Newspaper Article – January 22, 2015

Devotional article for The Greybull Standard

and The Republican Rustler

On being and being nothing

– thoughts in a cold season

It is a strange thing about the cold. I have learnt that there is no such thing as cold. There is heat; and cold is just the absence of heat. Cold in itself is not really anything.

            I am being reminded of this these days. For it certainly feels differently when the door opens, and the cold comes in. Or rather, when air comes in, in which there is no heat – as I suppose it would be more correctly described. And here we see it, once again, how absurd an absolute demand for absolute correctness is, be it political correctness or any other; such demands do nothing other than to suck the life out of life itself, and make it impossible for us to communicate, and live together, and enjoy life …

           At any rate, although cold really is nothing but the absence of something else, and even though we know, we certainly experience thing differently. We even have machines to producecold, freezers and refrigerators and air conditioning; even though there is no such thing as cold.

            I suppose something similar could be said about death; that there really is no such thing. Death is really nothing but the absence of life. Life is what is something.

           And all the more magnificent is the mystery that there is such a thing as life, and that we live at all, considering all that it takes for us to live, all our organs functioning correctly, and all that we need to live being available – and how little it would take for us to no longer be able to live.

         Holy Scripture teaches us that life is only in God, and that to be without God is death. We are only alive because God continually gives us life. And that goes for our souls as well as our bodies. The idea of an “immortal soul” is neither Biblical nor Christian.

           Holy Scripture describes the eternal fate and future of unbelievers as death and eternal destruction. It also describes it as the darkness outside, away from the presence of God, and on the other hand, as being very much in the presence of God, namely in His righteous wrath and judgement, which is a flaming fire against evil.

           And one cannot help but wonder: which one is it? Is it death? Is it cold and darkness? Is it a fire?

Of course we will have to accept that the eternal realities are beyond what we can fully comprehend – even though we understand them well enough from what Holy Scripture does teach. God has not subjected Himself to the demand of the obnoxious enemies of life, that all things in life must measure up to their random standard for absolute correctness.

          The point is that God Himself is life. And when we turn away from Him in disobedience and defiance, it is from life itself we turn away, and we do so for an eternal fate and future so dreadful that it cannot be described in a such manner that we can comprehend it – except that we can understand that it definitelyis not life.

          This is the fate the Son of God has taken it upon Himself to bear for us, He who is Himself God, and life itself: to be without God, and without life, cast out into the darkness outside, and also into the ferocious fire of the goodness of God and His hatred of evil.

          And now that He is again with God in His glory, this is what He promises, and with His promises gives to us, and the eternal future awaiting all who believe His promise: that fullness of life and goodness which is in God, which we cannot even begin to comprehend, or even imagine; except that we understand that it must be the opposite of death. Even though death is really nothing. Except that it is. Kind of like the cold is really nothing, and only the absence of heat. But heat is something. As that fullness of life which is in God cannot but most certainly besomething.

Pastor Jais H. Tinglund

Grace Lutheran Church, Greybull/Zion Lutheran Church, Emblem

Newspaper Article – December 5, 2014

Devotional article for The Greybull Standard

and The Republican Rustler

Do we know it’s Christmas?

This is Christmas. Clearly enough it is. The advertisements – that unofficial calendar controlling so much of our life and how we feel about it- is on full Christmas mode, and has been for a while. Sometimes they use the term “holidays” rather than “Christmas”, but that really does not make much difference. To most people, “Christmas” and “holidays” mean exactly the same: an enjoyable peaceful atmosphere – although often sought somewhat frantically – and the pleasant visit from the kindly ghost of Christmas past, gently dressed up as “the good old days” when everything was so much better than it is now.

        To most people this is Christmas. So it is only natural that some will use the greeting “happy holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas”. And to be all up in arms about it will only make Christians seem petty – perhaps even almost as petty as those who can somehow make any and all references to the “holidays” as “Christmas” into something offensive – even though it should be obvious to all that the word “Christmas” in common usage has no real religious significance whatsoever.

Although most of her Christians are every bit as involved as everybody else in the frantic search for the perfect present, and for the peaceful atmosphere, the Church of Christ has more important things to concern herself with than whether this frantic search should be referred to as “Christmas” or as “the holidays”.

         That is also part of the reason why this is not yet Christmas in Church: because to the Church of Christ Christmas is something else. To her, Christmas is the celebration of the coming of her Saviour, and of His salvation.

           And in Church these days are referred to neither as “Christmas”, nor as “the hollidays”; this season is “Advent”, of the Latin Adventus Domini, “the coming of the Lord”.

This is a time in which we prepare to celebrate that our Saviour has come to us with His salvation. And the way the Church prepares to celebrate this corresponds to the way God Himself prepared His people for His coming, when He sent John the Baptist to call the people to repentance.

          For the Church of Christ, repentance means first and foremost to acknowledge our sin: how severely we fall short of what we owe to God. And this is how we are led to acknowledge and appreciate just how wonderful it is that our Saviour has in fact come to us, when we realise where we would be without Him, and what a tremendously great love it is that He would do this for sinners such as myself.

            We are sinners; and that means that we are ungodly at heart. This is what the way we live reveals: we do not love God as we owe it to Him to love Him.

           And we really deserve to be where we would be without Him, bound for eternal death and damnation. For it really is evil of us not to love God for His goodness, as we owe it to Him.

           And the goodness of God really is greater than all. His Son came to us for our salvation, out of His love for those who despise His love; even more than that, He came to have Himself baptised into our sin and take our evil and ungodliness upon Himself and bear it for us, and suffer for us the dreadful judgement of God against all evil, including the evil we have done to Him, and still do.

           This is Christmas: our salvation, and the tremendous goodness of God. It is wonderful because of what it is. And it is wonderful also because we need it so badly.

And as wonderful as Christmas is, it is well worth celebrating for what it is; and as such it is also worth preparing for. And that is why it is not quite Christmas yet.

Pastor Jais H. Tinglund

Grace Lutheran Church, Greybull/Zion Lutheran Church, Emblem

Newspaper Article – October 29, 2014

Devotional article for The Greybull Standard

and The Republican Rustler

Worth celebrating …

October 31st of 1517 is remembered as the day Martin Luther had his 95 Theses against the Trade of Indulgences posted on the Cathedral door in Wittenberg. It is also considered the beginning of the Reformation – which is well worth remembering.

With all the changes that came with the Reformation, in church as well as in society, the Reformation itself was nothing less than the rediscovery of the Gospel, that truth from God which sets the worship of the only true God apart from all idolatry, namely that, as it is written in the Letter to the Romans, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

Now, this sounds to good to be true; “freely by His grace”. Human nature is to seek goodness on our own. The evil one taught our first parents that we should be like God and master good and evil ourselves. And that is what is in our hearts; that, and not to allow for God to be that good.

We do not have it in us to believe a such glorious promise as the Gospel. We prefer to be right with God through our own goodness and godliness. We cannot accept to have all things good given to us all out of His goodness. We will not accept to be helpless before God, as Holy Scripture says it that we are.

That is why the Gospel is so easily forgotten, even by those who want to be Christian – as it was before the Reformation; as it was by most of the Protestant world almost immediately afterward. So easily the Gospel of God is overshadowed by our own thoughts as to exactly how to do that which Holy Scripture says that we cannot do: make ourselves right with God by being good and godly.

Nothing other than despair can come from our attempts at making ourselves right with God – at least not for those of us who are willing to be honest with ourselves, and honest to God.

Luther knew of that kind of despair, as did so many others in his day and age. And it was a great relief to learn it anew, that although all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, we are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. It always is.

The Son of God has lived for us the life we owe it to God to live. And He has borne the wrath and judgement of God for our failure to live that life ourselves. And now He declares us to be right with Him and righteous before His judgement – “justified” – all freely and for nothing, out of His goodness alone, because of what He has done. He is that good!

This precious Gospel brings assurance of salvation to those who will hear it. It sets Christians free from that despair which honest Christians cannot possible escape otherwise – not as long as we think that there is something we need to do, and do right, to be right with God. More than that, it also means that we actually shall be with God forever in His Kingdom and His eternal life. And the Gospel gives God the glory that is His. It casts our own efforts and attempts completely out of the way and gives God alone the glory for our salvation. And that is how God wants to be honoured – because our salvation is so important to Him. Holy Scripture makes that very clear.

That is why we in our churches have once again bothered to celebrate the Gospel rediscovered – even though we did so last Sunday rather than on the exact day. Well, that is really what we do every Sunday. God is well worth His glory. And our salvation is worth celebrating.

Pastor Jais H. Tinglund

Grace Lutheran Church, Greybull/Zion Lutheran Church, Emblem

Newspaper Article – September 18, 2014

Devotional article for The Greybull Standard

and The Republican Rustler

An exclusive faith …

There has to be room for all of us. That is only common sense; it is something that seems obviously good and right; it is what Theology would refer to as “natural law”.

And obviously human behaviour must be regulated, so as to make sure that there is room for all of us. That is why constitutions in Democratic societies all over the world prohibit the majority from depriving minorities of the right to live and pursue what they believe as good and right – provided these minorities behave, and do not deprive others of their right to live and let live. It is only common sense, and obviously good and right, and natural law. One might even call it inclusiveness, if so inclined.

In recent years, though, it has become increasingly common to demand that there should be no room for some of us; that those who hold unpopular beliefs must be excluded from public life in the very name of inclusiveness.

Surprisingly many fail to observe the irony in this: that such inclusivenessis really not inclusiveat all, and not all that different from the tyranny we have been taught belong to former ages – although perhaps a bit more despicable because of the obvious hypocrisy involved.

It should come as no surprise that the modern inclusiveness oppressors have the Christian faith in particular as their target. For although the Christian faith is so inclusivein how it teaches Christians to treat others, including those who believe differently, the Christian faith is also in its very nature exclusive, namely in that Christians actually think that what they believe is true – which is exactly what the modern inclusiveness ideology will not allow.

For the modern oppressive inclusiveness is not about regulating behaviour; it is about judging what is in our hearts and minds, and what we are not allowed to believe.

The Christian faith could also be said to be inclusive in that it offers itself to all. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

But with that, the Christian faith is also very nature exclusivein that it acknowledges only one God, and sets its hope only to His tremendous goodness.

The only God that is real, and not a figment of human fantasies, He had His Son suffer for the salvation of sinners. And He offers full forgiveness for all sin, freely and for nothing, out of His goodness and mercy alone. And forgiveness for sin is what we need, for we all have sinned, and are all under judgement and damnation, for God alone is God, and we are not, and we owe Him, and it is evil of us that we fail to love Him and do His will. The forgiveness of sins He offers to us all is the only means by which any of us can escape eternal death and damnation and have eternal life. And to reject His love and remain in disobedience and defiance is to remain under His judgement.

This is the Christian faith. All Christians believe this; whoever does not believe it, whatever he or she believes instead is not the Christian faith.

And as such, the modern ideology of inclusiveness must naturally be hostile to the Christian faith; and Christians might just as well be prepared to be excluded from public life, and from society altogether, as the ideology of inclusiveness becomes ever more influential.

It remains to be seen how much influence the ideology of oppressive inclusiveness will have in legislation and culture, and for how long. Movements come and go, but the Church of Christ remains, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail over it. Such is His promise. And His Christians have nothing to fear, no matter what might fall upon us, or upon our loved ones. The Kingdom ours remaineth. And in the end, and when it all comes down to it, nothing else matters.

Pastor Jais H. Tinglund

Grace Lutheran Church, Greybull/Zion Lutheran Church, Emblem

Newspaper Article – August 6, 2014

Devotional article for The Greybull Standard

and The Republican Rustler

Towards the End of Summer …

Summer has gone by fast this year. Well, I am very much aware that summer is not quite over yet; I am reminded whenever I venture outside of the gentle shelter provided by modern indoor amenities. But summer is not at its early stages, either, and that is where I was ready for it to be. I have had a lot of major blockages in my calendar this year; those events that prevent you from engaging in anything else out of the ordinary until they are over with. So it is not too long ago that I stopped feeling like a spectator to life. And, much to my surprise, I found that life had not stopped to wait for me in the meantime. Reality has had the audacity to go on without me!

There are lessons to learn here, I am sure; something about how short life is. Although I am not quite sure what that means. I have reached the age by now, when it has actually occurred to me that this life might not last forever. However, as I recall it, when I was a child, my childhood seemed to drag along slowly enough …

Obviously, though, compared to eternity, life is no more than a fleeting breath – as Holy Scripture also says it – but I am not sure what to do with that particular piece of knowledge. Perhaps a more important lesson to learn would regard my own importance: although, from my own personal perspective, I might seem the absolute centre of all things, I really am not. The world does not stop to wait for me.

One day I will be gone from this world, and unless our Lord Jesus comes in glory before then, the world will go on without me – like this summer has – and probably do about just as well without me as when I was still around.

More importantly: although I am the centre of my own world, I really cannot expect to be the centre of everybody else’s. I cannot expect the lives of everybody else to be all about me. And I should not act as if I were the only one on the road when I am driving, as if speed limits and turn signals and rear view mirrors were not put there also for my use, in order for me not to be a burden to others, keeping them from getting to where they are going, and getting to do what they have to do. Nor should I act in other areas of life as if my convenience were more important than the needs of others. Of course there is that positive thing about such selfishness, that it might make the world a little happier when I am no longer there. But still …

“In humility count others more significant than yourselves”, says Holy Scripture. Now, obviously this might only give meaning to those who know the love of Christ. But from all decent people it is reasonable to expect that they acknowledge the needs of others as no less important than my own convenience. In fact, that is part of what it means to be a decent person to begin with, is it not?

In another perspective, however, the love of Christ speaks about my tremendous significance. It was out of love for me the Son of God suffered and died. He who is Lord of all things gave all for my salvation, and still steers all things for this great purpose of His. To God I am anything but insignificant; that should have some significance to me. Knowing that, I should be able to live with not being that much more important than others – and even with most of summer having passed me by when I was not looking – like so much else in life does.

Pastor Jais H. Tinglund

Grace Lutheran Church, Greybull/Zion Lutheran Church, Emblem

Newspaper Article – June 26, 2014

Devotional article for The Greybull Standard

and The Republican Rustler

Divine Disappointment?

For so many Christians the faith turns out to be a great disappointment. Life turns out to be neither nearly as successful, or nearly as joyful as one would expect that it would be, when one is embraced by the love of God.

Closely related to this disappointment is the notion that somehow God owes me better. He owes it to me that my life should be successful and joyful, since I have been so good as to embrace His love.

It might be from what bad preachers and teachers have told us that we have learned to expect a joyful and successful life . Even if they did not exactly tell us that life would always be free from sufferings and sorrows, they may have left us with the impression that life would at least almost be that, at least most of the time; or at least the sufferings and sorrows that would come upon us would not hurt quite so much – if only we would have faith.

Or it might just be from our sinful nature that we have this notion that somehow we deserve better; that somehow it is good of us that we have condescended to embrace the love of God rather than to choose eternal death and Hell instead, so that God owes us.

The truth is, of course, that God owes us nothing whatsoever; nothing other than death and damnation, for that is what we have earned with Him with our evil and ungodliness. And it is His tremendous mercy that anything other than death and damnation is available to us, only on account of His goodness, that He sent His Son to suffer and die for the ungodliness and evil that our sin really is.

And God never promised us an easy life in this world. What He promises, and what His Son has won for us with His sufferings and death, is eternal life with Him when His Kingdom shall come in glory.

And what He promises in the meantime is that He will keep us and preserve us for His Kingdom. And He will do so through trials and tribulations and troubles. He will have us do away from this world of suffering and sorrow and sin. He will take all that away from us which keeps us from believing Him and loving Him, all that which we believe and love instead of believing in Him and loving Him. And that is a good thing. Through all this He will show us how there is nothing in this world we can really believe in, since all things in this world will fail us, and will be taken away from us, and His love is all we can really rely on.

And as this happens, and as all things else are taken away from us, He still has His Church assure us of His love, and through the testimony of His Church He assures us at heart, by His Holy Spirit, that His love is upon us all the same, and that the glory that awaits us in His Kingdom is so far greater than anything we ever had in this world, and anything that was taken away from us.

Through all this we learn to trust in God. We learn to look forward to the coming of His Kingdom, rather than expect a glorious future in this world of suffering and sorrow. We are confronted with our own sinfulness, as we see how poorly we react to the sufferings and sorrows of this life. And we are reminded of how great His mercy is, that His love is upon us in spite of our sins and shortcomings – even the shortcomings of our faith. And we see that what He has done for us is indeed greater than all. And the glory is all His.

Pastor Jais H. Tinglund

Grace Lutheran Church, Greybull/Zion Lutheran Church, Emblem

Newspaper Article – May 7, 2014

Devotional article for The Greybull Standard

and the Basin Republican Rustler

No getting over it

Christ is arisen. His Church celebrated it a couple of weeks ago, and she is still celebrating it. Truth is, His Church never stops celebrating that Christ is arisen. It seems that she just cannot get over it; she hasn’t been able to for nigh on to two thousand year.

Christ is arisen. We know this from those to whom He revealed Himself, who wrote down their testimony about it. And their testimony we can trust, for they had nothing to gain from lying about it. In fact, most of them lost everything in life and suffered painful deaths for their testimony, that Christ is indeed arisen. It seem that they could not get over it, either, that Christ is arisen.

Christ is arisen. And nothing matters more. For it proves that God approved of Him. It means that He is who He said He was, the Son of God. Otherwise God would not have raised Him from the dead. And that means that all that He said is true, that He came into the world to suffer and die for the salvation of sinners, and that we are that, sinners, and that full and complete forgiveness for all sin is won for us all, and given to us all with His promise.

Christ is arisen; arisen indeed. And that means that God Himself has accepted His sufferings and death, as a sacrifice sufficient to outweigh and make up for the sin of the world. The price has been paid, in full and in abundance. Otherwise He would not have been raised from death who died for our sin. And we would still be in our sin. But as it is, we are not, for Christ is arisen.

Christ is arisen. That means that God approves of Him, and He is the Son of God, and all He said must be true.

And that, in turn, means that nothing is more important than to know Him and His truth; nothing is more important than to live in His true Word and worship; nothing is more important than that is Him we live with in our worship life, in accordance with His truth, as His truth is revealed to us in their testimony to whom He entrusted His truth; nothing is more important than that our faith and our worship, and the preaching and teaching of our church, that it is all true and accurate, which it will only be, when it is in accordance with Holy Scripture.

And why would we want it any differently? Christ is arisen, and alive and at work in His Church, through His Word of His love, and what His love has done for us. He promises us that we shall not perish forever in Hell for our sin, as would otherwise be good and right. Instead we shall live and be with Him in His Kingdom. He said so, and told His Apostles to tell us. And what He said is true. For Christ is arisen.

And with His promise of salvation, His salvation is actually given to us, freely and for nothing, out of His goodness and grace alone, as we hear His promise and take it to heart; and He Himself makes us do, by the power of His living love, which is in His Word. And with that, the new life He has won for us has already begun in us, the eternal life in His glorious presence.

I guess that would be the reason why His Church just cannot seem to get over it, that Christ is arisen: because there just is no getting over it. His live is eternal life, and it is the life of His Church, and His Christians. And there is no getting over it, that Christ is arisen.

Pastor Jais H. Tinglund

Grace Lutheran Church, Greybull

Zion Lutheran Church, Emblem

Newspaper Article – March 17, 2014

Devotional article for The Greybull Standard

and The Republican Rustler

Repent for Lent

Lent is the forty days before Easter. It used to be a time for fasting – reflecting the forty days our Lord Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness, suffering want and hunger, and being tempted by the evil one not to.

Hardly anybody does the fasting bit any more – not in any real sense, anyway; not in a sense of inflicting any real discomfort upon oneself in terms of going without. But that is really not the point, either.

During the Season of Lent we follow our Lord Jesus on His path to suffering and death. We see His entire life under the perspective ofgoing without, that He left His heavenly home, and the blessed presence of His heavenly Father, in order to suffer for us and with us a lifetime in this world of suffering and sorrow.

During a lifetime of suffering and sorrow He would live the life all Mankind owes it to God to live, in full and complete love for God, full and complete trust, and full and complete obedience and submission to His will. And this He would do for all Mankind, in our stead and on our behalf, as Head of Mankind, in order that His obedience might count for all of us as ours before God.

And this life of suffering and sorrow, away from His heavenly glory, and from the blessed presence of the heavenly Father, would culminate in His death. He whose home is in heavenly glory would be robbed, even, of any and all human dignity. And the Father’s Beloved would be crucified, and cursed and condemned by Him.

Now, this is sufferings we cannot even begin to imagine, the righteous wrath of God against all ungodliness, His holy hatred against evil. And this also the Son of God would take upon Himself for us to pay the price and penalty for our evil and ungodliness, so that we might stand righteous and right before God, without guilt and debt, no longer deserving of eternal death and damnation, but rather as His beloved children, worthy of His eternal life.

And this is what He promises, and with His promise He gives it to us, fully and for real: that our sin is atoned for and our debt has been paid, and we are righteous and right before His judgement, and we shall not perish and die forever in Hell, rather, we shall live and be with Him in His Kingdom and His eternal life. All this He gives to us out of His goodness alone, and for no other reason whatsoever.

Normally His Church and His Christians will celebrate this joyfully. In fact, we always do, also during Lent. How could we not? But during Lent we take time to meditate on His love in terms of His sufferings and our sin, that He would take it upon Himself to suffer for us, and that this His love for us is love for His enemies; that we brought this upon Him with our ingratitude and ungodliness and evil.

It is upon this love we meditate during Lent. It is this love we see in His sufferings. And as we see this, we must realise that we cannot be without His love, and that our life with Him can never be shallowness, either; our life must always be a serious celebration of our salvation. For our salvation is precious indeed; it came at a price.

Pastor Jais H. Tinglund

Grace Lutheran Church, Greybull/Zion Lutheran Church, Emblem

Newspaper Article – January 30, 2014

Devotional article for The Greybull Standard

and The Republican Rustler

Some thoughts on snow and spring

There is something very liberating about the spring air. Here in Wyoming, strangely enough, it seems to me that there is a sense spring in the air whenever a layer of snow yields to the sun and the heat, even if it is still midwinter, and there is no doubt that more snow is to come. Certainly there is something very liberating about the snow finally coming off the streets – for a while. We who ride bicycles appreciate that – although one can, in fact, ride a bicycle in the snow, or on the snow, thank you all for asking …

A less pleasant perspective on spring, though, is that it is not all that pretty, not at first. There is something sad about late snow, a look as if it were dying – as it actually is, I guess, so to speak. And it tends to be dirty. Even worse, as the snow melts away all those thing become visible which were hidden underneath it, which should have been removed before the snow came, and were not. For a while it has been covered by a merciful layer of white, and everything has looked so pretty; but underneath the filth was still filth. And now it is coming back out to stand as embarrassing memorials to our sloppiness and sloth.

Sometimes things will happen in our lives that are somewhat similar to what happens when the snow melts away. Something brings out the worst in us, all that which we thought we had long since left behind. Suddenly our strength is gone, and our serenity, and our civility.

Suddenly it shows: at heart am I still the same, no matter how well I might have managed, for a long time, to cover my old self over and hide it away behind a veneer of strength and serenity and civility, and perhaps done it so well as to have forgotten all about my old self myself.

It really should come as no surprise, though, that it happens. The Apostle Paul writes about it: I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh – in my own human nature, that is. And in a way, for a Christian to be reminded of this is not the worst thing that can happen. As the Apostle also writes it: Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.

The yielding snow reminds me how the mercy of God is not a layer to cover up what is real, but rather a real new reality that really makes us righteous and right with God, in spite of what we are in ourselves. The Son of God has lived for us the life we owe it to God to live. He has borne for us the death due for us to die because of our failure to live that life ourselves. And this He has done as the Head of Mankind, so that all that He did is done for us, and the goodness and righteousness He has earned before God is ours. All that God demands of us He has done Himself, and He gives it to us, and so we have it, for real.

And this means that we need not cover ourselves up before Him. We can be honest to God, and to ourselves, about who we are, and what is in us. And even when it actually shows, so that we see who and what we are – it changes nothing. All the while, while we live and remain the sinners we are, what we really are and remain is what He makes us to be – in Christ, and for real, out of real mercy.

Pastor Jais H. Tinglund

Grace Lutheran Church, Greybull/Zion Lutheran Church, Emblem