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Archive for March, 2009

How to Meditate on God’s Word

March 31st, 2009 9 comments

Is there such a thing as Christian meditation? Of course there is. And it is not some kind of odd “import” from Eastern religions. Here is how Dr. John Kleinig describes it. Consider his words carefully, and then consider how you could make use of them in your life of prayer and meditation on God’s Word. I have been personally richly blessed by John’s insights, which follow:

Christian meditation differs from all other kinds of meditation because it concentrates on what Jesus says; it is meditation on His Word as it is given to us in the Scriptures. We meditate on His powerful Word. His Word has an impact on us as we pay attention to it, does its work in us as we listen to it, and reshapes us inwardly as we let it have its say. The words of Jesus actually produce our meditation. Yet that does not happen automatically but only as we put our trust in it.

As Christians, we have all experienced the power of God’s Word in us as a word of judgment and salvation. Its impact on our conscience is described most vividly in Hebrews 4:12–13: For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

As we meditate on God’s Word, we stand spiritually naked before God and in His sight. His Word puts us face-to-face with Him. That Word penetrates and exposes the secret reaches of our hearts; it lays us bare before God and holds us accountable to Him. But, best of all, it does all this so that it can give us life and do its work in us.

Luther’s Insight
Martin Luther explains the power of meditation on God’s Word most memorably in a sermon that he preached on Christmas Day in 1519. There he speaks about “sacramental” meditation on the Gospels and their stories about Jesus:

“All the words and stories of the gospels are sacraments of a kind, sacred signs by which God works in believers what the histories signify. Just as baptism is the sacrament by which God restores us; just as absolution is the sacrament by which God forgives sins, so the words of Christ are sacraments through which he works salvation. Hence the gospel is to be taken sacramentally, that is, the words of Christ need to be meditated on as symbols
through which that righteousness, power, and salvation is given which these words themselves portray. . . . We meditate properly on the gospel, when we do so sacramentally, for through faith the words produce what they portray. Christ was born; believe that he was born for you and you will be born again. Christ conquered death and sin; believe that he conquered them for you and you will conquer them.” (WA 9:439, 442; author’s translation)

When Luther speaks of the words of Christ as sacraments, he is not using the term in its narrow sense, but more broadly as a divine enactment, a sacred sign that conveys what it signifies. Neither God’s Word by itself nor faith in itself produces the kind of meditation that God desires. Rather, meditation is the exercise of faith in Christ and His performative Word, for faith receives what Christ gives to us through His Word. We receive, as we believe. . . .

Our Spiritual Director
Luther, in his teaching on meditation, highlights this role of the Holy Spirit as our teacher and guide. His basic assumption is that the same Spirit who inspired the Scriptures still animates them and us through them. Thus he says:

“You should meditate . . . not only in your heart, but also externally, by actually repeating and comparing oral speech and literal words of the book, reading and rereading them with diligent attention and reflection, so that you may see what the Holy Spirit means by them. . . . For God will not give you his Spirit without the external Word; so take your cue from that. His command to write, preach, read, hear, sing, speak, etc., outwardly was not given in vain.” (AE 34:286)

So we receive the Holy Spirit from God the Father by meditating on the external Word, the Word that comes to us from outside, the Word that speaks to us from the Scriptures. This understanding of how God’s Spirit is given through God’s Word shapes the evangelical practice of meditation. Before we meditate on what is written for us in the Scriptures, we do well to pray to God the Father through His dear Son for the gift
of the Spirit to guide, enlighten, and empower us. Yet we do not just pray for the Holy Spirit to direct our meditation on His Word; we actually receive the Holy Spirit as we meditate on the Word. Thus we meditate on the Word so that the Spirit will tell us what God the Father has to say and to give to us through His Son.

The Preaching of the Holy Spirit
This gift of the Holy Spirit is most evident in what Luther calls the preaching of the Spirit. By this he refers to the occasional flood of inspiration and enlightenment, jubilation and empowerment that breaks in on us as we meditate on God’s Word. We can’t force inspiration but can only receive it when it happens. Enlightenment is given as we attend to the Scriptures and become engrossed in them as they speak personally to us. Luther gives this advice about the enlightenment that comes in meditation:

“If such an abundance of good thoughts comes to us, we ought to . . . make room for such thoughts, listen in silence, and under no circumstances obstruct them. The Holy Spirit himself preaches here, and one word of his sermon is far better than a thousand of our prayers.” (AE 43:198)

Source:

John W. Kleinig, Grace upon Grace: Spirituality for Today (St. Louis: Concordia, 2008), 100–102, 110–11.

Also by John Kleinig:

Lutheran Spirituality: Prayer

Commentary on Leviticus: The Concordia Commentary Series

Does Satan Exist? An Interesting Debate

March 27th, 2009 2 comments

I think you will find this debate interesting. 70% of Americans say he does, but who is he? There’s the question. If he does not exist, how do we account for pain and suffering in the world today.

Categories: Culture

The Mainline’s Mainstreaming of Homosexuality

March 27th, 2009 2 comments

This coming summer, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will be voting on whether or not to accept actively homosexual persons as pastors in their church. The decision to do so appears to be a fait accompli, since at their last churchwide assembly they voted to put a moratorium in place on any disciplinary activities against any of their pastors who were involved in homosexual relationships. The deck has been stacked in favor of the motion to adopt homosexually active clergy by only requiring a simple majority vote; but as one of my ELCA pastor friends reminded me, one never knows how this may, or may not, turn out. We will have to wait and see.

The recently released study Bible from the ELCA openly advocates for revisionism on these issues. In its comments on 1 Cor. 6:9, the ELCA Bible declares that the two terms that appear here, which have historically been translated to refer to homosexuality and homosexuality activity, have, in fact, been mistranslated by all modern versions and then it asserts that "neither term applies to homosexuality or the lives of gay
and lesbian people." (p. 1881). In the book of Ezra, the ELCA Bible contains the following: "What is Christian marriage? Marriage is a holy and a permanent union instituted by God and affirmed by Jesus. In choosing a life partner, his or her commitment to faith and life of the church will be of extreme importance." (Note for Ezra 9:1-4). Not a word here about what our Lord says bout marriage: that it is a one flesh union of a man and a woman.

This trend in the ELCA reflects the trends throughout mainline Protestanism's clergy ranks. Two recently completed surveys confirm that acceptance of homosexual behaviors and so-called "marriage" is high among many mainline protestant ministers. You will be interested in reviewing 2008 Mainline Protestant Clergy Voices Survey and then the Pew Forum's survey showing that mainline clergy are in favor of societal acceptance of homosexuality. Here is a graphic depiction of the results of the Pew survey:

Picture 5Source

The Annunciation of Our Lord

March 25th, 2009 Comments off

AnnunciationThis day rightly should be known as the Incarnation of Our Lord, for on this day we remember and thank God for the fact that He sent forth His Son, into this fallen world of ours, to redeem us and save us from our sins. This dramatic rescue-operation starts with a visit to the Most Blessed Virgin, Mary, who said upon hearing the news that she had been chosen to be the Mother of God: “Let it be to me, according to Your Word” and then later, when she visited her cousin Elizabeth said, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” As does her’s, so do our’s!

Here is a bit of Bach’s magnificent Magnificat! [Performed by Jan Koopman at St. Thomas Church, Leipzig].
Enjoy and rejoice in God your Savior.


What the Church Can Learn from Dunkin’ Donuts

March 24th, 2009 5 comments

Dunkin-donuts
Here’s a great article by Michael Kelly, a young adult resource specialist for Lifeway Publishing, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, so, again, he can’t be accused of being a stick-in-the-mud, anti-missional, dogmatic, unloving, confessional Lutheran type of person. If these folks are saying things like this, maybe we folks need to listen, carefully.

Dunkin
Donuts is creaming Starbucks right now. Dunkin won the taste test, it’s
3 times cheaper, and the company is actually expanding whereas
Starbucks is closing stores every day. Dunkin is about to roll out a
$100 million marketing campaign to trumpet the results of the taste
test and try and put the dagger into the heart of Seattle. Some people
are saying that Starbucks has seen its better days, and that this is
just the beginning of the downhill slide.

I would propose that the church has something to learn from Dunkin Donuts.

The
reason we have something to learn is that we have tried to be
Starbucks. We’ve tried to be slick, trendy, and hip. We’ve tried to be
a place that is non-threatening and easy to come to. And when you walk
in, you see beautiful people in holy jeans and black glasses, all
looking very intellectual and hair-frosty. Additionally, we have tried
to make church a low-demand environment, much in the same way
Starbuck’s is. It’s low demand in that even though the basic premise of
the store is selling coffee, some people don’t even go there for coffee
at all. And nobody’s going to pressure them about the coffee. That
sounds familiar, too.

But guess what?

People like Dunkin
Donuts. They like that it’s not trendy. They like that it’s not hip.
They like that it’s not cool. You know why they like it?

Because it’s simple: It’s good coffee at a reasonable price.

It’s not fru-fru, latte, grande, frappa-whatchamacallit. IT’S COFFEE. And at Dunkin Donuts, they call it what it is. COFFEE.

Seems
like there’s a lesson in there for us as Christ-followers somewhere.
Now hear me say this – I’m all for contextualizing the gospel. But I’m
also for simply proclaiming what we have to “sell” rather than trying
too hard to at it.

And you know what else? The thing that we
have? It actually tastes good. Maybe the problem is that we don’t
really believe the gospel tastes good. We don’t believe it tastes good,
so we feel the need to pile alot of stuff ontop of it to make it more
palpable. Maybe if we really believed it tasted good, we would have the
courage to let it speak for itself, like Dunkin did, rather than trying
to help out the product so much.

twitter_48x48facebook_48x48

Source

Virtual and Automated Prayer

March 23rd, 2009 13 comments

Picture 4
HT to Dr. Veith at Cranach for this one. Words fail. Except to say that if it is a Macintosh doing the praying, I can see it as being more helpful since "the prayer of a righteous computer, avails much." The picture here is from the web site. I thought this comment, from the web site in question, was priceless:

About Information Age Prayer

Information Age Prayer is a subscription service utilizing
a computer with text-to-speech capability to incant your prayers each day.
It gives you the satisfaction of knowing that your
prayers will always be said even if you wake up late,
or forget."

Here is Dr. Veith's post:

Thanks to Rich Shipe for alerting us to Information Age Prayer,
a site that will pray your prayers for you–audibly and regularly–for a
subscription fee. For $3.95 a day, your computer can recite the Lord’s
Prayer for you. It can pray for your child for only $1.99. From the
site’s FAQ:

Are the prayers meaningless, will subscribing really make a difference?
As with all prayer, the final results are up to God as everything
follows His will. We make no claims regarding the efficacy of the
service, however it is our opinion that the omniscient God hears the
prayers when they are voiced, as He hears everything on this Earth. The
omniscient God knows exactly who has subscribed and who each prayer is
from when their name is displayed on screen and their prayer voiced. He
is also aware of all donations to charity from each subscriber and we
can surely make a difference in these charities supported.

Are prayers blasphemous when voiced by a computer?
We recommend you contact your local clergy for a personal answer,
however we think that Information Age Prayer is a new and exciting way
to connect with God.

How exactly will my prayer be voiced?
We use state of the art text-to-speech synthesizers to voice each
prayers at a volume and speed equivalent to typical person praying.
Each prayer is voiced individually, with the name of the subscriber
displayed on screen. If the prayer is for someone else, then that name
is displayed on screen instead. For more information see our terms of
use.

Can I purchase a subscription for a friend or relative?
Yes, simply list their name as the person the prayer will belong to.
Start by choosing their religion from the links on the top left. [The
choices are Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Unaffiliated, and
Other Religions.]

Is it wrong to charge for prayers?
The fees assure our customers that we are the most reliable service
provider for Information Age Prayer. While most companies only donate a
small portion of profits to charity, Information Age Prayer donates a
full 10% of revenue to charity before subtracting  our operating costs.
For more information see our terms of use. If you are a 501(c)(3)
non-profit organization and would like us to donate to you see this
page. . . .

Can I get a direct Peer to Peer connection with God?
God is not your peer, His connection with you is ever-present. What we
offer is a way you can tell God that you think of Him every day with
our Information Age Prayer Services.

This reminds me of the medieval practice of hiring monks and nuns to
pray for you, which Luther was so irked about. Only now you don’t even
need monks and nuns.

Church, Inc. and Why Imitation is No Strategy for Lutheranism

March 22nd, 2009 13 comments

    I received a postcard in the mail yesterday from "Church.Inc" [note: The material in quotes in this blog post are exact quotes from the postcard]. The front of the postcard showed a silhouette image of a stereotypical family: Mom, Dad, daughter, son [so much for people who are not in a stereotypical family].

    The card said "Church. His presence purpose." Then it told me that this group is having an "opening celebration March 29!" And at the bottom of the card it said: "There's a new church and it's made just for u." The back of the card told me that "Ur: unique. creative. passionate. family. needed. church. determined. loving." And then the card told me, "we want to be who you are, because when that happens, the world becomes a different, better place. Church. —come just the way ur." Then it said: "casual dress. contemporary music, kids ministry for all ages"

    This is modern evangelicalism today. Summed up in one post card. Everything right and wrong about it. Right? Passion for outreach, getting people involved in a church who are not involved. Can't criticize them for their intentions and wanting to get people in touch with God. OK, fair enough there. No point in arguing that point. Can we Lutherans do better? Of course we can. Yes, we must. Yes, got it. Check. Wrong? Pandering to the lowest common denominator. The statement "we want you to be who you are, because when that happens, the world becomes a better place" is wrong, dead and deadly wrong, on so many levels. What this postcard illustrates dramatically is pretty much exactly what Michael Spencer had to say recently about the coming collapse of Evangelicalism.

    And the good thing is that Spencer is an Evangelical, not some old, fuddy-duddy, stick-in-the-mud, dogmatic, confessional Lutheran like me who is obviously totally out of touch with real ministry, real needs, and the real world. [At least that's what people like to say about guys like us].

    Now, here's my question. Why would The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod want to imitate these trends, techniques and gimmicks? I see this happening in my church and it always leave me baffled and puzzled and scratching my head in confusion. Why, when we have groups and churches popping up all around, sending out postcards like the one that appeared in my mailbox yesterday, would we want to give the impression we are basically "into" this kind of thing ourselves? It never makes any sense to me.

    I've said it before, but I'll say it again, no business in the world would think of rebranding themselves simply to try to be a carbon copy of their competition. It's institutional suicide. They say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, but it is no strategy. So, here's a wild and crazy idea. How about we Lutherans focus on finding creative ways to put the message out to the world that Lutheranism offers something distinctly unique from what one will find at any "big box non-denominational" church down the corner and around the block. Let's help folks learn and understand what the original "Evangelicalism" is all about.

Your thoughts?

Categories: Lutheranism

Happy 324th Birthday Kantor Bach!

March 21st, 2009 4 comments

Johann_Sebastian_Bach

Cranach Weimar Altar Painting

Categories: Bach

Heirs of the Reformation Special Price Ends March 31

March 18th, 2009 1 comment

992258
We
sent a mailing out to every LCMS and other Lutheran congregations about
“Heirs of the Reformation” — the most extensive recording of classic
Lutheran chorales ever published before. Think that’s hype? Nope, it is
a fact. You can read about it, and hear samples at this site.

Folks who have bought it are truly impressed and love it.

The special pricing offer for it ends at the end of this month. Please
be sure you don’t miss out on the opportunity to get a copy of the
recording at the special pricing. Group orders qualify for it.

This stunning follow-up to the best-selling Martin Luther: Hymns,
Ballads, Chants, Truth showcases Lutheran music of the generations
immediately following Luthers time. Using choir, soloists, modern
instruments, and historical instruments, this varied collection
includes well-loved hymns, some Lutheran gems, and modern settings of
old favorites. With contributors including Gerhardt, Hammerschmidt,
Praetorius, Bach, Schuetz, Hildebrand, Gerike, Sedio, Busarow, and
Schalk, among many others, these powerful texts and moving musical
settings are sure to provide something meaningful for every heir of the
Reformation. 4 CDs. 45 tracks. Total Time: 3 hrs, 47 mins.

Regularly $44.95 each, this set can be yours for $30.00 each when you purchase 5 or more.

Order by calling 800-325-3040 or by placing an order via the web site linked above.

Paul

webcranach

Categories: CPH Resources

Lutheran Study Bible Twitter Feed Name Change

March 17th, 2009 Comments off

Picture 2
I need to report that we changed the Twitter group name for The Lutheran Study Bible from "TLSB" to "lutheranbible" … this will make it easier for folks to find and remember. Thanks for understanding.

If you are signed up/in to the group, you are still good to go. But, you may want to change your browser link to:

http://www.twitter.com/lutheranbible

Hope you have signed up for it. We are offering daily little quotes from The Lutheran Study Bible, thoughts from Luther, prayers, church father quotes and other insights from The Lutheran Study Bible. They are delivered every day at 7:15 in the morning. Nice way to start the day. You can subscribe to the feeds as text messages to be delivered to your cell phone, etc.

God bless.

Categories: CPH Resources

Free VBS Customizable Web Page and Online Registration for Your Congregation

March 17th, 2009 Comments off

We have great news to share – the CPH VBS for 2009 now offers congregations a free, customizable Web page that they can adapt for use via their own church Web site. AND it includes an online registration component for students at no charge! The complete press release is below – please feel free to share via your networks.

ONLINE VBS REGISTRATION/CUSTOMIZABLE WEB SITES
UNVEILED FROM CONCORDIA PUBLISHING HOUSE
Saint Louis, MO—Concordia Publishing House (CPH) announces the release of a free customizable mini-site and online VBS registration for use by congregations using the 2009 Vacation Bible School (VBS), Gadget’s Garage.

Our Garage allows congregations to create a unique VBS mini-site to publicize their program and update parents and participants. Features include a customizable home page, photo gallery, and journal. Also new this year is an online registration tool. 

Our Garage is now available for use at www.cph.org/vbs; select Our Garage.

Vacation Bible School Marketing Manager Keith Settle comments, “Concordia is always looking for ways to meet the needs of our VBS customers. Online registration and the customizable mini-site is our newest way to do this. We’ve added value, we’ve made it simple, and it’s totally free.”

More information about Gadget’s Garage is available at www.cph.org/vbs. The site includes a wealth of other new features designed to assist those planning to host Gadget’s Garage this summer.

Beefing up the content and improving the features of the VBS Web site is “a great way to get volunteers, parents, and students involved and excited long before VBS begins,” says Settle.

Concordia Publishing House is a Lutheran Christian publisher based in St. Louis, Missouri. The company offers more than 8,000 products for use in Christian congregations, schools, and homes. Orders can be placed at www.cph.org or by calling Customer Service at 1.800.325.3040.

Categories: CPH Resources

What does it take to do successful youth ministry? Not this.

March 15th, 2009 14 comments

Note: this is satire. If you have no sense of humor, please do not watch this video.

Categories: Humor

“Source the Quote” Contest: Round One

March 15th, 2009 11 comments

Solution_source_questions
Where does this quote appear? Must cite source and page number. Comment should contain your name and your guess at the source and page number. No further comments please, just your answer at source and page number.

Winner receives the fame of being the first winner of the official Cyberbrethren Source the Quote Contest. If there is no winner after one week, the source will be revealed in future post.

“Jesus … sends the disciples to make disciples of all nations.
That does not mean make everyone disciples. Most people who are helped
by Jesus and believe in him never become disciples. Jesus includes in
salvation people who do not believe in him or even know about him.”
Categories: Source the Quote

Spring has sprung, the flowers have rizzed.

March 15th, 2009 Comments off

The first flowers of Spring at our house popped up yesterday, flowered fully by the time we got home from church this morning, and I grabbed a few shots with my new macro lens.

IMG_2152

Categories: Uncategorized

He Was Crucified

March 14th, 2009 Comments off

The promotional video for the book He Was Crucified.

Categories: CPH Resources