Sunday, February 28, 2010

Might Have Been A Wee Too Much Content :)

And also today, anyone listening to the message at New Hope received more information and Scripture than was probably possible to digest in that period of time. Mea Culpa guys. I'll post the condensed version tomorrow along with some study questions to help draw it all together in something you can walk away with, understand, and use to help others understand the benefits of Christ's "I am the way..." position as the exclusive way to a relationship with God.

Friday, February 26, 2010

When Times Are Tough

Another friend looks as if he's spending his last day at work today, the victim of the economy and his company's lost contract. No fault of his - he's a high performer that was being considered for higher management. But that's small solace.

Been there, done that before too.

One of the things he can point to is that he learned from the first experience and shrank his liabilities and reoriented his priorities. He says they are in better shape this time. Pray for our friends in TN.

We've been there.

From the moment God called me into the ministry my family and I have seen all the measurements the world measures success by shrink. I was forced to change jobs several times due to layoffs caused by companies downsizing. Our income plummeted - we've never gotten back to what we were making in 1990. Benefits were cut and then eliminated. We've lost a home, lost loved several loved ones to death, seen our efforts here at New Hope have times of great progress and effectiveness, and times when momentum was lost. There's been a lot we could have done without experiencing.

Yet as the song says,

"Through it all, through it all, I've learned to trust in Jesus, I've learned to trust in God"  I believe that my friend and I and our families are far better off than we'll ever know this side of heaven, in part because God's grace has supplied more and more of our needs as we have come to realize that all we have comes from and belongs to Him.

Video of Andre Crouch giving his testimony and singing "Through It All"

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Just a reminder

23 Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights.24 A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.25 Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.26 Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants. 2 Tim 2:23-26 (NLT)

This verse and I have become close over the years, but it never hurts to go back and have a refresher moment.

Monday, February 22, 2010


My friend pastor Joe Gnatek up in New Hampshire has been taking some ribbing lately about the number of hours he (and all) pastors work. It seems the "works one day a week" label is attempting to be applied and Joe is fighting back by producing shirts with 24/1 embroidered on them. I've got to applaud Joe's sense of humor about it.

Having spent far more years in the everyday ordinary world of work than I have in what many call "full time ministry" maybe I can help. During my years in the private sector I did everything from digging ditches to running a national sales organization. The hours I put in, and where I put them, varied widely from company to company and position to position. To use the extremes for example, when it hit 5 o'clock in my construction job, I left and never looked back or spent one moment of time thinking about it unless the weather appeared likely to keep me from working the next day (in which case I didn't get paid). In my job as national sales manager for a small tech firm, it was expected that I would work whatever amount of time it took not just to get my work done, but preparing the sales force to get their work done. So there were times when I went to work on Sunday afternoon to fix a database problem or spent time at home working on a new initiative or strategy.

In my current position as pastor of a smaller church, the number hours vary depending on the people's needs and the work needed to get done, but they seldom drop below what I worked as a sales manager. Not only that, but because of the interpersonal nature of the job, off and on during the day - any day - any time - I'll find myself thinking about this person or that family, and praying for them or touching base. Then there's the herding cats part of the job, where someone is at odds with someone else, or a volunteer is discouraged and I'm needed to come in and help them find peace. Go out to eat with friends and many times you wind up talking about the church and what's going on. Given that we LOVE New Hope, that's not a big deal, but there are times when you just want to relax and enjoy each others company.

It can consume you, frankly.

Oh and not just you, but your wife and your family. The mood at the pastor's house can literally rise or fall depending on what happened on Sunday. As pastor, you put your heart into the vision God has given the Church and you can have difficulty stepping out of that bubble and being the guy your wife married.

So 24/1? Let's put it this way.

Jack Bauer wouldn't last a year as a small church pastor. :)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday recap 02/21/10

Really interesting Sunday on a lot of levels. Let's see:

  • We have a well pump with running water now in the lobby. 
  • May have achieved  a record for the length of the announcements. 
  • Had one of those days when the Scripture and what is happening in people's lives right then cross paths.
We're seeing the results of what the Child2Child girls led us to do right now in Africa as a well is being repaired, financed in part by New Hope. And this year the goal is to completely fund a well there. John Anderson shared how some of the kids sponsored by folks at New Hope walk several kilometers to get water. One of them said that was her favorite chore. We feel led to help. Pray for us.

Our involvement in "Buckets Of Hope" for Haiti continues as more completed buckets were placed in the lobby. A filled bucket will feed a family for a week. The SBC has distributed 20 tons of rice already through our Haitian church partners and has 40 more tons in country. Combined with medical help and now increasing help in planning reconstruction and it's great to be a part of a group making a real difference.

Child2Child is continuing (along with Niara) to help us look at human trafficking and are calling us to act to change it. Kind of fitting we sung "God of This City" given that song's background.

I guess you can see why the announcements were long. There's a lot going on at New Hope. It's all good. :) No better place to find your opportunity to work with God to change the world one heart at a time.

Song set: God of This City, Forever, A Shield About Me, It Is Well With My Soul, Jesus Paid It All

We're working through Philippians and came to the last chapter.

There's a lot in there of the "things you ought to do" category. Human effort - or trying harder in other words - won't get it done. It can only happen through the power of the Holy Spirit as we give up our schemes and plans and embrace God's way - following Jesus with heart, mind, and soul. Just to tell yourself "don't worry", will not work. But replacing that with a fixation on the goodness and grace of God? Winner.

I closed the sermon with a video of Fernando Ortega singing a tribute to Ruth Graham. It seemed to sum up so much of what Paul was hoping the Philippians (and what I'm hoping the "New-Hopians") turn out to be.

Fixin' To Get Ready

In a couple of hours or so, I'll be standing before the people at New Hope Baptist Church and opening the Word of God's message to their hearts and minds. After all these years, I still don't feel "ready" every Sunday to do that. This is after hour upon hour of reading the passage, examining the context, the content, and checking the word order and meanings of the text, as well as the "walking around time" I spend thinking about what it means and how best to communicate it. I'm in awe of God, but realistic about His servant David.

When I've been watching the Winter Olympics lately, I've been paying close attention to the athletes at the start. Each seems to go through some period of preparation immediately before their event begins. Some seem to visualize the course with eyes closed, even moving their hands and leaning their bodies as they do. Others appear to withdraw into themselves for a moment. There's a part of that going on right now in me.

I'm visualizing what it might be like if people heard God's Word and acted on its truth. How their lives might change. What that might mean for their families - for the world. I'm trying to answer the hardest question ever posed after a sermon is completed - "So what?" And I'm doing that because I need to hear from God too. So I'm praying as I type this that I might be able to change and become more like Jesus.

Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you today.

Friday, February 19, 2010

"There's No One To Blame But Me"

Just got through listening to Tiger Woods and his scripted and tightly rehearsed apology. It seemed to have all the right elements to succeed as a vehicle that could serve to be the beginning of his public image rehabilitation. Sprinkled throughout it were Christian concepts and words tied to the practice of following Jesus as Savior and Lord - words like "atone" and "grace". Yet Tiger took time to look back at his past and point out that he was raised as a practitioner of Buddhism. He said he needed to return to those roots.

Buddhism is a poor vehicle for the word that apparently needs to be done in Tiger's heart, because in Buddhism, it's still up to you to change your heart. There's no personal relationship with God, only the practice of the concepts and principles of the teachers. It's a try harder faith. And the atonement Tiger spoke of is again tied completely to human effort. What Tiger is going to be up against is going to be far harder than I think he realizes now. Character change is the hardest work of all.

I was mulling all that over, praying for Tiger and his family and a post came into my Google Reader from Michael Wittmer.

The cross is a dagger through the happy talk of "you’re okay, I’m okay" and if we just try harder we can get past our issues and change the world. The center of history is a weapon of torture—imagine holding hands around a guillotine or electric chair and you’ll get the idea. The cross informs us that things have gone horribly wrong, and they won’t be right unless somebody dies.
That somebody is Jesus.
Jesus died instead of us but not without us. We don’t get away scot free, but are called to take up our cross and be crucified with Christ (Matt. 16:24; Gal. 2:20; Rom. 6:1-14). 
and finally
Salvation is free but it’s not cheap. It cost Jesus his life, and if you accept his gift, it will cost yours.  HT Koinonia Blog - Michael Wittmer
Good words, Michael. Read the whole article folks. It's worth the time to help us appreciate just what we have in Jesus.

Tiger's in the same boat we all are in. We have all "sinned and fallen short", but the answer to that failure isn't to try harder to make ourselves better people. The answer is Jesus. He's paid the price for our innumerable failures and has made it possible through His power to live a new life. Not a patched up and repainted life, but a new one.

Pray for Tiger to find that life along the way.

He was right about one thing though, we have no one else to blame but ourselves for our sins. Thank you Jesus for reaching out to me when I was lost in myself and trapped in my sins.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Praying Into His Presence

Most Holy God
Who waited for me so many years
Who raced to meet me when I turned in repentance
Who patiently gave your love as I opened to the ability to accept it.
Hear my prayer.

Oh Omnipotent Spirit
Who rushed hope into me
Who encouraged me and guided me on
Who continues to confront, to instruct, to inspire
Hear my prayer

My Sovereign Lord
Who died for my sins
Who touched my leprous heart and made it new
Whose words and example are my pathway for life
Hear my prayer

I come to Ash Wednesday knowing
that I could not stand before Your judgment even now
after decades of being known as a Christian
except that the blood of the sinless One
had not covered my sins

Yet I come here aware
that when I entered into the embrace of my Lord and Savior
I was forgiven
He makes all things new.

He is so good to me.

So Abba, take the offering of these Lenten Days
make them a time when my prayers for more of You are less hindered
by my sins and failings
and when I find myself each day desperately seeking
more time with You.

Ash Wednesday 2010

From dust I came, and to dust I will return. Sobering words. Where else will you hear that sort of truth? Lent calls - heart to Heart.

Psalm 51 - The Message
1-3Generous in love—God, give grace! Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt,
soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I've been;
my sins are staring me down.

4-6 You're the One I've violated, and you've seen
it all, seen the full extent of my evil.
You have all the facts before you;
whatever you decide about me is fair.
I've been out of step with you for a long time,
in the wrong since before I was born.
What you're after is truth from the inside out.
Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.

7-15 Soak me in your laundry and I'll come out clean,
scrub me and I'll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don't look too close for blemishes,
give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me,
shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don't throw me out with the trash,
or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile,
put a fresh wind in my sails!
Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
so the lost can find their way home.
Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
and I'll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God;
I'll let loose with your praise.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sunday Recap 02/14/2010

Yes, I know, it's Tuesday night. LOL  Better late than never.

One of those Sunday's you'd love to repeat again and again. Great Spirit among the congregation and I felt good about what the message turned out to be. During the week as I've gone through Philippians, I've read the chapter we are focusing on again and again sometimes several times a day. Feels like I'm getting more understanding of the passages. Sometimes I can get so drawn into word studies or contextual work that I might not spend enough time just reading and reflecting on the text itself. I'm grateful that God keeps drawing me deeper into His Word. Keep praying for me friends.

Our song set this week:
He Reigns - second week in a row
Whole World In His Hands
Amazing Grace - traditional version
Come Home Running

I made a conscious decision this year to try and get more congregational participation during the message while also digging deeper into the texts. And I AM LOVING IT. Getting the people I love and serve to stay engaged in the message is not only fun, I'm getting some great feedback about what people are learning and how the Bible's content is affecting them. To the last sermon I ever preach I want to keep growing in my effectiveness as a communicator and in my capacity to love God and love the people He's given into my care.

Thinking About Lent

Yep, I'm a Baptist. Southern Baptist. And yet for many years my family and I have participated in one of the oldest rituals of the Church. Lent. It's the 40 day period (excluding Sundays) that precedes Easter. The idea behind it is to shake us our of our routine and help us focus more clearly on the sacrifices that Jesus paid on our behalf - to the cross.

As I said, I'm a Baptist, so I come late to the whole idea. When I first encountered it, I was in Birmingham Alabama at a grocery store reset. It was a Wednesday, and at lunch a lot of the guys went out and came back with smudges on their foreheads. I was so dumb I tried to wipe one off of the guy I was working with, thinking he had gotten some dust or grime on his head. Cultural sensitivity, thy name is David Wilson. :)

He sort of explained that it was Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. I thought it was kind of weird, frankly, and very Catholic, which for a Baptist can be very off-putting. Later, I learned that lots of folks participate in Lent, not just Catholics. Years later I started investigating the Spiritual Disciplines and Lent kept coming up. At some point, Bunny and I talked about it and agreed that it might be helpful for our family to try it. We've been at it every year since.

Starting on Ash Wednesday, Lent is an opportunity for the follower of Christ to shake up their routine and examine their daily walk with Christ in light of what He gave. By choosing to forgo some things that are part of your normal life, to a limited extent we share in His sufferings. And for those of us who haven't mastered the "deny yourself, take up the cross daily" part - especially the daily segment of that command, at least for a short period of time we can turn the heat up on our discipleship pursuit. Why? C.S. Lewis comments:

No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting it, not by giving in. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.
That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it.
(C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p 13)
Denying yourself isn't meant to be a lark. It's war against the selfishness of our hearts. So Lent, with it's focus on introspection, reflection, confession and repentance, helps remind us of the task before us. This is not "sin management", this is war. Call it a "spiritual surge" if it helps.

In most cases, the main practice people use to focus during Lent is giving something up they would normally do every day, even several times a day. It can be whatever you decide. I'd encourage anyone to pray about what might make the most difference. It would be very easy for me to give up strawberries, asparagus, or the Lifetime TV network for 40 days. Giving up coffee, hot dogs, or ESPN... not so much. Over the years we've sacrificed quite a few different pleasures. Going meatless for Lent was... interesting. Giving up caffeine one year had Sean with a splitting headache on day three.

I can remember when we first started this, Sean was still a little boy. We were sitting around talking about Lent, what it meant, and what each of us was going to do. Sean thought for a minute, and you could almost see the wheels turning in his head. But what you couldn't see was what was going on in his heart. You see, the boy loved cartoons. Came by it honest. His Granddaddy used to sit with my brother and me in front of the TV on Saturday mornings and laugh and laugh. I've always loved them. So when Sean said "I'm going to give up cartoons, I knew that the calculations he did to arrive at that meant his heart for Jesus was ultimately making the decision.

If Lent is going to mean anything for you, should you take up the challenge, that's where the road to the cross should begin - in your heart. This is not a time to go Pharisaical and broadcast to the world what you are doing. You aren't working on other people's hearts. You are asking the Holy Spirit to work in yours by using what you do as a reminder. For me, it's an intensely personal time of reflection, confession, and repentance. My hope is always that I'll come away knowing Jesus better, and that I will be strengthened in my faith and practice beyond Easter.

Maybe you would benefit too. I'll have Lenten devotional/prayer guide books at church Wednesday night, and can send pdf files to anyone else that might like one.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Chili Cook-Off Results

Tonight's chili cook-off was great with a dozen people vying for the win and all the many benefits that come with it. My wife Bunny used a recipe that beat Bobby Flay in a throwdown and she won! The hottest chili award went to Ian Anderson who also finished second in the overall. Way to go Ian! Pam Roberts also won for Nicest. That used to be the Meatiest category but I changed it so untraditional chilis might have a place, and Pam's white chicken chili won.

They really were all good. The differences between the vote totals were very slim. Congratulations to everyone who participated. Now where's that Pepcid?

It's a Wednesday, like the Wednesday last week, the one before that and the one before that. In fact there have been hundreds like it. A group of boys will gather tonight around a man. And he will care for them.

It's a throwback, an anachronism in today's genderless society. Royal Ambassadors - a boy's only group.

Kind of like fatherhood is.

But it matters to those boys.

Joe Stoy matters. Larry Powell matters. Michael Weech matters.

There are men like them in churches all over. They don't get much "press", their name isn't on the sign. The Southern Baptist Convention will never call them to the microphone, but they've spoken on their behalf all those years.

The boys that gather around Joe and Michael are mostly neighborhood kids who go back to homes where dad may or may not be present. If there's a man there, chances are he's not committed to "until death do us part" to the boy's Mom, and her kids are somewhere below that level of un-commitment.

The Bible tells us to train up children in the way they should go. How will they know the way without people who care? How will a boy find that Jesus is the way unless someone they trust can share His love?

As I'm sitting here praying for tonight, I'm thanking God for Joe Stoy, Larry Powell, and Michael Weech who are giving of themselves each week to help boys become godly men.

You should too.

Grace and peace,

David Wilson
Visit with me at my blog:

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

"Do Something!"

Our Child2Child little girls worked hard last year to encourage the adults of New Hope to engage in God's work of taking care of the least of these. We'll never know all the effects of their efforts, but we know that God does amazing things with  what we return to Him for His work. Here's one of the projects they did that's going to provide clean water in Sierra Leone

Well Rehab - Sierra Leone

Project Type: Well Rehab
Well rehabilitation is one of the most cost effective ways to bring clean, safe water to a community.  Sometimes it involves fixing a broken hand pump, other times it means sealing a hand dug well to prevent it from being contaminated.  These repairs, and often time total replacements, coupled with sanitation and hygiene training make a huge impact in communities. 

And this year, New Hope is going to sponsor a whole well!!!!

Monday, February 08, 2010

In the next 5 minutes and over the next year

HT whoami?

We've been trying. Trying to step out on faith into what God is doing around the world. Trying to make a difference as a small group of people wanting to see the world change, to "Do Something!" Trying to shine a light into dark places in our neighborhood and around the world. And last year we saw God bless our efforts.

But... after watching that video one thing is obvious.

We need to do more. To do that, we need more people. More people who love Jesus and love people and want to change the world. More partners here at New Hope and more sister churches involved in sharing the love of Jesus with the poor and those in need.

We're praying for God to send those partners our way, but we're not waiting for them to show up. We're going out after them. Our outreach plan for this year is the most aggressive ever, and the ministry we'll be able to look back on at year's end will literally save lives around the world. Conversations that we are going to have with people about what God is doing and how they can get involved are going to call them to come and follow Jesus too.

Can I ask a favor of all you who will read this?

Would you pray for us as we go and serve?

We can't let the world continue to be like it was the last five minutes.

Chili Cook Off Wednesday Night

It's the annual New Hope Chili Cook Off Wednesday. One of those events every year that brings people together and is just plain fun. Historically, Juliet Blackmon has dominated the competition, but I've heard several people speaking of their commitment to take the coveted title of Chili Cook-Off Winner away from her this year. We'll see whose kitchen cuisine reigns supreme!

5:30 in the Fellowship hall with judging around 6PM. Let's enjoy good food and good fellowship.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Sometimes You Need A Break

During the week I read so much pertaining to the topics and texts that I'm working on that every now and then I pick up a book that has nothing to do with religions or the contextual setting of the texts. Most of the time that means a book by Tom Clancy, W.E.B. Griffin, or a history book, but recently  I picked up Sean's copy of Eisenhorn, which is a fleshing out of a character in the Warhammer 40K game.

Well written and the characters are well developed. I am not a sci-fi fan and I'm certainly not a gamer, but I can see this book and these characters translating not just to a franchise, but to the big screen. Really good action adventure paperback. Might have to try the game too. :)

Sunday recap 2/07/2010

What a great joy to hear of the upcoming marriage of two of our folks this morning. Lois Somerville and Mack Kirkland are going to tie the knot in July at New Hope. The congregation broke out into spontaneous applause. We distributed the flyers for the SBC "Buckets of Hope" help for Haiti too. Great idea and I know New Hope will step up to the challenge. We've got the annual New Hope chili cook-off coming up this Wednesday night too.  Should be a great week.

Today's music was marked by the debut of a new song "He Reigns".
Indescribable, Nothing But the Blood, He Reigns, and Grace Flows Down were our music today.

Today's message was based on Philippians 2:5-11 - this passage has been the source of many books. The theology is deep, but it's rare that we look at it from the point of view of the average Philippians at the time. Last week I spent a lot of time reading about the Roman caste system and their ideas about class, status, and honor. Phillipi was one of the cities in Asia that carried the same status as a city in Italy. As far as they were concerned they were Romans. I tried to give enough background for how they got that way.

So the lines between classes were rigid and inflexible. Everyone's goal was to move up the social ladder. It could happen if you completed military service, did something outstanding for the state, or just bought your way up the ladder of success. But it didn't happen often.

Into this walks the apostle Paul and his trusty sidekick Silas. From the beginning of his ministry there, he began to demolish the caste system and replace it with the love of brothers and sisters in Christ. Arrested and beaten for ending the slavery of one prophetess, he refuses to use his status as a Roman citizen, suffering as any common man or slave would have done. And yet when he writes to the church at Philippi he begins it with "slaves of Jesus Christ." Paul co-opted the same language that was used of Caesar and of Roman citizenship to outline a new way to relate to our fellow men and women.

Paul (under the inspiration and authority of the Holy Spirit, don't forget) then systematically demolishes their system by giving the vivid example of just what Jesus Christ did when he left heaven and "was found in fashion as a man." (Sometimes the KJV is just beautiful language.) The example of Christ's humility is a mandate for a different way to live, a different set of values, a different worldview. So how are we doing with that after 2000 years?

Not well.

We still have problems separating ourselves from the same sort of status symbols the Romans fell prey to. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit helped someone be delivered from that trap today.

How far til we get there?

Today's message comes from the book of Philippians chapter 2, verses 5-11. The passage actually formed the basis for an early Christian hymn. I can never read it without experiencing a sense of amazement..

Made Himself.


And we're to have the same attitude that drove Him to do that?

This may be the most counter cultural passage in the NT. To ignore all those nagging insecurities that drive us to put on masks, to layer up, to choose not to hide behind all those supposed separating differences like age, race, gender, wealth, rank, status - and instead give everything we have openly, honestly and sacrificially to God and to each other?

We're not there yet, that's for sure.

The Christian community - the Church - is supposed to be made up of people who are not living for themselves but for Jesus and their neighbors. Who when they look to the right and left don't see people clothed with earthly status but with the love of Jesus Christ. That's across all social walls - all of them.

Yet most churches are made up of remarkably homogeneous people. Very few are able to successfully break through the barriers and unite people across society's fences. We tend to want to surround ourselves and our families with those who are like us. That's been one of the most frustrating things to deal with as a pastor. When you do break into groups that haven't been reached, some of the folks who are already there expect the newbies to act like church people or church kids. Or when some from across a social barrier do come, the fellowship that builds intimacy can be slow to form. Why? Because we really want it our way.

He made Himself nothing.

We have a long way to go.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Attention Span of a Gnat

  If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if His love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care2 then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. 3 Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. 4 Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Phil 2:1-4 (MSG)

Was just reading Sean Groves' blog (singer, songwriter and advocate) and checking Facebook just now and what I suspected and what Bunny BTW predicted recently has happened.

We're over Haiti.

Oh there are still incalculable needs there, but the US - we're over it.

RT @eloranicole: just scanned @CNN, @ABC & #FoxNews websites - NO COVERAGE ON HAITI! They have totally moved on.
I love this country. We are the most generous country on earth. But when it comes to events like Haiti, we have the attention span of a gnat. Great outpouring of care and money immediately once it happens, but less than a month later, our news organizations have decided that we're tired of hearing about it. Well, the same organizations that were working in Haiti before the earthquake happened are working there now and will be for years and years to come.

But for many, the focus has shifted back to their normal self-centered life. That shouldn't be. Hopefully we'll be able to send teams down there once the focus shifts to rebuilding. Right now, we're working with the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief team to put together "Buckets of Hope for Haiti." These are 5 gallon plastic buckets filled with staples that will feed a Haitian family for a week. Click on the link and you can get more information. If you're reading this and want to help regardless of whether you are a part of New Hope or not, we'll collect the materials here through February. The associational office will then get them to South Florida and from there the convention will ship them to Haiti. Our kids got started on them last night and the adults will get the scoop Sunday.

Don't let the news media tell you when to care - open your heart to where God is at work.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

What do you know about this picture without any doubt whatsoever?

That turtle did not get on that fence post by himself. Someone else had to put him there.

That popped into my admittedly strange mind today when I was reading the first of the letters attributed to the apostle Peter. That rough hewn Galilean fisherman is one of my favorite characters in all of Scripture simply because of his so obvious flaws in character. Impulsive, unlearned, rough, crass, and with an opinion of himself that didn't square with who he really was, Peter was as they say all over the South, "a real piece of work." Now for those of you who are not clued into Southern expressions, that one has more to do with how much work is yet to be done than it ever has with what sort of person the "piece of work" is now.

Peter needed work.

A LOT of work.

Oh he had his moments, but there were always others coming down the road that showed everyone just how short of the mark he was. At root, Peter was all about Peter and how things affected him. He's the absolutely last person I would ever expect to write something like this.

8 Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything.
1 Peter 4:8 (MSG)
See, I read that and it made me go "Whoa! How'd he get there?"
I'd say Peter had help getting to that point in his life. He'd been led past "what's in it for me?", and made his way by "what difference does it make?"
Now, with everything he has within him, he's practically begging his fellow followers of Jesus to make love the end all be all of their lives - of every waking moment.
What changed Peter?
His great failure, and Christ's great forgiving grace.
Peter never forgot just what Jesus had done for him. Have you?
Do you need a touch of God's amazing grace today? Open your heart, confessing your need and accept His love as help for your soul. Find the freedom that only a life hid in Christ's love can give.
You can't get there without help.
Grace and peace,


Monday, February 01, 2010

How Close Is Too Close?

Pretty cool. You are in a safari park and a young male lion walks right up to your car. Once in a lifetime event that you'll tell your friends about for years, right? Getting that close to a top predator is awesome. Something to tell the grandkids.

But sometimes, close is too close. :)

When you come to New Hope, you step into an extended family. You are known - over time - in a way and to a depth that may be uncomfortable to some. Having attended a mega-church years ago and knowing friends who still work in them, I know their constant focus is not just growing bigger, but also growing smaller through small groups. Still, those small groups are optional. You can still walk in and out of worship every week and not make those connections should you choose not to.

Not really an option at New Hope. And that can be off putting. I've seen that kind of reaction a few times here. In teenagers who are blown away that their teachers and yes, even their pastor will speak up when they see their actions in public aren't matching what they are professing at church. In adults who bolt when people start to get too close to who they really are - not their carefully crafted "church persona." There's close, and there's too close for comfort.

With youth, if you have 20-50-100 kids, it's easy to escape the attention of your youth leaders. Just keeping the organization on track takes a lot of time, and many weeks it's a win just to finish an event with the same number of kids you started with. Spending time on Facebook, or MySpace (remember that place?) and calling each other out often doesn't happen. Showing up at band concerts, school plays and the like might not either. Even if it does, when there's 12 kids you showed up to watch it's a bit different than a couple of people yelling out one kid's name and "Woo Woo!" (Not saying that actually happened... well... okay... it did :))

With adults, as the level of intimacy gets deeper and the circle of influence widens it can really get difficult to maintain the separation they need to remain unchanged and unaffected. To drop years of walls you've constructed is hard. You can evade for a while, pull back into your own family, and try not to respond to the call of the Holy Spirit to just be who you really are around your brothers and sisters in Christ. Yet you are missing God's best in exchange for an extended but fleeting period of comfortable status quo life.

The "too close for comfort" deal... Is following Jesus in community supposed to be comfortable?

Is being conformed by that community into the image of Jesus Christ supposed to be pain free?

Not in my book.

And not in this one either.

New Hope Sunday Recap 01312010

One of those days you wish you could repeat again and again. The Spirit showed up during the announcements and the love of Christ overflowed throughout the worship gathering.

Darron Fannon was introduced. Doug and Ellen adopted their former foster child and that became final during the last week. So we marked it with a note in the bulletin and an announcement from the congregation that swelled into spontaneous applause. What an example of the love of Christ lived out loud!

The Child2Child girls made an announcement about their focus for the next two months and then the Niara older girls were set to make theirs. The focus of the older girls is on human trafficking all year, and they are working with the Child2Child group for the first two months to help an organization called "Love146". They showed a great video highlighting the problem and Love146's answer. When Jamie Roberts began to speak, she was overcome with emotion. You could feel the love of Christ reaching out to her in support and approval. Just one of those moments that gives you chills.

Our music for this week:

Heart of Worship
How Can I Keep From Singing
Just As I Am

The message was from Philippians about the absolute faithfulness of God and His fidelity to finish the good work He has begun. So many people get discouraged in their walk because they put all the responsibility on their actions instead of allowing God to be God and form them into the image of Christ. Seemed to really connect with people and I had a lot of fun with the congregational involvement.