Thursday, December 27, 2012

Make Me a Child Again

I'm alone this Christmas Eve beside the tree,
Yet a presence I can feel
Calls for me to honestly and humbly come,
And in His presence kneel;
To forsake the human pride that so controls me;
To come out from where I hide behind my fears;
To lay down the sophistry that prevents simplicity;
And with openhearted, childlike faith,
Draw near . . . perhaps with tears.

Make me a child again, a child again;
Heart his Christmas prayer, dear God:
Give me a tender heart, a childlike trust;
Let my spirit be reborn.
I want a faith that knows your Father-heart,
To believe Your words to me.
I want to understand, to take your hand,
To have children's eyes to see.

To be a child again, to touch a friend
With the love that You have shown.
To lay aside my fears, forget the years
I have tried life on my own.
I ask, O God above, just now remove
All my hardness, my masks, and sin;
And at this Christmastime, make me a child again.
And at this Christmastime, make me a child again.

- Jack Hayford

The Characters of Christmas

The characters in the biblical texts surrounding the birth of Christ reveal much to seeking minds and hearts about what it means to walk by faith and thus be agents of God’s redemptive workings in a fallen, difficult world.

1.                 Sometimes faith stays and trusts God to intervene and be faithful over long periods of time even when life seems unfruitful, dry, and obscure (Zechariah and Elizabeth in Luke 1:5-25).

                What an incredible  example of faithfulness are this couple.  They walked with God over decades, though they did not receive the temporal blessings they surely wanted (a child).   They are models to us in 21st-century America, where faith is often consumer-oriented, feel-good, and not focused on persevering with God over the long haul.


2.       Sometimes faith believes God to do the impossible (Mary in Luke 1:38).


          The “how” of belief versus the “how” of unbelief.  Zechariah's "how"    showed unbelief, thus Gabriel's rebuke (I am Gabriel and I stand in the presence of God).  Mary's "how" came from a believing heart.


3.       Sometimes faith forces one to change life plans and directions (Joseph in Matthew chapters one and two).


4.       Sometimes faith separates self from the flesh and the shot-term trappings of this world (Mary and Joseph in Matthew 1:25).


5.       Sometimes faith acts immediately on a word from God and shares the good news of Jesus with others (the shepherds in Luke 2:8-20).


6.       Sometimes faith keeps God’s Word and workings close to one’s heart, meditating and pondering on what God has done (Mary in Luke 2:19).


7.       Sometimes faith remains in difficulty for a long time, trusting God and slowly influencing others (Anna and Simeon in Luke 2:21-38).


8.       Sometimes faith comes to new realizations, new dimensions of worship, and new dimensions of giving to God and others (Wise Men in Matthew 2:1-12).
What does God require for you to walk by faith?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Tribute to My Dad, #16

Our family enjoyed a treat this week.  North Greenville University retired my father's basketball jersey yesterday at one of his favorite spots - The Original Stax Restaurant in Greenville.  Dad, Robert “Dag” Wilson, attended and played basketball for NGU from '56-'58 and then Furman from '58-'60.  At North Greenville, his 1957-1958 team finished second in the nation.  North Greenville was then a two-year junior college.  Press Maravich, coach at Clemson at the time and father of “Pistol” Pete Maravich, tried to get Dad to come play at Clemson, but Dad chose Furman instead.  (Dad later would play pick-up-games with a young Pete Maravich when Mom and Dad would visit their friends the Bagwells , neighbors of the Maravich family.  Howard Bagwell would go on to be the Atheletic Director at The Baptist College of Charleston for many years.)  That ended up being a very good choice for him.  At Furman he broke school and conference records as a basketball player, including being named the best player in the state of South Carolina.  The best blessing he received at Furman, though, was meeting and eventually marrying my mother, Marian Hendrix.  Dad and Mom attended Furman the year that they moved to the “new campus,” as my mother has always referred to it.  She says that Dad helped plant a lot of the towering trees that now grace the campus.

When I was a boy in Greenville, I thought Dad was celebrity-status, because so many older men in town would recognize dad - men who had watched him play ball when he was at Furman.  Many times I recall going into restaurants and stores and Dad being greeted by men who recognized him.  Dad played in the first game to be held in the old Greenville Memorial Auditorium.

I well remember the angst my mom and dad went through in the mid-1980's when Furman disassociated herself from the South Carolina Baptist Convention and began moving in a different route.  That severing was a regular topic of conversation at our supper table.  They were grieved that Furman, which had strong biblical-Baptist roots, chose to move away from that heritage.  As I grew into young adulthood, Dad talked less about Furman and more about North Greenville.  He became a regular encourager to Jimmy Epting and the coaches at NGU.  Dad was very proud of their small mountain school sticking with the inerrancy of the Word of God, keeping Jesus Christ central, and staying solidly associated with Southern Baptists.  Of course today, that small mountain school has become a large and thriving private school, training champions for Christ.

North Greenville sponsored a ceremony on Monday for the retiring of the jersey.  Some of Dad’s family and friends attended.  Dr. Epting shared yesterday that once my dad told him, Jimmy, I hope we have a good athletic program.  But just make sure and keep the Bible and Jesus Christ the main thing. 

Of course, Dad was pleased when I fell in love (in seminary) with a beautiful North Greenville graduate!  Tracey and I enjoyed returning to NGU a few weeks ago for her Joyful Sound reunion. 

When I think of Dad and the way he related to many people, I remember the word from Proverbs that says a cheerful heart is good medicine (17:22).  The Bible exhorts us to encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today (Hebrews 3:13).  Dad was an encourager to many people, as has been evident by the many people who have communicated to me and mom since his death.  (I recall three or four senior adult men coming to me with tears on their faces after Dad died and all saying, Dag was my best friend.)  I do not think there was ever a night that I spent in the same house with him that he did not tell me before I went to bed, “I love you.”  Those are words of an encourager.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Pathway to Peace in the Home

Enjoyed teaching on one of my favorite subjects in our membership class yesterday: challenging parents to lead their families at home in worship and discipleship!

Deuteronomy 6:1-10 . . .

I trust there are none here present, who profess to be followers of Christ who do not also practice prayer in their families.  We do not have a positive commandment for it, but we believe that it is so much in accord with the genius and spirit of the gospel, and that it is so commended by the example of the saints, that the neglect thereof is a strange inconsistency.       - Charles Spurgeon

If therefore our houses be houses of the Lord, we shall for that reason love home, reckoning our daily devotion the sweetest of our daily delights; and our family-worship the most valuable of our family comforts. . . .  A church in the house will be a good legacy, nay, it will be a good inheritance, to be left to your children after you.

-         Matthew Henry

Devotions can be a time of true togetherness when family members share questions, doubts, thoughts, problems, and answers.  Hearing one another pray or learning verses of Scripture together regularly establishes and reinforces the fact that God is at the center of the family unit.  In my opinion, the success of family devotions relies much more on the parents’ conviction to have them than it does on a specific technique or carefully chosen material.  The fact of the matter is this: If you truly consider family devotions vital to you and to your children’s welfare, you will make sure it becomes an integral part of your household routine.

-         Henry Brandt and Kerry Skinner, I Want to Enjoy My Children


1.     The purpose of the home – produce adults and children who love the Lord

2.     The prosperity of the home – enjoying the blessing of God’s presence and goodness

3.      The provision of the home – the Word of God

4.     The pattern in the home – Dad and Mom have the Word of God on their hearts

5.     The practice in  the home – Dad and Mom teach the Bible to their children

6.   The place of instruction for the home – everywhere you are inside and outside


What a heritage to pass along to our children . . . memories of home intertwined with memories of praise and laughter and song and the strong, undergirding arms of the living God.  (Jack Hayford, “Making Your Home a Worship Center”)

If we want to bring up a godly family, who shall be a seed to serve God when our heads are under the clods of the valley, let us seek to train them up in the fear of God
by meeting together as a family for worship.          - Charles Spurgeon

Quotation of the Day

We live in a day when entertaining our children ranks higher in importance than instructing our children.   Beware the television set or internet that will keep you from family worship!

The Motivational Gift of Organization

Biblical Example: Nehemiah


The Spirit-given motivation and ability to understand what makes an organization function, and the special ability to plan and execute processes and procedures that accomplish the goals of the organization or ministry.

The ability to organize  and systematize information, people, and things to work efficiently.


Administrators . . .                  leaders, facilitators, organizers, rulers, organizers, delegators



1.               Ability to visualize the final results of a major undertaking (Ne. 1:2-3; 2:5).

2.               Ability to break down goals into smaller achievable tasks.

·                  Believes in delegation – breaks up the task and gives it to others.  Involves others without feeling guilty.

·                  The walls were a huge task.  In 52 days they were broken into many small groups stationed around the walls.

3.               Knows what resources are available and needed to reach a goal (Ne. 2:6-8).

·                  Had his list together for the king in chapter one.

·                  Attitude – prepares himself for the task ahead of time so when the opportunity comes, he will be ready.

4.        Tends to remove himself from distracting details in order to focus on the ultimate goal (5:1-13).

                                   Nehemiah is not building himself but removed from the distractions.

5.        Willingness to endure negative reactions from insiders and outsiders in order to reach a goal.

                                   Nehemiah addresses Sanballat, Tobia, and Geshem.

6.        Has a need for loyalty and competence from those who are being directed and served (5:1-13).

                                   Requires oaths of cooperation.

7.        Ability to know what he should and should not delegate to others (4:13).

He did not build the walls but handled the enemies and was involved in guarding the walls.

8.        Ability to inspire and encourage workers by cheerfulness, praise, approval, and challenge (2:1; 4:14).

                       The ability to slow down and encourage / exhort.

9.        Joy and fulfillment in seeing all parts come together in a finished project (Ne. 7:1-2; 8:1-18).



1.               Viewing people as human resources rather than human beings.

Do you use your ministry to build the people or do you use the people to build the ministry?

2.               Using people to accomplish personal ambitions.

How to balance this temptation – always be a giver to others.

3.        Showing favoritism to those who show loyalty.

           Strive to be fair and impartial.

4.               Taking charge of projects which are not God’s direction for you.

They man step on the sidelines instead of getting involved in a project until they are in charge.

It is hard for the administrator to see mismanagement and inefficiency and may take charge prematurely.

5.        Delegating too much work to others.

6.        Overlooking serious character faults in valuable workers.

           Because they can be consumed in seeing the project completed, they may overlook integrity.

7.        Being unresponsive to suggestions and appeals.

           You can see a vision so much that you don’t care what others say.

8.        Fail to give proper explanation and praise to workers.

9.        May appear callous and uncaring or insensitive to the schedule of others.

10.      May appear lazy or like they are avoiding work.

11.      May care too much about the rules and regulations.

Beware of majoring on the minors and missing the point.  Remember that Jesus taught that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

The administrator may need to balance his or her “ruling” gifts with faith and mercy.  He needs to remember that many things God leads us to do will be beyond what we can plan, budget, or control.  Without faith it is impossible to please God – Hebrews 11:6.  Clothe yourself with compassion, because Jesus died for people, not projects!  Projects are as good as they help people.

TRAITS IN THE SPIRIT / FLESH                                                                                                          

  1. Orderly                                    Disorganized
  2. Initiative                                  Apathy
  3. Responsible                             Unreliable
  4. Humility                                  Pride
  5. Decisive                                  Double-minded
  6. Determined                             Fainthearted
  7. Loyal                                       Unfaithful

1.  Remember that plans are accomplished by the Lord.  2.  People are important for who they are, not just what they do.  3.  Learn and focus on grace.  4.  Discern between your plans vs. God’s plans.  5.  Sometimes procedures and rules have to be altered in order to help people and accomplish much.


The Motivational Gift of Mercy

Biblical Example: John

Mercy-givers are builders of bridges and menders of breaches. 


The Spirit-given motivation and ability to cheerfully suffer the hurts of others, enabling you to minister to them in their time of need.

The verb means “to pity, commiserate, have compassion on, show grace favor to”

The mercy-giver does not just have the stirring of emotions but has deep-down, supernatural, God-given compassion.  Divine love by god’s Spirit in Christ’s name, glorifying the Father.


The Gift of Mercy

Feels pity:       the mercy-giver does not just have the stirring of emotions but has deep-down,

supernatural, God-given compassion.  Divine love by god’s Spirit in Christ’s name, glorifying the Father.

Involves deeds:           Jm. 2:15-16; Ac. 2:44-45; 9:36; 16:33-34; 2 Tim. 1:16-17

Requires cheerfulness:  Ro. 12:8

Strengthens many:     the extent of their ministry is unlimited because of the vast needs of God’s people.


How does this gift differ from the gift of helps/service?  Helps is directed toward relieving a Christian worker of a temporal service so they can concentrate on other things.  Mercy is directed toward one in distress (a shut-in, the handicapped, the ill, the hungry, hurting).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     etc.).

Other facts on the gift of mercy

Personal must learn to be tough on the outside because they are tender on the inside.

Probably 30% of believers have this gift.
Sympathy says, I’m sorry you hurt.  Empathy says, I’m sorry you hurt, and I hurt with you.  Mercy says, I’m sorry you hurt, and I’m going to stay right here with you until the hurt is gone.
Mercy may be drawn to prophecy in marriage.

Can be hurt more than any other person because of their tenderness.



1.               An ability to feel an atmosphere of joy or distress in an individual or a group.

Discern where people are emotionally.

2.         A tendency to attract people who are having mental and emotional distress.

            People gravitate to them, not prophets.

            Able to project themselves to the hurting.

            One of God’s gifts of cheerfulness and joy to the body.  They can weep with others.

3.         A desire to remove the causes of hurts rather than to look for benefits from them.

Exhortation says, “Let them hurt.  God is at work.”  Mercy, once they see God’s plan, can back off but not without hurting for them.  1 Jn. 3:11,15

4.         A greater concern over mental joy or distress than physical concerns. 

5.         A sensitivity to words and actions that will help others.

            In the flesh they react harshly.

6.         Tendencies to react harshly when close friends are rejected.

            Remember: very sensitive.

7.         An ability to sense genuine love.  A greater vulnerability to deeper and more frequent hurts.  Mercy is injured more easily.  They want to sense your protective care.

8.         A need for genuine friendships in which there is mutual commitment.

9.         A need to measure acceptance by physical closeness and quality time together.

10.       An enjoyment and unity with those who are sensitive to the needs and feelings of others.

11.       A tendency to be attracted to those with the spiritual gift of prophecy.

12.       A tendency to avoid decisions and firmness unless they will eliminate greater hurts.

13.       A closing of their spirit to those they deem as insincere or insensitive.

14.       Serve in difficult or unsightly circumstances and do so cheerfully.

15.       Concern themselves with individuals or social issues that oppress people.



1.               Failing to be firm and decisive when necessary.

2.               Taking up offenses for those who have been hurt.

3.               Basing decisions on emotions rather than on principle.

4.               Promoting improper affections from those of the opposite sex.

5.               Cutting off friendships when they feel others have been insensitive.

6.               Becoming stubborn and vindictive when they feel rejected.

7.               Reacting to God’s purposes in allowing people to suffer.

8.               Sympathizing with those who are violating God’s standards.

9.               Establishing possessive friendships with others.

Biblical references of John the Beloved
His name means “whom Jehovah loves”
John was in the circle of intimacy (Mk. 5:37; 9:2; Mt. 26:37; Lk. 22:8)
Jn. 19:35; 21:24  the author
Jn. 21:20; 19:26  Beloved
Jn. 13:25               physical touch
Gal. 2:9                  a pillar
Mk. 3:17               natural energy
Mk. 9:38               intolerance
Lk. 9:54                 vindictiveness
Mk. 10:35-37       ambition
Jn. 13:33 /             eagerness to learn
1 Jn. 2:
1 Jn. 4:7-21           love

TRAITS IN THE SPIRIT / FLESH                                                                                                          

  1. Attentiveness                          Unconcern
  2. Sensitive                                  Callous
  3. Fair                                          Partial
  4. Compassion                             Indifference
  5. Gentle                                     Harsh
  6. Submissive                              Rude
  7. Meekness                                Anger

Instructions for the Mercy-Giver

1.  Love for others may require toughness.

2.  A need does not equal a call.  You can’t help


3.  Use caution about your motives and desires.

4.  Develop a tough skin, but keep the tender heart.  Beware of being overly sensitive and offended     when people don’t make you feel as good as you wish they would!