Saturday, June 30, 2012

Extreme heat, dry grass and no rain

We are in the midst of an extreme hot spell. The past two days it has set a record of 108 and 106 respectively. It looks like the high will be over 100 for the next 4-5 days at least. It is a dry heat which is unusual for the St. Louis (Troy, IL) area. I know there are those who live in the southwest who brag about the dry heat. You can have it. I am used to the miserable heat and humidity of the Midwest and frankly, I prefer it to this intolerable dry heat. I reckon that makes me a true midwestern when I prefet our normal summer to this dry, hot summer weather.

This dry heat burns everything up. No wonder the southwest is a desert. Nothing normal can live in this heat, by normal I mean the stuff that we are used ot in the midest- things like grass, tomato plants, peppers, flowers, etc. We have to water and water just to keep them alive. The heat keeps them from producing like they should. We are anxiously awaiting our first ripe tomato, but this heat is sure keeping them from doing what they are meant to do - produce fruit for us to eat.

And all this got me thinking (imagine that). I started thinking about spiritul life. Our souls are like the plants of the field, the grass of the yard, the tomatos in the garden. They need to be watered with the Living Water of our Lord Jesus Christ. They need to regularly be given that refreshing Word of God to keep them alive and growing, to help them to produce fruit in keeping with repentance.

When we avoid worship and avoid receiving the Lord's Supper as so many people are prone to do today (You don't need to go to church to be a Christian.), what is happening to our souls? Oh, they are like the grass. They grow for a while without being watered. They might even need to be cut once in a while because they get too tall. But when the heat is on, when the devil puts to screws to you and starts to really press you in your faith (sickness, death, loss of job, anger with another person, gossiping, cussing, etc.) what happens? Are you able to withstand such pressure? Can you faith stay alive? Look at the grass. For those of you who are reading this in the Midwest, go look at your yard at this point and tell me what you see. Is is lush, green and growing? Do you just love to walk barefoot through it because it is like a thick carpet of green wonder? Or is it dry and brown? Does it crunch when you walk through it? Do you wonder if it will ever look nice again?

Of course it will. It will rain and it will green up. But let me ask you this, if it only rained 2 times a year, or it only rained once every couple months, what would your grass look like? It would be dry and brown (much like the grass in the desert southwest in the "dry heat"). You wouldn't have much of a yard. If you only water your soul with the Word of God on Christmas and Easter, or once every other month or so, what is the status of your faith? Is it lush, vital and growing? Or is it stagnant and brown? Is it even alive?

I cannot and will not judge you. But I will let God's Word judge the status of your heart. "Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing..." (Hebrews 10:25). "Remember the Sabboth day by keeping it hold." (3rd Commandment) "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." (Acts 2:42)

"Everyone who drinks of this water (earthly water from the well) will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The ater that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:13-14) Jesus gives living water. He gives that in His Word and Sacraments. To deny them, to disdain them, to avoid them, is putting yourself on spiritually dry ground that can and will lead to eternal damnation. Ouch! Did I just say that? Yes I did. If you avoid the Word of God and don't take the Sacrament, you are putting your soul in dire straits. Like grass that will finally die out and blow away if it is never watered (walk through the desert) so it is with your soul. Water of life comes from the Word and Sacraments.

Can you be a Christian and not worship, not drink deeply from the water of life that Jesus gives? Of course you can. But will you? And more than that, why would you want to try to go without the living water when He gives it to you so freely and willingly.

As you take a long drink of a cool glass of water today, when you are dry and thirsty, think about your soul. It needs refreshing too. Hot, dry, weather, burned up grass and no rain. Makes me think about lost souls. What about you?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday ramblings

Was watching the news this morning and it caused me to ponder something. Hillary Clinton was talking about the Egyptian situation, how Mubarik (I don't know how to spell his name) was placed back on the ballot in the elections despite the will of the people. The Egyptian people had rebelled against his regime and wanted him out. Now he is back on the democratic ballot, not by the will of the people but by the will of the government. She was saying how this way wrong. (Understand that I am not claiming to know the ins and outs of what is going on in Egypt. Nor do i have an opinion on what the Egyptians should do or not do. That is up to them, not me or the U.S.A.) She stated that the government should not go against the will of the people.

Then I thought to myself, "Isn't that interesting? Hasn't the government in America gone against the will of the people?" How has it done that you ask. Thanks for asking. I have thought about the issue of same-sex marriage. In California, the voters decided overwhelming to say that marriage is between one man and one woman and to say "no" to same-sex marriage. That vote was declared unconstitutional and was overturned by - wait for it - the government. Gasp! Could it be that the very thing we are saying is wrong to do in Egypt - the government going against the will of the people - is going on right here in the good ole' U.S. of A.? In other states (which I can't think of right now and I don't feel like checking on line to find out), it was decided to stay with traditional, one man and one woman marriage, and the government overturned that and said that the voters didn't have the right to decide such a thing.

I am amazed how the morality of our society has changed so much. What is morally wrong is declared to be morally right. And when you speak out against such moral evils you are called unloving, uncaring and a whole host of other terrible things.

Never is it asked, "What does the Lord say?" In fact, we have done our best to remove the Lord from our society. Is it any wonder then that we are having such problems - moral, economic, etc.? Just as in Israel of years ago (translate that to mean in the Old Testament time, the time of the prophets and the divided kingdom), so it is today. As we turn our backs on the Lord, can we ask Him to bless our nation? "God bless America" we sing. But why would He? We have told Him to butt out of our lives and leave us alone, so why would He then turn around and bless our nation?

Why? Because He is a gracious God, merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love. He doesn't treat us as we treat Him. He sends the rain on the just and the unjust. He gives food to the righteous and the unrighteous (when in reality He is giving food to all the unrighteous because none of us can claim to be righteous). So He will continue to be with us and our nation even when we aren't with Him or we don't want to follow His will.

Thank You God for being You! Please forgive us for turning our back upon You and Your will. Help us, individually and collectively, to turn our hearts from ourselves and our sinful desires to following You and Your perfect will.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Proverbs II

Continuing my thoughts on Proverbs.

Proverbs 16:2 "All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit." How true this is! When you are doing something, it is easy to convince yourself that what you are doing and why you are doing it is pure and holy. "I am just doing what is right." Unfortunately, what we do isn't really that pure. We are guided by our own sinful thought, desires and actions. We want things our way and so we convince ourselves that we are being "holy" and "pure" in our actions. The Lord knows the truth. "He weighs the spirit." What that means is that the Lord knows that our actions don't stem from purity but from self-concern, self-importance and from just blindly doing what we want to do. All of us are guilty in this. Our motives are seldom as pure as we like to say they are.

Proverbs 16:28 "A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends." When a person is dishonest (seeking only what he desires and not the good of others), strife follows closely. How often it seems that strife develops and you don't know where it came from until you meet the person who is dishonest, not being truthful in all that they say or do. Doesn't it just drive you nuts 9it does me) when you walk into a room and see folks whispering and then when they see you, they stop. Nothing good comes from that. Most of the time you should be talking to the person that causes you to stop whispering to the other person and that is why you stop. It is guilt. Instead of separating friends (which dishonesty that leads to the whispering does) you should work hard to follow the will of God and do that which is right. Talk to each other instead of about each other.

Proverbs 17:3 "The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts." The Lord does test our hearts to see how pure they are. He allows things to come into our lives to purify our faith in Him. Take a look at Job and you will see how that works. James talks about this in James 1. Amazing stuff! The fact is that we don't like to have our hearts tested. We want an easy life. The Lord knows better what we need than we do. When testing comes, we turn to the Him and ask for strength and guidance.

Proverbs 17:22 "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Joy comes from the Lord. A crushed spirit comes from the devil. Which one is better? The joyful spirit, of course. Watch people who have been crushed under the weight of pain and suffering or under the mean words that are said by someone they thought they could trust or that cared for them and you will see how true this is. A crushed spirit dries up the bones, the person just can't hardly go through the day. You see the person from across the room and you think "Boy does that person look haggard." That is exactly what this means. A joyful heart is good medicine. May the Lord make your heart joyful today. Be lifted up! The Lord loves you and cares for you. Those that attack you (Satan, the world and your sinful nature) are not stronger than Him! He has already overcome them. May the joy of the Lord be with you.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


I have been reading in the book of Proverbs lately. I just finished reading Ezekiel which was a challenging book to read. Learned a lot - much of it about myself. I also finished the Gospel of Mark and 2 Corinthians this week. So Proverbs has captured my attention for a while now. There are many gems in this book. If one tried to write about them all, it would take a lifetime. If one tried to live them all, it would take multiple lifetimes. What an amazing book. Solomon really was a wise man, wasn't he?

As I read, I highlighted a few verses. I will speak briefly on them.

Proverbs 12:1 "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid." I never equated knowledge with discipline. But there is truth in this. None of us are so smart or so good that we don't need to be disciplined - whether by God or by one who is in authority over us. But for them most part, we don't want discipline. We don't like it when someone points out where we have done wrong. At that moment, we prefer to remain stupid. (I can hear the hue-and-cry at that statement! "How dare he call me stupid?") I call no one stupid. The Word of God points that out easily enough. As we think we know so much that we don't need reproof (or correction) in our lives, it shows how little we know. The Hebrew of "stupid" is that which relates to the cattle of the field. The person who rejects correct is like a beast of the field, not a man/woman of God.

Proverbs 13:5 "The righteous hates falsehood, but the wicked brings shame and disgrace." How true! To be "righteous" is to follow the way and will of God, which takes us far from falsehood. Jesus talks about this same thing in John 8 when he speaks to the Pharisees and tells them that they are following their "father," the devil. Why? Because they do not want the truth that Jesus brings. How true in the world today. Lies are promoted, truth is beaten down. It doesn't matter if what you are saying wrong, if you are loud enough, forceful enough and arrogant enough, then you are accepted. And it does bring shame and disgrace. Look at our county and see the shame and disgrace all around us - all based in the lie that there is no God, there is no absolute, there is no morality, there is nothing more than what you want, when you want it. The righteous should not stand for it. They should speak out.

Proverbs 14:4 "Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox." What? If you want things in life, you need to work for them. They aren't just handed to you. Along with a lush, green, healthy lawn comes the need for a lawnmower. You cannot have the "good" things of life if you don't put in the time and effort that is needed to receive them. Our country today seems to say "You don't need to work for it. Let someone else give it to you." But someone, somewhere needs to have a manger that needs to be cleaned out if you are going to have the bounties of life. Nothing, I mean nothing in this physical world, comes without someone having to work for it. Your manger may be clean, but the person that provided you that "thing" had a dirty manger.

Proverbs 15:1 "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." To go with this one is Proverbs 15:18. "A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention." How true! Amazing how quick we are today to take offense and go on the attack. It is almost the default mode. And look at the outcome - people are shot, fights erupt, lives are ruined, families are torn apart. Congregations are not immune to it either. In fact, it seems that it so easy to have one member attack another member because of a harsh statement that is made or someone has a hot-temper and flies off the handle. Think about that before you speak next time.

All right. That is enough for today. There are many more verses to expound on. So much wisdom that Solomon wants to impart to us. It would serve all of us well to take time to read through the Proverbs and let the Spirit guide us in how we are to think, talk and act.

Friday, June 8, 2012


What do you struggle with? Eating too much? Drinking too much? Alcohol in general? Drugs? Gossip?  Laziness? Frustration? Anger? What is it that causes you to struggle in your daily life? We all face some sort of struggle. We all have those things in our lives that make us just want to throw our hands up in frustration or disgust or whatever other emotion that we come up with.

I face struggles all the time. There are struggles on the personal level as well as struggles on the professional level. (I just ran into one of those struggles. I wanted biscuits and gravy for breakfast but we had no sausage. Why? Because of my health issues we eat turkey sausage/fat free sausage and it is harder to find. Argh! Why? I just wanted sausage gravy.) It is going to be. There is no way around it. And at times, those might just make you wonder about what is going on in your life.

At those times, it is important to remember this: "For we do not wrestle with flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12 ESV) Our daily struggles have spiritual roots. Yes, you might be frustrated with that person at work, but your struggle really isn't against them. It is against those spiritual forces of evil that are seeking to cause dissent and frustration in your place of work. You might be struggling in your relationship but your real struggle is not against your spouse or your family. They are not your enemy. They are the ones that God has given you in your life. The real enemy is the devil, that old snake. He prowls about seeking someone to devour. How can he do that? By causing you to have those struggles with the ones you love and care for. He wants you to feel like they are your enemy and you have to do what you can to destroy them.

Remember that Christ has destroyed your enemy! He has been defeated when Christ suffered and died upon the cross and then rose victorious from the dead! He beat Satan. He crushed the power of the devil and the devilish hordes that seek to come into your life and cause you to have those struggles (which they want you to assign to others and not to them). In your struggles, put on the whole armor of God. Take your stand, not in yourself but in the power of God. Where you are at fault, repent of that, ask for forgiveness from God and from the person that you sinned against, and know that you are forgiven. Where you have been wronged, be gracious and forgiving, just as in Christ, God has forgiven you.

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood. It might seem like it at times, but when you keep the spiritual perspective, you begin to realize that there is a much deeper struggle going on. Will the worldly struggles cease when you come to know this and begin to grow spiritually? No they won't. But it helps to know that the One who is in you is stronger than the one who opposes you.

And remember that we are to be "praying at all times in the Spirit, with all perseverance, making supplications for the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel." (Ephesians 6:18-19 ESV)