Friday, December 31, 2010

A blot on the name of Olivia, Minnesota

I live ten miles from Olivia, Minnesota. During the last week, Olivia has been in the news due to the death of a little 19 month old girl, beaten to death by her Mom’s 19 year old boyfriend. As one person said, “This incident is a blot upon our town’s name.” I say, “It should be.”

In Luke 18:9-14 it says: “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

This part of scripture has much to teach us. One point which has convicted me was the Pharisee (“a member of a Jewish sect of the intertestamental period noted for strict observance of rites and ceremonies of the written law and for insistence on the validity of their own oral traditions concerning the law”) was quick to condemn the actions of the publican (“a Jewish tax collector for the ancient Romans”) and showed no concern for the publican’s salvation. The Pharisee’s prayer was pretty much a blow-hard exposition on his self-righteous deeds.

I visited with some people in the community about the death of the little baby; no one seemed to know who the baby was. Someone said, “It was Hispanic.” Then another replied, “Oh, one of those.” No more was said. Yes, we barely flinch when it’s “one of them” that dies. I guess the Hispanics (or anyone else who is different from us for that matter) are the modern day publicans. We, as believers, become uncomfortably quiet (myself included) when a Hispanic baby dies a violent death.

Do we honestly show any love and concern for our Hispanic brothers or sisters? Are we truly concerned about their salvation? Or are we modern day Pharisees, regarding them in some way less than us? Are we self-centered like the Pharisee whose prayer is only about him blowing smoke about himself?

I believe we are guilty. How sad.

Lord Jesus, help us, wake us up, convict us of our sin of indifference towards all our brothers and sisters Hispanic or others. If the violent death of a 19 month old baby won’t wake us up, what will?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Living In-Between 1st and 2nd

“Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”  Hebrews 9:27-28

In baseball, it is not a good thing to be caught between 1st and 2nd. A quick decision must be made; do I go to second base or scoot back to first base and hopefully be ruled “safe”. I am not really concerned about baseball but it could make for an interesting analogy.

Today we live between the first and second advent of Christ. Advent is described as “the arrival of an event that has long been awaited with expectation.” We live between His birth (First Advent) and His 2nd coming (Second Advent).

As Christians, do we spend too much time on the baby Jesus and not enough time on our reigning champion Jesus who has completed His work and is coming again? He is coming not to suffer but to gather His own unto Himself. How are you waiting for His return; in childish fear or in joyful expectation of the returning Christ?

This Christmas let us rise in the power of the risen Savior and wait with courage for His expected return. Let’s wait with purpose and urgency to reach as many as we can with His message of hope, being made right with the eternal God.

How are you going to live the rest of your life—in fear or joyful expectation? The choice is yours; accept His gift, the gift of being His chosen one.

May God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit bless you this Christmas Season. May His army (us) wait in peace, ready for battle to do His work.

Let us arise from kneeling by the empty manger, seeing the empty cross, believing in the power of God’s resurrection, the empty tomb, and wait for the Father’s command to His Son Jesus to “go and gather my own.” Yes, then we will be safe on second. Right with God through eternity, all brought about by the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of God’s one and only Son Jesus. This is what we should celebrate this Christmas Season.

Come quickly Lord Jesus, come. Come and take your children home and we will be with You for eternity.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Praising God for what we have

My brother is in Abbott Hospital in Minneapolis fighting a very tough brain cancer. The intensity of the battle has taken another step higher—Jim now has an unknown form of pneumonia.  He is in the fight of his life.

Someone told me this week that “Jim is too young to die;” he is 70. I suppose he could be considered too young; none of us want to die but the Lord determines our day to be born and our day to die.

As it says in Ecclesiastes 3:1-14:

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:  a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,  a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,  a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,  a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,  a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,  a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,  a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.  What does the worker gain from his toil?  I have seen the burden God has laid on men.  He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.  That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil--this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him."
Carol, Jim’s wife of almost 50 years, was returning to the hotel late one night. Tired, lonely and battling to keep her spirits up for Jim and the kids, she encountered a couple at the hotel. The couple has a 13 year old daughter in Abbot with an inoperable brain tumor.

Carol said, “How sad, she is only 13, hasn’t even lived her life.” It was at that point that Carol was reminded that Jim has had 70 years of life and a good life at that. Carol said to me the next morning, “We must always be thankful for what we have rather than complain about what we do not have.”

We want Jim to live; we entrust his life and care to God’s hands. We thank you Lord for 70 years. May the young girl with the brain tumor experience the same.

Thank you, Jesus. Amen

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Gold Cannot Save or One Too Many Gold Commercials

The TV commercials to buy gold pound on us; I should do a survey to see what percentage of advertisements are for the purpose to encourage us to buy gold and silver. Precious metals have seen a spectacular rise over the last ten years. It has been an excellent investment but it cannot save. No, it cannot save. We are to be wise stewards of God’s blessing upon us but God will save us, through His Son. Our gold and silver will not save us.

Ezekiel 7:19 says: “They will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will be treated as a thing unclean. Their silver and gold will not be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD’s wrath. It will not satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs, for it has caused them to stumble into sin.” Our gold cannot save us from the wrath of the Lord.

Without Christ we will stand in the street full of terror; our knees will be like water. (Ezekiel 7:17: “Every hand will go limp”), in shame and horror. Our gold and silver will lie at our feet as detestable.

Our love for gold and silver will be the stumbling block, concerning our sin. We want to grab a hold of all we can get in this life, hoping in gold, not in Christ.

In these last days, let’s be good stewards of God’s blessing. We must come to Christ; He alone is our hope. The love of this world, the love of stuff, can be the stumbling block concerning our coming to Christ for forgiveness. Without Christ, the picture is very sobering.

Trust God, not gold. Trust the one who holds the future. His name is Jesus Christ.

Read Ezekiel 7:14-27 from The Message:

14 'The trumpet signals the call to battle: "Present arms!" But no one marches into battle. My wrath has them paralyzed! 15 On the open roads you're killed, or else you go home and die of hunger and disease. Either get murdered out in the country or die of sickness or hunger in town. 16 Survivors run for the hills. They moan like doves in the valleys, Each one moaning for his own sins. 17 "'Every hand hangs limp, every knee turns to rubber. 18 They dress in rough burlap - sorry scarecrows, Shifty and shamefaced, with their heads shaved bald. 19 "'They throw their money into the gutters. Their hard-earned cash stinks like garbage. They find that it won't buy a thing they either want or need on Judgment Day. They tripped on money and fell into sin. 20 Proud and pretentious with their jewels, they deck out their vile and vulgar no-gods in finery. I'll make those god-obscenities a stench in their nostrils. 21 I'll give away their religious junk - strangers will pick it up for free, the godless spit on it and make jokes. 22 I'll turn my face so I won't have to look as my treasured place and people are violated, As violent strangers walk in and desecrate place and people - 23 A bloody massacre, as crime and violence fill the city. 24 I'll bring in the dregs of humanity to move into their houses. I'll put a stop to the boasting and strutting of the high-and-mighty, And see to it that there'll be nothing holy left in their holy places. 25 Catastrophe descends. They look for peace, but there's no peace to be found - 26 Disaster on the heels of disaster, one rumor after another. They clamor for the prophet to tell them what's up, but nobody knows anything. Priests don't have a clue; the elders don't know what to say. 27 The king holds his head in despair; the prince is devastated. The common people are paralyzed. Gripped by fear, they can't move. I'll deal with them where they are, judge them on their terms. They'll know that I am God.'"

Friday, December 03, 2010

Shopping in Willmar or Poor in the Midst of Great Possessions

On an early Thursday afternoon, Judi and I had business in Willmar. Judi had some shoes that needed to be returned to the store so I sat and waited while she transacted business.

A woman, I estimated to be in her late 70’s, sat down beside me with a sigh of relief. “I sure can’t shop like I used to” she said. “Yes, there was a day when I could shop from morning to night; now I must stop and rest.” She turned out to be an agitated woman and somewhat bitter about life. I watched all the shoppers; most had a furrowed brow; most did not look happy. Am I, as a Christian, happy? Do I understand how God has blessed me?

My mind came back to a devotional entitled, “Poor in the Midst of Great Possessions.” This is my rough translation of the work of German theologian Dr. Heinrich Muller. He was a local pastor who understood the plight of his people. It is from his book, “The Hour of Refreshing.”  I quote with a rough translation:
“This is said of the miserly, and it is true. Poverty and riches are in the mind. He who wishes for nothing more is rich; and he who is always wanting something is poor. I have what I do not desire; and that which I am always longing for is lacking to me. The miser never says he has enough. He is poor in the midst of wealth, because he has what he has as though he had it not. The only benefit he derives from “his stuff” is looking at it, and anyone can do that, even the poorest. It is not forbidden for me to look at the possessions of others, but I cannot take any of them, for they are not mine. The miser will not touch his own because gold is his god. Thus the miser gets no more out of his own than I do of others’ possessions. He is so poor that he has not even himself. He may be compared to a spider who spins her own web out of her own bowels; so the miser consumes and kills himself in caring for his life. What good does wealth do to a man if he be not allowed to partake of it?”
“It suits the Christian better to be poor in the midst of great possessions. He does not consider it right to pamper his body, but uses what he has in moderation. Therefore, he may be looked upon as poor, although he may be rich. And where is the poor man whose daily necessities are not supplied? God always gives a bit of bread, often in a wonderful manner, and in a way man would never dream of. Do not ascribe your riches to your own cleverness or industry, but look upon them as a gift from the bountiful hand of thy God, which has been given in answer to your unceasing prayers; so you are in reality as poor as the beggar who daily goes from door to door to collect alms. We need to look upon our means as a loan, over which God has not appointed us lord, but only steward, so that we may give to the poor—therefore we are poor in the midst of great wealth, for who can be poorer than he who has nothing of his own? We have not set our heart on what we have, but are ready, when God wills it, to deliver it up. If we meet with losses, we do not lose courage, but are content, saying with Job, in true humility and resignation, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). So we are poor, although possessed of great riches. Temporal possessions are injurious to no man’s soul, unless the heart hangs unto them.”

I would like to summarize a statement by A.W. Tozer; “We can have everything, but we must possess nothing. For the thing we possess, we will love more than God.”

It is all a matter of our heart; yes it is but so hard to do.