House of Living Stones

No one at CPH asked me to write a review of a new book they’ll be releasing later this fall. It’s called House of Living Stones. It’s a novel; a work of fiction. It’s about a small town Lutheran congregation and some of the people of said congregation.

I suppose they didn’t ask me to review the book and give them a pull quote because the author of House of Living Stones just so happens to be my wife. Maybe they think I’m a little too biased? That’s probably a fair reason.

But…whether they’ve asked or not, I’m going to briefly review it anyway.

It’s phenomenal. Speaking as a Lutheran pastor, it’s everything I want from a book from our publishing house. This is a story about the objective forgiveness of Christ given out in His means of grace; about the rejoicing and suffering we go through together as the Body of Christ; about the remarkable love and communion we share. This is the Christian fiction I want the people entrusted to my care to be reading. I reckon it’s the Christian fiction you want your brothers and sisters in Christ to be reading, too.

This isn’t a sappy book. It’s not trite. It’s not “chick lit”. It’s true. It’s sincere. It’s for the whole Body of Christ.

I couldn’t be prouder of my wife for her work on this. I can’t wait to read my own published copy. And I sincerely, without bias, can’t recommend enough that you purchase a copy for yourself, for your church library, for your pastor, and for anyone else you know who loves a good story and loves our Lord Jesus Christ.

If you want to pre-order the book, you can do so from CPH or from Amazon. It will also be available on Kindle.

Remember: Add 9 Months

I’ve heard the comments so many times. “Praise the Lord! As of 5:37 p.m. last night, I’m a grandmother!” “Today we’re celebrating Tom’s first birthday since he became a grandpa.” “It’s so wonderful that we finally have a daughter.”

These are all wonderful, life-affirming comments. Except that almost every time I hear something like this, the statement is factually untrue. Almost all of the people that I hear say this love life, and would never think that an unborn child isn’t a real living person. But in almost every case they speak about the unborn child as if he’s not.

Are the statements above sinful? Hardly. Yet they speak of life in a way that is fuzzy and vague compared to the way our Lord speaks of life, and puzzlingly off from what we Christians believe about life. And, frankly, not even in line as to what the facts of biology confess about life.

“…fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed…” (O’Rahilly, Ronan and Müller, Fabiola. Human Embryology & Teratology. 2nd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996, pp. 8, 29.)

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” (Jeremiah 1:5, ESV)

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13, ESV)

Remember: When you’re going to speak about children’s lives, add 9 months. We’ve been taught by our culture to only talk about post-birth children as persons. But they have been a person – fully human – for (usually) 9 months prior. Let’s celebrate Tom’s first birthday since he became a grandpa; let’s rejoice that you finally have a daughter. But let’s do so at the proper time. And if we miss it? Then let’s celebrate Tom’s second birthday since becoming a grandpa, and all the other birthdays, too. Let’s continue to celebrate and rejoice in God’s gift of life.

Lord, have mercy! A prayer request for those afflicted with Ebola

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Lord, have mercy!

This is the common cry of those afflicted with diseases and disorders as they come into the presence of Jesus. The Church has wisely seen fit to take this simple prayer and put it upon our lips in the liturgy of the Divine Service and in the Litany, to teach us how to pray to our Lord for this most basic thing we need from Him.

Would you please be praying this for our brothers and sisters in Christ – and in fact for all the people – in West Africa? Ebola continues to spread, infect, and kill at a remarkable rate.

Last year, some of the Sunday School offerings at my congregation went to help fund a school at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Cotton Tree, Liberia. I’ve remained in touch with Pastor James Kollie, the pastor of the congregation, and have received updates from him as to the state of their community, especially in light of the spread of Ebola.

Yesterday, I received the email from Pastor Kollie that I hoped I would not receive, yet knew would likely arrive. Here’s what Pastor Kollie wrote (his English is somewhat broken, so patiently read his words):

Please pray with us as we come to a very difficult time of life in our ministry here at Cotton Tree. My family very much careful and still saved. However, We have Ebola now in Cotton Tree. The total of 15 persons died in 8 days already. Some members have lost the family members. A sister from our church lost her 17 year old daughter yesterday. This morning, the news reports that in north of Cotton Tree, there is a house full of 9 all sick.

The government is coming to barricade us. We will not go out for 21 days until all are cleared. Please pray with us for his provision during these time of hardship. I will not go out into the city anymore to find supplies for my family. We are on the way to close the church during these days.

Prayer is all we need.

The Lord’s protective hand is over us and my home.

“Prayer is all we need.” What else can be said? These words make me weep with tears of joy, for my Lord Jesus has blessed my friend Pastor Kollie with sure and certain faith in His care.

Would you please pray with me now for Pastor Kollie and all those in West Africa? And would you please continue to remember them in prayer, day and night? This prayer is excerpted from the “Prayer for the Afflicted and Those Who Are Suffering”, from Johann Gerhard’s Meditations on Divine Mercy.

Let us pray:
“On behalf of all who are suffering under affliction and hardship, I beg You to uphold them with the consolation of Your grace and to support them with the help of Your might. Clothe with heavenly power and strength those who sweat in the most grievous agony of satanic temptation. Make them partakers of Your victory, O Christ, powerful victor over the devil. May the refreshment of Your heavenly grace encourage those whose bones are dried up by the fire of sorrow. … Be gracious in allowing illness so physical sickness may be a spiritual medicine. … Have mercy on all, You who are the Creator of all. Have mercy on all, You who are the Redeemer of all. To You be praise and glory for all eternity. Amen.”

Thank you, my dear friends in Christ.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia and Ebola

In the summer of 2013, the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod in convention affirmed altar and pulpit fellowship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia. This was a joyous day. This is a young, upstart confessional Lutheran group who are bringing the pure, wonderful Gospel of Jesus Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins, received by grace through faith, to the people of Liberia.

These, our brothers and sisters in Christ, need our prayers. Liberia, along with Sierra Leone and Guinea, are facing a tremendous outbreak of the Ebola virus in their midst. In fact, it’s the worst ever outbreak of this terrible disease.

My congregation has developed a support relationship with Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Cotton Tree, Liberia. I’ve been blessed to speak on the phone and correspond by email many times with Pastor James Kollie, the pastor of Good Shepherd. As the Ebola outbreak became more widespread, I wrote to him to see how he and his family were, as well as his congregation and their neighbors, families, and friends there in Liberia. With his permission,  I share his update on the situation for himself, his congregation, and the people of Liberia:

On the other hand, We frightened here very highly as no one knows who has the Ebola Virus as we move around. Liberia at the moment is under a state of emergency for 21 days for everyone to know their status. Our doctors, nurses, and citizens dies per day here. Please join us to pray for the our only home land Liberia to survive this devastation. Jesus in His infinite mercy is the only one whom we all are looking up to for our safety. My community is safe yet at the moment but who knows what will happen in the next few weeks, months or so. Jesus, have mercy on us. My wife and children are staying behind me while I come to Us for studies in a situation like. I am the only one who goes out to the cities to purchase food and when I am gone, my wife will be the next person to do so for our family survival.

Please also pray that the Lord will always provide for them to have enough and keep safe. Also, the family of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church that I am the founding and senior pastor, Lets pray for their safety cause their safety will be ours since we meet many times weekly.

Thanks so much for your concern and we pray to see you soon.

Please add Pastor Kollie and his family, the people of Good Shepherd Lutheran in Cotton Tree, and the people of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea so affected by this Ebola outbreak.

Let us pray. Lord God, heavenly Father, your mercies are new every morning. You have shown Your love and mercy for us in sending Your Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem us from sin and to defeat death and the grave for us. Let Pastor Kollie and his family and your people in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia know of Your love and care for them. Help them to be a constant reminder to their neighbors of Your love. Protect them from this disease, according to Your good and gracious will. Deliver them from evil; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.