Saturday, July 28, 2007

Can you blow the water out of a spoon?

Theologian R. C. Sproul says there are two parts to the holiness of God—His “set apartness” (He is not like us and we are not like Him—we are set apart) and His moral purity. We have a tendency to dwell on His moral purity rather than dwell on His “set apartness.”

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

A Wanna-be Preacher (Also known as a lay pastor)

Inside of two weeks, at two different social functions, I was introduced by former classmates as a “wanna-be-preacher.” They could have said I was a businessman as I also run a business. I wondered, “why this obvious shot at my faith and my ministry?” In both cases I said nothing (most of you will find that surprising!).

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.

How do I pick my topics?

Someone who faithfully reads the blog asked me “How do you pick your topics?” I gave this some thought. They come from my every day experiences in life. As a businessman, I’m involved daily with a number of people. It is fertile ground for “where the rubber meets the road” ideas. People today are hurting. Many are adrift without strong family ties, without community ties, without church ties, and they talk and share with me.

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

Friendly Towns/Friendly Churches

On Thursday and Friday, Judi & I had to be in Rochester, Minnesota on business. As we headed back home, we decided to stop in Waseca, Minnesota, for lunch. We lived there many years ago while I attended the University of Minnesota at Waseca. It was a joy to drive around town and see how it has changed.

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

On offering God advice

Hell or eternal torment seems like a very high price to pay for sin. On issues like this, at times of utter ignorance, we would like to offer God advice on things like His holiness and eternal punishment for sin. Oh, we might not verbalize it but the thought has crossed our mind.

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

In God We Still Trust

Our friend Warren shared this video with us recently and we thought it was worth sharing with all of you. The words are wonderful! If you click on the title, it should direct you to the video.(Hope it works--this technology stuff isn't always so easy for us old folks!!)