Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Awesome service, awesome meal, awesome Savior...

We had a great night for Ash Wednesday. This is a refreshing change due to last year's blizzard that caused us to wait for Ash Thursday!

We had a great meal (especially a fruit parfat that was amazing). This year we are following the CPH theme, "Lamb of God, Pure and Holy." We focus our attention on the Lamb and how his atonement takes all of our sins.

Most of all, to remind people of their need for repentance was overshadowed by the great gift of His Body and Blood. They walked up dust, but left resurrected. AWESOME. May this be our meditation throughout Lent. Day 1 of no soda-DONE!

Lift up our brothers and sisters in prayer...

Here is a statement from Rev. Matt Harrison, Director of LCMS World Relief/Human Care in response to the ELCA's recent statement on homosexuality and ordination. We are called to support our brothers and sisters in Christ, however, we need a time of repentance and prayer over the recent reccomendations from their Task Force:

Statement of Rev. Matthew Harrison on ELCA’s Task Force on Sexuality Study

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Yesterday the church commemorated the 463rd anniversary of the death of Martin Luther. His last written words, found on a note in his pocket, were "We are beggars: This is true." Hermann Sasse regarded these final words as a summation of Luther’s great legacy to Christianity. In all matters of faith and life, Christians are beggars who receive what the Lord gives, and as the Lord gives. Salvation is all by grace, all by Christ’s doing. All that we are to believe and practice in the church is very clearly given in the Bible, God’s own infallible Word.
Today the ELCA’s Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality released its "Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies" ( The report recommends a path for the ELCA’s 2009 church-wide assembly to recognize and accept publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same gender relationships of clergy in those synods (ELCA regional divisions) and congregations, which desire to approve of such relationships.
The LCMS position on homosexuality is that of the Bible and the church catholic from the very beginning. Revisionist readings of the Bible that assert otherwise are deeply dependent upon views of the Bible that are at odds with its self-definition as God’s very Word.
We at LCMS World Relief and Human Care (LCMS Board for Human Care) have many tasks mandated by the Missouri Synod, which involve a great deal of interaction and partnership with ELCA offices, entities, affiliated agencies, and individuals. We have sought to carry out these mandated tasks with complete and uncompromising fidelity with charity, faithful to the LCMS’s clearly stated positions, including those on human sexuality. This task is becoming ever more complex, and the proposals of the ELCA task force promise to increase this complexity greatly. We will continue to the best of our ability to ensure that service organizations recognized by the LCMS "respect and do not act contrary to" (
6.2.1 LCMS 2007 Handbook: Constitution, Bylaws, Articles of Incorporation, page 200) the biblical position of the LCMS on this issue.
To say that we are disappointed in the Task Force proposals would be a vast understatement. But we are not surprised. We are deeply concerned about many ELCA friends (on both sides of the issue) and especially about those who find themselves holding the orthodox position while their beloved church body slips into heterodoxy. But we do not write in order to self-righteously castigate the ELCA. Rather in deep humility and repentance, we think of our own many and deep sins: our own failure to hear the word of God; our failure to bear convincing witness on this issue; our own deep sins and our lack of love for one another, which have often rendered our witness of no effect; our lack of love and failure to reach out "with might and main" to those who struggle with the issue of homosexuality.
Today, Feb. 19, 2009, is a day of deep repentance. Join me in praying for the future of the Lutheran church, in America and throughout the world. Please join me too, in praying for the hundreds of Lutheran agencies, which faithfully struggle to serve those in need. We are beggars: This is true.
Rev. Matthew HarrisonExecutive DirectorLCMS World Relief and Human Care

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What ya giving up for Lent?

Each Lent many Christians give up something for the whole 46 days. Typically it is something that one loves (or better defined as a vice), so that when you give it up, we get a sense of what our Lord gave up for us on the cross.

This Lent, I am once again giving up soda (especially Dr. Pepper). I usually drink 1 soda a day and tends to be a vice. So when I have the urge, I turn to prayer and reflection on Christ.

What are you giving up this Lent?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ash Wednesday...Ashes or no?

This Wednesday we begin our journey of Lent. What a joy it is to focus our energy not on our accomplishments or goals, but on repentance and the realization that we NEED God.

Over the last 10 years our congregation has started the imposition of ashes (with some questions about the validity of it in a Lutheran congregation). We continue the tradition as I came, because it is a great visual reminder of how we will return to the ground and without the cross, there is basically no hope!

How many of your churches do the imposition of ashes? Any reasons not too besides not wanting to be Catholic?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Keep updated as Christians...Life issues...

Today, I am attending a Legislation conference in Madison, WI. This conference is focused on educating pro-life individuals of current and upcoming legislation concerning life issues.

One of the most appalling issues is on what is falled Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). FOCA would bring freedom to all women to have an abortion without any restrictions. No waiting period, no input from parents (if underage), no ultrasounds, and a blatant promotion of the murder of children.

Although we as Lutherans do hold to the distinction of the two kingdoms of God (Church and government). Which is why we do not promote one economic policy over the other because God's word is silent, but life issues (abortion, euthanasia, etc) are a Christian problem. Every child in the womb, elderly person in the nursing home, and disabled individual have value. They bring so much to our world no matter the cost, and we are called to step up for them. Which goes beyond a vote, but deals with every day work to lift each other up and value each other as Christ values us.

May our Lord lead us to focus on the cross and love our neighbor (especially the defenseless).

Monday, February 16, 2009

End Times-the wrap up...

Tomorrow night we wrap up our End times Bible Study. It has truly been a blessing for me to dig into the truths of Scripture and discuss certain aspects of the resurrection. This week we kind of pull it all together and point to our hope today. I am amazed at how often the discussions can easily turn to worrying about when it will happen, what are the signs, who is the anti-Christ, am I a pre-trib, premillenial guy or amillenial, and the whole discussion turns away from the cross. One of the greatest discussions on this is from Dr. Joel Bierman of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis on ITunes (Christian doctrine class) concerning the Rapture. He focuses the students away from comparing different end times views and looking to the cross first and filtering it out from there.

May our eyes always be fixed on Jesus (Hebrew 12)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Community Prayer service in an LCMS church

Over the last few months our community has been greatly affected by the economy. Many families have lost jobs and even more question if they will have a job tomorrow. When the economy goes down, many different things have strain (health, marriages, parenting, etc).

In response of this, we are going to have a "Community" prayer service to lift up these concerns to our Triune God. "Community" not in the sense of all local pastors of various denominations take part, but community in the sense that we are trying to get the word out to the community to attend. It will be led by myself and another LCMS pastor. We have invited all of our preschool families (around 95 families), posted it in the local newspapers, and we have spoken to a number of businesses in town about the service.

The service will be very simple (scripture, hymns, and time for prayer). Our focus will be on the Lord bringing His Spirit to provide strength and also for us to come empty handed to trust in His unending grace.

Lord have mercy

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My name is Earl and Atonement....

Last night, I was watching a small part of the hit show, "My name is Earl." The basic premise is that a guy named Earl has realized in his late 30's that he has made too many mistakes and wants atonement. He makes a long list of people he has wronged and try to make up for it through acts of kindness.

In last night's episode, Earl wanted to make amends with some kids that he had once promised to go to the fair, but ditched them for an AC/DC concert. When he tried to make amends with the kids, he realized that the fair was now closed, so we had no chance for atonement. Yet, the kids looked at him and said, "Don't worry about it, we forgive you." Then they grabbed the list and scratched their names off the list.

In the same way, our Lord tells us "Don't worry, I died on the cross. I forgive you" when he looks at our list of things needed to make amends for. He then crosses out everything off the list by the power of His blood.

Who thought that My name is Earl was Christlike?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Lutheran Study Bible is coming...everyone should have it!

When I sent my sermon over to church this morning, I received an update on the new Bible from CPH called, "The Lutheran Study Bible", which will be available next fall. Looking at the examples online, this is going to be awesome.

All the footnotes, commentaries, and cross-references are from Lutherans. But not just any Lutherans, the cream of the crop in study of the Scriptures throughout Christendom. And the version is English Standard Version (ESV), which is probably the most accurate to the original languages and still has a flow that goes beyond the likes of King James.

I am excited to see how God works through this. I have been greatly blessed by Treasury of Daily Prayer and I believe that this Bible will bless our Synod beyond anything we can imagine.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

No excuses...go to worship tomorrow...

No excuses (unless deathly sick)! Tomorrow is your day to receive the gifts of God in worship. Each week I have the privilege to walk across and street and open the doors for people to receive the gifts of God in worship (Holy Spirit through the Word, absolution, and the Sacrament). Wow!

Our goal as a church is to get people to the point that they would rather die than miss a worship service. In our lives we sometimes have to guess how God is working, but in worship, WE KNOW that he is at work through His Word.

No excuses, get to worship. Blessings in worship!

Economy affects the collection plate...
In this article from the Milwaukee Journal discusses how the economy has affected giving in the church. It has been felt everywhere. The problem is heightened when more people are coming to the church for help. And even more so, when you know there are people in the church who are in need of a little help here and there.

This is where our OT lesson for Sunday comes at a very important time, Isaiah 40:29-31.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

We are all in need of strength for all of the questions that we have for tomorrow. As many things are affected by the economy (depression, marriages, parenting, confidence), we all need to refocus our hearts on the Lord. Although we may become exhausted, he never grows tired or weary. As he has mounted himself on the cross, he will mount us up to live out our vocations faithfully. I am always available for prayers and to just talk if anyone needs it.

Christ have mercy

Clergy shirts this good?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Giving thanks for the congregation one serves.....

- Today as I was playing with my kids in the playground and also the kids of our daycare, I once again realized how blessed I am to serve the congregation that I do. God has truly done some amazing work through Baptism to everyone in our congregation. The humble nature, the respect they show to me and each other, and the joy of serving each other is amazing.

I am especially humbled by those who serve on our boards (Elders, Evangelism, Stewardship, Preschool/Daycare, Education, Property, & our President/VP). they take so much time out of their schedules to serve and truly want the church to succeed in their mission to "Connect People to Christ."

We as a church have a long ways to go, and unfortunately, they have a pastor whom they have to put up with a lot (he has an even longer ways to go). But by the power of the cross and the Holy Spirit's guidance, we will continue with His mission into the future.

Lord have mercy...

Simple church in a chaotic world....

You've probably been at a meeting at church that goes like this: "We need to start a food pantry for the people who come in asking for food." A solid, wonderful member says. "What do you think?" They open it up to the whole group. Nobody says anything, because how could you be against a food pantry? Why? Because, it is a good thing and how can we as a church be against a good thing. The person can quote Jesus' command to love our neighbor and also when Jesus says, "When I was hungry, you fed me." And then all of the sudden, your ministry has a food pantry that doesn't fit the community need, doesn't fit the church strengths, and no plan on how to make it connect to the church's ministry.

This is very typical in our Lutheran context. Churches start programs that are "good" things to do, but how does it fit within our Word and Sacrament ministry? How does this bring Christ to the community? Does it line up with the gifts that God has given to this church?

In Thom Rainer & Eric Geiger's book, Simple Church, they do a run through of ways to make ministry simple again. Although the theology is very reformed, the basic argument rings true. How do we have everyone in the church focused in one direction and able to move in a common direction in the ministry of Christ.

I know that I need to be better at focusing my attention solely on what God has called me to do here, "Proclaiming Christ, forgiving the penitent, and serving the people." It is simple, but yet, we usually try to make it much more difficult. I will be covering this subject of how to make the church more simple over the next week.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Read the Bible in a month? The Holy Spirit works...

Our head elder made a goal at the new year to read the whole Bible. Pretty common for most people. They will typically make the goal, grab a "daily" Bible, and by the time February rolls around, the Bible starts to gather dust. However, not in this case. He started in January and by February 3rd, he was done with the whole Bible. Wow!

He made the comment, "I sure do feel the Holy Spirit working." And he is right. When we are in the Word, the Holy Spirit is at work. The emotions that we may feel from that are always FROM Scripture and not outside of it. Many in today's world look to feelings first. However, we know the feelings are from the Holy Spirit when we are in the Word!

Our head elder has inspired me to get back into the Word and my prayer is that all of us may make a goal to read the Holy Scriptures, not for our own piety, but so that the Holy Spirit may be working.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

How do we uplift a Pro-Life theology in the church?

Rev. Dr. David Adams in his booklet, "Implementing a Pro-life theology in a Lutheran congregation", explains that a striking majority of LCMS congregations support pro-life. Yet, almost all congregations are in danger of losing that position in the near future. This would be due to a desire to believe it, but not talk about it or do anything!

This is a major problem. Most LCMS pastors are staunchly pro-life, but very few are active in advocacy (pulpit or in the community). This is where our theology does not match our practice. If someone was murdering people daily, would we attempt to stop it? I sure hope so! But for some reason, we think this is different. So what do we do?

Number 1: Proclaim it in the pulpit & Bible Studies (don't be afraid to say the real word for abortion: murder)
Number 2: Connect the church to opportunities for advocacy (hotlines, homes, and support groups for single mothers)
Number 3: Proclaim forgiveness and make the church as a place that will help us find a solution

Dr. Adams booklet from Lutherans for Life is a great help. I am always looking for ways to uplift life in the church and would love more insight on what to do for the life of the defendless.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Can we judge someone's faith?

"You can't judge my faith!" A person says after you have asked them to come back to worship or you approach them about the way that they are living their faith. Instantly, when we bring up concerns about their faith walk, BOOM, "You can't judge my faith!"

Can we judge faith? No. That is between God and the person. So then are our hands tied? We just stand back when they quote a passage from the Bible that says, "Don't judge." However, are we called to address our brothers sins (Matthew 18)? Yes! Yet, we should probably use a different language. Instead of using "faith" language, say something like this, "You are not living out your sanctified Christian life accordingly." Then if they say, "You can't judge my faith" You can come back with: "I'm not, I'm concerned about your Christian walk."

What could we do with 3,000,000?

What if someone came to you and said, "Here is three million dollars for your church. Just keep it centered on Christ and Him crucified. No endowments, no savings, not on the building."

What would you do? A lot of worship, a lot of Bible Study, and TONS of outreach.

Yesterday, the cost of a Super Bowl 30 second commercial was $3,000,000. The commercial is over and how many of us remember even 1 or 2 of them?

May we as a church always remember, that we have something else cost more than all the money in the world, it will never be over, and it will be remembered for all eternity. It's your salvation. "You were redeemed... with the precious blood of Christ, a Lamb without blemish or defect" (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Life commercial banned by NBC for Super Bowl...

Check this out. What a thoughtful and respective way to uplift life in our world today!

Football, Rest, and Confessions...9th and 10th Commandments

"You shall not covet...."

How often have you wanted something that someone else has? House, car, Ipod, vacations, inheritance, etc. Recently, a pastor friend told me that a member left $210,000 to his church. Wow, did my coveting nature take over and wonder what we would do with that much money! We go through this problem all the time and if anyone says that they do not covet, they are more than anything, LYING.

I thought Luther brought up a great point in his explanation on manifestations of coveting:
"As (to give examples), when people quarrel and wrangle about a large inheritance, real estate, etc., they avail themselves of, and resort to, whatever has the appearance of right, so dressing and adorning everything that the law must favor their side, and they keep the property with such title that no one can make complaint or lay claim thereto. 302] In like manner, if any one desire to have a castle, city, duchy, or any other great thing, he practises so much financiering through relationships, and by any means he can, that the other is judicially deprived of it, and it is adjudicated to him, and confirmed with deed and seal and declared to have been acquired by princely title and honestly."

How many times have families split due to inheritance issues where families attempt to get more money out of their parent's will? This is why it is important for families to have a well spelled out will and talks to their children about their decision.

We need a constant reminder of all the gifts we currently have (family, shelter, food, etc). Our ego constantly needs to look past our wants and see all the things that are truly a blessing. Just think about it, if we looked around at our surroundings and those who around us. Wow, has the Lord blessed us way beyond anything we can imagine. May that be our focus and may we give thanks to our Lord for all that He gives (undeservedly!).
Lord have mercy!