Sunday, July 29, 2007
Take this Sunday for that? Well, it is our anniversary, special to us. So special our Pastor had a special prayer of thanks for Ruth and me this morning. Sort of brought a lump to the throat.
And we did some reminiscing. It was a glorious day. Then of course July days in Wisconsin usually are that. It was an afternoon ceremony. Then to give relatives to attend to their evening chores a two hour hiatus, then dinner for some 200 guests! And an evening of entertainment provided by many talented relatives, classmates, and friends.
A few weeks off, then reporting to Immanuel in St. Charles to begin my first Call as assistant pastor there. My Ordination and Installation were the first Sunday after Labor Day. Ruth was there, as were my father and mother, and a full church of members. Johnny Plackemeier sang The Lord’s Prayer. And we had dinner at the parsonage.
Our moving truck was late, so the very first laundry Ruth did in our first home contained 17 white shirts! That was my uniform. White shirt, subdued tie, black suit. And it was warmish that September in Missouri. (Wonder if she had second thoughts when that pile of laundry materialized.) It was lucky her dad had been able to find a washing machine in the first place since the second world war had just ended and manufacturers were just starting to gear up for peace-time materials like auto tires, automobiles, washing machines, refrigerators and other products.
But they have been years rich in blessing. The Lord gave us a wonderful family, has called us to fields where He used our gifts in blessings, and even now is daily and richly providing all that we need for this body and life.
We could only pray that your years together will always be as richly blessed as those the Lord has granted us.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Did you notice, last time you were on vacation, how one tends to become sort of lax – we can even say sloppy – in some details of our daily life? Maybe don't shave as often, or change socks, or neglect daily exercise etc.
It’s easy to slip into such habits. And soon they become comfortable. When we read the Book of Jeremiah – I know, that’s Old Testament – but remember, “all scripture is written for our learning.. .upon whom the ends of the ages has come.” 1 Cor 10,11. Romans 15,4 Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it's written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next “ MSG.
So warnings are there. Do not take things for granted. Stay with the basics. Have them firmly in hand and live by them. Nobody has ever gotten out of bed some Sunday and said, “Today I have become an unbeliever. I no longer join other Christians in worship. That’s old fashioned stuff. Outdated. We are living in 2007, for goodness sake”.
No, the warnings are against slipping away. Hebrews calls it “becoming lazy”. Heb 6,12. Such slipping away is easy. You see it around you every day. One day you say, “I haven’t seen so and such for some time. Wonder what happened?” Better check into it, friend. That’s what Christians do, support each other.
England, Germany, the Scandinavian countries, all of Europe, is filled with established church, large churches, old and long established churches, that are nearly empty on worship hours. Africa ss two times as large as the United States, it has more than twice as many Lutherans, who are sending missionaries to our shores. These people are still excited at the news. The news of Jesus suffering death and resurrection excites them and enervates them to share.
That’s the way we once accepted the news too. Jesus Christ died for ME. Isn’t that a bit of news that thrills me. Me, here in this little corner of the world. He died for Me, cares for Me, knows what my needs are and sees to them. Like a loving Parent, He loves me as an individual. Not because I am this or that, but because I am His child.
I pray you, my friends, will find again this same kind of excitement and peace because this is true. And I thank God that it is so, I can depend on it, because “The Bible Tells Me So”.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
It struck me this morning, suddenly, that the difference between my daily walk this year and last is perspiration. Last year I perspired freely and always ended up with a shirt soaked with perspiration. This year I have never had that at all, so on the whole it is a very peasant summer, and we are way past the middle of July already. I thank God for this, belatedly, as usual, but fervently.
There are many people who will try to explain this. I simply accept it as something God sends us and it becomes part of what the Psalmist means when he says, “This is the day that the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it”. In short, take it as God’s gift for today.
So many things we do, and our age sees so many new things, improvements, techniques and twists to things to make them better, easier, or more beneficial. And life is easier for us, that is true.
BUT - Think of this statement by Burton Hillis, columnist, “I’m not convinced that the world is in any worse shape than it ever was. It’s just that in this age of almost instantaneous communication, we bear the weight of problems our forefathers only read about after they were solved.”
That seems such a “right on the money truth”, that we simply taken for granted. We know what is going on in the world, and it scares us, because we see no solution.
But when we read history we see that is has ever been so, and why? Because there is sin. Satan is alive and active in this world. This we know, and are armed by our gracious heavenly God who has “written our names on the palms of his hands”.
And more still, He promises to hear our cries. Psalm 17, 6, for instance, says, “I call on you, O God, for you sill answer me; give ear to me, and hear my prayer”.
And maybe that is why he can do this with such confidence, “This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice, and be glad in it” because all is right when God hears and sees our needs each day. So I take my morning walk, and am grateful that the Lord has sent me another delightful time to do it.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
This is kind of a happy story. She is coming home from the market, morning shopping done, driving easily along familiar streets. She noticed children playing ball on the empty lot, and noticed also that the batter just hit a long fly ball. She slowed a bit, knowing that some child would be chasing the ball as it rolled between the cars into the street. Here it came, and she is ready. She was not on a phone talking nothings to a friend, she was not looking in the mirror putting on lipstick, she was paying attention to steering this 2- ton monster she was driving, and she stopped in plenty of time. And the game played on while she drove safely home, tucked her groceries away, and spent the day as she had planned.
We might wish life was always that pleasant and right. But it isn’t, and that makes it ever challenging and interesting, doesn’t it? But let me also remind us all that God’s ear hears, and the Psalmist teaches us Psalm 17,6 reads “ I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me; hear my words.” God not only hears our prayers, but He also gives us the wisdom to live as He leads us to live.
And there is where sin enters in, because we become willful and throw off His guiding hand and word. Like children we say to Him, “I’d rather do it myself’. And end up with troubles of our own making.
That’s what makes the story above so interesting. Think of the lady driving that car. She simply does what God would expect, pay attention to what she is doing, not concerned with other things, just paying attention. Question, do we always?
Friday, July 20, 2007
Hidden away in the Book of 2nd Kings is a story that seems to fit the Convention that just ended in Houston last Thursday. I Say “hidden” not because it is, but because Bible readers seldom go there.
Anyway, it is the story of the Commander of the Syrian army in the ancient world. He was a Leper. An incurable disease. And he was desperate for healing. Maybe that’s why he listened when a serving maid in his kitchen, a girl from Israel who had been snatched from her home by a Syrian raiding party, told her mistress if only the Boss would see a prophet in her native land, he could be healed.
A bit of idle chatter to be ignored, or not. The message came to the Commander’s ears, and he decided to go to Israel and be healed. So his king wrote a letter to the king of Israel introducing Naaman and asking for healing. The letter actually said, “I’m sending this man to you to be healed”. Well, the king of Israel just about had a fit. He worried that he “was trying to pick a quarrel with me because I am not God”.
Elisha, the prophet in question, sent a message telling to king to send the sick man out “and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel”.
So when Naaman arrived, Elisha simply sent a message out to tell him to bathe seven times in the Jordan, and he would he healed. It was not the sort of thing he expected. No numbo-jumbo, no waving of hands, no magic potion, just a simple message, and not even delivered personally. So he turned away and snarled, “I didn’t come 700 miles for this. The rivers at home are cleaner than this Jordan.” Probably stamped his foot and threw a tantrum.
But his servants did ask him to wash himself. “You’ve come this far. Why not try it, it can’t hurt”. So he did, and was healed.
And that’s the lesson. Simple, yet profound. For it speaks directly to this Convention. Its theme was “One Message – Christ.” Every Bible study, every devotion, every service, was about this “I resolved to know nothing with you but Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” 1 Cor. 2,3.
That is what drove St. Paul, and that is why he was so bewildered when they “acted just like ordinary men” 3,3. He reminded them that they had the Spirit of Christ in them. He reminded them they were “lights and salt” in this world, and here they were, acting “like ordinary men”.
That’s just it. A Convention like the one just ended, with all its high-sounding resolves and determinations, means nothing unless we do what the Father said at Jesus’ Transfiguration, “This is My Beloved Son. Listen to Him.”
That is what does the work that Jesus commanded when he said for us to “go ye into all the world”. And remember, God does bless the Word. This Convention heard many stories of people around the word whom the Lord blessed because they “listened to Him” and spoke the Word about Jesus. May God continue to bless us in this work.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
The 63rd Regular Convention of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, is now underway in Houston. It brings to mind the logistics involved in setting such a large Convention up and seeing that it not only meets, but meets to lay some effective plans that the work of the Church will be strengthened and blessed of God. I’ve had the privilege of serving as delegate three or four times. It is something to look forward to, but it is also a bit daunting.
Let me reminisce a bit. Several times I served as the Registration chairman for the Michigan District Convention. I helped plan, signed some letters, but the work of mailing materials was mostly done by the office staff. A wonderfully efficient people. So when registration began, I with several committee members, manned the tables, registering attendants, handing out name tags and materials etc. After the opening service, the convention assembled, and before any business was started the President called me for a report. My report, in full, was brief, giving the number registered, the total, and declaring that this was a quorum. The convention was ready for official business.
Before that, committees had already been meeting, sorting out the various memorials and placing them on the agenda. Besides all that, the kitchen was prepared to serve three meals a day to some 700 people, the housing had been prepared, the various volunteers had been checked in to serve in some many capacities.
For instance, here in Houston, volunteers had been ready to meet flights both at Hobby and at Intercontinental, to staff information booths, to serve the floor as pages, to sing in choirs etc.
You get the picture. It is a large undertaking, all for the sake of the church. Because from the very first the Church has met to discuss plans and to strengthen and encourage one another to the work in the world. Because the task is a large one, one that is possible only because our God is in it, and blesses it richly and daily.
So we pray for the Convention and for those attending, voting, discussing, and carrying forward the work Christ has laid on us to do, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Amen
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
On Being Grateful
It’s probably going to be some 93 degrees today. I mentioned to folks that it’s really been quite pleasant all Spring. Plenty of rain and temperatures not too warm. People agree, ‘but, they say, look forward to a brutal summer and fall’.
You see. Instead of enjoying the weather we do have, we anticipate something bad to sort of offset the good. It kind of reminds me of our neighboring farmer at home. When there was a good crop year, plenty of rain, fine growing weather, good wheat and corn yield, he always – it never failed – complained that this really ‘took it out of the soil’. No such thing, of course. It was simply a blessing that we received with gratitude from God’s hand.
Our prayer daily ought to be ”Lord, thank you for this day”. Here’s another day laid before us. A day to serve Him. A Day for doing tasks that lie at hand. A Day to maybe enjoy a day away from work. A Day to rest and relax and contemplate. Or a day we can work and do something for others.
Read the psalms. They speak of disasters and hardship and of worry and stuff, but they always find their help, their hope, and their reason for being grateful in a God who is faith and true to His Word.
Our Synod meets in Convention this week, starting Saturday evening with a service. What a blessing we have in this Church of ours. A Church that still holds faithfully to the Word. And that is becoming harder and harder to do in this age of ‘compromise, political correctness, and getting along with people’. What a rich treasure is ours. Today to worship, hear God’s Word of promise, and the story of His love in sending His Son to die for us so that His blood would make the payments for our sins, and I can hear the words, “Your sins are forgiven you” and know they are real and true.
O, my friends, these are just a scattered few of the reason for having a Grateful heart. You can count them in your lives, too. God grant this to you.
Sunday, July 8, 2007
Stuff one learns by reading the daily paper, some of it good, some nonsense, some one can get along without. For instance, there are all kinds of people in the world, some are pessimists, some optimists. Both are needed, the optimist to invent the airplane, the pessimist to invent the parachute. Now doesn’t that really make your day?
Her name is Sonya Thomas. She weighs l05 pounds and she is an assistant manger of a Burger King. In some circles she is known as the “black widow", She is a speed-eating champ, of all things, routinely defeating guys three times her size. Source of this bit of news is Richard Shea, who runs the International Federation of Competitive Eating.
They sponsor and arrange for speed-eating contests here and there. One we hear about most often is the Nathan’s annual Fourth of July in Coney Island, where Joey Chestnut this year defeated defending champ Takeru Kobayashi by cramming 66 hot dogs down his esophagus in 12 minutes, thus bringing the champ title back to the USA.
Well, you ask, what’s the harm? Except for a gross misuse of the body God gives us – outside of that, it merely goes to show that sinful man will go to any lengths for what, fleeting fame, a notice in the news, some dollars. To what end.
Maybe it is time to re-read the Book of Ecclesiastes. “Meaningless, meaningless, says the Teacher everything is meaningless” if it is done “under the Son”, that is, away from God’s guidance, direction, or will.
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
God bless our native land, firm may she ever stand,
Through storm and night!
When the wild tempests rave,
Ruler of wind and wave,
Do Thou or country save,
By Thy great might.
What thoughts the 4th brings out for us. Memories of celebrations, of family picnics, of hot dogs and roasting ears and friend chicken and hamburgers and Brats and watermelon, and fellowship and visiting. Of games won or lost, and skinned knees, sunburn and weepy eyes, and sleepy children at twilight and a teary goodbye with “let’s do this again soon” and somehow that never seems to happen. And we are left with fond memories.
Other memories include the blessings we so richly enjoy in this country, and the faith God has planted in us, and the God we are free to worship and the freedoms we otherwise enjoy in the USA.
Then I see the frenzy evoked by this new iPhone, people standing in line, actually, to spend 600 dollars for a device that is a telephone, and has so many other features, many of which will never be used, that is simply astounding. .
Then I read how in this land, as in most of the world, people are planning bombs and wreaking destruction, much of this aimed at innocents, or especially in many areas Christ’s followers. Not at all strange if we remember Jesus warned us of these days when “in the world you will have tribulation, but be not dismayed, I have overcome the world.”
So it becomes us to seek His Care and protection in our prayers. O Lord, we pray, shield us and keep us in Your loving arms, keep safe from harm those who travel, and the men and women engaged in strange parts of the world, fighting to preserve what is dear to us, freedom. Give us the continued will to worship, thank, and serve Thee in our living, and bless us, we pray, In Jesus Name. Amen
So shall our prayers arise, to God above the skies,
On Him we wait.
Thou who are ever nigh, guarding with watchful eye,
To Thee aloud we cry, God save the state.
On Him we wait.
Thou who are ever nigh, guarding with watchful eye,
To Thee aloud we cry, God save the state.
Independence Day musings
Monday, July 2, 2007
It was raining hard this morning when I wanted to take a walk, so I didn’t. And so I also waited to pick up the paper. Fortunately, the people who throw it had the smarts to throw it on the grass, not the walk. Water wicks, and when it lands on a wet walk or driveway, it always gets wet. On the grass it doesn’t.
But while I was waiting for the rain to slow down – you know how it rains in Texas – gushes, and then slows to a dripping drizzle for a while – I started thinking about stress and tension. Tension is good. Tension is beneficial. Tension is what keeps a watch and clock running. It is only when there is an excessive amount of tension that we suffer stress.
Stress is simply too much of something that causes us to be anxious or worried, often about things we can’t control. The TV commercials give the impression that the entire population suffers from jitters, indigestion, raw nerves, headaches, and complete inability to sleep. And that simply is not true.
But we do live in a time when everything seems to be as bad as it ever gets. Satellites bring the world news to our living room that day. Unless we have a real understanding of history, nothing has ever been this bad. We get steeped in stuff, and do not see anything but that. And that brings stress.
There is a saying that we should live in “day tight compartments.” In short, remember the word of the Psalm, “This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice, and be glad in it”. Savor life that lies before you.
Maybe the story of the dinner at Bethany should give us a clue. Remember Jesus was invited, and two sister were the hosts. One bustled about seeing to the pots on the stove and the cake in the oven and the setting of the table and to the comfort of the guest, while the other sat quietly, listening to his words. Till finally, Martha (really suffering from stress), bursts out, “Lord, ask her to give me a hand here”. Now here comes our lesson, “Martha, you worry about many things. Your sister, Mary, picked up on the right thing here, she is hearing My words, and that will not be taken from her.”
See, the rain has already slowed to a halt, freshened up the countryside, dusted off the trees, cleaned roofs, and is waiting to do it again later on. Meanwhile, my roof doesn’t leak, no rain flooded my living room, and I sit here, safe and dry, writing this.
God bless your day.