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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