Greetings from the southwest corner of Wyoming

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Salt Lake to South Sudan

I sit this evening enjoying the memories of the past two days. Members of St. John's Lutheran Church in Salt Lake City came up with their pastor to enjoy fellowship and to help us see God's world in wider perspective.

Pastor Lindemood introduced us to thirteen wonderful saints of Christ who shared their lives with us over two days of games, food, conversation, worship and song. The focus of our learning was on the cooperative work among these vibrant Christians in Salt Lake to strengthen and equip the fragile Lutheran Church in the southern Sudanese town of Akobo.

It also gave us occasion to think on the long history of Christianity in this region of the world beginning already in the apostolic era when Philip was sent by the Holy Spirit to teach and baptize the eunuch from court of Queen Candice of Ethiopia. A brief history of Christianity of Sudan may be found here. I heartily encourage you to get acquainted with this history and to shine the light of knowledge to beat back the darkness of our own inclination to ignore people for whom Christ Jesus has given His own Divine Life.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Encouragement from President Harrison

Dear Friends and Members,

In the midst of our harried and busy lives, we often lose courage, inspiration and dedication because our attention is taken off the basics and fixed, instead, on a myriad of irrelevancies which seen all-important.  This is the devil's trick.

But we are not trapped into going along with him. We have been set free in Jesus Christ -- free to return our fixed gaze upon the One Person who matters.  Take the time to watch this 30 minute talk from President Harrison and rejoice in the simple word of God which humbles, calms, and encourages your hearts.  You'll be glad you did.

President Harrison LCEF Presentation from VimeoLCMS on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

CrossTalk: Family Affection and Godly Love

It is an undeniable fact of life that the bonds of family and friendship both impact -- and are impacted by -- our relationship to God. Oftentimes, this is very positive, as when you give thanks to Jesus that He has given His Holy Spirit to your child, spouse or parents so that they share with you in the blessings of faith in the one, true God. This impact is also positive when believing relatives and friends pray for you or when you, as a Christian pray for family and friends who are without the Holy Spirit and the saving faith that He brings.

It is also true that concern for unbelieving relatives and friends has had a negative impact on faith in Christ. This happens when family concerns cause people to turn aside from the Christian life. They may neglect attendance at Church and engag in the behavior of the world, either because they prefer family or due to peer pressure.

Oftentimes, this happens out of a very loving sort of wishful thinking--when we so love someone that we are willing to trade our own eternal salvation for theirs. Even the Apostle Paul had this kind of love for his fellow Jews as he writes in Romans 9:3: "For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers." The only reason that Paul did not do this is because it would not and could not have brought about the salvation of anyone. Only Jesus Himself can die in the place of someone else.

There are even times when people become aggressively hostile toward God and Christianity. They blame God and hate Him for consigning their loved one to eternal punishment. As a recent study indicates, many people consider themselves atheists for exactly this reason and harbor such anger toward God that they refuse to acknowledge even His existence. And this stance leads them to speak in the most scornful words of Christ and Christians making fun of their faith and treating them as buffoons (as does Bill Maher in "Religulous") or like enemies of humankind (as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins tend to imply).

Perhaps you know people like this. Perhaps you yourself are tempted to think like this. In either case, Jesus has something very important to say to you today. When you are deeply moved out of love for your friends or relatives, know this: That God the Father loves them far more than you ever will! When you are angered by the thought of some loved one being condemned to hell, know that God Himself is infinitely more angered by it than you are!

So before you lash out at God for the sake of your friends or family, know that He came to earth in order to die for you and for them. It is Satan who holds people captive in hell -- not God. And after God has come to set all people free, it continues to be Satan who blames God for our damnation and, by such lies, wants to turn us away from the only One who can actually rescue us.

Don't fall for Satan's lies but rejoice in God's salvation. When your concern for loved ones causes you such deep pain that you are tempted to lash our ineffectively at God, know that it causes God an even deeper pain, so much that it causes Him to strike out effectively at the devil. By God's own suffering the pains of hell, He gives eternal salvation to all who trust in Him.

To learn more of this God, come to hear His Word. There you will receive His Holy Spirit who teaches you to love Him whom Satan and the world hates.