Saturday, November 21, 2015

Loving' Jesus from a Deer Stand

Through 25 years of living in the north country, I’ve come to recognize that, by default, deer hunting season is Wisconsin’s other “holy week.”

It took me a while to figure this out. Year after year, I stood behind the pulpit on the third Sunday of November, and looked with dismay upon an empty sanctuary.  In Hayward, most of the men, and half the ladies vanish into the woods on deer opener, and they normally don’t re-appear for church on Sunday morning.

Of course, there are always a few devoted members of the flock who endure the annual Thanksgiving sermon, anxiously awaiting the concluding “amen” so then can hurry up and get out there. I’m happy to report that my Thanksgiving sermon usually has the intended effect. When it’s over, there’s a collective “Whew, Thank God!” then a mad scramble for the doors.

I regretfully admit that in my foolish, early years past, I attempted to heap guilt and shame on the poor hunters of the congregation in the weeks leading up to “the great departure.” They hung their heads, as I poured it on. “Surely, you can give your Creator ONE hour of your precious hunting time. Where is your commitment? Where is your sacrifice? Where is your priority?” I even made a vague suggestion that if they agreed to sit in church for an hour, that heaven would take note of such devotion, and perhaps reward them with a trophy buck.

They didn’t buy it.

Several years ago, in mid-November, I went for the nuclear option. “People, if you truly love Jesus, then you’re going to prove it by coming HERE next Sunday morning, rather than traipsing out into the woods before dawn!”

They didn’t buy that either.

The good folks of Hayward instinctively know the odds of bagging big buck are much greater from a deer stand than a church pew.

One older fellow shook my hand afterwards, and gave me a Norwegian rebuke,  “Pastor, thank you for sharing your perspective.  But next Sunday, I’ll be lovin’ Jesus from my tree stand.”

That day, I learned a valuable lesson. My job, as a northwoods pastor, is to bless the dear deer hunters, and not try to force them into being something they're not.

Besides, what other season affords such opportunity for solitude and reflection? What occasion brings a better place for prayer? In the normal course of life, most folks don’t carve out enough time to be quiet and listen to God’s voice.

One can certainly worship in the woods. In fact, there is no greater cathedral. The splendor of creation inspires the soul to greater heights.

Hunting season imposes “Sabbath” on us. The entire town slows down, and it’s hard to find a mechanic, a repairman, or a barber. Slowing is good medicine for the soul.

Wisconsin’s deer hunting season includes Thanksgiving – and that certainly is appropriate for such a holy week.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Andrew Murray's Favorite Hymn: Moment By Moment

This beautiful hymn,  Moment By Moment, was the great devotional author Andrew Murray's favorite hymn. I understand why.

 Moment by moment I’m kept in His love;
 Moment by moment I’ve life from above;
 Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine;
 Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

 Dying with Jesus, by death reckoned mine;
 Living with Jesus, a new life divine;
 Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine,
 Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

 Never a trial that He is not there,
 Never a burden that He doth not bear,
 Never a sorrow that He doth not share,
 Moment by moment, I’m under His care.

 Never a heartache, and never a groan,
 Never a teardrop and never a moan;
 Never a danger but there on the throne,
 Moment by moment He thinks of His own.

 Never a weakness that He doth not feel,
 Never a sickness that He cannot heal;
 Moment by moment, in woe or in weal,
 Jesus my Savior, abides with me still.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

How a Minister Finds the Freshness and Fullness of God's Power

"We need a generation of preachers who seek God and seek Him early, who give the freshness and dew of effort to God, and secure in return the freshness and fullness of His power that He may be as the dew to them, full of gladness and strength, through all the heat and labor of the day."
 --  E. M. Bounds (Preacher and Prayer)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Ugly Old Man

A few years ago, I took my daughter, Hannah, to Perkins Restaurant for a daddy-daughter date.

As we finished the last of our french fries, I waved down the waitress and asked for the bill. She smiled and said, "I have good news! Somebody else in the room paid it for you this evening."

"Who?" I wondered.

"Well, he said if you insisted on knowing, blame it on the old ugly man sitting across the dining room."

"Sitting where?" I asked.

She furtively nodded in the general direction. I glanced around the restaurant, and right away, I spotted Don, one of my parishioners, having dinner with his wife.

I strode across the dining room, and greeted Don cheerfully: "Thanks a million, you ugly old man, you!"

The startled expressions on their faces immediately informed me that I had made a big mistake! I'd picked the wrong ugly old man to thank!

"I beg your pardon?"

"Er. . . but. . . the waitress said. . ." I tried to explain with a red face, but the hole kept getting deeper. Finally, I quit digging. There was no graceful way out of this one.

Tom, another parishioner, sitting in a booth two tables away, roared with laughter, while his wife, Joan, rolled her eyes with a grin.

"That was the best entertainment I've had in years!" he hooted and slapped his knee. "Definitely worth the cost of a dinner!"

I made a hasty exit.

A few days later, Don's wife came by the church office.

"I really don't think your husband is an ugly old man. . . honest."

She just grinned.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I Fought for You

For all those who served our country. . . Thank You!  Freedom always comes at a price.  I think your heart will be touched by this video:

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

East of the Evergreens: A Tribute to Veterans

A special Veteran's Day tribute by John Miller of Brule, Wisconsin:

 East of the evergreens lies a grassy knoll, which has been there from days of old.
 The only route to the grassy knoll is by a narrow, winding gravel road.
 A cloud of dust can be seen afar, created by a long procession of cars.
 Their travel resembles a snail's pace, passengers are with heavy hearts and somber face.
 As the procession arrives and comes to rest, many have come to pay their respects.
 Honoring a Veteran, America's best.

 Proceeding to the top of the grassy knoll, white crosses are visible in numerous rows.
 Near each cross there is placed a small American flag,
 Signifying those brave souls who were courageous and true,
 Who fought and died for the Red, White and Blue.
 Suffering, sacrifice and lives that were lost, the price of freedom at a terrible cost.

 The preacher made certain that everyone heard, this Veteran confessed that "Jesus is Lord",
 Assuring all he is now in a better place, with streets of gold and pearly gates,
 Telling all there is no cause to fear, for God shall wipe away all his tears.
 While his body lies in the grave, his spirit as returned back to God, because he was saved.
 He resides in his mansion forever more, because he confessed that Jesus is Lord.

 Honor guards step forward with the Veteran's final salute,
 With thundering sounds, they begin to shoot.
 They lower their rifles to the ground, after completion of 21 rounds.
 The American Flag is folded in a patriotic way,
 And presented to his widow who is standing near his grave.
 A new, white cross will be aligned with all the rest.
 A small American Flag will be placed near his monument,
 Signifying here is buried a Veteran, one of America's best

 The bugler begins playing taps, that sad, familiar sound,
 Around the grave, silence, no distractions are found.
 Before he finishes playing the final note,
 Many have tears in their eyes and a lump in their throat.
 The crowd disperses and the procession drives away,
 Only the family remains gathered around the grave.
 Reminiscing what the Veteran once told his family and wife,
 For freedom one day, he would have to sacrifice his life.

 Veterans and troops that are with us today,
 Let your ears hear the sincerity of our praise,
 For your sacrifice and years of service that you gave.
 Our freedom exists from the battles that you have won,
 You have persevered, your patience is second to none.
 Our appreciation for your commitment will never grow cold.
 Stories of selflessness will be forever told.
 Honor and respect will be heard long after you have been laid to rest,
 In that peaceful place, east of the evergreens, beneath the grassy knoll.

Veterans and troops, we will never forget.

Monday, November 09, 2015

How to Find Your Happiness

"If you seek your happiness in God alone, you will never be disappointed, if in anything else, you surely will, for all creatures are broken cisterns."  -- John Wesley