Tom with kids in Kuwait

Tom with kids in Kuwait
Tom with kids in Kuwait

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.