Sunday, January 31, 2010

Matrix and Original sin...

In an attempt to receive some respite this afternoon from loud children and recovering from worship, I fell upon the great movie, "Matrix." I had always known it to have many religious symbols, but this time one scene hit our sinfulness right on the head.

When Neo (Keanu Reeves) was deciding whether or not to join the group of people pursuing him, Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne) gave him two options. To eat the green or red pill. If he had the green pill, he would continue to live in his current life. However, if he had the red pill Morpheus says, "You will find out the truth. The truth that you are in captivity, you are a slave to someone else, but will be set free."

Sound familar to attending worship on Sunday mornings? We learn that due to original sin we are in captivity and a slave to sin, but when in Christ we are set free. Yet, being set free, as Neo learned, was not a release from problems, it brought the reality of our problem. And it instantly points us to the solution of sin: the cross.

Next time you watch Matrix, check out the Christological themes. It runs thick.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Words, Words, and Authority

Last night watching the State of the Union address makes me realize how powerful words can be and also how they can be very void of meaning.

For most polititcians, words mean almost everything when running for office. This was most apparent during the 2008 election. Obama is an outstanding orator and McCain just wasn't. Words meant a ton. However, since the election, words have lost its meaning because people want action. That is apparent if you listen to the radio this morning, see the reactions of the Supreme Court, and hear the words on the street.

This is true of Jesus. People were amazed at his words of wisdom (Luke 2) and that they seemed to have authority (Luke 4), but they also say action. When the demons were there, He called them out with words. When Simon's mother-in-law was sick he healed her through words, words that had action. Words of love that told of a new kingdom, a kingdom now, but not yet, and a kingdom that would love to an unloving world.

May this be true of us as the church. May our words be true and pure with the Gospel, but may our actions follow. Showing the same mercy and care as Christ would. The church is at a tipping point in her history and I believe that the way we shall move forward in our American context is by action. Being filled and motivated by strong doctrine and pure Gospel, but combining it with bold mercy to the least of these.

Lord have mercy

Monday, January 25, 2010

The life of a Vikings fan...humbling!

After experiencing four NFC championship games in my lifetime (No Super Bowls yet) and watching majority of yesterday's game, I can't help but be humble. Since 1998, I have NEVER bragged about my Vikings allegiances, yesterday's game I assumed we would lose, I tried to play with my kids more than watching the game, and I will move forward assuming the same for next year.

I am actually glad it is this way. I have had a tendency to be arrogant in certain things and the Lord has done a number of things to lower this downfall. I thank God for this loss, because it reminds me once again how the sun will rise the next day, food will be on the table, and I am still in the palms of my Lord's hands.

What does God do in your life to make you humble?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"I don't need to go to church, I have fellowship in other ways"

"I don't need to go to church, I have fellowship in other ways."

Ever felt jealous of people who say this? People who do not attend church don't have to deal with complaints from varying generations, disagreements over small things, gossip, pressure of budgets, and added stress of trying to help others. There are times it seems like a pretty good deal to NOT be part of church. After all, wouldn't it be easier just to sleep in, watch football, go fishing, and hoard the money for yourself?

Seems kind of nice doesn't it? But the reality is that it is far from the truth. What it is missing is the gifts that God gives (Forgiveness, life, salvation) through the means which He called us to dispense. On top of that we need each other because we were made to be in fellowship (I Corinthians 12 and Acts 2:42-47). Is it going to be messy? Man alive yes. Will it be sinful? Yep. But there are many things we are a part of that are sinful and we still go and be part of that (Lambeau field)? The big part of church is that we are able to bring a Savior in the midst of that sin and give a solution/strength through it all.

Lord have mercy

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Lord bless you...

After a battle with ALS, Edward Brust passed away on Thursday morning. The last words he heard that elicited a response was the Benediction which brought a strong and emotional "Amen."

In today's funeral many arrived to remember Ed and at the same time hear the promises of Christ. It was bittersweet. We did not want him to suffer any longer, but we also did not want him to leave. It proves once again that no matter when death occurs it stings, it is tough, emotional, and show us our mortality. The only answer is a God who has died like us and has been resurrected. This gives us the hope of something beyond this life and the reality of our need for God.

We join Ed awaiting the resurrection in the blessed hope of Christ and His resurrection.

Keep Rita and his family in your prayers.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Scott Brown, original sin, and church polity

Scott Brown wins in Massachusetts? A conservative, Republican after Kennedy passes in office, a year after a huge swing to Democratic Presidency, House, and Senate? And this vote in the most liberal of states in the nation makes the health care debate something that can not be pushed through simply by party vote. Democracy at its best.

This is a reminder of the refreshing way our government is set up. In order for anything to get anywhere it must be passed by the House, Senate, and the Presidency. And even then it can be filibustered and questioned before anything happens. Our government was put together in a way that realized that original sin and selfishness is rampant in our world and there must be accountability. No one group can stay in control and if one group takes over for very long (Republicans in 2004 and Democrats in 2008) it will swing to more balance.

Do we do the same thing in our churches and Synod? I often see the temptation (and my own feelings) of the pastor or a few people in the church to control things, especially in a world today where many people do not want to take responsibility for volunteer organizations. Pastors could easily take over or a few families could take over for their own agenda. The same problem could be in our Synod where the bureaucrats could try to control the way churches function, BUT aren't we congregationally based? Does your church have accountability? Does our Synod have the same accountability? Or are we trying to bring in more power for certain groups? It is always good to take a step back and ask if we are leaning to one way or the other and let the Holy Spirit guide our ministries in a Biblical way.

May it all be done to the glory of Christ and Him crucified.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Disturbing situation in Haiti beyond the Earthquake

In Haiti, Rev. Mark Driscoll describes the sex trade of young girls and brutal murders that occur on a daily basis. This is a need for us as Christians to stand up in prayer and action for the sake of others. I'm not sure what we can do, but as a father of daughters, this is too much for anyone to bear.

Lord have mercy

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Baptismal life and mercy

"For the peace of the whole world, for the well-being of the curch of God, and the unity of all, let us pray to the Lord. Lord have mercy." These words we pray each week in the Kyrie pleading with the Lord to have mercy on the whole world, especially those in need. I admit that often I feel like skipping the Kyrie out of frustration with member's lack of excitement, lackluster faces, and my own apathy at times. The old Adam in me says, "Do we have to sing this again?"

However, I say this prayer get answered today by the Holy Spirit when our congregation of 160 people who attended today gave over $1,000 to LCMS World Relief/Human Care for the relief efforts in Haiti. As our District President, John Wille requested all congregations to take an offering for the efforts, I can only imagine that the church worldwide has been moved by the Spirit in the same way.

Now we move forward as God's baptized and ask, "What merciful thing does the Lord has in store next? In the meantime, we pray for those in Haiti and everyone in our churches who need the mercy of Christ.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Prayers and the need for mercy in Haiti

As news of what is being called the largest earthquake to hit Haiti in more than 200 years reached LCMS World Relief and Human Care (LCMS WR-HC) on Tuesday, the Synod’s mercy arm began preparing to reach out in the Caribbean nation with much needed assistance and working in cooperation with Lutheran partners.

The need for funds and supplies are at a all-time high. LCMS WR-HC has made a list of what is needed. WR-HC has many connections and resources for the most efficient help for as many people as possible in Haiti. Prayerfully consider helping in this mercy ministry for God's people. Make sure to make this list available to your church also.

Lord have mercy.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cigar shops and seeker sensitivity

Today after our circuit meeting with our local pastors a group of us guys went out to eat, which happened to be next door to a cigar shop. In my past I have enjoyed a good cigar or two and a few cloves with the guys. It has been a few years since my visit to a cigar shop, so we decided to stop bye. It was like entering a different world. Cigars and cigarettes everywhere, the scent of smoke you smell in an old bowling alley, and a group of guys at a bar in the middle of the day enjoying their favorite cigar. No bones about it, this was a cigar shop. We were welcomed with open arms, showed the array of cigars, and a wall of fame of famous people who had smoked there. As I left, I remember a feeling of being uncomfortable in a setting I do not normally frequent, however, their was a unique comfort of knowing that they did not try to hide their identity: smoking and fellowship.

In the church today, there is a HUGE amount of pressure to be "seeker" sensitive, welcoming, and changing to fit the ideals of the world. In essence, to not look like church, sneak Jesus in later, and before you know it, people become Christian.

What was refreshing about this cigar shop was they did not try to act like something they weren't. If they wanted to be seeker sensitive, they would hide the cigars in the back room and offer healthy snacks in the front. They would have the nicest guys stand at the door and talk about how they are not like your normal cigar shop that only offers unhealthy cigars or tries to sell the old brands. And they would have signs everywhere that never said the word Cigar/smoke/or clove, so people would feel better about entering. Then after a few weeks of visiting, they would bring out the cigars and people would feel more comfortable with taking a few puffs. Great plan.

I think we all know people would see right through that and dislike being used as an object to be fooled with. In Christendom, many churches use the same methods. Hide Jesus, tell people you are not like the other churches, and make signs that do not mention our theological beliefs (especially not our denomination).

The Scriptures couldn't disagree (ergo God) more. Jesus continually tells his disciples to be His witnesses, to preach repentance, make disciples, and be a city on a hill. Not to fool people to Jesus, but making him the center. Not making confusing signs without our theological convictions or hiding Jesus, but making His atoning work and forgiveness at the forefront.

May we be bold to show Christ and His work in all we do in church and not be ashamed of it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Ever noticed...

Ever noticed that your wife becomes more beautiful every day, especially as she functions in her vocation of motherhood. I can't even explain it, but I am more in love with her now than I was last week. And I am more attracted to her now than I ever was while courting her for 2 years. Man alive, I look forward to the years ahead together and her growing in beauty.

Husbands, tell your wives how much you love them and find them beautiful. Wives, tell your husbands how much you respect him and appreciate all he does. It goes a LONG ways in this God-given vocation of marriage.

The Spirit Annointed Christ for Mercy Lenten series coming quickly

Lord have mercy (Mark 10:47) we cry each week in church. Not necessarily a mercy for forgiveness because we have just been absolved by our pastor by our Lord's authority. We cry out for mercy in our daily vocations (Church, life, family, etc). Lord have mercy.

Christ for mercy is our focus this Lent (Ash Wednesday is February 17th) based off the series from LCMS World Relief/Human Care.

I will be posting daily devotions during the Lenten season concerning Mercy and also reflecting on the need for mercy in our world flowing from the mercy of Christ.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Prayers for those in need

I request prayers for a number of friends and God's children. As Dr. John Kleinig from Australia told us at a conference: "When we pray, we bring those individuals to the feet of Jesus to work on by His love."

May we do that for the following individuals:

1) Ed-A middle aged man who is battling ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Synodrome). His wife, Rita battles with him and the rest of the family to look to God and His promises in Christ.

2) Brandon-A young man, 30's, who is going in for surgery for a brain tumor on Wednesday. Be with his wife and three kids as they surround him.

3) Henry-my grandfather who has been diagnosed with Alzheimers. For my aunt and others who take care of him and for wisdom on what to do for the future.

Thank you for your prayers and we trust that God hears these prayers and answers by His grace. If anyone has other prayer requests, please let me know.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Too much vitamin? Too Much Jesus?

I gave my children gummy vitamins yesterday morning as we always do. With my health fitness background, I always look at the nutritional information on everything and at the bottom of the bottle of this CHILDREN'S gummy vitamin bottle says the words, "Keep out of reach of children." Interesting isn't it? Yet, the main idea is that although two vitamins are good for children, 20 are not. Therefore we need to regulate how many doses of vitamins they receive for the sake of their health.

Unfortunately we use the same reasoning when it comes to Jesus and our children. I can't tell you how many parents have said, "Pastor, I don't want to give them too much Jesus." Indicating that they didn't want to bring their kids to too many worship services, Sunday School events, too many confirmation classes, and especially not force them after confirmation because if they do, the children will hate church and Jesus. After all, less is more. I wonder if they use the same reasoning for football, dance, or birthday parties for friends. It is as if Jesus says in Matthew 28:21, "When making disciples make sure not to give people too much of me."

Romans 10:17, "Faith comes by hearing, hearing the Word of God." If we are serious about faith and about our child's faith the goal is not to "regulate" our child's Jesus time because they will get sick of it, but live as ones who trust in God's Word that tells us to let our faith be strengthened by hearing that Word, no matter how often.

Christ's blessings to all parents who are raising disciples in Christ

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

An evangelist in the making...

Paul tells us that some have the gift as an evangelist. Well, this evening my oldest daughter had her first swimming lessons (the emotions I felt are another story) and might have the making for this gift. On our way in she noticed that the YMCA had taken down the Santa, but kept up the Nativity scene. She told us all excited, "Daddy told them about God and so did I when I go swimming and they took down Santa and kept up Jesus. I'm glad they now worship Jesus."

May we all proclaim Jesus so we continue to worship Jesus.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Preparing for the Baptism of Jesus

This Sunday is one of my favorites, Baptism of our Lord. There is no better time to re-clarify our identity as God's child. Typically I get a little Catholic with the congregation and place the baptismal font in the back of the church (actually the front). Then a sign describing how to make the sign of the cross as a reminder that you were claimed by Christ in baptism and now you enter with that identity to hear the words of Christ and receive salvation in the body and blood.

I thoroughly enjoy the OT reading for this Sunday also, Isaiah 43:1-"I have called you by name, YOU ARE MINE." With all the talk of what we are supposed to do in life, this is a Sunday where we emphasis whose you are through the Holy Spirit and Word.

I pray for wisdom this week as we prepare for this Sunday.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

If only the Vikings could play at the Dome every week...

Vikings win 44-7 against New York Giants and now we await the game of Dallas and Philadelphia to see if the Vikes will get a first round bye. Either way the success of the Vikings will probably depend on where they play. If outside, guaranteed loss and if at the Metrodome, consider a Super Bowl invite.

In the end it doesn't matter and life will go on.

Women and

We recently had Deaconess Melissa Degroot from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN, at our congregation to speak about women and ministry and also the role of women in the husband/wife relationship. She did an incredible job describing what Scripture says. I would highly suggest having her come to speak.

And since her time with us I have been doing some major reflection on the man/woman-husband/wife-pastor/deaconess relationship. Often two things are miscontrued in these conversations. If people speak plainly about what Scripture says they are automatically assumed to be a male dominator and if a woman says it, therefore they are brainwashed. Or if people speak about the glories of women and their amazing roles in ministry they are promoting women's ordination. I do believe there is a way to speak of both without being misconstrued of either. Because in all reailty, it is tough to be either one in today's world. One friend told me, "Brady, if people think you are a male dominator, they don't realize that your wife, Amy, would kick your butt if you tried." He was absolutely right. So where does the distinction lie?

The distinction in all of it is service. If a husband uses his God-given role as a club to dominate his wife, he is instantly going against his role as servant. If a wife looks to have control of her husband and not "submit" then she is no longer a servant, but a power monger. If a pastor tries to use his power to make his own changes and discount the role of women in ministry, they are denying Scripture and the many gifts that women possess (especially in mercy). Despite common misperceptions, the relationship of pastor-deaconess, husband/wife, and man/woman can easily be biblical and not downgrading if the main goal is being service. And boy, I need to repent over some of that and we all do. Do we ALWAYS uplift each other in word and deed, man alive, no? Do we have it as our main goal to serve or do we let selfish desires enter in? But at the end of the day the question is not who has a position, but who has been a servant of Christ and repent if we have not!

The question we all have to ask is twofold: 1) Is it Biblical? and 2) Are we being servants? If we can answer yes to both, done. If not, time to repent. At the end of the day it is not a question of who has the position, but who has been a servantof christ. It will never be perfect, but as redeemed baptized children of God it is worth fighting for.

Time to go and do some repenting for all of us. Lord have mercy