Oct 25, 2012

I Quit!

No more! No way and no how am I going to keep trying to keep the law! I can’t; never could! That is why Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead. In this He established a new covenant; a new way in which we are saved by GRACE (see Hebrews 8:7-13)

So I quit. I stop. I rest in Him and Him alone because instead of getting mad at us, He made a way for us to be in right relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.

 “… immense in mercy and with an incredible love, He embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on His own, with no help from us! Then He picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah. Now God has us where He wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all His idea, and all His work. All we do is trust Him enough to let Him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join Him in the work he does, the good work He has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” (Ephesians 2:4-10 MSG)

“The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for.

And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by Him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness.

I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience His resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with Him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me.” (Philippians 3:7-12 MSG)

So, I quit! I’m no longer trying on my own for perfection coming from the law. I only want that which comes through my faith in Jesus. For Him I take the loss of everything and I look on everything as naught because I believe that nothing can outweigh the advantage of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord. All I want is to know Jesus Christ and the power of His rising.  All I want is to know my Lord and in Him to abide.       

All Scripture is taken From The Message Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson)



Oct 18, 2012

Best Title Ever

Although my birth name is “Thomas”, my friends call me ‘Tom” or “Tommy”. Over the years, I have been bestowed with many titles that somewhat describe who I am or what I do; among them: husband, pastor, reverend, artist, teacher, student, designer, brother, son, hockey player, athlete, guitarist, chef, grandpa, minister, friend, co-laborer, ordained, saint, sinner, leader, preacher, coach, carpenter, and jokester or “funny guy”.

But none of the names or titles ever compare to “father” or “dad” or “daddy” or “papa”. Those are bestowed upon me by my children as a term of endearment. Those very words are words that my children call me as a statement of love based on intimacy, not legality. The words made me more of a friend and less of the one who was “running the show”; even though I was in charge.

Even Jesus when He walked the earth referred to God as Father; not Almighty Omnipotent Most Holy All Powerful God. In fact, He only referred to Him as“God” one time; and that was when He was dying on the cross where He “cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).

It was the time when He fully took on the sins of the world. And, I think that most theologians would agree, is when He most identified with how we, as sinful man, see God; not as a Father, but as a God.

But that is NOT the relationship that He wants us to have. When He taught us to pray, He said; “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.” (Matthew 6:9). When He prayed at the Last Supper prior to going to the Garden of Gethsemane, John records;Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father…”(John 17:1)

Now, I’m not saying that it is wrong to use words like “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” when we pray to God; or any of the attributes that He used to reveal who He is like “Banner” or “Healer” or “Shepherd” or “Mighty One” or “Sufficient” or “Sanctifier” or “Provider” or “Lord of Hosts”. Those terms all bring honor and glory to who He is.

And I’m not suggesting that it is wrong to pray in the Name of Jesus or even in some Hebrew name (but you do understand that He does understand when we speak English, right?), or “In Jesus Name” (which really has more to do with using His authority than to a special phrase or some “magic words” tacked on the end of a prayer).

Jesus’ Name IS holy and to be honored. As the Apostle Paul writes; “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11)

I’m just saying that because we are "children of God," and followers of Jesus Christ, we should use words that Jesus used to address God.

When He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to His arrest, He prayed; Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” (Mark 14:36)

Did you catch that word attached to the word Father? It wasn’t any of the “Most HOLY God” terminology that we use to talk to God. Jesus used the word “Abba”, which is an Aramaic word that comes from the lips of infants and betokens unreasoning the trust and confidence of a child. Some theologians have translated it as the word “daddy”. In fact, slaves during that time period were forbidden to address the head of the family by this title.

I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul who cries out in his letters; “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” (Galatians 4:6-7)

Similarly he wrote to the church in Rome; “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)

My friends, let’s not short change the relationship with the Father and deprive Him of hearing from His children the term that He longs to hear; Father”, “Dad”, “Daddy”, and “Papa”. It speaks of our innermost spiritual relationship with Him, when we talk to Him as child to father, and speak to Him in a childlike way. Those were the names that Jesus used when He talked (prayed) to Him.

"Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."




Oct 11, 2012

People Let Me Tell You About My Best Friend…

Cathy and I were having a conversation as we were driving one day and at some point I responded or spoke in a way that hurt her. Tears came to her eyes as she said to me; “A friend would never treat me like that and if they did, I’m not sure that I would want to be their friend.”
And she was right, I had responded in a way that had not reflected of my love for her and I told her how sorry I was and asked her to forgive me.
It was one of those moments that take the grace of God to move past the emotions and onto the truth about how much we loved each other. It was one of those moments where ‘forks-in-the-roads’ are met with long term effects. And ponder she did at what she would do next. And my heart was broken. 
Proverbs 17:17 came to my mind which says; "A friend loves at all times." I prayed that she would hear my heart and understand what took place from how I intended it, not how it came across. I hadn't meant for my response to be taken in the way that it was. I had no intention of hurting her in any way, she was my friend; my best friend. And yet, she was hurt and no word from me would change what had taken place.
So, instead, I pleaded my case with God as we continued to drive home looking to His intervention. And He heard our cries and answered from heaven.
In the end, our friendship broke through and forgiveness was given, hands were grasped before we got home, and together we went forward. “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24 NKJV)
She is my best friend; we’ve been dating since March of 1980. There is no one else that I would rather spend time with. Yes, I love being with my children and grandchildren, our family, our, neighbors, as well as so many who cross our paths through ministry. But she is my best friend.
We boost each other up, we get silly, we help each other, we listen to each other, and cry, and laugh, and cheer for each other. We know each other’s dirt and imperfections and still we love each other. And to top it off, we have a lot of fun together.
Our life is filled with simple things and places that we both like to go. We both enjoy so many things like spending time in Bible study or in church or eating or hanging with our children and grandchildren or walking or exercising together or work around the house and cooking together and serving others together.
I love the way her hand fits in mine. I love to look out of the side of my eye and catch her sneaking a look at me; and then she smiles as she leans in and gives me a kiss. And, after all these years, I am still ravished by her.
She laughs at my jokes. She shares her last piece of chocolate with me. She likes hockey and enjoys watching hockey games with me; and she loves to sit and watch football with me. She likes the same foods; just not as hot (spicy) as I do. She seems to always know what I also would like to snack on.
She looks for items, clothing, books, and when she gives them to me she says; “I thought of you…” 
She shares her faith with me and what she is reading and how she saw God today. She is right beside me, believing in me, cheering me on as together we trust that God will show us what’s next as we grow together. 
She encourages me and seems to understand me and will go to bat for me. She even takes notes when I preach and writes at the top of the page; “Pastor” Tom; she shows me respect. She honors me. And she thinks I’m cute. 
And, if I was lost, she would look for me.
God has truly given me a best friend. Through her He has shown me in practical ways what love really looks like. And I am overwhelmed.

Oct 4, 2012

Are You A Bedpan?

I believe that deep down inside all of us want a dream from God; a vision of something that He has made us to do; that can only be done by us. 

When we are young, we dream about what we want to do when we get older. We see ourselves leaping tall buildings to rescue those who need rescuing; stopping only to pose for a picture in the local paper. We see ourselves as the answer to all of the world’s problems. We are the local hero who can do it all!

When we are older we still dream, or at least we should; for God isn’t done with us yet. So dream on, my friend; let God bring His dreams for your life! Look at how God worked through His prophets of old; oh, to dream like they did! Wouldn’t it be great to get a prophecy like Joel did or one the other Minor Prophets? 

Wouldn’t it be great to get a prophecy like Jeremiah did, hearing accurately from God when very few were really listening to what God was truly saying. Having great lines like; “I know the plans I have for you…” (Jeremiah 29:11) Wouldn’t that be cool?

Wouldn’t it be great to get a prophecy like Isaiah did, hearing things that would take place hundreds of years later! Or like Daniel did, hearing things that would take place hundreds of years later and seeing incredible visions!

Or how about seeing what Ezekiel saw! Wouldn’t it be great to get a prophecy like the Apostle John did? WOW! The BOOK OF REVELATIONS!!!! Seeing incredible visions! Wouldn’t it be great to get gifts from the Holy Spirit and help people, and preach the Word of God, and do miracles, and to prophecy?

Wouldn’t it be great to get a dream from God? Are you going to go to bed early to try to make it happen? You CAN’T make it happen; He simply wants to be open to whatever He wants you to do. That’s what the dream is for.

All dreams, gifts, and callings: COME from Him and BELONG to Him.

God loves us as His children; deeply. But when He is anointing us, He is not thinking of us. He is thinking of others. God is essentially saying; “When I speak, you speak and when I stop, that better be two of us.”

The gift of healing is only good to us if we use it for others, otherwise we would only pray when we ourselves get sick. It, it is His power flowing through us.

He is looking for us to lay down our lives to be vessels for HIM! He is looking for “bed pans”; earthen vessels that contain the precious gift of Him. Now, I realize that metaphor is opposite of what we picture the role of the bed pan to be. But in God’s economy, it is the treasure in the earthen vessel that is valuable; not the earthen vessel.

Regarding this, the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth;
 “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:5-6)

He goes on to write;
 “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Let me break down those words:
“Treasure is a deposit, that is, wealth (literally or figuratively): - treasure, or “this ministry” as v.1 says.
“earthen vessels” is terra cotta); earthen ware, that is, clayey; by implication frail: - of earth, earthen. a vessel, implement, equipment or apparatus.
The word means baked clay and refers to clay pots. They were cheap, breakable, and replaceable. But they served necessary household functions. Sometimes they were used as a vault to store valuables, such as money, jewelry, or important documents. But they were most often used for holding garbage and human waste.
The latter is the use Paul had in mind, and it was how Paul viewed himself, - as lowly, common, expendable, and replaceable.
“POWER” comes from the same word that we get the word “dynamite”. It means force specifically miraculous power (usually by implication a miracle itself): - ability, abundance, meaning, might, power, strength, violence, mighty (wonderful) work.
Dynamite! It’s God’s power and not any power that we can generate. The messenger’s weakness is not fatal to what he does; it is essential so that when God pours out dreams and visions we remember that He isn’t thinking of us. He is the source; we are merely the vessels.
God is not done with you; keep running your race. Keep dreaming God’s dreams! You are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10). 
Work with God and let Him take you through the process; you will find that the results will be eternal. And, embrace who you are! You will never be as good a version of someone else as you are of yourself! It is He who will complete the work that He started (Philippians 1:6) and “work in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13)
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"Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."