Christmas Poem: There’s a Reason For It All! (12/24/21)

Christmas Poem: There’s a Reason For It All! (12/24/21)

Here is a poem I wrote today for our Christmas Eve service at the Deer Run Church of Christ.

There’s a Reason For It All

The day had been long and our journey not done.
We had traveled so far in the hot blazing sun.
We talked on the way of the hardship this brought.
To obey the governor and do what we ought.
It has to get better, we each said out loud.
But we never expected the size of the crowd.
We went house to house, and knocked door to door.
Yet no one had space, not even a floor.
The constant rejection made us want to bawl.
Yet a small, quiet voice said, “There’s a reason for it all.”

We checked every guest room throughout the whole town.
Thinking, since God is in us He won’t let us down.
Yet our positive nature began to wear thin.
When all that we heard was no room in the inn.
We turned to each other and then turned to God.
And said all this rejection does surely seem odd.
We’ve listened intently and done what is right.
So why are we finding no place for the night?
In the midst of our turmoil, we heard a still call.
Keep on believing, there’s a reason for it all.

With our options exhausted there was nothing to do.
But to bed down in a stable that smelled like a zoo.
At least it was something that would do for the night.
Until we could find better when the day brought its light.
Before that could happen, the time did soon come.
We delivered a baby, a beautiful son.
He must be kept warm and protected from danger.
So he was wrapped up in cloths and placed in a manger.
We had wanted much better, but were so much in awe.
We again heard that voice, “There’s a reason for it all.”

Before the night finished, some visitors dropped by.
With a story of angels they had seen in the sky.
While watching their sheep on a hillside at night.
They had been quite startled by a heavenly light.
An angel appeared with a message to them.
A savior was born right there in Bethlehem.
And each little detail of their story that day.
Were things we had wanted to be different some way.
As they left our presence, we stood straight and tall.
Knowing in everything, there’s a reason for it all!

I suspect that you’ve been there, perhaps on this day.
The plans that you wanted, haven’t all gone your way.
From one roadblock to another, frustration does grow.
Disappointment and sorrow seem to be all that you know.
In all of those moments, there’s just one thing to do.
Remember God is in charge, definitely not you.
He sees everything clearly, from His view above.
And works it together from the heart of His love.
So, when you are tired and think you will fall.
Fix your eyes on Jesus, the reason for it all!

As I reflected on the birth of Jesus and the hardships that were experienced by Mary and Joseph in the nativity narrative, I wondered if they ever questioned why the details seemed to not line up in perfect fashion from a human point of view.  It is relatively easy for us to look back through time and see there was a reason for it all — that each of the unconventional details of the birth of Jesus came about as a fulfillment of scripture.  Many times in our life narrative, we struggle with knowing and understanding God’s purposes for us and the things we go through.  My prayer is that we would realize that God doesn’t waste our experiences and that when we trust Him we can know there really is a reason for it all — even if we never fully understand that reason.

In prayer,

Praying For the BEST! (Sermon Audio)

Praying For the BEST! (Sermon Audio)


This is the audio from the September 29, 2019 sermon, “Praying For the BEST!”, shared by Tom Lemler at the Deer Run Church of Christ.

Text: Philippians 1:9-11

Here are the main points from the sermon:

When it comes to praying for the best, ask God to give you His:

  • Benefits:
    • Psalms 103:2-5, Romans 6:22 —  While our culture has gradually changed the concept of employee benefits to being something that is earned or deserved, it hasn’t always been this way.  For many generations, the “benefit package” was something a company gave to benefit their employees in ways that were above and beyond what they earned.  I believe it is in that former context that we pray for, and receive, the best benefits a person could ever obtain.  These benefits are completely unearned and belong to all who come into relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.  When we pray for the best benefits, we find that God is generous in supplying so much more than we could think or imagine because what He supplies will last for eternity.
  • Equipment: 
    • Ephesians 6:10-13, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 — At least in my life, and I suspect the same is true for many of you, much has been accomplished with whatever tools happened to be available when the work needed done.  What I’ve learned over the years, as better tools became available to me, is that using the best equipment generally yields a result that is far superior to most of my “make do” efforts.  As we live the Christian life, God has offered to equip us with the absolute best tools possible if we would only go to Him in prayer.  In fact, prayer itself is at the top of the list of the best equipment we can have in living a life of victory over the temptations of the evil one.  When we pray for the best equipment, God clothes us with His armor so that on the day of evil we may stand.
  • Strategy:
    • Isaiah 55:8-9, Psalms 119:1 — Growing up in a culture that has taught us that we not only can have it our way, but we deserve it our way, makes it difficult to accept that our way isn’t the best way.  Growing up on a farm I learned that it was possible to accomplish just about anything given enough time and determination.  Looking back I realize there were many things accomplished that took much more time and effort than they would have had to simply because I didn’t know the best way to do them.  Too often we settle for mediocrity, or worse, because we insist our ways and plans are somehow superior to anything else.  We will only experience the best when we realize and accept that God’s ways are so much better in every aspect than ours.  When we pray for the best strategy, we must begin from a position of listening with a blank slate rather than asking God to bless a strategy we have come up with either on our own or through observing others.
  • Testimony:
    • 1 John 5:9-12, John 4:39-42 — How people respond to what you say has a lot to do with how they perceive the authenticity of your testimony.  I suspect we have all received unsolicited advice throughout our life that we simply ignored because there was no evidence that the advice being given had in any way benefited the person giving it.  Our prayers for the best testimony begin to be answered when we accept the testimony of God about His Son, Jesus.  It is then through living out an authentic relationship with Jesus that we find our testimony about His working in our life is a powerful tool in helping others even have a desire to know Him.  When we pray for the best testimony God doesn’t make it more dramatic, He simply shows us how even the small details of our life have a purpose when we use them to share with others how we are a witness of God’s love and power.

Praying for the best will mean we truly want the best. When we pray for the Benefits, Equipment, Strategy, and Testimony that only God can give, we discover He has answered our prayer and filled us with the very best He has — His Son.

The Best Monday I’ve Had All Week!

The Best Monday I’ve Had All Week!


A friend of mine, while serving as the preaching minister in a local church, became known for consistently saying, “Today’s the best Sunday I’ve had all week!”.  At first glance, it may be easy to chalk that up to it being the only Sunday in the week, but it was really a statement about attitude rather than frequency.  I’ve worked in ministry long enough to be certain he wasn’t saying that everything had gone just as he had wanted during the previous week, or that the events of the day were even going fully according to his plan.  No, I believe it was one tool of many which he used to remind himself and others that it was a day given by God and a day meant to be used to honor God — no matter what!

I thought about that example today as I worked through my morning routines on a Monday that is anything but routine.  While we often think of Monday as the start of a new work week, it almost always has baggage from the previous week hanging around.  For me, last week was filled with struggles and issues that remain unresolved but aren’t really within my ability or responsibility to resolve.  Nonetheless, they weigh on me and can have a tendency to fill my mind to the point of distraction and even discouragement if I let them.  With last week’s burdens still hanging over me, I woke up to fresh snow that I wasn’t expecting — meaning extra work to start the day.

But then my routine kicks in.  The sidewalks are cleared, the building is cleaned and prepped for the day, and I settle in to write the prayer guide for next week.  After some time with God, we settle in on a topic based on Colossians 3:2 which says, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”  Monday mornings I typically set aside to write the prayer guide that I will publish and send out the following week.  Some weeks the topic comes easily and other weeks it is a struggle to hear God clearly in regard to where the focus should be.  Some weeks I’m not sure who the primary audience is that God will use it to reach and other weeks I’m pretty sure it is meant to speak directly to me before it goes out to anyone else.

The reminders I worked on this morning were priceless.  Reminders to not worry, to be open to the instruction of Scripture, to allow the Spirit to fill my all of me including my mind, to be transformed by having a renewed mind, to engage my mind in prayer, and to surround myself with like-minded people who seek to honor God.  Yes, it’s the best Monday I’ve had all week — not because it is the only Monday I’ll have all week, but because it came with an attitude adjustment that calls me to reset my mind on the things of Christ.  Now that doesn’t mean the struggles are gone or resolved, they remain and some of them continue to grow.  What changes, and what must change, is how I set my mind in the midst of things beyond my responsibility and control.

The morning made me think of the photo I put at the top of this post.  It is one I took last Saturday and I would guess most people looking at it are drawn to the blue sky and bright white clouds.  Yet within the same photo is a base of drab browns and grays of a sparse winter landscape.  Your view of that photo is really dependent on where you set you mind, whether consciously or subconsciously.  On this best Monday you’ll have all week, it is time to set your mind on things above!

In prayer,
Tom Lemler  

Walk and Pray

Walk and Pray

Today I had the opportunity to lead another neighborhood prayer walk as we asked God to make Himself known and to pour out His blessing upon the community.  I enjoy leading prayer walks because it gives me the opportunity to teach about developing a lifestyle of prayer in a practical context.  

The context behind a prayer walk is really not that complicated — you walk and you pray.  Praying on-site in a neighborhood, workplace, school, or anywhere else can help you learn to pray more effectively as you pay attention to what is really going on.  Yes, I can pray for a neighborhood from anywhere, but when I walk the sidewalks and observe with my eyes, ears, heart, spirit, emotions, and anything else available to me, I often pray about things that I would never otherwise even think about.

For me, prayer walking is a practice that helps me apply God’s command to “pray without ceasing.”  When I make a deliberate effort to pray, I find that I am constantly looking for things to pray about that would be meaningful in my conversations with God.  I might notice a home health care van parked in front of a house and pray for the person needing extra care.  I walk past an auto body shop and pray for those whose lives have been impacted in situations represented by the assortment of wrecked vehicles waiting to be repaired.  I walk by a park and pray for the families and children who will come and play.  I walk past a school and pray for the safety of all who are there each day.  And the list goes on . . . it seems that each house or property has something to say that would lead me to pray in a specific way.  Yet even in the specific prayers, I keep in mind the greater context that God would bless the neighborhood in ways that would make Himself known.

Tonight’s prayer walk was the first I had focused on the neighborhood I was in.  Depending on time available, my first prayer walk in a neighborhood is usually a perimeter walk as I surround an area with prayer.  Follow-up walks would then work my way up and down each street, asking God to help me notice the things I ought to see.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not writing this to try to say, “Look what I did!”  No, I’m writing this in an attempt to say to you who are reading, “Look what you could do!”


Never Too SMALL

Windows of Heaven 

“parable” — “An earthly story with a heavenly meaning.”

Never Too SMALL (Matthew 13:31-35)

Our main text this week is a series of two parables that Jesus tells to the crowds about things which are small yet yield great results.  The first is about the mustard seed which was known as the smallest of all seeds.  When this seed is placed in the ground and allowed to do what it was created to do, a huge bush grows up that even the birds of the air can nest in.  The second is a story of a woman who took a small amount of yeast and mixed it into a large amount of dough.  As the woman did her work and the yeast did what it was created to do, the entire batch of dough was leavened by the yeast.

Jesus wants us to know that small things can yield big results when we place them in God’s hands.  What do you have that you think is too small?  If you place it in God’s hands, it is never too small.

Something to think about . . .
. . . Daily readings and questions to help you prepare for the August 24 AM message at Deer Run.

Monday (August 18) Read Matthew 13:31-32.

What did Jesus compare the mustard seed to?  Where does it rank among seed size?  What happens when it is planted?  Would you expect that simply by looking at the seed?  How is the kingdom of heaven like that?  What seeds have been planted to cause the kingdom to grow?  What seeds are you currently planting to cause the kingdom to grow?  How big are they?  Does it matter?  What does God want to do with that which seems small to you?

Tuesday (August 19) Read Exodus 4:10-17.

What was God wanting Moses to do?  How did Moses describe his speaking ability?  What did God say about the speaking ability of Moses?  How did Moses respond to God’s instruction?  What was God’s response?  Who did He send to help?  How often  do you pass up opportunities to share the gospel message  because you feel too slow in your speech?  What would God say to you about that?  What does God want to do with that which seems Slow to you?

Wednesday (August 20)  Read 1 Kings 17:12-14.

What does the woman in the text tell Elijah that she has?  What did she plan to do with it?  How much extra did she think she had?  What is Elijah’s instruction to her?  What happens?  When God presents a need to you, what do you consider is your inventory to meet it?  Do you ever say, “I only have enough for myself and my family”?  Is that ever true?  What does God want you to do with that which seems Meager to you?

Thursday (August 21)  Read Judges 6:11-13.

Who pays a visit to Gideon in the text?  What is Gideon doing?  Where is he at?  Why?  How does this visitor address Gideon?  What did Gideon think of the greeting?  Are there times that you are fearful to do what God says?  Do you have a hiding place where you hope no one can find you?  How can you find courage when it feels like the enemy is winning?  Who is greater, the One that is in you or the one that is in the world?  What does God want you to do when you feel too Afraid?

Friday (August 22)  Read Luke 19:1-6.

Who wanted to see Jesus?  What physical characteristic made that difficult?  How did he try to compensate for his size?  Who was looking for him?  What did Zacchaeus receive?  Do you ever feel too little in some way to make a difference?  How do you try to compensate?  Do you think Jesus knows where you are?  What does God want you to do when you feel Little?

Saturday (August 23)  Read Acts 22:6-10.

What is Saul doing when he sees a bright light and hears a voice as he travels?  What did the voice ask?  Did Saul recognize who was speaking?  Who did the voice identify himself as?  What is Saul told to do?  What message will Saul be given when he goes into Damascus?  How lost is too lost?  Have you ever felt you were too far removed from God to do any good?  How do you respond to God’s Word telling you all that you should do?  What does God want you to do when you feel that your are too Lost?

Sunday (August 24) Read Matthew 13:33.

What does Jesus compare yeast to in this parable?  What is done with the yeast?  Do you think she had much yeast?  Where does it end up?  What would have happened had the woman not mixed the yeast in with the flour?  What has God given you to cause the kingdom to grow?  What are you doing with it?  What does God want you to do with that which seems small to you?


PRAY Like a Mom!

Study guide to prepare for the Deer Run Church of Christ Mother’s Day sermon.

If you have, or have had, a godly mom, you were given one of the greatest gifts a person can receive!  What lessons have you learned from your mom?  What do you wish you had learned?  What do you hope to still learn?  What character qualities do you think are most important for a mom to have?  What “Mom” from the Bible do you learn the most from?  What is it about her life that helps you to grow in your faith?  In our study this week, we will look at several Bible moms as we consider lessons we can learn from them about prayer.

 Something to think about…

Monday (May 5)  Read 1 Samuel 1:9-20.  Who was Hannah?  What was causing so much sorrow in her life?  What did she request from God?  What did she promise to do in return?  What did Eli the priest think of her prayer time?  How does she explain what was noticed?  What is his response?  How did this change her?  What should you do when you are filled with sorrow and “bitterness of soul”?  Have your expressions of prayer ever been misunderstood?  Have you ever judged someone’s actions differently than what they were actually doing?  What does it take for your prayers to be genuine?

Tuesday (May 6)  Read 1 Kings 3:16-28.  What dilemma exists in this passage?  Who was supposed to solve the problem?  What did each party want?  How did the king propose the problem be solved?  What request (prayer) did one of the mothers make to the king?  What was his response?  Do you ever go to God asking that He sees things your way — to your benefit?  What are you willing to give up in order to save someone?  How does giving up your will change the way you pray for people?

Wednesday (May 7)  Read Matthew 20:20-25.  What does the mother of James and John request from Jesus?  Does Jesus think she understands the nature of her request (prayer)?  How does He reply?  Do you make bold requests on behalf of others?  When you pray, do you think about others being put first?  How do you respond when you discover that what you had been praying for requires more from you than expected? 

Thursday (May 8)  Read John 2:1-11.  What problem came up at this wedding where Jesus and His mother were guests?  Who did Jesus’ mother address about the problem?  How does He respond?  What does she do anyhow?  What happens?  Do you keep a mental list of things that you should go to Jesus about and things you shouldn’t?  If so, how do you decide what makes either list?  When you take your requests to God, do you trust He can do something about it?

Friday (May 9)  Read Acts 12:5,11-17.  What did the church do when Peter was imprisoned?  Who was gathered at the home of John Mark’s mother?  Why?  What were they doing?  What happened?  How earnestly do you pray for people who are being persecuted?  If people were wanting to gather and pray about a serious issue, would they come to your house?  Are you ever surprised when God answers your prayer?

Saturday (May 10)  Read 2 Timothy 1:3-7.  Who is Paul praying for . . . how often?  Who is Paul reminded of that planted the seeds of faith in the life of Timothy?  What were those seeds to produce?  Are there people whom you lift up in prayer “night and day”?  How often do you think of your faith being planted in the lives of those who follow you?  

Sunday (May 11)  Read Matthew 15:21-28.  Why did a Canaanite woman come to Jesus?  How did Jesus initially respond to her request?  What did the disciples want done?  Does she give up?  What does Jesus do for her, and then say about her?  When you pray, do you think you deserve a response from God?  How persistent are you when the answer to your prayer doesn’t arrive on the schedule you expect?


A Team That Works

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” 
Philippians 2:3-4

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of team and how it relates to the church body in general and occupational ministry specifically.  It seems like “team” is a popular buzz-word in many ministry circles lately, but it appears to mean different things to different people.  I think if God were to  use the word team to describe a group of people doing ministry together then perhaps the above verses from Philippians would be how He would do it.  If you’re familiar with the passage, you know it goes on to say we should have the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus!  God’s call is for us to voluntarily give ourself up for the sake of the team, not have the team give us up for their sake — there is a huge difference between those two things.

I’ve been blessed these past six months to work with a group of people doing ministry together that overall seems to get this team concept.  I noticed a while back, as an event was conducted quite successfully, that those leading were very quick to give credit to all who had a part in the event.  It made me think that perhaps that is a good definition, or sign, of a genuine team — a deliberate effort to give credit to all who do the work. 

On the other hand, I’ve also been part of a ministry group that liked to use the word team to describe the staff but it didn’t feel anything like this.  In fact, the word team wasn’t used as a vehicle for giving credit rather it became a means for taking credit!  The “lower ranking” members of the “team” were to do the work while the “higher ranking” members took all the credit.  This attitude seems to miss the entire point of the Philippians passage as Jesus, the highest ranking person of all, sacrificed everything in order that the lowest of all would receive honor. 

Do you suspect you might be part of a team that really isn’t a team at all?  First, examine your role on the team.  Are you focused on giving credit or taking it?  Perhaps the team member that needs to change is you!  When, and only when, your attitude is the same as that of Christ Jesus, look at the leadership of the “team”.  Are they seeking to give credit to others or take the credit for themselves?  How would God have you be the light and example in that setting?  Sometimes it is very difficult to remember that God calls us to live faithfully regardless of how right or wrong the people over you, around you, or under you happen to be.

A team that works is really only possible when it is fully surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in everything.  I don’t know who said it first but I’ve heard it often, “It is incredible what God can accomplish through a group of people when that group of people is not concerned about who gets the credit.”

I pray that the Deer Run team that I work with will always live and act as a real team and that you also would make every effort, wherever you are, to be a part of a team that works as you focus on giving credit to each one who does their part.

As Each Part Does Its Work

What is your part in the kingdom of God?  What is your part in the local body of Christ He has placed you in?  What are the “good works He created in advance” for you to do?

This is by no means an all-inclusive or detailed list, rather it is a starting point for you to spend time with God asking the question, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”.  If you need help in determining how to best implement God’s answer to that question, talk with one of the elders or ministry staff leaders in your local church.Each Part