Saturday, August 29, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/29/09

Can’t you just feel it? If you have a dog, you’ll notice him one morning just standing and sniffing, because he knows that fall is on the way. And we can feel it too, if we just stop a bit in the early morning. There’s something different in the air, a fresh feel. That’s Fall.

God made this promise.
“As long as the earth endures,
Seedtime and harvest,
Cold and heat
Summer and winter,
Day and night,
Will not cease.” Genesis 8,22.

That’s the promise, richly kept.

While it is welcome, there’s something just a bit sad about it too. Mornings are now filled with those large yellow boxes ferrying their precious cargo. Stores have been busy with their fall sales, and Texas held its annual “No Tax Day” to ease that burden just a bit. Children are anxious about ‘fitting in’ with their dress, and are busily phoning friends about what they will wear.

Staff are meeting their new charges and trying to settle into a routine for best learning for the year. While scholars are trying to find their classrooms and getting used to a new schedule. All hoping for a successful year. Football is in the air, and the school band has been at work practicing their routines for several weeks, usually the hottest part of the summer, while players have been sharpening their skills and hoping for a successful season.

Here in Texas there’s more. Now is the time for the annual hummingbird migration to Mexico and South America. Some of the hummer species that breed in the Rocky Mountains and other Western States funnel through the Davis Mountains, while the ruby-throated hummer, the only species native to Eastern regions, skirts the Texas coast.

Rufous hummers fly from the Pacific Northwest over the Rocky Mountains all the way to the Texas coast. A lady living in Lake Jackson has the same female visiting her yard and staying through the winter since 2003. That year this hummer was banded, and it is caught and checked each year. Usually appears between the 9th and 15th of August.

Although they weigh only a few ounces, they fly at speeds exceeding 30 miles per hours with wings beating about 50 times a second and hearts pumping blood at 1200 beats a minute.

“All flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the sea. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth”. Psalm 8,7-9.

It is all a reminder, regardless of time of year, that God’s Word is ever true, trusted, and faithful.
GPD 8/29/09

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/28/09

The lad in Sunday School seemed indifferent and ‘bored’ in class. The teacher asked him to explain his behavior, and he took his Bible and said, “Nobody understands this stuff.” So the teacher challenged him to close his eyes, open the bible, and put his finger on one verse. The student did and turned quiet. His finger had landed on Psalm 14,1, “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God.” That truth showed the real reason for his indifference, for the Word of God is a two-edged sword which has a way of cutting into the heart to bring inmost thoughts into God’s harsh light. The Scripture convicts of sin. (Heb.4,12).

In George Orwell’s novel, 1984, the term, BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU became a sort of catch- word. That novel shows what happens when Big Brother controls everything. One quote: “There was no imbecility, absolutely none, she was not capable of swallowing if the party handed it out to her.” (Pt. l, Ch 6,pg.67.) Scary, isn’t it?

When you run a red light where one of those cameras is working, your car will be shown, bright and clear, and the plate number clearly readable, and you will get a ticket. [question, that picture when you are going some 50 mph is clear, why is the picture on the driver’s license when you are standing still blurry?]. But we are living at a time when very little remains hidden, aren’t we?

And that’s where it stops.

The Bible, however, says this “The eyes of the Lord are on them that fear Him, on those who hope in His unfailing love” Ps. 33,18. And once the sin has been revealed, it shows what is done about it. For it shows us Christ died for our sins and forgives them. Then He tells, “By this Gospel you are saved”. 1 Cor. 15,2.

To this promise Isaiah adds, “The Lord Almighty has sworn, ‘surely as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand’.” Is.14,24. To this we add this, “The Plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart to all generations.” Psalm 33,11.

Let Big Brother watch, we live under the eye of God Almighty whose promise is, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Thank God for this assurance.

GPD 8/27/09

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/20/09

When we first moved to our home, we were, for nearly a year, the last house on the street, so there was still lots of woods, much growth, and we often saw snakes, even copperheads and rattlers, sunning themselves and taking care of the mouse population. But we expected that and were careful. As late as several weeks ago a possum wandered through the back yard.

But now they’ve evidentially gone too far, and a neighborhood is asking for help to move some 500 egrets from their neighborhood. The egrets, a protected species, used to live on the big lake, but the Association built condos there and destroyed their turf, so the egrets moved. They built nests and are using area trees as nesting places, mostly on private lands. They have built about 30 nests in the trees, filled the ground with droppings, and dead fish abound. Now, here’s government at work, this is a direct quote, “The Association does not try to get involved in local issues”.

I am reporting this tidbit as a background to the next item, which is the health issue that is being hotly debated right now. Fortune magazine says the fight will be “big, brutal and ugly, the stakes are high. Let’s acknowledge right now that nobody will be fighting fair, shameless spin, half-truths, and out right lies will be coming from all sides.” How do you keep your head? Especially when one reads that very few, if any, congressman have even read all the pages of this bill.

When we remember the sad result so often with government programs that start out so promising, and end up in disaster. We recall so many reports of massive corruption in the Medicare program. Only 12% of all health care spending is out-of-pocket. Maybe if more were, we would be more careful in our entire spending.

But one thing is clear to me. Common sense and good manners have left the debate arena altogether, and that is truly a sad commentary on a public that is learning to look to Uncle Sam for everything. And seemingly have forgotten that it is, finally, the Lord who blesses.

Remember this:

“The heavens declare the glory of God
The skies proclaim the works of His hands.
Day after day they pour out speech,
Night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech, nor language, where their voice is not heard,
The ordinances of the Lord are sure, and righteous altogether.” Psalm 119. 1 ff.

GPD 8/20/09

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 9/18/09

Suddenly there are three hurricanes named; Claudette is nearing land, Ana is weakening, and Bill is gathering strength in the Atlantic. It was just a week or so ago the weathermen were worrying about the ‘quiet season’.

We had an interesting discussion Saturday morning. Such things pop up now and then sort of unexpectedly and delight the moment, many people miss such things because they do not attend any Bible study, they find it "too boring", is not worth the time or effort, or really they know it all already. Sort of sad.

Anyway, what really did Jesus mean when He said, “You are in the world, but not of the world?”(John 17, 13 – 17) He is saying they will stay in the world, and here they are promised “troubles” (16,33). For Jesus told them that “the world hated them for they are not of the world even as I am not of the world.” V.15.

Just what does it mean? The world “hates you.” It’s really the natural reaction to this new life of yours. St. Peter wrote of it, “They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.” 1 Peter 4,4.

You are marching to a different drummer. The Christian really takes the words of Psalm 119, for instance, seriously. Words like this mean something for guiding one's life. “I’m going to do what you tell me to do” and “I have hidden your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against you”. Psalm 119,5.11.

That explains Joseph’s reaction when the wife of his boss tried to lure him into adultery. He cried out, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God”. Her seduction said, “Come, nobody will know. Nobody’s here.” Joseph saw clearly what God said and wanted, and that guided his action, and his life, that finally led to his blessings.

A German poet gave us an expression – No, I will not use His words because few of you have had the privilege of sitting at he feet of Uncle Willie to learn the language – but it means, “We are used to having people sneer at what they don’t understand”.

“Thy Word is a lamp to my feet, a light to my path”. Ps. 119,105. Living that life, led by a different guide, gives sinners offence, because it highlights their own sin, it tears at them that one can stand as you do and not join in the “fun” they are "enjoying". So the world “hates you”. Just live with it, for Jesus is praying "that You protect them from the evil one", but He does send you into the world to represent HIM. May your presence ever prove such a blessing to you, and to those who see you live.

GPD 8/18/09

Monday, August 10, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/10/09

All he really wanted to do was try to catch a chicken-stealing skunk who had been raiding the hen house. What he got was a pheasant trapped by the neck. A pheasant that had tried to eat the seeds he had dropped on the trigger. And it was illegal to shoot pheasants in Colorado. His first impulse, of course, was to hide it and not tell anyone. But he did admit to his father, and his father said he would have to go tell the Sheriff in town. So next day his father sent him to see the sheriff. The people at the post office would know where to find him. So he went, and found the sheriff was at Jack’s saloon. Now here was a reprieve, for his mother did not want him to go to any saloon. So he started home, but after a while he came back, entered the saloon, and asked the man behind the bar for the sheriff.

“He’s that big man in the back there”, he was told. So he went there and when the sheriff asked what he wanted, he told him he had killed a pheasant and his father said the jails were full of people who had done something wrong and tried to run away. So the sheriff asked what had happened and he told him he set a trap for a skunk and got the pheasant by the neck. People standing around hooted and said “His old man probably shot the bird and sent the boy to try to get away with it.” But the boy said his father would not do such a thing. The sheriff meanwhile checked the bird and said, “The boy is right, he trapped him. There is no law against that, so take this bird to your mother and have her roast it for dinner. Thank you for coming in. You must have a fine father."

So, when the son reported all this at home, his father said that was a good thing to remember. It was good to know that a person always made his troubles less by going to meet them rather than run away from them.

That leads to what I wish to say about this for our life. Here was a temptation, the same sort of thing that happens to us all the time. When we think things are going smoothly, suddenly the Tempter, whom the Scripture describes as “the accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12.) reminds us of a sin, a failing, and tells us we are unworthy, reminds us of our sinfulness, and maybe rakes up stuff from the distant past, and holds it up. Then he says, “How can God, who is LIGHT, even care when you pray?”

That happens. It comes at us suddenly, strongly. Don’t try to argue. Do not try to ‘explain’ something. Just claim “The breastplate of righteousness” that the Lord has given you. Check that armor again. The armor the Christian has available to him. St. Paul describes it in Ephesians 6, 10-18.

Our answer, “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have access by faith into the grace in which we stand” Romans 5,1.2. St. John writes, “If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Righteous; and He is the Propitiation for our sins, but not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world”. 1 John 2,1.2. John puts this in legal terms. God must forgive, because God is JUST, and He promised “If any man sin, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sin, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

My friend, when that temptation comes, and it will, tears at you and confuses you and seems so bad, then “Put on the breastplate of righteousness.” And may God, the faithful and Just, ever keep you in His care.

GPD 8/10/09

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Shade tree wisdom 8/6/09

All you and I saw was an old barn, weathered, leaning sideways, looking useless. That’s what we saw. But then another eye came along, and the man actually paid the farmer for the barn, hauled it away, and cleaned up the place where it had stood for so many years. And when next it appeared, it graced the recreation room of a new home being built by this man. He saw potential, and used that weathered lumber as siding for the wall for that room. It really looked fine, in place, needed. And added real class to the room.

The owner did not see any potential in that old barn, but a builder did. It depends on what you know.

There is a story in the Gospel of Matthew about Jesus’ home town. He taught, and amazed the people, because they saw him as “the carpenter’s son”. How does he know, they asked. They knew Jesus as a growing up lad.

We can understand their action. It’s true that “a prophet is not without honor saved in his own country, and in his own house.” Home town boy makes good, but at home they remember him growing up, and it doesn’t seem as if he can be all that important. Can’t be, because they saw him developing, and they know some of the things he pulled, so they know too much.
Matthew tells us the story of the rich young man who asked what he needed to do to be saved, and Jesus said, “Keep the commandments." He said “I’ve kept them all.” So Jesus told him to "sell what you’ve got and follow me." And the man did not, for he had "Much possession: He knew too much too."

That story troubled me for a long time, for it seems to contradict what we are taught, that faith alone saves, not what we do. But a deeper look makes the teaching clear. Jesus is telling this man, “Look to ME, and stop depending on what you have”.

When Jesus fed the 5,000 it becomes clear. He said, ‘Get them seated’, and they did, even though they knew the supply Jesus had was not enough. Yet they followed instruction, and distributed to them all plenty. That’s faith, even when their knowledge did not cover the fact.
So often we simply know to much. “Lord,” we say, “I can’t do this, after all. . .” and we offer excuses. Moses offered his stammering tongue; Jeremiah offered his youth, etc. So we offer excuse. We hesitate to do His will because we know better. “It would never work”, we say, “because. . .”.

That gets us back to the first story in Matthew (13, 53-58). It ends like this, “He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief”. What did they shut out? Why, the mighty works Jesus often did that He did not do here “because of their unbelief”. The Bible is filled with such expressions. Ps. 78,41, “. . .tempted god, and limited the Holy One.” Ps. 81, 10.11 “open thy mouth wide and I will fill it, but My people did not hearken, so I gave them up”. Is. 55,11 “My Word will accomplish that which I please.”

They depended on their knowledge, did not trust the lord, and that is always fatal. They knew too much, depended on that knowledge, and that proved fatal. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding.” Prov. 3,5. That is not just a proverb, it is God’s grace and word of truth for us.

GPD 8/6/09

Monday, August 3, 2009

Shade Tree Wisdom 8/3/09

The weatherman had said “sauna”. But this morning there was a slight breeze that cooled things down. So I set out. The dog who accompanies me now and then started out too, checked a couple of things, then stopped, gave me a sort of apologetic look, and turned back home. Kind of said, “Well, if you must, go ahead, but I’ll take a pass”.

The paper is filled with stuff lately, of problems wherever one turns. Here is a news item about a tow truck driver who admitted talking on one phone while texting on another when he slammed into a car, crashed through a fence, sideswiped a house and ended in a swimming pool. The 68 year old driver of the car has had injuries considered not serious. Her 8-year old niece suffered minor injuries. Subject of his conversation was not recorded, nor what he was texting. It must have been vital to the security of the nation, of course.

Now you are flying along at 70 mph on the Freeway. There are cars in front and behind you as well as one on either side, each going 70. Suddenly you remember a luncheon you are invited to next Saturday, and you simply MUST text your friend Marsha to chat about the clothes you plan to wear. If that describes you at any time, I am glad you’re no relative of mine. I tire of attending funerals and trying to act as if this was such a sad accident.

The good Lord gave us a brain to use, and He did that for a reason, to help us live our lives in comfort, being fruitful and concerned citizens, always aware that my action has a consequence. Like that driver above whose carelessness caused hurt to two people, injury to them, damage to their car, a house, a fence, and a tow truck.

Scripture to quote, of course. Look at what St. Paul writes to the Christians at Ephesus about their life in Christ. He writes, “You were sometimes darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.)” Then he adds, “So walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise.” Ephesians 5, 8.9.15.
Excellent advice, directly from the Lord through His Apostle. We do well to listen to it and live our lives accordingly, and that means leaving the cell phone in the pocket or purse while driving 70 mph surrounded by others doing the same thing, especially if it concerns such an earth-shattering thing as what kind of blouse you plan to wear two weeks hence.

May God bless the work.

GPD 8/3/09