Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Father’s Heart

As we have been looking at the parable of the prodigal sons in Luke 15, one thing we must notice is the father’s heart for his lost boys. One is lost in his rebellion; one is lost in his religion. One is lost in his immorality; the other is lost in his morality. But neither is entering the father’s joy.

I can see these brothers pointing fingers at each other. I can hear the younger saying, “You religious hypocrite with your self-righteous judgementalism, you are far worse than I am. At least I am authentic and true to myself”.

The elder brother would respond, “You selfish little (fill in the blank), you waltz out of here shirking your responsibilities, blowing all your opportunities, and now you come slinking back, the lizard you are, hoping Dad will bail you out. Get a job and a life!”

Yeah, I could see that.

But notice the Father’s heart for both his boys. He embraces the younger son without reserve. And he goes out to the elder son to plead with him to join the feast.

I know younger brother types who have come to Christ from a pretty rough background, but who sometimes wear that like a badge and pride themselves on their “relevance”. And I know elder brother types who have come to Christ because being religious was the right thing to do. Only later did they discover the gospel was for them too!

But it’s not really about how you came to the father. It’s about the father! It’s about his heart, his joy, and his feast! And it’s about embracing anyone who is invited to the father’s feast.It’s about younger brothers and elder brothers quitting their quarreling and joining the father’s feast. Because we are all there by grace!

And it’s all about the father!

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,
Pastor Tom

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Being There...

“Tom, I need to tell you something”, he said.

I must be in trouble, I thought!

I had gotten to know “Gary”, one of the regulars at “Lucky’s Lake Swim”, a few months ago. As we had built our relationship, he discovered I was a pastor (I never let on that I am a pastor too early – I like the look of surprise in people’s eyes when they find out!). Last year Gary had pulled me aside and asked me if I would pray for his business*. He described the struggles he was having and the fear of losing everything in this economy.

I, of course, offered to pray, and did.

Every now and again I mentioned to Gary that I was still praying and inquired how things were going. I must confess a bit of fear, lest the business continue to tank and God and my prayers got blamed!

But this morning Gary called me over. “Tom, I need to tell you something”, he said, “I just wanted to thank you for praying for me. Things are really turning the corner for my business and I am sure that is because of you and your prayers.”

I, of course, deferred the credit to God, “I’m just a middleman” I told him.

He responded, “Middlemen are what make business work!”

I thanked him for his kind words and we parted. But I am most excited for our next conversation about Christ, now that I have banked a little spiritual capital with Gary.

I suppose the point is this: build relationships wherever you can, be up front and honest about your faith, offer to pray what people share their concerns with you, and always give the glory to Christ!

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,
Pastor Tom

*When someone asks you to pray for them, that means what they will say next is really, really important to them. So handle it with care.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The power of a shared experience

It’s no secret that a shared experience brings people together and builds relationships. Boy Scout campouts, family vacations, missions trips, you get the idea. Shared experiences bond us together.

Too often our shared experience with Jesus is more like a bunch of separate cars going down the highway of life. We are all headed in the same direction, but with windows up, A/C on, and radio blaring our own favorite playlist. We are aware of other cars around us, not in relationship. When we stop at the same exit on Sundays to refuel we might stop to chat a bit. But then it’s back in the hermetically sealed SUV and “on the road again”.

What if our journey was more like an old school caravan? Everyone headed to the same destination, but some walking, some in wagons, others on horseback. We would be interacting along the way; maybe the kids would run ahead and jump on the wagon in front. We would be aware of who was lagging behind and who was out front. And at the end of the day we’d swap stories around the campfire.

Okay, maybe we can’t jump into the “Wayback Machine”, but is my idea mere sentimentalism? Or maybe we just have to work harder for such shared experiences. The early church had the idea of everyone walking through the scriptures together (the Lectionary) and walking though the life of Christ together (the Church Year). I think we have lost a lot in our individualistic spirituality. Yet our spiritual journey should be the main shared experience we have together!

I am hoping our Prodigal God study is one such shared experience. My vision is One Church – One Book (really One Chapter!). We are all reading together, meditating on Scripture together, receiving teaching together, and talking and discussing together. As we are all on the “same page” together, God will shape us by his grace together!

So I encourage you – on whatever level of participation you can – join together with your church family as we caravan through The Prodigal God together!

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,
Pastor Tom

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Questions of the Heart

After I had settled down from the distress of a blown torque converter on I-75 last Saturday, I wondered what the Lord was doing in all of this. Okay, so I was not considering this trial “all joy” at the time, as James instructs us. But I was trying.

Our tattooed tow truck driver, Tony, gave me my answer. As we began to talk on our long drive from Ocala to Orlando, spiritual things became the focus. We talked the whole trip about the spiritual questions he had always had, but never talked to a “preacher” one on one about. And I discovered something I should have known: we all ask the same questions and struggle with the same issues, whether we are university intellectuals or guys on the “blue collar tour”. Tony and I talked about where God was when we suffer, why did He allow sin and evil in the world, where do we find meaning in life, and what is our destiny. Pretty heady stuff.

We wrestled through those issues (and more!), and I hope I was a helpful signpost (Tony said I was). I was reminded of our need to face these issues ourselves (with the help of C.S. Lewis, Tim Keller, Peter Kreeft, and others). But when all is said and done it boils down to a simple affirmation:

I may not have all the answers, but I know someone who does! When we arrived at our destination, I shared with Tony my hope that he would fall in love with Jesus, the one who knows suffering, defeats evil, gives meaning, and assures destiny!

I hope you too are drawing close and getting to know that someone!

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,