Trusting God’s Promise

Church 1This article is intended specifically for Terry’s and my fellow members at Zion Lutheran Church in Walburg, Texas. It’s also directed toward every person, young or old, lay or clergy, faced with the decision of how much is enough to give back to God. That’s not always a simple decision.

A couple months ago it became obvious that the total weekly offerings at Zion were falling about 20% short of the amount required to meet budgeted expenses. On several separate occasions I expressed to Terry my concern about this matter. A few weeks later we decided to do something.

Our decision was to increase the amount of our weekly offering by 25%. Frankly, this was not an easy decision. Last year we had pledged a sizable amount for Zion’s three year Capital Stewardship Campaign. Already stretching our finances to meet that challenging pledge, the thought of adding an additional 25% to our weekly offering caused me to furrow my brow.

Then I read again the words of Malachi 3:8-10: God said to the people of Israel: “You are robbing me.” The people asked: “How are we robbing you?” God answered: “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Put me to the test and see if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour out upon you a blessing so great that you will not be able to take it in.”

Really not anticipating any specific blessings over and above the spiritual ones we’ve been receiving bountifully throughout the 50 years of our lives together, imagine our surprise when two totally unexpected checks arrived in the mail within weeks of our decision to increase our weekly tithe and offering! The sum of those checks was over five times more than the total amount by which our offerings were increased for an entire year!

This past Sunday afternoon I shared this story with the crowd of folks who had gathered for our congregational voters’ meeting for the purpose of adopting our budget for the coming fiscal year. It was not an easy meeting. I expressed to the crowd my wonderment whether those two checks would have arrived even if we had not made the decision to increase our weekly offerings. I quickly added that although that may certainly have been the case, I would always be convinced that they came in fulfillment of God’s promise in Malachi 3.

My encouragement to each of you, dear friends in Christ, is to put the Lord to the test, as he has challenged us to do. The bountiful blessings you receive may not be the same as ours. They may be even greater! Regardless of the type or amount of your blessings, I pray and predict that you will experience special joy in the process of anticipating the fulfillment of God’s promise!

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Pithy Sayings

LaughterFrom time to time I run out of fresh ideas on topics of practical or theological or political interest, so I decide simply to share stuff that some find humorous. That’s what I have for you this week. Some of you may even be old enough to recognize the source of a few of these sayings.

  • The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending and to have the two as close together as possible. George Burns
  • Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people only once a year. Victor Borge
  • Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint. Mark Twain
  • By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy. If you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher. Socrates
  • I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury. Groucho Marx
  • I have never hated a man enough to give back his diamonds. Zsa Zsa Gabor
  • Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat. Alex Levine
  • My luck is so bad that if I bought a cemetery, people would stop dying. Rodney Dangerfield
  • Money can’t buy you happiness. But it does bring you a more pleasant form of misery. Spike Milligan
  • I don’t feel old. I don’t feel anything until noon. Then it’s time for my nap. Bob Hope
  • We could certainly slow the aging process if it had to work its way through Congress. Will Rogers
  • Don’t worry about avoiding temptation. As you grow older, it will avoid you. Winston Churchill
  • Maybe it’s true that life begins at fifty, but everything else starts to wear out, fall out, or spread out. Phyllis Diller
  • By the time a man is wise enough to watch his step, he’s too old to go anywhere. Billy Crystal
  • The cardiologist’s diet: If it tastes good spit it out.
  • May your troubles be less, may your blessings be more, and may nothing but happiness come through your door!

God bless your day!

Transformation

Transformation 1Three years ago two Lutheran pastor friends of mine, Rev. David Schultz and Rev. John Cain, invited me to join them on a trip to the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana, with a man named Grove Norwood. I experienced a prison that had been transformed from “the bloodiest prison in America” to a place of peace. Grove was instrumental in that transition.

Without going into greater detail right now, I bring to your attention an edited transcript of an Austin television channel news report earlier this week. Here’s the video link to this report: http://kxan.com/2016/05/10/prison-priests-texas-inmates-graduate-seminary-school/.

On Monday, 33 Texas inmates traded their prison garb for graduation caps and gowns and the Holy Bible at Texas’ maximum security Darrington Unit. They were the second graduating class in the prison to receive a bachelor’s degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary School since the program was created by the state six years ago.

“God has transformed some really bad people into some really amazing people,” said Dr. Benjamin Phillips, Director of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary School. “Men in prison listen best to those who have walked in their shoes, who know what their life is like and live it alongside of them, and whose lives have transformed already.”

Dr. Phillips said in order to be allowed into the program the inmates must be serving a lengthy sentence and promise to spend six years working with other inmates at prisons across Texas.

Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said. “They will all pay their dues to society; they will all pay their sentences, many of them serving life long sentences.” Patrick said this is not a “get out of jail free card” for the inmates. They still have to serve their full time in prison.

Warren Craig Bishop II entered the Darrington Prison Unit in 1997. A graduate of the seminary program, he said: “I wasn’t a believer. I wasn’t a Christian. I was a complete sinner. I was a murderer, a thief, a crook, everything. Coming to know Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior, I’ve seen that he has forgiven me for all of that. It’s a tough road, but it’s a glorious one to go down.”

Texas has the largest prison system in the country with about 147,000 inmates and is the second state in the nation to implement this type of program. It costs roughly $250,000 dollars a year, without a single tax dollar. The program is paid for by donations to the nonprofit organization led by Grove Norwood, Heart of Texas Foundation: http://heartoftexasfoundation.org/.

This program goes way beyond the encouragement of Jesus to visit those in prison! I thank God for men like Grove Norwood, David Schultz, John Cain and many others whose passion for prison “seminary” education is being used by God to transform lives in time, for eternity!

Mother’s Day and Cinco de Mayo

FlowersToday is Cinco de Mayo, the fifth of May, commemorating the Mexican army’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867). Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas of large Mexican-American populations, with parades, mariachi music performances and street festivals.

This coming Sunday is another very important day in our country! Mother’s Day in the United States is held annually on the second Sunday of May. It’s a time to celebrate and to express special appreciation for mothers. Many people give gifts, cards (which have become ridiculously expensive), flowers, candy, a special meal or other treats to their mother or mother figures, including grandmothers, great-grandmothers, stepmothers, and foster mothers.

Recently I saw a YouTube video depicting a telephone job interview. Prospective applicants responded to the job description narrated by the interviewer. Here are excerpts:

  • This will probably be the most important job you will ever hold.
  • Nearly all the time on the job you’ll be on your feet.
  • You’ll need to bend over a great deal of the time.
  • A high level of stamina will be required.
  • Duties include occasionally having to stay up with an associate throughout the night.
  • Breaks for lunch may be taken only when the associate is done eating his/her lunch.
  • No time off for vacation, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s or other holidays.
  • The job is basically 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with little if any break.
  • It would be helpful to have a degree in medicine, finance or the culinary arts.
  • This position is totally voluntary and pays absolutely nothing.
  • Excellent negotiation and interpersonal skills are a must.

It’s not hard to discern that this interview is a satire describing motherhood. It’s an incredibly difficult responsibility, a never ending task. It’s also a sacred calling, modeled by Jesus himself. He cared deeply for his mother, expressing that care even in his last moments of life on the cross.

To my own dear Mother, now 100 years of age, I say thank you so very much for everything you’ve done for me and for the rest of our family, including your daughter-in-law, sons-in-law, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great great-grandchildren. We all love you very much!

Happy Mother’s Day to mothers everywhere! God bless you all abundantly!