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.

The Power of Grace

Will Campbell was born into a farming family in Mississippi, under the shadow of the Ku Klux Klan. Ordained at 17 in his Baptist church, he began to sense that God was asking him to take a difficult, controversial direction in life. Being a white man who supported and worked for civil rights in the deep South was dangerous. He received death threats and was cautioned to stay away from his hometown. He did except for the time he just had to return. His 12 year-old nephew was struck and killed riding the bicycle that his Uncle Will had given him. Following a long-held tradition called sitting up with the dead, Will Campbell sat at the funeral home late into the night. Around 3:00 that morning, someone approached out of the dim light and handed Will a cup of coffee. It was Will’s uncle, a man he hadn’t seen in many years … a man who vehemently disagreed with Will’s activism. Looking back on that experience, Campbell wrote: “Until the dawn, I sat in the redemptive company of a racist Jesus.”

 

I think I know what he meant. Grace wins. On this day when we try to make sense of the racial divide that still exists in our country, we need grace more than ever.

The first miracle

Frederick Dale Bruner wrote: “I like to consider this Jesus’ first miracle: the miracle of His humility. The first thing Jesus does for us is go down with us. His whole life is like this, It is well known that Jesus ended His career on a cross between two thieves; it deserves to be as well known that He began His ministry in a river among penitent sinners.”

The writer of Hebrews emphasized the humanity and humility of Jesus: “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet He did not sin” (Hebrews 4:14). Jesus didn’t sympathize with humans; He empathized.

Someone once described the difference between sympathy and empathy this way: You’re walking along a road and notice a man who has fallen into a ditch. Sympathy says that you feel sorry for the man’s predicament. Empathy says that you get down in the ditch and help the man out. Jesus did not observe our predicament; He entered it.

The mystery of the Incarnation that He was capable of experiencing the human condition without being tainted by it. Tempted but without yielding, He lived among us as one of us. It was crucial to His mission. The manger, the cross, the tomb were not symbolic gestures; they were demonstrations of His commitment to dwell among us and then pay a price no other could pay.

Paul captured the humility of Jesus perfectly in his letter to the Philippians. Reciting what had to be one of Christianity’s earliest hymns, the apostle called upon believers to follow the example Jesus set: “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had” (Philippians 2:5).

What does that attitude look like? From the Christian Bible Reference: “Humility as a virtue is a major theme of both the Old and New Testaments. Why do qualities such as courtesy, patience and deference have such a prominent place in the Bible? It is because a demeanor of humility is exactly what is needed to live in peace and harmony with all persons. Humility dissipates anger and heals old wounds. Humility allows us to see the dignity and worth of all God’s people. Humility distinguishes the wise leader from the arrogant power-seeker.”

Jesus provided the leadership through His example. What kind of followers will we be? I still believe in miracles.

I’m only human

I’m only human. What are my other choices?

  • Animal
  • Vegetable
  • Mineral
  • Robot

Some might suggest we represent all four plus more.

Normally when we hear someone say that line it is accompanied with some clarifying excuse:

“I know I made a mistake, but I’m only human.”

Is being “only human” a bad thing? Are we subject to fear, failure, disappointment, betrayal? Of course we are. Flaws are evident, even in the most respectable persons of high integrity. Scripture makes it plain: “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard,” Paul wrote to the Romans.

We get it. We’re not perfect. We stumble, we fall; sometimes we wallow in our misdeeds and mistakes.

God didn’t create automatons. His amazing gift of life carried with it an enormous risk. He gave humans alone the privilege and responsibility to live with free will. There was always the possibility … okay, the probability … okay, the certainty that we would make bad choices, try to live life on our terms instead of God’s.

But being “only human” isn’t a curse; it’s an opportunity. One of my favorite authors is Brené Brown. Think about her words: “To become fully human means learning to turn my gratitude for being alive into some concrete common good. It means growing gentler toward human weakness. It means practicing forgiveness of my and everyone else’s hourly failures to live up to divine standards. It means learning to forget myself on a regular basis in order to attend to the other selves in my vicinity. It means living so that “I’m only human” does not become an excuse for anything. It means receiving the human condition as blessing and not curse, in all its achingly frail and redemptive reality.”

Today could be your celebration of “I’m only human” day!

 

 

Roses for Mom

Christmas is a time for magic and mystery. It is also a time of generosity and grace …

It was Christmas Eve. The florist shop stayed open late and was doing a brisk business. A line waited at the counter. In that line was a 7 year-old boy. His clothes looked worn out and his shoes had more than a few holes in them. When it was finally his turn, he placed a wadded up dollar bill on the counter and spoke boldly, “Mister, do you have any roses for my mom? I’m willing to pay a buck for ‘em.”

Roses for $1? The other customers couldn’t help but snicker and whisper some comments of incredulity. The shopkeeper looked down at the boy and said, “Let me see what I can do for you.” The man headed for the back of the shop. After a few minutes he returned with a dozen long-stemmed red roses, picked up the dollar bill, and placed the roses in the boy’s arms. “You’re in luck, son. On Christmas Eve, we have a special on roses for young men who want to do something nice for their mothers. Merry Christmas!”

With a big smile on his face, the boy gathered his roses and walked proudly out of the store with his head held high. “Wait til mom sees these!”

May you find opportunity to bring joy this Christmas to someone who really needs it!

Reflections on Christmas

Some of my favorite stories/thoughts on the season:

  • The carol reads: “O come let us adore Him” not “O come let us ignore Him.”
  • The pastor and his wife had bundled their kids into the car for the trip to church for the annual Christmas Eve candlelight service. The youngest of the bunch piped up from the back seat: “Hey, Dad, are you going to let us enjoy this Christmas or are you going to try to explain it to everybody?”
  • From a song recorded by Point of Grace: “We’re alive, we can breathe, but do we really care for this world in need? So close your eyes and share the dream. Let everyone on earth believe. The Child was born, the stars shone bright, and love came down at Christmas time. So let your voices fill the air. Everyone, watch and pray that the sun will shine on a brighter day. Join your hands, lift them high for this gift of life; for love came down at Christmas time.”
  • Willa Cather’s “The Burglar’s Christmas” is a story about a young man who left home much like the prodigal son in Luke 15. Leaving his family behind back east, he winds up in Chicago without a job or friends. Things go from bad to worse as he finally resorts to breaking into a house to find some food on Christmas Eve. He is caught in the act by the home owners, his parents. They had moved to Chicago when they lost all trace of him. His mother weeps as he begins to confess the mess he has made of his life. Turning to flee the house, his parents beg him to stay so he can start over. He pauses and looks at them, “I wonder if you know how much you have to pardon.” His mother responds, “O son, much or little, what does it matter? Have you wandered so far and paid such a bitter price for knowledge and not yet learned that love has nothing to do with pardon and forgiveness, that it only loves, and loves, and loves?”
  • December seems to be the busiest month for plastic surgeons. A report in plasticsurgeryportal.com mentions December as the busiest month for many plastic surgeons, with some of them performing almost double the number of procedures on any given day during December. Some suggest that plastic surgery makes the perfect Christmas gift. Try that out on a loved one: “You need to get a lift or a tuck. Merry Christmas!”

Your night may not be silent. Hoping for calm may be a pipe dream. But I hope you will experience the joy and wonder of God’s gift. Open your Bible and find a quiet place, if but just for a few minutes. Read Luke or Matthew or John or Isaiah and give thanks for your Savior.

Merry Christ-mas!

A Tribute to those who grieve

We take so much for granted we think time stands still for us;

Then life takes a painful turn and there’s one less this Christmas.

We think of words left unsaid, there are things we could have done;

The empty ache deep inside, hard to hide from everyone.

‘Round us the pace rushes by, folks too busy to pay heed,

But there are those who can know how great our loss and our need.

They have walked where we now walk, they know the depth of our grief.

Their strength and understanding offers much needed relief.

Their love holds us ‘cause they know, it won’t be the same this year.

No matter how hard we try, the one we miss won’t be here.

One day heaven will be home, the pain of our parting o’er.

We’ll see the one gone ahead, our delight worth waiting for.

Now we must go on living until that great day arrives.

Our dear one safe in God’s hands, hope and faith brightens our lives.

Any color you want

Henry Ford, according to Wikipedia, was a famous “American captain of industry and a business magnate, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and the sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production.” He was also known for some pithy quotes.

The one most folks might know concerns the ground-breaking Model T automobile: “You can have it in any color you want, as long as it is black.”

Some of my favorites:

“Don’t find fault; find a remedy.”

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

“To do more for the world than the world does for you – that is success.”

Ford was more than a brilliant capitalist; he was progressive in his practices and innovative in his business. He was also generous. That quality was expressed in his association with Martha Berry. The long-lasting friendship between Martha Berry and the Fords began when, in 1921, Miss Berry accepted a dinner invitation from Thomas Edison, who at the time was a friend of the Fords. At this dinner, Martha Berry met the Fords and began her life-long friendship with them.

What a combination! Martha Berry’s commitment to making educational opportunities available for any person and Henry Ford’s willingness to do more for the world that the world did for him changed many lives.

 

We can follow Ford’s advice. Success is indeed making a difference for all the right reasons.