Friday, December 29, 2006

Andrew Seehusen the 3rd

As far as I know, there are three Andrew Seehusens in the world. One, a red head, was born 31 years ago; I met him that day. He is our son.

The second Andrew Seehusen lives in Kiev, Ukraine; he teaches in an international school in Kiev. He grew up in Delaware but his dad was from Pocahontas, Iowa; our ancestors were cousins.

Today I met, in person, the third Andrew Seehusen, a 23 year old veteran Air Force loadmaster, a student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. This Andy’s grandpa and I are second cousins. What a special young man! His plan is to become involved in international banking, using the law degree he hopes to get from an Ivy League school.

Andrew came out to visit because he wanted to talk “family”. I hope we helped him. Even though we never met before, we are brothers. You see, Andrew is a disciple of Jesus Christ. This makes us brothers. If Andrew and I spent a lot of time together, time would fly fast with our “common ancestry” and our Air Force experiences. Andrew shared a good verse with me—Jeremiah 9:23-24 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord”--a good verse for all our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Andrew, if you read this, God’s blessing upon you. Keep the vision. The world needs visionaries with a fixed heart trusting in the Lord (Psalm 112:7). When you get married to a good-looking Danish woman, don’t forget to invite us.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Do Not Fear Bad News

As the year comes to a close, we look back and we look ahead. In times like these there is much to consider. The war in Iraq unsettles us; Ross is going back for his third tour of duty. Political change has happened nationally and locally. Jihadists want us dead; Saddam’s followers want us dead. The prices for our crops are good but this week a man said to me, “Unless it snows or rains, we won’t have anything to sell next year.” This is all bad news.

But in Psalm 112:7, the writer speaking of Christians says, “He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” This is good news for us believers but do we believe it and take it to heart?

Notice, we will get bad news, it’s how we respond that makes the difference. The Psalms say "the one who does not fear bad news has a heart that is steadfast (“fixed” in the KJV) trusting in the Lord." How and what do we trust? We trust what we know! Do you know the Lord or have you just heard of Him?

Job and his buddies pontificate, speculate, and contemplate about God and who He is for 37 chapters in the book of Job. Then God says to Job in Chapter 38, “Stand up, I’m going to ask you some hard questions, and I expect some straight answers” (my translation). The Lord then proceeds to ask Job 66 questions, most unanswered to this day; then in Chapter 42, Job speaks “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

Notice Job’s response, “Surely I spoke of things I did not know, things too wonderful for me to know. My ears have heard of you, now my eyes have seen you.” When we try to understand all of God's plan, it can be oppressive to us (Psalm 73:16). Yes, we will get bad news, but unless we know the Lord, through His word and prayer, we cannot be fixed or steadfast, trusting Him. Job's response is to repent in dust and ashes.

If we want this truth to move from our head to our heart, we must seek God in spirit and truth, read His word, pray to Him…then we will begin to know Him and then we will trust Him and no longer will we need to fear the bad news that will eventually come. May you grow in the knowledge of God, hiding God’s word in your heart, growing in faith and wisdom. Come Holy Spirit, come; choose us; hold us. Then we need not fear bad news. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Visited Blue Ball

I remember when the first astronaut came around the back side of the moon and saw earth (that perfect blue white ball, suspended on nothing, hanging in space) and in stunned awe the astronaut said, “In the beginning God…”

I can’t really imagine God sitting somewhere beyond the universe some 2,000 years ago looking at His footstool, the earth, and saying, “Today is the day I’m going to send my one and only Son, Jesus to go to earth , to become a microscopic ovum, to be born of a virgin born in a barn, to go and redeem fallen man.”

Have you ever contemplated if no one sinned until now and we were living in perfect peace, and then old Adam and Eve would decide to do some very serious apple crunching. Sin then comes into the world and God would decide to set up a committee to ask advice from us on how to redeem fallen man (He won’t do that but I can speculate). What would you come up with? We would come up with man-made religion. We’d crawl on our belly, into the presence of God and propose some plan of “working off” our sin. We would be in the deal-cutting business. We’d hope we’d be good enough to obtain salvation. We would propose works based salvation. That is the rest of the world’s religions…hoping we’ve been good enough, and that God may in His mercy allow us to live. Who would even dare come up with the idea of God sending His one and only Son to come to earth as an ovum, be born in a barn, suffer taunts of His suspect parentage (Psalm 69), be tempted by the devil himself, be tempted in every way, yet be without sin, be both man and God, and when preparing for the cross, feel so much pressure He would sweat blood in the garden of Gethsemane. We would convict Him on no evidence, have a sham trial, and murder Him on a cross, the most torturous of death, with the idea that He would forgive your sin and mine. Then by God’s power alone, God would raise Him from the dead—victorious over sin and death…Oh, who would dare dream this up, much less present it to a Holy God and awesome God? No one—no one—no one would dare do it; it’s God’s plan alone. A gift to us; undeserved; we can’t comprehend the majesty, the greatness of it! But it is God’s plan…

Remember this Christmas, the manager is empty, the cross is empty, the tomb is empty…In these days we do not have to take God to a hurting world, and He is already there. Let’s get up and go see what He is doing!

On this Christmas weekend, old Jer cannot bring anymore light on this subject because Jesus is the Light, the God of the universe among man. Immanuel, God with us. What a story? What a Gift! May we never take it lightly. Amen

(This blog is reposted from December 22, 2006)

The Rhinestone Cowboys of Advent

I came home last night; Judi was working. I had to submit information by noon today for this weekend sermons. The sermons have been rolling around in my head; my problem was getting them to paper and putting the services together.

My plan was a night of serious study. I decided to put the TV on as background. I chose a program on Public Television about crossover country hits—hits that were country but became pop hits at the same time. I worked with the background of music playing in my ears. Glen Campbell came on singing Rhinestone Cowboy. I have heard the song many times before but never really listened to the words. For some reason I listened last night. These words caught my attention. I quote: “There’s been a load of comprising, on the road of my arising, but I want to be where the lights are shining on me. Like a Rhinestone Cowboy, out on a horse in star spangled rodeo…I wanna be where light is shining on me.”

Yes, we crave attention but at what price? Did it involve a load of compromising to get into the light? Fame is temporary and fleeting yet many people crave so much attention they will compromise their values to achieve their 15 minutes of fame.

I wondered about Advent and Christmas. Isn’t so much of this season about me? We want to be the one whose Christmas letter is the first to arrive. Effort is put into our Christmas lights so everyone will notice. Of course, the gifts so perfectly chosen so in the presence of extended family, others will swoon at our pluck and creativity.

Yes, we want to be “where the lights are shining on me.” Remember this Advent season, Jesus does not need any light shown on Him. He is the Light, the Light of the World, the Light of the World to bring us out of sin and darkness.

Dear Lord, please forgive us as we Rhinestone Cowboys struggle for our place in the spotlight. Lord, draw us to the “real Light, Jesus Christ, and our desire for human attention will fade away in the fullness of His Light and glory and grace. Come Lord Jesus, come. Amen.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Roger's New Ride

Men love cars. Men love anything with motors that snort and roar. Roger is no different. Roger is in our men’s Bible study in Cokato and he is quite the Roger. He had to show us his new ride—a sleek silver car. It’s not really new, it’s three years old but it is new to Roger—that’s all that’s important. Roger said to me, “Jerry, this is the nicest car I’ve ever had.” Paul, Jim, Roger and I stood and marveled in joy. This “new” car means more to Roger and his wife Renee than our new cars mean to most of us.

A year and a half ago, Roger was looking for a job. He heard of a job he thought he’d like and he applied. One of the requirements for the job was that you could not smoke. Roger smoked. Many people applied for the job and 12 people were interviewed. It was then reduced to 6 and Roger was one of the final six. Even though Roger told them he smoked, he got the job.

We had been praying for a job for Roger at the men’s Bible study. I remember Roger standing and the rest of us laying on hands praying for the job. A week later Roger came to Bible study; while getting out of his old car, two 19 year olds, Ryan and Dylan, yelled, “Roger, did you get the job?” "Yes", Roger yelled and Ryan and Dylan danced. Yes, they danced for joy; their brother in the Lord got a job!

I marveled. How excited do I get when something good happens to my brothers and sisters? To some of us, dancing is a real problem. We just don’t do it naturally and it has been ingrained in our mind that all dancing is bad. Some isn’t. Psalm 150 says in vs. 3, “Praise Him with sounding of the trumpet, praise Him with the harp and lyre, praise Him with the tambourine and dancing.” So if you have no trumpet, no harp, no lyre, no tambourine, just dance. Yes, dance; just dance.

There is way more to this story. The job Roger applied for was to be a janitor in a church. He loved the job. Roger gave his notice last week as one of his part-time jobs became full time—working as a counselor at a boys’ ranch. Roger also works part-time at a drug treatment center. God does remarkable things. Roger was a former drug user; matter of fact, he was a drug dealer. Roger spent 15 years in prison for drug dealing.

The last 18 months have not all been easy. Roger and his wife have faced sickness and both are now well. They have scrimped and saved. They have prayed and cried. Jesus is real, God is good, and the Holy Spirit moves and makes old things new.

You see, not only has Roger gotten a new car, he has a new heart, new spirit and a new life. And it is all because of Jesus Christ and Him alone. Roger shares his love for Jesus every day with the boys at the ranch. His past, not forgotten, not hidden, not ignored but laid out, to witness to Jesus’ power and grace, forgiveness and joy.

So, the ex-con no one wanted to hire is on the front line witnessing for Jesus. This ought to make us dance. Yes, dance. You see the new car is great but Roger and Renee know it’s a new mind, new heart, and new soul that is important not just a new car. Let’s dance! Let’s dance for joy! Find someone to make music. Let’s dance. Let’s dance for Jesus. What a Christmas gift this all is. Come quickly Lord Jesus, come. As a matter of fact, He is already here!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Lip service to our families

I’m re-reading “Ashamed of the Gospel” by John MacArthur. One point he makes in the book is this: If the church is to be strong, our families must be strong.

Strong families are the backbone of a nation and of our churches. Stability and economic opportunity flourish when the family is intact, but in visiting and observing other churches, I think we give lip service to our families.

Young families are over committed on all fronts; talk to them if you doubt this. Young families, young leaders have filled the gap in our churches. Many of them have rushed in to fill gaps as people in the church who are older have bought into the idea of “retirement”. All too often the ideas “I’ve done my share”; “I’m going to quit”; “Let the young people do it”; “The young people don’t listen to us anyway” seem to hold sway in our older people. (In case you’re wondering, older people are 50 and above.)

Our young families should be spending time with their families not burdened with church leadership. When the kids leave, that’s when we step up and lead. We’ve been operating with the wrong model, lead when you’re young, sit when you’re old.

If we believe that families are the backbone of our churches and culture, we should give them the “freedom” to learn and not lead. They should be attending Bible class not leading it. Their input and freshness and vitality is needed in our churches but the church has added burdens to our overstretched families, not lessened them. We need sensitivity and creative insight to help our young families so they can have more time for themselves, building a strong family unit.

Retirement from life has run full course in our churches. We believe we have a God-given right to sit down, enjoy the fat of the land, and bring on the good life. God help us-- We live in a land where our stomachs and bank accounts are full but our hearts are empty.

When the hair grows thin and gray, I believe we should crank up for some hard core leadership responsibilities and give our young families a break.

Rose Jergens is a hero to my wife Judi. Rose is well over 90 years old and is the mother of a girlhood friend of Judi’s. For the last 30 years Rose has babysat for many children. Every year she invites all the children (one now 30 years old!) to her home at Christmas time to decorate cookies; this year she’s made 800 cut-out cookies in preparation! Impressed? We should be; but she also operates a flower business, works at the hospital auxiliary gift shop, the thrift shop, provides and arranges altar flowers at church each week plus babysitting every afternoon.

When we embrace the idea of retirement from church, I believe it creates struggles for our faith in our later years. Engaged in life, having a purpose every day, and knowing that we are needed, seems to me to be the best motivator for a continued vibrant and alive Christian life. What has God gifted you to do? Do it!!

With the mobility of our culture, our children and grandchildren can live close or many miles away. In our midst, in our churches, we have families without Grandma’s and Grandpa’s living in the area. Step up, start here…kid’s need Grandma’s and Grandpa’s and Grandpa’s and Grandma’s need kids.

Look at scripture to see what God asks older Christians to do. Are we doing it? Or have we bought in to the idea of self-centered retirement? I believe it’s time to ask these hard hitting questions for the future of our families and the future of our churches depend on it.

Maximillian Kable, German Priest who was executed in World War II.said: “Indifference towards the things of God is the deadliest enemy of any soul.”

Scripture: Titus 2; I Peter 5:1-10; I Timothy 5; Luke 22:24-30.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Blessedness of Saying Nothing

Every Advent season as I read and prepare for advent, some special verse becomes lodged in my mind and I cannot dislodge it no matter how hard I try. At this time I realize it may be possible that the Holy Spirit is trying to teach me something and I better “listen up”. This year I looked at Old Testament prophecies concerning Christ. I came on Isaiah 40, talking about God’s comfort to us His people.

I have never contemplated what comfort meant. I attended a local concert in Olivia last night and I asked friends “What does comfort mean to you?” The answers and comments were interesting, revealing that I am not the only one with little, if any, comprehension of what it means.

Isaiah 40:1 says in part: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, and that her sin has been paid for…” At the end of verse 5 of Isaiah 40 it says, “For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

True comfort comes when we know with assurance that “our sin has been paid for.” It’s good that God speaks this comfort to us…it’s good to be reminded that God speaks “tenderly” to us.

We are to comfort our brothers and sisters. We should speak tenderly to one another. When I read 2 Corinthians 1:3-11, I am reminded that God is the “God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” We must do and demonstrate the comfort of God.

But I wonder, many times do we speak of things we know nothing about? Job had three buddies who speculated and contemplated his situation. In Job 13:1-4, Job expresses his frustration with his buddies’ comments. Job speaks “My eyes have seen all this, my ears have heard and understood it. What you know, I also know; I am not inferior to you. But I desire to speak to the Almighty and argue my case with God. You however, smear me with lies; you are worthless physicians, all of you.” Then in verse 5 he says, “If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom.” (Check these verses in “The Message” translation!—Ouch!!)

An old pastor by the name of James Stewart defines true comfort as this: “True comfort is a strong bracing, re-enforcing thing—it’s wind to the sailboat, it’s a job to someone without one, it’s the clasp of a friend’s hand in the time of trouble.” And I would add, “it’s a hug when there is nothing more that could be said.”

I wonder if in our urge to comfort, our desire to be there, if many times we say stupid things and do hurtful, insensitive things.

I cannot comfort everyone but Jesus can. I should minister to the hurting world but with wisdom and grace. Sometimes I need to speak, but when and if I do, I should be tender like the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 40.

As I sit here writing, I am listening to the radio and Tom Everson from Chaska comments on the conviction of his son, Grant for the murder of Nancy Everson, Tom’s wife and Grant’s mother. Even if I knew him, what could I say? All I could do is hug him.

Yes, sometimes when we comfort others in trouble, it is “blessedness when we say nothing.” Sometimes only a hug will do. As Job said, “If only you would be altogether silent. For you, that would be wisdom.” Job 13:4. A major league stepping on my toes and I needed it. God help me.

Remember this, there are also times we must speak and act. Please consider 2 Cor. 1:5 “For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” Only through Christ, only through Christ…only through Christ. Amen.