"Have you not asked those who travel the roads, and do you not accept their testimony?" (Job 28:29)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Vanity Plates Us All...

ANYONE WITH an ounce of restorative impulse can relate to the feeling, especially the elderly and skilled in this life. We often hear them say, “Things wear on you.” They emphasize that like sandpaper... whether smooth or coarse, the world grinds you down. The world is caustic they emphasize. It strips us. And we grow to realize that this observation teaches that the hostility of the world swirls all about. We are sinful victims… both young and old alike. Good Friday falls hard upon those who would restore.
 A person may be like an experimental vehicle that never survives the drawing board. We are sometimes aborted before we even get started. A dreary color thus casts first shadow on the human plight. We find that good planned at the beginning is eventually trashed by punitive time, wear or will. And, though we may attempt to restore those precious things that too soon fall into disrepair.., age, rust and corrosion continue to destroy. Those things we had restored soon need restoration once again. Finally, we are reminded when called to go to church to attend someone’s funeral or pay our respects for that which was humanly accomplished. There we can rightly hear the dismal truth. We hear it said from ancient scripture. The words toll to us across the pews…

“The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains for ever. The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises. The wind blows to the south, and goes round to the north; round and round goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again.
 All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; and there is nothing new under the sun.
 Is there a thing of which it is said, "See, this is new"? It has been already, in the ages before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any such remembrance of later things… yet to happen among those who come after.”
                                                                                  (Ecclesiastes 1:1-11)

Those in the automotive industry surely know this dying color. They see it whether applied by brush or spray. The color appears a lot in dull hues of grey or rusty red. With filler and primers we try to heal scars and blemishes. We try to set the bare stage anew. But all is vanity, says the Preacher. Finally, even with new brightness covering... we know that we are simply delaying the inevitable.
 Some think that we are left to just enjoy for the time that we have. All seems too depressing if we dwell long on stark thoughts... if we think too much about the human condition. So we return to our work. We work and we toil. We often try to raise our spirits with demonic spirits. Yes indeed, in toiling we find that all is vanity. Putting on a mask workmen try to make breath protected, as we scrape, scratch and scrub.Yes, if we stop and dwell on these thoughts, we know the futility felt by the ancient scriptural writer. We feel the futility that drives people to anger, others to pleading, some to bargaining, others to shrug, and still others to the very point of letting go of life itself. The thickness felt becomes a dull substrate for that which is to come. But, thanks be to God... we are surely wrong.
For thanks be to God, through Christ Jesus... a gift of eternal hope and faith can cover us. You see, unlike tired workmen or past kings who finitely gripped despair in the face of sinful misery, God does not rest from the doing of mercy. God came into this vanity to be with us.., to share our plight. Though innocent, Christ our salvation came into this fallen world deliberately..., to feel the pain. We read…  

So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 
 Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. The chief priests of the Jews then said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but, 'This man said, I am King of the Jews.'" 
 Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written." 
 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus they took his garments and made four parts, one for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was without seam, woven from top to bottom; so they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be." This was to fulfill the scripture, "They parted my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots." 
 So the soldiers did this. But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" 
 Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. 
 After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the scripture), "I thirst."  A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. 
 When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, "It is finished"; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:17-30)

Scripture tells us, therefore, that the depths of our creative plight are felt by God. In the face of sinful crazing, cracking, slew footing, and reflective runs… his Beloved Son worked that we may live and love forever. He worked teaching his apprentices like a master craftsman. Our Lord healed scars both visible and hidden... just to show us how to do it. His success was so great that competitors grew jealous of His work, and tried to mar the finish. But it would not be so.
 “Vanity of vanity, all is vanity” said the preacher. “What is done… is done.” Now truly there are some yet who wisely say what is repeated here. Some who follow like me shall say.., “No ancient preacher, in brightness it was truly finished only when God said “It is finished”. Nothing more was, or ever will be needed since then. All creation darkened shall be truly restored through Him. That good news  sparkles and glistens forever... from the cross of the Beloved Son.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Serpentine Belt...

IN RECENT online discourse with other Lutherans, I have run across some who severely attack persons and theologies within other Christian denominations. Our discussion usually centered on issues that arise from Lutheran confessional standards as they dialog with personalities and powers from Roman Catholic, Calvinist, and Pentecostal expressions of the Christian church. Amid these conversations, it seems that others in the group disdained tolerance. They would call us to pile up wooden toothpicks and light a torch to burn heretics at the local steakhouse.
 It seems that such in the group are threatened greatly by other theological expressions, and spew such disdain that fundamentalist opportunists are warned to fast immerse themselves in baptismal waters just to escape a fiery holocaust of religious zealotry. Somehow the very spectre of the dying throes of John Hus crept into my mind. These theologians would strike flint so that our collective goose is cooked, and we in the church might ask to fold our picnic table and go home!
 In dire fact, the temper of the online meeting rose reminiscent to the fervor that crucified my Lord, and thus I seemed to receive a rather terse response to my call for peace. Unless I misread the intent, I felt summarily dismissed in response. In considering the dismissal feeling, it was like I was found as an elderly, outdated auto mechanic who warned a young man about pouring un-metered gas into a carburetor. So before any fiery cranking occurred of the stalled engine, I’d been cast by Pharisees out from the temple courtyard.
 Obviously, in that I now write concerning the recent encounter, you can tell the conversation disturbed my wishful ecumenical spiritual leanings. I soon wondered if a satanic spirit that has invaded the Lutheran church in recent years would rip further into the meat of our calling to disperse our collective Christian witness.
 The conversation turned us to pithy but rancorous topics by regurgitating Reformation-era issues such as the doctrine of real presence in the Eucharist. Calvinism, Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism were munched upon once again. Rather than considering what we can agree upon to spice up the unleavened altar bread, predestination discussions there would make old John Knox roll over in Methodical and Presbyterian propriety. Glossalalia and Dispensationalism were burped feverishly out. These topics were flavored from other centuries-old heresies such as Monatism and Manicheanism. All of these issues were being taste tested once again and recipes compared. As the pot bubbled then, it seemed to me that the only thing missing from the foul tasting mess was scriptural salt. Therefore, I offer it to you here…

 John said to him (Jesus), "Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us." 
 But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward. 
 "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. For every one will be salted with fire.
 Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."  (Mark 9:38-50)

Yes, surely our Lord Jesus warned in scripture about judging others doing works in his name. We are called as Christians to witness, and also dialog with others within the faith about our theological differences. The dialog is indeed important, but should be peaceable!
 Indeed there is much heresy spoken by certain TV evangelists and faith is skewered... which causes me to tender… “You brood of vipers!”. Surely these poison the life blood of faith, and they profit from those who would wonder at their serpentine magnificence. But amid the slither we find skins shed from the consumed faithful. They testify that our conversation and wrestling must occur. These are those in Christ who in conversation can yet be retrieved from error and heresy. These are those whose denominational demons can yet be cast out. They can be given knowledge of the resurrection to eternal life, so that they also view rightly that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, by Christ alone. But this miracle can only be done if we know that we are surely the sent ones who walk peaceably with no tunic, no staff, and take nothing but the sandals on our apostolic feet. Like Peter and Paul dining with the church in Galatia during the first century, we are called to witness to those who are without faith.., and sometimes go nose to nose (Greek = prosupon) with one another. This ministry is to be done collectively in discipleship, so that we finally let the Holy Spirit be our guide unto the next greater day. May it be so, Lord Jesus, may it be so.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

On Going Out...

OUR MISSION congregation meets in a small church... within a small town, with a small number of people regularly in attendance. But, in some ways, our numerical smallness gives us advantage. We can almost meet in a laundry room. We personally know everyone in the church. As well, we interact socially with everyone as being relatives, "shirt-tail" relatives or adopted relatives like myself. However, this tightness within our beloved, closely knit group can run counter to our most important Christian calliing before God.
 In Matthew 28:18-20, we read...

And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the close of the age."

 You see, as Christians we thus believe we are called to not only love God, but also one another. And if we love God, we should try to connect our Lord's message to those amongst us who have not yet heard of his grace. That's tough to do if we stay as a family anchored within church walls. Listen then to this year's Lenten evangelical planning, for we would go out as disciples to library, bowling alley, restaurant, and homes to proclaim God's love poured out through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord


Friday, January 31, 2014

Slippery Slope Driving?

 WHILE motoring home recently in a late model car, I had occasion to slam foot on the brake pedal with hefty force. The proper response beneath my arch was felt within a second. The Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) kicked back. The brake pedal buzzed. I was alarmed.., but able to steer the vehicle smartly through rather slippery snow that blanketed some hidden ice.
 In thinking about this occasion now, it seems in the same way the unfolding of a particular emergency rattles us across our nation today… in ABS fashion. The vehicles of church and state are cycling from high to low pedal in our culture. Many want it all to come to a screeching stop. Accelerated by fast modern communication, we in this country are surely approaching a historical collision in an out-of-control slide downhill, faster than that which occurred back in the days of chariot and spear.
 But consider this! Though we are accelerated drastically by technology since the days of rulers such as Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and even more recently Adolf… the underlying causes of such panic have not changed much. History reveals reasons for our sinful societal slide to those who are learned. The failures throw a telling slush, like the dirty snow sloughed by a careening, revealing radial tire. This is so true. To steer to a safe stop, however, we need study the faith-history of a people spoken about in scripture. The faith of our ancestors truly reveals the corrections needed.
 In example of this issue, as many educated know, we in the United States of America have long been a divinely blessed nation. We have maintained great personal freedoms. With only a few stomps on the brake pedal occurring prior to the Korean War, we grew and prospered. But steps on the pedal are more frequent since the war. I say to you that we are not safe. Given recent job shortages, immense national debt, failed political leadership, and immoral slide… I fear profound, destructive collisions are eminent for this land.
 We are already divided. Within the latter years of the previous century, we somehow became a nation skidding into depravity. We have adorned our peoples with chromium, external baubles and beads. The previous healthy steering system formerly present in many mainline churches, which offered the right worship of God, now languishes… slipping away toward false idols of unbridled progressive politics.
 Is there hope for our collective future? The road looks dismal for sure. Read the Word of God as spoken by an ancient prophet who warned the divided kingdoms of Judah and Israel….

And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? 
 And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, a cry! 
 Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land. The Lord of hosts has sworn in my hearing: "Surely many houses shall be desolate, large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant.  (Isaiah 5:8-9)

 Here we see a society that came to view faith in God properly declared as anathema. So it was in their land; so it is in ours.
 We now have words of true prophets and faithful Christian disciples threatened. Societal demons tear at the very existence of the Word of God rightly proclaimed. I say to you.., “God shall not long permit this to be so.”
 We are already politically torn in two, misaligned like long ago Judah and Israel, and I fear that we may be fast on the road to exile. So the ancient warning rolls to us across centuries to both church and state.
 Know your faith history! The children of Abraham and Sarah were called out of Egypt by God and its faith nation formed. Amid this calling came the Decalog, that which we term the Ten Commandments. These were, and still are… unchanging divinely-given rules that provided a believing nation its livelihood and abundance. Now, we of this land take these foundational documents down from our courthouses by satanic powers.
 We, like those ancient nations… have devalued the Law. We no longer adhere to divine dictates. We have traded them for permissive, undulating legalities undermining the path and substance of family in society. As the divine metric system that measures us, the Law is deflated from beneath us like a tire about to break its bead from the wheel rim. We no longer worship God. We ignore his precepts and his salvation. We fail to respect our elders, inventing care industries that easily pull their life plugs for the sake of profitability. Our leaders in both church and state tell falsehoods regularly… as means to fulfill a shifting end. Our own president panders in such ruts with , “If you like your healthcare coverage, you can keep it.”
 Further, as a nation we murder the unborn with staggering efficiency. We have desolated the definition of rightful marriage bed. And we increasingly distrust our neighbors, increasing the flow of weaponry across our land in questionable response to suspected “homeland” security. Our nation is sliding toward a disastrous collision with evil.
 Within the church, we are not escaping. The Law is cast aside by too many leaders in the name of usury acceptance. In order to increase coins in the offering plate, rather than proclaiming both Law condemnation and soul saving Gospel, the dictates of Law are altered, demeaned or completely ignored to put persons seat-belted into the pews.. I say to you, tread softly here… if there is no Law, there is no need for the good news concerning the saving grace given freely by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In summary, if there is no Law, no Gospel, and no Christ needed… there is no purpose for our churchly meetings and proclamation. We of the church are rolled over like crumbled speed bump, bituminously becoming rather poorly-administered social clubs that skid along a road paved by demonic powers.

Will We Sit in Ashes?
Our Christian faith history relates the tale of what is needed for this and other nations. The scriptures tell us that in sores ancient Job sat in ashes and dust. Some gathered around this righteous man, including his wife, told him to curl up and die. But, sitting dirtied alongside history’s road, soiled Job sought the will and Word of God.
 Take heed! I say to you that this nation will either sit in ashes and dust of repentance, turning to interact with the Word and judgment of God, seeking forgiveness and empowerment through Christ, or we shall perish… blown away by the spiritual winds of history.
 Shall we thus waste time? Dare we sit idly until we tread the ashes of a great nation? I say to you that we need not do so. Long ago, when all was said and Job’s friends had their worldly words fell to the dust; God spoke to the man of faith. Out of the whirlwind of history, God spoke. He laid aside all human claims to justification… until Job said…

 "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 
 “Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?”
 Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
 'Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.'
 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:1-6)

 As the Lenten season draws near think about these things. We must imitate Job by placing ashes upon ourselves and claim no justification. In that doing, we shall see and know “the Way, the Truth, and the Life“.  Pray that in repentance we the Christian church are yet called to steer a more certain way. Let us step on the brakes hard… until the pedal of faith pulses! Let the chattering brakes of the Commandments apply and hold, to steer our dimness to the safety of the Gospel. Thus may the groaning of the Word poured out halt our slide so that we stop in ashes at the foot of the cross.
 Be it resolved! Work amid the church to be certain that those who hold high the banner of orthodox, right scriptural interpretation of both Law and Gospel, grip firmly the path to recovery… for both church and state. This can yet occur in Christ for both church and  nation, but only if we proclaim our Lord’s graceful, loving gift upon the cross, and know the creative halt told from both pulpit and public square.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Poor Investment in Life?

FOR YEARS the investment association we now know as Thrivent Financial has served persons belonging to the Lutheran faith expression. Previously known as “Lutheran Brotherhood”, the group served adherents to its investment strategies for decades within the confines of those within member Lutheran congregations. It was then thought generally to be a benevolent investment effort which worked in great concert with the values of the church. For many years, through the fraternal organization, funds could be raised by a congregation, and the group would match that amount for various ministry projects.
 However, the group has recently became pan-Christian in membership reach. With this move, Thrivent’s matching benevolence has now also evolved, encompassed by its ”Choice” programs. However once thought by me to be a just, valid and valued method of outreach for many Lutheran congregations, recent actions now lead me to consider that this program may bring Lutherans to serious impasse about our participation, let alone our endorsement.
 To further explain this thought, let me point out recent developments. By honoring request of persons within their charitable framework, Thrivent Financial took action toward listing “Planned Parenthood” (PP) as an eligible charitable organization. This would mean that member groups could designate Choice matching funds for that charity. In this action, it was quickly noted by many members that Thrivent could thus secondarily assist the public in acquiring “on demand” abortions.
Though Thrivent offered its inquiring members that no donations had yet occurred, the action brought wide dissension voiced from “prolife” factions. This came from within several Lutheran denominations, including myself and others that are within the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). We view that abortion is an anathema to life as willed by our Creator. You may view my personal and pastoral views on infant life at:

Please also see the NALC position stated on this matter at:

Given the outcry raised recently against its decision, Thrivent removed PP from the list of possible receivers.., but alas in concert the group also dropped all pro-life organizations. Thrivent therefore cut off charitable groups such as “Lutherans for Life”. The action removed over 30 possible charitable, pro-life organizations from their listing. Please note this quote from the Thrivent Financial website statement…

“Given the deeply held views on this issue across our membership, we also are taking action to address the concerns of our membership. These steps include temporarily suspending all pro-choice and pro-life organizations from the Thrivent Choice program, placing a temporary hold on the addition and removal of nonprofit organizations from the program, and conducting a comprehensive program review.”

This knee-jerk reaction of removing all charitable organizations having anything to do with the abortion issue, and thus removing many from long standing listing, the organization now harms worthy pro-life organizations. These could have previously received matching funds in the past. Given this position, though said to be “temporary”, it is evident that the group now considers a course that I personally deem as un-Christian. In my view, Thrivent Financial risks taking the worth of investor’s money in very high esteem, rendering it more highly over against the worth of an unborn child, and the building up of nascent life within Christian community.
 For this reason, though possibly in similar knee-jerk reaction, I hereby state my pastoral desire that all persons holding the scriptural mandate toward life as a serious call amid God’s people, take pen, keyboard and such to petition this organization. Let us press to adjust policies to favor pro-life charities, or consider that we may withdraw personal holdings completely in protest to these callous actions.
 Our Lord has said, “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.” Therefore, I call you all to task, “Are we truly Christians or not?”

Friday, November 15, 2013

Antique Beliefs?

WHAT VALUE do historical treasures and surroundings hold? When we cling to old cars, buildings, or monuments, are we simply trying to accrue silver and gold to ward off warnings of impending disaster? Check out thoughts on the unfolding future...

May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob guide your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Lord of Heaven and Earth . (MotorSage)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Who is President, Emperor, or King?

AS WE approach the end of the church liturgical year, preparations are made in many congregations to close out the calendar with a celebration. This Sunday comes upon as our traditional way to remind everyone present about who is Lord of Lords.. Hear this "Lesson from the Laundry"...


Jesus Christ is indeed King of kings and Lord of lords. By the power of the Holy Spirit it is thus that we gather and worship on Christ the King Sunday. Let us especially strive to do so then... and give thanks to the Creator of heaven and earth. Please be welcomed to explore the web site of the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) wherein you may find a congregation near you.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, may the Peace of God that surpasses all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Our Lord.