Looking For a Better Way

I paused today to cast a vote.
And wished I could have left a note.
To every candidate, win or lose.
I pray that wisdom you would choose.

Yet as I prayed, my faith was small.
For I’ve not seen wisdom much at all.
Your TV ads have made me weep.
Thinking each of you is just a creep.

A “preacher” reads from God’s good Book,
then calls his opponent a dirty crook.
Back and forth the name calling goes.
I’m not quite sure what they think it shows.

They dig up dirt on one another,
and fail to see their sister and brother.
And through it all I failed to hear,
anything but a constant smear.

They say that’s how the game is played.
So just accept it, don’t be dismayed.
Yet still I think as I stop and pray,
there has to be a better way!

What if change would sweep this land,
and every candidate took a stand.
To speak the truth in all they say.
And not attack in any way.

To let the voters know their views.
So at the ballot they could choose.
To say nothing bad of the other side,
so on truth we could decide.

And so today I cast a vote.
And wished I could have left a note.
To all who come in after me,
I ask you pray for what you cannot see.

Then trust in God and not in man.
And place your faith in His grand plan!

©2018 by Tom Lemler

I voted this morning with a sour taste in my mouth as the months of negative campaign ads had convinced me none of the candidates were the statesmen that this country needs.  I’m not saying none of the candidates were right for this country, just all of them were so busy telling me what a rotten person their opponent was that they didn’t convince me they were any better.  It is so easy to say “the other side started it” or “my preferred candidate wasn’t as mean as yours”, but the truth is that somehow we have come to accept bullying as appropriate in the political realm even while demanding something be done to stop it everywhere else.  I pray that somehow “we the people” would say, “Enough!!” I pray that we would find ways to voice our beliefs and opinions without being mean to one another.  I pray that we would look to why people feel strongly about the issues they do rather than attacking them for feeling differently than we do.  I pray that God’s love would fill us with His grace to such an extent that we would find attacks against anyone to be completely and utterly unacceptable!

In prayer,
Tom

The Act of SPEAK (Acts 26)

“Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You have permission to speak for yourself.'”
Acts 26:1

As we near the end of the book, 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 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.

Paul continues his journey toward Rome in Acts 26 as he is brought before King Agrippa to be questioned regarding charges against him to be presented to Caesar.  Paul has appealed to Caesar but Festus and Agrippa have no idea what crime to tell Caesar that Paul has been charged with.  In an attempt to find answers, Paul is given the opportunity to speak.  As we continue to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is within us, there are some lessons we need to learn regarding the Act of SPEAK. 

  • Stop:  The Act of SPEAK begins with what may seem like an unlikely place, the act of Stop!  Most of the time we are so quick to speak that we fail to stop and listen for what God wants said.  Paul had opportunity to speak about Jesus because he had first stopped and realized Jesus was truly Lord.  If we are going to give an answer for the hope that is within us, we must first stop and set apart Christ as Lord in our life.  God says that it is out of the overflow of our heart that our mouth speaks so it is imperative that we stop and fill our heart with the word of God before we open our mouth to speak.  .  When we are engaged in the Act of SPEAK, we must make sure we first Stop and listen for God’s direction and leading in what we say. 
  • Permission:  The Act of SPEAK also requires us to wait for Permission.  Paul had been a prisoner under Roman guard for at least two years before he was brought before King Agrippa and given permission to speak!  This is another important part of why we must stop before we speak — we need permission to speak into a person’s life.  When we speak truth into a person’s life without earning permission, the seed of truth often falls on a very hard heart.  It is through time and relationship that we soften the ground of a person’s heart and gain permission to speak so truth has an opportunity to grow when it is spoken.  James tells us that everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.  When we speak without permission, we are more likely to speak out of anger and reaction with no listening taking place at all.  We are able to grow in the Act of SPEAK when we invest time and love to gain permission before we speak.
  • Examples:  When you have stopped and gained permission, the Act of SPEAK requires that you share Examples.  When God uses you to speak His truth into a person’s life, He has prepared you for that purpose with examples that show His love.  As Paul is addressing the accusations against him, he begins by sharing his story and the example of how he went from being a pursuer of God to a follower of Jesus.  He even uses his life example of being a persecutor of Christians to explain his story.  God knows our history, both good and bad, and He knows how to use your example to help others see His goodness.  Far too often we try to hide parts of our example because it embarrasses us and we would just as soon people only knew the whitewashed version of who we are.  People need to know how God has transformed your life so they will believe the transforming power of God can change their life.  When it comes to living out the Act of SPEAK, sharing our example as God leads us to helps others to see how God can love and forgive them.
  • Admit:  The Act of SPEAK also requires that we Admit who we really are and what God has done in our life.  Paul reaches the point in sharing his example that he must admit the truth behind the accusations against him — that he believes in the resurrection of the dead through the power of Jesus.  Sometimes we are so afraid of what people might think that we given the opportunity to speak about our belief in Jesus, we fail to admit that what is seen is His power working through us.  When people comment or ask about our hope, our joy, our faith, our confidence, our whatever — do we admit it comes from Jesus or do we brush it off with some casual answer?  We must be careful to not claim credit for what God has done, and for what only God could do, in our life.  The Act of SPEAK gains its power from your willingness to admit that it is only Jesus that has given you any real hope.
  • Kindness:  The Act of SPEAK is only effective when done from a heart of Kindness.  It is hard for me to imagine Paul being given the opportunity to speak in his own defense after years in custody and his primary concern is not for his release, but for the salvation of his hearers.  When we speak with kindness, we speak out of concern for the other person not with our interest in mind.  We must constantly ask God to purify our motives when we have the opportunity to speak so that we would always look out for the interests of others above our own.  When our primary motivation in speaking to a person about Jesus is for our benefit or to make our life easier, then we are speaking out of selfishness and not kindness.  When living the Act of SPEAK, it is important to constantly evaluate our heart and motives so that genuine Kindness prevails.

So, how are you doing in living out and growing in the Act of SPEAK?  Do you Stop and take the time to listen to God before you speak?  Do you invest time and love to earn Permission to speak God’s truth to a person?  Do you share the real Examples of where you’ve been and what God has done in your life?  Do you willingly Admit that Jesus is at the heart of every good thing you have or do?  Do you speak with Kindness to everyone as you look out for their interests above your own?  I pray that your involvement in the Act of SPEAK will boldly show, and tell, the world that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior!

2 Samuel: Lesson 16 — Is That Really So?

The following are discussion questions from a weekly study I am leading through the book of 2 Samuel.  We meet each Wednesday evening at the Deer Run Church of Christ.

A Man After God’s Own Heart:
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

A Study of the Book of 2 Samuel

Lesson 16 (Is That Really So?)
2 Samuel 16
January 9, 2013

The Text:

  1. As David fled Jerusalem, who came to meet him?  What did he bring?  What did he say they were for?
  2. What question does David have for Ziba?  What response does he give?  How does David respond?
  3. Who else comes to meet David?  What does he do?  Why?  What does Abishai want to do about it?
  4. How does David respond to Abishai?  How does David compare what is happening with what his son is doing?  What was David’s hope?
  5. Who comes to see Absalom?  How does Absalom respond to him?  What is his reply/reasoning back to Absalom?  What advice does Ahithophel give Absalom?  Why?

The Application:

  1. What do you think of the old phrase, “never look a gift  horse in the mouth”?  Is that good advice?  Why/Why not?
  2. Do you question things that don’t make sense?  Is it easy to believe things that seem to make sense?  Have you ever made a bad decision/judgment based on information that sounded right, but really wasn’t?
  3. Have you ever been spoken badly about because of your past or because of who formerly did what you are doing?  Have you ever spoken badly about someone because of their past or your relationship with a person they “took over” for?  How do you react to criticism?
  4. How tempting is it to involve others in dealing with criticism directed at you that they are not really a part of?  How often do you look for elements of truth in criticism?  What makes it easy/hard to do so?
  5. Do you often “change sides” with issues or people?  How confident are you of people who seem to often “change sides”?  Who does your loyalty belong to?  How likely are you to follow bad advice if it appears it will serve to offend your enemy?  What if that advice came from someone who everyone believed had a direct connection with God?

Next Week: Conflicting Advice
2 Samuel 17

2 Samuel: Lesson 15 — I Can Be King!

The following are discussion questions from a weekly study I am leading through the book of 2 Samuel.  We meet each Wednesday evening at the Deer Run Church of Christ.

A Man After God’s Own Heart:
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

A Study of the Book of 2 Samuel

Lesson 15 (I Can Be King!)
2 Samuel 15
December 19, 2012

The Text:

  1. What is it that Absalom did with his renewed favor with the king?  Where would he start his day?  Who would typically be coming into town?  How would Absalom greet them?  What did he say about the chances of them being heard by the king?
  2. After planting in the people’s mind that there was no one to listen to them, what does Absalom suggest?  How would he treat those who wanted to show him respect?  What effect did this have on the people of Israel?
  3. How long did Absalom act in this manner?  What request did he have of David?  What did he state he wanted to do?  What did he do instead?
  4. What message was brought to David?  How did  he respond?  Who went with him?  Who were the Gittites?  What did David suggest they do?  What did they do instead?
  5. What reaction did the people have as David and those with him passed by?  What did David have done with the ark of God after they had left the city?  What was David’s prayer concerning the counsel Absalom would receive?  Who was Hushai and what did David have him do?

The Application:

  1. Is enough ever enough?  What makes it easier/more difficult to be satisfied?  Has anyone ever tried to discredit you to make themselves appear better or more appealing?  Have you tried that?  How should you respond when people do that?
  2. Do you ever act like you have all the answers or could solve all problems if given the opportunity?  Why is flattery so deceitful yet so effective?
  3. Do you ever make a request in a way that you know will be received positively when you really have a different purpose and motive behind the request than what you let on?  Why is manipulation so damaging?
  4. How hard is it to flee a situation even when you know the consequences of staying will be harmful to you and others?  Are there people who would stand with you no matter what?  Are there people you would stand with no matter what?  Why?
  5. How hard is it to do what needs done when doing so causes sadness in others?  How hard is it to leave the “making right” in God’s hands?  Are there ways He wants you involved?

Next Week: Is That Really So?
2 Samuel 16

2 Samuel: Lesson 14 — Coming Home

The following are discussion questions from a weekly study I am leading through the book of 2 Samuel.  We meet each Wednesday evening at the Deer Run Church of Christ.

A Man After God’s Own Heart:
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

A Study of the Book of 2 Samuel

Lesson 14 (Coming Home)
2 Samuel 14
December 12, 2012

The Text:

  1. What did Joab know about the king?  Who did Joab enlist to help him?  What story did Joab give to be told to the king?  How does David respond to the story?
  2. After David responds to the story, who is he told the story is really about?  What question does David have for the one telling the story?  What answer is he given?
  3. Who does David give instructions to regarding Absalom?  How does that person respond?  What does it seem to say about where he was for all of this?
  4. Where does Absalom go when Joab brings him back to Jerusalem?  What were David’s instructions regarding this?  What was the reputation Absalom gained throughout Israel?
  5. How much time passed with Absalom not seeing the king?  Why did Absalom send for Joab?  What did Absalom do after Joab refused for a second time to come to him?  What was his reasoning?  What came of it?

The Application:

  1. Have you ever found yourself in a situation that you wanted to be different but had reached a point that you didn’t know how to change the circumstances?  Why is it important to involve wise people when dealing with conflict?  How are you able to help people see necessary changes without them feeling a need to be defensive?
  2. How do stories help you see things in a bigger perspective than what otherwise might be noticed?  How do you feel when confronted about something and you realize that someone else is behind it all?  Should it matter?
  3. How hard is it to stay in the background when others are needed to speak on your behalf?  How gracious are you when your requests are received well?
  4. How difficult is it to fully put the past behind you?  Are there times when it is easier to keep a distance from the people of past situations to avoid the reminders?
  5. Do you ever get tired of waiting?  How often do you avoid people because you know they will ask you do to something that you know someone else doesn’t want done?  To what extremes would you go to be heard?  Is partial reconciliation better than no reconciliation?

Next Week: I Can Be King!
2 Samuel 15

2 Samuel: Lesson 13 — Two Wrongs . . . Are Still Wrong

The following are discussion questions from a weekly study I am leading through the book of 2 Samuel.  We meet each Wednesday evening at the Deer Run Church of Christ.

A Man After God’s Own Heart:
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

A Study of the Book of 2 Samuel

Lesson 13 (Two Wrongs . . . Are Still Wrong)
2 Samuel 13
December 5, 2012

The Text:

  1. Who was Amnon?  What was his feelings toward Tamar?  Who was Tamar?  How is Jonadab described?  What did he notice about Amnon?  What did he recommend doing?  Who came to visit Amnon?  Why?  What did Amnon request?  What did he do when the request was granted?
  2.  How did Tamar respond to what Amnon was trying to do?  What reasoning did she try to use to prevent Amnon’s actions?  What alternative did she give?  How did Amnon feel after he had his way?  What was Tamar’s response to this?
  3. What was Absalom’s response to Tamar when he discovered what happened?  Where did Tamar end up living?  What was David’s reaction when he found out what had happened?  What was Absalom’s immediate response to Amnon?
  4. When Absalom’s sheepshearers had gathered, what request did he have of David?  How did David respond?  Who was he really wanting?  How much time had passed from the incident earlier in the chapter?
  5. What did Absalom have his men do?  What did the rest of David’s sons do after this happened?  What was the first report that got back to David?  Who corrected that report?  What was the reason given?  What did Absalom do?  What did David do?

The Application:

  1. Have you ever wanted something you knew was wrong?  What are the dangers of dwelling on something unobtainable?  How can you avoid being a part of someone’s deceitful plan?
  2. When you’re in the midst of wrong about to happen, are you more concerned about how it will make you look or how it will make the perpetrator look?  What does it take to consider less harmful alternatives when surrounded by evil?
  3. How do you respond when evil is done to people you love?  What role should justice play in forgiveness?  What dangers exist of not dealing with transgression immediately?
  4. Does time really heal all wounds?  Why would you request something that wasn’t really what you wanted?  Why is manipulation such a bad thing?
  5. Is it tempting to not get involved when you know a person “deserves” what they are getting?  Can you really ever make things right by doing wrong?  What can be the consequences?

Next Week: Coming Home
2 Samuel 14

2 Samuel: Lesson 12 — You’re The Man!

The following are discussion questions from a weekly study I am leading through the book of 2 Samuel.  We meet each Wednesday evening at the Deer Run Church of Christ.

A Man After God’s Own Heart:
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

A Study of the Book of 2 Samuel

Lesson 12 (You’re The Man!)
2 Samuel 12
November 28, 2012

The Text:

  1. Who is Nathan?  What story does Nathan tell David?  What is David’s response?
  2. What is Nathan’s response to David’s reaction?  What had God given David?  What was God’s view of what David had done?  What consequences did God say David would face?
  3. How did David respond when confronted with being the subject of the story that angered him and with the consequences for his actions?  What was God’s response to this?  What had David’s actions done beyond the nation of Israel?
  4. What did God say would happen to the son born to David and Bathsheba?  What did David do about this?  Why were the servants afraid to tell David when the child died?  What was David’s response when he found out?  How does God respond to the next son of David and Bathsheba?
  5. What had Joab been doing?  What message does he send to David?  What does David do?  How successful is he?

The Application:

  1. Who are some messengers of God that you know?  Do you see yourself as one?  Do stories of injustice anger you?  Why is it easier to see injustice around us rather than the injustice from within?
  2. When a story impacts your emotions, does God ever say to you, “it’s about you!”?  What has God given you?  In light of that, how do you think God feels about any selfishness you have?  Why do you think selfishness, envy, greed, and covetousness are so damaging?
  3. How do you respond when convicted of sin?  Does this take away the consequences of the sin?  What are some purposes of God bringing about consequences to sinful actions?
  4. Have you ever pleaded seriously with God about something that you wanted Him to change His mind about or change the outcome?  How hard is it to be at peace when the situation is over and the outcome didn’t change like you wanted?  Are you confident of God’s love after receiving His discipline?
  5. How hard is it to stay faithful in what you are called to do when those around you aren’t’?  How likely are you to hand off honor when the opportunity exists to take if for yourself?  Do you learn from God’s discipline and do the right thing at the next opportunity?

Next Week: Two Wrongs . . . Are Still Wrong
2 Samuel 13