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Archive for August, 2015

Project 24 Forum Visits

0829151309aBill Sharpe, of the North Dakota District, Karl Webber, vice President of Minnesota North, and Josh Reimche, secretary of the North Dakota District are visiting in Kenya as part of the first Project 24 forum.  These forums are a big deal and a huge difference between how Project 24 operated in the past.  We will explain all of that in future blogs.

I believe that this is a center at a place called Kisumu ( please forgive my memory if I am wrong) but when I was there the place was complete but not painted.  Then there was a tornado that tore it down.  It was redone and flooded and then delayed in opening because there was no water.  These kinds of situations were par for the course and we will talk about that in other blogs as well.  Anyway a new day has dawned and here is Bills remarks (I always knew he was English)

This forum is going well. They are reporting and discussing well. Planning
to open 4 centres next year while improving existing sites. Kissinger has
introduced cost sharing with ELCK. There are two new dioceses. Diocese
staffs very active Kissinger (Kenyan Project Manager) is really poking these site manager’s for
accurate financial info. He’s finding the errors in their reports and
being very direct seeking clarification.

We need to remember that the churches work is the same as Paul’s work – “to make all see what is the fellowship  of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.”  (Ephesians 3:9-12).  We will be talking about the spiritual struggle that takes place as we seek to do mercy work and witness in future blogs.

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Project 24 Partner Visits

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As we have been saying Project 24 has had a reset and is progressing well.  One of the facets of the program is the Bible Club program being implemented to teach the Bible and catechism.  The Bible clubs are competitions and our team was able to visit one of these.  The team is Bill Sharpe, Josh Reimche, pastor at Bottineau ND, and Pastor Webber from Minnesota North.  You can’t make it our from this distance but the red t shirts have Project 24 emblems on them.

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Ukrainian Lutherans Speak

Dr. Collver is in the Ukraine visiting with  the Lutheran churches there.  Interesting history.   We don’t hear a lot about the Russian invasion that is going on now, but the Ukraine has had a tough history.  Lutherans have been there from the beginning and continue their witness to Christ and the Cross.  They are another group of Christians trying to be faithful in the midst of power politics.  They may not be persecuted now but they have been.  Groups that are persecuted can be forgotten if we let them be.  Let us not do that.  Right now around the world Christians are more persecuted than any other religious group.  Speak up.

check this out –

 

 

 

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Last Words

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When I was a little boy I was taught that human beings are thinking animals. When I became a teacher of young people I began to realize that they were being taught that they are feeling machines.
In “2001 a Space Oddessy ” the computer “Hal” is being unplugged, put to sleep, disconnected, or dying, depending on your perspective. As more and more of his memory is removed he goes back to his creator and sings the first song he was taught, “a bicycle fit for two”.

There is something remarkably sad about that scene and the idea of the last conscious thought being the first words uttered. How many folks will go to eternity with their last thought “me” or “mine”? I would like to think that the words might be “please” and “thank you” but that might be too much to hope for.
I would hope the last conscious thought would be a prayer.  Luther we pray because of our own and neighbors great need, and thanksgiving for blessings received.  He also said that the Gospel disappears because of unthankfulness.

 

 

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The Room is Dark

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“H. G.Wells has a story of a man who is left in a room in a house reputed to be haunted. The terror of the story is furnished by the effect on the man’s mind of a row of candles slowly going out one by one. That story is a picture of what has happened and is happening today to a large number of people. One by one the lights in which they have trusted have gone out. And the room is dark.”

So wrote Eric Malte back in 1949. Five years after a terrible war was ended and the tumult of the next decade was about to begin. We experience the same today. There does seem to be a kind of hopelessness that is evidenced strangely enough by the exuberance with which we seem to run around in our lives.

Some people think that mercy work is hopeless. Feeding hungry people is hopeless because they get hungry again is the nihilistic attitude exhibited by many who should know better.

As Malte continues, “Hope in the New Testament is not a shallow optimism concerning tomorrow. It is not looking at the world and life through rose-colored glasses. Hope for the redeemed and for- given heart is really nothing but our faith extended into tomorrow. A Christian writer once said: “Faith is the first, love the greatest, and hope the last thing in a Christian life.” These three always belong together. God always gives us all three of them together and at the same time. As we believe, we love; as we love, we look hopefully to Him who by His resurrection has turned our eyes upward to the gates of heaven, swinging open to receive us pilgrims at the close of life’s little day.
Our regeneration issues in a life of hope, hope of eternal life secured and assured by Jesus Christ, the risen Lord. Our first birth ends in physical death; this new birth, this regenera- tion, issues in life eternal, in a life of hope, thanks to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The words have a special force when we remember that Peter was raised by his Master’s resurrection from the despair and hopelessness that found utterance in his threefold denial to a hope a living hope, that no changes of fortune could ever shake. Our hope is living, not merely because it is active, but because it is divine and eternal, bound up with His eternal life.”

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Remembering Robert and Klemet.

doctrine is lifeThis is a great read.  Order it from Concordia Publishing House –

Doctrine is Life: Robert D. Preus Essays on Justification and the Lutheran Confessions

Item #: 531150WEB / 2006 / Hardback / 378 Pages

On August 15 and 16 I wrote about some remembrances of Robert Preus and received quite a bit of feed back.  My acquaintance with Klemet was close enough that I spent much time with him and therefore was able to spend some time with his Dad too.  My time with Klemet was a theological and comedic feast and a constant discussion of doctrine.  Klemet invited me to speak and teach several times at Wittenberg Chapel and I had the privilege of officiating at the weddings of several young people that I came to know from that relationship.  One memory that has come back over and over again since Klemet’s death was a discussion we were having with a group of those students when one of the young ladies asked an interesting question of the two of us.  “Don’t you ever talk about anything but doctrine?” she asked.  She asked it so sweetly that I wasn’t offended but I was at a loss for words.  Klemet of course never was and immediately replied, “There isn’t anything else”.  There ensued a long discussion that boiled down to the proposition that the doctrine of Justification is the doctrine about everything.

Interesting to me was that Robert, the great theologian of Justification, was much more pastoral in private conversation.  With Klemet the doctrinal discussion had the feel of a cutting edge world view honed by life on a campus and seeing the cultural divide that was cutting through at every level, much fueled by the pantheistic worldview of academe.   Klemet was seeing the first small wave of what would be a tsunami that has engulfed our life together and that we glibly call postmodernism.

Robert saw the same things as clearly and could write about them in the scholarly arena like no one else.  But the private conversations were tales of surviving blizzards by sleeping in the back seat of a car trusting that parishioners that knew you had gone to make calls would search and dig you out of the snow back when it was over.  At least that allowed you to sleep as the wind howled.  If they didn’t come?  Well “whether we live or die we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 14)  Christ’s death that brought him life and Christ’s life that he lived by faith were not just theological propositions but an ever present reality.

He could be eloquent when describing the joys of a parish pastor who finally gets to witness the folks that he serves “grabbing hold of, and being grabbed by, the word of God”.  He could be quite severe with those that he believed had sold their confessional birthright for a mess of pottage that separated doctrine and practice.  He told a story several times of an old parishioner in Minnesota that said something that he never would forget, and evidently neither would his son: “Doctrine is life”.

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Hash Tag This and Tweet That.

Wrote this in my local newspaper.  Just because I write a blog doesn’t mean that I am a hypocrite.

#This

I have noticed more and more “concerned” folks out there. They are not mad, ticked off or frustrated, they are “concerned”. A few years ago a “concerned” man wrote a great book called “Christless Christianity; The Alternative Gospel of the American Church”. His name was Micheal Horton and he said, “My concern is that we are getting dangerously close to the place in everyday American church life where the Bible is mined for ‘relevant’ quotes but is largely irrelevant on its own terms; God is used as a personal source rather than known, worshiped, and trusted; Jesus Christ is a coach with a good game plan for our victory rather than a Savior who has already achieved it for us; salvation is more a matter of having our best life now than being saved from God’s judgment by God himself; and the Holy Spirit is an electrical outlet we can plug into for the power we need to be all that we can be.”

Rachel Barach the manager of “Biblegateway” an on-line Bible Study tool commenting on the amount of use the site gets says “The truth is, all this digital accessibility, all the hours spent reading Scripture on our laptops and mobile devices, all of these verses broadcast out to our friends via social media may not be having the impact we might expect on Bible engagement and Christian maturity — on our understanding and application of Scripture, on biblical literacy, on our connection to church and Christian community, on our lens for seeing and serving a broken world.”

Well now I am concerned. You mean to tell me that all that personal piety out there and personal encounters with “my Jesus”, and prayers offered up to “my God” based upon an appeal on Facebook has led to less engagement in the church and less Christian activity in the world? Can it be possible that 140 letters and a hash tag may lead our Biblical understanding to be as shallow as our political understanding? The devil likes the former and politicians like the latter.

We have, like all things in this society, made faith a “personal thing”. The Bible is only important in what it says to me. Christ is relevant when he is relevant to me. We may not have heard it because preachers are getting into the act of simplifying the scriptures and personalizing them to the detriment of faith, but the Biblical witness is that faith cannot be personal and be Biblical. Personal faith always translates into a community created by Christ that he calls His body and we call the church. It is tough to get into 140 characters but the Bible says that Christ is the Savior of the Body which is His Church and that Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for it (Ephesians 5). Everything that Christ does is done in community. The exceptions are when He goes off alone and prays and look it up; those occasions take place in the midst of a great temptation to make a church out of the results of miraculous mercy, rather than repentance and faith. All the great mission movements in Acts take place in community. Paul and Barabbas wait to go on a mission trip until the entire church at Antioch give them the OK. The Biblical evidence is that Christ’s forgiveness, salvation, and grace is dispensed through His body, the church, and the church is a community whether we like it or not. All of this activity is to bring individuals to the place where they forget their individuality and give glory to God and help to their neighbor. The sinner, the human turned in upon him/herself, forgiven in Christ becomes turned outward to neighbor in love. Just the opposite of the self and selfie absorbed social media addict of today.

My computer tells me that this is 683 words long. More than most people have the attention span to read and more than the paper probably wants to print. 140 characters is easier so #that.

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Willow Creek Again.

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A portion of the Cemetery at Willow Creek – Then people who lived in the wooded area at the top of the picture took their children to school in a bobsled in the winter.  It seems to be about 10 miles as the crow flies to the school in Gardena.

I was reminiscing about a story that Robert Preus told about being stuck in a blizzard overnight some where around Warren or Thief River Minnesota if my memory serves.  I thought of all the times I have been stuck or have driven through some really bad weather.  The memories were fed by a story that my mother told us on the cemetery tour (see August 22, “The Organ at Willow”).  She said that the people that used to live just to the north of the cemetery at Willow Creek ND took their children to Gardena to school every morning in the winter by bobsled and picked them up every night by the same.  Not a big deal back then but in my mind a huge deal especially in light of this letter received about the blog.

Pastor,
I would love to hear the history of that huge organ.  We saw it on a particularly
stormy, muddy congregational anniversary Sunday.  The roads out to the church were
an exercise for those who think they can drive on and in anything! I was amazed when
I saw the organ and would have loved to have heard someone really open it up!!It
fairly dwarfs the whole sanctuary!  What a gem in an often forgotten and not easily
gotten to part of the world!

If you can help with the history please let me know.

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Diaper Cake and Card/Gift Shower

IMG_20150819_141609548_HDRThis is the decoration for the card/gift shower for the newest member at Zion.  Never heard of a diaper cake before.  Kind of neat.  The cake will decorate the table for 2 weeks and then the baby gets the stuff.  Nice idea.

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The Organ at “Willow”

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I took my Mother on the annual cemetery tour around Bottineau.  We visit and check on the graves at Willow Creek, Bottineau, Gardena and north of Carbury.  We started at Willow Creek and it is always fun to visit there because of the old pipe organ.  As we pulled into the church yard we heard the organ playing which is a bit eerie.  I went in and frightened the young lady playing the organ.  She is from Texas and playing at “Willow” for the summer.  We visited for a bit and she told me her name which I promptly forgot.  She said that she friended me on face book but I don’t think she did.  Anyway you folks at “”Willow” are blessed to have such an accomplished musician and dedicated organist. If someone would tell me the young ladies name I would appreciate it.

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