Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving DinnerGifts for which I am thankful to God every day include life, love, faith, family, freedom, forgiveness, health, home, happiness, safety and security. A few other gifts are listed below. All these gifts are signs and symbols of the grace of God, for which I’m particularly thankful!

November 15 I was privileged to preach for a special anniversary celebration at Messiah Lutheran Church in Longmont, Colo. Former Rocky Mountain District President Roger Krause initiated the invitation. He and his wife Bernice are wonderful servants of the Lord!

While in Colorado I saw nephews J.W. and Doug. Doug and Diana are grandparents of the triplets born Christmas Day 2013. Christopher Logan went to heaven the day after he was born. Many of you have prayed nearly two years for Emma Grace and Anna Christine. Photos below.

Both are doing as well as can be expected. Emma has been declared legally blind, is still on oxygen much of the time but is not as dependent on the ventilator as in the past. She has a good appetite and smiles a lot. Anna is doing well, needs to gain some weight but otherwise is in relatively good health. Anna walks and runs independently. Emma walks and runs with the aid of her four wheeled walker, usually with a lengthy oxygen supply tube as her tether.

Thank you for your ongoing prayers for these two miracles! They have come a long way since being born at one pound four ounces each! Praise the Lord for his marvelous grace!

November 8 Terry and I were in Nashville, Tenn. to honor the nine pastors who serve or belong to Our Savior Lutheran Church. Former Mid-South District President David Callies and his wife Nancy were special honorees! These pastors and their godly, patient, supportive spouses are a blessing! We also were blessed to see my niece Rachel and her beautiful family while in the area!

After nearly five years at Concordia University Texas, December 31 will be my last day as Presidential Ambassador for Mission Advancement. The very next day, January 1, 2016, I will begin a new adventure as Inheritance Legacy Consultant with the Lutheran Foundation of Texas.

Prior to election as president of the Texas District and then as LCMS president, I served LFOT as Executive Director. I’ve often said that when no longer involved in church leadership and ecclesiastical supervision I would love to get back in the planned giving saddle. While this move will fulfill that ancient aspiration, Concordia Texas will always have a special spot in my heart.

My new LFOT role will be to assist individuals and families in exercising their privilege as Christian stewards in a manner that makes it possible to create a financial legacy for family members and charities of their choice. Those choices may include local congregations and many other not-for-profit organizations like Concordia. I’m looking forward to this new opportunity for service and thank God for his gift of Christian vocation! A blessed Thanksgiving to you all!

A Weekend in Paris

IMG_3581Following last weekend’s terrorism in Paris I’m postponing until next week what I had intended to be today’s article. In the wake of the Paris killings and on the heels of the conclusion of the series Islam’s Future in America, I feel compelled to offer these thoughts:

  • Along with most Americans and others around the world, I decry and condemn these most recent acts of violence that took the lives of innocent people in a peaceful country.
  • I’m thankful that at last some Muslim leaders finally spoke out against the violent acts of Islamic jihadist perpetrators of death and destruction. May their numbers increase!
  • While mindful of the admonition of Jesus to love our enemies, I’m also keenly aware of biblical injunctions regarding the value of life and respect for authority: “Anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted and they will be punished. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good … sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong.” (Rom. 13)
  • In that light, I consider France’s military response under President François Hollande in bombing ISIS installations in Syria to be most appropriate. I also commend the many U.S. governors who have said they oppose allowing Syrian refugees into their states, at least for now.

An inscription by Emma Lazarus on the Statue of Liberty says: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a candidate for U.S. president, observed that no mention is made in the Statue of Liberty inscription of sending to our land your terrorists. I agree.

The Statue of Liberty words aptly describe many immigrants who have come to America, including my ancestors (and probably yours as well). Yet our ancestors came here seeking a better life to be lived under the umbrella of numerous freedoms. They came not plotting to destroy the lives of those whose freedoms they sought to adopt as their own.

While making every effort to communicate the love, grace, mercy and forgiveness of Christ to everyone, including those who worship Allah, we dare not be naïve regarding the agenda of those who are aptly and accurately called Islamic jihadists, such as those of al Qaeda, ISIS, etc.

Consider the traumatic events of 9-11, the recent explosion of airplanes from ISIS bombings, and the horrific events in Paris last weekend. Jesus said: “I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Lord, help us in that difficult endeavor!

Islam’s Future in America—Part VI—Conclusion

Muslim PrayerThis is the final part of a series resourced by Dr. Adam Francisco’s article cited in Part I.

“What might Islam look like in America in the future?” That’s the question prompting this series of articles. Dr. Francisco says: “Islam will continue to assert itself and even enjoy greater influence. There are currently about five million Muslims in America … expect that number to rise. Muslims typically have larger families than your average American [family].”

The Muslim population will be diverse, including Shias, who are more moderate, and Sunnis, “who are progressivists, secularists, Islamists, and even jihadists. The institutions representing American Muslims and public discourse on the character of Islam in America will be predominantly Islamist of one sort or another.”

“These Islamist organizations have learned to contextualize their speech. They say one thing but mean another. For example, Islam means peace, it has been said, and in a way—though not literally—it does. But it is a peace defined by Islam and one that will not be realized until all individuals, their institutions, and societies submit entirely to Allah.”

“Amidst America’s Muslims there will be and already is a contest for the soul and posture of Islam. Moderates and progressives are already battling with conservatives. Mark Steyn (“Apostasy in Moderation”) offers a word of caution as well as a corrective in which Christians could certainly participate. He has argued that promoting moderate Islam is a quick fix to the challenges posed by radical Islam and, in the end, will be ineffective as it is virtually impossible to get around the injunctions to violence in the Qur’an.” Steyn says: “The most effective strategy against the resurgence of Islam may be the oldest of all—an evangelizing Christianity.”

Francisco continues: “Nevertheless, we should expect more of the violence happening across the globe to find its way here. It already has. What to do with it or how to preempt it is still the question. Muslims have the right to practice their religion and—according to popular notions of what liberty or freedom means—order their life as they see fit. For religions committed to a distinction between religion and politics or theology and civil law, the first amendment poses little to no problem to the integrity of that religion or the state. For Islam—at least classical orthodox versions of it—it does. Herein lies one of the most basic problems associated with Islam in the West, particularly in a secular and pluralist democracy like America.”

“Regardless of all the trends, debates, policies, and postures associated with the problems of Islam and its future in America, we can count on the fact that Islam is and will continue to become a part of mainstream American culture. Whether it gets stirred up in the melting pot or not is anyone’s guess at this point. Whether it succeeds in influencing the broader culture or not will probably not be determined by Islam itself. Rather, the future of American culture will be determined by those, as it has been said, who show up for it. Muslims are poised to do just that. So are secularists. Are Christians? Only the future will tell.”

Islam’s Future in America—Part V

Muslim PrayerThis is the fifth part of a series resourced by Dr. Adam Francisco’s article cited in Part I.

In the last two decades of the twentieth century Islamist presence increased in the United States and across the globe. In U.S. political circles Islam was not seen as posing a challenge or threat but was accepted and even embraced. Political leaders with names like Clinton, Bush and Obama made efforts to disassociate Islam from violence.

“However, especially after September 11, 2001, many average Americans began to see things differently.” Even before that, during the 1990s, others “were warning Americans in print and other media about the deleterious influence and potential violent consequences of Islamism left unchecked.” There was, and still is, much American ambivalence towards Islam.

Some individual Muslims thickened the plot by living lives of “dissimilation and deception.” They gave the outward impression of responsible, peaceful behavior that in fact masked a life devoted to violence. Some served for a while as religious leaders in respected U.S. institutions, only to defect to places in the Middle East, connecting with violent al-Qaeda activities there.

While that was going on, other Muslims endeavored to “take back Islam from those who have allegedly corrupted it.” Some have made “remarkable contributions toward efforts to educate and expose the proliferation and danger of Islamist ideology amidst a significant number of American Muslims and their organizations.”

Some of these more moderate Muslims lacked the knowledge, credentials and credibility necessary to speak authoritatively and persuasively. Some even attempted to “deconstruct the classical (and exclusivist) politicized theology of Islam and reconstruct in its place an Islam that has never existed—one that champions constitutional government, tolerance, pluralism, etc.” While some progress has resulted, Muslims have been instructed by their authorities not to listen.

For Americans, one of the most penetrating questions about Islam is “what it means to be Muslim in societies that are not.” Historically and legally Muslims are required by sharia law to reside in “the abode of Islam, where Muslims dominate the population and Islamic law informs the institutions and preserves the mores of society.” The territory outside the center of Islam is “the territory into which the abode of Islam is to expand in what Muhammad described as a perpetual jihad that should take place until the day of judgment.” More about this next week.

As previously stated, my goal with this series of articles is to be as objective and accurate as possible, being neither unnecessarily alarmist nor gullibly naïve about the potential impact of Islam’s future in America. Stay tuned for next week’s conclusion of this series. God bless you!