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Many of us are mourning the loss of an American era with the passing of a man, I think we won’t soon see the likes of again.  The beloved preacher and evangelist, the Reverend Billy Graham, passed away on Wednesday, February 21, 2018, and was laid to rest in Charlotte, North Carolina, after his March 2nd funeral.  He was 99 years old.  Among other endearing terms, Rev. Graham is being remembered as God’s Ambassador and America’s Pastor, having provided spiritual counsel for every United States president since Harry S. Truman (our 33rd) right on to Barack Obama (our 44th president).

When I think of Dr. Graham, I can’t help think of my Dad who always encouraged us girls to sit and listen whenever a crusade was being televised (on network T.V. no less). I never told dad or mom, but I responded to one of those crusades, back when we lived in town (so prior to 8th grade). I sent for the follow-up material too, writing to “Billy Graham, Minneapolis, MN – that’s all the address you need” as Billy directed us from every crusade.  What came was a summary of his Steps to Peace with God and a study of the book of John.

I attribute that experience to a sensitive period in my life when God was softening my heart and mind to his, eventually leading me to receive the gospel truth.  I would not fully put it all together until my college years when God through his Word in Ephesians 2:8-9 caused me to once and for all lay down my works which I had been trying to offer all my life as an acceptable arrangement; one which I hoped would make God pleased with me and lead me to eternal life.  My plan had been Jesus + me = salvation, never realizing that the only thing I could contribute to Christ’s offering, was the sin that made it necessary.  Using the small faith God gave me for just that moment, I gave all that I knew of myself (my whole sin-saturated self and my inadequate works) to all I knew of Christ (my only rescue).

During college, Dana and I would counsel for a Billy Graham movie or two (World Wide Pictures) at the Cinema Theater in town (now the WDAZ studios).  After one particular movie, The Prodigal, Dana was completely broken and rededicated his life to the Lord.

A highlight for us was counseling for the Billy Graham live crusade in Fargo the summer of 1987 when we were expecting Ashley. We brought my cousin Paul with us one of the days (who was living in Grand Forks at the time, in the restaurant business with my Uncle Warren).  I’m sad to say, though, that I seem to recall my dad was unable to go to Fargo with us to see Billy in person, amounting to a double loss since the entertainment was another of Dad’s favorites, Johnny Cash (and his wife, Rosalind).

Rev. Graham’s gravestone briefly summarizes his life – Preacher of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ – and then makes reference to John 14:6, “Jesus said to [Thomas], ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.'” One of my favorite Billy Graham quotes was printed on his funeral brochure:  “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now.”  I pray God will enable me to be faithful and about the King’s work to the end – in whatever capacity I am able – just as the world has observed in the life of God’s good and faithful servant, Billy Graham.

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Ah… This is Love!

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God,
and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
Anyone who does not love does not know God,
because God is love. 


In this the love of God was made manifest among us,

that God sent his only Son into the world,
so that we might live through him.
In this is love, not that we have loved God

but that he loved us
and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 


Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
No one has ever seen God;

if we love one another, God abides in us
and his love is perfected in us.

1 John 4:7-12

– – – – –

 

 

In this well-known passage on God’s love, we see in the ESV that John uses love (or the beloved) no less than 15 times in six verses.  It is love, love, love all over this passage – “love one another”; “love is from God”; “God is love”; “if we love one another… his love is perfected in us”; etc.

 

But in the midst of this treatise on the love of God, we find in v10 the reason God can love us – “In this is love… [He] sent his Son to be the propitiation (satisfaction) for our sins.”  Propitiation – “a sacrifice that turns away the wrath of God and thereby makes God propitious (or favorable) toward us” (Grudem, p.575)a.

 

Those who have placed their sins under the blood of Jesus find God propitious toward them.  His just wrath on their sin has been fully satisfied by the sacrifice of his pure Son.  The modern hymn Before the Throne of God Above gets it right, “God, the Just, was satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.”

 

There is absolutely no trace of wrath left in the Father toward those who approach his throne, clothed now in Christ’s righteousness, not their impotent own.  Every last drop of wrath toward the believer was spent entirely on the Son.  What remains is only love, love, love toward his people.  Even when we don’t walk in our new natures, but instead give into the influence of our old man – when we sin against God – we can turn to Him in repentance and be assured of his Fatherly love toward us.  He may chasten us, true, but it is always done redemptively as we might with our own children – with our greater good in mind, coming from his all-knowing wisdom.

 

In this truth, the child of God can find assurance that what the sovereign God allows in his or her life is born solely from God’s unfailing love for them.  Our circumstances may prove hard to bear, but that is not the same thing as loss; God wastes nothing.  Under his watchful care, it can only work us good in our earthly lives or in eternity to come.

 

Of course, it must be mentioned that those whose lives are not hidden in Christ – who have not, by repentance and faith, applied Christ’s blood to the doorpost of their sinful hearts (cf. Exodus 12:13) – must bear the wrath of God in their own bodies.

 

Oh, but for the child of God – what a sweet and cherished doctrine is that of Christ’s propitiation which won the Father’s favor for us.

 

Ah… this is love.

 

 

a “Systematic Theology.” Systematic Theology, by Wayne A. Grudem and K. Erik. Thoennes, Zondervan, 2008, p. 575.

Surely, this is the time between times… our dear pastor calls it “the dawn.” After centuries and centuries of darkness, it is a time of hope rising, a new day has most-assuredly broken upon history now that God has walked among us.

 

Jesus alone did what we could not.  He lived righteously all his days on the earth.  He became our sin and bore its eternal penalty.  When all God’s wrath was spent on our sin, death had no further claim on Jesus and the grave could not hold him – He lives and has been given His promised place of eternal honor.  O yes, there is an enemy in the camp, but he is fatally wounded and his end is sure.  Even now the King makes preparation to come again in power and rightness.

 

Just as we are often unaware when dawn ends and day begins, so many move about unaware of the King’s sure coming.  Full Day will soon be upon us; soon Jesus will gloriously come again to set all things right.

 

When the dawn gives way to new Day, Jesus will draw those who are his into his marvelous safe kingdom where they will behold his beauty and know his goodness forever.  C. S. Lewis pictures for us the new Day in this way:  “All their life in this world and all their adventures… had only been the cover and the title page – now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read, which goes on for ever, in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

 

Still, we have this moment of time before full Day breaks.  For God says, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”  Do not waste the dawn.  When the True Light appears the gates will close in the wake of his procession.  Now is the time of favor.

 

I tell you, the Day is on its way. The King’s men will soon declare, “The term is over – the holidays have begun. The dream is ended – this is the morning” (Lewis’ The Last Battle).

Work for Night is Coming

On the cusp of the 20th century, William Booth (1829 – 1912), founder of the Salvation Army, wrote of his fears for the turn of the century.  Now looking back on the past 117 years we might see just how prescient he was as he wrote:

“I consider that the chief dangers
which confront the coming century will be:
religion without the Holy Ghost,
Christianity without Christ,
forgiveness without repentance,
salvation without regeneration,
politics without God,
and heaven without hell.”

Happily though, the following famous quote is also attributed to Booth.  With it we need not just wring our hands or flee to the mountaintops to search the skies for Christ’s sure coming.  Jesus said, “We must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4).  Booth put it this way: “Work as if everything depended upon work and pray as if everything depended upon prayer.”

 

 

Elisabeth Elliot was this mom’s mentor in the young years of my parenting.  She spoke common sense; and she did not allow the fear of man to be a snare.  She plainly divided the Word of Truth and applied it to everyday, commonplace life whether it was popular or not.  She gave me a mantra in those early days which helped when I found it difficult to keep my head above water while rearing and oft-times homeschooling four extraordinary children.  It is brought to mind and found useful even to this day.  Her mantra? Do the next thing.

Somewhere along the way I had forgotten that this wonderfully practical advice came to Mrs. Elliot via an old poem.  Justin Taylor recently highlighted the poem (author unknown) in its full.  It helps to flesh out this simple saying and reminds us of the resource we have when we know not what else to do.  Over the years I’ve heard the variation – do the next right thing – which can be a helpful determiner when faced with a number of options.

On this new year, if we resolve nothing further, let us resolve to do this one thing – do the next thing.

Do the Next Thing,
author unknown

From an old English parsonage down by the sea,
There came in the twilight a message to me.
Its quaint Saxon legend deeply engraven
Hath, as it seems to me, teaching from heaven.
And all through the hours the quiet words ring,
Like low inspiration – Do the next thing.

Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from heaven,
Time, opportunity, guidance are given:
Fear not tomorrow, child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus, do the next thing.

Do it immediately, do it with prayer,
Do it reliantly, casting all care.
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand,
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all results, do the next thing.

Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
Working or suffering by thy demeanor;
In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
and the light of His countenance, be for thy psalm.
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing;
Then, as He beckons thee, do the next thing.

The pastor said it correctly, when he remarked that there was something missing from our family gathering this weekend.  Of course, it was my Uncle Jerry – he who was always looked for to bring levity and cheer to all our family events.  In his absence, the sure hope of the gospel was on display.  What a great plan!  Who wouldn’t want a Savior like Jesus – so beautiful, so kind and patient, so sacrificing to condescend to make a way for us.  A way that turns such sorrowful days into days of rejoicing and great hope – confident hope for the day we will see this all-lovely Jesus who will surely wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, as the former things pass away.
– – – – –

Gerald (Jerry) LeClerc, 79, of Devils Lake, ND was called home by his Heavenly Father on Wednesday, July 12, 2017, at Aneta Parkview Health Center, Aneta, ND.

Gerald Alexander LeClerc was born Nov 18, 1937 in Grafton, ND, the fourth of eight children blessed to Alex and Mae (Schumacher) LeClerc. The family farmed near Grafton and Devils Lake until purchasing a farm near Drayton in 1947. Jerry’s love of the land and lifelong commitment to agriculture and rural communities, grew out of his early experiences on the family farm.

Jerry graduated Devils Lake High School in 1955. After receiving his Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from NDSU, he returned to the family farm. Following the sudden death of his father in 1964, Jerry farmed on his own until 1968 when he accepted a position with NDSU Extension as Assistant County Agent, Pembina County. In 1970 he was hired interim County Agent, Towner County. In March of 1971 Jerry landed the County Agent position in Steele County, which he held for 25 years until his retirement in 1995. Throughout the course of his career, Jerry received many awards and accolades in recognition of his work, most notably the National Association of Agricultural Agents Distinguished Service Award in 1989; the NDSU Alumni Association Outstanding Agriculturalist of the Year Award in 1996; and induction into the North Dakota Agriculture Hall of Fame in 2004.

While living and working in Finley, ND, Jerry was involved in many civic and business organizations, including the Steel County Crop Improvement Association, Soil Conservation Service, and American Red Cross. He belonged to Trinity Lutheran Church in Hope, ND, and served 12 years on the Finley City Council. He claimed to have never met a Steel County resident he didn’t like, and appreciated how warmly they welcomed a Frenchman into their midst. In 2009, Jerry moved back to Devils Lake, becoming an active member of the faith community at St Peters Lutheran Church and producing an abundant vegetable garden to help supply the local food shelf.

Jerry was grateful for the wonderful people he met and worked with throughout his life, many of whom became lifelong friends, traveling companions, hunting and fishing buddies, and fellow “tellers of tall tales”. Blessed with a brilliant sense of humor, his quick wit brought joy and laughter to many a gathering or conversation. Although he had no children of his own, he helped raise many. Strong of character and generous with his time, Jerry touched the lives of hundreds of young people he worked with through 4-H. He loved and cherished his nieces and nephews and would move mountains to be present for the important moments in their lives.

Jerry was a blessing in the lives of those who knew him. He is survived by sisters Lillian (Gordon) Shafer and Rosalie (James) Ringstrom; brothers Dale (Betsy) LeClerc, Ray (Judy) LeClerc, Ron LeClerc, and Warren LeClerc; and many nieces and nephews, cousins, and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents, Sister Beverly Schmidt, brother-in-law Leo Schmidt; sisters-in-law Myrna LeClerc and Luella LeClerc; and many dear relatives and friends.

Prayer Service – Friday, July 21, 2017 at 7:00p, Immanuel Lutheran Church.  Memorial service – Saturday July 22, 2017, 11:00a at Immanuel Lutheran.  Internment  – Sacred Heart Catholic Church Cemetery, Oakwood, ND, alongside his father’s grave.  Memorials to St. Peters Lutheran Church, Devils Lake, ND; Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch; or a hunger organization of choice.

What follows is a guest post from my brother-in-law, Larry.  Yesterday in
church we had a Sharing Day, something we’ve done now and again to
provide testimony to what God is doing on behalf of his people.  Larry
stood up and gave such beautiful voice to many of the thoughts and
feelings that those of us in the family business have experienced during
the past decade as we have struggled with earthly loss only to find
unspeakably great gain in Christ along the way.  Through it all, Jesus has
been careful to teach us, to cut away idols and character flaws that do not
represent him, to provide in ways that we couldn’t have dreamed, to show
us his beautiful, tender nature, and to allow us to share in these
ordained sufferings.  [For more background on that, see here.]

 

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).

This has proven a true saying as the three (two brothers and their dad)
have been able to lift each other up when one or the other on any given
day was sinking below the weight of care.  God provided personal
encouragement to each man, which was used to encourage the others
in due season.  It is also a testament to the character of these three
and to the power of God within them, that after ten plus stressful
years they find themselves on good and loving terms.

– – – – –

 

In November of 2008, I (Larry) had been sharing about our business troubles that had begun just two years earlier in 2006. Well, just to bring you up to date – things got worse.

 

These have been long and stressful years for my wife Kim and me, for my brother Dana and his wife Kim, and for our Dad, Roland – years filled with financial hardships, difficulties and challenges resulting in many hard and difficult lessons learned.  There have been questions, realizations, and consequences – all stemming from decisions made, actions taken, and probably from actions taken too late.

 

Some verses come to mind –

Proverbs 22:7 “…The borrower is servant to the lender.”

Proverbs 27:23-24 “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations.”

Proverbs 23:5 “Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.

 

This has not been a quick test for us. The feelings and emotions we’ve experienced during this time along with the reaction to our circumstances have included confusion, frustration, uncertainty, uneasiness, anxiety, weariness, anger, and despondency. We’ve asked “Lord, will this never end?” At times I was tempted to apply Proverbs 31:6-7.

 

Now I have taken note of the difference between my plans and God’s plans. More so, up until this point, I had considered myself a man-of-action. I would go after projects, anticipate, think ahead, make lists, get supplies, get equipped, make – build – create – do – go, go, go!  Proverbs 16:9 tells us: “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps”; and Psalm 46:10 tells me to “be still…”

 

At times God says to me: “No,” “Stop,” “Not now,” “Wait,” “This way,” “Not that way.” Then, while in this position I find myself stuck and in an uncomfortable, unnerving, and seemingly unending set of circumstances. I’ve realized I can’t fix it, I can’t stop it, I can’t change it, I can’t free myself – God has brought me to the end of myself!  I’ve come to treasure this verse from 2 Chronicles 20:12 “…We do not know what to do, Oh God, but our eyes are on you!”

 

We’ve been learning that this is an example of how God may, at times, use the storms and afflictions of our lives to work His will and accomplish His good purposes. What are his purposes? Well, among them, He intends to make us aware of our dependence upon Him; to show His glory and power; to show His goodness and loving care; perhaps to discipline us, his sons (as in Hebrews 12); or perhaps to humble us; to turn our attention away from idols and earthly things – Pastor Walt recently reminded us this world is not our home.  Another important lesson God wants us to learn is the rare jewel of Christian contentment.

 

We can take comfort in knowing and believing that God’s timing is always perfect. He brings the storms. He controls the timing, intensity and duration of the storm. Remember the disciples in the boat with Jesus (Mark 4:35-41)? “…Even the winds and waves obey him!” The Lord our God is sovereign over the times and seasons and all circumstances of my life. From Ecclesiastes 3 we are reminded that there is a time to weep and a time to laugh. Then later in chapter 7 we read: “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other.”

 

God gives us rest. He gives us his peace and comfort. He sustains me. He gives me my daily bread. He gives us hope, his mercies are new every morning! He delivers me, he rescues me. He lifts me up!

 

Perhaps God has brought you through the storm. Perhaps God has proven his faithfulness to you over and over and over again.  Walk with me, dare to trust God and lean on him when you enter the slimy pit and cannot find your own way out. Follow him where he leads, when times are hard and hopeless.  Do not become bitter toward your Savior. Do not be anxious.  Keep your eyes on Jesus. No whining, don’t grumble. Be thankful in all things.

 

“It is good for me that I was afflicted” (Psalm 119:71).  Don’t give up on God before his work in you is completed. Remember Joseph in prison – wait on the Lord. He brought me in and he will bring me out!

 

I like the concept of restoration. These are comforting verses:

Psalm 90:15 “Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble.”

Joel 2:25 “I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten…”

 

I don’t know for sure what God has planned for all of my tomorrows. I know that my life is but a mist, a vapor that appears for a while and then vanishes (James 4:14). This world and all its troubles will soon be forgotten. But I do know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth (Job 19:25).

 

We want to express our sincere appreciation and thanks to all of you who have been praying for us.  We are privileged to call you our brothers and sisters in Christ!

 

So in closing I can say though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, …no sheep in the pens, no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior (Habakkuk 3:17-18)!  Praise the Lord!

 

– – – –
Painting: “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee” by Rembrandt