Wednesday, March 26, 2014

In his book Don’t Waste Your Life John Piper closes the final chapter with the words:
“Take your honored place, O Christ, as the all-satisfying Treasure of the world.  With trembling hands before the throne of God, and utterly dependent on your grace, we lift our voice and make this solemn vow:  As God lives, and is all I ever need, I will not waste my life….through Jesus Christ, Amen.”
This kind of prayer does not come easily.  It is birthed in a life that has realized how there is NO LIFE without a dynamic dependence on a personal relationship to Jesus Christ and that God has called to be in community with other believers. 
Unfortunately, true Christian community in America is pretty anemic and shallow.  At The Gathering Place, we gather for prayer at 6:30 PM on Wednesday.  It is not just a ‘gathering’, but a place where Pastor Matt encourages us to lift our voice as one so that we encourage each other to be able to say that our life has not been wasted. 


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A.W. Tozer is buried in Akron, Ohio.    A very insignificant stone marks his grave.  His words still resonate in hearts today.  Consider these:
“The church is constantly being tempted to accept this world as her home…but if she is wise she will consider that she stands in the valley between the mountain peaks of eternity past and eternity to come.  The past is gone forever and the present is passing as swift as the shadow on the sundial of Ahaz.  Even if the earth should continue a million years not one of us could stay to enjoy it.  We do well to think of the long tomorrow.”

At The Gathering Place, a major focus of Pastor Matt’s messages is to help people to think about the long tomorrow and prepare now.  

Sunday, March 23, 2014

At The Gathering Place (www.gatheringplacebinghamton.org) we have an enormous burden for the family, specifically the role of MOM & DAD together raising their children to know God and honor Him.   Peter Marshall, once the chaplain of the U.S. Senate preached the sermon “Keepers of the Springs”.  In this sermon, Marshall stated:
“Let us not fool ourselves----
without Christianity
without Christian education
without the principles of Christ inculcated into young life, we are simply rearing pagans.
Physically, they will be perfect.
Intellectually, they will be brilliant.
But spiritually, they will be pagan.  Let us not fool ourselves.”

Sober words.  We need to hear them and do something about it.  The next generation is at stake. Raising children to know and love God is the task of both parents doing it together. 

Instead of pagans, lets pray for a generation of prophets.  - KM
A Final Goodbye

            1994….a year that was etched in my life.  After being in the family for more than 60 years, the family farm was sold and possession was turned over to its new owner.  Lots of thoughts and feelings attached to the event.  The house was very large.  Rumor has it that it was built specifically for the purpose of accommodating visiting pastors and missionaries of the church nearby.  Whether or not the intention was fulfilled in its early days more than 112 years ago, I do not know, but for at least 60 years it has fulfilled its obligation.  As I happened to be the last family member to shut and lock its doors, I took one last stroll through this house where I had been raised.  Surveying each room, it was possible for me to remember significant events that had occurred in each.  Each room had a different d├ęcor, each room had different characteristics.  Some enjoyed more sunlight than others because of the proximity of the large trees outside and orientation to east and west.  Some were large and some were very small.  My steps echoed behind me in this place that seemed so strange to see empty.  It had served our family’s needs well and would soon begin its opportunity to serve another family.  You cannot live in a place for such a long time and resist the memories that beg to be relived in one’s mind.  There are memories of the everyday events, the family meals, the chores that needed to be done, the homework that was to be completed or ignored, the toys strewn around the living room, Sunday evening “Bonanza” with popcorn and root beer, Mom running the vacuum cleaner at 10 P.M. while waiting for Dad to arrive home from work, slides down the neat cherry banister while Dad wasn’t looking, rushing around to get ready for the school bus, the ringing of the church bell next door, the big gatherings on Christmas and Thanksgiving and more—so much more.  In itself, the house had been a museum.  Collections of several generations could be found there, each item having a story of its own.  My final tour completed, I said “goodbye” one more time, as I had countless times before over the years, kind of pausing to once again let memory cause me to hear goodbye as I had heard it hundreds of times before.  This time, however, there was no reply, just the echo of my words through the empty rooms and hallways and the final click of the closing door.  Turning toward the bright sunlight of the outdoors, I realized that it was now my turn to make sure that my family would have the fond memories that I knew were possible from loving and fun relationships, gatherings and events.  I realized it was now my responsibility to see to it that my family discovers how memories are not bought with expensive and decorative furnishings but rather with time, love and a relationship with God.  The house, and any house is really just a meaningless box without these essential ingredients and the echo deafening.  “In the house of the righteous is much treasure…”  Proverbs 15:6


Choices

Choices….we have to make them every day.  Some aren’t that significant.  The either / or won’t really matter that much.  Others….well, the consequences are dire. Whether I have a hotdog or hamburger today for lunch is no big deal.  It is merely a matter of preference (except for the fat content, I suppose).  However, how I invest my time today and with whom, well, that could have immediate and eternal ramifications.  A simple verse from the book of Exodus “You shall have no other gods before me.20:3 (ESV) is one that I reminds me of the seriousness of my choices.  Today (as that is what matters now as the past is the past) I have a choice of whether I will let God be God or other persons / things / pleasures be my god.  And it can be as simple as what I will invest my time in today and where it will be spent.  At The Gathering Place (www.gatheringplacebinghamton.org) each week Pastor Matt has been preaching through some pretty encouraging and yet challenging passages from the gospel of John…ones that remind us that we need Jesus and we need others.  This choice is not an either / or one.  We need a Savior for sure….and we also need community (the fellowship of the local church) if we are make the right choices every day to have no other gods before Him.  It is Sunday….where will you be and what will you be doing?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Considering what is truly worthwhile


Flint chips were falling to the ground as the young father carefully shaped the rough piece of rock, using the skills that had been taught to him by his father.  For generations the art had been a pride of his people, knowing that the physical well-being of his family depended on the carefulness and pride he invested into the rock.  His people had occupied the Susquehanna River valley for hundreds of years, exploring the vast wealth of the region, along with hunting and fishing the area to provide for the basic needs of family living.  Children were playing as the rock took more and more the intended shape.  Their laughter could be heard above all the noise of busy people doing their tasks.  It was a busy and challenging time of the year, but as a matter of fact, every season was difficult and busy.  The leaves were beginning to fall and much had to be completed in order to prepare for the winter ahead.  Some of the crops were yet unattended to and preparations for the long winter ahead were not completed.  The young father was aware that his little children were content to play with the others while he worked, but still he couldn’t help but be frustrated at what little time he had to spend with them.  Obligations constantly had to be met, and he knew that there was only one who could meet these obligations—him.  He thought about the future.  Would it always be this way—the four seasons with all the foreboding tasks that each required?  He mused upon how little time he had had with his own father to do the ‘fun’ things.  The sun was setting in the west as he was completing the work on the rock.  It looked perfect.  He smiled as he put the rock in its finished form into its special place, ready for its usefulness on the morrow.  His wife was already preparing the children for a good night of sleep. 
            Another young man eyed the field as he finished another long trek across it.  It had been a busy season for him already.  Twenty-five more acres needed to be plowed and then he would have that task completed.  He looked back as the big diesel tractor easily plowed the black rich dirt that had been farmed by his family for generations.  He mused how technology had changed the way things had been done in doing the same task over the past 75 years.  His grandfather had plowed these same fields using a team of horses and a single bottom plow.  His father had used a gas tractor and a two bottom plow, but now his large diesel rig could pull a five bottom plow through the same dirt easily.  The change had not only been in machinery, but also in productivity.  His grandfather had a herd of 15 cows, his father a herd of 50, but now he could care for a herd of 100.  It seemed like a real advancement, but something strange kept gnawing at him.  Was life really any better after all, even with all of the new gadgets and technology?  There never seemed to be enough time for the needs of the family.  As he raised his plow out of the ground to make a turn in the field, his eyes focused on the beautiful Susquehanna, making its way toward the southwest in the same channel it has used for hundreds of years.  Had it always been that way—the squeeze between time and family?  Would it always be that way?  Something caught his eye, so he climbed down off the massive diesel tractor to investigate.  As he picked it up, wiping the dirt off the carefully shaped flint arrowhead, he imagined what life must have been like for the one whose hands had last touched it – the one who had created it to meet the needs of his family.  Not much could be found to show for a life invested 500 years earlier.  He thought within himself “Will my life show more?”  He mused as he continued to wipe cleaner and brighter the arrowhead, enjoying the silence without the big tractor running.  The Susquehanna could be heard quietly running its course.  Suddenly in the distance he could hear his 10 year-old son crying “Daddy!”  Looking up, he saw his little lad carrying a big grin and a fishing pole.  What had seemed important to him could wait, while he grabbed the hand of who was important and headed for the river.  “…you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”