Commencement

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Commencement has special meaning to certain people at a specific time in their lives. Whether from kindergarten, elementary, junior high, senior high, college, university, med school, vet school, law school, or grad school of any kind, commencement means satisfactory completion of academic requirements necessary for commencing, moving forward, to what lies ahead.

During the past nearly nine years of Perspectives articles, I’ve written a number of times about commencement. Those articles had as their subject the graduation of our grandchildren from some of the educational institutions listed above. It’s time for another one.

The event occurred this past weekend in Stephenville, Texas, a small university town southwest of Fort Worth. After what must surely have seemed a very long haul for her (and for her parents), our granddaughter Kayla received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Hallelujah!

For nursing students, commencement includes two separate events. The first night is the pinning ceremony, a serious yet celebratory evening where each student walks across the stage to receive a nursing pin. At Tarleton State, a public university, this ceremony began and ended with prayer. Mind you, these were not generic prayers. They ended in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! At a state university! That blew me away!

The next morning was the actual awarding of degrees at the commencement service. It also began with prayer, to an unnamed deity, with a simple “Amen” at the end. No mention of Jesus or even of God. My referring to this prayer is not an effort to be picky. After all, this is a state university. And in today’s cultural environment, I’m surprised any prayer was even included.

While waiting for Kayla’s turn on stage, I watched the crowd of family and friends gathered to share the joy of their loved ones who were commencing that day. Many graduates were greeted with shouts and cheers. Loud ones! Other grads received only polite applause from the crowd. That led me to believe not many of their friends or family members were able to be present.

At one point I noticed the lady sitting next to me. As a graduate who must have been her daughter crossed the stage, this lady broke down in tears. Those were surely tears of joy, shed in relief that this part of her daughter’s professional preparation was now concluded. They were also probably tears of release, most likely from the emotional and financial burdens that accompany as rigid and lengthy a curriculum as the nursing program assuredly is.

For Kayla’s parents (our daughter Angie and husband Todd), her brother Kolby, her grandparents (Terry and I), Todd’s father Steve and grandmother Martha, and the many other members of our family who love her dearly but were not table to be present, this commencement was an event to remember!

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Legacy Deo

screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-9-55-49-pmLegacy is a word that means bequest, inheritance, heritage. Deo is the Latin word for God. Those two words comprise the new name of Lutheran Foundation of Texas: Legacy Deo.

Our legacy from God is who we are and everything we have, including possessions, wealth, fullness of life, faith, forgiveness, and eternal salvation. Our legacy to God and to our loved ones is thanking God for his gifts by using them wisely, during, at the end of, and beyond our lifetime. Helping people in that process is the ministry of Legacy Deo.

Here are portions of a recent public letter from Larry Ohls, Chief Executive Officer of Lutheran Foundation of Texas for the past seven years:

A God Honoring Legacy

The year 2017 will be a very special NEW year for this organization. It will be the beginning of a new era for this foundation that was chartered over 56 years ago.

Over the last 15 months our organization has evaluated the brand identity of this ministry. We spent a great deal of time considering and discussing our core values, mission, purpose, and vision for the future. After extensive research, examination, and prayer the decision was made to change the Foundation’s name to Legacy Deo.

Our new name reflects the essence of what we do as an organization: to assist Christians in leaving a legacy that honors God and builds His kingdom. Over the past 56 years, this Foundation has worked to inspire giving that impacts life forever. Going forward, it is our vision that God’s people, each and every one, will leave a legacy for faith and family like so many before them.

I also want to inform you that effective December 31, 2016, I am retiring as Chief Executive Officer. I plan to continue as an advisor with Legacy Deo and assist in any manner that adds value to the organization. The Board of Directors has selected Rev. Dr. Gerald Kieschnick, President Emeritus of the LCMS, to lead this ministry as Chief Executive Officer. We are blessed by God to have a man of Rev. Kieschnick’s talent, experience and commitment to guide us into the future.

It has been an honor to direct this organization over the past seven years. I consider it a blessing to have served alongside a talented staff that is dedicated to influencing the lives of Christian donors and the life-enriching ministries they support. To God be the glory!

Larry P. Ohls

Larry has been a great leader of this organization for the past seven years. I’ve known him all his life and pray his retirement will be a blessing for his wife Carolyn and their family.

It is my privilege to accept the leadership role of this very important ministry. With God’s help and Terry’s blessing, I look forward to helping individuals and families create a legacy for their loved ones, their congregations, and other charitable organizations with the gifts God has entrusted to their care.

For information and assistance on how to begin that process for your family and your favorite faith-based endeavors, see the contact information below.

Legacy Deo. God’s Gifts. Your Legacy.

Islam’s Future in America—Part I

islam-9-1532819-640x480At the conclusion of my article on the visit of Pope Francis to America a couple weeks ago, I said: “Roman Catholics are not our greatest spiritual enemies. That designation belongs to Satan, the world, our own sinful flesh and Islam. I’ll say more about the last topic on that list in the weeks ahead.” This week I’m making the first installment on keeping that promise.

The title of this edition of Perspectives is borrowed from that of an article in the January/April edition of Concordia Theological Quarterly by Dr. Adam Francisco, Professor and Chair of the History and Political Thought Department at Concordia University Irvine in Irvine, Cal. Dr. Francisco is a young, very intelligent authority on Islam and is the son-in-law of Terry’s and my very good friends, Priscilla and Bob Newton. Bob is president of the California-Nevada-Hawaii District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and a very bright mission-minded theological leader. Contents of Dr. Francisco’s article are shared here with his permission.

Dr. Francisco’s article chronicles the history of the first Muslims in the United States, who were slaves from Africa brought to this country over 200 years ago. Initially their influence was basically negligible. However, in the late 19th century the first Muslim missionary, Mohammed Alexander Russell Webb (1846-1916), began work in the U.S. Webb “was born in New York, raised in a Presbyterian household, moved to Missouri … established ties with Muslims in India, and received a commission from them to begin a mission to America.” Webb was basically unsuccessful in his five-year effort to promulgate the Islamic faith in America.

A few years later Islam’s influence in this country was catalyzed by “the thousands of immigrants who managed to circumvent the restrictions of the Immigration Act of 1891. By the 1920s it is estimated that around 60,000 had settled in cities throughout the United States. Most of them kept their religion private and sometimes even lied about it. But a few were apparently emboldened to advance Islam.”

The result was “a good bit of success in winning converts” among African Americans in Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, and St. Louis in just three years (1920-1923) by holding what are described as “Mosque meetings” where the “virtues of Islam were exalted and Christianity was severely criticized.” The plan of Islam was to “conquer America.”

Perhaps that’s enough to whet your appetite. I’ll continue next week with more on this important topic. My goal 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. See you next week.