Showing posts from 2017

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…

The Stone and the Holy House: A Parable on Christ's Holy Temple...the Church

There once was a stone.  This stone wasn’t a particularly large stone and it was rather oddly shaped.  It was kind triangular in its shape, but not a beautifully well proportioned triangle or an exotic triangle with sharp lines, but it was only somewhat triangular in its shape.  It had one really jagged edge and one dull, rounded edge, and it was somewhat concaved in the middle.
This stone wasn’t a particularly beautiful stone either.  It wasn’t distinctly black or white, but grayish.  And it didn’t have any reflective qualities, but it was rather dull.
This stone wasn’t particularly large, it was oddly shaped, and dull. 

It was not a special stone.
And yet, it was a special Stone. 

The Stone knew both of these things to be true, that it wasn’t a special stone and yet that it was.  It was special, not because of any particular quality that it had or because it stood out amongst other stones, but because it had been chosen by the Builder.
The Builder had picked up this stone, a long…

Easter Egg Hunting in the Bible

Soon enough we'll have Easter egg hunts happening all over this country. In fact we'll be having a glow in the dark Easter egg hunt at Hope this year.

But there's a different kind of Easter egg hunt that happens all year long.  It's the hunt for "Easter eggs" that have been placed into games and movies.  The always reliable Wikipedia defines this kind of Easter egg as follows:
An Easter egg is an intentional inside joke, a hidden message, or a secret feature of an interactive work (often, a computer program, video game or DVD menu screen). The name is used to evoke the idea of a traditional Easter egg hunt.[2] The term was coined to describe a hidden message in the Atari video game Adventure that led Atari to encourage further hidden messages in later games, treating them as Easter eggs for players to find.Pixar movies are well known for having Easter eggs sprinkled throughout their movies.  Video games too, are well known for such Easter eggs.

The thing about…

On Judges, Pastors, and Robes

Recently, the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch got started. Senator Ben Sasse (from Nebraska), in his opening remarks for the hearing, said some interesting things that are actually helpful and good reminders for us in the church. Here’s part of what he said.
I want to focus my opening remarks around a simple image: a judge’s black robe. It’s a strange thing that judges wear robes. But instead of looking past this strange convention, let’s look right at it. For it isn’t just some relic from the past. It isn’t just something people wore long ago in a forgotten era of formality, like a powdered wig.

So why do the robes – often unfashionable and unflattering – persist? The reasons were summed up better than I could put it by one sitting judge. He said:

“[D]onning a robe doesn’t make me any smarter. But the robe does mean something – and not just that I can hide coffee stains on my shirt. It serves as a reminder of what’s expected of us – what Burke called the …

What are the Benefits of Receiving the Lord's Supper?

In my Bible Class we've been going through 1 Corinthians, but recently we've stalled for several weeks in chapter 11, because it has given us a great opportunity to take a closer look at the Lord's Supper.

As we've been going through what the Bible teaches us about the Lord's Supper, a lot of questions have come up, so I wanted to try to address many of those questions in a series of posts.

What are the benefits of receiving the Lord's Supper? 
Forgiveness of Sins

The chief benefit of receiving the Lord's Supper is receiving the forgiveness of sins, as Jesus said "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:28).

But didn't we already receive forgiveness in baptism?  And in the service itself, don't we receive forgiveness through the absolution?  So, why do we need to receive forgiveness again?

The very life of a Christian is one of repentance.  One reason God has given these three ways…

Study a Book of the Bible in Depth (no commentary required)

As we enter a new year, many Christians make a New Year's resolution to get back into the habit of reading their Bible.  Often, people make it a goal of reading through the entire Bible in a year, which is a wonderful goal and can be a real blessing to those who are able to keep the daily commitment.

Another option Christians sometimes take with the new year is to have a word for that year...or a verse of Scripture.

Let me propose another option.  How about picking one book of the Bible and really getting to know it in depth?

Many Christians say that they long for an in depth study of God's Word, but they aren't sure how to go about it or where to start.

One option is to buy a commentary and use that along side your study.  Commentaries can be helpful resources, but they are also expensive and often times people rely more on the commentary than simply reading what the Bible says.

So let me give you a simple (cheap) way to do an in depth study of a book of the Bible that …