Friday, November 18, 2011

Occupation of the Word

The "occupy (insert location here)" fad seems to be waning. There is a key thing to take away from the whole episode. I rarely heard anyone discussing the study habits, lectures, or general development of the encamping protesters. I only heard about the chants, demands, and some outrageous behavior. Those demands mostly seemed focused on their interpretation of things and what would make them, the protestors, happy. In the end, the crux of their argument is self-centered. As Christians we are supposed to be outside of this world, to be an example to it. One way we can do this is by studying the Word and occupying our minds with it.

I know I don't normally link to current events, mostly as they are trivial and trite for a vast majority of them. This is just a good example of why Christians shouldn't take their cues from the world (occupy protests, marketing directors, entertainment gurus, metrics on growth, etc) but from the Word. The Living Word occupying our minds and hearts guides Christians to live not as the world lives. This gives no room for the devil, or the flesh, and moves us to better our understanding and service to others to give witness to the Light.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

For the service minded

After a discussion with a co-worker, I thought it would be good to provide a "public service" by reminding those with "service ministries" that sometimes you offend more than you help. The case in point is a deaf ministry. A church wanted to help the deaf, but viewed the deaf community as "disabled in need of help" instead of people in need of a church.

Their misguided methodology stemmed from a serious misunderstanding. The deaf view themselves as capable members of society with no real impediment. The church viewed them as people with a disability needing their help. And somewhat the church's direction. As you can probably tell, the approach was less than winsome. When you and/or your church are looking for those they can help, first make sure you understand their problem. Once you understand the problem, if there is one, you can include them in the discussion and find out how you can serve. Servants don't dictate to masters or guests. They inquire, seek to do the best job, and do it at the best of their ability. This is what a Christian is called to do. So please, treat everyone as you would like to be treated, and ask first. It will save you from wasted effort, and preserve a valuable connection.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Thy Strong Word video

We are teaching the children this wonderful hymn. I found a youtube video of the hymn being sung and the words from the hymn displayed. This hymn is a fond memory of mine being sung by hundreds of men at the Fort Wayne Seminary. There really isn't anything like that... Regardless- enjoy!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Maintaining the Church in Adversity

It is easy to forget that the Church does not need a church building to maintain herself. And that one does not need a fancy altar, sacred scrolls, incense, or coffee hour (no matter how Lutheran...) to constitute a Church Service. We have had a spate of natural disasters in my area- earthquakes, floods, severe storms, and a hurricane. Obviously, church was cancelled at least once. And yet services were held- by my family in our house. The smallest unit of the church is a couple (man and wife makes an excellent example). Study and prayer of God's Word with the appropriate praise to God for what He has done on our behalf constitutes the service. How easy it is for familiar and good things to cloud the core. If there is one thing that we have learned from the trails of the past weeks it is that God provides abundantly in trail and in fair seasons. And He does this through His Word, which maintains and strengthens the Church, regardless of the world around them.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Word of Caution

We have quite a number of freedoms here in the States. One of the most valuable is the freedom of religion. We practice our various religions without interference or direct approval of the government itself. I fear that is changing. Eric Holder, Attorney General of the US, gave a talk at the American Constitution Society. You can view an important aspect of it her This sounds well and good, and civil rights do need protection. However, most seem to have missed the most critical portion of the video. It is so critical, Holder said it twice. I will use the quotation from the article (and video), which I will bold the critical aspects.

"We've also expanded enforcement efforts to guarantee that in our work places, our military bases, in our housing and lending markets, in our voting booths in our border areas, in our schools and places of worship. And I mean all places of worship," Holder also said.

What does this mean? It means prepare to see the government ensuring the "civil right of marriage" is enforced at the pulpit of any American church. Crazy? Have I lost my mind? Not really- the act Holder mentions (the "Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act") was enacted to protect against hate crimes based on sexual orientation. This means the right to freely practice your religion will be infringed on for a perceived right of marriage to those your religion may not recognize. This act will be used to force churches to comply or be shut down. I expect this will be used on small churches first to set precedent probably within the next 9 months, then on larger churches, and finally, when it is too late to change the momentum, it will be used on Roman Catholic, Anglican, and any of the other very large church bodies. Be prepared, because the devil is at war against the Church. It appears he might have found a tool with which to persecute her (the Church) even in the USA. I pray I am not correct, but the best deceptions are in plain view.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Pitfalls of VBS

I get a sales booklet from "Oriental Trading" company, which the latest one was based on VBS. They have all sorts of various props: panda bears, a New York theme and so on. It occurred to me as I am looking at this flier that VBS with all of these cutesy type, secular based themes only serves to ultimately dilute the true reason for VBS. I am not saying they can't be useful, but we do have to remember that the human brain is a great pattern matcher- it even finds ones that are not there. (Remember those 3-D via pattern images years ago?) When you link a Bible story to something secular, like a baseball game or a New York City sky scape, the risk is there that the student remembers "New York" and not the instruction. This risk exists for any combination of secular themes. Why not make VBS an extension of Catechisis? The lessons could involve things much less mundane than rote reading (that only would work for certain ages for a time) and would work to expand on what they have learned up till VBS. Activities would be necessary, but based on the age of the child, that should be a surmountable challenge without a theme (outside of the theme of Christ). Appropriate materials can be procured or made as necessary, but require taking time to do it. That is why there is such a proliferation of "themed" materials to take "the load off" the VBS teachers. Would it be challenging to eschew these things? Of course. But we must take into account setting up VBS and its ultimate goals as it is quite clear now that the modern American Church has serious doctrinal issues. If these challenges are to be anywhere near surmounted, then we need to change how we do things, preferably to the ways that have worked before. Christianity is fairly dull in that regard- everything has been done before, or nearly so. It is also robust in we know how to do it, and a thousand ways of how not to do it. (paraphrase of Edison) Teaching new and innovative things or ways is a fast way to find a heresy. And that is certainly not what you want to teach your kids at VBS...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Dangers of hierarchy

There has been a debate in the Church on how to manage its affairs. The Roman Catholic has opted for a hierarchical structure in the tradition of a bureaucracy. Others have opted for a less structured, but still hierarchical structure, such as the Episcopals. The LC-MS at its origin kept its Church affairs between it and Christ, the anti-thesis of a hierarchy. The independent church who practices Church discipline and seeks the Truth/Word is closest to the churches Paul wrote about. A hierarchy has the real risk of supplanting Christ's role as head of the Church. The best example of this is the pope, who is the "vicar of Christ", but the pope's word can override the Gospel- an anti-Christ action. This places a man in the place of the Son of God. It is the result of the very human desire to find a "king". This is very similar to the Israelites electing to have Saul over God. It is the sinful human condition, but the search for a king must start and end at Christ. Anyone/anything else is just a poor substitution and denial of Christ.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Meanings of Words

Confessional Lutherans probably spend too much time on the meanings of words (at least this one does), but it is important to get the words correct. During a Sunday Bible class several weeks ago (I know, slow to write...), the question came up related to what confutation meant in the context of the Apology to the Augsburg Confession. I thought it might be important to post the difference between Confutation and Refutation, especially in light of the Apology to AC. So, based on, here are the differences:

Confutation: Act of proving something false, invalid, defective or wrong via argument.

Refutation: Disproof of, act of proving an erroneous or false opinion. Prove to be in error.

Obviously refuting something is the stronger of the two, and requires pretty solid evidence. While Lutherans like to think they are right (as does the Roman Catholics, Baptists, etc), we can't on this side "refute" much, and probably shouldn't necessarily "shut them down" every time. You can prove, via scriptural argument and reason, an idea is false or invalid (confute). This is why the Apology to AC is more of a confutation of the Roman Catholic assertions than a total refutation. As a side note, it didn't help the Holy Roman Emperor was Roman Catholic and it didn't serve to win the argument by calling the Roman Catholic church in major error across broad swaths of doctrine when you agree with the Scripturally based Doctrine. (That usually is hard to do with brotherly love, while confutation is much easier and proper. ;-))

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Doing something right

You know you are doing something right when the kids ask for hymns (on CD) in the van 10 seconds after you start it up. My oldest son's favorite hymn is "A Mighty Fortress" and my second son (who is 3) informed his mother that he can play "A Mighty Fortress" on a baby piano (one of the little 4-key versions). They are cute at that age, and neither of us will deflate that enthusiasm in the slightest!

I think, and so far experience has borne this out, that immersing kids in the Word (without dumbing it down or changing it to "suit what they can understand") seems to take best. When you use the Sunday School workbooks with paraphrased stories, how are they going to learn them by heart? They don't need to understand it all to know the story. (Does anyone understand God's Word perfectly?) That's the beauty of little kids (i.e. less than like 8-10 yrs). Early on they soak up things to remember. Later on they start to use that basis for their understanding of the world and Word. Lukewarm in, lukewarm/cold out. Consistent, pure in; I expect a deeper, consistent, reverent understanding out. Time will tell, but by the Grace of God...