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Archive for January, 2015

6 Degrees of Separation – Organists/Ada revisited


There is always a great danger when writing a blog that you forget someone.  It is never meant, and when you are caught in the mistake the flat of the hand goes to the fore head and a giant slap is accompanied with the exclamation, “how could I miss that?”  I wrote and article awhile back in which I listed the organists that had served over the years and how blest we were to have them.  I had a greater blessing than I had remembered because there were two that I had neglected to mention and that was Cathi and Eileen Schultz.  They played the organ all through High School and Cathi came back from college and took up where she left off.  Cathi is now the only one left.

The 6 degrees comes about because of a visit I had with someone from Ada Minnesota and all the old connections came rushing back.  Cathi’s Aunt still attends the church in Ada and Cathi’s mother was the sponsor for Roger Drevlow my old friend.  Rogers wife Joann was in one of the first groups we took to Kenya in the early Project 24 days. Rogers father was a Pastor in Ada years ago.  There are churches in Ada proper and one in Golden Valley and all of them are connected in ways that are interesting.  Recently former North Dakota District President Larry Harvala served at Ada.  Larry is from Park Rapids Minnesota and is known for giving away hundred dollar bills from his hospital bed.  Ada is also the home to Rev. Brad Stoltenow’s parents.  Brad was the Circuit Counselor that served Grand Rapids years ago and when I was visiting Grand Rapids I met one of Cathi’s relatives in that church too.  In the meantime Brad, who was serving as Pastor in the church Roger Drevlow was attending took a call to Colorado and has a congregation about 2 miles from my brothers house.

If you don’t think these connections are interesting I apologize but I find them fascinating.  God uses us and those around us in interesting ways as we wend through this life.  We meet and move away and meet again in multifaceted ways that we may never understand, but when we catch glimpses of the connections they are wonderful.

So anyway I am sorry that I missed Cathi and her service in the last blog.  She is appreciated.  In the meantime Mick Peppard and Bob Merrill are still in Rochester.  Prayers ascend.

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6 Degrees of Separation Fenton MO, Hallock MN and India


For the full story on the picture please visit.

(Left to Right): Rev Gopinathan, former Secretary, IELC; The Rev. Raja Gambeeram, President, IELC; Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations / Regional Operations; Rev. Sukumaran, Vice President, IELC; Mr. Darin Storkson, Senior Regional Director, Asia and Oceana; Mr. Ravi  Jesupatham, Country Coordinator -India for the LCMS.

The new President of our partner church in India were visiting in St. Louis this week  It was great to see Mr. Ravi  Jesupatham in the picture.  Mr. Ravi was a gracious host and source of wonderful information and help when I visited India a few years ago with LCMS World Relief and Human Care.  He has been in touch and often comments on this blog.  The mercy work that we have done and continue to do in India is an important part of our life together.  The Indian Church has suffered some difficulties as have our friends in Kenya but by the grace of God they will all work through it.

So the six degrees of separation – this picture is taken at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Fenton MO.  My wife was called to Our Saviors in Fenton to be a parochial school teacher when I went to the Seminary.  I can still remember my fear in driving the U-Haul truck in the hilly streets of Fenton.  When I took my first call to North Dakota the first couple I married were Rodney Rathmun and Dawn Jensen.  Dawn went to church in Drayton but lived near Hallock MN.   Rodney went to work for CPH and they moved to Fenton.  Dawn became the music director for Christ Memorial Church in St. Louis.  The Pastor of that church back in the day was Greg Smith who served with me on the Board for Human Care  which is why I went to India.  Small world.

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Mercy, Mission, and Resolutions

There is a sense that organizations that gather together to do things decently and in order fall into the trap that the Law likes to lay for us.  There is a way, and a very effective way, that the Law pretends to be the Gospel.  It moves us into areas that we might not otherwise go.  It makes organizations and planners say things like, “where there is a minimum of 50 and they follow the model constitution we will plant a church or do mission work,.” or  “if the plant isn’t producing, close it, or “we are looking to locate congregations in growing communities and, therefore, we’re not interested in you rejects out in the boondocks.”  Sometimes it couches itself in language about the use of scarce resources.  “Let us not do mercy work because our task is to preach the Gospel, and Jesus himself said that the poor would always be with us.” That was never said at the North Dakota Convention but it has been said by others.  Nothing like that was said in our convention and nothing like that has been said in any meeting that I have been involved in and yet some have the feeling that it is said and believed by some. The reason I believe is that the Law is hiding in good and Godly planning and pretending that we can use it.

Again James Nestingen – “[The Law] offers itself as gospel.  It makes one promise after another –‐ offering to restore order, to give a new ethical tone, to elicit genuine striving that will put apathy to flight –‐ all on a condition of minimal obedience.  But in the end, the masquerade is broken and along with it the last, desperate illusion –‐ that somehow, the sinner can also become a user of the law.  The law turns on its deluded manager with quiet ruthlessness, dealing out disappointments that turn to cynicism which culminates in despair.  It is the foreplay of death.  They are all the same in the dark.”[1]

[1] James Arne Nestingen, “Preaching Repentance”, electronic paper on

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North Dakota District Planting Churches.

church plantingThe North Dakota District in convention passed resolutions to plant churches and foster mission churches and has suggested guidelines for those mission starts.  There was probably more conversation on this issue than anything else.  Mission starts, church plantings, are wonderful things and I am not denigrating anything that happened however, I was a bit taken aback by what some read into the resolutions on both sides of the issue.  The guidelines were seen by some as a way to do things decently and in order and by others as a “nose under the tent” to “control” worship forms and deny Christian freedom etc.

James Nestingen was a Professor at Luther Seminary in St. Paul for years and had many battles with hierarchy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  He is never dull and never at a loss for words.  Here is a bit on missions and church plants from his perspective.  His reference to Chicago means the ELCA headquarters on Higgins Road in Chicago .  I am making no comment – just quoting.

Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name. I can’t help myself. I mean if there are just two or three, I’ll be there. Because, if there are two or three, we can start a conversation. I’ve got another chance to give myself away.” That’s him, spilling over with goodness, gracious beyond any measure, giving himself. “Two or three, that will do. Just give me a couple. I’ll take two. If you can get three, so much the better.” Of course, you know what would happen if Chicago got a hold of that. Well now, two or three. Let’s see. There’s the President and there’s the Vice-President, and there’s the Secretary. And, of course, the President better be in succession, because I mean we don’t want the Gospel getting loose. Faith might happen. Come on! You have to do all things properly and in order. The anal retentive’s view of the Kingdom of God. You just wish somebody would break loose like Jesus did at the Temple and bust something. Just for the joy of a little chaos. It’s too much fun.”

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North Dakota District Convention is Over

photo (12)President Harrison Installing President Baneck as North LCMS District President

The North Dakota District Convention is over and many decisions that were made that will effect mission and ministry here and around the world for years to come.  The District in Convention decided to start a new mission in Stanley and decided on “mission Guidelines” to be used in mission starts.  There were decisions made about Project 24 that will be discussed in the future and there were many great Bible studies and papers presented by Rev. Daniel Preus.

One of the simple statements that has really struck me was from Pastor Preus paper on being Lutheran – he said – “where there is the forgiveness of sins there is life and salvation.  The opposite is also true, where there is no forgiveness there is no life and there is no salvation”.






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The Shield of Heaven


Psalm 5 Verse 12. “As with a shield.” Luther, when making his way into the presence of Cardinal Cajetan, who had summoned him to answer for his heretical opinions at Augsburg, was asked by one of the Cardinal’s staff, where he should find a shelter, if his patron, the Elector of Saxony, should desert him? “Under the shield of heaven!” was the reply. The silenced questioner turned round, and went his way.


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The Demise of Criticism



Watching the news this morning I was interested to see how much criticism is out there, where it is directed, and by whom, and why.  I was also interested to see the results when someone points the finger at a sports figure, movie star, politician of whoever.  Rather than admitting the beneficial nature of criticism when we are wrong or defending the truth when we are right Luther hit on the usual response –

“The ears of our generation have been made so delicate by the senseless multitude of flatterers that, as soon as we perceive that anything of ours is not approved of, we cry out that we are being bitterly assailed; and when we can repel the truth by no other pretense, we escape by attributing bitterness, impatience, intemperance, to our adversaries.”
Martin Luther, Concerning Christian Liberty


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Living Between Hope and Fear.

hope and fear

Psalm 5 Verse 7. “But as for me,” etc. A blessed verse this! a blessed saying! The words and the sense itself, carry with them a powerful contrast. For there are two things with which this life is exercised, HOPE and FEAR, which are, as it were, those two springs of Judges 1:15, the one from above, the other from beneath. Fear comes from beholding the threats and fearful judgments of God; as being a God in whose sight no one is clean, every one is a sinner, every one is damnable. But hope comes from beholding the promises, and the all-sweet mercies of God; as it is written (Psalm 25:6), “Remember, O Lord, thy loving kindnesses, and thy tender mercies which have been ever of old.” Between these two, as between the upper and nether millstone, we must always be ground and kept, that we may never turn either to the right hand or to the left. For this turning is the state peculiar to hypocrites, who are exercised with the two contrary things, security and presumption. Martin Luther.


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Can Any Good Come?

Baby and Mom

John 1 – Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote– Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”…

Nathanael’s response to Philip when Philip shared the exciting news, are the words of a skeptic; a doubter; a cynic.  “Nazareth?  That God forsaken dump – that horrible place?!  There’s nothing there!  The promised Messiah is going to come from Nazareth?  Why on earth would God do that?  It can’t be.”

Before I get on my high horse and go after Nathanael, I asked myself how often I voiced very similar questions when confronted with God’s will and working in your life or something that I have been working for with others.  “Can anything good come out of this—this place, this occurrence, this person, this project, even this set of circumstances?  Why is this happening to me?  Why would God use or work through that guy?  Why on earth would God cause or permit this to happen?” Worse yet, you know as well as I do that there are times that God is working great and wonderful things in our lives; real and tangible things we can see and hear and behold—i.e., the Word rightly taught and the Sacraments rightly administered—but because these things don’t match with our great expectations, our visions, and our assumptions of how things are supposed to be, we’re quick to dismiss, to rebel, to argue, and to fight.  We’ll take a bold stand and raise hell and cause schism, all because “this couldn’t possibly be of or from God.” Why?  Because it’s not what we expected?

We have been going through some of that with Project 24.  Things haven’t been working in ways that we expected and in some instance things haven’t been working.  We are sorting it out the best we as human beings can.  Working with partners.  Changing some partners and looking for others.  We have had a time of “restructuring”, and I hate to use that word but we are moving forward.  There has been a lot of prayer too and sometimes our prayers weren’t answered the way we thought.

I have not shared a lot of information on what has happened because it deals with partners that we care about very much and we want to put the best construction on everything and so in the weeks ahead we hope to lay out a new direction and a new day for work with at risk kids and orphans in Kenya.  We are hoping to be able at some time to send Mary Okeyo travelers again but that is a ways off.  Thanks for your continued support, and please continue to pray.


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Impetus for Mission and Mercy – Christ is Lord

Matthew 16Sunday is the Feast of the Confession of St. Peter.  Matthew 16:13-17: 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

The conviction the Jesus is the Christ and the Lord is an impetus to witness to Him so that others can be brought into His Kingdom.  Mercy work is a way of fighting against the principalities and powers that rule this present darkness and to witness to Christ’s dominion of light.  Witness and mercy  exercises in faith and sharing of faith.  The object of mission is to bring others to faith.  The object of mercy is witness to faith and help the neighbor.

Luther commenting on this lesson says, “So whoever wishes to learn what faith is and where it comes from, let him pay attention to what Christ here says. “Flesh and blood,” he says, “has not revealed this to you.” He means that this faith is not a human notion that a person can create or conceive by himself. The Father in heaven must grant it. He must ignite the flame in the heart. And what does the Father use for this? He uses nothing else than the Word and his Holy Spirit. This is the one way that a person comes to a recognition of Christ and faith.

Indeed, flesh and blood, that is, our understanding, knows nothing of such things. It is as a candle that one lights at night and it shines just fine. But when the bright day dawns and sunlight bathes everything, the candlelight disappears; it shines and illuminates no more, because the sun is too strong and bright. It is that way with faith. A bright and brilliant light it is, while our understanding is dark in contrast to it. So then whoever wants to say that such a light, superior to all human understanding, ignited in the heart by God alone, is a shriveled, worthless thing, can do so. But we must consider it the highest, greatest work of God, in comparison to which all man’s accomplishments, understanding, and abilities are nothing.

It is important too in this regard, that we do not become secure and cocksure, as if we already had grace in fullest capacity. For one must beseech God daily that through his Holy Spirit he would ignite this bright light in us and keep it ablaze. For the devil takes no holiday and is a bitter foe of this light, rains down on it fiercely and drenches it, and blows and blasts against it on every side, intent on suppressing it and snuffing it out. Therefore we have every good reason to beseech God that he would keep us in good heart and confidence before our dear Lord Christ and graciously protect us from all conflicting thoughts.

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