Wes White http://www.weswhite.net A Tennessee Pastor's Blog Tue, 27 Jun 2017 12:30:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 http://www.weswhite.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/cropped-Wes-White-2-1-32x32.png Wes White http://www.weswhite.net 32 32 17757251 How Not to Bore People to Death with a Meeting http://www.weswhite.net/2017/06/how-not-to-bore-people-to-death-with-a-meeting/ http://www.weswhite.net/2017/06/how-not-to-bore-people-to-death-with-a-meeting/#respond Tue, 27 Jun 2017 12:30:46 +0000 http://www.weswhite.net/?p=12959 Continue reading "How Not to Bore People to Death with a Meeting"

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We’ve all been to meetings in which we were bored to death. Meetings can also be frustrating and seem like a total waste of time.

At my church, I have a friend named Art Stump. He is on our Church Admin team, plays keyboard in our band, and is a regional manager for Kitchen Collection.

He has a knack for making meetings interesting, profitable, and fun. So, I asked him, what are the most important things you’ve learned about leading a meeting?

He answered by giving 5 suggestions. They are worth thinking about and implementing.

Here’s what he wrote.

Art Stump: In thinking about leading meetings I tried not to necessarily consider “textbook” types of things. Instead I wanted to focus on things I believe I learned through the process of both leading meetings and, probably more so, sitting through meetings. I’m not saying I discovered any of this on my own, nor that I haven’t read and studied meetings, just that I thought mostly about what I’ve experienced myself.

So, here’s my list of 5 things I’ve learned about leading meetings. (This isn’t a Top 5 so there’s not a particular order to them):

  1. Attitude. Agenda. Action. I lumped these all together. The leader has to be positive, enthusiastic, and upbeat about the meeting. A well-planned meeting will always be more successful. Follow up is important to demonstrate to the participants that their time is important, productive, and meaningful.
  2. Don’t confuse straying with spontaneity. You want to allow space for discussion, letting the meeting progress, but you also need to stay on course. An issue or topic might be extremely important but that doesn’t mean it should be a part of that particular meeting.
  3. Make sure everyone participates. That means encouraging the more quiet folks to speak up. It also means sometimes having to cut off the talkative ones. There are people who try to dominate every question and every moment. The leader has to keep those personalities in check. Also, the leader can promote participation by not always being the one who gives the “correct” or “best” answer.
  4. Create conflict. Bring up the opposite point of view as if it’s your own. Sometimes that means taking the heat of the group. But the only way to get everyone’s true thoughts and opinions is to ignite true conflict–or at least conflict that is perceived to be true. Plus it can make a difference later on if all sides of an issue have already been addressed.
  5. During creative, brainstorming processes never let the flow of ideas come to a dead end. Always stop the discussion by refocusing the energy onto the next topic. Or, springboard the energy toward the next meeting if there’s nothing left on the agenda. There’s an art to this one because you don’t want to stall momentum. But when any flow of ideas is allowed to continue until it’s depleted, everyone will become exhausted and the creative energy will be lost. And I’ve found that the fatigue will carry over until the next meeting even if it’s a week later.

Those are my thoughts, but I think there’s a heart to the matter. And I mean that as a pun. It comes down to heart. You have to want to do it. You have to like guiding and directing the team toward an objective. You have to delight in the process. Meetings can be tedious and boring and lifeless. The best leader wants to be the catalyst that creates the spirit and spark giving vibrancy and vigor to the meeting. You have to enjoy leading meetings.

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Prayer in Preparation for Communion http://www.weswhite.net/2017/06/prayer-in-preparation-for-communion/ http://www.weswhite.net/2017/06/prayer-in-preparation-for-communion/#comments Sun, 25 Jun 2017 11:47:14 +0000 http://www.weswhite.net/?p=4766 Continue reading "Prayer in Preparation for Communion"

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By Jean Claude (1619–1687), from Self-Examination in Preparation for Receiving the Lord’s Supper

My God, my Savior, and my Father, I prostrate myself at the foot of your throne, to adore your majesty, and to acknowledge your righteousness. I am in your presence but dust and ashes, a worm of the earth, and most unworthy of your turning of your eyes towards me, or employing the cares of your Providence towards my good. For what is mortal man that you should regard him, or the son of man that you should visit him?

But moreover I am criminal dust and ashes, a sinful creature which deserves your severest judgments; and the more I consider myself, the more I find myself guilty of violating all your commandments, ungrateful for the many favors which I have received from your goodness, and unfaithful to all the engagements of my vocation. Alas! Lord, if you should take notice of my iniquities, how could I subsist in your sight? I have stopped my ears a thousand times against the exhortations of your Word, and have been deaf to your threatening, and scarce sensible of your corrections; busied with the vain and perishing things of this world, I have allowed myself often to be surprised in their snares, neglecting the things of my salvation, and your Kingdom. How often have I preferred my passions, and interests against the rules of my duty, and your righteousness? How many times have I wandered from your ways, and thrown myself into the ways of the world, where I should have been lost, if you had not stretched out your hand to have rescued me? Every moment of my life might reproach me for my weaknesses, and my imperfections. My conscience accuses me, and my sins are on every side, clothing me with confusion, for your eyes are too pure to allow sin, or to take delight in unrighteousness. I condemn myself therefore in your presence, and confess, that if you would deal with me in your rigor, you would find in me too much reason to deliver me up to your just vengeance, and have cause enough to withdraw from me all the precious signs of the Covenant and of adoption which you have given me and so absolutely reject me from your Communion.

But you are a gracious and compassionate God, and moved with the bowels of a Father towards his children. Those that you do once love, you love to the end; your gifts, and vocation are without repentance, and you have promised, that though our sins are red as blood, you would make them as white as snow. Have mercy on me then, for I fly to your great mercies; my God, pardon me my faults, and according to the greatness of your compassion, blot out all my transgressions. I know you require the conversion of sinners that they might live, but I know also, that though my repentance is not such as it ought to be, yet you do not quench the smoking flax, nor break a bruised reed. Your dear Son died for me, and rose again for my justification, and is ascended into Heaven, and there makes intercession for me; listen to the voice of his blood, pleading for me, and in respect of his sufferings and merits, restore to me your joy and salvation. I acknowledge no other Savior nor Mediator but him, nor place any confidence but in his sacrifice, for he is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life, and none can come unto you, but by Him. Impute his dying obedience unto me, and clothe me with his perfect righteousness, that I may appear unreproved in your sight.

And since you now call me to your divine table; grant me grace, O Lord, to receive worthily these sacred testimonies of my salvation. Loosen my thoughts from earthly things, and raise me to the meditation of the great and celestial objects, which are represented to me in your Sacrament. Increase in me the faith of these mysteries, that with a heart truly purified, I may receive the Body and Blood of your Son, as the victim which was once offered unto you on the cross; and now represented to me in this heavenly action. Let me receive them with a lively faith, and with a sincere acceptance, as you are pleased to give them in sincere love. Let me accompany this faith with a profound humility, and holy gratitude, that without any merits of our own; no, when we were plunged into sin, and condemnation, you did draw out of your treasury this eternal manna, this Bread of Life; to communicate thereby to us, a hope of a most happy and heavenly immortality, which you have prepared for us above in your celestial mansions. These things, my God, I beg of you, in the name of your Son to whom, with you, and the Holy Spirit, one God blessed forever, be given all honor and power and glory, from age to age, Amen.

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Hardly Anybody Does This, But Everyone Should http://www.weswhite.net/2017/06/hardly-anybody-does-this-but-everyone-should/ http://www.weswhite.net/2017/06/hardly-anybody-does-this-but-everyone-should/#respond Wed, 21 Jun 2017 14:01:04 +0000 http://www.weswhite.net/?p=12955 Continue reading "Hardly Anybody Does This, But Everyone Should"

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Most people are concerned about their own interests, and it is hard for any of us to think much beyond them.

I remember one pastor had a plaque on his desk with a saying on it, “People are not against you. They are for themselves.”

As the Apostle Paul thought about the churches he had planted, he lamented, “Everyone looks out for his own interests, and not the interests of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:21).

Isn’t this true? How many of us are really able to think beyond our own prosperity and comfort? How many of us can sacrifice for a cause that is truly bigger than ourselves?

As a Pastor, I need to ask this, too. Would I care about the prosperity of the church I serve if I was not its Pastor? How much do I care about church in general? Do I participate in church activities when I’m not being paid?

If we’re honest, as Pastors, a lot of our interest in church is more self-interest than we realize.

Truly, everyone looks out for his own interests and not the interests of Jesus Christ.

Why are we so obsessed with our own interests?

One answer is pride. We think of ourselves as the center of the universe and make our interests more important than anything else.

Everyone has this tendency. That’s why there’s so much conflict in the world. We are battling it out to see who gets to be the center of the universe and whose interests will predominate.

Another answer is anxiety. Pride and anxiety generally intertwine more than we think. We are worried that if we don’t give attention to our interests, then no one else will. So, we’ve got to look out for # 1.

Of course, there is no end to anxiety because we are finite. We can always put more money in savings. We receive applause, but then we want more. We always need more security. This keeps us focused on our own interests.

American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr described this trap. He wrote, “without freedom from anxiety man is so enmeshed in the vicious circle of egocentricity, so concerned about himself, that he cannot release himself for the adventure of love.”

How can we escape from this “vicious circle of egocentricity”? Trust in God’s goodness. God promises in the Gospel that He will “supply all our needs” (Phil. 4:19, cf. Mt. 6:25–34). When we know that God will care for us and love us perfectly, then we can let go of trying to desperately make sure our interests are satisfied.

Beyond that, we need to extend our imagination to think beyond our own interests.

Do we ever ask, what are the interests of Jesus Christ?

Let’s think about this for a minute, and let’s start with my county. What does Jesus care about in my county?

Here’s just a few things that come to mind:

  1. He cares about having a relationship with the people of my county.
  2. He cares about the churches of my county and that they would love one another and serve together as much as possible. His interest is the unity of the church.
  3. He cares about the marginalized: the elderly, the poor, and the fatherless.
  4. He cares about justice and that we would treat others well and live in peace as much as possible, living as good neighbors (i.e., love your neighbor as yourself!).
  5. He cares about truth. He wants to promote those things that are true and lovely and good.
  6. He cares about the creation. He wants it to be treated well, enjoyed, and beautified.
  7. He cares about families doing well and being a blessing to all those involved.

These are some of the most important interests of Jesus Christ.

What would happen if people really cared about those things the way Jesus did? What if people had a passion for helping people find a relationship with God, with making sure the elderly were cared for, with making things beautiful and good, not just getting a paycheck? Wouldn’t that give us a very different world?

People would be cared for much better than they are now. People who need love and care would not be forgotten. The world would be a much more beautiful place.

But we are all very busy. Sometimes we’re just trying to keep our head above water. How can we move out of the daily grind into concern about the interests of Jesus Christ?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Pray bigger (see the Lord’s Prayer on this one!). Pray for your community, other churches, and the broader church assemblies. Take the newspaper and pray for the institutions and events mentioned in it.
  • Get involved with something bigger. Go on a mission trip. Get involved with a cause. Visit another church, not to change churches but to get to know what others are doing. When we get involved, we will begin to get a vision of what God is doing and want to be involved.
  • Step out of your comfort zone where you are. Even in your daily life, you run into people who are different from you and represent different interests. Get to know a variety of people. This will help us begin to think about what God is doing in the world.
  • Take inventory of your gifts and consider how you could use them on a bigger scale. This may simply mean volunteering to do something at your church. You may have something to offer your community or school or business. Just think bigger than where you are.

It will not be easy. That’s why hardly anybody does this. But it’s something everyone should do. Jesus and His kingdom and the good of our fellow human beings are worth it.

Let’s pray that this vision comes true: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name. Thy kingdom come . . .”

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Why General Assembly? http://www.weswhite.net/2017/06/why-general-assembly/ http://www.weswhite.net/2017/06/why-general-assembly/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 13:54:49 +0000 http://www.weswhite.net/?p=12948 Continue reading "Why General Assembly?"

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This year, I attended our denomination’s General Assembly. I don’t plan to attend every year, but I really enjoyed it this year, more than I thought I would.

It would be easy for someone not familiar (or even those familiar with) General Assembly to wonder why anyone would want to go to General Assembly. Why go to a big church business meeting? Why spend all that money? Why take off of work or spend time away from your family and local church?

For those who watch or sit in General Assembly, you can get even more frustrated. At times, it seems like a total mess. Motions and counter-motions and points of order. “No thanks,” you might be thinking.

(Note: you can watch some of the mess here.)

So, why should a local church support the broader assemblies of the church?

Here are a few reasons.

First, it reminds us that the Church is bigger than our local church. When representatives from all over the nation and world come together, it is a good and helpful reminder that God is doing much, much more than we are aware of.

Second, it brings our attention to broader issues we might ignore. In our denomination, racial reconciliation has been a big emphasis over the past couple of years. Prior to the 2015 General Assembly, this issue was relatively low on my radar.

Since 2015, this has become an important issue to me. It has challenged me to re-think a lot of my own attitudes and views and repent. I do not think that this would have happened without the work of General Assembly.

Third, it is a way for us to work together with a lot of other churches. My church is just one small part of the PCA, which is a small part of the Church of Jesus throughout the world. How can we work together with more of them to do something bigger? General Assembly is one answer.

Fourth, it teaches me that not everyone in the church is the same. If I just connect with churches where I know people or have an affinity, my own views will be reinforced. I won’t grow.

Being part of a denomination reminds me that there are a lot of different perspectives and types of people. It encourages me to connect with them and learn from them. It pushes me to consider things that I might never have considered and experience the gifts of a greater variety of the body of Christ.

The Apostle Paul said rather bluntly, “For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 2:21). I’m just as guilty as anybody else on this. It’s easy for me to focus on my own interests and my own little world. General Assembly calls me out to something bigger.

Someone might object, doesn’t this little denomination hide the fact that Jesus’ Church is much bigger? Answer: yes, it does. It would be great if we were all united together in one organization, but the weakness of human beings makes different denominations likely. Even if it didn’t, the reality is that the church right now is divided into denominations. If we are going to connect to the broader Church, it has to be through denominations.

Someone said at this General Assembly, imitating Winston Churchill, Presbyterianism isn’t a perfect form of government, it is just better than all those other forms of government that have been tried from time to time.

I’m not ready to go that far, especially in our very imperfect configuration of it in our denomination. I will only say that it is a way to point us to the broader interests of Jesus Christ.

Let me conclude with a personal note. I think there are other benefits for the individual who attends. We get to connect with a variety of people, hear a variety of perspectives, get new ideas, be reminded of important old ideas, and participate in diverse worship services, hearing new preachers who bless us and challenge us.

Even if this were the only benefit, I think that elders who attend the broader assemblies will come back to their local churches with renewed vision to do the work that Christ calls them to do.

And, you know what? After writing this, I’ve almost convinced myself to go again next year . . .

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How to Live by Grace http://www.weswhite.net/2017/06/living-by-grace/ http://www.weswhite.net/2017/06/living-by-grace/#respond Wed, 14 Jun 2017 11:33:24 +0000 http://www.weswhite.net/?p=12738 Continue reading "How to Live by Grace"

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In Philippians 1, the Apostle Paul tells the Philippians that he prays to God that their love would increase (v. 9). This means that love is a gift of God’s grace, and we should ask Him to give us that gift. We can’t just manufacture love on our own.

This is further confirmed by what Paul goes on to say in the same passage. The fruit of righteousness “comes through Jesus Christ—to the praise and glory of God” (1:11).

In addition, the Philippians can be assured of the grace of God because “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (1:6).

Our virtues are gifts of God’s grace.

This is more controversial than it should be among Christians. One reason for this, I believe, is that people take these truths out of the broader context of Scripture.

So, Christian A will say, “Did you work out your own salvation with fear in trembling, or was it God who was working in you?”

Christian B responds, “I worked. Christianity has not been easy.”

Christian A responds, “No, it was God working in you.” And the conversation spirals down from there.

The Bible is much more balanced. In Philippians 2, God tells the church through Paul, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (12–13). A fabulous statement of human responsibility and God’s grace. If either side makes you uncomfortable, then . . .

Recently, I heard a Pastor talk about his conversion. He said, “By an act of my God-given will, I put my faith in Christ.”

I was rather taken aback. It seemed to miss the grace of God. However, as he continued, he said, “And I didn’t realize this at the time, but all of this was God’s work.”

It turned out that in the totality of his message, he captured both sides of the biblical balance.

Is it enough, then, for people to just work hard and then recognize later that it was the grace of God?

No. The work of God’s grace in us affects not only who gets ultimate credit for the work but also how we work.

Here are four ways in which we will work, if we believe that all that we do is the gift of God’s grace:

  1. We will maintain an attitude of humble dependence on God for any good we do.
  2. We will maintain a life of prayer. If we believe God’s grace is the source of any good in us, let us ask for it!
  3. We will maintain communion with Christ. “Neither can you bear fruit unless your remain in me” (Jn. 15:4).
  4. We will maintain an openness to the help of others. If we need Jesus, we should also confess we need His body (1 Cor. 12:12–31).

Grace is more than just a theological concept. It is a way of living in dependence on God. We all need to learn this more deeply and truly sing from the heart, “‘Tis grace hath bro’t me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”

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The Best Part About Boonville http://www.weswhite.net/2017/06/the-best-part-about-boonville/ http://www.weswhite.net/2017/06/the-best-part-about-boonville/#comments Mon, 12 Jun 2017 09:00:06 +0000 http://www.weswhite.net/?p=5986 Continue reading "The Best Part About Boonville"

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By Brian Carpenter

In the summer of 1994 General Mills moved my wife and I to southwest Indiana. She was in sales, and I was trying to go to seminary. As we looked for a place to live, we decided to purchase a small home in a small town outside of Evansville. The town was called Boonville.

Boonville had several advantages. It was 20 miles closer to Louisville than Evansville was, and I was commuting to Louisville four days a week for classes. It turned a two and a half hour drive into a two hour drive. It was also cheaper. We bought a 2 bedroom, one bath house for something less than $40,000 if memory serves.

There was a wonderful cemetery three blocks from our house, and the locals would take their evening walks there. You can tell a lot about a people by the way they take care of their dead, and Boonville had done a nice job. There were quiet paved paths and a gazebo with benches to take a rest if you wanted. Christians would often leave tracts on those benches in case some unbeliever happened to sit down and contemplate his bodily demise from a spiritual perspective. I first saw what I want someday on my own gravestone at the cemetery in Boonville. It said the man’s name, and the dates of birth and death, and then it said, “Born twice, died once.”

The town was fairly old by the standards of the American Midwest. Boonville had even been the boyhood home of Abraham Lincoln. Many of the graves in the oldest section of the cemetery dated from the early 19th century. There were a shocking number of infants and children buried in the old part of the Boonville cemetery. Life must have been very hard, indeed.

There was also an old hardware store owned by the farmer’s co-op. It was right next to the railroad tracks. It had well worn hardwood floors that went “clump, clump, clump” when you walked on them in your work boots. The nails were in those funny segmented metal carousels that you don’t see anymore. There was an honest-to-goodness potbellied stove in one corner which was actually used in wintertime. The guys who worked there would cut panes of glass for you and always found the straightest lumber out in the yard for you without having to be nagged about it.

There were historic homes in varying states of decay, and a moderately functioning town square a short walk from the house. The square held the county courthouse. It also hosted Frank Broshears’ Barber Shop, which was a true, old-time barber shop. The first time I went in to get a haircut, Frank was happily chatting with the locals. I just sat and listened while pretending to read old issues of Outdoor Life. When my turn came he sat me down and kept chatting. He never asked what sort of haircut I wanted, and when I got up, God as my witness, it was the best haircut I’d ever had. For all the years I patronized Frank’s barber shop he never asked what I wanted and he always got it exactly right. There were also several antique shops on the square, a Five and Dime store that was just holding on by its toenails, a pharmacy, a decent cafe, the Warrick County newspaper, and a jeweler. At night you could hear the distant horn from the coal train taking the coal from the mine north of town to the Ohio River south of town.

There was an old guy down the street who always wore overalls and had a 1940’s vintage Ford 8N tractor. He’d turn over your garden for you for $10 in the spring. He drove an old Chevy pickup with a large plastic water tank in the bed, of the sort that ranchers use to fill their stock tanks. The tank was always empty, and to my knowledge he didn’t have a farm or any cows anymore. I think he just carried the water tank around for old time’s sake.

In the Fall, if you’d rake your leaves to the edge of the street they’d come by with a giant sucker truck and vacuum them up for you. No bagging, no burning, no shredding or trips to the dump were necessary. Since we had three giant maple trees plus a large poplar on our lot, I thought it was the best use of taxpayer money I’d ever seen.

As good as that all was, the best part about Boonville was Bob and Daisy Austill. They were our neighbors across the street, and two of the finest Christians I ever met. Bob had retired from the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. Daisy had stayed home and raised three kids. They were probably in their late 60′s when we met them.

On the day we moved in, Daisy brought over cookies as a welcome. We talked a bit and I think I noticed a fish sticker on the back of Daisy’s Oldsmobile. I asked if they were Christians, and a friendship was born.

About three months after we moved in, early on a cold Saturday morning, Laura said, “Brian, the toilet won’t flush!” Those are alarming words when you only have one toilet and you haven’t gotten to use it yet that day because the wife beat you into the bathroom.

I went out into the yard and undid the cap on the sewer cleanout. After some mucking around with sticks it became apparent that tree roots had grown into the pipe and were catching most of the stuff flowing through the pipe. I had seen an old sewer snake in Bob’s garage, so I walked across the street to ask him if I could borrow it.

“Sure.” he said, and then he went out to the garage and got it down off the wall and began carrying it across the street to my house. I asked him what he was doing. “I’m helping you.” he said.

Now, I didn’t want to be mucking around in my own sewer at eight in the morning on a Saturday, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be mucking around in somebody else’s. I was flabbergasted and humbled by his behavior. If the roles had been reversed I would have gotten the snake out, handed it to him, and said “Good luck!” and closed the door. Had I not been a Christian already, Bob’s behavior would have made me seriously consider the claims of the Christian faith right then and there. To this day, my personal definition of Christian love is mucking around in somebody else’s sewer on a cold Saturday morning.

That’s the kind of man Bob was. I’m sure there were things about us that bugged him. His yard was immaculate. We had no shed or garage, for one thing, so our little patio was cluttered with lawnmowers and all sorts of stuff. The closest he ever came to criticism was to say, “You do kind of need a place to keep your stuff,” after I told him we had bought a shed on sale at Sears. He was all patience and kindness and generosity, and yet there was no hint of weakness about him.

Bob and Daisy were always there with a sympathetic ear. They had lots of advice, but never offered it unless I asked for it. I longed for the chance to be as kind to them as they had been to me. The second year after we moved in Bob had a detached garage built in his backyard. I chastised him for not letting me do the vinyl siding for him to save him money. When the alternator went out on Bob’s pickup, he came and asked me for help. I was overjoyed that I could finally serve him.

They were members of some small church in a town not far from Boonville. It wasn’t a particularly doctrinally sound church. On the one Sunday that we went with them to church the minister mostly spoke about a Rush Limbaugh program he had heard that week. I was puzzled how such mighty oaks could grow in such poor soil. Then one day Daisy let the secret out. I was over at her house on some errand. She had been in pain from some minor ailment the night before and couldn’t sleep, so she had been up in the middle of the night reading her Bible and had discovered something she wanted to share with me. She got this giant, well worn King James family Bible off the bottom shelf of an end table in the living room to show me the relevant passage. The lights went on, and I understood. Bob and Daisy fed themselves on the Word of God. They didn’t know the five points of Calvinism or the difference between supra and infra lapsarianism. Nobody had ever mentioned Zwingli or Erasmus or Bucer to them, and yet they managed to grow into a lovely spiritual maturity.

I think Reformed theology is the most accurate and comprehensive explanation of what the Bible teaches that is available to men. Nobody else in all Christendom has thought as carefully and systematically about the Scriptures as we have. Yet with all our knowledge, we don’t seem to produce very many Bobs and Daisys. The fault surely rests with men like me, who are the shepherds of the flock of God, and aren’t very Bob-like (that is to say, not very Christ-like) ourselves. We may be full of all knowledge, but as the Apostle Paul pointed out, knowledge (even good and true knowledge) tends to puff up. It is love that builds up. Let’s make it our main goal to add love to our knowledge.

Sometimes, when I think of what I should be and compare it to what I actually am, I know what Bunyan’s Pilgrim meant when he said, “I am weary of my inward sickness.” For all my learning, I am still weak and fleshly in so many areas. I am not very patient. I am not very kind. I have great need to be discipled and taught by men like Bob. I have great need to be up reading the Scriptures in the middle of the night myself, like Daisy, so that the Spirit of God can make me more Bob-like. The church has great need of Bobs and Daisys who will take an active role in other people’s lives instead of moving to Florida to play golf and marinate in the sun. Only then will we be able to marry truth and love in our own lives, and by God’s grace start producing Bobs and Daisys in large enough numbers to do some good in this world.

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The Difference Between Secular & Christian Humility http://www.weswhite.net/2017/06/the-difference-between-secular-christian-humility/ http://www.weswhite.net/2017/06/the-difference-between-secular-christian-humility/#comments Wed, 07 Jun 2017 12:19:51 +0000 http://www.weswhite.net/?p=12918 Continue reading "The Difference Between Secular & Christian Humility"

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One of the most surprising things about books on business strategy and organization is the emphasis on humility. These books have given me a lot to think about as I consider the application of humility to daily life.

For example, in Marshall Goldsmith’s helpful book What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There, he explains his work with successful people who could not move up any further because of some significant character flaw. Most of these flaws were rooted in pride.

Goldsmith provides a list of 21 character flaws that he has seen in working with various executives. They include:

  • passing the buck–refusing to take responsibility for what happens under your watch;
  • the desire to add value to every conversation by throwing in your two cents;
  • continually beginning sentences with the words “no,” “but,” and “however” in a way that makes people think, “I’m right, and you’re wrong”;
  • feeling the need to answer every suggestion rather than just saying “thank you.”

There’s a lot of simple, practical wisdom in Goldsmith’s list (see the whole list here, and I would encourage you to read the whole book which you can find here).

I have learned a lot from these books. They have shown me very practical ways to show humility that I would most likely not have learned in other ways.

In light of that, it’s worth considering: what is the difference between secular humility and Christian humility? In saying this, let me be clear that I’m not describing the difference between particular secular individuals and Christian individuals. Rather, what different perspective does Christianity provide on the subject of humility?

I believe there are four basic differences.

First, there is a different motivation. The Christian motivation for humility is rooted in God. We see how awesome and glorious He is and humble ourselves before Him, and we are humbled by the fact that He loves and cares for us so much (see Philippians 2:1–4).

Second, there is a different example. The key example to follow is Jesus Christ, not merely because He was humble as a human being but because He was in the very nature of God but took the form of a servant. In light of that, what privilege should we not be willing to set aside in order to serve others? (see Jn. 13:13–17).

Third, there is a different power. The Christian faith tells us that we should work hard to be like Christ, but it also encourages us that this power is not from ourselves but from God. It can be overwhelming to fight against pride, but it is “God who works in us to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

Fourth, there are different objects of our humility. The axiom of the Christian faith is that humility is directed toward every human being. As the Apostle Paul reminds us: we should “speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.” This is rooted in the fact that God is the Creator and Father of all (Matt. 5:44–48).

These differences highlight the unique genius of Christian humility. Ideally, these dimensions of Christian humility should give us much greater motivation to pursue humility than we have had before.

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Why There Is So Much Conflict in the World and What We Can Do About It http://www.weswhite.net/2017/05/why-there-is-so-much-conflict-in-the-world-and-how-to-fix-it/ http://www.weswhite.net/2017/05/why-there-is-so-much-conflict-in-the-world-and-how-to-fix-it/#comments Wed, 31 May 2017 13:27:17 +0000 http://www.weswhite.net/?p=12898 Continue reading "Why There Is So Much Conflict in the World and What We Can Do About It"

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What causes so much conflict in the world?

When you think about it, it’s not that hard to figure out. “Where there is strife, there is pride . . .” (Prov. 13:10).

Behind the conflicts we see all around us lie human conceit and selfishness.

Conceit is thinking more highly of ourselves than we should. For example, we believe that we deserve extra attention or resources, that things should never go wrong for us, that we are more competent than we are, or that we are always right.

Selfishness is when we value our own interests at the expense of others. This means that our attention is centered on our own prestige, security, and profit. This sets me up for conflict with another person whenever my desire for prestige, security, or profit collides with his.

The Apostle Paul pinpointed this problem and suggested a solution: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3–4).

If pride is the source of strife, then humility is the way of peace.

Humility begins with valuing others above ourselves. This means we see people as having unique gifts that we do not have, as being created in the image of God, as objects of God’s love, and as those for whom Christ died.

Sometimes, people think humility is thinking poorly of ourselves. This is not the case. We can have a low view of ourselves and also have a low view of others. The essence of humility is a high view of others.

The high value we place on others leads us to be concerned about their interests. When people feel that we are truly care about their interests, the tension that leads to conflict simmers down.

Of course, it’s easy to say: let’s all have humility, and then the world will be free of conflict. Much harder to do.

So, how can we do it? Let me suggest that there are two key ingredients in developing humility.

There’s an old story of two sisters who both want an orange. They go to the refrigerator and find that there is only one. They agree to split it.

Hours later, both feeling dissatisfied, they talk again. “Why did you want the orange?” One sisters says.

The other replies, “I wanted the juice because I feel like a cold is coming on. What about you?”

The first sister laughs and says: “I wanted the rind to bake with!”

The moral of the story is that they could have solved their dilemma by simply asking questions, listening, and then acting in accordance with their distinct interests in the orange.

The same is true for us. The advice of James truly gets to the heart of humility, “Let each person be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19).

The first ingredient to developing humility is a real curiosity and interest in other people.

The second ingredient is to develop a strong sense of the security of our own person and interests. I believe American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr is right to say: “Without freedom from anxiety man is so enmeshed in the vicious circle of egocentricity, so concerned about himself, that he cannot release himself for the adventure of love” (The Nature and Destiny of Man, Vol. 1, 272).

In my view (and Niebuhr’s!), this will only happen as it should through faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel teaches us how much God and loves and values each one of us and how He promises to provide everything we need (Phil. 4:19).

When we are confident in our own value and security, we can have genuine concern for the interests of others without fearing the loss of our own.

Because this is the case, endless conflict does not have to be the destiny of the human race. Cultivating humility can lead us to a life of interdependence, cooperation, and mutually beneficial action.

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Saying One Thing & Doing Another http://www.weswhite.net/2017/05/saying-one-thing-doing-another/ http://www.weswhite.net/2017/05/saying-one-thing-doing-another/#respond Wed, 24 May 2017 14:01:34 +0000 http://www.weswhite.net/?p=12887 Continue reading "Saying One Thing & Doing Another"

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Eliza, in the musical My Fair Lady sings:

Words, words, words!
I’m so sick of words
I get words all day through
First from him, now from you
Is that all you blighters can do?

Don’t talk of stars, burning above
If you’re in love, show me!
Tell me no dreams, filled with desire
If you’re on fire, show me!

Eliza is right. What really matters is not so much what we say but what we do. We can tell our children we love them, but if our work consumes us, the words matter very little.

The Apostle Paul was continually concerned that the churches he loved and served would not only talk about the Gospel but live a life that was appropriate and consistent with the Gospel. “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (1:27, cf. Eph. 4:1, Col. 1:10, 1 Thess. 2:12, 2 Thess. 1:11). Their walk needed to match their talk.

What would a life worthy of the Gospel look like?

  • They would live in humility, recognizing that they were sinners saved only by the grace of God.
  • They would live in trust, recognizing that the same Father who gave up His only Son would not fail to give them all other things as well.
  • They would live in obedience, recognizing that Jesus was now the exalted King, Ruler, and Leader of the universe.
  • They would live in unity, recognizing that the Father was saving a body of people and not merely individuals.
  • They would live in charity, recognizing and valuing others above themselves.
  • They would live in generosity, recognizing that they who had received so much cannot fail to give generously to others.

When we consider this list, we have to admit, what we do often does not match up with what we say. Why is that?

First, we act in large part based on how we really see things. Our view of reality has been shaped from our youth by many different experiences and ways we’ve thought about them. These are much more powerful than a mere profession that the Gospel is true. In order to change our way of acting, we need a lot of meditation and imagination that reinterprets life from a different perspective (see my post and the footnote on this point here).

Second, we don’t let the little things train us to live a life worthy of the Gospel. I remember working third shift in a cheese factory in Michigan after college. I would take an 80 foot hose and climb up the factory equipment to clean it from the top down, pressured to get the cleaning done in the few hours we had before the processing equipment would come back to life in the morning.

Inevitably, high above the factory floor, I would start walking forward with the hose and it would snap back because it got stuck on some of the contours of the machinery. It would make me so mad. I’d have to shut off the hose and climb back down to get it loose and then climb back up until it happened again.

Eventually, I realized, if I can’t handle these little frustrations, how will I handle big ones? It gave me a new perspective. I can’t say I never got mad, but it did help.

How we relate to our spouses and children, to the things that break in our homes, and to slow drivers are the little frustrations of life that give us the opportunity to train ourselves in living a life that is worthy of the Gospel.

The third reason our walk doesn’t match our talk is because the urgent presses out the important. If I asked you, what would be better for you to do today? To give an uninterrupted hour to your children or to spend an hour looking at things on your cell phone?

But which one did you actually do today?

I think most of us know what we should do. We can talk the talk, but when we examine our day, we find we do exactly the opposite. Why?

Because the notifications on our phone seem to have a greater urgency than our already occupied children.

Time has a way of slipping away, if we are not deliberate about it. It will take thought and planning to make our actions match our words.

This is our calling, that whatever happens, we would “conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (1:27). It’s not just about what we say. It’s what do that will enable us to shine like stars in this generation as we hold firmly to the Word of life (Phil. 2:16).

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Would You Prefer to Die? http://www.weswhite.net/2017/05/would-you-prefer-to-die/ http://www.weswhite.net/2017/05/would-you-prefer-to-die/#respond Wed, 17 May 2017 11:46:12 +0000 http://www.weswhite.net/?p=12786 Continue reading "Would You Prefer to Die?"

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“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Rather shocking words. Death, according to the apostle Paul, could actually be a good thing.

Some people feel this way because life is so bad that they want escape from it, but that’s not what Paul was thinking at all.

He was not tired of life, and he had no morbid fascination of death. Instead, his desire for death was based in his firm belief that death would bring him closer to Jesus. He loved Jesus so much that he could say that being closer to Him would be “better by far” (1:23).

Paul’s thinking may seem rather strange to you. Why would anyone think this way?

In order to understand his thinking, let’s ask this question: what makes life worth living at all?

Let me suggest that it is primarily one thing: relationships. Whatever else we may enjoy, without relationships, they are pretty much worthless. We desperately need people.

However, people can never satisfy us. Even at their best, they cannot supply the love we truly need. This points us to a more fulfilling relationship with our Creator.

Jesus Christ is a human being, born 2,000 years ago, but He also claimed to be the eternal God and proved it by His resurrection from the dead.

Because Jesus is no mere man, we are not talking merely about devotion to an historical person. We are talking about a human who is also God. This is the basic claim of the Christian religion.

In light of that, here are a few reasons why someone might consider death “gain” to be closer to Jesus.

  • He is our Creator. He made us and wants to have a relationship with us.
  • He is the ruler of the universe. There is no one who can do more for us than Jesus Christ to whom “all authority and power in heaven and earth” have been given.
  • He loves us more than anyone else could. Every other love is finite. His love is infinite, fully able to satisfy all our needs.
  • He cares for us more than anyone else. When we had no interest in Him, He came into this world and suffered on the cross for our sins so that we might be brought back to God (1 Pet. 3:18).
  • He understands us better than anyone else can. Everyone else knows us a little bit. He knows us every thought and intention of our hearts. Amazingly, He loves us more than anyone else does in spite of that.

These are just some of the reasons why someone would say being closer to Christ would be better than anything this world has to offer.

I am one who believes this in my heart. But I have to admit: I have a hard time saying that dying would be better than living in this world.

Why is that? I don’t think it’s just because I’m an unsanctified Christian (though I’m sure that has something to do with it). Rather, I like the connections I have down here. I want to be with my children, wife, and friends, help them, and experience my children growing up and learning to do significant things in this world.

Perhaps this is what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote to the Corinthians, “An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided” (1 Cor. 7:32–34).

And you know what? Even though Paul was probably single, he still had a similar struggle. He wanted to be with Christ, but he also loved the churches that God had used him to establish.

He writes: “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body” (1:23–24).

Staying on earth meant that he could have “fruitful labor” among the people whom he loved.

From Paul’s meditation on the meaning of death and the meaning of life, let me encourage you to consider three things.

First, each one of us should prepare more thoroughly for death than we do. One day we will leave this world. Do we think about that? Do we meditate on being with Christ? This should be a regular practice.

Second, one day we will have to leave those whom we love and commit them to the Lord. They belong first and foremost to Him. Our mortality reminds us of this important truth. This is a crucial perspective in all our interactions with people.

Third, while we are here, let us make every effort to do all the good we can to those whom God has committed to our care. If leaving people behind bothers us, let us do good while have the opportunity. Let’s cut out the distractions that keep us from giving our attention to those whom God has called us to love.

I know that each of us needs rest and investments in ourselves in order to have something to give unto others, but we should always make those investments and take that rest with an eye to blessing others.

Why are we here, after all? Dying may be gain, but we are here. So, while we have the opportunity, let’s do our best to fill our time with with “fruitful labor” that glorifies Christ by investing in others (Phil. 1:22).

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