Thursday, March 27, 2008

To a Seeker

I've been a mainline (Presbyterian) pastor for nearly 40 years and have searched for the Holy Grail much of the time, finding it here, finding there, only to discover that I hadn't found it yet.

Perhaps it's the Adam and Eve syndrome - "See that tree? Looks good, doesn't it?"

The American consumer mentality sets us up to be "seekers" and never finders.

We come to expect how levels of whatever, but withhold our commitments. We fail to see that we're just as goofy, unexciting, foible-laden and self-serving as everyone else.

For myself, the simple words of Jesus, "Love one another as I have loved you ... and wash a few feet now and then” continue to hold me accountable to the community of faith, “just as it is without one plea … though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt; fightings and fears within, without.”

I know that communities of faith differ and it’s good to search, but sooner or later, we have to settle for and settle down. If we’re looking for home, we look for it in the new heaven and the new earth, because “this world [presently] is not my home.” Yet here is where we live, and here is where grace abounds.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


An unexpected dimension to faithfulness …

Say your prayers, go to church, read your Bible, etc., are aspects of our faithfulness to Christ, but there’s an unexpected dimension to faithfulness that I’ve considered only as of late – our faithfulness saves others!

When we pray, go to church and read our Bible, we are adding salvation to the world. We are joining our will and our love with that of God; we are adding our light to the Light of the world; we are “completing the suffering of Christ” (Colossians 1:24).

Today, in the midst of whatever joys and laments come your way, say “Jesus my LORD” when you think about your family, a co-worker, a friend or a foe. Say the LORD's Prayer several times if time permits; add to it the Apostles’ Creed, or a Scripture verse.

You are saving someone somewhere by your faithfulness … someone maybe on the other side of the world, someone you will meet only in heaven … someone who needs the grace you offer up today to your Father in heaven.

Remember, it’s a mutual thing … for the grace offered up today by others will come your way via the Holy Spirit. Such is what it means when our LORD says, “Love one another as I have loved you.” What we do, we do for one another.

March 26, 2008

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Blessings and Hope

"Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Hebrews 4:14-16

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday Miracle

Psalm 148
Praise for God’s Universal Glory
1 Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
2 Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his host!
3 Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars!
4 Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!
5 Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for he commanded and they were created.
6 He established them forever and ever;
he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.
7 Praise the LORD from the earth,
you sea monsters and all deeps,
8 fire and hail, snow and frost,
stormy wind fulfilling his command!
9 Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
10 Wild animals and all cattle,
creeping things and flying birds!
11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!
12 Young men and women alike,
old and young together!
13 Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
his glory is above earth and heaven.
14 He has raised up a horn for his people,
praise for all his faithful,
for the people of Israel who are close to him.
Praise the LORD!

Today is Good Friday ... when a miracle occurred: The Lamb of God took away the sins of the world!

He did it with a cross ... there was no other way to pry loose the death grip of sin on the soul of the world. There was no other way but utter sacrifice - the perfect Lamb of God - without fault or failing, neither sin nor the stain of sin marred His life - the pure love of God wiping the slate clean and giving everyone of us a fresh start!

It took a few days ... "He descended into hell" ... not even God could snap His fingers and make it go away. How different creation. All God needed to do was say a word, and it came to pass. But sin was something else. It took everything God had and then some.

And when those few anguished days were done, the Son who descended into hell rose from the dead and gave life to the world.

Amen and Amen!

~ Pastor Tom, Good Friday, 2008

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Psalm 147

1 Praise the LORD!
How good it is to sing praises to our God;
for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.
2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted,
and binds up their wounds.
4 He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.
6 The LORD lifts up the downtrodden;
he casts the wicked to the ground.
7 Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on the lyre.
8 He covers the heavens with clouds,
prepares rain for the earth,
makes grass grow on the hills.
9 He gives to the animals their food,
and to the young ravens when they cry.
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;
11 but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.

Fill your heart and mind with powerful thoughts of praise and thanksgiving, for the Evil One is determined to flood your spirit with complaint and disappointment. If there is anything good and beautiful, think on such things, and then look about you with eyes cleansed by faith, to behold the wonder and the joy of life - the greening of the trees, the budding of flowers, the face of a child with an ice cream cone, the sound of a rumbling V8 (if ya' like cars) and the simple wonder of a cloud in the sky.

Holy Week, 2008

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Place Within

At the center of every life is a place pure and beautiful, untouched by sin or sorrow, yet shaped and conditioned by both, a place wherein God dwells, found in every human being, a portal to heaven, and a passageway to every other human being.

Every prayer nurtures this place – every act of kindness enlarges it – every intention to do good, every vow of faith made, every piece of Scripture read, every pilgrimage to worship, every moment of sacrifice, and every sigh yearning for God sustains this remarkable place.

Created by God, this place is the center of our life. Here is where our humanity is made, the high mountains from whence flows pure love. Every time we enter this place, but for a moment, we enter into the presence of God.

Be of good cheer in your journey … this place of beauty and purity is established and defended by Christ your LORD. No enemy enters therein; no hatred, no fear; no guilt, no anger. Only peace and goodness; your real and eternal self.

It’s your place, given to you by God … trust it, and every time you look upon a human being with charity, every time you forgive, every time you say the name, Jesus, you visit the sacred place within.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Perspective Is Everything

Food for the Journey …

The story is long and the details important, but it’ll have to wait for another day; so let me at least offer this – the greatest loss contemporary Christianity has suffered is the loss of perspective.

Sadly, we live only now! Without the greater reference point: Eternity.

Without the winds of Eternity to fill our sails and send us out onto life’s high seas, we’re stuck in a very small port called Now! We puddle around the harbor, we tie up at one dock and then another, load and unload the various cargos offered by a million vendors.

Without the strong winds of Eternity blowing fresh, we never leave port.

Just this morning, I read from Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians:

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

The winds of Eternity fill our sails. We venture forth upon the winds of God, and yes, we return to port now and then, bringing a fresh cargo of life for all the world – a cargo gained only in trade with The Eternal.

We learn afresh that our time here, though ever so brief, is filled with faith, hope and love, because the winds of Eternity fill our sails and send us forth on the high seas of life.

Perspective is everything!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Attitude is Everything

From Psalm 94:

When I thought, “My foot is slipping,”
your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up.
When the cares of my heart are many,
your consolations cheer my soul.

Attitude is everything.

Every hour - a challenge to choose - is the glass half-empty or half-full?

My sinful instincts go with the half-empty stuff - that was the "original sin" - I'm missing something, something is lacking, and it's up to me to get it.

But Christ would have it otherwise for us. To live with thanksgiving and gratitude, to count blessings and trust our Father in Heaven whose eye is even upon the sparrow.

The glass is half-full ... and perhaps more, for the Psalmist writes elsewhere: "My cup overflows."

Attitude is everything.

Pastor Tom

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Keep your eyes wide open ...

A few thoughts for the road ...

Keep your eyes wide open, you’ll see something of God.
Keep your hands wide open, you will receive kindness and love.
Keep your heart wide open, there will be opportunities to give.

March 5, 2008

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Spiritual Habits - Spiritual Reading

Hat’s off to our Session for a thoughtful and honest review of “Spiritual Habits for Presbyterian Elders.”

Because there is a deep and direct link between our spiritual habits and the life we lead in the world.

Among various spiritual habits, the following are vital:

1. Christian Books for soul-nourishment and skill-enhancement.
2. Scripture Discipline.
3. Prayer Habits
4. Small Group Fellowship
5. Service to Others
6. Corporate Worship
We decided that #5 is the easiest and a likely substitute for the others. We noted that more work is needed for #4. #6 is bottom-line!

Regarding #2, we just concluded a well-attended, three-week Lenten experience entitled, “How to Read the Bible Successfully.”

For #3, we will begin an April four-week experience entitled, “Forty Days of Prayer” – a simple and basic prayer discipline for everyone! See sign-ups in this week’s bulletin.

Christian reading: I recommend:
- Anything by Thomas Merton – Roman Catholic.
- Anything by John Ortberg, a pastor at the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church.
- Anything by Rob Bell & Bill Hybels (progressive Evangelicals).
- Anything by N. T. Wright – Anglican Bishop.
- Krista Tippett’s new book: Speaking of Faith – progressive mainline.
- Anything by Frederick Buechner – progressive mainline

Additionally, I like Beth Moore and Joyce Meyer (Evangelical) – both offer an abundance of insights into Scripture, the grace of God, and what it means to follow Jesus. Charles Stanley (Evangelical) can also be read with much profit.

Books by Dallas Willard (Ethics) and John Piper (traditional Reformed theology) will put some meat on your bones.

For elders and deacons, anything published by the Alban Institute (Google them).

But remember, it’s not quantity but quality. One book, well-read, carefully chewed upon and thoroughly digested, will yield great results.

If you want to improve your SQ (Spirituality Quotient) and need a little help, give me jingle, stop by or email me.

Stay with it, keep on growing, keep your eyes on Jesus, and I’ll see ya’ in the LORD's House this coming Sunday.