Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 4/28/10

The morning is fine. Wanted me to burst into song. I remembered a morning of a July 4th some years back when I did. Burst into song, I mean. Ruth and I had been to the patriotic concert at the pavilion and on that fine 4th morning I started to sing that “It’s a grand old flag, it’s a high flying flag, and forever in peace may she wave.” When I heard a bass voice to my left join in, then a lady across the street who had allowed the cat out, and another man up the street then another lady further along. So we finished the chorus, I called out, “Thanks, have a fine Fourth”, and turned the corner, the moment was over. But I imagine it warmed the hearts for a long time that day. I know it made me feel great.

But these days I feel a bit saddened by the news that the former President of the Michigan District has died. He was a friend. We graduated from the Seminary the same year. He was called to Wyoming, I to Missouri. We were going to change the world and offer final solutions to problems. (All graduates feel this way).

Over time the Lord moved both of us to Michigan, where he was elected President from which office he retired. I spent my last eleven years in Detroit. We kept in touch, sort of. Maybe shared a cup of coffee at a District convention. Chatted casually now and then. I sent notes of commendation for some act of his in office. That kind of thing. Lately he was on my Shade Tree list and would make a comment now and then. Now the days the Lord allotted him were ended, and I rejoice over his victory. But it leaves me a little sad. And I pray with the Psalm, “Lord, lead me in the way everlasting”. Ps. 139,24b.

But the world goes on with its mounting problems. Right now there is a furor over the new Arizona law. But the Governor says the government had been doing very little. Arizona ranchers are getting murdered by illegals. The kidnapping rate in that state is the worst on record, people are getting desperate. And it is all because for years the laws we have about entering this country have been ignored, or too loosely applied to be effective, and the longer it goes, the worse the problems become.

St. Paul urges us to pray for government because it is set there by God. Then let us also pray that the government set there will be people of purpose who will lift our sights, set standards and live by them. Bring back the way of life God meant for His children when He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for the sins of mankind by His blood.

GPD 4/28/10

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 4/22/10

I step out of the door into a cool morning that promises to be another fine day. The air is calm, the surroundings are quiet, all I can hear is birds twittering and the far-off roar of traffic. My world is quiet, serene, peaceful.

Then I finish my walk, wave to the driver of the big yellow box, have breakfast and our morning devotions, and sit down with the morning paper.

I read about a fire on a drilling platform in the Gulf with 11 men still missing, and a couple found tied up and shot in their ransacked home, a person shooting into a crowd and killing a talented student who had plans, and governments everywhere scrambling to meet bloated budgets and dealing with financial crisis, and our President having to select a Justice for the Supreme Court.

So my quiet, serene peaceful world is out of wack. Is it any wonder St. Paul urges us to Pray when He writes to Timothy (I Tim 2,1.2.3.) “I exhort therefore, that first if all supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty, for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.”

And to the Roman Christians he had written this (Rom. 13, 1.2.) MSG “Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it is God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the State, then you’re irresponsible to God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you’re trying to get away with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear.”

What came to mind was the poem by Josiah Gilbert Holland, so

God give us men; a time like this demands
Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands.
Men whom the lust of office cannot kill;
Men whom the spoils of office cannot 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 brave 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 its thumb-worn creeds,
Its large professions, and its little deeds,
Mingle in selfish strife – O! Freedom weeps,
Wrong rules the land, and waiting Justice sleeps.

Let’s always remember Who it is who controls, directs, and blesses. That God is yet present, as He promised the disciples. So we can still sing joyfully,

“Like a mighty army, moves the Church of God,
Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.”

And never lose heart, because “I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”

GPD 4/22/10

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 4/20/10

The last thing St. Matthew writes is this command: All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen(Matt.28,18-20.)

And their final time together after 40- days St. Luke reports: And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. 9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight (Acts 1, 7.8.)

What an assignment. The story is written in the book of Acts especially. How they did what they had been told, how the Church grew, how the Word of the Gospel and the Resurrection spreads. St. Paul describes the work when he writes, “Our Gospel came o you not only in word, but in power, and in the holy Spirit with full conviction” (1 Thess.1,5). The word he uses refers to a cup so full that it overflows. So they were so full of the news that Jesus is Alive it simply spilled over. They had to share, they had a message. They did not say, “Going to Church is a nice thing to do.” Instead, their way was to share their great news. They were excited, they were changed, and they were blessed.

But when the letter of St. Paul to the Romans first arrived, only such people read it who were of no real consequence. They were not the ones in power, and the man who wrote it had no connections to speak of. Yet the letter has had more affect than any of the philosophy and literature Rome was noted for. And it addresses the problem, and adds a solution. “Here is what is wrong, and this is what was done to correct that wrong.”

For after Christian greetings, Paul lays out the real thing wrong with them, with all people, for that matter. For people can know God, yet they “glorified him not as God, or were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened,v.21. Then the first chapter ends with a listing of their sins.

It’s interesting that he mentions homosexuality among the first sins. The Romans probably reacted this way, “We don’t do that. That’s one of the things that brought the Greeks down”.

But Paul mentions other sins, sins that happen all the time, and in our day as well. This section of the Book of Romans is probably the clearest description of our world today, and the cause of the trouble, and the rest of the letter of Romans gives the solution. It is always repentance, and asking for forgiveness from God, who in His grace grants that forgiveness. St. Paul writes this calming passage to the shaken sinner. “But God commended His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom.5,8.

That’s the news the early Christians shared, and that is the same news we can and do have to share with our world. Hopeless? Remember what Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” So, may God bless our overflow of the good News.

GPD 4/20/10

Monday, April 19, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 4/19/10

Luther’s morning prayer from the small Catechism

I thank you, my heavenly Father, thrugh Jesus Christ,
Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night
From all harm and danger; and I pray You would
Keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all
My doings and life may please You. For into Your
Hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let
Your holy angel be with me, that the evil
Foe may have no power over me. Amen.

Then I stepped out into that nice, cool, rain-washed air and really enjoyed the twittering of the birds and the day’s beginning. What blessings are mine.

Are you in the habit of staring your day with prayer? It does make the day seem less intimidating, for it reminds us again whose we are, God’s Children.

Funny, isn’t it, how a little thing can have large effects. The planes can’t fly, because there is ash in the sky. Little things like ash can destroy a jet engine, so plans of government heads to attend the Polish President’s funeral are on hold.

Or little things that disrupt the workings of men. One company that placed these large propellers to create electricity found they had to scrub them now and then because bugs and small flying insects were plastered on them and decreased their efficiency. Little things.

Or such things as termites. Oh, you don’t have to deal with them? Wonderful. They sneak into woodwork and spend their days eating. When they do infest a place, often major repair needs to be done to undo their destruction, yet they are so small one can barely see them with the naked eye. Little things.

But we tend to compromise, get used to, or live with the result.

In our backyard, he comes now and then to check the yard for food, is a one-eyed squirrel. I know this one has only one eye because he comes up to the glass door and looks in. But I notice he has compensated quite well, runs up a tree and jumps from limb to limb like any other.

And that’s really the problem. People tend to compromise, or get used to bad things, or failings, and finally get so used to them we don’t even notice them any more.

The Houston Chronicle this morning reported on a family that had ten sons, the youngest now 16. The mother wrote a book about raising successful sons, and the heart of her writing was that you care, you love, you tend to, and daily insist. You can’t wait till they are 12 and then say one morning, “Now you are responsible”. Instead, they had chores, making their beds, keeping their rooms clean, setting the dinner table, washing dishes, even doing laundry, mowing lawns, and the parents simply took for granted that each did the chore assigned. Just common sense. Seeing to the Little things.

In our life, little things left unchecked lead to big things, small sins to larger sins, what starts as harmless ends up destroying. In the Bible, Romans chapter one lays out the result. It makes one shiver to read the result. I will have more to say on this the next time we meet. Meanwhile, may God keep you in His care.

GPD 4/19/10

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 4/14/10

O what a beautiful morning, O, what a wonderful day.

I even beat the big yellow box and hardly had time to wave to the driver before I shut the door after my morning walk. And it is indeed possible to become so enamored of this beauty around us now, that we forget the other, the one we are striving for.

Paul wrote of this longing to the Philippians when he told them, “I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better; nevertheless, to stay here is more needful for you”. The man who wrote this had a goal, “to be with Christ”, but while he lived here this is the man who travelled much of his life, preached, was stoned, jailed, beaten, and finally, we assume, was killed.

His eye was on a far goal. Heaven.

If you read history carefully, you often find that the people who do most in this life are the ones who thought most of the next, The early Christians, the Apostles themselves who left their mark, were occupied with the next. It is the truth of Christ, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you.” Matthew 6, 24 – 34 teaches that clearly, as does Luke 12, 22 – 34. [The Matthew passage is a favorite with many Christians].

When Christians forget that, their influence diminishes, or even stops. “Come ye out from among them and be ye separate” changes into “what else does the world offer that we can indulge in without getting too smeared.” When we aim at heaven, the joys of earth are ‘thrown in’ as God’s bonus. Our light shines brightest in the world when our aim is heaven. That is part of God’s strange and wonderful way.

Even people who are not earnest Christians often see the value of God’s leading. There is the story of a man who was raised as a church-goer. But then he went to college, left home, got a job, was married, had children, each, husband and wife, made good salaries, but never seemed to be able to save a cent. Each paycheck was spent. Then he attended church again – children needed Sunday School – and heard another sermon on tithing. But it was different, this Pastor made a modest promise, ‘tithing will free the tither from financial worry’. And he also suggested they use their money for charities as well as Church. So he and his wife pledged to tithe, and they found they were able to save 10%, retired their house mortgage early, and indeed, did not worry about money, where before that had been their only worry, and often led to quarrels. He called it their 10-10-80 rule. (I got this story from Forbes magazine, 2/14/05 pg.35).

I know many people who fit that story too. They live by God’s rule, joyously and eagerly doing his will here, and have their eye on the great goal, which is eternal life with Jesus, whose suffering, death, and resurrection paid for their sins. Indeed, there are many such in this weary world. They are, indeed, the “salt of the earth and its light, so let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven”. Matt. 5,13.16. May God bless this word.

GPD 4/14/10

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 4/13/10

“I’m afraid, Pastor, this car has had it. I’m sorry, I just can’t do any more. Time to look for a new car”. Reluctantly the Pastor started looking, and bargaining, and he was a master at that. Finally he found just what he felt he needed, enough room for the family, nice looking, ran smoothly, and got good gas mileage too. So brought it home. Loved that new car smell. At home the family inspected that car and approved, and Pastor gave them a stern lecture about not spilling Kool Aid on the seats or throwing candy wrappers on the floor.

Just then the phone rang and it was a member saying, “Oh, Pastor, Emil has had a heart attack and is at Memorial. Could you please come? I know he hasn’t been to church much lately but right now we need you”. So he promised to come right away.

On his way along a street where children were playing, he drove slowly. Then he heard a thump, and even felt it hit the car, so he slammed on the brakes and out jumped 200 pounds of irate Pastor. As he looked on the side, he noticed a dent in the car, and the brick that did it was lying right there. So was the boy who threw that brick. He looked ready to run, but stood there, half afraid, half defiant when Pastor said, “You’ll pay for this.” The boy said, “I had to do something. I need help and you did not hear me call. My brother’s wheel chair fell and he’s got a broken leg and can’t get up.” Right away anger gave way to pity, and Pastor righted the chair, helped the boy into it, and gathered the groceries they had been taking home, even helped them to the door, where he met their mother who also had a broken leg.

Quickly he introduced himself and excused himself, for he had to rush to the hospital, but asked if he might stop on the way home. He was invited.

At Memorial he found Emil resting comfortably. He had a bedside prayer and a brief devotion, then told Emil about the brick and asked, “Emil, is this heart attack God’s brick to you? Is God calling you to become more faithful in keeping your confirmation vow? Please think about it.”

Then he prayed again and left, and stopped at the home where he had preciously helped the boys get their groceries home. He visited with the mother, who was a widower, and her sons, invited them, to church and Sunday School, and in time they joined the church and served their Lord joyfully.

Jeremiah knows about such bricks, does he not? He lived to see his country led into captivity, and also preached a return after 70 years, when God would restore the now chastened people.

Sad to say we often need such ‘bricks’ to remind us of promises we made, vows we are not keeping, lives we are misspending. I pray when the Lord sends His bricks as reminders, maybe an illness, a job loss, loss of a friend, a move to another place, we will hear the message and give it attention. May God bless such ‘bricks’.

GPD 4/13/10

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 4/10/10

One Solitary Life

Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.

He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself...

While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.

I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built, all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.

This essay was adapted from a sermon by Dr James Allan Francis in “The Real Jesus and Other Sermons” © 1926 by the Judson Press of Philadelphia (pp 123-124 titled “Arise Sir Knight!”). If you are interested, you can read the original version .

I thought this bears repeating

GPD 4/10/10

Friday, April 9, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 4/9/10

A bit cooler, but a quarter moon is hanging in the western sky, serene, unmoved by our paltry events, unchanged from the time Abraham looked at the stars and was given that promise, ”and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” Gen.12,3b.

It tells me again why we needed Easter. Easter celebrations are not just for new clothes, or greeting Spring and new growth, or family gatherings, but because of the plight of modern man. So enmeshed in the toils of his transgressions and failings that he is unable, and unwilling, to seek rescue. So God, in His mercy, sent His Only Son, Jesus Christ, to come, live as a man, then suffer and die and be buried. But He rose again, so that we rejoice at Easter because HE LIVES. Hallelujah! He lives, He lives, He lives.

A prayer for devotions for this day says this.

“Almighty God, show those in error the light
Of Your Truth that they may return
To the way of righteousness.
Grant faithfulness to those in the
Fellowship of Your Church, that
They may follow those things pleasing to Thee.
We pray in the Name of Jesus, Your Son, our
Risen Lord. Amen.”
The world today is fast-paced. Apple introduces its new IPad, and people stand in line all night to spend 500 dollars for this new device, which is already showing it should have been much better, and will be soon. Because what man makes man can also improve, and usually does.

I mention this because what we celebrated at Easter, the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the grave, is an event that needs not be touched up or improved or done again. It is perfect and complete, so that His promise to you is this. “Believe on the lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”. Your gift complete. When He cried on the cross, “IT IS FINISHED” it said the work He had come to do, to die for sins of the world, was now done. Bless His Holy Name.

So, I wish you a Happy, Blessed Easter.
GPD 4/9/10

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 4/7/10

Wonderful, a slight breeze, half moon still hanging in the western sky, and the mind rested easily and thoughts flowed, soon interrupted by the arrival of the yellow transportation facility that whisked the eagerly waiting [?] scholars away.

I was thinking of my walk, always turning the same way so this morning I turned the other way and found things I had never noticed before. And the thought struck me that we prize the familiar, and resist change. Like someone said, “I know this mess”.

Do you drive the same route to work each day? Or run errands in the same order? See?
Even when we know this is right, we break out in a rash. Starting College is like that. The “what in the world am I doing syndrome” strikes us. Churches suffer from that. New faces perhaps, a new director of something, different liturgy, added hymns, and we long to “return to the flesh pots of Egypt".

That phrase is not new, it comes from the ancient story of Israel’s departure from Egypt. The Lord led them. Not by the shortest way which might have led to war with the philistines (Ex 13,17), but by way of the Red Sea. Then God allowed pharaoh with all his chariots and army to drive after them. And when they saw that, they were terrified. Listen to them. “Were there no graves in Egypt that you have taken us to die in the wilderness?” Ex. 14,11. But their fears were unfounded. Moses said, “The Lord shall fight for you, and you shall hold your peace”, Ex. 14,14.

That’s what happens when we trust God. He said, “Fear not, for I am with thee, be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee, yea, I will help thee, yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my majesty”. Is,. 41,10. Or the famous “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me”. Is,. 49,16. And the Bible is filled with such assurances. They are promises we can claim, cling to, and look at when change and upheaval comes into our lives.

Two examples. One is the time when the three Israel youths were condemned to the fiery furnace of the king. One phrase in their speech says it all. “But if not”. They said, the Lord will look after us, “but if not, still we will not bow down at your command to worship you, O king."

The other is Peter walking on water. Matthew 14 has the incident. As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus he walked on water. When he eyed the tossing waves, he started to sink and cried, “Lord, save me”.

When change comes into our lives, listen to His Word first, pray to God for help, direction, strength and comfort, and welcome the change He brings to you to your blessing.

GPD 4/7/10

Monday, April 5, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 4/5/10

There was just a faint mist on the windshield as we drove to church Easter morning, that turned into cloudy, which gave way to sunshine the rest of the day, making for a wonderful celebration. This morning started warm and cloudy, but now it is sunny again. The good news is that with all that cold and plenty of rain days this early, the display of spring flowers will be spectacular this year.

Yesterday we celebrated Easter, and it seems that celebration is always so much richer with meaning if we have also experienced the reason for it all, the suffering, the death, and the burial. One line from a choir Anthem in the Maundy Thursday service struck me as especially fitting and telling. The Anthem was “Hear, O My Lord” by Horatius Bonar and Russell Schultz-Widmar. This is the line:

“Here I would lay aside each earthly load,
And taste afresh the calm of sin forgiven”.

That line, that thought, is so rich with meaning, isn’t it? During the regular service we wish each other “Peace of God”. And this is what it means, we can wish that and do have it because of the cross. This marked “Paid in Full” for the sins of mankind, to satisfy God’s Justice. So, we do have peace with God now, because He calls us righteous and holy. And our Savior says, “I died for this one”. Indeed, as St. John writes, “He is the propitiation for our sins, but not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2,2.

A Lutheran Pastor, when he was in Killeen, would carry a cross from Palacios to Killeen. I forget what started that, but the cross he carried was made of raw lumber, and this year it began to rain. Soon he was sort of wet and the wood of the cross, not treated, was soaking in moisture and getting heavier by the minute. Just then a TV truck pulled alongside, the window rolled down, and the fellow asked, “Hey, tell me, are you the fellow who is carrying the cross into Killeen?” He said “I was so miserable, so tired, so sodden with self-pity and rain water that I could only nod. And I really was wishing for a Simon of Cyrene to come by and take the cross and carry it me.” He began to appreciate part of what Jesus suffered for the sins of the world.

We can but try to follow Jesus. Go through the motions. But let us just not forget that what He did really did pay for the sins we do, and did satisfy the Justice of God.

For that we give thanks, and live “as unto Him" because we are His children, washed by water and Word to have faith planted in our hearts.

So Happy Easter, and may the post Easter Season be rich with daily blessing in your life.

GPD 4/5/10