Thursday, October 30, 2008

Humility in Days Like These

C. S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity that “pride is the greatest sin.” Lewis said that pride for the most part is competitive. The devil fell because he wanted to be like God or should I say, he wanted to be God. God does not put up with such silliness

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

How do we pick our leaders?

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.

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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

Get Rid of Those Greedy Bastards

It’s early Monday morning and I don’t want to face another week like last week as I’m afraid it will be more of the same. The financial crisis in our country has incurred angst among many of the tenants and building owners. I visited with one of our tenants, a psychologist who said, “All this stress is coming out in many different ways”. I agreed with him.

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

When a Nation is in Trouble

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:

  1. Blast the trumpet – do not be quiet about the reality of the matter at hand; get the people’s attention.
  2. Declare a Holy fast – Fast for Spiritual purposes not health reasons
  3. Call a sacred assembly—come together across denomination lines for a serious look at our sin and our nations sin
  4. Gather the people – ask them to come; “work the crowd”; be pro active
  5. Consecrate the assembly – prayer before, during, after and forever
  6. Bring together the elders – listen to the wisdom of the elderly; encourage them to come to church; to the church elders—lead
  7. 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
  8. Bridegroom and bride leave their chamber – Interrupt the honeymoon; refrain from sex
  9. “Let the priest minister before the Lord” – Do it; quit talking about it!
  10. 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.
  11. 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!
  12. 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

The Prayer Warrior and the School Teacher

The young school teacher works out three times a week at Snap Fitness. She first noticed the older man on the treadmill where, as he exercised, he read out of a “Billy Graham Hymnal” (her words) and was continually reading note cards.

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