Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/25/08

When Jesus asked, “But where are the nine?”, He pointed to a problem that has always been with us, ingratitude. Almost from the beginning, right after the flood, the Lord promised “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is only evil from childhood”. Gen 8,21.

So here it is nearly Thanksgiving Day. And the troubles of the world do not seem to be getting any less. Even such common manners as saying ”Thank you” gets “no problem” as a response, and sets teeth on edge. Of course it ought not be a problem to the waiter, that’s his job, after all. But saying “you’re welcome" doesn’t really make much sense either, since the Dictionary defines “you’re welcome” as “You’re under no obligation for a favor given”. Saying “no problem” is a sort of phrase to cover the lack of ability to find an expression that is really suitable (Born of laziness).

Which reminds me of the story of a man who goes to his doctor with all sorts of complaints and asked for checkup. That done, he asks the doctor “What’s wrong with me? Give it to me in language I can understand, and not in some medical terms”. The doctor says, “You’re lazy”. “OK,” replies the man, “Now give me the medical term so I can tell my boss”.

More than simply ingratitude, the world is getting bolder and more active in attacking Christianity. A British Humanist organization campaigned with this slogan, “There’s probably no god, now stop worrying and enjoy life”. Which was followed in America with signs on busses reading, “Why believe in god, just be good for goodness sake”. That’s in Washington. In the west this, “Don’t believe in God? You’re not alone”.

Well, they say they are planting “. . .a seed of rational thought and critical thinking and questioning in people’s minds”.

Let me suggest another thought, from God’s Word. It reads, 1 “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works; There is none that doeth good”. Psalm 14,1 (see also Ps. 53.)

Instead, this week, “Let us make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands, serve the Lord with gladness, come before His presence with singing. Ps. 100,1.2.

Yes, “Come, ye thankful people come.” For our God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die in my place, so that I can have life eternal.

For this, most of all, let’s be thankful.

GPD 11/25/08

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/22/08

Ode to a Tooth
(At an extraction of impacted tooth)

We travelled far, my tooth and I
I really hate to see you die
I tended to your every need,
And when you hurt, I paid the deed,
To have the Dentist drill the root,
And clean infection clear, to boot,
Then capped the whole thing with a crown,
Achievement worthy of renown.
We went together, you and I,
You helped me eat much apple pie
You never asked, “What is he eating”
You simply chewed, just never cheating.

Nurtured, fed, with thoughtful care,
Cleaned, flossed, and brushed with fervent care.
But now, my friend, you had to go,
To end my pain and constant woe.
The price to bring you heath was high,
A messed economy said loudly – die.
I pray I’ll never rue the day, I chose to have you put away.
But now, at last, the deed is done.
So on that note let’s end this run.

GPD 11/22/08

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/20/08

The headlines scream, “Bailout of Auto Industry in Limbo”. The news picture shows the heads of the Big Three at the hearing table and a congressman asking with a sneer, “We’re supposed to give you 25 billion so you can repeat the same stupid errors you’ve been making for the past 20 years?" The end is not yet in sight.

Many voices say the only answer to resurrect the American auto makers is to declare bankruptcy, that they may emerge better, and stronger companies for the effort.

Other voices say give them the money lest many other related industries go down the tube as well.

I can not say who may be right, but I do know as human beings we are facing problems that seem to be nearly beyond solution. I think of the story about the man they called “Desert Pete”. He is a thirsty cowboy crossing a desert and comes to a pump. Nearby he finds a jar of water with this note, “Don’t drink this water, use it to prime the pump”. Well, Pete is thirsty. The sight of the water is almost too much for him. But he understands what it means to prime a pump, so he carefully pours that water down the pipe, and then, by pumping, he gets water gushing forth to slake his thirst and fill his canteen and refill that jar for the next person. But that took faith, didn’t it?

And that is what these times call for. Faith in the promises of God. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not on your own understanding.”

When Israel was on that desert journey they ran out of water and cried to Moses, who was told when he prayed to God, to strike the rock at Horeb.(Ex. 17, 1-7). He did, and water came in plenty to supply their thirst. But the problem with Israel was they did not always listen to God’s word. So “The word did not profit them, not being mixed with faith” Heb. 4,12.

And that is our danger exactly, we trust things, our selves, our intellect and problem solving ability, instead of turning and leaning on God who created us and said, “I am Thy God, hear me.” Or, as the Father told the disciples at the Transfiguration, “This my beloved Son, listen to Him.” Ah, the blessing that lies there? Let it be yours as His obedient Child.

GPD 11/20/08

Monday, November 17, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/17/08

Who would ever have thought that I, born on a snowy night in a Wisconsin farmhouse, would ever one day be sitting in a place called The Woodlands, Texas on a bright and sunny day these many years later? The snow kept on falling, but the way, and had turned into a regular snow storm by Sunday when ‘they’ took me to Church for my baptism, to begin my journey as God’s child.

So, what thoughts come to mind on this Natal day? Well, are there are regrets, any ‘might have beens’, or things I might have done or planned differently, any corner not turned, or road not taken? Such thoughts do float around, and they could make life uncomfortable, but isn’t that what such a Psalm as number 51 is all about? David speaks of the results of his sin with Bathsheba. He calls for mercy “according to your great compassion, blot out my transgression”. V.1 He bases that plea on God’s compassion, and what we all need to admit, “I was sinful at birth”. V;5.

Yes, such thought may trouble, but “there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared”. John teaches in his first letter, ”If we confess our sins, God is faithful and good to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all transgression”. 1,9.

I look at the world and its many pressing problems, the future seems murky and clouded with uncertainty. Our world has been changing, and the morality of mankind has really not kept pace with the technology. Just recently I read an article about how by some of these programs people slander or lie about others with no way of telling who did it? Totally anonymous. Horrible results. [If you want to make your fortune, devise a program that will sniff out such perpetrators].

Let me tell you a story as to why I am heartened no matter how it might seem. It happened one Sunday while we were living in Missouri and I had consented to help my neighboring Pastor by preaching in his church while he was on vacation. During the service in this little country church in my prayers I included this, “For the President and the congress of this country, for kings and all that are in authority.” After the service, one of the Elders approached with this question. “Pastor, you were praying for people in authority. Why do that, nobody pays attention to what may happen here.” So I opened my Bible to Proverbs 21,l and we read this together, “The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will."

I think often of such words. For example, “Hast thou not heard, the everlasting God. . .neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.” Is. 40,28. Or this, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” Is. 55,8. So no matter how it looks, I know my God is there to save. So I am content.

GPD 11/17/08

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/15/08

Ever since the state of Texas said I could no longer use their state’s highways unless I got some glasses, I have regarded passing the eye test for my driver’s license renewal successfully as a sort of Rite of Passage.

Well, my birthday is Monday, and this year my license expired, so the state sent their renewal postal, and I obeyed, and passed the eye test – again successfully.

And it brought to mind that poem about harvest time by James Whitcomb Riley titled, “When The Frost is on the pumpkin”.

“When the Frost is on the punkin, and the fodder’s in the shock
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ Turkey cock”
That funny looking word, kyouck, is the best the poet could do with the sound the Turkey makes just before he starts to gobble. Trust me, it’s that way.
Anyway, the poem goes on about the harvest ending, ‘the apples all is gathered, and the ones a feller keeps, is poured around the cellar floor in red and yellow heaps.’ Then “Your wimmen folks is through with their mince and apples butter, and their sauce and sausage too”.
So the harvest is done, and the farm is ready for winter, crops harvested, apples gathered in, the land plowed and ready for the winter cold and snow.
There is something so satisfying about a hard job finished, isn’t there? That is what I mean by “Rite of Passage”. It’s done, well done, successfully done.
And for a Christian that always calls for thanksgiving.
“Come, ye thankful people, come,
Raise the song of harvest home.
All is safely gathered in, ’ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide, For our wants to be supplied,
Come to God’s own temple, come. Raise the song if harvest home” 892
And may God bless with rich harvest and thankful heart.
GPD 11/15/08

Monday, November 10, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/10/08

On Luther’s Birthday, and the day president-elect Obama sits down with President Bush in the White House, it seems a ready thing to speak about.

When the King dies, there is always haste to stand ready with advice for his successor. The event that comes to mind is the time when Solomon died. He had ruled Israel for 40 years. They were years of prosperity, peace, and when a man could ‘sit under his own fig tree and rest’. Now the record says it simply, “And Rehoboam, his son, succeeded him as king. 1 Kings 11,43.

Now when this happened, Jeroboam, who was son of Nebat and had been in charge of some of Solomon’s work, came with all Israel and asked, really, how will you run things? They said “Your father sort of taxed us hard, lighten the load, and we will serve you”. Rehoboam asked for three days while He consulted advisors.

The King consulted with the elders who had been serving his father, and their advice was “If you give them a favorable answer – less taxation – they’ll serve you always.”

Then the king consulted younger men, men he had grown up with, and asked their advice. If they had grown up with a king’s son they were probably favored, so they said, “Tell them my father used whips, I’ll use scorpions. My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist.”

So Rehoboam’s answer was harsh. The result was to split the Kingdom. Ten tribes said, “To your tents, O Israel. Look to your own house, O David.” Read the entire sorry tale in 1 Kings chapter 11 and 2 Chronicles chapter 10.

Right now the air and the papers and magazines are filled with advice. The President-elect is surrounding himself with advisors, seeking the best he can possibly get, to direct his administration successfully.

Barack Obama in his speech spoke of ‘sacrifice’. He was really addressing the wrong crowd for that. Sacrifice ought to begin with our elected leaders, Senators and Representatives, who are much too quick to add their own pet project to any spending bill, and always end up spending billions more of unnecessary and unaccounted for tax monies. I sometimes have expressed the thought that what we need are some housewives who lived on a strict budget.

But in it all, it is for us to follow St. Paul’s message to Timothy. This was and is, “First of all, requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may lead peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and honesty, this is good, and pleases God our Savior.” 1 Tim. 2m 1-3.

Then may God give us peace to sit under our own fig tree to rest.

GPD 11/10/08

Friday, November 7, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/7/08

Here it is, a nice, brisk, sunny November morning. It’s the kind of day one longs to visit an orchard and get a bushel of apples to set on the back porch for the children to snack on when they came home from school. We used to do that in Adrian, and that ‘apple a day' helped keep the doctor at bay.

What a week this has been. Early Monday it started with my regular six month visit to the doctor. He checked all the labs he had received, noted “your cholesterol is good, and blood pressure is excellent”. I think you might need some iron since you appear a little anemic! Otherwise, just keep on doing what you are doing. Things are fine. I’ll see you again in six months.

Then off to see the heart doctor. She too was pleased with everything, and said also, “just keep on doing what you are doing, and I’ll see you in six months."

Then the historic election.

Then the eye specialist. He cut down the drops per day because I was doing so well.

I felt like rejoicing with the prophet when he said, “Our God was with us”. Because, well, there is a little test I need to take Monday yet, but then the doctor is always a bit on the “better safe than sorry” frame of mind.

A friend reminded me of the passage in Daniel where a heathen king, the same king that had constructed a statue of himself and commanded that people worship it or be thrown into the blazing furnace – that king said of God, 35 “Everyone who lives on earth is nothing compared to him. He does whatever he wishes with the army of heaven and with those who live on earth. There is no one who can oppose him or ask him, “What are you doing?” Daniel 4,35.

It is fitting to close with that reminder that we are truly in His hands and under His daily care and blessing.

GPD 11/7/08

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/4/08

Starbucks will hand a cup of coffee to any voter who stops in and asks today. I was out and about early this morning but did not stop in, because when I drove by the entire block was solid with SUVs and I reasoned I stood no chance at all.

Today voting is on people’s minds. Reports speak of ‘records’ being set etc. As if that were an achievement when it is really only, as Jesus said, “ye have done what it is your duty to do”. Sadly, many do not do their civic duty and then grouse over results they might not find to their liking.

Christians are praying what? That the vote might go “their way”, or that the will of god be done in this matter also?

I turned to Daniel, the man who had been taken into captivity to Babylon, landed as a King’s counselor, and lived his faith surrounded by heathen. Many of them terribly jealous and bitterly envious of Daniel and his position.

Chapter 9 gives us his prayer. He begins with “And I prayed to the Lord my God and made my confession´9,4. Then “We have sinned and have committed iniquity, done wickedly, departed from judgments.” Then v.16, “O Lord, according to all Thy righteousness, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away. . .”

And then I turn to Psalm 46, for example, which assures me “God is our Refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. “The Lord of Hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our Refuge.”
And Psalm 8, “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh.”

My friend, in all the noise and furor of these days, remember that. God is in heaven, He does whatever He wills. Let it ease our anxious hearts.

GPD 11/4/08

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/1/08

Strange, how a line from ones reading suddenly jumps out and strikes a cord. Recently in my reading a man in the story loses his wife and new born child thorough one of those senseless, and tragic accidents. It had been a happy marriage. He was climbing the corporate ladder and the future looked so bright. Friends commiserated and tried to console him, but gradually he drew into himself, and his work became his obsession. His best friend tied hard to take him to social events, or neighborhood meetings. Nothing. He worked seemingly 18 hours a day.

Then one day the friend, in worry and fretting, said this:
“Fred, find something to believe in, other than your work. Because when you leave this life, you leave work behind. If that’s all you have, then you have Nothing, and Eternity is a long time for nothing.”

Today is All Saints Day, in which we remember those who have died. In heaven St. John looks, “and behold a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the lamb.” (Rev.7,9).

Christians belong there. In Baptism they have become one of Christ’s Own. We use the phrase, “Receive the sign of the holy cross both upon your forehead and upon your heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified."

The mark of Christ is on us, and by His grace we receive this heavenly peace.

I remember as a young child standing at the graveside with my parents and others and singing “Nun lasst uns den Leib begraben”. You will find it # 759 in LSB. The hymn expressed the hope we all have because of our faith.

“Thou hast redeemed us by Thy death
From endless death and set us free,
We laud and praise and worship Thee.”

Yes indeed, Eternity is a long time for nothing. Thank God we have something, a Savior with precious promises.

GPD 11/1/08