Monday, May 25, 2009

When old men march…only a few remember

The Memorial Day Program is an 80+ year tradition in our small western Minnesota town of Danube. The American Legion is an organization of former soldier citizens who organize the event. They meet at the town hall, form a color guard and march the three blocks to the school auditorium for the service.

In the not too distant past, people young and old lined the street as they marched to the school. People do not line the streets anymore; smaller numbers of people attend the program. Yes, we’ve become distracted or we’ve forgotten what this day means.

We’ve been distracted by ease and abundance. The top priority has become our own personal agenda. I am not against going to the lake, hunting turkeys, going on a bike ride, or just plain having fun, we need to do that, but don’t be so distracted that the remembrance of the ones who gave their lives for our freedom is lost amidst the so called “busy-ness” of our self absorbed lives.

Not only have we been distracted but we’ve forgotten our past and the sacrifices that have been made. As I have become older, I’ve forgotten things. Usually my forgetfulness creates more problems and adversity. I’m also a prideful man and my forgetfulness is embarrassing for me. Forgive me but the forgetfulness of our nation is embarrassing and out rightly sad. Every day our freedoms are going away, freedoms fought for with shed blood and at the expense of human life, and we could care less. Meanwhile, we lie back in our easy chair, rub our belly, pick our teeth and burp…

The old men who march are laughed at under our breath and only a few of us care enough to remember. Am I angry? Yes, I am. Wake up America; whether you realize it or not, we’re sliding into oblivion. What a waste of the lives of young men and young women who have died fighting for our freedom. God forgive us.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

…it’s a good day!

It was the end of a long day. I spent 5 ½ hours in eviction court waiting and listening to nothing but conflict and sadness. I was working out a problem in the building when I heard the distinctive voice of my Russian friend Boris. He speaks English with a Russian accent; besides speaking English and Russian, he speaks German and French also. Boris is a 60-something rotund, architect-engineer who emigrated from Russia seven years ago. He has a booming “Tevia-like” voice and possesses a fun-loving, appreciative attitude.

As I was walking down the hall, I hear his Boris’s booming voice, “Yerry, it’s a bad day.” I turn to see him standing with his hands in the position of holding a twenty-pound oblong watermelon at his waist. “Yerry,” he repeats, “it’s a bad day!”

I ask, “Boris, why is it a bad day?”

And Boris replies, “It’s a bad day because the transmission in my car broke down.”

“Oh, really?” I reply.

But Boris replies like Tevia from Fiddler on the Roof, “But Yerry, it’s a good day, too.”

I ask, “Why is it a good day, too?”

Boris smiles and replies, “It’s a good day because even though the transmission broke down, at least I have a car! Yes, Yerry, it’s a good day!” We laugh; the happy Russian made my day.

In Russia, Boris didn’t have a car. As a matter of fact, as a Russian Jew, he didn’t have much of anything. In America, he is grateful for all things great and small—a lesson I need to remember. God has been good to us.

I remember the first time I met this rotund, portly Tevia of Russia. He said to me in broken English “This is good.”

I said, “What’s good?”

He said, “I found another fat man!” That’s just Boris!

Boris has seen many trials in his life; tears mingled with joy. Good days and bad days separated with a smile and an appreciative attitude.

When I see or hear Boris, I smile. When I’m with Boris, it’s a good day.

Friday, May 15, 2009

God's Stimulus Package

When entering Olivia, MN from the east on Highway 212, there is a pro-life billboard. It is called “God’s Stimulus Package”. It is the picture of four little babies in a box, looking up at the camera, smiling.

Yes, what we need are more babies. While the Lord said be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 9:7 NIV - As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.) We live in an age where young couples are afraid to have babies because of bad economic times and they live amid political change which is becoming scary. Add to all of this the made up crisis, “global warming.” Yes, if you believe these radicals, we are all going to die as our earth turns into a ‘slow cooker’. Remember this promise from Genesis 8:22: "As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease." I trust the Lord—not global warming advocates.

Let’s pray for more “packages” of God’s stimulus plan. Let’s rejoice in new birth, let’s look forward with joy and peace, knowing the Lord holds the future.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Who is going to care for the sick during a pandemic?

Proverbs 18:14: A man's spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?

If a pandemic came, how would we, as Christians, react? Would we isolate ourselves from everyone else? Would we hide out behind our walls, safe from the contamination of a dirty world?

I believe we should go into the world and minister. Yes, if we believe God’s word, we go minister. If we believe Psalm 139:13-16 which says: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” We will not die one day too soon or too late. We will die when God intends us to die. If we don’t minister to a hurting world, who will?

George Mueller was a German who ministered in Britain. He is best known for the boys’ homes he built with perseverance and prayer. Mueller was also a pastor of a small church. He had no salary but depended on the weekly tithe and offering for his sustenance. A disease spread through England. Mueller and his church decided to care for the sick and those suffering. During the process, no one in his church died except an 80 year old lady, later in the diseases progression. No one knew for sure if she died of the disease or old age. What a witness in a time of trial. They chose to minister and God provided protection for them during this time.

What would you do during a pandemic—minister or run and hide. I must admit there would be a lot of pressure to run and hide because we’ve been hiding out behind the walls of our monasteries (I mean churches, sorry!) while a world suffers.

Jesus ministered to the sick. Jesus ministered to the most despised, the ones with leprosy and more. We are called to do the same. (James 2:14-17: "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

Leslie Brand in “Meditations of a Radical Christian” says, “I am not called and redeemed by God in order to pull out of this sinful world, to be washed off and shined up and put on display…but I am called and redeemed and empowered for the very purpose of carrying on the incarnation of Jesus Christ of going directly into the world, its sewers and cesspools, its sickness and distortions, its emptiness and weakness and fears, and there demonstrate God’s love and Christ’s salvation and the Holy Spirit’s presence and power.”

Psalm 103:3: “who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases”
John 3:16 says “God so loved the world that He gave…”. So we should give of ourselves. Amen

Friday, May 01, 2009

Tears Mingled with Joy

I was off from preaching on Sunday so we attended our own church; it was good to see everyone. I sat in the pew and read in the bulletin that an 80-something farmer had been diagnosed with lung cancer. The retired farmer and his wife have been a special encouragement to me in my ministry. This came as a total surprise not only to us but also to them. We talked, hugged, shed tears and prayed; life must go on.

At noon we attended a fund raiser for a family who lost their 29 year old husband, father, son and brother after a short battle with a respiratory disease. During the months of his illness, the family has incurred monumental medical bills. The young couple grew up in the Danube-Renville-Clara City area but now live in Maple Grove. Some people in our community took the bull by the horns and organized this fund raiser. The turn out was tremendous. People came from a 30+ mile radius; the event went off without a hitch. In spite of the circumstances, there was much joy and tears at this event.

My wife Judi asked “Do other communities have fund raisers for people in trouble as much as they do in this area?” I hadn’t thought of it before but probably as our numbers dwindle on the prairie, we are becoming closer to one another. The hurt and the joy seem to hit closer to home. Upon a little investigation, we found out that some communities, even on the prairie, do and others do not.

I got home to find a message on my phone; friends whom I have met through preaching called to say their 27 year old married son had died in his sleep sometime Sunday morning. We were shocked. I visited them Sunday night. We cried, we hugged and we prayed.

While I traveled in one direction, Judi headed the opposite direction to attend the Visitation for the mother of some friends of ours. This lovely lady had lived a good, long life and truly loved the Lord and was looking forward to “going home”. She had had her sorrows also losing her husband and 2 grandsons and then 2 of her daughters within a few months. She still trusted God and knew He was in control.

So goes life; joy mingled with tears. We scramble to ask why? We might not verbalize it but we wonder why.

As I drove through the rain on Sunday night, Isaiah 57:1-2 came to mind: “The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.” Life is short. Tell your loved ones you love them. Live out that love in word and deed. Make sure you let your loved ones know where you are spiritually so there will be no concern or doubt. Get right with Jesus.

When you read this you may think how sad to find out you have lung cancer, how sad that a 29 year old father of two dies after battling a disease for some months. How sad a young wife wakes up to find her young, healthy husband has passed away. How sad that a mother buries two of her children in less than 6 months.

As we read this, we are grateful this hasn’t happened to us but be aware, some day we will see the somber face of doctor say, “you have cancer” or we will get the phone call that says your son has passed away. I ask you brother and sister; will you be ready when our call comes? Yes, some day our call will come. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says: 1 "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: 2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, 6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace."

Yes, tears mingled with joy—that’s life.