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Monthly Archives: December 2014

MILEPOSTS OF MY LIFE: DANNY BECOMES DAN

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One day in 6th grade Danny became aware that one of his friends was going to be beat up for whatever lame reason after school. Danny left school first and arranged a signal, putting his books on his head, which meant that the bully wasn’t present and Danny’s friend could hurry home safely. Danny had another signal if the bully was nearby. The first day went well. The second day the bully had turned his wrath on Danny. Somehow he got wind of the plot to save Danny’s friend and confronted Danny after school. He called Danny a little $@%&* so Danny knew he was serious. The next day Danny was to signal “safe” so his friend would come out expecting safety. The bully would be waiting. Danny was full of anxiety and wasn’t sure what to do. So he confided in the most wise, trustworthy man he knew: Dad. No problem, Dad would call the bully’s parents and put an end to it all. And so Danny’s dad made the call and the entire problem went away. Later in life Danny sold a piece of land to a young man. After comparing notes, it was realized that the young man was the son of the bully. Danny told him the story and the young man was amused and thought that was uncharacteristic of his dad.

Junior high school was grade 7-9, and it was about time to attend the big school with lots more students and challenges in life, as well as new opportunities. Along with the new opportunities came new expenses. For years Danny had been receiving 5 cents times his age for an allowance. So at age 12 his allowance was 60 cents a week. This was fine in grade school, but Danny quickly found that $2.40 a month wasn’t going to cut it in this new world of good times. First of all, Danny’s parents came to the rescue. Seeing the new, legitimate needs, they raised his allowance to $2.50 a week! What would Danny do with all that extra cash! Well, said, Mom and Dad, first of all, tithe. So Danny was introduced to tithing and has had the privilege of being a cheerful giver ever since.

Keeping up the family trapping tradition, Danny also bought some traps and began his pocket gopher trapping career. Each gopher was worth 30 cents so a good week of trapping could turn into real money! To improve things drastically, Danny’s grandpa discovered his county paid $1.00 per gopher. So Danny cut off the front feet of each gopher, put them in Mom’s freezer for storage, and had Grandpa Erickson sell them when he had a chance.

Another income stream was mowing lawns. Danny secured two lawn mowing accounts. One paid 3.50 and the other 5.00 per mowing. But now Danny was faced with another challenge: He needed better, more dependable transportation to his mowing jobs. So Danny went bike shopping. He decided on a 1970’s orange, Schwinn Varsity. It was priced at $120 but Danny wanted fenders so it then cost him $127.00. Sold! The Bike and Danny had many good years together, until some loser stole in broad daylight.

It was now the early 1970’s. Men had walked on the moon, a president and Martin Luther King were assassinated, the unpopular Viet Nam war was coming to a close, Danny was a city slicker and most importantly he had decided to follow Jesus. Something else was happening: Danny’s voice was cracking and there was some fuzz on his upper lip. Danny was becoming Dan.

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Posted by on December 30, 2014 in MILEPOSTS OF MY LIFE

 

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THE RISE AND FALL OF KING SAUL 5

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Sometimes, in this feel good, positive confessing time in history, I cringe at what I write. But if you read much of the Bible at all, even the New Testament, it isn’t always all that positive. Sometimes it is downright bleak.  So I write what I write, and I guess the reader can decide if there is a witness in their spirit with what is written or not.

I didn’t expect to write so many blogs on Saul, but his life is so rich with life lessons, we must go on another time or two. We will continue with the scene we left off with last time. Saul was commanded to utterly destroy the Amalekites and all their possessions, leaving no hint of them left on the earth. This was often the Lord’s righteous way of purging the earth of evil. He did it with Noah, Sodom and Gomorrah and lots of nations when Israel crossed over into the Promised Land. Some would criticize, but who are we, the creation, to find fault with the Creator? He is justified in doing what pleases Him and anyone who sins has disobeyed and deserves whatever they get. That goes for us today, too.

Anyway, Saul thought he could improve on the commandment of God and partially obeyed, something we often are also guilty of. He and the people did what seemed right to them, instead of just obeying God and trusting His judgment. We also often think we can improve on God’s ways:

  • Depending on our brand of church, we often create “better, non-biblical ways of being saved
  • We redefine what a set apart Christian life should look like, complete with excuses for sin
  • When we do read the Bible, we read the Bible in light of our beliefs and doctrines, not allowing the Word to influence us to right believing
  • We do church in whatever way we see fit at this time in history. This isn’t necessarily all bad, but we look down on others who do church differently
  • We allow worldly ways of thinking and dealing with our problems to replace Gods ways of thinking and dealing with our problems
  • Sometimes, like Saul, we convince ourselves that we are indeed obeying God, but an open, sincere study of our Bibles shows we are found wanting

God has given us the capacity to think so we should think indeed. However, that’s’ what Saul did and it got him in trouble. Sometimes we are just called to stop thinking and just obey, and trust God to make sense of the details. God said, “To obey is better than sacrifice.” And this is still a true statement today. Both are important. The sacrifice must be made, but then obedience is a way of life following the sacrifice. Extensive disobedience can cause the sacrifice to be annulled. In the case of New Testament believers, the sacrifice has been made. So we go about the business of obeying.

It was not the will of God that Saul should sin. He was not a chosen “instrument of wrath”. Saul, like all of us, had a free will, and he exercised it to his demise. The Lord regretted choosing Saul. Sometimes in the Bible God says it didn’t even come to His mind what someone would do. I’m not sure we should box God up into our foreknowledge and predestination boxes. Sometimes He influences things, declares things, and sometimes He lets things play out how they will. All the more reason for us to walk close to Him and obey.

When you were little in your own eyes…The Lord anointed you king…(1 Samuel 15:17).

Here is where Saul went wrong: He increased and the Lord decreased in his life. We see it in him making up his own rules, partially obeying, and even setting up a monument to himself. Without pointing fingers, I wonder how much of this goes on in today’s church. Are our ministries and buildings monuments to ourselves? Are we creating a Christianity that resembles the Christianity of the Bible less and less? Is there an American Christianity that is different than the Christianity of the rest of the world? If you led someone to Christ and the only influence they had was a Bible and the Holy Spirit, would they come up with what we see in the American church today? Certainly yes, in some cases, but certainly not in others!

I love the church, and much good is happening in the church. However, just as in Paul’s epistles, the problems must also be exposed in the church and in our own lives and dealt with appropriately. One of the reasons I don’t shy away from speaking bluntly about the problems in the church is that too few do. Far too many have their heads in the sand, or are plugging their ears saying, “lalalalala”. No amount of positive thinking or confession changes God’s holy ways. We must embrace the good, even making it better, and expose the bad, repent of it, and purge the leaven from the lump. This has always been God’s way, clearly outlined in the Scriptures, and His ways, which are above our ways, will never change.

 

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MILEPOSTS OF MY LIFE: CHRISTMAS PAST

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As with most families, Christmas holds special meanings and memories. Danny’s memories are no exception. A lot of what Danny’s family did for Christmas was no different from anyone else. Some of it was different, but what made Danny’s memories so special is that it was his experiences with those he loves. One of the best things the Christmas season does is bind family ties.

Danny’s family usually had family Christmas time on the 22nd or 23rd of December, because they then travelled for Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Often the meal was pizza or Lasagna because that is what the kids liked. Often a Christmas Eve service was part of the festivities. The Christmas celebration was always in the evening. For years the budget was $10 per child but eventually, thankfully, it increased. Regardless, the children usually and a few gifts in the $10 budget and were very pleased with the result. Sometimes they got games like Battleship or Aggravation, sometimes other things that they specifically asked for. Presents were always opened one at a time starting with the youngest first and then repeating until the presents were all gone. To this day Danny’s family still opens presents this way. One year the children all dutifully submitted their requests in plenty of time and Danny’s Mom and Dad completely blew them off. No kidding, among other things that year, Danny got a globe! What was Danny supposed to do with a globe? Funny thing though, he grew fond of that globe and treasured it and studied it for years. Part of Danny’s concern for world missions was birthed staring at the globe.

On Christmas Eve the family would load up the car and sojourn to southwest Minnesota to the family farms and have Christmas with the grandmas and grandpas and family. Christmas Eve was with the Ericksons. There were five siblings and a load for grandchildren packing the old farmhouse to the gills. Lefsa and Luta Fisk were staples at the meal. After the meal the ladies would wash and dry endless dishes before it was time to open presents. Every year the grandchildren complained about how long it took to do the dishes. Every year they were told it would go faster if they would help. Danny can’t remember ever helping. Finally all would gather around and sing Christmas carols. Grandma would read the Christmas story and for a moment the entire family was close and one. Then it was present time. Later the ladies would talk lady talk, the men would play cards or put puzzles together and the kids would find a nook or cranny to slowly fall to sleep. Danny’s favorite place to sleep was in an unfinished, unheated store room in the upper level of the old farm house. Grandma put many of her homemade quilts on the bed and Danny and his cousins would squeeze into the bed and giggle the night away.

On Christmas morning, Grandma was up before everyone else and began to cook a first class breakfast for the entire house full of people. Danny always took the breakfast for granted, but it had to have been an enormous job. Then Danny and his family were off to Mom’s family, the Hintermeisters. They were only about a half hour away so Danny’s family was there in the late morning. Presents were opened first and then the huge Christmas dinner was next. Some of Danny’s cousins were there, along with the aunts and uncles, and the kids had a great time running around the farm house and the outbuildings together. There was a little less tradition there, but popcorn and Christmas shows on TV were usually part of the time together. It was not uncommon to open the bible after the meal and listen to Mom’s brothers and Grandma talk about the things of God.

The years have come and gone but the memories, sights, sounds and smells have remained near to Danny’s heart. And most importantly, so has the Christ of Christmas.

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2014 in MILEPOSTS OF MY LIFE

 

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MILEPOSTS OF MY LIFE: DANNY DISCOVERS THE BIBLE

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It was the beginning of 1972 and a Bible reading program was hitting the churches called, “Read it through in ’72.” The living Bible had recently been published so the Bible was easier to read for young people like Danny. Danny was very intrigued by the Bible and had read it some over his short life. This was an opportunity to see what else was between those hard, green Living Bible covers.

So Danny began his three chapters a day and continued for a long time. He never did finish that year but read many books of the Bible that told about the character of God and how He deals with and feels about His people. Danny also noticed that God didn’t mess around but required obedience from His people… or else! Danny began to develop a healthy fear of God that remains with him to this day. This fear doesn’t in any way interfere with Danny’s love for God. Somehow, because of the awesomeness of God, there is a way to fear Him and yet love Him both at the same time.

Though Danny didn’t finish the Bible that year, he was hooked on reading it and has never stopped. Danny knows the Bible better than most simply because he has read it regularly for nearly 40 some years. Danny isn’t easily influenced to stray to this or that wind of doctrine because he is well anchored in the truth of the Bible. There would be far less fads in the church if more Christians were faithful students of the Bible.

Along with reading the Bible God began to speak to Danny about his need to speak to Him. Danny asked God if He enjoyed it when His children talked to him about every day events and challenges as well as simply admiring things like His creation. Danny felt he got a resounding “yes” from the Almighty and began to talk to God in his twelve year old way more regularly. This also has never stopped and now Danny is certain you can’t talk God into boredom or disinterest. He loves to hear from His children.

Danny’s uncle Henry was mentioned previously and the fact that Danny wasn’t quite sure what to think of him. Danny was in good company. Henry was cut from a different cloth and just wasn’t going to look at things the same as others. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. But with Henry it was very good. Henry stayed with Danny’s family occasionally. He had a great, humorous personality and an uncommon devotion to his God. He traveled all over the world to spread the gospel. Later in 1972, on one of these trips he traveled with a singing group and Henry was the preacher. Clearly by divine guidance he met a young woman named Lyn in Australia. They spent as much time together as time allowed and then had to part company as Henry was off to another country. But he couldn’t get the beautiful blond Australian out of his mind and heart. It hadn’t been that many days since he first met Lyn, but Henry got up the courage to send a telegram to her in Australia and propose marriage. Wow, nothing like throwing caution to the wind! And to his delight, she said yes which included leaving her homeland and moving to the United States.

Some months later Henry appeared at Danny’s door after picking that same young miss up at the airport. Her first day in the United States was going to be with the Erickson’s, as Henry had to go off to work. It was early in the morning and Danny was about to go to school. Lyn had a very thick Australian accent and Danny had a hard time understanding her. Later, after school there was more time with Lyn and Henry and the Erickson family developed quite an affection for the Australian alien. Several months later Lyn and Henry wed with Danny’s Dad giving her away. Danny has had a great admiration for both Lyn and Henry all his life and has been greatly influenced toward His God though their witness. Faithfully walking with God touches both likely and unlikely lives. You never know who is watching, listening and being influenced by your life.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2014 in MILEPOSTS OF MY LIFE

 

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THE RISE AND FALL OF KING SAUL 4

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As we continue our observation of King Saul’s victories and failures, remember that the people chose to have a king, but God chose who the king was to be. And there were rules:

Samuel also said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the Lord” (1 Samuel 15:1).

We have talked about this before but I’m not sure we can emphasize it enough: God requires obedience. We live in a day when so many sermons (too many) are about inner healing, self-actualization, the blessing of God and how you can get your healing, and well, all about what God can do for us. There are precious few talking about what God requires of his people. There is no doubt that God loves His people and loves to bless them. But, along with the blessings of God mentioned in the New Testament, there are far more verses that talk about living right. Is it a coincidence that ignoring the requirements of God in the pulpit translates in to ignoring the requirements of God in the pew? Saints from 100 years ago would be appalled at the curve we now grade ourselves on.

Anyway, Saul is given another chance at obedience with the command to attack wicked Amalek and annihilate them completely. So Saul gathered 210,000 soldiers and did indeed attack Amalek. But instead of ridding the earth of all that is Amalek, Saul and the people kept the king of Amalek alive, and also spared the best of the flocks. In fact, 1 Samuel 15:9 says they destroyed everything worthless but keep the best alive. But that wasn’t God’s instructions.

When the prophet Samuel came on the scene, Saul said, “I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” He graded himself on a curve, because he did most of what God commanded. I have always been amused at Samuel’s response: “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears?” Again, Saul said, “but the people…” It reminds me of Adam’s excuse, “But that woman you gave me…”

It seems that we always have a reason to mostly obey God. In an effort to flee legalism we accept partial obedience as a legitimate part of our lives. But if the Bible shows us anything it is the insistence by God that we obey Him completely. This means things like:

  • Always forgiving
  • Giving faithfully
  • Praying faithfully
  • Denying ourselves
  • Abstaining from sin
  • Loving one another
  • Walking in the Spirit
  • Being baptized
  • Telling others about Jesus
  • Seasoning our conversation with grace
  • Do not love the world or the things in the world
  • Renewing our minds

Far more emphasis is placed on obedience than blessing in the Bible. That suggests to me that obedience may be more important than blessing. Or maybe God knows it is harder to get us to obey than accept blessing. Regardless, we take tests, listen to Christian motivational speakers and sojourn from conference to conference to find out the will of God for our lives. And all the while it is under our noses in the Bible:

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8)?

Solomon, after experimenting with all the world had to offer summed up his findings at the end of his life:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

 

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THE RISE AND FALL OF KING SAUL PART 3

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The blessing of God was upon Saul, who was anointed as king over Israel. The Spirt of God was upon him and he prophesied, made wise decisions and won battles. But something began to change inside Saul that soon manifested itself through his behavior and disobedience to God. Saul, whether he should have or not, gathered 3000 to attack the garrison of Philistines, Israel’s on-going enemy. This ticked off the Philistines big time and they then gathered thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen and people as the sand of the seashore. When the men of Israel saw this they hid in caves, holes and pits.

Saul was in Gilgal and was awaiting Samuel’s arrival. Samuel, being the prophet, was going to offer a sacrifice and likely ask God what to do with the Philistines. When Samuel was later than planned, Saul began to feel the pressure to perform and come up with a sacrifice and answers on what to do in their present situation with the enemy. So Saul, against the word of the Lord, went ahead and offered sacrifices without the prophet. Wouldn’t you know it, the smoke was barely dissipating when Samuel showed up and caught Saul in the sin he had committed. Samuel said, “What have you done?” Saul responded, “When I saw that the people were scattered…I felt compelled and offered a burnt offering.” When I saw the people, I felt compelled. This is not the last time we will see Saul influenced by the people.

Samuel said to Saul,

“You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever” (1 Samuel 13:13).

Saul was God’s plan A. The long-term blessing on Saul’s house was contingent on Saul’s obedience to God. But something was happening in Saul that caused this disobedience. He was being influenced by others instead of God, and God has little use for those who fear others more than Him. Samuel continues:

“But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart…because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you” (verse 14).

Was it just one sin that disqualified Saul from the throne? Perhaps, but I doubt it. Saul’s successor, David, a man after God’s own heart, made his share of booboos. And yet his throne continues and will continue forever through Jesus. When David sinned, his response was repentance, not excuses. No, I suspect that we see the beginning of Saul hearts filled with himself and needing God less and less. Eventually his story will unfold and we will see that indeed that was the case. God was in the process of being dethroned in Saul’s life and God knew it, and would not remain with a man who had no need or desire for Him.

Those of us who live in the most prosperous place and time in history also run the risk of dethroning God in our lives. Our blessings abound. But with the blessings come the risk of loving and depending on the good life instead of the author of life. We find it hard to put our complete faith in God because there are so many other things that can fill the voids. Our medical needs, financial needs, social, psychological and all our physical needs can be nicely provided for by the blessings that come with being an American. And the blessings are good and something to be thankful for. But, what about our God? Is He our first go-to choice, or is He our choice when all else fails? Will we wait for Him to meet our needs or will we, like Saul, take things into our own hands? Is the speed of blessing in our lives fast enough for us or are we getting ahead of God? We read we are to “wait” on the Lord, but often have no time for such unproductive activity. When He takes longer than we want to wait, we take things into our own hands and put it on credit, read a book that promises instant blessings, give an offering to a man of God or maybe a fool who promises blessings in return, or go to endless conferences seeking the blessing and anointing of God through the latest star preacher.

What happened to, “Be still, and know that I am God?” Walking with God isn’t necessarily running with God. It takes time, a life time, to nurture love and dependence on the Almighty. But only with brick upon brick building are we equipped to face life’s challenges and resist the temptation to, like Saul, take things into our own hands. Be still, and wait.

 

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MILEPOSTS OF MY LIFE: THE BIGGEST LOSERS

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In elementary school somewhat of a pecking order develops early on. There are three main categories: The popular, the average, and the biggest losers. Labelling is usually not arbitrary but there are real reasons why each student wears a label all his or her school years. Danny was not one of the popular ones. Occasionally he would find favor with one of the popular ones, but never attained to the nobility of the higher ups. Neither was he ridiculed or completely left out of events and friendships. He was, well, average. Danny noticed in first grade there were already those who were being left out and made fun of. And for all their growing up years, almost without exception, they were never able to shake their “loser” labels. Were they losers? Danny didn’t think so. They had great potential, given the chance, but were pretty much not going to be given the chance.

Often a child was mocked or excluded because of a physical “flaw”. There was one girl who was as wide as she was tall, dressed very poorly, had lots of warts and a funny voice. Beginning with the first day of school, she didn’t stand a chance. There were others who were from large families and were poor. As a result, they dressed in hand me downs that had been handed down…a lot. Occasionally it was grooming that blew someone’s chances at friendship of any kind. And sometimes it was just pure dumb luck.

One of the unlucky ones was a boy named Steve. He looked normal, dressed normal and was very well groomed. But somehow he was chosen to be picked on. For instance, he was very studious (maybe his only flaw), and carried lots of books. The obvious thing for the meanies to do was kick his books out of his hands. If Steve shook it off his life may have been very different. But he pouted and that was like blood to a blood thirsty hyena and the bullies couldn’t wait to see him pout again. So Steve developed a fast walk with large steps that became his trademark and he was labeled a lesser child; a loser. For years he walked the halls fast with those big steps all to avoid being picked on, thus encouraging it. After high school Danny was driving to college and saw in the distance alongside the road a young man with a walk he immediately recognized. Sure enough, it was Steve walking to the same school Danny was going to. Danny pulled over to give him a ride. The boy had become the most negative, pessimistic young man Danny had ever met. And all because he, who started out normal, was chosen to receive the short end of the stick of life.

One thing that Danny noticed through the years of encountering the popular kids and the “losers”: the popular kids were often arrogant jerks who wouldn’t allow the likes of average Danny to hang around them. Often they wouldn’t even talk with him. But the so called losers always welcomed him to their lowly groups, every time. Maybe they weren’t the losers after all.

Throughout his school years it bothered Danny to see the outcasts treated like lesser people. It just wasn’t right that, early in life, these students were being formed into someone who had far less of a chance to succeed. So often Danny risked the potential fallout and paid attention to these students. Later in high school Danny would sit with them in the cafeteria and get to know them. Aside from a few physical or social short comings, they were normal people who had been shafted in their formative years. In the Bible, recently anointed King David fled the hateful King Saul with a band of these kind of people. They were the losers of society but loyal to the King. If Jesus were in elementary school most of us know who he would hang out with. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3). To this day Danny still gravitates toward those sitting alone in a given situation. He has found great treasure hidden in the outcasts of work, church and the like. Though most kids shake some of these unfortunate labels off in adulthood, some residual pain still remains. All of us who call ourselves Christians have a great opportunity to be Jesus to them.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2014 in MILEPOSTS OF MY LIFE

 

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