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Archive for May, 2012

Friends and Faithful Followers:

 

From May 29 through June 9, I will on Study Leave and Vacation.  While I considered continuing with my Daily Bread Crumbs  devotions while away, I chose not to for two reasons.

 

First, I believe in Sabbath Rest.

 

Second, I hope to complete the first draft of my upcoming book Your Best Love: Building a Great Marriage God’s Way.  I want to focus my energy of completing this task while away.

 

However, it is my desire that you continue to spend time in God’s Word, prayer, and daily reflection while we are absent one from another.  

 

Therefore, I encourage you go to http://about.esvbible.org and read these Psalms on the following schedule:

 

May 29 – Psalm 1

May 30 – Psalm 8

May 31 – Psalm 16

June 1 – Psalm 19

June 2 – Psalm 23

June 3 – Psalm 24

June 4 – Psalm 26

June 5 – Psalm 32

June 6 – Psalm 33

June 7 – Psalm 40

June 8 – Psalm 41

June 9 – Psalm 42

 

I will be posting my next Daily Bread Crumbs  devotional on Sunday June 10.

 

Thank you for your friendship and support.

 

Blessings and peace,

Pastor Rus

 
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Memorial Day Address

Kishwaukee Cemetery 2012

When my son Matt was in the early stages of dating his future wife Beth, he asked her, “What has been the best moment of your life?”  She was unable to come up with an answer.  

In her silence he said, “I think I know.” He then pointed to a picture on Beth’s desk.  It was taken the day her parents come to pick she and her sister up from her grandparent’s home.

In the picture Beth, then 8 and in the 3rd Grade was hugging her Mom.  Her dad is holding her 6 year old sister.  Beth and her sister had been staying with her grandparents for several weeks.  This particular day had come as a surprise.  They had not seen their dad in a year. 

Beth’s dad was in the Air Force and had been on assignment in South Korea for that year. These two girls had not seen him since he left.  For a 6 and 8 year old, a year is an eternity.  The only contact she had with her Dad during that year was in snail mail letters which simply said,  “I love you.  I miss you.  I can’t wait to see you again.  Keep helping Mommy and working hard at school.  I’m proud of you.”

When Beth shared this memory with me, it reminded me of the sacrifices made by family members of our service men and women.  I grew up in a military neighborhood.  Most of my friends were children of Navy Pilots during the Viet Nam War.  

My friend Cindy was 9 when word came that her father had died in a training exercise, when his plane did not stop while landing on the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga.  

My friend Danny was 10 when he learned his Dad was a POW.  Mike was 9 when he learned his Dad was MIA after his plane when down behind enemy lines.  Tommy was 11 when they came to his house with news of his father’s death.  Other friends welcomed home Dad’s with permanent debilitating injuries, physical and emotional.  As one of my friends told me in high school, “Dad lives in my house, but we lost him in Viet Nam.  When he came home, he was never the same.”

While it is right for us to remember today those who died while serving in our country’s armed forces, I can never forget the other deaths and losses experienced by the families of our service men and women.

In my neighborhood, filled with Navy Pilots, everyone had a father, but rarely was Dad ever home.  When the USS Saratoga left the Mayport Naval Base for a tour of duty, it was frequently gone 9 to 12 months.  For this eternity children did not have a Dad to help mold and shape them, while Mom’s did their best as lonely single parents.  

I have many friends who served in our armed forces.  They and their families frequently tell me the same stories about their times of deployment and the hardships endured by spouse and children when the soldier is deployed in these words:

The ‘easier’ part of deployment is for the service member going out.  It is an inevitable part of a military career.  Everyone who serves in the military knows that ‘you go where you are told and do what you were sent to do’.

When the orders are cut, you immediately begins to plan and prepare, there is a shift in your thinking.  You focus on the mission, which becomes top priority in his life, even over his wife and kids.

While the soldier knows they are serving a cause bigger than themselves, caring for family comes second.  It has to be that way.

This is more than single-mindedness.  It is also a preparation and self-protection tactic.  You know that the best way of insuring that you get home safe is to focus on the mission. 

You have to trust that your spouse and kids know what you do is important.  But the moment you leave, you know all will not be well.  On one deployment the washer, the dryer and television all broke the first week I was gone.  Then both kids got sick.

You are unable to provide support, guidance, love, and companionship with difficulties arise at come.  

Deployment is often another word for divorce.  The marriage dies because neither husband nor wife can prvide support or understand the hardship endured while separated.

That kind of stuff is harder than one might think.  Added to these fears is the uncertainty of how long the deployed person will be gone – not being absolutely sure where they are – not knowing how much their life is at risk. 

While the soldier looks forward to any communication from home he has to keep his mind clear to successfully complete the mission.  If he loses focus he risks not only his life, but those of the men and women and families in his unit.    

Wives tell me:  

After 29 years it never got easier.  You worry.  From the minute I heard he was going somewhere to the minute he returned I worried.   I had everything at home to worry about, the house, the kids, the car, the dog, the job.  Then you had him to worry about and you wait at home for news to come that he was safely back from another mission.  

I tried to keep my communications with him positive, not telling him if something at home was wrong knowing that he had to keep the mind on the mission.  At the same time, I tried not to think of what he was going through, knowing there was nothing I could to to help him.  

I had to trust that he was in God’s hands.  Knowing that if something happened, it was God’s will and there would be nothing I could do to change or fix it.  I prayed for communications that told me he was “safe.”  I would thank God when he came home.  

As a single parent during deployment, I had to keep a positive attitude for the kids.  They did not know how dangerous some of his missions were.  While I knew he might not come home safe, I tried to protect my girls from these fears as much as I could.  

The whole family, soldier, spouse, children, parents, and siblings live in fear that they may never see their husband, Dad, child, or sibling ever again. Then, if they return home “safe”, you do not know what emotional or physical shape he will be in.  

Post traumatic stress syndrome is one of the most common casualties for soldiers and their families when they have served in the military

The Veterans Administration reported this week that 50% of all returning Veterans go on disability.  Their faithful and sacrificial service brings death into their lives long before they physically die.

I remember a college roommate telling about his service in Viet Nam: 

“I wish I had died in combat. The nightmares of what I did, of what I had to do to defend and protect myself, my buddies, and the mission of our nation haunt me daily.  My only escape is alcohol and drugs.  Who wants to marry a man with the emotional injuries I have.  Thankfully my body is in one piece, it’s alive, but the rest of me, my heart and soul is dead.  It died in Viet Nam.”  

I never knew what happened with my roommate.  The year I lived with him he was always in a rage, angry with someone, picking a fight, drinking and drugging himself to sleep.  He dropped out of college.  The only thing I know about him now is that Viet Nam killed him. 

When we meet a soldier with a physical disability or injury, out hearts pour out for him.  We focus on the physical injuries, but fail to remember that his biggest injury may be emotional, mental, and spiritual 

Today when we name those who have died, who have made the ultimate sacrifice of dying while serving our country, I ask you to remember those who suffered other deaths, either within themselves as the soldier or within the lives of their family – wives, children, parents, and siblings.

Death comes in many varied forms when a man or woman serves us, our nation, as a member of the armed forces.  Death comes physically, but it also comes in the form of long absences from home; in the constant fears of anxious worry; it comes when you are a POW; when you realize that you are MIA behind enemy lines.  Death comes when limbs are lost and hearts and minds are scarred in the midst of battle.  

This Memorial Day, let us humbly give thanks remembering and honoring all who have died and all who live in the midst of the other deaths while serving our great nation.

 

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For All the Saints

Psalm 116:15 and Revelation 14:12-13

Psalm 116:15

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

Revelation 14:12-13

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.

I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. They are blessed indeed, that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

I.  Memorial Day and Death

A.  Memorial Day

Decoration Day honoring soldiers who died in was

B.  My First Experiences with Death

3rd Grade – Cindy Clayton’s Dad

6th Grade – Ellen and then Popoo

C.  A Ministry Constantly in the Presence of Death

Hospice, Grandmother, Thorhauer

D.  Difficult Ones

Close Friends … Willem and Kish

Last Week – Bob McMichael

E. Jen and Julie

II.  Death is not a Foreign Language

A.  Ministry has made me comfortable with death and dying

Yet neither easy or seeking

B.  As a Pastor People Turn to Me for Comfort

An expectation for words

Despite extensive post-funeral praise

You said the right thing

C.  I stumble and struggle for words

Can be spoken so easily, so casually, so confidently

But can be as empty as the breeze

Halfway through every funeral

I wish someone else was speaking

D.  My comfort is not from practice or experience

I still weep and am at a lose for words to explain

E.  I read a lot of scripture

At least 8 at every service

Scripture expresses well what we feel and hope but cannot express.

III.  Today’s Scriptures are 2 which I Never Use

A.  Yet they express truth in which I find comfort and hope

B.  Psalm 116:15

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

C.  Expresses God’s emotion at death

Death is precious to God

Must mean He does not grieve as we do

For God, death is a gain, not a loss

D.  Are all death’s a gain for God

This passage does not say that

  A gain when only a saint dies

E.  Who is a saint in God’s sight?

Not the over achieving goodie-two-shoe believer

We are all sinners, depraved, who fall short of God’s standards

None of us can qualify as self-made saints

(even though we may be self-righteous about our standing with God)

F.  The Hebrew Word for saint is hasid

A meaningless, foreign word for many

Hasid’s etymology is interesting

It’s guttural root, without Hebraic pointing is HSD

The famous HSD word in Hebrew is hesed

Hesed is God’s everlasting steadfast love and mercy

==> Translators to define hasid as

Those who have received God’s everlasting steadfast love and mercy

G.  The saints God finds precious at death

Are those who have received His mercy/grace

God does not waste His love for us in our death

IV.  The 2nd Scripture – Revelation 14:13

A.  “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. 

They are blessed indeed, that they may rest from their labors!”

B.  Familiar words from the hymn For All the Saints

For all the saints, who from their labors rest.

C.  Life is hard, difficult, a struggle, filled with suffering

A reality balanced with blessings and joys, and meaning

But let’s face it, life is hard

D.  At death, for the saint, the difficult labors of this life are done

Just as we long for weekly rest – TGIF

Just as we long for retirement at some point

At death we enter into eternal rest from the labors of this life

E.  Those who are left behind, grieve their loss

Yet, death, for the saint is rest

F.  We all have watched loved ones struggle in pain

Physical and emotional pain is no more at death

V.  Funerals are Approached with Dread

A.  This explains our propensity to ask for a

Memorial Service or Celebration of Life Service

B.  These services are meant to put a happy spin on grief

I understand that, but also recognize grieving is critical

C.  This leads to always reading Revelation 21:1-7 at Services

Particular imagery in the passage

Highlighted last week at Bob McMichael’s Service

D.  Nancy’s onset of dementia => confusion about what was happening

Just before the service, she told her daughter

It’s Susann’s Wedding …

E.  Earlier I had sent the bulletin to the local clergy as Wedding Bulletin

Decided to focus on the wedding motif

F.  The funeral for the saint is a marriage in heaven

God comes, God unites, God holds,

God commits and covenants Himself to the saints who have died

VI.  As We Celebrate Memorial Day

A.  We can rejoice

B.  For the saints who gave their life in battle

Have been wed to God in heaven

C.  Just as we decorate graves in honoring remembrance

Our Lord decorates His heavenly kingdom

Including adorning Himself for the Wedding ceremony and Feast  as He weds Himself to

Saints who are precious in His sight and who have died

D.  They leave us to go to Him

Death is a marriage to celebrate as much as a loss to grieve.

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In many ways, the church isn’t much different 

than lunch time at any middle school.  (1)

Happy chaos best describes my middle school cafeteria.

The space was expansive, yet packed with hundreds of loud untamed boys and an equal number of laughing girls dressed like 18 year olds.

It was a madhouse, but it was a happy house.  We ate and were nourished.  Freed from the teacher’s iron fisted rule we released anxiety, energy, and hormones.

We spilled milk, threw food, and left crumbs all over the place.

Surely the 90 minutes lunch period struck terror in the hearts of the staff.

Worship as a middle school cafeteria lunch period is a provocative image.

The sanctuary is filled with depraved sin-ridden wild beasts.  Whether from an organ, piano, or big band the noise level is high.  Spirited conversation fills the room whenever the Pastor lets the natives be themselves.

The Pastor preaches, providing spiritual food and nourishment.  This spiritual food is spilled, tossed to and fro, and frequently crumbles on impact.  Yet, some food always manages to hit the spot feeding the hungry soul.

I do not remember a single meal I ate at lunch in the 7th grade.

Yet at the end of the lunch period, my friends and I had come together, bonding as friends and buddies, our bodies were nourished, and the room was filled with spirited energy and joy.  It was a joyous and fulfilling place.

Can we say the same about church?

Hmmm … perhaps more churches should seek to be like a middle school cafeteria during worship rather than being an art museum.  Doing so would honor Jesus’ command recorded in John 4:23

+ + +

  1. Jim L. Wilson, Fresh Start Devotionals (Fresno, CA: Willow City Press, 2009).

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The great enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin,

but the good which is not good enough.  (1)

 

Last evening I told a group of friends, “Today may go down as the most significant day in my journey of faith!”

They asked for more information.  I told them it was too much to try to explain in a minute or two, much less in an hour or two.

For years I have been wrestling with a good which was not good enough.  For years I had been longing for this good to quench my thirst and to satisfy my heart.  It always left me wanting.  It never brought me to The Promised Land which it promised.

Yesterday I finally let go of this good.  I did not free it as much as I freed myself.

My grasping to the good, my longing for it to satisfy and become great, perfect, and true has been the enemy of my faith for decades.

Today I am free.  Today I am at peace.

The good was a false hope in something to satisfy all the hopes and dreams of my heart.  

Even though you are longing to know what the good was, it does not matter.  

It was the good to which I clung and in which I hoped.  It was the good which kept me from grabbing onto God with both hands.  It was the good which prevented me from loving the Lord my God with all of my heart, and soul, and strength. (2)

Martin Luther in his great hymn, A Mighty Fortress, (a favorite since my childhood) wrote:

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still; his kingdom is forever.

A few years ago I began to recognize the bruise, the rotten spot of the good to which I had clung.  But I kept to the hope that with TLC, with effort, and with some buff and polish I could help remove the bruise, the spoiled rotten mark which infected this good.

Yesterday, I realized that the spoiled rotten bruise is here to stay, much like a birthmark.  I can cover it with beautiful clothing, with the best beauty cream and make-up, and with denial, but the birthmark will remain.

I am grateful I finally accepted this reality because I am free from the good which was never going to be good enough.  

My soul is no longer troubled.  

My faith in God is no longer divided between Him and this good.

Jesus said:

“Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (3)

+ + +

  1. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest : Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 1993).
  2. Deuteronomy 6:5
  3. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), John 4:14.

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God can take your faithfulness and begin a spiritual legacy. (1) 

The list of saints who have impacted my life is long.

    • Earl remained joyous despite being bed ridden for 15 years.
    • Kitty encouraged others despite a 20 year battle with cancer.
    • David never used his war injuries as an excuse.
    • Pat never wanted others to know who gave the money to help those in need.
    • Cullen understood that God’s Call did not necessitate proficiency in Hebrew.
    • Art understood high school boys did dumb things and that grace was often the best discipline.
    • Hope taught me to hold my counsel until God gave me a Word.
    • Ben taught me to help others rather than worry about being repaid.
    • Jason’s music lifted my soul when it could go no lower.

These are but a few of the saints who have been Abraham to me.  God has used them to be a blessing to the nations and to me.

I have been in ministry 30+ years.  Rarely have I ever thought about my spiritual legacy.  To do so would destroy it.

Do not worry about your legacy.  Instead focus on your faithfulness.  God will do the rest.  God in His grace will use you and me to make a difference in the lives of others.  

The Lord said to Abraham, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing to the nations.” (2)

+ + +

  1. Blackaby, Richard (2006-12-01). Experiencing God Day By Day (Kindle Locations 2543-2544). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
  2. Genesis 12:2.

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Careless Faithfulness

A few weeks ago I was at a fundraising dinner for a community ministry which is near and dear to my heart.  At the end of the evening I felt led by God to give a gift to the ministry.  I joyfully placed my gift into the offering.  I was grateful that I could make the gift.

The next day I received my annual property tax bill.  My property taxes had gone up by 7.5%.  Ouch!  My first thought was in regards to the gift I had given the evening before.  That extra cash would have come in handy.

God was rejoicing while I was fretting.

God loves it when we live with careless faithfulness.

God prefers this over calculated faithfulness or as Oswald Chambers calls it careful infidelity.

In contrast to the generous mercy and grace which God has freely extended to us, most Christians weigh the cost of being faithful.  We are careful not to overextend our time, finances, energy, or selves as we exercise our faith.

While we affirm God’s providence most of us hedge our bets and keep extra grain on the side, just in case God’s providence does not arrive as expected.

When God gave manna to Moses and the freed Hebrew slaves in the wilderness God only gave them enough manna for the day.  If the Hebrews carefully set aside some manna for the next day it spoiled and was not fit for consumption.

Quickly, the Hebrews learned that God would only provide for their daily needs one day at a time.

In America we are hounded to be wise and to save for the rainy day.  I understand this wisdom.  I  continually set aside money for retirement.  However, this wisdom runs contrary to God’s desire that I live with careless faithfulness.

God has covered me on rainy days, yet I still fret and worry.

Careless faithfulness does not come easy for me.

A few days after making my gift and getting my tax bill, I received a gift equal to the gift I had given.

God had everything covered.  I never saw it coming.

Abraham called the place,

the Lord will provide. 

Genesis 22:14

 

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