Tuesday, November 12, 2013

why I am not a Calvinist

I remember the day when I first met my Savior. It was so unexpected. At this time I was not a serious seeker. Though I had grown up in a Christian home and had for much of my life desperately wanted to get saved, at this time in my life, it was not something I thought much about. Life has to go on. If someone asked me then if I was a believer, I would have to think about it for a while. Then I would tell them, “I'm certainly not a disbeliever.”

I was attending a Christian liberal arts college. With several of the other students, I was in a gospel band. I love to sing. I've always loved to sing. The words of the songs we sang were just the words of songs.

One evening those of us in the band went to North Park College to hear a gospel group called Andre Crouch and the Disciples. I asked one of our teachers to join us, but he said to me, “You guys. You seem so normal in class. But then you go to one of those concerts and suddenly, it's like you're possessed, you're jumping and bouncing all over the place. “Not me,” I assured him. “I don't bounce.”

So the concert began and I really enjoyed it. In the midst of the music, I heard some words, “take me back to the cross where I first met my Savior.” The words made me sad. “I've never been to the cross,” I thought. 

My mind went through all the reasons I needed to go to the cross. I remembered situations where, at the time, I had excused my bad behavior. “I am so not innocent,” I thought. “What a pig I am.” But my thoughts returned to the cross; because of the cross, excuses were not necessary. I had a sense of the Lord's presence. I deeply understood that He cared for me, that He wanted me.  I thought. “That is so nice."

And that was that.

And I've been a Believer ever since.

Did I make a really good choice then in accepting the Lord Jesus as my personal Savior? I think so. Though it wasn't a choice in the ordinary sense of the word. It was more just accepting something that had been dropped in my lap.

Is this really good choice that I made the reason I deserve to go to heaven and not be condemned to hell? Again, I think so. I still can hardly believe it. It just seems too good. The Lord is too kind to me.

A choice means that one has two options. But at that very special time, it didn't begin enter my mind that I could choose to reject what I had just been given. 

So that means I believe I was chosen, for I did not choose, not really; therefore I believe it is all of God and nothing of myself? I don't think I believe that.

But if I did believe that, must I also believe that God is arbitrarily; choosing one and rejecting the next? I know I do not believe that!!!

From beginning to end, the Scriptures tell the story of people who either chose to accept or chose to reject God. The book of Hebrews tell us: By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice. By faithlessness, Cain offered his own sacrifice and then made the choice to sacrifice his brother. By faith Enoch walked with God and thus never saw death. By faith Noah did as he was instructed, odd as his instructions might have seemed to him. There is no meaning to the word faith without an understanding of choice.

How can anyone dare to suggest that Scripture teaches an arbitrariness to God? Have they never read John 3:16? “Whoever believes in Him.” In Scripture, to believe is to will to believe, or perhaps, to will to not disbelieve. John 3:18 “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

Along that same line, can we dare to suggest that God is not absolutely, totally, perfectly good? His goodness may transcend our understanding of what is good, but it is never less than our understanding of what is good. Never would He reject one who comes to Him. As the Psalmist writes, “A broken and a contrite heart You will not despise.” The prophet Isaiah offers an open invitation, “Come everyone who thirsts, come to to the waters; and come he who has no money, come, buy and eat.” The Lord Jesus said, "Come unto Me all you who labor and are heavy laden."

There are many Scriptures that speak of the choice being God's choice. But in the Scriptures we also read that God is not willing that any should perish. In Matthew we read of the Lord Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, “How I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing.”

It could be that John Calvin was not a Calvinist, if a Calvinist is one who denies man's need (capability) to respond to God, or if a Calvinist is one who believes God's choice of His chosen is mere arbitrariness, or if a Calvinist believes God's goodness has no relationship to our understanding of goodness.

But, as far as I am able to understand, those are the three main things that differentiate a Calvinist from your run-of-the-mill Christian. And that is why I am not a Calvinist.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sermon on the Mount--Day 1

For the next 100 days, Daniel Triestman and I will be writing a very short devotional (about 100 words) each day on our Lord Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. We will post it on our blog eachdayintheword.blogspot.com. We invite comments.

Matthew’s narrative of the sermon concludes, “And when Jesus had finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at His teaching.” I have written in the margin of my Bible, “me too!”  The soldiers who were sent to arrest Jesus couldn’t do their job because, as they said, “No one ever spoke like this man.”

I wrote a series of blogs on misterrodgerssbl.blogspot.com entitled, “Why I am not an atheist.” Each blog was a telling of a struggle I had worked through regarding my Christian Faith. But in truth, the real reason I am not an atheist is because of the words of the Lord Jesus. For who, but Diety, could say what He said?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

judge not that ye be not judged

I don’t mean to brag— but there are so many good things that I do right that others do so wrong.

In the summer I’m a bicyclist. In the winter, I cross-county ski.  I exercise hard, every day. It’s a necessary discipline for decent health. And it is so apparent to everyone.

Also, I am a devoted husband, father—and often a devoted grandfather. I’m not stupid. I know nothing so affects my quality of life as my quality of relationship with my wife and family. I will do anything for my wife and most anything for my children, cheerfully and without complaint. That’s the truth!

Then I read and I think. I don’t just read fluff. I read hard books that I need to read with a pen so I can focus on what is meaningful in the book. When I am alone or in bed, I discipline my mind to think through things. When I am in conversation, I remember to consider and listen carefully. I pull up the walls of my own viewpoint so I can learn from an array of different intellects and vantage points.

And I’m a sincere Believer. While I am so aware of my own lack of holiness, I am deeply moved by the reality and the kindness of our Father in Heaven.

But here’s the rub:  I judge faster than the twinkling of an eye. That means I look at others, and I disdain. Then I look at myself and in the same judging fashion,  I wonder, “Is that all there is about me?”

So I become anxious and I groan inside myself, “Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death?”

Sometimes I can remember, “For there is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” 

And sometimes the little chorus goes through my brain:

I love you Lord
And I lift my voice
To worship You, oh my soul rejoice
Take joy my King
In what you hear
May it be a sweet, sweet song
In Your ear

Can it be that the King of the Universe, the Holy One can be so unjudging as to take pleasure in the praise of punks like myself?


Monday, July 22, 2013

why I am not an atheist, part 6

I agree, it’s outrageous that so many people insist their weird ideas have just as much validity as something that has been carefully researched and reviewed by the world’s scientific community. I’m a Believer in Science, because in today’s world, science is self correcting. When bad conclusions are made, there are any number of smart people out there who delight in figuring out the errors that were made that produced those bad conclusions.

And I understand, it is the nature of nature to adapt to new circumstances. I understand that a bird species that lives in an area where a longer beak would help in hunting insects will, in not too many years, be a species of bird with longer beaks. But to imagine that our intricate genome and our even more intricate brain just sort happened through this same simple adaptive process—it makes me crabby.

I can only see one reason for this mass ignorance among the intelligent, and that is a pathological passion to disregard God. For what else can explain such Faith in such absurdity?

Faith is humanity’s great equalizer. The very simple and the very smart, both have to make a choice: Will I believe God exists? And if so, am I willing to accept His authority, His intrusion, His goodness in my life?

Nothing has made me not an atheist like the blind Faith of most of the most intelligent in evolution.  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

why I am not an atheist, part 5

The Apostle Paul gives a listing of the credentials of the Lord Jesus in the first chapter of his book to the Colossians: He is the image of the invisible God; by Him were all things created in heaven and earth; He is before all things and in Him all things hold together; He is the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might have the preeminence. But in the middle of this amazing list is: “And He is the head of the body, the church.” Col 1:18. Of course Paul is not writing a resume for Jesus, but if he was, and if I were him, I would leave out that church part. It is an understatement to say His church really is not that impressive.

In the New Testament, the church is defined as the whole body of people who have taken Jesus to be their Lord and Savior. That means every Believer is part of the church. Typically Believers come together as a local group on a regular basis to express together their appreciation for what the Lord Jesus has done for them. These groups are called churches. Most of these churches have some sort of affiliation with other churches. There are any number of these affiliated churches, most of which are affiliated together because of their disaffiliation from other church affiliations.

I had a college teacher who wrote of several of the church revivals in 19th century America called, “Less than Conquerors.” His book told how each new revival merely added to the confusion and sectarianism of the American church.

Nearly every Believer who has been part of a local church group can tell you very sad stories how their church has been infected with hubris, apathy, antipathy, immorality, heresy, partiality and many other problems.

Several years ago, a good friend listened sympathetically to my story of a series of injustices that happened to me at the church where I attended. “You’ve been beat up by the church. But take heart, you are not alone. I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t been beat up by the church.”

I know some people who insist that the church is in disarray, and like Humpty Dumpty, it can never be put back together. They can give good evidence that it has been an utter failure for all of its 2000 years.

But there is something else going on in the church, in churches, in the little church of which I am a part. It’s something quietly supernatural; a sweet, sweet spirit. Together we remember the death (of all things) of the Lord Jesus: the One who was before all, in whom all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell; lifted up on the cross after being beaten, and spit upon.

I understand why the Church might cause one to become atheists. As the institution manifesting Christ here on this earth, we’re a motley crew.

 I wish I was a better person. Though I think I might be considered, comparatively, not so bad of a person, every day I am aware of my own failure of character. I could be much kinder, much less self interested.

I also wish my fellow Believers were better people. Every day I hear certain ones who are unable to forgive. Every day I see degrees of hypocrisy and judgementalism that just should not be.  

But when I come together with fellow Believers as a church, and we remember together the Lord Jesus, sometimes there is such a sweet, sweet spirit.

I am bewildered as to why Paul would list as one of the Lord Jesus’ praiseworthy attributes that He is the head of the church. I can hardly imagine why this could be true. But I’m delighted to imagine it, which is one more reason why I am not an atheist.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

why I am not an atheist, part 4

A common human paradox is that the more accepting a person is ideologically, the more of an elitist he is, but the bigot tends to be the person who has the heart of gold. I knew a man who would say things that would make Rush Limbaugh blush, but he and his wife shared many friendly and fun meals at their kitchen table with a radically liberal college professor and a Black man. I know another man who is so very cocerned about universal justice. Every morning he wakes up in dismay at all the travesties perpetrated by the United States. But he himself is quite wealthy, and lives in a large house by himself. As far as I know, he has never shared anything with anybody, especially not some ignorant red neck.

Abraham Lincoln was an exception to this. Despite his amazing determination to bring justice to a despised people, Lincoln loved the company of any person of every type with whom he had contact, as that person was willing to accept his friendship. I believe more books have been written about Abraham Lincoln than any other person. To date there have been over 16,000 of his biographies published. And his biographies are read by people of every country. I have a friend who visited Burma and found a biography of Lincoln in a home where he stayed. I am one of Lincoln’s many readers. Like so many others, I am so drawn to Lincoln because of this god-like quality of his. 

If I am to have any chance with God, I need Him to be Someone who really likes me, despite what I am. I do not have the qualities that attract. I am short. I’m sort of ugly and sort of old. I walk funny. I'm edgy. I’m an introvert, which means I think a lot about myself. 

I get pretty emotional when I read the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman. Like myself, this woman did not have a lot going for her. She was of a despised people. Her personal life was a mess. She was a poor woman in the first century.
But the Lord Jesus talked with her just like she was a real human being. Certain things that He said sunk in, and she believed in Him. She had come to a well to draw water and then she forgot what she was doing and left her water pot because she was so excited to run back to town to tell everybody, “Come see the man who told me all that I ever did.” (I’m sure the people in town already knew everything she had ever done as she had lived a scandalous, and thus interesting, life.)

How did the Lord Jesus react? When His disciples came to bring Him some lunch, He wasn’t hungry.  “I have food to eat that you don’t know about,” He told them.

When I am in the middle writing and it’s going well, food is not on my mind. I’m too happy to eat. I’m accomplishing what I really like to accomplish. After talking with this "unattractive" woman, the Lord Jesus was too happy to eat.

I wish I could just hang out with Abraham Lincoln. He loved to talk, so I would just listen and I would let him know by my laughter how much I liked being with him. Would I like to hang out with the Lord Jesus? It sounds scary. He’s the Son of God. I do know that if there’s anyone I’d like to hang out with, it would be someone like Abraham Lincoln who was someone like the Lord Jesus. The idea of life after death does not attract me. I don’t want to live forever. I didn’t need a play of Jean-Paul Sarte to teach me that. But I sure like how the Lord Jesus was so excited about the connection he made with the Samaritan woman. I think it means He would be excited about being with me--just with me, though I can’t understand how that will work with so many others also being His friends.

Regardless, I do like what I see in Jesus, so I’m hopeful. Which is another reason why I am not an atheist.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

why I am not an athiest, part 3

“I’m putting all of the burden on Jerry, I’m not blaming you,” said my boss. “He’s the one who did not carry through on what I told you both to do.”

My new job came with a whole lot of stress. Besides coming into it with the insecurity of having just gotten fired from my last job of 32 years; without any training or mentoring, I’m using an entirely different set of skills. But it’s been even tougher going from being management to being managed.

My intent is always to respond precisely, quickly and thoughtfully to whatever my boss tells me to do. Sometimes that works out. My new job uses more of my God given abilities. But most days I come home from work frustrated with what went wrong, and most mornings I wake up with a sense of dread wondering what will happen next.

On my older son’s advice, I eat an avocado every day, and I faithfully take drops from a “herbal dietary supplement” that promises to be a “calming focus aid.”  Maybe this has helped a little bit. But to be told by my boss, “All the burden is on Jerry”—now that helped! In an instant the tightness in my throat disappeared,  and I could literally feel the knot on my stomach untie itself.

Which is my third reason I am not an atheist. There is no way I can bear to bear my own burdens.

About ten years ago I went to the funeral of the husband of a co-worker. For years I had listened to this co-worker express humorous contempt for her husband. One day I said to her, tongue in cheek, “Tell me one thing good about Edmund.

Suddenly the amusement was gone from her face. “You don’t know what you are asking,” she said and she then proceeded to tell me incident after incident of some really rotten things that Edmund had done.

Which was confusing. Whenever Edmund would come in to work to see his wife, I could see she was pleased to see him. She always had a smart remark for him and he was always amused. I could see he was proud of his wife and then at his funeral, she was truly sorrowful.

At his funeral, the pastor read the poem, Invictus:  
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul. 
William Ernest Henley
I laughed. My wife gave me a sharp nudge. Edmund was a nice enough guy. Whether she liked it or not, his wife loved him. I knew several of his kids, they loved him too. But he was a screw up. He was not the master of his fate. He was not courageous. He was not defiantly true to himself. He was just a good ol’ boy. He was just Edmund. And he fell way short of what he should be, just like me.
Last night I was reading in Isaiah 53: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him smitten by God, and afflicted. He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace and with His stripes, we are healed.”
In John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian comes to the cross when the burden he was bearing, “loosed from his shoulders, and fell from his back, and began to tumble and so continued to do, till it came to the mouth of the sepulcher, where it fell in, and he saw it no more. Then was Christian glad…But he stood a while to look and wonder, for it was very surprising to him that the sight of the Cross should thus ease him of his burden.
While writing this blog this morning, I am feeling bad for Jerry, my new friend from work who my boss says he’s putting the whole burden on. I wish I could do something for him. I wish I could come to his defense. But I am so relieved to have my burden from work transferred to someone else.
But of course my work burden is only a small part of the burden I’ve been accumulating for about 59 years now. And just because I’m not feeling the burden at this moment , does not mean it is not there. Everyone who has known me can be my accuser.
I try not to think of bad things. I rarely read the crime section of the newspaper and I almost never watch the news. So only on occasion do I think of the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross, for I like to think the best of everybody.  Maybe if I think well of a person, maybe that person will reciprocate and think well of me. The cross is so sad for it shows everybody involved behaving so bad. But like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, I am so surprised (and shocked) at how happy I feel when I think about it. The cross tells me that my burden was transferred over to Someone else.
At my funeral I’m hoping the preacher will not be too honest about me. But if the preacher feels so compelled, instead of Invictus, I would just as soon he read the words of the Apostle Paul, “Be reconciled to God. For our sake, God made Him (Jesus) to be the sin offering (the burden bearer) so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Amazing!
If an atheist is honest, as I believe is the intention of most atheists, I can’t imagine how he can live accepting full responsibility for his own behavior and the burden of all its consequences.  I’m no where near strong enough. I had to have Someone who could take over my burden.


Monday, May 27, 2013

why i am not an atheist, part 2

At my new job I watched a man sitting in a wheelchair at a table. He looked at my display table and decided he needed to talk to me. He energetically pulling himself out of his wheelchair and haltingly took about ten steps to get over to me. He asked me several questions, and then I asked him about his disability. He told me he had Multiple Sclerosis for twenty years. A few months back his MS kicked in again which was why he was in now in the wheelchair. “When I was first diagnosed with MS, it was pretty hard,” he said. “I love to fish. I decided I was going to fish in all 50 states. I made it to 46. Michigan was the best. But I just figured there was nothing I could do about my MS so I wake up each morning happy to be alive.”

“Really?” I asked him.

“I have a lot of friends who give me a lot of help. He pointed to a lady sitting at his table. “That's my wife,” he said. “She's been been solid as a rock.”

“Amazing,” I said. “The Lord's been good to you.”

His eyes lit up. He nodded his head. “Yeah, He sure has.”

A few days ago I met a young man who told me he was retarded. “You are not retarded,” I told him. “You're plenty bright.”

“I was in a car accident five years ago. I was in a comma for four weeks. They told my mom and dad I would never talk again,” he told me.

“Wow,” I said. “Then you're doing great!”

“My memory is not good,” he said.

“My memory is not much good either,” I told him. “From what I can see, the Lord's been really good to you.”

His eyes also lit up. “He has been!” he said. “God has been good to me.”

Exactly where I get off telling people who are in the midst of a tragedy that the Lord has been good to them, I'm not quite sure. For some reason, it seems like the appropriate thing to say.

I've known too many people who have gone through tragedy. It scares me, for I see no reason why tragedy shouldn't happen to me. But something strange is going on. Tragedy typically does not make a person especially unhappy. As often as not, those in the midst of tragedy are grateful to the Lord for His daily blessings.

This is my next reason why I am not an atheist. —the Lord seems to especially reveal Himself to those who are in difficult circumstances, which seems to me like the appropriate thing for Him to do. “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Luke 6:20

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

why I am not an atheist, part 1

I think there are several pretty good reasons to be an atheist. Pain and the randomness of evil are the two biggest.  Probably the hypocrisy of those who are religious is what clinches it for most people who identify themselves as atheists. 

I almost became an atheist from reading the Bible.  I decided when I was 15 years old that I was going to read through the Bible “objectively.” Three passages stuck out as being too hard to be believed. The first was the chat Balaam had with his donkey; the second was when a dead man was thrown into the grave of Elisha, “and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet.” II Kings 13:21. And the third is the whole gospel of John. Everything Jesus said just seemed too weird for me.  I certainly didn’t want to be an atheist. I thought there must be something that I just didn’t quite get. 

One day, while in my first year in college, I read the story of the Good Samaritan. Having been raised in a Christian family, I had read and heard it many times before. But, finally, I really read it—objectively. It was so clever, and written with such lack of drama. And the story was so true, so real. I knew people (not myself) who were the Good Samaritan type.  Certainly it was a parable, for there was so much meaning in it, but it also was so true to life.  And it was then that I understood that I need not be an atheist, for the story gave an answer to all my major atheistic questions. 

If you were to ask the victim of the Good Samaritan story what was the best moment of his life, I know he would tell you it was when that very kind man came over to him and had pity on him and poured oil and wine on his wounds. He would tell you he never felt so at peace as when the Samaritan lifted him up on his donkey.  He would say the kindest gift he had ever received was when the Samaritan gave the innkeeper a wad of money and then told the innkeeper, “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.” Luke 10:35 Was this outrageous beating this poor man took then worth it? Did the good balance the bad? With good and evil, there is no balancing, for the good is what gives meaning, and joy. Why do people act as good Samaritans?  Their behavior seems so random. There are good Samaritans among every group of people; the rich, the poor, the religious, the criminal, the wise and the very simple, the old and the young. Where does there behavior come from? Why would they so put themselves out for someone from whom they can derive no personal benefit? It’s so…God like! That was it. There was no other way to describe what they did, for I knew it was true. God is so random in His kindness. When I’d least expect it, suddenly, there was something good, so far beyond what I ever hoped. 

This eureka moment happened when I needed to find someone for a room-mate for the next school year. I thought, “How sad! I’ve spent almost a whole year at this Christian College, and I haven’t found one person who is a good enough friend that they would want to be my roommate. That afternoon I happened to sit next to a kid whose name I was pretty sure was John. I was so sure, I called him John. He answered to the name and we had a great conversation about nothing at all. Our sense of humor was an almost perfect match. He told me he had found a roommate, but since the college dormitories required three students, he wondered if I’d be willing to join them. I was, and John, whose name I later found out was David Harvey, became my good friend. Roxanne and I visited Dave and his wife Gayle this last week up in Grand Marais where he is the pastor of the Evangelical Free Church. We had such a good visit. The Lord is so good. Because of starting a new job, my life has been pretty stressful lately. A visit with such a friend was like oil and wine on a nasty wound. 

As an addendum: The story of the Good Samaritan gives some answer to each of my atheistic questions.
Why random pain and evil? Here on this earth, it seems like what is really good comes out of what is really bad. Take Calvary, for instance.

Why such hypocrisy among the religious? Who knows. The religious are just people like the rest of us. But a better question is: Why are some people so Godlike as to be Good Samaritans?

Why these weird things in the Bible? I’d really like to get more information on Balaam’s talk with his donkey and the man who popped back to life when his body touched the dead bones of Elisha. But I do know, no one ever spoke like Jesus. I could write volumes on lessons I have learned from this one short parable. As the Lord gives direction, I’d like to share another of those lessons on my next blog

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

take it

Public Radio has a contest going on now for people like myself who would like to consider themselves writers. It is called 3 minute fiction. It's a regular contest where a subject is given. This time it was: You see something that isn't yours. You take it and you are not going to give it back. Here is my unsubmitted entry.

“Take it,” said the voice.

Take what? I wondered.

“Take it,” said the voice again. “On your lap.”

What was it? A book?

A sense of calm flooded my soul. “It’s been a long time,” I thought to myself. “Where did this come from? Had something changed? Something changed. But it wasn’t my job. I tried to focus on what I could do to resolve this latest problem. Always, forever, problems…but my mind was so peaceful.

“I need to just sit and enjoy this moment,” I said this aloud. And I continued speaking, “It doesn’t happen very often, you know. This calm, it comes and goes. Mostly it goes.”

“So take it,” said the voice.

“I don’t think it’s mine,” I heard myself say. “What is it anyway?”

“Of course it’s yours. It’s yours for the taking.” Said the voice.

I was annoyed. Just a little bit. Just a very little bit. I felt so calm. I felt perfect. “What is it?” I said. “You must tell me what it is.”

The voice laughed. “It’s peace of mind. It’s what you’ve been looking for. And now it’s yours. So take it.”

“Why do I need to take it?” I asked. “If it’s mine, as you say.”

“It’s yours if you take it. That’s the condition.”

Just the tiniest shot of terror went through me. What if it was a drug? What if it was… I couldn’t think. Like a wave, like a tidal wave, a sense of peace overwhelmed me. I brought my hand to where it sat on my lap. Whatever it was, it was smoother than satin.

“The condition?”  I asked.  “I knew there had to be conditions. Nothing is for nothing.”

“Is that what you believe?” asked the voice.

“I don’t know,“ I answered.

“Just take it,” said the voice. “Take it. Take it. TAKE IT!” taunted the voice.

I picked it up. It wasn’t mine. I knew with all my heart that it wasn’t mine.

“You take it.” I said as I handed it to…but there was no one there. And it was gone.

“What have I done?” I cried aloud. “What have I done?”

“It wasn’t yours, so you gave it back.” A new voice.

 I recognized it from somewhere. From a long, long time ago.

I looked down at my lap. There was still something there. Was this mine? I picked it up. It was rough, rough as a piece of unplaned lumber. I tentatively handed it to my Friend.

“That’s not yours either,” said the new voice. “You already gave it to me.”

“What is it?” I asked.

“It’s your trust.”

The feeling of peace was gone. I wondered, had I made a mistake?

“Do you trust me?” asked the new voice.

“I do trust you. But my peace. Where is it? Shouldn’t I have peace?”

“My peace I do give to you, but not as the world gives. My peace is more than how you feel, at this given moment. So let not your heart be troubled, neither be afraid.”

I steadied myself. That peace. It hadn’t been mine. How did I know that? But I had to give it back. 

Nothing’s for free. But grace. God’s grace. “For by grace are you saved through faith, it’s from God, and it’s a gift. Not something that must be taken, like an act of thievery.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

hello again

Yesterday was my last regular devotion for Each Day in the Word, at least for now. The Lord has been more than good to us, but for an older man, or at least a man like myself, losing my job and then trying to figure out a new job has been tough. This exercise of writing 500 to 600 words that must be completed most days before I go to bed has been encouraging and helpful to myself. (By God’s grace, I hope you also have found some encouragement from it.)

Hardship forced my brain to intensely mull over the Lord's goodness and His desire for our good-ness, so I had many thoughts to share. Now that I am less anxious, less pressed; I miss reading. Writing this blog took up the time I had been able to use to read. Also, in my more peaceful state of mind, it takes me longer to come up with a new meditation each day.

We've had several contributors to Each Day in the Word including my wife Roxanne, Eric and Stephie Varghese, John Messerly, Bruce Haley, Bill Howell; Daniel Triestman and Matt Lange have contributed the most. Dan is one of my favorite thinkers. If I had to be stranded out in a desert island with just one other man, I think I would choose Dan, for he continually interrupts my conclusions. Any time I think I have “solved” a question, Dan rearranges my formula. Matt calls ‘em like he sees ‘em, and each day Matt is seeing things a bit more clearly. The Lord is doing a work in his life that is clear and observable. He has a heart for certain people that some of us can only have for our own families.

Thank you very much for reading. As you may have guessed, I have a passion for writing, but to write without having a reader would be a pretty empty passion.

I think I’ve already shared with you about every significant thought I’ve had, so in conclusion, I’ll share a thought I’ve already shared. Our Lord Jesus is the “amen, amen” God who is man. Amen means undeniable truth. It also means unmitigated faithfulness. Though everything and everyone is continually changing shape and direction, our Lord Jesus is totally real and sure—the same yesterday, today and forever. 

By the way, I may go back intermittently to writing on my first blog, misterrodgerssbl.blogspot.com  And others may continue to contribute to “Each Day in the Word.” Any profitable devotion that anyone sends me, I will post to “Each Day in the Word.”

I do plan to continue on with Henry Sardina’s biography—as soon as he sends me back the last chapter I sent him--which I think was around the 1st of March. His biography is at thehenrybiography.blogspot.com.

Friday, March 8, 2013

back to work

I received a call this morning telling me I was hired.
I start 8 am this coming Monday morning.
I will be happy to be back at work.
At this time in my life I need still structure to my day. I quickly start feeling anxious when I am perpetually thinking, what do I need to do next that is profitable?
Yesterday I spent eight hours writing.
At 7 pm I was wired.

Obviously the Lord has been very good to us.
Of course this new job may not work out. It is a new position with a quasi-government agency that provides deeply subsidized transportation for those who do not have a car. It covers the whole Arrowhead region in Minnesota which includes 7 counties. My job will be to publicize what they offer.

Do visit the two other blogs that I created while unemployed: eachdayintheword.blogspot.com
And the biography of Henry Sardina at: thehenrybiography.blogspot.com

With my job, we could really use a lot of help on the daily devotional blog. So far Eric Varghese, Stephanie Varghese, Daniel Triestman, John Messerly, Bill Howell and Matt Lange have each contributed one devotional to the blog. I'm really hoping each will continue to contribute. If "each day in the word" has touched your mind and your heart, would you be willing to contribute a meditation? Send it to our e-mail: larnrox@basicisp.net. Each day the readership appears to be growing. It started out at about 20 hits a day. Now it is over 60 a day. Some people tell me they hit the blog about once a week and read everything at once.
We trust that the devotional is a daily encouragement.
Perhaps the Lord will work it out that once we get 365 good devotionals, we will put it into an electronic and/or printed book.

When Henry's blog biography is done, we will send it to an editor and a proof reader and, Lord willing, will also turn that into an electronic and/or printed book. Do you know any publishers that might be interested? For those who have been reading his biography, you can see he has lived an amazing life and the Lord has been shockingly good to Henry.

I am very touched by how many have been so compassionate to me after I was terminated from my job at the Mesabi Daily News. I could not believe it when they fired me. I worked there for 32 years. I thought, "couldn't they have waited just 3 more years when I hit 62?," Then I could at least started drawing some social security.
Instead, when I got fired, the Lord's people were incredibly kind and generous to us and have provided for all our monetary needs. It made, and makes me want to weep.
Ben Tuininga said the only verse in the Bible that you can read backwards and forwards with the meaning remaining the same is: "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee" (backwards: "Thee forsake nor thee leave, never will I") Heb 13:5, Deut 31:6. As you can see, it is in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Again, thank you for both your very practical and your prayerful concerns.
Larry and Roxanne, and Carson

Thursday, February 14, 2013

each day in the word

Until my next "adventure," I have started a new blog, a daily devotional accessible at eachdayintheword.blogspot.com

I am hoping to get lots of help writing this new blog as I plan to have a new post every morning.

We hope to see you there!
Mister Rodgers aka Larry

Saturday, February 9, 2013

how's life?

My wife has been helping a lady from our church fellowship fix up one of her rental houses. She is helping her because her husband just died. While she was at the house, she called me and asked if I could come over and do some minor repairs. Being presently unemployed, I wonder about each activity I take on. Is this what I really should be doing now? Is it really the appropriate use of my time? But since James defines real religion as visiting widows in their affliction; and the prophets expound on the curses that God will be bring against those who oppress and do not support the widows; and since God Himself singles out widows as those to whom He does acts of great kindness, I figured maybe I’d come.

This lady’s husband had been battling cancer for eleven years. He had been through a whole regime of treatments. Finally the doctors said nothing more could be done. His spirits were good till the very end, but, to say the least, he had been through it.

His widow had been strong at the funeral. She was poised and controlled. “How does she do it?” I heard several people ask. But death has a way about it. This week has been tough for her. I had this really ignorant idea that there would be some sort of closure for her when her husband finally died.
I think I understand why Jesus wept at the grave of His good friend Lazarus. He wept just moments before He called Lazarus out of the grave. He had told his disciples two days earlier that He was going to raise Lazarus.

We had a speaker at our camp who declared that when his wife died, he would rejoice. “She’ll be in glory,” he said. “She’ll be with her Savior. Is that something to weep about?”

Paul writes that as Believers, our whole lives are about the resurrection. “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most pitiful.” Paul tells the Philippians: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ.” Phil 1:23 As Believers, this truly is our desire also. That’s why believe. If we believe in this life only, we are creatures to be pitied. 1 Cor 15:19. Regardless, I won’t be rejoicing if my wife dies. My kids tell me they hope I die before their mother for they dread observing the grief I would go through.

Jacob told Pharaoh, “The days of my sojourning have been few and evil.” To be a human being and to be alive is to know pain. Yet Jacob’s complaint about the shortness of his life came before he complained about its painfulness. In Ecclesiastes the writer mourns over and over that there is nothing under the sun that is truly satisfying in life but then he writes, “a living dog is better than a dead lion.” Eccl 9:4.

I was in a car accident a few months after my first daughter was born. I was knocked unconscious and as I was waking up in the ambulance, my brain rebooted. It went through all the significant events of my life from earliest childhood. First one sad thing, and another, and another. Then I remembered Roxanne, then Story Book, then this little baby. “Is this true?” I remember thinking? Am I really married to Roxanne? And we have a little girl named Priscilla? And I live at a Bible camp? I’d always wanted to live at a Bible camp.” I couldn’t believe it. It was too good! And this was my life.

When God created life on this earth, He observed what He had done and saw that it was good. But when He observed His human creation together with all the other life He had created, we read, “And behold! It was very good!” Gen 1:31

So why did Jesus weep at the grave of Lazarus and why should we weep (and not celebrate) at funerals? Because life is good. 
Our God, the only God, the God who is good and who only can do good, is first and foremost the Creator of Life. When something so good is extinguished, how can one be so bold, so ignorant as to not be sad? Life is so good that the Author of Life gave His Son over to death so that this life within the cosmos might become eternal life and “what is sown perishable is raised imperishable; and what is sown in dishonor is raised in glory.” 1 Cor 15:42, 43.

From millenniums of observation, we humans know all about evil and the consequences of evil. We know there really is no reforming of evil. Death is evil’s only solution. Only death can bring an end to all that is bad. Scripture tells us that though “the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Rom 6:23. Death is so sad. But life is so good, God doesn’t want it to end for us

Writing has been what I ached to do ever since I was terminated from my reporting job at the Mesabi Daily News about 30 years ago. Now that I’ve been terminated from there again, I get to write (please check out the Henry Sardina story at: thehenrybiography.blogspot.com) So, “how's life?” you might ask me. "Good! Thanks for asking!" And thank you very much for reading!