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Meadow Minute!


Forward Thinking

We have all heard the expression, “There are exceptions to every rule.”  But as a rule, during my time in Meadow, I have learned that those who work the land are forward-thinking people.  There may be some who see only a dreary existence, driving back and forth over the same acres year after year, but those are the exception to the rule.  Most who work the land are looking for something.  They see a future.  A result.  A harvest.  They till the ground for a reason…the harvest.  They plant their seed and fight against the enemies of drought and weeds and insects, for a reason…a harvest.  Theirs is a life of hope.  They look for and pray for the future… for the harvest.  As a rule, those who work the land are forward-thinking people.

 

And as a rule, that is the Christian life.  As a rule, believers in Jesus are forward-thinking people.  As a rule, Christians are looking for something.  They see a future.  A harvest.  They till relationships for a reason…a harvest.  They plant the seed of the gospel and fight against the distractions and dangers of the enemy in this mortal life for a reason…a harvest.  As a rule, followers of Christ are forward-thinking people, living in hope and praying for harvest time.

 

In recent weeks, our community has faced the loss of two very significant people—Pam McCaul and Don Bingham—both connected to the same extended family, and uniquely connected to the FBC family here in Meadow.  Both come from backgrounds involving working the land.  They have been looking for something for a very long time.  Pam and Don were forward-thinking people.  And now they are part of God’s harvest…in heaven.  Pray for their family.  Reach out to those in their family left here who are still looking to the future.  Love on them in Jesus’ Name.

 

As a rule, Christians are forward-thinking people.  But as I said at the start, there are exceptions to every rule.  Many God-fearing people have found themselves lulled into living only in the present.  They are looking only for the “next thing” instead of for the “last thing.”  Oh, life here can be quite fulfilling…and distracting.  The “next thing” might include a memorable vacation, or a new home, or a coming wedding, or a new baby!  Maybe the “next thing” is nothing more than next weekend to have some time off.  Those are all good things.  We should all praise God for the simple joys and wonderful “newness-es” of this life.  Still, as a rule, Christians must not find themselves living only for the “next thing.”  We must be forward-thinking people.  We must be looking for and living for the “last thing.”  God’s plan for His children includes “a future and a hope.”

 

“For I am confident of his very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 1:6.)

 

So, believer, enjoy life…as it comes.  Stop and smell the roses…today.  Take that vacation…ASAP.  But don’t get side-tracked by the “next thing.”  Be a forward-thinking person.  Look for, long for, live for the “last thing,” a place being prepared for you even right now in our Father’s heaven.

 

And for the record, there are a few rules without exceptions.  God loves you.  Christ died for you.  Through faith in Him your sins can be forgiven.  You can have the Holy Spirit live in your heart.  And an eternity with Jesus awaits those who trust in Him.

 

Grace,

 

Tom

Meadow Minute Archives

Past articles of the Meadow Minute can be located by date and content.

  • There is a great story told by Billie Graham.  Martin Luther was once going through a period of discouragement and depression.  For days, his long face darkened the family table and dampened the family’s home life.  One day his wife came to the breakfast table all dressed in black, as if she were going to a funeral service.  When Martin asked her who had died, she replied, “Martin, the way you’ve been behaving lately, I thought God had died, so I came prepared to attend His funeral.”

     

    Her gentle but effective rebuke drove straight to Luther’s heart, and as a result the great Reformer resolved never again to allow worldly care, resentment, depression, discouragement, or frustration to defeat him.  By God’s grace, he vowed, he would submit his life to the Savior and reflect His grace in a spirit of rejoicing, whatever came.

     

    Are you and I able to praise God come what may?

     

    Reverend Graham never related this story to encourage us to skip through life with some Polyana attitude.  He’s not suggesting we smile in the face of every adversity.  Life can be and will be messy.  Other people will hurt us.  Relationships may shatter.  Our health may fail.  Our finances might crash.  As Graham’s story revealed, worldly care, resentment, depression, discouragement, and frustration are not things we can wish away.  What Luther determined was to never again doubt God’s goodness and grace, come what may.

     

    In our best days and in our worst, in our ups and in our downs, God remains constant.  Malachi 3:6 says, “For I, the Lord, do not change…”  God’s love for us is not contingent on how our day is going.  His mercy is not dependent on how we feel.  His grace is sufficient in all circumstances.  His power is not lessened because we fail to trust in it.  His comfort is constantly available whether we claim it or not.  His victory over death and the grave is not cheapened by our failure to acknowledge all its ramifications.  God is not dead.  He is our constant.  The Lord does not change.  “If God is for us, who (or what) can come against us?”  Praise God!

     

    “Who (or what) shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.”  Praise God again!

     

    In writing this Meadow Minute, I have no way of knowing where you are in your walk with God.  I have no idea what is coming next for you.  But our God sees around the corner.  He knows.  I would never attempt to trivialize your worries, your cares, your pain, or your circumstances.  Neither is my intent here some feeble attempt to take away what you are going through.  I cannot.  Whatever is going on in your life might very well be God’s discipline because you are His child and He wants to grow you, to strengthen you.

     

    Our circumstances change.  The message here for you AND me is that our God does not.  His love, His mercy, His grace, His power, His comfort, and the victory of His resurrection are constant.  Cling to that when life goes south.  Praise Him for that in the middle of the mess.  You get to go through all of that with the God who does not change.  Praise Him, come what may.

     

    Grace,

     


    Tom

  • What comes to mind when you hear the phrase, “Recreational Christianity”?

     

    No, I’m not talking about a Church-League softball team!  I’m not describing a faith-based gym membership or a “Relay for Jesus” track and field event!  Recreational Christianity should recall the idea of the casual Christian, the “every now and then, Sunday morning sometimes" believer who has little to no influence on others for God’s Kingdom.  This is the follower of Jesus who gets around to praying only when he or she needs something or needs out of something.  The one who faithfully attends funerals and memorial services but would not be caught dead (pun intended) at a Rally for Life or VBS volunteer training.  Recreational Christianity is a harshly critical expression.  It is a label to be avoided rather than a badge to be proudly displayed.

     

    At the end of the third chapter of the Book of Revelation, Jesus chastened the church at Laodicea saying, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot.  So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”  God’s children are called to fulfill the purposes intended by their Creator.  Like a bowl of melted ice cream left out on a warm summer’s evening or a bowl of tepid soup on a cold winter’s day, recreational Christianity is a turn off.  Our Lord calls us to fulfill His purposes in our lives.  Such a “religion” is a turn off to anyone wondering if following Jesus has something vital and important to offer in this life.  Recreational Christianity has little impact in the world and is more of a distraction than a witness.  To an unbeliever, a recreational Christian’s Christianity sounds like nothing more than end-of-life fire insurance.  It is as appealing as something gooey on the bottom of your shoe or a sticky doorknob.  No one wants to touch it!

     

    Is Christ the “influencer” of your life, or is YouTube?  Are you afraid to let the world see you take a stand for the Lord?  Do you ever find yourself compromising your honesty, integrity, and morality?  Is your witness ever something you turn on or turn off based on the circumstances you find yourself in?  Do you ever exhibit only a recreational attachment to Jesus?  Is His love letter to you where you go for guidance?  Or do you turn to the Bible seeking loopholes in Scripture to explain away your life choices and personal “rights”?  Are you part of changing the world…or is the world changing you?

     

    Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

     

    This is a hard Meadow Minute.  None of us leads the perfect Christian life.  None of us.  Yet, we are called to be transformed by the Holy Spirit’s movement in our life, and not conformed to a world that desperately needs the very message living within each of us.  We are called to live a life that proves the will of God is good and acceptable and perfect, something to be desired, something to be pursued.  How can we expect to influence our children, our family, our place of business, our community, our world for Christ if we take our commitment to Him so matter of fact, so casually, so lightly?

     

    A Church-League softball team might be fun…for someone much younger than I am.  A faith-based gym membership is not even on my radar.  And, trust me, you would not want me in your “Relay for Jesus” event.  But much more importantly, may we all never be found a lukewarm disciple of Jesus.  May we be found fighting the good fight, finishing our course, and keeping the faith.  Don’t let the fire die.

     

    Grace,

     


    Tom

  • High Schools all around our area are wrapping up another school year.  Here in Meadow with our four-day school week, there are a few final days before summer break.  The baccalaureate service for MISD graduating seniors this last Sunday evening was a very special time, and congratulations goes out again to all eleven of our town’s graduates and those who have loved them through this important moment in their lives.  Our oldest grandson, Ethan, will be graduating from Frenship High School in Wolfforth before heading off to LCU in the fall.  Diane and I are very proud of his accomplishment.  For some like Ethan, the next step is college.  For others, trade school.  Still others may be laying out a while or beginning their careers immediately after High School.  All of them should be encouraged and supported as they move forward.

     

    It is easy to imagine these graduates thinking, “Finally!  Finally, I am out of school!  That took forever!”  But their parents are thinking, “Life is just a blur!  It’s not possible our little boy/girl is already graduating!”

     

    Whichever one you relate to, both are right, and both are wrong.  We’ve all been “clock watchers” sometime during our lives.  Don’t be too quick to chasten the young people who seem to be wishing their lives away.  True, they’ve longed to get out of school.  But how long did you plan for and dream of retirement without making the most of each and every day?  Is that next step still out there, evading you or has that goal been reached?  Now what?  Do you have anything else you are looking forward to in service for your Savior?

     

    Samuel Clements (Mark Twain) once wrote, “True retirement is lying horizontal with a lily in your hand.”  Life IS a blur.  Blink, and you’ll miss it.  Yet at the end of our lives, we will likely look back thinking it all happened too quickly.  To the very end of our lives on this earth, however long that turns out to be, our witness is to matter for God’s Kingdom.  There is some kindness to be shown, some loving emotion to be expressed, some faithful witness to be given.

     

    So, what does God’s Word have for us concerning our time here on this “big, blue marble?”  Is it all over too fast, or is there more, much more for us to accomplish in whatever stage of life we are in?

     

    Psalm 39:4-5 says, “Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the extent of my days, let me know how transient I am.”

     

    Psalm 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom.”

     

    Psalm 144:4 says, “Man is like a mere breath; his days are like a passing shadow.”

     

    As quickly as our life may pass, and while we all have our obligations and our aspirations, Jesus spoke to our need for right priorities throughout our lives…and beyond.  Matthew 16:26 says, “For what will a man be profited if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

     

    The clock is ticking.  To you it may seem to be stopped, or you may be wishing it would stop speeding forward.  Either way, we ARE transient, and this is not our home.  Our days ARE numbered, so we should make the most of each one.  Our lives ARE but a breath.  Our lives are but a passing shadow.  In the strength of His blessings on your life, and by the direction of His Spirit in your heart, cast a long one for Jesus.

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

  • Most of us have become acquainted with GPS in getting to our destination when we travel.  The days of owning an atlas or carrying around several state maps in our glove box are long gone.  (I could never get those blasted things to fold back up correctly anyway.)  Our smart phones and dashboards can now provide us with directions to the most obscure places imaginable.  We just enter an address and start listening for directions!  Now, in the days of AI, wouldn’t it be fun if the pleasant voice giving directions on our GPS had the freedom to tell us exactly what she was thinking.

     

    What if your car spoke to you and asked, “Where in the world do you think you’re going?”  Then the voice would get a bit louder.  “Are you listening to me?  I said stop!”  She might start sounding a bit irritated.  “Now you’ve done it.  You missed your exit!”  Then your car’s frustration might come out as, “I’m not giving you one more course correction…just go back and start over.”  Could it ever get so bad that in exasperation the voice would say, “You can’t even get there from here!”

     

    We listen and respond to the calm computer-generated voice because we are confident the GPS sees the big picture and knows exactly how to get us where we need to be.  But even the GPS sometimes misses road construction, accidents, or other obstacles and can get us lost or sent to the wrong address.

     

    In this life, we are starved for direction, and the world presents us with a multitude of options.  Some can be ruled out easily, while others are enticing enough to put us on a track that leads to misery and destruction.  Just as bad, though we may not want to admit it, are those times we rely on our own “sense of direction.”  In our mind, we think we know what’s best for us.  We choose our path based on the selfish desires of our heart, chasing dreams of our own comfort and well-being.  Eventually, we find ourselves stuck, or in a mess, or not knowing where to turn next.

     

    Our loving Heavenly Father has a better way.  Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”  Getting directions from God means, first and foremost, getting Him.  Even non-Christians can find direction for life in the pages of the Bible.  The teachings there of love and kindness and honesty and friendship are beneficial and practical in day-to-day living.  But for God to truly “direct your paths,” He must do that from within your heart.  Having the Holy Spirit in your life will change your character, your outlook, your priorities.

     

    The conviction of the Holy Spirit, like a spiritual GPS, might challenge you with, “Where in the world do you think you’re going?”  The Bible says the Lord disciplines those He loves.  Maybe His Spirit would ask, “Are you listening to Me?  I said stop!”  But the Lord will not give up on you.  And He will direct your paths.

     

    This amazing proverb does not simply start out with, “He will direct your paths.”  Gaining the spiritual direction and leadership of God starts with turning your life over to Him, repenting of your sinful rebellion against Him, and receiving His grace by faith.  His directing your paths comes from your trusting Him with all your heart.  That means refusing to lean on your own “sense of direction.”  You can then listen and respond to the Spirit’s leadership in your heart.  You can travel through life with the confidence that God sees the big picture.  God sees around the next turn.  He knows exactly how to get you where you need to be.  And the best part?  The Father will never, ever get you lost or headed in the wrong direction.  He will see that you arrive safely at your destination…His heaven.

     

    Grace,

     


    Tom

  • Just as Mother’s Day falls on the calendar this year, my birthday was on Mother’s Day, May 12, at Shepherd Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas.  I recall so many of my birthdays, particularly those that fell on Mother’s Day, when Mom would remind me again of “our special Mother’s Day” in 1957.  Fathers were not allowed in the delivery room back then, but there was someone very special with Mom and me.  The Air Force nurse who first handed me to Mom was named Francis.  She and Mom became life-long friends, staying in touch using Christmas Cards and other correspondence throughout the years of military transfers for Dad and Francis in their varying tours of duty around the country.  After my mother’s death, Francis sent me a couple of pictures Mom had included in letters long ago of me growing up as a little boy.  (How Francis found me, I’ll never know.)  With the photos, Francis included a sweet note about the connection the three of us shared, and she called it “our special Mother’s Day” just like Mom would have said.  Thinking of Mom and Francis and the enduring friendship they had is a memory I will always cherish.  It brings me joy thinking of their reunion in heaven.

     

    In speaking of His impending death and resurrection, Jesus said in John 17:21-22, “Whenever a woman is experiencing the pain of childbirth she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she remembers the anguish no more, for joy that a child has been born into the world.  Therefore you, too, now have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one takes your joy away from you.”  Jesus kept His word, and He rose from the grave.  The disciples’ grief did turn to joy when they again saw their risen Lord.  They came to understand the true purpose of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection—salvation from sin and eternal life for everyone who believes.  The disciples would rejoice, and no one would be able to rob them of that joy.

     

    Where on earth is this Meadow Minute headed?  How about this: Does it seem like a long time since Easter?  This Mother’s Day weekend coming up marks forty days since we celebrated the Risen Christ on the front lawn of the church in our Sonrise Service.  That’s how long Jesus spent with His disciples after His resurrection and before His ascension from the Mount of Olives.  Forty days.  How time must have flown by for them, too.  After that, “He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.”

     

    The Bible offers some amazing information given by angels.  Here’s a few.  “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.”  “Unto you is born this day in the City of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord…”  “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”  “He is not here.  He is risen!”  And on the Day of Ascension, marked on the calendar this year somewhere around Mother’s Day, was one of the greatest promises an angel ever declared.  “This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”

     

    I know the time of my reunion with Mom and Dad and Francis and so many others is as certain as my Savior’s love for me.  Jesus is coming for me, or I will go to Him!  God keeps His promises.  You can trust Him.  Receive Christ!

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

  • What was the most unexpected thing that ever happened in a worship service you were part of?

     

    While I was still attending my home church in San Angelo, a soprano from the choir came to the pulpit to sing a special music as she often did.  She had an amazing voice, and always did a wonderful job setting the tone for the message.  On this Sunday, just as she began singing, a small bird came out of the balcony at the back and started flying around in the sanctuary over everyone’s heads.  No one was quite sure how that bird got in, but it was what I would call an “unexpected” occurrence.  The bird kept circling and never landed during the special music.  The amazing thing was the lady never missed a note.  Her song was beautiful, just like always.  I don’t’ remember what she sang, but looking back now, I wish it had been, “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” That would make a much better story, but I digress.  We all attempted to remain stoic and composed.  The song ended, the bird found its perch in the balcony, and the lady found her perch in the choir loft.  That’s when our pastor, J. Earl Dunn, couldn’t take it anymore and said, “We welcome ALL our guests today to Harris Avenue Baptist Church!” Everyone lost it, including the lady who had just sung the special music.

     

    I’m chuckling even as I write this, so let me quickly get to the point of this Meadow Minute by asking my opening question in a little different way.  What do you expect from a worship service when you have made the effort to get up, and get dressed on your day off?  Maybe you’ve already fought with the kids getting them ready.  Maybe you’ve already broken a nail, and you’re out of hairspray, and there wasn’t enough time for breakfast because the power went off during the night.  What are you expecting at church?

     

    Do you come to church each week expectantly or out of habit?  Are you expecting to hear from God while in worship, or do you leave thinking, “well, that sermon was a swing and a miss!”  Do you bring your cares and struggles to Him expecting His comfort and intervention, or are you here because your mom or someone else made you show up?  Is there praise and thankfulness on your lips in expectation of involving yourself in the song service, or do you leave asking, “why don’t they ever sing my kind of music?”  I suppose the question could be asked like this: Why do you come to church?  Now we’re getting to it, aren’t we?  “What’s the point?  Right?  Nothing is going to happen there anyway…”

     

    We have all found ourselves at church with less than a holy, righteous, godly, grateful, spirit-filled, expectant attitude.  If you say that has never described you, I’ll see you at the altar this Sunday during the invitation hymn.  Obviously, your pastor was impacted more by an interruption from an animal in church many years ago than how I worshipped the One who counts me worth much more than many sparrows.  Yet even if we come with impure motives, God wants us in His house.  He longs for us to worship Him.  And He wants our worship to be meaningful and life changing at church, in the car, alone at night, wherever we find ourselves approaching His awesome glory.  And, yes, unusual, unplanned things do happen in worship.  But may God keep us from ever losing our wonder, our expectation in coming before Him.  May we approach the Lord believing that He can and will do a work in our life and in the life of those around us every time we expectantly draw near to Him.  Come to His house anticipating His Spirit to move among us that one or more than one might come in repentance and faith to salvation in Jesus.  Come anticipating His Spirit leading an individual or a family to join our church in finding a place to serve Him.  Come anticipating that you yourself will not leave unchanged from the way you arrived.  Come expectantly.

     

    Jesus said in John 4, “An hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshippers.”

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

  • Think for a moment of what you would consider your faith heritage.  Are you one in a long line of faithful, passionate Christians who are living out their lives or have already lived out their lives for Jesus to the very end?  Did the process of building that long line of faithful, passionate Christians in your family, through your children, your grandchildren, and others you value in your life begin with you? Are you the first and only one in your family, as far as you know, who has ever repented of your sins and accepted Jesus as Savior?  Are you feeling the conviction of God’s Spirit even now and wondering if it’s time to come to Christ?  Wherever you are in your faith heritage, this Meadow Minute is for you.

     

    God’s Word is replete with examples of every scenario I have mentioned above.  Paul reminds his protégé, Timothy, “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother…, and your mother…, and I am sure that it is in you as well.”  I have shared in these lines before one of my favorite passages, Psalms 61:5, where King David acknowledges God for his own faith heritage by saying, “Thou hast given me the inheritance of those who fear Thy name.”  Sometimes, a family’s faith is not handed down.  Sometimes, it’s handed up.  Often the innocence and faith of a child or young person in coming to Christ can influence parents and grandparents in understanding what it means to become a Christian and live a faithful life to God.

     

    One thing Scripture does makes very clear is that each of us comes to Christ on our own.  None of us have an eternal home with Jesus in our future because mom and dad, Mimi and Pops, or our “better half” surrendered to His Lordship.  Neither will any of us gain eternity by the sign on the outside of the church building we attend.  I’ve heard it said, “It ain’t nothin’ but a name above the door.  It didn’t git ya what ya got, and it won’t git ya where you’re goin!’”  The day will come when each of us individually and on our own will stand before God to answer the question of what we did with Jesus.  “Whoever will call upon the Name of the Lord will be saved.”  Avoid Him to your peril.  As the song says, “In the end, everybody talks to God.”

     

    So, is there an advantage in being a part of a heritage that includes a long line of faithful Christians?  Does it make any difference that such a faith heritage has started with you and your family?  If you are the only one in your family that you know of who claims the name of Jesus, will courage and boldness make any difference as you share His message with those you’re connected to.  If you have never come to Christ in faith, does it make any difference beyond your own salvation?  In his epistle to the Christians in Rome, the Apostle Paul posed that very question.  How much is the advantage in being a part of a godly heritage?  He answered his own question with a resounding, “Great in every respect!”  Paul said with such a heritage we are “entrusted with the oracles of God.”

     

    If the Holy Spirit lives in you, you have been entrusted with the truths of God.  Your family did not save you.  The Holy Spirit did that.  And you won’t save anyone else.  The Holy Spirit will do that, too.  If you are starting a faith heritage for those in your care and in your influence, remember, you have the words of eternal life.  And remember too, it will be the Holy Spirit that saves your charges.  You are called to be God’s instrument in sharing the gospel message with others.  Your Christian heritage, however long it is, is not a secret to be kept, but a commissioning to carry on.  Be found faithful.

     

    Grace,

     


    Tom

  • God's Word is living and active...


    During this last week, the church office relaunched the FBC website at fbcmeadow.org.  We hope the changes and upgrades will be well received, and I encourage you to look when you get the chance.  More additions will be rolled out soon, and the website will be upgraded on Monday or Tuesday of each week.  Check back now and then.

     

    The goals of this launch are two-fold.  First, to make information currently found only in the weekly newsletter a bit more convenient, and secondly, to provide information about our church for those outside our congregation.  Now, on the website, you can find upcoming events, the church calendar, and the weekly scripture memorization passages.  There’s a page showing available Bible Study classes for all ages along with a list of ministry opportunities our church is involved in to help you or the curious find a place of service and fellowship at FBC.  The current weekly Meadow Minute and a limited number from the past are also on the new webpage.  There will soon be videos of recent worship services for you to view from anywhere in case you have to be away and do not follow the FBC Facebook page.  We are looking at the process of on-line giving for some who have asked for that possibility.  Some information currently found in the newsletter will be assimilated in other ways.  Soon, you will see all the various announcements found in the newsletter on a video loop before worship in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings.  There will be a current prayer sheet in the vestibule for you to lift to God’s throne those who have requested prayer.

     

    After May 17th, 2024, a paper copy of the weekly newsletter through the mail will only be available to those specifically requesting to continue receiving it.  Sometime between now and then, just send me a text message, leave a note, or call the church office to let us know you would prefer to continue receiving the newsletter as you do now.  That’s all you must do, and the service will continue uninterrupted.  If you have not expressed a desire to continue receiving a paper copy by May 17th, you will no longer receive the newsletter through the mail.  Many in our church are comfortable using their smart phones, tablets, and desktop computers and will be able to access the information sent out each week at any time through the website.  It is no issue whatsoever if you prefer receiving the mailing each week; however, any “hard copies” not produced will save the church paper, printing, and postage costs.

     

    This may seem like a bummer of a Meadow Minute, but it’s not.  As God’s people, we are called to live out and spread the message of Jesus.  That can happen in any number of ways.  Doing things “like we’ve always done them” is not necessarily the best way.  It is my prayer that by use of the upgraded website we can reach more people with the message and testimony of FBC Meadow and about the Resurrected Savior we profess.

     

    In 2 Corinthians 5:20, the Bible says that we are ambassadors for Christ.  Hebrews 4:12 says, “The word of God is living and active…” In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock.”  We are called to present and represent the Word of God as living and active.  By the promise of our Lord, getting His words out (however we can get His words out) so others may hear them, produces a situation for those without Him to understand the wisdom of coming to Christ and serving Him more.

     

    Certainly, any suggestions and recommendations for improving the website are welcome and appreciated and after review in the church office may be implemented when fitting with the goals of the new launch.  This has been a lengthy process so far, and we have not reached the finished product.  It’s possible we never will!  Be patient and show grace.  Remember our call.  “WE PROCLAIM HIM!”

     

    Grace,

     


    Tom

  • Many years ago, I was flying with a friend to represent our church at a funeral for the pastor’s son at First Baptist Church of West Yellowstone.  Our home church at the time sponsored that congregation through our Missions Committee budget, and at the tragic death of the Graham’s younger child, it was decided our church should support that dear family.  It was in December, and the weather threatened to be a real issue.  West Yellowstone, Montana is often the coldest place in the continental US, and Mac Graham had called to say there were forty-three inches of snow on the level in town.

     

    My friend and I had connecting flights from Brownwood to DFW to Las Vegas to Bozeman, Montana.  He and I planned to get a rental from there to drive to the town of West Yellowstone, just outside the National Park.  The weather in Dallas was cold but clear, and our seats were just in front of the wing promising a smooth and turbulence-free flight.  But this wouldn’t be much of a story if everything went as planned, now, would it?  Before very long, we found ourselves in heavy snowfall with visibility at zero.  It would be an instrument-only flight and landing that afternoon as we descended to Las Vegas, promised somewhere below.  But this Meadow Minute isn’t about the storm.  It’s about the amazing focus of our crew and those on the ground who guided our plane to safety in the middle of that storm.

     

    As soon as the wheels touched down in Vegas, the aircraft lurched sideways.  My traveling companion and I found ourselves looking out our window, past the wing, and straight down the runway!  The plane was sliding, rather than rolling on the tarmac.  There was not a whisper or a whimper from anyone on board.  The forward movement of the plane kept us between the rows of runway lights as we came to a merciful stop parallel to the barely visible terminal.  The pilot righted the plane and eased us to the gate without any further issues.  It’s been said any landing you walk away from is a good landing, so there is that, but it took everyone on board a few seconds to start breathing again.  Then the entire cabin broke out in spontaneous applause and back-slapping.  We had made it!

     

    It occurs to me how times like that can bring a verse of Scripture to one’s mind.  Having read this far, you might even be thinking of some possibilities.  “Have faith in God,” or “Consider it all joy when you encounter trials...”  Someone might even think of “All things are possible with God.”  Recalling that day, my mind goes to the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:14, “The gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.”  Did I mention how much I admired the focus of those bringing us in?  Being accused of narrow-mindedness is most-often an insult, but at that moment, in that storm of life, I wanted the people landing our plane both in the air and on the ground to be narrow-minded like a laser, not “broad-minded.”

     

    Imagine the tower saying something like, “Whatever you want to do, over.  You’re on your own, over.  Do your best, over.  Work it out, over.  See you on the ground!”  There were no voices on the intercom joking about “what happens in Vegas…”  No attendant was announcing the weather conditions, or where we might locate our connecting flights.  Everyone on that aircraft knew there were very specific instructions being given to the cockpit and being followed in trust…to the letter.  That was it.

     

    When it comes to the matters of faith and eternity, we don’t need any nebulous, broad-minded drivel.  How tragic it would be if the only testimony we ever heard was, “It doesn’t really matter what you believe as long as you sincerely believe something.”  Listen, there is only one good eternal landing.  “The gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life.”  “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.”  That One Name is Jesus.

     

    Grace,

     


    Tom

  • It is said that during Napoleon’s Austrian campaign his army advanced to within six miles of the town of Feldkirch.  It looked as though his men would take it without resistance.  But as Napoleon’s army advanced toward their objective in the night, the Christians of Feldkirch gathered in their little church to pray.  It was Easter eve.

     

    The next morning at sunrise, the bells of the village pealed out across the countryside.  Napoleon’s army, not realizing it was Easter Sunday, thought that in the night the Austrian army had moved into Feldkirch, and the bells were ringing in jubilation.  Napolean ordered a retreat, and the Battle of Feldkirch never took place.  The Easter bells caused the enemy to flee, and peace reigned in the Austrian countryside.

     

    As Easter is celebrated each year, churches and cathedrals around the world ring their bells—not to sound Christ’s death knell but to declare Christ’s victory over death.  He is the risen Lord, and because of Him our final enemy—death—has been defeated, and peace reigns in our hearts.  –Copied.

     

    Are you continuing to carry the joy and peace and victory of Easter with you now that the annual holiday is over?  It’s possible some people find more joy getting off work or out of school for “Good Friday” than celebrating what Christ accomplished for us through His death and resurrection.  For such people, now that Easter is over, is it time to put all the spring decorations away and simply go back to the routine of living in the real world?  Well, the Bible makes it abundantly clear after that first Resurrection Morning, nothing should be, would be, or could be routine for His disciples ever again.  Their lives were turned upside down by the events that weekend culminating in an empty tomb.  From cowards hiding in the upper room afraid of what was coming next, Jesus’ followers would be transformed into bold, Spirit-filled witnesses who would impact their entire world.  They would not be distracted or discouraged by anything or anyone, even to the point of martyrdom.  One of the greatest pieces of evidence found in Scripture and revealed even today in supporting the truth of the resurrection is the changed lives of those claiming Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

     

    Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”

     

    Warren Wiersbe writes, “The world’s joy is temporary and artificial, and when the joy is gone, people are left with even greater weakness and emptiness.  The joy that comes from the Lord is real and lasting and enriches our lives.  God doesn’t give us joy instead of sorrow, or joy in spite of sorrow, but joy in the midst of sorrow.  It is not substitution but transformation.”

     

    Has your world been turned upside down by the empty tomb?  There are no steeple bells found at FBC Meadow, but your life and my life are to be lived loudly for Christ, bold and Spirit-filled.  Not just on Resurrection Sunday, but in every circumstance, every situation. We must celebrate every Sunday as Resurrection Sunday!  We should be, would be, and could be further evidence of Christ’s resurrection by allowing the joy of the Lord to be our strength. 

     

    “Had Jesus come to earth but not died, His life here would have been pointless.  Had He died but not resurrected, His death would have been powerless.  Praise the Lord, Jesus accomplished everything He set out to do, and we are free.” –Billy Graham.

     

    We Proclaim Him!

     

    Grace,

     


    Tom

  • Jesus often taught through parables during His ministry on earth.  He makes it clear to us today that if we will have ears to hear, He can and will speak to us through common events and the daily routines of our lives.  Recently, Jesus reminded me of His love and watch care over me through a home appliance!  No, your pastor is not losing it.  Keep reading.

     

    In Hebrews 12:1-2,, the Bible says to “lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

     

    Diane and I finally broke down and gave each other our first robot vacuum.  Okay, we’re probably behind many of you, and though we had talked about getting one for many years, we just had never taken the plunge.  We named our robot Eberta.  She begins her work as we are leaving for church each Sunday morning, and she finishes up when we get home.

     

    Occasionally, Eberta the robot returns to the docking station and dumps out what she has collected.  She’s not that large and there is only so much she can carry around.  If she didn’t occasionally turn loose of all she has gathered while methodically crisscrossing the floors of our home, she would soon be of no use.  Originally, a plan was set up of the entire house for Eberta, and then there were “no-go” areas put in place to avoid wires or other obstructions that would bog her down.  During the normal cycle, Eberta returns to the docking station as needed for recharging.  Wherever she is on the map, she always knows exactly where the docking station is located and has just enough energy to get back there.

     

    Some of you are probably getting ahead of me in this Meadow Minute.  Stop it.

     

    Each of us collects a lot of dirt where we go, too.  You and I can easily become weighted down by the cares in our lives to the point that we are useless to anyone including ourselves.  The Apostle Peter encourages believers to “cast your anxieties on Him because He cares for you.”  God has His plan, a map if you will, that He has laid out for each of us, “a plan to give us a future and a hope.”  His care for us includes very specific “no go” areas where we still can and sometimes do wander into, becoming entangled and bogged down having stepped out of His will.  And in our frantic schedules, who among us never needs to drop all the baggage we’re carrying and recharge with like-minded believers.  We know exactly where that happens—the church—and sometimes, we end up with just enough energy to get us there.

     

    Easter is upon us in just a few days.  Praise God for Resurrection Sunday!  Make a point to be in a place of worship on Easter Sunday morning.  Here at FBC Meadow, we’re having a SonRise Service at 7:30 that morning and then a fresh breakfast in the Fellowship Hall before worship at 9:00 a.m.  There’ll be plenty of time after that for the busy rest of your day.  Come and worship Him!  Bring your burdens AND your praise to Him.  The cross looked like defeat, but early that first Easter Sunday Morning brought victory for all who are called by His Name.


    Grace,


    Tom

  • Perhaps you have heard the story from many years ago of a retiring Christian missionary couple coming home to America after decades serving God in a foreign land.  On the same boat, was the President of the United States.  Cheering crowds, a military band, a red carpet, hundreds of waving flags, and the media welcomed the president home.  The missionary couple slipped off the ship unnoticed.  No one knew they were coming, and no one was there to greet them.  It would have been so easy for them to be discouraged and bitter.  God gently reminded His faithful servants, “My children, you’re not home yet.”

     

    That story was on my mind recently as I said goodbye to a dear Christian mentor.  I had the privilege of being with Clay and Pat Coursey in their home the very afternoon before Clay left to receive his reward in Glory.  On my leaving, the last thing Clay said to me was he was ready to see the Lord.  Clay and Pat spent well-over 30 years together as missionaries in Kenya, Africa, raising a family, planting churches, and serving Jesus faithfully there before coming back to America.  Upon their return, they continued in active and productive ministry for Jesus.  For several years, Clay pastored FBC Morton not that far from Meadow.  This last week, Pat gave me an oil painting she and Clay had purchased from a street vendor when they first arrived in Kenya.  The picture depicts the view from the beach where the Coursey’s first residence was located, looking out on the Indian Ocean as they began their tenure as missionaries.  I will forever cherish that 50+ year-old painting.  To me it symbolizes the call to Christian commitment and faithful service we all must answer, and it now hangs in the pastor’s office at the church.

     

    Clay was always the gentleman.  If you knew him, then you can attest that any conversation with Clay lasting longer than about two minutes got around to faith.  Pat told me even during the hospital visits near the end of his life, Clay made a point of learning the spiritual condition of caregivers watching over him.  I once held Clay’s Swahili translation of the Scriptures, and I can only imagine him, tall and strong, preaching the Good News of Jesus out of it to a people very far away.  Clay attempted once to teach me a little bit of Swahili.  It didn’t go well.  I know only one word, “Hodi.”  It means, “May I come in?”  After Clay’s death, Pat told me to “come visit anytime.  Just open the front door and holler 'Hodi!'”

     

    Jesus is a gentleman, too.  The Bible says that Jesus stands at the door and knocks.  He’s asking, “May I come in?”  It is my prayer that you have heard our Lord’s call and opened your heart in repentance and faith.  If not, there is still time, and it is a decision that will matter for all eternity.  Clay said yes to Jesus a long time ago, and he faithfully continued to serve his Savior to the very end of his mortal life.  God was there to meet him as Clay stepped into heaven, and I am confident what Clay heard was, “My child, now you’re home.  Well-done, good and faithful servant.”

     

    As you and I press on, as we “faith it” in this life, may we be reminded that we are not home yet.  This life is not the end of anything except the beginning!  In this world we will have tribulation, but our Savior has already overcome the world.  Stay faithful.  In Matthew 24:13, Jesus says, “But the one who endures to the end, it is he who shall be saved.”

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

  • One of the best parts of being the pastor at FBC Meadow is that I get the chance regularly to go into the darkened sanctuary to sit quiet and still and spend time with God.  The Lord is with us wherever we are, but spending time with Him in His sanctuary is a real bonus.  Sometimes I can stay for a long time.  Sometimes for just a few minutes. Sometimes I sit in the front row.  Sometimes I sit in the back, or to one side or the other.  More than once, I’ve found myself facedown at the altar.  Lately, I’ve been sitting on the west side, pew #5, where my friend Robert Henson used to sit every Sunday.  In the dark, I walk around thinking of who sits in certain places.  Knowing where you usually sit helps me pray for you and the situations in your life that I’m privy to and even for those I’m not.  Most of you have your regular seats, and some of you (you know who you are) would defend your right to sit there.  If you are ever forced to sit somewhere else, introduce yourself to the visitor in “your spot,” and praise God for His gift of worship.

     

    My very first regular job as a teenager back in the 1970’s was as the janitor of a small church in San Angelo, TX.  I didn’t attend that church but had school friends there who recommended me for the position.  My responsibilities included what you would expect.  I mowed the yards each week in the summer.  I threw out dirty diapers from the nursery and cleaned bathrooms.  I was expected to routinely clean all the classrooms and the kitchen in the Fellowship Hall.  I dusted and vacuumed and picked up used bulletins in the sanctuary.  There were added tasks when a wedding or funeral or another special event came along.

     

    When I first got the job, my mom told me how very proud she was and how it reminded her of the boy, Samuel, who first served God by caring for His house.  I liked that comparison, and at first, it kept me motivated to do my very best in caring for Belmore Baptist Church.  Mom showed me Psalm 84:10, “Better a day in Your courts than a thousand anywhere else.  I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wicked people.”

     

    It is embarrassing to say, but I ended up losing that job.  My enthusiasm waned and I did not continue to do what was expected of me.  Since I was allowed to work my own schedule each week, I spent less and less time there.  Several areas of the church began to reflect my poor work ethic.  The pastor was very kind when he showed me how I was letting the Lord down by not meeting even the minimum requirements...by not giving my best.  I had the keys to the church, but having access wasn’t enough.  My heart just wasn’t in it.

     

    God did not give up on me.  Losing that job had a profound influence on my idea of service.  I do not remember that pastor’s name, but I will be forever grateful for his honesty and kindness as he encouraged me to do my very best in everything…both serving men, and in serving God.  Perhaps that’s one reason I cherish the time I get to spend now in His church.  Our God is the God of second chances.  And third, and fourth…  Getting to pray in a darkened sanctuary, having the privilege of rearranging chairs, hanging new blinds in SS rooms, and yes, still collecting used bulletins in the sanctuary after each Sunday, I feel so wondrously blessed to spend time in His house.  I have the keys to the church, but once again, having access is not enough.  Yes, I love the facility called FBC Meadow.  But the facility is not the church.  The people are.  All His children have the keys to the Kingdom…the Gospel.  Lord, keep our hearts in Your sanctuary.  And “may the church be the church!”  May our minds always be tuned to worshipping our King.  May the world see us giving our best for the Master.

     

    Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your mind on things above, not on things that are on the earth.” 

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

  • (This was a Meadow Minute long before it was called a Meadow Minute.)

     

    We all have a SNO-VID 2021 story to tell.  So, here’s mine.  I try to keep bird seed, squirrel corn, and fresh water out in the yard for the animals.  With our fountains frozen up, I kept a pan of warm water out for “any and all” to get a drink during the week-long sub-freezing weather.

     

    On Tuesday evening, February 16th, I noticed a dove that’s feet and wing tips were frozen.  It couldn’t walk or fly, but just floundered around in the snow and would certainly not have made it through the night.  I caught it easily and took it inside my wood shop where I laid it on a towel on the floor, turned out the light, and went in for the night not knowing what to expect.  The next morning, the dove was sitting in the rafters looking out a window!  I left the door open, and the dove flew to the landing, took one quick look back at me, and was gone.

     

    We have so many animals come to our back yard that at first, I had no idea why this one poor dove affected me like it did.  Then God used it to remind me of His love, but not how I expected.  His Word tells us that not even a bird falls to the ground outside the Father’s care.  It also says we are worth more than many sparrows.

     

    Now, please don’t judge me, but get this.  I had to ask myself if I notice the helplessness and lostness of those without Christ the same as I saw the helplessness and lostness of that dove.  Of course, we should show kindness to the animals.  There’s no place for wanton cruelty.  But am I also ready with a drink of water, a kind word, a warm place, a second chance in His name for “any and all” of those created in His image?  Before I could pull a muscle patting myself on the back for my act of kindness, God reminded me very clearly that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost.” (1 Timothy 1:15, NASB)

     

    “Said the robin to the sparrow, I should really like to know,

    Why these anxious human beings rush about and worry so.

    Said the sparrow to the robin, friend, I think that it must be,

    That they have no heavenly Father such as cares for you and me.”

     

    Open my eyes, Father.  Remind me that if I had been the only one in trouble, the only one dying, You would still have sent Your Son, and He would have still paid the price for my salvation.  Such a rich gift.  May I feel Your watch care over me.  May I feel Your call to share it with others…in Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

  • Though I gave my heart to the Lord before I was a teenager, I did not become a witnessing disciple for Him until much later.  While in Junior High and High School, I made wonderful memories in my church’s youth group, and I was faithful in church attendance.  Still, for a long time, I didn’t grasp the importance of sharing my Savior with others.  Then, I found the Baptist Student Union at Angelo State University.  After two years of encouragement at the ASU-BSU by an upper-classman friend, Donna Davis Hammack, I surrendered to God’s call for missions and was commissioned the summer before my junior year.  That decision changed my Christian life.   I had the privilege of serving as a BSU Summer Missionary in Huntsville, Texas.  As I have told our church before, it’s always better to introduce my time as a Summer Missionary like that instead of just saying, “I spent the summer of 1977 in Huntsville.”  With the State Prison located there, someone might ask, “So, what were you in for?”

     

    My partner was Mark Dawson, an accomplished pianist who was attending UT.  (No judgements.)  We were sponsored by Pastor Bob Parker and Elkins Lake Baptist Church located right next door to the Goree Women’s Unit, one of several prison units in the area at the time.  Mark and I were tasked with reaching out to families who chose to live close to their incarcerated loved ones.  There were thirteen apartment complexes around town filled with families trying to stay connected to someone behind bars.  Our assignment in Huntsville lasted thirteen weeks, so Mark and I planned to hold a different Backyard Bible Club each week with the children at one of the complexes.  No one knew us or trusted us.  We kept the plan in motion for the entire summer, but we had dismal results.

     

    Our assignment would have been a complete bust if Mark and I hadn’t discovered Huntsville State Park when we first arrived for the summer.  Part of the Sam Houston National Forest, Huntsville State Park is located just 6 miles from town, and Lake Raven is in the center of the park.  There were signs everywhere at the lake warning of alligators, but Mark and I found the sandy beach swimming areas packed with people every weekend.  After much prayer and pleading, we were finally given permission by the park ranger to put out flyers offering a brief Sunday Morning Worship Service for out-of-town campers at one of the park’s campgrounds.  Mark would share a Scripture passage and his testimony each week, and with guitar in hand, I led some familiar hymns and praise songs.  We were both impressed at how many folks came even while on vacation and living in a tent.  The relaxed and informal atmosphere opened everyone up.  Mark and I could hold a quick service at the park and still make it back to Elkins Lake for the morning worship service.

     

    While at the various swimming areas each week (suffering for the Lord while smelling of Coppertone in a bathing suit and flip-flops) Mark and I would make sandcastles to meet both children and adults lounging at the lake.  Some of those sandcastles should have been in the Guinness’ Book of World Records!  Before long we noticed many of the same people coming to the beaches week after week, and realized these were the very people we were trying but failing to reach at the apartment complexes.  They were relaxed here and usually receptive to conversation.  I will never forget the first kid I met.  He was a young black boy, and when I asked him his name, he said, “My mom doesn’t want me talking to white people!”  Ouch!  Once I met his mother, everything went fine.  Mark and I visited them both several times over the summer and most times, our conversations planted seeds about the Savior.  But the best part affecting my personal walk with the Lord was when the kid finally did tell me his name.  He pronounced it “hey-soos,” but all I heard was Jesus!  J-E-S-U-S.  Message received!  When I stepped up and stepped out in His Name, my Savior let me know He was there.

     

    Like most everyone else, I have not always been the Christian witness I should have been.  I continue even today to fall short of the amazing grace afforded me through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.  But I have learned one thing.  Jesus commanded, “Go…make disciples…baptizing them…teaching them…I am with you always…”

     

    As the song says, “God will make a way when there seems to be no way!”

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

  • After a few of the usual Sunday morning hymns, the church’s pastor slowly stood up, walked over to the pulpit and, before he gave his sermon for the morning, he briefly introduced a guest minister who was in the service.  In the introduction, the pastor told the congregation that the guest pastor was one of his dearest childhood friends and that he wanted him to have a few moments to greet the church and share whatever he felt would be appropriate for the service.  With that, an elderly man stepped up to the pulpit and began to speak.

     

    “A father, his son, and a friend of his son were sailing off the Pacific Coast,” he began, “when a fast-approaching storm blocked any attempt to get back to the shore.  The waves were so high that even though the father was an experienced sailor, he could not keep the boat upright and the three were swept into the ocean as the boat capsized.”

     

    The old man hesitated for a moment, making eye contact with two teenagers who were, for the first time since the service began, looking somewhat interested in his story.  The aged minister continued.

     

    “Grabbing a rescue line, the father had to make the most excruciating decision of his life: to which boy would he throw the other end of the lifeline.  He only had seconds to make the decision.  The father knew that his son was a Christian and he also knew that his son’s friend was not.  The agony of his decision could not be matched by the torrent of the waves.  As the father yelled out, ‘I love you, son!’ he threw out the line to his son’s friend.  By the time the father had pulled the friend back to the capsized boat, his son had disappeared beneath the raging swells into the black of night.  His body was never recovered.”

     

    By this time, the two teenagers were sitting up straight in the pew, anxiously waiting for the next words to come out of the old minister’s mouth.

     

    “The father,” he continued, “knew his son would step into eternity with Jesus and he could not bear the thought of his son’s friend stepping into eternity without Jesus.  Therefore, he sacrificed his son to save the son’s friend.  How great is the love of God that He should do the same for us.  Our Heavenly Father sacrificed His only begotten Son so that we could be saved.  I urge you to accept His offer to rescue you and take a hold of the lifeline He is throwing out to you in this service.”

     

    With that, the old man turned and sat back down as silence filled the room.  The pastor again walked slowly to the pulpit and delivered a brief sermon with an invitation at the end.  However, no one responded to the appeal.  Within minutes after the service ended, the two teenagers were at the old man’s side.

     

    “That was a nice story,” politely stated one of them, “but I don’t think it was very realistic for a father to give up his only son’s life in the hopes that the other boy would become a Christian.”

     

    “Well, you’ve got a point there,” the old man replied, glancing down at his worn Bible.  A big smile broadened his narrow face.  He once again looked up at the boys and said, “it sure isn’t very realistic, is it?  But I’m standing here today to tell you that story gives me a glimpse of what it must have been like for God to give up His Son for me.  You see…I was that father, and your pastor is my son’s friend.”  (Copied and revised.)

     

    Your Christian faith and witness are all about eternal consequences.

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

  • The church sat empty on Sunday.  It was an agonizing decision the evening before to send out the text on our church directory app.  Because of the coming winter storm, all activities at the church were cancelled.  While we had experienced a bit of rain on Saturday, at the time of the text message we didn’t even know if the snow would come.  I even got up several times during the night to see if the weatherman knew what he was talking about.  What if the snow didn’t materialize.  What if I had stopped people from coming to Bible Study and worship for nothing?  I kept telling myself it was the best decision that could be made with the information available.  And so I made it, and the church sat empty on Sunday.

     

    This was a rare weekend that our piano player had to miss for other reasons.  Our organist lives more than 20 miles away in Lubbock.  Having gotten word our worship leader was feeling a bit under the weather, my thoughts went to what kind of music program the worship service would have without them.  We tell ourselves that’s not why we come on Sunday, but what that team does for us week after week is such a blessing.  They help prepare our hearts to hear from God’s Word, and when they can’t be there, it impacts all we do.  Perhaps I let that influence my decision, and the church sat empty on Sunday.

     

    I made no early morning trip from the parsonage in whatever clothes I could find in the dark so I could turn on lights and get the heat fired up.  It’s good to get the place comfortable for when folks start getting there.  Later, around 9:30, there was no smell of coffee brewing.  No happy voices greeted each other in the foyer as deacons showed up for their regular meeting.  No Bible Study classes got underway, voicing prayer requests and praises from the previous week.  There was no chance to learn something from God’s Word as a group.  After 10:00, there were no giggles from the children’s room or the nursery.  The sanctuary and the fellowship hall and the Sunday School rooms were all dark because the church sat empty on Sunday.

     

    A Super Bowl Party had been planned for later that day at the church.  I fretted over how many people were disappointed because of the decision made to cancel.  All that fun, and all that food!  Fellowships are a great way to “break the ice” with friends who might not otherwise step foot in FBC Meadow.  Now the chance of snow was keeping us from having the fellowship.  The opportunity to invite someone to just spend time yelling for their team seemed like a great way to introduce our church and Christian fellowship to friends.  Okay, it’s not Bible Study.  We wouldn’t be singing any hymns.  I didn’t have a sermon prepared for the game, of course if someone were to ask me to share…  I’m quite sure the snow didn’t cancel all the Super Bowl parties in the area, but it did cancel ours, and the church sat empty on Sunday.

     

    Did it cross your mind that the halls at the church were dark and vacant last Sunday?  That there would be no laughter from children there?  That an opportunity for group Bible Study would be missed?  That a chance to raise your voice with others in song and prayer and praise to the very one who suffered and died on the cross, innocent but bearing your sins, didn’t happen.  Did it occur to you that the church sat empty on Sunday?  Snow or no snow, did it matter?

     

    There is a place for you at FBC Meadow.  There is a fulfilling Bible Study class I just know you would love.  There is a place for your youth, your child, your baby.  There is a seat just for you in the sanctuary next to others more like you than you could ever imagine who will welcome you and sing with you and pray with you.  It is a warm and inviting place..

     

    Jesus said in Matthew 18:20, “Where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst.”  There are a lot more than two or three on any typical Sunday morning at the church, and God is there.  I suppose that’s why it impacted me that the church sat empty on Sunday.  You see, fellowship and group Bible Study and voices singing praises and thanking Jesus for His goodness can’t happen without us being together.  I hope you will do your part.  And may His church not sit empty.

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

  • As briefly as I can, let me share a testimony I recently heard.  The American storyteller’s name is Pastor Wayne Cordeiro.

     

    Wayne was leading a Christian leader training in China.  As he began, he asked those in attendance what would happen to him if they were found out.  He was told he would immediately be deported and the twenty-two people there would spend three years in prison.  When asked how many of them had gone to prison like that, eighteen of the twenty-two raised their hands.  Wayne asked how many others these twenty-two group leaders serve in underground churches.  They quickly added it up and answered, “a little over twenty million people.”

     

    Wayne had fifteen Bibles with him and passed them out, obviously leaving seven people without one.  When he told them the Scripture passage they were going to read, 2 Peter chapter 1, one lady gave away her precious copy of God’s Word to someone else.  Wayne noticed during the study that she could quote the entire chapter from memory.  He asked the woman at a break about it, and she said she had many chapters of the Bible memorized.  He asked her where she found the time to do that.  She said, “in prison.  There’s lots of time in prison.”  He asked her what happened to the Bibles found in prison and she said they were confiscated, so people brought Scriptures into prison written out on sheets of paper.  He asked her what happened if those pages were found.  She said they were confiscated, “that’s why you memorize it as fast as you can.  They can take the paper away, but they can’t take away what’s in your heart.”

     

    As he prepared to leave after his three days with them, Wayne asked these twenty-two individuals how he might pray for them when he returned to the US.  They asked him to pray that “since you in America can gather anytime, anywhere you want, please pray that one day we will be just like you.”

     

    Wayne said, “I will not do that.  You people rode thirteen hours to get here.  In my country, if people must travel more than one hour, they don’t come.  You people sat on a wooden floor for three days.  In my country, if people must sit longer than forty minutes, they get up and leave.  You sat here three days without air conditioning.  In my country, if the pews aren’t padded and the A/C doesn’t work, people often won’t come back.  In my country, we have an average of two Bibles per family.  We don’t read any of them.  You hardly have any Bibles, and you memorize them from handwritten pieces of paper.  I will not pray that you become like us.  I will pray that we become just like you.”

     

    Hebrews 10:25 says, “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.”

     

    Without judging.  Without guilting.  Without any condemnation whatsoever, I want to encourage you if you are physically able to find a place of worship this Sunday and to gather with other followers of Jesus to worship the King of kings and Lord of lords.  Just do it.  Get up and go to encourage and be encouraged.  Search your heart for the passion you once had in following Christ.  God loves you.  Love Him back.

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

  • Almost seven years ago, Diane and I took our grandkids on a short camping expedition.  At the time, we had a small 21-foot camper, and we set up at the Sulphur Springs Camp outside Bend, Texas near Lampasas.  The camp has some amazing fishing with the annual white bass run happening during February, March, and April.  That’s when the fish swim upstream from Lake Buchanan to spawn.  There’re several kinds of catfish and lots of crappie most of the time.  But we went during summer vacation in mid-July, and as hot as it was, the kids were thinking of only one thing…swimming.  That’s where the real fun started.

     

    The swimming pool at Sulphur Springs Camp is one of the most fascinating attractions found there.  The pool is spring-fed, and year-round the water stays at a nippy 68 degrees!  As the spring fills the pool from one end, the overflow heads out the other end and into the river just 50 yards away.  That process, just in case you missed it earlier, keeps the constant temperature of the pool water at 68 degrees, no matter how hot the day.  Sounds like that would be great during a Texas summer, but you just try getting into it!  Emmy eased in and swam for a few minutes, but Ethan threw caution to the wind and did a cannonball into the chilly water.  That would’ve stopped my heart!  Diane eventually made it all the way in, but I don’t think I ever did.  As the name suggests, the water smells of Sulphur, but it was refreshing…at least that’s what the others told me.  (“Every party needs a pooper…that’s why we invited you!”)

     

    Ephesians 5:18 tells us to “be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  That command is written in a way to say, “Be filled and keep on being filled.”  Like the swimming pool at Sulphur Springs Camp, we’re not to just be filled up as any ordinary swimming pool would be.  We aren’t saved by the mercy and grace of God just to keep it to ourselves.  No, sir.  We are to be filled, keep being filled, and be used as the conduit for the overflow of God’s love to keep on going.  Like Jesus taught the woman at the well in John 4, we are to be filled with “living water” to the point of spilling over.

     

    The Christian life begins by our opening up and “tapping into” the wonderful, matchless grace and saving power of God through believing faith in His Son Jesus Christ.  As we come to Jesus in surrender and repentance, we are washed clean by His shed blood on the cross of Calvary.  The Bible promises that the Holy Spirit comes into our lives to stay, convicting us of sin, comforting us in sorrow, counselling us in being more like Jesus, and compelling us to share His love with others.  As followers of Christ, we’re not to be only consumers of God’s blessings and protection and promises.  We are to be conduits.  Like the Sulphur Springs Camp swimming pool, we are to be always full, but never stagnate.  We are to be overflowing with God’s Spirit, being used by Him to share the Good News of Jesus.

     

    So, ready to throw caution to the wind and take a leap of faith?  Ready to allow God to fill your life to the brim with His Spirit?  Are you ready and willing to keep on being filled?  Ready to be used by God to do more for Him than you ever imagined possible?  Trust God to supply you with His Spirit.  Trust God to fill you with His Spirit.  Trust God to use you to share His Spirit.  That’s where the real fun starts.

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

  • During last week’s winter blast in our area, was there ever a time when you turned on the tap and nothing happened?  Maybe you had dripped the kitchen faucet, and you opened all the doors under the vanities to keep the pipes warm, and you even covered your outside spigots to get ready.  Still somewhere along the line, things froze up.  It can make you feel vulnerable.  The worst part is you’re usually stuck waiting for warmer weather before things start moving again.  In your mind you did everything you were supposed to do, and still things didn’t go your way.

     

    Do you have a plan for when you lose power completely for an extended period as we in Meadow experienced last year during the bad sandstorms.  Candles can make for a romantic evening, but eventually you start wondering how much food is going to be ruined.

     

    How about if it all happened at once.  The power outage caused your alarm to not go off.  You and your family are late for school or work.  After rushing around to get ready, without water, shivering, in the dark, after figuring out how to manually get the garage door open, your car won’t start.  Your mobile phone didn’t charge, and you have no way to call the school, call your boss, or call for help.

     

    Ever had a day like that?  Maybe not to that extent, but we have all had bad days…or maybe a bad week.  All of us, right?  And times like that can have a major effect on our well-being and our relationship with God.  We may tell ourselves, “I deserve a day like this.  God is finally getting even with me for...”  Or maybe we go a different way with, “Does God have any idea what kind of day I’m having?  Does He care?”  What does His Word say to us at times like that?  Well, how about Romans 5:3-4, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope.”  There are many other similar verses as well.  His grace is sufficient for us.  But here’s one you might not think of during the rough and challenging days of your life: Malachi 3:6, “For I the Lord do not change…”

     

    What on earth does that have to do with having a bad day?  Human nature being what it is, the smallest thing can set us off.  How fast does your temperament head south if the cable or streaming or internet connection goes down?  Our realities and attitudes can change at the drop of a cell phone!  When I was a kid at home, Mom rarely told me I needed to change my attitude.  Instead, she would say, “You can just get glad in the same pants you’re mad in!”  Full disclosure: that rarely worked.  And let’s face it.  We’re all fickle about a lot of things depending on how our day is going.  Our attitudes.  Our favorite sports team.  Maybe our personal interests or our faithfulness to friends.  Certainly, our faithfulness to God.  Knowing that our fortunes or our health may change for the worse, our employment status may change or end—so many things—is there any doubt that a bad day or any number of other changes in our lives can set us back on our heels?  But…Malachi 3:6…and for those in Christ, this world is not our home.

     

    God said, “I do not change!”  His holiness does not change.  That means what was sin, still is.  Neither does His love change.  “He demonstrates His love for us in that even while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  He’s not one to “get even” with us.  He knows the kind of day we’re having, and He cares.  “Oh, yes, He cares, I know He cares.  His heart is touched with my grief.  When the days are weary, the long night dreary, I know my Savior cares.”

     

    Whatever your circumstance, however badly things are going, or how well, know this.  God does not change.  “Have faith in God.  He’s on His throne.  Have faith in God. He watches o’er His own!  He cannot fail.  He must prevail.  Have faith in God.  Have faith in God!”

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

  • For the last 40 years, January has been known as the “Right to Life” month.  On January 22, 1984, President Ronald Reagan first issued a presidential proclamation designating the third Sunday of each January as National Sanctity of Human Life Day.  As only he could, President Reagan said, “I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born.”

     

    Abortion is a hot-button issue for millions of people in our country and around the world—on both sides.  Sadly, many so called “pro-lifers” while fiercely opposed to the taking of an innocent unborn life, show little regard for the lives of those caught up in the situation where such a decision was necessary.  All the lives of those involved in making such decisions and pressing on during such circumstances are still precious, though often abandoned or punished or ridiculed or ostracized.  Where is the Christian love in that?  Where is the value, the sanctity, of their lives?

     

    And as destructive and abhorrent as abortion is, there is much more to the Life issue.  Senior adult abuse, assisted suicide, poverty, and even the epidemic of addictions are all variations of the same questions.  When are human beings no longer thought of as having value?  Is there a point, not only at the beginning of life, not only when we find ourselves struggling with sin or infirmity, or in the winter of our lives, where life is considered disposable in God’s eyes?

     

    If you look at this Meadow Minute expecting to find answers to all the questions surrounding the Life issue, you are going to be disappointed.  These few lines will not end the passionate discourse about the various aspects of the Right to Life.  We live in a fallen world, where the value of human life is cheapened on a regular basis.  I believe it to be a positive thing bringing awareness and human perspective at least once a year concerning the precious sanctity of life.  But if you read on, I want us to consider something else that is very important about life—God’s perspective.  We are made in His image, and God loves us so much that He sent His Son to redeem us to Himself because He doesn’t want to live without us.

     

    In John 1:12 the Bible says, “But as many as received Him (Jesus), to them He gave the RIGHT to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”

     

    We are created beings, and each of us is precious in God’s sight—whatever our station in life, whatever our age, whatever our physical condition.  All people have inherent dignity.  There is nothing anyone can do to gain or take away human dignity, since it is God given, not earned.  We cannot grant it to some and deny it to others, even to ourselves.  Jesus came to us so that, believing in Him, we might have LIFE and have it to the full.  So, what is this full life that Jesus is speaking of?  Is He promising a life without pain?  No.  A life without struggles or hard decisions?  No.  A life filled with everything we ever want or think we need?  No.  Then what is the abundant life that Jesus promises?

     

    I have found a list of 10 characteristics of abundant life found in Jesus.  The list includes a life of confidence, a life of joy, a life of peace, a life of power, a life of beauty, a life of fulfillment, a life of hope, and a life of love.  Sounds pretty good to me.

     

    Even in this fallen world as the struggle to elevate the sanctity of human life rages on, in what Christ did for us on the cross, we also have the Right to an Abundant Life.  “See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are.”

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

  • “As was His custom…”

     

    That phrase can be found only in the Gospel of Luke, and there only twice.  In Luke 4:16, right after Jesus had been tempted in the wilderness, the Bible says He entered Nazareth where He had been brought up, and “as was His custom,” Jesus went to church.  Then, in Luke 22:39, Jesus left the upper room with His disciples and “as was His custom” went to the Mount of Olives where He prayed to His Father concerning all that lay ahead.  John 18:2 says that Jesus’ regular custom of going to the garden was so well-known, the Lord’s betrayer knew where to find Jesus while leading those who would arrest Him.

     

    Mark 1:35, supports the regularity of Jesus’ actions.  “And in the early morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place and was praying there.”

     

    It is clear by Scripture that what caused Jesus to attend the synagogue and spend time alone in prayer was more than some common routine or ritual.  While fully God and fully Man, Jesus stayed connected to His Father.  The Bible has a lesson for us all with the phrase, “as was His custom.”

     

    Is your connection to God based only on how you were raised and not a personal encounter with the Savior?  Many of us were made to attend church when we were young.  I was, and I am now eternally grateful.  It is a positive thing that godly parents and grandparents introduce their young charges to the teachings and love of Jesus.  Sitting with Mom and Dad in church, reading God’s Word together, praying at meals and at bedtime, will have a lasting influence on young impressionable hearts.  But there comes a time when we all grow up and deciding to trust Him and surrender in faith to Him for salvation is our own. The decision to stay connected to God and His church and His Word is our own as well.  Each of us individually

     

    Was church attendance and a regular time with the Lord ever a “thing,” ever a custom in your life?  Is it now?  Or is it but a distant and fading memory to recall times where God’s Presence seemed to overwhelm you with joy and peace?  It can be like that again.  I pray your relationship to the Lord today is so vital that regularly worshipping Him with other believers, and spending time alone with Him one-on-one is essential to your spiritual health and personal well-being.  I pray your closeness and connection with Jesus is much more than some distant memory or current habit.

     

    Maybe you’re reading this, and it’s time to come out of your wilderness and come back to church.  Maybe it’s time to tweak your morning routine to include Jesus while on that run or during those first cups of coffee.  At FBC Meadow, we have spent several weeks looking at how to be more like Jesus, putting Him first in our life.  May it be said of us that we are a people “after God’s own heart,” and that “as was His custom,” we too will be found faithful in worship and in regularly spending time with our Heavenly Father.  He longs for your company.  How about continuing or restarting a custom in this new year to be in God’s house whenever possible and spending time with Him one-on-one each day?

     

    He's waiting.

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

  • Knock, knock.

    Who’s there?

    Nobel.

    Nobel who?

    No bell…so I knocked!

     

    Okay, lame.  Please don’t quit reading!

     

    Have you ever gotten that knock on your door at the most unexpected time?  You’re relaxing at home, possibly even asleep at night, and suddenly there is someone knocking at your front door.

     

    Diane recently reminded me of a night just like that.  We were living in Dalhart, TX, and in the middle of the night, around 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., someone woke us with some serious banging.  I got up and quietly went to the front door before peeking out to see a Texas State Trooper standing on our front porch.  The only thing one can think of at times like that is, “This can’t be good!  He’s bringing bad news!”

     

    You immediately begin wondering, “Was there an accident?  Who’s hurt?  Who has died?”  Turned out that the officer was looking for someone else entirely and had the wrong address.  After he apologized and left, all we could do was lie in bed staring at the ceiling, shaken but thankful.

     

    Even in the daytime, if you’re not expecting a knock on your door, it can be disconcerting.  “My house is not clean enough…I’m not presentable!”  “Maybe if I sit quiet long enough whoever it is will eventually go away.”

     

    How about times Jesus has come knocking at your heart’s door?  Maybe during a Sunday Worship Service and the focal passage hits a bit too close to home or the words of a great hymn stir your heart.  Maybe the Lord knocks at a time of personal crisis or major decision as you sit alone in despair over what to do next.  Maybe He’s been coming by and knocking on a regular basis.  But every time you tell yourself, “My life is a mess right now.  I can’t let Jesus see me like this.  He can’t possibly help.”  And so, you sit quietly in the hopes that the Holy Spirit’s urging, that steady knocking at your heart, will eventually go away.

     

    In Revelation 3:20, Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me.”

     

    Jesus specializes in the impossible.  He is a friend who offers so much more than you could ever expect.  He will come and stay when things seem impossible.  But to receive what Jesus offers, you must answer the door when He knocks.  He will overdeliver.  Jesus is always more than enough.

     

    The Apostle Paul often spoke of the generosity of Jesus.  In Ephesians 3:20-21 Paul wrote, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.  Amen.”

     

    Listen for the knocking of the Savior.  And when He knocks, open your heart.  He’s bringing Good News.

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

  • Author and preacher Tony Campolo has said that when his wife, Peggy, was at home fulltime with their children and someone would ask, “And what is it that you do, my dear?” Peggy had the most wonderful response.

     

    “I am socializing two Homo sapiens into the dominant values of the Judeo-Christian tradition in order that they might be instruments for the transformation of the social order in the kind of eschatological utopia that God willed from the beginning of creation.”

     

    Then Peggy would ask the other person, “And what do you do?”  Boom!  How do you answer that?

     

    Are you forward thinking?  Are you preparing yourself and those under your watchful care for the “eschatological utopia that God willed from the beginning of creation?”  At FBC Meadow, we have spent the month of December contemplating God’s promises of better days ahead.  Throughout His love letter to us, God speaks of His truth marching on.  There are two reasons we might find ourselves looking back rather than forward.  Both may be caused by a lack of faith and failure to surrender to His plan for our lives.  Either we want to simply live in the successes and glories of the past avoiding any challenge or risk moving forward, or we can’t get “past the past” because of regrets, sorrows, pain, or guilt.  With this being the last Meadow Minute for 2023, it is my prayer we both end this year and charge into the next with hope of better days ahead.

     

    The Apostle Paul was a forward-thinking man.  Much of his writing makes it clear that he expected the return of Christ Jesus at any moment during his lifetime.  Paul didn’t want his Lord to return and find him back-slidden, flat-footed, and idle, or overwhelmed and defeated.

     

    Philippians 3:13-14, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

     

    What was it Paul had not yet laid hold of?  Paul said it was his soul’s quest— the perfect knowledge of Christ, the ultimate power of His resurrection, and the complete sharing of His suffering and death.  The only way Paul would ever lay hold of those things was to press on, face forward, and stay faithful.  His soul’s quest lay ahead of Paul, not behind him.

     

    Luke 9:51 says of Jesus, ‘And it came about, when the days were approaching for His ascension, that He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem.”

     

    Jesus never looked back.  He did not compromise.  He never watered down His message to make it more palatable to those who wanted to follow Him but did not completely trust Him.  Even in the garden, tempted beyond what any other man would be, He surrendered to His Father’s will, going to the cross for you and for me.  But hadn’t He done enough at that point?  Taught enough?  Healed enough?  Couldn’t Jesus just call it done?  No.  “For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame…”

     

    As a follower of Jesus, I have the promise of a home in heaven where there will be no strife, no struggle, no pain, and no grief.  And as Paul says, “whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ.”

     

    Forgetting what lies behind, let’s take hold of what lies ahead in 2024 and beyond.  Let’s press on.  In Christ, there are better days to come.

     

    Grace.

     

    Tom

  • This coming Sunday at FBC Meadow, we’ll be celebrating the fourth and final week in the Advent Season, the week of Love, culminating in our Christmas Eve service.

     

    “The Storyteller,” Tom T. Hall, has given us many simple country songs with straightforward messages.  It’s hard not to identify his unique voice.  “The Year that Clayton Delaney Died,” “Old Dogs and Children, and Watermelon Wine,” “The Homecoming,” and “Me and Jesus” are just a few that come to mind.  Without googling it, I can only recall the first verse to one of my favorite songs by Tom T. Hall entitled, “I Love”.

     

    “I love little baby ducks, old pickup trucks, slow moving trains, and rain.

    I love little country streams, sleep without dreams, Sunday School in May, and hay.

    And I love you, too!”

     

    We throw that word love around quite a bit, don’t we.  In the same sentence we might say we love our spouse and our kids and then add we love our favorite sports team or fried catfish or “little baby ducks.”  I’ll go out on a limb and say we don’t mean the same thing in all those examples.

     

    1 John 3:1 says, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are.”

     

    Those of us who by faith in God’s grace have surrendered our hearts and lives to Jesus are children of God not because of anything we have done.  He loves us so much He sent His son on that first Christmas to be Immanuel, “God with us.”  Of course, Jesus didn’t remain an infant.  He grew to manhood to teach us and redeem us through His death on the cross, rising from the grave and ascending again to the Father to intercede for us.  And one day, we’ll go to Him.  “See how great a love the Father has for us.”

     

    Jesus said it like this.  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

     

    My very dear friend, Robert Henson, died at home here in Meadow last week with his loving family around him.  He was 81.  While his family leans into their grief, I am certain they have been overwhelmed by the number of people who attended his service and the volume of tributes and memories so many have shared about this amazing man.  Here’s my chance to share one more of mine.

     

    It was not that Robert didn’t love, but he didn’t throw those words around.  His daughter Cindy mentioned that during the Memorial Service.  Love was there.  He just didn’t say it out loud much.  His love came much easier in other ways.  When he and I first met, Robert told me never to be offended by the fact that he found it difficult to express himself in that way.  He told me how he had written his love out for his children so they would always have a record of knowing how proud he was of them and how much he loved them.

     

    But in the fleeting moments of final visits, when events of the day and normal discussions are no longer important or relevant, there is most often an honesty and openness unlike at any other time.  I sat in conversations with Robert several times in recent days fully aware that each one could be our last chance to say what we both truly felt.  His voice was soft and low, and his sentences were mostly broken.  But as I rose from beside his bed to leave for what became the last time, he reached out from under the blanket to grasp my hand with unexpected strength.  The words came easily from me as I said, “Robert, I love you.  You know that.”

     

    And I will never listen to the music of Tom T. Hall the same.  Clear as a bell, Robert’s last words to me were, “And I love you, too!”

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

  • This coming Sunday at FBC Meadow, we’ll be celebrating the third week in the Advent Season.  The week of Joy!

     

    How we all long for abiding joy in our lives.  Yet it’s possible that our feelings and expectations of what we call joy can change in an instant.  We look for situations or things or people that may bring us a fleeting sense of joy—a vacation, a new pet, a visit from a friend or loved one.  If we are honest with ourselves, we would call that feeling “happiness,” not abiding joy, for such a feeling can quickly fade.

     

    Ernest Lawrence Thayer gave perhaps unwittingly a great example of the fickleness of most people’s joy.  In his most noted poem, Thayer tells of the great expectation that was placed upon “the Mudville Nine that day.”  If only the town’s sports hero could get a chance at the plate in the bottom of the ninth, all would be well.  And then, beyond their wildest dreams, the hope of having Casey come to bat started to materialize.  A calmness settled over the fans, and they became more and more confident that all would work out once Casey took a swing.  Finally, their swelling joy could not be held back any longer.

     

    “Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;

    It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;

    It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,

    For Casey, might Casey, was advancing to the bat.”

     

    I believe I know some folks who could be from Mudville—individuals who mistakenly define joy in their life as some thrill or expectation attached to a fallible person, place, thing, or moment.  And because of that, such people are often better acquainted with what joy is not.  Events of the day, a single phone call or text message, a recurring thought circling in a cluttered mind can immediately take any pretense of joy from their lives.  Perhaps we’ve all visited Mudville at some point.  Have you ever experienced misguided joy in something or someone who eventually, invariably let you down?

     

    “Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,

    The band is playing somewhere; and somewhere hearts are light;

    And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,

    But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.”

     

    Christian joy IS NOT based on or influenced by circumstances of this life.  Christian joy IS based upon Jesus and all He has done to grant us hope and peace in Him.  Jesus will not ever let you down. The follower of Christ with the Holy Spirit in his or her heart can say, “I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart?  Down in my heart, down in my heart to stay!”  (Bet you just sang that!)

     

    That first Christmas Night began with no expectations or growing hope.  In fact, the Bible says the land had lived in darkness for 400 years.  There were not thousands of screaming people in attendance at Jesus’ birth.  There were only a few lowly shepherds who were given hope and peace and joy by the words of an angel.

     

    “And the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the City of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:10.

     

    Talk about ABIDING JOY!

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

  • This coming Sunday begins week two of Advent.  The week of Peace.

     

    After my father’s death in May of 1996, Diane had framed for me a typed letter found in Dad’s effects from when he served in the USAF.  The letter had arrived on September 7, 1973, and came from a dear family friend who had served under Dad while they both were stationed at Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo.  For the most part, it was just the typical catching up between two friends.  But included in the envelope and framed with the letter was “one of the blotters used by the Secretary of State, William P. Rogers, in the 27 January 1973 signing of the agreement to end the war and restore peace in Vietnam at Paris, France.”  At the time, simple blotting paper was used to absorb excess ink when writing with fountain pens.

     

    I remember Dad making a big deal about the deep meaning of the blotter when he received the letter, but being a self-absorbed teenager, I had more important things on my mind and missed the lesson being offered by my father.  For decades, I thought little about the implications of that blotch of ink.  Now, seeing it hanging on my wall, I get it.  The war ended. Peace was restored.

     

    Whenever there is fighting such as in the Middle East right now, many people immediately begin clamoring for peace.  Innocent men, women, and children on both sides are being killed.  Israeli hostages and Palestinian citizens of Gaza are being used as human shields by terrorists.  As I write this Meadow Minute, the tenuous détente during which humanitarian aid was hopefully being distributed to those in desperate need and hostages were being released in exchange for Hamas prisoners has ended.  Both sides had already insisted the fighting would continue.  As Jeremiah 6:14 says, “They have healed the wound of My people slightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace.”  A temporary cessation of fighting is not the same as peace.  We will continue to live in times of wars and rumors of wars just as Jesus warned those looking for signs of His return until He comes again as He has promised.  World peace will remain illusive until the Prince of Peace comes to His glory.  Then His peace will be lasting.  Then the conflict will be over.

     

    So, is the pursuit of peace a pointless, pitiful pipe dream?  No.  As Scripture tells us, “If possible, as much as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”  But the peace that passes all understanding does not come from the diplomatic efforts and signed agreements of men.  Lasting peace comes from God alone.

     

    In John 14:27 Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful.”

     

    We must be a people promoting peace.  In the family.  In the church.  In the community.  In the world.  And even as the world rages around us, and though we might cry out, “Peace, peace!” when there is no peace, we can have within us the peace of the Holy Spirit knowing “’The day is coming’ says the Lord” when the peace of God will reign.  On that day, for those in Christ, the conflict will be over.

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

  • This coming Sunday is the beginning of the Advent Season.  Week One, Hope.

     

    There is not room in this Meadow Minute to cover all the great lines and scenes crammed into the 1 hour and 34-minute classic film, “A Christmas Story.”  It has become somewhat of a tradition for our family to watch it at least once, while together on Christmas Day.  Depending on the memories you have as a child during the holidays, watching “A Christmas Story” just might become a tradition for your family, too.

     

    Care must be taken here not to spoil it for any of you who have never watched it.  The main character of the film is a 9-year-old boy by the name of Ralphie Parker who has his heart set on one thing for Christmas—a “Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle.”  Ralphie says the line a dozen times or more in the film!  I can relate to Ralphie because I remember attempting a variation of something he does in the story.  Ralphie inserts an ad for the BB gun into the middle of an issue of his mom’s LOOK Magazine so she will “accidentally” find it.  (In my case, it was the hope of a “GI Joe action figure with his own storage footlocker, underwater diving gear with a speargun, and an extra M-1 rifle with an ammo belt thrown in,” but I digress.)

     

    Are you old enough to remember how exciting it was for the Sears Christmas Catalogue to show up in the mail?  Those catalogues were the “bomb-diggity!”  Hope was found on every page of the toy section.  Hope was all over the sporting goods section.  Okay, so there were new clothes and appliances in there, too, but my brothers and I simply flipped through those areas to get to the hope parts.  To get Mom’s attention, I circled what I was hoping for in crayon, and left the catalogue laying around open so she would see it.  Once I saw the catalogue had been moved, I did it again somewhere else.  It must’ve worked.  Joe showed up that year!

     

    In Western culture today, we hope for a lot of things, don’t we?  We hope it rains.  We hope our team wins.  We hope things work out for us at school or at work.  But in Hebrew thought, hope was an established reality and not something that might or might not happen.  We should use that word more as the people of Israel did.

     

    If you are a Christian, your hope is in heaven, and it’s not a wish.  Your hope is eternal life.  Not that it might happen, but as an established reality.  Your hope is in Christ.  Not that His taking your place on the cross might get you forgiven, but as an established reality that you are forgiven.

     

    Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”

     

    Early Christians openly, publicly confessed what they believed about Jesus.  Not as wishful thinking, but as an established reality.  In this verse from the Book of Hebrews they were told to hold on to what they had previously claimed “without wavering.”  Our hope in Christ truly is an established reality.  God can be trusted to keep His promises because “He who promised is faithful.”

     

    Beyond some new furniture or the latest electronic device, what are you hoping for spiritually this Christmas?  You don’t have to wonder if God keeps His promises.  You can have the hope, the assurance, the established reality that what God promises will come to pass.

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

  • It can be very difficult to make a point by presenting the “negative” of an idea.  Imagine the Manager of a baseball team walking to the mound to say something like, “Don’t give him anything high and tight” before casually turning and walking back to the dugout.

     

    The pitcher’s mind begins to spin.  “Now what are my other options to high and tight, uh…”  Too late, the message is planted and goodbye Mr. Spaulding!

     

    But just to be contrary, I thought I’d try the negative of an idea during this week of Thanksgiving.  The Bible tells us to do everything without complaining, but maybe we just haven’t yet perfected our grumbling.  Here are some ideas I have found guaranteed to make you an efficient complainer.

     

    • 1.       Keep a Journal.  Keep track of everything that bugs you.  We all have pet peeves.  If you write them down, you can keep better track of them.  Try to find at least four or five things that really irritate you every day.  Set aside time daily to ponder what other people do that bothers you or have done to you.  If you find yourself accidentally happy, just take out your journal.  You might even post notecards around the house to help you stay unthankful.
    • 2.       Use negative words whenever possible.  Grateful people aren’t realists like you.  Words matter, so choose yours carefully.  To develop a grumbling spirit, try words like horrible, bad, irritating, stupid, useless, or my favorite, atrocious.
    • 3.       Be constantly distracted.  Thankful people usually can’t remember the bad stuff that’s happened in the past.  They don’t worry enough about all the awful things that could happen in the future.  To be an A+ complainer, you must be able to do both.  Always multitask.  If you give yourself too much time to focus on the good stuff, you’ll miss out on the potential threats on the horizon, or you might forget some of the bad stuff done to you in your past.  (See #1.  Keep those things written down!)
    • 4.       Focus on yourself when you pray.  Prayer is all about getting what you want.  God knows how great He is.  Use your prayer time more wisely, reminding God of everything you want that you don’t have.
    • 5.       Let your health deteriorate.  Thankfulness and physical health tend to work together.  Healthy people are usually grateful and positive.  Then positivity tends to just lead to healthy decisions.  It’s a vicious time-wasting cycle.  Try not to get enough sleep, that will help in anxiousness.  Anxiety is like steroids for complainers.

    Of course, we don’t need help to become serious complainers, do we?  Fortunately, we can reverse all the ideas in this Meadow Minute with help from the Holy Spirit.  As a church, we recently finished a message series through Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi.  How about a reminder from Philippians 2:14-15?

     

    “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.”

     

    Let’s be honest.  None of us are as thankful as we should be or could be.  It can feel so satisfying to complain and find the negative in situations and in people.  OOPS!  I’m doing it again.  (Think “positive”.)  Let’s try to complain less and let’s pursue good in situations and in people.  Let’s be grateful.

     

    Happy Thanksgiving!

     

    Tom

  • Did you know that right now, someone is watching you?  Most likely not in a creepy way but watching and being influenced by you—your mannerisms, your dress, your speech, your opinions, your priorities.  Simple observation and emulation are perhaps our earliest and most profound methods of learning.

     

    Disclaimer: I have permission to share this.  On February 16, 1993, our daughter Megan was in the second grade and got into trouble at the elementary school in Brownwood, Texas, where she attended.  I know the exact date because, as required in that school district, we received a letter from her teacher describing the incident, and our daughter has kept that letter all these years.  The entire missive was only three sentences long.  Megan was caught “using her spoon to catapult salad.”  Her teacher went on to say, “Please don’t be too hard on her.  It was hard for me to keep a straight face.”  When I found out about it, I asked her, “Kid, did you have that planned out, or did it just come to you?”

     

    My youngest never hesitated.  “I asked myself what Dad would do.  BAM!”  That left a mark!

     

    There are individuals today who make their living by being “Social Media Influencers.”  What these people say, what they eat, what they wear, what they think is mimicked by untold thousands of people without question and without hesitation.  The internet is still largely what you make of it, and there are positive things to be found on-line.  However, it can be an endless source of depravity for those fighting to remain pure and set apart as God’s witnesses.

     

    The Bible is loaded with examples of both positive and negative “influencers.”  In the positive column, there is Abraham and Moses.  And there are plenty more, like Joseph, Joshua, Samuel, David, Elijah, Peter, and Paul.

     

    But there are recorded in God’s word many examples of negative influencers.  Balaam influenced the Moabites to lure the Israelites to commit sin.  Achan caused the Hebrews to be defeated by disobeying God’s command.  One negative example really stands out.  A group of ten spies caused the death of an entire generation and a major delay in the purposes of God by their lack of faith.

     

    It may not be your profession to influence the thoughts, desires, purchasing habits, words, and actions of others, but you are an “influencer” just the same.  Someone is watching.  One of the most encouraging things each of us can be told is that our lives have meaning and purpose, and whatever our current circumstances, God has a plan for our lives.  It is good to hear that we have value.  So, let me share that very thing with you in this Meadow Minute.  You matter to others and to the Kingdom of God.  No one can tell your story like you can.  There is not now, nor has there ever been, another person with your specific experiences and circumstances.  No one.  And there never will be.  Make the most of that specialness!

     

    In every human being is the unique ability to know the Creator of the universe as his or her personal Savior.  And by accepting God’s grace through repentance and faith and allowing the Holy Spirit’s leadership, each of us can become an “eternal influencer,” showing others their value in God’s eyes.

     

    Jesus told us that as His followers, we would be “influencers” for God’s Kingdom.  “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.’”  (John 7:38)

     

    As my daughter might say, “I asked myself what Jesus would do, and BAM!”  Be an influencer.  Leave a mark!

     

    Grace.

     

    Tom

  • The Christian life is most often described by the Lord’s followers as a life of peace and joy and love.  And rightly so.  Those who have died to sin and accepted God’s grace in faith can readily have the eternal assurance that nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

     

    Still, the Christian life has some hard edges.

     

    Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.  He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.  He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it.”  (Matthew 10:34-39)

     

    Pretty tough words from the Prince of Peace.  But the Bible never says Jesus picked up a physical sword.  In fact, when Peter took up a sword in the garden to defend Jesus, Jesus rebuked him saying, “for all who live by the sword will die by the sword.”  So, what kind of sword did the Lord come to bring?  Jesus brought a sword of division between love for His kingdom and Him, and love for the world and the things of the world.  We all must make the choice—"is Jesus number one in my life or is ___________.”

     

    Do you love the Lord more than you do your elderly parents who need you now more than ever?  Do you love the Lord more than the precious child or children God has blessed you with—mini copies of you that you have raised and sheltered and encouraged?  Do you love the Lord more than your spouse who “means more to you than life itself”?  Do you love Him more than your business?  More than your own recognition and importance?  More than your bank account?  More than your future?  Where exactly does Jesus fit into your priorities?  Is Jesus only “a popular hero who worked wonders,” or is He the Lord and Master of your life.

     

    When Jesus fed the multitude with a kid’s lunch, the crowd was ready to make Him their king.  When He challenged them the next day to eat His flesh and drink His blood—to take Him as the very sustenance of their life—the Bible says many walked away and no longer followed Him.  The true Christian life has some hard edges.  The Master is not commanding His followers to reject possessions, to ignore responsibilities, to neglect family.  Jesus is commanding that we prioritize all other things as secondary to our relationship with Him.

     

    Does that seem too much of His to ask?  Ours is a life of peace and joy and love precisely because of all that Jesus has done for us.  I love the lyrics to the great old hymn: “Must Jesus bear the cross alone and all the world go free?  No, there’s a cross for everyone.  And there’s a cross for me.”  Our God is very close.  We can rejoice in the Lord and in the presence of His Holy Spirit in our life.  The assurance of our salvation, knowing there is an eternal home waiting, can help us in times of stress and strife and anxiety.  And the Lord is as close as a prayer for every need, every circumstance, every situation we might ever find ourselves in.

     

    His call and claim upon our lives are not too much for Him to ask.  And like Jesus’ disciples answered when others found the going too demanding and turned away, may the faithful today reply, “Lord, where else can we go?  You have the words of eternal life!”

     

    Be found faithful.  Choose Christ.

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

  • My family recently went to the Buddy Holly Center to watch the musical, The Lion King.  I’ve only been to the Center a few times, but it is always amazing.  The costumes and effects were as spectacular as Diane and I remember, having seen this production many years ago.  Since that evening, I have found myself singing along with a couple of the songs.  “Hakuna Matata” sticks in your head for days, but my favorite has always been “The Circle of Life.”

     

    The psalmist Asaph praises the One in charge of the circle of life in Psalm 74:16-17, “The day is Yours, and Yours also the night; You established the sun and the moon.  It was You who set all the boundaries of the earth; You made both summer and winter.”

     

    The rhythm of God’s creation continues, and the seasons change.  Fall finally fell in Meadow!  This is the season of scrounging a bit more firewood and raking more leaves than could possibly have been in the trees and getting that favorite coat cleaned, checking to see if it’s still in style.  It’s the season of harvest and a lot of hard work for a lot of fine people.  It’s the season for our clocks to “fall back” one hour (This Sunday!), hypothetically giving us one more hour of sleep.  This last weekend, I saw Christmas lights around Lubbock…seriously?  I tried telling myself it was a matter of some super busy husband not getting around to taking them down last year and his wanting to get a jump on the holidays by turning them back on early.  Scripture says in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”  October ain’t the time or the season for Christmas lights!  Every normal person knows you put up Christmas decorations during the Thanksgiving weekend!

     

    And this is the season of gratitude and thankfulness, taking the time to acknowledge all that the Lord has provided. But for some in our community, it is not always the season of abundance.  Beginning this week and running through November 19th, our church will again be having a non-perishable food drive for the local food pantry located at City Hall here in Meadow.  There are specific suggestions for different food items on several bulletin boards around the church, and the collection location is at the table in the lobby by the Fellowship Hall.  What a great Home Missions fellowship opportunity for us.  What you might see as “back-up” in your pantry could make a significant difference in a neighbor’s life during these next days.  Be a part of spreading gratitude and thankfulness…and the love of God.

     

    James 2:15-16 says, “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed, and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?”  The Bible tells us to be a “doer” of the Word, and not a hearer only!

     

    There are very few Operation Christmas Child boxes still available outside the Worship Center.  Some have even been returned already.  If you stepped up and took one or two or five, remember they must be returned by November 12th so they can be sent on to their destination.  You can also contribute to shipping costs in the basket at the OCC display.  We are a very Missions-minded congregation, and this is another way to show the love of Christ around the world.

     

    Remember, I love you…and I like you, too!

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

  • There is a unique teaching of Jesus found in Matthew 25:31-46 about the Judgment.  Often misunderstood and misinterpreted, this passage must never be used as validation that by our works of righteousness we gain and maintain acceptance into eternal life with Jesus.

     

    The New Testament is not inconsistent in its teachings on salvation.  We are saved by God’s grace through repentance and faith in His Son Jesus.  But according to the Lord’s recorded words in Matthew 25, those who do things for others inherit the kingdom prepared for them (Vs34).  And those who do not do things for others are condemned to be with the devil and his angels (Vs41).

     

    The true object of our expressions of Christian love is revealed in verse 40, “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”  Our level of love for Jesus and His saving mercy is displayed in the lives we live.  Yes, we can recognize true conversion by the presence of sacrificial love.  But we must never believe that our sacrificial love causes true conversion.  Salvation brings us to sacrificial love, not the other way around. Deeds of love done in Jesus Name are the ready evidence that Christ reigns in our hearts.  In this passage, Jesus is teaching us the expected outcomes of those who are His as compared to those who are not.  Could it be, Christian, that His words are an indictment against you for failing to actively love others in His Name?  Hayden Hefner wrote, “There can be nothing quite as disheartening, dishonest, and disorienting as a professing Christian who does not love others.”

     

    Jesus could not be clearer.  The way we treat others, particularly “the least of these,” matters.  Perhaps we are limited by our means as to what we can do, but we can all do something.  Believers should seek out ways to show the love of Christ.

     

    This last Sunday, we at FBC Meadow began our annual Operation Christmas Child effort, sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse Ministries.  All who are willing can take one or more of the boxes provided by the church to fill with gifts for distribution to children around the world.  At the church display outside the Worship Center there are supplies and information for making all this happen.  You can choose whether you would like your box to go to a boy or a girl, there are gift suggestions for filling the box, and you can even choose the age target for the items you include.  Before distribution somewhere around the world, every box will have included with it the gospel message of Jesus’ love and salvation in His Name.

     

    Your filled boxes are due back at the church no later than November 12th so that we can send them on their way.  But maybe going toy shopping is not your thing.  You can still take part in this very worthwhile mission’s opportunity.  Shipping costs have doubled over the last year.  It is now estimated that it takes $10.00 for every box to reach its destination.  Any monies you give at the display in our church go to covering the costs of getting these boxes into the hands of children through Samaritan’s Purse Ministries.

     

    Acts of goodness and mercy, like being a part of Operation Christmas Child, will not lead to eternal life.  Being faithful in worship, active in Bible Study, and generous in giving will not earn your spot in heaven.  Reading the Bible every day and being your best will never save you from the coming judgment.  Faith in God’s forgiving grace provided by Jesus on the cross is the only way to salvation.  And knowing God has done this for us is exactly why we strive to be faithful in knowing Him, resembling Him, and sacrificing for Him as we love others in His Name.

     

    Be a part of sharing the joy of Christ with a child.  Be a part of OCC this year.

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

  • I’m an animal guy.  You wouldn’t know it right now at the parsonage since we have not had a dog for many years.  I get my “pet fix” by being around our daughter’s rescue, Remmy, and getting a chuckle watching him throw a fit for some unknown reason every time Diane walks into the room.  Remmy loves barking at my wife.  I could never get away with that!

     

    Our last dog was a 3 ½ pound Yorkie named Henry.  He lived to be over 15 years old.  Henry was with me for more than 25% of my life, and at the time of his death, he was older than any of the grandkids.  There came a time when his teeth failed him and then his knees failed him, and I determined that I would not fail him.  Like so many other people who have had and loved their pets, I came to the point of having Henry put down rather than his living in pain, though every time we saw each other, to the very last time, he loved me and trusted me to do what was best.  I was nose-to-nose with my little buddy as he closed his eyes in death, and I refused to let anyone at the clinic touch him after that, holding him all the way home.  Knowing that day was coming, I had already prepared a small wooden box for his body to be buried in, and I have a small stone with his name on it in the yard as a reminder of our friendship.  Henry’s death was a very emotional time for me then, and it's again emotional for me in writing this out now.  Animal lovers do become attached to our pets…don’t we?

     

    On my Facebook feed, there are any number of moving posts about lost or abandoned pets and other videos showing unbridled joy as animals find their “forever homes.”  There are pleas for anyone willing to adopt and rescue animals, and stories of pets being reunited with their owners after extended periods apart.  We tend to attach human personality traits and character flaws to animals, and the sacrifices we make in time, energy, and resources to see they are cared for can reach tremendous extremes.  Animal lovers do become attached…don’t we?

     

    Guess what.  God cares about the animals, too.  He provided for them in His creation—"high mountains for the wild goats”, “cliffs as a refuge for the rock badgers”, “grass for the cattle.”  Jesus once used His Father’s concern for the lowly sparrow to help His followers grasp the extent of God’s concern for the needs of humans.  Does it seem unimportant to you that God is emotionally invested in birds, i.e., animals, as well as humans?  True to God’s Word, in comparison to humans, the sparrow has little value, but God still values the life of a bird enough to be moved by its death.

     

    Still, this Meadow Minute is about more than ours and God’s love for the creatures of the earth.  This is a message about God’s amazing love for mankind and how far He went to provide us with eternal life.

     

    Jesus said, “Therefore, do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows,” Matthew 10:31.

     

    Guess what.  We are to have God’s amazing love for mankind as well.  Does it move you to see the lost and abandoned people in this evil world, without Christ, headed for a devil’s hell?  When was the last time you witnessed the unbridled joy of one lost sinner finding his or her “forever home?”  Does your compassion extend beyond the welfare of a puppy or a kitten to include inviting a friend or family member to know the One who can rescue them and offer “the adoption as His child” in a personal, and life-changing relationship.  Maybe all of this is an invitation for you, Christian, to reunite with the Savior after an extended period of running away from Him.  He wants so much to reconnect.  Do you consider it tremendously extreme to commit the time, energy, and resources necessary to see those without Christ being given the opportunity to know Him?  What is there in this life, who is there in this life that you are more attached to than Jesus?  God will not fail you, even in death.  The Bible says that no one can snatch a Christian out of the Father’s hand—He’ll hold you all the way home.  There is a place prepared for those who love God, and if you have trusted “the Stone that the builders rejected” as your Lord and Savior, your name is already written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  That’s how attached God is to you.  That’s how much He values you!

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

  • A heartfelt “thanks” goes out to the teachers and leaders and other volunteers of FBC who faithfully serve the Lord in making Wednesday evenings a priority with our young people.  Though we have had to put a pause on our adult Bible Study through the month of October, the children and youth are continuing to meet.  There are many in our church who have volunteered as the hands and feet of Jesus to see that the faithful young people of our church and in our community who come on Wednesday evenings still find a meal and Bible-based fellowship during their time together. Mid-week Bible Study is an opportunity to stay connected with each other for encouragement and support.  Even more important is keeping the connection with the Father as we all grow by mining the truths of His Word.

     

    Before our hiatus, the adult time together has been on the Doctrines of the Bible for many weeks.  We have been looking at what the Bible has to say about the Trinity, about redemption and predestination and faith and many other subjects.  If we call ourselves followers of Christ, it is imperative that we know what God’s love letter to us has to say about Himself and about His promises and about His desires for us.  To avoid becoming as one with the world, none of us should ever stop pursuing what God’s Word has for us individually and as a congregation.  Hopefully we can pick up where we left off when we return the first Wednesday in November.  If Wednesday evenings have not been a part of your regular routine, please accept this invitation to join us beginning November 1st.  You will be blessed.

     

    Here in the “Bible Belt” it is easy to find people who say they believe in God.  In the Meadow community, it might be more difficult to find someone who would say he or she doesn’t.  But mere lip service about how important a priority God is may be nothing more than an attempt to avoid controversy in a conversation.  God is so “accepted” here that the mention of the Name of Jesus is not going to find a lot of opposition—not at the school, not at the gin, or anywhere else around town— so long as no real commitment is expected.  The Lord’s half-brother James called acknowledging God that way, with empty rhetoric but showing no evidence that He is truly in charge, nothing but a dead, useless faith.

     

    We are not saved by the nice things we say about God or by going to church or by being nice to others.  We are saved by faith in God’s grace that leads us to repentance and trusting Jesus to guide us.  How can such an amazing act of God occur in anyone’s life without evidence of His Spirit’s indwelling being seen by and shared with others?  What difference has God made in your life?

     

    Jesus was once confronted by a delegation of Pharisees and scribes who were concerned that the Lord’s followers didn’t adhere to the traditions of the elders and the culture and customs of the day.  In this instance, their issue was the ceremonial washing of hands before a meal—not for hygiene purposes— to fit in with the culture.  At other times, Jesus was challenged with topics ranging from doing works of righteousness on the Sabbath to obeying government authority in paying their fair share of taxes.  Jesus once commanded that those who called themselves God’s children remember justice and mercy and faithfulness even while not neglecting the proper responsibility of giving to the Lord in regular tithes and offerings.  Always, always, His message centered on having the proper heart motivation of worshipping the King, and not just talking a good game, looking the part.

     

    In answering the hypocrites about hand washing, Jesus quoted Isaiah 29:13 in Matthew 15:8-9, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me.  But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men,”

     

    Don’t be an “armchair Christian.”  Get in the game.  Stay engaged with the Word and with fellow believers seeking to know God’s truth and not the doctrines and precepts and whims of men.  Live out a life of faithfulness and gratitude and worship for the One who makes all things new.

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

  • My good friend Dan Jackson and I have shared a running joke for over a year.  It involves all the many stories found on the internet about random people attempting to pet buffaloes.  Most of these stories, as you would expect, do not end well for the simpletons giving it a try.  And apparently, there is always some “Johnny-on-the-spot” bystander with a smart phone just waiting to record the fun!  Each time Dan or I find such a story, we both end up shaking our heads at the scary reality that such naïve individuals walk among us on this earth.

     

    All of us, I suppose, have done stupid things at one time or another in our lives.  As Forrest Gump said, “Stupid is as stupid does.”  But doing unwise things is relative when it comes to life.  For instance, under normal circumstances, you will never see me jumping out of a perfectly airworthy aircraft.  However, if the plane is going down in a ball of flames, that’s an entirely different story.  Hand me a parachute.  Some people love tempting death by going sky diving.  Others give in to temptations that destroy their health or wealth or even their marriages.  Still others are tempted to spend their days searching on-line for the next dangerous social craze for some unexplainable reason.  Yes, I have done some ridiculous things in my life.  And in answer to your question, dear reader, “They’re none of your business!”  I suppose a certain amount of wisdom and good judgement can come to us through surviving times of less than stellar experiences.  But how many of the same poor decisions have you made, how many of the same temptations have you succumbed to…more than once?  For that matter, how many poor decisions have you made, how many temptations have you succumbed to after personally witnessing the negative consequences inflicted on others who made the exact same mistakes first?

     

    Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except something common to mankind; and God is faithful, so He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

     

    How patient must our Heavenly Father be?  It seems plausible that somewhere along the way, He might have questioned His decision to grant us free will?  Trust me, He has seen every temptation you have ever faced, or are facing now, or ever will face in the future.  God knows what’s best for each of us.  His will for each of us is like nothing we could ever come up with on our own.  And He has perfect plans for each of us.  “Plans for prosperity and not for disaster.  Plans to give us a future and a hope.”  In His faithfulness, God will not leave us as His children struggling on our own when temptation comes knocking.  He has provided the way of escape.  He has given us His Word filled with His wisdom and promises for how to defeat and escape sin and temptation.  He has made available to us hard-learned wisdom of other believers.  He has made Himself available to us through prayer.  Yet so often, rejecting His efforts to provide a way out of temptation, we find ourselves once more petting buffaloes.  Proverbs 26:11 says, “Like a dog that returns to its vomit, so is a fool who repeats his foolishness.”  Even with a track record of negative consequences and embarrassing failures, we seem not to learn from our past.  We tell ourselves this new “fluffy cow” seems much more amiable than the last one.  Besides, everyone else who has ever tried to pet this buffalo was doing it all wrong and things will work out differently this time.  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

     

    Remember, temptation is not sin.  Our Lord Jesus was tempted by the devil, yet without sin.  Giving in to temptation is sin.  Each of us will face temptations until we see our Lord’s glorious face.  There will be buffaloes we’ll try to convince ourselves really need to be petted.  May God grant us the wisdom to see past such foolishness and not give into any destructive temptations.  Instead, may we seek His kingdom and His righteousness in our own lives and the lives of those we care deeply about.  Come, Lord Jesus.

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

  • Once heard a story of two top shoe salesmen who were both sent to a third-world country by their mutual employer.  The goal was to locate and develop new markets for the company’s products.  Almost immediately upon arrival, one of the salesmen wrote back, “This is a terrible idea.  Bring me home.  No one here wears shoes.  There’s no opportunity!”

     

    Within a short period of time, the other salesman likewise wrote to the company.  “Send help!  Send all the shoes you can make!  No one here wears shoes!  There is so much opportunity!”  Some only see obstacles.  Others see “so much opportunity.”

     

    In hearing of the New Covenant that Jesus spoke about, the rigid religious leaders of His day rejected it out of hand.  In their minds, the Scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees saw themselves as the protectors of God’s law.  To these ultra-religious people, the tired, stale, rigid yet impossible observance of the law was the only way of seeking, finding, and appeasing God.  Their misguided allegiance to the Law culminated in the death of God’s Son.

     

    The Law as originally given to Moses was intended to reveal the nature and will of God.  Centuries later, our Savior came for the same purpose, to reveal the nature and will of God.  But everything about Jesus’ coming was new.  While our Lord’s standard was consistent with the Law, the difference was that the Law was only capable of pointing out sin and how man constantly fell short of God’s standard.  Jesus also came revealing our sin and the futileness of attempting to appease the Father.  And along with that, He gave His life as the way, through forgiveness of sin, to bring salvation to those who would accept His message.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.”  Jesus is to be the Object of our faith, not a political party or earthly personality, not a denomination, not working to perfect a set of impossible rules and regulations to “save” us.  Jesus alone.

     

    Praise God that in His great love, our Savior saw the opportunity and not the obstacle.  Jesus brought a solution, not condemnation.  In comparing the old covenant to the new, our Lord told a parable in Luke 5:36-38.  “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise, he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined.  But new wine must be put in fresh wineskins.”  The New Covenant through Jesus’ blood cannot be reconciled with the old.  The Christian church as founded in the New Testament was never intended to be some Version 2.0 of Judaism.

     

    How do you view Christianity?  Is it a religion or a relationship?  Is the object of your faith some measure of how well you think you’re doing against obstacles you’re working on to gain favor in God’s eyes?  Or is the Object of your faith Jesus? Are you living surrendered to Him in victory over sin and death?  Along those same lines, do you see the brokenness and emptiness of the world around you as a lost cause with no redeeming qualities and no possible chance of redemption?  Is it time to give up?  When we as God’s people show ourselves as powerless and impotent in the face of evil today, I am convinced what we are showing is a feeble or non-existent faith in the NAME that is above all names.  Forgive us, Lord.  Set us aright.

     

    We must see this broken and sinful world through the eyes of Jesus.  Not only as a lost and dying generation headed for a devil’s hell, but as “a field, white unto the harvest” that needs a Savior.

     

    “There is so much opportunity!”

     

    Grace.

     

    Tom

  • Though my family attended other churches in other states when I was very small, I have always considered Harris Avenue Baptist Church in San Angelo, Texas, as my first “home church.”  I came to know the Lord and was baptized as a pre-teen while my family attended there.  Singing in the youth and adult choirs and being asked to play my guitar to sing special music for the very first time are all still great memories.  Diane and I were married at the altar in that church.  I was chosen and ordained a deacon in front of that congregation.  And it was at HABC that I was introduced to three ladies that will always hold a special place in my heart—Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, and Mary Hill Davis.  If, like me, you’ve spent much time in the Baptist Church, you know Lottie Moon represents the Foreign Missions Offering taken at Christmas each year.  You also know that Annie Armstrong represents the Home Missions Offering for our nation taken at Easter.  And you know that Mary Hill Davis represents the State Missions Offering that’s taken each year in September.

     

    Now, we’ll see who really has a Baptist background.

     

    My mom and dad were two of those called upon at HABC to help produce different visuals that stood at the front of the church during each of these three offering emphases.  For Lottie Moon, it might be a Christmas tree that had more and more lights turned on as we got closer to our goal.  Once for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, I remember a giant tomb with the stone slowly being rolled away as more giving came in.  I can even remember a Mary Hill Davis Offering visual that looked like a giant thermometer with markings showing values higher and higher. It got filled in with red “wool” as monies came in.  (San Angelo was known as the Wool Capital of the World.).  Anyone else remember doing such things?  What are your memories of the effort to make a big splash for the various special offerings?  Supporting missions and missionaries around the world, in our nation, and right here in Texas is something Bible-believing congregations of various denominations typically mention on a regular basis.  But when these three ladies’ names come up, it’s always a big deal!

     

    As we focus right now on the Mary Hill Davis Offering for State Missions during the month of September, I pray you will consider what part you might have in sharing the love of Christ with the people of Texas by giving to help meet our church’s $2,000.00 goal.  Every dollar given to this offering benefits various ministries in our great state.

     

    What are the memories you recall about the influence FBC Meadow or some other mission-minded church has had on you and your family?  Times like this are great for us to introduce people in our church, young and not-so-young, to the mission and ministry of God’s people as illustrated by these three amazing women.  The importance of fulfilling the Great Commission, even if it is only in monetary support of others in ministry, cannot be overstated.  The last documented words of Jesus to His disciples before His ascending into heaven are recorded in Acts 1:8.

     

    “You shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

     

    Before world missions, before national missions, we are to start here at home.  I suppose you could call the Meadow community and Texas our Jerusalem.  This is where it starts.  Be a part.

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

  • Our Savior was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).  How precious to know that Jesus loved so much He would openly weep at the tomb of His friend, Lazarus.  In part, the Lord was weeping because the world did not yet understand who He was or why He came.  And as He stood at the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus already knew what He was about to do.  He would call His friend Lazarus from the grave.  But don’t miss the point of John 11:35, “Jesus wept.”  

     

    The Savior of the world wept in grief.

     

    More and more, I am convinced that grief is not a burden to bear, but a wonderful gift of God’s care.  Grief is a way to cope and deal with the death of someone special in our lives after we are left behind to yet live upon this earth.  Truly, without love, there would be no need for grief.

     

    Before coming to Meadow, Diane and I facilitated the GriefShare program for several years where we last served in Lubbock.  It is a Biblically based 13-week study offered to anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one.  Of all the sad and overwhelming parts of grief, we found the most devastating to be NOT EVER really facing the grief over the death of that loved one.  For some in our community the loss might still be too fresh, too raw and it is a victory just to get up each day to breathe in and out.  Some might mistakenly feel it would show a lack of faith or reveal a weakness to be with others with similar circumstances.  Some decide to tough it out and “busy” their way through it.  But the blessing of grief that I’m speaking of cannot ever be realized without taking the effort to lean into one’s grief, embrace it, and take the journey From Mourning to Joy.

     

    Diane and I both feel God’s urging to offer GriefShare to the Meadow community and our surrounding area.  Our first 13-week film series and group discussion begins Tuesday, September 19, 2023.  We’ll meet from 6:30-8:00 p.m. in the “old fellowship hall” of FBC, Meadow.  The workbook is $20, but scholarships are available.  One can join anytime during the series, and if necessary, it’s possible to “make up” any missed sessions by coming back during the next cycle.  If you or someone you care about has experienced the death of another and have felt God’s urging that it is time to deal with the grief, we would encourage you to come.

     

    What is said at GriefShare stays there, and it is a safe place to find the peace of God in dealing with someone’s death.  Try GriefShare for at least three weeks to see what it’s all about.

     

    Grace,

     

    Tom

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