me says it's just that the externals aren't done - no tree, no lights, no outward show of what season it is. But I've celebrated without any of those.

There's another part that sees the hurts among people I love here, and around the world, and replays my own. That part says, "don't be foolish - that sort of feeling is for kids. You're past that now."

No, I'm not.

I do think and pray about the mom whose son has just left home, and the young man who's struggling to rebuild his faith and his marriage. I do remember what the families I care for have been through - heart surgeries, catherizations, sadness, and loss. And yes, I already miss my father's laugh as he shared Christmas with us.

But that's exactly why I NEED Christmas. I need to know beyond a doubt that somewhere, somebody noticed our hurts - and not just somebody - but someone who can DO something about them.

So I've been reading and re-reading the prophecies and the gospels. And I never noticed it before, but as a prelude to Christmas, the historian named Luke wrote this.

So many others have tried their hand at putting together a story of the wonderful harvest of Scripture and history that took place among us, 2 using reports handed down by the original eyewitnesses who served this Word with their very lives. 3 Since I have investigated all the reports in close detail, starting from the story's beginning, I decided to write it all out for you, most honorable Theophilus, 4 so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt the reliability of what you were taught. Luke 1 - The Message

That word translated "reliability " here, carries deeper weight than that. At it's root it means "undoubted truth" or something "kept safe from harm".

Kind of like something you can go back to and know you'll find it just as it should be.


The gift of a God Who could stand by no longer outside while His children were hurting on the inside.

I may have forgotten how to ride a bike, but with God's help, I'll never forget Christmas.



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Thursday, November 30, 2006

In Churches Like This

The picture here is of my wife as she leads a group of New Hope's kids and youth last night. Each Wednesday night she begins at 5:30 PM with worship team practice, then Girl's Choir. They sing and they share.

We're a smaller church, but this is high impact discipleship. Love relating to love, out of a shared walk with Jesus.

My wife does an awesome job with these guys every week. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Mission: Love God, Love People, Serve All

"This is my life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message. It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise, God handling all the details.

When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God's way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities.

And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ.
" Ephesians 3:7 The Message

Someone asked me the other day about when I was called into the ministry. I laughed and told them that I didn't jump into this life, I was pushed. And what I didn't know about the life a pastor leads could fill a book (and will someday).

I'm in way over my head. But this life, this crazy life, is a sheer gift.

I am thankful tonight for all those people God has graced my life with. It's awesome to see God at work in the lives of the people He's placed us with. New Hope is a special place.

But there are so many people who aren't a part of a faith-family like New Hope.

Today I went with Bunny to the dentist. While I was there, I must have talked to the receptionist for 45 minutes - or really, listened. I learned about her childhood growing up here when there were hardly any houses near the beach and sand dunes stretched all the way from Seagrove Beach to Destin. I heard about the school she attended that was 1st through 12th grade until she got to High School. She told me about her family now, of her mother's health problems and her father's wishing she would get back in church. And she told me about her daughter's struggles and the pain that caused her.

All I did to begin the flood of information was ask how her Thanksgiving went, and mention at one point that we had killed some time before we came there looking at the homes near the ocean.

Maybe today she just needed someone to care enough to listen. I told her that I would pray for her daughter and her family. Then the office got busier and she was called away.

Friends, we can do this. Yes, we are unqualified. Certainly there are people better suited. But God has given us everything we need to make a difference for Him. Are you available?


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Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Kingdom of God Peeking Around the Corner

We had three little boys come forward Sunday. Awesome display of God's ability to draw people to Himself. Scary thinking about how to do our part in helping them not just find the Way, but learn how to walk in it.

One of the hard lessons I've learned as a pastor is just how poor a job every church I have ever been a part of, as a child, an adult member, and now as a pastor is at children's discipleship. Many times the parents are our only saving grace. But today, with the majority of kids coming from families touched by divorce, and the majority of people not being connected to a church... well, it's worse than ever.

So when the service ended Sunday I began praying for those boys and searching again for some things we can do as a community of faith to help them grow deep in the love of Christ.

Tonight, I was amazed as I heard his sister tell her small group teacher that she had already started her brother on his devotionals. She was reading them with him and praying together with him. This is a teenager that came to Christ while I've been here at New Hope, along with her mom. This young woman has got a real faith that is expressed in service.

Oh, thank you God. Thank you that I could see that one glimpse of how You are going to grow your church. It was like seeing the Kingdom of God peeking around the corner.

And Lord, keep me from being so shocked that you did something without me. :)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thank God

It's Thanksgiving week here, and on a cold afternoon, I was reading Leviticus and trying to keep warm. We've been looking at this very Jewish book for the last month in our Wednesday night Bible study small group. Each week, I've tried to build the bridges between what we see in the old sacrificial system and today. Some weeks it works well, others not so much.

This week we'll look at the sin offering.

It's hard to get over how bloody their worship was. There's blood everywhere. They throw it, pour it, and in this week's twist, the priest dips his fingers in it and smears it on the "horns" of the altar. Blood... everywhere.

If you're like me, you don't think about blood much. But today I was reading a blog, and a post from a GI about his days in Iraq made me think.

"Everything I have on today is something I wore in Iraq, my boots scuffed and bleached from sand and dirt and hard use, my blood type written in faded black ink on the outside and inside of each heel.
Before leaving Kuwait for the trip into Iraq in February 2005 I took all my Army brown T shirts into the shower trailer next to C for Charlie Companies tents and wrote my last four and blood type on the front of all of them. I was alone, and in the humid air of the trailer, I remember the act feeling rather sad and final.
Later, later, after seeing, working on, and evacing wounded I wrote my blood type on my belt, and later my boots, O POS."

As he contemplated going into harm's way, he prepared by writing his blood type almost everywhere he could think of. Why? Because blood is life. The precious seconds lost in determining what blood type a solider has could be the difference between life and death. So that GI made sure every way he could that no time would be wasted on him.

When I thought about how that must have felt, to be coldly anticipating your being wounded or killed so vividly that you inscribe your blood type everywhere, I am again humbled and thankful to live in a nation that produces such men and women. They prepare for the worst, and then go forward hoping for the best, trusting in their equipment, their training, and their comrades.

As I was thinking about that I realized - John the Baptist looked up one day and saw the One God had chosen to take the place of sacrifice and pay the price. His blood would be poured out for our sins. He cried out:

"Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" John 1:29

And unlike that GI, who prepared but hoped he'd never need any of his notes to be read,

Jesus knew.

He knew that He would bleed and die. For us.

For that, and for the abundant life He's given us, I thank God.


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Monday, November 20, 2006

Teach the Children... Well?

This past Sunday morning, we had three boys come forward during the invitation to publicly profess their faith in Jesus Christ. A few weeks ago, we had a young girl do the same. The question of children and faith has always been one I've struggled with.

One the one hand, there's no doubt that Christianity as practiced in the USA means that if you don't make converts before they reach adulthood, your chances with them after are dismal. But sitting in opposition to that are all those stats about teenagers who supposedly made childhood professions and then walk away from faith when they go off to school.

What to do?

On the front end, we try very hard to determine if the child is able to understand concepts such as their sin, their responsibility before God for that sin, and the atonement. But even when they answer every question correctly, there are doubts. Why? Because I've seen the results first hand when discipleship is made optional.

I'm searching right now for the right model and materials to use to begin these kids on their journey with Jesus and keep them growing in Him. I'm open to suggestions, so if any readers have some ideas along this line, please shoot them to me.
How Do You Pass It On?

21 The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You've got to love both.

1 John 4:21 (MSG)

There were a lot of songs in the 1975 Baptist hymnal that had never been there before. You see the Baptists had awakened to a brand new day - the day of the Living Bible, the praise chorus, and youth alive! So this new hymnal had some songs in it that reflected their great leap forward. Some were good. Some,not so good. On those Sunday nights when our minister of music Lowell Hopkins would turn to the congregation and ask for requests, some of those not so good hymns would always come racing out of the mouths of some.

Hymn #120 - God of Earth and Outer Space was one of them. Did you know God could "fling?" Read that hymn and you'll find that God has flung. But my least favorite was "Pass It On." Do you remember it?

It only takes a spark to get a fire going,
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing;
That's how it is with God's Love,
Once you've experienced it,
Your spread the love to everyone
You want to pass it on.

What a wondrous time is spring,
When all the trees are budding
The birds begin to sing, the flowers start their blooming;
That's how it is with God's love,
Once you've experienced it.
You want to sing, it's fresh like spring,
You want to pass it on.

It was just so...

Well, anyway, I was looking around at all the children and youth that we have not just attending at New Hope, but now serving and I was praying that God would keep them close and involved with him all their lives. And up walked Kelsey Morton.

Kelsey is a wee lass, with a personality far bigger than her stature. But that day she was downcast. Her grandfather had to be taken to the hospital and she was distraught with worry. One look at her eyes and you knew she was in pain. Before Sunday school, Bunny had prayed with her. Before the worship service, I had and so had Sharon Wilcoxen. Then our chairman of deacons, Robert Hughes, a older man of grace and dignity that everyone loves, heard Kelsey's heart. I looked down the aisle and he had bent low with his head bowed and was praying with her.

Before the first note of music, before the first words were said, four people at New Hope had joined their hearts with a little girl and asked God to help her.

Maybe that's how you pass it on.

Love God, Love People, Serve Everyone

I call that - New Hope!



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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What Is "Success"?

Evangelicals are always reaching forward for success. Always striving, never thriving. This sense of *thriving* always seems just around the corner… when we reach 100, or 300, or 1,000, or after we get our new building. But it is seldom a present-tense experience. Like drinking seawater, we can’t get enough, and the more we drink, the thirstier we get. ~~ Keith Drury

I love Drury's work, even if he is a Wesleyan Arminian. :)

For me, thriving would be more centered on getting the people I love and care for centered in their obedience to and walk with Christ. If I could catch people frequently in the act of being Christ-like when they didn't know anyone was looking, then I'd (after the obligatory happy dance of joy) be tempted to consider that we might have turned the corner.

I get glimpses.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Learning to follow, helping to grow

They call it Discipleship.

One writer penned: Discipleship is the intensely personal activity of two or more persons helping each other experience a growing relationship with God. Discipleship is being before doing, maturity before ministry, character before career.

My intention is to focus intensely on the process of discipleship during the next 8 weeks. My hope is that through study, godly counsel, conversations with our friends, and much prayer, that I can devise a discipleship strategy for New Hope that will radically improve what we are doing.

I'll be looking at the efforts of Willow Creek, Saddleback, Northpoint, Fellowship, Perimeter and the like. But I'll also be reading Wesley and Calvin.

We must get better.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Just An Ordinary Sunday

It's just an ordinary Sunday.

We'll meet at the same old time, in the same old place, and may very well leave the same old people.

Or, there could be fire!

One family comes having been apart for two weeks and taking a first step toward reconciliation.
Another comes with heavy hearts knowing a brother is quickly fading away.
A teen wonders if life will get any better.
Two pews back, and 80 year old, without his wife for two years now wonders the same.

And I, praying like mad, desperate for God's power to be revealed...

preach, believing.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

It's Always Something

My friend Randy Mathews and I used to work together almost every day of the week. We were just two of the 66,000 or so employees of Procter and Gamble, but there were times when we went at that work with a ferocity that would have made you think it all depended on us. Either of us could share stories to attest to that.

There were the times we'd leave Macon at 4:15 in the morning to be at Piggly Wiggly HQ in the sweet onion capital of the world, Vidalia GA. Or the time it was 6 degrees below zero, our company cars wouldn't start, and we made our rounds in his 1969 Skylark - vinyl roof flapping in the cold breeze. The "world's largest display of shampoo" or the "world's first color newspaper ad for Pepto Bismol" - that was us.

Randy was a born salesman. He was at his best around people. Sometimes I'd cringe at how outgoing he was. One of the things he'd do that would drive me crazy was that he would wish everyone "Merry Christmas" - ALL YEAR ROUND! But his sense of humor somehow just had to keep things stirred up - so people couldn't ignore him. He was a faithful member of his church, a good father and husband. Just a great guy.

I left Procter and Gamble after 9 years to pursue this calling, and Randy continued on. We moved down here and I lost touch with Randy. I had heard that he was on disability, but didn't know why, unless the dozens of NuWay hot dogs we ate or those "fresh french fries" he used to order had finally caught up with him.

When my father passed away, Randy wrote his condolences on the newspaper's tribute site. I saw that and replied. Randy told me he wasn't doing well, and asked me to pray for him. I wrote back and asked him to tell me more. It turns out that my friend has had two heart procedures and three spinal surgeries. He's in constant pain. And recently they've told him that unless he has another operation, he might lose his eyesight. I wrote him back expressing my disbelief and sorrow over what has happened and he replied "It's always something."


Do you remember the shortest verse in the Bible?

Ok, then do you remember the story it comes out of?

Jesus came back to Bethany, with a worried and puzzled group of disciples, only to be greeted by a woman wracked by grief. His friend Lazarus was dead.

Then He went out to Lazarus' grave,
and the second person of the Trinity,
He Who was and is to come,
the maker of everything that there is
- was rocked by His emotions.

The writer simply pens, "Jesus wept."

The people there that day made an assumption. That Jesus was grieving for what had happened.

What if Jesus was grieving for what was to happen - not just for Lazarus, but for Randy, for you and me, for every one of us who suffers?

Maybe the One Who gave His life for us was grieving, not because Lazarus was dead, but because the sin that entered the world with Adam's fall means we will all know heartbreak and loss - and it didn't have to be that way.

Jesus said as much, remember?

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.

And yet it is what He said next that can give everyone who believes in Jesus hope.

But take heart, because I have overcome the world." John 16:33 (NLT)

Our hope, our comfort, our ability to find peace in the midst of trials and sorrows can only be found in Jesus.

Yes, it's always something.

But thank God there's always someone - Jesus - Who is near.


David Wilson

Friday, October 20, 2006


The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.

Prov 27:9 (NLT)

A pastor wears many hats. We are told to pay attention to the work of the Word and to prayer. We are to manage the church well. We are to equip the saints for the work of ministry. We're to exhort, rebuke, and encourage.

That's not an exhaustive list, but it can be an exhausting one.

The visible parts of ministry - preaching and teaching - have no where near the demands on your heart and soul as do the work with - struggles with and for - people do. Helping people through the trials of life is a great responsibility and challenge.

As I look back over years of ministry, I'd guess that 90% of people who come to me to talk about something they are struggling with actually have already decided what they will do about it and just want to talk and/or to be told that what they are doing is okay.

It's frustrating because I know that God has to be in total charge for them to receive His best not just during the trial but after. And so many only want it to be over. They want to cut and run. So they will tell me they are praying for God to show them what to do when they have already made up their mind, many times ignoring clear instruction from Scripture.

If you cannot get a grip on when the Word tells you - to flat out "do this" or "don't do that", then what do you expect me to do for you?

I cannot twist the universe's laws to fit your predispositions.

I cannot cause anything that has been done already to be removed from memory or consequences.

But if you come to God in repentance and humility, asking Him to cleanse and lead - He will.

Just do it.

/rant off :)

Thursday, October 19, 2006


"Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it.

Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good.

Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

Romans 12:9-10 The Message

Every Wednesday night, Ethel Jemima, Emmeline aka Emma-lemon, Kylie Coyote, Kelsey-Jane, Aaroneous, Kater-Tot, Julietta Violetta, Brittania, Amanda Hug n' Kiss, Lulu HooHoo, Kira Ball, and the rest of the New Hope worship team come together to practice the following Sunday's worship. Oh - the names? Every person has a nickname - mine is "Preacher-creature".

They all come early to be a part of this team. The ages? From first grade up. And for one hour it is controlled chaos bathed in love. I've been in a few choirs, and watched a lot of practices. But I've never experienced anything like this.

Last night, we were working on one particular song, an old Appalachian one with beautiful harmony parts. E.J. aka
(Ethel Jemima) Huston, a middle-schooler with a wonderfully strong and true voice, apparently had committed a mortal sin in a previous life, so she was exiled to working with me on the tenor part. At one point, Bunny told her to sing directly at my ear, hoping that by the sheer force of her voice, I might be coaxed into singing the harmony part correctly. She tried. I turned to her and said, "you know I can't hear in that ear, don't you?" We laughed and sang and laughed some more. She worked hard at helping me do better.

I looked around and everyone there was smiling. Each time one group went over their part, the other groups were rooting for them, hoping that they would improve. When they got it, cheers broke out.

As a pastor, what you want from the music is help in telling the story of our amazing God and His love for us. Music can do that well, but music can also turn into performance. People can become so proficient that they lose sight of why they sing.

Not with these guys. They sing out of love.

New Hope is such an amazing place. How many other churches would put children and young people in worship leadership? But we're growing a generation of worshipers and leaders here. I looked around tonight and realized that not only were these kids learning how to sing, but they were practicing something far more important. How to love one another.

Friends, living with people, loving them, and being willing to play second fiddle is part of God's plan for each of us.

We learn how to love by... (get ready... serious insight ahead....) loving.

So go
practice. Practice loving people. You are on the worship team too.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

So Close But Yet... So Near

He was near God's house everyday. He led thousands in worship of the most High God. People looked up to him as an example of how to live a life that pleased God. He had it all together.

Read what he wrote:

1 I yell out to my God, I yell with all my might, I yell at the top of my lungs. He listens.

2-6 I found myself in trouble and went looking for my Lord;
my life was an open wound that wouldn't heal.
When friends said, "Everything will turn out all right,"
I didn't believe a word they said.
I remember God—and shake my head.
I bow my head—then wring my hands.
I'm awake all night—not a wink of sleep;
I can't even say what's bothering me.
I go over the days one by one,
I ponder the years gone by.
I strum my lute all through the night,
wondering how to get my life together. Psalm 77

Have you been there? Are you there now?

You are not alone.

Many of the people we all look up to as shining examples of faith go through periods where they doubt, where they wonder where their certainty went. The writer of this Psalm was the leader of music of the temple in Jerusalem - the place where the presence of God lived. He literally worked in God's House. And yet he wondered...

7-10 Will the Lord walk off and leave us for good?
Will he never smile again?
Is his love worn threadbare?
Has his salvation promise burned out?
Has God forgotten his manners?
Has he angrily stalked off and left us?
"Just my luck," I said. "The High God goes out of business
just the moment I need him."

"Just my luck.." - how real is that? We can read the Scriptures and take them into our hearts, but we are still a mass of emotions and feelings. We still can find ourselves groping in what seems like darkness when God's light shines all around us. So what do you do?

Review God's record. Take time to remember the ways He has blessed, the ways He has rescued us before.

11-12 Once again I'll go over what God has done,
lay out on the table the ancient wonders;
I'll ponder all the things you've accomplished,
and give a long, loving look at your acts.

13-15 O God! Your way is holy!
No god is great like God!
You're the God who makes things happen;
you showed everyone what you can do—
You pulled your people out of the worst kind of trouble,
rescued the children of Jacob and Joseph.

And repeat this to yourself.

Whatever God has ever done He can still do.
Whatever He has done anywhere, He can do where I am.
Whatever He has done for anyone, He can do for me.
I will trust Him.

Do not sell God short. Read the first line Asaph wrote again.

"I yell out to my God, I yell with all my might, I yell at the top of my lungs. He listens."

Yes He does. Take some time. Yell. Speak your heart to the God who listens- who knows your name. He's the One who'll make things right. He's done it before. He'll do it again.

He loves you.


David Wilson

Friday, October 13, 2006

When You Are Draining the Swamp

Recently, on an online forum of pastors - an intimate group - I was led (by what or who I am not sure) to publicly state what I would love to see happen here at New Hope. My friends there are all men who have put a lot on the line to follow Jesus. I value, love, and trust them. And when they read what I had written, they got all excited for my "vision".

Then I wrote, "but it isn't going to happen." And all heck broke loose.

Since then, I've been pitied, prodded, questioned and one friend even wrote and asked "you okay?"

One fellow even worried about me spiraling down into inactivity. I laughed out loud when I read that. Here's the idea that got me pounded:

I think it is a "vision thing." Hadn't really given it much thought. When I came here, I drove into the parking lot and saw a Little League field 50 ft away, and an elementary school 300 ft away. So I figured we should try to grow through reaching kids and partnering with those guys.

Then as we did, we had neighborhood kids coming by the dozen - walking or riding bikes. We'll have 3-5 bicycles outside most any time. I really saw New Hope as a neighborhood church.

Valparaiso is about 1800 homes. Eglin AFB is snug against it. Then Niceville FL with maybe 8000-12000 homes borders us on the other side.

Niceville is covered with churches. 2 of them run 1000, one 2500 and a bunch of 150s. Breakout is 25% Baptist, 25% UMC, 25% Catholic and 25% nondenom. Probably 40% of the people would fall into one of those once a month.

Valparaiso is forgotten territory - that place you drive through on your way to somewhere else. Older homes, income level is less. AF Officers live in Niceville or Bluewater Bay, enlisted men with families live in Valparaiso or drive 30 minutes north to Crestview. There's no gym here, no HS here - that's in Niceville.

So my vision (pitiful though it is) really is to reach into Valparaiso's homes and help people find the Savior and through Him find real life.

If we moved, we'd lose kids. Then we'd lose the "door" they provide to their parents. Some of the kids we started with seven years ago are really coming along in their walk with Jesus.

If I had unlimited funds, I'd build a multipurpose building on our present property, and buy a coffeehouse that's for sale down the street. We'd open the multipurpose building to the community - call it the Valparaiso Community Life Center. And we'd have large group worship there. The coffee house would be our base of operations and provide office space and small group and intimate worship space. Those are big dreams for us and wholly impossible at present. But it's what I can see.

Neither location is in a great location. The coffee shop is just off the main drag and visible from it. We're only on Valparaiso's main street which isn't used by most. But I would probably not move away from our ministry's heart. Unless God thumps me.
So I was saying that my goal was changed lives. To reach into the homes through the kids and partnerships with the networks around us. Then I mentioned "If I had unlimited funds..." and the natives went nuts. They seized that last two paragraphs and got excited - overly excited.

So I wrote, "
Vision and reality are not always friends."

And the pounding began.

Yet the reality is that we cannot at this time even seriously contemplate such a dream. We're 200K in debt, only own 2.5 acres, have no worship leader and are thin everywhere else. Land here is $100K an acre when you can get someone to sell it, which is hard considering two families own almost all of it that hasn't been developed.

So am I faithless, a coward for not aggressively pursuing the idea?

No. I just don't have time to waste when people are in danger all around me. If I fixate on buildings, I'll lose the focus on changed lives. It's sort of like the old adage, "It's hard to remember your objective was to drain the swamp when you are up to your armpits in alligators."

If through that God gives me the opportunity to see my idea come to fruition, I'll leap at the chance. But right now, I'm building... people.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Pollen and Preferences

This is how we've come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. 1 John 3:16

One of the defining parts of my childhood was not a positive experience. This time of year, I'd find myself trapped in a world filled with pollen, which caused my body to react in a storm of sneezes, and outbreak after outbreak of hives. Folks, picture yourself as a geeky looking little boy, who's trying hard to find a place in the social network. The last thing you want to do is stand out.

Well, sneezing 30+ times in a row, or showing up for school with more bumps on your than a gator's back doesn't exactly help you fit in.

My parents tried all sorts of things to help, but the best things they ever did weren't involved with medical professionals. They ruthlessly tried to eliminate any and all allergens from anywhere near me. So feather pillows - gone. Wool clothing - gone. The food we ate was changed. At one point they even talked about moving to another state.

And my father went up and down the road we lived on, ripping up every goldenrod and flowering weed.

Years later, I was talking with my mother around that time of year. She was looking down the road, and she said "I just love this time of year, the leaves changing, the goldenrod - aren't these colors beautiful?"

I realized then that for them, their love for a wheezy little boy completely overruled their preferences for what was pleasing to them. Doing whatever it took to help me grow meant completely dropping something that brought them pleasure. They never let me know there was a cost.

Friends, as followers of Jesus and and as people pledged to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, how well are we doing at setting aside our preferences and sacrificially living to reach others with Jesus' love? Do this - spend a moment in prayer for your friend who doesn't know Jesus. Invest time in conversation with that neighbor or friend you never have time for. Give all the love you have received and watch Jesus work.

I've pretty much outgrown my allergies now, but I'll never outgrow my thanks for and my responsibility to love others like my father and mother loved me. And the love Jesus showed me, when I was sick with sin - dying really - I will spend the rest of my life trying to repay with my love for others who don't know Him yet.

Join me. We won't be perfect at it, but we'll be making a difference every time we do.


David Wilson