Two Kingdoms Distinguished

Jesus said [to Pilate], “My kingdom is not of this world.  John 18:36

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ.

I don’t know about you, but my brain has been overloaded lately with a politicking that has never been seen or experienced here in the United States before.  We might despair of all hope if it were not for our Savior.

As a pastor and as a church we are obviously bound to not be partisan in the back and forth of this divided nation.  We fully understand that Christians can and do take different positions on the affairs of the nation – and we need to be generous to those who think and believe differently.  We give wide berth to each other in love because the bible does not specify how a nation is to be taxed, built, defended, etc.  These are the affairs of what we call the “Kingdom of the Left”.  These issues are to be dealt with through reason.  But as we all know, even as husband and wife, we often find our reasoning to be different on even daily life.  We need to learn how to understand and live with each other peaceably.

But this does not mean that the church should have no voice in the affairs of the nation.  In fact, even as we ought not take political “sides” and voice any specific support for a party or candidate, the church IS to be the judge of the affairs of the nation when it comes to issues of right and wrong, issues of morality, and issues concerning the “Order of Nature” that God ordained for human society in its creation.  Our Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has taken public stands on three important issues:  Sanctity of Life, Sanctity of Marriage, and most recently, the Freedom of Religion. We are free to speak to the issues of morality.  And we do this apart from any political flag waving.

We do recall in these difficult days how the scriptures call on Christians to pray for our governments – so that peace may reign and that the Gospel can be preached.  (1 Timothy 2:1-3)  We most definitely need to be diligent in our prayers, asking the Lord to give us His wisdom as His people.  We need it as we endeavor to be active participants in our democratic governments.

Perhaps the most difficult thing we struggle with these days is despondency, anger and frustration with our failed governments and politics.  How important it is for us as Christians to understand this mess that we have made for ourselves as sin.  How beautiful it is for us to be able to pray “Lord Come Quickly” to save us!  How precious it is for us to know that our Lord Jesus took the long hard road to Calvary and the cross to save horrendous sinners like we see ourselves to be in these evil days.  We are all in this together.  It is all our fault.  We pray “Lord have Mercy, Christ have Mercy, Lord have Mercy” for good reason.  We praise God that His “Kingdom of the Right” is not of this world.

May we truly bow our hearts to the Lord this Lent as we view the sinful terror of His crucifixion.  May we exalt in the victory over all sin in the glory of that same death and the power of His resurrection.  To God be all the Glory.


My Sister Priya’s Funeral

11219073_10152742496397301_2075473635208849002_nThe last couple weeks have been difficult for our family. We do need your prayers. My sister Priya, of 43 years, took her life. She has always struggled, and there were many factors over the last weeks that led her to despair over her life. We are grieved, but not without hope in Jesus. During the funeral, the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Willmar, MN allowed me to address the congregation. I appreciated his allowance, and I wanted to share my message with any readers as well.

Thank you, pastor Greg, for letting me take a few minutes to share some words with the congregation here gathered on this difficult occasion.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ.

On behalf of our family, and from my heart I would like to share a few thoughts.

First of all: Thank you. Thank you for being here to support our family, yes. But we want to say thank you for more than that. We want to say thank you for your love for and friendship toward Priya. The economy of her heart was huge. She gave so much. She was, in so many ways, an overflowing fountain of God’s love. We all were amazed and thrilled by how God blessed us through her. But the needs of her heart were great as well. She needed your love and care, and you were there for her in so many ways day in and day out over so many years. Her friends here at Redeemer, her JOPPA friends, and so many others, were the currency of her life. You meant the world to her. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Every act of kindness and love toward her is not forgotten, not by us, not by Priya, and certainly not by the Lord.

Priya, as you know, did not have an easy life. At about the age of one year, she was left by her parents on the steps of a South India hospital.  Sick with Polio, she was taken in by nurses and cared for – and eventually came to our family. But that was just the beginning of many challenges. Her burdens were many. Some burdens you know. Some we know. Many only God knows. Ultimately it is impossible for us to truly know the secret despair of her heart and how the devil so cultivated it in her mind. The terror of our sinful condition can be overwhelming for even the most faithful among us. From what we can know, it seems like her despair overwhelmed her last Monday evening and she took her life. This is so devastating. But it puts us all on our knees and we cry out “Lord, have mercy on us all.” We look to Jesus, the Good Shepherd and say as we all walk through the valley of this shadow of death: “Lead us to the green pastures and still waters… show us the goodness and mercy that follows us all the days of our lives… lead us to dwell in your house forever.”

We might find ourselves today remembering Priya’s life by the manner of her death. May it not be so! Her sin was great. But dear friends in Christ, let this remembrance of Priya’s death be drowned in her baptism and buried with Christ in his tomb. Our lives as Christians are not defined by our sins. Our lives are defined by the victory of Christ Jesus our Lord, risen from the grave and ascended. Our lives are defined by HIS love and forgiveness, not by our doubt and sin.

We all love to see the picture of the little girl walking with her father, reaching up and clinging to his one finger. Every father treasures these times – and this image is what we often imagine our relationship with our Heavenly Father to be. But in real life it is not enough – either with our earthly father or heavenly father. In the safe gardens of life a father can enjoy that little hand gripping his finger. But when there is danger, or a busy street needs to be crossed, that little girl’s grip is not enough. Her father will immediately reach down and envelop her whole hand with his firm grip and bring her to safety.

Dear friends, I was there when Priya was Baptized and stepped into eternal life. I was there when she was adopted into the Family of God and when her Heavenly Father received her. You and I are witnesses to her confession of Christ and her love for Him. We know how she clung to her Heavenly Father’s finger. But in the storm of life and in her weakness her grip slipped on the finger of her Heavenly Father. But thanks be to God our relationship is not defined by our weak faith and sins. Her Heavenly Father’s firm hand has gripped hers and HE carried her to the safety of His bosom.

This is no wish upon a star. This is the firm promise of God in Jesus Christ, crucified for sinners. Blessed be the Lord.

Grace, mercy and peace be unto you all the days of YOUR life. Thank you again for your love and care.

Supporting our Police: Necessary but Conditional

On the anniversary of the Ferguson, MO riots, our country continues to grapple with not only race relations, but the relationship between citizens and their police officers. It cannot be underestimated how important a well supported police department is to the peaceable functioning of our communities and democratic nation.

What is it that contributes to good relationships between citizens and police? Probably the most important element is a citizen body that is honorable and respectful in itself. A big question these days is if citizens of this nation are able to give respect to anyone, much less a police officer. God save us.

Another element is good government. The police force is the enforcement arm of the government. If citizens are convinced governments are trustworthy and the laws just, they will be supportive of the enforcement of that government and law. God save us.

A third condition of a supported police department is a well-trained and honorable officer core which never takes the support of the community it serves for granted. While it is true that citizens need to remember that police officers are human beings and will make mistakes, it is also true that there should be no rest for a police department in their quest to be the best and most honorable force possible. There is no substitute for a humble, wise, and exceptionally well trained officer who is bred to be a true servant of the community and its citizens. The slightest hint of a corruption, corrupted ego, or racism should never be tolerated in an officer.

The civilian must respect the officer of the law. The officers of the law must be respectable. Like a marriage, both must do their duty faithfully for justice and peace to be rightly preserved in our communities. God help us.

Letter to the Editor: The Pope and Evolution

In our Times-Tribune editorial page, Pope Francis gets kudos for reiterating the Roman Catholic view that there is no essential conflict between the Christian faith and evolution. He somehow believes that God implemented his creation through the big bang and evolution.

Contrary to what the Pope says, (and forgetting the fact that evolution is promoted as the way to explain the world apart from God!) it really is extremely difficult to square evolution with the Christian faith. Who are we as humans? Perfect creatures of God made in His image? Or the product of millions of mutations? And what of death? Did death come through the sin of man? Or is it “part of nature” since the very beginning? If death is “natural”, then we certainly don’t need to be saved from it through the work of Christ! As well, philosophically, the whole understanding of “survival of the fittest” is diametrically opposed to the nature of God. This is just the beginning of the discussion.

The church should never be in opposition to ethical scientific research and discovery, but neither should it ever be seen as beholden to “scientific conclusions” that directly contradict the orthodox faith. The obvious reason for this is that scientific “truth” is very hard to come by – especially when dealing with things we cannot actually observe. We all know that much scientific “fact” today is fiction tomorrow.

It is interesting that most citizens of this country still do not believe in evolution – to the terrible frustration of so many who work hard to discredit any explanation for life other than pure materialistic chance. The theory of evolution has deeply serious problems scientifically (too many to list here, but readily discoverable to anyone who will investigate.) However, its greatest problem is plain and simple common sense.

Reformation Rally to Christ!


Today we take the time to give thanks for the life and message of Martin Luther and the many men and women of the Reformation.

We remember those themes that still resonate in our lives as Lutherans today:

Scripture alone!

Grace alone! [that is through Christ alone!]

Faith alone! [apart from our works]

In our world today these themes are so beaten down and twisted – if they can be heard at all – even in the church at large.

A sad example of how the church and society have gotten away from the basics of the Christian faith is yesterday’s edited interview of Archbishop Joseph Kurtz which was printed in Scranton Times-Tribune. The Archbishop is the President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and he was in town speaking at the Conference on disABILITY at the University of Scranton. I wish I could have heard him speak at the conference, but here in this substantial interview that focused on disabilities, but also ranged to the church’s use of technology, to homosexuality and evolution, the thing that I noticed right away is that he never spoke of Christ or sin or salvation. Never did he mention or refer to scripture! We see that the true power of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ (which has direct bearing on each those issues he spoke about) has been simply stripped from our Christian faith! Even high leaders in the church are somehow stricken dumb by Satan and the world and cannot utter the name of Jesus. They try to find any explanation they can other than sin to explain the problems of the world.

I contributed a comment to the article online and I submit it for your consideration here:

I have no idea what was really said in the interview, since it was edited, I just want to say that this article is another example of how we have stripped sin, Jesus, and salvation from Christianity. “Every blessed one of us – because of aging and because this life on Earth is not permanent – will have disabilities.” the Archbishop is quoted as saying. Whatever happened to the problem of sin and its consequences on our lives? Even the “innocent”? On the one hand, we know our fallen creation results in disability and death for all of us, and we should never say someone is disabled because of their particular sin… however the Lord wants to make it perfectly clear that even in the midst of our sin God is present and desires healing for us, and that he will be glorified through His grace and mercy upon us in our disability and weakness…

Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. (John 9:1-7 ESV)

So Blessed Reformation Day to you! Let Jesus be the heart and soul of our Reformation lives together! Let the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ reign in our lives and thrill us at every turn.  Amen.

As the NFL Turns (Writhes)

I must admit that football is really the only sport that I follow. I must also admit that I rather look forward to NFL opening day and watching very large children violently throw themselves around a field and smash into each other for millions of dollars. But now instead of Sunday headline games, I am treated to daily headlines detailing the bad behavior of NFL players – and everyone dancing around trying to act outraged.

It is difficult to navigate the issues laid out before us, but a few things strike me:

1) As much as I might like watching football, the whole enterprise of professional sports is not a particularly positive or Godly aspect of society – even IF the good folks in the NFL would like to convince us otherwise. Neither does it contribute to our lives as Christians. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a game! But it seems obvious to me that a pickup game at the neighborhood park would do us a lot better than couch sitting with a beer in hand.

2) As much as I enjoy watching football as my body wastes away, what is worse is what it does to its players. Or at least that is what am gathering. We hype them up, glamorize them, put them on pedestals, give them gobs of money to throw around, and then eventually abandon a third of them to early dementia. Some of them do well enough, though I can’t image what kind of person I would end up being after an NFL career. It wouldn’t be pretty.

3) So if we train up our players to be tough guy, kick ass, gladiator types on the field whose only purpose is to take out the opposing team, why are we surprised when they are gladiator types in real life? Why does it shock us when a player disciplines his son with a stick or knocks his girl out with an easy throw of his fist?

4) It truly is terrible anyone is injured in any way at the hand of someone else. But do we really have to be force fed every indiscretion of these sorry fellows? Does the NFL actually care about what its players do? Is there true repentance anywhere? Or is this all just a publicity stunt? These atrocities happen every day thousands of times – in our own families and communities… Why is it particularly outrageous that THESE particular individuals do it? There is something really messed up here. If a professional sports player commits some crime or indiscretion in his life, he should get his just reward – whatever it might be. But let it be noted on page two of the sports section and lets get on with…. football?

Get on with football? Well… MAYBE… But I am feeling that it just isn’t going to be the same anymore… All our dreams about what sports were… they just really were dreams. Nothing more.

In the Face of Evil, Let us Rally to Christ!

There are times when we get pretty sick. And tired. And frustrated.

We see the world falling apart. We see evil men behead the innocent on camera and post it to the internet. We have the drum beat of war in Europe for reasons beyond stupidity. Despot rulers seem to get their way as defenseless men, women and children are bombed out of their homes and communities. Egos and hubris and everything BUT Christian love and peace are being demonstrated over and over again as headlines battle for the top spot. And that is all of what happens in the ‘rest’ of the world… The headlines from this side of the oceans can seem just as bad as the tide of anti-Christs deluge our families, communities, and nation.

        And yet – we are so lazy in our faith. We are anything but zealous for the Lord. We cannot see Christ through our tears. We scowl and grumble at the Lord and each other. We are seemingly paralyzed by our fears and preserving instincts. It sure would be nice if we could do what Bob Newhart told his fearful patient in his famous TV show sketch: Just “STOP IT!” Or, as our latest Disney queen would say “Let it go!”

        But no. It sure is hard! It seems that we really are poor miserable sinners – and we like to do what we do best: sin. Just like the rest of the world.

        However, it just so happens that we have a Savior. His name is Jesus. Have you heard of Him? Lately at all? Reputable sources have said that He loves to forgive sinners; that He loves to heal the sick and comfort the mourning. Rumor has it that he lifts up the weary and makes them strong… makes them soar as eagles on a strong wind. The testimony has come down through the millennia, and even our fathers and forefathers have whispered it in our ears years long after they have lain down in their graves – that there is someone who is truly worthy of our attention, truly worthy of our worship, truly worthy of our devotion. And it behooves us to stop and consider our first love, the one who created and redeemed us, who forever pours his glorious goodness upon us – even in the face of our rebellion and hatred of His lovely and pre-ordained ways.

        In these evil days, let us throw off our dull sloth. Let us cling to our creator and redeemer, the lover of our souls… the one who goes before and suffers the cross and all our damnation.


In the face of every evil… Rally to the Love! Rally to the Cross! Rally to Christ!

                – Pastor Bjornstad