God Bless America

Before today’s article, allow me a personal note. Today would have been my father’s 102nd birthday. He was born in 1916 and died 35 years ago, in 1983. My 102 year old mother Elda still misses him. So do I and the rest of our family. Martin Kieschnick was a godly man and great father. He wasn’t perfect but he loved the Lord and he loved his family. To God be the glory!

Next Wednesday is the Fourth of July. Star-Spangled Banner was written in in 1814 by Francis Scott Key. God Bless America was written in 1918 by Irving Berlin. Both have become  nationally known and frequently sung songs of American patriotism. Some even suggest God Bless America would be a better national anthem than Star-Spangled Banner.

Here’s a bit of reported history I found regarding God Bless America. In the late 1930s America was still in a terrible economic depression. Hitler was taking over Europe and Americans were afraid we’d have to go to war. It was a time of hardship and worry for most Americans.

In this era just before TV, radio shows were quite popular. American families, including mine and very likely most of yours, sat around their radios in the evening, listening to their favorite entertainers. One popular entertainer was Kate Smith, a very patriotic person.

One source I read says Kate went to the famous American song writer, Irving Berlin, and asked him to write a song that would make Americans feel good again about their country.

Another source says that in 1938 Berlin went to his files and found a song he had written 20 years earlier, but had decided not to publish. He redid the song and began searching for the right singer to introduce it. He thought about Kate Smith and gave it to her and her orchestra.

Regardless of these details, God Bless America become an overnight sensation. Smith and Berlin agreed not to take any revenue from God Bless America. All profits would go to the God Bless America Fund he established to support the Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of America. It’s reported that Scouting programs have received millions in royalties from this song.

To this day, God Bless America stirs patriotic feelings and pride in our country. Kate Smith and Irving Berlin succeeded in encouraging and raising the spirits of their fellow Americans during years of hardship and worry. Their song continues to do so today for many Americans.

So on this Fourth of July and every day, God Bless America!

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The Center of Life

Bible

Q: What is the shortest chapter in the Bible? A: Psalm 117
Q: What is the longest chapter in the Bible? A: Psalm 119
Q: What chapter is in the center of the Bible? A: Psalm 118

Facts: There are 594 chapters before Psalm 118. There are 594 chapters after Psalm 118. Add those numbers together and the result is 1188.

Q: What is the center verse in the Bible? A: Psalm 118:8
Q: Does this verse say something significant about God’s perfect will for our lives?
A: “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.” Psalm 118:8

The next time someone says he or she would like to find God’s perfect will for his or her life and that he or she wants to be in the center of his will, just send him or her to the center of his Word!

My prayer for each of you: Dear Lord, bless my friends in whatever area of their lives you know they need this day. May their lives be full of peace, prosperity, and power, love, life, and laughter as they seek a closer relationship with you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Reformation 500

Luther95theses

Next Tuesday, October 31 is the day we’ll observe as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Many Christians, especially we Lutherans, have been anticipating this day for some time.

The blessing of the Reformation is the return of a distracted church to the central truth of Christianity that eternal salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, through faith in Christ our Lord.

Here’s a brief summary of the Reformation and its primary causes:

  • In the late 15th century the Catholic Church was afflicted by internal corruption.
  • The sale of “indulgences” raised money to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
  • Indulgences made people believe deceased loved ones could be released from purgatory.
  • The slogan was: “When a coin in the coffer clings, a soul from purgatory springs.”
  • Onto this scene arrived a troubled man named Martin Luther.
  • Luther saw God as a God of justice and was tormented by unforgiven guilt and sin.
  • In a thunderstorm during which Luther’s traveling companion was killed by a bolt of lightning, Luther exclaimed, “Save me, St. Anne. I will become a monk!”
  • He survived, became a monk, but could find no peace with God through his own effort.
  • Luther’s discovery of God’s grace came primarily from Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
  • What happened next was an act of courage, motivated by what Luther had discovered.
  • He boldly spoke biblical truth to the church’s power by posting his 95 theses, intended as an invitation for debate on topics of faith and church practice.
  • Pressure was placed on him to retract his criticism of church belief and practice.
  • He refused to do so and was threatened with excommunication from the Catholic Church.
  • Asked to retract his writings, Luther simply stated: “Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason, for I do not accept the authority of popes and councils because they have contradicted each other, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”
  • Ultimately, Luther was excommunicated for refusing to retract his beliefs.

The assertion that salvation comes only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not by our own doing was the primary catalyst of the Protestant Reformation. That truth is the essence of the Christian faith still today and I pray that will continue till Jesus comes again!

A Time for Everything

Clock

Today’s quote comes from Holy Scripture in Ecclesiastes 3:

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.

These words were written by King Solomon, son of King David and builder of the temple in Jerusalem. Solomon goes on in this chapter to talk about other times, seasons, and activities in addition to the ones quoted above.

His list includes a time for killing, healing, tearing down, building up, crying, laughing, grieving, dancing, scattering stones, gathering stones, embracing, turning away, keeping, throwing away, tearing, mending, being quiet, speaking, loving, hating, war, and peace. Quite a list!

The impetus for selecting the quote above is this past Monday’s arrival of the season of spring. For everything there is a season…a time to plant and a time to harvest. Although spring has just arrived, much planting has already occurred. Harvest will come.

Spring is my favorite season, partly because it brings vast fields of wildflowers. Even before the official arrival of spring we’ve been blessed by the beauty of Bluebonnets and other strikingly gorgeous blankets of blooms across the fields and along the highways of the great state of Texas.

Other parts of the country have similar but different floral beauty. Even a simple list of official state flowers in the U.S. includes an impressive variety of natural beauty, from the Camellia in Alabama to the Indian paintbrush in Wyoming and everything in between. Check out the list at: http://www.50states.com/flower.htm

Martin Luther has an interesting quote of his own in this regard: “God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.” He also said: “Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in spring time.”

Indeed, this is a season for planting, harvesting, and thanking God for his grace, displayed this season in the flowers that add beauty to his earth and to our life!

Election Day

voting-boothOnly 18 days remain between now and Election Day. On one hand I’ll be glad when that day has come and gone. On the other hand, I’m very concerned about hearing the news to which America will awaken on November 9. Frankly, like many Americans, neither candidate rings my chimes.

For months we’ve been hearing and seeing ads, debates, and interviews espousing the minimal virtues of each candidate and eschewing the multiple vices of both. Name calling, half-truths, and allegations have filled the airwaves. No matter who wins, we won’t have a perfect president.

That in itself is nothing new. We never have had a perfect president. Yet in this year’s process of nominations and campaigns, seemingly unprecedented negative personal attributes and questionable values have emerged regarding each candidate. What are we to believe?

Hillary Clinton has been described as a deceitful, manipulative, self-serving, mean spirited, callous, angry, forgetful, dishonest, power hungry woman with no true love of country and no genuine desire to honor and preserve the basic religious values on which America was founded.

Donald Trump has been described as a rude, crude, ambitious, arrogant, womanizing, combative, name-calling New York narcissist who spends more time defending his reputation on social media than actually stating how he would make America great again as United States president.

Our country is at a critical crossroads politically, economically, morally, socially, and spiritually. Frankly, at face value, the descriptions in the paragraph above of the two candidates vying for the highest office in the land don’t offer much hope for America’s future. Yet, barring an act of God, it appears that one of them will become the 45th president of the United States of America.

Do we, therefore, simply wring our hands in despair? Do we stay home from the polls? Do we, as some suggest, hold our nose and vote for the one we think might be the lesser of two evils?

While I have no rocket science solutions, the suggestions I humbly offer are these:

  1. Pray fervently for divine direction in this election. See Rom. 13:1-4.
  2. Consider the qualifications of the two nominees in light of how they express their hopes and dreams for America’s future, notwithstanding their personal behavior and character.
  3. Review each candidate’s stance on terrorism, national security, foreign policy, military might, national debt, health care, economy, Supreme Court appointees, sanctity of life.
  4. Examine the official positions on the issues listed above as contained in the platforms of the two political parties the candidates represent. This is a most critical exercise! We’re not just voting for a person. We’re voting for the political platform that person represents!
  5. Evaluate the vice presidential candidates on the ballot, considering the attributes of the person who would be one heartbeat away. This is also a vital consideration!
  6. Pray again and cast your ballot for the candidate and platform most nearly aligned with your values and convictions as a Christian citizen of the United States of America!

+Rev. Dr. Ralph A. Bohlmann+

Ralph BohlmannWelcome to the eighth consecutive year of weekly Perspectives articles. I hope they are meaningful to those who read them and welcome your comments and suggestions.

This week I share the news that Rev. Dr. Ralph A. Bohlmann passed away peacefully Sunday evening, July 24, 2016, at the age of 84 years. His memorial service was held yesterday at the Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus on the campus of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. Mine was the humbling honor and pastoral privilege to preach at that service.

Following several years as a parish pastor and professor, Dr. Bohlmann served as the seventh president of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, from 1975-81, and as president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod from 1981-92. He was named president emeritus of both.

Dr. Bohlmann was found unconscious early last week on the floor of his apartment at Laclede Groves in St. Louis. The cause is unknown but indications are that he was in that condition for a few days before being discovered. He was hospitalized but never regained consciousness.

Terry and I were in St. Louis last week for a reunion of my former staff members and their spouses. On Tuesday we visited and prayed for Ralph in the hospital. His daughter Lynn was there, caring for her dear father. Her brother Paul kept in touch from his home in New York.

The medical prognosis at that time was very bleak. Later that day life support was removed. Medical personnel indicated their belief that Ralph’s life here on earth would be coming to an imminent conclusion, but we all know that no one can predict with certainty exactly when anyone’s life will end. The Lord alone is the one who numbers our days. Ralph continued to breathe independently for five days before joining his wife Pat, who died Sept. 14, 2012.

Our gracious Lord has received Ralph into his everlasting arms, reunited with Pat and many others in “the vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes and holding palm branches in their hands” (Rev. 7:9) awaiting all who trust in Christ our Lord for life eternal.

Please join me in prayer that Ralph and Pat’s son Paul and their daughter Lynn, together with the rest of the Bohlmann family, will in the days ahead find peace and comfort in the promise of Christ: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies. And whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” John 11:26

Dr. Ralph A. Bohlmann, rest in peace!

New Beginnings

New LifeWe’re only one week into the year of our Lord 2016 and most likely many New Year’s resolutions have already been broken. If you’re still on track, congratulations! Keep up the great work! If you’ve already fallen off the wagon, remember that the year is young. It’s not too late!

Many in the latter category mean well but just don’t seem to have the self-discipline necessary to implement what they resolve. If that’s true in your case, don’t be too hard on yourself. Perhaps your goals are too broad, not specific enough, or unrealistic.

New Year’s resolutions might include cessation of a bad habit, whatever that habit might be. Or, in the case of those who struggle with weight, loss of excess body mass might be the pledge. For others, anger management is an issue that needs to be controlled. Those are fairly general goals.

It might help to begin with a more attainable objective, achievement of which would allow you to celebrate your success rather than to berate yourself for yet another failure. Remember that one must first learn how to crawl before being able to walk or to run.

Over the years of my life I’ve never really made hard and steadfast resolutions per se. That’s not because my life is perfect and has no need for improvement. It’s simply because I see a new year as an opportunity for new beginnings.

One new beginning for me this year, professionally speaking, is coming back home to a career I started in 1986. That was a new year I began by leaving parish ministry and working as Director of Development and soon thereafter as Executive Director of the Lutheran Foundation of Texas. It was a new, challenging and fulfilling type of ministry for me, one I enjoyed immensely!

Last week I rejoined LFOT as Inheritance Legacy Consultant. Essentially, my time will be spent preaching, teaching, writing, conducting seminars and workshops and visiting with individuals, couples and families. The primary focus is helping folks realize and fulfill their responsibilities as managers of assets entrusted to their care by the true owner of those assets, God himself.

I’ll focus on helping folks consider the possibilities and discover the options available when making decisions about what to do with the financial assets they have accumulated during their lifetime(s). Passing substantial inheritance to loved ones is not always as simple as it might seem. Supporting the ministry of charitable organizations can be done efficiently and effectively, with little or no reduction of, and often with increase in benefit for family members.

My new email address is GBJK@LFOT.org. Stay tuned!

That’s my new beginning for this year. What’s yours? God bless you in your new endeavors!