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Archive for September, 2011

My First Hymnal … Coming Soon From Concordia Publishing House

September 30th, 2011 16 comments

I am very happy to tell you about a great new resource coming soon from Concordia Publishing House. It’s titled My First Hymnal. Now children have a hymnal all their own . . . a treasured book as they grow and learn in faith. Specially designed for children up to age ten. It offers a good basic core group of solid, faithful hymns, with rich devotional resources throughout, and beautifully unique illustrations. You are going to love it. Here’s another one of my fabulously high-quality iPod videos for your viewing pleasure:

 

Categories: CPH Resources

A Letter to His Flock from the Pastor Imprisoned by the Iranians

September 30th, 2011 11 comments

This is a letter from Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani written from prison in Iran earlier this year. Pastor Youcef currently faces the death sentence for apostasy – conversion from Islam to Christianity – and is waiting for the court’s final verdict. Please continue to pray.

This message has been translated from Farsi to English.

Dear brothers and sisters, Salam

In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I am continuously seeking grace and mercy to you, that you remember me and those who are bearing efforts for his name in your prayers. Your loyalty to God is the cause of my strength and encouragement.
For I know well that you will be rewarded; as it’s stated: blessed is the one who has faith, for what has been said to him by God, will be carried out. As we believe, heaven and earth will fade but his word will still remain.

Dear beloved ones, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you of a few verses, although you might know them, So that in everything, you give more effort than the past, both to prove your election, and for the sake of Gospel that is to be preached to the entire world as well.

I know that not all of us are granted to keep this word, but to those who are granted this power and this revelation, I announce the same as Jude, earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints.

We are passing by special and sensitive days.They are days that for an alert and awake believer can be days of spiritual growth and progress. Because for him, more than any other time there is the possibility to compare his faith with the word of God, have God’s promises in mind, and survey his faith.

Therefore he (the true believer) does not need to wonder for the fiery trial that has been set on for him as though it were something unusual, but it pleases him to participate in Christ’s suffering. Because the believer knows he will rejoice in his glory.

Dears, the “ judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?”

Therefore those who are enduring burdens by the will of God, commit their souls to the faithful Creator. Promises that he has given us, are unique and precious. As we’ve heard he has said: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you”

How can it be possible for a believer to understand these words?
Not only when he is focusing on Jesus Christ with adapting his life according to the life Jesus lived when he was on earth? As it is said ” O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.”

Have we not read and heard: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Many attempt to flee from their spiritual tests, and they have to face those same tests in a more difficult manner, because no one will be victorious by escaping from them, but with patience and humility he will be able to overcome all the tests, and gain victory.

Therefore in the place of Christ’s followers, we must not feel desperate, but we have to pray to God in supplication with more passion to help us with any assistance we may need.

According to what Paul has said: In every temptation, God himself will make a way for us to tolerate it.

O beloved ones, difficulties do not weaken mankind, but they reveal the true human nature.

It will be good for us to occasionally face persecutions and abnormalities, since these abnormalities will persuade us to search our hearts, and to survey ourselves. So as a result, we conclude that troubles are difficult, but usually good and useful to build us.

Dear brothers and sisters, we must be more careful than any other time. Because in these days, the hearts and thoughts of many are revealed, so that the faith is tested. May your treasure be where there is no moth and rust.

I would like to remind you of some verses that we nearly discuss everyday, (Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.) but as long as our human will has priority over God’s will, his will will not be done.

As we have learned from him in Gethsemane, he surrendered his will to the father, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

What we are bearing today, is a difficult but not unbearable situation, because neither he has tested us more than our faith and our endurance, nor does he do as such. And as we have known from before, we must beware not to fail, but to advance in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, And consider these bumps and prisons as opportunities to testify to his name. He said: If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

As a small servant, necessarily in prison to carry out what I must do, I say with faith in the word of God that he will come soon.”However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Discipline yourself with faith in the word of God. Retain your souls with patience. For there is no man that doeth anything in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly.
May you are granted grace and blessings increasingly in the name of Lord Jesus Christ.

Yusef Nadarkhani
Lakan Prison in Rasht
2/June/2010

Johann Gerhard…in Spanish

September 29th, 2011 Comments off
Johann Gerhard (1582-1637) escritor prolífico, teólogo, profesor y pastor, considerado como uno de los mejores teólogos e intelectuales de su tiempo. Este libro es una traducción de 45 de las oraciones de Gerhard, escritos antes del 1612. Ahora, nuevamente traducido del alemán, Reflexiones sobre la misericordia divina (Meditations on Divine Mercy ) está disponible para el disfrute de los lectores en inglés y en español. Incluido en el libro hay un capítulo sobre el propósito y los beneficios de la oración y una explicación de todos los aspectos de la meditación diaria.
Traductor del alemán al inglés: Matthew C. Harrison
Traductora del inglés al castellano: Beatriz Hoppe
A prolific writer, theologian, professor, and pastor, Johann Gerhard (1582-1637) is regarded as one of the greatest theologians and thinkers of his time. This book is a translation of a book of 45 prayers that Gerhard wrote prior to 1612. Now newly translated from the German, Meditations on Divine Mercy is available for English readers to enjoy and appreciate. A chapter on the purpose and benefits of prayer is also included as well as an explanation of the aspects of daily meditation.
Translated by Matthew C. Harrison (English version)

Translated by Beatriz Hoppe (Spanish Version)

Categories: CPH Resources

And the survey says…… great response to the Reformation Resource survey

September 29th, 2011 1 comment

Wow, so, I was kind of counting on people being interested in answering some questions about what kind of resources they’d like to have as we approach the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. I thought a few thousand people might respond to our Reformation Resource survey.

But look what happened…..as of today, nearly 16,000 people participated in the survey. I have the results printed and comb-bound into a book that is nearly the size of a full ream of photocopy paper, with all the responses printed on both back and front of the paper, top to bottom, edge to edge!!

I’ve definitely go me some reading to do.

Thanks everyone for your great participation. The ideas and suggestions are awesome. You will be very happy with what we provide to worldwide Christendom to honor, thank God for and celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation.

Here we stand! Ah…er…well, in my case, I’m going to be sitting a long time reading survey results, but you get the idea.

Categories: CPH Resources

Amazon Continues to Prove is the Best Choice for E-Reader Devices

September 29th, 2011 3 comments

Some of you have, in varying degrees, expressed a bit of angst over the fact that I’m a huge advocate of the Amazon Kindle, as oppose to…ah….well, anything else. I still am, and my reasons for being an advocate for the Kindle over other choices just became even stronger reasons. Simply put, Amazon is, in my opinion, the best choice due to its huge selection of titles, it’s extensive infrastructure supporting their e-book sales and offerings and the fact that Kindle device itself has just become even lighter and less expensive.

Amazon shattered the $100 price point for an e-reader with its announcement of the latest version of the Kindle, which, if you choose to get the model that displays some advertising, you will only pay $79. The advertisements are entirely non-obtrusive. You never see them when actually reading a book. The basic model is basic, but if you are looking, as I am, for the lightest, simplest, smallest and best e-book reading experience out there today, you will choose an Amazon Kindle.

Here’s a video on the latest least-expensive Kindle.

But wait a minute, buried in all the other information is the announcement that for $99 bucks, you can get a Kindle with touch technology on the screen, with the same great e-ink technology. This is precisely what I’ve been looking for and I think it is going to make the e-book reading experience on a Kindle much better. More information here.

For a full, all-in-on place, everything you need to know story on Amazon’s announcements about their new tablet, the Fire along with Kindle information, here is a good story to read.

Categories: e-books

Biblical Literacy: Thoughts by Rev. Edward Engelbrecht

September 28th, 2011 1 comment

Here is my colleague, Rev. Edward Engelbrecht, the General Editor of The Lutheran Study Bible and The Story Bible. I sometimes like to call him General Ed. And when the General speaks, it is always worth listening!

Improvements to Concordia Publishing House’s Web Site

September 28th, 2011 6 comments

Check out the CPH.ORG web site…we’ve redesigned it to make it easier to find things in more logical/natural categories, and made a few other changes. I think you will like it. Be sure to clear the cache in your browser, before linking to it. Your computer may try to bring up the cached/old site.

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Cruise Ship or Battleship?

September 28th, 2011 5 comments

Categories: Christian Life

Why I’m Against Every-Sunday Offering Collection

September 27th, 2011 19 comments

I know that a person can go back in time and show me that the most common practice in the Lutheran Church, historically, is to offer people present in Church on Sunday the opportunity to participate in the offering, but I am troubled by the fact that we are offering this opportunity too often. It is obviously no longer something special for people. They are just going through the motions and it won’t mean as much if we keep offering it every Sunday. It is time to stop taking up the offering every Sunday. Once a month, or maybe once a quarter would be best, but surely not more than two times a month. I don’t really care that some people really want to participate in the collection of the offering, every Sunday. They should not impose their personal opinions on others, like me. Too often is a bad thing. It will lead to bad attitudes and a lack of preparation for participating in the offering.

And for that matter, saying the Lord’s Prayer every Sunday is a bit much too. It just doesn’t seem special anymore. And listening to a sermon, we do that way too often. And singing hymns, that’s too much of a good thing too. And, for that matter, when I really think through what I’m suggesting here, I’m also going to have to say that I think reading the Bible too often is bad, and in fact, I really don’t think we should be expected to attend church every Sunday. That’s just making it way too common an experience, and again, it won’t be special and won’t be as meaningful. Besides, the Roman Catholics attend church every Sunday, pray the Lord’s Prayer every Sunday, and they take up an offering every Sunday. The last thing we Lutherans want to be accused of is being like the Roman Catholics. Taking the offering every Sunday is just too Catholic and doesn’t belong in a real Lutheran Church.

Less is more, that’s what I say.

Categories: Humor

“Willpower” and the Suckiest Generation

September 27th, 2011 4 comments

One of you kind readers passed this article along to me and thought I’d find it interesting. As a member of the baby-boom generation, though I’m always quick to point out, I’m on the very trailing edge of said generation, I can’t be accused of bashing boomers simply because I’m not one, so…well, read this article and let me know what you think. I think this is pretty much spot-on accurate. Here’s the whole article. I’ll post a snippet below.

Behaving well, behaving responsibly, learning the norms of politeness and refusing to abandon them without good reason tend to make you a more self-controlled, successful, and finally better person. This is precisely the wisdom my generation threw away. Their promiscuity, adolescent foul-mouthedness, bad manners, and disregard for tradition — all of which they claimed were a new kind of freedom — were in fact the precursors to the very oldest kind of slavery:  slavery to one’s own impulses and desires. This slavery, packaged in the Sixties, as “identity” or “culture” or “the right to be yourself,” ultimately leads to enslavement by others as it makes you indolent and irresponsible and in need of protection and restraint by the powers that be. A poor black man’s journey from hip hop culture to prison is a perfect example. So is a middle class white man’s journey from moral license and unwarranted praise to his sniveling need for an all-providing — oh, and by the way, all-powerful — state.

 

Categories: Culture, Current Affairs

Mission Accomplished! Picture of the Luther Graphic Novel in Action.

September 26th, 2011 3 comments

The proud father of Jacob Loesch, pictured below, sent this shot he took of little Jacob enjoying the Luther graphic novel: Echoes of the Hammer. Said his father: “I thought it was neat to see him laying on the couch engrossed in the book. . . . There are Hardy Boys graphic novels and he said to me, ‘This Luther book is just like the Hardy Boys!’ ” Jacob is just about to turn seven years old.

 

 

LOGOS Users: Would you like 1,114 free books?

September 26th, 2011 1 comment

Yes, you read that right. LOGOS is testing interest in a collection of classic Greek and Roman literature, some in English translation. If they achieve “critical mass” they will release it to LOGOS users, in their words, “for free” with “no strings attached.” So, visit LOGOS and sign up to indicate your interest. Link here.

Here’s a video about how this collection would be useful.

More information from LOGOS:

The Perseus Classics Collection (1,114 vols.) contains works from classical Greek and Roman authors. This massive collection includes important Greek and Latin classics in their original languages; some works have an English translation. Greek and Latin grammars and commentaries are also included.

Best of all, this entire collection is free. There’s no catch. No strings attached.

It’s rare that classic works like these are made available for free to as many people who want them. It’s even more amazing when you consider that these aren’t just PDFs or text files. They’re Logos books, and they take advantage of many of the features and tools built into Logos Bible Software. So it’s hard to put into words how phenomenal this opportunity really is.

Please note that this collection requires the latest version of Logos Bible Software 4.3.

Share the news about The Perseus Collections by clicking the social buttons above!

Check out the other collections included by going to the main Perseus page.

The download size of this resource is 822 MB.

How To Get It

Read more…

The Value of Godliness

September 25th, 2011 2 comments

From my friend Weedon’s blog:

The other day in the Treasury of Daily Prayer the reading was “for godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Tim 4:8) It struck me again how utterly true that is: “promise for the present life.”

Godliness, the life lived in communion with the Blessed Trinity, receiving all as gift and offering thanks and praise to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and loving service to our neighbor – well, there’s just not a better way to live, is there? I remember hearing someone remark along those lines: if the whole thing were a fraud (which, of course, it absolutely is not!), still living here as a Christian is better than any other way of living. And when we remember that this present joy is only the appetizer for the Feast??? Wow!

When we see the immense sadness that sin brings in our lives when it is embraced, coddled, even celebrated; when we see the untold damage that doing your own thing does to you as a person and to those around you – then we appreciate even more the words of St. Paul about godliness and we pray that we might always hold them in our heart and help others to see that repentance and faith landing us in doxology and service really IS what life is all about.

Categories: Uncategorized

Ministry to the Partially-Evangelized

September 24th, 2011 5 comments

There is no such thing as “partially converted” … you either are, or you are not. But, I think there is something to be learned from the phrase “partially evangelized.” And this article is helpful. What do you think of these thoughts? I am fairly confident in saying that most every pastor will resonate with the situations mentioned in this piece. HT: The Gospel Coalition.

Angela’s Ashes is the autobiography of Frank McCourt, who describes his life in Ireland during the 1930s and 1940s. His family lived in a hovel with one bare light bulb and bedbugs, on a dirt lane, and shared one outdoor toilet with all the neighbors. Because dad was an alcoholic and seldom found work, they subsisted on unemployment payments. For many painful years the family lived on bread and tea.

In the early part of the film, Frank’s mother, Angela, loses her three babies—Margaret-Mary, Eugene, and Oliver—to “consumption,” the dreaded disease which plagued the poor. As I sat with my heart glued to the screen, I wondered how the McCourts would draw from the resources of their Christian heritage to persevere through the dark valley of suffering. In various scenes, the family addressed God by means of candles, veneration, and other sacramental rituals. Yet in their variegated approach, Jesus and the gospel were noticeably missing.
Who Are the Partially Evangelized?

Trials, such as the McCourt’s, can be illuminating. They often display the substance of one’s character, or lack thereof. But struggles aren’t the only metric for identifying the nature of one’s faith. Other measurements include generous giving to ministry, gospel witness, and spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible reading, and participation in a local church. The last of these is especially revealing us as we consider the contours of religious commitment in the United States.

According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, there are more than 132 million Americans who identify with the mainline Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox traditions. We are told by sociologists of religion that three of every four of these individuals neglect church participation, meaning there are more than 99 million men and women in this category. While these people generally describe themselves as Christian, they are in fact only “partially evangelized,” as the person and work of Jesus remain absent or ancillary to their life. Despite exposure to the Christian tradition, the gospel (and its effects of new life in Christ, respect for the authority of Scripture, and an active commitment to outreach) is conspicuously missing. This is precisely the need that evangelicals are poised to serve.

Engaging the Partially Evangelized

Let me introduce you to a partially evangelized person. Under the portico on Via Cavazzoni, I met Rosa in northern Italy. Because her café was directly across the street from my residence, I visited often. Given Rosa’s outgoing personality, it was easy to discuss God, especially when I learned that she and her husband haled from Catania, Sicily, my grandparents’ hometown. In much of southern Italy, there’s a social Catholicism well-acquainted with cathedrals, rosaries, and festivals. Rosa described these customs at length.

The cannoli, cornetti, and Napoletani rivaled the artistic quality of the Sistine Chapel. Before biting into something lovely that I couldn’t quite pronounce, I asked Rosa about her relationship with Jesus. Her answer was fascinating. “My spiritual beliefs are private,” she said. “The Bible I don’t believe because it was written by men.” She also had some rather pointed words for the Catholic clergy. Finally, and for most of her answer, she described a certain Sicilian parade dedicated to the patron saint of fishing.

Having established a bit of rapport with Rosa, I possessed enough relational currency to ask a few follow-up questions. So I started:

Chris: “Now that’s a fish parade I want to see! I wonder, is the cross of Jesus depicted in any particular way?”

Rosa: “Yes, Monsignor Giuseppe carries the crucifix, elevated high for everyone to behold.”

Chris: “And what’s the significance of the crucifix?”

Rosa: “It shows the death of Jesus Christ wearing the crown of thorns with drops of blood marking his face.”

At this point in the conversation I asked Rosa a few simple questions intended to elucidate the love and justice of God and the personal significance of Jesus’ passion for Rosa in particular. It was brief but meaningful. My goal was to connect the dots between Rosa’s limited understanding of the Christian story and the particular truths of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and inaugurated kingdom. There was no dramatic conversion, but I would like to think that she was in some way drawn closer to the Savior.

The Opportunity Before Us

Reflecting upon my conversation with Rosa brings to mind a few principles for serving the partially evangelized with the gospel. The sequential ordering of these points is not essential beyond the first one.

The initial step must be to recognize that we ourselves, despite our theological pedigree or best intentions, are partially evangelized, and desperately so. Let me assure you, the word desperately is not for rhetorical affect. There is, even on our “best” days, a sizable disparity between the holiness, peace, and love of Christ and our pattern of life. We are entirely dependent upon God, and, therefore, we must proactively “evangelize” ourselves, remembering the old life that is now behind us and the new creation that has come.

Each morning when I awake, I must preach the gospel to myself (after pouring a cup of coffee, that is). It is a privilege, as God’s sons and daughters, to enter the Father’s presence in the name of Jesus and remind ourselves that we are no longer defined by sin and shame, but, rather, by the perfect righteousness of Christ—although our sins be as scarlet, they are now white as snow. We also remind ourselves that God has poured forth his Holy Spirit into our hearts for us to embody and proclaim the good news to the world. In short, we can’t effectively evangelize others until we have first evangelized ourselves.

Second, it’s also necessary for us to see the partially evangelized—to the extent that such people ignore new life in Christ, the Bible, and ministry—as eternally lost. In this vein, one of my favorite quotes comes from the French theologian Yves Congar, who said of the missionary statesman Angelo Roncalli, “Here was the secret of his personality: he loved people more than power.” Such men have a way of seeing others not as a means to an end, but as those for whom Christ died. I also think of Francis Schaeffer who, according to his student Lane Dennis, would shed tears when describing those outside of Christ. This is exactly right.

Third, the leading edge of our approach t should be gradual and relational. Sometimes when we think about evangelism, we limit it to a particular method. For many, it’s the crusade approach made popular by D. L. Moody or Billy Graham. Accordingly, we think of evangelism as a full-blown gospel presentation that begins by explaining the human problem of sin, necessarily culminating in an invitation for one to receive Christ.

I don’t know about you, but most of my gospel encounters don’t allow for a full-orbed sermon. In a crusade, the goal of the evangelist is to clearly present the entire message and urge someone to make a decision. (There is a reason why the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s magazine is named Decision.) However, if you define all evangelism encounters this way, what happens when you have two minutes to talk to a colleague beside the water cooler during break? How do you witness to the checkout person in the supermarket, or to a family member who knows what you believe and is utterly disinterested in hearing any more sermons? The answer is—you don’t. You don’t say a thing. We can’t share in that kind of way without completely alienating ourselves; therefore, we don’t share at all. The outcome is the same as hiding our lamp beneath the proverbial table.

This principle is especially relevant to the partially evangelized because, at least in my experience, embracing the gospel is usually a process. This is not for a moment to minimize the fact that conversion is based upon the regenerative work of God; but it is to acknowledge that God often leads people through an existential journey in which they travel from darkness into the light. What we need, therefore, is to learn how to plant seeds of gospel truth that help the partially evangelized move from the borders of Christian tradition to the center, one incremental step at a time.

Finally, and most fundamentally, pray for the partially evangelized. What is now only a trickle of Christian identity, God desires to make a raging river of faith (Ezekiel 47); what is a small cloud, God wishes to develop into a torrential rain (1 Kings 18:44); what is a modest-sized lunch, God will multiply a thousand times over into a feast (John 6). Indeed, this is our hope, according to the life-changing power of the gospel.

Categories: Uncategorized

Take a Survey and You May Win a Kindle – Let Us Know the Resources You Want to Celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

September 23rd, 2011 Comments off

May I have a few minutes of your time? Concordia Publishing House is giving away two Kindles to two people, chosen from those who fill out our Reformation resource survey. We would love to hear from as many people as possible.

There is plenty of room for you to tell us anything…so, go for it. Click here to take the survey.

Easy, huh?

Categories: Uncategorized