Author Archives: Mark Wilbanks

About Mark Wilbanks

Dr. Wilbanks became Wieuca’s fifth senior pastor in February of 2012. Mark’s father, Oliver Wilbanks, served as Associate Pastor here from 1966 to 1982. Wieuca had a tremendous influence in shaping Mark’s call to ministry during his teenage and young adult years. A graduate of both Southern and New Orleans Baptist Theological seminaries, Mark has served churches in Kentucky, Florida, and Georgia. He pastored Southside Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida for 17 years and Bradfordville First Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Florida for ten years. He and his wife, Kim, were married in 1979 and have two sons, Andy and Jordan. Andy is married to Lindsay and they have a son, Cade, a daughter, Ruthie, and welcomed their third child, Samuel, in October.

Perspective

This story was in Homiletics magazine: Three friends were playing their favorite golf course. One was a minister, one was a doctor, and the other was a time-management expert. The group ahead of them was particularly slow. The time-management guy kept looking at his watch – “What’s up with these guys? They have been on this hole for over 30 minutes and they still haven’t reached the green.” The doctor and minister started grumping, too. A groundskeeper came by in a cart. The minister hailed him and asked, “Why is the foursome ahead of taking so long? Surely we can play through if they’re going to be this slow.” The keeper responded, “Oh, these guys are fire-fighters. Three of them were blinded fighting a fire in our clubhouse last year. We let them play for free.” The minister apologized for his attitude. The doctor was embarrassed and offered to contact a colleague who was an ophthalmic surgeon to see if he could help the injured men. The time-management expert was silent for a moment, then said, “Why can’t they play at night?”

Not very funny. Our perspective in life can be warped by pettiness, by selfishness, or by out-of-control schedules. We can see the outcomes in the traffic snarls in Atlanta or in the local grocery store when the lines don’t move fast enough for us. We experience it with total strangers as well as within our closest relationships.

Somebody told me last week that Atlanta needs to take a really large chill pill. I’m not certain where such a pill can be obtained, but it sounds like a good idea. When Paul wrote to the Galatian churches, he spoke of the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. The fruit of the spirit is a cluster of nine qualities: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22,23).

This would be a good time to let the Holy Spirit do His work in us!

Scars

“Presumably [Jesus] could have had any resurrected body he wanted, and yet he chose one identifiable mainly by scars that could be seen and touched. Why? I believe the story of Easter would be incomplete without those scars on the hands, the feet, and the side of Jesus. When human beings fantasize, we dream of pearly straight teeth and wrinkle-free skin and sexy ideal shapes. We dream of an unnatural state: the perfect body. But for Jesus, being confined in a skeleton and human skin WAS the unnatural state. The scars are, to him, an emblem of life on our planet, a permanent reminder of those days of confinement and suffering. I take hope in Jesus’ scars. From the perspective of heaven, they represent the most horrible event that has ever happened in the history of the universe – the crucifixion – Easter turned into a memory. Because of Easter, I can hope that the tears we shed, the blows we receive, the emotional pain, the heartache over lost friends and loved ones, all these will become memories, like Jesus’ scars. Scars never completely go away, but neither do they hurt any longer. We will have re-created bodies, a re-created heaven and earth. We will have a new start, an Easter start.”                                                                                                                       Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew.

Friday comes before Sunday every week … just like the cross comes before the tomb. We cannot truly celebrate if we do not understand the cost of the victory Christ won for us. “Jesus fought the battle, but it would be against the forces of evil, corruption, and death itself. Jesus came to believe that the only way one could defeat death itself, and thereby launch the new creation was to take on death itself.”

He bore the wounds of the battle. He carried the scars. The cross is not a piece of jewelry; it is a stark reminder of a cosmic contest that used the most powerful weapon against our most powerful enemy. With His love, Jesus killed death, robbing it of its power.

Easter is about new beginnings, renewal of life, hope, and joy. But the scars … don’t forget the scars. His scars make ours bearable. He is risen! “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in Me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again” (John 11:25).

Grave Crisis

They are running out of room. At cemeteries around the world, space for burials has been a real problem. In New Orleans, the additional problem of a high water table has made it difficult to keep up with the number of graves needed. In Arlington National Cemetery, more plots are needed to honor America’s fallen. In London, a newly instituted practice called grave sharing has been implemented. Graves are opened, caskets are removed, a deeper hole is dug, the first casket is reinterred, and the second casket is placed on top. Many countries have been dealing with this problem for over 200 years.

2000 years ago, a new tomb was needed. A wealthy man in Jerusalem owned a family plot. Someone needed a grave. A man had come to a violent end, another victim of the barbaric Roman form of execution – crucifixion. On many occasions, bodies nailed to a cross were just left there as a grim reminder to anyone who dared oppose the Empire. Sometimes the dead were thrown into the city dump, a place called Gehenna, to make room for the next condemned to die. But on this occasion, the wealthy man appealed to Roman governor Pilate. He had an unused tomb. Could he have permission to bury the battered body in his family tomb? Permission granted.

A borrowed tomb. Jesus was buried in a borrowed tomb. It was  temporary loan. When you borrow something, it is expected that you return it. He wouldn’t need it for long.

From The Message: “Death swallowed by triumphant Life! Who got the last word, oh, Death? Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)

And so it began

No, it did not begin with palms waving and coats thrown on the ground as Jesus passed. It did not begin with planning to secure the right animal upon which Jesus rode. It did not begin with the swell of public excitement and anticipation or the dread and angst of the Jewish authorities as Jesus approached the holy city.

“As Jesus was going along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. When He came to the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began to celebrate and praise God at the top of their voices” (Luke 19:36,37). “This was the moment they’d been waiting for. All the old songs came flooding back, and they were singing, chanting, cheering, and laughing. At last their dreams were going to come true. But in the middle of it all, their leader wasn’t singing.” “When He came near and saw the city, He wept over it” (Luke 19:41).

Why did He weep? Prophecies were being fulfilled. The Passover festival annually carried the hope that this was the year that Messiah would appear. Messiah did appear, but He was not chosen for an earthly kingdom. He came for a higher purpose. His tears flowed as He saw a people looking for another kind of king. He cried because of the cost of redemption. His sorrow overflowed because many would reject Him and every prophecy that hailed His coming.

It began at the foundation of the world. A plan had been formed to restore a broken world and to reclaim a lost humanity. It began with the Creator’s determination to save His creation from the ravages of sin and death. It began with a mission to save the world, not condemn it.

Holy Week acknowledges, mourns, and then rejoices over the plan that would send the guiltless to pay for the guilty. The perfect Lamb of God would be sacrificed on the cruel altar of the cross.

Jesus had set His face to Jerusalem. He had told His disciples what would happen when He came to the city. He was not surrendering to His fate; He was taking charge of the arrangements. Just as He set in motion the parade on the day we call Palm Sunday, He would make preparation for the Passover meal where He would share His last supper. He would see it through – blood, sweat, and tears. The King had arrived …

Direction

This definition doesn’t sound very technical, but it communicates: “A first responder is someone who is trained to run toward trouble, not away from it.” Even with sophisticated training, people still have to respond appropriately.

The collapse of a 350 foot section of I-85 in Atlanta could have been tragic. 250,000 cars travel that stretch of highway every day. The billowing dark smoke raging from the fire underneath obscured the vision of startled motorists. Collisions seemed inevitable. Once the roadway began to disintegrate, vehicles could have plunged into the gap. People should have been hurt or killed. No one was.

Atlanta Fire Station #29 is located two blocks from where the calamity occurred. Fire personnel responded immediately to assess the danger. A number of them stood under the bridge to determine the extent of the damage while the fire was still gaining strength. As it was becoming certain that the intense heat would be too much for the concrete and steel structures, fire officials ordered their teams to move away … just in time. No one was hurt, no one was killed.

Above on the interstate, Georgia State troopers and Atlanta police had already halted traffic. Risking their lives as cars and trucks kept coming they prevented any possibility of injury and death by their quick action.

Col. Mark McDonough from the Georgia Department of Public Safety was one of many officials who tried to describe the scene for the public. His first words were directed to the first responders. He thanked law enforcement and fire department personnel and then he looked sky ward and thanked the Lord. No one was hurt, no one was killed.

Atlanta is in a mess and will be for months. A poster I saw months ago had a picture of that same highway crowded with bumper-to-bumper traffic. The heading of the poster read: “Thinking of moving to Atlanta?” At the base was this comment: “We full.”

“Inconvenience” does not begin to describe what life will be like in a city already infamous for its traffic congestion. For small businesses in the affected area, the months ahead can spell doom.

Going forward will define direction … not just alternative routes to travel but the attitude we demonstrate. Adversity reveals character. I would love to think that we would see the best in people when difficulty comes our way. Paul wrote to the Colossians: “Whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Okay, reps. Time to show up.

Spring brake

No, I didn’t spell it wrong. During this time of year, people need a brake. Kari Myers wrote an article entitled “Being good when you feel bad.” Here are some of her thoughts.

“Sickness, stress, and sleep deprivation are three things that can really do a number of a person’s disposition. Don’t ask me how I know this. I just do. Maybe you know it, too. When we feel bad, physically or emotionally, we tend not to handle things as well as we would on a good day. Bad days can tempt us to focus inward. If they persist we can fall into self-pity or become obsessed with improving our situation. We can be self-absorbed, self-serving, or just plain selfish. But it does not have to be so. Jesus showed us another way. At the moment of His betrayal to an angry mob who would take Him to a cruel death, He healed the servant of His enemy. On the worst of days, as He was unjustly arrested and threatened, He responded with compassion. In the midst of His own pain, He took notice of and tended to the pain of another. Jesus loved in good times and bad.”

We need a brake. We need to stop striving so much. We need to inventory our busy-ness. We need to honor Sabbath keeping, as Bryan Brock taught in the Gathering last week. We cannot run on empty without damage to us and others.

He had been neglecting his young daughter. He knew it, but what could he do? Work was crazy. Meeting one deadline after the next required immense investments of time and energy. His wife had reminded him often that he was missing a lot at home, with her and with their 3 year-old little girl. He promised he would come home early and spend time with her. He left work only to bring work home. But he could take a few minutes. “What would you like to do with your dad?” he asked her while glancing at his watch. “I wanna take a walk.” Simple enough. How long could that take? One quick turn around the block. Only it wasn’t one quick turn around the block. Every few steps, she stopped, bent over to examine a bug or a flower or a crack in the sidewalk and exclaim, “Lookit!” His exasperation was evident. Passing them by was an elderly neighbor. The old man whispered to the dad, “You’re missing it.” Trying to be polite, the father responded, “I’ve seen a bug. I’ve seen a flower.” The neighbor stopped and said, “That’s not what you’re missing.”

 

Apply the brake. Don’t miss life. “Lookit!”

 

 

One little letter

They sound the same. They are spelled the same … except for one little letter.

Mourning and morning. Mourning is about grief, about the recognition of loss. You cannot love without loss. That’s where the one little letter comes in.  “U” stands for each of us because each of us has known and will know what it means to lose something that or someone who matters. The “u” can also refer to us. Grief can drive us apart or bring us together. We may mourn privately but our healing usually comes in community. We can be overwhelmed by our personal sadness but we can also be surrounded by those who will bear our griefs with us.

And yet there is more. How does mourning turn to morning? We are approaching Holy Week. In order to arrive at Easter we have to pass by the cross. The blackest day in history calls us not to pass by, but to linger and mourn – mourn the death, mourn the devastation of sin, mourn our responsibility. But we cannot linger long because Sunday’s coming.

On the morning of the third day, the power of sin and death and evil was broken. In the morning the stone was rolled away. In the morning the perfect sacrifice who suffered a cruel death left the grim reaper in the dust. In the morning He turned mourning to joy.

Within the span of a few days, the deaths of two remarkable women named Debbie have given us reason to mourn. Our hearts are broken for the families who have suffered loss. But we are people of hope as they were women of faith. Our mourning will turn to joy because of that morning two thousand years ago. One little letter … For God so loved “u” that He gave His only Son. Mourning turned to morning.