Monday, March 30, 2009

Issues Etc roundtable on Baptism...Awesome

Issues Etc had a great roundtable of pastors discuss Baptism from the Augsburg Confession. It is a great discussion, especially concerning what Baptism does and means.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lost and Found in concert tonight in Hartland, WI

Tonight my favorite Christian band will be playing nearby at Lake Country Lutheran High School in Hartland, WI. I have enjoyed Lost and Found for a number of years. Over the years my enjoyment has grown from enjoying the type of music to really appreciating their focus on sound theological doctrine and Christ-centered singing. I'm not sure where their theological leaning is currently (although they both grew up LCMS), but much of their sacramental language in the songs is heads and soldiers above 99% of Christian bands out there.

I'm looking forward to the 6:00 p.m. concert.

Church attendance and snow, oh my!

This morning was a great morning to be in God's house. The problem: Snow and ice keeps many people away. My dad once said it this way, "When it snows, nobody can make it to church except the old people."

It is kind of crazy in the northern climates that often when the snow comes, the people who make it are the one's who probably should not be out! This shows an amazing commitment of our elder generation and a lesson for all of us young folks. Worship is an amazing thing where God bring His gifts. May we always see the importance of being in worship and in fellowship with other believers.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

"You are a born killer" & Original sin...

"You are a born killer!" This was the line proclaimed to the character Sayid on LOST last night. Sayid is a Muslim from Iraq that had a history of serving in the Iraqi military, terrorism, and as a bounty hunter. And throughout the show, he has attempted to change his ways a number of times, ultimately with no avail. He keeps on killing and kills at the end of last night's show. The thing about Sayid, is that he typically is a nice guy, he is one that I would trust in the jungle, but yet always gets tempted to be destructive and often falls into that temptation.

At the time of our birth another proclamation is given, "You are a born sinner." From the moment we are conceived we have a history of sinfulness that is withing our inner most being. Although we may attempt to go times without sinning and living a new life on our own, ultimately it is to no avail. We might typically be nice, but yet we will always fall to the times of temptation.

As we are born sinners, we focus this Lenten season on the one who was not born sinful, never failed during temptation, and one that we can trust not only in the jungle of life, but also in eternity where Christ has conquered sin and the power of the devil. In Christ, we are not born sinners, but redeemed saints!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Lutheran Study Bible....

Here is the basic information on an amazing endeavor of bringing a strong, Christ-centered proclamation within a Bible translation. This is the first Bible that is distinctively Lutheran with the guides and footnotes. We are looking forward to its arrival next fall and hope that many will buy this wonderful new resource.

True Life and Interfaith relationships....

The other morning I woke up around 4:00 a.m. and I quickly roamed through the channels. I came upon MTV (which I do not condone watching 99% of the time) and at that moment it showed the caption: True Life-Interfaith relationships. The show placed two couples that each person had a different faith. Couple I: Guy was Jewish and Lady was Christian. Couple II: Guy was "Lutheran" and the gal was looking into Jehovah Witnesses.

What struck me about this show was not the extreme language and total disregard for the Christian faith, but the witness of the Lutheran guy. He evidently grew up Lutheran, but now didn't step foot in a church, drank like a fish, and swore like a sailor, but yet held that he was Lutheran. At the same time, his wife was searching for a church. She went with a friend to a non-denominational church and the next time she would go to Kingdom Hall with the JW's.

It was disappointing to see the witness of the Christian church. Although they seemed to have a great desire to reach a younger crowd (hip music, lounge chairs, and a laid back atmosphere), everything was about feelings and emotions. There seemed to be little strong language, teaching, or explanation of the faith. However, the JW's would sit down with the gal, explain their beliefs, gave a bold witness to their faith, and she ended up wanting to be a JW.

This is very sad to me because people are wanting to be feed by the true Word of God. They want it so bad that they will drink sand (JW theology) in order to have some semblance of refreshment. May we as a church feed our people with the true substance of Christ and Him Crucified and be a strong witness to the faith not only by word, but also how we live.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Christ-Centered, cross focused preaching from an evangelical

This video was on the blog Extreme Theology.....In 4 minutes 16 seconds Pastor Matt Chandler exposes the core problem behind so much of Purpose-Driven / Seeker-Driven preaching

Sunday, March 22, 2009

SMP student accepted by the fun begins

We voted today on the SMP student and it has been accepted. Now begins the process of application, preparation, and down right fun! The opportunities are basically endless, more ministry, little cost, more opportunity for outreach, and a gifted future vicar.

Keep us in your prayers so that we keep focused on ministry and use this revelation to the uplifting of Christ's kingdom.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Tomorrow we vote on a possible SMP student...

We have been presented with a ministry opportunity at St. John's. One of our members has a strong desire to serve in a capacity for pastoral care and visitation. As there is always a big need for more pastoral care of the sick and homebound, we are presenting the possiblity of him going through the SMP program through Concordia, St. Louis and uplifting our ministry. In essence, he will follow the education through distance for 2 years as a vicar and then another 2 years as "pastor" untill he is certified as a Speicific ministry pastor.

I know there are quite a few individuals who are against this program, but I see many benefits if the program is followed correctly. One of them is that churches will be able to focus more on mission and evangelism if they uplift men to increase pastoral care. For us, this does not mean that I will not visit people in the hospital or shut-ins, but it means that if someone is in need of care longer than a few weeks, we will have someone to visit them for a longer period of time. He will also lead Bible Studies, recruit other members to be in visitation, preach, and lead worship.

This will allow myself and our evangelism board to greatly increase our evangelistic ministry in North Prairie. One thing that is coming up is what we are calling a "Prayer Walk." What I will be doing, and anybody who wants to join me, is walk through the village of North Prairie door to door and ask people if they have prayer requests. The statement will go something like this...."As Christ has given us all things, we at St. John's want to lift up prayers for our community to our loving God. Do you have any prayer requests?" We will not try to "sell" our church, we won't try to fool someone into Christianity, and we won't give them any literature. It is a simple thing to show that we care about our community and more importantly that our Lord does also.

Any thoughts on other evangelism ideas that show our community that we care for them?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Another powerful night in Lent

A little Vespers, Lamb of God, Pure and Holy, prayer, and focusing on the Lowly Lamb of God, and it was another powerful night. We had probably the best numbers of Lent and on top of it all, the weather is awesome.

On top of that, no soda, no coffee and a lot of prayer has been very renewing. Most of all, I see a lot of need for a Savior for my sinful self. "Chief of Sinner, though I be."

A Pastor gets a divorce, now what?

A few months ago, I brought up a discussion on what should happen if a pastor is in the midst of a divorce. The situation is presented as if there is no infidelity or abandonment on the pastor's part. In my discussion, I mostly placed the question in the lap of the pastor. He needs to ask himself if he can pastor effectively in that church or any other church. And to ask himself how was he part of the problem. No matter what, these questions need to be addressed.

I received a response that I thought had a very good point. Not only does the pastor need to evaluate himself, but in that same line the congregation as a whole needs to evaluate themselves. Did they have a part to play in this? Here is the response:

"An interesting dilemma. How does the church work? The whole congregation should be asking themselves… "Did I contribute to the breakdown of pastors marriage?" Did I call him at all hours of the day and night with emergency phone calls or visits that could have waited for normal business hours? Did I interrupt Pastor’s family dinner hour? Did the church work him sixty and eighty hours a week. Hey! Did I invite and include the Pastor’s family in the life of my family. Did I make them feel welcome? Or did I gossip about them? Did I fail to include Pastor’s wife – did I treat her as an outsider. Did I leave her feeling like she neither belonged nor was welcome? ?" Did I help? Or did I hurt?. At best, with all parties trying as hard as is imaginable… there are remarkable stresses placed upon the pastor and his family. Congregations need to remember that fact.Despite the stresses, God calls the Pastor to serve God and a local congregation. God does not make mistakes. People do. We are all broken in one way or another at one time or another. Christ Jesus is the great healer."

I am grateful for the congregation I serve that respects our family time and treats my family with great regard. However, that is not always the case. This is a good discussion for us in the church to encourage our churches to love their pastors and families and do whatever they can to help their marriages. Any thoughts?

Monday, March 16, 2009

A new day, still sinning, a new creation

Today is a beautiful day outside. Fifty -five degrees, sunny, clear skies, spring is arriving, snow is melting and Easter is coming.
Our devotions today for the preschool staff centered around Psalm 100, "Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth." As we filter all of our lives through the cross of Christ, the Lamb of God, the blessings are everwhere. Here are a few examples:
I give thanks for:
Walking fr0m a parking spot far away, because it tells me that I can still walk.
A high heating and cooling bill, because it tells me that I have shelter.
A load full of laundry, because it tells me that my family is nearby.
My clothes being a little snug from winter, because it tells me that I have
enough to eat.
The lady behind me in church who sings out of tune, because it tells me that
I can still hear.
Being a sinner, because Christ has died for me
May we all give thanks this Spring as we await the resurrection of Christ!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Churchianity vs. Christianity-"Come and Get it" or "We are here."

The church council sits around a table discussing current ministries. At the end of the meeting, one member asks, "This area is growing, but yet our church has not grown at all. What should we do to get more people in worship?"

What do we typically bring up events that we can have within the church walls (food, sales, events, etc). And many of these events are great. I truly enjoy the activities that we have at our church that reach out to our own kids and also to the preschool families. Yet, it appears that people in the community really are not driven to walk in the doors of a church if they have a major event. This presents a challenge to the current church that has not been fully addressed. Events within the church doesn't attract many people and does even less in the evangelistic sense.

So what do we do? I'm not really sure :-(. One thing is for sure, we need to get out to the community in new and various ways. This doesn't necessarily mean that we do door to door evangelism (even though that is great), but being present wherever the people are. Town meetings, community events, football games, the most popular restaurant, and the most popular bar. From there, we need to do simple relational discussions, prayers, and support for those whom Jesus misses the most. This is going to be tough and LONG. But it is obvious that we need to promote less of our "church" and more of our Christian Lutheran faith in different arena's.

May God Bless us as a church to do His Will.

This will be the hymn of the day on stuff

Ever felt like people are asking the church the same question?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Churchianity vs. Christianity-Part 3-Meetings

You are in a church meeting. You do the typical prayer, board reports, discussions, etc. Things are moving pretty smoothly, until you get to some property issues. Everything then takes a sudden halt. Everyone becomes nervous about the impending building bill and everyone forgets about the quality, people, Christ-centered ministry occurring because the building and possible property issues.

How many times have you been in a meeting where the congregation has spent more time on property issues than on people? How many people get wholeheartedly upset that people are not speaking their faith in the community? How many meetings have been centered solely on the Gospel? I bring this up, because I am chief of sinner on this issue. It is very easy to be focused on the building, because that masks the real issue of be a witness to the community that surrounds it.

I'm not advocating that we should not focus our attention on building upkeep (Lord knows that they do fall apart). However, if the emphasis in ministry is on a building, then maybe we need to think about what really makes up the church (Gospel and the Sacraments) and move into a gym. Something to think about!

Coughing is no fun!

Currently, everyone in our house is coughing in some way :-(. One of the biggest frustrations of coughing is that when your kids cough it keeps you up and hence, you get the cough from a lack of sleep. I guess this is that time of year. It is a time to focus on the blessings, not on the downer of the cold season.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Confident in the pool...confident in our Baptism

This weekend we took our girls swimming in an indoor pool. Almost everytime we take them into the pool, they are more confident in the water. One time they don't want to go down the slide, the next time we can't get them away from it. One time they can't put their head under water, the next time that's all they do. The more they are in the water, the more confident they become. Although they will probably never be Micheal Phelps (in the water, not what they smoke!), they still grow in their confidence.

The longer we are in God's Word, the longer we are refreshed by His gifts, and the longer we are reminded of our Baptism, the more confident we become in God's work through His means. When we are young, we know the basics, God loves us through Jesus. But as we grow older and in our sanctified living, we live out that faith in our vocations and often people get sick of us bringing up the gifts of God. Throughout our lives however, we continually need to go back to the forgiving promise of our Baptism because we will never even get close to godliness. We will never be perfect, but we grow in our confidence and trust in God's promise of Baptism.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Churchianity vs. Christianity Part 2-The church

The situation is like this: You are talking to someone that is new to the community and they ask you, "Do you know of any good churches around here?" Your heart starts to race and you think quickly about what you can say about your own church that will get this person to attend your congregation. So you bring out the big guns, "Yeah, our church. We have a new building, we have great food in between services, the people are real nice, and we really like our pastor." You feel relieved because you have done your part of getting them to church and letting the Holy Spirit do the rest.

Is there anything inherently wrong with this approach? Not necessarily. The only problem is this, Was there any Jesus or Gospel talk in that conversation? Not really. The conversation included the building, food, people, and the leader, but nothing on God, His gifts, and especially not on Jesus. Why do we do this? Not really sure. Probably due to our consumerism mind in America.

So what is a good response with this kind of situation? Well, I'm not fully sure. One example that I heard was this, "Yeah, our church. We preach Christ and His crucifixion on the cross. Each week we receive forgiveness, and we even get a taste of heaven every other week." The focus is on God, something perfect. Not on the imperfect pastor, the wearing down building, and especially on the food that might not be the favorite of everyone.

Any thoughts?

Another blessed Lenten service...Wisdom of the cross

We had another awesome night. We dug into a little Vespers, prayer, Scripture, and continued with our theme of "Lamb of God, Pure and Holy." You could feel the reflective, yet powerful presence in church tonight and God's gifts were truly at work.

It has been a whole week without soda or coffee. I'm still upright and actually feeling pretty darn good!!

How was the Lenten service for everyone else?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Alleluia's and Gloria's omitted...what a downer :-(

This Sunday started our first week of omitting the Alleluia's and Gloria's from the Divine Service. Although each Sunday is considered a "mini-Easter" and is not needed to omit these words, we started this practice last year. Right after the Kyrie, typically we run into "This is the Feast" or "Gloria Patri" with relative gusto, however, when it is gone, there seems to be a leg missing. This reminds us of how much our Lord gave up with his death on the cross. He didn't just give up an Alleluia or a Gloria, but he gave up His life.

One of the joys of Lent is that we are reminded that something is missing. And the full joy occurs on Easter morning when everything is fulfilled by the resurrection and we sing the Alleluia's with more joy than ever before and This is the feast never sounds so good!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Churchianity or Christianity? Part 1

In the book, Present Future by Reggie McNeal, he makes the argument that in today's world one has to ask in the church if we are promoting "churchianity" or "Christianity." He would argue that many in Church today try to make church perfect and in essence lose Christianity.

A good example would be concerning Lent. If someone were to ask a typical person from the church what is Lent, they would probably answer, "We have more church services, we put Ashes on our heads, we give up something, and most of the color of things is purple." How often is Jesus mentioned?

This is true on all levels of Christianity. The Rick Warren and Bill Hybel method is to ask people what they want from church and then do it. However, does this promote Christ or the church itself?

The question concerns, how much do we as a Church promote our Church ("I like the pastor, the building, the pews) or Christ and Him Crucified?

More to come