My Dad

My Dad

It’s getting late,
     I should be in bed.
But it seems like a poem
     is stuck in my head.
It rolls around in there
     and seems to want out.
To be set in print,
     to stop rolling about.

So here I am,
     with keyboard and mouse.
Alone in the basement
     of a quiet house.
The topic is fitting –
     all good, nothing bad.
A poem’s trying to form
     that would honor my dad!

A harder worker,
     I surely don’t know.
He taught me so much
     by the seeds he did sow.
And while there was much
     he did plant in the ground.
It was seeds full of wisdom
     that did always abound.

I know there were days
     that he probably thought.
Will these boys of mine
     ever do what they ought?
I’m so very glad
     that my dad still can see.
Just what kind of man,
     that I’m growing to be.

As I look back in time
     and down through the years.
I pray that my life now
     has made up for the tears.
I learned how to work
     and I learned how to play.
From my mom and dad
     as they showed me the way.

Dad worked very hard —
     in fact, he still does.
It’s his way of life,
     not just something that was.
But even in work,
     there was room for fun.
Dad helped me to see,
     I needed both, not just one.

Some days at the sawmill,
     we’d walk home through the wood.
And jump in the pond,
     like every boy should.
There always were chores
     that had to be done.
But when they were finished,
     there was still time for fun.

Dad doesn’t say much,
     but that is okay.
For I understand,
     I am much the same way.
His actions speak louder
     than words ever can.
I know he’s beside me,
     as my biggest fan.

There is so much I do,
     as I step back and look.
That I learned from my dad,
     it can’t be found in a book.
Dad showed me how 
     to invest life in life.
As he builds up his children
     and loves his own wife.

I’m sure there are things
     that are clear in my mind.
That if I could see now,
     something different I’d find.
My recollection —
     of vacations, you see.
Dad would stop anywhere,
     as long as it was free!

State parks were the norm,
     of places we’d go.
We could have lots of fun
     without spending much dough.
So when I grew older,
     and out on my own.
I have often returned
     to where those seeds were sown.

To visit some places
     where memories were made.
I’ve taken my family,
     and we’d walk in the shade.
The example that I saw,
     in the childhood I had.
Was a home full of love,
     and a great mom and dad.

I could go on,
     with this poem for a while.
When I think of my dad,
     I can’t help but smile.
He lives life each day,
     to the best that he can.
And when I grow up,
     I want to be like that man!

© 2014 by Tom Lemler

As the day came to a close with Father’s Day just around the corner, this poem began to form in my mind. I am thankful for the dad that God has given me and I pray that I honor him not just with some words, but with my life.

The Act of FINISH (Acts 28)

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
2 Timothy 4:7

Well, this is it.  I made it through the book of Acts in my preaching series and it only seems fitting for the final chapter/message to be “The Act of FINISH”.  I have to say it has been a joy to preach through the book of Acts!  It is filled with examples and lessons that I need to learn and apply.  As I continued to look at the “Acts of Acts” in this sermon series, it seems like each chapter had the apostles, or early Christians, involved in an act that we have a tendency to try to avoid.  Yet it was these very acts of God in their lives that transformed a fledgling group disciples in disarray into a mighty force that turned the known world upside down with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We live in a time where we need such a transformation in the church and in the lives of the individuals who follow Jesus.

In Acts 28, Luke concludes his account of the foundations of the church.  Paul is on his way to Rome, as a prisoner, when the storms overtake and destroy the ship he is on and everyone onboard takes refuge on an island.  After interacting with the people of the island for some time, the weather finally breaks and a ship headed to Rome is found so that the journey continues.  Finally in Rome, Paul has opportunity to address the Jewish leaders there and to continue to preach and teach the gospel even while living under guard in a house-arrest situation.  There is much to learn from this chapter, and from Paul, as we consider how we live out the Act of FINISH in our life. 

  • Faith:  If we plan to accomplish the Act of FINISH well, we must begin the entire process in Faith!  It is our Faith that allows us to believe and trust God even when we don’t understand.  As Paul faced persecution, false accusations, imprisonment, and shipwreck, his faith never seems to waver.  In good times and bad, our faith in God must constantly remind us that God both knows what He’s doing and His love for you and I and the people around us never fails.  Our faith provides the foundation for God to work in and through us in ways that are “immeasurably more than we can think or imagine.”  As God moves you along in your journey with Him toward the Act of FINISH, be sure that Faith keeps you trusting that God can, and will, accomplish His work in you. 
  • Invitation:  As we consider how we live the Act of FINISH, it is important to pay attention to the Invitations that we both give and receive.  How we respond to invitations, and who we extend them to, can have eternal consequences in the lives of people around us.  In Acts 28, Paul and those that had been on the ship with him were invited to spend time with the unknown islanders and then invited by the chief official of the island to spend time in his home.  How do you and I respond to invitations from strangers to have some type of involvement in their life?  Many of us have become so skeptical that we have a difficult time seeing the hand of God moving in the lives of people to cause them to actually invite us into where they live.  The other side of the equation is who we invite to spend time with us.  Once Paul made it to Rome, it was he who invited the Jewish leaders to meet with him!  How often do you think of inviting your enemies —  your chief accusers — to hear your story and know why you follow Jesus?  Most of the time we have come to believe that if I a person hasn’t yet accepted Jesus then they probably don’t want to and don’t deserve our time.  Refusing to invite people into your life for the purpose of seeing God at work will certainly stifle any real efforts to FINISH as God would want you to.  We are able to grow in the FINISH when we are willing to accept and extend invitations to those we would normally ignore or even those who we view as our enemies.
  • Notice: The Act of FINISH calls us to live a life that is worth Noticing!  The caution that must be issued with this is that we want people to Notice Jesus and not us as they watch Him work through us.  As Paul arrives on the island, the people notice that he is bit by a viper yet doesn’t die.  That gets their attention right away.  Later, they notice that the power of God working through him can bring healing to those who are in need.  Then as he arrives in Rome, the Jewish leaders notice that he is a consistent follower of Jesus and they want to know from a first-hand source about this “sect” that they have heard much negative talk about.  Do the people around you each day even notice that you are a follower of Jesus?  Jesus tells us to live in such a way that people see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven.    As we live life looking toward the Act of FINISH, we must live in such a way that we are so transparent that the only thing others Notice in us is Jesus.
  • Insight:  One advantage of the Act of FINISH is that the longer we live, and the more we listen to God, the more Insight we should have in matters that are most important.  As we approached chapter 28, Paul was able to share the great insight he had received from God on how everyone on board the ship could be saved.  Our time with God through His Word, His Spirit, and prayer gives us insight on how everyone in life could be saved!  The insight that God gives us also helps us to see beyond the surface and into the genuine needs that the people around us have.  The insight we need is available, the question really comes in two parts; one, are we spending time with God to better see people as He sees them, and two, what are we doing with the insight God gives us?  As we grow in the Act of FINISH, it is important to not only seek Insight from God, but to use it for His glory and purpose.
  • Sharing:  Our life only accomplishes what it is meant to in the Act of FINISH if we are deliberately and consistently involved in Sharing.  Paul was constantly involved in sharing not only his faith and belief in Jesus, but pretty much anything he had.  Paul shares his knowledge, his ability, his resources whether great or small.  As I think about the Act of FINISH and Sharing, I can’t help but think about Matthew 25 where Jesus tells a story about a multitude of people who are divided into two groups — one group is welcomed into the King’s presence and the other is sent away into utter darkness.  What was the difference between the two groups?  Not how much they knew, not how much scripture they had memorized, not how often they had attended any religious gathering, not even how many religious acts they had done!  No, the difference is in how much they shared with the King!  While neither side seemed to think they had shared, or not shared, with the King, Jesus makes it clear that it is in what we share (or don’t share) with “the least of these” that we share with Him.  I believe we ought to use caution and the common sense that God gives us, but are we so afraid of being taken advantage of that we simply fail to share?  Have we become so greedy that we can’t bring ourself to give anything to a person in real need?  Are we so fearful of how people might react that we refuse to share the good news of Jesus?  The Act of FINISH that hears the Master say, “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into your master’s happiness.” is the Act of FINISH that has learned how to Share.
  • Honor:  The Act of FINISH wraps up with a focus on Honor.  We tend to like honor when it is directed our way but we are a little more selective when it comes to actually showing or giving honor to someone else.  Paul knew how to both receive and give honor.  As Paul allowed God to work through him on the island, the people who were experiencing God’s healing in their lives were showing honor to Paul and his companions “in many ways”.  Paul had learned to receive honor with humility and grace.  He also knew how to give honor to those around him.  Even his inviting the Jewish leaders to hear him out was a way of honoring a group of people who his experience may have said didn’t deserve much honor.  As God does a great and might work in and through us, He also calls us to accept proper honor with the same humility and grace that Paul showed.  On the other hand, God also calls us to give honor to people that we may not think deserve that from us.  We dishonor people who are made in the image of God when we refuse to have a conversation with them for whatever reason we make up.  The Act of FINISH gains its real power from our willingness to humbly receive and give honor when honor is due.

So, how are you doing in living out and growing in the Act of FINISH?  As you move from where you are to where God wants you to be, do you constantly walk by Faith?  Are you open to recognizing, and responding to, the Invitations that are both extended and received by you for the purpose of investing in the life of another?  Are you living your life in such a way that people Notice your good deeds and glorify God?  Are you spending regular time with God to gain His Insight into the way He would have you go?  Do you make the most of every opportunity to Share everything God has given you — including your possessions and your relationship with Jesus?  Are you growing in the practice of giving and receiving Honor with humility and grace?  I pray that your involvement in the Act of FINISH will boldly take you from where you are to where God wants you to be as you show, and tell, the world that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior!

The Act of HOPE (Acts 10)

It is a joy to preach through the book of Acts!  It is filled with examples and lessons that I need to learn and apply.  As I continue to look at the “Acts of Acts” in this sermon series, it seems like each chapter has the apostles, or early Christians, involved in an act that we have a tendency to try to avoid.  Yet it was these very acts of God in their lives that transformed a fledgling group disciples in disarray into a mighty force that turned the known world upside down with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We live in a time where we need such a transformation in the church and in the lives of the individuals who follow Jesus.

As we arrive in Acts 10 in our sermon series we find Cornelius, a God-fearing man who, as a Gentile, was on the outside looking in when it came to true hope through Jesus.  As he sought God, God opened the eyes of Cornelius and Peter so they experienced the Act of HOPE!  Let’s look at some lessons we can learn from the example of the early church and the conversion of Cornelius and the hope that becomes his.

  • Honor:  What do you do when you find yourself with little, or no, hope?  How does hope grow?  What seed can be planted in a life, yours or that of someone else, that would grow into hope?  I believe the answer to these questions begin with the act of honor.  Cornelius chose to honor God even when his circumstances, or lot in life, might suggest to most that it just isn’t worth it.  It was more than mere words, his life honored God by what he did!  Jesus called out the religious leaders of His day as  hypocrites by stating Isaiah spoke of them when he said, “These people honor me with their lips but their heart is far from me.”  Hope begins to grow when we honor God with our whole being.  It is through our honor of God that we allow our eyes to be open to the true plight of our self and others.  When we honor God, we also recognize that He has the ability to change and/or carry us through circumstances that appear to us as lacking greatly in hope.  When God calls you to grow in the Act of HOPE, recognize that both the foundation and seed of real hope comes from genuine acts of Honor given to our God.
  • Opportunity:  It is through our honor of God that He opens the doors of opportunity in the midst of what human eyes would see as hopeless.  As he prays one afternoon, Cornelius has a vision of an angel of God bringing a message that his prayers have been heard.  So, what was he praying?  We don’t have a text of his prayers but by examining the answer that God gives it would seem that at least part of his prayer was asking for the opportunity to be in a full relationship with God.  The answer to the prayer seems to be very simple, “send for Peter”.  Why?  Because Cornelius and his household needed to hear the good news of Jesus!  They needed a person to share with them the opportunity to have real hope through the blood of Jesus.  It is a message not entrusted to angels, but to the followers of Jesus.  Paul would write in his letter to the Romans about this very need: “How can they hear without someone preaching to them.  And how can they preach unless they are sent” (Romans 10:14-15).  In order to give hope to others, we must step outside of our comfort zone and share the opportunity of knowing Jesus with those we may not even think deserve it.  God had to teach Peter that this opportunity was for all who would call on the name of the Lord.   Learning to accept, and give, the act of Opportunity is a vital part of receiving and sharing the Act of HOPE.
  • Power: There is something about the combination of a genuine honor of God and opportunity to be in relationship with God that ignites an incredible power!  Paul’s prayer for the Romans was that they would “overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”  (Romans 15:13).  Do you believe God has the power to change a life, period, or just some lives?  Do we fail to honor people with the opportunity to know Jesus because we decide God doesn’t want them or is powerless to reach them?  It took a vision repeated three times and the voice of the Lord to convince Peter that God has the power, and desire, to save Gentiles as well as Jews.  When the honor of God that was expressed by Cornelius and his family experienced the opportunity to hear the message of salvation through Jesus Christ, the power of God’s Spirit was poured out upon them and they were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.      When we are growing in the Act of HOPE, we live with growing amazement that comes from experiencing the act of Power in the lives of all those who believe.
  • Explanation: I wonder if the events of Acts 10 were on Peter’s mind at all when he wrote, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect.”  (1 Peter 3:15).  What good is an explanation without someone willing to listen?  As Christians, we are required to walk by faith and not by sight yet there are times when an explanation is not only appropriate, but required.  In Acts 10 Peter explains to Cornelius how God taught him that differentiating between Jew and Gentile was wrong.  Cornelius explains to Peter about his desire to know God and to listen to all that God has commanded.  It is in this atmosphere of explanation that hope springs to life!  There are many people who live without hope because you and I have failed to explain to them with gentleness and respect about the hope that dwells within us.  When we spend time Explaining a relationship with Jesus in gentleness and respect, we give the Act of HOPE to people as they are able to escape from the power of sin and death in life and in eternity.

So, how are you doing in living out and growing in the Act of HOPE?  Do you fully and genuinely Honor God in all that you do and say?  Do you consistently make the most of every Opportunity to both share and grow in faith?  Do you faithfully live in the Power of God’s Spirit?  Do you use gentleness and respect as you Explain the hope you have in Jesus Christ?  I pray that the act of HOPE expressed through your life will boldly show the world that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior!

Giving THANKS — Give HONOR

This is part two of  the “Giving THANKS” sermon series that I am preaching on Sunday evenings at the Deer Run Church of Christ.  I began the series last week with “Give TIME” and this week we focused on a message entitled, “Give HONOR”.

God gave me the framework for this sermon series on the drive to work a few weeks ago and now He is giving me the opportunity to preach it!  Paul writes in second Thessalonians 4:16-18, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  We are never told to be thankful for all circumstances, but we are told to be thankful in all circumstances.  As we approach a season of Thanksgiving followed by the Christmas holiday, many people turn to thoughts of thankfulness and giving.  This series will give you some great tips on being thankful and some great gift ideas as you give thanks not only to God, but also to the people in your life!

Giving honor can be a very confusing and complicated topic among Christians.  On one hand, most would readily acknowledge a need to give God honor yet may struggle to know what that really looks like.  On the other hand, we struggle with the idea of giving honor to a person because there is often something that just doesn’t sound right about doing that.  Much of that tension comes because we are more likely to want honor given to us than to give it to others.  When we do give honor, it is difficult to do so impartially and without expecting to somehow benefit from doing so.  The Bible tells us to “honor one another above yourselves” and to “give everyone what you owe him . . . if honor, then honor”.  (Romans 12:10 & 13:7)  So, how do we give this kind of honor to the people in or life and that we cross paths with?

When we give this type of honor to people, with no strings attached, we give Hope!  Many people live, work, and serve under the radar — unsure if their efforts make a difference to anyone.  When we give them honor, we instill within them a confident hope that they matter and their life has a purpose.  The greatest honor we can give a person is to share with them “the reason for the hope that you have” We give honor to God when we live out loud the hope that we have in Jesus!  Hope is central in the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ and it ought to be central in the story of our life as we give thanks and give honor to the “others” around us.

We also give honor to people when we give them opportunity.  Just prior to Paul writing to the Romans to honor one another above themselves, he addresses a variety of gifts God has given individuals in His church.  “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.  If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”  (Romans 12:6-8)  The key to this passage, other than the obvious that these gifts are given by the grace or God, is the little phrase, “let him”.  We give honor to a person, and to God, when we give that person the opportunity to use the gifts God has put in their life.

One of the more common ways of giving honor is to give notice to a person’s use of the gifts that they have.  When we notice a person living, serving, and giving with no regard for themselves and seeking the best for the other person, that is a person that deserves honor for their faithfulness.  Before we begin to question if that is even appropriate, it is probably good to point out that Paul would often name names in the public letters he would write to the churches.  He had no problem pointing out the sacrificial service of people and ask that they, and people like them, be honored.  It should not be a problem to be noticed for doing good and having that recognized either publicly or privately.  The problem comes when being noticed becomes our sole or primary reason for serving others with the gifts God has given us.  We ought to be careful, but we must not let the potential of wrong motives keep us from honoring people by noticing their use of the gifting of God in their life.

When it comes to giving honor, one of the more difficult means for many is through giving obedience.  The Bible makes it clear that we honor God through our acts of obedience to his Word and his will.  Isaiah spoke about the nation of Israel in his time, and Jesus quoted it to describe the “religious” people of his day, that “they honor God with their lips but their hearts are far from him.”  The context of both Isaiah and the words of Jesus is that this is not real honor at all — real honor requires obedience.  When we consider honoring people with our obedience, it brings up the often scary topic of submitting to one another.  When we honor others above ourselves, we become obedient to their preferences and desires over our own.  Obviously, our true allegiance and obedience is to God and the truth of His word but when it comes to matters of opinion, we give honor to a person when we yield our opinion in obedience to theirs.

Probably the most common element of honor is respect.  This really ties together the other components I’ve written about.  While we often demand that respect is earned before it is given, giving honor says we give respect because of who the person is in Christ rather than because of what they can do, or have done, for me.  Our respect for a person gives hope.  True respect allows a person to use their gifts, giving them ample opportunity to shine for Jesus.  Respect notices the achievement, effort, and person in front of us and gives them honor for who they are.  It is respect that places my opinions and desires beneath theirs and lives in obedience to the command to submit to one another.  When we respect a person for who they are in God’s view, we give them honor.

I pray that you and I are living lives that give honor to God and to others!  I pray that our thanks is expressed as we give honor through our giving  of Hope, Opportunity, Notice, Obedience, and Respect!