Friday, December 26, 2008
I like doing snow in the early morning; surprisingly, early morning street traffic is busy. By early, I mean between 5 and 6 a.m. Every morning AA meets at the Dunn Brothers Coffee Shop down the street. People who come to AA meetings are a cross section of our society. One man I notice drives a Jaguar car, dresses impeccably, he carries himself with dignity and class; an obvious success. He looks like a successful businessman.
Other mornings on the same street in the loading dock, “Mike”, the homeless guy, rummages through our dumpster to find food thrown out by Eddie’s Café. Mike is a little weird but friendly. He has been on the street by choice for over 10 years. He definitely is not a success by our world’s standards.
I ask a question: Is the homeless man a failure? I think it depends. Most of us believe that he is a failure. But, we can achieve our dreams like the man with the Jaguar (my assumption) and yet not feel fulfilled. We can have accomplishments, possess the symbols of success and yet feel unfulfilled. Dreams accomplished don’t necessarily bring contentment and fulfillment. (Notice: The well dressed man driving the Jaguar is going to an Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting.) He is still searching for something but what is it?
We see the dumpster-diving Mike with his stark hollow look, his disheveled life and presence, and view it with sadness. What’s he really looking for; probably something not much different than the Jaguar driving successful businessman. We just don’t see the scavenging going on in the businessman’s life, searching for meaning in his successes and accomplishments but we very openly see Mike’s scavenging.
Where are you today in a dumpster or a Jaguar? What dreams do you have? “None” you say; you’ve accomplished it all yet you’re looking for fulfillment and hope in drugs, booze, food or whatever.
I think many of us don’t have dreams because we are bored. Ravi Zacharias once said “We know that hopes come and go and that life returns to the common and the repetitive. If that fluctuation and disappointment were only momentary, we could endure it. But life is not what we thought it would be. The problem with life, then, is not that a man ends up burrowing through garbage looking for something to fill his stomach but that no matter what we have achieved or attained in our life, we still find ourselves burrowing deep within, trying to assuage (diminish) the hungers of our soul.”
We are bored to death. We lack passion for life. We lack passion for our family, work, our faith, and our community, whatever!
Do you have a dream? We should have. I believe the more impossible the better. The secret is this—serve someone else. Jesus said in Mark 10:45: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Serving other people takes the focus off ourselves and our problems; purpose and meaning return to our life when we become Christ to others. Let’s go and serve one another. Jesus is our example.
Joel 2:28 says: "And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” Yes, we all need to dream.
Remember this, dream your dreams, but their fulfillment may not satisfy. Only a transformed Christ-centered life satisfies. Hold on to that in these perilous days.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
This week Barb, 62, lost her long battle with Parkinson’s disease. A year ago November her husband Gary died from a genetic lung disease. It’s been a tough year for the Slagter kids.
Barb was a Miller. They lived north of us; she rode the bus with us—No.6, always driven by Elgin Kurtz. My first memory of the Miller’s was when the tornado hit their place. It came out of the southwest, nicked the Freiborg place and then wiped Miller’s place off the map. It was a stormy night. When a tornado rumbles on the prairie during the night, it is extra scary; especially if you are a 7 year old girl like Barb was.
Her Dad, Otto, farmed and worked construction. He was killed in a construction accident the week before she graduated from Danube High School in the spring of 1964. She married Gary in 1965. They were a good pair, raised a good family, worked hard, and kept their noses clean. Yesterday as I sat at the funeral, I had a nagging feeling, “This isn’t fair.” God forgive me. I know You are sovereign, you do as you please and I have no problem with that. But, I must be honest, I wondered why.
I saw the procession move towards the south cemetery, thirty cars and trucks. It was a good day; she is with Jesus. Gary and Barb are back together. It was a sad day as children and grandchildren wept.
When Barb was confirmed, her class sang “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less.” We sang that as a closing hymn at her funeral. On this cold, dark blustery December morning, hope seemed hard to find. I left Danube with the words of the hymn ringing in my ears… "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus love and righteousness."
I had to go to Renville to drop off a donation at Mentorworks Too-Kinship run by Lori Dobmeier Clasemann. Lori’s a local girl, an eternal optimist in ministry to the down and outs in Renville County. The store front she works out of is unmarked. It is a conglomeration of boxes of food, clothes, and other goods. It is cold in there, not warm in the least bit. Its noon, Lori sits in the back room eating soup with a smile from ear to ear. She is a dreamer; she loves the poor and ministers to them quietly without much help from the traditional church. We like to talk about ministry more than we like to minister. She ministers rather than talking about it—she just ministers.
Across the street, Dan is the manager at Maynard’s Grocery. A relocated Nebraska corn husker, he’s built low with an open smile. He does it all and doesn’t seem to get the least bit flustered. He has the pulse of this small prairie town community. Dan loves to minister to men. Recovered drunks and drug addicts are comfortable in his presence. He’s busy most nights of the week, ministering beyond just the local community.
I had left Danube with a somewhat sad, empty feeling, only to find the hope being lived out just five miles away in downtown Renville. God’s plans are never thwarted. His message will reach His people. No, He’s not God at a distance but God with us—Immanuel. Yes, He was at Barb Slagter’s funeral and He is also in the backroom of Mentorworks with Lori and across the street with Dan, grinding meat in the grocery store.
God is with us. I need not be afraid; God is with us this Christmas—Immanuel; a light for the Gentiles and the only hope for the future. God bless you this Advent season.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
We have entered into the annual spendathon—Christmas shopping season. Yes, I have the privilege to drive all over the country, wait in line to buy cheap, Chinese junk that I really don’t need. In reality most of it will (or should) be in the dumpster in two years.
The “good news” about this is that I can put it on the credit card and according the ads bombarding my desk, I don’t have to pay the bill. Yes, I can avoid bankruptcy, settle with the credit card company for 20 cents on the dollar and preserve my somewhat damaged credit rating. Isn’t this America great? I can have my pie and eat it too.
I also see ads on TV on how to settle delinquent taxes for only a fraction of the original cost. A fifties something woman with jacked-up hair sitting next to her docile, somewhat ashamed husband, chortles, “I settled my $115,000 tax obligation for $7,500 with the help of ‘Tax Busters’.” Not a bad deal. I mean with the money I save by not paying my credit card bills and taxes, I can have a good old time this Holiday Season.
As I listen to these ads, I hear our core values being eroded away. In our culture there always seems to be an out for ridiculous, immature, irresponsible behavior. People, it’s no free lunch, the rest of us pay the bill. We pay the bill with higher prices for goods and higher taxes to ease the insurmountable deficit.
On Channel 4 News the other evening, a woman psychologist reported they are doing a land office business with people struggling with economic issues. The Doctor said, “What is sad this time is the people who have done everything right, worked hard and saved their money, are now losing it. The system has failed them.” A sobering comment in these days.
On December 10, 2008, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty said "The federal government of the United States of America is broke.” “What they are proposing to do is pay credit card debt with more credit card debt." "They are engaged in a very elaborate Ponzi scheme," said Pawlenty. "It is a house of cards and it is eventually going to collapse, I will predict to you, sooner rather than later." If this will come true, it will be sobering.
America, I hardly know you. In these days we would do well to remember the words of Scott Wesley Brown in his song, “This Little Child.” In verse two, it says in part: “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!” (Click on the Blog Title above)
Speaking of Jesus in John 1:1-5: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” Church, rise up—be the light in this dark, dark world.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Many times throughout the Advent Season we hear the encouraging words “Do not be afraid.” In numerous scriptures beyond the Advent story we also see the hopeful words in one way or another. In other parts of scripture we are told to fear God. In Proverbs 1:7 it says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”
Taking all this into consideration, is God talking out of both sides of His mouth? I think not. To fear God is to have a loving reverence for God that includes submission to this Lordship and to the commands of His word. The Lord is our King and Savior and as we stand in awe of His presence we can rejoice at the same time.
A part of us knows that God’s awesome wrath lingers in the background. This makes us uneasy waiting for the Hammer of God’s Wrath to drop. The good news for believers this Advent Season is this: “The Hammer of God’s Wrath” has already dropped. For us believers, we need not fear God’s wrath because Jesus Christ upon the cross took all of God’s wrath that should have been directed to us. Yes, Jesus took it completely, bore all the pain and suffering and in return, we get undeserved forgiveness and grace. We need not be afraid anymore. Yes, we stand in God-fearing awe and reverence when we consider what Jesus has done for us but we need not be afraid. This is the good news of the gospel.
When the God of the universe says “Do not be afraid”, we need not worry about any lingering wrath of God because Jesus paid for my sins. Can we stand in awesome fear and reverence? Yes, but we no longer need to be afraid.
Sleep well Christian, your sins are forgiven and you have been rescued from the coming wrath through Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10: "for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead--Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” And Christians remember Jesus watches over you. Be not afraid. Oh Jesus, thank you again. Amen.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
To those who stand on empty shores
And spit against the wind
And those who wait forever
For ships that don’t come in
‘Cause the things we’re calling heartaches
Hell, they’re hardly worth our time
We bitch about a dollar
When there’s those without a dimeWe (the descendents) have spread out across the country; many have their own businesses, and most are busy, involved productive citizens of America. Brad fixes telephone systems on the prairies of North Dakota; Adrienne works to preserve old buildings in Charleston, South Carolina; my cousin Andy preaches the gospel to the farmers and ranchers near Edna, Texas; Paul ministers to the street people in Corpus Christi, Texas. Nancy and Jim build houses in Jacksonville, Florida; Bobby is a college professor in Michigan. The Jacobsen brothers run their sawmill in Western Wisconsin shipping wood products all over the United States.
Dr. Ron is one of the world’s experts on turkey diseases; Steve is till the “best looking” UPS man in Forest Lake. The Folkert boys still ranch in Southwest Nebraska; David raises cattle and hay in Idaho.
The Hansen boys pour concrete in Northfield and the Twin Cities. Many farm in the Midwest, mainly Iowa and Minnesota. Gary and Laurie rise to milk cows every morning in the hill and plateau country of Western Wisconsin. Some own implement dealerships and car dealerships in Minnesota, Kansas City and Houston. We have truckers hauling everything from turkeys to furniture. We are writers, nurses, teachers, golf caddies, care givers, ministers, lumber yard owners, and librarians and some of us are still dreamers.
Yes, in just 2 to 3 generations our “ship has come in”. We need not spit into the wind. Through it all, hard work, tears, fears, tornados, floods, fires, blizzards and heartbreak, God has blessed us. My prayer this Thanksgiving Day is that we would not forget the Lord’s provision, protection and good mercy that He has shown to
Read the words of Deuteronomy 8: “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today." (Deuteronomy 8:10-14, 17-18) Thank the Lord for life and breath and everything else (Acts 17:25).
May these descendents of the “Big Hands People” live with hope and face the future with expectation. Come quickly Lord Jesus; Come. God bless your Thanksgiving Day.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
We in the church in these times have become “limerick laden”. We don’t want worship to be too demanding. We don’t want doctrine that challenges us. We want “our kind of music.” The preaching must assure not challenge. We want preaching that affords a sense of serenity. We want our services to be serious but not too much because we don’t want to come off as Christian sticks in the mud.
We want Christianity to be reduced to a simple formula. We want the five easy steps to victorious Christian living; meanwhile our children are asking who am I? Why am I here and where am I going? We remain distracted practicing false intellectualism, pondering how many angels dance on a pin head and all the while our children are leaving the church searching for people in the world with the “real answers”. How sad.
I’ve seen a change occurring in the last month, people are telling me they want to be challenged, and yes, even offended by Truth, if need be. Pastors love Christian limericks also but people want to hear the truth of Christ and they want to be pointed toward the vision of a Christ-ruled world and future. We, the Pastors (or Shepherds) have failed our people. They want spiritual food not spiritual limericks. We have not carried out Christ’s command to “feed my sheep”. It’s time we quit being inoffensive, clever and politically correct and do some serious sheep feeding. The following limerick summarizes Limerick Laden Christianity best.
There were three little birds in a wood
Who always sang hymns when they could
What the words were about
They could never make out
But they felt it was doing them good.
Will this limerick-level faith and discipleship be adequate in these days?
I think not. God help us.
Politically Incorrect Verse of the Week:
Romans 16:18: "For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people."
Saturday, November 15, 2008
An excerpt from Bill Keller’s Daily Devotional – November 14, 2008:
“It is too bad that those who oppose God are busy in the marketplace boldly declaring their opposition to God. In the meantime, those who love the Lord are out of sight, silent, not even in the game. If there is one thing that frustrates me to the point I want to scream, it is the passiveness, the lack of boldness, the lack of courage, the gutlessness of most Christians who are too afraid go into the public square and compete with the agents of satan for the hearts, minds, and souls of men! It is no wonder why we are losing souls each and every day. We don't go out and fight for them! We know we're saved and really could care very little about those who are not. GOD WILL HOLD US ACCOUNTABLE FOR OUR APATHY TOWARDS THE LOST!!!”
Thursday, November 13, 2008
As God’s plan plays out, how are we American Christians finishing the race? Jesus tells the Parable of the Ten Virgins (us, the Church) waiting for the Bridegroom (Christ) to return. (Matthew 25:1-5: “Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.”
In their waiting they begin to slumber and become drowsy then fall asleep. Notice the order. We “slumber” (lose focus, become disoriented, lack drive or vision) than we fall asleep (loss of consciousness). Are we like the virgins slumbering away our life? We need to finish well. Two people who finished well were Simeon and the Prophetess Anna. (Luke 2: 25-26, 36-38: “Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”
They both waited for the Messiah with expectation. They waited for the long expectant Jesus. We should wait with expectation for the second coming of Christ. When we live with expectation we are alert, looking ahead with anticipation for what is to come.
We have a choice in this life. Live out the rest of our days in a fog, probably even living in fear. Or we can live out the rest of our life being alert, anticipating what’s coming, living with excitement and expectation.
Dear Christian, let’s finish well. Why lead a boring life when we can wait for Christ’s return with hope, excitement and anticipation. Finish well; we are late into the fourth quarter.
New weekly feature to make us think and/or discuss;
Thursday, November 06, 2008
King Asa of Judah (his story is told in II Chronicles 15 and 16) is blessed by God. He eagerly seeks God and God delivers and intervenes for the Nation of Judah. Then they have a period of peace (possibly 20 years) and the story is picked up in Chapter 16 when King Baashi of Israel begins to make a problem. King Asa then does something remarkably sad; he bribes a foreign king (King Aram of Syria) to break an allegiance with Asa’s enemy, King Baashi of Israel. King Asa goes on to live a defeated, sad life. He does not finish well.
King Asa pays the bribe with money for the Lord’s treasury plus money from his own palace (II Chronicles 16). Here we have a rich, or should I say wealthy king, leading a passionless life, possibly distracted by all of his stuff who sins against the Lord by bribing the King of Aram. I wondered why the change of character. King Asa definitely lost his passion for the Lord. I wondered why did he bribe the King of Aram? Because he could! Yes, the passionless, fat and happy king who has been living in peace pays a bribe because he can.
King Asa would fit right in with us today. In a time of peace, we lose our edge. I have no problem with wealth; praise God for it. But when we have wealth in the hands of a king who is passionless and distracted, we get into major-league trouble.
We bribe people also; we just don’t call it that. No, we form Political Action Committees, hire a lobbyist and make our own $200 donation to the political party of our choice expecting to be heard. We think God doesn’t see our bribery tainted dirty hands but God does see them just like He saw King Asa’s hands.
During this election cycle, billions of dollars were spent to influence us; a very sophisticated bribe. We slap each other on the back during this madness and say, “This is just the way it is.” How sad. We, as Christians, are to be agents of change but being the fat and happy passionless, distracted people we are, we slumber with a smile on our face while our country and culture hurtle towards Hell.
Christians wake up!! We live in perilous and historic times.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
In Matthew 18:1-4 Jesus overheard his disciples discussing who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of God. He then provides an illustration bringing a little child into their midst to teach them (and us) a lesson. (“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:1-4)
Do you live your life in childish competition with other people or in childlike dependence upon God? We like the disciples are competitive. Competition moves us forward; in many ways it is good but competition run amuck is childish. We have all seen the screaming child clutching a toy through tears and anguish screaming “mine”. When these children do this we consider them childish and honestly repulsive.
C. S. Lewis said the sure sign that we have pride is when we so readily see it in others (like this little child). Yet we as adults, and may I say Christian adults, seldom recognize it or address it in our own lives.
We can judge and smirk at the first century disciples arguing over who would be first in the kingdom. “How immature they are” we say. Yet we act and live in such a way to attract attention to ourselves rather than to the Lord who saved us. We put much effort in being good. Being good so the world will notice how upstanding we are when in reality we come off as arrogant, prideful and distant.
We live in perilous times. Financial crisis continue to loom on the horizon like a hungry wolf; in our gut we know change is coming. Our politicians in this election cycle scream for change; change is proclaimed everywhere. But I think it is all bunk; it will be more of the same.
Jesus said in Matthew 18:2 in part…"unless you change (be converted) and become like little children, (not childish but possess a childlike faith, with no agenda, fully trusting in the Lord) you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Buckle up, Christian—perilous times mean change; politicians promote change. But the change Jesus talks about to Christians is this: it’s time to be humble. Yes, humble; humble enough to accept God’s free Gift of Salvation. We must “change and become”. Who are we to put our puny fist in the face of God and question His sovereignty or power? We should be on our knees asking for forgiveness. Amen
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Exodus 18:14-21: “When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, "What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?" Moses answered him, "Because the people come to me to seek God's will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God's decrees and laws." Moses' father-in-law replied, "What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people's representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform. But select capable men from all the people--men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain--and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.”
The campaign material arriving at our house tells me what the politicians will do for me. If I cover up the politician’s name and party, the rest of the campaign material would be pretty much the same. If I believe it all, no one will increase my taxes, all of them are strong against terrorism and they all believe in the need to reform health care. All of us want a healthy economy; all of them support the troops. Politicians at one time had promised “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage” (if it has not been foreclosed upon), to court our support and/or vote.
Is this how we should pick our leaders? By what is in it for me? Should I vote just to protect my tail and my pocketbook?
Jethro was Moses’ father-in-law. I respect Jethro because he saw that his son-in-law (Moses) was overburdened. He offered advice with God given grace and God saw fit to preserve his word for us today. What is the standard we should use? See verse 21, Jethro lays down three qualities for the judges Moses should appoint. I believe they should be our standard also.
- vs. 21 – They must be “capable”. What experience do they have? What is their record of leadership? Are they fit for the office they are seeking?
- vs. 21 – They must be “men who fear God.” This should always be a question of someone seeking our vote—“Do you fear God?” This would shake up the apple cart at any debate or candidate forum. Would it not reveal a lot about the candidate seeking our vote?
- vs. 21 – They must be “men who are trustworthy and hate dishonest gain.” Are you (the candidate) in this to line your pockets or to serve us, the people. Where is your heart?
If we use Jethro’s standard, I think it would clear the fog and flotsam that surrounds our politics today.
“Now more than ever the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature.” James Garfield, 20th U.S. President
O Lord, we need truth and clarity. Guide us in the choices we make. Amen.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Last week (and I’m sure this week) people in the Twin Cities were on edge. People are ill tempered and smart mouthed. Minor issues become major. I wonder what we’d really be like if we were hungry. I believe we, as a society, would come unglued.
One person has a solution for all of this. “Get rid of those greedy bastards in Washington, D.C.” he said. I wonder if we did get rid of “everyone” in Washington, D.C., what guarantee do we have that we’d get anyone any different from the previous governing officials. “All those greedy bastards” come from every state and congressional district across the land. I don’t think the replacements would be any different. Call me pessimistic but the people here in good old Minnesota don’t keep their word either.
What America needs is not “new politicians” or even the “old politicians”, what America needs is spiritual transformation.
I looked back through my blogs and yes, I’ve talked numerous times about this. I bet you think I’m beating a dead horse. I may be but in light of the everyday, frontline problems in Minneapolis and Olivia, spiritual transformation is our only hope.
The call for spiritual transformation may fall on deaf ears, like before. A young man said “before that will happen, Jerry, America may need to be hungry and naked in the street.” It may be, sad to say.
I am concerned for what we’ll face. I am excited as I wait for the Lord’s moving, which will come. Meanwhile, to us believers—repent, fast and pray and share the Good News of Jesus. By God’s choosing people will come out of the Dominion of Darkness into the Kingdom of Light. Colossians 1:10-17: “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, For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
This is good news. Come quickly, Lord Jesus, come.
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Early this morning I couldn’t sleep so I was reading in the book of Joel. I noticed some old notes I had written in the margin of the Second Chapter. The note said: “to God’s people…what to do in the time of trouble… Joel 2:15-17:
"Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the temple porch and the altar. Let them say, "Spare your people, O Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?'"
It tells us:
- Blast the trumpet – do not be quiet about the reality of the matter at hand; get the people’s attention.
- Declare a Holy fast – Fast for Spiritual purposes not health reasons
- Call a sacred assembly—come together across denomination lines for a serious look at our sin and our nations sin
- Gather the people – ask them to come; “work the crowd”; be pro active
- Consecrate the assembly – prayer before, during, after and forever
- Bring together the elders – listen to the wisdom of the elderly; encourage them to come to church; to the church elders—lead
- Gather the children, even those nursing at the breast. Teach the younger generation that God still reigns and we need to submit to His Sovereign power and authority
- Bridegroom and bride leave their chamber – Interrupt the honeymoon; refrain from sex
- “Let the priest minister before the Lord” – Do it; quit talking about it!
- “Weep” between the temple porch and altar” -- Let’s get serious about the reality of “our” sin and quit pointing our finger at other people. Ask for forgiveness and restoration.
- What should we say to the Lord? Spare us – we’re in trouble; Save us – save us not because we’re “good” in and of ourselves, but save us for your own glory, Lord, so the nations will know you are God!
- Then the world will know – without a doubt You are God. Amen
Lord, save us because you are our only hope, the only sovereign, mighty, holy God. May our nation tremble before you; may the world know this truth. Quiet your mockers (Jeremiah 10:24-25: “Correct me, Lord, but only with justice-- not in your anger, lest you reduce me to nothing. Pour out your wrath on the nations that do not acknowledge you, on the peoples who do not call on your name. For they have devoured Jacob; they have devoured him completely and destroyed his homeland.”) Correct us Lord, but only with justice not in your anger lest you reduce us to nothing. Pour out your wrath on the nations that do not acknowledge you… We stand in your presence Lord, not on any merit of our own. We stand alone on the shed blood of your one and only son, Jesus Christ. Thank you Heavenly Father, thank you Jesus. Come Holy Spirit. Forgive us, save our nation. Amen.
Or is all of this to “old fashioned” for us “modern men”?
Friday, October 03, 2008
As the teacher studied the older man, she realized that she had met him before; he had been in her school as a substitute teacher. The teacher introduced herself and was surprised when the older man said he remembered her. She apologized for not remembering his name; his name is Paul.
Paul told the teacher, “I bet you wonder what I do when I walk on the treadmill.” The teacher said she did and Paul proceeded to tell her. “These note cards are my prayer cards. I have people’s names on these cards and I pray for these people when I walk on the treadmill. I have your name right here.” Yes, the old prayer warrior had been praying for her by name since the first day they met at school. The old prayer warrior said, “I bet you think I’m weird.” The teacher replied, “No, I think it’s cool. Thank you. Yes really, thank you.” “You see” she continued, “we had a neighbor named Myrtle who was a prayer warrior and prayed for all the neighbor kids every day. When Myrtle walked, she would pray for the people in each house on the street as she passed by. If you waved to Myrtle when she was walking, she seldom waved back because when was so engrossed in prayer.”
“Look” said the older man, “I’ve worn out these note cards.” The teacher looked at the cards and they were tattered and worn. He said to her, “This is my second set. I left the first set in the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.” He went on to explain that he and his wife went on a trip to the Holy Land and he took his first set of prayer cards along and left them in the Wailing Wall. It is tradition to leave prayer requests in the cracks in the Wailing Wall. He said the requests are picked up and they are buried in the Garden of Gethsemane. This left a lasting impression on the young school teacher.
Jesus prayed this in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before He was crucified. John 17:13-23 - "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, (this is us today) that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
The older man told the teacher that he hadn’t realized the power of prayer until a few years ago after his mother died. She was a prayer warrior and she used note cards to keep track of the people for whom she was praying. The older man said he wanted to carry on his Mom’s tradition. He now realizes how his faith has grown as he sees the reality of prayer and the reality of Christ.
What a blessing to be blessed by a man such as this. What an example has been set by his mother and now him. You see, that young teacher is our daughter Katie. Katie’s first prayer warrior was our Cokato neighbor, Myrtle Breitholtz. Isn’t God good? Isn’t God great? Let this be an encouragement and challenge to all of us.
Pray on, Christian; pray on. Amen
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Is not Washington, D.C. a reflection of our culture? Charles Colson, in his book “Who Speaks for God?” says, “Yet politicians of both parties continue to promise—and to electorate continues to expect—political solutions to all our ills. We go through the same cycle every election year. Why?” Jacques Ellul, the eminent French historian, answered the question in his book “The Political Illusion.” Ellul theorized that modern man increasingly turns to the state for answers to his problems—even though the state cannot solve them. Politicians perpetuate the myth that it can since the illusion perpetuates their power; the media willingly collaborates since their coverage of government fuels their own power—and profits—as well.”
“The result, Ellul wrote, is a ‘boundless growth’ of the state, with an insatiable appetite for power. We Christians, of all people should see through the political illusion. We should understand that the real problems of our society are, at their root, moral and spiritual. Institutions and politicians are limited in what they can do.”
“Certainly that is so in the criminal justice field. Crime is the result of wrong moral choices. Laws are needed to restrain evil, but penal institutions can’t deal with the ultimate problem: the human heart. That’s why the gospel of Christ is the only real answer.”
If Ellul is correct, and I believe he is, who is responsible to take the gospel message to our nation? We are—the church—we the church, believers, disciples—we have not done our job. We hide out as our country goes to hell. We are quick to point the finger at Washington, D.C., when in reality we are the problem.
Listen to the words of Isaiah…"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. "If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves (my comment: God wants our heart not our money) in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” (Isaiah 58:6-12)
We talk a lot and very seldom do anything about it. Jesus told us to go and make disciples. We pushed our responsibility off on the government and we sit and complain when we should have been doing the work. Remember we are to fear God and Honor the King (I Peter 2:13-17 – “Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.”)
If we fear God, we will obey. I ask “why have we sat and complained when we are, with God’s help, to go and make disciples?”
Thursday, September 18, 2008
In the midst of Chapter 12 we find the parable about the barn building rich fool. In thinking about this parable, we contemplate about greed, abundance, retirement and we ask if we’re living a self-centered life or a Christ-centered life.
Often we slide over verse thirteen: “Teacher, tell my brother”. Here in an instant we see man’s tendency to avoid personal application of Christ’s teaching to ourselves. It is his brother that he thinks about, not himself at all. The man has a disagreement with his brother concerning the disposal of an inheritance. The man is in the presence of Christ and all he is thinking about is his brother’s unfairness or perceived unfairness. The last thing a man thinks of is applying Christ’s truth to himself.
Do we listen to God’s word and the first thing we think of is this, “Boy, Bubba sure should hear this.” Yes, Bubba needs truth applied in his life also but all the while the “issue” is eating a hole in our gut. It distracts and blinds us from Christ’s message when we are consumed with our “worldly cares”. We listen to Christ all the time thinking of our “inheritance problems”.
We are distracted by the “worldly cares” and make pronouncements that Bubba better get his life in order while all the while we are consumed with me, myself, and I. These issues, whatever they are, tend to become absorbing and engrossing. It blinds us from Godly insight and truth. The message of Christ gets lost in the shuffle. We fail to make application in our own life and we become less because of that, and sin continues unchecked in our life.
May I make application to my life, not my brothers. Let the Holy Spirit do its work in both our lives. May we forget about self-righteous pronouncements against our brother.
Jesus doesn’t take the bait. Jesus is the Messiah not some earthly judge working out inheritance squabbles. Jesus tells them in verse 15: “Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions’." We need to be on our guard against all sin, especially those which apply to us. On second thought, they all apply to us. Let the Holy Spirit deal with my brother.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Early this cool September morning I read these words of Isaiah. One question haunts me: “Which of you will listen to this or pay close attention in time to come?” I asked myself am I paying attention to the times?
Have you wondered like I did last weekend? We have four professing Christians running for the Presidency and all of them campaigned on Sunday? Are we paying attention? We heard a lot about country first—really? I thought God and family were somewhere in the mix.
Nancy Pelosi, professing Christian, Speaker of the House and very part-time theologian says that theologians haven’t a clear understanding of when life begins—really? It has been the Church’s position since the beginning that life begins at conception. Listen to Psalm 139:13-16: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Have we forgotten this? Listen to the word of the Lord from Jeremiah 1:4-5: “The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."
We pontificate on this issue of life. Some of us may feel the answers to these questions “are above our pay grade” but let the Lord speak through His word or has God’s word become outdated? Yes, we’ve heard and seen many things, and we have paid no attention and we act as if we have heard nothing. Few Christians stand up to defend the sanctity of life. Be reminded, we will all answer for our actions.
I was with a group of younger people who were discussing the election. One said McCain is old and stiff. Today in our culture, old people are marginalized. We haven’t learned from the past. Yes, he is old and stiff. Why stiff? Many of the younger generation have not heard of his time of service and his confinement as a POW. You’d be stiff too if you were tortured in a North Vietnamese prison camp for 5 ½ years. Don’t bother me with his life story. Have you not heard or seen?
We pay no attention as our nation is plundered. T. Boone Pickens is right, our unlimited appetite for oil is resulting in the largest transfer of wealth to the oil rich countries. T. Boone has a vested interest, he owns natural gas wind and oil technology and resources. And if we don’t change, it will not be T. Boone Pickens but “Slim Pickins’” for all of us.
The Chinese are buying up our debt at an alarming rate with what? With money we’ve given them to buy more cheap inferior products to pile into our over crowded houses. Is anyone noticing or listening?
I just got back from a business trip to Redwood Falls. I ran into a friend who said “no matter who we elect, it won’t change anything.” Pessimistic yes, but it may be closer to the truth than I want to think. We are, in many ways, a wicked nation and God’s judgment may be in the works.
We live in a system where we can participate. We need to participate and pray. God is still on the throne. We do not need a Messiah-like President or a Messiah-like Vice President be it Obama or Palin. What America needs is the Savior, Jesus Christ. Christians wake up, stand for truth, be alert and aware.
“Which of you will listen to this or pay close attention in the time to come?" (Isaiah 42:23). God help us.
Friday, September 05, 2008
In our litigious society, we need to document everything we do. We document meetings in detail not only for our recall but also the notes are handy if a disagreement comes up.
I was out of the office last week. I returned Tuesday morning to find a pile of paperwork and messages on my desk. One note asked me why I hadn’t gotten back to a tenant regarding a lease renewal proposal. When I checked my notes in the file, they confirmed what I had recollected, that I was waiting for their response. My business partner, who is in his 40’s, who took the message said they clearly implied I had dropped the ball and they were upset.
I made a phone call to them Tuesday morning (of course I got voicemail—does anyone answer their phones anymore?). I told them that my notes said I was to wait until they got back to me regarding their carpet choice. Later in the day, I received a call from two other doctors in the group agreeing with my recollection of the meeting. (This was a breath of fresh air—support not denial of what happened.)
My generation is a generation of rebels. Just check out the sixties. The anti-war, sex loving, drug loving culture brought drastic changes to our culture and society. We threw off the shackles of the Christian faith. I want to do everything my way; don’t restrict me or ask me to conform to a predetermined set of societal rules. Throw it all out the window, the commandments included. As a result, we have suffered as a society.
The church struggled with these rebels. Many walked away from the church. Some friends of mine who grew up in the church have left and they are not coming back. God was gracious to me; I didn’t grow up in the church but he gave me a Christian wife and the Lord changed my heart and called me to Himself. Oh, am I blessed.
As I preach in different places, I don’t see that many baby boomers in the pews. Yes, they left and (it seems) no one could care less.
Yes, we want it our way, we may have full bellies and hopefully, a comfortable retirement but many in my generation have lonely, empty hearts. If you know of a baby boomer who doesn’t know the Lord, befriend them and pray for them. Many have tried everything and found the joys of the world lacking. It doesn’t fulfill, only Jesus does.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
While raising their family, they have been foster parents to over 200 children; children from every walk of life. They fit in, but it was not without its problems. This couple with their extended family developed an honest, straightforward approach to life. It is a joy to watch this group in action. Work was accomplished, discipline handed out, all covered with prayer and a sense of humor, genuine humility and love.
Carol wanted the summer off, a vacation of sorts from the continual demands that are placed on her life when you are a Mom. She wanted a break from the foster children just for the summer. As we age, the reservoir for strength for the battle doesn’t refill itself as fast as it did in our younger days. Carol had visions of coffee with friends and family; she looked forward to days she could stay in her nightgown until 1:00 p.m. (or later) if she wanted and just doing things without having a group of little ones underfoot.
Carol was two hours into her long awaited summer vacation when the phone rang. Three young children needed a home; no one else would take them. You know what’s coming—Carol accepted them. Carol’s summer vacation has turned into another summer of work, meetings, doctors’ appointments and driving many miles for parental visitation. Carol said it’s the constant demands placed upon her that drain her physical and mental reservoirs.
Carol complained to friends in her small group at church. Their friend Arnie, a retired dairy farmer who lost his wife about 15 years ago, reminded her that there are many people who live alone and wish someone would be around to “bother” them. Carol felt guilty.
A life of service to the Lord is a busy life. Ralph and Carol see their work as foster parents as a ministry. This ministry has been tiring, frustrating and draining but it is has also been rewarding.
Serving the Lord in such a way brings about attention from Satan and his demon buddies. Jesus tells us in John 10:10a: “The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” That is Satan’s goal—to kill, steal and destroy. The life of a foster parent is front-line trench warfare against sin and Satan and his buddies. Carol and Ralph know this—they are not rookie soldiers wandering through life with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. They know the purpose of the battle is the salvation of people’s souls. Remember the rest of John 10:10 where Jesus says: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
They are called to minister and they minister unselfishly. If they read this, they will be uncomfortable; uncomfortable because foster parenting is what they do—it’s no big thing. But they must do this, not everyone can do it. God has chosen them to do foster parenting; God has provided and protected them. May the Lord be praised.
So Carol’s summer vacation only lasted two hours. She looks forward to time off but I doubt it will ever happen in this life; she knows that. Thank you Lord, for people willing to sacrifice themselves for others and for Your glory. Thank you Carol and Ralph for your Godly example; a life of service well lived. Remember what Jesus says in John 10:11: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Thank you Jesus, for loving all of us wayward sheep. Amen.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
The real news out here is lived out in the lives of everyday people. Little victories, great victories and at the same time sadness is mingled with joy. Caroline Sandell Berg in her hymn “Day by Day” says in part: (The Lord)“Gives unto each day what He deems best, lovingly its part of pain and pleasure, mingling toil with peace and rest.”
I marvel at the common men and women who struggle each day. They struggle to make ends meet, carry out their appointed role as farmer, business person, parent, spouse, child, caregiver, and fellow Christian walking beside us on this earthly journey.
This last week I have been inspired by these people. A businessman and farmer, battling with cancer, loses his best friend and business partner unexpectedly; a shock and surprise to all. In his sorrow he said “I should have been the one who died. I mean people are expecting me to die of cancer but not Bob.” As a survivor, he wanted to give up, sell the business and move on. When I asked him what he would do, he said “Nothing” and then added, “and I would be dead in two years.” As we talked, I suggested he not make any decisions when he is grieving. He agreed that he will go on but through tears he said “Damn, Jerry, it hurts.” Yes, it hurts.
Listen to the words of Psalm 46:1-7: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Also read the words to the hymn “A Mighty Fortress is our God”. Be encouraged; God is still on the throne.
Last week I met a couple whose farm was hit by a storm. Their farmstead plus fields were hit. The TV cameras didn’t make it to their place; they weren’t asked and they wouldn’t want or expect the attention. Third generation immigrants wrangling out a good but hard life on the prairies of Western Minnesota, they have been through this before. The financial uncertainty, finding the physical will to clean up and keep going is tiring and discouraging. They wonder what God is trying to tell them. Job 37:11-13 says, “He loads the clouds with moisture; he scatters his lightning through them. At his direction they swirl around over the face of the whole earth to do whatever he commands them. He brings the clouds to punish men, or to water his earth and show his love.” Through a face streaked with tears, eyes red from crying, the tears flowed and we talked. We held each other in our arms and prayed and cried. We may struggle and get discouraged but God is still on His throne. He loves us and has a merciful heart. Come to Jesus and live.
What can we do? Listen, hope, pray, encourage, and endure. At times I too wonder what God is doing. Not in my life but in the lives of these dear people. I have met more and more people struggling with loss and loss of hope. They tell me no one seems to care. Last night I read parts of the gospels; Jesus was out among them (the hurting people of the world). We must be out among them. We must minister where we are planted. Go out and be among the hurting people. These people need help; not necessarily financial help but some one to listen without judgment or as one lady said, “not with smiling faces that mean nothing and washing over everything with warm fuzzy words that don’t satisfy.” We need to know God’s Word and lead them to God’s Word for Jesus was called The Word. And through the Word and the work of the Holy Spirit Jesus will console, encourage, restore, guide and heal. Keep your head. Time marches on and one day, sweet people, you will rest in peace.
Oh Mighty Heavenly Father, heal, encourage, restore, grant peace and rest to your tired and weary saints. You alone are our hope. Thank you for the cross; the work is already done. Thank you sweet Jesus; stay with us and guide us Holy Spirit. Amen
Friday, August 15, 2008
In verse 11, it says “So the Lord…” So the Lord set a plan in motion to bring Manasseh back to Him. Having an army come against you, getting a hook put in your nose, being led off captive to a Babylonian jail doesn’t seem like a positive experience. God never intended it to be a positive experience. He intended it to be the beginning of a process to bring Manasseh back to the Lord.
I spoke on this recently. A woman spoke to me after the service and told me this, “I have been angry with God for things He brought into my life, but now I realize these things were the very things that drove me to my knees and brought me to the Lord.”
We need to be careful when we call certain things in our lives a blessing or a curse. What is often called a blessing can be a curse. We need to be careful for what we ask.
The trial you and I are in right now may be painful and unpleasant. We can’t see the future but a loving God will do what He must to bring us back to Him. Remember, God disciplines, those He loves.
Be careful when we have the desire to play mini-god. When we do, we attempt to assume God’s role in our life and the life of others. It is dangerous ground; stay away from doing it. Offer advice with wisdom. Encourage, forgive and love our fellowman but forget about being a mini-god making pronouncements we were never intended to make.
Manasseh finds himself in prison. It says in verse 12 “In his distress.” In his distress he seeks out the Lord, humbles himself, and prays to God and guess what? God was moved! Yes, the mass murderer, two-time baby killer, star worshipping heathen finds that the Lord’s heart was moved. Manasseh finds mercy. So will we if we but seek God, humble ourselves, and pray. The Lord is merciful and good…There is no need for us to play mini-god.
Friday, August 08, 2008
In the meantime, we the church, sit huddled in our individual stained glass windowed museums. We are comfortable here, slapping each other on the back, glad we’re saved, but lacking any serious motivation to take the message of Christ to our hurting, searching world.
The reality is, we’re saved (happy for me) but not glad enough to get off our duffs and go to the streets, country lanes, bars, schools, and offices. No, we sit and enjoy our good fortunes (our million-dollar church bank accounts) while around us, our neighbors go to hell…and we sit unmoved.
Do you want a test to measure the impact of your church upon your community? Ask the sheriff, the police chief, the school superintendent and county welfare office administrator this question: If (fill in the blank) Church were to close it’s doors, would that have any impact upon our community or would our church’s ministry be missed in the community? How will they answer?
In Ezekiel 33:2-6 it says, "Son of man, speak to your countrymen and say to them: 'When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not take warning and the sword comes and takes his life, his blood will be on his own head. Since he heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning, his blood will be on his own head. If he had taken warning, he would have saved himself. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.' The church is to be the watchman on the wall.
The church in American knows the truth and we sit and give the Wayne Dyers of the world a free ride. We fail to mount any effective effort to share the message of Jesus Christ. While we sit around a belch like a bunch of over-fed cows, generations are going to hell; some of them our own flesh and blood. Yes, and concerning blood, we have their blood upon our hands and God knows it. We don’t want to see the sword coming. (Ezekiel 33:6)
God help us! May the Lord speak to our hearts. May the Lord stir us to life. May the Lord give us the courage to share the message with the hurting, searching masses of the world.
Dr. Dyer exists because the masses are searching for the truth. Dyer is effective in filling this spiritual vacuum in our culture. We have a spiritual vacuum because we sit cloistered in our sissy-fied, safe churches while the world goes to Hell.
Some people may ask why I seem so pessimistic. If I am pessimistic, it is because every day I live and work in a society that is living out the results of a Christ-less value system. The problems which I deal with on the streets of Minneapolis can become disheartening. In rural Minnesota we have time to make a difference but I must be honest, I see little, if any, effective ministry occurring. We keep looking back to the past wishing what might have been rather than having the courage to minister to the culture we have.
We must mount up and ride. We must invade the culture of the masses. The questions to ask are these:
Is my church an invading army or it is a museum to the past?
Are you a soldier of the cross or are you comfortable, admiring the stain-glass artifacts of the past?
Who am I?
Why am I here?
And where am I going?
Dear Lord, give us the courage to obey you. Amen.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Nothing slips by, nothing surprises or perplexes the Godhead. There is never any need for an Emergency Meeting or Emergency Session of the Godhead to figure out what is going on, the Godhead never ponders what they should do. The Godhead was, is and always will be.
Jesus told us that we shouldn’t lose our heads. In Matt. 24:6 He said, “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.” Today I find some Christians losing sleep trying to figure out what’s going on. What’s going on is this—the end of all things is drawing near. Don’t be alarmed “little flock” God is still on the throne. Luke 12: 32: "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom."
Be encouraged. Look at Romans 8:31. “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? (No one can be successful against us) 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (God will supply even when all seems lost) 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. (No one can make a charge stick against us in the court of heaven—no one.) 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (No one can condemn us) 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? (Not one thing, no one can separate us from the love of Christ).
It is good to be a son or daughter of the Most High God. Sleep well, Christian, sleep well.
Prayer: Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Lougheridge was waiting in a shop when he heard a talk radio program in the background. The topic was angels. People told of their experiences with angels; how they talk to them and pray to them. Lougheridge wondered why do people talk and pray to angels when they can pray and talk to the angel maker. Yes, the angel maker--God Himself.
The first chapter of Hebrews shows the superiority of Jesus Christ. God’s one and only son, who went to the cross for your sin and mine, rose victorious from the dead and sits at the right hand of God the Father, waiting to come again. Because of what Christ has done, we can bring our requests directly to the angel maker, God Himself.
Angels are created beings meant for two purposes; the first, to worship God. Hebrews 1:5-6: “For to which of the angels did God ever say, 'You are my Son; today I have become your Father'? Or again, 'I will be his Father, and he will be my Son'? And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, 'Let all God's angels worship him.'”
Philippians 2:5-11: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
The second purpose is to be a ministering spirit to us. Hebrews 1:14 says: “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”
Do we appreciate angels? Yes, God created them to minister to us and to worship Him. Their purpose is to help bring believers home to heaven; they are to do the King’s bidding. This is good news. Remember, they are angels not God.
As John Piper would say, “Remember, Jesus is sitting as the KING; angels are sent as servants.”
There is only one King; there are many servant angels. Angels are servants of God serving Christians, those who by faith are inheriting salvation. In Hebrews 6:12 it says: “We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”
Remember this—worship the King—worship the angel maker, not His angels.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
In his book, Hirsch speaks of an obscure law entitled the Law of Requisite Variety. “This law states that ‘the survival of any organism depends on its capacity to cultivate (not just tolerate) variety in its internal structure. Failure to do so results in an inability to cope successfully with ‘variety’ when it is introduced from an external source.’ The authors give us a great example as to how this law works in reality. They note that
Fish in a bowl can swim, breed, get food with minimal effort, and remain safe from predators. But as aquarium owners know, such fish are excruciatingly sensitive to even the slightest disturbances in the fishbowl. On the other hand, fish in the sea have to work much harder to sustain themselves and they are subjected to many threats. But because they cope with more variation, they are more robust when faced with a challenge.”
In my opinion, the American church is a comfortable fishbowl and the Lord is tapping on the outside of the bowl to get our attention. We are swimming around inside the fish bowl, banging into one another and becoming more and more irritable with each other. The Lord is moving but He is not moving inside the church (AKA the fishbowl). Revival is taking place in other parts of the world. One place it is not happening is the North American Church.
When Jesus left, He told us to “Go and make.” We have sat on our butts and said “come”. To "go and make" takes courage and hard work. We would rather stay in the fishbowl and “be safe”; be predictable. We may be safe and we may be predictable but as Jeremiah said Jeremiah 8:20 "The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved." We may look good but we are lost. We must leave the fishbowl and move to the ocean and be led by Christ to grab hold of life which is truly life. Which kind of fish are you, an ocean fish or a fishbowl fish?
Lord, give us the courage to obey. Give us the courage to "go and make." Take us to the back roads, to the alleys, the gutters, to the cornfields, the bars, and the schools and offices. And you Lord alone will call them unto you. May we be your humble and willing, obedient servants. Come Lord Jesus. Amen
Thursday, July 10, 2008
“The Bear” is a friend of mine in another state. He is in his 40’s, a former college football line backer and heavyweight wrestler. He carries 310+ pounds on a 6’3” frame. His name is a given.
Bear has a 13 year old daughter by his first marriage. The “cub” lives in a town 40 miles away from the Bear’s permanent den.
The family rule is no one dates until they are 16 years old. Through a series of events, the “cub” decides to test the system. After babysitting one night, she is picked up by a 16 year old boy. Her Mom finds out and calls the Bear to find out what to do. Even though he lives 40 miles away and it was 11:00 p.m., the Bear rumbles into action.
He gets out of bed, dresses and moves toward his 4-wheel drive Dodge pickup with a singleness of purpose. The “cub” and boyfriend need to be taught a lesson. What is the lesson? There is a price to pay for disobedience.
The moon is full as he races toward this small prairie town; the roads are quiet, the radio is off and the Bear plots his strategy. The only thing he hears is the whine of the engine and air flowing through his hair.
The Bear arrives and parks one block from his daughter’s home and waits. About twenty minutes later the 16 year old “boyfriend’s” jacked up, slightly beat up 4-wheel drive pickup pulls up in front of “the cub’s” house and parks. Now the Bear begins to rumble. He walks purposely down the street, pounding his size 12 feet into the pavement.
You’d think they would hear but they don’t. The first sound was the driver’s side door being ripped open by the faithful bear-sized dad on a mission. To say the least, the surprise in his “cub’s” eyes is astonishment. (The Bear said her eyes were the size of a saucer!) Bear looks at her and says in a booming voice “GET IN THE HOUSE!” Talk about moving like a rifle shot—she is gone! Bear’s 6’3” frame and the jacked up nature of the boyfriend’s pick up put Bear’s mouth at ear and face level of the vehicle’s occupant (AKA “the boyfriend”). Bear leans in, puts his face ½ inch from Bubba’s face. In no uncertain terms, he makes Bubba aware of the gravity of the situation and clearly states his purpose and intention. Bear states if he even sees this pickup within 10 blocks of this house, there will be problems. Bubba is shaking after the unexpected midnight encounter with the rumbling bear.
Bear’s “cub” (13 year old daughter) sees her dad as meddling in her life; he should be meddling. I praise God that Bear meddles in his cub’s life. You see, Bear understands God will hold him accountable for the type of dad he has been or will be. He takes his role seriously. More of us need to follow his example, taking seriously our role as parents. Rumble on, Bear; rumble on!
Friday, July 04, 2008
"Woe to me!' I cried. 'I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips and I lie among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen he King, the Lord Almighty.'
Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, 'See, this has touched your lips: your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.'
"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!"
When the prophet Isaiah comes before the one and only Holy God, he is exposed; exposed as a sinful man. In verse 5 he says: "Woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips." He is exposed for who He really is, a man of unclean lips. Encounters with a Holy God will flatten us, expose us for what we really are--sinners. Encounters with the Holy God strip us of any "spin doctored" image we have; it's a true picture and it humbles us.
Secondly, his culture is exposed. He lives in a nation of people with unclean lips. Lying in America is a way of life; let's be honest, we all do it in some form. As a culture, we lie and in many ways we could care less.
The third thing that happens in this encounter, he is transformed. This sinner exposed liar, slanderer or maybe even cursing prophet is transformed by the Holy Spirit. His guilt is taken away and his sin is atoned for. (Atoned is the process of how God and man can once again become "at one".) When we beat ourselves up with our guilt and sin, we feel we are not worthy to take Christ's message to a hurting world.
But...the Lord has other plans for us. He uses sin-forgiven, former liars, slanderers, and God cursers for His glory. And all the initiative comes from the Lord. We don't accept His guilt freeing, sin forgiving grace. He calls us. He transforms s to do what? Sit and slap each other on he back marveling at our good fortune? No, we are sent by God to share the Good News with a hurting world. The Lord asked and Isaiah answered--"send me."
Are you an "exposed" man or woman with unclean lips, living in an unclean culture who has been atoned for? If you're a believer, get ready--God is going to use you!
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Manasseh finds himself in a Babylonian prison humbled when he comes to his senses. In 2 Chronicles 33:10:13 it says: “The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God.” The Lord forgives him and restores him to a position of leadership. The Lord forgives and restores and we want to throw away the key. We sing “God’s grace is greater than all our sins;” it’s true, just learn from Manasseh’s example.
This week I met people who struggle with past sin. They sit in the pews of our churches and suffer alone. They see more of our “throw away the key” mentality than “God’s Great Grace” which covers more than all our sin.
Manasseh may have sacrificed his two sons to an imaginary god, a meaningless, non-existent god. Another sacrifice of a Son took place about 2000 years ago. It was not an imaginary god asking man to sacrifice His own Son, no, it was the one and only True God who sacrificed His one and only son so we could have all our sins forgiven and reign eternally with His risen Son, Jesus. Do we hear enough about God’s great grace? Women who have had an abortion suffer alone with a guilty conscience. God’s grace is greater than your sin. A man sits alone, sober now but alone; his ex-wife and children are bitter at the suffering incurred at his hand. He feels hopeless yet God’s grace is greater than all his sin.
Alan Fram and Erin Putman wrote an article for Associated Press entitled “Is Everything Spinning out of Control?” Summarized in part it says: “Everything seems out of control, Midwest floods, Polar Bears adrift, gas prices skyrocketing, home values crashing, air fares, college tuition, heath care border on the unaffordable.” Fram and Putman allude “You have very little power to make it change. We look for hope from our politicians but it all seems to be unraveling. Surely we know how to fix these problems, don’t we?” No, we don’t. America staggers looking for an answer. We look to Barrack Obama and John McCain for answers. They won’t come. America needs the Savior, not a politician.
Are you struggling today over sin or past sin? Lift up your eyes to Heaven and ask for forgiveness of the Lord. If you had to go to trial, would the world want to throw away the key? Jesus is willing to forgive and restore. Remember, God’s grace and forgiveness were purchased at a high price—the suffering death of His Son, Jesus. And never forget, Jesus rose from the dead victorious over sin and death. Remember, God’s grace is greater than all our sin!
Friday, June 20, 2008
Along the way this “have my way” attitude has slid into our lives. We notice it in the property management business. A recent example: temperature issues inside an office are always an issue. Eighty degrees is hot for some and for some it’s the ideal temperature. Last week we had an internal temperature issue with a small office. One woman said she was cold but the other thought the temperature was fine. We carry temperature guns which show us the temperature exactly where a person sits. The temperature read 73 degrees at this woman’s chair. She said “73 degrees means nothing to me; I’m cold.” No matter what the truth was, she was cold. I want my burger my way and you better do something about it. (I wanted to say, “How about putting on a sweater” but I thought better.)
Facts (73 degrees) mean nothing anymore. I’m cold and you better make my burger my way. We’ve lost our adaptability; we’ve lost our understanding of the concept of common good (i.e. if it’s 73 degrees and I am cold but everyone else is comfortable, I’ll put on a sweater).
We can watch any kind of TV anytime we want thanks to TIVO. We can mix and match our music; we program our list of favorites. Isn’t life great? We can have it all our way.
We like our religion our way too. The church music must be our favorite. We really want to believe what we want to believe. We want to be the ultimate authority. We want our burger “my way”.
When we make ourselves the ultimate authority, we are in deep trouble. We make ourselves god. “You shall have no other God’s before me.” Concerning these issues, we’d better be very careful. It’s ok to have our burgers our way but not our faith. The Lord He is God. We’re not. The final authority is God’s word, not what we think or want.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Depesh’s wife is a physical therapist and has a patient who lost both his legs to frostbite. He was evicted from his apartment in the dead of winter, had to sleep in his car for two nights, got frostbite and then gangrene set in. The only solution was amputation of both legs. Depesh’s wife asked the patient, “Where was your family?” He said he had family but he would not ask anyone for help since he didn’t want them to know he was homeless. They really didn’t get along so he felt no one would help anyway.
What really are the issues here? Pride—he didn’t want anyone to know he was evicted and homeless. Other issues were relationship with family plus people having hardened hearts towards one another.
Where is the love of Christ in our hearts? It says in 1 Timothy 5:7-8: "Give the people these instructions, too, so that no one may be open to blame. If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."
The first inclination in all of our “do-gooder’s” hearts is to form another non-profit to help homeless people. It hasn’t worked; it won’t work. I deal with the homeless every day; it’s not pretty. Many times the only way I can be a blessing to them is to remember that they were once someone’s little baby.
Let’s work to keep our families close and connected. Let’s forgive, let’s reconcile. “Forget it Jerry, it’s too much work,” you say. "It’s hopeless." We live in a time where we have personal trainers, good accountants, financial planners, nice homes, big bellies and empty, hardened hearts. We wince and write each other off at the slightest offense. Oh, how touchy we are. And in the meantime, our kids lose their legs from gangrene and end up going to hell for eternity all because we are proud and unforgiving.
“Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” ~ Jesus AD 30