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Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Gift of a Good Memory

by Rick Blumenberg / @rickblumenberg
One of God’s greatest blessings is the gift of a good memory. By “good memory” I don’t mean being able to remember everything, but the joy of re-living past blessings (people, places, experiences) by calling them to mind and savoring them again.
Lately I’ve been surprised with memories of a good friend—one of my favorite cousins. (I only have about 80 or 90 first cousins when I combine the Arington and Blumenberg families. I guess they’re really all favorites).
Al Hendrix is the cousin I’m thinking about. He was one of a kind. He had his struggles, but I’ll never forget the positive impact he had on my life. In many of the best things that happened to me, he was intimately involved. We were so close we would sometimes both get an idea at the same time and would carry it out without ever verbally or audibly speaking it. It didn’t always work out. Sometimes it turned out we weren’t thinking the same thing at all, but often we would do something cooperatively without ever discussing what we planned to do.
When I was saved as a sophomore in high school, Al was pastor of Mounds Church of God, in Mississippi County Missouri. Our Uncle Linvel Arington was holding a revival. Several people were saved (two of us grew up to serve in ministry). After I knew the Lord was calling me into ministry, Al took me to Falkoff’s Department Store in East Prairie, Missouri, and bought me my first new suit. He said, “Every preacher needs a good suit.” (Back then it was true. Now? Not so much).
After I graduated high school, I struggled with my call to ministry. I didn’t know how to preach and felt like I would never be able to do it. I sort of gave up in discouragement. The result was that I drifted away from God, felt like a failure, and gave up my faith. When Al and Nelva were pastors at the Church of God in Edwardsburg, Michigan, I went to live with them and look for work in the area.
The first Sunday I went to church with Al and Nelva and family. At the end of the service I was sitting in the congregation when Al asked the congregation to stand for the closing prayer. Then he asked me to pray. This was not unusual in those days. Christians and especially ministers were expected to be ready to pray at any time.
The problem was I hadn’t been praying much lately. My first thought was, “I should have told Al I’m no longer a Christian! What do I do? I can’t pray anymore!” (I was what we called “back-slidden”. In other words I was no longer walking in faith.) In a panic I couldn’t think what to do, so I decided to just fake it. I would pretend to pray and hope no one would notice that God and I were no longer on speaking terms. So I began to pray.
The absolutely amazing thing was that when I began to pray I felt the warmth of God’s love overwhelm me. I found it wasn’t at all difficult to pray. With the feeling of warmth I felt like God was saying, “Aw-w-w don’t worry about it. I was never that far away.”
I still believe we can turn away from faith, but I no longer believe it is easy. I now know God never gives up on us. His love is unconditional and his patience is beyond comprehension.
I have many wonderful memories of time spent with Al and Nelva Hendrix back when we were all a lot younger. Al stood with me when Carol and I were married and we both have good memories of time spent with him and Nelva when we were all young marrieds. I truly thank God for those memories.
Al was an incredible artist—sculptor, painter, song-writer and singer. He was also skilled at auto body work. He was sort of a renaissance man—he could do about anything he wanted to do.
Later in our lives it was Al who struggled with his faith and I think he felt the way I did on that long-ago Sunday in Southwest Michigan. He saw a lot of hypocrisy that really bothered him and he totally gave up on the church. He still had great respect for those people who had genuine faith. He seemed to have a knack for knowing who was real; but he was also slow to judge and quick to overlook a failing in a person. When I get to heaven I expect to see Al there and I’m guessing he’ll be picking his guitar and singing with the saints.
I doubt if Al expected to get to heaven when he died. I don’t think he thought of himself as still being a man of faith. He had given up on God and I think he thought God had given up on him. But I’m guessing when Al died Jesus surprised him much the same way he surprised me on that Sunday when I felt like such a failure. Al may not have known it but God loved him just as much as ever. The same way he loves you.
I’m Rick Blumenberg, and that’s “My View from Tanner Creek”.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Times— Are they A-Changin’?

Back in the 1940s the President of the United States betrayed his wife and his nation by living in an adulterous relationship with another woman. Presidents and other politicians have been notorious sexual predators who preyed on the women who worked for them and who (even if they wanted to do so) did not have the personal power to resist their abuse.
Examples abound of presidents who were an embarrassment to their gender and a clear and present danger to every woman with whom they came in contact. Presidents have done things that would have caused them to be thrown in the brig and drummed out of the service if they had been either officers or enlisted men in the military they led as Commander-in-Chief.
President Donald Trump was thoroughly embarrassed by a comment he made to Billy Bush an NBC-TV program host more than a decade ago. When it was revealed he sort of apologized, but then excused his comment as being “just locker-room talk”. I can’t totally disagree with that. I have heard things said by men I considered Christian that embarrassed me even though they seemed to think it was okay.
Locker Room Talk has consequences.
Words, like behavior, has a tendency to impact the people in whose presence it occurs. Bad behavior can disgust some who see it and reinforce their desire to do better, but it can also encourage some to emulate the bad and cause the group behavior to spiral downward to unprecedented lows. When the Commander-in-Chief is a sexual predator it is easy for generals on down to sergeants to think it is okay for them to behave the same.
But it seems people are fed up
I’m not sure why. Perhaps the disgusting behavior of a Hollywood executive who allegedly preyed on scores of beautiful women simply because he had power over them to make or break their careers, was enough to push America over the edge until we were willing to say, “That is enough!”
I hope that’s reality. On the other hand it may also be because he was not a “pretty” man. He didn’t have the charisma or good looks of a John Kennedy or a Bill Clinton. Perhaps women all over America thought of what it would be like to be attacked by a man like him and the revulsion caused them to speak up. Or maybe we’re realizing that sexual predation never has a pretty face if you get below the mask.
Maybe the times are changing
It is easy to say the world is getting worse and worse when we look at this kind of behavior and then add racism, bigotry, bullying or other such atrocious behavior.
Maybe God is at work in our world
We know God is at work, but could it be that perhaps the prayers of the saints and the move of the Spirit of God in the hearts of sinful man is getting ready to do something special in our midst?
Will we be leaven in society?
The work of the kingdom is not to conquer by force of arms, but to penetrate society with the love and grace of God as we live out the life of Christ in home, church and workplace. Unfortunately, there have been times when we followers of Christ have failed miserably at letting Christ lead. We have acted more like the society in which we live (including predatory sexual behavior) instead of letting Christ transform us as a starting place to transform society.
Could it be we’re fed up?
Could it be the sun is now rising on a new day in gender relationships? Are we ready to hold ourselves and all men (and women as well) to a higher standard of behavior? Will we begin to desire Christ-likeness enough to really emulate not only Christ, the person, but his standard of behavior? Can we admit that our own Self-Ish-Nes is sin and binds us in chains that can only be broken with Christ's help as we find a place of confession and repentance? Maybe then we can become the godly, Christ-like persons we are meant to be?
Or maybe it’s just politics as usual
Democrats blame Republicans and Republicans blame Democrats, but both are willing to ignore it in their own party? May that not be! There is no place for predatory behavior in humanity! It is time for men and women, with the help of God, to behave in a manner befitting the most high God in whose image we were created.
Lord Jesus,
May your Kingdom come
and your will be done in earth
[and in me]
as it is in heaven.
I’m Rick Blumenberg and that’s My View from Tanner Creek.

Monday, December 25, 2017

When God’s “Yes” is Second Best

By Rick Blumenberg @rickblumenberg

Some people think the primary purpose of prayer is to convince God to a change of mind so we get what we want or think we need. But God’s choice for you is for the best. We’re reminded of this in Luke’s version of the Christmas story. The last verse of the angels’ song was about mankind “on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 1:14NIV)
God is not our enemy
Jesus came to earth to tell us personally that God is not our enemy. He is our Heavenly Father and loves us unconditionally—regardless of whether or not we deserve it. He is not trying to defeat us but to help us succeed. His goal is not to harm us but to help us.
God is on our side
In other words, God is on our side. We are the people on whom his favor rests. But which people? Not white people, or black people, or brown people or yellow people, but all people. His favor is not on, rich people, or poor people, or middle class people, but on all people. Actually his favor is not even limited to people. Even though I believe mankind is God’s highest and most favored earthly creation, I believe he loves all of his creation. I base that on my limited knowledge of the incredible care he exercised in creation. No creature is too small to be exquisitely designed. No earthly creature is without purpose and value. With every creation God is the Creator “par excellance” and I believe this indicates his love.
Then why would God say “No”?
Through the years I have heard many things about prayer with which I strongly disagreed. One person said, “What good does it do to pray? God is going to do what he’s going to do anyway.”
According to this line of thinking, the purpose of prayer is to convince God to a change of mind.
Another person commented that if I had any faith I would not pray for God’s will to be done. “Just pray for what you want with faith God will provide.”
But if God’s will for each of us is based on his favor, then surely what God desires is the best thing for us. Whatever God wants for us must be what’s best for us, or at least best for his kingdom. And if my goal in life is that “God’s kingdom come and God’s will be done” (Matthew 6:10NIV) then even if it isn’t what I think I want for me personally, if God knows it will benefit the kingdom in some way (even if known only to him) then I at least want to want it.
Never pray for a Divine change of Mind
So the upshot of all this is that we never, ever, under any circumstances, pray for God to change his mind. If (as I believe) God knows what is best and if (as I believe) God wants what is best in the situation for which I pray, then why would I ever try to change the mind of God? Our task is to help accomplish the will of God through our prayers. Why, you ask, does God need our help if he is really God? Good question! The answer is, God doesn’t need our help but welcomes it none-the-less. When we work together with God we share in his glory and the glory of his accomplishment. Our heavenly Father, loving parent that he is, wants that for each of us.
So God’s “No” is just as loving as a “Yes”
When is God’s “Yes” second best? When we convince him to change from a “No” to a “Yes”.
A “No” from God is just as loving as a “Yes”. If we convince God to a change of mind (from a “No” to a “Yes”) the best we could ever expect would be second best.
I'm Rick Blumenberg and that's My View from Tanner Creek.


Saturday, September 30, 2017

All People have Ultimate Worth!

All people are created in the image of God.

All have absolute and ultimate worth. 

Differences such as color, hair, eyes, skin, etc.—

Are all examples of, and merely reveal,

God’s great love of variety and beauty.

Don't ever doubt how much God loves You!

I'm Rick Blumenberg and that's My View from Tanner Creek.