Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Gone Fishing

The sign is on my office door: "Gone Fishing". I've cleaned my desk, organized my bookshelves, and cleared my emails on the computer. 31 straight days without one day off tells me it's time to give everyone around here a break -- from me. I'm not looking for sympathy, just understanding. Three weddings and a church outreach picnic added on to the regular church stuff and there you have one crazy month. You're thinking: "I thought Pastors only worked for a couple of hours on Sunday". I know you don't really think that. But why fishing?

Well, that's not the only thing Jeanne and I do when on vacation. Our kids and grandkids come to spend time with us and that is a blast. We do a lot of reading, walking, swimming, driving around Lake Superior, -- and fishing -- along with late nights around the camp fires (often swatting mosquitoes) and eating too much of all the wrong foods. It's beautiful. But fishing is still big. My philosophy is that if God made the world three-fourths water, then it stands to reason He wanted us to spend a lot of time fishing. And fishermen were the first people Jesus called to be His followers.

By the way, when Jeanne and I are in the boat on the lake, we are like little kids sometimes watching all that is going on around us. When you see eagles flying nearby; when you see otters swimming along the shore; when the night skys are glimmering with countless stars: when the birds sign songs you only hear when you are quiet and listening; when the forests beckon you to explore the unknown; is it any wonder that we occassionally break into "How Great Thou Art"? Oh, and we might even catch a fish or two. Which is beside the point even though a nice bonus.

It seems crazy to suggest that a person could "miss" God when doing God's work, but it can happen. Work, even God's work, can easily start to be about me and what I am doing. Like God really needs me to get His work done. Fishing, more to the point, observing what God has created, brings us to a place of humility. God can do anything because He has created everything. Does He really need me? A better question is: Do I really need Him? ABSOLUTELY. And this God who has created all things for His pleasure, also created me. Wow! He loves me (you), created me (you) and has an incredible plan for my (your) life.

A vacation? Yes, but not from God but toward God to hear more clearly that I am blessed and humbled to be thought worthy of being used of Him. And so are you. Take some time to break away, even for a day or an hour to get that perspective. If we listen, He speaks clearly. "Lord, teach us to be good listeners"

So if someone says that Pastor Jerry has gone fishing, remember that he has also gone "listening" and "watching". Hopefully to catch a little more of that Up North Wisdom.

" Lord God, I love you and I thank You." And blessings to you, my friend, for a "listening" summer.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Be The String

There is a verse in Judges that says, "As a string snaps when it comes close to a flame, so the secret of his strength was not discovered."

There is a great story of a Father who took his young son out to fly a kite. The sky was clear. The breeze was just right for kite flying so to the boy's delight the kite soared up and up until the entire ball of string had run out. As the youngster held on tightly to the stick to which the string was tied, he could feel the kite dance and tug against it. He said, "I want the kite to go higher."
"Can't go higher," said the father. "There is no more string."
"The string is holding the kite back," the boy replied. "Let's cut it."
Whereupon the father cut the string and then the kite came tumbling down to the ground. The father said, "You see son, the kite is free to fly because the string had a hold on it. It is the line that holds things together."

Dads, many times you are the string, the line that holds things together in your family. There is a verse in Proverbs that says, "Life and death are wrapped up in the power of the tongue," and perhaps no person holds as much potential for speaking words that impact and influence a child as does the father. By a father's words, a soul can be refreshed or shocked, soothed or singed. Whether he is a man of few words or a great conversationalist, you may recall hearing some things from your father who may still be living or not.

Whether you heard good words from your earthly father or not, your Heavenly Father gives good words to all of us - words that are life building. Are any words more important and powerful than "I love you" and "I am proud of you." Dads, you are big in that regard. Those words never get old. If I heard "I love you" a thousand times from my dad, I needed it a thousand and one times. It was the last thing my dad said to me before he died.

Dads, parents, never stop telling your children that you love them and are proud of them. Why do negative words come so easily and positive ones so hard? God the Father said in the book of Jeremiah "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness."

Dads, I encourage you. I exhort you. I implore you. I don't care how old your kids may be. They may be grown up but be the dad that speaks words of life to your children (or grandchildren). It is never too late to start, believe me. Children, listen to me. If your dads can't or won't do it, then by the grace and power of God, ask Him to let you be the instrument of those words of life and health. Maybe, just maybe, you may be the one through whom God brings positive and powerful change into you family. Amen? Amen!!

"Dad, I love you and miss you. I look forward to seeing you in heaven. Thank you for being such a loving and caring dad and for being such a great example to myself, my wife and my children and grandchildren. Your legacy of love will continue."

Happy Father's Day everyone!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Are You Mad?

Now that we are all on the same page about drinking :) let me share some thoughts about anger. Angry people are said to be mad. Maybe that's appropriate because anger sometimes causes people to act insane. Listen, anger can consume your happiness, rob your joy, affect your health, end relationships, and wreck your faith.

Henry Drummond in his book, "The Greatest Thing in the World", said this: "No form of vice, not worldliness, not greed of gold, not drunkenness itself, does more to unchristianize society than evil temper. For embittering life, for breaking up relationships, for devastating homes, for withering up men and women, for taking the bloom of childhood, in short, for sheer gratuitous misery-producing power this influence stands alone." Wow!

Think about this: Realize anger is one of the emotions God gave you and is not a sin in itself. We all have anger but most of us don't lose control. Learn to communicate your feelings.

Acknowledge that being hot-blooded, a redhead, or some certain nationality are not plausible excuses for out-of-control outbursts.

Realize actions are controlled by the will, so you can decide to control anger's behavior. Here's something radical. Maybe start praying about it and then understand that some anger should be vented to God alone.

Use anger constructively but accept what can't be changed. Don't break a commandment to defend a commandment. That is not righteous indignation.

Humble yourself and listen to other people. You are not always right and don't always know better than anyone else.

Ask forgiveness from those offended by your angry outbursts. Anger doesn't really give you control. Asking forgiveness calms troubled situations.

Avoid substances that unleash anger. Drinking is the number one predictor of abuse. Also know that grief could be involved as anger is one of the stages in the grieving process.

Cultivate the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22,23) It leaves little room for inappropriate use of anger.

Up North Wisdom says that when you (me) decide to be no longer ruled by anger, your life, home, workplace, church, and relationships will be filled with peace and laughter. And you just might be a better driver as well. Blessings.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Can We Talk?

Having been in two establishments the last two weekends for wedding receptions, I want to make a few comments about alcohol. Maybe more than a few. I used to be the Youth Pastor in our church and when it came to talking to teens, I always took the approach with them that the most responsible drinking is no drinking at all. By drinking, of course, I mean alcohol.

Why did I do that and why do I take that stand now? In keeping up with the new supposedly "tough" drinking laws being proposed, it seems to me that they aren't tough at all. It seems to me that a person has to kill someone before the courts really get tough with drinking and driving. We live in a culture that not only loves drinking, but really thinks that getting drunk is just something that goes along with the social climate and is the way to have fun.

If you take a child to a Packer game, you risk the results of football fans and drinking -- not a good combination. And it's getting worse, not better. I don't enjoy going to games like I used to because I have to constantly keep alert for beer being spilled on myself or my wife throughout the game. Just part of the culture, right? Have a good time -- drink and then really drink.

Someone asks if I think it is wrong to social drink. I am not sure what is meant by that. The Bible doesn't condemn having a drink, I suppose, but I know it condemns drunkenness. But why do it at all? Have you ever seen anything good come from drinking alcohol? I haven't. And those I have talked to about this haven't either. In fact I regularly deal with families being torn apart by this very thing. It is tragic.

Quite frankly, the drinking culture in our community is embarrassing. I encourage adults to become and stay non-drinkers. Someone said that what one generation does in moderation, the next does in excess. I think that is true. We change the culture not by putting people down or condemning, but by showing a better way. Certainly as Christians, we can strive to not be a "stumbling block" to others by our lives. Do people just want to have fun? I think more fun comes from not having bleary eyes, obnoxious speech, stupid behavior or angry outbursts.

Up North Wisdom says it starts with one person at a time. Take a stand against a culture that exalts drunkenness. Push for tough laws that punish drunk drivers before they kill someone. And be a good example that having fun doesn't have to mean including alcohol. If the Word of God is true and we should strive to glorify God in all we do, then let that truth carry over into our social lives and let's show the next generation that we can live better, more effectively, and less destructively. Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Is Your Church Attendance Meaningful?

On Sundays at church, do you find yourself sitting there being critical, nodding off to sleep, or texting friends on your cell phone? Is church an obligation to you or a awesome time to draw close to God? To receive blessings from church attendance, you must participate with the Holy Spirit and invest yourself in the church and church service.

Try these steps to make your church attendance more meaningful:

1. Come to church with anticipation. Anticipate something good and powerful when you enter your church. Enter into the praise and worship from the first song.

2. Come to church in a spirit of unity. Hard feelings, envy or apathy are human obstacles in the path of the Holy Spirit.

3. Come to church with a humble heart. Don't think that the powerful sermon was meant for someone else. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you about your life during the service.

4. Come to church to minister. Give encouragement to others. Be friendly. Instead of waiting for others to reach out to you, take the lead and reach out to others first.

5. Come to church to support your pastors. Your attendance and participation in a church service testify of your support. Pray for your pastor during the service, that the Holy Spirit will anoint the message and stir hearts. A pastor who is sustained by prayer will more effectively feed your spirit with the Word of God.

6. Come to church in an attitude of prayer. Begin seeking God before you enter the sanctuary. Sing praise songs during your morning preparation time. You will be surprised what it does for your own spirit and what effect it will have on your church.

Up North Wisdom says it's up to you to make attending church far more than an obligation. It can be the highlight of your week. Let's have a great service this Sunday. I'm looking forward to it. You can, too. Blessings.