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Archive for March, 2010

Can You Remember Life Before .Com? The 25th Anniversary of the First .Com Domain Name Registration

March 15th, 2010 1 comment

Twenty-five years ago the first .com Internet domain name was registered. Read the story here. How has our world changed as a result of the Internet? The good, the bad and the ugly. It’s all there/here/out there/on our computers for us to read, interact with, react to, live with, struggle with, enjoy, reject, be delighted with, be repulsed by, harmed, helped, etc.

How has your life been changed as a result of the Internet? How has the Church been changed?

Categories: Internet Resource

Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey

March 15th, 2010 20 comments

File under: Bringing Disgrace on Christ and His Church/Dumb Things Christians Do

A Little Book on Joy: Take and Read!

March 14th, 2010 Comments off

Today is Laetare Sunday. Laetare, is the Latin word for “rejoice” and what a perfect time for me to tell you about a truly superb book that I can not possibly recommend to you enough. You will be delighted with it. Pastor Matthew Harrison’s newest book . You can buy a copy here, and you can hear Pastor Harrison talk about his book.

Here is a nice PDF sample from the book, with all the endorsements for it: little-book-of-joy-sampler(2)

Here is the book’s description provided by the book’s seller:

“So many churches, so many pastors and Christians have so little joy today,” my friend observed. “These are difficult times.”

With these words Matthew Harrison embarks on a quest to rediscover the joy of being a Christian, the secret of living a Good News life in a bad news world. In A Little Book on Joy, Harrison takes the reader on a journey…

* from the father’s joy at the prodigal’s return, to the joy of Mary’s Magnificat.
* from the joy of the Holy Spirit and repentance, to the manifold joys of life together in community, marriage, and family.
* from the joy of forgiveness and perfect righteousness in Christ, to the joys of humor, worship, the sanctity of life, and the wonders of creation.
* from the joy of a faithful pastor and cheerful giving, to the joy found in weakness.
* from the joy of the Gospel mission throughout the world, the joy of everyday life and of a genuine and faithful Lutheranism, to the joys in store for us in the life of the world to come.

Study questions follow each chapter making A Little Book on Joy the perfect guide for a Bible study on the topic of Christian joy.

A Bible reading guide for “The Great Ninety Days of Joy after Joy: Daily Texts with Prayers to Gladden the Heart from Ash Wednesday through Pentecost (or any time),” makes this the perfect devotional guide for Lent and Easter, or any time of year.

Pastor Matthew Harrison was baptized in a small rural parish, raised in a large suburban church, was a missionary to native Canadians in Ontario, served as a graduate assistant at the seminary, studied in Australia, vicared in Texas, and served as pastor in rural Iowa and inner city, Fort Wayne, Indiana. After co-founding a nationally recognized neighborhood renewal project in what was the poorest census tract in Indiana, he became the Executive Director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care and has administered nearly $100,000,000 of charitable giving worldwide. He writes, translates, and speaks extensively. He delights in his wife, Kathy, and two boys, Matthew and Mark. He is an avid bluegrass banjo player and luthier, and finds joy in it all.

Ever Wonder Why You are Lazy?

March 13th, 2010 3 comments

A comment directed to pastors, but…applicable to all of us.

“I believe the roots of clerical sloth are theological rather than primarily psychological.  We become lazy and slovenly in our work because we have lost the theological rationale for the work.”

William Willimon, Proclamation and Theology, page 72:

File under: “Ouch, truth hurts!”

HT: Reformation 21.

Categories: Christian Life

“The Book of Concord should be in every Lutheran home.” Do we still believe this? And if so, what are we doing to make it happen?

March 12th, 2010 13 comments

The Book of Concord should be in every Lutheran home. For that reason our church should provide a good, inexpensive copy, and pastors should see to it that every home has one. If a person isn’t familiar with this book, he’ll think, “That old book is just for pastors. I don’t have to preach. After working all day, I can’t sit down and study in the evening. If I read my morning and evening devotions, that’s enough.” No, that is not enough! The Lord doesn’t want us to remain children, who are blown to and fro by every wind of doctrine; instead of that, He wants us to grow in knowledge so that we can teach others. (C.F.W. Walther, Essays for the Church, Vol. II, pg. 51).

Concordia Publishing House prepared and published Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions to make available a “good, inexpensive copy” of the Book of Concord available to all Lutheran homes. With over 85,000 copies in print, it has become, far and away, the most popular edition of the Book of Concord ever published. But there are still many Lutheran homes that do not have a copy of the Book of Concord and many Lutherans who still have not heard of it, and have never had a chance to understand it. There is no legitimate excuse for this. Let’s work at getting the Book of Concord in every Lutheran home. Yes, Dr. Walther was right: the Book of Concord should be in every Lutheran home.

What Do Unbelievers Frequently Hear in Seeker-Sensitive Churches?

March 11th, 2010 6 comments

“If I were an unbeliever and I attended these [seeker-driven /purpose-driven] churches and listened to all their sermons week after week, how would I define the term “Christ Follower”?

Here’s the answer I came up with after reviewing the sermons preached at these seeker-driven / purpose-driven churches over the last 24 months:

Christ Follower: Someone who has made the decision to be an emotionally well adjusted self-actualized risk taking leader who knows his purpose, lives a ‘no regrets’ life of significance, has overcome his fears, enjoys a healthy marriage with better than average sex, is an attentive parent, is celebrating recovery from all his hurts, habits and hang ups, practices Biblical stress relief techniques, is financially free from consumer debt, fosters emotionally healthy relationships with his peers, attends a weekly life group, volunteers regularly at church, tithes off the gross and has taken at least one humanitarian aid trip to a third world nation.

Based upon this summarized definition, I’ve come to the conclusion that the world is full of people who can fit this definition but who’ve never repented of their sins and trusted in Christ alone for the forgiveness of their sins.”

Read more here.

Attack of the Ugly Babies

March 9th, 2010 12 comments

Readers of this blog know that one of the hobby-horses I like to ride frequently is the issue of art and our worship spaces. Simply put, there has been a dreadful decline in the beauty which once marked a Lutheran place of worship. No matter how humble, Lutherans traditionally attempted to use as much art as they could possibly afford. Now I notice trends toward making our worship spaces look more like the big-box non-denominational churches we see sprinkled throughout American suburbia. It is not only stodgy confessional Lutherans like me who are feeling angst over these issues. Over on the EVANGEL blog, one of my fellow contributors put up a post well worth our attention, titled The Attack of the Ugly Babies. Here is a snippet to whet your appetite:

“A sermon ‘zinger’ used to encourage church plants instead of resuscitating old churches goes like this: ‘It is easier to have a baby than to raise the dead!’ Jesus, however, did only the latter. Evangelism is a bit more complicated than the sound bite conveys, simply because people are. Whether or not they are consciously aware of it, many non-Christians are seeking a deeper, ecclesial reality in their life, not a gospel that caters to their present one.”

~ Matthew Milliner, “Attack of the Ugly Babies,” Evangel

Can You Give $10? Help Us Send 200,000 Books to Haiti

March 9th, 2010 Comments off

Saint Louis, MO—Christian companies want to be involved with the ongoing response in Haiti. That value for care and contribution has led Christian publisher, Concordia Publishing House (CPH) to announce a unique program to connect customers with new ways to help. Partnering with LCMS World Relief and Human Care, the non-profit publisher announced today the launch of its Help for Haiti campaign, which will be coordinated out of CPH’s evangelism ministry, Concordia Gospel Outreach (CGO).

“With school suspended indefinitely in Haiti, we’ve heard reports from those serving in congregations of parents asking for printed materials for their children, in addition to continued needs for food, water, and basic necessities,” says Gretchen M. Jameson, who directs corporate communications at CPH. “The CGO Help for Haiti plan is going to meet a real need, and that matters to us.”

Concordia Gospel Outreach provides Christ-centered materials to meet specific evangelism needs around the globe. Customers can donate to Help for Haiti now through Easter Week, (April 11, 2010). Every $10 donation received provides 6 copies of the children’s Arch Book, “Jesus Blesses the Children”, translated into French for distribution along with material aid. $4 of every ten dollar donation will be given directly to help fund relief efforts. The company is producing the book with a heavy duty, coated paper that will be better suited to last through the rainy season. The goal is to send 20,000 books.

To donate, visit www.concordiaoutreach.org or call 800.325.3040. Contributions can also be mailed to Concordia Gospel Outreach/Help for Haiti at 3558 S. Jefferson Ave., Saint Louis, MO 63118.

With its emphasis on Christian books and products, CPH’s signature ministry within The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) is not immediately linked to disaster relief. “Our role is to provide a publishing ministry,” shares Dr. Bruce G. Kintz, President and CEO for the company. “But we also know that because of the nature of our business, we have daily connections with thousands of customers online and on the phone, who are looking for ways to support disaster relief in Haiti, while also sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. We want to connect these people with a way to help.” When the company learned from workers on the ground in Haiti that there was a need for books and printed materials, it decided the time had come to launch this program.

“We waited to announce our efforts so that our involvement would be of the utmost help, and in no way a hindrance to the work happening on the ground in Haiti,” explains Gretchen M. Jameson, who manages public relations for CPH. “Physical needs had to be met immediately. Working with our partners, we know it is now a more useful time to start distributing these resources along with the extremely important material aid being provided.” The company sent 200 copies of the English-language version of the book along with LCMS President Gerald B. Kieschnick on an early March visit to Haiti. According to reports received by Kintz, the President was “mobbed” by eager parents and children who viewed the book as a “priceless possession.”

The children’s book, from the best-selling Arch Books line will be given to local youngsters and families and is to be distributed through congregations connected with The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti, a sister Synod of the LCMS. Jameson adds, “We want to help with body care and soul care, and this is what we know how to do best.”

Categories: CPH Resources

Christ-Centered or Just Religious? Three Ways to Tell

March 8th, 2010 5 comments

1. Your reaction when things fall apart.

Do you catch yourself saying, “God, why is this happening? I’ve done x, y, and z?” Do suffering, difficulty, and obstacles provoke “why?” questions predicated on your goodness or effort? You’ve been working so hard, reading your Bible, going to church, serving others . . . why would God let this happen to you now? If that’s your line of thinking, it reveals you believe God owes you. And that’s religion, not Christ-centered thinking.

2. Your reaction to others.

Do you compare yourself, bad or good, against others? Do you belittle, mock, condescend, even if just internally? Do you resent others’ successes? Do you celebrate others’ failures? Do you really wish people would get their act together, or do you really wish people knew Jesus? Are you frequently annoyed, put out, irritated, embarrassed, or inconvenienced by others? Is it about you, or others? If you, that’s religion, but not Christ-centeredness.

3. Your appraisal of Jesus.

Is he your greatest treasure? That’s the number one indicator of gospel-conformity. You may know right off the bat if this is true or not. For some, it’s true only sentimentally or religiously. You may think it’s true ultimately, but your time, talents, words, emotions, and bank account testify differently. These are all heart issues. Anybody can get the behavior right. The Pharisees certainly did, and most of them went to hell. But this isn’t even about looking Pharisaical or legalistic or churchy. There’s a lot of Christian hipsters out there in coffee shop churches who have no idea they’re just religious, not Christ-centered.

HT: Jared Wilson via Justin Taylor; ed. PTM

Categories: Christ and the Gospel

Our Faithful God

March 7th, 2010 1 comment

Recently we have sung several hymns by Johann Heermann during our congregation’s Divine Servece. I am continually impressed by Pastor Hermann’s hymns. Here is his O God, Thou Faithful God. As usual, Pastor Heermann’s hymns come from the heart and soul of a man who faced extreme difficulties in life. You can read a nice biography on Wikipedia.

1. O God, Thou faithful God,
Thou Fountain ever flowing,
Who good and perfect gifts
In mercy art bestowing,
Give me a healthy frame,
And may I have within
A conscience free from blame,
A soul unhurt by sin!

2. Grant Thou me strength to do
With ready heart and willing
Whate’er Thou shalt command,
My calling here fulfilling;
To do it when I ought,
With all my might, and bless
The work I thus have wrought,
For Thou must give success.

3. Oh, let me never speak
What bounds of truth exceedeth;
Grant that no idle word
From out my mouth proceedeth;
And then, when in my place
I must and ought to speak,
My words grant power and grace
Lest I offend the weak.

4. If dangers gather round,
Still keep me calm and fearless;
Help me to bear the cross
When life is dark and cheerless;
And let me win my foe
With words and actions kind.
When counsel I would know,
Good counsel let me find.

5.And let me with all men,
As far as in me lieth,
In peace and friendship live.
And if Thy gift supplieth
Great wealth and honor fair,
Then this refuse me not,
That naught be mingled there
Of goods unjustly got.

6. If Thou a longer life
Hast here on earth decreed me;
If Thou through many ills
To age at length wilt lead me,
Thy patience on me shed.
Avert all sin and shame
And crown my hoary head
With honor free from blame.

7. Let me depart this life
Confiding in my Savior;
Do Thou my soul receive
That it may live forever;
And let my body have
A quiet resting-place
Within a Christian grave;
And let it sleep in peace.

8. And on that solemn Day
When all the dead are waking,
Stretch o’er my grave Thy hand,
Thyself my slumbers breaking.
Then let me hear Thy voice,
Change Thou this earthly frame,
And bid me aye rejoice
With those who love Thy name.

Categories: Lutheran Hymns

Summer is Coming

March 6th, 2010 2 comments

Oh the summertime is coming
And the trees are sweetly blooming
And the wild mountain thyme
Grows around the blooming heather
Will ye go, Lassie go?
Chorus
And we’ll all go together
To pluck wild mountain thyme
All around the blooming heather
Will ye go, Lassie go?

I will build my love a tower
Near yon’ pure crystal fountain
And on it I will build
All the flowers of the mountain
Will ye go, Lassie go?

If my true love she were gone
I would surely find another
Where wild mountain thyme
Grows around the blooming heather
Will ye go, Lassie go?

Categories: Celtic Pride

Did You Know You Can Get a Free Digital Church Year Calendar?

March 5th, 2010 Comments off

Did you know that there is a free digital calendar for the Christian Church Year, along with the secular calendar, available here? There are a variety of formats: Microsoft Outlook, Entourage, iCal and Google Calendar. Courtesy of Concordia Publishing House. It includes every Sunday in the Church Year, along with all Feasts, Festivals and Commemorations. It is based on the three-year lectionary. If somebody would like to volunteer to create a one-year version of this calendar, we’d be pleased to include that as well. Feel free to use the one here and modify it with one-year readings.

Categories: CPH Resources

No Middle Ground: You are Either in Satan’s Kingdom or Christ’s

March 5th, 2010 14 comments

An excellent presentation by Pastor Mason Beecroft.

Last year I was invited to give a lecture in the Wiseman Series at First Presbyterian in Tulsa. Oswald Hoffman was a regular presenter. Well, for whatever reason, they asked me to return this year. Here is what I offered today.

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, greetings to you from the people of Grace Lutheran Church. Dr. Miller, thank you for the opportunity to participate in this series again. I must say I was surprised when you asked me to return. I rarely get a second invitation to be a guest preacher. My poor congregation is stuck with me, but you are under no such obligation. Jim, you were either desperate or you really are true friend. I do hope it is the latter. Please know that I deeply appreciate the ministry of First Church and your clear proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ here in Tulsa. As I looked at the selection of speakers for the series this year, I was struck by the diversity of traditions represented. I pray that what I share with you today will both give you insight into some of the emphases and peculiarities of Lutherans in general and Grace Lutheran in particular, and yet resonate with all those who bear the name of Jesus Christ.

At Grace, we are what I would call pre-Vatican II Lutherans, meaning, among many other things, we still follow the historic one-year lectionary, an annual cycle of readings that has been used by Western Christians for over 600 years, even though its development began much earlier. In this series of readings, the third Sunday in Lent (which is this coming Sunday) is known as Oculi Sunday. Oculi, the Latin for “My eyes” comes from Psalm 25, the appointed Introit, the Entrance Psalm of the day: “My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for He shall pluck my feet out of the net. Turn Yourself to me and have mercy on me, for I am desolate and afflicted.”

Approximately 1,500 years ago, on Oculi Sunday, if you found yourself in Rome, you would witness a large procession winding its way through the city. The procession would be led by catechumens, people who were preparing for Holy Baptism at the Easter Vigil. Before this day these candidates would have gone through instruction in the faith and been subject to a series of exorcisms. A late fifth-century letter from John the Deacon offers some insight into the faith of this community: “There is no doubt that, until born again in Christ, one is held bound by the power of the devil. Indeed, one thus bound should not approach the grace of the saving bath, unless, renouncing the devil as part of the early rudiments of faith, one is extricated from his snares.” So on Oculi Sunday, as they entered into the sanctuary after the procession, they would pray, “My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for He shall pluck my feet out of the net. Turn Yourself to me and have mercy on me, for I am desolate and afflicted.” The catechumens, along with all the faithful, were confessing that their hope and salvation was in Jesus Christ. They were turning their eyes to the Lord and seeking His mercy for they were desolate and afflicted by sin and death and the power of Satan. So they  confessed the faith of the church and renounced Satan and all his works and all his ways. This then marked the beginning of a series of tests for the catechumens called scrutinies to determine their desire to remain faithful to Christ. John the Deacon continues, “For we thoroughly test their hearts concerning faith to determine whether, since the renunciation of the devil, the sacred words of the creed have become fixed in their minds.” The intensity of their preparation heightened in anticipation of entering the waters of Holy Baptism at the Easter Vigil, which was the transfer of their citizenship from the realm of Satan, with its sin and death, into the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, where Christ rules with forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation.

Now I imagine to our modern ears, this may sound just a tad elaborate, maybe even a bit superstitious. Yet I believe the ancients have something important to teach us. In fact, I believe it is what our Lord Jesus Christ would want us to learn as well, especially as we approach the Third Sunday in Lent. So Jesus instructs us today through the appointed Holy Gospel for Oculi Sunday, St. Luke 11, beginning with verse 14. By the way, Grace members, I am not preaching this on Sunday so please don’t think you can sleep in with a good conscience.

St. Luke 11:14-28: Now [Jesus] was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

Read more…

Categories: Christian Life

Customizeable, Custom-Printed Confirmation Certificates Now Available

March 4th, 2010 4 comments

We’ve been working on this service for quite some time, and are happy to announce it. Concordia Publishing House is now able to offer you a custom-printed, personalized, customizable confirmation certificate. There are 200 Bible verses to choose from, in four different Bible translations: ESV, NKJV, KJV and NIV. You enter the name and the Bible verse of the confirmand, and we print a custom certificate and return it to you within seven days. Check it out.

Categories: CPH Resources

Defiant in Doctrine, Repentant in Life

March 4th, 2010 4 comments

Doctrine is the chief matter in which I am defiant, not only against princes and kings, but also against every devil, and indeed, apart from that there is nothing else that preserves, strengthens, cheers, and can make my heart even more defiant. The second matter, my personal life, I myself know to be sinful to such a degree it is not worth defending. I am a poor sinner and its fine with me if my opponents are pure saints and angels. Good for them, if they can maintain it. Not that I want to be that kind of person before the world and those who are not Christians, but before God and his dear Christians. I also want to be good before the world, and I am, so much so that they are not worthy to untie my shoelaces. They shall also never be able to prove by the truth that I have lived or acted towards anyone before the world such that I was not teaching them what is good. In short, I am not someone who is too humble, nor too proud, just as St. Paul says: “I can be exalted and I can be humbled, I can suffer poverty or have enough.” Phil. 2.3. For the sake of my doctrine I am very much too stalwart, unbending and proud to the devil, emperor, king, princes and all the world, but for the sake of my life I am also humble and submissive even to every child. Whoever doesn’t know that should hear it now.

— Martin Luther, Reply to the King of England’s Blasphemous Letter. L. W. Halle. XIX. 510-11.

Printed by C.F.W. Walther in Der Lutheraner, Volume I, Number 20 (May 1845), p. 80; Translated by Rev. Joel Baseley. Register to receive copies of Pastor Baseley’s translations of Der Lutheraner, for free.

Categories: Martin Luther Quotes