Monday, December 31, 2007 

Compliment Of The Year For 2007

And the compliment of year for 2007 goes to…..Will! Will is a student in my Sunday school class as well as an active participant for our congregation’s youth group.

So what was his compliment? “Mr. G., when we first came here I didn’t really think I’d like to go to Sunday school class. Most of the other ones that I’d been to treated us like we were stupid or something. You never talk down to us and that’s cool. We get enough of that in school and other places.”

Thank you Will! I’ve always taught you guys the way I do because I know you guys are not idiots. You guys also have the advantage of understanding that Christianity didn’t begin the day you were born and that’s something many an adult has a great deal of difficulty with.

Sometimes we adult types think the world evolves around us (something you guys are often accused of) and are burdened with notions of how we want things to work. Too often we adult types talk big about having the faith of a child but then fall back on philosophy 101 to make defense of theological positions instead of Scripture.

So at the end of the day, this adult could not receive no higher compliment than a thank you for not treating you like you’re stupid.

The picture in this post is Will posing, while playing pizza crust Jenga, for a picture that he knew would be posted here. Not only is Will exceptional bright, he’s clearly showing what a good sport he is.

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Lutheran Carnival LXVI

Lutheran Carnival LXVI is up and running over at TheoCon. Ritewinger has chosen to highlight the founder of his seminary, Albert H. Schwermann. Be sure to stop by say howdy and thank him for doing a great job!

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Thursday, December 27, 2007 

A New Blog For Your Consideration

A friend of mine, a member of the priestly caste emailed me a link this morning to a cool new blog; Priestmanship.


Priestmanship is described thusly; "The art of thriving in the ministry without actually being a winsome individual with a soul-winning personality".

Priestman’s first post is on the delicate nueances of removing the national battle flag fron the chancel of the church.

What a hoot! Be sure to pay Priestman a visit and thank him for his valuable contribution to the art of priestmanship.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007 

Uncle Frank's Favorite Gift Of The Year Award 2007


Well, it’s time for the annual and highly coveted Uncle Frank's Favorite Gift Of The Year Award for Christmas presents. And the winner this year is, drum roll please… a PETA t-shirt from my niece Valerie! A big thank you to my favorite niece!

To win said prize, Valerie turned once again to an old faithful, the t-shirt. By exploiting her uncle’s love of eating cute, tasty animals, she was clearly the favorite from the start.

For previous years winners go here and here.

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Monday, December 24, 2007 

Frohe Weihnachten!

From Isaiah 7:13-14:

“Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

I’ve spent a lot of time during the season of Advent this year studying this text. For our middle school Christmas party extravaganza we looked at this text to point out that Christ can be found on every page of Scripture not just the New Testament. Too often I think we separate the Scriptures and in doing so fail to see that Lord of the Old Testament is the Lord of the New Testament. He is one Lord who speaks of His promise to His chosen people of Israel. The Christ, born of a virgin, is the promised one spoken of to redeem all nations by His grace.

I love the Gospels; don’t get me wrong and think I don’t. But I love spending time in the Old Testament as well because it shows that the Father always loved his children enough to send His son. The Old Testament shows us that Jesus isn’t just God’s plan B fix.

So tomorrow we celebrate Immanuel, God with us, the babe in Bethlehem who was born to become the propitiation for our sins. The promise made to Ahaz, delivered by Isaiah, has been made flesh and has redeemed all through His substitutionary atonement on the cross. What greater gift to humanity could there be?

Merry Christmas from both the missus and myself to our families and friends, whether we’ve met or not, as we celebrate this blessed event.

Friday, December 21, 2007 

My Favorite Xmas Narrative

Taking a lead from this and this, I’d like to share my favorite Xmas narrative from first chapter of Mark, verses 49-52;

Come they told me, 
A new born King to see, Our finest gifts we bring, 
To lay before the King, So to honor Him, 
When we come. 

Little Baby, 
I am a poor boy too, 
I have no gift to bring, 
That's fit to give the King, 

Shall I play for you, 
On my drum? 

Mary nodded, 
The ox and lamb kept time, 
I played my drum for Him,
I played my best for Him,
 Then He smiled at me, Me and my drum. 


So, what’s your favorite Xmas narrative?

 

Jesus Didn’t Love Me…

I guess Jesus didn’t love me but three days last year…

The sign is from a little country church that I pass by on the way home every night. I know these folks mean well, I do. I just got a chuckle thinking about the consequences of cute sayings on church signs.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007 

Move Along Folks, No Rage Here

Two nice individuals who commented on my Giving Emergents Equal Time post seem to believe that I was writing said post in a fit of rage. Nothing could be further from the truth (of course, thinking like an emergent, truth if fluid and irrelevant until properly discussed, so take that for what it’s worth).

If I was writing in a fit of rage I certainly would not have said “I certainly understand emergents rejecting most of what passes itself off as Christian these days. The whole “meeting them (the unchurched) where they are at” and “don’t talk to them about church stuff, we don’t want to scare them away” approach to evangelism makes us sound no different than the local glee club down the street.”

But where I think my two anonymous commenters go wrong is that they place the mission before the message. For many in our beloved synod, evangelism and the gospel can be separated as long as we are reaching out to the unchurched.

This explains how we can embrace those who understanding of what sin is and how we are brought to faith even though their view goes against Scripture and even though we have already spoken against these heresies in our confessions. As long as we are doing something, that the important thing.

What’s missing in the new love fest with the emergents is condemnation of their core belief that by our own will and through meditation, one can by his work and preparations come to faith and have an understanding of God. If this were possible, there’d be millions of Tibetan monks who would be Christian.

Scripture teaches us that faith is not some decision that we are able to make upon serious reflection. Faith only comes to us by grace externally. But even saying that wouldn’t be allowed in the emergent church because that is an absolute and absolutes aren’t allowed. To quote the father of the emergent church Brian McLaren: First of all, when we talk about faith, the word "faith" and the word "certainty," we've got a whole lot of problems there. What do we mean by "certainty"? If I could substitute the word "confidence," I'd say, yes, I think there are things we can be confident about, and those are the things we have to really work with”

I do believe that we should have a conversation with the emergent and that we should tell them that they are dead wrong and that they are leading people away from Christ. But that’s not what we are doing. Instead, we invite them to talk to a youth workers conference to help us understand how to retain youth.

That we invite people who think we can look inward to discover salvation should solicit rage. But with me it does not. It only brings sadness that we run after every fad we find instead of clinging to Christ where faith is sure, and yes, absolute.

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Monday, December 17, 2007 

Lutheran Carnival LXV

Lutheran Carnival LXV is up and running at Not Alone. Pastor Paul Siems introduces us to his grandfather, a pastor who preached in both German and English. Be sure to stop by, say howdy, and thank Pastor Siems for doing such a great job hosting!

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Friday, December 14, 2007 

Get Out Of Church

From the December “Evangelgram” a monthly E-publication highlighting outreach efforts in LCMS Congregations:

So, how can a church reach out to the unchurched families of its neighborhood at Christmas? The list, of course, is long. But in our little Storm Lake church we like to create a big event. Here’s what we did last year.
First of all, we put together our ideas for a big Christmas program/party. We prepare dramas, choirs, special music, games, gifts, and food. We try to have something of interest for all age groups. Considering our goal, we feel free to com­bine the sacred and the secular. We make sure the Gospel message is repeatedly pro­claimed during the event.
Second, we rent a neutral space, a place where the unchurched feel comfort­able in attending. This year, we are renting the big lobby area of our middle school. Here we have lots of space for all of our program activities.


Ok, I’m going to put the best possible construction on the first point and say that combining of “the sacred and the secular” is the inclusion of Santa Clause. Not my thing, but I do understand that some people insist on including make believe characters into church functions for the benefit of our ragamuffins.

But the second point… that needs a little scrutiny. Every time a district or synod official walks into my congregation, we have to listen to how we could just reach more unchurched if we start looking more contemporary in liturgy and hymnody.

So with that train of thought, more and more of our congregations are implementing blended, praise and contemporary styles to attract new potential members. It must be noted that a “little” bump in the road for those who want to throw out the historical liturgy has been the overwhelming success of a real live hymnal, Lutheran Service Book. LSB flies in the face of the popular notions that congregations just want everything printed in a bulletin and therefore have no use for hymnals. But that subject is another post and I need to get back on topic.

With my sitting on mission boards I've heard over and over and over that we need to not scare away the unchurched and that we need to “meet them where they are at”. Now with so many of our beloved synod’s congregations going the way of church growth, one would think that the unchurched might start wandering in. That clearly hasn’t been the case.

So what is now being put forth as evangelism? Why, just move your church function to a “neutral space”! I guess we are now expected to believe that if we take the church out of Church, maybe then our headcount will go up. Yeah, right. It only makes sense that the same folks that are in charge of what is being promoted as missions would recommend that we should move our venues to the high school glee club’s digs that we’ve being trying to emulate for years.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007 

Giving Emergents Equal Time?

HAVEN'T YOU EVER WONDERED WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ALL THE YOUNG ADULTS IN YOUR CHURCH? WHERE HAVE THEY GONE? OR MAYBE THERE JUST AREN'T AS MANY? So how do we connect or reconnect with the post-high school and twenty-thirty-something? How do we reach out to them? YOUTH MINISTRY 2008 will explore the question of young adult ministry. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, CTCR, will explore the nuances of the so called "emerging church" and what they mean for Lutherans. Dan Kimball, author of The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for Emerging Generations, will talk about this movement from the perspective of a practitioner. And Dr. Craig Oldenburg, adjunct faculty at Concordia University Nebraska, will facilitate conversations as to what it all means in reaching new generations for Christ. …You can read a review of Dan Kimball's new book, They Like Jesus But Not the Church by clicking here

Ok, I’ve had this sitting in my inbox for almost a month while trying to decide what exactly to do with it. I’m really at a loss as to how to respond without sounding like I’ve finally blown that last remaining gasket and gone moonbat crazy. That being said, I’ll give it a shot anyways.

First, let’s take a quick look at the review referenced at the end of the emailed paragraph by Rev. Terry Dittmer; as the Director of LCMS Youth Ministry Rev. Dittmer writes:

The new book from Dan Kimball, They Like Jesus But Not the Church, presents many helpful and challenging ideas related to reaching today’s young adult. Is it Lutheran? No. Is it theological? Not necessarily. Is it helpful? I believe it is.

Kimball begins by saying that church workers need to get out of our offices and into the coffee houses, brew houses and other places where young adults gather. For example, Kimball takes his laptop to Starbucks to write his sermons; as the opportunity arises, he engages in conversation with people who he encounters there – mostly young adults.


Where do I even start with that? Does being “helpful”, in spite of the fact that what Dan Kimball confesses is vastly different than what the church catholic and Lutherans specifically, validate and automatically give Kimball a opportunity to address those who would lead our youth? If the answer is yes, then why not invite Tom Cruise to speak on the topic of getting youth to read Scripture just because Scientology has reading programs? Xenu likes it when kids read so therefore it must be helpful and by default Xenu needs to speak, through his called and operating theatons, to our youth workers.

If inviting the vicar of Xenu sounds a little crazy, why in the world do we want to invite somebody who doesn’t like church and wants to start a whole new way to experience God?

Now, surely Rev. Dittmer doesn’t think that the new mission field we need to focus on is outside of the Divine Service does he? No of course not, that’s Kimball who that doesn’t like church. But wait, this is the same Rev. Dittmer who thought it was a good idea to send out in Youth Ministry E-Bulletin Special edition #3 the following:

MINISTRY SHAPES FAITH MORE THAN WORSHIP . . . If you want to influence a teenager's faith, have them serve meals to the homeless or do other hands-on service projects. "Involvement in community service is far more significant to the faith development of teens than involvement in worship," says Michael Sherr, one of the Baylor University researchers who conducted the study (Associated Baptist Press, February 8, 2007).

Wow, that sort of makes the puzzle a little bit clearer. I can certainly see why Rev. Dittmer might think Dan Kimball’s book might have something to say. With the inclusion of the study in the E-Bulletin and his review of the Kimball book I think we can honestly raise the question as to whether or not Rev. Dittmer “likes” the church or not. How the hell are we to put any good construction on the promotion of the promotion of experiential faith achieved outside of Church?

I don’t care if Dan Kimball likes the church or not, that point is irrelevant. What is relevant is that we are giving equal time to somebody who has rejected what Scripture and our Confessions have always stated Church is and where the Church can be found. Just because somebody thinks they discovered a new new way of doing things doesn’t mean they need to speak to a conference of youth workers. That would be like inviting somebody that thinks God is merely a Giant Spaghetti Monster to the conference. Would such a person be Lutheran? No! Is such a view theological? I’m gonna say no to that one as well. Is it helpful? No! Unless of course, you don’t like church and wish to start worshiping a new god at the local Olive Garden on Sunday morning.

But I’m getting off topic and probably need to veer back into this emergent church garbage.

The main reason for my hesitation is that the theologies of these emergent “church” folks are all over the map. The one thing that does seem to unite emergents is their rejection of all things modern and a desire to retreat to a more experiential communion with God outside of Word and Sacrament. What they seem to long for is a reimagined church that redefines Scriptures as relevant narratives with some eastern mysticism thrown in for effect. Meditation and fellowship with the community are the emergent’s pendulum swinging back to hit Protestantism squarely in the head as a response to the pathetic mega-church growth movement that so spiritually starved Americanized Christianity. Seeking to feed themselves, but not looking to Christ to feed them where He said He would, they are doomed to starve as well precisely because they are looking inwardly to themselves as a community.

I certainly understand emergents rejecting most of what passes itself off as Christian these days. The whole “meeting them (the unchurched) where they are at” and “don’t talk to them about church stuff, we don’t want to scare them away” approach to evangelism makes us sound no different than the local glee club down the street. But meeting in a Starbucks or remodeled warehouses with U2 blaring over the speakers as hymnody to talk about how the Jesus narrative fits in with your narrative is just as wrong.

Recently Bill Hybol’s, (from Willow Creek, the Mecca of all things church growth) admitted that all the slick marketing and vapid, fluffy preaching, that looked more like Oprah than it did anything church, didn’t keep people in the pews for more than a couple of years. As it turns out, Willow creek had conducted exit interviews and had known for years that people were leaving because they were spiritually starved. One would think that with that admission that we wouldn’t be jumping on yet another bandwagon. But sadly that seems not be the case. Apparently we are ready to climb into bed with another fad that rejects that we meet Jesus where He says he will meet us, in Word and in Sacrament! Trading fancy plasma TV’s for grunge meditation sessions ain’t going to work either.

When I first read the email my blood pressure spiked because of what I have to listen to in the mission meetings that I attend. All the pieces of a puzzle that I wasn’t looking for fell into place. I remembered all the talk of meeting in coffee shops and finding ways to congregate without walls. What I remember most was the utter lack of any mention of Christ and how he feeds his sheep.

I would propose that the young people that we are getting so upset over losing are leaving our churches for the exact same reason that the people leave Willow Creek, they’re hungry for spiritual food that we withhold from them. In an effort to not offend anyone, we are causing the same starvation that we now complain and gripe about. And leave it to our beloved synod seek a remedy for by looking to the emergent church types. Sorry, but trading khakis for ripped jeans, happy clappy for grunge, and feel good theology for eastern mysticism isn’t going to feed them the spiritual food they crave either. They long to hear the voice of their Shepard and what do we do? We give ‘em another fad. Oh joy.

At one time I would have thought that the emergent church was not even a blip on the radar screen. I now think otherwise. And unfortunately and sadly, our beloved synod agrees.

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Will Huckabee Be Left Behind?

I’m not getting into the subject of politics, I promise I’m not.

Tim LaHaye, the co-author of the “Left Behind” is endorsing GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

I wonder if Huckabee will advocate the building of a new temple in Jerusalem so that Jesus can return and establish a new earthly kingdom. If he does advocate building a new temple, and that event triggers the rapture, will he choose a pagan as a vice presidential candidate so that there is continued leadership from his administration if said rapture occurs should he be elected.

 

Peaceful Mohammadians’ Culture Under Attack

Canadian Muslim Teen's Dad Charged in Her Murder

Here’s another attach on the religion of peace up in Jr. America, better known as Canada. I am really sick and tired of everyone in this country not being able to understand other cultures in general and the Mohammadians specifically.

Yes, Muhammad Parvez probably killed his daughter for not wearing a traditional head covering, but we have no right to judge their culture. We need to understand that the daughter clearly disobeyed her father and failed to even understand her own situation. We also need to understand that the Mohammadians are a peaceful people and that the father’s reaction was probably a last resort. If you criticize this man you are only a bigot and a xenophobe. I would then ask you look into the mirror, see how bad of a person you are, and stop criticizing cultures that you are completely ignorant of.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007 

There Are Those Who Believe,


Which sci-fi crew would you best fit in with? (pics)
created with QuizFarm.com
You scored as Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)

You are leery of your surroundings, and with good reason. Anyone could be a cylon. But you have close friends and you know they would never hurt you. Now if only the damn XO would stop drinking.

Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)

88%

Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)

81%

SG-1 (Stargate)

81%

Serenity (Firefly)

69%

FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files)

69%

Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)

63%

Enterprise D (Star Trek)

63%

Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)

56%

Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)

56%

Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)

50%

Moya (Farscape)

50%

Heart of Gold (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)

38%

Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)

38%

Battlestar Galactica, oh yeah baby! With the ongoing writers strike delaying season four of
BSG, I guess I’ll just have settle for watching reruns and the Romney campaign.

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Hoping For Romney?

I’ve tried as long as I’ve had this blog, to keep the focus singular. I’ve toyed with the idea of expanding what I post here to include everything from pop culture to politics. But I resisted that urge and for the most part the focus remains my take on Lutherans and evangelism. With that said…

There is a part of me that almost wants Mitt Romney to win the Republican primary if for no other reason than to see the dialogue that would follow concerning what it means to be called Christian.

Romney and the Mormons say they are Christian. They say they believe in Jesus. But what they believe Jesus is and what part he plays concerning salvation could not be more different than what the historical catholic Church has always confessed.

I’m not sure whether the part of me that wants Romney to get the nomination is my masochistic or the sadistic side. But one thing is certain, all the shouting and yelling would certainly be fun to watch. I think it would be a hoot to see the evangelical right who don’t believe in writing down what it is that they believe and confess, writing long diatribes stating what it is that they believe and confess.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007 

But What Do They Do For Fun?

I was chatting with a family member the other day and I was asked how things are going with the youth group. I answered that we are doing pretty darned good and now have a core group that is four times what we’ve had in previous years.

The person that I share responsibilities with and I caught a little flack for wanting to do a Bible study twice a month. We were told, by people that should have known better, that kids don’t want to come back to church every other Sunday evening. We were told that their lives are already so busy that all they will want to do on Sunday evenings is sit at home and watch the Simpsons. We were told that the kids would never attend more than once a month no matter how many times a month we scheduled studies. One individual even went so far as to insinuate that we shouldn’t be wasting our time, after all they don’t care, so we should we bother?

But we stuck to our guns, went ahead and scheduled studies twice a month and now we have a core group that is as big as our congregation has ever had. This is in spite of the fact that we no longer have paid staff to act as cruise directors for youth. Anyhoo, back to the topic…

Said family member then asked, “What do you do on Sunday nights?” Well, I responded, we are expanding on some of the topics that we cover in my class during Sunday school. For the last few weeks we’ve been talking about early church heretics like Arius and all historical goodness leading up to the first ecumenical council held in Nicaea in 325. Ain’t that cool I asked. I swear I thought I lost the call because of the long silence. Finally, family member chimed in with “Uh, I guess, but what do they do for fun?”

Well, we do do things that many would acknowledge as “fun stuff” like playing Apples to Apples, ping-pong tournaments, and retreats to the beach or the mountains. But from the start of our regime we wanted the core of our gathering together to be centered around Scripture. This means that we show our youth that not only is theology, doctrine, and church history efficacious but all three are fun too.

I guess that if we thought all things theological were boring, we couldn’t do what we do and still keep ‘em coming back for more. But theology is fun, as is church history. We are not afraid to feed them real in-depth material that would have many of those life long Lutherans who know everything scratching their heads. And because we don’t treat them like they are six year olds, they are having fun.

So, we will always play board games, ping-pong, or foosball. But for serious fun, theology can not be beat.

P.S. for a great book on some early church history I recommend Leo Donald Davis’ s The First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787) Their History and Theology. A great read even if it does get a little after the Council of Chalcedon held in 451. Davis writes in such a way that enables the reader to clearly understand how Christ’s Church has always been under attack. Again, a great read.

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Friday, December 07, 2007 

Russia WILL Be Abaze!

From my inbox this morning;

December 6, 2007 .................... LCMSNews -- No. 82
World Mission sponsors tour to Russia
LCMS World Mission is sponsoring April 22-May 5 an Ablaze! tour to Russia and the Baltics, where the collapse of European communism brought the Synod in touch -- and in partnership -- with fellow Lutherans who remained steadfast in their faith through decades of persecution.
Hosting the tour will be LCMS World Mission Executive Director Robert Roegner and his wife, Kristi; LCMS First Vice President William Diekelman and his wife, Carol; and LCMS World Mission Regional Director for Eurasia Brent Smith and his wife, Jennie.
The tour includes visits with partner-church representatives and LCMS missionaries, a first-hand look at their Gospel ministries, and stops at historic and other sites in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia; Riga, Latvia; and Vilnius, Lithuania.
Cost of the trip, including round-trip airfare, is $3,779. The price also covers lodging, breakfast and dinner daily, tour guides, intra-European travel, all gratuities, taxes, and the Russia visa fee.

I would love to be a fly on the wall when our folks speak to the Russian churches and tell them that although they have a long liturgical tradition, and although their hymnody is clearly one that the church has always sung, they will need to implement something more dynamic to attract the over 50 crowd.

I would love to be there when folks from our synod walk in and declare that their churches not inviting enough because they don’t pass out jars of jelly as welcome gifts.


Yeah, I would almost like to go on this little trip, you know, schadenfreude and all.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007 

Lutheran Carnival LXIV

Chaplain Matthew Boarts over at Living Sermons host Lutheran Carnival LXIV. Chaplain Boarts introduces us to another chaplain who saved men in the 101st Airborne from a German grenade. Be sure to stop by, say howdy, and thank Chaplain Boarts for not only for doing such a great job hosting the Carnival but also for serving in the Armed Forces.

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