Saturday, October 31, 2009

Facebook distracting our faith life too?

Think employers are beginning to ban facebook from computers? Absolutely. Facebook probably takes hours out of people's days and the time we increase through internet, fast computers, and iphones, are eaten away by causes, poking, and friend requests.
Should we do the same for our faith? Instead of prayer, studying the Scriptures, and attending worship, we are poking, joining causes, and making new friends. Sure, there is a great opportunity to share our faith in a quick way online, but how many are actually doing that? Or are we just waisting our time away and forgetting God.
Here is a good about spending one day in the Bible the amount of time you typically spend on facebook. Whoops..that means me too. Lord have mercy

Where are the Reformation traditions?

Tonight we have many traditions for Halloween. Candy, costumes, pumpkins (with a cross on it), food at a friends house, and an early night of sleep afterwards. Yet, do we have any Reformation traditions? Sure we have a service with A Mighty Fortress, red paraments, and usually a processional, but anything like Halloween?

Here is my proposal, once my kids are older, we will have a rip roaring "Reformation Party." But what would one have at such a party? German things (Beer, Brats, and craut) or something to symbolize saved by grace? Some kind of posting of the 95 thesis tradition?

Just a few thoughts...would love your input

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Two great ones finally together

Does this look like much of mainline protestantism in America?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Hope is built on nothing less than....fundamentalism

Last night while running, I was singing in my head the great hymn: "My Hope is built on nothing less." The most powerful moment is right at the beginning; what do we hope in? Jesus blood and Righteousness!

Reflecting on ministry, I often wonder if that is our only hope? As a matter of fact, where is our hope?

I think 99% desire to have our hope only in Christ, but we love to be fundamentalists, even to things that are not necessarily mandated by Christ. It can be the Kyrie for a liturgical nut like myself. Does it specifically point us to Christ? No. Do I tend to treat it like it is Christ more than I should. You also see it in contemporary music crowds also. Where they will use certain songs that do not specifically point us to Christ, but they will not give them up even if people want more Jesus (Wait upon the Lord?). We do it so often it is ridiculous: singing from the hymnal or not, screens or no screens, potlucks or catering, heating/cooling, times of worship, and the number of voter's meetings a year. How many times have you seen a congregational member stand up and complain about Jesus not being mentioned enough? I fear that the number of voter's meetings have gotten more complaints throughout the 21st century :-(.

It also shows up on how we see Scripture. Due to our fears from the 1970's Seminex days, we love to cling to each Word of Scripture, which isn't all bad, but at the expense sometimes of forgetting Christ. A great example is if someone claimed that we should get rid of 2 Peter (which many respected theologians agree with), people would be up in arms in our churches. But if our preachers never preach Christ but quote many Scripture passages, they tend not to be upset. What was Scripture given to us to know? Each word as the foundation? Or Christ? (reminder: I am a firm believer in the inerrancy of Scripture before someone claims that I want to get rid of the Bible).

If you sing this hymn "My Hope is built on nothing less..." What would be your next words? Jesus and His righteousness? Or Kyrie or no Kyrie, Shine Jesus Shine or Mighty Fortress, hymnals or printed off bulletins, screens, 8:00 worship, or voter's meetings? Lord have mercy. Wretched man that I am.

May it be upon Christ and Him crucified.

Reformation/Consecration Sunday a huge success

Today is the day we celebrate the Reformation. A day where we remember the posting of Martin Luther's 95 thesis, but more importantly we focus our hearts back to the Reformation theology of saved by grace through faith in Christ. This time of year is probably my favorite (not as many services as Christmas and Easter) due to the overall biblical message of salvation and Gods Work.

At our congregation we also celebrated Consecration Sunday. Throughout the month we have focused on stewardship through Consecrated Stewards. Most importantly we have looked at our hearts, centered on Christ's redemption, and called people to repentance (mainly me).
The theme for the month was "Freed to serve, give, and commitment. (John 8:31-36, Ephesians 2:8-9, and Joshua 24:14-18).

Stewardship is often seen as something NEVER to discuss, especially using the word Money. However, if Jesus talks about it, God talks about it, and everywhere in the world does, why doesn't the church? If we do not discuss it as a matter of faith, what will happen? We slow the faith process for our people and in essence hinder our mission.

May we all grow in the grace of giving and live in the palm of His hands.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Simple church and Lutheran theology

I just finished reading, "Simple Church" by Thom Rainer & Eric Geiger. The book was based off of findings of "successful" churches and those who were in maintenance mode. After researching various churches the findings were in essence, simple.

The churches that grew had simple missions, simple worship services, simple programs, and a simple focus. The findings even went as far as to say that a simple church spends its time in worship, Bible study, and serving one another.

Ever thought that us Lutherans had it right a LONG time ago, but jumped on the "corporate" band wagon and forgot who we were. Our definition of church is simple, People, Gospel, and Sacrament. That's it! But all of the sudden we start eight million groups, no mercy, little ministry, watered down worship, and by the time we get it all going, people want what we used to have. People to know me, the Gospel in purity, and the Sacraments.

I suggest this book and look at our own churches to see if we are in line with what our confessions proclaim.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

30 and still under the grace of God baby

Today is my 30th birthday. Dang. I truly feel like I just graduated from college. However, as I look at the last 8 years when life in the real world "started", I am amazed at the blessings. First marriage in 2003. Seminary life in St. Louis which was awesome. A wonderful vicarage in Kansas. The birth of three beautiful children. An amazing congregation (sinners with a sinful pastor). Finally, the love and support of our extended family.

Lord knows I do not deserve a lick of it. And by God's grace I move forward.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The swine flu, freaked out parents, and grace

I'm scared. In the world of parenting, we never stopped being scared. Each minute is a time that could potentially could change our lives and we fear for the security of our children. Whether it is swallowing objects, running to the road, or falling, we try our best to stop anything from happening to our precious children.

Yet, I don't think anything has brought us parents to our knees as the swine flu. We almost have NO control over this one. One person sneezes in a room and bam, we have it. I must admit my prayer life has benefited from this outbreak of swine flu. If we think we can totally prevent it, we have another things coming. If we think we should intentionally get it so that we grow immune, we are crazy.

What should we do? Trust in the Lord. Use the wisdom He provides. Wash your hands, sleep, fluids, and vitamins, but for pete's sake, pray. "Come onto me all who are burden and heavy laden and I will give you rest." Lord have mercy.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Consecrated Stewards to wrap up this week...

This Sunday will be our Consecration Sunday. We will commit our pledges to the Lord (time, talents, and treasures). Last year it was very emotional for me to see everyone come forward with their pledges. It not only indicated their own desire to grow in their sanctified living, but also showed that this was their church. That moment was one of the first times I realized that everyone in the room wanted to be part of this and that indicates the Holy Spirit doing some great stuff.
May we see stewardship as the free and joyous activity of a child of God. Not budgets, not keeping an institution going, but growing in faith and particpating in the kingdom of God.

Friday, October 16, 2009

More hope in Reformed theology than Lutheran?

A friend of mine went to an Acts 29 conference. Acts 29 is a church planting network started by Mars Hill Church in Seattle by Rev. Mark Driscoll. At the conference he commented that he went and hung out with other Lutherans and the conversations concerned funding models, programs, preaching, perching, and how to grow the church.

He then went to some friends from the "Reformed Camp" and what was their conversation concerning? Law and Gospel and how to apply it.

In Mark Driscoll's book, Vintage Church, he tells of preaching. The importance of preaching faithfully, preaching from the Word of God, and then he makes a Lutheran move...proclaim Jesus over and over again (101-103). He tells that if one only studies the Bible and does not focus on Christ, they become knowledgable, but with no faith. WOW, is that Lutheran or what?

We live in a society that is looking for truth and strong answers. Are we as Lutherans going to proclaim the truth, focus on Christ, and be theological? Or are we going to discuss funding models, programs, and perching?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A different name, same place?

During our time in St. Louis an interesting thing happened...we went to a place called, "Saint Louis Bread Co." You walk into this place that one has never heard of outside of St. Louis and it is strikingly similar to another bread company in Wisconsin: Panera. Yet, the name is different. In Missouri the name is St. Louis Bread Company, but everywhere else, it is Panera.
Why would this be? Evidently, the owners of Bread Co figured out that the name St. Louis would not fly in Chicago, so they named it something different in other parts of the country. Good marketing move.
What is your name in the world? Happy, friendly, a jerk? Everywhere in our world, the name that best sums us up is....sinner. This name was not a good marketing name for God, so He decided to make the move to change our name in front of Him through Christ so that we are no longer sinner, but now saint because of Christ. Think of that next time you eat at Panera (or St. Louis if you live there).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Throwing and ministry

In my former life, I was a thrower. A.k.a. I was in track and field and threw the discus, shotput, and a little hammer. It was a blast. Great friends and wonderful memories.

However, when life comes at ya the former life becomes less and less of a focus (family and kids). This is my vocation God has given and if coaching takes a back seat, then so be it.

Yet, what does God bring from our passions into ministry? Could I be more involved with my passion of throwing and it being part of ministry? Who knows. I'm not saying I work more on throwing/coaching than ministry, but can it be done?

As pastors, often we begin to see ministry as me and the church. Hours upon hours only with people in the church, little time with people in the community, and little time in places that pastors don't usually hang out at. But why do we do this? For the kingdom of God? To fulfill a job description? Or out of being uncomfortable with the world that surrounds us?

May the Lord use us in our passions, to build relationships, serve our community, and proclaim the name of Christ

Regeneration gathering Day 3

Today was a wrap up day. The gathering of lay people, DCE's, DCO's, and pastors. It it not a subgroup, mission society, or anything, just a gathering for encouragement, prayer, and ideas. Neither is this a group that says, "We get it" and others don't.
In the wrap-up session, it was decided that our goal is twofold:
1) Stay Christ-Centered, grace centered, and Lutheran focused, almost annoyingly (maybe even read the Confessions).
2) Get out into the world, get involved, know people, and be the church.
One frustration I have and many others is when church workers say something like this: "Yeah, we have Word and Sacrament ministry, but let's talk about this." Hmmmm....I guess the practical drives the theological. I struggle with this because often our ministry is SOOO much about practice and little about theology. The statement, "This isn't that bad." Becomes very annoying real quick (Arguing against bunnies at Easter in church, Santa at Christmas, and praying to angels).
May we stay focused (especially me) on the Scriptures and Christ.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Regeneration gathering Day 2

The only full day of the Regeneration summit was a full day. Devotionals, distinctions of Catholics and evangelicals, a panel discussion on missional & Lutheran, worship, and prayer.
The beginning of the day was the most powerful. Rev. Jeff Cloeter, Pastor of Christ Memorial Lutheran in St. Louis, answered the question, "Does it matter to be Lutheran in the 21st century?"
He defined the Gospel as "Manger, cross, empty tomb." The saving work of our Lord, Jesus Christ. This Gospel, most Christian churches (worth their salt) possess and confess. However, the problem is a distinction of presentation vs. proclamation.
This is a section from his presentation:
Clarity of the Gospel:

1) Gospel Presentation-Jesus died on the cross.
2) Gospel Proclamation-Jesus died on the cross for you.

Proclamation as:

-Pure grace-No demands on us.

-Primary discourse-Direction declaration of God for you! Here and now.

-From the outside-Extra nos-Outside of us-Truth of what God does to me.

Regeneration gathering Day 1

Last night the gathering of pastors, lay people, and auxilary positions came together at Christ Memorial Lutheran in South St. Louis.

In opening worship, Rev. Jeff Cloeter pointed us all back to our main emphasis these next few days: receiving God's gifts and encouragment to keep in the mission.

As part of our confession time, we highlighted that one of the major sins we commit as church workers as we gather is "preaching and perching." We will bring up how great we are doing, covet other people in their ministries, and little encouragement is given.

Our hope is that we will dig deep into our understanding of what it means to be Lutheran in our current day. Keeping our doctrine and practice consistent and never sacrificing Law and Gospel. Should be interesting, since most of the time I am among pastors to discuss these things. I look forward to being engaged with other groups. More to come.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A day of paradox....communion and the road

I saw the greatest of paradoxes today. This morning in worship, I had the joy of administering the sacrament of the altar and witnessed two little children begging their parents to show them what the body looks like and holding their communion cup. The child said, "I know it is the body of Christ, why can't I partake?" Ever wonder if 6 year olds get it more than majority of our church? What a joy to see God at work.

Then in a unique twist, we traveled to St. Louis today for a gathering called Regeneration. On the way, we happened to not be going 16 miles over the speed limit and a car cut us off while showing us the middle finger with a variety of words to say.

It goes well with the saint/sinner paradox. We have the joy of worshipping, receiving His gifts, but we also live in a crazy world that is willing to disgrace, dishonor, and disapprove of anyone that gets in their way. The worst part: what was my temptation with the car that cut us off? A finger back. Chief of sinner right here.

Lord have mercy

Saturday, October 10, 2009

How can we revitilize our churches and Synod?

Our sainted President of the Synod Rev. Friedrich Pfotenhauer has a good thought of the way to restructure our church body.

Is it threats to do more missions?
Is it to have the Synod have more power?
What are our churches to do?

Does this sound like it is written today?

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Mission, the kingdom of God, and democracy

In the movie, "The Mission" (one of my favorites), a Catholic bishop visits a mission and asks the local priest, "How do you distribute the money you make?" The priest replied, "Equally among all!" The bishop, "That sounds like the dictatorship of France to me." "But Father, that is what the early Christians did." The bishop was silent.

When we read Acts 2 and 4, we never hear of a democratic idea of motivation for each individual to do their best, but we hear of helping each other so much that no one is in need. Selling land, giving away everything, and loving one another.

How does that relate to today? Descriptive or prescriptive? We always take cultural influences into effect, however, how does that work in a 21st century context? Something I would like to study more on and get feed back.

Lord have mercy

ILC affirms our position on what?

The International Lutheran Council (ILC), an association of 34 confessional Lutheran church bodies (including the LCMS) from six continents, has unanimously adopted a statement emphasizing commitment to the Bible's position on homosexual behavior. The action was taken at the ILC's 23rd International Conference Aug. 26-31 in Seoul, South Korea. check out the whole story

This is refreshing considering the vote took place almost simultaneously to the ELCA assembly. In the official document, the council focuses its attention to God's Word and to the Gospel.
I am once again becoming a little anxious with statements and not any real concrete actions that are requested. In the LCMS there are 0 ministries that focus on "sexual brokenness" and 1 congregation listed on the Exodus international as an "association" congregation. An association congregation means that the congregation affirms the biblical position on homosexuality, but is a place that offers forgiveness in the case of repentance. Why wouldn't ALL LCMS churches be listed on this association? According to its bylaws, there is no obligation to worship with the other churches, sacrifice your particular theology, or to show fellowship on other parts, simply to be listed as a church that is a safe place for repentant individuals trying to get out of the gay lifestyle.
This is serious. If congregations do not start loving individuals who struggle with the gay lifestyle, we will see a major problem in the next generation. The perception that I have received from many young people who are not for homosexual behavior, but tend to be more open to it due to the churches apparent homophobic attitude (e.g. they will accept a drunkard, but not someone struggling with homosexuality). I think now is the time for mercy, action, and upholding our doctrinal position.
Check out these groups that specializes in ministering to people with "sexual brokenness."
Keys Ministry-A ministry formerly led by a LCMS pastor, now led by Karen Hart in Western Kansas (AFLC).
Outpost Ministries-A flourishing ministry led by Rev. Dan Puumala that is probably the most dynamic minitries in the midwest.
Exodus International-The largest ministry organization in the United States. The group has been together since 1976. The group is focused in Reformed theology, however, are centered on forgiveness and grace.
Anybody know of more work being done out there? Any more Lutheran ministries?
Lord have mercy as we serve in His kingdom

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A baptism request from an individual that attends a church that doesn't do infant baptisms?

It has occured a number of times: A mother calls, she has an infant, they regularly attend a non-denominational congregation that does not baptize infants, and she wants the child to be baptized. What is an individual to do? We want the child to be baptized and we bring up the problems with the theology of the church they attend. What is a confessional Lutheran to do?

The issue comes down to a number of issues. First, younger people today have less denominational loyalty and more personal loyalty (a pastor they know well). Secondly, people don't see the connection of doctrine and practice. They don't like how they don't baptize infants, but they like the worship service, so they keep going even if they don't believe in what they believe. Thirdly, younger people don't value membership. So they probably won't "join" that other church, but still consider themselves Lutheran.

Any thoughts? I am working through this and want some ideas of how to proceed.

Monday, October 5, 2009

How well do we know each other in our churches?

I recently spoke to a gentleman that is a member at a relatively large congregation. He was lamenting to me that his pastor did not even know him. I attempted to assure him of his pastor caring, but there is only so much that he can do. However, he said that at one time his pastor did know everyone, but the pressure was so high on growth that he focused on church growth methods, visioning, and basically advertising. My heart went out for this gentleman.

I am NOT saying that growth is bad or that every pastor needs to know everyone as well as their parents. However, we must always remember the care for the ones who are faithful members. Do we need to witness to our community and look for growth? Absolutely. Do we need to care and love for members? Yes.

At the end of the day, we always could be doing more on either end. This is where confession/absolution and the trust in Christ comes. God is in control, we repent, He forgives, and we faithful proclaim and administer His gifts.

Lord have mercy.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Movies and Confession & Absolution

My wife and I went to a movie on Friday night, "Love Happens." Good movie, decent morals, and a nice night away.

What I find interesting concerning movies in general is that we go to the theatre many times to get out of reality. When you look around the movie theatre, many are alone, couples don't talk to each other, and young children are glued to the screen. We love movies because it takes us out of our real world, especially when the real world is very dark. The movie theatre is a place where most of the time nobody will know you, it is too dark to judge, and no one looks around after the movie starts to see what you are eating or drinking. It is the perfect getaway.

The problem is that in 90 minutes or less, you are back to the real world. The pain, the guilt, and people. A world we do not want to confront.

When we live in this way we will never get to the real problem: sin. We will try to sidestep issues, move farther away, and act as if nothing has happened. Yet, the problem never goes away. We continue to fall farther and farther away from the reality of God and look for more things like movies to help cope.

Here is a proposal: Instead of looking to movies for a release from reality, how about going to your pastor? Your boring, simple dressed, slightly frumpy pastor. Go to him, grab your hymnal, turn to page 292 (LSB) and bring your grief, guilt, and sins to Chrst. Look reality right in the eye, repent, and hear the precious words of forgiveness. The guilt disappears, the pain subsides, and you are made clean by Christ. Then the pastor ends with the words that a movie never brings, "Go in peace."

Try it once and you will always go back! No charge and no popcorn necessary.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Idolatry at its best-Gophers, Vikes, and Twins

What a weekend of idolatry. Twins are almost tied for the Central Division, Gophers played Wisconsin (lost, but was fun to watch), and Vikes will play on Monday night. Should I finish confirmation twenty minutes early? Overall, kind of a slow week thinking theology (friends kind of wore me out). Check out this new commercial for Favre