Friday, November 24, 2006

A Country Boy’s Thanksgiving Morning

I guess when you milk cows as a boy; you will always get up early. This morning, Thanksgiving morning, is no exception. The eastern horizon shows the first burst of orange and yellow. Sunrises remind me that “God’s mercy is new every morning” a promise from Lamentations. I’m thankful.

The world says we will continue to damage our planet until the weather disruptions will result in global warming or a new ice age but while the world worries, I remember God’s promises of springtime and harvest until the end of time. I’m thankful.

As I look outside, the bird feeder, which Stu and Ann gave us, hangs in the big ash tree and blows in the wind reflecting light from the chandelier over the kitchen table where I sit. I notice our black lab, Lily, stretching with her proud lab tail the in air. When she notices me, she looks, gets excited and wags her tail. Thank you Lord, for good, simple things.

No one else is up; Judi and Katie sleep in the house; no noise except the rustling of the wind on a warm November morning. I have a wife who is a blessing from God. As the pastor who married us said, “I think this marriage will work because no on else could stand either one of you!” My children, Andy and Katie, are a joy to my heart. They often lift my spirits when I’m down. Extended family comes to mind—always there for us, always faithful. It’s good to notice that the older we get, the more we become alike. I’m thankful for all of them.

I breathe without thinking, my heart beats without one ounce of concern or effort on my part. One year ago I faced an uncertain future in a battle with prostate cancer. A cancer that turned out to be one of the most aggressive seen at the University of Minnesota. Yet one year later I’m alive and my last tests in October were perfect. In Acts 17 it says in part…”God gives us life and breath and everything else…” Yes, He does give us life, and breath, and everything else. And, for all of it, this country-boy is thankful!

May God bless you, keep you, comfort you, encourage you, and spur you on while you wait for Christ’s return. We are blessed this Thanksgiving Day.

Thank you Jesus for all things. Amen

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Comfort for God’s people – Isaiah 40:1

Last Sunday afternoon I was dejected. My sermon seemed to fall on deaf ears; the weather was dreary. I still had the hanging on of the flu and I was contemplating having to go to the cities for another week and do it all over again. A friend called from California to challenge me, scold me, and in the midst of this, he lifted my spirit.

It was 7:00 a.m.; I was at my desk when Dr. Julie called. Not normal for her to call at 7 o’clock, much less call at all. I’ve known her for 15 years; on the whole, a jovial slightly wacky doctor tenant. She told me, “My office was not vacuumed last night.” I promised her I would find out why and told her it would be taken care of tonight. She hung on the phone. I said, “Julie, are you ok?” “No” she said; “Jerry, I’m having surgery on December 14th for a brain tumor.” She talked; I listened and prayed…it was good.

I came home early this week. I’m in my third week of feeling lousy with this flu. Four of us have had a battle with this flu. I was sent home, hopefully to finally beat the stuff.

My phone rang and rang--people in different sorts of trouble. The last call was from the wife of a good friend. His cancer is back for the third time. She talked; I listened and prayed.

People need God’s comfort--not Jerry’s, not Judi’s, but the Lord’s. What is good is in Isaiah 40:1; it says: “Comfort, comfort my people, says our God.” God wants to comfort us. It’s reassuring when God sent the Holy Spirit.; He called Him the comforter. Comfort doesn’t just mean a fuzzy, cozy, by-the-fireplace comfort, but a peace and building up of steadfastness for these times. Good news.

Comfort cannot come if we have a guilty conscience. Jesus offers us a gift of complete comfort; a clear conscience. Wow—have you accepted it? Are you all right with your God?

The comforter comes to our side in our trials, lifts our heads, lifts our spirits, pushes us on and says, now take what you learn and share it with others. 2 Corinthians 1:3-11. Read it. Yes, we have work to do. In our sharing with others, it takes our minds and attention off of ourselves and focuses us on others and the Lord. I guess that’s one secret of God’s comfort.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Lack of True Christian Community

My close friend Mack called and asked me an important question: “Do you think fellow Christians have treated Pastor Ted Haggard’s very public sin properly?” It is Mack’s opinion that many Christian leaders have been pharisaical in their response to the situation. He feels they are a poor example of the Christian community and a poor example of Christian forgiveness and restoration.

One of the saddest things I saw was Pastor Haggard, in a car with his wife and children, when reporters pushed a microphone in his face and asked if he had gay sex with a prostitute. Did his wife have any inkling of what was going on? The poor children, their time in school during the next few months will be best described as tough. My heart aches for Pastor Haggard, his wife and children. What he did was a sin, we can’t deny it, but we must pray for forgiveness, restoration and protection.

I fill in for pastor’s who have to be gone for a week or I fill in short-term in the case of sickness or other issues. People will discuss with me opinions or concerns about their past pastor or current pastor, whatever the case.

One common theme is that pastors seem distant from the people. A friend of mine who graduated from seminary two years ago said they are taught to be cautious of relationships inside their congregation.

We the body, put pastors on a pedestal, some pastors love that attention and position. Yes, we expect a higher standard, but with their raised expectations we come to expect perfection. Not possible on this side of heaven. We fail to realize they are just like us, sinners, battling, walking and working out their faith, and many times we don’t do it real well. Yes, even though he is on the pedestal he is a sinner, just like us.

In James 5:16 it says we should “confess our sins to one another” (and to God also, my comment), but today we see little if any confession occurring horizontally - one person to another. Yet, if our pastor or pastor’s wife came to us at the first temptation of a sinful desire, to use drugs (Haggard’s case), have an illicit sexual affair (Haggard’s case) or may have committed such, what would we do?

I came upon a blog entitled It has an interesting insight. I quote from a person responding to an article written on the site.

“Many of the sin issues we see in the lives of Christian leaders reach epic proportions because the body of Christ is not practicing true community. Real community recognizes that pastors are no different than us within the church community. They are fellow brothers subject to the same temptations we are, but while we may allow ourselves the grace of confession to others in the community, we don’t allow pastors the same grace. Pastors know that in most cases, even confessing the slightest sin will get them removed from their role as pastor. I fear that’s a double standard; we hold pastors to too stringent of a standard. They feel the need to cover up any and all things to preserve their jobs. I’ve known pastors blackballed from their denomination for sinning in ways that the ordinary guy in the pew does without even thinking. That kind of bombastic knee jerk reaction perpetuates the problem.

A real community will allow pastors to confess their sins without the fear of life destroying consequences. Yes, all sin has consequences, but if we do not have the “grace” to nip “small” things in the bud before they bloom into monstrosities, then we are setting up our pastor for a major fall.

Almost every pastoral fall begins because the pastor knows that people will overreact. Our congregations treat him as a person apart from us, so why should he think any different? This problem lies at the core of almost every noted pastoral failure of the last century.

We must allow our pastors to be human. We must include them in our community and bear their burdens just we would others. We must not be surprised by our pastor’s sins. We must extend them the same grace we are willing to extend to our “ordinary” brothers and sisters. Only then will we stop the relentless pastoral tragedies that can afflict your church and mine.”

I could not have said I better. In James 5:16 it says, “Confess your sins to one another and you shall be healed.” Does your pastor have a brother he could confess his sins to without fear of rejection? Does his wife have a sister she could confess her sins to without fear of rejection? If not, is our church a true community of believers? Or are we just playing games?

Pray for pastors, families and our churches.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Campaign Ads

Yes, I’m tired of them too. I’ve heard a lot of complaining from a lot of people. We are slowly turning sour and skeptical of the electoral process. Why do they use them--because they work.

Judi and I have been battling the flu the past week giving us “face” time with the TV and all those campaign ads. These ads are not bold-face lies but half-truths, skewed and altered to make one candidate look better or worse using the information in a specially crafted way to get a certain point of view across to us the voters…We the voters play along knowing most of this is a shell game of deception and lies. Accomplishing what? Nothing more than eroding the moral whole of our culture, to the point where honor and truth have little, if any, value.

We are in trouble. Why do they get away with it? Because there is no accountability seemingly on this side of heaven or hell…

To all us liars, (yes, we are part of the problem by allowing this to go on) and in case we’ve forgotten, there is a day of accounting coming. It will be in front of “THE Judge” who knows all the answers. No alligator shoed, shiny suited ACLU lawyer will be there to plead our cause. Only Jesus will plead our case if we are Christian; He’s our advocate, our paraclete at our side taking “the rap” for us. Yes, that’s what’s different. Our advocate before The Judge will pay our penalty. This is good news for liars like me. You see we can shake our head and point fingers at candidates and others for their lies and fully excuse our own. We must all quit lying. Somehow in the process we’ve forgotten two things: we are sinners and a day of accountability will surely come. So all the half-truths, white lies, bald faced lies, skewed, altered and shaded lies will be seen for what they are—lies. This ought to make us quake in our boots.