Are You a Christian with a Business?

Christians must each decide how their faith will affect their earthly vocations. There is intense pressure from some that the Christian faith should never affect them. Unlike the old saw, “Children should be seen and not heard,” these people think “Christians should neither be seen nor heard.” In other words, “You’d better hide your faith!”

Our Lord said, “everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:23-33, ESV). What’s more important to you: the probably-vain hope of earthly peace with your anti-Christian neighbors, or the rock-solid promise of peace with God? Tough one. Or maybe not.

So business owners, how about your business? Would you like to have Christian employees? Would you like your employees to be Christians? How about your customers and vendors? How about your own family and yourself?

Yes, I admit the tired and worn-out excuse does apply: “You don’t have to attend church to believe in Jesus.” But in the same breath you must also admit, “No one who believes in Jesus will avoid attending church.” Consider the quote above from Matthew 10. We could extend that. “No one who believes in Jesus and wants this for employees will purposely prevent them from attending church.”

Ouch. The rubber has met the road, and we’ve found that it’s filled with brass tacks. If your conscience smarts, that’s good. It’s why the Son of God had to shed His holy blood. But He did, and now He cleanses you of guilt and shame with His Word of forgiveness. He provides food for your body and soul, saying plainly, “This is My body, given for you,” and “This is My blood, shed for you.” He calls you to repentance, where He drowns your sinful flesh in the waters of your baptism and He restores your identity as His adopted child.

Now, about your business. Consider this. God doesn’t promise exactly the same in your case, but nobody has ever gone wrong by following the biblical faith in their earthly vocations. Disaster may strike! But you would meet even that with a good conscience and God’s blessings — whatever they may be. That’s good Christian business practice.

ELS President Gives Local Talk About Lutherans

Bethany and Concordia belong to the national association of Lutheran churches called the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS). The ELS President John Moldstad will be in The Dalles from Mankato, Minnesota, to present a talk and answer questions about the distinctive history, teachings, and practice of Lutherans from the perspective of the ELS.

Bethany and Concordia invite their neighbors of our Columbia Gorge communities to this special event. Most Christians learn at some point about Martin Luther, but not much. In fact, he’s often confused with a much more recent American figure: Martin Luther King Jr. Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Americans in general have reasons to remember Luther’s contributions to history, but it is sometimes forgotten that the people who agreed with Luther back in the 16th Century have also spread around the world, bringing a unique kind of Christian faith that shares elements of both Roman Catholicism and of the Protestant denominations. This one-day talk is a chance for people in the Gorge to find out about just what Lutherans do, teach, and believe today.

The times have changed since the 16th Century, and all Christians have had to deal with those changes. The Evangelical Lutheran Synod adopted its current name as recently as 1955, but it existed in other forms long before. What do Lutherans like them believe and teach today? How is this similar to other Lutherans, or even other Christian denominations? How would they answer your questions about Biblical teaching, faith, and life? Join us on Palm Sunday (April 14) to find out, and to enjoy a meal with fellow students of history, theology, and individual freedom.

Halloween Is About You

Halloween. That is a weird word! Where did it come from? What does it mean? No doubt you know what it refers to, but do you know how it came into use?

Halloween is a conjunction, that is two or more words joined together. It shortened “All Hallows Eve”, which is the evening before All Hallows Day or All Saints Day. See, Halloween isn’t about ghosts, goblins, and witches. Halloween is about Saints. Are you one?

Most people would respond, “I’m no Saint!”. They reach that conclusion because they look at the way that they have lived, the decisions that they have made and the things that they have done, and rightly see that they are far from perfect. If that was the standard for being a saint, no one would be one. However, that is not the way that the Bible speaks of saints.

This is how Paul addressed the Christians in Corinth: “To the church of God in Corinth—those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, who are called as saints”. (1 Co. 1:2) Christians are saints because they are sanctified in Christ Jesus. That means that you can be a saint too. Everyone who believes in Jesus has been washed clean of all of their sins. Everyone who believes in Jesus has been credited with Jesus’ perfect life. In Jesus, you can be a saint too.

This year you will know what Halloween is really about. It is not about ghost goblins. It is about saints. It is about you. You have been clothed in Jesus perfect life by faith. You are a saint.

From the latest ELS Outreach Newsletter

A Message from our Synodical Fathers

The ELS web site has a growing number of resources from past times. One of these is the collection of convention essays delivered over the years. Keeping in mind that our synod’s rebirth in 1918 was a humble event, and insignificant in worldly eyes, it’s not hard to imagine that the fledgeling “Norwegian Synod of the American Evangelical Lutheran Church” had a lot of work to do. Yet very early in our history, the topic chosen for a 1921 convention essay was “Christian Day Schools.” In this essay, Pastor Torgerson identifies the need for our churches to teach the faith, and considers several options. It is worth our time to listen to his message. You can find it here.

The Story of a Toe

There was a person who was blessed to be born with all of the usual parts. Dad counted the fingers and toes, and was relieved to find that the number was exactly right. No birth defects, and everything was in working order.

Later in life, one of the toes began to say to itself, “How important could I be? There are four other toes on this foot, and they can surely get the job done without me. It would please me more to take my rest, and let them handle all that the foot needs. Besides that, it seems to me that toes on the whole don’t have much to contribute.” So this toe began to enjoy life more, and didn’t concern itself with the usual toe activities like sensing the balance of the foot and the contour of the ground beneath, or giving a little extra push when the foot was walking, running, or paddling through water.

After some time, the toe also began to say to itself, “Since I’m doing my own thing now (and enjoying it), I don’t really need all of this oxygen and nutrition that the foot is sending my way. It would be better to let the other toes have more of those things: they’re working so hard. (What a great thing they’ve chosen to do!) But I will shrink the vessels that bring these things from the foot. No need to be selfish.”

This thought may seem alarming, but the toe didn’t mind. It was enjoying the sensation of freedom that comes with relaxation. “Sometimes a toe just needs to dangle,” it would say to itself.

More time passed, and the toe (which now had plenty of free time to notice and ponder other things) began to notice that there were other bodies in the world. Some were furry, and had toes with claws. Some were scaly, and to the the toe’s amazement, had no toes at all! Some bodies were much like the body of the toe, except those ones were doing much different things, and going to much different places. The toe began to wonder what it would be like to be attached to one of those bodies. Would it be better? Maybe the other members of those bodies would think more like the toe, and less like the four other toes on this foot. Maybe they would all enjoy life more. Maybe they would all enjoy the kind of freedom together that the toe had discovered: freedom from such strict discipline that the toe’s own body wanted to follow. Of course, there was no way for a toe to switch bodies, but it did not stop the toe from wondering and dreaming about it.

Soon the dreaming turned into longing, together with something the toe had not experienced before. It began to look down upon the other toes on its own foot, and even the foot and the body itself. It began to despise the body for its demands and discipline, and to loathe the way the body wanted all of its parts to work. It never occurred to the toe that it had begun loathing itself, for it was attached to the body.

The toe sometimes dreamed of a day when it might fall off the foot and be separated from its body. During this time, it continued shrinking the vessels that brought oxygen and nutrition from the foot.

At this time, the toe thought it knew the purpose of the body, and it considered the body to be failing in its purpose. It didn’t wish any harm to the body, but wanted it to do better by relaxing the discipline and the demands that the body made on all of its members. What’s the use of working together so well, when the result is something as uncomfortable as exercise, or as bland as an oatmeal breakfast? The toe doesn’t even get to taste the breakfast, anyway! All of the other members should become as free and relaxed as the toe. They should loosen up, and consider how life could be better.

Are you like the toe? What do you think is the purpose of the Church, which is the body of Christ? Are you helping to fulfill its real purpose, or are you mistakenly working against it, to your own harm? If you have ever had an injured toe, you know that even if your body is still capable of doing many things, the whole body is also affected by the injury. If you have been shrinking the connection between you and the body of Christ — especially the Word and Sacraments, which are provided in the Sunday Divine Service, how do you think that has affected your faith, your perspective, and your spiritual health?

The good news is that the body in question went to see a doctor, who noticed that the toe was weakened and malnourished. With treatment, the toe’s connection to the body was restored. All was forgiven, and the toe once again saw how its own contribution to the body provided the greatest possible satisfaction. Even better, the toe was able to encourage all of the other members to remain steadfast, so that the body worked together to accomplish greater things and receive greater blessings.

May you also enjoy the certainty of God’s forgiveness, which Jesus has won for you by dying once for all on His cross. Now, let us thank Him by bearing our crosses with the same joy that he had in the love of the Father. You are a member of the body of Christ. What could be better than that?

First…

We love Him because He first loved us. -1 John 4:19

 

When you were conceived, you did not think about God. In fact, our inability to love, honor, and respect God as we should goes back to our first parents. Our original sin, our inability to love God as we ought to, goes back to when Adam and Eve decided that they would disobey God and then there was no longer a proper love for Him. When you were conceived you did not love God, you did not honor Him, you did not respect Him; from your conception, you have been a sinner.

 

When you were a little child you did not love God as you should. Beginning as an infant all you cared about was where the warmth came from and where your next meal was going to come from; you did not love and honor God. When you grew into a toddler, maybe you knew who this God was, or were told about Him, but you did not love Him. You loved your parents, you loved your siblings (if you had any), you probably even loved your pet… but you did not love God, you did not honor God, you did not respect God. Even while you were an infant and a toddler, you were a sinner.

 

When you grew up and became a teenager, then you really did not love God. As a teenager life truly got in the way of loving and respecting God and His word. As a teenager, you knew better. God did not know what was best for you, you did. As a teenager, you did not love you parents and honor them and sadly you did not love and honor God as He deserves. Yes, during your teenage years, you were a sinner.

 

When you went away to college things really got interesting. Alcohol, friends who didn’t like or go to church, the opposite sex really started to come into play; so many new and exciting things and God didn’t always fit into that mold. God was someone that you might visit if you needed to pass a test or if you decided not to stay out too late on Saturday night but otherwise you did not love and honor God as you should have. You put other things, things of this world, first. Friends were first; Grades were first; Pleasures were first; God was not first. When you were in college, no matter how smart you were, you were a sinner.

 

As you grew up middle age did not treat you well at all. You got married and began to have children and they became first in your life. The wife needs your time, the children need your time, the job needs your time; God has to wait. “Maybe next weekend” became an all too real thought and answer. Not able to pull yourself up to go to church but you religiously cheered for and went to those sporting events. During the middle of your life, God was not first, you were a sinner.

 

Finally, old age came. Old age hit you like a ton of bricks because now you were faced with your own mortality… maybe for the first time. You got a little bit slower, you got a little more frail, you didn’t think or reason as fast as you used to, time caught up with you, and still, God is not first. Children and grandchildren, spouses and remaining family, medications and television shows; all of these take up precious hours, but God is still left in the corner… just waiting for you, waiting for you to love Him.

 

Because you see, God did love us first. When our first parents sinned, God set His plan in motion. He knew that we would not be perfect children, He knew that we would sin, and so He made sure that we would not have to worry about that. God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into this world to live the perfect life for you and to die the innocent death for you. Jesus came into this world to bear all of your sin upon the cross and to give you all of His righteousness. Jesus bore on the cross all the times you did not put God first, all the times you knew better than God, all the times that God was not worthy of you… He bore them as He suffered and died; and why? Because God loved you first.

 

God loved you from the beginning. God loved you when you were conceived and he knit you together in your mother’s womb. God knew you as an infant and toddler and He watched over you as your parents brought you to Him when He baptized you. God knew you as a teenager and, though you did not have time for Him, He made sure that you heard His word and were taught His truths. When you entered into middle age God was still there for you, loving you and making sure that no matter the struggle nothing would be too hard for you to handle… nothing was out of His control. And God knew you in old age. God knows the pain and the struggle that you go through and He is there allowing you to lean on Him, to place all your cares and anxieties on Him, allowing you to know Him and plan eternity with Him.

 

Yes, God loved you first and He loved you much. So much, in fact, that He sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for your sins, so much that He wrote His words and helped you to read and understand them, so much that He claimed you as His own in baptism, and so much that He gave you the very body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. God loved you first… and because God loved you, you love God. Thanks be to God for loving me.

Concrete Lessons

by Bob Gove

High in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State, the Skagit River starts its journey to the sea. Down through a couple dams, past the little towns of Marblemount and Rockport – – – then by the unique town of Concrete .

A fascinating phenomenon existed in that little town sixty years ago – maybe it is still the same today; I haven’t had opportunity to re-visit.

A cement manufacturing plant was the main reason for the town’s existence (hence the town’s name – “Concrete”). Its presence was obvious as one entered the town, for everything was encased in cement. Over the years dust emitted from the cement plant had settled on the roofs and fences and everything else that wasn’t moved frequently. When rain fell, it combined with this cement dust, encasing everything in a rock-like coat. It hung heavily from the power and telephone wires all over town. Some wires had become as thick as a baseball bat, with long rows of cement “ice cycles” hanging from them.

In the years since being there, I have often wondered if the inhabitants suffered ill effects from breathing air so full of cement dust.

And some spiritual lessons came into focus too. For instance — consider how the influence of the world effects you. Unless you thoroughly bathe your mind frequently with the cleansing Word of God, the “dust” of the world’s attitudes will cling and harden around your heart, closing off any compassion you might otherwise express to a hurting soul. “ –but you were washed , you were sanctified, you were justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Another reason for such frequent cleansing is to rid ourselves of the self-defense mechanism many of us resort to; that of erecting a hard shell of isolation against the cruel words and actions of those we must contact every day.

God put us here to be “salt and light” in this sick and sin darkened place. Let’s forget the defensive tactics; “The best defense is a good offense”. Our acquaintances and co-workers are not the enemy — recognize the real enemy; see the havoc Satan has caused in their lives, and wash it away with the all powerful Word. They need Jesus just like we do.

“For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to the dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4: 12

Dear (fill in the blank),

Dear N.,

We haven’t written letters to one another before, and it seems that letters are becoming more rare everywhere, but they still have their uses. You might say I could have just texted you this message, or sent a message on Facebook. But it’s hard to express things of a deep and personal nature that way, especially because a short message runs a great risk of misunderstanding. You might say I could have called or visited so we could make this a conversation, but the things I have to say all hang together, and they will take a while for me to say them well. It takes a lot of patience and goodwill to have a back-and-forth conversation about deep, personal things like this. We all tend to interrupt instead.

So I’m writing you this letter. I may never send it. Maybe I’ll just gather my thoughts here and God will give me an opportunity to express them to you some other way. You see, they must be expressed. There are some things too important to be kept silent or ignored. One of them is the matter of your life.

You have been blessed with a pretty good life. You can count many blessings, if you stop to consider them. Yes, there are many challenges too, and I can see how they could get you down. But overall, your life is a blessing, just like mine. I’m glad to be alive, and I’m glad to know you, too. Because I care about you, I want you to think about not only your life on earth, but your future life that will come afterward. I’d like to share that blessing with you, too.

We used to see each other not only at the supermarket or at special occasions. I enjoyed visiting with you at church. That’s not the main reason I was there, but it was one very good part of it. Why haven’t you been coming to church lately? In fact, I think it’s been months since you were attending every week. I suppose one obligation or another got in the way, and maybe you were sick. But church used to be a priority for you. So what happened?

Have you forgotten the reason for going to church? It’s not just some old tradition. You didn’t go because of some threatening commandment from God. Oh, I know there is one: the Third Commandment: “You shall keep the day of rest holy,” as it’s written in catechisms these days. But you know it’s not just about a certain day. It’s about our connection to God, the link He has made from us to Jesus. It’s the only way for us to reach heaven! Besides heaven, it’s the only way for us to have a truly fulfilling and content life on earth. God didn’t give us that commandment just to make you hurt with feelings of guilt and shame. He gave us that commandment out of love, so that we might not neglect His most precious gifts and lose out on what they bring.

Now, maybe you think God should give you heaven and all the best blessings some other way. “If He loves me so much, why doesn’t He give me my Sundays off to enjoy instead of making me uncomfortable? Can’t He do that and give me eternal life at the same time?”

Dear N., He can do anything, but He gets to choose how He does it! Remember who He is, here: God. And remember that you are not God. The way He gives you eternal life is through that connection: His Word and the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Those things are non-negotiable, because they are the God-given connection to the one-and-only Savior for human beings. That’s Jesus, of course.

If Jesus was crucified and stayed dead, then don’t come to church. In that case, I shouldn’t go either. But did you know that the best historical evidence all supports the fact that Jesus rose to life again? If you believe in Julius Caesar, then you have every reason to believe even more strongly that Jesus Christ rose to life on the third day. And if you believe that, then you also should believe what He said it means. Do you remember John 3:16? It’s Jesus’ promise to you: forgiveness and eternal life.

You may have some hangups about all of this, and I’d like you to tell me about them. Don’t worry, I won’t blow you off or make fun of you. I’ll listen, because this is serious. I want you to share eternal life with me.

Announcing a Major Change in Our Parish Work: Two Pastors!

The congregations of Bethany and Concordia decided on February 28 to extend two pastoral calls. One of the calls is to replace the call of Pastor Jacobsen, who has been serving as the sole pastor of the two churches since 2006. The replacement call was extended to Pastor Jacobsen to serve as senior pastor, but to focus his work on being the principal of Columbia Lutheran School and teaching the upper grades. A second call is also extended by the two churches for a new pastor to serve their pastoral needs full-time. The decision was to request a pastoral candidate from Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary in Mankato, Minnesota. That’s the seminary of our Evangelical Lutheran Synod, from which Pastor Jacobsen graduated in 1998.

Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum

After prayerfully considering it for two weeks, Pastor Jacobsen decided to accept the new call extended to him. He is now preparing to teach full-time in the upper-grades classroom, and managing the school’s transition to serving students from kindergarten through 8th grade.

Columbia Lutheran School was started in 2014 with Mr. Doug Radliff (a Concordia member with his wife, Lilly) as the kindergarten-4th grade teacher. He came to Columbia with many prior years of teaching, most recently the first and second grades at Covenant Christian Academy. Bethany has always had the long-range intention of operating a school with the usual “elementary” grades for a Lutheran parochial school, which extend to the 8th grade. After researching the start of Columbia Lutheran School, there is also an intention to open an early learning center for pre-kindergarten students.

Lutheran parochial education has a long tradition in the United States and elsewhere. Unlike a public school education, it includes biblical teaching as the foundation of every subject. The greatest benefit of literacy, for example, is to read and write the timeless truths of God’s Word. This helps us to grow in our faith, to glorify God, and to further the spread of the Gospel. Likewise, the study of mathematics and science is the study of God’s creation and its design.

Columbia is also distinguished in being a classical school. This is a return to the principles of learning used for many centuries, rooted in the foundations of western civilization: the Greek and Roman worlds of antiquity. A classical school teaches the history, languages, and literature from the classical period of time together with later times, but it also applies the teaching philosophy and methods developed from that time until now. Its purpose is to help our students grow into their full God-given potential as human beings redeemed by Christ, with dual citizenship in heaven and on Earth. Columbia’s mission is “To provide a quality classical Christian education for the families of the Mid-Columbia area, preparing students for their current and future God-given roles and supporting parents in their vocation to educate and nurture their children.”

Pastor Jacobsen will be fully engaged in the work of the school, especially in his first year of full-time classroom teaching. The school is an outreach ministry of Bethany, and benefits from the generosity of many people at Bethany, others in our fellowship, and even nationwide. The prayers of many ELS members are with us in this endeavor. Until the new pastor is installed, Pastor Jacobsen will be able to serve our churches as a vacancy pastor. That means he will conduct services and help to meet basic ministerial needs, but most of his attention will be on the needs of the school. After the new pastor arrives, Pastor Jacobsen will continue to be involved in our services, but on a much more limited basis.

We will hear in the first half of May whether a seminary graduate is assigned to our parish. If there is one assigned, we can look forward to celebrating that with an ordination and installation service for both pastors over the summer months. If not, then the congregations will join together for another call meeting and extend the call for a second pastor to another qualified man.

Your prayers and generosity with your time, talents, and treasure are both appreciated and needed by your congregation, and by Columbia. Please continue to pray for God’s blessings upon the work of Pastor Jacobsen, because they will also run over into blessings upon your congregation and its other work in the Gorge. Just as importantly, please remember to speak well of the work that God is doing among us, so that your neighbors, friends, and coworkers are aware of it in a positive light. This opens a door for you to help in the spread of the Gospel, and the strengthening of our Lord’s Church.

Thanks be to God!

Truth and Life

Religion is on the mind of many people around the world. It has always been. Religious problems are connected with practical problems like terrorism, stewardship of natural resources, and the role of government.

Religious belief forms the core of who we are. Some think they are doing fine without religion, but it always turns out that they still believe and trust in certain things. Those things may be reason, progress, humanity, science, or something else. Martin Luther observed, “A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the whole heart.” Even an atheist trusts in something, or else why does he look both ways before crossing the street? He may not call it “God,” but even by any other name, it still gives meaning and order to his daily life. In effect, it’s his god. That’s the meaning behind the remark, “God does not believe in atheists.”

Religion and history are intertwined with one another, but there are many people who don’t have time to think about either one. For a few, the daily necessities like food, shelter, and clothing take all of their attention. But is that so for most people? We do some things by our own choice and make them a convenient excuse for not thinking about religion and history. Why would we do that? Do those topics make you uncomfortable? Inadequate? Angry? Depressed? Afraid? The best way to deal with that is to learn more.

All religions are historical in some sense, but that usually doesn’t make them compelling enough to give them your time. Most are historical in the sense that people at some point in history have believed them and accomplished things in their name. Most are also historical in that a prophet or teacher founded the religion at a certain time. These things are usually easy to check up on, but they don’t help us to see which religions may be true and which may be false.

Religions also claim things that can’t be verified, because no witnesses or testimony exists about them. Reincarnation is one example. Another is a prophecy of some event still in our future. If these kinds of things are all you know about the many religions of the world, it’s no wonder if you’d rather not give them your precious time.

But there is one religion that is historical in a different sense. This one depends on history. It depends on a thoroughly-witnessed event that took place at a certain place in a certain time. If that highly unusual event could be disproven, this religion would die instantly. But if it really happened, then it will influence everyone, forever.

Each of the four Gospels in the New Testament describes the death of Jesus in detail, and each also describes his resurrection. For an event taking place thousands of years ago, the evidence is excellent, mostly written within a generation of the event itself. It has also found support in archaeology and writings outside the Bible. By the standards used in a present-day court of law, the most reasonable conclusion is that Jesus not only lived and died, but also rose to life again. This is the event that the whole Christian faith relies upon. Without it, there is no Christianity.

It’s easy to claim that Jesus did not rise, but the evidence shows that He did. There are “Bible experts” who love to contradict it, but when the New Testament is considered alongside similar ancient writings, the question becomes a matter you can see for yourself. Did Julius Caesar and Cicero exist? The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is even better. If you haven’t considered it, you should. Then, you need to ask yourself what difference it makes to you. If you accept the evidence, you’ll need to consider many other things in light of it. There are churches and Christians who take these things seriously, ready to help you with that.