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.

He should’ve looked up

When my dad was a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, he had a friend who was asked to officiate at his first funeral. The young pastor was understandably nervous and sought help and advice from his more seasoned colleagues. One particularly helpful classmate lent him his minister’s manual that contained suggested readings and comments for such an occasion. The service at the church went well. After arriving at the cemetery, the young minister took the customary position at the back of the hearse and began leading the procession toward the grave. He was so intent on reading the right words in the right tone of voice that he forgot something. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust …” then he walked into the hole. He should’ve looked up.

Are there times when we are so focused on things that we don’t pay attention as we should? Distracted driving is a huge and sometimes tragic problem. I’ve seen people so absorbed in their phones that they walk into wall or poles or other people. They should’ve looked up.

We can find ourselves so consumed by the minutia of life that we give in to worries and cares that rob us of the vitality God desires for us. The psalmist spoke about this: “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.”

Here are a few takeaways:

  • We could all use some help from time to time
  • The Person to whom we can turn is the One who created all of life, including our own
  • He promises to protect us
  • He is paying attention
  • We should look up

His eye is on the sparrow

“What is the price of two sparrows – one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows” (Matthew 120:29,30)

“Mrs. Civilla Martin, author of this gospel hymn text, tells of a visit in 1904 to a bedridden Christian friend. Mrs. Martin asked the woman if she ever got discouraged because of her physical condition. Her friend responded quickly: ‘Mrs. Martin, how can I be discouraged when my heavenly Father watches over each little sparrow and I know He loves and cares for me.’”

What song would you write about your response to the circumstances of your life? With much to complain about or to grieve over or to be terrified by, it might seem that our lyrics might display our disenchantment or disgust or anxiety. Or we could live in trust and faith …

God said to Joshua: “Be strong and very courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged . For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

David said to Goliath: “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies – the God of Israel. This is the Lord’s battle and He will give you to us!” (1 Samuel 17:45-47)

Nehemiah said to the residents of Jerusalem: “Don’t’ be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” (Nehemiah 8:10)

Paul said to the church at Rome: “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky about or in the earth below – indeed nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38,39)

Jesus said to His disciples: “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give you is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27)

John Henry Howett wrote: “Let us sing even when we do not feel like it, for in this way we give wings to heavy feet and turn weariness into strength.”

Civilla Martin wrote: “His eye is on the sparrow and I know He’s watches me.”

What song will you sing?

Missed Opportunities

People write letters to advice columnists that can be heart-breaking, confusing, heart-warming, or … stupid:

“Dear Abby, while I was eating lunch the other day, I saw the image of Abraham Lincoln on one of my potato chips. I got so excited, thinking about how I might be able to share this wonderful news (and how much money I could make), I popped the chip in my mouth before I could stop myself and ate it. Is there anything I can do about this?

I don’t know how the columnist answered, but I’ve tried to come up with several appropriate responses but none seem very dignified:

  • Buy more chips, maybe there’s a presidential series.
  • Quit eating chips, there’s too much salt and it may be affecting your brain
  • Have your stomach pumped and have some glue nearby
  • Sift through your …. No, that’s gross
  • It’s too late so move on
  • Have someone take all of your electronic devices away so you cannot communicate again ever

When I think of missed opportunities, this bozo is not what I had in mind. I think of those moments when I could have said the right word … or when I did say the wrong word; when I did the right thing or when I did the wrong thing. I think of that moment when I could have noticed God at work but was too busy, distracted, or clueless. I think of when the prompting of the Holy Spirit was ignored and a divine appointment was missed.

It is wondrous when we pay attention, when we actively listen, when we slow down and open our eyes and ears and hearts. Today you and I will have opportunities. I hope we don’t miss them!

Hey, look at that cloud. Doesn’t that look just like Abraham Linc … Sorry.

 

 

Can you top that?

Kim and I went to see illusionist David Copperfield years ago. In a career that has spanned over 40 years, his illusions have included making a Learjet disappear, escaping from Alcatraz, levitating over the Grand Canyon, and making the Statue of Liberty vanish. He is the best-known and most commercially successful magician in history. He even owns a chain of islands in the Bahamas!

The challenge for people like Copperfield is that the next illusion has to be better than the last one. He has to be more sensational. He has to cause consternation at higher levels than ever before. He wants to go beyond “How did he do that?”

Our featured song this week was written by George Beverly Shea, the man best known for his singing at Billy Graham crusades for many years. The text for the worship service is Psalm 8. Both Scripture and song extol the magnificence of the Creator – the One who brought the universe into being and breathed life into humans.

“There’s the wonder of sunset at evening, the wonder of sunrise I see;

But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul is the wonder that God loves me.”

“O Lord, our Lord, Your majestic name fills the earth!”

The songwriter and the psalmist knew that God didn’t have to top anything. He didn’t have to come up with a new trick. As our knowledge of the universe expands, we realize more and more that there is no end to the wonder of God’s creation. As we grow deeper in our relationship with the Lord, we realize we will never fully explore the depths of His love for us.

Oh, the wonder of it all!

Reboot

One day, a mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, chemical engineer, and computer engineer were riding together on their way to lunch. All of a sudden, the car sputtered to a stop.

  • The mechanical engineer: “I think it threw a rod.”
  • The electrical engineer: “It has to be the alternator.”
  • The chemical engineer: “It must to be a clog in the fuel line.”
  • The computer engineer: “I think we should all get out and get back in. It will be fine.”

Sometimes we would like life to reboot.

“Let’s start this day over.”

“Let’s end this day differently.”

“I should have turned left instead of right.”

“I’d like to take back what I just thought, said, did.”

We all have had those moments we wished we could reclaim. A little-used reserve on a college basketball team was summoned by his coach to get in the game. He was so excited that he forgot something. He forgot that his uniform pants had gotten torn in the laundry. He was only wearing his warm-ups. He jumped to his feet and took off his warm-up pants and raced to the scorer’s table sans britches. Boy was he a hit that night.

Aren’t you glad we have a God who shows us mercy and grace? We stumble, we fall, He picks us up. We sin, He forgives. He is the God of second chances. The Shepherd loves His sheep, knowing full well they will stray. He lays down His life, knowing full well our lives hang in the balance.

Thank You, God, for loving us no matter what.

The Way of the Cross leads Home

The first verse of the hymn – “I must needs go home by the way of the cross. There’s no other way but this. I  shall ne’er get sight of the gates of light if the way of the cross I miss.”

The song was a collaborative effort by two accomplished composers – Jessie Brown Pounds and Charles Hutchinson Gabriel. Between the two, over 8000 songs and hymns were produced. In 1906, Pounds provided the lyrics and Gabriel wrote the tune to this, their only joint effort. Gabriel, composed the music for such classics as “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” “Send the Light,” and “Wonderful Love of Jesus.” This prolific gospel songwriter was often asked to produce a song to fit a sermon in a matter of days.

Each of the songs and hymns we sing carries a story. In the Lenten season that brings us to the celebration of Easter, we will allow the music of our souls to help us journey to the cross. The essence of the life of Jesus is best viewed through His death and resurrection. With the use of hymn texts and Scripture, we examine the great truths of our faith.

Any journey worth taking contains surprises, disappointments, twists, and turns. The destination determines our commitment to carry on, no matter what. In Luke 9, we find this verse: “As the time drew near for Him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (v.51).

The rest of the ninth chapter includes the stories of people who added a “but” to their decisions to follow Jesus. “I will follow You but first I must …” Jesus was almost brutally firm in His response: “Anyone who puts a hand to plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God” (v.62).

In other words, the journey requires something other than a casual or distracted effort. With His eyes completely focused on what awaited Him in Jerusalem, He knew the journey would take Him through agony, humiliation, torture, and death. He must suffer the cross before He could emerge from the tomb.

He never asked us to complete His journey, but He did call us to finish ours.

 

 

All you need is love

Ah, the season of love! This will make you feel better: Total spending for Valentine’s Day is expected to top $18.2 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. That’s an average of $136.57 per person. Flowers, candy, cards, jewelry, fancy meals, and much more will be purchased on this fabricated, I mean, meaningful holiday.

After extensive research, I have found that the average male spends from 15 to 30 seconds while purchasing an appropriate card. If we’re in trouble or have done something stupid, we could spend a whole minute searching for the right one. There we stand looking at acres of possibilities. Do I go sappy or do I go witty? Did the author of these verses fully capture the depth of my swirling emotions? Do I actually read what is written inside or do I just believe that I’ve picked the right look, the right verse, and, yes, the right gender.  Do I buy a blank card and take a chance my own words will cause my true love’s heart to flutter? Decisions, decisions.

We might need help, but who do we ask? Two young ladies were determined to help their spinster aunt find romance. They knew that a prominent judge in their small town had been widowed in the last few years. They began to plot. They handcrafted a Valentine’s Day card and labored over just the right words to include in the card they would send to the judge on behalf of their unsuspecting aunt. They poured over the dictionary, searched through a Thesaurus, even looked in the Bible. One of the young women finally raised her head in triumph. “I finally found a word that rhymes with ‘Valentine’” she exclaimed. “If it’s in the Bible, it must be okay.” So they put the finishing touches on their project and put the card in the mail. Several days later, the judge opened the envelope and read: “If you will be my Valentine, I will be your concubine.”

They meant well.