Wednesday, June 29, 2011
The walking was humid this morning, no breeze was stirring at all, but I got my time in anyhow. It is still dry and fireworks are strictly forbidden lest a spark catches grass on fire.
“In vain we call old notions fudge,
And bend our conscience to our dealing.
The Ten Commandments will not budge,
And stealing will continue stealing.”
Remember memorizing that? James Russell Lowell wrote these words back in the 1890’s. So disregarding or treating lightly the Word of the Bible is nothing new to our day.
Our day seems to bear out what the Scripture says:
“The wicked freely strut about,
When what is vile is honored among men”. Psalm 122,8.
Our day sees the things of God slighted, ignored or ridiculed.
It brings to my mind what the apostle Paul said when he wrote his letter to the Romans. He began it by speaking of their faith and expressed his desire to visit them to bring the Gospel of which he was not ashamed to them personally.
Paul then speaks of the “wrath of God revealed from heaven against godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness since what may be known of God is clearly seen.” 1,18. Then he speaks of the results of being so disobedient, for the result is that “God gave them over”.(See vv,24,26,28.) It is not that God sends disaster, just that He allows sins to reap its own rewards. We forget when we speak of the wrath of God we are not speaking of human petulance, irritation or vengeful vindictiveness. That is not God’s wrath. God’s wrath refers to his holy anger against any sin. A Holy God cannot abide sin, hence his wrath.
God’s wrath has been obscured by people who speak only of the love of God. The wrath has been obscured by theological and moral blur. The Christian religion has become a journey into a fog and God is dismissed with a smile or a smirk.
Our Lord ended his sermon on the mount with the builders of houses, one on sand, one on a rock which stood in a storm, and said His words were like that. Hear them and obey, stand firm; hear and not do, and disaster strikes.
Lord, give us strength and wisdom to hear Your Truth.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Fires are raging in East Texas and people are being evacuated. Today there is some talk of possible rain, and we surely need rain. A soaking will be helpful, and it is in the Hands of Him who created the world and is in it always. Pray.
History shows there are tipping points, times when events go either one way or another. Athanasius stood at such a point, and because he stood firmly in the faith, we have the expression of what he fought for all his life in the Athanasian Creed. He did not write it, but it is His work that was the impetus for this writing.
Who is this man? And what did he have to fight about?. Athanasius was the bishop of Alexandria for 45 years, about June 326 to May 373. Of these years, he spent 17 years in five exiles ordered by four different Roman Emperors. The fight was doctrine. Arius from Libya said Jesus was born of God, so does not exist from eternity, and his heresy caught on. To Athanasius this was a matter of life and death, salvation was at stake, and he fought for the fact that Jesus is the son of God from eternity. The creed says it, “In majesty coeternal.” “Co-equal_ with God the Father. The Trinity in substance and in unity." And because Athanasius prevailed, we have the Bible teaching truly and clearly given. So we today benefit from battles fought long ago, but fought steadily and firmly in spite of great odds.
Athanasius stood at a tipping point for doctrine, and we recite the creed with thanksgiving for the salvation expressed there. Jesus, the very Son of God, died for the sins of the world.
Monday, June 20, 2011
Yesterday was Trinity Sunday, and most Lutheran Churches recited the Athanasian Creed to emphasize the three-in-one of the Godhead. It is on page 319 in the Lutheran Service Book. Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier, three in one, the Triune God of the Bible.
Yesterday was also Father’s Day. The day when people remember fathers, either as having been a blessing, or not.
Lucy is observing the day by telling Charlie Brown that her father has more credit cards than his, and can shoot better golf, and is a better bowler, and Charlie acknowledges all that. Then he interrupts her tirade. ”Wait a minute, don’t say any more. Just come with me, I want to show you something”. They stand in front of a barber shop and Charlie Brown says, “This is my Dad’s barber shop. He works in there all day long. He has to deal with all kinds of people. Some of them get kind of crabby. But you know what. I can go in here anytime and no matter how busy he is, he’ll always stop and give me a big smile. You know why? Because he likes me, that’s why”. So Lucy says, “Happy Father’s Day, Charlie Brown.”
Seems to me that pretty well describes the kind of Father I pray that you have. Maybe he didn’t pitch the winning game, or have a home run in High School championship game, or always have time for your games. But the Psalmist says, “I will set before my eyes no vile thing. The deeds of evil men I hate, they will not cling to me.” Psalm 101,3.
That kind of Father leads by example, is kind and caring with his always thoughtful advice, is helpful when you have something to work out, is there with wise counsel. A Father who leads you to faith in Jesus Christ, and explains why and how the wisdom of the Bible works in life today.
If such is your Father, then Happy Father’s Day, and be grateful.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
For some reason my attention was drawn to the obituary page of the morning paper. I knew none of those mentioned, ages ranged from 45 to 98, and several just fell asleep, others died after a lengthy illness, all left people who mourn their loss and will miss them.
And the words of Psalm 90 came to mind.
“The length of our years is seventy years, or eighty
If we have the strength. Yet their span is but trouble
And sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.”
And so “teach us to number our days aright,
That we may a heart of wisdom” Ps. 90,10.12.
And I wondered, I have lived beyond that by the grace of God, and I am thankful and remember this, also from the Psalm,
“Even when I am old and gray, do not
Forsake me, O my God,
Till I declare your power to the next generation,
Your might to all who are to come.” Ps. 71,18.
A mailed postal reminds us the hurricane season is upon us and offers to trim trees that may need it so the danger from falling limbs would be lessened.
And that brings to mind St. Peter’s word:
“I think it right, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance” 2 Peter 1,13. So, after he was gone, they might be well versed in the teaching about Christ, their Savior.
And just there, I believe, is the reason the Lord has given me these extra years. Maybe I can speak a word that will throw some light on what now is dark for you. Or a word that strengthens you along the journey you are on and the work that you do. Or some words to comfort you during times of grief and worry.
Yes, there are things that interest me. How will the grandchildren fare? What will happen in this country. Will troubles in the world finally find a solution.
But above all, I know this, and the obit page reminds me again, “I know whom I have believed, and at the latter day I will see Him, for he has told me, 'I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, you may be also'” John 14.
I believe Jesus died for me, and is my Savior. And so I am content.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
In 1777,on June 14th, the Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as the national flag. The original stripes stood for the original thirteen states and the stars represent each state, so now there are 50.
The Flag Code was amended by the 94th Congress on July 7,1976. According to the Code, “During the rendition of the national anthem, when the flag is displayed, all present . . . shall stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. . . When the flag is not displayed, those present should face toward the music and act in the manner they would if the flag were displayed,”
So Happy Flag Day.
It is the blessing of God on this land that allows us to have the freedoms we enjoy, and the blessings "that follow a life rich in doing what lies at hand to do, doing it well, and to the best of our ability.”
May God bless America.
Monday, June 13, 2011
Yesterday was the Sunday of the Pentecost. Pastor called it the Birthday of the Christian Church.
The years, some of them, have been kind, but many have also been hard and distressing and filled with anguish for the Christian Believer in Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord and Savior.
They fulfilled exactly the words of Jesus, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be not dismayed, I have overcome the world.”
Indeed, the history of the church shows exactly that. There were times of nearly explosive growth, as in the first Day 3,000 become Believers, and then “These people have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine”, was the complaint of the Sanhedrin. Acts 5,28.
In their joy of this Good News they simply could not be silent. Paul describes them as so filled with their news that it simply spilled over. This is the way we read His word, “Our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” 1 Thessalonians 1,5. The word St. Paul uses is plethora, a word that suggests a cup filled to brim and overflowing. The picture is of a Christian so filled with the gospel that when he is bumped into, it was not their own reaction or irritation that came out, but the NEWS of the gracious life-giving Son of God. It is the power of the Spirit given by their Lord for them that showed and worked through them to spread the Gospel.
It worked so well that the Sanhedrin complained, “These that have turned the world up-side-down have come here also,” Acts 17,6. Then, as now, the bitterest opposition came for those who thought they “were doing God service” in their actions.
This very Gospel, the news that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died and rose from the dead, is still being told to people who are living in darkness. The Light brightens their lives because it shows them a way out of their plight.
Quietly, often slowly and nearly unnoticed, this Gospel is being spread in the world, and the Lord bless it with results.
That is what Pentecost calls to mind. The Birthday of the Church which still grows, and is blessed. Thank God.
Thursday, June 9, 2011
The song runs
“I’m but a stranger here,
Heaven is my home.”
Meanwhile, I am here, often confused, bewildered, dismayed, or simply have the feeling of being forgotten.
The Psalmist knew that feeling too when he said, “I am a stranger in the earth, Oh, how I need a map.” And our God not only supplied the map, but He is present in my life each moment. I know that is true because he tells me it is. And He shows His presence by sending His Son to suffer and die in my stead. That means that the sin I do, and the sin I am born with, is paid in full. This is, as St. Paul says, “the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9.
The Psalm describes God’s presence when he writes, "he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” Psalm 121 3.4.
So, when such moments come, when we feel all alone, left out, forgotten, we need to recall these promises. Or Jesus saying to His disciples when He gave them their final orders to “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen”. Matthew 28,19-20
So we can “run with patience the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12,lb. Because we are in God’s hands, and “I Know the thoughts that I think toward you, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” Jeremiah 29,11.
So, I may be a stranger here, often beset and troubled by events and disasters, but I am in God’s hand always, and so “It is well with my soul”. And I am thankfully resting in His care.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
“You see, but you don’t observe”.
That is the way Sherlock Holmes used to chide his sidekick, Dr. Watson. He meant to tell him he made no connections. They both saw the same thing, but Holmes noticed what it meant for the problem they were trying to solve.
The Lord Jesus is teaching the same thing in the Gospel of St. Matthew chapter 6 where he says, “Behold the fowls of the air; they sow not, Neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they?” Matt. 6,26. Then He speaks about the beauty of flowers growing in the fields, and suggests that even Solomon could not dress more beautifully than they. V.28.29.
And that is the point of this Shade Tree Wisdom. That we tend to see, but not observe. Just look around to see the beauty the Lord lays before you daily. Right now fields are covered with Indian Paint Brush and Bluebonnets and other beauty, and all we seem to be able to speak about it how hot it is and that we are setting new records daily.
Dr. Watson really tried to emulate his friend’s reasoning, but was always amazed at the result which Holmes could draw from the same picture they had both looked at.
You and I can stop in our busy days to really see the beauty the world is filled with. No, it’s not just disaster and disarray, it is form and beauty and rich and lavish color for our eye to enjoy. Let us take a moment to thank God for the care He lavishes on the world for our eye to see and enjoy daily.
Monday, June 6, 2011
A number of my classmates and I said, like many graduates do, “Let’s keep in touch”. We kept a Round Robin going for 50 years. That may be some kind of record, and if these letters were now available, they would show, I believe, the early Book of Acts being carried out.
Last Thursday was Ascension Day, and that is how the book of Acts begins, with the story of Jesus when He ascended into heaven. The last word to them was, “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in Judea, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth”. Acts 1,8.
When we read this Book of the history of the early Church, we must be overwhelmed by what we read. People are being changed, cowards turn into heroes, sinners are transformed. Fear, greed, and jealousy are expelled by a force something beyond normal human experience.
Our Church today might do well to listen what they were doing. They went throughout their world, and their message was not to proclaim man’s sinfulness, but that the Man Jesus, whom many had known personally, was really God’s own Son. The proof of this was Christ’s Resurrection, a shining fact to which many of them were eye witnesses. The good news was that if they believed this the Holy Spirit was there to change them. Those who believed were “Followers of The Way”.
Often our emphasis is “All have sinned, and come short.” Luke, knowing nothing of man’s depravity, simply says of Cornelius that “he was a devout man, and one that feared God. . .and gave many alms to people, and prayed to God always” 10,2. No less than an angel says, “thy payers and thine alms have come up as a memorial before God,” 10,4.
And Peter, who suddenly sees this, blurts out “Of a truth, I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness is accepted of Him,” 10,34-35.
In this story of the early church, the bitterest enemies of those who knew God would be those who only thought they knew God. And that situation hasn’t changed much.
Read the Book of Acts again, and marvel at the simplicity and undeniable humility of their faith, and the result of it. “These people have turned the world upside-down” was the charge against them.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
We are still dry along the Gulf Coast, but an item in the paper this morning reminds us that Allison dumped 26 inches of rain on some areas around the Gulf in less than twenty four hours. So we do best to let the weather situation in the hands of God who created it all.
In 1998, dissatisfied with the job being done with keeping the Vietnam Memorial Wall clean of bird droppings etc,Jan Scruggs, of the Veteran’s Memorial Fund, took action. He began by giving 37 toothbrushes to visiting vets from Wisconsin and they cleaned the wall. Other organizations, church groups, boy scouts and just volunteers show up at 6:30 Saturday and Sunday each week to scrub the memorial clean of the dust, bird droppings, fingerprints, and wash the walk.
“It’s a show of respect, for they are not just names, they are people who gave their lives. We consider it an honor to keep the memorial pristine”.
All they use is water, some mild detergent, and soft brushes. It takes about an hour.
It is heartening to note such an article in the daily paper. This spirit of volunteerism, doing the thing that I see needs doing without being told, or being paid for it, often is missing in our day of “What’s in it for me”, isn’t it. And that is a sad commentary on our age.