Archive for the ‘Christianity’ category

The Dangers of Freely Thinking

October 12, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     October 12, 2016


With four weeks until the election it seems that more stuff is being thrown back and forth than a high school cafeteria food fight. Social media, such as I’m using, spreads the drama quickly. Every day we are bombarded by new revelations about the past. Accusations meant to discredit and humiliate are the norm. How candidates deal with health care, foreign policy, education, and all the other issues has been pushed back to the end of the program guide. I have a hard time remembering where each candidate stands on such issues in the midst of email scandals and locker room comments.

There are Trump supporters, Clinton supporters, Johnson supporters, Stein supporters, a growing number of people who keep hoping that a knight in shining armor will ride on to the scene in the nick of time, and still others who are praying that Jesus returns before November 8!

This may be an election where there are more people a little embarrassed about who they finally choose to vote for than those who proudly proclaim who it is they support.

What I’ve also noticed is the danger of freely thinking. In the past few days my college alma mater, a small Christian college in Elgin, Illinois called Judson University, has had people throwing Facebook comments back and forth about the fact that Dr, Ben Carson is scheduled to speak on campus in the spring. Some of the words written had the commentator reaching down into the gutter and getting a handful of that really disgusting and foul-smelling mud and flinging it towards the school’s administration. How could an educational institution allow someone to come and speak who has been supportive of Donald Trump?

I remember a number of years ago when colleges fought the fights of being places of free thinking. There is great danger that the winds have changed directions in regards to that. It seems our culture is enamored with hearing what we agree with more than different ideas, and throwing sharp verbal jabs at those who hold other viewpoints.

The election is just the latest of these contentious battlefields. I wish I could say that the followers of Jesus have been different, but alas…

Christians are often the worst! Many of us have mastered “sanctimonious spiritual language” to belittle those who we disagree with. “How can you call yourself a Christian and…” It used to be that you finished the phrase with things like “…drink a Budweiser?” or “…wear a skirt that short?”  Then things changed a little bit and we ended the sentence with issues or life situations like “…say that abortion is okay?” or “say that divorce people can get remarried?”

In recent years it has changed again. Now the accusing question gets completed with words like “…say that you are voting for ______?” or “be willing to even listen to what he/she is saying?”

In a time when the church could be a safe place to express different opinions it has taken on the appearance of political preferences. There’s more free thinking happening at Starbucks than the coffee fellowship time in most churches.

What would Jesus do? I’m not sure, but many of us are hoping that he will come back and tell us real, real, real soon!

Conversing With A 5 Year Old Evangelist and Her 18 Month Old Sister

October 8, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                 October 8, 2016

            “Conversing With A 5 Year Old Evangelist And Her 18 Month Old Sister”

Yesterday was “Watch the Grandkids Day!” since our teaching daughter had meetings at her school. It was an experience of gospel and giggling!

Reagan, a highly-verbal five year old, was up and ready for conversation when I arrived at 7:45. Her 18 month old sister, Corin, was also chowing down on mini-waffles as I entered the room and immediately offered me one. When I took a move to accept it she withdrew the offer…and redirected the waffle to her mouth quickly!


As I sat on the couch Reagan started sharing the gospel with me, using some “gospel block” creation to explain the steps to getting to heaven.

“Granddad, this is the cross! Do you know who that is who is on the cross?”


“Baby! Baby! Baby!”, came the voice of Corin directed at me while pointing to a babydoll in a stroller.”

“Yes! That is Jesus, Granddad. Do you know why he is on the Cross?”

The 18 month old walked up at that moment with a hat in her hand. “Hat!”

“Why don’t you tell me?”


“He died for our sins, Granddad!”

“Yes, he did.”

The toddler was not yet impressed by that truth. She had discovered one of her brother’s Hot Wheel cars. Jesse was still in upstairs slumber, unaware of the fact that Corin now was prancing  around with his Mustang.

“Car! Car!”

“Yes, that’s a car!”

“If you want to go to heaven, Granddad, you need to believe in Jesus…okay?”

My mind was spinning like an NFL head coach fielding questions from all parts of the press room after a game. The Mustang went thundering across the wood floor, followed closely by a squeal of delight.

“Do you know what this is, Granddad?”, asked Reagan showing me another side of the gospel blocks. “This is heaven. It’s bright and sunny, and people don’t have to wear shoes.”

“Socks! Socks!”, clarified the waddling blonde pointing at the red socks on her feet.

“Yes, those are socks, Corin!”

“Good people go to heaven, and bad people go to hell, Granddad!” I did not want to straighten out the kinks in her theology at 8 A.M., and was a little taken back at her matter-of-fact usage of the word men fling around freely to make a point about their opinions and actions, or in disturbed confusion about something that has just happened…”What the hell!” And now my granddaughter had guided it naturally into her gospel presentation!

“Juice! Juice!”

“You want some juice, Corin? Okay, just a minute!”

“Someday you can go to heaven, Granddad!”

“I hope so, Reagan!”

“…if you believe in Jesus!” There was doubt in her tone! Later on I could envision her doubting my citizenship in heaven because I refused her request for a mid-morning bowl of ice cream! Her evangelism had not yet differentiated between saying yes to her requests being different from saying yes to Jesus. Jesus went to the cross for her, so wouldn’t I at least go to the freezer?

The Going Into Church

October 2, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           October 2, 2016


I’m about to go to Simla on a beautiful Sunday morning and worship and speak to the small gathering of God’s people at First Baptist Church.

Notice my language…”going to!”

In recent weeks I’ve been asking the congregation some guiding questions about who they are and what they are about. Without roping them like calves I’m seeking to lead them to the point where they are “a going church!” In essence I’m seeking to add two letters to their mindset about their church…from “going to” to “going into!”

It’s a challenge that most churches face. I compare it to businesses being mall-based versus Amazon came to me yesterday…on-line…and gave me a free Kindle book which I’ll read on an upcoming vacation. Amazon comes to me. I haven’t been to the mall in about six months. It is to imposing to me…parking, lines, trying to find one thing in the midst of hundreds of things, over-priced food at the mall food court! The last time I went to the mall was to get new “Roundstreet and Yorke” dress shirts at Dilliards during their annual Clearance Sale. It took great shirts that were marked down 50% from the already 60% off price tag to get me to go to the mall.

That is also the mentality of most people about church. It takes a Harvest Festival or a kid’s basketball program to get many folk to go to church. The language of the church, therefore, needs to be shifted to “going into.”

It’s interesting that the first church in Jerusalem, according to Acts 2:46-47, met daily in the temple courts, and they broke bread together in their homes. They had that “church connection” in the temple courts…although it was a bit different than our present day idea of what that means…and they met in the homes of the city. An important part of their faith was spent where people lived.

Last Sunday while I was at Simla my wife visited a new church that just recently launched. It is within walking distance of our home. She knew about it because our area has been saturated with signs stuck into every corner…right next to the “Vote YES for D20 Kids” campaign signs that deal with the new school bond issue. At this new congregation, meeting in a high school auditorium, she was taken back by the dominant point that the pastor was focused on…that if each person invited someone else to come the next Sunday, and someone else new the next Sunday, and on and on…then this new church would be the largest church in the city in a year. He seemed to be fixated on that, which still flowed out of the old mindset of getting people to go to church!

Scripturally, the body of believers…the followers of Jesus are to go into the world. If we trust that God knows what he is doing then we will understand that he will bring people into our lives, or has already brought people into our lives, who we can reflect Jesus to. It doesn’t have to be forced or manufactured. We don’t even have to have a pocket full of spiritual tracts to hand out. Reflecting Christ can simply flow out of our intimacy with Jesus.

It’s kind of like my face at the end of football practice each day. I leave practice and go to the store where I encounter someone I know. My friend says something like “You got some sun today, didn’t you?” I don’t have to say to him, “Did you notice that I got some sun today? Do you know what that means?”

The Going Into Church uses language that flows out of life and relationships. Kind of like what Jesus did!

Angry Church People

October 1, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     October 1, 2016


The cell phone game, “Angry Birds”, got turned into a movie this past summer. Angry birds flying into pigs has been a big seller!

Something I’ve noticed over the years are “Angry Church People”- people with anger issues stomping through places of grace because other church people want to be loving and kind to those that even Jesus would have a hard time putting up with.

Angry church people take advantage of the grace of God’s people, but angry church people have a real gift for keeping the church from focusing on its mission and purpose.

Years ago my friend in ministry, Dr. Mark Sommers, who now pastors in the Syracuse area, came to see me at the church I was a staff person at. On Fridays an eighty-plus year old woman staffed the office. I’m not sure I ever saw her smile in the year and a half I was there. Every couple of months she would stand in front of the congregation and lambast them about needing nursery volunteers. On one Friday morning Mark came to see me and was greeted with these words as he entered the building and headed towards the office:

“What do you want?”

    It was said in the most unwelcoming way possible, as the elderly receptionist looked at him with a frown and skepticism. Thirty-five years later when Mark calls me I answer with those words to him and we chuckle about that memory. The thing is…this lady had issues in other areas of her life. Her anger towards life got poured on to those she met at church.

Let me be clear! We all have issues in one way or another, but angry church people is an area that leaves people shaking their heads about the purpose of the church. When they hear the words “Grace Church: Loving God, Loving People”, and then get assaulted with a verbal bombshell about keeping their child quiet in church it becomes very disillusioning.

Angry church people shoot the message of grace and forgiveness in the foot. Like geese scattering in the air because of a predator in close proximity, people in need of hope scatter from churches where they’ve been treated as hopeless.

How did Jesus relate to angry temple people? He stayed focused on truth, never swayed from it. The law keepers used their religion as a sledge hammer. Jesus told them about his Father who was more concerned with people experiencing God’s love rather than who left the toilet seat up!

Angry church people are often very willing to be in leadership so they can use that sledge hammer of power and bitterness. Sometimes they push their way in because there is a vacancy where they can ease into power. Perhaps a template for leadership in the church should be Philippians 2 where Paul talks about a servant who considers the needs of others above their own. That might create a number of unfilled vacancies!

Angry Birds was a multimillion dollar seller. Angry church people is a multi-million person turn-off, and it isn’t a game!

Bottom lion, angry church people need Jesus!

My Road To Simla

September 25, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      September 25, 2016


Sunday mornings have become a favorite time of mine, not because I’m able to sleep in or make flapjacks in the iron skillet, but because I get to travel down the road to Simla.

Traveling to Simla is synonymous with finding rest and being at peace. I go to Jackie Landers for a body massage. I travel to Simla for a massaging of my spirit.

Quite frankly, when I retired from the pastoral ministry last December after 36 plus years I was fried crispy. I did not do self-care well. Not many pastors do! I came to dread Tuesdays because it signaled the beginning of another six day week filled with meetings, crises, obligations, and church drama. Doing pastoral ministry is like taking a daily vitamin, but at some point the bottle becomes depleted and you can sense the gradual loss of vitality and purpose.

After stepping away at the end of 2015, Carol saw the difference in me within the first couple of weeks. She saw what I could not see…the slumped shoulders perking up again, the laughter and joy, the lessening of the hurrying.

And then in February I took my first drive to Simla, a forty-five minute ride into the eastern plains of Colorado on a two-lane road…passing by Peyton, slowing down for the 35 mile an hour speed limit through Calhan, and skirting the edge of the spot by the side of the road called Ramah, and then arriving at the village of Simla.

On the drive I ponder, pray, listen to Garth Brooks, think about the Sunday message, hum to myself, and sip on my third cup of Starbucks coffee. As I get closer to Simla and First Baptist Church my “happy meter” keeps moving to the right. The twenty people or so that will be there each Sunday morning are like pastors to me. They minister to my wounds, soothe my doubts. Thelma and Kathleen brought me a dozen ears of corn from their farm a couple of weeks ago. Ray and Laura open the building and talk me up upon my arrival. John and Angie and their two kids, Lou and Lena, bring me chuckles. Henry and Mildred, 89 and 90, are the senior components of wisdom and church history. Elizabeth, and her young son Eric, offer kindness and care. John and Sherri always remind us to pray for our country. Each person brings something to offer and is offered the ministry and community of the Body in return.

And as I pass by Ramah I anticipate the blessing of what is about to happen.

At this point the Simla church can’t afford a pastor. My friend Steve Wamberg and I fill the pulpit each week. It has become a dance that we thoroughly enjoy. The coffee after worship is exceptionally weak, but the fellowship amongst the saints is strong. No one seems in a hurry to beat the Methodists to the restaurants, since there are very few Methodists in Simla and the only restaurant in town, the Hen House, never seems to have much of a crowd.

When I drive home from Simla I always feel emotionally uplifted, spiritually nurtured, and ready for the week ahead. In some ways I’ve rediscovered the value of church for my life. It may have taken my being at a different life point for that to happen, but I’m thankful for where I am.

Sometimes it simply takes a 45 minute step away from what has been to rediscover what still is.

Saying Goodbye To My Colorado Dad

September 24, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     September 24, 2016


My father, Laurence Hubert Wolfe, lives in Proctorville, Ohio. He turned 88 back in June. He is, and has always been, a man of integrity and compassion. Living in Colorado has minimized my time with him in recent years. Sunday night phone calls are our meaningful habit, about thirty minutes of conversation about what is happening, punctuated with a few stories that we each chuckle about when shared. I’ve been blessed to be the son of a man who is Deacon Emeritus at his church, not so much for his biblical knowledge, but rather for his humbleness and grace.

God knew I needed another dad…a resident papa, if you will…and he blessed my life these past seventeen years with another man of humbleness and grace named Rex Davis. Both Rex and my dad were government employees- Rex with the Postal Service and my dad with the Social Security Administration. And both Rex and my dad were caregivers for their wives for a number of years, treating their spouses with respect and love as ailments and conditions slowed their mobility.

The only difference between Rex and my dad is that Rex preceded his wife, Ann, in death. Today I speak at his funeral. He passed away about a week ago after battling cancer for the past three years or so. Rex was 95.

As I speak this afternoon I expect that I will become emotional. Sometimes pastors become accustomed to grief, to loss, and tragedy. It becomes a part of our occupational routine, and quite frankly, seldom touches our hearts. There are, however, those people whose lives have entwined themselves into your lives that ignite the sorrow and awaken the emotions. Rex is that person for me! His funeral is an event I have dreaded, and yet, feel very honored to be a part of.

When I was his pastor he would squeeze my finger each Sunday when he would pass the offering plate to me, and then he’d whisper to me “Praying for you, Pastor Bill!” He was my golfing dad, hitting them short and straight and then patiently waiting for me to find my drive that usually went long and sliced to the right. He appreciated my ministry and, with sincerity, told me so frequently.

I walked some lonely days with him, as he grieved the death of his only son in a motorcycle accident. I was a listening ear in his time of loss and confusion. When my mom passed away he came along beside me with words of comfort, and found a few more times each month to give my finger a squeeze or embrace me with a hug of support.

I expect that the sanctuary will be close to capacity this afternoon, a testimony to a man who outlived just about everybody of his generation. It will be a bitter-sweet celebration of his life and his witness. There will be outbursts of laughter and ears streaming tears of sorrow.

I miss my friend. I miss my Colorado dad!

Sharing My Opinion

September 22, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                September 22, 2016


I received an email from Time magazine yesterday. They want my opinion on different things! They must have received a rumor that I’m opinionated and have opinions to offer on anything and everything…from the election to the price of avocados to the end of “Mike and Molly.” It’s nice to know that someone values what I’m thinking.

Sharing opinions is a risky business these days. Facebook opinions have become the Jerry Springer Show of social media. People seem to get off sharing their distorted anger, while others get even more satisfaction at telling them what pathetic losers they are…and then back to you…and then I’ll reach for an even lower comment…and then…

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. Jesus had his challengers ready to pounce. Of course, the difference is that Jesus didn’t have opinions, he had the truth. The truth got lampooned, demonized, and criticized. Jesus would have been caricatured on the editorial page every day in some cartoon drawing.

Most of us have a hard time differentiating between the truth and what is simply our opinion. In my annual eye exam my optometrist does one test where two lines gradually come together. That’s how most of us see truth and our opinion. They have become two lines of thought and understanding that we’ve brought together.

And so sharing any opinion seems to be like lighting a fuse on a conversation ready to explode. Some of us like explosions. They seem to ignite us! Others of us shake our heads in disgust and dismay.

Just think about recent opinions that divide us like New England Patriot fans versus…well, everybody else! There’s been the election, National Anthem protests prompted by recent shootings, immigration, health insurance, the cost of Epi-pens, Ryan Lochte, concussion issues in sports, and the legalization of marijuana. Wow! Time could do a couple of issues just on the issues.

And here’s the thing! In our hyper-opinionated culture the thinking seems to be that I must totally agree or totally dis-agree…that I can’t disagree 60% and agree 40%, or admit that there is some truth in the opinion that i don’t agree with. We seem to think that people have to be all in or all out!

I’ve been reading a book entitled Washington’s Circle by David and Jeanne Heidler. What  I’ve been amazed at is the opinionated founding fathers. In today’s terms we would say that they were not all on the same page. They had their opinions about issues, as well as about each other…and they seemed to be able to talk about their differences and, in most cases, come to a consensus of agreement. Perhaps a slower way of communicating helped. In many ways the speed of our interactions these days is a positive, but it has also become a liability. People don’t think before they speak or comment or send a social media post…and then let the fire begin!

A wise person longs for truth and considers the value of their words.