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Archive for April, 2015

What is Justice?


The quote is attributed to Martin Luther King but “fairness” insists that you know it actually comes from Amos 5:24.  Amos was famous for calling for justice and you will be hearing about justice until you are blue in the face in the weeks ahead.  There is a lot of bleating about “justice”, but there are not many definitions out there.  Luther was so frustrated with the term “justice” in the Bible  that it drove him to distraction.

What is justice?  There are principles of justice that serve as definitions but the problem comes in when people try and actually practice the principles.

One principle is “fairness.  Legal philosophers have a field day with this concept. Any pastor who’s ever taught confirmation class can sympathize with the ultimate question of what fairness is. A pop quiz on the second article of the creed is absolutely fair to the smartest kid in the class. It’s considered unfair by everyone else.  The very subjective nature of “fairness”, can be seen every day simply by listening to the political cacophony that surrounds us. Yet in many ways this will be the principle I would probably look closest at in making a case for the kind of justice that people will call for.

What does it mean to be fair?  I remember playing ball back in the day and the other team said it was unfair when we scored a run.  Why?  Because our center fielder was faster than anyone on their team.  So should we have put a cast on the leg of our center fielder to make the game fair?  Is a pop quiz not fair to everyone?  Should I have given the quiz to the smart kid and given the rest a chance to study.  Is that fair to the smart kid?  It would be terribly unfair to the smart kid.  Fairness means that there should be no distinction or partiality.

James 2:1-5 ESV

“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?”


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Fields of Grass

flowers fall


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The Rise of the Tantrum.

Ecclesiastes 6

I’m sure some will say this is really simplistic and silly but…..we are surrounded by tantrums.  The ESPN chick that melted down at the impound lot; the movie stars and college students that threw fits about “American Sniper”; the press officials who never answer questions and get mad when they are asked, and maybe even some policemen are throwing tantrums.  What is happening in Baltimore is a big tantrum.  I am convinced that the nature of human beings is the belief that they are the center of all things.  That really is original sin.  It is respect and love and trust in self rather than in God.  It is the Korean Airlines commercial writ large – “It’s all about you!”

Children come out of the womb believing that they are the center of the universe and we have raised generations that have fostered that belief.  As we enter the graduation season we will hear again how this new batch of grads are the best, most educated, brightest and greatest generation in history but please print their graduation card because they can’t read it otherwise.  So we brainwash a generation into believing that they can do anything without giving them the tools and the education.  When they realize that the world is tough and competitive they have tantrums.

Baltimore is and example of a huge tantrum.  What happened to the young man that died in police custody is a tragedy and a crime that will be sorted out, but what happened in Baltimore is a tantrum by those who say that they have been forgotten and no one pays attention to the inner cities.  Here is a frightening question – what happens if those who have been paying for the “war on poverty” for half a century have a tantrum and refuse to pay?

Christians believe in social justice and mercy and concern for the poor and the needy.  It is not optional for a Christian to engage in acts of mercy and service or not.  At the same time Christians have a powerful understanding of human nature and depravity that cannot be condoned or glossed over either.

Luther had a wonderful “take” on an interesting passage from Ecclesiastes 6:7.  Here is the way your Bible probably translates it – “Everyone’s toil is for their mouth, yet their appetite is never satisfied.”

Here is Luther’s take –

Toil is meted out to all men after the fashion of each, yet his soul is not satisfied. In Hebrew it reads: “All the toil of man is according to his mouth,” a phraseology that is peculiar to them. Moses uses this word “mouth” to mean fashion, or measure, this way in Gen. 47:12, speaking of Joseph: “And he provided them and all his father’s household with food, furnishing rations to each.” The Hebrew reads: “And he provided for them by providing according to the mouth”; that is, he provided for the entire household of his father after the fashion of infants, to whom rations are furnished even though they do no work. And Ex. 12:4 says: “According to the mouth of each you shall eat the Passover,” that is, according to the measure of
those who can eat the lamb. Thus also Solomon says here: “All their toil is according to their mouth,” that is, according to the fashion or the measure of each; in other words, each man has a certain amount of toil. God assigns to each man his toil in accordance with his powers and in keeping with his calling. In German we say it this way: “Each one has his allotted share.” To each one God has assigned his portion. A boy ought to toil in one way, a man in another; a magistrate ought to toil in one way, a private citizen in another. He wants you to be trained by means of infantile duties or labors, as though you were an infant, while the prince is trained with arduous and great ones. This is the source of the common saying: “Whatever one’s official position is, that is the apron he receives.” In this way, therefore, he calls us away from alien anxieties to our own business. Nor does he forbid toil. In fact, he declares that one must toil, but he wants you to do your duty happily in accordance with your assigned task and to leave other things to other people. He wants us to enjoy our pleasure, but in God, so that we do not abandon ourselves to pleasure when it is present, as the wicked do, nor grieve when it is absent but bear it with equanimity. You should, he says, have a happy spirit and an active body, but in such a way that you abide in your assigned
place. Do not be like the envious person, who pursues what belongs to others: the merchant envies the soldier; the soldier counts his troubles and envies the merchant; the old man envies the youth. We turn our gaze away from our own real happiness, and with intense distress we look at the happiness of other people. No one is able to consider the good things he has or to be content with his lot; if he were to consider himself, he would not long so much for what belongs to others. If, for example, old men could see the dangers that afflict youth, they would not want to be young. On the other hand, if young men could see the many discomforts of old age, they would be willing to bear their own discomforts and would not begrudge
the elderly their comforts. But we do not do this; instead, we are always looking at what belongs to others and despising what belongs to us. Thus the rich miser looks at and desires what he does not have, but neglects what he does have. For “his soul is not satisfied,” that is, he does not stick to his assigned task.

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Arrest This Mom!

tough mom

As CBS News so eloquently said many times last night the issues in Baltimore involved “children”, poor little waifs that got caught up in peer pressure and the frustration of being black in white America.  Then along comes this mom (at least we believe this is a mother and her son) who finds her little boy throwing a rock and she gives him five or six upside the head, humiliates him in front of his friends and classmates, practically frog marches him through crowds and past the press and cameras and it is all over the headlines.  The mayor wanted to “give those who wished to destroy space to do that”, (that is a quote, she said it) and young ones took her at her word and now this mom gets mad and humiliates her son.  How will children ever grow to be law abiding adults if they never have the space to destroy stuff?  What she did was child abuse and when the police have time they should find her and arrest her.

I’m kind of expecting someone to say something like the above sometime today .  Watching this mom go after this kid in front of his friends was actually kind of neat.  Embarrassment is a huge motivator.  I remember my mom chasing me home after finding me doing something stupid and it changed the way I acted and also the way my friends acted.  One of my friends said that he probably stayed out of trouble through High School because he was afraid of my mom.  Of course no one in this enlightened age would condone punching children and this women has a nasty right hand, but …if you are old enough to throw a brick at a cop maybe you need a punch in the head.  But then I don’t know if a punch can fix stupid and the stupidity seems rampant everywhere from the office of the mayor to other offices about an hours drive down 195 from Baltimore.

Christianity in America is considered offensive and doctrinaire and mean (at least the branches of it that still consider sin to be ……well ……sin) but there were some pretty good ideas about how to handle the “children”.

Here are just three but I suppose they sound pretty harsh.  If you think they are harsh ask yourself a simple question – how harsh is life in a society when the police are expected to be law enforcers, psychologists, peace keepers, property protectors and parents?

Proverbs 29:15  The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother

Proverbs 29:17 Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.








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The Mission Society and Mission Societies.

photo (14)

A society is the aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community.  As disordered as it may seem the world has become one rather large and more or less ordered society.  I remember sitting in the living room of the Earth Watch Institutes compound at Wamba, Kenya, which to me was pretty close to the end of the earth, and finding folks from Brainerd Minnesota had signed the quest book.  This sign struck me at how small the world has become.  Have you been to West Africa in the last 21 days?

I don’t believe that I am wrong about this – in my life time there was a time when it could have taken you 21 days to get to West Africa, or at least the place where you were going to visit there.  I was involved in a conversation about a book written in 1962 in which the author spends a huge amount of time describing a flight from London to New York.  The writing is great and makes you fell like you are on the flight but the conversation revolved around the amount of time spent in the description.  One of the folks in the conversation said, “we need to remember that when that book was written, few of the people that would read that book had been or would be on a flight from London to New York for quite some time”.  In fact few of the people reading the book would be on an airplane flying anywhere for quite a while.  My first trip on a jet was between Minneapolis and Denver in 1971 and it was a huge deal.  I wore a suit.  They gave me champagne and a full meal.  It took my parents and me 6 months to get the money to pay for the trip.

Sixty Two million Americans flew on all flights foreign and domestic in 1960.  In 2010 the number was 720 million.  Mission Societies can get on a plane and take folks over to some project somewhere and be home again in Perham MN or Newburg ND in a lot less than 21 days.  So even though the world is becoming a large and ordered society it can still be a dangerous place as recent events show us.  The ability and desire of Christians to do good works and advance the mission of the Gospel is imperative.  Take the time to find out from those who know what the dangers are, what the result of your trip might be and whether or not it is efficacious.  Call your District President or the Office of International Missions and see how your mission society can best serve in the larger society that needs “mission”.






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The Bafflement of Self Importance.

self importance

“Have we ever got into the way of letting God work, or are we so amazingly important that we really wonder in our nerves and ways what the Almighty does before we are up in the morning!” – Oswald Chambers

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International School Visitors

photo (13)

Members of the Board of International Missions have been invited to visit the International Schools in the far East – the “Concordias” are in Shanghai China, Hong Kong and Hanoi, Viet Nam.   There is a system of International Schools and here the members are visiting Buena Vista Concordia International School in Shenzhen China.

The Board members are on the left – second from left – Butch Almsted, next to the right is President Yung, then Lois Peacock and John Edson.  Other visitors are members of International School Board.

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has always had a strong focus on education. As the mission field expanded beyond the United States, the LCMS opened schools throughout Asia.

Today there are nearly 200 Lutheran schools in Asia, and the LCMS operates three international schools.

We pray that God would bless the travelers and their trip.












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Merciful Maker of All Things – the Missionary Enterprise According to Jesus.

Jesus said that the missionary enterprise, preaching repentance and faith to all nations, was written already in the Old Testament.

Luke 24:44-53New International Version (NIV)

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

Repentance and faith are pictured so well in Psalm 51.  David’s pleas that God create in him a clean heart is a picture of sorrow over sin and faith that God is the God who “blots out transgression”.  We used to sing that Psalm in the offertory every Sunday and it is still a part of the liturgy that most of us memorized.

This is my take on the offertory and a song I wrote called “Merciful Maker of All Things”.

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Project 24 – The New Project Manager

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The Missionary Enterprise and the Manifold Wisdom of God.

church purposed by God

“Who would have thought God could find a way to save man from what he had coming after he had slapped God in the face with his unbelief and disobedience? Who would ever have thought that God would plan to sacrifice his Son as the substitute for the human race? Who would ever .have thought God would plan to use human beings like Paul to tell about the Savior? Who would ever have thought their message would have the power to make spiritual corpses alive? God did. When his plan unfolded and they saw what resulted the angels saw how wise he is. When we with them see God’s endless wisdom revealed in the creation of the church, we surely can be certain that our Savior‑God is able to supply our every need and solve every problem for us.”  Irwin J. Habeck, Ephesians: Amazing Grace (Milwaukee: NPH, 1985), page 64.

The church is eternally purposed by God to witness to governments and principalities and powers, the manifold wisdom of God.  (Ephesians 3)  The missionary enterprise at its heart, should have the purpose of establishing a church.






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