Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Resolution...New Beginnings in Christ

What are your New Year's Resolutions this year? I'm committed to drinking NO soda and lowering my "treat" intake. Plus, we are working together with a group to have weekly "weigh-ins" and measurements. Along with this list, I plan on getting more into Scripture and recommitting myself to getting into the original languages. Will I fail? Probably. I am more than likely going to fail in many ways and feel "guilty" about not doing my resolution and then come back to next year and start over. It is a roundabout way of doing things and most of the time, you never actually get back into a straight path.

Isn't this like our life in Christ. We make commitments to follow His commands. We start a new path, we follow it and then BOOM! We fail. We feel guilty and continue this roundabout mode of Christian living and NEVER getting on a straight path. Crazy original sin.

What is unique about our lives in Christ is that we go in a roundabout way in our lives, but our Lord gives us a new beginning by His gracious words of forgiveness accomplished on the cross. We makes our paths straight and gives us a resolution that we know will still be there next December 31st.

Christ's Blessings this New Year

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Week 7-Football, Rest, and Confessions-6th Commandment-LC



"You shall not commit adultery"

This commandment is known for me as the "don't get your freak on" outside of your spouse commandment. It strikes to the heart that one should not shack up with some gal down the street in a immoral relationship without the other spouse knowing. Of course, this is a very narrow view of this command, but it keeps us all from having to think about ways that we might actually break this commandment on a daily basis.

First off, Luther makes a direct connection to the uplifting of marriage and the 6th commandment. Most of us do not make that connection. We usually think about how this just tones down the desires of the individual.

"Married life is therefore no jest or presumption; but it is an excellent thing and a matter of divine seriousness. For it is of the highest importance to Him that persons be raised who may serve the world and promote the knowledge of God, godly living, and all virtues, to fight against wickedness and the devil"

Luther makes a practical analogy of marriage that goes way beyond sexuality. He points to the reality that as couples get married, it leads to the promotion of the world's spiritual lives, better morals, better ethics, and curbs the temptations of the devil. That as God makes marriage to be a glimpse of Christ's love for His Church (Ephesians 5), marriage extends out into the world and promotes love for one's neighbor.

While reading this it gave me a thought, "The Evangelicals are right." Your typical Evangelical will promote marriage not only through Scripture, but also the "secular" benefits of uplifting marriage. They will speak about the stability of our society, the health of people, and the improvement of education (and the list goes on). The battle has grown increasingly hostile with gay marriage being "normalized" and the definition of marriage being threatened.

So what can we do as a church to uplift marriage in our churches not only due to Scripture but also for the love our neighbors in society? How are we failing since there is a 50% divorce rate and most marriage occur in churches? How can we uplift the chaste life outside of marriage in a "get your freak on" culture?

Homework: 7th commandment

Monday, December 29, 2008

Law/Gospel mess up with open air preacher and video guy...



I saw this video on another blog. When you watch the preacher, it does make you realize how important it is to have a powerful Law/Gospel distinction. During his "sermon" he in all reality makes you sick by his words and demeanor. All Law and no hope.

However, the person on the video is just as bad. He takes the mode of all "Gospel" (which he equates to love with no Law ever. It is just as sickening because many people will fall from the faith because they do not think that anything is wrong.

What do you think?


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Vikings are in...no Baptismal evidence, but just fun for this Vikings fan!

Today is one of those days where you just celebrate when something you follow succeeds. This is the feeling today as the Vikings have won the North Division for the first time since 2000. Anything theological? Nope, but living in Packerland, I am quietly smiling and celebrating among my packer friends.

Will they go far? Probably not. Was it a weak division? Yep. But no matter what one says, it is a lot of fun!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

All LCMS Choirs should try this...

He lived the faith...St. John

"Commemoration of the Saints?" We don't do that, we're Lutheran. A unique statement from someone who attended a church named, "St. John Lutheran." I have been amazed at how common this view is among baby boomers and older. Talk about saints? No way, we are saved by grace!! We will say with confidence as if our pietism should give us a medal. However, we should be looking at the saints before us (saints meaning those who passed away in the faith before us). For God used them in the past to be His vessels.

One of the great blessings of Treasury of Daily Prayer is the information presented on the saints we commemorate on certain days. Today we commemorate St. John, Apostle and Evangelist. We know John as the son of Zebedee, as the most beloved disciple, the one who took care of Mary after Jesus' death, and the one who wrote Revelation. John was unique among the disciples because he died a natural death, not from martyrdom. He lived a long life and he truly lived the faith. He didn't make the most money, he didn't have the biggest church, he didn't write the most books, he didn't mix words, he experienced the Christian faith. He was called by a lake, he saw miracles, he saw the crucifixion, he saw the resurrection, and he saw the revelation of what was to come in eternity. He lived the faith not in what he did, but by what he saw. May we see the faith and see salvation on the cross like John!

Lord have mercy...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Another Black Friday...

How was your 2nd Black Friday? I went to 3 different stores today and it drove me nuts. Lines, Lines, everywhere are lines. People are short with you, cashiers don't want to talk, and the deals weren't actually that good. Plus, all the news reports keep telling us, "Sales are down. Worst holiday spending EVER" Talk about a downer!

Good thing that our faith is not dependent on sales and people's opinions. Our world is always changing and the media changes our view on the world daily. Luckily, our Lord gave us something that never changes, the real Black Friday on the cross.

Merry Post-Christmas!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Season was awesome...can't wait for next year!

This morning we had almost 100 people in worship for Christmas Day. A very simple service with communion which was a wonderful way to celebrate in a calm, laid back atmosphere.

I have always found Christmas Day to be much more relaxed and people much more receptive to the message because the flair is over and people can just calmly come together in Christ.

Because of my appendectomy and our organist illness, things were very disjointed this year. My prayer is that next year we are able to get out into our community and invite people to hear the message of the Christ-child. The possibilities are endless, especially since we have a message that transcends stock-markets and snow, true forgiveness and salvation!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Candlelight service went great...

We packed the house and God brought His gifts. We had guest musicians, Lee and Barb who are blue grass singers help us out during a time of need.

One unique thing we did was bring light throughout the service. We started service with no candles lit and then with the processional we lit the Christ candle. After the sermon and offering, we read the Birth narrative from Luke in sections and we lit one candle at a time on the candleabra. This represented Christ coming into our world and fully revealing himself in the manger. It was a great build-up and symbolism for the story.

I am prayerfully looking forward to tomorrow. May God bless His Word being proclaimed tomorrow!

Merry Christmas again!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas-Hear the message again...

Merry Christmas, a day early! May the peace of Christ be with everyone this season.

I plead with everyone who reads this blog, hear the Christmas message again this year in God's house, and receive the Sacrament! What an awesome time of year to be a child of God. This Christmas the world is worried about the economy, war, and weather, but we as Christians can separate ourselves from all of that for Christmas because Christmas has nothing to do with that!!! We can celebrate with nothing hindering us, because Christ is still born for US!!

Christ's Blessings this Christmas!

The Word became flesh and lived among us! John 1:14

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Week 6-Football, Rest, and Confessions-5th Commandment

5th Commandment-"You shall not murder"


"I've never murdered someone." A young confirmand told me recently while covering this commandment. This mindset is very typical. "I've never gotten a knife out and killed someone in cold blood, so mark this one off as accomplished." We think we can go home and shower up because we at least have 1 commandment down!

However, the catechism tells us, to not "hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need." The command is not just about "killing" but it is all about hurting our neighbor with words, actions, or even thoughts (that stinks)! On top of that if our neighbor is in need and we DO not help, then we are just as guilty as if we did pull out the knife and brutally murder our neighbor!

As Luther says:
"It is just as if I saw some one navigating and laboring in deep water [and struggling against adverse winds] or one fallen into fire, and could extend to him the hand to pull him out and save him, and yet refused to do it. What else would I appear, even in the eyes of the world, than as a murderer and a criminal?"

This is very important this time of year to remember. Many of us are thinking of ways that we can help our neighbor and if you live in a snowy area, opportunities are everywhere to help your neighbor by shoveling. In the same way, food pantries are in dire need for food, shelters need volunteers, and families are in need of clothing. Look up your local churches that use their food pantries as a ministry (body and soul) and provide a little help this year so that we do not "murder" our neighbor by NOT helping.

May God grant his forgiveness to us all with this commandment!

Homework: NONE, fulfill your vocation of family and friends and get off the computer!!! Go to worship, invite your friends, and receive the sacrament. What an awesome time!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Wha traditions do you have for Christmas? Are they Christian?

"Oyster Stew and Pea Soup" "Sloppy Joe's and then we open presents" "Church and then looking at Christmas lights" "Uncle Joe would dress up like Santa each year"

These are a few of the very basic Christmas traditions that families practice. The traditions we celebrate for Christmas are one's that we typically never forget. Our family would always eat Oyster Stew and Pea Soup with the Finnern side of the family every year (this tradition I hope to discontinue as I never ate that night).

However, how many of the traditions we do (not including attending church) actually proclaim our Christian faith? Santa visiting? Not unless he is in the Bible now. Opening presents under the tree? But why do we have presents and why a tree? If we do not explain these things, then that doesn't count. Looking at Christmas lights? I'm assuming we don't explain what the lights might represent.

I remember hearing from an older lady from my vicarage congregation who told me that when she was a child, all the children would gather around the tree and her grandfather would tell the Christmas story and how Martin Luther brought the first Christmas tree into the home to point his children to the star that pointed to Christ. They had to listen to grandpa before they could open presents. I also heard from a family that each child and person could only receive 3 presents because if Jesus got three, three was good enough for us.

These are a few ideas, what ideas do you have? I am always struggling to find ways to make sure that my kids know what Christmas is all about and that our practice lines up with our beliefs.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Feeling Cabin Fever...

We got 8 inches of snow last night. I love being in the state of Wisconsin and that was an emphasis when we were asked about preferences with our first call. We love it here and the change in season. But that was before 3 kids under the age of 3 and before 25-30 inches of snow before Christmas.

This time of year leads to a little "Cabin Fever" in our house. We love our kids and I love spending time with them, but it becomes very tough when we are inside ALL day and we are literally snowed in!!

I'm just asking for prayers for patience and joy in our vocations!! :-)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Blessed during Advent...question...


Tonight we finished our midweek services with the theme Away in a Manger. It was kind of disjointed this year due to weather and my appendix surgery. But we have been greatly blessed by the resources from CPH and the readings from Isaiah.

I have also kind of been struggling with the midweek service idea. I enjoy them, it is a great opportunity to be in God's Word in the middle of the week, however, we seem to only get people over the age of 55 to come. Anyone else have this problem? Anyone addressed this problem?

We have made it more of a devotional service (Vespers, candles, 25-30 minutes, a lot of prayer) and that has been awesome. I guess I am just trying to think of more ways to make midweek service a priority. I am open to many thoughts!

Depression and being a child of God?

"He's depressed? He is a devout Christian." A man told me when he found out a friend was depressed. We all ask this question. How can this person be depressed he has a good job, wife, family, and he is in church and Bible Study every Sunday. He has it all, how could he ever be depressed?

Unfortunately, this world is more complex than it appears. The world is a mess due to the disease we ALL have called original sin. And the existence of depression proves that things are not quite right. The other problem is that people typically can not just "snap" out of it and it should not be seen as a weakness, but those are the stigmas in our world, especially in the church. Depression is real and it affects everyone that lives with that individual.

To treat such an illness begins by realizing that God works through the world (1st Article gifts). He uses people like psychologists, counselors, and social workers to get people to change their surroundings and when needed to use current medicines. And at the same time, we as a church are called to help and support the family and individual with whatever needs they may have.

Most importantly, the church is the place where we can proclaim a new life to the depressed person through the means of grace, through the words of forgiveness, and by pointing them to a God who has died for them. Do all of these things guarantee that this person will be totally healthy? Things are not that easy. However, as Christians we still serve our neighbor for his benefit and as one who is redeemed by Christ

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Week 5-Football, Rest, and Confessions-4th Commandment

Since I am feeling the excitement from last night's Heisman award and I am getting antsy not being able to do much physically for a whole week AND since I have this Sunday off from leading worship or Bible Study, I am up a little early this morning and wanted to start my confessional study early. I realized that I did not assign homework last week, so I am just going to do the 4th commandment today and get back on track.

The 4th Commandment-Large Catechism-pp.370-378-The Reader's Edition of the BOC

"You shall honor your father and your mother that it may be well with you and you may live long upon the earth."

There is no other commandment that brings more sarcastic and glaring eyes than the 4th. Someone will inevitably say, "Tell this to my kids" or point at their child if they are in the room. At the same time, most confirmation kids will instantly say, "But what if our parents aren't make right decisions (ironically this is mostly brought up by kids in the upper tier of economic status and with outstanding parents). This commandment is one of the most broken, but taken the least serious of all commandments.

Luther says, "For God has assigned parenthood the highest place. Yes, He has set it up in His own place upon the earth. God's will and pleasure ought to be enough reason and incentive for us to do what we can with good will and pleasure (p.373, 126)."

God has placed the main responsibility of order in our society to parents???? Maybe God didn't understand the 21st century. I thought it was teachers, police man, firefighters, or maybe pastors. But parents? The other day my oldest daughter asked me, "Why did God give me a mommy?" I responded, "So that you may see how much God loves us." That is why God has brought parents, to give us a glimpse of God's amazing love through our parents. To bring tender care, a loving ear, protection, and guidance to us in our time of need.

This is why God tells us to honor and love our parents. Because they have been given to us by God, undeserving! Once you become a parent yourself, you begin to realize how much your parents did for you from conception til now and one can't help but honor, love and cherish them for that.

What are ways that we can love and honor our parents more?

Homework: Large Catechism-5th Commandment

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A teaching moment from Home Alone-a lot of sit time this week

Since I have had a lot of time to sit, reflect, read, and watch TV this week due to my appendectomy, I actually sat down to watch a movie I loved as a 4th grader....Home Alone with Macaulay Culkin (MC). It is actually still entertaining at my age. When MC is left home alone mistakenly by his parents, two robbers attempt to steal everything from his house. This leads a battle plan that rivals the US Army in Iraq. And ends up with a 8 year old defeating two experienced thieves.

One of the interesting scenes taught my eye. It was when MC was desiring his parents to come back home so he goes out to talk to Santa downtown. On his way, he hears a lot of singing at the local church and sits down to one of his neighbors. MC makes a comment, "I'm just not sure of anything anymore." And the old man says, "Well, you are in the right place then. When you aren't sure of anything, this is where I come (referring to church)."

I think there is something to that. There are so many things we are unsure of in our world (future, career, raising kids, self-confidence, health, etc). And no matter how much we have in the bank or how high up we are in a business, we are still unsure about the next day.

My prayer is that this leads us to the Church (assuming it is doing it correctly). Because at the church, it provides answers to one sure thing, the cross. Through this cross we have the certainty of salvation and a place in God's family. What assurance we have to hear.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Week 4-Football, Rest, and Confessions-Large Catechism-Third Commandment

Large Catechism-pp.367-370-The Reader's Edition of the BOC

"They (Jews) acted as though the commandment were fulfilled by doing no manual work whatsoever....This commandment, therefore in its literal sense, does not apply to us Christians. It is entirely an outward matter, like other ordinances of the Old Testament." (pp.367-368, 81-82)

It is kind of shocking how Luther starts with this commandment. At first you might be thinking, "Does Luther not like the Word of God? Is he questioning God's command given on Mt. Sinai?" Well, he is first and foremonst trying to make a point. The point that if this commandment is all about what we do or not do on a specific day on our won, it is definately not Christian and not holy. I have heard these arguments concerning the Sabbath, as far as should we shop on the Sabbath, should we work, should we do this or not. And what ends up happening is a lot of doubt and concern about whether or not we are living a holy life based upon how much or little work we do.

However, Luther points us to what God was trying to emphasize from the beginning. The Sabbath is a day of rest and to make it holy it must have the Word of God (p.369, 91). "Any observance or work that is practiced without God's Word is unholy before God (p.369, 92). The Sabbath equals being in the Word, especially the day set aside for Word and Sacrament ministry in the worship service.

I would argue that the Christian church at large has a major problem with this commandment. It is no surprise to everyone that church is on Sunday each week. As far as I know, it doesn't surprise anyone to find out that church will be on Sunday. However, for some reason they have a tendency to not plan to be in God's house that day to receive the gifts. As many people tell me, "Pastor, we were just out too late on Saturday night and could not get up in time." Interesting! The question back should be, "If you had a packers game to go to on Sunday morning, would you stay out real late on Saturday night?" The answer, probably no! Why? Because it is a priority. So their faithful and honest reason for not being in worship is based upon priorities and I must admit, there was a time during college that I used the same excuses and boy were they lame!

The Third commandment is all about receiving the gifts of God in worship (Word, Sacraments, repentance, and the forgiveness of sins). God has promised to be there, and if we do not make it, it is time for us not to make excuses, but to repent and receive forgiveness.

Lord have mercy

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Appendix issues, delays my Book of Concord study! Sorry :-(

Around 4 a.m. on Saturday morning, I knew something wasn't right. My stomach had been hurting, but did not think much of it, because my family has had the flu bug go around the house, and I figured it was my time. However, now pain had gone to my right side and I had not vomitted yet. So I drove to the emergency room, figuring it was just another stomach ache and my stomach did not hurt too bad at all.

However, when I arrived, things got painful and fast. The doctor pushed on my right side and I basically flew to the ceiling, they did a cat scan, which found my appendix to be the size of a pear (instead of the size of my pinky). They did surgery pretty fast and they said I was very close to it bursting. So thanks be to God.

I just got home this afternoon and they are telling me to take it easy the next 4-5 days and take lots of pain meds. I can't lift more than 10 lbs until then (which includes my kids! that is the hardest part). The most humbling thing is that if I lived 100 years ago, I probably would be dead right now, because they did not have much treatment for this. So I am thankful to my God and thankful to all the people at St. John's who took over this morning in worship.

I will be posting my confessions discussions tomorrow at some point and the discussions will be less than in the past. I appreciate your patience with me.

Thanks be to God for He is good!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Man trampled to death on Black Friday-points us to another Black Friday!

The United Press International reports of a horrible example of the craziness of Black Friday!

NEW YORK, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- A male worker at a New York Wal-Mart was killed Friday when anxious shoppers trampled him in their rush for Black Friday bargains, witnesses say.

Witnesses to the early morning incident in Valley Stream, N.Y., said the unidentified worker had been attempting to hold back a wave of customers after the store opened, only to be knocked down and trampled underfoot, the New York Daily News said.

"He was bum-rushed by 200 people," Jimmy Overby, a co-worker of the man's, said. "They took the doors off the hinges. He was trampled and killed in front of me. They took me down too ... I literally had to fight people off my back."

Police said the incident was being investigated and the body would be analyzed to determine the official cause of death."

This story kind of puts things in perspective, especially since they were entering a WAL-MART and not an expensive store. We look to Black Friday to give us peace for Christmas. "IF only I can get all of my shopping done in one day, then I will be ready." However, most of the time the shopping doesn't get done, we don't get everyone the gift that we want them to have, and we get so stressed out this season. And for what? For a few moments of excitement on Christmas morning. In all reality, I can't really remember what I got last Christmas, but I do remember my kids listening to me read the Christmas story before Christmas Eve service!!!

This year's black friday, reminds me of another black friday, Good Friday. It is a theology of the cross to its core. In our world, the black friday in November should bring us peace, and a Good Friday where we "celebrate" a death, should bring us nothing but pain, but it is completely the opposite. Through Christ's death and resurrection on Black "Good" Friday, we have hope in a situation like this man being trampled to death if he was a believer in Christ, but without Good Friday, there is nothing put pain!

May God point our hearts this Christmas season, not only to the manger, but also to the cross!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Prepare for the coming of Christ!


We had our first Advent Service tonight and it was awesome. We were not able to have our organist available so we actually sang accapella (sp?). Our these is from CPH, Away in a Manger. I am more and more impressed with their Lenten and now Advent resources. Especially this year, where we focus our hearts and minds not on "big" things that the world tries to tell us brings change and happiness. As Christians, we focus our hearts and minds back to a little thing that makes BIG changes, a manger and little baby.

May God blesses us all this Advent season to point our hearts and minds on the Christ-Child.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Football, Rest, and Confessions-Week 3

Last week we discussed the 1st commandment, which is not a great commandment to reflect upon, simply because we break it so often that it is hard to even think about where to start in confession (especially when the Vikings are currently playing the Bears on TV!!).

Week three: Large Catechism 2nd Commandment:

Luther sums up the 2nd commandment with the following words:
"It is misusing God's name when we call upon the Lord God, no matter in what way, for purposes of falsehood or wrong of any kind."

He really hits home on the idea of false preachers when he says, "Behold, all this is decking one's self out with God's name, or making a pretty show, or claiming to be right, whether it occur in gross, worldly business or in sublime, subtle matters of faith and doctrine."

The common statement today is, "Well, there are differences, but let's forget those differences and just get along." However, usually those "minor" things deal with the Sacraments and/or our role in receiving saving faith. No matter how you put it, those are major things and many people are advocating false doctrine! So we must always be aware of what we are teaching and what affects it has on the Christian faith.

Most commonly this is promoted by someone who despises the idea of infant baptism and gets irrate when one even brings it up.

What is worst of false doctrine you have heard from the pulpit?

Homework: Large Catechism-3rd Commandment

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tomorrow is the big day...baptized into Christ!

Tomorrow God does yet another miracle through Water and the Word. My son will become a child of God through Baptism @ the 10:30 a.m. service. I am very excited because I am going to start using a little more imagery in this Baptism to show what Romans 6 has to say. Elias will have the typical white outfit on, however, before Baptism, he will have a black blanket surrounding him and after the Baptism, we will take off the black blanket and show his white gown. Dead to sin, alive in Christ! Very exciting. We have two set of godparents that are awesome and most of our family will be here. On top of that, my dad is preaching so I will be able to take it all in! May God do His miracles through His means!

Lord have mercy

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Give thanks, not Turkey!

In front of most newspapers today, it says, "Happy Turkey Day." Most of us make this statement without even batting an eye. But once again, one can not separate practice from belief and when we say, Turkey Day, we make the meal the focus. In the meantime, the real focus becomes lost...giving thanks to God for all of His blessings. So my encouragement is to at the very least tell people Happy Thanksgiving, but even more so, quote Psalm 106: O Give Thanks unto the Lord, for His mercy endures forever. AMEN!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Treasury of Daily Prayer is in!


They came today, TDP!!! I quote Rev. Wil Weedon, "Prepared to be blown away." Each day is focused on the cross and letting the Holy Spirit nourish our lives. I pray that more people order this great work (we already have 11 books ordered and one on the way!).
May God continue to bless us as we give thanks for everything this Thanksgiving!
Christ have mercy.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Challenge: Feed Jesus with Peanut Butter

The Last Sunday of the Church Year was highlighted by Jesus' words about the final judgment in Matthew 25:31-46. Jesus tells of how the righteous one's of Christ (chosen by Him) live righteously. The whole time the chosen one's are living, through the Holy Spirit, God leads them to serve the least of these (feeding the poor, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, etc).

At our church, I have made a challenge to live righteously as one's chosen. Our congregation has been greatly blessed by a partnership with Hope & Bethlehem Lutheran Churches in Milwaukee. We especially are involved in supporting the Hope Food Pantry. Each month we collect one item that is the most needed. For December the most needed item is Peanut Butter, so I have challenged everyone to give 1 container of Peanut Butter per family member. So most likely, we will have over 200 containers. This is a simple way for us to look to our neighbor and see Jesus in the least of these.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Treasury of Dail Prayer ordered for the congregation-Score!

Our congregation just ordered 11 of the newest book, Treasury of Daily Prayer (TDP) from Concordia Publishing House (CPH). CPH has a deal right now that you can order 10 or more TDP's and you get free shipping and 30% off. It is a great deal.

What makes TDP great is that it incorporates daily Scripture readings, prayers, writings from Church Fathers, and incorporates our Lutheran Confessions. It is all in one book and in comparable size to our hymnals. I may be more sinful and ADDish than most of you, but I really need a set standard of what to do each day, or else my mind wanders and I get nowhere. This devotional should be a great help! I am very excited to receive my copy and my prayer is that after we have an example for the congregation to see, it will really take off.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Football, rest, and Confessions-Week 2

Last week we discussed the creeds as a source of witnessing and also the Small Catechism as a wonderful source of home instruction. Luther set up the Catechism to be so simple to use for the family, but to take a lifetime to master it. Any thoughts about ways to incorporate it into our homes? Or as a church promoting it to be used in the home?

This week as I reflected on each chief part of the catechism, it struck me on how little I truly know about it. For example: The 9th and 10th commandments. Someone asked me, "Why do we separate them into two commandments and not just one?" and "How do we compare ox or donkey in today's world?" And I have to admit that I kind of struggled with the answer. So I am on a lifelong journey in the small catechism in itself.
Week 2-Luther's Large Catechism (pp.351-61)

Longer preface
Luther beging his longer preface by taking pastors to the woodshed for neglecting to teach the congregations carefully. He continually exhorts the pastors for not being in the Word for a number of reasons: 1) To be able to effectively preach the Gospel, 2) For the nourishment of their spiritual lives, and 3) To fend off the devil who will try to distract their ministry. The big problem at this time was that pastors were lazy. They just did the bare bones and went home. In many ways, this is our current problem in ministry. Often us as pastors get so focused on the bare bones (visits, preparing a sermon, preparing Bible Studies, being nice to everyone) and we spend little time in the Word and even less time studying the Catechism (and we don't even have that mastered). So his encouragement is be in the Word and master the chief parts of the catechism (without meanings) and build off of that.

Homework: Read a chief part of the small catechism in the shorter preface each day and keep it as a major part of your devotional life.


Part 1-10 Commandments (1st Commandment)

"You shall have no others gods"

What is a god? Luther says, "Now, I say, whatever you set your heart on and put your trust in is truly your god (p.359, 3). It is a common understanding that all commandments begin and end with the first commandment. If you have other gods, the rest of the commandments will naturally be broken. And it is amazing how many gods we have. My biggest gods center around sports, Dr. Pepper, my kids, and Ipods. What are yours?

And Luther warns us with the explanation to the commandments from Exodus 20:5-6, that the Lord your God am a jealous God and that God does not like it when we trust in anything but Him. So we instantly come to the Lord on bended knee and confess our sin in this commandmnet and refocus our lives to look to Him in all things. For "where the heart is rightly set toward God all other commandments follow (p.363, 48)."

Homework: Read Part 1 for the 1st and 2nd Commandments.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Baptized child of God and gay marriage...

It is difficult to be in our world today without hearing something to do with homosexuality/gay marriage. This issue will probably end up being one of the biggest threats to the church in the future. I would argue that it is such a big deal that the Church should be tackling it head on and with all of its might. However, besides a few resolutions in convention and a task force that met 10 years ago, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has done NOTHING to address homosexuality with mercy ministries to those in need. I have searched, there is NOTHING!

Why is this? I'm not really sure. I think much of it is out of fear of the unknown, a little bit of bigotry, and also a stigmatizing of homosexual sin being above any other sin. The problem is that one that is tempted in this particular sin is threatening to separate themselves from God. From my experience the sin of homosexual behavior causes people to deny their families, live scandalous lives, and separate themselves from all that was once good (especially God). And the church has been seen as the last place for a solution. All of this is unfortunate but true. No matter the case, homosexual sin is no different than the lust of a heterosexual individual and is just as much forgivable than any other. So where do we go from here?

I have researched three groups that are actively in ministry among homosexuals:
Keys Ministry-http://www.keysministry.com/-Started by an LCMS pastor, now lead by a woman in the AFLC

Outpost Ministries-Minneapolis, MN-http://www.outpostministries.org/. This ministry led by an ordained Baptist preacher is focused on counseling and outreach to those in the gay community. It has had great success in the Twin Cities area.

Exodus International-http://www.exodus-international.org/. The biggest ministry among homosexuals. It has connections throughout the USA with many churches. Evangelical in nature.

I am always looking for input on ministry among the homosexual community that leads to freedom and healing.

May Christ have mercy on this community and us as a church to reach out.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Good Magazine a lesson for the church?

Today my wife and I went to Startbucks for a coffee and the first time out as a couple for about a month. It was a fulfilling 30 minutes alone!!!

If you have ever been to Starbucks, there is something about the atmosphere and the advocacy they promote that attracts my post-modern mind (notice I did not say theological or political views that attract me). You get that good feeling when you buy a coffee and right next to the cash register, they announce that 10% of your purchase goes towards starving children in Africa or to environmental friendly coffee making. It makes ya feel good and also you feel like you are making a difference. Even to the point that you are willing to spend 10% more at Starbucks than the other place because they are doing something GOOD.

They also have a little magazine they give away called, "GOOD." In each issues of GOOD, they promote a way to do something good for our country and world. And I noticed that on the front of this magazine/newspaper it asks this question, "What can you do for your country?" Holy Cow, is this JFK resurrected? We haven't heard this kind of talk since the post-WWII generation. Doing good for the sake of our neighbor and not for the sake of self? What a concept!

This is the current generation of younger people. They want to DO something, not go through meetings (how many young people go to voter's meetings?), they don't want to just distribute money around like the old groups, they don't want to "join" any group at all, THEY WANT TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. This is exactly like the Post-WWII generation, with one exception, they don't want it to be part of the church or many don't want it to be because of God. That is the rub in the church today!

This mindset works perfectly to our lives as Christians. What is the greatest command our Lord gives? Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourselves. Basically speaking, doing good for someone else simply because they need someone to help them. The problem is that the church is not set up for doing things, it is set up to just be part of something (go to worship, vote at a meeting, give your due and go home). So the lesson is, how can the church capitalize on the younger generation mindset that lines up with our theology? That is the question....and this will be my journey as a baptized child of God. Drop a line of thought!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Baptism for Elias is November 30th!

On November 30th, my baby boy will become a child of God through Baptism. It will be a lot of fun. My dad will be preaching, I will do the baptizing, and the congregation is very excited. Please keep us in your prayers until that point. I am reading Scripture to him every night and giving him a blessing in order to make sure that the Word is part of his life before and after Baptism.

Lord Have Mercy

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Football, rest, and Confessions-Week 1

Welcome everyone to our first session of Confessional Studies on Sunday evening. I would argue that in today's world, many of us Lutherans don't really know what it means to be Lutheran (many times I still wonder!!!). And the last place that we look is at our own confessional writings (does that make any sense?). So as I repent for my shortcomings in this way, I am going to turn a new leaf and I pray that you will join me.

Each Sunday evening, I will post a section from our confessions, some reflection, and questions for discussion. Then there will be a "homework assignment" for the next week. My "textbook" will be the Reader's Edition of the Book of Concord by CPH, but any version of the Book of Concord is sufficient. In the Reader's Edition is a Reading Guide for the year and I will follow that as my format for homework. Please give me your input and thoughts as I want this to be ever improving and engaging for everyone involved (laypeople and pastors alike).

Week 1-Creeds (p.16-18) and Small Catechism (p.313-48)

Creeds
This first week, we reflect on the bare bones of our faith. In the creeds (Nicene, Apostle's, and Athanasian), we are provided with a bold statement of our faith and also a filter by which to interpret the Scriptures. What I have grown to enjoy while proclaiming these creeds each and every week is that they instantly provide a template for discussion with those of another denomination and also as a witnessing tool for unbelievers. If someone asks you, "What is God like?" Bam....Father-created the World, Son-lived like us and died for us, Holy Spirit-brings faith and directs our lives. What a wonderful statement to make in a very bland world.

Small Catechism

I usually call the Small Catechism as the greatest "Purpose Driven Life" books ever written. This is because it shows our lives as a child of God through and through. It shows us our sinful ways (10 commandments), it shows us a savior (Creed), it shows us how and why to pray (Lord's Prayer), it shows us the need for forgiveness (Confession), and it shows us how God works in our daily lives (Baptism & Lord's Supper). WOW! There is God's purpose-Christ!

Tonight, I wanted to meditate on the words highlighted at the beginning of each chief part. The words, "As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to His Household." Interesting. Was Luther wrong? Didn't he know that it was supposed to say this, "As the pastor should teach in a complicated way in 7th and 8th grade?"

The Small Catechism was written for home use in order that the very basics were taught to young people by the head of the household. And the pastor/priest functioned as a "resource" to the family in uplifting the faith. Our goal as parents, grandparents, husband, etc, is to make sure that the faith is being taught in a simple way to your house. Get the basics done and let the pastor take you up a level, let him give you forgiveness, and the Sacraments. And this can be done in an extremely simple way. Here is the 3 step program: 1) Before bed grab your Small Catechism. 2) Pick a section of the SC and read it to your children or spouse, 3) Ask them what they think it means, refect, pray and go to bed! Do this every night and guess what, the Small Catechism will be mastered in the year! Not only mastered, but remembered! Simple isn't it! Let us teach it in a simple way and inwardly digest the gift he has given!

Homework
: Read the creeds and a chief part of the catechism every night.

Lord have mercy!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Confessional Study on this blog?

I have been praying and reflecting for some time on our lives as Lutheran Christians. Most of us know the very basics of the Lutheran faith (Saved by grace through faith and at least knowing what what the Small Catechism is). However, when our churches subscribe to the Book of Concord in our constitution and when we install a new pastor. But have we really dug deep into the writings that bring out what Scripture tells us?

So I have an idea! How about we start a confessional study on this blog on Sunday evenings. I was thinking of posting a part of the confessions, a few discussion questions, and then "homework" to reflect on for the next week. I will probably use the Concorida: Reader's Edition of the Book of Concord from the Book of Concord and follow the Daily reading guide. Let me know your thoughts and ideas of how to get this done?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What happens when our pastor gets a divorce?

"My wife has left me and she has filed for divorce" the pastor tells the congregation with tears in his eyes. You can feel the pain spread throughout the sanctuary. What happens now? It is obvious that the pastor has been faithful to his flock, but what happens when your shepherd, your spiritual overseer gets a divorce?

This is a tough situation. As a church that takes I Timothy 3 very seriously, it makes this it even harder. When Paul says, an overseer is to be above reproach and husband of one wife, it is vital that the pastor's relationship with his wife is to be the example of marriage to the church. But things get messy and difficult when that relationship has been tainted. So how do we proceed?

There are a number of things that need to happen:

1) An investigation to why the divorce is happening. If the pastor has been unfaithful there is no question, he must resign his position.
2) The pastor must do some major self reflection, no matter the reason for the divorce, as he reads the words from I Timothy 3 that tells the pastor to have his home in order.
3) The church must also do self-reflection on the implications of having a pastor who is divorced and ways by which is can effectively move forward as a congregation.

Is it a simple, yes he stays or no he is out, probably not. But any way you look at it, it is very difficult for a pastor who is divorced to stay at his current congregation. Impossible? No. Does the ministry suffer, probably. All I know is that it would be very difficult for me to stay in the ministry if my wife left me due to the implications it would have on the church at large!

Any thoughts or discussions?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Uplifting marriage within our churches....Scripture

50% divorce rate, living together going rampant, and people waiting longer to get married, what is a church to do?

Most of the time, we as a church try to make things very, very difficult. We imagine up some elaborate program involving mentors, retreats, pre-marital counseling, etc, and we search for 20-30 people to volunteer their time to get it done. By the end of it, you need a full-time pastor just to do marriage stuff. With the economy the way it is, who can afford that?

We start with something very simple: Scripture. We emphasize the great passages concerning marriage: Genesis 2:18-24, Ephesians 5:22-33, I John 4, etc. We set it up to give the couple a glimpse of a Christ-centered marriage and let the conversations flow from there. Can we proceed to personality tests, questionaires, and retreats? Sure! I would even argue that each couple is required to watch the movie Fireproof before getting married. But let's start with a simple, Christ-focused study on God's design for marriage. It actually would only take 2-3 times meeting to go through all of Scripture. Of course, this is assuming that we actually still depend on God's Word to do the work! :-). Next post: What ways do we fail to uplift marriage in our churches?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A boy it is...

It's a boy! Elias Walter Finnern, born November 7th, @ 2:22 a.m. 9lbs 7 oz, 21 inches long, and built like an ox. The delivery went very well and mom is recovering nicely. The color blue is now part of our lives and I am hoping that he will be the one to watch ESPN with very soon! :-)

Praise be to God. We covet your prayers as we endeavor being parents of three children, and for wisdom in teaching our children the Christian faith.

Friday, November 7, 2008

New Father under the true Father

Another Finnern has arrived. This early morning at exactly 2:22 a.m., a new child is born into our world and once again God shows how merciful and powerful He is. Delivery went great, baby is doing awesome and so is mom.

I usually would announce name, sex, size, etc, but I am going to wait until Sunday morning to tell our church. Thank you for your prayers and thank God for Life!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

We respect, honor, and pray for our new President

It is official. Mr. Barack Obama will be our new President in the new year. It was a hard fought battle and basically speaking, McCain had no chance. Obama was just too much of a rock star in politics!

Although I do not agree with a number of Senator Obama's views socially (abortion and marriage), he will be our 44th President and is deserving of our respect, honor, and prayers as our authority (Romans 13). The best thing we can do the next four years is to be graceful with our tongues with his reputation. At the same time, bold in our action toward the things that we do not agree with. God has placed Barack Obama in this role as our President and he is worthy of our respect. God Bless the World!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Take your faith seriously? Vote tomorrow!

"I think I'm not going to vote." A person told me recently. "Why?" I asked trying to not sound condescending. "I am just not that interested." I used to think this way. I thought, well, I am just one person and what difference can I make? So why be interested?

This view is unacceptable! This is even more unacceptable as a confessing Christian. As a Christian, we understand that God rules over His 2 kingdoms (Church and Government). He uses the government for order and the Church for Gospel proclamation. Both are vital to our world. Without order, we would have mass chaos. Without the Gospel, we have no hope.

Understanding that God works through our government and how our government is set up that each American has a voice, it is our duty to be part of the God given ability to vote. Even though our vote may not take over the world, it is part of our vocation as a Christian.

Who to vote for? It is up to you. I would argue as a Christian one must look seriously at three issues that we uphold from Scripture: 1) Life-Does the candidate uplift the sanctity of life as Scripture does? (Jeremiah 1:5) 2) Marriage-Does the candidate believe in biblical marriage and the family? (Genesis 2:18-24) 3) Service to one's neighbor-Does the candidate take serious Jesus' words to love their neighbor as themselves.

Get out to vote tomorrow. No excuses, just do it!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Pneumonia, prednazon, and rest!

I'm sick, have been all week. The big thing I need to do is rest, but our culture, being a parent, and my vocation causes me to do other. However, right now, I am resting because I have an amazing wife and a great congregation. So I will be quarantined for the next 24-48 hours and nothing but sleep, drugs, TV, and food. Keep me in your prayers and may God bless your reception of God's gifts in worship tomorrow!

Friday, October 31, 2008

How do we uplift marriage in our churches?

We are failing! As the divorce rate hovers around 50% and the number of people who just live together without the commitment grows, we are fighting an uphill battle. Since most weddings take place in a church of somesort, the church at large is probably the biggest reason why divorce is so high. Our problem is that we usually blame society and do not take responsibility for our lack of action.

So where in the world do we start? I have to admit, I am at a complete loss. I need input. Not only for ideas but also for support. For too long, the church has just kind of followed culture and for a long time, culture was not that far off. However, we no longer live in that world. The culture is based off of Friends, ER, Desperate Housewives, etc, and if you have ever watched those shows, it does not look like the church. In general, people spend 5-6 hours watching shows during the week, over 40 hours in public schools that do not promote traditional marriage, and almost no time discussing marriage with parents. So at best, children and youth have 1 hour a week to hear God's pure truth and 90% of the time, marriage does not come up. So who is going to win?

As we are a church based on the Word, where in the world do we start? Give me thoughts and I will address it soon!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Divorce not an option?

"The key to a good marriage is to say that divorce is not an option" proclaimed Will Smith recently on TV. As many people know Will Smith has been married to his wife, Jade Pinkett, since 1997. Eleven year of marriage in Hollywood is like celebrating 50 years for most people! It is fascinating that Will Smith from Hollywood knows a secret that many in the church do not...divorce is not an option.

During our pre-marital coaching sessions here at St. John's, the first page of our series is titled, "Options for divorice." The rest of the page is empty. Not a single word. Why? Because, when you go up to the altar and proclaim, I Will, you are doing it for life.

The first reaction I get from people is, what if....1) One of the spouses cheats, 2) The husband is abusive, 3) One of the spouses leaves the other. Those are extreme cases that do happen, more than we want to admit. But we should not focus on the minors, because most peope get a divorce out of frustration and even more so because they didn't take it serious to start with.

Are there exceptions, of course there is! But I would argue that our main problem is that both spouses are not take their vows serious and many people get hurt in the process.

So how can we help save marriages? That is next post! Give me some thoughts!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Back in my office room...hope in my father's room...

I have been out of my office since December. Snow, melting, ice, and damming all took place on a roof that was poorly put together and BAM! The ceiling comes through and three staff are roomless for 10 months+. It was no one's fault, it is just what happens.

Over the last 10 months, I never realized how difficult it is to not have a place to call your room. You ask yourself all the time, "What's the point?" What's the point of organizing, what's the point of decorating (or my wife doing so), what's the point of keeping it clean? By the end of this time, I will be back in my office, back in my room, and I can do all of that later. However, in the process you become very frustrated, irritable, and disjointed because their is no place to call home. Please keep me in your prayers for the staff I work with as we are a week away from getting back into our office!

This reminds me of Jesus' words of hope from John 14 "In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? [2] 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” [3] 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Sometimes we all feel like we are one's who have no room or place. We become irritable to the things God's presents to us and disjointed as if something just isn't quite right. And that is when our Lord points us to the hope that only comes through Christ. That when we are baptized in His name, when we look upon the love that goes so far as to die on a cross, we realize that we are part of something. We have a room, not only in heaven, but also a place in His arms today. May we live as one's who have a permanent home with Him!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Golf and grace...

Today was a day for golf. Probably the last game of the year. This year I golfed 6 times, which quadrupled my times golfing in my life. I have learned a lot: 1) I like 9 holes more than 18, 2) Don't move your feet while swinging, 3) That if you play with the right people, you never go above 8 strokes! (Which is why I typically golf a 72 in 9 holes).

Since I am new to the game, I have been blessed with many gracious friends who have given me a lot of advice. And the greatest of all, they allow me to drop a lot mulligans after I have lost my ball in the water and in the woods. I am given a new ball after my worst of shots.

This is much like the grace of our God. We miss the target of God's will all the time, most of the time we lose sight of Christ and his forgiveness, and end up lost. But it is our Lord who drops us down after we ask for forgiveness, a new creation and thrown into our world. After we have done our worst, God gives us a new ball!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Fireproof the movie is outstanding...

My wife and I went to "Fireproof" tonight with Kirk Cameron. It was very, very good. It was not your typical Kirk Cameron movie. No Rapture, no accepting Jesus (at least not outright), and it focused on the cross. I would say it is a must see for all married couples and those who are engaged.

The best part was that it focuses on Biblical Marriage in light of the cross. As marriage is a symbol of Christ's love for the church, the movie does a tremendous job of manifesting what Ephesians 5 and Genesis 2 proclaims. Would I do the movie a little differently as a Lutheran? Sure. But this movie is just what we need for current day movies.

Go to http://www.fireproofmymarriage.com/ for more information

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Why go to church? Part 2

We have established that one goes to worship to receive the gifts of God (forgiveness, the Sacrament, life, and salvation). We go because it is in worship that God has promised to be working in physical and spiritual ways.

Are there any other reasons? I will never forget a response by my mother as a child when I asked why we needed to go to church. She said, "To see all of our friends."

I would argue from Acts 2:42-47 that we go to worship for the support of other Christians. In the early church they joined together for worship, eating, fellowship, and providing for each others needs. If there was a need, they helped each other out. They worked together, raised kids together, and made sure that everything was provided.

In our world, the visible church is as close as we get to the early church. The church at its best is centered around the gifts of God and supporting each other in our daily needs. The church is to be a support system when we go through the rough times. Also a place to join with each other during times of celebration!

Can the church work on this? Sure. But we are called to help make the church what it is called to be. So while going to church, dont' run out the door after worship, but greet people, bring baked goods, truly ask people how they are doing, and make a hotdish for those who are struggling.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Why go to church? Part 1

"I don't need to go to church to be a Christian" If I hear this another time, I think I might scream. It is kind of like saying, I don't need to breathe to be a human. Do I need to breathe in order to be considered human? Not necessarily, but it is a good idea for life!

The number one reason for attending worship, To receive the gifts of God! In worship, He has promised to be there, when the Word is preached and Sacraments administered. God gives his forgiveness, changes us through the Holy Spirit, and keeps us in the one true faith.

This is the top reason why be in worship. However, what is the typical parental response to a high schooler when they are about to be waken up for church, "You go just because you are supposed to" or, "If you loved Jesus, you would go" or "To be around your friends." However, not only is it all law, but what if they don't have friends at the church, what if no one talks to ya, is it still the church or should we go the YMCA or some social club to get the much needed community?

How much do we talk about gifts? How much do we talk about a need for the Word? How much do we talk about the Word outside of the one hour?

Jesus promises in John 15, "4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing."

Worship is the time that God has promised to work in our lives through His means, so we are called in Baptism to be part of that community and be changed by Him. My prayer is that all of you make worship a priority and receive His gifts!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Why go to worship and be part of a church? To be addressed this week

Why go to church? This is the biggest question within the church at large (especially by us crazy 20 somethings!). I am looking for arguments, thoughts, and ideas on how to look at this vital part of our lives together as Christians.

It will all start on Tuesday, October 14th.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Minnesota 6-1, Nothing to do with Baptism, but just awesome!

The Minnesota Gophers are 6-1. This is big news for us Minnesota fans because last year we were 1-11 and everyone predicted us to be last again. Now they have won 2 Big Ten games and improved every week. Does it mean anything to life, not really, but as a fan who went to a game every year since 3rd grade until Seminary, it is just awesome! Tim Brewster is a great coach and Adam Weber at QB will do not but get better these next few years.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Stock Market, Retirement Accounts, and bailout, Where's God

It is hard to do anything without being reminded of the current fiscal situation on Wall Street. It makes all of us a little, if not very, nervous over the future. We wonder, will we have enough to retire, will we have enough for college, will we have enough for a home, and the list goes on and on. We look at history and attempt to stay calm, patient, serve in our vocations, and ride out the storm. However, it does become very difficult within the church when people are losing jobs, finances are tough, and people have a hard time seeing the blessings in their lives.

What is amazing is how much we will worry about what might happen tomorrow, when we have absolutely no control. With our salvation being set through our Baptismal identity, we are pointed to Jesus' words on the mount in Matthew 6. "Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

God is in control and He have proven through the cross that He will take care of us. Continue steadfast in your vocations, hear the Word, receive the body and blood of Christ, and let today be today and let tomorrow take care of itself.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

How do I serve my neighbor locally?

Who is my neighbor? Everyone! Where do I start?

It starts with opening our eyes to those around us, to the places that are the most important to us. Your family, your physical neighbor, your church, your town/city/village hall. Ask your church what is needed. Ask you neighbor if you can help with anything. Ask your town hall what needs are in your community. And see where that takes you.

Secondly, support local mercy works in your community. One of the most common things in a community are food pantries. Find the food pantry that is available and see how they run things. Here are a few questions to ask (this is information from our local food pantry director):
  • What is your mission?
  • How do you determine who gets food and who doesn't?
  • Do you have resources for individuals to find jobs and housing?

These are important issues, because some food pantries are giving a hand out as opposed to a hand out!

Finally, recruit people in your church who have an interest in mercy ministries. Find the current needs of the community, see if the church can address the need, and finally, pray for opportuntieis to serve your neighbor.

For more information on quality food pantries talk to Cindy at Mukwonago Food Pantry, http://www.mukwonagofoodpantry.org/

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Who is my neighbor?

I recently watched Veggies Tales, "Are you my neighbor" with my 2 girls. Little Asparagus was struggling to know who is neighbor is and he finds out through an adventure to space, that those who are close to us are our neighbors. Great movie for little kids, great ideas for a child, and a fun time for parents to sit with your kids.

But does it hit home the true biblical idea of our neighbor? In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus tells us to "love your neighbor as yourself." Who is your neighbor? Our neighbor simply put is everyone! Yep, EVERYONE! Your physical neighbor, your neighbor in another town, your neighbor in China, Africa, etc. Everyone!

How can we serve them all? Well, that will be our next post. For right now, realize that our calling as Christians is a very high calling for all people and we live under His grace to do so! For the next week or so, we will cover the question, "How can I serve all my neighbors as Christ has called us?"

Friday, October 3, 2008

Blindness the movie....our blindness to God

Here it comes, another theological point from a movie. A new movie came out today called, "Blindness" with Julaine Moore. The basic premise of this movie is that one person becomes blind and the blindness spreads to the whole world within weeks. The first people infected with this blindness are quarantined in a secluded area and left to basically die. While quarantined, original sin goes wild (selfishness, murder, rape, infidelity, and greed) and there is basically no hope. At the end of the day, it shows that if everyone in the world is blind, where is the hope?

This movie reminds me of our condition as human beings. When Adam and Eve ate the fruit, humankind became spiritually blind and unable to see, walk with, or believe in God. This infection has spread to all people born into this world and we were basically quarantined to a life of original sin going wild. At the end of the day, as we try to make our ways through this life, where is the hope?

Our hope is in a God who took our spiritual blindness and opened our eyes through the cross 0f Christ. When He breathed His last, it was like he opened all of our eyes to see God and the hope of His grace. He opens our eyes through the Holy Spirit to see how He has done it all for us through Christ and we will live with our eyes fully opened to be with Him at the final resurrection.

May God have mercy on us the spiritually blind.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

40 days of life campaign is here..

From now through November 2, people in 179 cities in 47 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa and two Canadian provinces are taking part in 40 days of prayer and fasting, constant vigil and community outreach!
http://www.40daysforlife.com/about.cfm

This is an emphasis to pray that God would lead our country to see the high view of life and be vessels of that view to our world. Each person is a precious gift from God and we are called to love our neighbors in the womb of their mothers.

Here are just a few of the ways you can participate:

  • Read the daily devotions and pray along with us
  • Visit the site nearest you and join the vigil.
  • Please consider a contribution to help continue this mission
There are a number of other resources to look upon concerning life. Within the Lutheran church is Lutherans for Life (http://www.lutheransforlife.org/), which has many resources on life issues and local chapters to connect with.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Church in a facebook world...How can God use it?

How can God use facebook?

This is a question that we all should ask when new technologies are presented. Although there are many things that could potentially be a problem with facebook (an illusion of community, inappropriate behavior & pictures, etc), but for the church we have a great opportunity. Through something like facebook, we can bring information, proclamation about God and the Word in a whole different way than email or even websites.

In my theory, communication on facebook is much different than on email. Facebook builds community online in a more personal way than conventional email. You have pictures, descriptions, friend connections, and an outlook on what the person values. This amount of information is actually more than what we know about most of our friends. Instantly, we are connected with those whom we become friends with on facebook, and a chance to do God-talk. On top of that, people are more willing to ask questions online about faith, due to the fact that there is less judgement and no facial expressions.

This gives the church a chance to do a number of things:
1) Discuss theology in an open forum and to teach what being part of the church means.
2) Invitations to worship has more of a personal touch than email
3) Provide information on theology in a quick and effective manner
4) Strengthen relationships with people already in a congregation with support.

May God Bless this opportunity to bring Christ to the nations

Friday, September 26, 2008

Church in a facebook world...

After hanging with my friends in high school, I would come home around midnight, watch some TV, and just go to bed. Why? Because there really wasn't anything else to do. You could do some internet researching, but that was at a time when internet was timed and we only had ten hours of internet time. No cell phones, no texting, no facebook, just phone calls, and face to face.

Things are different now. Most youth today text over two thousands texts a month, they talk to friends instantly after getting home on the computer, and they probably stay up much later than I did because they can still communicate after midnight. The relationships between people are much different than 10 years ago and the need for a community has changed also. One of the reasons I went to youth group was because of friendships and connecting with people, and in many ways the reason I kept going to church, was due to friends to hang out with. And for many years, the church has try to sell itself as a way to meet people, to hang out with friends, and get together with people. However, what happens when the friendships are being connected at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning and church starts at 8 a.m.? Then why should I go to church?

I think we are at a critical stage in the church, but not in how we do church, but how we speak of it. In the past 20 years, we have lost the reason for worship, Bible Study, and membership. But now we are at a point, where we can teach the wonders of being in God's house. No longer will people listen to the response of why go to church, "To be with other people." That was never a good response anyways. We can teach about how God brings His gifts in worship. He brings forgiveness that the world does not give (if you mess up in the work world or in school, it requires many thing you have to do in order to bring atonement). His Holy Spirit changes our hearts. And we learn more about what it means to be a baptized child of God. Overall, to teach about what God does instead of what we do, will be a great way to bring the excitement to what church and worship is all about.

Next time I will address how we can use facebook to uplift our churches and keep our confessional heritage....

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

October is Clergy Appreciation Month

Although Clergy Appreciation month is not an official part of the church year, it is just a good thing to do for your pastor! (Reminder, if you are from my church, you can ignore the rest of this post).

One thing that I have noticed growing up as a pastor's kid and serving on the ministerial health committee here in the South Wisconsin District is that congregations don't really need to do much for their pastors. All they need to do is give an occasional thank you, throw an occasional gift certificate, and invite the pastor out to lunch 1x a year. Simple and done.

However, what I would say is the key is the shower his wife (of course, if he is married) with love and care. Buy her gift certificates, give her pedicures, thank her for supporting her husband, call her and see how things are going, ask her if you can do anything, and ask about her life (not her husbands). The key to effective ministry is the pastor's wife! If you shower her, you will have a more effective, energetic, faithful pastor! Provide your pastor's wife this month with a gift and not just your pastor!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

How do we keep our confessional heritage in a post-church culture?

Teach brother teach. Dr. Jeff Gibbs kept telling us at Sem. When we would ask many questions about how we should handle this or handle that, he would always come back with, "Teach brother teach."

In a post-church culture, the need for great teaching is in such great demand. No longer will everyone know the Bible from Sunday school, because they never went. No longer will people just know how to live, because they never learned how, other than the culture. We need a teaching revolution that incorporates such strong teaching based on the truth of God's Word that people are left wanting more and more of God's Word which is the perfect opportunity for things like our confessional writings.

These studies do not need to be just on Sunday morning, but at coffee houses, home groups, anywhere and everywhere. People are looking for truth. And when they read the clearness of the confessions, it is like feeding a steak to a man who hasn't eaten for 5 days. It is our role to find new and exciting ways to teach the Word of God, while upholding what it means to be biblical, confessional Lutherans!