Showing posts from 2017

1 Christmas Savior

I’ve been doing a countdown on different topics this week from 7 to 1. 

Today is Christmas, so here’s #1 and of course #1 is Jesus. There might be a lot of reasons to celebrate on Christmas; family, food, health, presents, etc. However, without Jesus and what He has done for us, all of those things would have the shadow of sin and death looming over them. But because of Jesus we can have boundless, unhindered joy because He has conquered sin and death. 

What a blessing to again hear this truth: Unto you is born...a Savior. 

Merry Christmas!

2 Christmas Prayers

I'm doing a countdown beginning from 7 to 1, with 1 being on Christmas Day, with each day having a different topic.

Today I'm sharing with you 2 Christmas prayers.

The prayers I'm sharing are uses as "collects" in the Divine Service.  A collect "collects" the main theme of the service and brings it before God as a prayer. I am putting these here so that you may use them on your own as well, if you would like.

Prayer #1: The Collect for Christmas Eve O God, You make us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Grant that as we joyfully receive Him as our Redeemer, we may with sure confidence behold Him when He comes to be our Judge; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Prayer #2: The Collect for Christmas Day Almighty God, grant that the birth of Your only-begotten Son in the flesh may set us free from the bondage of sin; th…

3 Christmas Artworks

It's the week before Christmas, so I'm going to do a countdown beginning today from 7 to 1, with 1 being on Christmas Day. Each day will have a different topic.

Today I'm sharing with you 3 Christmas Artworks.

Below are three different depictions of the nativity scene. None of them are what could rightly be described as "accurrate" insofar as showing what the setting and the people probably looked like, but that doesn't bother me at all.  In fact, what I like about these is that the artists show people to whom their audience could relate and surrounding a Savior to whom they can also relate.  It's a reminder that Jesus came to be the Savior for people of all colors and from all nations and cultures.

Here's a painting from Cameroon 
JESUS MAFA. The birth of Jesus with shepherds, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved Decemb…

4 Christmas Songs (that you probably don't know)

It's the week before Christmas, so I'm going to do a countdown beginning today from 7 to 1, with 1 being on Christmas Day. Each day will have a different topic.

Today I'm sharing with you 4 Christmas songs that you might not know, but probably should.

#1 "Nations that Long In Darkness" Walked by Andy Gullahorn and Jill Phillips

This is a beautiful, newer song that is rich with the words of Scripture and the implications of Jesus coming into the world.

#2 "O Jesus Christ, Thy Manger Is" by Paul Gerhardt Paul Gerhardt is one of the greatest hymn writers in history, but few seem to know this beautiful song.  The words of this are simply beautiful. Below are the words of the first verse. 1     O Jesus Christ,     Thy manger is My paradise at which my soul reclineth.     For there, O Lord,     Doth lie the Word Made flesh for us; herein Thy grace forth shineth.  #3 "From Heaven Above To Earth I Come" by Martin Luther This one might not be unknown t…

6 Christmas Prophecies

It's the week before Christmas, so I'm going to do a countdown beginning today from 7 to 1, with 1 being on Christmas Day. Each day will have a different topic.

Today I'm sharing with you 6 prophecies fulfilled with the birth of Jesus or shortly thereafter.

Prophecies #1 and #2: Isaiah 7:14 In this verse we actually get two specific and astonishing prophecies that are fulfilled by Jesus.  First, the prophecy that He will be conceived and born of a virgin and second that He will be called Immanuel.

The virgin birth is indeed a miracle only possibly by God, but for God (as Gabriel reminded Mary) all things are possible.  The virgin birth is important because it is the fulfillment of this prophecy, but also because Jesus was born without having the sinful nature passed on to Him as would have happened with a "normal" conception and birth. 
That Jesus is called Immanuel (or Emmanuel, same word, different spelling) is maybe even more amazing than the virgin birth.  I…

5 Christmas Quotes

It's the week before Christmas, so I'm going to do a countdown beginning today from 7 to 1, with 1 being on Christmas Day. Each day will have a different topic.

Today I'm sharing with you 5 Christmas quotes to reflect upon.

Quote #1 This is from Charles Porterfield Krauth's magnum opus, The Conservative Reformation and its Theology.  It is a quote pertaining to Martin Luther.

All days were Christmas to the great Restorer. He had found the Christ, and when he was not kneeling with the shepherds, he was singing with the angels. 

Quote #2 Here is a quote from that great Restorer, Martin Luther.

There are many of you in this congregation who think to yourselves: "If only I had been there! How quick I would have been to help the Baby! I would have washed his linen. How happy I would have been to go with the shepherds to see the Lord lying in the manger!" Yes, you would! You say that because you know how great Christ is, but if you had been there at that time you wou…

7 Christmas Albums

It's the week before Christmas, so I'm going to do a countdown beginning today from 7 to 1, with 1 being on Christmas Day. Each day will have a different topic.

Today I'm sharing with you 7 Christmas albums worth listening to both leading up to the celebration of the birth of Christ on Christmas and throughout the 12 days of Christmas (which begin on Christmas Day and end on January 5th).  I'm sure all of these are available on iTunes and Amazon, but I'm linking directly to the store of the artist when possible.

Also note that the order does not indicate any sort of ranking.

7. "O Holy Night" by Sara Groves Sara Groves has a beautiful voice and on this album she gives new voice to some familiar Christmas hymns, including "O Holy Night," "Angels We Have Heard On High," and "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear."  The rest of the album is great too, but parents will especially enjoy her song "Toy Packaging."

6. "Christ…

Top of the World

"Top of the world!"

Such was the response given by one of the saints I had the privilege to pastor whenever he was asked, "How are you?"

Each time I came to visit him I'd ask, "How are you doing?" and each time he'd respond, "Top of the world!"

But one day, as I sat in his room with him, this pillar of the church made a confession.  "You know, I'm not really feeling on top of the world.  There are a lot of times when I don't feel that way, but I say it because it's what people expect.  It makes them smile."  He was honest with me and he was honest with others too in letting them know that, in truth, he wasn't really feeling on top of the world. are you today?  How are you doing?  How are you really doing?

The instant response most of us have is to say, "I'm doing okay," in some way, shape, or form.  But what if we were to answer such questions honestly? What would we say?

"I'm str…

Christ's Castle: A Story About Christ, His Church, and His Invitation

A weary wanderer slowly walked towards the entrance of a castle.  The wanderer knows the dangers of being out there…outside of the walls of protection offered by a castle.  The wanderer approaches the doors of the castle, hoping to be allowed inside, but doubting that he’ll be allowed since those inside might very well think him a threat to their own safety.
The drawbridge is down, so the wanderer approaches the gate and as he approaches, he eyes the gatekeeper, hoping to be able to discern what kind of a man the gatekeeper is and what kind of reception he can expect from him.
The gatekeeper looks at the wanderer kindly and says, “Why do you wish to enter?”
“I wish only to find safety,” the wanderer replies.  “And I won’t stay long.  I won’t be an inconvenience.”
The gatekeeper smiles gently and asks, “Why do you with to only stay a short time?  Why not find your home here?”
This caught the wanderer off guard.  In every town and castle he had stayed in previously, if they allowed h…

What's wrong with those people in the Bible?

What is wrong with those people in the Bible?
The Israelites despair, fearing that they will starve to death in the wilderness after God has just brought them out of slavery to the most powerful nation on earth; after God used a series of 10 plagues and then brought them safely through the water of the Red Sea, but drowned Pharaoh and his army. 
Then, after God provides food for the Israelites (and water), they despair that there's no way they'll be able to conquer the people of Canaan.  They thing, "the Canaanites are just to big and strong and numerous for us to have a chance!"  
What is wrong with those people? 
Don't they remember what God has already done for them?  Why are they so quick to believe that the God who has provided for them again and again, in mighty and miraculous ways, would abandon them now?  
"Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?" the disciples wondered out loud.  There was a huge crowd…

Dealing with False Dichotomies: "Don't go to church, be the church"

Have you heard this one before?
It's pretty popular these days to have people say, "Don't go to church.  Be the church!"

As if the two were mutually exclusive.

As with many false dichotomies, this one comes from a place of good intentions.  Saying "be the church," is a way of pushing back against the false idea that merely going to church on Sunday is what it means to be a follower of Christ.

Now, there is absolutely a sense in which we are called to "be the church."  For instance,
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)

However, Scripture also speaks of church as the local assembly of believers who gather together around God's Word and sacrament…

Follow Me: The Call to Discipleship

Recently I've been re-reading a fantastic book by the late Martin Franzmann called Follow Me: Discipleship According to Saint Matthew.  This post was inspired by that book and will also be used as my newsletter article this month. 

“Follow Me.”
With those two words Jesus called individuals to be His disciples.
Note well, this was not merely a Rabi calling a student to come and learn from him.  In fact, Jesus never even permits others to admire him as a teacher.  When the rich young man (Matthew 19:17) and both Nicodemus (John 3:1-21) and the Jews in John 7 express admiration for Jesus as a great teacher (or Rabi), Jesus dismisses such talk.
Jesus is no mere teacher, but the Messiah.  And when He calls individuals to follow Him, He isn’t calling them as a teacher to come and simply learn a better way to live.  He isn’t merely calling them to follow His teachings, but to follow Him!
“Follow Me” Jesus said to Galilean fishermen.  They left their nets and followed Him. “Follow Me”…

Lessons from the Bible and Baseball

"Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer." - Ted Williams 

From spending hours playing baseball and wiffle ball in our backyard with my brothers, to little league, American Legion league, high school, and college, baseball has been a pretty significant part of my life for a long time. One of the great things about baseball is that it teaches you.  It teaches you lessons about life and how to deal with difficulty.

For instance, as a pitcher I had to learn that getting upset about things didn't help the situation.  If I jammed a hitter and he was lucky enough to have the ball fall in, even though I did my job, the batter reached base.  If a fielder booted a routine ground ball, I didn't do anything wrong, yet the batter was now on base.

It was frustrating when things like that happened, but if I let it get to me, things got worse in a hurry.  I had to learn to control my emotions, to bloc…

The Gospel in Narnia III

C.S. Lewis was a master storyteller and his Narnia books are fantastic stories.  But for those who are willing to look closer, there are layers beneath the basic story that are rich with meaning.

At the beginning of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace was as unlikable a character as you'll find in the Narnia books. He was arrogant, selfish, and lazy.  There comes a point when Eustace wanders away from the ship (to avoid having to help work on repairing it) and finds himself in a downpour.  He hides in what he discovers to be a dragon's cave and finds all kinds of gold and other treasure in the cave.  In his greed, Eustace pockets as much treasure as he can, then he lays down and falls asleep.  When he wakes up, much to his horror, Eustace discovers that he has become a dragon.

As a dragon Eustace begins to recognize just how awful he had been.  He wants to be better.

Eventually, the lion called Aslan (the Christ figure in the Narnia series), comes to Eustace and helps him.…

20 Ideas for Holy Week

Oftentimes Christians feel like they should do something during Holy Week (besides attending services on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday).  So here are some ideas that you might consider using during Holy Week.  Consider picking one or two things and then make sure you put plans in place to make it happen.

Read a gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) from start to finish, either by yourself or with your family.Pick a hymn and learn it by heart (listening to it on an mp3 player, spotify, YouTube, etc., can be help you do this).Memorize Scripture. Here are some good verses, that you might not yet know, but are very much worth memorizing.
Colossians 2:13-14 
Romans 6:3-5 
Revelation 1:17-18
John 20:21-23Review the catechism, using each day of Holy Week to review one of the 6 chief parts.Pray for your pastor and all pastors as they prepare to proclaim the gospel.Pray for your fellow church members, going through a directory and praying for each member by name.Ask y…