Monday, September 17, 2018

GOD'S GIFT OF REST


        I am often asked, “Are you keeping busy these days?” It’s usually asked by people being friendly or interested, although some may hope I will say I am bored and wish I was back at full-time work. Others may hope I will rattle off a whole list of fun things I’m doing, to prove that retirement is good to achieve as soon as possible. 
        Some folks just keep going and going. Yesterday I met an 83 year-old pastor who is still working and traveling and preaching and telling others about Jesus through a ministry he founded many years ago,  the “Lutheran Heritage Foundation.” This ministry publishes Luther’s Catechism and dozens of other books on the Bible and Lutheranism in dozens of languages for distribution around the world. 
        People tend to associate value with activity. If we hear someone who is involved in all kinds of activities, inside or outside their career, it may make us feel they are living a more worthwhile life. It might even inspire us to take on additional activities.
        But God values us whether we’re busy or not. While He is pleased when His people serve Him by sharing His Gospel or helping people in need, or encouraging the discouraged, God doesn’t place value on us just by our being busy. He loves us all, no matter what.
        But if we are busy, we need to take time to rest. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” It isn’t necessary for us to be active all the time. We are God’s valued and loved people even when we are resting or taking a break. Jesus taught His disciples to take ample rest from their work, even when the needy crowds became a burden. 
        What are you busy with these days? Does it accomplish very much? Would you invite Jesus along with you in your task, or would you be embarrassed that He showed up? What kind of burden might you give to Jesus to make your day easier? Do you just need some rest?

Rev. Bob Tasler, www.bobtasler.com

P.S. Check out www.LHFmissions.org and give them a financial hand if you can. Pastor Robert Rahn can use your help.

Monday, September 10, 2018

WHY FORGIVE?


        Yesterday in our worship service we heard, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” (Psalm 34:19) Sometimes the affliction can be so grievous, that when we are delivered, just living each day can be overwhelming. Then we must be able to forgive those who’ve hurt us.
        In her book, Left to Tell, Immaculee Ilibagiza survived the 1994 Rwanda genocide by hiding ninety days in a small bathroom with seven other women. The women were Tutsi, Rwanda’s educated minority, and they were hunted by the majority Hutu people during the Rwanda rebellion. Immaculee’s parents and brothers were hacked to death along with nine hundred thousand others who died during that terrible tribal war.
        Amazingly, it was a Hutu pastor who hid the eight Tutsi women in his home, and his own adult children did not know they were there. Immaculee survived those terrible days on minimul food and constant prayer. Emerging from her tiny cell, she weighed only sixty-five pounds.
        When brought face-to-face with the Hutus who murdered her family, she forgave them. A Tutsi officer handed her a gun to kill them, but she would not even curse them or spit on them. She said she would rather forgive them because she did not want her bitterness toward them to hinder her from living the rest of her life.
        Immaculee said it was her Savior Who gave her the ability to forgive them and move past her terrible afflictions. Her constant prayers led her to see Jesus at work in her life. She knew she was also a sinful person, but God showed her the value of faith and forgiveness. The Holy Spirit helped her triumph over her afflictions and move forward in life.
        When we forgive others, we first are blessed. Forgiveness releases us from the pain of the past. It is a blessing from God that goes both ways.  
Could you have forgiven as Immaculee did?

Rev. Bob Tasler, www.bobtasler.com

Monday, September 3, 2018

FICKLE CHANGE

        Today is Labor Day, a U.S. national holiday held the first Monday every September. Unlike most U.S. holidays, it is a celebration without rituals, except for shopping and barbecuing. For most people it simply marks the last weekend of summer and the start of the school year. The holiday’s founders in the late 1800s were looking for two things: a means of unifying union workers and a reduction in work time.
        On September 3, 1967, the people of Sweden discovered how much work it is to change an old law. It was the day they changed their law of driving on the left side of the road to driving on the right side. It resulted in chaos on a scale rarely seen.
        The day of change had been advertised as “H Day” for over a year in advance. “H” stood for “Högertrafikomläggningen” which translates to mean “The right-side traffic conversion.” That day the traffic jams were numerous and humorous. Swedish drivers snarled traffic in cities and smashed into each other on country roads. Some drivers had forgotten about the change, and others hadn’t heard of it. Still others simply resisted the unwanted change and paid the price.
        A logo had been designed that was a large “H” with an arrow inside it moving from the left to the right. The country had been attempting to implement this change for over 40 years, and some had even composed songs played on media so the people would know about it. Despite many preparations, accidents and traffic mayhem reigned in the country for several days.
        People resist change or new customs because we are accustomed to our old ways. Even the word “accustomed” tells us how important “customs” are to us. Changing worship customs can drive members to another church, and change of government leadership can cause people to be resistant to new laws or those elected to enforce them.
        The Jewish leaders in Jesus’ time resisted new things, often violently. Early Christians were punished, jailed and sometimes killed for speaking of Jesus. Jesus Himself was condemned to crucifixion by Roman and Jewish leaders because His new message undermined their old ways.
        Jesus said, “No one puts new wine into old wineskins… But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” (Mark 2:22) Citizens may struggle with change that is needed, but Christians do not change what is essential – our faith in Jesus Christ and the customs surrounding His Lordship. Change should have a useful purpose, not just be to conform to the world’s fickle impulses.
What are you often tempted to change that is essential?
Rev. Bob Tasler, www.bobtasler.com

Friday, August 31, 2018

A SPECIAL MOMENT


        With all the emotion and discussion about today’s politicians, celebrities and professional athletes, there are some good news stories to share. One happened in an earlier time, but deserves to be heard again.
         At the opening of the April 25, 2003, NBA playoff game of the Portland Trailblazers and the Oklahoma City Thunder, a talented thirteen year-old girl stepped up to sing at Portland’s Rose Garden. Although she started well, she suddenly faltered, having forgotten the words. She stood there a few seconds, embarrassed and unsure what to do, when a large man in a dark suit came beside her to help. 
        He placed his hand on her shoulder, took her microphone and together they sang where she had left off with his strong and somewhat off-key voice. Others joined them and by the end, twenty thousand NBA players, officials and audience members had joined together to sing our country’s National Anthem, amid cheers, smiles and probably a few tears.
        Young Natalie Gilbert, winner of a contest to sing that night, went on to become a successful Broadway singer who has sung the National Anthem many more times. You can see her moment at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sin9M9boANo. The man who helped her, Maurice Cheeks, was then Head Coach of the Trailblazers, and is currently Assistant Coach of the OKC Thunder. He was inducted into NBA Hall of Fame in March, 2018.
        This story, known as the “Maurice Cheeks Moment,” isn’t about pro athletes or embarrassing moments or how to act during the National Anthem. It’s about care and respect, one person reaching out to help another in a time of need. It’s about humans being decent to each other.
        Jesus told us, “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) The “Golden Rule” has been around for centuries, and some even say even before Jesus, but it’s what we really need to observe now. Today’s environment of bitter distrust, vile rancor and outright hatred shown by too many adults in public, threatens to push aside honest efforts at helping all of us to get along better.
        Jesus’s harshest words in the Bible were reserved for those in leadership, prideful, educated people who should have known better. I wonder what He would say to us today. For those of us in need, faltering wherever we are, He stands next to us, His strong hand on our shoulders, forgiving, encouraging and showing us a better way.

Lord, help us be less bitter and more caring.

Rev. Bob Tasler, www.bobtasler.com

Thursday, August 23, 2018

THERE'S FEWER OF US THAN WE THINK!

        I have often read that most scientists believe planet Earth is nothing special, and that there are millions of other Earth-like planets in the universe, as many as 19 sextillion. (That’s 19 followed by 21 zeroes!) Many of these scientists believe several million of these planets surely contain complex life as we know it – with intelligent human-like beings, animals, plants, birds, etc.
        But last week came a breath of fresh air when I read a report that at least three brilliant scientists believe Earth is likely to be the only planet with sentient life (i.e. feel, see, hear, smell or taste) on it. About a month ago, Dr. K. Eric Drexler, Dr. Anders Sandberg and Dr. Toby Ord, released a fascinating study on the “Fermi Paradox.”
        The Fermi Paradox is simple: “If complex life is so common in the universe, then why haven’t we made contact with others like us?” For thousands of years, we’ve made no contact with millions of other supposed societies. Why not? At least three scientists say because it’s probably not out there. Drexler, Sandberg and Ord are nobody’s fools. Neither is Enrico Fermi, “the architect of the nuclear age” and a man central to the success of the discovery of atomic power.
        The study of these three great thinkers concludes that complex life, if it exists elsewhere else at all, isn’t nearly as likely as scientists used to think. Their final estimates hold there is a 50% to 100% chance that humans are alone in our Milky Way Galaxy, and an even greater chance that we are alone in the entire universe!
        But wait! Back in the 1970s, Dr. Carl Sagan told us the Earth was an insignificant pale blue dot among millions more like it. Now at least three eminent experts believe he was wrong. They estimate that Earth is probably the only one with life as we know it. Who is right? My vote goes to the Big Three.
        For most all of human history, people have thought we are alone. Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness, to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and the livestock, and over all the earth itself and every of creature that crawls upon it.'” This is one of the oldest writings in human history, and it says God made us. Not millions of other planets with people, just us! Earth is not an insignificant blue dot surrounded by millions of others. It’s where God did His work.
            As one of the earliest writings of mankind, the Bible says God made Earth and all that’s in it. We would do well not to ignore these words. We humans need to consider God’s Earth as a gift and therefore be its grateful caretakers. We ought to give God thanks for planet Earth, and worship Him through His Son Jesus. Besides gratitude, it should be our duty to protect sentient life, and to try to ensure it goes on.
        God speaks to us through people. I thank Jonah Gottschalk who wrote an article in The Federalist on August 17, 2018, which gives clarity to a belief I’ve held during my life.
Thank You, O Father God, for giving us life on Earth. Help us protect it. Help us also to trust in Your Son, Jesus. Amen

Rev. Bob Tasler, www.bobtasler.com

Sunday, August 12, 2018

PRICE OF A DOCTOR'S VISIT


Times have surely changed. A few days after arriving to serve a North Dakota congregation in 1975, I got the a bad cold and went to a local doctor for help. He was glad to meet me, and after checking me over and writing a prescription, he said I could pay out in front. The window lady said, “An office visit is $4, but for pastors it is half price. $2 please.” Wow! I’d never paid a doctor so small. I handed her two $1 bills and she said, “Paying cash? That’s a 10% discount. $1.80 please.” She handed me two dimes change and I was on my way.
It was a big difference from the Emergency Room visit thirty years later when I had a similar problem. With insurance it still cost me $380. Yes, times have surely changed.
One thing that’s unchanged in my years of ministry is my schedule of fees for services – I’ve never had one. Sometimes after days of work, “Thank you, Pastor” was all that’s offered. But that’s okay. I was there to serve and knew God would provide.
And well He has provided. Since leaving home and earning my first paycheck, God always made sure we had more than enough. Prophet Jeremiah had a good attitude. He prayed to the Lord,But as for me, behold, I am in Your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to You.” (Jeremiah 26:14)
His attitude required a huge faith, but we’d like to have a little input into what God does for us, wouldn’t we? Thanks be to God He does with us according to His will, not ours, because His will is always best.

Lord, help me be grateful for all You do for me.

Monday, August 6, 2018

JESUS LOVES ME, THIS I KNOW


        The children’s song, "Jesus Loves Me", is universally known and loved because it states the simple and profound central truth of God’s love in the Christian faith. The lyrics and melody of this hymn are sung by children and adults of all ages and are included in dozens of published hymn and song compilations.
        The lyrics of "Jesus Loves Me" were originally written in 1860 by Anna Bartlett Warner as part of a story meant to comfort a dying child. Anna’s sister, author Susan Bogart Warner, included the song in her two-volume set, Say and Seal, which became best-sellers in their day. Today these volumes are available online and usually offered free in E-Book format.
        In 1861, Anna’s poem was given its familiar melody by William B. Bradbury, who added the chorus and published it as a part of his hymnal collection, The Golden Sower. In the Twentieth Century, several verses known as the “Senior Citizens Version”, were added. Because they vary greatly, these verses are credited to no single author.
        William J. Niebuhr, lifelong Lutheran church musician and my brother-in-law, loved this hymn and wrote settings of it for adult and children choirs. It was sung, including the Senior Verses, at his memorial service in 2001.

“JESUS LOVES ME” (Bradbury’s original hymn verses)

1. Jesus loves me— this I know, For the Bible tells me so;
    Little ones to Him belong— They are weak, but He is strong.
            (Refrain) Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me!
            Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.

2. Jesus loves me—He who died Heaven’s gate to open wide;
    He will wash away my sin, Let His little child come in. (Refrain)

3. Jesus loves me—loves me still, Though I’m very weak and ill;
    From His shining throne on high Comes to watch me where I lie. (Refrain)

4. Jesus loves me—He will stay Close beside me all the way,
    Then His little child will take Up to Heaven for His dear sake (Refrain)

    (added “Senior Verses”)
5. Jesus loves me, this I know, Though my hair is white as snow
    Though my sight is growing dim, Still He bids me trust in Him. (Refrain)

6. Though my steps are oh, so slow, With my hand in His I'll go.
    On through life, let come what may, He'll be there to lead the way. (Refrain)

7. When the nights are dark and long, In my heart He puts a song,
    Telling me in words so clear, "Have no fear, for I am near." (Refrain)

8. When my work on earth is done, And life's victories have been won.
    He will take me home above, Then I'll understand His love. (Refrain)