Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Thanksgiving Praise

Tis the Eve before Thanksgiving Day.  A light coating of snow dots the landscape of the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities, reminding one of the words to that old Thanksgiving song: "Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go; the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifting snow..." 

So, what are you thankful for this Thanksgiving Day?  I am grateful that I live in the United States.  It is not a perfect nation - the riots in Ferguson, MO the past two nights illustrate those imperfections.  But America is still a blessed nation.  Our church sent a short term missions team that just returned from Ethiopia this past Sunday.  For some on that team it was the first time they saw the "third world" up close and personal.  Poverty and disease were common sights.  Children, who once slept on dirt floors upon straw mats, celebrating that they could now sleep in a bed with a mattress.  Oh, there is a lot I would like to see changed in our nation but I am grateful to God that this is my homeland.

I am grateful for family this Thanksgiving Day.  I am blessed to have a bride who has been my helpmate and closest friend for over 45 years.  I am grateful for my son and my two daughters and their families who have experienced the presence of God this past year as our daughter-in-law slipped into eternity.  But God has been good.  I am grateful for the music my grandchildren bring into my life - sometimes they could play a little quieter, but the music touches my heart.  I am grateful for their abilities to express themselves whether it is through drama, paints, hitting a home run, or putting the ball through the hoop.  I am grateful that my oldest grandson was privileged to go hunting with his Uncle Dan and his Dad, and for the second year in a row, he got a big buck.  And I am grateful that my children and grandchildren all love the Lord and have a desire to serve Him. 

I am grateful for my church family.  I feel incredibly blessed to serve one of the greatest churches in Minnesota.  I have the privilege of working alongside one of the best ministry staffs a pastor could ever hope to have.  What a carrying family Buffalo Covenant is.  And I am grateful that they have the same hunger and passion that I have - to go deeper into the Word of God and to love Him better and to serve Him with more joy and gladness. 

For the past several years I have challenged my church family to read Psalm 103 and Ephesians 1 in order to prepare their hearts for Thanksgiving.  Both David, in Psalm 103, and Paul, in Ephesians 1, identify several things for which we should give thanks: for our salvation - that God chose us and adopted us; for the forgiveness of sins - as far as the east is from the west; that God understands who we are - we are but dust, but He cares for us; for the coming inheritance which is ours through the promise of the Holy Spirit.  Friends, I would encourage you to sit down tonight or tomorrow - take a few quiet moments for yourself - and read Psalm 103 and Ephesians 1.  If those two passages of scripture do not ignite thoughts of thanksgiving to God within your heart, then you have a deeper problem that needs attention. 

So, "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me; bless His holy name.  Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits."  May your time of thanksgiving be a truly blessed one as you share with family and friends.  God is good all the time! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Synagogue in Jerusalem and a Cathedral in Washington: Is There a Connection?

Yesterday what can only be described as a horrific act of violence was carried out by two Palestinian men at an ultra-orthodox synagogue in Jerusalem while morning prayers were being said.  Armed with axes, butcher knives, and guns, the two Palestinian cousins entered the synagogue and, before they were shot to death by Israeli police, four rabbis had been killed and one police office who died from wounds received during the gunfire.  When news reached the streets of Gaza City, celebrations erupted and trays of candy were passed out as if this was a party atmosphere.  Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was quick to condemn the act and Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu vowed that there would be a swift response.  Three of the rabbis murdered were America citizens who had made their homes in Israel.  The fourth rabbi was a British citizen.  Last month a three-month-old baby, the child of an American citizen living in Israel, was murdered when a Palestinian drove his car into a crowded train station.  CNN reporter Jake Tapper tweeted that "More people with American citizenship have been killed by Palestinian terrorists in the last year than have been killed by ISIS." 

The attack yesterday in Jerusalem was the worst act of violence there since 2008.  The mood within Israel, especially in Jerusalem, is one edged with fear.  And fear is one of the great weapons of the terrorists.  They really don't have to do anything but instill within a people or nation the fear that something will happen. 

The underlying problem in the Middle East can be identified very simply: Israel wants to be recognized as a legitimate Jewish state and the Arab world, as expressed in the charters of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Fatah (formerly known as the Palestinian Liberation Organization - PLO) all demand the total destruction of the State of Israel.  This is what Palestinian children are taught both at home and in their schools.  The cycle of hatred is perpetuated.  Can peace be achieved?  Absolutely not!  Unless there is a change in the climate within the Arab world toward Israel.  The Arab world needs to recognize Israel for what it is: a Jewish State.  The Arab world needs to understand that the Jews want to live in peace with their neighbors, but cannot if the culture of their neighbors is one of hatred toward them.  As long as Palestinian leaders, including Abbas, continue to recognize terrorists as heroes, the culture of violence will continue, meaning more Palestinians and more Jews will be murdered. 

Will the time ever come when the "lion will lie down with the lamb?"  The Bible assures us that it will when the Messiah comes and reigns with peace, justice, and righteousness from His throne in Jerusalem.  You can read about this in Isaiah 11.

Returning to events within our own nation.  This past Friday, The Washington National Cathedral was turned into a virtual mosque.  Muslims entered, bowed toward Mecca being careful not to view the Christian cross within the sanctuary.  I encourage you to read the entire article at: www.wnd,com/2014/11/christians-muslims-conquering-washington-national-cathedral. According to the article, "Planners of the event said in a news release that they hoped 'people around the world will take note of this service and the welcome extended by the Cathedral so that Muslims everywhere will adopt a reciprocal welcome of Christians by Muslims."  The Rev. Franklin Graham said, "It's sad to see a church open its doors to the worship of anything other than the One True God of the Bible who sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to earth to save us from our sins.   Jesus was clear when He said, 'I am the way the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me' (John 14:6)."  The author of the article quotes several former Muslims about the symbolism of what happened last Friday.  Mark Christian, whose father and uncle are Muslim Brotherhood members and whose great-uncle was one of its co-founders in Egypt during the 1960s, said, "Islam has a 'supremacy problem' based upon the idea that Islam has perfected the religions practiced by Jews and Christians.  In Islamic tradition, supremacy is demonstrated to all by practicing Islam where Christianity and Judaism once reigned.  This is what animates the building of mosques on the holy sites of other religions.  It is a conqueror's philosophy."  Christian continued by relating that "the decision to allow a Muslim imam to conduct an Islamic service from the altar of the National Cathedral in Washington is to Muslims the functional equivalent of Islam standing supreme atop Christianity in America 'in our own house.'"  Here is what is so astonishing: "According to Pew Research Center, Muslims make up just under 1 percent of the U.S. population."  In today's world, at least in America, it seems that the "tail is always wagging the dog." 

Friends, is there a relationship between what happened yesterday at a Jewish synagogue in Jerusalem and what happened last Friday at the National Cathedral in Washington?  Think about it for a moment and you will discover that there is a connection.  In both instances a Jewish and a Christian place of worship was assaulted by Islam: in the instance of the synagogue, the attack was with violence; in the instance of the Cathedral, it was welcomed with open arms.  We have to remember that the ultimate goal of Islam is the dominance of the world through a newly created Caliphate.  And we are seeing in Syria and Iraq, through ISIS, just what that Caliphate will look like. 

Should we be plagued with fears?  Absolutely not because our hope and our confidence is in Jesus Christ.  Who will be the ultimate Victor?  Will be it be Christ or Mohammed?  Read Revelation 19-22 and you will find the answer that alleviates all fears.  I want to share a powerful passage of Scripture as I close today.  I have taken a few liberties with the text, for reasons you will understand: "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation [including any religion that has its roots in being a creation by man] will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  (Romans 8:38-39).  Amen!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

More News from a World Rapidly Preparing for the Coming of the King

I need to share with you more news from a world that is becoming increasingly more tolerant of everyone, except believers in Jesus Christ.  Two stories came to my attention this past week that I want to share with you.  The first can be found at:  The story centers around what happened to Chase Windebank, a senior at Pine Creek High School in Colorado Springs, CO.  "Three years ago he started meeting together informally with his classmates for prayer and religious fellowship.  The young people would meet in an unoccupied choir room to sing songs like 'Amazing Grace' and discuss the issues of the day from a religious perspective.  But all that changed on Sept. 29th when Chase was summoned to the office of Assistant Principal James Lucas.  'He was told that he could no longer pray with his fellow students during free time because of the separation of church and state,' said Jeremy Tedesco, an attorney representing the teenager.  'He was told that he could pray before the school day begins or after the school days ends but he could not do it during the school day.'  To make sure Chase got the message - he was hauled into Principal Kolette Back's office the following day where it was 'reaffirmed that his religious speech could not take place during the open time known as a 'Seminar' period."  It is interesting that the school did not say that Chase and his friends could not meet during that 'seminar' period, just that they could not discuss religious issues when they met.  Another interesting thing to consider is that Chase and his friends have been meeting for three years; why are they prohibited now from meeting?  Of course, the school does not have to supply an explanation - they just lay down the rules.

A second article can be found at:  "There's a new battleground in the war on Christmas - the suburbs of our nation's capital.  The school board in Montgomery County, Maryland has decided to appease Muslim families by making the school calendar - religious neutral.  That's bad news for all you Jews and Gentiles out there.  As of next year - all Christian and Jewish holidays will be removed from the calendar.  That means no more Christmas, no more Easter and no more Yom Kippur.  There's no word on whether the board will remove the Irish from St. Patrick's Day or the love from St. Valentine's Day or the trees from Arbor Day.  For years local Muslims had been urging the district to close schools for two of their holidays.  Many gathered outside the school board offices holding signs like 'Support Equality for Eid' and "Because...our children matter too.'  Instead, the school board opted to eliminate all religious holidays.  The school district says kids will still be able to celebrate the holiday formerly known as Christmas and the holiday formerly known as Easter.  Now - they'll be called winter break and spring break."  As I read this article I began to wonder: If I lived in Saudi Arabia, do you suppose I could go to their school board and say that I would like to have the school closed to celebrate Christmas?  How do you think they would respond?  This is America - the nation founded upon Judeo-Christian values, including the celebration of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Easter. 

Is it too late to take a stand for what is right and wrong?  I am almost wondering if it isn't too late?  The Church has compromised its principles for so long in order to seek the approval of the world in order to proclaim Jesus to the world.  And what has happened is that we have lost our platform for being heard.  It is sort of difficult to share how Christ can make a difference in a person's life when the life you are living is the same as that of your neighbor.  You have nothing that he doesn't already have.  The Early Church grew because it was so different from the rest of the Roman world.  People truly saw a difference and were either attracted to that difference or repelled from it.  Sobering thoughts.

Just an update on what is happening in Israel.  Even though there is a declared truce between Israel and Hamas, the violence has seemed to escalate in Israel.  The focal point of the violence is where it has been since the reunification of Jerusalem after the 1967 War - Jerusalem's Temple Mount.  Clashes there have increased with Israel cutting off access to the Temple Mount for everyone one day last week.  Jordan responded by recalling their ambassador from Israel for dialogues on how to respond.  (As you might remember, as part of the negotiated settlement following the Six-Day War, Jordan was given the custodianship of the Temple Mount, or as the Arabs call it, The Noble Sanctuary).  I was reading the paper today where Israeli forces are bracing for a tumultuous day on Friday during Muslim prayer services on the Temple Mount.  All Jews are prohibited from praying on the Temple Mount.  They may have access to the Mount, but cannot hold any religious services there upon the site where the two ancient temples once set.  There is a movement among some highly Orthodox Jewish leaders to allow Jews to have access to the Mount for religious services.  This really has stirred up the Arab World.  "Israeli media debated whether the country was on the verge of a new Palestinian uprising or Intifada, similar to those from the late1980s and the first decade of the 2000s that took hundreds of lives.  'This is the same soundtrack that we all remember from the days of the intifadas,' wrote Alex Fishman in Tuesday's edition of Yediot Ahronot newspaper (

Exciting the Palestinians is a new Hamas song that glorifies the new terror trend of driving a vehicle into a crowd.  The song is called "Run Over the Settler."  This fall a number of Israelis have been killed as they stood in line at bus and train stations as Palestinians have driven cars and trucks into those crowds.  The words of this new Hamas song go like this: "Run them over, burn the next in line, Don't leave a single settler.  Wait for them at the intersection.  Let the settler drown in red blood." 

The flames of a new wave of violence have certainly been lit.  It only waits to be seen if something will cause those flames to become another raging inferno as in the past.  Aren't you glad that God is in control.  Our task is to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  May we do that well. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Good News for a Change

Today is a good day.  Funny how watching election returns can either be a painful experience (two years ago) or an exciting one (last night).  The pundits will now spend weeks trying to analyze all the data from yesterday's election and then tell us what happened.  Bottom line: the American people are tired of gridlock in our government.  Time will tell if the election will remove that gridlock or make it worse.  But, now the White House will have to at least attempt to work with Congress. 

I would like to share with you a very positive story.  I don't get to do that very often in this crazy, wacky world in which we live.  This story actually happened here in Minnesota and involved some teenagers.  The story was reported in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune newspaper this morning with these headlines: "Teens lose meet, but win respect."  The story was written by Mary Lynn Smith and Erin Adler, both staff writers for the paper.  The story begins: "Two Minnesota high school runners have emerged as heroes after being disqualified from the state cross-country race where they helped a competitor who fell."  The two runners who were disqualified were Kailee Kiminski, a senior at Esko High School, and Tierney Winter, a junior from Waterville-Elysian-Morristown High School.  During last Saturday's State High School Cross-Country Meet, held in Northfield, MN, these two runners came upon Jessica Christoffer, a freshman from Jackson County Central High School, who had stumbled about 50 meters from the finish line.  Without thinking, Kailee and Tierney stopped to help the fallen runner.  Miss Winter said, "We're almost done.  Come on.  Let's finish this race.  We're almost there."  After the race, both Miss Winter and Miss Kiminski were told that, according to the rules, they would be disqualified from the race.  The rules stipulate that a runner can receive no assistance during the race.  According to the article, Miss Kiminski replied, "It's much bigger than just a race.  It's more important to help people." 

The girls are being hailed as heroes, as well they should.  They did something that is rare these days.  They thought of someone besides themselves.  The article does not say whether other runners had gone past the struggling Jessica or not.  Perhaps some had.  They wanted to cross the finish line.  They chose not to get involved. 

As I read this story this morning, I was drawn to a story that Jesus told.  It is found in Luke 10.  We know it as the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  In that story, another person had fallen along the wayside - not in a race, but in a journey along a road home.  Jesus tells of at least two individuals who noticed the fallen man but chose not to get involved.  They had their excuses, but the bottom line was their focus was upon themselves.  Then, along came a Samaritan who stopped, gave comfort to the fallen man, and took him to a nearby inn where he could receive medical attention.  To get involved with this fallen man cost the Samaritan much time and some financial resources.  Yet he knew it was the right thing to do.  Life was more than just getting from point A to point B.  As Miss Kiminski said, "It's more important to help people." 

I applaud those two young runners.  I don't know anything about their background, but their actions speak volumes as to the type of instruction they have received at home.  Put others before yourself - always good advice for all of us. 

Friends, I share this story to remind each of us that there still is good in the world.  It often does not make the headlines, as did this story.  But there are people who are spending themselves in service for others.  That is what God has called us to do.  I trust we will do it as well as did Kailee Kiminski and Tierney Winter.  (You know, it is more enjoyable writing about something good for a change!)