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Archive for June, 2013

Mercy and the LWML Convention

lwml convention

At the Project 24 booth at the convention are Nicci Tyrell, Eunita Ondago, and Olivia Tyrell (the 3 in the middle).  Sorry I don’t know who the bookends are can any one help?

[Jesus said:] “… but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will
never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a
spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).

That is the convention theme.

My thought is that the spring that springs up and bubbles and wells up to eternal life is faith.  It isn’t stagnant like the pools that are in my back yard after all these weeks of rain but it is in motion and effervescent.  That phrase about faith “welling up” it seems to me is important.  If shows an increase.  Martin Luther preached on John 4:46-54 which is a part of the whole picture of faith welling up.  He writes….

“Our Gospel lesson speaks further of the increase of faith, and here there is a difference. Although faith fully possesses Christ and all his riches, yet it must nevertheless be continually kept in motion and exercised, so that it may have assurance, and firmly retain its treasures. There is a difference between having a thing and firmly keeping hold of it, between a strong and a weak faith. Such a great treasure should be firmly seized and well guarded, so that it may not be easily lost or taken from us. I may have it indeed in its entirety, although I hold it only in a paper sack, but it is not so well preserved as if I had it locked in an iron chest.

Therefore we must so live on the earth, not that we think of something different that is better to acquire than what we already possess; but that we strive to lay hold of the treasure more and more firmly and securely from day to day. We have no reason to seek anything more than faith; but here we must see to it how faith may grow and become stronger. Thus we, read in the Gospel, that, although the disciples of Christ without doubt believed (for otherwise they had not followed him), yet he often rebuked them on account of their weak faith. They had indeed faith, but when it was put to the test, they let it sink and did not support it. So it is with all Christians; where faith is not continually kept in motion and exercised, it weakens and decreases, so that it must indeed vanish; and yet we do not see nor feel this weakness ourselves, except in times of need and temptation, when unbelief rages too strongly; and yet for that very reason faith must have temptations in which it may battle and grow.”

Our LWML is a marvelous gift and their conventions are a great time to keep that faith welling up and growing and becoming stronger.

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All Those Christians …. more on the “now time”.


china map

This comes under the heading of “stuff I learned while looking for something else”.  I saw this quote somewhere and of course can’t find it now.  If anyone knows where this came from please let me know – it stands for itself…………..

“Whatever the number comes to, this much is clear: “more people go to church on Sunday in China than in the whole of Europe.”  China appears to be home to more evangelical believers than any other nation, and the church continues to grow and make inroads in every level of Chinese society, from the peasant farmers and factory workers to party officials and the cultured elite. While still laboring under persecution and official harassment, tested by many temptations, and occasionally upset by heresy, the church in China has courageously continued to worship and obey the triune God. Although none of us knows how history might turn as God works out his redemptive purpose, the church in China is already emerging not just as a place of vibrant Christian faith but a significant missionary force in the world.  And yet, as Chinese ministry leaders and informed visitors clearly and consistently report, the need for church development is both profound and urgent both for the health of the church in China and the future of Christianity in the world.”

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Mercy and Faith – thank God for signs.


“Luther likens faith to ‘butter in the sunshine.’ While Luther will always maintain that trust in the promise makes baptism efficacious, he is wary of focusing on faith: ‘One must believe, but we neither should nor can know it for certain.’ Therefore, one dare not base his baptism on his faith.  For who can be sure if he really believes? The enthusiasts’ stress on subjectivity, like the late medieval view of penance and monasticism, troubles Luther because it puts the question of salvation back into the hands of a frail and doubting humanity. God, however, is merciful. He comes to us via outward means-water, bread, and wine. He pledges himself to us in these visible and tangible signs, for ‘faith must have something to believe something to which it may cling and upon which it may stand.’”

Mark Tranvik, “Luther on Baptism”  Lutheran Quarterly (Spring 1999),

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KFUO and Mercy

kfuo  dedication

Dedication of the KFUO studios at the IC in St. Louis

I had a chance to be at the dedication of the new KFUO studios at the International Center in St. Louis.  Here you see President Harrison doing the dedication ceremony over the air.  His sermon was based on the passage from Isaiah 40 – “Grass dries up, and flowers wither, but the word of our God will last forever“.  KFUO  is the longest continually operating AM radio station in the United States. Owned and operated by The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS), KFUO-AM boasts an array of audio resources from worship services to inspirational music to in-depth study of God’s Word.

The Word of the Lord endures forever.  This battle cry of the Reformation comes through in various hymns such as in A Mighty Fortress: “The Word they still shall let remain.” It reminds us that the Scriptures are the only sure guide for faith and life.The motto is based on 1 Peter 1:24-25 and Isaiah 40.  It first appears in the court of Frederick the Wise in 1522. It was used by Frederick’s successors, his brother John the Steadfast, and his nephew John Frederick the Magnanimous. It was used on flags, banners, swords, and uniforms as a symbol of the unity of the Lutheran laity who struggled to defend their beliefs, communities, families, and lives against those who were intent on destroying them.

The Word of the Lord is the Christ and His mercy towards us.  May KFUO continue to proclaim Christ’s mercy faithfully until He returns.

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Mercy and Self Forgiveness

self esteem

“The forgiveness of sin,” as Claus Harms in one of the most famous theses from the 1817 Reformation Jubilee would say, “still cost money in the Sixteenth Century, in the Nineteenth it is completely free, and everyone freely rewards himself with it.”  In the 21st century we have rationalized it away along with a lot of other things so that we don’t sin and so we don’t need forgiveness we just need more self esteem.

Truth be told we need to recognize our sin, recognize our Savior and live in the rhythm of confession and absolution – that means actually hearing someone pronounce us forgiven for the sake of Christ.  By God’s mercy I have been forgiven, but the reality of my life is such I need to be told.

I also need to face reality.  Just because I look in the mirror and think I see Brad Pitt doesn’t mean I am Brad Pitt.  If that kitty in the picture goes out into the world thinking it is what it sees in the mirror harsh reality will soon set in.

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Mercy and the Demons



Jesus heals the Gadarene Demoniac

The Gospel lesson for today is Luke 8:26-39.

The best tactic the devil ever used was to convince people that he doesn’t exist.

Some one once told me that in Africa you can come and preach the Gospel and no one minds.  You can come and do mercy work and no one minds.  Governments and tribes and all sorts of folks will help.  When you do both — preach the Gospel and do mercy there is bound to be trouble.  When I asked why I was told “because the devil hates it and it drives him crazy”.

The devil and the demonic are far more palpable and recognized in emerging world countries and there are reasons for that.  They haven’t studied them out of existence in their rational minds so that they come out in other places like we have.  So called rational people say they don’t exist and fall prey to them in unexpected places, like politics and medicine and philosophy.  We rationalized away din and damnation to and they pop up in unexpected places like classrooms and marathon races.

The Bible says that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil.  If you rationalize the devil away you don’t need a Savior.  We studied ourselves out of life a German poet once wrote.  Hermann Sasse picked up in that.  He wrote,

Truly, it is a frightening revolution in the spiritual life of the west that has been accomplished here, frightening in that on the one hand the progress of modern culture rests on it, and on the other hand that it must go with it. It is frightening that the European man of the last 250 years is convinced that he has been the first to recognize the reality of the world and of man, when he has forsaken the great reality of life. He believes that the God of the Bible, as the judge of the entire world, that the wrath of God, the last Judgment, and that eternal damnation is a figment of the imagination. He comes as the man who actually cleaned up these fantasies. He does not notice that he actually exchanged living reality for a paper theory. He thinks the great realities of life, the living God, the sin of man, and the divine judgment are mere theories. And he thinks his theories, his made-up god that does not create or judge, and what is more, his idea of a man who is no longer a sinner and does not need grace is reality. Goethe anticipated this strange event, the exchange of life’s realities for theories about life, and he pointed to it with the penetrating word: “We have studied ourselves out of life.” That is the deep, intellectual, spiritual distress of the modern world. They have exchanged the great reality to which the Biblical revelation points for paper theories. In reality, the men of our time, so proud of their sense of reality, live in an illusion.”

The demonic is not an illusion, but it is a defeated foe.

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Mercy and Being a “Lord”.

Martin Luther was writing on Romans 14:8.“whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s”  He does an interesting thing and takes off on the word “Lord’s” as used here and says  “Yes, indeed, Domini in the genitive and in the nominative-in the genitive (we are the Lord’s) because we are his dwelling place, his members, and in the nominative (we are lords) because we rule over all things through faith, which is our victory, and because, thanks be to God, we trample the lion and the dragon underfoot”.

God says that because of Christ and His gift of redemption and the forgiveness of our sins we are rich and yet how many of us choose to live poor.  We have all things in Christ and we choose to live as paupers.  We look down on the beggar and the needy when we could be sharing our bounty and blessings so that as Paul says somewhere else, “there might be equality”.

We can even trample the lion.anthill lions

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The Tree of Life and Partnerships

Supposedly the tree of life was a Baobab tree. At least that is what friends of mine said. Then they told me the stories. The Baobab has a special role in Africa. Elephants, monkeys and baboons depend on its fruit (the vitamin C content of one fruit is the equivalent of 4 oranges); bats pollinate them by crashing into the flowers while chasing insects; bush babies also spread the pollen; the pollen can be used as glue; the seeds are rich in protein, calcium, oil and phosphates – they can also be roasted and ground like coffee beans; young leaves have a high calcium content and can be used as spinach; the trunk is fibrous and can be woven into rope mats and paper; beer and tea can be made from the bark, but you need a strong constitution to drink either. Everything about this tree is beneficial to something or someone and we are still learning how the connections can be broken to everyone’s hurt. If elephants don’t show up at the right time and do certain things people will suffer later. If bush babies do’t do their thing at a certain time the elephants suffer. If the bats can’t do their thing the everyone suffers.

I think this is a baobab but I am not totally sure. One of the reasons is that it takes about 800 years for them to get good looking and at certain times of the year they look really bad. They are the kind of thing that you see in the world that make you feel small. The complexity and beauty of God’s creation is remarkable.

The complexity of creation is a good metaphor for our life together. We are interconnected in the body of Christ in such a way that we are meant cover one another’s deficiencies. When we are unwilling to do that our witness suffers. Luther explained the interconnected ness we all have in the Sacrament of the Altar and how we are changed into one another through love. He writes ….

See to it also that you make yourself a fellow of every man and by no means exclude any one in hatred or anger; for this sacrament of fellowship, love and unity cannot tolerate discord and dissension. You must let the infirmities and needs of others burden your heart, as though they were your own, and offer them your strength, as though it were their own, as Christ does for you in the sacrament. That is what we mean by being changed into one another through love, out of many particles becoming one bread and drink, giving up one’s own form and taking one that belongs to all.

That should be the form of our life together until that day we all get to see the original tree of life in an eternal life together.


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Just Because It’s the Right Thing Doesn’t Mean That It Is Done Right.

Kenya 2.11 054Life in a fallen world is such that we never quite see the whole picture.  We do what we do as witnesses to God’s mercy and pray that what we do furthers the message of Christ and His gospel.  We believe that God will do things in his way and in his time so that all things will work together for good to those who love him and are called according to his purpose.  In our time we see problems and difficulties and frustrations and life under the cross can be full of trials and temptations.  Our last Mary Okeyo Travelers experiences some of the rub in our “life together”.  Things do not go as smoothly as we hope and sometimes there are breakdowns in communications and issues between partners that need to be worked out and readjusted.  We are in one of those periods of readjustment.  Some of the rescue centers are not equipped they way they should be.  Some of the rescue centers do not even have mosquito nets and we have been working with Lutheran Malaria Initiative.  We have to figure out with our partners how to better deliver needed materials to those that we seek to serve.  The work goes on because we believe it is the right thing to do.  We may not always do it right.  God has entrusted a lot to “earthen vessels”.

We try and tell people of the advances and the retreats, the good the bad and the ugly of working in the world with our partners and trying to do mercy and witness while the devil raises hell.  Paul says “we have spoken freely to you; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.” II Cor. 6


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How do you read the Bible?


This says wonderfully what I have been struggling to say for years.  Whoever you are Tullian thanks.

Reading The Bible Narcissistically

Posted By Tullian Tchividjian On June 10, 2013 @ 9:37 am

We often read the Bible as if it were fundamentally about us: our improvement, our life, our triumph, our victory, our faith, our holiness, our godliness. We treat it like a book of timeless principles that will give us our best life now if we simply apply those principles. We treat it, in other words, like it’s a heaven-sent self-help manual. But by looking at the Bible as if it were fundamentally about us, we totally miss the Point–like the two on the road to Emmaus. As Luke 24 shows, it’s possible to read the Bible, study the Bible, and memorize large portions of the Bible, while missing the whole point of the Bible. It’s entirely possible, in other words, to read the stories and miss the Story. In fact, unless we go to the Bible to see Jesus and his work for us, even our devout Bible reading can become fuel for our own narcissistic self-improvement plans, the place we go for the help we need to “conquer today’s challenges and take control of our lives.” Contrary to popular assumptions, the Bible is not a record of the blessed good, but rather the blessed bad. That’s not a typo. The Bible is a record of the blessed bad. The Bible is not a witness to the best people making it up to God; it’s a witness to God making it down to the worst people. Far from being a book full of moral heroes to emulate, what we discover is that the so-called heroes in the Bible are not really heroes at all. They fall and fail, they make huge mistakes, they get afraid, their selfish, deceptive, egotistical, and unreliable. The Bible is one long story of God meeting our rebellion with his rescue; our sin with his salvation; our failure with his favor; our guilt with his grace; our badness with his goodness. So, if we read the Bible asking first, “What would Jesus do?” instead of asking “What has Jesus done” we’ll miss the good news that alone can set us free. As I’ve said before, the overwhelming focus of the Bible is not the work of the redeemed but the work of the Redeemer. Which means that the Bible is not first a recipe book for Christian living, but a revelation book of Jesus who is the answer to our unchristian living.

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