Friday, August 31, 2012

Waiting for Isaac

It is Friday morning, August 31, 2012. Not a significant date to most people. Really not all that significant to me. Except that I sit here this morning, looking out the window and ask myself, "When will Isaac get here? And when it does, what will it be like for us? Will we have a lot of rain? Or will it fizzle out and give us a few brief showers and then move on?" In case you don't know, Isaac was the category 1 hurricane that just came ashore at New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, 7 years after Katrina came with a strong storm surge that broke through the levees and caused significant flooding, loss of life and damage to billions of dollars worth of property. Anxiety ran high as Isaac slowly pushed ashore, dumped bunches of rain and then continued on its path. But the levees held, some people had to be rescued even though evacuation was mandatory (which could be a whole different blog), and the area breathed a soggy sigh of relief.

But now, sitting here in southern Illinois, they are telling us that Isaac is going to move up through central Missouri and as such, we will be on the right-hand side or the eastern side of the low pressure, which means we could get a a whole bunch of rain. The forecast was such that there were high schools that rescheduled their sacred football games from Friday night to (gasp) Thursday night so that they would be able to play and not have to worry about the large amount of rain we are supposed to receive.

Where did this lead me? To the Word of God, to an event that had a worldwide impact - to Genesis 7. It says, "And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood." (Genesis 7:7 ESV) As they went into the ark, I often imagined that it was already dripping rain. That the skies were growing dark and forbidding. That lightning was flashing all around. The ground was already getting muddy and Noah was hurrying the animals into the ark with , "Come on, hurry up. We don't want to get wet now, do we? Let's move, the water is already rising and we need to get everyone in."  But no, that isn't what happened. We are told, "And after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth." (Genesis 7:10 ESV)

Can you imagine? I sit here waiting for the rain of Isaac to begin. I am watching the skies, seeing the clouds coming. I get online to check the radar to see how close the rain might be at this time. I have all these things at my finger tips but I must still wait for the Lord to sent the rain. Noah didn't have all that. Sitting in the ark with his family and all those critters, they waited. The Lord had shut them in, sealed up the door, made it impossible for them to leave. And they waited. (In vs. 11 it states, "on the very same day Noah and his sons...entered the ark..." which makes me wonder if my musings are wrong. But I am going with them anyway.)

If they waited 7 days for the rains to get going and the waters to begin to rise, can you imagine what it was like? Mrs. Noah says to her husband, "Where is this rain you said was coming?" Shem mutters, "All this work for nothing. What is wrong with dad anyway?" Ham muses, "My friends already think my dad's crazy. What are they going to think now as they stand outside this big ol' boat and laugh at us?" Noah himself might have thought, "Hey God? Where is this water you were talking about?" The first day wouldn't be so bad. But day 2, then 3 and day 4, oh my! How impossible it must have been to wait for the rains and the flood waters. Day 5 and 6 - ugh! I can't imagine. Then finally the 7th day comes. And the rains come. The deep breaks forth with its waters. The heavens open up. And water comes in buckets and buckets. Soon the ark shifts on its blocks. And then...the rest is history.

Waiting for the Lord to fulfill His word. It is a hard thing to do. I find waiting for Isaac to be difficult. Someone who is ill finds it even more challenging to wait for the Lord to bring healing or relief from the suffering. Someone looking for job finds it hard to listen to the promise that the Lord will take care of them. The person whose family life is in shambles finds it almost impossible to listen to the word that the Lord will help him work through the seemingly impossible time. is difficult at best, impossible at worst.

Waiting for the Lord takes faith that He will fulfill His word. It challenges each of us to trust that when the Lord gives a promise, it will be fulfilled. When the Lord speaks it will be so. The timing of it is in His time and not our time. Isaac is coming. I have been told that by the weathermen and the radar. So I believe it. The Lord is my Rock and my Salvation. The Lord tells me He is with me every day. He promises His love, His grace, His mercy, His power, and His presence. That is more sure, more certain, more true than any weather forecast.

I have learned to trust in the word of the Lord (once again!) as I wait for Isaac. Noah teaches that to me. The Flood teaches that to me. The faith which the Holy Spirit gives to me, teaches that to me. Now the challenge is to hold onto it!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Where can we turn?

I was reading about Lance Armstrong this morning. The issue of doping to win has been haunting him for a while. Thursday he decided he wasn't going to fight any longer. As he put it, "I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair," So he quit fighting. I am not going to address the issue of doping (which is wrong) or Lance Armstrong's innocence/guilt. But what struck me was this paragraph (taken from Lance Carpenter's report on Yahoo Sports this morning):

"In a matter of months we have learned that college football’s winningest coach enabled a pedophile, the MVP of baseball's All-Star Game used testosterone and cycling's biggest star chose to no longer hold back the mountain of doping allegations against him. It's a sad few weeks when Joe Paterno's statue goes into storage and Melky Cabrara disappears from the pennant race and Lance Armstrong says "no mas." Suddenly, nothing seems sacred anymore."

Suddenly nothing seems sacred anymore. That shouldn't surprise you - it didn't me. We live in a world that is filled with fallen human beings. When we place any one of them on a pedestal and hold them up as the hope of the world, they will soon disappoint. It won't be long before they will fall from the pedestal upon which they have been placed - all because they are frail, fallen, sinful humans who disappoint time and again. To pin our hopes of the goodness of mankind on Lance Armstrong because he was a 7 time winner of the Tour de France and had beaten cancer in his life, is to set up a false sense of hope in mankind. Lance is a sinner. He isn't perfect. He will give in to the pressures of temptation.

But then again, so will you and I. Fallen people that we are, we try to live the "good" life. We do our best to do what is "right." In school our teachers show the children how they are to live, only to fall short themselves of living that way. We are "Baptized to Serve" and yet we fail to serve. No matter how hard we try the words of Psalm 14 come back at us: "They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one." (Psalm 14:3 ESV) Our teachers will disappoint us. Our students will disappoint us. We will disappoint ourselves. We are fallen creatures in a fallen world. Nothing seems sacred anymore.

Except - this is the great news that we have! Except there is One that will never disappoint. There is One who will never fail us. There is One who is perfect. That One is none other than Jesus Christ! Rejoice! We are not left alone in our failures. The heavenly Father sent His one and only Son into this world to be our Savior. (John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.") We have One that we can follow in our lives, One who has not fallen short or fallen into sin. One who was not born into sin like you and me. I was reading in the book of Hebrews and was amazed once again at the wonders of Jesus as the great high priest who did not have to offer sacrifices for Himself. Instead, He offered Himself as the once for all sacrifice upon the cross. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8 ESV) Powerful words.

Where can we turn? Not to Lance Armstrong. Not to our teachers. Not to this pastor. We can turn to Jesus. He is still sacred. He will not be found to be doping. Nor will He be found to be a fraud (though the world continues to try to prove He was a fraud - to no avail).

I end with the word of the writer of Hebrews: "Now may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working is us that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen." (Hebrews 13:20-21 ESV)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Reflecting on the beginning of school

School opened last Wednesday (as I write this, it is Monday evening). It was nice to see the children returning to school. The building had been quiet for too long. When school ended last May, I rejoiced! It was time for the school year to be over. But then, as the summer progressed through the weeks, I began to long for the children to be back. With Vacation Bible School during the 3rd week of June, I had a taste of being around the children again. Their vitality, their joy, their energy - and I wasn't quite ready for school to begin. I still needed to spend the time growing in my faith, enjoying the quiet of the building and the peace of what the summer schedule brings.

But then August arrived. After a quick, brief trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (if you have never been there or have never seen Lake Superior, I would encourage you to make the trip up there to enjoy the wonders that the Lord has made), I came to realize, it was time. It was time!

Time for the children to come back into the building. Time to enjoy their energy. Time to be involved in their daily life again. Time to spend time with the school staff (I missed the regular contact with each of our teachers). Time to have that part of the ministry return.

What you need to understand is that while the students were off school, the ministry of the congregation continued on. I rejoiced that I was given the opportunity to preach each week (3 times!), lead Bible study, call on the members, offer comfort and strength to the hurting, proclaiming the wonderful message of the Gospel to each and every one that I was in contact with - for that is what my summer entailed. So the summer was still busy. The ministry of the congregation was extremely vital and growing through out the summer months. St. Paul's Lutheran Church has been so blessed!

And here they were - the children. They arrived with bright, shiny faces. They were excited to be back at school. I was also excited to see them back. As I watched them, I thanked God for each and every child that came into our school. I prayed for each child. I thanked God for each of our teachers, praying for God to guide them and strengthen them as they began this new school year.

I would encourage each one of you to spend time in prayer as well. Pray for the teachers. Pray for the students. Pray for the school. Pray for the families of our school. Pray for the School Board. And don't stop praying for all these people. Day after day, week after week continue to lift up the school in your prayers. And I will continue to pray for you!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A New Day Dawns

I sit here and look at the sun. It is just peeking over the tops of the houses and trees that can be seen outside my front room windows. It shines right into the living room and dining room - I sit in the dining room. As it slowly lifts its bright yellow head over the trees, I think of the new day dawning. I know it brings new opportunities, new challenges and new experiences for as the sun rises today, another school year begins.

St. Paul's Lutheran School in Troy, IL has its first day of school for the 2012-2013 school year. There are many excited children out there. Last night as I trolled Facebook posts, I noted how many parents were talking of their children being overly excited for the start of the school year. They had been talking about it for the past couple days, perhaps even the last week. New backpacks, new uniforms, new pencils and pens, new erasers, new notebooks, new classrooms, new teachers - new experiences.

As I watched the sun become fully visible through the trees, I thought that there are so many new opportunities for us as teachers and pastors to share with the children the wonders of this world - the knowledge that needs to be taught in many and various ways. More than that, and this is where I believe that the parochial school has the advantage in education, we have the opportunity to share the message of life and hope found ONLY in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is there that I begin to get excited about the new school year. I will have the opportunity to share Christ with the children in this school, their parents and families and with the staff. Not only do I get to put the message forward each day, I am compelled to speak of the Gospel of Jesus Christ each day. Christ is the heart and center of our lives.

As the sun starts to shine brightly in my eyes, I know that even as the day has dawn, that is how it is in the school. It will start slow as the students begin to learn the routine of each day - when to get up, how to get dressed, what to eat, what time they will leave, what to do when they arrive at school, what happens first in the classroom, what is expected of them as they go into the classroom, etc. - it will soon ramp up and shine brightly as learning takes place, as the message is shared.

Chapel is at 9:00 a.m. I will have greeted the teachers and students (I have spent time the last mornings praying for each teacher and their students, each family and the school in general) and the time will come for the first "Good Morning!" to ring out in church with that chapel. We will learn of our theme "Baptized to Serve." We will begin to learn Psalm 100:2 "Serve the Lord with gladness; come into His presence with singing." And the message of life and hope, the message of Jesus Christ will shine brightly upon all who are there.

The new day dawns, the new year begins - and the message is the same. Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me. Little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.

Shine brightly Son! Shine brightly!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Real Issue

I have posted about the intolerance that has been shown towards Chick-fil-A by the homosexual community and the liberal media. It has been disgusting and intolerant of them. Love everyone, they say, and then they paint hate slogans on Chick-fil-A stores. Accept every one's point of view, they cry and then decry the fact that the CEO of Chick-fil-A has a different point of view on marriage. What upsets me even more is the fact that mainstream media is buying into this intolerance. This isn't the first time but it sure does make it a glaring fact. What Dan Cathy said about marriage was actually Pres. Obama's view until a few months ago. Did they tear him apart for standing on traditional marriage? Of course not. but let Dan Cathy say it, or any other Christian (and I seriously doubt the religiosity of our country's leader) say they support traditional marriage and it is a crime, a hate crime and the company needs to be boycotted because of it.

But that isn't really why I am writing today. As I have thought about this issue, I have wondered about what the "real issue" might be. And the only thing that I have come up with is this: "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." (Ecclesiastes 12:13 ESV) The real issue is that we, sinful men and women, do not want to follow the Lord in our lives. We want to do what we want to do and if someone tells us that we are wrong, we get upset and go on the attack. We attack those who point out our sin. We attack the institutions that point out our sin. We attack the One who made all the rules.

Why is it that Christians are under attack? It is because Christians are standing up for what God teaches in His Word. (Those churches that don't make a stand or don't accept the Word of God, give in to the ways of the world, give in and accept sinful actions, making them acceptable and no longer sinful.) To stand for what is true - God's Word - is a hateful thing to do in today's world. You will be accused of being unloving, hateful, uncaring, and downright wrong if you stand for the truth of God's Word.

The goal of life is to live for God. (Before you say, "But no one can do that," let me state, that is why God sent His only Son into this world - to be the Savior of all mankind, to pay the price for the fact that all are sinners and cannot live the perfect life.) As children of God, we live in Christ. That means that we believe that God saved us, totally and completely, without our help or our merit playing a part in that salvation. Because of this salvation that we are given, we live our lives as children of God, doing as He would have us do, living as He would have us live, avoiding what He would have us avoid, and basically, bearing the fruit of faith in our lives. When we fail, we ask for forgiveness and strength to live as He would have us live. When we do live correctly for a short time (and it is always a short time) we give all glory to God for guiding us with the power of Word and Sacrament.

Having said all of that, we come back to the fact that to fear the Lord and keep His commandments is the duty of man. That is how we are to live. And sinful men and women, boys and girls, don't want to do it. They want to do as they want to do - even if it is blatantly wrong as in the case of homosexual behavior. (Understand this, it is just as wrong for heterosexuals to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage.)So when someone makes a statement that flies in the face of sinful behavior, intolerance is going to follow.

This intolerance is only going to get worse. The world we live in is intolerant of Jesus Christ and the message of the Gospel. It is intolerant of God's Word being God's Word - inspired and inerrant, the only source of guidance for life. Mark my words, things are not going to get better. They are going to get worse. It will become harder and harder to remain a Christian. But that shouldn't surprise you - for those aren't really my words. Jesus said the same thing in Matthew 23. Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A is just one of many that will bear the brunt of the wrath of sinful mankind. All we can say is, "Come, Lord Jesus!"