Friday, March 31, 2017

Dancing



Praise the Lord. That is how many of the psalms start. For God is in the praises of His people. God says, “Sing a new song to the Lord…Let them praise His name with dancing and make music with tambourines and harp. For the Lord takes delight in His people” (Psalm 149). Yes, dancing is a good response to our praises for our Lord. Psalm 150 says “Praise Him with tambourine and dancing.”  I like that. Have you ever been in a worship service where people sang and danced?  I know preachers who say that is not respectful.  I respond with King David’s response to winning back the Ark of the Covenant. “David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might” (2 Samuel 6:14). The response from the people was song and dance along with him, except for his wife Michal. “And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart” (v.16).  She didn’t get the significance of the moment; she was all about appearance and dignity. I wonder if this pharisaical response would come from me. I pray that I too would rejoice with those who rejoice.

In Exodus 15 is the beautiful “Song of Moses and Miriam.” She who was a prophetess and Aaron’s sister “took the tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing. Miriam sang to them” (Exodus 15:20). They rejoiced and sang and praised God for their delivery from slavery. However, soon their dancing turned back to grumbling. By the way it was their grumbling that brought the Lord’s wrath and death to this entire generation of Israelites except Caleb and Joshua.

God is always good and in Ecclesiastes Solomon says “there is a time for mourning and a time for dancing” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Psalm 30 says “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent” (Psalm 30:11).


Dear friends, do you find joy in the Lord? Can you consider your trials “pure joy” as James admonishes?  This is God’s desire that we be filled with the fruit of the Spirit that includes joy.  I may not have great dance moves, but I love that King David, the father (predecessor) of our Savior and Lord danced in the streets with joy and singing. Dance on!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Light in The Darkness

The season of darkness is slowly coming into spring and summer light. I like the snow of winter for skiing and ice for skating, but I do not like the darkness of winter. Scripture is replete with the image of God as light and the world as darkness. The hearts of men are described the same way, either light or dark.  However, “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). God describes the hearts of men as stone-like and dark or sinful throughout the Old Testament. Even at Christmas time, at least as we celebrate it, the days are short and dark. Isaiah the Prophet speaking of Christ’s birth states, ‘”The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2). This is telling the dark tale of woe for the Israelites under assault by the Assyrians. And yet the Messiah or “Light of the world,” was going to be born to bring “spiritual peace.”  Isaiah even said, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20).  These are graphic and depressing thoughts of the world 700 years before Christ. But it seems to me, they are also describing our world today in drab technicolor grey.


This pinhole image entitled “Prairie,” taken by my cousin Douglas F. Frank vividly displays a scene of light piercing through the darkness in the American heartland. Bestselling Author Frank Peretti wrote novels called, This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness, about the strong reality of evil in the world, symbolized by the darkness. We live in a world battling good and evil, light and dark. Many would say that the darkness is winning. I believe that this is sadly a growing truth. In fact there are ideologies of death that want to conquer and dominate the world for evil.

Our hearts are all in a battle for good and evil as well. The Apostle Paul said, For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Satan is ruler of the earth and wants to destroy us one by one. We have a choice in the matter. We can look to the “Light of the World,” Jesus Christ who overcame the world. We must stand firm in the truth and pray in the power of the Holy Spirit.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).


I want to be a light generator that spreads out wherever I go. I view the photo in this essay as if it is a pair of wings of an angel lifting and throwing light into the world. Psalm 34:7 says, "The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers Him.”  The angel of the Lord is God Himself in this Hymn of praise and delivery from danger and darkness. Become a “light-caster” and overcome the darkness.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Unanswered Prayer?



James said, “The prayers of a righteous man are powerful and effective (Availeth much)” (James 5:16). Jesus tells the disciples that if they have no doubt, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:22).  What a great promise. James again says that if we lack wisdom we should ask God who will give generously “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think that he will receive anything from God” (James 1:5-7).

So which is it? Does God hear and answer all my prayers. Not actually. In fact Scripture tells us several times that unbelief and the wrong motivations of our hearts will cause God to not hear or answer our prayers. Psalm 66:18 is the most quoted verse on the subject, saying “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but the Lord has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.” There it is, if we have unconfessed sin in our life the Lord will not hear us.  Perhaps one on the scariest verses in Isaiah says, “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourself clean” (Isaiah 1:15).  Do you have sins against the Lord?  We all do, but God wants us to confess and repent of them to Him.  Then He will hear them, but not until we do. Isaiah 59 tells us that “our offenses are many in your sight.” Don’t turn your back on Him, go to Him while He may be found, “Do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:8).

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayer; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (1 Peter 3:12-13). Jesus in Matthew 15 teaches about clean and unclean, what goes in and out of our hearts and minds. “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain” (Matthew 15:8-9).

“I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans for hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you”  (Jeremiah 29:11-13).  This very reassuring verse, which is often quoted, gives promise to God’s good plans for our lives. He is telling us to seek Him with all of our heart, being fully devoted, completely. As Azariah, priest to Asa the King of Judah said, “If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you” (2 Chronicles 15:2). Keep Him in your heart first. A little earlier in this Book comes the much lifted up prayer of Solomon in dedication of the temple saying “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place” (2 Chronicles 7:14-16). Finally I will quote the Prayer of Jabez, a little known Jewish brother who was more honorable than his brothers, who cries out to the God of Israel “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain. And God granted him his request” (1 Chronicles 4:10). He had humbled his heart and asked for a territory for God or ministry in this prayer. It is not a prayer for land and riches except those of God's glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Our prayers are answered when our hearts are clean in motivation and sin confessed. God is eager to respond to our requests and bless us for the Kingdom of God. So keep on asking.



Friday, March 17, 2017

Uncle Art



My father, Kenneth, was the youngest of three brothers. The oldest of the three was Arthur John Frank born in 1911. He was six years older than my father. A.J. ,as family knew him, and I remember him was a curious and studious man. In fact he wrote the family genealogy as well as other historical books on various  Old Milwaukee subjects, including my favorite on “Der Puddel Club.”  This was a 19th century men’s social and drinking club in which there were family members. In fact, we own two of the drinking cups, one a beer stein of our Uncle Oscar and the other a sterling silver half-gallon chalice. I suppose you didn’t need to go back to the bar as often with that one.

Through the years I saw Uncle Art twice a year, on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. Thanksgiving brought us to the Tripoli Country Club where our Uncle Oc invited us each year. The Three Frank Brothers, Arthur, Robert and Kenneth brought their families while several “shirt tail” relatives celebrated with us. I just remember Uncle Art as being very tall and very stern.

 Christmas Eve was celebrated at either the Arthur or Kenneth Frank homes, as I remember. We would gather in our living room with the three families from Thanksgiving and the Sanbourn family, with Uncle Roy, Aunt Lou, and Uncle Frank, their son.  We children called Frank the “sunken living room” because he just seemed to sink into the couch and never move as he smoked his straight Lucky Strikes and drank martinis.

For years, that’s all I knew of Uncle Art. However, I enjoyed the time with his son, Doug, an eventual classmate and close friend of mine to come who partnered as artist on my first book, Great is God’s Faithfulness. Suffice it to say, Art was just not a major part of my life.

Through the years, I learned of Uncle Art’s interest in things ancient. He was a collector of Egyptian antiquities. In fact there is a display of vases from the King Tut or thereabouts era of Egyptology at the Milwaukee Museum. So, I frankly saw him as older than dirt.

Yet as time went on he became wiser. After my father died, before him, it seems transformation took place.  It was December 1994. Uncle Art called and asked if he could come over to visit. Shortly thereafter he arrived bearing gifts. He had in his hands pieces of red cedar, strung like a necklace, cut from a tree on his North Lake property. I remember spending some joy-filled hot summer afternoons in the Lake. He said red cedar is a naturally pungent incense for starting a fire.  In fact, as someone who remembers and even learns by the gustatory sense, this was a beautiful and lasting gift. He then pulled out a quart bottle of “Old Fezziwig” Christmas ale from Sam Adams brewery. If you remember, he was the model of joy and happiness in the Dickens novel, a Christmas Carol. I could imagine this portly gentleman playing his fiddle and dancing in the sawdust of the shop in Victorian England. We sat for over an hour reminiscing experiences of family history. It was a fascinating repose.

We never had a redo of the Christmas visit. However, several months later we received a very large check in the mail for Uncle Art. The generosity was unbelievable. Today I remember Uncle Art with a joyous sense, even Christmas Carol-like, where a once Scrooge-type character, in my mind, became alive and enchanting, bringing joy, generosity and peace.  Thank you, Uncle Art.



Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sovereign Snow

A new blanket of white snow is covering the brown winter today. I shoveled in the insulated quiet of the pre-dawn hours. Silence and solitude are important to appreciate God’s purpose in anything. Today it is sliding around on the roads, yet covering and protecting our perennials from the freezing temperatures. God is sovereign and turns it for our good and His glory. His is faithful and perfect in love as Michael W. Smith sings in his praise song Sovereign.

Do we run to play in the snow? Do you see God’s providential power covering us? David came before the Lord finally asking for forgiveness and cleansing after hiding in the darkness of his sin with Bathsheba. He was broken and burdened. He had been found out as Nathan told him, “you are the man.” Yes David sinned and did not follow the way of the Lord. Did that disqualify him? No, because he was a man after God’s own heart and was found out, confessed his sin and sought the Lord’s forgiveness. Psalm 51 of David tells us that he knew that he had been sinful since birth. We too fit this description, as we are not good, no one is except through receiving the redeeming love and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. David said, “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7). Snow is symbolic of cleansing and being washed in God’s transforming blood.

Isaiah the Prophet when confronting the rebellious nation of Israel quotes God saying, “‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool’”(Isaiah 1:18). He is prophesying the coming of the King and Savior who will forgive and cleanse them if they will turn from their wicked ways and follow the Lord.   Who is this One? The Prophet Daniel wrote of Him saying, ‘”Thrones were set in place and the Ancient of Days took His seat. His clothing was as white a snow; the hair of His head was white as wool’” (Daniel 7:9). He is writing of times to come that are articulated also in Revelation, speaking of Jesus saying, “’His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes were like blazing fire’” (Revelation 1:14).

He is the only One who can cleanse us to be whiter than snow, and forgive our sins. As I look out this morning on the March snowstorm I can see the pure white and yet burning love blanketing the dark stained earth. I can imagine God not covering and forgetting our sin, but reminding us that if we repent and seek His forgiveness that He will make us whiter than snow. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but God is faithful and when we have by faith confessed and chosen Him and His forgiveness, He will restore us, justified freely by His grace (Romans 3:23 paraphrase).

The angels who guarded the tomb of Jesus were in dazzling white linen and we too will wear snow-white linen robes when we come to stand before Him in death or when He comes to take us home in rapture. Those standing before the throne of the Lord will be standing worthy before Him in white if we overcome in faith.


On Ash Wednesday we were marked with black ash, repenting of our sins in preparation for the Lenten season as we march toward the cross of Christ and His redeeming death turning dark Friday into Good Friday for our sakes. So may we walk in His ways, washed from our sins whiter than snow.