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The Sower at Work

Jesus told stories to people who learned by story. So do we. Tell a good story and people will remember it. Jesus reminds us that these stories illustrate eternal truths, such as the story of the Sower. But when He tells this story, and you look at it from the angle of what really happens, three-quarters of those who have the seed of the word planted in them reject it. Can you imagine knowing ahead of time so much rejection would come your way? Would you invest in such a venture, knowing full well that your efforts would reach one quarter of the market? Definitely. 

When I was involved with sales I remember my boss telling us that if one-tenth of our projected group responded positively, we were doing well. I thought about that and realized what he was really saying: Keep going and visit as many as you can. What drove us? Some wanted money, some thought their families could benefit--we were told to "practice" on our families--and some believed in the product and purchased it themselves--an automatic sale!!!

God's "product" is free but cost our Boss everything. And He willingly makes it available for all people. He does not depend on how good we are at "selling" His product, nor does He pressure us to hard sell anything. His own Spirit will do the work through the Word planted in the hearts of the people. He calls us to be faithful. and forgives us when we blow opportunities, when we are not as energetic in the presentation of His product and even uses our foibles and mistakes to His advantage--I could relate stories of how His mighty work through the power of the Word alone brings about the response in the heart of a new believer. 

That product is forgiveness flowing from the cross into the hearts of people hungry for good news in the midst of a world that it passing away.

Isaiah 55:10“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

O Lord, by Your Spirit's power may we share the good news of Jesus the Christ, crucified and risen, to a people thirst and parched, so that they may drink from the waters of forgiveness, life and salvation. May they be enabled to believe and ever hold fast the gospel, through all things, until Your Son returns. Amen.

Curmudgeons on Computers

Ok, I was pretty harsh with young people yesterday, but when you are a curmudgeon like me, you get a little cranky. I will take my meds and keep positive in the face of this pestilence. It will pass. But we know that this stuff is part of a dying world about which Jesus warned us, so do not act surprised. Our children and our children's children--if the Lord Jesus tarries--will be in for more stuff and junk that will tingle the ears and amaze the eyes. Our job is to get them ready for it, and remind them that their help is the Lord, the Maker and Maintainer of His world. Their job is to keep close to Him and not to seek relief from boredom. We are all to look to Him for our strength. 

Whatever happened to daydreaming, reading books, meditation and prayer? It all got replaced by electronics. But you can still read a book on your Kindle. You can still stream some really awesome stuff on your TV. God's Word can be studied in groups on Zoom, Face time and Skype. There is no end of edifying information gleaned through the network. CPH has a lot of free stuff right now and I can put it where you can find it. In fact, I have sent via email much of this already, but I can send it again. See, curmudgeons can be useful, you little whippersnappers. God loves you. I do too.

Philippians 2:1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Great is Your name, O Lord, and greatly to be praised! For You have revealed Yourself to little children and have given the Kingdom to the meek. Grant us courage and peace, even as we continue down this road to eternity. In Your Son, Jesus, we have the peace that passes all understanding in His atoning sacrifice on the cross. In Him we have forgiveness, life and salvation, gifts given to us through Your Means of Grace: Your Word, Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution and the Lord's Supper. Continue to guide us by Your Spirit to seek these by Your grace. Amen.

Old People

Having tracked the cycles and different models and projections--within our state at least--the pattern seems to bear out one particularly simple truth: the vast majority of deaths are found in relatively old (80-year-old) people (58%). It may be that other demographics stand out, but most of the deaths in our state--at least 50% or more--are the above demographic. Add in those in the 70-year-old demographic and you have more old people, at least 25% of the total. As you work your way down the age demographic, the numbers of deaths drop dramatically. Perhaps those younger people who died had preexisting health conditions, but we may never know the whole story.

So, if 75% of the deaths from this dreaded pestilence is primarily us old people, what can we conclude? The vast majority of us who contract this pestilence (91%) recover, and the vast majority of us who fall into the demographic of old people (75%+) die, leaving us to look carefully at percents and see that this is a really bad attack on old people. How many young people care about old people? 

I thought so....If I died tomorrow, not one of the young people would care. Remember, I am old. But if they would suffer and die, or their peers, it is a catastrophe. Perspective.

A conspiracy? Hardly, but because of sin, we are being snuffed by something which accelerates our mortality. Bad as it is, the vast majority of us are surviving and perhaps becoming immune to certain strains of this whatever it is. If you doubt me, check into this url: http://mophep.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=8e01a5d8d8bd4b4f85add006f9e14a9d

Okay, enough said. What do we fear? Death? Illness? Wasting disease? What does Jesus say?

Matthew 10:26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Come, Lord Jesus, and end these things. Grant us peace and eternal life amidst temporal death and remind us You have plans for us. Amen.

Make it Easy

Years ago, when I was in another vocation, I was tasked with teaching college freshmen researching skills in order to find materials for research papers. I used audiovisual media, hard copies to lead to sources and other ways and tricks and devices to get the stuff. One non-traditional (older) student chided me and and said, "I want it found and opened to the page and that's it!" I can remember thinking, you guys want me to give you the earth, stars, galaxies and all passing heavenly bodies, and all I can give you is a telescope!

There really is nothing easy in life, despite all the gadgets and gidgets we have now. Remember when you rolled up your vehicle window with a hand crank device? Now even when you back up there is a camera to let you know how close you are to your neighbor's illegally parked jalopy. Life is even harder because we all seek to avoid any pain and suffering at all levels. Get over it.

Why should we insist on a pain-free life, when even the instruments of pain avoidance ultimately do not work? It makes it worse at times because we are not designed to die originally but now, with sin, we face death in many ways and through even the things that are supposed to protect us. The ancient believers accepted much and they were very wise. They knew that because of sin there is death, but before that, they knew that life was filled with suffering.

Acts 14:19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. 20 But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. 

Lord, help us accept that our lives are bound up in the life, death and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus the Christ. We find in Him our hope for the life to come, which was guaranteed to us through His sacrifice, and which we receive through faith. Give us each day a measure of the Holy Spirit so that we can live each day as though it is our last. Amen.

Going Forward

As we continue to go forward, we also learn that it can be a painful struggle. Having experienced two important historical holidays almost one month apart, we are reaping some of the rewards of ignoring health issues. Watching other larger states' soaring statistics of whatever stalks us, we probably will be forced back into our boxes or quarantine. It does not even have to be COVID-19 related. Anytime people are not careful about with whom they associate, all sorts of evil can be transported. Enough said.

We will always be a country of people seeking to protect our precious freedoms and we will quote chapter and verse our rights to anyone. God help us. We cannot make our rights into a god we worship, especially when we as a people really do not worship the One True God. When Joshua, one of the patriarchs, was speaking the last time to God's people, now in the promised land, he warned them to put away their false gods they had brought with them, and even picked up along the way. Seriously? After everything, they were still falling away after having seen what the Almighty had done for them, they were whoring after everything but God, or even adding Him to their list of gods. Understandably, Joshua knew what was going on and he nailed them for it. In chapter 24, he pointedly announced, "As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

How many of us have watched our following generations fall away from the LORD, or even saw them move away from the Church, only to wonder what they really believed. The sadness I carry as a pastor is multiplied tenfold when I watch children I baptized, I confirmed in their faith, move away from their family the Church, and only pay lip service to attendance--maybe even showing up when significant events happen, or there is new photo directory of the congregation, in which they politely include themselves.

My hope is during this time, as people contemplate their lives under the cross, they will see their place in God's kingdom--not as grandchildren using their forebears as some sort of wedge in the door, but as ones whose hearts are fully given to the LORD.

Joshua 24:15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

O LORD, call the children back into Your house, into Your midst, for them to receive the great gifts You give them. Remind them they are Yours because You saved them. Turn their hearts to You through the family of Your Church. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Freedom of or from Religion

The run up to the 4th means more than pyrotechnics and parties. It is more than beer and brots. It is more than marches and music. It is giving thanks for almost two and a half centuries of religious freedom that we take for granted all the time. Rarely do I hear people giving thanks for their freedom to actively practice their faith. It is more a "we can practice it if we have a need for it." Such as when Grandma Schmidt dies and all of a sudden, they need a preacher or when Cousin Daisy Jane is in a family way, and they need a preacher to get her and Billy Bob married off. Welcome to religious freedom in America. 

People in colonial America had to go to church and had to pay the preacher, as the state church was an arm of the British government and part of the taxation structure. The preacher was part of the government. They even had men going around to arouse the people who were bumming church in order to get them in the pew! Such a deal!

The new republic of America put religion out of the government business and government out of the religion business. The freedom from a state religion was also a freedom to practice religion without taxation or any other coercion. But people were religious back then, even shocked when Thomas Paine, a hero and paragon of the Revolution, stated openly his atheism. People, citizens of the republic, understood the place of religion square in the middle of American society, and its leavening of the republic. Shocked they would be to see how perverted and evil society had become because people wanted to remove religion from public life. Not very long shall a state live without God in the center, and Christ as the focal point, with repentance and salvation given freely to a freed people.

Proverbs 14:Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.

5 And when in power [Jesus the Christ] comes, O may our native land, From all its rending tombs, Send forth a glorious band; A countless throng Ever to sing To heaven's high King Salvation's song.

Title: Before the Lord we bow Author: Francis Scott Key Tune: Darwall 

Self-Evident Truth: July 2, 2020

Self-evident truth is truth that is foundational and assumed--basic to an argument and taken for granted. Jefferson wrote this into the Declaration of Independence, knowing that the following truths would enunciate for Great Britain and the world what would define America to the world and the future generations of Americans. These truths: All people are created equal, we have unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

We have the right (and responsibility) to govern ourselves through a structure of democratic republicanism, which became more democratic as state senatorial representation at the national level was granted to the populations of those states, women and freed slaves were included in plebiscites and suffrage, and the age of voting stated to be at least 18 years of age. 

How do we as Christians bear these rights and responsibilities?  Not by forgetting our rights to protest in lawful ways, redress wrongs without doing harm to other citizens and businesses, and not by attacking those entrusted with our care and protection. 2nd Amendment rights aside, we do have to protect ourselves from coercion and control that is outside the parameters of the Constitution.

Okay, the civics lecture is ended. How do we, as sovereign citizens of the republic act?

1 Peter 2:13 Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

1 God bless our native land;
Firm may she ever stand
Through storm and night:
When the wild tempests rave,
Ruler of wind and wave,
O God, our country save
By your great might.
 

2 For her our prayer shall rise
To God above the skies;
On whom we wait;
Lord, you are ever nigh,
Guarding with watchful eye.
To you aloud we cry,
God save the state!

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