Saturday, May 28, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 5/28/11

The season of graduations is upon us, and we are offered on TV snatches of speeches delivered to graduates. These usually have a heavy emphasis on YOU, do this expect that, or some other bromide.

Then the graduates are given the news that the job market is not really in their favor today, so they might have to look some time, or it might be wise to go on to graduate study.

Then we read that a committee had asked a Pastor who was scheduled to offer the prayer at a memorial service at a National Cemetery to give them a copy beforehand so they could edit it to make it “more general”. A judge shot that request down this time, citing freedom of speech.

Then, sadly, we read of accidents after graduation parties resulting in tragic deaths.

And we wonder why there can be such a mess in what we regard as a serene and quiet atmosphere.

A good place to look for answers for it all is the Bible. St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesian Church, speaks of mankind as being “Dead in trespasses and sins”. And explains that statement.

This letter, as all the letters, is teaching and application. What God did, and what it means for the Christian life. And St. Paul makes it very clear that it is all God’s doing. Man is just the recipient. God does the work through the Holy Ghost. Ephesians l, 4-7. He has done what in His kindness He planned to do. Before He made the world, He who loved us appointed us to be made His sons by Jesus Christ. In Him He choose us to be holy and blameless before Him. In order to praise the glory of the love He gave us in His dear Son, who bought us with His blood to forgive our sins and set us free.

Without that, we were “dead”, “in time past you walked according to the course of the world”. What a statement, and what does it mean “The World?” In the Bible it means an outlook apart from God. It does not mean the physical world, but a mentality, an outlook, apart from God. God is shut out. Life is planned without God. That is the world. The world, as Paul says, that is ruled by “The prince of this world”.

And once that becomes clear, it explains people’s behavior, for it is not controlled by the Holy Spirit, but by the flesh. Romans chapter 12 calls on Christians to “be ye transformed”.

The Letter gives us this, “You has he made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins”. You are led by the Holy Spirit, you think differently, your outlook on life changes, you become more and more “like Him” who died and rose again to give you life. And that makes all the difference.

Thank God for His care and love for us.

GPD 5/28/11

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 5/24/11

Kind of strange, isn’t it? Here I am taking my morning walk. The sky is bright and air is cool, the grumbling buses are on time on their usual morning run, birds are singing cheerfully, the day promises to be filled with sunshine and easy summer weather. All seems serene. Till I pick up the morning paper and read of the disaster in Joplin, waters still rising along the Mississippi, the mid-East is still in unrest, and the president’s flight plans have been changed slightly because of a volcano in Iceland.

And the opening lines of the Sunday Choir Anthem strikes me.
It reads,

“Though mountains slide into the sea,
And waters rush where fields should be.
Though monuments and nations fall,
Your holy city stands through all.
When nothing seems to stay the same,
You teach us your eternal name.
I am forever Who I am,
Above you, beneath you, around you and within you.
Be still, and know that I am God.”
[I Am Forever Who I Am – Richard W Wiegman/Kurt E. vonKmapen]

Most of the time, our lives run along a track we know well, are familiar with, and can handle. It’s our life, after all.

It’s when things come along and interrupt the life, as the events I mentioned in the first paragraph, that life gets filled with stress, with fears of the unknown, and anxieties and worries. Unless we have a steady anchor, a touchstone, it can become hard.

And it is just for such times that the Christian does have an anchor. He hears His Lord and God, Jesus Christ, say to him, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you. Not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14,27.

Jesus speaks to you, let the Word and the Promise bring peace when troubles come.

GPD 5/24/11

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 5/21/11

Right now it’s raining in Dallas, and my informant says it is supposed to rain for the next several days. I pray it comes down this way too. We are dry in Texas.

Farmers in eastern China had been jumping into planting watermelons because of the sharp rise in its price. Often first time growers, and not familiar with chemicals, had been overusing some growth chemicals, that, with much rain, led to their watermelons bursting in the field. About 20 farmers were affected, loosing some 115 acres of melon. The report indicates how farmers are abusing certain growth chemicals which Chinese regulations do not forbid. Many farmers reported chopping up the fruit and feeding it to hogs and fish.

The report caught my eye because it illustrates just how so many treat religion. The Apostle John wrote his Gospel to show that “Jesus Christ is the Son of God” John 20,31. So John writes this:

“And the WORD became flesh and dwelt among us,
And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-
Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
John bore witness of Him and cried out saying,
'This was He of whom I said, He who comes after me
Is preferred before me, because He was before Me.
And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.
For the Law was given through Moses,
but grace and truth Came by Jesus Christ.
No one has seen God at any time.
The Only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father,
he has declared Him.” John 1, 14-18.

The law of Moses demanded daily sacrifice for sins. Hebrews describes this, those high priests daily needed “to offer up sacrifice, first for their own sins, and then for the people’s, for this He did once, when He offered up Himself. That is why John cries out, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.” John 1,29.

It’s all done. We are saved by “grace are ye saved, and that not of yourselves, it is a GIFT of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2,8.

Those Chinese farmers forgot the bountiful hand of God in nature, and wanted to quicken harvest, make it bigger, and have larger profits. So they lost everything.

Which ends my thought. Many religions insist on “what must I DO?”, and so lose the salvation offered freely by the death and rising again of Jesus Christ. Believers hear the welcome words, “I remember their sin no more”. Join them, know Jesus is “the propitiation for our sins”.

GPD 5/21/11

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 5/17/11

Cool enough for a light jacket, and this morning I watched as two of those big yellow boxes met on our quiet street, and they each needed all the street they could use to pass by. Outside of that, nice walking on this nice morning with birds busily singing.

Lots of news, besides the waters flooding the midsection along the Mississippi River. We pray for those who have to leave whatever they’d accumulated to waters, hoping there will be something left when life returns to normal.

Other news is that The Woodlands will host an Iron Man competition starting Saturday morning with a 2.4 mile swim in Lake Woodlands, then a 112 mile bike ride, which is followed by a 26.2 mile run. There are some 2800 entrants from all over, so hotels and venues here will be busy. No major streets will be closed and city workers will be on hand to keep traffic moving.

Then Drayton McClane sold the Houston Astros for 680 million to a group of investors. He was the owner for 17 years and saw some good years and some down years also. Among highlights for him was to have two super stars, Biggio and Bagwell, play their entire career with this team.

And the government has reached its debt ceiling again. I really believe the politicians are finally getting the message and are trying to bring the debt down. [As an aside, I think if some housewives who know how to live with a strict budget were in charge the debt would not be what it is, for they would insist that politicians would also be paying what they proposed.]

Here are the words of Agur, the son of Jakeh:

“Every word of God is pure; He is a shield
Unto them that put their trust in Him.
Two things have I required of Thee; deny them
Not before I die.
Remove far from me vanity and lies; give me
Neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food
Convenient for me.
Lest I be full and deny Thee and say, Who is the Lord?
Or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of
My God in vain.” Proverbs 30, 6-9

GPD 5/17/11

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 5/11/11

The news is full of flood pictures. It’s a picture to sadden the heart.

Here is another. It was really ugly, the scene I am about to describe. Jesus had come to the Temple early and was teaching many, when the quiet class was rudely interrupted by Scribes and Pharisees shouting for attention, and dragging along a woman, whom they held by the arms and roughly dragged and pushed along till they got her thrown at Jesus’ feet.

Their claim, “Master, this woman was taken in adultery, In the very act. Now, Moses in the law commanded that such should be stoned. What do you say?” John 8, 4-5. John explains, “This they said, tempting Him, that they might have to accuse Him”. V.6 A trap for Jesus.

Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground, as though He heard them not.” V.6. Interesting that this is the only place where the Bible tells us He wrote something, and we don’t know what He was writing. Was it things like ‘extortioner’, or 'thief’, or 'liar’. Or even a dishonest act?

They were intense in their questioning, so after looking at them, He said, “The one who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” He lifted the entire thing to a higher court. Then He wrote some more. As they watched that finger move, they, one by one, dropped the stones they held ready, and quietly drew away, shuffling into the crowds till they are lost in the multitudes, till the woman lay there alone.

The lesson Jesus taught is only the guiltless have a right to judge. “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged, forgive, and you shall be forgiven” Luke 6,37.

Then He turned to the woman and asked her directly, “Where are those thine accusers, has no man condemned thee.” John 8,10. She answers with a sob, “No one, Lord.” That is all she says. We don’t know her name, where she was from, or really anything about her. But we do know she was changed. She offers no excuse. She has been accused, convicted, judged, but not condemned. She has been forgiven. And her head is up, she is different. Forgiven.

Remember always that God is willing to forgive sinners, and we are all sinners. That is the burden Jesus lifted from us when He died on the cross, for He paid it all, so we can be declared righteous and holy. Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.

Therefore, “be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Eph. 4,32

How can we be sure? Jesus said so. But “If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father in heaven forgive you trespasses.” Matthew 6,15. Blunt words, honest truths; not sentimental. So for peace in your heart, be forgiving. “We pray, Forgive us our sins, AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO SIN AGAINST
US”. May The Holy Spirit teach us so to do.

GPD 5/11/11

Sunday, May 8, 2011

On Mother’s Day 2011

It was a mother who carefully packed her baby boy into a crude, probably home-made, Ark of bullrushes and slid the contraption among the reeds of the Nile. The same mother who then raised him for a princess, meanwhile teaching him the truths he then grew up with, about the God in heaven.

So today we remember mothers.

Do we recount the many times when she taught us, or the times we rebelled, and she denied herself that needed new dress because you simply had to have that pair of jeans, (The same pair that hung in the back of the closet and was hardly ever worn).

Do we recall the times she sat with us when we had a fever, and got up during the night to see to our comfort, to comfort the whiny child, to ease the pain with a soothing, cool hand, and her calming presence.

Or how about when she said, “Because I said so” and we forgot she spoke from years of experience.

Or when she stood by, wanting to speak, but allowing us to learn our own lessons because we were simply too mule-headed to learn in any other way.

My friend, thank God for such a mother, who taught you, cherished you, cried with you, rejoiced with you, and prayed for you, as she does still, that her child, a Child of God by Holy Baptism, will grow into the person you are now, giving God the glory and the thanks for this Gift, Your Christian Mother.

GPD 5/8/11

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 5/5/11

“Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth;
Keep the door of my lips”. Ps. 141,3.

The Message translates “Post a guard at my mouth, Lord, Set a watch at the door of my lips.”

The commandment reads: “You shall not give false testimony against thy neighbor” and explains it means “to put the best construction on everything”.

Some of the same men who crafted the Constitution also helped craft the constitution of Virginia, and in that they had this sentence, “No free government, nor the blessings of freedom, can be preserved. . .but by frequent recurrence of the fundamental principles.”

The first principle ought to be listening when the psalmist says, “Careless talk may ruin everything.” Ps. 13,3.

Ever hear so many different opinions about the Bin Laden thing? Seems everybody has an opinion, and wants to state it. Some of these are careful, well-thought-out and filled with sense. But so many are just strident expressions that need to be shouted on any media on which they can get a hearing.

I offer this prayer for such times.
“O Lord, in these tumultuous times,
Preserve me from the tyranny of words,
And tune my ear to Thy Word,
I pray this In Jesus’ blessed name.

GPD 5/5/11

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 5/4/11

A bit on the cool side this morning. My friendly dog joined me for a bit and I noticed he was wearing his fur coat, so my jacket did not seem out of place. He left after a short time and went back to his warm place.

Yesterday I had to get an item from the Home Depot. I rarely go to these places. They are huge. So I asked the clerk when I got there where I would find my item. She called an older worker and asked him, and he told me, ‘Down this aisle and it’s at the far end”. I said, “Why is it that whenever I go to these places it’s always at the far end?”

He grinned and said, “It’s the law.”

I said, “What?”

“The law of the canny retailer”, he said. ”They put such items at the far end so you get a chance to walk past much other stuff to buy. Like milk and bread at the grocery store.”

I know that law, as you do too. BUT I also have a law, it’s “The law of the prudent shopper.”

“What’s that”, you ask. Why, never go to any store without a list. And never buy stuff not on that list. That’s just common sense. And it is the secret of successful living.

Have a plan and use it faithfully. Use the plan to guide and direct you, help you make decisions in life, help find your way though the problems that rise in your way at work and at living.

That, by he way, is God’s way. When the children of Israel were about to get to their promised land after 40 years of wilderness travel, Moses gave them words from God to live by. We read in Exodus 24,3, “And Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord, and all the judgments, and all the people answered with one voice and said, 'All the words that the Lord has said we will do'.” In verse 7 they repeated the promise and added, “and be obedient”.

“I am a stranger in the earth, Oh, how I need a map”, and the Lord supplies that map. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” Psalm 119,105, (See Deuteronomy 4,2.Prov.30,6. Rev. 22,19.) That is the secret, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” 2 Tim. 1,12. May God bless the keeper of the list.

GPD 5/4/11

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Shade Tree Wisdom 5/1/11

The estimate is that more than 2 billion people watched the wedding last Friday. Everything seemed to go well. Some 5,000 police were on duty, and the crowds were in a happy mood. Everything was taken care of. There even were grooms, dressed inconspicuously in long brown coats, to sweep up any horse droppings. Neat touch.

So the party is leaving the cathedral and the crowd is out front, cheering and being happy. Meanwhile, one person, dressed in a black robe, probably had some part of the service, is wending his way homeward along the side of the cathedral. Nobody is around, so he turns a hand spring, then another. And the camera catches him in the act. In that gesture we see the relief that it is all over and everything went fine. The person is happy. He shows his exuberance with that handspring.

No, I never did that after a wedding, though I do know just the feeling of a job well and properly done with no unexpected glitches. And everything turned out as planned.

That’s the sort of feeling every student has when he turns his final paper and completed project in on time, and finishes the last exam for the year. The feeling of “I’m finished, and I did the best I could”. That feeling of satisfaction, of a job well done, a planned task taken care of successfully.

For us Christians, Good Friday offered such a feeling. When our Lord Jesus, on the cross, cries out “It is finished”, and then He “bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.”

That means we can and do now say to one another “Peace be with you” For “He is our peace”. For by His dying He won for us our salvation since He paid the price our sins cost.

We rejoice, therefore, just a much as that functionary who turned his handsprings. For we can, and do, believe and say, “I am God’s child by Holy Baptism.” That is God’s Easter gift for you and me.

GPD 5/1/11