Saturday, May 30, 2009

Leno-The end of an era, but things still move on?

After 17 years on late night TV, last night Jay Leno said farewell. He hads the reigns over the Conan O'Brien while Leno moves on to other ventures. There were many goodbyes, reflections, and I think questions of the future, as if late night TV will stop as we know it.
This was similar to 17 years ago when Leno took over for Johnny Carson. When Johnny said farewell, there were even more questions of the future. Who could ever replace Johnny? Yet, time still moved on. Some continued to watch, some didn't, and many new fans came along.
As I have preached at two funerals this week, there have been much mourning. The two men were active in their faith. Attending worship, witnessing their faith in the community, and serving others. We wonder, who can replace these men? Well, in essence, no one. We mourn their farewells, but yet time still moves on. God is still active, we still have many other men to serve, and many new people in the faith will come. His Holy Spirit is still at work and it is humbling to know that His grace still continues in our lives and in others.

Friday, May 29, 2009

What a mess...May our yes be yes and no be no!

Half of Fame quarterback, Fran Tarkenton was recently quoted discussing the possibility of Brett Favre coming out retirement to join the Minnesota Vikings as "despicable." "I kind of hope it happens, so he can fail"

It does not appear that the problem is that Favre might go to a rival. The problem is that Favre's yes has not been yes and his no has not been no!

Do I want Favre to be a Viking? Maybe. Do I want him to be bold on his plans for the future. Retirement or another season! Bam!

This reminds me of faith. God looks at us and can call us "despicable." Our yes is "kind of" and our no is "maybe." When we discuss faith with someone and they say, "Baptism does not do anything!" Do we say, "I don't agree" or do we say, "Well, if you want to believe that!" If someone says, "There is more than one way to eternal life". Do we say, "You can believe that if you want to call Jesus a liar." Or do we say, "Who am I to judge?"

May our Yes of our faith be Yes and our No be No. All by the help of the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Compassion International-What a gift

Our family along with a few other families started to be a supporter of Compassion International. Compassion International is a Christian organization that supports children throughout the world to get schooling, food, water, and health care, along with being directed to a Christian congregation. They have solid doctrinal beliefs as a group (a.k.a. they only work with congregations that uphold the Trinity, Christ as the only way to salvation, and uphold traditional marriage). When you sponsor a child, you are the only family to support this one child and your monthly support pays for school, food, health care, etc. You write to them quarterly or more and they write back with a translater's help. Our child is from Africa and is 4 years old.

What a blessing it has been for our kids. The other day we left Target without getting any toys for the kids and my oldest says, "I wanted to get a toy." And I told her that we can use the money to help our friend in Africa because she can't go to school without our help. My daughter said, "I would rather have her go to school like I can!" We pray for this little girl every night and my hope is that someday we will be able to visit her in Africa.

Check out their organization and the amazing things God is doing through them.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mountain Dew vs. Dr. Pepper & Baptism

I love soda. It is one of my many vices. And what is interesting is that if someone were to ask me about my preference of soda, I could talk for hours. I would not care what the other person believes, I would boldly proclaim my view, my arguments, and then go my own way. And if the person is more of a Mt. Dew guy, I would wholeheartedly disagree.
Yet, what if someone were to ask me about Baptism? Would I talk for hours? Would I boldly proclaim what Scripture says? And if the person disagreed with me would I be able to still talk to them after the conversation?
It is interesting that many of us need a reminder of how vital our Baptism and faith is to our daily life. Are we proud of our faith and does it form our decision making? And do we realize that God has worked miracles from our Baptism through the cross that should cause us to talk for hours on end of the amazing grace of our Lord.

Monday, May 25, 2009

I pray in my boat that is enough church for me....

"Hello pastor!" A younger man greeted me the other day after a funeral. This man was a member of our church, but due to a lack of attendance over three years, has been removed from our roles and also has moved to another area. I replied, "Great to see you again. How is your new area? Found a fellowship of believers yet?" He said, "No, we are still Lutheran, but we don't need the church. I pray when I go out fishing and that is all I need. I went to teach my son as a child about church, but we don't need it anymore."
My response? Shock. If someone's heart is that hardened, what do you say? If they have NO desire to receive God's gifts in worship, what do you do? God has gifts to give that go well beyond the gift of prayer. Try the Word, try the Sacrament, try a supportive fellowshp of believers, and try maybe being a supportive person to those in the faith! Any ideas of a good one line response to such talk? I am very frustrated by that mentality!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Summer Catechesis...Sunday reciting during worship?

I am looking at incorporating a section of the catechism into the weekly worship service. I have heard various ways of doing this, but am looking for input. My first thought is to take one section per week, recite it back and forth between myself and the congregation and that's it. Always make sure to throw in the "As the head of the household should teach in a simple way to his household."
Any thoughts. We are in dire need of teaching the basics continually, especially when many people do not see the need for Bible study!

What if our church were gone tomorrow, who would care?

What if one's congregation were to disappear tomorrow (a non-terrorist plane crash or something) and the council decides not to rebuild a new church, would the community care? Would the town council or community leaders try to convince the church to stay running because the congregation shows the mercy of Christ to the community? Would it make a difference to the world surrounding them? Would anybody care?

This is a tough situation to think about. Are we as a church, not only confessing the truth of Christ with great clarity, showing the mercy of God to those outside our walls? As Reggie McNeal reminds us in "Present Future", are we in the blessing or the institution business?

As Jesus prayers to the father, "As I was sent into the world, I am sending them into the world." May we go into the world to bless people, to make a difference in people's lives, and at the same time continue to be fed by the shepherd of Christ.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

County Marriage Agreement...any thoughts on fellowship?

On Tuesday I attended a informational meeting for a county marriage agreement. This is sponsored by groups such as Marriage Savers,, & Wisconsin Family Council. The basics of the agreement would be with fellow Christian denominations around the county to describe our beliefs on marriage, addressing needs of marriage, and addressing cohabitation. For example all churches commit to pre-marital counseling, waiting periods to get married, a policy on cohabitation, and everyone conducting a marriage inventory. The results in other counties and cities have been greatly effective (less divorce, more marriages, less cohabitation, etc).

There are a number of basics to think about as a confessional Lutheran. 1) What implications are there for fellowship? 2) There is no set-up for worship or fellow Word and Sacrament ministries. 3) It makes up only Christian churches. Yet I would enjoy input on what other principles to discuss in order to make a decision to be involved.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

An open Letter to the Voting Members of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly

The ELCA has some tough things going on this summer and it is good to hear some are sticking to Biblical, Christ centered Christianity. Here is the open letter written by top theologians in the ELCA...check it out.

Let us pray for God's Word to predominate this summer.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Our last PALS gathering...a sad time :-(

This weekend represented our last PALS (Post-Seminary Applied Learning and Support) gathering with new pastors. Our group of new pastors (first three years in ministry) met threee times a year at Camp LuWiSoMo for 2.5 days and discussed a certain topic and had lots of free time. The whole family would come and stay in the retreat center. We had time for cauistry for the women and men separate and the fellowship around campfires, card games, and going sleding were priceless. I can not even explain how powerful it was for myself and especially my family. We had 15 kids under the age of 5 at this gathering. Crazy to say the least.

I am a big fan of PALS and what it does. It doesn't promise no conflict in ministry, it doesn't promise a longer stay at your church, it doesn't promise a stronger marriage, but it does promise an open group to discuss issues and help strengthen us newbies when the problems arise. Our family will miss it. We want to start a SLAP (Still learing after PALS) group next!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Prayer/Needs walk a huge success...

This morning a handful of people from church walked throughout our community and asked people for two things: 1) What is the greatest need of our community? and 2) Do you have any prayer requests?
It was a huge success. We visited 45 houses/businesses throughout the morning. The needs varied from the grass to grow to finding ways to bring the whole community. Prayer requests went from abused pets to a family that just lost a mother with 2 small children. It was powerful day and it was obvious that the Holy Spirit was at work. We have around 165 homes/businesses to visit, so we will continue it this summer. Most of all, we celebrate what God is doing and look forward to God's work in the future.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Twitter and the church....

I have recently signed up for (LCMSMissioDei). I find it interesting that twitter focuses on simple statements to get the point across. In many ways it is bumper sticker discussions online. Although we are against "bumper sticker" theology, there is something to say about making strong, small statements in our ADD culture. For example: "Dead in Sin, alive in Christ." Bold statement that describes our sinful state and gives a strong gospel account. This is something we as a church really need to focus more on, small, pithy statements that lead people to receive more of God's gifts.

By the way, "Ch__ch? Wha'ts missing? UR" does not count!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Whole life blessings, not just the short term....

I recently met with an individual from our church who is near the end. He has suffered with cancer and various other diseases the last 8 years and has been a great witness to me throughout it all. One thing that struck me the other day as he is now in hospice was his comment, "One has to see the blessings throughout our lives, and not the short-term!"

The last 8 years been rough, but throughout his life he explained to me all the blessings he has received. What a thought for all of us. It doesn't take real long to remember our blessings that our Lord brings and that the ultimate blessing of Christ is always there.

May we all have the same perspective in faith throughout anything.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Prayers to the Holy Spirit needed this Saturday...

As I have been praying about being a missional church, I have realized that my weekly vocation has focused mainly on internal matters. Visit to MEMBERS, preschool/daycare matters, sermon prep in the church, counseling, and schedules for the staff. Almost none of my job description involves the community and neither does our ministry budget, time, and energy (Now, don't misquote me as saying that I should not care for our flock, neither would I ever deny people in our church from the gifts of God). If we all take a hard look at our ministry, we are probably a little heavy on internal matters and very light in external.

To begin a process of looking out, our congregation will be doing a prayer/needs walk this Saturday. Myself and whomever else is coming (hopefully some), will walk around our community and ask two questions: 1) Do you have any prayer requests? 2) What do you see as the biggest need of our community? We will NOT try to promote our church (unless they ask) and it will simply be about ways that we can show mercy to our community. Yet, this scares the junk out of me. I've never done anything like it, I'm scared to see the reactions, and I am suffering with a lack of trust in the Holy Spirit.

Keep us in your prayers as we go out and serve!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Missional Church? Blessing.

"How can we help you?" A pastor asked the principal of a local elementary school. "What do you mean?" the principal quizzically asked. "How can we uplift your work here at school?" After a long silence, the principal told him that they needed men to help with crowd control at recess. The school at this time had at least 200 fights a month. However, after a few weeks, all fights were almost gone after 10-15 men helped each day at recess.

Is this our calling as a church? Where is Word and Sacrament ministry? Where is the worship service? Where is the Bible study room? Where is the organ? One part of being a missional church is realizing that God is at work in the world and we are to join in His mission. God is working outside of our walls and people are needing to realize that these blessings are not from us, but from God!

One great thing about this story is that children would ask almost daily, "Why are you doing this?" And the men would proclaim, "Because God loves me so much."

This is a small example of how we can be missional in our community and obviously direct people to the liturgy, the Word, and the Sacrament. Other examples to come.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Celebration of our faith, the brothers, and our district

The past three days, I have been at a missional leadership seminar in Trego, WI. It has been refreshing to be among brother pastors, getting to know other guys, and discussing where God is leading us. There are many opportunities to celebrate what our Lord does in our District and in our Lord's churches.

I am very humbled of all 212 congregations in our district because we have a structure that helps all of us keep the confidence that our pastors are "confessional" and "missional". Unless a guy brings up that he is not one of these things, we have a great Synod that teaches strong, biblical beliefs and have extreme consensus on the doctrine of the church.

May we keep our Synod in our prayers and keep focused on the heart of it all, Christ and Him crucified.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What does it mean to be missional and confessional?

At the current Pastoral Leadership conference, there is quite a bit to chew on. One thing that we are discussing today is what it means to be confessional and missional. Often we tend to almost make it sound like it is separated. However, how can it be?

Jesus tells Peter, "Feed my sheep." He told the disciples, "Go and make disciples." He told the disciples to "love one another, to serve, and to teach all that I have taught you." At the same time throughout the Church, we have struggled through some major theological debates that we must not forget. We have theological statements in our confession from the 16th century that totally emulate what we are going through today.

I am currently struggling with where to go nowadays as a confessional Lutheran and attempting to think outside our institutional box for missions. The question that I will be asking for quite some time, "What does it mean to be a confessional/missional Lutheran Christian?"

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

For free?

Recently, I once again watched the Dark Knight (after the kids were in bed of course). There was a statement that I thought was very profound made by the Joker, "If you are good at something, you never do it for free."

Intereting isn't it? When we have something that we have talent for, we typically try to find ways to make money off of it. Not in any major senses, but we desire to find ways to make a little more here and a little more there. It starts when we are young when grandma needs the lawn mown and we ask, "How much will you give me?" And it continues as we negotiate salaries, etc.

What happened to service of our neighbor? What happened to Jesus' new command in John 13 to love one another, even to the point of washing the disciples feet. What ways can we serve our neighbor for their need and find opportunities to witness our faith? What skills do I have that can be used in God's kingdom? Who can I serve? And frankly, the world tells us to get money, but our Lord reminds us to do it for free!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A new uncle...Lux Fion Tierney is born!

Today my sis had a daughter, her first child, Lux Fion Tierney. 7lbs 9oz, 21 inches. She was in labor for quite some time, but both are doing well. God is good. She lives in Vermont so it is tough to see the family out there, but I hope to see her sometime this summer. Keep them in your prayers as they approach the waters of Holy Baptism!