Friday, October 31, 2008

Because You Know It’s True

This hits a little close to home and is probably one more reason why it’s a good thing that I don’t have children.
click image to enlarge

Reformation Day

Nearly five hundred years ago on October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in which he laid out the abuses of the Roman church’s selling of indulgences.

It is this day in history that we celebrate the start of the reformation. It was not to start a new church from scratch but rather to re-form a church that twisted the Christ’s gospel into one of salvation by one’s own works.

It would serve us well to look back at history to measure how far we have come or how far back we have slid. Consider these points;

The papacy even today still sells indulgences.

The majority of Americanized Christianity thinks that making a decision is how an individual can gain their own salvation.

53 percent of American evangelicals are less likely to believe that salvation is based on grace, not works; 46 percent less likely to say they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs with others; 42 percent less likely to list their faith in God as the top priority in their life; 38 percent less likely to believe that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; 27 percent less likely to contend that the Bible is totally accurate in all of its teachings; and 23 percent less likely to say that their life has been greatly transformed by their faith.

One of the most popular religious leaders, Rick Warren, has repeatedly said that “deeds not creeds” is how we are judged by God.

One of the most popular religious leaders, Joel Osteen, refuses to talk about sin, the consequences of sin (death), and God’s gracious plan for salvation, Jesus and His cross.

I could go on and on and on. We have much to be thankful for on this day but we are not really all that far from that door in Wittenberg five hundred years ago.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Treasury Of Daily Prayer

Yesterday afternoon my Treasury of Daily Prayer arrived at the shop. Wow!

Now, I’d seen all the press on the blogs, heard all the radio ads from folks I love to hear preach like Cwirla and Weedon, and I’ve seen the endless promotion by Rev. McCain over at Cyberbrethren but I just thought it was all too good to be true.

I’m here to say that all the hype…. was well deserved and it was earned in spades.

I’ve tried for years to put together a resource from a patchwork of devotional books, Scripture and sermons, hymnals, and everything else I could get my hands on to use a devotional resource. The problem with using a patchwork of items is that not everything always seemed to fit together perfectly for ease of use while maintaining the level of theological depth that my missus and I look for.

It’s all here in one book; Psalms, Scripture readings, canticles, hymns, the orders of the day like Matins, Vespers, Compline, and morning and evening prayers, the Small Catechism and readings from the Lutherans Confessions as well as the historic Church fathers. It’s… all… there!

No longer will I be wanting as the Treasury of Daily Prayer exceeded my every expectation. Do yourself a favor folks, give it a try. I told my missus last night that this is the finest thing CPH has ever put out and needs to be on every person’s desk whether they be layperson or clergy; it doesn’t matter. I said that last night and I’m saying it again now, get this book; it is the very best daily devotional resource I’ve ever seen.

Click here and order yours now.

Elephant's Child left the following comment; "And you forgot to mention: this isn't only for Lutherans!" She could not be more right. This is a great book for any Christian and I should have made that clear in the first draft of my post.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Liturgy For The Affirmation Of An Abortion

Jackie Bruchi reports for Stand Firm, a traditional Anglican blog (not to be confused with Scott Diekmann’s excellent blog of the same name) another sign of the coming apocalypse; Affirming A Choice, A Liturgy by Diann L. Neu distributed by Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

For what it's worth... and it ain't worth much, Diann L. Neu is Co-Director of the Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (W.A.T.E.R.) in Silver Spring, Maryland. W.A.T.E.R. is "a feminist educational center, doing work locally, nationally and internationally organizing programs and projects, publications and workshops, counseling, spiritual direction and liturgical planning which help people actualize feminist religious values in the service of social change."

I’ll let the author of this abomination introduce her liturgical masterpiece;

Women may need encouragement to consider such a liturgy because traditional churches and society do not provide them.

This liturgy affirms that a woman has made a good and holy decision to have an abortion. It provides strength and healing after making a difficult choice. It brings closure to an often intense and emotional process. It is intended to be celebrated with friends. (emphasis mine of course)

The liturgy includes preparations and the following prayer:

Blessed are you, Holy Wisdom, for your presence with [name]. Praised be you,Mother Goddess and Father God, that you have given your people the power of choice.We are saddened that the life circumstances of [woman's name and, if appropriate, herpartner's name] are such that she has had to choose to terminate her pregnancy. Such achoice is never simple. It is filled with pain and hurt, with anger and questions, but alsowith integrity and strength.

Unbelievable, unreal and unholy!

HT: Elephant’s Child

So Say We All!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Issues, Etc. Gets Nation Exposure On Late Night Show

I’m one of a couple thousand people that actually watch Saturday Night Live every week. I’m not exactly proud of that with the writing being what it is but I do still watch the show. As an aside, I understand from talking with friends that the Thursday prime time shows leading up to the election has been pretty good so I’m guessing that’s where the high-quality writers are concentrating their efforts.

I almost never watch SNL when it airs at 11:30pm Saturday night. Instead I rely on my DVR to save it for what usually winds up being Monday night by the time I get ‘round to watching it. The reason for this is that I have to get up pretty early to go to church so as to make sure I can get one of the good seats in the first service. After an early church service it’s off to teach a room of high school age youth. So for me; it’s early to bed on Saturdays.

Well last night I did get around to watching the show from last weekend as is my routine. I was not exactly paying attention when the musical group started their act but that quickly changed when I heard the first eight or nine notes.

For what it’s worth I usually don’t like the musical acts that a variety show will book these days. I remember the good old days of radio before there were music videos that relied too much on the visual instead of well written music and lyrics. These days looking for real talent and depth in modern pop (and country) music is kinda like looking for something Scriptural in a Joel Osteen sermon; you can look for a long time with precious little in the way of results.

Anyhoo, back to my point (sorry folks, I am easily distracted)…

So there I was sitting on the couch reading some seriously in depth stuff by Ed Brubaker regarding a man without fear and devils and stuff when I had to look up at the TV screen because the song being played was somehow familiar. Believe it or not (hint, hint, believe it!) the scheduled band had started playing the opening music for my favorite Christ centered, cross focused radio talk show; Issues, Etc.! Wow I thought, these guys have hit it big time!

As it turns out; some British kids formed a band called Coldplay. And here’s where it gets interesting; they inserted their own lyrics, instead of using sound bites from folks like that moonbat McCain, into the now familiar opening music of Issues, Etc.. Gone also were good comments by Pastors Cwirla and Peterson (along with a host of other guests) and in their place were these British chaps own words. And heavens to Betsy, these new words eerily fit the music, almost like it was always meant to be. Very, very cool.

I’m not sure how these kids found the music or why they elected to remove the Issues, Etc. sound bites but only good things can come of this. Just think, if the other couple of thousand viewers of SNL google this song and find out the music’s true origins and if they take time to listen, Issues, Etc. will have twice as many listeners as LCMS, Inc. claimed the show had when it was terminated. A win win situation for everybody!

I think I like the cut of these Coldplay kid’s jib I do. I’m not sure if they are fans of the show or just thought that the tune was catchy, but they used it and I’m overjoyed. I may just have to break down and buy their record… maybe.

I tried with no success to find the clip from SNL so instead here’s Coldplay's video:

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Danger Of Reformation Day Sermons

Yesterday was Reformation Day where most protestant churches around the world celebrated Dr. Martin Luther nailing his ninety five theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church. A quick history lesson might be in order here; Dr. Luther had some “issues” with the Roman Catholic Church and he was trying to start a debate with his ecclesiastical superiors by nailing ninety five points that he wished to deliberate concerning a false salvation based on works and indulgences on October 31, 1517. It should be noted that nailing such statements on the door of the castle church was as a common practice as posting something on your town hall bulletin board. Remember there were no internet message boards thingys in the sixteenth century.

So at my congregation we celebrated Reformation day and it got me thinking how easy it would be for us to slip into something very dangerous. How easy it would be for any pastor to slip into making his sermon a mere history lesson that focused on the great reformer Martin Lutheran.

I have no problem with history lessons whatsoever. It is a fact that it is only the Old Testament Israel and Christianity that have history on their side. This statement continues to be supported and further bolstered as science advances in the areas of discipline like archeology as well others. Christian history is important as it ties us to real events in real time in the real Biblical narrative. If you look at the gospels of Matthew and Luke you can get a glimpse to how important it is to the authors that they lay out real genealogies and real world events like roman emperor’s taking censuses and all that cool history stuff to the audience that they are addressing.

But, when we focus on a real world history and stop there, we end up running into trouble. When we focus solely on Dr. Luther’s very praise worthy effort in reforming the abuses of the Roman Church, we take our eyes off Jesus and His Cross. When we spotlight Dr. Luther’s work over Christ’s work we fall into the same fatal trap that Dr. Luther’s opponents fell into; a theology that relies on church history, councils, and rulings and statements by important figures apart from Jesus.

I’m thankful that I do get to hear about what Christ did and does for me on His cross week after week. I’m thankful that I get to hear about what Christ does for me now in the preached Word and in His Holy Supper. I’m also thankful that yesterday I didn’t have to sit through a history lesson that focused on a reformer’s work instead of Him who took on my sin, was nailed the cursed tree in my place, and died in my place that I might have eternal life.

All through his letters, the apostle Paul has to remind his readers that he preaches nothing but Christ and Him crucified. I wonder how many folks left church yesterday thinking about the day Dr. Luther nailed his ninety five theses to a door and how many left thinking about a day further back in time where He who was without sin, became the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

Just wondering…

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Apocalypse Is Here: Human-Animal Hybrids Authorized

According the Associated Press;

British plans to allow scientists to use hybrid animal-human embryos for stem cell research won final approval from lawmakers Wednesday in a sweeping overhaul of sensitive science laws.

For crying out loud! Who the heck thinks this is a good idea? Apparently, the British “scientists seeking to use mixed animal-human embryos for stem cell research into diseases such as Parkinson's will help improve — and save — millions of lives.” think such practices are ethical.

Do we now have to about that little brat next door hitting puberty, sprouting wings and roosting in your favorite shade tree in the back yard? Not to worry folks because the embryo will be terminated after only a few weeks. Yeah, that’s comforting!

Now all we need to do is sit back and wait for the four elephants of the apocalypse. They’re coming, soon I’m guessing.

Read the whole sad story here.

The Best Idea To End Ablaze! Ever ( And With Honor!)

Scott Diekmann over at one of my favorite blogs; Stand Firm, has one of the best ideas to end the Ablaze! prog…eh, movement with honor so that we may put this divisive era of evangelism to an end.

I’m not going to give away his solution which means you’ll have to and read his great post.

I’ll give away this much however, in the past year it’s been determined that counting critical events can be done by determining the ratings of a TV show produced by synod entities and counting the number of viewers that may have watched the show.

What is a “critical event” and how can that be counted you ask? Well, according to the Ablaze! website’s definition a critical event is defined as;

When one person gives a clear presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to another person, so that there is an opportunity for that person to respond, this activity “counts” toward the 100 million goal.

Now the question becomes; how can we count a response to a TV show if we are not there to hear a response? It doesn’t matter. As the Ablaze! movement moves forward it evolves and now we count what we count. We need to work with what we have which segues back into my original point; read Scott’s post “Ablaze Numbers With Honor”.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dinosaur Tracks Found In Arizona And The Age Of The Earth Discussion On Issues, Etc.

I’m trying very hard to get caught up on my podcasts this week as I’m a week behind. Last night while my missus was out and about I had a chance to listen to the October 14th episode where segment four featured Dr. David Menton from Answers in Genesis discussing the age of the earth.

Pastor Wilken asked Dr. David Menton this;

“Before we went to the break you were talking about the footprints that can be found in a certain layer. At the grand canyon, you said it looks like to you like evidence of animals traveling in or around at the time of the great flood.

How many of the fossils do you think can be explained the rapid burial and fossilization of these animals that we find simply by the flood event as described in the book of Genesis”

Dr. Menton responded;

Well you know my colleague here and my boss Mr. Ken Hamm who founded Answers in Genesis he has a comment he always likes to make and that is; “if there really were a worldwide flood you’d expect billions of dead things buried in rock layers deposited by water all over the earth. But when you actually go out there and look, what do you see in the fossil record? You see billions of dead things buried in rock layers deposited by water all over the earth.”

Yeah, exactly.

This morning it was announced that dinosaur tracks were found in what used to be “a network of wet, low watering holes between the dunes.” out in Arizona.

Dinosaur tracks preserved from what used to be wet sand? Yeah, exactly.

Read the whole dinosaur footprint story here.

Read my previous I’m not buying the whole evolution thingy here.

To hear the great discussion on the age of the earth with Dr. Menton, listen to the previously mentioned Issues, Etc. segment in the embedded link below:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday Morning Palin Goodness

Because you can never go wrong with singing moose and salmon…

Friday, October 17, 2008

How Do You Grow Your Church?

So, how do you grow your church? Looking around I see a couple of different ideas:

1. Preach God’s Word purely (it’s all about Jesus and Him crucified folks) and administer the Sacraments rightly. Baptize babies and catechize all people in sound Christian doctrine.

2. Open up a day care center and tell the parents that they will get a discount if they join your congregation. If members of your mother congregation apply for a job; tell them that it would probably turn out better if they transferred membership. Don’t worry, that mother congregation, they have plenty of members to spare.

3. Call your mother congregation’s members and just ask them outright to transfer to your exciting and dynamic congregation. Be sure to email the member’s pastor after they agree to give it a shot. Remember, if he objects; you need to say that you didn’t think he would mind… after all, they still have plenty (too many) of members to spare.

All three scenarios are in play in my little corner of the haut south.

My congregation, that uptight mother church that thinks it’s important to make sure her sheep are fed above all else without Madison Avenue programs has always went with the first of the above options. With two of our three daughter congregations are choosing the remaining options, is it any wonder why I have a problem with the Ablaze! program and it’s emphasis on counting?

We reap what we sow and we are reaping big time ‘roud here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ablaze! Ambassador Quote Of The Day

Today’s Ablaze! ambassador quote of the day comes from Dr. Richard Bimler, past president of Wheat Ridge Ministries and a member of the Ablaze! Ambassadors Planning Team:

"A few weeks ago, I was at one of my Starbucks 'offices' (I call it St. Arbucks)," he related via e-mail. "As I ordered my usual 'tall of the day,' a man saw the Ablaze! shirt I was wearing and also noticed my 'AH-HA' button. He simply asked, 'Why are you so excited so early in the morning?'

"I quickly explained that Ablaze! is a movement that enables people to share their faith in the Lord and that my 'AH-HA' button was one of the ways I share my faith through Lutheran Life Communities as the AH-HA person -- the Ambassador of Health, Hope and Aging!"

I just wish somebody would enable me to share my faith. Why can't I go to a cool new mission field like St. Arbucks? Is that even possible to do this without an initiative, program, or movement?

LCMS Market Share Declines While Revenues Exceed Expectations

In case ya’ll missed it last week, from the inbox:

"...baptized membership throughout the Synod decreased by an estimated 34,913 (to 2,383,084) for the year and confirmed membership dropped by 21,719 (to 1,835,064).

On the "plus" side, the number of reported "specialized ministries" grew dramatically, and total contributions rose by an estimated $44,316,144 (to $1,399,774,702) compared with 2006, with the total for work at home increasing by nearly $50 million. The average amount given during 2007, per communicant member, is estimated at $762.79 -- an increase of $32.79 from the previous year."

I wonder if by “specialized ministries” LCMS, Inc. means people paid to churches and convince them that they just aren’t giving enough. I wonder if this also means the prayer teams praying for congregations like mine that the Lord would open their hearts to participating in Ablaze! during their Sunday worship service.

The email does go on to say that “specialized ministries also included satellite worship sites -- with 122 congregations (39 more than in 2006) reporting that they host 139 such sites -- as well as focused worship opportunities.” Satellite worship sites can mean meeting in movie theaters and like places with a video feed to the host congregation.

Friday, October 10, 2008

What Books Do You Put In A Lutheran Library?

I just received an email from the chair of the Board of Education at church asking what books I thought should be in a Lutheran library. So what do you think?

To be honest our library looks like any nondenominational library with a few exceptions. We do have a few books on and by Luther, Sasse, and a small number of historical books. However, combined together the solidly Lutheran books don’t total up to what seems like the collected works of Billy Graham. Heck, we have more books about Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa than we do the early fathers and martyrs who boldly confessed Christ as they were being put to death.

I’m certainly not saying we can’t have a Billy Graham or Charles Swindoll, but when these books teach something that goes against Scripture (like decision theology for starters) and Lutheran teaching, they shouldn’t be on our shelves.

A few years back someone added a book by a new age rabbi that made his case that Jesus wasn’t God (God would never humiliate himself by taking on the flesh of His creation… sounds a little like the Mohammadians doesn’t it?) and Eve wasn’t the first women (it was Lilith). Why was such a book added? Well it had gotten good reviews in a “Christian” book distributor publication. I guess they were going for, uh, equal time? Thankfully, I haven’t seen that book on the shelves lately.

So I ask again, what would you put in your library that would distinguish it as being Lutheran? What books would you add that are not written by Lutherans but are still very good?

No Erik, I’m Not Out Of Blogging Ideas

Yesterday, a friend of mine sent me the following short note:

Hi Frank,

Thought of you and your BSG predilection when I saw this
online (and certainly most scientific) survey.

Not to play the spoiler, but here are current results as of ~9:00AM this morning.

Who played the best President in crisis?

16% Harrison Ford as President James Marshall in Air Force One

15% Bill Pullman as President Thomas J. Whitmore in Independence Day

5% Morgan Freeman as President Tom Beck in Deep Impact

5% Peter Sellers as President Merkin Muffley in Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

37% Mary McDonnell as President Laura Roslin in Battlestar Galactica

17% Dennis Haysbert as President David Palmer in 24

5% Jack Nicholson as President James Dale in Mars Attacks!

Think Pres. Roslin is available?


Erik, one could only hope! I’m just amazed watching McCain run as a republican without the core values and issues that one would normally expect from his party. The idea that he needs Palin to get anybody excited speaks volumes. I’d be willing to bet that a lot of folks are going to be wishing that they picked the son of Kobol in the primaries in, uh, about three weeks.

I know there are many that say that at least McCain will pick decent judges. From his performance over the last year; I seriously doubt that would be the case.

Me? Well, I’m sticking with the Roslin/Airlock ticket. However, if I really get in one of my moods I’ll vote for Zod.

When does the Mayan calendar end? 2012 is it? 2012 can not arrive quick enough!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

No Valerie, I’m Not Out Of Blogging Ideas

My absolutely favorite niece, Valerie, just sent me a short note with a link suggesting that I might need blogging ideas. That’s why she’s my favorite niece, she’s always looking out for her uncle.

No Valerie, I’m not out of ideas for blogging. I’ve just been a little busy at work (a pleasant change) and was on vacation last weekend. The boss took all his employees and their significant others to the beach. The missus and I got a chance to go ocean kayaking for between four or five hours just north of Myrtle Beach.

With the short getaway and picking up two new customers, Uncle Frank has just been a little busy, but not too busy to see that email from his favorite niece. And I certainly saw that email from LCMS, Inc. highlighting increased revenues while losing market share. (sorry for that folks but sometimes ya got to talk the right lingo to be understood by corporate types)

Thank you Valerie for making sure I gots me some ideas, that’s why your Aunt and I love ya.

Oh, that’s a picture of your Aunt playing in the ocean.