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Archive for July, 2014

Rough Hands On Rougher Wood.

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Some one told me that an experienced carpenter can feel a piece of wood and tell you what it should be used for, what piece would be a good table strut and which piece would make a carved chalice and which would be a good roof beam or whatever.  I thought about Jesus rough carpenter hands and rough wood and there is the song I wrote.

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He Promised

2 Corinthians 1:18But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.” 19For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” 20For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. 21Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

So I wrote this song…………….

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The New Sennacheribs’ and Mission

Lutherans rejoice in good government as a gracious First Article gift.  For those of you that don’t know what that means Government is included in the gifts that we receive from God “creating”. When we say that we believe in God the Father the creator of heaven and earth we also believe that earthly government as an “estate” in which God works.   In fact Luther actually talks about 3 ways that God “works” in the world.  They are the church, the government, and “the economy”, which includes family and marriage and work and all that stuff.  Needless to say we have pretty much destroyed all of them and yet according to Luther God still uses them.

The good gift of government should have been capable of creating a world where it would be safe to “live and move and have our being” It was really an emergency institution created after the Fall to protect human beings but ..

The good gift of government should make it a possibility for the church to be free and safe to do “mission, but….

The church should be missionary in out look and disposition in all things but……

The family should be the primary institution whereby we earn our daily bread etc and the government should really be viewed in terms of the family and economy but…..

Human beings can mess up everything.  New Sennacheribs’ arise that want to annihilate everything including religion.  We need to think deeply about these things but of course we don’t think too deeply about anything anymore.  We are going to have to examine what world events and the total incompetence of our own government have done to our ability and in some cases desire to “do” mission.

I write this as the embassy in Tripoli is evacuated, the French are fighting a nasty little war in Saharan Africa, Christians’ are leaving Iraq and Egypt in numbers not even comprehensible to us and not reported by our media.  Kenya is in crisis, Nigeria is a mess and the FAA is saying that we shouldn’t even fly over Ethiopia, Libya or Somalia.  Jets get shot down over the Ukraine and Israel is under the gun again.  In the midst of all this the “fund raiser” in Chief says the world is much safer today than it was when he took office.

Ilya Gridneff in Nairobi


Australian volunteers in Kenya are being sent home as western embassies cut staff numbers due to ongoing terror attacks by the militant Islamic group al-Shabaab.

At least 39 Australians working on aid projects in the east African country were told on 17 July they were to leave the capital, Nairobi, and the Kenyan coast by 17 August. Some staff may be deployed to safer regions in Kenya while others will return to Australia or be redeployed to neighbouring countries.

the US government will withdraw its 70 Peace Corps volunteers, a program that has been running in Kenya since 1964, while some non-essential US embassy staff are currently being relocated to neighbouring countries such as Uganda or Rwanda.

Due to “a high threat from terrorism, including kidnapping,” the British government advises against all but essential travel to parts of Nairobi, Lamu county and Mombasa on Kenya’s coast.

Kenya has faced increased security threats since October 2011 when it sent soldiers into southern Somalia to fight the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabaab militia that has terrorised the Horn of Africa region.

Al-Shabaab has ramped up its attacks of late. This month and in June it claimed responsibility for killing at least 94 people in remote towns near the country’s coast and Lamu. In September al-Shabaab militants attacked the upscale Westgate mall in Nairobi, killing 67 people shopping on a Saturday.

Kenyan police officials said on Thursday that a female German tourist had been shot dead in Mombasa, the second foreigner shot in same area this month.

Ahmed Salim, from the Dubai-based Teneo Intelligence consultancy, said insecurity and attacks were now the norm for Kenya’s coast.

“The challenge, so far, has been to differentiate these attacks between al-Shabaab and criminal gangs or groups that seem to be targeting a specific ethnic group related to other grievances such as land. This uncertainty has raised concerns for foreign governments like the Australian government in minimising its footprint in the country,” he said.

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C.S. Lewis and Sennacherib –

sennacheribWe have talked about Nineveh and Mosul and Jonah and Sennacherib the King whose mighty army was strangely defeated.  The Bible says that Angels killed 185,000 of Sennacherib’s troops in one night. Herodutus a Greek historian believes that a mass of mice came into the camp and caused damage to the Assyrian archers bows and folks who don’t like miracles believe the mice carried bubonic plague and that is why the army died.  Whatever!  The Bible indicates the people and army of Jerusalem never engaged the Assyrians at all, they only saw the dead bodies.

C.S. Lewis takes a different tack that is kind of cool.

The Bible says Sennacherib’s campaign was foiled
By an angel: in Herodotus it says, by mice-
Innumerably nibbling all one night they toiled
To eat away his bow-strings as warm wind eats ice.

But muscular archangels, I suggest, employed
Seven little jaws to labour at each slender string
And by their aid, weak masters though they be, destroyed
The smiling-lipped Assyrian, cruel bearded king.

No stranger that Omnipotence should choose to need
Small helps than great- no stranger if His action lingers
Till men have prayed, and suffers our weak prayers indeed
To move as very muscles in his delaying fingers,

Who, in His longanimity and love for our
Small dignities, enfeebles for a time, His power.

-C.S. Lewis, Sonnet, from Poems










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Modern Day Sennacheribs’

Stolen Stones: The Modern Sack of Nineveh December 30, 1996
by John Malcolm Russell

For information on the more recent looting in Iraq, see “Taking Stock in Baghdad,” April-July 2003.

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold.

(Byron, “The Destruction of Sennacherib,” 1815)

So wrote Byron of the siege of Jerusalem, undertaken by the Assyrian king Sennacherib in 701 B.C. from Nineveh [IMAGE, 37K], capital of the greatest empire the world had ever known. For two and one-half millennia, the only known account of this momentous event was in II Kings 18-19, which reports that Sennacherib’s invincible army was laid low by the angel of the Lord, after which Sennacherib returned to Nineveh where he was murdered by his sons. Nineveh itself fell to the Medes and Babylonians in 612 B.C., its splendor buried under the shifting dust of northern Mesopotamia.

This was a part of an article that I found that speaks about Nineveh in the modern context of today (1996).  After the modern  War’s  the palace of Sennacherib was protected by our troops but after they left things got pretty iffy.  Parts if the palace walls are being sold in the open market.  Nineveh is across the river from Mosul where ISIS burned an 1800 year old Christian Church and basically forced all the Christians to leave.  They have fled to what is now a new Kurdistan.  Nineveh and the Assyrians are really central to the Old Testament and the people of Israel and the historical purposes of God.  Jonah is about Nineveh and one of the atrocities of ISIS is the destruction of Jonah’s burial site.  Nahum is about the Assyrians and God’s judgment against them and His plans for the world.

Pastor Nathanael Mayhew of Zion Lutheran Church, Lawrenceville, GA wrote a study on Nahum –  – and he wrote this –

“Nahum predicts that this would be the end for Nineveh, for not only would it be destroyed, but it would disappear into history, “What do you conspire against the LORD? He will make an utter end of it. Affliction will not rise up a second time” (1:9), “Your name shall be perpetuated no longer. Out of the house of your gods I will cut off the carved image and the molded image. I will dig your grave, For you are vile” (1:14), “the voice of your messengers shall be heard no more” (2:13), “Nineveh is laid waste!” (3:7), and “She is empty, desolate, and waste!” (2:10). With very few exceptions every large ancient city in the Orient has been destroyed; but many of them have been rebuilt, and some are still around today. But that would not be the case with this city. Just 200 years after its destruction the Greek historian Xenophon traveled past the site of its destruction without realizing that it was even there. For centuries the very site of the ancient city remained unknown and some even believed that Nineveh had never existed. ”

So wrap your brain around this – Mosul is across the river from Nineveh.  Nineveh was excavated and the ancient city and the temple where Sennacherib was murdered by his sons were uncovered and now even the dug up carvings in the walls are being cut out and sold to people on the open market.  Across the river in modern day Mosul a new type of Sennacherib is trying to form a Caliphate.  Selling something on the open market that dates back to 663 BC and destroying an 1800 year old Christian Church are not morally equivalent but the point is that these people have no conscience or “fear of the Lord”.  The fact that a political party and its leaders in this country compare Christian moral concern about abortion to the attitude of modern day Sennacheribs’ and Nebuchanezers’ should be appalling to any thinking person.


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First Time In 1800 Years No Mass in Mosul

1800 year old churchHere is an article from Leonard Blair of the Christian Post.  Please remember that this is the group that the Democrats compare to the Hobby Lobby decision allowing Hobby Lobby not to pay for four abortion  inducing drugs.  I haven’t heard any Democrat outrage against these activities.  You would think that they would at least be upset about the pollution from  all the burning going on over there.  For the first time in 1800 years Mass is not being said in Mosul and the President says nothing, the Democrats say nothing and maybe there is a reason for that silence.  Anyway here is the article –

“Members of the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) reportedly torched a 1,800 year-old Catholic Church in Mosul, Iraq and have effectively left that city “empty of Christians” as believers fled the area in fear of their lives, according to Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako.

Sources told Shoebat that the ISIS group in Mosul called “Daash” completely burned the Syriac Catholic Diocese and its contents in Mosul. A Chaldean, Syriac and Assyrian Website released photos of the church in flames Saturday.

Many Christians still in Mosul also hurried to leave the city before Saturday when an ISIS ultimatum that Christians convert to Islam, pay a tax or leave came into effect.

“We left Mosul as we saw that [we] were close to being butchered, and under the threat of armed militants. It was serious and firm,” a Christian named Mukhalis Yeshua told Shoebat.

“…But the issue that spark  Please remed the pain and sorrow was the checkpoints exiting Mosul as the armed men searched the families, and robbed all their money as search parties from the IS (Islamic Caliphate) searched all the women and robbed their jewelry and money, telling them that such money is Islamic property,” added the Christian.

Patriarch Sako told AFP Friday that: “Christian families are on their way to Dohuk and Arbil,” in the neighboring autonomous region of Kurdistan. “For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians,” he said.

Once home to an estimated 1 million Christians before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted former President Saddam Hussein, church officials now place the Christian community in Iraq at about 450,000.”

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Rethinking Stewardship.

I’ve been trying to reimagine stewardship lately. It’s something we all talk about, and sometimes actually even think about it. But reading everything that Paul says about stewardship in his two letters to the Corinthians and elsewhere leads me to believe that we probably have it all wrong. I know we have it wrong when it comes to fund development.
The church is an organic reality. It is not a loose knit organization of people that simply decide to get together and worship once in a while, or who have family and friends in a certain place and decide to form a church. It is a living organism called the body of Christ and it is created by Christ himself. That,  all by itself should change the dynamics of what we call stewardship.  How can the church be one body as Paul says it is, even though each member has a different function, if we divide that body up into various branches and units as we do in stewardship campaigns.  If each individual member is important, and no function is less important than the other, how can there be “trendsetter gifts”?. How can there be “major gifts”.  Are the other gifts minor?  Are the other gifts followers?  Why do fund developers and fund raisers spend an inordinate amount of time “cultivating” major givers?.
The answer the fundraisers will give you if you asked these questions is “this works”. Yet when Paul talks about stewardship he talks about a divine gift. He talks about equality and fairness. He brings in the uniquely Christological idea of the giving of what one has for the benefit of those who are suffering or of those that have not. Christ gave himself up for us and so we should give ourselves to our neighbors.  Somewhere in his discussion he talks about how he doesn’t want to impoverish  anybody so that others may be built up, he simply wants what he calls “equality”.  That’s a difficult concept for us to deal with. In this life there is no such thing as equality. There may be an equality of opportunity, but there’s not any equality of results. I could give my possessions to my next-door neighbor, and he could be back in poverty again next year. I could give a portion of what I have to another neighbor and he might turn that into a million dollars by next year. I think we’re safer going down this road and say that what Paul wants is fairness.
Galatians 3 – 26 “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.  28There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.29And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.”  This and 1 Corinthians 12 show us that there are diverse gifts but they are also divine gifts. These passages tell us that Christ places us in the fellowship, keeps us together in that fellowship, and the gifts that we receive are for the sake of Christ. We are to share not only of the faith, but our means in order to help the poor and the needy. The same apostle sees the body emerging from the gifts of God. We are participants of one another. Just as the bread and the wine are participants in the body and blood of Christ, we are participants one of another. These are gifts to the whole fellowship.  We are gifts to one another.
The implications of this view of stewardship are stunning. If you and I participate with one another the way the bread participates with the body of Christ and the wine participates with the blood of Christ; if there’s no no more two but one flesh in a marriage relationship; there can’t be a whole bunch of people, there’s only one body of Christ in a given place. Therefore, I can no more be unforgiving towards you, then I can be towards myself. In the body of Christ we are one. Just as in marriage I can be no more unforgiving to my wife than she can be to me because we are one.  Each one of us may set aside in our heart what we have decided to give as Paul says, but the gift still comes from the body. The gift comes from the interaction, the fellowship, the whole package that is the body of Christ, and which serves to his glory.
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Everyone’s Interest – Nobody’s Business.

I have quoted from this pamphlet before. It’s called the church at work in the world at war. It was written either just after the war ended, or just before the war ended and of course I’m talking about World War II. That may be the most interesting part of the pamphlet to me – there is no date. Here’s the paragraph that I find stunning.

“When the world is at its worst, the church must be at its best. The world background today is dark and depressing. War more nearly covers the whole earth than ever before. Men are slaughtered and numbers that stagger comprehension. Human life is cheaper than it has been for centuries. The standard of living is being pushed down again. Moral standards have been replaced by humanistic and pagan ideologies. The road back to God, which many prophesied would be teaming with penitent humanity because of sufferings brought about by the war, has only occasional travelers. There is been no great influx into the churches. Nor has there been any real revival in the churches themselves. Selfishness, greed, and godlessness are on the increase and have brought about a hopelessness and despair such as has seldom confronting mankind.

Just for such a time as this has the Missouri Synod been called to work in the kingdom. The currents  of life and thought in our  topsy-turvy world must receive the attention of the church. Conditions in the world affect every phase of church life. The chaos and the shifting, seething restlessness of the world make deep impacts upon the thinking, life, and the work of the church. All this creates problems and difficulties which, though not necessarily new, demand speed, decision, and a true sense of direction on the part of our church.”

The authors going to say that many of the unprecedented situations confronting the life and work of the church incident to the beginning of World War II, were “everybody’s concern in general, but nobody’s business in particular”. What a revealing statement. Everyone’s interest in general, but nobody’s business in particular.   The more things change the more they stay the same.

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God is His Own Interpreter.

theologyThere is a hymn that talks about the problems of life and the difficulties that we have trying to understand what is going on if God is in charge.  There is a hymn  that has a line in it that says that “God is his own interpreter and he will make it plain.”  Oswald Bayer talking about Luther’s understanding of life and the Scriptures that are the Word of God has an interesting concept laid out for us.  We think that we read the Bible to interpret what it says and sometimes we need a theologian to do that.  Well all of us are theologians in that all if us have “words or thoughts about God”.  So get this.  Luther understood that the Bible interprets us.

“A theologian is a person who is interpreted by the Scriptures. They let themselves be interpreted by the Scriptures. Once they have been interpreted my God’s word, they interpret it for others who are trouble or afflicted. “

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guy cutting hedge

For the life of me I can’t explain it and I don’t know why but, I actually think this is a pretty good idea.


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