Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Now that's Dedication

The son of some of our friends is on a mission trip down in the Dominican Republic.  We received a letter from him the other day that made me laugh.  Here's a little of what he had to say:
It is sometimes difficult to go day after day and pour yourself out to these kids when it's hard to see if there is any fruit but I was really encouraged when I heard a boy about 10 years old singing.  He was singing "Christo es mi Superhero" which means, Christ is my Superhero, to see the joy on these kids faces as they sing about Jesus is amazing.  We have also been doing about two dramas everyday which have been really good, except on our first time where my friend Gabby broke her tooth during the drama.  No one knew it happened until we finished and she got it fixed the next day.  So yes the dramas do get pretty intense sometimes.

photo credit: that.girl

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Parental Office

My friend Brian Yamabe and his co-blogger Joshua McNary are the authors of a blog/podcast called The Parental Office.  They're both fathers of younger kids, and are thus called by God to teach the faith to their kids.  They are producing a series of podcasts in which they discuss their parental vocation, including ideas on how to raise their kids in a God-pleasing way using Lutheran theology and resources.  As Brian states:
One issue that has stuck with me the last couple of years is how to pass on the faith to my daughters. What can we do better at home? What can we do better at church? What has worked with my daughters? What has worked for others? What should we avoid? I’m hoping the podcast can be a platform for exchanging information that helps parents integrate their children into the Christian life.
I like what they're doing.  This is more than just a "how to" show, it's a resource that might very well reorder your thought processes on how to raise your kids from a Biblical, Lutheran perspective, and cause you to reconsider you vocation as parent. 

You can follow Brian and Joshua on Facebook or Twitter.  Their podcasts are available on their blog, and are available on iTunes.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Continuing the Emphases of Witness, Mercy, and Life Together

Hanging in our church is a banner of the now-familiar tripartite logo which emphasizes Witness, Mercy, and Life Together. These emphases have been very well received throughout the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. At the last synodical convention it was mandated that synodical emphases now be determined by the national Synod in convention (see Bylaws 4.2.1(b) and I'd encourage anyone interested to consider the following resolution for adoption in your circuit and district convention, which promotes the continuation of this three-fold emphasis of Witness, Mercy, and Life Together. This resolution was first published on the Brothers of John the Steadfast website. The WMLT logo is used with permission.

A Resolution Suggesting a Triennial Mission and Ministry Emphasis for the Synod

WHEREAS at the 2010 Synodical Convention the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod adopted a process whereby the triennial emphasis is established by suggestions forwarded through the adoption of resolutions at the congregational level, then by circuit forums, then district conventions, and finally the synodical convention, and

WHEREAS no triennial emphasis could be adopted at the 2010 Synodical Convention because this process had been newly established, and

WHEREAS the Synodical President and his staff developed an emphasis for this first triennium based on the ancient description of the Church, and

WHEREAS congregations, circuits and districts of the Synod are asked in Bylaw 4.2.1 to submit mission and ministry emphases for consideration by the synodical convention, and

WHEREAS the current mission and ministry emphasis of Witness, Mercy, Life Together holds much potential for further growth and implementation throughout the Synod,

therefore be it

RESOLVED that we, __________ Congregation of __________ submit the mission and ministry emphasis of Witness, Mercy, Life Together for consideration as the continued mission and ministry emphasis for the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod for the 2013-2016 Triennium, and be it further

RESOLVED that we memorialize the _________ District to adopt the above resolution, and be it finally

RESOLVED that we memorialize the _________ Circuit Forum to adopt the above resolution.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Christ Rescues You from Yourself

Quoting Dr. Martin Luther from his lecture on Galatians 1:4, 5:
Therefore since Christ rescues you from the world, He certainly rescues you from yourself as from the worst enemy of all, just as Paul says in Rom. 7:18: “Nothing good dwells with me, that is, in my flesh.” By your own strength, therefore, you will not overcome the evil world and your own vices; your works are in vain unless Christ alone delivers you. So beware lest fastings, vigils, zealous efforts, temperance, sobriety, and other virtues make you an incorrigible hypocrite.

Martin Luther, vol. 27, Luther's Works, Vol. 27 : Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 5-6; 1519, Chapters 1-6, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther's Works (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1964), 27:174.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

American Politics: A Portrait of Sin

Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod President Matt Harrison, on his blog Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison, discusses his recent appearance before the House Committee on Government and Oversight. It is a very sad commentary on the state of U.S. politics. The grandstanding, misrepresentation, and generalized incivility towards anyone not "just like me and what I think" demonstrated at the hearing by the congresspeople and the media coverage that followed highlight the depravity of our sinful nature. Thanks be to God that He sent His one and only Son to rescue us from this body of death. Here's the last three paragraphs of President Harrison's post:

The hearing was a sideshow. I was asked by folks back home, "It seamed speaker after speaker on the democrat side had not heard what you just said!" Said, I, "They didn't. You see each person simply came in with the talking points for the cameras and blasted away only to leave as soon as they did the grandstand." All was twisted. "You really want to get rid of birth control, right?" Harrison: No. We're not against Birth Control, but only abortion causing drugs. "You really don't care about women right?" Harrison: No. I've spent years assisting them. I knew my dear wife was at home no doubt yelling at the T.V. Wished she were there instead of me at that point.) Republicans wanted to draw me into condemning Obama outright. Wouldn't do it. I was representing the Missouri Synod. We haven't condemned Obama care, or even ruled on it. And we won't. Our problem is the government forcing religious people to act contrary to their doctrine and practice.

I felt like I was in monkey cage frankly. But the media circus followed. The Dems lost the argument in the hearing, so they sent in the troops to obfuscate and create drama for the ever willing press. So the story is turned to something like this: "Why do you guys hate women?" "Why do you want to take our contraceptives away?" "How can you men be testifying about women's health?" There were some exceptions. Tim Townsend gave us an accurate piece in the St. Louis Post Dispatch. The New York Times wasn't all bad. Others were pathetic. Nancy Palosi was blasting away on the Sunday morning shows with the obfuscation. (I regard that attack as a badge of honor.) The panel photo even appeared on SNL. More nonsense. I couldn't care less.

The constitution is with us. And like Hosanna Tabor, it may take some time, but I believe the HHS provisions are going to fall with a crash in the Supreme Court. And we'll have another shot at talking about what the "real" issue is.

Photo credit: Christopher Chan

Free Is Good: Audio Recordings of the Book of Concord

It’s not often you come across a deal this good. Pastor Paul McCain, on his blog Cyberbrethren, recently reported that the entire Book of Concord has been recorded, and is available for free. The text for these audio recordings comes from the Book of Concord, the Triglot Concordia, and are thus a part of the public domain. They are read by Librivox volunteer Jonathan Lange.

Not only can you listen online, you can also download all of the recordings for free. You could burn these to a CD and listen to them while you’re driving, or put them on your iPod to listen to them as time allows. You pastors out there might want to copy the whole thing to distribute to your congregants.  What a great way to become more familiar with the book that contains all of the Lutheran confessions.

For more information, visit The Book of Concord website here.

Here's a sample recording:

Monday, February 20, 2012

5 MONTHS IN AFRICA: Paul Schulz Kenyan Adventure

I recently discovered that the son of one of my Facebook friends is assisting with missionary work down in Kenya. His name is Paul Schulz. A recent grad of the University of Missouri, Paul is working with Pastor James May, the head of Lutherans in Africa (LIA).

As many of you know, the Lutheran population in Africa is rapidly growing, and with it there is a growing need for Lutheran pastors, evangelists, and deaconesses. Lutherans in Africa helps fill that need by training native Africans to teach the faith. Paul has been assisting in catechizing the local youth by teaching them hymns, as well as traveling great distances to distribute aide to poor families.

I asked Paul to write a short introduction. Here's what he has to say:
Hi everybody,

My name is Paul Schulz, and I'm living/working in Africa for 5 months. Actually I've been here for about 3 weeks already, so just over 4 months to go. I am working/volunteering for an organization named Lutherans In Africa. I recently graduated from the University of Missouri with a Bachelors in Linguistics. Pr. James May, who heads up LIA, visited my house last June, and after not much time, I was fully convinced of the work he is doing here in Africa, and decided to come and lend my assistance however I could. There are many organizations who send bibles and other literature to this area of the world, but what struck me about LIA as being especially unique was their focus on teaching, catechism, and the saving power of baptism.

Paul with Bishop Asiago.
Paul has a blog titled 5 MONTHS IN AFRICA, in which he reports on his work and travels in Kenya. I like Paul's blog because he writes from a “regular Joe's” perspective, or in Kiswahili, a mzungu's perspective (a "white guy's" perspective), describing his surroundings and the people in their everyday lives, providing photographs as well. Here's a sample of Paul's writing:
...If you want to go somewhere on the main road and want to spend less money, you wait for a “matatu.” These are more public van taxis that resemble a VW van in design only squarer and a little smaller. These literally never stop moving. They come flying down the road with one man driving, 10-12 people inside, and one man hanging out the sliding door yelling what I assume to be is their destination. If this is the one you want, you wave, the man hanging out the door hits the roof twice, and the driver slows down just enough for you to jump in, and then you get settled, sometimes on top of another person as the driver guns it ahead. Now these vans are usually in a greater state of disrepair than the car taxis, and one ride is all you need to understand why. Potholes here are huge, and everywhere, as are speed bumps. So, in order to keep their speed and passengers adrenaline levels up, all rules of the road are ignored. Passing a semi sized water truck uphill around a curve? No problem. Too many potholes? Drive on the sidewalk/side of the road to avoid them. Car in front of you going too slow? Honk the horn a few times and drive towards oncoming traffic to get around them. Many of these vans are plastered with stickers that say “Only God Can Save,” or “Trust In The Lord,” which I can only assume are being employed in place of airbags or seatbelts.

You can find Paul's blog here. If you're interested in learning more about Lutherans in Africa, or perhaps lending them a financial hand, their website is here.

Here's a couple more photos from 5 MONTHS IN AFRICA:

A Lutheran Church near Kibweze.

A view of the Great Rift Valley at sunset.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Nicely Decorated Retirement Home

I'm pretty sure after we get through putting both our kids through college, this will end up being our retirement home. I'm not really happy about that - I was hoping for something with no yard to mow.

photo credit: Stuck in Customs

Thursday, February 16, 2012

President Matthew C. Harrison to President Obama: "Religious people determine what violates their consciences, not the federal government."

Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod President Matt Harrison spoke before the House Committee on Government and Oversight today, strongly objecting to the Obama administration's plan to force religious institutions to provide health insurance coverage for such things as contraceptives and abortifacients. He did an absolutely great job. A couple of quotes:
I’d rather not be here, frankly. Our task is to proclaim, in the words of the blessed apostle St. John, the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all our sin. And we care for the needy. We haven’t the slightest intent to Christianize the government. Martin Luther famously quipped one time, “I’d rather have a smart Turk than a stupid Christian governing me.”

We confess that there are two realms, the church and the state. They shouldn’t be mixed – the church is governed by the Word of God, the state by natural law and reason, the Constitution.

…Religious people determine what violates their consciences, not the federal government. The conscience is a sacred thing. Our church exists because overzealous governments in northern Europe made decisions which trampled the religious convictions of our forebearers. I have ancestors who served in the Revolutionary War. I have ancestors who were on the Lewis and Clark expedition. I have ancestors who served in the War of 1812, who fought for the North in the Civil War – my 88-year-old father-in-law has recounted to me, in tears many times, the horrors of the Battle of the Bulge. In fact, Bud Day, the most highly decorated veteran alive, is a member of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. “

We fought for a free conscience in this country, and we won’t give it up without a fight. To paraphrase Martin Luther, the heart and conscience has room only for God, not for God and the federal government. The bed is too narrow, the blanket is too short. We must obey God rather than men, and we will. Please get the federal government, Mr. Chairman, out of our consciences. Thank you.

You can download the entire transcript of President Harrison's statement here.

Waiting Upon the Lord

Quoting from Pastor Larry Peters' sermon published in the Christmas 2011 Gottesdienst:
    We wait upon the Lord wherever He has placed us - we don't head out to the mountaintop to camp out for the Lord.  Peter was so full of himself he missed the absurdity of three tents on the Mount of Transfiguration.  We don't go somewhere else to wait for the Lord to finish His new creation.  We wait upon the Lord right where we are - in the bonds of marriage, within our human families, as workers for our employers, and as good citizens of our communities.  We wait where we are, doing what we do as vocation from the Lord, for the Lord to come and finish this new creation.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Worldview Everlasting Studio Tour – Eye Popping, with a Dash of Intrigue

While at the Brothers of John the Steadfast Conference this weekend, we were able to tour Pastor Jonathan Fisk's Worldview Everlasting studio. The studio is located in Pastor Fisk's study, consisting entirely of the backdrop that we're all familiar with, and a camera on the opposite wall (see both below). It's amazing how the new media has changed the face of “telecasting.” You no longer need a million dollar studio to broadcast to the world – a small camera, a wall, an idea, and an internet connection will do.

Pastor Fisk with our daughter Paige

FingerLock biometric door lock
After I shot the photo I discovered that one of the books on the shelf was fortuitously obscured by Pastor Fisk’s positioning in the pic - a book by Catholic mystic Thomas Merton, one of the men who popularized interspirituality. And it's a good thing I noticed.  Imagine the internet scandal that would have ensued if that had shown up in a WE video.  We were wholeheartedly assured by Pastor Fisk that this book was surreptitiously placed in amongst the otherwise totally confessional Lutheran books by a certain assailant. Knowing Pastor Fisk’s confessional pedigree, and the nature of the alleged assailant, I’m buying his story. In the interest of avoiding Eighth Commandment entanglements, I probably shouldn't say this person’s name since we aren't positive it was he who did this dastardly deed, but his initials are Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller! I suspect that in the future Pastor Fisk will secure his studio behind biometric locks and 512-bit encryption in an effort to avoid future incursions by fleeting pastoral ninjas. You can never be too cautious in the safeguarding of the truth.

photo credit: flick

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Don’t Like that Prayer Card? Try the Multi-denominational Invocation Card

Last week Stand Firm noted the death of the Alaska Airlines prayer card. Maybe there’s a solution for those prayer card blues. This week Raymond Walsh, on his blog Man On The Lam, offers a rather tongue-in-cheek solution to what he phrases “the separation of church and plate.”

Why not ditch the prayer card in favor of a multi-denominational invocation card like this one by Indonesian-based Lion Air:

This is the shotgun approach to airborne prayer. Invoking the gods of Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism should pretty much cover the majority of travelers on the Lion Air route map. I’m a little disappointed though that they didn’t include Scientology in the list. Oh yeah, Tom Cruise says Scientology isn’t a religion. Yet there’s something not quite right about this – they don’t have a prayer for the atheist, making it a PC failure. What’s the atheist going to pray?

I’d definitely have to monkey with the front of the invocation card too. The overwrought English-speaking trekker won’t be comforted much by that big bold first word: DOA. Implying that you’ll be Dead On Arrival doesn’t seem like the best way to begin a relationship with the average jet setter.

My conclusion is that the best prayer card would be one that speaks to every person on the face of the earth, one that is universally applicable using a single prayer. That response has already been written, formed by the pen of the LORD’s prophet Isaiah:
For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): "I am the LORD, and there is no other. I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, 'Seek me in vain.' I the LORD speak the truth; I declare what is right. "Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, you survivors of the nations! They have no knowledge who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save. Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. "Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” Isaiah 45:18-22 ESV

Monday, February 13, 2012

Why We Don’t Worry About Moral Progress

Pastor Todd Wilken speaking on Issues, Etc., the January 31 comment line segment:
We understand that we are both saint and sinner. We are 100% both. The saint, the new man, that is Christ in us, he keeps the Law, perfectly, from a pure heart, always. After all, it is Christ in us, this new man. The old Adam, the old man, the sinner in us, and again, we are 100% both, the old man in us never keeps the Law, not once, not even a little. He is a rebel. He is a sworn enemy of God. And yet you are both at the same time, that new man and that old man – the old Adam and Christ in you. And it is not so much a struggle between the two as it is putting the old man to death. Does that mean we ever cease to sin? No. Does that mean, and you’re quite right to say, you know, do we ever keep the Law? The answer to that question is, no, we don’t – never perfectly as the Law demands. Because I am both old man and new man, do I desire to keep the Law? Absolutely. The new man desires nothing but to keep the Law. Does the old man desire to keep the Law? No, never, and he cannot be reformed. So when we talk about never being able to keep the Law, that is a, that’s an implicit acknowledgement of the fact that on this side of the resurrection we remain at the same time both saint and sinner. And we don’t worry about moral progress. We simply do not worry about it because the only standard is the perfect standard of the Ten Commandments and you never progress toward perfection. We rely entirely on the perfect obedience of another – Jesus Christ and His Law keeping for us, all the way to an obedient death on the cross.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Brothers of John the Steadfast Conference 2012: Pax Domini

As I write this, my wife and I are sitting on an airplane, heading back from the Brothers of John the Steadfast (BJS) Conference at Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, Illinois. My overall reaction to the conference can be summed up in two words, Pax Domini. In a world beset by threats from without and threats from within, this was a welcome break from the maelstrom.

The hospitality of the members of Bethany Lutheran Church was once again greatly appreciated. The worship services included the Office of Evening Prayer on Friday and the Divine Service on Saturday, complete with choirs, instruments, and their wonderful pipe organ, all led by Cantor Phil Magness. Pastors David Kind of University Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis and Thomas Messer of Peace Lutheran Church in Alma, Michigan shared with us God's healing Word. With dinner, breakfast, and lunch provided, you couldn't go away without your fill of food and fellowship, plus ample opportunity to rub elbows with fellow confessional Lutherans at three different off-campus No-Pietists Allowed parties.

Pastor Jonathan Fisk
 The theme of this year's conference was new media and the Lutheran diaspora. Leading off the pack of speakers was Pastor Jonathan Fisk, who was called last year as Pastor of Witness, Inquiry, and Youth at Bethany, and is the author of the video blog sensation Worldview Everlasting. The writer's-cramping title of his presentation was "Made a Different [sic?]: What the Ecology of New Media Means for Lutheran Congregations, Synods, and the catholic Church (provided the US Government Doesn't Make It All Illegal with SOPA - 'Cause that Raises Countless Other Gnarly Questions)." To summarize, Pastor Fisk illustrated how the 2008 cancellation of the talk radio show Issues, Etc. catapulted the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod into the new media. All of a sudden there were a flood of battle-born blogs, websites, and internet talk radio shows. He believes that these First Article tools make institutions as we have known them in the past, including "LCMS Inc.," obsolete. This new open source community has allowed confessional members of the LCMS to walk together without us even knowing it (in a sense like Wikipedia, in which the world's largest encyclopedia has been created without the involvement of a big company). This delocalization of effort, according to Fisk, has eliminated the need for much of what our Synod now does - the challenge will be in recognizing this and leveraging it to advance the Gospel. Yet there will always be a need for the local institution, in the form of the congregation, and thus a need for the Synod to continue to train pastors and send forth these ambassadors of grace into the world, something the open source community cannot do on its own. Peering into the future in this way seems a bit daunting, taking us out of our comfort zone. But hope reigns supreme - as Pastor Fisk points out, "The movement is not going to die... because Jesus is alive."
Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller

Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller of Hope Lutheran Church in Aurora, Colorado, and Co-Host of Table Talk Radio, explained some of the theological thought underlying the development of Table Talk Radio. He explained that the devil wants to attack our theological habitus, first by convincing us that theology is boring. We see this in pastors who abandon the teaching of our confession in favor of "unboring," and un-Lutheran, materials. On the contrary, Pastor Wolfmueller points out that discerning truth from error is a joy.

Secondly, the devil wants us to believe that theology is hard, and since you'll never finish such a daunting task, you should never start.

PBW looking especially Christ-like
Finally, the devil embellishes our sense of self-pride, tempting us to believe that we already know enough. If you listen to Table Talk Radio, you'll immediately be able to see how they plan the show with a preemptive strike against the devil's three-pronged strategy in mind, making theology fun and easy, so that you'll want to come back for more. The payback for their efforts comes in the form of email, in which their listeners relate how they've been rescued from the misery of false doctrine and ushered into the liberating truth of Lutheran theology. Pastor Wolfmueller shared some of these emails with us. He closed with a quote from the end of the Large Catechism, a portion of which reads: "Therefore let every father of a family know that it is his duty, by the injunction and command of God, to teach these things to his children, or have them learn what they ought to know. For since they are baptized and received into the Christian Church, they should also enjoy this communion of the Sacrament, in order that they may serve us and be useful to us; for they must all indeed help us to believe, love, pray, and fight against the devil." Oh that we all would enjoy theology and fight against the devil in this same way!
Pastor Joshua Scheer

Our final speaker, Pastor Joshua Scheer, Associate Pastor at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, and BJS Assistant Editor, spoke on "Spending Time on the Internet, Good Idea or Bad?" He explored some of the goods and bads of internet usage as it applies to our life together, including a helpful list of tips for both pastors and laymen. Luther certainly used the new media in the form of the printing press, and C.F.W. Walther published Der Lutheraner. He also pointed out how Luther defended his outreach beyond his own congregation because he was a Doctor of the Church. On the flip side, Pastor Scheer noted that Luther never used the new media in the church service, and that today's "e-pastor" can't Baptize or offer Communion.

The presentations of these three "young bucks," as Pastor Rossow calls them, and the conference as a whole, certainly offered us all hope for the future, as we walk together, finding new ways to promulgate the unchanging Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Once again, in the interest of full disclosure, I accepted a position on the Board of Director's of BJS. There are some good looking plans on the BJS drawing board. Now we need to roll up our sleeves and implement them. I hope you'll consider joining us in our efforts in the future.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Virtue that Justifies: Faith

From The Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article V: Love and Fulfilling the Law:
But the virtue that justifies receives Christ, which brings to us Christ’s merits, by which we receive grace and peace from God. This virtue is faith. As it has often been said, faith is not just knowledge. But it is willing to receive or take hold of those things that are offered in the promise about Christ. 107 Furthermore, this obedience toward God (i.e., to want to receive the offered promise) is no less a divine service (latreia) than is love. God wants us to believe Him and to receive from Him blessings. He declares this to be true divine service.
    108  The adversaries base justification on love because they everywhere teach and require the righteousness of the Law. We cannot deny that love is the Law’s highest work. Human wisdom gazes at the Law and seeks justification in it. So the scholastic doctors, great and talented men, proclaim love as the Law’s highest work and base justification on this work. Deceived by human wisdom, they did not look upon the uncovered, but upon the veiled face of Moses, just like the Pharisees, philosophers, and followers of Muhammad. 109  But we preach the foolishness of the Gospel, in which another righteousness is revealed: for Christ’s sake as the Atonement, we are counted righteous when we believe that God has been reconciled to us for Christ’s sake. Neither are we ignorant about how far distant this teaching is from the judgment of reason and the Law. Nor are we ignorant that the Law’s teaching about love makes a much greater show. For it is wisdom. But we are not ashamed of the Gospel’s foolishness. We defend this truth for the sake of Christ’s glory and ask Christ, by His Holy Spirit, to help us so that we may be able to make this clear and obvious.
Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, Edited by Paul Timothy McCain (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 116.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Looking for Awesome Baptismal Certicates or Confirmation Certificates?

Remember the cool Baptismal certificates that were around when you were a kid? My Baptismal certificate was actually a little booklet. Here's the middle pages:

Well now cool Baptismal Certificates are back, crafted by Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller and Jason Hanson at their website Wolfson Creative, as well as Confirmation Certificates and Certificates of Recognition. Here's a couple snips of their work:

These certificates are designed to teach using Scripture and artwork. While I was in Fort Wayne, I saw their work on display, and was really impressed. If your congregation is looking for an inexpensive way to produce certificates, a one time fee provides unlimited use, which seems like a pretty good deal to me. 

You can check out all of their beautiful products at the Wolfson Creative website.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

End of an Era

For over 30 years the airline I fly for has put prayer cards on the meal trays served to the passengers - that practice is being discontinued. I'm sad to see it go, but knew it would happen sooner or later. Below are the cards that I had saved in the drawer. As far as I know, these are the same three cards that we've had the whole time I've worked for Alaska.  The prayer cards are gone, but there's still plenty to be thankful for.  And of course, they can take away the prayer cards, but they can't take away your prayer!

Monday, February 6, 2012

We Shouldn't, but We Do

On page 64 of Lutheranism 101 it says "…We do not say, 'God laid it on my heart to do this….'” Well, yeah, actually we do say that. I heard one Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod pastor say it straight from the pulpit. While there are a few pastors in the LCMS that fit a Pentecostal profile that might say what this pastor said, I don't think he fit that mold. No, he harbored a more missional motivation. If you're willing to abandon the liturgy, proper catechesis, and our confession, for a lifestyle of contemporary worship, "how to" sermons, and visioning, claiming that God is speaking directly to you is the logical next step. Once you've committed to the concept of seeker sensitivity, you have to reorder your thinking - the old Lutheran and the new Evangelical can't coexist. There is a fundamental difference.

By altering the worship service to attract “seekers,” you have entered the world of Evangelicalism – a shadowy world of emotion where the Holy Spirit working through the Word is forgotten in favor of an environment carefully crafted to sway the feelings of the seeker so that they “come to the light.” Converting the seeker to Christ-follower becomes dependent on our efforts, and we’re gonna bait the hook with something tasty. Of course, stodgy old Lutherans will have none of this. They realize that God’s promises are external to themselves and aren’t based on emotions. Cue the pastor’s “heart.” What better way to kill the old Lutheran than with a message straight from God through the pastor’s heart to you. It’s darn hard to argue with God now isn’t it? Except of course, the stodgy Lutheran knows that his message isn’t from God.

If your pastor is telling you God laid something on his heart, you need to lay a little Lutheran theology on him, reminding him that we aren’t enthusiasts. If he won’t listen to you, and others, it may be time to explore other avenues. After all, Lutherans know the way to a sinner’s heart is through their ear.

Lutheranism 101, ed. Scot A. Kinnaman (St. Louis: CPH, 2010) 64.

photo credit: Amarand Agasi

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Main Tool You Need to Preach: Burning Passion for the Truth

C.F.W. Walther, talking to the seminary students during his thirteenth evening lecture on January 9, 1885:
    My dear friends, first and foremost, I would wish that you all were real Christians, filled with burning passion for truth. That is the main tool you need, over time, to become powerful preachers—preachers whose spirit grabs hearers by an irresistible force, as the example of the apostles demonstrates. The people could not tell why, but the preaching of these simple men made a most powerful impression on them.
    Far from suggesting that great gifts and thorough theological learning are not of tremendous value, I would rather claim the opposite to be true. For if you add great gifts and thorough learning to the living faith of a preacher, he will eventually become a mighty, efficient tool in the hands of God.
    God does not relegate all our natural skills and whatever we might have gained by our personal enthusiasm to some corner when we enter the ministry. Rather, these skills are purified and pressed into His service. That is why greater things have taken place and great results have been achieved in the kingdom of God whenever great gifts and thorough learning have been coupled with living faith.

C.F.W. Walther, Law & Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible, Trans. Christian C. Tiews (St. Louis: CPH, 2010) 126.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Time for Some Fun, and Serious Stuff Too

The 4th Annual Brothers of John the Steadfast Conference is right around the corner, on Friday and Saturday, February 10 – 11 in Naperville, Illinois. To quote from the BJS site:
This conference will take you inside the head of two of Lutheran media’s most creative minds: Jonathan Fisk of Worldview Everlasting and Bryan Wolfmueller, co-host of Table Talk radio. Pastor Joshua Scheer will also help us explore the important issue of how much time we ought to spend on the internet.
Now this I gotta see. I imagine the inside of Pastor Fisk’s head is jammed with rushing planes, trains, and automobiles. Inside Pastor Wolfmueller’s head, by contrast, is a cavernous space with a small light off in the distance, sitting next to which is a tab-collared guy smoking a pipe and quietly contemplating some deep theological conundrum. It’ll be worth the trip just to see if I’m right.

The overall theme of the conference is “Getting the Gospel Doctrine to the Diaspora” and will focus on how new Lutheran media brings Confessional doctrine to those who are not able to find/join a conservative, confessional and liturgical parishes.

The conference will feature Vespers on Friday, with Pastor Tom Messer preaching, and the Divine Service on Saturday, with Pastor David Kind preaching, and music led by Cantor Phillip Magness.

There will be a pizza banquet on Friday night, the heart-stopping manly man’s breakfast on Saturday morning, and Chicago style hot dogs, cheese fries and chili for lunch on Saturday. Please supply your own AED.  Plus, don’t forget the late Friday night wine tasting, cigar smoking and Irish whiskey drinking “No Pietists Allowed” parties.

You can find more information here, the schedule here, and hotel information here. To register, go here.