Saturday, August 24, 2013

"Somebody had to be a Christian"

My travel or journey through Scripture has led me to I & II Timothy and now into Titus over the past few months. Titus began just today and has been coupled with me reading a favorite book of mine by the late Mike Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality. I think this is my 8th time through the book. Its never a coincidence how God leads me in my studies. It’s never coincidental how His Word and whom or whatever I’m reading flows together. Titus is stuck on Crete, left by Paul to organize the Converts and dispel all the religious mess that the circumcised are causing. The religious messing up the Truth…..never happens now does it? Yaconelli recalled a story of Dr. John Mackie that I had heard my father tell before. Mackie, who was the president of the Church of Scotland in post World War II, is on a trip with two other ministers to check on and encourage missionaries in the Balkan Peninsula. His two traveling companions were, “from a rather severe and pietistic denomination” as Yaconelli retells. The three travel to a small Greek village to encourage an Orthodox priest. Overwhelmed with excitement the priest offered the men a rare and expensive wine. The two companions of Mackie refused, but he took the glass, smelled the wine like a trained connoisseur, drank it and praised its taste. He even asked for another glass when he finished the first. When the visit was over and the men were on their way, the two clergymen asked Dr. Mackie in disgust, “do you mean to tell us that the you are the President of the Church of Scotland and an officer of the World Council of Churches and you drink?” Dr. Mackie allowed his Scottish temper to rise to the top as he had enough religion from these two and said, “no I don’t, but somebody had to be a Christian!” Yaconelli writes, “Religious people love to hide behind religion. They love the rules of religion more than they love Jesus. With practice, Condemners let rules become more important than spiritual life.” Paul writes in Titus 1:15, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact both their minds and consciences are corrupted.” I refuse to be a finger pointer. I dislike people that do. Its not our job or place to cast judgment on anyone, God’s got that handled and be it far from me that I should judge someone else, least they judge me. I do however want to be an equipper and bring to light the Truth in its simplicity, for myself mostly, but for others as well. The TRUTH in this scenario is that I must simply try to live out in my faith. Jesus most certainly did not play religion very well. Seems as though Dr. Mackie took a few swings himself at the standards of the Standard. I pray, I hope, I guess I ask that God never allows my religion to get in the way of my faith, of the Truth that lives in and through me. I wonder how my pious self has turned some away or completely led others to begin a religious processional to death. “Lord, help them see the Truth and not the religious mumbo jumbo I or anyone else has played out before them.”

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hope Defined

I find myself back in a PEACEFUL Kenya today, PRAISE GOD! We thank you all for your prayers and support. The Kenyan people have spoken and spoken peacefully for their next President. We are now called to pray for his leadership and new government that will soon be put into place. I'm now jumping into a study I'm preparing for this summer as we anticipate our University students from the US & Kenya. These young men and women will rub shoulders with each other and discipleship training here in Nairobi with the Stickney family and friends that share the common goal of equipping the next generation to reach the world with Christ. The study I will be leading will be on 1st & 2nd Timothy, so we might find that my blogging takes a slant in that direction. Your feedback in welcomed as it will make me look and sound much smarter come July! Here is my first take on the beginning of Paul's first letter to Timothy. Paul begins his greeting with a reminder and statement that is easily and quickly read over because its just him greeting or beginning the letter that is packed full of rich stuff. But the cornerstone of life is right there before us, “Christ Jesus is our hope” (NIV). Paul says, “I’m writing this to you Timothy”, because Jesus is my hope. My Hope. Timothy is stationed in a place dealing with the craziness of life and people that think they know more about anything and everything than he does. Sound familiar? Ever been in the situation? I have, its stressful. You feel inadequate, over-whelmed, like everything you say comes out wrong or is turned around to hurt you or be used against you. You wonder, “why, why me God”. Remove Timothy's immediate situation and just apply life. We all know how life can just seem like a losing battle, defeat after defeat, slip after slip, or high followed by a low. Doctors say this, bank needs that, boss feels this way, husband, wife, significant other feels and sees the situation in direct opposition to you. I could go on, but we get the point, I hope. It’s hard. Paul is about to unload a plethora of goodness on Timothy and consequently us and begins the entire seminar with, “hi, I’m Paul and Christ Jesus is my hope, He’s your hope.” Jew, Gentile, Sinner, or Saint your hope lies in Christ Jesus. Don’t forget that! Don’t start reading looking for God’s Word for you and miss the entire reality of life; our HOPE is in CHRIST JESUS alone. Is your HOPE in Christ Jesus today? This week?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

God's Not an American

I remember a scene from U2’s Rattle and Hum movie where the band set-up in downtown San Francisco, I believe, and played a live concert in the middle of the workday. During the clip, Bono spray paints a bridge and then yells over the crowd, “Rock’in Roll stops the traffic”. Why would I remember such a random scene you ask? Well a friend told me a couple of day ago that two male lions shut down traffic just outside his neighborhood here in Nairobi. It didn’t make the paper here, but it hit Facebook by storm a few days later. You can see from the pictures that these two young male lions had nothing but time on their hands and no real need to get a move on so that the everyone could get to work on time. Can you imagine flying in the office door late, rushing into that meeting you’re suppose to be at and saying, “sorry, there were lions blocking the road this morning. Traffic was backed up for miles.” All in a days work here in Kenya. Crazy to think that in less than a day I could be back sitting in road construction traffic on 635 in Dallas. Our world is pretty small. Last week I got to attend a Bible study that Kerry has been going to for a while. It falls on a Thursday night, the night I usually meet a bunch of guys to play basketball, but my knee has been the size of mango and killing me, so bball was not an option. She asked me to come along, so I did. The study is led by a priest from Manchester who is 60 and attended by couples from Italy, Germany, Poland, Britain, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, the United States, Kenya and hosted by a couple from India. Protestants and Catholics, young and old, kids in their 30’s and kids in 3rd grade. It really is a glimpse into what “brothers and sisters in Christ” should really look like. The Manchester Priest is amazing in how he leads the group and it was a treat to be in his company. We were studying from the book of Saint Luke, remember he’s a Catholic priest, in the 8th chapter. After teaching through it he asked about verse 18, “Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.”. It was absolutely amazing to hear people as they answered with their culture and faith journey all speaking into their answers. It opened my eyes to how small my world really is in my thinking and processing of scripture. How do we listen, or as not to offend you, how do I listen? I listen with such a small perspective. It is not completely my fault since my culture, my education, my upbringing, my church background, my patriotism is a big part of who I am. I wasn’t born a German or Indian, can’t explain why, but God brought me into the world as an American. But, I need to be aware that as I listen, I listen with a bias towards my past, my culture, my journey. Meaning my listening needs to be with an open heart and mind, because God is not an American citizen. More next week on verse 18.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Confidently Confirm

How is your faith? Your personal faith, not your out loud faith, your church faith, your so your neighbor can see you faith. You’re own, individual, just with God Himself faith? My next few months will be spent in I & II Timothy during my quiet time. Doing what we do at ACO and what I’ve done since starting ministry these two book direct a lot of my actions. You know it, you’ve read it; chapter 1 of 1st Tim jumps straight into the fact that there are some people who’s faith is not really faith, but rather an explained way of thinking. Paul clears up any misunderstanding in Timothy’s mind quickly in verse 4, “God’s work…is by faith”. Simply to Tom that reads, if I’m not living by faith then I’m not doing God’s work. My faith needs to lead out. If something isn’t working, my faith needs to lead out. If my wife feels like life is falling apart around us, my faith needs to lead out. If my kid is having trouble with a friend at school or failing math, my faith needs to lead out. If my own relationship with the Lord seems stale, my faith needs to lead out. If….then my faith needs to lead out. HOW? How does my faith lead out in life’s circumstances? For me, I must remember that God is in control and my faith in Him begins my thinking, my obedience, my loyalty, my steps are ordered by His example. Yes, I know, its not rocket science, but when has faith ever been? Later in verse 7, “They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so CONFIDENTLY confirm”. So how is your faith? You only really know what you’re talking about when you’ve lived it. A friend on Facebook asked what wisdom was yesterday. Several of the responses dealt with experiences that created knowledge that could be passed on. Do you know what you so “confidently confirm”? Is your faith something that you’ve learned from your Sunday school teacher, your pastor, your small group leader, your parents or the daily devotional you read each day? Or is it yours? Is it warn into your skin, do you have callouses all over your body from living out your faith? I don’t! So many times I think, figure and scheme my way through life and use faith as my banner, not my baseline. (Your Sunday school teacher, Pastor, small group leader, parents and devotional are guides to shape your faith, but they cannot replace your own one-on-one relationship with your Father, the One whom your faith lies in. All of these are instrumental in helping you live out your faith, understand your faith, lead and encourage you in your faith. You need to be plugged into a Bible believing, solid teaching, life on life church.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

In this life we must know....RIP Jacob Logan

My heart aches again this morning as I learned of another young person I knew during our ministry in Coppell entered heaven. The count now runs to 3 of former students gone to be with the Lord and all too soon in my human way of thinking. My heart doesn't hurt for the young man, Jacob, because I am thankful to know that He knew his Father in Heaven, but it hurts for those he leaves behind. As a parent, my heart breaks for his family. As a former youth pastor my heart aches for the young men I know that have bonded together and committed to holding each other accountable through the ups and downs of middle & high school. They now have to walk through a messy part of life with more questions than answers. All of who knew him personally, casually or from a distance will ask the every pressing question of "why?". My whole being wants to jump on a plane and join them, walk through the valley with them, sift through the desperate desire to say one last thing or do one thing different before he leaves. Oh how I hurt for these young people that face a grown-up world all too soon. We say the right things, "he's with Jesus, he's home, its God's plan", and although true, these words don't comfort our minds and souls, only take a little of the sting away. They should, we know the Truth, but our humanity doesn't allow it. We know as Followers of Christ that our end is in His presence and our ultimate desire is to and should be to be with Him. But with a life to live and so much potential our hearts strain to feel a peace and in some sense we feel cheated. It makes us feel incomplete as believers, at least is does me, to not be satisfied with God's plan for Jacob's life. I still live in that lie that I really have a say in my life once I have given it to God. You think after teaching students, living it and doing something crazy like moving to Africa that I would of clued into it. But I haven't. That is what I sit here and struggle with this morning half a world away from the people I hurt for. It scares me all over again to be reminded that Faith isn't Faith until its all you are holding onto. But in a strange way I find comfort in my faith at the same time. I count myself lucky because a friend of mine and I stood on the sidelines at Coppell stadium just two weeks ago during a short trip to Dallas from Nairobi that I had to make. My friend was able to help get me on the sidelines, where selfishly I wanted to be able to focus on the game, and watch a group of young men I've known since middle school play without the distractions of talking to people in the stands. Little did I know that as I stood there and marveled at how those little boys I first met were now on the verge of becoming full blown men, it would be the last time I would see Jacob alive and that an innocence would be taken from his brothers that played on the field with him and others that cheered for him from the stands. However, I will live today with hope because it returns me to one Truth that I know. I know, that I know, that I know that Jacob Logan is in heaven. Jacob would probably say several things to his brothers and the rest of us. No doubt some funny. But I'm convinced at some point he'd remind us to know that we know that those around us are introduced to the only answer to the though questions of death.... A living, alive, daily walk with the Lord Jesus Christ as we continue to make Him our Savior and Lord. Rest in peace Mr. Jacob Logan, I will walk in peace that passes human understanding knowing you are with our Savior.

Friday, September 7, 2012

New Journeys Begin

It was cold and rainy day in Njoro, just outside of Nakuru, this past week as I traveled up from Nairobi to join our staff and key student leaders at Egerton University. The group was gathered in small one room apartment going over the Gospel presentation using the Bridge Illustration and verses. Excited and nervous we reminded ourselves to "simplify" & not use "christianize" when we talked to students in their rooms. I prayed over our group, asked God to use our words, our bodies to further His Kingdom. We split into our groups and packed 17 people into the 4runner, so we didn't all have to walk to dorms in the rain. My partner was Kennedy. Kennedy, is a young man who just graduated from Egerton this past May with his degree in electrical engineering, but set aside the work force to spend a year training with ACO as an intern. Kennedy spent the month of June with our US college students doing the cross-cultural discipleship/hands-on ministry experience that Kerry & I lead each year. He stands about 6'6" and might weight 120 pounds, soft spoken and we joke with him that he's a study Bible... he knows the references, but forgets what the verses say. He's way ahead of me in his scripture memory and in his reference remembering. Kennedy and I were assigned to work through block 37, knocking on each door and seeing if we could talk to whomever was inside. The fist door was a bunch of guys about to head to the kitchen to cook. All believers and all interested in finding a Bible study to attend. Kennedy took their names and numbers and will begin a study on their hall next week. The second door had four guys all laying on their beds and listening to their phones. Invited in, actually Kennedy just knocks and walks in (reminds me a the Roossien house during my high school days in Plano), we start talking to the young men. This room was my turn to share the Gospel, so i jumped in with a question..."if someone asked you how to get to heaven or how to get to hell, what would you say?" I loved the first young man's response, "for hell, just sin a lot". Hadn't thought of it that way, but pretty much thats a great way to explain it. After the other 3 responded and I was able to get all of their names and majors I asked if I could share how I'd answer the question. Looking into their faces, keeping the mood light, asking them to read some verses as I talked through my explanation, we made it through the Gospel. I had encouraged and reminded the group in the small apartment during training that at some point in each room they would have to present the challenge, have to be confrontational. The young man sitting to my right was from Kissi, a Maissi area. The young man is probably to only one from his village at University. When I asked what he thought, he said that Romans 10:8-10 was something he wanted todo right then. The other 3 needed to think through things a little more. In front of 3 guys he'd known for two day the young man prayed repeating after me to accept Christ as his personal savior! Talk about brave, not falling into peer pressure, not worrying or being ashamed of the Gospel! Kennedy will follow up with him in the weeks and months to come. I'm looking forward to seeing him grow in his faith. That night 9 students accepted Christ (a young man in the next room prayed with Kennedy). 12 in the first two nights of one on one or small group presentations of the Good News. We choose as a ministry to share the gospel this way because its what works for our ministry. It takes longer because our group has to literally knock on each door and share 4 or 5 times each night, but we've seen its an effective approach. This next week I join our staff on the coast to encourage them and knock on doors with them..... I can't wait to see what God will do through us there. As we were sitting on the stairs outside the student center that night after the group was done someone said, "you know it fun to faithful, even when its terrifying". I know you're circumstances might not allow you the freedom to knock on an office door today or a neighbors door, march in and share the Gospel. But I want to encourage you to be faithful, "even when its terrifying", even when its outside your comfort zone. You weren't left here after you accepted Him as your Savior to be decoration. Blessings, Tom

Monday, August 27, 2012

An 8 year-old

Today we celebrate Nathan-Raegan's 8th birthday. Actually we've been celebrating all weekend, no all month. Someone in our family decided we have birthday months instead of days. So Happy Birthday Day Rae-Rae! Last night Kerry and I were going through old pictures of the little man, it was fun and sad to trace his life up to this point with photos. One of my favorite was taken when I had just returned from my first trip back to Kenya. He was too young to remember me being gone and yet a little shocked to see me in person. Another, one that I will cherish for a lifetime, is of Dad (Allen) and him devouring a bag of popcorn together. I didn't realize when I took the picture that it would be the last time they would be together. Funny, Reagan still to this day can put a bag of popcorn away faster than any 8 year-old I know. His grandfather would be proud. It got me thinking....will heaven be this way. Will we sit before our Maker, our Judge and revisit old photos that captured our lives journey? I think I remember some revival speaker somewhere in my teen years using this as a scare tactic to make me walk the straight and narrow, or come up front and rededicate my dedication. But in a not scary way, in a peaceful, thank you for the blessings, thank you for the grace, thank you for the saving times of You Father God. I wonder if it we'll have that with Him? If you know me I'm not a big theological thinker. I choose to "trust God and do the next thing", as my father used to say. So I won't be pondering this long or diving into scripture for the next week looking for answers. It just struck me, how will I celebrate life with my Jesus? If I do or if I don't is ok by me, but it does remind me to stop and look at the picture of my life today, yesterday, last week. Stop and thank Him for making life so much fun even in the face of the trials of life, because where else would I rather be than with my 8 year-old, his sister and mother?! Be blessed today as you think of the photos of your life.