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Be Thee Reconciled!

Scripture:  “All this from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.”  (2 Corinthians 5:18-20) In an old issue of Alive Now! magazine George Graham writes ‘I serve as a volunteer with a local prison ministry named Reconciliation Ministries.  I enjoy calling the office especially on the chance the telephone answering machine will pick up my call.  I don’t usually like talking to answering machines, but when this one picks up, it proclaims, ‘You have reached reconciliation.’  I can’t help but smile every time that I hear this message.’  (Alive Now! May-June, 1993 pg. 10)    If only true reconciliation was possible by making such a call. Most Christian churches observe the season of Lent.  It’s a time when we work to get ourselves back into a right relationship with God and with each other.  We do so in order to celebrate Easter day in all of its glory.  For it is the day when Jesus,  rose from the dead and provided lasting reconciliation to all of the believers. Lent and Easter are starting points of a Christian understanding for reconciliation. I will attempt a rough definition.   Imagine two friends who have a big argument. The companionship they shared is lost.  Silence is in the spot that had been filled with conversation and laughter.  Time spent in each other’s presence is awkward.  As time passes one may look to the other for a signal to know if the other is willing to mend fences or wants to part ways.  Now at one time humanity had a great connection with God, but that relationship was broken.  Naturally, we are the guilty ones.  But instead of walking away, our God had an amazing response to all those disappointments and trespasses we dished up.  He provided a way to forgive and restore that great relationship we once shared.   The innocent Christ died on the cross and opened the gate so we could be redeemed along that way. There is a second part to the passage that informs us that we have been appointed as Christ’s ambassadors of reconciliation.  Ask Governor Branstad and he will say that an ambassador serves as a respected representative of a greater entity.  So ambassadors of Christ embody his hands, feet and heart as we invite others to share our permanent residence in eternity.  This is not an easy task as we are called to swim up-stream while societal rapids are pushing in the opposite direction. Modern society is driving to divide people into groups called “us” and “them”.   Christians who embrace God’s ministry...

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The Grace of Persistence

Scripture: Psalm 95:8-9 “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion. As in the day of trial in the wilderness when your ancestors tested me. ” Lately I have been studying up on the National Parks. We are still within the anniversary of the 100th year for formation of the National Park Service and I want to make a point of visiting at least one of them with one of my buddies. We have discussed Voyager N.P. in Minnesota, Rocky Mountain N.P. in Colorado, but since we have been to those already it may be time to go some place else. Julie, who is my niece, is recommending Yosemite N.P. in California. It’s a favorite of hers. She says that it is beautiful at any time of the year with its many redwoods, waterfalls and mountains. I believe her. Julie even sent an article to me as an act of persuasion. It was about two rock climbers who scaled the face of the El Capitan. These men planned and trained for a whole seven years to take on this project. Can you believe that? Tommy Caldwell and Keven Jorgenson said it was their life-long dream to scale the sheer wall using nothing but their own strength and skill. They had ropes to catch if one were to fall, but that was it. All the experts in the field of rock climbing said their goal was insurmountable. (It is a 3,000 foot sheer rock face, after all). But after all that training, the two took three weeks to climb into the record-books by accomplishing their goal. When the reporters caught up with them Jorgenson said. “I hope people take the time to find their own El Capitan. I want them to use our accomplishment as an example of what can be achieved when you dream big and don’t give up.” Consider what Jorgenson said. Place his words beside the passage from Psalm 95 (found above). It can help you understand a scripture passage which at first glance sounds strange. In this passage the Psalmist is reflecting back to the time when the Hebrew people were led out of slavery in Egypt, through the Red Sea to their freedom by God acting through Moses. They spent time in the wilderness where God put them into training for entrance into the promised land. Moses and the Hebrew people were dreaming big. Yet as the travel became more daunting and the group neared the destination those people wavered. By the time they got to Massah they were worn out, hungry and thirsty. To make a sad story short, the Hebrews gave up on all those dreams and...

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Does the Star Still Shine?

Scripture:  “While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby.  She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”  (Luke 2:6-7) For Christmas this year my girlfriends and I are doing something different.  We all like to thrift shop, so we are going to exchange only treasures found at one. ( I think they were inspired by the Kid’s Shopping Day in Gladbrook.  Now that is an amazing event. All of the organizers, helpers and those who donate deserve a star in the crown they will wear in eternity.)  As I rummaged through the pile of CD’s at a nearby thrift store,  I stumbled across one entitled ‘Merle Haggard’s Christmas Present.’  What a find.  As youngsters my friends and I rode a school bus and the driver always tuned the radio to the local country music station. Therefore, if were you name a country artist who recorded between 1960 and 1976 I can come up with a song. Mr. Williams deserves my thanks. Merle Haggard recorded a song we heard at this time of year but I didn’t associate with Christmas. Still the song struck a chord with me.  Its name was “If we make it through December.” Merle Haggard  surely knew a lot about tough times and wasn’t afraid to sing about them.  During his youth he dropped out of High School and lived a shiftless life.  He even spent time in prison.  So, when Haggard sang “If we make it through December, everything’s going to be alright I know, it’s the hardest time of winter, and I shiver when I see the falling snow…”  he was singing straight out of his own experience. His song spoke to something deep inside of us too  as we rode with Mr. Williams in that drafty, old, yellow  bus that took us back and forth to school. Standing in the thrift shop I flipped to the back of Merle Haggard’s Christmas Present CD.  It surprised me to see “If we make it through December” was listed there.  Christmas CD’s are ones filled with sacred, sweet and happy tunes.  We sing about joy and the wonder of the season. That kind of music is in harmony with our desires for the season because lot of us want to look forward to gathering with family and friends.   There are many special events such as a school concert or activities we are planning such as the Christmas worship services our churches host.  These songs tell us that this is the happiest time of the year. But is it?  Perhaps this is true for most of us on most days.  But during the December...

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God’s Timing

Trust in God and in God’s timing It’s that time of year.  The flowers are blooming and trees are bearing leaves.  I’ve heard tell mushrooms are coming up in great numbers – (if you know where to hunt them.) So let me tell you about my little trees… there is a Chinese Proverb which states, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago.  The second best time is today.”  Last Memorial Weekend I was gifted two little cherry trees.  I was pleased because I am convinced all of us should plant trees whenever we have the opportunity.  So early last summer my precious, little charges were planted into the ground.  Along with the planting I received a lot of advice regarding their care and well being and I followed every word through the summer. Something that I learned this spring (as I worried that I had killed one of them) is that although both saplings are cherries, they are of different varieties.  Therefore the first tree leafed out and bloomed long before the second.  Just now I can see leaves popping out on the second.  Maybe it really will grow through another season.  It’s a great relief. Jesus used parables for teaching and I think that if he were to visit my back yard, he would point to my cherry trees and use them to teach a lesson.  Sometimes we feel dormant and as if our Christian discipleship is getting us nowhere.  It might even seem as if our prayers for the people and circumstances are spinning in circles and not going anywhere either.  Vision can be deceptive.  We cannot  see the things taking place behind the scenes (under the ground or below the bark). We are told to believe, that God hears, cares and answers our prayers. But it is easy to forget that some of those answers are going to take a lot of time to be revealed.   God can do anything, yet many times the Holy One chooses to work through people to get the job done. You know as well as I do that working with volunteers can take a lot of patience, guidance and time- especially when a novice gets involved with the job.  So, just because a prayer request is taking time does not mean God is ignoring your request.  I choose to believe the Holy One is continually working upon our concerns and guiding route God knows will be best for you or me. So even if they have not shown any signs of life yet, keep a watch on your charges and continually care for that tree.  Put the outcome into God’s hands.  I trust you’ll eventually see results.  It may appear to be slow, but the...

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Week 4 – Day 7

Bible Challenge Week 4 Day 1 – Jan. 18th – Matthew 25 & Acts 25-26 Day 2 – Jan. 19th – Matthew 26 & 28 Day 3 – Jan. 20 – Acts 27 & 28 Good Job – you have completed the reading of the Gospel of Matthew and the Book of Acts Day 4 – Jan. 21 – Mark 1 & Romans 1-2 Day 5 – Jan. 22 – Mark 2 & Romans 3 Day 6 – Jan. 23 – Mark 3 & Romans 4-5 Day 7 – Jan. 24 – Mark 4 & Romans 6-7   Day 7 – Mark 4 The Gospel of Mark just speeds right along, you know. And in Chapter 4 we will recall some wonderful parables told by Jesus to his followers. He uses the parables to share some powerful truths about himself and also about humanity. I find challenge and encouragement in them. They help me see that Jesus really did embody the will and ways of God. His authority is deep, wide and all-embracing. Meaning, not only does he speak and teach like no other. We should obey him. It’s not just mere mortals that should obey. Read at the end of the chapter about how he calmed the storm that blew up during the night while he and the disciples are crossing the sea. Even the wind and waves understand that when he orders them to do something, they need to do it. Romans 6-7 Again, it’s the first paragraph or so of our daily reading that inspires me to write. The issue is not that these first few paragraphs speak more powerfully than the ones which follow. It is just that the book of Romans packs a sermon in every passage! So here it is. Romans 6:1-23 tells us that Jesus is the righteous one. Because of what he has done, Christians are not slaves to sin. Jesus has overcome sin and with his help, we can do it too. We live in a world where it’s easy to stray. And, we can justify almost any kind of behavior. There will be times when sin will have us cornered and it will seem like there is no way out. This scripture doesn’t speak to the power of repentance. So you will need to trust me when I say that something cleansing occurs when we confess our sins and seek God’s help to live a better way. Well, you don’t really need to trust me because I am sure some of our readers understand that the path of repentance allows the Holy Spirit to take charge and sin will lose it’s power. If you...

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