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A Thousand Years as A Watch in the Night: The Psalm of Moses and the Life and Times of Bruce Fields and Stephen Wiest

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The Feast of Michelmas from Gottesdienst

 

     In the darkness of the night here in San Antonio, my thoughts are being penned by candlelight.  I wonder about the present and the future and what they hold for me, even as my thoughts in the darkness return to times long, long ago. When sleep does not easily come, it is usually related to my inability to turn off my mind which races from idea to idea, thought to thought, person to person, place to place, past, present, and future in milliseconds. These kinds of nights have become more frequent as of late.  I use the time to read, ponder, meditate, and pray in the enshrouding nocturnal silence.  I used to have these kinds of nights when I was a seminary student in suburban Chicago decades ago.  The only sound was the occasional distant hum of distant traffic on the Tri-State Tollway, or what was called I-294 in those days.  Eerily enough, that has been substituted for me in my home in Texas by the occasional sound of a train horn and box cars penetrating the stillness.

     If you’re wondering late tonight how time has passed as quickly in your life as it has, there is arguably no place in Holy Scripture better to consult about the speed of time, the brevity of life, and the inevitability of death than Psalm 90.  At Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, the study of Martin Luther’s commentary on the Psalm was a staple of my academic and devotional life in that institution light years ago.  Several current papers available on the subject may be accessed with reference to At the Grave With Moses and Luther:  The Theology of the Cross in Psalm 90 by Matthew V. Moss, and Brian T. German’s hefty 223 page doctoral thesis entitled, Martin Luther’s First Psalm Lectures.

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     This past month marked the passing of African-American evangelical theologian and professor, Dr. Bruce Fields, with whom I studied as a peer at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in suburban Chicago a lifetime ago.  Two other peers from that era have passed away years before anyone could have imagined it.  John Eppler was one.  The second was Lutheran theologian and pastor par excellence, Stephen Wiest.  Michael James Hill has written of the Wiest passage from this life to an eternity with Christ.  Gottesdienst has thankfully preserved a Wiest homily for the Feast of St. Michael, delivered in 1996 and published by the latter a year later.

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The Theology of The Cross

     Each of these transitions and passages reminds me of the truths of Psalm 90, even more than the deaths of my most legendary professors at Trinity, including Carl F. H. Henry, Gleason Archer, Thomas McComiskey, Kenneth Kantzer, Harold O. J. Brown, and Paul Feinberg.  These latter giants were of a previous generation in my younger days.  Fields, Wiest, and Eppler were all of my own generation in time and space.  All of the latter were in various teaching and pastoral ministries when I put my own quest for a Ph.D in Systematic Theology and Theological German on hold after 9-11, to pursue what God so indicated I should in the way of what I pray will be eventually understood in retrospective hagiography as a calling as a broadcaster and print journalist in alternative media in America’s darkest and most perilous days.  Right up to the present time, I have always understood this second calling later in life as one motivated and informed by my evangelical Lutheran theology and the eschatological context in which I see historical and political developments.  Many radio listeners and newspaper readers have understood this, even when the complacent institutional American church and its comatose clergy did not.  Stephen Wiest was a pastor and theologian who did understand, even as most did not grasp what I had simply assumed was the obvious.  Stephen did not see the possibility of Christian martyrdom in post-Christian America as melodramatic or hyperbolic in any sense of the word.  Herman Otten, the late editor of Christian News, was yet another Lutheran pastor who understood the personal risks involved in the pursuit of one’s calling, either in traditional parish ministry and academia, or in alternative media.  The temporal risks are Legion, to be understood in light of Paul’s warnings in Ephesians 6: 10-13:

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

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Dr. Bruce Fields of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

      Now, all these men are gone from the earth.  So are my media colleagues Michael Collins Piper and Pastor Dale Crowley.  I am still here.  There are times I wonder why this is the case.  In that context, Paul informs us of the mysterious character of the sovereignty of the Triune God in all things in Romans 11: 33-34:

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor?

     In these days and nights, the passage of time in linear redemptive history prior to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ seems to be increasingly relentless in its incessant and accelerating speed in my own life.  I am reminded of this daily in terms of my present existence in an America totally unlike the country of my departed youth, now a place of current and future exile.  The departure of Bruce Fields in recent days, and the passages of Stephen Wiest, John Eppler, an entire generation of Trinity professors from another time and place, and my own Father 11 years ago, underscore this sense of increasing foreboding and alienation, the brevity of life, the need to use time well, and to be prepared to meet the Lord when He calls us.  In the Psalm of Moses, Psalm 90, we read as follows (KJV):

Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.

Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.

For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.

Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up.

In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.

For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.

Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.

For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.

The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

Return, O Lord, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants.

O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil.

Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children.

And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.

     Thus, those of us who confess Christ as Lord (Romans 10:9) now contemplate this very night the times and seasons of our dearly departed faithful warriors in the faith, the Bruce Fieldses and the Stephen Wiests of this fading epoch, even as we continue the good fight ourselves as faithful warriors trapped in an evil age until He returns.  In I John, the eschatological context comes to us with a sobering warning in chapter 2:18:

Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

     This is indeed, the last time.  Faithful warriors seem fewer in our midst.  Antichrists will continue to proliferate until the Antichrist himself makes his identifiable appearance in the flesh in time and cosmos (I John 2:18, 2 Thessalonians 2, Revelation 13). We must be ready with increasing need and desire for discernment and spiritual protection, even as we patiently wait for the end of the cosmos itself in time and the full establishment of the Kingdom of God in Heaven in Eternity (Revelation 22).

       In this present darkness, we salute Dr. Bruce Fields, Dr. Stephen Wiest, and the other aforementioned departed faithful washed in the blood of the Lamb.  They were all faithful unto death. In the nocturnal darkness, the Lord Jesus Christ reminds us of this through his message via John to the Church of Smyrna in Asia Minor during the reign of Domitian (A. D. 81-96):

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.

     It is even at the very door.  We shall all, in Christ, escape the second death.

 

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Night Thoughts

 

 

Dr. Paul Sheldon Foote on the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (Mek/MKO): Mark Dankof’s America on RBN Radio, October 18th

 

 

Cal State-Fullerton professor, Dr. Paul Sheldon Foote, covers the history and ideology of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MeK) for two hours on Mark Dankof’s America on the Republic Broadcasting Network.

Dr. Foote’s sites include http://groups.yahoo.com/group/traitorsusa, http://360.yahoo.com/paulsheldonfoote, http://www.youtube.com/paulsheldonfoote , and http://business.fullerton.edu/accounting/pfoote.

A current Iranian web site which discusses the Muhahedin-e-Khalq is that of the Habilian Association at http://www.habilian.com.

 Mark Dankof’s own article on the MeK may be accessed at https://mark1marti2.wordpress.com/2009/07/31/the-mujahedin-e-khalq-the-peril-of-paradox-in-american-middle-east-policy. It is entitled, “The Mujahedin-e-Khalq: The Peril of Paradox in American Middle East Policy.”