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Count It All Joy

What a joy it is to be able to again celebrate the birth of our Redeemer this December! We look around at a world gone haywire and then we look at the infant King and know why we celebrate His coming. Can there be any better answer to this world’s fears and worries than the Lord who calms our worries and casts out our fears? Can there be any better alternative to this world’s ingrained hate than the One who laid down His life in love to atone for all the world’s sin? Can we do more to bring this message to our neighbors, friends and strangers, those near and those far?

What a joy it is to see the Word go forth with our little Gideon’s band to far-flung places! In the areas where I have served and am serving overseas it is a great joy to me personally to find those who hunger and thirst after righteousness,  and to see the perfect satisfaction of that in Jesus.

Poverty and want are no limitation to the Gospel’s course and victory. Wealth and self-satisfaction are hindrances to seeing the answer to life’s troubles. There are certainly those who, upon entering the house where Mary, Joseph, and the infant King were after the wise men left, would focus on the treasures at His feet instead of on Him. This natural tendency of man to hanker after mammon and all that it seems to offer is rampant in our world. So when we heard a man at a hillside meeting in Etago, Kenya, say that what they needed was the pure Word, it was a joy. He said this after others had asked us to bring them many things, including schools and hospitals. When we see men enter the training programs in our sister churches in India in order to be pastors, it is a joy. They are not asking for salaries, nor would they get them. They are appreciative of the breadth and depth of training in the Word that they receive. They are appreciative of seeing Christ, just as were the shepherds who glorified and praised God for all they had heard and seen.

What a joy it will be to turn the year into 2017 and celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation! God gave back what had been taken, hidden, diminished. The papacy claimed that it had authority over the church and the government. Again it was taught that only Christ has control of the two swords: the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God that is for the church, and the sword of punishment and reward that is the government’s under God’s rule. The Word of God burst forth with Hebrew and Greek language study which again had been undertaken. The Word was given to the people in their own language, which had been forbidden. That which was hidden was revealed. And with that came the understanding that there can be no diminishing of grace by works, no diminishing of simple faith by man’s efforts. It was a joy for the people to know that they are saved by grace, not by works even a little. The saving faith that is in Christ alone, as revealed in the Word, causes the rafters to ring with joyful alleluias to Him who was and is and is to be.

Yet our Reformation celebration is tinged with some sadness. In the land of Luther in Germany, the supposed Lutheran churches do not teach and preach from the Word purely and simply. There is the form of religion but not the substance. As we traveled in Germany recently to visit contacts in a dozen cities, we heard all that was false that caused individuals and groups to separate from the state church. This causes us joy to see a remnant seeking to return to the sure way. It was also a joy to visit over two days with Iranian Christian refugees who know the joy of having Christ as their Lord and Savior. May they and we follow the joyful path that leads to life!

David Koenig has served as a foreign missionary in Africa, India, and elsewhere. Though officially retired, he continues to be active in the synod’s mission endeavors.