Church of the Lutheran Brethren
Vol. 79, No. 1
AUTHORITY Lord of lords and King of kings
In This Issue 4 6 8 10 11 12
First and Last Words Todd Mathison
FAITH & FELLOWSHIP
An MK Return
Volume 79 - Number 1
An Insult to Human Reason E.M. Broen
Editor: Brent Juliot email@example.com
Publisher/Graphic Designer: Troy Tysdal firstname.lastname@example.org
Do You Innovate? Matthew Rogness Abounding in Hope 2012 Biennial Convention Gondor Calls for Aid! Cheryl Olsen
Director of Communications: Tim Mathiesen email@example.com | twitter: @ffmag
Removing the Mask James Erickson Church & Synod News re:Think Brent Juliot
Photography: Bob Olson: p.6 Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright ©1973. 1978. 1984. International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Who is Listening When We Pray? SHEL SORENSEN
Prayer is a popular topic, or so it seemed when two women’s magazines arrived at our home in December each featuring a cover article on prayer! I was surprised to learn that 83% of Americans believe God answers prayers.1 One wonders whether Americans really know the God we are praying to:
• Knowing there is “peace with God,” not fear, “through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). • Knowing that “all authority has been given to him in heaven and in earth…” (Matthew 28:18). • Knowing that right now “he ever lives to make intercession for us” (Hebrews 7:25). So pray-ers and wannabe pray-ers, come to our heavenly Father as a child; come boldly! Pray on!
• Can we dare approach the one who punishes disobedience? • Are we terrified to be in his presence – the Almighty, Holy One who cannot tolerate sin?
Shel Sorensen is the CLB Prayer Team Coordinator.
Or do we approach him by faith, with the “unassuming humility and unquestioning trustfulness of a child,”2 through our Savior Jesus Christ:
Source Material: 1USA Today/Gallup Poll 2010 • 2Lenski, “Interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel” p.428
The CLB Prayer Team is on-call to pray for requests from our family of churches. E-mail the team at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Faith & Fellowship
Glimpse Divine Authority TROY TYSDAL One day along the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians the heavens were torn open, and the prophet Ezekiel saw what appeared to be a windstorm coming toward him. Filled with fear, Ezekiel found himself surrounded by angels. The sound of their wings was like the sound of rushing water. As the angels ceased their movement, a voice spoke with power and authority. The voice caused Ezekiel to look up, and high above the angels was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above the throne was a figure like that of a man. From the waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire; and a brilliant light surrounded him. The voice Ezekiel heard was the voice of the Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth. Confronted by a perfect God, Ezekiel fell face down, filled with fear. Ezekiel’s encounter with the Almighty is similar to other recorded encounters with God in the Old Testament. The prophet Isaiah saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, with the train of his robe filling the temple, and he cried out, “Woe to me! For I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (Isaiah 6:1-5). Throughout the Old Testament the story is the same, sinners in the presence of the Lord are filled with fear, and tremble at his power. The Gospel of Mark begins with John the Baptist baptizing along the Jordan River, proclaiming and pointing toward the coming of the Lord (Mark 1:1-8). John’s message filled the Judean countryside with fear and visions of judgment, and yet the Lord enters Mark’s Gospel without a windstorm, or an army of angels. He enters Mark’s narrative as a man. MARK 1:9-11 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in www.ffmagazine.org
Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus voluntarily left his throne in heaven to enter our world. He existed before the beginning, and yet he lowered himself to be born, as a child, fully human, in a manger. At his baptism he had no sin to confess, and yet he entered the water, humbling himself, to identify with us. Why? The short answer is, love! On that day, along the Jordan, the heavens were torn open, but there is no record of John the Baptist being filled with fear, or the crowd running in terror. The sky was not filled with lightning, and the wind did not roar. There was only a voice of blessing, and the Spirit descending like a dove as Jesus started the journey that would lead him to the cross.
Scripture tells us that Jesus is the exact representation of God and the radiance of his glory (Hebrews 1:3). It tells us that through him the universe was made, and that by his word the universe is sustained. As Jesus lowered himself to become human, he brought with him all the power of God, and as he was crucified on the cross his perfect blood freed us from the guilt of sin. In Jesus we are given the Almighty, the first and the last, the beginning and the end, but more than that, we are given a savior. God in the flesh, driven to the cross by his love for us, cleansing us from our sin, and with divine authority inviting us to approach the unapproachable. Troy Tysdal is Church Resource Coordinator for the Church of the Lutheran Brethren and serves as associate pastor at Stavanger Lutheran Church in Fergus Falls, MN.
First and Last Words TODD MATHISON
here is something notable about the first and final words a person says. We love to hear the first words of a baby. What someone says on their deathbed also carries great significance. The very first recorded words of Jesus’ public ministry define his teaching: “The time is fulfilled; the kingdom of God draws nigh; repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15, my own translation). Jesus began his public ministry with an evangelical call to receive the kingdom of God. It’s more than an invitation; it’s a charge. “Since the kingdom of God is right here, right now, turn from your own way and trust in the good news of the kingdom of God.” There is power in what Jesus says as he proclaims, and is, the kingdom of God come near. Jesus speaks with unique authority (Mark 1:22). The very last words of Jesus also carry great significance: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And 4
surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus’ authority is explicit in his final words to his disciples, words given to us today also. Jesus roots his call for us to make disciples in the authority that has been given him by his Father. Jesus promises his power and presence with us as we represent Christ and his kingdom proclamation to those around us and to the nations. So, what does “disciple making” look like? Well, we need look no further than Jesus’ own ministry. In Matthew chapter 16, Jesus engages one of his disciples, Peter, in two ways that define effective discipling. In verses 13-20, Christ generously affirms Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah and divine Son of God. In the very next passage, Jesus harshly rebukes Peter for not holding to the concerns of God but rather to those of humans (16:21-23). Within this chapter, we find the two essential dynamics of effective disciple making: high support and high challenge. Peter must have felt at the top of his game after the first exchange, and after the second encounter, might have been questioning the integrity
of his own faith. The key to Jesus’ effective discipling, however, was that he could offer such high challenge because of the already existing relationship of high support. Is there someone in your life who could offer you meaningful praise yet also deliver to you difficult challenge? Are you in a relationship with someone who you could effectively disciple through high support, yet also high challenge? Our churches typically thrive in one or the other of these dynamics. We are very affirming of one another, even welcoming to newcomers (well, we greet them at least on their first visit), yet we rarely challenge or are challenged by one another in our attitudes and actions. Or our churches (especially our ministries/ programs) require great numbers of staff and time, but those who serve receive very little support once they’ve signed on to the ministry roster. Neither dynamic alone nurtures a discipling culture. But when together – high support and high challenge – there you will find a church environment ripe for making disciples. We all need support. We all need challenge. That kind of disciple making Faith & Fellowship
culture energizes spiritual living when experienced together. I have been personally and professionally challenged with Christ’s call to make disciples. For too long I have reduced “disciple making” to being only about information and not about imitation and transformation. I’ve been through countless Bible studies on discipleship – filling in all the blanks, reading through all the printed Scripture, and thinking great thoughts about all the application points – only to put the book back in my bookshelf while I’m on to the “next thing.” Have I made disciples? Only a handful. I’ve preached many more sermons, taught far more Bible studies, and led many more church meetings than I’ve made disciples. And I have invested (wasted?) so much more time on the former than on the latter – until lately. During these past three years, my ministry as a “pastor” has been redirected (I might say “reclaimed”) from solely leading the organized church toward that of making disciples. It’s not that the church doesn’t need structure or organization; it’s just that church structure or organization shouldn’t be www.ffmagazine.org
that which receives the most attention, from me or from anyone else within the congregation. We need to heed our savior’s call, and live and serve his first and final instruction to us to make disciples. And our world is ready for this. Have you noticed how many people do not like the organized Church? But I bet they’d be glad to know a friend who loves them and is actively investing in their own good. And I’ll bet that you’re ready for this, too. Don’t you long for relationallybased Christian living? Investing in your friends, and being invested in by them, rather than scurrying from one church event to the next? Jesus didn’t give us a charge to make disciples that he didn’t intend for us to achieve. But I’m guessing there might be little room left in your crowded schedule or your circle of friends for you to make a serious effort toward disciple making. Perhaps this little article is meant for only a few; for the few who are ready to walk in the pathway of Jesus. Might that be you? Hear this gracious invitation from your Lord Jesus: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come
to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:28-30, Message). This is the life rhythm in which Jesus made disciples. He calls you to the same. And Jesus has promised his presence and authority in doing so. What’s holding you back? Rev. Todd Mathison is lead pastor of Ebenezer LBC in Minneapolis, MN. VISIT ONLINE
An MK Return BOB OLSON
’m a missionary kid (MK), born and raised in Japan but grounded on U.S. soil these past thirty-five years, and I’m OK with that. Over time, these childhood memories lose their significance. That was my case until I watched the late evening news on March 10 (PST) and saw the tsunami sweep inland, over fields, under and over bridges, indiscriminately swallowing up everything in its path. My heart began a slow ache. The horror that I saw reached into the recesses of my heart and resurrected a word whose definition had lost its significance until now. Furusato. The English equivalent might be “hometown,” but I find that inadequate. In Japanese, it brings to mind, the feeling, the heart, ambience of one’s birthplace. It conjures up images of little old grannies bent double from 6
toiling in rice fields their entire lives, the smell of burning chaff in the fall and the sultry pre-rain dew at mid-summer dusk. Mornings that started with the neighbor’s gravelly front door rollers and the glass panes rattling every time “Papa” slid the door shut behind him on his way to work, his dusty dress shoes scratching the dirt below my window as he shuffled by. I watched as my furusato was being beaten and torn asunder. I followed the news and reports every chance I could that first month. They weren’t the same streets and fields I had played in, but close enough. It’s only water. You might stand on the beach and watch a ripple come in and feel it brush your toes. Living in Seattle, a leaky roof can be annoying. But when it comes ashore – a sixteen, forty-five or sixty foot mountain-high of black debris-barbed liquid – it is an
epic monster. It swallows buildings, and homes, emergency stations, warning sirens, desperate grandmas and strong young men alike. Yes, to the tsunami, it’s all alike. This is what happened to my furusato. In May, my brother Roger went to Japan to join Dean and Linda Bengtson in the relief work that had been under way with the aid and support of Samaritan’s Purse. The Bengtson’s mission call took a sudden diversion that March 11. They were now the facilitators of the “Samaritan’s” aid in Ishinomaki. Relief supplies and Jesus’ love are at work there. In a sea of broken homes, hearts and lives, this ministry is an island of hope. Roger returned to the United States with photos, stories and plans to go back in the fall. In May, I was employed in a new job and going was not an option. I had more immediate concerns as this new job was Faith & Fellowship
not going well. Then in August, my sister, Carol Sunde, informed us that she was going as well. She would be assisting Bonita Nordaas with an English Camp and it coincided with my brother’s trip. “Wouldn’t it be neat if all three of us ‘kids’ went.” And so she began dropping her not-so-subtle hints. It had been thirtyfive years since we had all been there together and twenty-one years since my last visit. I was due, but that wasn’t my thought. My thought was more of a “what if” sort of thought. “What if” thoughts don’t lead to prayer – they lead to “why bother.” But someone was praying and God answered and as so often happens, God’s answers don’t come like we envision. I lost my job. It took a week for this to sink in and then my sense of responsibility as the bread winner set in and I focused on job search. Still a quiet nagging thought persisted. “Maybe I should go.” The thought turned to prayer and prayers prevailed. Sometimes doing the irresponsible thing is the right thing. I went with three goals in mind: 1) I had been employed in the Seattle seafood industry for twenty-three years, selling Alaskan products into northeast Japan. I needed to see that the people there were OK. 2) To photo-document the state of the hard hit seafood industry and bring a report back to concerned companies here. 3) To photo-document and report back to the Lutheran Brethren International Mission’s supporting churches in North America. Japan was already old news. Its newsworthiness had been trumped by scandal and intrigue. But Japan was still hurting and this story needed to be kept alive. Call it self-appointed or Godappointed, this became my burden. September 27, we were there, all three of us. In some ways, it was like I’d never left. We drank tea and drove on the wrong side of the road, ate rice every chance we could, and talked rude to each other in our Tohoku dialect and laughed about it and the memories and the stupid stuff we www.ffmagazine.org
did as kids, and some of it was still funny and some of it was… well, I guess it only stands to reason we were immature at some point in our lives. Ah, it was good to be home. We caught up with childhood friends and ate and laughed with the church members and heard their joys and sorrows and the challenges facing the Lutheran Brethren churches in Japan. Friendships were renewed and new friends made. I realized Facebook adds a whole new dimension to the lines of that farewell hymn, “Blessed Be the Tie that Binds.” That song was a rite of passage for us, a hymn that ushered in such emotional and cultural turmoil. Relatives cried when we left the States. Church members cried when we left Japan. It was the time of snail mail. The Pacific was a vast ocean and crossing was an ordeal, a journey into sure separation from home, and we keenly felt that separation whether we headed east or west. With modern communications, you can fool yourself into thinking that ocean is smaller than it used to be. So in September I stood on a tranquil beach on the west side of the Pacific facing this blue sea. After spending days walking among ruins, photographing the aftermath of such a horror, it’s not hard for one’s thoughts, even on a blue-sky day, to begin to imagine what my own desperate attempts at self-preservation might have been. Sirens would be wailing as that blue sea would be sucked out to reinforce that deadly surge. Would I stop to help someone? Would I panic? Would I survive? Behind the beach and broken breakwater were foundations of the fishing village it annihilated. I picked my way back to the car, taking more photos to add to my collection. Recording the aftermath was a more difficult project than I imagined. So much of what I saw defied logic. Tsunamis do this. They leave behind an incomprehensible pile of contradictions: Boats in the road, cars on a roof, or one
house left standing in a debris field that was a community. I went to Japan and photo-documented these things and have passed out DVDs and posted them on “YouTube.” While these are the images my camera recorded, God has been recording a couple things on my heart. 1) While death is horrible and a tsunami is a horrendous natural instrument of death, there is something worse than death. It is to die separated from God, not knowing or refusing the grace that has brought us into his presence for eternity. If you are a Japanese living in the northern part of the LBIM field in Japan, the odds are 99.5% you will die this kind of death. Consider those odds as you think of the 30,000 that lost their lives to the tsunami. 2) God is the God of love, he is the God who is in control and also loves us. When we realize how amazing this truth really is, it inspires love in action. I saw both death and love at work in the same place. When love shines its light of hope in such a dark place, oh how bright that light is! If you aren’t sure and you want to see what this looks like, go to Japan and see what LBIM is doing in partnership with Samaritan’s Purse in Ishinomaki. Better yet, go as a volunteer. Be a part of what this looks like. Bob Olson is the son of missionaries James and Evelyn Olson, and he currently resides in Washington state.
If God has placed it on your heart to help support Japan’s recovery, you can mail your donation to: Church of the Lutheran Brethren PO Box 655 • Fergus Falls, MN 56538-0655 (Japan Disaster Relief) To give online visit: www.clba.org/giving
An Insult to Human Reason E.M. BROEN
eason is a God-given quality of man’s soul and granted a position not unlike a judge in a court. It has to pass judgment on all kinds of matters pertaining to life’s many-sided activities and problems. By development it may attain to a high degree of penetrating insight and efficiency, and its field of labor be extended as its ability becomes more matured. Yet the Word of God has set it certain limits, beyond which it must not attempt to extend its jurisdiction, or else its findings will not be honored. Yes, and it is told to its face: “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged.” 8
Now, this is highly insulting to human reason which plays such an important part in human affairs. “I cannot know!” Oh, such taunt! And the Word of God goes still a step further, and declares to reason: “You are not only unable to understand what we are about here, but you are a hindrance in the way.” (See 2 Corinthians 10:5.) The Christmas message has surely things in it insulting to human reason. When God wanted to bring his firstborn into the world, why did he not have arrangements made for his coming in a different way? Let a young, unmarried woman be with child, having conceived by the Holy Spirit, as we read in our confession. What an insult to reason! And the Son of God Almighty makes
his appearance into this world in a stable. The King of kings and Lord of lords passes by the capital city of his nation and selects two small villages to play an important part in his life, one for his birthplace, the other for his childhood home! Where has reason had any part here? And, taking a hasty survey of Christ’s way of working, Judas seems to have had some ground to stand on when he became increasingly offended at the Lord’s strange and, as he thought, unwise proceedings. And the same views can be entertained about the whole movement, called Christianity. Where it retains its purest forms, human reason feels baffled and insulted. Can reason approve of this for instance: Faith & Fellowship
“The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” 1 Corinthians 1:25, KJV
“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29, KJV). When such a review of the Holy Spirit’s program is presented in the court of reason, it is simply thrown out as no evidence to take up time with. “Foolishness!” is hurled after it. But, as the court takes a recess, an intellectual giant, Paul of Tarsus, speaks www.ffmagazine.org
loud enough for judge and jury to hear it: “The foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men” nevertheless. What then? “By faith we understand” that God made no mistake when he chose a virgin as mother for his beloved Son and a stable in the little village of Bethlehem as his humble birthplace. And thus all along the way, faith beholds the divine meaning in God’s Word and God’s leading and dealing, where reason is only insulted and offended. It is not reasonable, at all, that I, a lost and undone sinner, can be saved and have assurance of it simply because I put my trust in the atoning work of Jesus Christ. And that when I am spiritually weak and downhearted and I have lost faith in myself, yet should be strong in the Lord to
gain victory over the enemies of my soul, that is more than reason can comprehend. Rev. E.M. Broen was the first president of Lutheran Brethren Schools. He was born in Tufsingdalen, Norway on October 7, 1863. He was instrumental in the early formation of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren. Near the end of his life he returned home to Norway and passed away on February 24, 1938 at the age of 74. This article originally appeared in Faith & Fellowship Magazine, Vol. 2, No. 1, 1934.
F cus Family Matters ROY HEGGLAND
s Jesus passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed him” (Mark 2:14, ESV). In these words, the Gospel of Mark shows us Jesus Christ speaking with authority. Mark often demonstrates to us the impact of Jesus’ words by using the words “straight away” and “immediately” in connection with his words, or, as is the case in our text above, recording the immediate action that followed Jesus’ words. This response to the words of Jesus is so different from the response to our own words that we may fail to recognize the significance unless God inspires someone like Mark to point it out to us in his Gospel. Why are the words of Jesus so different from our words? The answer is given to us in the account of the baptism of Jesus recorded in Mark 1:9-11. Mark tells us that the Spirit of God descended upon Jesus and the Father’s voice spoke from heaven declaring him to be the well-pleasing Son
of God. Also, in Mark 9:7, we read that at the Transfiguration “a voice came from the cloud: ‘This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!’” Jesus, the Son of God, speaks with the authority of the Almighty Triune God. Have you ever thought of the fact that the word “authority” has contained within it the word “author”? Both words have the same root in Latin which means “to create or grow.” Isn’t it interesting that when we say that Jesus speaks with authority, we are also saying that he speaks as the creator? In Colossians 1:16, Paul makes it clear that Jesus is the creator of everything when he writes that “all things were created by him [Jesus] and for him.” And in Psalm 33:6, we see that “by the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” By his words, Jesus breathed the stars into existence! Now that’s AUTHORITY! When Jesus speaks, creation happens. When he called Levi, his words created the capacity in Levi to respond to the call.
Should it be a surprise to us that when he calls us, he also creates faith and new life in us so that we are able to follow him? After all, his words create! Just as Jesus called Levi with the word of authority to follow him, today he is calling us to follow him by trusting him, living in the freedom of the gospel, loving each other as he loves us, and giving ourselves and our resources to serve our neighbor. Just as he gave himself for us, he is calling us to be like him in every way and, by his Spirit through his Word, he creates in us the desire and ability to follow him. May he re-create himself in us by his Word every moment of every day so that he would be glorified as the ultimate authority by whom and for whom all things are created! Roy Heggland serves the Church of the Lutheran Brethren as Associate for Biblical Stewardship.
Received as of Nov. 30, 2011 CLB Mission Statement: In response to God’s person and grace, we worship him with everything we are in Christ, serve one another in Christian love and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ will all people. CLB Vision Statement: We see God stirring in our church a fresh passion to reach beyond our own comfort to all people among whom God places us. We embrace God’s mission to bring the life changing Gospel to unreached people in Asia and Africa, and we sense God convicting us to more intentionally reach out to people who live in our midst in North America as well. Family Matters: We ask that you prayerfully consider partnering with us as we seek, with God’s help, to proclaim the good news we have been given to the ends of the earth.
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In Need of Jesus
henever I get an opportunity to travel my answer is always “yes” and my next questions are “where, when, how and why?” I would guess that most people think through travel opportunities in the opposite order, but for me travel to new places is about the most exciting thing I can imagine. This was my thought process as I heard that I was on the short list of candidates for a mission trip to Chad, Africa. So – when I was asked I immediately said, “Yes!” At the time, my “yes” had a lot to do with the opportunity to check Africa off my world travel list – as well as another chance for an adventure. But the answers to the other questions changed my perspective. Where? That was a good question – where is Chad? I spent some time on the web locating the country and learning as much as I could. My local library had exactly nothing on the topic (okay – it is a small town branch). I discovered that Chad is in Northern Africa – just below Libya. This concerned me a bit until I realized that quite a large desert separates the larger population of the two countries. With a little math (and a little help) I discovered that the GNP of the country was roughly the same as five Minnesota counties, the average life span for men was 49 (a daunting thought for me at the tender age of 42) and 51 for women. I also learned that the international dialing code was 235, and if I wanted to go I was going to need to get a whole lot of shots. When? The trip was scheduled for early February 2011, an excellent time to escape winter and enjoy the dry season in Chad – some of the coolest weather Chad has to offer! How? Now this was really a tricky problem for me. I had just started a new job and had not earned any vacation time yet, so it was going to cost me two weeks of income and a favor from my new boss. This became a very serious concern for me and led to a lot of prayer. If this was just going to be an adventure trip, then it was impractical and logistically out of the question. The trip had to be a response to a calling to get involved in international www.ffmagazine.org
mission. The trip’s purpose: to meet the Bagirmi people. This brought me to “Why?” I had a lot to learn about the history of Lutheran Brethren mission activity in Africa and the Church’s desire to minister in the northern part of the country. Even more importantly – who are the Bagirmi? God answered my prayers and the trip commenced. Three of us flew from Fargo, North Dakota to Paris, France where we met missionary Dan Venberg. We departed with him for N’djamena, Chad. There we received a warm welcome from the Holzner family, who were operating the mission’s welcome center. After a busy day in the capital city, we were introduced to our first Bagirmi man, one of a tiny minority of Bagirmi Christians, who would be joining us for our trip. The rest of the trip brought us south to the area of current ministry focus where we engaged in meetings in several villages with Bagirmi tribal leaders (patiently translated by our host Dan Venberg). The details of this part of the trip could fill a book so I will jump to reflections of the trip and my feelings about ministering to the Bagirmi people. Our meetings indicated that there was a strong interest among the Bagirmi to host a missionary family. There were offers of places to build a house, along with hopes of coming alongside the new missionaries, making them a part of the community, and treating them as family. A very positive response and one
that was somewhat unexpected from a predominately Muslim culture. The Bagirmi are an unreached people group. There is no other means of direct ministry to them beyond someone literally going to them, living among them, and teaching them about Christ. As a Church, our commitment to adopting this people group is to see that they are reached. Our relationship will be with the Bagirmi themselves. Our hands will be the missionaries who follow the call to minister to the Bagirmi. We will take opportunities to work on the ground in Chad as often as possible. There will be many challenges. The Bagirmi as a people were predominantly Muslim long before my ancestors gave up their Viking raids, so major change will involve a lot of work and even more prayer. But God is working among the Bagirmi – he is sending dreams and visions to influential members of the Bagirmi and he is preparing a path and opening hearts and minds among this proud people with a warrior past. The name Bagirmi was unknown to me just a few months ago. My world has now changed because now the Bagirmi are not just a name, but a group of souls in need of Jesus. Nathan Peterson is a member of Hope Lutheran Brethren Church in Barnesville, MN.
How We Accomplish International Mission Together
ndividuals and congregations, who make up the family we call the Church of the Lutheran Brethren, have prayerfully and financially supported the international ministry that we have shared in significant and sacrificial ways all through our history. A priority focus of our founding purposes, that lives on today, was to take the Gospel to places where it had never been preached. This focus had at the core a methodology to plant churches that were self-governing, self-supporting and self-propagating. In other words, congregations and national churches would be there long after our missionaries left. We have met this challenge and the need to fund this ministry focus in multiple ways: 1) Family members, friends and home congregations have prayerfully given so that the next missionary could go to Asia and Africa. 2) Congregations have sensed deep in their mission heart the need to send and support those who have been called by God to cross-cultural service. We concur that all mission begins in the local congregation. These faithful support networks have been cultivated as missionaries returned home to report on what God was doing through these ministries. 3) In the last 7-10 years there have been several congregations that have adopted specific unreached people groups for the expressed purpose of doing whatever it takes to reach them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to plant a church that 12
could be reasonably expected to reach their own people for Christ. Adoption has focused proactively on the specific people who are lost and what it will take to reach them. 4) In the last couple of years, this focus on the adoption of a people group has added another dimension. Instead of a congregation “going it alone” in the adoption process, they – together with others – have formed a cluster of congregations seeking together to reach this people group. This has brought fresh ideas and fellowship in the common goal to plant a church to reach the people group with the Gospel.
prayerfully and financially supporting the international ministry of our family of congregations. LBIM would be honored and is ready to serve you and your congregation in your great commission task to reach our world with the Gospel. Rev. Matthew Rogness serves the Church of the Lutheran Brethren as Director of International Mission.
www.lbim.org PEOPLE GROUP ADOPTION VIDEO
Today, all of these are viable ways of Faith & Fellowship
C hurch of the an Luthe Bret ren
BIENNIAL CONVENTION AUG 2-5, 2012
Thurs d ay
Fr id ay a.m.
Speaker: David Rinden Theme: Promised
Speaker: Dick Mattila Theme: Delivered
Fr id ay p.m.
Speaker: David Foss Theme: Received
Speaker: Joel Egge Theme: Proclaiming
Ab ou nding
HOP E Website: www.clba.org
Gondor Calls for Aid! CHERYL OLSEN
igh above the city of Minas Tirith, in the mythical kingdom of Gondor, a tower stands. An immense brass container of oil is poured, drenching the carefully stacked wood. A torch is thrown and the enormous Beacon of Minas Tirith is lit. On a nearby mountain, another beacon answers by lighting its own towering bonfire, signaling the watchman on a distant craggy peak to kindle the next fire. This mountain summit blaze signals to another far away peak, towering above the clouds. It, too, answers and throughout the night, fires continue to be lit on snowy peak after snowy peak, until at last, the message is received at the neighboring kingdom: “Gondor calls for aid!” The response resounds, “Then Rohan will answer!” The images in The Lord of the Rings 14
film are striking, as the camera pans across mountain ranges, following the signal fires as they are lit, one by one. This is one of my favorite scenes of the Lord of the Rings series, perhaps because it evokes spiritual comparisons for me. Who are the tenders of these signal fires in such lonely outposts? What would happen if they were inattentive, asleep, or were to abandon their posts? Does discouragement ever overtake them, wondering if their contribution is too small to matter? I picture the single mom in Zarephath feeding the prophet Elijah the last of her small provisions, though she had intended to use it as a final meal for herself and her son before certain starvation. I see the first-century widow who gave her tiny mite of an offering in the Jerusalem Temple. I remember Ruth of Moab who
scavenged grain left behind by reapers, to provide for her mother-in-law and herself. I even see a North Dakota woman, collecting all of her February spare change in a plastic “WMCLB” cup on her windowsill to send to national Women’s Ministries. Each woman’s contribution was small, yes, but not insignificant! Because of her sacrificial gift, the Zarephath woman became the recipient of a miracle that enabled her oil and flour to last, feeding three people for the duration of the drought. The Jerusalem widow perhaps never knew that she was praised by Jesus himself, but she has inspired generations, “giving all she had.” Ruth’s hard-working generous spirit impressed a wealthy landowner, who married her, resulting in her inclusion in the lineage of Jesus. The North Dakota woman’s gift joined other Faith & Fellowship
cups of coins, mugs of money, and jars of change from New York to California, helping to positively impact women that she will probably never meet. If you know the story of Gondor, you remember that before help from Rohan could arrive, Gondor was deep in battle. And so are we, as believers in Jesus. Lord of the Rings depicts an epic fictional tale of the struggle of good and evil. We are in the reality of that spiritual struggle: good vs. evil in our world, our communities, and even in our own thoughts and actions. Our world needs aid! As believers, we’re all posted at signal stations. Ours may be a lonely post, or one overrun by pre-schoolers, or uncooperative co-workers! Yet, God has placed us at our post, asking us to be ready at any time. Ready to tell anyone of the help that is available in Jesus; ready to www.ffmagazine.org
pray for our pastor’s wife; ready to join a clean-up crew locally or abroad; ready to simply save coins in a “Cup of Blessing;” ready to be set “on fire” for him. This month, WMCLB calls for aid. Our Focus Project this year is supporting our pastors’ wives. We invite you to care for your own pastor’s wife with monthly practical ideas at www.wmclb.com. Encourage her to accept the invitation to her Regional Pastors’ Wives Retreat to energize and refresh her. Remove obstacles so she can attend by helping with gas money, childcare, and weekend responsibilities. We also need your aid in funding these retreats, as most will occur in February and March. In our world, it isn’t Gondor who calls for aid – it is the body of Christ, that we are already a part of, who calls for aid. It is our neighbor across the street. We can
answer! Those who walked with Jesus trusted – and walked on water. Trusted – and caught so many fish the nets began to break. Trusted him to empower them to complete the mission he gave them: to make disciples wherever they were going. When Rohan went to aid Gondor, it was the presence of a king and his unexpected resources that won the battle. For us, the King of kings promises his everlasting presence to strengthen and work in us! It is his light which provides the aid the world needs. Cheryl Olsen is Information Coordinator for Women’s Ministries of the CLB.
VISIT WMCLB ONLINE
Removing the Mask JAMES ERICKSON
hat is the Church under the direction and authority of Jesus Christ? When we read in Mark chapter 1 that Jesus cast out evil spirits and healed the sick, is this part of the ministry of the Church today? Does the Church whose Lord is the One who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth continue to do these “works” today – in his Name, because of who he is, and because of the nature of the Good News preached into our communities? I am sad when I try to answer these questions. I see the Church trying to look “nice,” trying to fill our pews with “nice people” who do “nice things” – people who wear masks that make us look “nice.” These masks, however, cover up many hurts, habits, and hang-ups which keep us from being honest with each other. We have a hard time being open with each other about things that hinder our relationship with God. We fear that others will think less of us if we admit that we have these hurts, habits and hang-ups. We reach out to all people – masked and unmasked. We will encounter people 16
who want to get on the road to recovery. They will come to admit that they are sinners and totally incapable of managing their lives. They will come to Jesus to be cleansed of their sins. They will trust Jesus because they believe the Word of God about Jesus, that he alone can change their lives. Jesus has all power and authority in heaven and on earth given to him, and through us his Church, he will change lives – some quietly, some in spectacular ways. I have had the privilege of celebrating with some people their milestones of 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, six months, and yes, three years and 19 years of sobriety! It is a joy to be in the presence of people who have trusted in Jesus because he is the only one who has the power and authority to truly change their lives. We, the Church of Jesus Christ, believe and know him to be the holy Son of God. We know that Jesus is the head of the Church and we are members of his body. On his authority we are sent into the world to make disciples of all nations, having the assurance that he is with us
always. As we do this, we will witness the great power and authority of Jesus to forgive, to heal, to lead people on the road to recovery. We are not like the Israelites in Exodus 33. God told them he would not go with them on their way because he might destroy them when they did not trust him and chose to disobey him. Moses pleaded for his people in verses 15-16, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” Today we have the distinguishing mark of the Holy Spirit of God on our lives. Through the Spirit, Jesus is with us in mission all the time. We are on mission in his name, with his authority. This truth informs the way we as the Church live and act in the world we live in. Jesus’ authority has not been taken from him. His command to make disciples of all nations and his continued presence Faith & Fellowship
encourage us as we enter into the spiritual battle. We are confident because he has authorized and equipped us with spiritual armor to combat all kinds of evil. As she went on mission overseas, one young woman asked me to pray for her that she would be protected from spiritual warfare. I told her I would not pray that she be protected from spiritual warfare. Rather, I would pray that in spiritual warfare she would develop the skill and agility to use her God-given spiritual armor – that she could both defend herself and wield the Word of God as her offensive weapon to combat the forces of the evil one. Today we are commissioned to do as Jesus did. Isaiah, speaking of Jesus, said, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (Isaiah 61:1). When Jesus heard people’s complaints about him, that he hung out with tax collectors and sinners, www.ffmagazine.org
he had this to say of his ministry, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Matthew 9:12). In this, Jesus shows us his heart and how he used his authority over evil and sickness. We find Jesus with great authority teaching people through the ministry of the Word. He taught his disciples. He preached to the crowds. He told of the kingdom of heaven. Today we continue this ministry under his authority as we preach, teach, visit the sick and the needy and help those who need help. Under his authority we minister to people who throughout their lives have accumulated hurts, habits and hang-ups. These things have resulted in many people who now wear masks to cover up faces that bear the scars of the past and the wounds of the present. It is only Jesus who has the power and authority to truly deliver each of these people. Do we long to see Jesus cast out demons today? Do we long to see Jesus healing the sick? Do we long to see Jesus open the eyes of the spiritually blind? Is Jesus, under whose authority we serve today,
truly the author of life, the possessor of awesome power, the one who alone can comfort the broken hearted? Yes, he is! Our mission as Jesus’ Church is to reach out with the authority of Jesus to all those who are in need, without neglecting our ministry to the “sheep” who stay close to their shepherd. Jesus continues to go with us today to meet the needs of these people as he did in the past. Today he stands before us and with us, authorizing us to shepherd and care for all his sheep until he returns. Rev. James Erickson is senior pastor of Calvary Community Church in Fullerton, CA. VISIT ONLINE
Fellowship with one another Purifies us from all sin
Walk in the light
The blood of Jesus
1 John 1:7
On November 13, 2011, Roger Viksnes was installed as pastor of Bethany Lutheran Brethren Church in East Hartland, CT. RELATED VIDEO
Elder Ordination Triumph Lutheran Brethren Church recently celebrated the addition of four new elders to their leadership team. Senior Pastor Jeff Seaver officiated. On November 20, Jarvis Brosz and Jon Lybeck were ordained and installed at Triumph’s East Campus in Moorhead, MN. On December 11, Rob Hasse and Dan Tennefos were ordained and installed at Triumph’s West Campus in West Fargo, ND. Because Triumph is a multi-site congregation, the elders give spiritual oversight to both campuses.
Pastor Harold Rust, Dennis Rude, CLBC President Jon Overland, Pastor Dean Rostad, Regional Pastor Art Hundeby, Phil Hagen, Lloyd Johnson, Doug MacKay
On Sunday October 23, 2011, Rev. Dean Rostad was ordained at Resurrection Lutheran Brethren Church in Camrose, AB.
Szobody Earns Ph.D. After several years of study, research, more study, and writing, by God’s grace, Paul Szobody completed his Ph.D. program and dissertation. This whole process began with a desire to accomplish two things: 1) To give Paul the opportunity to hear, speak and study in French to improve his ability in the French language. This enabled him to effectively teach at our seminary in Gounou Gaya, Chad. This initial phase took place during their time at the seminary in Chad. 2) To give Paul the opportunity to research, study and write so as to prepare him for their next phase in ministry to our Chadian brothers and sisters in ministry, our North American missionary team in Chad, and the future missionaries of our sister Chadian Church. This next phase of ministry will not be at the seminary in Chad. Look for more details of the Szobody’s time in France on the back page of the Daily Prayer Notes - February 2012. 18
Elder Art Barth, Pastor Rocky Bronson (Danny’s Dad), CLBC President Jon Overland, Pastor Danny Bronson, Regional Pastor Art Hundeby, Pastor Matt Lundgren and Elder Gordon Cochrane
On Sunday November 13, 2011, Rev. Danny Bronson was ordained at Birch Hills Community Church in Birch Hills, SK.
J-Term Congregation Renewal and Mission January 16 - 18, 2012 Sessions begin - 1:30 p.m. Jan. 16 • Sessions end - noon Jan. 18 Lutheran Brethren Seminary • 218-739-3375 • Website: www.lbs.edu
Faith & Fellowship
New Missionaries At the fall meeting of the Council of Directors, they voted unanimously to call Nathanael and Carrie Szobody to serve as missionaries among the Bagirmi (Barma) of Chad. The Szobodys are currently in France where Carrie is studying French and Nathanael is in his last year of a Master of Arts in Theology program. Lord willing, they will return to the United States next summer where they will visit the mission cluster congregations, take pre-field training courses and prepare for their move to Chad for ministry. The Szobodys will be commissioned for missionary service at the Biennial Convention in early August of 2012.
Nathanael, Carrie, Selma and Cyril Szobody
First LBIM missionary to Chad:
Left the States in 1918
Central and Southern Chad
363 congregations, 124 pastors, 101,737 avg Sunday attendance
1 Seminary, 11 Regional Bible Schools
Church Planting, Evangelization, Church Leadership Training
5 Bibles (Moundang, Fulfulde, Musey, Masana, Tupurri)
4 New Testaments (Musgum, Peve, Gidar, Zime)
1 New Testament in Preparation (Kera)
Faith & Fellowship is the official publication of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren, 1020 W. Alcott Ave., P.O. Box 655, Fergus Falls, MN 56538-0655, issued six times a year (January/February, March/April, May/June, July/August, September/October, November/December) by Faith and Fellowship Publishing, 1020 W. Alcott Ave., P.O. Box 655, Fergus Falls, MN 56538-0655. Phone (218)736-7357. The viewpoints expressed in the articles are those of the authors and may or may not necessarily reflect the official position of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren of America (CLBA). Periodicals Postage Paid at Fergus Falls, Minnesota 56538.
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uestion Authority! This advice came from bumper stickers that began appearing in the late 1970s. Some attribute the sentiment to LSD guru Timothy Leary, others to Walt Whitman (“Re-examine all that you have been told.”) or even Ben Franklin (“It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.”). There were many bumper stickers on the same theme, even the humorous variation, “Who are you to tell me to question authority?” It’s been a common desire from the hippies of the 1960s to the Occupy Wall Street crowd of our day – to tweak the “establishment.” For them, “question authority” really means “challenge authority.” People in authority often disappoint us. We have the right, even the responsibility, to challenge them. The basic idea appeals to all of us, at least to some part of ourselves. There’s the misbehaving little boy who’s made to sit down, but he’s still standing up inside. There’s the adolescent rebelling against parents in an age-old rite-of-passage (to adulthood?). There’s the desire to quit school forever, and no longer be under the thumb of those overbearing teachers. There’s that point in time when we question the religion of our childhood, even question the God we grew up knowing. Did we really know him, or were we just taught to think we knew him? So what would it take for us to accept an authority without questioning, without challenging? The authority would have to appear in non-authoritarian form, benevolent, genuinely interested in our well-being. An authority that understands our perspective – what it’s like to walk in our shoes. Too bad such a thing is impossible, given human nature. Or is it impossible? “At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased’” (Mark 1:9-11). At Christmas time, we remembered the birth in poverty of a baby called King of kings and Lord of lords. A strange beginning for an authority! During Epiphany, we see that
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by: Brent Juliot
same person revealed as God in human flesh. In Mark’s simple account Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist, whose specialty is calling sinners to repent of their sins and turn their hearts toward God. Jesus comes to be baptized and immediately the Triune God affirms Jesus as Second Person of the Trinity, who is both Creator and Eternal Judge of all of us. He’s not just “an” authority, but the absolute and ultimate authority! Jesus identified himself with us in our sin and rebelliousness, walked in our shoes and in our skin, experienced poverty, humiliation and death as a human being. He offered himself on the cross as the only perfect sacrifice to redeem us from our own sin. Why would any of us challenge him as our authority? Why not accept him as Lord gratefully, joyfully? Why not today? Rev. Brent Juliot is Editor of Faith & Fellowship Magazine, teaches math at Hillcrest Lutheran Academy, and serves as senior pastor at Stavanger Lutheran Church in Fergus Falls, MN.
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