THANKING GOD FOR SEEING US THROUGH
I experience great joy as pastors tell me of their congregations’ being able to resume in person worship services. Many are again having delightful times of fellowship after worship. Gatherings which last year were either cancelled or held online are this year able to be held in person. One pastor reported that his position has been restored to full time. Another pastor shared that worship attendance is back up close to what it had been pre-COVID. And many pastors tell of how their congregations have been able to expand their outreach and ministry through technology, in a way in which they had never anticipated and which they want to continue. We all thank God for seeing us through.
In many ways the past fifteen months have been very, very tough, but God has seen us through. When I think of going through tough times, I think of the apostle Paul’s relationship with the church in Corinth. Philippians and 2 Corinthians are probably his most personal epistles. Philippians is a very joyful letter, as he is thanking them for their love and support. 2 Corinthians is a very painful letter, as he is dealing with the conflict and strife between him and them. We all thank God for relationships and experiences that are like Paul’s relationship with and letter to the Philippians. But we also have relationships and experiences that are like Paul’s relationship with and letters to the Corinthians.
The Second Readings for the Sundays of June and the first Sunday in July are taken from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. As he was writing this letter he was experiencing great pain in his relationship with these people. In the fourth chapter of this letter he gives us four things that can help us deal with the most painful of circumstances and the most troubling of times.
First, knowing that God has already taken care of the most critical; therefore we know that He can and will take care of everything else.
In verse 14 Paul wrote, “We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus.” Since the Father has already raised Jesus from the dead, we know that He will keep His promise and raise us from the dead. And if He can and will raise us from the dead, then He also can and will take care of all the other things in life that trouble and overwhelm us.
Second, knowing that there can be redemptive meaning and purpose in all that we do and have to endure.
In verse 15 Paul wrote, “Everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” We find renewed courage and strength as we realize that what we are doing and enduring is for the sake of other people, can be channels through which God’s grace comes to others, can increase our attitude of thanksgiving, and can bring glory to God.
Third, remembering that the pain is only temporary.
We have all heard it said, Tough times don’t last; tough people last. The difference between the hero and the ordinary person is that the hero holds on ten minutes more. In verses 16-17 Paul wrote, “We do not lose heart. . . . This slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure.” Those words remind me of what Paul wrote in Romans 8: 18 – “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.” Both of my parents grew up during the Great Depression on family farms in central Minnesota. I am embarrassed to admit how long it took me to realize that in spite of all that they had to endure, they survived. My parents and my grandparents were survivors. If they survived what they had to go through, then certainly I can survive what I have to go through.
Fourth, remembering that the power and glory of God are revealed through our struggles.
In verse 7 Paul wrote, “We have this treasure (the Gospel) in clay jars (that’s us), so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.” As I realize that I have been able to make it, I realize that the power came from God. And then in verses 8-10 Paul wrote, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.” What we have to go through – and are able to go through – demonstrate the power of God and the life that can be ours through faith in Jesus Christ.
After I retired in June 2014, my wife and I moved from southern California to the Phoenix area in July 2014. One thing we have done to help us make it through the hot summers is to go someplace cooler for a few days each month during the summer. Fortunately, in Arizona, there are many places that are cooler because they are at a higher elevation. We have learned that up to 105 degrees is not too bad, but when the temperature rises to 115 or even 117 degrees, the sun hurts. We had been able to go to cooler places through the summer of 2019, but obviously were not able to in 2020. We are looking forward to being able to resume doing that in 2021. Plus I am looking forward to seeing many of you at the various in person meetings where I will be representing Lutheran CORE. I missed that during 2020. Again, I thank God for seeing us through.
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VIDEO BOOK REVIEWS
Lutheran CORE continues to provide monthly video reviews of books of interest and importance. Many thanks to ELCA Pastor Kevin Haug for making this month’s video review. His review is about the book, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller.
Pastor Haug writes, “This book falls square into the field of apologetics and is helpful not only in dealing with agnostics and atheists, but with ‘progressive’ Christianity’s assault on the orthodox faith as well. Keller provides concepts and arguments with reason and logic weaving together philosophy and theology to show that belief in the orthodox, Christian faith is…well, reasonable. Well-written and easily digestible, Keller’s work gives solid argument to defend the faith from without and from within.”
This review, as well as seven others, have been posted on our YouTube channel. A link to the channel can be found here. Many thanks to those who have made the reviews.
We continue to publish a new video book review during the first week of every month. Many of the books that are being and will be reviewed are described in the List of Confessional Resources on the Seminarians page on our website. That list can be found here.
When you look at a video review for the first time, please click on the Subscribe button. As enough people do that, it will eventually help us to get a channel name that will include our organization’s name.
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RESOURCES FOR YOUTH AND YOUNG ADULTS
Have you seen the newest addition to our website? It is the Young Timothy page and is intended for high school youth and young adults. A link to that page can be found here.
One of the features of that page is an annotated list of book resources geared for youth and young adults. A link to that list can be found here. These books cover such topics as the reliability of the Bible, an explanation of the Christian faith as understood by Lutherans, the life of Martin Luther, and how to discern God’s call for your life.
The Young Timothy page also contains links to a video book review made by and articles for our newsletter, CORE Voice, that were written by members of our younger persons group.
Please check out this new page and tell the high school youth and young adults whom you know about it. And please let us know if they or you know of resources that should be added.
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WHAT DOES LUTHERAN CORE DO?
We are continually encouraged as we hear from people who support, value, and appreciate our work. We want to keep you informed of what we are doing to fulfill our mission of being a Voice for Biblical Truth and a Network for Confessing Lutherans. Here is a link to the most recent version of this document.
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REFLECTIONS FROM ONE SYNOD ASSEMBLY
Last weekend I attended the online synod assembly for the ELCA synod in which I was rostered before I retired. My two strongest impressions from the gathering are as follows.
First, the words that I heard most often were “diversity,” “inclusivity,” and “equity.” That is what almost everybody talked about and what everybody seemed to make their top priorities. After the assembly was over, I wished that I had kept track of the number of times that somebody mentioned Jesus. I did not keep track of the number, but I am certain that Jesus was mentioned far less often than diversity, inclusivity, and equity. I also definitely got the message that the diversity and inclusivity that they were talking about do not include people like me.
In mid-May that synod held an online pre-assembly gathering. Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton was one of the presenters. She told the group, “We talk about justice; we also need to talk about Jesus. We need to name the Name.” Please pray with me that what she said was meant, was heard, and will be heeded.
Second, the discussion about the proposed budget was amazing. It was mentioned that during the last nine years – from 2012 to 2021 – receipts from congregations to the synod have dropped from $1.4 million to $800,000. Which amounts to more than a 40 percent decline in nine years. And that does not include the drop during the years immediately following the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
The proposed spending plan for the 2022-2023 fiscal year included income of $899,000 (the major addition to the receipts from congregations was over $70,000 from the assets obtained from the sale of a former church property), but expenses of over $1.2 million. The assembly rejected the budget, not because it was not balanced, but instead because it did not provide funding for all of the favored ministries. The attitude of the assembly was, We need to sell more buildings from closed congregations, and we need to use more of the dollars already obtained from already selling buildings from closed congregations.
It is astounding to me that people want to fund their agendas, values, and priorities from the sale of properties built and paid for by people whose view of the Bible, theology, moral values, and view of the mission of the church they reject. They show neither appreciation for the past nor any concern to do their part to make the future viable. Rather they just want to have the financial resources today to fund their agendas, values, and priorities.
It was also mentioned during the assembly that twenty-five percent of the synod’s 107 congregations (twenty-seven congregations) do not have a regular pastor, and several more are challenged because of their size and/or financial instability.
If all that is not enough to tell the ELCA that something is very wrong, what would be enough?
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Dennis D. Nelson
Executive Director of Lutheran CORE
Lutheran CORE | PO Box 1741, Wausau, WI 54402-1741