Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Our Ship Has Come In

My wife Judi and I are second and third generation Americans depending which family line you trace back. Our ancestors came from Denmark, Germany and Czechoslovakia. They were poor and hard working. When they left Europe, they left with little more than some money, their hat in their hand and a dream. One thing they all had in common was their devout faith. When they left Europe the power brokers of the day said, “Good riddance” but in two or three generations, the descendents of these immigrants are blessed.
The following two verses from Joe Diffie’s Song “Ships that Don’t Come In” remind me of how our ancestor’s may have felt as they were leaving their homes and families in Europe:
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 dime
We (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
our families.

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

The Limerick Laden Church—Limerick Laden Pastors

Edward Lear was famous for what? He invented the Lear Jet. No, I lied; that was Bill Lear. Edward Lear was an accomplished artist; his art work hangs in the Louve. He painted birds as well as Audubon, was a poet, and was an instructor to the Royal Children in England. But he was most famous for the limerick much to his chagrin. A limerick is a humorous five line ditty which is not very demanding. Light hearted fluff, it is literary junk food, but it made Lear rich. Late in life Lear called limericks “awful and noxious distractions.” Limericks require little if any effort; they come cheaply and we should beware of such things.

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

Something else to ponder...

This is just too good to keep to ourselves...

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

Finish Well Christian

I played football in high school and in the Air Force. In many ways I wasn’t that serious about it; it was always a game to me and I thought there was very little, if any, reason to get “serious” about football. The coaches told us to “finish well”. They told us “most games are won in the last quarter. Yes, come to think of it, they usually take the final score at the end of the fourth quarter.

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;
Politically Incorrect Bible Verse of the Week:
Joel 3:10: “Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weakling say, "I am strong!"

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Historic and Perilous Times

On Tuesday American elected our first black President; a historic event, an event I never thought I would see in my lifetime. At the same time we live in perilous times. We are involved in two wars, the Stock Market crashed, we are in a recession, and we just bailed out Wall Street for billions of dollars. It’s amazing that anyone would want the job of President.

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.