Life After 9/11

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Beam left standing in the form of the Cross

I realize we are past the 15th anniversary of 9/11/2001 and publishing this post may seem late. However, I beleive the timing is perfect for someone and I’m praying for the person(s) this is meant to encourage. For me, 9/11 it’s a constant reminder that I need a deep relationship with God. Last year I went to New York for the first time in my life and when I returned, I started this post. However, it has been sitting as a draft ever since. I knew when the timing was right, I would share. Here’s my experience and I hope you will come along with me.

Saint Paul’s Chapel was the only building that didn’t sustain damage on September 11, 2001. I recall hearing about this at the time but there’s nothing like seeing it with your own eyes.

It was my first trip to New York and I was so happy to see the city with my precious step-daughter, Chelsea. She invited me to come along on a work trip so we took advantage of the opportunity and went early for the weekend to take in the sites and see a Broadway play.

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The whole weekend was amazing! We started day one with a tour of New York City. It was a rainy and windy cold day. It was Fall which is something Texas doesn’t do well. Our tour consisted of bus and boat and it was fantastic! We saw many sites such as the Empire State Building, Flatiron Building, Rockefeller Center, Madison Square Garden, Statue of Liberty, 9/11 Memorial site and much more. Our tour guide, Bernice, was great! You could tell she loved her job and the city.

She shared wonderful details about all the sites and when she talked about 9/11, her story became personal. Seems like everyone has a 9/11 story if you were alive that day. However, her story really resonated with me and I want to share it.

Bernice had a dream the night before 9/11 of planes crashing into the World Trade Center buildings. She was scheduled to give a tour of the World Trade Center to a bus load of people at promptly 9:00 am on September 11, 2001. She called in to work and told them that she needed to cancel the tour and would not make it to work that day.

I don’t have to tell you what happened because you know the rest of the story of that horrible day. Bernice praised God for saving her life and others.

Bernice has had other dreams and learned to pay attention to them long ago. On another occasion she dreamed of leaving her apartment and being mugged and badly beaten. When she woke and left her apartment the next day, she was mugged and badly beaten. Bernice has learned something that some of us might want to think about. I believe she listens to God and this is how God speaks to her. He speaks to all of us and often times we are not aware or we choose to ignore.

God spoke to me loud and clear to me following that dreadful September 11th day. You see I had a relationship with God for eternity, but not a relationship for the here and now. The bible tells us that Jesus came they we may have life and have it to the full (John 10:10). The Common English Bible translation says “…so they could live life to the fullest”. I knew he wanted me to find a place to worship and grow in the knowledge of who he was, is, and is to come. That day was a turning point in my life and I sought God with all my heart. Looking back, I’m grateful for taking the next step toward God and can see why he was preparing me for a better life…a life with Him at the center of everything.

Nothing can shake the foundation set in place by the One who delivered me from sin and death. I’ve been able to endure grief, sorrow, pain, and loss because God is my strength. I’ve also been able to experience joy, grace, peace, love, and life because God is my strength.

I believe God gave us a strong message by the standing and unaffected Saint Paul’s Chapel during the 9/11 attacks. There’s no explanation for why that building is still standing as it is literally across the street from where the Twin Towers stood. God purposely preserved this chapel and for me, it’s a message of hope and eternity. Don’t wait another second to follow after God and may you respond to the call he has on your life.

Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27

 

 

 

 

 

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Do You Love Me?

dreamstime_s_61056922It was 3:30 in the morning and I heard a voice. My alarm was set for 5:00am. I needed to get up early and get to work at the church. So it surprised me when three times He asked…

“Kim, do you love me?”

Yes I love you.

“Kim, do you love me?”

You know I love you.

“Kim, do you love me?”

God, you know I love you. Why are you asking me this? Then I heard Him say, “Feed my sheep”.

I knew immediately God was speaking of the church.

I also knew He told Peter this same thing in John 21:15-17.

Commentaries tell us when Jesus had this conversation with Peter, He asked him three times “do you love me”. It’s believed this dialogue was symbolic of the three times Peter denied Christ as a way of reconciling their relationship.

I believe God woke me and asked me this same question because people are starving for Jesus. So I asked myself…

Am I giving them sustenance?

Am I giving them the bread of life?

Am I giving them living water?

Am I giving them Jesus?

I’m currently taking a Disciplemaking course along with twelve other people. I’ve been praying about something I heard while taking the course. The presenter asked if we loved our mission more than we love Jesus.

Let’s think about this for a moment and reflect on the question.

Do we love our mission more than we love Jesus?

I have been putting several words in the place of “mission” such as family, ministry, myself (ouch). I have been reflecting on just how much I love others or other things. And do I love those things more than I love Jesus. Anything else that I put in the place of Jesus becomes an idol and a form of idol worship.

If I truly love Jesus more than anything else, then my desires line up with God’s desires. Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. His will is accomplished for my life and I’m living out the mission of being a Christ follower. Am I doing that?

Matthew Henry’s Commentary says this of John 21. Three times Christ committed the care of his flock to Peter: Feed my lambs; feed my sheep; feed my sheep. Those whom Christ committed to Peter’s care were his lambs and his sheep. The church of Christ is his flock, which he hath purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28), and he is the chief shepherd of it. In this flock some are lambs, young and tender and weak, others are sheep, grown to some strength and maturity. The Shepherd here takes care of both, and of the lambs first, for upon all occasions he showed a particular tenderness for them. He gathers the lambs in his arms, and carries them in his bosom. Isa. 40:11. It is the duty of all Christ’s ministers to feed his lambs and sheep. Feed them, that is, teach them; for the doctrine of the gospel is spiritual food.

The doctrine of the gospel is spiritual food. Now that’s something to digest!

This Lenten season, I’m asking God to make me aware of opportunities to share the love of Jesus by feeding His sheep. I’m repenting of all those times I have not fed His sheep or loved them well.

Would you like to join me?

 

Accessorize Your Life

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Did you make a New Year’s resolution this year? Have you already given up on it? I would like to propose a different type of resolution. One that can be found in the scriptures.

Colossians 3:1-3, 10, 12-14 The Message

1-2 So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life.

10Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete.

12-14 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Did you receive new clothes for Christmas? Did you open a gift or two with new clothes? What about a new accessory? Did you receive a jacket, shoes, boots, hats, belts, gloves, jewelry, or scarf? If you received a new jacket, would you put your new jacket on top of or over your old jacket? What if you opened a gift and it was a belt. Would you put on your new belt on top of your old belt? No, that would be crazy. I love how these scriptures use clothing as a metaphor for how we are to live in Christ.

When it comes to a new life in Christ, let’s go back and see what Paul says we are to take off.

Colossians 3:5-11

5-8 And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. It’s because of this kind of thing that God is about to explode in anger. It wasn’t long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better. But you know better now, so make sure it’s all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk. 9-11 Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete.

Hebrews 12:1 tells us to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. We have to intentionally rid ourselves of the old ways that causes us to sin.

Asbury Bible Commentary asked the following question, “Does this transformation occur in a moment or is it progressive?” The answer is, Yes! John Wesley said that “put to death” means to “slay with a continued stroke”.  In other words, while God’s transforming work is decisive, it is also perpetual. We are being renewed day by day, transformed from one degree of God’s glory to another. So we must die to self daily, and constantly put away evil. This is both our privilege and responsibility as those who bear the image of Christ.

Luke 9:23, Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

I don’t recall anyone having to teach me to sin. I’m pretty sure I could disobey when I was a toddler and Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it.

Paul goes on to tell us that we need to remove those old ways that are connected with the old life meaning sin. Verse 9, You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes. What do ill-fitting clothes look like? They don’t fit, they are either too big or too small. You have a new custom-made wardrobe by God with his label on it. Those old cloths are out of style…obsolete. You can try to put on those old cloths but they won’t fit and you won’t be happy because you have the Holy Spirit living inside you prompting you, speaking to you and nudging you toward Christ.

  • As a Christ follower, we are someone new and made to dress in the likeness of Jesus Christ. We are to clothe ourselves in Christ’s image.

12-14 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you (clothe yourselves): compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength (meekness), discipline (patience). Be even-tempered (bear with one another, make allowance for each others faults, accept one another), content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment (it binds everything together in perfect harmony, perfect bond of unity). Never be without it.

  • We are chosen for this new life of love so dress like it. Dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.

When we lay down those things our human nature wants to do, we are renewing our minds on what is above and not what is on the earth.

13Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.

What does it mean to be quick to forgive? What does it mean to forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you? Well let me ask you how much forgiveness have you needed from God? I don’t know about you but I’ve needed a lot of forgiveness from God and others. I mess up all the time and if it weren’t for grace, I don’t know what I would do. As I meditated on this, I was asking God if I am quick to forgive an offense? Do I offer forgiveness to others like I want in return from God? This is thought provoking and reminds me of a story.

Recently I had a bad day. My husband had been sick with a cold and was coughing…A LOT. After two sleepless nights, I moved to the guest bed. A storm moved through during the night and woke me up. It was too early to get up so I went back to bed after the storm passed. Well I overslept and this threw me into overdrive to get ready and get out the door to a meeting that I was leading. As it turns out, I was ten minutes late. It wouldn’t have been so bad except we had a guest coming to our meeting and I forgot to let her know that we had changed meeting time to 15 minutes later that morning. So she arrives 25 minutes before I do. You can imagine how bad I felt and apologized profusely as she and some of the other persons were leaving the meeting room as I arrived.

She was so gracious and forgiving to me which is something I didn’t deserve but really appreciated. She had a choice and she chose grace. Oh I forgot to mention that this is not my first offense with her. I’ve needed her grace before. There’s an incident in our past where she exhibited forgiveness and grace to me. She didn’t have to forgive me and offer grace to me either time but she did. I see someone who displays love, forgiveness, and grace over and over. I see God in her because isn’t He the one who offers love, forgiveness, and grace over and over? Isn’t He the one who equips us to offer love, forgiveness, and grace over and over?

One other thing I need to share about this story of forgiveness is that I thought because of our past that our relationship was fragile but actually it’s quite the opposite. Our relationship is very strong. Two people who offer grace and forgiveness over and over are stronger because the more we forgive, the more we love.

Have you ever prayed the Lord’s Prayer? Have you ever considered the part, Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. We are asking for as much forgiveness from God as we have given to others. It’s something to think about.

  • So accessorize your life with grace and forgiveness. That’s exactly what the Father does for us all the time.

14And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

The Japanese ceremonial dress consists of layers of expensively decorated cloths which are draped over a person, each beautiful in its own right. But the costume is incomplete until the belt is placed around the waist, holding the costume together. In a similar way, love functions as the primary virtue with which a Christian is to be clothed.

  • No matter how much you are offended or how much you disagree, wear love. It’s your all purpose garment never be without it. Love binds us together.

So let me ask you. What’s in your closet? What’s in your heart? Have you given up your old self and old ways? Have you come to a place where it’s just not working any more. Could it be you need to tell God you are sorry for the ways you have failed him, for your sin? Do you need to clean out the old and ask God for the new way of life in Christ? Why not start off the year with a new wardrobe? It’s not too late.

Maybe you have a relationship with Jesus and need to put on some new accessories. Put away those old accessories and start wearing the new accessories God had custom-made just for you. Just ask God, He is waiting.

Don’t wear those old clothes any longer or don’t wear those old accessories. God has brand new custom wardrobe just waiting for you.

Go now and resolve to wear love, it’s your all purpose garment never be without it.

Happy New You!

WWJS…What Would Jesus Say?

If Jesus wrote a letter to your church, what would He say?dreamstime_s_8627999

This question was presented in a lecture recently and I have not stopped thinking about it since.

WWJS…What Would Jesus Say?

Would Jesus tell your church to return to it’s first love, persevere in suffering, refuse to compromise, hold on to sound doctrine, wake up, keep you from the hour of trial to come, or admit you are lukewarm?

In the book of Revelation, John writes to the seven churches. In these inspired writings, Jesus speaks to the churches and offers commendations and corrections to put them back on the path to righteousness and life with Him.

The seventh church, the church in Laocidea, is the most troubling and comforting to me. Like most of the letters to the churches, there is bad news and there is good news.

The Bad News

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit (the word “vomit” used in HCSB version) you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Revelation 3:15-18

It feels like Jesus is speaking into this time and place. We are so consumed with self and wealth that nothing else seems to matter. The church in Laocidea is the “selfie” church. Wow and how true of our times! I wonder if people were really honest with themselves, how many people believe they don’t need God. Things are going pretty good and when things are going pretty good, we are good. We don’t need religion or a relationship with God because “we got this”. We seem to make enough money to live in nice homes and drive nice cars, fund our children’s wants and needs, and fund our own wants and needs. We may give a little to the church or charity but not too much because we need to make sure our bills and needs are met. This “selfie” attitude and lifestyle is really nothing new just seems more prominent and accepted these days.

I speak on this from a place I know well…like 25 years well. I knew I need a Savior when I was a teen. I prayed for Him to free me from sin and give me a place with Him (Jesus) in eternity. Then I went about my business for a number of years. For a long time, I would attend church on Christmas and Easter because that’s what you do, but I didn’t really commit to a regular relationship with God. Then I started attending more regularly but it was still a casual relationship. If I needed God, I would call out; otherwise I was doing pretty well. The funny thing about this is I was not only spiritually poor, but I struggled financially even though it looked like I had everything.

When 9/11 happened, I realized that this casual relationship with God was not going to cut it any longer. In some ways, people thought of me as spiritual because I would regularly attend church but really the truth is, I was just attending church and really only when it was convenient. Something changed for me on 9/11/2001 and I wanted to know God in a meaningful way and my spirit was restless and hungry for more. That’s when I really started attending church and reading the bible. I committed to a bible study and fellowship with other believers. I needed community and had a desire to serve. You see it all comes together when you really commit to God. When you submit to God, He changes everything starting with your heart.

The Good News

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:19-22

We don’t like to think about discipline but it is just what a parent does with a child. If you are a child of God, He will discipline you. So accept this love and discipline, be honest with yourself and repent. Jesus is waiting and if you will open the door of your heart and let Him in, He has a seat waiting for you.

Father, I pray whoever has ears, let them hear.

Amen!

From Darkness to Light

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My grandparents bibles.

To open their eyes so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that by faith in Me (Jesus) they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified. Acts 26:18

Félix changed…I don’t know the exact date he changed, but I know he changed in 1956.

Félix was born 100 years ago today on August 13, 1915 and he was the oldest of ten children. He married Vivian Burns in 1940 and they had one son named Terry.

Félix liked to have a good time and he could party. He went out drinking…a lot! He liked to drink, gamble, and fist fight.

This is a story about how Félix changed sort of like Paul did on the road to Damascus.

But first, I want to tell you about his wild days before he changed. Félix lived in the small town of Sapulpa, Oklahoma. He was a hard worker by day and wild man at night. Most nights he would go and listen to Western Swing bands such as Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, Johnnie Lee Wills, and Leon McAuliffe. Leon McAuliffe was an American Western swing musician who was famous for his steel guitar solos with Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys.

Félix’s wife, Vivian, dealt with her husband’s way of partying for the first 16 years of their marriage. I remember her telling me how hard these times were for her and their family. It really was the worst of times.

Then one day….. Felix changed.

In August 1956, Felix’s son, got really sick and had to be hospitalized. His appendix had ruptured and surgery was necessary to save his life. Felix realized he had spent his time and effort in all the wrong places. He begged God for a second chance with his son and told God if He would save his son, he would turn to him and change his ways.

Terry made it through the surgery and fully recovered.  If he had not, I would not be writing this post today since he is my dad. My grandpa kept his end of the deal and went to church and at 41 years old, he gave his life to Jesus. He changed and I mean really changed!

Félix changed

As far as the family knew, he never took another sip of alcohol after he came into a relationship with Jesus and many would say he was an alcoholic.

Felix changed.

On one occasion, he was leaving the movie theater and he saw two guys from his past.  One of the guys asked, “Félix, we heard you were a Christian now, what are you doing at the movies?” After that he never went back to the movies again. Honestly, in this day and time, it’s not a bad idea. What’s up with shooters in movie theaters these days? The enemy will try anything to make us live in fear and I refuse to be bullied by him! Oh sorry, I got distracted. So Félix quit going to the movies and the reason had to do with his witness for Christ. If someone saw him leave the movies and that caused them to stumble, then he shouldn’t do it. Romans 14:13b, Instead, decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother’s way. Now he didn’t put this on anyone else. He did not care if his wife and son went to the movies. He looked after his own witness and listened to the Holy Spirit. I love how personal God is with each one of us regarding how we live out our life and walk with Him.

Félix changed.

He attended church regularly and taught a youth Sunday School class. He would sit at the kitchen table and go over his lesson with his wife. His son would lay in bed in the next room and listen to his dad go over his lessons before class. As a result, he would know all the answers in Sunday School. He also learned a lot about the bible which has stayed with him to this day.

Félix changed.

He was a deacon at the First Baptist Church for many years and he prayed powerful prayers. He had a deep voice that carried and his prayers were heartfelt and emotional. He would come off gruff but had the demeanor of a big olé teddy bear. You could sense the presence of God when he prayed.

Félix changed.

He visited the sick in the hospital and made home visits to those who were ill and aging. He didn’t stay long but long enough to check on the person and pray for them before heading out to the next stop. Again, this was something he did on his own as the power of God moved in him to serve. He did not expect anyone else to do what he was doing, but did this service because he wanted to serve God in this way. It’s interesting to me that in my position on staff at the church that I care for the sick and aging.

Félix changed.

As a result, others changed too. He became a well-respected man at work, in the community, and at home. The power of Christ in him spread like a sweet fragrance. By the time I came along, he was a fantastic grandpa! When I was a little girl, every time I went to his house for a visit, he would take me to get an icee. This became a tradition for us and one I will always cherish as a special memory. He loved me like crazy and not just me, he loved our whole family.

Félix changed.

At Christmas when our family would be opening gifts, he would record our voices on his cassette player (cassettes were used after 8-tracks but before CD’s) so he could play it later to remember our special time together. He would get emotional at the goodness of God for his family. He was truly thankful for us and all his blessings and would tell us often, especially at Christmas each year.

Félix changed.

I’m so thankful for his transformation. As I think about his life, I don’t know if he ever went on a mission trip but I know he did mission in his community. He was generous to others and willing to help those in need. He was a kind and transformed man who loved well.

Félix changed.

God brought this to mind today as I remember the fact that my grandpa would have been 100 years old this year if he were still alive. He died in 1997 just before his 82 birthday. I cherish his life and I cherish my Lord Jesus. You see I was staying with my grandparents one summer in Oklahoma when I knew I needed Jesus and guess what?

I changed!

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

How do you want to be remembered when others reflect on your 100th birthday?

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Grandpa Barnhart, me, and Grandpa Rivers on my wedding day.

The Word

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As the moon fades, the sun is rising in the East, I yearn for the Word with a hunger so deep.

What a perfect way than to begin with a feast, of God’s very Word to my soul shall I keep.

 My Lord wakes me each day just before dawn with thoughts of Him and a song I embrace.

Let your Word refresh me as I press on, and hold me Jesus for this day that I face.

 I tell you this dear friend of mine; listen closely so that your heart will hear.

God has a plan for you that’s divine; will you listen to Him or turn away in fear?

 He speaks to me in so many ways and satisfies a void that once was great.

God can change your heart this very day; just trust in Him for He awaits.

Kim Thomas

October, 2002

Three

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This year we celebrate the year “three”—
The start of Light Women’s Ministry.

Now bear with me and in the bible you will see
There are many references to the number three.

John gives a summary of the following three days:
On the first day, people asked, “John, are you the way?”

“Of course not,” is his reply, as he makes the path straight.
Day two, he points to Jesus, “the Lamb of God!” John proclaims.

Day three, there was a wedding where a first miracle took place
When Christ turned water into wine, can you imagine each face?

Now let’s look at the gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke—
Where Christ predicts his death three times and then it comes true.

And what about Peter denying Christ those three times?
Suppose he didn’t realize just how well known he was to Christ.

Then there’s Pilate, who asked three times, “what has this man done?”
He didn’t want to sentence him, but it was the crowd that won.

So there he hung, between two criminals, for a total of three to die.
His love, compassion, and mercy reached across the sky.

And Jesus was crucified on that dark black day.
Then came back as our Savior on that much predicted third day.

Yes, there is something special with the number three—
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the Trinity.

These three work together, both individually and apart,
In the lives of the Christ believers who set Him in their heart.

Kim Thomas
December, 2014

2 Corinthians 13:14, May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.