Lessons from the Snow

The snowfall that we are currently receiving has been the major topic of conversation for the last couple of days. With that in mind I decided to check out what the Bible says about snow. A quick search showed that the word snow appears 24 times in the ESV bible. As I scanned those verses I was reminded of some lessons that snow illustrates.

  1. Snow reminds us that God is in control of our world and thus our lives. God makes that point speaking to Job. For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth,’ likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour. (Job 37:6 ESV). “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, (Job 38:22 ESV). And the psalmist poetically says, “He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes.” (Ps. 147:16 ESV). My plans and yours have been rearranged this week because the Lord chose to have a large amount of snow fall. He is in control, and we are not!
  2. Snow in February is a normal occurrence in Indiana, and it is proper to expect it. Snow in July would be a major surprise! The author of proverbs uses that thought to illustrate what is proper and what is foolish. “Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool. (Prov. 26:1 ESV).” To honor someone who lives their life in a foolish manner is just as strange as thinking it will snow in July or August!
  3. Snow reminds us that it is prudent to plan for the things that we will almost certainly face in the future. As the ideal woman is described in Proverbs 31 we read; “She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. (Prov. 31:21 ESV).” That lady is aware that the cold snow will come and plans accordingly so her family is warm. There is no last-minute panic because she has prepared for what is inevitable.
  4. Snow reminds us of how God can cover the ugly reality of our sin with the beauty of His righteousness through His grace. When David confessed his great sin he said, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (Ps. 51:7 ESV).” The Lord gives this great promise as well, “”Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. (Isa. 1:18 ESV).” As I look out our back door to a yard that was dirty and muddy yesterday, today I see great beauty. It is truly amazing what the Lord does as He forgives our sin and cleanses our hearts!

I need to go out and shovel some snow in just a bit, but as I do I will focus on the wonderful truths it illustrates. May the Lord bless you with similar thoughts!

In Christ,

Pastor Nord

The importance of tuning

This morning I was setting in my study and kept hearing “plink, plink, plink – plunk, plunk, plunk.” The piano tuner was at work in the church auditorium. He was doing the meticulous work of making sure that each string in each note sounded the right tone. They all needed to be in agreement for the piano to sound correct but being in agreement was not enough. They also needed to agree to a set standard. The entire instrument could be too sharp or too flat if the tuner did not use an instrument to measure the frequency of the notes.

As I sat and listened to the tuner work, tuning and playing, I thought how the church is like much like the piano. The individual strings that comprise a note must be in perfect agreement with each other, and the notes must be in a right relationship with each other for melodies to be played and harmonies to be enjoyed. So it is that the church members must be agreement for the message of the gospel to be attractive.

For the music to be what the composer planned for it to be the entire instrument also had to conform to a set standard. So it is with the church. It not enough for the members to be in agreement with each other. The message they proclaim must accurately present the message God wants the world to hear. The instrument that they use to check their alignment with the true gospel is the Bible. Just as the tuner needs to adjust the notes until they are in agreement with his instrument so also the Lord must work in the hearts of individuals in the church to bring them all into agreement with His perfect word.

The tuner has left and the piano is silent. There will be no music until the musician sets and plays. The piano makes no music by itself. It was not tuned just so that it would be right. It was tuned in anticipation of a musician blessing others through playing it. The church needs to be in conformity with the Word of God – not just so they can say they are right, but so that God himself can bless others through using them for His glory. I pray that He does just that!

In Christ,

Pastor Nord

Seeing better!

Slipped on my new glasses a little while back and the world looks better! Christy and I made our regular trip to our optometrist, and it was time for both of us to get some new glasses. For thirty years Dr. Lowe has played an important part in our family’s life. We have both worn glasses since we were young, Christy has had a detached retina and a cornea transplant, all six of our natural children have vision problems, and our adopted daughter is legally blind. Over the years our vision has continued to change which has required adjustments in our prescriptions.

There is an interesting pattern in all those visits. As our eyes change, it usually happens slowly, and we barely notice. It’s not like we stop seeing, it’s just that things are slightly blurry or out of focus. A number of times I have gone in thinking that my vision was still pretty decent only to find out that it had changed more than I realized. When I put on those new glasses the world is brighter and sharper than I remembered it being!

Our spiritual sight follows a similar pattern. There is at first a drastic change that happens when we put our trust in Jesus as our savior. Scripture describes us as being blind and then gaining sight with the new life we have in Christ. Our perceptions of God, of the world, and of ourselves is radically changed. We “see” (understand) things we never saw before. Darkness truly becomes light!

The pattern I am thinking about, however, is what occurs in the years following our new birth. Sometimes in the course of living our lives, our spiritual sight begins to dim. We never revert to the days of spiritual blindness, but we lose focus. Our thinking gets a little fuzzy and our perception becomes skewed. We go about our lives as we had before and still function, but not with the same certainty and joy that we had when we first came to Christ and gained our new vision.

In those times we need a “spiritual vision checkup.” That happens when we do three things. First we need to go to the great physician. Time spent in prayer always has the side benefit of sharpening our focus. I often leave prayer with a clearer understanding. Secondly, we benefit from being in the word of God. Reading the bible helps us to see things from a correct viewpoint. Finally, we find clarity when we are with other believers. Focusing together on the Lord in worship and interacting in each other’s lives gives us a perspective that we lack without it.

My encouragement to you is to first trust Christ, you will see everything very differently from that moment forward. If you have already done that, then get the regular adjustment you need by spending time with our Lord, reading His word, and being with His people.

Blessings,

Pastor Nord

A Refresher Course

What to write? That is always a question when one sits in front of a blank screen with a deadline looming. It is not difficult to come up with some verbiage, but we want to write something that is profitable to others who would take the time to read it.  This morning I thought a little bit and then started to write about joy. As I wrote, the words flowed easily but sounded strangely familiar.  After the first paragraph it hit me – it sounded familiar because I wrote almost exactly the same thing a couple of years ago! I checked back on my blog https://nordz.wordpress.com and sure enough, I was repeating myself. That is something those of us above a certain age are often guilty of doing.

Repetition, however, is not always a bad thing. It is a problem if I tell you a story I told you just an hour ago, or ask the same question that I asked when I saw you yesterday, but some repetition is very good! As a pastor I do not always say something novel or new, but remind others of what they already know. I was in a three hour meeting yesterday with some other pastors and our speaker told us up front he was not going to say anything we didn’t already know. He was right, but it was valuable because I needed to be reminded of some great truths about the Lord and about ministry.

When the apostle Paul wrote to young pastors Timothy and Titus he reminded them of the spiritual gift they had been blessed with (2 Timothy 1:6). He then challenged them to remind others of truths that they were already aware of (2 Timothy 2:14; Titus 3:1).  When Peter wrote to the early church he described the type of life a believer was to live and the confidence it would bring to their lives. He then said: “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. (2 Pet. 1:12)” 

There is a category of things we would rather not think about, but need to remember. I think that was Jude’s point when he said; “Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. (Jude 1:5)”

Perhaps the greatest reminder in scripture is that one given by Paul when he said: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, (1 Cor. 15:1).”  He then recounts that great truth that many of you know – that Jesus died for our sins, that he was buried, and that he rose again! That is a reality we should think about every day! Think about it often!

In Christ,

Pastor Nord

Change

We long for it and dread it. We work for it and resist it. We celebrate it and resist it. We pray for it and ask God to stop it. We embrace it and hate it. I am, of course, talking about change. Someone once said that the only constant in our lives is change itself. Someone else said that “there are only two things we hate: the way things are, and change.”

There is no doubt that we live in a changing world.  Things are not what they used to be. I did not need to look long in the mirror this morning to recognize that I am not what I used to be either. That can bring sorrow because the effects of aging are obvious, and capabilities are lessened. It can also bring joy because I have moved away from some of my past weaknesses and failures.

Within our hearts there is a desire for change. We recognize our shortcomings and get frustrated when our attempts at change fail. (How are your New Year’s resolutions coming). We see the struggles and sins of our society and want things to be different. We feel helpless because we seem unable to achieve the changes we long for. In Jeremiah 13:23 we are reminded that we can’t change the color of our skin, leopards can’t change their spots, and we who are accustomed to evil can’t do good. We are what we are, and that is not always good!

Even as we long to be different we long for something in our lives to be constant. We seek some point of stability; something or someone who doesn’t change and doesn’t need to change. In these turbulent seas of life, we long for a rock on which to stand – a solid place to set our anchor.

The good news is that there is one who is that rock, and real lasting change is possible! In Malachi 3:6 we read; “For I the LORD do not change” and Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” He is that anchor point that we long for – that one who is perfect in all his ways. We can rely on him to always be there and to keep every promise he makes.

He is also the one who can bring wonderful, lasting change in our lives when we trust in him. It is as if we have a new birth, a new heart, and a new life. Old things pass away and all things become new as we trust him as our savior, our lord, our rock! Want stability? Want to change in meaningful ways? Turn to Jesus.

In Christ,

Pastor Nord

The value of one

This morning, having made my coffee I opened my laptop to see what was going on in the world, particularly in our own nation as the vote counting from yesterday’s election continues. It is, of course, a topic of great interest as the outcome can affect the lives of millions of Americans.  After checking out several websites about the election I turned to my favorite blog, one I read every morning and was greeted with a shock. Tim Challies wrote that his son collapsed and died yesterday at college. He was with his sister and fiancé and some other college friends playing a game when he unexplainably collapsed and died. Tim and his wife Aileen drove through the night from their home in Canada to Louisville where there son Nick and one of their daughters were attending college. He briefly shared their grief and their hope in Christ this morning and asked for prayer.

Tim is not a friend or even an acquaintance. I have set in a couple of workshops he led in years past at a pastor’s conference, and have regularly read his blog for several years but he wouldn’t have a clue who I am. That being true, I was still moved to tears as I contemplated what this brother and sister in Christ are going through. When we put a name and face to a tragedy it changes everything.   National and global events can and should capture our attention and our prayers, but the loss of one human life can seem even greater. After all, the big events are really just a combination of individual stories.

There is a lesson to be learned in that – each and every human life has great worth. We were individually shaped by our Lord into His own image and that gives us each eternal value. I am so glad that Christ doesn’t view simply as the mass of humanity that we are, but that he knows us by name. It is as individuals that he calls us to himself and saves us and the death of each of his children is precious to him. Just like the story Jesus told of the shepherd leaving the flock of ninety-nine to pursue the one lost sheep, the Holy Spirit seeks us out.

You may have never heard of Tim, but I ask that you pray for him and his family. But I also ask you to reflect upon the need we each have to acknowledge and revel in the reality that we have a Lord who loves us personally. Respond to his love today and then share that love with the people around you.

In Christ,

Pastor Nord

Chronic Disease

Living with a chronic disease is difficult. If you are uncertain what that term means, here is a definition from the CDC; “Chronic diseases are defined broadly as conditions that last 1 year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limit activities of daily living or both.” The list of chronic diseases is long but includes such things as:    Arthritis, Asthma, Cancer, COPD, Crohn disease, Cystic fibrosis, Diabetes, Dementia, Epilepsy, Heart disease, HIV/AIDS, Kidney disease, Mood disorders, Multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson disease.

People can be at differing stages of those and others, and some may have more devastating effects, but the common thread is that they are ongoing. There is usually more talk about managing than curing them.  Sometimes they are under control and other times there are major outbreaks, but they are always present, never forgotten. People close to the person can get frustrated and discouraged and sometimes are less than supportive.  Often patients need to find either an expert who has studied and understands or someone else dealing with the same issue who can commiserate with them and offer advice and comfort.

There is another chronic condition that affects every human being. It is a congenital disease – one we are born with. It is what the Bible calls sin. We read in Romans 3:10; “as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;” and a little later it says; “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Like physical diseases it is something that we learn to manage. It too can frustrate and discourage those who are around us. It can seem under control at times and then we can have a “flare up.” We try to ignore it, but it never goes away.

The good news is that that there is a cure! Jesus, the Son of God, came into this world to live a life without sin. He went to the cross and died to pay the price for our sin and when we believe in him he takes our sin upon himself and gives us his righteousness. We still deal with the residual effects even after we trust in him, but even that has a way to find relief; “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 Jn. 1:9). Trust him today!

Blessings,

Pastor Nord

The last enemy

We fight many battles in our life and so can make or have many enemies, including our enemy the devil, who goes around like a roaring lion seeking to devour us. Our nation is divided over many important issues and people are going to battle verbally and physically. We often demonize those who oppose us and use every weapon we have to defeat them. We feel strongly and so we fight hard. Many battles must be fought, but there is one enemy we are certain to face and it is imperative that we be prepared to face it.

I was reminded of that battle yesterday as a twenty year old friend of my grandsons faced that enemy.  I have watched Ian do battle on a high-school wrestling mat and cheered for him on many occasions, but this time I took his side by joining with others to pray for him as he fought for his life in a hospital bed with his family at his side. He lost that battle with death yesterday evening – or did he? This battle was different than the times he faced an opponent one to one on a wrestling mat. This time he had someone by his side fighting alongside him, and there is more to the battle than what could be seen in that hospital room.

Jesus Christ came to this earth to do battle on our behalf. He dealt with sickness, with injustice, with bigotry, with poverty, but we think most about that battle he fought on a hill outside of Jerusalem called Calvary.  There he faced that enemy we will all face – death itself. It would appear that he too, lost that battle because he died on a cross in that place. His battle over, and his defeat seeming sure, the crowd that had gathered left except for a few who stayed to put him in a tomb. Just one more man who died and was buried.

Of course, as you well know, the story did not end there. Following his death on Friday Jesus rose from the grave on Sunday. He defeated death! He did so we are told not just for himself but for all who put their faith and trust in him. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul talks about Christ’s resurrection and tells us that those who are “In Christ” have life – eternal life!

Even Jesus battles his and our enemies. He will continue to do so until he defeats each one of them and we are told; “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Cor. 15:25-26 ESV) Death is real and each of us have an appointment to do battle, ” But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:57 ESV)

The question for each of us is simple: are we prepared fo the battle we will inevitably be called to fight? Some at a young age, more of us at an old age, but all of us for sure will battle death. We have a choice. We can fight in our own strength and be defeated or we can rely on our Lord Jesus and have victory. he fights for those who are his. Are you?

In Christ,

Pastor Nord

What I needed to hear

I love the Bible – the Word of God! As I turn to it day by day I always find what my soul needs. It truly addresses all of human need. It is a source of wisdom that can be trusted and it is always profitable. I was reminded of that today as I turned to the little book of James. James is that book we turn to when we just need some practical instruction on living well. It is where we go to learn and relearn how to live in relationship with God and other people.

The verse that popped into my head just when I needed it this morning was; ” Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; (James 1:19 ESV).” I had spent a few minutes on social media and as I observed others talking past each other – brothers and sisters in Christ divided and angry, and I was heartbroken. I wanted to shout this verse to them, but realized that I was the one in need of its instruction.

I so need to develop my listening skills. All too often, instead of focusing on what someone else is saying I am formulating my response as they speak. I don’t try to understand what they are saying because I assume I already know their thoughts. If they use some overused or trite slogan (the kind that tweets well), I almost immediately load it full of baggage that they may not have meant at all. Of course, that tendency comes from a prideful heart that feels he has little to learn.

I need to listen to other people, but the heart of that verse and passage is not just that. The context is clear that most of all I need to listen to the Word of God. Verse 21 commands us to “receive with meekness the implanted word,” and verse 22 elaborates that we must be “doers of the word, and not hearers only.” While I need to hear what other people are saying, most of all I need to hear what God is saying and act upon His word! This isn’t just an instruction in being a better conversationalist – it is command to listen to my creator.

The second instruction is that we must be “slow to speak.” It is not a command to be silent, but rather to speak only after listening and considering what we have heard. We are often too quick to give our opinion or advise. Verse 26 puts it very directly when it says: ” If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” Just as a horse needs to be bridled, my words must be kept under control. Later, in chapter three James warns that not too many should become teachers because we are judged with “greater strictness.” For those of us who speak as a major part of our calling/occupation there is a higher risk of talking too quickly and that is matched with a higher accountability which we must always be aware of.

The third instruction is that we must be “slow to anger.” There is such a thing as righteous anger and we are not told to never be angry – we are to be slow to anger. I must never confuse my anger with God’s. I must also be aware that my angry response will  not change my or another person’s heart. Those who know me well know that I am capable of responding harshly to those whom I differ with strongly. I often need that reminder of verse 20; ” for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

Well, those are the words from God that I needed to hear this day. Perhaps you needed them also. If not, you will find what you need this day in the Bible. Be sure to spend some time there.

In Christ,

Pastor Nord

My Name

I have an unusual name. When I introduce myself to someone I often say “I’m the only Nord you ever met, and maybe the only Zootman.” The Zootman family is small and I have truly never run across another person named Nord. It has its advantages – I never have to ask which Nord people are talking to, and it is easily remembered. That raises an interesting question though: why do I care if people remember my name? The answer of course is that it feeds my pride. We like it when people know who we are. It makes us feel important that our name is recognized by others.

There is something good about having a “good name,” that is, a good reputation. Ecclesiastes 7:1 says; “A good name is better than precious ointment.”  Because we recognize that truth we often in subtle or not so subtle ways promote our name. We like to have others note our good works, and when others get credit for something positive we have done we are less than happy. That happened to me just the other day when someone was given credit for my work and accepted praise that I thought should go towards me.

I found myself immediately feeling peevish. (I know, it was a childish reaction, but that is where we sometimes are in our thinking). I didn’t say anything, but found myself quite irritated. That is when the Holy Spirit reminded me of a verse I used just last week. In Psalm 103 God is glorified for his ongoing mercy, grace and love and mankind is placed in contrast because of our short lifespan on this globe. Verses 15 and 16 say: ” As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; 16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.” It was that last phrase that got my attention. There are a lot of places where people have never heard of Nord Zootman, but at Lockport Church everyone knows my name. I have been pastor here for 34 years and they know me in this place.  

As I read that verse I realized afresh that someday people won’t know my name even in this community. As time passes we are forgotten. That shouldn’t sadden us as Christians, because it is not our name that we should be promoting; rather it is the name of Christ Jesus that we pray is impressed on people’s minds and hearts. Scripture says; “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (Phil. 2:10 ESV)” and ” there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 ESV)”

I am glad that He knows my name, but it really isn’t a big deal if you do. He knows the things I have done to serve Him and He knows when I did those things for his names sake or for my own. My name is unusual, but there is no name like his! May we learn to promote the name of Jesus and not our own!

In Christ,

Pastor Nord