Devotion for Saturday, November 18, 2017

“Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by.  I will cry to God Most High, to God who accomplishes all things for me.”  (Psalm 57:1-2)

Grace is unmerited favor, a gift that the Lord grants to those who turn to Him.  We all need grace, for we all have fallen short of the glory of the Lord.  Cry out to the Lord who hears you and knows all about what He has made.  Know that in Him you can take refuge and He will cover you in the shadow of His wing.  The Lord is more than able to accomplish your salvation.

Lord, in times of trouble I look to You, but often in times of plenty, I simply go my way and ignore You.  Help me realize that this age is a time of great trouble and turmoil.  Lead me into the truth of Your presence that I would know that in You I have an eternal hope and a future.  Guide me in Your will to walk in Your ways all the days of my life, knowing in You alone can I hope.

Christ, the Savior of the World, You have come to be the refuge for all.  Lead me in the grace You have purchased by Your own blood that I may forever walk in the mercy of the Father.  Destruction has already come upon the world, but in You I need not fear anything that comes.  Lead me, O Lord, to stand by Your side and walk where You direct, knowing that only in You will I be made complete.  Amen.

Weekly Devotional for November 8, 2017

“He who sits on the throne will shelter them with His presence.” (Rev. 7:15)

The old sinner in us doesn’t always like the term “shelter.”  Are we so weak that we need someone to shelter us?  Didn’t we cut the apron strings?  Shouldn’t Christians, in particular, be more questing, advocates in the public square for what is good and right and true?  Away with this mild Lord of shelter! (says the old, proud sinner . . . .)

And then 26 believers end up dead in a pool of blood as babies scream, mothers weep, and a nation goes on fighting.  Sudden illness cuts down beloved friends and family.  Opportunists prey on the young and deceive the poor, and an entertainment industry peddles vile myths to corrupt the soul.  Even churches quake with heresy, pressing the faithful into doubt, frustration, and a love of division.  

Come, O Shelter of the faithful!  What strength it takes to shelter others: resolve, compassion, and the willingness to go and seek the lost.  It takes a Man who would even bear a cross to overcome the power of death.  This Man is God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who knows you by name; whose love for you is stronger than death; and who will bring you, with great joy, to the throne that He shares eternally with His Father.  Have no fear, little flock!

LET US PRAY:  Protect, defend, and deliver us from evil, good Shepherd of the sheep.  By Your two-edged sword, that living word, silence the ancient enemy, curb all evil designs, bring us to repentance, and preserve Your Church in perfect peace until the day of Your appearing; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.  Amen


Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Zion, Wausau

Letter from the Director for October 2017



Something that for me has been absolutely astounding – as we have been celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation – are some of the things that that milestone has been used to justify and support. I have seen the anniversary of the Reformation being used to advocate for environmental issues, even though the only time that I am aware of when Martin Luther promoted ecological concerns was when he said that if he knew the world would end tomorrow, he would still plant a tree. Luther’s antisemitism later in life as well as his not supporting the peasants in the peasant revolt have been made into a jumping off point to rail against racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, and all the other awful things that people are guilty of these days.

An observance that was held on Reformation Sunday in a church in the ELCA synod in which I was rostered before I retired used in its publicity an interesting version of the Luther rose. The outer perimeter was made up not of the typical colors, but instead of the hues of a rainbow, and in the center of the rose was not a cross but an angry looking fist holding a hammer. Concerned and alarmed, because I saw Christ and the cross as being replaced by human anger and political activism, I telephoned the church that was hosting the event and left a message for the pastor, asking what was intended to be communicated by that form of the Luther rose. As I expected, I have not received a reply. Because the bishop of that synod was participating in the event and the synod was helping promote the event, I also wrote to the synod, expressing my concern that that symbol was replacing Christ and the power of the cross with the power of human efforts and anger. Again, as anticipated, I have not received a reply.

And so it was so refreshing for me to attend the LCMC gathering in Minneapolis October 8-11, where the real message of the Reformation was kept at the heart of the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.


Under the theme “We Confess Our Faith,” the gathering was structured around conversation about three of the fundamental teachings of the Reformation: Justification, the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, and the Priesthood of All Believers. Presenters first described the basic principles of each of those three teachings, then a panel made up of people serving in diverse ministry settings – both in the United States as well as in other parts of the world – discussed how that major teaching impacted their ministry in their own particular place of service. The panel discussion was then followed by discussions at tables where those attending the gathering were able to apply that teaching to their own lives and ministry settings.

My soul was stirred and my thinking was stimulated by the presentation of Steve Turnbull, pastor of Community of Grace Lutheran Church in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. He spoke on the doctrine of justification. Maintaining the real message of the Bible and the Reformation while also applying that message to real life issues today, Pastor Turnbull talked about how Paul often discussed the concept of justification within the context of Jew-Gentile relationships. For example, in his letter to the Ephesians Paul describes God as pointing to the Church and saying, “See what I have done. Sin wrecks human community. I have put it back together again.” Pastor Turnbull then shared how Paul’s evangelism had created multi-ethnic communities. He needed a way to explain theologically what was happening. And so he wrote, The cross is enough to tear down the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile. Pastor Turnbull then applied that principle to life today when he asked, “Is it enough to unite people today?”

I heard a similar emphasis during the discussion of the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms. One of the panel participants said, “We have got to be about reconciling things. If we are not reconciling things, we might not be the church.”

I was struck by the number of people who attended the workshop entitled “Next Generation Leaders,” taught by Dr. Kyle Fever, director of the Nexus Institute of Grand View University in Des Moines. We of Lutheran CORE have known that many Lutheran pastors and congregational leaders and members are deeply concerned over where their congregation’s next Bible believing and outreach oriented pastor will come from. That concern is the reason why we of Lutheran CORE are involved in our pastoral formation project. The extent of the concern, as well as the importance and immediacy of the concern, were brought home to me by the number of people attending that workshop, which Kyle Fever entitled, “Resurrecting Timothy.”

The idea behind the title is this. Timothy was different from Paul, and Paul was willing to allow Timothy to be Timothy. In other words, Paul let Timothy be different from Paul. Dr. Fever shared how youth today are interested in spiritual things, but many of them in ways that we do not know how to deal with. We have virtually no training for non-traditional ministries. We have very few Timothies, who are different from Paul. Dr. Fever challenged us, What kind of church leaders do we want? Ones like what we already know? Or are we willing to be like Paul and let Timothy be Timothy?

Kyle Fever said that we need to find ways to raise up not future leaders for the church as we know it now, but future leaders for a church that we do not yet know what it will be like. We need to give young adults opportunities to participate in the vitality of the congregation, and not necessarily within the four walls of the church. We need to cultivate in them a yearning to be a part of the work of the Gospel in the world, rather than try to cultivate in them a yearning to be part of preparing the communion table for Sunday morning. He got down to basics when he asked us, “How many here are intentionally mentoring a high school sophomore or junior?” He challenged pastors, “The next time you write a sermon, target it to sixteen to twenty-two year olds.” He concluded by saying, “There are no easy answers, but there are resources.”


After being home from Minneapolis for a few days, I left for Chicago to attend the annual Latino ministries Encuentro (Encounter) October 17-19. This event is sponsored by Lutheran CORE and was planned and put on by Pastor Keith Forni, member of the board of Lutheran CORE and pastor of First/Santa Cruz Lutheran Church in Joliet, Illinois. Pastor Forni has an unusual gift for Latino ministries. He has an unbelievable number of contacts within the Lutheran Latino ministries community, and he is natural and comfortable leading bi-lingual worship.

One of the two main presenters was Dr. Alberto Garcia, professor emeritus of theology at Concordia University Wisconsin and co-author of the book, Wittenberg Meets the World: Reimagining the Reformation at the Margins. I was struck with how much he emphasized one of the same themes that I had heard so much about at the LCMC gathering – the theme of reconciliation. It made sense to me. Because we live in such a divided nation and divided world, one of the particular gifts that the Church has to offer our nation and our world is the power of reconciliation. And one of the chief ways in which the Church can demonstrate the power of the Gospel and give credibility to its message is if we as God’s people are able to become reconciled with those from whom we have become estranged.

The other main presenter was Ken Elkin, a retired ELCA pastor from Williamsport, Pennsylvania. During his presentation, entitled “A Pilgrim People,” Pastor Elkin described his recent pilgrimage walking the entire, approximately five hundred mile long route of the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. After describing the characteristics of a pilgrimage as well as the place of pilgrimage in the history of the church, he then told of his own experiences in walking that route. He described what he called “the spirit of the camino” – how people are very open to each other as well as very caring for each other while on the pilgrimage. Some people who are on the camino are dealing with major issues in their lives. He presented the challenge of then bringing that spirit of the camino back into the rest of your life. He shared two of the great life lessons that can be learned from the camino. One of them he had found written as graffiti along the way – “You are capable of more and you need less than you think.” The other one was the title of a book – “To walk far, carry less.” He concluded his presentation by saying, “The popularity of this pilgrimage shows that there is a genuine spiritual hunger in people, and we are not reaching them.”

saw us, walked up to us, and then began sharing how her fiancé had just been killed in a motorcycle accident. She had felt abandoned by God until she saw us. Dr. Alberto Garcia responded to the moment beautifully. He shared the love and comfort of God with her and prayed with her. She was certain God had brought her to us and us to her. How wonderful it was to be part of an answer to someone’s prayer.

St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church ELCA, the host congregation, is in the Hermosa neighborhood of northwest Chicago, which has changed dramatically in the last few decades from being totally Caucasian to totally Latino. In the basement there are pictures of confirmation classes from the 1960’s, made up of thirty to forty very Caucasian looking young people. We were able to experience how the congregation still has a vital opportunity for ministry, though a very different opportunity for ministry, as some of the neighbors joined us for dinner and a prayer service one evening. That evening we also held an outdoor candlelight prayer service for peace in a city that has experienced the tragedy of five hundred homicides so far this year. The neighborhood is a fairly high density neighborhood, so we know that nearby residents witnessed our service. The need for prayers for healing and peace were brought home to us by some graffiti we saw on the way to the church – “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.”

Pastor Keith Forni, who serves St. Timothy’s congregation in Chicago, as well as First/Santa Cruz in Joliet, told of how dozens of children and their parents walk right by the church each day on their way to and from their school, which is only two blocks away. Pastor Forni uses the strategic location of the church as an opportunity to reach out to the children and their parents, and invite them to an afternoon children’s program at the church.

We were very honored and pleased that the Rev. Hector Garfias-Toledo, Assistant to the Bishop of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod ELCA, stopped by and visited the Encuentro and brought greetings from Bishop Wayne Miller. It is our goal that future Encuentros will continue to provide inspiration, resources, fellowship, and encouragement for those involved in or considering becoming involved in Latino, Spanish language, and/or bi-lingual ministries. We hope to find ways to make the Encuentro more accessible to more people so that this annual gathering will be a resource for Lutherans of all church body affiliations.

May your celebration of the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation be a time for you of giving thanks to God for His abounding love and His amazing grace.

Blessings in Christ,

Dennis D. Nelson

President of the Board and Director of Lutheran CORE


Tuesday, October 24, 2017 Devotion

“You love evil more than good, falsehood more than speaking what is right.  You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue. But God will break you down forever; He will snatch you up and tear you away from your tent, and uproot you from the land of the living.”  (Psalm 52:3-5)


The wicked tongue shall not survive.  Why do you cling to that which is already condemned?  Come then into the rest of the Lord and give up the vain ways of this world.  DO not cling to that which is destructive, but come into the hope of glory that comes through grace.  Live into the life into which You have been called through grace by faith.  Let your wicked heart be uprooted and replaced with a heart like Christ’s.


Lord, You know all the complexities of the heart and the ways in which it plays games with me.  Blot out my iniquities and take away those things which hinder me from living life as You have designed it to be lived.  Guide me O Lord into Your grace that I may begin again the journey to which grace calls me.  Help me through all obstacles to live, speak and have my being in You.


Lord Jesus, You have come to forever shatter the wicked and their ways from ruling in life.  Though there remains this season in which the wicked endure, let me not be counted among them.  Instead, guide me by Your grace to come into the life to which You have called me by Your provision to seek the goodness You offer.  Help me now and always to cling to You, the finisher of my faith.  Amen.

Sunday, October 22, 2017 Devotion

“By Your favor do good to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem.  Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices, in burnt offering and whole burnt offering; then young bulls will be offered on Your altar.”  (Psalm 51:18-19)


Zion, the place for the redeemed, the place of hope and eternity, the new Jerusalem.  Zion is for those who come through salvation to live in the relationship eternally given by God through the means of salvation He has made possible through Christ.  Come then into the rest, even amidst the struggles of this age.  Come and make your sacrifices to the Lord who sees and knows the hearts of all.


Lord, You have offered the way of hope for those who turn to You.  Guide me in this path that I would walk where You have shown the way and live according to Your purposes.  Help me overcome all the difficulties of this world by trusting in You.  Help me keep my heart on the path of Your leading that I would walk in the ways You have established from the beginning.


Lord Jesus, King of Zion, by Your grace, You open the way for all those who come by faith.  You make the first and final sacrifice by Your own blood to free us to come as we are through You into citizenship in Zion.  Lead me by the grace You offer to live my life toward You, with You and in You that I may being the eternal life now that shall be lived forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017 Devotion

“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and pay your vows to the Most High; call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.”  But to the wicked God says, “What right have you to tell of My statutes and to take My covenant in your mouth?”  (Psalm 50:14-16)


What is it you can give the Lord?  What is it He needs?  The Lord desires to be in a love relationship with you.  What you can give Him is yourself.  Make the sacrifice and give your life to Him.  See what He will do with what you give Him.  Is He not more than able to do all things through Christ who strengthens you?  Can He not do as He wills with what is His own?


Lord, this simple principle is hard to understand, yet this is the very thing that You ask.  You ask me to give myself to You that I would become like Christ.  Help me to do this very thing through Your Holy Spirit.  Lead me in the way I should go that I may go there and be one who walks in Your will.  It is truly no sacrifice to be whom You have created me to be.  Help me get out of the way.


Author and finisher of my faith, lead me in the steps You have me walk this day to accomplish the Father’s will on earth as it shall be done in heaven.  Lead me away from the never-changing circles of this world to seek first Your kingdom knowing that everything else that is needed shall be added after this.  Lead me today in the way I should go and help me to follow Your steps.  Amen.

Weekly Devotional for October 4, 2017

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (St. Paul, writing in Philippians 2:3)

As our nation faces another shocking set of murders, it’s good to pause and remember why Christians walk a different path.  After all, it’s one thing to know your morals, and quite another to know why they’re your morals.  Why should we reject rivalry and conceit?

We can surely see the danger of both sins.  Rivalry led to the first murder on earth: Cain killing his brother Abel because Abel had the more acceptable sacrifice.  Conceit abetted the worse murder on earth: Jesus on the cross, arrested by those who thought themselves better than him.  The spirit of rivalry and pride—the hatred of our neighbor—lurks beneath every murder.  

But knowing a sin’s potential danger is not enough.  Our sinful hearts can quickly imagine an exception for ourselves, a justification for sin that makes us imagine that we can manage the risk. Better to know the true foundation of our morality: God gave His Son for sinners.   

Because God stands at the center of all reality, that sacrificial love for all people stands there, too.  God counted sinners more significant than Himself, so significant that He gave His life for theirs.  Being His children, and thus desiring to live in harmony with Him, we follow on that same path: no rivalry, no conceit, no murder, but only loving neighbors as our true selves.  

LET US PRAY: Forgive me, Lord.  I’d rather love myself than my neighbor, and so I do, on most days.  I am not You, Lord, as You know full well, and I often forget.  Yet since it is Your glory to have compassion on the sinner, have compassion on me.  By Your Holy Spirit grant that I would learn to find my true self not in myself, but in Your Son, and so also in His neighbors, and thus forgetting myself, love You and neighbor alike; through Christ Your Son.  Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Zion, Wausau

Weekly Devotional for September 13, 2017

“The authorities are ministers of God.” (Romans 13:6b)

Christians look at civil government differently than some others might.  Just as we see God at work in parents, raising, protecting, and caring for children, so do we view government as a work of God, tasked with protecting and caring for society.  Rulers are, as Luther put it, our “fathers in office,” not in blood (Large Catechism, Fourth Commandment).

We may sometimes wonder why God grants us the fathers that we have.  We may even find ourselves telling our fathers, in office or in blood, “I must obey God rather than you.”  God sustains us in those times with the example of His Son, who made the good confession of faith even as He acknowledged Pilate’s authority to condemn Him (1 Timothy 6:13).

In the end, then, this startling statement—“the authorities are ministers of God”—serves both to confirm and to limit the authority of our earthly rulers.  God establishes them, and just so, they are accountable to God and beneath Him.  In either case, the truth serves to comfort God’s people: God’s providence rests over all!  We love, honor, and pray for our rulers; we may even serve as rulers in good conscience; and at times, we bear witness against these rulers whom we are called to love.  

LET US PRAY: O Lord of lords, bless the government of this land.  Teach me to love those who make, administer, and judge our laws, and to hold them in esteem for Your sake, for truly, they are Your ministers for our good.  Teach them also to turn aside from evil; to seek justice, humility, and mercy; and to temper speech and action with such wisdom that our common life may be wholesome and pleasing to You; through Christ our Lord.  Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Zion, Wausau


Letter from the Director for August 2017

Seeing the movie, “Dunkirk,” which is currently playing in theaters nationwide, made me think about and appreciate even more the very excellent article which Steve Shipman wrote for the July 2017 issue of CORE Voice, “Does Faith in Jesus Matter?” In this article Pastor Shipman alerts us to the very disturbing and alarming resolution which was recently passed by the New England Synod assembly, which would seek to amend the phrase “bring all people to faith in Christ” in the ELCA constitution to be more in line with the ELCA’s understanding of Christian witness and the mission and purpose of the church. A link to Pastor Shipman’s article can be found here. A link to the New England Synod’s resolution can be found here.

This movie powerfully portrays the evacuation of several hundred thousand Allied soldiers from the beaches and harbor of Dunkirk, in northern France, between the dates of May 26 and June 4, 1940, a few months after the beginning of World War II. After the invasion of France by Nazi Germany, thousands of British, French, and Belgian troops were cut off and surrounded by the German army. As they retreated to the seaside city of Dunkirk, and as the Allied perimeter continued to shrink, their situation became increasingly hopeless.

The tagline for the movie is, “When 400, 000 men couldn’t get home, home came for them.” What a powerful picture of the human situation and therefore what God did. When sin, death, and the power of the devil had us surrounded and we were helpless to do anything about it, God sent His Son, to die on the cross for our sins and to rise from the dead to defeat Satan and death. As 1 Peter 3: 18 says, “For Christ also suffered for sins, once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring us to God.” When we could not get to our heavenly home, Jesus came to and for us.

In the Dunkirk evacuation several hundred thousand soldiers were rescued by a hastily assembled fleet of over eight hundred boats, which included thirty-nine British destroyers and civilian merchant ships, but also a flotilla of hundreds of merchant marine boats, fishing boats, pleasure craft, yachts, and lifeboats that were called into service from Britain for the emergency. These other boats came to be known as the little ships of Dunkirk.

There is a scene in the movie where the British Royal Navy is commandeering private boats to participate in the evacuation. A man by the name of Mr. Dawson cooperates without question, but rather than let a navy crew take his boat, he and his son Peter take her out themselves. Mr. Dawson and Peter are outstanding examples of people who are willing to go way beyond inconvenience to put themselves and their property at great danger and risk in order to save and rescue others.

Another one of the characters in the movie, Farrier, a British Royal Air Force fighter pilot, is making his way across the English channel to provide air support to the troops waiting at Dunkirk. He and the other pilots in his squadron have been instructed on how much fuel they can spend before they need to return. Farrier’s fuel gauge malfunctions, but he continues with his mission. After burning all of his regular fuel in maneuvers along the way and switching to reserve fuel, he finally reaches Dunkirk, where evacuation efforts are being attempted under heavy enemy bombardment. He takes out a bomber, saving ships and troops. As he flies over the beach, Allied soldiers clap and cheer for him. Finally out of fuel, he glides towards a landing on the beach and barely cranks his landing gear down in time. But he lands outside the Allied perimeter, so he sets fire to his plane before he is taken prisoner by the Germans. Here is another person who is an inspiration and a huge source of encouragement to others because of his commitment, dedication, and sacrifice, and willingness to pay the price in order that others might be saved.

I saw that movie and I was saddened even more that there is a movement in the ELCA to eliminate bringing people to faith in Christ as a prime part of the mission of the church, and to do so in the name of cultural sensitivity and interfaith dialogue.

For Dawson, Farrier, and the other characters in the movie, and for all the real-live people who participated in the Dunkirk evacuation, it did matter whether Allied troops were rescued from the Nazi German army. It did matter whether several hundred thousand soldiers were rescued or whether they were slaughtered on the beaches of northern France. But there is a movement within the ELCA – and we assume that it will be a growing movement – of people who say that faith in Jesus does not matter, at least in the way that the Bible says that it matters because “there is salvation in no one else.” (Acts 4: 12) We understand that this resolution passed overwhelmingly, and that there was little or no expressed objection.

That a resolution like that would pass should be a cause for great concern, sorrow, and soul-searching for all Biblically faithful Lutherans of all Lutheran church bodies. The fact that there is a movement within one Lutheran church body that is saying, “Faith in Jesus does not matter,” should lead all of us to ask ourselves, Do I believe that faith in Jesus matters? Do I care whether people know Jesus? And if I say that I do, what am I doing about it?


As I am writing this, I am preparing for the NALC convocation in Nashville August 9-11. By the time you receive this, the convention will have happened. Many thanks to everyone who stopped by the Lutheran CORE table. I am looking forward to telling you about the event in the September 2017 issue of CORE Voice. We of Lutheran CORE value our ministry partnership with the NALC. It is a joy to be so warmly welcomed at the convocation, to reconnect with friends, and to make new friends.

I am also looking forward to attending two events in October – the LCMC gathering October 8-11 in Minneapolis, and the Lutheran CORE-sponsored Latino ministries Ecuentro in Chicago October 17-19. We also highly value our ministry partnership with LCMC, and we count it a great privilege to help sponsor the Hispanic ministries gathering which gives encouragement and resources to those currently involved in Spanish speaking ministries, as well as to those considering transitioning their emphasis or beginning a new, additional emphasis in outreach to Latino people. Many thanks to Keith Forni, ELCA pastor and member of our board, for all his hard work putting together such a great event. For more information about the Encuentro, or to register, contact Pastor Keith at 815-600-3030 or

Blessings in Christ,

Dennis D. Nelson

President of the Board and Director of Lutheran CORE


Letter from the Director from February 2017



We of Lutheran CORE have added something new. We have been sending out a more formal newsletter, CORE Voice, in the middle of every other month – January, March, etc. We will now be adding a letter from me which we will send out in the middle of the other months – February, April, etc. If you know someone that you would to see receive these communications from us, please let us know at There is also the option of receiving our communications by U. S. post office mail, so please notify us if you or someone you know would like to hear from us in that way. In these letters that will be coming to you every other month, I want to share with you what is on my heart as the president of the board and the director of Lutheran CORE.

In Christ, Dennis D. Nelson


During these Sundays in the Epiphany season the second lesson has been taken from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, in which he has made statements like these –

The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God” (1: 18)

We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power and wisdom of God” (1: 23-24)

I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (2: 2)

But how often do people in churches – even in Lutheran churches – hear about so many other things rather than “Jesus Christ, and him crucified”? For example –

I attended a funeral at a Lutheran church. Jesus was never mentioned even once during the message. There were vague references to the love of God and the hope that we will all be together again, but no mention at all of how Jesus is the basis that hope.

I have heard a sermon on the feeding of the five thousand where the preacher said, “The miracle was not at all about Jesus. Rather the miracle was all about the boy who shared his lunch.” And then he challenged the congregation to do the modern day equivalent of sharing your lunch.

I have heard a sermon about the Gospel account of the temptation of Jesus where the preacher said, “The temptation to turn stones into bread shows that we need to fight world hunger. The temptation to bow down and worship Satan in order to regain all the kingdoms of the world shows that we need to study the issues and then vote for political candidates who will pursue peace and social justice.”

I have heard a sermon on Transfiguration Sunday where the preacher said, “As we (and then he listed several ways of serving within the congregation), we can help bring about the transfiguration and transformation of the world.”

I have heard a sermon on Christmas Eve where the preacher said, “You do not have to believe in Jesus to feel the warmth and glow of Christmas.”

And I have heard a sermon on Easter Sunday where the preacher first told of the women who came to the tomb looking for Jesus and then said, “Wherever you find people doing good, there you find Jesus.”

Pastors, if people do not hear from us about the cross and the empty tomb, how will they know the wisdom, love, and power of God? Is “Jesus Christ and him crucified” central in your preaching, in your faith, and in your living?


We are very grateful for all of our friends who through their faithful prayers and financial support make possible the work of Lutheran CORE. There were fifty-seven individuals, congregations, and organizations who gave $100 or more just during the month of December 2016. I had the great privilege of calling all of those for whom we have telephone numbers to thank them and was able to reach the majority of them. It was a joy to hear how much they value and appreciate the work of Lutheran CORE. I want to share with you an outreach ministry that I learned about that was undertaken by the congregation of one of our friends – Zion Lutheran Church in Hutchinson, Kansas.

In 1976, the bicentennial of our country, cycling enthusiasts put together the Bikecentennial, a path that cyclists could ride on across the country with maps and a supporting guidebook. The year before Harley Phillips, a member of Zion congregation and an owner of a bicycle shop, received a phone call from a couple who were blazing the trail to create the transcontinental route. Their tandem bicycle had broken down twenty-two miles out of town. Realizing that the town of Hutchinson was only five miles south of the route, Mr. Philips approached the church council, who put a shower into the former parsonage and converted the upstairs Sunday School classrooms into accommodations for riders. Word spread quickly among the cyclists, and after Harley Philipps became president of the Bicycle Dealers Association, the church and its hostel was put into the guidebook that was part of the literature that riders received as they began the route.

Comments left by those who stayed there showed the impact of the congregation’s ministry of hospitality. One person wrote, “Greetings from India.” Another wrote, “Such an act of love proves the point on your door – ‘You will never know a moment when God does not love you.’” Other comments received were, “What you did for me, you did for the Lord” and “I have not been to church for a long time – it was nice to be back.” One person even said, “Many thanks for the way in which you fulfilled Martin Luther’s 96th thesis – ‘Be kind to cyclists.’”

I asked whether they ever had a problem with theft or property damage. Harley Phillips first replied, “Anyone lazy enough to steal would not get on a bicycle and ride across the United States.” Then he added, “If you steal something and ride for five days, they can catch up with you in a car in one day. And besides, why carry all that extra weight anyway?”

I thought it was very interesting that the town of Hutchinson is nicknamed the Salt City because of a nearby mine from which rock salt is obtained and then, after being crushed, is spread on the highways when the roads ice up. Bravo to Harley Phillips and the congregation of Zion Lutheran Church in Hutchinson, Kansas, for being what Jesus said – “The salt of the earth.”


Are you aware of the weekly devotions that can be found on the blog on the home page of Lutheran CORE’s website? Three members of the board are contributing devotions every week.

I am writing a devotional based upon one of the following Sunday’s readings – posted every Tuesday

Steve Gjerde, vice president of the board, is writing a devotional based upon one of the previous Sunday’s readings in the Missouri Synod lectionary series – posted every Wednesday

Brett Jenkins, another member of the board, is writing a devotional based upon one of the following Sunday’s readings or a timely topic – posted every Friday

A link to these devotionals is then posted on a number of different facebook and twitter accounts. Please help us get the word out about these resources. It is our desire that they be an inspiration to all who read them and also a source of ideas, thoughts, illustrations, and images for pastors as they prepare for the following Sunday’s sermon.


Please be in prayer with us for the Summit on Pastoral Formation, which Lutheran CORE will be holding on June 21, 2017 at Grand View University in Des Moines. Responding to the concern that we have been hearing from many pastors and lay congregational leaders, who wonder where their congregations’ next orthodox and outreach-oriented pastor will come from, we will be gathering ten leaders from four different Lutheran church bodies – ELCA, LCMC, LCMS, and NALC – to begin wrestling with the question –

How can we best raise up and support a new generation of Lutheran pastors who will be Biblical and confessional in their theology and missional/evangelistic in their perspective and practice?

The list of ten church leaders who have been confirmed as participants can be found in the January 2017 issue of our newsletter, CORE Voice, which can be found on our website,

In this first phase participants will be asking such questions as, What is the nature of twenty-first century culture and the twenty-first century church which contribute to this challenge?, and Why do approaches that have worked in the past not work today?

In Matthew 9: 37-38 Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” The first thing we need to do if we agree that the Church in the future will need faithful, orthodox, and outreach-oriented pastors is to pray.


Many thanks to those who are supporting our ministry by designating their Thrivent Choice dollars for Lutheran CORE. If you are a member of Thrivent Financial and qualify for Thrivent Choice dollars, may we suggest that you consider designating those funds to support our work of being a Voice and Network for Confessing Lutherans. And may we also remind you of two things –

First, the deadline for designating your dollars for 2016 is March 31

Second, you will need to designate our full name, Lutheran Coalition for Reform, not our shortened name, Lutheran CORE

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We would love to hear from you. Please detach and return to us at

Lutheran CORE, P. O. Box 1741, Wausau, Wisconsin 54402-1741




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