Monday, June 30, 2008

New Hope @ Worship - At the Table

We normally meet as small groups on Sunday night, but after the weeks we used to prepare for Easter, everyone wanted to continue worship once a month. With Mother's day, father's day and all the other days, this was the first time we actually did. Each time we met during the run up to Easter, we shared the Lord's Supper. We varied the ways we did it, varied the elements we used, and tried to make it a time that was less about how well we pulled it off and more about allowing the Holy Spirit room to move us.

This whole week I've been thinking about how easy it is for us to slip from gratitude to take it for granted. And so I chose the story below to open our time of sharing.

5 So David sent for him and brought him from Makir’s home.6 His name was Mephibosheth ; he was Jonathan’s son and Saul’s grandson. When he came to David, he bowed low to the ground in deep respect. David said, “Greetings, Mephibosheth.”

Mephibosheth replied, “I am your servant.”
7 “Don’t be afraid!” David said. “I intend to show kindness to you because of my promise to your father, Jonathan. I will give you all the property that once belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will eat here with me at the king’s table!”
8 Mephibosheth bowed respectfully and exclaimed, “Who is your servant, that you should show such kindness to a dead dog like me?”
9 Then the king summoned Saul’s servant Ziba and said, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family.10 You and your sons and servants are to farm the land for him to produce food for your master’s household. But Mephibosheth, your master’s grandson, will eat here at my table.” (Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.)

Ziba replied,11 “Yes, my lord the king; I am your servant, and I will do all that you have commanded.” And from that time on, Mephibosheth ate regularly at David’s table, like one of the king’s own sons.
2 Sam 9:5-11 (NLT)

There's no way Mephibosheth got there alone. He had to be carried there, just as we have been carried by God's efforts into His Kingdom - to His table. I used this video to reinforce it.

How much the Father must love us.
How awesome it is to know we'll never be alone.
How wonderful to be a child of God.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

She's Sick

Bunny had to leave early from the Movie the other night because the heat got to her. She's been sick all day today and went to bed early. If you'd say a prayer for her speedy recovery I'd sure appreciate it.

New Hope @ Worship 29 June 2008

Great feeling after the "Movies in the Park" outreach last night as all the Newhopians might have been a little tired, but it was one of those good tired's. Bunny was sick today so one of the things she's been working with Sean on for a while finally came through. Sean was the lead guy today in the praise team. We had Jarrod on bass, Amy on flute, and yours truly on acoustic.

"Come, Now Is the Time To Worship" - chose it because it might be old now, but it's something people love to sing. Maybe those endless commercials for WOW CD's paid off.

"God of Wonders" - worked well with Sean's Rickenbacker guitar on lead.

"Ancient Words" - totally different feel without keyboard. I think it needed the piano.

"A Shield About Me" - I love this song, especially when we break into the Hallelujahs at the end. To me, it is really worshipful. The instrument mix worked pretty well on this one.

I'm having some difficulty with invitation music. There seems to be so little out there to use. And I'm wondering if we couldn't shake up the end of the service some to give people more space to consider the opportunity for commitment. We used

"Have Thine Own Way" - I know we've sung it forever, but it just didn't seem to "do" anything today. Got to work on more songs for this important part of the service, or change what we do there.

We continued the "Identity Theft" series by looking at what our culture has tried to do to Jesus.

Movies In the Park - The Wizard of Oz

There were so many details that needed to go right in order to make our first effort a success. People, publicity, place, weather, equipment - just to name a few. We had some hiccups but overall we got a result beyond anything we could have expected. I'd guess we had 65-75 people down there before it was over, and lots of those were families with their kids, out to enjoy a free evening.

I met a lot of people, invited a bunch to come and join us in worship at New Hope, and had a great time doing it. But I was and am SO PROUD of the people of New Hope who worked SO HARD down there. GREAT JOB GUYS!

Thanks go out to Jessie Mason with Valparaiso Communications for the most excellent projector, Michele Servino and the staff of the NW Florida Heritage Museum for their hospitality (and the use of their outside wall :) ), to Lydia Johnson and the City of Valparaiso, and to Turner Classic Movies. Well done!

See you in July!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Follow the Yellow Brick Road - Saturday 8PM!!!

Woo hoo! It's getting closer! We are hoping to be able to bless a bunch of people down there Saturday night. Please pray for great weather and an awesome turnout. If it rains, we'll move it up to New Hope.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Learning About Worship

Okay, tomorrow a new term at Rockbridge begins. I'll be enrolled in my last "core" course.
The Theology & Practice of Worship W5301
An examination of how to provide biblical worship in today's culture. Learners will study the doctrine of God, explore the biblical theology of worship, examine the heart of the worship leader, and learn how to work with a team to develop worship experiences in the church. (Formerly named “The Life of Worship”)

This is something I really need. How do you "provide biblical worship" in the average sized church? We all have seen what can happen with waves of talented musicians and vocalists. But what about in places like here?

Some of you are aware that New Hope has operated without a worship leader for two years now. At first we used a group of girls - teenagers and younger, as a praise team. What they brought to the table was sincerity and a sense among the congregation of appreciation that they were New Hope's kids. Over the last few months, we've added some adults to the mix and have been very grateful for their willingness and hearts.

As a pastor, my hope from the music is that it takes us nearer to God as a congregation, just as I hope that the message I prepare and deliver does. With that in mind, I have been choosing the music for the last two years trying to make that happen. I love music and love to worship God through it. But I'm not a musician like someone who is called to lead worship is. My wife Bunny does a great job in getting the praise team ready every week, but she is confined to playing the digital piano on Sunday morning, so we really don't have a worship leader.

I've been praying that God sends us someone to lead, because I believe we are leaving a lot on the table each week. The praise team is great, but I think we need a point person for worship that can "see" what is possible and lead us there. That will have to be a God thing, for providing for such a person is way outside our ability as a congregation right now. Living here is expensive, and living here as a church is too. I hope and pray God will grant our request. But until then, I need everything I can get about worship.

So tomorrow morning the adventure begins. We'll be using a text by Robert Webber, who was until his passage recently, one of the more irenic spirits in the worship spectrum. I have a couple of his books, but not this one - Worship Old and New.

(He has a couple of new ones out - Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting Gods Narrative (Ancient-Future)and Who Gets to Narrate the World?: Contending for the Christian Story in an Age of Rivals , that I will order along with the class text.)

There's a lot going on in churches today, and I am really feeling like we are about to recapture our sense of worship. We're far enough along that the battles of the past are almost gone, and now we can use the best of what lies behind us while always looking ahead.

So stay tuned.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Final Sunday Night Thought

"Qualifications of a pastor : the mind of a scholar, the heart of a child, and the hide of a rhinoceros." Stuart Briscoe

There be dragons.

New Hope @ Worship 22 June 2008

We were in a mood to celebrate today, with a longtime member returning from Kansas and her daughter's shower occurring after the service. Then too our "away" team was back form their mission trip to Kentucky - great opportunity to praise God.

Began worship with "O Worship the King" the Christ Tomlin arrangement
Then another with "Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)"

It's so wonderful to have updated version of the old hymns that really honor and add to them.

Then "Your Name" from Hillsong

And "Still" a newer song for us.

"My Jesus I Love Thee" was the hymn of commitment.

I played this commercial right before the sermon.

My goal with this sermon was to help people find their identity in Christ, not what the world has told them. I think it worked pretty well. No audio recording though as something went wrong with the equipment, so I won't be able to review it tomorrow. That's a shame.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Great Article on the "Must-have's" for evangelism

While reading some blogs yesterday, I engaged in a discussion about evangelism. In that discussion, which came from the social gospel POV, I defended my belief that unless such ministry was empowered by a passion for souls won for Christ, it exchanged temporary benefit for everlasting life.

Today I read Timothy Brister's article linked below where he quotes Kuiper's work. Go read the whole list. The excerpt below is the last, and touched my heart.

Evangelism’s Must-Have’s « Provocations & Pantings
6. He must have an overwhelming love for the Saviour, who first loved him, and therefore exclaim:

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Himself being a sinner saved by grace, he ought to proclaim the love of God more eloquently than can the angels. Such communication of the evangel God is wont to bless and to use.

- R.B. Kuiper, God-Centered Evangelism (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1966, reprint 2002), 217-18.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

We're Off To See the Wizard!

Just sent the press release to the local newspaper for our first "Movies in the Park". We're working with the City of Valparaiso, the Heritage Museum, and Valparaiso Communications to offer families a FREE movie each month this summer. We're treating it as a service outreach and will be doing all we can to bless the folks that come and build some relationships that the gospel can travel over.

I'm pumped! June 28th at 8PM - come and have a great time with us! It'll be at the Heritage Museum on Westview Ave. in old Valparaiso.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Is There Room At the Table?

Last night Bunny and I shared a meal with some friends from New Hope. We talked about a lot of things. Some trivial and some not so. One of the questions I was asked was "What is the church going to do about the "gay marriage" issue"

When we got home, I received a blog post from Chuck Warnock about a related issue. Go over there and read his post, and put his blog in your reader. He's doing some amazingly good stuff up there in a Kingdom sort of way. Chuck is writing about the effort by Soul Force, a pro-gay group, to have some mega church pastors sit down to a meal with them and talk.

My comments on Chuck's blog were basically, if it's a sincere desire to fellowship and learn more about another human being created in God's image, then why in the world would you not want to break bread with them?

We've had gay people here at New Hope on occasion, and have had repeated visits a while back from one half of a lesbian couple and I think one visit from them together. So when I think about this issue, I think about real people, not some made for TV stereotype.

And I think about the real Jesus as He demonstrated what God's love looked like while He was here in bodily form. The way that the religious people thought they were slandering Him by calling Him a "friend of sinners."

Used to, we wrote songs about how great that was.

Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners

1. Jesus! What a friend for sinners!

Jesus! Lover of my soul;

Friends may fail me, foes assail me,

He, my Savior, makes me whole.

Chorus: Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Hallelujah! What a friend!

Saving, helping, keeping, loving,

He is with me to the end.

2. Jesus! What a strength in weakness!

Let me hide myself in Him.

Tempted, tried, and sometimes failing,

He, my strength, my victory wins.

(Repeat chorus)

3. Jesus! What a help in sorrow!

While the billows o’er me roll,

Even when my heart is breaking,

He, my comfort, helps my soul.

(Repeat chorus)

4. Jesus! I do now receive Him,

More than all in Him I find.

He hath granted me forgiveness,

I am His, and He is mine.

(Repeat chorus)

Friends, by almost any measure, I am a conservative. My conviction from Scripture is that homosexual practice is a sin. That marriage between homosexuals may be recognized as legal by the state, but it isn't marriage as God created it.

All that stated and firmly held, backed by Scripture - I have a lot in common with the members of Soul Force. I am a sinner who needed a savior. I was created in God's image - the Bible uses the word "poema" which could be translated "masterpiece" to refer to those created by God's hands. So were they.

So yes, let's go get some fried chicken and green beans (Baptist inside joke).We'll disagree over sexuality, the meaning and interpetation of verses related to it - no doubt.

But do we have to agree on everything to share a meal together?

What? Head Evangotech is out? Funny from Bobby Hyatt

5 Titles Pastors should avoid at all costs...

5. Chief Strategic Officer

4. Cultural Architect

3. Lead Sermonizer

2. Head Evangotech and Pastorpreneur

1. PawPaw (I wish I was making this one up...)

HT -

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A New Operating System

You're reading the very first devotional I have ever written using the Ubuntu operating system. For the less geeky among us, the operating system (Windows, OSX, Linux) is what makes the computer more than a collection of interesting electronic parts. Valuable those parts may be, but unless someone tells them how to live and how to live together - they're just parts.

Yours truly, in the interest of pursuing yet another geek merit badge, and having mastered Windows and Mac, is now working on learning how to work using Ubuntu. It's open source, which means it is freely available to everyone, and that people with programming skills can help develop it further. In fact, some of the neatest applications available for it were produced by people just to help others.

Pretty cool, huh.

Well, I'm sitting here thinking that there are some real parallels to what happens when a person begins their journey with Jesus. When they allow God to work within their lives, they receive a new "operating system." Then God uses them to bless other people and to tell everyone who will listen that what He's offering can't be bought for any price, He's already paid that through Jesus. But that in order to use the new operating system, you have to choose to change.

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

Changed from the inside out. That's how God works within us to change the way we think and make us what we were created to be.

Think about it. Maybe it's time to change your operating system.

Grace and peace to you,


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

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hulk Mad!

I received an email tonight.

This email though, was a forward that the sender thought might be helpful to local pastors. The email proceeded to list several artists, musicians, and personalities that had "died before their time" and link their deaths with the "wrath of God." It used texts from all over the Scriptures to point to the tragic deaths of these people created in God's image and basically revel in what the writer saw as the certainty that they now burn in the unquenchable fires of hell.

I just don't get it.

No, I guess I do, and it makes me mad, because that's not the way Jesus would have reflected on the lives and deaths of these people or any other person who died outside the Kingdom of God. Jesus was headed to His death at the hands of sinful people, but as he looked over the city, He said this:

34 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killer of prophets,
abuser of the messengers of God!
How often I've longed to gather your children,
gather your children like a hen,
Her brood safe under her wings—
but you refused and turned away!

Luke 13:34 (MSG)

Why would Jesus long to gather killers and abusers?

16 "This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. 17 God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.
John 3:16-17 (MSG)

He loves them.

I can remember reading once about D.L. Moody's conversation with a person who was thrilled to preach on hell and excited to see the wicked get their just reward. Moody looked at the man and said, "Never ever preach about hell, unless your eyes are filled with tears over those who willfully go there."

Why rejoice? Why boast? If we got what we deserve, we'd split hell wide open.

Such emails and the motives behind them are far, far from God's grace. And the person far from God reads them and sees what are supposed to be people of grace rejoicing over their fall. No wonder people turn away.

/rant off


Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Dandelion Effect

It's Sunday night here in Valparaiso, and I'm winding down. I've done some email correspondence to New Hope at large and to some folks who were missing today. Then I worked on some seminary projects, read a little and watched some TV. But before I went to bed, I wanted to get some thoughts down about an image that keeps popping into my head when I think about New Hope.

The dandelion.

Yes, that's right. The dandelion.

When you look at the plant, you can see that God created it to spread. The way He designed the seeds to release when the wind blows or when the plant is affected by someone passing by is just sheer genius. But then it also helps that when the plant matures, it sends out a taproot deep into the soil, as well as presenting a pretty flower to the bees who will help the plant spread.

For some reason that plant just seems to embody what we as a church should be doing. Putting down roots in our community and being nurtured by God's Word just as the dandelion is nurtured by the soil it grows in.

Blessing our neighborhoods with the beauty of lives lived with purpose - to glorify God in whatever we do.

And following the wind of the Holy Spirit away from our homes and multiplying.

I think there's something we can learn from what God has done.

New Hope @ Worship 15 June 2008 - Father's Day

We had a bunch of people on mission in KY this week, plus a couple more families on vacation. With Mother's day, many times you can experience a jump in attendance. Not so with Father's Day.

On Mother's day, I had used the story of Hannah and Samuel to discuss the special qualities of a God honoring Mom. Today I continued the story but from the standpoint of how BAD a father Eli was. What happened? Why did this man of God lose his sons to wickedness? What can parents do to try to ensure their kids don't turn out that way?

In planning music, I knew we were not going to be able to tie that to the text, so I just worked on preparing people for worship.

The Heart of Worship - (To try and make sure we weren't focused on any father but our Father in Heaven.
Thank You Lord
He Has Made Me Glad
It Is Well With My Soul
Amazing Grace

Every now and then, I think I need to make an effort to place one of the older and beloved hymns into a place that the words can do their work. "It is well..." did that today. If I had it to do over, I would have chosen something else than "Amazing Grace".

Audio of the sermon

I'm ending a sleepy afternoon, missing my father, and missing my sons. One's in Kentucky on a mission trip, and the other is in Warner Robins, GA. I don't know why, but this year's Father's Day has been tougher than most.

I had preached from this text back in 2000, and as I reread what I did then, it was true to the text, but it left out something that I found out to be very important, so I added that to my notes.

That is - finish strong. My brother and I are still dealing with the effects of our father's weakness at the end of his life. Nothing about that I can change. But I can ask God to give me what I need to achieve a life lived for Him until the end of my life. I do not want to out live my integrity.

I am thankful for what my father did for me. But that pales in comparison with what my heavenly Father has done.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Friday, June 13, 2008

"It's A Good Tired"

Get the word out. Teach all these things. 12 And don't let anyone put you down because you're young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. 1 Tim 4:11-12 (MSG)

This week New Hope has been supporting a group of youth and their leaders who were doing a Mission OK (backyard Bible Club) across the street from us at Valparaiso Elementary. Our church has been involved over there in some other things during the past year as part of our ministry of service, but this was a Rocky Bayou Baptist initiated and led project that we were thrilled to be able to participate in as support staff.

Today we served all those hard working kids and their support staff lunch over here at New Hope, and I got to spend some more time with them. Friends, I never get tired of seeing people, especially young people, serving others in Jesus' name. Those kids sung, played, taught, witnessed, and puppet-ted (is that a word? :) ) for the neighborhood kids all week and then today they spent the morning ( a coolish 95 degree morning) cleaning up a disabled person's yard.

They came in dragging a bit, and we sent them out refreshed. Or at least refreshed enough to get back home to take a good teenaged nap.

At one point in the week, the adults were a little bummed out. The YMCA kids, who are at the school all day during the summer, would not be coming outside to where the Mission OK kids had their stuff set up. It was too hot. They had already been outside.

One of the youth participating took the whole situation in. Then he said:

"Why can't we go to them?"

So they did. And gained air conditioning and the use of the sound system to help do what they were doing -even better.

Someone said once "a little child will lead them."

Well, from what I saw this week, we need to expand that to include youth.

It was thrilling. I hope we get to do more with our friends from Rocky Bayou, our friends from Valparaiso Elementary, and for our friends from the neighborhood.

Please pray for our New Hope "away team" as they head to Big Creek, KY tomorrow for a week of missionary service.

Grace and peace,


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Or visit New Hope!

Thursday, June 12, 2008


We've been supporting a sister Baptist church the last few days as they offered a "Mission OK" (backyard Bible club) across the street from us at Valparaiso Elementary. The youth of that church have done a great job every day serving the kids who came.

The first day I helped a couple of them knock on doors in our neighborhood reminding people that the event was happening. It was great to be able to tell them that two churches were working together and to point to New Hope's steeple and say "that's where I'm from."

When I first found out about the undertaking by another church in our neighborhood, I cannot say I reacted in a Kingdom worker way. I had just seen our church ignored by our local Baptist association the day before, and when people from a mega church miles away showed up at my front door inviting me to send any kids I could find to their event... well, I was upset.

Remember, I'm the guy who WANTS to partner with other churches and other social organizations to reach Valparaiso for Jesus. And our church is engaged in ministry in the same school where this event was taking place. So I thought that we'd be certain to get an invitation or at least a notice that such an activity was taking place.

I emailed a friend over at the Big Church, and he was so gracious in his reply I found myself backing up as fast as I could go. They had no idea we were engaged there and frankly didn't know much about what we at New Hope are about. He made sure we were welcomed as friends and colaborers for the gospel.

We ended the week together just now with lunch at New Hope, and I think it was a great adventure and blessing for both. The kids were great, their leaders were gracious, and on our side - we tried hard to bless their socks off and support them as fully as we knew how.

Good job, guys.

Why is it so hard to work together?

Lack of communication.

We really don't know each other. We really don't know what we are engaged in within our neighborhoods. We really don't know much about what we hope to be doing for Jesus there in the future.

I used to be plugged into the local area ministerial association and very involved in our local Baptist association. But it always seemed like we met to be meeting, with very little talk about ministry - unless it was to brag. So I withdrew from those. So now I have to find another way to network and get things done.

Maybe we began another network today. Sitting around the table with three teachers from Valparaiso Elementary - all followers of Jesus - talking about how we can be used of God to love people as fully as Jesus did - sounds like the birth of a ministry network to me.

Those fields are still ready for harvest. Let's work together and call others into the fields with us.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Glimpse of New Hope! - New jeans

Well, we've settled into summer here now with our usual heat and humidity. For those of you reading this outside the deep South and who have never been here during summer, it is very hard to describe the combination's effects. I can remember a trip I took for work to Chicago in July one year and when I got off the plane, I was shocked at how pleasant it was. It was still 80+ degrees, but the humidity was almost nonexistent.

Humidity is like that ten pounds you lost one time. You couldn't believe how good you felt without it. Well, down here, it feels like we just gained 20 pounds back.

So with the coming of summer, we adjust our clothing somewhat to fit. Granted, FL clothes are more casual anyway, but we do loosen up some more.

And I just got new blue jeans.

Hot does not begin to describe how I feel in these. I'm sitting here in my office and am strategically placed under the A/C vent. There's actually a breeze in here. But these jeans seem to radiate heat.

They replaced a well worn pair of several years that were not so afflicted. In fact I didn't wear shorts that much because the jeans were almost as cool. But a change had to come. The old ones were ripped at the knee and holes were beginning to appear elsewhere. There's no way I could wear those to church. (Yes, down here the pastor sometimes wears blue jeans to work. No often, but sometimes.)

Now I could spend much time and energy on those old jeans.

I could wear them and refuse to admit there was a problem.
I could start trying to fix them and patch everywhere they had failed.

...or I could be thankful for what they gave me and move on.

So many people cannot seem to do that, and yet it is critical to living a healthy life, rightly related to God and to mankind. Just let it go. Think about what's coming.

8 Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious— the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. 9 Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. Phil 4:8-9 (MSG)

Friends, take a minute right now and thank God for what He has provided you.

Far too often we are prone to only remember the times we struggled, and truth be told, our struggles for the most part would come off as incredible luxury elsewhere.

Look to God.

Praise Him in your home, at your workplace, when you get up and when you lay down to rest.

God is good, all the time.

Grace and peace,


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

Well, we've settled into summer here now with our usual heat and humidity. For those of you reading this outside the deep South and who have never been here during summer, it is very hard to describe the combination's effects. I can remember a trip I took for work to Chicago in July one year and when I got off the plane, I was shocked at how pleasant it was. It was still 80+ degrees, but the humidity was almost nonexistent.

Humidity is like that ten pounds you lost one time. You couldn't believe how good you felt without it. Well, down here, it feels like we just gained 20 pounds back.

So with the coming of summer, we adjust our clothing somewhat to fit. Granted, FL clothes are more casual anyway, but we do loosen up some more.

And I just got new blue jeans.

Hot does not begin to describe how I feel in these. I'm sitting here in my office and am strategically placed under the A/C vent. There's actually a breeze in here. But these jeans seem to radiate heat.

They replaced a well worn pair of several years that were not so afflicted. In fact I didn't wear shorts that much because the jeans were almost as cool. But a change had to come. The old ones were ripped at the knee and holes were beginning to appear elsewhere. There's no way I could wear those to church. (Yes, down here the pastor sometimes wears blue jeans to work. Not often, but sometimes.)

Now I could spend much time and energy on those old jeans.

I could wear them and refuse to admit there was a problem.
I could start trying to fix them and patch everywhere they had failed.

...or I could be thankful for what they gave me and move on.

So many people cannot seem to do that, and yet it is critical to living a healthy life, rightly related to God and to mankind. Just let it go. Think about what's coming.

8 Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious— the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. 9 Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

Phil 4:8-9 (MSG)
Friends, take a minute right now and thank God for what He has provided you.

Far too often we are prone to only remember the times we struggled, and truth be told, our struggles for the most part would come off as incredible luxury elsewhere.

Look to God.

Praise Him in your home, at your workplace, when you get up and when you lay down to rest.

God is good, all the time.

Grace and peace,


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

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Signal to Noise

Free Wi-Fi, get your free Wi-Fi here!

I was just working on our wireless network here at New Hope, swapping out an older and slower piece of equipment for a newer and faster one. Sometimes it is hard to believe how far we've come with all this technology. I've been walking around outside for the last few minutes doing my best Verizon guy impersonation (without the annoying "can you hear me now?" part).

So I'd get 100 feet away and still be surfing the web, but turn a corner and find that I was fading out, turn another and it was "internet? What Internet?" In terms of distance from the broadcast point, I was actually closer. What gives?

Turns out I was also close to another wireless network, blasting away on the same channel.

So my poor little Thinkpad didn't know who to listen to. When I checked what was happening with a cool program for that stuff, turns out that as I got closer to the other guy's place, the "signal to noise ratio" kept dropping. Now my guess is that the higher the noise gets, the less of the signal gets through.

It dawned on me that this wasn't the first time I have faced that problem.

Churches face it all the time as they try to reach their neighbors and friends with the "signal" of the good news about Jesus. But blasting away on the same wavelength are those of us who are not living out our faith in our everyday relationships with people.

That kind of "noise" is real loud. And it can have really serious consequences. Ghandi was employed by a Christian couple when he was working on his education in South Africa. Their coldness and harsh manner with anyone who wasn't exactly like them caused him to reject Christianity even though he professed great admiration for what the teachings of Jesus said.

You probably know someone who calls all Christians hypocrites and refuses to listen. Too much noise!

So friends, we have to really focus on being like Jesus in our relationships with the people God places us in contact with. Here's a great couple of Scripture verses from the Message paraphrase to remind us.

8 Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. 9 That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless— that's your job, to bless. You'll be a blessing and also get a blessing.

1 Peter 3:8-9 (MSG)
Our job - to bless those God placed around us. To Him be the glory.

Grace and peace,


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Monday, June 09, 2008

Healing - an addendum

Sunday's message was, I hope, an opportunity for the people at New Hope to take a step back and look at just what they have included as part of what they believe God can do.

There's little doubt that the whole issue of healing provides illustration after illustration of how out of balance the Benny Hinn's and the like can bring believers to. But I wonder how far out of balance the rest of us are. How much have we given away to science and medicine of the work of God?

I keep reading passages like this one:

5 Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge:
"Don't begin by traveling to some far off place to convert unbelievers. And don't try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. 6 Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. 7 Tell them that the kingdom is here. 8 Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.
9 "Don't think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. 10 You don't need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light. Matt 10:5-10 (MSG)

And this one:

14 Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. 15 Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you've sinned, you'll be forgiven— healed inside and out.
James 5:14-15 (MSG)

And I wonder - not about whether in every case God will heal as a result of our actions. It might not be his will to heal any - in a way we can see. But it is another way for us to trace for ourselves the steps of Jesus as we walk with Him. As we practice our faith.

I was reading years ago about the president of Columbia Bible College and his wife. His story was so inspiring, and yet his wife was never healed of her illness - in this life. And yet, seeing this man devote himself to her care - giving of himself sacrificially - fulfilling his calling as her husband and as a follower of Jesus was just awesome. What if our faith carried us into tough places like the one he found himself in? Is it strong enough to not just endure, but persevere to the end?

I don't think you get that kind of faith by reducing what you believe God can do to only what you have seen yourself. That kind of faith comes to life by believing that Romans 8:28 means what it says it means - that God is working all things together for good. God is working. Not us. God. Our part is to believe and live out our faith as God has given us insight and instruction to do it.

This whole idea of healing seems to be charged with emotion or tagged by the abuses to the point that we who believe the Bible decide to cut that part out because we don't want to get involved in something that we don't deep down believe will work.

Jesus said the church is to preach and teach and heal. I preach and I teach, but we have never specifically laid on hands or anointed anyone and prayed for healing. I don't have any excuses. But I do know how to repent and follow.

We need to pray and let God handle what happens.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

New Hope @ Worship June 8, 2008

The first weekend after school lets out is usually a down week here as families rush off to get vacation in, but this week proved to be the exception. The focus on the service today was an attempt to fill out our understanding of salvation in Jesus. The idea of "Shalom" of wholeness is present as is our need to ask God for His mercy and praise Him for His grace.

I tried to reflect all of that in the choice of songs.

Hosanna - "You are the God who saves us, worthy of all our praises"
Open the Eyes of My Heart Lord - "I want to see you, I want to see you..."

Holy Is the Lord - "We bow down and worship you Lord, how great, how awesome is He..."
Your Name - "Nothing has the power to save, but your name..."

Softly and Tenderly

I was going to use this video at the close of the service today, but we had a few glitches and I decided not to. I hope those of you who read this will take a couple of minutes and watch it. Maybe it will help you realize the power of the Name of Jesus.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

When I Pray

In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other's spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out. Eph 6:18 (MSG)

I can still remember the first time I prayed out loud. I was sitting in a prayer meeting at Bethesda Baptist Church in Macon, GA. I was in the approved section which contained all the Clinards and those related by marriage. My father and mother in law were there, my brother and sister in law were there sitting right behind us. The deacon who was handling prayer that evening turned to our side and asked "David, would you pray?"

Knowing that it must be for David Clinard, (my brother in law) not in any way thinking it could possibly be for David Wilson, I bowed my head and it got quiet. Too quiet for their taste I guess. My brother in love finally asked "which David?" and the reply was "David Wilson."


Just to set the scene, I hadn't been following Jesus all that long back then. And this was a church where when people prayed, they prayed in such a manner that you expected God to answer... right then. Against the eloquence and passion that they brought every week, I had maybe a decent mumble. That is, if I could get my throat to open back up.

Somehow I got through it.

And you know, at the time, I had yet to really understand what struggles those ordinary people around me were under. Now, after having both experiencing some of those myself, and being privy to those inside a congregation, I pray so differently. Something like...

Oh Lord, Help.

I open the church directory and I look at the faces and I know some of the hurts and I ask God to let me bear some of that burden. I ask Him to let us as a community of believers at New Hope to share some of their pain. I acknowledge what He already knows - that I cannot fix it. That we can't fix it. That only He can.

When I pray.

Friends, will you stop for a moment and realize that Almighty God hears your prayers? And that He doesn't just hear them like we hear other people. He hears our hearts and knows our needs. And He acts out of His love for us.

So let's pray. Let's lift each other up. Let's rejoice that God has placed us in Christ and lets us have a part in His plan to bring others to faith.

We can pray.

Grace and peace,


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For the Next Few Days...

As you read what's happening at the annual Southern Baptist Convention, held this year in Indianapolis, Indiana, try to remember the message contained in this video.

If it's a typical convention, you'll hear about boundary markers like alcohol, cultural battlegrounds like the public school system, and about how churches sometimes have trouble counting just exactly how many people are suiting up for their team.

Go watch the video again if you get confused.

The people and churches of the Southern Baptist Convention are at their best when they are living out the words of Jesus, not shouting them at a group that doesn't hold the same values.

The people and churches of the Southern Baptist Convention are at their best when they are giving themselves and their fortunes away to people in need, not hoarding them for consumer goods or burying them in million dollar "campuses."

The people and churches of the Southern Baptist Convention are at their best when they come as people once broken, but restored in Jesus and compelled to help those with lives still torn apart.

You might forget that if you read the papers over the next week.

Bookmark the video folks, that's who we are or hope to be.



Friday, June 06, 2008

It's Time To Get Things Started

Remember those guys? How families would sit in front of the TV and laugh at their antics? How people would mimic Kermit or Miss Piggy, or Beaker?

Our kids at New Hope had a crazy idea Wednesday night. They want to do a puppet ministry.

I know that some of you out there think that puppet ministry is right up there with those other new ideas like handbell choirs, red satin "I'm A Visitor" stick-ons, and flannel boards. I know because here are some of the comments I got when I asked my friends on a pastors forum about the idea.

"sorry, can't answer, throwing up now."

seem to recall one where the puppets took over the handbell choir at the local baptist church...."

Gee Wally, are you and the Beav gonna make some neato toothpick churches, too?"

""really? Now if you had puppets that sang them some southern gospel? a bunch of kiddygarters saved, that's what! PS the fat puppet sings tenor."

"It's not about being hip or trendy, it's ALL about fitting into the culture you find yourself in and communicating in a way that speaks to them.
Sadly, I know of no people group, with the exception of a few isolated sections of Arkansas, that speak "puppet"

One of my friends did point out "I don't care what anyone says, kids love puppets. You put a puppet on a freaking stage and they stare at it. They are into it. And remember Yoda was a puppet. Also Jabba and the Rancor monster. And all the muppets that took Manhattan." And though he's a wee bit centered on Star Wars, he's right.

Here's the thing, guys. The people group is these kids and those like them in our community. Broken home, single parents, one week with us one week away, public school, mommy's in rehab... kids who need to feel like they matter - like they have a part in God's Big Story. This could be their ministry and a "gateway" to other places and ways of serving God.

So if anyone has some puppets sitting in a storage room and would like to gift our church with them, I can guarantee you will later see a clip on here of the kids of New Hope glorifying God in service to Him.

What about it? Anyone want to help see kids on mission for God?

email me

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Rockbridge Seminary - Ministry assignment paper

From time to time I want to drop some of my work for Rockbridge here. Two reasons - One because I want New Hope to know that their pastor is engaged in transformational discipleship himself. I truly believe that God will continue to change me into a more effective pastor and follower of Jesus as I continue to seek to learn and become more like Him.

The second reason is that I think people need to understand more of what the Rockbridge seminary experience is about. The world is changing, friends, and education is changing right along with it. I certainly have valued my "bricks and mortar" experiences at Mercer and NOBTS, but the Rockbridge journey has been a real blessing and a help. This class is filled with people in ministry across the nation in churches big and small, so the perspectives they bring, and the discussions that ensue are really fascinating and engaging. Really challenges your preconceived notions and makes you think and grow.

So below is an assignment I completed this week. We aren't allowed to use quotes in these papers, so these are my thoughts, beliefs and convictions, not a cut and paste.

1. What I believe about the biblical purpose of ministry
The Scriptures say that we are to do whatever we do - in word or action, to expand the glory of God. The model we have to accomplish that is two fold – a personal commitment in living our lives out loud for Jesus, and in community with other Christ-followers in the Church.

The functional aspects of that would include evangelism of those who have not heard the message and responded in faith, and teaching those who have responded how to relate rightly to God and to each other. I like the idea of thinking through these issues while envisioning the church “gathered” and “scattered” because that recognizes both the normal way people look at the church as the people who are gathered in a building every Sunday, but also recognizes that real work – valuable Christ exalting work – also takes place in the community out in the workplaces, neighborhoods, and schools.

The Scriptures also point us toward living life together. The litany of the “one another”, the heart cry of Jesus that we would all be one, His pointing toward the ‘sign” that the world would recognize us by our love for one another all solidify the concept that community is the means God uses to not just gather, but scatter His disciples into a world in sore need. So when we read that we belong to each other, that we are to bear each other’s burdens and meet each other’s needs it is not just another programmed slogan but the very pulse of the church. When Augustine quipped that we preached in more ways that just words he was clearly pointing to ministry as an effective evangelistic tool in God’s hands.

The practice of ministry has to include that religion that Micah referred to as well. For too long we have not done very much more than give lip service to the biblical concepts of justice and mercy as part of the life lived out loud for God both individually and in community.

One of the areas I have been interested in as we’ve progressed through this course is how open some are to ministry being done by people who are not believers. One of the foundation convictions I have about ministry is that it is an every believer gift best returned to God in the everyday, so I wonder about whether or when such work done by unbelievers turns from a good deed to ministry. If God has prepared in advance some things for us to do, what role do the efforts of those who haven’t started their journey play in His plans. And does this practice of allowing those outside to work “inside” with us contribute to an earlier and better “launch” into the deeper waters of life with Christ and life together in a church?

My beliefs are moving toward the affirmative. As we welcome people into ministry even before their coming to faith I seem to see God at work all around them and creating an expectation in them of ministry and an excitement in their friends who bring them.

2. What I believe about the practice of ministry in the local church
I look upon these as efforts in: Missional Practice, Spiritual Formation, Fellowship, and Worship. I hold along with that a definite conviction that every member must be involved in ministry, and try to consider what we do within the gathered and scattered circles.

Missional Practice
The local church must build bridges with the community in every way we can. Not forcing our way in, but using the connections we already have within the “networks” such as schools, home-schoolers, Little Leaguers, Soccer, etc. as well as opening their facilities to groups and creating bridges to them as well. We need to use “affinity groups” lead by our people in areas of their interest to create “front porches” for our neighbors to come and “sit a spell” in. Men and women’s groups are to be involved in constantly looking for ways to invite and invest in people. The children’s and youth ministries need to begin teaching their charges that they too can have a part in God’s Big Story.

Building bridges, making connections leads to conversations. When God’s people are asked for a reason they have such hope, now we are really fulfilling our calling as missionaries.

Spiritual Formation
Once a person becomes a follower of Jesus, the part of the Great Commission that deals with discipleship needs to kick in and kick in big. We have to teach them how to follow. So in my view the church has to turn the key in the lock on church membership with mandatory new membership classes, a signed membership covenant, and a personal interview with the pastors. That doesn’t mean that we don’t welcome anyone as we gather, but it means (especially in a congregational leadership model) that we are as sure as we can be that they are serious about their practice.

People need to know that we care enough about them to invest in their spiritual growth. As churches, we have to create the expectation that a Christ-follower… follows. Grace does not mean you don’t have to work. It takes effort to grow. But that effort has to be placed in helping people learn the disciplines that will help them grow, not just giving them a heaping helping of facts each week. So we have to make sure everyone knows where they are in the process and continually encourage and measure growth. People should find themselves growing away from just inhaling God’s grace and mercy, and growing toward exhaling both in service to Him.

Quite frankly, I used to think fellowship was highly overrated. You know, dinner on the grounds, Sunday School picnic, friendship banquet – fellowship. But that’s not what fellowship really is. It is loving your neighbor as yourself. It’s following in the tradition of those early believers who held all things in common and no one had need. It’s being that group of believers who were so fearless that when the plagues came, they went into the cities when others came out. It is halving the suffering of your brother and sister. It is helping others find their places of service, living within their SHAPE and rejoicing as God uses them to glorify Himself.

When the church is gathered for the purpose of glorifying God in worship of Him, it needs to be out of the Body, not out of Variety magazine. Too many of our churches put on performances and call it worship. The number of people involved is reduced to the trained and the pretty. In my view of the local church’s ministry, we would stress congregational worship at the expense of individual soloists.

That worship needs to include prayer, reading and teaching of the Word, and be aimed at God, not man. While we do not want to put any unnecessary barriers in front of a sincere seeker of Truth, and ruthlessly eliminate Churchianity wherever it rears its ugly head, when we gather it is for worship, not publicity.

3. What I believe about the responsibility of church leadership in leading others to serve

The old saw about equipping the saints still holds true for me as a pastor. My biggest thrill is to see people grow as they step out in their gifts and serve the King. So we should be working hard to grow people. We should be collaborative, want lots of opinions and input, and enjoy it when the team wins. I’d describe my concept of pastoral ministry as shepherd like in that I think the pastor should be constantly running the ideas and concepts that God is working with them on through the grid of their love and care for the people He has given them. The goal is to help them discover Christ and develop as Christ-followers so that they in turn can use their gifts for ministry to glorify God.

The goal for the pastor of a local church should be to see empowered people using their gifts in community with each other to the glory of God. We help people find where they can serve with passion and then equip and encourage them in that. It’s build on shared convictions, fueled by a shared passion to please God, and held together by trust. You should find people coming to the table with ideas for enlarging the Kingdom, being encouraged and affirmed when the community catches the vision. When we fail, we fail forward and keep learning and becoming more effective. When we win, we celebrate with each other and credit God.

So the pastor is a visionary, a resource, a coach, and a coworker with others who are themselves passionate about the vision that God has given.

Sometimes I Just Need To Remember This

Took a hit last night, one of those blindside deals that leaves you wondering. Went to bed, couldn't sleep for a while, so I prayed. And I prayed. Fell asleep, woke up. Prayed. Went on all night. Got up this morning and felt a little better about it, but things like that linger.

So God sent me Steve Brown's blog to crush what was left. He was reflecting on the parable of the sower and saw for the first time that he was focusing on the wrong part of the story.

So Jesus looked at them and said, "Let me tell you a story." He told
them about an unsuccessful sower. As I count the seeds in the parable, only 25% of the seeds grew to harvest and the rest died.

You've probably heard me say that if you get 51% in a fallen world, you should file it under success. Let me tell you something else. If you're a farmer and you get only 25%, you probably should give up farming.

Now let me tell you what I learned when I started thinking about the sower.

First, I learned that if you can't deal with failure, don't play the game.

I'm reminded of the priest who, when he began his ministry at 20, prayed, "O Lord, grant that I may win the world to Christ." When he was 40, he prayed, "O Lord, grant that I may win my city to Christ." When he was 50, he prayed, "O Lord, grant that I may win my church to Christ."

When he was 60, he prayed, "Lord, don't let me lose too many!"

I tell my students that if they have biographies of "famous Christians" in their libraries and those books don't tell about the failure and the sin, they should burn the biographies. The ones that don't tell you the truth about the humanness of being human will make you go into vinyl repair.

I also learned from the parable of the sower that I don't own the farm or the seeds. I'm just a "hired hand."

And then this...

Oh, and I learned one other thing from the parable of the sower. I learned that one should never define oneself by the seeds, the soil or the harvest. If you define yourself that way, sometimes you'll feel that you're "pond scum" and at other times you'll think they ought to expand the Trinity to make room for you.

Both are inappropriate for a Christian.

The only appropriate way for a believer to define himself or herself is by the One who loved us enough to make us acceptable and to give us the seeds to sow. Wherever you are, just throw the seeds God gave you. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to do that and you don't have to be trained at a leadership seminar. All you have to do is to take the seeds God gives and, wherever you are, throw them on the soil.

And don't keep digging them up to see if they're growing. That's not your concern.

He asked me to remind you.

New Hope is not mine, and I don't have a congregation. God does. He's the owner of the field and the giver of the seeds. I can be passionate, skillful, winsome and wise and some seeds won't thrive, and I can be none of those and some will.

My job is to love God fiercely, and through that love, love the ones He's given me and help them grow. Sometimes I just need to remember the limits of my job description.

Monday, June 02, 2008

USA Today Article on "The Shack"

After my review of "The Shack" I received a few comments along the lines that the reporter in the article mentions. I thought that the article really helped the reader understand just what the crucible was that produced the book. Take a look and maybe you can at least begin to understand more about the author and where the book comes from.

Again, it is fictional. It is NOT Scripture. But I certainly can understand why it appeals to people, especially hurting ones. The challenge then, to all of us who teach, preach, and write, is to find ways to make THE Story as compelling as the fictional accounts.

Someone once said that Las Vegas has absolutely nothing of value to offer but makes people think it does in an amazingly effective way. The Church has the greatest story ever told and has obscured it more effectively than ever thought possible.

'Shack' opens doors, but critics call book 'scripturally incorrect' -
Young was born in Canada to missionaries who brought him as an infant to New Guinea to live with the primitive Dani tribe. He says he was subject to the harsh verbal attacks of his unhappy father, and sexual assaults by tribesmen. He went to a missionary boarding school at age 6, he says, and was molested by older students.

He never lost a sense of God, but to Young, God was distant and judgmental. "I learned to survive by becoming a performer/perfectionist," he says.

Even as he roamed the world and eventually wound up in a Bible seminary for the Christian Missionary Alliance, he knew he wasn't meant to be a pastor or missionary. He finally graduated from Western Pacific College in Portland and landed at a Four Square Gospel church, working with collegians.

There he met Kim, who poked holes "in my version of being a perfect performer to earn God's love. You can't perform for God. You can't run. You can't hide. You can adapt, but that won't heal the stuff you've buried deep inside, in your 'shack.' "

Soon after they married, waves of tragedy gouged their life. When he was 25, his 18-year-old brother died in a work accident, Kim's mother died unexpectedly, and his niece, 5 years and one day old, was run over by a cement truck while riding her new birthday bicycle.

Grace seemed nowhere in sight.

Young was 38 and the father of six when his life took a hairpin turn after his adultery. He spent a year in counseling, years more soul-searching, marveling at Kim's steadfast commitment, before he reached wholeness in faith, he says.

He wrote The Shack in 2005, prompted by Kim. She wanted him to open up his heart and his thinking to their children, now ages 14 to 27. The book was meant to be like the box top on a jigsaw puzzle, the picture that shows where all the pieces fit, Young says.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

New Hope @ Worship June 1st 2008

We begin the summer months with full anticipation that God is going to do some amazing things through us, around us, and in us. So I continued the Acts series with "Connecting the Dots" trying to help people see that God's plan came to pass just as He purposed it, and will.

How Can I Keep From Singing

Grace Flows Down
Shout To the Lord

I Surrender All

MP3Audio available