Thursday, December 31, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/31/09

Written to assure us God is forgiving always.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/28/09

Walking was pleasant, no rushing traffic, no yellow boxes yet, just calm and cool, nice fresh air. Just two walkers who stepped along at a lively pace to keep warm, but they were bundled up, each wearing a stocking cap.

And today is my Dad’s birthday. I always remember it because it fell during this week, and it meant relatives came to visit. Not so much to celebrate the birthday but to break the winter dullness by visiting. Teens went skating to the lighted rink in Brown Deer, returning just in time for the midnight lunch. All the aunts brought either a cake or a plate of sandwiches, and we tried our best to get one made by Aunt Lydia, roast beef on home made bread slathered with butter. Boy, I can taste it still. The ground was always snow covered, and the air was frosty. But the timing was right for winter visiting, and all enjoyed it. Several uncles always played chess and kept track year to year as to who won! It was intense, but relaxing fun that made the rest of the cold winter not so hard to live through.

And how was your Christmas? I hope you had some visiting and family affairs to fill the time, and that exchange of presents, and did you get what you wanted or needed, or just something.

My grandchildren come along with something I can use, cards at McDonalds or Safeway or Starbucks. That is wonderful, order, and hand a card, the clerk swipes it, grins, hands it back, and says thanks. Because the grandchildren don’t know what I might need. They do understand I have all the sox and ties I will ever need, and of books they have no idea where my mind might run. They have yet to understand that ONE Book really fills my need at this stage of my life, and I already have that one book.

But being able to swipe a card reminds me that is just why Jesus came as the Babe in the manger in Bethlehem. It was to give me something free, my salvation. The Book of Hebrews was written just to remind Israel there was no longer need for daily sacrifice for sins, because Jesus said, “I have come to do your will, O God. . .and by that will we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Heb. 10, 9.10.

That is the message of the Bible, that “God so loved the world, that He gave His Only begotten Son, whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him”. John 3,16,17.

The Bible teaches this so clearly. Paul, in Ephesians 2, 6.7. declares, “By grace are you saved, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” So we do sing, “Go, tell it on the mountains, over the hills and far away, that Jesus Christ is born.” May your Christmas bring you “Peace with God, which passes all understanding”.

GPD 12/28/09

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/22/09 Christmas Letter

Christmas Eve when I was seven or eight was cold, but clear. Stars shone in the night sky, and then snow started to fall, softly, lazily, the flakes drifted down. We were on the way to Church for the Christmas Children’s Service, and since Father's farm abutted the village on the north and a bit on the east, we lived within walking distance. Snow flakes falling, and I remember the windows of the Church glowing through the night, and then as we came near, the bells rang out. What a wonderful sound on the frosty air.

Then the Service, and the school children sang familiar songs and recited the ancient story. “And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered, and she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger: because there was no room for them in the inn”. Luke 2, 6.7.

After the Service each child received a bag with nuts, candy, an orange, and a small gift from the teacher, perhaps a book. Then off for home. Father had rushed ahead, lighted the tree and placed packages under the tree, and when we came home, we opened them and had a fine family time. Mother had a plate of cookies, and we had some milk. Then off to bed, for the morning came soon enough and chores needed to be done. Then off again for Christmas Day Church Service.

But of course then I had no idea what kind of a world it was that Jesus was born into. Rome ruled. Rome ruled from the Atlantic on the west to the Euphrates on the east, from the Rhine and Danube on the north, to the Sahara desert on the south. All Rome needed was the taxes, and they had a system in place for that too.

So, when Caesar called for a census, no one knew or understood that he was really God’s agent to see that the prophecy would be fulfilled to the letter. Sure Augustus was powerful. Men trembled at his word and lost their heads at his command. Yet here he is doing what GOD wanted done.

It is always so. Amid the pomp and ceremony, the powerful make their boast, but under the endless procession God is at work, tirelessly and carefully bringing the lambs to the care of their Shepherd, leading people to faith in Christ as their Savior, opening eyes to see that wonderful message of salvation that this birth brings to the world, carrying out God’s Plan exactly, on time. For us.

Family for Christmas gave me a copy of the N Y Times dated the day of my birth. No mention of China or India, trouble in the Balkans, unrest in Ireland, the DOW at 38, and a report that a waitress carrying a piece of pie and a dish of ice cream slipped, and in trying to catch her balance the ice cream landed on the pie and she served it, pie-a-la-mode was born!

BUT, The Birth reminds us that “God is not dead, nor does He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth”. That peace which man has with God because sins are forgiven because Jesus Christ “made peace through the blood of His cross” Col. 1,20. That is my Christmas message of hope and joy in this world you and I are living in. May God bless each.

GPD 12/22/09

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/19/09

It promises to be a rather pleasant day today. High of some 60 and sunny, about right for this time of year, the weatherman says. What kind of spoils it is that I read where it will cost up to $2,995 to see Texas and Alabama at a football game. I do not plan to go.

I have a choice. That is ever a problem. The other day I was at the grocery store standing in the cereal aisle. There was a man, white-haired, a little stooped, looking at the display and he said to me, “I can remember when there were Corn Flakes, Quaker Oats, and Post Toasties. Now look at it.” “Well,” said I, “at least General Mills reports they will be adding less sugar to their cereals.” So that’s one plus.

But the modern shopper is faced with many choices. P&G produces an amazing 110 variations of Tide detergent, and there are 25 different ear plugs, and 256 kinds of deodorant! The good news is that stores are starting to shrink selections, so shopping will be a little easier.

What brings all this to mind is the fact that we are now nearing Christmas, the celebration of the Birth if Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as the Babe in the manger in Bethlehem.

For Christians this means that God is carrying out His plan to save sinners. This plan of God was set and is going on as scheduled. For Christians this is the basis of their faith, and their hope for eternal life. It gives them strength, guides their way in this life, and offers sure hope for eternity.

And this faith is no longer held by many Americans, who call themselves ‘spiritual’ rather than ‘religious’. They tend to mix all manner of beliefs and make that their own, instead of accepting what the Bible teaches.

A recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found Americans' personal belief often combine aspects of major religions such as Eastern and New Age beliefs such as reincarnation and astrology. Somehow, the culture we live in dictates that such beliefs are more acceptable today.

It disturbs me, because the Lord Jesus, the very Son of God, teaches, “I am the Bread of life”, and “No man comes to the Father but by me”. Jesus, the “Light of the world”, came to do a work that God had set for Him, to live and then die in our stead, to pay for our sins, so we can and do have forgiveness, and the cure and certain promise of Eternal life. “Believest Thou this?” That is the Christian faith.

GPD 12/19/09

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/17/09

Put on my jacket, got the gloves and opened the door, ready for a brisk bit of walking. And it was dripping out. No, not any gushing rain,. Just the kind that sits on the edge of the collar, and then makes is way down one’s spine with its icy fingers. So I grabbed the umbrella, got the paper, did not get in a walk, and felt grumpy. And that’s no way to be, is it, especially for a pleasant fellow like me. So I simply accepted the situation and read the paper early.

And what did I read? That municipalities are into saving money by installing led bulbs in their stop and go signals. These lights last more than 7 years and save 90% in electricity, while the other bulbs had to be replaced on average every 18 months, so the cities are saving big bucks. And then the snow came. Some snow was blown into the shielded light and obscured them enough that people could not see if they were red or green. Sadly, a lady could see the light, and it gave her the arrow to turn left, while the driver coming from the other direction could not see the light, ran into her, and she was killed.

The problem; led bulbs do not heat up enough to melt the snow while incandescent bulbs do, so cities are spending their saved money sending crews out to clear lights after a snow fall. The problem will be solved, maybe with a heating element. I remember when my uncle bought a Dodge touring car that had real windows, and he used to heat a brick to place at grandma's feet when they drove to church. I remember grandma remarking, “I shouldn’t wonder if the boys in Detroit wouldn’t figure out someday to put a heater into this car.”

Not only did the “boys in Detroit" figure out how to heat the car, they also put in air conditioning, heated seats, individual comfort zones for left and right side, and much more. When we have it, it seems not so extraordinary at all.

I wonder how Abraham felt about God’s promises that “You will have a son, and your descendants will be as numerous as stars in the heavens” when he was nearing 100 years if age?

Yet later St. Paul would write in Galatians 4, 4-5. “When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”

And that is what we look forward to celebrating just days now. Is the heart ready for this news?

GPD 12/17/09

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/15/09

Lots of winged winter visitors are dropping in. It’s time for flocks of geese to arrive from the north. They spend the winter on the fields from the coastal wildlife refuge near Houston to the fallow farms near Choke Canyon west of Corpus Christi, and the agricultural fields between San Antonio and Uvalde.

They travelled, some of them 2500 miles, from the arctic Tundra and Canada to get here. Snow geese, Canada geese, Cackling geese, and the greater white fronted geese. The last two species come from the Arctic Tundra near Hudson’s bay to as far away as Russia. Probably best known to us are the Canada geese, known as “honkers” because of their call while flying. Experts tell us these calls says “I need help here” from the leader, or “How are things going” to flock members or only “going well”. Interesting, if true.

For Migrating birds Chicago is a deadly obstacle. The city is a sky-scraping, crazy-making obstacle of light and glass and building blocks thrown into the path of their flyway, the air space that stretches from the northern forests of Canada to the rain forests of Peru. So thousands of birds die by flying into glass they can’t see to reach a fountain or tree in a building lobby. The city’s night sky sees them mistaking kilowatts for stars. And Chicago is doing something about it.

These days, building managers by the hundreds are turning off lights during migration. Ever since Chicago’s huge convention center began tuning off its light in 1998, bird-crashing deaths have dropped from an average of 1500 to 600 per year, and when all lights are out, the fatalities drop by 80%.

Besides this, Chicago has a large number of “Chicago Bird Collision Monitors” who are called when a bird crashes. Often they are able to rescue and send the bird on its way. Their phone rings with calls from homeless people to lawyers on their way to a busy day in the office. One security guard who works downtown often finds birds and makes the call. He says they are the most reliable people we know. You call them, they come. Seven days a week, rain or shine.

I find it heartening to learn such things. There are yet people who care, even when all that is involved are birds doing what they have always done, follow their instincts. And that a great city like Chicago stands ready, from Mayor Daly to a homeless person, to show concern.

GPD 12/15/09

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/12/09

13 They sent some Pharisees and followers of Herod to bait him, hoping to catch him saying something incriminating. 14 They came up and said, "Teacher, we know you have integrity, that you are indifferent to public opinion, don't pander to your students, and teach the way of God accurately. Tell us: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" 15 He knew it was a trick question, and said, "Why are you playing these games with me? Bring me a coin and let me look at it." 16 They handed him one. "This engraving—who does it look like? And whose name is on it?" "Caesar," they said. 17 Jesus said, "Give Caesar what is his, and give God what is his." Their mouths hung open, speechless.” Mark 12, 13-17 MSG

So I paid my yearly taxes to the county this week. These taxes fund 662 law enforcement officers, 7 libraries, 4 road and bridge budgets, 7 district, 5 county, and 2 JP courts. Included in the total for the year is $ 23,191,701 for debt services.

St. Paul wrote about this subject also when he called the Christian to be a “good citizen.” In Romans 13,1. this is what he said “1 Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it's God's order. So live responsibly as a citizen. 2 If you're irresponsible to the state, then you're irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. 3 Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you're trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear. Do you want to be on good terms with the government? Be a responsible citizen and you'll get on just fine, 4 the government working to your advantage. But if you're breaking the rules right and left, watch out. The police aren't there just to be admired in their uniforms. God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it. 5 That's why you must live responsibly—not just to avoid punishment but also because it's the right way to live. 6 That's also why you pay taxes—so that an orderly way of life can be maintained. 7 Fulfill your obligations as a citizen. Pay your taxes, pay your bills, respect your leaders.” Romans 13, 1-7 MSG.

Part of our trouble lies in the great amounts of monies being spent. And much of it nationally comes under “ear marks", that is moneys voted to be spent on programs that the US Government was not meant to fund. No, you can’t convince me that my tax money was meant to be spent on building a turtle tunnel to cross some highway in Florida. And whose fault is it finally? It is the voter who keeps on voting for these people because they “bring home the bacon” with pet projects for their areas. The solution, of course, lies in what St. Paul taught in 1 Timothy 2,1. Let’s hear what this is. “I urge, then, first of all, that prayers be made for everyone, for kings and for all that are in authority, that we may live quiet and peaceable lives. . .this is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved.”

GPD 12/12/09

Monday, December 7, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/7/09

The reading from Malachi chapter 3, v.7 reads, “I, the Lord, change not”, and adds, “Therefore are you not destroyed”. Let’s keep that promise of God firmly in mind as we notice they’re at it again, running ads on busses reading, for example, “No god? . . . no problem”, or “be good for goodness sake”. Such signs will appear on busses in various cities, and probably will draw strong reaction again, as they did last year.

Matthew Staver, founder of the Liberty Counsel, a conservative religious law firm called them “insensitive and mean”.

How ought we react? Let’s first of all pray for them, because “none so blind as they who will not see”, is a truth that applies. Even on the cross Jesus prayed for His enemies “for they know not what they do”.

We are on our Advent journey, and we meet those with spiritual needs, and physical needs. Was the man of John chapter 9 already along the road when Joseph and Mary went by? Jesus met his need, remember when he restored his sight.

That is why Jesus came after all, to be “A Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel”. He is the Light of this world. Let’s just be busy introducing people to this light, instead of bewailing ads and signs that are so fleeting.

“How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is given.
So God imparts to human hearts,
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The Dear Lord enters in”. LSB 361,3.

In these busy times, do not allow the devil to take your eye off the Savior, who comes as a Babe in the manger at Bethlehem. Rejoice, rejoice, for he is your Savior, your Lord, as He is mine. And with that, I am content, as you should be too.

GPD 12/7/09

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/3/09

Still mighty cool, but no wind to speak of, so the walking is fine. Well, no sooner mention running dogs then this happens. I was just leaving the house when a car came drifting slowly by. The driver rolled down his window and said, “Have you seen my dogs around anyplace? They got out because someone left the gate open. They are friendly.”

“No,” I said, but as I looked up the street I saw two dogs trotting along and said, “Could that be yours?”

He looked, whistled and called them, and they came running. He opened the door and they jumped in and left. Meanwhile, I retreated to the safety of my front door. I’ve been nipped by “friendly” dogs, and I’m wary of them.

And it made me think, “If I had a choice in which age I would want to live, which would it be?” I have no choice, really but I do have control of the attitude I take about the life I am living. I remember, - when the years take their toll of strength and health, one tends to remember. There were good days. And there were days not so pleasant at all. There is always a mix, of times, and of people. And other ages had other distractions, because the devil is always at work trying his level best to pry us away from our faith In the Lord Jesus Christ.

What brings that to mind is the season we are observing right now, the Season of Advent, the time of waiting for the coming of Jesus. Or the Season of Lent. Churches were filled, we even held two special midweek services to accommodate the worshippers. And the worship, sermons to be remembered and savored. I do not believe any worshippers will ever forget the series preached by the Rev. Dr. O.P.Kretzman, in the chapel of Valparaiso University. He titled the series, “Voices of the Passion”.

But this day sees so many other attractions, and distractions, to take our eye and our thought from the Main Event, the Savior.

Let us never forget in the history of the world, powers have come, been strong and mighty for a little time, and faded away. And all the time, quietly and without much ado, the Lord is at work, doing His will, blessing His people in serving Him. St. Paul in his lonely prison cell writing, “They threw me into this place to shut me up, and it worked to my advantage, because many of my jailors are now also Christians.”

So it always is. The Lord is at work, and whether I get the credit, or see the outcome, let me just be Content. Quoting St. Paul again, “I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content.” I pray God will grant this for my life, and for yours.

GPD 12/3/09

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 12/1/09

Brisk this morning, and just a bit on the windy side, nice walking weather. And when I returned, there, waiting for their inevitable yellow Box ride, were two students, one with bare arms. I shivered, but then remembered my father used to say, “If you keep your chest warm, the rest will be warm too”. At this late date I really don’t plan to test his word anymore. I’ll keep a warm jacket on, thank you.

One thing that is no bother here while walking is loose dogs running about. I recall in Detroit a couple a few block over acquired a Doberman trained as a watch dog. They kept him in a fenced back yard along which the sidewalk ran. The fence was a six foot high chain link fence, sturdy and safe. But if he was out and you walked along the fence, he accompanied you on the inside, teeth bared and snarling a warning. But the fence made it safe for the walker.

That’s what fences do, they make things safe.

That’s why memorizing the Word of God and understanding its meaning is vital to Christian safety in this world. In his second letter to the Christians, St. John, who is now an old man, writes this: ”My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin”. 2 John 2,2. Then this aged Christian who has lived and seen much writes, “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world.. . for everything in the world, it’s cravings, it’s lusts, it’s boasting, comes not from the Father, but from the work, and the world and its desires will pass away, but He who does the will of God lives forever”. 2 John 2, 15-17.

The fact is that we live in a culture that really has different values than the Christian does, and this culture presses hard to make us conform. St. Peter mentions this fact. He says, “They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and so they heap abuse on you”. L Peter 4,4.

And that is the reason for the fence we call God’s Law, or the Ten Commandments. They are there to guide us, direct us, and give us an understanding of the right way to go. So, you’re celebrating your team’s victory. There stands the word that says, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, instead be filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5, 18.

I said you are armed. You have the “Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God”. Learn it, be familiar with it, use it. There it stands, ready to be the light and guide, to direct to admonish, to hold back. It is God’s grace that arms you so, dear Christian. And for that we give him thanks, praise, and glory.

GPD 12/1/09

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/25/09

Often it escapes us when we are in misery that God is yet alive and well, and is My Rock and My Salvation. Indeed, He has armed us for the strife we face daily.

We all know the story of Jonah. How this man was given a command, and he decided to run 100 miles in the other direction. We can understand when we read the Book of Nahum, for instance. Understand that, and you know why Jonah did not want to go there.

The stage of history is large, and on it appear from time to time larger than life figures, brandishing swords, snorting violence, swaggering, boastful, fearsome. Nineveh was the capital of one such power, Assyria. Awesome , a world power, terrorizing the world. And Jonah was sent to tell them unless they repented, they would perish! So he went, finally, and Nineveh did repent. Much to Jonah’s dismay. He rather wanted to see them being destroyed.

But the story in the Bible brings our mind and our thoughts back to what is really going on. For quietly God is at work. So God sends Jonah along to remind us to see what is really going on here, that God works what He pleases, and when He wills.

So I said, You are armed. In the world you will have tribulation, but be not dismayed, I have overcome the world”. Jesus tells. And St. Paul reminds us that that we have the “full armor of God” including “The sword or the Spirit, which is the word of God”.

So we stand armed and ready. Let us just never forget that Sword of the Spirit, read it, learn it, learn to trust what it says, and God will bless.

GPD 11/25/09

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/17/09

The morning is cold, nice for walking to get the blood flowing and into the day, which is my Natal Day. (Well, I’ve been telling you that, haven’t I?)

So, what has my earthly pilgrimage taught me for this day? Well, I was whistling this morning and the youngster waiting for the bus said, “You sound happy”. I said, “Today is my birthday.” He said, “Congratulations, where were you born?” I hedged a bit and said, “In a log cabin in Wisconsin”. “Wow”, said he ” [it was not a log cabin, but a fasch house, but I said ‘log’ because he wouldn’t know what the other was.]

One thing I learned is that I can really trust the Lord. “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27,1. By God’s grace He has allowed me to walk that way, in trust and in faith.

Life is full of unexpected twists and turns, events I did not anticipate, yet lived through. I think often of Jesus’ birth. I am sure Mary and Joseph would have been better served by family if they had been home when the birth happened. But the Hand of government decreed that they travel to Bethlehem, where they knew nobody, and there their first child was born. In a stable. And finally it worked for our salvation . It happened, not as Joseph and Mary had planned at home, but in Bethlehem, as the prophets had said it would. Because that was God’s plan. “That the Scripture might be fulfilled”.

I find for the most part people are kind and want ot be helpful. One time Ruth asked me to pick up some special herb she needed to make a dish. I couldn’t find it and a fellow shopper asked what I was looking for. So she helped look, and before we found it, 5 lady shoppers were lending a hand. And we all enjoyed my success in finding the item.

It happens too if I shop groceries early. When I leave Rush Haven I connect with Flintridge which leads to the main roads out, and that is always a line of cars. I have a stop sign, but someone always stops and waves me into the line. Helpful people.

So with this Shade Tree Writing. I have a weblog on which my writings appear, and that happens because my granddaughter puts them on.

Which reminds me of the changes I have seen, from infant radio to the marvels of the internet, e-mail, facebook. I remind people that our generation – the generation you look on as the ‘old fuddy-duddies’ invented this stuff for you to develop and use. It saddens me that so much is being misused or badly used. Shows that the devil is still active and uses anything at hand for his nefarious work.

I’ve also learned to enjoy the moment. Glad to have this time, without always worrying it might not last, or fearing the future, for God is in the common things too.

And, when things do look bleak, to lean on Him always. Reading Habakkuk makes this clear. He was complaining to God, when the lord told him disaster would come, he ends up saying, Habakkuk 3:17-19 (KJV) 17 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: 18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 19 The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.

All for now. I may continue these ramblings at a later date. God bless and keep you in His tender care.

GPD 11/17/09

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Shade Tree wisdom 11/11/09

“I am the Almighty God,
Walk before Me, and be thou perfect”. Gen.17,1.

That was God’s Word for Abraham long ago, when God called and made a covenant with this man and promised “I will greatly increase your numbers”. V.2

We celebrate Veteran’s Day on November 11, which is Armistice, recalling the treaty signed in 1918 to end World War I.

Yet today we think of the Ft. Hood disaster, and the many words describing that event, and we wonder whether there is really any peace left, or any hope for peace. We are exposed to so many stories of horror, of murders, of rapes, of carnage, that we are under constant stress. The result is worry, heartburn, high blood pressure, are all increasing.

Before we give way to despair, remember what St. Paul once wrote to anxious people? “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” Romans 12,2. This reminded them to make sure they understood what happens when Jesus Christ enters the picture.

Because when we lose sight of this fact, that “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief”. 1 Tim.1,15. we can easily get overwhelmed with things happening over which we have no control.

But remember, Jesus DID come, lived here, died, and was buried, then rose again. And this is what paid for the sins we do, the sins we did, and the burdens we carry. All is forgiven, and we are declared righteous before God. St. Paul said it well. “By grace are ye saved, that no of yourselves, it is a Gift of God, not of (your) works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2, 8.9.

So the Word of God spoken to Abraham is filled with rich meaning for us. This God, the Almighty One, planned all this because He loved us. He made this promise to Adam and Eve after they sinned. “I will put enmity between you (the serpent), and the woman, between your seed and Her seed, He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” Genesis 3,15. The first Messianic Promise.

That is what gives us the courage to live “always as Unto Him”. The Large Catechism puts our situation like this:

“I believe there is on earth a little holy flock, a community of saints under one head, Christ. It is called together by the Holy Spirit in one faith. I belong to this body. I was brought to it by the Holy Spirit in Baptism, and by hearing the Word; I am kept in it by using the Sacraments and hearing the Word of God . . .until the last day, the holy Spirit remains with this Body”. Large Catechism p.61

GPD 11/11/09

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/10/09

Rain washed, cool, the air this morning, and the walking was fine, so I nearly overshot my goal. Not because I broke the rules of the plane I was flying and working with my own computer, but because it was a pleasure to walk in weather like this, and I take my pleasure as it comes, bit by bit, don’t you?

The news tells me that Florida has had its first official Boa Constrictor hunt that netted 37 of the grown beasts. The Boa is not native to Florida, so its presence means destruction of natural habitat. How do they get there? They are bought as pets when they are small, and then people often release them into the wild when they tire of them or find keeping them too much to handle or too burdensome.

In Texas the Texas Parks and Wildlife officials contracted with helicopter crews to begin treating with herbicides floating mats of exotic plants the have invaded the Toldeo Bend Reservoir. The lake stretches between Texas and its neighbor, Louisiana. The invading salvinia has covered nearly 2000 acres of this lake. Some coves are 100 percent clogged. The plant simply smothers all life in the water. Officials hope this treatment will prove effective. Salvinia, imported from Brazil, is a common nuisance throughout the Southwest.

Another note on nature. Houston is mostly flat, so heavy rains easily cause floods unless ways are found to carry the water off. Army Engineers brought in to solve the problem simply widened and deepened the bayous (that is, creeks) and covered them with concrete, resulting in a number of ugly concrete ditches serving little purpose, and that did not carry off the flood waters anyway.

So Harris County and Houston Park officials followed the plans of a landscape architect and made ponds which served as holding ponds and planted trees, grasses, and fauna suitable to attract wildlife and also serve as holding ponds and ways to carry off excess waters. The result are places that are used as parks, places for wildlife to flourish, and give pleasure to the passing eye. Nature lovers find these places excellent for bird watching and simply as places to rest from the daily rat race.

“Help us let go, help us be sill,
In patience may we learn your will.”

Another clip I have is a hint from Heloise on how to fold king-size fitted sheets after washing. I say, put them right back on the bed.

And today is the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther’s birth.

One final note. Yesterday was my semi-annual visit with the heart doctor, and her verdict: "Keep on doing what you are doing”. That’s always good to hear. May God then continue to allow me to use the days He has planned for me.

GPD 11/10/09

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/7/09

One privilege we have as God’s dear children is praying.
He does invite that, for whatever our need, concern, car, or worry, or even joy, we share in prayer.

In these troubling times may I offer this for the end of the day.

O Lord, support us all the day long in this troublous life,
Until the shadows lengthen,
And the evening comes,
And the busy world is hushed,
And 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 11/7/09

Friday, November 6, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/6/09

The moon has been bright these nights, and the morning walk is nice and cool. What can be better?

Well, it’s Fall, and I do miss those colors. Every Fall the St. Louis papers would run a color special, and always featured was Christ Lutheran Church in Augusta, Mo, because it was set on the bottom of a hill that served as a colorful background for the display of color. The white church served as the front piece. But I read this morning that there are several canyons in Texas that have much Fall color as well. They are so situated that the change in temperature causes this.

But what shall we say about the other news, the tragic affair in Ft. Hood. The article says the man, a psychiatrist wanted out. But did he need to destroy thirteen others, and maim many more, to do so? I know there will be many words to try to understand, to grasp the meaning, to find the cause, and they will be spoken by learned people after much thought and debate. I wish them success in their endeavor to explain or understand. I offer a simple word, sin.

If this happens at a place like Ft. Hood, where is one safe?

Fortunately, the Psalm offers us security. Listen to Psalm 125,
“Those who trust in God are like Mt. Zion; nothing can move it, a rock-solid mountain you can always depend on”. Vv. 1.2. Being a Christian is not easy today, never is or was, but we depend on a God who never changes. Jerusalem was set in a saucer of hills, to form a natural fortress. Living in those times wasn’t easy, but the Psalmist points out the Christian lives in a secure fortress. "God is our Refuge and Strength, a very present help in Trouble” writes Psalm 46,1.

“God encircles His people.” What more do we really need than the prayer our Lord prayed. Remember it, in John 17,11.15. “Holy Father, guard them. . .I’m not asking that You take them out of the world, but that You guard them from the Evil one.”

Israel’s history was up and down. One day they march dry-shod through a sea and see their enemy destroyed; the next they are grumbling in the desert because they long for the steak and potatoes of an Egyptian supper. One day they are blowing trumpets and see Jericho’s walls fall, the next they lose an easy battle because Achan sinned. One day they are sitting with Jesus eating a final supper, then next they are standing in a courtyard swearing they didn’t know him.

As I am writing this news comes about a shooting in an Orlando office building. Things happen, bad things, things we dislike and that make us nervous. And the psalm says, “The fist of the wicked will never violate what is due the righteous, provoking wrongful violence.” The key is the word “violate", to cancel God’s purpose that are being worked out. Israel had more than its share of such a “fist". Pharaoh, the Philistines, the Assyrians and Babylonians, and Caesar. As do we. But “He remains faithful”, so that Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount, knowing how timid we are, said three times, “Do not be anxious.” Our life with God is a sure thing.

So the psalm assures us,” Those who trust in God are like Mt. Zion”.

GPD 11/6/09

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 11/3/09

November, what a nice month, filled with Natal days in plenty, including, of course, Martin Luther on the 10th, and B, who shares the day with me, and mine, the 17th.

November 17th was also memorable in my father’s eyes because it is the day he first put his milk herd into the new barn. He had bought this farm when mother and father were married. It had been a seed farm which had been run down, and he planned to turn it into a dairy farm, because that’s what he was, a dairy farmer. So the shed was unsuitable for such an operation. The new barn was some 80 feet by about 40 feet, had the main level for the cattle, and above that, storage for hay, grain, and straw. A silo at the west end was for silage for feed also. The building was built for $ 800.00, and on November 17th father was able to start using it. So for years he told me he did not really know what made him prouder, getting his cattle into shelter or my being born.

A note: When I graduated from the Seminary he told me I made him prouder! Vindicated.

Having said that, I feel like bumbling today. “What’s that”, you ask. It’s a nice word meaning “wandering around without purpose”. Just sort of lazing the day away. Maybe tread a little, or just sit and chat, or daydream, or whatever.

We really live in too much of a rush these days, don’t we. Even frown on taking a nap. We think that is for wimps, unless, of course, we call it a “power nap”, that makes it all right for it is meant to give a strong sound with lots of meaning, to leave us with renewed energy and strength to work the rest of the day.

I, on the other hand, have reached the years when taking a nap is acceptable , so I take a nap, and enjoy it.

After all, here just lying on the grass is dangerous, for fire ants will come, and they bite. Oh sure, we have stuff guaranteed to destroy them, but they seem to survive in spite of man’s efforts. So lying on the grass and gazing at clouds, called “cloud spotting” is not done here. And that’s too bad, I miss that.

It’s all a gift from God to make life interesting, comfortable, and purposeful. And so, as the Psalm writes, “I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me.” Psalm 13,5.6.

GPD 11/3/09

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/31/09

“From goulies and ghostiest
And things that go bump
In the night:. . .

So the day began at the grocery, shopping for some food. When I get to the checkout another was also aiming for that line. A lady with a black dot on the nose, several whiskers painted on, carrying a banana and a power bar. I told her to go first and she gave me a Cheshire grin and a purred thanks. The Cat Woman, this early?

It reminded me of nights when the moon shone brightly and threw shadows from the tree outside on our bedroom wall, and my older brother delighted in imagining shadows turned into monsters, and it scared me, and I fussed enough to make father come and ask what the matter was. He told my brother to go to sleep and stop ‘this foolishness’. Next morning I complained to Mother, she consoled me and said, “Let me give you a secret. Next time he does that turn on the light and the monsters will go away”.

Amazing, isn’t it, what Light will do?

That’s what the REFORMATION we observe October 31 is about, Luther turning on the light of the Gospel again. He was not trying to start a new church, he was in all earnestness and seriousness trying to return the Church to the truth of the Gospel.

The Light does that, it helps straighten things out, gives light and so direction because we can see clearly what was amiss. An illustration is the young man who planned to treat his girl friend’s sister, mother and her to a steak dinner, cooked on their grill. The directions weren’t there, and he did not know how to start that fancy grill. So, she called her father, deployed to Afghanistan, and got the directions. Simple, when he knew how to do it. Light, you see, was helpful. (The steaks turned out well. As did the baked potatoes.)

When the child Jesus was brought to the temple, Simeon in prophecy called him “A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel”. Luke 2,32. And in his first letter the apostle John writes, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1,5. Just as Isaiah had predicted long before, “I will give thee for a light to the Gentiles.” Is. 49,6.

Because we do believe He is the Light of the world, we are also called to be a light of the world, to”shine before men”. Matt. 5,14.

That is what The REFORMATION is and means. Light came back, threw its beams into the world, and brought men who “loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil” (John 3,17), into the Light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So, finally, Jesus teaches , “I Am the light of the world, He that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” John 8,12.

And that is what Light is for, to lead us to salvation.

GPD 10/31/09

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/29/09

“No matter what the circumstances”, said the Apostle Paul one time, “Live life as unto Him”.

I can think of no better word than that for this time and place. Right now, I stepped out into a sauna, humid, hot for this time of year, rain hangs in the air, weather more suitable for the middle of July than the end of October. But we are living on the Gulf Coast, so I do not complain. There’s no reason to complain, for He has said, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”

I have in mind Paul’s letter to the Philippians. A Happy letter, indeed, filled with joyful suggestions and supporting words. This from a man who is in jail, after all. And even that, he says, turned out for the good, for “My imprisonment here has the opposite from the intended affect. Instead of being squelched, The Message has actually prospered. All the soldiers here and everyone else, too, found out that I’m in jail because of the Messiah. That piqued their curiosity, and now they’ve learned all about Him.” 1,12-13.

Then he adds, “Not only that, but the followers here have become more sure of themselves in the faith than ever, speaking out fearlessly about God, about the Messiah”. V.14

So, the morning news brings the sad fact that two hunters arguing over deer stands are killed, one suicide, the other shot. Then I read the rains are making the feed growing in the lowlands where wild fowl eat inaccessible because of 3 feet of water, rivers are at flood stage and disaster faces the wild life, all because of the aftermath of IKE. And the news agencies are at war with the White House. What next? I wonder.

History informs us the world of the Philippians Church was just as upsetting as is ours today, maybe even worse. And what does the Apostle say in his letter? Do we read, ‘Poor people, just hang in there, it will be O.K.?” No, read it for yourself in chapter 2,13-16. “It is God who works in you both to will and do His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining. Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people a glimpse of living with God. Carry the light-giving message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns.”

What a line, “as lights in the world”. An example, a picture of what life in Christ is, can be, ought to be.

That’s aimed right at us who are God’s children by Holy Baptism. Ask, do I do “all things without complaining or disputing?” Especially, for example, after a worship service that “ran five minute over time", or something? Our record is not very good, is it?

But, you are LIGHTS in the world by God’s work and Will. You are blessed.

GPF 10/29/09

Monday, October 26, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/26/09

Well, right now it’s raining, and it is predicted for the day. “Stormy”, the word reads.

But, did you see the sunrise the other morning? “Rosy-fingered dawn” came to mind. The words were used by Homer in his Odyssey as an epithet, as help for the singers who recited the poem.

But they are so descriptive of the majestic colors and simply awesome display in the Eastern sky. I’ve seen a rising sun over the waters of the great Lakes and of the gulf Coast, over the Atlantic ocean and over fields of waving grain in Nebraska, as well as often over the fields and woods of Wisconsin . No matter where, it is ever an inspiring sight. (Sleep till noon, you simply miss it. I cannot describe the sight to you. It has to be experienced.)

Another descriptive phrase that came to mind is “the dawn comes up like thunder out of China 'crost the bay”. The text comes from Kipling’s “On the Road to Mandalay”. The poem ends like this.
“On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flying fishes play,
And the dawn comes up like thunder,
Out of China ‘crost the Bay.”

Which brings to mind the first time I heard it sung. It was while I was taking six weeks of summer courses in Seward, Nebraska. One of the students was working toward a degree in music, and one of the requirements was to plan and give a vocal concert before a live audience. The exercise was to show what talents he had in selecting and presenting a program that showed his musical ability and his vocal range. One of the songs he picked was this one, and the phrase stuck, “The dawn comes up like Thunder out of China ‘crost the bay”.

All that, together with the gentle rain falling still, is the Lord speaking still. St. Paul said, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” Romans 1, 20.

The promise, “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter day and night, will not cease.” Genesis 8,11. Indeed, “There is no speech, or language, where their voice is not heard”. Psalm 19,3.

So the rain, or the sunrise, is God still speaking to us. Just don’t forget that.

GPD 10/26/09

Friday, October 23, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/23/09

Boy, the jacket really felt good this morning when the air was bracing and the sky was clear. Finally, some October weather, welcome indeed. And I celebrated by extending my walk a bit.

I see the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston will open a refrigerated storage facility to offer some competition to Miami for the business of importing flowers and other perishable cargo including fish, fruit, and vegetables. One advantage Houston has is that the Federal agency for inspecting and fumigating imports is next door to the new storage facility. They feel this is a real ‘selling point’ because it moves imports to stores faster. We shall see.

Meanwhile, there is a small Lumber Company in northwest Houston that specializes in salvaging trees for furniture and other special building material. They take trees – and there are many great hardwoods, oak, pecan, cypress, cedar, cottonwoods in the area. When they fall, or need to be removed, the company takes them and mills them into wide planks for high-end meeting tables, benches, beds, and such. When word got around they started selling wood to woodworkers. The Company takes urban trees. Most companies do not like to take such trees, because they are more likely to have nails, bits of wire, or bullets imbedded in them, and that breaks saw blades. Architects also use such special wood in their designing. Such wood ages, and adds character to a home or piece of furniture. So the company is flourishing. I wish them well.

Some welcome rain fell, but the record-keepers tell us we are still some 5 inches behind the normal fall for the year. Never satisfied, are they.

And finally this bit. Invasive plants, like the giant salvania, are wreaking havoc on the waters of East Texas. Recently, a duck hunter scouting river bottoms for hunting sites found an oxbow lake and the surrounding shallows wetlands covered by a mass of floating plants he did not recognize. The plant had carpeted much of the prime waterfowl habitat – shallow, backwater areas. He contacted the head of the Parks and Wildlife Department, and he identified the giant salvania. The clot of salvania is poised to be carried into Sam Rayburn, one of the State's finest freshwater fisheries and a major economic force in the area. The threat is real.

Education, and perhaps strictly enforcing major fines on careless boaters who spread the plant by carrying sprigs of the plant stuck to their trailers or boat motors, will preserve the waters, and finally overcome this plague.

So, is there hope? Yes, the Bible offers hope always. “The heavens declare the glory of God, the firmament showeth His handiwork. Day after day uttereth speech, night after night showeth forth knowledge, There is no speech, or language where their voice is not heard.” Psalm 19, 1-3. Bless His Holy Name.

GPD 10/23/09

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom – more on question – 10/18/09

Questions often reveal truth. Like when you were out last night and there was a terrible happening and the next morning your father asked, “Were you there?” and with relief you could say “No, I was at the ball game”.

I recall Samuel the prophet gave king Saul a commission from the Lord. It was to destroy the Amaleliktes totally, because “they waylaid Israel when they came out of Egypt.” 1 Sam. 15,2. So Saul took his army and defeated the Amalekites. When the task was done, Saul reported to Samuel that “I have carried out the Lord's instructions” v,13. Samuel asked one question: “What then is the bleating of sheep in my ears? What is the lowing of cattle that I hear?” v.14. It showed that Saul had not “utterly destroyed their possessions” as commanded.

Which leads me to another question that is relevant with us. When the Pharisees and Sadducees asked Jesus for a sign, He said there would be none except that of the prophet Jonah. Then Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” Matt. 16,13. They told him some spoke of John the Baptist, some of Elijah, others Jeremiah.”

Jesus then turned to them and said, “What about you, Who do you say I am”? Peter answered for them all, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 16,16.

It’s easy to give an answer like that. But later, did they look at what they had said, and really believe it? If they did, why were they later so confused when He was dead? And why did it take so long for them to really understand? It wasn’t till the Holy Ghost came to reveal the truth that their faith really became solid, wasn’t it? But it did.

There are bad reports also. In his Colossian letter St. Paul sends greetings from “Our doctor Luke and Demas” as fellow workers. But later, when he writes to Timothy he reports, sadly “Demas has forsaken us, having loved this present world.” 2 Tim. 4,14. How sad such a statement is, “Forsaken the fellowship, having loved this present world”.

That leaves yet one question to address. That is, “What about you, what think you of Christ?” I leave you with that thought.

GPD 10/18/09

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/17/09

The cool air is welcome, and delightful and so much different from that humid heat we have had for several days. And it is much more conducive to thought.

Benjamin Franklin, in his autobiography, is talking about debating or discussion clubs. He found, he admitted, when he made a strong statement that it often sort of dried up any real discussion. So he started to begin his answers with “It seems to me”, or just to ask “What do you mean?, or simply “why?" And he said he discovered the value of debate, and the real value of questions.

That reminded me of a little poem by Rudyard Kipling that started this way:

“I keep six honest serving-men,
(They taught me all I knew);
Their name are What and Why and When,
And How and Where and Who?”

Questions. Remember the TV detective Columbo? He always left a scene with “Oh, by the way", and ask one more question. That often gave him the clue he needed to solve the puzzling case.

Indeed, questions teach, help us understand, learn from one another, so establish relations that go deeper than the meaningless, “How are you doing?” Questions expose hidden motives, real feelings, and deep wounds. Questions help identify dreams or disappointments, and hollowness or insincerity.

One Pastor once answered when another accused him of teaching false doctrine. He answered this way, “A long time ago I learned that before accusing anyone of anything, I should always ask them clarifying questions.” The ‘conflict’ was resolved when both sat down for such a question session which brought a totally reasonable and acceptable explanation. Because someone asked questions.

Through the years I make it a practice to look to the Bible for light. Look at the questions one finds there. When Jesus asked questions, they cut to the heart. “Where is your faith. Wherefore did you doubt?” “Who do men say that I am?” “Who do you say that I am?” “What good is it if you gain the world and lose your own soul ?” “Would you really lay down your life for me?” Or, to Peter, asked three times, “Do you love Me?”

Or the Lord asking Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” Or think of the seven words that brought down Saul’s carefully constructed world of hard-nosed religion. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?"

So questions, these “six honest serving men”, use them to learn, to examine, to illustrate, to enlighten. And in this, may God give you peace.

GPD 10/17/09

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/14/09

It is kind of hard to step out the door at 6 to meet July humidity. But the forecasters do predict a cooler and sunnier weekend, and that is nice to look forward to.

The news has a story of a girl who was kidnapped from her bedroom when she was 8, driven to a field, raped and left with a slit throat. It was 14 hours before children playing saw the body and reported it. The victim was rushed to a hospital and survived the ordeal. Now DNA found a match from some clothing the perpetrator left behind, and arrested a man in north Little Rock. He waits extradition to Texas, held under a million dollar bond.

That reminded me of creation, and the migration of the Monarch Butterfly from Canada to the Sierra Madrid Mountains in Mexico. This butterfly is the only insect that migrates both north and south, and such a distance, over 3,000 miles, each season. They use wind and thermals. They cross the Great Lakes, and when the wind goes in a wrong direction, they find a ship to rest on till the wind changes again. In the Mountains they cluster in oyamel fir forests which shelters them, and they stay there for five months.

Then the homeward journey begins. Now they are mature, mate, the female lays from 3-400 eggs, then dies. When the eggs mature, the butterfly continues the migration. The mystery is that it is the third and fourth generation that complete the journey home. While the journey to Mexico is done by the same insect.

They don’t fly at night, but usually find fir, pine, or cedar trees for the night. This migration is so amazing, and scientists have not yet found just how they do it, and return to the same place they started from.

It is one of God’s creations, as is the DNA, or the fingerprint, different for each person.

It just brings us back to Genesis. “And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” And “By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing, so on the seventh day He rested from all Hs work.” Genesis l,31;2,2.

GPD 10/14/09

Monday, October 12, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/12/09

Columbus Day, do you observe it, or celebrate it? It really was an achievement. We had the privilege of seeing the replicas of the originals when they were in Corpus Christi . Maybe they still are there. But that tiny vessel, not much larger than a standard life boat for a modern liner. Carried, what, 60 crew, and food enough to keep them? Yes, it was an achievement, regardless of how it is regarded today.

Here is one good note from present day events. American homes being built today are smaller. People want to buy only the homes they need right now, they’re not going for the extra 1000 square feet any more, said Stepehn Melman, an Economist with the National association of home builders. Average American homes peaked in 2007 when they reached 2521 square feet. Compared to other nations, in Germany and France the average size in 2007 was 1200 square feet, in England , about 700. Quite a difference.

Here is a horror story from Sunday’s paper. A Pasadena , Texas mother who is a school Board member found her 17 year old daughter dead from strangulation. Police speculate she had been playing the “choking Game”, which seems to be the rage among teens today. Usually more teens are together. The deal is to choke someone till they pass out. They say thy enjoy the brief feeling of euphoria that comes when the blood rushes back to the brain. Children are not aware that each time they do this, denying blood to the brain, they are destroying brain cells. This mother believes many children who would never ‘do drugs' are playing the game to experience a ‘high’. How sad this is, and how rampant in society. Parents are more and more being alerted to watch for warning signs, red marks on the necks, or teens locking their bedroom doors for long times etc. And remember, it is God who made them too. “Thou hast made man a little lower than the angels”.

And one more note, I do not see it as a cheerful note. The article began on the front page of Sunday’s Houston Chronicle that tells us, “Twitter goes to Church”. This has been met with some skepticism. One pastor of a nondenominational church sees it as a distraction. Craig Hayes says, “If two people are talking at the same time, somebody’s not listening. You cannot do two things at once and expect you’re not going to miss something”. It bothers me, where is the “Be Still, and know that I am God”? Psalm 46,10. The Liturgy helps separate us from the world when we enter God’s House to hear what we need, what we are, and what God has done for us. A Worship service is not meant to be about ME, but about GOD. And twitter ignores this basic reason for worship, does it not?

“God is our Refuge and Strength; an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore will we not fear.
Be still, and know that I am God,
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.
The Lord Almighty is with us, the God of Jacob is our Refuge.” \
Psalm 46, 1.2a.10.11

GPD 10/12/09

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Shade Tree isdom 10/10/09

So, the cold air from Canada reached the Gulf Coast last night and did bring some much looked-for relief from the heat. The Predictors tell us this will remain for a bit. Feels wonderful after the hot so late in the season. We thank God for His care.

Our world is filled with change. The Hymn says, “Change and decay in all around I see”. And the older one gets, the more one resists change. The old, familiar places look best to us. I think of sheep. In Israelite times flocks were kept in villages in a common fold. When each Shepherd came to take his flock to pasture, only his own sheep followed him out. They knew the voice, and trusted it.

That’s the picture Jesus also uses when He says, “My sheep hear My voice, and they know Me.” In John chapter 10 we read that Jesus is like the shepherd who “brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and sheep follow him because they know his voice”. V.4.

Recall what Moses told his flock just before they came to the promised land? He said, “Deuteronomy 11:18-21 “18 Place these words on your hearts. Get them deep inside you. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder. 19 Teach them to your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night. 20 Inscribe them on the doorposts and gates of your cities 21 so that you'll live a long time, and your children with you, on the soil that God promised to give your ancestors for as long as there is a sky over the Earth.“ In brief, make the words clear to your children by teaching them, talking of them, meditating on them. So make a real effort to walk God’s way because you KNOW His Word.

The Psalmist said, “I have hidden your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Ps. 119,11. And says further, “I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws.” V.30. Why, “That I might not sin against you.” So, in this life, when things seem to change from day to day, the Word is the One Constant to direct our path, to guide our steps, to give us assurance of His presence and care in our life. So Jesus called His disciples and said, “Follow me.” The words used means to follow closely. That is the only way to safety in these troubled times when we pray, “Lord, be our Strength and support among the wearisome changes of this world, and at the end of life grant us Your promised rest and peace at the last. Amen

GPD 10/10/09

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/7/09

Did you pay attention to that date? It feels like late August out this morning and not even a slight breeze there to mitigate that feeling. But, promised on the horizon, though yet a few days away, some lower temps and a cold front coming. Thank the Lord for this. Lest we get used to such warm weather in October, and relax our vigil and preparation for the colder weather to come, (I’m speaking here like one born in Wisconsin ).

The news seems mostly depressing. Unrest and disturbance, killings and bombings daily, robberies seem on the upswing, and evil seems to hold sway no matter where we look. The world news isn’t much better. On every front there is either an uprising, or leaders gathering to plan to stop some disturbance here or there.

And news from the Christian front reports persecution – some say our age is seeing more of this that any other. One declared this to be the worst ever. I believe Tetrtullian said it centuries ago that “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”.

So I read St. Peter’s letters again. He wrote and said, “I think it right, as long as I am in this body to stir you up, by way of minder, since I know that putting off my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.” 2 Peter 1,11-15.

These letters are written to new Christians who struggle because they are citizens of heaven living in a sinful world. He writes that God in mercy “has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” 1,3. That brings a change, for the Holy Spirit is now living in them.

So “Prepare your mind for action, be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1,13. That results in living a life that others “think strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation”. 4,4

He is writing this to people he now calls “A chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God. . .now you are people of God.. .who have received mercy”. 2,9-10. And as such, you are also invited to “cast all your cares on Him, for He careth for you”.5,7. And because this is true, St. Peter encourages them, finally, to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2,18.
Reading such a letter should and will bring us comfort and strength for this day. Because St. Peter is writing about the same God who made us a promise. “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, will not cease.” (Gen.8,22) And each rising and setting sun reminds WHO is looking after us, loving us, and has sent His Son to die for us. May your heart find rest in that truth.

GPD 10/7/09

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/6/09

Well, talk about turn-around weather. Reaching over 90- today. It hasn’t been this warm this late since, they say, 1928. But there was a breeze during my early morning walk, even before the yellow boxes made their runs.

Much ado about this skeleton they found which they claim is the oldest ever found, etc etc. You can fill in the rest of the statement yourself.

Mankind always flounders when it starts on such courses. The simple story of the Bible Creation of an Almighty, all-seeing God is just TOO simple.

Recently I saw some pictures. One is of a Blue-footed booby. That’s a water bird. Another is an ashy-headed goose. Yet another a picture of a bald eagle in flight. Why look beyond the marvels all around us. There is enough to keep us occupied for the rest of our days. Isn’t there?

A look at Psalm 8, well, let’s listen “You have set your glory above the heavens.”. . ."When I look at the heavens, the work of your fingers, the work of the stars, which you have set in place, what is man, that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him. You have made him a little lower than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honor.”

Then, finally, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth”.

GPD 10/6/09

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/29/09

Nice, rain-washed air, a gentle breeze, but it is dark when I walk. Good with the not so good, eh? Just like all of life, and we live it under God’s care and direction.

The letter to the Corinthians is full of advice, counsel, direction, and some scolding, to a young and growing group of believers who are experiencing problems along the way, just as we do today. And St Paul, inspired by the Holy Ghost, offers counsel.

In chapter 6 of the first latter the Apostle is dealing with court cases, and tells them not to take everything to court but settle things on their own. His question is: “If you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church. I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one wise enough to settle a dispute among the brothers? But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers?” v. 4.5.

Earlier, in v. 2, he wrote, ”Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” Wow, what a statement. But we don’t see saints in ruling places, do we? Well, let’s stop a bit and remember what the New Testament means by ‘saint’. It is not speaking of some sanctimonious person who is ‘high and mighty’ in his own eyes.

No, the Bible means ‘separated people' people who are “in the world, but not of the world”. People who live, not driven by the wants and needs in the world around them, but led by the Spirit. They spend their lives doing thing like working hard, being dependable, raising godly children, doing their task in daily life without praise, praying faithfully for others, tending to the needs of people they see around them. They teach Sunday School, carry meals to shut-ins, drive seniors to doctors appointments, do countless other kindnesses without seeking, or getting, praise, or often not even a quiet word of thanks.

And the world takes note of such. These ‘saints’ do judge the world. Their lives and minds give a standard for judging of things. These saints have set moral and spiritual standards of behavior by which things are judged correctly. In the Roman world it was the custom to expose unwanted babies so that they died. They had no market value. The saints judged that world and found all babies were worthy before God.

The saints judged the world in the matter of human slavery and that trade was obliterated.

The saints bring into the eye of the world the clear standards of the Word of God. That’s how it happens. “So that they will see your good works, and glorify our Father who is in heaven”.

St. Paul ends this little section by reminding them that, although they had been open and desperate sinners, now they are “Washed, sanctified, justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” V,. 11. So the truth is, our lives DO make a difference, St. Paul says (1 Thess.4,11) “to walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.” That, let that be our goal as well.

GPD 9/29/09

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/26/09

The dry weather brought us a dead pine tree, and the association sent a card asking its removal. Fire hazard etc. So we contacted this group working down the street for an estimate, he came, made an estimate, I, the reader, had just read somewhere that today everything is negotiable, so I negotiated, and was successful. The tree is gone, the check book is lighter, but the powers that be were satisfied.

We’ve really been enjoying Fall weather with some gentle rains. Now they predict temps in the 90’s again! But the blessing of the year is the fact that it has been very quiet this Hurricane season. We are now on the downward side, so we can pray it will continue quiet for the rest of the Season. Small blessings, but surely appreciated

One quote strikes me as so true. It says, “Life is So Daily”.

It’s true, isn’t it? A child starts walking, not with giant strides, but little steps, falling often, getting up and trying again. Maybe the first steps holding on the daddy’s hand, or using an end table as support. But baby steps. Small advantage each time, growth is like that, Daily.

Mary Higgins Clark started writing while she was working full time to support her family. She would get up at 5 a.m. to write a page or two. Baby steps, a page at a time, and now, large success.

Louis LaMour, who was regarded as one of the most successful writers of Western novels, started by writing for magazines, being rejected dozens of times, until he finally got the formula and story right.

We know this and accept it as a truth, yet we often do not like what it means for our daily life.

I believe psalm 73 is helpful in Christian living. The Psalmist is a believer who says, “Surely, God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart”. But then he admits that “my feet had almost slipped, I had nearly lost my foothold” v.2 Why? “I envied the arrogant, and saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles, their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens of the common man; they are not plagued by human ills.. . .They say, ‘How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?’ This is what the wicked are like, always carefree, they increase in wealth”. Vv. 3-5.11.12.

The rest of the verses read like our own lament, doesn’t it? “When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me”. V,16, “TILL I entered the sanctuary of God, then I understood their final destiny”. V.17. And when he understands what life is really like with God, he ends it by saying, with a grateful sigh: “As for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge. I will tell of all your deeds.” V.28. That’s a Psalm to reassure us as we continue to grow in faith and grace under God.

GPD 9/26/09

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/23/09

Right on schedule, the air is bracing this morning, Fall rains come with the cooler weather, and they are both welcome. The Fall weather always reminds me of the Poem, “When the frost is on the pumpkin”. Here are some lines from Riley’s poem.

When the frost is on the punkin, and the fodders in the shock,
And you hear the hyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey- cock. . .
O, it’s then the time a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock”

That fifth word in the second line is a special sound. I heard it once in my lifetime when a friend took me out to hunt squirrels. We were in the woods at sunrise, and that turkey came strutting out and made that sound and then gobbled. Well, that was the high point of that day. No, we did not get any squirrels either.

Then the news of the day greets us with unrest in the middle East, settlement talks in Palestine, argument over Afghanistan, do we leave, or send more troops, and then, much closer to home, the floods in Georgia, Alabama, parts of Tennessee and Carolina.

The deaths reported, and the misery caused by high waters that simply inundate and quietly destroy or damage beyond repair, a lifetime of possessions and property.

And I remember not too long ago this same area was stricken by drought. The lakes were becoming dry, and the Governor of Georgia stood on the capital steps and prayed for rain.

And my mind goes back to that early morning in those Missouri woods, setting on a fallen tree, enjoying a cup of hot coffee, just waiting, watching, and relaxing and enjoying the peace and quiet that will soon be shattered again the sounds of a busy day.

And I wish – but then, like David, one must turn to the psalms for a Word of wisdom, comfort, strength for the problems and troubles of life.

Psalm 73 is such a word. It struggle with life. Why do the rich seem to have everything going for them? “No struggles, their bodies are healthy and strong, free from the burdens common to man, not plagued by human ills. . .they say, “Does the Most High have knowledge?” vv.4-6,11. Questions that bother us all.

The solution? He goes to the House of the Lord and hears what God says, and that soothes his troubled mind and gives understanding to a seeking heart. For he hears again, and takes to heart, that the Lord is indeed God. Yes, “The heavens declare the glory of God”, and “there is no speech, or language, where their voice is not heard’. Ps. 19,1.3. Let that be a Word for today.

GPD 9/23/09

Monday, September 21, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/21/09

Since Fall begins tomorrow, I thought this morning the air would be “bracing’ and walking would be a delight. Instead, it was warm, humid, almost like a July day. But we await better days quite soon, and maybe the promised rain as well.

But the weather did not keep me from thinking deep thoughts (That’s the kind I think early in the morning, deep stuff). And what engaged my attention lately is the kind of speech – or is it really a Creech – that we are starting to use regularly, and without much thought. It seems to flow out of our mouth without our being conscious of what we are really saying. What really turned my mind to this was the picture on the cover of TIME magazine showing a Glenn Beck with his tongue stickling out. I understand he is the latest rage in “talk show hosts” who is heard by millions. He joins voices such as Limbaugh, Hannity, O’Reilly, among others. All tend to be opinionated, and loud.

And Shakespeare with King Lear comes to mind. He enters, carrying his dead wife in his arms, and says of her, “Her voice was ever soft, gentle, and low, an excellent thing in woman”.

James writes in the third chapter, "Not one person can tame the tongue, restless evil, full of deadly poison”. 3,8. Jesus “What goes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and that makes a person unclean. Yes, out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual sins, stealing, lies, slander. These are the things that make a person unclean. But eating with unwashed hands does not make a person unclean”. Matthew 15, 18 – 20.

So I turned to the Proverbs, these brief and wise sayings, for what they might say of speech (These are quotes from God’s Word to the Nations). Here are some chosen at random.

“A truthful witness speaks honestly, but a lying witness speaks deceitfully. Careless words stab like swords, but the words of wise people bring healing" 12, 17.18.

“Watch your mouth and you’ll protect your life, but talk a lot, invite ruin” 13,3

“A man may think all his ways are pure, but the Lord weighs the heart” 16,2

“Starting a quarrel is like opening a floodgate, so quit before the quarrel starts”. 17,14.

“A fool’s mouth ruins him, and his lips trap him”. 18,7.

“If you answer before you listen, it is stupid and shameful” 18,13.

“A gossip goes around and tells secrets, don’t have anything to do with a person whose mouth is always open”.20,19.

And finally, this word
“Don’t add anything to what He says, or He will correct you,
And you will be found a liar.” 30,6.

To sum it all up, when we become careless with our speech, truth often takes a back seat, and we are No Blessing or honor in God’s eyes. The God who sent His only Son to die on the cross for us. May He keep our tongue and bless our speech.

GPD 9/21/09

Friday, September 18, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/18/09

“To obey is better than sacrifice,
And to hearken is better than the fat of rams,
For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry”. 1 Samuel 15,22.23.

That’s the lesson King Saul learned when he did not carry out the command of God to the letter, but saved the king of the Amalekites and fat cattle and sheep. V.21. Because Saul had a better idea, And for this, God tore the kingdom from Saul.

A friend spent 24 years as a chaplain, and, speaking of Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness, says, “I don’t envy him, moving such a large group of people.” How did he do it? By following God’s plans and orders to the letter, “exactly like the pattern the Lord had shown Moses.” Numbers 8,4b.

Read Numbers chapter 2, for instance. The Lord laid out the plan for their camp around the tent of meeting. Moses and Aaron camped to the east of the tabernacle. The plan included who was to do what when they took the tabernacle down and moved it, and who carried out and in what order, and even how. 7,9. The plan also laid out who would lead off when they left the camp, and how they knew when to move. See Numbers chapter 10.

But then, Numbers is one of those boring sections of the bible nobody reads much. As a matter of fact, Numbers chapter 7 is regarded by many as the most boring chapter of the Bible. Have you ever read all 89 verses and asked, “Why is this here?”

I think one lesson we draw is that of obedience. They did exactly what God directed and in the order He laid out. AND, the chapter tells me very clearly, “Before God we are all equal”. The largest tribe brought exactly what the very smallest tribe offered. That’s rather comforting to know, that you and I, gifted differently with different lives and pursuits and abilities, are equal before God.

AND, I can approach God, you can approach God, just as Moses did, and be heard. Moses did have problems. Once we hear him cry, “Here I am, among the six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for the whole month?’” (11,21).

Hear yourself cry in prayer, “Lord, I have this problem, I have this care, I have this worry, and it’s too much”. Then hear the same answer Moses got. “Is the Lord’s arm too short?” 11,23. It wasn’t, was it, for God did supply them with meat.

That brings me to the point about obedience. This is the very God who supplies all our needs. When Paul moaned about his cross, the Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”, 2 Cor. 12,9. And this is the God who sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for My sins, as well as yours, and says, “I have called thee by name, Thou art mine” and washed made clean in Holy Baptism to become His righteous child. “He saved us. Not because of righteous things we have done, but because of His mercy He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Ghost.” Titus 3,5

That is the God whose Word we obey, ever and always. And that is why it is so important to obey His Word.

GPS 9/18/09

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/16/09

“Why are you cast down,
O my soul?
Why disquieted within me?
Hope thou in God,
For I shall yet praise Him,
Who is My Savior and my God.” Ps. 42,5.

We all have moments described there, don’t we? Times and moments when it seems just too much, and we weary of the daily grind, the burden seems just too much to bear. But the psalmist points out that we shall “yet praise Him, our Savior and God” who IS. Therefore, he offers hope.

We might put it, “there’s light at the end of the tunnel”.

The Woodlands is on I 45, the stretch that is the busiest in all of the State. So the morning and evening traffic to get there is heavy. So, to offer some solution, the powers that be decided to add another lane to the Parkway which runs right behind our house. We pictured trees cut down, bushes destroyed, the roadway practically running through our bedroom. So they banged and worked and the trees are still there, the bushes still shelter, and it was not as bad as we expected. And traffic runs so smoothly we hardly notice it.

Humans worry and fret over stuff like that all the time because we are human. And we sing,

“Jesus, and shall it ever be,
A mortal man ashamed of Thee?
Ashamed of Thee, whom angels praise,
Whose glories shine through endless days?”

And why not sing, listen to Psalm 44, “1. O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old: 2 you with your own hand drove out the nations, but them you planted; you afflicted the peoples, but them you set free; 3 for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand and your arm, and the light of your face, for you delighted in them”.

When those moments come, when we see no end to the problems that worry us, then remember what St. Paul writes, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” 1 Cor. 15,3.

So sing with gusto and joy,

Ashamed of Jesus! sooner far,
Let evening blush to own a star.
He sheds the beams of light divine
O’er this benighted soul of mine.”

GPD 9/16/09

Monday, September 14, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/14/09

The Bible describes Moses as “humbler man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth”. Numbers 12,3. Yet God said of Moses, “With him I speak face to face, clearly, and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord”. V.8 Moses was the one who led Israel for 40 years, faced them down when they danced around an idol, prayed for them when they rebelled, soothed and comforted, fed and led them through every danger to the very edge of their new homeland.

So how bold are you in your faith life? How firm is the conviction, and especially the ‘face’ you use daily in your life?

In the latest Witness (pg.D), Dr. Hirsch writes of a man who was taking a training course in counseling. This man, Peter, was asked, “Peter, how are you, as a Christian, gong to keep your values out of therapy when working with clients who are not Christian?”. He had been asked this before by professors, but this time it came from a fellow student.

Peter, after thought, replied, “That’s a good question and needs to be considered. However, today I wonder why I have had this question posed many times, and yet never have I heard anyone ask the alternate question posed to my atheistic and agnostic friends. So I simply ask you a question, how will you non-Christians keep your values out of therapy when working with Christian clients.”

So how do we respond? Paul gives us one answer in Romans 12,2, “Do not be conformed to this world. But be transformed by the renewing on your minds.” And there is a hidden spring we drink of, and that is the Word of God, the source for our strength and the strength of our wisdom. We stand boldly in the faith, for such standing God will enrich and bless. For we are secure, armed, as Paul also taught us, and ready for the battle. For Jesus Christ Himself prayed for us, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also you have given me in the World. They are in the world, but not of the world.” John 17.

So we stand, because, as St. Paul writes to the Church at Corinth, “The time is short”, 1 Cor. 7,29, and we remember, that “the form of this world is passing away.” V.31.

So, be bold In the faith. Isaiah describes Jesus as “setting his face like a flint”. And it is Jesus who is the Savior, not the world around us.

GPD 9/14/09

Friday, September 11, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/11/09

The rain it falleth on the just,
But also on the unjust fella,
But mostly on the just because,
The unjust stole the just’s umbrella.

But the rain, it
Falleth as a gentle rain from heaven,
Upon the earth beneath.

So it does, gently, day long, refreshing the landscape, greening grasses, making us say large prayers of thanks to God Who does all things in His Time.

Recently I read an article by Marilyn McEntyre, who wrote, “Caring for Words in a Culture of lies”. She begins the article by quoting Zechariah, that old testament prophet. “Speak the Truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true, and make peace”. Zech. 8,16 ESV. Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “Tell the truth, and you won’t have to try to remember what you DID say”. Because, as the authors of the Power of Excellence point out, “The reality is, if we tell the truth, we only have to tell the truth once. If we lie, we have to keep lying forever.” Quoting Rabbi Dosick.

So in the article I started with, the author writes “this solid piece of advice from the old Testament prophet seems like an ethical commonplace. “Tell the Truth” is one of the first moral principles we learn as children. Be fair. Resolve conflicts in honest conversation. But following such advice, she says, can be difficult and complicated in our age when new ways of expressing things seem to come every day. And in this, we Christians have to find the way to speak the Truth of the Gospel to our age, an age that is so in desperate need of this Saving Gospel.

In our day, she writes, that lies are hard to identify because they are so evasive and come disguised in imprecision or posing as enthusiasm in well-placed propaganda. As example she notes that spring colors are “essential” or a school is dedicated to an undefined “excellence”, or that a group trip was simply “awesome” or an industry is practicing what is described as “cost effective”. This might just mean, “We are firing 10% of the workforce”. And using the term “collateral damage” spares us the discomfort of seeing bloody bodies of women and headless children blown apart by their use of the “smart bomb”. So we drive a truck loaded with explosives and park it near a building to destroy it, and everything else becomes “collateral damage”, too bad.

So caring for the words we use, and using them correctly, is simply a must. A look at the Scriptures gives is the proper example. In the Garden, the lord said, plainly, “Do not eat of it”. The message was plain. Both Adam and Eve understood it.
Then came Satan. He was imprecise, “Are you sure this is what God said”.
That is always an invitation to problems. When people today start using terms like “lifestyle” or “my rights”, look out! Look for what they mean. Usually what is meant, “we don’t want to follow the rules any more. They are too old fashioned and just do not suit the way we want to live.

Precision in language. Make it plain, as Nehemiah’s speakers did, so that he may run that readeth. And may God bless the doing.

GPD 9/11/09

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/8/09

Air was still this morning, so the walking was a bit so-so. It surely helps when there is a slight breeze. But the yellow boxes are on schedule, so there must be school today.

The culture, the society, we are living in is not friendly to our faith. Satan attacks, and his strategy is to find weaknesses and bore in. His question – the question he always uses – is, “Are you sure God said that?” For an example, just examine the many shadings and varieties of religion in existence today. Basically they fall by the wayside from truth just by that question, “Are you sure this is true?” Or “we are living in 2009, after all, and the world is different today”.
Fortunately, the Christian is prepared for such events by a wise and caring God. Do you really think that our Lord would send His own Son, Jesus Christ, to die for sinners, and then leave us to face Satin’s clever, and constant, attacks by ourselves? St. Paul writes, “God demonstrated His own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5, 7. He said, “At just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” 5,6.

We are children of God by Holy Baptism. He paid a terrible price to win our salvation. We are His treasure, do you really think He would leave us by ourselves? Unarmed, helpless in the situation we are in when we are “in the world, but not of the world”. John 17,15.

St. Paul describes it in his letter to the Ephesians. He wrote it because their culture was antagonistic to their faith. So Paul writes, “Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own.” Eph. 6,10.MSG. He then describes the weapons. “The belt of truth. . .the breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with the gospel of peace,. . the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the Sword of the Spirit, which is the WORD of God, And prayer.” 6,14-18.

Read the whole warning about this battle again in verses 10-20. The belt of truth is simply the truth God has given us plainly. So that we can see Satan’s offered lies easily. Being able to say “It is Written ” is always a good defense.

Then the “breastplate of righteousness”. The Apostle is speaking here of a righteousness that comes from outside of us. Gal. 3,7 describes it, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” In the letter to Corinth Paul wrote, “God made him to be sin for us who knew no sin. That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” 1 Cor. 5,21.

So when the attack comes, and it will, and Satan says, “There you go, doing the same thing you said you wouldn’t. Do you really think God will listen to YOU?” You stand there armed with “the breastplate” for God has declared you are righteous.

And, “The sword of the spirit which is the Word of God”. It is the only way to fight. If you are not certain the WORD is totally true, if you do not believe it is inerrant, then you have a broken sword in your hand and are already defeated. But when you have it, like Luther you can take your stand. “HERE I STAND. I CAN DO NO OTHER”. Then the victory in Christ is ours. “He’s judged, the deed is done, The Kingdom ours remaineth”.

GPD 9/8/09

Monday, September 7, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/7/09

It’s so easy to be suspicious, isn’t it? To think the worst of things, to read the ill into any action. To point the finger, forgetting that four always point back to us. Jesus said this, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matt. 7, 1.2.

Several men, longtime friends and now all in businesses, had the pleasant habit of ending their week with a dinner together. Now and then they might have a guest, but members always tried to be here. This is a story I recently read, only names are changed. So this evening was nearing its end when one, a coin collector, said, “Today I bought this coin. It’s from the Civil war era and there are only three known to exists, one is in DC, this is the second, and nobody seems to know where the third coin is. I just bought it today.” And he passed it around for inspection. Several moments were spent on talking about coins and collecting, and then he said, “May I have my coin back”. And it was nowhere to be found. All remembered seeing it, but it was simply gone. So they said, “Well, each one will have to be searched”. Sounded fair to all except that night there was a guest, and he simply refused, remarking with some heat, “I will not be searched. I did not steal your coin, why should I be subject to this indignity?” There was protest, and each was searched, except the guest, and the coin was sill lost.

You could nearly feel, hovering over that guest, a dark cloud of suspicion. There were some murmurings about police when the waiter, in clearing the table, moved the pepper shaker to its usual place, and there was the coin. It had been covered by accident. Now that dark cloud was replaced by something like shame.

Then the guest explained. “I am a coin collector also, and on my way to this dinner I stopped at my dealers and bought this coin”. ( It was the third coin.). “Would you have accepted any explanation from me before?”

I am sure most of us have said, “I wish I hadn’t said that”. But just take this moral home, that words, like arrows shot into the air, fall to earth, we know not where. James said about the tongue“5 So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.” James 3,5.6.

GPD 9/7/09