Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Wounded Soldier’s Mom

I meet many different people, some through work (mainly in the twin cities area), some through preaching (Central and Western Minnesota) and some just being on the farm. Recently I met the mom of a wounded American soldier; I have never talked to her before. Her son is home after a long recovery in hospitals but he is not healed. As the mom said, he will never be completely healed. Tears poured down her face as she talked.

In war, more than the soldier gets wounded; his wife is wounded, his mom and dad are wounded, the rest of the family is shaken and wounded. Their world is turned upside down, the constant reminder of media statistics pound on their psyche. The wounds are permanent, it would be completely depressing if not for hope.

I asked her what the family is doing to heal. She said she talks to mothers of soldiers who are severely wounded. She cried as she told me about having to bring a form of “reality” to the families whose loved ones have been severely wounded in combat. They all want it to be “over” and it’s preferred that this happens quickly. Through her tears, she said it will not “get over quickly” but they must persevere and hang on; it will be a lifetime of coping for most.

In previous wars, sadly many severely wounded died on the battlefield; they didn’t come home. Today, more severely injured are coming home and we are forced to deal with this sobering reality. We will see them on the street, at ball games, at family reunions, at work, at church. Yes, they will be there to serve as a constant reminder of the reality of war. No longer will we be able to turn away and pretend we don’t see. We will have to deal with it, whether we like it or not. Yes, our tranquil Western Minnesota rural lifestyle will be intruded upon by the reality of war and its aftermath.

As I stood in the color guard on Memorial Day, I realized most of us are Viet Nam era vets. I don’t know if anyone of their group has ever told their story; the reality is, most people don’t give a damn if they heard it at all. If we don’t talk about the past, it doesn’t exist and not talking is the protocol for our day. But today these wounded vets are walking our streets, living next to us, worshipping with us and will serve as a constant reminder we all need to heal. Oh, we won’t heal completely on this side of heaven but we have that hope that one day we will all be completely healed.

It is with the hope of Christ that they can carry on. The hurts are real and lasting; the pain just does not go away. The tears are real and fall often and we must be here to listen to the hurting (I mean really listen) and share hope and love. Love them not just in word but in action. Live out our faith with deeds. Remember God’s word says, “No greater love is this than a man lay down his life for a friend.” Remember, every veteran who has ever signed on the dotted line was willing to lay down his life for us. We need to thank each and every one for this unselfish act of devotion.

In the meantime, let’s pray for peace, healing and protection for our soldiers—those serving and those healing. We need to pray for wisdom for our leaders in this trouble time. May we serve those in need and work to bring an end to all pain and suffering and pray for the Lord’s return.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus, come. Amen.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Manipulation of Providence

If I’m going to read a book, I prefer non-fiction. I mean, why waste your time reading something man created, something which never happened. I prefer the real thing; “truth is better than fiction” it’s often said. Yes, I guess I prefer non-fiction.

But I understand why fiction is attractive. To the writer, he can manipulate providence. In a creative way he can be God, creating characters, bestowing on them greatness or debauchery. I’m impressed with fiction writers; their span and depth of creativity is impressive. I can understand how they can be consumed with writing fiction; creative bursts, using fiction to lift up, using fiction to challenge the status quo. For the creative moment they are a “manipulator of providence”. J. P. Philips used that term in a book “Your God is too Small.” I don’t remember what he said, but it still sets me thinking.

Even if a writer has the gift of weaving a tale of intrigue and suspense, it is still but a “tale” played out on the stage of time and eternity. The writer weaves his story and gives no thought let’s say, to gravity; he just assumes it’s there. God could for a moment suspend gravity and the world would explode or implode and the writer’s creative work would mean nothing. Yet God allows some of man’s great creative work to endure; great works of literature, the genius of great art, building of structures, and technology that out lives us.

I can manipulate reality in the garden. Creating something more beautiful than if left to itself. BUT God can send in a hail storm and wind and change or eliminate my garden in a moment making me realize God is still sovereign and mighty and I’m just a bit player on the stage of life and time. This shouldn’t make me feel depressed or inferior. My ego shouldn’t suffer; I shouldn’t lose any sleep due to unwarranted worry. He is God and He’s still on the throne and all of men’s creative outbursts are subservient to His sovereign rule. I will let Him be God. I won’t crawl on my belly in the dirt but I will stand amazed at His power and grace and it’s by that grace and mercy that I can stand. I need to thank Him and I will stand directly, totally in awe—awe reserved only for Him.

Thank you Lord, that you are God. Thank you Lord, that we are not God. I trust your sovereign rule. I’m amazed and in awe and I thank you. Amen

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Early Morning on the Prairie

The prairie is usually windy but at sunrise this morning it’s dead still. It’s spring time in agricultural country. Sometimes in the early morning the prairie tranquility is broken by the drone of the yellow bi-plane crop duster working on the Voelz brothers’ farm; he has come this morning. He swoops low at break-neck speed, rising above the lake bottom trees, seeming to miss them only by a few feet. The bright yellow plane sparkles in the morning sun; a bright contrast to the dark green fields and beautiful blue sky.

The spray hangs over the field as a man made mist. It doesn’t hang long but settles on the sugar beet field to do its work so I can have sugar in my coffee. (Why did I say that, I hardly drink coffee much less with sugar?) It’s for you to have sugar in your coffee, for latte schmatty, whatever.

After the plane leaves the area, the quietness returns. Geese honk at the pond; meadow larks share their beautiful call, red wing blackbirds proudly whistle their distinctive song; blue jays jostle and play at the bird feeders; pheasants call back and forth to one another; a deer comes out from Judit’s grove to drink at our pond. Morning Doves coo, sounding far away yet I see them in the black walnut tree on the east side of the garden.

As I sit here, Judi has a vase of flowers on the table with lilacs, Columbine, and fern peony blossoms; they are more beautiful than anything man could create. I realize I am blessed. May I never forget it; may I never take it for granted.

Isaiah 42:5-9 - This is what God the Lord says-- he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: "I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. "I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols. See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you."

The Lord is good. Amen

Saturday, May 19, 2007

On Being Well-Fed Sheep And Loving It or Laying by the Feed Bunk and Loving It

In the 21st Chapter of John, Peter is reinstated by Jesus. Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."

In the United States today, we as Christians are well fed sheep. I mean in the spiritual sense (in the physical sense also). We have freedom of religion, abundance of scriptures, Christian radio, books; satellite TV with “Christian” channels, lots of impressive church buildings with impressive “programs”. Yes, we are well fed and we like it that way.

When animals (sheep, cows, hogs) are “well fed” they lay down. Remember “contented cows make contented milk” an old Kemps Dairy ad on TV? Well, fed sheep lay down. Yes, we’ve laid down by the bunk…and we are not going to be moved. We like hanging around the bunk. It’s warm-fuzzy and familiar. It’s safe.

There are two types of sheep—breeding stock and feeders. Breeding stock’s purpose is to multiply, produce more sheep. Feeders are short-lived; their only purpose is to be slaughtered for meat. Breeding stock are around longer (more years) thus they are sheared of their wool and they eventually are sent to slaughter also, laying down their lives for us so we have warm clothes and meat to eat.

What kind of sheep are you? Breeding stock? Have you multiplied your self spiritually? Have you been willingly sheared for the benefit of others? Do you give of yourself, your time, effort, money so others can benefit? Or are you a feeder lamb whose only purpose is to be slaughtered for meat? Are you willing to lay down your life for a friend?

What kind of sheep are you? Well-fed sheep? Are you lying contented by the bunk, well fed, and satisfied while the world goes to hell? We belch and doze and it doesn’t matter to us because we’re well fed sheep and we like it that way.

Mount up with the Holy Spirit; become an attack lamb pack. Put on sheep’s armor and attack the gates of hell. Well fed contented sheep or Holy Spirit inspired, Godly armor protected attack lamb pack? Rise up oh men of God. Go to work. Live life to its fullest. Love Jesus and live vibrant, expectant lives for God’s glory.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

On Being Still

The phone rings, the e-mails need to be read, people come through the office door with problems. The world is busy; we rush head-long into another busy, fearful day.
Luke 1:74 in the New Living Translation says: "We have been rescued from our enemies, so we can serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness forever." Luke 1:74 - "to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear" (NIV). Our days are fractured into a number of time sensitive incidents that need attention now. Oh, for tyranny of the urgent.

The Lord tells us to be still. Ps 37:7 – “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” I don’t think we’re very good at it, being still that is. I hear little, if any, talk about meditating on the Lord-being still before Him. Are we afraid to be quiet? Why do we need background “noise” (radio, TV, music) to occupy our mind? How long has it been since you just listened to the Lord; not prayed, not worried, did not become antsy, just waited and listened, became still…still before Him?

It says in Ps 46:10: "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Ask the Lord to visit you, pray for spiritual protection (John 17:15 – “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.”) and wait and listen; just listen…Be still and know…Be still and know…

Friday, May 11, 2007

How are we using our imagination?

Crawford Gribben, writer and university teacher in the UK, has written an article on a lesson to be learned from the Virginia Tech tragedy. In it he writes: “It’s not fashionable to lament the slow death of the Western imagination but there can be little doubt that the death of our collective imagination, and our collective preoccupation with scenes of violence and death has lead to repeated incidents of enacted violence. Our collective imagination is the key to our social future—what we choose to fill our minds with is a real indication of what our societies will choose to become."

Luke 6:45 - The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

Romans 8:6 - The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;

Collective imagination - do we use ours for good or are we just occupying space? What goes in determines what comes out. What are we putting in our mind? Do we dwell on the negative things of life?

What do we think about when there’s nothing to think about? Do you like what you found in these times? No, I’m not suggesting a “Positive Mental Attitude Rally” but I am suggesting we look for the good. Fill our minds and hearts with God’s grace, patience, tenderness, and forgiveness. In Romans 2:4 it says: “Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?” Let’s put these things in our mind; it leads us to repentance. Let’s go live our faith. Be light in the darkness. Be hope in a sea of despair. We must use our collective imagination to the Glory of God. God help us. Amen

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Some Good News

When I go to a church for the first time, it’s always interesting. During the last year, I was asked to speak at a church where I had never spoken before. Our contact with this church is through some members we know socially. This church has quite a variety of people attending; I was impressed. The pastor of the church asked if I would speak on a specific topic, “Using our spiritual gifts”, which I did.

In my sermon I said, if we are believers, we have a spiritual gift and God uses people of all ages and talents. He uses what the world would call insignificant people. One example of insignificant people is the servant girl to King Naaman’s wife; she was unnamed. She encourages Naaman to see a prophet in Samaria so he could be healed. 2 Kings 5:2-5: Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman's wife. She said to her mistress, "If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy." Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. "By all means, go," the king of Aram replied.” King Naaman listened to the servant girl and he was healed by God.

Sometimes we view the use of spiritual gifts as gifts used by only the people in the front of the church—the pastor, worship leaders, praise team, elders and deacons, board members, etc. as using their spiritual gifts. Not so. If you’re wiping the nose of a little child in the nursery, you’re being used by God. Oh, the Body may never “see” your work and dedication but God does; for just as He notices the nameless servant girl of Naaman, He notices your work and dedication. (“Whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto Me.”)

As I spoke, I noticed a woman sitting in the back off to the side; she listened intently to my sermon. As she turned her head, I could see tears in her eyes. We talked after the service; she was a first time worshipper at the church and this is what she told me. She said: “If you knew my past, God wouldn’t use me.” I reassured her that God has always used men and women “with a past” to carry His message of hope to a hurting world. Romans 3:22-24: This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

God uses flawed, sinful, cracked-pot people like us to further His kingdom. Through the blood of Christ, He forgives our sins. Psalm 103:12 says: “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” He uses humble, forgiven people to further His kingdom.

Paul wanted to know the power of Jesus resurrection (Phil. 3:10: I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death ) Do you want to know the power of Jesus’ resurrection? Has your life been transformed by the power of Christ’s resurrection? Yes, God uses forgiven, transformed, insignificant people (insignificant in the world’s eyes) to further His kingdom. Hold up your head. Move forward. Put on your armor (Eph. 6). Go to battle. You are a child of The King not a king. THE King, Lord God Almighty.