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 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- by an LCMS pastor, now lead by a woman in the AFLC

Outpost Ministries-Minneapolis, MN- 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- 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)

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!

: 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!