Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I Want To See Jesus!

While we are nearing the finishing line of the Lenten season, I find myself full of more questions than answers. The end is in view. We have had huge success in all the programs of the last few weeks, we have experienced the Holy Spirit catching fire, and people are responding to it. In the midst of the excitement, enthusiasm, and pageantry I find myself with many questions. As we approach Easter and Jesus approaches the cross, what do we want out of the experience? What is it that we want to experience as we go through Holy Week? When we choose to follow Christ what is it that we want out of this relationship? Is Easter a time of spiritual renewal, a time to reflect on your own life, and acquire strengthen to face the future? Do we have any expectations about Easter or is it just a Holy time of the year?
If you are like me and your life is like mine the answer is simple. I want to SEE Jesus! When it comes to looking at Jesus, what do we see? Here are a few possibilities. We might see Jesus as miracle worker, and then wonder why we don't see miracles in our own life. We might see Jesus as a teacher and try to hear what he teaches and try to follow his teachings. We might see Jesus as the best example of how to live and attempt to emulate his life. We might see him as the Savior who gives us eternal life. Or, we might see him as all of these things, and perhaps even more! No matter how we see Jesus we all yearn to be in His glory. When we see Jesus on the cross, witness the pain, observe the destruction, we fail to see God’s glory. We miss the victory. We miss God’s unconditional love He has for us. We overlook the need to lose our life in order to gain it. The cross as the example of God’s glory is the single place we find the hope needed to make it to tomorrow. I want to see Jesus! What do you want?

Monday, March 16, 2009


In reflecting on the events of the past week, I have been in somewhat in a reflective mood. I have witnessed first hand how death can steal from us the most valuable commodity we all hold: time. I have been pondering the thought of what if the tragedy at First Baptist Church in Maryville and Pastor Fred Winters happened here at FCC and to me. While I prayed for the church and all those involved, never worried about my own personal safety, but what would I want to leave behind. What message would I want my faith community, everyone I know and care about to, receive if the exact same thing happened to me? I found myself with clarity, without horrible images in my mind, without the fear of death, with time being a precious unrecyclable resource, writing down little ramblings that came to me this past week.

Not at all to be morbid here are a few.

  • Don’t let the last few minutes of my life be the constant image you carry of me into the future. I pray my life was an example of the joy that comes with being in a relationship with Christ. Please laugh, joke, celebrate, have fun and remember me the way I lived life not the way I died.

  • Don’t ever be afraid to be in the house of our Lord. God’s house has to be open, free, and inviting to all, no matter what. Don’t fear the stranger as they need Christ love also.
    God called me home from the place were I feel his holy presences the closest. Behind the pulpit, communion table, or a guitar for me is the serenity place I feel the warmth, strength, and comfort of God the most. I was taken into God’s kingdom from the exact place where I experienced and came to know as the most Holy place on earth.

  • If I ever hurt you, disappointed you, or let you down please know it was not my intent and please forgive me.

  • Pray and pray hard. Pray for my family, our church, and the one who was responsible for taking my life. Forgive them also. View it only for the reality of exactly what happened. A person in poor mental health reacted out of his illness, not out of clarity.

  • Keep on truckin. Don’t spend much time and energy on mourning my death. Use that energy to help others connect to the love of Jesus Christ. That is my only passion, so use my memory only to motivate your self to connect others to Christ. Our church holds many special unique gifts, use them abundantly to serve, love, help, invite, and mentor others in their relationship with Jesus Christ.

  • Root for the University of Memphis Tigers, love each other abundantly, be limitless in forgiving each other, and at every opportunity share what God, not me, has done for your life. Remember God is about love and reconciliation so we will meet again.
    Last but not least, use the time you have left wisely and never take it for granted.

My intent is not to glorify this horrible tragedy or use it for my own gain but wanted to share my message if time was ever robbed from us. I hope it will stir your thoughts as we experience Lent together, reflect on the time Christ spent on earth, cherish the time we have, and chose to use it wisely. Time is the precious commodity. Shalom, Tommy

Monday, March 9, 2009

Saving Grace

When does a gift become a present? We all give gifts to friends and family for all sorts of occasions. Weddings, births, deaths, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, and special occasions are usually customary times to give a gift. There is a lot of thought, time, energy, and creativity that goes into picking out the perfect gift. Giving gifts are a way we express our love for one another. Many people express their love for another through giving of a gift, time, money or energy. The gift does not become a present until it is received by the recipient. The value is not complete until it has been accepted by person we love. We would not spend the time searching for the right gift, fight the crowds at the store, spend our hard earned money to purchase it, wrap it in a nice box for a wonderful presentation, and then place it on a closet, and never give it to anyone. We would not go up to a friend and say, “I bought you the best birthday present ever. You will really love it. It will make your life so much better. Every time you see it, it will remind you of my love for you and give you peace and joy as a reflection of our relationship. But, you can’t have it; I’m not going to give it to you. I decided to keep it for myself.”
We would not ever say that to someone we loved. What if those words were from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? In reality, Jesus through His life, death, and resurrection says the exact opposite. He declares to us that the gift he has for us is grace. He has prepared the gift for us, it reminds us of His love for us, and it can bring us peace, joy, love and comfort beyond our imagination. But it is up to us to receive that gift. God’s divine grace is an "unmerited favor" of God, given freely to us but we must accept and receive it for us to become complete. In theology, grace may be described as 'enabling power sufficient for progression'. We also must pass the grace on to others. We have wasted the gift of grace if we are not willing to share it with others. Grace draws unity, understanding, love, acceptance, power, and hope. Let us receive it, understand it, and share it with someone we love this time of Lent as it becomes our enabling power for progression. That is when our gift becomes a present.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Keeping Promises

“Promises everybody makes them and everybody breaks them.” That is a catchy little quote I can up with sometime ago. I'm probably not be the original philosopher and someone else might have created it before me but its true none the same. When my quote resurfaces in my conscious, I am usually speaking about myself. A promise to my children to take them somewhere, the phone rings, someone in the church needs my immediate pastoral care and I’m off. While the family understands, my promise is still broken, feelings are hurt, and disappointment sets in. The natural remedy is another promise to take them tomorrow or at a later date. With the first promise already broken, though unintentional and with understanding, the second promise already looses its validity because I have already not lived up to the original. It can quickly become a slippery slope. Promises are either kept or broken, there is no in between. All people in our lives make us promises and we judge their legitimacy by the past behavior of the one making the promise. It is in our human nature to want to keep our promises but sometimes we can not predict the unpredictable. People throughout or lives, either publicly or privately, will break some promise to us either with good intentions or bad. It is an essential criterion in which we all live out our lives.
The mistake we often make is to apply the same criteria on the promises of God. While we struggle to keep our promises God delivers on His even before we can witness the outcome. God promise to Abraham and Sarah caused both of them to laugh. While the thought of having a child at an older age than most, (Abraham 99 years old was and Sarah was 90 years old) this couple actually laughed at God’s promise to grant them a child and build a great nation from their descendants. Can you imagine the absurdity in those words? A great nation, a child, at our age, when we went all these years barren, without a child, unable to conceive. All these thought must have been running through their minds. Now, when we are near old age we will have a son, and we will be responsible for breeding an entire nation. Reviving our old church, at our age, when the economy is bad, God will use our faith community to do great things, now? God can use me, with my past to share the love of Christ with others? YES! Why? God fulfills His promises. While the timetable was not what Abraham and Sarah anticipated, God’s promise was kept, fulfilled, and lived out. Let us think this week about the promises we make, those we keep and those we don’t. Let us remember that God always keeps His promise to us and to our church. Recall that what may sound absurd to us and cause us to laugh could often be the reality of God’s promise.

Trying to keep my promises but until then take care of yourself and one another.

In Christ Love,