Thursday, September 28, 2006


Sunday afternoon is naptime around here. Since we do two Sunday services, and I either teach or lead music too. So we crash from 1-3:30. Last Sunday, I had just gotten up when I got a call from a person in Texas. He said he was from a small church outside Austin, and they had received my resume. Without missing a beat he said that their committee had decided to focus on one person at a time and I was that person. Then he said, "Are you interesting in becoming our pastor?"


He must have sensed something because he asked, "If you had to answer today would you say yes or no?"

I said, "Well, given I don't know where you are, who you are, or what you are about, so absent an audible voice from God, no."

We were off the phone in a minute. I felt bad about it then, but what is a church thinking making me their number one candidate without ever making contact with me? I don't know where they got my resume, or how old that resume is. I'm not interested in going anywhere, but if I was, I'd sure like to know something about where God sends me before I go.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

How Not To Deal With Church Conflict

In Colorado, the newcomers are taking over. All the people who were there before them want to do, is keep things the way they have always been. What should a leader do?

Deploy the Rodenator. HT: Scot McKnight

Okay, so the story is about prairie dogs and ranchers. You get my point.

In church wars, people frequently employ IED's against each other, and against the Body of Christ when they do. Many of these could have been prevented if leaders had been more proactive in defusing conflict before it gains momentum.

When we were transitioning to a more modern expression in worship, one lady (not one of the spiritual giants of our age, bless her heart) stormed out of practice breathing fire and accusations against the worship leader. One of our deacons was the recipient. But she chose her place poorly, for she did it right outside my door. In my first years here, I would have hesitated, but no longer. I told her that her speech betrayed a lack of love for the worship leader, her church, and Christ and she needed to go back and ask for his forgiveness.

Well, after that, she proceeded to say some other things that caused her to be in need of asking mine. I then asked the deacon if he heard correctly, and he said he did. Then I informed her that we would be bringing her before the church in a week for discipline unless she apologized to all involved.

She's been gone three years now, and we are better for it. It's like ranchers and wolves. When NPR did a story on it a while back, one rancher said, "I love wolves. They are one of God's creations and are truly amazing. Yes, I love wolves - but not near sheep."

As much fun as the rodentator would be, biblical discipline works better, and your people will appreciate it.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Grace - It Just Doesn't Add Up

1 "God's kingdom is like an estate manager who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 They agreed on a wage of a dollar a day, and went to work.
3 "Later, about nine o'clock, the manager saw some other men hanging around the town square unemployed. 4 He told them to go to work in his vineyard and he would pay them a fair wage. 5 They went.
"He did the same thing at noon, and again at three o'clock.
6 At five o'clock he went back and found still others standing around. He said, 'Why are you standing around all day doing nothing?'
7 "They said, 'Because no one hired us.'
"He told them to go to work in his vineyard.

8 "When the day's work was over, the owner of the vineyard instructed his foreman, 'Call the workers in and pay them their wages. Start with the last hired and go on to the first.'
9 "Those hired at five o'clock came up and were each given a dollar. 10 When those who were hired first saw that, they assumed they would get far more. But they got the same, each of them one dollar. 11 Taking the dollar, they groused angrily to the manager, 12 'These last workers put in only one easy hour, and you just made them equal to us, who slaved all day under a scorching sun.'
13 "He replied to the one speaking for the rest, 'Friend, I haven't been unfair. We agreed on the wage of a dollar, didn't we? 14 So take it and go. I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you. 15 Can't I do what I want with my own money? Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?'
16 "Here it is again, the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first."

Matt 20:1-16 (MSG)

It's happened again.

Someone has sat down and tried to calculate how God's grace and sinful people, who will never stop sinning, add up to salvation. This has been going on for a long, long time now. Those in the "know" ever so often look over Jesus' shoulder and decide that He doesn't know a thing about accounting.

Sure could see how you'd get that idea. After all, didn't Jesus make a big fuss about that irresponsible shepherd who left 99 perfectly good and cared for sheep to go look for that one runaway? That makes no sense at all - cut your losses, write it off. New Lambs will be here come spring.

Then there was that woman who came and dumped the perfume worth a year's wages all over Jesus. What was the point in that? Just a little dab would have done the job, and then we could have waited to see if He needed it tomorrow. Got to be smart about those things.

Oh yeah, and what about that time in the temple when Jesus was watching people give their offerings. The Pharisee came forward, stated his intention to bless God and proceeded to bless him real good with a wad of cash. You could hear those coins jingle across Jerusalem, I'd bet. Then a widow-woman quietly walks up, drops two coins in - didn't even go "clink", and Jesus says she gave more?

How does that work? Jesus sounds like a guy you could swap nickles for dimes with all day long, like a little kid who doesn't know what anything is worth, and figures bigger coins are worth more.

Then I was reading that story up above from Matthew, where Jesus compares God's way of doing things - His Kingdom - to a landowner who hired people throughout the day to pick grapes. Tough work -that. 100 degree weather, backbreaking work. But he paid everyone too much - a denarius was a Roman soldier's day's wages, not some migrant's fair pay. And to compound it all, he paid them all the same. Jesus was applauding a man who had just upset the whole migrant worker market for the season. It's crazy.

It just doesn't add up.

That's the point. "Grace is not about finishing last or first. It is about not counting at all." Philip Yancey

If God was still keeping score, doling out salvation on the installment plan - seeing how well we do and rewarding us accordingly - well we would be lost. But He's not.

19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. 2 Cor 5:19 (NLT)

So what part of "no longer counting" did I miss?

23 For all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious standard. 24 Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. 25 For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God's anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us. God was being entirely fair and just when he did not punish those who sinned in former times. 26 And he is entirely fair and just in this present time when he declares sinners to be right in his sight because they believe in Jesus.

27 Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on our good deeds. It is based on our faith. 28 So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. Romans 3:23-28 (NLT)

And as sure as I am of "all have sinned, all fall short", I am equally sure and thankful that "our acquittal is not based on our good deeds. It is based on our faith."

Does it add up? No.

That's good, because we didn't have an integer in the hunt.

We have nothing with which to pay our debt to God.

So God did it for us through Christ.

Grace - not just amazing - it's scandalous.

Praise be to God!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Aren't We?

Leviticus may seem like an odd Bible book to use in evangelism. But not in West Africa, where in April 2005 the first ten chapters were read to the Lobi—a people of subsistence farmers, animistic mask-makers, and poison-arrow warriors in Burkina Faso—in their own language.Many in the listening crowd were struck by the similarities between the sacrifices mentioned in Leviticus and those of the Lobi religion. This infuriated the son of a Lobi priest, who forbade the reading to continue, because it is taboo to speak of Lobi religious practices in public. But another listener shouted, "Well, it means that we, too, are descendants of this High Priest. Aren't we?"

The Whole Word for the Whole World - Christianity Today Magazine

An amazing article about the growth in translations of the OT.

George MacDonald, a translator in Papua New Guinea, said he would always remember the day his Dadibi friends dedicated their complete Bible in 2001. Living in a remote location and considered inferior by trade partners, the Dadibi had long looked down upon themselves. Yet they became one of the few groups worldwide to receive both an Old and New Testament in their own language.

"This indicates that God has certainly not forgotten them, but instead has looked with favor on them," said MacDonald.

Thousands turned out for the dedication ceremony—some walking for up to two days to get there. The national translators held the Dadibi Bibles up for the crowd to see. Thunderous applause arose, and one man let out a high-pitched yell reminiscent of the victory shout used by returning Dadibi warriors in days of old.

"...some walking for up to two days to get there."

I am humbled by this.

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Monday, September 11, 2006


"Accept that your life is abnormal. Nothing about life as a ministry leader—from its emotional toll to relational demands and constant interruptions—is normal. Accepting that you are a freak with a freakish life will help you not to freak out.” Mark Driscoll

I feel better already.

Another quote: Freaks

"Accept that your life is abnormal. Nothing about life as a ministry leader—from its emotional toll to relational demands and constant interruptions—is normal. Accepting that you are a freak with a freakish life will help you not to freak out.” Mark Driscoll

I feel better already. LOL

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I'm Just Waking Up To The Fact That...

We need churches for old people whose friends and relatives are dead or dying and who can’t quite figure out how things are changing around them.
We need churches for dysfunctional people who are doing well just to show up for life every day. We need churches for prodigal Christians who are afraid they’ve blown it with God.
We need churches for secular people who never give God much thought at all.

So where does your church fit?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Wall

I was back home in Macon GA Monday afternoon. I arrived too late and way too out of shape to take part in the annual Labor Day Road race. Many years past, I ran it every year. Sometimes I ran the 10K and sometimes the 5K but I always ran it.

The first year I signed up for the 10K. I had never run over 4 miles in my life, but figured all I needed to do was slow a little bit and I was good to go. Funny thing happened. I forgot that at the 5 mile mark there was a hill - hills really. The run that had begun earlier slowed to a trot, and then to a walk. I had hit the wall.

Today I hit it again.

The last few weeks as my father declined rapidly combined with this week's trip and funeral left me with nothing to give today. Zip. I knew I was in trouble when I was trying to get ready for Sunday's text - the resurrection passage from Mark's gospel, and I couldn't get into it. Just flat. Emotionally spent. Intellectually dead.

Happens that I still have to preach Sunday. Somewhere I have to find my reserves.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


From Church Marketing Sucks:

I think church advertising is a waste of time...

The most powerful apologetic for Christianity is a local church body living the way it should.

See, even churches who try to advertise to unbelievers instead of to church people usually still fail. I speak even for my own church. Our thinking generally seems to run like this: "We must advertise so that people will perceive us in a favorable light and thereby be drawn to our Sunday morning services, where they will meet God."

This is nonsense.

We spend most of our time trying to "clever" people into the kingdom with advertising, when in reality they will more likely be drawn in a powerful way by the love we have for one another, the open confession of our sins and the compassion we show to those in need. This is what will awaken the desire in unchurched people to become part of the Christian community.

Friday, September 01, 2006

But he's already made it plain how to live, what to do,
what GOD is looking for in men and women.
It's quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don't take yourself too seriously-
take God seriously. Micah 6:8

The journey began 86 years ago on a sharecropper's farm near Sanford Florida. The midwife delivered a boy to Wiley and Belle Wilson, and Wiley Junior was welcomed into this world, as the only boy.

Growing up as the family moved with the crops to be harvested was a hard life. They frequently lived in tents, or in houses in such disrepair my father would say "you could lie there in bed and see the stars." Eventually they all migrated to Macon, GA where they got jobs in Mr. Willingham's Cotton Mill. It was hard, dirty, hot work, and Wiley hated it. So he got a job driving a produce truck back and forth from Central Florida to Macon. But then his mother got sick, and his family had troubles, so he enlisted in the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Hard work, discipline, and more hard work followed. It was the first time he had been away, and instead of the rolling hills of Macon, he was way back in the mountains of North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia. They planted trees, built bridges and cut roads. He found out about snow. He grew into a man.

World War 2 began, and like millions of other young men, he left home for an uncertain future. But not before marrying a young girl named Lodie. Their families knew each other from the mill village - literally on the wrong side of the tracks. They said their goodbyes knowing that theirs might be a short-lived bond. It lasted almost 50 years.

After breaking his ankle in preparation for a parachute jump over Normandy, he was reassigned as a cook. That was fun while it lasted, but the Army needed machine gunners worse than it needed cooks, and so Wiley was shipped to the Pacific theater. The native Southern boy knew heat and humidity, but not like this.

New Guinea, Saipan, Mindanao, Okinawa. He came ashore on islands where the fighting was so fierce he said you could walk across the beach and never touch the sand, as the bodies of GIs covered it. He fought in the jungles where death came without warning from a sniper's bullet. He manned a machine gun against human wave attacks by the enemy that were so fierce bodies stacked up like cord wood in front of his machine gun, and the barrel got so hot they had to pour water and whatever other liquids they could find on them to keep them from melting. The war ended, he and Lodie came home. The scar on his forehead was a hurt that had healed. The scars inside took longer.

It wasn't easy to make the adjustment. The world seemed different somehow. The two weren't the same people who left the mill village. They (as he put it "wound up") divorced. Then after a while, they got back together and remarried. They got jobs in civil service that they wound up staying at for over 30 years. Life was getting better. He built an indoor bathroom on the shotgun house on Roff Avenue.

Then they were blessed with the news that Lodie was pregnant with twins. Through nine months their hope built to a crescendo. Then the music stopped. You'd have to have known my father to know just how much it hurt him when they died a few days after their birth. And you'd have to have known him and my mother to know how much courage they had to try again.

I was born, then came my brother three years later. We were blessed with a father who loved to watch cartoons with us on Saturday morning, who loved toys and gadgets even more than we did, who took pure delight in not just buying things for us, but being with us. Whether it was playing baseball, fishing, shooting rabbits, or teaching us how to work on lawnmowers and lose tools, he was our daddy. We were his boys. When he disciplined us, I always felt it really did hurt him more than it hurt me.

We did all the stupid things boys do as they grow into manhood, and he endured them all. Broken windows, scrapes and bruises, and later fender benders got us a blessing out after a "you OK?" I got straightened out about marriage; I got straightened out about kids. Never was delivered with anger,always given in love. He only went two weeks into the sixth grade in school, and yet wound up teaching both of us lessons that still guide us today.

He watched as our boys came along, one then the other. There weren't two people loved more on the planet. It was like I ceased to exist except as a vehicle to connect him to Adam and then Sean. Now it was their turn to sit beside him and laugh at Bugs Bunny. It was their time to explore the toys at Toys R Us (sure beat the Hobby Shop). The grandchildren that followed from my brother and his wife never took anything away from anyone - his heart just expanded to hold them all closely.

He was 65 years old when he gave his life to Jesus. It wasn't that he wasn't a good man, because he was. But he had been too busy making a living, building a home, raising his boys to stop and really consider where he was in light of eternity. Growing up, church people hadn't treated his kind of people well. But he never let us stay home when our mother wanted to take us to church. One day a young preacher daddy liked came out to talk. When he left, daddy told us he had become a believer in Jesus and had forgiveness for his sins. He became a faithful attender, and he read his Bible everyday. I know he prayed for all of us.

For almost 53 years now, I have never had a day when I wasn't loved by my father.

Tomorrow I will.

He was a great father, an awesome grandfather and a good man.
What I know about keeping my word - he taught me.
How I know that you are to give a days work for a day's pay - credit to him.
The reason quit isn't in my vocabulary is because my father never quit at anything.
And the way I learned what humility and manhood have in common was watching one of the strongest men I have ever known tenderly admit he had been wrong.

Tom Brokaw coined my daddy's generation the greatest. They defeated the depression, fought a World War and a Cold War and won them both. He would always tell me that his grandchildren would do things he and I could only dream of.

It was never about him. Maybe the most unselfish person I have ever known.

I thank God for giving me a father to be proud of. I thank God for saving his soul. And I thank God that one day maybe I'll be standing there too in heaven, and a big hand will rub the back of my head and ask me "how are you getting along son?"

I'm doing okay, Daddy. But we'll all miss you. Tell Mother we love her for us, will you?