Sunday, October 31, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/31/10

For Reformation Dad

“God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore will we not fear,
Though the earth give way,
And the mountains fall
Into the heart of the sea. 1.2
The Lord Almighty is with us,
The God of Jacob
Is our Refuge. 7.
Be sill and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.
The LORD Almighty is with us.
The God of Jacob is our refuge. 10.11.

This Psalm helped Luther compose The Battle Hymns of the Reformation, thus:
A Mighty Fortress is our God, A trusty shield and weapon.
He helps us free from every need, that has us now overtaken.
The old evil foe, now means deadly woe.
Deep guile and great might, are his dread arms in fight,
On earth is not his equal” LSB 656,1.

And it ends,

And strangely, this correction in the last missive, paragraph 3, fifth line, Tetzel used a “jingle” to do his selling. (And if you wish to read the original jingle, I can send it if you ask.)

God bless you and your church this Reformation Day.

GPD 10/31/10

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/29/10

Ah, nice and cool this morning and we walkers all appreciate that. The first, let us fervently hope, of many more to come.

Tomorrow celebrates the nailing of the ninety five thesis on a Church door in Wittenberg, Germany, by an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther. The date, October 31, 1517. He struck this thesis as food for debate, not as a start of a revolt at all. There were things the Church was teaching and doing that he knew were not in keeping with the Bible. So Luther posted this series of topics for discussion in debate.

And this stirred up a storm, for it was coming to grips with some issues that the Church was using to control lives and even raise money for building projects. The sale of ‘indulgences’ by Johann Tetzel, for instance, especially raised Luther’s ire. Because Tetzel had been forbidden to work in Wittenberg, he set up shop near its border to sell, and Tetzel was a suburb salesman. He used a jingle that sold, and the reason this was successful is because most people could not read, the bible was a closed book to them, and they relied on words told to them for truth. So they accepted Tetzel’s jingle with no reservation.

Today we really find that hard to understand, because we can do what Christians have always done, “search the Scriptures daily to see whether these things are so”. Acts 17,11, as the Bible tells us the Bereans did. And as Lutheran taught the people of his day also. Read it for yourself, was his challenge. That is one reason, by the way, why Luther translated the Bible into the German language. His translation is still being used today. And also why he wrote the small catechism as a teaching tool, to make sure the people understood the foundation of their faith and the reason why Jesus is The Way, the Truth, and the Light. The gift God provided to suffer and die in place of sinners. ”He died for all, that they which believe in Him will be saved.”

And that is what we celebrate on Reformation Sunday. We know, by God’s grace, the truth to eternal life. It means we believe and accept Jesus' death on the cross as the only payment needed to save us. And for this we thank God. And we rejoice for His grace and mercy to us.

GPD 10/29/10

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/27/10

The promise is for some colder mornings tomorrow and following. Storms swept across much of the Midwest and into the east, and we sit here with weather that makes the morning walk almost uncomfortable. But the weather people promise that will finally come to an end tomorrow. Patiently we wait, and remember to be thankful we didn’t have the terribly high winds some areas suffered. Meanwhile the moon hangs low in the sky overhead, watching and smiling.

Yesterday, 185 years ago, the Erie Canal was opened. The country had no civil engineers and much of the survey work was done by amateurs. Construction was mostly by mule power and hand power, but the work of finishing the 383 miles that connected the Hudson river with Lake Erie, using 83 locks to raise the water level 568 feet from the Hudson to Lake Erie, was called the eighth wonder of the world in 1825, when it was finished. It aided in opening and in settling the country, and lowered the cost of shipping grain from the Midwest for export to Europe by 95%.

In these fast-moving times, it is good now and then to look back at the history of this country and stand in awe of what our ancestors have laid out for us to make our life a little better.

In this connection, I remember the old Farmer’s Almanac which has been printed continually for the past 219 years. Here is some advice from this year’s pages. Five tips for good manners in modern times.

l) Use a firm handshake, 2 or 3 pumps is enough. Takes 3 seconds.
2) Think before you speak. Good advice for recent political speeches.
3) Write thank you notes, and begin with ‘dear’.
4) When using a cell phone in public take care that you don’t disturb others with your inane chatter.
5) Shut off cell phones in meetings, and DO NOT text while driving.

Really sounds like common sense, doesn’t it?

That brings to an end this bit of remembering. It is ever on my mind, this word from Psalm 27,1

The Lord is my Light and my salvation,
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life,
Of whom shall I be afraid?”

And may He bless your day, and your life, in Christ, our Risen Lord.

GPD 10/27/10

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/23/10

The event that changed the world and brought us ‘before’ and 'after’, the death crucifixion of Jesus Christ in an obscure corner of the Roman Empire, hardly noticed by anyone else, took place about 30 years before this letter arrived in Rome.

Rome, the teeming Capital of the world, bustling with commerce and activity of all kinds, was also home of much important writing, so this letter hardly made a splash when it arrived.

There was much to read in Rome. Court documents, official notices, fine poetry and literature. And yet, this letter has outstayed them all, and is indeed an excellent statement of what God is up to in this world. And who Jesus Christ is, and what does it mean when we say Jesus “saves”, and just why is it important for mankind?

For here St. Paul, who begins the letter by identifying himself as “the servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an Apostle and appointed to tell the Good News”. V.1. And, so beginning with the beginning, he tells the story. How Adam and Eve fell into sin, ‘by One man sin entered into the world”, and how this sin was defeated by Jesus Christ, and what this all means for the life of every person. How believers are to react now that they do believe Jesus died for them, and what happens to their lives, their outlook, and their entire existence. How they can, and do live in hope. And how they can defeat the temptations thrown at them by Satan.

It’s an important letter, for it explains clearly just what God’s Plan is to save mankind. The news is The Good News. That is why these last verses we will look at in a moment are so striking.

Paul ends his letter with greetings from various believers, and then he throws this caution in. “Fellow Christians, I urge you to watch those who cause disagreements and make people fall for going against the teaching you learned. Turn away from them. Such men are not serving Christ, our Lord, but their own bellies. By their fine flattering talk are deceiving innocent people”. Then he adds this word “I want you to be experts in what is good, and not even beginners in evil. It will not be long before the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet”. Romans 16, 17-20

Paul uses “I urge you”. He means the words to be taken as a strong warning. The word he uses here, “urge” means “Please pay attention” and “I insist you follow this”. It is pressing.

As it is today. A recent study tells that a mere ten percent of all Christians believe they have the entire truth, and say “there is some good in all religions”. Flattering, but never true for the person to whom Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father But By Me.” John 14,6.

GPD 10/23/10

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/16/10

I used a napkin today that had this printed on one edge:
“100% recycled fiber with a minimum of 40%
Post-consumer material,
Processed chlorine free,
Printed with water based inks.”
Isn’t that informative. It really tells me much more than I want to know, or even need to know, when I use this napkin.

I suppose that printing is there because of a law, or because of being afraid of being sued if it is not there. And it points to what is bothering many folks these days.

A recent article in the Houston Chronicle was titled, “How Did We Ever Survive Childhood?” It points out how we survived riding bikes without proper helmets or knee pads, how we went barefoot everywhere, including wading in bayous, how we went riding by clinging to dad on his motorcycle, how we waited for dad to come home and riding from the road to the yard on the running board.

And bullying. It seems to be on the rise, and is everywhere debated and considered and a cause for fear and what else. I would like to offer a letter taken from the Houston Chronicle for October 14 or 15. I am just offering the letter with no comment. Here it is:
“When I was a kid, a much larger boy used to chase me down every day when we got off the bus and beat me up. I finally complained to my dad about it, and he said, “Why don’t you hit him on the head with a Coke bottle”?
There were always refund Coke bottles strewn around. So the next morning on the way to the bus I found and strategically hid a Coke bottle.
When we got off the bus at the end of the day, sure enough he chased me all the way to the Coke bottle, where I reached down, picked it up and smacked him on the head.
I was never bullied again”.

Can you imagine that happening today? School boards would meet, the bus driver would be ‘relieved of duty’, families would stand in line, some cheering, some disputing, and the thing would be cause for wise comments on TV, in the papers, and on the networks.

But that is how such things used to be settled, quietly, often unheralded, and permanently.
Another letter in the same issue speaks of government trying to solve all our problems and protect us from every conceivable danger and ends like this:
“We, the American people, must at some point in our lives start taking care of our problems all by ourselves.”

For you and me, the Baptized children of God, the answer always lies here. “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.. . . Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord His God.” Psalm 146, 3.5. For “The Lord shall reign forever.” V.10

GPD 10/16/10

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/13/10

It’s an amazing feat, isn’t it. I mean that rescue of trapped miners in Chile. They have been underground for a total of 69 days. The company had bored a rescue hole to let down food and water and feed air to keep them alive. Most are still in good health. All will be medically checked and ministered to. It will take an hour for each rescue. The capsule that rides down weighs nearly 1,000- pounds and is equipped with telephone and lights as well as air.

And the world has watched this, hoping for success.

I wonder several things? Did they, or their families, pray? Was their attention on the Lord who offers us free salvation? Were they wondering ‘what if’ this thing doesn’t work, what happens to me after? Did any of them have eternity in mind at all, and did they KNOW where they might be spending it soon?

Was “The Lord has become my fortress, And my God the rock in whom I take Refuge?” Psalm 94,22, on their mind during the trying days?

Suffice it to say that I am glad they had success, and I do pray that each of those miners will suffer no long-term illness because of this ordeal.

And for us all, it is surely a reminder, again, how really fleeting are the days given us, and how we often do not praise and thank God enough for His constant care and blessing.

May He bless your day, in Christ Jesus, the Risen Lord and Savior.

GPD 10/13/10

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/10/10

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/10/10

Right there is the reason for this Sunday message.

Whenever other time can I date a message with not only one, not just two, but three perfect tens, like so, 10/10/10? Never again in my lifetime.

So, since “The god of this world has blinded the minds of them, which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” 2 Cor 4,4.

And since “wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of those things, though you ought to know them, and be established in the present truth. I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this tabernacle.” 2 Peter 1, 12-14.

Proverbs chapter 3,1-10:

My son, forget not my law; but let thine
Heart keep my commandments.
For length of days, and long life,
And peace shall they add to thee.
Let not mercy and truth forsake thee;
Bind them about they neck,
Write them upon the table of thine heart.
So shall you find favor and understanding
In the sight of God, and man.
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart,
And lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and
He shall direct thy path.
Be not wise in thine own eyes,
Fear the Lord,
And depart from evil.
It shall be health to thy navel,
And marrow to thy bones.
Honor the Lord with thy substance
And with the firstfruits of all thine increase.
So shall thy barns be filled with plenty,
And thy presses shall burst with new wine.

GPD 10/10/10

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/9/10

Front porches served a real purpose in American life. It’s the place for that cool drink of lemonade after pushing the lawnmower around the yard. It was also the place for the neighborhood children to gather for their endless games of summer monopoly. The front porch was the place where the family relaxed after a long summer day. And where neighbors, out for a walk, would stop and chat a moment before going on their way.

There was a fine protocol about that. If the people on the porch invited the neighbor to ‘Come up and set a spell’, they could, otherwise protocol called for them to chat a minute, and then move on.

A front porch invited people to talk, to dream, or to do nothing at all.

Today the front porch is no more. We have patios, and enclose them with a fence, at least 8 feet high, with the lock on the inside. We no longer know our neighbors as we once did. And that is a thing I miss.

What brought all this on is the item in the paper about a house in Missouri City. It is a large house, some 5,000 square feet. Set among other such houses.

But it is unusual in that the upper floor was converted specifically to grow marijuana with a special watering and drainage system and controlled lighting. The Task Force that investigated said they found 850 plants with a value in a years time of some 4.2 million dollars.

What they were doing was illegal, but they did it because there is a ready market for their product.

And the question for each of us might be, “Am I involved in this thing too?” Do I ‘pass by on the other side’ when I might help someone in need. Am I always ready to lend a hand where needed, or do I excuse myself because “I have no time”.

I am saying such things ought to be for us a sort of wake-up call to check the way we live and function in this weary world. Ponder on this word of Jesus.
'Then Jesus said to His disciples,
If anyone desires to come after me,
Let him deny himself,
And take up his cross,
And follow Me,. .
Assuredly, I say to you,
There are some standing
Here who shall not taste of death
Till they see the Son of Man
Coming in His Kingdom.”
Mathew 16, 24.28

And may our gracious Lord bless your day.

GPD 10/9/10

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/7/10

When you land at Busch Intercontinental airport in Houston, you fly over large open spaces. What will delight you is that the airport grows and cuts hay on these acres and sells it at a profit of nearly 200,000 a year. I know that knowing that delights your frugal self, does it not? (Authority getting something right!)

It seems as if an endless stream of words comes out of that sad report from Rutgers University. And the Christian must be asking, “Is there a definite help for this situation?” Let’s go back to Moses. The children of Israel are just finishjjng their 40 years wandering in the wilderness and are on the brink of the Promised Land. So Moses, who will not enter the land himself, speaks words of advice, and God’s wisdom for their ears. This fills the Book of Deuteronomy. Chapter 4 has this, v.2, “Do not add to what I command you, and do not subtract from it”. V.6. “observe them carefully” the nations will hear of this and say, “surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people”. V.6.

And where does this teaching start? In the Home. Read Deuteronomy chapter 6, 3-9, The Shema. “The Lord our God, is One Lord”. Have the words ready for teaching, for discussion, for thinking about. “Write them on the doorframes of your house and on your gates.” V.9 Use every teachable moment to have this Word ready at hand.

If you remember the history of the Reformation, the first Catechism was printed on charts that were hung on the kitchen walls of homes.

The thought behind this is for God’s people to get their culture from God, not from the world.
If I might put Moses speech for today he said, “That land is a mess religiously. They stumble around and don’t know right from wrong. Don’t follow them. Do not be like them. You stick with God’s will and God’s Word that I give you this day”.

The Lord repeats this message again and again, and yet again through the prophets, then Jesus taught it, then the Apostles. It always meant the same thing. The land is a mess, “Do not let the world crowd you into its mold”. As Paul said in Romans chapter 12.

St. Peter teaches, “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.

Jesus called you “The salt of the earth” and “The light of the world”. So teach your children to follow the culture of that Light, not that of TV, or mouthings of strangers, or of some self-seeking person. But follow God’s Word as the True beacon and shining light.

May God bless you as you live as God’s child I this messy world.

GPD 10/7/10

Monday, October 4, 2010

Shade Tree Wisdom 10/4/10

“If you think some praise is due him,
Now’s the time to slip it to him
For he cannot read his tombstone when he’s dead.”

A line from An Irish Proverb by James O’Leary. It’s a bit of wisdom reminding us to speak the good word when we can.

And that’s why I selected this to begin, for the good word is this. If you have ever thought about setting out to walk daily for health, or for exercise, or just for being outdoors, or if someone has suggested it, a doctor, or a friend. Now is the time to start.

Why? The air is bracing and fresh; the morning is pleasant and usually quiet, so conducive to thought or meditation, and any person you meet will give a cheerful greeting, or return your cheerful word, and the breakfast to follow will taste so much better. Different, really, because you have developed a sharpened appetite. So, that explains the beginning above. Simply a pleasant way to begin.

What lies on my mind are questions, troubling problems. I am referring to that troubling story that happened with that Rutgers University student.

A review of the movie about Facebook suggests that this is an invention that really serves no real need, nor does it have a stated purpose. It seems to pander to the dark side of nature.
The action sort of leaves us with a snapshot of the result when nearly a fifth of people under the age of 30 say they have no religion, or religious leaning, or training, nor do they care.

I can say Luther had a word about this when he urged, when dealing with our neighbor, always to “Put the best construction on everything”.

Jesus said this, remember His teaching, The first and greatest commandment is this, ‘thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and the second is like unto it, ‘thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself’.” Matthew 22, 37.38. And then Jesus said, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets”. V.40

Would it have made a difference if these people had this teaching in mind?

There was a time when respecting ones privacy was a matter of manners. We might call it civilization.

So, when others are victimized; when pictures are taken, and displayed, without permission, be outraged; raise the roof, point a finger and yell, no more.

“Be kind to one another, forgiving, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you”.

GPD 10/4/10