‘Lord, Give This World Your Peace!’

During this last year, I found myself often praying a recurring theme – peace.

  • As wars and terrorism robbed millions of their homes and put them out as refugees, the prayer was for peace.
  • As a deeply divided nation agonized over deciding on a new president and congress, more prayers for peace.
  • As angst and fears broke out among families, friends, church members, there were more prayers for peace.
  • As uncertainty about economics and how a shrinking middle class affects us, our kids, and our grandkids, there were more prayers for peace.

Peace, rests on hope. The hope that what I see was NOT meant to be by the Creator. The hope that wrong things will eventually be made right. The belief that there WILL be a time and place where “God will wipe away all tears.” (Rev. 7:17) The assurance God is in control of my life and my world. To know, “My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121)

The Psalmist knew we can get our eyes off the real source of hope. He knew our tendency to despair because we feel life is ours to work out alone and unaided.

We (mostly I) need to get our vision out of the valley. I need to get my eyes up, and continue to pray for God’s peace. I need to pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” True peace comes from the One who created all, the One who will wage a victorious war against death, hopelessness, and despair. He is our hope and peace for 2017 and beyond.

Pastor Ric

Editor’s Note:  This is one of Pastor Ric’s final posts before retiring early to Wisconsin in June.  The community of New Ulm will miss his talents and friendship.

 

An Election Year Upside Down Economy

Most of us watched the political circus unfolding these past few months – and we’ve watched with apprehension as politicians lay out their plans for furthering the economy of our country. Plans couldn’t be much different – and whether either candidate has a handle on how to right the economy.

When we were kids, we were all told the story of the “little red hen.” She was the industrious one who found some grains of wheat in the barnyard. She attempted to get the other animals (duck, pig, and the cat) to help her. They would have nothing of it. Alone, the Little Red Hen planted the wheat, watched over the crop, harvested, and then took the wheat to the miller. Later when she baked a loaf of bread made from her wheat, the duck, pig, and cat were more than ready to help her eat the finished product. The moral – the reason we were all told that story – was to make us productive citizens, ready to do our part. We understand this concept – we feel we deserve to eat and live from what we earn. This is the opposite of entitlement – people who feel they deserve a helping hand. In fact, the way we were brought up tried to teach us to be responsible, to work hard, and to make our own way in the world.

Hard work, taking responsibility, being industrious and frugal are essential. That’s the way the world economy works. Christianity, though, doesn’t work that way. We have a God who doesn’t require that we be involved with the recipe of salvation. We have a God who does the planting, the cultivating, the weeding, the harvesting, the kneading of the dough, and the baking. In fact, God does that all Himself, and then offers us delicious bread to eat – the fruit of His labors. In this case we reap what we didn’t sow, and we eat the meal we had no hand in preparing. That is an economy different from anything we were ever taught as children. God’s generosity is amazing – as is His love for His undeserving children. What is more, we His church are invited and compelled to invite others to eat with us of the bread we didn’t create or bake.

Pastor Ric

Barnabas A King Of A Guy

I became a believer when I was a freshman in college – it was a big life change. I began to read the Scriptures regularly, and study the lives of those influenced by Jesus. In those early readings I came across the Apostle Barnabas – I was challenged by his life. The name Barnabas means “Son of Encouragement,” and this was important as an early leader of the church.
Barnabas, like his name, was known for his kindness and for his ability to encourage others in their faith and commitment. We live in a difficult world where discouraging things happen. You get to value those who help encourage and build up others. A church of encouraging people is unstoppable.
Each time we speak kind words to our families, to our friends, and to fellow church members we follow the example of Barnabas. That example leads us to be generous – with our possessions and with our praise. That kind of living gives hope to those battling with feelings of hopelessness. It helps us encourage those who feel down, depressed, and dejected. Life can throw a lot of curve balls – but what an uplifting thing to have a friend or family member who boosts us and helps us along the way.
Even after all these years, I guess that I want to be a Barnabas – a “Son of Encouragement.” God is still in the process of giving gifts, and He uses ordinary individuals like us to encourage others. I’d invite you to encourage others too. Let your words this week be ones that build and boost others.
Prayer: Help me be an encourager today. Use my words, use my smile, use me to inspire and embolden people for the path they face. Help me help them see God.
Key verse: “Bright eyes cheer the heart; good news strengthens the bones.” Proverbs 15:30

Pastor Ric

Create In Me A Clean Heart

Create in Me a Clean Heart…
I enjoy, on occasion, leading music from the piano during Sunday worship. One of my favorite songs was written by Keith Green and puts to music Psalm 51:10. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Besides a song, it is a prayer – the kind of prayer that gets us down to the business of being a follower and friend of Jesus.

Being a true follower is a lot more than participating in Sunday worship, and serving on some church committees. It is all about an authentic friendship with Jesus Christ –and being friends enough to say,“Forgive my sin. Clean up my heart.” Otherwise, Christianity gets to be a big “self-help” course. We need more than “self-help” – we need total forgiveness and transformation.

I’m going through a great devotional, Ignite Your Faith, by Tim Clinton. In a recent reading he told about the process sculptor/artist Michelangelo went through in making the colossal statue, David. The statue was so magnificent that his patrons were astonished. Michelangelo told how he created the masterpiece. Clinton writes that Michelangelo told admirers, “I knew David was in the block of stone. So, I chipped away the stone that didn’t look like him.” That is the Holy Spirit’s process in working with us. During this time of Pentecost, I remember that none of us are beautiful the way we come. As we yield ourselves to God’s hammer and chisel, the Holy Spirit chips away the parts of us that don’t resemble Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit shapes us into the image of Jesus. There is a lot in our lives that doesn’t resemble the Savior. Self–helpwillnotimproveustothepointthatwelookanything like Jesus.
Our cry, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” is a goodbeginningtoeachday.

It’spartofyieldingourselvestohishammerandchisel. Prayer: “God, please forgive me and clean my heart. Take your hammer and chisel to my life – make me more like Jesus. Draw me into greater friendship with you. Amen.”
Pastor Ric

God treats us always as a Friend

In every one of our lives there are people like Raymond from the movie “Rain Man”. Everytime someone offended him, he would record the infraction in his spiral notebook. As the movie progressed, his pen was busy. It was an unhappy practice, for Raymond and for everyone around him.
Thank God that He is not like Raymond. We commit some horrible offenses – by living and doing things directly opposed to His word. We hurt others by our words; we sting others with our actions. If God kept a record of all our sins, we would be overwhelmed. We’d be like a drowning man, coming up for air, gulping and choking on lake water. The longer we continued in the hopeless situation, the more likely we would die by drowning.
Instead, God offers forgiveness, pardon for our sin, release from our guilt – and the most unlikely thing – God promises to treat us as if we’d ALWAYS been his friend.
Are you in a dilemma of despair due to your own sinful actions? You can’t continue to keep breaking the rules without reaping some serious consequences. But, whenever you are ready to come clean, the Lord is waiting to forgive you and restore you. He’s an amazing rescuer who doesn’t carry a spiral notebook.
Verse for thought: “God, if You considered sins; Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, so that You may be revered and honored.” Psalm 130: 3-4

Pastor Ric

For Richer For Poorer

Wonder how many times I have led couples to say these as part of their vows, in at least three languages. During most wedding ceremonies I refer to God’s word on marriage in Genesis 2:24, “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.”

Results of a fifteen year study of more than 9 , 000 people by Ohio State University’s Center for Human Resource Research came up with some amazing observations. If you want to stay richer, stay married!  The best way to build wealth, the project determined, isn’t through savvy investments, it’s through marriage. If you really want to increase wealth, get married and stay married, research scientist Jay Zagorsky said. “On the other hand, divorce can devastate your w ealth.”

Married people actually saw their wealth increase in greater ways than simply adding together the assets of two single people. Similarly, divorce caused a larger decrease of wealth than just splitting a couple’s assets in half.

God designed marriage for a man and woman to bond with each other to become “one flesh.”  Staying together is part of God’s plan. It benefits each spouse physically, emotionally, spiritually, as well as financially. Working on your marriage is a great investment. Hold on to each other. Put effort in making your spouse feel loved. All good things come from God – including our spouses!

Pastor Ric