Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mercy and Acts 5

I am amazed when the church acts like the chuch of the 1st century. Today, our congregation held a benefit for one of our members who is suffering with ALS. It was amazing to see all of God's people work together distributing the food (brats and hotdogs), selling baked goods, helping cook, clean, and overall supporting one another. It was a great success and you could see many people from the community amazed at how well it all went.

It reminds me of Acts 5 that I just got done reading the other day. After Ananias and Sapphira were dropped dead for lying to the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit was working through wonders. They shared everything. Te part that I had never read struck me epecially while watching God's people today: "None of the rest dared join them (unbelievers), but the people held them (Christians) in high esteem (Acts 5:13-14)."

This is my prayer for the church today. Never losing hte bold proclamation of the risen Lord. And even though, people may not join us, may not believe in the Risen Christ, they will see that we show mercy to all people. That we love as the Lord Jesus has loved us. That we love the people whom others do not (maybe crazy neighbors) and support one another in the time of need.

Lord have mercy

Friday, August 28, 2009

Pray for my wife's family with the passing of her grandma

This morning, my wife's grandma fell asleep in Jesus. She had gone through quite a bit over the last few months. She was a believer in Christ and His redemptive work. She was a born and bred WELS Lutheran and had such a deep love for her Lord and the church that she heard this great message. The funeral is on Monday and I pray that her faithful WELS pastor will give us Christ.

It is a constant reminder that when I preside over a funeral, how much the family is grieving. They have just lost a loved one that they will greatly miss and they need to know of hope for the next day without this individual. Without Christ, we grasp for straws to find hope. May we as ministers of the Gospel remember that we are called to give the hope of Christ and Him crucified.

Lord have mercy

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Who is God? Jesus

"Jesus is love, therefore we have to ordain gays and lesbians." This is another great statement from the ELCA assembly last week. The argument was being made that since Jesus is love (I John 4:8), therefore the loving thing would be to ordain gays and lesbians. If we don't, we are not showing the love of Christ.

The question is more what defines the love of Jesus. We know that Jesus loves ALL people (Lame, poor, sinners, prostitutes, gays, murderers, tax collectors, etc). Yet, does that mean that Jesus doesn't call for repentance? Does that mean that all should be pastors? Did Jesus tell the woman caught in adultery, "Go and get your freak on?" No, He said, "Go and sin no more." He gave qualifications to overseers (Titus 3, 1 Timothy 3) and the scriptures constantly tell us of repentance.

I would argue that one of the greatest ways to show love is by good order. Kind of like showing love to your kids by giving them an orderly life (schedules, clean house, order of events for bedtimes, etc). In the same way, God has instituted His love through an orderly way to have his church function and His children live a Godly life. Therefore, should gays and lesbians be loved as children of God? Yes. Should they be ordained because God loves them? No.

Lord have mercy

Who is God? Holy Spirit

"The Holy Spirit is doing a new thing!" Proclaimed a delegate at the ELCA assembly. This was in reference to a vote concerning gay and lesbian clergy. She was promoting that one should vote for the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy due to the obvious work of the Holy Spirit providing men and women who were already doing good ministry, yet were denied simply because of whom they love.

However, how do we know if it is the Holy Spirit or some other move of another god? Two ways:
1) Does it point us to Christ to ourselves? (John 16:13-15), and 2) Does it contradict Scripture? (Romans 1:26, I Timothy 1:10, etc). In both cases, the answer is a problem. If it does not point to Christ then it can't be the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit just wants to get out of the way. Currently the focus of the homosexual debate clings to individuals and not Christ. Secondly, if what we think the Holy Spirit is doing contradicts what Scripture says, then we must ask the question, "Is this from God or somewhere else?"

The Holy Spirit "enlightens, sanctifies, and keeps me in the truth faith." Anything outside of that, is NOT the Holy Spirit.

Lord have mercy

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A plane ride next to the nicest person I have ever the way he was a Mormon

I entered the plane on my way to JFK airport from Detroit after missing my flight by 5 minutes to Burlington, NY. Needless to say, I was not real happy. I sat down and a young man sat next to me which showed his nice appeal from the moment he said hello. He and his wife had two small kids (which made me miss my own) and we instantly started to talk about life and obviously theology. He revealed to me that he was a Mormon and did a mission trip to Italy when younger. Like I said, he was probably the nicest guy I have ever met.

I didn't reveal right away that I was a pastor, but it did come up. I asked questions about the Mormon faith such as: Who is Jesus? How is one saved? When are you baptized? What is the goal of life? The unfortunate thing at the end of the discussion was that everything was about works. How is one saved? He gave me a list of about 4-5 things (faith in Jesus, repentance, good works, and a good family). Who is Jesus? (not God, but the son of God). When are you baptized? (When it feels right). What is the goal in life? To eventually be sure that you will be at the highest level in heaven. A lot of works and not much hope of God's work. We exchanged emails and I hope to continue the discussion. It was my first Mormon discussion and I hope it will not be my last.

Thanks be to God that we cling to the great words of Paul, "Therefore we are saved by grace through faith, not by works so that any man may boast." Our hope is in the work of Christ for us and not our rung up the ladder! Lord have mercy.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The worst decision at the ELCA assembly wasn't the homosexual votes...

Another great article from Rev. Paul McCain. Is there a bigger issue than the homosexual vote? Probably when a church joins another that doesn't believe in very basic things that are Scriptural (real presence, baptismal regeneration, etc). Here is his article on facebook...

Obviously, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s decisions about gay clergy are getting most of the attention from the media, and apparently from most Lutherans, but the worst decision The ELCA has made this week is the decision to enter into full communion with the Methodists. It is easy to express our “outrage” over the homosexual decision, but in fact, the greater error is the declaration of altar/pulpit fellowship with the United Methodist Church. This is even more symptomatic of a theological system that is sick unto death.It would be tempting for those who are not in the ELCA church to assume a posture of, “We told them so!” and “Thank God we are not like those kind of Lutherans.” But if we take that attitude we are disregarding God’s Word which warns us all: Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (Read all of 1 Corinthians 10:1-13)On a previous post, Dr. Holger Sonntag offered these very important observations in a comment and I post them here:Great. Thank you, Paul! Finally somebody says something about the ELCA-UMC fellowship. If you look at the vote that made this deal a reality (958-51), one is amazed: there are apparently a bunch of people in the ELCA (and at this year’s churchwide assembly) who have a problem with homosexual pastors (559-451), and I salute them for it. But how few people seem to care, e.g., about the vast difference in the understanding of the Lord’s Supper (THE gospel, as we’re always told) between genuine Lutheranism and Methodism? Years of flawed catechesis, where even the “conservatives” had adopted the “Leuenberg” Position that brought “peace” between Lutherans and Reformed (”personal presence of Christ”; exact “mode” of presence not really important), have done this to this church body. That’s even sadder, in my opinion. You can see Hermann Sasse (and Luther and Paul Gerhardt) turning in his grave now even faster…I can’t really grasp why so many conservative, confessional Lutherans get fired up about a law-issue like homosexuality, but so few mention the Methodist-agreement. Now, don’t get me wrong: I recognize that God’s law is important, that it’s unchanging, and that it calls homosexuality, in whatever “social context” it may be practiced, a sin. End of story. Sinners need not be provided by the church with excuses and explanations for their condition and actions. Sinners need to be called to confess their sins.And then they need to be called — to what? To the gospel! Tampering with the law is bad, and perhaps it’s done because you don’t believe the gospel anymore, that there could be full and free forgiveness even for the “bad” homosexual, like for every other sinner like you and me.In other words, as I already remarked over at “The Brothers of John the Steadfast,” I’m concerned that our “outrage” that’s again focused mainly on the homosexual issue is regrettably less than Lutheran and, in fact, quite “moralistic.” We’d expect this from Evangelicals, but Evangelical Lutherans should know better: we distinguish the law and the gospel, recongnizing that the gospel is “more important” because we’re saved, not by not being homosexuals, but by faith in Christ alone.

ELCA Assembly accepting of homosexuality as members and in church work

In a surprising unsurprising vote, the ELCA voted by 55% to allow practicing homosexuals to be ordained into the Holy Ministry. Some people are shocked and appalled, I'm just glad that what they hav ebeen practicing for years is now in the open. No longer can people in the ELCA say, "Well, the LCMS and ELCA are pretty much the same." Or even better, "Pastor, their aren't any LCMS churches in the area I live, so I must go ELCA!" A better solution? Start an LCMS church to be faithful to the Word.

It is a reminder once again for us all to cling to the Word of God. As my grandpa says, "If you don't believe in anything, you will fall for everything." The arguments in the assembly were centererd on emotions and personalities. They did not begin with the Word and then wrestle with other issues.

Pray for our brothers and sisters in the ELCA and hope for faithful churches to find a safe, Christ centered denomination to be part of.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

ELCA Church Wide Assembly response...

Rev. Paul McCain wrote this gospel-centered response to the vote this morning by the ELCA to endorse same sex relationships as acceptable by the Word of God. This is a wondeful response that is not judgmental, but focuses on the cross.

At its Churchwide Assembly, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America adopted a "social statement" on human sexuality that includes an endorsement of same-sex relationships that are "chaste, monogamous and lifelong." This is, of course, contrary to Holy Scripture which teaches us that God, in His creation, created man and woman to live together as man and wife in a chaste, monogamous and lifelong relationship. This is the natural order of things which is inherent in God's good creation itself. Deviation from this natural order, and natural law, are a consequence of the fall into sin. There is no middle ground on this issue. The ELCA has, again, demonstrated that it is outside the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church to the extent that it has embraced this false teaching.What then are we Lutherans to do who do not share this view? While much could be, and needs to be written, on the enormous implications of this action for a whole host of issues and relationships we have with the ELCA, for now it is important for our pastors and all the faithful to do the following:Be clear about what we stand for as Lutherans who do not share the ELCA's opinions on this issue. To do this, it is good once more to familiarize ourselves with the basic truths of God's Word regarding homosexuality. The pamphlet What About Homosexuality offers an excellent brief overview. Here is a link to this pamphlet on The LCMS web site: also need to make it clear that we, in no way, are "excluding" homosexuals from the Church. We exclude nobody, but welcome all to join us as repentant sinners before the throne of a loving and merciful God. We reach out with God's word of Law and God's Gospel. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod produced a very helpful Plan for Ministry to Homosexuals and Their Families, which you may download here: must remember that even as much as we deeply disagree with this action on the part of the ELCA, and while it causes us great grief, anguish and, yes, even anger, we must be careful to remember that this is an opportunity to demonstrate loving care and concern for those caught up in this error and for those who are striving to resist this false teaching. Let us make our witness constructive and take care that in our zeal to condemn error we not bruise the bent reed and snuff out the flickering flame. We witness to the truth, speaking that truth in love. The truth is that this action, while dramatic and a "flash point" for man, is simply a very visible symbol of the profoundly deep theological error that has the ELCA in what can only be described as a death-grip. What has happened is very much akin to seeing a large, old, beautiful tree suddenly break and fall, and upon examination, we see that inside, at its core, there set in years ago a rot that could not be overcome.In a gentle, caring and loving manner, we can use this situation to lead people to recognize that this is by no means something that is really shocking or surprising. The ELCA was formed by three liberal Lutheran church bodies that had already long before walked away from a faithful Lutheran doctrinal position on the authority of the Bible. The many "full communion" agreements over the years have signaled, time and time again, that the ELCA has lost sight of what it is to be a faithful, Biblical Lutheran church body. We should use this situation to help people understand how things reached this point. We must do so humbly and without any hint of triumphalism or "good thing we are not like *those* Lutherans." We are all sinners before our God and we must now bear one another's burdens, in love, truthfully and faithfully.

Rev. Paul McCain

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Taking service to one's neighbor serious....

Last week the mayor of Milwaukee, WI was terribly attacked by a man on the street. However, it was not an intentional beating to the mayor due to frustration of policies. Mayor Tom Barrett was about to get in his car when a woman yelled for help in a domestic issue from her boyfriend. He heard the cry and tried to calm the situation, however, the boyfriend attacked him and hit him with a pipe in the back of his head. Truly a sacrifice for his neighbor.

The disturbing part is that the family members of the boyfriend all said that Mayor Barrett should have not interevened. What? Someone is yelling help and not help? What kind of service is that? What is going on?

I commend Mayor Barrett for his help and I pray it points all of us to the high command of Jesus, "Love one another." Even if it might mean a pipe to the head, may we be there for one another.

Seeing my niece for the first time

I am on my way to see my niece and goddaughter in Vermont. This is my first "official" niece, if official means from the Finnern side of the family. She was recently claimed by Christ in Baptism and I look forward to praying with her and telling her some stories (Biblical and otherwise). My big sister lives in Burlington, VT and what beautiful country it is. Look forward to the Green mountains and time just to gaze upon God's creation.

May the peace of Christ be with Lux Fione and our time together as a family.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Focus on the ELCA assembly in MN is now overshadowed...

Until early this afternoon, the biggest news in Minneapolis was the gay clergy vote. Thankfully, now bigger and better news has come: "The great Brett Favre is now a Viking." What will be the results? Who knows. All I know is that it sure will be fun this fall in Wisconsin as a Vikings fan!
Even more so, the liberal agenda of the ELCA will not have ALL the news. When a church only receives news due to extreme views, the true focus of Christ is always lost. Of course, when Brett Favre is the big news in church, we have the same problem. Lord have mercy.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Confessional Study groups in Wisconsin?

Anybody know about any Confessional study groups in Southern Wisconsin? I have kind of slacked in the realm of the confessions. Anybody have any information?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pray for the ELCA this week...

We pray for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) this week as they gather for their chuch wide assembly. A few things on the agenda concern a human sexuality social statement that condones homosexual behavior, the ordination of practicing homosexuals, and a statement on gay marriage.

These are major issues that if passed will furthur separate the LCMS from the ELCA. We pray for the truth to be known at this assembly and Christ and Him crucified may be the focus.

Check out the proceedings at

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Steward, IL-No services

Today our family got back from Champaign, IL from visiting our son's godparents (Go U of I!). On our trip back, as I was ready to be home and the kids were getting anxious, I saw a sign on Highway 39 for the village of Steward, IL. Below the sign for the village said with big letters, NO SERVICES (no gas, no food, no bathroom)!

Probably not the best sign up for a village named Steward. As Christians we would define steward as a "manager" of the gifts God has given. Our role as His children is to use of our possessions and people surrounding according to God's purpose. Most importantly to serve others as Christ has served us.

Unfortunately, we are not much different than the sign on the highway. We have the identity as God's steward through the baptismal waters in Christ, but most people can not help but see the big letters by our actions, "NO SERVICES TO OTHERS." I serve myself, no one else, just walk bye!

As His children, may we remember the great sacrifice on the cross for us. He has claimed us to be His stewards and to serve others that they may see with big bold letters: "SERVICE TO ALL BY THE MERCY OF CHRIST."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Meeting Godparents and their importance in our faith

Our son just met his godparents for the first time yesterday. Is it significant? Probably not. He is 9 months old and will not remember this day. However, that does not diminishes the role of godparents.

Growing up I was asked my parents, "What is a godparent?" They replied almost bewildered, "If something happened to us, you would live with them." Hence the beginning of confusion. I had three godparents that consisted of three families. Who would I live with? I didn't want to live on my uncle's farm, nor move to the Twin Cities, or live in Arkansas. Man the problems.

This is the same problem most families have concerning choosing godparents. They think in terms of who will raise the kids (that is what a will is for) as opposed who will support and nurture the faith given in Holy Baptism. When choosing godparents, the qualifications are easy (but we tend to make them hard): 1) Believer in the crucified Christ for our sins (along with the Trinity), 2) Active in their faith (e.g. receive the gifts of God in worship), and 3) promise to pray and uplift your child in your faith. It truly is simple.

What a gift we have in our godparents Some are family, some are not, but the main focus is on faith in the living Christ who has won our salvation.

p.s. Our godparents bought our son Luther's Works on Galatians. Beat that!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Complaints, the devil, and living under the cross

I have noticed lately that myself and others have been kind of cranky. Complaints have flowed from the tongue like water down the Nile. Almost as if noone is thinking. Or even worse, don't realize how low it brings everyone that surrounds them.

When I hear and make complaints that have nothing to do with the ministry of the church or of important issues, it really is tough to take. Mainly because I would place a major amount of complaints without a few compliments and an obvious love of those whom you are complaining about a sign that the devil is at work like crazy. Which actually shows that we are probably giving too much Christ and Him crucified in our coummunity, which is even better.

Now there is a distinction of valid complaints and not valid complaints. Example: Complaining about not mentioning Jesus enough, not having enough Bible studies, not reaching out to the community enough, not being in the Word enough, not enough forgiving, ALL VALID and my word, would be a blessed complaint.

However, what are most of the complaints we deal with and that I many times make myself? Personalities, organizational skills, building problems, minor mistakes, and my favorite of a friends of mine, "the pastor is to passionate when he preaches." NOT VAILD!

Can we bring up concerns in a loving manner and not jump down people's throats? Yes. Do we have to complain ALL the time and never bring a compliment? No. I am open to concerns more than most, but when the concerns are so minor compared to our biggest problem of proclaiming Christ, we have to ask who is working so hard to stop us from proclaiming forgiveness and bringing the crucified Lord to the community?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Confirmation is coming....

Starting in September confirmation begins. For many pastors, this means the begining of headaches, yelling, and seeing glazed eyes. And in many ways, this is what happens. When in junior high, the last things that you want to do is sit for more "education." This presents a major challenge to all pastors and confirmation teachers, "How do you make it interesting without sacrificing confessional theology?"

I am always open to more suggestions for the future. We have a pretty good format (as far as engagement). 15 minutes of memory work recitation and updates on life. 5 minute break. 25 minutes of Catechism study (5 minute break). 15 minute study of one chapter of the Gospel of John. 5 minute break. 10 minutes of vespers and prayer. Go home!

That format works well to make it through the night. However, what is the best way to: 1) Have the children learn the faith? 2) Have them understand their identity as a baptized child of God? 3) Keep the kids active after confirmation is finished? (or more importantly, have the parents take part).

Everyone's prayers are requested. It will be a fun year. I actually enjoy confirmation and getting to know the kids.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A new tradtion...

There are three long-standing traditional statistics that I would like to challenge the members of any Lutheran church to break. These statistics have been standing for just too long and someone should do something about them.
The first statistic is that the traditional Lutheran congregation can always be divided into three distinct segments: One segment of the congregation is made up of members who do virtually nothing. They don't attend worship. They don't contribute any offerings and they don't volunteer for anything. Another segment of the congregation is made up of members who worship infrequently, they give a little something to the Lord in their offerings and every once in a while they will volunteer for something at church. And then there is the segment of the congregation made up of members who are in church virtually every Sunday to hear the message of the Savior who died and rose for them. They bring their offerings regularly and actually set aside a percentage of their annual income for the Lord. And you will see them volunteering for just about everything they have time for.
I wonder if we could become non-traditional and break out of the three segment statistic. Perhaps a good start to break the statistic would be to ask, "To which of these three segments of the congregation do I belong?" "Would it be possible for me to move up a step to the next segment, or could I be encouraging another member to move up a step?"
The second of the traditional Lutheran church statistics has to do with the 80/20 rule which holds true in our church too, that 20% of the members do 80% of the work and bring 80% of the offerings, and 80% of the members bring 20% of the offerings and do 20% of the work.
Perhaps a good start to break this statistic would be to ask, "Into which percentage group do I fall?" "Could I change to the other group or possibly help someone else to do so?" Or to put it more accurately, what if the church could change to even a 70/30 ratio? What amazing things could be done for the Lord!
The last statistic of the three is the 2% statistic. In good economic times and in bad the church continues to receive, all averaged together, no more than 2% of the membership's annual income. What amazing things could be done for the Lord's kingdom if that figure only increased to 3%.
Perhaps a good start to change this statistic would be for each of us to ask ourselves, "What percentage of my annual income do I give to my Lord?" "Out of love for all His gifts to me, could I possibly do anything to increase that percentage?"
So there you have it; Three traditional statistics, just challenging us to break them. Can we do it as members of God's church? With a recommitment to our Lord, I believe we can.
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." II Corinthians 8:9

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Total Body Transformation Guaranteed

My wife and I will begin a new workout routine today called, "P90." This is an intensive program for 90 days that "promises" to have a total body transformation. Thus far it looks good. If I follow the guidelines, eat less, and focus on the exercises, I will probably get a total body transformation.

Yet, my hope is that my body is transformed before the 90 days into a heavenly body as Paul tells us. Our body might change here on earth, but it will never be fully transformed until the day of resurrection. On that ONE and final day, our Lord will take our lowly, love handled, slightly obese, out of shape bodies and make them perfect. Not because of a workout system, but simply due to the blood of Christ and our faith.

Until that faithful day of resurrection, I will try to eat better, workout, and transform my body to its fullest. But understanding that it will not be perfect until the day of Christ.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

San Diego. Heaven on earth or decadence gone wild?

My wife and I just got back from a wonderful week in San Diego. Beaches every day, a Padres/Brewers game, lots of food, and an amazing hotel. If you have ever been to San Diego, you are amazed at the consistent weather. The high for the year 85 the low around 65. Sunny, low wind, and low humidity. In matters of weather, why would one want to live anywhere else? Is it heaven on earth?
In a whole different way, we also saw and experienced people gone wild. Various lifestyles, drunkeness, insecurity, homelessness, drug use, and rainbows plastered on businesses. Needless to say, there are many problems in this weather wonderland. The need for repentance is much like Ninevah, but the chances of repentance is even less. We pray for the LCMS churches in the San Diego area and pray for repentance for all people who have forgotten God and His law.
By the way...if you are in San Diego and looking for a good confessional, LCMS congregation, check out, Grace Lutheran Church Pastor Bombaro is a faithful pastor in a very unfaithful area.