Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Dinner

I would like to share the following which is written by Ravi Zacharias from his book, Jesus Among Other Gods, (Nashville, Word Publishing 2000), 44-46.

“Some years ago, we were spending Christmas in the home of my wife’s parents. It was not a happy day in the household. Much had gone wrong during the preceding weeks, and a weight of sadness hung over the home. Yet, in the midst of all that, my mother-in-law kept her routine habit of asking people who would likely have no place to go at Christmas to share Christmas dinner with us.

“That year she invited a man who was, by everyone’s estimation, somewhat of an odd person, quite eccentric in his demeanor. Not much was known about him at the church except that he came regularly, sat alone, and left without much conversation. He obviously lived alone and was quite a sorry-looking, solitary figure. He was our Christmas guest.

“Because of other happenings in the house, not the least of which was that one daughter was taken to the hospital for the birth of her first child, everything was confusion. All our emotions were on edge. It fell upon me, in turn, to entertain this gentleman. I must confess that I did not appreciate it. Owing to a heavy life of travel year-round, I have jealously guarded my Christmases to be with my family. This was not going to be such a privilege, and I was not happy. As I sat in the living room, entertaining him while others were busy, I thought to myself, This is going to go down as one of the most miserable Christmases of my life.

“But somehow we got through the evening. He evidently loved the meal, the fire crackling in the background, the snow outside, the Christmas carols playing, and a rather weighty theological discussion in which he and I were engaged—at his instigation, I might add. He was a very well-read man and, as I found out, loved to grapple with heavy theological themes. I do, too, but frankly, not during an evening that has been set aside to enjoy life’s quite moments, not someone’s polemical mind.

“At the end of the night when he bade us all good-bye, he reached out and took the hand of each of us, one by one, and said, “Thank you for the best Christmas of my life. I will never forget it.” He walked out into the dark, snowy night, back into his solitary existence.”

“My heart sank in self-indictment at those tender words of his. I had to draw on every nerve in my being to keep from breaking down with tears. Just a few short years later, relatively young, and therefore to our surprise, he passed away. I have relived that Christmas many times in my memory.

“The Lord taught me a lesson. The primary purpose of a home is to reflect and to distribute the love of Christ. Anything that usurps that is idolatrous. Having been lifted beyond the prejudice of culture, Jesus repositioned for the disciples the place of wealth. So staggering was the impact that many of them in the years to come would leave their own homes to go to distant parts of the world in order to proclaim the heaven-sent message that redefined their earthly homes. Eleven of them paid for that message with their lives.

“The first time I walked through the noisy streets of Bethlehem and endured its smells, I gained a whole new sense of the difference between our Christmas carols, glamorizing the sweetness of the “little town of Bethlehem,” and the harsh reality of God becoming flesh and dwelling among us. Ah! But it is not a part of the wonder of God’s disclosure of reality that He point to what we live with to show us what true living is meant to be?

“For the disciples, Jesus’ answer to their simple question—“Where do You live?”—was to lift them beyond race and culture, beyond wealth and power, beyond time and distance to make them true citizens of the world, informed by the world to come. He brought them into a dramatically different way of living and thinking from the one to which they were accustomed. He showed them the inclusiveness of His love for the whole world. But implicit in that was the exclusivity of His truth, for which they were willing to give their lives. We have reversed Jesus’ order. We have made truth relative and culture supreme and have been left with a world in which wickedness reigns.

“Jesus brought truth to light and a different world to His message. In Him my heart finds its true home.

“G. K. Chesterton has captured the wonder in how Jesus’ earthly address changes ours, as only he can do.

"A child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost—how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.
To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home."

G.K. Chesterton, “The House of Christmas,” from Robert Knille, ed., As I Was Saying (Grand Rapids: William B. Erdmans, 1985), 304-5.

“Where does Jesus live? Come to Christ and see what it means to live.”

From the Seehusen's to you--God bless you and your family this Advent Season.

Jesus, welcom to our world. May we follow where you lead us. May we use all our gifts and talents to Your glory. May we go to a hurting world even when we want to come home and be cozy and comfortable. Forgive us. Amen. Amen

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What’s all the hub-bub about?

He came into my office already possessing a negative attitude. He asked, “Do you get involved with all this hub-bub concerning Christmas?” I told him, “Yes, but I try my best not to go overboard.” We talked; he, like many, knows the Christmas story. But, he said his sporadic childhood church attendance at a Catholic church didn’t leave much of an impression. He, like the world, knows the story but the meaning has been lost in the shuffle or should I say, lost in the “hub-bub”.

Why all the hub-bub? God comes to earth in the person of Jesus, walks among us, dies for our sins upon a gruesome cross, takes God’s wrath intended for us, and by God’s power, Jesus is raised from the dead victorious over sin and death. We are pardoned slaves to sin who will live eternally. It is all a gift to us and we shall reign eternally with God. This should all be a comfort to those of us who believe.

Some may say they know the Story. They think they even know what it means but how is Jesus going to make tomorrow any better than today? We sinners are all short-sighted. Does God care that I lost my wife and the loneliness and tears have been crushing? Does Christ make any difference today and in the future? Remember these things in these perilous days:

1. God cares about your tears. He keeps track of them. Psalm 56:8 says, “Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll-- are they not in your record?” God Himself will wipe our tears away. “For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Rev. 7:17.

2. Your prayers are heard—the angels gather them up. Rev. 8:3-4: “Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel's hand.”

3. Your death is precious to God. “Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.’ I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one ‘like a son of man’ with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.” Rev. 14:13-14.

4. We are slaves to sin, purchased by Christ to serve God and reign with Him eternally. Rev. 5:9-10: “And they sang a new song: ‘’You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth."

5. Do not be afraid! For Jesus Christ is with us now and He will return. He has and will always be in control. Rev. 1:12-19: “I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone "like a son of man," dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. "Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.

Lift up your head; you are a child of THE King. Yes, though we may suffer for a little while, God cares, God rules and we will reign with Him, and He will come again. Don’t be afraid. Jesus was born God man—the manger is empty. Jesus was slain for our sin—the cross is empty. Jesus was dead and is now alive forever—the grave is empty; our God reigns. That is what all the hub-bub is about.

Friday, December 11, 2009

When People Are Afraid…Remember this…

Luke 1:74 : “to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear

The Age to Come vs. The Age that Has Been
“The central and simple message of the New Testament is that the promised age to come has dawned, the promised victory over what has emptied life of meaning and filled it with confusion and dismay has been won. . . . Were it not for the resurrection, Paul suggests, abandoning ourselves to a life of empty party-making and a fatalistic sense of doom would be quite logical.

There is no hope in ‘this age.’ It lies under the judgment of God. It is all, despite its brilliance, now dying. It has no future. It can offer many pleasurable experiences, many momentary distractions, but it is doomed. It has no long-term future and can offer no meaning besides what it manufactures for the moment, which is as fleeting as the morning mist.”
- David F. Wells,
The Courage to Be Protestant (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Eerdmans, 2008), 203.

Evil and the Purposes of God
“The mystery of iniquity is at work in the world during this interim time, and it is not always clear how its malignant work is being checked, overridden, or woven into the glorious purposes of God. We need to remember, though, that while Judas betrayed Christ, and woe to him for doing so, it was God’s plan that Christ was thus betrayed. Evil by its very nature opposes the purposes of God, but God, in his sovereignty, can make even this evil serve his purposes.”
- David F. Wells,
The Courage to Be Protestant (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Eerdmans, 2008), 206.

About Martin Luther
“They came to Martin one day, and they said, 'Martin, it is all over with the Reformation cause now, for the Emperor of Germany has sworn a solemn oath to help the Pope.' 'I do not care a snap of my finger for both of them,” said he, “nor for all the devils in hell! This is God’s work, and God’s work can stand against both emperors and popes.'

"There was a man who trusted, really, intensely, and because of this he was not afraid. Is not that much better than being afraid, and then having to trust to banish the fear? Now, God is with me, and come what may:

“Should earth against my soul engage,
And hellish darts be hurled;
Now I can smile at Satan’s rage,
And face a frowning world.
“Let cares like a wild deluge come,
And storms of sorrow fall:
I shall in safety reach my home,
My God, my heaven, my all.”

“Oh! If we can all get to this brave assurance of faith, happy shall we be in the midst of the worst trouble."
~ Charles Spurgeon, The Fear of Temporal Trouble (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991) 29

“When we fear God and God only, we are no longer bound by all of the other fears that would hold us captive. The fear of death, the fear of failure, the fear of rejection, the fear of insignificance—all of the fears that know us by name and haunt us in the dark of the night become powerless when we know the fear of the Lord. And if this is not enough, we discover that perfect love casts out all fear. Not even God will hold us or control us by fear. When we fear Him, we in essence begin to live a life where we are fearless."

"The freedom to love and the freedom from fear make us an entirely different species within the whole of humanity. This may be the most extraordinary mark of the Spirit of God within the heart of humanity: the freedom to live out dreams greater than ourselves. Yet, if we were honest with ourselves, the church would be the last place most people would go to have their dreams nurtured, developed, and unleashed. "
- Erwin Raphael McManus, The Barbarian Way, (Nelson Books, 2005) 101-102

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Doubting what God says or I’ll believe what I want

About 10 years ago, I was preaching in a small rural church from Isaiah 47. In verse 13 it says this: “All the counsel you have received has only worn you out! Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming upon you.”

I did not dwell on the astrology; it was not the center point of the sermon. After the service a young woman in her 20’s said this to me, “I don’t care what you said about astrology, I’m still going to read my horoscope.”

God shows us astrology is of no use. The young lady was not going to listen to God’s word or Jerry’s. Notice, she said, “I don’t care what YOU said.” I may have said it but it was and is God’s word whether we like it or not.

I have wondered over the years, is God offended by my unwillingness to trust or believe what He says?

Sometimes we can become arrogant, little pipsqueaks, thinking we know better; think we are smarter than God Himself. (i.e. I’m going to believe in astrology whether God likes it or not.) God has cared enough to preserve this word for His honor and glory and for our benefit. Much blood has been shed so that we have God’s words in our own language, holding it in our own hands. How stupid can we be! I mean like God would purposely mislead us! Why should we doubt Him? That is not His character and surely not His plan. I may not understand everything in His word and I don’t understand everything but God’s Word is His word and I should not doubt what He says.

Romans 1:21-25 says this: “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen.

Left to ourselves, our thinking will become futile, our hearts will be darkened. Praise be to God He has NOT left us to ourselves. In Romans 11:33-36 is says: "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34 "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" 35 "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

In spite of my sometimes doubting nature, God remembers that I am but dust yet He forgives me and even forgets my sin. Oh what a Lord; what a Savior! His Word is truth. Enough said!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Harvest Struggle

It’s another dreary, cold, windy November day. I address issues at work via the phone while I sit at the kitchen table; it’s frustrating and tiring but I am warm and dry.

I look out across the field to see Blake and his crew from Heller Farms lifting sugar beets in the south field. The fall has been wet and dreary. Harvest is a month behind schedule. Farmers have fought mud, rain, snow and high moisture crops. Profit margins are disappearing if not already gone. Drying costs and field loss from a month too long in the field has taken $80 to $100 an acre from the bottom line.

The men and women who farm, those who provide us with food and fiber, have had a monumental struggle. We have had over 16 inches of rain since it started to rain after a cool, dry summer. The farmers work 18 hour days fighting mud and mess. The mud puts added stress on the equipment causing break downs, adding more stress to an already over-stretched fall schedule.

If you are a farmer in West Central Minnesota this fall, you have been cold, wet, tired and fed up with everything but you cannot quit and you must carry on no matter how depressing the situation.

Farmers provide food and fiber not only for us but also for people in other countries. On the whole, their hard work and sacrifice goes unnoticed. Dr. Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution, also known as bio-tech farming, and the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize winner for his work in plant genetics said this: “You can’t build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery.” We have Norman Borlaug to thank and every farmer who uses his advanced plant genetics. American farmers, thank you for enduring your private misery so the world can be well fed and warm.

In these days, we have some well fed, often overweight people complain about bio-technology farming. Dr. Borlaug said this:

Most Western environmentalists "have never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for 50 years, they'd be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists in wealthy nations were trying to deny them these things."

Despite the private misery of Western Minnesota farmers, most of us will sit down to a “more than adequate” Thanksgiving dinner. Will we stop for a moment and be appreciative for the personal sacrifice made by the American farmers and their families? We owe them a debt of gratitude. Thank you to all you “tillers of the soil.”

May we all be grateful this Thanksgiving Day. Thank you Lord, for giving us men and women willing to endure mud, cold, and rainy, dreary, long days and nights. May the Lord’s peace, strength and protection be with them this fall.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Riding with the King

"'The popular perception of Christianity in America, prior to the last 10 to 15 years, has been that being a Christian meant you were soft—you were considered weak, kind of a pushover,' says Pastor James Trapp of the Atlanta Falcons. 'You’re the guy who was going to turn the other cheek. But you read in the Bible that some of those guys were brash and bold and forceful but still had a heart and a desire for God.'” From an article in Time Magazine entitled “God and Football: the NFL’s Chaplains Give Advice”.

Nehemiah 13:24-25 says: “Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod or the language of one of the other peoples, and did not know how to speak the language of Judah. I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair. I made them take an oath in God's name and said: "You are not to give your daughters in marriage to their sons, nor are you to take their daughters in marriage for your sons or for yourselves.”

Not many sermons are preached from Nehemiah 13. In this chapter we see another side of the passionate “Rebuilder of the Walls of Jerusalem.” Nehemiah lead the wall rebuilding effort in Jerusalem then returned to Babylon. In a short time, he hears of more problems in Jerusalem and he returns to set things right. He returns to do some hair pulling and head slapping.

I agree with Pastor Trappp’s comment on the image of Christian men. We are perceived as wimps and pushovers. Today, the church likes the image of the limped-wrist Jesus, walking in a white robe, never bothering anyone or standing for anything. Yes, in many ways that’s Christian men today. Jesus was not like that. He spoke the truth using God’s word which gave him authority and a presence which was granted respect. The people delighted in Him. Read Mark 12:37—“David himself calls him 'Lord.' How then can he be his son?" The large crowd listened to him with delight.”

Jesus over turned the tables of the money changers in the temple. He told it like it was (read the Gospels), He was a carpenter who did not use power tools. He was a man’s man yet he carried out his life with authority and grace.

As men, if we lead a limped-wrist, passionless life, it is easy. Note any dead fish can float downstream. If we live this way, no demands are placed on us; no one confronts our mushy nice guy faith. Yes, it’s an easy superficial, disconnected life, and it blunts our influence and witness upon our culture.

In Revelation 19:13-16 it says this regarding Jesus: “He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

NOTE: The Armies of Heaven were following Him; commentators feel that they will be those of us who are believers. Are you ready to ride with the King?

When we consider the passionate and zealous hair pulling and head slapping Nehemiah, I wonder, would he qualify as a church deacon or elder? Oh Nehemiah, you had passion and zeal. I wonder do we have any passion or zeal left.

Look forward; rise up of men of God. Let’s ride with King Jesus.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

No Greater Love

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other”. ~ John 15:13-17

I was home sick with the flu when the phone rang and a familiar voice said, “I’m coming through your area tonight, could I stop and see you?” The familiar voice was the voice of my young Special Forces friend, Ross. I hadn’t heard his voice for quite a while. He was coming even if we had the flu!

We had a great two-hour plus visit. During his four plus years in the military, he saw three tours of duty in different war zones. He now works and attends college full time; he expects to receive his college degree in less than one year.

I asked Ross, “After being out of the military for three years, what is the bottom line lesson learned from your military experience?

He answered quickly and decisively, “Two things.” He said, “I learned what is the greatest love—we must be willing to lay down our life for our friends. Number two, anything worth pursing requires sacrifice.”

As we approach this Veterans Day, it is good to be reminded of these “old fashioned truths.” Old fashioned they may be but true--willingness to lay down ones life and being willing to live a sacrificial life for the benefit of others.

Yes, we ought to listen—in the world there are two kinds of people, those who talk and those who do. Let’s honor and respect those who have done!

Jesus did; He laid down his life for us and He asked us to do the same. May we lay down our lives and live a life of sacrifice to God’s glory.

To all who do this, may God bless you. And yes, to all you Veterans young and old, thank you again. Amen.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sucking a good time right out of the room

I was a college freshman at 22 years old, after 4 years in the Air Force. In high school, I never took a foreign language. In college, I chose German as my foreign language requirement.

The Germans are serious and silly at the same time. They love to work hard and they love to have a good time. What I learned in German class was the Germans have a word for knowing how to have a good time. The word is "gemuetlichkeit". I asked the instructor why the Germans need a word like that. He said, “Because some people do not know how to have a good time.” As a twenty-two year old, I thought it silly but at sixty-two years of age, I have met more than my share of people who have no clue on how to have a good time much less enjoy life on the whole.

I was part of a business gathering recently. It was a good time of visiting and eating. We were enjoying listening to one of the women who stages houses for sale. She works with sellers to rearrange furniture, get rid of junk, and do whatever to help the sellers of the house put their best foot forward. We were all fascinated by what she did and how she did it. The good time we were having was literally sucked out of the room by a negative complain-about-everything associate. The complainer carried on saying “If you were to come to my house, you would have to bring the Goodwill truck.” This woman lives in a large home in a prestigious suburb where colors, carpet and furniture were all picked out by a designer. She carried on about this with the majority of the people knowing the truth; she lives very well. If the Goodwill truck were to come, they would make quite a haul.

As a result of her sniveling, the spirit in the room changed. We were experiencing gemuetlichkeit when she decided to indulge herself with a false pride, self-consuming charade. The rest of us knew different and it sucked all the gemuetlichkeit right out of the room.

We live in a blessed place; it’s called America. Most of us have never known hunger. Many of us have never gone to bed hungry or cold. None of us have gone naked except by choice. We complain about our life while we live in houses too big for ourselves. We have too many clothes for our too small closets. Food turns purple with mold in our refrigerator and we throw it out without a thought. How spoiled are we? And then we have the gall to complain when our furniture is a few years old. Come on!

Could we not enjoy each others company for a couple of hours without this contrived whining? Are you sick of this? I am. How common is it? I think it is very common. We complain about many things yet God has blessed us beyond measure. God is patient with people who complain about everything but there is a limit to his patience. He does not always tolerate ungrateful people yet He has been gracious to us. Numbers 11:1-6 says: “Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the Lord and the fire died down. So that place was called Taberah, because fire from the Lord had burned among them. The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost--also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!’" Life is really tough, huh?

In Isaiah 5, Isaiah the prophet writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit about his chosen people who were blessed beyond measure. Look what happens to them beginning in verse 1 “I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside.” The one He loves, the nation of Israel, he blesses. Yet they are judged for their sin. (V. 7-13): "The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress. Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land. The Lord Almighty has declared in my hearing: "Surely the great houses will become desolate, the fine mansions left without occupants. A ten-acre vineyard will produce only a bath of wine, a homer of seed only an ephah of grain." Woe to those who rise early in the morning to run after their drinks, who stay up late at night till they are inflamed with wine. They have harps and lyres at their banquets, tambourines and flutes and wine, but they have no regard for the deeds of the Lord, no respect for the work of his hands. Therefore my people will go into exile for lack of understanding; their men of rank will die of hunger and their masses will be parched with thirst.” A sobering thought for us ungrateful whiners.

We don’t have to get drunk to have a good time. God is not against gemuetlichkeit but he is against having a good time without a regard for Him and His deeds. He has been good to us in word and deed, we must always remember that. May we not complain and grumble or wail. We would do well to stop our whining and get on our face and ask the Lord for forgiveness.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Unprepared Army

For about two years, I have been preaching once a month at Immanuel Lutheran Church in rural Annandale, Minnesota. We have been preaching through the first twelve verses of 1st Peter, Chapter 1. It’s taken us five sermons but that’s all right. Some of you are not surprised since I’m considered long winded anyway.

The first 12 verses remind us of who we are as Christians; in verse 13 of Chapter One, the message changes. To my unprofessional eye, Peter states seventeen things in these 12 verses about who we are in Christ. It’s an impressive list; it should make us dance.

In verse 13 it says, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action.” Peter writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit calls us to action. What action? How about getting our head screwed on right before we go to war. How about true worship before action.

Matthew 16:21-27 says, "From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 'Never, Lord!' he said. 'This shall never happen to you!' Jesus turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.' Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.'”

In verse 22 Peter says, "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" Peter wanted his plan not God’s. This suffering and being killed stuff was not part of Peter’s plan. Oh, how unprepared and stupid we, like Peter, can be! Today we want Christ and our plan doesn’t include suffering and being killed either. No, we like Peter want Christ but we don’t want the cross.

We want the easy faith. Lord, don’t call me to suffer yet in verses 24-27 Jesus tells us we must deny ourselves and take up our cross.

Today, in the American church, are we prepared for this taking up the cross and following Christ? We like all the “benefits” as it were, of being a Christian yet we shrink from the ensuing battle and the sacrifice it will take to follow Christ. Peter knows what’s going to happen to him. Read John 21:18-19: “I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!" Tradition has it; Peter died being crucified upside down.

We are not prepared to fight much less have the basic truths of the faith rooted deeply in our mind. Peter waited for Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was to pray and watch—he fell asleep. We have fallen asleep; we haven’t prayed; we haven’t watched. We wanted Christ, but please no cross for me. Brother and sisters, persecution is coming and we are an unprepared army. See 1 Peter 1, we are not ready to fight. Oh Lord, please forgive our slumber, may we watch, pray and worship you. May we fully understand your plan. Fill us with your Spirit. Prepare us for battle, root truth deep in our hearts and minds. Do not leave us to ourselves. Come Holy Spirit, come. Amen.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Illusion of Peace at the Expense of Truth

Jeremiah 6:13-15: "From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them," says the LORD.

Husbands and wives do it, businesses do it, churches do it, politicians do it, and the Nobel Peace Prize Committee does it. “Do what?” you say. We fail to discuss or confront thorny issues while portraying an illusion of peace. If we don’t honestly address certain issues in our relationships, we can continue to run the charade called the illusion of peace.

President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize much to the surprise of President Obama and almost everyone else. To his credit, he seemed uneasy with the whole thing. The Nobel Peace Prize winner supports abortion on demand, a crime of violence perpetrated upon the most innocent and helpless of the world. Let’s pursue peace but let’s have the honesty to tell ourselves the truth. We as Christians can no longer remain quiet on these issues. Many times we as Christians would rather hide behind the illusion of propriety (be seen but not heard; don’t rock the boat; we’re not supposed to be political). We also like the illusion of peace; we’d rather embrace the illusion of peace than address the harsh reality of the truth of abortion on demand.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers…” We are to live with a peaceable disposition to all. Romans 12:18 says: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” We are to demonstrate a strong affection for peace. The Bible also says in the last days there will be wars and rumors of wars” (Luke 2:14). Yes, wars will never go away until Jesus returns to establish His kingdom. Peace will never be found at a negotiating table in Paris or Oslo. True peace will only come when Christ returns. Yet we must have a peaceable disposition to all people.

You may say, “Jerry, you’re talking’ out of both sides of your mouth.” One place you tell us to be peaceable and in another place we’re to rock the boat.” For a moment do not confuse complacency with peace. We like being complacent; it’s pleasurable and convenient. Peace usually costs us something. We will not be held innocent for our complacency. Proverbs 24:11-12 says: "Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, 'But we knew nothing about this,' does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?" No illusion here.

In his commentary on Matthew 5:9 ("Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God") Matthew Henry says in part “Since God has declared himself reconcilable to us all, he will not own those for his children who are implacable (unmoved) in their enmity (hatred) to one another; for if the peace-makers are blessed, woe to the peace-breakers!”

The prophet Isaiah wrote the inspired word of God in Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”

The world loves a lie as long as it portrays the illusion of peace and furthers a larger agenda. It is fashionable in the elite circles of Europe to give President Obama the Nobel Peace Prize and all the while ignoring the truth of his support of abortion, a violence perpetrated upon the most innocent of us while they smugly enjoy the illusion of peace. How can we ignore this when President Obama, a professing Christian, supports and encourages these despicable acts of violence? Remember, no matter how despicable the acts of sin, the road back to God the Father is covered with Christ’s sin destroying, forgiving, and restoring blood.

God help us! Forgive us, for we are in deep trouble. Amen.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

God in the Background

And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.Acts 17:25

Have you had down days? Even so, we need to look ahead. We long for heaven, to be reunited with our family members.

We tolerate a lot of mush in the Christian church. We tolerate much about death and life in the hereafter. When I hear about people going home to the Lord, little mention is made of Christ. I hear a lot of talk about meeting up with our loved ones who have gone before us. That’s good in and of it self. I believe that will happen but its as if this is the Number 1 priority and once again, God is pushed into the background just like He is pushed into the background in this life.

Paul longed to be “with Christ”; he did not long for paradise, his mansion, heaven, rest, relief or streets of gold. No, he wanted to be with Christ. Philippians 1:23 says: “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;"

In many ways we are like a 15 year old who only interacts with mom and dad when he needs twenty bucks. He has nothing to do with his parents unless he needs twenty bucks. This scenario is offensive to us but our lack of genuine love and affection for God doesn’t seem to raise our ire or fury. Do we love God only for His hand, what He can do for us? Do we love Him for the twenty bucks? We should love Him for His face, for who He is not just His hand. Do we love Him more so we can be reunited with our loved ones rather than just to be with Christ?

Is your relationship with God one where you push Him into the background of your life? Do you only pay any attention to Him when you need to be bailed out of a situation? Do you desire reunion with loved ones more than you love to be with your Savior and His Father?

True love in this life is when we love somebody for who they are (their face/heart) not for what they do for us (their hands). True love for God is when we love Him, totally and completely, for whom He is—not just what He does for us.

What are you longing for? Streets of gold in heaven? Meeting your loved ones in heaven? If we are longing for these things alone, ignoring the face of God, it may be time to sincerely consider the nature of your relationship with God in Christ. Don’t push Him into the background of your life. He alone is worthy to be praised; Jesus Christ should be the desire of our heart.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Our Self-indulgent Prayers

Ephesians 6:18: And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (Emphasis mine)

I was called to be with a dear brother in the Lord who is struggling in his faith. Yes, we do have struggles in our faith. If you haven’t yet, hang on, you will have one. It’s all part of the Christian walk—tears mingled with joy; that’s life.

As we visited, another friend showed up. We listened, asked questions, and listened some more. Our dear brother said he was paralyzed by fear. David speaks of similar circumstances in Psalm 143. Later in Ephesians 6, Paul asks for prayer to preach fearlessly; two times in two sentences. Yes, he was fearful. He was not afraid of other people but afraid that he would not fulfill his task which was to preach the Gospel in spirit and truth.

Many Christians are afraid; some are paralyzed by fear; rendered ineffective. The devil likes this; another of his devilish schemes (“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.” Ephesians 6:11).

In this therapeutic age, we are asked to look deep within ourselves. Look for what; answers? I hope not. Deep inside of us is sin and to deal with that we need a Savior; only Jesus can deal with our sin problem. This can be scary stuff if we let it sit there and simmer, it becomes self pity. We live in a time of picking lint out of our own navel. This continual “delving” and “endless retrospection” makes us self consumed and afraid of the world and ourselves.

We are to go into the world and share Christ in word and deed. When we don’t share and we don’t go, we become self absorbed. Wallowing in our self pity, our prayers become self centered. We pray only for ourselves or we don’t pray at all. If we do pray, we only ask God “to do” and do it now as if he is our personal butler. Please God, forgive us.

Brothers and sisters, get up, put on God’s armor and go to work. Feed the sheep. It’s our job; live out your purpose. May we quit wallowing in our self pity. May our prayers be for the saints not just for ourselves; not demanding of God but asking in love and humility. Let’s stop this endless retrospection and the ongoing regret of the past. Ask the Lord to forgive the past and move on. Reach out. Pray for the saints. Live life with an outward focus; when we live that way, life is purposeful and exciting. It’s time to go to battle for the time is short.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A New Church Doing Ministry the Old Way

I was working at The Circle in Renville when someone stopped by to tell me of a new church; it is in a Midwest regional center. The new church is reaching out to its community in an old fashioned way. They actually go into the community and minister. The church meets for about twenty minutes on Sunday morning. They pray, sing a couple of songs, have a short message and then everyone goes into the community and ministers for 3 hours. Trash is picked up, lawns mowed, houses painted, the elderly are visited, meals cooked and frozen for the week, shoes polished, bathrooms cleaned, jails visited, the homeless shelter cleaned. The list is endless.

The church rents a small facility (no large building maintenance budget to worry about). Most of the donations go to the work they are doing and yes, the church is growing.

I shared what I heard with a small town Midwestern businessman who attends a large Lutheran church. He said, “This sounds like a church I’d like to go to.”

The church meets one time during the month to learn the essentials of the Christian faith. They meet for three hours during the week not on Sunday. Sunday is the day to do collective group ministry.

Jesus told us to go and makeMatthew 28:19—“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”

He also told us to go to back roads and country lanes in Luke 14: 23 ("Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.”)

What we have done is tell the hurting “you come to us.” You come to us on our terms and our turf during our hours. Jesus told us to go even if it’s across the street.

This new church has gone into the world. They are in but not of the world (Romans 12:1-2: "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” They obeyed Christ. Any wonder why they are growing?

May the blessing of Christ go with them. The Holy Spirit fill and strengthen them. May they be protected from the evil one in every way and the God of the harvest will and has done His work.

Remember, our job is to share the truth. God Himself, through the blood of Christ saves them…

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dear Friends

Over the last few months I have felt a strong leading in my writing and preaching to urge people to wake up and be prepared for suffering and trials. I have also found many pastors and elders who are under the same conviction. Something is going on in rural Minnesota.

What’s going on? I hope the early stages of revival. The first sign of revival is the confession of sin from believers, the church. I am beginning to see that and I am encouraged. At the same time some dear brothers and sisters in the Lord are facing new trials or the ones they have faced have increased with intensity.

Do you remember why do we have trials? It strengthens our faith for the days ahead. Listen to what it says in 1 Peter 1:6-7: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” God is doing His work refining believers, getting us ready for battle.

I was visiting with a Christian friend whose business partner is very ill; they have been business partners for a long time. The man said, “I have had to face the reality that he might not be coming back.” He added, “It is not like he is on vacation and will return.” Through this trial, this man realized his business partner was and is his best friend. They are brothers in the Lord and more. We prayed together for the healing of his “closer than a brother” business partner. It woke me up to the fact how we take those close to us for granted.

I just got off the phone with a friend who is a tenant. She lost her husband about a month ago after a long battle with heart problems. She looks/sounds relieved but grief has a way of taking the sparkle out of our eyes. All this reminds me, how deeply we need one another in spite of our petty differences. We need to encourage and build up. We need to listen, laugh and love. Yes, in the same breath it’s as simple and as complicated as that. We need to demonstrate the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ in a hurting world. Let’s care for one another and love one another like the world has never known.

The distinguishing mark of a Christian is this—how we love one another. “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” 1 Peter 1:22-23.
And as Jesus commands us in John 13:34-35: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Let us all love on to God’s Glory.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Steamed or Esteemed

“Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?" declares the Lord. "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” Isaiah 66:2

Are you hot under the collar today? Are you a little “steamed up” over the frustrations of everyday life? If so, take a moment and consider what is required to be “esteemed” by God. This is a remarkable scripture verse, a “bottom line” verse if such verses do exist.

God says “This is the one”; notice God’s attention to detail; His detail to each “one” of us. God notices, cares, loves and forgives each “one” of us if we come to Christ in Spirit and truth.

What does esteemed mean? It means to have a very favorable opinion of someone. Someone who is esteemed is one who is worthy of being thought of. Notice, God takes time to think of people, to stop and consider them in the midst of a myriad of things in this universe. Psalm 8:3-4 says, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?"

What does humble mean? Humble in its good sense means being modest without wrongful pride in oneself or accomplishments. It means we must be modest in spirit not proud or haughty. We are to be common in spirit and respectful to all. Quite a high standard I would say.

What does contrite mean? The definition is: Broken in spirit by a sense of guilt; showing deep regret and sorrow; penitent. We are to be patient and mild in disposition.

A humble and contrite spirit God esteems. In light of the meaning of these words, I have much to do and to improve upon. Serious consideration of these things can bring upon us a spirit of hopelessness. In truth, we can never measure up. That is why we need Christ! Jesus took God’s entire wrath intended for us upon himself freeing us from an eternity of pain and suffering. This is good news.

What does it mean to tremble? It is to shake and be afraid; afraid of what? In James 2:19 it says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder.” The demons know their eternal fate and tremble or shudder. For us, we have the same destiny if we know not Christ. The mere thought of this should make us tremble or shudder. Do you ever stop to think about such things or are you too busy or distracted or afraid?

Jesus rose from the dead, victorious over sin and death. Yes, let’s be patient, humble and contrite in our disposition willing to live each day covered in the blood of Christ, clothed in His Spirit, living on in hope and not despair.

Oh Jesus, give us humble and contrite spirits always appreciative of God’s grace and forgiveness. Lord, may we tremble in awe. Trudge on Christian; trudge on to God’s glory.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Our World Today—A weekend of Questions about the future

It started Friday night with two calls from younger people concerned about the political and economic situation in America. The weekend ended with a discussion with a Hutchinson area businessman asking the same questions while I was filling gas. On Monday morning I opened my email at work to find an email from a business colleague asking “what kind of world will my children grow up in?” It’s obvious to me that more people are concerned about the situation in our country and the future than ever before, and we should be concerned.

In light of this fact, it should be a great opportunity for the church to respond. We, as believers, should respond as individuals and as a group. The church, you and me, need to step up and meet this head on. May I share some observations?

The world does not like having Christians expressing opinions or actually doing something constructive. If we stand up, we will pay a price for standing for our faith. The Christian and the church have been marginalized; the world feels we must sit on the sidelines and be quiet. Be aware, if you make a public stand, opposition to you may come from some of those closest to us namely, family, friends and fellow church members.

What is the problem? It is the complete moral and spiritual breakdown of our culture. Our problem is not Democrat or Republican. It is a moral problem; a spiritual problem. We want solutions to our problems but we’re looking to man to bring relief, not God.

In America today, we don’t want to hear the truth; we want to feel good. We want to be assured that everything is ok and will be ok. We want the pain killers first; we really don’t want to solve the problem. The problem is us, not the politicians, the preachers and/or teachers. The time has come where we must stop blaming other convenient scapegoats.

Elijah the prophet ministered in times of great drought in Israel. Under God’s guidance and sovereign hand, God directed Elijah to announce to wicked King Ahab that Israel would suffer a drought until God told Elijah to lift it. In 1 Kings 18:1 it says “After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: ‘Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land."

The prophet Obadiah told Elijah to present himself to wicked King Ahab. King Ahab charged Elijah as the trouble maker. Elijah responds in 1 Kings 18: 16-18: "So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. When he saw Elijah, he said to him, "Is that you, you troubler of Israel?" "I have not made trouble for Israel," Elijah replied. "But you and your father's family have. You have abandoned the LORD's commands and have followed the Baals.”

We never like being told that we are the problem, Christian or not. We want our problems solved politically not spiritually. Bottom line is this—we do not like Jesus’ demands placed upon of life. We are proud of the fact that we go to church. Yes, many of us do but we leave it there, sad to say. As Christians we are to be the light on the hill; we haven’t been. Many of us will sit prideful in our collective and personal misery, admiring God at a distance saying God must never demand anything of me. We are a proud, immoral people and pride comes before the fall and than we wonder why we have problems as a nation.
Remember this, God will and can use anybody to advance His kingdom. Full time professionals and common ordinary men and women like us. Acts 4: 12-14 says: "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say.” Notice the qualifier—“they had been with Jesus.” Jesus brings offense and America and our little rural communities don’t like it either. “Don’t stick your finger in my face” is the last refuge of a scoundrel getting his feathers ruffled.

At the same time we see the things we’ve trusted crumbling around us. For some of us that day is a ways off, or so we think. We have lived in affluence and relative security and political stability, but we see cracks in the foundation moving to become gaps in the foundation and in some cases, open fissures. We are hearing predictions of the government going broke, hyper-inflation on the way, potential terrorist attacks; we see our personal freedom being threatened. In reality, we are afraid of the future. We may have to rein in our uninvolved, selfish, me-centered life style whether we like it or not; all this chips away at our pride.

Our pride is this, “I am the captain of my own ship and get the hell out of my way. Listen brothers and sisters, we breathe without thinking, our hearts beat without any effort from us. Yes, we may be captains of our own ship but in a moment we could be found face down, dead, upon the main deck. We need to remember this in the last of these heady days.

If history is an indicator, an arrogant, prideful self absorbed nation will not last and neither will a complacent self-absorbed church. We hear the hoof beats in the distance, see the dust on the horizon, but will we heed the warning? I don’t think so because we don’t want to see.

Are you ready to suffer? I hope we won’t have to but we deserve God’s harsh hand but I am praying for the grace of Jesus to invade each one of our lives. May God be merciful to us. Remember this, God alone holds the future.

Come quickly Lord Jesus, come. Amen

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

When ex-Army Rangers play small town Minnesota baseball or let them wear skirts

Riley is an ex-Army Ranger. He pulled three tours of duty in the war zones. As I heard it, it was late in the first play off game for the State tournament when Riley was inserted as a pinch runner at second base. The game was tied as the batter hooked a soft liner over the shortstop. Riley took off from second base with one thing in mind—he wanted to score. Rounding third base, he kicked it into over drive. He hurtled towards home plate with all the gusto he could muster. His purpose was to score.

Standing in his way was the opposing team’s catcher. His purpose is to protect home plate, not allowing anyone to score. A mighty collision was inevitable. The ex-Army Ranger on a mission to score and the small town Minnesota factory worker bent on protecting home plate. When the dust settled, the ex-Army Ranger was thrown out of the game for hitting the catcher too hard. Yes, he was playing with too much enthusiasm.

My suggestion for the small town Minnesota baseball tournament officials is this—let’s give skirts to all the ex-Army Rangers who play the game. Yes, that way we will at least know who they are; then they can run past the catcher and with one fell swoop the catcher can tag out the ex-army ranger and pat him on his tush at the same time, while he pirouettes toward the dugout.

Judges 11:1-7 says: 1 Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute. 2 Gilead's wife also bore him sons, and when they were grown up, they drove Jephthah away. "You are not going to get any inheritance in our family," they said, "because you are the son of another woman." 3 So Jephthah fled from his brothers and settled in the land of Tob, where a group of adventurers gathered around him and followed him. 4 Some time later, when the Ammonites made war on Israel, 5 the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. 6 "Come," they said, "be our commander, so we can fight the Ammonites." 7 Jephthah said to them, "Didn't you hate me and drive me from my father's house? Why do you come to me now, when you're in trouble?"

Jephthah’s dad Gilead had a skirt problem. He chased one too many. He had an affair with a prostitute. Jephthah was the result.

His half brothers, probably pampered snots, drove Jephthah away from the family. It was over money. In Judges 11:2 says in part “you are not going to get any inheritance in our family because you are the son of another woman” they said. (Remember, his mom was a prostitute.) Jephthah got the message and he hit the road. On his own he learned how to fight. In verse three it said, “He fled to the land of Tob” (which I think is Oklahoma because that’s where Toby Keith has his ranch!) “where a group of adventurers gathered around him and followed him.” He became a leader of men. He learned how to fight.

When the Israelites got in trouble with Ammonites, they didn’t know how to fight so they needed some real men who knew how to fight. Jephthah’s legend must have spread far and wide. The leader of Israel “went a callin’” on Jephthah; “Come help us.” Yes, the rejected one was asked to come back and fight.

In America, we want our men to be nice—not necessarily manly. I am grateful we still have men who play baseball with gusto. I am thankful we have men who fight fires, chase bandits, and fight wars in the presence of great personal risk. I like the idea that we have men who would march into hell for heavenly causes. Riley is such a man. Is he an anomaly? Are men like him not needed any more?
It’s ok Riley, if you put yourself on the front line and fight for us in war but don’t come home and play baseball to win. No, be cool, be a domesticated wimp. That way we can live with you. Fit nicely into our nice guys and gals mold. I guess I’m old fashioned but I want a hero. Riley, however imperfect, is my hero. We don’t want him to play baseball too hard but we’ll gladly let him fight our wars. America and small town Minnesota baseball, you can’t have it both ways. Do you want nice guys or do you want men who play and fight to win? We need a generation of men who want to be heroes. We want men who are willing to live and yes even die for a cause greater than themselves. Thank God for men who are still warriors, imperfect as they may be.

Monday, August 24, 2009

John Piper's Blog

On August 20, 2009 the Rev. John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis wrote the following blog regarding the ELCA's decision to ordain homosexual pastors.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Life and Wrong Times of Dubious K. Trinket

Revelations 1:4b: “Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come…”

When Dubious was four years old, his older sister went off to kindergarten. He wanted to be in kindergarten. In kindergarten, he realized that 1st graders made fun of the kindergarten kids; he then wanted to be in 1st grade.

Once in 1st grade, he realized 6th grade was the place to be—the highest grade in elementary school. When he was in the 6th grade, 7th graders looked smugly at the sixth graders and said, “You’re still in elementary school.”

When he got to 7th grade, reality hit; he was the lowest on the totem pole. He wanted to be a senior. In his senior year, he grew tired of the one horse town he grew up in. He just wanted to be out of there.

He joined the military; after about the second month, he couldn’t wait to get out. After four years, he got out and went to college. Once in college, he was impatient as he wanted to get out and experience “the real world”.

Before he knew it, he was in the real world and he couldn’t wait for the day he could be out of the rat race. In the process, he got married and had a family. Days ran into nights; bills had to be paid, appointments made to be kept. He ran here and there to dance lessons, karate lessons, piano lessons, athletic games, plays and more. The house was full of his children and their friends. There was no time to sit down and rest.

Then one day he realized he was alone; the house was empty. He looked back with nostalgia wishing the house was busy again. His loneliness ate away at his heart.

The grandchildren came. His daughter called, “Can you baby-sit for Rusty and Becky tonight?” He said “yes” in anticipation. Later in the night a call came. “It’s late; can you keep the kids overnight?” They kept the grandkids overnight.

During the night, a thunderstorm ensued; Rusty and Becky dove into Grandma and Grandpa’s bed but you know the rules, “You can’t sleep in Grandma & Grandpa’s bed.” He sat up holding Rusty in his arms as the lightening flashed and the thunder rolled. Rusty barely moved; he was safe and secure in Grandpa’s arms. Grandpa was somewhat irritated; he had an early morning business appointment and wished he was in bed getting a good night of sleep.

Before he knew it, Dubious found he was alone in his nursing home room sliding in and out of reality. He couldn’t remember if his wife was dead or alive. He wished he was young again but that wouldn’t happen so he wished he would go home and be with Jesus. He could only remember one 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.” During the night, he died in his sleep.

Dubious went through his whole life wishing he lived at another time, another circumstance. He could not enjoy the moment. He could not enjoy TODAY. He could not enjoy the “God who is”; the God of today, this very moment.

We spend much of our life looking back with nostalgia or endlessly planning for the future. We criticize people who live for today; they are viewed as short sighted and not respected. They are viewed as frivolous. Yes, let it be known they even experience moments of pure joy and pure exuberance.

Dubious had all the trinkets the world had to offer but I doubt he ever enjoyed any of them. He squandered most of his days wishing he was somewhere else, living in another time, the past or the future, whatever satisfied him for a fleeting moment. Isn’t that what trinkets are supposed to do? I know they do not satisfy. What satisfies and is important is the day to day joy of the simple things in our life. God’s sovereign hand brings them into our life. The God who IS, sustains, provides and holds them all in the palm of His hand. We are to enjoy the God who IS each and every moment.

Dubious lived his whole life and never enjoyed the moment/today. How sad. Let’s live today in the presence of the God who is. God be with us. Amen

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Our too deep dandelion roots

Dandelions are beautiful—for about two days. Left to themselves, dandelions will take over a lawn. Dandelions have a single tap root; it goes deep into sub-soil making dandelions almost impossible to pull without breaking off the root. Guess what—from this partial root left in the ground will spring another beautiful dandelion to be admired, however short lived.

Dandelions are not all bad. People make wine out of them. Dandelions can also be used in making a salad; the greens contain trace minerals which are lacking in our diet. The reason the dandelions have trace minerals is because their roots sink deep into the subsoil and bring the minerals to our plate.

As Christians we make good dandelions. Most of us are bright and cheery. Life with its ups and downs may make our cheeriness fade. Hopefully, we “go to seed” as it were, spreading the message of Christ to the world. But the roots concern me.

In 1 Peter 2:11 it says: “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” NIV. (The English Standard version uses “pilgrim and sojourners” for aliens and strangers.)

We are to travel light. Sojourners and pilgrims are going some other place; they do not put down roots. Our citizenship is not of or in this world; we’re just passing through.

Philippians 3:20 says “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,"

John 17:14-16: “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.”

If we are not of this world, then we’re just sojourners and pilgrims on a mission greater than our own earthly desires and earthly purposes. Sometimes I feel like a late August dandelion, roots deep and healthy; and if God were to pull me up by my roots, would I go easily?

In Revelations, John writes about the three themes of Revelation—suffering, the kingdom of God, and “patient endurance which are ours in Jesus.” (“I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” Rev. 1:9)

We are called to travel light and we are called to travel on a mission greater than our selfish agendas. In this kingdom life we may be called to suffer with patient endurance. We are to “go and make disciples”. We need to be careful not to set down our roots too deep. Being too well anchored in the things of the world can be a spiritual problem for us.

Brothers and sisters travel light, be willing to be used of God. To be used of God may require some “uprooting” as it were of our own agenda. So, when the Lord calls us to a new work or mission or if He calls us home. Let’s let go from this world easily; let’s move on with joy.

Pilgrim on brothers and sisters, sojourn into eternity, to God’s glory. Amen.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Asleep at the Wheel

“Whenever and wherever the Gospel has gone out, the faithful have emphasized the priority of good works, especially works of compassion toward the needy. Every great revival in the history of the church, from Paul’s missionary journeys to the Reformation, from the Alexandrian outreach of Athanasius to the Great Awakening in America, has been accompanied by an explosion of priestly service. Hospitals were established. Orphanages were founded. Rescue missions were started. Almshouses were built. Soup kitchens were begun. Charitable societies were incorporated. The hungry were fed, the naked clothed, and the unwanted rescued. Word was wed to deeds.”
(from The Micah Mandate by George Grant; p.118)

I’m hearing a lot of concern these days about government’s increasing role in our lives. “What do you think about our government these days” is a common question I hear wherever I go. I sense a rising resentment and bitterness about government’s increasing control and influence. I sense a concern about “Our American Transformation”.

Government has increased its spread and influence while we, the church, have slept. The government grew to fill the vacuum left by the absence of the church. One example, part of the church’s responsibility is to do good works, acts of kindness, help the poor, the sick, and the needy. Government came in with welfare programs and we, the church, gladly laid down and “gave up” that turf to the government but we reserved the right to continually complain about how they do it. It is not the government’s job; it’s the church’s job. It’s easier to sit, point our finger and complain rather than get our hands dirty and wipe snot off a child’s face. Yes, we might develop a relationship with “those people” but then they’ll be hanging around all the time ruining the carpet in our churches.

The idea of hospitals with centralized health care originated in the church; remember the names of the early hospitals—St. Luke’s, St. John’s, Lutheran Deaconess, and Our Lady of Perpetual Care; Christian organizations all. Christian visionaries forged ahead with passion. It required risk and sacrifice. Suggest the same ideas today that the church should offer medical services and we will be met with a lot of blank stares, like “Why would we ever do that?” Health care went from being a ministry to being a business. The reality of business decisions, not ministry, drive health care today.

The increasing role of government came at the expense of the family and the church. For example, we as fathers are responsible to teach our children our values and spiritual truths. We’ve passed off much of our responsibility to our wives, the school teacher, youth pastor and the confirmation class. To make ourselves feel better yet, we’ve passed off our responsibility to the “Christian school” teacher. That way we can feel somewhat better about shirking our God given responsibility.

Forgive me for my cynical attitude today but we only raise these questions when we sense, as Calvin put it, “our comfortable nest is about to be disturbed”.

Praise God we still live in a country with personal freedoms guaranteed in the constitution. May we exercise our rights, realizing that God instituted government to protect the people from foreign invaders and to bring restraint upon ourselves.

Romans 13:1-7: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

When government’s role expands beyond these general boundaries, we have trouble. Our system is not perfect or close to it but it is one of the best in the world, imperfect as it is. It is not all the government’s fault, some of it is our fault. We the church laid down on the job allowing government to do the jobs we were intended to do. Yes, when our comfortable nest gets ruffled up, we stir.

Oh we’re not at the point of claiming any responsibility. No, we will continue to hide behind our stained glass windows and walls, hoping God will rescue us from our current trials. Wake up people, Christ rescued us at the cross, working out the Father’s perfect plan of redemption so we could minister to a hurting world, sharing the truth of Christ as the only hope. The world is afraid; afraid of death and afraid of the future. Jesus holds both in His hand. Don’t be afraid. Remember God is and will always be on the throne. No plan of His is ever thwarted. (Isaiah 55)

Lord, continue to do your work in spite of our malcontent. Wake us up.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Afraid of Death?

1 Peter 3:14: “Do not fear what they fear, do not be frightened.”

What do most people fear? This week I’ve done an informal survey and one answer was very clear—death. The second most common answer could be summarized as fear of the future or the fear of failure.

Peter, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, encourages us not to be afraid. As we go through life, young to old, we experience different fears. We may be afraid of storms, afraid of the dark, afraid of dogs or any other collection of “temporary” fears. Hopefully, we overcome them or at least have an uneasy truce with them.

Death and fear of the future clearly stood out in my survey. For Christians, death is something we should not fear but I must admit that part of me considers it a bit mysterious.

In the health care debate, one question which lingers in the background is this: How long will we take extensive and expensive measures to preserve our life? (How much is enough?)

Last weekend I got a call from a cousin in Iowa. She is 72 and fighting cancer. She told me the story of her mother Grace who had very good health until she was 82 and then found out she had cancer. Grace called the family together, told them she had a great run; she was not going to do anything to fight the cancer. Grace lived for two more years. Her daughter said, “They were very special years.” Grace was a woman of devout faith and her trust in the Lord was the driving force in her decision.

Concerns loom about limiting health care options for elderly people. Have we discussed our personal desires with our families if are were faced with a situation similar to Grace’s? You may say her case was pretty much cut and dried. Yes, I admit it seems that way but possibly some in the family felt she should have mounted a fight.

When should we give up the fight? In many ways it is not our choice; the Lord can take us at any moment. Every breath we take is a gift from a merciful God. May we treasure every moment of our God given life.

But for many, hard decisions must be made; don’t put the burden of these decisions on your family alone. If we are Christians and we believe Christ rose victorious over death and sin, we shouldn't be afraid to die. Teach this to our families, communicate our wishes, verbally and in written form. In 1 Peter 4:19 it says: “So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” Do this until the day we die.

May we, with peace, “entrust our souls to the Lord.” May the Holy Spirit help us die graciously. May we “entrust” or "commit" and not be “afraid.” Yes, the Lord holds the future and the day of our death will be the day that “we will be with Jesus”. Good news for us who believe. Don’t be afraid. Do not fear what the world fears.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The loss of a teacher

When I was young I asked someone why there had to be pain. The answer was that pain is a teacher; it tells us that something is wrong, it is meant to teach us something.

Before the advent of pain killers, pain was endured. It was respected, feared and rightfully dreaded.

The story is told that in modern day hospital emergency rooms the first request is “give me something for the pain”. Secondly, we want to find out what is wrong. We are a nation that wants the pain killers first.

About two weeks ago a man told me that the problem with America is that we cannot tolerate pain and secondly, we do not believe in the reality of evil. He gave me something to think about.

Pain does not teach us much when our first and only response is to take a pain killer. It is similar to having a fire which triggers our alarm system and all we do is turn off the alarm and think everything is ok. The current economic conditions in our country (high unemployment, business failure troubles and more) are supposedly being relieved with mindless government spending (buying ourselves an economic pain killer). This dulling of the pain results in “head in the sand talk” that everything is ok. It isn’t ok.

Yesterday I met with a business owner in his 60’s, who does business on an international scale. His business is owed over two million dollars from clients all over the world. These same clients have been his faithful customers for over 25 years. They are in trouble so he is in trouble. His line of credit has dried up. He has assets but he cannot borrow against them since he has no income. A life-long dream is crumbling before him. He sat with his shoulders hunched, nursing a back injury. His once steady voice was wistful, hushed, and interrupted with long periods of silence as he told us about his situation. I saw pain yesterday. The formerly politically active businessman has serious doubts about the honesty of our political system. He no longer contacts his representatives; I saw pain that Senator’s Franken and Klobachar will never see.

We take pain killers to lessen the physical pain but what about the psychological pain? I believe we mostly self medicate with drugs, booze, food, sex or whatever offers a temporary escape. We isolate ourselves from others; we distance ourselves from our family; we become bitter and touchy. We possess an attitude that we are “owed something” especially when our unrealistic expectations are not met. In short, we become controlling as we experience the last gasp of our fleeting power and prestige.

This is not unique to our generation or time; it is the visible demonstration of the reality of sin and evil. How sad. This is how the world reacts. How are we as Christians to react to pain and trials?

Our example is found in 1 Peter 3:8-18. Peter is writing under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
8"Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 9Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. 11He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. 12For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." 13Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." 15But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit,”

We as Christians are to react differently than the world. We may even be asked to suffer for doing good (verse 14). The world is watching us. They are watching how we will respond to trials, pain, loss, loneliness, humiliation, whatever, and if our response is the same as the world. They will laugh and chortle at our example. They will view our faith as worthless

Why has our Christian witness been blunted in America? Because we, the Christians, have reacted just as the world reacts. When we do this we have no witness. Christians in these days need to set themselves apart from the example of the world. Our response must be Christ like, even willing to suffer for doing good. Do not be afraid; do not fear what the world fears (verse 14). Let’s live 1 Peter 3 to God’s glory.

Oh Lord, be with us these days. May we respond to the events of our times, not as the world responds but may we respond as Your Son Jesus did—willing to suffer for doing good. Oh Lord, may we not fear what the world fears. Give us strength and courage for this day. May all praise, honor and glory be Yours. Come Lord Jesus. Amen

Thursday, July 16, 2009

“Laid low in the dust”

Psalm 119:25 I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word.”

These days I am finding more and more “dust suckers” as it were. More and more people are losing their jobs or businesses and our expectations are not being met. We have lived through a time of “unrealistic expectations.” What happened in the past was that most of our “unrealistic expectations” were being met but for many the “expectations” of life are not being met today. Many of us today have lived as if God owes us something; He owes us nothing except His wrath. God in His mercy provided the sacrifice—Jesus, and God’s entire wrath destined for us (and fully deserved) fell on Jesus and not us. Therefore, we are “laid low in the dust” as it is.

If we are “laid low in the dust,” the Psalmist asks this “preserve my life according to your word.” God’s word preserves and God’s promises are kept. Look at some verses from Psalm 119; these could serve as a prayer outline for us in the days ahead.

v. 28 – "Strengthen us according to your word
v. 36 – “Turn my heart towards your statutes
v. 37 – “Turn my eyes away from worthless things
v. 50 – God’s promises preserve our life
v. 65 – Ask God to “do us good” – Notice the word servant
v. 67 – “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.”
v. 71 -- Affliction brings obedience
v. 74 -- Be an example. Put our hope in God’s word
v. 78 – “May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause; but I will meditate on your precepts.”
v. 83 – A wineskin in smoke shrinks and becomes wrinkly. Even though we grow old and wrinkly, may we not forget God’s decrees.
v. 92 – Delight in God’s Word; it preserves us.
v. 107 – Acknowledge suffering; ask God to preserve us according to His word.
v. 114 – God is our refuge and shield. Put hope in God’s word and His promises not the fleeting things of this world.
v. 116 – “Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.”
v. 143 – Trouble and distress has come upon us but delight in God’s word.
v. 147 – “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word.” PRAY.
v. 153 – Ask God to deliver us; do not forget God’s promises.
v. 154 – May God defend our cause. ASK.
v. 165 – “Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.”

In your current trials, remember this example of Jesus: “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:23-25


Sunday, July 05, 2009

Putting old men out to pasture and a five gallon bucket of peas

My phone rang; the voice was familiar, I only hear it about once a year. It was my old Air Force buddy, Johnny. He called, light-hearted and upbeat as usual. “I lost my job” he said. He worked at a manufacturing plant about 30 miles away from his Dakota home.

He said, “I was always told that when you get to be around 60 years old, they will get rid of you. I didn’t believe it but it happened. I guess that’s how it works today when you get old—they turn you out to pasture like an old horse, headed for the glue factory.”

He lost pension benefits and health insurance. We visited; his concern is not having any health insurance. As veterans, when we went into the service, we were promised health care--another broken promise. We have none. We served 18 months in Southeast Asia but we have assets so we have no health care. For the first time, I sensed some cynicism in his voice. “What did we really expect, Beef?”

Have Johnny and I had unrealistic expectations of promises made to us as young men? You say, “Get real, Beef, we live in a different time.” Oh yes we do—or do we?

In 1 Samuel 8 we read about God’s Prophet Samuel. It says Samuel “grew old.” In verse four is says, “So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, ‘you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

“You are old” they said to the prophet. For ages, old men have been put out to pasture like an old glue horse; Johnny and I shouldn’t be surprised. No unrealistic expectations for us if we are honest.

Johnny had a job at a nursery the day after he was let go from the job he had worked at for almost 35 years. And then he was laid off from the nursery on Wednesday of this week; but they want him back next year. On Thursday, he had a new job at a store in a nearby town.

Johnny may be “old” but he is not worthless. He lost his father at two, grew up poor, the youngest of six children—yes, he was poor. I always felt Johnny never had high expectations of life, that way the disappointments of life’s reality would not hurt as much. I guess it is a form of self preservation; he sometimes buries in a bottle of Scotch.

It is easy to point our finger and judge. I love him, he is my dear friend. He used to say, “God made me poor; at least He could have made me good looking.” Johnny is not good looking but he has a heart of gold. He would do anything for other people. I am pleased to have such a friend.

I said, “Johnny, you know what I ate for supper tonight; fresh peas and fresh garden potatoes with cream sauce.”

Johnny said, “Damn that’s good. That’s what we had also. As a matter of fact, I picked a 5 gallon pail of peas. I gave most of them away.” He wasn’t bragging, just stating a fact.

Johnny added, “Beef, we may be poor, put out to pasture old horses, but we eat better than kings. Yes, we eat better than kings.”

Johnny reminded me that God has been good to us. He may not have health insurance or much money but he has five gallons of peas of which he gave most of them away.

Thank you Johnny, for the lesson on being thankful to God.