Kim and I spent Valentine’s Day in Las Vegas. It was an interesting trip. As we enjoyed a walk together I was reminicing in my mind about holding her hand. We no longer get all tingly when we hold hands. That feel left years ago. But there is still that touch and squeeze of love and warmth. It is a love that has endured the ups and downs of life. A love that stood by me during a year and a half of depression that I suffered from some 30 years ago. A love that has weathered the storms allowing us to grow through them. A love that has stood by each other in the good and difficulty of ministry. A love that celebrates the joys of our children and shares the concerns we have for them at times. It is a love that has matured and is steadfast.
We celebrate our love for each other.
I found a journal entry in my journaling book the other day. I had written it to our four children as they are finding their jobs and calling in life. I wrote the following:
“As you are doing your various jobs and ministries, I want you to know that I am praying for you. Praying that God would use you to be a blessing to others as you bring that word of hope into lives that are characterized by hopelessness. I pray that you will be used to brighten their paths, lighten their loads, point them to Jesus, and to enrich their knowledge of God.”
June 12th is Pentecost Sunday and it is only through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit that this prayer can be answered.
Well, Easter has come and gone. We know the story. We have been confronted with Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I ended the Easter sermon with; Thousands and thousands of thanks to you Lord Jesus for Good Friday and what that means for us! Thousands and Thousands of thanks to you Lord Jesus for Easter Sunday and what that means for us!
And to you I say – may the blessings of Good Friday and Easter Sunday be with you! May it please Jesus, our risen Savior, to impress the meaning of Good Friday and Easter on your heart this day.
The other day I was bummed out about a number of things. Not sleeping that well at night. However, upon waking early one morning the hymn, “Crown Him With Many Crowns” was on my mind. Some of the lyrics go like this, “…awake my soul and sing, of Him who died for thee…” Yes, it was a good reminder that God is on the throne. He has not abandoned us. Needless to say it was uplifting to my spirit.
That morning I did tell my soul to awake and sing praises to God whether I felt like it or not. The Psalmist once wrote, “Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all His benefits” [Psalm 103:1-2]. Sometimes I have to fight the fight of faith and tell my inner person to praise the Lord or to hope in the Lord in spite of my present circumstances or situation.
Tomorrow is our “Fresh Start” Bible Study. It is a great way to begin the day. It originally started out as “Proverbs, Coffee and a Bagel.” I enjoyed taking a deeper look at some of the proverbs found in the Bible. Here is one of my favorite: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Prov. 9:10
There was an incident several years ago in our family that helped me get a deeper understanding of this term,”Fear of the Lord.” We were at one of our favorite beaches in Ecuador taking a couple of days of vacation. The ocean water is always warm in Ecuador. We were enjoying the waves and riding them on inner tubes from car tires. Our son Josh had wandered out a little ways with no inner tube when a huge wave came in and picked him up and slamed him into the ocean floor. He was shacken up a bit. It was a lesson for all of us to “enjoy the ocean but respect it’s power.”
I think that is what the fear of the Lord is all about. Fear here means to have a reverence and a respect for someone. We must enjoy God as we sing “What a friend we have in Jesus” and enjoy His grace and mercy that are new every morning. We are to enjoy the forgiveness of sins and fellowhip with our Father. But always maintain an attitude of respect and reverence for who He is.
The fear of the Lord and the knowledge of the Holy One grow out of each other. As I receive a deeper revelation of who God is – the Holy One – the fear of Him i.e., respect and reverence, awe of Him increases. I begin to hate what greives him and to love what He loves. I stand in awe of Him.
Several years ago Kim and I were challenge to a commitment: to bless at least three people every week. This commitment meant more than just praying at the end of the day that God would bless “so and so.” It is to intentionally and verbably bless someone. More recently, I have been reminded of the importance of praying a short blessing on people at the end of a conversation wtih them. A lady from a nursing home was in my office the other day to promote the facilities and programs that they offer. As she was about to leave I said, allow me to pray a blessing on you. I received a note in the mail from her thanking me for taking the initiative to do that.
This week at Grace Lutheran we begin a “once a month” couples night out. We will gather people at Grace to talk about marriage and sex and relationships from a biblical perspective. All of us need preventive maintenance on our marriages. Kim and I have sought to do that down through the years. We have said on occasion that “we are secure in our commitment to one another, but we determined not to become lazy in it.” That can relate also to other areas of our lives as well. Our relationship with the Lord for one. Also in our battle against sin. We must rest secure in forgiveness, but we don’t become lazy in our battle against sin. I Pet. 1:13 says that we are to “prepare our minds for action…” I do this when I tell myself from time to time that “I will not become lazy in my relationship with Kim or with the Lord or in the battle against sin.” I think it is helpful to repeat to ourselves convictions like these from time to time.
I always enjoy picking up a new agenda book and page through it and begin to fill it in. There is something exciting about a new beginning. It feels like we can begin afresh. And it is that way once again at the start of 2011.
Kim and I had hoped to go and see my mom on the 30th and 31st of December but weather in northern Minnesota didn’t allow for it. As we welcomed the new year in together at our home in Maple Grove, I was reminiscing about ringing church bells to welcome in the new year in Fertile, Minnesota when I was in my teens. I worked as part time janitor in my home congregation. Since I had the key to the church I would take some of my siblings with me or other members of our youth group and go down to the church after the 11:00 p.m. hour and wait till midnight. At midnight we would begin to ring the bell. We would take turns until it had been rung 100 times. It was a good time. Then we would go down stairs into the main part of the sanctuary and kneel at the altar and have a time of prayer. It was a good way to welcome in the new year. It was during moments like that that the Lord was instilling in me a call to follow Him.
Well we have had four funerals this past month at Grace Lutheran. One was for a person who was 96 years young, another for a 31 year old and the other two were in their 70’s. And all this as we approach the Christmas holidays.
A few years ago Kim and I attended a funeral for a friend who died at Christmas time. As we were at the graveside, the pastor made a reference to Martin Luther who once said, “We should sing Christmas hymns at the graveside because it makes the devil mad.” And so, out there in the cold, we sang “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.” We had a joyous, victorious time as we sang this great Christmas hymn.
Why does it make our enemy mad? Because he hates the good news of Jesus Christ. He hates the fact of God becoming flesh and dwelling among us. It’s because Christmas hymns proclaim victory over the grave. They proclaim peace and joy and forgiveness and well-being – all the things that Satan is against. Christmas means we can proclaim hope at the graveside of a loved one.
“Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the new born King. Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!” Hallelujah!
During Advent one year someone asked me what the word incarnation meant. Well, I had to pick up my books and study the word once again to give an adequate answer. Here are some of my thoughts and findings.
Incarnation means “to enter into” or “to become flesh.” The Scripture verse that best descibes this word in a nutshell is John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” This is the most concise statement of the incarnation. God became flesh, God became human.
This is called incarnation-God getting in side our world. It’s what Christmas is all about. God entered our world and became one of us in Jesus Christ. The incarnation is God, Creator of the universe, entering into a womb of a young virgin and being born in the flesh as a baby. God got inside our skin and our world.
God came and He experienced human life. He knows what it means to be rejected. He knows the emotions of loneliness. He knows what it means to suffer. He knows what temptation is all about. He experienced the happiness of family life and the disappointments of family life. He got inside our skin.
An Advent Hymn writer wrote: Love caused thine incarnation, love brought thee down to me, thy thirst for my salvation, procured my liberty. God was thirsty for your and my salvation. He was passionate about it. That is why God entered into human flesh – He became one of us that we might have life. That’s the meaning behind the Incarnation.