Barb Below

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Posts by Barb Below

Proverbs 4:10—23

proverbsToday in chapel we were blessed to hear God’s Word preached by Rev. Steve Schave, Associate Executive Director of the Office of International Mission. His sermon made the text very real and the Gospel message so wonderful to hear.

 

A Father’s Wise Instruction – Proverbs 4:10-23

If a father’s wise instruction be the safe path of uprightness then you will find me on the shortcut through bristle and thorn. If a father’s wise words are a lady to hold onto, then I have forsaken her and forgotten her; not guarding her as I should, but turned away.  If there’s an off ramp to evil, I’ve taken that exit rather than pass on by.  If they serve the bread of wickedness and the wine of violence, then I’ve been to that diner.  If the highway of wickedness leads to deep darkness, then I have crashed my car over the curb of instruction, careening in the dark with my head lights off.  I haven’t been attentive to my father’s words, I haven’t filled my ears with them, I let them escape from my sight, and my heart has been filled with an empty substitute.  I won’t rest until I have done evil and made someone trip over my own sins.  Crooked speech and devious talk are always near to my heart if not my lips.  My eyes are not on the road, my navigation is faulty, and I swerve right into the oncoming traffic of evil.  My steps to heaven are hampered by all the muck I have stepped in, and when I go running, I stumble and fall flat on my face.  And so it is with each us, for every person born sinful.

 

And when my father’s discipline comes to put me on the path, when I must die to myself or deny myself: I am the doubting Thomas, I am the denying Peter. I am the persistent widow, who cries “injustice” to the judge, for my suffering at the pain of a hangnail being pulled, kicking and screaming all the way to the cross.  Ah, the unfairness of it all!  For surely in my eyes, I am a knight in shining armor, the man of steel, I discipline my body to not sin, I am the fireman rescuing the kitten, the boy scout helping the elderly woman across the street, the heroic father up late last night at the hospital with my daughter.  I am the Good Samaritan who helps the one in need whom all else ignored… all to the honor of men and wise all unto myself. That is until this twisted stick is held up to the perfectly straight ruler and I see just how crooked I am.  Until this little lamp is held up to the very glow of the Sun.  My life compared to the Word and Instruction of my wise Father?  How can it be that my years will be many, in keeping with His instruction, and the path will lead to the light, and not into utter darkness?  It is terrifying for me to think upon the wise instruction of my Father and what a fool I’ve been in my life.  And if God would be fair to give what I deserve, I shudder to think… and so should it be with you!

 

Because what kind of foolishness is this, the wise instruction of a Father who would send His only begotten Son to suffer and die.  A Son who never forsook the teachings of His Father, whose heart held fast to every wise word, who kept each and every commandment, who took not one step outside the path of uprightness, who even in starvation refused to eat from the bread of wickedness, or in his persecution refused to drink from the wine of violence.  Because He would not walk in the way of evil or enter the path of the wicked, but followed the blood stained road that would lead to torture, and suffering and death.  The Lamb who goes uncomplaining forth without a word of protest.  What kind of foolishness is this!?  If this is what happens to the Holy One of God, what is to become of me?  For surely Satan watches on at the foot of the cross, and says with wicked tongue, “Oh Holy One of God, how quickly they went from chanting your name to chants of crucify… they mock you, they spit on you, they jeer you: this is how they treat their king?  Look at how they treat one another… they crucify each other and they crucify you!  What are you waiting for, dying on that cross, each labored breath and word one closer to your last… you’d be a fool, Jesus, not to save yourself!   Say the wise word, let them get what they deserve… curse them and live and leave them to me… don’t be a fool! ”

 

What foolish love is this upon the cross!?  What foolish love is this!?  Jesus Christ truly is the King of fools, of which I am the greatest – a poor miserable fool.  Oh Father, what have you done!  What have you done for me, your prodigal Son?  But, listen, listen to those wise words from the cross, O sons and daughters, and hold them close to your heart!  Those words of salvation, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” and then with his last when Christ pronounces, “It is finished.  The debt has been paid.”  These words are like a graceful garland placed upon your head, a beautiful crown bestowed upon you.  Be attentive to these words of grace, don’t let them escape your sight, keep them in your heart unto eternal life.  For these words are life to those who find them, and in them is the healing of your flesh.  Because, to be sure, from a pierced side we see the vigilance of the Son’s heart, from which flows the very springs of life, as these Words are poured out upon you from the font.  And with these words, He gives you the Bread of Holiness to eat, and the cup of Peace from which to drink.  Bread and wine, filled with forgiveness, life and salvation – through these words.

 

And with these words that absolve all your sin, the Father places you back on the path of uprightness and the way of wisdom.  So when you walk, your steps will not be hampered, and when you run, you will not stumble!  For surely, the prodigal’s father comes running down the path, to embrace His foolish son brought to his senses.  And the path of God’s righteousness is the light of a new dawn.  And while the world grows darker and darker, Christ grows closer and closer, shining brighter and brighter until the full day when He returns again.  He has promised to come again that you might eat His bread and drink His wine: and to fill your ear and eye and heart with His Words that last forever.  Because, if there be wisdom it is Christ… if there be righteousness it is Christ… if there be life and healing… it is Christ!  Those are the Promises of your wise Father, the words that you can cling to until you are crowned with eternal life.  In Jesus name, Amen.

 

-Barb Below

JUNE IS YOUTH MINISTRY MONTH

The new LYF Executive Board who will be installed at the Gathering.

The new LYF Executive Board who will be installed at the Gathering.

June is Youth Ministry Month in The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. The designation goes back to the early 1970’s after the Synod in convention had established a Board for Youth Ministry to replace its relationship with the Walther League.  The purpose was to encourage congregations to give thanks to God for the opportunities we have in nurturing the young  people in our churches.

Really, Youth Ministry Month takes C.F.W. Walther literally.  Walther once told his seminary class of future pastors, “You cannot use your time to better advantage than by serving well the young people of your congregation.”  Walther himself is recognized by people in and outside the LCMS as a pioneer for youth ministry in United States Christendom.  In 1848, he encouraged establishment of a young man’s society at his church, Historic Trinity Soulard in St. Louis.  A young woman’s society followed.  In establishing a national youth ministry in 1893, the young synod named its new organization after the first President of the LCMS and called it The Walther League. When the League and Synod parted company in 1968, the Synod continued to emphasize youth ministry through establishment of a Youth Board.

Youth Ministry month provides an intentional opportunity to give thanks to God for His blessings to LCMS youth and the blessing they are to His church. It’s a time to give thanks for God’s claim on them in baptism, recalling the theme of this year’s Synod convention. It’s a time to give thanks for our youth’s faith, their commitment, courage, energy, enthusiasm, creativity, passion and love for God and His people.  It’s also a time to give some thought to challenges in youth ministry including a declining youth membership, a culture often hostile to our faith and values, ministry with post-high school young adults, campus ministry and how do we nurture the faith in our young.

June was selected years ago as it marks the completion of the school year (although these days  most schools are done in the middle of May) and the beginning of summer youth events and projects.  This summer, Lutheran Youth Fellowship’s Teens Reaching Teens leadership training workshops, a witness emphasis, will be happening all over the country.  Up to 4,000 LCMS teens will serve in LCMS Servant Events, a major mercy effort by LCMS Youth Ministry.  And, this year, thousands of LCMS youth will head for the National Youth Gathering and other events, camps and conferences, evidence of our life together.

This month, pray for your youth and young adults by name.  Check www.youthESource.com for special youth ministry month materials.  Commission your youth as they go off to the Gathering.  A commissioning service is available at the Gathering web site: http://www.lcmsgathering.com/Index.asp?PageID=14746.   Organize your own local servant events or plan to hold an LYF training event (check with your district office).  It’s a great time for youth ministry in the LCMS.

– By Rev. Dr. Terry K. Dittmer, Director, ONM – Youth Ministry

The Reformer Lutheran Seminary Dedication – The Dominican Republic

P1000578Two weeks ago today, on Sunday, March 10, 2013, on the top of a steep hill with overcast skies (a blessing so it wasn’t too hot) and strong winds blowing, excitement built as members from several mission sites in the Dominican Republic and others gathered to dedicate The Reformer Lutheran Seminary in Palmar Arriba. It was a bit surreal to see that after eight years of intentional mission development, a Lutheran seminary in the Dominican Republic was finally established.

Early that morning, members from the church in Las Americas and Los Minas, communities on the south end of the island and a three-hour bus ride away, loaded up a large passenger bus and headed to the hillside, rural town of Palmar Arriba. Another bus loaded up members from Licey, a small town outside of Santiago. About 30 minutes prior to the anticipated start, residents and church members from Palmar Arriba began to gather at the top of the hill outside the seminary and waited for the service to begin. P1000576While more townspeople gathered at the seminary, we waited for the buses. As we stood at the top of the steep driveway looking down the road, we finally could see the buses arrive. Everyone was here and we could begin . . . almost.P1000585

As the buses stopped at the bottom of the hill, we began to see people unload and begin the climb up the steep driveway to the seminary. The transmission on the bus was slipping, and the driver was hesitant to take the bus up the hill. All passengers were able to climb the hill, despite being winded when they arrived up top.

Pastors from the United States, Argentina, Haiti and the Dominican Republic gathered to participate in the service. Quickly the pastors all vested, special handmade banners were set on poles, bulletins were handed out and the Rev. Ted Krey began the dedication service. Spoken entirely in Spanish, the people were led through the dedication of The Reformer Lutheran Seminary. This seminary was blessed for the service of forming seminarians, pastors, deacons, deaconesses and lay people in the study of the Holy Scriptures, Lutheran doctrine and The Confessions.P1000597

It is a two-story building, made out of concrete blocks with a beautiful, white cross painted on the front of the building. From anywhere in the town, you can look up to the hill and see the large white cross standing out against the brown/green hillside. While the building was only partially constructed before the property was obtained by the mission, the building was completed by volunteer servant teams from the United States. Over the last year, teams have worked to dig a well, run plumbing up the hill, pave the driveway, install bathrooms and a kitchen, install a roof, lay tile, add electricity, and paint both the inside and outside. Thanks to everyone who worked on the construction of the seminary!

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Despite the strong blowing winds, the dedication service continued on the top of the hill with many songs and prayers. After group pictures, the gathering of people began a parade down the hill and through the community singing and carrying banners. Everyone gathered back in the playground of Concordia Lutheran School where an altar and chairs had been set up for service. P1000624The children from the group home sat near the front and many other young children watched intently while sitting in their small, red resin, plastic chairs to the side. We continued with service with Divine Service and the celebration of Holy Communion. A children’s choir sang. Rev. Sergio Fritzler, rector of Concordia Seminary, Buenos Aires, Argentina, gave the sermon.

With a growing chill in the air and with winds continuing, the many children and parents gave thanks and praised God for the blessings in the mission and the establishment of The Reformer Lutheran Seminary. As is the custom in the Dominican, at the end of the service, many hugs and greetings were shared with everyone before departing. Songs of Praise

I can distinctly remember wondering to myself, eight years ago at my first meeting regarding the development of a Lutheran mission in the Dominican Republic, whether or not a mission was possible in this country. Would any Dominicans be interested? What little faith I had! Tears came to my eyes as I tried to take in the experience and comprehend what God had done through this mission. To Him be all the glory!

IMG_1678We started that day on the top of the hill. A couple hours later, having been fed through Word and Sacrament, we all departed out into our communities to continue the work of the mission—to be witnesses of Christ, share mercy to those in need and strengthen the bonds of our life together in Christ and the world. I left Palmar Arriba with excitement building for this mission and for what God has in store for the future.

Barb Below

Executive Director of the Office of International Mission


This week Pres. Harrison sent out the message below to employees of the International Center informing them that Rev. Randy Golter, former District President of the LCMS Rocky Mountain District, has accepted the call to be the Executive Director of the Office of International Mission.

Greetings, dear co-workers in Christ!

I am writing with great joy and expectation to announce that Rev. Randall L. Golter will be joining our staff as executive director, Office of International Mission effective Oct. 25. In this role, he will be responsible for overseeing and supervising all staff, programs, projects and activities for the work of the Synod in foreign countries.

Many of you will know that Rev. Golter served as president of the LCMS Rocky Mountain District since 2003. In that role, he served as the ecclesiastical supervisor of the pastors and other church workers of some 180 congregations and the LCMS schools in the district. In addition to carrying out the administrative responsibilities of a district president, Rev. Golter also managed a $500,000 fundraising effort for the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa; oversaw the district’s commitment to the LCMS Fan into Flame! campaign; and implemented a new mission effort called “Gospel Gap Paradigm,” which emphasizes the circuits as the stewarding authority of their mission regions. Since 2009, Rev. Golter also served as the district’s mission executive.

Prior to his election to district president, Rev. Golter served as pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Highlands Ranch, Colo. (2001-2003); Grace Lutheran Church, Albuquerque, N.M. (1994-2001); and Trinity Lutheran Church, Wheatland, Wyo. (1985-1994).

Rev. Golter earned a Master of Divinity degree and completed course work for a Master of Sacred Theology degree at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. He currently is pursuing a Doctor of Ministry degree from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne.

I believe that Rev. Golter is superbly qualified for this position. Please join me in welcoming him to our team and in praying that God richly blesses his leadership for the sake of the Gospel.

In His service,

Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, President

Click here to read the Reporter Online article about this news. Please keep Rev. Golter in your prayers as he begins his transition into his new position. Also, keep all of the employees of the Office of International Mission in your prayers as they await Rev.Golter’s arrival. You are invited to attend Rev. Golter’s installation service October 25th during  the 10am chapel service at the International Center in St. Louis.

– Barb Below

 

LCMS National Housing Support Corporation

 

Recently, I had a chance to spend sometime working with Nicole Ridley-Turner, the new Executive Director of the LCMS National Housing Support Corporation. The LCMS National Housing Support Corporation is currently seeking qualified applicants for the Director of Advancement position. This position will be responsible for leading and managing all aspects of a comprehensive advancement program including fundraising, communications and constituent relations. Click here for the job posting and application details. You can apply online or send the job posting to a friend.

The LCMS National Housing Support Corporation’s vision is that neighborhoods close to our altars are restored and revitalized by our members’ faith active in love. The LCMS National Housing Support Corporation provides financial support to housing and neighborhood revitalization projects and partnerships. Most importantly, they lend expertise to LCMS entities who have a desire to be catalysts for change by renewing neighborhoods and bringing hope to communities others have given up on. This work is different than other housing efforts. The LCMS National Housing Support Corporation is based on changing residents lives by sharing the love of Christ and connecting communities to our churches. Through the LCMS National Housing Support Corporation, our love in action reaches out to those living in struggling circumstances and without safe, secure homes. So many opportunities exist for the LCMS National Housing Support Corporation. So many children are going to bed tonight not sure where they will be sleeping tomorrow night. For me that is intolerable. Many communities around the country need our help to make things right in their neighborhoods so that families and children can thrive and grow in a safe, secure environment.

Please read the attached recent report from the LCMS National Housing Support Corporation to learn more. HN0913DMXXX Fall 2012 Annual

The LCMS National Housing Support Corporation recently received three new board members that will bring expertise and gifts to the board.

  • Rev. Joshua Gale, Philadelphia, PA (3-year term)
  • Rev. Steve D. Schave, Cincinnati, OH (3-year term)
  • Alan F. Doud, Bakersfield, CA (2-year term)

I’m excited for the future of the LCMS National Housing Support Corporation and their continued work to  renew neighborhoods and transform lives.

– Barb Below