Wednesday, December 30, 2009

HDTV and my sin

Today my in-laws got a new TV with High Definition. What a marvel of modern technology. Now movies that seemed to have a gloss are crystal clear and you can now see the pimple on Brett Favre's face when he throws a touchdown (or recently, fumbles!!).
While basking in its glory a friend said, "It is almost too clear, we can now see everyone's imperfections." My friend was right. One of the appealing aspects of television is that you enter a surreal world where everyone is good looking and their problems only come out on Entertainment. But when you have HD you can see how long they had to work at getting ready for work (make-up, hair spray, lighting, etc) and realize that they are just people!
I think many of our churches need a touch of HD on Sunday morning. We come to church with our best clothing, hair all done, and the custom answer, "good", when someone asks how we are. However, we are far from well. We all have hidden sins, much on each of our plates, and we usually don't let out our real feelings in a fear of being a burden on others. In all reality, we are all a mess (Romans 3:23).
Although we in our world don't see all the mess, God sees in HD and knows our sins and imperfections. He probably wishes He didn't have that kind of vision. Yet, when he does see that mess in faith in Jesus, Christ stands in front of us and the Father only sees perfection. The HD vision looks only to Christ and He stands in front of us all the way to His kingdom.
May we confess our imperfections and allow Him to see us only in the perfect HD of Christ.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Alright, here is my first Vikings talk in some time

To be a Vikings fan means to be humbel. I have learned this since my arrival in Wisconsin. Since us Vikings fans know that you never have a sure thing or can even hope for it, we usually keep our mouths shut when we are successful and are more vocal when we are bad. Which is why this year I have rarely brought up the Vikings, even with a great record (remember 1998?). Now they once again lost a game to a lackluster opponent and it is painfully obvious that momentum is not on their side.
Maybe this is God just proving that us Vikings fans don't need a Super Bowl to be happy and also to be reminded that there is more to life!!!
Lord have mercy

Monday, December 28, 2009

So you don't want to go to church anymore....Review and thoughts

I just finished reading a thought provoking novel by Jake Colsen, "So you don't want to go to church anymore."
The book highlights a made up pastor named Jake how is struggling with ministry, even though he is leading a huge evangelical congregation. In these struggles he meets a man named John that leads him on a journey to "experience" a life following Jesus that is separate from the church. Eventually he leaves his pastoral position, is part of a house church, and has an enlightening Jesus filled life.
This book reveals some glaring issues within the pastoral ministry and ministry within the church. Jake was feeling empty because much of what he was doing was guilting individuals to serve on church boards while he was trying to impress everyone with technology and flashy music. And what was lost was Christ. People were remember the rules (worship only on Sunday, memorizing Bible verses, serving on boards, coming to church on time) and forgetting the love and grace of Jesus.
This is a big concern even within our Lutheran circles. We often try to "fill" boards, ask for volunteers, organize activities, all the while people aren't desiring to grow in faith, but keep busy. Many people end up burned out, especially pastors, and the moment they are off the board they run away or go to another church due to more programs or nicer people. This is a MAJOR problem in all of our churches. When people discuss faith do they mention Jesus or the number of boards they served on. This struggle is a vital one for all churches to admit. Are we promoting churchianity or Christianity?
However, this is where things go very bad in the book. The ending solution was basically discounting the church insitution as a simply an institution without Christ. The pastor ends up leaving the church and promotes an experience of disorganized groups as a better alternative. Now, I must admit this is quite tempting at times. There are only so many church meetings one can attend before a house church with no rules seems awfly nice. Yet, the church is not all meetings or rules, but the means by which His gifts are given. Specifically the gift of the Gospel and Sacraments. Do we overdo our workload for the sake of looking busy? All the time. However, we don't need to get rid of the whole church system, but bring our churches to look to Jesus.
This might mean less meetings, it might mean less "fellowship" gatherings, it might mean more Bible study, it might mean more prayer, it might mean more offerings of the Lord's Supper, but it doesn't mean getting rid of all that the church has to offer.

On the road again...but why?

Yesterday morning our family traveled from North Prairie, WI all the way to Alexandria, MN. It was around a 9 hour trip in a van that is strikingly smalll with three small kids and enough packaging to last a few weeks. There were threats of snow, the parents were tired, the kids wanted to move, dad just got done with the busiest time of year in ministry, and we arrived around 8:00 p.m. to grandma and grandpa's house just in time for bed and time for around 40 hours of being in one place. Talk about stressful and in many ways crazy.
So why do we do this? Why drive such a long time with children for such a short time period? 30 years ago nobody would be driving this far with small children (at least that is what everyone tells us).
It is simple: vocatio (vocation). When I was born God gave me a family that would always be my family, we don't choose our families, God does. A family made to love me when I was unlovable, take care of me when helpless, and to instruct me in the ways of the Lord. On top of that when my wife entered our family, she became part of this same vocatio. In the same way, I am called to love them in the same way and God in his wisdom brings that natural love through the ups and downs of life. We get together out of love for one another and the love God has for us. Plus, let's be serious, grandma and grandpa want to be their grandchildren.
May we all enjoy our time together in the God given vocation of family and realize that even though there might be tough times, God still has brought us as families together by His grace

Friday, December 25, 2009

What's on the mind this Christmas?

I love Christmas. However, I have found that with small children, my mind runs in 8 million directions this time of year. On top of the daily activities (diapers, naps, getting dressed, dinner, dishes, etc) there are many other things I think and worry about (school choices, homeschooling, usage of computers, internet, health, nutrition). Obviously include my vocation as pastor and your whole world is turned upside down.

This is why the words on Christmas day hit me extra hard this year, "“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" We sing these words every "non-communion" worship service in the Gloria Patri. I have chanted it hundreds of times in my 3 1/2 years of ministry, but it really hits home in my relatively chaotic life that the peace of God is here.

And if he brings the peace of salvation in a baby boy, how is he not also going to take care of us through whatever it might be (even late night awakenings from my son). May this peace be upon us all this Christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Light of the World has come...

Another powerful Christmas eve. This year we added an extra service at 5:00 p.m. The last few years we have been packed at our 7:00 service and we figured why not try it.

We we base things off of pure numbers it was more than success. Over 300 in both services and ended up with more at 5:00. Once again the candlelight singing of "Silent Night" was an emotional time thinking of what Jesus gave up to be our Savior.

May the peace of Christ rest upon all people this evening and the Spirit work in our hearts.

Merry Christmas

"Unto us a is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:11

May the presence of Christ be upon us all this day and tomorrow as we celebrate and live under His grace knowing that He has dwelt among us.

Thanks be to God for His unending mercy

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Struggling up the hill...

It begins. The snow is falling in Minnesota and Wisconsin conveniently right before Christmas. Ever wonder, "God what are you doing? This is the night that many inactives come to church, why send this snow?" But it isn't up to us, God is leading by His grace.

Tonight my wife and I went out, even with all the snow, and found it interesting on the way home witnessing a small pizza delivery truck attempting to go up a hill with rear wheel drive. He tried everything: going in circles, having someone push, etc, but to no avail. Either the pizza was not delivered or they had to change vehicles.

This Christmas may this remind us of our lives as sinful human beings. We are trying to make it up the hill to salvation constantly, if not to find salvation to find acceptance in our world. But the more we try (works, help, love, etc), the worse it gets and to no avail. The only chance to be delivered from this work is for someone to pick us up and do the work for us. This the work our Lord has done for us on the cross and He is the one who carries us through everything as we struggle up the hill of life.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

12 Days of Christmas

The Origin of the Twelve Days of Christmas
You're all familiar with the Christmas song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" I think. To most it's a delightful nonsense rhyme set to music. But it had a quite serious purpose when it was written.
It is a good deal more than just a repetitious melody with pretty phrases and a list of strange gifts.

Catholics in England during the period 1558 to 1829, when Parliament finally emancipated Catholics in England, were prohibited from ANY practice of their faith by law - private OR public. It was a crime to BE a Catholic.
"The Twelve Days of Christmas" was written in England as one of the "catechism songs" to help young Catholics learn the tenets of their faith - a memory aid, when to be caught with anything in *writing* indicating adherence to the Catholic faith could not only get you imprisoned, it could get you hanged, or shortened by a head - or hanged, drawn and quartered, a rather peculiar and ghastly punishment I'm not aware was ever practiced anywhere else. Hanging, drawing and quartering involved hanging a person by the neck until they had almost, but not quite, suffocated to death; then the party was taken down from the gallows, and disembowelled while still alive; and while the entrails were still lying on the street, where the executioners stomped all over them, the victim was tied to four large farm horses, and literally torn into five parts - one to each limb and the remaining torso.
The songs gifts are hidden meanings to the teachings of the faith. The "true love" mentioned in the song doesn't refer to an earthly suitor, it refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents refers to every baptized person. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge which feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, much in memory of the expression of Christ's sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: "Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered thee under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but thou wouldst not have it so..."
The other symbols mean the following:
2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

Friday, December 18, 2009

Missional Lutheran Church

Lutheran and missional? I think most people within the Lutheran church do not see those things being simultaneous. After all, most of us have grown due to immigration and maybe a little through education. But can we as Lutherans be missional or is it a lost cause?

One of our biggest problem as Lutherans is what I call the "Debbie Downer" mentality (made famous with SNL). We think, "our theology doesn't allow us to be missional, we focus too much on confessions, and we have no chance." It is too bad that we place "missional" above understanding theology. Or thinking they are separate things. This is why A.L. Barry bolded professed as our President, "Be the message right, get the message out." If we don't have it right, then why get it out?

Mark Driscoll in his book, "Vintage Church" defines a missional church in the following ways.
A Missional church is:
1) Biblical-believes in the inerrant Scriptures
2) Practices and preaches repentance-bring the law
3) Goes into culture-knows the community and engages it
4) Contextualizes the Gospel-brings Jesus to people
5) Loves singles AND couples
6) Trains Christians as missionaries-each person a witness to their surroundings
7) Supernatural-they expect miracles
8) Countercultural-Lives by Scripture and not culture
9) Multiplies-more churches and groups
10) Messy-a bunch of sinners

He does a great job defining what a missional church looks like, but I found one striking thing missing-Gospel. I'm NOT saying that Driscoll denies the Gospel, but we as Lutherans would confess that all people need to hear that the Gospel is for YOU and to receive His precious forgiveness. In John 20 Jesus tells his disciples to proclaim forgiveness to all who repent. Driscoll as a good reformed guy, he loves calling for repentance (as do we). But he does fall short in focusing on the forgiveness piece. Big problem for us Lutherans.

So what does a missional Lutheran church look like?

1) Messy-Driscoll puts it at the end, we would put it at the beginning. No perfect people allowed.
2) Practices and preaches repentance-Brings the law and show their sin.
3) Vigorously proclaims forgiveness when repentance occurs (I John 1:8-9). Show us a Savior.
4) Goes into culture-Know the community like the back of their hand. And serves that community for what they need.
5) Brings Jesus to people-Applies the Gospel to all situations: couples, singles, children, and the eldery.

When things are understood in a church they will automatically love singles and couples, they will want to be missionaries, they will be countercultural, they will be biblical, they will multiply, but it will be with the focus as to what Jesus tells us: Forgive as I have forgiven you.

Once again, it doesn't begin with the goal to be a HUGE church. But begins with Jesus. When our hearts are centered on Christ, the church will grow in His time.

Lord have mercy

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Vintage Missional Church

What does a missional church look like? For the last 20 years, "missional" has become a buzz word for many big churches, many of which don't actually do mission, they do programs. Basically, if the church is big, therefore, they do mission.
Yet, I have seen many churches that are huge, but are not engaged in proclaiming faith, little mercy ministries, doesn't know the culture around them but has created its own subculture and few people actually know each other. Doesn't seem real missional to me.
So what does it mean to be missional? Mark Driscoll attempts to answer this question and I thought he does a good biblcal analysis.
A Missional church is:
1) Biblical-believes in the inerrant Scriptures
2) Practices and preaches repentance-bring the law
3) Goes into culture-knows the community and engages it
4) Contextualizes the Gospel-brings Jesus to people
5) Loves singles AND couples
6) Trains Christians as missionaries-each person a witness to their surroundings
7) Supernatural-they expect miracles
8) Countercultural-Lives by Scripture and not culture
9) Multiplies-more churches and groups
10) Messy-a bunch of sinners
A very thorough, contemporary view of missional. What would it look like for a good Lutheran? I will cover that tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Advent candles and presents

Recently I have been blessed by the sharing of Advent traditions among friends and congregation members. Growing up, our family did not really have many traditions during the Advent season. This was probably due to our congregation not having Advent services and did not make a big deal of the Advent season. Nor did we have many "Christian" traditions with Christmas besides worship on Christmas eve.

Three traditions that our family is trying this year to prepare our family for the coming of Christ:

1) Advent Candles at home. Each week of Advent we are now lighting the candle which corresponds to the candles lit in church (purchased from Northwestern Publishing House). After supper we light the candles while singing "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." We have a short reading from a kid's Advent book and then before blowing out the candle we sing, "Silent Night." This has helped our children learn the hymns and gets them excited after supper for the "birthday party" for Jesus.

2) Number of presents for the kids. While speaking to a good Baptist family, they commented on how their children only receive three gifts for Christmas. I said, "Oh, any particular reason?" "Yes" they said, "If Jesus only got three, then we don't deserve anymore." Although this tradition is not something to use in a legalistic way, it does help keep us all pointed to the reason for Christmas and hopefully fends off a little bit of materialism. This year the Finnern kids will only get three presents each (more than likely they will not be that big either).
I'm hoping for a new tie!

3) Present for Jesus/other child. We continue the tradition of St. Nick (not Santa) of giving this time of year through stockings. We have stockings up for all the members of our family and then an extra one for Jesus. We will gather letters and small gifts (stickers, trinkets that can be sent by letter) and we will then send the gifts to our sponsor child in Kenya through Compassion International. The kids are very excited about getting presents for Jesus and a great teaching moment of how when we help others, we are in essence serving Jesus (Matthew 25:31-46).

Hey, our family doesn't have it all figured out. Too many mistakes made here at the Finnern household. I would love more input from other families of ways to keep Christ at the center.

Happy Advent

Monday, December 14, 2009

Lutheran Vintage Church

What is the church? Is the church Synod, inc or the congregation? Is it two guys talking about Jesus or is it only Sunday worship? Is it the least sinful of people Sunday or the sinners? How do the Sacraments play a part?

Mark Driscoll offers a relatively simple thought to the visible church in his book, "Vintage Church":

1) Regenerated believers in Christ (I Corinthians 14:22-25)
2) Qualified Leadership (Acts 2:42, Acts 14:23, 20:28)(Mainly qualified men)
3) Preaching and worship (Acts 2:42-47)
4) Rightly administered sacraments of Baptism and Lord's Supper
5) Spirit unity (united by the Holy Spirit in Christ)
6) Holiness (When sin ocurs, repentance is next and discipline is administered).
7) Great Commandment to love
8) The Great Commission to evangelize

Driscoll comes from a Reformed background and it shows in the way he speaks of regenerated believers (made outside of Baptism) and Holiness (as if we have a chance). However, I would say the rest has proof according to Scripture. Yet, I do think that the church can be even more simplified. I propose a simple, Lutheran understanding of church can be in this order:

(AC=Augsburg Confession and SC=Small Catechism)
1) Baptized believers who are deeply sinful and need Jesus (AC VIII)
2) The Gospel purely proclaimed (AC VII) and people who hear the words of Jesus (Luther)
3) Sacraments administered by God's command (they do something and regenerate hearts)(AC VII)
4) Repentance is called for (AC XII) and forgiveness is pronounced ALL the time (SC, Confession)
5) Acts of Mercy are a part of the work of the church in response to the Gospel (AC VI)

This understanding points us to our sinfulness and the MERCY of Christ, not only to his Sovereignty.

Man, it is disgustingly simple. I am appalled as an American, but as a Christian, it really is that simple. Be baptized, hear the words of Jesus, repent, and be forgiven. PERIOD.

As Lutherans we might not have the biggest churches or the most amazing programs. But first and foremost, what we do have is Christ and Him crucified. The one whom we follow humbly and let Him do the work.

Lord have mercy

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What is the church? Scripture, Confessions, and Mark Driscoll

What is the church? This is the age old question. In Mark Driscoll's book, "Vintage Church" he interviewed a number of prominent evangelical pastors how they would define the church and NONE of them had an answer. My assumption is that such guys as Bill Hybel and Rick Warren would on the top of that list.
But what is the church? Mark Driscoll attempts to define it in ways that I think brings together more facets than even our own confessions. He says the church is the following:
1) Regenerated believers in Christ (I Corinthians 14:22-25)
2) Qualified Leadership (Acts 2:42, Acts 14:23, 20:28)(Mainly qualified men)
3) Preaching and worship (Acts 2:42-47)
4) Rightly administered sacraments of Baptism and Lord's Supper
5) Spirit unity (united by the Holy Spirit in Christ)
6) Holiness (When sin ocurs, repentance is next and discipline is administered).
7) Great Commandment to love
8) The Great Commission to evangelize
This definition is much broader than our usual definition "Gospel preached and sacraments administered accordingly." However, there would be disagreement in certain things and also I wonder how do we determine regenerated? What does he mean by Sacraments? What does it mean to be holy?
How we define church will greatly determine how we do church. Ever felt that the church is going on about 80 different directions? How we define the church determines what we do. I will be evaluating these statements by Mark Driscoll in the next few days. How would you define the church?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Santa: the most unloving of everyone this Christmas?

"You better not shout you better not cry, Santa Claus is coming to town. He's making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out whose naughty or nice, Santa Claus is coming to town. He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you're a awake, he knows when you've been bad or good so be good for goodness sake."

When at a Youth Gathering the whole assembly knew this common Christmas carol, but most could not tell you the first lines of "A Mighty Fortress." That aside, how much Gospel does Santa bring? Alright, he makes a list of good and bad, he watches over you to see if you have been nice, and you better not shout or cry or ELSE, he will not bring you a gift.

What is even more fascinating about the Santa dynamic is that we live in a over-Gospeled society (no law), but we at the same time promote the most law oriented, judging figure in all of history: Santa the Claus!

Why promote a law monger when we can promote the Word made flesh? Why promote one that can't be everyone all the time for one who only shows up one night a year? Why promote a judge with no Gospel, when we can promote the one who kills us in the law, but then lifts us up into His arms? Why promote a sinful Santa, when we can promote a sinless God who has done it all?

Am I saying NO SANTA ever? Not necessarily (even though that is what our family does), BUT are we celebrating Santa more than Jesus? If so, why is that a problem?

Lord have mercy

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Got a worship problem?

"I don't go to church, but I'm tight with God." A person recently told me. By whose standards I asked, "My own." "How do you know you are right?" I responded. "How do you know you are right?" they asked, "By the Bible!" I said with an awe of silence following.

How many people look upon the church this way. The church doesn't seem to be a worship place for many people, it is a place to get what they want. If it isn't what they want, it isn't really worship.

I think today's problem isn't a church problem, it is a worship problem. And most people are worshiping everything under the sun rather than God. A couple lives together before marriage, they are worshiping each other. A family that allows the sports season to dictate their attendance, worships sports. A person who shows horses on the weekends and never goes to church, worships the horse. And the pastor who gets more excited about drinking Dr. Pepper than reading the Bible, worships Dr. Pepper.

No wonder God places the 1st commandment with the big ball buster, "You shall have no other gods." What do you worship right now? Don't try to explain away your worship habits, don't justify them, come to the cross, repent, and receive God's forgiveness and sin no more. No more excuses. Who are you gonna worship? May it be the lordship of Christ!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Juno and Pro-life

When my wife and I saw Juno we were impressed with its humor, array of actors (Jennifer Gardner and Jason Bateman) and it's filming in the great state of Minnesota.

Juno highlights some very disturbing themes. It promotes pre-marital/casual sex, dysfunctional families, and allowing adoptions to a family without a husband/wife. These things are a major problem in our society today and must be addressed in a merciful and serious ways. When I speak of these problems, I am not endorsing these values and neither am I suggesting that everyone should watch this movie.

However, there is a distinctively pro-life message. It is simple: girl and boy have casual sex, girl gets pregnant. She is about to have an abortion a girl outside the clinic says, "Your baby has finger nails" and she leaves the clinic because she realizes it is a person. She puts the child up for adoption and her and the father stick together in love.

This shows us an opportunity and the place where there needs to be work. Today's movies and shows uplift life (Psalm 139, Jeremiah 1:5), however, they do not support sexual morality put into place in creation (Genesis 2:24). Will we have to fight the abortion debate as much as in the past, I would argue no. But our new problem will be things like sexuality and family dynamics (both of which are much larger than abortion by itself).

Tomorrow I will end with Finding Nemo and ways that we can promote the pro-life message and take on the new problems that God is calling us to address.

Lord have mercy

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A baptismal repentance...

It is with a humble and contrite heart that I come with bended knee. The last month or so I have been on a rampage of discussing movies and their input on our culture and even some discussion of how a Christian can discern these movies. In the middle of these things, I have forgotten much of what my goal is to have this blog-the daily baptismal life and God's grace. While I am evaluating movies and TV shows, people are worrying about their jobs, raising families, and have family members who are suffering with disease. My passion tends to get out of control on addressing cultural trends and not doing my calling: Jesus guy. This I repent over and pray for your forgiveness.

This week I Am going to finish my piece on the pro-life message in many current movies. From there, I will work on proclaiming Christ and addressing it to today's world.

Lord have mercy

Monday, December 7, 2009

Knocked up and pro-life

Wait a second, "Knocked up" with a pro-life message? If you saw this particular movie, you would probably be shocked that I would highlight such a flick. The movie promotes sexual immorality, idiotic men, drug use, and has very colorful language. However, it uplifts a strikingly pro-life, family oriented message. Ironic isn't it?
The basic premise is between two people: The unmotivated guy Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) and the professional woman, Alison Scott(Katherine Heigl) have a night of weakness, get their freak on without "protection" and find out she is pregnant. She is tempted by her mother and other friends to get an abortion but he adamently proclaims that this child is a human being (Wow). From there she shows an unfounded commitment to a guy with no job, no life, and little motivation. It is never revealed what happens to their relationship, but he eventually gets a job, takes his responsibility serious, and they stick together.
In the 80's the scenario would have been much different, probably having the woman give up on the guy, have the kid herself and find a cure for cancer. Or just get an abortion and become President. But this movie along with others doesn't allow abortion to enter the scenario and it is the younger people who fend off the older generation. This is a complete overhaul to the baby boomers who went in the "liberal" direction of their parents.
What this means is that while we have a MAJOR issue of healthy family relationships, promotion of drug use, and weird models of manly men, the pro-life message is prominent and strangely popular. This shows us good things to come, but also shows that much work must be done.
Lord have mercy

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Pro-life movies infriltrating Hollywood? Intentional or not?-Bella

There appears to be a modern phenomenon in Hollywood that I don't think anyone ever predicted: A Pro-life message. Over the last three years many movies I have watched have bring a message that life is important, especially for children. This is a HUGE impact for the next generation. In the past movies such as "Fast Times at Ridgemount Times", "Dirty Dancing", and "Cider House Rules" and shows like the "Real World" showed abortion as a healthy alternative and in many ways the best option for EVERYONE.

The movie that has the BEST pro-life message of all movies and it very well made is called, "BELLA." Bella takes place in New York City in a Mexican Restaurant. The cook, Jose (Eduardo Verastegui) witnesses a co-worker, Nina (Tammy Blanchard) get fired and has compassion and wants to help. It was revealed to Jose that she was pregnant. It is never revealed who is the father, but the rest of the movie shows Jose's history (which is tough to watch as a parent) and his attempt to help her through the decision. The movie is greatly pro-life and the ending will tug at your heart strings. I highly suggest it for everyone.

It has been highly publicized since bella won a plethora of awards that the producers and writers were of the Roman Catholic faith. Their goal was to write and produce a high quality movie with a pro-life message. Since this movie it has become evident in our society that the pro-life message is quite popular, especially with young people. Following bella have been a number of popular movies that has an obvious pro-life message. I will highlight the following movies this week: Finding Nemo, Knocked up, Juno, and Defiance. Let me know if you have other ideas of pro-life movies.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Adam Sandler, Family, and where do we go from here?

Today wraps up my discussion on Adam Sandler and his "twist" to family oriented films. Other films such as Bedtime Stories, Splanglish, and Mr. Deeds bring to light other highlights of pointing to the importance of family and it is no doubt it emulates his own life as a husband and father.
I highlighted Adam Sandler this week to indicate a general trend of "morals" in movies. What is different than the 1950's model of "morals" is that everything surrounding the moral behavior is a bizarre twist of immoral stuff.
Adam Sandler's movies point us to a better family time, but it does not address the problem of language, sexual immorality, and addiction. This is kind of the plea for many of today's writers. Bring a main moral point, while making everything else look like the good immoral movies of the 80's and 90's.
What I think is missing from Adam Sandler's movies is two fold: 1) The call of purity of men and women outside of marriage, and 2) The call of the man to be the religious head of the household. Neither of which I believe I will ever see in my lifetime. So that is something we need to show in our churches and our homes or else our families and children will follow much of the bad stuff from these movies.
This next week I will highlight how today's movies point to a pro-life stance, even with other theological and morality issues. Can't wait

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Adam Sandler, family, and Chuck and Larry?

Alright before anyone thinks I am crazy and losing my theological touch, I am going to discuss family and "I now pronounce you Chuck and Larry", but I once again tell everyone that I am NOT saying I agree with the uplifting of homosexual marriage, the womanizing that Adam Sandler is part of, or the downgrading of Christianity.
The movie portrays two men on the NYFD, Chuck (Adam Sandler) and Larry (Kevin James). Larry has two children and had lost his wife in the no so distant past. He was having a tough time paying the bills for his kids and keeping things afloat. So they had a brilliant idea-"Domestic Partnerships." If they claimed to be gay they could receive benefits and just have to live together!
Throughout the movie it was a battle of Chuck and Larry trying to "act" gay, but not be gay. They also became part of another group of gay people that they realized were nice people and cared about them. And realized the people who denied their friendship, maybe weren't the best of friends.
How I see this relating to family and uplifting the family structure is that both of these men understood that gay marriage was in essence wrong. But Larry wanted to provide so badly for his family that he was willing to do whatever it took. And his friend Chuck, loved Larry's kids so much that he was willing to do that also. It reminds me of the sacrifices we all have to make as parents. Sometimes we need to give up our dreams because it isn't in the cards. Sometimes we have to get up late at night, change diapers, deal with loud noises all the time, because of the Godly vocation given as parents. And as a friend of others, we are called to uplift them as parents to help in any way we can.
Do I suggest anyone watch this movie? Probably not. But it has some gems to look at for our own lives in God's kindom.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Adam Sandler, Family, and Reign over me

One of my recent favorite movies was "Reign over me." It was strangely refreshing because it did not have a "political" agenda, no real sexual immorality, and ended the movie with tension as opposed to solving all issues.

The movie is best summed up by mourning the loss of loved ones. Charles Fineman (Adam Sandler) meets up with his college roomate, Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) randomly and they begin a unique friendship. Fineman seems to live a strange life (late nights, no job, remodels his kitchen each week, and no friends). And it was revealed that his wife and three girls were killed in the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

What was grasped perfectly was the deep pain Fineman was feeling even after the million dollar repayment and a number of years after the fact. It showed the deep love a father has for his children (especially his girls) and his wife. As a young parent myself, you felt as if you were in his shoes and wonder if I would be much different. Adam Sandler captured perfectly how our family is the essence of our existence, our wives are our better halves, and our children are such a gift that if they were gone one day, it would shake our world. Even if we sing "A Mighty Fortress" and sing with energy, "take my goods, wife, or spouse" Christ is still the center. Our whole world would be shattered.

All we can do is come to the Throne of Grace and ask God for strength for what comes next, and look to him for mercy when we need it.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Creation Education Center presentation...awesome

Last evening I attended a lecture by a man by the name of Jay Seegert, Presdident of the Creation Education Center centered in Waukesha, WI. It was an outstanding presentation on the truths of God's Word, the truths of science that lines up with God's Word, and the lies of evolution. I HIGHLY suggest having Jay present at your congregation. He does not charge, but obviously would love to have you buy LOTS of his DVD's and such. He will definately be a presenter at ours very soon.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Adam Sandler the family man in "Click"

An exciting trend has occurred in the life of Adam Sandler. I remember Sandler as the adult child on Saturday Night Live, Billy Madison, and Happy Gilmore. He was hilarious. But he learned from Beastie Boys that one will not be popular as the unresponsible guy into his 40's. Over the last eight years his movies have transformed from solely comedy into an uplifting of family and the ups and downs of marriage.

This is most apparent in the movie, "Click, that came out in 2006. Adam Sandler plays an architect named Michael Newman. He on the fringe of making it big in his company (under David Hasselhoff of all people) and works LONG hours. His wife, Donna (played by Kate Beckinsale) and two children are almost forgotten in the mean time. The kids don't know their dad, his wife is frustrated and always argues with him and there is potential danger of divorce.

In an effort to "speed" up his life he goes to Bed Bath and Beyond to find a universal remote, ends up in a dream buying a "life remote" that could speed up his life or slow it down. As any good American, he speeds up the time in traffic, complaining with his wife, making love, etc. In the meantime he misses prominent moments in his marriage, fatherhood, and even in his job. Ending with him being divorced, not knowing his kids, and his children making the same mistakes.

As he woke up from his dream it was made apparent that the premise of the movie was to spend quanity of time with your family because you only get one shot, that's it.

This is important for us as men to see. We can easily get caught up in our jobs and let our families go by the wayside. We think that if I get that next promotion or spend those few weeks with long hours at work, it will get better. When in all reality we need to think about our families first, especially our wives, and spend so much time with them that they almost can no longer stand us. In those quanity moments, opportunities abound and an opportunity to be the head of the family arise.

Thank you Adam Sandler.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Adam Sandler Week...

I have been noticing a very nice trend in the Adam Sandler era. When he started in movies such as "Billy Madison" and "Happy Gilmore" he played more of a young, stupid boy. However, in the last number of years his movies have promoted family, integrity, and even some "Godly" headship of men. Hmmmmm....does he now believe in the New Testament?

This is why I will be highlighting a number of modern Adam Sandler movies and how it relates to Godly men.

50 First dates a model of Godly men in a relationship?

This afternoon after the kids were in bed, I watched a portion of the movie "50 First dates" starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. The show is very funny and brings to light diseases that deal with memory loss. It was a typical modern Adam Sandler movie that promotes some kind of virtuous way in the midst of much dark humor.

The basic premise portrays Drew Barrymore as the young lady whose memory only lasted a day. When she was riding with her father, on his birthday, they hit a tree and the brain damage caused her to not remember anything beyond that time. At a random meeting while eating breakfast at a restaurant, Adam Sandler's goal is to show his love for "Lucy" even though she can only remember the past and never anything new.

What I thoroughly enjoyed about this movie was its uplifting of the unending love of a husband for his wife. Each day Adam Sandler would have to remind his wife about their history or else she would forget it all. Each day he had to recommitt his love to her and tell the story again. Each day he proved to her his great love for her.

I think this is a symbol of what all women want from their husband: A deeply committed love. A love that doesn't end in words, but is a daily recommitment to one another. This is deeply rooted in Ephesians 5, where all men are to love their wives as Christ loves the church (a.k.a. die for her).

Take advice from Adam Sandler on this account

A little sexist? Maybe, but there is a bigger issue at hand.

I recently received a message from "Megan" concerning a recent post I had at the conclusion of my "Godly men" on TV week. Here is what she said,

" I think that your point was a little misconstrued by the slightly offensive and chauvinistic tones to your argument. Inferring that all women do is sit around, make crafts, and bake casseroles is a huge generalization and also quite sexist. If you want your audience to include only single males, then by all means, continue."

I appreciate her comments because without honesty, how can I really reflect about my blog and what I am saying. My main purpose with these articles was for one purpose to motivate men and at the same time encourage women to allow our men to be men, especially in the life of the church.

When one looks at the typical church in today's society, they are typically set up in a few ways. 1) Sing very floaty, feministic songs (a.k.a. Beautiful Savior). 2) All gathering include potlucks (cooking), and 3) One of the biggest ways that the church does mission is through quilting, bake sales, and crafts. This by no means says that all women do this, BUT one must admit that all of these things encourage more feministic ideals than manly. The bigger issue is not "sexism", but men not being included in anything but as the ones to clean up the grounds and move chairs.

If my audience is only men, then that is fine because men in our world need a kick in the pants. Megan, pleasae keep on reading and let me know your continued thoughts. I would appreciate a little more opportunity for dialogue so my writing can hit home for a larger audience.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving and the Manhattan Declaration

The day is here. Turkey, football, relaxation, and of course pie. One of the best parts of Thanksgiving is one of the only days in America throughout the year that people do not expect anyone to do anything. Cars are at relatives, food is being eaten, football is on, and the best example today is that I have been playing all morning with my girls with my pajamas on. What a Sabbath.

One thing on the mind today that I have a desire to promote/analyze is what is called "The Manhattan Decarlaration." On Tuesday, Bishop Harry Jackson described this document that promotes amoung Christians to be bold on Biblical issues (life, marriage, and religious liberty). Their goal is to have over 1,000,000 people sign this document.

Something that is interesting about this declaration is that it doesn't promote us trying to force Gap, Wal-Mart, or Target to say, "Merry Christmas" or picketing a courthouse that takes out the 10 commandments. This declaration, started by Chuck Colson, points everyone to the important Biblical truths that every Christian should take seriously. It is a timely document as many of these truths are not agreed upon within Mainline Protestantism. Once again showing why it is important to confess our dogma in a world that confesses a lot of nothing.

Check out the website and also the show on Issues Etc-

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tonight we are seeing New Moon...what should we look for?

After church tonight my wife and I will have a night out to watch the Vampire hit movie, "New Moon." I enjoy movies for their entertainment value, but even more so to see what tickles the fancy of our generations. What makes New Moon sooo popular for young people and how does this affect our ministries?

This show from Issues highlights how a Christian should watch New Moon and also what it means from a Christian worldview?

Posted using ShareThis

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

John and Kate plus eight over...way too late

Last night my wife and I watched the series finale of John and Kate. It was bittersweet. I was glad to see the show end after their marriage was destroyed, but also very sad to see the relationship surely end.

I think the most disheartening thing was both John and Kate constantly saying: "I'm going to do everything for my kids." This has danger written all over it. In Scripture God gives us many references on how to love our wives and husbands, but little on how to raise children. And many studies have found that when parents love each other and are willing to say, "I am going to do anything to love my spouse, love automatically outflows to the children.

And to think, my wife and I were almost looking for advice from the show. What a mistake. Here is a simple way to have a strong family: love your spouse unconditionally (Christ loves the church and the church submits to Christ). Start there and let the Lord lead you.

God's blessings to John and Kate, but I do hope there is much repentance on both ends. I repent for my own failings on this regard.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Idiotic men on TV, now what is the modern man to do?

I think it is well established that TV does not uplift a man to be "all that he can be." The total number of "good" examples on TV is so sparse that there is only way thing to do: not watch it. It is truly that simple. We typically try to "reform" our surroundings by forcing Hollywood, TV, and other secular worlds to change their ways. The usual response is of outright denial. And in the meantime we have forgotten our families and been Godly men.

What we can control is our congregation. No more singing Beautiful Savior every other Sunday, no more watering down God's Word, not so much "crying" in a sermon, and STRONG Law/Gospel sermons. IF you looked around our congregations, it tickles the fancy of many women. Activities that encourage sitting, crafts, and casseroles. Where is the kick-butt activity of the disciples? Where is the bold proclamation? Where is the hymns that are so powerful that basically only men can really pull it off? Talk to your pastor about making the worship service more "powerful", get men involved in powerful things, and strongly proclaim the truths of God's Word!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Godly men in "The Cosby Show?"

One show that probably influenced me the most as a chid was the big, connected, upper-middle class, jazz loving, show "The Cosby Show." It was great. The whole family stuck together. Both mom and dad had it all. She was a lawyer, he was a OBGYN, the kids had tons of fun, he loved jazz, and to top it all of they were an African american family that didn't make it a race issue. Boy, was it funny.
Bill Cosby, "Cliff Huxtable", was the center of the show. In many ways, he was the head of the household. He provided wisdom to his children, obviously provided as a doctor, and loved his wife in ways that put all modern TV shows to shame. Clair Huxtable was the loving wife and mother of FOUR kids (not seen often on TV). It seemed as if she really didn't do much lawyer stuff as she was mostly nurturing and criticizing the family all at the same time (especially Cliff). It was funny, whitty, and a breathe of fresh air for the modern day TV citcom.
In essence there is little wrong with this show. However, I would argue that the problem isn't what the show did, but what it lead to in the future. The Cosby Show was a beginning of the father being the comedian of the family. When there needed to be comic relief he was able to combine humor in the middle of wisdom. This portrayal of the man/father/husband lead to many other shows that wanted the same humor, but forgot wisdom (Simpsons, Drew Carey Show, Seinfeld, and Roseanne). The reminders are there that when we give an inch, others will take a mile.
Go ahead and watch this wonderful show. But be reminded, to be a good husband/father/man, does not require you to be "funny" all the time, but takes commitment, seriousness, and most of all love.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Godly men in "Everyone loves Raymond?"

"Oh C'mon, Debra, I didn't know!" Raymond Barone commonly would try to explain to his wife after doing something he should not have. It was a regular occurrence. The typical day was a battle of Raymond not wanting to offend his mother who lived next door and trying to keep his wife loving him. Unfortunately, he would often side with his mother.

Everyone loves Raymond was a unique show. It portrayed a younger family with a husband as the bread winner who worked as a sports writer in New York City. Debra was a stay at home mom and they lived next door to his parents. How much more "traditional" or family oriented can you get? If one were to stop there, one would think it uplifted family, especially men.

However, the moment you see the family dynamics, things change quickly. First of all, it is hard to determine how Raymond was a BIG TIME writer for a sports page in New York City. If he had that job first of all, he would be a stud and would know quite a bit. Yet, the moment he entered the home he couldn't figure out what shoe to put on what foot. Debra was always mad, his parents treated him like a 5 year old, and he was always looking for ways to get out of family time. On top of that, his dad was a bumbling idiot, his brother had no confidence, and the women appeared to hold it together (if that is what you would call it).

So what's the problem? Well, two fold. Raymond has been voted as the #1 dad in TV history. If this is true, a successful dad is one that is naive, a denier of family time, and has little respect from his wife and children. He was even more critical of faith. There was no prayer time, discussion of much faith, and attendance of worship was only for the sake of pleasing Debra.

My wife and I loved this show. However, it has affected our marriage and my view of fatherhood (good or bad). We are still looking for a strong man in the TV world, that is a model for all young boys into the future.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Godly men in "Home Improvement?"

"Ugh, Ugh, Ugh" I'm not sure of how to make a grunting noise of a man who has just started his power car. The grunting noise symbolized what it meant to be a man in the show, "Home Improvement" with Tim Allen.
Home Improvement portrayed a "handy man", Tim Taylor, who is married to a pretty wife, Jill, and has three strapping young sons. He had his own TV show called, "Tool Time." His side kick, Al was very handy and kind of stiff in the ways of the world.
What made Home Improvement so attractive was its ability to humorize the normal family life and the ability of a man to joke his way out of anything. Tim would receive wisdom from his neighbor (whom we never saw his face) and often mis-apply it to his family life. At the same time, he was accident prone and always trying to make up for his mistakes. His biggest issue was trying to figure out his wife, he showed his love for her, he attempted to protect her, however, he was consistently seen as the "village idiot."
The overall view of men in this show was FAR better than the destruction from "Married with Children." Tim loves his kids, he loves his wife, he provides for his family, and appreciates people. However, it was good at glossing over the main issue. The woman was the only one that held things togehter and the man was basically worthless unless he is telling a joke. Ever seen this play out in your home life?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Godly men in "Married with children?"

"Love and marriage, Love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage...." These were the words that introduced the film that made Fox famous in the late 80's. You saw Al Bundy with his hands in his pants and ignoring his family for the joy of TV. Everytime this introduction appeared on TV, my parents made me change the channel. But like any good young boy, I still found a way to watch it!

We will evaluate the great, Al Bundy. The man who had a bright future to play college football, but impregnated his girlfriend (Peg Bundy), married her, and ended up working at Gary's shoe store selling women's shoes.

Now would Al Bundy be consider a "manly man?" Well, you might think he is a good 21st century male. He watches football, loves beer, and complains about women. It is the standard joke about men in our culture. What' wrong? a young boy might ask these days.

First off, he is constantly ripping into his wife (even though she has her own problems). He definately doesn't treat her like Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5) and also downgrades his own daughter as stupid and a ditz.

Secondly, he has no responsibility as a leader of the home. He works a dead beat job, has no money, and doesn't seem to want anything more but to complain, scratch, and drink.

What implications does this have? In all honesty, it was funny. It brought to light some struggles we all have in marriage and raising children. Brought some reality to people who had dreams, but were shattered. Yet, it basically gave no hope for men stepping up in trial. It presented troubled teens as a glorious way of life. And the idea of discipline was nowhere to be seen.

I would argue that Married with children started a horrible trend of the downgrading of men. Men as the "village idiot" and taking no responsibility for his family. Especially, uplifting his wife and children. The Al Bundy affect will be with us for some time, but by God's grace, things will improve.

Lord have mercy

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fatherhood in the 21st century

What has happened? When watching TV, there is not ONE father/man who seems to have it together. You attempt to watch any TV series today (According to Jim, Everyone loves Raymond, King of Queens, etc), current or reruns and you see absolutely no Father/Man figure to try to emulate.

It is a far cry from 1949 when "Father knows best" was on TV, followed by Andy Griffith, Leave it to Beaver, and the Brady Bunch. Fathers were someone to look up too. The father would possess wisdom, a respect from his wife, and prominent name in the community. I realize that these shows did not indicate complete realtiy of those days. Yet, does portraying ALL men as village idiots portray accurately a father in today's world?

What does Scripture tell us of Fatherhood? It tells us much about fatherhood, but it probably boils down to three main ideas:

1) A father must first be a good husband (Ephesians 5:25-33). First and foremost, he must love his wife as Christ loves the church. If love is seen for his wife, the children will know he is a man of integrity.

2) A father must be the head of his home (Ephesians 5:23). He must take an active leadership in the goings on in the house. It is not for his benefit, but for the WHOLE family.

3) A father must be a provider for his home (1 Timothy 5:8). A father who does not provide according to Scripture is no better than an infidel. He is not to sit at home and do nothing, but provide (physically, financially, and spiritually).

How many guys on TV do this? Not many. This week I will cover a variety of shows and show how the portrayal of men is very degrading and also what we can do about it.

Lord have mercy

Sunday, November 15, 2009

How have/do shows portray men in our culture?

This week will be known as "put down the man" week. I will evaluate prominent shows from the past 15-20 years that have lowered the viewpoint of men and what implications it has had on the church and also the world. I am kind of on a rampage lately as I have seen SO many men have wives leave them, men who have been idiots, and men who have NO clue of what it means to love his wife. Can we blame TV? Wait and see

Friday, November 13, 2009

Favorite religious practice?

This morning while working out on the elliptical at the YMCA, I heard a gentleman standing next to me describing his most exciting weekend of his life. He went on to describe drinking 13 shots of tequila, a 6-pack of beer, and a martini all in one night. The bragging continued with his hangover in the morning and the adirmation of his fellow "manly men."

What religious beliefs kicked in? Was it my Luheran disposition to call for repentance and pronounce forgiveness? Was it to gently ask if that was real smart? Or even to repent of my own failings of "drinking too much" in my past? Nope, my favorite religious practice kicked in: Thinking like a Pharisee.

I thought to myself, "That's real mature!" and "Thank goodness I don't do those kinds of things, especially as he is almost 60 years old."

When I stand at the throne of God and he judges me, I will probably stand next to this guy and what will I say? Well, I might have gotten drunk in my past, but I gave it up and it was when I was young. Do I think that God will say, "Oh, thankyou Brady, how good of a Christian you are." Probably not. I need the same forgiveness as this guy, I need to repent just as much as him, and we all need the same Christ crucified for our forgiveness of our many sins.

"Chief of sinner though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Flu Shots and Baptism

Yesterday two of my children received a H1N1 flu shot. In many ways it was a relief to know that there is an ounce of protection of an illness that has many questions. A feeling of tension is now lowered due to something that our pediatrician suggested for all of his clients. Can my children still get the flu? Maybe. Do I feel better? Yes. I probably won't be as adament of washing hands (although I should) and will not freak out over TV ads as often.

In many ways, I think young families think the same way of Baptism. Parents become worried that the child will not have God in their lives, they run to a local church which they are not connected with and beg for Baptism. The Baptism occurs. The parents feel better, the child has a better chance of going to heaven, and they become compacent in faith. "After all, she is baptized."

The implications can be dire and baptism does so much more than a flu shot. A flu shot works for one simple illness and may or may not work. However, in Baptism, God changes the whole body and soul. He basically digs out, kills the muck inside and creates a new person. not only that, it works every day in the sinner (Romans 6). Killing, rising, and resurrecting a dead soul, EVERY DAY!

Our nervousness will continue concerning the swine flu, even after a shot. Yet, we have the assurance of salvation, life, and forgivness through our children's Baptisms. But that is not a get out of jail free card, we continue to instruct, call for repentance, and forgive as we live in the grace of our Lord.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Two options, life or death

While I attended my grandmother's funeral and hearing the baptismal promise proclaimed by the priest, the words of Paul from Philippians clanged in my head like cymbals: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account"

In the human flesh, we have two options: Life or Death. In the world, life is the best option. To live is to make money, have children, buy homes, travel, etc. But death means I can not do any of those "very important luxuries."

As ones in the baptismal life, both options are nothing to fear. In life we have Jesus, living in us, forgiving us, and loving us. In death, our spirit is at rest with Jesus. Not a bad deal either. While we live, our bodies are to be living sacrifices that Christ may be known and in death may Christ be glorified.

May we live life not fearing death, but serving in our vocations for the proclamation of Christ. And I cling to the hope of my grandmother resting with her Lord and the future life where death is no longer an option!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Busy week...put Baptismal life in a stroller?

It has been a very busy week. Pastor's conference in Appleton, WI. Participated as the celebrant in the worship service, organized the compline service, proved once again that I do not know it all, repented, was forgiven, discussed theology over a few beers, and traveled home on Wednesday. Refreshed and excited to be reunited with the family.

As I left the parking lot I received a phone call concerning my grandma Finnern who passed away from cancer in Wamego, KS. Donna married my grandfather 13 years ago after the both lost their spouses and she has been a God send to all of us. A devout Catholic, a loving mother, and grandmother battled cancer for the third time and within two weeks of feeling sick, she is resting with her Lord. She will be missed.

We are currently in Kansas and I have spent all week in hotels and no home cooking (not good for the beltline). In all reality, we are all very tired and weary.

Today, as we arrived in Wamego after 600 miles with the kids, I had one of those "baptismal pick-ups." My almost one year old son was crawling across the long hallway in the hotel when he grabbed his stroller, grasped onto the handles, and began to walk a long distance down the hall. First time I saw this in him. As he walked he fell down once the stroller hit the wall, but he got right back up again and continued to stumble down the hall the whole time with a smile on his face. What a joy to see.

I feel like my son right now. I know for a fact that I can't walk on my own. And when I began to walk, depening on unsteady objects, I fall. Especially when brought to my knees with the death of my grandmother. However, through that "death" by the Spirit and the resurrection through forgiveness. I am lifted up once again to stumble through life, hopefully with a smile on my face, not because it is always a joy, but because the ride is all in His hands.

Thank God for strollers, stumbling boys, and a Lord who picks us up. Pray for the witness of the priest tomorrow to be bold and points us to the cross.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

What does it mean to be Lutheran? What verse/verses?

Reading through my Lutheran Study Bible (TLSB) I thought of something that would be helpful for all lay people when describing our Lutheran heritage. Often people ask a simple question with a terribly complex answer, but expect it to be quick and understandable. The simple question usually goes like this, "So what does it mean to be Lutheran?" or "What do Lutherans believe?"

So what would our answer be? What verse(s) would be the best to explain it in a minute or two?

Instead of the typical John 3:16, what would you use? My thought was two unique passages for people to think about:1) John 20:30-31. The Scriptures are written that people may believe in Christ. Since our theology is all about Christ at the center that would start thing right. or 2) John 16:13-14. When speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus tells us that the HS is not here to uplift itself, but Christ and His redemptive work. That is our goal as Lutherans also.

What do you think?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Facebook distracting our faith life too?

Think employers are beginning to ban facebook from computers? Absolutely. Facebook probably takes hours out of people's days and the time we increase through internet, fast computers, and iphones, are eaten away by causes, poking, and friend requests.
Should we do the same for our faith? Instead of prayer, studying the Scriptures, and attending worship, we are poking, joining causes, and making new friends. Sure, there is a great opportunity to share our faith in a quick way online, but how many are actually doing that? Or are we just waisting our time away and forgetting God.
Here is a good about spending one day in the Bible the amount of time you typically spend on facebook. Whoops..that means me too. Lord have mercy

Where are the Reformation traditions?

Tonight we have many traditions for Halloween. Candy, costumes, pumpkins (with a cross on it), food at a friends house, and an early night of sleep afterwards. Yet, do we have any Reformation traditions? Sure we have a service with A Mighty Fortress, red paraments, and usually a processional, but anything like Halloween?

Here is my proposal, once my kids are older, we will have a rip roaring "Reformation Party." But what would one have at such a party? German things (Beer, Brats, and craut) or something to symbolize saved by grace? Some kind of posting of the 95 thesis tradition?

Just a few thoughts...would love your input

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Two great ones finally together

Does this look like much of mainline protestantism in America?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Hope is built on nothing less than....fundamentalism

Last night while running, I was singing in my head the great hymn: "My Hope is built on nothing less." The most powerful moment is right at the beginning; what do we hope in? Jesus blood and Righteousness!

Reflecting on ministry, I often wonder if that is our only hope? As a matter of fact, where is our hope?

I think 99% desire to have our hope only in Christ, but we love to be fundamentalists, even to things that are not necessarily mandated by Christ. It can be the Kyrie for a liturgical nut like myself. Does it specifically point us to Christ? No. Do I tend to treat it like it is Christ more than I should. You also see it in contemporary music crowds also. Where they will use certain songs that do not specifically point us to Christ, but they will not give them up even if people want more Jesus (Wait upon the Lord?). We do it so often it is ridiculous: singing from the hymnal or not, screens or no screens, potlucks or catering, heating/cooling, times of worship, and the number of voter's meetings a year. How many times have you seen a congregational member stand up and complain about Jesus not being mentioned enough? I fear that the number of voter's meetings have gotten more complaints throughout the 21st century :-(.

It also shows up on how we see Scripture. Due to our fears from the 1970's Seminex days, we love to cling to each Word of Scripture, which isn't all bad, but at the expense sometimes of forgetting Christ. A great example is if someone claimed that we should get rid of 2 Peter (which many respected theologians agree with), people would be up in arms in our churches. But if our preachers never preach Christ but quote many Scripture passages, they tend not to be upset. What was Scripture given to us to know? Each word as the foundation? Or Christ? (reminder: I am a firm believer in the inerrancy of Scripture before someone claims that I want to get rid of the Bible).

If you sing this hymn "My Hope is built on nothing less..." What would be your next words? Jesus and His righteousness? Or Kyrie or no Kyrie, Shine Jesus Shine or Mighty Fortress, hymnals or printed off bulletins, screens, 8:00 worship, or voter's meetings? Lord have mercy. Wretched man that I am.

May it be upon Christ and Him crucified.

Reformation/Consecration Sunday a huge success

Today is the day we celebrate the Reformation. A day where we remember the posting of Martin Luther's 95 thesis, but more importantly we focus our hearts back to the Reformation theology of saved by grace through faith in Christ. This time of year is probably my favorite (not as many services as Christmas and Easter) due to the overall biblical message of salvation and Gods Work.

At our congregation we also celebrated Consecration Sunday. Throughout the month we have focused on stewardship through Consecrated Stewards. Most importantly we have looked at our hearts, centered on Christ's redemption, and called people to repentance (mainly me).
The theme for the month was "Freed to serve, give, and commitment. (John 8:31-36, Ephesians 2:8-9, and Joshua 24:14-18).

Stewardship is often seen as something NEVER to discuss, especially using the word Money. However, if Jesus talks about it, God talks about it, and everywhere in the world does, why doesn't the church? If we do not discuss it as a matter of faith, what will happen? We slow the faith process for our people and in essence hinder our mission.

May we all grow in the grace of giving and live in the palm of His hands.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Simple church and Lutheran theology

I just finished reading, "Simple Church" by Thom Rainer & Eric Geiger. The book was based off of findings of "successful" churches and those who were in maintenance mode. After researching various churches the findings were in essence, simple.

The churches that grew had simple missions, simple worship services, simple programs, and a simple focus. The findings even went as far as to say that a simple church spends its time in worship, Bible study, and serving one another.

Ever thought that us Lutherans had it right a LONG time ago, but jumped on the "corporate" band wagon and forgot who we were. Our definition of church is simple, People, Gospel, and Sacrament. That's it! But all of the sudden we start eight million groups, no mercy, little ministry, watered down worship, and by the time we get it all going, people want what we used to have. People to know me, the Gospel in purity, and the Sacraments.

I suggest this book and look at our own churches to see if we are in line with what our confessions proclaim.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

30 and still under the grace of God baby

Today is my 30th birthday. Dang. I truly feel like I just graduated from college. However, as I look at the last 8 years when life in the real world "started", I am amazed at the blessings. First marriage in 2003. Seminary life in St. Louis which was awesome. A wonderful vicarage in Kansas. The birth of three beautiful children. An amazing congregation (sinners with a sinful pastor). Finally, the love and support of our extended family.

Lord knows I do not deserve a lick of it. And by God's grace I move forward.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The swine flu, freaked out parents, and grace

I'm scared. In the world of parenting, we never stopped being scared. Each minute is a time that could potentially could change our lives and we fear for the security of our children. Whether it is swallowing objects, running to the road, or falling, we try our best to stop anything from happening to our precious children.

Yet, I don't think anything has brought us parents to our knees as the swine flu. We almost have NO control over this one. One person sneezes in a room and bam, we have it. I must admit my prayer life has benefited from this outbreak of swine flu. If we think we can totally prevent it, we have another things coming. If we think we should intentionally get it so that we grow immune, we are crazy.

What should we do? Trust in the Lord. Use the wisdom He provides. Wash your hands, sleep, fluids, and vitamins, but for pete's sake, pray. "Come onto me all who are burden and heavy laden and I will give you rest." Lord have mercy.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Consecrated Stewards to wrap up this week...

This Sunday will be our Consecration Sunday. We will commit our pledges to the Lord (time, talents, and treasures). Last year it was very emotional for me to see everyone come forward with their pledges. It not only indicated their own desire to grow in their sanctified living, but also showed that this was their church. That moment was one of the first times I realized that everyone in the room wanted to be part of this and that indicates the Holy Spirit doing some great stuff.
May we see stewardship as the free and joyous activity of a child of God. Not budgets, not keeping an institution going, but growing in faith and particpating in the kingdom of God.

Friday, October 16, 2009

More hope in Reformed theology than Lutheran?

A friend of mine went to an Acts 29 conference. Acts 29 is a church planting network started by Mars Hill Church in Seattle by Rev. Mark Driscoll. At the conference he commented that he went and hung out with other Lutherans and the conversations concerned funding models, programs, preaching, perching, and how to grow the church.

He then went to some friends from the "Reformed Camp" and what was their conversation concerning? Law and Gospel and how to apply it.

In Mark Driscoll's book, Vintage Church, he tells of preaching. The importance of preaching faithfully, preaching from the Word of God, and then he makes a Lutheran move...proclaim Jesus over and over again (101-103). He tells that if one only studies the Bible and does not focus on Christ, they become knowledgable, but with no faith. WOW, is that Lutheran or what?

We live in a society that is looking for truth and strong answers. Are we as Lutherans going to proclaim the truth, focus on Christ, and be theological? Or are we going to discuss funding models, programs, and perching?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A different name, same place?

During our time in St. Louis an interesting thing happened...we went to a place called, "Saint Louis Bread Co." You walk into this place that one has never heard of outside of St. Louis and it is strikingly similar to another bread company in Wisconsin: Panera. Yet, the name is different. In Missouri the name is St. Louis Bread Company, but everywhere else, it is Panera.
Why would this be? Evidently, the owners of Bread Co figured out that the name St. Louis would not fly in Chicago, so they named it something different in other parts of the country. Good marketing move.
What is your name in the world? Happy, friendly, a jerk? Everywhere in our world, the name that best sums us up is....sinner. This name was not a good marketing name for God, so He decided to make the move to change our name in front of Him through Christ so that we are no longer sinner, but now saint because of Christ. Think of that next time you eat at Panera (or St. Louis if you live there).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Throwing and ministry

In my former life, I was a thrower. A.k.a. I was in track and field and threw the discus, shotput, and a little hammer. It was a blast. Great friends and wonderful memories.

However, when life comes at ya the former life becomes less and less of a focus (family and kids). This is my vocation God has given and if coaching takes a back seat, then so be it.

Yet, what does God bring from our passions into ministry? Could I be more involved with my passion of throwing and it being part of ministry? Who knows. I'm not saying I work more on throwing/coaching than ministry, but can it be done?

As pastors, often we begin to see ministry as me and the church. Hours upon hours only with people in the church, little time with people in the community, and little time in places that pastors don't usually hang out at. But why do we do this? For the kingdom of God? To fulfill a job description? Or out of being uncomfortable with the world that surrounds us?

May the Lord use us in our passions, to build relationships, serve our community, and proclaim the name of Christ

Regeneration gathering Day 3

Today was a wrap up day. The gathering of lay people, DCE's, DCO's, and pastors. It it not a subgroup, mission society, or anything, just a gathering for encouragement, prayer, and ideas. Neither is this a group that says, "We get it" and others don't.
In the wrap-up session, it was decided that our goal is twofold:
1) Stay Christ-Centered, grace centered, and Lutheran focused, almost annoyingly (maybe even read the Confessions).
2) Get out into the world, get involved, know people, and be the church.
One frustration I have and many others is when church workers say something like this: "Yeah, we have Word and Sacrament ministry, but let's talk about this." Hmmmm....I guess the practical drives the theological. I struggle with this because often our ministry is SOOO much about practice and little about theology. The statement, "This isn't that bad." Becomes very annoying real quick (Arguing against bunnies at Easter in church, Santa at Christmas, and praying to angels).
May we stay focused (especially me) on the Scriptures and Christ.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Regeneration gathering Day 2

The only full day of the Regeneration summit was a full day. Devotionals, distinctions of Catholics and evangelicals, a panel discussion on missional & Lutheran, worship, and prayer.
The beginning of the day was the most powerful. Rev. Jeff Cloeter, Pastor of Christ Memorial Lutheran in St. Louis, answered the question, "Does it matter to be Lutheran in the 21st century?"
He defined the Gospel as "Manger, cross, empty tomb." The saving work of our Lord, Jesus Christ. This Gospel, most Christian churches (worth their salt) possess and confess. However, the problem is a distinction of presentation vs. proclamation.
This is a section from his presentation:
Clarity of the Gospel:

1) Gospel Presentation-Jesus died on the cross.
2) Gospel Proclamation-Jesus died on the cross for you.

Proclamation as:

-Pure grace-No demands on us.

-Primary discourse-Direction declaration of God for you! Here and now.

-From the outside-Extra nos-Outside of us-Truth of what God does to me.