Looking For the Perfect GIFT! (Sermon Audio)

Looking For the Perfect GIFT! (Sermon Audio)

 

This is the audio from the December 1, 2019 sermon, “Looking For the Perfect GIFT”, shared by Tom Lemler at the North Wayne Mennonite Church.

Text: John 4:10, Colossians 1:27

As we enter a season when many individuals are looking for the perfect gift for someone special, or even for themselves, let’s look at some lessons we can we learn from the things we look for in the perfect gift we give or receive.  Each of these lessons not only help us to give the perfect gift, they help us see Jesus as the perfect gift that has been given to us.  

When looking for the perfect gift, look for:

  • Goodness:
    • Psalm 27:13-14 — When giving a gift that we want to be “just right”, we search for something filled with goodness.  Something that is appropriate for the person and situation the gift is meant for.  The gift must not only meet our standards, but it must be acceptable by the standards the recipient is known for and deserves.  Jesus reminds us that while our nature is to give good gifts to our children, even greater is the nature of His Father to give good gifts to those who are His.  Even in the midst of a very up and down life, David writes of being confident of seeing God’s goodness in the land of the living.  Yes, he knew the goodness of God exists throughout heaven in eternity, but there is also an element of God’s goodness that He showers upon us here on earth — with the supreme example of that goodness being the sending of Jesus to die for our sins.
  • Instructions: 
    • Psalm 25:8-9 — When looking for the perfect gift, we want to be sure it does what it should.  Whether we read them or not, we want to know there are instructions and help available should something not make sense in the use of the gift.  With all of the “some assembly required” gifts that we give, the quality of the instructions go a long way in making sure the gift will look and work as it is supposed to.  When it comes to the perfect gift of Jesus, God has given us His Word to instruct us in every area of life we will face.  Working in combination with His Word, the Holy Spirit has been given to God’s children to help us know and understand the instructions God has given each of us for life.  From entering the kingdom of God, to living as kingdom citizens here on earth, to be ready for eternity in the presence of the King, God’s instructions are both clear and complete. 
  • Freedom:
    • John 8:34-36, 2 Corinthians 3:17 — The perfect gift always comes with an element of freedom, otherwise the gift quickly becomes our master and we soon resent both the gift and the giver for enslaving us.  Many people have received gifts that at first glance appeared to be beneficial and wonderful . . . and then they discovered the time and financial commitment required to keep such a gift.  God has shown us that His laws, even the “thou shalt not” laws, are given to us for the purpose of teaching us how to live as those who are truly free.  The gift of Jesus has been given to us to set us free from both the penalty and the power of sin in our life.  Being cleansed of our sins and living by the power of the Holy Spirit within us frees us to live for Christ rather than for self. 
  • Truth:
    • John 1:14-17, 14:6 — Finally, the perfect gift is always given in truth.  No misrepresentations, no double-talk, no hidden agendas, no bait and switch, and no exaggerations.  In a world that not only wants something for nothing, but wants you to believe it is giving you more than it can, truth in giving can be a very uncommon trait.  The advertising world thrives on making things appear bigger, better, faster, quieter, louder, or whatever other characteristic you desire; than what they really are.  A few years ago, a national sandwich chain took a lot of heat because their “foot-long” sandwiches weren’t really twelve inches long.  They’re initial response did little to satisfy the general public as they simply claimed “foot-long” was meant to be an approximate term and not an actual measurement.  With Jesus as the perfect gift, He makes it clear that He is truth.  In fact, He expects the same from us as He calls us to let our yes be yes and our no be no.  Part of the prayer of Jesus for His followers is that we would be set apart by truth, the truth of God’s Word.

In all the gifts ever given, there is none so perfect as Jesus! 

It is my prayer that you not only accept this perfect gift, but that you would live your live sharing this gift with others.

In prayer,
Tom

How To Give THANKS! (Sermon Audio)

How To Give THANKS! (Sermon Audio)

 

This will serve as the November 3 post in the series I am writing this month on giving thanks.  This is the audio from the November 3, 2019 sermon, “How To Give THANKS”, shared by Tom Lemler at the North Wayne Mennonite Church.

Text: Psalm 100, 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Anyhow, this version of “How To Give THANKS” is based around a “made-for-the-movies” stereotypical family thanksgiving day.  Here are six things I think we can learn about giving thanks from a traditional Thanksgiving Day gathering:

We give thanks to God, and to others, when we give:

  • Turkey:
    • Hebrews 5:11-14 —   I know, you probably have the same reaction that the congregation did this morning — “What?  Did he say what I thought I heard?  He didn’t just say turkey, did he?”.  Yep, I said turkey!  When you think of Thanksgiving, for most people, the first thing that comes to mind is turkey.  It is the traditional main course, the very center and substance to the meal which surrounds it.  When I say, “give turkey”, that is what I mean — give thanks with substance and meat at its very heart.  Don’t settle for simply mouthing the words thank you when you can give thanks with turkey — with real depth and meaning behind it.  This is a thanks that settles in and satisfies the deepest reaches of a person’s being.
  • Humor: 
    • Psalm 126:2-3 –Without a good sense of humor, Thanksgiving and other family gatherings can fall apart quite quickly.  We give thanks when we don’t take our self too seriously.  God says that a cheerful, or merry, heart is good medicine!  I believe that there are boundaries that need to be kept when it comes to humor but laughter is not only good for the spirit, it is good for the body.  This is not only true of an individual but it applies to a family, or a church family, as well.  Don’t take every situation more seriously than it ought to be taken.  True joy can shine through brightly when you give thanks with humor.
  • Abundance:
    • 2 Peter 1:2, John 10:10 — Does anything symbolize the American Thanksgiving Day gathering any more than a table overflowing with every variety of food imaginable — a table of Abundance?  Jesus said He came to not only give us life, but to give us life abundantly!  Do you give thanks with abundance, or just enough to get by?  When we want to celebrate or to remember great things, we would likely never ask how little can I do and still look good.  No, we would examine our resources of every kind to determine how abundantly can I celebrate to make my joy known to all.  When we want to express deep-felt thankfulness it ought to be the same way — not what do I have to do but how much can I do.  Your generosity overflows when you give thanks with abundance.
  • Naps:
    • 1 John 3:18-20 — Ahhh . . . turkey, plenty of good humor, an abundance of food . . . I’m tired.  What good Thanksgiving Day gathering would be complete without a Nap?  We give thanks when we give Naps!  When we allow a person to relax and rest we communicate that we value both them and their time.  If every interaction with a person has you walking away knowing that they expect something from you it is not likely that you will feel a true appreciation regardless of any words of thanks.  Resting is a God-given concept and gift that we typically don’t use enough ourself and seldom think to give to others.  The sabbath concept, a day of rest, is connected by God to the fact that on the seventh day He rested from His work of creation.  We, and those around us, are more tolerable when we give thanks with naps.
  • Kindness:
    • Ephesians 4:31-32 — What family gathering is complete without that cousin that’s . . . well, he’s just different.  Regardless of his different looks, different political views, different lifestyle, different pie preference, or different whatever, he is part of the family so we give Kindness.  Extending kindness doesn’t mean that we agree or approve of everything about him — we may pray and work desperately to influence positive change in his life.  It does mean, however, that we acknowledge his value as a person and do our best to include him in the family celebration of the Thanksgiving Day gathering.  We all sin and find our self in need of God’s greatest kindness — the undeserved gift of forgiveness and salvation through the blood of His Son, Jesus!  It is this example that we must follow when we give thanks with kindness.
  • Sweets:
    • Proverbs 16:24 — Finally, the part that no one really needs but no Thanksgiving Day gathering is complete without — Sweets!  Take away the pie, the ice cream, the cookies, the fudge, the chocolate, the candies, and the other desserts and what do you have?  You have one very unhappy and disappointed family!  Sweets are those over-and-above extras in life that shout “thank you” in ways that little else can.  When we really want to give thanks, we adopt an “and then some” attitude.  We do what is expected and required . . . and then some.  We walk the extra mile.  We take the extra time.  We give the extra attention.  With our actions we say loudly, “you’re worth it!”.  Just as dessert completes the Thanksgiving Day gathering, our expressions of gratitude are completed when we give thanks with sweets.

So, how are you at giving THANKS?  I pray that as you gather with others this Thanksgiving day, and any other day, you would give “Turkey”, give Humor, give Abundance, give Naps, give Kindness, and give Sweets!

A Happy Birthday Life

A long time ago,
but not so far away.
A baby was born
on this special day.
As this girl grew
with each passing year.
She faced life head-on
with hardly a fear.
When the time was just right,
at least in my mind.
This brave, fearless girl
I was lucky to find.

Happily ever after,
is how this story goes.
But that’s only in fairy tales,
everyone knows.
So in the spirit of truth,
it really has all been roses.
Though some have held thorns,
not fragrance to our noses.
But I’ve learned through the pokes
and sweet-smelling scent.
Though not always easy,
for this we were meant.

On this special day
as we celebrate you.
I’m so very happy
that you said, “I do”.
And I am so thankful
to God up above.
that we have each other
to share in His love.
So the happiest of birthday’s
to my wonderful wife.
I’m glad we’re together
in this journey of life!

I love you!!

 

© 2018 by Tom Lemler

Just a little poem I wrote for my wife’s birthday today!  It is a reminder that even in the ups and downs, sweet aromas and thorns, life can be made much better when the journey is taken together with the right person.  Though in reality, I have discovered it seems to have much more to do with being the right person than expecting someone else to be that person for you.  I pray that your journey is sweetened by the people that God brings into your life!

In prayer,
Tom

A Shepherd’s Life

I sit in the darkness,
keeping watch through the night.
My eyes become heavy
waiting for morning’s light.
The sheep were all safe
as I made one more round.
Checking for danger,
praying none would be found.

My brothers were sleeping,
as best as they could.
And soon we’d switch places
so I could rest as I should.
Then all of a sudden,
in the midst of the night!
We were surrounded by glory
which glowed like a light!

In the midst of this glory,
an angel spoke out.
To bring us the news
of what this night was about.
It frightened us greatly
to see such a thing.
Though the angel said, “Fear not,
good news I do bring.”

“The news is for you,
and all through the earth.
God’s keeping His promise
through the Messiah’s birth.
The baby you’ll find
is no ordinary one.
No, the one in the manger
is God’s only Son!”

When the message was given,
the sky was soon filled.
With a multitude of angels
who sounded quite thrilled.
“Glory to God,
and peace on the earth.
To all who are favored
by this Savior’s birth!”

With that glorious message
ringing loud in our ear.
We just had to check up
on what we did hear.
We rushed off together,
my brothers and I.
To see for ourselves
what was announced in the sky.

We arrived at the stable
and beheld such a sight.
What the angel had told us,
surely was right!
The baby was right there
with Mary and Joe.
So we spread the word
wherever we would go.

And when I returned
to those sheep in the night.
I couldn’t quit thinking
of that beautiful sight.
The angels were glorious,
that is for sure.
But they were no match
for the baby so pure.

My life had been changed
by a baby that day.
And from that moment on
I had something to say.
“Glory to God
and His peace on the earth!
My Shepherd has come down
to walk on this earth!”

I pray that you listen
to what I did learn.
And accept a great gift
that you never could earn.
The baby I welcomed
on that dark, lonely night.
Was given by God
to bring us His light.

So I no longer walk
in the darkness at all.
I’ve chosen to follow
my good Shepherd’s call.
And as I do follow,
He calls to you too.
Come join the Shepherd
and be made brand new!

© 2018 by Tom Lemler

As I was praying, cleaning, and working on some year-end teaching material early this week, part of this poem showed up in my mind.  I wrote down what I had but it just didn’t feel like it was complete — the story was only half told.  As I worked on a cleaning project today, several days after the original lines, the rest of the poem arrived.  I hope it was the poem I was supposed to write and not just the result of the cleaning product fumes. 🙂  I pray that you would know the joy of God’s presence not just at Christmas time, but each day that you live!

In prayer,
Tom

Imagine

Sometimes I wonder
as I live life each day.
If today I met Jesus,
just what would He say?
Would He mention my Facebook,
or perhaps that “great” tweet?
Or would He question my absence
from the few at His feet?

Would He wink at that meme
that I knew wasn’t true?
But I just had to share it
to get back at you.
Would He ask why I’m so bent
on proving I’m right?
Did I honor His name
by joining that fight?

Would He ask any questions
that would give me a chance?
To explain the appearance
of my online “dance”?
I sidestep the truth
and I whirl around.
And get in my jabs
when opportunity is found.

Or would He just smile
and say, “Job well done!
You have lived life quite well
as you followed the Son!
You chose to use My Word
to help and to heal.
And stuck to its truth,
above how you ‘feel’”.

“My Word is a lamp
and a light to your way.
So stay true to it
in all that you say.
And be very careful,
when you say words are Mine.
That you’re not justifying
things you think are ‘fine’”.

“That lamp and that light
can only be lit.
When you speak Words of truth
and don’t add to it.
So, shine that light brightly
as you follow the Son.
And share My full counsel
with each and every one!”

© 2018 by Tom Lemler

As I was praying this morning during the morning building clean, I found myself seeking God regarding various social media posts, meme, and conversations that I’ve wanted to respond to over the past week or so.  While there is much good that can be accomplished through the tools of social media, there is a very real element of danger that exists in the ability to immediately share, post, or comment on things we’ve not spent any time talking to God about.  We see something that pokes us in one way or another and we “feel” that we just have to share it if we agree with it or comment if we disagree.  And far too often we use God’s Word out of context to add “power” to our opinion.  We play fast and loose with what He says His Word is about and instead of lighting a path so that people can see Jesus, we create confusion and conflict when there ought to be clarity.  Out of that prayer time came this poem as I considered what Jesus might say if He were to simply drop by my office for a visit today.  I suspect that the more deliberate I am about sitting at His feet and listening rather than having to have the “last word”, the more likely I will recognize His presence as I “walk in the light as He is in the light.”  I pray that you and I would be very careful in how we represent Jesus in all situations, but especially in our online presence.

In prayer,
Tom

Calming Touch

There are some times
I’m awakened at night.
To calm a sweet child
in the midst of her fright.
And often I realize,
words don’t mean as much.
As just being present
with a soft, calming touch.

I suspect that’s why God
placed us in family.
To be touched by His presence,
when each other we see.
To have someone with us,
through our darkest night.
Is not only calming,
it’s a beautiful sight!

So, as you live your life
and as I live mine.
May we each receive comfort
as we let God’s light shine.
And may all those around us,
be touched by our life.
In a way that brings peace
in the midst of their strife.

In the next interruption
of your comfortable rest.
I pray you are ready
to give others your best.
That you would be present
with just what they need.
And that they would see Jesus
in your very good deed!
© 2018 by Tom Lemler

There is very little that can get a parent’s full attention quite as quickly as being awakened by the sound of your child in distress.  In those moments, adrenaline can be a friend or foe . . . or a little of each.  As I was going about my work tasks and praying early this morning, I was thinking about the previous night and the care our daughter needed from my wife and I.  The first hints of a long night were the sounds of her throwing up in bed — which I can’t help much with without adding to the mess so it’s best I just stay out of the way if possible. 🙂  Once that was dealt with, it didn’t feel like we had done any more than just gotten back to sleep when it was the sounds of a seizure waking us up.  Part of the process of coming out of the seizure often includes a period of fear when help is wanted, even demanded, but words seem to do no good.  While quiet words may provide some comfort, it is really hard to tell, it is the soft, gentle touch that does the most to bring reassurance that we are with her.  Anyhow, that’s the background in my mind as I was praying this morning and this poem showed up to remind me of the power of being present in the lives of those who are frightened and suffering.  I pray that it encourages you and helps you to consider who God has called you to share His comforting touch with.

In prayer,
Tom
Thankful

Thankful

I pause to give thanks,
on this very day.
And when I would do so,
there’s much I should say.
The blessings of life,
we oft notice first.
But what of the things,
for which we do thirst?

I’m thankful for longing
to do what is right.
And thankful for faith,
which sees beyond sight.
I’m thankful for worship
that I long to give.
And thankful for God,
and reason to live.

I’m thankful for family
who walk by my side.
And gives me a safe place
when I need to hide.
I’m thankful for people
that I get to serve.
And thankful God gives me
what I don’t deserve.

And yes I am thankful
for His blessings too.
The turkey and pie
and time spent with you.
A family that loves me
and longs for my best.
And a God who prepares me
to enter His rest.

And so on this day
that we pause to give thanks.
I pray that it spreads
throughout all the ranks.
When a life of thanksgiving
becomes our new way.
We will find ourselves thankful
throughout every day.

©2018 by Tom Lemler

As we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States, I’ve been praying about being more thankful.  It seems that even in the midst of much to be thankful for, it can become far too easy to complain instead of giving thanks.  As I was praying, this poem came to mind as I thought about being thankful not just for the blessings of God, but also for the desires that He has placed in my heart.  I share this with the hope and prayer that God will continue to grow a heart of thankfulness in each one of us!

In prayer,
Tom