Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 5/26/09

Yesterday across this broad land many stopped to remember and pay tribute to those who have died in battle defending this nation. I knew, as do you, that there are national cemeteries, 128 of them in 39 states and Puerto Rico. I did not know there were also 20 cemeteries in other parts of the world. I knew about Flanders Field, in Belgium, but there are 19 others where over 100,000 Americans lie buried. And the Concert in DC reminded us forcibly that the aftermath for many is years of suffering rehabilitation, enduring painful hours to get back to normal life.

Yet we treat these freedoms so casually, and take so much for granted. This morning’s paper ran a sad story of the death of a football star, about to graduate from high school, looking forward to service in the Air Force to which he had been accepted, killed in a crash while a passenger in a racing car. The driver of which escaped nearly unharmed, of course.

The same issue carries a story of a justice of the peace ordering a girl who is a habitual truant and disobeyed a court order to attend class to wear a GPS device. She has to push a button and let people know where she’s at, and if she is where she is not supposed to be, an officer is to sent to haul her back to class! What ever happened to wanting to learn?

Maybe it’s the system. I heard of a supervisor visiting a class and reporting this. The teacher of a Math class mislayed her time piece and frets about the time. This supervisor overhears this bit from a boy in that class, ‘Who cares about what time it is, we’re learning something here”. Whatever happened to that?

Maybe its a sense of discipline that we are missing. A need to want to do, a feeling for duty, an obligation, a sense of right. An inner urge to carry out what lies at hand for us to do. A determination to see something to a conclusion.

The Letter to the Hebrews does just that, it brings us back to basics, it sets aside our own self and sets before us Jesus. Listen to what he writes in chapter 12, 1 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. 2 Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in."

The letter to the Hebrews reminds us of the faith that is clinging to what is not seen, and trusting in that to be true. So they who believed were tortured, hounded and often killed. Then he speaks about following this sample, and avoiding “the sin that does so easily beset us”. Did you catch that? “so easily besets us”. That’s the very nature of sin, it sneaks, it besets, it gets hard to shake, and it likes to follow especially bad examples [ for an example witness the rush of States to make ‘same sex’ marriage legal]. Peter speaks of the devil as a “roaring lion walking about, seeking whom he may devour”. And Paul calls this “spiritual forces in high places”.

That’s what we are living with, fighting, overcoming. And we can and do overcome, because, as Paul writes, “as many of you as are led by the Spirit are sons of God. Romans” 8,14.God, give us strength to do Your will as long as you give us life.
GPD 5/26/09

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 5/24/09

Once upon a time a certain town nestled at the foot of a Mountain range. It was a pleasant place to be, a small stream ran through the town from waters that were fed by Mountain springs. The water was clear and sparkled in the sunlight. It’s stream ran several water wheels turning machinery, children played on its banks, and swans made their home there, and its water was used by the citizens.

Meanwhile, high up in the hills a forester who called himself keeper of the springs made his rounds, cleaning leaves and thrash from the springs, making sure mud did not clog the bottom. He was on the town payroll. But the town Counsel was a group of hard-headed, eagle-eyed business men. Said the Keeper of the Purse, what does this salary mean? What does he do? Nobody ever sees him. We can build a reservoir and dispense with this budget item. So they sent a message to the hills that he was no longer needed, and the forester turned to his other work, and no loner patrolled and cleaned the springs.

The reservoir was built and soon filled with water. But the water did not seem as clear, scum covered it's surface, the water wheels often clogged with debris and stopped working, and quite soon a fever swept the town. Sadly, the Town Counsel admitted they had made a mistake, and sought out the forester in the hills and asked him to be Keeper of the Springs again. So the water ran clear and pure, and swans returned, and the odor of dirty water was cleared from the air.

When our Founding Fathers wrote and signed the Constitution, and then forged the Bill of Rights, they had law in mind. They established courts to see that laws were kept, order was upheld, so that people in the United States of America could and did lead peaceful and ordered lives. The courts were the Keeper of the Springs.

Unfortunately, courts often make law instead of defining and strengthening it. As an example, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts made same sex marriage legal. One wonders what their thought processes were. Instead of affirming laws, they were more driven by modern thought and felt they had to join the vanguard also. So they set aside the established, and the God-given institution of marriage and turned it into a shambles. My thought is that such courts are more driven by what they perceived as being part of “progress” than seeing to rule of law. So they kick down part of the fence, and weaken the rest of it.

One cannot rebel against Almighty God without seeing unforeseen, unexpected, and often unwanted consequences: as the schools in that State are already finding out.

St. Paul spoke of such matters in Romans chapter 1. People who do not accept God, although “what may be known about God is clearly seen” 1,19, Paul says, “their foolish hearts are darkened.” Then he goes on in verses 24 to 32 to describe their behavior and says, “God gave them over. . ." This is really a chilling picture of sin, and how it always hardens and grows worse.

So with nations. Such court acts often are cited loudly as progressive and being “with it”. But it is not progress when a moral tone is lower than it was. Whatever else it is, it is not progress.

No nation has ever made progress in a downward direction.

No people has ever grown stronger by ,lowering its standards.

No people ever become good by adopting a lower morality.

We need Keepers of the Springs. I pray the Lord will send wisdom, guidance, and direction to a people that seems to have lost its way and wanders, clueless and forlorn, ever seeking. Let us pray that the Lord in heaven Who sent Jesus for such people too, will open eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to understand God’s truth in Jesus, His Son, the Savior of the world.
GPD 2/24/09

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 5/21/09

Today the Church observes the Ascension of our Lord. It was 40 days after His Resurrection, when He was taken into heaven. The disciples saw him till “a cloud took him from their sight”. Now, as the Creed recites, “He is sitting at the right hand of God, from where he will come to judge the living and the dead.”

The Day is rarely observed by any but the Church. It finished the work of redemption, and the beginning of the work He laid on his followers, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”. Acts 1,8.

It happened, and is still happening, just as He said it would. The Church still reaches “to the ends of the earth” with the glorious message of salvation through faith in this Christ who is alive. Our Living Lord and Savior.

The German name for this festival is HIMMELFAHRT. The term is so descriptive. Travel to heaven. Indeed, that is what happened here. And because it happened, we also are filled with the promised Holy Spirit and serve as His witnesses, the representatives of the king of kings here on earth. A high honor, and a solemn duty to share the news. “Go and Tell" simply means just that. Tell others, as the early disciples did when they “all, except the apostles, were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. . .and those who were scattered preached the Word wherever they went”. Acts 8, 1.4.

So stop a moment this Day and thank God for His grace to us, and His mercy in calling us to be His children.
GPD 5/21/09

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 5/17/09

Church picnic this afternoon. The sky is sort of gray and it drizzled a bit, but it is cooler than it has been, and I imagine the congregation is enjoying the afternoon together. No, we haven’t been going to things of this sort any more. It gets sort of busy and noisy and we relish the quiet more.

But the drizzle did remind me of a little ditty that stuck in my mind, I know not from where. It runs,

The rain it falleth on the just,
And also on the unjust fellow.
But more upon the just, because
The unjust stole the just’s umbrella!

That’s sort of a ‘tongue in cheek’ commentary on Matthew 5,45. But enough of such foolishness.

The picnic reminded me of days long gone when our home Church always had a 4th of July picnic. That was sort of end of school year and beginning of summer. The day began with a parade where the church brass band led the school children from the school to the picnic grounds. When we got there, our teachers gave us each some tickets good for an ice cream cone, candy, or whatever the tent had for sale for the crowd. Most families either ate lunch at home or brought their lunch along. The afternoon was spent listening to band music – and there is no sound quite like a brass band played in a grove of trees – playing games, and just visiting. Usually people ended checking the cemetery lots of their family and remembering days of old. Parents showing where the grandparents were buried and recalling their youth. (The picnic grounds were in a grove next to the church cemetery).

When the sun started to go down, it was time for evening chores. Life on a dairy farm consisted of regular morning and evening chores. Cows had to be milked and tended to whether one felt like it or not, the church picnic did not change that.

And I am writing this and thinking how much things change, and yet how much they remain the same. Because people still enjoy visiting, playing together, planning, and being grateful to God for His daily blessing.

St.Matthew had it right when He wrote in his Gospel, fifth chapter, 45th verse, God “Causes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on he righteous and the unrighteous”. Just a reminder of His promise that “as long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, will never cease.” Genesis 8,22. What a rich, blessed God is ours by His grace, and He calls us ‘dear children’.
GPD 5/17/09

Friday, May 15, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 5/15/09

An artist that plays the double bass says the finest instruments are made with wood that has been naturally aged for 80 years so it is completely, and naturally, dry. Then the instrument reaches its finest tone when it has been in use many years. So the person who planted the tree, the craftsman who cut the wood and built the instrument, never really hear what their work produced.

Isn’t life like that too? Many important things in life are next generation matters, such things as raising children and teaching them living, or training an athlete in high school.

The Church fits there also. It is what we do here today that will help the next generation best. Maybe we are just putting down roots, or laying the groundwork, or carrying on what another will add to, build stronger, enlarge and enjoy. Moses spent a life time bringing the children of Israel to the brink of the promised land, but never got to live in it himself.

The apostle Paul worked, prayed, suffered, and died, so that other generations might have the Word of life, in Jesus Christ. So he wrote to Pastor Timothy, “The things you have heard from me, comit thee to faithful men so that they will be able to teach others also.” 2 Tim.2,2. :Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.”v.7.

We live today, and by God’s grace we also have a hand in preparing by Word and act for the next generation. May our preparation ever be a house built on a rock, which is Jesus Christ. God bless the life. For such a life produces rich blessing.
GPD 5/15/09

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 5/14/09

So, do you make lists? Of things to do, or jobs to be tackled, or errands to run, places to visit, people to call. Does your computer automatically run such a list when you first log on in the day? Our day seems to be ‘list ready’, if nothing else. The ten most popular vacation spots, the wonders of the world, the finest restaurants in a city, the best barbecue in Texas etc.

I make lists when grocery shopping so I don’t forget a needed item, and I make it a rule to get only the things on the list and not be beguiled into buying items that catch my eye while shopping. Seems to me that’s only common sense.

The old adage is that 7 is the magic number, why? Because Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) said, “Nobody can remember more than seven of anything”. So we have famous lists of seven. The seven virtues, the seven sins, Shakespeare’s “Seven Ages of man”.

And the best way to make lists is to use the back of envelopes. Handy, makes it easy to keep the list short, handy to discard when the list has been used.

Lists don’t have to be vertical. In the eighteenth century sailors in the British navy would sign petitions of grievance in a circle so that the ringleaders could not be indentified. (We get the term ‘round robin’ from that practice.)

It might be of interest that the bible uses lists for teaching us. The list that comes to mind are the Ten Commandments. Other examples are Romans 12, first Corinthians 13, Galatians 5, (the fruits of the Spirit), Ephesians 6, the armor of God. There are other passages that list items in the process of growing in the faith. So bless the lists, and the learning from them.
GPD 5/14/09

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 5/12/09

The ubiquitous cell phone, it’s everywhere. You usually see it held near the ear by a young mother driving an SUV filled with a baseball team making a left hand turn in traffic and chatting about her next hair appointment, or some equally vital stuff. Research by Virginia Tech University shows that more accidents happen by drivers who are distracted and not paying full attention than by aggressive drivers.

And of course, it’s always the other person who is really at fault. It’s oor nature to point the finger. That is as old as Adam and Eve isn’t it? It’s her fault, and then, You gave her to me, God.

The Apostle Paul spoke of that. “They, measuring themselves by themselves, are not wise” 2 Cor. 10, 12.

In the 12th chapter of Romans St. Paul speaks of the Christian life, the way we ought to live up to our faith daily. He starts by saying we ought to offer our bodies to God, and “Do not let the world around you squeeze you into a mold, but let God remold your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all His demands, and moves toward the goal of true maturity”. 12,2.

Then, the rest of the chapter gives us examples of such a life. A life that “hates what is evil, clings to that which is good.” That “shares with God’s people who are in need, and practices hospitality.” A Life that “lives in harmony with one another” and “Is not conceited”. At the end, this “As much as lies in you, live at peace with one another’. And then, finally, “Overcome evil with good”.

No, we don’t do this alone, our sinful self gets in the way, BUT, “He hath said, I will never leave thee, never will I forsake thee”. Hebrews 13,5, That means what Jesus promised, “I will be with you even to the end of the world”. Bless the living so.
GPD 5/12/09

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 5/10/09

Today was my sainted mother’s birthday. In my mind her life is best described by ancient King Lemual in Proverbs 31. which reads so “10 A worthy woman who can find? For her price is far above rubies. 11 The heart of her husband trusteth in her, And he shall have no lack of gain. 12 She doeth him good and not evil All the days of her life. 13 She seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. 14 She is like the merchant-ships; She bringeth her bread from afar. 15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth food to her household, and their task to her maidens. 16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it; With the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. 17 She girdeth her loins with strength, And maketh strong her arms. 18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is profitable: Her lamp goeth not out by night. 19 She layeth her hands to the distaff, And her hands hold the spindle. 20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; Yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. 21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household; For all her household are clothed with scarlet. 22 She maketh for herself carpets of tapestry; Her clothing is fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is known in the gates, When he sitteth among the elders of the land. 24 She maketh linen garments and selleth them, And delivereth girdles unto the merchant. 25 Strength and dignity are her clothing; And she laugheth at the time to come. 26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; And the law of kindness is on her tongue. 27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, And eateth not the bread of idleness. 28 Her children rise up, and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praiseth her, saying: 29 Many daughters have done worthily, But thou excellest them all. 30 Grace is deceitful, and beauty is vain; But a woman that feareth Jehovah, she shall be praised. 31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; And let her works praise her in the gates. “

God bless the mothers who fit the description. Here is a poem by Martin Buxman called, “Success”
“You can use most any measure when you’re speaking of success, You can measure it in fancy home, expensive car, or dress, But the measure of your real success is the one you cannot spend. It’s the way your kids describe you when they’re talking with a friend.”

And when you make your mother breakfast this morning make sure you leave the kitchen spotless, and, for goodness sake, don’t rearrange all her kitchen utensils! And just by the way, a breakfast of French toast, eggs, and bacon is the hardest to get right, because each item needs to reach the table right from the fire to taste best. Good luck.
GPD 5/10/09

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 5/7/09

It’s the kind of morning one wants to burst out with:
“Oh what a beautiful morning,
Oh what a beautiful day.
I’ve got wonderful feeling,
Everything’s going my way.”

Well, right now it is cloudy bright, but the weather man says maybe we’ll set a new heat record today. As if we needed that this early in the season. But there it is. So we might as well burst into song. (Bob, you’re excused from singing).

The Bible is full of metaphors. Jesus used them often to teach. “You are the salt of the earth” He said. And the picture set in our minds speaks of something that gives flavor, that heals, that preserves, that tenderizes. And as the thought grows in the mind, the teaching He is doing becomes clear to us. You are to make a difference by what you do and say here. You are worth something and have a place in the work of the kingdom here.

Or the next, “You are the light of the world”. What could be clearer than that? The Psalmist said, “Thy Word is a lamp to my feet a light to my path.” Ps. 119.105. Short and clear and it tends to stick to the mind. A word guides, explains, enlightens. And that is what the Bible is for us. The verse in Psalm 119 makes that perfectly clear without using a lot of words. And the Lamp to guide or way in a dark night, especially when we are walking in strange territory, and we are that, pilgrims as all our Fathers were, teaches the psalm.

Metaphors. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want”. We need no more than that to help calm any fear and comfort us during time of great stress.

“God is my Rock”. Or we speak of a “house built on sand”. The picture comes from the Scripture when it teaches us to make sure the foundation we are using is solid, correct, firm.

“We are like sheep going astray” 1 Peter 2,25/Isaiah writes,” We, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord laid on HIM the iniquity of us all.” Is. 53,6. That line tells us what happened, and why Jesus came and why He died, for ‘the iniquity of us all”. He died for the sins of the world.

Thus the metaphor draws a picture in our minds, and set the truth to make it be remembered better. The picture evoked by the metaphor does the teaching much better than many pages of explanation.

I remember waiting for a ride one time with a fellow Pastor when a car drove up, the window slid down, and a driver asked about an address. My companion started to explain why Panther Creek was listed as N and W when I said, “The address you want is that building right over there.” That’s all the driver wanted, not a dissertation on why the naming of a street N and W made any difference.

So when we read the Bible, see what a difference word pictures make in making a thought clear. Jesus wanted us to have the truth as clearly as our mind can grasp it, for it means our eternal life is involved. St. Paul said, I speak of this one thing as Most Important, “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst”. Have that truth always clearly in mind. God bless the teaching.
GPD 5/7/09

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 5/6/09

What a beautiful day, partly cloudy. Right now it is sunny, there is a slight breeze stirring, and the day promises many blessings. Wonderful gift of God.

The religious powerhouses in Jesus’ lifetime were surely the Pharisees. They spent their time setting rules and then obeying them. They had rules for everything possible, hundreds of them, to cover every eventuality. One might suppose Jesus would try to use their expertise to establish his Kingdom.

Instead, He quoted Isaiah to them, ”This people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain, their teachings are but rules of men“. Is. 29,13. Mark 9, 6.7. He told them, “you have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own rules. V.9. Then He gave one example. You tell the parents you are to honor “whatever help you might have gotten is Corban, (that is a gift devoid to God). . .thus you nullify the Word of God”. V.11-13.

Instead of rules for ‘right living’ this is the way Jesus spoke. During a discussion and in answer to Jesus word to “love your neighbor as yourself” Luke 10,27b, a lawyer asked “And who is my neighbor?” A question designed to evoke lots of discussion, the sort that starts “but what if . . .” or “and when this happens, what then”.

Look at Jesus' answer. He tells a story of the Good Samaritan. He tells them a parable. And what does that mean? Well, the hearer has to get into the story when he hears it. He can picture himself either as beaten by robbers and left there, or moving along the road and either ‘getting involved’ or not.

But the parable does what no discussion can do, get people involved and thinking of their own skin in such a situation. Then the answer to “Who is my neighbor” gets much clearer. So the parable, the story, gets people much more involved, and gives an answer that is much better than lots of discussion. It makes the hearer think, and sends him or her away trying to understand what ‘neighbor’ really means. Not just the person next door, or across the back fence, but every person who has need, and the eye suddenly sees the world differently.

May I add, think on these things.
GPD 5/6/09

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 5/3/09

Kind of a gloomy day, and some of the thoughts expressed in the day’s Chronicle tend for gloomy thoughts, because there is an article about 12/21/12. This is somehow based on the Mayan calendar. The Mayan civilization was in its heyday about 300 to 900, and was already in decline when the first Europeans set foot on this continent. About 16 million Mayans live in Mexico and Guatemala today. This civilization gave us cocoa, domesticated tomatoes, and corn.

But let me lighten the mood by pointing to the Word of Jesus. “Of that day and that hour knoweth no man, neither the Son, but the Father”. So any speculation is really out of place, and fruitless.

The times call for knowing how we ought to live, how to master life, and the answer to that, I believe, lies in St. Paul’s second letter to Timothy. Here he writes of Timothy’s faith, and of the God “who has saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works,. But according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” 2 Tim 1,9. He speaks about the Gospel, "of which I have been appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.” Bv.11 A teacher has material, a teacher has something to teach, a doctrine, as Paul pointed out. “Hold fast the form of sound words which you have heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.”v.13. That is Gospel, that is doctrine, that is proven truth. In verse 12 Paul speaks of suffering, and then adds, “nevertheless”. In a sense Christianity likes in that one word, “Nevertheless.” This is rising above it all, this is reaching for the Rock we know is there which stands firm.

In the great Chicago fire of 1871, Horatio Spafford, a real estate builder, lost a fortune. With work, planning and, effort, he helped the 100,000 who were homeless and in the process rebuilt his own fortune. In 1874 he decided to take his wife and 4 daughters to Europe on a vacation, but business affairs at the last minute kept him in New York. His wife and daughters sailed on the Ville de Havre, Spafford promising to join them soon. During the night of November 18 that ship collided with an iron sailing vessel and sank quickly. Mrs. Spafford survived, clinging to a piece of wreckage, while their 4 daughters were lost. Horatio hastened to rejoin his wife and took ship, and when they passed the scene of the accident, the captain told Mr. Spafford. He went to his cabin, could not sleep, and composed this Hymn:
“When peace like river attended my way,
When sorrow like sea billows, roll
What ever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It s well, it is well, with my soul”.

That is what The Gospel does. Paul has written,” I know whom I have believed.” So the Christian always can speak that “Nevertheless”. I KNOW, and “am persuaded.” That is what the Christian believes, and that is what makes his life one that is secure, one that is triumphant.
GPD 5/3/09