Time to re-calibrate

We just had to have the windshield in our Camry replaced when it was hit by a rock. It’s been a few years, but I have had that happen on other vehicles. No big deal, just the nuisance of having to call, set up an appointment for them to come out, and of course, pay the deductible on our insurance. On this car, however, I was asked if we had certain options including lane assist (it beeps if you cross a line and actually slightly moves the steering wheel to correct itself). Since we do, and since that operates off of a camera mounted to the windshield in a housing behind the rear view mirror, I was informed that it might have to be re-calibrated by a dealer. If the mount is slightly different the camera angle would be off and it would not be accurate.

That made me start thinking about other things I own or have used that need to be checked and re-calibrated. I have a small scale I use to measure chemicals in my darkroom. It came with a weight so one can check its accuracy and re-calibrate it if necessary. I use some antique cameras, and sometimes their light meter (if they have one) is off. They have to be compared to one that is known to be accurate and re-calibrated. I have three different thermometers in my darkroom and they all read slightly different. I don’t know which is correct, and since I am primarily interested in consistency, I just chose one to use all the time. I had to throw out a level once because it wasn’t level! We have had the gauge checked on Christy’s pressure canner because it could be off without us knowing – not a good thing! Of course, many instruments, like our dulcimers, are often out of tune, so we compare them to a tuner and correct them.

With all of those things and many more there is one common thing that must be done – they have to be compared to a standard. Over time, and with use, things change. Often the change is so small, and so gradual, it is not noticed. Then one day it is obvious that something is wrong and depending upon the object, disaster can occur! The only to prevent that is to regularly check them against a standard and do what is needed to bring them into agreement with the standard. They need to be re-calibrated.

Christians are like that. We embrace truth when we come to Christ, but over time we can begin to move from what we know to be true. The wear and tear of everyday living can have an effect upon our thinking. We can be influenced by our environment as well. If everything in a room is out of level, sometimes it is the level which appears to be off. If another instrument is out of tune how do we know that it ours that is right? We begin to question our judgement. That is not a bad thing because it would be foolish to assume that we are always right. We need a certain, set standard by which we can check our thinking.

That standard is of course, the very word of God – the Bible. The only way I can know for sure that I am not thinking clearly is to compare my thoughts to the unchanging, always correct word of God. It can be helpful to have someone help, because they may have a better perspective, but even then it is important to know that they are comparing my thinking with the Word, not just their own thinking which can also be wrong. Nothing replaces a regular exposure to the Bible – it will tell us when we are wrong and aid us in the necessary re-calibration.

In Christ,

Pastor Nord

Who’s Watching?

Part of living in this modern world is the realization that our privacy is limited. My cell phone knows exactly where I am on planet earth and it can convey that information to a variety of sources (supposedly only ones I allow). I have an I-pass mounted on the windshield of my car so that I don’t have to stop at toll booths driving around Chicago, but every time I drive through a toll at 60 mph it is taking a picture of me and my license plate and recording the exact time I was there. If you shop for something on the internet you know that ads for that product or something similar start showing up on other pages. Some stores track how long you stand a various places in their building so they can trigger ads for things you looked at. The grocery store Christy shops at sends her coupons for the items she buys regularly because it tracks her purchases. If you are reading this, you are on the internet and the fact that you are on this page is recorded.

I was reminded of all that yesterday when I was looking at last week’s worship service live-stream. I deleted it because we had some audio problems which hopefully have been corrected, but before I did I noted that I had a copyright notification. I was informed that I couldn’t make money off that post (we don’t anyway) because it contained copyrighted material. Even though the audio was horrible YouTube was able to recognize the songs we sang. One contemporary song (His Mercy is More) and one older one (This is My Father’s World) are still under copyright. They were recognized by a program and we were notified. That is pretty cool and pretty weird all at the same time!

That made me think of how as a little boy my parents “kept an eye” on me. I thought of how later in life Christy and I might have wanted to go out as a couple and needed someone to “watch the kids.” We want to protect our children so we make sure we know what they are doing. Sometimes mothers are accused of having eyes in the back of their heads. The goal is not just to catch a child in wrong-doing and condemn them. The goal is to protect the child from harm brought about by their own actions or someone else’s.

There is, of course, someone else who always has his eyes on us. Psalm 33:13 says; “The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man.” That reality should make us fear, and also give us great comfort. Our creator, who controls this world, knows everything we say do or even think. We can’t hide (Ask Adam, Jonah, or David about that), so our sin will always be known. On the other hand how wonderful it is to know that He is watching over us out of his great love. In correcting King Asa, Hanani said; “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.” (2 Chr. 16:9). Asa had failed because he didn’t rely on the Lord who is always watching to support his children. Whatever you are facing today, know this – He sees you and he knows what you face!

In Christ,

Pastor Nord

Giving Each Other Some Space

Yesterday we met together as a local church for the second week after our absence from the building due to the COVID-19 shutdown. We had about two thirds of our normal attendance, which was more than we had last week. It was good to see people interacting with one another before and especially after the service. It was also good to see people showing grace and care by maintaining distance from one another even as they enjoyed the fellowship.

Opinions are obviously all over the spectrum when it comes to dealing with the virus. Some see the whole thing as a farce. That group is divided between those who are laughing and those who are angry. Some see this as perhaps one of the greatest catastrophes they have ever dealt with. They are split between those paralyzed by fear and those reacting against some in the first group. There are, of course, many somewhere in the middle of all this that are trying to find the right balance of caution and courage.

As Christians we are called to live by faith, and to face all things confidently knowing that our lord is in control. There are many things that can harm us, but none that can destroy us. On the other hand we are also to live our lives wisely; and our Lord reminded us as he was being tempted by Satan to not test God. That’s why I fix the brakes on my car when they need it. If can be a fine line between faith and foolishness.

The problem is that we do not all draw that line in exactly the same place. We all agree at the end of the day we just need to trust God, and we also would agree that we should use the brains the good Lord gave us; but there is a lot of gray area in the middle of the extremes. That is why we must find the right balance as we relate with one another. We need to give each other a little “space” to disagree and still walk in unity.

Paul expressed that balance in ministry we are to have when he wrote to the church at Thessalonica and said: “And we exhort you, brothers and sisters: warn those who are idle, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). There are some who need to be encouraged to not just sit on their hands, but to be active (even in a physically limited way) in serving the Lord and serving others. Some are discouraged – perhaps even depressed. They don’t need a lecture; they need to be comforted with the reminder that they are safe in Christ’s hand. Some are weak and they need us to help them and perhaps carry their load for a while.

Most of all, we need to follow the admonition at the end of that verse and be patient with each other. We may not be able to understand what someone else is thinking or how they are responding to this, or a hundred other issues of life, but we need to give each other time and space to grow. I am sure glad that the Lord (and many others) has been patient with me!

In Christ,

Pastor Nord

Good days in the midst of hard days

Our family has been fortunate. While many are struggling with the effects of COVID-19 either physically or financially, we have had little to deal with. None of us have contracted the virus. I am still receiving my salary from the church, and all my children and grandchildren are still employed (although two at a lower rate). We have seven children, five of whom are married, and eighteen grandchildren, one of whom is married and expecting our first great-grandchild. I will help you with the math. Counting spouses there are 33, soon to be 34 of us. We are all well and certainly well fed. God has blessed us greatly!

We have certainly had difficult days in the past – dealing with severe illnesses, financial hardships, loss, and grief. There is also the reality that we may face such things again. We are reminded of that in so many ways; even tomorrow my wife Christy needs to go in for a scan to check for recurrence of her cancer, but this is a good day!

We learned a lot in those hard days. We learned to call upon the Lord for basic needs and for life itself. We learned to make Him the priority of our life. We learned that His grace was sufficient for each day and that He would take care of us and provide all we needed. We learned to live life a day at a time and that when we faced things too big to handle He was there to carry the load we could not. I don’t want to repeat them, but the hard times were good for us and were times of growth.

The question on my mind this morning was; “how are we handling the good times?” In these days when there are those around us hurting in profound ways and we are not, how should we react, and what should our response be? I would suggest at least three biblical responses:

We should be thankful. James 1:17 reminds us that: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” If I am experiencing blessing, it is only right and proper that I thank the giver of the gifts I enjoy. I am grateful for the Lord’s blessing.

We should be humble. Scripture and experience make it very clear that I am a sinner, and as such I deserve judgment and condemnation. I am a recipient of grace. I haven’t earned what I have received, it was given to me even though I don’t reserve it. I’m a beggar who found bread and that is humbling.

Thirdly, my response should be that of repentance – turning from sin and self and focusing on the one who has chosen to bless me even though I don’t deserve it. We read in Romans 2:4; ” Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” The realization of His goodness makes me all the more aware that He must be central in my thoughts and actions. I turn from other wants and desires to a new desire to serve Him and Him alone.

I don’t know whether this is a good day or a horrible dark day for you as you read these words. I pray God’s blessing and grace be evident to you. But I also recommend that whatever this day is like, you turn in a fresh, new way to the one who loved you and sent His Son to die for you and I!

In Christ,

Pastor Nord

On Separation

A year ago if someone told me I needed to practice social distancing they would have seen a puzzled look on my face. I wouldn’t have had the slightest clue as to what they were referring. It is now a common expression on signs, in the news, in serious contexts and as a joke. We have learned in a very short period of time to stay apart from one another. As I walk down to the post office to get our mail each morning it is now second nature to step off the sidewalk if one of my neighbors is approaching from the other direction. We stop and talk, but the radius of expected personal space has increased.

The current situation to which we have adjusted is new, but there is nothing new or novel about separation or isolation. Some people have had physical issues that required them to be isolated or quarantined to protect others or for their own safety. Some, like my oldest daughter and her husband, have gone through lengthy times of separation because of deployment in the military. Others have lived in cultures that are not their own and have been isolated by customs, language, race, and religion. Far too many have experienced the heartbreak of a marriage and a family that has been split in two by divorce.

As I write this my mind is also on a great, painful type of separation. This afternoon I will be standing with a family beside a grave as they bury one they love. Most who are reading this know the pain of the death of a loved one. The realization that at least in this world; you can never see, speak to, or hear one you love is hard. You may have walked together for many years but the grave reminds you that you have gone as far as you can on the journey they are traveling. You know that by God’s good grace you will adjust, but it is a difficult path you now will walk. I still remember the words of a good friend ten years after his wife died: “Nord, I have learned to be alone, but I have never learned to like it.”

Death is certainly the great separation. That is why it is so tragic to learn that we are born dead. The Bible is clear that we are spiritually still-born. As we draw our first breath and let out our first cry we are already isolated from our creator. We have inherited a sin nature that we will demonstrate with our words and actions as we grow. It creates an empty place in our heart that we learn to live with, but there is always a yearning in the back of our mind for a relationship that we can’t have.

There is a chasm between us and our Lord and there is nothing we can do to make that relationship right. That is why it is such wonderful news to learn that he did what we could not. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16). Jesus came to deal with the sin that separates us from God. He paid the price that we couldn’t pay so that we could actually become the children of God. If we simply rely on what he has done and trust in him alone, we find ourselves in a position to rejoice that nothing can separate us from the love of God (see Romans chapter eight). In a world of living at a distance from those we love what a wonderful reality that we are in the arms of the one who loves us most!

In Christ,

Pastor Nord

Out of date?

If you happen to be on face book I am sure that you have seen many posts that show a picture of an object and say something like; “Do you know what this is? Like if you do and share if you have ever used it.” Sometimes I think “how could anyone not know what that is?” but then I remember that I am not exactly young. Some of the objects are still regularly used in some circles, others are simply obsolete. Some things were once needful tools and now serve as decorations hanging on a wall.

Some things have always had a limited use. I think of a few specialized tools that I still have, but will probably never use again. Some things get thrown in a tool box or a drawer “just in case” even though the chances of using them are nil. I think I still have a couple of tools needed to set the valve timing and injection pump on a 1970’s Volkswagen Rabbit Diesel. If you need them give me call and they are yours.

We not only accumulate things that become useless, we also may spend a fair amount of time developing skills that are no longer needed. Some things are just no longer done by anyone, and some other skills may have been good at one time in our life but are not related to our current jobs. I paid the rent and bought food for my family by developing abilities I haven’t used in years. It is good to remember that life changes and so do the skills we need to live well in our current circumstances. Some things are important to know for the present, but will not always be significant.

There are, however, some things that will always be useful and some skills that will never lose their value. God’s word is eternal, and an understanding of it will be valuable for all time. Relationships may change, but the need to relate well with others is something we will always need. Learning to worship and praise our Lord is valuable, because we will do that in a new heaven and new earth if we have trusted Christ as our savior.

There is little more tragic than to think of someone spending their whole lives focused on the temporary instead of the eternal. Be sure to distinguish between the two. Your future depends on it!

In Christ,

Pastor Nord

Faced with decisions we don’t like

These are hard days for our state and national leaders. They are being asked to make decisions which will affect the lives of a large number of people. They are balancing the impact of a dangerous virus and an economic disaster that could ultimately harm many lives.  The problem they face is twofold; they are not experts on viral infections nor are they economists. They rely on experts in those given fields, but the experts don’t always agree. They could take a poll of the populous, but that would just help them understand what the majority of ignorant people think. It is a hard place to be!

The dilemma they face is certainly on a much larger scale than most of us have dealt with, yet we can relate on some level because we have all been in situations where we have to make a decision without knowing the full impact of our choice.

I remember the year after my wife, Christy, had kidney transplant. It was discovered that she had a type of lymphoma (PTLD) resulting in part from the immunosuppressant drugs that she had to take to avoid rejecting the kidney. As various treatments were discussed it became obvious that there was going to be a decision made between a course of action to deal with the cancer that might result in her rejecting the kidney but was aggressive towards eliminating the cancer, or one that protected the kidney but might allow the cancer to spread.

We were ignorant, so we listened to the experts. The problem was they didn’t agree. Her nephrologist  was very concerned about the cancer and her oncologist was worried about her kidney. We did what every person facing decisions like that should do. We listened to both doctors, gained as much knowledge as we could, asked the Lord for wisdom, and made a decision knowing that the outcome was ultimately in our Lord’s hands.

The goal was, of course to get rid of the cancer, but protect the kidney. It didn’t work out as well as we hoped and she rejected the transplant and ended up on dialysis. It was a difficult time, but we really never regretted the decision that she made, because we had done all we could do to gain knowledge and we trusted the Lord to give us wisdom. Whatever the result was, it was in the hands of one who loves us greatly and who is in control. Christy later had a second transplant and that has gone well.

I told that story to remind us all that as we make decisions, we need to follow a simple routine. Gather as much information as we can, ask the Lord for wisdom, and then make a decision and act on it. Nothing should be decided out of ignorance in blind faith, nothing should be decided without asking our Lord to direct our thoughts, but ultimately a decision has to be made and action has to be taken. Not deciding is always a poor decision!

It is right to ask our leaders to do the hard work of gaining as much knowledge as they can. We should expect that out of them, but it is also imperative that we pray for wisdom on their behalf, and then trust the Lord to give us the grace we need as we move ahead.

In Christ,

Pastor Nord