Monday, August 30, 2010


Did you know that the Lutheran Church teaches separation between Church and State? Our Doctrinal statements teach that while the power of the Church and State are both ordained by God, they differ from each other radically. Here are a few of those differences:

- has authority over all its citizens
- rules its citizens by civil laws
- preserves external peace in the community
- is interested in the earthly affairs of its citizens

- has authority only over its members
- rules its members by the Word of God
- offers God's blessings and internal peace
- is interested in the salvation of its members

There is to be no Church-State or State-Church. This is true of ANY religion or church that may seek to rule our nation. No religious body has any right to rule American people, or to enact or enforce its own laws. Let me repeat: No religion has the right to force its laws on the citizens of America.

The fact that governments are ordained by God does not mean the State must govern according to the tenants of any religion or its book. Any religious book is meant to have authority only in that religion, and not in American civil government. It is an open fact that at least one world religion is seeking to rule our nation, and all nations, by the rules of its book. We must never let that happen here in America.

Our nation was founded on Christian principles, and we have a right to retain them, for they are the core of what makes America great. We abandon our foundations at our own peril. God has given us this great nation, and we will never be defeated by an outside enemy. Any defeat will happen because we have caved in to the forces of evil within our borders.

Those forces are knocking at our doors today, so what should we do? We should pray constantly that God will give us fearless and loyal leaders who will stand for what is right, not just what is popular. We should support those candidates and policies that will keep our nation sovereign and safe. We must ever be vigilent to keep the forces of evil from undermining our nation.

Our nation has been shaken to its economic and social core, but we must remain unshakeable. Hebrews 13 tells of a time when our present world will be shaken, so that the unshakeable things of God in Christ may remain. May we all be ready, by faith and prayer to Christ, for such a time.

"Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful." (Hebrews 13:28)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


In this time of economic struggles, it's tempting to place money on a higher pedestal than it deserves. True, we need it, but of itself, money doesn't satisfy. There is a lot more to a good life than possessions. I just finished a book about a beautiful, wealthy woman who killed herself because she was abused as a child. Her money and financially successful life meant nothing compared to the pain she carried with her. It was a tragic way to end a sad life.

It reminds me of another story, a much better one. A small boy admired a colorful old vase his mother had. She told him it had come from her Great grandmother, so it was one of her dearest treasures. He knew it was special, so he wanted to hold it and "feel" the colors. It was high up, just out of his reach, but he tried to get it down anyway. He didn't realize his little hands couldn't hold it, and it crashed to the floor. And the small boy began to cry.

His crying started with sobs and turned to loud wails, as his mother came rushing into the room. She stopped when she saw him sitting on the floor, broken shards all around. She knew immediately what he had done, and he cried even louder when he saw her looking at him.  "I b'oke .... your vase," he sobbed and bent over, hiding his tear-filled face.

But rather than anger or a lecture, his mother gave the small boy a precious gift. With a look of relief, she said, "Oh thank heavens - I thought you were hurt!"  And she got down on the floor, held him close, and began to sing, "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey. You'll never know, Dear, how much I love you..."  The small boy grew up, but his mother's song is a gift he still carries in his heart.

I love that story. It didn't happen to me, but it could have, because that was one my mother's favorite songs. She gave all five of us kids gifts of love that are with us still. If you are in a time of hardship, please remember that our real treasures of life can't be put in the bank, only carried in our hearts. 

A mother's love is much like Jesus. No matter how old we are, we still break our vases and break out in tears. And Jesus still gets down on the floor with us amid our broken lives and dreams and loves us. Jesus doesn't always bail us out of our troubles. Rather, He stays with us through them, and gives us courage to see the more important dreams and to live the truly meaningful life on faith and grace. And He helps avoid those troubles the next time.

"...Please don't take my sunshine away."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Why should we forgive? What's the point of forgiveness? We understand our need for forgiveness from God. but did God HAVE to forgive us? If so, there where is His choice in the matter? If not, then why did He require us to forgive, for He said, "If you do not forgive your brother his sins, neither will God forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:24-25)?

In her book, LEFT TO TELL, Immaculee Ilibagiza survived the 1994 Rwanda genocide by hiding 90 days in a 4 x 6 bathroom with 7 other women. Immaculee's "sin" was that she was a Tutsi, one of Rwanda's educated minority, hunted by the majority Hutu people in the 1994 Rwandan rebellion. Immaculee's parents and two brothers are among the nearly one million killed in 100 days during a savage and brutal war of extermination. Amazingly, her benefactor was a Hutu pastor who hid the women in his own tiny bathroom, whose own adult children did not know they were there.

A Christian, Immaculee survived by prayer and faith. When she emerged from her tiny cell, she had lost 50 lbs, weighing only 65 lbs. A kindly UN officer gave her the chance to face those Hutu neighbors who killed her family, and Immaculee forgave them. The officer was livid, angry she did not curse them or at least spit on them. She said no, she forgave them because she did not want them to hinder her from living the rest of her life.

Commentator Francis Louise writes of LEFT TO TELL, "It is Immaculee's trust in her Lord and Savior that gives her the ability to forgive and move forward in life. Actually, it is not her faith that allows her to forgive; it is God who gave her the ability to forgive. Her seeking Him by constant praying allowed her to see Him work in her life."

Immaculee is a sinful human as we all are. The beauty of the Christian faith is that the Holy Spirit can triumph in us over our sins and weaknesses.

Could we be as forgiving as Immaculee? We can be grateful for her example and encouraged to seek God in prayer, and joyfully look for His good in our future. God will bring us through our troubles. He will bring us joy once again. True, there may be sorrow and pain, but God will heal us and give us a hope and a future in Christ.

Forgiveness releases us from the pain of the past. Forgiveness is both for others and for ourselves. God has forgiven us for our benefit. When we forgive others, it is for them, but especially for us. God's gifts go to both sides, for both of us need His blessings.

Read LEFT TO TELL. You will find it strengthens your own faith.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Someone has said, "The only thing we can be sure of in life is that things will change."  Of course, I believe there are many other more important things a person can be sure of (i.e. We're sinners, God loves us, Jesus is Lord), but as paradoxical as it may sound, change is a constant. And with change must come life adjustment. 

I experienced two such changes this week, and though both certainly are not important, both required some adjustment. Yesterday I awoke feeling great and by 10 AM I felt horrible. Now I don't get ill often, but this one required some major adjustment. It literally knocked me down, causing me to sleep most of the day, having chills and being so weak I could barely walk. After a night of misery (also for Carol) I went to the doctor this morning, got some meds, and they are working - praise God! The adjustments were to my daily life, and taking new medicine, if I'm going to survive this illness.

The second change may make you chuckle. In retirement I enjoy horseshoes. I even put up a set of pits in the back yard and practice with them often. However, last winter my right shoulder started giving me trouble, probably from an old High School injury, and this caused me to stop pitching due to increase of pain. Again my doctor came to my rescue, and after an MRI and rehab, there is far less pain now. 

But if I am to continue painless horseshoe pitching, now I must use the lightest regulation set reserved for teens, women and injured old guys. Today my set of GXL 1.8 pound horseshoes arrived - baby blue, no less - and throwing them will require a lot of adjustment. After all, the old ones were 2.5 pounds! But my shoulder won't hurt, if I make the adjustment.

Christian repentance is making important life adjustments. I used to teach my Confirmation students, "Repentance is realizing what your doing is wrong, asking God to forgive you and start doing what is right." And if they did, the Holy Spirit would give them strength to do it! 

In Matthew 3:8, John the Baptizer told the Pharisees, "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance." By this he meant make the life adjustments you need to make so you will avoid sinning. I need to do that often every day, and so do all of us. None of us is without sin nor the need for life adjustment. May God the Holy Spirit give you strength to see what's wrong in your life, ask for forgiveness and then do what needs to be done right.

I need a nap - this writing has worn me out. Maybe tomorrow I'll try out my new horseshoes.

Monday, August 2, 2010


2017 will be the 500th anniversary of Luther's posting of his 95 Theses, statements he hoped would lead the church to be more faithful to the Bible. In Wittenberg they are planting 500 mature trees to commemorate the event. City officials are asking tourists to return home and plant trees there also. Luther once said if he knew the world would end tomorrow, he would still plant a tree today.

No trip to Germany is complete without a drive on the autobahn, 18 inches of smooth concrete and only a rare speed limit sign. Autobahns make for rapid and efficient travel and racing hearts. As I became accustomed to driving our rented VW on the A-4, I wanted to go faster. I easily went around a truck at 100 kph (63 mph) and moved to the center lane and up to 120 kph (80 mph). I like that speed on the Interstate back home, so why not here?

A car came up behind me rather fast, so I increased to 140 kph (90 mph). What a great drive! After calculating that 160 kph would be only 100 mph, I bumped it up again. I remembered as a youth I'd always wanted to go 120 mph, so I edged the VW up to 180 kph. Cool....

But whoa! What would happen if we'd have blown a tire? A note on the dash said “Max 210 kph” (140 mph!) and this turbo diesel with 6 gears could easily do that. Just then a BMW went around me like I was standing still! It was doing at least 150 mph, and weaving slightly. So I settled back to a relaxed 100 mph and felt safe, even smug!

All this is not unlike our tendency to experiment with sin. We try out something new here and there, and the thrill makes it exciting. But soon we need more thrill, and for others it leads to addiction. Most will settle into a "safe" mode of sin, convinced we're not as bad as others, certain we'll be safe. A few forge ahead, oblivious to all dangers.

But sin carries results, and the Bible says the Big One is death. We need forgiveness through faith in Jesus, and we also need the Spirit's help to rein us in to keep sin from destroying us. Without Christ, there's a horrific flaming end waiting out there. We must continually pray for God's mercy, ever being watchful of our weaknesses that move us away from God.

Jesus Christ came to save us from sin and from ourselves. He is our eternal life preserver, our safety net, the Holy One who slows us down saves us from destruction. "Never will will leave you, never will I forsake you," our Lord tells us (Hebrews 13:5). And we can be sure He will guide us on the right path.

Slow down! Plant a tree to honor Martin!