Tiews (Germany) Update – November 2021



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Farewell Kaiserslautern, Hello Hamburg

By Rev. Tiews on 19/10/21  (October 19)

Sadly, my eight-month deployment in “K-Town,” Germany—serving as vacancy pastor at Kaiserslautern Evangelical Lutheran Church (KELC)—has ended. Last Sunday, October 17, KELC’s permanent pastor, Rev. Nathaniel Scott Jensen (center, in chasuble) was installed. But also what joy—not only because that loving congregation now has a permanent pastor but also because Rev. Jensen and his wife Emma are newlyweds! Serving at KELC has been such a blessing, as I was privileged to follow in the footsteps of KELC’s former pastor, Rev. Joe Asher, and also to fill a vacancy in this trying COVID era, with my ministry there beginning online, as I held services, preached, and taught while still living in Oklahoma this past spring. My deployment to K-Town also coincided with the historic arrival of well over 10,000 Afghan evacuees at Ramstein Airbase, a humanitarian relief effort in which many KELC members were actively involved—as Red Cross helpers, technicians, or simply providing acts of Christian love to people who were hungry and exhausted.

Next week Lula and I will travel to Lutherstadt Wittenberg, where we will meet Riga Luther Academy students from 12 countries during a one-week intensive literally across the street from the church in which Martin Luther served. Lula will be very busy, setting up and monitoring all the technology necessary for in-person and online classes. After that I will head up to Hamburg to begin in-person ministry with Iranian and Afghan migrants, all the while continuing to teach online at Riga Luther Academy.

All this interaction with a variety of cultures and nations reminds us of what St. Paul teaches in Philippians 3:20. Christians’ true identity is not indicated by our passport—a temporary allegiance—but by our being eternal members of Christ’s family: “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”


Don’t Look at Christians

By Rev. Tiews on 18/10/21 (October 10)

A German lady sat down next to me on a recent train ride. Once again, my Persian textbook served as a wonderful ice breaker. “Why are you learning Persian?” she asked. “Because I love the people of Iran and Afghanistan, and want to share Jesus Christ with the immigrants from there.” She noticed my clerical collar and replied, “Speaking to them in their own language will help them integrate better, but all religions are essentially the same…Christianity is no better or worse than any other religion. Actually, it’s probably worse…” At that point we were speeding though North Rhine-Westphalia, a region especially plagued by horrific crimes committed by some Christians against other Christians. “I know what you mean,” I answered, “but it would be unfair to write off all of Christianity because some of its followers are bad apples.“ “What do you mean?” she asked. “Look at it this way: Imagine you had a crack in your bathroom mirror. When you look in that mirror, is the crack really on your face—or is it only on the reflection?” “Well, on the reflection, of course.” “Exactly. Your face is fine. So, to understand Christianity, we can’t always look at its followers, as sad as that may be. Look at Christ instead—as He reveals Himself in the Bible. For example, He says, “Just as I have loved you, you also are to *love* one another” (John 13:34). Those bad apples don’t reflect Christianity at all.” “Hmm, I’ve never looked at it that way,” she said. “Don’t look at Christians… look at Christ.” After a long pause, she added, “I’m glad you’re telling this to the immigrants. They need to hear it… So do we…” I thanked her for our conversation and asked whether I might share it on social media and also take a picture of her hands—to keep her anonymous. “Absolutely!” she replied. Then she even “posed” for my snapshot.

The One-Armed Jesus

By Rev. Tiews on 05/10/21 (October 5)

Lula and Lilly were recently at a pumpkin market out in the country and took this picture. The first thing we notice is the bright orange harvest crop. Then the crucifix jumps out at us. But look closely: Jesus has only one arm! Is this a damaged family heirloom? Or perhaps the owner of the pumpkin patch is making a statement, namely that Christianity in Europe—or in the West in general—is somehow damaged? If so, there is some truth to that. Too many people look not at Christ—but at us Christians. And that turns them off. Shame on us. Sometimes images or statements with shock value can shake us into line, as our Lord does when He tells a would-be disciple, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:22). What? Should we dishonor our deceased family members? Certainly not, because that would go against the 4th Commandment, “Honor your father and your mother” (Ex 20:12). No, what our Lord means is this: “If you wish to follow Me, you need to make Me No. 1 in your life.” Be honest: Who or what is your real God? Your creature comforts? Your bank account? Your sex life or sexual identity? Your chemical addiction? Your possessions? Your career? If any of these (or others) take priority over your Lord and Savior—you’ve got a one-armed Jesus. He’s around—maybe a family tradition—but not central in your life. He’s an ornament—an afterthought—but not the One Who died on the cross *for you* and to Whom you turn for forgiveness of your sins, for comfort, and for the guarantee of eternal salvation. Can the one-armed Jesus on the wall over the bright orange pumpkins be fixed? Sure. An artist could re-create an arm out of wood or plaster that would fit seamlessly with the rest of the corpus. Can the one-armed Jesus who is possibly *in* your—but not *at the center*—of your life be fixed? Absolutely. Repent of your false priorities. He forgives you. And allow the Holy Spirit to redirect your priorities. Put Him first—by reading your Bible every day and by going to church every week to receive His true body and blood in Holy Communion. Receive His forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. He will embrace you and hold you close—with both arms.


He is My Shepherd

By Rev. Tiews on 29/09/21 (September 29)

Sometimes the Lord uses secular circumstances—past and present—to draw His chosen people to Himself. Last Sunday I had a fascinating conversation with “Hans,” a young leader in the local German congregation. I mentioned in passing that I would soon be leaving Kaiserslautern to share the Gospel with Afghan and Iranian migrants around Hamburg. “I’ve actually been to Iran,” he said. “Really—on business?” I asked. “No, as a tourist.” Now, Iran is not exactly your average vacation spot—given its strict implementation of sharia law and difficult economic situation. “Why did you go *there*?” I asked. Hans explained: “Persian history goes back over 2,500 years and I have always been fascinated by it. About ten years ago I traveled to Iran to see its history first-hand. Even though I was not a Christian at the time, I still knew that several Persian kings are mentioned in the Old Testament–in 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Ezekiel, and Daniel. So, to understand Persian history better, I started reading the Bible. I soon discovered that Cyrus the Great was the very same Persian king who conquered Babylon and released the Judeans from Babylonian captivity. Because of this, Isaiah calls Cyrus God’s anointed (Isaiah 45:1) and shepherd. I even got to visit his tomb! Then you have Persian kings Darius I, Ahasuerus I (aka Xerxes I), and Artaxerxes I—again, all real historical figures—who play important roles in Scripture. I gradually realized that secular history and archeology corroborate the Old Testament. Reading on, I came across the promises of the Messiah and eventually comprehended that the New Testament reveals Him to be Jesus of Nazareth—true man and true God. Not long after this “clicked” with me, I started going to this church and soon got baptized.” “What a powerful story, Hans. Thank you so much for sharing it!” I replied. Indeed, the Lord has myriad ways of calling His chosen to Himself—using ancient Persian kings and even the Islamic Republic of Iran. As the prophet exclaims, “[The LORD]…says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill my purpose’” (Isaiah 44:28)!


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