Saturday, August 30, 2008

Receive the gifts tomorrow

If you are reading this before Sunday morning, let nothing hinder you from God's gifts tomorrow. Wherever you are, you are near a church. Whatever is going on, the God's grace is there. Whatever the sin committed, God's forgiveness is real. Will the church be hypocritical? Absolutely, if it was perfect, there would be no point. Be in the fellowship and let God bring His gifts! AMEN!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Is it wrong to be emotional about your child starting preschool?

My daughter will start preschool in January. We had an open house on Wednesday at the preschool at our church (across the street) and it was an emotional time. You instantly remember the moment your child was born, the first time they raised their head, the first step, first word, and the time they moved out of their crib. It is an emotional time that I don't think teachers, aids, or anyone who works with children understands. I never thought it would be this emotional.

My prayers are for God to give me the strength to let her enter kindergarten, junior high, and "gasp" high school! But I will let her learn to write her name first!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A little heaven on earth...

"Pastor, I always feel cleansed after I partake in the supper" an older woman exclaimed as I gave her holy communion at her home. "I feel as if I tasted a little bit of heaven" she continued.

This was a woman who had received communion her whole life and still she not only knew that she needed it, but she felt it doing something.

As it says in the small catechism, "in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation."

Each time we partake in this wonderful meal, it is like we receive a glimpse of what heaven will be like. Where we are gathered together as believers, around the altar of Christ and we will touch, taste, and feel salvation. For God knew that we were skeptics, so he brought something physical so we could "experience" Him in a physical way!

Next time you partake, think about how your standing/kneeling before the altar gives you a glimpse of what heaven will be like and "feel" life and salvation.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Daily Devotion on the 3rd Commandment

The 10 Commandments
"As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household"

The Third Commandment

Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear it and learn it.

Guilt! This is what myself and one of my classmates felt as we walked past chapel at Concordia Seminary in the spring of 2006. We were on our way from class and off to the library to do homework that I should have done the night before. As we were just about past the point of where we no longer felt guilty, Dr. Norman Nagel walked right by us. And before we knew what to say to this Systematic genius, he points to the chapel and says, "He has gifts to give." Then he walked into chapel and we were left wondering if we were hit with the law or the gospel! Did I got to chapel? Nope. Do I still feel guilty? Yes. Not because I should have gone just for the sake of going, but because God was giving out his gifts like gold that day and I skipped right by.

That is what this commandment is all about. It isn't about making people feel bad about just going to church, but it is all about helping people see the amazing opportunity when you come into God's house. He is giving out his gifts of forgiveness, the Word, the Sacrament, life and salvation. More valuable than gold, more valuable than silver, and often we mis it due to a football game? Let us always remember that God has gifts to give. To miss that opportunity is like not getting in line to receive a piece of gold each week!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Daily Devotion on the 2nd commandment

The 10 Commandments
"As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household"

The Second Commandment

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.

What does this commandment mean? I asked my kids in confirmation during vicarage and one youth said, "Don't use the f-word or the sh word." This is the common understanding of this commandment, just don't say bad words and check it off your sin list (can anyone say Pharisee?). However, Luther raises the bar and points us to the cross by saying that we should call upon His name, pray, praise, and give thanks. Often we see the law as simply, don't do this or that, but He also calls us to do something (3rd use). So in this case, give thanks in all things, rejoice for God's grace, and lift everything up to Him in prayer!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

How much can we discuss who to vote for in 08'?

As the politics heat up, the relationship of church and state is always a hot question. As Lutherans we would make a distinction of God's kingdom of the right (church) and the left (government). God rules over both, each one given different responsibilities. Church=gospel gifts, Government=order in society.

So when it comes to John McCain vs. Barak Obama, what do we say as a church?

As the church, we probably should not deal a ton with foreign policy, economic plans, etc, but we do have a right to uphold Biblical principles. Such as we can not say, "Vote for Obama or McCain", but we can tell people to not vote for someone who is fully Pro-Choice or a supporter of gay marriage. These are values that lead into many other issues and it is difficult to see eye to eye on majority of plans.

The most important thing this November is VOTE. Our governmental policy gives us this chance to be part of the process (even with its downfalls). Know each candidate through and through, know what Scripture has to say, and pray for God to lead the candidate that will rightly bring order to our society.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Excerpts from our prominent Lutheran devotional

As we get close to a new year of our confirmation, I figured we would start posting parts of the catechism on a daily basis. As the catechism was designed to be a daily reflection on the basics of the faith, we will continue that tradition. Every day I will post exactly what the catechism wants from us: "As the head of the family should teach in a simple way to his household."

The First Commandment.
You shall have no other gods.
What does this mean?
We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things

What gods do you have above the one, Triune God?

My pet gods include the Minnesota Twins, exercise, Dr. Pepper, and my family (although that is a better "god" than the rest). I will naturally spend hours thinking and participating in these things every day. Even worse some days I do not study God's Word or lift up my requests in prayer. This alone proves that I need to come to the cross each day and ask for His sweet words of forgiveness.

Think of your gods today as you prepare to receive the gifts of God tomorrow morning, especially if you receive the Body and Blood. And leave them at His altar!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Big Foot a Hoax-But not Christ!

The Georgia Big Foot is a hoax! The "body was a widely available Halloween Costume stuffed in a large cooler. Amazing isn't it? Someone actually attempted to get a halloween costume passed as the real thing. People want attention so bad that they will just about try anything.

Over the last couple of years, society has attempted to disprove Christianity. However, every time the Today Show or anyone else on TV tries to cover the supposed new findings to disprove Christianity, it disappears within days.

What a comfort it is to know that God knew about our skeptical nature that He came down to the earth and lived physically with us. He worked in our world in order for humankind to touch, taste and feel what God can do (the same reason He brought the Sacraments!). He was not a hoax!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Christ-Centered-Cross Focused Church Sign?

Ever went to a church because of a church sign? Many of our churches make the "church sign" seem to be the greatest evangelism tool since Peter's sermon at Penecost! Does it do a lot? I would argue no. Does it turn people off? Absolutely! Most people I know make fun of the signs and they end up being a comical moment for them on the way to work.

But church signs are here to stay and since we do have to live with them, how do we do it in a confessional way? By the way, "What is missing from ch--ch? UR" does not count!

Here are a few signs that we have had at St. John's. Actually there was one case where a couple came because of the sign, but that was only one Sunday (On our lovely sign, we can only do about 21 letters on either side so we are very restricted)
1) Forgiveness here
2) Sinners inside, join us
3) Faith Alone, Christ Alone
4) Christ centered teaching, cross focused worship

We are looking for new ideas. I know most of us are not bumper sticker lovers, but if we can keep our signs focused on strong theology, it will let people know that this church is more than open-hearts, open minds, and open doors!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Looking in the Mirror!

The new movie Mirrors, is supposed to be pretty good (parents beware, it is rated R). It is basically about some mystical power in a person's bathroom mirrors. I don't really know the basis of it, but just the preview makes ya think. In the same way, I can guarantee if you watch the movie, you will look at mirrors in a whole different way.

It reminds me of what we believe about the 2nd use of the law (mirror). The law can be proclaimed to us and we see directly the sin we have committed (a.k.a. like looking in a mirror). I do not particularly enjoy the 2nd use of the law, because it makes me look at my sinfulness and it forces me to stare at it. It is like looking in a mirror and seeing the imperfect pimple, love handles, or haircut you have. After you see what the mirror reveals, you see the mirror differently.

Yet, it doesn't end there, we go right from the mirror showing us our imperfections and we are pointed to a cross that hung a perfect God in human flesh. The one who was perfect took our imperfections so that the mirror would not be the end, but the picture of Him on the cross would be our sole source of comfort.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

As a Baptized child of God, do I love my church?

On April 24th, 1994, I confessed my faith given in Baptism on confirmation at St. John's Lutheran, Wadena, MN. Did I exactly know what I was doing? Not necessarily, but I know I took it serious. But I don't know if I really understood the confession of faith that I was making (I'm lucky that God is patient with me). Over the years, our congregation of St. John's Lutheran Church, North Prairie, WI has had thousands of people confess the same faith in front of God and have become members of our church.

I reflect on our confession of faith we make at confirmation and also when we becomes members in other congregations very often. On the day we confirm our faith we are making a major statement. We are saying that I and this church believes in the truth of God's Word and also saying, THIS IS MY CHURCH! I am a stockholder in God's church and if it "succeeds" I am successful, and if it fails, then I fail. And since the ministry of this church will go beyond my days, what is my part in making sure this ministry continues?

Do we love our churches as much as we ought too? Whether it is as a member, leader, called worker, or pastor, when needs arrive in the church, do we as individuals step it up to make sure that it happens? Do we love the church as what it is, God's church? And am I willing to give everything I got (time, money, talents) in order for the ministry to succeed?

I believe that most people do want to do this, but we also could always do more. As we think about our churches where we hold membership, may we always ask the question, "How can I love my church even more?" This is what I ask myself every day and ask the Lord for strength to do what He has called me to do.

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Christ-centered, Cross Focused Fair Booth?

Now is the time of year for many State and County Fairs. And each year our churches flock to have their own booth right next to a salesman for the latest, super absorbant mop.

How can one have a booth at a Fair and still be confessional and faithful? I think we have to work extremely hard to uphold our distinctiveness simply because we LOOK like the mop and antique guy next to us. How do we boldly proclaim the Gospel message in that setting, or do we just have a good time selling pies and handing out "What about?" booklets from Dr. A.L. Barry?

I believe that we can be faithful doing a fair booth. It starts with a sign that boldly proclaims our focus (maybe Christ-Centered, Cross Focused comes in). Then everything we do points people to the cross, the Scriptures, and the worship service. I thought of an idea to have a separate area for the pastor for, "Questions about the Christian faith? Ask the pastor." I do not know how many people would stop, but I can guarantee someone from our emergent culture would have a question or two.

Any other input on how to do a booth faithfully or discussions on other options, please leave a comment.

"In the cross of Christ I glory"

Saturday, August 9, 2008

How should one prepare for Sunday worship on Saturday?

How should one prepare for Sunday worship on Saturday? Ever thought about it?

One of our ladies here at church told me a story. In the 1940's, when she would go out with her friends on Saturday night, her mom would say as she left, "Remember, tomorrow we are having the Lord's Supper, so start preparing."

Do you think our parents are telling our youth that nowadays? Do you think that it might be just the right words to make sure that our youth are doing the right thing and even more so, that they might actually think about their faith beyond Sunday morning?

It makes me think about how each one of us prepare for worship the day before? We might say a prayer once we enter the building, but how many of us pray the night before? the day before, or even an hour before?

Here is my idea, your next Saturday night, before you go to bed, pray that God would prepare you to receive the gifts He gives in worship and also to bring those who aren't even thinking about worship this night to worship the next day.

May he prepare our hearts and minds this evening to receive His Body and Blood tomorrow!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Put on a new garment...

Ever gotten a new suit (Or dress for the women folk)? There is nothing better. Clean, sharp, not a wrinkle to be found, and you enter a room with your shoulders back and with a little more jump to your step. Nothing better!

I just got done reading the Large Catechism written by Luther. In the Large Catechism, Luther was addressing the Anabaptists who were trying to say that infants should not be baptized and many others who were arguing that Baptism is a past event and not today. In response he ends with these words, "Therefore let all Christians regard their baptism as the daily garment that they are to wear all the time. Every day they should be found in faith and with its fruits, suppressing the old creature and growing up in the new (Large Catechism, Kolb/Wengert, 466).

Each day, we start with a new suit in the forgiveness of Christ. As we start our day, our Lord brings a new garment, covering us with our Baptism, and we walk in this life with no wrinkle of sin in the eyes of God. In the meantime every day we go out with confidence to our vocation with a little more jump in our step. Confident to live knowing that we are His and He will continue to clothe us again and again. Nothing better!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Proclaiming Christ on the do we do it?

Proclaiming Jesus on the streets!

This is a picture of my field work church in downtown St. Louis. Bethlehem Lutheran Church. Rev. John Schmidtke has been the pastor there for 19 years and the church has gone from 30 people over the age of 70 to now over 150 people each Sunday, majority of which are under 40.

During the summer months they do something called, "Taking Jesus to the Streets." They gather a group of people and they start to sing gospel music on a street corner, in front of a church, or in someone's yard. What is amazing is that in the city, people start to flock from the homes and by the end of the night they do skits, sing more songs, and finish with a craft. The people are well equiped to share their faith to the people in the community and they always gather 20-30 names for the local churches. They literally take the message of the crucified Christ to the streets.

From this experience, I always wondered how do we as confessional Lutherans "bring Jesus to the streets?" Typically in a rural or suburban context, ministry is different. If we started blaring music over a loud speaker on a street corner, people would flee. We typically participate in the local parade and hand out water bottles with our names and go home feeling better about ourselves. But are we proclaiming or advertising? What ways can we proclaim Christ in a community that at times goes beyond the walls of our church?

The focal point of our church is the worship life and mercy to our neighbor, but what other ways can we proclaim Christ faithful to our Confessional roots?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Favre will return today...or will he...where is the confidence?

"Favre back as a Packer... for now."

These were the words in a local paper today. Brett Favre and his wife, Deanna arrive on a plane last night just in time for Family Night at Lambeau. He has returned and is supposed to come back today to the team, however, there is much speculation if he will come back as a Packer, Viking (my choice), Bear, starter, backup, etc, etc. No one really knows, not even Brett himself.

Every day that we wake up, do we know what will happen on this day? Do we truly know? Concerning Favre, people have spent hours guessing what might happen and non of the discussions have created any more confidence in what the final outcome will be. We guess what will happen in the future, who will do this or who will do that, but we really have no idea....

Except in one case. When Christ returns there will be no question of what He will do. As it describes in I Thessalonians 4, "The Lord will descend from heaven with a cry of command...and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are alive who are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds."

As God promised us in Baptism that we would join in his resurrection (Rom.6:4), we have the confidence of knowing, Christ will return and we will be with him due to His blood. We do not know the hour or time, but we know that He is coming, and when He comes He will take us home. No questions, no trades, no releases, but through faith in Christ, HE WILL TAKE US TO HEAVEN!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Brett Favre-Vocation gone amuck!

"I just want to play football", Favre told FoxNews a few weeks ago. Sounds like a decent request to most of us. Why not let one of the most prolific passer in NFL history play?

Of course, how quickly we forget how he gave an announcement a few months ago saying, "I'm walking away from the game. It is time."

I would argue the issue in this whole circus is not necessarily Brett Favre, the Green Bay Packers, or us as fans, but it a misunderstanding of vocation. Vocation is better defined as "calling." One's calling in life. God gives all of us a vocation (father, mother, daughter, brother, citizen, etc).

Luther emphasized that as a baptized child of God, we are called to fulfill our vocations to the best of our ability. At the same time, we must realize that our vocation will change, from child to adult, student to worker, worker to retirement, young person to elderly. They are all a gift from God and we should realize how God has placed us in this place at this time for a reason, although we might not realize why.

In this case, Brett Favre decided and announced that he would start a new vocation and in the same way, the Green Bay Packers would start a new vocation in the post-Brett Favre era. Both the Packer fans, the ownership, and even Brett Favre started to prepare for that new vocation. Now, how each group's vocation will look like this year is yet to be determined, but I think it is a reminder for all of us to look at our own lives and think about where God is leading us. Is to toward retirement, it is toward college, high school, fatherhood, motherhood, a new job? Whatever it is, fulfill your current vocation, stay in prayer, receive His gifts in worship, and reflect on what God is doing in your life.

Maybe best of all, Brett Favre's vocation will be in purple on the opening weekend on Monday Night football :-)