Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Like Sunshine

We've been in Hebrews Chapter 6 for a couple of weeks in our Wednesday night small group and it has been challenging us to double down on what we know about interpreting Scripture, God's sovereignty, what salvation is, and whether someone could lose their salvation. We had our first attempt at cutting the Gordian knot that is contained in verses 4-8 shortened by a power outage - kind of hard to do any study in the dark. But last week we pushed through, past multiple theories, to common ground.

As I picked up my NLT this morning and started reading, it was as if sunlight had broken through the clouds. There were no questions about how this passage should be interpreted. No contextual difficulties. No competing opinions. There was certainty. Timeless assurances. Unshakable and unchangeable. It was awesome to read - again and again and again.

To be able to see once more that God is Who He says He is - will do what He says He will do - and wants us to know that so badly He places multiple passages of Scripture throughout the Bible to let us know - is like sunshine after days of rain.

I think Eugene Peterson in the Message phrased how we should feel perfectly.

We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. 19 It's an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God
Heb 6:18-19 (MSG)

Go do something beautiful today for God.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Recap August 29, 2010

For three years now, we've been part of the Sole4Souls team of people who are working to make sure everyone has shoes. Such a simple thing to any of us - need shoes, go to the closet. Want new shoes? Go to the store. But for most of the world on an everyday basis, that's not reality. And for people after disasters who have lost everything - the same is true. So New Hope stepped forward again this morning and gave. To overflowing.

Never known a more generous group of people. Ever.
Never known fewer people to do more to change the world.

My prayer, my several times a day, everyday of my life prayer...
is that more people would experience the joy of serving among people like them.

So, about today....
People still buzzing about the "New Hope Jeopardy" we played at the church social last Sunday night. Oh yeah, I'll be sharing some of the wacky answers in coming weeks. But seriously - love getting to know more about the people I serve with.

- Youth - I haz dem. :) I'm getting a chance to teach the HS youth for a couple weeks and I love it.

- Worship - from the announcements on - it rocked. The full belly project video was really enlightening and inspiring. The Child2Child girls did a great job. And John Anderson really put it all in context. Again,if you want to change the world - no better place to do it from than New Hope Valparaiso

- Music - Probably the best worship music set we have ever done. It was like the Dove awards or something. *Everlasting God, *Mighty To Save, *Revelation Song - I saw people raising their hands in praise IN A BAPTIST CHURCH!!!

-Message - continued in Colossians

Wasn't happy with it. Trusting that the Holy Spirit used it in ways I couldn't see.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

It Still Hurts

One of the last pictures of Henley I have. If you notice, he's not putting much weight on his left rear leg. When you know what to look for, you can see that the "hock" is enlarged. That's where the cancer was. The bones of his leg were riddled with cancer to such a point that he could have stepped wrong at any point and broken it. We didn't know the extent of the danger at this point. But when the vet showed us the X-rays... we made the painful decision  to put him to sleep.One of the hardest things we have ever done, but we couldn't bear the thought of him in that pain.

Lord knows we miss him. It hurts. We'd give almost anything to have him back.

But I believe God gave us Henley and that He is even now in God's care. The Bible says that the soul of every creature is in God's hand. (Job 10:12) One day, my hope is to feel that velvet nose nudging my hand, and that great big body leaning against me. It'll make heaven even more special.

Until then, we have two great Airedale pups to love and be loved by, and we WILL have another Great Dane. But it still hurts.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Barefoot Sunday Is Coming

Sunday, we'll be trying to help God change the world, one pair of shoes at a time. There are people in this world who have never had the luxury of choosing which pair of shoes to wear each morning. People who contract illnesses and parasites due to their lack of something so basic. We can't change the whole world from the corner New Hope sits on, but we can "Do Something! - and for the third year, we are.

If you want to come and be a part of what God is doing, show up Sunday at 10:45.

What Lasts

When it arrived today, I was almost afraid to open it. After over 80 years since it was carried home by a high schooler, I wasn't sure how it had held up. The outside seemed in fairly good shape, though the unmistakable smell of a back that's been packed up for a while was immediately evident. Yet when I opened it, the window into another time in my home town immediately allowed me a glimpse into how it was in 1918.

The building in this picture has gone through several lives since the time this picture was taken. It served as the vocational school when I was growing up. It wasn't until later that I learned it had been the original Lanier High School. It still stands, mute now as to what happened to all those young people who passed through its doors. Who now have all passed away.

When I looked at the names, having grown up in Macon and lived there most of my life, some were very familiar. Some went on to be educators and schools are named after them. Others were successful in business - there are still stores and restaurants bearing their names. But most of the names in that book are emblazoned on no more than tombstones. And eventually, all of the memories, the successes and failures will be gone. It's the way of this life.

So what lasts? What is it that any of can do that lives on?

Those acts which bring glory to God - that affect eternity.

The thing is, we don't always know what they are. It could be a cup of cold water. It could be a smile. Or letting someone know that Jesus loves them.

Or even a pair of shoes.

We're participating with "Soles4Souls" Sunday in what they call "Barefoot Sunday." We've been collecting gently used shoes for a few weeks, and at the close of the worship service Sunday, we are going to leave barefoot - giving the shoes we wore into the sanctuary into God's hands as He cares for those who have no shoes - through us.

Someone across the world will get a pair of shoes that were once on our feet. Maybe they'll wonder why anyone would do that. Maybe the Holy Spirit will tell them.

A lasting impression. A small thing, but done with great love.

Might last.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Butterfly Effect

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. 17 This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us...
1 John 4:16-17 (MSG)

Chaos theorists (yes there really are people like that, academically, and then there are parents of multiple children) see the universe as a series of random occurrences that form a whole. The "Butterfly Effect" is the idea that one event, though insignificant by itself, can effect change due to its impact on other events.

I see that happen all the time.

When one person cares.

I once saw a young Mother who was putting her infant into the baby seat in the rear seat of her SUV. As she moved her baby from stroller to seat, she paused and for a good 10 seconds, kissed it again and again, all the while smiling and telling the baby "do you know how much Mommy loves you?" Well it may be early for the baby to completely grasp that concept, but I'll bet he or she is well on the way - and this observer is there already. I doubt either will remember that brief interlude, but assuming it's only one of many that have occurred and that will occur - it will make a difference. It will influence change. It will have an impact far greater than that Mom ever imagined.

Her child will grow up knowing he is loved.

I got back to church, and I was still thinking about that incident as I'm walking out to change the sign. And how if everyone could just grasp how much God loves them - How He longs to have a relationship with them based on His love and our trust and obedience - oh what a difference it would make! There are so many little events around us that point to His goodness and His grace.

But too many are too busy to care, or too invested in the cult of self to ever admit they need a Savior. Still, people like ours here at New Hope, and other Christian churches throughout the world will keep on loving God and loving people, hoping that on some days, something we do will literally change the world.

Walking back from the sign, a Monarch butterfly flew by.

Made me smile.

First one I've seen this year. But it won't be the last, because this is the time of year when thousands of Monarchs are migrating to South America and come through here. So when you see one, you know - you can be sure - that many, many more are on their way.

What if random acts of kindness - of small acts done with great love - are like that?

What if your extra effort to care, or my going the extra mile to love could be the first of countless other expressions?

What if people got the idea that people who follow Jesus are loving, and kind, and what if they wanted to know why? We could tell them about Jesus and invite them along on the journey with Him.

Decide to be part of God's grand design - change the world.

Do something big or small, with great love. Something beautiful, for God.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Everyone has a story

Every Life Has A Story - Chick-fil-A from Dan T. Cathy on Vimeo.

(- great video Chick-Fil-A uses to train their people)

"Blood, Sweat, and Tears." was the name of the band that sung the chart-topping song "Spinning Wheel" back in the day. It came to mind this morning as I started work on Wednesday's Bible study for adults in Hebrews. It seems like the Sunday, Wednesday, Sunday, Wednesday, Sunday, Wednesday wheel never stops spinning for pastors like me. You are prone to begin thinking about the next event the moment an event comes to an end. And with all a church does, and the overlapping nature of preparation for it - it can get dizzying.

There are times that the routine can numb you to why you do it. Whenever I find myself getting frustrated with the work of preparing to teach, I make myself stop. Then I pray through our church's directory. I look at the family pictures and of those of individuals and I ask God to help me find and deliver a word from Him that will help them know that He loves them. That checkstep has never failed me yet. Just like the video above, it makes me stop and think about the person and what they may be going through.

Pastors know more than most people about what's going on in the neighborhood - in the families that we see at church each week, in the families we used to see or know about through other associations. When I first became a pastor I was blown away by what people go through. As the years have gone by and our relationships have deepened, I have more access than ever before, and I can tell you that almost everyone is wrestling with something.

Everybody hurts, sometimes.

So we pray for each other, doing our part in God's work - bearing each other's burdens, but more importantly being sensitive to the hidden hurts that can drive people to hurt other people. Empathy, compassion, caring - that's at the core of what being a Christian is all about. "We love, because He first loved us." Remember to stop and think - what story are they living out? And then "What would Jesus do?"

They Call It Stormy Monday, But Tuesday's Just As Bad


It usually starts Monday morning, or what we preacher-creatures know as (pick your poison) - Monday Blues, Sunday Hangover, Resignation Day, or Remind Me Why I Do This Day. It is the day when most of us who are placed in the role of a pastor should probably just get busy working and let the day before go. And yet helping out in God's vineyard isn't a one time event, but a collection of moments, of days, weeks, and months. You get to see people's spiritual life begin in a struggle, releasing into the joy of growth, and you are there when they are experiencing the droughts and troubles of life. And your quest is to help as they reach out to God in trust for His provision, His direction, His peace.

So every Monday you check to see how the vineyard is doing.(If you can wait that long. Sometimes it starts at 12:15 Sunday afternoon)

If you do it as someone who is a worker in God's vineyard, it can be very helpful. There are victories to celebrate as you see new growth appear or old vines seem to find new life. When fruit appears you rejoice in knowing that God is at work and you got to see it. If something has damaged the vine or limited its growth, you get to work doing what you can do, always under the direction of the Master Gardener. In the long term view of a worker in God's vineyard, you know that it's all working together for good - for God's glory.

However if you allow yourself to sink into feeling like it all depends on you, then your trip through the vineyard can be one of the most destructive things you can do. This is not your church - it is God's church. You didn't produce the growth when it grew - God did. And while you might have had a bad day with the sermon, or said the wrong thing,or failed in some other way, God is still at work. You know that. You believe that. It's a conviction of yours. But your weakness can make you blind.

I've been blind so often over the last couple of years it isn't funny. I have an enormous capacity for letting both outward signs of success and outward signs of failure affect my mood and outlook. Makes me sick when I catch myself doing it. You'd think after being here all these years I would realize that smaller churches go through ebbs and flows. I do understand. And yet I still get wrapped up in the emotion of it all. When things are going great, I'm really happy about what I do and see unlimited opportunities for New Hope to do beautiful things for God. On the blue Monday's... not so much. You can take the smallest hiccup and have it overshadow everything or take a big win and turn it into a "yeah, but we didn't...." where "didn't" can be anything from "greet the new family in the parking lot", to "start on time."

My pastor friends know what I'm talking about here. You want it SO BAD. It happens SO SLOW. You invest your life into people and give them unlimited access and your unceasing prayers and love - and they leave or you see them so irregularly... you think "there must have been something I could have done." Well, what if there wasn't? What if you couldn't have? But you can't see it objectively, so discouragement creeps in.

As the song I linked to above says "They call it stormy Monday, but Tuesday's just as bad" - that attitude can follow you all week - for weeks - even months.

And yet, if you look - if you clear your mind and open your heart and let God be God - the job of a pastor is the greatest job in the world.

God makes it all worthwhile.
Because He loves us.
Because He is faithful.
Because He's working it all together for His glory and we get to be a part of that.

Ronald Reagan once said that "the majority of the world wonders if what they are doing matters - the Marines don't have that problem." Well pastors and friends - partners in the work of God - we shouldn't have that problem either.

Would you take a minute every day and pray for your pastor(s)? Pray that God would give them the ability to see as He sees, love as He loves, and live as Jesus lived.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Come Home Running

We're getting ready for praise band practice tonight. We're going to do this Chris Tomlin sing called "Come Home Running". Don't know if you have heard it, but it's really moving when you put yourself in the story. The picture of God as a loving and seeking God just blows me away. So I'm reading today in my Bible and I see  this:

"I was found by people who were not looking for me. I showed myself to those who were not asking for me."Romans 10:20 (NLT)

God is working everything to get you to know that He loves you and wants you to love Him back.  He's hiding in plain view waiting for you to see just how much He wants to let you know He cares. You may not even be looking for Him, but He's there.

Listen, friend.


God is waiting with arms open wide for you to come home, or to come home again.

Do NOT base your opinion of God on how those of us who try imperfectly to follow Him live out what we believe. Trust Him to be Who He says he is in the Bible. Christianity is not a set of rules to live by. It's a relationship with a God who came looking for you so you could really live a life worthy of what He created you to be.

As the song says, come home running.

Monday, August 23, 2010

When God Smiles

Had some things happen at New Hope yesterday that I know made God smile. Theologians tend to get a wee bit anxious when you start assigning human traits and actions to God, but there are numerous references for people pleasing God, and I've got to believe that He wouldn't sit there like a Baptist with a sour pickle face. When things happen here that change a person's eternity - God smiles. Like when a person decides to follow Jesus - to come home.

5 When you see them coming you'll smile—big smiles! Your heart will swell and, yes, burst! All those people returning by sea for the reunion, a rich harvest of exiles gathered in from the nations!
Isaiah 60:5 (MSG)

Awesome to see that happen. And then to hear about a need in our community and the instant and passionate pursuit of a way to meet that need? As a pastor, combine someone getting save with others getting busy serving the "least of these" and it's an incredibly encouraging moment. Then there's next Sunday - our third annual "Barefoot Sunday" where we'll end our collection for Soles4Souls and some of us will leave barefoot to experience even for a little while, just what people without shoes do all the time.

There's more going on in this smaller church than anyone riding by would ever know. We've got to let them know.

Hey - now you do - so go tell someone!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Recap Aug 22, 2010

We've been looking forward to this weekend for weeks, as we were going to have a pretty rare event - a church wide social. One of the areas we've identified as "needs improvement" at New Hope is our relationships with each other across genders and ages. When you are a church that meets only two times a week, even a smaller church, you can get in "silos" where you know the folks in your Bible Study class well, but not the good people in the next one. So we've revved up our monthly game night again for the fall, and are going to have some activity each month like our ice cream social tonight. New Hope has great people and getting them together tonight (as many as we could) was awesome. But let me go back to the morning activities.

Had a good turnout for Bible Study and some really great volunteers that stretched to cover some holes. Got everyone taken care of and I hear good things about what went on.

We headed over to worship and the praise band led us in:
Today Is the Day
How Great I Our God
Whole World In His Hands
and Just As I am as the invitation hymn.

I used two video clips today that caused me to run a little longer than planned, but they really were great. One dealt with the danger of slipping into a meaningless ritualistic Christianity and the other really hammered the need to trust Christ and let His Holy Spirit change you. Felt like a bit off a chunk of Scripture and had to work to keep moving through, but I think the core of the message made it through. Had a visitor indicate that he had trusted Christ as Savior so God was working today and that's awesome.

Next week is Barefoot Sunday, where we finish our collection for Soles4Soles so you know it's going to be great. Plus we decided we are going to do our favorite 4 worship songs so you better get ready to leave your voice at New Hope if you join us next Sunday - and you ought to join us. :)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

It Really Is Like Herding Cats


to herd cats
  1. (idiomatic) To attempt to control those resistant to control.

Hi, my name is David Wilson, and I am a cat-herder.

That's all I'm saying tonight. :)

Get up tomorrow morning, go to church and worship God. And if you think about it, say a prayer for all of those like me, who will stand before people tomorrow and ask them to change - to give up control of their lives to Jesus Christ.

Friday, August 20, 2010

henley - our friend

Good days and bad days, he was so loving and meant so much. Missing him today. We will have another Great Dane someday.

11 years later

Right now 11 years ago, I was sleeping with our Great Dane Chloe, and mini schnauzer Ellie, on the floor upstairs at 82 Eastview Avenue here in Valparaiso. We had moved down that day from Macon Georgia to begin serving God with the people of New Hope Baptist Church. Bunny and Sean slept that night at the Holiday Inn Express but I was there to make sure what we moved with us - stayed with us.

It was an incredibly hard day. We left our beloved son Adam in the house we had lived in for 12 years. He had just turned 21 the week before. None of us understood just how hard that was going to be. Our future here in Valparaiso was in doubt in a church who had gone through a pastoral meltdown. There was a clear call to come, but whether or not we could stay was another matter.

When we got to Valparaiso and started unloading, Chloe the Dane bounded upstairs and promptly refused to come down. I had to carry her down. The next day began the adventure that continues to this day.

Would I do it again?


Say what? Some of you probably didn't expect that answer.You were looking for the standard preacher's answer affirming God's call and positioning our obedience in the face of insecurities and heartbreak as an example of what everyone should always do. Sorry, but I'm one of the honest guys. I wouldn't.

We dearly love the people we serve with here. I believe we have made a difference.

But if I had known then what it would cost to stay here until now?


Guess that's why God doesn't let us see the future. Sure we'd miss the struggles and heartaches, but we'd miss the blessings on the other side too.

I've told everyone here this story several times, but I want you to know it too. My greatest fear in coming here was that the church would fall apart and I would be unable to take care of my family. I left a good job with benefits behind when I came here. Resigning abruptly as I had to do, my boss was kind of miffed. Two months after we had moved here, he called me out of the blue and asked me a question "How did you find out?"  I was baffled and asked "Find out what?"

"That the company was about to lay off the entire sales force."

That job I would have stayed at instead of moving here? Would have gone away.

So would I do it again? No. But man plans, and God laughs and I'm still here 11 years later.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

It's a Heartbreak, Not A Headache

Earlier today, I read an update from Voice of the Martyrs, which is an organization that monitors the persecution of Christians around the world. It might surprise many who read this to learn that persecution of Christians is at levels not seen since the Romans ruled most of the known world. Men and women of faith are being tortured and killed simply because of their faith. As seen in two recent events, the slaughter of aid workers in Afghanistan, and the execution of 4 more Christian aid workers in Somalia, even in those cases where the Christians were actively working for the good of the people from whom their murderers came, the price they paid for loving their neighbor was their lives.

When I shared the post on Facebook earlier, I asked about how one could square the idea that one particular religion was "the religion of peace" with these actions. Maybe that's a valid question for those who practice that religion to ask. I certainly would were it true of Christianity. But by asking it, I don't think I helped any. So I removed the post.

Here's the deal for me. People like those who were slain are my heroes. I see them as people who in the most difficult conditions imaginable, and at great personal sacrifice, are spending (appropriate word I think) their lives loving God by serving His "least of these." I admire their courage and their choices. See I believe putting your faith in Jesus means "signing up" for a lifetime of of service to God through love for His people - all the people made in His image - for in every human being - black, white, yellow, red, brown, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Unitarian, Mormon, rich, poor, young, old, American, Iranian, Russian, Chinese - every human being is made in the image of God and as such has worth beyond what we will ever see.

So when I saw that four people who had become followers of Jesus who were former Muslims, and as followers knew that their lives were to be given to Jesus to serve others - when I saw that they had been killed and their bodies left to rot "because Somalia has no cemeteries for infidels", it didn't make me mad - or give me a headache - it broke my heart. It broke my heart. So senseless. Such a waste. Such blind hatred.

For me, a small church pastor, on the backside of nowhere USA, who is doing everything he knows to do to see God work to form a community of faith that understands (even in the shadow of Eglin AFB) that real power is not found in our weapons, our technology,or in our capacity to return hate for hate, but through our fidelity to the One Who willingly gave His life so that people who would never measure up might have a chance at real freedom - for me - people like those martyred are part of my inspiration to keep going on those all too frequent days when I wonder whether or not to keep trying to see a community formed by the Spirit that "gets" what being a true follower of Jesus really means.

People like that inspire me, and their loss breaks my heart.

"He is no fool, who gives up what he cannot keep,to find that he can never lose." - Jim Elliot, martyred by the Auca indians.

"Today they will sever me from my physical head, but they cannot sever me from my spiritual head, Christ." ~Christopher Love, in a note to his wife before his execution

I can't let hate do what a sword cannot. To love Christ is to love my neighbor. So I am praying for the families of those who died, and for the souls of those who killed them.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It's Time To Change the Sign

Got out and changed the church's sign yesterday. Riffed off the currently running movie "Eat Pray Love" with the sign saying just that - "Eat Pray Love" and adding "We do that here." :) Well hey, we're Baptists, so you knew we had the first one covered. The "Pray" part, we should cover too. One of the times we meet is called "prayer meeting", and we do pray there. And I can testify to the truth of the last word. We do LOVE at New Hope. We're not perfect at it. Not close. But of all the churches I have been a part of over the years, New Hope reaches out farther than most. But we've got to reach farther.

That sign above is what many people see when they look toward the "Church." It says that whatever direction you might think of heading in - is wrong. Just STOP, and we'll tell you where to go. For many people on the inside of the church, people who love, who give, who serve their fellow man, this will come as somewhat of a shock. They couldn't imagine how anyone could feel that way. And yet, in conversations over the years with people who walk away or drop out, the picture above is a good match with what they expect will happen at church.

Frankly, I'm sick of it. It's time to draw a line and replace that picture with one like this -

Not - "Welcome if you are just like us."
Not - "Welcome if you voted like we did."
Not - "Welcome if you share our views."
Not - "Welcome if you have your life together."
Not - "Welcome if you've stopped doing bad stuff."

Not welcome with preconditions - just welcome, great to meet you and to have a chance to get to know you. Would you like to walk with us along the journey?

Funny, I was just reading this morning about the very first church's sign. "They will know you are my disciples by your love..."  Now there's a sign. Let's see how far we can get toward that one.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sunday Recap August 15, 2010

Had a great day. The Bible Study classes seemed to be filled with people wanting to know more about how to follow Jesus. The Kidmo kids sure were busy during the week getting their take home papers done, because the Kidmo store got lit up when they redeemed their Bible bucks. I passed out the questions for this coming Sunday's ice cream social game  - "New Hope Jeopardy" in envelopes marked "TOP SECRET." Hopefully we'll get some really interesting answers and by playing the game we'll all come away knowing more about each other.

Worship - one of the best I can remember in a long time. Beginning (and ending) it with "Today Is the Day" sure didn't hurt. That is a great anthem of worship and had people enthusiastically singing and clapping - IN A BAPTIST CHURCH!!!!  Who knew? :)  We added "Arise", "Our God Saves", and offered the invitation with "Softly and Tenderly." Then we sent everyone out with "Today Is the Day" again. Just so uplifting. Great job by the praise team today even if we were missing two key folks.

The sermon continued our look at Paul's letter to Colossae and tackled the problem of legalism. I'm going to write a separate post about the sermon, but I think that the Word got through some barriers in people's hearts Sunday. Wish it had been recorded, gonna work on fixing the problems with that this week.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Welcome To New Hope

Had a meeting last week with a man who has been visiting New Hope off and on this summer (in between family trips out of town). We work hard to make New Hope an inviting place to worship and serve. Lots of people contribute to that every single week. So it's always interesting to hear from people what drew them to New Hope and what happened that would cause them to be interested in staying.

In his case, one of the main factors was the person in the picture above - our friend Allan.

Allan, for those of you coming in late, is a fixture in our little town. He's developmentally challenged, but seldom if ever meets a stranger. He loves Nascar, baseball, the Florida Gators and New Hope. And New Hope loves Allan just as he is. We've been doing it for ten years now so we don't really even think of it as a choice anymore. God loves us. We love each other. Each other is everyone God puts in our path. Allan is loved - treasured, really.

Our new friend saw that, and measured it against his experience and found it "a God thing." One that told him things about New Hope without his hearing a single word from us. Kind of  a "they will know you are Christians by your love..." sort of thing. I heard him say "one of the reasons I came back was the way you all treated Allan" and I thanked God for teaching us a lot about how to love through him. So many of us think that the only way God teaches us is through formal Bible study. That certainly helps ground us, but we have to live it out.

Our motto at New Hope "We love, because He first loved us" has become who we are.

There are no words for me to use to describe as pastor of this amazing group of people, how knowing that makes me feel. No words at all.

Except to say thank you Jesus.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Homecoming - Scott Martson

Well, Scott Marston, friend and fellow Braves fan, is home from Afghanistan. All of New Hope has been praying fiercely for Scott's safe return for months and today was the day he came home. His family and some of the New Hope folks were there to welcome him back. I guess the heavenly decision then was to drop enough rain on the area after his return to make up for what he missed while he was away, because now it's pouring rain. I expect Scott will adjust. :)

From Beach Baptism

Scott after helping baptize his son Ryan at last year's beach baptism. Great family, great guy. So glad he's home.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Putting It On the Bottom Shelf

As far as I know, no one has ever confused my efforts at preaching and teaching with those of Ravi Zacharias, Tim Keller, or any of the "brights" of preaching and teaching. They have a worldwide focus and I have been given New Hope Baptist to love, care for, and help learn about God and His Word. Of course, they also have mad skillz.:) We preach from the same Bible. Occasionally I can tell that we even read some of the same commentaries or use some of the same tools. But there's a difference in what we deliver. Still...

This morning I have been thinking about what we do with Adults at New Hope on Wednesday night. Our hour together is split into prayer and Bible study. One of our deacons does a good job collecting prayer requests before I arrive from worship team practice which helps keep us from spending too much time talking about praying. After we pray in small groups around the tables, we begin Bible study.

We're in Hebrews at present, but we've covered several books over the years. When I chose Hebrews, I knew that it would be a book many of them had skimmed or skipped over entirely - save for a few choice memory verses here and there. As I did for years before I finally jumped in with a vengeance and enjoyed a richer understanding of what believers have in Jesus. I wanted that for them too. So we began a few weeks ago and arrived last night at chapter 4.

The previous chapter opened the concept of "rest" for the people of God, and it continues in chapter 4. I had briefly touched on it the previous week and was prepared to really lay out how rest (salvation) opens us to the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit and what our role is. The role of God is filled. That leaves us as His "jars of clay" that should recognize our part in His story and let Jesus live through us in every single moment of our lives. The people of Israel failed even though God blessed them tremendously because very often they would decide "we got this" and walk away from God's direction. Everything was prepared for them to enter into the promised land - to enter the "rest" prepared for them, but they didn't have the faith.

When you are preparing to teach or preach a text, you make choices on what to share with the group and what to leave out. There's so much material - so many viewpoints and opinions - even on one chapter of the Bible that you want to pack as much in as you can. But as I started last night, I didn't get three verses in before I needed to back up and unpack what a verse meant "in English." Looking around, I didn't see that many Bibles. Quick prayer - and I slowed down.

What followed was Scripture, word pictures, and application - rinse and repeat. It seemed that as we got into it, people began nodding and the feeling that came across was that there was some real active listening going on. Hebrews is not light reading. It is filled with OT allusions, figurative language, types and shadows that really need a careful approach, a clear understanding of context, and work. My role is not to do the work for people, but to present the opportunity for them to learn in such a way that they will go deeper themselves.

Sometimes I get so excited about what I find in my study that I forget to remember to turn around and look at what the average person in Bible study will see. Thanking God today for His Holy Spirit who pulled me up short last night and helped me see how I needed to lead people from the shallows deeper, not pushing them off into the deep end.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

New Song We Worked On Tonight

We have so much fun at praise band practice sometimes. Really was looking for an upbeat song to help people focus on what we have in Jesus and remembered this one. We were really getting into it tonight too. It's important that God's people make the decision to not just put their trust in Him for eternity, but LIVE in Him everyday. So songs like this that echo the Scriptures really help.

Can't wait to do it in our worship gathering


"Christianity is, simply, Christ. Nothing more, nothing less. It is not an ideology, a philosophy, a social ethic, a cause, a core value or a worldview. Christianity is “the ‘good news’ that beauty, truth and goodness are found in a Person—a real and living Person who can be known, loved, and experienced—and that true humanity and community are founded on connection to that Person.” - The Jesus Manifesto, by Viola and Sweet

Sunday Recap August 1 2010

I love dandelions. I know, I know - they are a weed. But give them long enough, and though it doesn't seem anything is going on, they spread. And when they flower, it's beautiful. So I think God must love them too. But just looking at them, you wouldn't expect much. And yet...

You never really know everything that God has going on, do you? We really do "see through a glass, darkly" in this life. So the focus of a church and the people in it has to be following Jesus - loving Him with our lives and loving the people He places in our lives. Harder said than done sometimes. Circumstances can block your view of the little bit that you can see of what God is up to. But every now and then...

Opened the Kidmo "store" Sunday to a rousing reception. If you remember, Kidmo is a cutting edge discipleship tool for kids. It's high energy and high content that uses the latest in technology to bring the kids INTO the story each week and (this is what pumps me up) sends the story home with them in the form of the "MAP" or "Mission Action Plan" that they discuss and walk through with their parents each week. Well, we've put some incentives in play that encourage the kids to bring their Bible, return with a completed MAP, memorize their "Compass Point", and bring friends. Had a blast being the store keeper Sunday. I LOVE OUR NEW HOPE KIDS. One of the great joys I have in this job is being their pastor. So we had a great crowd over there and they had a blast both in SS and in the extended session (Children's Church).

Had a young woman come up after the service and wanted to know how she could tell if God was calling her to be a missionary. She's someone who deeply loves God and who - even though she struggles with illness - is very dedicated, faithful, and in love with what God has called New Hope to be and do. We talked for a little while and I hope I was able to give her some guidance. All the while I was thanking God for being a part of His work - not just here at New Hope, but through our missionaries - both the ones with that label through a denomination and those who are teachers, computer guys, granddaddys, moms, servicemen and women - through all the people God has blessed us with over the years.

The music set for worship was: He Reigns, Nothing But the Blood (Redman version), How Can I Keep From Singing, and In Christ Alone. Good mix of songs, and the praise team did great. Was great to have John Chandler on bass. He adds so much to the mix. We're working on some new songs and some old songs. Stay tuned.

We're walking through the book of Colossians and this passage, though brief, really illuminates both Jesus' role as Savior, and our state - both prior to coming to faith, and in Christ. Our culture tends to elevate the individual and give us affirmation regardless of our actions. Unfortunately, this has crept in the side door of the Church as well, and as a result we have people who are not truly believing that Christ had to die for their sins, because they don't see themselves as anything but a "good person." A recent study identified this and called it "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism." I briefly touched on that, but it's worthwhile if you are interested in the faith of millions today to check into it further.

I'm convinced that until we realize just how much we need a Savior, we will never truly appreciate God's grace. In that conviction, I stand with the author of the most beloved song in the church - "Amazing Grace." John Newton said this "'My memory is nearly gone; but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior.'"