Thursday, May 29, 2008

Another Life Lost…

He was born on the streets of Korea, the son of a black American serviceman and a Korean woman. To be half black and Korean in Korea is not a good thing. An American family adopted him out of his misery; if memory serves me right, he was six when he was adopted. His adoptive family was loving and kind. They lived out their Christian faith; they were patient and caring.

He was very intelligent with a quick wit. He was athletic and popular and blessed with good looks. He went to the right schools, married well and moved in the right circles in Minneapolis’ social and business life.

Mike was a successful real estate broker. Mike had it all going for him but Mike fought a life-long problem with drugs. He had been through treatment numerous times. When he was straight, he was a joy; when Mike walked into the room, the room would light up; we smiled inside. When he was on “the juice”, he was undependable and obnoxious. We experienced both sides of his life. He had been straight this time for about one year. One month ago he fell off the wagon; drugs grabbed a hold of him again. His wife finally had enough and asked him to leave. He left. We would only hear from him sporadically. Wednesday morning I received a phone call telling me that Mike had overdosed on the weekend and died. He was 40 years old and left a wife and two children.

I asked God “why?” It seems so unfair. God’s sovereign hand brought him to America, gave him hope and joy yet drugs would not loosen their grip. He viewed his family’s Christian faith indifference. He wouldn’t talk about it.

Brothers and sisters, we must love and accept one another. We must love each other enough to confront them about their faith whether they like it or not. We must confront with respect and in love.

Some days I think the devil is winning. We must not be discouraged. We must push on in love and with God’s strength. I didn’t do enough; I thought there would be more time. There wasn’t. I can do no more. I must entrust him to God’s care but it hurts and it makes me angry. I have no right to be angry but sadly, I am. Forgive me, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Silver and Gold We Have

Acts 3:1-10: “One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer--at three in the afternoon. Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, "Look at us!" So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”

Martin Luther was a Catholic monk who began reading and studying God’s word for himself. God convicted him of his sin and Luther’s life was transformed. The Reformation grew built upon the foundational truths of God’s word, the work of Christ, and the blood of the martyrs John Huss, John Wycliffe and others who came before.

One of the things that deeply offended Luther was the practice of the Catholic Church to sell indulgences. The program was that if you pay the church money, the priest would pray to get your loved one out of purgatory. If he needed more money, he came and asked for more money. Because of this practice, the Catholic Church became wealthy and powerful. A Catholic bishop was heard to say to his friend, “Now we’re not like poor old Peter; we have silver and gold.” His friend said, “We might have silver and gold but we can’t tell the crippled beggar ‘in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, walk’”…

The church today has silver and gold and we can’t tell the crippled beggar “in the name of Jesus, walk.” The truth is, we can do nothing to change ourselves or save ourselves. The only way we change is through the power of God.

We think we are rich (yes, we have silver and gold) but are we spiritual paupers, rich in the things of the world but poor in the things of God. We are in deep trouble and we could care less.

Come Lord Jesus, come. Amen.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Stuff, Mammon and Ice

Stuff is defined as “things we find in our junk pile that we thought we once needed.” ~ J. R. Seehusen

“The problem is not that we tried faith and found it wanting but that we’ve tried mammon and found it addictive, and as a result find following Christ inconvenient.” ~ Arthur Simon in “How Much is Enough; Hungering for God in an Affluent Culture” (Baker).

“Money is always there, but the pockets change.” ~ Gertrude Stein to Ernest Hemmingway; Stein was an American writer, she lived from 1874-1946.

“In life, everyone gets the same amount of ice. The poor gets theirs in the winter. The rich get theirs in the summer.” Author Unknown.

"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” Author: Jesus Christ (Matt.6:24)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Waiting for Cancer Tests—you got to walk that lonesome valley by yourself…or do we?

In the late fifties there was a popular song entitled “You Got to Walk that Lonesome Valley.” Some of the words are:

"You've got to walk that lonesome valley

Well you gotta go by yourself

Well there ain't nobody else gonna go there for you

You gotta go there by yourself."

Waiting for the results of your cancer test can seem like one is walking in a long, lonesome valley. People who go through this will agree with what I’m saying. Whenever I have upcoming tests to see if my cancer has returned, I get edgy. I get more depressed; I isolate myself on purpose. Problems at work seem much larger than they really are, relationships seem more tenuous. Every ache or twinge gets exaggerated… “has the cancer spread?” Every thought lost in mid-sentence raises the idea “I wonder has it spread to my brain?”

Some people may think I’m nuts but anyone awaiting tests has experienced this in some way or form. Most of us keep all this to our selves. We, by choice, walk that lonesome valley alone and it sucks. After some thought and inspiration from John Piper (“Let’s not waste our cancer, let’s live each day to the fullest”) whether we have cancer or not, today could be our last day. Let’s not keep all the pain and all the joy to ourselves. Whether we want to believe it or not, cancer can be a blessing. Yes, it shifts our priorities, shifts them back to what is really important. Our relationship with God, new found appreciation for our marriages, and our children. Work is still work but if we look for it a reward and satisfaction are somewhere in the mix.

Cancer is not a detour in life. It is life. Why do we think we’re exempt from getting it? Why should everyone else get cancer and not me? Why do other people lose loved ones in tragic accidents yet I’ve been spared that? Life in this sinful world is cancer and tragic accidents along with joy and sheer delight all mixed in…that’s life.

We must keep involved in life, we cannot withdraw. A lot of people don’t want to hear about our aches and pains. Yet if we pray and search, God has gifted certain people with the gift of encouragement and the long lost ability to just listen; to be still and yet love us and encourage us.

The world and its songs may say “You got to walk this lonesome valley by yourself.” We can walk it alone or with someone else; the choice is ours. But, if we are a believer, we don’t walk it alone, the Lord is with us. Psalm 23:4 says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” The Lord is with us. His rod (an instrument of authority; He rules the universe and eternity) and His staff (an instrument used to control, rescue, guide and protect sheep) comfort us. What is God’s comfort? It is His reassurance that He is on the throne in control of all things and we need not worry. Good news!!

Remember, whether we are on the mountain top or in the valley, whether we’re riding the horse given us or crawling to the finish line, we need to remember the Lord is with us. This is good news. Hang in there; the Lord is good. Amen.

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Super Nanny—required TV watching with something missing

The “Super Nanny” arrives on the scene in a British taxi. She looks proper and stern. Super Nanny is an ABC-TV program which is on Wednesday evenings. The purpose of the program is to bring hope and change for troubled families. It makes for good TV.

I have watched several episodes and have begun to see a pattern in these troubled families. Dad is uninvolved and distant. (Few dads realize the importance of their role in the family.) Mom is overwhelmed trying hard to hold the family together. She is overworked and disrespected. There are no schedules and no list of duties which need to be accomplished. There is no discipline; no consequences for wrong doing because there are no rules. It’s chaos. It’s an ongoing frat party with major amounts of head butting, disrespect, and outright disobedience.

The Nanny works with the family to put schedules into place. The family makes up a set of “house rules”: no cursing, no yelling, no fighting, no talking back, and no biting off the head of pet frog Elmer. She makes the parents enforce the “new found” rules. Disobedience results in a loss of privileges which have been agreed to beforehand.

The Nanny spends a week with the family helping put the new system in place. One thing I’ve noticed is there is never any mention of a spiritual component. (Maybe it was addressed in programs that I missed.) You may say, “so what Jerry?” I’m speaking from experience here; one spiritual point must be made.

When “Little Princess” and “Juvenile Junior” see no spiritual accountability in the parents, they will at some time question by what authority do parents have the right to tell them what to do? A time will come when Princess and Junior will rip the “veneer” off of the good family image and view Mom and Dad’s attempts to bring order and discipline as just two “old goats” trying to make their life miserable. Little Princess and Juvenile Junior are asked to be accountable to Mom and Dad but…who are Mom and Dad accountable to?

Mom and Dad, you are accountable to God for the gift of your children which God has given you. You are God’s chosen stewards of His beautiful creation. Start in Genesis, go through the Bible; the message of the Bible is clear, you will answer to God for your parenting. Genesis 18:18-19: “Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him." Eph. 6:1-4: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”Honor your father and mother"--which is the first commandment with a promise--"that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth." Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

You may say to me, “Jerry, I don’t believe that!” If that is the case, it doesn’t make any difference whether you believe it or not. God does not need your approval for anything. You will be held accountable.

Our children need to see that we, the parents and grandparents, are accountable to God for their care and upbringing. They need to see in our every day lives that we live recognizing God’s very present reality in every day events. We need to demonstrate our love and caring for our children and grandchildren by loving them enough to call them to account and to discipline them in love.

Watch the Super Nanny, put into practice what you need to do but remember we are all accountable to God.