Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Shade Rree Wisdom 10/29/08 Of Baptism & Confession

Funny how important some things seem. This Saturday Texas Tech will play the U of Texas in Lubbock, and one writer calls this “the most important game in their 84 year history” for Tech. And most of you don’t even know Texas Tech existed, or where it is located. Well, Herb knows. He’s an alumnus.

And the “most important election in history” is about to take place in less than a week. Already pundits and reporters are speaking in glowing terms of voter turnout in record numbers and massive spending on TV ads especially, as never happened before. And it’s all a record.

And in all the noise and hoopla we sometimes forget the importance of ONE. You are the important one, and you are the one God is speaking to and dealing with. You’re not just a statistic, a voting presence, an addition to the numbers in a football stadium on Saturday. You are in God’s eye. Cherished, nurtured, loved, and cared for.

The Devotion in Portals of Prayer this morning speaks of our Baptism as working daily for us. The story is of a man who was baptized, left the church after service, and soon came rushing back and said, “Pastor, I just had a nasty thought, so why didn’t my Baptism work?” The Pastor asked if he wanted that thought washed away and for pure thoughts to come, and the man said he would. Then the pastor said, “Your baptism is working just fine.”

That’s what God does in Baptism. He brings the Spirit who drowns every evil thought and desire, so that the new man can daily rise. Our sinful hearts may despair and rage, but God gave us new hearts that long for freedom from every sin and vile thought.

Christ lives in me, as St. Paul teaches in Galatians 2,20, so I am a new man.

More than that, we have, in our regular service, a treasure that many do not have. Let’s call it Corporate Confession. In which we confess that “we have sinned against you in thought, desire, word, and deed, done things we ought not to have done, and left undone things we ought to have done.” When we speak the words, our heart is reminded of all the many failures in our lives, the little things left unsaid, the mean things blurted out, and pleads for forgiveness for Jesus' sake. And our prayer is granted by our Merciful Father in heaven. And most precious of all, God grants the lips of man to utter His forgiveness, “Whatsoever you forgave, I forgive also”.

Take heart then, good friend. In all the noise and confusion, you are loved as a person, treasured, sought out, cherished, forgiven, His Lamb. Thank God for this.

GPD 10/29/08

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/28/08

Such a nice, brisk day, to be bothered by so great a trouble. I hardly dare speak of this because it is so rare, especially when the tire that went flat while I was trying to get to my lab appointment by 8:15 had only 10,000 miles on it. So I drove this flat into Goodyear and got It replaced (It had a slash cut in it!). That, by the way, is the first flat I experienced since 1949 when I had one half way to my Vandalia congregation on a Sunday morning, and got a veterinary to change it for me. On my way in less than 5 minutes! God is good to me.

Now, when I was getting ready to print this out, the power failed. Ike aftermath, or just someone slamming into a system somewhere, so it will wait till tomorrow. (Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen).

But this Saturday’s paper carried an article about a new translation of the New Testament, and we say, “Again?” William Tyndale, who lived 1459-1536, was martyred because he translated the Bible into English. One of the lines he uttered that has endured is this one, "If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the Scripture than thou doest."

That is what Luther wanted also when he translated the Bible into German, his native language, so the people could read it for themselves.

That is the reason new translations are made every generation or so, to keep the Bible in the language of the people who use it today. Because language usage changes. Our study of ancient documents change and grow, and we can learn from them what St. Paul was saying. And the wonderful thing is that the language used is the common language of the street and the market place. Does this fulfill maybe God’s word through Moses that “The word is right here and now – as near as the tongue in your mouth, as near as the heart in your chest, just do it”. Deut 30,14.

Nor should this surprise us, for God used common means to work out our salvation. He sent His Own Son to suffer, die, pay the penalty for sin, and rise again. So it ought not surprise us either that the Bible world is not a ‘nicer’ world, it shows injustice and suffering and ugliness. Nothing is glossed over. It shows God at work, patiently and deeply, often in hidden ways, in the mess of our humanity and history.

And as we read, we see ourselves in what they are doing. The Bible clearly and plainly shows God at work in His love and care. God never forces anything, our obedience comes from the faith He plants in our hearts. Some words and sentences you read will stab you awake to a beauty and a hope that connects us with real life. The Bible is more than a list of “Do” and “Do nots” of maxims and quotable words, it is the story of God at work in this world, working out His plan for the eternal salvation of lost mankind. Of love and forgiveness, and how God works to repair this broken world and restore man to health through His Son, Jesus Christ. Read it often, meditate on its truths, let is guide your life. May God bless this work.

GPD 10/28/08

Friday, October 24, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/24/08

An archer unstrings his bow when it isn’t being used, for the tension left too long is harmful to the bow. Just like a rubber band, stretched and left that way, loses its elasticity and becomes useless.

So one wearies of incomprehensible and ponderous words, uttered by government and financial ‘experts’ who don’t understand them either.

Laughter is a must, and so this brisk morning calls for us to relax, relieve the tension, and throw off the stress. Look at some of the brighter side of the news, check some of the human failings and foibles which make life so entertaining and livable.

The family spent the morning doing chores around the yard. Now they are enjoying a relaxing lunch together. The son asks, “Are caterpillars good to eat?” Father: “I’ve told you before, don’t talk about such things at the table while we’re eating”. Mother: “Why do you ask, son?” Son: “cuz I saw one on Daddy’s salad, now it’s gone”.

Here is a note that the bar-tailed godwit sets a record for nonstop, muscle powered flight. In their annual migration from Alaska to New Zealand, they fly the 7,242 miles non-stop, a study just completed shows. God's creation that man can only marvel at.

When animal crackers came to the market, there were only four; lion, bear, elephant and hippopotamus. Now there are many.

So life goes on, and the things that bother us later seem so trivial, so common, that we wonder later why they did bother us. For we are God’s children, and we can and ought to remember that “the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” Is. 40,8. As St. Paul reminds us, “think on these things,” and remember that God is the One Who is always there for us, and
“Though He giveth or He taketh,
God His children ne’er forsaketh,
His the loving purpose solely,
To preserve them, pure and holy.” LSB 725

GPD 10/24/08

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/22/08

Cool, brisk, sprightly, are words to describe this fresh morning. It’s delightful to be able to bid farewell to the hot, humid months. Praise God for His faithfulness in the changing seasons.

Integrity, the dictionary defines at as a “firm adherence to a code of artistic or moral values”. It means an honesty in which there is nothing false. What you see on the outside runs all he way through. A person with integrity has a standard that comes from God.

Of course, the Bible is filled with such. The first that comes to mind is Joseph. The story is in Genesis. He was sold by his brothers, ends up in Potiphar’s service, and is the steward of all this man owns. This man’s wife propositions Joseph, young, virile, in his young manhood. The temptation must have been enormous, the pressure for a romantic fling nearly overwhelming. Joseph refuses. He says this – listen to how its done – “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God” 39,9. He spent some years in an Egyptian dungeon as a result. That’s integrity.

Then Daniel. A war prisoner dragged into a foreign land, ending as a trusted servant to the king. The king, Darius, trust him so much “he planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom” (Dan. 6,3). Jealous, his enemies won’t have it, they try to drag him down by finding chinks in his armor, weak spots in his life, little ‘mistakes’ they can point out to the king. Nothing. “But they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him.” Dan 6.4. That’s integrity.

Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5, 1 – 11) did not have it. They sold a piece of property and brought part of the price to the Church, claiming it was what the property sold for. They wanted to be known as a generous couple, but lacked integrity. They paid a terrible price – death.

Integrity means not having to look over your shoulder. And notice how both for Joseph and for Daniel, they struggled alone. No wise counselor to turn to, nobody to give them calm assurance, they struggled alone, with the Holy Spirit as their counselor.

At the last supper Jesus singled Peter out and warned, “Simon, Simon Satan has asked to sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not” Luke 22,31.

The temptations that come to all Christians always look alluring, yet they offer us a slippery slope, and once we fall the first time, the next comes easier. In a mountain climbing lesson the experienced guides teach their students, when they are on a slope and lose their footing, to use their ice picks and quickly sink it into the snow, meanwhile kicking as hard as they can to gain a hold. For, they warn, “Once you start to slide, it’s almost impossible to stop unless you do it quickly”.

Integrity, so often lacking. Just a glance at the news shows a world filled with compromise, scandal, dark secrets. Integrity means keeping the promises we make, either it is at the marriage altar, the confirmation service, the membership commitment.

It’s what we look for in these elections also. Let us pray for the officials who are elected, and let us continue to pray for the country, and for the Church in this world standing as a beacon of Saving Light in Jesus.

GPD 10/22/08

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/21/08

I do not like thee, Dr. Fell
The reason why I cannot tell,
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not like thee, Dr. Fell.

I do not remember where I first read that bit of nonsense, but it does seem to sort of describe the incivility we so often encounter in daily life. The surly clerk, the slow waitress, the uncivil civil servant at the license counter, the noisy co-worker, the neighbor whose sound blasts through the wall, the driver who gives us ‘the finger’, the unruly child in the restaurant, etc. etc.
And when we run into rudeness, we feel abused, punished, violated, deeply hurt, and often very angry for not defending ourselves.
As a courtesy to the
Next passenger, May
We suggest you use
Your towel to wipe
Off the washbasin
I saw such a sign in the washroom of an airplane. It is extraordinary, but it is the voice of society reminding us that we are to care for one another. We are reminded, not required. No law or regulation cited, the key words are “as a courtesy” and “we suggest”. Nothing more than gentle prodding. But why clean it for a perfect stranger to use it next? Because it is the right thing to do. Being courteous to the next person is its own reward.
Several decades ago, Sir. John Fletcher Moulton, a distinguished British judge, spoke of action he called ‘obedience to the unenforceable’. Such actions are not prescribed by law. They are influenced by our sense of what is proper, responsible, and decent. Like giving your seat to another in a crowded subway car, or allowing another to take precedence at a service counter.[It’s the sort of behavior your mother insisted on.]
The rude disregard the unenforceable and insist on ME.ME.ME. They flout the rules of civility while counting on others to follow them.
Rudeness grows when we are unwilling to keep our needs and desires under control. It may be such a simple thing as stepping away when the cell phone rings. Restraint makes life possible. When we lack restrain, we hurt others, and usually ourselves. Think, for instance, of the car crash caused by a drunk driver.
Ben Franklin had a habit of argument till he decided this. I quote from his biography;
“I denied myself the pleasure of contradicting or showing the absurdity in a proposition. In answering I began by showing that in certain cases or circumstances such an opinion would be right. But in this case there ‘appeared’ or ‘seemed to me’ some difference. The conversation I engaged on went on more pleasantly; the modest way I proposed my opinions got them readier reception and less contradiction.”
So, by less assertiveness, more humility, he learned to be less rude, and became a more pleasant companion and conversationalist. What this does is allow the other person to feel important also.
And there is the solution. We are anonymous. We don’t know each other, the neighborhood we live in, or often even the people we work with, and we don’t care! We have learned to like it that way. Children who used to play till twilight with others now spend their time tweaking their computers, isolated, alone.
So, when confronted by rudeness, do not fire back. Think before you take any action, and often take none, or take it away from the situation, when both have had time to reconsider. Stop, ask, slow down. Do not be quick to take offence when none is meant. You have to live with yourself.
To conclude this, remember this from “Drop A Pebble Into The Water”
Drop an unkind word, or careless, in a minute it is gone.
But there’s half-a-hundred ripples circling on and on and on.
They keep spreading, spreading, spreading from the center as they go,
And there’s no way to stop them, once you’ve started them to flow.” James Foley
GPD 10/21/08

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/19/08

We are starting to think ‘depression’. Things are troublesome and strange. Financial matters almost overwhelm election matters.

I find it useful to hear what God has to say on this subject of finances. Listen in as God instructs Israel through Moses:
1 “At the end of every seventh year, cancel all debts.
2 This is the procedure: Everyone who has lent money to a neighbor writes it off. You must not press your neighbor or his brother for payment: All-Debts-Are-Canceled—God says so.
3 You may collect payment from foreigners, but whatever you have lent to your fellow Israelite you must write off.
4 There must be no poor people among you because God is going to bless you lavishly in this land that God, your God, is giving you as an inheritance, your very own land.
5 But only if you listen obediently to the Voice of God, your God, diligently observing every commandment that I command you today.
6 Oh yes—God, your God, will bless you just as he promised. You will lend to many nations but won't borrow from any; you'll rule over many nations but none will rule over you.
7 When you happen on someone who's in trouble or needs help among your people with whom you live in this land that God, your God, is giving you, don't look the other way pretending you don't see him. Don't keep a tight grip on your purse.
8 No. Look at him, open your purse, lend whatever and as much as he needs.
9 Don't count the cost. Don't listen to that selfish voice saying, "It's almost the seventh year, the year of All-Debts-Are-Canceled," and turn aside and leave your needy neighbor in the lurch, refusing to help him. He'll call God's attention to you and your blatant sin.
10 Give freely and spontaneously. Don't have a stingy heart. The way you handle matters like this triggers God, your God's, blessing in everything you do, all your work and ventures. 11 There are always going to be poor and needy people among you. So I command you: Always be generous, open purse and hands, give to your neighbors in trouble, your poor and hurting neighbors“. Deut 15 MSG

That is directly from Deuteronomy chapter 15. Isn’t it interesting?

No, Scripture is not silent about debt, generosity, open-handed giving. “Owe not man anything except to love one another.” Rom. 13,8. Then Hebrews 13,5. “Be content with such things as you have for He has said, never will I leave you, never will I forsake you“.

St. Paul says simply, “I have learned in whatever state I am, therewith to be content”. Philippians 4,11. And he writes to Timothy, “godliness with contentment Is great gain, for we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we will take nothing out. 1 Tim. 6,6.7.

Finally, our Lord Jesus Himself spoke of it when He taught us about worry. In Matthew 6, (part of the Sermon on the Mount, verses 25 to 34,) Jesus teaches us to seek His Kingdom, then “all these things will be added unto you”.

No, I don’t believe we’ll have the sort of depression we endured in the 30’s, but I do think each of us needs to have a care how we handle matters, not only with our own saving and spending, but also our sharing with others. May God bless you, each, in the life you lead and the decisions you make under His tender eye.

GPD 10/19/08

Friday, October 17, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/17/08

If I were to wear that special shirt, made to order, Egyptian cotton, white on white, French cuffs, button down collar, initials on the pocket, nobody would notice. Such a shirt can be had as a bargain for under$300.00. And it would be most comfortable to wear. The problem is who would wear such a shirt? And nobody wants to stand around saying, “My shirt is custom made and costs real money”. Well, such shirts are available, and there are people who buy them. I am not one of them because other uses for my small funds always are at hand.

It is all part of the financial trouble we are experiencing right now. There are many complex strands involved, but maybe Columnist Thomas Friedman put his finger on it when he says we disregarded the basics, and found out the laws of gravity and common sense still apply. We got away from the HOW and WHO. Who is responsible, and who will assume the obligation, and who has the character to do what he promised.

From the fundamentals of prudent borrowing and lending. The sort of thing that sat down face-to-face with a banker, explained what one needed the money for, and how one expected to repay it.

But we departed from the course. The bank selling the mortgage simply sold it to someone else, who sold it again, and nobody seemed to be responsible as long as the fees were paid, and the fact that the person who made the mortgage in the beginning did not need to pay any money down, and was promised two years with no interest before he needed to start repaying his loan. Things just don’t work that way we are finding out.

In my growing up years households lived with budgets. They did not buy simply because they wanted something. Money was not spent till it was on hand, and the need was there.

Sad to say, our government is the worst at over spending. The philosophy seems to be”you’ll be gone and I’ll be gone before the bill comes due.” So billions of tax dollars are wasted each year by something called ‘earmarks’. Nobody seems to be accountable, and as long as money can be borrowed from China or elsewhere, nobody among the leadership seems to be much concerned about debt loads.

Friedman quoted Charles Mackay, who wrote a book titled:” Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds” published in 1841. He quotes, “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

Even for this, good friends, “Is there anything too hard for the Lord?” The answer is, of course, nothing is beyond His care. So, we turn to Him in prayer and seek wisdom, guidance, and an end to the woes man-made.

GPD 10/17/o8

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/14/08

Lately prayer has been much on my mind. I keep urging you to approach this election with prayer and thoughtful care. Are we? What do we really do when we pray?

Jesus taught us the Lord’s prayer, Matthew chapter 6. He warned against ‘much speaking’. Paul talks about groaning in the spirit, weighed down with our needs and burdens, so heavy we can only groan in our misery.

Prayer is simply talking with our Father in heaven, who hears us and knows or needs.

Most of us have prayer we use daily, at mealtime, at bedtime, when getting up etc. It is good to have such prayer, the one warning I might raise is that they often might tend become ‘rote’. Get them out of the way sort of obligation.

Think when you say the words of a memorized prayer. Let your mind rest on one phrase or another, and meditate briefly on what you are saying, and praying. Keep in mind always that we are in God’s presence, asking Him for what we need or thanking Him for the blessings He has given us.

Sure, use printed prayers. Reading or speaking them thoughtfully does mention the concerns and cares you might have to address. They also keep us from saying the things we want to say in the same old wording, nothing fresh or stimulating.

Having favorite prayers also is good. It tends to focus the mind and your thoughts on the issues you are concerned with.

A favorite I have often used in evening services, I took it from “The Minister’s Prayer book” and the source is unknown.
“O Lord, support us all the day long of this troublous life,
Until the shadows lengthen,
And the evening comes,
And the busy world is hushed,
The fever of life is over,
And our work is done.
Then, Lord, in Thy mercy
Grant us safe lodging,
And holy rest,
And peace at the last.
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.

GPD 10/14/08

Monday, October 13, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/13/08

Cool and delightful this morning with the promise of maybe some thundershowers in the later afternoon. Such a day to rejoice and be glad in. And we do, for it is a day with some good news on the athletic front around here. Texas beat Oklahoma in their annual Red River Valley shootout, and the Houston Texans finally won, by the skin of their teeth, and at the last 7 seconds. But they won, after they had lost the week before in some really inept and ill-conceived final 4 minutes in which the Colts scored 17 points and won! It was the kind of game that owner Bob McNair said, “That kind of a game is hard on old guys like me”.

But beyond that, news is of the kind that caused the Psalmist to say, “I say to God, my Rock, why have you forgotten me? Why must I go mourning, oppressed by the enemy, . . . as my foes taunt me saying all day long, ‘where is your God?” Ps. 42,9.10.

Because it does seem as if all good values are under attack. Here is a film deriding our President, another makes a mockery of religion and sneers at what I hold of great value. It does seem as if religion is under harsh attack, bold and centered. And the financial crisis looks worldwide. The elections near which we approach with prayer and care, The Psalm resounds a truth that we see worked out in our lives.

And my thoughts go back to the Book of Solomon’s that seems to express such futility. Ecclesiastes, in which Solomon looks at the world and sighs, “Vanity, vanity, All is vanity.” Look at one finding. “I have seen. . .God gives man wealth, possession, and honor” [ this is an exact quote that God said when God promised him this in addition to the wisdom to ‘rule this great people’ (See 2 Chron.1,12.)] and then adds, “but a stranger enjoys them”. Eccl. 6,1.2. We know that stranger too. The Bible calls him, “the devil, as a roaring lion walking about, seeking whom he may devour, whom resist steadfast in the faith”. 1 Peter 5,8.

It leaves me with a puzzling thought, often near despair. But I remember that Solomon sees what he sees “under the Sun”. That is not taking God into the account. And when we do we hear Him say “Do you not know, have you not heard, the Lord is the everlasting God . .His understanding no one can fathom”. Is. 42,28, or this word, Is. 55,8, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”.

It was an ancient heathen king who said: “He does as He pleases. . .and no one can hold back His hand or say to Him, ‘what have you done’?” Dan. 4,35.

An unknown poet wrote “The Loom of Time”. I quote a selection:
“Not till the loom is silent, and the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God reveal the pattern, and explain the reason why.
The dark threads were as needful, in the weaver’s skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver, For the pattern that He planned”.
What we see now is the tangle of the underside, he twisted knots and frayed ends that lack meaning or beauty. But from God’s perspective, it is all under control. God is the potter, I am the clay. So the Psalmist whom I quote in the beginning ends like this:
11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 42,11 I end with that comforting word, rich in hope with my future in God’s loving, caring, hands.

GPD 10/13/08

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/7/08

What a fine, gentle rain this morning. Started with just a very slightly felt drizzle that ended with a shower that dusted off the trees and made the colors shine brightly again. The day ahead promises to be sort of cloudy. No, just now the sun is breaking through.

But what of the day. The Lord tells us, “Give your entire attention to what the Lord is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” Matthew 6,34. (MSG)

That verse is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, in which the Lord is teaching about the tendency of people to strive always for more. He points out that the flowers of the field are more colorful than “Solomon in his glory (who) was not dressed like one of them”. If God takes care of that, don’t you think He will and does take care of your needs. And if this is so, then spend time “Seeking first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you “. V.33.

A truth we tend to ignore. Put yourself in Moses’ shoes. He’s in charge! How am I going to feed this crowd? What about tomorrow? Etc. etc. But He found that God supplied, and just enough every morning for that day. Check Exodus 16,4. If they tried to save it for tomorrow, it decayed. BUT, on the 6th day they took in enough for two days and that did not decay! God’s providence.

The Book of Ecclesiastes, follows Psalms and Proverbs, is famous for exposing man’s futility. It exposes our total incapacity to find meaning and fulfillment in our lives on our own.

Understand me, it doesn’t mean we should not work hard at what lies at hand to do. We are to do our best, but never with an eye always on ‘getting ahead’, but in doing what we do to ‘please God’ as Peter and Paul suggest. It’s the conniving and effort to undermine another that is condemned. “Better is a handful of quietness than two hands striving after the wind.” Eccl.4,6. Proverbs has this word: “Better is a little with fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith” 15,6. And also: “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right”. 16,8.

Ah, to be content. St. Paul writes, and we might say it after him, “I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content”. Phil 4,11. Isn’t that enough? “And be content with such things as you have, for HE hath said, I will never leave you, or forsake you”. Heb. 13,5.

With such promises to live with, the kind of day it might turn out to be really doesn’t make any difference, does it, my Christian friend?

GPD 10/7/08

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/4/08

Most of us know lots of people, either they look familiar, or we know their names, etc. But we never really know people till we get a chance to sit down for a length of time together. (I often found the best time for exchanging confidences was at 2 a.m. in a hospital waiting room).

But we look for clues, for little things, to show who the real person is. Lucy asks Linus why he only shined the toes of his shoes, and he replied, “I care what people think when I enter a room, who cares what they think when I leave”. He was wrong. People noticed the backs of the shoes well before he left. As a matter of fact, for decades it was precisely to a man’s shoes people looked to determine his station in life. He might be wearing a gold watch on a fine chain, have rich looking silk ties for years, but he might skimp on replacing the heels of his shoes when cash was short, thinking no one would notice.

But people did notice. They learned to look for that very detail. So we have the expression, “well heeled”, or “down at the heels”. People looked at this tiny detail to check their financial status.

In the Mattlock series on TV, Mattlock is often shown busily shining his shoes. One of his staff asked why he did that, and he replied, ‘Because when I conduct a trial, the first thing people look at is my shoes, especially right here”, pointing at the instep, ”to check me out”.

If you visit a Nordstrom store, check out the chairs in the shoe department. They are a little lower than an ordinary chair and have a firm seat. Nordstrom designed those chairs because they noticed how hard it was for customers to get up from a heavily padded chair. Why do that sort of thing? Because the little things attract and keep customers.

Do little things matter? They form and shape us, they leave a bit of trace deep in our being, so maybe the next ‘little’ sin becomes easier, and we fall more easily into Satan’s traps.

That is why the Christian lives with the constant reminder that “Thou, Lord, seest Me.” And that God’s promise is this, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the earth”.

Little things. Details. Omit them not, because life is really made up of little things isn’t it?

May the Lord bless you ever, in all your life as you glorify His Name.

GPD 10/4/08

Friday, October 3, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/3/08

Who gets your vote in this Fall’s election?

Here’s a lesson from History and Scripture. One time Spain was a force to be reckoned with. Her ships roamed the seas, her armies won battles. Every ship that came to port was loaded with gold stolen from the Incas and others in South America and Mexico. She got her wealth in the wrong way – to much, too quickly, and it destroyed her. Ferdinand and Isabella, who financed explorers like Columbus, were deeply in debt, always spending way beyond their means and mortgaged to the hilt. The living was easy. The great fighting men who graduated from the ranks of the army that fought the Moors disappeared. Politicians and courtiers, the gentle ones, the conniving ones, took over and destroyed all that the men of valor had won. Strong people like Cortez and De Soto were replaced by weaker men, grown fat with easy wealth. History shows this always happens so.

From Scripture, turn please to Romans 12, 13 & 14 especially. Here St. Paul is struggling with the fact that the new Church was of diverse background, from different races and places, creeds and customs, yet he speaks of them as “One in Christ”. In chapter 12 St. Paul had been speaking of various gifts people had, and started by saying, “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold”, “Don’t become to well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God, you’ll be changed from the inside out”.v.2. He ends that by urging them to “overcome evil with good”. Then he speaks of government and its purpose. It’s to keep the peace, that we might live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. So he might say, “vote for the leadership whose aim is just that”.

But while he is on the subject of behavior, he tackles the issue of cultures. They are a diverse group, both Jews and Gentiles, and from different backgrounds. One keeps certain days and eats certain foods, another does not. And that is just where the problem rises. They were chiding one another for doing something other than what they were used to from their background and training.

Sounds much like our congregation, differing in background, in training, in outlook, in experience, in education, in life experienes. St. Paul suggests the one we are responsible to is God. There is the story that one Sunday the Duke of Wellington knelt at the communion railing when a commoner started to kneel next to him. An usher rushed up and chided him saying, ‘That’s the Duke of Wellington”. However, the Duke took the arm of his fellow communicant and said, “Stay, we are all equal here”. That’s the lesson St. Paul is pressing on us.

I know it seems hard to make a choice, but do pray over it, examine the words, and remember, it is God, finally, who places government over us to see that our lives are lived to His glory. May God bless you daily.

GPD 10/3/08

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/2/08

This morning the paper poses an interesting question, “How do those ‘keep off the grass’ signs get on the grass one is supposed to keep off?”

Now isn’t that something to be puzzled about when there are so many other strange things going on? Here is a column supposed to be a sort of eulogy for Paul Neumann, taking time to dig at the President’s policy? And the news people are all in a tizzy about a debate between Biden and Palin which they say will draw 50 million viewers world wide. And the government placing blame when they vote for a bail out.

I think of a quote from Eric Hoffer, that longshoreman turned philosopher, who said, “An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head.”

Time to turn to the wisdom of Agur. He is the son of Jakeh. You will find his words in Proverbs 30. His words read: “Every word of God is pure, and He is a shield unto them that trust in him.” Then he adds this, “add thou not to his words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar”. V.5.6.

Politicians speak today of using ‘spin’. With that they mean the words they use to cover a bad situation. To try to make the best of something bad and turn it into a good for their side. You know, practice the ‘blame game’, as old as the First Fall into sin.

That’s what Agur warns against, as did Moses in Deuteronomy 4,2, “Don’t add anything to what I order you to do, or take anything away from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God I order you to keep”. And nearly the last words in the Bible speak another strong warning about making any changes at all, ever, in God’s Holy Word. ”Every Word of the Lord is pure, a shield unto them that trust in Him.” V,5.

In all the words that will float around, here is one to stick to. God says of His word, “It is like a fire, like a hammer that shatters rock”. The Word is pitiless in revealing sin, it is strong enough to shatter the hardest rock. That Word shows us sin, it shows us the WAY to salvation. It is true. We can trust it, no ‘spin’ involved at all. Just plain, straight-forward, true, trust it. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and Thou shalt be saved”. That’s His promise, and God backed it up by allowing Jesus Christ, His Son, to die on the cross, for sinners. Thank God for this Truth, hold on to it. God bless.

GPD 10/2/08