Thursday, April 30, 2009
In life, of course, we know all about that. We are nearing graduation and prom and party time. Every year we read of tragic accidents because someone was driving who should not have, or drank too much, and felt immune to accident. High School Counselors and parents do their warning and admonitions, often sadly, with little result.
In Texas we recently had days of rain, up to twenty inches in some areas. The result was rushing water, high water, stalled cars, drivers carelessly driving into high water and being swept away. We read of one swept into an overflow tunnel that did not have standard guards erected yet.
Choices have consequences – always.
What brings all this up is the new public art piece erected in The Woodlands. It is called “The Woodlands passage”. I look at it and can’t quite see the connection. I hesitate to tell you what I am reminded of when I look at it. And then I wonder, who is on the art committee that makes selections, and what makes them decide on this. I can understand the piece called “The Dreamer”, because I can see such a lad. Or the piece showing a lad standing on the shoulders of another, and seeing farther because of the past generation and what they did. Another piece supposing to depict the family is beyond me too.
Then I ask myself, does anyone on such a selection committee ever wonder whether “The King is no clothes on?” But then I am reminded of what the Catechism teaches me, “And put the best construction on everything.” And so let us do that.
But the lesson of all this is, Every action has a result, sometimes unintended. St. Paul teaches: “8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you. “ Phil. 4, 8.9.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Charlie says, “Last Saturday we went to visit an uncle in the next town. I played with my cousins, we had dinner, and finally my aunt put them to bed. I fell asleep on the sofa. When it was time to go home my Father got me, put me on the back seat and we drove home, When we got home he carried me to my room and put me to bed. And I never worried, because my father was at the wheel”.
Isn’t that what our Lord Jesus is teaching us? He said, “Let not your heart be troubled, you believe in God, believe also I Me. John 14,1. For the same God who said “As long as the earth remains seedtime, and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter day and night, will not cease.”Gen 8,22, Is the Lord of all creation.
Certainly, there are things of concern. The Lord wants us to manage wisely, plan well, but when that is done, leave it in His hands. Let our watchword be that of the psalmist, “But as for me, I trust in you, O Lord: I say,” you are my God”. “My times are in your hand”. Psalm 31, 14.15.
This morning’s news speaks again of swine flu, and more and more people are getting ill from it. So much so that the US has declared a Public Health Emergency.
Then there are the ongoing problems of natural disasters, continuing wars and killings, dire news from nearly every corner of the globe. Not worry? I should smile.
I know you all hear the same news, live in the same world, care about these things too. So, let us together read again what Jesus teaches us about that. I am giving you the Message wording. 27 "Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? 28 All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, 29 but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. 30 "If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? 31 What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. 32 People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. 33 Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. 34 "Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. Matthew 6, 27 - 34.
Indeed, St. Paul says, “My God will supply all your need” and this promise, so rich and filled with comfort. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of God’s grace”. Eph. 1,7. Always reemember, My Father is at the wheel.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
This morning on my way to Bible study I saw a blue bird earnestly chasing a squirrel. I mean he meant business, now and then speeding up and giving a peck or two to the scampering rodent till he managed to reach some bushes and hide. I don’t know what stirred the bird up, maybe the squirrel got too close to a nesting site, but he looked and acted mad, and did something about it. At least the bird was riled up for the right reason.
What came to mind was the contretemps reported when Miss California, I believe, said she was raised that marriage meant “one man and one woman”. And right away she was accused of being ‘insensitive’, narrow minded, and worse.
But that illustrates the truth Jesus laid before us. He said,
“Light is come in to this world, and men loved darkness instead of light, because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light, lest his deeds will be exposed.” John 3, 19.20.
That’s always the way it works, because Satan is very active, and always tries to make the evil sound good, and the good, evil. His way is always the dark way. But Jesus also warned us about it. Our Lord said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, because I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you”. John 15, 18.19.
Our dear Lord Jesus also called us “The light of the world”. Matt. 5,14, and “The salt of the earth”. 5,13. Both salt and light reveal. Salt stings, light shows up. The afternoon sun slanting into the west window always showed the dust the cloth missed. So the Christian, by His presence, is a light that shows the world how it ought to be to follow Christ’s teachings.
And that is what the world hates. Light shows imperfections, reveals character flaws, shows the rotten side for what it is, rotten. So the world, when its true lack is shown clearly, reacts by trying to use smear tactics, name calling, and whatever means come handy to try to tear down, rip down, and destroy the truth. So Jesus prayed for you and me, “My prayer is not that You take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.” John 17,15. So, let’s be strong, and remember that His promise is, “I will be with thee.” So rest content.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Yesterday was Earth Day when people are supposed to maybe rethink their lifestyle to make it conform more to saving instead of squandering. The emphasis is on recycle, reuse, make do. On saving things, making them last, re-using items etc. Wonderful.
Sally and Pete, a young couple living in the city, decided to move to the country and make an effort to ‘live off the land’. So, they moved to a small plot of land outside a village. They planned to use those twenty acres for orchard, vegetable garden, maybe raise some chickens. Live a more laid back life. They were warmly welcomed by the villagers, many of whom pitched in with tools and expertise on using them. Things were really going as planned, and they were starting to feel right at home. But one thing bothered Pete, and he approached the village leaders for help. He said there was a “Deer Crossing’ sign on their road which was quite busy with traffic, and he wanted it moved. They asked the reason for this request, “Well,” he said, “There is this sign, and too many deer are using the crossing and getting killed. So please move the sign to another place where the traffic isn’t quite so heavy.
Well, such things do happen in this world. But once we've had our chuckle, let’s move on with “What’s next?" Because St. Paul offers us advice for life. Paul could either fix his attention on his past failures and rue them, or have the attitude he did have. He said, “forgetting those thing which are behind, and reaching toward those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” He had also confessed, “Not that I had already attained, or am already perfect, but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has already laid hold of me”. Philippians chapter 3, 12-14.
Easy to say, often hard to do because of the things we have in our past; wrongs, sins, false dealings, and the list goes on. What of them? Repent, cried Jesus, and then makes this promise, “I will remember their sins and lawless deeds no more.” (Heb. 10,17. And Isaiah’s word, the Lord will blot out “Like a thick cloud, your transgressions. Is. 4,22. And the word from Jeremiah, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Jer. 31,1.
So we can “Press on toward the mark of the high calling of Jesus Christ.” Do.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
For some reason Walter Cronkite’s comment about retirement came to mind. He said, “When you get up in the morning you don’t have a thing to do, and by noon, you‘re behind schedule.”
One of the grandsons had an assignment for class to write a history of his family. He sought advice about names dates and so forth, and that set my mind to what our ancestors did.
Thy came to Milwaukee in 1839 and were invited to settle there. But they elected to go further into the wilderness and buy some government land. The forest was so dense they navigated by compass instead of the sun and stars which they couldn’t see through the heavy growth of trees. They bought a large tract of land, and in the middle, they set aside forty acres for church, school, and cemetery. (That forty acres, by the way, is still being used for that purpose today). They cut timber and set to work building cabins, and by that winter most of them, of the forty families involved, were under roof. And by spring they had cleared six acres so they could plant some crops and vegetable gardens.
One Psalm that came often to their mind was the twenty seventh and especially verse fourteen, ‘Wait on the Lord; be strong and take heart, and wait on the Lord.”
Of necessity they were thrifty and careful of their environment. A lesson we are even now trying to teach again, use less, save what you do not need, don’t get careless in use of materials. TURN OFF LIGHTS not being used! Some of you may remember how commentators thought it was funny when President Johnson did that at the White House!
Now we are starting to read articles about how this generation is learning such lessons again, thrift, making do, using up instead of throwing out or simply buying too much, or unneeded stuff. One who can still afford it says, “We don’t buy purses for one thousand dollars any more, because it simply is too much”. Another has the dog groomed once a month instead of each other week. And Americans are starting to save. Many hope the lessons learned will stay with us.
The serious times have led to closer family ties, more families eating dinner at home more often, carrying lunch to work, not buying unless they can pay cash. And one interesting side light in this time is that charities are seeing more volunteers to help dish out meals or sort clothes and help in other ways.
So maybe the times prove a blessing as well. Let me quote from Psalm 27:
The Lord is my light and my salvation,
Who shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life,
Of who shall I be afraid? Vv.1.2.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Her name was Maria.. She was a happy child, her hair was dark, her eyes brown and sparkling, always had a smile, a happy disposition, ready to help her mother, do errands, be helpful around the house. Maria was one reason this was a happy place. Maria took care of the chickens, made beds, swept and dusted, worked in the garden when weeding or harvesting was done.
One day all this changed. The Syrian raiding party hit the area, and swept up Maria and her family into captivity. Maria ended up as a servant in the house of Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army. Here, too, she proved to be obedient, an excellent worker ,willing and able to do the work assigned to the best of her ability. One cloud in this family was that Naaman had leprosy. Though he was a Commander, he had this terrible disease. It worried them all.
One day Maria said to her mistress – I think it was while they were snapping green beans for the evening meal, ”If only my Master would see the prophet who is in Samaria. He would cure him of his leprosy.” (2 Kings 5,2). For the most part, such conversation is just idle talk to pass the time. But the mistress heard this “Cure him”, and promptly quizzed the servant intensely. Then she reported to her husband, and he, looking for any way to find a cure, decided to ask his King for permission to go to Samaria and seek this cure. The king said, “By all means, go”.
So Namaan made the trip to Samaria. And he went armed with a letter to the King of Israel, and carrying lots of gifts. The report mentions gold, silver, and sets of clothing. So he came to the King of Israel with his letter, and the king, after reading the letter, cried, “Does he think I am God? He is trying to pick a quarrel with me.”
But Elijah the prophet, hearing about the visit, and the king's reaction, sent a message asking the king to direct Naaman to his door, and ‘\"He will know there is a prophet in Israel”.
So Naaman came with his outriders, his guardsmen, and his entourage to Elijah’s door, and is met by the servant with a message, “Go, wash seven times in the Jordan, and you will be cured”.
Naaman receives that with bad grace. He snorts, “You expected him to come out and stand there and do something great. Buit this? Why, our rivers at home are cleaner than this Jordan.” And he starts to pack up to go back home.
But his servants and companions manage to convince him to at least try “since you have come this far”. So, reluctantly, Naaman does, and is cured, as the prophet said. Of course he is thrilled, and offers the prophet gifts, and is turned down. The story is in 2 Kings chapter 5. [Elijah’s servant runs after Naaman and asks for gifts after all, and is srruck with leprosy.]
But the point of the story is this, nothing happened until and when Naaman obeyed the prophet’s word exactly. So should we, do what He says, and not what seems best to us because we are “after all, living in 2009.” Give that some thought, please. How is our obedience to God’s Word and will?
Friday, April 17, 2009
On the way to an eye appointment I fell in behind a lawn service truck pulling a trailer. When we reached the corner, the truck signaled a left, but the trailer signaled a right turn. It was easy to see the signal light wires had been crossed. To me it shows the state of modern man’s mind about things, ever ready to follow the latest fad because he has no touchstone, no guide, to give sure direction. And without such a guide, man drifts in his own direction, always confused, never quite certain, prey to every lure sent in his direction.
We see it on talk shows. The host sits in vapid amiability while the guest dismantles ancient truths and spouts nothingness. They sit and listen while another espouses whatever thing comes to mind, whether it is gay marriage, or easy sex, or the modern fable that “all things lead to the same destination”. And the host responds, “What I hear you say”, or “We need this input”.
This simply won’t do.
It is not good enough to receive everything as if it was of the same value or even had any value to begin with. We need discriminations.
A meal of vegetables is good for our health, but mix in some toadstools, and it becomes a deadly feast. We need someone to discriminate, and eliminate the bad.
We need truth, truth agreed by everyone everywhere. The ancient Fathers used the phrase, quod ubique, quod semper, et quod ab omnibus creditum est. What has always been believed, everywhere, by everyone.
We must be able to say, “This is SO. This is true. I know it.” That ability keeps people from straying into every avenue that opens to them. Keeps them sane, if you will.
Unless we have such a sure guiding principle, our likes cannot be serene, for every storm will upset us. Of course I’m talking about the Book. The Book that says, “Your Word is eternal, it stands firm in the heavens.” And “I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life.” And “Your Way is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path”. Psalm 119, 89.93.105.
The sainted Dr. Walter A. Maier, in his very first Lutheran Hour sermon, said this:” In the crisis of life and the pivotal hours of our existence, only the Christian , having God, and with the assurance that no one can successfully prevail against Him, is able to carry the pressing burdens of sickness, death, financial reverses, family troubles, in short, the burdens of modern life, with confidence that God is indeed His God.”
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
There is another Art piece showing a youth standing on the shoulders of his father and depicting the “We see farther because we stand on the shoulders of another”. In the hustle and bustle of daily life we often tend to forget what we have today is due in part to what others did before us. A reporter asking President Reagan about his not using a computer and sort of sneering because the President admitted he was not fluent in using it, but added, “We invented it for you”.
So we twitter and text-message and get online and Blog and take it all for granted, forgetting the people who spent late hours and experimented to make it all work.
Then there is an art piece in the Woodlands Library lobby showing a boy reading a book, and at his feet a stack to be read. And it calls to mind that people today aren’t readers any longer. Their reading comes in bits on email or from Google and checking out a Blog. Hey, there is no pleasure quite like having a good book, a quiet corner, and reading, and getting caught up in the author’s imagination. What happens next, and why did they not see that coming, etc. With no interruptions except maybe a friend who shares our pleasure and the reading of a good Book.
Then it is good to look at Psalm 73, especially the assuring “Nevertheless” in verse 23 "Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. 24 Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. 26 My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever. 27 For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee. 28 But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.”
For when we sit and dream, remember the Lord is ever there keeping his promise, “I am with thee to the end of the world”. God bless the day.
Monday, April 13, 2009
I believe my favorite Sunday during my ministry was Easter Sunday. I would go to the Church early, and when I opened the door the first thing that I experienced was the aroma of the lilies that had been placed the day before. It surrounded me. It was, to me, the aroma of LIFE, new life. It stayed in the Church, but the movement of many worshippers, the opening of windows and doors, finally dissipated the aroma. But as I say, it was one of the rich experiences happening the way.
So it must new for every Christian. You will have special memories about this Easter. There are others that stick in memory. But they usually are happy memories, for they include the Risen Christ.
We can hardly imagine the gloom of the first disciples that weekend. “We thought it should have been he that would redeem Israel” said the two on their way to Emmaus. Little did they know He already had, and He was now speaking with them as explained the Scripture to them. What joy was theirs when they could rush back to Jerusalem with the Good News, He is Risen.
So it remains. St. Paul called it “news of first importance” in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 15, v.3. So it always is.
And as I entered the Church early on Easter morning, part of my joy lay in the fact that the Lord had sent me there that day to tell this truth again. God is ever doing that, making sure His Word is spoken, and heard, and believed.
So Happy and Blessed Easter to you all, everywhere, in whatever situation, and may God bless your day richly.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Nor suppose the evil great,
Here may view its nature lightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed,
See Who bears the awful load,
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of Man, and Son of God.”
On Good Friday blood is shed. In a tortuous way, in long-drawn out agony.
Isaiah explained it 700 years before it happened. “We esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted”. An ugly sight indeed, “BUT, He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities, upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by His stipes we are healed" Is. 53.
That is why we call it Good Friday, this day that Jesus Christ died, because, as St. John writes in his first letter, “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sins.”
So we call this day Good Friday, the day on which blood was shed, for “Without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness?” Heb. 9,23.
That is what it cost for our salvation. But now it is completely and fully done. We have this all by faith. By His grace, out of his love for us.
Thank God for Good Friday. We observe it with reverence, awed by the majesty of the gift Jesus Christ won for us on that cross at Calvary.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Meanwhile, we have this terrible shootings in Birmingham, and the reporter tells us this is about the 40th such random shooting since Columbine, and wonder at whom to point the finger.
Then, in nearly the next report, we are told the Court in the “Very heartland” has made same sex marriage legal, and this is reported as a triumph.
In the beginning God “Made the male and female and said, ‘be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and tend it'”. But the judges on the Iowa Supreme Court are saying, “We are the gods here, we make laws to suit our taste, our desires, our wants”.
After the Hurricane that devastated New Orleans the daughter of Billy Graham was being interviewed on TV and was asked, “How can God allow such a thing?”. She paused reflectively, then said, “We have outlawed prayer from our schools and public affairs, we have removed the Ten Commandments from our courtrooms, we have made it illegal to position crèches on our lawns. How can we place blame on God, since we are saying that we don’t want or need Him”(The substance of her answer).
We forget that there are always consequences, and when we take God away, we turn man loose to follow his own inclination. Remember that God declared, “The imagination of a man’s heart is evil from his youth”. Gen. 8,21.
Ah, we are good at pointing fingers. After Columbine Mr. Scott, whose daughter, Rachel Ray, was one of the victims, wrote a poem that concluded:
“You seek your answers everywhere,
You ask the question ”why?”
You regulate restrictive laws,
Through legislative creed,,
And yet you fail to understand,
That God is what we need.”
GOD, give us men! A time like this demands
Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands;
Men whom the lust of office does not kill;
Men whom the spoils of office can not buy;
Men who possess opinions and a will;
Men who have honor; men who will not lie;
Men who can stand before a demagogue
And damn his treacherous flatteries without winking!
Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog
In public duty, and in private thinking;
For while the rabble, with their thumb-worn creeds,
Their large professions and their little deeds,
Mingle in selfish strife, lo! Freedom weeps,
Wrong rules the land and waiting Justice sleeps.
Josiah Gilbert Holland
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Maybe that’s just what’s bothering most of us now. A Columbia Journalism Review reports that in 2006 the world produced 161 exabytes of digital data. That’s more information than 3 million times all the information contained in all the books ever written. By next year the number is expected to be 988 exabytes.
We are bombarded with so much information we are getting overwhelmed. Think back, when we were young and there was an earthquake in China we never heard about it till maybe six months later. Today we are standing on the sandbags on the banks of the rising Red River in North Dakota praying the levee holds. We are in the crowd in London waving banners in front of the bank. It’s too much.
Research shows we do our best thinking during quiet times, when we are not otherwise engaged or focused. Do you have such a time? Why not get up a bit earlier, have a cup of coffee, step out on the porch or patio, sit down, and just relax. Daydreaming, we used to call it, and the best ideas flow from such times! “It just came to me out of the blue”, people say.
Maybe our problems will find their solution while we are sweeping the front walk, or taking a leisurely shower, or sitting on a river bank with a fishing pole in our hands, hat over our eyes, and feet sticking up in the air.
Here is one thing we need to do more of, “Be still, and know that I am God”.
He does have a solution for our frantic scurrying about. Pray, and ask, and “He will direct thy soul”.
Makes a fit subject for this day, doesn’t it? Because the subject of this day is mentioned in Psalm 14. Remember it? “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God.” But recall how it continues? “They are corrupt; they are doing abominable works; there is none that doeth good.” What an indictment of a fool – corrupt, wrong-headed, wrong-thinking, and the result is “abominable works. None doeth good”.
By nature we live sin-darkened, unable to see, can’t know what the good is, for we are born in sin. St. Paul says we are living here where we “wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Eph. 6,12.
What a terrible state to be in. And without help. And, thank God, there is such help, for God “has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” 1 Peter 2,9. Paul adds to this that “God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus. 2 Cor.4,6.
So, like the company that keeps the shopping center lit, let us ever turn to our God, and the Bible, the Book He gave us, to enlighten us by His Holy Spirit. Thank God For this Light.