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Archive for September, 2013

Ephesians 3:10 – what is the church for?

manifold witness
“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,”………………………………………..
Add this confessional citation to Ephesians 3:10, from Luther’s  large Catechism, Part II, par. 61-62:
For creation is now behind us, and redemption has also taken place, but the Holy Spirit continues his work without ceasing until the Last Day, and for this purpose he has appointed a community (Gemeine) on earth, through which he speaks and does all his work. For he has not yet gathered together all of this Christian community, nor has he completed the granting of forgiveness.
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What is the church for? continued

mom lives in car

This picture will always haunt me of a mother looking for work in the oil patch and having to live in her car with her little baby.  She is not poor or destitute, but she needs a place to stay and someone to help with the care of the child while she works.  Yet many do not think that is the churches job.

Micah 6 says, ”

He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth God require of thee, but to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God?

We might also add to walk humbly with our fellow human beings in need and difficulty. If the love of Christ will jot compel us I guess I am at a loss as to what will.  Please read the following link and remember that this service provided by the Pastor and the church has been brought to an end by an amalgamation of people that really don’t know what to do, and my guess is, don’t care.  There are a lot of rules out there and seemingly very few answers.

http://oilpatchdispatch.areavoices.com/2012/07/01/success-stories-from-willistons-concordia-lutheran-church/

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Mercy and the end of the Age.

gospel will be preached

 

“It is my firm belief that he world will perish shortly. Among us there is the greatest ingratitude and contempt for the Word…As things are beginning to go, the last day is at the door, and I believe that the world will not endure a hundred years. For the light of the gospel is now dawning. That day will follow with thunder and lightning, for the voice of the Lord and of the trumpet are conveyed in the thunder. It will come from the east, and the earth will be severely shaken by the crash with such horror, that men will die of fear. I believe that the last day is not far off, for this reason: the gospel is now making its last effort, and it is just the same as with a light which, when it is about to go out, gives forth a great flash at the end as if it is intended to burn a long time yet, and then it is gone. So it appears to be in the case of the gospel, which seems on the point of widely extending itself, but I fear that it also will go out in a flash, and that the last day will then be at hand. It is just so with a sick man: when he is about to die he often appears most refreshed, and in a trice he has departed.”

Martin Luther

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Congregations and Mercy at Home

ubs

There are many ways that congregations can do mercy and show mercy and be a good corporate citizen.  Food pantries and community projects like St. John’s in Park Rapids did (see September 20,2013) and there are many more.  One way is to sponsor a blood drive.  Trinity Lutheran Church in Drayton is sponsoring a blood drive in Drayton on Monday September 30 from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm at Tisdale Manor.

These are the kinds of partnerships that work and work well in our communities.  United Blood Services supplies the service.  Tisdale Manor supplies the place.  Trinity would have but we had too many stairs and no air conditioning.  We were going to do this at the Drayton public school but their air conditioners are not working either.  Members of Trinity make the phone calls and supply the bars and cookies and juice to those who give the donations.  Now all we need is donors.  If you can give blood and even if you think that you can’t give blood for any reason please call United Blood Services at 1-800-917-4929.  You can even go online and  sign up at www.unitedbloodservices.org .  You have to be 16 years old.  If you live in or around Drayton please consider this.  Blood donations will effect 1 of every five people in the US this year.  Everyone I know has had a loved one or themselves needing blood at some time in their lives.  Every donation can save three lives.  That is pretty amazing stuff and very simple to do.

 

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Partners and Terror and Mercy

soldiers

I wrote about these guys before.  The only reason that I even saw them was because of the plastic bag!  They are a kind of local militia that was formed to wander around in the wilds of the Samburu wildlife refuge and protect elephants and other creatures from the Al Shabab terrorists that were coming into Northern Kenya for the sole purpose of raising hell.  While we were in Wamba there were several Kenyan Army incursions into Somalia that were meant to destroy their safe havens and incursion points.  I said at that time it was a nasty little war that the Kenyans were fighting not only for themselves but for us because I believe that Kenya is the linchpin that can keep Africa from being Islamized.  Muslim extremists have said in the past that they wanted to Islamize all of Africa by 2015.  They only have two years left.  Kenya has probably endured more terrorist bombings than any other Sub Saharan nation.

Our partner church there struggles with all sorts of things from interior politics to a lack of cash and they continue to work hard to present the Gospel and witness to Christ.  Our Project 24 centers struggle and we struggle to help appropriately and faithfully.  We have been told that one of our centers has closed because of some Islamic pressures.  We try and send appropriate help and perhaps we will have to start sending some advice.  What alarms me is that there is some evidence that the US has sent more than aid – we may have sent some terrorists too.  Reports that I have heard talk about terrorists form Minnesota being in the Mall at Nairobi.  So now besides aid and what we hope is good mercy projects we may be exporting terrorists.  And from Minnesota no less!

We have been talking about the partnerships that we have up here in the North Country and the connections that exist.  It occurred to me this morning as I watched the news and heard commentary about Malls and how we should be careful.  There is a Westgate Mall in Brainerd.  The Westgate Mall in Nairobi was visited by our Mary Okeyo travelers on their last trip and by some others on previous trips.  I am sure they are wondering and hoping that all will be well.  So many things to remember in prayer.

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God’s Mercy and our need.

fale and kruegerfale and me

This is my friend John Fale.  Top picture John (left) is dressed for winter in North Dakota and talking to Paul Krueger in Minot about Hope Village.  Bottom picture is John and I at St. Thomas Church in India where it was about 100 degrees.  I first went to Africa with John and Pastor Tim Yeadon and Matthew Harrison in 2004.  I have traveled with him to India and Singapore.  I was with him in New Orleans after Katrina and the Dominican Republic last winter.  John is the mercy coordinator for our church and he has always exemplified the life of mercy that we can live because of the merciful washing of our baptism.

John and his wife Marcia were visiting relatives this week and Marcia was the victim of a terrible accident that broke her neck and hurt her spine.  She underwent surgery very quickly and the report is that she is doing well and can now move her extremities.  The news came out from the LCMS family very quickly and we thank God that Marcia is doing well.

At any rate it makes me remember what we used to talk about all the time back in the World Relief and Human Care days.  Our discussion was always about God’s great mercy and our great need.  “At just the right time while we were helpless Christ died for us”, Romans 5.  Incidents like John and Marcia’s show our continued life in a fallen world.  On June 18th 2012 I wrote on this blog site that we don’t life in a safe garden.  We never know what might happen to us but the one thing we do know is that God’s mercy can supply our need.

Pray for Marcia’s continued recovery and pray for John.  The man that has shown the compassionate face of the LCMS around the world needs our prayers and support right now.

 

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There is an Evil in our Society

washington navy yard

One of two things is happening in this picture.  Either the men with their hands over their heads are reacting in horror to what is happening at the Navy Ship Yard, or they have to show their hands as they are being evacuated because they are considered suspects until they can be evacuated.  Either way it is a stunning and sad photo.

A trauma Dr. in Washington D.C. commented on the shooting at the Navy Yard by saying that there is “an evil in our society”.  My first reaction was “no duh”, alert the media, have you heard about the Lindbergh baby?  There are those of us who have tried to address the “evil” in society for years and no one listens.  Life has been cheapened and faith denigrated.  When open debate and honest disagreement is looked upon as treason we have a problem with evil.  While the people were being evacuated from the shooting scene the President of the United States was making a political speech in which he attacked Republicans and  made the startling statement that “some of them are decent”.  I was wondering what would happen if a President of a different party had said of Democrats that “some of them are sane” during a national tragedy?

My own feeling is that part of the “evil” is that we have made political parties our religion in many ways and the results are a public that has lost it’s national and collective soul.  If all good things come from government and the government does not deliver there are going to be problems and it is going to get worse.

The media are the acolytes of this religion and so information which used to be power is really the means of either assuaging anger when the almighty government doesn’t deliver, or focusing the wrath of an angry public on those that are believed to be the problem, even if some of them are “decent”.

The process of “politicization I believe is in itself “evil”.  We will think about this more, but before we do there is this from Nairobi where we have sent some of our Mary Okeyo travelers and I am told many of them went shopping at a high end Mall that was attacked to day.  Many thought that it was a robbery but here are two pieces of news from the BBC.

 Witnesses have told news agencies the gunmen ordered Muslims to leave and that non-Muslims would be targeted.
 Nairobi police chief Benson Kibue initially said the gunmen had been trying to rob a shop, but later called it “a terrorist attack”.
When political parties become peoples religion that is bad.  When religions become political that is bad.  We have to be able to speak in the public square and we have something to bring to the conversations.  Things are getting very complicated and frightening.  Pray for the victims and their families of the Navy Yard shooting and also for our friends and partners in Kenya.
nairobi shootingScene outside the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi
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Mercy and Witness – what is the church for?

park rapids

C.F.W. Walther wrote “A man who does not yet have the true faith is self-seeking; he rejoices only over the good that befalls his own person. He does not concern himself with the his neighbor, least of all, concerning the health of his neighbor’s soul. At best, the faithless man rejoices over the fact that he himself should be saved; whether another is saved is an indifferent matter for him. A faithless man speaks like Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” As soon as a man comes to truth faith, however, a great change then comes over him. From this moment on the reign of self-seeking is broken and love for his neighbor is kindled in him; accordingly, he now carries the desire in his heart that still all men might become such blessed people as he has become through faith. As, for example, when David had come, through true faith, to the certainty of the forgiveness of his sins and therefore said to God, “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.” In the first chapter of the Gospel of John we read further: As Andrew found the Savior and received Him in faith, he then sought likewise to bring his brother Simon, who after this was given the name Peter by Christ, to Christ; and as Philip had recognized Jesus as the Messiah, then also likewise led his friend Nathaniel to Him. Whoever has come to true faith of the heart can in no possible way keep the great treasure he has found for himself alone, but rather thinks, as the hymn says:

 If only all men knew, Jesus, how friendly you are, And [how] the condition of a true Christian Inexpressibly blessed is!”
The church witnesses to Christ and the church seeks different ways to do so for the glory of Christ and the benefit of the neighbor.
Check out how St. John’s in Park Rapids is doing evangelism/witness/mercy and sounds like they are having fun doing it.
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What is the Church for?

eph 3 10

This is from a year ago.

On April 16th I wrote about one of the churches in Western North Dakota that has opened itself up to the folks that are flooding into the area to find work and how some church members don’t like it.  “We didn’t build the church to house the homeless or the indigent” they say, and I asked the question – what did you build it for?  We had better be careful when we answer that question but we had better answer it.

We have talked about the fact the Methodist church is in crisis and asking something along these lines; what is the church for?  We have in our circles questions that need to be addressed.  Is the church a hospital or a gymnasium?  Should the church be about proclamation and catechesis or about mercy and care?.  Is the church to protect the Gospel or give it away?

All of the above does not seem to be a reasonable response for many.  And that leads to our stewardship questions and difficulties.

The truth is that years ago we built wonderful facilities to take care of the faithful.  They were meant for the faithful and built for the comfort of the faithful.  When and if new members were brought into the church one of the things they found out very quickly, almost as if there were an inservice for such things, was the care and treatment of the church.  They also found out about wrath if they spilled coffee in the fellowship hall or tracked mud into the entry way.

We missed the prophets out there that told us that something was going on in the world and that we needed to change.  They were saying that we needed to change, not the message but the way the message was packaged.  We called them “Church Growthers” and got angry at them.  We held entire conferences and talked about how wrong they were and while all that was going on the world was changing ever faster.  The “church building as witness” crowd missed the fact that for many people the bigger and fancier the building the less attractive it was.  The “church is only for proclamation” crowd missed the fact that their evangelism was the worship service and that most people were terrified to be dragged into the church to hear the message in the first place.  The church as only witness and relationship crowd missed the fact that usually that type of ministry is really about the preacher and his popularity and when he goes away most of the people that came into the church during his tenure go away too.

We didn’t listen because for years there was no reason to.  We had something called the “baby boomers” and they filled our churches with their babies and our Sunday Schools over flowed.  Now the babies are gone and they have moved away and we have fewer and fewer of the faithful left to continue the upkeep of those marvelous facilities.  When we use them for something like caring for indigents the old issues rise up again.

Now here we are a year later and the church still wonders what we are for – Ephesians 3 :10

 

 

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The Wisdom of God and the Principalities and Powers

oil patch 2

I wrote about this last year.  This is Concordia Williston and the people that came and stayed at the church because they had no where else to live.  The Pastor there was the object of some vituperation and frustration for doing what churches are supposed to do.  Now the Government finally got to him.  I always find it interesting that the Government, incapable of doing the things that it is supposed to do will usually mess around with those who are trying to do what needs to be done.

You can read the sad story here

 

This is my post from April of last year.  Remember that in Ephesians 3 Paul calls the church the place where God shows his wisdom to the Principalities and powers in this world.  We need to do more of this – not less.

Churches used to be xenodocheum.  That means that they were houses for the care of the poor, strangers, pilgrims, or the sick. There was nothing like them in the world before there were Christians because Jesus invented a whole new thing and that was His Body that cared for others more than it cared for itself.  The place where people met for worship could house lepers or orphans or indigent women or the blind.  That was before the church lost it’s first love and fell in love with the buildings themselves.

There are churches in the Western part of the State of North Dakota that are becoming what they were meant to be -houses not only of prayer  – but places for the care of those who have no where else to go.  Guess what?  Some of the folks that go to those churches don’t like it much.  “We didn’t build these churches to take care of indigents”, they say.  My question is “why did you build them?”  If you say “to worship God”, you have, as Desi used to say to Lucy, “some ‘splainin to do”.

As Luther says ” Observe now from this how far those have gone out of the way who have united good works with stone, wood, clothing, eating and drinking. Of what benefit is it to your neighbor if you build a church entirely out of gold!? Of what benefit to him is the frequent ringing of great church bells? Of what benefit to him is the glitter and the ceremonies in the churches, the priests’ gowns, the sanctuary, the silver pictures and vessels? Of what benefit to him are the many candles and much incense? Of what benefit to him is the much chanting and mumbling, the singing of vigils and masses? Do you think that God will permit himself to be paid with the sound of bells, the smoke of candles, the glitter of gold and such fancies? He has commanded none of these, but if you see your neighbor going astray, sinning, or suffering in body or soul, you are to leave every thing else and at once help him in every way in your power and if you can do no more, help him with words of comfort and prayer. Thus has Christ done to you and given you an example for you to follow.”

Historically the church itself was the xenodoche.  As churches got bigger and the clergy got fancier the xenodoche became a room in the church somewhere.  Sad really.  Maybe instead of hiring architects to help with our fancy buildings we should invest in a visiting Xenodocheionologist who could explain to us the history of inns and hotels and where they came from.

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