Friday, September 30, 2011
The final day of this month, and what is left yet to be done. Well, one never reaches the end for the time to honor and glorify God by the things that we do and say in our daily life.
What makes this often hard is the attitude of the God-haters. Their speech and action toward anything that looks or honors Christianity is hard to understand, until we read the Bible.
The Bible tells us that a rejection of God actually leads to a more hate-filled attitude toward him. St. Paul said it clearly, “Even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind. . .to become haters of God”. Romans l, 28-30. That is the sad result when people turn away from God whose handiwork is so clearly seen, “so that they are without excuse”.
So how to respond to this? St. Paul again supplies correction in his letter to Timothy. ”A servant of the Lord must not quarrel, but be gentle to all, able to teach patiently, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them, repentance, so that they may know the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil. Having been taken captive by him to do his will”. 2 Timothy 2, 24-26.
Thus ends the month, with the Word of God ringing in our ears. We pray He gives us the wisdom and the strength to do it to His glory.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
It was so warm and muggy this morning that the breeze of a passing car felt welcome. Can one imagine – toward the end of September still.
St. Paul mentions a common malady when he speaks of people “having itching ears”. For this is always a very real concern. One of the favorite expressions of former President Reagan was “Trust, but verify”. He was concerned that he knew the real reason for this or that action.
Just that was St. Paul’s concern when he writes to his young co-worker, Timothy. Remember, St. Paul taught the way of salvation was “by grace you are saved and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2,8.9. And it is that what it was about. They want to bring in their own philosophy, their own reasoning, their own plan. The moment we do that we are in trouble.
So this warning, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” 1 Tim. 4,3.4. The trouble comes when we “dote about questions and strife with words, out of which comes envy, strife, railings, and evil surmising.” 1 T.6,4.
You noticed how Jesus dealt with questions? He answered with another question, so there was nothing left for his enemies to debate.
The message, “Thy Word is Truth” is the truth we must live with always. God bless such living.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Cool this morning with just a slight breeze as befitting the first day of fall. It reminds me of nippy air and a bite to the wind, and the end of the summer growing season, for now the harvest is in full swing.
One of the chores for the fall days was gathering the potato crop. We hurried home from school, changed into work clothes, and went out to gather that crop where it lay in long furrows, left there by the potato digger. This machine, horse drawn, dug the potato, shook the earth from them, and left them in long rows to be gathered into the wagon. Long shadows showed night was near, and when the wagon was filled, Dad drove it next to the special window in the basement, so we could send them tumbling into the special cold bin in the basement for storage. That had to be finished before night, because frost was in the offing, and they could not be touched by frost, for that would ruin the crop, and our winter eating.
And that poem by James Whitcomb Riley always springs to mind.
“When the frost is on the punkin and the fodders in the shock,
And you hear the kyouk and gobble of the strutting turkey cock.
Oh, it’s then the time a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest.”
With the coming of Fall in its season the year starts to near its end, and it is time for some ruminating and contemplating about our life, is it still under God’s care, are we still practicing and living our faith, have we grown, and are our lives enriched by deep study, careful thought, living experiences?
We pray, “Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all his benefits.”.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Kind of warm this morning, but no breeze, and nothing to impede the morning walk either, so I did my walk.
A Swedish man, Carl Gustaf Boberg, a pastor, an editor, and a member of the parliament, went for a walk where he was caught in a sudden storm. When it was over, he looked out over the clear bay and heard a church bell in the distance, and the words of “How Great Thou Art” began to take form in his mind. The poem was first published in 1891, was brought over to the US by Dr. Orr of Fuller Theological Seminary after he heard it sung in India. It became popular when George Beverly Shea sang it at a Billy Graham Crusade in London.
Today it is familiar to most Christians. You’ve probably either heard it or sung it in some place.
“Then sings my soul, My Savior, God to Thee,
How great Thou art. How Great Thou art”.
Yet, when we get into some trouble, we forget, and scramble around to find a solution or an end to the problem. When our plans fall apart, and there does not seem to be any solutions, how do we deal with frustration and delay?
Isaiah 26, 3.4. is an anchor for our soul.
“You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on Thee.
Because he trusts in You.
Trust in the Lord forever, for in Him
Is everlasting strength.”
Isn’t that a word to memorize and look to. When troubles come, and they do seem to pop up unexpectedly and from strange places, then turn first to Him and remember what He has promised you. “Lo, I will be with you always, even to the end of the age”. He provides the solution, or supplies the strength to endure. Bless His Holy Name.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Woke this morning to the tune of a gentle rain fall. How pleasant and soothing was the sound.
What brings you comfort?
In a Bible Class one time we were talking about passages that were special to each of us and brought us special comfort. Among them, of course were the favorites, such as Psalm 23, 130, Matthew 6, 25,34. 1 Corinthians 13, Philippians 4 and others.
It brought to mind an article I read in the local paper recently about bee keeping. One man who does it claims it soothes him and gives him a certain feeling of doing something worthwhile with his spare time.
Not only do his bees gather nectar, but they pollinate crops, orchards, fruit bushes, and make honey at the same time.
One of my Pastor neighbors was a bee keeper. He would set the hives into fields whose owners requested them, and he would gather the honey when the hives were brought back to him for the winter. For him, it was a relaxing chore, easy to do, did not require much time, and was relatively relaxing. He boasted that he never was stung.
And it helps keepers understand more clearly how the Lord has provided for everything in His creation.
"So, bless the Lord, O my soul, and all
That is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the lord, O my Soul,
Forget not all His benefit."
Friday, September 16, 2011
The harvest moon is still there, and this morning I was thinking of the Indians who called it that because it was harvest time. Among such harvest was wild rice, an Indian staple. They harvested the rice from canoes, gliding into the rice fields and holding the loaded rice heads over the canoe to thresh them. When the canoe was full, they simply paddled to shore and unloaded. It is late September or early October, the air is crisp and fresh, and slowly, methodically, the rice is harvested. Some is left for the birds, the rest cleaned and stored against the coming winter. And life as they knew it and understood the need went on.
While I was working on this Shade Tree piece someone forwarded an email about the story of the life and death of Jesus, sculpted in metal and set for display on a field near Groom, Texas. Groom is on Highway I-40 some 70 miles east of Amarillo in the Texas panhandle. Which stirred a memory of an old Gospel song
The Old Rugged Cross. A line or two run:
“On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame”.
In a case before the US Supreme Court it was called “A Powerful Christian symbol”. In the first century, St. Paul, writing to Corinth, said that Christ had sent him “to preach the Gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are saved it is the power of God.” 1 Cor. 1, 17-18.
Like the slow harvest by Indian women through the years, so the Cross of Christ is and remains forever true, a symbol of just what had to be done to pay for the sins we daily commit, and for that we are thankful to God. The death on the cross happened by God’s design for the salvation of all who believe it happened for them,
Thursday, September 15, 2011
The full moon is still hanging low in the western sky when I walk. It is warm, but there is a slight stirring of a gentle breeze. So I enjoy it under this what the Indians called ‘corn’ or ‘harvest’ moon. It was so named by the Indians because now corn, squash, beans, pumpkins and wild rice were ready for harvest, and this moon gave them light to work late into the day.
But right now, it hangs over a quiet neighborhood which is not even disturbed by snorting yellow boxes since schedules and routes have been changed. So, the world may be in turmoil – and the news beats at us in every newscast - but right now there is this “peace that passes all understanding”. Not only in the area, but in my heart because Jesus died on the cross and paid for my sins. Paul writes of this as “nailing it to the cross”. That’s where it happened. The death of Christ made the payment that we could not. Now we are Righteous before God.
It almost seems sometimes as if we are living in an angry world. Things that weren’t supposed to happen are happening, and the mess gets deeper and wider as we try to ‘manage’ it with our own plans.
It is just then we need to turn to God’s Word, so rich in promise.
Lamentations is a book of remose, of wailing, of heavy hand on sin. But right in the middle of it this:
“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed.
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning,
Great is Thy faithfulness.
The Lord is my portion, saith my soul;
Therefore will I hope in Him.
The Lord is good to them that wait for him,
To the soul that seeketh him.
It is good that a man should both hope, and quietly wait,
For the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3,22-26
The day will be warm again, and no rain seems near yet, but God is there, as He said. Bless His holy name and walk in His peace.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
I picture St. Paul has a medium-sized man, dressed in a brown travel robe, sandals on his feet, staff in hand, always accompanied with one or two younger men. Maybe there is a small donkey to carry books and parchments. The robe is travel worn and shows much use, stained now with signs of travel, and there are spots that look like dried blood on it. He looks weary, but there is a fire in his brown eyes that compels attention.
Now I see him in Athens in the Acropolis, that famous place where philosophers spend their time gathering, discussing, debating, and always ready “to hear some new thing.” They regard this new comer with some reservation, but willingly give him an audience. So when he starts to speak, he grabs their attention with his first words.” Men of Athens, I observe you are very religious in all respects”. Acts 17,22., “for I even found an altar ‘to the unknown god’.” V.23a.
Then this, “What you therefore ignorantly worship, this I proclaim to you” v.23b. St.Paul then speaks of God as Creator who “gives to each one life with an appointed time”. In short, GOD made us, he said, and we are under His care, so that now “All everywhere should repent.”
Then the conclusion: “Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring that men everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” 17, 30-31. Some sneered, some ignored the speech. Others said, “we want to hear more of this matter”.
This is the way the Gospel message spreads, by people who tell the story. The Holy Ghost works through that word we speak, maybe haltingly, hesitantly, briefly, but the Lord has promised this, “I will be with you, even to the end of the world”.
So we, living in the year 2011, need only check the record to see that the Word does go “into all the world”. The Word that tells us of what God has done through Christ, God’s Son, who came, suffered, died and rose again to open the way to eternal life for all who believe in Him.
So, no matter how you picture St. Paul, remember he was just one of God’s messengers to tell the wonderful story to sin-blind people.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
On the anniversary of 9/11/2001
There will be fine moments of memory, still the mayor of NY has opted not to have a prayer lest “we offend anyone”. That, of course, is always done and excused by the phrase of ‘political correctness’. Such a fine ring to it, honest, sincere, and utterly false.
What ever has happened to doing a thing because it is right, or good, or just simply needed. When did we start living our lives in fear of ”offending anyone”. Why, first of all, is it always the persons who still have principles who are found in the wrong by practicing them? Because this is not “politically correct?
I confess with Psalm 8, as follows:
“O Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth.
Who has set Thy glory above the heavens.
What is man, that Thou art mindful of him,
And the son of man that Thou hast visited him.
O Lord, our Lord,
How excellent is Thy name in all the earth.”
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
So, the walking was wonderful, cool, a slight breeze, and I am glad it was only very slight because that will help contain those fires raging in our State. Many homes already destroyed, acres the size of Connecticut burned. So having no wind is surely helpful to give the fire fighters some respite from their labor. Maybe they can get a handle on fires and contain them.
But there is another fire raging that is fueled by anger, ill-conceived thought, even outright hate. The fire of a tongue out of control. So I read again Luther on the eighth commandment which he describes in his Large Catechism.
He says one of the treasures indispensible to us is our honor and good name, for it is not possible to live honorably among men in public disgrace or contempt.
What leads me to read that section again is the climate we seem to be in here in the United States. A climate where hate and thoughtless comments flow freely, and no one seems to bother any longer to “Put the best construction on everything”. Simply put, that is the advice of Dr. Luther.
And it is advice as Christians we ought to follow regularly. Let’s not get caught up in the fervor of election speech. Let us be honest in our dealing. Let us speak truth with one another. Let us be what St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5,9.12 “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him, for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. . .Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”
So let us say and live always to give God the glory.
Monday, September 5, 2011
The new month brings a nice breeze for the morning walk, but since it is Labor Day there is no school, so no rumbling of the big yellow boxes. Therefore, it was really quiet, and a temptation to walk a bit farther to enjoy the fine day. So I did.
Labor Day became a national holiday in 1894 when Congress passed a bill to establish the first Monday in September as a national holiday, and President Grover Cleveland signed it into law. Recent research supports the report that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, founded it.
History often records the struggle of labor for better working conditions and more ‘say’ in the work force. Such unrest ended in harsh struggle in the auto, the coal, and the iron industries especially. Even today there are often pockets of discord, though much is settled by quiet discussion rather than violence.
But we do live in a world torn apart by the struggle for wealth and power and dominion over others. It is a world that has fallen deeply into the clutches of the enemy, the father of lies, the fallen “prince of this world”. (John 16,11.)
In our own daily lives, we also struggle for ‘control’ so we can work our jobs and satisfy our daily needs and wants. We are tempted to place our trust there. It is good to remember the God who satisfies our wants and cares for our needs, and to pray to Him first.
As sons and daughters of the Heavenly Father, we have nothing to fear. The Lord Jesus Christ sits at the Fathers right hand and governs all things for our sake,
Our Psalm reads, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid.” Psalm 27,1.
Saturday, September 3, 2011
People used to sort of joke about it whenever someone got lost when they had been invited to a summer cottage and took several hours to get there. Mostly because he was just too stubborn to listen when his wife suggested this was their turn.
I thought of the couple who did this and reached that place where they weren’t talking much. So in their driving they passed a pasture where several mules were grazing and he asked, “Relatives of yours?” She replied, “Just by marriage”.
What we are talking about here is pride. When St.Paul is writing in his letter to Ephesus he marvels that the power of the Gospel has broken down “the middle wall of division between them”. The power of the Gospel has united them in the Church. The ancient world was divided into Jew and Gentile, and that wall is broken down by the power of the Gospel.
They were looking at circumcision, but Paul wants them to see the real truth. It is only the Power of the gospel that had united them.
Pride. Look at the Church today, or look at the world, it is just filled with pride which leads to prejudice, and a blindness to see any other viewpoint. Prejudice is one of the greatest curses in life and it is generally grounded in pride. It is an absolutely blinding force.
How does it work? It prevents us from seeing that there really usually are two sides to every issue, and it demeans any opponent, so will not really try to find a solution.
The only solution is for men to see his own sinfulness and his own need before God, and recognize that the Only power that forms the Church is the power of the gospel, nothing else.
And that is what we must remember when pride raises its head, that what we have is all a gift from a gracious God.