Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I've been reading the gospel accounts of the last week in the life of Jesus this week, and the accounts of the resurrection and immediate aftermath. Nothing new in that - I read the gospels pretty often, and this time of year I focus on that time frame with Easter just ahead. On Easter, most pastors will make a case for the resurrection and try to help people see how it changes everything. So I expect lots of my brother and sister pastors are reading along with me, looking to explain on Sunday how the resurrection happened.

But here's what just jumped off the screen at me.

The Gospels do not explain the resurrection; the resurrection explains the Gospels. Belief in the resurrection is not an appendage to the Christian faith; it is the Christian faith.
J.S. Whale

There'd be no New Testament at all without the resurrection.

No Paul and his letters in defense of it.

Peter would be a fisherman with some great stories people would tire of hearing after a while.

John would have been a kind grandfather-type always talking about this friend he loved so that loved him.

If the resurrection had not happened, you or I would most likely never have heard about Jesus. Lots of "messiahs" had come and gone and were yet to do so. Only one is known across the ages and around the world.

As a result, we cannot ignore His claims and discount His promises to those who believe. Listen friend, it may be you are going through hard times. It may look dark and seem cold. But because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, your failures are never final. Your life, if hidden in Him, will endure the darkest days and coldest nights - and you will never be alone.

Resurrection - it's "New Hope!"

Grace and peace,


Sunday, March 28, 2010

When Love Comes To Town

Didn't use this today but I really loved it.

Sunday Recap March 28, 2010

It's Palm Sunday today, and the first weekend of a long Spring Break that will include Easter as well. We sent a lot of people out on vacation this weekend, two men on deployments, and had others dealing with physical issues. So we were off by a third. Ouch! The really bright light though was the kids turn-out for our preview of our new Kidmo program for children. It was great and so were they. I really enjoyed helping out over there this morning.

When I was preparing this week's message, I tried to go in the traditional direction of talking about Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. Even started on the sermon. But I was drawn to a face in the crowd that day instead. The story of Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman just gripped my heart, and I could just see her and some of the people with her that day winding up in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Not because "that's what we have always done" like many people, but because they truly wanted to draw close to God. So we looked at John 4, and I tried to frame the text in the concept of "defining moments."

What if one of those defining moments in our life comes today, or tomorrow? What if we meet Jesus and He changes everything? So I tried to lead people to put themselves into the moment that the Samaritan woman's life changed and begin to decide whether they were open to the same sort of change. Jesus didn't come into this world to remodel it - He came to change it forever. Likewise, He doesn't approach us with the idea of rearranging some things and leaving others alone. He wants total repentance and total renewal. A new life.

I'm praying that someone found that new life today, or a renewed faith and walk in Jesus.

We chose these songs for worship - "Hosanna" by Baloche, "How Can I Keep From Singing?" by Tomlin, and "Here I Am To Worship". Our hymn of commitment was "Just As I Am."

I'll be trying hard during the week to come to comprehend deeper than ever before the awesome grace poured out on the cross, the miracle of canceled sin, and the hope that is Easter. Pray with me, and for me.

New Hope folks - invite! invite! invite! invite! - call, text, tweet, email, whatever it takes but get your family, friends, neighbors,  coworkers, and random strangers you run into to New Hope for Easter Sunday. Do it!

Grace and peace to you all - David

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Just Saying

Tomorrow's message could be life-changing, but only if you are there. Come on out to New Hope and we'll begin Holy Week with worship, Bible study, and great fellowship. Our preview of our new Kidmo children's Bible Study curriculum will come out of wraps tomorrow too. So come and see what the Lord can do.

Friday, March 26, 2010

What You Make It?

It's Friday night.

My day off.

The Bourne Supremacy plays in the background as white noise and I'm sitting here trying to let my mind slow down.

The next two Sundays are playing out already in my mind, and yet the immediate present seems to shove them aside. The phone rings, a precious older saint's sister has passed away. He and his wife are hanging onto their independence and their health by a thread. I try to speak some comfort into the receiver. It rings again. A deacon has read the news of murderous riots in Nigeria near the home of our adopted missionaries. Bunny has talked to them recently and I'm able to let him know they are safe for now.

Two of our men are on a plane right now on a flight that will ultimately drop one in Iraq and the other in Afghanistan. They, and the families they leave behind are on my mind. A deacon had a heart cath today - came through it well - but won't be home for a few days. It's spring break week and several families are taking a much needed break. That'll mean holes in some places during Easter. Good Friday is a week away and I'm suffering a planning block. And there's more. More in our smaller church. More in my personal life. More.

Every job I have ever had, from ditch digger, to deliveryman, from sales and marketing, to management - ultimately depended on me - my skills, my determination, my initiative, my intelligence - me. This one though - this job - while begging for everything I have in all those areas - wants more. Needs more. Requires more. And at some point you realize that having given everything you have to give - it's not enough. Never will be. Being a pastor isn't what you make it. Your church isn't what you make it to be.

I was attracted to the picture above because you can't tell whether the man has his head in his hands because he's completely spent,utterly frustrated...

...or praying to the God Who holds it all in His Hands. Who can make it work all together for good.

I can connect with that tonight.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

So it was Monday night, and that means our friend Allan came over to eat with us. Allan's been a fixture at New Hope for many years now, but his main job is roving ambassador for all of Valparaiso. I was getting reports on his whereabouts during the afternoon from Frank Weech, who saw Allan a mile away from the church, greeting some campaign workers as they waved at traffic coming through the busy intersection near our Dollar General store. Allan loves to wave at traffic so I'm sure they appreciated his help.

On the way home, we saw him walking toward the church and we picked him up in the Honda to give him a ride to our home. The very first thing he did was apologize to both of us for being late. I don't know who put the idea in Allan's head that being late was such a crime, but I'd like to. Grrr... Allan is so apologetic it makes us sad. So we headed home, turned down our street and Allan reaches for the remote to the garage door.

He LOVES opening the door.

And the crazy thing is that he's better at getting it to work on the first try than anyone else is. Allan will push the button and it immediately starts up. Then he said "I did it Bunny. I did it David." And after we tell him, "yes Allan you did it, you're the best", Allan grins from ear to ear and says "I so happy."

Monday night he said it several times. "I so happy Bunny. I so happy."

Because of his hearing and other challenges, Allan can be a handful. He doesn't "herd" well and tends to do what Allan wants to do, even when it makes preparing supper more difficult for Bunny. He's just so special though that every week we do everything we can just so we can see that smile and hear...

"I so happy."

God uses Allan in our lives. We thank God for him.

Dealing with Allan has a way of  making us step back and look at what we are doing in relating to him in love and whether it's in line with who we claim to be- followers of Jesus. And when we aren't in line with that, we adjust - we change - because it's not about us - it's about Allan.

We just want to see him smile and maybe get to hear "I so happy."

Makes me wonder as I write this...

What if all of us went into each day determined to do whatever it took to make God smile?

What if we overcame the frustrations, and stayed focused on pleasing Jesus?

What if we immediately took action to change when the Holy Spirit showed us areas where we are falling short of what we are called to be?

Wouldn't it be worth it all to stand before Jesus and hear Him say he was so happy with what we did with the life He gave us?

Grace and peace,

Visit with me at my blog:

Visit with Bunny at her blog:

Or visit New Hope!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sunday Recap - March 21, 2010

We're into spring break season now, and our friends and their families are coming and going. Two of our congregation  J.C. Roberts and Scott Marston, aren't headed on vacation though - they're deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. When I was preparing the message on Gideon earlier in the week, in contrast to Gideon's excuses, I was thankful that God placed me here in Valparaiso, among everyday heroes who never would call themselves that. But they are to me. Our congregation will be bringing J.C. and Scott to the throne every day until they return to us, and supporting Pam and Laura and their families.

The message began with a question - Who's your hero?

It's my contention that in today's society, we have purposefully diminished the study of our nation's heroes, and decided that children don't need to be shaped by the stories of those who have gone before. That's our loss, because it's by looking at those who stand out - warts and all - that we can see the potential for world changing lives in all of us - by God's grace and through His power. So we looked at Gideon, and his battle plan against the Midianites. It was actually God's plan. Gideon's was let's hit them with everything we can hit them with. God's plan was "I got this."

We see in the story God's attempt to shape the battle field - not the area where the Midianites were, but of the hearts and minds of Gideon and his people. God takes a 32,000 man army and shrinks it in stages down to just 300 men plus Gideon. A lot has been made over the years about the method God used. That really doesn't matter. The focus should never shift from God to the men. God could have accomplished His victory with whatever number of men He chose to. The key was not the 300.

The key was the one. Gideon.

Was he willing to obey God?

We face the same fears and doubts,just about different things. The deal for us is the same - heroism is optional, but obedience is an absolute requirement to see God's power flow through us and change the world. Had a great time all week with the message and in delivering it.

Music this week: "Lord I Lift Your name On High", "Nothing But the Blood", "Have Thine Own Way" with a video of "For the Sake of the Call" by Steven Curtis Chapman just after the message started. That man is so awesomely using the talent God gave him.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of lifeshaped by God's life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness.1 Peter 1:15 (MSG)

Well, one thing is certain after last night's meal here at New Hope - Pizza still rules as a kid pleasing menu choice. :) Actually there are two things that are certain. The second one?

Kids also love it when adults spend time doing something together they both love to do.

After the mass quantity of kids finished the mass quantity of pizza, the boys headed to Royal Ambassadors and worked on their RA racers, and the girls went to their Child2Child group and worked on "monsters" they've created to sell at the upcoming Saturday in the park.

It was obvious that some "shaping" was going on with the boys as they sanded and polished their cars in hopes of a victory on Saturday in the area competition. But in that group as well as in the girls gathering, what wasn't so obvious was the "shaping" of boys and girls' characters as caring and dedicated adults gave of themselves for the kids.

In each case, if the kids had been out of the way, the immediate product would have been better. After all. the adults have been sanding and sewing for years. But it's not about the immediate product, is it?

Pray for those like our RA and Child2Child leaders who give the love of Jesus every week to kids at New Hope and elsewhere. One day we'll be able to see just how they shaped the future, one child at a time.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

It'll Be Coming Down in Buckets!

When you are just one person, you can only do so much. As a family, you can do a little more. In God's plan for the restoration of His Kingdom here on earth, the instrument of change - gathered and empowered by the Holy Spirit - is the church. A group of imperfect people, flawed but given new hearts for God and for their neighbors, the church led by Jesus is a force for good wherever it is led.

Our church, though small by today's megachurch measurements, does a LOT here and around the world by itself. Our members do a lot themselves - individuals and groups sponsor over a dozen children through Compassion, World Vision, and other groups. I lost count of how many people donated immediately after the Haiti earthquake through the Red Cross, Samaritan's Purse, and others. We are givers. But we can only do so much.

20 of the buckets you see in the picture above came from the heart of New Hope. So as a result, we were able to feed 20 families in Haiti for a week or a little more. Awesome!

Our church belongs to an association of local Baptist churches. We're sort of the rebel of the group in that what we do doesn't sync often with what they do. But we hold core beliefs in common, and one of those core beliefs is that we cooperate to do more for people we'll never know. The result of that cooperation - through money, through time, through people - is that we are part of something big that God uses to care for people all around the world. In Haiti for example, over 60 tons of food have already been delivered by the SBC to Haiti. Thousands of medical exams and treatments have been given. Children and their families have been cared for and long term reconstruction teams are working right now to provide long term shelter before the rains come. They are working alongside Christians of all denominations, many of which who are doing the same sort of work. They work with whoever - Christian, Muslim, Jew, athiest, agnostic - is there to help the people of Haiti.

Horrible tragedies bring people together. God doesn't waste the opportunity to get the people who already love Him, and those He loves but don't love Him- together. We'll probably learn in heaven how He has used this event to gather more prodigals into the family.

When we work together, God smiles.

And New Hope's 20, added to our association's 700+, added to Florida's tens of thousands, added to the other state's, mean this - It's going to rain hope in Haiti. It'll come down in buckets. Hundreds of thousands of them. And families will know that God cares for them and has put His people on the problem.

Look friends, you can't do everything. But you can DO SOMETHING.

And as part of a local church, you can do more. Get plugged in. Don't just sit there. Do something!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday Recap 03142010

- Daylight savings time hurts every year on Sunday morning, but it's worth it to get the awesome extra time in the evenings after we get home.
- Really warm vibe before Bible Study that carried over into worship. We had lots of people at New Hope today that wanted to be there and had looked forward to it all week.
- Demoed the Kidmo children's curriculum we are going to after Easter and if the response from the adults is any indication, it's going to be off the hook. I had several people come up excited about it and had some GREAT ideas about how to debut it.
- Got word we're going to be able to do a block party in Kelly Hills during spring break. COOL!
- Praise team did awesome today. You guys are awesome servants and are so faithful. Thank you.


Not sure exactly how many we'll end up with but it might be 20! That's New Hope helping a group of people the size of New Hope!

We so exceeded my expectations in this ministry. People were really giving sacrificially to help the Haitian people in their hour of need after already helping through the Red Cross and other agencies. The SBC alone has put almost 100 tons of food on the ground there and we're a part of that too.

- I have the feeling that despite some awesome things last year, that today marks the starting line for the run to the prize in 2010. We are going to touch more people - in more ways - in more places - with more of the love and grace of Jesus than ever before. Write it down.

Okay, today's worship set:

Here Is Our King - Crowder
Holy Is the Lord - Baloche
Unfailing Love - Tomlin
I Surrender All

Today's message continued our look at Gideon with the focus on his unusual method of "setting a fleece." His idea was to get absolute confirmation of God's will through making God jump through hoops. I expanded it some to get at some of the other "so called spiritual" ways Christians make decisions. This could have been one of those messages that changes lives in ways that I won't ever realize. If someone truly acts on what they heard and changes the way they make decisions - HUGE!

I'll try to get the audio uploaded to the website tomorrow.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

You Can Talk About Your Man Named Gideon...

And I will tomorrow.

Gideon's fleece is one of those incidents in Scripture that you can't seem to put in any category except weird. And yet compared to some of the crazy ways I have heard people try to justify making decisions that stood in contrast to God's Word and the counsel of godly people, maybe Gideon's "performance fleece" isn't so crazy after all. Add to that all the horoscope checking rabbit foot carrying Christians and you have a recipe for a mess.

I've really enjoyed examining the life of Gideon and the times in which he lived. Pray with me that God would speak clearly through His Word tomorrow.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Do something small, be a part of something big

Engage In Your World from ryan frederick on Vimeo.

One of the coolest things I've seen over the past couple of years at New Hope has been the participation across ages in what we've been led to do. From the aged - people like Robert and Jewel Hughes - who bring coupons from the paper that can be used at arts and crafts and fabric stores, to the littlest girl who learns to sew alongside one of the women on Wednesday night, or Logan and Darien - two wee little boys who designed the "monsters" the girls are making - almost everyone who is a regular at New Hope is contributing in some way to our "Do Something" efforts.

As a student of ministry, I was told that one rule that was constant regardless of context or church size was this - 20% of the people would do 80% of the work. Well, I'd flip that over and say that 80% of our folks are doing something small because they want to be a part of something big. It really began over two years ago as we began to stir to the needs outside our community. Then the first wave of child sponsorships as people reached out in love. And it just keeps going and growing.

President Ronald Reagan said “Some people wonder all their lives if they've made a difference. The Marines don't have that problem.”

Well, I've been placed among people who don't have that problem either. New Hope makes a difference.

Because of the work of people at New Hope - The hungry are being fed. Shoeless people walk out with shoes. Clean water is being made available to those who lack. Orphans are being given life-saving medicines. And soon those who are enslaved will find that New Hope is a part of their being set free. We can't do everything. But we can do something.

Little becomes big when God is in it.

Friend, wherever you are - whether you are a "church person" or not - you can DO SOMETHING. And you ought to. Come see what crazy- only God could make this happen-  things New Hope is doing next. You won't believe it. But personally, every time we do something like that, my faith in God grows even more.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Staying True To the Story

It really happened so quickly. One of the people on a pastors forum I belong to was sharing a prayer request for his senior pastor, David Plaster. Just went back and looked at the date of the prayer request - the 26th of February. What began as weakness in one leg that caused this pastor to be out a few weeks was first diagnosed as Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM). Thoughts were that he'd recover but with some residual weakness or disability. 

Now he's dead at 59 having passed away March 6th.

From what my friend shared, this was a brilliant man - a former professor, (Diploma, University of Lyon, France , B.A., Grace College M.Div., Th.M., Grace Theological Seminary, Th.D., Dallas Theological Seminary) a consummate pastor (of Grace Brethren Church of Worthington (Columbus), Ohio at his death), a great husband, father, grandfather, and friend. My friend John said that he couldn't remember him ever getting less than a perfect score on any test he ever took. As the disease progressed he became paralyzed, and unable to recognize family or friends. They later pinned the cause down as JC virus with PML. There was no cure or treatment possible. He probably contracted it on a mission trip to Africa in November.

Towards the end, he was totally blind, frustrated at his inability to communicate to the point that tears were all that would come easily. On February 25th, the only words he said were "The Lord Is My Shepherd." On the 2nd John wrote " He's only able to say a few things like "temporary", "Holy Spirit", and "Trust God"."

Pray for his family: wife Ginny, children Rachelle, Rob and Andy, and his granddaughter Shelly.

He fought the good fight. He kept the faith. From the fledgling faith of an 8 year old child to the very end at 59, he followed Jesus.

Friends, I've seen many people die poorly, having veered off the plot of the narrative their life had been on until the last days, weeks, even years. David Plaster was apparently so close to His Lord and Savior that what function as words on a page for most Christians was light in the darkness for him. When the disease robbed him of everything he had learned, all that remained was what he had given away to God.

"The Lord Is My Shepherd." He didn't have to finish the verse. God handled that.

Beloved, if David Plaster was sitting across from you right now he'd beg you to cram as much time with Jesus into your life as you possibly can. Make every effort to secure your heart and mind against the coming storms. For when the troubles come, and your very life is being crushed out of you, don't you want to meet your Lord with His story on your heart? You are writing the story of your life with every thought and action. If you want to know the ending then you'd better live the narrative well.

Well done, Dr. David Plaster. Well done.
"I doubt it."
Those might be the words you live by.
People have let you down so many times that when you catch a glimpse of hope, or someone seems to come into your life that gives you an indication that things might be different - that your life could change - the first words that come to your mind are "I doubt it."
You aren't alone in that. And it's okay to begin your journey with doubts. God knows where you are going, even if you don't. Just start walking with Him. 
Bring your doubts with you.
One thing I am constantly thankful for are the realistic pictures I get when I read about people's lives as shown to us in the Bible. Despite all the people we sometimes see in church making constant efforts to present a plastic "front" to their lives, when we look at the Bible, we see a quite different person emerging. One who is real in their fears, in their worries, and in their doubts.
I'm reading last night, and I come across Abraham and Sarah. "God bless them", my mother would have said. They were so mixed up at times and made so many mistakes along the way.

An example:
Then one of them said, "About this time next year I will return, and your wife Sarah will have a son." Now Sarah was listening to this conversation from the tent nearby. And since Abraham and Sarah were both very old, and Sarah was long past the age of having children, she laughed silently to herself. "How could a worn-out woman like me have a baby?" she thought. "And when my master--my husband--is also so old?"
Then the LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, 'Can an old woman like me have a baby?' Is anything too hard for the LORD? About a year from now, just as I told you, I will return, and Sarah will have a son." Sarah was afraid, so she denied that she had laughed. But he said, "That is not true. You did laugh." Gen 18:10-15 (NLT)

And that's where it ends. We are left with a picture of a woman who doubts that God can do what He says He will do, who laughs almost in His face  - is caught doing it, then denies it to His face.

Not a pretty picture.

We have several slogans around here at New Hope, but perhaps my favorite is a quote from an old saint named A.W. Tozer. I'm convinced it helped all of us as a church look past our doubts and focus on God's promises. Tozer wrote:
"Anything God has ever done, He can do now.
Anything He has ever done anywhere, He can do here.
Anything He has ever done for anyone, He can do for you."
Would Sarah have said that? Maybe not at first, but she did grow to believe God could. After the doubt, came a time of reflection, and a realization that God was able.

Later we read:
Sarah, too, had faith, and because of this she was able to become a mother in spite of her old age, for she realized that God, who gave her his promise, would certainly do what he said.  Heb 11:11 (Living)
Friends, I'm writing this to you today to tell you that God has not changed.

But some of us need to.

Embrace the idea that God loves you, and that He can do whatever He needs to do to help you see that.

He can lift you when you are weak.
He can still your heart when you are fearful.
He can demonstrate His power anyway He chooses.
He can do that in your life, in the life of those around you, in your community, in a church.
Is anything too hard for the Lord?
I doubt it. ;)

Monday, March 08, 2010

You probably remember that since our big friend Henley passed away, Monday nights have been "Allan nights" here at the Wilson home.

It's pretty simple stuff.

Bunny cooks normally and we open another place at the table for our friend. He's an interesting guest. To give you an idea about his visits, I'd have to start at about 4PM at church when he shows up to confirm that dinner is on. We leave there about 5:30 and head here. Allan sits in the front seat of the Honda and loves to use the garage door opener. I think doing that alone would be enough for Allan. Bunny and I have our patience tested by that device pretty often, but when Allan tries it always seems to work.

And he explodes in laughter. It's like a kid at Christmas.

We go into the house and Allan is greeted by the Airedales. He reminds them that he loves them. This of course does not slow down their welcoming antics, but then again, maybe it does. Allan then goes and sees Sean (and Chelsea if she's here) and either helps with the last few supper prep tasks or sits and watches ESPN. When we are all called to eat, Allan reminds us where we sit, and helps me say the blessing on our meal.

It's at that point he usually praises Bunny's cooking. Everything seems either to be "my favorite" or "this is the best I have ever had." We'll have some challenging conversation as we eat, given Allan's hearing issues and frequent changes of subject. Then pretty suddenly he'll be through. If we all are, he'll help clear the table. Bunny will ask if he wants some to take home, which he always does. He thanks us again and we head to the garage where the door opener awaits.

Now he gets to open AND close the garage. Just as we came in laughing, we leave the same way.

Not a bad way to start off the week. :)

Let us know if you'd ever like to experience the joys of our Monday nights. Our home is always open to our friends and neighbors. Who knows - play your cards right, and I might even let YOU open the garage door.

Grace and peace,


Admirer or disciple?

One of the people whose works and writings have profoundly affected my view of God, or following Jesus, and still inspire me is Clarence Jordan. Clarence was a graduate of the University of Georgia with a degree in Agriculture, then went on to Southern Seminary and earned a Masters and Doctorate. He was a farmer and a New Testament scholar. In the early 1940's Jordan and his wife found a piece of property in Sumpter County near Americus Georgia and founded "Koinonia Farm", an experiment in Christian community that crossed the racial boundaries that so characterized the South of that time.

During this time Clarence approached his brother Robert Jordan, later state senator and justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, asking him to represent Koinonia Farm legally. His brother replied, “Clarence, I can’t do that. You know my political aspirations. Why, if I represented you, I might lose my job, my house, everything I’ve got.” 

“We might lose everything, too, Bob,” Clarence reminded him. 

Jordan continued, “I remember, it seems to me, that you and I joined the church the same Sunday, as boys. I expect when we came forward the preacher asked me about the same question he did you. He asked me, ‘Do you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior?’ and I said, ‘Yes.’ What did you say?”

“I follow Jesus, Clarence, up to a point,” Robert replied.

“Could that point be…the cross?” asked Clarence pointedly.

“That’s right. I follow him to the cross, but not on the cross. I’m not getting myself crucified.”

Clarence said, “Then I don’t believe you’re a disciple. You’re an admirer of Jesus, but not a disciple of his. I think you ought to go back to the church you belong to, and tell them you’re an admirer, not a disciple.”


But isn't that true of more of us than we'd like to admit? We get squeezed between our professed love for Jesus and "the real world" of work, of money, of family, of status, of class, of rank, of whatever, and that old tempter starts whispering sweet nothings in our ear. And we listen, especially when we're hard pressed. Instead of setting our faces like flint, we gradually turn away from the hard path, the tough places thinking that movement away will bring the comfort and blessings we really want and believe we deserve.

29 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God,30 will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come.”
Luke 18:29-30 (NLT)

When are we going to learn that we cannot out give God? When will we realize that the way "forward" means leaving the values of this world behind? When will we follow Jesus past "that point"?

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Sunday Night Recap - 3/7/10

Wonderful change in the weather might have put everyone in the mood to come to praise and worship God today. After Niara ( the older girls) presented a video by about the fight against human trafficking we kicked off the worship music set which was a mixture of old and new.

O Praise Him  - Crowder
Holy Holy Holy
Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) - Tomlin
Unfailing Love - Tomlin
Softly and Tenderly

As for the message... I started the week out studying the problem of God and suffering, but as the week moved on I wondered if I didn't need to step back from the philosophical and focus on the practical ways those questions show up in our everyday life. That feeling was confirmed by events and in my prayers so the resulting message's hope was that I'd gain an immediate connection and be able to help people find God and His grace whatever they were going through.

Judges 6 opens the book on Gideon - one of the flawed heroes that God seems to enjoy using for His purposes. It also opens us to the great promise: "I will be with you."

Friends, live in that great truth. Abide in it - in Him. God is enough. His grace is sufficient.

Saturday, March 06, 2010


When you open the Bible, you never know.

I am dead serious.

You never know when it's going to reach out and grab you by the heart and shake your soul.

For me, it really doesn't matter why I wound up opening the it, or whether I do it in a modern translation or ancient - in print or on a screen. There are times when I am just slayed by the power of the Story, of the "rightness" of the way Jesus acts, of the reaction of those who rejected Him, and of those who didn't.

For example -

He put a child in the middle of the room. Then, cradling the little one in his arms, he said, "Whoever embraces one of these children as I do embraces me,
and far more than me--God who sent me."

The picture I get of this is Jesus taking a little boy and placing him on His lap. The GK word indicates an embrace in the crook of the arm. I can see the little boy snuggling closer, Jesus looking down and smiling, maybe taking his other hand and tousling the boy's hair. People who were listening to Jesus teach but kind of hanging back, move closer. Holding the boy seems to make Him less of a threat to the status quo.

Then He speaks, and they realize that Jesus would turn their world upside down. He's changing reality. What mattered before, doesn't. What didn't, does.

But look back with me.

Years later, Jesus has been killed and has risen again. Christianity is spreading. The world is changing.

And someone in Capernaum,

now a young man, takes his little boy into his lap -

and suddenly

he remembers the day 
he was held 
in God's arms.


One day, we all will know how that feels. Until then, we'll have to love one another.

18 My dear children, let's not just talk about love; let's practice real love. 19 This is the only way we'll know we're living truly, living in God's reality.
1 John 3:18-19 (MSG)

Friday, March 05, 2010

God Can Use It All

There are many things that happen in the life of people that are obviously negative. Heart-rending instances of events that at the time just slay us. Cause us to wonder, to doubt, to question why God would put us through them. Literally for years we can look back and have those feelings wash over us again. Was just sitting here wondering why, in the face of all the experiences of people in the Bible we are given to learn from, why do we not immediately give those tough times into God's hands.

The story of Joseph for example. He goes from most favored child to slave, from slave to manager, from manager to prisoner. He has a gift for interpreting dreams. He uses it and the guy he helps says"I won't forget this" and then promptly does. Instead of release, he suffers a relapse. But the story ends in triumph and praise for God. Joseph tells his brothers who had sold him into slavery:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. Gen 50:20 (NLT)

Yes that event in your past was awful, but God can use it.

Just had another example of that this week when a teacher prepared a lesson for a class that cut one pupil to the quick - even caused him to question how the teacher could know his circumstances. The teacher didn't, but God did. And the circumstances were almost identical to something the teacher had experienced in their own family years earlier. When they happened, hearts were broken. But many years later, God used that experience to speak Holy Spirit powered truth into the heart of someone in a way they were open to hear.

We're apt to see God everywhere when things are going well, but I'm here to tell you, God can use it all.

Grace and peace,


Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Coalition of the Willing

From Beach Baptism

One of my favorite pictures of all time, taken at our beach baptism last summer.

I remember what someone said when talking about the difference between Desert Storm's diverse alliance of nations and careful preparation and the "coalition of the willing" that gathered for Operation Iraqi Freedom and the lack of things they really could have used - "You go to war with the army you have."

Sitting in my office this afternoon surrounded by my books and assorted reminders of the past few years at New Hope and praying through our church directory, I thanked God for New Hope's "coalition of the willing."  There have been quite a few people who have come through our church over the years. It's a military town after all, and people come here knowing they'll be going somewhere else, and some people just don't stick. Many have really blessed us and contributed to our mission to reach Valparaiso and beyond with the love of Jesus Christ. I can look around and see some examples of their time with us. Memories last too.

But to the "coalition of the willing" who come almost every week, serve, and give to the work of God through New Hope - who have invested years here, who pray for the work and for the pastor and his family - brothers and sisters, as Paul wrote to a church he loved once, "you are my joy and crown."

This is NOT any easy place to serve. It's well, gritty work. We are surrounded by a poorer needier city and are off the beaten path. Our service seldom gets noticed by the big city folks. We don't offer everything for everybody - just can't. And yet, we do more ministry, more often, with less people and resources than any other church I have ever known percentage-wise. Hard work. Good work. God's work. You come to New Hope to push back against the darkness, to shine the light of Jesus in dark places, to be known as who you are, really - and to be known.

To my New Hope "coalition of the willing" I'd say this.

I will go to war anytime with you and push right up to hell's front door knowing that I was serving alongside people who are living the mission out everyday. Thanks for sharing your lives with me and my family. Thanks for your dedication and sacrifices. Thanks for being you.

If you're reading this, live anywhere near and want to be a part of what God is doing at New Hope, come and join us as we love, laugh, and rip up Satan's plan and throw it back in his face.
When the Storms Come

We've been enjoying our Airedale pups since we adopted them from Airedale Rescue in November. They haven't replaced the irreplaceable Henley the Great Dane, but they've added their own special antics and lovable clown expressions to our everyday life here.

Stevie (after Stevie Nicks) and Mick (after Mick Fleetwood) are pretty neat pups. They travel across the back yard at light speed, play hard, and sleep deeply. Well, they both sleep deeply until thunderstorms come and Stevie gets upset. The first time it happened we awoke at 3 AM with Stevie standing between us on the bed panting incessantly. I tried to hold here and pet her until the storms subsided. At 7:30, they finally did.

Last night as a line of storms moved through, Stevie jumped onto the love seat with me and tried to climb me like a tree. She put her head under my arm and shivered and shook. So I held her tighter and she calmed somewhat. She stayed as close as she could for over an hour and then climbed down. It rained for a while longer, but she fell asleep on the floor. I guess she just needed someone to hold her tightly until the storms ceased.

Have you been there?

I have.

There are times in many of our lives when the storms roll across our lives. Health issues, job losses, relationship hurts, could be most anything. But it shakes you and causes you to experience emotional turmoil. Where do you run? To God. David wrote this in one of his times of trouble.

5 For He will conceal me there when troubles come; He will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock.
Psalms 27:5 (NLT)
Notice the personal knowledge God has of the psalmist's needs and the personal nature of God's care. "He will conceal"; "He will hide"; "He will conceal."

When you place your trust in God, He becomes your comforter and your strength. In times of trouble, move closer to Him. Put God between your troubles and you.

Grace and peace,


Monday, March 01, 2010

Sermon Synopsis: 02/28/10 :The Problem With Christianity Is - Jesus Is the Only Way

One of the things that I've learned over the years is how to read a crowd. It's a gift that gives and takes though. On a Sunday when you are into the message and it is going well - people engaged, seemingly taking in the material - it's great and encouraging. But things change when you've prayed and prepared and come expecting the best, and you've overshot the runway... and crashed and burned. Yesterday, I think I had really good content but it was a LOT to take in. Turned into a lecture instead of something that not only imparts information but which has the potential to be transformative. So let me unpack it for you.

One of the main objections people have who are feeling a spiritual pull but are not yet Christians have with Christianity is its exclusive claims. People like to feel that everyone who lives a good life will find a welcome mat laid out for them in heaven. They've been taught that all religions are basically the same. I'm ok. You're ok. Then someone comes along and tells them about Jesus and they are intrigued by His life but get stuck as they walk deeper at items like this. So my hope is that for those at that point, the message would help them understand the doctrine, and for those already following, they'd get some tools to be able to share with friends.

The "rub" with Christianity is accelerating for several reasons. First is the influx of people from different cultures and faiths. Then there's the rise of aggressive atheism. The desire of some in education to bridge over differences and push not just tolerance but blind acceptance and equal value in each religion has produced some people who value how something makes them feel as opposed to what it makes them think contributes as well.

But if Christianity is true, and Christ's claims are valid, then the only hope for our friends and neighbors is Him. We cannot remain silent, but at the same time we cannot argue anyone into the Kingdom of God. Many have been driven away by the arrogance of people who claim to follow Jesus as they almost gleefully pronounce sentence on others. The Bible is explicit in it's condemnation of such methods in several places.

So if you look at the slides above you'll see the pictures of mosques and temples across America, and the stats on just how fast other religions are growing here, laid against the growth of Christianity overseas. What I didn't put in and should have though is that the fastest growing group in the US is in people who claim no belief in God alone.

The first area I opened up for thought was the idea that all religions and worldviews make exclusive truth claims - as do various disciplines in secular life. If we had a panel of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian clerics in front of us and we asked them to explain where the other religions beliefs fall short in practice. The Muslim would see our belief in Jesus as the Son of God and in the resurrection as wrong, and our lack of belief in the koran and Muhammed as seriously deficient. The Jewish rabbi would have his own problems as we would with both of theirs.

Truth claims - even exclusive ones, are not inherently evil. I pointed out that I wanted the pilot of any plane I was inside to be fully sold out to Bernoulli's principle of lift. Otherwise he might decide to just pick any speed at takeoff and any distance down the runway to try to lift off depending on how he felt that day. I want my surgeons to believe in certain absolute truth claims about anatomy to the exclusion of folk doctors and the like. We accept and appreciate those who believe and live by those claims, so why the rub with Christianity? So I then explained how the culture tries to deal with the claims - various methods from outlawing religion to ignoring it. But it's not just a 21st century problem, the apostle John, as he wrote the letter we are focusing on, was in a culture who promoted emperor worship to the exclusion and harsh persecution of all others.

How do you know who to believe?

John says believe those who have the Spirit of God. You'll know them, he says, by whether or not they believe in Jesus as Messiah, as the man-God who came into the flesh and lived among us. Such a person would rest in their belief that Jesus Only is God's chosen instrument of grace and Jesus Only is the hope of humanity - we need no other means of becoming right with God - indeed there is no other means. Jesus Himself in John 14:6 proclaimed Himself to be "the way..." and then Luke records Peter in Acts as saying there was "salvation in no one else and no other name under heaven by which we must be saved."

Is that exclusive? yes

But it is also inclusive, because Christ's death was for everyone.

5 For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.6 He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.1 Tim 2:5-6 (NLT)

Is it effective for everyone? No, only those who believe in Jesus and live for Him. Those who do will be filled with the Spirit of God and will be able to resist the propaganda of the world and see Jesus for Who He is. But those who do not believe can't sort the competing claims. So for a Christian to argue and condemn them is like arguing with a blind man about how blue the sky is. We must not argue, but we also cannot be silent, for that same blind man is walking toward a cliff. You cannot call yourself a follower of Jesus if because that person doesn't believe, you decide to let them go their own way without hearing the good news Jesus brings. They may be great people - more moral, more kind and compassionate than many Christians we all know.

7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 1 John 4:7-8 (NLT)

That's our job. To love as Jesus did. To be the friend of sinners. To be the one who rush in to help whenever our neighbors are in need. All human beings have worth beyond who they are or where they find themselves because they are God's handiwork, His poema -  His masterpiece. We are the recipients of treasure but carry that treasure in jars of clay. We're flawed. But we are precious to God and should look at each other and see Him. And when we do, the world will take notice. Just as the Christians did in the 1st century. I highlighted the work of Christians around the world right now and mentioned the efforts we at New Hope are involved with today. I'm so grateful to be a part of what our church is doing.

I believe that the message of Jesus is the answer to the ills of the world today. That it is unique among the world's religions and that the claims of Christ hold sway over all others. I believe that Christianity lived according to the Bible through the power of the Holy Spirit is the most fulfilling and impactful way to live. I believe this because of what I have read, seen, and experienced.

Christ's message lifts up the poor, the weak and the defenseless. It obliterates class and status, gender and race. In pointing us to our common sin nature it does not leave us there but provides a way out - through Jesus Christ. His ultimate sacrifice included his forgiving even those who nailed Him to the cross. No one is outside God's desire that "all might be saved."

So yes, Christianity is "exclusive" to those who have humbled themselves in repentance and asked God to forgive their sins. But it's also "inclusive" in that everyone who does so can find forgiveness and new life through Jesus.  That's a good deal for everyone.

Jesus Only  - yes Jesus only - He's all we need

and Only Jesus - Can make it right with God and give us new life - life to the full

If there were only one cure for cancer, would you complain or having be diagnosed with it, would you be desperate and willing to do whatever it took? Well, our diagnosis is in, and we are dead in our sins without the cure - Jesus. He can supply everything we need, but we have to accept the diagnosis and the cure.

Problem? Not really. It's an opportunity for everyone who is willing to be saved.