Thursday, February 22, 2007

Why are believers so afraid of the world?

"Because we don’t believe Jesus has overcome the world" is my short answer.

John 16 :33 says: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

I spoke awhile ago in the Village of Splatsville (names and places have been changed to protect the innocent) and I asked the question: “How long has it been since the village drunk in Splatsville has been saved?” Blank, pale faces stared back at me with no response.

After the service a young man came by and said “We have been concerned about ourselves, we don’t even know the name of the town drunk”. They had become so isolated from their community at large they didn’t know who the town drunk was. Not that knowing the name of the town drunk is the measure of a church's influence in a community, but what influence do we have, if any?

Christians wake up! Quit worrying about global warming, we aren’t going to survive until that becomes a serious problem because our Western culture will be long gone before that point.

I know and discuss things with people with a myriad of views. I know this sounds trite, and you’ve heard it before - “They like our Jesus, but they don’t like us, His followers. I am including myself as one of His followers.

As I wrote “His Followers” I realized I may have put my finger on the problem unintentionally. We are followers, not Disciples. To me a follower of someone does not paint a passionate picture. I envision people quietly trudging across a desert in a long silent line.

Now Disciples make me nervous. Disciples are doers. They are serious about their beliefs. They put themselves on the line, stand for truth and have courage. I don’t have to agree with them, but I respect them because they live out their passion.

Over the last two weeks I heard Christians decry Anna Nicole Smith and Britney Spears. We are quick to point out that Ms. Smith was in Playboy and her only accomplishment was that she married some 86 year old rich man. We lollygagged while Anna Nicole Smith may have very well slid into Hell for eternity but did any of us give a damn?

A pastor friend called me and told me he shared with his church his burden for Britney Spears (the one who shaved her head). As I see it she is crying out for help. She needs Christ, she needs a dad, she needs a mom, she needs the unconditional love of Christ. Are any of us besides this pastor praying for Britney Spears?

We here in rural Minnesota will most likely not rub shoulders with the likes of Britney Spears, but we can pray. We need to pray for her but also pray that our hearts would be tendered towards the “unlovely people” all around us.

We as believers are sitting in huddles, in little groups called churches, tentatively looking out our stain glassed windows, hoping the town drunk does not show up and disrupt our church service as it is printed in the church bulletin.

God helps us to be courageous, gives us strength to go “into” the world, but being “not of it.” We must go into the world and be the sweet fragrance of Christ’s love, hope and forgiveness. Jesus said, “Go”, we say “Come”. And the truth is, they never come because they do not know what they will find inside our church. They don’t know us, and we don’t know them. We are scared of "Them" and "They" are scared of us.

Jesus said he overcame the world! Do we believe it? Jesus prayed for us in John 17: 13-19: "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." If that’s what Jesus said and prayed, what are we afraid of? Notice we are to stay here and do what? Minister to people, be a servant to others.

In Acts 1, at the ascension of Christ, Christ ascends and His disciples stand around looking into the sky. "They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." Acts 1: 10-11. "Why are we standing around and looking into the sky?" May I suggest, because it’s the easy way out. Keep my hands clean and keep my Holy Huddle secure while the world around me goes to Hell.

Mount up Christians, let’s march into Hell for a Heavenly cause. It’s later than we think. Go to the hurting people in our communities and minister to them.

We need to ask ourselves -
  • What have we done with the gifts God has given us?
  • How will we as Christians answer for our loss of impact on our society?
  • How do we continue to justify our spiritual deadness?

“Quit bugging me Jerry! Pass me a coke, I just want to watch American Idol.” Ya baby. Slumber on Church, slumber on.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Saying Goodbye to Tillie

Tillie Seehusen was married to my Dad’s cousin Fred but she was more like an aunt to me; and in these last years, she became a special friend. Her husband died a number of years ago and in 2003, she buried her only son, Larry. Tillie shared with me that as a woman, you expect to bury your husband but not your son. When she talked about Larry, her eyes would water over but she wasn’t bitter. Tillie wasn’t into being bitter, resentful or petty. I never saw any of that in her spirit.

Tillie died on Saturday at the age of 95. Today as we sat in the church in Clara City, my mind wandered as I thought about Tillie. Many times when I introduced myself, people would ask “How are you related to Tillie?” Tillie and Freddie were not rich by worldly standards but Tillie’s influence in the lives of her neighbors and Sunday school students is priceless. In the last couple of years I have run into neighbor girls of Tillie’s who are now adult women. The mention of Tillie’s name always elicits the same response, “Oh Tillie.” Oh Tillie; she was a special woman. Today, one of Tillie’s Sunday school students was at the funeral—she is now 65 years old and still remembers Tillie as a special teacher. (If you are or have been a Sunday school teacher, will any of your students remember you 50 years later??)

My Mom died when I was 13 after a long battle with cancer. My Mom asked Tillie to pray for me and keep track of me. As a young man, I didn’t always take kindly to what I perceived as “Tillie’s meddling”. As an old man, I am blessed to have known her. Thank you, Tillie; thank you Lord Jesus, for I believe Tillie’s prayers and a gracious and forgiving God is the only reason I’m alive today and able to call myself a son of the Living God. Tillie was a prayer warrior and always showed concern, even when I wasn’t interested. I Samuel 12:23-24 says: “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.” Do we realize the affect we can have on the life of young people just by being a prayer warrior?

God has been good to me to put people like Tillie in my life. I was preaching at Raymond one Sunday about six years ago when she surprised me with her presence. At the end of the service we hugged and cried. I remember what Tillie said, “The Lord is good. The Lord is good.” He sure is. Thank you Tillie for your love and example.

She was buried on St. Luke’s hill north of Danube on the banks of Beaver Creek. It was 6 degrees with a biting west wind. It was cold Friday afternoon but remember this, last Saturday the sweet chariot swung low and the band of angels welcomed Tillie home as she crossed the Jordan River. Well done, well done, my good and faithful servant.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Having it all, yet having nothing

A friend of mine is an accountant and consultant. He has done work for a famous man; now he only meets occasionally with this man directly but he works a lot with “his people.” We “average Joes” may consider certain celebrities and businessmen show offs when they have “their people.” By “their people” I mean personal assistants, security people, lawyers, and accountants, consultants of various types, gardeners, service help and the like.

After a business meeting, my friend had dinner with “Mr. Big’s” accountant and personal assistant. It is a world few people ever get to see, much less gain valuable insight into the workings of such a life style. The group travels on private jets and move around in private limos. Dinners are held in the finest places. The places where this man works-out are the best in the world. His yearly income is over $50 million dollars. Some of us would consider this type of lifestyle to be intriguing but is it?

The “employees” told my friend that they have to move on private jets since “Mr. Big’s” presence in a public airport would make such a ruckus. Dinners at the finest restaurants have to be private so no one could turn the place into an autograph-seeking circus. Movement from the hotel to the gym is done in tinted glass limos so no one can see inside. When this man moves, his whole staff moves and they are on call 24 hours a day. Security has to be cleared in almost every move. Security must be coordinated with local police; business meeting sites must be discrete less any rumor be started about a merger or whatever, being seen with certain influential people, having impact on stock prices. Busy, busy, busy.

As his accountant said, it can be intriguing, traveling all over the world, meeting other famous people, staying in the finest hotels, eating in the finest restaurants, etc. but he said sadly, “It’s all work, and it gets old very fast.” He has no wife, no children; he said he doesn’t even have a goldfish or a dog. Any relationship he has never lasts because of his “constantly–on-the-move lifestyle.” As he looks ahead he said, “When I get old, I’ll have a lot of money but when I get sick, no one will be there except the hired help.”

This is what he told my friend, “You wouldn’t want my life or Mr. Big’s life. We have everything the world has to offer at our finger tips but we’re lonely and cold inside.” The personal assistant said, “You can talk to very few people in confidence because you don’t know who you can trust, so all your relationships become cold and distant and shallow. You ask yourself, “Is he a true friend or is he just trying to get close to Mr. Big?

To us, sometimes the grass seems greener on the other side of the fence. But many times once we experience the other side; it’s not as green as we once thought.

What a sad life. In the eyes of the world you have everything; in reality you have nothing.

O, Lord Jesus, thank you for the simple life. Help me to appreciate my position in life. Take away my desire to have it all when in reality I have it all in you. Come Lord Jesus, Come.

Ecclesiastes 12:1-7 -- Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, "I find no pleasure in them"— before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim; when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint; when men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags himself along and desire no longer is stirred. Then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets. Remember him--before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

Ecclesiastes 3:9-14 -- What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil--this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 -- Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandment, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Bonhoeffer Movie

Jerry & I recently watched a DVD documentary on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer entitled “Bonhoeffer.” He was a German theologian, pacifist, Nazi resistor. We got the movie from the library and it is well worth getting. It was very moving and we’d like to share the following quotes with you. We can all learn from them. ~ Mrs. Beef

Compassion & Action

“We have for once learned to see the great events of world history from below, from the perspective of the outcast, the suspects, the mal-treated, the powerless, the oppressed, the reviled, in short, from the perspective of those who suffer. Mere waiting and looking on is not Christian behavior. Christians are called to compassion and action.”

After Ten Years

We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds…we have been drenched by many storms…we have learned the art of equivocation and pretense…Experience has made us suspicious of others, and kept us from being truthful and open…are we still of any use?”

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Esteem others more highly then yourselves

A friend of mine was not looking forward to a meeting with a friend with whom he had a serious disagreement. He examined himself, prayed hard to get rid of his judgmental attitudes and all the other negative emotions associated with the proposed encounter. He was struggling.

He came across the verse “esteem others more highly than yourself” Philippians 2:3 (KJV).

He realized he never esteemed his friend higher than himself; he never thought of him in these terms. He sat down and wrote two pages of how his friend is more talented, more creative and should be more esteemed than himself. His resentment and judgmental attitude melted away. The Word of God has power but the measure of a man is when he obeys it.

Thank you, Carl, for the reminder and your Godly example…be reconciled to one another.

A tribute to Gail Schwandt

We heard it first on WCCO radio, a serious head on crash by the High School between Dassel and Cokato, one dead, one seriously injured. After living there for 17 years, our immediate response was “I’m sure we know who was involved.”

Emails flew back and forth, radios and TV’s listened to, news websites checked. Then the news came out, it was Gail Schwandt who was killed.

Gail Schwandt was the Family and Consumer Science teacher at Dassel-Cokato School for 15 years (FACS is Home Ec. to us old timers). Her example and impact on the lives of her students was widespread but I wonder if she knew that.

Our daughter, Katie is a teacher largely because of Gail Schwandt’s encouragement and example. To Gail, teaching was not a job but a passion. If she saw a flicker of passion for teaching in someone, she would fan that flicker into a flame.

When Gail was married, Katie was in charge of the guest book. When Katie graduated from high school, Gail stopped by and we visited for a long time. She and Katie had developed a special friendship. Gail was a genuine, caring teacher. Gail did it all with a calm assurance, impeccable organization, underlying sense of humor, and a beautiful smile.

Our son Andy called his friend Tommy to let him know that Ms. Schwandt had been killed. Tommy was a student of great talent with an irrepressible chip on is shoulder which did not endear him to many teachers. Tommy was labeled, he knew it, and took his lumps for it. But Gail saw under that hard shell and cajoled, encouraged and expected the best for Tommy and she was rewarded for her faith and patience.

When Andy told Tommy about Ms. Schwandt, Tommy did not respond immediately but when he did, the macho man, and all around American man said it best, “Ms. Schwandt loved me.” Tommy knew he had been blessed for knowing her.

Students gathered from all over to attend her funeral in Litchfield. I wonder if she fully understood the impact she had on her students.

So, the former Meeker County Dairy Princess turned teacher never lost her beautiful smile and unassuming easy going way. She was a mentor and yes, like Tommy said, she loved her students.

As I sit here writing, how sad it is that I never wrote to her when she was living to tell her all this…O Lord, may we encourage and lift up our brothers and sisters when there is still time.

To Gail Schwandt, Thank you for a life well lived. Amen.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Please Notice the New Link

I'd like to call your attention to a new link that I have added to this website. It is called Hewed Pillars and the author is Andrew Seehusen (this is the young man that I call Andrew the 3rd; he is not our son). His site is definitely worth reading. ~ Beef

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Quote from William Henry Biederwolf’s Sermon, “The Logic of the Cross”

"What a strange and distorted idea of life some people have! Even the Christian life has been misunderstood by some whom the world has been pleased to number among its holiest men. They have thought they could best live that life in the seclusion of a mountain cave or a monastery cell, out of touch with and unmindful of the confused and distracted world round about them so full of heartache and of need.

"Cloistered visions and mountain-top experiences may enrich the soul, but the vision dims and the blessing will not stay if heavenly experience is not translated into earnest service for a needy humanity. After all, this is where Christ was always found.

The village priest of austerity
Climbed up in a high church steeple;
To be nearer God, so that he might
Hand His word down to the people.

And so in sermon script he daily wrote
What he thought came from heaven;
And dropped it down on the people’s heads
Two times one day in seven.

In his age God cried, “Come down and die,”
And he cried from out the steeple,
“Where art Thou Lord,” and the Lord replied,
“Down here among my people.”

"All too much we fail to realize the place that self-sacrifice and service hold in the religion of Jesus Christ. They are the very heart of it. They are the religion of Jesus Christ. Christ’s whole existence, all the way from heaven to earth and back again by way of Calvary, was a continual outpouring of Himself for the sake of others. And He says, “If any man will be my disciple, let him take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34)."

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Technical God is Always Right

"As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." Psalm 103:12

Do you ever wonder if it would mean the same thing if David would have said “north from the south” in place of “east from the west” in this verse?

Make a mental picture of a globe. Imagine walking north to the North Pole; keep walking. At the North Pole we start walking south. Right. Now go to the equator. Start walking east. You keep walking east; you will never walk west.

David, writing long before the advent of globes, lines of longitude and latitude, said “east from the west”. He was right then and he is right today.

Isn’t God great? Our sins are gone as far as the east is from the west. God’s knowledge and truth transcend all time and is technically correct forever. A truth for then and now and forevermore… “As far as the east is from the west”.