Category: Meditations

Meditations – March 13, 2019

By Pastor Nathan Clements   American Lutheran Church, La Porte City
[Jesus said,] “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house.” ~Luke 6:46-49 (NRSV)
I have always been in awe, and perhaps a little frightened, of the power of water. My hometown was located right next to the Rock River, and every spring the waters would rise and partly cover the state park and farm fields. While in college, I volunteered to sandbag around our community of Moorhead, MN when the Red River rose in 2006. In 2011, the camp where I served as Program Director in North Dakota flooded a foot shy of the 100-year flood level the day after staff training began. Last fall, the lower part of the parsonage’s back yard was covered by Wolf Creek. Waterways follow the path of least resistance and will go wherever necessary, almost always regardless of our intentions to direct it otherwise.
I remember singing a song in Sunday School when I was young: “The wise man built his house upon a rock; the wise man built his house upon a rock; the wise man built his house upon a rock, and the rain came a tumblin’ down. Well, the rain came down and the flood came up; the rain came down and the flood came up; the rain came down and the flood came up, and the house on the rock stood firm.”
The foolish man in this song, however, who built his house upon the sand lost everything. I remember envisioning an ominous rain cloud and houses swallowed up in water while singing this song as if it was the river flowing past our town. I also remember hoping that our home was literally built on a rock rather than sand, even though the river couldn’t possibly rise that high.
When Christ speaks of houses with and without foundations he acknowledges that floods will inevitably strike them both. A firm foundation won’t prevent the elements around it, but it will certainly affect its perseverance and fortitude in the midst of chaos. In our journeys of faith and life we will experience our own floods – times of overwhelming doubt, fear, uncertainty, grief, or anger. But, it is the foundation beneath us that will hold us firmly in place. That foundation is none other than Christ our Lord.
A favorite hymn of mine is, “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less,” ELW #597.
“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; no merit of my own I claim, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sank.”
When the floods of life surround you, remember that Christ is your unmovable foundation. Hearing his words and acting upon them deepens our foundations throughout our lives. May our faithful witness also help to deepen the foundations of others around us.

Meditations – March 6, 2019

By Christopher Simon
Courage comes from the heart
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”    1 John 4:18 NIV
The word “courage” comes from the Latin word “cor” meaning heart, via Old French, “corage,” meaning heart or innermost feelings. In Middle English, “corage” is connected with the heart as the seat of our emotions. This connection between courage and our feelings is
obvious to anyone who has been overcome by fear or anxiety while in the midst of a risky endeavor. Being in a relaxed and positive mood, on the other hand, usually allows us to face difficulties and dangers with composure.
It is especially worth noting the connection between courage and love, both of which have their seat in the heart. A man in love will fight valiantly for his maiden. God has wisely implanted in us a powerful connection between love and courage. And the love of God is perhaps the best example of how our courage can be bolstered.
Knowing that God loves and cares for us is perhaps the strongest support for faltering hearts. Of course, some are misguided by the false belief that God wants them to slay their enemies, when He really wants them to love their enemies and turn the other cheek. Being kind to our enemies often requires more courage than taking up arms.
Courage must be tempered by wisdom and discretion while being bolstered by love. Know that God loves you and wants you to succeed in every good endeavor, and that his love and grace is sufficient for anything you may face.

Meditations – February 27, 2019

By Pastor Nathan Richardson   Heartland Community Church, La Porte City
Interruptions should not bring out our worst
What happens when your life is surprised by an unexpected interruption? Stuff happens, but how you handle it is very telling of who you are as a person. Chuck Swindoll once said, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” If you react poorly, there can be a snowball effect and may escalate to be a lot bigger problem than it was.
James 1:19-20 says “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” I think this scripture is pure common sense. People are very unpredictable and we need to find a way to choose love over immature reactions. Based on this scripture we can do three things to help us love better.
1. Listen more. If we admit it, most people are horrible at listening, including ourselves. Many people spend more time in a conversation thinking how they will reply rather than listening to a person’s needs. Listening allows us to connect and shows we care about the individual.
Peter Scazzero in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality says, we need to “recognize everyone is made in the image of God.” This is an I-Though type of relationship. We need to understand everyone deserves respect, dignity and worth. We need to focus on similarities to bring people together in spite of our difference.
Rather we can be easily frustrated when someone disagrees with us or when they don’t fit into our plans. This is an I-It relationship. I-it relationships are judgmental, and one you think you are superior to the other. This can be a comparison trap. This is when we focus on each other’s differences to divide instead of our similarities.
2. Speak less. We may be bad at listening but we are great at talking. When you are speaking you are not learning. Therefore you will never be able to understand where another person is coming from. This will impede our growth and transformation.
Pharisees were smart and they let you know it. They memorized the first five books of the Bible, prayed five times a day, tithed, gave to the poor, and even shared their faith. They, however, lacked compassion and love. Their devotion for God did not cross over to love of neighbor. They accused Jesus of being a glutton and a drunkard rather than trying to understand why he was a friend of tax collectors and sinners. (Matt. 11:19)Jesus was accused of a lot but never was defensive. Yet we never stop trying to defend ourselves. How dare someone attack our reputation?
3. Calm down and breathe. Anger never solves anything. Anger is usually birthed in narcissism and shows our lack of control. We need to learn to cope with stress and interruptions or we will be a walking time bomb just waiting to explode the next time we are surprised by the unexpected.
We need to learn to listen more, speak less and calm down and breathe. In turn this would lower our stress levels. We would have better relationship. We would have less to worry because we would experience less drama in our lives. Interruptions should not bring out our worst but our grace, love, and joy.

Meditations – February 20, 2019

Today is Valentine’s Day, a day to celebrate love. We buy each other chocolate and flowers. We take out our loved one to dinner to show our appreciation to each other. However love goes much deeper than a night out without the kids, although that is really nice too. The best definition of love comes from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
The scripture is read a lot at weddings to show the bride and groom love for each other. However awesome this love sounds the love between a man and wife will always fall short of this kind of love. Our love is imperfect. But the love described here is unconditional.
Perfect love is willing to die for the other. I am quite sure many of us would agree that we love our spouse enough to die for the other. But are we willing to wait? Are we willing to be inconvenienced? Can we still be kind in all situations? Do we become jealous, boastful or proud? Do we lose our focus and hurt the other? Do we act selfishly? Do we get angry easily? Do we forgive or hold a grudge? Are we willing to live everyday in love?
Love is hard. 50% of all marriages end in divorce. 16% of married couples report infidelity. 30% of people are involved in some form of domestic violence. These statistics are hard for us to imagine a love that is unconditional. The love that is perfect is the one between God and his children. John 3:16 is a scripture you may have heard a thousand times.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Maybe you are in a place where you have been hurt by a loved one. This place can take a while to be able to heal from. The church is just the place to be able to come along side of you and walk with you in the pain. The church is a place to find healing, love, grace, mercy. This love was modeled to us by Christ. His life was the ultimate picture of this love. He was willing to come to earth to walk with us in the pain. Jesus loves you. He is willing to forgive you. His love never fails.

Meditations – February 13, 2019

By Pastor Nathan Richardson   Heartland Community Church, La Porte City
Rest is the best commandment
A blizzard in the Midwest can become a windy and snowy mess creating whiteout conditions. I read that farmers would prepare for a blizzard by tying a rope from the barn to the house. In this the farmer in whiteout conditions would always be able to find their way back home. This may seem a bit extreme but when you are unable to see you can easily be turned around and head in the wrong direction maybe even walking in circles. It reminds me of the Israelites after they had left captivity in Egypt. They wanted nothing more than to go back home. But due to some poor decisions were unable to go home for 40 years. They wandered in an aimless direction without any focus.
I can become misdirected when my priorities are off. To keep my priorities on point I need to go back to the basics to remind myself what God really wants for my life. Moses did this for the Israelites by reminding them before they head into the promise land. He read to them the 10 Commandments to help them remember what was important.
One of those commandments can be read in Deuteronomy 5:12-15. For me this is the one command that shows God is looking out for me and what is best for my life. If followed it is also the one that helps me keep my focus.
12“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”
God made the Sabbath first for himself. He rested on the seventh day after six days of creation. God modeled the need for rest. Can you believe that we have a command for rest? This should be the most followed commandment of God. We literally have to do nothing to follow it. Yet it may be one of the most resisted commands due to the culture of busy. Americans love to stay busy.
Sabbath is a weekly reminder to stop and rest. If we do not rest exhaustion wins out, our body breaks down and sickness will prevail. Back in the days of the Oregon Trail many people moved their families out west to start a new life. One wagon train left from St. Louis. Some of the group decided they were going to follow the Sabbath by resting and worshipping. The other group felt it was important to arrive in Oregon as early as they could to become established before the winter hit. The group that rested arrived before the other group. The rest allowed them to be more productive the other six days of travel. Over productivity becomes counter intuitive.
God really knows what he is doing by giving us these commands. You have permission to slow down and rest. Try it out. See how it goes. God knows best. He is looking out for you and your health. Rest is really the best commandment.


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