Monday, December 26, 2011

Mary Did You Know

Merry Christmas to all of you!  Just wanted to share this beautiful hymn that we love.  We were blessed to hear it sung on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day by two different people in two different churches.  Both were wonderful.  I chose this link because the words were also shown.  We hope that you enjoy it as well.

May God continue to bless you this Christmas season.

~ Beef & Judi

Click the title to hear the video.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

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.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Rhinestone Cowboys of Advent

My plan was a night of serious study; I had a sermon to prepare and had ideas rolling in my head that I needed to get on paper. I decided to put the TV on as background. I chose a program on Public Television about crossover country hits—hits that were country but became pop hits at the same time. I worked with the background of music playing in my ears. Glen Campbell came on singing “Rhinestone Cowboy. I have heard the song many times before but never really listened to the words. For some reason I listened last night. These words caught my attention. I quote: “There’s been a load of comprising, on the road of my arising, but I want to be where the lights are shining on me. Like a Rhinestone Cowboy, out on a horse in star spangled rodeo…I wanna be where light is shining on me.”

Yes, we crave attention but at what price? Did it involve a load of compromising to get into the light? Fame is temporary and fleeting yet many people crave so much attention they will compromise their values to achieve their 15 minutes of fame.

I wondered about Advent and Christmas. Isn’t so much of this season about me? We want to be the one whose Christmas letter is the first to arrive. Effort is put into our Christmas lights so everyone will notice. Of course, the gifts so perfectly chosen so in the presence of extended family, others will swoon at our pluck and creativity.

Yes, we want to be “where the lights are shining on me.” Remember this Advent season, Jesus does not need any light shown on Him. He is the Light, the Light of the World, the Light of the World to bring us out of sin and darkness.

Dear Lord, please forgive us as we Rhinestone Cowboys struggle for our place in the spotlight. Lord, draw us to the “real Light, Jesus Christ, and our desire for human attention will fade away in the fullness of His Light and glory and grace. Come Lord Jesus, come. Amen.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Quotes from the Bulletin Board

While preparing for my office move, I took down the bulletin board which held the following quotes. There’s a variety of topics but you may find them thought provoking.
“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.
It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.
Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up.
It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle--                When the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”                            ~ Roger Bannister

Warren Buffet said on ABC he “doubts very many children in the Forbes 400 served in the war. They come home to Nebraska in body bags but you don’t have to call up to the country club to let them know.”


“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”     -- Theodore Roosevelt, “Citizenship in a Republic,” Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1919.

* * * *
“The danger of civilization, of course, is that you will piss away your life on nonsense.” From “The Beast God Forgot to Invent” by Jim Harrison.


* * * * *

“In America, it’s far more shameful to owe money than it is to steal it.” (from an article in the November 25, 2010 issue of Rolling Stone by Matt Taibbi entitled “Courts Helping Banks Screw Over Homeowners”

* * * * 

“War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse.”
~~ John Stuart Mill

Friday, November 11, 2011

What pleases God? Let the Scriptures speak…

I read in Ephesians 5:10 where it says in the NIV, “and find out what pleases the Lord.”  What pleases the Lord?

Hebrews 11:6: "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."

Hebrews 13:16: "…and do not forget to do good and share with others for with such sacrifices, God is pleased."

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."

Psalm 69:30-31: "I will praise God's name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hoofs."

Micah 6:7-8: "Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

I Timothy 5:4: "But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God."

I Timothy 2:1-3: "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior,"

Colossians 1:10-13: "And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,"

1 Thessalonians. 4:1-12: "Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit. Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more. Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody."

Galatians 6:7-8: "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life."

Romans 15:2-4: "Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me." For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."

1 John 2:17: "The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever."

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Coming and Going

Matt. 28:16-20: “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

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."

The church today is enamored with programs. If we choose the right program “they” will come. We need to have a “good” praise team; we buff up everything physical and spiritual. We hope people will be impressed by our church. They come and they stay until they see our warts. (Yes, we all have a flat side.) They come and stay until they see the good and the bad. Then they leave to visit another “buffed up” church and the endless search goes on for the perfect church, one they will never find this side of Heaven.

Jesus told us to go; go to all the world; go to the world’s turf. It is rarely done today in the “real world” or “the street”. The world sees us (the church) as irrelevant and out of touch; distant and afraid.

But when we go to a hurting world, we meet them where they are—no preconceived notions here. When we meet the world on their turf they will wonder “they must be different because no one has come to us before.” When we go to the world, they are comfortable with us. We see them as they are and they see us as we are, warts included, in the midst of pain, suffering, mourning, hassle, and dirt. They see us for who we are, no buffed up image here. In these situations we do not impress, we minister.

When we go to the back roads, the out of the way places and share Christ, the “street” and we (the church) don’t have any buffed up image to maintain. Their expectations of us, the church, is real. We see them for who they are, we remember who we once were; we are not puffed up, and pumped up “suits of hot air.” We live out our compassion. We are to live our faith and they see it.

The “street” is smart; it sees a fraud a mile away. They have had to be “street smart” to survive and survive they will. But if they don’t know Christ, they struggle and survive this life only to spend eternity in hell. How sad.

How will they know Christ? When we go to the street and the world and reveal Christ to them. When Christ graciously chooses them, He says: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

To the world He says come. He tells us to go

Sunday, October 30, 2011

American Boom or American Bust

"The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved."  ~ Jeremiah 8: 20  

The common economic wisdom is that this century will be the Century of China and India just like the last century was the Century of America.

An October 24, 2011 article in the United Kingdom paper, The Telegraph, written by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard entitled “World Power Swings Back to America” states in part…”The American Phoenix is slowly rising again. Within five years or so, the US will be well on its way to self-sufficiency in fuel and energy. Manufacturing will have closed the labor gap with China in a clutch of key industries.”

America has become the Number One producer of natural gas, passing by the former #1, Russia. The “shale gas revolution” is occurring. North Dakota is considered the “new North Sea.” Today U.S. supplies a net 395,000 barrels of oil per day; that number will rise by mid-decade to 5.5 million barrels a day; a ten-fold rise since 2009.

I find few articles that are positive about America’s economic future. It was refreshing. The article contained many more factoids that simply I found impressive. We may possess the tools to continue to be an economic power house, but what if we continue to be morally bankrupt?

Our company is in the process of relocating thirty-three commercial tenants from a building so the building can be redeveloped into apartments. Many of the tenants do not want to leave; they love the building but they do not own it. Change is hard for all of us but our experience relocating these long-term tenants has been mostly disheartening.

In this process, which is totally legal and handled in a sensitive manner, has been met with anger and skepticism. People have tried to steal the building conference room chairs; each one is worth $65. Why would a woman in her 60’s do this? She is angry and vindictive towards “the rich men doing this.”

The “Occupy Wall Street” stuff may seem distant to Western Minnesota, but its affect is being felt. The attitude to “take from the rich man” has set in at an amazing speed. We may disagree with what’s being done (re:development of the building) but it does not give any of us a license to steal.

The question I ask is this: “What good is all this economic potential if we as a nation are morally bankrupt? Wake up church (Christians), we haven’t done our appointed task—share Christ with our culture and display His sacrificial love. No, we’ve sat on our hind ends, “gotten into the world big-time,” we may be economically successful but morally bankrupt. If that is the case, we have nothing.

Jeremiah 9:7-9"Therefore this is what the LORD Almighty says: "See, I will refine and test them, for what else can I do because of the sin of my people?  Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks with deceit. With his mouth each speaks cordially to his neighbor, but in his heart he sets a trap for him.  Should I not punish them for this?" declares the LORD. "Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?""

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Last Ride – The Life and Times of Jim Seehusen

The October day was gloomy after a long run of above normal temperatures and clear autumn days. Monday was blustery with light rain. It was a day where you hunched your shoulders from the cold and pulled your coat tighter around your neck. I guess it was a good day for a funeral in Olivia, Minnesota. Blustery, growing colder with a sense of sadness in the air, it was my brother Jim’s funeral.

As we pulled away from the church for the one mile ride to the cemetery west of town, people watched along the street. The big shiny Cadillac hearse led the way; it was Jim’s last ride. The route passed in front of his house. Behind the hearse was a horse and buggy. The horse was “Pops”, Jim’s horse and the buggy was one of many my brother made. In the buggy was Jim’s slicker, cowboy hat and boots along with a wreath adorned with, among other things, feathers and a horse shoe—all representing Jim’s life.

The horse and buggy were driven by Doug and Steve, my brother’s “horse and buggy buddies”. It looked like they came from cowboy central casting. They rode stoically on the buggy. Doug wore his cowboy hat, boots and an oil soaked slicker to ward off the cold October rain, Steve in his cowboy hat, boots, Levies and wind breaker. It was hard to tell if it was rain or tears on their faces.

Pops the horse walked slowly with his head down facing the wind and rain. Pops knew something was up; the day before Jim died, Pops separated himself from the herd. He is boarded at Doug and Mary’s farm. They noticed Pops was standing alone, not usual for him; they knew something was up. Twenty-four hours later, Jim passed away.

As my older brother, we didn’t always get along as children. Seven years older than me, he, like my late older sister Mary Ann, took glee in bossing me around. I wasn’t really angry with them I just did my best to make their “supervisory role” miserable.

Jim and I visited a lot over the last year. It was never sad. Brain cancer can be a cruel master; he would have moments, yet he went gently and that was our only prayer. We never ordered God around; we asked for Jim to go gently.  He did.

What did I learn from him? What was his greatest accomplishment? I’m sure those close to him would differ if asked the question. Here is what I think.

Jim and I grew up in a physically and verbally abusive home. As young boys, we pledged to one another to never do that to our wife and family. We never physically abused but fought dishing out our cutting verbal remarks for much of our life. As we have gotten older, we prayed more earnestly for that to go completely away. Jim had a great wife, Carol, of 50 years; they had 5 children and 10 grandchildren--all an accomplishment in and of itself. Jim never cheated on his wife. Why? Because he made a promise before God and he loved his wife. He was good looking and successful; I am sure he had opportunities but he said no. I told him if he ever cheated on his wife “I would beat the hell out of him”. I know some people might think this is unimportant or inappropriate to mention; Jim thought it was important.

Jim was an overachiever. He was a lumberyard worker turned trucker then a salesman. Jim was an accomplished business man. He hated sales training; we both hated sales training and were terrible at it. At one sales training session, Jim was presented with the booby prize, a flashlight to find his way out of the dark; a stinging insult. The joke was on the sales trainer as Jim was the number one salesman three years running and he didn’t learn very much from the snooty sales trainer. Sales were simple to Jim; it wasn’t magic words and techniques as the sales trainer taught, it was problem solving. We all like to help people; Jim helped people by solving their problems. His customers made money and so did Jim and the whole process flowed naturally. If you are a business person or sales person reading this, stop selling, start solving problems and enjoy the ride.

There is much to be said and Jim knew the Lord. He is with Christ—can’t be anything better than that--a God ordained and Jesus driven accomplishment.

Yes, his last ride was slow and sad. I am sure all of us will remember it. Over seventy years earlier on the east side of Olivia Jim was born in his Great Grandmother Schanil’s house; he was brought home to the farm in a 1936 Ford. Jim owned a 1936 Ford for awhile; he said, “It was too much bother.” He bought Pops and made buggies; he liked horses better than cars.

Always grateful, Jim got his wish; he went home gently to be with Christ. His last ride spoke to it all—a life imperfect (like all of us) but well lived—but now he is perfect with Christ. What a life; what a ride; what a Savior!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Uncollected Thoughts on a Windy Day

"Christ tells us that if we want to join him, we shall travel the way he took.  It is surely not right that the Son of God should go his way on the path of shame while the sons of men walk the way of worldly honor."
John of Avila

"We put ourselves to all sorts of inconveniences to satisfy our guilty passions but when it is a question of overcoming them we will not lift a finger.  It is just this penny's worth of suffering that nobody wants to spend."
Leonard of Port Maurice

"The best way not to find the bed too cold is to go to bed colder than the bed is."
Charles Borromeo

"Hell is full of the talented, but
Heaven of the energetic"
Jeanne De Chantal

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Psalm 37:1-9

If we believe…we are to (BLUE) and the Lord does (RED)

1 Fret not yourself because of evildoers;

be not envious of wrongdoers!

2For they will soon fade like the grass

and wither like the green herb.

3 Trust in the LORD, and do good;

dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

4 Delight yourself in the LORD,

and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the LORD;

trust in him, and he will act.

6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,

and your justice as the noonday.

7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;

fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,

over the man who carries out evil devices!

8Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!

Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.

9 For the evildoers shall be cut off,

but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Psalm 150

"Praise the LORD.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD."

What if God only granted breath to those who praise Him??

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Privileges of being a Servant of God – Scripture Speaks

The following is with the help of one Thomas Watson, a Puritan preacher from the 1600’s who made grace so attractive.
A man as a servant of God:
  • Ezra 5:11 - This is the answer they gave us: "We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, one that a great king of Israel built and finished.
  • Colossians 4:12 - Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.
  • Psalm 116:16 - O LORD, truly I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant; you have freed me from my chains.
The privileges of being God’s servant:
1. Freedom:
    • Psalm 116:16 - O LORD, truly I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant; you have freed me from my chains.
    • Psalm 51:12 -- Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
2. Honor:
  • Psalm 143:11-12 -- For your name's sake, O LORD, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble. In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant.
  • Isaiah 53:11 -- After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
  • Psalm 18:35 -- You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great.
Jesus is not ashamed to be called a servant.
3. Safety:
  • Isaiah 41:9-10 -- I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, 'You are my servant'; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
  • Psalm 27:5-6 -- For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD.
  • Acts 18:9-10 -- One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: "Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city."
4. Gain:
  • John 12:26 -- Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
  • Hebrews 12:28-29 -- Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire."
5. Assistance:
  • Psalm 138:3 -- When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted.
  • Ezekiel 36:26-27 -- I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
6. He is our supply:
  • Psalm 37:3-4 -- Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
  • Genesis 48:15-16 -- Then he blessed Joseph and said, "May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the Angel who has delivered me from all harm --may he bless these boys. May they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they increase greatly upon the earth."
In these days, remember who God is, and the grace and goodness He bestows on us to be His servant son and servant daughter. May we dwell forever in His house.

Hang this on the wall, read it when discouraged.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

God's Word Concerning the Poor Among Us

The streets of Minneapolis have changed dramatically in the last six months—people are in deep financial trouble.  In the last two weeks, I have had four people walk into my office and ask for a job. Some ask to the point of begging. I know their stories since all were past tenants or employees.

In my preaching and visiting with people about this, I found most unresponsive towards the poor. We’re unconcerned and damn glad it isn’t us. As “rich” people, we better be concerned for our lot could change quickly. We must be thankful for every little freedom, grace, provision, and protection we have. We need to be humbly grateful for “life, breath, and everything else.” Acts 17:25: “And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else."

Here are some scriptures of hope for the poor, the soon to be poor and the rich. In these days be encouraged and challenged by God’s promises.

Psalm 9:10“Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.”  Note promise and condition

Psalm 9:18: “But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.”

Deuteronomy 15:7-11: "If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land."

Deuteronomy 28:47-48: "Because you did not serve the LORD your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity, therefore in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve the enemies the LORD sends against you. He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you."

Luke 4:18-19: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Luke 14:12-14: "Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

1 Corinthians 13:3: "If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

2 Corinthians 8:9: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich."

Enough said...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Why is God so good to us ol’ country boys?

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”  Ephesians 2:6-7

It was a hot droopy late July Sunday evening; the end of a two service Sunday. I was standing in the church parking lot watching the sun go down—sweating. I was visiting with a friend, a Western Minnesota farmer. We marveled at how good God has been to us even though we do not deserve this goodness; undeserved merit—grace and mercy.

In Ephesians 2, Paul writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit says, “God raised us up with Christ” a thought I cannot fully grasp, “and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” Wow! Why did He do that? He doesn’t need our company or companionship. He is totally self-sufficient. He doesn’t need us in any way.

But He raised us up with Christ, seats us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus (by Christ alone, no one or nothing else). He does it; I quote, “In order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches in His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

God is and has been good to us to show the ages that two ol’ undeserving country boys are seated with Jesus to show the ages His grace and kindness to us.

Why is God good to us? It is because we are His sons. We deserve nothing but His wrath but He demonstrates to us and the ages His “incomparable riches of His grace expressed in His kindness.”

In light of all of this, we should be face first in the dirt shouting “praise God; halleluiah.” Praise God from all blessings flow.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Reaping what we have sown

Dennis Prager is a radio host and college professor of the Old Testament. He is a continual breathe of fresh air concerning the influence or lack of influence concerning Judeo-Christian values. With his wisdom, he can put his finger on an issue and lay it open for all to see and understand.

While I am having a lunch break at work, I listen to him on a Twin Cities radio station and enjoy his program. This week he addressed the lack of manners, common sense and the excess of arrogance in many people.

Mr. Prager’s take is this, in the past people were taught by Mom and Dad, grandpa and grandma and the church or synagogue, to deal with our personal issues first. Lying, cheating and lack of self-control was taught by the parents and the churches. The school then backed up the parents by teaching the same, addressing personal flaws, working hard to develop positive traits. And the parents supported the school’s rules. Everyone was pretty much on the same page.

The schools started to change; rather than address personal issues, the school started to teach us how to be good citizens, to address issues rather than character flaws. They taught our children to combat racism, be good environmentalists, or whatever the issue was, but seldom addressed our own personal “shortcomings”, “flaws”, or “sin” (a very old fashioned tongue-in-check concept). Yes, we are flawed; we need to deal with ourselves before we can be taught to be a “good” whatever.

On top of this program, we started the “positive self-esteem” movement. Coupled with the lack of addressing our personal faults, we now have people who see nothing wrong with themselves but see the world through “issues” which need to be dealt with and addressed. And I’m ok just as I am. If there is a problem, it’s not me; it’s someone else or other groups of people who do not have as high an opinion of me as I do.

Why harp on this? I see and deal with the results of this every day. This week we had a woman who came to the building to perform some environmental testing for the proposed renovation of the building. The common practice is for these people to park on the street. There is room to park on the street but you must feed quarters in the parking meter. She decided she wasn’t going to park on the street. She pulled in unannounced, parked in someone else’s reserved spot, left her GPS on her dash (a sure reason to have her car broken into) and pranced in like a spoiled six year old at a beauty pageant. When I addressed the situation, it was somehow my fault. She didn’t have quarters to feed the meter. Concerning her GPS, I was not going to tell her what to do…well… Totally self-absorbed, arrogant and condescending; obviously, the rules (reserved parking) are not meant for her. I can’t condemn her; she’s just a product of her teaching and environment—she hasn’t been taught. We complain; I complain, but what did I do to head this off? Nothing; I did nothing. The little princesses (and princes) have grown into adults and it is not pretty.

As Christians, once again we shirked our duty. We did not train the next generation to leave a legacy of being a good, honest and upright people. We are self-absorbed and we won’t discuss or think about it much less address issues of self-discipline and self-control. The pulpits have been and remain quiet on this subject.

Ephesians 6:4 says,  "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."

God forgive us. Amen.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Babies Milk

Hebrews 5:12-14 (ESV): "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food,  for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Would we find it offensive if a 40 year old man still ate baby food and drank milk from a baby bottle? It would be repulsive; yet in the church we tolerate and in some way “like” spiritual immaturity. I mean, if Joe is a spiritual lout (oaf) and could care less, I’m not challenged either and I find my spiritual “loutiness” quite acceptable.

Why do we tolerate spiritual malaise in ourselves and others? Because we think we’re ok just as we are.

In this part of scripture “for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness (being right with God) since he is a child.” It goes on “but solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

Many of us are spiritual babies and we like it that way. We believe we are just fine as we are. We don’t ever really believe in the eternal battle of good and evil, and if we did, we could not distinguish “good from evil.”

Yes, we tolerate mush, love mush. We love “make us feel good Christianity” and all the while the devil loves it because we are so indifferent or stupid we cannot distinguish good from evil.

Armor up; go to battle; study and know the word of God and practice constantly to discern truth. We are drinking mint julep on the deck of the Titanic while our culture slides into hell.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sheep (us) Among the Wolves (the world)

Matthew 10: 16: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves."

“There once was a dog who had been left to die in the forest. His only hope was to howl with the wolves – he had to howl if he wanted to survive. Well, he howled so horribly that wolves turned tail and fled. The consequence was, he not only survived but had the forest to himself.” ~ A Prussian Parable
“He who howls with the pack, saves his neck.” ~ A Masurian Proverb
Jesus said, “I am sending you out like sheep among the wolves.”

America is fascinated with wolves. Minnesota is enthralled with them.  They are majestic animals, loyal to the pack. Yet, they are a well organized, efficient killing machine. To watch a wolf pack hunt down a moose and kill it is a work of intelligence and cunning.

Sheep on the other hand are dumb and pretty much defenseless. They need a shepherd, one who leads and cares for the sheep; one who is willing to sacrifice for the sheep. (Sound familiar? Sounds like Jesus to me.) Wolves get all the press. Sheep are hardly even mentioned.

Jesus must be crazy sending (us) defenseless sheep out among wolves. Stop that kind of talk!! Jesus has not left us defenseless. Jesus said, “I will never forsake you or leave you.” Jesus tells us “don’t be afraid.” Well, that’s easier said than done.

In Ephesians 6, the Holy Spirit issues us a complete set of armor. The intended use of armor is protection in battle. God’s word tells us as Christians, to hang together; it’s called the church, and then He tells us to go. Go like sheep among the wolves—not as defenseless sacrifices to become a dining delight for the wolves, but as a witness to them.

As the church, we are “well armored sheep pack” asked by the Lord to go to battle. He will not leave us or forsake us. His plans are never thwarted. (Isaiah 55:11).  Yes, we are to go into the world, howl in the forest until the wolves leave, or better yet, they become a God powered transformed member of the sheep pack. We may lose a chunk of meat out of our hind end once in awhile, but go to battle.

Remember, we win in the end. Rise up you fluffy untested soldiers of mutton.

The world needs a Savior and Jesus has put the keys to the kingdom in our fumbling hands. Even so, bring it on!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

…I want to see Jesus, or stepping on toes

Each funeral is different; they should be. Yet, today we seem to lift up the person more than Christ. We don’t remember the dead, we worship them.

A common theme in the eulogy has been developing over the years. The deceased has stated they want to go to Heaven to see their loved ones that have gone before. No doubt this is a touching thought and honest desire, but what about seeing our Savior, Jesus? Jesus is relegated to an afterthought. Oh, I know I am stepping on toes here, but we have become so self-absorbed that even in death, it is all about us.  We love Christ more for what He has done for us rather than loving Him just for Himself.

Our prayer and desire should be to see Jesus; then our family; not the other way around. If you are offended by this, maybe you need to re-examine your relationship with Jesus…

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pontificating from my self-sovereign perch

We had plans recently to attend the 125th Anniversary of Lake Jennie Covenant Church south of Dassel. We were anxious to hear Peter Lee preach at the first service of the weekend on Friday night, July 1st.

God had other plans. I was driving from the Twin Cities toward Hutchinson to meet Judi there for supper. Judi was coming from the farm.  The sky to the west looked ominous. The radio said that there was a tornado north of Danube. It was true—rather than go to Lake Jennie, we headed home to find some trees down and no power but outside of that, we came out unscathed.

How often do we become irritated when God doesn’t cooperate with our plans and time table? Yes, we sit on our self-sovereign perch and act like He (God) is a sideman in our band. LISTEN – He is not PART of our life—we are a minuscule part of His sovereign plan of love and redemption. God is life.

Who do we think we are? Acting as if we were god then getting in a tiff when things don’t happen on our time table.

God gives us life, breathe, and everything else (Acts 17). It’s high time we acknowledge that He is sovereign—we are not. He is not part of our life; He is life and we are bit players. We are but players saved by grace alone. We need to climb down from our self-sovereign perches and put our puny faces in the dirt and worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Forgive us Lord, for making you part of our life rather than acknowledging your power over us, Your right to our life and time. We praise you and acknowledge You are our very life. By your power, may we never forget that. Thank you Sovereign One. Amen.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The New Barbarians

Jeremiah 10:23 - "Lord, I know that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for him to direct his steps."

1 Corinthians 16:13 - "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; act like a man; be courageous; be strong."

I have wondered about all the bizarre incidents happening in restaurants, namely, vicious fights erupting between groups of people. Why is this happening? Why are groups of young people “flash mobbing” stores and people? Flash mobbing is when a group of people target a store or a person. They come in as a large group, intimidate, steal, threaten, and beat the store owner or people they have targeted. Then they melt quietly back into society.

The sociologists of our day (and politicians) site the usual excuses for these barbarians. Lack of a good education (we spend more money on education per pupil than ever before), lack of government job funding (also known as “make work” projects) and lack of equal opportunity are sighted as the causes. I disagree.

I feel the problem is the lack of fathers in our families; a lack of real men. Marriage rates have dropped significantly (people cannot make a commitment or keep one). The illegitimate birth rate has skyrocketed. It has been quoted to be 74% in the black community. In the white community, the illegitimate birth rate is lower, but the illegitimate birth rate is growing faster in the white community than any other group. The problem may be in the large cities for now but eventually it comes to the country.

I ask a question, “Christian men, what are we doing?” I have been in 35+ different churches over the last 11 years; I only find three with ongoing men’s programs. Most churches have had women program but now they are disappearing also. When I say programs, I should say Bible studies. Programs imply committee meetings, organization headaches, etc., Bible studies are faster, quicker and easier to do.

I have found that in Bible studies I have been involved in Western Minnesota that people lack commitment. We are too busy to find time for Bible studies and time to participate in our family’s lives. Yet we find time to make illegitimate babies, drink, raise hell, and not make serious commitment to our families and communities, much less a Bible study.

The Russian writer Dostoyevsky said, “When there is no God, then all things are permissible.” The truth being said, we are living in times when all things are permissible. Moral restraint is a thing of the past; now all is permissible. We have few, if any, men on fire for God; therefore, no fear or accountability to our God.

When God is no longer welcome in our churches, homes, or in our priorities, we all suffer. Our families suffer; our community and nation suffers. Oh, it is easy to point our finger at other people but what am I doing?

What should we as Christian men do? We need to stand up and live out our calling to be a man; be the man God called us to be—servant leaders, watchmen and defenders of the faith.

Let’s start with ourselves because on Judgment Day God will come and ask us “What have you done?"

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Praying without being afraid…

Genesis 3 records the fall of man, namely Adam and Eve eating bad apples. Yes, they were “bad apples” weren’t they?

The God of the Universe comes looking for them in the cool of the day. (Genesis 3:8“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”) It implies the God of the Universe had an intimate, “walking side-by-side” relationship with man in the garden.

Adam and Eve disobeyed. They get into the fig-leaf bikini making business; they hid and God comes looking for them. They have disobeyed the Lord’s command. They are in deep trouble and God says “where are you?” They suffered consequences for their disobedience but it amazes me how gentle God was with them in spite of their sin.

Where are you? Many of us have prayer lives that are distant and erratic. I believe we don’t pray because of two reasons (there may be more). Number one, we are afraid of God; and Number two, we don’t think it makes any difference.

Genesis 3:21 says: “the Lord made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”  They didn’t ask for clothes; God saw there need and supplied it without their asking. What a God!

How many times has God provided for us—clothes, food, water, life and breathe without our asking or appreciation? How many times have we come safely to the end of a day and we didn’t find time to thank Him and we sleep safely through the night without a thought. Where are you?

Yes, we may be afraid of God but He provides for us even when we are ungrateful and inattentive brats. When we approach God, we need to come in awe-some reverence but not crawling in the dirt with fear. Since the beginning of time, God has desired relationship (personal and close) with us.  Where are you?

God thought so much of restoring that relationship that God provided the way for us to come completely, totally back to Him. That way was and is His Son Jesus.

Because of Jesus Christ, His death, sacrifice, suffering, and His resurrection victory over sin and death, we can come before God the Father without crawling in the dirt.

Don’t be afraid. Pray because prayer is the process of how we develop a close personal relationship with the God of the Universe. Don’t be afraid of Him. He forgives our sin and forgets it…; He provides for us even when we don’t ask and yes, He answers our prayers. He fulfills His promise of Hebrews 11:6“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Oh, we are the blessed sons and daughters of the One and only God, the Most High. What a blessing and privilege.

Thank you, Father; thank you, Jesus…come Holy Spirit.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Skulls of Stone

In the height of the good times, a young couple bought a house for $265,000. The good times rolled on and the house rose in value to over one-half a million dollars. Then…the bottom fell out.

The real estate market bottomed out; the house value crashed down to $200,000 and they were or are “underwater” on the house. Underwater means you owe more on your house than it is worth. As the economy struggles, and continues to struggle, their business was generating less and less money.

People encouraged them not to make their $2100 a month house payment; the logic being if you stop making the payments, pocket that money yourself, in two years you would have $48,000 in your pocket to put down as a down payment on a new house. You see, the banks and government are so far behind in processing paperwork that if one is foreclosed upon, it will take almost two years to get evicted from your “underwater” house. It’s like a “in tough times, you can have your cake and eat it too” syndrome.

But, this couple could not do this. They felt they made a deal and no matter how hard it was to continue to pay the mortgage, they did. God some way made sure they had enough money each month to make the payment. In good conscience, they made all the payments; much to the chagrin and ridicule of co-workers, family, and friends…

Then one day a letter arrived from the bank; the envelope was marked “Important”. Reluctantly, the wife opened the letter which said “Interest Rate Adjustment”. Her heart sank; upon closer examination, the interest rate dropped from the high 6% range to the high 2% range. Yes, the interest rate dropped and as a result, the monthly house payment dropped by one half.

How did this happen? Because they have a business (self-employed), they did not qualify for a traditional loan. They had a loan with the capability to have the rate adjusted (usually up). Their variable interest rate was tied to an index of T-bill rates which are some of the lowest in history that is why their interest rate and payment dropped.

I asked the wife, “What did you do when you read the letter?” She said, “I cried—God is so good.” She told me she should have known better than to be so surprised; God has and continues to move in their lives. God blesses obedience; He has in this case. We live by grace, God’s undeserved merit. We all know that but why are we such slow learners? I guess we have skulls of stone.

Thank you, Lord, again.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Living Like Scarecrows in the Melon Patch

Jeremiah 10:5: “Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good."

When I was young, we built a scarecrow for the garden. It didn’t work; about two hours after we built it, we noticed a crow sitting on the scarecrow’s head. Upon closer examination, the crow pooped on the head of the scarecrow. I’m sure he did it with disdain.

I believe we as Christians have become scarecrows in the melon patch in many ways. If we attempt to talk about spiritual things with other Christians in a public setting, more often than not, people prefer not to be bothered by such talk. Yes, we stand stoically while the world poops on our heads.

Has our faith become so totally personal that it is not socially acceptable to discuss it under any circumstances, much less live it out? When someone dies, we seldom comfort; we send cards. When a child graduates, rather than advice we send money. When couples intend to divorce, we hold back and uncomfortably say nothing because it is not our business. Yes, we’ve become scarecrows in the melon patch and yes, the crows to poop on our head.

Does the world take us seriously? I think not. Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 10:5: “Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.” “Do no harm”?— we cannot even sin with gusto.

With the Lord’s help, we must wake up from our slumber. Honor and lift up the Lord with our life. Yes, not just words but action.

Jeremiah 10:6-7 says: “No one is like you, LORD; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. Who should not fear you, King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise leaders of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you.”

Yes Lord, there is no one like you. You have been kind and gracious to us in spite of our spiritual indifference. Be patient with your stoic and wandering sons and daughters.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Lord Sees

To crush underfoot all prisoners in the land, to deny people their rights before the Most High, to deprive them of justice— would not the Lord see such things? Lamentations 3:34-36

Does the Lord notice the underdog’s plight? God loves the poor and down-and-out. Jesus seemed more comfortable with them rather than the power elite of the day.

Jesus noticed the people no one else cared about. In the Parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14), Jesus invites the down-and-out because the power brokers of the day were too busy buying land and oxen. What and who the world ignores, God notices. The hurting ones, the world does not see, God sees and He cares.

He would not have us crush the less fortunate under our feet; He would not have us deny the rights of anyone. We are not to deprive any man of justice. Why? Because the Lord says so and He see the injustices we ignore or allow. Yes, the Lord sees.

This Memorial Day, remember men and women have fought to defend the rights of everyone no matter if they are powerful elite or the down-and-out. Remember, America stands for freedom and justice. Fight for what is right and remember, the Lord sees these things.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

For God’s Own Glory—God’s Unique Military Strategy

Joshua 6:2-5: "Then the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.”

Joshua was about to enter his first military battle as commander of the children of Israel. I bet he had butterflies in his stomach!

At the end of Chapter 5 of Joshua, we find Joshua in the presence of the angelic commander of the Lord’s army. We find Joshua face down in the dirt.

God then reveals His plan for taking the city of Jericho. This plan has never been and never will be taught in our military academy’s “Military Strategy” classes. It seems preposterous.

Joshua obeys and God delivered the city of Jericho to them. Joshua 6:20-21 says: “When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. They devoted the city to the LORD and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.”

God means business, but why such a plan? Why? So man could not take glory for God’s clear and present intervention. God’s strategy was so unique, so different, no man could conceive it much less carry it out; the only logical reason for it is God’s divine intervention.

Are there things happening in our lives that are hard to understand? Do we ask “why all these persistent problems?” Could it be we are taking God’s glory for our own? I hope not.

Let’s find ourselves face down in the dirt before the Lord himself. Whatever happens, give God alone the glory; for He alone is worthy of receiving it. God puts us in situations where we are desperate for His power; He responds in marvelous ways, hard to understand, but He alone deserves the glory.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Pure Praise from the Heart

Click on the blog title for a YouTube video.

"But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."  1 Samuel 16:7

For many years, my wife was involved with a ministry which included a choir. One of the highlights of this group was a yearly concert. It was with much dedication that they met and practiced for this large choir gathering at Crystal Free Church in Crystal, Minnesota.

On the night of the concert, the large metro church was full for a praise service with choirs from many communities. The Cokato group (Judi’s group) was first to sing. Family and friends waited with anticipation.
The choir came forward to sing (Did I mention this group was made up approximately 40 developmentally disabled adults?), the lights lowered and the spotlight focused on all the smiling faces on the stage. They began to sing “I Love You Lord”; the words were not always distinguishable but they sang with vigor and passion. There were tears in their eyes and of all of us in the audience.

If the music critic from the Star Tribune had come, he would have to say the quality of the music was very low but the passion was off the charts. Yes, they sang the best they could; no one else could have had purer motives. They just loved to sing praises to their Lord no matter how discordant or disjointed. Man may not have been impressed because man looks at the surface things. But God was impressed; He looks at the heart and it was a sweet, sweet sound in His ear.

Many times I have visited churches and heard special music that is of excellent quality. It is amazing how God has gifted so many people. Yet I wonder if our “high standards of quality” have left us somewhat barren. We have not embraced the full spectrum of man’s praise to our Savior. But for one night I sat transfixed and blessed; quality--no; passion--unlimited. Praise to our Lord never sounded so good and it was truly a sweet, sweet sound in His ears.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

If I’m comfortable, do I need the Comforter?

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 - "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort."

Last week, after almost 40 years in this business, I saw things happen that I have never seen before. People comment on my age and say, “I bet you’ve seen everything.” I thought I had but I haven’t.

One incident I saw this week is a case where a tenant locked his keys in his suite and rather than wait for someone else (fellow employee or even call us) he kicked in his solid core door. The cost of repair will exceed $700. Why couldn’t he wait or call us? I asked him that question. He put his hands in the air and just shook his head in disgust.

What is happening to us? Why the impatience? Why the despair?

The world may lose its head, racked with guilt, despair and impatience; I guess the last refuge of relief is to kick in your own door.

I talked to the man at length; however, for the sake of privacy I do not reveal any more about the incident. But, when the world sees only randomness, no purpose and no plan greater and bigger than themselves, I understand when they say “To hell with it all”.

Jesus said we must obey and live out the incarnated God upon earth in the Name of Jesus. Who is called to have compassion upon these lonely, hurting people – we are! As believing Christians we should be the sweet fragrance of Christ. If we obey and demonstrate the love of Christ it will cost us--inconvenience, time and even our own personal peace.

To live radically for Christ means our lives, schedules, our favorite relationships will be thrown in disarray. Easily we can slip into the mind boggling despair, gloom and impatience. People inside and outside the church will encourage us to “leave them alone.” If we will, our life and schedule will not be in disarray, our heavy hearts will not be burdened.

Our life will be much more comfortable if we ignore the hurting and needy world around us. “Don’t get so radical - leave them be”, people will say. “I don’t feel sorry for you if you are stupid enough to get involved in their fractured life.”

Yes, I really understand the temptation to look the other way; I have convinced myself I didn’t need to do anything. I do all the second guessing, I do all the running away from the obvious--because I want a comfortable, undisturbed life.

Then I asked myself, if my sole desire is to have a comfortable life - why is the Holy Spirit called the comforter?

Only people who live uncomfortable lives need “The Comforter.”

Hiding out in my comfortable life is not what I was called to do. I’m called to be salt and light and demonstrate the love of Christ on the streets of Minneapolis and small towns of Western Minnesota. If I obey, I may be uncomfortable. But God has provided the Holy Spirit - the Comforter and I need not lose my head in despair. Why? Because I have “The Comforter”.