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 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.