It’s been everywhere lately…..

Twitter…..

The White House…..

The White House on Twitter…..

All news sources whether “fake” or “real”

Facebook – personal stories that would break your heart.

Facebook – personal attacks that brought friends of mine to tears.

The local coffee shop

Sexual abuse hotlines were inundated with people seeking help.

Instagram and I’m sure there were even people on SnapChat talking about it.

Oh and there were “big wigs” (supposedly important) people in various religious organizations and denominations who had to add their voice to the noise.

Who knew what? What said what? Who did What?

Who threatened what? Who had to take their family into hiding? Who had bad memories, horrible memories brought up again that they had tried to move past?

I am not even going to mention names, because while the issue is about a Supreme Court Judicial Nominee and his accuser, the issue is much bigger than that…..
• The issue is about our society’s treatment of women.
• The issue is about the church’s failure to stand up for the rights of the abused, no matter what color, what gender, what age they are.
• The issue is about why “adult” (and I use that term loosely) white men seem to think they can get away with anything – and why they have for so many years.
• I could go on and on and on, but I think you get the point……

“….If you lived on the world’s terms, the world would love you as one of its own. But since I picked you to live on God’s terms and no longer on the world’s terms, the world is going to hate you.”
John 15:18-19 MSG
http://bible.com/97/jhn.15.18-19.msg

How many of the people who currently run the United States government claim to be “Christian?”

Do they live on the world’s terms or on God’s terms?

How many people who spoke up this past week trying to either minimize, downplay or explain what might or might not have happened, how many of them claim to be Christians?

Do they live on the world’s terms or on God’s terms?

How many people who currently run Christian organizations honestly believe that the people in the current administration run their personal lives and their actions in the government according to God’s terms?

If the leaders of churches, the people that every week we turn to for leadership and direction and encouragement, if they are openly supporting someone who doesn’t support life on God’s terms, what sort of message does that say about the church?

And we wonder why people are leaving the church?

Really?

Do we really wonder why people are leaving the church?

Or are we just afraid to face the answer to that question?

People are leaving the church because the church is leaving God.

Let me repeat that.

People are leaving the church

Because

The church is leaving God.

The church is spending more time focusing on being popular and being liked and being welcoming and being this and that and less time focusing on what Jesus said it needs to be about:

The first and great commandment is this – Love the Lord thy God with all your heart, soul and strength.

And a second commandment is like it – Love your neighbor like you love yourself.

Now I think we should all go figure out what that means for our own people and our own world and make this coming week a better week.

TJV

God and Siri

Can Siri help your prayer life?

Huh?  You’re probably thinking, Tom, those teenagers in your house have gotten to you or you’ve lost your marbles.   Well, both of those could be true but they have nothing to do with whether Siri (or Google or Cortana or any of the voice apps out there) can help your prayer life.   I give credit for this idea to Pastor Darrell he shared this in an Elder’s meeting this week.

How often have you had it where you’ve been talking to someone and they said, “you know, next _________ my ________ is having _________ removed and we’re pretty ________ about it.   We’d love it if you could keep that in your prayers.”   Happens a lot – at least a good amount on Sundays at church it does.   And what happens?

We get home, we get busy with our own daily life and that day comes and goes and we totally forget to stop on that day and say, “Hey God, my friend ________ is nervous because her ___________ is having _______________ removed.   Can you give them an extra measure of peace today and can you make sure that all goes well?   I know they’d really appreciate it and I would too.   Thanks God.”

You missed the opportunity.

So, instead, try something else.   While you are still talking to the person, whip out your smart phone and say something like this,  “Hey Siri, remind me something, “   Set it for the lady with the British accent, “What would you like to get reminded about, “Remind me next ________ …….” and tell it all to Siri.   Siri will them remember it and at the right time on the right day, Siri will remind you.

And then the person that needs prayer knows that you will be reminded that they need prayer on that day and that will encourage them.   Oh and there’s this whole thing about the power of prayer.

Try it.   Get Siri involved to improve your prayer life.   I’m going to try it.

TJV

Looking at Old and Seeing New

Met a long time friend for coffee this afternoon.

Talked about kids, church, college, gap years, social media, health, her new job.

We talked about her new job – “It’s great! I get to do what I love 6 days a week!” (Did I mention she was my kids youth director prior to this?)

“Hey have you got a few minutes – you should come see our building?” It was a short drive.

As I pulled in the driveway, and throughout the tour, I thought, “You might have saw an old church building, I see new opportunities.”

You might see a building that is not in very good condition, I see a place that can be a solid foundation for kids with a less than solid foundation in their lives.

You might see the worn carpet and the creaky doors as a sign of struggle, I see it as God using His people to meet these kids where they are at.

You might see an old tired building that’s “past it’s prime” and not really good for much. I see a building that is full of stories.

Stories of good.

Stories of sadness.

Stories of life.

Stories of God.

Stories of God at work.

Stories of God’s people pushing back the darkness.

And many stories to come.

It’s called New City Kids and starting next Monday, they will kick off their 2018-2019 season of making a difference in the lives of inner city kids in Grand Rapids. Kids who need someone to care about them. Kids who need to hear about the love of Jesus.

Throughout the coming year, there will be a lot of kids showing up a New City Kids. There will be a lot of stories coming out of and through that old building.

Some of them will be happy.

Some of them will be sad.

Some of them will be easy.

Some will give you hope.

Some will make you hurt for the next generation.

I hope to be able be in a position to share the stories with you as time moves on.

I hope you’ll join with us and help influence these kids.

Stay tuned.

Tom

It all started….

(This was originally written for the “Reaching Out” newsletter at my church, Madison Square Church in Grand Rapids, MI.)

It all started with a bulletin announcement…..
Soul Food Sunday will be held on July 29…….. It sounded like a good thing – some good food, a chance to talk to friends, a little bit of worship, a little bit of wisdom from Pastor Darrell. Yeah, I think I might like this……
We came early. You see, my teenagers are interns at church this summer and they had jobs to do. So, we had plenty of time. I think we showed up 45 minutes early – and for Madison, that’s early!
As I walked in the back door, something strange happened. There were people sitting down at the tables already! They were waiting patiently and were talking to each other and greeting others and all seemed very friendly and happy to be there. Comfortable, yeah, that’s the word – they seemed comfortable. I didn’t recognize any of them.
As it got closer and closer to 5:30, more and more people showed up. The noise level grew but there was something really cool about the noise – it was all upbeat, all positive, all happy to be there. As you looked around, you couldn’t tell who knew each other for a long time and who just met. Who have been members of Madison for years and who was living at Mel Trotter? They all just blended together.
And the people kept coming. And coming. You remember the story in the Bible about the king who threw a party and many of his “friends” were too busy to come? And so he sent his servants out into the “highways and the by-ways” urging anyone and everyone to come. Remember that story? Well, it turns out that Madison Church’s efforts on Wednesday nights brought them in.
And the people kept coming. And coming. And the tables were all filled – no problem, we’ll get more tables out. And those tables were filled – and there was no more room on the floor – no problem – we’ll put tables up on the stage.   
And the people kept coming. “I hope we don’t run out of food,” said one. “I hope we don’t run out of plates,” said another. And we didn’t. And many many people enjoyed good old fashioned soul food – ribs, cornbread, greens, you name it, it was good!
But that was only the beginning. The Gospel choir led us in songs that are still resonating through my subconscious. And then God opened the doors and handed Mrs. Kia (Pastor Darrell’s wife) the microphone. Was it an amazing story? (If I were reading this to you, I’d be asking for “Amens!”). Yes, it was. But it wasn’t amazing because Mrs. Kia is amazing. It was amazing because God is amazing and God uses broken people and tough situations for His purpose. God spoke through His servant and I know that many lives were touched. Many people who might not feel comfortable in a regular church setting came, enjoyed the food but also were touched by God’s hand through it all.
Soul Food Sunday – way more than just a church dinner. It was a coming together of people – the neighbors, the church members, the forgotten ones in the shelters – they were not forgotten. Everyone’s story mattered but none of the stories mattered. We were all there because God loves us – imperfect, screwed up, messed up people that we are.  
And that’s what I had for dinner Sunday night. 

Soul Food.

Tom