I miss Grandpa

I miss Grandpa. Well, technically he was my step-grandfather, being my grandmother’s second husband. But they had already been married for many years long before I was born. He was the only Grandpa I really knew. Last month would have been his 105th birthday; he died in 1985. Every year I reflect on this simple, yet strong, good-hearted man. And I miss him.

He always had time to take my brothers and me fishing, summer or winter. He worked swing shift at the iron mines, yet he seemed ready to fish at the drop of a hat. I have several photos of our fishing adventures. He made sure we had a chance to pull them in, even if a struggle for us.

One time on opening weekend of fishing season, he took us fishing. He left my brother and me on the small inlet while he parked the car. Being an eager young fisherman, I cast out into the shallow water. Before the car was parked, I had a five pound bass. In my great pride I ran down the gravel road to Grandpa wanting to show my trophy. One look and Grandpa whispered as loud as he could “Throw it in the trunk!!” “Why, Grandpa?” He only said louder, “Throw it in the trunk!” It wasn’t until we got back home that I realized that bass season didn’t start until two weeks later; Grandpa didn’t want to let go of the trophy!

Ice fishing was another adventure. He didn’t believe in fish houses. No, he carried a hand auger to get a small hole in the ice, then we had to strain ice out of it every 5-10 minutes. One time we caught a fish that was bigger than the hole. That really bothered Grandpa. “Hell’s bells!” was the extent of his foul language and reserved for the most dire circumstances. This was one of those times. I miss Grandpa.

For a short while in the mid 1950’s they lived in a small trailer house about a half block from the railroad tracks. I still have vivid memories of that time: his distinctive cough in the middle of the night, the sound of the railroad activity, and the smell of tobacco. Not long after that he gave up cigarettes. They had bought property and were getting ready to build a house. As he had done for so many others through the years, he was right there building the house from the basement up. At least this time he didn’t need the team of horses to dig out the basement.

In 1955 he took my older brother and me to a professional wrestling event in a little town west of us. What an eye opener for a young kid! What a most exciting place to be! And we even saw women wrestlers. Grandpa loved pro wrestling, even in his old age. As he watched on TV, he would sit in a straight-back chair with his hands clamped on the seat by his sides. Soon he would be twisting and grunting and groaning with the wrestlers, but his hands never left the seat! I miss Grandpa.

When I was younger, Grandpa seemed a little grumpy or gruff, not in a negative way though. As the years rolled by, I understood that he really wasn’t grumpy and certainly not with us. He didn’t always know how to show love, but he was a very loving man. After he retired and arthritis began to take its toll on what he could and could not do, I occasionally saw the tears of pain. And when our own children came along, he wasn’t afraid to show emotion with them and us. I have learned to be more open with my own grandkids.

During this last decade as my mother wrote her autobiography I learned a lot more about my Grandpa. My respect for him has grown considerably. He had endured a lot, yet remained steady, faithful, and dependable. And he never complained.

Now, as we have five grandchildren, I realize how much he taught me about life, and especially about being a grandpa. With one major difference: growing up, we lived six miles from my Grandpa and saw him many times during the week. But now, our grandchildren live more than a 1,000 miles away. What a blessing it was to have Grandpa that close to us; at the time we took it for granted. I’m sorry we did. I miss Grandpa.

My middle name carries on his legacy. I miss Grandpa!


Stripping away the non-essential

This past week in ministry has demonstrated how fragile life can be. A good friend faces monumental changes in ministry due to physical problems. The physical devastation is matched by the hidden, yet just as serious emotional and mental struggles. Platitudes fail to provide an adequate response for us as Christians. At times like this, we are drawn back to the Scriptures, not with the latest technique or fad informing our search, but a broken body, a broken heart, a broken spirit. We have questions that we may not think appropriate to even raise… no, not the usual “why?” but “God, where are you??!!!” and stronger ones.

Last Sunday’s OT reading was Lamentations 3:22-33. How much more fitting can this be?! In the midst of Jeremiah’s lament, he comes to the center of the chapter and the book with some great words:

3:20 Surely my soul remembers

And is bowed down within me.

3:21 This I recall to my mind,

Therefore I have hope.

3:22 The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,

For His compassions never fail.

3:23 They are new every morning;

Great is Your faithfulness. (NAS95)

To grasp how much this represents a statement of faith, we have to go to the beginning of the chapter and realize that Jeremiah’s ultimate “enemy” is God himself!

3:2 He has driven me and made me walk

In darkness and not in light.

3:3 Surely against me He has turned His hand

Repeatedly all the day.

3:8 Even when I cry out and call for help,

He shuts out my prayer.

Thus, Jeremiah’s struggles with the king, the false prophets, the soldiers who were ordered to imprison him several times, pale in comparison to his struggle with God. Even his prayers seem blocked from God (3:8). No wonder his soul is bowed down within him (3:20)!

God hears Jeremiah’s pleas. His Son, Jesus who faced this same experience. He is abandoned by his friends, ridiculed and beaten by his enemies, and hung on a cross. There he cries out: “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” In that very act, God is not far away At all. When this truly righteous person is abandoned, there God is solving the dilemma of all people who feel abandoned.

Sometimes our enemies might be people, other times ourselves, and sometimes the effects of sin in this world in the form of diseases. When we experience such, we are not into comparing with others. We cringe when someone states, “At least it isn’t _____.” (fill in the blank as you see fit). At this point the one enduring the anguish does not care. He or she needs to know that God cares, even if for a time it seems that God is silent, hidden, and that he has forgotten the person.

My next posts will be reviews of two books dealing with this very topic, one from a pastoral perspective and one from a person who suffered personally. Two years ago I wrote a book review of Pastoral Care under the Cross: God in the Midst of Suffering by Pastor Richard C. Eyer. This past Friday I received a book from Tyndale for reviewing, Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow by Nancy Guthrie.

When we strip away the non-essential, we gain a perspective about God, about life, about ourselves that doesn’t match the world, but begins to move us closer to God’s  perspective. It is not an easy journey, it is filled with pitfalls, and it will leave us struggling with failure, sadness, anger. But Jesus knows exactly that path and he walked it for us and now with us.

Some thoughts on Jeremiah 23

Interesting parallels and chiastic structure in this section:

23:2a “You have scattered My flock and driven them away” (specific actions of shepherds)

23:2b “you have not attended to the sheep” (general indictment)

23:2c “I will attend to you” (general promise of Yahweh’s appropriate justice)
23:2d “for the bevil of your deeds” (specific condemnation of shepherds)

Or comparing vs 2 with 3 and the difference in what has been done and what Yahweh will do.

23:2 (Shepherds who destroy)
  • scattered
  • driven away
  • not attended
23:3 (what Yahweh will do)
  • I will gather the remnant
  • where I have driven them (note contrast with shepherds driving away)
  • I will bring them back to the fold
And the result:

23:4 (Yahweh’s actions continue)
Shepherds will care for them
They shall fear no more nor be dismayed
None shall be missing

Ultimately it is God’s appropriate justice upon the shepherds and the nation that leads to their captivity. But it is also his appropriate justice to bring them back to their own land.

23:8 (Yahweh says) “… Then they will live on their own soil.”

Some thoughts on Jeremiah 14

Just struck me in my reading this last week, how we often jump to 31:34 as the new covenant, but fail to note the law’s preparation for that new covenant. Do we sometimes short circuit God’s work in our lives by trying to wiggle out of the condemnation of the law? In the process the law no longer threatens but acts like a car monitor, “Your door is ajar.” Worse the gospel loses it sweetness and freshness.

Consider how God uses Jeremiah to avoid both extremes. In Jeremiah 14:10b we read: [Yahweh says]: 

Therefore the LORD does not accept them; now He will remember their iniquity and call their sins to account.”

What a statement of law! God will remember their iniquity and call their sins to account. Facing the sternness of the law will bring them (and us) to our knees. 

We can’t help but see this law preparation for the people, so that in captivity, the gospel declaration in Jeremiah 31:34 rings with even greater clarity and brings true hope to those suffering. Jeremiah points the people ahead to the new covenant, in Yahweh declares,

“… for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

The law remains to condemn sin. The gospel remains even brighter to remove sin from us – that is what Jesus did. That is what the people of Israel looked forward to; that is what we look back to in its fulfillment.

Some thoughts on Jeremiah 9

I recently began another read through Jeremiah. So here are a few random thoughts that struck me. In 9:23-26 there is a pivotal text also referenced by Paul (1 Cor. 1:31). In 9:24 we read that Yahweh “practices lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness.”

‏ עֹ֥שֶׂה חֶ֛סֶד מִשְׁפָּ֥ט וּצְדָקָ֖ה

Many years ago in seminary I examined the relationship between justice (מִשְׁפָּ֥ט) and righteousness (וּצְדָקָ֖ה) relative to their occurrences in Isaiah. At the time, it seemed that in particular “justice” carries a dual focus depending on what is happening. I had begun translating the word as a phrase “appropriate justice”; that is, when God acts, for the one in faith, appropriate justice is salvation, but for the one outside faith, appropriate justice is condemnation and judgment.

So in this context of Jeremiah 9, God invites “those who boast in the Lord” to share in that which delights Yahweh (9:23-24). On the other hand, the one who does not boast, the “uncircumcised” (nations or Israel, uncircumcised in heart) will experience “appropriate justice” in the judgment, “in the days which are coming.”

That also seems to fit with Paul’s eschatological understanding in 1 Corinthians, and in particular 1:30-31. “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.’ ” (NAS 95)

Convention Results

The AALC had its National Convention in June. I was privileged to be the Bible teacher for the convention. I explored the topic of making known God’s love and the implications of that for us as Christians.

  • Luke 15:1-10 Knowing the Father’s Heart
  • Luke 15:11-32 Demonstrating the Father’s Heart
  • Luke 7:36-50 Knowing Those in Need
  • Luke 24:44-49 Revealing the Father’s Heart

The Convention brought two very positive results:

  1. Election of the Rev. Frank Hays as Presiding Pastor, a retired Navy chaplain.
  2. Approved resolution for altar and pulpit fellowship with the LCMS.

Both signal a bright future to the AALC, endorsing our commitment to confessing the Christian faith as Lutherans and committing ourselves to missions focus in all congregations.

Leon Morris (03/15/1914 – 7/24/2006) Gentleman Scholar

Just read about the death of Leon Morris

Obviously I had never met him, but I am very familiar with his writings, from his doctoral dissertation (Aplostolic Preaching of the Cross in 1951) to his later works on the New Testament. In fact, I have many of his writings especially on John. He was a fine scholar and an excellent writer. While we mourn his passing, we rejoice in his victory over sin, death, and the devil.