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Archive for April, 2010

In the Place of Christ: The Key to Understanding the Office of Pastor

April 30th, 2010 5 comments

I bump up against it more often than I care to admit. There is around an ever lingering low-church, Pietistic, sneering disdain for the office of pastor, as if this office were optional for the congregation, or merely a nice “extra” for the priesthood of all believers. Such a foolish notion! Sheep and shepherd, shepherd and sheep. That’s the way our dear Lord has gifted His church. Blessed Martin Chemnitz gives but one beautiful reason Christ gives us pastors, for the sake of His Blessed Sacrament:

So in the action of the Eucharist the minister acts as an ambassador in the place of Christ, who is Himself there present, and through the ministers pronounces these words: “This is my body; this do, etc.” and for this reason His Word is efficacious. Therefore it is not a man, the minister, who by his consecration and blessing makes bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, but Christ Himself, by means of His word, is present in this action, and by means of the Word of His institution, which is spoken through the mouth of the minister, He brings it about that the bread is His body and the cup His blood. — Blessed Martin Chemnitz, *Examen* II:229

Categories: Uncategorized

Pride Dries Up the Fountains of Divine Grace

April 29th, 2010 Comments off

Pride is a scorching wind drying up the fountains of divine grace in the heart; beware then of lifting up yourself with pride, lest you deprive yourself of the influences of God’s grace. — Blessed Johann Gerhard, Sacred Meditation, XXXIV

Categories: Christian Life

The Secret to a Joyful Life

April 29th, 2010 Comments off

[The new life in Christ], which flows from Him to us, is also full of joy, the great joy of living in a world whose innermost nature is mercifulness, forgiveness, and love. It’s the joy of knowing that Christ has made it possible for even the greatest sinner and the most miserable wretch to be God’s child. It’s the joy of knowing that there is nothing that can separate us from God when we trust in Jesus and stay with Him. — Bishop Bo Giertz, To Live with Christ, p. 327

Categories: Christian Life

How to Confront Doubts and Temptations

April 29th, 2010 Comments off

“We must know this and be guided by it when we must step forth to preach and confess the Word. Then indeed we shall find out, both on the outside among our enemies and on the inside among ourselves, when the devil himself will attack you and show you how hostile he is to you, in order that he may bring you into sorrow, impatience, and heaviness of heart, and inflict every plague on you. Who does all this? Surely not Christ or any good spirit; it is the accursed, desperate enemy. He shoots such darts into your heart, not because you are a sinner as others are, adulterers, thieves, and the like. No, he does so because he is hostile to you for being a Christian. He cannot suffer that you are known as a Christian, that you cleave to Christ, or that you speak or think a good word about Him. He would like to embitter your heart with sheer venom and gall, and cause you to blaspheme: “Why did He make me a Christian? Why do I not desert Him? Then I would at least have peace!”

“Therefore be prepared, so that when you experience and feel these temptations either in your official capacity or especially in your heart, you can confront the devil and say: “Now I see why the devil assails me in this way. He wants to scare and drive me from my office, from my preaching, my confession, and my faith, and to make me despondent. He does not want me to expect anything good from my Lord Christ or to praise, honor, or call upon Him. For the devil is Christ’s sworn and declared enemy. But I despise you and your power, you accursed devil. I am determined to defy you and to preach and praise this Man all the more, to comfort my heart with His blood and death, and to put my trust in Him, even if you and all hell should burst asunder.” This you must learn and practice if you want to remain with Christ. For the devil strives to tear us away from Christ. And it is the nature of our flesh to pay Christ no heed but even to hate Him, whom we should really accord every honor and should cherish as our heart’s comfort and joy.”

Martin Luther, LW 24
Categories: Martin Luther Quotes

Issues, Etc. Interview on “Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands”

April 28th, 2010 3 comments

Here’s the link to an interview I did on Issues, etc.

http://issuesetc.org/podcast/476042610H2.mp3

Categories: Uncategorized

The Most Religiously Diverse Generation in Our Culture’s History

April 27th, 2010 1 comment

Raised by post-church boomers, or by children of boomers, it should come as no surprise that the so-called “Millennials” are hazy, to say the least, about all things religious. Here is an interesting story in USA Today about it.

Here is a snippet from the story:

Key findings in the phone survey, conducted in August and released today:

•65% rarely or never pray with others, and 38% almost never pray by themselves either.

•65% rarely or never attend worship services.

•67% don’t read the Bible or sacred texts.

Many are unsure Jesus is the only path to heaven: Half say yes, half no.

Here is the more complete report directly from LifeWay. LifeWay reports:

“Millennials are the most religiously diverse generation in our culture’s history,” Rainer said. “Unsure of the afterlife and the life of Jesus, Millennials present the church with a great opportunity to engage them in conversations dealing with the nature of truth and its authority as God.”

Here are a couple of charts from the story:

Praying Alone: Remember – You are Never Alone

April 27th, 2010 1 comment

Jesus often spent time praying alone. Throughout the Scriptures we can find pictures of men and women who would go up on a mountain, meditate on God’s Word, and pray. There is great benefit in sitting back, removing yourself from the commotion and distractions of life, and hear what God has to say in His Word, and speak to Him in prayer about what troubles you, confessing your sins, and giving thanks for His mercies. You may be by yourself, but remember, you are never alone.

This is true. I know it is true. But I must admit that I don’t find this a natural practice for me. It’s hard. So often I have so many things running through my head, that slowing down long enough to hear what God has to say and speaking to him, well, it just gets pushed down on the priority list.

It would be easy to go into a discussion about how we are too busy today, we have too many things coming at us, and that we don’t have time to sit down and smell the flowers. This is all true, but I think really misses the point. The point isn’t that we are so busy. The point, rather, is that we don’t want to hear God or speak to Him. Like Adam and Eve hiding from God in the Garden, we run from our conversations with Him because we fear His anger, we don’t want to disappoint, or even because we don’t want Him to know how much we hurt or how angry we are at Him.

So how do we break the cycle of isolation from God in prayer? Here are a few suggestions that have worked for me over the years, and I would love to hear yours as well:

  • Keep it simple. Using devotional guides can be of great benefit, but don’t allow the process of meditation and prayer become more important than actually meditating on His Word and praying. If that means something very simple, like Portals of Prayer, great! If that means using something a little more extended like To Live with Christ or The Treasury of Daily Prayer, then that’s fine too. It is more important to develop the regular habit of praying than to have just the right system.
  • Connect prayer to God’s Word. For Lutherans, when we pray it is in connection with hearing God in His Word. While I may pray alone, I am never really alone. Christ prays with me. It is always a holy conversation.
  • Make a list. Maybe this is obvious, but don’t allow prayer to become so spiritual that you actually forget your own personality! I am a list guy. I am always writing lists. So if I’m going to remember to pray, and to pray for specific people or things, I am going to write it down. It’s that simple. If I don’t write it down, my own natural inclination toward busyness and distractions will drive the whole thing right out of my head.
  • Remember that Christ prays for you even when you don’t pray. If you forget to pray for a day, be at peace! Christ prays for you even when you forget. Jesus is loving and forgiving, and longs to be in your presence. He will pray for you even if you don’t.

There are many things that could be said about the privilege of praying alone. God loves it when you pray to Him! He leaves to speak to you and to hear you. Trust that praying in Him and to Him is good, and will be to your great eternal benefit.

HT: Pastor Peperkorn

Categories: Uncategorized

Eyjafjallajokull Eruption: Amazing Photos

April 26th, 2010 7 comments

My first thought when I saw these photos was, “Wow, it is Mordor!” Tolkien fans will know what I mean, non-Tolkien fans? Never mind. The photo was taken by Ragnar Th Sigurdsson/www.arctic-images.com in Iceland.

Categories: photography

Zoom into Vacation Bible School!

April 26th, 2010 Comments off

It’s that time. Time to think of the warm days of summer and time to think about Vacation Bible School. If you are looking for a VBS program that delivers the Gospel, faithfully and truly, does not give you a bunch of “Gospel-lite” and watered down, low, or no-Jesus content, like most groups offer, CPH is the VBS program for you. It is engaging, creative and fun. Yes, it is ok to have fun at VBS!

But the most important thing about Concordia Publishing House’s Vacation Bible School materials are that they are genuinely faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to God’s Holy Word. I wish I could say that about every other VBS program available, but sadly, I can not, because they are not! So, check out CPH’s VBS program, Planet Zoom! You can read more about it here.

Categories: CPH Resources

What’s Going on with the Reforming Movements in the ELCA? Update

April 26th, 2010 6 comments

I’m sure you, like me, are watching what’s going on among more conservative members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with keen interest. The most important organization to keep your eye on, at this point, is CORE, [Coalition for Renewal] which is the new organization formed as a result of meetings of a number of other groups in the ELCA. They have announced their intention to proceed with the formation of a new Lutheran church body, North American Lutheran Church (NALC). From the latest reports out of the ELCA’s office in Chicago, we know that hundreds of congregations have already formally voted to leave, or are in the process required for doing so: a series of votes in the congregation requiring 2/3 majority. Here is the story with that information in it.

But where will these congregations go? There are many directions they can choose. I know that The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod continues to receive frequent contacts from pastors, laity and congregations wondering what provisions there are in our church body’s constitution and bylaws for such things. Much remains in a state of flux and formation. But here is where you can read the latest information from CORE, note particularly their April 2010 newsletter.

This is What the ELCA’s Move Away from Biblical Christianity Means

April 25th, 2010 10 comments

I heard today from a couple who wrote to me, in response to my post about baptism, and said, “Pastor McCain, because of what happened in our ELCA church we are now attending a church that teaches that only adults should be baptized. Here is what they said:

“This issue is of great interest to my wife and I. Since leaving an ELCA congregation we have been attending a church that preaches adult baptism and does not recognize infant baptism. Personally I am skeptical of the entire infant baptism vs. adult baptism debate. I don’t even know if baptism should be considered a sacrament. The story about the penitent thief on the cross (Luke 23: 39-43) seems to undermine both sides in that argument, since I doubt that fellow was ever baptized. Arguments about baptism remind me somewhat about arguments concerning eating meat offered to idols (1 Cor eight) – lots of heat, but little light.”

Yes, dear reader, this is the tragedy of the ELCA situation. And make no mistake about it. It is a tragedy of immense proportions. The ELCA decisions regarding homosexuality have scandalized the faithful to the point that people are now abandoning the simple faith taught to them in their basic confirmation course.

How should we respond?

Reach out! For God’s sake, reach out a helping hand of love and concern, and invite them back to the truth of God’s Word! Extend to them friendship. Do more listening, than talking. Bear their burden, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Now is not the time for timidity, but for great boldness!  Boldness in the Lord! Boldness for the sake of the Gospel of Christ! Boldness for the sake of the eternal welfare of souls!

Here is how I responded to the message I received this late-afternoon.

Dear Brother and Sister in Christ,

May I make an appeal to you, in the name of Christ?

Please, oh, please, do not let the horrendous troubles in the ELCA drive you away from the Gospel of Christ! A church that teaches that only adults should be baptized is teaching contrary to Jesus words, “Let the little children come to me.” Please do not abandon Lutheranism.

How may I help you find a new church home that is faithful to God’s precious, holy Word and His blessed Sacraments?

Paul McCain

When Does Faith Begin? Lutheranism’s “Lonely Way” on Baptism

April 25th, 2010 10 comments

When would you say that faith begins, on the basis of which we should venture to baptize? Perhaps at the present age of confirmation? Or in little children when they can confess with the mouth, as Thomas Muenzer of old would have it? Why, it would be the equivalent of turning the miracle wrought by the Holy Spirit into a psychologically perceptible fact, if any attempt were made here to fix a time-limit for the working of the Spirit.  Here, too, Luther goes his lonely way between Rome with its hierarchical, and the enthusiasts with their psychological sanctions—the lonely way of the Reformer who heeds only the Word and God and trusts that this Word can do all things, even the humanly impossible. In this way, and only in this way, has Luther and the Lutheran Church after him been able to hold both the objectivity of the sacrament and the sola fide, not forgetting that justifying faith is not a matter of a single moment but the content of an entire human life. For this faith certainly is not the individual act of surrender to God, consciously felt and experienced at certain moments of our life, but it is the continuing trust—though overshadowed again and again—in the Gospel promise of grace; just as repentance according to the evangelical conception is not a single act but something that goes on continually throughout our life. So too our baptism is not a finished act, but it goes with us throughout our life. To be a Christian does not mean simply to have been baptized sometime in the past, but it means to live in the power of Baptism and to return to it again and again. As is well known, the Small Catechism answers the question: “What does such baptizing with water signify?” by saying:

It signifies that the old Adam in us, by daily contrition and repentance should be drowned and die, with all sins and evil lusts, and that a new man daily come forth and arise, who shall live in righteousness and purity before God forever.

Just as we who are sinners and righteous at the same time live by daily contrition and repentance and by daily forgiveness of sins, so too our dying and rising again with Christ, that real though incomprehensible anticipation of an eschatological event which takes place in Baptism, is something that determines our entire life. This, over against Rome and against the enthusiasts, was Luther’s understanding of Baptism and of the faith that accepts Baptism. We embrace it not only at one given moment, whether it be at the moment we are baptized, or at the moment of confirmation, or any other given moment of our life that might be named, but we embrace it or should embrace it throughout our entire life, every day anew. This is the reason why Luther recognized no additional sacrament to supplement Baptism, whether it be confirmation or repentance, which would be anything else but a return to Baptism.

Sasse, Letters to Lutheran Pastors, IV

The Jack Bauer Evangelism Method

April 23rd, 2010 2 comments

Categories: Humor

Why Pastors Should Not Blog Anonymously

April 22nd, 2010 19 comments

I recently had an unpleasant experience with a Lutheran pastor who blogs anonymously. He felt a need, apparently, to vent his spleen in a particularly spectacularly nasty way about something. When it was pointed out to him how thoroughly inappropriate and way over-the-top his comments were, and how egregiously sinful and slanderous his accusations were, all he could do was issue a revised form of a post, along with a lot of self-defensiveness and excuse making, and of course, playing the, “I’m allowed to act like a wild boar, because I’m such a confessional Lutheran and I’m defending the truth” card.

I could not help but once again be reminded of why anonymous blogging is such a bad idea. I refuse to believe that this pastor would have said the things he said, in the way he said them, in the degree to which he said them, if he were blogging openly, using his real name.

Pastors: there is no excuse for anonymous blogging. If you run a blog site, put your name to it.

Consider this: (A) The chances are very high you will not actually remain anonymous, as in this case; (B) Anonymous blog posting is the coward’s way. If you are unwilling, hesitant, or otherwise concerned about putting your name on what you blog about, that should be a strong warning to you that you are heading down a wrong path.

PS – In the spirit of this blog post, if you wish to offer a comment, sign your full name, and location to your remark. I’m trying to encourage the perpetually anonymous-inclined folks here to step out into the light.

Categories: Blogging

Congratulations President Bugbee

April 21st, 2010 Comments off

I’m happy for my friend Robert Bugbee!

For Immediate Release
April 21, 2010

President of Lutheran Church–Canada to receive honorary doctorate from US seminary

WINNIPEG — Rev. Robert Bugbee, president of Lutheran Church–Canada will be awarded a Doctor of Divinity degree–honoris causa by Concordia Theological Seminary (CTS), Fort Wayne, Indiana, at its Commencement Exercises, May 21, 2010. President Bugbee will also deliver the commencement address.

“I am humbled by this honour,” said President Bugbee. “I thank God daily for the opportunities He gives me to serve His Church and His people.”

Born in 1955 in Toledo, Ohio, he earned the Bachelor of Arts in German language and literature in 1977 from Wartburg College, Waverly, Iowa. One year of his undergraduate studies took him to the University of Bonn, Germany. He later studied theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri. During that time he participated in an exchange program at Lutherische Theologische Hochschule, Oberursel, Germany. Concordia Seminary awarded him the Master of Divinity degree in 1981.

He was ordained and installed as pastor of Our Saviour Lutheran Church, London, Ontario, in 1982. He later served Grace Lutheran Church in St. Catharines, Ontario, and Life in Christ Lutheran Church in Albertville, Minnesota, before accepting the call in 1994 to serve as senior pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Kitchener, Ontario, where he served for more than 14 years.

Elected president of Winnipeg-based Lutheran Church–Canada in June 2008, he was placed into office in September of that year. Additionally, President Bugbee serves on the executive committee of the International Lutheran Council as the representative for North America.

He married Gail D. Longaven on June 20, 1981, at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, New Hartford, Connecticut. Together they are the parents of four children: Lauren, Ian, Jill and Nathanael.

Lutheran Church–Canada is the second largest Lutheran church body in Canada with 320 congregations and more than 70,000 members.

Further information:

Jayne Sheafer,

CTS Director of Public Relations,

260-452-2250 or PublicRelations@ctsfw.edu

Categories: Uncategorized