Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It's Good To Remember This

Even if you don't believe you can become more like Jesus, even if you can't see any way the old you will ever fade away, even if your family and friends don't believe this Christianity deal is anything more than a passing fad with you and that you will fail...

Even if no one else believes in you...

God does.

In fact, He can already see you changing, already picture you becoming more like Jesus.

"...those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son..."

He knows you can do it. And he's planning on your seeing it through - walking with Him, relying on His Holy Spirit to guide and direct your paths while he is working everything together for your good.

See the thing is - He's planning a BIG family reunion.

"...that he (meaning Jesus) might be the firstborn among many brothers."

That's us folks. We're part of those many brothers who God knew would be reborn in Jesus Christ. We're part of the people from every nation who will gather around the throne having been made pure through the blood of the Lamb. That's us! We win!!!!!!

So we shouldn't end this passage doing anything but praising God.

Because God will see us through to completion through the power of His Holy Spirit.

God believes in you, beloved. Even if no one else (including you) does. And He's going to see you though.

Grace and peace,


Monday, June 28, 2010

A Week In the Life

Was sitting here thinking about last week at New Hope and wondering if anyone else realizes just how different we are. Most churches now are employing large staffs to be able to get things done and then hiring professionals to take care of their facilities. Many also employ outside help to staff the nursery or pay their musicians. The New Hope family does all that and more.

Just in the past week -

Monday we had several women take on cleaning up the kitchen. They did an awesome job. If you aren't involved in the fellowship meals you might have missed it. Thanks Carol, Diane, Jimmie, and JoAnn.
Scott did his usual great job at making sure our finances were in order.

Tuesday the band met to rehearse Sunday's music. They are putting in a couple extra hours a week trying to get better at leading in worship. Thanks Amy, Pam, John, Sean, Taylor, and Bunny.

Wednesday night we had several people helping make sure everyone was fed and that everything was cleaned up. Oh and Allan's birthday was taken care of. Thanks Carol, Diane, Frank, Joe, JC, Brenda, Mack, and Larry. The praise team rehearsed with all the band plus Jessica, Danielle, Emily, and Jamie - oh and JoAnn helped with the power point. Then Hector and Jessica helped clear the stage for the memorial service Friday. Thanks everyone.

Thursday - Jim Quinnell was going on vacation the next day, but made sure his church's yard was cut and trimmed. Thanks Jim. John Anderson came and programmed the A/C for the memorial service Friday. Scott came up with Sean and they began working on filling holes and low spots in the fellowship hall floor. It took several trips as they had to let it dry between coats. Thanks John, Scott and Sean.

Friday - Craig and crew (don't know who else) made sure the materials were ready for Saturday's work day. Craig cleaned the fellowship hall to make sure the flooring would meet no problems.

Saturday - At 6:30 AM, the work crews were at it in the fellowship hall as well as outside. Both crews did an amazing job. Thanks Carol, Joe, JC, Frank, Larry and Brenda, Scott and Sean, Craig, Mack and Hector.
Sunday - at 5:15 AM, John Anderson comes up to double check the A/C. At 9M, Larry and JoAnn, and Mack show up to open the buildings and provide the donuts that New Hope loves.

That doesn't include the preparation and teaching time that all our teachers in RAs, girls ministry, Kidmo, youth and adult Bible study put in. Thanks Joe, Larry, John, Bunny, Mary, Harriet, JoAnn, Pam, and Jessica. Or the service in the nursery done this week by Frank and Diane. It also doesn't include the folks taking care of Robert and Jewel, checking on Evelyn Brown, and who took food over or helped Thelma Rhinehart through the loss of her sister.

With all the above, I've still probably missed something and someone. There's so much work that goes on behind the scenes.

But what I am trying to help everyone see is that New Hope is unique and special because of people who give their time, talents and resources to make her all God is calling her to be and to do. I have never seen a church like ours. I think there need to be a lot more like her though. Did you realize just how much your friends did for God and His church last week? Give thanks to God.

Would you do one thing more for me?

If you are one of the people listed above - keep doing what you are doing. You matter to our mission - to God's plan.

If your name isn't listed and you'd like to find a place to serve, see me. We've got more we could do if we had more people to serve. Maybe you'd like to make followup calls to visitors or send cards to people we've missed seeing. Perhaps you are a keyboard wiz who could help input data for Scott. Or maybe you can cook and would be interested in helping out one week a month with the meal. If you want to serve alongside others, we'll find a place.

And if you have a friend whose not serving in their church but wants to make a difference, invite them to come and visit. The only way to grow a spiritual muscle is to use it. We can help them with that. :)

I thank God for you.


Won't You Be My Neighbor? Sunday Recap June 27, 2010

The story of the Good Samaritan. Done it a few times over the years. Everyone knows it, right.

Spent a LOT of time on background to try and find tidbits that would excite me about the passage. Found some stuff which was cool. But it wasn't until Saturday night that the message gripped ME. It was as if scales fell off my eyes as the Holy Spirit dealt with my heart. Stunning.

There are times when you finish preparation and you pray over the message asking God to take it and use it for His will that you aren't sure who it will affect. There are also times that you have a pretty good idea as a pastor who will have to deal with what will be taught. Then there was yesterday. I went into the sermon expecting pretty much everyone to be as stunned as I was.

One person told Bunny "David sure dropped a bomb on us with that sermon." Another case of the "only the imperfect messenger," folks.

If you go back through the text and especially look at the contextual background, you'll see just how incendiary it is. Jesus' story was brilliantly crafted. He used a formula the people would have been familiar with to build the story around - The Priest, the Levite, and _____. Normally the third member would have been the "good old boy", "just plain folks", everyday man. So as the story progressed, the hearers would have been nodding to themselves and setting up the ending in their minds and hearts. It would give most of them the opportunity to separate themselves from the other two characters and feel secure in their beliefs. Instead, Jesus does just the one thing they never (including the disciples - see Luke 9 for their brand of bigotry) dreamed of. How'd He do it? He used the Samaritan as the good guy.

Samaritans and Jews - where to begin. Worst racism I've seen. I used a slide of a man in Haiti trapped when a building fell. Under the Jewish way of practicing their religion at the time, if that building had fallen on the sabbath, the Jews would have checked to see if the man was Jewish. If he was, they would have rescued him. But if he wasn't, even if his life would soon be forfeit - they'd leave him there until the sabbath was over. The Jews reinterpreted the horizontal (people to people) parts of the 20 commandments to add the caveat - "as long as the person is a Jew". So in practice, they had withdrawn any application of the Law's mercy provisions from anyone but themselves.

So we look at that and go "bad Jews, what were they thinking?" We might go as far as see the parallels in American attitudes to race, especially in the South to black people. But for the most part, people know that will not fly in God's eyes. Yes, we still have racists in the church, but they have been silenced to a great degree and our churches have been opened to all. 

So how to bring back the "bite" of that parable to today's listener?

Or said another way, what sin did the Holy Spirit convict me of Saturday night? Well here's what the Holy Spirit used to nail me.

Just substitute "illegal alien" for Samaritan.


For the record, I believe we should secure the border first. Illegal is illegal and the church is subject to obeying those that God has put in authority over us. We have to work out what to do with those already here. If we deport them, we cannot dump them like people do puppies out in the country. Whatever we do cannot regard them as any less human as someone born here. They are people created in God's image too. We cannot see them as "an issue." We have to see them as neighbors. So "go and do likewise" brothers and sisters.

Music for Sunday -
 We debuted "Revelation Song" and it was awesome as a opening to worship by the praise team alone.
Here Is Our King by Crowder was next.Then "Whole world in His hands"

Then we did Revelation Song again adding "Holy Holy Holy" to the end. The idea was that the Rev song was bringing us to the throne and since we were there we should sing along with the heavenly hosts. Emily Shermer did great on the Holy Holy Holy lead in.

"Just as I am " was the invitation.

Great place to serve. Great people to serve with. Come and see what God is doing at New Hope.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Happy Birthday Dear Allan, Happy Birthday To You

Allan is 28 years old now. His birthday was actually Monday, but New Hope always celebrates it on the Wednesday closest to the date. I'll bet that two weeks from now, Allan will begin telling us when his birthday will be NEXT year. Tonight we had TWO cakes for him, presents and birthday cards and he got wished a happy birthday by everyone.

How much is Allan a part of our little Valparaiso community?

When I went to order the cake, the young woman at the counter figured out who it was for. She said "he wants the Niceville High School logo on his cake." I laughed because that is classic Allan. Then she said, "since it is for Allan, we'll throw that in for free."

New Hope loves Allan, but so do many others in our community. And whether they know it or not, they are showing just how big God's love for Allan and for all of us is. I remembered what the apostle Paul wrote to another church:

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Eph 3:17-19 (NIV)

Haven't grasped it yet, but days like today help. And I think everyone at New Hope would tell you that Allan helps us learn how God loves too. So Happy 28th birthday Allan.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Don't Judge A Book By the Cover

I'd have to admit first that I am not a Frank Viola or Leonard Sweet fan. Viola is completely sold out to house churches and I've BTDT. Sweet is one of those authors who seems to me to enjoy reading what he writes out loud to himself while smiling at his wittiness. So when the publisher of the "Jesus Manifesto" offered pastors a free copy to evaluate, I almost didn't bother. I know, I know - free is good. But my prejudices against the authors almost won.

It would have been my loss.

I'm about a 100 pages in and this is really a wonderful book that restores the readers worship of and appreciation of Jesus. From the very beginning I have been treated to paragraph after paragraph lifting Jesus' name up and clearly explaining what the believer has in Christ. Reading it feels like worship to me. I get the feeling it felt like that to the authors too, because they will write a few paragraphs and pause and write "but there's more!"

This is shaping up to be one of the best books I have read in years.

Sunday Recap June 20 2010

We are into summer big time, where the 15 minute trip to Destin can take an hour and where we apparently intend to keep at least one family in Orlando continuously. Had some folks return and others leave. The most notable return was our Big Creek Missions group back from a week in KY. They were a little tired from the trip - having arrived after 9 PM the night before. But they were still pumped. We'll hear more from them next week.

Father's Day - it's one of those days that you have to determine as a pastor what direction you should take the message. Do you preach at/to fathers? Do you talk about fatherhood/parenthood/family? I literally thought and prayed about this particular weekend for a while and wound up being pointed to the Parable of the two sons in Luke 15. There's a ton of great resources out there on this passage - Kenneth Bailey's contextual work, Tim Keller's "Prodigal God" materials - really a host of people have tackled it. Many are splitting the study of of the parable into multiple sermons and looking at each brother and the father. I chose to cover it all in one.

Two things that really jumped out at me from the story: There were two lost sons - not one. The younger son (called the prodigal) is a no brainer for us - we see his sin immediately. But the elder brother's sins aren't as obvious because he seems to do what he's told and follow the rules. In my experience, the most devastating hurts that the Bride of Christ has suffered have not been from the prodigals but from the older brothers. Cross them as a pastor and you'll know it. And yet what they have done is set up a parallel "gospel" of works that has nothing to do with the heart of Christ.

Music for Sunday was:

Our God Saves
How Great Is Our God
Unfailing Love
The Potters Hand
Just As I Am

We're working hard every week to raise the level of worship and praise and I want to thank the band and the vocalists for investing more time in getting better at what we are honored to do.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sunday Recap on Thursday :)

I guess the creator of that graphic didn't have a problem loving Democrats. Well, add that to the list along with BP executives, Wall Street Bankers and whoever else you've decided is out of the reach of God's love.

Wow - how time flies. It's been a busy week and I completely forgot about the recap.

We sent our mission trip team out this weekend and that combined with the opening of a short vacation for the kids meant we expected to feel the summer's effect - but we had a great group of people who really seemed to want to worship and learn more about God.

Our worship set:
He Reigns
Mighty To Save
Blessed Be Your Name

At the root of the reason I became a Christian was the idea of "grace." So the sermon basically put forth the idea of what grace should bring forth in the recipient. I think brother Bono gets it.

“You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the Universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that ‘As you reap, so will you sow’ stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff. . . . I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.”

So am I brother. 

Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

A Thrill and An Honor

Had a great time Saturday afternoon welcoming J.C. Roberts home from Iraq. We had several New Hope folks who went out with us to provide a welcome home backdrop behind Pam's exited rush to welcome her loving husband home. It took a minute but he actually did notice us. :)

After over ten years it never gets old to Bunny and me. The opportunity God gave us to work with and serve such special people like JC and Pam is the gift that keeps on giving. Having a small part in supporting our nation's military and their families is an incredible blessing. I still look up when the planes go over and run outside to look if there's one that sounds different - hoping that it will be one of the new F-35s or even one from another nation. It happens - we had Toronado's here once, an Israeli Kafir, even a Mig 29. From my office I can here as the base plays the Star Spangled Banner at the end of the day over the loudspeakers. When you go out to eat, you are frequently surrounded by people in uniform. Just a great place.

While J.C. was gone, all of us at New Hope tried to constantly hold him close to the Lord in prayer, and also tried to be available for whatever Pam and Jamie might need. When someone is putting his life on the line for you everyday, it's the least you can do to pray for him. Every time we met as a group, we prayed. I even put wallpaper on my laptop of a Combat Talon C130 (as well as an MC-22 Osprey for Scott Marston,who's in Afghanistan) as a reminder to pray. His handshake on his arrival was all the reward I needed. He was home!

Today he came in and presented me with this case containing a flag and a certificate attesting to the fact that the flag had been carried aloft on a Combat Talon 1 mission over Iraq and was presented to "Pastor David Wilson." Tears welled up. For him to think of me as deserving of something like that was an unbelievable honor. It is the coolest gift I have ever received and one that I will treasure forever. If the house catches on fire, it and the Bible my Mother carried in WW2 are leaving with me.

If you have never lived in a military community, you have really missed out. It's filled with people as brave and as generous as JC and Pam. Bunny and I are so blessed. Thank you J.C. and Pam.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Sunday Recap June 6, 2010

Summertime is here. I know the calendar won't reflect it until the 20th, but it's definitely here. One of our New Hope folks was walking to the sanctuary and remarked "why does anyone buy a sauna when they could just walk outside." True. So thankful for the generosity of our church family who when faced with the dying of BOTH  sanctuary air conditioners stepped up and gave over and above their tithes and offerings to have them replaced and paid for. I serve within the most giving group of people I have ever known.

Last week of school and a very short six week summer vacation for the kids means that lots of people will be taking vacations earlier. Our mission trip to Big Creek Missions in Kentucky leaves this weekend. So we're going to see some folks move in and out into different places of service they wouldn't normally be in. Great opportunity to see God at work.

We were anticipating a great day of worship yesterday. And God delivered big time. We debuted "Mighty To Save" to open our worship and then brought the congregation in with us later in the set to sing it again. That enabled us to see a sight (best announcer voice on) "seldom seen in nature - Baptists raising their hands in praise." The praise band worked so hard for weeks on that song and the musicians have been practicing twice each week to grow stronger musically. But I think the song grew us. It's such an awesome anthem of praise.

The worship set was: Mighty To Save, Hosanna, Holy Is The Lord, A Shield About Me, Mighty To Save, and Jesus Paid It All. Really thought it went well and the congregation really got into it. That's why we do it - to see people in worship of our awesome God.

The message yesterday was a "one-off" that really came about out of a direction coming out of prayer and reflection over how disconnected many people who follow Christ have become from the practices that Christ Himself outlined for us.

Working on the next series this week. Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

A New Thing - An Old Thing - And I Hope, A God Thing

One of the things we did when we went to New Orleans was to head to the levee to see the Mississippi River. Of course I had seen it from that spot before, but no one would ever claim that I had seen the same river - the water I saw years ago had long since found it's way into the Gulf. It's that way with families and it's that way with churches. We're realizing more and more that the church that we were five years ago, even two years ago isn't the church we are now. So we are staying focused on our mission to Love God, Love People, and Serve All but we're looking for ways to grow deeper and reach farther.

One of the new opportunities coming are "Life Transformation Groups" or "Triads."

These are groups of three men who get together every two weeks (or every week if they decide to) and spend an hour with each other. They read the same Scriptures during the time between meetings, then meet and discuss what God has said in their hearts. They pray for each other, sharing personal and other requests, and are accountable to each other. Many groups use a series of accountability questions to help in the accountability process. What I'm praying that will happen is that these groups will find that in meeting together - sharing in each other's growth in Christ, in their daily prayer needs, and their lives - that each and every one of the men that participate will find their walk strengthened and bonds formed that will last a lifetime.

In the beginning, I'm going to be involved in every group that's formed. Once the groups go through a semester, we'll step back and see which of them can then go and form another group. But I'm really praying that this will be one of those moments that we as a church will look back on in a few years and see as the beginning of a move to another level.

It's going to be a busy summer - Mission Trip to Kentucky leaves next weekend. The RA boys are going for the first time to camp this year at Blue Springs. We're helping with the "Moving Wall" in a couple of weeks. We've got our second annual "Rice and Beans" focus coming in July to help with the work of Amazima. So be praying that God will lead us out of it stronger and with more influence for Christ in our community.

Friday, June 04, 2010

A Demonstration Plot For the Kingdom of God

It had to be from God.

There's just no way anyone sets out to live this way. There's no way that a community founded on living out the New Testament makes it 68 years.

And yet this "demonstration plot for the Kingdom of God" is still existing and still drawing people into the experiment - and toward the Way of Jesus. Just received their newsletter in the mail recently and it was bursting forth with what was happening on the farm and really around the world as a result of the vision of Clarence Jordan and those who have followed in his steps.

When you ride through the fields of the South, if you are observant, you'll frequently see signs set out at the edges of the fields that tell you what variety of seed is planted there. Often after harvest, you'll also see signs telling you what the yield per acre was. The other thing you will notice is funny shaped plastic "cups" that collect insects. The farmer will then work to control those insects by means of aerial crop spraying. It's all done to try to get the best outcome from the work and the investment they've put into that field.

I'd say that God received and receives to the present day a wonderful return on His investment at Koinonia Farm. The signs are planted all over the world. Habitat for Humanity was birthed here as Jordan and Millard Fillmore saw a need to mobilize people to construct housing for the poor. Today they test sustainable agriculture, seek green ways of living, and work among their neighbors in service. I thank God for the work of His people at Koinonia.

May they continue to grow and demonstrate God's love. One of the days I really want to make a trip there and spend some time walking the fields Clarence Jordan loved so much, and learning more about what "risky" Christian community really is all about.

If you would like to support their work, not only can you donate online, but they also have some wonderful products made at the farm as well as fair trade products produced elsewhere. Copies of Clarence Jordan's writings, sermons, and his "Cotton Patch Gospel" are also available. Check them out.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

This Is What A Man Does

He failed. Spectacularly. At the thing he'd built a career on getting right. From calling High School, to working College games, to years spent in the minors, and for over a decade in the pros, Jim Joyce was known as an ump who made the right calls.

Not tonight. At least not at first.

With two outs in the final inning of what had been a perfect performance by Detroit pitcher Armando  Galarraga, a ground ball was hit to the right side of the infield. The first baseman ranged to his right and Galarraga moved to cover the bag. He got to the bag and caught the throw in plenty of time. Umpire Jim Joyce was in perfect position to make the call.  He made it.

And he was wrong. It cost Galarraga a spot in history.

Listen friends, all men fail. Even highly skilled and fiercely dedicated ones. That's a given. What isn't a given is what they do when it happens. Many pretend they didn't. Others place blame somewhere else. But real men of integrity and character OWN THEIR FAILURES.

Like Jim Joyce did.

“I just cost that kid a perfect game,” Joyce said. “I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay. It was the biggest call of my career,” said Joyce. After he viewed the replay, Joyce went into the Detroit dugout and apologized for missing the call to Galarraga personally.

That's what a real man does.

Bravo to Jim Joyce.  Bravo to Galarraga who when the call was made did not blow up but went back to the mound and took care of business and got the final out.

Well done.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Sunday Recap on Tuesday for May 30, 2010

Memorial Day weekend is one of those times when you know that you're going to be missing people on Sunday. We had people spread out all over and because we had prepared for it, were able to get everything covered. I had an awesome time in Kidmo with some great kids, and then got to go over to worship and get recharged.

Here's the worship set. I thought that everyone did a great job,

How Can I Keep From Singing
God With Us
In Christ Alone
Amazing Grace

The message Sunday was about the amazing faith of a Roman Centurion. Great vibe from the congregation. Can't wait to see what Summer is going to bring us at New Hope.

Looking forward, we've got the Mission Trip to Kentucky, the Moving Wall service opportunity, movies in the park, Royal Ambassador camp, and lots more. Come and see!

Reason #4267 Why I Love Dogs

Yesterday I spent some time reading about heroes. While reading about heroes in WW1 I came across the story of another hero. Yesterday wasn't the right time to share it, as our focus was on the men and women who gave their lives for our freedom. But I think placing it as close as possible alongside is exactly where both sets of heroes would want it to be. After all, that's where dogs were created to be.

Jack -- War Hero 
Story from Dogs Home Battersea, UK
In the British War Museum is a small wooden stand to the memory of Airedale Jack, a hero of the Great War. Just a dog . . . but a hero who in 1918 saved a whole British battalion from being annihilated by the enemy.
 Airedale Jack was sent over to France as a messenger and guard. There was a big push on, and he was taken by the Sherwood Foresters to an advance post. The battle raged, and things went badly against the Foresters. The enemy sent across a terrific barrage, cutting off every line of communication with headquarters, four miles behind the lines. It was certain that the entire battalion would be wiped out unless reinforcements could be secured from headquarters, but how? It was impossible for any man to creep through the walls of death that surrounded them. 
But there was just one chance - Airedale Jack. 
Lieutenant Hunter slipped the vital message into the leather pouch attached to the dog's collar. A pat on the head and then simply: 'Good-bye Jack . . . Go back, boy'. The battalion watched Jack slip quietly away, keeping close to the ground and taking advantage of whatever cover there was, as he had been trained to do. The bombardment continued, and the shells fell all around him. 
A piece of shrapnel smashed the dog's lower jaw . . . but he carried on. Another missile tore open his tough, black and tan coat from shoulder to haunch - but on he went, slipping from shell-crater to trench. With his forepaw shattered, Jack had to drag his wounded body along the ground for the last three kilometres. There was the glaze of death in his eyes when he reached headquarters - but he had done a hero's work and saved the battalion.

Jack was presented with a posthumous Victoria Cross.

Thank God for these amazing creatures who give so much. Our Airedales don't seem to be as heroic. Mick got freaked by a coat hanger that fell in the tub, and Stevie hates thunderstorms. But I know that the same heroic sacrificial heart beats in each of them.

Go hug your dogs!