Thought for the day. The Hew Hampshire Primary or whatever.

 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” (Matthew 21:21-22)

Watching the New Hampshire primary election the thought came to me. How many have prayed for their candidate to win, and if so, how many did it in faith, without doubting? Regardless of how many prayed for their candidate, there can only be so many winners in any election. The rest, having prayed in faith, not doubting will be disappointed. Some will be disappointed in God. Did God fail them?

Some will say yes, God failed them, but even more will question their faith, and acknowledge their doubts that God is capable of doing anything. So they blame themselves, the disappointments mount, and their prayer life takes a hit.  Jesus’ half-brother James put it succinctly: You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:3).  It is enough to forget the whole thing.

Or is it?

Many people are careful to add to their prayers: If it is your will, but even this caveat shows we acknowledge we really do not really know God’s will, and we resign us to the fate that our most sincere prayers are probably useless anyway.

Nothing could be further from the truth. God commands us to “be continually in prayer” and the promise in Matthew is repeated in Mark11:23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. And in John 16:23 the apostle quotes Jesus: “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. These are words from the Lord Jesus himself, so they must mean something, or God’s word cannot be trusted.

The answer is found in the age old question: What is the purpose of our being here on earth anyway? Does God really care? At first glance with terror, war and lawlessness spreading all over the world, God no longer cares. As one who has been reborn from above I can attest that God cares very much, and He really desires to have fellowship with us. There is nothing that compares to knowing you are loved by God and having fellowship with Him.

But back to whatever. The promise is not as ridiculous at it seems at first glance; all factions cannot get their petitions fulfilled. We must dig deeper: Jesus said in John 14:13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  And in John 15:14 Jesus states: You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. Jesus doubles downs in verse 16: You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. And the answer to how we should live is found just above in John 15:9-12:

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

There it is: The greatest commandment, and if we abide in Him we can ask whatever, because it aligns with His perfect will.

Lest we be puffed up, this is still true: In Isaiah 55:8-9 God states:“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.

Yet, the Lord Jesus states in John 16:12-13  “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.”

There we have it: The Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth, enough to give us grace and lead us day by day, but not so much that we can go forward all by ourselves.

 


Thought for the day: The origin and journey of the song “How great thou art.”

Clouds have always been my fascination. They come and go, form and disappear, cool by day and warm by night. But most impressive of all are thunderstorms, forming when the temperature and humidity are high, transport a lot of water vapor to higher elevations, there condensing as rain or ice, coming down, cooling and watering the earth. Clouds and thunderstorms are the thermostat of the earth. Without it the earth would respond like climate models, predicting a sharp temperature rise as carbon dioxide levels increase. The models are all flawed, since they predict a hot spot in the troposphere over the equator, but there is none. The thunderstorms in the tropical doldrums take care of that. “Settled science” instead has settled on ignoring the lack of the hot spot, for to acknowledge it would make the global warming claim invalid.

I thank God for providing us with a thermostat that protects the earth from overheating, and especially for thunderstorms!

Such was the case in July 1885, when Carl Boberg,  a 26 year young pastor of a Mönsteråsvikensmall congregation of the Swedish Missionary society was the honored guest of the ladies’ auxiliary annual picnic, held in a meadow near Mönsteråsviken, (a bay of the Baltic Sea in southeastern Sweden). The day was perfect, the sky was clear, pleasant temperatures, the cows were grazing on the meadow, the birds were singing, in short,  a pastoral idyll. Then it happened. In a few short minutes thunderclouds appeared out of nothing. There was no time to go home, so they all sought shelter in a barn close by. The rain came down hard, and lightning struck a nearby tree. Then as suddenly as it started the rain stopped and all was calm. In Sweden it turns much cooler after a thunderstorm, and the birds sing like they got a new lease on life.

They all went home, and the young pastor pondered the events of the day. He

080419-11, digital 28,8 mb RAW, 12-00 Koltrast, Turdus merula Uppland
080419-11, digital 28,8 mb RAW, 12-00
Koltrast, Turdus merula
Uppland

heard the Coalthrush singing its melodic, beautiful drill and in a distance he heard the church bells ringing from Kronobäck’s church. The bay was calm like a mirror, and inspired he started penning the song “O store Gud”. Here is the first verse:

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the works Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Refrain:
Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

He continued to write and write of all the mighty works that God has made and what He has given us through His word, and continued long into the night. Before going to bed he had penned over twenty verses. The next Sunday he wove the poem into his sermon. They all loved it, but that was about it. Slowly the word got around the poem was pretty good, after much editing down 9 verses were published in the local newspaper Mönsteråstidningen in 1886. Carl Boberg didn’t make any efforts to publish it further, and was surprised when he heard it sung a few years later to a Swedish folk melody (in 3/4 tempo). This was then published in the periodical “Sanningsvittnet” (witness of the truth)  in 1891.

It was translated into German by an Estonian, Manfred von Glehn. Five years later it was translated into Russian by Ivan S. Prokanoff, the Martin Luther of modern Russia. It was published in a book with the title “Cymbals”.

Later, while in the Carpathian Mountains of what is now Western Ukraine the English Missionary couple Hine heard the song sung in Russian, this time as a wandering song in march tempo. He got impressed by God’s great works in the Polish mountains, and as Stuart Hine heard the people singing it on their way to church he penned a translation. This become the second verse:

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Refrain

From now on the English version is different than the Swedish original. This is the origin of the third verse: It was typical of the Hines to ask if there were any Christians in the villages they visited. In one case, they found out that the only Christians that their host knew about were a man named Dmitri and his wife Lyudmila. Dmitri’s wife knew how to read — evidently a fairly rare thing at that time and in that place. She taught herself how to read because a Russian soldier had left a Bible behind several years earlier, and she started slowly learning by reading that Bible. When the Hines arrived in the village and approached Dmitri’s house, they heard a strange and wonderful sound: Dmitri’s wife was reading from the gospel of John about the crucifixion of Christ to a houseful of guests, and those visitors were in the very act of repenting. In Ukraine (as I know first hand!), this act of repenting is done very much out loud. So the Hines heard people calling out to God, saying how unbelievable it was that Christ would die for their own sins, and praising Him for His love and mercy. They just couldn’t barge in and disrupt this obvious work of the Holy Spirit, so they stayed outside and listened. Stuart wrote down the phrases he heard the Repenters use, and (even though this was all in Russian), it became the third verse that we know today:
And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Refrain

The second world war broke out, and the Hines were forced to return back to England, but they continued their ministry. The fourth verse was was added by Stuart Hine after the Second World War. His concern for the exiled Polish community in Britain, who were anxious to return home, provided part of the inspiration for Hine’s final verse. Hine and David Griffiths visited a camp in Sussex, England, in 1948 where displaced Russians were being held, but where only two were professing Christians. The testimony of one of these refugees and his anticipation of the second coming of Christ inspired Hine to write the fourth stanza of his English version of the hymn. According to Ireland:  One man to whom they were ministering told them an amazing story: he had been separated from his wife at the very end of the war, and had not seen her since. At the time they were separated, his wife was a Christian, but he was not, but he had since been converted. His deep desire was to find his wife so they could at last share their faith together. But he told the Hines that he did not think he would ever see his wife on earth again. Instead he was longing for the day when they would meet in heaven, and could share in the Life Eternal there. These words again inspired Hine, and they became the basis for his fourth and final verse to ‘How Great Thou Art’: 

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

Refrain

The complete song was soon published, not in England but in the Soviet Union (in English).  The famous Gospel singer George Beverly Shea got hold of it, liked it a lot, but he wanted to change two words in the first verse: Instead of works, he wanted to use worlds, and instead of mighty he wanted to use rolling. Very reluctantly Stuart Hine agreed, but only for use in the Billy Graham Crusades. It was first sung in Canada in 1955. It became so popular that in Billy Graham’s 1956 New York Crusade it was sung at all 99 events, and from there the song spread out through all the world, even back in Sweden where the new version became the popular one.

There have been over seventeen hundred documented recordings of “How Great Thou Art”. It has been used on major television programs, in major motion pictures, and has been mentioned as the favorite Gospel song of at least three United States’ presidents.

How Great Thou Art, How Great Thou Art!

 

 

Thought for the day. The just shall live by faith.

Now the just shall live by faith;
But if anyone draws back,
My soul has no pleasure in him. (Hebrews 10:38)

After having come to faith the first week in February 42 years ago after reading the Gospel of Matthew I grappled with what to read next. I remembered my school years in Sweden, where we had a daily dose of Christianity. Our teacher liked the old stories from the Old Testament, so every morning she drew a map of Palestine, as it was called at that time and talked about Abraham and Jacob and Moses. We were supposed to have Old Testament in grade one and the New Testament in second grade, but our teacher loved the Old Testament so much we never even got around to hear the stories about Jesus. So I read Genesis and Exodus, but when I came to Leviticus, I decided that was too much law for anyone, so I switched back to the New Testament, but which book? Having read the Gospel of Matthew I decided on the letter to the Hebrews, after a brief visit to first Corinthians 13. It was most powerful, but it raised more questions. Am I totally secure in Christ, of are there conditions I have to meet to be fully saved? Then in Hebrews 10:38 it hit me: I must live by faith. I didn’t have to know all the answers, it wasn’t even important I knew the questions. But the second part of the verse started to worry me: if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. I suddenly realized the faith part was not partial, I had to go all in. As a child I was baptized and confirmed, and I wanted to think that was enough; God knows who is his, but this time it was different, I had to take a stand in obedience and testify of my faith in Christ. So I signed up for baptism, and to my delight my wife decided to join, even though she was 6 months pregnant.

Coming out of the pool, I felt a wonderful release, my wife smiled in agreement; yes at that point I fully knew His soul has pleasure in me.

Through joys and hardships this has never left me, I regained my sense of wonder, and I can sing again the old Swedish hymn: How Great Thou art!

Thought for the day. The difference between “for Christ” and “in Christ.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    before you were born I set you apart;
    I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” ( Jeremiah 1:5)

I woke up this morning with a chorus we sang in Church in the 70:s.

With eternity’s values in view, Lord,

With  eternity’s values in view.

May I do each day’s work for Jesus

With eternity’s values in view.

Then it hit me: Is this really right? It sounds so good, but is it right? The words from Jesus in Matthew 7: 21-23 rang in my ears:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

In the case of the prophet Jeremiah God knew him before he was even conceived, but in the case of  the false disciple Jesus never knew him in spite of all the things he did for Jesus. Why the drastic difference? Does God pick winners and losers, or is there anything we can do to be assured to be on God’s side?

The answer may lie in one more quote, this one from the apostle Paul in Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

There we have it: God doesn’t want us to do things for Christ, God wants us – all of us as a living sacrifice. He wants us to die to self and be resurrected to new life in Christ. This is available to anybody – a new life in Christ. Then the Holy Spirit can lead us into God’s perfect will.

One more quote. Many can quote Ephesians 2:8-9, but the answer is really in verse 10: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

By the way, the word handiwork is in the Greek ποιημα (poiema) from which we get the word poem. We are God’s poem. I like that.

 

 

 

 

 

Thought for the day: Rejoice always.

Rejoice always, (1 Thessalonians 5:16) 

It often is hard to rejoice.

As always I don’t have a choice

but to praise, pray and sing

to my Savior and King.

To Jesus I lift up my voice.

At my mature age I try to keep my brain active by making Limericks. There are many types of Limericks, and millions have been made and printed over the years, some straight forward as the one above, some with a twist. I try to stay with the clean ones.

In my childhood’s Sweden we started learning English in fifth grade. The first semester, since English has weird spelling we learned the basics in phonetic script, and right from the start we were introduced to finer English poetry, such as this Limerick:

There once was a lady from Riga

who rode with a smile on a tiger.

They came back from the ride

withe the lady inside

and the smile on the face on the tiger.

Since then I have always loved the format, a strict  rhyme scheme (AABBA), and a predominantly anapestic meter  88668, or in this case 99669.

But my real love has been for songs and music. I have a very hard time to memorize things, but if it is set to music I hear the melody inside me and it stays with me for life. Even now I sometimes wake up in the morning with a song in my heart, a song I heard maybe fifty years ago and have not heard since I emigrated from Sweden. Such is the power of music. The cadence in the song and the melody work together to bring to remembrance the emotions I felt as a young lad.

Coming to America I decided to join the Rochester oratorio society. We sang Handel’s Messiah. It meant nothing to me except fantastic music. But the next piece was Elijah, and at the performance, the great base William Warfield was Elijah. He didn’t just sing, he was Elijah!

We moved away from Rochester and I didn’t sing for five years. Things didn’t go so well moodwise, but circumstances led me to again sing Handel’s Messiah. This time it spoke to me and rekindled in me the joy I once had singing. So I joined a church choir, still unsaved, but they let me sing anyway.

Since I found new life in Christ I have found that whenever things go bad, as they often do, God brings back a melody in my heart, not always with words, but they usually come back to remembrance a little bit later.

Thank God for hymns and songs with melody and words that bring back to remembrance the greatness of God!

(Sometimes I wake up with songs I heard in my youth that has very little to do with God and His greatness, but that is another story).

 

 

 

Thought for the day: Thank God for pork chops and “frikadeller”.

 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:  You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell. (Acts 15:28-29

The other day we found a whole pork loin selling at $1.59 a pound at Wegmans. We picked it up and my wife made the most wonderful stuffed pork chops. The meat juice, when heavy cream, flour, water and some secret ingredients are added, makes the most wonderful gravy. we had our son and family over last Sunday, and the two year old grand daughter, small for her age as she is, ate almost a whole stuffed pork chop by herself, saying “I like it” over and over again.

Another food I love are Danish “frikadeller”. They are like Swedish meatballs, but bigger and made entirely from ground pork. Properly spiced they are just magnificently delicious. See the picture!

884223The principal agricultural export product from Denmark is pork in all of its forms. They have the last few years exported more and more to Russia, but a few months ago, after the collapse in oil prices, they suddenly stopped importing Danish pork. The pork mounds grew, filling up the slaughterhouses. What to do?

It is time to introduce pork in the political discussion.

Denmark has received their fair share of mid-eastern immigrants and refugees. They are now so many that they have started to demand they be served certifiably non-pork based food exclusively. Some communities responded by stopping to serve pork altogether in schools and municipal institutions so as not to hurt the feelings of Muslims. Such was the case in Randers, a seaport city in Northern Jutland, a town with a large slaughterhouse, processing pigs for export.

Monday a week ago the city council had enough. They voted (16 to 15) that pork products must be served at all meals in all schools and institutions. The Muslim children can still opt out of their ham and cheese sandwich, taking only cheese on their sandwich.

Yes there is pork in Danish politics. How about good old U.S.A.?

Iowa is holding its annual Pork Congress January 27-28, just before the Iowa caucus. Time for pork politics?

As for me and my house: Thank God for pork chops and “frikadeller”!

 

 

alpolitikerne har stemt ja til et forslag fra Dansk Folkeparti og Venstre om, at det skal være et krav hos alle kommunens institutioner, at svinekød skal være en del af madplanen.

Byrådsmedlem i Randers for Velfærdslisten Kasper Fuhr Christensen var et af de 15 byrådsmedlemmer, der stemte nej til forslaget.

Han kalder beslutningen »unødvendig«, fordi der ifølge ham ikke har været problemer på kommunens institutioner.

»Jeg synes, at det er fuldstændig absurd, når der nu ikke har været henvendelser fra utilfredse forældre. Det er et problem, som man har opfundet ud af den blå luft. Det er stor svineståhøj for ingenting,« siger han.

Forslaget om at servere svinekød for både de muslimske og ikke-muslimske børn blev stillet efter, at flere af kommunens institutioner havde valgt at ophøre med at servere svinekød for børnene.

DF’er i Randers: Frikadelleforslag er blevet misforstået

Et af de steder, hvor man havde valgt at tage hensyn til de muslimske børn ved i stedet at servere halalkød, var Børnehuset Jennumparken, som Jyllands-Posten beskrev sidste år.

Dengang sagde institutionens leder Bente Gråkjær, at det vigtigste ifølge hende ikke var, hvordan kødet blev slagtet, men derimod om børnenen fik en ordentlig kost.

»Der er jo efterhånden også mange etniske danskere, der ikke spiser svinekød. Hos os har vi mange vigtige udfordringer at arbejde med, og så skal maden ikke gøres til en konflikt. Det vigtige er, at børnene får god og nærende kost,« sagde hun.

Muligheden for at forbyde svinekød har institutionerne i Randers Kommune med mandagens beslutning ikke længere. Fremover skal institutionerne i stedet sikre, at »dansk madkultur skal være en del af de kommunale institutioner.«

Danske muslimer ønsker, at der bliver taget hensyn – men får et nej

Under byrådsmødet stillede medlem af Børn- og skoleudvalget, Mikael Firlings Mouritsen (S), ifølge Randers Amtsavis spørgsmålstegn ved, hvordan en forældrebestyrelse skal kunne forstå begrebet dansk madkultur

Manden bag forslaget, byrådsmedlem for Dansk Folkeparti Frank Nørgaard, understregede dog ifølge Ritzau, at forslaget ikke handlede om mistillid til institutionerne og forældrebestyrelserne.

»Vi vil bare sikre svinekød i vore institutioner til de, der ønsker det. Det handler ikke om generel mistillid til institutionernes bestyrelser. Men flere steder i landet forsøger man at luske igennem, at der ikke skal serveres svinekød i institutioner,« sagde Frank Nørgaard ifølge Randers Amtsavis.

En undersøgelse, som Wilke sidste efterår foretog for Jyllands-Posten, viste dengang, at 83,4 pct. af de danske muslimer mener, at der skal serveres halalslagtet kød i danske vuggestuer, børnehaver og skoler.

Omvendt svarede kun hver fjerde ikke-muslimske dansker, at institutionerne skal tage hensyn til de muslimske børns madvaner.

 

Thought for the day: Pray continually.

First Thessalonians 5:17 “pray continually” is short and to the point, only two words, as short as “rejoice always” and “Jesus wept”.  That is a tall order, it gives no wiggle room, we should always be in an attitude of prayer. How is that possible? I have other things to do.

Prayer is communication with God. It is mostly non verbal, thinking about and listening to what the Holy Spirit living within you wants you to do every moment of every day, certainly in your day-dreams, and maybe even in your dreams. I take this as one of the richest privileges of being a Christian.

The other day I read in the news that about 150 Somali-Muslim employees of a Colorado meat processing plant were fired after they walked out on the job, demanding prayer time, and refused to return.

Approximately 200 employees at Cargill Meat Solutions in Fort Morgan staged the walkout, demanding various blocks of prayer time throughout the day, but a small number returned, according to The Denver Post.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, is demanding their reinstatement and return of their prayer privileges and continuing use of the prayer room the company had generously provided for them until then. This had worked well for many years,  the company allowed them to go off and pray in groups of 2 or 3 so as not to shut down the assembly line, but the Somali Muslims started to demand that they all should be allowed to pray at the appointed prayer times and only those times to comply with Sharia law.

Why was that so important that they rather lose their jobs than yield to the company policy of staged prayer?

Muslim prayers are different from Christian prayers. Christians can pray at any time, Muslims are prescribed to pray their “Contact Prayers” at specific times, five are obligatory: Pre-dawn, midday, afternoon, after sunset and before going to bed. I take the midday prayer as an example. It cannot begin until the sun has passed zenith, the highest point on the solar arc. If you start too early Allah will not hear your prayer. This means you cannot use standard time but must use solar time. Solar noon is early in the eastern part of a time zone, and about an hour later in the western part of the time zone. In addition it matters which day of the year it is Solar noon in November is half an hour earlier than solar noon in February. Add two minutes to that, and you are allowed and commanded to do your prayers, you and everybody of like faith, turning to Mecca, thus fulfilling Sharia law.

The purpose of these proscribed prayer times is to round up all believers and exercise mind control. You know who your buddies are, and you also know who is an infidel. This is totalitarianism, following the directives of the Imams. In Muslim dominated territories, when the call to prayer is sung from the minarets everybody stops what they are doing, turns to Mecca, prostrates in a very prescribed position and recites their memorized prayer in Medieval Arabic.

I am so thankful to have access to God at any time, giving praise, giving thanks and asking God for His will for me and others, for the hour, for the day and for the future!

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16