Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Christmas Carol Settring

A Carol setting for Holy Communion

“Good Christian Friends, Rejoice”

P: Oh, may the good Lord be with you.
C: The Lord be with your spirit, too!
P: Lift your hearts to Him in praise.
C: To the Lord our hearts we raise.
P: Let us offer praises true,
C: It is fitting so to do.
Love and thanks we bring to our new-born King!

Preface for Christmas

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

Holy, holy, holy Lord! God, by heav’n and earth adored!
Here in lowly manger laid, God with us, His love displayed.
Angels singing, “Peace on earth!” at the blessed Savior’s birth;
Hail, hosanna, Prince of Peace! From sin’s pow’r You give release!
Word made flesh, great mystery! Mighty God, You set us free.

Holy, holy, holy Lord! Lifting hearts in one accord,
With the shepherds humbly bow; Christ our King confessing now:
With th’apostles, prophets strong, and the white-robed martyr throng,
Cloud of witnesses, rejoice! With glad heart and mind and voice;
Word made flesh, great mystery! Mighty God, You set us free!

Words of institution and the Our Father

“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”

Dear Jesus, Lamb of God You are the Father’s gift of love
In mercy cleansing all our sins, our shame and guilt remove.
Your peace to troubled hearts bestow, a joyful Christmas light,
That makes our shadowed pathways now more beautiful and bright

Friday, December 19, 2008

Gifts only God can give

Crux Christi clavis Paradisi -- The cross of Christ is the key of Paradise (John of Damascus).
O Root of Jesse, standing as an ensign before the peoples, before whom all kings are mute, to whom the nations will do homage: Come quickly to deliver us.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

who is responsible?

For some time now, we have been wondering who is responsible for "climate change", as the new mantra for global warming enthusiasts has it. As part of a display in our local library on views of earth from space, this quotation was seen:
"Oceans control the global climate."
Well, what a relief! We're officially off the hook. Will someone please tell Mr. Al Gore, President-elect Obama, etc.??? (Also, please tell Santa not to worry about the North Pole melting any time soon.)

Monday, December 8, 2008

first net-fishing

Last Saturday, December 6th, which, as all good Christians know is St. Nicholas' Day, we celebrated our first net-fishing event, focusing on Grandparents raising grandchildren. 19 net-fishers visited, played, crafted creative memories, sang and ate with 3 adults and 5 children from our local community. God knew what we could handle:) Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Friday, December 5, 2008

lasting value

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:1-6)
Things of lasting value:
--the gospel of God
--the Holy Scriptures
--the birth
--the resurrection
--grace and apostleship
--obedience to the faith.
These are the foundational gifts, sine qua non. Without these gifts, there will be nothing of lasting value (unless the LORD builds the house...). These gifts create and constitute the Church, the body of Christ. These things are worth living and dying for. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

breaking the cycle

Does it ever seem like we're living in the book of Judges? Every man does what is right in his own eyes, and the cycle of rebellion - chastening - repentance - deliverance - rebellion; goes on and on. The only motive for repentance seems to be alleviation of the symptoms, i.e. pain and suffering, not radical change at the heart level. How to get there? Try this from Fr. Thomas Merton:
The inward movement of compunction (Latin: compunctio, a pricking; a sharp feeling of uneasiness brought on by a sense of guilt, twinge of conscience, remorse)is not so much a matter of hiding ourselves within ourselves, as a liberation of ourselves, which takes place in the depths of our being, and lets us out of ourselves from the inside. This liberation from concentration on our self is the beginning of a conversion, a metanoia, a real inner transformation. The true interior life is not our own life within the depths of our own being. It is the coming of God into our being, from which we have previously gone out, in order to make room for him."
Come quickly, Lord Jesus! Is there room in my heart for Thee?

Monday, December 1, 2008

already advent

A beautiful dusting of snow this morning to welcome cold December in!
These prayers from Magnificat seem extra-meaningful in these confusing times:
From the emptiness when we do not recognize your presence;
from the silence in which we do not hear your voice;
from the darkness in which we do not see your light,
Come, Lord, and save us!

Behold, your King is coming to you; righteous and having salvation!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Almost Advent

Such a strange assortment of days around Thanksgiving and the beginning of Advent each year. Thanksgiving Day found us with seven families in a large home. Sharing what was on our hearts took at least one and one half hours. Yesterday Mary and I hit the stores and sales hard for about four hours, and then had the grandparents and cousins over for dinner, 14 in all. Same at the Windes' home tonight. Our tech-savvy kids got us hooked up on wireless at the house too. An early Christmas present for me! A good work out at the YMCA this morning keeps the calories at arms length, now that its too cool to really do things outside regularly. God is good, even in the worst of times.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

cool prayer

Lord God of power and might, you have revealed to us in Jesus Christ that true strength lies in self-surrendering love. Make us his true disciples in every trial, and make us a true source of strength to one another, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen. (Magnificat daily prayer book)
What I am thankful for: (a BRIEF summary!)
past grace -- the glorious company of apostles, the noble fellowship of the prophets, the white-robed army of martyrs;
present faith -- Word and Sacraments of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church;
future hope -- (borrowing from J. Vajda) that the faithful will breathe the Spirit's grace, see the Father's face, and feel the Son's embrace.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

relentless love

The favors of the LORD I will recall, the glorious deeds of the LORD, because of all he has done for us; for he is good to the house of Israel, He has favored us according to his mercy and his great kindness (Isaiah 63:7). Many words have been used to describe the love of our God, but this morning the word RELENTLESS came on loud and clear. God relentlessly searches for his lost and straying sheep; He relentlessly embraces us with His love and does not allow any corner of our hearts to be untouched. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, we can love as we have first been loved, relentlessly, persistently, leaving the results to God. Relentless love, indeed!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Christ the King

Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat!
Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ doth command!
O come, let us worship and bow down before Christ Himself,
our King and our God.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Inaugural Speech Advice

In about two months time, our nation’s president-elect will take the oath of office and deliver his first inaugural address – the good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise! Since our theme today is Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, I thought Mr. Obama and we ourselves might benefit from a bit of advice taken from former Presidents whose words are still fondly remembered and quoted today. They will teach us lessons in humility, in courage and love of country.

Who better to begin with than the father of our country, George Washington! In his first inaugural address, given on April 30, 1789, in the City of New York, President Washington expressed great humility of spirit by acknowledging the absolute necessity of God’s blessings for the continued liberty and happiness of the people of the United States. Listen to these words from a pre-Darwinian age:

It would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the council of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect…No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.

Washington knew well that God has shown the strength of his arm, He has scattered the proud in their conceit; he has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly.

Humility does not imply weakness! In fact, I believe it is a prerequisite for our second lesson of courage. Our seventh President, a Democrat, Andrew Jackson of Tennessee was swept into his second term on a promise to demolish the central bank of his day. The bankers had spent over 3 million dollars in an unsuccessful effort to defeat him. Listen carefully to the reasons for his veto of the Bank’s Charter: It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes. Distinctions in society will always exist under every just government. Equality of talents, of education, or of wealth cannot be produced by human institutions…There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses. If it would confine itself to equal protection…it would be an unqualified blessing. In the act before me there seems to be a wide and unnecessary departure from these just principles.

It takes courage to confront powerful money interests and act on the truth that the borrower is slave to the lender. Jackson remembered this biblical wisdom echoed by Shakespeare his play Hamlet, “my son, neither a borrower nor a lender be” as he indeed demolished the central bank and completely paid off the national debt. Oh, that history, in this case at least, would repeat itself today!

Surely it is love of country that binds all other civic virtues together. On a frigid winter’s day, January 20, 1961, John Fitzgerald Kennedy took the oath of office as the 35th President of the United States. At age 43, he was the youngest man and first Roman Catholic ever elected. From his speech on that day we learned about love of country.

In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe. In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it – and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.

And so I ask you, my fellow Toastmasters, with these eloquent words ringing in our ears, what better teachers could be found for our President-elect than Washington, Jackson and Kennedy? Lessons in humility, courage and love of country learned well will serve to guide our constitutional republic into paths of prosperity and peace for years to come.

Monday, November 17, 2008

heavenly treasure

I read an article in a homeschooling magazine a few days ago which described our children as "heavenly treasures". To my own treasures -- Katie, Caleb, Josiah and Julie -- let it be said loud and clear, you are my heavenly treasures!; priceless, good, beautiful and true gifts and blessings of God!
If only we could see all children, both young and old, in this light, how quickly our relationships and dealings with each other would be transformed. It takes faith, of course, to see fallen, sinful people in this light. But surely that was part of the joy that was set before our Lord that enabled Him to endure the cross.
With the power of the cross, all things are possible.

Friday, November 14, 2008


I've been "tagged" by Pr. Benjamin Harju, to find the nearest book, turn to page 123, count the first five sentences and then post the following three sentences. Here goes! from Applebee's AMERICA: "Pastor Robert Lewis of Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, thinks his big church is getting small. 'I looked up one day and realized I'm like the driver in that little car in Jurassic Park because I feel I'm about to be eaten up by change in the church,' he said. Lewis, a member of the Leadership Network board, is one of a growing number of big church leaders who believe the public is starting to demand a shift in focus -- away from pastors and big glitzy stage shows and back to community-based churching."
Who would have thought?! The day of the small local congregation gathered around Word and Sacrament has not vanished from the face of the earth:)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

good advice for our politicians

From the same 1570 Confession:

Ein Fursten ists die hochste Ehr
Dass er Gott kennt und reine Lehr.

A ruler's highest honor
is to know God and pure doctrine.

Where has it all gone?

At circuit meeting today, skimmed an early copy of the Lutheran Confessions (1570) minus the Formula of Concord, and found this remarkable passage in the introduction (my rough translation from the German!):
Where is the srength of Goliath? Where is the beauty of Absolom? Where is the art of Aristotle? Where is the majesty of Solomon? Where is the pride of Nebuchadnezzar? Where is the wealth of Croesus? Where is the power of Romulus? Where is the lust of Sardanapalus? All is gone, as the Psalm says: as a flower of the field, yes, as a vapor it soon flies away.
Those born from above, whose sins are forgiven through Christ, the word of grace, receive comfort of conscience and eternal life; all of which goodness God shares and sends us through his divine word, are not given comfort and enduring riches alone in this life, rather they endure through trouble in misfortune, in sickness, in death, and after death forever and ever.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Where is God

Several random thoughts today:
A convert to the Catholic church reported that upon attending Mass for the first time she realized the presence of God in a profound way and exclaimed, "So this is where You've been hiding!" As our hymn says so well, 'Beneath these forms of bread and wine, enrich us with Your grace divine.' God hides in, with and under the bread and wine at this altar every Lord's Day. How delighted I would be for everyone to have such a realization!

After losing the game, the coach of a football team asked his players,
"Did you leave it all on the field?" (Little did I know at the time that both the University of Tennessee and our local high school had both suffered suprising and disappointing losses!) To look back at the end of each day, at the end of each life and be able to say, Yes, Lord, I've left it all on the field. No regrets for those who have done their best, with the grace and assistance of the Holy Spirit!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

keep praying

God's Word, as always, offers the best prescription for post-election stress and trauma syndrome:) "Let hearts rejoice who search for the Lord. Look to the LORD and his strength; seek to serve him constantly. Recall the wondrous deeds that he has wrought, his portents, and the judgments he has uttered." (Psalm 105)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

good shepherd institute

A wonderful trip to Ft. Wayne yesterday, safe travel and gas prices under $2.00/gallon definitely cheers one up. Worship this morning at historic (established 1837)St. Paul's was a feast for mind and eye, body and spirit. If you ever want the opportunity to experience Lutheran worship at its best, this is it. A celebration of All Saints' Sunday (observed) to be remembered for years to come:)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

good question!

For what use is it if without the city walls war is being waged, while within it suffers ruin? St. Columban + 615

Monday, October 20, 2008

a beautiful weekend

Wonderful fall weather, frost on the pumpkins. 21 people from Concordia went prayer walking on Saturday morning, distributing almost 300 door hangers informing people that we were praying for them and inviting them to contact us with specific prayer concerns. Amazing stuff happens when the Good News comes with power -- things previously thought impossible begin to occur. Hosting six young people from Youth Encounter brought blessings all day Saturday and Sunday morning.
Ponder this gem from the current bishop of Rome, Benedict XVI:
"Being missionaries means loving God with all one's heart, even to the point, if necessary, of dying for him...being missionaries means stooping down to the needs of all, like the Good Samaritan, especially those of the poorest and most destitute people, because those who love with Christ's Heart do not seek their own interests but the glory of the Father and the good of their neighbor alone." (29 April 2006 Benedictus)

Monday, October 13, 2008

an evil generation

"...no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of the generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here." (Luke 11)
I've never understood how "scholars" can doubt the story of Jonah when Jesus so clearly states what will happen on the Last Day regarding those who repented at the preaching of Jonah. Each of us likewise needs to turn to God and change the way we think and act, and belive the Good News, as the Spirit works on our hearts through the Word.

Monday, October 6, 2008

God or Money

"The idols of the nations are made of silver and gold. They were made by human hands. They have mouths, but they cannot speak. They have eyes, but they cannot see. They have ears, but they cannot hear. They cannot breathe. Those who make idols end up like them. So does everyone who trusts them." (Psalm 135:15-18)
Expecting such idols to speak, see, hear or breathe surely qualifies as the pinnacle of irrationality, dare we say insanity. There are those who trust such idols; then there are those who (how crazy is this?!) trust those who make the idols.
May Dagon fall down before the ark and Gideon tear down the Baal so that we might fear, love and trust in the true and living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God blessed forever.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Spiritual Man

Many years ago, I came across Watchman Nee, and found him incomprehensible. Today some rays of light are coming through:) Here is a sample passage:
Why does God crucify our old man with Christ and render our body jobless? His purpose is that "we should no longer serve sin." What God has done in this regard makes it possible for us not to yield thereafter to the pressure of sin nor to be bound by its power. Sin will exercise no dominion over us. Hallelujah! We must praise God for this deliverance.
How shall we enter into such blessing? Two elements are indispensable. First, "reckon yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus". This is the essential of faith. When God avows that our old man was crucified with Christ we believe His Word and "reckon ourselves as dead." How then do we die? "We reckon ourselves as dead to sin." When God affirms that we are resurrected with Christ we again trust His Word and "reckon ourselves alive." How then do we live? "We reckon ourselves as alive to God." This reckoning is none other than believing God accortding to His Word. When God says our old man was crucified, we account ourselves dead; when He insists we are made alive, we reckon ourselves as alive. The failure of many lies in the desire to feel, to see and to experience this crucifixion and resurrection before trusting in the Word of God.
These do not realize that God has already done it in Christ and that if only they would believe His Word by reckoning that what He has done is true, His Holy Spirit would give them the experience. His Spirit would communicate to them what is in Christ.
Second, "neither yield your members instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but yield yourselves to God as alive from among the dead and your members instruments of righteousness to God". This is the essential of consecration. If we persist in holding on to something which God wants us to relinquish, sin shall have dominion over us, and our reckoning shall be futile. If we fail to yield our members as godly instruments of righteousness to speak and do what He desires and go where He directs, should we be surprised we are not yet delivered from sin? Whenever we refuse to relinquish or we offer resistance to God, sin shall return to its dominion. Under such circumstances we naturally lose the power to reckon, that is, to belive God's Word. In our ceasing to exercise faith and to reckon, can we still be said to be positionally in Christ? Yes, but we are living no longer in Him according to the sense of the "abide in me" of John 15. Accordingly, we are unqualified to experience what is factual in Christ, even our crucifixion.
Not every word written by men is "Gospel" -- read with caution and discernment!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Law

Reading The Law by Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850) will explain what is happening in our financial markets with such simplicity and clarity that anyone (with the possible exception of the Treasury Secretary!) can grasp his ideas. Fortunately for us, a majority of the House of Representatives still understands Bastiat's definition of legal plunder -- but how is this legal plunder to be defined? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some person what belongs to them and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.
Then abolish this law without delay, for it is not only an evil itself, but also it is a fertile source for further evils because it invites reprisals. If such a law -- which may be an isolated case -- is not abolished immidietely, it will spread, multiply, and develop into a system.
Read The Law and ask your representative if they have a copy and have read it. Our temporal liberties may depend upon it.

Monday, September 29, 2008

St. Michael and All Angels

2 Kings 6:15-17 (ESV)
When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?" He said, "Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." Then Elisha prayed and said, "O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see." So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
521 Christ, the Lord of Hosts, Unshaken

1 Christ, the Lord of hosts, unshaken
By the devil’s seething rage,
Thwarts the plan of Satan’s minions;
Wins the strife from age to age;
Conquers sin and death forever;
Slams them in their steely cage.

2 Michael fought the heav’nly battle,
Godly angels by his side;
Warred against the ancient serpent,
Foiled the beast, so full of pride,
Cast him earthbound with his angels;
Now he prowls, unsatisfied.

3 Long on earth the battle rages,
Since the serpent’s first deceit;
Twisted God’s command to Adam,
Made forbidden fruit look sweet.
Then the curse of God was spoken:
“You’ll lie crushed beneath His feet!”

4 Jesus came, this word fulfilling,
Trampled Satan, death defied;
Bore the brunt of our temptation,
On the wretched tree He died.
Yet to life was raised victorious;
By His life our life supplied.

5 Swift as lightning falls the tyrant
From his heav’nly perch on high,
As the word of Jesus’ vict’ry
Floods the earth and fills the sky.
Wounded by a wound eternal
Now his judgment has drawn nigh!

6 Jesus, send Your angel legions
When the foe would us enslave.
Hold us fast when sin assaults us;
Come, then, Lord, Your people save.
Overthrow at last the dragon;
Send him to his fiery grave.

Text: © Peter M. Prange Used by permission: LSB Hymn License .NET, number 100010138.
Created by Lutheran Service Builder © 2006 Concordia Publishing House.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

neighborhood survey

We took a prayer walk and neighborhood survey on September 20, and will be going out again on October 18. I have revised the survey as follows:
Hi! I’m ______________ from Concordia Lutheran Church (and this is…). We’re taking a short spiritual survey to help us better understand and serve our community.
Do you have a moment for a few questions? Great!

1. What do you think are the greatest problems or concerns facing our community?

2. What do you think is important for the church to be doing?

3. What do you think about Jesus?

4. May I tell you what Jesus means to me?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

pulpit freedom Sunday

The Alliance Defense Fund has designated 9/28/08 as "Pulpit Freedom Sunday." On this occasion some ministers of the gospel will exercise their right to free speech in contradiction to the 1954 ammendment to the 501(c)3 code on tax-exempt organizations. This change (instigated by LBJ) purports to prohibit preachers from speaking out about specific candidates (and by inference, specific issues) of the day from the pulpit. Certain things have been designated as "hate speech" by our neighbors to the north (Canada). Apparently, the Orthodox bishops of California either haven't heard of the 1954 ruling, or have concluded that in this case, it is better to obey God than men. We all face similar choices. Here is the final paragraph of their statement:

Therefore, we, the Orthodox bishops of California, call upon the faithful, as responsible and concerned citizens of California, to overturn this ruling by the California Supreme Court by voting in favor of Proposition 8 this coming November. This proposition is a regrettably necessary measure to restore the true definition of marriage in the eyes of our state. A state that believes same-sex couplings constitute “marriage” implicitly — and sooner or later, explicitly — denies the role of the Church and all faiths that adhere to traditional values in public life. Please exercise your citizenship and vote in November. The passage of Proposition 8 is an imperative.

What a Feast

Lutheran Service Book #623

Lord Jesus Christ, we humbly pray
that we may feast on You today;
Beneath these forms of bread and wine
enrich us with Your grace divine.
GIve us, who share this wondrous food,
Your body broken and Your blood,
the grateful peace of sins forgiv'n,
the certain joys of heirs of heav'n.

(text: Henry E. Jacobs, 1844 - 1932)

Monday, September 22, 2008

laborers in the vineyard

Here is a marvelous explanation on yesterday's Gospel of the workers in the vineyard:
Let us imagine that one day all the inhabitants of the world would assemble to put into effect this sharing of goods; and that in fact each person, granted that the world is very big, received an exactly equal portion of the wealth existing on earth.
Then what? That very evening one man might way, "Today I worked hard; now I am going to take rest." Another might state, "I understand this sharing of goods well; so let's drink and celebrate such an extraordinary happening." On the other hand, another might say, "Now I am going to set to work with a will so as to reap the greatest benefit I can from what I have received." And so, starting on the next day, the first man would have only the amount given him; the second would have less, adn the third would have increased his.
Then what do we do? Start redistributing the wealth all over again? Even if everybody began to work right away with all his might and at the same time, the results would not be identical for all. ...To continue the argument, even if there were only two persons in the world, they would not succeed in maintaining absolute equality; for in the whole universe there are no two things completely identical in every respect.
(Maximilian Kolbe, + 1941)

Friday, September 19, 2008

first prayer walk

Tomorrow will be Concordia's first prayer walk in response to the second prescription in our revitalization process to address our lack of clear vision. Prior to and during the prayer walk, Satan will try to convince you that this is not for you, that it does no good, that there is no visible result, that others are not as committed as you, that you are using your time foolishly. He will try to disrupt your sense of unity and bring in outside adversity. He will attempt to distract you from your focus and purpose. The best resistance to such schemes is praise and thanksgiving to God for all his promises and presence.
In addition, teams will be taking a brief community survey asking three questions:
What three words would you use to describe the Church in our community?
What needs to you see folks in our community struggle with meeting?
If you were looking for a church home, what characteristics or qualities would you look for?
May God help us to see our community more clearly and have the same love and concern for it as He does.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

a 10 commandments day dream

I had a wonderful daydream in which our state and federal legislatures ran a 10 Commandments audit on all past, present and future legislation. They were actively correcting old laws and prayerfully enacting new ones that reflected the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”, as the Declaration so nicely puts it.
Here follows a partial list:
-- (I) Encourage the public posting and study of the 10 Commandments
-- (II) In partnership with private business, sponsor an annual Youth in the Arts festival/contest, celebrating the godly heritage of each state in music, art, dance, poetry, etc.
-- (III) Call on the churches to lead an annual Day of Prayer, Fasting and Repentance for our national sins
-- (IV) Grant tax incentives for businesses that close on Sunday
-- (V) Eliminate the marriage tax penalty; increase the child tax credit; create a tax credit for stay-at-home mothers
-- (VI) require informed consent (abortion terminates a whole, separate, unique living human being) and parental notification for all abortion providers; prohibit euthanasia
-- (VII) remove rewards for bearing children outside of marriage; remove so-called “no fault divorce” laws and require counseling for troubled marriages
-- (VIII) recognize and resist all forms of legal plunder
-- (IX) institute vigorous tort reform to dramatically reduce law suits
-- (X) provide tax incentives for debt elimination and savings plans.

on that day

The day of resurrection, the eighth day, this eternally present gift and reality has the potential of breaking into our mundane, temporal affairs and transforming them by the light of Jesus who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. The holy prophet Zephaniah spoke of this here:
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Fear not, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

A timely word as we pass through these perilous timeswhen many things are being and yet will be shaken, so that what cannot be shaken may be clearly seen.

Monday, September 15, 2008

the power of the cross

We adore You, Christ, and we bless You, for through Your cross You have redeemed the world.
"...for all our power is in the power of Christ who was crucified; all our sinfulness is mortified by the death of Christ on the cross; and all our exaltation and all our glory are in the humility of God, who humbled himself to such an extent that he was pleased to die even between evil-doers and thieves. For this very reason Christians who believe in Christ sign themselves with the sign of the cross not simply, not just as it happens, not carelessly, but with all heedfulness, with fear and trembling, and with extreme reverence. For the image of the cross shows the reconciliation and friendship into which man has enetered with God.
Therefore the demons also fear the image of the cross, and they do not endure to see the sign of the cross depicted even in the air; but they flee from this immediately knowing that the cross is the sign of the friendship of men with God...
To the degree of the reverence which one has toward the cross, he receives corresponding power and help from God." Saint Symeon the New Theologian + 1022 (from the First-Created Man, Seven Homilies)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

anniversary of the attack

Jesus said to his disciples: "To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you...But rather, love your enemies and do good to them...and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked." (Luke 6)
Almighty, everlasting God, through Your only Son, our blessed Lord, You commanded us to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us, and to pray for those who persecute us. Therefore, we earnestly implore You that by Your gracious working our enemies may be led to true repentance, may have the same love toward us as we have toward them, and my be of one accord and of one mind and heart with us and with your whole Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

why do we go to meetings?

I'm glad our counselor, Pr. Steve Harmon asked the question at our pastoral circuit meeting yesterday. I answered in good three-part fashion as follows:
1. because the encouragement not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together as is the habit of some applies also to me, and not using Sunday mornings as my excuse, but seeing my need to meet with other brothers in ministry on a regular basis;
2. because of the presence of Jesus who has promised to be in the midst of us whenver two or three gather in His Name; and
3. because of the humility (greatly needed!) given as a gift unsought and unmerited when I hear and see examples of what God is doing in and through my brothers for the building of His kingdom of grace.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Are you celebrating her birthday?

Many Christians around the world celebrate each year on September 8 the birthday (nativity) of Mary the mother of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If every human life has inestimable value being made in the image and like of its Creator, and therefore is a priceless gift from God, how much greater is the gift of Mary who by grace was made worthy to bear not only the image and likeness of God, but her Creator and Savior in the flesh? How can we not celebrate such a gift that truly keeps on giving life to the world through the Son, Jesus, she brought forth? Give thanks to God for His unspeakable gift! Our Orthodox friends give us this text to express our joy and thanks to God:
Your birth, O Theotokos, brought joy to the whole world, for from you dawned the sun of righteousness, Christ our God. Freeing us from the curse, He gave us His blessings. Abolishing death, He granted us eternal life.

Friday, September 5, 2008

science and scripture

Every so often I read something that shows the truth of God's Word confirmed through scientific study. Since there is an unsurpassable gulf fixed between science and Christianity in the (post)modern mind, these revelations delight me to no end:) This from the September 2008 issue of Voice of the Martyrs newsletter (www.persecution.com), Tom White, director.
Recently, my pastor and his wife, Joe and Dawn Marie Colaw, spoke about scientific research which shows that black holes are burned into the brain by hatred, anger, bitterness, and other negative emotions.
Dr. David Amen, Dr. Marian Diamond, Dr. Caroline Leaf and other neuroscientists and biochemists describe the toxic chemical flood our bodies release into our brain when we think malicious thoughts. Microphotographs reveal these chemicals burn tunnel-like holes in branched nerve cells called dendrites. (For views of brains showing this damage, see www.amenclinic.com, and go to "Brain Disorder Research.")
Dr. Leaf calls these burned places "emotional black holes". By contrast, positive thoughts actually create more dendrite nerve fibers in the brain. She says, "You can grow a new memory over the old memory." One of the elements she mentions in this healing process is forgiveness.
The world laughs at the biblical motto, "Jesus Saves." The truth is, He does. His love and mercy can bring healing to abuse victims and preserve the minds and hearts of our persecuted brothers and sisters. When Christians are under stress, or even torture or imprisonment, and they praise God, sing or quote uplifting Scripture, they are putting on the helmet of spiritual and physical salvation. As Joe and Dawn Marie Colaw point out, "All believers can be light in a dark world -- light to futile, toxic thinking. The dendrites of our minds can literally flourish as we feed on the Word of God, allowing it to stop the negative chemical bath and create a new network of dendrites that act as a super highway, bypassing, even shrinking the 'holes' of the past."

Seems like we had a word about "the renewing of our minds" recently. Oh, the amazing, healing grace of our great God and Savior Jesus the Anointed One!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

who can this be?

Sometimes an unexpected connection comes to mind as we experience prayerful listening to and meditating on a passage of sacred scripture. This was the passage: Mark 4:41 (ESV) And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?"
This was the connection: Hebrews 1:3 (ESV) He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
This is the One we receive under the forms of bread and wine, the one born of Mary. In the slang of today's youth, how awesome is that?!
If you haven't read this yet, you'll be glad you did:

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What does the church look like

In the mid-nineteenth century, Charles Porterfield Krauth was faced with many of the same misunderstandings of the Church as we see in our own day. Listen carefully to his description of the Church:

“For as the Church is the mother of believers, as she is to bring forth children
of whom God is the father, so she is to train up in the faith those who are born of her, is to nourish her infants with milk, her adult children with solid food, to confirm the doubting, to strengthen the sorrowing and tempted, to arouse men from the sleep of sin, to lead the secure to repentance, to bring back into the way of salvation those who have wandered, and to keep all men in that way. But for these duties she needs more than those parts of doctrine which are the only necessary ones for the simple, who have neither the mental strength nor intelligence to go further. She needs for her ork the entire doctrine of Scripture, 'for perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.' --C. P. Krauth, A Documentary History of the General Council p. 365

What exactly does the mother of believers do?

1. She brings forth children of whom God is the Father. Holy Baptism
2. She trains them up in the faith. Apostles’ Creed
3. She nourishes her infants with milk, her adults with solid food. Lord’s Supper
4. She confirms the doubting. Confession
5. She strengthens the sorrowing and tempted. Lord’s Prayer and Daily Prayer
6. She arouses men from the sleep of sin. Ten Commandments
7. She leads the secure to repentance and back into the way of salvation those who have wandered. Take up the Cross daily and deny yourself.

Friday, August 22, 2008

watch and pray: carefully!

Be careful what you ask for! Adonijah thought to get back what he had lost, or better, what he never really had, through the intercession of the king’s mother, Bathsheba.
And he said, “Please ask King Solomon—he will not refuse you—to give me Abishag the Shunammite as my wife.” Bathsheba said, “Very well; I will speak for you to the king.”
Solomon saw the request for what it was, a clever ploy to undermine his authority by giving the woman who had been connected to King David to his malcontent brother.
If our requests do not serve to advance and establish the kingdom, even if we go through the most effective intercessor, God will not answer favorably, and what generated that request may very likely be put to death. So, once again, be careful what you ask for! Now therefore as the Lord lives, who has established me and placed me on the throne of David my father, and who has made me a house, as he promised, Adonijah shall be put to death today!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

On 8 June 1978 (30 years ago) Alexander Solzhenitsyn gave a prophetic speech at Harvard University which is available online: http://www.columbia.edu.cu/augustine/arch/solzhenitsyn/harvard1978.html

Here are a few bits to whet your appetite:
Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, motion pictures full of pornography, crime and horror. .... Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil.
After the suffering of decades of violence and oppression, the human soul longs for things higher, warmer and purer than those offered by today's mass living habits, introduced by the revolting invasion of publicity, by TV stupor and by intolerable music. All this is visible to observers from all the worlds of our planet. The Western way of life is less and less likely to become the leading model.
This means that the mistake must be at the root, at the very basis of human thinking in the past centuries. I refer to the prevailing Western view of the world which was first born during the Renaissance and found its political expression from the period of the Enlightenment. It became the basis for government and social science and could be defined as rationalistic humanism or humanistic autonomy: the proclaimed and enforced autonomy of man from any higher force above him. It could also be called anthropocentricity, with man seen as the center of everything that exists.

"Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?" (Acts 7:52) Stephen asked. How we need the prophetic gift and courage to speak truth to power in this new century.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

pray for China

I've been wearing a wrist-band for a couple of weeks that says in English and Chinese: "Pray for China". As we've watched the Olympics in Beijing our prayers have been for the leaders, the people and for the Christians of China, that the kingdom of God would come and His will be done, and most of all His Word and Name have free course and set the captives free.
Then I read this morning in Isaiah 60:12, "For the nations and their kings who will not serve you shall perish, and those nationis will be utterly desolate." This clearly refers to the body of Christ (no Zionist heresies, please!), the Church and as such gives a refreshing perspective, for believers, on those nations that wantonly persecute Jesus (Acts 9:4). As Jeremiah says (22:13) "Woe to him who builds his house without righteousness and his rooms upstairs without judgment". "Unless the LORD build the house, those who build it labor in vain" (Psalm 127:1). A most timely word for this political season.
Then there is that wonderful commercial for wind power in which a disc thrown by a Greek athlete is unexpectedly carried off course by the wind, and strikes the Parthenon which suddenly crashes into the familiar ruins we know today. Unintentionally, I'm sure, this can be seen as prophetic picture and fulfillment of what is in store for all that is built on human wisdom. As you think about or view this commercial, try to see the spiritual truth it portrays.
Lastly, as wonderful and most revealing as the Pastor Rick Warren interview with candidates Obama and McCain was this past Saturday, one was left with the false impression that we have only two choices in the upcoming election. There are at least two other candidates worthy of your consideration: Bob Barrr (Libertarian Party) and Chuck Baldwin (Constitution Party). imho, they deserve equal time.

Friday, August 15, 2008

St. Mary, Mother of our Lord

O higher than the Cherubim,
More glorious than the Seraphim,
Lead their praises, Alleluia!
Thou bearer of th'incarnate Word,
Most gracious, magnify the Lord.

Long has it been my conviction that proper appreciation of the Holy Family, i.e. Jesus, his mother Mary and Joseph his foster-father, would go a long way to clearing up cultural confusion over roles of men and women in the church and family (domestic church). Appropriate love, honor and respect can then be given to men and women in their God-given roles without unncecssary competition and confusion.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

pastoral response to court decision

From the August 2008 Forum Letter came this comment from Bishop Allen Vigneron of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland (CA). For the full text, see this link:
Just wondering: why did the Church allow the State to define and control marriage in the first place? Try a search on The Uniform Marriage and Marriage License Act of 1923.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

seeking and saving us

So long as we imagine that it is we who have to look for God, then we must often lose heart. But it is the other way about: he is looking for us. And so we can afford to recognize that very often we are not looking for God; far from it; we are in full flight from him, in high rebellion against him. And he knows that and has taken it into account. He has followed us into our own darkness; there where we thought finally to escape him, we run straight into his arms.
So we do not have to erect a false piety for ourselves, to give us hope of salvation. Our hope is in his determination to save us. And he will not give in!
This should free us from that crippling anxiety which prevents any real growth, giving us room to do whatever we can do, to accept the small but genuine responsibilities that we do have. Our part is not to shoulder the whole burden of our salvation, the initiative and the program are not in our hands: our part is to consent, to learn how to love him in return whose love came to us so freely while we were quite uninterested in him.
(by Fr. Simon Tugwell, O.P. from "Prayer, Living with God" 1975 Templegate Publishers.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

daily prayer

"As you are going, therefore, make disciples of all the nations..." (Matthew 28:19a) Indispensible elements for fulfilling the Great Commission (imho) begin with the weekly commemoration of Jesus' resurrection and receiving Him in the Eucharist. The phrase "as you are going" suggests the discipline and holy habit of Daily Prayer. In addition to daily Matins and Vespers, I am beginning to pause at 9:00 a.m., noon and 3:00 p.m. for an intentional few moments of prayer.
At 9:00 a.m. (Terce) In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Eternal God and Father, by whose power we are created and by whose love we are redeemed: Guide and strengthen us by you Spirit, poured out on your Apostles at this hour, that we too may give ourselves to your service, and live this day in love to one another and to you, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
At 12 Noon (Sext) In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. We adore you, Lord Jesus, in your cross and passion, through which you have brought life and joy into the world. O Christ our God, who at this hour didst stretch Thy loving arms on the Cross that all men might be gathered unto Thee, help us and save us who cry unto Thee:
Glory to Thee, O Lord!
At 3:00 p.m. (None) In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, at this hour on the cross you commended your spirit into the hands of the Father. Grant, we pray, that at the hour of our passing from this world we too may commend ourselves to the Father, and be received into the Paradise of your everlasting kingdom, where, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, you live and reign, one God, now and forever, Amen.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

a first time for many things

We plan to travel, all six of us! leaving on Friday 7/25 and returning Friday 8/1 for a brand new destination for the Becker bunch: Hilton Head, South Carolina. We will also be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary on 7/30. More when we get back to town, and all the other technical accessories that we might be able to live without for a week:)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

apostle to the apostles, St. Mary Magdalene

Mark 16:9
Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.

John 20:1, 20:15-18
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.
Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' " Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"—and that he had said these things to her.

Apostle to the apostles! How much we have in common with Mary from Magdala.

We too have had the evil spirit cast out of us in Holy Baptism. We too have been transferred from the kingdom of Satan (darkness) into the kingdom of His beloved Son (light).
We too would weep for a world without Jesus. We too need to be asked, “why are you weeping?”
We too have been sent to tell what we have seen and heard.

Mark 16:15 And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”

Monday, July 21, 2008

40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae

The 40th anniversary of the encyclical Humanae Vitae is upon us. May I encourage you to read these brief, prophetic excerpts, if not the entire document if time allows. Given at St. Peter's, Rome, on the 25th day of July, the feast of St. James the Apostle, in the year 1968, the sixth of our pontificate (Pope Paul VI).
“The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. It has always been a source of great joy to them, even though it sometimes entails many difficulties and hardships.
... Married love particularly reveals its true nature and nobility when we realize that it takes its origin from God, who "is love," the Father "from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named."
Marriage, then, is far from being the effect of chance or the result of the blind evolution of natural forces. It is in reality the wise and provident institution of God the Creator, whose purpose was to effect in man His loving design. As a consequence, husband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves, which is specific and exclusive to them alone, develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives.
The marriage of those who have been baptized is, in addition, invested with the dignity of a sacramental sign of grace, for it represents the union of Christ and His Church.
"Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the procreation and education of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute in the highest degree to their parents' welfare."
Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.”

Saturday, July 19, 2008

moral authority

As I try to finish up "Visioneering" by Andy Stanley for our monthly study group next Wednesday, I was struck by the story of Mother Teresa's speech at a Washington D.C. national prayer breakfast on February 3, 1994. Among other things, she said "the greatest destroyer peace is abortion, because Jesus said, 'If you receive a little child, you receive me.' So every abortion is a denial of receiving Jesus, the neglect of receiving Jesus...Abortion is really a war against the child, and I hate the killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that the mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?...Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love one another but to use any violence to get what they want. That is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion." (President and Mrs. William Clinton and Vice-President and Mrs. Al Gore did NOT join the lengthy applause.)
Fourteen years have passed since this truthful, prophetic word was spoken to thousands of our nation's powerful leaders and not much has changed regarding the protection of life from the moment of conception to natural death. If you don't see the connection between how we are treating God's gift of life and the judgments currently falling on America, I pray God to open your eyes before it is too late for this sweet land of liberty.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

jumping to conclusions

Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. (I Samuel 1:13) So much for spiritual discernment from those entrusted with positions of leadership in the church. Simply being in a spiritual office does not grant spiritual insight -- look at Eli's two boys, Hophni and Phineas who "were good-for-nothing priests; they had no faith in the LORD...the sin of Eli's sons was a serious matter to the LORD, because these men were treating the offerings made to the LORD with contempt" ( I Samuel 2:12,17 God's Word).
Reminds me of the Day of Pentecost when "others mocking said, they are full of new wine" (Acts 2:13). Then I recall the Anima Christi prayer with its famous line, Sanguis Christ, inebria me (Blood of Christ, inebriate me). The body and blood of Christ do give the gift of sober inebriation, of prayer in the Holy Spirit (Jude 20) so that with all of our thoughts, words and actions as we are going , we might be "speaking the wonderful works of God" (Acts 2:11).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

laws of nature and nature's God

This from the July/August 2008 issue of "Family Foundations" by Dr. Stephen J. Genuis: Although the importance of enduring marriage is increasingly evident, the question remains as to why cohabitation does not prepare for marriage. Essentially, successful marriage is just as much about commitment and willingness to self-sacrifice as compatibility issues. Not to diminish the importance of mutual communication, healthy attraction as well as shared beliefs, values and goals, a fundamental ingredient for successful marriage is commitment and intention to persevere. While marriage is a wonderful blessing, couples cannot anticipate the various challenges and circumstances that arise. Perserverance and commitment, not intuition and emotion are the glue that binds through difficulty and strife. Those willing to engage in a cohabitation experiment are, by definition, willing to engage in a relationship that does not require permanence or commitment. Perhaps the most important ingredient of marital stability - commitment - is a virtue based on character and loyalty, not on emotions or feelings...As a physician who observes the outcomes of life choices on a daily basis, I am continually astonished at how many life changing courses of action are decided by feelings, intuition and transient emotion, without studying the realities of facts or consequences. Marriage is a profound covenant with supreme implications for individuals, offspring, and social stability; decisions about marriage or cohabitation should not be taken lightly...Strong marriages depend on couples maintaining values of respect, self-sacrifice, commitment and perseverance, not succumbing to contemporary fads of playing house. Commitment is the virtue that transforms vows into reality. If we wish to benefit society and diminish the anguish associated with fractured homes, enhanced marital marital stability can be secured by training in virtue, not trials of living together.
Amen! and thank you, Dr. Genuis for truth spoken in love. As Mary and I approach our 25th wedding anniversary next week (7/30/83) I would only add that virtues such as commitment, self-sacrifice and perserverance are made possible by the grace of God and seeing holy marriage as an icon of the relationship between Jesus and the Church (Ephesians 5:32), the ultimate commitment of all history. When I begin to see myself (within the context of marriage) as an icon of Jesus Christ who is called to love Mary as much as Jesus loves the Church, even to the point of dying for her, I can see also more clearly my daily need to turn to God and change the way I think and act (a good translation of "repent!"); and when Mary sees herself as an icon (within the context of marriage) of the Church that is deeply moved to love and serve Jesus because of the way He has first loved us, her love for me will likewise be an ever-increasing blessing in more ways than we could have imagined. Just as Jesus could never break His commitment to the Church and the Church cannot cease confessing her Lord, so a Christian husband and wife cannot separate what God has joined together.
Revelation is required to see marriage in this light, and to recognize as a LIE the common belief that living together is good preparation for marriage, that no one is hurt by sexual activity outside of holy marriage, etc.
A website worth investigating from that same issue:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Christus vincit

One of my favorite images of Jesus' resurrection victory comes in this verse from today's first reading: "But Samson lay till midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two posts, and pulled them up, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron" (Judges 16:3).
1) the residents of the city assumed they were safe since the gates were securely locked -- likewise Satan, death and Hades were lulled into a false sense of security that was eternally disrupted by Jesus' resurrection;
2) Samson carried the gates an unbelievable distance of approximately 30 miles -- the simple point being that NO WAY could those gates be reinstalled. Christ Jesus defeated our enemies and left their "city" desolate.
What confidence and joy God has given us in the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus, the greater Samson who has plundered our enemies FOR US. He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Monday, July 14, 2008

preseciption passed

third concern: need for diversity in worship. The Pastor will establish a worship task force by September 15th that includes at least two members from the present worship committee, one elder and two members at large. The Pastor and task force will present a recommendation to the congregation that will provide opportunities for both traditional and praise styles of worship, which maintain the core elements of Lutheran worship by January 15, 2009. The voters will approve the recommendation and the services will be evaluated at the end of six months. Until this recommendation is implemented the congregation will continue to offer the "new song" service at least once per month.

fourth concern: lack of communication. By August 15th, the Executive Director will appoint a Communications Task Force including the Pastor, the paid secretary and three members at large. As a part of their work, they will contact three congregations having successful communications programs. By September 15th, the Task Force will make recommendations regarding the use of eletronic, written and oral communications to the lay leaders. The lay leaders will approve the process and all members will be notified of the communications process by October 1, 2008.

fifth concern: structure. The pastor and leaders will lead the congregation in suspending those particular bylaws that describe how the congregation functions in its boards. These bylaws by vote of the congregation will be put into abeyance for two years. At the end of the two years the congregation will vote either to return to the current bylaws or adopt new ones that are written to reflect how ministry is being done at that time. The vote to suspend the bylaws will be held by November 1, 2008.
Once the bylaws are suspended, the congregation will adopt an accountable leader model of governance. In this new model there will be a Board of Directors of five people; fdour members elected by the voters and the pastor. These five will represent an outward focused mission and the new vision when it is adopted. Their role will be to goven the church. The pastor's role will be to lead the church. The role of staff members will be to manage the church. The role of the members will be tdo conduct the ministry of the church. The accountable leader model including goals for the pastor and staff will go into effect November 2, 2008.
The pastor will engage a coach by August 1, 2008 who will be able to help him learn what is needed to lead the congregation to its next level of effectiveness.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

$.02 worth

Could there be a greater waste of money and time than we see in this current presidential campaign? When the approval rating of Congress has fallen into single digits, can’t we find a different, perhaps better pool from which to draw our candidates? Apparently not -- go figure.
So, in the face of this unrelenting pain, here’s my $.02 worth of suggestions to save us from four more months of insults to our intelligence and sensibilities.
1. The candidates for president will refuse to spend another dime on television or radio ads, and limit their pronouncements to the internet or public debates. Supporters will create and post signs in their own communities directing us to the website(s) in question. This will both prevent damage to the environment from unnecessary travel and save time and money for productive purposes.
2. The candidates for president will hold a formal competition on the best way to spend untold millions of dollars in their campaign pockets for the common good, for example: a) empower small business starts in economically hurting areas, b) reward scientists and entrepeneurs who bring to the market affordable fuel and clean energy alternatives, c) provide scholarships for disadvantaged students who have excelled and desire to pursue higher education in areas where America needs to regain her competitive edge. Newspapers and magazines will cover these news-worthy events.
These two simple suggestions would transform and possibly redeem the experience of American politics. They offer real change right now. Hoping for leaders who believe “That government is best which governs least”,
The second concern: Lack of Clear Vision.
The pastor will engage the Mid-South District to come and lead a Day of Envisioning for the Congregation. Prior to the Envisioning Day the pastor and executive director will convene two community awareness events and arrange for two prayer walks. Following the Envisioning Day the pastor in cooperation with the congregation's leaders will develop a vision for the congregation. The main vision statement needs to be articulated and adopted by December 15, 2008.
The pastor and leaders of the congregation need to conduct a Mission Audit of all ministries of the congregation. The purpose of the audit is to determine that each ministry in the congregation is consistent with the newly developed vision. Ministries that do not fit with the vision must be changed and brought into alignment, or be discontinued. This Mission Audit of all ministries needs to be completed by July 15, 2009.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

About six weeks ago, our District President, Pr. Ken Lampe with able assistance from Pr. Jim Kirk held a consultation with our congregation as part of a revitalization effort. For the sake of better understanding what this might look like and mean for our "little flock", I thought it good to put the ideas up for all to see and comment on. The visiting "team" identified five areas of "strength", five areas of "concern" and five "prescriptions" to address each concern.
This coming Sunday, July 13, we will have the opportunity to vote their recommendations up or down. Each prescription addresses an area of concern.
The first concern, "Inward focus".
The prescription: The pastor and leaders will call Concordia to a Day of Prayer and Repentance. THe purpose of this Day of Prayer is twofold: First, the congregation needs to confess its failure to fulfill the Great Commission with regularity and for being apathetic in living it out consistently. Second, the congregation needs to pray for God to move in the hearts of the leaders to produce a vision of a changed community, where hundreds are encountering the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. This Day of Prayer needs to occur by September 1, 2008 and the members need to continue to pray for its leaders as a clear vision is being developed.
At the direction of the Pastor and leaders, the congregation will conduct at least three "net fishing" events in their community and begin at least two interest groups in support of the vision adopted by the congregation. As many members of the congregation as possible should be enlisted to participate in the net-fishing events. The first of these events shall occur by December 1, 2008 and the remaining two by July 1, 2009. The interest groups need to be formed by January 1, 2009.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

issues, etc returns

LUTHERAN TALK RADIO. You can listen to Issues, Etc. on-demand at www.issuesetc.org. Issues, Etc. is hosted by LCMS Pastor Todd Wilken and produced by Lutheran Public Radio. This week's topics include: Islam, The Gospel, Religion & the 2008 Election, Evangelical Style, Lutheran Substance, the Purpose Driven Movement and more. Listen to what you want when you want at www.issuesetc.org!

This morning I was considering St. Paul's exhortation not to be pressed into (conformed to) the mold of this present world but rather be transformed by the ongoing renewal of our minds, I asked myself, what does this mold look like? If I can recognize it, my chances of choosing to avoid it increase exponentially. Two things came to mind: a) the curse of this present age is overstimulation, and b) the individualization of all values. The former makes it exceedingly difficult if not impossible to "be still and know that I am God" and manifests in the general neglect, misunderstanding and rejection of contemplation and meditation as fundamental Christian experience. The latter pushes in the direction of judging all things on the basis of what "I want" or what "I feel" (YUCKKKK!!!). If , therefore, I "don't want" or "don't feel" I most likely will vote with my feet and my pocketbook regardless of what I might be missing if only I could perceive a greater good, a communion of saints, the very body of Christ that transcends my personal pettiness and gives me a place in the Kingdom of God that really matters, that has eternal significance, because it is so much bigger than myself.
Come, Holy Spirit, mold-breaker, and fill our hearts with your love!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Two recommendations

Issues etc. is back! It began again June 30. It can be found at http://www.issuesetc.org/
Live internet radio from 4:00 - 6:00 p.m. ET

Here is a great site that plays sacred music - http://www.choraltreasure.org/

Thursday, July 3, 2008

read the declaration

"Can the liberties of a nation be sure when we remove their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people, that these liberties are a gift from God? Thomas Jefferson

May I encourage you to read the Declaration of Independence and ask: What is the Foundation of Freedom?

America’s Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4th 1776, has been called the true Preamble to the Constitution. Notice the following passage, especially the highlighted phrases:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...
We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and that, as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

led by the Spirit

Sometimes we are given the grace to see things in Scripture that we haven't seen before. I trust this will continue until the Last Day when we will see face to face.
"Let seven priests holding seven holy trumpets likewise pass before the Lord, and let them signal vigorously; and let the ark of the covenant of the Lord follow after them. Let the men of war go in front, and let the priests be the rear guard behind the ark of the covenant of the Lord as they proceed, and sound the trumpets" (Joshua 6:7-8). As the story unfolds, the entire people followed in procession around the walls of Jericho once a day for six days, and on the seventh day they went around the city seven times after which "the priests sounded the trumpets, and when the people heard the sound of the trumpets, all the poeple shouted together with a great and mighty shout. Then the entire wall fell round about, and all the people went into the city" (Joshua 6:19).
What I saw more clearly: the blessing of following the Holy Spirit (always connected to the Word and Sacraments), represented by the number seven (cf. Revelation 1:4) as we go through this life enlisted in the "church militant". Being led by the Spirit results in God's good and gracious will being done among us also, in God's perfect time and in His supernatural way -- always beyond anything we coud have imagined.
Let's join in prayer this day: "Almighty God, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, come to my help and deliver me from this difficulty that besets me. I believe Lord, that all trials of life are under Your care and that all things work for the good of those who love You. Take away from me fear, anxiety and distress. Help me to face and endure my difficulty with faith, courage and wisdom. Grant that this trial may bring me closer to You for You are my rock and refuge, my comfort and hope, my delight and joy. I trust in Your love and compassion. Blessed is Your name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

summer reading

The Catalog of Testimonies (an appendix to the 1580 Book of Concord) deserves to be better read and studied by evangelical-catholics, if for no other reason, than to marvel at how familiar 16th century theologians were with the early Church Fathers. Why did they create the Catalog? "Therefore they are printed in goodly number as an appendix at the end of this book, in regard to particular points, for the purpose of furnishing a correct and thorough account to the Christan reader, whereby he may perceive and readily discover that in the aforesaid book nothing new has been introduced either in rebus (matter) or in phrasibus (expressions), that is, neither as regards the doctrine nor the manner of teaching it, but that we have taught and spoken concerning this mystery just as, first of all, the Holy Scriptures and afterwards the ancient pure Church have done."
Just one small example, quoting the Council of Chalcedon:
"Following, then, the holy fathers, we confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and we all set forth with one voice that the same is perfect in deity and the same perfect in humanity; that the same is truly God and truly man, consisting of a rational soul and a body; that He is consubstantial with the Father as regards the deity, and that the same is consubstantial with us according to the humanity; that He is in all respects like us, excepting sin; that He was begotten before the world out of the Father according to the deity, but that the same person was in the last days born for us and for our salvation of Mary, the virgin and mother of God, according to the humanity."

Monday, June 30, 2008


Grace and peace be mulitplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust
(2 Peter 1:2-4).

Greetings to all readers of this modest blog in the name of Jesus. Let me attempt to explain the name I've chosen. The passage from 2 Peter expresses for me the heart of the Mystery that holds all things together, that self-giving love -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- who freely gives us all things and in so doing invites us to be partakers of the divine nature
(divinae consortes naturae).
In brief, I think this passage from 2 Peter deserves much more attention, mediation, contemplation, prayer and study than has generally been seen, at least as far as I can see, which isn't always very far (!). You will get to know me better through posts in the coming days, d.v. I'll close with this quote from St. John Vianney (patron saint of parish pastors!)
"To be loved by God, the be united with God, to live in the presence of God, to live for God. Oh! What a beautiful life and what a beautiful death!"