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From the Barricades to Google Search

Earlier in the week I quoted from Shakespeare. “Hung be the heavens with black” which comes from Henry V. Now we have a new quote the comes from Henry V, as well.   “The empty vessel makes the most noise”, of course was replaced with “barrel”. I also mentioned before that we might start to be getting more erudite in this country because the press have to scramble to figure out what “dotard” meant when the Korean dictator called Donald Trump one. Suddenly the media is scrambling to look up all kinds of words and phrases that they obviously never heard before. The vituperous comments on some media outlets about words that were never used in white people’s neighborhoods such as empty, barrels, and noise, seems to be rather strange and probably racist. I guess there are no empty barrels in white Boston neighborhoods. They only exist in the south, and must have been used for lynching.  Lunacy like that could probably use some serious scholarship to figure it out, or maybe some serious couch time.

We live in interesting times when “the resistance” has to leave the barricades and find a dictionary or run to Google search.

I had two aunts who were very classy and they had wonderful vocabularies. They could insult you five different ways in a short conversation and you would go away feeling good about yourself. I was proud that they cared enough to insult me.  Further more it helped me learn stuff.  A few minutes with them and I was wandering off looking for a dictionary.  The medias various hobby horses, like the connection between the poem at the bottom of the Statue of Liberty and the statue; the meaning of “ban”, “dotard”, and “illegal”, who it is that actually is supposed to originate spending bills under the constitution; etc, can be quite educational in a country that seems to be more and illiterate as time goes on.  Of course when some who are not naturally obtuse decide to deliberately be stupid the education takes on some added importance.


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Denise Lien R+I+P

Denise Lien was baptized and confirmed at Zion English Lutheran Church, and graduated from Grafton High School and North Dakota State School of Science. We knew her as Denise Schultz. Denise married Roger Lien on September 3, 1983 in Grafton, ND.  She died last week October 7 in Lakeville MN.

Denise is survived by her husband, Roger; sons, Tim and Jason; grandson, Isaak; brothers, David (Karen) Schultz, Allan Schultz, and Loren Schultz; father and mother in-law, DeWayne and Bonnie, and seven nieces and nephews. Denise is preceded in death by her parents, Earl and Grace Schultz. Funeral services were held at Farmington Lutheran Church on Friday. There will be a burial at the Zion Acton Cemetery in Grafton, ND on today at 12pm. Friends are welcome and a fellowship lunch is planned at Zion afterwards.


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The Distinction Between the Law and the Gospel


I am finding gems in my old notes and stuff I wrote in the margins of class papers but I have no way of quoting or giving a reference to who said it and when.  Here is one –

“The Gospel is a rare guest in men’s hearts; the Law, however, is a star boarder in man’s heart, because by nature reason knows the Law.” Therefore Luther admonished his co-workers to strive with might and main to maintain this precious truth and properly distinguish between the Law and the Gospel.  But already in his own day he saw evidences that even the Church of the Reformation would not retain this article in its truth and purity. What Luther foresaw has been realized fully in the subsequent history of the Protestant Church. In fact, the entire history of doctrine in Protestantism can be viewed as a continuous mingling of Law and Gospel. The same antitheses which Luther encountered are still plaguing the Church today and come to the surface in various forms of Protestant theology.

It is usual to place all non ­Roman Christian denominations into one category under the nondescript term “Protestants.” They are not aware of the basic difference which divides Protestantism into two definite camps, Lutheran and Reformed theology. These two theological camps are separated by such a deep chasm that it is impossible to bring the two together.

This is important stuff and I tell folks all the time that the reset button for human beings always goes to self righteousness and legalism.  It is important to stay on top of the old nature and get this doctrine right.  Concordia Publishing House has come to our aid again and published a wonderful collection of essays on the distinction between the Law and the Gospel.

This is a post from the International Lutheran Council before the publication-

USA – When representatives of the North American Lutheran Church (NALC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), and Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) started meeting together more than five years ago, it was decided that the group would sponsor a book of essays on the proper distinction of God’s Law from His Gospel. That book will be available from Concordia Publishing House in August 2017.

Edited by Rev. Dr. Albert Collver III (LCMS), Rev. Dr. James Arne Nestingen (NALC), and Prof. John T. Pless (LCMS), The Necessary Distinction: A Continuing Conversation on Law & Gospel contains thirteen essays on the relationship of the law/gospel distinction to preaching, pastoral care, missions, ethics, and the Christian life. Essayists include Mark Seifrid, William Cwirla, Peter Brock, Larry Vogel, Mark C. Mattes, Naomichi Masaki, James Arne Nestingen, Stephen Hultgren, John T. Pless, Steven Paulson, Albert Collver III, and Roland F. Ziegler.

“I’m pleased that we have brought together a variety of confessional Lutheran scholars from North America and Australia to provide our churches with vigorous and fresh discussion of a theme at the heart of Lutheran theology,” said the work’s editor John T. Pless. “It is our hope that this book will be used in pastoral gatherings throughout the NALC, LCC, and LCMS to challenge and better equip pastors to engage the fine art of distinguishing Law and Gospel in all that they do.”

The book’s forthcoming publication has garnered praise from a number of theologians and church leaders. “These authors take Christ, the Scriptures, and our confessions seriously,” President Robert Bugbee of Lutheran Church–Canada noted. “They are not carbon copies of each other. They put you through your paces, even if you wrestle with certain details of their views. Pastors as well as informed lay theologians will profit from them. What a welcome contribution to the 500th Reformation anniversary year!” In addition to serving the Canadian church, President Bugbee also serves as Vice Chairman of the International Lutheran Council.

“When participants of the LCMS, LCC, NALC consultation first discussed the need for a book on the distinction between Law and Gospel, we couldn’t have conceived this collection of essays would be so practical, direct, helpful and accessible!” explained Rev. Dr. David M. Wendel, NALC’s Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism. “In our day, when many Lutherans seem to have lost their way biblically, this book is much needed. It is for those who preach the Word and those who hear the Word, for pastors and laity, for the theologically trained and those who aren’t. It is a gift to our churches and to all who are committed to the ‘necessary distinction.’”

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God Has No Office Hours

I have a stack of old notebooks from classes and I love to look through them and try to remember things that I learned.  I have a notation that I found wonderfully illuminating.  A forgotten prof from my Senior college day years ago says that the Old Testament figure, Job, was complaining that God “needed to keep office hours”.   Opposed to the inspiration of Luther’s great hymn “”, Psalm 46:1, Job would say that God is not an ever present help in times of trouble. He looked for God but could not find Him. He cried out to God but no one answered.  In Job chapter 24 he goes on a rant about God as an absentee landlord who missed out on the groaning of the dying, the mourning of the families of those who are murdered, and yet God seemed to give the godless strength and security.  A Mighty Fortress  indeed!

Job, as the old professor said, wanted God to keep office hours.”Why are not times of judgment kept by the Almighty, And why do those who know Him never see His days?” (24:1)   When we are suffering or sad or depressed it is sometimes hard to remember that God never slumbers or sleeps and that His eye is on the sparrow and that all His promises are “yes and amen” in Christ.  Office hours aren’t needed but a sense of our own sinfulness that fails to see the guiding hand of God in all things would be helpful.

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Apotheosis, Heroism, Self Loathing and Racism.

Lincoln as a monkey holding the Emancipation Proclamation

So this is what I get with my morning coffee on October 11, 2017 ….

“A college of Oxford University banned a student Christian group from appearing at a freshman fair out of fear it would lead to “alienating” students who practice other religions. The Christian Union of Oxford’s Balliol College was initially banned by an event organizer who felt students might feel “unwelcome” due to what he calls the Christian religion being “an excuse for homophobia and neo-colonialism,” The Times of London reported.  I wish they would also have reported that Oxford was the home of two of the greatest writers and Christian apologists in history.  C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were Oxford dons and spent years I guess making freshmen feel unwelcome.  The next step would be to ban Frodo and Bilbo, the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe from the memory of man.

We just celebrated Columbus Day, or uncelebrated it as “Indigenous Peoples Day”.  I was visiting with missionaries in the Dominican Republic a few years ago and asked about the Dominicans idea about Columbus and found that he was a hero.  Why?  Because he is considered to have brought them Christ?  Reading stories from the U.S I read that the Dominican is full of self hatred and racism because of that kind of attitude.

I am greatly interested in history and am fascinated by the felt need to remove monuments, especially the ones from the Civil War.  I am also fascinated by the apotheosis of Abraham Lincoln.  Many who praise Lincoln now would have bitterly opposed him in his day. He was called an ape and a gorilla. He was the ugliest man in America. His wife was criticized as were his children. He was called a buffoon and a liar. He was not fit for the office and its supposed dignity. There was criticism of his Gettysburg address at the time. His home paper said he was” falsifying history,” another referred to it as the “President’s silly little speech,” and still another accused him of “using soldiers’ graves for political oratory.” The Chicago Times said: “The cheeks of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat, and dishwatery utterances.”  Lincolns fascinating “better angels of our nature” speech was challenged as being “involved, coarse, colloquial, devoid of ease and grace, and bristling with obscurities and outrages against the simplest rules of syntax.”  That was from the editorial writer at the Jersey City American Standard.  We know of course that editorial writers are paragons of ease and grace and non obscurites.  Our modern day feminists must have learned their history from their early sisters like Elizabeth Cady Stanton who said that if Lincoln were reelected she would pack her bags and move to the “Fijee Islands”.  We don’t know if anyone ever pointed her in that direction or gave her a spelling lesson.

I have been thinking about these things as we approach the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Thesis.  One of my heroes he has been called a drunkard, a wild boar, an anti-Semite, and a mentally ill foul mouthed bully.  He has been studied and psychoanalyzed to the point of absurdity.  He has been vilified and the subject of such obloquy that one expects to see horns coming from his head in the Cranach woodcuts.  He is also considered that outstanding of a figure that everything we see around us is in some way connected to his actions.  As Eric Metaxas has written in a recent biography, “Luther’s writings and actions so altered the landscape of the modern world that much of what we now take for granted may be traced directly to him, the quirky genius of Wittenberg.”

Yet if we drill to the core we have a simple objective that he wanted – to give to all the freedom of the Gospel won for us by Christ on the cross and for the church to “teach how we are to become free from our sin, obtain a good conscience, and win a peaceful and joyful heart. That is what really counts.” Luther’s Works Vol 40.






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Hung Be The Heavens With Black..

An Early Artists Impression of “Anfechtung” – The oppressed lying in bed with friends standing by while demons and imps torment and tease and recite all manners of sins and vices.  One even has a white board presentation.

Winston Churchill called it the black dog. C.F.W. Walther the first president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod had it so bad his congregation packed him up and sent him to Germany on a slow boat for a vacation. Luther had it so bad at one time he told his friends had it not abated when it did he honestly believed that he would have died. Luther called it “anfectung” which has no English equivalent. But if one reads the history books about these gentlemen it seems that they were suffering from what we today call clinical depression. Luther believed it was an actual physical, mental, attack by the devil. In a society where people run to therapists and counselors because they’re worried their friends are talking bad about them behind their back, or that they won’t be invited to the latest and newest concert, we might have a hard time grasping what Churchill and Walther and Luther went through. For those who suffer from true clinical depression they will tell you that no amount of counseling, talking, joking, helps. Even the concern of friends sometimes makes matters worse which reminds me of Job.  The three friends who came to visit him are worse than useless. The youngest of his counselors, the fourth, Elihu seemed to help some because he called for repentance, but Job was suffering from something that came from God and could only be fixed by God.

Everything seems dark and gloomy say those who experience this malady.  It is as if everything is slipping away.   Luther believed that the only way he was snatched out of it was because of the prayers of his friends.  He was convinced that it was a spiritual and physical assault of the devil and who can say that is not the case.  If the followers of Jesus trust his mercy and grace they must also remember that “the old Satanic foe still means deadly woe”.  He know he is lost and wants to reap destruction.  He wants the followers of Christ to be in the shadowlands.

There will be sadness and sorrow.  The sentiments of Bedford in Henry VI at the death of Henry V are well taken.  “hung be the heavens with black”.  Yet we believe that the Sun of Righteousness will arise and take us “from this vale of tears to himself”.  Until then – pray for one another.








In his mortal state he needs the vision of immortality. Job felt thwarted and frustrated. He looked for God but could not find Him. He could not share the conviction of the psalmist that God was always available (46: 1). In sheer disappointment he insisted that God should set up a schedule of office hours, “Why are not times of judgment kept by the Almighty, And why do those who know Him never see His days?” (24:1) Job was not the only one for whom the office doors seemed locked. When the dy-ing groaned, God did not hear; when the murderer waylaid the poor, God did not seem to care; when the godless waxed strong, God gave them life and security (24: 12,14,22). With these others Job went forward, but God was not there; he went backward, but he could not see God.

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The Limits of Protocol and Place

Luther At Worms

Human beings seem peculiarly prone to getting hung up on protocol and “place”. The stark disagreements between the church of Jesus day and Jesus who was the fulfillment of everything their church longed for, was over protocol and place. Questions of Jesus authority,” who he thought he was” and the fact that he was doing things they believed were breaking their protocol and law seem from our vantage point to be “suicidal folly”.

So much of what passes for political compromise, and by partisanship today, has more to do with protocol and place than they have to do with good governance. Much debate today and equally as much legislation seems to be “suicidal folly”, in Barbara Tuchman’s words, (“The March of Folly”, Random House 1984). The political concept of “kicking the can down the road”, may be equally as damaging as the idea that those in power can do anything because of protocol and place.

As we approach the 500 anniversary of the Reformation it is interesting to read all the ideas of historians as to why the ruling authorities of Luther’s day seemed to bull headedly march to their own destruction by never considering listening to what Luther said. “Who do you, a mere monk think you are?” “Do you think you know more than the popes and councils and the church”? That hit a nerve because Luther asked himself the question and it bothered him. The question of protocol and place went away with his stand on Scripture. Luther might err but the Scripture cannot. His mind could be changed by Scripture but not by those sought to bind conscience by protocol and place.

There is a story that pops up now and then about the absurdities of pomp and position and protocol and place. Tuchman mentions it too. Philip III, a king of Spain is said to have died from sitting too long near a hot brazier. Why? Because as king it was not his job to get up and move the charcoal heater. As king it was not his job to get up and move to another room. There was a protocol that one of his lackeys should come and do that and his place as king would not allow him to remove his royal backside to a different place. So he died. ,



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This is My Spot.

Sheldon Cooper has his spot.  He says, “”In an ever-changing world it is a single point of consistency. If my life were expressed as a function on a four-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system, that spot, at the moment I first sat on it, would be (0,0,0,0)”.  It was on a couch.  Archie Bunker had his spot and it was a lounger in front of the TV.  People, especially athletes try and find a “sweet spot” on the court or the field.   Fisherman try and find a spot and many times the spot is not an easy one to stay on due to wind or waves.  Our spots are points of consistency.  Luther had his spot where he stood and said it was all he could do.  He was captive to the Word of God and that spot where he stood could be a scary place and a comforting place at the same time.  Our spots don’t have to be comfortable, just a single point of consistency.

The cat found a spot this morning.  I think this has more to do with comfort.







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Kissinger at Minnesota North District Office

This is President Don Fondow, Kissinger Nyang’u, and Bob Wurl at the Minnesota North District Office in Brainerd.  Kissinger covered a lot of miles and visited with many people and explained the direction of Project 24 and the process of accountability and local ownership as well as the partnerships that exist with this operation.  Minnesota North District and North Dakota are partnered with the ELCK and LCMS and your supported is appreciated as well.








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Kissinger In North Dakota

When Kissinger was in North Dakota to explain and report on Project 24 and our work in East Africa he stopped at Cross Pointe Lutheran Church invited by Rev Mike Geddings who has been a Mary Okeyo traveler and has volunteered in Africa and lived in Project 24 centers.  One of Kissinger’s tasks is to organize catechetical competitions between the sites so that the children get a good Lutheran foundation and Biblical understanding.  The children learn and memorize the 6 Chief parts of Christian doctrine as found in Luther’s catechism and they put those things to music and dance.

The youth at Cross Pointe returned the favor and videoed their memorizations of the Apostle’s Creed.




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