Monday, September 28, 2015


        Whether you agreed with what he said or not, Pope Francis made a huge impression on America during his visit. It was refreshing to "hear the silence" of so many critics who normally try to decry and destroy the message and work of Christianity. But enough of his message was politically correct that the media was rather amazed at what the man in white had to say, no matter what the setting.
        Jesus had that kind of reception for a brief part of his ministry. The people loved Him and the critics at first weren't sure how to deal with Him. Eventually He got under their skin and they found a way to get rid of Him. His "incorrect" message was His undoing, but mankind's eternal blessing.
        We heard the term "gospel" used in a number of ways during the past week. The "gospel of the Golden Rule" and the "gospel of helping the needy" were interesting uses I'd not heard. But "gospel" in the church refers to what Jesus did for us, not what we should be doing for him. "Service" and "ministry" are better terms, more accurate of what we should do for Him. Gospel is what He did for us.
            I wonder what Martin Luther would have thought of this Pope. Gone are the damning indulgences and the political purchasing of power. Gone is the hypocrisy of "nephews and nieces" suddenly appearing in papal family trees. I am sure Luther would still have rejected some of Francis' theology, but perhaps not as vehemently as he did around 1517.
            Two years from now in 2017 will be the 500th anniversary of the posting of Luther's 95 Theses in Wittenberg. In the coming years hundreds of thousands of visitors will visit Old Town Wittenberg and file in and out of the newly refurbished Castle Church and see the doors where the Theses were posted. They will also visit St. Mary's, the City Church where Luther was pastor 22 years. Thousands more will walk the cobblestone streets on "College Street" past the Black Cloister where Luther and Katie raised and taught children of all ages. And all will see the memorials to Luther, Melanchthon and other giants of the Reformation standing as sentinels in front of City Hall. 
            It would be interesting if Pope Francis decided to take a side trip to little Wittenberg. There he'd see a part of history always overlooked by the Church of Rome. Meanwhile, however, there are all kinds of "gospels" to proclaim and homilies to share about how to make earth a better place. But only one true Gospel saves our souls.

But it was a nice break from political news, don't you think?

Monday, September 21, 2015


        I was shopping for a few things the other day and accidentally left without paying. I had asked the woman at the self-checkout line for assistance, then slid my card through the card reader, picked up my items and started walking away. She stopped me and said, "You need to pay." I thought she meant I had forgotten to take my receipt, but it turned out I hadn't paid at all. At that store the machine needed to "read" my credit card chip on the front, not the stripe on the back. After getting that done and waiting long enough to satisfy the fussy machine, I took my things and left.
       It reminded me of a time a few years ago that I paid for the things in my shopping basket but failed to pay for the candy car I held in my hand. I got out to the car and realized my error, so I walked back into the store and told the cashier I needed to pay for my Snickers bar. "Long way to come for 47 cents." she said with a smile. "Wouldn't taste as good if I hadn't," I told her. "I like your ring," she said, glancing at my wedding band with its cross. "It keeps me in line," I said.
         We all need to pay our bills, no matter how small. It isn't as if life would come tumbling around our ears if we missed paying for a candy bar, but paying our bills is part of being a human being, especially a Christian one. No matter how large or small, we owe it to others, ourselves and to God to pay what we owe. The only bill we can't pay, of course, is the one for our sins. That one only Jesus can handle, and He did it perfectly and completely on Calvary.
         Earlier this summer we paid off our home. After thirty years of making large monthly payments, it was rather anticlimactic that we didn't receive something in the mail that said, "PAID IN FULL." In fact we received nothing about it, so I called the mortgage company which said there was no need, since they released their lien on our deed. Without any fanfare, our mortgage was PAID IN FULL and the house was fully ours.
         "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors," Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord's Prayer, and He does. It's all too easy these days to "Buy Now and Pay Later." Worldwide credit card debt is enormous, and don't get me started on our government's debt. People must pay their debts.
         I urge all my readers to find a way to pay off their credit card debt as soon as possible, then pay it in full each month. It is a good feeling not to get that bill any more with its high interest rate. It is a far better feeling to know Christ our Lord has paid off our debt of sin on the cross.

What debt to you need to pay first?

Monday, September 14, 2015


         Many Americans feel there is much to complain about and that our nation is going downhill. Perhaps some things about this are true, but we must never forget that others have it far worse.
         Mary Lu, a retired missionary wife living in Iowa, wrote me of a letter she received telling of the increasing troubles in South Africa where she and her husband spent many years in ministry. Her longtime friend Pushpa wrote, “Durban is getting worse and worse with low incomes, crime, killings, homes and public businesses broken into, robbing and rape. Nowhere does it feel safe.”
            This dedicated Asian-Indian Christian woman, now a widow in her late 70’s, went on to tell how she was held up by knifepoint and had her car stolen with food inside for needy people, food she had prepared and was taking to distribute in a poor neighborhood of Durban. She gave thanks the thieves did not harm her, as so often happens.
         Being a widow always brings drastic changes and difficulties. But being an Asian-Indian Christian widow in South Africa brings its own burden of added cultural and financial problems. Mary Lu says Sister Pushpa counteracts her troubles with singing, and especially the beloved Russell Carter song with the refrain,
Standing, standing, standing on the promises of God my Savior,
Standing, standing, I’m standing on the promises of God.”

         For decades, Pushpa has continued to stand on God’s promises. Even at her advanced age, she still plants a big garden and shares its produce with people in need.  Every month for years, she has cooked up huge pots of meat stew, white rice and vegetables, to feed the younger generations in that poor Durban neighborhood. She is hoping she can continue to take food to the people there.
         She wrote in her letter to Mary Lu, “Now, I am just waiting to see if I can have insurance book value and if I can afford to buy a used car. I’ll wait on the Lord for Him to act. My trust and faith are always on HIM and HIS work.”
         This message is not a plea for funds, but for prayers. Please remember Pushpa and all the Asian-Indian and other Christians in South Africa. They share the news of Jesus Christ by helping people in need. This is something we can learn from them. They are living out what Jesus said in Matthew 25, “I was hungry and you gave me food.”

Are the troubles in your neighborhood so great? Can you share Jesus there?

Rev. Bob Tasler

Sunday, September 6, 2015


         I enjoy attending Christian weddings. It is a true joy to see a man and woman I know to be believers in Christ speak their marital vows to each other while giving honor to the Lord and blessing those attending with appropriately chosen hymns and scripture texts. It's even more joyful when I have been involved in the training of one or both of the persons being wed when they were younger.
         The two Christians we witnessed married this past Saturday asked their pastor to speak on the familiar Bible text from Ecclesiastes 3 about the cord of three strands not being easily broken. In his message the pastor stated something I did not know. He said the three strands are not stronger because of their number but because of their unity.
         For example, one would think that putting two single strands together into one would make them capable of pulling twice the load of just one strand. However, their unity adds strength, so a cord of two strands can actually pull three times the load of just one strand. Then, if you add a third strand to the two, the cord is now capable of pulling twelve times the load of just one strand.
         The reason is unity in Christ. When the three strands are woven together, strength of their being together adds fourfold to their capability. So now God's Word says, "Two are better than one," (Ecclesiastes 4:9ff) for they now can carry three times the load. And, "A cord of three strands is not easily broken," because that cord now can hold twelve times the burden as can just one.
         This is especially true of two Christians. When we bring Jesus Christ into our life in faith and trust, whether into our marriage, our home, or in any part of our life where we have a burden, we can withstand far more with Him with us than if we are alone. Jesus adds His strength and power to help us in our daily burdens, no matter how heavy our burdens may be.
         At the close of the pastor's message, the couple braided their three strands into one cord, one strand for each of them plus one for Jesus. They now have a reminder of how God will give them strength in unity during their life together.

What burden do you have that Jesus can help carry?

Rev. Bob Tasler