Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Poem for Christmas

As Mary holds the babe in her arms,
The Wonder, wrought by God,
Makes her heart beat faster.

Wonderful Counselor, this new-born King,
Brings to all mankind
Salvation and Eternal Hope.

As shepherds huddle around the manger
On this star-lit night,
The distant background reveals a cruel cross.

Born to die! A terrible thought.
Yet, Mary knows that this very night
The door has opened to heavenly light!

—Dan Karroll Williamson
Copyright © 2009 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

What Christmas
Means to Me...

Christmas can, and should, be a time of great joy and celebration. But, for countless tens of thousands of people, it can also have a few tinsel strands of sadness mixed in with the joy.

If you have lost someone you love at Christmas, that often heightens the depth of the emotions one feels. My dad passed away on December 15, 1981. And, my mom died on December 16, 1985. Christmas always reminds me of how much I miss them. Genuine sorrow is something that a person never really loses. Yes, with the passing of time the hurt lessens. But even now, all these years later, at the oddest moments I am overcome with grief at the loss of my parents. So, Christmas becomes a time of remembering those who are now gone.

Times of trouble in one's life at Christmas also can leave a twinge of sadness. I spent Christmas 2005 in the hospital fighting to live. By God's grace, and the care I received from many wonderful doctors and nurses, I pulled through. So, Christmas always reminds me of the healing I received at a time when I lay helpless in a hospital bed, unable to move.

Most importantly of all, Christmas is a time to remember the birth of the Christ child, God Incarnate. Out of His unfailing and undying love, God gave us the gift of His Son that we might move from mere creatures to become His children and joint heirs with Christ of the Kingdom of God. Everyone who has even a glimmer of understanding at the enormity of this gift should truly join with the choir of angels and sing, "Glory to God in the Highest and on earth Peace to all mankind."
Copyright © 2009 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Abiding in Christ:
In Affliction and Trial

Luke 15:11-32

As you can see, the title for today’s entry is “Abiding in Christ: In Affliction and Trial.” Said another way: “What in the world do we do when our world collapses around us?” Yeah. What do we do? How do we respond? Where can we find the strength to go on?

The concept of “Abiding in Christ,” is based on the words of our Lord Jesus Christ as recorded by the Apostle in John 15:1-2.

If I am to properly interpret the sense of these verses, the afflictions and trials that come into my life may well represent the pruning of God; pruning so that I “will be even more fruitful.”

Well, thank you very much! Pruning. Just what I needed to brighten my day!

It seems to me that the key to learning how to abide in Christ during times of affliction and trial rests in developing an understanding of how we respond to such events in our lives.

The truth is, I do not know any of you well enough to properly evaluate how you would respond in the face of affliction and trial. I do not know how you would act and react when your world gets turned upside down. So, I guess I will have to approach this subject by taking a really hard look at my own life.

Except for my wife of 41 years, most people who see me today have never known me other than as the man who has to walk with two canes, or ride in a powered wheel chair. But, I haven’t always been like this.

Eleven years ago, I was a man who moved like the wind.

“That rumble you hear once in a while,” someone at the insurance company where I worked back in Connecticut was heard to say, “that rumble is Dean Wilson charging up and down the stairs. I’ve never seen anybody move up and down stairs faster than Dean.”

Then one week, while I was on a business trip in Cincinnati. I came down with what I thought was the flu. And, then I found a blister on the bottom of my right foot that I did not know I had. Diabetes had long ago robbed me of the ability to feel any meaningful sensations from my feet.

Getting sicker by the minute, I boarded a plane to return to Connecticut. By the next morning, I was so sick that I had to call a friend to take me to the hospital emergency room because my wife, Shirley, was already at her school teaching. In God’s Providence, my doctor was already at the hospital attending a seminar. He took one look at my foot and called for his friend, a surgeon.

Blood tests showed that infection had spread into my bloodstream and was coursing through my body and starting to attack my organs. My doctor later shared with me that he was fairly certain I was going to die.

Massive doses of antibiotics, and significant surgical debriding of the wound, brought some healing. But, I was not “out of the woods” by any means. And, my life as I had known it was over. Forever.

Throughout the course of the next months, I ended up having the outside two toes on my right foot amputated. I was placed on seven months of twice-daily intravenous antibiotics, followed by a three-year-long course of powerful oral antibiotics. The wound on my right foot became re-infected twice more before it finally closed. In all, I suffered for over two and a half years with an open wound that would not heal.

Then, just when I thought I was getting better, my knees gave out in the Baltimore Airport. My doctor diagnosed me with progressive, profound osteo arthritis of the knees and hips. Soon, I could hardly walk, could not climb stairs, and within two years, had to end my career as a fire protection engineer and retire on disability because I could no longer perform the necessary field work.

In the midst of all of this, the wound on my right foot opened up again. I began a long period of wound care that included two hospitalizations. Fortunately, I received excellent care from a host of doctors. This time it took almost three long years before the wound would finally close.

Then, throughout the summer and fall of 2005, I began to have a shortness of breath. In December of that year, I was rushed to the hospital by ambulance and declared to be in congestive heart failure. By God’s grace, I survived.

Gastric bypass surgery followed in the summer of 2006. But my recovery couldn’t be simple, could it. No, I had to go into kidney failure. The treatment for the kidney failure put me back into congestive heart failure.

I think I’ll stop talking about my medical woes now. First of all, you didn’t come here to this blog for an “organ recital.” And, secondly, your story is probably even more horrific than mine.

After all, I only lost a couple of toes and a way of life. Maybe you have suffered through the death of a spouse, or a child, or some other loved one. Maybe you have seen your career tumble into shambles because someone at work decided to treat you unfairly. Maybe you have watched your financial security evaporate in a falling stock market, or a bad investment scheme of some kind.

I just don’t know what you have experienced in your life. But, I know this for sure: you’ve had afflictions in your life and you’ve had trials in your life. The question for you and the question for me is “How do we respond?”

Frankly, we respond in anger.

Anger is a very interesting emotion. It comes in all varieties. Sometimes anger appears like a pot of slowly boiling water. Over time, that kind of anger gets hotter and hotter until it boils over. That boiling kind of anger can last a very long time before it boils over. It can last hours, days, even months and years. Once it boils over, it can take a very long time to cool off.

Sometimes anger appears like a stick of dynamite with a very short fuse. Once the torch hits the fuse, an enormous explosion erupts that flattens everything in its vicinity. That kind of explosive anger can have a short fuse or a very, very short fuse. Once it explodes, the anger itself can wither away to nothing in an instant. But the damage around the site of the explosion may never be repaired.

We really don’t like to talk about anger, unless we can do so in the abstract. Said another way, most of us will gladly talk about anger, as long as we are talking about someone else. We don’t like to confront our own anger, or even admit we become angry. And most of all, we do not like to talk about the fact that from time to time every single one of us becomes angry with God.

“Oh, now hold on,” you may say. “Angry with God? Are you kidding? Who in the world would ever admit that he or she would become angry with God?”

Okay. Here’s the deal. I frankly don’t have enough time or space in this blog entry to try to win you over to my way of thinking. So, I’m just going to lay it out for you and then let the Holy Spirit either confirm that what I am saying is the truth, or take my words and cast them away into the wind.

You see, I believe that every single one of you has been angry at God at some point in your life. In fact, I believe that some of you have been angry at God for a long time and are still, to this very day, angry with Him.

That’s right. I’m talking about being angry with God. Our God. Our Father. The God of the Universe. The One who created us. The One who chose us before the foundation of the earth to belong to Him. That God. Angry with that God. Angry with Him.

I cannot possibly address today’s topic: “Abiding in Christ: In Affliction and Trial” unless I deal with the most pervasive aspect of this subject. When you and I face affliction and trial in our lives, at some point in our processing what’s happening to us, we will feel anger toward God.

Why some of you regularly shake your head and wonder what God is doing. How can he possibly allow 416 children to live in an environment in Texas where they are subjected to physical and sexual abuse, all in the name of honoring what the cult members are calling “God’s Law.”

When a hurricane and resulting flood sweeps across the Gulf Coast and leaves thousands of the poorest people in that region without homes, some of you have at least thought about how you would take care of such matters if you were God. And, you are most certainly not at all pleased with the way He is taking care of the situation, or even that He permitted it to happen in the first place.

Or when people you know, or know about, die because radical-thinking adherents to some religion crash airplanes into the World Trade Center, or the Pentagon, or a field in southwestern Pennsylvania, just for a moment—or maybe from that day to this one—you feel a bit of anger toward the God who would permit such a tragedy.

And what if your theology holds to the orthodox belief that every thing that happens can only happen if God so ordains it?

Well, enough of the abstract.

What about you? What about those times in your life when things have not gone the way you wanted them to go? Did you respond by being angry with God? Of course you did!

What was the issue for you? What pushed you over the edge? Did you get sick? Did you watch someone you love battle illness, get weaker and weaker, until they died in your arms? Did you experience the sudden death of a loved one in an accident or because of a heart attack? Did you lose a child during childbirth? Did you want to have children so badly that you would do almost anything, but years passed and you remained childless? Did someone steal your reputation? Did you lose your fortune? Did an unfair supervisor at work make your daily life miserable, but you just could not afford to give up your job? Did a fire claim all your possessions? What was the issue for you?

Oh, I know I probably haven’t even come close to naming your issue. But, if you will only be honest with yourself, you will have to admit that sometimes the kinds of things that happen in your life have pushed you to the point that you have been angry with God. For some of you, that anger may have only lasted for a moment. For others of you, hidden in the deep recesses of your heart, you still harbor anger—even resentment—toward God.

In the moment of our anger, every one of us turns and runs away from God. Yes, we run away from God. It’s the only logical thing to do. When we believe someone is hurting us deliberately, we turn and run. We run as far away and as fast as we can.

But, do you know what? God understands. That’s right. God understands. He understands our frustration, our heartache, and He understands our anger. He understands our anger, even when it’s directed at Him.

And, what is even more amazing, He loves us just the same. Unbelievable. But, it’s true.

One of the most amazing parts of the parable from our Scripture text for this blog entry takes place in Luke 15:17-24.

The son came to his senses. In the Greek text for this passage the sense goes something like this: “when he returned to his proper thinking” or “when his mind began to function clearly” or “when his reason began to rule his emotions.” Wow! Imagine that. When he came to his senses he did the only thing he could possibly do: he acknowledged his sin, turned his back on that sin, and returned to his father in a spirit of humility.

But, the part of this parable I like the best is the part where the Scripture tells us that “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

Did you get that? While the son was still “a long way off,” his father saw him. Did you ever think why the father saw his son? It didn’t just happen. The father didn’t just happen to walk by and see his son in the distance. He saw his son because he was looking for him. In fact, I believe the father stood looking for his son every single day since the son left the father’s side.

In responding to the afflictions and trials in your life, has your anger, or your sorrow, of your unbelief pushed you away from the abiding presence of the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you know that every day since you stormed away, or walked away, or crawled away from Him, He has been looking for you, watching for you, waiting for you to come to your senses and return to Him?

In a sentence, what I am trying to share with you today might go something like this: “When our anger at afflictions and trials pushes us away from God, He lovingly waits for us to come to our senses and return to Him.” Let me say that again, “When our anger at afflictions and trials pushes us away from God, He lovingly waits for us to come to our senses and return to Him.”

If you are looking for a way to respond to the truth of what I am saying, let me offer this suggestion: starting today, read the passages in Luke 15 and John 15 again.

After you’ve read those passages, ask yourself whether or not you harbor any anger against God.

If the answer is “yes,” then let me respectfully suggest that you stop, bow your head in prayer, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to a place where you can come to your senses and return to God.

So, my suggested assignment has three parts:

First, reread the text from Luke 15 and John 15.

Secondly, examine your own heart to see if you harbor anger or resentment or disappointment with God.

Then, thirdly, ask God in prayer to send the Holy Spirit to guide you to a place in your thinking where you can come to your senses and begin to make your way back into the shelter of God’s Presence.

One day a man waited expectantly to join his wife and four daughters who had sailed across the ocean ahead of him. He had recently lost his only son and then seen his fortune destroyed by the Great Chicago Fire. He had planned to holiday in England with the hope of rebuilding the life of his family there. But, a business matter delayed his departure. As a result, he had been away from his family for an extended period of time. His heart ached at the thought of them. He longed to be with them once again.

Then the horrible news of a shipwreck reached him. Fearing the worse, he waited for days and days to hear whether or not they had survived. Finally, he received the news from his wife—two simple words—“Saved, alone.”

All four of his beautiful, dearly loved daughters had perished in the shipwreck. He had lost his fortune. And, now, he had lost his family.

Out of his broken heart, Horatio G. Spafford, penned these words to a familiar hymn:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

“When our anger at afflictions and trials pushes us away from God, He lovingly waits for us to come to our senses and return to Him.” Amen.

Copyright © 2009 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Friday, September 25, 2009

New Beginnings: How Do We Handle Change?

Every new beginning presents a unique set of challenges. Whether that new beginning occurs on a purely personal level, or extends beyond the walls that surround an individual, every new beginning creates a moment of pause.

Songwriters have always found fertile soil on the occasion of new beginnings. Lots of love songs talk about new romance. Patriotic tunes evoke images of sweeping changes that can affect the lives of thousands of people.

Not a few Christian songwriters have penned words that talk about the deeply significant changes that occur when the Holy Spirit whispers the words of Christ’s eternal love into the heart of one whom God calls to Himself.

Even the Apostle Paul talks about new beginnings with an air of excitement and determination in 2 Corinthians 5:17:

17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.

Perhaps in your life, or in mine, we stand at yet another time of new beginning. We seem to have experienced a lot of those kinds of times in the past few years. Haven’t we?

It is appropriate, even healthy, to take a moment for reflection and ask ourselves, “How will we respond to this new beginning?”

Over the course of my life, like many of you, I have observed lots of changes. A friend remarked recently that one of the few benefits of getting older comes from the fact that, if one lives long enough, he or she begins to observe certain patterns that seem to repeat themselves. I think that’s true at a time of change.

It seems as if people respond in one of three ways to change. Some people relish change, look for it, long for it, anticipate it, and glory in it. For these folks, the more change the better.

The second group of people abhor change. They do everything they can to avoid it. When change inevitably comes, they try to hide from it, resist it, flee from it, dread it, and agonize over it.

The third group seems impervious to any change. Whether things change or whether they don’t, these folks move forward at a steady pace, following their own muse, keeping on their self-determined path, oblivious to what happens around them, focusing only on their own well-defined world.

I don’t know which category you fit into with regard to change. For the most part, I’m in the second camp. I generally dislike change. In fact, I go to great lengths to try to systematize my life to such an extent that I insulate myself from even the thought of change.

But, do you know what? Change still occurs. And, more often than not, that change proves good: good for me, good for those around me, just plain good.

How about you? Does any of this resonate with how you feel about change and your response to change? If so, I think you may agree that both you and I need to take this time of “pause,” as we stare over the brink of another new beginning, and ask ourselves some questions.

To what degree are we willing to allow God to bring about change in our lives? Do we understand that, in reality, He is the One who is always in control? Are we ready to acknowledge that He has charted a pathway for each of us that He lovingly waits to reveal to us step-by-step? Will we respond to His great love for us and consciously yield ourselves daily to His purpose for us, His plan for us, His perfect will for us?

I am certain we need to pray for each other. After all, with us or without us, change is inevitable. Also, history stands as a witness that change is often healthy, beneficial, spectacular, exciting. life-giving, and good.

A song from the 1960’s says it well:
There’s a new day coming,
And it's just around the bend.
There's a new day coming
This one's coming to an end.

There’s a new voice calling,
You can hear it if you try.
And it's growing stronger
With each day that passes by.

There’s a brand new morning
Rising clear and sweet and free.
There’s a new day dawning
That belongs to you and me.

Yes, a new day’s coming,
The one we’ve had visions of,
Coming in peace, coming in joy, coming in love.

adapted from Mama Cass Elliot
And, again, from the Apostle Paul from 2 Corinthians 5:17:

17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Copyright © 2009 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

From Fisherman to Follower

I am not certain whether or not the "Scripture police" permit a person to have a favorite Gospel, but I confess to you to the Gospel of Luke is truly my favorite Gospel.

Most of you probably realize by now that God, in His great Mercy and Grace, wisely gave us four Gospels for a very distinct reason. He simply did not want to rely on the voice of one individual telling a story as important as the one that describes how God sent His only Son to become a man, to live here on earth for a season, to die a horrible death on Calvary’s cross to pay the atonement for the sin of all mankind, and then to rise from the dead, return to heaven and make a home for all those whom He has redeemed.

Years ago, a Bible-teacher gave me some clues to understanding the four Gospels, and I want to pass them on to you. He introduced me to a volume called A Harmony of the Gospels (Robertson, A.T. A Harmony of the Gospels. New York: Harper & Row, 1922.) You may have seen one of these interesting books. The book is set up in four parallel columns, one for each of the four Gospels. The story of Christ is listed chronologically. As each Gospel writer contributes to the story, text appears in the column for that Gospel writer. Where the writers tell the same story, text appears in each column. It provides a very interesting way of understanding the life of Christ. It also gives some insight into what events each Gospel writer chose to report.

This same Bible-teacher also gave me some insight into the purpose of the four Gospels. He explained that Matthew wrote his Gospel to the Jewish-mind. He paints an exquisite oil painting of the life of Christ. He portrays the Lord Jesus Christ as the King of the Jews.

Mark wrote his Gospel to the Roman-mind. He provides a series of candid photographs of the life of Christ. He portrays the Lord Jesus Christ as the Servant. Someone has called Mark’s Gospel the “Jack Webb Gospel,” referring to the actor in the old “Dragnet” TV-series of the 1950’s and 1960’s. “Just gimme the facts, just the facts.” And, of course, Mark is the first “streaker” recorded in Scripture. Some time take a look at scene of Jesus arrest near the Garden of Gethsemane, as recorded in Mark 14:51-52:
51A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.

Most scholars believe that the young man was John Mark, himself.

Luke wrote his Gospel to the Greek-mind. He provides a motion picture of the life of Christ. He portrays the Lord Jesus Christ as the Man.

John wrote his Gospel to the mind of all men and women. He provides an X-Ray image of the life of Christ. He portrays the Lord Jesus Christ as God the Son.

Perhaps my love of motion pictures, my fondness for movies, draws me to Luke’s Gospel. Or, maybe my fondness comes from Luke’s portrayal of Jesus as the Man. In any case, I find myself gravitating to the Gospel of Luke when I seek for accounts of Jesus time here on earth.

The particular passage from Luke 5:1-11 has a unique fascination for me. I suppose that fascination comes from the unlikeliness of it all.

The passage opens with Jesus standing by the Sea of Galilee, what the New International Version rightly refers to as the Lake of Gennesaret. Luke records that Jesus was speaking to a crowd of people. It is interesting to note that what Jesus was sharing with the people was the “word of God.” How appropriate. Jesus, in this early stage of his earthly ministry, is sharing with interested listeners the word of God.

Perhaps he was sharing with them from one of the prophets. Or, maybe, he was giving a discourse on one of David’s Psalms. We don’t know exactly what passage he was opening for them, but we can be pleased to know that most appropriately, Jesus was sharing with the people the word of God.

Luke seems to give us an interesting insight into this crowd that has gathered around Jesus. We can imagine that it started by just a few people standing around him. The longer he spoke, the more people joined the crowd. The more people joined the crowd, the more tightly they pressed around Jesus.

Some of the people were moving around, trying to get a better look at Jesus. Some were trying to move closer so they could hear better what he was saying.

As the crowd grew in numbers and pressed more tightly around Jesus, he realized that he needed to draw a bit away from them so that they could see him better and hear him better.

Luke records that he spotted a couple of fishing boats at the water’s edge. The boats belonged to some fishermen who had finished their day’s work and were now doing the clean up activity of washing their nets.

In a “take charge” way that characterized many of Jesus’ actions, he got into one of the boats. He very specifically chose the boat that belonged to Simon Peter. To understand who Simon Peter was, we have to look over at John 1:35-50. John records in very simple terms the first encounter that some of the men who would become Jesus’ disciples had with their Master.

We are told in this passage that Simon Peter’s brother, Andrew was one of John the Baptist’s disciples. The other disciple of John the Baptist who is not specifically named in this passage is likely the Gospel writer, John, himself.

John and Andrew witnessed Jesus baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. They saw the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus. They heard the testimony of John the Baptist that this was the Son of God. In response, they began to follow Jesus.

Andrew sought out his brother Simon and reported that they had found the Messiah. This simple statement in Scripture does not begin to do justice to the enormity of this revelation.

You must remember that every devout Jew who walked the face of the earth was waiting eagerly and expectantly for the Messiah. Especially since the scourge of Rome had descended on their land.

Here was Andrew telling his brother, Simon, “We have found the Messiah.”

So Andrew brings Simon to Jesus. Jesus tells Simon, “You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Cephas.” (which, when translated, is Peter.)

The scene that John records gives us insight into the calling of the first disciples. At some point, between the record of John and the passage we have today in Luke, these disciples return to their daily occupation, that of fishermen. We do not know why they left Jesus’ side, but they obviously did. For here at the shore of the Sea of Galilee, many weeks later, we find James and John, and Andrew and Peter back at their daily work.

So, back to the Luke 5 passage. We can understand, now, why Jesus may have felt at liberty to get into Simon Peter’s boat. This was not some idle or presumptuous familiarity. Simon Peter was already known to Jesus and had been called as a disciple. However, Jesus found him at this moment back at his original job, catching fish.

Luke records that Jesus asked Simon Peter to row out a little ways so that Jesus could continue addressing the crowd. Oh, to have stood on that shore that day. To hear the very voice of Jesus teach the word of God. Whatever Jesus had to say, none of the Gospel writers have chosen to preserve those particular words. This omission likely stems from the dramatic events which followed this discourse.

After he was done speaking to the crowd, Jesus directed Peter to put out into deep water and let down the nets to catch some fish.

Do you have any idea how utterly ridiculous this request was? Do you grasp how completely taken by surprise Peter must have been?

First of all, Peter knew who Jesus was. Peter knew that Jesus was a carpenter from Nazareth.

Now, I have a very healthy respect for carpenters. While I, myself, can barely drive a nail home without bending it, my father, and his father, and his father’s father were all Scotch/Irish carpenters. I grew up in a home where the work of carpenters was revered. As a small boy, I was surrounded by craftsmen who worked in wood.

Not only was my father a carpenter, and my grandfather, and great grandfather a carpenter, my mother’s father was a carpenter, and my mother’s grandfather and great grandfather were all carpenters. And not just any garden variety carpenters, they were Swedish carpenters!

The highest complement my father could pay a fellow wood worker would be to call him a “cabinet maker.” I can remember asking my father if Bud Seagren was a carpenter.

“No, son,” my father replied, “Bud is not a carpenter, he is a cabinet maker.”

So understand, I have a very, very high level of respect for carpenters. Jesus was a carpenter. But, carpenters don’t know anything about catching fish. And, Peter knew this!

First of all, it was the middle of the day. No self-respecting Jewish fisherman would begin to fish in the middle of the day. Secondly, Jewish fishermen did not fish in deep water. They routinely fished in the very early hours of the morning, just before dawn, and they always, always fished in relatively shallow water.

These Jewish fishermen, James and John and Andrew and Peter knew the best time to catch fish was before dawn in shallow water. One did not catch fish in the middle of the day by letting one’s nets down into deep water. Absurd. Absolutely, positively absurd.

Notice how Peter responds to Jesus’ request in verse 5:
5Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets."

You see, Peter was willing to set aside everything he knew about fishing and follow the instructions of the one that he had begun to follow many weeks ago after his brother Andrew had reported to him, “We have found the Messiah.” Peter was beginning to understand, he was beginning learn, what it means to be obedient.

Notice what happens next in verses 6 and 7:
6When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

Wow! What a total surprise! You can’t catch fish in the middle of the day by letting your nets down into deep water. And, yet... And, yet, here was the biggest catch of the year, if not in their entire lives. Amazing. Simply, amazing. Imagine what would have happened if Simon Peter stuck to what he knew to be true and refused to be obedient to Jesus’ instructions.

Notice Simon Peter’s response in verses 8 through the first half of verse 10:
8When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" 9For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10aand so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners.

When faced with the reality of Christ’s power, Simon Peter is immediately convicted of his sin. In the face of the overwhelming righteousness of Christ, as evidenced by this miracle, Peter falls to his face before Jesus. Simon Peter asks Jesus to “go away.” He declares that he is not worthy to remain in Christ’s Presence. But in His great mercy, grace, and love, notice what Jesus says to Simon Peter in second half of verse 10:
10bThen Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men."

It seems as if Jesus says to Peter:

“Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid, Simon Peter. Don’t be afraid of my overwhelming righteousness. Don’t be afraid of my mighty power. Don’t be afraid that more and more you are beginning to realize who I am. Don’t be afraid that more and more you are beginning to realize who you are.

“Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid of this great catch of fish. Don’t be afraid. I have greater plans for you. I have better plans for you. I have more exciting plans for you. I have other work for you to do. From now on, Simon Peter, you won’t need to be concerned about catching fish.

“No, No, Simon Peter. From now on, you will be catching men and women and boys and girls. From now on, you will become part of my program, part of my process, part of my world-changing army. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid, Simon Peter. Don’t be afraid.”

Can you imagine how Simon Peter must have felt? Can you imagine the emotions that were coursing through his being? Can you feel the electricity that must have shot through his body at these words? If you had heard Jesus say these words to you, how would you have responded?

Notice how Peter and the other disciples responded to Jesus' call to them, in verse 11:
11So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

Can you imagine it? They pulled their boats up onto the shore, left everything, and followed him. What a response. What an amazing response. Talk about obedience. Talk about following Jesus. Talk about devotion. Talk about commitment. Wow. They pulled their boats up onto the shore, left everything and followed him.

Would their pathway be easy from now on? No it would not. Would they cease from sinning, never to sin again? No they would not. Would their devotion continue without any slipping backwards? No it would not.

And, yet, when given a new beginning by Jesus, they did the only correct thing they could do. They pulled their boats up onto the shore, left everything, and followed him.

You see, in the case of Simon Peter, fishing had gotten into the way of being a follower. Fishing had taken an upper hand. But that would happen no longer.

This was truly a different kind of following. This was a new beginning. This was a change from the first time that Jesus had called them after his baptism. This was the charting of a new course for their lives. This was the beginning of a life-changing turn of events. And, the only correct response they could make was to pull their boats up onto the shore, leave everything, and follow him.

What about you and me today? Do you hear Jesus’ voice? Across the centuries of time do you hear Jesus’ speaking to you? Do I?

Do we see Jesus standing at the shore? Do we see him step into our boat and ask us to row out a little way into the Lake so he can address the crowd that has gathered? Do we hear him ask us to do something that is so very much against everything we know to be true that it cannot possibly be correct?

And, yet, because it is Jesus who is asking us, we decide to be obedient. We decide to let a carpenter tell a fisherman how to catch fish. We decide that we will allow the wisdom of God’s Only Son to direct us in what we are to do.

And, I ask you my dear friends, will we be surprised when our nets fill to overflowing? Will we be shocked when we have to call our brothers and sisters to come to our aid, lest the catch of fish swamp our boat so that it begins to sink? Will we find ourselves falling at Jesus’ feet, acknowledging that we are sinners, and asking him to leave us because we are not worthy to be in His Presence?

Will we hear Jesus tell us that today we will no longer catch fish, but will become fishers of men and women and boys and girls? Will we decide to respond the only correct way to respond? Will we pull our boats up onto the shore, leave everything and follow him? Will we decide that we will allow nothing in our life to stand in the way of our relationship to Him. Will we consciously, and with determination, choose to let nothing keep us from our relationship to Jesus Christ?

Will we examine our hearts and ask God the Holy Spirit to reveal to us anything that we may be holding onto so tightly that it is keeping us from a full and complete relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. And, will we release our grip on whatever it is and become fully devoted followers of the Savior of the world?

What I have been trying to share, in a sentence, would go something like this: “When people begin to truly believe who Jesus is, they determine to let nothing stand in the way of their relationship to Him.” Let me say that again, “When people begin to truly believe who Jesus is, they determine to let nothing stand in the way of their relationship to Him.”

Copyright © 2009 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Birthday Card

Today I celebrate the completion of another year of life. Increasingly, as I have gotten older, birthdays mean less and less to me; just another day. Add to this rather “ho-hum” attitude of mine the events earlier this year that turned my world upside down and robbed me of the opportunity to minister and serve, and I approached this particular birthday with even less enthusiasm than usual.

But someone sent me a birthday card.

The card contained a poem by Roy Lessin. You may or may not know his name. Roy Lessin has written literally thousands of poems. In 1971, Roy and three other Christian businessmen founded DaySpring Cards. For over 30 years Roy, in his role of senior writer, has written words of encouragement to millions of people who have received a DaySpring Card honoring special days in their lives.

Roy’s words brought tears to my eyes and also overwhelmed me with a sense of gratitude to God. Roy’s words changed my birthday for the better.

When God made you
He did so with a purpose and a plan.

He saw all your days before
you lived one of them
and placed over you
the covering of His protective love.

He has allowed nothing
to come into your life
that has not first been screened
through that love.

His hand has remained upon you
to this very day.

He calls you by name.

You are His beloved child...
the apple of His eye...
the delight of His heart.

Today you are in the exact place
He wants you to be,
and tomorrow He will be with you
as He has always been—
in goodness, in kindness,
in faithfulness.

—Roy Lessin

© DaySpring Cards, Siloam Springs, AR
All Rights Reserved.

Yes. Someone sent me a birthday card. Thank you.

Copyright © 2009 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Are you weary in doing good?

In Galatians 6:9-10, the Apostle Paul urges the Christians gathered at Galatia:

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

These very powerful words not only apply to those stalwart saints who lived so many years ago. They apply to us today, right here, where we live.

The truth is, it is very easy to become weary in doing good. Anyone who has ever taught a Sunday School class for a year, or led a youth group for a school term, or helped prepare food for a significant church event—or countless other activities within the framework of church life—knows how very weary one can become.

The list of thankless jobs within the church stretches out almost beyond one’s ability to comprehend. The work of Jesus Christ, through the body of believers in the church, can only reach the highest level of effectiveness when literally scores of individuals willingly give their time and talent.

It takes many, many people volunteering to help to make things happen in a church. Sometimes, for a whole variety of reasons, the same people find themselves engaged in many church activities. As these folks look over their schedules for a given week, they find that they will make numerous trips to church in order to see to this matter or that one.

After a while, even the most dedicated volunteers begin to notice that, in many cases, the same faces appear in the ranks of the workers. They hear a number that counts the number of members who belong to their church and begin to ask themselves where all those other folks have gone when the call to tackle a new task goes out.

Then, do you know what happens next? Satan sticks his nose into the matter and begins to remind those hard-working volunteers of all the time they have invested while others seem to sit on the sidelines. The evil one cajoles and commiserates about fairness and just treatment.

Soon, each dedicated volunteer begins to put his or her foot down. When someone asks him or her to take on another task at church, he or she becomes irritated, even offended.

At this point, the tongues of the gossips begin to wag about the formerly dedicated volunteer. They use words like “burn out” and “worn out.”

All across this nation, even around the world, the army of God has many individuals who once gave their all in the cause of Christ, only now to step back and stubbornly refuse to take part. So, what do we do about this constant problem within our own Church.

We need to take another lesson from the Apostle Paul, this time from 1 Thessalonians 5:11:

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

Aha! We need to encourage one another.

When was the last time that you spoke a word of encouragement to one of your fellow believers? Have you thanked someone you observe at church who is fulfilling a role that helps advance the Kingdom of God?

Let me respectfully suggest that you make an effort this week to speak a word of encouragement to one of your fellow believers. Tell that one you appreciate what he or she does. Acknowledge that you understand he or she has made a sacrifice to do whatever it is that he or she does for the Kingdom.

And, while you’re at it, take a look at your own life. Are you looking for ways in which God can use your talents and abilities in His work through the church?

One day, when I was a small boy, a visiting pastor preached a sermon about service to Christ and His Kingdom. He concluded his sermon by reciting a little poem that has stuck in my mind for over 50 years. Here’s the first stanza:

Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life's busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, 'twill soon be past,
Only what's done for Christ will last.

Will you take up this challenge? Today? The work of God in the place where you live, through your church, depends on you, on your dedication, on your commitment.
Copyright © 2009 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Monday, July 6, 2009

What will you do
this summer?

In the musical play, 1776, writer Sherman Edwards writes these words for a discouraged and downcast John Adams: “Is anybody there? Does anybody care? Does anybody see what I see?”

Adams sings this lament on a darkened stage. In the original cast, actor William Daniels projects such a mournful tone that nearly everyone in the audience feels chills of mourning ripple up their spines.

An exhausted courier has arrived to deliver a message to the Continental Congress from General George Washington at the forward line of the battle. The British forces have the upper hand. Washington has spent most of the last few weeks trying to rally his troops. Things do not look well. Victory appears to rest solely within the enemy’s grasp.

No wonder Adams delivers this lament. No wonder he feels overwhelmed by gloom and discouragement. It’s as if he recognizes a need to step away from the urgent matters pressing in around him and to begin to examine the very depths of his being. Has he done the right thing? Has he made the right choices? Has he stood for the right principles? Has he remained faithful to his cause? Has he clung to what is right and turned his back on what is wrong?

The period of “summer” in the life of most churches—that stretches from the first Sunday in June until the first Sunday in September—offers a time when many believers take what they belive to be a well-deserved break from the hustle and bustle of church life. Typically, church programs take a hiatus. Attendance drops during this time. Many churches even structure their services to account for the many members who will number among the missing during this time.

In years past, say more than 100 years ago, summer typically offered believers in the Lord Jesus Christ an opportunity for penitence and preparation. Even though the agriculturally centered society saw summer as a very busy time, it also served as a time for spiritual renewal through camp meetings and other spiritual gatherings. It also served as a time to get ready for the thrust that would begin with the fall and extend through the winter months into spring.

In light of the changes that have taken place in our spiritual calendar, I am prompted to ask, “How goes it?”

“How goes what?” you may rightly respond.

“How goes your repenting and your preparing?”

You see, we far too often take the regular occurrence of a summer spiritual break for granted.

Oh, I know that some of you, drawing on the traditions of your childhood, may decide to take some of your vacation time to read a spiritual book or even spend some early morning or late evening time reading more from the Bible. I certainly will not fault you for deciding to follow the traditions established by your upbringing.

But, summer offers us so much more of an opportunity to examine the intimate details our lives during this deliberate three-month period. It offers a time of true introspection. It also offers us a time to enhance our spiritual awareness. It presents a window through which we should feel uniquely open to instruction in righteousness from God’s Word.

“Is anybody there? Does anybody care? Does anybody see what I see?”

The Apostle Peter, in his first epistle, writes these words of warning to the fledgling church:

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

During this summer, why not take time to examine the nature and character of our own beings? We can become aware of the manner in which the enemy prowls around us. We can ask God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to reveal those places in our lives that leave us open and vulnerable to our enemy’s advances.

We must become aware that our enemy may have sown seeds of discouragement. We must look carefully to see if that prowling lion has begun to devour our desire to hold fast to the One who holds fast to us.

If we find the hungry lion lurking at our door, praise God we have a remedy. Peter continues:

“Resist him (Satan), standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:9-11)

Yes, indeed, we do not have to face our enemy alone. So, let’s stand firm! Let’s not be discouraged! Let’s not fall into the trap offered by the devouring lion to use any excuse to keep us from gathering with our brothers and sisters in Christ to worship Him on the Lord’s Day. Let’s not withhold our time, talent, and treasure. Let’s not let anything get in the way of our devotion to the Risen Christ during the summer.

I continue to believe that we stand at the starting point of an exciting, vital, soul-filling, life-breathing, spirit-energizing time of ministry in the life of the church.

During this season of summer—I believe with all my heart—a new day can begin right now, right here, today!

Will you join me in rededicating yourself to serving Christ? Will you join me in praying for a great outpouring of His Spirit? Will you join me? Will you?
Copyright © 2009 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Having A Heart Like Jesus

Since the end of February, I have found myself in the middle of a jungle of despair and disappointment trying to find a way back to civilization. I’m not quite there yet, but from this point I can see the light ahead of a clearing that will likely put me on the pathway back to normalcy.

One particularly helpful bit of assistance I have received during this time of trouble has come from a sermon preached by Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Community Church in Forrest Hills, California on Sunday, May 31st, titled “Part 4: Growing A Heart Like Jesus.”

Pastor Rick talks about four steps that will activate the Lordship of Christ in one’s life and help develop a heart like Jesus. He suggests these critical mindsets:

1. Care only about the things that Jesus cares about.
2. Be indifferent to all the things that Jesus is indifferent about.
3. Be angry only about the things that Jesus is angry about.
4. Sacrifice only for the things that Jesus sacrificed.

As we walk along the pathway that God has laid out for us each day, I suggest that we keep these four mindsets in the forefront of our thinking. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to enflesh the truth of these mindsets into the very core of our beings.

If we do, I think we will have a much better chance of keeping our perspective, as we follow in Christ’s footsteps and serve as His ambassadors to a lost and troubled world.
Copyright © 2009 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Small Group Materials

From time to time I will attempt to share with you some sources of truly significant small group Bible study materials. Nothing helps build strong, Christ-centered relationships more effectively than becoming a part of a small group. Every significant and growing fellowship of believers relies on small groups to provide intimacy and fellowship among the members of a larger body.

This time, I want to shine a spotlight on the magnificent ministry of David and Karen Mains and Mainstay Ministries. Just point your web browser to

On that site you will find a host of helpful materials. Many of these materials have been packaged as “50-Day Spiritual Adventures.” While the Adventures are designed for an entire church to use, they also make truly effective materials for use by small groups. Check ‘em out; you’ll be glad you did!

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should explain further.

I grew up in a Bible-believing church. I prayed to receive Jesus as my Savior at the ripe old age of nine, in 1956. During high school, I served actively in Youth for Christ. I graduated from a most excellent Christian liberal arts college, Houghton College.

And yet, here I was in the summer of 1975: spiritually stagnant, terribly discouraged, gravely disappointed, and deeply troubled by the shallowness of many of the Christian leaders with whom I had come into contact. So, in the midst of this period of severe spiritual draught, I began to pray earnestly that God would bring a truly godly man into my life. I prayed faithfully and fervently, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.

In October, 1978, I received word at the Christian radio station where I served as a volunteer, WIHS-fm, that Rev. David R. Mains of The Chapel of the Air radio broadcast would speak at the annual radio station appreciation banquet. And, Rev. Mains would also speak at the Sunday morning worship service at my church. Knowing that I worked at the radio station, someone from my church asked if my wife and I would host Rev. Mains during his weekend visit.

That weekend changed my life forever.

As Rev. Mains began to speak at the radio station banquet, I hush fell across the several hundred people gathered in that high school auditorium. I sensed a deep electricity punctuate his words. Virtually instantly I knew that maybe, just maybe, God had finally answered my prayers.

During the time Rev. Mains spent in our home that weekend, I found someone who was much more interested in learning about me than he was in telling me about himself. In a truly uncharacteristic manner, compared to many, many other Christian media personalities that I had met, Rev. Mains exhibited a spirit of true humility, seasoned with great grace.

As he prepared to board a Chicago-bound airplane on Sunday afternoon, he quietly sat with me in the boarding area and shared some key principles he was using in his own spiritual development. He encouraged me to write to him.

Over the ensuing 30 years (31 years this October), David Mains has poured many, many hours of loving concern into my life. He has given me the opportunity to work with him and his staff. He has introduced me to many other key individuals. Most importantly, he has modeled for me what it means to wholeheartedly commit one’s life to serving God.

He opened his home to me, where his wife, Karen, a noted Christian author, and his children, all welcomed me and extended wonderful hospitality.

So, you see, I have experienced first hand many of the truths that the “50-Day Spiritual Adventures” help believers experience in their own lives. I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically urge you to choose one of the 50-Day Adventures and begin to use it for your small group. If you are not presently participating in a small group, why not start one. Pick a date and time and invite some of your friends to join you for a couple of hours of Bible study and prayer.

You and your friends truly can make Hebrews 10:23-25 come alive in your hearts and minds.
Copyright © 2009 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

What does it mean
to worship?

Well, it’s a Thursday. Two more days and then it will be Sunday. Where will you be on Sunday? Will you worship with your family in your church?

Recently, I received an e-mail from an acquaintance who shared that he had been thinking a lot lately about what it means to worship God. He asked me for my thoughts. This is what I wrote to him:

Worship represents one of the most important and most exciting activities we can pursue. Whenever I think about worship, I remember what the children of Israel experienced when they returned to Jerusalem from captivity and began to rebuild the city. You can find the record of an important part of their activity recorded in Nehemiah 8. I recommend that you turn in your Bible to that story and notice the power of God’s Word (in this case, the Law) and how the people responded.

One of the great passages of Scripture resides at the second part of verse 10: “This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

Worship brings us great joy. As we come apart from the trials and tribulations of daily life and gather together with our brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ, our worship becomes a source of great joy. And, we can draw strength from that joy: strength to meet the challenges of each day; strength to overcome those who would pull us down into what John Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress calls “the slough of despond.”

Do you find joy lacking in your life? Then go to a church this Sunday where you will find God’s people worshipping Him in the splendor of His holiness. In other words, by the power of the Holy Spirit, ask God to make the truth of Psalm 96:8-10 come alive in your heart and in your mind.

You will be very glad you did!
Copyright © 2009 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Friday, March 13, 2009

When to say, “No!”

Everyone much prefers someone who always says, “Yes.”

But, let’s face it. Every person reaches a point in his or her life where saying “Yes” becomes too difficult. That point usually occurs when your emotional bank account nears empty.

Part of you wants to “go along to get along.” Part of you wants to “accentuate the positive.” Part of you wants to have others perceive you as a pleasant, helpful, supportive person. But, then there’s that other part of you; the part that has had enough, has suffered enough; has reached the end of the line. One more “yes” will put you over the edge.

Knowing when to say “No” has great importance. The Lord Jesus Christ condemned those who always punctuated their promises with an “I swear I will.” In Matthew 5:33-37 he instructed his disciples to “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (verse 37).

One way of saying “No” comes to light when you stop trying so hard to convince someone you are right and he or she is wrong. Sometimes, you just need to walk away and allow him or her to exist in the reality he or she has created.

A colleague at the insurance company where I used to work often quoted two sayings which he felt offered words to live by:

1. Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.

2. Never wrestle with a pig. You get your clothes all dirty and the pig loves it.

So, give yourself permission to say “No.” Not every time and not all the time. But, when you have reached the point where those around you have fully withdrawn all they can from your emotional bank account, curl up in a comfortable place and put Jesus’ instructions to work. When the Holy Spirit refreshes you, make certain your ‘yes’ means ‘yes.’ Until then, let your ‘no’ be ‘no.’

I assure you that God—the One Who Loves You Most—understands. After all, He made you and He sent His only Son to die for you on the cross.
Copyright © 2009 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

What’s Your Brand?

As a student of advertising, I am always intrigued to see how the purveyors of various goods and services present themselves and their products to the buying public.

Sometimes I’ll see a great TV spot that makes me smile or laugh. But, when the spot ends, I have no idea what product or service the advertiser has offered. And, I do not know the name of the advertiser. I always feel sad. What a waste. They spent all that money to sell to me and I don’t even know the name of the company or the name of the product.

In contrast, all throughout the mid-morning hours of this business quarter, ConAgra Foods has run a TV Spot that is nothing short of delightful and outstandingly effective.

The spot shows a young elementary school-aged boy eating Chef Boyardee pasta. His dad stands next to him, picks up the empty can, and reads the label. The camera focuses on the part of the label that announces the product contains a full serving of vegetables. The dad then speaks loudly to the mom across the room and asks her if she realizes what the can of pasta contains.

The mom quickly turns on the garbage disposal to block the sound of her husband’s voice. When he tries to tell her again, she bangs on some hanging pots with a wooden spoon. She obviously doesn't want her son to hear about the vegetables.

As the scene ends, the announcer gives a voice-over that really pops: “Chef Boyardee...obviously delicious, secretly nutritious.”

Wow! What a great brand: “obviously delicious, secretly nutritious.” It started me thinking about what brand I project to the people who cross the pathway of my life. When people think about me, what brand pops into their minds?

The Apostle Paul struggled with how the people in the church at Corinth were thinking about him. In 1 Corinthians 3 he tries to deal with how the Corinthians are thinking about and talking about the various spiritual leaders of the day. He urges them to stop boasting about men; to stop identifying themselves with a particular leader. Rather, they should place their identity with the Lord Jesus Christ. ( vs. 21-23)

In 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, Paul asserts: “So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” The Greek word translated “servant” can also refer to a slave who has been pressed into service. It can also refer to someone who has placed himself or herself into bond service: a bond-servant or bond-slave.

It is quite possible that Paul was thinking about the passage in Deuteronomy 15:12-17. In that passage, God gives instructions to His chosen people how to set free a fellow Hebrew who has sold himself or herself into slavery in the seventh year of indenture. In verses 16 and 17, God describes how a servant can choose to remain with his or her master “because he loves you and your family and is well off with you.” Thus, a servant or slave becomes a bond-slave or bond-servant for life.

When the Holy Spirit prompts us to respond to God’s gift of love and grace through the redeeming blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and we acknowledge God’s claim on our lives, we become a bond-slave or bond-servant of Christ.

As I have heard my dear friend, Dr. David R. Mains teach many times, a steward is a slave elevated to a position of responsibility in his or her master’s household. Still a slave, the steward has overall responsibility for the possessions of his or her master. He or she has no interest in her own reputation, possessions, or success. Rather, he or she is fully devoted only to those matters that concern his or her master.

So, Paul seems to say that the “brand” by which he wishes to be known consists of being a “bond-slave of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God.” And, he goes on to say in 1 Corinthians 4:2, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.”

What’s your brand? How will you choose to be known to your family, to your friends, and to anyone who crosses your pathway?

As for me, I really like: “obviously delicious, secretly nutritious.” But, I like even better: “bond-slave of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God.”
Copyright © 2009 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Tool for Team Building:
the Gregorc Style Delineator™

One “adventure” that every church staff, every church board or group of church leaders, as well as every committee, task group, or ministry body within a church must face: “How to build a cohesive team.”

Teamwork in leadership forms an essential element of success in carrying out God’s work in this world. The Scripture asserts that each church contains the full range of spiritual gifts that, working together, can provide a fully functional body of believers. This body can become energized by the Holy Spirit to minister in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ in the local area, the state, the nation, and to the far reaches of the world.

Yet virtually every working group within a church has unnecessary conflicts, misunderstandings, and difficulties that interfere with their efforts to minister. The only way to remove this interference is to build a cohesive, interdependent, respectful, Christ-honoring team. To build such a team, the team members must learn to understand each other. One terrific tool to help gain that understanding: the Gregorc Style Delineator™.

Succinctly as possible, Dr. Anthony F. Gregorc asserts that God has “pre-wired” every individual with certain characteristics that pervade that person’s body, soul, mind, and spirit. These characteristics can be observed. And, in adults, these characteristics can also be disclosed through the use of the Gregorc Style Delineator™.

The God-given pre-wiring creates within every person certain innate preferences in how the individual takes in or perceives information—as life unfolds around him or her—and certain natural preferences in how the individual “processes” or “orders” that information into a useful form.

The two ways people perceive: Concretely (Physical Reality) or Abstractly (Non-physical—e.g., thought and emotional—Reality).

The two ways people “process” or “order”: Sequentially (“Step One, Step Two, Step Three ...”) or Randomly (“Chunk...Chunk...Chunk”).

These two characteristics join to form four basic Mind Styles™: Concrete-Sequential, Abstract-Sequential, Abstract-Random, and Concrete-Random.

Every person has all four of these preference combinations at work within him or her. But, most people exhibit a dominant preference. Their pre-wiring tends to pull that dominant preference up onto the “stage of life” in the face of daily interactions with other people, things, or circumstances.

Said another way, every person has some measure of all four Styles as a part of the wiring that God has given him or her. Every day each person draws on the characteristics and abilities expressed in all four of the Styles in order to make his or her way along the road of life. But, most people have a dominant preference for one, and sometimes two, Styles. The dominant Style tends to produce many observable characteristics that can help describe a person’s behavior or anticipated behavior in the vast majority of life’s circumstances and interactions.

Once a group of individuals working together in ministry learn about their own Mind Styles™ and also about each other’s Mind Styles™, they can use that information to learn how to better relate with each other. This understanding helps further bond them together and dramatically increases their effectiveness as a team.

Over the years, Dr. Gregorc’s extensive research has created a body of knowledge much like a very deep well. One can draw off some water from the very top of the surface of the water in the well and find that it satisfies a particular thirst. Or, over time, if one desires to do so, he or she can plumb the depths of the well and find an even cooler, more refreshing repast.

In other words, you can gain some valuable insight into yourself and others by simply becoming aware of the existence of Mind Styles™ and by learning about your own Mind Style™ and the Style of those on your staff, board, committee, working group, or other team. Or, you can delve into the information Dr. Gregorc has made available and learn a great deal more about yourself and others. It’s really your choice.

When one layers a recognition and understanding of one’s Spiritual Gifts on top of an understanding of Mind Styles™, one can develop a very insightful view of the people on a church staff, a church board, a committee, a task group, or even in an entire congregation.

I can testify that Dr. Gregorc’s excellent materials have greatly helped many individuals and groups, both within the church and outside the church, with whom I have had the privilege of sharing this information. During a typical presentation of Mind Styles™, many people have significant “Aha!” moments.

Often, a great deal of healing takes place among people’s relationships that have become scarred by unnecessary conflicts, disagreements, and misunderstandings. I strongly urge every church leader to consider obtaining this valuable material and using it to improve the relationships and teamwork at his or her church.

You will find a great deal of additional information regarding Mind Styles™ at I will also gladly answer any questions you may have. Simply send me an e-mail.
Copyright © 2009 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Stepping Stones Along the Pathway of Obedience: Part 5

One last meander along the stepping stones of 1 Timothy 5:1-25. Ready?

Finally, notice how Paul ends this part of his letter to Timothy in verses 24 and 25.

Good deeds or sins, neither can remain hidden. Might I be so bold as to suggest that we strive to focus on those godly deeds that the Holy Spirit prompts us to perform in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

“Yeah,” you may respond. “But, how? How do we do that?”

Let me offer a couple of suggestions.

First of all, when you spend time with God in prayer today, invite the Holy Spirit to empower you to put into practice the four Principles that Paul has shared with Timothy:

1) always speak respectfully to your fellow believers with God-breathed love;

2) care for those who have real needs in the best possible way;

3) treat leaders with respect, but hold them accountable; and

4) do all things without partiality, do them equally to all believers.

Then, ask God to bring circumstances into your life that will help you develop the use of these four Principles. Ask Him to help you apply them to your relationships with your brothers and sisters in Christ.

I don’t know which Principle will be the hardest one for you to enflesh. But, again, when you pray, ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to make these four Principles come alive in your heart and mind. And, ask Him to bring you opportunities to put these four Principles into practice, as you relate to your fellow believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Okay. It’s a little scary to ask God to take charge of your life in such a way. But, after all, you already belong to Him, don’t you? Why not surrender your will to Him in this way?

When you’ve earnestly prayed and made these requests known to God, let me suggest that you keep your eyes open. And, wait expectantly to see how God will answer your prayers and fill your relationships with your fellow Christians with an overwhelming measure of His marvelous grace.

With all my heart, I believe if we would start following these four Principles, the people who populate our lives would begin to observe Christ’s Presence within us in a new and fresh and very attractive way.

And, isn’t that what living for Christ is all about?

“Thoughtfully and prayerfully building respectful, caring relationships with fellow believers, helps expose the world to the power of Christ within His children.”
Copyright © 2009 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Stepping Stones Along the Pathway of Obedience: Part 4

Ready to walk onto the next stepping stone as we follow the Scriptures found in 1 Timothy 5:1-25.?

Principle No. 4 (verse 21): “Employ these foregoing three Principles without partiality. In fact, lead without partiality. Said another way, as you lead, treat everyone the same.”

Now you may think that would be a very easy instruction to follow. But, please, think about this more closely for a minute. Examine your own heart. In your daily life and relationships, do you treat everyone the same? Do you really?

Most people tend to categorize the other people in their lives. As a result, they modify their behavior toward a particular person, either inwardly or outwardly, to match the category into which they have placed that person.

The categories can result from a variety of observed variables. Some categorize people by their nationality, or by the color of their skin, or by they way they look, or by the way they dress, eat, or speak, or by their level of education, or by the kind of work they do, or by the neighborhood in which they live, or by their relative poverty, or by their relative wealth, or by how agreeable they are, or by how disagreeable they are, or by their arrogance, or by their pomposity, or by their humility, or by their generosity, or by their greed, or by a host of other personal characteristics.

In my own life, to my shame, I confess to you that I have a very, very hard time treating everyone the same. In fact, I’m embarrassed to admit that I generally place people into one of three categories: those I love, those I feel neutral about, and those I don’ like very much. I find it easier to interact consistently well with those I love. The main criterion for categorization in my life is “trust.” Can I truly “trust” this person? Can I trust him or her to accept me as I am? Can I trust him or her to consistently support me when he or she talks about me to others? Can I trust him or her with my own unique brand of loyalty?

All those other reasons for putting someone into a category don’t mean much to me. But, “trust”—well “trust” means a lot to me. In fact, it means far more than it should.

But, so much for me and my sin. What’s your hang up? What keeps you from living a life of impartiality? You may not even be able to conceive that you function with partiality in your life. Let me assure you that you do. In fact, if you are having trouble figuring out where you draw a line of partiality in your life, just invite the Holy Spirit to reveal the partiality that plagues your life. He will gladly help you work through a process of self-discovery.

Our partiality, our living our lives in a way that treats different people differently, resides in us as a direct result of our sin nature. Only through life-transforming power from the Holy Spirit can we hope to enflesh the truth that Paul shares with Timothy in verse 21,

In the last few verses of this chapter, Paul gives some random closing thoughts.

First, let's look at verse 22.

Before ordaining a pastor, an elder, or a deacon, take the time to examine them to make certain they meet the qualifications that Paul has listed previously. Always bring someone into leadership very, very carefully.

And, do not allow yourself to share in the sins of others. If you observe someone around you sinning, don’t allow yourself to be drawn into that sin. Walk away. Or, said another way, “Keep yourself pure.” It takes a volitional act of your will to respond to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit warns you to turn from the sins of others, so you won’t be drawn in, by all means turn and walk away.

And, then we come to verse 23.

This is a particularly tough verse for me. I was raised in deep evangelical fundamentalism. Drinking alcohol in any form was absolutely forbidden. My godly grandmother served for over 30 years as a leader of the WCTU. That’s the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, for those of you too young to have ever heard of that organization. I grew up hearing story after story of lives ruined by drinking alcoholic beverages.

So, while I must strive to deal with a host of other types of sins in my own life, it seems a great deal more fair if I leave the appropriate exposition of verse 23 to some lifelong Presbyterian or Episcopalian, or Roman Catholic, or whatever. (chuckle) It seems to me that many of the Presbyterians in my current church just love Paul’s advice in verse 23.

Perhaps we will wrap up our walk tomorrow. How 'bout it? Does that sound like a plan?
Copyright © 2009 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Stepping Stones Along the Pathway of Obedience: Part 3

In this post, we continue to walk on the "Stepping Stones Along the Pathway of Obedience" found in 1 Timothy 5:1-25..

Principal No. 2 (verses 3-16): “Extend care to people who have real needs. But, make certain you wisely assess each individual situation to consider the genuineness of the need and the best way in which to respond to that need.”

We like to think of ourselves as people who readily care for others. But, I wonder? Do we spend more time talking about meeting the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ than we actually spend meeting those needs?

In order to follow the nature of the instructions that Paul gives to Timothy, we must continually assess whether or not we are truly identifying the needs of our fellow believers and meeting those needs in an appropriate way. And, when I say “fellow believers” I don’t just mean our fellow believers here in our local area. I mean we need to identify and meet the needs of all believers. Those who live where we live, as well as those in our county, state, nation, and even around the world.

Once we have made certain we have met the needs of our fellow believers, we must not forget the needs outside the Household of Faith. We have a responsibility to extend God's love by reaching out to touch the lives of everyone in need. We must do so with the same care that we reach out to our fellow believers. Here too, we must do our best to identify the needs in our circle of influence and then meet those needs in the most appropriate way. That takes a real effort. It takes a "community of faith" to take on such a task. We must link arms and hearts, pool our resources, and choose wisely to maximize the effectiveness of those resources.

Oh, yeah. There is a lot of need. “How can we possibly meet all those needs?” you may ask. I’ll tell you how: one need at a time. That’s how. One need at a time.

Principle No. 3 (verses 17-20): “Give proper respect to leaders in the church. In fact, give double honor to those who lead well. But, don’t tolerate any sin among them. Rather, publicly rebuke them for their sin in order to serve as an example to others.”

Okay, then. We need to give “proper respect” to those who serve well in leadership among us. But, we also need to adopt a “zero tolerance policy” in regard to their sins.

“What? Are you kidding?” you respond. “Hold leaders accountable? Do you think I’m a nut case?”

Nut case or not, what do you suppose would happen if the people in, well, your church actually followed Paul’s instructions? Between the list of requirements for leaders that Paul offers in 1 Timothy chapter 3 and in Titus chapter 1, and this concept of giving double honor to those who serve well, but holding them to a rigorous standard of righteousness, do you think the folks in your church might end up with some amazing people leading their congregation? Yeah. They would.

In the next post we will continue our journey. So, rest up.
Copyright © 2009 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Monday, March 2, 2009

Stepping Stones Along the Pathway of Obedience: Part 2

In the last post, I set the stage for taking a walk on the "Stepping Stones Along the Pathway of Obedience" found in 1 Timothy 5:1-25. It’s just possible that some of the problems that Timothy faced in Ephesus might well be the same kind of problems that you will face. In fact, your brothers and sisters in Christ up in Buffalo, or over in Cleveland, or down in Pittsburgh, or wherever you live, have to face these same kinds of problems, as they labor on behalf of Christ and His Kingdom.

In this Scripture passage, Paul concentrates on relationships within the Body of Christ. Paul grabs Timothy’s attention and tries to guide his thinking on how to deal with issues that will surely arise, as he leads the church in Ephesus.

Paul has already acknowledged in the previous chapter that Timothy has his youth as a potential liability. And, he urges Timothy to not allow anyone to despise him—or set aside what Timothy may say—simply because he is young.

Now in this chapter, Paul sharpens Timothy’s focus on developing a level of caring that will appropriately mark his ministry among the Ephesians. Part of the solution to problem solving within the Church, Paul asserts, is to care appropriately for one’s fellow believers.

If I were to try to put into a sentence what Paul shares with Timothy, it might sound something like this: “Thoughtfully and prayerfully building respectful, caring relationships with fellow believers, helps expose the world to the power of Christ within His children.”

Let me say that again. “Thoughtfully and prayerfully building respectful, caring relationships with fellow believers, helps expose the world to the power of Christ within His children.”

Let’s take a look at four very specific Principles that form the basis for what Paul has to say.

Principle No. 1 (verses 1 and 2): “When making a point with someone, speak respectfully. Let the deep kind of God-breathed love temper your words. Speak as if you were speaking to your father, or mother, or sister, or brother.”

Right off the bat with this first Principle we enter a realm in our modern culture where listeners respond with a universal, “Huh?”

In our culture, we’re just not in the habit of extending respect to other people. And, our culture particularly doesn’t extend respect to older people. In fact, our culture has pretty much relegated anyone who has reached his or her senior years to a position seen as virtually irrelevant on every level.

I mean, after all, come on, older people are set in their ways, always living in the past, always talking about the good old days, always trying to get you to move backward, not forward; always resisting change.

Hey! Wait a minute. I’m one of those older people! Last August, I celebrated my 61st birthday. I’m set in my ways. I’m living in the past. I’m always talking about the good old days. I’m always resisting change.

Our culture does not generally respect what older people have to say. And, the truth is that, just like people of all ages, older people can find themselves stuck on this idea or that one. Sometimes being stuck on a particular idea stands in the way of valid progress, or valid action.

Nevertheless, Paul instructs Timothy to speak respectfully and with God-breathed love to the older men he might encounter.

When it comes to dealing with women, Paul urges Timothy to treat older women as he would treat his mother and to treat younger women as he would treat his sister. Notice how Paul emphasizes that, in his relationship with younger women, Timothy must maintain purity.

Purity. Now there’s a concept that our culture would never support. Why I could spend the rest of today, all day tomorrow, and most of the next day talking about issues of purity among members of opposite gender within the church. Everything from the way we dress to the way we speak. But, I think I will leave that for another time.

Paul knew that Timothy might encounter some resistance from the people in his congregation in Ephesus, so he offered him a key: “speak kindly, speak respectfully, and speak out of a heart of God-breathed (agape) love.”

In the next post, we'll examine another of the four Principles. Will you stay tuned? I certainly hope so.
Copyright © 2009 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Stepping Stones Along the Pathway of Obedience: Part 1

Today, I begin a series of posts entitled “Stepping Stones Along the Pathway of Obedience.” The posts will deal with the passage of Scripture found in the Apostle Paul's letter to Timothy: 1 Timothy 5:1-25. If you wish, you might want to take a moment and read that passage before you read further.

Have you ever wondered what God actually requires of us? Oh, I know that some people may think God wants them to be kind to others, to speak well, never get into trouble, be on their best behavior, do good and charitable deeds, go to church, keep a smile on their faces, all to earn their way into His favor.

But, God really doesn't have those things as His first priority for us. Why? The truth: we can't earn God's favor. Our sin always gets in the way. That's why God sent His precious son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die on Calvary's cruel cross. It's the blood of Jesus that covers our sins. He has paid the penalty for every sin we have ever committed and every sin we will yet commit.

Once we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord, God really only requires one thing of us: obedience. And, that, of course, is the hardest thing of all.

So, how do we do that? How do we obediently fulfill the two great purposes God has for us on this earth as recorded in Mark 12:28-31: to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength; and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

In these next few posts, I want to help us to “listen in” on a written conversation between the Apostle Paul and his son in the faith, Timothy. It’s the kind of conversation that comes from a wiser older man—who has labored long and hard at a task—and now takes the time to share with a younger man. And, not just any younger man, but a younger man who he believes may well have to, some day soon, take his place.

Paul, you see, was currently in Macedonia. Very soon he would find himself under arrest and on his way to Rome. As a Roman citizen, a very rare status for someone of Paul’s heritage, Paul would exercise the right to request a hearing in Rome to answer the charges brought against him.

Some folks of significance would accuse Paul of promoting anti-government ideas. Actually, Paul was simply urging people to become citizens of Christ’s Kingdom. Some thought this was most inappropriate. The best way to silence Paul: have him arrested.

Of course, in hindsight, we can look on these events as they unfolded and see the Hand of God taking charge of the situation. God would use this seemingly dire occurrence to move Paul to Rome at the government’s expense. This would then allow Paul to minister to the growing church there. Out of that experience, the exponential growth of the numbers of people who would place their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ would eventually cause Christianity to propagate throughout the then known world.

So, Paul writes to Timothy, who he has left in Ephesus, a city on the western coast of the land we now call Turkey. He gives this young man instruction in how to devote himself effectively to the cause of serving the Lord Jesus Christ.

You may wonder what in the world such instructions might have to do with you. “After all,” you may say, “I have quite enough to do right now just trying to make my way through this troubled world. Why I have hassles at work; hassles at home; and even hassles at my church. At least whenever I try to accomplish something that I believe God has laid on my heart, it seems way harder than it ought to be.”

But you see, dear one, that’s exactly the point.

When you heard the soft whispering—or the loud shouting—of the Holy Spirit that penetrated your mind and heart, and when you responded by receiving God’s gift of eternal life through the transforming power of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, you joined the “Jesus Gang.” You became a part of Christ’s Kingdom, not in the “sweet by and by,” but in the here and now.

That sets the stage.

In the next post, I will share more from what Paul says to Timothy. Let's see if together we can learn some helpful tips on how to become obedient servants of God. Okay?
Copyright © 2009 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.