Saturday, December 20, 2014

P-E-A-C-E

To those struggling and maybe even more at this time of the year, I paraphrase Aaron Rodgers with my own little twist -- P-E-A-C-E.  Just be at peace. Really?-- because it's a nice little catch phrase at this time of the year? No, because the Word of God is full of encouragement about being filled with peace. I guess God knew what we would struggle with, right?

It was basically the message God gave to Mary; to Joseph-twice; and to the shepherds.  Peace in a world full of turmoil? Really? Who knew? God's people hated their president (er: rulers, I mean) and wanted them out. With new leadership, they would finally be at peace. Right? Ah, no.

I've always loved the scripture quoted often at Christmas from Isaiah 9:6-7:   "For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end."  (NLT)

So why hasn't it happened yet. Where is the Prince of Peace promised to a troubled world - then and now? Oh, it will happen in a literal sense and probably sooner than most think. Even many Christians are weary of thinking of Christ coming again. Don't be friends. It will happen. The Bible guarantees it. But what about now you say. If we get the right President and the right government leaders in Washington, that will bring about what is really needed in our world. If all the enemies of the United States were eliminated, then we would have the peace we so desperately need. Right? Wrong!

The truth is you can have the peace that God's Word promises and you can have it right now. If Christmas tells us anything, it tells us that Jesus wants to come into your life even more deeply than He is now. He said, "My peace I give to you, not the peace that this world thinks it can give. Don't let your hearts be troubled; Believe and believe deeply."  JBV

Friends, listen to Up North Wisdom. It tells you that God wants you, yes you, to be His instrument of peace. Let others see Godly peace in your hearts, lives, families, circumstances and when they wonder how can it be, you tell them the answer for that peace, comfort, and joy.  To paraphrase a very old Christmas hymn:  God give you rest, merry men and women, and let nothing bring you to dismay and discouragement. REMEMBER CHRIST THE SAVIOR was born on Christmas day. To save us all from Satan's power (to bring fear, doubt and unbelief which leads to lack of peace) when we went astray (and didn't believe God's Word). O Wow, these are words of great comfort and joy and are meant to free all those who trust in Him  from the power of sin and fear.

I love it, don't you? And remember-yes, you know don't you? -- The Best Is Yet To Come! That is what Isaiah 9 is all about. Believe it. And a very Merry Christmas to all of you!!

Monday, December 1, 2014

R-E-L-A-X

I bought a T-shirt three weeks ago that had the logo that featured Aaron Rodger's now famous statement to fans after the Packers started the season at 1-2. He said on his radio show to anxious fans: "R-E-L-A-X. Just relax fans." And by the way, the Packers have been undefeated since I started wearing that t-shirt. So no washing and every Sunday wearing for now. Just saying.  :)

My wife Jeanne and I were in the car doing some shopping this morning and I couldn't help but notice the hurrying and scurrying around and the anger so many drivers seem to be displaying these days. I laughingly keep saying to these drivers: "R-E-L-A-X. Just relax."  You know what, I think that is a good saying not just to football fans but to people everywhere this holiday season and especially to Christians, too many of whom struggle with worry, anxiety, and fear.

Philippians 4 gives us all good words not just for the holiday season but all year long. And not just to the very troubled but to all Christians who just can't seem to get to that place in their lives where peace reigns even in troubled circumstances. " Don't worry or be anxious about so much. Instead learn to pray more and talk to the one who can really help you - God. Tell Him how you feel and ask for His help. Then thank Him even before you start to feel the great peace He will give you that will be like a guard around your troubled heart and mind.  And begin to make the change in the things you think about which bring you down. Think instead, with God's help, about things that are good and worthy of praise; things that are honorable and right and pure, beautiful and respected. When you do this more and more, God's peace will fill your mind and heart."   (Pastor Jerry's Version)

Jesus came that very first Christmas to bring peace into a troubled world. He still wants to do it but people must submit to the Word that says Jesus is the Way, Truth and Life --  the only way to the Father and eternal life!  Jesus said "My peace I give you; not the phony peace you hear about so much in the world today; Don't let your hearts be troubled or discouraged." (again the PJV)  So simple but we can make it so difficult. Christian husbands and wives - parents- workers - all of us. How will our children, grandchildren, spouses, friends, co-workers and brothers and sisters ever get this awesome truth if we don't live it?

Up North Wisdom says be the example, be the one who takes the lead. Let others see and feel the peace of God in us. It can be catchy you know. Those around us really need it and we can be the hands of Jesus in being instruments of peace. Not possible in your circumstances at this time you say? Well, I have told God so many things that are not possible in my life and things that I just can't do. And amazingly and humorously, He agrees with me.  :)  Folks listen, either His Word is true or not. "I can, you can, we can, do all things (that lead to peace) through Christ who gives you and me the strength to do so."

So in this holiday season and all the year long:    R-E-L-A-X!! Thanks, Aaron!  And remember what one older and maybe a little wiser pastor has said maybe too many times - The Best Is Yet To Come!  And have a great CHRISTMAS season. When a store worker says "happy holidays",  you smile a very loving smile and say, "Merry Christmas and God bless you!"


Monday, November 10, 2014

BUSYNESS

"I am so busy. I can hardly keep up with my schedule. I'm exhausted."   Have you heard these words anytime lately? Have you said them or something like them in the last several days? I have had some time to think about "busyness" in the last couple of months since I am not as "busy" as I used to be.

We generally don't think that there is anything wrong with being busy. After all, we tend to think that the opposite of busy is "idle" or "lazy" or to be a little Biblical - slothful. Actually, two dictionary definitions of the opposite of busy that I really like are:  "quiet" and the other is "available".  Ah, now that puts a different spin on it, doesn't it?

In Ephesians chapter 5 and verses 15 and 16, we read:  "Be careful how you live. Don't be unwise but wise, making the best use of (redeeming) your time. Understand whats the Lord wants you to do."

Good verses. What does the Lord want us to do and how does He want us to think about "busyness" ? I like the thinking of Max Lucado on this issue. He says that being busy is not a sin. After all, Jesus was busy. Paul was busy. And we all know, don't we friends, that we will not get much of anything important accomplished without effort and hard work.  And working hard will make us weary. Ok, that in itself is not sin.

But being busy in a mad dash pursuit of things that leave us empty and broken inside does not please God.  Would you agree? Doesn't it seem like sometimes the faster we go in our lives, the emptier we become?  Yet why does it seem like taking time to pause, reflect, meditate and just listen to the important voices in our lives is just so hard? It's not easy to make decisions to bring our life under control and change our priorities so we can focus on first seeking after and building our relationship with our Heavenly Father and letting some of the other things take a backseat.

So I align with Mr. Lucado who believes that in the midst of busyness, the Cross is still there. In the midst of your emptiness, the Cross is still there. The promises of Jesus still stand today. You can claim peace in the midst of a hectic life -- but not without some sacrifice and concentration, but we can do it.

So I am learning once again that God's Word is so true. Pastor Jerry, family and friends and brothers and sisters:  Up North Wisdom says listen and apply the truth from Matthew 6 which tells us that doing what God wants and seeking His Kingdom first will keep us in good relationship with Him as well as with others. And the needs of our lives will be met. I'm learning friends and I hope you are too. Not only will God show you how to live, learn and love better, but He will bring great peace into the middle of the busyness of your life.

"Father God, help us to know when to say no to the world and yes to you. Help us to hear the true and still small voice of the Holy Spirit in the midst of the pressures and busyness of life. We are not very good at it, Father, so we really need You to help us. Thank You for Your love and Grace in our lives."

So now with all that in mind, isn't it so cool to really know that The Best Is Yet To Come?  Blessings!!




Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Who Do You Trust

Pastor Mark Cox of Central Church in Green Bay posted on Face Book this morning that win, lose, or draw for the candidate of your choice, let's be civil and remember ...We're ALL in this together! Good post, Pastor Mark. Psalm 20:7 says that "some trust in chariots and some trust in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord God."  An excellent verse. I would give it a modern twist and say, "Some trust in one political party and some trust in a different political party, but Christians trust in the name of the Lord, our God!"

Listen, there are a lot of things this old world needs but angry Christians are not one of them. It always amazes me to hear Christians say ugly things about certain politicians like this one or that one is their personal enemy. It's almost enough to make me........well a little angry. :)  Friend, I know who my enemy really is and so do you. And it's not a certain politician who holds a specific office.

I've often heard and said that if Christians are obedient to God's Word, they WILL pray for those in public office and not sin by being an angry voice that continually says negative and ugly things about certain politicians that they don't like. God's Word, not mine. Check out the writings of Paul.  Prayer is a great calmer and a great antidote for an angry spirit. We are not going to influence the world towards Christ by acting in opposition to what He told us.

Living Hope Church's founding pastor, Jim Erickson, said often that a defining verse in God's Word is " A soft answer turns away anger".  So how am I doing on that one?  How are you? How is the world going to know we are Christians if we don't act like one?  The Book of James is the great mirror for all of us. To say we are religious (Christians) and yet to say things and do things that are contrary to the Word is to fool ourselves. When we aren't demonstrating (living out) our faith by what we do (like reaching out to help the poor, ministering to those in need, having control of our tongues, talking less, listening more and not becoming angry, etc. etc. etc. -- then we are just another loud angry voice that joins all the others.

Some defining verses for me are found in Proverbs 3.   "Pastor Jerry, and all Christians,  Trust In The Lord With ALL Your Heart and Don't Depend On Your Own Understanding. Give Him First Place In Your Life and Everything Will Turn Out As God Directs."  JBV Version (Jerry Bruette Version) :)

Let me end with this from Max Lucado:  "I believe that many of us go through life sucking on pacifiers. Oh we don't see them because they're in our bank. Or they're parked in our garage. Or we live in them. Don't put your hope into things that change -- relationships, money, talents, beauty and health. (And into certain politicians - my add). Set your sights on one thing that can never change; trust in your Heavenly Father."   AMEN!  And Up North Wisdom adds one more thing for those of you who choose to trust God in all circumstances -- The Best Is Yet To Come!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Time For Everything

In Ecclesiastes chapter 3, the writer says there is a time for everything.  How true and how difficult it is for so many to get a proper grasp of this truth.

Gordon MacDonald says that the central principle of all personal organization of time is simple: time must be budgeted! Most learned (or should have) this about money a long time ago. When we discovered that we rarely had enough money to do all the things we wanted to do with it, we found it prudent to sit down and think through our financial priorities.

When money is limited, one budgets. And when time is in limited supply, the same principle holds. The disorganized person must have a budgeting perspective. And that means determining the difference between the fixed -- what one must do -- and the discretionary -- what one would like to do.

Sometimes we have to learn the hard way that we have to say no to things I really wanted to do in order to say yes to the very best things. Approval from people many times has too great an influence on us. We want people to really like us so we find it hard to say no. When a person learns to say no to some good things, he runs the risk of making enemies and gaining critics; and who needs more of those?

But if we are to command our time, we will have to bite the bullet and say a firm but courteous no to opportunities that are good but not the best. That demands, as it did in the ministry of our Lord, a sense of our mission. What are we called to do? What do we do best with our time? What are the necessities without which we cannot get along? You know, like our relationships: with God, with our spouses, and with our children. Everything else has to be considered negotiable: discretionary, not necessary.

I love reading good things that are so helpful to make my life more effective for God's Kingdom work. Thanks Gordon MacDonald for your help in this area.

So Up North Wisdom suggests you consider some questions:  What activities require more time than they are worth? What relationships could use a bigger time investment?  Are you spending some time each day talking to the God who loves you and desires to do good things in your life? How could you use time with your family better? So after evaluating your schedule, reorganize it so that it accurately reflects your priorities.

And always remember that with God's help and your cooperation -- The Best Is Yet To Come!!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A NEW BEGINNING

This from a card that Jeanne received:

"There's a better way to think of retirement -- call it your refirement! Look deep inside yourself for those sparks that have been smoldering all these years, waiting for you to lay the necessary aside and take a deep breath.  As the oxygen rushes in, those sparks are sure to burst into flame once again. You are more than a job, more than an occupation. You are God's amazing and unique creation. You have faithfully carried out your first calling. Now it's time to joyfully embrace the second and third and fourth.....Congratulations on your refirement?"

"Well done, thou good and faithful servant."   Matthew 25:21 NKJ

I love that! We have used that word, "refirement" ever since. As my friend Mike Grall often told me, "you can't buy back time."  I have reflected often about time since the Sept 7 transition service where Living Hope Church commissioned Mike LeClaire to be the new Senior Pastor. The Word has a lot to say about time and I want to share some of those with you in blogs to come.

One thing for sure friends, everybody has a ministry that God has called them to. Up North Wisdom says it doesn't make any difference whether you are a teacher, mill worker, house wife, office worker, business man, pastor, etc. Wherever life takes you each day, that is your ministry -- that is your mission field.  Your neighborhood, your family, your place of occupation or your church - everyone is called to serve, to minister in those places. Am I redeeming the time?  Are you? As my beautiful wife, Jeanne, has often said:  Each day is a gift from God and we need to see it as such.

And of course remember and never forget:  The Best Is Yet To Come!  I hope you still believe that.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Transition

I haven't written a blog in a very long time. I guess my time and attention has been on other projects that I must have felt were more important. Well, things are changing. On September 7, I will handing off the baton of Senior Pastor leadership to Pastor Mike LeClaire. Mike has been an associate of mine for many years and God has prepared him well for this new place in his life. I am excited for him and for Living Hope Church for what God has in store.

Many people have asked me why now for this transition. They tell me I am still doing a great job and the church is growing and moving forward. My response is: shouldn't I end doing my best? I think so. My only answer is one that I have often found wasn't satisfactory to me when others used it. And that is this:  God has clearly told (directed) me to make this change at this time. And actually He led me to start the process of transition about three years ago. With the OK from our Elder Board and from Pastor Mike, we began to set in motion the things that needed to be accomplished to get us to this point.

I confess that it seemed a lot farther away three years ago and now that the time has arrived, I can't believe the three years have gone by so fast. I am both excited and somewhat apprehensive about just what this is going to be like. Many have asked me what am I going to do. Well for one thing, my wife Jeanne, who is also retiring from her position at the Green Bay Packers, and I are going to take a lengthy sabbatical from the church for many reasons. It will be good for us, good for the church and good for Pastor Mike. I truly believe that. When we return, we look forward to doing some teaching, mentoring and just generally helping Pastor Mike in whatever way he directs. Maybe he will even let me preach once in a while.  :)

I plan to do a lot more blogging and would love it if you and others would follow my blog. If I can figure out how to use the gadgets ( phone, internet, etc.) I will post them to my face book as well. I would love to hear your comments and thoughts about the topics I blog about.

I have loved being a pastor these past 33 years at Living Hope Church (as I say sometimes -- formerly Interfaith Fellowship). I can truly say it has not been a job to me but a high calling from the Lord. I told the Lord one time that I was not qualified, competent, strong enough, smart enough, etc. to do this. And you know what - He agreed with me.  :)  And reminded me that as long as I realize where my strength and help really comes from I would be OK.  So friends, I can truly say:  To God Be The Glory, Great Things He Hath Done.   And of course, for Living Hope Church, Pastor Mike, and for Pastor Jerry and Jeanne -- THE BEST IS YET TO COME!!!