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 TRUTH that Leads to Freedom

 “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. . . . So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.'”
John 8:31-32, 36 (NIV)

I had the privilege of sharing a sermon this morning from John 8:31-59 as I chose to address the topic of freedom on this Fourth of July holiday weekend.  I opened by reading a poem, Freedom, that God had put in my mind to write yesterday morning.  Then, as my custom is, I used a word of the sermon title as an acrostic to outline my sermon.  God calls His followers to know, live, and share a freedom that can only be found in the truth of Jesus who claims, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”

As we unwrapped “The TRUTH that Leads to Freedom”, we first looked at the Teaching that leads to freedom.  Jesus stated that by holding fast to His teachings we show that we are His disciples and will be set free by the truth of them.  Jesus made it clear in the story of the wise and foolish builders, that there is a difference between knowing the teachings of Jesus and actually putting them into practice.  It is by being a “doer of the word and not a hearer only” that we find the Teaching that leads to freedom.

The second point of the message addressed our need to practice a Repentance that leads to freedom.  Repentance is a word, and practice, that most of us tend to avoid because it requires an admittance that there is something not right in our life.  Often lost in a culture that loves to quote “judge not”, is the clear message of Jesus that He came not to call the righteous but to call sinners to repentance.  The real excitement in that last sentence ought to be the realization that Jesus came to call you and I to a Repentance that leads to freedom!

Through Jesus, we also gain an Understanding that leads to freedom.  Some of my favorite passages in the Bible are when Jesus addresses His disciples and refers to them as “dull” or asks them, “do you not understand?”.  I love these because it shows that Jesus knows that my understanding of who He is and the freedom He offers is a growing process.  In one of those passages there is an expressed concern about the keeping of some Jewish ceremonial practices to be considered clean.  Jesus explains that it is what is inside of a person that makes them clean or unclean  It is knowing, and trusting, the promises of Jesus to wash away my sins that gives me an Understanding that leads to freedom.

Perhaps the most difficult part of the message was this fourth point as I addressed the Traditions that lead to freedom.  I must make it very clear, it is not the traditions themselves that lead to freedom rather an examination and understanding of why I practice them.  Jesus made it clear to those accusing Him of forsaking the Law of God, as found in the Old Testament, that His intention was not to abolish the law, but rather to fulfill it.  He was keeping and fulfilling the law not for the sake of tradition but because he understood and believed the purpose behind it.  When we seek the old paths, paths founded in the truth of God’s Word, and walk intentionally in them as part of our relationship with God, we discover Traditions that lead to freedom.

Finally, we considered the Honor that leads to freedom.  Jesus could do and say the things He did while on earth because He wasn’t concerned about bringing honor and glory to Himself.  He was despised, ridiculed, rejected, and crucified all while living in complete freedom.  His stated goal was to not bring glory to Himself but to honor His Father.  It is so easy to get caught in the trap of compromise as we become afraid of what people will think of us.  Most of us want people to speak well of us and to honor us for our accomplishments and for who we are.  The problem is not so much in honoring people or being honored by people — God tells us to give honor to whom honor is due.  What keeps us from experiencing freedom is our desire to bring honor to ourselves.  It is when we make the focus of our life all about bringing glory to God that we can experience the Honor that leads to freedom.

Like the Jewish listeners in the days of Jesus, I think many people are disgusted with the idea that someone would set them free.  That original audience believed they were already free and had never been enslaved to anyone or anything — sounds rather familiar and contemporary to today’s culture, at least to me.  As much as we like to fight for our freedoms and shout to be heard, it doesn’t appear to be working all that well.  Perhaps it is time we turn to The TRUTH that Leads to Freedom!

In prayer,
Tom

The Honest Truth

The Honest Truth

Let’s just be honest
     between you and I.
When I hear these words,
     I must wonder why.
Is what you have told me
     up to right now.
Been short of the truth
     in some way or somehow?

Have we become so much
     afraid of the crowd.
That we can’t speak the truth,
     we can’t say it out loud?
We sugar coat answers
     and make them sound good.
And wonder why we feel
     we’re misunderstood.

Everything’s fine,
     no problems, we say.
But inside our mind
     the clouds are all grey.
We’re hurting and dying,
     it’s painful inside.
But all of the while
     our smile is spread wide.

You can’t tell the truth,
     what will people think?
You tell on them,
     you’re branded a fink.
So problems do fester,
     bad actions do grow.
And we have been silenced
     so no one will know.

When we’re less than honest
     we live life in fear.
That someone will speak up
     and someone will hear.
There is a solution
     that God says is so.
Let your yes be yes,
     and let your no be no.

So next time you’re tempted
     to be less than true.
Be sure to remember
     that just isn’t you.
To live under pretense
     just shouldn’t be.
When you walk in the truth,
     the truth sets you free!
© 2015 by Tom Lemler

My mind seems to be wired differently than what the average person’s is. There are times when I am asked about something that I would much rather say the “polite” thing that I know is the expected answer but I just can’t do it. I was told by an eldership in years past that I was too honest because I couldn’t put the right “spin” on information. Sometimes I desperately want to do just that so I fit in, am accepted, avoid arguments, and so many other reasons but I find that there is something in my wiring that doesn’t allow that. I am able to keep things to myself as long as no one asks, but so often when people do ask about specific things they don’t seem to really want an honest answer. Anyhow, I’ve been in a mental fog/funk for a few days for some reason and I’m not really sure if there was a specific trigger point or reason for this poem, but I believe God gave it so I ought to share it. I pray that it accomplishes whatever purpose He has in mind for it.

In prayer,
Tom

A Prophet’s Life

Some say it’s a gift,
     but I’m not so sure.
To see what could be
     if our choices were pure.
Just take a look back
     to the prophets of old.
And see what it got them
     when they were quite bold.

They’d speak up for God
     and proclaim forth His Word.
Yet the people would live,
     like they had never heard.
Things haven’t changed much
     as I look around.
Insist on life God’s way
     and few friends will be found.

It seems we’ve grown smarter
     than ever before.
We have better methods,
     our wisdom is more.
God couldn’t mean
     what it looks like He said.
Our own understanding
     beats the words that are red.

Yet faithful I must be,
     no matter the cost.
Anything less and
     my soul will be lost.
What God says still matters
     and I must be true.
To not only live it,
     but speak it to you!
© 2014 by Tom Lemler

The poems had disappeared from my mind for a while but for some reason several of them showed up in my mind all mixed up last night. This is one I sorted out and I think all the lines belong to this poem. 🙂

In prayer,
Tom

Honesty

There’s something I’ve noticed
     that really seems strange.
When it comes to truth,
     we think there’s a range.
There are bold lies and white lies,
     and “honest to God”.
And all kinds of gray space
     that really seems odd.
Whatever happened
     to yes and to no?
And keeping our word
     wherever we go?

To keep to my word,
     and make sure it’s true.
Should be how I live,
     when I talk with you.
I must be careful
     to weigh every word.
So only the truth,
     is that which is heard.
To make up a story,
     so I don’t look bad.
Will only bring problems,
     the worst that I’ve had.

Image is everything,
     at least we’ve been told.
So we make up a story
     and hope that it’s sold.
Our yes isn’t yes,
     and our no isn’t no.
We consider our image
     and we answer so-so.
We hide the true facts,
     that we don’t want seen.
And tell a new version,
     where the truth is quite lean.

This doesn’t mean
     you should tell all you know.
Some things are private,
     from your mouth should not go.
But that is a story
     for another day.
About speaking the truth,
     this poem will stay.
When we cover up
     the truth with a lie.
Our reputation
     has begun to die.

We must be careful
     that we don’t deceive.
By the impression
     that we try to leave.
We should not have to
     swear this is true.
Our word should be good
     when given to you.
The things that we value
     will carry more weight.
When we are honest
     in all that we state.

So when you are thinking
    that truth can’t be found.
Open the Bible,
     take a good look around.
The truth that is Jesus,
     does show us the way.
And calls us to choose;
     in our speech, there’s no gray.
To be fully honest,
     in word and in deed.
Is a teaching of Jesus
     that we ought to heed.
©

It seems like we live in a time where so many people have lost sight of the value that God places on honesty. In the past I’ve had ministry leaders tell me I’m too honest; that I needed to be more creative with the facts to give people an impression that was different from what was true. It also appears common to play loose with Bible texts to try to prove what we want. As I watched some of that unfold on social media, I spent time with God listening to His voice and He gave me this poem. I pray that it is an encouragement to each of us to live an honest life in our pursuit of God.

In prayer,
Tom

Opinions

We all have opinions
      that we hold to as fact.
They are often seen
      in the way that we act.
We stand up and shout
      in a voice that is loud.
I simply know more,
      it’s not that I’m proud.
We see this in others
      throughout the whole day.
But to see it in my life,
      there’s simply no way.

It seems far too often,
      and without any proof.
We repeat what we hear
      from the top of the roof.
We hear what we like
      and we make up our mind.
We’re so very certain,
      that the truth we don’t find.
We think we’re important
      if we know it all.
So we fail to notice
      that we’re bound for a fall.

We live in a time
      when it’s easy to do.
To let people know
      just what is our view.
I see it on-line,
      in response to all news.
They’re only right
      if they do what I choose.
It is quite amazing
      what people believe.
There’s no rhyme or reason,
      to the comments they leave.

If things are done one way,
      it’s completely wrong.
But do them the other,
      they sing the same song.
You can’t win for losing,
      is what some will say.
But I choose to believe
      there’s a much better way.
I need to be careful
      before I reply.
Before I do answer,
      I ought to ask, “Why?”

Not only ask why,
      but ask what is true.
That my answer is godly,
      not just my own view.
To consider the matter
      beyond what is shown.
And try to see clearly,
      as if their shoes were my own.
What I think doesn’t matter,
      if it’s really off-base.
And I only know that,
      when I seek my God’s face.

So when I read something
      of which I don’t agree.
I look to God’s Word
      to see if it’s me.
When there is a difference
      of opinion, not fact.
I guard my words closely
      and watch how I act.
I choose to know one thing
      and it’s always true.
It’s more than opinion,
      that God does love you.
©

Social media seems to make it easy for people to express their opinions with little regard for truth, fact, or even the whole story.  As I was reflecting this morning on comments I have read about various postings and news items, God put this poem in my mind.  I pray that it helps you to consider the words you use and examine the difference between opinion and truth before you feel obligated to comment.

In prayer,
Tom

Perception

I parted some water
     only last night.
It stacked up beside me,
     it was quite a sight.
I walked right between it,
     each side was a wall.
And I wasn’t too worried
     that either would fall.
Before you start thinking
     that I’ve lost my mind.
The water was frozen,
     it was the snowflake kind.

That may not seem funny,
     or maybe it does.
Our mind paints a picture
     of what is and what was.
And so very often,
     it is hard to see.
Anything different
     than I thought would be.
We’ve all heard some stories
     that just can’t be true.
At least ‘til we see them
     from a different view.

So when you do question
     a story that’s bold.
Look at it closely,
     see what really was told.
When we start to listen
     beyond “I am fine.”
We may just discover
     a valuable mine.
To understand others
     is quite a great gift.
Our world would be different
     if we all made this shift.

It will not be easy,
     I know it is hard.
Sometimes we get burnt
     and our spirit feels charred.
We don’t have to agree
     on every detail.
We still work together
     so neither will fail.
So when your perception
     fills you with much doubt.
Look from all angles
     as you figure it out.

Perception’s a problem
     when we start to pray.
It’s so very hard
     to see things God’s way.
We hold to His promise
     He said in His Word.
But sometimes the answer
     isn’t quite like we heard.
When you expect one thing
     and it’s not what you get.
Look at it from God’s view
     and you should be all set.
©

I was spending time with God this morning and thinking about the work I did last night clearing walks and realizing that it was water that was stacked up on either side of me — just not liquid yet.  This poem appeared in my mind as a look at the perceptions we have based on our understanding, often a one-sided understanding, of a person, an event, or even God. I pray that you constantly look at things from God’s perspective to give clarity to your perception.

In prayer,
Tom