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Archive for April, 2017

A Pastoral Letter

The Missouri Synod was organized at First Saint Paul’s church in Chicago in the spring of 1847.

Years later their Pastor wrote a letter.

A pastoral letter from the Rev. James G. Manz informs his parishioners that four Moslems recently attended the Sunday evening vesper service at First St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. Three of the group also attended the Wednesday evening adult inquiry class. The two men were evidently born, trained, and educated in Mohammedan culture. The two women, however, were both converts to Islam -one was a former
Methodist and the other a former Lutheran (Missouri Synod). These people came to First St. Paul’s not to observe in an openminded manner, nor to engage in true dialog but to convert Christians to their faith, the pastor or any members they would be able to win. They were intelligent, ,well educated, informed, assertive, and bold in an almost unbearable manner. They were absolutely sure of their position. After the Sunday evening vespers they ex·pressed strong objections to the crucifix on the altar. They repeatedly claimed that they believe in Jesus Christ -yet they denied His deity and all vestiges of orthodox Christian and Biblical teaching concerning our Lord and Savior. Shukar Ilahi Husain, the leader of the group, said that he is the director of the U. S. Islamic missions in the midwestern states. These people are n0t in any way connected with the “Black Muslim” groups. In response to questioning, he also said he and his work are supported by a group within Islam with headquarters in West Pakistan. The telephone directory lists his office as “The Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam – Mosque.” Husain claimed that since coming to Chicago he has gained approximately 30 converts in the area. He also maintained that these people were not “fringe Christians” but actual church members at the time of their conversion to Islam. Mr. Husain hopes that he will be able to establish a mosque here in Chicago. He estimates that at the present time there are roughly 1,000,000 Moslems in the United States. The Islamic group glories in the fact that
their fellow religionists are gaining far more than the Christians in Africa.

“This encounter was a unique, shaking, and sobering experience,” according to Pastor Manz. “In my years at First St. Paul’s I have counseled with a former Communist, and have met with “fellow-travelers,” Jews, Buddhists, “free-thinkers,” anti-clericals, etc.  I never before, however, have I met with people of such militant, assertive, and hostile views towards Christ and Christians. These people are extremely anti-Christian. They are determined to win Christians away from the church to what they regard as the true faith. “There are several Buddhist congregations that are now fairly well established in the city of Chicago. One of them near here is in the heart of Old Town, just north and west of First St. Paul’s. Our people are going to be encountering non-Christians in greater numbers. “There is a warning in all of this. For years missionaries have been warning of the rising tide of the old non-Christian religions Islam, Buddhism, Shintoism, etc. Innercity pastors have seen the beginning of new anti-clerical, anti-Christian, and other hostile forces in our land. This experience has shown again that we Christians are going to have to be better informed, stronger in our faith in Christ, more knowledgeable in the Scriptures, and more fearless and clear in our confession. It may even be that the church is going to lose some ground and be stripped of some of its earthly prerogatives, powers, and wealth. Yet Christ will grant new spiritual strength!”

The letter was written in 1965

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Praying for the Persecuted.

The LCMS passed a resolution at our last convention that encouraged congregations and individuals to raise awareness about the plight of Christians being persecuted around the world and if nothing else to pray for them.  Persecution of Christians has reached an all time high, to the point where Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world.

Many Coptic Christians and others have been persecuted in Egypt in the last few weeks and the Pope bravely went to Egypt to visit and then celebrate Mass.  It is a brave show of solidarity with persecuted Christians and I am sure a nightmare for Egyptian security.

There is an interesting view about how far solidarity among Christians extends in a portion of an article written for USA Today by Jacob Wirtschafter and Mina Nader on April 29.  “Around 25,000 Catholics and others were slated to attend the mass. Coptic, Greek Orthodox and other Christian leaders were also expected, said Father Rafik Greish, the head of the Information Office of the Egyptian Catholic Church. “They will have seats of honor and be wearing their turbans and robes but will not be taking part in the Eucharist,” he said.”

It is a simple fact that the Catholic Church practices a form of “close communion” which means if you are not a Catholic you cannot come to the Lord’s Supper.  It is explained this way –

“Scripture is clear that partaking of the Eucharist is among the highest signs of Christian unity: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor. 10:17). For this reason, it is normally impossible for non-Catholic Christians to receive Holy Communion, for to do so would be to proclaim a unity to exist that, regrettably, does not.  Another reason that many non-Catholics may not ordinarily receive Communion is for their own protection, since many reject the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Scripture warns that it is very dangerous for one not believing in the Real Presence to receive Communion: “For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (1 Cor. 11:29–30). ”

This is interesting because the Catholic statement is identical to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod’s doctrinal stand.  It is a stand to which we get endless criticism.  So much so that one of my first Elders said that being LCMS was a form of persecution because people were always giving him the business because of our communion policy.  Maybe we should get the local Catholic Priest to explain our communion policy to us.

Meanwhile we pray for the persecuted and ask that God would change the hearts of our enemies and persecutors.

 

 

 

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The Local “Forgiveness Person”.

The glorious Easter Gospel is to be preached throughout the world and applied to folks in the local congregation so they have faith in Christ.  As the Lutheran Confessions state, “that we may obtain this faith, the office of teaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given, who works faith where and when it pleases God in those who hear the Gospel. That is, God, not because of our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into favor for Christ’s sake. (AC V). Faith comes by hearing Paul says and then asks the question, how can they hear unless someone preaches?

This is an interesting part of the church that many take for granted and yet others take hard.  I will never forget the women who came to church one Sunday and was furious when I announced the forgiveness of sins.  She felt that she did not need to be forgiven by me or anyone else.  Jesus forgave her, that was all she needed.  I said I was announcing Christ’s forgiveness and she didn’t like that either.

“It has always been dismaying to people that the comfort of the conscience comes down to a local “forgiveness person.” But there is the Holy Spirit using weak people with little words to accomplish what nothing else does: the end of trusting idols and the beginning of faith in Christ. Law and gospel is thus not a method of preaching or
interpretation, but the way that God authors you as unmistakable sinner in yourself; then outside yourself, in Christ, God authors you as pure saint. The preacher must learn the proper application of the pronoun: “you are the one” (as Nathan said to David) and “given for you for the forgiveness of sins” (as Jesus said to his betrayers).”1 Steven D. Paulsen, “Lutheran Assertions Regarding Scripture”, found in “Justification is for Preaching, Essays by Oswald Bayer, Gerhard O. Forde and Others copyright 2012 Virgil Thompson

 

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How are you Going to Pay for It?

I doubt very seriously that anyone has heard that Ben Carson, head of Housing and Urban Development, ran an audit that found 550 billion dollars in accounting errors in that department.  You probably haven’t heard that medicare will be broke in ten years.  The press is too busy counting the hisses that Evanka Trump gets when she speaks overseas and the never ending Russia hacking story that continues under the interesting claim that because there is no evidence of hacking they have to keep investigating.  Of course the biggest story is the jeans being sold at Nordstrom that look like they are covered in mud and sell for $495.

The story that no one wants to talk about is the constant yammering for tax cuts and the constant question of how they are to be “paid for”.  Being products of the public school system most people do not understand that the government pays for nothing – you do.  The government can print money but the only money they have is the money that you are forced to give them.  The other story that most miss, is that the government never cares about how to pay for anything because if they did we would not be trillions in debt.  The fact that there are 550 billion dollars in accounting errors in one department and no gets fired should speak volumes.  VA can’t care properly for Vets and yet they continue to exist.  IRS broke the law and no one in charge was fired or fined, in fact they received bonuses.  There seems to be all kinds of ways we could “pay” for a tax cut is we really wanted to.

Oh well, this is a blog about mercy and some would say that I should be barred from talking politics.  Mercy work through the church costs something of course, but there is “bang for the buck” and not a lot of waste.  I would love to say that there is no politics in the church but that is sadly not true.  The church works in housing issues and development issues and it is done quietly and with a certain amount of sanctified dignity.  Yet now we hear rumblings about work with immigrants as being difficult and politically significant.  We hear rumblings about the cost of care and mercy work that could be spent on churches here at home.  Churches know where their funding comes from and that is the folks in the pew and their sanctified stewardship.  Folks in the pew care about mercy work and maybe do not care so much about the bureaucracy that has to exist to do the work.  The church is very concerned that donors know where their donations go.

Government seems to think that all money is theirs and they get to divvy it up as they see fit.

Back to Nordstrom.  When they got into the political action of banning Trump’s daughter Evanka’s line of stuff, (I don’t know what it was but I am sure it wasn’t muddy jeans) they seem to have gotten into some trouble and certainly with all the other department store issues they need to watch out.  You have to wonder about the sanity of removing a popular line of whatever while running out a line of muddy jeans.  Niemann Marcus took away the Trump line of something as well and quietly brought it back after they watched their stock prices start to tank.  It didn’t help that Amazon had the line and was selling it our every other day.  It looks like the folks at the top of Nordstrom’s, who are overhead, asked them selves how they were going to pay for a political rather than a business decision.  There is a certain amount of hypocrisy here of course, but that is never even considered anymore.  If we looked at the hypocrisy of all things political we might get cynical and ask some questions like; How does President Obama intend to “pay” for the life style that he became so wonderfully accustomed to?  By charging $440000 for speeches to the horrible big banks and Wall Street leeches that he railed about for 8 years.  Like the Clintons he gives the phrase “crony capitalism” a face.

 

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Strengthening an Inherited Idolatry part 2

This is referring back to the blog on April 20.

In a world in which college students need crying time and safe spaces, adult coloring books and stress relieving  animals when Republicans win elections, what we are talking about here may seem strange.  We have been talking about the pure Gospel or the Gospel rightly taught.   We need to understand that the Gospel is about Christ and His death being our death to self and His rising is creating us to be new people.  The new people created are not about self assurance or self justification, but about Christ.  The Gospel is meant to make us unaware of self and aware of Christ and neighbor.  The college students seem to be non self assertive if they need to be locked into a room where they can cry and color and hug animals, but it is the opposite.  The need for those things, and the demands for those things is all about self- actualization and assertion.  The world is about them.  Here is an interesting statement by F.A. Hertwig Jr way back in 1957.

“Have faith! Have faith!” is the advice offered to people who are weary of life. Another way of saying: “Get a hold of yourself, pull yourself together.” Like shaking hands with yourself, talk to yourself, have faith in yourself. Believe what you tell yourself with complete faith, and you have the answer to what you need. This is a popular religion, the doctrine of self-assertion, heathenism in modern form, idolatry. Idolatry advises faith but offers nothing to have faith in. If I’m floundering in the sea, you yell, “Hang on, hang on!” I expect you will throw out something to hang on to, reach for, have faith in. Do not mock me with self-assertion, to pull up my feet with my two hands. This is religion, but not the Christian religion”.

This is not the rightly taught Gospel.  It is again the strengthening of an inherited idolatry.  When ever someone advises you to have faith they are sending you to sinking sand.  “Have Christ” is even a problem.  “Christ has you” is best.  Katy Luther’s famous statement that she “held onto Christ like a burr on a dress” is spoken only from someone who trusts that Christ held onto them first and will never let them go.

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April 25, 2017

The folks around the country watch Fargo – we live it.

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What is Wrong With Being Enthusiastic

Enthusiasm is a word that comes from the idea of being possessed by a God.  Luther used the word to describe people who want Christ without the Word.  He says they seek God where He does not want to be found, and refuse to find Him where He wants to found.

Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God {of Christ]”.   Romans 10

Here is an example of how the old preachers identified and outlined a text so it could be preached – that’s the hearing part.

I. Where it comes from. Ministry of Christ was not yelling, “Have faith, have faith,” from place to place (Mark2:2). “He preached the Word unto them” (Luke9:6), and Acts 8:4: “They departed, preaching the Gospel.” They brought something, not vague mouthings and empty phrases. With no Word of Christ, there is no Word of God, and vice versa. You cannot offer the two separately. No Word, no faith.

II. What comes first-faith or the Word? First comes what Paul invites the mind to think through in v. 14: How can anybody believe something he hasn’t even heard about? The Word comes first. Again, first the Word. This needs emphasis. The Word does not drop out of the sky (v. 14). It is not self-manufactured inner inspiration. Enthusiasm. It comes from outside yourself to your Inside. -“The Word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart; that is, the Word of faith, which we preach” (v. 8). The Word produces faith. Not as though the Word were only a stimulator, a hypo that sends you into faith. Nor is the Word an aircraft carrier’s catapult that whips you off into the wide blue sky. Rather the catapulting power is built right in. The Word that transforms stays on for further forming, it never leaves. You do not switch depots. Faith comes from, and runs on, the same rail, which is the Word. Faith is a smooth express, with never so much as a click; an imperceivable weld in the silence of the heavenly foundry. Faith does not believe one thing and talk another. From the inside it moves to the Outside. -“If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (v. 9). The Easter Christ is handled with the mouth in words. That is in summary the crucial fact, doctrine. The Word that converts is the same that talks. Faith has not brought God down to earth and up again (context); faith has but to accept the redemption as an accomplished fact.

F.A. Hertwig Jr.

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Project 24 Line Up

165 students line up to process in for the opening of the Catechism Competition at the newest Project 24 center at Lenkishon.  Each student received a copy of Luther’s Small Catechism and their own copy of Ibada Takitifu (the Swahili hymnal).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Project 24 Tree Planting

Luther was once asked if he knew the world would end tomorrow what he would do.  He said he would plant a tree today.  Here is a tree planting at the Othoro Project 24 Boarding Facility

 

 

 

 

 

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Baptisms at Udom

Before their journey to Lenkishon, 11 children were baptized from our Project 24 Udom site.  For those who claim that mercy projects like Project 24 are not important and should not be considered with Missions, the great commission order to Baptize was on display at the Udom Boarding Facilty last month.  11 children were baptized by the local Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya pastor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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