Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Cottonwood, Minnesota. So easy to be angry…so hard to forgive

Cottonwood, Minnesota is 40 miles down the road from our farm. Until this week, a typical sleepy Western Minnesota town; a good place to live. Cottonwood got world-wide attention this week. This attention came about in a most tragic way.

A school bus accident resulted in the death of four students and sent 14 other people to the hospital. As the details of the accident came out, passions were lit up on the Western Minnesota prairie. A 23 year old, illegal immigrant woman driving without a driver’s license blew through a stop sign at fairly good speed hitting the bus, causing the accident. As of today, authorities do not know her real name and country of origin. She had broken-up with her live in boyfriend and was heading to work. The woman has been charged with four counts of vehicular homicide. It may be possible that she will serve 60 years in jail.

In light of all of this, the people of the prairie are angry. What the driver did was wrong, no doubt about it. Emilee’s mom will never take pictures of her on prom night. Reed will never get a chance to play football to the cheers of his family. Hunter and Jesse will never enjoy a sunny winter’s day ride on the snowmobiles. I cannot imagine the depth of hurt for these families. I have not walked in their shoes but people who have lost children say the hurt is long-lasting and the pain cuts deeply.

The Latino community and illegal immigrants have taken the brunt of the anger. I ask a question: “Why was she here?” She probably came for economic opportunity; the same reason most of our ancestors came to America, but she came illegally. Who’s fault is that? Hers, yet politicians in America and other Latin American countries have little, if any, urgency to even attempt to solve the illegal alien problem. And, we don’t hold them accountable. Why did she leave her home country? Possibly just because she was hungry. She was willing to risk death to eat and have a low paying, menial job…

Why does America need her labor so badly? Could our own actions be the major part of the problem? Since 1973 approximately 1 million babies a year have been aborted; from 1973 to 2008, totaling approximately 35 million children. If 25% of these 35 million replace themselves, the total then moves to 42 million people. Forty-two million lives snuffed out of our economy and they were never able to go to the prom either. We sacrificed our own flesh and blood at the altar of convenience and at the altar of preserving our own flawed reputations. We sat while we murdered a generation of our people. America, our hands in this are not clean…

Because of this accident, I heard really sad things being said on the radio; things written on the internet and in local papers. What’s happening to us? Yes, what was done was, and is, and will forever be wrong. Can we forgive her?

Jesus taught His disciples to pray “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” In our rush to judgment, have we forgotten what Jesus taught us?

I’m sure some of you consider me a milk toast mush headed Bible thumper; so be it. Whether we like it or not, Jesus calls us to complete obedience to his will. He should be Lord of our whole life. If He isn’t Lord of our whole life, He is not our Lord at all. Wake up.

In our rush to condemn all illegal immigrants, remember they are children of our Heavenly Father also. While we rush to judgment, may I remind you, as a fill-in lay preacher, I have preached in over 30 different churches in West and Central Minnesota and I have yet to fine one church with a ministry to reach Latinos or Hispanic people. God forbid we would ever stir from our comfortable pews. Let’s be honest, we don’t even look at them or wave at them as we pass by on our way down the street. I must be fair, this is a two way street and the Latino community has not always been open and willing to embrace the American culture.

Brothers and sisters, if ever, now is the time to keep our head. Now is the time for committed Christians of all races and ethnic groups to rise above the anger, hate, and bitterness. We must forgive. Why? Because Jesus said so. Let’s confess our own sin of indifference. Indifference to the millions aborted, indifference to our political situation and confess our sin and indifference of sharing Christ with our neighbors and co-workers. “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me.” Jesus said that, we must obey. We must do it.

Micah, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit said it best in Micah 6:8: He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

We must pray for the families, the community and yes, even the woman driver. We must act justly, we must seek justice in this case and we must love mercy, like Christ has loved us. Then, yes then, we will walk humbly with our God.

Monday, February 18, 2008

A Joyous Biker Wedding

On a cold Saturday in February, my friend and Christian biker, Mike, married the wife of his dreams. For both of them, this is an answer to prayer.

Mike grew up tough in a home with a father who was a drunk. Mike’s life turned into a biker lifestyle—drugs, drinking, hell raising; riding the hog to the limit, living life to its fullest just at the edge of Hell’s door. He married and had a family; the wife left him for another. He had cancer; he sat alone in his recliner tired, fed up, depressed. Before he fell asleep, he asked Jesus to save him. He woke up the next morning and for the first time in many years, was refreshed, relieved, and optimistic; freed of the burdens of his past sin. Mike was saved!

Brenda, his new wife, works at a law firm; she’s a godly, sophisticated, beautiful woman. This is her second marriage also. Mike has often asked, “What does she see in me?” His friends remind him it’s not so much that Mike’s attractive but it is Christ working in him and through him. It’s called a transformed life for both of them; Christ has transformed their lives. Only God can put together a tough old biker with a sophisticated lady and make it work. It will work because different from their first marriages, Christ is the foundation of this marriage. They view each other as an undeserved gift from God. I’d say that’s a good foundation. Those of us who are married should view each other as a gift from God.

Mike is a member of the motorcycle club “Bond Slaves for Jesus.” This is printed in large letters on the back of their vests. The name bond slave means “ones who are slaves to another.” In their case, they are bond slaves to Jesus; they are slaves by choice. They minister to other bikers or motorcycle clubs. The club was founded in Princeton, Minnesota and is nationwide and is also in foreign countries.

For my first biker wedding, I liked it. We traditionalists could learn a lot. Christ was the center of this service not Mike and Brenda. Crusty old bikers, wearing their leathers, sat next to well coiffure women, escorted by husbands who have done quite well in the business world but guess what, all this did not matter. We were all one this day; all one in the Lord.

Communion was held at the end of the service. The Chaplain for the motorcycle club told us communion was for all--old people, young people, crippled people, people of every tribe and nation. It is the Lord’s Supper. Each of us believers must examine our hearts. Bankers and bakers and candlestick makers, bikers in colors from Minnesota and other states and Canada, sang, laughed, smiled, hugged, and worshipped the Lord. It was a little bit of Heaven for this country boy and his wife.

As people went forward for communion, I was moved to tears. The words to the song “The King is Coming” rang in my head. “Happy faces line the hallway, those whose lives have been redeemedBroken homes He has mended, those from prison He has freedLittle children and the aged hand in hand stand all a-glowWho were crippled, broken, ruined, clad in garments white as snow”

The most marvelous thing about this wedding was that seven people were saved! Now, that’s my kind of wedding! Isn’t it interesting how Jesus works? On a cold February Saturday a biker and his beautiful wife were married, Christ was worshipped, seven people were called into God’s eternal kingdom, and all of us experienced a touch of Heaven. Come quickly, Jesus, come.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Pampered Love or Perfecting Love

(Note: This blog was posted in error the end of January along with the intended blog for that day so it appeared to be a previous entry. We had planned to publish this one the first week in Feb. when we were on vacation. If you did happen to read both blogs that were listed on that day, forgive me for running it again. ~ Judi)

Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so…

What kind of love do you expect from Jesus, a pampering love? We like to be pampered don’t we? I mean He promised us a more abundant life, right? Should I not expect the best? Pamper me, Lord. I find it interesting that we like to be pampered yet Jesus had no home, or as He said it, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." Matt 8:20.

We live in a time of increased expectations. We want it all, if not all, at least a little more than enough. But, I believe Jesus love is not a pampering type of love but a perfecting love.
(Hebrew 12:2-12: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.”

Job was tested. He got frustrated with all of it and in a sense, lipped off to God. God is patient but finally He had enough of it and tells Job in Job 38:1-3 Then the LORD answered Job from the whirlwind: "Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.” Brace yourself like a man…”We need to talk.” Sixty-six questions later, Job speaks in Job 42. Job said in verse 3b: “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”

Job repents. Yes, he sees God and his life in a different light, from God’s perspective. He repents and gets right with the Lord; a perfecting love.

If you’re facing trials, don’t get angry and become embittered because you were expecting to be pampered. God has sent trials and tribulation to perfect us. He does this because He loves us and we are His. It hurts, but in the end He will take us Home to glory. (Read Ps. 73:23-24).

Lord, thank you that you have called me; I am yours. Correct me Lord but only with justice not in your anger lest you reduce me to nothing. (Jeremiah 10:24): Perfect me, Lord. Amen.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

More Good News—God has a Learning Disability

Daniel 2:20-22: "Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with Him.”

Yes, this is good news; God has a learning disability. God is and has been forever. God cannot learn anything because He knows everything, created everything and sustains everything. God is present everywhere; there is nothing that escapes His gaze or control. God is never surprised. God never wonders; He knows. In light of all of this, He has nothing to learn.

Everything we do, everything we create must operate under the laws of universe established by God. The Russian lunar rover was modeled after the legs of ants. Yes, ants. The legs are multi-jointed with great flexibility and strength. Scientists are also trying to duplicate the suction on the feet of a gecko. Man may think he is creative but we imitate the Master Creator; God is the Master Creator and Designer.

The Psalmist says God’s understanding has no limit. Psalm 147:4-11: “He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground. Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make music to our God on the harp. He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills. He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call. His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”

The infinite all-knowing God doesn’t need or ask our opinion of things. God’s infinite knowledge is exercised for our good. At times we doubt His Sovereign Hand. We wonder, “Is He still on the throne? Is God still in control?”

I am sixty years old; I have lived long enough to know that things that occurred when I was young, things that hurt me were for my ultimate good. I will admit that, at times, these things are hard to understand. Be patient; God is refining you, making you pure gold.

A.W. Tozer said this: “With the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare, the wisdom of God to plan it, and the power of God to achieve it, what do we lack? Surely we are the most favored of all creatures.”

Oh Lord, our God, the God of wisdom and knowledge beyond measure. Forgive our desire to be considered wise before men who are as ignorant as ourselves. We praise you and thank you for your sovereign, all-knowing knowledge and grace found only through Jesus Christ. Amen