Thursday, April 30, 2009

Confessions in pocket book form...

It is a confidence builder! CPH has now came out with the Book of Concord in pocket size! During Seminary, the book of Concord seemed like an impossible task. The size was that of the titanic. However, with this new pocket size, my confidence is up and I am a quarter of the way through. Awesome.

The study of God's Word and the Confessions is a lifelong endeavor. It makes it easier and seem shorter when it can fit in your pocket! Check it out!

God Bless

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Prays go out as the swine flu spreads...

Whenever there has been a break out of any sort of disease, there are many questions. What is the cause? How do we stop it? What can we do? How bad will it get?

Currently with the swine flu, there are many questions and many people very scared. Myself, I do worry about people with a lack of health care and in poor areas and with the many questions.

There are two things that I hope to see from this situation: 1) A trust that we are in God's hands and to lift it all up in prayer (we need to realize that our first move must be on our knees), and 2) The church will find an opportunity to show mercy as our Lord has called us to give.

Lord have mercy

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Drafted number 1-"YOU!"

I love the NFL draft. The energy and excitement that each teams has before the big announcement of the number 1 pick, can not be explained. Each team has a party, the fans go nuts and tell everyone, "This is the year", and newspaper columnists run frantic to get the top story. Then the moment comes, "With the number 1 pick, the Detroit Lions select Matthew Stafford." He will forever go down in history as a number 1 pick (whether successful or not). The Lions have spent millions on this guy who hasn't taken a snap yet and he will always be under the spotlight. Unfortunately, the Detroit fans and newswriters will not be real forgiving unless he wins.

This is much like God's draft. He makes a big deal about our draft in Holy Baptism and when the water hits our head, he says, "I select you as my number one pick." He spent more than money on us, it was the blood of His Son and we will forever go down in history in His eyes as His children. We are in the spotlight, and although we will not always win (or ever), his forgiveness is real no matter the win nor the loss.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Confirmation tomorrow morning...10:30 a.m.

Tomorrow morning five of our young people will confirm their faith in the one Jesus Christ and also in the faith of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. This is probably by far the boldest statement that they will ever make, "I believe in this stuff and I will confess it even to death!" Holy man! That is awesome. Keep them and their parents in your prayers as they continue in their baptismal identity in Christ!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Small pool...huge refreshment...big promises

What an amazing day. 80 degrees, clear skies, and a day off with the family. Awesome!
Around 2:00 we realized how hot it was outside, so I ran off to Wal-Mart and bought it for $15. Then the endeavor began. The problem: It doesn't fit in a car. Amy brought the van, we took some rope to place it on top of the van, but a half a mile down the road, it almost fell off. We readjusted the tying, we drove slow and we got home. After all that joy filled ride, we made it home, filled it up and wow! The feeling of cool water on a hot day, especially after gardening all morning, was amazing. Cool, refreshing, and just fun.
When our girls got into the pool, I reminded them, "When did water cleanse you before?" They said, "Baptism." Everytime we get in water, may we remember what our Lord does every day: Cleansing in the Holy Spirit and renewal for our daily vocations! May God bless this Spring time in the Lord!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How does the Bible define marriage?

Here is the question of the day: How does the Bible define marriage? This questions was brought to us at the pastor's conference at Lake Geneva. Interesting enough, most of us really had not thought about it. We know what the state says, but is that the same? How many wedding cermonies have you heard of in the Bible? How many engagements with rings? I am going to think about this subject before I write more, but I think we have some teaching to do concerning marriage and discussing what the Bible actually says!

Examination Night for Confirmation students...

We brought them in front of the fellowship this evening and drilled them on the basics of the faith. What is the Sacrament of the Altar? What is confession? 10 commandments? The works.

It is incredible to see God at work in these youth and you end each year of confirmation with much optimism. Not that it was due to my great teaching, but due to the Word and the Holy Spirit working in their lives!

This Sunday is confirmation! Christ have mercy

Monday, April 20, 2009

Confirmation week...

This is the last week of confirmation instruction with our youth confirming their faith this Sunday. This evening we met with each family and confirmand and discussed what they will be confessing before God and the church. What a great moment to sit with families and confirmands to discuss the Christian faith and God's grace in the future.

One moment struck me when with one student when I asked him, "Will you stay faithful to this confession, even to the point of death?" I went into describing Columbine 10 years ago and how that young gal admitted believing in Christ and then was shot. And I asked him, what would you do in that moment? Thet young man said, "I would stand up and proclaim Jesus."

Our youth amaze me more and more. We keep the confirmands in our prayers as they confess Christ and confirm their faith in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Good stuff!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

It's time...

Check out this audio from Rev. Matthew Harrison from LCMS World Relief/Human Care. He diagnoses the problems in our Synod and provides a solid foundation of where to start to build us together. Not starting with consultants, but with the Word of God and proclaiming who we are and where we are going!

Give input!

Friday, April 17, 2009

The church and coffee shops...

I am currently reading, "Present Future" by Reggie McNeal. I am by no means endorsing his theology nor some of his prescriptions for the church. However, his diagnosis of the problem is dead on. He proposes that the church has the mentality of "Come and Get it" as opposed to "Go out and tell." So in essence, are we making programs that only invite people into our walls or are we out in the community discussing God and the importance of the Divine Service.

As I sit in Minnesota, with some R & R at a Caribou Coffee, I have already spoken to a few people about Easter and worship. When I am back in Wisconsin, there are a number of people who I dialogue with at the local pizza joint and coffee shops. It is fascinating how much people want to talk about God and discuss Jesus. Yet, the is tough work. The people have NO Biblical knowledge, no idea about the Divine Service, no idea of manners in worship, and do not have have the respect of the Office of the Ministry. It is crazy! But this is our current world, teaching, preaching, and serving will really have to dig deep in our future.

I am asking for prayers and thoughts on great ways to teach a whole new world! Christ is Risen!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

We're gonna win Twins and the culture of our world...

Tonight is going to be another awesome day on vacation...Twins game in a box suit! My brother-in-laws and myself will be attending the game against the Blue Jays. Unfortunately, the Twins are off to a rough start and last night they lost 12-2. Hopefully tonight will be different.

What is exciting and disappointing at the same time will be the number of fans. Exciting because nowhere else are you arond 15-20,000 people at one time for a common mission of cheering on your team. Disappointing because there is basically no connection between any of them, nor do they care about each other. Even more disappointing is that the church is meant to be that type of community, but people see the stadium as more inviting than the church.

Why do people find the stadium more inviting than church? Think about it. The staium if full of hypocrites, the games are at night when we need to rejuvinate for the next day, people are not real nice to each other, all they want is money, and nobody knows your name! Sound familar?

Let me know your thoughts of baseball and church!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Baptismal Life & Vocation...Grandparents

This week my family is on vacation in Minnesota (the state my wife and I grew up in-Go Twins!). Things get pretty hectic on "vacation" with three little ones. We see both sides of the family, we have about 3 different gatherings with friends, all the while trying to keep 3 young one's one a schedule. We are pretty worn out by the time we drive back to Wisconsin.

Yet, there is one aspect that we appreciate more than anything on these trips: The Baptismal vocational calling that our parents take on as grandparents. As ones who raised us, they now take a back seat in our lives and take on the task of uplifting us as parents. Throughout our time in Minnesota, our parents share words of encouragement, give us time to spend together as a couple (something huge for young couples), and assist taking care of the kids. We thank God for both sides of our family.

Grandparenting is a major role, and unforunately, it sometimes get abused. Either the grandparents see themselves as "mini-parents" or they are totally neglectful of their children & grandchildren. I encourage all grandparents to take their vocations as a higher calling, especially to fight for the marriage of the parents by giving them time together. Mostly to see this vocation as something God has given you to do and to get it done to His glory!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Put it in your sack....the gifts are given!

Christ is Risen! Alleulia!

Resurrection Sunday! What an awesome day. Everything is white, the hymns are amazing, and smiles are everything!

One thing that we tried this year to fully manifest what happens in worship comes from Rev. Matt Harrison's book, Christ have mercy. In his book, he begins by saying that the Christian life is about admiting that you have an empty sac. We come to the divine service with nothing to share with others and our Lord. Yet, throughout the service, God's fills us with his grace, we say AMEN, and we put it in our sac. Invocation-Remember our Baptism. Put it in your sac. Confession and Absolution-Forgiveness. Put it in your sac.

On Easter morning, everyone in church received a white (new life) paper sac. They also received eight business cards that indicated each part of the worship service (Invocation, Absolution, Kyrie, Word of God, Sermon, Offerings, Sacrament, and Benediction). At the beginning of the service it was empty. But throughout the service, they would place God's grace in their sac and left with a bag full (not literally, I need bigger objects than business cards) to dispense to others in their daily vocations.

I think it worked out well and I hope to be able to visually bring this idea again in the future. As Dr. Nagel says so well, "God has gifts to give!"

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Eggs, Jelly Beans, & Bunnies. Where is the empty tomb?

My daughter woke up extra early this morning and we turned on the TV for Mickey Mouse Club House and they are celebrating Easter. Isn't that exciting? However, they equate Easter with eggs, jelly beans, and bunnies. I find that very interesting. As I reflect on my own life, when I would arrive home and visit other friends that is what Easter was equated too in our home and sometimes in my church.

As I have reflected on Easter, I become more disappointed, because almost 99.9% Easter is secularized. Just compare it to Christmas. Although Christmas is overran with consumerism, there are still many Christian symbols. We see Nativity Scenes, presents (same as the wise men), Christmas trees (thank you Martin Luther), and the star on top of the tree. However, when we walk around on Easter day, how many Christian symbols do we see? Besides the empty cross at our church and an occasional Empty Tomb, where is the symbolism?

What is even more interesting is how much we as a church take secular things (eggs, Bunnies, etc) and try to insert them into the church to make them religious. We will use "Gospel Eggs", explanations of bunnies, Easter egg hunts, and the like while inserting Jesus. My question is can we make up our own traditions that are just as much fun, but yet actually Christian? Can we go a year at our churches without eggs (which are from fertility gods) and bunnies?

Now don't misunderstand me, I am not saying that all eggs, bunnies, or whatever should be eliminated from people's homes, yet, when people enter the church what are we called to give them? Christ risen from the tomb.

I would like some input on the implications we will have as a church and as Christians if Christ is lost from Easter? Or if you want to argue that there are not any implications, please comment also.

God Bless as we await Christ's resurrection tomorrow morning!

What if I was dying and came to your church?

Friday, April 10, 2009

In Christ Alone..Passion of the Christ

Great song and great video. May we focus on Christ alone this Holy Week.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Holy Thursday...done and done

Another great night of God's gifts being given. We followed the communion liturgy from Divine Service, setting 3 from LSB (the old TLH communion service). Besides some screw-ups from yours truly while chanting the Words of Institution, it went well. The hymn, "When you woke that Thursday morning" #445 was outstanding. Check it out for next year's Holy Thursday.

May God Bless us all the rest of Holy Week and may it be about the cross and not us! Christ have mercy!

On the night he was betrayed...Holy Thursday

The "Trifecta" begins! It starts with great reverence and a powerful message on the Lord's supper (from Scripture, not from this joker) and with the stripping of the altar.

Our focus this evening is on "The Lamb of God who has mercy on us." When we think of mercy, it is usually pertained to a past action (helping someone in the time of need, the cross, etc). However, this night we focus on the past action of mercy, but also the continued act of mercy that He brings in a physical way: The Lord's Supper. He knew that we needed something physical to experience His mercy, and instituted the supper for us to view, taste, and touch His mercy among us!

God's Blessings as you partake in this precious gift of heaven this evening.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Law in our parking lot...

We have unique situation at our church, the local police hang out in our parking lot daily to monitor the hundreds of drivers that pass by our congregation. Many times when I speak to people from the community that do not know about our church they will comment, "Oh, you are from the church that always has the police in the parking lot."What a way to be known!
I know some people have been frustrated by the presence of police in our parking lot due to a misperception about who and what we are as a church (and in some ways I get frustrated also).

However, I was recently thinking about it in a whole new way. When we have the police in our parking lot it reminds everyone to straighten up: drive the speed limit, don't steal from this church, make sure your seat belt is on, and live according to the law. Although we are a church that focuses on the Gospel of Christ, we also uphold the Law as good and holy for our lives. The police car in the parking lot is symbolic of how we as a church are their to proclaim the will of God for us as His baptized children (loving one's neighbor, the 10 commandments, and loving God). Without the reminder of the law, the Gospel loses it meaning and fullness. We need that reminder for the sake of our relationship with God and also the need of our neighbor.

The police car in our parking lot not only makes me feel safe for our church and my family who live across the street, but serves as a reminder to me on how we need to proclaim the Law to show us our sin, and from that Law to show people their Savior.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

North Carolina does our Lord...

What a year for North Carolina. 34-4 and a whole slew of talent that is unmatched in recent history. I totally marvel at the talents of Tyler
Hansbrough , Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson and Danny Green who are all potential first round picks in the NBA. They basically man handled the cinderella Michigan state team and made many people stand in awe over their abilities. Especially when you saw how they conquered the boards.

What I find fascinating about our world is that we stand in awe over our college players, olympic swimmers, and NFL stars athletic abilities, but we rarely stand in awe of the stories of Christ. Just think about it, Tyler Hansobrough can dunk a basketball, but he has never healed people, walked on water, nor the ultimate of raising from the dead. Holy smokes do we need to refocus our priorities.

When we hear the Holy Week message again of the miracle of the Lord's supper, His death, and the glorious resurrection, how about we sit back in awe of our Lord's work! His work is not only amazing, but it is for us!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Heaven on earth....worship....

"Some people say that you can experience God apart from church, but when I am in church pastor, I know God is there" a man proclaimed to me at a communion visit this week. Ever had that feeling after leaving church? Ever felt better after leaving church? There is a simple reason for that: God's gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation have just been thrown down your throat. It is no accident that we "feel better" after church, it is the power of the Holy Spirit.

As Dr. Nagel told me as he pointed to the chapel at Seminary as we were about to skip chapel for some lame reason, "God has gifts to give." Why go to church? Simply put, God's spirit is there and we get a glimpse of heaven here today.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Palm Sunday, always a great celebration...

What an exciting day. We had the procession of palms, Hosanna, Loud, Hosanna, and the Triumphal Entry from John. This was the first year the church has done the procession of palms for quite some time and it was a great success. It is a great way to start our Holy Week.

I was thinking about next year celebrating Passion Sunday which would incorporate a Synoptic reading of the Passion and other unique liturgical aspects. I have never really looked into, but I would be excited about the possibilities. Anybody have experience with that?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Are we actually listening to God's Word?

There is the story of the pastor who came to his new church and preaches a great sermon. They love it and love his message. Then the next week he preached the same sermon. The congregation says, "Well, maybe he is still getting used to us." The following 3 weeks, he once again preaches the same sermon. The elders of the church were getting complaints left and right and they met with the pastor and said, "Why are you preaching the same sermon? Everyone is getting upset!" The pastor replied, "Once all of you starting listening to that sermon, I will move on to the next!"

How much do we all need to take a step back and actually listen to God's Word first? Many times we expect fireworks, excitement, and something filling (usually outside of God's Word). May we listen to God and allow His Words be our source of daily living. Especially as we come upon Holy Week!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Lamb of God who suffered scorn...

For our last midweek service, we focused on Psalm 22:6-8. We especially looked at the criticism and scorn that Christ took for us.

How much do you enjoy being criticized? Do you like being unjustly accused of something? We especially despise people criticizing our faith. If someone judges Christianity and our beliefs, often we end up being the one's who submit or are just quiet.

I can just imagine Jesus on the cross, wrists and feet with nails, his back whipped beyond anything, looking at us and saying, "Are you kidding?" You are worried about your friends not liking you? Do you see what I Am doing?

God knew that we were the one's who fear being scorned, which is why He took the scorn for us. May we be faithful to our confession and stand up for our faith because our Lord has done it all for us!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

How did April fools start? Theological or not?

When I was a kid, I heard someone say that April fools was a pagan holiday that meant to call Christians fools. However, from some research it appears that it has nothing to do with God or theology. Evidently, back in 1564 King Charles IV of France introduced a new calendar. Up until then, the new year had been celebrated from March 21st until April 1st, but Charles' new calendar made January 1st the new New Year's Day. Some people didn't adjust to the change and kept celebrating April 1st. They came to be known as April Fools.

Nowdays, I would probably call those who say there is no God is a fool.
"The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”Psalm 14:1. No God, no hope. May we celebrate having a God whose grace is above all even to the cross.