Bird Dog

Matthew 5:8+9
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
This bit of scripture is from Jesus’ most famous sermon – “The Sermon on the Mount.” In the section that we call “The Beatitudes,” we read that the pure of heart will see God. That’s pretty good incentive if you ask me, most of us would love to see God! But what is it to be “pure of heart?” Part of the definition includes the idea that a pure hearted person is single minded, everything they do is for Christ and his glory. It also means that this is a person whose heart has been cleansed by the forgiveness Christ offers. But another aspect of this word – Pure – is the idea that this is a person who is focused.
This focused person has their sights set on Christ. They want to be Christ like. At work. At play. With their kids. With their boss. With their employees. They are like a bird dog on a pheasant! Have you ever hunted over a really well-trained bird dog? It is a thing of beauty. Pheasants and grouse can be wiley at times, hiding and running ahead of the dog. But that dog will keep his nose down and follow the scent wherever it goes. If it goes right, he goes right. If the bird goes into the briars, the dog follows right in. That’s a picture of a pure hearted believer, whatever Christ leads – we go. We truly are “Followers of Christ!” If Christ leads us into a conversation about faith – we follow him right on in. If Christ leads us to a need and lays it on our heart to meet it – we jump on in. He may lead us into situations where we feel like we are in over our heads … but that should be the natural state of a Christian – he wants us dependent upon him and if we won’t go there on our own he often pushes us in!
And how do the “Pure of Heart” see God? I can think of at least 3 ways. First, they are the ones who see God’s handiwork in creation. Second, they are the ones who get to see God show up in their lives. After all, when you follow God into a situation that he has lead you to, he is going to be there – meeting your needs, giving you the words to speak, and causing the fruit to grow. And thirdly, the Pure in Heart will see God on that day when we join him in heaven. What a day that will be!
So today why don’t you ask yourself: “How am I doing in this area of heart purity? When is the last time I sensed God was leading me into something? When was the last time I ‘saw God?’”
Also see: Luke 9:61-62

Happy New year!

This is a test to see if I’m still able to blog on this site!  My hope is to start this sight up again beginning January 1st.   My goal will be to take a photo of some aspect of life in Ely every day in the year 2015 … if you like what you see … tell some other folks!happy-new-year[1]

Advent Sermon: Scrooge!

Good morning and “Merry Christmas!”
Did you know that Charles Dickens author of the book “A Christmas Carol” was the one who popularized the expression “Merry Christmas” which is the most enduring expression of the Christmas season? It’s true!
Dickens created a vision of Christmastime based on joy, compassion and companionship, which has become the blueprint of Christmas celebrations in western culture. But when he wrote his book – which by the way he had a hard time getting published – when he wrote “A Christmas Carol, in mid-Victorian era Britain, Christmas as a holiday had fallen into decline! Some accounts I read said that Christmas was a “B list” Holiday on the level of Memorial Day!
One source said: “A wave of nostalgia heralded new efforts to revive (Christmas) with the introduction of customs such as the Christmas tree and the Christmas card. But it was Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, first published on the 19th December 1843, which made the biggest impact on the public, and in certain respects, Dickens almost invented Christmas as we know it today.”
Dickens re-established Christmas as the season of goodwill to all men in the hearts and minds of people. A Christmas Carol almost became a new expression of the gospel, causing people to behave better towards one another.
William Thackeray said that the book was “a national benefit and to every man and woman who read it.” The story seemed to touch the heart of everyone who read it, including tough business owners who suddenly became kindlier to their employees as a result.
Although the story is based around an old man, Scrooge, who approaches the twilight of his life, the story can be read as an evocation of childhood. In A Christmas Carol Dickens rekindles the spirit of childhood innocence and joy which jaded older people, exhausted by the trials of life, have lost. He subtly connects the concept of childhood with Godliness. The underlying message of the story is that we must reconnect with the child within, which is symbolized by the Christ child, whose birth is the source of the holiday.
To me Christmas isn’t complete unless I get a chance to watch my favorite version of this story – a movie called “Scrooge” staring Albert Finney.
To my mind I think it beautifully communicates the mess we make of our lives, the dulling effect everyday life has on our ability to see the blessings we have as well as the needs of others. AND it shows the absolute, outlandish, irrepressible JOY that every believer in Christ should experience when they truly realize what they have been rescued from and the riches they have in Christ Jesus!
I’d like to ask you to join me this morning on a journey that parallels Scrooge’s story. We will ask the TRUE SPIRIT of Christmas – the Holy Spirit to be our guide and He, like the spirits in Dickens’ story will take us to the past, present, and future. Let’s invite him here now …
Holy Spirit, speak to us this morning. As you spoke to me while preparing this message, I ask that you would now quicken our hearts, help each person in this room to see with Spirit-eyes their past condition, our present state, and the future that awaits. Holy Spirit we will depend upon the Word that you inspired so many years ago, but I also ask that you use my words and the minds in this room to speak to us individually today a message of hope or of warning, of love or of concern, of to change us and release child-like joy. Amen.
The Ghost of Christmas Past
Scrooge asks this ghost “are you the ghost of Christmases long past?” and the response is “No, your past!” And the Spirit today wants to take us to the same place – YOUR PAST!
“Well, I have nothing to worry about there.” You say, “I was raised in a good Christian home and have always been “Christian” you know a good person. I accepted Christ as a young person and never got into trouble – go ahead spirit take me where you wish!”
HOGWASH! Says the Spirit who shows you your past. You see only what you want to see! You look at the outside the physical – while The Spirit, looks at the inside! (1 Samuel 16:7)
You were in the worst position a person can be in and yet you were hypnotized into thinking all was well. Like Neo in the movie “THE MATRIX” you thought we were fine – raised in a Christin home, well fed, nice school, and clean clothes. But what you didn’t realize is that this is not you. The real you is a spirit-being! Your body is a tent ( 2 Corinthians 5:1) a temporary house! All the effort you put into comfort in this life is an absolute waste of time. This life is a vapor (James 4:14) What you should really be worried about is eternity (Matthew 6:25)
The truth of the matter is that you were Satan’s slave, lost, without hope, without God, not even able to seek God on your own, you contracted Sin like a baby contracts AIDS from her mother and the scariest part is that the result of sin is far worse than the result of AIDS. You were dead in your sins (Colossians 2:13) headed for Spiritual separation from God. (Romans 6:23) And I don’t care what Rob Bell says, hell is real and it is described as a place filled with wailing and gnashing of teeth (Luke 13;28) – a fiery furnace (Matthew 13:50) of eternal punishments (Matthew 25:46) It’s as bad as it gets – and we don’t talk a lot about Hell because we don’t want to fall back into the cliché’ stereotypical church habit of scaring people into faith, but if you don’t realize what your true situation was, you won’t be as interested in making sacrifices for Him, you won’t have motivation to tell others, and you miss the real Joy of your salvation!
If we had more hell in the pulpit, we would have
less hell in the pew.
– Billy Graham
Your Past is Black. You were not a nice child in a nice home – you were a slave in a war. People who have a rough past often have an easier time seeing this reality because they don’t have the thin veneer of “niceness” covering the reality of Death, violence, chaos hopelessness and pain.
That is what the Spirit would show you about your past!
The Ghost of Christmas present
In the Christmas Carol Scrooge is a wealthy man who lives like a popper, has no love for his fellow man, and is blind to both situations. A famous quote from the story is when Scrooge is approached by two good Samaritans who are raising money for the poor who are in great need at this time of the year. When Scrooge refuses to help they tell him that many will die in the cold and his response is: “Then they better get to dying and reduce the surplus population.” He is so rich and yet so miserly. In my favorite version of the story there is a song (a favorite of our family) that the people sing when they think Scrooge has died and so their debts to him are forgiven. They literally dance on his casket and sing:
On behalf of all the people who have assembled here today
I would merely like to mention, if I may
That our unanimous attitude
Is one of lasting gratitude
For what our friend has done for us today
And therefore I would simply like to say :

Thank you very much
Thank you very much
That’s the nicest thing that anyone’s ever done for me
I may sound double Dutch
But my delight is such
I feel as if a losing war’s been won for me

And if I had a flag, I’d hang me flag out
To lend us all the final victory touch
But since I left me flag at home
I simply have to say :
Thank you very, very, very much
Thank you very, very, very much

The spirit takes him to see the home of Bob Crachet and opens his eyes to the reality that Tiny Tim is a very sick boy in need of medical attention. Scrooge is confronted with the fact that he is one of the richest men in town and yet people all around him are in need of what he has. The Ghost of Jacob Marley tells him that “the welfare of men should have been our business.”

So what does the Spirit have to say to you and me today?
I think he would point out the needs that are all around us that we, in Scrooge like fashion, continue to miss. The welfare of people should be our business indeed. “BUT” you say, “I am not a wealthy person like Scrooge.” Humbug! You are wealthy! The spirit through the word tells us that we have the riches of Christ! (Ephesians 1:3) We have what people need most – don’t forget the lesson of the first visit from the Spirit! We are not our physical selves – we are not physical beings having a spiritual experience we are spiritual beings having a physical experience – and so are those around you!
You have at your disposal the ability to point people to the same bank account that was used to pay your debt!

There are “Tiny Tims” all around us who need to hear about the riches that we miserly keep to ourselves. How often do we in Scrooge-like fashion withhold the greatest gift of all from our friends and neighbors? Some of us even keep track of debts in a small book in our mind the way Scrooge tracked his debtors. “You OWE me an apology.” “You’ve got a mark against you in my book!”

Scrooge needed the Ghost of Christmas present to show him how blessed he was and how needy those around him are – and he also showed him how he was perceived by others. Chuck Swindoll talks about how, as Christians, we should be “Winsome Witnesses” In his excellent book “GROWING IN THE SEASONS OF LIFE he says this:

“Listen to what David’s wisest sons says: “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken. A the days of the afflicted are bad, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast (Proverbs 13 &15) “Honestly now how is your sense of humor? Are the times in which we live beginning to tell on you – your attitude, your face, your outlook? If you aren’t sure, ask those who live under your rook, they’ll tell you! … Have you begun to shrivel into a bitter, impatient, critical Christian? Is your family starting to resemble employees at a local mortuary” The Lord points to a better way – the way of joyful winsomeness. “A joyful hear” is what we need … and if we ever needed it, it is now.”

The Spirit of Christmas yet to come!
You will remember that this was the ghost that Scrooge feared the most. In my favorite version of the book Ebenezer Scrooge is taken to hell itself where he is forced to carry an enormous chain of sins that he forged in life. As a kid I remember this scene scared me a lot!
Here the spirit has two very different messages for us.
If on one hand you have not experienced the wakeup call of the spirit – where he wakes you and opens your eyes to the fact that you are in a bad way – then his message to you is one very similar to the message given to Scrooge: If you don’t change and realize that you are a spiritual being having a physical experience, you might be the nicest person to ever walk the earth, it won’t matter –your eternity will be horrible. Mother Theresa, arguably the nicest, sweetest, most selfless, person ever, said that without Christ she would fall short and never be welcomed into heaven. Billy Graham – world renown evangelist – great man of God has said many times that where it not for God’s forgiveness of his sins he would spend eternity separate from God. I am far below these two – yet I’m a full time pastor, been in ministry for 30 years I would not have a chance without Christ. Where would you put yourself on that scale and do you really think you have a chance without Christ?

Now if you have Christ! It changes everything – or it should! We are no longer slaves – we are Free! (Galatians 5:1) We are no longer without hope (Romans 5:2-5) We are no longer enemies of God (Colossians 1:21) we are adopted in to the family of God with all the rights and privileges of sons and daughters! (Ephesians 1:5) we are still in a battle but …
“We are in him … He is in us … our past cannot touch us …and our future is secure – if God is for us no one can stand against us, we are children of the King and these are my brothers and sisters!”
Talk about winsome witness! We should be like Scrooge on Christmas day! Bouncing with joy – thrilled with life – ready to make the most of every opportunity – eager to give away the most valuable gift any spirit being can give – information on how to be forgiven!
We are one beggar showing another where we found the bread! But even more we are:
Slaves showing other slaves how to be free! Free from Satan our master – Now friends of God!
The Hopeless showing others where to find hope!
Enemies of God showing other enemies of God how to not just be at peace, but to be adopted!
I love the scenes that show Scrooge after the spirit visits! He can’t contain himself. He literally dances in the streets – he spreads Christmas cheer where ever he goes – he sets wrongs right – he seizes what he thought were lost opportunities – he shares with ridiculous abandon – he is what I would call “annoyingly happy!” He can’t help himself – he’s like a child at Christmas – exuberant.
He’s been saved from himself and his terrible fate!
Isn’t that true of you and me?
“Well I’m a grown up.” You say. So is he!
I just not that outgoing – neither was he! But the reality of his salvation caused him to be different – he did all kinds of stuff that were not a part of his personality, gifting or station in life. But he couldn’t help it! To me that’s the beauty of this story – the complete change in the man.
The book says it this way:
“Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.”

My prayer for you all is that you might have the Joy at Christmas that would bubble out of you that something like this would be said of you – that you kept the spirit of Christmas in your heart all your long, that you were as good a friend, boss, and person as anyone in the whole world. And when anybody laughed at you for the child like joy that you showed – you’d heed it little.

Let’s pray!


Another verse to the song: “Thanks you very much” goes like this:

Thank you very much
Thank you very much
That’s the nicest thing that anyone’s ever done for me
It sounds a bit bizarre
The things the way they are
I feel as if another life’s begun for me
And if I had a canon I would fire it
To let us all see the grace of touch

(when you are touched by God’s grace it’s as if a cannon has gone off!)

But since I left me canon at home
I simply have to say :
Thank you very, very, very much
Thank you very, very, very much

If you are “in Christ” a new life has begun for you – my prayer is that you’d explode with Joy from the the touch of Grace you have received.

I’ll leave you with a blessing that comes right out of the story by Dickens – “God bless us – every one!”

Sermon went well but…

Well I got over the writer’s block and I think things went pretty well. I did use Al Lindner’s formula for fishing success. I created three short videos where I was in a boat on a lake (at the Kelley’s house) and I would talk about each of the parts of the formula and then ask the question “so, what does this have to do with being a “Fisher of Men?” which would then throw it back to me “live” in church where I would explain the comparison. It seemed to go over well and I even got an ovation when I caught a bass on camera! Afterwards I had two very nice compliments from a couple of the guys here. Unfortunately the computer crashed after church and the recording of the sermon was lost 😦 bummer!
As is the case every week – that one is behind me and so I’m working on a sermon for this week! This week, if you had been WAKINWIDIM, you would have heard him say “Come to me all you who are burdened and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” So I’m working on a sermon based on that scripture. Any ideas?

Writer’s Block!

Today I’m trying to work on my sermon for Sunday – “Gone Fishing!” but I am experiencing writer’s block. It is just not working for me – which is wierd because this is a sermon I’ve been looking forward to since the beginning of this series. We are in a series called “Camp WAKINWIDIM” – things you would have heard or seen Jesus do if you had been “WAKINWIDIM.” My sermon will be based on Jesus’ call to the disciples to become “Fishers of Men” and I think I may use Al Lindner’s fishing formula F+L+P=Fish – Know your fish plus know where fish are located plus place the lure in front of them = catching fish. I may use that and draw the anallogy that the same is true as we seek to “Fish for Men.” Know people, plus go where they are, plus find some way to appeal to them. Something like that! Well, if you read this pray for me … I better get back at it!

Family vacation continued…

After 4 days in the BWCA we came home and rested for a day or two and then headed to Duluth where we got a room at “The Edge” a hotel with a waterpark attached and had a blast swiming and relaxing together. Then it was back to work on Wednesday!

Then we took a day to rest and swim and we were ready for ANOTHER trip inot Ella Hall! 2 miles in and 2 miles out – all while carrying 2 canoes and all our gear! It was tiring to say the least, but we made it and the second day the fishing was even better! Taylor caught a 5Lb plus largemouth and Bobbi Jo caught a 4Lb. plus small mouth. very nice! Gotta run – more tomorrow!

Hasz Family Vacation

We have just returned from a much needed vacation! Our first 4 nights were spent in the BWCA – Boundary Waters Canoe Area which is the 1 million acre National Park that resides just North of Ely. We went in at Fall Lake and camped on “One Mile Island.” This was a great choice for us as it provided a beautiful sand beach for the kids (and mom & Dad) to play on. From there we made the two mile portage(yes you read that right!) into Ella Hall Lake where we did some fishing! The fish were very cooperative and a good time was had by all. Of course then we had to portage 2 miles back out again!