29 May 2005

SteveUpdate 5-29-05

That is why we are not discouraged. Though outwardly we are wearing out, inwardly are renewed day by day. Our suffering is light and temporary and is producing for us an eternal glory that is greater than anything we can imagine. We don't look for things that can be seen but for things that can't be seen. Things that can be seen are only temporary. But things that can't be seen last forever.
(2 Corinthians 4:16-18, GW)

Dear ones,

Today I’d like you to hear from a much more learned and talented writer than I, C.S. Lewis.

I am progressing along the path of life in my ordinary contentedly fallen and godless condition, absorbed in a merry meeting with my friends for the morrow or a bit of work that tickles my vanity today, a holiday or a new book, when suddenly a stab of abdominal pain that threatens serious disease, or a headline in the newspapers that threatens us all with destruction, sends the whole pack of cards tumbling down. At first I am overwhelmed, and all my little happinesses look like broken toys. Then, slowly and reluctantly, bit by bit, I try to bring myself into the frame of mind that I should be in at all times. I remind myself that my true good is in another world, and my only real treasure is Christ. And perhaps, by God’s grace, I succeed, and for a day or two become a creature consciously dependent on God and drawing its strength from the right sources.
(The Problem of Pain, Chapter 6)

Within these past weeks, Steve continues to decline. Even he notices it now. And each day brings more uncertainty.

When a friend asked me how Steve was doing, as he often asks, I answered him in an uncustomarily scattered fashion. Ed then perceptively replied, “Steve is getting worse, isn’t he?” I had to admit he was right. I thought about this some more and the next day I e-mailed Ed with further explanation. I said, What my head has long accepted, my heart denies. This phrase, dear ones, succinctly tells my present state.

Yes, it is much my present state, but not completely. To end this “SteveUpdate” here would not give you the entire story. So I’ll continue.

Wednesday night we saw the new Star Wars movie, Revenge of the Sith. Although not one of Lucas’ best efforts, for us it made a wonderful outing. We did something normal. Something we’d enjoyed many, many times before Steve got sick. It was a fabulous escape. And a lovely time to treasure.

Then Friday night . . . oh, Friday night! We dressed in evening wear and dined at the Ritz Carlton in Dearborn. (The Ritz was our friend’s suggestion, as it would be an appropriate place to wear my little black dress for Steve. Thank you, Tim!)

The evening began with drinks. Steve had a gin martini; I a wonderful single malt, 12-year Macallan, straight.

From there, Steve enjoyed a rich white clam chowder; I puree of roasted fennel.

Then came a gift from our chef: we each received a delicate morel stuffed with truffle and foi gras, and bathed in a rich beef glace´.

Our entrees were a dry-aged New York strip, rare, for Steve; a sautéed Dover sole accompanied by beurre blanc for me.

Coffee and dessert followed: a rich chocolate cake swimming in chocolate sauce for Steve; a petite chocolate soufflé topped with a petite scoop of vanilla ice cream for me.

To conclude dinner, we enjoyed an after-dinner sweet white wine, lighter than a cordial but heavier than a dinner wine, compliments of our server. (A fantasy evening and we have the pictures to prove it.)

Dinner at an elegant restaurant is something we have enjoyed rarely but cherish dearly, especially these days.

Love, in Christ,

27 May 2005

The Word on the Web

Recently I've been taking some time to see what online courses are available on the Web. Lots are not much more than easy Bible studies, others are more academic but can be expensive.
One online source that is worthwhile is also free. Every Christian's computer should have a Bible program on it. The one I use is called "e-sw0rd." Go to their website at www.e-sword.net. You can download the base program and then choose the Bible versions and other helps you want. The only problem is that you can not get New International Version through this site. But the version the Missouri Synod's Commission on Worship has selected for the new hymnal, the English Standard Version, is a choice. I use the God's Word version for preaching and personal study.
Download these materials and use them. We Lutheran Christians say that we love the Word of God. We honor it. So we need to use it the Word. Take some time to read it, take time to explore the Old Testament.
Honestly, there are times when I wonder if we take the Bible seriously or not. Yes, we say that we honor it but it is time for us to actually use the Word of God, the Word we call errorless or inerrant.
The Scriptures are on the web and you can find more resources on the web. Use those resources, allow the Word to work in your hearts and let them guide your lives. It's all there in the Word on the Web.
Doc Steve

24 May 2005

The One and Only God -- The Holy Trinity

The common conception is that all people of faith worship the one and same God. We hear it from religious leaders, from the President of the United States, we hear it from the media. But what is the evidence.
I happen to be an orthodox Christian. That means that I believe in the doctrines of the Christian faith as it has been believed and practiced over the last 2000 years. I believe that the only God is the One God and He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One God in Three Persons, the blessed Trinity. We believe this doctrine, as difficult as that doctrine happens to be, because of the Bible.

Matthew 28:18-20 GW When Jesus came near, he spoke to them. He said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (19) So wherever you go, make disciples of all nations: Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. (20) Teach them to do everything I have commanded you. "And remember that I am always with you until the end of time."
There are other passages, even in the Old Testament, which point to One God in Three Persons. So why is it that we confess that the One God is not the God worshipped by our Muslim and Jewish friends. Honestly, it's because the theologies of Islam and Judaism explicitly deny the Trinity and they say they don't believe in the Trinity.
Take Islam for instance. In the Qur'an (5:73) as it says in the Muslim website Islam 101 ( www.islam101.com) , "They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity, for there is no god except One God." This is not a mere intellectual difference, but they say that we blaspheme against God by the doctrine of the Trinity. They say that we don't agree on who God is and how we are to know Him. To be guilty of blasphemy is to be guilty of breaking the Second Commandment, that of taking God's name in vain. One goes to Hell for a sin such as this.
Why then do Christians so easily pass off the doctrine of the Trinity? There are a couple of reasons. First, the "niceness " factor. We don't want to say that we are right. We don't like to say that we are right and they are wrong. It just seems so wrong that we say that the gods of the other religions are false. We ignore passages such as 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 GW People may say that there are gods in heaven and on earth-many gods and many lords, as they would call them. (6) But for us, "There is only one God, the Father. Everything came from him, and we live for him. There is only one Lord, Jesus Christ. Everything came into being through him, and we live because of him." Second, it is the failure of the Pastors in the local congregations. We don't teach the hard doctrines of the faith. Our preaching is so thin, based on keeping people happy, that doctrinal preaching is no longer done. We Pastors have let our people down by not preaching on doctrines. It is vital that we preach on the Trinity and let people know what the truths are.
From the hymn, St. Patrick's Breastplate,
I bind unto myself the name,The strong name of the Trinity By invocation of the same, The Three in One and One in Three, Of whom all nature has creation, Eternal Father, Spirit, Word. Praise to the Lord of my salvation;Salvation is of Christ the Lord!
Praise the Holy Trinity, the one and only God who is and He is the one and only God we worship! Doc Steve

18 May 2005

Universities and the Christian Faith

I've been in the Holy Ministry since 1981 and have served a number of different congregations in different settings. With all the love and respect given to all the congregations I've served, it was the 9 years I spent as a Campus Pastorat the University of Northern Iowa (Go, Panthers!) that I enjoyed the best. As state universities goes, it is a small campus with some 13K students.
Reading the various weblogs, online articles and so on, one gets the impression that universities are the source of all the evil in the world. The authors give the strong impression that the campus is a nest of anti-Christian plots. They are plotting to destroy the faith and to impose a godless worldview. Yes, the typical university is an artifical environment, filled with enthusiastic and idealistic young adults. I was both a "townie" and a part of the university community, so I know that the concerns of the university community are not the concerns of the "townies." There are times when the local community doesn't get along with the campus, times when the university community indulges in riots, drunkness and debauchery. But that is not what a campus is all about.
The campus is also a place of growth, a place where young people struggle with the questions of life, where they need campus workers, campus pastors and people who care for them very much. The students need adults who can understand their lives and a willing to struggle with the students as they deal with the hard questions.
My campus congregation was a "gown-town" church whose ministry was to the campus. Our small congregation knew the importance of its ministry and loved the students. Our district -- that's the regional church in my denomination -- generously supported us. They knew the need and was willing to financially support us. The congregation and the district knew the ministry challenges and the opportunities to work with students and to bring them the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is why it is so important that we put resources -- that means money and people -- onto the campuses of our nation. Looking at it from a missiological approach the typical campus has to be seen as a group of people who are 70% unchurched. To put it in more technical terms, a campus is a people group that is 70% without Christ. It is a mistake to see the campus as a place of evil and debauchery. The campus is a place to be reached with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The campus is a cross-cultural ministry, just as cross-cultural as a village in Africa or a city in China is a cross-cultural ministry.
Read Acts 17 to see how Paul shared the Good News of Jesus Christ with a pagan community (Athens) .

Acts 17:17 GW He held discussions in the synagogue with Jews and converts to
Judaism. He also held discussions every day in the public square with anyone who
happened to be there.

This is the model we can use to reach the campus. It takes time to reach the students, it takes time to be where they are and to talk with them. Sure, there are lots of weird stuff happening on your local campus. But it is a place where God is also at work! I hope that you are a part of the fun. Doc Steve
p.s. Please pray that I can get back into serving students. Even with my illness I would love to be back on campus. This is the fire in my belly. SME

14 May 2005

How Important are traditions to your faithlife?

One of our Lutheran Traditions is Confirmation. On Sunday, May 15th my congregation will be confirming five 8th graders in the Christian faith. For Lutherans this is a tradition with a capital "T" as it is one of those key activities that really forms our faith life.
It is usually the culmination of two years of intensive doctrinal study using an explanation of Luther's Small Catechism. For we Missouri Synod Lutherans we use the "Blue Catechism" as this is the normal color for the cover. We think that this book is so important that we give out these hardcover books -- not softcover -- and encourage the students to keep the book and use it as a reference book in the years ahead. I still have my Blue Catechism from when I was confirmed back in 1970. After my Dad's death, I inherited his 1912 edition of the Catechism.
By the way, this was a brown catechism, something that people of his generation always mention. My edition was the 1943 and the one we use right now is the 1986 edition.
Why I am talking about this since a number of our readers are not Lutherans? Every Christian tradition has key books -- in addition to the Bible -- and key events that shape the faith life of the growing Christian. What was important to you as you grew in your faith? Where there people, books, pictures and so on that were important to you.
I grew up in a rather liberal congregation for our Missouri Synod, so much so that the congregation I grew up in left the Missouri Synod back in 1977. We really didn't use the catechism much, but as I went to High School and College I read the Cathecism again. It was then that I realized what a blessing that this book actually is. It is such an important resource that I keep a copy of the 1986 catechism on my desk at all times. It seems to me that we appreciate these things more as we get older. I did not appreciate it back in the 1970s, but I do now.
Go back to those old sources and see what they can offer you today. Go back and see what God can be saying to you. What matters is that you find those aids for your growth as a Christian. Hear His Word.

Ephesians 4:11-16 GW He also gave apostles, prophets, missionaries, as well as pastors and teachers as gifts to his church. (12) Their purpose is to prepare God's people, to serve, and to build up the body of Christ. (13) This is to continue until all of us are united in our faith and in our knowledge about God's Son, until we become mature, until we measure up to Christ, who is the standard. (14) Then we will no longer be little children, tossed and carried about by all kinds of teachings that change like the wind. We will no longer be influenced by people who use cunning and clever strategies to lead us astray. (15) Instead, as we lovingly speak the truth, we will grow up completely in our relationship to Christ, who is the head. (16) He makes the whole body fit together and unites it through the support of every joint. As each and every part does its job, he makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Keep growing as a Christian all the days of your life. Use whatever resources that are available to you. Stay in the Word of God. Use the Sacraments. Stay in prayer and praise with other Christians as you meet the new daily challenges of the Christian life. Growth as a Christian continues until you go Home to be with the Lord. Growing as a Christian is important because we have to face new challenges. Keep growing wherever you are. The Lord is there for you.

If a tradition is helpful to you, if it leads you to the Word of God, if it leads you to the Gospel, then use them. But if it distracts you from our God and His Word, if it "adds" some so-called truths or makes odd claims, then get rid of it. The Word of God must be central to our whole Christian life.

Doc Steve

08 May 2005

SteveUpdate 5-8-05

Never worry about anything. But in every situation let God know what you need in prayers and requests while giving thanks. Then God's peace, which goes beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your thoughts and emotions through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7, God’s Word)

Dear ones,

In this cancer journey, there have been many stressful and worrying times. The daily rollercoaster of good days, bad days. The uncertainty this rollercoaster throws into daily schedules. Steve’s slow decline.

I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t worry. I do worry. This monster cancer has shredded our married life, a life we’ve shared together for more than a quarter century. It has meant new roles, new adaptations, new responsibilities. It is knowing that I will be losing my best friend.

Yet if I would stop there and just live in the worry, I would be paralyzed. I wouldn’t be able to run my business. To have friends and to be a friend. To care for Steve.

I wouldn’t be able to live. I would merely exist.

I rage against the “not living.” I want to live! And I do.

What keeps me living is a living God, a heavenly Father, who loves me, who guides me, and who protects me. He speaks to me through His Word, the Bible, and He sustains me through the Sacrament of the Altar. And this same God lifts me up through my many brothers and sisters in Christ, who have been fervently praying for us since Steve’s diagnosis in ’03.

Yes, this cancer journey continues. I don’t know what lies ahead. I don’t know how long we must journey. But I do know that by God’s grace, we will make it.

(Daniel 3:16-18)


A little about this past week and a half: some days Steve’s chemo fatigue is so bad that all he can do is lie on the couch. Yet he courageously works through it, getting up enough energy so:
  • We can take a friend to dinner for his birthday.
  • He can mow the lawn – the first time since his diagnosis.
  • He can take me to breakfast at Frank’s Diner.
  • We can enjoy a gelato.
  • He can conduct a wedding.

And other days are nearly “pre-diagnosis normal.” Steve can spend half a day working in his office at church, come home to relax and have a normal dinner. My friends, such is our cancer journey. --SE

07 May 2005

True Unity in the Church

I hate slogans. Someone said that a slogan is a replacement for thought. Some slogans especially drive me nuts. "Can't we Christians just get along?" is one we sometimes hear. That is to say, why can't all the followers of Jesus focus on what we agree on instead of paying too much attention to our disagreements. The problem is that we we Christians do have real differences, we have real disagreements. And many of these disagreements are not minor, "denominational" or human made differences.
Among the doctrines that people who call themselves Christian have disagreements about include: Is God the Trinity, what is the authority of the Bible, whether Jesus is the One Savior of the world, what is the mission of the Church, whether one is saved by faith or works? And the list goes on. I am not going to try to resolve the problems, but I will say that it is important that we deal with the disagreements in a direct and honest way.
Too often the response is to find a way that both "sides" can agree without having to admit that they are wrong. This is like a married couple who have arguments but can't agree about what the problem actually is. This ensures that the problem will never be resolved. Listen to Jesus,

John 17:21 GW I pray that all of these people continue to have unity in the
way that you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they may be united
with us so that the world will believe that you have sent me.
The unity that we Christians share must be the unity of the Father and the Son. United in love, united in truth, united in the Word of God. Our unity must be for the sake of reaching the world for Christ, for planting churches in every culture and society, for the sake of changing lives by the power of the Gospel. Notice what I have just done, these last two sentences will make some people unhappy. In this post-modern world I have the nerve to assert that there is truth and that the truth must be held, must be proclaimed and taken to the unbelieving world. But that this the truth held by the Father and the Son in the Word of God.
What should we Christians do? We need to hold each other accountable. Yes, you need to hold your fellow Christians accountable to keeping the Word of God. Yes, you need to hold your Pastor accountable for the doctrinal promises he made to your congregation. Yes, you yourself need to be accountable for your growth and obedience to the Word of God. We are called to be disciples of Jesus Christ. We are not volunteers. See Jesus' reaction to volunteers in Luke 9:57-62!
Luke 9:57-62 GW As they were walking along the road, a man said to Jesus,
"I'll follow you wherever you go." (58) Jesus told him, "Foxes have holes, and
birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to sleep." (59) He told another
man, "Follow me!" But the man said, "Sir, first let me go to bury my father."
(60) But Jesus told him, "Let the dead bury their own dead. You must go
everywhere and tell about the kingdom of God." (61) Another said, "I'll follow
you, sir, but first let me tell my family goodbye." (62) Jesus said to him,
"Whoever starts to plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God."
We are called to follow! This is no game, but it is the way of life that leads to eternal life.
Doc Steve