Friday, September 29, 2006

More on Anger... – John 2

When Jesus displayed anger, He was sensitive to the consequences of His display of anger. The money changers, cattle and dove sellers were a needed service for the temple sacrifices to be carried out. People who came from great distances could not bring a proper sacrifice with them. People from different countries needed money changers to make the whole system work…
But…not in the temple where worship would be disturbed by the hum of the marketplace set up inside the temple. Worship services would be distracted by cows, who bellowed, sheep that baaed, and pigeons or doves who cooed. That’s what Jesus was angry about—the disruption of worship.

Notice what Jesus did when He got angry. He did not break the tables, He only over-turned them, and then they could set up business in a proper place. He poured the money on the ground; he did not throw it to a mob. It was their money, and by pouring it on the ground, He sent His message. He took a whip and drove out the cattle and sheep. Most likely they were tied together and could be easily recaptured by their rightful owners. He sent the message but He did not cause hardship for these people. Notice, He only speaks to the people with the doves; He tells them “get them outa here” (my translation). If He flipped over the cages and all the doves broke free, it would have been financial hardship for the supplier of the doves. It was their business and He did not cause them hardship.

If and when we decide to display anger, we need to consider the consequences that will result from our angry display…remember, be “slow to anger and abound in love and faithfulness.”

Brooks and Dunn sing a song called Husbands and Wives; a line in the song says this: “Angry words spoken with haste, what a waste of two lives.” Yes, our angry words spoken in haste may have life-long consequences and leave deep wounds and hurts.

If and when we display anger, be slow to do it…and always consider the consequences…

Thursday, September 21, 2006

What about anger?

I was in a Bible study with some men and we were studying John2:12-25 where Jesus went into the temple and cleared out the money changers and others who were doing business in the temple court. A man asked the question “Is it ever right for Christians to display anger?” The question was not addressed and went unanswered. The question hung in my head; it just wouldn’t go away. I decided to study this question in detail and I will share some of what I’ve learned.

My first question was “Why did Jesus become angry and clear the temple this year?” He obviously had been walking by these people since he was 12 years old. Why this year?

He was acknowledged as Messiah and Prophet by the Lord in the presence of John the Baptist in Chapter One of John. He wore the mantle of the Prophet, King and Messiah. He had the authority to clean out the temple.

What does that mean to us? We have authority and responsibility in our lives also. We are husbands, dads, business owners, church elders, etc. These are our areas of responsibility. If there are cattle and sheep in the narthex of the church, go to the elders; ask them to clean it out. Why? Because it is their area of responsibility and they need to do what they must do. We can’t go through life popping off at everything—we need to be cautious when and if we display anger.

Why cautious? Because I believe God is cautious and gracious. The first two references in the Bible about God’s anger are the same in Exodus and in Numbers. It says the same thing in both places: “The Lord is slow to anger and abounds in love and faithfulness.” Do we do more yelling than abounding? This sounds rich to me, “slow to anger,” oh how Jesus has been slow and patient with me. I have experienced the “abounding” of the Holy Spirit, full, deep and rich in love and faithfulness. Oh Lord, you have been slow and patient with me. Thank you for your “abounding” love and faithfulness.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Marriage--some points to consider

This past weekend I had the privilege of giving the message at a young couple’s wedding in Cokato. I would like to share with you a portion of what I called "Seven points as a foundation for marriage."

1. In the book of Jeremiah it says, “A man’s life is not his own.” This doesn’t squash us or suppress us but allows us to grow together in peace. Every decision we make for the rest of our lives must consider the other person—no selfish pursuits but exhibit love for each other.

2. Marriage is not a 50-50 proposition. If you believe in a 50-50 marriage, you are always holding something back. Instead, it should be 100%-0%--giving all, expecting nothing in return. Everything is a blessing as you love deeply and forgive completely.

3. Each of you has a job to make the other person all that they can be with the gifts God has given them.

4. Quoting the Brooks & Dunn song Husbands and Wives: “Angry words spoken in haste, what a waste of two lives.” Remember what our Lord says, “Be slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” If that is the Lord’s plan, it better be our plan. The Apostle Paul said we need to have the attitude of building up rather than tearing down.

5. Pray that you will have a sense of wonder about each other all the days of your life. Wonder, expectation, and a vision of the future that will last until your dying day. Avoid becoming “two lonely people looking like houses where nobody lives” (from the same Brooks & Dunn song).

6. This point requires action. Do not go to bed angry with one another. Commit to this—a 15 second kiss at the end of the day no matter what! Don’t say that you don’t have time because 15 seconds amounts to 1/5760th of a day.

7. Choose this day the type of home you’re going to have. May your home have more joy than sadness; more laughter than tears; more forgiveness than bitterness and resentment. We will have some sadness, some tears but what we do with the rest of our lives is our choice. Choose joy, choose laughter, choose forgiveness. If you have this kind of home you will be blessed with the presence of family and friends and will thank God for His goodness.

Thanks Josh & Teresa for the privilege of being a part of your special day!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Noticing the Barn Swallow Ballet

I have a lot of grass to mow—too much. I have planned to fence in some of it so when I’m at the farm full-time I can have livestock and I won’t have as much to mow.

I do like mowing, however. One reason I like mowing is when I start up the mower, it seems like its “all bells alarm” for the barn swallows to go into action. As I mow, I move bugs out of the grass and the barn swallows swoop and dive and eat the bugs they expend much energy—all powered by “bug power,” a great alternative energy source.

Barn swallows are the fighter jets of the bird world. Dark blue, almost black, on the head and back, iridescent in the sunlight; tawny brown on the underside, they miss my head by 1 ½ feet as they harvest bugs and put on a display or aerial ballet only barn swallows can perform.

I have stood in awe of man-made fighter jets in my Air Force experience on flight lines with exotic names like Undorn Tiachung and Utaipao but no flight is as beautiful as barn swallows eating bugs in Winfield Township.

The 20 or so barn swallows live in the pole building and I don’t bother them and they seem to trust me. Do they come to the same place each year? I wonder if they are descendants of the barn swallows who nested in the old dairy barn when I was a kid. Their nests were 2 feet above my head in the alley of the dairy barn; I never hurt or disturbed them. If they are descendants, they have paid me back by being the most efficient bug harvesters and do it with beauty and aplomb. The aerial display an only be described as spectacular.

Today as I was mowing, bugs rose around the mower. I looked ahead to see two barn swallows flying towards me at eye level, full after-burners, only peeling off, one on each side to miss my head by 18 inches. Their aerodynamically designed bodies, perfect for what only God designed them to do. I saw the dark blue and black bodies with a tawny underside flash by as they rolled right and left just missing my head.

When I was younger, I didn’t notice these things—free things, beautiful inspiring things in my presence. I call these things the “margins of life.” We need to live there more often enjoying the beauty of flight, the ballet of the barn swallows, and all this powered by bugs. Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-26: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more valuable then they?”

He notices and provides for them. What a privilege to notice their beauty and grace. Thank you Lord for another reminder. Thank you Lord for your provision.

Fall in Minnesota

Fall is in the air in late August in Renville County, Minnesota. One day can be 95 degrees with high humidity, true essence of a summer day; the next day can be cool and cloudy with signs of fall all around.

During the summer, the flocks of geese down at the lake bottom use our pond north of our house as their bed and breakfast or possibly better defined as a short term day spa. Ma and Pa Goose let the yearlings take care of the goslings as they come north for ½ hour respite from the kids. Only the parents come in the summer. They honk, play, chase, dine and clean themselves, and eat weeds off the bottom with their black and white butts pointed up in the air.

Today while I was out mowing, the whole flock came—mom and dad (the biggest leading the way), yearlings next and the “no longer goslings” in the rear. I listened as they came over the corn field towards Johnny’s place. Only a few honks—final approach to the pond. Line up on the goose runway and all drop into the pond with a dignified, resplendent splash.

I wondered, is this their first foray as a group out of the lake bottom, a training flight to get everyone on the same page for the big flight south. Or was it a mini-vacation at Seehusens’ Goose Spa on their way north to glean wheat from the Bratsch boys’ wheat field on the Schroer farm? When geese move as a group, it’s one of the first signs of fall.

Blake and Jane’s edible beans have begun to turn yellow, a beautiful bend of yellow and green as they wave in the wind. When I left last Sunday morning to preach near Annandale, they were still green. I come back five days later to find them changing color. Their sugar beet field looks as nice as a beet field could ever look. Early harvest is planned at the beet plant in anticipation of one of the largest crops ever.

The clouds have started to drop mist. I put on an old sweatshirt to ward off the cool west breeze and contemplate six months of “putting on” to stay dry and warm.

Fall in Minnesota is beautiful. Harvest season a demonstration of God’s blessings upon us. Once again His hand has provided.

I hunch my shoulders, pull down my cap, lean into the wind and go to work. And I smile.