Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What Would You Discuss Over Lunch With The Mormons?

A few weeks ago I ordered the free Finding Happiness dvd produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I did so because I had seen the commercial for the dvd advertised on an insane number of websites that I visit during the week. I had seen the trailer pop up on every kind of website ranging from comic book news, pop culture and even to some technology sites I frequently visit. The advertising campaign is clearly a broad one and they are really getting big bang for their bucks.

I’d had seen the trailer before last week and even heard a snippit or two on Chris Rosebrough’s program Fighting for the Faith. Seeing the video being advertised over such a broad range of websites definitely piqued my curiosity and I went ahead and ordered it through the online form. That was two weeks ago.

About a week after I placed my order I got a call from two missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or Mormons, asking me if they could drop off my copy of Finding Happiness. Then they asked, like all good missionaries do, “can we talk with you about Jesus?”

Here’s a question for readers of POTF; if you were having lunch with two youthful Mormon missionaries, what would you ask them? How would you handle talking to two kids whose mission it is to deliver a message and record the response? What would you do?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Angry Comment Of The Week

I received a comment on my God's wrath and Noah’s ark post last week that qualifies as one of my top ten favorite comments critical of something I’ve written in a post I. Here’s the comment left almost a week ago followed by my response as I wrote it; spelling and grammer errors included (you folks do know that I don’t type… dontchya?):

There is no proof for Noah's Ark or the Bible. Why do you teach children these horrifying stories as fact? A baby drowning because of God's wrath and judgement. I was a Christan until recently. As an informed adult, I have finally come to question what I was brainwashed into believing. You'll probably delete or not post this, but I'm trying to make you think about what harm you're doing to these kids. They should not accept such wrath as love. Consider the fear you're instilling in them, for no reason than your own blind faith in a book you have no proof is more than a myth.

I replied:

Anonymous, I don’t delete comments that are on topic for the same reason I’m not afraid to use my real name, I’m not afraid of engaging a critic in a debate.

The account of Noah’s ark is not just about God’s wrath but one of his mercy as well. It is God’s love and mercy that we see as Noah and his family climb aboard the ark just as it is God’s love and mercy that we see as a child (or adult) rise out of the waters of holy Baptism and welcomed into the ark of Christ’s Church.

If you reread the post you’ll see that law or wrath is only half the post and I specifically said that I did NOT pile on with the wrath and the death. I did say that I spent the majority of the class talking about the Gospel and how God saves us through Christ.

The remarkable thing is that the kids I teach understand human nature better than most adults do. They understand that they are born sinful and that there needs to be a “fix” for that. There are a goodly number of adults that say we are all just good people trying to get by doing good works and changing the world. If that is the case, they really don’t need a Jesus for anything more than a life coach or cheerleader do they? Why is it that children and young adults have a better understanding of Scripture and the nature of sin than adults do?

I’m curious though, what information do you have (that I don’t) that the Bible is a myth? If you wish to go the science route (I do happen to like the) I would be happy to supply with oodles of information from real live archeologists that can at least substantiate the claims of the writers of Scripture so that you have a better understanding of the historicity of both the Old and New Testaments.

As an atheist for over 15 years one of the things that always bothered me was the science. There is a vast amount of archeological evidence and more and more things are being uncovered every day. Recently King David’s palace was discovered and the neat thing is that the majority of textual and historical critics chalked the story of David up to Jewish tribal myths. The site was found when an archeologist read her bible and noticed that David’s palce sat on top of a hill. Where did she dig? That’s right, on top of a hill in proximity to other sites noted in the Biblical accounts.

There are also historical records that are extra biblical written by folks who are not Christian that actually validate the very thing that they are writing against. I would be happy to discuss that as well… if you wish to have a conversation.
Posted by Frank Gillespie | 9:30 AM

For what it’s worth, the Ohio commenter found my site by searching Google with the words “gods wrath noah flood.” I can’t say I’m really surprised that I haven’t heard back from him or her yet.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Best Praying The Mass Video Game Ever!

From the trailer for the latest, greatest, and newest video game sensation:

A family shouldn't have to wait until Sunday to worship the Lord. Now you can go to church every day without leaving your home. Participate in more than 24 unique and exhilarating Ceremonies. Be sure to try them all. The more you play, the more Grace points you collect. Then trade in your Grace points to unlock the Holy Mysteries. Only from Prayer Works Interactive. Help bring your family closer, to Heaven...

Mass we pray was developed by Prayer Works Interactive; a new game-development company founded in Boston in 2007. They believe there is a lack of quality games based upon traditional family values.

Let’s all be honest and admit it; at the end of the day you really can’t get more traditional than genuflection! No, no you can’t.

I don’t know about ya’ll, but I will simply have no other choice than to shell out some serious coin for Mass: We Pray if for no other reason than to try out the genuflection module!

What are you waiting for? Visit the Mass: We Pray website and pre-order yours right now!

Update: I just removed the links as some cyberterrorists have hacked into the game website and changed the order links to a video game that is NOT Mass: We Pray... me am sad.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What Makes Good Hymns Good And Bad Hymns Bad?

Today’s Issues, Etc. soundbite of the day comes from Rev. Dr. Richard Stuckwisch of Emmaus Lutheran Church-South Bend, IN talking about what the criteria should be for a core group of congregational hymns back on September 28, 2009's show.

For today’s soundbite Dr. Stuckwisch responds to hosts Todd Wilken’s questions concerning what makes good hymns good and then later what makes bad hymns bad.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

One Of The Best Series For Teaching Youth (And Oldsters Too!)

A commenter recently asked me if I was writing my own Bible studies or if I was using purchased material for my Sunday school class for high school students. I have written a goodly number of my own studies over the last ten years but the other person who shares teaching duties with me and I do occasionally use materials purchased from a variety of publishers.

The study on water that we are currently using is from the Fusion series published by the good folks at Concordia Publishing House. The neatest thing about all of the studies in the Fusion books is the manner in which they connect the dots between the Old and New Testament and in doing so spotlight Christ on every page of Scripture. The Fusion study of water is full of sacramental types that point to the antitype, Jesus and His work in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism and is an absolute hoot. From God at work saving eight people in the account of Noah and the flood, saving His people Israel when they’re backs were up against the Red Sea with Pharaoh and his chariots pursuing them, and to the saving and healing of a gentile leper named Naaman in the not so pristine waters of the Jordan River; Fusion makes it clear that all of Scripture points to our baptism into Jesus’ baptism where we are made new creatures and righteous on the account of Christ!

So often folks (youngsters as well as oldsters) know all the stories of the Old Testament but fail to see how all those stories connect with the Gospels and the work of Jesus. Fusion connects the dots in a clear and enlightening manner that is truly a joy to teach. All of the books in the Fusion series have an easy and accessible way about them that encourages dialogue while not dumbing the material down as so many studies geared to youth and young adults seem to do.

Also, with only a few tweaks, the books in the Fusion series could challenge any Sunday morning adult class and I would recommended them for the catechesis of oldsters without hesitation.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Malaysia Seizes Bibles To Avoid Offending Peaceful Mohammadians

I saw a news story downloaded in my iPod touch yesterday that gave me a bit of a chuckle. The BBC is reporting that the Malaysian government has seized 10,000 Bibles (the AP is reporting that the number is actually 15,000!) for using the word "Allah" to refer to God. An excerpt from the BBC report:

The Malaysian government has refused to release 10,000 Bibles which it seized because they contained the word Allah to refer to God. The government, which is dominated by Muslim Malays, claims that the word Allah is Islamic and that its use in Bibles could upset Muslims.

The Roman Catholic Church is challenging the ban in court. Religion has become highly sensitive in Malaysia, where about two-thirds of the population is Muslim

Now I’ve heard the case made that sometimes make too much of made of the word Allah as it was in use long before there were peaceful Mohammadians colonizing the Middle East and Europe by Arabic speaking Christians. Fair enough, I’ll accept that to a point. However, when the word Allah is used by politicians like Presidents George W. Bush or Barrack Obama or even purpose driven pastor extraordinaire Rick Warren to say we all worship one deity whether he or she is called Allah or God or even the god of our many understandings (goomu) we should be just as offended as the peaceful Mohammadians so often seem to get.

I would actually argue that the Malaysian government is actually a little of the curve in their understanding that the Allah confessed by Arabic speaking Christians is a very different god than the Allah submitted to by the Mohammadians and I applaud them for their insight.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The God Whisperers: Catechetical Goodness Wrapped In Bacon

Because ya’ll already have too many things to do and too little time to get it all done… I’d like to recommend that you good folks squeeze in one more thing onto your to do list and subscribe to The God Whisperers podcast.

Pastors Craig Donofrio and Bill Cwirla are an absolute hoot! Their weekly podcast is only about an hour long and is an in-depth study of what it means to be Christian and how we as Christians have historically read and understood God’s Word.

Right now I’m listening to these good earthy Lutheran pastors teach the Christian faith by walking us through the Augsburg Confession; a sixteenth century defense of the Christian faith against a Roman church that looked to indulgences and papal decrees instead of God’s gracious gift of His only son Jesus and Scripture alone to comfort terrified souls.

If such a study sounds uninteresting or tedious, I beg you to give Pastors Donofrio and Cwirla a try and see for yourself how much fun theology can be! What a blessing it is that we have such talented pastors willing to use new media without compromising one iota. Please do yourself a favor and give ‘em a try, I’m certain that you’ll be glad you did.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Youth And Uneasiness With God’s Wrath And Judgement

As we move through our study on how God uses water to create and destroy and to kill and bring to life in Scripture; one thing has become crystal clear: kids in high school absolutely love the “athletic” parts of the Bible.

Nothing gets my students “animated” like death and destruction by plagues, famine, and of course by means of our current study: water. Given the chance to draw a picture, a couple of the kids stepped up to the plate and sketched out a not so happy rendition of Noah’s ark floating on the water of a condemned earth. Departing from the cute motifs often seen taped up on nurseries and Sunday school classrooms, my students drew an ark floating on a world flooded by God’s righteous and holy wrath which included people drowning and drowned outside and beneath the ark. When the picture was done all were happy and justifiably proud of their work. Yep, they loves them some destruction and mayhem.

But guess what happened when someone added babies, pregnant women, and the elderly to those who had come under God’s righteous judgment on sinful mankind? Can you guess the class’s mood when they saw those who they are told always help and protect are also condemned to drown outside the safety of the ark along with the most vile murders and thieves?

I’ll admit that I was a bit taken aback with just how uncomfortable some in the class became with all of the human race falling under God’s judgment. More than one student explained that it just made them uneasy to see the “innocent” or weak drowned with the dregs of society. Some of the kids even had difficulty making eye contact during this part of the class. I guess cheering for babies drowning just ain’t as cool cheering for murderers getting their comeuppance.

It would’ve been all too easy for me to slam the kids, as so many often do (especially many in youth leadership positions within our own beloved synod who talk of community built on service in soup kitchens and such and coffee shop emoting apart from the community we are when we go to Church to hear His Word preached and receive His gifts in the Sacraments administered rightly), with a lecture on the keeping of the Law so that they can live transformed lives. It would be easy to tell them they just need to do better to live more sanctified lives so that they may have the assurance that they never will suffer the wrath that they deserve as they have inherited Adam’s curse. There was a time when I would’ve piled on with more and more law as so many did with me in my own youth. But, that was in the before times, in the long, long ago.

Living sanctified and good lives may be called for in Scripture but such is a result or an effect of the Gospel but not the Gospel proper. The Gospel is that Jesus took all the wrath that we, if we are honest here, so justly deserve upon himself and made satisfaction on the cursed tree at Golgotha. (John 1:29, and also Romans 3:21–26 and 4:5)

In our baptism, our old sinful selves are drowned and we are recreated as new creatures and brought into the ark of God’s one holy and Church catholic by the water and His Word. (Romans 6:4 and Titus 3:4–7)! Those kids shamed with the understanding that they along with all of humanity are under the curse of the law knew that they deserved to be drowned but they didn’t completely understand when they came out of the water of their baptism they were just as safe as Noah in the ark.

The rest of the class was all Gospel in that we were assured, not by Mr. Gillespie’s word but by God’s Holy Word that God saves His people not on account of their own righteousness but the account of His only begotten Son’s work at the cross. I assured them that through Baptism the Lord made them heirs of heaven itself and as heirs they could be assured that were baptized into the ark eternal; Christ’s Church now and forever.

It was good to see that they understood that they were poor sinful creature deserving of God’s wrath. It was even better seeing the little light bulbs go off over their heads when they understood that they did rise out of the water of their baptism a new creation and placed aboard the ark of the Church. It was good to see that they understood sacramental nature of Noah’s story. It was good to see that they were able to join with Saint Peter and say in confidence that “Baptism saves.” Amen!