Thursday, December 27, 2007
“We always pay dearly for chasing after what is cheap.” - Aleksander Solzhenitsyn
Karl Marx taught that in our world people exist because of what they have. Thus, if they have nothing, they do not exist.
Who are you if you lost all your “stuff”? For me this is hard to imagine and understand. Yet all this “stuff” seems permanent yet it is all passing away. What will last is spiritual; our spirit lives forever.
If we had nothing, we could be in serious bondage (having to get something) or in spirit lifting freedom (I don’t need anything, its just me and the Lord.)
If you had nothing, would you be in bondage or would you experience spirit lifting freedom? As a Christian, I would like to think I would be spiritually free but my “realistic” nature would take control. I would need to work towards getting shelter, clothes, and the other necessities in order to survive. How much do I trust the Lord? We trust who and what we know. How can we trust the Lord if we don’t know Him? Would we trust Him even if we had nothing? What would be important then?
I know my answer, like I said, I would take matters in my own hands, work to get the necessities (very practical) but I’d take my life into my own hands. I’d be as self-sufficient as possible. I would pursue what was needed (cheap) first and than pursue what was valuable.
Life is not easy. We exist in the practical world but we long to be spiritually free. To do this, I must trust God. That’s easier said than done.
Lord, deepen my trust of you. Get my priorities right. May I pursue what is right and pure. May I live in realistic dependence upon you every minute whether I have my stuff or I have nothing. Guide me sweet Jesus. Amen.
Monday, December 24, 2007
A young man once asked me, “What’s all this Christmas stuff really about?” A good question amidst the fog and distraction of the busyness of the season. I thought awhile and told him “Christmas is all about Jesus who came to earth to be among men and go to the cross.”
Even at Christmas, “the cross” should be at the center of all we do. The cross has seemed to lose its popularity over the years. Yes, it’s gory and bloody, but it is central to our faith; the idea of Jesus (God Incarnate) coming to earth. Remember the Christmas story, the angels, the virgin, the shepherds, and the manger? They all point to the cross. It was not a cosmic mistake that Jesus was sent to the cross. No, God the Father was not asleep when God, the Son, Jesus was handed over to the Roman authorities to be skewered to a tree for your sins and mine. It was the plan from the beginning.
Over 300 prophecies needed to be fulfilled for Jesus to be born that day in Bethlehem. It was God’s plan. But I wonder if we live in a fog, distracted from the full message of Christmas. God with us mere men, so God Himself, Jesus, could go to the cross for you and me.
Don’t get disheartened, sadly we are no different than generations before; yes, they were distracted also. After Jesus’ resurrection (Luke 24) we find two of Jesus disciples leaving Jerusalem, heads down, sad and disheartened. The Romans had killed their Messiah. They wanted an earthly Messiah, a king, not a heavenly one.
They are walking along a road when the resurrected Jesus comes by their side but disguises Himself and asks “what were you talking about as you walked along? " (Luke 24:17 CEV). In short they replied, “have you not heard all that has happened in the last week concerning Jesus from Nazareth? We thought He was going to be our Messiah, but He was handed over to the Roman authorities and killed.” To help them understand, Jesus took scripture and showed them what He had to suffer before He entered His Glory. Yes, God’s plan was for Jesus to suffer and die for our sins and rise again from the dead victorious over sin and death.
What do we get? We are sons and daughters of the Most High. We will live and reign with God eternally. Jesus will come again some day. He will come as King and Judge. Remember this, brothers and sisters, the manger is empty, the cross is empty, the tomb is empty. I am waiting for the day when God the Father turns to the Son and says, “Go get my people.” Jesus will rise from His seat at the right hand of God and come and get us. The seat on the right hand of God the Father will be empty also. God will be with us and we will be His people.
Let not the fog distract us this Christmas. Come quickly, Lord Jesus, Come!
May God bless you and your family this Christmas season.
Friday, December 14, 2007
In the northern climes, December is the darkest month. The Prairie Hawk (the wind) creeps slowly, relentlessly, and coldly across the prairie, raising its head and velocity to remind us of how vulnerable we could be if it were not for modern technology.
It’s a time when people struggle with depression. The darkness, the cold, the pressure and busyness of the holidays add to the mix. Merle Haggard’s song “If We Make It Through December” in part says: “If we make it through December everything’s gonna be alright I know; It’s the coldest time of winter and I shiver when I see the falling snow;” (check out the following site & scroll down for the words.) http://members.fortunecity.com/ctymidi/LYRICS/if_we_make_it_through_december.htm
In Minnesota in December it’s dark, it’s cold, and we have January cold and March snow yet to look forward to… “In the midst of this darkness there is hope, a light that burns, the Little Child, the King of Kings some day will return” words of a song sung by Scott Wesley Brown entitled “This Little Child.” (Click Link above to hear this song) We can become pessimistic and depressed or we can choose to look for the good. Here are some good examples:
* Last Sunday morning Tim Tebow and Danny Wuerffel were on Fox and Friends. Tebow was named the Heisman Trophy winner and Danny Wuerffel, a former Heisman winner, was his mentor. Both men are devout Christians, both kept their heads, both gave glory to the Lord. They were powerful Christian witnesses. God will get His message out; in the midst of darkness, there is light that burns.
* On a recent Dr. Phil Show, he was dealing with what Dr. Phil deals with…broken relationships, sins of all sorts. T. D. Jakes, a Texas Pastor, was also a guest who, in the space of one hour, told people that their only hope and victory over sin is found only in Jesus Christ. God gets His message out; in the midst of darkness, there is a light that burns.
* The Three Amigos of Cokato, Jerry Terning, Rollie Severson and Russ Irving are three boyhood friends. Now retired Christian businessmen, they were just named Citizens of the Year in Cokato. A front page article in the paper told of their humble service to the community. They gave all the glory to the Lord. God gets His message out; in the midst of darkness, there is light.
* A Minneapolis police woman was fired for not being truthful; she went to Colorado, met Christ and her life was transformed. She is a member of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs and since she is licensed to carry a weapon, has volunteered as a security person there. On Sunday morning, Matthew Murray, a Christian hater, came to the church with 1,000 rounds of ammunition to do much harm. He did as he killed two young sisters. Out of the hallway came Jeanne Assam; the former policewoman. She was the right person in the right place at the right time. God once again displayed His sovereign power. In her own words she was strengthened by God’s power. She shot the young shooter and lives were saved. God gets His message out; in the midst of darkness there is a light that shines.
Christian, it is not the time to be depressed; it is the time we go to our prayer closet, get on our knees, confess our sin, and thank God for His sovereign grace. We then need to get up, put on our God given armor (Ephesians 6) and step outside for the battle has come to us. Yes, it has come to us. God will accomplish His purposes whether we go with Him or not. He doesn’t need us but chooses to use us. Are we ready for the battle?
Remember this, yet in the midst of this darkness there is a hope, a light that burns, this Little Child, the King of Kings some day will return. Heads up people, the battle belongs to the Lord.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
I’m 60 years old. Yes, I’m heading to geezer Ville; or in the opinion of some, I’ve been there for awhile. Getting old is something we try to delay. Getting old is inevitable; it will happen no matter what we do to delay it.
The question I have is “How do we grow old?” In America, we retire. I have no problems with that but what I see that concerns me is that we also retire from Christian service. “I’ve done my share;” “Let the young people do it” are some of the things said.
What I like about Joshua 13:1 is this—the Lord tells it like it is—Joshua you’re old, no getting around that but…you have not finished your work. Joshua, you have work to do; get with it.
We look forward to retirement. That’s ok but what has God called you to do? What is your Spiritual passion? What gifts has God given you? What talents has God blessed you with? Are you still doing it or have your spiritually retired? Have you given up and given in to a spirit of pessimism and sloth? We don’t have to “be old” to fall into this trap. Joshua had work to do; the Lord wanted him to do it, and he did. The Lord is faithful. Joshua 21:43-45 says: “So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord handed all their enemies over to them. Not one of all the Lord's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”
Joshua is nearing the end of his life. He says farewell to the leaders. In part he says, "Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed” (Joshua 23:14).
As I write, the early morning news is reporting on the shootings yesterday at the shopping mall in Omaha, Nebraska. The young man who did the shooting was kicked out of his home a year ago. Another family took him in and was trying to help him.
Is there work for us to do? I think so. Brothers and sisters, lift up you head, you’re a child of the King. There is work to do. I don’t care if you’re young or old, people need to know Christ. The Lord is willing to use us all—young and old. “You are very old,” the Lord said to Joshua—no spin doctoring here. “Joshua, you’re old but get to work.”
And besides all of this, the Lord fulfills all His promises, not one has failed.
We should not be afraid of anything the Lord will prevail.
“Lift High the Cross, the Love of Christ Proclaim.”
Friday, November 30, 2007
Once in awhile someone would not play by the rules. Someone would marry outside their own church or ethnic group for example. It was said of them, and sometimes to them, “Well, you made your own nest, now sleep in it.”
We thought of ourselves as “good” people although hard headed. We felt like we believed in all the right stuff. One lesson of the prairie was this, you screw up, and you pay the price. The price paid was usually being isolated from the “good” people who hadn’t screwed up. People talked, sometimes ridiculed them behind their backs and sometimes ridiculed them to their face. Growing up and seeing this type of attitude kept us in line, for awhile, and we lived in fear of the day when we would “make our own nest.”
What if God would have “left us” in the nest we made? I mean we are all born sinners, right? God gave Adam a chance; he blew it. As a result of that, we blow it also. We were screwed before we started. But tough for us—God has His standards; we fall short and we honestly know that. We do suffer the consequences of our own sin. We made our nest now we must sleep in it.
Not so with God. He came and gave us a gift. He gave us the gift of forgiveness of our sins. He restores our relationship with Him through the blood of His Son Jesus Christ. We did nothing but earn His wrath but the Lord sent His own Son to the cross to die for our sins. This is the good news for us.
I ask you a question: What right do we have as Christians to look down our noses at people “who made their own nest” and pass judgment on them?
I heard about a Christian who ended up in a wheel chair for life because of an accident. Yes, in some ways a stupid accident. He spends a lot of his life alone. He senses peoples unspoken “you made your own nest attitude.” This may be true but God has not left him alone. This is good news. In Psalm 103:13-18 it says: As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children--with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.”
We as fathers are to have compassion on our children. Yes, we are to have compassion on our children. Then it says the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him (those who have an awesome respect for who He is.) In verse 14 it says: “for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are but dust. We are fragile “crumbling dust” sinners in need of a Savior.
The Lord has compassion on us even when we show little, if any, to other people. We “good” people are good at justifying our lack of true Christian compassion because we have not fully realized the depth of our sin, the darkness of our own heart, and yes, we even squirm away from the calling of our God given conscience. If we would only stop and consider those “who have made their own nest.” If it were not for God’s grace, we could be in the same position. In a wheel chair for life…by the grace of God go I.
In Psalm 103 compassion is mentioned three times. It is mentioned in the same sentence with love and grace. We would do well to remember that. When we judge a brother or sister in trouble, we would do well to remember grace and love.
God help us. Amen
Thursday, November 22, 2007
One person who is out helping is our one-time neighbor boy, former Army Ranger, Roscoe. Roscoe was a member of an elite Army Ranger Unit, served three tours of duty in the war zones and is now back in Minnesota going to school.
Roscoe got a call this week that one of his best Army Ranger friend's had been killed in the line of duty. Roscoe dropped what he was doing and headed to Georgia to be with his friend’s wife and family to help in any way he could. Ranger’s always stick together. I talked to Roscoe’s dad and he said that today Roscoe is driving his friend’s wife and family from Georgia to New York for the Army Ranger’s funeral. Roscoe is doing not talking. He is a true friend. I’m thankful for soldiers and the example of faithful friends.
My friend Bruce is ministering today to the street people in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Bruce is a recovered drug addict, Christian Brother, family man, business owner and proud descendent of Irish mercenaries. Bruce is tired of traditional “sit in the pew and smile” Christianity. He is out doing. Yesterday he took $100, went to Menards early in the morning to buy as many stocking caps and gloves possible for the $100. The store manager found out about his mission and promptly cut the glove and cap prices in half. Other people overheard what he was doing and began to donate. Bruce left the store with over 150 pairs of gloves and over 150 stocking caps. He was so excited he called me. I had tears and goose bumps; we shouted Halleluiah. We praised the God who will do more than we ever imagined. I am thankful God has surrounded me with friends who live out their faith and expect no praise from men.
In the beautiful hills and plateaus of Western Wisconsin at 5:30 this morning, the same as every other morning of the year, dairy farmer Gary Brunner begins another 16 hour day as he walks to the dairy barn to begin milking. Gary is married to my niece Laurie. Gary is a powerfully built, low to the ground, Packer fan, and Wisconsin dairy farmer of Austrian descendent. He is quiet and unassuming. Gary has always milked cows.
Every day in America we go to the store and expect milk and cheese to be there so we can buy it. It’s always there. Do we ever stop and contemplate one minute the work, effort and sacrifice that has been expended to have that gallon of milk at our grasp anytime we want it?
Thank you for dedicated farmers like Gary, Laurie, Austin, Katie and “my buddy” Jordan; they make my life easy. May I never take them for granted.
May God Bless Roscoe, Bruce, and the Brunner family. May God Bless you and keep you on this Thanksgiving Day.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Hebrews 11:6: And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Hebrews 13:16: …and do not forget to do good and share with others for with such sacrifices, God is pleased.
Romans 12:1-2: Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Psalm 69:30-31: I will praise God's name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hoofs.
Micah 6:7-8: Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
I Timothy 5:4: But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.
I Timothy 2:1-3: I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior,
Colossians 1:10-13: And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,
I Thessalonians. 4:1-12: Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit. Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more. Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
Galatians 6:7-8: Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
Romans 15:2-4: Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me." For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
1 John 2:17: The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
In the group was a former POW of Germans; another man who went in on D-Day who also fought in North Africa, at Anzio in Italy and survived the Battle of the Bulge. We were in the presence of heroes but you wouldn’t know it. There was no chest pounding bravado; no stories told of great exploits. The afternoon was an afternoon of subdued respect and reflection.
One of the veterans commented, “I wonder if those Frenchmen and Germans remember what we did over there?”
In the 1960’s Charles de Gaulle, President of France, wanted all American soldiers off French soil. Then President John Kennedy sent Secretary of State Dean Rusk to France to talk to de Gaulle. Rusk asked de Gaulle if his request to have all American soldiers off French soil included those buried at Normandy. De Gaulle said nothing. Rusk returned to Washington, D.C.
We have a long relationship with the country of France. In the Revolutionary War against Great Britain, the French supported us when we fought for our freedom. We owe them. Have we forgotten their sacrifice? Have they forgotten America’s sacrifice in World War I and World War II?
Yesterday, November 7th, French President Sarkozy addressed a joint session of Congress. In part, this is what he said: “The United States and France remain true to the memory of their common history. Our duty is to remain true to the blood spilled by our children on both sides of the Atlantic in common battles. France will never forget the sacrifice of your children.” (Referring to the arrival of American troops on the beaches of Normandy to liberate the French from the Nazi occupation in World War II.) "At a time when my country had reached the final limits of its strengths, the time when France was exhausted, had spent its strength in the most absurd and bloodiest of wars, France was able to count upon the courage of American soldiers and I have come to say to you on behalf of the French people that never, never will we forget that.”
The French have not forgotten; neither should we. To be free, a price needs to be paid. In a political sense, “our children”, as Sarkozy said, shed the blood.
It’s good to be reminded that in the political realm, a price has been paid and we must call on men to continue to pay the price of freedom with vigilance and yes, even personal sacrifice.
To be free spiritually, blood needed to be shed. In the spiritual realm, God shed the blood in the person of His one and only Son Jesus Christ. Have you accepted His gift of ultimate freedom?
In the spiritual sense, the price has been paid; the work is already done. Jesus paid the complete pardon for our sin thus we are free, yes free, indeed.
Remember on this Veterans’ Day, if you are a believer, you are free indeed. Free indeed. We are blessed. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Luke 14:23: "Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full."
The church today is enamored with programs. If we choose the right program “they” will come. We need to have a “good” praise team; we buff up everything physical and spiritual. We hope people will be impressed by our church. They come and they stay until they see our warts. (Yes, we all have a flat side.) They come and stay until they see the good and the bad. Then they leave to visit another “buffed up” church and the endless search goes on for the perfect church, one they will never find this side of Heaven.
Jesus told us to go; go to all the world; go to the world’s turf. It is rarely done today in the “real world” or “the street”. The world sees us (the church) as irrelevant and out of touch; distant and afraid.
But when we go to a hurting world, we meet them where they are—no preconceived notions here. When we meet the world on their turf they will wonder “they must be different because no one has come to us before.” When we go to the world, they are comfortable with us. We see them as they are and they see us as we are, warts included, in the midst of pain, suffering, mourning, hassle, and dirt. They see us for who we are, no buffed up image here. In these situations we do not impress, we minister.
When we go to the back roads, the out of the way places and share Christ, the “street” and we (the church) don’t have any buffed up image to maintain. Their expectations of us, the church, is real. We see them for who they are, we remember who we once were; we are not puffed up, and pumped up “suits of hot air.” We live out our compassion. We are to live our faith and they see it.
The “street” is smart; it sees a fraud a mile away. They have had to be “street smart” to survive and survive they will. But if they don’t know Christ, they struggle and survive this life only to spend eternity in hell. How sad.
How will they know Christ? When we go to the street and the world and reveal Christ to them. When Christ graciously chooses them, He says: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)
To the world He says come. He tells us to go…
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Ezekiel is exiled in Babylon and the Lord calls him to minister to his people. The Lord tells Ezekiel something he already knows, the people won’t listen; they are hardened and obstinate. “But the house of Israel is not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for the whole house of Israel is hardened and obstinate.” (Ezekiel 3:7). The Lord encouraged the prophet to preach the truth whether they are willing to listen or not. (Ezekiel 3:11: Go now to your countrymen in exile and speak to them. Say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says,' whether they listen or fail to listen."
As I read it, Ezekiel didn’t look forward to his task of taking this message to these hard-headed people. The Lord takes Ezekiel to the people. Ezekiel goes in “bitterness and anger of my spirit with the strong hand of the Lord upon me.” He went sulking and whining.
The Lord takes Ezekiel to the exiles living by the Kebar River and in Ezekiel 3:15: “I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Abib near the Kebar River. And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days--overwhelmed.” If any of us today sat by our own Kebar for seven days overwhelmed, how would the church react?
This week in Southern California many people are experiencing their own personal Kebar experience. They are overwhelmed.
In West Central Minnesota, farmers are fighting mud and excess moisture to bring in the crop; they are discouraged; some may be overwhelmed.
From what I hear, the church in Southern California has responded in many great ways. I streamed San Diego radio all day yesterday on my computer at work trying to find out what was happening. What I heard on Public Radio about the church’s response was exemplary.
Our family in San Diego is fine (in fact, they returned to their home this a.m.) They are believers but I am sure at times this all becomes overwhelming. But what if they didn’t know Christ? What would be their hope? To be without hope would surely be overwhelming.
We, like Ezekiel, are called to “share” the message of Christ in word and deed. Whether people accept it or reject it is not our issue. We must tell them what the Sovereign Lord told us: “Go now to your countrymen in exile and speak to them. Say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says,' whether they listen or fail to listen."
Are you at your personal “Kebar experience”? Do you know someone who is? What should we do? The world sends Prozac—we should demonstrate Christ crucified! In the midst of despair, we must demonstrate the reality of Christ. In Matthew 24:6 it says: “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” In the midst of these “temporary trials”, we as believers must keep our head. The Lord is still on the throne.
When it is all done, we may need to go to our Kebar River, sit down and cry, be overwhelmed for awhile and let it all soak in; then we must get up and get back into action. Remember, no matter how dark it becomes, the battle belongs to the Lord.
Are we as the church ready for a widespread catastrophe? Would we minister or would we hide out behind our church walls justifying our own indifference? Remember, we are called to minister to a hard-headed world. We may not see any positive response; the results are up to the Lord. We are called to be faithful ministers of God’s goodness and grace found only in Jesus Christ. We should not expect the praise of men. Let’s go to work!
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
I tend by nature to be pessimistic. I realize when I’m around pessimistic people I become more pessimistic.
I visited with a man at work this week; he vented all the negative stuff related to our business, the culture and the world. He dumped the whole load, probably it needed dumping.
I realize the culture is heading towards oblivion (Matt. 24: 4-12), but Jesus in Matt. 24:6 says “but see to it that you are not alarmed.” He has told us in advance what is going to happen so we shouldn’t be alarmed, we shouldn’t lose our head or wring our hands in pessimistic anxiety.
When Jesus says “don’t be alarmed” He is telling us, when you see all this wickedness happening, remember, I’m still on the throne. I’m still in control. I am still God. I am Sovereign. Don’t be alarmed.
I heard a story recently about a scarlet fever outbreak in Stearns County Minnesota during the 1850's; Stearns County was just being settled. A farm family had five children, four had passed away from the scarlet fever, and the last little boy was in trouble. The doctor came and said, “If we don’t get some ice and pack him in it he will die.” In the 1850's in rural Stearns County in the middle of the summer, where were they going to get ice? The distraught mom walked through the yard praying to God to spare her son, she prayed for ice. God in His providence sent a hail storm, they collected the hailstones and packed the little boy in the ice and he was spared.
Think of this, the neighbors gathered with heads hung low as a hail storm damaged their crops, yet a few miles away a mom cradled her little boy with joy. For God had answered her prayer.
We need to be careful what we call a tragedy; it may be a blessing for someone else. The neighboring farms viewed the hailstorm as a tragedy; the mom viewed it as an answer to prayer and blessing from God.
It’s obvious we don’t always understand God ways. “Don’t be alarmed" - He is still on the Throne.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
On our way back from the Sand Hills, we decided to go home a different way, not unusual for us. We headed north out of Valentine, Nebraska; headed east at Mission, South Dakota and drove east towards Platte, just east of the Missouri River. If you like the prairie with the scenic Missouri River Valley included, this is a beautiful drive.
East of the Missouri River the land flattens out, the soil becomes better and ranching begins to turn towards farming.
As we headed into Platte, we noticed the flags were flying half staff. We wondered why.
We drove around this impressive town. One of the few small towns we passed through on our trip that seemed to be growing, not just hanging on with a sense of despair. We checked out Booms Drive-In, a restaurant in Platte owned by the VanderBoom family, friends of Judi’s brother Lowell. Like most Dutch towns, it was neat and clean.
Judi noticed a Dutch Bakery in the town’s grocery store. We took on supplies for the rest of the trip home. People were friendly and accommodating. I asked a lady why the flags were flying half-staff. She said a local soldier had been shot in Iraq, “not blown up” she said matter of factly, “he was shot”.
How many small towns have experienced this over the years through many different wars? Wars sometimes are necessary. I believe this one is necessary but the price is always high.
A small town flies its flags half staff in a soldier’s memory and I didn’t even bother to ask his name. I should know better. We view their sacrifice with so little appreciation or concern. Life must go on we say. Yes, it does and it will, but we are ungrateful as a nation.
To the unnamed South Dakota son of the prairie, another “coming home” soldier, I say thank you.
Exodus 15:3: "The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name."
Thursday, October 04, 2007
A couple of weeks ago Jim used his horse and buggy at a wedding in a small west-central Minnesota town. He must haul his buggy, horse, harnesses and his driving clothes in order to provide transportation at this wedding.
Before the wedding, he “warmed up” his horse by driving it around the small town. As usual, kids come and ask for rides but he can’t give them a ride before the wedding since the inside of the buggy needs to remain spotless as not to damage very expensive wedding dresses. One of the children asking for a ride was Oscar, a young Hispanic boy who rode his bicycle along side the buggy as Jim headed toward the church to pick up the bride and groom.
After delivering the bridal couple to their destination at the reception, Jim needed to put everything back into his truck and trailer. Once again, Oscar was there, he had waited patiently on his bike for Jim to finish his work. Jim asked him if he wanted to make some money. Oscar flashed a big smile and said “yes”. Oscar was an enthusiastic helper; young and willing to learn. Jim taught, Oscar learned, and the buggy, the horse, and all the equipment were finally stowed away.
Jim rewarded Oscar with some money. Oscar flashed another big smile and said “thank you.” They visited awhile and Jim asked Oscar, “What are you going to do with the money?” Oscar proudly replied, “I’m going to buy pencils for school!” Jim fell silent. Pencils for school; just pencils for school. No ice cream cones, no candy bars, but pencils for school; all he wanted was pencils.
As Jim related the story to me, we both had tears in our eyes. Oh, how little we value pens and pencils. We have too many; we throw them away without thinking. There are more where they came from. We have more than enough pencils. Oscar had none. Sometimes we pass great opportunities without thinking or knowing. Oscar has his pencils. Jim got everything loaded to head back to Olivia.
As Jim pulled out of town, he noticed a yard full of people waving. It was Oscar and his family! The Old German horseman was reminded how good God has been to him. Oscar got his pencils and a new friend. God was good to Jim and Oscar. As Jim moved on home, he pulled down his hat, looked into the sunset, the sound of the diesel engine under the hood of his pickup reminded him of the completion of another good day on the prairie. Yes, this had been a good day. Oscar had taught Jim a valuable lesson and Jim taught Oscar a valuable lesson. May God be blessed.
"Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Homeless people are a problem for those of us in the property management business. They urinate on the walls and leave trash as evidence of their seemingly never ending presence. Dealing with homeless people can stretch ones patience to the end. The only way I can remember to always be kind to them is to keep in mind they were someone’s little baby. Only then do I regain my patience and kindness.
Remember the scene, a little baby is born, mom and dad look on with admiration at God’s miracle, yet as time goes on, we as families have our differences. It’s hard to imagine, but some parents later in life reject their children. What if your mom and dad reject you? What kind of hurt is that? Deep and lasting. Psalm 27:9-10: “Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.” The hurt of rejection from mom and dad can leave lasting scars. Remember, the Lord won’t reject us.
God’s word says we must walk as Jesus walked. I John 2:6: “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” When Jesus was on this earth, He was rejected. Does this mean we can be rejected? Yes; if we stand for Christ and truth, we at some time can expect to be rejected.
Sin is the ugly root in each one of us; even in light of that truth rejecting one’s own son or daughter seems cruel to me. I have a hard time understanding this but human pride, unforgiveness and the desire to control other people’s lives forces some people to reject their own. How sad.
Remember God could have very easily written us off. Even though we are His sons and daughters, we are all prodigal sinners. We all need forgiveness and restoration. Remember Christ’s work on the cross, it allows us to be accepted by God the Father, not rejected.
Do you know someone rejected by their own blood? Be gentle, be patient. Remind them though flesh and blood may reject, the Lord will not reject them. Pray for restoration.
Mark 8:31; “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” If you have been rejected, you have walked as Jesus walked. Walk on brother, walk on sister, you’re in good company. Continue to walk as Jesus walked.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
When I got home in the spring of 1969, I realized you never really come home. Things change while you’re gone; people die, trees get cut down, and other things change. Memories of home become distorted over time. The reality of coming home never measures up to our “finally coming home” expectations.
Today we as Christians talk very little about Heaven and the new world to come. Why? Because we have it very good here. God has blessed us but we have sold out for second best, the pattern of this world. Romans 12: 1-2: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” We may say one thing and believe another; we live grabbing and clutching for everything the world has to offer, yet deep down we know it does not truly satisfy.
We will not truly feel at home until we go to Heaven. The old Negro spiritual was right, “The world is not my home, I’m just passing through.” In this world, we should not feel so comfortable with it that we fail to look forward to our Heavenly home and the new world to come.
The 60’s country music song writer Joe South penned these words, “All God’s children get weary when they roam, don’t it make you wanna go home.” In Hebrews 11, the chapter on the heroes of the faith, it says: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Heb. 11:8-10) and “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Heb.11:13-16)
Are you weary of roaming? Are you searching for a place of personal peace? Is there a “searching for home” shaped hole in your heart only God can fill? Are you weary? Come home to Jesus.
Come home, come home,You who are weary, come home;Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,Calling, O sinner, come home! (I think I heard this somewhere before.)
Friday, September 14, 2007
Kyla Ebert, a twenty-two year old college student and Hooter’s waitress, was escorted off a Southwest Airlines flight for being dressed in a manner deemed far too revealing. Ms. Ebert protested and was allowed to fly. There has been much discussion concerning this incident; speculation and snickering by the press. I read one press account that said “What’s next? Will women be required to wear berka’s when they fly Southwest?” The discussions center around what kind of dress is appropriate and what is too revealing. I realize Ms. Ebert is 22 years old but did mom and dad teach any discretion or modesty in dress when she was 15 years old?
During a discussion with a couple of friends about being parents, the husband used the phrase “allowing our children to diminish their honor”. In our society today, do we allow our children, in the name of fashion and popularity, to dress in a manner “that diminishes their own honor”? It set me thinking.
We as parents are to know better. One of our God given functions is to teach and guide our children through “the maze” called life. But I fear we as parents want our children to be fashionable and popular. Will we allow our children to cheapen themselves as we worship at the altar of fashion and popularity? As a caring parent, we should not allow them to acquiesce to pressure of the “anything goes” culture. We must protect them, not just for the short term but for the long term, protecting their lifelong honor.
Jacob, the Old Testament patriarch, had a number of sons and a daughter named Dinah. In Genesis 34 Dinah, apparently on her own, goes off to visit the neighboring pagan tribe. In the process, she is raped by the son of the tribal leader. Shechem, the son, speaks tenderly to Dinah and wants her as his wife. The clan is willing to pay anything for him to have her as his wife. “Now Jacob's sons (Dinah’s brothers) had come in from the fields as soon as they heard what had happened. They were filled with grief and fury, because Shechem had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob's daughter--a thing that should not be done.” (Gen. 34:7).
They were filled with grief and fury! Why, because Shechem had done a “disgraceful thing”, lying with Jacob’s daughter, “a thing that should not be done.” Dinah was blessed to have two older brothers who were willing to defend there sister but in their fury and grief they became deceitful.
Negotiations ensue, both clans, intending to take advantage of each other, reach agreement which extracts a high price for her hand in marriage. Dinah’s brothers, Simeon and Levi, add an additional requirement for the marriage agreement; all the men of the pagan tribe must be circumcised. The pagan tribe agrees and when they are sore and healing and cannot defend themselves, Simeon and Levi kill the men with the sword, plundering everything and take the women and children captive. A message needed to be sent. In any case, this is an overreaction to this situation.
But do our women know we would defend their “honor” no matter what? Would we, as men today, defend our daughters’ honor, our wife’s honor? Do we as men through indifference allow our children to “diminish their own honor” by being an indifferent parent, by shirking our duties? When we defend someone’s honor, let’s deal decisively but honestly and with passion.
Kyla Ebert may be a babe and the world will admire her or it may abuse her. There is nothing wrong with beauty; God is a God of beauty. No doubt a beautiful woman is the finest piece of God’s handiwork but without modesty, she is a woman devoid of true beauty; she looks cheap.
Have we, as parents by our own indifference, allowed our daughters to “diminish their own honor”? If we have, how sad.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
When the swallows leave Winfield Township (Doesn’t sound as romantic as “when the swallows return to Capistrano!)
Last Saturday after I had taken a tire to be fixed at Warren’s in Prinsburg, I decided to drive home cross country. I ended up coming east on County 64. Slightly east of Darren Bratsch’s about 160 barn swallows were gathered on power lines. I love barn swallows, the “fighter jets” of the bird world. They are efficient bug harvesters; each farm place seems to have about eight on an average year. I wondered, who told the swallows when to meet? Who told them where to meet? I mean, if my math is correct, 8 per farm, 160 swallows total, they gathered from twenty farms.
When swallows have their first of two groups of fledglings, they harvest bugs from before sunrise until after sunset to feed their young. When they have the second batch, the young swallows help feed the new batch making it easier on mom and dad. Swallows take time off after the second batch of fledglings is out of the nest. They hang around ponds, grass, and fields harvesting bugs strengthening themselves for migration.
Barn swallows are impressive travelers. A round trip for migration can cover 14,000 miles. Who told them when and where? When swallows migrate, they average 600 miles a day; roughly 12 days to cover the 7,000 mile migration. I’m impressed.
Swallows have been known to play with each other. People have observed a swallow picking up a piece of tin foil, flying in the air, dropping the foil and another picking it off in flight only to be dropped again and the process is repeated over and over again. (Personally, I believe this is “Top Gun” training for young “fighter jet” swallows.)
The Lord takes care of the birds. (Matt. 6:26-27: 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 much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?) Something is telling them where to gather (Rev. 19:17: And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, "Come, gather together for the great supper of God,) and when to gather to head back to Argentina.
The Lord is so good, yet many times I do not recognize it. Last Saturday I was concerned about my Sunday sermon. As I worked, my thoughts were continually occupied with thoughts about this sermon. Sunday morning I awoke early and in my time of prayer, I asked for God’s guidance. I received no peace until I met with the elders of the church; they had no peace either concerning this service. Yet when we visited, the same issue was on all our hearts. My sermon addressed these issues. We prayed with tears of joy in our eyes.
What’s the message? On Saturday the Lord allowed me to notice the swallows on the power line by Darren’s and it should have reminded me not to worry because if the Lord takes care of the barn swallows, He will surely take care of me, one of His sons.
I should have known; oh what needless pain we bear!
Friday, August 31, 2007
This year as I preached in different churches, I have begun to see a pattern. The pattern is an oppressive, indifferent, grumbling attitude toward life and the church.
I was talking with a young man who knows that I am a Christian and I asked him what he thought of Christian men. He said the Christian men at his work are viewed as weak and submissive “even though they really are not", he said. I asked about the church. It’s viewed as totally irrelevant; “it needs to change”, he said.
I wonder if we (the church) haven’t brought these problems on ourselves. We are called to be a light upon a hill (Matthew 5:14-16: "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”) when in reality we have become a monastery upon a hill. The church is called to be a light to a dark, dark world. Yet we have separated ourselves but in the wrong way.
We have taken upon ourselves to use the model of the monastery not the light upon the hill shinning in the darkness model. The monastery model is identified as a thick stone walled fortress high upon the hill, occupied by people dressed differently than the world (monk garb). We stay in the monastery, we take good care of ourselves in the monastery (the goal is self-sufficiency so we don’t have to touch the dirty world). We speak a strange language (church talk); we are seen as walking in circles around the monastery, mumbling to ourselves (evangelistic campaigns based in the church where only the saved show up to hear the message).
It says in 1 John 2:6: “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” How do we as Christians walk? Where do we walk?
Jesus was criticized for hanging out with the down and out people. (Matt. 11:19: The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners.'" But wisdom is proved right by her actions.”) Jesus had His head anointed with oil by the village whore. He took a cup of water from a women with a checkered past. Oh, we must walk as Jesus walked but we “keep our distance” from our hurting world because we want to keep our “upstanding” reputation. Oh, we might keep our upstanding reputation but the pagans who live among us will view us with suspicion because they don’t know us.
If we are to live among the pagans, we must first live “among” them... We must have relationship with them not just rub shoulders with them as we pass on the street. If we live among them, trust them, include them, they will experience relationship, and once we have a relationship, the door is open and we can share Christ. Is not Christ and the need for a Savior what personal relationship is all about?
There is an old poem, I don’t know the name of it, but it’s about the village priest who wanted to be closer to God. He climbed up the church steeple looking into the heavens and he cried out to God “where art thou God?” and God replied: “Down here among my people.” I believe we are climbing up our steeples to get away from a hurting, sinful world when we are called to live among the pagans. But we are called to be different, set apart from the world, not physically but set apart in our actions and spirit. We are to be in the world but not of it. Romans 12:16-18: Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Are we living among the pagans or are we just rubbing shoulders, fleeing back to the monastery on the hill, walking with our head down, and grumbling how bad things are? Are we afraid of the world? Jesus said: “I have overcome the world.” (John 17:13-20 says: "I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message",) If we believe this, why are we so afraid to leave the monastery? Why are we afraid to climb down from the steeple?
We do not have to take Christ to a hurting world, He is already there. Let’s go see what He is doing so that as we live among the pagans and they will see our good works.
There is work to do. Let’s go do it. When we are busy doing the work of the Lord, we won’t have time to continue our petty grumbling. Our spirits will be lifted as we see God’s work among the “pagans” and yes, the Holy Spirit will lead and guide these pagans and us as we become brothers and sisters in Christ. Once we engage the pagan world, put on God’s armor and go to battle and fight for Truth, we will not be viewed as “wimps hiding out from the hurting world” but will be viewed as sons and daughters of the living God.
With God’s help, we will turn the world upside down. We are called to do it; we are empowered to do it and the Lord will provide and protect. Let’s go! Wake up, Church, wake up!
Sunday, August 26, 2007
We all want a good life. We want a simple life, peaceable, a life blessed with children, just enough stuff, not too much to be a burden, a respectable life, a successful life. How do we get it? In Psalm 103:17-18 is says: "But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children-- with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts." In a nutshell it says if we obey God, His love and blessings will flow in our lives and in our children’s lives and their children’s lives…our grandkids. What’s the key? Obey God! You want a good life and you want to be a blessing to your children and grandchildren, obey God. God’s plan works. My plan doesn’t work.
Why obey? Because God says to do it. Why? So in this life we can live the true “high life” and be a blessing to our generations to come.
Obey God; Fear Him; have awesome reverence and fear and He will bless us and our descendants. Why? Because God says so. God’s blessing upon you. Amen.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
“It is one who believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die…”
R. R. Reno in First Things (August 2003) says this:
“Most of us just want to be left alone so that we can get on with our lives. Most of us want to be safe. We want to find a cocoon, a spiritually, psychologically, economically and physically gated community in which to live without danger and disturbance. The carefree life, a life acedia, is our cultural ideal. Pride may be the root of all evil, but in our day the trunk, branches and leaves of evil are characterized by a belief that moral responsibility, spiritual effort and religious discipline are empty burdens, ineffective and archaic demands that cannot lead us forward, inaccessible ideals that, even if we believe in them, are beyond our capacity.”
Today to be aloof, distant, with an appearance of being well-healed, possessing a sense of coldness for the purpose of creating space in our personal cocoon, leaves us respected and admired in today’s world. But deep down inside we know we are slowly suffocating to death from loneliness, indifference, and purposelessness. May God wake us up. Come Lord Jesus, come. Amen.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Clowns have a special place in the history of the circus. Their job was to lighten the mood. If an act did not go off well, the call went out to “send in the clowns” and the clowns flooded the ring. Clowns were also used to create a distraction especially if a tragedy or accident occurred. The clowns were sent in to distract and maintain the “happy” experience.
Stephen Sondheim wrote a song called “Send in the Clowns” which was popularized by Judy Collins and others. The song is from a musical in which an aging actress begins to see her talent steadily slipping away and wonders if she is at that point where they need to “send in the clowns” to distract the audience from her diminishing talent. A sad day for this actress when she realizes as far as her career goes, “it’s over”.
Churches have clown ministries. I guess they have their place; special occasions, working with children but I wonder if it is frivolous. What are they trying to distract us from, if anything, or is it just good fun?
As Christians, we are called to be joyous not morose. James 1:2 says: “Consider it pure joy”. Titus 2:7-8 says in part: “...in your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech…” But I don’t see where we are called to be frivolous. I mean when the wheels fly off of our life and we need help, will we seek out the clown?
I believe we will seek out a friend who is rooted in God’s word, a friend who is tested, passionate about life and the faith, encouraging with wise words of comfort. I believe we are called to be serious about the faith, not frivolous. Christ was never pictured as a chuckling, jolly figure. Isaiah 53:3 described Him as “A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”
In school, I was the class clown and I was good at it. As class clown I deeply wanted the approval of my peers. It masked or distracted from what was really going on in my life. Inside my heart was a God-shaped hole and no amount of acceptance from a fractured world could fill that hole. I needed Christ but I didn’t know it. I distracted myself from the sadness unfolding around me. It was a frivolous, self deception; I was the court jester.
How many people on the surface appear happy and well adjusted, keeping up a “glittering image” while being lonely and hurting deeply? Have we as a The Church “sent in the clowns” when we should be demonstrating the love of Christ?
Monday, August 06, 2007
At one time Dakota Fred had a homemade wooden egg case (crate). It was a case made especially to carry eggs to town to be sold so that they wouldn’t be broken.
Now here is where life takes an interesting twist. For four years, I have been involved in a men’s Bible study in Cokato, Minnesota. Tuesday night I arrived early for Bible study (we hold it in Morris Brothers’ Excavating Shop) and I was helping clean up the floor when I noticed an old box against the wall. Burned into the box was F. H. Seehusen, Danube, Minnesota. I was shocked. I asked Tom, the owner, “Where did the box come from?” He said he’d had the men clean up the shop one day this week and they had found it and brought it to him to see. Tom has no idea where the box came from and he gave it to me.
I wonder—why did this box, how many years later, end up in the exact shop where I have Bible study? The shop is 60 miles away from Danube, my current home and origin of Dakota Fred’s egg case. What’s going on here? We were all amazed and left wondering. Is God trying to tell me something or does he just want me to return the egg case to Dakota Fred’s descendents? That’s what I did and they were extremely pleased to receive it.
Where has this egg case been for 70 years? Only God knows. Isn’t that good? Only God knows! Another question to ask when I get to Heaven. Trivial, yes, but you must admit it is intriguing.
Friday, August 03, 2007
Psalm 31:15 - My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me.
Matthew 10:29-31 - Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Lamentations 3:37-38 - Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?
Isaiah 45:7 - I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.
Acts 17:24-28 - "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.'
Exodus 4:11 - The Lord said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord?
John 9:1-3 - As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.
Romans 8:26-28 - In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 11:33 - Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
Saturday, July 28, 2007
I remember my Sunday school teacher Myra Moje handing out a one page paper with a picture on each side along with a small amount of writing. The Bible story was about Moses and the children of Israel and the parting of the Red Sea. On the front was Moses and the children of Israel walking into a lake with water parted, water probably 10 feet deep. Moses looked confident; the children of Israel looked scared. On the back of the lesson the picture was of the Egyptian army drowning in the Red Sea. I kept this lesson and hung it on the wall in my bedroom.
I am preparing to preach on the holiness of God and I thought about how majestic, powerful and mighty He is. How different from us. I considered the parting of the Red Sea; a cursory glance of the reading of Exodus 14 and 15 is impressive. It says in Exodus 14:21: “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided,” a whole night, up to 12 hours.
I then read Exodus 15, “the first praise song of the Bible” that God parted the Red Sea by air out of His nostrils. A “strong wind” in Exodus 14 is just air out of God’s nostrils.
I took a spoon, a serving spoon, and put a little water in it and then with my nose, tried to blow the water out of the spoon; I could not. I closed off one nostril and blew a little water out of the spoon. I have proof for sure that I’m not like God—He is set apart totally different from me. He is marvelous, wonderful and mighty beyond comparison.
Remember the Sunday school lesson with the picture of the ten foot wall of water? I did some research from World Book Encyclopedia; not the Internet in case you were wondering. (You can’t believe everything you read on the internet but you can believe World Book because my mother-in-law sold World Book and Mabel wouldn’t sell anything that told a lie!). In World Book it says the average depth of the Red Sea is 1785 feet; a little over a third of a mile in depth. The widest point of the Red Sea is 221 miles. I got to thinking—let’s say they didn’t pass through the widest part but a part 50 miles wide. Now, our Holy, Majestic, all powerful God, blows air out of his nose; it’s a strong east wind (Ex.14:21). He stands water up 1785 feet for 50 miles, holds it there for 12 hours and I cannot blow water out of a spoon! He is set apart from us. He is God. He is Holy, Majestic, and All-Powerful. We are not any of these.
Listen, it said when He closed back the water, He let out a breath (Ex. 15:10 But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them.), and the Egyptian army and their horses sunk like lead to the bottom…Just a sigh from the Almighty and water returned.
Brothers and sisters let us wallow in the power and majesty and holiness of our God. Forgive us for trivializing His word about who He is. A little bit of research into facts leaves us staggering—He is the Great I Am…
Last Saturday I heard a story on the radio about a disagreement about who has the tallest building in the world Taipei, Taiwan or Abu Dubai. Abu Dubai won—1685 feet. Think of this, 3,500 years later, mere men get puffed up when they pile up steel, concrete and glass, and with modern technology can only build a building 1685 feet high, a full 100 feet short of the walls of water God help up for 12 hours for over 50 miles, possibly more. What a God! He alone deserves our praise and worship.
What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? Psalm 8:4. All of this is humbling and it should be. Amen
Exodus 14-15; Isaiah 6:1-9, 1 Peter 1:15-16; Hebrews 12:14
Friday, July 20, 2007
My friend, Lee, a lay pastor said “Think about it, that is what we are. I wannabe like Jesus. I wannabe a peacemaker, I wannabe one who hungers and thirsts after righteousness. I wannabe pure in heart. I wannabe meek. And as that ol’ spiritual put it... “I wannabe a Christian inna my heart, inna my heart. But the joy of it all is that one day I’M GONNA BE JUST LIKE JESUS WHEN I SEE HIM FACE TO FACE!!!!” A good point.
I was not called to be a pastor of a church with all its trappings, benefits and status the position affords. I have nothing against seminary education or traditional pastors but I’m called to be a guerrilla fighter for Jesus. I wear no uniform (no frock or collar on backwards) that sets me apart from the common man. I do not work out of a fort (AKA a church); forts with walls to protect us from the enemy but those same walls also act as a hindrance for the common people to “come in.” I do not have to battle artificial barriers. I am not asked to do the perfunctory grace before the meal at the athletic banquet because I am a pastor and that’s ok with me. I go where I’m called. I’ve never asked once to preach anywhere; I never preached because I had to. God has called me to the front lines; I’m a plain front lines sergeant in God’s guerrilla force. I preach in campgrounds, garages, excavator shops, churches of eight different denominations; I preach at funerals, weddings, graduations and Memorial Day services. Not impressive but that’s where I’m called.
Theologian John Piper wrote a book to pastors entitled “Brothers We are Not Professionals” with the subtitle “A Plea for Pastors for Radical Ministry” says:
“We pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry. The Mentality of the professional is not the mentality of the prophet. It is not the mentality of the slave of Christ. Professionalism has nothing to do with the essence and heart of the Christian ministry. The more professional we long to be, the more spiritual death we will leave in our wake. For there is no professional childlikeness, there is no professional tenderheartedness, there is no professional panting after God.”
“Brothers, we are not professionals. We are outcasts. We are aliens and exiles in the world. Our citizenship is in Heaven, and we wait with eager expectation for the Lord (Phil. 3:20). You cannot professionalize the love for His appearing without killing it. And it is being killed."
“The world sets the agenda of professional man; God sets the agenda of the spiritual man. The strong wine of Jesus Christ explodes the wineskins of professionalism.”
In the preface of the book, Piper said this:
Insulated Western Christianity is waking from the dreamworld that being a Christian is normal or safe. More and more, true Christianity is becoming what it was at the beginning: foolish and dangerous. “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Cor. 1:23). “The hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” (John 16:2).”
I must admit, at first I was hurt by the comments. But after some thought, my passion to reach my family and friends has only been increased. Jesus told us not to worry about what men say. We should worry about what God says and He is the one who can throw us into Hell. (Mark 9:47 “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell”.) (Notice-“thrown into hell”, no Swing Low, Sweet Chariots here.)
We live in a world where for many people the only reward they will get will be a respectable lifestyle with all the benefits and a mushy, pointless life. How sad. We are to model our life after Christ. I have not done that as I should but it is good to be reminded that He alone is our example. I am not what I should be but praise God I’m not what I once was.
In our world today, we need foot soldiers on attack for Christ, sold out, uncompromising, with the truth; meek but fully armed with the Spirit and the Word willing to march into Hell… It’s time to pull our boats on shore and abandon them (Luke 5:1-10). God will go with us and protect us.
I am a wanna be! I want to be more Christ-like in character; I want to touch people that are down and out and without the hope of Christ. I want to be “light” in a dark, dark world. -- O Lord, make me worthy to be called your child. Forgive me for my past of being a coward and not standing up for the faith. Use me wherever. Grant me Lord, a humble and willing spirit to persevere to the end. Bring me Home Sweet Jesus; bring me home. Amen.
I am impressed with their victory over battles I have never had to fight. I’ve had battles in my life too but as I go through life it doesn’t take long for me to realize how many people struggle day to day to maintain their existence, overcome past failures, and seemingly are optimistic and positive. I’m humbled by their veracity and pluck. It makes me count my blessings every day.
When I fill in for pastors, people will share their hurts with me. Again it’s fertile ground for ideas: people in wheelchairs, people fighting rare and debilitating diseases, accidents that kill and maim loved ones, people living in fear of other people because past relationships have gone bad. All in all, it is humbling to stand in their presence. I have witnessed the reality of evil in the world; I’ve seen the Lord’s victory over evil; I’ve been blessed to see people healed in many different ways, living out their life with hope and joy.
Where do the ideas come from? They come from the people around me. The Lord puts them on my mind and the Holy Spirit makes the application.
I realize I’m a country boy, businessman, and lay pastor who has much to be thankful for. I hope I never take that for granted. Just as the soil in Renville County Minnesota is deep and rich, the Lord has blessed me by planting me in His field, deep with many different experiences and rich with God loving people. I am blessed and humbled. To God be the glory.
Friday, July 13, 2007
We were in many towns this week and not many small towns were growing and thriving. Waseca’s Main Street is thriving as are the shopping centers on the north edge of town. We also saw vitality in the agricultural and industrial areas.
We parked one block off Main Street so we could walk up Main Street to find a place to eat. Everyone we met on the street said hi to us before we said anything to them. In the café, as people walked by our table, they would also greet us.
Stopping in another city closer to home, we noticed a marked difference in people’s attitudes. Even at our somewhat lame attempts at levity, we were still met with indifference.
I wonder, could it be that Waseca is thriving because they actually enjoy living and also enjoy being in business? These are good times on the prairie; we live in one of the most blessed places on earth and yet we can act like a bunch of surly old boars and cranky old bats. God help us get rid of this grumbling, pessimistic indifferent attitude that seems prevalent in some of our communities.
I got to thinking; churches are the same as communities in many ways. When we visit a new church for the first time, it doesn’t take long to “get a feel” for the place. We’ve been in positive places possessing a genuine, heartfelt, loving spirit and we’ve also been in churches that are cold and indifferent. What message is your community sending to the outside world: indifference and complacency; or a warm, gracious and positive attitude for life? What message is your church sending? Do we ever wonder why the world does not walk through the door of our church? Could it be about our attitude? God help us.
Friday, July 06, 2007
Let me tell you a story. Your daughter is a bio-medical engineer and led a team of engineers to invent a pain blocker that mounts externally on the body to block chronic pain. It has worked miracles in lives of many hurting people. It is a resounding success.
At the annual Christmas party of her firm, she and her team will be given an award for the success of their invention. Mom and Dad get invited to the party. Your daughter sits at the head table along with other award winners. You are seated at a table with 20 other people for dinner; 20 other people you do not know. Polite dinner conversation ensues; a woman casually mentions she had an abortion. No one says a word. A little later a person mentions he has a gay lover. No one says a word. The dessert comes; it’s great; all marvel at its excellence. When finished, a man lights up a cigarette. People get upset. “It’s against the law” some implore. “It gives me a headache” someone chimes in. The scene becomes chaotic as the man is escorted out of the dinner party.
The lesson to be learned here is this: Who are we to think we dare offer God advice concerning punishment for sin and comment on His holiness when in fact at a dinner party we cannot tell the difference between wickedness and bad manners!
Sunday, July 01, 2007
Saturday, June 30, 2007
I’ve been gray since my mid-thirties. It has been said that my mother turned gray in her mid-thirties; so did my older sister but getting older has been a different thing.
Today I will attend the 60th birthday party for, Chuck, my same-age, life-long friend and cousin. Chuck is a western Minnesota Dutch farmer with a free-wheeling sense of humor and buoyant attitude towards life. He has had a kidney transplant and battles skin cancer with “this is part of life” attitude.
But we’re getting old, or should I say older. I don’t regret “getting older”, it’s part of life but what concerns me is how quickly I got here—to sixty, I mean. It seems like yesterday I was in the military; getting married 36 years ago seems only a short time ago; and the birth of our children still “fresh” in my memory in many ways. Like they say, “time flies when you’re having fun.”
At sixty, I believe most of the world views us as a “has been”. That ok, I don’t have anything more to prove but it’s definitely not time to give up, whine and complain about getting old, and in “horseman terms” complacently wait for the final long trip to the glue factory.
The Lord has called us to be His witnesses all the days of our lives. Even when I am old and gray” – Psalm 71:18. Our prayer should be that God would not forsake us. Our side of this picture is that we are to declare to the next generation God’s power and might. If I am 60, 70, 80 or 90, I have a job to do: “declare God’s power to the next generation, God’s might to all who are to come.” I believe what He is saying is leave a legacy; a legacy of God’s love and faithfulness demonstrated by His power and might.
As I look back over my sixty years of life, I look with amazement how God has worked. He did things I did not understand; He did things that looked like failure and tragedy and turned them into good…things too wonderful for me to fully comprehend.
What will our next generation say about us? He sure was a “good fella” or will they declare and share the stories of the work of God’s sovereign hand in our lives. Will the Lord be lifted up or will they just refer to us as “another good fella”? What stories will they tell—good fella stories or stories of a mighty and powerful God’s work in our lives? What will your legacy be?
Lord, even when I’m old, may I declare Your power and might. May I always be found faithful. Come Lord Jesus, come. Amen.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Clean up vacant lots in the neighborhood (get permission)
Paint lousy looking houses—church buys paint; tenants to work together
Pick up roadsides—Do NOT expect a sign
Host a single mom’s night out/young mom’s night out
Watch kids for a mom to do something alone
Mow lawn for someone--busy young family, old people
Be aggressive and share excess produce with neighbors you do not know
Take cookies & go visit old people in community for 15 minutes
Wash someone’s car
Guerilla service young people – when people are gone, mow lawn, clean flower beds, scoop snow, trim trees, pick up trash anonymously. Leave card – "Guerillas for Jesus"
When you go shopping, ask neighbors if they need anything
Help people with budget, insurance forms, VA forms, social security forms, etc.
Write letters to local service people
Assist soldier’s family
Write letters for nursing home patients
Develop church web page; allow people to leave prayer requests anonymously.
Follow up on a prayer request to see how things are going
Use church web page as community news site/bulletin board
Rent tent for county fair/community function. Recliners; cold water fountain; wash feet; massages with massagers.
Teach kids/adults things: to fix bikes, bake, sew, use computers, cell phones, digital cameras, etc.
Offer to clean up county property
Visit shut ins
Take someone to the store, doctor, etc.
Go out for coffee with someone you normally would not go with
Tell someone what God has done in your life—tell your story
Monthly birthday party at church
Volunteer to work at the Thrift Shop and/or Hope Pregnancy Center
Read to children or adults
Make a meal for a neighbor—bring it over or invite them in
Interview older person about their life and write about it
Interview a veteran and record it for history
Make & fly a kite with someone
Share hobbies, collections
Organize “electronic free” night
Take a neighbor child or adult out for an ice cream cone
Help someone with gardening
Visit someone who has lost a family member in the last year & talk about that person
I'd like to hear your ideas, too. May God bless you in your ministry.
Friday, June 22, 2007
I have preached in 27 different churches in Central and Western Minnesota over the last 8 years, and the best of our knowledge, only 3 of those churches are holding steady or growing. The other 24 have lost significant numbers of people. The young people are gone or leaving and I don’t blame them. Why?
Our young people are bored to death. In a culture that adores “extreme” behavior—bungee jumping, stupid and dangerous stunts, sky-diving and “extreme” immoral behavior, excessive drinking, and “girls gone wild”, we the church, sit transfixed while a generation flees the church. Young people do not want to be entertained. They want to be challenged to live out their faith; faith and actions, faith and deeds. Live on the edge, do good not talk about it. Sad to say, I believe we slumber while a generation slips into hell.
We say one thing and do another. Oh, we sing about, preach about, “marching into hell for a heavenly cause” but in reality we don’t move. We believe being moral and good is the sole purpose and extent of our faith. That’s good but we are to HATE EVIL AND CLING TO WHAT IS GOOD. (Romans 12:9-11). We are to be men and women who “live out” their faith not just go through the motions. Titus 2:12-14: "It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good."
We are sitting; glad God has chosen us, acting moral and good while the world around us goes to hell. We are to hate evil and cling to what is good. Let’s do it.
In Matthew 28, Jesus said to us, “GO”. We say “come.” They (the world) are not coming; as a matter of fact, our pews are emptying out at a rate that alarms me yet I find few, if any people concerned (pastors and church leaders included).
I have spoken about his topic on three different occasions. I feel it has been met with indifference by the older people but with appreciation by the younger people (younger people is people under 35). If our experiences in Western and Central Minnesota are any indication of the true spiritual state of our churches, we are in deep trouble. I can’t soften it in anyway. I am tired of our excuses for our deadness. In Matthew 24:12 it says: "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold." I believe most have grown cold.
“You’re just a complainer, Jerry,” they say. May I suggest some action?
Each and every one of us should give one hour a week direct ministry in our community. If we do that and we have 200 people in church, effectively we live out 800 hours of direct ministry in our communities in one month. This would transform our rural towns. For the believer, we would be stretched, we’d be scared, we will be pushed into areas of own communities where we’ve never been before. We will find talents we never knew we had. It will be exciting not boring. Living out our faith is exciting and challenging. The community will benefit. How? It will see the love of Christ demonstrated to them. When we live out our faith developing relationships outside the church, this makes easy our invitation to know Christ. It flows naturally, it’s not contrived and, all this would not require one committee meeting.
What do we do? Help people! We all like to help. Pray for eyes to see needs and act. I know what you’re saying, “I’m so busy.” Yes we are. Let’s take a look at our time:
168 hours in one week:
- 24 hours for all day Sunday off
- 48 hours for 8 hours of sleep for 6 days
- 12 hours for family time of 2 hours/day x 6 days
- 52 hours work & commute
32 hours remaining
So, if you perform 1 hour per week of direct ministry that would be 1/32nd of our life. Is this too much to ask?
Open our eyes—use us to your glory. Amen. Come quickly Lord Jesus, come.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Representative William Jefferson, Democrat from Louisiana, was indicted Monday on Federal charges of racketeering, soliciting bribes and money laundering…This is part of the first paragraph in an Associated Press article written by Laura Jakes Jordan in regards to Representative Jefferson’s indictment.
I was in my car driving when I heard comments on the radio concerning the Jefferson indictment pitting the Right against the Left and the Left against the Right. I am concerned. I do not know all of the details; he is innocent until proven guilty but this is not a question of the Right verses Left or the Left verses the Right, this issue is dishonesty; it is sin, not Left or Right politics.
We as a nation have failed to call sin for what it is—SIN. We can spin it, call it reactionary political payback, a misstep, a misunderstanding, a personal failure, but none dare call it sin. Even in our churches today, we seldom talk about these things—sin, hell, heaven, abuse and divorce.
Research indicates most people feel they will get to heaven some way, some how. I mean we are for the most part “good fellas” aren’t’ we? Oh, I may tip a few now and then but “at least I’m not a drunk like Bill”. Unless we realize the standard we need to keep does not arise from the standard of our next door neighbor but from Christ’s holy standard, we are in big trouble. Unless I address the sin issues in my life, I WILL at SOMETIME have to deal with the reality of sin and the consequences of hell and the hope of heaven. Remember…to whom we must give account.
Have I dealt with my sin? Have you dealt with your sin? Remember the gift of grace and forgiveness which reconciles us to God and brings us peace. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.