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.