Bitterness is an ugly thing. It is not attractive when displayed and causes other people to feel uncomfortable, at the very least. However, we all know bitterness. It has lived in us, crept up on us, held us hostage, and destroyed relationships and opportunities. It is a powerful, invisible beast that can eat you from the inside out and is a favorite tool of the devil.
I have been bitter at God in the past. Have you? Twenty years ago, at the age of 34, I was angry and bitter at God that I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I was bitter, for a time, that I was going to lose out on so much in life and not be able to have all I dreamed of….or so I thought (turns out I was wrong…really wrong). You might have felt bitterness in the past for some other matter or situation. Bitterness is the same in all of us though as it blinds us from truth and love. It is hard to see joy when looking thru the lens of bitterness.
But thanks be to God that He is greater than all the devil’s schemes and ways and more powerful than our weaknesses. He promises to hear us when we pour out our soul to Him, comforts us with His peace and fills us with joyfulness.
Today is the Commemoration of Hannah. Hannah, wife of Elkanah, was barren for years and deeply anguished, but later was blessed with a son, Samuel (and many more children). Through the merciful, divine love of God, Hannah went from bitterness to joyfulness. Even in Hannah’s “great anguish and grief” and “weeping bitterly” she did not turn from God but kept praying to Him. Despite difficult circumstances, she went to the temple and poured out her soul. What a great example for all of us.
Learn more about Hannah here. Read her prayer (1 Samuel 2: 1-10) below which so beautifully includes a reminder to not trust in your own strength but to rejoice in the Lord, your Rock who “raises the poor from the dust” and “lifts the needy from the ash heap.”
1 And Hannah prayed and said,
“My heart exults in the Lord;
my horn is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in your salvation.
2 “There is none holy like the Lord:
for there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.
3 Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.
4 The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble bind on strength.
5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger.
The barren has borne seven,
but she who has many children is forlorn.
6 The Lord kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low and he exalts.
8 He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord‘s,
and on them he has set the world.
9 “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness,
for not by might shall a man prevail.
10 The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces;
against them he will thunder in heaven.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed.”
Norway’s Defender of Life Børre Knudsen Dead at 76
(August 18) Norwegian Bishop Børre Knudsen died quietly in his home near Tromsø Sunday morning, surrounded by his family. Norway’s most prominent pro-Life leader had suffered worsening Parkinson’s Disease in recent years. His passing sparked a wave of praise from Christian and even secular publications across Norway. An editorial in the Christian daily Dagen entitled “Heartfelt Thanks, Borre Knudsen” described him as “a unique person. His warm heart, his gentle zeal and his steadfastness stand as strong testimony to a life of selfless service for the Life that God created.”
“When the history of our times is written,” Dagen continues, “Borre Knudsen will be one future generations will hear about. Knudsen’s struggle is not driven by opposition to women’s rights or the preservation of traditional gender roles, but by a strong commitment to protect life itself.”
Vårt Land writes, “Borre Knudsen will go down in history as one of the most important churchly personalities of our time, but both he and his family had to pay a high price because he stood out front in the abortion battle.”
Bishop Knudsen was known throughout Norway and beyond for his gentle demeanor but uncompromising struggle against legalized abortion, beginning when the Norwegian law was adopted in 1978. Protesting the law, he refused to carry out government duties assigned to state church pastors, such as keeping official records, and refused his salary, but continued his pastoral service to his congregation.
This protest was modeled after the Church’s resistance against the World War II Nazi occupation of Norway. When the occupation government attempted to transform the Church along their lines and brainwash children as was then being done in Germany, the bishops wrote a Confession known as “The Church’s Foundation” (Kirkens Grunn). This confessed that the Church is bound to God’s Word, that Word and Sacrament cannot be reshaped by the government, and that parents must resist government efforts to pervert their children’s faith. On Easter Day 1942 this Confession was read from the pulpit in Lutheran churches all over Norway. Most pastors then resigned their state appointments, refusing to serve the government or to accept their government salaries, but continuing their pastoral services. The bishops and many pastors were imprisoned, but the Church remained free and faithful.
Following the Kirkens Grunn model, Knudsen continued to serve his parish despite government efforts to remove him, until the Norwegian Supreme Court ruled against him in 1983. He was not, however, defrocked at that time and continued his ministry in a valgmenighet, a Norwegian form of congregation nominally within the state church, but independent of its bishops. On Easter Day 1991, Knudsen and several other pastors formed the Strandebarm Deanery (Prosti), also called the “Norwegian Church in Exile.” The Deanery viewed itself as continuing the historic faith and practice of the Norwegian Church, but outside the control of the government and the government-appointed bishops. It held to confessional Lutheran positions, and thus opposed the state church, on such matters as abortion, homosexuality, and ordination of women.
Knudsen was consecrated bishop for the Deanery in 1997, and this led to his being defrocked in 2001. He continued serving in the Deanery until 2011, when he retired for health reasons. Bishop Thor Henrik With was consecrated in 2012 to replace Knudsen for the congregations in northern Norway. These congregations constituted themselves into what is now called The Evangelical-Lutheran Diocese in Norway. It cooperates closely with the Mission Province in Sweden and the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese in Finland. Bishop Knudsen was one of the four Lutheran bishops who assisted Bishop Walter Obare of Kenya when he consecrated the first Mission Province bishop, Arne Olsson, in 2005.
Bishop Knudsen led an increasingly controversial series of protest actions in defense of the unborn as long as his health permitted. He was the object of much hatred and abuse by militant abortion supporters. He maintained a gentle but steadfast attitude in the face of much persecution. His family, especially his children, were also targeted for persecution.
Public attitudes toward Bishop Knudsen have mellowed considerably in light of his consistent and gentle witness. He is the subject of a book entitled A Priest and a Plague (En Prest og en Plage) and a full-length documentary film of the same title. The film was released in Norway earlier this year and shown all over that country. Norwegian TV has scheduled a nation-wide prime time broadcast on Tuesday (August 19). The film has been released on DVD in Scandinavia (in Region2 format), and is expected to be released in North America in October.
Coverage (in Norwegian) of Børre Knudsen’s passing:
Link to documentary film website [a DVD is available in Scandinavia, but has not yet been released in North America … it will have English subtitles]:
Christopher C. Barnekov, PhD
Scandinavia House Fort Wayne
1925 Saint Joe Center RD
Fort Wayne, IN 46825
For the past several days, the International Loehe Society (http://www.iloes.net/en/) Fourth Loehe Theological Conference has been holding forth in Neuendettelsau, Germany — Loehe’s base of operation in the 19th century. Scholars primarily from Germany and North America discussed the topic of Christian Formation.
Professor John Pless and Dr. Albert Collver from the LCMS were presenters at the conference. Deaconess Grace Rao and Rev. Tony Booker, Regional Director for Eurasia, also attended on behalf of the LCMS.
Dr. Collver’s presentation was titled, “Loehe: Mission Societies, The Church in Its Motion and Missio Dei.” Collver noted that for Loehe the church engages in mission by being Church. The gospel goes out into the world to all nations, one congregation at a time. Collver used Loehe to critique some contemporary Missiology trends.
Professor Pless presented on “Seed Grains: Loehe’s Manual for Christian Formation Through Prayer.” Loehe teaches Christians how to pray, not by talking about prayer but by providing prayers for Christians to imitate. He provides prayers for the church year and for various events and concerns. The Psalter has a primary function in Seed Grains with each day of the week. Through Seed Grains, Loehe hoped to shape the life of the Christian.
The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) is holding its Council meeting. The EECMY holds a general assembly every four years. This is similar to a convention for the LCMS. The EECMY also holds a council meeting between the general assemblies. The council meeting consists of all the synod presidents (District Presidents in LCMS terminology) and other representatives. Reports are made by each Synod (District in LCMS lingo) to the council. Currently, the various synods are reporting on how they are implementing the strategic plan. The EECMY has a church wide strategic plan. Each Synod (District) operates according to the same plan with the same goals. One Synod reported to the Council that they had gained 87,000 new members since this time last year. The Council is able to make decisions on behalf of the entire church between general assemblies. The third level of governance in the EECMY is the executive committee. President Harrison met with the executive committee in January 2014.
Dr. Collver had opportunity to bring greetings to the Council on behalf of President Harrison and the LCMS. The EECMY expressed appreciation for President Harrison’s visit in January, as well as for the LCMS’ efforts to increase the EECMY’s Lutheran identity and the work on theological education.
The EECMY has recently begun to send missionaries around the world. They do work in West Africa and Pakistan. One of the missionaries told the Council that it was not enough to leave your home but one had to be willing to lose his life for the Gospel. Over 15,000 people attended, the sending service for one of the missionary.
The EECMY had an art display at the council. Recently, some in the EECMY began to use art as a method for outreach. The triptych above shows a person fixing his eyes on the crucified Christ and turning from the riches, beauty, and power of the world.
The EECMY holds as its confessional basis that the Old and New Testaments are the Holy Word of God and the only source and only source and infallible norm of all Church doctrine and practice. The church holds to the Creeds, the Augsburg Confession and Luther’s Catechisms. One of the challenges is that very few copies of either the Augsburg Confession or Luther’s Catechisms can be found in Ethiopia. The lack of these confessional documents presents challenges in teaching and maintaining Lutheran identity.
Posted on 21 July 2014 by Rev. Dr. Albert Collver
A group from the LCMS met with leaders at the Mekane Yesus Seminary (MYS) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to discuss how the EECMY and the LCMS can work together on theological education to train future pastors. The EECMY curre you has about 3,000 pastors, and has a goal of having one pastor per congregation or 10,000 pastors over the next five years. The LCMS has committed to providing assistance in curriculum development and to provide theological educators to teach courses. For the part year the LCMS have had theological educators at MYS to assist in their programs.
These books from CPH are some of the materials used by students in the graduate study lounge at MYS. Obtaining theological study materials is one of the greatest challenges in providing theological education in not only Ethiopia but through out Africa and Latin America. The challenge lay not only in the cost of the materials but also in shipping, transport, and storage. Although the rise of electronic books and Internet resources is common place in North America and Europe, electronic resources are generally impractical or entirely unusable in Africa and other parts of the world. (The hotel where we are staying only had Internet access for a few hours yesterday.) It is not uncommon for electricity to be shut off for parts of the day. Printed books are a necessity despite the rise of electronic resources. The question in many cases is which resources to provide and how to get the materials where they are needed — a challenge that the Chemnitz Library Initiative is trying to address.
A letter of greeting from Concordia Seminary, St Louis is presented to Dr. Belay at MYS. With now 7 regional seminaries and 40 Bible colleges in the EECMY, there is tremendous opportunity for theological education. The EECMY requested that representatives from both Concordia Seminary St Louis and Concordia Theological Seminary come to Ethiopia to discuss face to face how further collaboration could be made.
Deaconess Sandra Rhein, Beza Tefera, and Church Musician Emily German tour the MYS campus. Deaconess Sandra and Emily are visiting to explore the possibility of assisting in the development of worship materials particularly for the youth and for mission outreach. Part of the project will include the gathering of indigenous Ethiopian hymns and songs, as well as working with traditional Lutheran hymns that have been translated. Dr. Berhanu, EECMY General Secretary, stated that this project is one of the most needful items now for the EECMY.
Today we meet with other leaders of the EECMY. The next several days will be packed with activities.
– Posted on 19 July 2014 by Dr. Albert Collver