Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Life and Times of a Prairie Farmer

Curt Watson was first a Christian husband, dad and granddad.  He was a farmer and agricultural leader second; and he was in all ways an innovator. 

Innovators and leaders pay a price for their gift.  Change comes easy to innovators but to most of society, change comes hard; innovators are viewed with suspicion coupled with grudging respect;   suspicion because ‘why do we have to change anything?’ Respect for daring to be different and being willing to pay the price for their beliefs and ideas.

Curt was a big man; big hands, big smile, big joy and big dreams.  He was a visionary, a natural leader who had a quick wit, quick analytical skills along with a confidence to express them.  I believe Curt felt like there was not a problem too big or complicated that could not be solved without pluck hard work, dedication, creativity and God’s help.

Curt lived with passion; a passion for life and a passion to love his wife and family.  He lived with a passion to teach his children and grandchildren the life lessons, and values needed to survive in a rapidly changing internationally competitive world.  He functioned on a national stage but that did not compare with holding one of his grandchildren or listening to his wife Janel play the squeeze box or singing with friends in an empty grain bin.  In the unexpected end, he was a man of the soil, a gifted man who loved the simple things of life.

The funeral was held in Renville, Minnesota at Emden Christian Reformed Church.  Burial was at the Church cemetery located about 8 miles northwest of town.  The drive to the cemetery detoured past the Watson family farm.  As the funeral procession approached the farm site, we noticed two combines on their farm yard proudly displaying American flags.  Curt was a former Marine, a fitting tribute to his military service and his chosen lifelong profession.  The hearse and the family cars drove through the farmstead while the rest of the procession waited on the road.  It was then that we noticed the dog.  The family dog followed the hearse through the farm yard and as the hearse turned north to the cemetery, the dog valiantly pursued the hearse in a losing battle.  When we drove by, he was standing in the ditch with a look of forlorn loneliness and confusion.  The dog was faithful to the end…he tried to keep up but he could not.

For Curt’s wife and family there will be lonely and some trying days ahead but they have hope.  The loss hurts, will hurt some more, but despite the sadness, Curt is with Christ.  That is great for Curt but hard for his dear family and those he left behind.

As spring season approaches, farmers become antsy; they can’t wait to get into the fields.  When farmers smell the warming earth, something visceral occurs.  It’s time for the beginning of a new crop year, a new campaign as it were, but this year Curt cannot answer the call.  His wife and his sons, daughters and in-laws and employees will answer the call in his stead.

Life goes on whether we like it or not.  Let’s value each day of life we have…the cycle of prairie life continues.  The sad part is, Curt won’t be with them but his memory and impact will linger.

Curt was buried on a slight rise on the prairie he loved and worked.  We all stood in silence.  We remembered, but it hurt.  Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.  1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Pray for his family.  Blessed be the memory of Curt Watson.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Do not be surprised…

1 Peter 4:12 – “Dear friends do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering…

While in the Air Force, I was a team chief for a group of men who installed electronic equipment.  We worked under trying circumstances, heat, power disruption, sickness, typhoons, earthquakes, and political unrest in the countries where we worked.  We were taught to be prepared for every kind of unexpected disruption; in other words, be prepared so you wouldn’t be “surprised” by anything.  Success was measured by how well we dealt with surprises.  We were judged on how well we responded to any kind of predicaments.  We had to keep the project on schedule and under budget.  The atmosphere was tough; we were expected to accomplish (succeed??); there was no room for excuses.

Today as Christians, I don’t think we are prepared for much of anything disruptive or challenging.  We are surprised when life throws us a curveball and in the face of trial, we struggle to keep our head.  Peter warns us about life trials and sufferings—Don’t be surprised when they come.  It’s part of life.

Be prepared; don’t be surprised—that we have painful trials.  Why?  Because Peter said so.

Be prepared; don’t be surprised—the time when Christ’s glory is revealed, we will be overjoyed.

Be prepared; don’t be surprised—we are getting older, slower, and more forgetful.  John 21:18 says, I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go."

Be prepared; don’t be surprised—when we mature in the faith, we should become more like the place we are going.

Be prepared; don’t be surprised—we are challenged to live productive lives.  Titus 3:14 says, Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.”

Be prepared; don’t be surprised—1 John 3:1-3“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.”

Be prepared; don’t be surprised—1 John 3:16-20“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”

Be prepared; don’t be surprised—there is a time for everything.  Ecclesiastes 3:1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:”

Be prepared; don’t be surprised—the bottom line is Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 --  “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

Be prepared; don’t be surprised—or, is the bottom line 2 Timothy 4:6-8?  (“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”)

Be prepared; don’t be surprised—2 Timothy 4:17-18 -- “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Be prepared; don’t be surprised—and we should be prepared – 1 Peter 3:15-18 says "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.  For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit,”

Be prepared; don’t be surprised—that in this life we are called not to have a miserable life but to have a “painful” life.  If we believe this, life is much easier—1 Peter 4:19 says, “So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”

Be prepared; don’t be surprised—be prepared for whatever comes; prepare and be ready for Christ’s return.  1 Peter 5:8-9“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

Be prepared; don’t be surprised—1 Peter 5:10-11And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

Be prepared; don’t be surprised—to him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

Be prepared; don’t be surprised—In all situations, keep your head.  2 Timothy 4:5But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship,1 do the work of an evangelist,2 discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

John 3:7-8 says You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

Friday, March 16, 2012

The “Maybe” God

In the first chapter of Jonah, the runaway prophet sleeps in the ships hold while the storm of storms buffets the ship.  The captain is upset and wakes up Jonah and says, “The captain went to him and said, "How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish." (Jonah 1:6)  Maybe your God will take notice of us and we will not perish!

I am concerned that many Christians today worship the “maybe God.”  Awhile back, I finished preaching and was challenged by a fellow believer.  He felt my direct style of preaching going verse by verse lacked a certain sensitivity needed in today’s world.  I listened and I need to be aware and sensitive but not to the expense of truth.  This man discussed the issue he raised, I suggested he no longer believed in a God who is active in our everyday lives; a God who transforms lives and picks us up from the bottom of a boat or a bar floor.  God is still in the business of being God. 

In our “overly sensitive age” we want to soften the truth to make it more acceptable.  We will allow people to wallow in despair.  Be sensitive and hope they pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.  Maybe God will show up to help; maybe not.  With this attitude, we stumble through life feeling everything that happens to us is just a “God sized crap shoot” or we feel God is punishing us.  Yes, we are very sensitive ourselves and we are very miserable. 

When I read scripture, God is involved in our everyday life and all our decisions.  Psalm 139:1-6 says:  "O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.  You hem me in--behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”

Sometimes we perceive Godly sovereign action as punishment when in reality it is Godly intervention meant for our best but hard for us to grasp in the midst of the trial.  When Jonah was being thrown over the edge of the boat, it would not have been a good time to tell him it was God’s intervention that was occurring but it was.  It sounds cruel and insensitive that God would go to these lengths to get Jonah’s attention.  Was God insensitive?  No, He was being God!  He does not want anyone to perish.  John 10:28 NIV  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.”  He pursued His runaway prophet and continued to demonstrate His love over and over again.

God moved; He didn’t “maybe” do this but He moved, intervened, rescued, and restored.  He also does the same for us through Christ Jesus.  God is not maybe God.  He is God.  Some may call His actions insensitive; I call them extreme—extreme love and extreme mercy, and I don’t mean maybe!  James 4:8 says, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

Come near us, God.  Amen.

Monday, March 12, 2012

(Reposted from December 11, 2006)

I’m re-reading “Ashamed of the Gospel” by John MacArthur.  One point he makes in the book is this:  If the church is to be strong, our families must be strong.   

Strong families are the backbone of a nation and of our churches.  Stability and economic opportunity flourish when the family is intact, but in visiting and observing other churches, I think we give lip service to our families. 

Young families are over committed on all fronts; talk to them if you doubt this.  Young families, young leaders have filled the gap in our churches.  Many of them have rushed in to fill gaps as people in the church who are older have bought into the idea of “retirement”.  All too often the ideas “I’ve done my share”; “I’m going to quit”; “Let the young people do it”; “The young people don’t listen to us anyway” seem to hold sway in our older people.  (In case you’re wondering, older people are 50 and above.) 

Our young families should be spending time with their families not burdened with church leadership.  When the kids leave, that’s when we step up and lead.  We’ve been operating with the wrong model, lead when you’re young, sit when you’re old.

If we believe that families are the backbone of our churches and culture, we should give them the “freedom” to learn and not lead.  They should be attending Bible class not leading it.  Their input and freshness and vitality is needed in our churches but the church has added burdens to our overstretched families, not lessened them.  We need sensitivity and creative insight to help our young families so they can have more time for themselves, building a strong family unit. 

Retirement from life has run full course in our churches.  We believe we have a God-given right to sit down, enjoy the fat of the land, and bring on the good life.  God help us--  We live in a land where our stomachs and bank accounts are full but our hearts are empty.   When the hair grows thin and gray, I believe we should crank up for some hard core leadership responsibilities and give our young families a break.

When we embrace the idea of retirement from church, I believe it creates struggles for our faith in our later years.  Engaged in life, having a purpose every day, and knowing that we are needed, seems to me to be the best motivator for a continued vibrant and alive Christian life.  What has God gifted you to do?  Do it!!

With the mobility of our culture, our children and grandchildren can live close or many miles away.  In our midst, in our churches, we have families without Grandma’s and Grandpa’s living in the area.  Step up, start here…kid’s need Grandma’s and Grandpa’s and Grandpa’s and Grandma’s need kids. 

Look at scripture to see what God asks older Christians to do.  Are we doing it?  Or have we bought in to the idea of self-centered retirement?  I believe it’s time to ask these hard hitting questions for the future of our families and the future of our churches depend on it. 

Maximillian Kable, German Priest who was executed in World War II.said:  “Indifference towards the things of God is the deadliest enemy of any soul.” 

Scripture:  Titus 2; I Peter 5:1-10; I Timothy 5; Luke 22:24-30.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Grandma’s Prayers

A friend of our daughter called saying that her Grandma died.  Her friend, through tears, said “Grandma prayed for me every day;  who is going to pray for me now?”  What a legacy Grandma left with her granddaughter – the legacy of a praying grandma.

I knew this Grandma; she was the wife of a World War II pilot, she lost a son in Viet Nam.  Her life was not easy but it was prayer dependent--dependent upon the Living God.
What legacy will we leave our family?  Is it a legacy of genuine love and caring displayed in God dependent intercessory prayer?  Or, are we leaving a legacy of feathering our own nest, building our own inflated reputation and status at the expense of demonstrating God’s genuine love to our families?

In Jeremiah 10:23 (NIV) it says, I know, O LORD, that a man's life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps.  Our life is not our own. 

God gives life and breath and everything else.  Acts 17:24-25 says:  "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.

What legacy will our grandchildren have of us?  Will it be prayer warrior or that of a self-consumed person?  What a legacy; prayer warrior gone home to the arms of Jesus! 

May this be our legacy when it is all said and done.