Wednesday, January 26, 2011
We received l.74 inches of rain overnight and through the day Monday, so we are thankful for the much needed moisture. Not gushing rain, just gently and steadily falling drops.
The years bring a certain calm when I find my world in all kinds of turmoil with hatred and sultry language the standard for debate and argument. What debate, when each never waits for the floor, but simply starts to shout, sounding like a bunch of kids arguing and the winner is the one who shouts the loudest. [It reminds me of the speaker who had this note on the margin of his manuscript, “argument weak here, shout like . . .”.]
And another secret for such calm I just discovered to my delight only this morning. When you need to call and make some appointment or something, and the called answers with, “Your call is important to us, will you please hold. All our representatives are busy at the moment, will you please hold.” Well, we have all spent our share of time holding and fuming. So this morning I blurted, “I have so few years left, too few to spend the time sitting here holding a phone. I’m sorry.” and hung up.
What a relief to do that. And guess what? Quickly the phone rang again and there was a live person ready to talk to me.
Well, that’s all just to bring me to what I did want to talk about today. Psalm 37 speaks about that. Luther says of this Psalm, “It is a psalm of comfort that teaches and exhorts us to have patience in the world, and warns us especially against envy. For, “it is vexing and painful to the weak in faith when things go well with the godless and the opposite happens to those who fear God. So take your heart to God and do not allow yourself to be vexed.” And St. Paul says this in his love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13.v.4.5. “Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”
Envy, the begrudging another for what they have. An envy that causes jealousy, that gnaws at our being, that chews away at any joy we might experience. That really destroys any well-being and often causes rifts among family members, tears apart friendships, and destroys the fellowship.
Instead, let’s hear the Psalm.
“Fret not thyself because of evil doers,
Be not envious of wrongdoers.1.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
And He will give you the desires of your heart. 4.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust in Him, and He will act. 5."
Friday, January 21, 2011
Crisp, a slight wind, wonderful for the morning walk, just right for contemplating.
But first, here is a riddle.
:What falls, but doesn’t break,
And what breaks, but doesn’t fall?
Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s inauguration. His speech, at least the general tone, hopeful, optimistic, is remembered with some phrases recalled word for word. One example was this line, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”. And this, he spoke of “A torch being passed to a new generation of Americans, born in this century.”
I look at those words again in 2011 and wonder what has happened to that climate in America. Today I see both left and right tearing down, dissecting, analyzing, deriding, and generally sneering at, or making fun of, this dreamer.
For today we are more used to having a president telling us what we can have, what the government can do for us, how government, like a wise old grandfather, knows always what’s best for us all.
But here he stood on the steps of the Capital in Washington D.C., with snow flurries etching the leaden sky, offering us a dream, and hope, and reminding us what we were as a Country, free, with an obligation to our country.
We stood for something, and were not just so much flotsam in the events of the day, but were needed, even wanted, and had a role to fill, each in his own corner of this world, to make the entire thing strong and viable.
A look at the world and we must ask, “am I part of the problem, or am I praying for a solution?”
Hark to a Phrase from a Hymn.
“Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way, Led us from night to never-ending day, Fill all our lives with love and grace divine, and glory, laud and praise be ever Thine.”
So we pray, “Lord God of hosts, be with us yet, lest we forget, lest we forget." Amen.
Oh yes, “Night falls, day breaks”.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
It was the kind of foggy morning when I picture Holmes shaking Watson awake with ”Hurry, Watson, the game’s afoot”, and going on the fog shrouded moor to untangle the mystery of the Hound of the Baskervilles. So with all thats going on out there and fog pretty dense early on, I did not go for my walk, opting instead for reading the paper in a cozy living room chair and waiting till the fog lifted.
But there is a correction I need to make on yesterday’s Shade Tree Wisdom. The translators Of the KJV worked from 1604 to 16ll. I make this lest my friend suggests again I need an editor.
Just goes to show I am as you are, fallible. And the Bible is not. I regard the Holy Bible as the Word of God, always and ever true and unchanging, infallible. “Thy Word is Truth”. John 17,17.
There may be wiggle room when we discuss angels or the way a local church is run, but when it comes to the Bible, there is no wiggle room at all. Can’t be. Take away that absolute and you open an unpluggable hole in the theological dike.
Any uncertainty always leads to a slippery slope in teaching. It usually begins with “After all, that was a different time”, or “Times do change and we need to change with them” or some such high-sounding phrase spoken in a sincere voice.
First, here is Webster’s definition of infallibility. “Incapable of error. . .not liable to mislead, deceive, or disappoint.”
But that is not true of people. No one is infallible. So how can we know what the truth is? The Early Fathers had a saying, “Let the Scriptures interpret the Scripture.” In other words, look to other instances that teach the same doctrine. It will always lead you to the truth.
Now, what is your favorite scripture? Everyone has them, verses or chapters one reads and studies again. The Psalmist would say we “mine” them to search for the gold. Psalm 119 is filled with such nuggets. Psalm 119,105 is a familiar word, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path”.. And so needed because Psalm 119,19 tells me “I am a stranger in the earth, how I need a map”.
There are treasures. For example Psalm 23, or 1 Corinthians 13 or Ephesians 2, 8-10; Galatians 2,26-21; 3,11.27; 5,1-25; l John 2,1.2. The Gospel in a nutshell – John 3, 16.17. And the famous section on worry and fretting, Matthew 6, 19-36.
Finally, it is the Psalm that tells me my life has been planned from the very beginning by a loving, caring Father in heaven. Psalm 139,14-16. This tells me that the Father cares, and His eye is ever on my life, which he has planned carefully for me till the end if it. Bless His Holy Name.
Monday, January 17, 2011
We had rain yesterday that fell intermittently and stopped during the night. Moisture needed indeed. So the walking this morning was just short of being drizzly. The air was just pleasantly cool and moist, not quite foggy. So all in all, quite nice.
I keep remembering this is the 400th anniversary of the translation we call the King James Version of the Bible, a Bible so familiar to many of us for many years. So filled with passages that mean something to us, or that are so familiar simply because we read or have heard them read and recited often. Even memorized sections that remain in the heart to comfort and give strength in times of stress, trouble, and sorrow.
Many of us remember standing at a graveside and hearing “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that HE shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
and that though after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I
see God, and mine eyes shall behold and not another.” Job 19, 25 – 27.
Or this promise of our Lord.” Jesus said unto her, I am the Resurrection and the Life; he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and he that liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.” John 10, 25.26.
Or this word,
“Let not your heart be troubled, you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, you may be also.” John 14, 1-3
The King James Version translation was begun by 49 scholars commissioned by King James. It was begun in 1604 and ended in 1611. They worked from original Greek and Hebrew, and checked the work of Tyndale who had also translated the Bible into English “so that any plowboy could read it.”
That was also Luther’s intention when he translated the Bible into German. He wanted The Book to be available and understood by any person. By the way, Luther’s work is still the Bible used today.
Through the years, we have seen other translations, usually with the intent of making the Bible clear to the modern reader. So we have the RSV, the NIV, the ESV, the Living Bible, An American Translation, The Message, now just coming out The Jesus Book.
But the main thing is that we use the Bible, because it is the story of salvation. How the Lord prepared the One Way to heaven for this sinful humanity.
Any Pastor rejoices when he sees the seed of the Word take root and flourish in a life under his care. That is why God gave the Book, so we could learn, grow, and draw closer to our Lord daily, and finally, join our Lord and Savior to be “where I am, ye may be also.” May God grant this.
And DO read this Book daily “that ye may grow thereby.”
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
The walking was pleasant. The highlight was when I just was starting, here came a jogger, wearing only running shorts. I said, “Cold?” He replied, “I’m starting to warm up”. So we parted amicably. No, I did not spend my walking time trying to analyze his choice.
It seems we have too much of that today, trying to “lay the blame” or “find the reason behind the action”. The columnist George Will reported on the murder of President McKinley and ended the report by writing that the killer “was executed, not explained”.
“Now,” he writes, “we have explainers”.
A friend once said to me, “Life is not made by the dreams you dream, but by the choices you make.” He is right. St. Paul spoke of this when he said, “Approve the things that are excellent”. Philippians l,l0.
Life isn’t easy. Often it becomes downright upsetting, dreary, dragging from task to task endlessly, till we become weary. Our first energy and enthusiasm wear down, and there seems no end in sight.
The Lord knows this and so He has given us armor for this very battle. In Ephesians chapter 6, 10-18 this armor is described in detail. The reason we need it is because the battle is against an enemy stronger than we. Paul says “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world and against spiritual wickedness in high places.” V.12.
The battle is urgent, it is ongoing, it is always to the finish, and it is desperately urgent that we remain upright. So. Says St. Paul “take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying always in the Spirit”. V.17.18a.
The jogger I mentioned meeting would get used to the temperature, his body adjusted, and he was really comfortable with his choice.
That sort of explains life, doesn’t it? We get used to things, and our first insight becomes dim when it meets different values. So it is really wise to use the Word, which is “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to diving asunder of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”. Heb 4,12.
We need always to sharpen our understanding. The world tends to mislead you with its easy phrase of “get used to it”. No, you ought not “:get used to it” for this weakens your faith. Just think of your mother in the Spring of the year cleaning house. Every corner was cleaned and polished, curtains washed, rugs beaten, floors waxed, and it as all necessary because life using that house brought in dirt, mud, dust, which either got cleaned out, or became, finally, something we got used to, and it lessened our feeling of self.
So, let’s not always ‘explain’, lets get it right by using His WORD.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Since I crossed the line into my ninth decade, I have been doing lots of thinking about many and various things. One always stands out, and St. Paul says it well in Colossians 3, 16.17.10.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual song, singing with grace in your heart to the Lord."
“And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him."
“For you have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.”
I always come back to this truth when I see all the changes that have happened during my lifetime.
Radio was the big thing, and just listening was a marvel. Programs such as The lone Ranger, General Hospital, Private Eye, The Shadow, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Bob Hope, and others were entertaining and sometimes even edifying. But they did call for us to use our imagination to picture what was going on.
And I heard what still stands as the longest laugh ever generated by any program. It was Jack Benny. He was pictured as a real penny pincher, my grand father would say he was “near with the dollar”. In this program he has gone to his vault and there a stickup man puts the pistol to his back and growls, “Your money or your life”. Silence, prolonged silence, finally the man says again, “I said, your money or your life”, Another pause, then Benny says “I’m thinking, I’m thinking”.
Then came the first TV. What a wonder, to actually see the people talking and acting. Reception was often spotty, and they even invented a rooftop antennae which turned with a motor to set it for the best reception. And one had to leave the chair to change stations and adjust the picture.
Now we have tweeters, face book, text messaging, phones that do many things, even send and receive email messages. And experts keep reminding us that our privacy is pretty well gone because what we put on our face book or internet stays forever on the servers, even when we delete it from our machine.
Some of this may be good. For instance, if you have car trouble in Texas and need assistance, there is a phone number on the back of your drivers license that will bring a Trooper to your aid in often less than 3 minutes.
Plus, you have a GPS system that will lead you to any destination you ask it for.
Change and decay, growth and improvement. It brings to mind
“Change and decay in all around I see,
But Thou who changes not, abide with me.”
And I find comfort and peace.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Nice walking this morning, I planned it so I could avoid the snorting boxes running about on school day mornings. So it was nice walking out this morning.
And today the church observes Epiphany. The day we remember Jesus being revealed to the Gentiles, with the visit of the wise men from the East. Three or fifteen, the number is not given in the record. I believe the number comes from the fact that there were three gifts mentioned in the Matthew Record.
This is also the end of the twelve days of Christmas, which start the evening of December 25 and run to this morning.
I mention this season and the events because it really does introduce Jesus as Savior of the world, all nations and people under the sun are included, and that is our gift from God. Free salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.
St. John, in his first letter, explains it. “And He (Jesus Christ, the Righteous), is the propitiation for our sins, but not for ours only, but also for the sin of the whole world.” 1 John 2,2.
A long time ago when I was receiving instruction for confirmation, we were discussing judgment, and one student asked, what would happen then. I remember pastor leaned back in his chair and said, “Johnny, when we stand before the judgment seat of God, there is an arm that comes around our shoulder and we will hear a quiet voice say, “Father, I died for this one”. That picture has stuck in my mind, because it says I stand righteous before this Judgment seat because of Jesus Christ. I hope it brings you comfort too.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Rained during the night, so the air was washed and pleasant for the walk this morning. By the way, a new study shows that walking benefits waistline and memory, because it increases blood flow to the brain, which means important nutrients are distributed to it. Lead author of the study, Pittsburgh U professor Kirk Erikson, said “any amount you do will help”.
The year’s beginning usually brings with it resolutions for change. One BLOG correspondent suggests that we take this by small steps, set easily managed goals, instead of trying to do everything at once. He’s right, of course.
There is this standing in the way, and it is always there. After the flood, God sent the rainbow as a sign there would never again be such a worldwide flood. But God also said of man, that “every imagination of a man’s heart is only evil continually” Genesis 8,21. The prophet Jeremiah repeated that when he said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it? Jeremiah 17,9.
St. Paul speaks of this condition and the reason for it. He writes, “In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, which is the image of God, would shine upon them”. 2 Corinthians 4,4.
Jeremiah expresses a sense of amazement at this as something one can hardly understand. Not just that some of us have a problem of being honest with themselves, it is that every person is in that condition.
New Year’s Eve revelers were enjoying midnight fireworks when they noticed something else than sparks raining down. Thousands of red-winged blackbirds fell on the town of 5,000 northeast of Little Rock. Scientists are seeking answers for these deaths.
So, how can this bedraggled person, this lost person, this sinner, find a way out?
Is it by deciding to start being a better person, each day adding a bit to his niceness? That might be helpful in getting along with others, but it is not enough before God “Who sees us”.
Before God we stand condemned, but Jeremiah also says, “I, the Lord, search the heart. I test the mind”. This God who knows us offers us a way out. Because His Son, Jesus Christ, came in human flesh and took our sins on Himself, he now tells us, “I will remember your sin no more.” For “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103,21.
In short, God forgives us and declares us righteous and holy because Jesus died for us. That is the good news I remember when my own resolves fall flat. Thank his Holy Name.
Saturday, January 1, 2011
1/1/11 A Happy New Year
And who could resist writing such a date? All ones. Maybe it is a prelude of blessings to come.
New Year’s Resolutions is really about setting goals, isn’t it? We want to get more done, have less mess in the office, eat less, lose weight, gain wait, or whatever. Eat more healthy meals.
So let me tell you a story about goal-setting (and achieving them).
Start by picturing a football field, excluding the end zones, it measures about an acre according to my wise informant. Now see that field covered with rows of new plants that look a lot like just seeded radishes growing in your home garden. That is what an acre of newly seeded sugar beets look like. A fine sight, an encouraging thing to behold, a success.
But you’re about 12, and it will be your job for the next days to crawl along each of those rows and thin those growing plants till there is only one plant left in every 14 inches. Your father and mother are walking along, cutting out plants till only a small bunch is left, and your job is to pluck every one and leave one standing? Why, those plants will grow into large sugar beets, and they simply need the space to grow as big as they should in order to be productive as sugar beets.
The job, hands and knees stuff, is tiring, and boring. All you can see is endless rows needing attention. Just as boring as your joining a club and running on the treadmill or lifting weights. About 90 per cent of such health club memberships lapse simply because of boredom, the end is out of sight, and the goal is not reached.
But this goal is because it is a matter of taxes.
Finally the job is done, the plants grow, and in the fall are harvested, and then trucked to the plant to be processed. It turns out to be a nice crop, and here comes the payoff for the whole process, the goal. You no longer remember the work, the endless work done back in June.
The year ends, and the new year brings the tax statement for the year, and lo and behold, usually the same mail brings a check for those sugar beets, and what do you know, one about balances the other. So the goal was to be able to pay the farm taxes for that year, and the goal is met.
Father in heaven, we pray thy blessing on the year we are entering. Grant what we need, not just what we think we need, and strengthen our faith in Jesus, the Savior from our sins. In His Name, we pray this, Father in heaven.