Sunday, March 27, 2011

Shade Tree wisdom 3/27/11

The concluding hymn for worship this morning contained this verse.
“My sin, Oh,the bliss of this glorious thought,
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.”

Worship during these days of Lent reminds us how this happens. And that is one reason St. Peter wrote his letters to “God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered. . .who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling of His blood..” 1 Peter 1,1.2.

I try to picture the scene. St. Peter is old, and tired. He writes that “I will soon put it aside as my Lord Jesus Christ had made clear to me.” 2 Peter 1,14. The work of the day is done. He has spent it in prayer, in guiding, and doing all the tasks that are called for as he serves as “The shepherd and bishop of their souls”.

His mind is filled with many things. He recalls the first Pentecost when he had explained the plan of God, and saw 3,000 believers. He remembers Dorcas. Why, the cloak that keeps him warm was a gift from her. And the terrible scene with Ananias and Saphira who had “lied to the Holy Ghost”. Or the scene at the temple when he had no silver or gold to give, but could, and did, say, “In the name of Jesus Christ, rise up and walk”. Acts 3,6.

And Cornelius from Caesarea, the Gentile who sent for Peter and he came, spoke the gospel, and baptized these Gentiles. The Church wanted an explanation, and agreed it was the Lord’s doing, for the Holy Spirit had accompanied the preaching there too, because all now understood that “God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.” Acts 11,18. So John’s teaching became clear. That “God so loved the world, that He sent His Only begotten Son,,. That whosoever believes in Him shall be saved.” John 3,16.

All this is in his mind as he writes, led by the Holy Spirit. We can just feel his heart, filled with hope to strengthen them against the time of their coming testing. So he ends the letter with this plea. “But grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3,18.

I only add to this, read the letters, carefully, stop now and then to meditate, and may the Lord bring wisdom and strength for your faith growth. For then indeed, “It is well, it is well with my soul”.

GPD 3/27/11

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 3/24/11

What do they do with all that dirt?

As you know the Reliant Stadium in Houston for three weeks is home to a Rodeo and livestock show each spring, and this year the same place is also home to the Final Four. So in one week, they transform it from that to this. It takes 35 trucks to haul away 6,000 yards of dirt. Then they add extra seats, set up 17,000 chairs. About 500 workers are busy. 93,000 square feet of carpet is unrolled. The court, made in Idaho Falls, will be installed Friday, and the stadium will be ready for the Final Four.

That’s what’s in the news around here right now. I did notice in passing that two Big Ten Schools reached the final 16 and Wisconsin is one of them.

The world is also watching the struggle in the nation of Japan. Meanwhile, you and I have our own lives to live, and that is what concerns us most each day. And that is why we are using the Lenten Season to grow in faith.

St. Peter mentions trials and tests, both from outside and from inside. One of them he touches on is the animosity of the world at the Christian for no reason except we are Christian. “They think it strange that you don’t join them in their life style”, he writes.

That points up a real test for us, the animosity of the world. Because it does seem as if those who hate God would want to remove every reference of God from our world. For those who hate God are never neutral, they are actively engaged in fighting God. St. Paul explains this sort of behavior, “Even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind. . .being haters of God.” Romans l,28-30. Sad, but true, militant atheists are not neutral, they actively oppose everything of Christ.

Let your Lenten mediations during these Lenten hours think deeply on Paul’s advice to Timothy. “In humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps would grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth” 2 Timothy 2,25.

Knowing the truth of this makes you a stronger Christian, for you must learn to “Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart, and wait for the Lord.”
Psalm 27,14.

Blessings manifold into your life.

GPD 3/24/11

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 3/22/11

Last night the nation stopped to pay tribute to former President George Bush for a lifetime of public service, which started as the youngest navy pilot in WWII. Doing this he was shot down and nearly beheaded by the enemy except an American submarine got there just in time. I read a biography that informed me he kept a desk in the corner of their bedroom where he would sit down nearly every night and write thank you notes to people for any number of things that had happened.

Today’s paper carries an article about a lady in New Braunfels whose goal is to revive the idea of writing personal thank you notes. Her ambition is to write at least one each day this year.

That is a good practice, for it tends to make us focus on things we often overlook, the many things people do for us during each day.

Exactly what we are about doing during the Lenten season, is it not? Taking a look at our lives and what is going on there? St. Peter wrote two letters to his flock, “The Church of God which He did purchase with His own blood.” They were precious to him, and the letters show his concern. In the first he writes about the pressures and testing they will get because of their faith, and in the second he writes about the temptations that will come from “false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you”. 2 Peter 2,1.

So, as the faithful Pastor and Shepherd he is, he says this: “I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think I ought to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon be put aside, as the Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort, that after my departure, you will always be able to remember these things.” 2 Peter 1,12-15.

He then mentions some of the temptations these ’friendly’ teachers will offer. Chief among them was to sneer at the end. “Where is the ‘coming’ He promised, ever since our fathers died, things have gone on since the beginning of creation”. 3,4.
Such stuff sounds so reasonable, and they are our ‘friends’ who tell us this stuff. That is why St. Peter says, “Hang on to the truth you know.”

In these days, look again at the “Truth you know”, use these days to make very sure the Light is still there in all the corners of your life.

May God bless you in His loving care.

GPD 3/22/11

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 3/17/11

Walking was pleasant. St. Patrick’s Day brings limericks to mind, and I won’t bore you with some. Though I did amuse myself on this walk by composing a limerick about this fine day. Well, its better than just daydreaming, isn’t it?

We are still in Lent, have really just begun. It is indeed a fitting time, as has been pointed out, to take a serious look at our spiritual life.

Some questions we might ask. Have I fed the faith daily? Do I look first of all to my Lord for help when I have a problem? Have I read my Bible lately, and carefully listened? Is some light shining on a dusty corner of my life that needs ‘cleaning up’ by repentance and forgiveness?

So many questions. Lent is the time to find answers in Christ.

In this fast-paced, get-ahead world, it’s easy to wear ourselves down, always pressing ahead and moving forward. Then it is best that we find time – or take time is the word – to “come ye aside and rest a while.”

The disciples had been busy doing what Jesus asked them to do. Now He says, “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest awhile, for there were many coming and going and they had no leisure so much as to eat.” Mark 6,31.

Our Lord Jesus often went apart to be with His Father, and so should we. We read after a busy day in the region of the Sea of Galilee He retreated. Matthew tells us that “when He had sent the multitudes away. He went up on the Mountain by to pray. Now when evening was come, He was there alone.” Matthew 14,23.

The Hymn, “Children of the heavenly Father" expresses in verse 4, this thought of comfort.
“Though He giveth and He taketh,
God Hs children ne’er forsaketh,
His the loving purpose solely,
To preserve them pure and holy.”

Meditate on that thought and remember in His loving grace lies our forgiveness because Christ died.

GPD 3/17/11

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 3/13/11

Lent is about
“Ye who think of sin but lightly,
Nor suppose the evil great,
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate
Mark the sacrifice appointed,
See who bears the awful load.
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s anointed,
Son of man and Son of God.” LSB 451,3

When we think of what that says, and realize who paid the price on the
cross for us, we begin to understand how serious God regards sin. In His Holy eyes, sin is not just a bit of ‘Oh. Boys will be boys”, or “they’ll grow out of it” or “its youthful indiscretion”, then smile fondly. No, sin is an offense against the Almighty God because it breaks His Holy commandment.

Alexander Pope gives us some lines to remember when he wrote:
“Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
That to be hated is but to be seen.
But, seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.”
In short, we get used to it. Then it becomes something that we get so used to seeing that we begin to look it as normal behavior. And that is the reason a Season such as Lent can serve to strengthen our faith because it deepens our understanding of the right and the wrong, and we see most clearly just why God had to send His Son Jesus Christ to pay the terrible price our sins

One way to search out the wrong is to ask direct questions. Luther had some suggestions in the Small Catechism when he says one might first consider where we are as husband, wife, son, daughter, worker or whatever. Then “Have I been disobedient, unfaithful, lazy, quarrelsome, hot-tempered, rude. Have I hurt with word or deed, stolen, been negligent, been wasteful, or done other harm”?

Think of this truth. “He (That is, Christ), died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him that died for them and rose again”. 2 Corinthians 5,15.

May your days of Lent serve to make you strong in your faith, believing His Word and so being sure that Christ Jesus died for YOU.

GPD 3/13/11

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 3/8/11

The air was rain washed and pleasant, slightly moist, but then when I was turning toward home, I began to hear that little snick, snick on the shell of my jacket. But it did not pour rain, just a gentle reminder that it was going to be that kind of day. I remained fairly dry.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the 40 days of Lent. This is a season often misunderstood. For example, a cartoon comes to mind. A man behind bars is saying rather plaintively to his cell mate, “The irony is that I am here doing time for crimes being done by the guy whose identity I stole.”

Yes, the season is about sin, but not that we deny ourselves or fast or do something other to make it more real to us. It’s not so much about self-denial as it is about self examination. Understand what the Lord saw, that “the imagination of a man’s heart is evil from his youth”. Gen.8,21.

The prophet Jeremiah repeated that lament. He said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it.” And then he adds this, “I, the Lord, search the heart.” Jeremiah 17, 9.10. So, when Saul as king assumed the duty of the priest and offered sacrifices, Samuel rebuked him sharply when he said, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15,22. This disobedience by king Saul cost him the throne.

And we so need to sharpen our understanding of where we are. St. Paul writes, "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”. Rom.3,23.

So use this season of Lent to remember again just what our salvation cost. Peter writes, “Christ suffered for us, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” 1 Peter 3,18.

I pray the 40 days will help see more deeply and clearly what the cost was. Christ paid it when He suffered and died, and the Lord received the payment in full when Jesus rose from the dead.

In that spirit, I pray for you a blessed Lent.

GPD 3/8/11

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 3/2/11

What a fine morning for the walk. Cool, easy, pleasant, and the big yellow boxes seemed to do their job with muted noise. So just fine, and no wind either, R.

Texas was finally admitted into the union in 1845, so Happy Birthday, Texas, 175 years now.

But Texas did not produce that monster rattlesnake whose picture is making the internet rounds. That is Florida. I wonder just how such a monster escaped for so long without being seen. But somewhere I read that snakes in west Texas often do not rattle, for that is like ringing a dinner bell for the Feral hogs, who like them for lunch. That may be just a rumor so take it as such.

It does bring to mind Satan, who is called “the old evil foe” and pictured as a snake in the garden of Eden. He lurks, and is sneaky, underhanded, devious, and delights in working sort of underground.

St. Jude’s short letter is very fitting for the Church. A sickness is often easy to diagnose because we feel it. But sickness in the Church is often not detected because things seems ‘all right’ for the time being. Our physical illness shows up when we hurt, and we do something quickly. A dangerous, even deadly, virus in our spiritual communities can often go undetected for a long time.

So St. Jude’s brief letter calls for energetic, watchful care. St. Peter's two letters to the church under fire and in stress also calls for vigilance. He reminds them, “Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we have been given a new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven”. That life, Peter reminds them, came at the cost of Christ’s shed blood.

So St. Peter goes on, “In the last days mockers are going to have a heyday, reducing everything to the level of their puny feelings. They’ll mock, whats happened to the promise of His coming. Our ancestors are dead and buried, and everything is going on just as it has been from the first day of creation. Nothing's changed.”

So, “Because the stakes are so high, even though you’re up-to-date on this truth and practice it inside-out, I’m not going to let up for a minute in calling your attention to it. . .I am especially eager to have it all down in black and white, so that, after I die, you’ll have it for ready reference.”

The letter ends with “be on your guard lest you lose your footing and get swept off your feet by these lawless and loose-talking teachers. Grow in grace and understanding of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

The quotations are from The Message, and I am using them because they speak so directly and plainly to us in the life we are living at this very moment. May God bless the hearing and the doing to His glory.

GPD 3/2/11