Fall Again: Good News for the Seasons of Life

Fall Again
Fall Again: Good News for the Seasons of Life

As I sat in my window seat, sipping a complimentary beverage at a local coffee shop this week, I peered up from behind my computer screen to catch a glimpse of a sign I somehow missed as I entered the door just minutes before.  There it was in bold letters with illustrations of autumn leaves around the headline – “Fall Again.”  In spite of the high 80s temperatures outside, the sign reminded me of what I had conveniently forgotten: Fall is here; another season in a busy year.

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Good News for A Lonely World: The Message of Exodus 21-40

Good News for a Lonely World
Good News for a Lonely World: The Message of Exodus 21-40

A recent headline from an article by Dr. Keith Ablow declared, “Loneliness is Now More Deadly than Obesity.  And We Don’t Have a Plan to Reduce it.”[1]  He cites findings presented at the recent American Psychological Association conference asserting that, “social isolation, loneliness or living alone was each a significant factor contributing to premature death.”

We live in a paradoxical time in which we are surrounded by others and inundated nearly every moment with so-called “social” media, yet recent studies show that people feel more isolated and lonely than ever before, and it’s killing us.  One only needs to observe a sea of people checking their smartphones in a crowded restaurant to know that we bring many of our feelings of loneliness upon ourselves, but the reality is that the solution may be deeper than simply downgrading to an old-school flip phone.  This is but a symptom to a deeper problem.

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Life in Transition: Looking Back and Looking Forward on Ministry Together

Wilks Family
Life in Transition: Looking Back and Looking Forward on Ministry Together at Calvary

Last night our family attended a “meet the teacher” event at my son, Hayden’s, new school.  Tomorrow, my wife will drop off our oldest child, Kayleigh, at the building where she will begin her middle school experience, so she can meet her teachers and other incoming 6th graders.  Simultaneously, I will accompany my youngest child, Elise, to meet her teacher, as she begins the final year of preschool for any Wilks child.  Very few people love change, most abhor it, but the reality is that life is often a series of transitions interspersed with short spurts of stability.

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A Call To Repentance in the Wake of Charlottesville

A Call to Repentance in the Wake of Charlottesville.

If you’re like me you have been horrified, deeply disturbed, and even self-reflective at the events of violence and hatred on display at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA this weekend.

In light of these events, we led the congregation of Calvary Presbyterian Church in a season of repentance, lament, and longing during our Sunday worship gathering.  Below is a transcript of what I said in leading the members of Calvary into this season:

Reflections on the Events of Charlottesville this weekend and a call to repent, lament and long for Jesus.

* Let me be abundantly clear.  There is no room in the Christian Life and Christian Church for racism or white supremacy or any supremacy that supplants Christ’s Supremacy.  None!

* Revelation 7:9 describes a day when Christ sits upon his throne and at his feet is the multitude too large to count from every tongue, tribe, and people and language standing before the throne, washed white by the blood of Jesus Christ, crying out with ONE voice (not disparate voices), ONE voice, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

* In Ephesians 2:14-16, the Apostle Paul tells us that Jesus has broken down in his body the middle wall of separation between God and Man and Humanity with One another.  Here is what he says:

 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,  and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

* In John 17 – Jesus prays fervently for this church of every tongue tribe and nation and every generation to exhibit the Unity that exists between the Father and the Son – a unity that has existed from before the beginning of time.

* Here’s the reality, it is easy to look at the images of men in their nice polo shirts holding torches and people wearing their white hoods and carrying their flags and think – “Look at them over there.  Look how the seeds of hate run deep in them.  I’m glad I’m not like that.”

* But when I think about the reality of what Christ has secured and what Christ prayed for and what Christ is doing in the world today, I cannot help but see myself in those images.

* I cannot help but think about the vestiges of racism that remain in my own heart;  The silence that too often characterizes my lips;  The inaction that fails to get out of my apartment or my office or the coffee shop and pursue real racial reconciliation in my own heart and life and lead the church to do the same.

* I can’t help but remember the words of Dr. King that remain as true today as they did when first stated that 11am on Sunday is the most segregated time in America.

* I cannot help but feel the hypocrisy of my own heart and life, knowing that every Sunday morning, Bethany and I leave our apartment complex where we are the overwhelming minority and come to this church that Jesus loves, where we are part of the overwhelming majority.

* I don’t stand before you as a man who has it all together or even knows what to do.  But I stand before you as a fellow struggler knowing that we are in desperate need of the reconciling power of Jesus Christ, so that we the church might be the true reflection of Christ’s unifying Lordship over all things through His work at Calvary.

* What I know is we are a people in deep need of repentance, faith and Christ’s reconciling work.

This morning we lament, not only the horrifying events and evil in Charlottesville, but the vestiges of division that remain in us.  May Jesus have mercy on us.

 

 

 

Ordinary to Extraordinary

Photo Credit: Ryan Hatton

Photo Credit: Ryan Hatton

Ordinary to Extraordinary: Giving thanks for the Fruit of Ordinary Life and Ministry

We live in an Instagram society.  Snap a photo, post it, and display what appears to be an extraordinary moment in the midst of ordinary life.  This often makes us assume that life should be full of the incredible, the fanciful, the extraordinary.

In reality, life and ministry is a series of normal, mundane, ordinary and repetitive moments that sometimes bear fruit in extraordinary ways.  Day-to-day life for most of us is full of the repetitive cadence of waking up, eating meals, washing dishes, cleaning a home, driving to and from work, grocery shopping, taking care of family obligations, paying bills, checking e-mail and social media, watching television, going to bed, getting up the next morning, and repeat.  Yet once-in-a-while the faithful living-out of the ordinary moments of life gives way to something extraordinary: new relationships blossom, new opportunities fall in our laps, we graduate from school, awards come our way, a pay raise relieves financial pressure, a vacation breathes new life into our lungs, retirement gives a new perspective on life, our children embrace Jesus, we have a moment of clarity years-in-the-making.

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From Danger to Praise

From Danger to Praise
From Danger to Praise!

“Warning!  Serious Injuries and deaths have occurred beyond this point.”  These are the “welcome” signs that awaited Bethany and me this week, as we hiked at Hanging Rock State Park together in celebration of 14 years of marriage.  I both chuckled and cringed at these signs of warning, knowing they portend real potential danger, illustrated in the stories of real lives lost and real lives changed by a false step, or simply an unforeseen disaster.

Yet, we forged ahead, along with countless other men, women and children, because at the peak of hanging rock is a glorious view that with sure footing leads to praise!  “You’re almost there,” people would say to us on their way down.  “It’s beautiful and amazing and so worth it!”  They were right.  As we stood at the peak of Hanging Rock, I thought, “I can’t imagine what would have been lost if I’d turned back at those signs.”

Many of us, including myself, often view the journey of the Christian life as a hike to the top of Hanging Rock, particularly when it comes to the call in the life of every believer to evangelism, or sharing one’s faith.  The journey is one full of signs that scream, “Warning!  Serious injury and deaths have occurred beyond this point.”  Sharing our faith can be quite an adventure, but we are often afraid of the dangers, the consequences of saying the wrong thing or of being rejected by our families, our neighbors, our friends, and that can feel like death.

However, when we have seen a greater glory, we cannot help but respond in a praise that extends beyond ourselves and to those around us who are hiking the truly dangerous journey of life – one without God.  In Psalm 40:2-3, the Psalmist testifies to what God has done for him, saying, “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure” (vs. 2).  When Jesus saves, he does so out of our real danger and sets our feet upon the One who is our solid rock, enabling us to behold a greater glory.  The response?  Praise that extends to a world in danger.  He continues, “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord” (vs. 3).

Has the Lord Jesus taken you out of the pit of destruction, the miry bog and set your feet upon the rock?  Has he put a new song of praise in your mouth?  If so, may He enable your praise to extend beyond yourself to your family, your neighbors, your friends and co-workers, who are in need of the same.

This Sunday at Calvary, is Neighbor Sunday, and we will be sharing the Good News of how Jesus has come to seek and save the lost, those who are truly in danger, that they might see a greater glory.  Use this opportunity to invite your friends to join us, that they, too, might “put their trust in the Lord.”

Do Your Want Your Usual?

Do You Want Your Usual
Do You Want Your Usual?

“Good morning.  Do you want your usual?”  These were the words I recently heard spoken by a local barista to two coffee-shop patrons.  Consistent.  Thoughtful.  Familiar.  Welcoming.  Comforting.  That’s what these words represent.  How long does one have to regularly patronize an establishment before they are known by employees to have a “usual?”  A month of weekly visits?  Weeks of daily visits?  Does it depend on consistency of order?  Does it depend on consistency of the employee?

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Whom Should I Invite?

Invitation
Whom Should I Invite?

Whom should I invite?  This was the question my wife Bethany had to answer leading into her 10th-birthday sleepover some years ago.  As she pondered this question, she couldn’t fathom leaving any of the girls from her 4th-grade class out of the opportunity to gather for her party, so her parents graciously let her invite every girl from her class.  I’m not sure they ever did that again, but Bethany had a great time, and all of the girls felt welcomed!

We extend invitations for events that we think are important and to people whom we care about.

In Luke 14:15-24, Jesus tells a parable about a man who sent out invitations for a great party.  Invitations were extended to close friends, but they made excuses.  They had better things to do and other commitments in their life.  So, the servants were sent to the alley-ways and the overpasses of the city to extend invitations to the homeless, the blind, the crippled, and the lame.  When that didn’t fill his party, he sent his servants to extend invitations to people outside the city – the highways and the hedges.  Why?  It was to be a great party, and a great party needs guests eager to dine at the table of the host.

Do you believe that that the people you know and meet need to be invited to the great party to dine at the table of the great host, Jesus?  When was the last time you invited someone to church?  When was the last time you invited someone to meet your church family, or more importantly, to meet Jesus?  After all, there is no greater party than the ones thrown by Jesus.

On Sunday, August 6, Calvary will be hosting “Neighbor Sunday”, complete with a community party.   This is a unique opportunity to invite our family members, co-workers, neighbors, and friends to dine at the table of the great host, Jesus, whose parties outshine all the rest.  We will have great food, games, and bounce house and slides for the kids.  This is not a gimmick, but an opportunity.  It’s not a guilt trip but an invitation.  It’s not high-pressure, but a friendly welcome to all who would come to meet Jesus and meet your church family.

Let’s consider together whom we might invite, because we aren’t simply extending an invitation to a fun afternoon on a hot summer day, we’re inviting those we care about to come and dine at the table of King Jesus.

Calvary PCA Week of Prayer and Fasting

CALVARY PCA WEEK OF PRAYER AND FASTING – July 3-8, 2017

 The elders of Calvary PCA have called for a week of prayer and fasting July 3-8, leading into the congregational vote on July 9 to determine whether or not the Lord would have us move forward with the expansion and renovation of Calvary’s building at 6520 Ray Road, Raleigh.  We have asked members of Calvary to set aside one day this week, dedicated to prayer and fasting that we might seek His will and not our own.

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Changing Lives Through Gospel Hospitality

Gospel Hospitality
Changing Lives Through Gospel Hospitality

Excited, Scared, Disconnected, Hopeful, Confused, Alone.  These words describe well the mixed bag of emotions that was 22-year-old me in February 2001.  I completed my college course-work a semester early, and moved to Augusta, GA to begin my first career as a Minor League Baseball Broadcaster.  Although no one else knew it at the time, the excitement of reaching a life-long goal fresh out of college was tempered by a mixture of utter terror and deep loneliness, as I left my family and friends for a state and city in which I had never previously set foot to begin a role I was not confident I could perform with competency, much less success.

My first Sunday in Augusta, I walked into a small Presbyterian church with no prior connection other than an e-mail exchange with the pastor with a funny last name.  As I sat down, a couple about the age of my parents, turned around and introduced themselves, sharing with me that they had a son about my age.  I didn’t know their son would one day be a fellow-student at the seminary I could never have imagined I would attend, and I certainly didn’t know that he would become a pastoral colleague in the presbytery of the church, where I would fill a role I swore I would never fill: pastor.

As the pastor began his announcements that Sunday, I could tell that not only was he aware I was visiting, but he was about to single me out and publicly welcome me, the new “voice of the Augusta GreenJackets.”  When he asked me to give my best “home-run call,” and I responded with a self-deprecating remark, I had no idea that he would follow-up with me by inviting me to many lunches and even dessert in his home.  I certainly had no idea that in less than two-year’s time, I would ask him for his daughter’s hand in marriage and that I would call him “father-in-law.”

In the weeks following my first visit to this church I would attend and in which I would cut my ministry teeth as a volunteer in the youth ministry, I was invited to the homes of several of the older members of the congregation, who saw a young man who had to be lonely and certainly had to eat.  The hospitality of that couple, that pastor-turned-father-in-law, and those older church members gave me the thing I most desperately needed in that season – a family.

In the midst of the busy summer ahead, there will be many people moving into this area, approximately 65-per-day, according to the Wake County website.  Some may be your neighbors, some may be your co-workers, some may visit Calvary.  All will be in need.  Many of these men and women will be like 22-year-old me, finding their way into a new area for the first time, and in desperate search for connection, in need of the family that the body of Christ provides.  How might you be like that couple, that pastor, those older church members in my own story?

In Hebrews 13:1-2, we’re told, “Let brotherly love continue.  Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”  I’m certainly not an angel, but I am one who deeply benefited from the hospitality of men and women who looked past their age and past themselves and chose to show me Christ’s love through hospitality.  This summer, let me encourage you to prepare for the stranger in your midst, to invite the new neighbor over for a meal, to invite the church guest to join you for lunch, to ask your new co-worker how you might pray for him or her in the midst of their life transition.

As you show and share the love of Christ through Gospel hospitality, you never know how you might be used by God to change the life of the lonely, scared, and disconnected.  You never know what they might write about you on their blog 16 years from now.