Tom with kids in Kuwait

Tom with kids in Kuwait
Tom with kids in Kuwait

Friday, December 26, 2014

Top 10 happenings of 2014

What do you do when the year is about to run out?  Why, we recap its highlights.  With so many to choose from, it is hard to pick just 10.  So this is what we will do.  We begin with these 10 and you add any that you think are deserving of year-end recognition as well.

# 10  Walk a Block for Jesus X2.  One was conducted in Burns Flat during the spring, mostly praying at different points throughout Burns Flat.  The second was following camp and was a gospel blitz throughout Dill City.
#9  VBS – It always rocks!  Des Simmons got the pie in the face on the last day.
#8  Camp WOW.  Youth that had been reported long missing came out of the woodwork for life changing experiences at Camp WOW.
#7  First CPC in Mangum.  The Burns Flat CPC continued to pray for this small sister congregation as they went through more pastor trials and are struggling with their future.
#6  New tile in the women’s restroom and the kitchen.  It’s not all about the building, but every once in a while, you just have to do a little upgrade.
#5  Backpack ministry.  The church budgeted $1,000 and the community added $4,000 more.  We were able to help every child who came with just about everything on the list.
#4  Ice Bucket Challenge.  The session accepted the Ice Bucket Challenge put before us by Covenant CPC in Ada, Oklahoma.
#3  Baptisms.  We baptized 6 people this year.
#2  Broke the vending machine.  The church stopped conforming to the patterns of the world and returned to being faithful to its mission, especially in the areas of Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets and angel gifts.  We are feeding people with what lasts—the Bread of Life and Living Water.  What was in the basket will be gone in a week or two, but we bring love and life and life eternal to the world in Jesus Christ.
#1  Chewy Tuesdays.  What began a few years ago as a feast for a few turned into love delivered to 70 and 80 kids every Tuesday this summer.  This is God’s love in action!

God Love You!
Love One Another!

Add your top Burns Flat CPC events to the list in the comments section.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

"Tis the season...

Every gift given this Christmas Season that is not given in the spirit of Happy Birthday Jesus is really given in the spirit of the world.  Every present that we give out of obligation worships the god of this age.

Gift giving is great when the Spirit of God abides in us and our gifts.

The excitement over Santa is fun when it is secondary to seeking God, his kingdom, and his righteousness.  Our God is a jealous God.

We can hang stockings and put out cookies and have fun doing all of those seasonal things so long as we have celebrated the right thing—the birth of the Child who was King at this birth.

He is still King and Lord and Savior and Redeemer and Friend.  Let’s not make room for Jesus this Christmas Season.  Let’s make everything about him and then there will be room for Santa, elves, Rudolph, Frosty, and all those who have been hogging center stage for too long.

Jesus is not just the reason for the season; He is the reason for everything.

Let’s put these words in the front of our minds for the next week:


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I will live for God and give thanks, just not today...

T’was the night before Thanksgiving and all through the town
Hams and turkeys cooked through the night ‘til they were all brown,
To be served the next day to family and friends
Who would gather and feast, and feast to no end.

There were casseroles and stuffing and oh so many pies,
To go with the rolls, biskets, and the occasional surprise
Some like their turkey browned on the outside but still moist inside,
But these days folks might just want to get them deep fried.

It is a day made for eating and watching football
By mid afternoon it feels like we ate it all
But there is more food for seconds and thirds and more
Got to rest up to head out to the stores.

From a full dining room table to lines circling the block
I must save that ten dollars on that Frozen Alarm Clock
Or is Ninja Turtles who are in this year?
Better get the right stuff and fast before it disappears.                     

Thanksgiving and Black Friday have merged into one
Food, food, and more food and shopping, some call that fun.
That fifty inch TV would look great in my home
Though really I watch most of my shows on my new phone.

And  all in a moment, the year turns into a blurr
Christmas comes upon us and we buy more stuff to serve
And then cry quite the river when the bills all come in
And swear to ourselves we will never do this again.

Serve the master of money, stuff, and credit card debt
We promise to live for God and not greed nor all we can get
But next year comes upon us and we are in the same boat
For we sought not the Lord nor the words that he spoke.

So we come upon another year without giving thanks
We don’t feel alone, there are many in our ranks
Who chose the world over God and like it that way
But we know full well that there will be a day…

A day of accounting, judgment, and all
We don’t want to think about it for there is surely a fall
In store for those who choose to rebel
Oh I can’t pray to God but I pray there’s no hell.

For I know that I have lived only for my selfish self
And have not loved God with my life or my wealth
These people they tell me to repent and believe
But I don’t want a God who comes before my TV…

And before my idols of football and fame
I want what I want and don’t want to believe on the Name
That is above all names and calls me again
There must be a catch, I feel safer in sin.

For there is a catch, but not what you think
It is a harvest of people that will come in a blink
Of the eye, yes in a moment, we all will be changed
Some relieved off all burdens and some who remain

Slave to sin and death and darkness and sorrow
They lived for themselves and saved naught for tomorrow
They stored their treasures in barns they would lose
Because it was greed and not God when it came time to choose.

This sadness and sorrow need not be the end of the line
For the One who made the heavens also made time
And in a single moment even in the worst strife
A few and simple words bring those who are dead into life.

Yes, your heart may be pumping and your blood is bright red
But without the Lord of Lords your body is already dead
For the King of kings came as a child and died on a cross
So that the worst among us would never be lost.

To Satan and sin and rebellion and death
As in the beginning, life comes in the Spirit’s breath.
We must die to this world and be born of God’s Spirit
Or this Kingdom of Heaven –we’ll never get near it.

This is a sad sort of thought on Thanksgiving Day
Why can’t I just eat and watch football and fall asleep as I may?
It is the God who made me and made me to live
Who is calling me to repent and believe and forgive.

And to do it today and not wait any longer
When I confess my own weakness he just makes me stronger
And in whatever state or circumstance I endure
I will learn to give thanks and be always thankful.

But I can’t do that now, Lord, though I  know that I should
I am so, so afraid that I will miss something good
I can’t put you first though I know it the right thing to do
But I can’t bear the words, “I never knew you.”

So just one more day or week or year’s all I ask
Of life without purpose or meaning while wearing this mask
That’s says I know what I am doing without this God stuff
Don’t mess with me now, my words might get gruff.

My heart it grows hard and it will be harder to break
Though many have tried, I am a very good fake
And so I spin the words of truth, love, and life.
And pray you don’t come like a thief in the night.
And pray you don’t come like a thief in the night.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Are you thankful or bitter this year?

The last Thanksgiving basket went out moments ago.
No one stood in line.
Each was given out with God's love.
This was about being transformational and not transactional.
There were some who didn't want any of this God business and declined to go an area church and meet with a family of faith.
There were a few who wanted the vending machine back.  Just fill out the form and get the turkey and keep God and being thankful to him out of the picture.
Those who received baskets were blessed.
Those who choose to worship the god of this age are bitter, and empty, and disconnected from the family that would love to bless them.
It is time to do what Joshua told his people long ago.
Choose this day whom you will serve.
Serve the god of disconnection.
Serve the god of “it’s all about me.”
Serve the god of “what do I have to be thankful about?”                               
Choose the one true God and come worship him and serve him and learn to love him by loving others.
Many have chosen the one true God and have been blessed this day.
Many have been faithful to the god of this age (Satan).  We pray that their blindness is lifted and they have eyes to see a God of love.
We pray that they have ears to hear that the one true God is a jealous God and will not be mocked by people who choose to worship another master or try to worship two masters.
God has done everything that is needed for you to be in right standing with him.
That “everything” came in the blood of Christ Jesus poured out on the cross as an atonement for our sins.
Jesus paid it all!
Our part—our small part—is to profess Jesus as Lord and live in loving obedience to him.
Many have done this and know life, life abundant, and life eternal.
This Thursday, many will be compelled by the joy of the Lord to give thanks to God in celebration of a special meal, a meal that usually runs the course of two meals.
Some will just say, “The vending machine is broken.  No turkey this year.”
This Friday, many will fight crowds to get the stuff that they can’t live without.
This Friday, many who gave thanks to God on Thursday will begin Friday the same way, giving thanks to our Creator, Redeemer, Savior, Lord, and to the God that we know as Love itself.
As we consider our lives, we might find a parallel to the pair of thieves on the cross.
One was bitter and mocked Jesus wanting the Kings of Kings to get him out of his mess.
The other had eyes to see the unblemished Lamb dying beside him and sought a relationship with this Jesus.
As we enter this season of Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas, perhaps we should first assess which side of the cross we are on.
Are we bitter because we got ourselves into a bigger mess than we can handle and God doesn’t seem to be doing things our way?
Are we thankful for the relationship with God that we know through Jesus?
Which side of the cross are you on?
Are you bitter because you have mocked God all year?
Are you thankful for blessings to numerous to count?
There is no sugar coating here.
You love God and follow Jesus, worshipping him, trusting him, obeying him, and loving others.
Or you don’t.
Where do you find yourself this Thanksgiving?
If it is not loving God and following Jesus and living as a vital part of the Body of Christ, may I suggest that you change that by the New Year.
It is not just about where you spent eternity.  It is about knowing what real life, abundant life, and eternal life really is in the here and now.

Move worshiping God and following Jesus to the top of your list and know life!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Thanksgiving Checklist

Turkey – check
Dressing – check
Ham -check
Mashed potatoes – check
Squash casserole – check
Green bean casserole – check
Sweet potatoes - check
Rolls – check
Butter – check
 Cranberries – check
All sorts of pies – check
Whipped cream – check
Seems like that should cover it?
Something is missing?
What is it?
What is it?
What is all of this without real thanksgiving?
Answer:  About 2500 calories or more.  It is just calories that will be burned up or stored.
What if we redo the list and start with being thankful?
Now there is a list to thank God by.
Give thanks everyday but especially this Sunday.
See you at worship.
Come and give thanks!

Let’s get this Thanksgiving week started by giving thanks to God!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Are our kids aiming for the basket or the popcorn machine?

When our kids were young, we cheered them on as they tried to walk.  They might take a step or two and fall to the ground, but we applauded their efforts.
At some point they learned to walk.
If they were supposed to walk to school and ended up at the neighborhood bar for a couple of beers instead of the multiplication tables test, we did not applaud.
When they were old enough to pick up a baseball, we cheered when their arm moved and the ball went somewhere.
At some point, they learned to throw.
We didn’t cheer when they threw the ball over the fence to a cute girl when the play was at home.
Then came driving.  We cheered when we survived the first lesson with our daughter.  We cheered when she hit the brakes and stopped albeit 100 yards in advance of the stop sign.
We applauded when she somehow passed the driving test and was licensed.
But we didn't applaud when she was so into her text that she greeted the telephone pole head-on, fortunately at only 15 miles per hour.
As our children learn and grow, we applaud a wide range of efforts early on.  As they mature and should acquire skill, we reinforce fewer and fewer choices.
You can’t aim for the band and hope to sink a basket.  You must focus on putting the ball through the hoop.
We get that, well, sort of.
We start with a wide range of things that we reinforce as valuable or values in the lives of our children.
Well mannered.
Clean vocabulary.
Good appearance.
Positive first impressions.
Britches pulled up to the waist.
We define some parameters for good living, but sometimes we just leave out those which are most important.
Seeking God.
Following Jesus.
Loving one another.
Being faithful to our Lord.
Desiring to be in right standing with God.
Trusting God over everything else we have learned in the world.
We would go crazy if our child aimed at the concession stand instead of the basket but we seem ok when they seem to be doing just fine by the rules of the world but we have not brought them up in the way of God.
The school seems happy.
The police are not knocking on the door.
They are not spending all night playing video games.
They don’t seem to be bad kids.
But can they answer the question, “Why are you living on this earth?”
What purpose does your life have?
Do you know what special gifts God placed inside of you?
How will you be a blessing to others?
These are not questions that our kids are likely to pose to themselves.  Someone must prompt them.
That someone should be mom or dad.
More often it is the preacher or youth leader or maybe a good friend.
What are our kids and grandkids aiming at?
The basket?
The popcorn machine?
They have no aim at all?
I love the picture of the two young tykes dressed up as adult farmers.  One says to the other, “Ya ain’t got Jesus, ya ain’t got nothing.”
It really is just about that simple, but are we teaching and leading our children to know this?
Will we just let them roam through this life without a roadmap or compass?
Will we just hope they happen upon the King of Kings?
Will we just hope for the best?
Or will we be parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles who care enough to lead the next generation to Christ?
Who is leading our children now in our absence?
You know but don’t want to admit it.  Our societal norms are not the norms of God.  They are not God’s kingdom and his righteousness.
So if we do not lead our children to Christ, the world will lead them away from him.
Are you willing to accept that outcome?
Here’s the thing.  We are promised that if we draw closer to God, he comes closer to us.
Here’s my corollary.  If we are leading our children closer to God, God is getting closer to them as well.
If you were a part of bringing a child into this world or have taken custody of a child or have adopted a child, then you signed up for all three of these:  parenting, leadership, and discipleship.
Point your child in the right direction.
Lead you child towards God.
Encourage your child as he or she draws nearer to God.
Bring up a child in the way he should go.
Bring up a child in the way she should go.
Walk with your child until he or she is your brother or sister in Christ.
This is the destination of parenting—to know your son as a brother in Christ.
This is how you know you have been on the right path—your daughter is now your sister in Christ.
Someone will lead them to be a brother or sister to Christ.  We have enough ambassadors of Christ among us to find them and lead them to the Name that is above all names.
The question is will you be a brother and sister in Christ with your son or daughter, or will they reach this relationship and not know you?
At some point, we send our children into the world.
The question is, will we lead them to Christ first.
Don’t leave this most vital work exclusively in the hands of others.
Lead your children to Christ.
Lead them!
Lead them today and every day.

Lead them!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

It's not about the turkey

In the course of connecting the disconnected vis a vis Thanksgiving Baskets, my in-person and telephonic encounters have included doses of the following:
I just wanted the free turkey.
Walk aways.
I know.  I know.
We are different from the buffet of services and hand outs that the world has.  We must conform to the patterns of the world no longer.
We are the place where people find the Bread of Life and Living Water.  We are the place where God’s people gather to worship and serve and love.
We are calling people to meet the most vital need in their lives.
We are calling people to fill the void in themselves with God’s love.
When people come they will know how richly God’s people will bless them.
But for those just looking for the free turkey or who just want to grab some free food and remain disconnected from the Body of Christ; this is not that place.
We must be faithful to who we are.
We are the church.
We take good news and salvation into the world.
We have mercy and compassion and express incredible generosity among God’s children.
We are not a vending machine.
That may sound harsh.  It isn’t.
Harsh is saying, “Here’s your turkey.  Good luck this year doing it your way again.”
Love speaks its own language.
Love says that we need to get to know each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Love says that the church building is not a place that you come when you need help.  It is a place where your family gathers and they know you need help before you work up the courage to ask.
Love says that all I can give you will expire or be consumed one day, but I will lead you to the One who never expires and is all consuming.  I will lead you to God through Christ his Son.  I will lead you to life.
And as we get to know you, if we find you are hungry then we will feed you.
If you need clothing, just see how generous we can be.
If you need work, we will give you something until you find full time employment.
If you are struggling financially, we will teach you biblical finance and help you get back on your feet.
If you need someone to pray with you and for you, you are in the middle of that group.
If you are ready to  be the person God made you to be, we will help you find your gifts and talents and give you a safe place to put them to use until you are confident in the wonderful things that God has placed in you.
If you are just looking for a free turkey, then you came to the wrong place.
We are true to who we are.
We are the church.
We are on a mission from God.
We press on towards the goal.
We cast off anything that gets in the way, especially those things that would conform us to the world.
We are the church.
You were born to be a part of this wonderful family.
Come and realize the person God made you to be.
It’s not about the turkey.
It is all about you coming to know God by coming into his family.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Luggage and Logistics

Luggage and Logistics

We are people of luggage and logistics.
What in the world does that mean?
Luggage is easy.  That’s our stuff that we have to take with us wherever we go.  We can’t leave it behind.

Our luggage is a part of us.  Some people can get by on a toothbrush and a change of socks and underwear.  Others require a 6 piece set of luggage plus carry-ons.

Could we get by with less luggage?
Sure, but our luggage reflects our comfort zone.  We are comfortable when we carry all of these things with us.

Logistics is more aggressive.

Logistics is about getting what we want when we want it and where we want it.  How do I get from A to B and back to A or on to C again and accomplish everything I want to do?

Sometimes logistics gets our luggage where we want it.

Sometimes we think about our luggage and logistics so much that we forget to live.

Life is not all about our stuff and where we are going to or coming from.  When Jesus sent out half a dozen dozens of disciples to the towns of Israel saying, “Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand,” he told these men not to pack a bag, stop by the ATM, or make reservations.

He just sent them out to do what they needed to do.

Sometimes our stuff and our planning and our preparation and our perceptions and our fixation on getting where we need to go get in the way of living.

Sometimes we have too much luggage to enjoy life.
Sometimes the logistics of the day get in the way of living to the full.

Sometimes, we just need to say, “OK, Lord, it is just you and me.  Let’s go do something!”

Don’t pack a bag.
Don’t turn on the GPS.
Don’t let luggage and logistics get in the way of your time with the Lord.
Don’t let luggage and logistics rob you of life.
Live to the full.
Live abundantly.
Live following Jesus.
Live loving the Lord.
Live seeking his Kingdom.
Live seeking his righteousness.
Live to love.
Take time this day to leave most of your luggage behind.
Make time this week for the Lord to direct your steps.
Learn to live without the burdens of luggage and the complications of logistics.

God is good.
Trust him.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

When the Lord returns, he will find me...

We are on a mission to connect the disconnected right here in our own communities, but as we do that let us not forget the blessings of modern technology.

We are already connected to people all over the globe.  What should we do with these connections?

How about we declare that the Lord Reigns!

The Lord Reigns!

Let us declare his glory to the nations.  We have so many vehicles for that.  A few keystrokes and we have declared the glory of the Lord to this world that he has established.

The Lord Reigns!

Sing a new song to him today.
Find a place to worship him.
Make an offering to him.

Know that one day he will judge the earth and because you will be judged by the righteousness of Jesus, you can look forward to that day with joyful anticipation.

The Lord reigns!
I will proclaim his glory to the nations.
I will lift up to him a new song.

When the Lord comes to judge the earth, he will find me singing songs to him and proclaiming his glory.

Come Lord Jesus!


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Hump day?

We used to call this hump day.  Wednesday was the midpoint in the traditional work week.

Traditional work week, what’s that?  Touché.   Point taken.

These days, Wednesday is a day between Man Crush Monday and Throwback Thursday or MCM and TBT if you must.

It is also the day the Lord has made so we are glad and we rejoice in it.  For those of us on a mission from God—actually, commissioned by Jesus would be more precise—we are also on the lookout for people who have never truly heard the gospel for the first time.

We are tuned in to those who have heard and may have even accepted Jesus as their Savior but who just have not connected with a family of faith.  Inertia is a fact of life and it is tough to get a body at rest in motion, but we keep on keepin’ on in our efforts to lead people back into the Body of Christ.


Spread the gospel!
Connect the disconnected.
Love everyone in the family of faith like it was going out of style.

Hump day, not so much.

A day to proclaim the good news, connect the disconnected, and to love one another as much as Jesus loves us; you betcha, that is the day where we find ourselves.

Now, what are we going to do about it?

Monday, October 6, 2014


We as Christians are wearing trifocals.  They may not be in style this year, but they give us eyes to see three distinct groups of people in the world we live in.

There are those who may have never heard the gospel.  We bring good news of life in Jesus Christ to them.  This is something we do every day.  We are thoroughly equipped for this good work by the word of God and by his own Spirit.  We proclaim the gospel wherever we go.

There are those who have heard the good news and maybe even said a prayer asking for the salvation of the Lord, but they have not responded to this great gift of grace.  They live for themselves and apart from the Body of Christ.  This is where our mission is to connect the disconnected.  We help them come to live in a family of faith and we help disciple them.

And there are those of us who have received the gift of grace and respond by giving our entire lives back to God—whatever he desires from us.  We are a living sacrifice.  We are disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We are the Body of Christ.  We love each other more than the world can imagine.  People on the outside looking in should desire what we have over what the world offers.  We are the tightest family on the planet; yet we are always ready to welcome another brother or sister in Christ.

Yep, trifocals give us eyes to see in this post modern world.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What do you mean, the ATM is broken?

Walking through that church door was tough.  I didn’t want to go but I was at the end of my rope.  I wasn't looking for God or Jesus.  I just needed some money.
I will spare you the reasons.  They are all things that you could just shake your head and say, “He should have known better.”
Yeah, I should have known better.
Well, I made it through the door.  The preacher man is just hanging up the phone.  Maybe he will have just a couple moments to open up the cash drawer and send me on my way.
That would be best.  In and out, just like the burger place.  But this dude didn’t get the memo.  He wants to talk.
He wants to talk.  Maybe I should try the church across the street.  It looks a little newer.  Maybe they have an ATM.  I just tell my story and the cash comes out, maybe it will be a debit card.
Well I have been sitting here for a few minutes; I just as well see what I have to do to get the money.
I have told him that I don’t fit in to any of the churches.  Can’t he get that through his thick skull?
Evidently not, he keeps telling me that my excuses don’t hold water.  He tells me that if I am following Jesus then I will abide in this word.  Preachers like that “abide” word so I call him on it.
He says we need to keep doing what God’s word tells us to do.  In this case to continue to gather together for worship and fellowship.
I tell him that I can be a Christian without coming to church.
He tells me something crazy like we are the church.  What’s up with this dude?  I need some money.
He goes on to say that I won’t be a very effective Christian if I don’t gather with other believers.
I tell him that he has his opinion and I have mine.

“You’re right,” he says.  He stands and reaches out to shake my hand.  I reach out.  He shakes it and opens the door to his office.
I say, “What about the money?”
I look at him like he is crazy.  Maybe he is.
“Oh, the money.  How silly of me.”
“Thank God,” I say.
“We thank God a lot around here and in fact everywhere we go we are always giving thanks.  God has given us so many blessings, and not just for us but enough so that we may bless others.”
Now this guy gets it.  I just used the wrong words.  “I am here for some of those blessings”
“No, you are here for some money.”
“That’s what I have been trying to say but you wanted to use the word blessings so I played the game.  This is getting old.  I have placed to go and things to do.”
“Need to get to work?”
“No.  No job.  That’s part of the reason that I am here.”
“Volunteering somewhere?”
“Out looking for work?”
“Ready to cut to the heart of the matter?”
“No, but I don’t think that is going to make a difference.”
“You’re right.  I am faithful to my Master and he has commanded me and equipped me to speak the truth in love.”
Here he goes again with more churchspeak.   If he starts singing Standing on the Promises then I am exiting the premises.
“The truth is that you came looking for the vending machine, the ATM if you will.”
“I thought only the fancy churches had those?”
“Unfortunately, most of us have had them for decades.”
“I don’t see them.”
“I unplugged ours and threw it away.”
“You what!”
“It was getting in the way of ministry.  You see people would just show up at the door.  They hand to think about it for a long time before they came in, but when they did the just wanted to get out of here as quickly as they could.”
“You’ve got that part right.”
“I know.  Not my first rodeo.”
“So why did you throw it away.  I need that money.  A lot of us need that money.”
“I threw it away because it got in the way of who we are.”
“We are the church.  We are the Body of Christ.  We take God’s light and his love into the world.  We feed the hungry and take care of the needy and minister to the sick and those in prison.”
“That’s me.  I am needy for sure.”
“Yes, you are.  And we are going to help.”
“Thank you!  If I can just get $300, maybe $350 since the cash drawer is already open, then I will be on my way.”
“Oh, there isn’t going to be any cash dispersed today.”
“You said that you would help me.”
“I did and we will.”
“But not with any money…”
“Not right now anyway.  That is not what we are all about.  This is not a place to fill out a form and get a bill paid.  We pay bills for folks every once in a while, but that is not who we are.”
“Is the ATM at the church across the street working?”
“No.  We all sent them to the landfill.”
“Are all of you people nuts?”
“Nuts, no.  Fools, yes.”
“I knew it was something like that.”
“We are fools for Christ.  We follow Jesus and we don’t need to apply the same rules that the world does.  In fact, we had conformed to the patterns of this world and not even noticed.  That dog don’t hunt.”
“I am not sure that I follow but I think it means that I am not getting any money.”
“We do help with some things that are temporary like a water bill or an electric bill or some food, but we are about things eternal—mostly life.”
“You paying my ‘lectric bill or not?”
“Probably not, but we will see what transpires.”
“If there’s no money coming out then I’m not hanging around.”
“I won’t even pretend to be surprised.”
“How can you be this way?  Do you know how hard it was for me to come here?”
“I am this way because I know exactly how hard it was for you to come here today and I don’t want you to ever have to go through that again.”
“You throwing me out?”
“On the contrary.  I am inviting you in.”
“You say you are a fool for Christ, but I’m sticking with nuts.  You’re nuts, man.”
“Could be, but I can tell you that we would not be having this conversation if you were a part of this body of believers.  If this were your family, someone would have known that you were hurting long ago and given you some help.”
“Yeah, well they might have told me that I should give up drinking or smoking or pay-per-view movies.  I don’t like being judged.’
“If you did give up those things and had your utility bills paid in full now would you still consider that advice judgmental.”
“Well, when you put it that way…”
“That’s the way I’m putting it.”
“Yeah, OK, it might have been good advice.”
“We have a church term for that.”
“Surprise, surprise.  I sure was hoping that I could hear some more churchspeak.”
“See, you haven’t lost your sense of humor.”
“Right.”  What’s the term?”
“Speaking the truth in love.”
“Sounds a lot like sugar coated judging.”
“You’re right it sounds like it, but it is different.”
“The condition of the heart.  The person who speaks the truth in love truly desires the best for you.  They want you to have a life as rich as their own.”
“And you think that paying my bill will shortchange this process.”
“No.  I am certain that it will.  Sometimes we pay a bill or two or three based purely on mercy and compassion.  Sometimes a family is so down and out that they need some physical help before they can lift their heads high enough to hear the truth.”
“But you don’t think I am in the same boat?”
“Not even close and if you will have a moment of self examination, you will concur.  You are at the point of temporary discomfort, not desperation.  We have the time and the means to work on the root causes of your problems.”
“That’s not why I came here.”
“I know.”
“I am probably just going to leave and tell everyone that you don’t help anyone, that the church doesn’t help anyone.”
“I know.  Like I said…”
“Not your first rodeo.”
“If you needed to buy new tires for your car would you go to the bakery?”
“No.  Is that where you go?”
“Only for bread.  If you needed a plumber would you call a tax attorney?”
“Dude, you are losing me here.”
“Not making any sense?”
“None at all.”
“Good, because those would be nonsensical things to do.”
“Finally, we agree on something—nonsense.”
“But you come to the church with an electric bill?  If you were to call the electric company and ask who pays most of the electric bills in this country, they would say…”
“The people or companies who use the electricity.”
“But you come to this church with an electric bill?”
“Obviously, here I sit.”
“Have you thought about coming here to worship God or to help others or to learn more about God.”
“I’m not much for church.”
“Yet, here you sit.  You won’t come and be a part of the things that the people of the church are called to do but you ask for help in things they are not called to do—is that it?”
“When you put it that way, it sounds sort of ridiculous.  Maybe, I should not have come in today.”
“That is what is ridiculous.  You are exactly where you need to be.”
“I need my ‘lectric bill paid!”
“Six months or a year from now, how important will it be that your bill got paid today or tomorrow or even this month?”
“It is important to me now.  I know that.”
“So it is.  What I am asking you to consider is how important is your relationship with God and his people right now?”
“That can wait.”
“And so we come the crux of the matter.  You want what you want from a place created to give you something else.”
“If you say so.  Yeah, I want what I want.”
“Who will be faithful to their purpose?”
“I heard that you do sometimes pay people’s bills.”
“You heard correctly.”
“For me to help with your bill and leave you disconnected from the Body of Christ is to help you remain disconnected from the one place where you most need to be.”
“So, I am not getting any money?”
“You have heard the old saying ‘Give a man a fish and feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime?’”
“Yes, but I don’t like fish that much.”
“Same thinking regardless of taste, except that we are talking about life right now and life without end.  Don’t you think it is time to get your life on the course God has set for you?”
“It may be time, but all I care about is getting this bill paid.”
“God cares for you more than your care about that bill.”
“If you say so.”
“I do.”
“Does he care enough to get me some help?”
“Absolutely!  Let’s start getting you connected to some of the people in the congregation.”
“But what about my money?”
“We don’t have an ATM.  We are the church.”
“Why am I still hanging around here?”
“Because you came to the exact place you need to be.  God wants you following Jesus again.  He wants you to worship him, serve him, and learn more about him and his fantastic love in the company of other believers.  That’s our starting point.”
“Well, thanks, but no thanks or thanks for nothing might be more accurate.”
“You know that Jesus once had an encounter with a rich young ruler who said he followed the Law of Moses his whole life.  He asked Jesus what he needed to do to be complete.”
“Jesus told him to sell everything he had and give the proceeds to the poor and then to come and follow Jesus.”
“What happened?”
“I’m not sure.  The man went away sad because he had a lot of stuff, and evidently loved his stuff a lot as well.”
“What do you mean you are not sure?  How can you start a story like that and not give folks the ending?”
“It is not the ending that has the lesson.  Before Jesus told this man to sell everything, the Bible says that Jesus loved him.”
“Jesus loved him?  He told the man to sell all his stuff and give the money away.  How is this love?”
“The man was imprisoned by his stuff.  It owned him.  He couldn’t walk away from it.  Jesus gave him instructions that would set him free but it wasn’t what he wanted to hear.”
“Is that what you call ‘tough love’?”
“No.  That is just love.  It is genuine love.  It is love that cuts to the core of a person’s being.”
“I can think of other words for it.”
“Jesus told the man what he needed to do to be complete—perfect if you will.  The man cared more for his possessions than he did for living God’s way.”
“So the man went away sad.  Well, guess what?”
“So are you?”
“And a little angry.  You guys need to fix the vending machine.”
“Not going to happen.”
So I am outta here.”
“You are invited to stay and get to know this family.  These are people who have been through lean times as well as lucrative times but have followed the Lord every day.  They know what you are going through.  They won’t judge you.  They will help you.”
“No thanks.”
“Very well.”
“Don’t you have to say, ‘God bless you’ or something like that?”
“I could if I wanted, but my prayer is that you hit rock bottom sooner than later so you can shake off this blindness and we can get you living God’s way.”
“Preachers can’t say that!”
“I see.  Tell me more.”
“Preachers have to tell you nice stuff like ‘Have a nice day’ and that sort of stuff.
“OK.  Have a nice day.  Did that help?”
“No.  I don’t think you meant it.”
“I didn’t.  I hope your day gets worse and your vision gets better.  I hope that you have eyes to see how much God loves you and that he has provided a family for you.  It is a family based in love and truth and encouragement, and discipline, and learning, where you can learn to follow Jesus.”
“It is a family where you will be at home because you will be among your brothers and sisters in Christ.”
“Don’t you get it.  I don’t deserve to be in that family.”
“You are right about that.”
“Now you are just being mean.”
“No, I am making a real connection with you.”
“What connection?  You are telling me that I don’t deserve to be a part of the family that you have spent so much effort inviting me into.”
“Yes, you do not deserve the joy of being in this family just as I did not deserve it either.  God loved us when we did not love him.  The entire human race had rebelled against God but instead of destroying us, he saved us.  He made a way for us to live in right relationship with him when we had done nothing to deserve it.”
“You are talking about the blood of Jesus.”
“I remember how that moved me a long time ago, but here I am today struggling just to keep the lights on.”
“Isn’t that crazy?”
“That’s what I have been trying to say.  I need some help.  I need some money.”
“And God has been asking you why you keep trying to live your life on your terms instead of his?  Why are you disconnected from the family of faith?”
“This isn’t why I came here.”
“Did you ever stop to think that you came here when the Vending Machine was broken and discarded because God wanted you to have this conversation?”
“Maybe, but that doesn’t mean I like this one little bit.”
“We do love.  Like is sometimes not included in the sticker price.”
“Tell me about it.”

“That is exactly what I would love to do.  How about I call some folks from the church and you get to know each other?”

The vending machine is broken

Gotta git the kids to school
It’s the best day care around
Can’t go to work
Or they cut my welfare down.

Gotta git some money
So I go to the church
It feels kinda funny
But I’ve been through worse.

If I act like I’m am hurting
Wearing tattered clothes that I keep clean
And tell the preacher my man’s deserting
Maybe he’ll open the vending machine.

I’m squirming in my seat—it seems a little warm
But I go through the motions trying not to pout
Filled in all the blanks so I hand the man the form
I’ve played the came so the money comes out.

But it seems I’m getting nothing
It’s like someone pulled out the rug
The man looks at me and says,
The machine’s unplugged.

I start to panic and my eyes open wide
While he smiles and takes the Bible from the table
I want to git out or find a place to hide
The man says that the machine only enabled.

This is not the way I like it
I want to get my cash and go
Just a quick in and out—licitly split
But that’s all changed you know.

The rhythm’s not forced but natural
It’s not transactional in nature
Another person is connecting with me
Not just for now but for hereafter.

Preacher man’s talking living water and the bread of life as well
He’s not tempting me with heaven or scaring me with hell
But talking of this life in the here and now
How it could be lived more fully, would I like to know how?

My defenses kick in right away, longing for my vending machine
But I am challenged to live with purpose and not just for what pleases me.
I need to run for cover or just make a fast break for the door.
But my phone is on the table and my purse is on the floor.

Why is this so awkward—why so stinkin hard?
I wouldn’t even be here if I could get a credit card.
But the man just keeps on talking about giving my whole life to God
I’ll jump out through the window if he sings “Where the saints have trod.”

I just don’t want this connection—want to get my cash and go.
But the machine is not working, or so he tells me so.
But it is my disconnection that makes this so, so hard
The church has become the church again and not a credit card.

She has reclaimed her identity speaking truth in love again
Light and love and purpose trying to rescue me from sin
But I will have none of it, I will not fall for this sham
I am walking out that door right now, I’ll show them who I am.

But then I listened for but a moment and he tells me I am God’s child
That my Father loves me more than I deserve and I begin to cry
For though I came for money, I knew it wouldn’t last
When I finally listened I learned that I was not shackled by my past.

That in the name of Jesus, I was truly set free
Not from troubles of the world, but having to carry them you see
For this world will bring on its trouble and I’ll still have my part
But the words that reached to my core were the two that said, take heart!

If I get this bill paid somehow, I know that I will have more
I have not lived by God’s wisdom, haven’t even let it in the door
But in spite of all my troubles and beyond the height of all of my pain
I heard that Daddy loves me and I am ready to live again.

I thought I needed money when I came into the church
I thought the broken machine would leave me in the lurch
But somehow, someway, God’s way began to make some sense
When my eyes became wide open all I could do was repent.

For I know my Father loves me forever and even now
I know that I rejected him but he took that away somehow
And I know that I must seek his kingdom and also seek his ways
And leave the pity parties for those who remain blind unto this day.

I know that I am not alone, God’s Spirit walks with me.
And when I gather with some others, Jesus is there you see.
And the whole fellowship of believers welcomes me as their own
Now that I am connected, I never feel alone.

Somehow that billed got paid and I never knew by whom
Somehow my hurt has faded and my heart has lots of room
For Jesus and his family that took me in that day
I don’t want to go back the way I was now that I walk in his way.

This could have ended differently, I could have walked away
In fact that is just what I did, I can finally bring myself to say
I had come to see the preacher man to use his vending machine
When he told me it was broken, I left after making a big and bitter scene.

But an hour later as I approached the local store
Some kids were smiling and ran ahead of me to open up the door
And then they said God loves me and each gave me a big hug
Who are these kids who took my anger with a single heart’s tug?

Then before the day was over my neighbor came to see
If you can believe this, to see if all was well with me
We’ve only waved as we passed in the street and not spoken much before
But without thinking much about it, I opened up my door.

My heart was breaking and I was shaking why I didn’t know
I was in the safety of my own home, but surely wanted just to go
But here I was crying and talking and even opening up
I usually don’t get this way without some 90 proof in my cup.

But there it was all out and spoken, I readied for the worst
Here’s comes my judgment and my sentence, I am guilty in the first
Instead came mercy and kindness full of sincerity
In my tears I lost my blindness and knew that I was free.

I could not run away from God, he pursued me at every turn
Not so he could judge me and send me off to burn
But so that I would know his love and how deep and wide it is
And that in spite of all I’ve done, I am forever his.

I never heard a booming voice or saw a burning bush
His finger etched me no commandments—that would have been a rush
But in children and in neighbors and in the truth spoken in love
I felt my God’s Spirit come upon me as his descending Dove.

Now I am connected to the body, believers one and all
Though they all still have their troubles, some big and some ever so small
But we don’t throw pity parties, we pray and help and love
We encourage one another as brothers and sisters with Christ above.

I wonder what would have happened if the church had just paid my bill
I could have been smartly on my way living according to my own will
But I am thankful for the truth spoken to me full of love

And thankful for the fellowship I know now and will know some day above.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Disconnect Notice


We panic when we see this hanging on our front door.
Did we forget to pay the water bill?
Have we gotten too far behind with our electric?
Please don’t disconnect us.  It is such a pain to get everything turned back on again.
Please, please, please let me get this figured out before I am disconnected!

That’s how we get sometimes.  We don’t like being disconnected.  We get angry when our internet service says cannot connect.
What audacity to tell me that I cannot connect with the cyberworld.  I have a selfie that I need to post!
And then there is the dropped call.  Even with 3 cell towers  every 10 miles, we still get disconnected.
We don’t like being disconnected.
We don’t like it!

That is, of course, with the exception of being disconnected from the Body of Christ.  So many don’t want to be connected with the most important connection of their lives.


Because they have become comfortable with the connections of the world.  They say that they believe in Jesus but Jesus is not their Lord.

Sadly, people follow the prince of this age.  They say they follow Jesus but worship their comfort zones.

They say they pray to Jesus but they live for the god of this world.
They say Jesus but follow the ways of Satan.

If they paid their water bill on time but got salt water instead of fresh water, they would be screaming bloody murder at the town hall.

But when Jesus paid the price for their sin and they decided they were too attached to the patterns of the world; they remain disconnected from real life.

Satan has blinded the minds of unbelievers, but why do those who say they believe remain blinded to the truth?

·         Because they choose to be.  They choose blindness.  They choose darkness over light.
·         Because living in the truth will demand that Jesus be Lord.
·         Because living in the light is very hard—at first.
·         Because hopelessness is what they know.

That dog don’t hunt!

It is time for Christians  everywhere to lead people out of the dark into the light and not let go of them while they get through the tough part of living in the truth.  Sounds a lot like detox, doesn’t it?
Throwing scriptures at them won’t help.
Countless barrages of I told you so won’t get them there.
Paying the bill one more time won’t help.

Follow me is what it will take.  These are the words of Jesus.  We should use them more often as we bring others to follow him.  Don’t just give them advice and directions.  Lead!

C’mon, we’ll do this together is the attitude that will bring people home.  Lead!

It’s not all about Sunday morning.  Come with us and see what it is to live for God every day.  I want you to know my joy.  Lead!

You had better believe it is going to be work.  It is the kind of work that comes with doing purposeful things.  It won’t seem like work.  When you accept Jesus really is your Master, his work is easy.  Burdens are lightYou can do what he wants and these things are not burdens to us.  Lead!

How can I lead?

I will help you put aside your doubt and see what it is like to walk with God’s Spirit and enjoy the fellowship of living in community.  We are not in this alone.

I will help you with the how to part of this.  God wants to give you his wisdom.  Once you live in his grace and by his wisdom, you will know fantastic things in your life.

I will help you get rid of the stuff that is weighing you down.  You won’t believe how wonderful it feels to be living the life God wants you to live without all carrying around all the junk we try to hold on to.

Remember that connecting the disconnected is about bringing those who have already professed Jesus as their Savior into the family that truly follows him as Lord.

Connect the Disconnected!