Saturday, August 25, 2012

Heaven on Earth – Worthington, Minnesota


Psalm 126:  "When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed.  2 Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them." 3 The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.  4 Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negev. 5 Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. 6 He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him."

At the Renville County Fair last week, I visited with a neighbor and friend who is a farmer and a college instructor.  He told me the story that I am about to share with you.

He was on a tour of a meat processing plant in Worthington, Minnesota; the plant employs some recent immigrants from Southeast Asia.  He thinks they are from Laos or Cambodia.  Another tour group was going through the plant at the same time; a group from Southeast Asia.  The Southeast Asian group asked the tour guide if they could talk to the employees.  The tour guide agreed and the group began to ask questions of a Southeast Asian employee.  They asked him, “What is it like working here?”

The worker replied, “It’s Heaven on earth.”  “People are nice to me here,” he added.  “In my old country we have thugs and bandits coming through our village every couple of weeks stealing stuff, terrorizing us, and sometimes killing someone to send a message and remind us of their power and violence.” 

“I live in a house,” he continued.  “I never dreamed of living in a house”  (He shares the house with another family); “I always lived in a hut.  I have a car—never dreamed of having a car!  The water and air are clean; I work and get paid every two weeks.  My wife and kids are not afraid; this is Heaven on earth!”  My friend said that nearly everyone present had tears in their eyes.

I’ve thought about this—Heaven on earth in Worthington, Minnesota; working in a meat processing plant!  Let’s be honest, most of us would consider this kind of job “below us.”  We take much for granted in America.  Much of what this man treasures we think God owes us or we take for granted.

We need to kneel down and pray; no, more than that, we need to be face down, asking for forgiveness for our indifference to God’s many blessings.  Yes, we need to repent and, if so led by the Spirit, weep.

Friday, August 17, 2012

I Can’t Save Myself; He Can; Let Him

I Cannot Save Myself: 

Romans 3:9-18 -- What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin.10 As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."13 "Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit." "The poison of vipers is on their lips."14 "Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness."15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and misery mark their ways, 17 and the way of peace they do not know."18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes."

Romans 7:21-25 -- So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

He Can:

Romans 5:6-9 -- You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!

2 Corinthians 4:6 -- For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Colossians 1:9-14 -- For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.10 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,11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Let Him:

Romans 8:9-11You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

1 Corinthians 10:31 -- So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

2 Corinthians 1:9-11 -- Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

Monday, August 13, 2012

What about Anger?

(This is a repost from Sept. 21, 2006)

I was in a Bible study with some men and we were studying John2:12-25 where Jesus went into the temple and cleared out the money changers and others who were doing business in the temple court. A man asked the question “Is it ever right for Christians to display anger?” The question was not addressed and went unanswered. The question hung in my head; it just wouldn’t go away. I decided to study this question in detail and I will share some of what I’ve learned.

My first question was “Why did Jesus become angry and clear the temple this year?” He obviously had been walking by these people since he was 12 years old. Why this year?

He was acknowledged as Messiah and Prophet by the Lord in the presence of John the Baptist in Chapter One of John. He wore the mantle of the Prophet, King and Messiah. He had the authority to clean out the temple.

What does that mean to us? We have authority and responsibility in our lives also. We are husbands, dads, business owners, church elders, etc. These are our areas of responsibility. If there are cattle and sheep in the narthex of the church, go to the elders; ask them to clean it out. Why? Because it is their area of responsibility and they need to do what they must do. We can’t go through life popping off at everything—we need to be cautious when and if we display anger.

Why cautious? Because I believe God is cautious and gracious. The first two references in the Bible about God’s anger are the same in Exodus and in Numbers. It says the same thing in both places: “The Lord is slow to anger and abounds in love and faithfulness.” Do we do more yelling than abounding? This sounds rich to me, “slow to anger,” oh how Jesus has been slow and patient with me. I have experienced the “abounding” of the Holy Spirit, full, deep and rich in love and faithfulness. Oh Lord, you have been slow and patient with me. Thank you for your “abounding” love and faithfulness.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Situation Hopeless?

Luke 1:6-7 - Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.   
Luke 1:11-17Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God.  And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous--to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

But…they had no children”…  Luke 1:7

Zechariah and Elisabeth were “well along in years.”  They were old, and the implication was that she was beyond child-bearing years.  Their situation in the eyes of the world seemed hopeless.  Have you been there?  Does it seem as if God does not care or hear your prayers?  Yet haven’t we, like Elisabeth and Zechariah (verse 6) wondered what have we done wrong?  “Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly.”  Have you asked yourself, this does not seem fair—we don’t have any children?  What’s God’s trying to tell us?

In Luke 1:11-13, the angel of the Lord appears to Zechariah and says in part…”Zechariah, your prayer has been heard…the bottom line is you are going to have a son.”

Wow!  They are old, the world may have given up on them having a baby but obviously, Zechariah did not.  He was still praying!

Have you ever felt hopeless about a situation in your life?  Have you quit praying believing nothing is going to change?   Instead, remember God recognizes faithful payers.  He does things that in the eyes of men seem impossible.

Whatever your hopeless situation is, keep praying with expectation.  It was not their sin that held them childless; it was God’s sovereign will.  I don’t understand it but God has His purposes in how He unfolds our life.  The lesson learned, no matter what, keep praying.  We don’t need to understand God’s moving in our life no matter how hopeless we feel.  We must pray and hang on.  What God has in store for us will come true at its proper time.  (Luke 1:20 - And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time."

Praise be to the God of ages.  Keep praying; keep praying.