Thursday, December 5, 2013

The First Advent: The First Shepherd

The first shepherd comes and angels announce his arrival.  The skies are full of singing and proclamations of good news for all people.  The skies light up, and people come from all around to see this shepherd lying in a manger.  Other, older shepherds arrive to see the first shepherd.

Older shepherds come to see the first shepherd?  How can that be?  I mean, after all there are shepherds all over the bible.  They are in the Old Testament and the New Testament.  King David was a shepherd before he was king.  Jacob, Abraham, Amos were all shepherds.  How can older shepherds worship the first shepherd?

Israel (Jacob) blessed his long, lost son Joseph with these words and shows us who is the First Shepherd:

And he blessed Joseph and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys;
    and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac;
    and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”

Jesus is our eternal shepherd. He is the I AM.  This is the season the world celebrates the First Shepherd’s arrival to earth.  This is when He incarnated to save sinners from their bondage.  This loving Shepherd came as an infant to redeem you and I and free us from our sin, from the sin of all mankind. 

This is our loving Shepherd shepherding a crowd:

When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.

Here is what He tells us of himself:

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

You can read the account of the First Shepherd’s birth in Luke 2 during this Advent Season.

Happy Advent!

Here is a link to another The Second Advent.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Christmas Shoes

You know who I'm talkin' about.  It's the people that get new Sunday duds twice a year.  That's right, the people that attend church at Christmas and Easter.  They show up as part of their family tradition, so church continues to make memories.  It makes them feel good about God twice during the year.  And they take our favorite pew to rub salt into the wound!

I have an inkling why they only attend twice a year.  It's the two times a year they are guaranteed to hear about why Jesus came to the earth.  So often our churches are full of sermons that could have been plucked off the self-help shelf at our local bookstore. How to Have a Happy Marriage; Five Ways to Bring Up Your Children; Twenty Best Kept Secrets to Be a Cheerful Giver.  All things that are supposed to improve your life or make you happier.  Funny thing is, they don't work.

At Christmas services, we are guaranteed that we will hear about Jesus.  There will be the familiar passage in Luke's Gospel of Jesus' birth.  It is read far and wide, in every Christian pulpit.  Those people will see Jesus' love for them as He incarnates and creation celebrates His arrival.  They will see God's sovereignty displayed in a baby lying in a manger, a feedstall, who had a scandalous virgin birth.  
Can you hear the whispers of Mary's neighbors?  "She's pregnant.  She's no virgin! Shameful!"  

They will also hear that Jesus is their Savior, sent from our Heavenly Father, and how he receives worship from all of creation.  The angels celebrate, the shepherds, the magi, even the animals.  They will see how great the Father's love is that he has lavished on us.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,  which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight  making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ ~ Ephesians 1:7-9
They won't know these things unless somebody tells them.  Welcome them into your churches.  It is a wonderful thing they have arrived!  They have come and will hear about salvation!

And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” ~Romans 10:15

Put on your best Christmas shoes and join the celebration!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Living Picture

Every Sunday the scene is the same.  It is like clockwork.  This white-haired, humble couple walks up the center aisle and sits on the left hand pew.  It is always the same pew, the second one.  It is always the same spot, near the edge.  He leads her to their place, then takes her walker and places it where she can easily grasp it later.

Some Sundays she can stand up with the congregation, and other Sundays she cannot. He is always at her side, like a mirror.  Standing or remaining seated.  Holding hands. Encouraging. Never embarrassed by his bride.

Several Sundays, Pastor and the elders have had to come to them as they did not go forward for communion.  They could not.  She could barely lift her head.  He remained faithful by her side.  We all waited as they received from Jesus what we had already received, His Body and Blood.

Last Sunday, they were sitting in their pew, their place.  He placed her walker, as has become their custom, in an attainable place.  The time for communion came, and he helped her to her walker.  Together they approached the Lord's Table, together they received communion.  He helped her back to their pew, their place.  I watched with tears welling in my eyes.

What a beautiful picture of Jesus and His Bride is this couple.  They do not know how many people watch his tenderness to her, and see how she is so dependent upon him.  We, too, are dependent on our Savior, our true husband, for everything.

Thank you, Jesus, for this living picture of you.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Life Strains and Strangeness

Suffering is something common to every human being.  We all know it very well.  Rather than facing it we will try to make it go away in many fashions.  Busy-ness, mind altering drugs or alcohol, working too many hours, avoiding thinking about what pains us can be a costly ordeal.  Not just in finances, either.

In Christian circles, it is often not okay to suffer.  We don't want to hear of others' pain, and we don't want to reveal ours for fear of looking weak and needing help.  When I am too honest, I have experienced people shutting me out of groups, or just trying to shut me up by talking on top of me or giving me some kind of Christian cliche.  

Suffering comes to each of us in different ways.  It can become our undoing, as well as the beginning of new freedom.  Yes, freedom.  Suffering allows us to let go of all things and cling to Christ.  That is true freedom.

“God is not interested in what you think you should be or feel. He is not interested in the narrative you construct for yourself, or that others construct for you. Rather, He is interested in you, the you who suffers, the you who inflicts suffering on others, the you who hides, the you who has bad days (and good ones). And He meets you where you are.”    from "Glorious Ruin:  How Suffering Sets Us Free", Tullian Tchividjian

The Fear that Drives Franticness

Recently I was listening to a podcast by Dr. Robert Newton, Faith For Today, specifically "Scattered Like Seed."   He was discussing his first missionary experience in the Philippines.  It is very apropos for most of us today.

Dr. Newton had to find the sin that is common among the people he wanted to reach.  Today, I think our western culture suffers from a common sin.  You see it in the frantic pace we live.  We are told in commercials that we are never good enough, we fall short of the "American Dream" of having it all.  We see it in our church cultures:  "Our church isn't growing, lets do something!"  And we become program driven.

I see many families who forgo church attendance, thinking they are doing their children a favor by enrolling them in sports activities that compete for their Sunday mornings.  I see churches trying all kinds of different programs and activities, that can become overwhelming and very taxing on the servants in the church.

The fear that drives our frenetic pace in life is not believing our Heavenly Father will give us what we need, so we take things into our own hands.  Believe His promise to us.  He will provide.  

We are forgiven for our sin of not trusting our Father.  Rest in that and find peace.

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.

Monday, October 7, 2013


A friend of mine, whose theology is not the same as mine, asked me about Acts 10:44-47.  He was pointing out that these people had the Holy Spirit before they were baptized, so he didn't believe baptism is a means of grace.  Here are the verses:

While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.  And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.  For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared,  “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 

I went to look up the passage and noted that verse 48 was very important to understanding what happened here.

And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

I pointed out that the Holy Spirit FELL on them, it does not say the Holy Spirit indwelt them.  Then in verse 48 Peter says to baptize those people.   I did not change my mind that baptism in the name of God forgives sin and brings new life. I don't think he changed his mind either ... yet.

Monday, September 2, 2013

To Suffer the Kindness of Friends

Jumping jacks.   Suffering kindness of friends feels like jumping jacks.  From fetal position to standing upright, repeat and repeat.  Rejection feels insurmountable and unbearable.  It brings back horrible memories of Junior High School, when one of your friends tells you, "I don't want to hang around you anymore because you are boring."  At least she had the balls to tell me why she was rejecting me; others just disappear into thin air. Why am I treated thusly?  What have I done?  No words of explanation come.  Then I retreat back to the emotional fetal position.

Today  my True Friend told me the truth:

And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys.  He had also seven sons and three daughters.  And he called the name of the first daughter Jemimah, and the name of the second Keziah, and the name of the third Keren-happuch. And in all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job's daughters. And their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers.  And after this Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons, and his sons' sons, four generations. And Job died, an old man, and full of days.

Job's daughters are named, and are included in an inheritance.  My True Friend calls me by my name, has given me a wonderful inheritance, and He calls me beautiful.

I wept and worshipped.  Praise Him!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Mulberry Bushes and Weasels

Recently, I have been listening to brothers and sisters in Christ struggling with what exactly is the gospel, the good news, that we have the joy of telling others. I hear "Repent and believe" is the gospel.  But is it really?

"Repent and believe."
"Believe what?"
"Believe the gospel."
"What is the gospel?"
"Repent and believe."
"Believe what?"
"Believe the gospel."
"What gospel?"
"Repent and believe."

over and over and over....

The trench going around the mulberry bush gets deeper and deeper as it goes round and round and never arriving at a destination.  Let me be the weasel and pop you out of that trench.  The gospel is the good news that your sins are forgiven for the sake of Christ Jesus!  Get out of the ditch, and proclaim good news to those who are broken and burdened.  The gospel is not "Repent and believe,"  it is "Your sins are forgiven because of Jesus!"  Go, and create faith in your neighbor and free them from bondage by proclaiming what Jesus has done.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Happy Binkying Bunnies, Batman!

We have two house rabbits, Mimzy and Mikante. They are such interesting little critters.  I had this stereotype of rabbits being gentle, quiet wee beasties.  They think they are big and strong!  With their tiny mouths they can get a good piece of skin if you dare to enter their territory uninvited!  Our two bunnies like each other, they lick each other and snuggle one another ..... through their cage walls.  When they are out together, the fur flies, and fights ensue along with my rising blood pressure as we try to separate them.  They are very territorial!

Last night we were changing their cages, which is a rather time consuming ordeal.  They had made such a mess of things.  Hay was strewn all about, bottom of their cages were just messy!  When they get in their clean pens, they binky.  A binky is a sign of great happiness.  The running bunny jumps with a mid-air twist! It is quite an acrobatic feat. A bunny that binkies is a happy bunny!  Upon Mimzy and Mikante returning to their pens, the binkies ensued!  We had two happy, binkying bunnies at home.

While we were changing and making everything new and fresh, it reminded me of Jesus.  Yes, even chores like that make me think of Jesus.  Our Savior makes us clean.  We are given His righteousness in exchange for our messy sin.  He washes us clean in baptism, not just a removal of dirt, but a deeper washing; a washing away of sin.  Now, that is good news!  For the sake of Christ Jesus, your sins are forgiven!

Binky away!
Mimzysaurus Rex in clean cage

Mikante greeting me

Sunday, July 7, 2013

You Son or Daughter of So-and-So

I'm a few days behind in my bible reading plan, so this morning I was able to catch up.  1 Chronicles was my beginning book.  I groaned, thinking of reading all those names.  Son of so-and-so, son of so-and-so, over  and over for chapter upon chapter.   There are little nuggets that stand out among the lists of names, such as the musicians who served in the temple, or the warriors who fought many battles.

It dawned on me that each of us is a son or daughter of so-and-so.  Geneologies were important to show who you belonged to and who will belong to you.  Past and future connections.  For Israel, it was a tie to the promised coming Messiah.  For you and I, while we may not know our geneology, we are connected to people from the past and in the future through our faith in Christ Jesus.

While reading I saw how important family connections are to our Heavenly Father.  So important, they are named in Scripture.  He also names us in our baptism, places the name of the triune God upon us; adopts us into His family; clothes us with His robe of righteousness;  runs out to greet us when we stray, eager to forgive us; desires us to be reconciled to Him.  All of this from the "boring geneologies in 1 Chronicles".

As our own small family experiences growing pains today, I know we are still family no matter the distance between us.  We are close, even though separated by miles.  On the other side of the bittersweetness of today, will be new growth for all three of us.  God is so good to give us families.  In our families we can find an example of the love our Heavenly Father has for us, although these earthly families have faults.   Today, our family can feel the pain of separation that our Heavenly Father felt with His son, Jesus Christ.  We can also see the healing and joy on the other side of that separation!

Thanks be to God for making me a daughter of so-and-so!  Thank you Heavenly Father, for my husband and daughter!  Thank you Heavenly Father for my parents, and my brother and his family!  You have blessed me indeed.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fireworks Firecrackers Freedom and the Fourth

It's loud, explosive and exciting!  That's the 4th of July celebrations in the USA.  It's full of excitement, bright colors and loud sounds. Most of the celebrants begin prior to July 4th.  So the loudness starts days ahead of the actual celebrations.  What does your pet do with the sounds of July 4th?  Ours finds places to hide, she shakes, and she pants.  Her stress is very visible and we're unable to quell that stress.

There are a lot of people like our dog.  Fearful of the goodness of God, they attempt to keep him under control.  God's mercy is feared and people hide from it.  They are afraid of what they think is on the other side of that mercy and grace:  lawlessness.  How do I know this?  Because that was me.  I was afraid that with Christian freedom for which Christ died, I would have sin running my life without restraint!  "If God forgives all in Jesus, where is the restraint?"  So, for a time I cowered under the law and felt safe.

I could no longer fight God's mercy and forgiveness.  Scripture had become clear and the Holy Spirit showed me the truth.  I was afraid of what I was reading.  It went beyond my safe, little, soteriological system.  Limited atonement had fallen to the wayside.  The love of God came crashing in without restraint.  Sacraments were no longer symbols, but full blown reality.  The gospel was free and clear, no longer chained to a flower.  God is not controllable no matter how hard we try.  And that is a blessing!

Are you hiding from God behind a systematic shield?  Let the Holy Spirit show you our Father's mercy and love poured out for your sake, on a cross, there with Jesus.  Then real freedom can ring!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Run Away!

There's a famous scene from Monty Python's Holy Grail where the knights encounter a killer rabbit.  The end of the scene is the famous line, "Run away!  Run away!"  I think about this line often when I am talking to fellow Christians.

Like Moses, we want to run away from the task God gives us to do.... preach good news and make disciples.  We come up with all kinds of excuses to not partake of the joy found in setting others free.  I am saying "we" because I include myself.  "That's the evangelism committee's job."  "I'm not an evangelist, I don't have that gift."  "I tried it once and I was very uncomfortable."   "I have other things to tend to."  Freedom, and the reaction others have to it,  is intimidating.  Freedom as a believer is still scary.

Many people react poorly to the news that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake.  "Who me?  I'm not a sinner you dirty so-and-so Christian," said through gritted teeth.  But joy comes when one who receives the the good news of Jesus' forgiveness and has then found freedom and pardon!  Truly, who would not want to participate in that gift?  To see another sinner set free is joy.

Jesus told the demon possessed man to return to the people who chained him and ostracized him.  His assignment:  to set them free too (Luke 8:26-39).  Who are you to go to to set free with the good news of Jesus Christ's forgiveness?  Experience that joy!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Diapers and Decrees

Calvinists like to bring up the sovereignty of God and view everything through that lens.  Some even to the point of God decreeing what color car they will drive to decreeing their own sin. God decreeing sin sounds to me an awful lot like Adam upon being caught after eating from the tree of knowledge  of good and evil, "It's that woman YOU GAVE ME LORD."  Adam tried to pin his own sin on to God.  If God is responsible for our sin, then why would we need a strong savior?  We are responsible for our sin.  No amount of excusing and accusing will take that away, no amount of syllogisms can remove that fact.  Stop denying your sin by hiding behind God sovereignly decreeing your sin.

Was Jesus sovereign when he was dependent upon Mary and Joseph to meet his daily needs, including changing soiled diapers? When Jesus was on the cross being poked with spears, having vinegar presented to him to drink, being mocked by Roman soldiers, was He still sovereign?  As He died in pain and anguish, suffering, was He sovereign?  Or are you like those around him at that time that thought He should have saved Himself?

Often I will hear that it was only Jesus' body on the cross.  People say such things because they are offended that a sovereign God would allow Himself to be treated in such a manner.  Suddenly, the Nestorian error pops up in order to protect God's sovereignty.  "God can't die",  "It was only Jesus' humanity on the cross".  Have you heard those notions?  They are mortal men's notions, you know.  The Psalms are full of praising the God of our Salvation.  Of course, God died for you.

The whole of Jesus died upon the cross for the whole of you, He was sovereignly victorying for you.  What looks foolish and weak to the world, was our dear Savior's mighty act of power.  Behold your God.  Praise Him.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Boldly Going Where Angels Fear to Tread

Have you ever stood before a judge in a courtroom?  It is full of ceremony and stiffness.  "All rise!" says the bailiff as the judge enters the room.  "You may be seated!" the bailiff pronounces after the judge takes his seat.  "First case on the docket today is People of the State of California vs. James Smith."  Then the lawyers announce their presence, and off they go into formal presentation.

That used to be how I felt coming before our heavenly Father.  It was a fearsome thing to pray to God, the judge of all creation.  Groveling was the approach of the day, attempting to be humble, averting my eyes lest He see me in my ugly sinfulness.  "Lord, if it be your will .... "

God is still the judge of all creation, but I am His adopted daughter.  He is a loving Father and never gives me rocks or stones when I am hungry for bread.  I can bring all my emotions to Him and not be afraid of His answer.  Ugly emotions, scary emotions, ugly thoughts and scary thoughts.  He listens then shows me in His word that I am forgiven because of His grace, expressed in Jesus Christ, my savior.

Praise Him!

 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  ~Hebrews 4, ESV

Monday, April 29, 2013

These Words Seemed to them an Idle Tale

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words,  and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.  Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles,  but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.  ~ Luke 24, ESV

Discouraged was the word that described my feelings.  There were words and ideas being thrown around that exposed their devaluation of women.  We are all such sinful beings who need a holy savior.  There are times when our friends become our enemies, and they may not even realize it.

Among believers there are at least two ditches that we can fall into:  Some believers will extend the admonition for women to be orderly in church, and ask their husbands questions at home, to all areas of life.  By doing so, they silence half the Christian world, making them irrelevant and causing division.  Why would I, a woman, stick around to be dismissed?

The second ditch women endure is to be disrespected by bawdy views and voices.  With this view they think our mouths are shut because we have become objects.  So we are also viewed in this ditch as being idle tale bearers, good only for the selfish purposes of another person.

Am I offended?  Yes.  Are these men and women forgiven in Christ Jesus?  Yes.  Do I wish they would see women differently?  Yes. Will I forgive and repent over my being offended?  With Jesus' help, yes.

Thankfully,  Jesus sees women wholly.

"These Words Seemed to them an Idle Tale" is what scripture tells us about the apostles when Mary, Joanna, and another Mary report the news that Jesus is risen.  I took great delight in reading that in Luke 24 today.  We live under the curse of the fall, and the tower of babel.  The fall brought in sin, and placed a wedge between women and men; and the tower of babel put communication breakdown among all of us.

Here is why I took great delight in those words ... these words seemed to them an idle tale ... it is a misperception, a miscommunication, a result of the fall.  Those women took the news to others.  The others dismissed the good news that Mary, Mary and Joanna brought, and struggled with Jesus' death and resurrection for a longer time.  The women already faithed!  Jesus gave the lowly-valued "idle tale bearers" the gift of faith first because He loves us.

The good news is that Jesus sees men wholly, too.  And my ranting does not diminish His love and forgiveness for you.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Nobody Listens to Me, and other lies

"Why don't they listen to me?  I have some things they could hear.  They listen to other people."  And here begins the party of pity.  Particularly when discussing theological ideas we want others to believe the same way we do, come hell or high water.  Oftentimes, both hell and high water arrive on the scene of the conversation.  "Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I guess I'll go eat some worms" says the schoolyard rhyme.  We've all been in that schoolyard.

We cannot force people to believe or hear us.  That is the job of the Holy Spirit.  We need to repent of the jealousy that comes along with our words being rejected while they listen to our friends.  We become jealous of our friends who have gained an audience.  May the Holy Spirit bless THAT conversation.

Our children appear to us as if they left the faith.  We have done all that we can as parents, and even what we have done is not perfect.  We are sinners teaching other sinners.  Pray for your child that they can hear the words of another prophet that brings them Good News of Jesus' forgiveness.  May the Holy Spirit bless THAT conversation.

The job given to us is to bring Jesus before the eyes and ears of others.  Leave the results with the Holy Spirit.  He points to Jesus perfectly, sometimes through us, sometimes through others, sometimes through Word and Sacrament.  Bring your family and friends before the throne of God.  He is good at recovering His sheep.

I am reminding myself of this as much as I am reminding you.  Here is the good news for you and me:  Jesus forgives you of your jealousies and frustrations.  He took that upon himself on the cross, so you can be free and joyful. He is faithful.  Praise Him!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Rainy Day in April

The day was unusual.  It is almost May and I had to use my windshield wipers, I was underdressed for the weather with my lightweight turquoise  jacket.  I arrived at work a couple of minutes late, but so did everyone else except our faithful janitor.  We were all huddled around the stairwell and desks talking about kids and young adults leaving churches, sometimes leaving faith altogether.

We left work around the lunch hour to attend an inter-denominational symposium regarding the topic of why kids are leaving churches.  Non-denominations, Nazarenes, Anglicans, Reformed, Calvary Chapel, and Roman Catholics were all present.  We shared lunch together and listened to presentations by four presenters.  

What we found out is that we have a lot in common.  The slow fade of young people is everywhere.  Somehow, we have failed our children.  Intergenerational relationships seemed to be the most talked about topic.  A need for generations to tell one another that we need each other, reconciliation, asking forgiveness of older generations for pushing them aside while the newest and greatest church scheme was implemented, was also discussed.

Were there feelings of hopelessness?  Believe it or not, no.  I walked away with much hope.  It is in our brokenness and weakness that Jesus shows up.  We all confessed that our churches are broken.  We all confessed weaknesses.  Jesus, help your church.  Christ, have mercy on us.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~2 Corinthians 12

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Persistent Witnessing

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.  He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man.  And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’  For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself,‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man,  yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’”  And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says.  And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?  I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”  Luke 18:1-8

While reading this I saw that it can also apply to giving others the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Others may not hear the gospel the first time around.  It may take them several times.  Do not give up.  Pray.  Give your hearers time.  Pray.  Have patience, but do not give up. Pray.  If an opportunity arises again, give them Jesus again.  

Wealth gained hastily will dwindle,
    but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.  Proverbs 13:11

Old Dead Theologians - Proven True

This last week has been an unfortunate eye opener for me.  I observed Lutherans beating up other Lutherans, all of them pastors, by the way, over on Facebook.  All of it stemming from the notorious "third use of the law".   Some afraid to be called a "pietist", others affirming our confessions.  And I have an idea both of these sides are speaking past each other.

In these discussions the name of a Lutheran author came up, who I have read several of his books.  I had been "warned" about this particular author, but without specifics.  Lo and behold, it turns out he denies that the scripture is without error.  It caused me much concern.  What have I believed that is error?  Am I gullible enough to believe everything a person writes?  I pray that I have chewed on the meat and spit out the bones.  Jesus can correct me.

In light of all of this, for the time being my reading list is culled down to:  Scripture and Book of Concord; a book on young adults; and a novel or two.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

In Thee is Gladness

Do you remember the 1970s?  Churches were full of people of all ages.  People still sang.  Some of us even sang parts.  We sang at school, we sang on the way home from school, we sang with the radio, I sang with my Dad, we sang in the car, and we sang at church.  Singing was a joyous thing.  I still sing to My Savior when I do chores.

Tonight I went to a worship service that was part of a pastors' conference. My mind briefly went back to my high school days with full churches, with people who sang.  Tonight was full of men with strong voices, not timid self conscious singers.  I could sing along, enjoy the company, and relish the taste of what awaits us in heaven.

The service was about as liturgical as a service could be.  There were parts of the service that I had never heard.  Chanting Psalm 130 brought me to tears.  Ending with a praise to the triune God.  I could not hold back my tears.  I did try to keep them to myself.  The Holy Spirit was ministering to me, bringing a balm of joy and peace.  Never have I wanted to raise my hands in worship of God more than during this service.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning,
is now and will be forever.  Amen.

Friday, March 29, 2013

String Communion

Have you heard people say that communion is only a remembrance?  I have heard that countless times.  For a long time, I believed it.  Then I was confronted with questions.  So I had to compare this notion of remembrance only to scripture, or read how others speak of the new covenant that Jesus brought to us.

When we see an image of a finger with a string tied around it, we know what it means.  It is a remembering device.  "Don't Forget!"  Once you have remembered your task, you take the string off your finger and go about your normal business. Much like an adulterer who takes the wedding ring off, to go about his or her forgetting of marriage vows.

 Is that what Jesus meant when He told us to "Do this in remembrance of me"?  In a culture where stories and words had preeminence, was it merely a visual so that we recall Him?   Is communion a blood soaked string attached to our finger?  Something that we can untie and discard once we are done remembering?  That string on your finger is not a part of you.  It is detachable.  You don't consume it; it remains under your control; it is separate.  You can keep that string away from you. It can be an arm's length away, you can toss it in the trashcan never to be seen again, leave it on the ball of string and forget about it, toss it in your toolbox.

The Lord's Supper is consumed.  It becomes part of you.  The body and blood of our Lord Jesus becomes a part of YOU in communion.  You are co-united with Jesus.  Jesus is present and He comes to you in a way you cannot discard, keep separate, remove, or leave untouched.  Is Communion a remembrance?  Yes!  Is Communion more than a remembrance?  Yes!  It is Christ's body and blood, a new testament, given for you!

Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took break, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to the disciples and said:  "Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you.  This do in remembrance of Me."

In the same way also He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying:  "Drink of it,, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.  This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me."

Friday, March 1, 2013

Opposites Don't Attract

There are two kinds of righteousness that are spoken of in the Bible.  Both of these forms of righteousness belong to God.  They are as far as east is from west, for us.

Righteousness that comes from the law is true and just.  We try to make that righteousness our own by controlling our behavior.  When we think we are successful at gaining this righteousness, we become prideful.    We neglect to notice that we have not controlled our sin.  Even Christians try to make themselves acceptable to God by being "good".  We can feed all the homeless in our town, we can give away all our money; but there are homeless in the county, and there is always more money needed somewhere (so, get back to work and earn more!). We try to do God a solid, so He will do us a solid.  We want God to be indebted to us.  Ridiculous, isn't it?  This form of righteousness that comes from the law of God belongs to God alone; we cannot earn it no matter how hard we try.

There is another form of righteousness that belongs to believers in Jesus.  It is pure gift and unmerited.  There is nothing we can do to earn this righteousness.  NO-THING.  How is this form of God's righteousness obtained?  By hearing someone proclaim to us the news.  That's right, it comes from the mouth of another person, who is giving you this news.  What news?  That your sins are forgiven because of Jesus and His work on the cross.  Your old is dead, drowned, baptized; your new is here, believing, trusting, free in Christ's righteousness.

These are the two words that are contained in scripture:  Law and Gospel.  They are keys to unlocking and freeing your own bible reading.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Go On.... Break Some Rules!

LCMS Pastor Jonathan Fisk has his first book out.  Some of you may be familiar with Pastor Fisk’s Youtube channel.  Worldview Everlasting has a young, hip approach that is fresh and informative.

His book is titled, Broken:  Broken: 7 "Christian" Rules That Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible.  It is available on Amazon in hard copy and Kindle version.  I finished reading his book over the Christmas holidays.  I enjoyed the visuals the book contains that help to flesh out the ideas.  This book was heartbreaking yet full of hope.  It will bring you into a fuller understanding of the culture we live in, the spirit of our age, and the answer we can provide those around us.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Peace For All People

For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.  For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;  and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.  ~ 2 Corinthians 5:13-15

Lutherans invite people to church once in 27 years.  Twenty-seven.  That is more than a QUARTER OF A CENTURY.  Are you shocked?  When I heard that I was shocked.

It is a lot of work to love those who are different from us.  It is a true gift of the Holy Spirit to be
able to listen to others and not take offense, for the sake of the Gospel. 

Our culture today thinks Christians have nothing to add to conversations in the public square.  We
know this is not true, because God speaks to them through us of salvation in Jesus, for where
there is forgiveness of sin there is also life and salvation.

In our Lutheran services, we confess our sins and receive absolution weekly.  We can be confident that God uses the gospel message for those who will receive the good news of forgiveness.  Break the mold and boldly invite a friend to church this year! 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Martin Luther King Day 2013

Today, I watched President Obama's inauguration.  I told myself I would spend part of this Martin Luther King Jr holiday to write to our president, and I did.  It is handwritten and will be put in the mail tomorrow.  Do I think Mr. Obama will ever lay eyes on my letter?  No.  Do I think it will change any of Mr. Obama's ideas?  Not likely.   I spoke out anyway.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Barak Obama's Inauguration

One of the first things President Barak Obama did after his first inauguration was to sign an executive order which reversed our stance on the Mexico City policy.  What is the Mexico City policy?  The Mexico City policy takes your tax money and gives it to organizations in poorer countries that will promote abortion.  The policy indirectly provides finances to perform abortions.  Mr. Obama applied his signature on January 23, 2009 one day after the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs. Bolton.

Mr. Obama stealthily signed this executive order in 2009.  There was no big press release or photo opps.

 As you watch the ceremonies in 2013 for his next term, please remember the children that were killed around the world during his first term.  What other violence does he intend to use our money for during this term?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2013

MLK day 2013 I will be handwriting a letter to President Obama regarding my views on the heinous practice of abortion in the USA. We should be concerned for the safety of ALL children. What will you do to honor Martin Luther King and his work on the day dedicated to him?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Keeping Our Children Safe

 "This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged. And their voices should compel us to change." - President Barack Obama, 1/2013

The morning I heard this, the first thing I thought was, "Then do something about abortion."  I was livid at the hypocricy.  How is it that so few see it? It is so overwhelming to think of the horror that our society permits and adores.   Yes, adores.  Abortion exists on the altar of self, the altar of convenience. 

That day I was in a foul mood.  I shocked a female friend when the topic came up.  I told her my response to his speech was, "Bullsh*t.  Why doesn't he do anything to protect all children?  Why doesn't he do something about abortion?"  She was surprised.  The surprise could have been due to the fact that I don't often use that kind of language, people don't often see me in a foul mood, or she assumed I am pro-abortion because I am female.

We women that become angry and frustrated at our culture's lack of compassion for others need to voice our opinions.  Here are some ideas:

1.  Handwrite letters to free the unborn from the tyranny of abortion.  Then send it to your local newspaper, representatives, senators, and the president.

2.  Speak out, if given the chance.  At parties, at coffee, at work.

3.  Start a blog. Start a vlog.

4.  March in a Walk for Life.

5.  Get involved in your local Crisis Pregnancy Center.

6.  Buy diapers for the local Crisis Pregnancy Center.

7.  Last, but not least, pray.

If you have other ideas, leave them in the comments.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My Life as an INFJ

What is an INFJ?  It is a personality type.  Similar to a Meyers-Briggs test.  I test as an INFJ.  INFJ's consist of one percent of the population. So I'm an odd duck, which doesn't really surprise me.  I am a pretty good listener.

The listening life teaches me how to forgive.  When I listen to others, I hear what they say.  The speakers are not necessarily aware of what it is I take in.  Thoughtless, careless words that hurt and wound are some of those words.   Some can brush words aside easily; not me.  It is harder to forgive when nobody asks for forgiveness to repair relationship.  It takes time and prayer.  Again and again, asking Father to help me forgive and move on.

Right now I am learning that many want me to listen to them, but they do not want to listen to me.  I have ideas and thoughts.  Good ones.  But speakers do not know them; do not ask; only want to be heard.  So I listen.  And forgive.   When I need a break from listening, some speakers get angry at me and lash out in various ways.  Even though I said a break is in order for me.  Perhaps they did not hear it.  So be it.  I need what I need.

Many extroverts are unaware of others, and do not know how to deal with introverts.  Most times I can keep this in the front of my mind, and forgive easier.  Other times, I need a break from the noise.  Right now, I need a retreat.  I have heard of retreats where nobody is allowed to speak, except at meal times.  That sounds like heaven.

I know who are my friends that have conversations with me, back and forth discussions.  I regard their friendship highly.  Thank you.  Those of my friends that want me to listen again, I will.  Give me time.