Tuesday, November 25, 2014

All Lives Matter

By now just about everyone has heard about the verdict in from the Grand Jury on the Michael Brown death. What will be amazing is that many people who will not bother to listen to or read the information that comes from the Grand Jury will know much better than those 12 people who sat through over 70 hours of testimony in the case. Organizations across the nation all know better than the Grand Jury. In many ways it is like the Monday morning quarterback after the game who has all the answers while sitting in his easy chair. "If only..." "They don't know the truth..." and a whole host of other statements will be made. People will little or no knowledge about the situation will know better than those involved. That is the way of the world. No one know better than me. I know that I am as guilty of that as anyone. We all do it.

In the end, we need to accept the verdict and go on. But that can't and won't happen. We saw that last night in Ferguson and across the nation. There are reports of protests taking place across the nation. What amazes me is that these protests range in size from a couple dozen people to thousands. Yet we have spent a huge amount of time and resources to give these organizations free press time. We have opened the door to the organizations to tell the Grand Jury they were wrong. We are spending hours and hours on this whole thing.

I was looking at pictures of the protests. Signs like "Black Lives Matter" were held up. Of course black lives matter. All lives matter. So do the lives of the police officers (black, white, hispanic, etc.) who are putting their lives on the line while these protesters put the officers lives on the line. Don't the officers lives matter? Does a protester have the right to threaten the life of a police officer jsut because he is a police officer? Doesn't his life matter? Such signs are double standards. While the signs "black lives matter" are held up, black and white lives are being taken by gangs members who shoot people over drug deals, robberies and a whole host of other reasons. Every morning in the St. Louis area there are news reports of another shooting, knifing or murder that took place over night. Don't those lives matter? Why are the protesters not in the community protesting against those actions, telling the people of the respective communities that "black lives matter"? That is were the real problem is to be found.

I was disgusted as I looked at the pictures from the protests and saw a sign saying "Police are racist murderers." Really? How does that help? There are thousand upon thousands of police in this country. Are they all racist murderers? Of course not. All that sign was meant to do is inflame an already explosive situation. I was offended by such a sign. Yet, I am not supposed to be offended. If I was to protest such an action, I would probably be called a racist. Really? Is not the person holding the sign being the very thing I would be accused of? Of course. But because of the color of his skin, it was all right.

I guess you can say I am ranting this morning. In a way, I am. How did the Grand Jury verdict justify the rioting (not peaceful protests at all) and the looting that took place overnight? What gives someone the right to burn down a business just because they disagree with a Grand Jury verdict? Think of the lives that have been ruined because of the actions last night. These peaceful protests were not peaceful nor were they protests. They were violent acts of aggression against people who had nothing to do with what was decided. They were opportunists who used this as a chance to get crazy, steal, and destroy. How many of them were not protesters at all but were gang members getting what they wanted from the community?

All right, I am at the end of my ramblings this morning. As I watched all that was taking place, I wondered how God could still love us. And then I realized, that is why God sent His Son into the world, for Michael Brown, for his family, for Darren Wilson and his family, for the community of Ferguson, for the rioters, for the looters, for the racists, for the haters, for the people who speak out of anger and hatred, for the ones who act out of ignorance, for you and for me. It is for this reason that He sent His only-begotten Son. The only message that can heal a community is the message of the Gospel. No other message can heal, can save, can give hope.

Only the Gospel. May that be proclaimed.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

It is time to face Thanksgiving Day. This holiday is one in which many of us will eat far too much and enjoy every moment of it. I look forward to the turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, squash, spinach dish (whatever it is called), rolls, a whole host of other goodies and of course, PIE! I love pie. There aren't too many pies I don't like. (I won't bore you with the details of those pies, just know that blackberry, pumpkin, apple, cherry, gooseberry, blueberry, blackberry, and a whole lot of others are my favs.)

What I really love about Thanksgiving is spending time with family. It is nice to have Matthew home from Concordia University, Seward. We haven't seen him since mid-August. It will also be nice having Brandon Beckemeyer home. He is away at work most of the time so any time he can make it home is a real blessing. Then Penny's sisters Sue and Stacey (and Stacey's family) will be here. Gathering around the supper table on Thursday will be a real treat. And then to cap it off, there will be great food. Family and food, how much better can it get?

The moment I said that, I knew that there was one way it can get better - to have family gather in another place and celebrate together. The place to gather is the House of the Lord. It would be such a pleasure to be able to worship with family. It isn't often that we as family can gather in one place for a time of worship. But, oh, how I long for that. To be able to lift up our voices in song together, to hear the Word of God together, to receive the Sacrament together - that is truly a time of Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, that won't happen. Family won't be here on Thanksgiving Eve for worship. I will have my wife and kids worshiping but the rest of the family will either be traveling or won't arrive till Thursday. Then they will all leave before the weekend so we won't even have that time together.

But that makes me give thanks for and look forward to another time - the time when we will all gather together around another table. That table is the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in His kingdom. One day, when Christ comes again, He will draw us to Himself. He will welcome us into heaven. And all those who believe in Him as their Savior will enter into that blessed place. And there, gathered around the Lamb's Table, in the presence of Jesus Himself, we will shall join together. Oh, how I long for that time. With all the saints through the ages I pray, "Come, Lord Jesus."

Until then, we will celebrate Thanksgiving with one another when we can. We will miss those who can't be with us - either by distance or by death. We will enjoy the meal. We will share the times together. And we will thank God for one another.

May you have a a blessed Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 10, 2014

My Heart Belongs to God

On October 21st I had a stent put in my heart. Prior to that event, my heart ached within me. So often we talk about a "heart ache" because something has happened to us, some sad event such as a death or the lose of a friendship. That wasn't the case for me. My heart truly did ache within me. At first it would only take place at times during the day and then would pass and be gone. As time went on, it would begin to last longer until it would start when I rose in the morning and would continue through out the day. It became easier to say when my heart didn't ache within me than when it did. For day and night my heart would ache within me. 

So I finally went to the doctor and he performed the heart catherization. Laying there while the doctor plays around inside your heart is a little weird. I can't say that I felt anything because I didn't Yet I was still aware of what was taking place. The medication put me into a fog but at the same time I was aware of what was taking place. It is a strange feeling to have the doctor saying to you, "As we talked about, I am going to put a stent into that artery in order to open it up." What am I to say at that point? Al I could think of was a simple, "OK." How profound! "OK." Here is a man with a wire up inside my artery, reaching into the area of my heart, telling me he is going to put a stent (which I assumed is some sort of metal but I am not sure) inside my artery and all I can say is "OK." Then I listened as they talked about what size they would use - which made no sense to me.

And I wonder to myself about the whole situation. I am willing to let the doctor play inside my heart because it is for my best. "OK," is all I say. And he does what is needed. Others will have valves replaced and bypasses done, all in order to keep alive, to make life better for them. I was having it done to get rid of the aching in my chest that would never go away. I placed myself in the hands of the doctor, trusting that he would do what was right.

As I think about it (wonder about it), I think about how reluctant we are to allow God into our hearts. We close up our hearts and refuse to allow God to work in our hearts and lives because of a variety of reason. We don't want God running our lives. We don't feel that we need Him. We don't believe He exists. There are as many reasons as there are people who refuse to allow God to come into their hearts. Let the doctor play around inside there but God better not get involved. Don't let God in your heart. Refuse Him. Fight Him. Do whatever is necessary to come up with some sort of other "god" or form of worship or form of life but refuse the true God.

Amazing! I am completely amazed with that. "OK" I say to the doctor. "NO," I say to God. Really? Isn't that backwards? But the doctor has your life in his hands. Yes, and God has your eternity in His hands. In reality, it is God who has your life in His hands too, whether you acknowledge Him or believe in Him. He alone guides the hands of the doctors. He alone gives health. He alone controls life and death. It isn't the doctor. It is God who holds your life in His hands. 

As I came out of surgery, I must say, I gave thanks to God for that stent. I rejoiced that He was the One in charge and not the doctor. He was the One who held my heart. He still holds my heart. He fills my heart to overflowing with His love. He alone is the One who gives me the freedom from the pain the chest. How? Through the work of the doctor. Through the medicine. Through the stent. But ultimately through His healing hand. There alone is the freedom from the aching, the pain, the problems.

Yes, I have a stent. But in the end, it is God who has my heart.