Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Love of Dog

A dog is the only thing on this earth that loves you more than he loves himself.

Josh Billings

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.


Things are about to change at the Anderson's house.

Lucy the dog is coming to her forever home.

To look at the Andersons you wouldn't think they lacked a thing - they are a great family. Awesome dad and mom and great son -my friend Ian. They even have a cat.

But they've lacked something without really knowing it. They've lacked the love of dog.

From the earliest recorded history, people and dogs have been together. Of all the species that inhabit this earth, none has bonded with humans like the dog. Countless stories have been written about dogs that found their way home over hundreds of miles, that remained faithful to owners who had passed away, who gave everything they had as long as they could. Dogs have given their lives to save us, have rescued us from all manners of harm, and warned us of dangers we could never have seen. They've lowered our blood pressure and given us someone to talk to.

But their greatest work is in giving us a living example of how to love unconditionally.

The love of dog.

Sometime Sunday afternoon, Lucy the dog will come home.

And that home will never be the same.

God is good.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Sunday Recap 10/24/10

Sunday's sermon was the result of prayers I have been praying for New Hope over the last few months. The idea that we have stopped praying for God to be glorified through us by doing things that only He could have done will not go away. New Hope is filled with people I love - have loved for years - but I have come to believe we are limiting what God wants to do through us due to a lack of faith.

Our study of Hebrews on Wednesday night, my reading recently of "Sun Stand Still" by Steven Furtick, and hours of prayer and study combined to produce this sermon. I pray God used it and will use it. Looking at Joshua's incredible "Sun Stand Still" prayer, I hoped that the hearers examined whether they had the faith to ask God for the impossible.

Sermon audio here as well as on the NewHopeValp.Org website

The music we used last week was:

Here I Am To Worship
Our God Saves
Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)
Jesus Paid It All

I stopped the worship after the first song and asked if anyone had a testimony of what God had done or was doing in their life. A senior saint named Evelyn Brown said that she was so grateful for Jesus saving here that she couldn't sing "I'll never know how much it cost, to see my sins upon that cross" in "Here I Am To Worship" because she was overwhelmed by how her sins cost Christ His life.

Another person gave God praise for His protection during a recent trip to WV and back. Still another praised God for leading her to find her mother who she had not seen in 51 years and had given up ever finding. Testimonies. God is at work at New Hope whether we realize it or not.

Later, our "Forgotten God" small group met here at the house and we discussed just how much we DIDN'T know about the work of the Holy Spirit and how essential it was for us to connect with Him in worship and listen for His guidance in every area of our lives. It was a great session and I can't wait to get back together with them this week.

We'll continue our look at what it takes to have "Sun Stand Still" faith this Sunday.

Pollen and Preferences

This is how we've come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves.
1 John 3:16

One of the defining parts of my childhood was not a positive experience. This time of year, I'd find myself trapped in a world filled with pollen, which caused my body to react in a storm of sneezes, and outbreak after outbreak of hives.

Folks, picture yourself as a geeky looking little boy, who's trying hard to find a place in the social network. The last thing you want to do is stand out.

Well, sneezing 30+ times in a row, or showing up for school with more bumps on you than a gator's back doesn't exactly help you fit in. Having 3-D skin wasn't all that.

My parents tried all sorts of things to help. Doctors and vaccinations, sensitivity tests and plenty of benadryl. They ruthlessly tried to eliminate any and all allergens from anywhere near me. So feather pillows - gone. Wool clothing - gone. The food we ate was changed. At one point they even talked about moving to another state with less pollen.

But my father decided to take matters into his own hands. He went up and down the road we lived on, ripping up every goldenrod and flowering weed. There must have been hundreds. Then they weren't there.

Years later, I was talking with my mother around that time of year. She was looking down the road, the same one I had grown up on and she said "I just love this time of year, the leaves changing, the goldenrod - aren't they beautiful?"

I realized then that for them, their love for a wheezy, sneezing, itchy little boy completely overruled their preferences for what was pleasing to them. Doing whatever it took to help me breathe meant completely eliminating something that brought them pleasure. But you know when I think about it - they never let me know there was a cost.

Friends, as followers of Jesus and and as people pledged to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, how well are we doing at setting aside our preferences and living sacrificially to reach others with Jesus' love?

Do this - spend a moment in prayer for your friend who doesn't know Jesus.

Invest time in conversation with that neighbor or friend you never have time for.

Give all the love you have received and watch Jesus work.

Join me. We won't be perfect at it, but we'll be making a difference every time we do.

Love - because He loved us first.


David Wilson

Thursday, October 28, 2010

From Our Wed Small Group Hebrews Study

12 So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees.13 Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong. Heb 12:12-13 (NLT)

Coming on the heels of a passage where we've heard about how our sufferings as followers of Jesus - aren't as bad as they could be, should be expected, are nothing compared to what Jesus went through...

...AND ought to be celebrated because they authenticate the fact that God loves us as His own children, the writer tells us what to do. God has done all He promised and will continue to be faithful.

Our job is to make sure we are doing the heart work and character work WE have to do.

Listen, here's the deal. We whine. We complain. We gripe endlessly when the least little trouble shows up. The American church has raised whining to an art form.

And we've turned bitter as a result by not treating trouble as God wants us to do. We've missed the chance to learn from it - learn about God's love and faithfulness and learn about how far along the journey we are. And our bitterness is ruining our witness to people who are far from God. If we're going to treat trouble the same way lost people are, then what difference does following Christ make?

So the verse at the top saysSo (you) take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees.13 (You) Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.

Maybe this is the time to take a look at your personal relationship with Jesus and recognize that each of us is responsible for our own level of intimacy with God. We can change our attitude by focusing on the facts - we are loved by God - He has placed His Spirit within us - we will win, but we have to run the race with endurance - we need to place our attitudes under the Lordship of Christ.

Hebrews has become one of those books that really speak to me. Take a look at it and let God speak to you.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

They're Playing My Song

Fill us anew, we pray.
Fill us anew, we pray.

Lord have your way, in us.

Coming out of worship team practice tonight, I could not stop singing this song as a prayer. We'll be singing it Sunday, and my prayer is it will be a congregational prayer and a personal one.

I can only pray that it's a congregational one.

But it will be mine.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our "God is a consuming fire." Heb 12:28-29

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lost, Found, and Loved

It's the classic prodigal story.

Young man grows up playing a kids game, and because of what God has given him, finds success. He's lauded as having it all - what they call in baseball circles a "five tool player." He gets noticed, gets signed to a big rookie contract. Then something goes wrong. Prosperity doesn't agree with him and he finds himself addicted to drugs and out of baseball. Not the first time it's happened. Won't be the last.

But there were still people who thought, maybe. Just maybe.

So he got another chance and for a while he showed why he was the number one draft choice out of high school. But then, it happened again.

This time he realized he couldn't do it. That he was flawed. That he needed God. The young man became a Christian in the old fashioned way - he was "born again." And he began the long road of following Christ. But he knew he couldn't make it on his own. So the team he signed with provided a friend- a partner on the journey - to be there and to help the young man stay true to the path he was on.

Great story.

Last week we found out just how great.

Not only did the young man - Josh Hamilton win the MVP of the League Championship Series, and help his team the Texas Rangers go to their first World Series.
Not only did he respond "this is great, but it won't compare to being face to face with Jesus in heaven."

But when the players celebrated their win with the traditional champagne shower in the winning clubhouse...

...they used ginger ale.

Because they too loved Josh Hamilton and wanted to let him know how much.

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:16 (NLT)

Well, I want you to know that you are loved. Loved by a God who will not give up on you no matter how many times you fall. He's waiting for you to admit you want the life only He can give and turn away from self-control and surrender to His control. You can be lost, found, and loved forever.

Find your story in Jesus.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A New Set of Eyes

Our second meeting of the "Forgotten God" small group went really well last night. One of the things we discovered pretty quickly was that most of what we could identify as what we believe about the Holy Spirit was based on what other people told us was true or by the actions of denominations or churches. Not a whole lot of what we believed was tracked back to the study of what God's Word says about the Spirit and what He does.

That's quite sobering, don't you think?

As we read the Scriptures last night that testify to the power of the Spirit and what His God given tasks are in the life of every believer, a question came to mind. Given the Spirit's power, why don't we see more Christians living bold lives and being transformed into joyful, compassionate, loving, faithful followers of Jesus?

Frankly,there are only two answers to that question.

And I think God let me see that through a new pair of eyes as I read Scripture after Scripture that told of the amazing potential inherent in the power of the indwelling Spirit of God to change EVERYTHING.

Either there are far fewer Christians than we think there are (meaning they do not have the Holy Spirit living in them),

they do have Him, but refuse to let Him do His transforming work in their lives. They prefer to live life on their own.

Can you see that?

Take your Bible and turn to the New Testament and start reading about the Holy Spirit. Let God lead you deeper into a knowledge of Who the Spirit is. Ask God to give you the courage to let the Spirit have control of your life.

Then get ready to see what the real Christian life is all about.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Time and Tides

There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.

William Shakespeare

The "most advanced nuclear submarine" in the picture above, was designed to slip silently under the waves and stealthily deposit special forces near shore. But not TOO near shore. And yet, the HMS Astute - yes, ironic isn't it - sits there, stuck, waiting for the tide.

Do you ever get that feeling? That despite your best efforts, you are stuck?

What would it take for you to get back underway?

One thing is certain, doing the same things as you have been doing won't work.

Sunday I'll be teaching about "Sun Stand Still" faith. Change is possible, but only if you have the right change agent.

Come and hear about the best.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


One of the things Bunny and I love to do on vacation is to visit old churches and old cemeteries. The Huguenot Cemetery in St Augustine is a favorite. The gravestones are old, dating back to the late 1700's. They are also ornate and the pinnacle of the craftsman's art at the time. Every single person who carved the stones is long dead.

They went to work each day, used their talents and skills to the best of their ability and hopefully pleased their customers, providing some comfort perhaps in their time of grief. In the cemetery there are stones that are well preserved like this one, and others that you cannot read at all, as time and the elements have erased the stone-carver's efforts.

I guess that's what drove me to take this picture - I can identify with that.

As a pastor, I'm giving everything I can to the work of God through New Hope Baptist Church. While I was on "vacation" I was still thinking about New Hope - praying that Sunday would go well, having certain people come to mind as I saw things in St Augustine, praying each day for others along the way. Having done everything I could take make sure Sunday without the Wilson family would "work", all I could do then was trust God.

But then that's all I can do everyday.

I can encourage. I can even inspire. I can teach God's Word. I can serve in any area needed, from worship leadership to setting up tables and cook the midweek meal. I can lead in prayer and by example. I can be there to cry with people and rejoice with them. I can love them.

But I can't... make them want more of God or more for their church. I can't.

I guess that's what bothers me, underneath.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Who has four months?

Hannah Roberts - pray for her and her family

We got back home from our family mini-vacation last night and went to bed early. Both of us were exhausted as were our Airedale friends. This morning I got busy early trying to catch up with the time I had missed, the emails that went unread, but I didn't want to rush into the week without reflecting on what God said to me while we were away.

Life on earth is short. Too short.

Having the chance to hang out with our family was a rare opportunity that I will always cherish. It's so hard to get six busy lives to slow down long enough to spend time "off the grid" (or grind if you prefer.) Didn't get as much with Sean and Chelsea as I'd like to have had - the young ones were busy seeing the sights that the rest of us had seen before. Did get to spend a bit more with Adam and Shonda, and Bunny and I even carved out a bit of just us time. But the time this weekend with my family was a gift.

Reading my emails today I realized again just how much of a gift it was. JoAnn Smith had passed along the latest update from Hannah Roberts, an 18 year old girl who lives in Alaska and has terminal cancer. Hannah and her family are handling this through their faith in God. The email today detailed Hannah's need for a chair-lift to help her up the stairs in her home. It got worked out thank God but it sure didn't seem possible at first. The barriers were money and time. At first the figure of $12,000 came up, and then the arrival date of 3-4 months caused Hannah's mom to say "Four months? Who has four months?"

Reality, my friends.

None of us HAS four months.

We HAVE now. That's it.

What if it was over today? Would you be ready?

The mortality rate is holding steady at 100%.

Turn to Jesus. Hold tight to those you love. Keep on enlarging the circle of friends and family you will spend eternity with.

Cause no one has four months.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Don't Look At Me

"I don't want my life to be explainable without the Holy Spirit. I want people to look at my life and know I couldn't be doing this without by my own power. I want to live in such a way that I am desperate for Him to come through. That if He doesn't come through, I am screwed. (I probably shouldn't write that word here, but that is truly how I feel about it.)"
-Francis Chan, pg. 142

Francis is ahead of most every Christian I have ever known in this to the point of our shrugging and telling ourselves that he's a freak.

We don't pray to be that way.

Is that because we think God isn't capable or because we are acutely aware of our sins?

Or is it something else?

Have we been worn down after years of just getting by in our relationship with God to the point that our settled life has become the new normal, and anything above that level causes us to recoil in terror?

Francis isn't a freak. He's a fully actuated follower of Jesus.

From heaven's point of view, we're the freaks.

Think about it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It's Your Life

Most of the time, we don't really live the life God had planned for us to. We exist, but we don't really live. If we lived as if the power of God was within us, we'd live far differently.

Then there's Donald Miller, an amazingly authentic person who writes without benefit of exposure to the cultural Christianity most of us live in. He has this annoying habit of looking at what most of us and our churches do, and telling others about it.

For example:

We believe a person will gain access to heaven because he is knowledgeable about theology, because he can win at a game of religious trivia. And we may believe a person will find heaven because she is very spiritual and lights incense and candles and takes bubble baths and reads books that speak of centering her inner self; and some of us believe a person is a Christian because he believes five ideas that Jesus communicated here and there in Scripture, though never completely at one time and in one place; and some people believe they are Christians because they do good things and associate themselves with some kind of Christian morality; and some people believe they are Christians because they are Americans.

If any of these models are true, people who read the Bible before we systematically broke it down, and, for that matter, people who believed in Jesus before the printing press or before the birth of Western civilization, are at an extreme disadvantage. It makes you wonder if we have fashioned a gospel around our culture and technology and social economy rather than around the person of Christ.

- Donald Miller in Searching For God Knows What

You think?

Being a Christian means following Jesus Christ. In every situation. With every thought, every word, every action. It means a surrendered life that renounces selfishness for a life spent in loving God, loving your neighbor, and serving both.

It is an intensely personal commitment lived out among others who share it, for the benefit of those who don't. It's first hand knowledge, like this:

From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in— we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we're telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us. 3 We saw it, we heard it, and now we're telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!

1 John 1:1-4 (MSG)

My heart aches for those I love who don't love Jesus. If I contributed to you hearing rumors or hearsay and tried to give you a second-hand faith, I'm sorry. Faith is won after a struggle, where you surrender in order to win - and admit defeat to claim victory. You choose to follow Christ, no matter what.

No one else can do that for you.

It's your life.



Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sunday Recap - 10-10-10

Sorry I've been so sporadic about posting the Sunday recaps lately but there has been a lot going on in a number of areas and this is the one thing that can wait.

Sunday I was able to teach the kids in Kidmo again and share with them about God's plan to invite them into His family. The writers for Kidmo really did a great job and the kids seemed to respond well to what was being taught. Some great questions along with some typical silliness for the kids made it a really enjoyable time.

Then we transitioned over to worship mode and helped the praise band bring "Today Is The Day", "He Reigns", "I Will Rise", and "Change My Heart Oh God." We were missing our drummer and bass player and it definitely seemed to sound different on stage, but the folks out front sang out and the vocalists were right on it. Great job guys!

We had just celebrated the Lord's Supper last week, but I was really convicted about the way we tagged it onto the end of the service and wanted to come back to worship with the Lord's Supper at the center. So "Nexus" was born out of the desire to help people see that the Old Testament covenant and our New Testament age of grace meet in the symbolism of the communion table. It was some pretty heavy theology but I pray that God delivered everything He wanted to the congregation.

Sunday night we began our "The Forgotten God" small group at our home and the turn out was outstanding and the discussion inspirational. Great group embarked on a worthy mission. Pray for us as we close the gaps in our understanding of the Holy Spirit and what God wants from each of us and from our church.

One last thing - Bunny got a great letter from The Full Belly Project this weekend and once she shares it with the girls on Wednesday night, I'll come back and share it with you. Bottom line is this - New Hope is DOING SOMETHING about those in Africa who need God's people to step up and love them.

It's Been A Year Today - Henley the Great Dane

"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog.
You are his life, his love, and his leader. He will be yours,
faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart.
You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion."

-- Unknown

He was all of that and more to the very last heartbeat one year ago today, as we spared him cancer's clawing and ripping at the expense of our own hearts being rent in two. We could have held onto him a few more days, maybe weeks. We could have maimed him and kept him a few months longer. But with everything Henley gave us - the unselfish love he poured into our hearts over seven years - the thought of him in pain meant parting way before we were ready to.

Great Danes don't live as long as other dogs anyway, and we knew that. We knew that sooner rather than later we'd lose him. But as every year past, we pushed reality out a little farther. We nursed him through a sickness earlier last year that had one of the vets giving up on him. Bringing him home, we fed him rice and chicken by the spoonful, slept on the floor beside him for five nights, carried him outside using a towel under his waist to help him stand when he was so, so weak. And he came back to us. We had another four months of joy until the lump on his back leg kept growing. Cancer. It riddled the bone to the point that the next step he made could have broken the leg and plunged him into pain. We laid on the floor again with him at the Vet's office as he closed his eyes for the last time in this world.

One year ago today.

He was the very best dog we have ever known. Henley the Great Dane affected us in ways few creatures that have ever lived on this earth have. Even now, one year later, not a day goes by that we don't miss him fiercely, and tears are not an infrequent sight on Bunny or my face.

He was awesome. I'm praying with all my heart that I will see him again someday.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Our "Forgotten God" Journey Begins

"The light of the American church is flickering and nearly extinguished, having largely sold out to the kingdoms and values of this world….We are not all we were made to be when everything in our lives and churches can be explained apart from the work and presence of the Spirit of God….shouldn’t there be a huge difference between the person who has the Spirit of God living inside of him or her and the person who does not?” - Francis Chan, "The Forgotten God"

We met Sunday night here in our home, a not so small - small group of people who want to know more of God - more of the Holy Spirit's power and influence over our lives. I was blown away by the turn-out and the spirit we shared together. There's something happening among us -among Christians all over the world - a Holy Discontent with how things are and what our part in maintaining the status quo has led us to.

We're at the point a little child in a department store arrives at when in looking at this or that from display to display, amazed and intrigued by what we are seeing, we suddenly awaken to the shocking and frightening realization that our parents are nowhere to be seen. Our confident adventure the moment before has become a dangerous stray away from where we belong and with Who we belong.

So I am praying each and every day for the people who came seeking Sunday night. Praying that God will find us ready - not as cocksure of ourselves and our present condition as we were. Somewhat unsettled at where we have arrived. Hungry for more of God that we have ever had before. Willing to run to God.

The journey begins.

Monday, October 04, 2010

As Plain As Day

No one has ever seen God,
not so much as a glimpse.
This one-of-a-kind God-Expression,
Who exists at the very heart of the Father,
has made Him plain as day. John 1:18 (Msg)

It was Jesus Who showed us what God is like. Even now, His Holy Spirit guides the believer through the maze of life's choices. The Bible says above that Jesus made God "as plain as day."

So let me ask you a question.

What about your life? Do you make what it means to follow Jesus "plain as day"?

If people watch you live it (and they do)
can they see what a Christian marriage is like,
what Christian parents are like,
what Christian employees are like?

For the Christian, we have our example in Jesus.

For those still seeking, there is only you and me. We're the example.

Let's pray and ask God for more of His loving guidance, and encourage each other onto greater love for Him through our everyday lives.

If we do that, people observing should see Jesus at the center of everything we do, as plain as day.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Did You Notice?

Macon, GA - sometime in the mid 1960's. Vietnam is only beginning to be a household word, civil rights aren't right yet and in a few short years the fight for them won't be very civil. My mom is busy on a Saturday morning, returning Christmas presents. Since this is in the pre-mall era, we are in downtown Macon on the corner of Cherry and First streets - in other words, on the busiest corner in town.

My brother and I come to a proper halt beside our mother as we wait for the light to change. Something causes me to look to my right, and there I see an older black man, sitting, and strumming a beat up guitar. He's wearing a suit jacket, a pork-pie hat, and as he sings, he rolls his head side to side. In front of him sits a tin cup.

I turn to my mother and ask her, "Who is that man?"

She immediately grabs our hands and walks us over to "Blind Willie", fishes in her cavernous purse, and produces a five dollar bill, which she places in his cup. Then she says to the man, "Willie, these are my boys, David and Bruce. They noticed your playing and wanted to meet you." He had stopped playing, and now his hand extended outward, unsure as to where to reach, but reaching nonetheless. "Pleased to meet you boys."

We shook his hand. It was warm and smooth and rough at the same time.

Then we went on our way.

In later years, we would see him again and again, and my mother never failed to greet him, and to give something, even if coins were all she had.

I thought about Willie today for the first time in a long while. And I wondered how long he had been there before I noticed.

Reading the gospels this week, what Clarence Jordan described as "Jesus' doin's", I was stuck over and over again by how often Jesus noticed people that others did not - and not only noticed them, but gave them His respect and His time.

Have you ever noticed this passage?

Not long afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby cities and villages to announce the Good News concerning the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women he had healed and from whom he had cast out evil spirits. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples. Luke 8:1-3 (NLT)

Luke names several women as members of Jesus' traveling group, and then he writes "and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples."

When "credit" is given for what happens in a church, often it is the most visible who receive it. Most often it is the pastor, sometimes the teachers, or worship leaders, or perhaps a deacon. They are visible - obvious even - but what about those not named, those "many others?"

I write this today to say thank you.

Thank you for giving to the Lord to support childrens ministry, even though your children may be all grown.

Thank you for supporting the work of your pastor, for praying for him, for your encouragement to him and his family.

Thank you for digging deep, way past your tithe, time and again, to help your church continue to reach out to people for Jesus' sake.

Thank you for bringing coffee, or paper towels, or crayons, or a hundred other items to church, and never caring whether anyone knew or not.

Thank you for cleaning, and mowing, and painting, and another hundred other things you did though no one saw you do it.

Thank you for inviting your friends, coworkers and neighbors to church and your positive testimony of what God has done in you through it.

Jesus saw you, and I thank you.

You know, sometimes we have to be taught to see - to notice.

Look around you and see who has been a help or an inspiration to you and let them know how much you appreciate it.