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Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Gift of Time

Since Adam, each and every human being ever born as been born under a death sentence. The only thing that varies from person to person is TIME. These differences in time do not reflect differences in the value of each person. The time from conception to death is always a part of the total package of God's gift of each individual to the world.

We would never have dreamed of shortening the life of Steven (Acts 7) just because we knew ahead of time that his lifespan would be only 3% of Methuselah's (Genesis 5). And yet that is exactly the counsel which many of today's parents are receiving through misguided counsellors armed with uncertain test results.

Last week, we heard the travesty of a perfectly healthy twin who was accidentally killed in an attempt to purposely kill his sibling who seemed to be destined to live a shorter life already.

While there is nothing that we can do to lengthen either our own lifespan or that of others, there is plenty that we can do to receive what time God gives for the gift that it is. Perinatal Hospice and Palliative Care is just such an opportunity to rejoice in God's gift of time. Their mission statement is:

As prenatal testing becomes increasingly routine, more parents are learning devastating news before their babies are born. In too many places, the ability to diagnose has raced ahead of the ability to care for these families and their babies. But in a beautiful and practical response, more than 100 pioneering hospitals and hospices in the U.S. and other countries have started providing perinatal hospice/palliative care for families who wish to continue their pregnancies with babies who likely will die before or shortly after birth.
A perinatal hospice approach walks with these families on their journey through pregnancy, birth and death, honoring the baby as well as the baby's family. Perinatal hospice is not a place; it is more a frame of mind. Even in areas without a formal program, parents can create a loving experience for themselves and their baby, and health professionals and family and friends can offer support in the spirit of hospice
There are two nearby programs that we can support in concrete and active ways.
Angel Watch, Intermountain Health Care. Contact: Carolyn Kasteler RN, (801) 698-4486. Salt Lake City, Utah

Rainbow Kids Palliative Care Program, Primary Children's Medical Center/University of Utah. Contact: Nurse coordinator Beth Nordfors RN, (801) 662-3770. Salt Lake City, Utah
Let's give some thought to how we might help others to receive and rejoice in God's gifts.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

CrossTalk: Thanksgiving Preparations

Across our native land, Thursday will be a time for gathering with family and friends to give thanks for our many blessings. As we prepare our homes and meals for this Thanksgiving Day, here are a few thoughts to help you prepare your hearts as well.

A good place to start is with a two column list. Put good things on one side and bad things on the other. You will quickly find that such a list is harder than it seems. At first, the list of “bad” things grows quickly. But with more careful thought, many of these things can be seen as “good.”

For instance, grown-ups routinely recognize that education, healthy food, and firm behavioral boundaries are precious gifts. But children rarely see this. Remember back when you were a kid and you grumbled or whined because you didn’t like something your parents wanted to give you?

Now, consider that we are all still children in relation to God and His gracious giving. As children, we are simply without the necessary perspective to see the blessings of what God is giving us.

Some things that God gives are more obviously good: food and clothing, home and family, body and life. But even these are often experienced as “bad” — especially when we are looking at the particulars of our life. We hear it said, “Sure, food is good; but this food is awful. Sure, family is good; but not my family. Sure, life is good; but my life is a mess.”

But for those who believe that God is good, you have a ready gauge to tell you what things go in what column: All that comes from God is good! It really is that simple. And for Christians to know that God is the Man who gives His very life for you, you need only ask what comes from Him in order to know what is good and what to give thanks for.

Let your Thanksgivings follow the maturity of Jesus and leave behind the childishness of unbelief. When you do, you will see more and more of your life’s circumstances move from the negative column to the positive side. Your reasons for thankfulness will overflow while your reasons for grumbling will dwindle to nothing.

As your list becomes more and more lop-sided, your love for God grows as well. Or, better said, as your faith in God’s graciousness grows, your list will become more lop-sided. You will soon find that an hour is not enough time to thank God. Next, you will see that the whole day is far too short a time for thanksgiving. In heaven, we will find that eternity is still not enough time to finish saying thanks.

When you have finished your list — or simply been overwhelmed by the sheer wonder of it all — it’s time to move on to the next step. Recognize that God has given you all of these things through the people and things around you. He has used these people and things because He wants to receive your thanks through them.

To thank God does not stop with a mental note of His goodness. Thanksgiving expresses itself towards the people that He has used to bless you. Thank God for your family by loving your wife, your husband, your children. Thank God for your employment by working hard and being faithful. Thank God for your health by listening to your doctor and other health-care professionals. Thank God for His Word by hearing it regularly and taking it to heart.

By such things, not only will your life be filled with love and faith towards God, but you will also grow more and more to love each and every one of the good people and the good things that He has placed in your life. And they will also thank God in you. Thanks be to God.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Being Thankful for Lutheranism

The Internet Monk has been blogging in the "Post-Evangelical Wilderness" for 11 years. Now, having become a Lutheran he has posted a series of articles titled: How Lutheran Tradition Answers Many Post-Evangelical Concerns"

Life-long Lutherans often cannot know the richness of their own tradition simply because they don't have anything else to compare with it. Non-Lutherans may not know of its richness for the simple reason that it appears irrelevant to the concerns of popular Evangelicalism.

Either way, Chaplain Mike's articles are a worthwhile read for anyone interested in God the Crucified.  He provides seven reasons to be thankful for the Lutheran tradition which are summed up as follows:

1. The Lutheran tradition provides a solid historic tradition with roots.



2. The Lutheran tradition gives priority to Word and Table liturgical worship.


3. The Lutheran tradition places a strong emphasis on pastoral ministry.


4. The Lutheran tradition has a healthy emphasis on the vocational callings of all believers.

5. The Lutheran tradition is centered on Christ and the Gospel.


6. The Lutheran tradition keeps proper distinctions between Law and Gospel.
7. The Lutheran tradition has a sacramental theology that corrects the inefficiencies of revivalism.
8. The Lutheran tradition teaches most clearly the biblical doctrine of the Theology of the Cross.
 
After these 8 points, Mike gives a bonus post called "10 Reasons to Love Luther." All five articles can be accessed by following this link.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The LCMS before the SCOTUS

Readers of this blog should be interested in a case on the docket of the Supreme Court. A congregational dispute about whether or not to rehire a parish school teacher after a leave of absence has worked it way up to the highest court of the land.

This is no longer about a local dispute. It has become about whether or not the Federal Government can impel a church to hire someone. The decision issuing from this case has the potential to overturn centuries of case law and could impair a congregation's ability to hire based on the life and doctrine of a particular teacher or preacher.

For a synopsis of the case, read this article in the Wall Street Journal.

For a transcript of the argument before the Supreme Court, read this PDF document.

Or, you may wish to follow this on the Supreme Court Blog.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

CrossTalk: Weep Not for Me, but for Yourselves, and Your Children

As I write these words today, two significant happenings fill my thoughts and prayers. Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani lost his appeal to the Iranian high court and today is condenned to death by hanging. His crime is that He knows Jesus to be the Lord and giver of life. So an innocent man stands to die for confessing the Life of the world. Also as I write, Christians around the world are participating in the third day of "40 Days for Life" <40daysforlife .com="">. Beginning last Wednesday--and through November 6--we have a special opportunity to speak up and speak out for the lives of the innocent, particularly those people who have yet to take their first breath and so cannot speak for themselves.

It goes without saying that Yousef and the innocent victims of abortion are tragic victims of senseless violence and misguided zealotry. Many before me have pointed this out. Less often noted is the way that we ourselves are injured by evils which, at first glance, only effect someone else. That is why I have taken the title of this article from Jesus' words to the women of Jerusalem as he carried the cross to his own place of execution. "And there followed a great company of people, and of women, who also bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning unto them said, 'Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children'" (Luke 23:27-28).

Jesus, too, was an innocent man unjustly slaughtered. But he does not consider himself the most tragic figure in the story. More pitiable is the culture in which this injustice occurs. He does not say this with any glee or any sense of revenge. If you know Jesus at all, you know that he simply could not think this way. Rather, he says this because he sees more clearly than anyone else that a calloused disregard for your neighbor is truly a calloused disregard for yourself.

When God says, "love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39), he is simply spelling out the realities of human life as he created it. Christians do not see love for another as in competition with love for self -- as though we have to take care so that we don't love our neighbor too much and neglect ourselves. Rather, for the Christian, when I love my neighbor I AM loving myself. Because in Christ, we are all one body. No body in his right mind would willingly let his finger be smashed by a hammer saying, 'that's only my finger; it's not me.' So also, the love of Christ gives us clear vision to know that concern for any person individually is care for every person corporately.

And so, my thoughts today are filled with weeping and lamentations more for the people perpetrating the crimes than for the victims. I know that Jesus holds all his children in his hands and that nothing that anybody does to them can truly destroy them. But I also know that we are quite capable of destroying ourselves by denying or ignoring our own humanity.

Therefore, as you pray for the plight of Yousef Nadarkhani and as you pray and speak during these 40 Days for Life, let your hearts most especially turn to those who are involved -- both directly and indirectly.

Pray for the doctors who have been misguided into thinking they are serving humanity by killing humans. Pray for the nurses who are often unwittingly drawn into participation in ghastly procedures. Pray for the millions of young women who have been misled or coerced into injuring their bodies and consciences in ways that they never could have foreseen. Pray for anyone who is compelled by false notions into doing what they know, deep down, is evil.

And, most of all, pray for yourselves. Pray that God might touch your heart through Christ that you might feel the same compassion for people who you have never met as you do for yourselves. For in this compassion for the unborn as the born and for all children as your own children, you will have a share in the heart of God and, therefore, a return to your own humanity as God created you. That, after all, is the kind of love that Jesus has for you. That is why he considered you so valuable as to die for you even before you ever knew him -- even before you were born.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pastor Yousef: The Tactics Are Changing

Reports as recently as Saturday morning indicate that Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani is still alive. These same reports indicate that the Iranian government seems to be changing its tune. While the original trial ran all the way up to the Iranian supreme court on the charge that Yousef left Islam for Christianity. Now the Iranian press is indicating that his death penalty is actually because of rape. Much is still unclear. Namely, whether this is a new formal charge or whether it is only an allegation to deflect international pressure.

This kind of tactic should surprise no one who is a student of history. As Eusebius' Church History tells, oftentimes the Roman persecutors of the early Christians would trump up outrageous moral charges once they knew that threats of death did not have the desired effect. While a Christian is not afraid of dying, it would be abhorrent to drag Christ's name into baseness and dishonor.

Let us pray keep praying for Pastor Yousef remains steadfast in the face of this new challenge. Let us also pray that we may be as abhorred by the thought of falling into immorality as the faithful martyrs of all ages.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation

Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani's life hangs in the balance today. He is slated to be hanged because he became a Christian after being a Muslim. You can read the whole story here: http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/david-allen-green/2011/09/islam-age-iran-court-muslim.

The judge gave him an opportunity to save his life by denying that Jesus is God. He did not. Just as Jesus on Good Friday knew that Pilate's power came from the True God, so on this Friday, Pastor Nadarkhani confesses that the power of life and death are not ultimately any Muslim judge's, but Jesus' own power.

That is why Jesus says, "Whoever saves his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 16:25)

  • Pray for Pastor Nadarkhani's wife and children that they will be cared for.
  • Pray for the Iranian people that they will be freed from the bonds of Islam.
  • Pray for the judge and prosecutors that God would use Pastor Nadarkhani's words to rescue them from their bondage.
  • Pray for Pastor Nadarkhani that Jesus would keep him steadfast in his confession to eternal life.
  • Pray for yourselves and for your children, that you might believe as Pastor Nadarkhani does.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

40 Days for Life (Sept. 28 - Nov. 6, 2011)

"There are many hindrances to establishing a prolife emphasis in the church. One is the deeply held conviction of some members that prolife work distracts us from the main thing. To those who say the job of the church is evangelism, I would point out that prolife activities open great doors for evangelism. Students who make a speech on abortion have follow-up conversations that can lead to sharing the gospel. Those who work at Pregnancy Resource Centers have regular built-in opportunities they would otherwise not have to share Christ. Those who pass out literature at abortion clinics regularly share the love of Christ. People who open their homes to pregnant women can demonstrate a love that is more than words, then follow with the words of the gospel. My own family had the joy of seeing a pregnant young woman come to the Lord while living with us.


"Many, both church leaders and members, still insist it isn’t the job of the church to get involved in prolife activities. But what is the job of the church? I appeal to you to come to grips with the fact that loving God cannot be separated from loving our neighbor (Matthew 22:34-40). To a man who wished to define “neighbor” in a way that excluded certain groups of needy people, Christ presented the Good Samaritan as a model for our behavior (Luke 10:25-37). He went out of his way to help the man lying in the ditch. In contrast, the religious hypocrites looked the other way because they had more “spiritual” things to do.

"In Matthew 25:31-46 Christ makes a distinction of eternal significance based not merely on what people believe and preach, but on what they have done for the weak and needy. Can anyone read this passage and still believe that intervening for the needy is some peripheral issue that distracts the church from its main business? On the contrary; it is part and parcel of what the church is to be and do. It is at the heart of our main business.

"In His Great Commission, Jesus didn’t tell us only to evangelize. He told us to be “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus commanded us to be compassionate and to take sacrificial action for the weak and needy. If we fail to do this—and if we fail by our word and example to teach others to do this—then we fail to fulfill the Great Commission. We show the world and the church that our words about the gospel are only that—words."

by Randy Alcorn, Eternal Perspective Ministries, 39085 Pioneer Blvd., Suite 206, Sandy, OR 97055, 503-668-5200, www.epm.org, www.randyalcorn.blogspot.com, www.facebook.com/randyalcorn, www.twitter.com/randyalcorn

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Identifying the Source

There are few catastrophes so indelibly connected to a single day as 9-11. Most are years in the making and so gradual that they go unnoticed.


Had God caused the Twin Towers to crumble gradually, over the course of time... Had He caused the 3000 people in it to grow weak and die by the ravages of age and disease... This day would not impact us so much as it does.

But the sheer suddenness of it, the cataract of steel and concrete, the great and growing cloud of dust, still reach out to envelope us and cover us with the patina of death.

Shocked into a zombie-like state, we too wander the streets seeking escape from the horror of what we've seen... but in vain.

As the towers folded in upon themselves, so were time and space themselves compressed. And when, what normally happens over decades is compressed into moments, the truth becomes undeniable.

No longer is it possible to deny the source of death and decay. And that "source" is not Al Qaida. It is, rather, Satan Himself. This is no benign and impersonal agency like time. Now we see it for what it is--an intrusion, an alien and unwelcome invasion.

In like manner, Jesus' miracles are the compressing of space and time. They are more than "wonderments" Rather, what God does normally and imperceptibly every day is sped up in time so that you can more easily trace its source. Now, with crystal clarity, you can see that the Man, Jesus, is Himself the source, the Creator of all life, the up-builder of all. And hearing this blaringly obvious truth, how can you help but speak of it?

Confession of Christ is not something you calmly decide to do or not to do. It is the natural and spontaneous result of the hearing of faith. When people across this land saw the events of ten years ago, they didn't timidly ask permission to broach the subject. But they broke out in conversations everywhere declaring the obvious! Suddenly all of life was interpreted through that cloud of dust. Our world changed.

Why don't we do that about Jesus? He is more obviously our source of life and order than Al-Qaida is our source of death and chaos. So why are we so reluctant to talk of Him, to stand up for Him, to organize our lives around Him?

Since 9-11 we have come to take it for granted that everything we do must be ordered according to the new realities of our world. We gladly surrender our personal freedoms in a trade for security of our flesh. An extra hour at the airport? Monitor my cell phone and my emails? X-ray my luggage? Take naked pictures of me at the security line?... OK, no problem.

But when Jesus calls us to an extra hour of worship; or to monitor your computer and cell phone usage... When Jesus has something to say about how you spend your money; or with His surgical Word penetrates your heart, do you rejoice at the spiritual security He gives you? Or resent His intrusions?

All people ought to be convicted by these thoughts. But Christians will respond differently than others.

The world will take this criticism as an opportunity to make personal resolutions - I will start thinking differently. I will take Jesus more seriously. I will more willingly listen to Him... But Christians know that "I" is the problem. The deeper is not that I don't respond enough--it's that I can't hear; I can't perceive.

The problem is not that I am UNwilling. The problem is that I WILL the wrong things. I don't speak, because I can't hear. And so the Christian response is not a resolution to remember. It is a prayer to BE REMEMBERED!

Salvation from the dust of death begins with the recognition that I am hopelessly covered in--and surrounded by--the dust of death. I am inextricably stuck in--and buried under--the rubble of the world. Recognizing this, the only cry is "HELP!" Lord, have mercy! Save me! Heal me!

Give me ears to hear that I might speak. Touch Me with Your Body and Blood and remember Me.

And into this world of dust and death comes Jesus. He, and He alone is clean. He is in the rubble and outside of the rubble at the same time. He is the source (Al Qaida) of life in this world of death. He alone knows the pervasiveness of the problem. So, He alone groans from the depths of His soul.

And He comes today, as the first and only responder, to rescue you. To lift you out of death and into Life Himself. He restores your hearing - your very ability to receive the WORD. And in restoring this, He gives you life. Speech naturally follows.

Make haste, O God, to deliver me! Make haste to help me, O Lord! AMEN.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

...Where do you go when you die?

Members and friends of this blogspot know Pastor Matthew Richardt as a friendly and encouraging voice. I thought you would appreciate this brief interview he recently held with the San Diego Reader. The final question and answer speaks volumes.

San Diego Reader: Where do you go when you die?

Pastor Matt: I don’t think we think about death enough. If we did, we’d be more humble than we are. As Christians we believe in a real Heaven, Hell, judgment, things we believe the Bible teaches very clearly. This section of the Reader is called “Sheep and Goats,” which is a direct reference to Matthew 25:46. Jesus talks about eternal punishment and eternal life. We believe we’re the ones who deserve eternal punishment, but we have a savior, God’s own son, our dear Lord Jesus Christ, who took that punishment for us, and gives us eternal life in its place. For me, if I can say, this, the question is “Where do you go when Jesus died for you?” The answer is, “To be with him.”

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Recommended Reading/Listening

I just finished listening to a librivox recording of G. K. Chesterton's The New Jerusalem. Immediately upon finishing it, I went back to the beginning again. If you have never experienced Chesterton's writing, you will spend the first pages -- even the first chapters -- wondering if his rambling, poetical style has any theme or point at all. But you will soon discover that every seemingly haphazard word is precisely chosen and every rambling path leads you to a breathtaking vista.

Written in 1920 shortly after the close of the Great War, 19 years before the beginning of the Holocaust and 27 years before the charter of the nation of Israel, this book takes an historico-theologico-practical approach to the politics of the Middle East which is every bit as relevant now as it was then.

The chapter on the Crusades, alone, would be worth your time. Here you have a devastating critique of the past two centuries of Western evaluations of their purpose and value. In modern histories, we are told few of the actual facts and even less about the stated motives of either side. Instead, rather, we are fed only enough information to form a negative opinion of the masses of well-meaning Christians who gave their wealth and health and lives in pursuit of we-know-not-what. If Chesterton can help you fill in this blank, you will not only see the past more clearly, but the present as well.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

When did Christians Start Baptizing Infants?

"When Polycarp at the trial preceding his martyrdom testifies that he has been serving the Lord for eighty-six years (Mart. Pol., 9), the reference can only be to his membership in the church. Accordingly, his baptism must have taken place in the apostolic age, even prior to the year ad 70. The statement of Justin (Apol. 1:15) that at that time there were many Christians sixty and seventy years old who from the days of their childhood ematheteuthesan to Christo [who had become disciples of Christ] can refer only to members of the church who were baptized as children during the period between ad 80 and 90. We have already mentioned Irenaeus. He testifies that Christ came to save all, “all who by Him are regenerated unto God; babes (infantes), little children, boys, youths and men” (Adv. Haer., II 22:4). In the Church Order of his disciple Hippolytus (ca. 170- c. 235) the baptism of little children is mentioned in so many words. They are to be baptized before the adults, and their parents or some relative are to take their places at the “Amen” and confession of faith by speaking vicariously for them.

"When Tertullian (ca. 155-220) in his Treatise on Baptism directs his polemics against the custom of infant baptism, he certainly is not attacking it as an innovation; even as, later on, Pelagius in his battle against Augustine’s doctrine of original sin had to admit the argument that, after all, infants were baptized too; at least he does not deny the fact. Likewise, Origen (ca. 185- ca. 254) and Cyprian (ca. 200-258) presuppose the baptism of infants: the former in the claim later transmitted to the Middle Ages by Dionysius the Areopagite that the baptism of infants goes back to a tradition given by the Lord to his apostles (Commentary on Romans, 5:9); Cyprian in the well-known instruction given to Bishop Fidus (Ep. 64) not to defer baptism to the eighth day analogous to circumcision. Jeremias is right when he claims that a later introduction of infant baptism would have stirred up a great excitement and thus have left definite traces in the history of the Church. The results of church-historical investigation rather indicate that in the ancient church, precisely as in our modern mission fields, both forms of baptism, adult and infant, have always existed side by side. If that is true, then infant baptism must go back to the apostolic age. The baptism of children must then be included in the baptism of entire families, of which we have examples in the New Testament, even though the children are not specifically mentioned.
Translated from Hermann Sasse, Letters to Lutheran Pastors vol. V, 1949. Found at Mercy Journey's blog.



Tuesday, June 21, 2011

CrossTalk: To Be Like Your Father

Be merciful just as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:36). Christian behaviour flows out of Christian belief. That doesn’t just mean that if you believe in God, you will obey Him. Anybody can act according to a set of rules. But Christian behavior is no act. It is a way of being.

“Be merciful!” Jesus says. Don't just act that way. These words invite you into a whole different life. More than actions and words, this life includes thoughts, attitudes and feelings. Jesus calls you to be as God the Father is—to be merciful.

When you think of God the Father, do you think of mercy? Sadly, this is the last word many would use to describe God. They feel that God is their enemy who does not love but hates them. Many think that God is a vengeful judge and not a merciful Father. Of course, people rarely say this in polite company. Rather, such thoughts show up in how we think and act.

What we think about the life God has given us says alot about what we think of God. When I complain about the health or money, family or work that God has given me, I am really saying that God is not giving enough but is stingy, that He is not merciful but vengeful. If I try to avoid thinking ill about God by saying that He is not the source of these things, I don't think more of God but less. For then, I am only saying that He is not really God at all.

So also, the way we think about His word speaks volumes. When we are reluctant to hear and follow God's word in our lives, we are really saying that He wants to kill our joy or prevent us from having what we need to live. This is anything but seeing God as merciful.

When we do not consider God to be merciful, our behavior becomes unmerciful too—especially when we are afraid or hurt. When I am afraid for the future, I become a taker instead of a giver. I act like everybody owes me something and no longer see people through God’s eyes—as people that I can care for.

When we are wronged, instead of giving mercy, we demand justice. We use whatever leverage or strength that we have to punish, or to abandon the one who hurts us. But this is exactly the opposite of how God is towards you. Even though He is almighty, He does not use His might against you, but for you. Even though He is transcendent, He does not stay aloof from you but comes to you.

God is so merciful, in fact, that He doesn't just tell you to change your thinking and leave you alone to figure out how. Instead, God is so merciful that "He gave His only-begotten Son" (John 3:16). The Father gave the Son to become a true, believing Man and to rescue you from unbelief and the unmerciful life that follows.

This Jesus is not just one face of God--one way of explaining God or knowing Him. If that were the case, you might see Jesus in all His mercy, but still not know that God Himself is merciful. To know Jesus is to know the Father. To know Jesus’ mercy is to know that the Father’s mercy is not just an act, but the real thing.

Thus knowing Jesus, you know the Father and knowing the Father, you are made merciful as He Himself is merciful. This new life is what God mercifully gives to all who come to Him. So come to Church. Receive all that He gives there and become as Jesus invites you to be.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Joy of Koinonia

On Sunday, Pastor Lincoln Winter and his family joined us around the altar of our Lord. Here are the comments that he made when he arrived home. He is absolutely right about the joy that the Holy Spirit gives us by our unity with Christians across space and time.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Looking for things to pray about???

Here's a short list from President Harrison to get you started.

What do I hope for at this moment? My hope is for time, for patience, for prayer, for love, for kindness. My hope is for a time of peace, as God wills. My hope is for a church, which is and remains faithful to the inerrant word of God, and unreservedly to the Lutheran Confessions. My hope is for pastors and people who love the Word of God and read it vigorously. My hope is that wherever I fail, wherever we fail, whatever we have done or do to make our life together bitter, that God grant us repentance, and faith. My hope and dream is for a church which loves its pastors, pastors care for their people, pastors who visit their members’ homes as possible, pastors who head into their communities to “seek and save the lost.” My hope is for preaching which is lively and pulsing with damning law and the joyous, forgiving and faith-creating gospel of free forgiveness in Jesus’ cross. My desire is preaching which is both textual (biblical) and grabs the hearer by the neck, heart and toes, throws him/her to hell, then carries them to heaven. My hope is for laypeople equipped to share Christ in their vocations. My hope and prayer is for laypeople who are delighted to invite friends and family to church. My hope is for a lively mission of mercy where zeal is as great for orthodoxy as for mercy and vice versa. My hope is for continuing joy and success in reaching different ethnic communities, and through them, reaching the nations of the world. My hope is for a growing appreciation for the Synod’s national and international mission, for improvement in that mission, for advancement in what is good, and the support and participation of our pastors, congregations, districts, and people. My hope is for a continued healthy and healthier Concordia University System, schools free to meet the challenges they face, but resolved to maintain and even increase fidelity to the Lutheran confession of the faith. Our schools have missions and capacity well worth celebrating, a cause to rejoice in hope. My hope is for a growing number of grade schools reaching into their communities. My hope is for a renewal in teaching the faith to the youth, and a profound love of the simple Small Catechism.

My humble hope is for greater agreement among us on communion practice and especially issues of worship and other things, which cause angst and impede our common joy, mission and life together. God have mercy upon us as we attempt to come to a meeting of the minds under the living and mighty and active word of God.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A / V Resources

I have recently put together a new collection of audio books, mp3 lectures and video resources. These are great for learning while you drive or while you work out. Resources range from Josephus to Rod Rosenblatt and from Athanasius to Luther.

Look to the column on the right in the section called "Parish Resources" and click on "Audio Books and Lectures" (just under "Pastor's Sermons."

This list will be continually updated as I find more worthwhile resources.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

CrossTalk: Voice of the Martyrs

Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. Hebrews 13:3. 

Martyrdom, for most of us, is a thing of the distant past. We think about Christians who lived during the first three hundred years after Christ's resurrection and stood in the Colosseum before hungry lions. But we don't think about martyrdom as an ongoing reality in the modern world. Likewise, persecution, if it is thought about at all, conjures up images of Christians being teased or ridiculed for their faith and morals. The kind of persecution that destroys churches and Christian homes without any protection from the government and which forces us to flee for our lives because of our Christian faith seems like a far-away nightmare.

Still, right now, there are millions of Christians all around the world who worship Jesus Christ in the face of severe persecution. Every year there are many are killed for their confession or driven from their homes in search of a safe place to worship the One who gives life to the world.

The more we know of their stories, the more we are lifted out of our petty concerns and enabled to see life in much bolder and meaningful terms. When we are tempted to soft-petal our witness to Jesus out of fear that we might be laughed at by fellow students or co-workers, it is an inspiration to know that Christians around the world are still willing to suffer even death in the confession that Jesus is the only God, our Savior. When we allow minor inconveniences to interfere with Sunday morning worship, we are put to shame by those who risk death in order to be with the Risen Lord (Matthew 18:20).

Over time, the word, martyr, acquired the meaning “one who is killed for the faith.” But in it's original sense, it simply means, “one who gives witness.” That is exactly what the modern martyrs do. They point us to the Risen Lord.

But this witness benefits only those who hear it. Until and unless you know their stories, their lives of witness are like a tree falling in the forest – and there are more falling trees than you have ever heard about.

The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) is a non-profit inter-denominational Christian organization that is dedicated to giving a voice to those whose voices have been silenced by persecution and death. VOM was founded in 1967 by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who was imprisoned 14 years in Communist Romania for his faith in Christ. After he and his family were ransomed, he came to the United States and established VOM which is dedicated to assisting the persecuted church.

This week Evanston has a unique opportunity to hear one of these voices. In 1997, Mujahid el Masih was forced to leave his childhood home because of his conversion to Christianity. On Tuesday night he will be at the Lutheran Church in Fort Bridger and on Wednesday evening at the Evangelical-Free Church in Rock Springs.

All of Evanston is invited to hear him on Thursday, March 31 at 7:00 p.m. It is hoped that his story will strengthen your own commitment to the Christian faith and life. At this presentation, you can both be encouraged and encourage in return. Receive from Pastor Masih the witness of how the Living Christ is at work in places which are normally out of sight and out of mind. Learn from him what Christians in Evanston can do to help, love and encourage brothers and sisters in Christ who do not have the resources and freedoms that you enjoy.  This exchange of gifts between Christians of widely different situations is the mission of VOM. For more information, visit: www.persecution.com.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Jesus Found(ed) What You're Looking For

"Many Christians look for signs and miracles. But there is no more miraculous sign than what happens during Holy Communion. Many Christians look for a religious experience, but there is no experience as vivid as tasting. Evangelicals talk about receiving Christ, something that happened way back at their conversion. But in the Lord’s Supper, as we are brought back to the Gospel again and again, we can continue to receive Christ.

Contemporary Christianity tends to be all internalized — a matter of my feelings, my inner life, and my personal opinions. People look inward for their salvation, with some health-and-wealth preachers urging the members of their congregation to “have faith in yourself.” But the Reformers — Calvin as well as Luther — stressed how salvation is extra nos, outside ourselves, accomplished in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Contemporary Christians tend to be all spiritual. They often scorn the physical realm, even as they indulge their sinful flesh, reasoning like Gnostics that what they do with their bodies does not affect their spirits. They often construe God as a being primarily inside their heads, and they treat Jesus like some imaginary friend. The Reformers rejected such Gnosticism.
Recovering the Lord’s Supper can remind all Christians that their faith is grounded in objectivity, in a God who created matter and became incarnate in history, in a Christ who redeemed us by giving His body — not just His “spirit” — in a bloody sacrifice.

What we do in our bodies and in our physical, mundane lives does matter, both for sin and for grace. When we eat the bread of the Lord’s Supper, Christ nourishes us both spiritually and physically, uniting us with His body on the cross and the body that is His church. When we drink the wine, Christ’s cleansing blood courses through our veins, such is the thoroughness and the intimacy of our salvation."
Gene Vieth "showing why the Reformation emphasis on the sacrament is a bracing tonic against today’s highly-internalized pop-Christianity." - Tabletalk Magazine

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Anunciation of Our Lord - The True 'Earth Day'

About 100 years after the death of the St. John, Tertullian of Carthage set about to calculate the month and day of Jesus' death. Using all the information available to him at the time, he settled on Friday, March 25, Anno Domini 29.

Whether his calculations were precisely correct or just nearly so, this date has become much more important than an early-third century attempt to date the crucifixion. It has become the cornerstone of the entire Christian calendar.

First of all, following rabbinic tradition that a prophet always dies on the date of his conception, early Christians considered that Jesus, The Prophet (Deuteronomy 18), also followed this pattern. Thus the date of Jesus' crucifixion was also understood to be the date of Jesus conception.

What a beautiful symmetry! The Savior of the world was first planted in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Then, on the very same day, the Savior of the world was planted in the womb (tomb) of the earth to await His resurrection on the Third Day.

Since we all know that human gestation is nine months, this March 25th dating of Jesus conception and burial led naturally to the church's celebration of Christmas on the 25th of December. (You can safely discard all those rumors about Christmas being nothing but a converted pagan holiday.)

Finally, since the Scriptures tell us that Jesus was conceived in the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy (Luke 1:36), June 24th is also established as the Nativity of John the Baptist by Tertullian's early-third century calculations.

But that's not all... One final date is said to coincide with March 25 -- and that is the earliest possible date of all! March 25 is also considered by many of the early church fathers to be the date when Adam was formed from the dust of the ground.
 
So, from one calculation we have:
  • The Nativity of Our Lord (December 25)
  • The Nativity of John the Baptist (June 24)
  • The Crucifixion, Conception and Annunciation of Jesus -- and the Creation of Adam (March 25)
Given the lack of biblical evidence for these coincidences, they are best understood as a result of deep theological reflection. The first Adam was formed from the dust of the ground and now the second Adam likewise becomes dust in the womb of the Virgin. As the Psalmist says, "Truth shall spring out of the earth..." (Psalm 85:10). And, of course, Jesus is "the Truth" (John 14:6).

Today is a day to reflect more deeply on the importance of Jesus' incarnation. And as we reflect on the incarnation, do not fail to note that Adam was created from the dust of the earth in order to have Dominion over the earth. Accordingly, God's assumption into flesh was simultaneously God's assumption of dust itself. And God's redemption of humanity is also God's redemption of His entire creation. As St. Paul said, "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" (Romans 8:22).

Today ecology has become the new religion. And it's central tenet is that humans are the scourge of the earth. By this way of thinking, the planet will only be saved by minimizing man's foot-print on the planet. This neopagan religion brings with it birth control, abortion, euthanasia and a calloused disregard for human life in all kinds of situations.

But this new religion runs directly counter to Jesus. In Him we find that the planet's salvation depends entirely upon this Man who is the Incarnate God. Salvation does not come by minimizing His impact on the world but by maximizing it -- just as originally, creation was not lessened by the creation of Adam. Rather, the work of God was not deemed "VERY good" until the creation of Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:31). Nor is Jesus' impact on the world is now relegated to some "spiritualized"  realm; but He is still available in His flesh and blood in His Church on earth -- where men and women are baptized into His Body and where His Body and Blood are given and received.


One of my favorite pieces of art is a 12th century mosaic in the apse of the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome. In its center, the cross of Jesus is thrust into the ground like a sword and at the place where it pierces the earth, shoots forth a vine of wild and uncontainable growth. The New Creation spurts forth where Jesus is planted in the earth.

The sin of the first Adam caused the ground itself to be cursed (Genesis 3:17). Again, Cain's murder of His brother meant that he would be "cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood" (Genesis 4:11). The incarnation of God as a Man from the dust of the ground sets about to restore the ground itself to its original fertility. And the blood of the second Adam renews not only all of mankind, but the very earth itself which drinks it in!

Thus, March 25th is the Christian Earth Day.
  • On it we do not celebrate the earth goddess, Gaea; but we celebrate the Virgin Mother, Mary.
  • We do not seek ways of lessening the impact that man has upon the environment. We, rather, rejoice that Christ's redemption of mankind is, itself, the repair of the environment.
  • We do not solve problems by destroying human beings conceived by God, but we rejoice that by Jesus' own conception, He has made conception and childbearing salutary (1 Timothy 2:15).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick at Tara

It was on 26 March, Easter Sunday, in 433, that the eventful assembly was to meet at Tara, and the decree went forth that from the preceding day the fires throughout the kingdom should be extinguished until the signal blaze was kindled at the royal mansion. The chiefs and Brehons came in full numbers and the druids too would muster all their strength to bid defiance to the herald of good tidings and to secure the hold of their superstition on the Celtic race, for their demoniac oracles had announced that the messenger of Christ had come to Erin.

St Patrick arrived at the hill of Slane, at the opposite extremity of the valley from Tara, on Easter Eve, in that year the feast of the Annunciation, and on the summit of the hill kindled the Paschal fire.

The druids at once raised their voice. "O King", (they said) "live for ever; this fire, which has been lighted in defiance of the royal edict, will blaze for ever in this land unless it be this very night extinguished." By order of the king and the agency of the druids, repeated attempts were made to extinguish the blessed fire and to punish with death the intruder who had disobeyed the royal command.

But the fire was not extinguished and Patrick shielded by the Divine power came unscathed from their snares and assaults. On Easter Day the missionary band having at their head the youth Benignus bearing aloft a copy of the Gospels, and followed by St Patrick who with mitre and crozier was arrayed in full episcopal attire, proceeded in processional order to Tara...

On that bright Easter Day, the triumph the Triune God i Hibernia was complete. The Ard-Righ granted permission to Patrick to preach the Faith throughout the length and breadth of Erin, and the druidical prophecy like the words of Balaam of old were fulfilled: the sacred fire now kindled by the saint would never be extinguished.

The beautiful prayer of St Patrick, popularly known as "St Patrick's Breast-Plate", is supposed to have been composed by him in preparation for this victory over Paganism. The following is a literal translation from the old Irish text:

I bind to myself today The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity: I believe the Trinity in the Unity The Creator of the Universe.

I bind to myself today The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism, The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial, The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension, The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.

I bind to myself today The virtue of the love of seraphim, In the obedience of angels, In the hope of resurrection unto reward, In prayers of Patriarchs, In predictions of Prophets, In preaching of Apostles, In faith of Confessors, In purity of holy Virgins, In deeds of righteous men.

I bind to myself today The power of Heaven, The light of the sun, The brightness of the moon, The splendour of fire, The flashing of lightning, The swiftness of wind, The depth of sea, The stability of earth, The compactness of rocks.

I bind to myself today God's Power to guide me, God's Might to uphold me, God's Wisdom to teach me, God's Eye to watch over me, God's Ear to hear me, God's Word to give me speech, God's Hand to guide me, God's Way to lie before me, God's Shield to shelter me, God's Host to secure me, Against the snares of demons, Against the seductions of vices.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Monday, March 7, 2011

Let's Pray the Litany Daily: Kyrie Eleison!

"I've long enjoyed praying the Litany. Luther did too. The prayer has an amazing longevity in the church, having found its form by the 6th century (Gregory the Great regularized it). Luther removed a few un-evangelical aspects, but retained the prayer nearly in toto, even rendering it into German and proving an original chant tone. Click HERE for a nice overview of the history of the Litany.


Left to ourselves, bereft of texts as the foundation of our prayers, we are often left praying "Dear God, give me a mini-bike," as I was wont to pray as a 12 year old - and am prone to pray even today!!!!!! Texts of the scriptures (Lord's Prayer, Ten Commandments) and scriptural texts (Creed, Litany!) lay down God's thoughts as the foundation of prayer, the tarmac if you will, from which our meditations may gently or quickly rise, aided by the Holy Spirit. The fulsome petitions of the Litany take us out of ourselves, to pray for the church, pastors and teachers, our enemies, women with children, the poor, the imprisoned and much much more. And all for mercy, growing out of the great petitions of the blind, the lame and the ill who comes to Jesus in the New Testament, "Lord have mercy!" "Kyrie eleison!" The Lord loves to have mercy. The Lord came to have mercy. The Lord continues to have mercy.

You'll find the litany in any standard Lutheran hymnal worth it's salt. Pray it daily with me for Lent won't you?

Pastor Matthew Harrison"

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

'Another Dark Day'

Pakistan - A Leading Christian and Advocate for religious freedom in Pakistan is gunned down.
A pastor (not named for security reasons) said, “Bhatti has paid the ultimate price for his boldness to stand for the truth and for the good of common people.” News of the assassination, he said, “has sent shock waves of fear through the Christian community in the country.”

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Salt Lake to South Sudan

I sit this evening enjoying the memories of the past two days. Members of St. John's Lutheran Church in Salt Lake City came up with their pastor to enjoy fellowship and to help us see God's world in wider perspective.

Pastor Lindemood introduced us to thirteen wonderful saints of Christ who shared their lives with us over two days of games, food, conversation, worship and song. The focus of our learning was on the cooperative work among these vibrant Christians in Salt Lake to strengthen and equip the fragile Lutheran Church in the southern Sudanese town of Akobo.

It also gave us occasion to think on the long history of Christianity in this region of the world beginning already in the apostolic era when Philip was sent by the Holy Spirit to teach and baptize the eunuch from court of Queen Candice of Ethiopia. A brief history of Christianity of Sudan may be found here. I heartily encourage you to get acquainted with this history and to shine the light of knowledge to beat back the darkness of our own inclination to ignore people for whom Christ Jesus has given His own Divine Life.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Encouragement from President Harrison

Dear Friends and Members,

In the midst of our harried and busy lives, we often lose courage, inspiration and dedication because our attention is taken off the basics and fixed, instead, on a myriad of irrelevancies which seen all-important.  This is the devil's trick.

But we are not trapped into going along with him. We have been set free in Jesus Christ -- free to return our fixed gaze upon the One Person who matters.  Take the time to watch this 30 minute talk from President Harrison and rejoice in the simple word of God which humbles, calms, and encourages your hearts.  You'll be glad you did.

President Harrison LCEF Presentation from VimeoLCMS on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

CrossTalk: Family Affection and Godly Love

It is an undeniable fact of life that the bonds of family and friendship both impact -- and are impacted by -- our relationship to God. Oftentimes, this is very positive, as when you give thanks to Jesus that He has given His Holy Spirit to your child, spouse or parents so that they share with you in the blessings of faith in the one, true God. This impact is also positive when believing relatives and friends pray for you or when you, as a Christian pray for family and friends who are without the Holy Spirit and the saving faith that He brings.

It is also true that concern for unbelieving relatives and friends has had a negative impact on faith in Christ. This happens when family concerns cause people to turn aside from the Christian life. They may neglect attendance at Church and engag in the behavior of the world, either because they prefer family or due to peer pressure.

Oftentimes, this happens out of a very loving sort of wishful thinking--when we so love someone that we are willing to trade our own eternal salvation for theirs. Even the Apostle Paul had this kind of love for his fellow Jews as he writes in Romans 9:3: "For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers." The only reason that Paul did not do this is because it would not and could not have brought about the salvation of anyone. Only Jesus Himself can die in the place of someone else.

There are even times when people become aggressively hostile toward God and Christianity. They blame God and hate Him for consigning their loved one to eternal punishment. As a recent study indicates, many people consider themselves atheists for exactly this reason and harbor such anger toward God that they refuse to acknowledge even His existence. And this stance leads them to speak in the most scornful words of Christ and Christians making fun of their faith and treating them as buffoons (as does Bill Maher in "Religulous") or like enemies of humankind (as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins tend to imply).

Perhaps you know people like this. Perhaps you yourself are tempted to think like this. In either case, Jesus has something very important to say to you today. When you are deeply moved out of love for your friends or relatives, know this: That God the Father loves them far more than you ever will! When you are angered by the thought of some loved one being condemned to hell, know that God Himself is infinitely more angered by it than you are!

So before you lash out at God for the sake of your friends or family, know that He came to earth in order to die for you and for them. It is Satan who holds people captive in hell -- not God. And after God has come to set all people free, it continues to be Satan who blames God for our damnation and, by such lies, wants to turn us away from the only One who can actually rescue us.

Don't fall for Satan's lies but rejoice in God's salvation. When your concern for loved ones causes you such deep pain that you are tempted to lash our ineffectively at God, know that it causes God an even deeper pain, so much that it causes Him to strike out effectively at the devil. By God's own suffering the pains of hell, He gives eternal salvation to all who trust in Him.

To learn more of this God, come to hear His Word. There you will receive His Holy Spirit who teaches you to love Him whom Satan and the world hates.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ignored Again

On Monday, hundreds of thousands of people from all over the country , including many from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod , gathered in Washington, D.C., to stand up for unborn children and the sanctity of life during the 38th annual March For Life.


Sadly, many people are unaware that this event even occurred. The march, despite the impressive crowd it drew, largely was ignored by many in the mainstream media. In the years since the U.S. Supreme Court tragically legalized abortion through its Roe v. Wade decision, the message that human life is sacred and valued has become almost background noise for many. How can that be? How can we ignore the fact that an estimated 52 million babies have been aborted since 1973?

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, with its 6,200 congregations across the country, has a vast array of Lutheran agencies and partners that care for the neediest, providing adoption and foster care, senior care, care for the developmentally disabled, etc., both domestically and internationally. We shall continue this ministry of mercy, along with Christians the world over, even as we weep and pray by the tomb of the American conscience, until it rises again.
Letter to the Editor, St. Louis Post, January 28, 2011
The Rev. Matthew C. Harrison • Kirkwood
President, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ideas Have Consequences

On Sunday in Bible Class we discussed the relationship between Creed and Actions, Faith and Love, Church and State, Trinitarian love and Monistic inhumanity.

While Christians do not need or want the power of the government in order to fulfill or realize the life of faith and hope and love, that does not mean that the life of faith and hope and love has nothing to say to the governmental powers. Precisely since you have been restored to true humanity in Christ's flesh and blood, you have something urgent to say to every power--foreign and domestic--which would consign certain people to inhumanity.

Today our nation observes Martin Luther King Jr. day. President Harrison has posted an excerpt from his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" which contributes solidly to this discussion. Please take the time to read it here.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Letter of Marque

As we enter the season of Epiphany, these words on the source of Light, are well-spoken.
The prophetic scriptures, given by the Spirit's inspiration, are the inerrant judge and norm for all that is said and done within the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Church does not stand over the Scriptures but under them in order to receive all that the Lord would give her for her life and blessing. No one within Christendom should seek God's will apart from the Scriptures, or behind them in supposed oral traditions or pre-canonical documents or along side them via so-called direct revelation, dreams or personal experiences.