Monday, December 7, 2015

Hope in the King

In the midst of the Christmas story we easily can find our self in a strange predicament. We are now in the third week of Advent; Christmas is less than two weeks away. By this time most of us have our Christmas trees up, houses decorated, and been to at least one Christmas party and we wait to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Except that in the middle of all the planning, shopping, celebrating and running about there does seem a greater amount of fear and doubt at this time of the year as well. Physicians, physiologists, and counselors all report an increase in request for counseling, admissions to mental health facilities, and suicides all peak right in the middle of the holiday season. We hope and wait for the coming of Emmanuel asking the preverbal question: Is this all worth it? We try desperately to cover our darkness during this time a year by lighting candles on wreath, putting lights on a tree, and praying for peace on earth and in our family. We are full of Christmas cheer and all it takes is the loss of a friend or loved one, getting laid off from our job, and like a bubble being popped our joy and spirit. We quickly become disappointed in our selves, with the world, and even with God, which feels worse at Christmastime. We desperately wait and want at strong Messiah for a strong people, a Messiah who helps those who help themselves, a Messiah who knows how to stand up for His people and a Messiah we can be proud of.  But what we get instead is Jesus. And measured against all the expectations and hopes of all the people, Jesus probably falls short of the mark disappointing many. I mean, let’s face it. The people Jesus seems preoccupied with- the lame, the deaf, the poor, the ill, and the dead are not exactly the popular or mover and shakers of our world. These people are not going to change anything. They can barely take care of themselves much less help someone else.
We are taught not to trust anyone, take nothing for granted, and cover all our bases. And so when push comes to shove we regularly hide behind our insecurities and fears, we hind behind our houses and careers, and desperately hide our failings and infirmities. We hold it all together until the word “cancer, downsized or divorce” is breathed and we find ourselves just as fragile and vulnerable as anyone else. And at these moment, especially during this time of year, the words of Jesus speaks offers some measure of comfort.  This is what we prepare for during this season. This is the hope we find in our King. When we at times feel stuck between God’s promises made and God’s promises kept, when we , too, at times, know ourselves to live between Christ’s first coming at Bethlehem and his second coming. We can at t times feel disappointed at ourselves, the world, and even God, find ourselves whispering underneath our stress “Come Lord Jesus Come.” At those moments, we know whatever our misgivings, whatever our disappointment, God is not disappointed in us and comes to us anyway. Jesus comes to us eager to join us in our weakness, to hold us in our insecurities, and to comfort us in or fears. God in Jesus came to us not for the strong and the proud but the weak and the vulnerable. God in Jesus came for us which is cause to celebrate despite our fear, worries and doubts.
Peace, Love, Hope and Joy

Monday, November 23, 2015

Hope is On the Way!

After the turkey is eaten, football is watched and shopping and decorations unpacked, we begin the season of Advent. Advent is a time rich with restlessness, anticipation and eventually joy. There are still lots of things to get done, gifts to buy, houses to be cleaned and decorated, food that needs to be cooked, and family to visit. On our faith side it is the time to remember not just the birth of Jesus but also remember his journey as a prophet and teacher destined to light a way to God. If we are not cautious, it is easy to fall into the trap of just solely focusing on the birth of Jesus.  Yes a little baby Jesus in a manger is important but is not the only important piece of this advent puzzle. While Walmart and other stores begin putting up their Christmas seasonal items out now in June, while people begin to argue over the whole "Happy Holidays" I say "Merry Christmas" debate or diatribe, the world is telling us Christmas is coming and you better be ready. But our society doesn’t really tell us to be ready for the birth of Jesus but to be ready to buy stuff, take advantage of discounts, and an unspoken permission to eat more stuff. But now we as a faith family begin the season of Advent. Advent is a time of ready but not yet. It’s an in between time where we remember the past but look to the future. It’s a tension between the past and the future as we must live in the present. We desperately try to place Advent or Christmas on our timeline, but as followers of Jesus, we find like the birth of any child, it comes on their time: their schedule not ours.  In the decorating, present buying, family visiting, and tradition keeping of our lives, which are all important, we tend to forget God has His own timing and agenda for things. We tend to get so distracted that we forget Christmas is so much richer, more fulfilling, and a deeper meaning than just a baby, born in a manger in Bethlehem. We tend to rush through Advent and forget that the Christ child, the Messiah, is hope for us all. We forget that the birth of Jesus is only the beginning and we don’t even know how the story ends yet. So as we prepare for Christmas let us be mindful that as we celebrate the birth of Jesus there is still hope is on the way. Let us allow this Advent season be one of getting ready but not yet finished. Because isn’t the true meaning of Christmas something that comes from the heart?
Love, Serve, and Happiness


Monday, November 16, 2015

Love Where You Are? You Are Here

In the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks it seems death, destruction and evil are raising its nasty head once again.  For some of us, this is just one more such event added to a list of death and destructions. For others, this is the first such event we have witnessed played out on news and social media. Either way it strikes shock, fear, hopelessness, and mayhem. It is unimaginable to most sensible people how anyone or group could attack innocent people with such fervor, violence, hatred and organization. There is no logical explanation for any attack on the innocent. We might find ourselves full of hate, anger, and rage which are all natural emotions when we see images of the attacks. So what do we do? How do we respond if we proclaim we are followers of Jesus? We basically have only two options: first we can accept what has happened, add it to the list of tragedies we have witnessed in our life time, and accept the fact there will be more added to the list as well. We can easily change our Facebook photo to red, white, and blue, move on with our life, and “do” nothing more than add another layer of callousness over our protected souls.  These can be great coping mechanisms if we are solely believers in Jesus but not if we are followers of Jesus.
If we are followers of Jesus our second option is to use Jesus’ life, words, and instructions in times such as these. I am reminded of Jesus’ last instructions to all His disciples before he ascended into heaven. Just like a coach giving a pregame speech to the disciples Jesus fires them up to change the world. Hearing the words of the resurrected Jesus, I envisioned the disciples running down the mountain fired up and ready to do exactly what Jesus told them to do. Instead they stood still looking up, frozen in time, doing nothing. We can’t blame the disciples because we are like that as well. Jesus’ instruction said simply to go love people. Jesus said go care for them, notice them, serve them, meet their needs, and love them as you would like to beloved. Do something don’t just stand here looking up. So what can we do in wake of the Paris tragedy or any other attack? We can stop staring at the sky, hoping for an answer, or waiting for someone else to come along. We can begin to love where we are. We might not be able to travel to France but we can begin to love here. We can begin to heal here. We begin by implement three vital habits. First habit is to be present for those we love in our life. Turn off the television, turn off the volume social media has on us, and focus on those whom God has placed in front of us today. Especially if you have young children in your life as they are sacred and are looking to adults for reassurance, safety, and protection. Second habit is to be prayerful. Pray for France. Pray for peace. Pray for the innocent families directly impacted by this horrible act. Pray that God’s grace, love, and mercy will be the light in a dark world. Pray with your children and grandchildren. Let them witness and participate in relevant faith. Prayer opens us up to Gods perspective. The last habit is to be perceptive. Stop looking up and look around you. You will find others that feel the same as you. Let there be strength, comfort and hope in community. It is unrealistic that you can directly help those in Paris but you can help those in our own community. When we do acts of kindness and love for others good wins over evil even if evil is manifested in another country. It demonstrates to the world that we as followers of Jesus are people of love, mercy, and forgiveness. These core virtues are contrary to those of the attackers. When love wins here, love wins everywhere. We must realize the opportunities to love that God places in our lives on a daily basis. God will not lead you somewhere He has no intention of using you. So let us stop looking up, let’s run down the mountain, and love as Jesus calls us to love. Then with the light of God’s love shining through us, on an individual basis, our dark world will become brighter: one life at a time.
Serve, Love and be Happy:


Monday, November 9, 2015

Just Go!

Many people use the Bible to prove a point, reinforce their own opinions, and proof text their values, morals and ideals. If one took an honest, open minded approach to studying the Bible for what it actually says instead of what we think it says or what someone else told us it says, we would find there are some things that are ambiguous at best.  While the Bible can be misused, misrepresented, and misunderstood there are certain things especially in the New Testament that Jesus made perfectly clear. We find in the scripture of Matthew, what is known as The Great Commission. Before leaving earth and ascending in to heaven Jesus leaves some very clear and specific instructions not just for those who were there at the time but for all people who follow Jesus.  There is a big distinction in knowing or believing in Jesus and following or being a disciple of Jesus. In the Great Commission Jesus says “go” and love. It’s really that simple. When we look at the life of Jesus that is exactly what Jesus did.  Whenever reading the Bible about Jesus it’s important to notice what is included but also what is omitted.  For example, the bible states that the son of God, Jesus, had no place to lay his head. It tells us Jesus had no home. We never read anything about Jesus buying a house, owning land, starting a business, or settling roots anywhere. We read just the opposite. Jesus was always on the go. He was always moving from town to town going to wherever there was a need.
 But honestly it is hard for us today to be on the go for Jesus. We prefer to stay at home. It is just safer, easier to control, and a lot more comfortable to just stay where we are. Jesus made it clear that love and serve were synonymous. When questioned when his followers ever showed their love to him, Jesus responded when you fed, clothed, visited, cared the least of the marginal people.  We hear the words of Jesus but our culture and our world tells us something different: “I was hungry and you went out to eat again. I was thirsty and you needed cold bottles of water. I was a stranger and you called the police. I needed clothes but you needed newer clothes. I was sick and you pointed out my behavior that led to my sickness. I was in prison and you said I got exactly what I deserved.”  The culture and environment we must live in bombards us with images and messages that are counter intuitive to Jesus instructions. We have opportunities daily to show our love for Jesus but we tend to only focus on ourselves.  We justify this sometimes by saying we are compassionate people. But compassion is a word that is action oriented. Feeling for people in need and not doing anything is not compassion. That is empathy not compassion. So we must begin to love people one at a time. Jesus met people all the time that was not a planned. We must share the love of Jesus as we go. The single most consistent proclamation of the Bible and what is at core of Jesus’ heart is that He loves people. Jesus loves all people regardless of any circumstance, bad decision, past or current situation. Every day we, as Jesus followers, have opportunities to do exactly that: love as we go. As we “go” to show our love for others, we are also showing our love for the One who loved us first.
Go love/serve somebody


Monday, October 26, 2015

LOVE where you are...

Eyesight is a precious gift.  However the natural aging of our physical bodies, through no fault of our own, our eyesight slowly diminishes. It begins slowly but as we age, the vast majority of us will need corrective lens. Unless there is an injury our slow loss of sight is due to no fault of our own. It’s just part of the human aging process. Because sight digression is gradual most of us don’t even realize we need glasses, contacts or surgery to correct our vision. It is not until we see a doctor and our eyesight is corrected that we begin to see our world differently. We are able to focus on the small blades of grass. Individual leaves are now visible on trees.  Objects and people whom were once blurry quickly become clearer as we are able to make out the smallest of minute detail. We literally and metaphorically begin to view our world differently than before.
So is true with our faith as well. As we experience life, our relationships with God and others can slowly deteriorate out of focus. Sometimes we don’t even notice it until something comes along and corrects our vision.  Jesus gave specific instructions before he left our world. In his parting words before he ascended into heaven, Jesus said basically go love. This was a reminder of Jesus’ earlier statement that one could cover all of the 613 Jewish laws into two: Love your God and love your neighbor. If we are going to transition from a believer in Jesus to a follower of Jesus, we must fully understand what Jesus meant here. Jesus said perfectly clear just to love. Jesus didn’t say go start a church, march in the streets, or even tackle the moral ills of our world. Jesus didn’t say change the world, change a law, or join a political campaign. Jesus said go love your neighbor. Jesus said we do this one by one, life on life, person to person. Jesus said to love your neighbor as you love yourself. Jesus said to love where you are. He didn’t mean love where you are in the since that you deeply like where you are in life. He clearly meant to love those around us where we are. We can love no matter where we are in our faith journey. We can love no matter our physical location or address. We can love anytime, anyplace, and during any circumstances. Jesus also said to love our neighbor even when it’s very difficult to do so. For many of us, we have a hard time actually identifying or defining just who exactly our neighbor is. It is more than the person whose street address is one number off from ours. 
In the next few weeks as we begin a new journey and sermon series: Love Where You Are. We will begin to define and clarify what Jesus meant when He instructed us to go love. We will begin to correct our vision so we may see with clarity our spiritual goals and relationships are strengthened and our vision is clear. We will expand on Jesus’ instructions as we add clarity and understanding of his last instructions to us.  We will begin this week as we learn to love where we live.
Hope to see you in service until then take care of yourself and one another.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Rebuilding Block: Community

Over the last weeks we have been looking at the story of Nehemiah and his efforts to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. We have been viewing this remarkable story through the context of the ruins of our own life. We have all been standing in a position where we needed to rebuild. We have all looked around our own community and realized that it is not what it once was. Rebuilding is harder than building. When we build something new the entire process is filled with enthusiasm, vision, and expectations. When we are forced to rebuild we stand amongst the ruins of our reality with the memories of what once was.
This stands true in our own community as well. We hear catch phrases from politicians, community leaders, and religious clergy say “we need to return Centralia to the way it used to be,” or “we need our neighborhood like it once was.” Such statements reflect the ideology of those who stand in ruins focused on what once was. The real work of rebuilding takes place after the headlines fade, the march is over, and the sermon or election is far past. Like Nehemiah, the real rebuilding begins when no one is watching or even taking notice. So what have we learned from Nehemiah’s rebuilding blocks that are relevant for us today. First there needs to be unity of purpose. We need participants’ not just spectators. Individuals need to be moved so deeply that they actually stop commenting on social media and get their hands dirty. When an entire group of people can come together with a common goal or single purpose, amazing things can get accomplished. It takes unity with a purpose but it also takes harmony with diversity. Like Nehemiah we need families, clergy, politicians, rich people, poor people, business owners, young, old, men, women, and children all working together in harmony. We need religious leaders to put aside their personal theology or agendas and work with others who differ to serve all of God’s people. When we come together we can accomplish more but more importantly we get exposed to the diversity of our neighbor. Working alongside someone, we get to know them, understanding them more, and see your similarities and differences. You become a community when diverse people work together for a common communal goal.  There is unity with purpose, harmony with diversity, and last courage to participate. To rebuild takes courage. Rebuilding takes a tremendous amount of courage, strength, and endurance. We must acknowledge that there are individuals or groups in our life and in our community who do not desire to make it better. They will deflect, ridicule, and sabotage any rebuilding efforts. So like Nehemiah, we must not allow them to distract us from the job ahead. If we want to rebuild, before the first brick is replaced, we must be unified in our purpose, harmonious in our diversity, and courageous in our participation. It will not be as easy as standing in the ruins, remembering what once was, and doing nothing. So let us begin this journey of rebuilding together. 
Be kind to one another.. 
Peace, Love and Happiness:

Monday, September 28, 2015

Rebuilding Blocks: Brokenness

“I was just heartbroken.” We have all probably said that a time or two.  Sometimes there is nothing more to say. Sometimes it is lighter situations that seem dreadful at the time.  Your favorite team plays a great game but just comes up sort at the end, it can be a heartbreaking loss. If you are a sports fan, your heart will be broken. Then there are deeper more serious, deeper, hurtful times when we utter that profound statement. When you look around our Centralia community and witness young people lives cut short, lives that are full of promise, hope, and anticipating tragically cut short: as a community our hearts break.  If you ever risk love, your heart will get broken and those wounds go deep. You even weather you realize it or not take that brokenness into the future relationships as well. The wounds go deep. Our hearts can break for others as well. When a family member or friend gets those awful words from a doctor, our heart can break. Whenever a child’s life is ended way too soon in our community, it is a tragedy, but it also can break our heart, damage soul, and destroy our spirit as well.
So we stand among the rubble of what once was, with our hearts broken as we try to rebuild. We desperately search for meaning in our brokenness but many times there is none. So we stand in the middle of the chaos of our lives, with our hearts broken, not know how, when, and where to start to rebuild what was lost in our life. We begin not with the unknown but with the absolutes in our life.  We know that God is a God of love and life. One thing that is consistent throughout scripture is God is the God of love and life. He had provided for us love and life in this life and beyond. We know that brokenness is a season. A painful season but like all seasons both good and bad, seasons change. We also are absolute that God is a God of reconciliation. God love it when we come together without conflict. Most importantly if we look back from the beginning, God creates best out of chaos. It was out of chaos God created the physical world in which we live. It was out of chaos God sent His son to restore grace, mercy, and forgiveness in a new covenant. If we read the stories of both the Old and New Testament, we will find hundreds of rich stories where God created something better out of chaos, suffering, and brokenness. Let us not forget God can do the same in our brokenness as well. We must invite Him into our pain, chaos, and sadness. Because when our hearts are broken, God’s heart is broken as well. Join us as we uncover more rebuilding blocks as we rebuild from the ruins of our lives.
Just Love one Another

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sabbath Ain’t Just Solo Anymore

We live in a stressed out, chaotic, frustrating uneasy world. One only has to read the headlines or watch the news to know that craziness abides in our everyday existence. Our bodies eventually begin to show the physical signs of stress: High blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, over eating, and many more medical conditions are directly or indirectly related to stress. We all handle the stress of our lives differently. We all have been told to “just have more faith.” There has been a stigma attached Christians that is your life is stressful you lack faith. Nothing could be further from the truth. When we look at Jesus as he cleansed the temple and prayed in the garden before being arrested, Jesus had stress. Stress is part of life. We cannot avoid it, destroy it, or pray it away. So we must learn ways and means to deal with it. But God did not just leave it up to us to figure it out. First we are reminded that God creates out of chaos. Out of chaos, God created the heaven and earth and called it good. It was out of the chaos of sin, that God provided redemption, reconciliation, and salvation. God works best in creating out of stress and chaos.
We discussed why it is important to take a Sabbath or to rest as individuals. We uncovered how God rested and if it was important enough for the Creator of the universe to rest, maybe we should also. We also pointed out that God just didn’t simple take a day of rest but made that day Holy. A day set aside like no other day of the week. God also commanded his people to keep the Sabbath as part of God’s covenant with His people. It’s a time to rebuild relationships, spend intimate time with those we love, and not allow the world to dictate us. We all could use a little rest and better relationships.  God instructed us to take a Sabbath or day of rest witch is all agreeable on an individual basis but He doesn’t stop there. God instructs us to take a Sabbath as a community of faith as well. All communities need a time for renewal, re-energized, and a revision of passion.  It is a break from doing business as usual. Can you imagine if we took a time out in our community to just refocus? What if businesses, political leaders, social workers, teachers, educators, and religious leaders put aside all agendas, ideals, and opinions and focused all of our energy on one single issue that plagues our community? Can you imagine if our whole community that stop just saying “what’s wrong” and concentrates on specific concrete programs, outreach, and service. A break to evaluate if our efforts are truly helping or enabling those we are called to serve. As a faith community we need intentional periods of Sabbath to stop, listen to God’s instruction, reevaluate our efforts, and define our true calling in our community. God desires any community to take a Sabbath. Maybe it’s time we all put that into practice and follow God’s lead.
Lead Servant:


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What's in a Name?

Note: The content of this article was written as a collaborative effort between ideas expressed through emails between myself and Abby Henegar who is a senior psychology major at TCU, a amazing servant of God and calls me Dad. 

If you Google First Christian Church you will find 114 million hits. So what is in a name that is so common that there are 114 million others? The one thing our Centralia community has the most of per our population is churches yet our community seems to be in chaos and fear. So the problem arises if there are so many churches and things are getting worse then what can we as a faith family do to be more effective. What will make our name carry significance and respond accordingly?
First and foremost we will not panic nor fear. It was out of chaos that God created the world in which we life. It is in the chaos of our lives when Christ is the closest to us. God’s love and mercy has always hovered over chaos. Now is no different.  We Also need to realize our community is not unique. We have had an increase of deaths not by natural causes. However in my home town of Memphis in one evening fourteen people were killed. Two children were shot and killed in a drive by shooting while they slept in their beds. Every child should feel safe in their bed. I say this not out or disrespect but to note that evil is everywhere. It is now just trickling down to our community. We need to acknowledge that every life matters. Each life needs to matter to us regardless of age, race, religion, or social class. Why? Because each life matters of Christ so as a follower of Christ it needs to matter to us.
We will continue to preach and prayer that's been echoed it basically all scripture that Jesus, is in fact, alive and well. Alive and well in all of us that call ourselves Christians. We will continue to serve the countless number of families that visit the food bank, fellowship meal, and Salvation Army on a weekly basis. We will be intentional on focusing on the youth who are trying to fill the void in their life with sex, drugs, alcohol. It’s a void that only the peace of Jesus can fill. We will remain serving the adults who ended up with a life they never wanted or deserved. We will continue to focus ones in Centralia that lack an understanding of relentless, forgiving, unconditional love.  We will be an oasis where one can find a real relationship with the One who gave them life.  We will provide a place for those who yearn for a faith that fancy coffee bars, energetic PowerPoints, and rock bands cannot satisfy. We will be a place of refuge were everyone is not only welcomed but cherished.  We will proclaim if anything  that Jesus is living in Centralia today.  Jesus befriended the hurt, the broken, the least of these, the ones that society would not even give a chance.... Jesus is running this town, He always has been.  Jesus runs through us though, its his method of operation.  Jesus was a part of saving Murray Center, he was a part of Centralia Group Workcamp, and Jesus was running the streets of Centralia supporting the families and friends of those with cancer and other illnesses. This town is run by Jesus through our actions. Always has, and always will.  It is our job to make sure that we aren't distracted by personal pride and ego in our attempt to serve our city and serve our God... When we serve ourselves instead, the Jesus in us is counterproductive. We must shine God's light - not our own. Because it isn't ours to shine. Our name will not be a brand. Jesus did not need video promos, cool graphics, or tattoo drawn t-shirts. So nether shall we. Christ had himself and his father. So, what do we have in common with Jesus? - Ourselves & our Father. We are responsible; we are the future, with God’s will running through us, their will running through our city. We will cultivate disciples of Jesus. We will be more than a t-shirt wearing disciple. My goal is that someone can come to know hope, love, justice, and the presence of God by being myself, being a light of God our Father. Speaking for the next generation for disciples 20 year old Abby writes “I want to get on outreach: serving the poor, comforting the hurt, broken, and sick. I want to use our money not to be a billboard for Jesus, but use it to be blessing for someone else. I want to use myself not as a billboard, I want to use my talents and gifts God gave me as a hand-holder to the broken.”  
In reflection of the chaos we are enduring. Let us begin to respond accordingly so our name shall be synonymous for a faith family that consistently communicates the message of forgiveness, restoration, and hope. Then God's will to be with us through both the mountains and the dark valleys.
Peace, Love and Happiness: Tommy 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sinning Like A Christian: Lust

This week we end the sermon series Sinning Like a Christian with the last deadly sin: lust. The sin of lust is the trickiest of them all. Sex or lust specifically is the least talked about subject in the Bible. Money is the most talked about subject but you will hear more preachers in many mainline churches speak on the evils of sex or sexual orientation more than they will address money, hunger, helping those in need.  Church and sex have been sort of taboo. However in this day and time we have more curiosity in sexuality or sex than Jesus did. We often overlook the simple fact that for survival all creatures must procreate. It’s natural part of our humanity. Lust has always been around from King David voyeurism of Bathsheba to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Today the highest grossing commerce on the internet is porn. Addiction to pornography is the fastest growing addiction for both male and female.  This is because accessibility, no accountability, and full anonymity.  50 Shades of Gray sold over 100 million copies as well as one of the highest grossing movies.  What use to be only a male dominated consumption now there are as many women as men indulging in porn commerce. This is a way of saying that even though sex has been always been around since creation, none the less, times are a changing. Lust has expanded over time and generations.  The problem with the sin of lust is the simple fact that according to Jesus, there needs to be no action. Jesus says the sin of lust happens in the heart. It is no difference from sleeping with a person than looking at a person lustfully.  Desire is good. Desire is a God given thing. But desire misdirected, misused, leads to sin. Sexual improprieties will be the leading headline every time. As a society we are intrigued by headlines of celebrities, politicians, and famous people caught up in sexual wrong doings. The church and society rather spend time debating, defending, and arguing over sexual orientation than sharing God’s love, mercy, and grace with those struggling in life. The thing about lust is that it doesn’t grow. You hot for someone or our not. But love grows. And as love grows in a committed relationship, lust doesn’t increase; true love will intensifies and sustained the desire throughout time.
So no matter what our sin is, whether it is one of the seven or another, God wants to hear about our sin. God wants to hear it so we have to tell it to Him in order to be forgiven of our sin so that we might compass the full depth, the great height, and the breath of God’s love. Confessing to God, or repenting whatever you wish to call it, releases us of the burden of sin. We are saved by God’s grace just as we are. Not how God or others want us to be. Jesus Christ said upfront and honestly “I have come to seek the lost, to save the lost.”  And here he found people like you and me. Christ seems to have rather remarkable transformed a basic deceitful person into sort of a saint or a better person. That makes us a miracle. We are a surprising work of God. Yet we are still learning how to see ourselves as God sees us. We are still transforming. We are still holding up the mirror of truth that makes us look at ourselves. We are still learning to see the imagine God sees in us. Mired in the muck of sin and yet destined by God to stand up and shine as the blessed children of God. There will always be tension in the Christian life as we find ourselves stretched between two poles, having two natures, torn between two alternatives. Yet there are also the quiet convictions that gradually, day by day, decision by decision with God in Christ leading us, coaxing us, sometimes dragging us kicking and screaming into a better life and into a better self.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Gluttony: Sinning Like a Christian

Gluttony is a hard sin to grasp. Even though it’s hard to define it can be more than we think. The church has forced this link between food and sin. It may come from Genesis and the whole eating of the fruit thing. Regardless we should take it serious because Jesus took it seriously. If you recall the first temptation of Christ was after he had fasted for forty days in the wilderness was the temptation of food. The first charges against Jesus by the church leaders were not his theological principles, his teaching, or his preaching. The first charges brought against him were surrounding the eating habits of his disciples. The religious leader asked Jesus why does John the Baptist disciples fast and your disciples eat and drink? Jesus answer was vague but we cannot deny that Jesus talks a lot about parties, feasts, and eating in his parables. When Jesus ended his ministry, not his life but his public ministry, he did it with a meal: Bread and a cup. He said that the food and drink stood for everything he was and is.
So what is gluttony and why is gluttony a sin? Jesus' concern is not what gluttony does to your body but what it does to your soul. There are times when the gut becomes more important than the soul. Most of us believe that we are created in the image of God. When we indulge of excess of food we exchange the image of God in us of that of a slug and a pig. We become purely eating machines. Just like every other animal. We lose self-control. We lose the only thing that singles us out from other animals. Here me clearly. This has nothing to do with weight, body image or body size. It’s about self-control or the ability or inability to stop when we feel satisfied.
Gluttony is sinful to the degree that some of us consume too much in a world where others don’t have enough of the bare necessities of life. I heard somewhere by someone a lot wiser than I say “in the world we don’t have a hunger problem only a compassion and distribution problem.” But sin of gluttony is not limited to food. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Netflix, can be just as harmful or more harmful as over eating. Addictions are the umbrella of gluttony. We have food network channels, people take pictures of their food and share it with their friends, there is even a term called Food Porn and Foodies. But gluttony is not about overeating. People who obsess over food, people who count calories, people who try to tell you everything that is bad in the food that you are eating. Obsessing over food in either way is gluttony. So when does our concern for food become too much concern? That is what concerns Jesus C.S. Lewis describes gluttony as “getting what you want regardless however troublesome it is to others.” So where’s the sin? We all have to eat to survive. We can’t quit cold turkey or we will die. It is not the sin we despise as much as it’s the results of the sin. It’s not that we eat too much or obsess over food too much but the fact that the result is an overweight or unhealthy body that makes this sin unpleasant.  It’s the guilt, shame, and sadness that accompanies gluttony that makes it similar to other sins. How many of us would be the first to admit to the fact that if we could eat whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted, as much as we wanted and never gain a pound or still have a healthy functioning body? I am all in. If we could indulge and not feel the after affects we would never see it as a sin. The problem is when we look in the mirror and sin looks a lot like us.


Monday, May 11, 2015


If we look at our current social climate it is one can see that greed is worst enemy. Out of the Seven Deadly Sins greed is the one that hard to grasp because it fuels other sins. Greed is the gasoline on the fire to sins. Greed turns love into lust, leisure into sloth, hunger into gluttony, honor into pride, righteous indignation into anger, and admiration into envy.  Greed tends to be private, stingy because there is something about Greed that puts us in competition with our neighbors and ultimately in alienation from them.  We all want more. We live by the motto of is a little is good then a lot is even better.  Simply stated the more we have the more we want. To feel better about our own greed is we tend to justify it by deflecting to corporate greed.  Isn’t the real problem of with our society is those fat cats on Wall Street? They are greedy, not us in church. The problem is desires have a way of mimicking need. In the marketing game the trick is to move us from what we desire to what we need. We live in a society ruled by the Constitution that gives us all certain rights. The sole purpose of this democracy is to give us our rights. Perhaps we are among  the first generation in our society to realize that desire has a way of being elevated to the level of need and needs gets further inflated to the level of rights. Our rights are this ever expanding list because our desires are bottomless.  I means isn’t it everyone’s right to own a cell phone. Perhaps we should starting thinking about the church as teaching us about our desires. It is here we learn how to want the right amount, things in the right way and in the right proportions. We need the type of character that is able to look at the world and all it has to offer and at certain key moments simply say, “Thank you but I am now satisfied.” It takes a huge amount of moral stamina to say, “yes I can afford it, but we are not going to buy it, because it does little to contribute to the basic goodness of our lives.” The Christian faith says that church is not about getting what we want but rather getting what God wants. When we do this God has a good time. We grab and consume, to a great degree, because we do not really know what we want, and so we grab everything in desperate fear that we might say no to the one thing that might give our lives some meaning. We need to as Jesus put it “have in mind the concerns of God and not the concerns of humanity.” Jesus reminds us that while the two maybe as one, the world in which we live in will constantly try to stretch, wear down, or erode their commonality. Greed will slowly drag us into other sins. Let us not be trapped. Let us teach our children and grandchildren well and let us receive the joy and peace that is only found in God’s way.. Join us as we uncover the dangers of sin and what we can do so God can have a good time..
Hope to see you in service..


Monday, April 27, 2015


Anger is a self-evident sin. It is a sin that we tend to hold on to for a very long time.  It is ironic that the only single time Jesus displayed anger it was not at murders, drug addicts, prostitutes, tax collectors or thieves, but with the religious folks. Jesus “lost it” in the temple with the practices of the church. That is a sobering thought that we seem to overlook when we recall Jesus’ anger. If Pride is the most dangerous and Envy the sneakiest, then Anger is the most deadly of all sin.  In the wake of all the Ferguson and now in Baltimore, we have seen the destructive effects of anger. Anger in the hands of protesters and rioters is a way of excusing them from responsibility for their actions of destruction.  It can cause demolition instead of true change. However it prompted me to ask a police officer what causes them the most fear. He responded, “Anger is my greatest fear. The bloodiest crimes, the most unpredictable calls are domestic crimes of passion. When anger is the cause of a crime, things get horribly, terribly, bloody real fast.” He said he feared anger in himself because if he didn't keep saying “I’m only doing my job” and kept his emotions in check it becomes personal. He said, “The very minute I get emotionally involved, the time when I think too much about the criminal and the crime, then I am apt to do the same, some very bad things.”  I must admit I respect his brutal honesty. Anger is only an emotion but it has the potential to lead to deadly acts.
I meet many people who when you strip away the layers of pain, uncertainty, or addictions are really just angry. Many are angry at a great injustice that has happened to them that was never resolved.  Many are angry at God. I can understand why Jesus was angry the religious leaders because many leaders today paint a picture that we are not to be angry with God. Nothing could be further from the truth. God can handle our anger. Anger is natural and necessary response in the face of injustice. It is an acknowledgement that it is not the world as God meant it to be. Anger should be expressed, preferably in a faith community, in prayer, and in conversation with God. God can handle it. God will not punish you for it. We have a God that is good enough and great enough to receive our anger, to take raw human emotions and weave them into His purpose. Anger should be expressed but not acted upon in an unconscious manner. Anger in our hands, righteous outrage practiced by us, is a deadly thing but in the hands of God our anger can bring about significant peaceful change. Join us Sunday as we look a Anger an what we can do to give it up to God and allow real change in our life..
Peace, Love and Happiness,


Monday, March 30, 2015

Gift Cards

Gift cards have become increasingly popular, so much so that in America 97 billion dollars is spent on gift cards each year.  Gift cards have a money value that has already been paid in advance, but their value can only be unlocked when they are used. Someone pays the price for us to dine at some establishments and a card is exchanged and we are free to choose when and what we eat.  In fact each year around 8 billion dollars’ worth of gift cards goes unused. Some cards are lost, some are used and forgotten about, and others just simply expire after non-use. It seems foolish to have that much goes unused when so many of us are hungry. We who are hungry need to bear in mind we have a gift card at our disposal if we choose to use it. 

In the midst of the build up to Easter and trying to get everything perfect, we tend to forget that Easter is really a gift. The empty tomb is proof that Christ has opened the door between this world full of pain, suffering, and disappointments and God kingdom. The empty tomb is our gift card. It is a gift from God. Between the worship services, palms, egg hunts, special music, and the sadness of the crucifixion, sometimes that idea of the gift can be lost.  We lose the fact that the empty tomb is a gift. A gift that never expires however we must redeem it or it’s useless. So as we approach Easter let us remember this priceless gift. Let us remember, even if it’s as painful as Good Friday, what we have been saved from. As painful as it maybe only then can we truly find the joy in our salvation and redeem the gift of an empty tomb. 
Meet you at the tomb... Tommy 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Dinner is Served

It is our natural human tendency when we hear the words “Dinner is served” to fixate on the object of the sentence dinner. We tend to gravitate or focus on the dinner and what is being served. There is something about food that can spark the deepest part of our soul. I text my siblings to see what their favorite meal our mother prepared for us growing up. I got an immediate response. For my oldest sister it was our Mom’s Chicken a la king.  My other sister it is was our Mom’s Chinese meatloaf. My brother’s favorite was her roast, potatoes, and carrots.  For me it was many but I loved her chicken casserole or her chicken and dumplings.  We all had different favorites but the undisputed consensus of us all was our grandmother’s coconut cake, in the metal cake pan and our Mothers birthday cake. It was heaven. Sometimes it wasn't just one dish but the combination of different dishes that made the meal memorable.  I can still recall my mother in law’s meal combination of ham, potato salad, beak beans and her chocolate chip cookies that did it. I am sure if you took a moment you too could recall something that your loved one cooked or prepared for you that strikes a great memory. Maybe the food is only the catalyst that solidifies the memory of when life was easier or that person was still vital in your life. I don’t know what it is but something about food can spark a memory that sticks with us. My siblings and I universally agreed more important than the food what we missed the most was the time we had around the table as a family. But when it comes to the food we can all remember the finished product. We easily skip over the process, the labor, and love that the one person put into making the meal for us. We just dine on the finished product and ignore the process. Our human nature is to not focus on the effort it took to prepare the meal. So this week as we look at another meal with Jesus we divert our attention away from the dinner and focus on the serve. In the most known meal with Jesus according to John, Jesus begins the meal by serving before dinner is served.  This meal is mentioned in all four of the gospels although some may contain more details than others. Some call it the Last Supper or the Lords Supper. As we revisit this, let us not forget that for the Christian faith the word serve and love are synonyms. The word love and service for Jesus were and are one and the same.  When the world looks at anyone who calls themselves Christian, the identify characteristic should be our service.  To be a disciple of Christ means we should be consumed with doing things for others instead of doing things for ourselves. It’s like the love of a mother cooking supper for her kids that last a lifetime. So Jesus knowing this is his last Passover meal wants, needs, desires to leave a lifetime lasting impression. And that impression is one of a servant.
Shalom: Tommy