* PROMISE KEEPERS UPDATE
Last month on these pages we ran Pastor Bruce Naumann’s helpful and informative article on the Promise Keepers. The article pointed out that the movement is a “mixture of worthy goals and anti-biblical teaching” and, because of the latter, conscientious Christians will want to “steer clear” of it.
We are aware that warnings against the movement have gone out from other sources as well. Apparently such warnings are being heeded. The February 28, 1998 issue of WORLD magazine reported that the very life of the movement is in jeopardy: “all (Promise Keepers) staff will be laid off as of March 31, and unpaid volunteers would try to keep the financially troubled ministry going . . .” One executive summarized: “We’re broke.” A contributing factor, it seems, is the movement’s new no-charge policy for those who participate in its stadium conferences, the number of which is being considerably reduced (to bail them out founder Bill McCartney is asking every church in America to give $1000).
In an evil day we have, we believe, ‘at our finger tips’ the spiritual resources we need. Let us look to the Means of Grace–the “living and powerful” Word of God (cf. Heb. 4:12) and the Sacraments–then to our called pastors and teachers and the Christian fellowship we enjoy in our local congregations. Such gifts from God can provide the guidance and support necessary to accomplish such laudable PK goals as practicing ethical and sexual purity and building stronger marriages and families.
* NEW SERIES ON THE PARABLES
The Spokesman has had on-going Bible studies based on the Old Testament as well as on the New Testament Epistles. What’s missing, we have felt for some time, are studies from the Gospels and the life of Christ. In this issue we begin a series in which selected staff will treat the parables taught by our Savior.
We would share a few thoughts on parables.
Many of us have taught, or been taught, that a parable is “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” Such a definition, easily conveyed and remembered, can be properly understood. It has been said, however, that Jesus’ parables often contain a lot of earthly meaning, and therefore a parable might be better defined as “a story about something from everyday life that Jesus uses to teach something about life with God.” As if to emphasize the holy truth that the whole world belongs to God, the Lord often uses references to nature or to common events in life to draw out sacred, divine truths.
Don’t make too much of the “story” part either, lest the impression be given that parables are like fairy stories taught to youngsters. Their inclusion in sacred Scripture means parables are divinely-inspired stories which have serious life-and-death spiritual lessons to teach.
Our Lord tells us why He often spoke in parables–and the reason may surprise: “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them (the multitudes). Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand . . .” (Mt. 13:11ff). In parables Jesus revealed sacred secrets to His disciples while concealing the truth from those who already rejected Him. In other words, this teaching technique was a form of verbal judgment on the unbelieving.
At times we are told the specific reason which prompted Jesus to tell a parable (e.g. Lk. 19:11). Sometimes our Lord Himself explains one of His parables (e.g. Mt. 13:18ff, 13:37ff).
In every case the expounder of a parable will want to stay within the analogy (or common and generally accepted understanding) of Holy Scripture. Here too the rule applies: let scripture interpret scripture.
And another caution is in place: don’t stretch the spiritual application(s) beyond the central or “key” lesson(s) intended. For example, what is the “key” in the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31)? Is it that a person is better off being poor? Of course not. There will be materially-rich people in heaven and poverty-stricken people in hell. The key point of this particular parable has to do with prioritizing God’s Word in one’s life.
There are, finally, three different groupings of these sacred stories. First, there are the various “kingdom” parables which Jesus taught during His early Galilean ministry (most of which are recorded in Matthew 13). Secondly, there are those which occur later in the Savior’s ministry and are found only in Luke (cf. chapters 10 through 19). Thirdly, our Lord taught a special set of parables during Holy Week, and they are found in later chapters of Matthew (chs. 21-25).
“He who has ears, let him hear” (Mt. 13:9), said Jesus. May the Spirit of God bless our “hearing” of the Savior’s parables.
* PROFESSOR JOHN LAU RETIRES (Editorial note: At our request Pastor Gordon Radtke prepared this writing at the time of the retirement of his long-time colleague. It was sent to us last Spring. We are sorry for our delay of the article until this time.)
On the evening of May 23, 1997 Immanuel Lutheran College presented their Graduation/Commencement concert. At the close of the concert the audience was invited to the dining hall for a reception to mark the retirement of John Lau: a pastor, a professor, and college president.
The Lord prepared His servant John, a native of South Dakota, with a BA degree from Northwestern College, Watertown, Wis. He received his CRM degree (Candidate for the Holy Ministry) from the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wis.
John also received teaching experience at Bethany Lutheran College, Mankato, Minn. He served as the pastor of congregations in Minneapolis, Minn., Osceola, Wis., and Onalaska, Wis.
During the “interim years” (the years between his leaving the Wisconsin Synod in order to faithfully follow his Lord’s instruction and his Call to ILC), John served a congregation in Onalaska while working for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections in La Cross, Wis. Later, he also served a new CLC congregation in Chicago while working as a claims and field representative for the Social Security Administration in Chicago.
In 1965 John Lau was called to serve ILC, Eau Claire. While in Eau Claire he received a Masters Degree in English from the University of Wisconsin. At ILC he was called to serve as the first Dean of Students and served as Dean for seven years, in addition to his teaching schedule in the high school, college, and seminary departments. Over the years his classes included English, German, Latin, Science, Religion, and History. He was the resident expert on the writings of William Shakespeare and John Milton.
In 1989 John Lau was called to be the fourth president of ILC (in addition to his teaching schedule). He was well prepared for this extra work for he had also acquired experience as the editor of the Journal of Theology, as CLC Archivist-Historian, as past member of the CLC Board of Education, and as the CLC Vice President.
John Lau was married to Dorothy Mueller on June 11, 1954. They have two children: Jonathan who lives in Eau Claire, and Kathryn who lives in Texas. At the Graduation/Commencement service on May 24, the Regents of ILC presented John Lau with a CLC purse of gratitude, as well as with a plaque of appreciation for his faithful services.
We thank the Lord for having supplied us with such valuable gifts in the person of His called servant. We pray that the Lord will grant John and Dorothy a pleasant and memory-filled retirement, before their joyful day of Home-coming!
(Since this article was first written Prof. Lau has kept busy. Last September he & Dorothy accompanied CLC President Daniel Fleischer, Mrs. Barbara Fleischer, and Pastor Horst Gutsche on an exploratory trip to France and Germany. The last couple of months Lau has served as vacancy pastor in North Port and Coral Springs, Florida.–Ed.)
* NEW FIELD IN INDIA (this report comes to us from Missionary David Koenig; see photograph elsewhere in this issue)
The Bharath Ev. Lutheran Church has a new field of labor on the eastern coast of India. Pastor Bas holds monthly seminars for twenty-seven workers in twenty-seven stations in the Nellore area of Andhra Pradesh, India. These men are intent on affiliating with the BELC. The broad gamut of Scripture teaching will be presented so that there might be a true unity of the Spirit.
Pray for these men and their study and work as our sister church reaches out to them and their people. “I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut; I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my Word and have not denied My Name” (Rev. 3:8).