Sunday, October 24, 2010


Congrats to my little sister, Brandy, and her husband, Mike, on the birth of their beautiful baby boy, Max!  Oh, and congrats to me, too!  I'm an uncle! :)  Brandy's water broke early this morning, around 12:45 a.m.  Max was born at 4:06 a.m. by C-section, but both he and mommy are doing fine.  He comes in at 7 lbs, 13 oz., 20 in.  I'm so excited; can't wait to meet the little guy!  Congrats again, Brandy and Mike.  Love yas! 

Here's the first picture of Max, sent to me by his proud daddy about an hour ago (I'm thinking he looks like a Spartan fan :)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sparty Gets It Done!

It's never easy playing on the road in the Big Ten.  I knew the boys would have their hands full playing at Northwestern today, but I wasn't expecting them to go down 17-0 to the Wildcats to begin the game.  But, they rallied back in the second half and pulled out another victory, 35-27, improving their record to 8-0 (4-0 in the Big Ten).  Cousins played lights out today, going 29-43 for 331 yards and 3 TDs and no picks.  And, how 'bout the special teams, running another fake at a crucial time to perfection?  Simply awesome.  It was a great comeback and another solid win for the Green and White.  This is a special team having a special season, and I hope it continues.  They have a huge test ahead of them next week, as they travel to Iowa City to take on a tough Iowa team.  If they can pull that one out, they have a real shot at turning this special season into a magical season which could land them playing for a National Championship.  It's within their reach and they control their own destiny.  But, that's a long way off.  First things first.  Let's concentrate on Iowa, and let's emphasize this week during practice how important it is to come out of the gate playing well.  You don't want to go to the "we'll come back in the second half" well too often, as eventually that well will dry up.  But, whatever happens from this point on, I'm so proud of my Spartans!  Oh, and I'm gonna go ahead and take a little credit for their comeback win today.  I missed the first half, as I was attending Samantha's volleyball tournament.  But, when I got home and watched the second half, they turned it on and came back for the win.  I'm not saying it was all me, but I'm confident that I played a role. :)

As for Sam's volleyball tournament, they lost a barn-burner to Garber (I've never even heard of Garber), which knocked them out of the winner's pool, but they still had a shot to win the consolation bracket.  Sam played extremely well.  She had at least 10 solid blocks and 4 or 5 nice kills that I saw, and she got every one of her serves in, with a couple of aces to boot.  That's my girl!  Here's a few pics:

Sam is the tall girl holding her arms up by the net

The iphone and sports action don't mix very well, but this one didn't come out too bad

Sam getting ready to serve

Sam serving

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Couple of Must Read Posts

First, Pr. Esget preaching on Psalm 51.  He is right.  We are every bit as sinful as David, and the only thing that distinguishes us from him is opportunity.  As I read his words, I was reminded of the many discussions surrounding the recent Tiger Woods scandal.  I heard many Christians lambasting Woods for his adulterous behavior, as if they would never ever do what he had done.  Really?  How many of these Christians ever faced the sort of ongoing temptation a high profile celebrity like Woods faces daily?  If we make the claim that we could never possibly fall prey to such temptation, we are deceiving ourselves and need to do a little more self-examination.  And, even if we were able to withstand such temptation, it would only be by God's grace.  On our own, by nature, we are every bit as sinful as Tiger Woods and King David and all the worst criminals we could cite throughout history.  Or, do you suppose your sins are less wicked than the sins of those really bad sinners?  They are not.  You are David.  You are Tiger Woods.  You are guilty.  Repent! 

Now, recognizing the truth about ourselves does not mean that we throw in the towel and willingly, knowingly, and willfully indulge our sinful nature.  We don't say, "Oh well, I'm a sinner and there's nothing I can do about that, so I may as well eat, drink, and be merry."  Not at all.  As St. Paul declares, "Shall we go on sinning so that grace may abound?  By no means!"  No, we strive against sin.  We fight it.  We crucify our flesh, doing our best to not give way to our sinful desires.  But - BUT! - we fail daily at this.  Try as we might, battle as hard as we can, we are still left with the reality of our sinfulness.  It's still there.  We are never rid of it this side of glory.  We may win little victories here and there, but we are wholly incapable of winning the war against our sinfulness.  We are like St. Paul, who confesses in Romans 7 that he fails to do what he wants to do and does those things he doesn't want to do, that he is a wretched man, the chief of sinners.  And yet, he also rejoices in the fact that, sinner that he is, he is clothed with Jesus Christ, who gives him the victory he is unable to win for himself.  This is where we get the phrase:  Simul iustus et peccator (we Christians are saints and sinners at one and the same time). 

This brings me to the second must read post, written by Pr. Brown on his blog.  He is right, too.  True Christian growth occurs as we discover more and more the depth of our sinfulness.  Why?  Because the more we realize how sinful we really are, the more we will come to rely upon the One who takes our sin away.  If you can get it done on your own - and YOU CAN'T! - then you really don't need Jesus.  This is why most of what you hear being preached on the television and radio is utter nonsense and very dangerous.  These so-called preachers go out of their way to make their hearers feel good about themselves.  They promise them God's blessings if they would only do such and such.  They avoid preaching about sin like the plague, which is probably why they gain such popularity among the masses.  Sinners love to be told how good they are.  Sinners love to be encouraged and motivated to work out their own salvation.  Sinners love to be told that they can do it themselves.  Sinners hate to hear the truth about themselves.  The truth hurts; better to avoid it.

But, whether these false preachers and their deceived hearers avoid the truth or not, the truth remains.  And the truth is very clear:  We are all sinners and that reality remains with us as long as we draw breath in this vale of tears.  You can't get rid of that reality by reading the latest self-help book, which passes itself off as Christian.  You can't get rid of that reality by following the seven steps of some self-proclaimed expert in the Christian life.  You can't get rid of that reality by working harder or doing your very best.  Your best is never good enough.  God's Holy Law demands perfection; your best efforts fall woefully short.  You are never in a position to say, "Well, I may not be perfect, but at least I'm better than those people."  No, you're not.  You are a sinner, every bit as much as anyone else.  That's the truth.   

When you are brought to this realization by the Holy Spirit through the Law, there is but one faithful response:  Lord, have mercy upon me, a poor, sinful being!  There is the cry of faith, the cry of the sinner who recognizes that he can't get it done by himself and is in desperate need of a Savior.  Faith lives best on its knees.  Faith grows and matures when we are brought low and humbled by God's Law, so that we have no other choice but to cry out to Him for mercy.

The Good News is that He answers our cry and has mercy on us for the sake of His Son, our Lord, who lived the perfect, sinless life in our place and suffered and died on the cross for every one of our sins.  It is only through Jesus Christ that the reality of our sinfulness is taken away.  We need Jesus.  We need His perfect holiness and righteousness to clothe us.  We need His perfect life and sacrificial death to stand in place of our sinful lives.  And, we never stop needing Jesus.  This is the mistake so many Christians make.  "Yeah, I needed Jesus to accomplish my salvation, but it is up to me now to fend for myself."  No!  If St. Paul, great apostle that he was, continued to need Jesus until his dying breath, how any Christian today can think that they can handle things on their own is beyond me.  You never stop needing Jesus.  Period.  That's the truth.

And that is one of the strongest arguments for continuing to use the historic liturgy, by the way.  From beginning to end, the historic liturgy delivers Jesus to sinners who need Him.  But, that is the topic for another post.  I really only meant to direct your attention to the two fine posts by Prs. Esget and Brown, linked above.  So, I'll shut up now. :)   

Monday, October 18, 2010

Getting Help with New Technology

This reminds me of this morning, when I was trying to teach my mom how to save pictures in a newly created folder and send that folder to a thumb drive (she has just recently joined the 21st century and is still adjusting - love ya, mom!) . . .

HT: Pr. Charles Lehmann on Facebook

Latest Article for The Morning Sun

THOMAS MESSER: Doctrine of Justification is heart of Christian theology -

The latest ultrasound pic . . .

of my nephew, Max, who is scheduled to make his debut just two weeks from now.  He is already in position to make his arrival, so he could be coming to greet us sooner than expected . . . we'll see.  Can't wait to meet him!  Prayers for my little sister, Brandy, her husband, Mike, and especially for little Max, would be most appreciated.

A Wonderful Surprise!

Yesterday afternoon, our wonderful Ladies' Guild pulled a fast one on me.  They hosted a Pastor Appreciation Dinner.  I knew they were doing that since, well, they told me they were doing so.  But, what I didn't know, and what they didn't tell me, was that this was not going to be just a Pastor Appreciation Dinner, but a belated Five-Year Anniversary Party at the same time.  And, what I also didn't know was that they had invited many special guests to attend this Party, including family members, members from the congregation where I served on vicarage (Immanuel, Frankentrost), and the brother pastors in our circuit. 

And so, when I walked into the fellowship hall and saw dear friends from my vicarage congregation sitting there, I was shocked, to say the least.  Then, as I was talking and catching up with them, I looked and saw several family members walking through the door and was all the more shocked, and a little overwhelmed with emotion (rumor has it that my eyes began to well up with moisture of some sort, but we know that can't be true, since I'm a confessional Lutheran and, thus, immune to feelings and emotions :).  Then, as I was hugging family members, they rolled out the cake, and Coaline, our Ladies' Guild president, explained that they had gathered everyone together not only to show me their appreciation, but to celebrate five years of being together at Peace.

During dinner, which was absolutely delicious, several people went to the podium they had set up to say a few words and present some gifts, including a beautiful custom-made picture album which contained several pictures from my ordination/installation and has room for many more pics (thanks, Sharyn!), a gift certificate for CM Almy (a church supply company) from our board of elders (thanks, guys!), a gift certificate for Lisa to spend at her favorite hair-styling salon from the Ladies' Guild (thanks, ladies!), and an awesome new MSU hoody from my family.  In addition, they had a card basket set up and it was a very humbling, but immensely enjoyable, experience to open those cards last night (thanks, everyone; I am truly blown away by your love and generosity!).  Also during the presentations, our Circuit Counselor, Pr. Paul Young, walked through the door, adding further to my surprise.  It was so good of him to make the trip over to extend his congratulations and join in the festivities (thanks, Paul!).

As I said yesterday, I thank God daily for bringing me to Peace and allowing me the privilege of serving among such a faithful, loving, and generous group of His dear children.  Yesterday was just another in a long list of reminders of how truly blessed this unworthy servant is to be serving this congregation.  I really do have to be one of the luckiest pastors around! 

I am still in awe of yesterday's wonderful surprise.  I was blessed to have the opportunity to spend the afternoon and evening with many family members and, living at a distance from them, I dearly cherish every such opportunity.  So, with all my heart, thank you to everyone who contributed to yesterday's festivities.  It was a wonderful surprise and a day I will never forget.  I love you all! 

Being in the state of shock I was in during the party, I took not a single picture. :(  But, Sharyn was kind enough to send me a few (including the pic of the cake above).  If anyone else has pics, please send them my way. 

The picture album made by Sharyn, with our congregation's seal/logo on the front - very cool!

Catching up with some dear friends

Amazed to be greeting family members at the door; my grandma and aunt getting a huge kick out of surprising me!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sparty Stays Unbeaten!

For the first time since 1966, MSU is 7-0.  They won convincingly today against a feisty Fighting Illini team, 26-6.  It wasn't the prettiest of victories, but I love the way the boys came out in the second half and took over the game.  They played lousy in the first half and went into the locker room trailing 6-3, but came out ready to play in the second, scoring 23 unanswered points and holding Illinois off the scoreboard.  This was an important game for the Green and White.  After that emotional victory against the other Big Ten team from our state last week, whose name we never mention 'round these parts, this could have been one of those letdown games.  And, indeed, watching the first half, that's exactly what it looked like.  But, they rose to the occasion and got 'er done!  It will be interesting to see where Sparty ranks when the BCS comes out tomorrow.  I'm thinking they should move up to #7 or so.  We'll see.  Great job, Sparty!  Keep plowing forward; no letting down!   

Oh, and speaking of that other Big Ten team from our state, their game just went final.  They lost 38-28 to Iowa.  Gotta love it! :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ask & Ye Shall B Judged

Finish the Sentence

Over at his blog, Brian Yamabe has written an excellent response to a comment made below in my post about the coffeehouse "mission."  He is exactly right.  How often do we hear the so-called "Great Commission" reduced to the short exhortation "Go and make disciples of all nations"?  This is often followed by an urgent plea for us to "get out there and reach the lost for Jesus."  And, in recent times, the idea has been heavily promoted by many in our synod that we are fulfilling the so-called "Great Commission" when we tell people about Jesus, or, to use the terminology popularly bantered around, when we "share our faith."  Heck, we even have a "Great Commission-fulfilling" counter on our synodical website, which ticks one ahead each time someone reports that they've "shared their faith" with another. 

As Brian notes, our response to those who reduce the so-called Great Commission in this fashion should be, "Finish the sentence!"  Jesus doesn't just tell us to go and make disciples of all nations.  He tells us how that is to be done - through Baptism and catechesis.  Not only that, but Jesus is speaking here not to every Christian disciple, but to the eleven apostles.  He has established the Office of the Holy Ministry to be the Office through which He would make disciples for Himself using the means of grace He has established.  He calls and ordains these first eleven men, and all whom He calls and ordains after them, to serve in His stead and by His command.  Not only do many forget to "finish the sentence," but they also forget to pay heed to the verse which comes before this one, where our Lord says, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me."  It is by Christ's authority, which He exercises through the Office He establishes, that disciples are made.  And, while we're at it, let's not forget the conclusion of verse 20, too, where our Lord says, "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."  I think that's kind of important.  His "being with them" goes along with "all authority being given to Him."  Disciples are made in His way, not ours.  He is with His called and ordained servants when they Baptize and catechize and preach and distribute the Holy Eucharist.  There's His promise.  There's His guarantee.   

And so, contrary to popular belief, Jesus is not telling these men to go out and do "whatever it takes" to make disciples.  Neither is He telling them to come up with creative ways in which they can make disciples - you know, like opening coffeehouses in the name of Christian mission.  No, He leaves nothing to chance or imagination, but clearly reveals how disciples are to be made, and by Whose authority they are made.

I know this runs contrary to how many confused people think today.  I'm sorry about that.  But, maybe - just maybe - if we start catechizing people properly about what the so-called Great Commission really entails, they'll stop living under the delusion that they're fulfilling it when they "share their faith" with others and begin following the example of Philip, telling others to "come and see" the Christ where He promises to always be about the business of fulfilling it via the means of grace He has established.  That'd be kinda cool, I think.

Thanks, Brian!     

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wait, What?!

Last week, during our Thursday morning Bible Study, Sarah, my daughter, told us that her World Religions prof informed the class that Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses because he wanted to marry a nun.  I thought for sure he was just joking about this or something.  Nope.  She just told me that he was reviewing the Reformation with the class today and asked them, "Why did Martin Luther post his 95 Theses?"  After hearing several responses from the class, including Sarah's response, he told them that they still hadn't named the most important reason.  Someone in the class said, "Wait, was it so that he could marry a nun?"  "Yes!" he exclaimed.  "That's the main reason!"  Sarah said he was dead serious about this.

But, wait!  It gets better.  He went on to inform them that Lutherans believe that God has predetermined a literal 144,000 people to be saved and get to heaven.  What the?!  Where is this guy getting this nonsense?  I told Sarah that he must just be putting them on.  "No, dad.  He is really, really serious about all this."  If that is true, and I have no reason to doubt Sarah, this person should not be teaching in the religion department.  I mean, it's one thing to over-generalize and wrongly categorize when teaching a "World Religions" class, but to spew forth this sort of nonsense is inexcusable.

I'd like to go chat with the prof, but Sarah won't let me.  She said I could after the semester was over, but not now (yeah, she's a smart girl).  I just may do so.  Good grief!  

Liturgical Seminar in Kewanee

I spent the last few days down in Kewanee, Illinois for the annual Oktoberfest/Liturgical Seminar.  What a tremendous blessing to be among so many faithful brothers and sisters in Christ to receive the Lord's Divine Gifts in the Mass (Divine Service) and to study and ponder the Liturgy, Church, and Ministry.  I say it every year, but I am certain that it holds true this year, namely that this was the best Oktoberfest/Liturgical Seminar in Kewanee yet!  We were treated to a heavy dose of Rev. Dr. David Scaer, which is always an experience to be cherished.  He was in his usual rare form (i.e. at his best), delivering to us serious and deep theological instruction, combined with his Scaer-istic wit (I don't know how else to describe it; if you know Dr. Scaer, you know what I mean).  It was pure joy, just like being back in class.  Loved every minute of it!

In between the "I have very little use for Lutheranism" and "Speak up!" outbursts, the good doctor delivered the goods, as he always does.  I particularly enjoyed hearing him expound upon his argument that a common liturgy shows forth and upholds the catholicity of Christ's Church.  While we can never fully see that catholicity, it is lived out and experienced in the liturgy.  When we introduce changes into the liturgy, no matter how "cute" they may be, we engage in sectarianism, corrupt catholicity, and run the risk of destroying faith.  I think he's exactly right.  The reason the Church uses the historic liturgy is not because she likes the "style" or longs to be "old-fashioned," but because, well, that's how she lives and breathes in Christ - it's how we participate in the life of our Lord, which is reenacted among us each time we gather together in His Name for Mass.

He also commented upon the love affair Lutherans have been having for some time with "evangelism," both personal and programmatic, making the case that there is no actual Scriptural warrant for these; that those popular Scripture passages often employed to motivate individual Christians and the Church at large to "get out there and win souls for Jesus" are grossly misinterpreted and misapplied.  He is most definitely right about this.  True evangelism happens when disciples are made in the Name of the Triune God, and disciples are made by the Holy Spirit via Baptism, catechesis, and ongoing reception of the Lord's Body and Blood in the Holy Supper.  "The true reality of the Church is what happens on Sunday in the Mass."

He also spoke at length about "The Ministry of the Word," a recently released WELS dogmatics book laying forth their doctrine of ministry, written by Pr. John Brug.  Suffice to say that Dr. Scaer is not very optimistic about the possibility of the LCMS ever again being in fellowship with the WELS, since he cannot see us ever agreeing on the doctrine of ministry.  Based on many of the quotes he cited from the book, I'd say his pessimism is warranted.

Favorite line (of many favorite lines) from Dr. Scaer's presentation:  "That's why I dislike Lutheranism!  It's just a parlor game." :)

On Tuesday, the Liturgical Seminar continued with Fr. Eckardt leading us in a discussion about his new book, "The New Testament in His Blood:  A Study of the Holy Liturgy of the Christian Church."   I read this through last night.  Wow!  This is a book that all Lutherans need to read.  Fr Eckardt has done the Church a great service in providing this excellent little treatise on the Holy Liturgy.  Ever wonder why Lutherans worship the way they do?  Here you go.  I simply cannot recommend this enough.  The book is divided into three parts:  I.  The Biblical Basis for Liturgical Worship; II.  The Case for the Holy Liturgy; III.  The Parts of the Liturgy of the Mass.  Each part is pure gold.  I've learned a ton from it already, and I'm sure I'll be learning more from it as time goes on.

Anyway, just a few thoughts I thought I'd share about my recent little getaway.  It was great to see and chat with so many faithful brothers.  And, as a bonus, I got to meet and chat with Adriane Dorr, formerly of Higher Things fame, but now the Managing Editor of The Lutheran Witness, which was a real treat.

Now . . . back to work! :)  

Sunday, October 10, 2010

First Communion

What a great joy it was to celebrate the First Communion of two of our younger parishioners this morning during Divine Service.  We adopted our new First Communion policy at the end of July and today we welcomed our first two youngsters, Morgan Johnson and Aaron Messer, to the Holy Supper of Our Lord's very Body and Blood.  Both Morgan and Aaron did an outstanding job preparing for their First Communion, and I could not be more pleased with, or proud of, them. 

Heavenly Father, whose Son Jesus Christ loved the young and called them to Himself, we ask You to bless Morgan and Aaron.  Strengthen them in the faith through the Sacrament of Christ's body and blood so that they may grow spiritually and bring forth the fruits of faith in a life of love toward others to the praise and honor of Your holy name; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Here are some pics:

Saturday, October 9, 2010


The Paul Bunyan Trophy stays right where it belongs! What a convincing win for the Green and White: MSU 34 the other team from our state 17. Wow! Three in a row over that other team. So much for that whole "little brother" nonsense. :) It doesn't get much better than this! GO GREEN! GO WHITE!

Friday, October 8, 2010

So Glad Fisk Is Back . . .

More Videos of . . .

our Lutheran brothers and sisters in Africa singing hymns (thanks to Cheryl Magness for posting these over at her blog):

 "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty" (LSB 790)

"What Wondrous Love Is This" (LSB 543)

Jésus-Christ est le même hier, aujourd'hui, et éternellement - HEB 13:8 (This one is not in LSB)

Have you purchased any hymnals yet? (see a few posts down)

Witness, Mercy, Life Together

I must have missed this one when it came out a couple weeks ago, but here's another gem from video-maker extraordinaire, Brian Yamabe:

The Battle of the Bills!

Issues, Etc. did an open lines segment yesterday on a recent discussion between Bill O'Reilly and Bill Maher, which aired on "The O'Reilly Factor" last week.  Here's a video of the exchange:  

What this video reveals is that neither of the "Bills" has any clue whatsoever about Christianity.  O'Reilly is just as clueless as Maher.  Not only that, but if I'm judging this little debate objectively, Maher wins hands down.  I mean, it's pretty sad when the proud atheist is the one defending the claim that the Bible is the Word of God.  Granted, he thinks it is wildly absurd that anyone would actually believe the Bible to be the Word of God, but at least he gets it right that we crazy Christians do believe it.  O'Reilly, the supposed Christian, doesn't believe it.  He says it's all "allegorical," not "literal."  He also says that his being a Christian means that he "believes in the New Testament," as if Christians need not bother themselves with all that Old Testament stuff.  And then, at the end of the video, O'Reilly attempts to make Maher look like a fool by giving us the interpretation of the passage Maher was butchering during the discussion (the one about killing your neighbor if he works on Sunday - yeah, Maher has no clue what he's spewing forth), but actually comes off as the bigger fool in doing so.  I think one of the commenters during the Issues, Etc. segment had it right, that this was like watching "Dumb and Dumber" duking it out.

But, you know what, folks?  This is a good depiction of how the debate between supposed Christians and proud atheists is publicized in the media today.  The loser is always true Christianity, which is almost never represented in the debate.  I've often said that, if Christianity was what is presented as Christianity in our mass media, I'd want nothing to do with it.  And I mean that.  If Christianity is just another religion of the Law with a nice, moral leader named Jesus, the whole point of which is to love our neighbor and make society a better place to live, as people like O'Reilly imagine, count me out.  But, thankfully, it's not that at all, a fact that is entirely lost on all the O'Reillys out there today.  Christianity is a religion of the Gospel, the only religion of the Gospel that exists.  Jesus the Christ is not just some nice, moral religious leader, who left us an example to emulate for the betterment of our lives and society in general.  He is God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God.  He is the Eternal Word of the Father, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the Son of God, who came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and became man, in order to live and die in our place, that, through faith in Him, we receive the forgiveness, life, and salvation He won for us.  He came to be our Savior, not our example or "life coach."

But, you won't hear about any of that when Christianity is presented in the media, even when supposed Christians are the ones presenting it, which is why most viewers of the above "Battle of the Bills," who fancy themselves Christians, would see nothing at all wrong with Bill O'Reilly's presentation of Christianity.  That's the truly sad part in all this.  People are so inundated with the false teachings about Christianity out there today that most have no clue what true Christianity is.  Which means that they miss out on the Gospel itself.  And which also means that, when confronted by a proud atheist, like Bill Maher, they will have no answer for his accusations against the Bible and Christianity.  Instead of tackling the Biblical passages the atheists put forth in the attempt to reveal the absurdity of the Bible, explaining what these passages mean in their context and how they fit into the entire account of the salvation accomplished by Christ, they resort to name-calling and "holier-than-thou-ism."  And the atheist wins.  A sad sight to behold, for sure.   

Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy.

Coffeehouse "Mission"

 Messiah Lutheran Church in Midland, a congregation in our Midland Circuit, will be opening a second "Journeys" coffeehouse in November.  The first "Journeys" coffeehouse was opened a few years ago and is located inside Messiah's building.  This second "Journeys" coffeehouse will be located in downtown Midland.  You can read about this here.

I was a bit confused when the article from the Midland newspaper was brought to my attention last month.  I knew that Messiah had applied to the Michigan District for an "Ablaze/Fan into Flame" grant for this "mission" a while back, but had been denied.  So, I wondered where they got the money to go through with this.  Did they raise the money themselves?  Did the Michigan District reverse its decision?  Where did the money come from?

[NOTE:  Pr. Doerner informed me on the phone earlier today that Messiah only received $200,000 from the District, not $250,000, as I had reported.  I apologized to him for not checking with him about this before posting, and told him that I would correct it here]. 

Evidently, from what I've been told, the money came from the District, but there is still some question as to how that happened exactly.  I was informed by a couple of brothers in our circuit that Pr. Ed Doerner of Messiah mentioned during Winkel on Tuesday, September 14 (I wasn't able to make that Winkel, as I was traveling back from our trip to St. Louis that day) that Messiah was given a $200,000 grant from the District.  This was not an "Ablaze/Fan into Flame" grant, but a grant given by the Michigan District directly from the proceeds it received from a now defunct congregation.  And, from what I understand, the approval/authorization for this grant came from the District President's office, without having been discussed and/or approved by the District Board of Directors.  That seems odd to me (and others).  I would think that the disbursement of $200,000 would have to have BoD approval.  But, maybe not.  I honestly have no clue.  It could very well be that there is some other mechanism for such approval in place, or even that the DP's office has this authority.  As I said, no clue.

But, regardless of how the grant was given to Messiah, what grieves me is that it was given at all.  I cannot fathom how Lutherans could even consider the opening of a new coffeehouse to be mission work.  I mean,  I know the argument those in support of this sort of thing put forth - "People love coffee and we can use this coffeehouse to reach out to those people with the Gospel" - but I don't buy it.  This is nothing more than the "bait and switch" technique employed by the Americanized Evangelicals (and Lutherans doing their best impression of Americanized Evangelicals).  As Pr. Doerner is quoted saying in the article linked above, "When people say, 'What about this place is so amazing?' it gives us a chance to say, 'This is a place where God is.'"  Really?  Is it really God's presence that is going to make the place amazing?  If people are amazed by the place, won't it be because they like the coffee, or the atmosphere, or the music in the back, or the nice people serving them, or the friends they hang out with there, etc.?  NEWSFLASH:  People don't go to coffeehouses to meet God.  They go to drink coffee and hang out with friends, or study, or relax, or . . .  NEWSFLASH #2:  God has not promised to locate Himself FOR US in coffeehouses.  He locates Himself in His Church.  He visits us with His presence in the Divine Service to gift us with forgiveness, life, and salvation through His Holy Word and Sacraments.  In other words, Jesus is not in your mocha, no matter how good that mocha may be.

[NOTE:  Pr. Doerner assured me on the phone today that there is no confusion regarding the purpose of the new "Journeys."  He understood how those reading the article might be confused by the seemingly contradictory quotations of himself and Mr. Sean Bartley included in the article, but made it clear that this was not due to there being actual confusion, but to the selective writing of the reporter.  The new "Journeys" will not be "just another place of business," but an extension of Messiah's mission and ministry, a place "to introduce people to Christ" through a variety of means.  "The Word of God will be permeating through the place," he said.  

Therefore, I have removed the paragraph I had written about the seeming confusion I noticed in the article about the purpose of the place.  I also apologized to Pr. Doerner for not talking to him about the article before making the comments I did.  I do not agree with him that I am guilty of slander here, nor that I had a Christian duty to follow Matthew 18 before posting this on my blog, but I do agree that it would have been the courteous thing to do to contact him and get his take on the article, since I know that newspaper articles don't always accurately reflect the actual interviews done in preparing the article.    

With that said, I stand by everything else I have written in this post.]

But, besides all this, what really irks me about the whole thing is that there are far better ways for the Michigan District to be dispensing money to support the actual mission and ministry of the Church.  I get regular letters from the District about stewardship workshops and resources.  Why should I take them seriously when the District exercises such poor stewardship as it has here?  We have struggling schools in our circuit that would benefit greatly from a grant of $200,000.  We have a wonderful campus ministry at CMU that I'm sure would benefit greatly from a grant of $200,000.  Heck, give our congregation a grant of $200,000 so that we could start a campus ministry at Alma College!  And there are a plethora of other far more beneficial ways that our District could have distributed this money within our circuit or elsewhere.  Instead, it goes toward a new coffeehouse.  Sad.  Very sad.

But, what's even sadder to this Lutheran pastor is what I witnessed when I explored Messiah's website, after being directed there by one of the parishioners I serve, who has family connections there, and spent an hour watching an archived video of a worship service done there.  I was curious when I saw the "message theme" they used throughout the summer, titled, "Come see Jesus, Go be Jesus," so I scrolled down to the first Sunday in that series and clicked on the link to watch the video.  There was absolutely nothing Lutheran about what I watched transpire before my eyes.  And the "message" still has me befuddled (if you don't want to click on the link above to watch the whole service, you can click here to just listen to the "message").  Pr. Doerner spends a lot of time talking about the difference between "believers in Jesus" and "followers of Jesus."  The point he is trying to make is that we need to move on from being mere believers to actual followers.  But, how do we do that?  We discern through prayer and study where God is leading us and set out to follow Him.  Where might God lead us, you ask?  Well, that is up to you to figure out in your faith relationship with God.  And, hey, it might very well be that God is leading you not to attend Church on Sunday, so don't worry about, or apologize for, missing Church.  Go where God leads you, whether to the amusement park, the campground, wherever God leads you.  Just go and be Jesus.  Now, if you find yourself drifting a bit, then come back to Church, so that you can be motivated to get back out there to wherever God is calling you and be Jesus to others.  Oh, and while you're out there being Jesus to others, be sure to look for the "God stories" and then come back and share those "God stories" with us.

Don't worry about missing Church.  Go and be Jesus.  Look for the "God stories."  What the heck?!  How in the world can this in any way be considered Lutheran preaching?  You might catch the couple of passing references to the Gospel, but it is completely done away by all the Law.  This is typical "Evangelical" preaching - Jesus has done His part, but now it's up to you to do your part.  It's the whole "WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?)" fad revisited.  

As I listened, I just felt sad for all the people there.  What a burden they have being placed on them.  They have a lot to figure out to become the followers of Jesus they evidently need to be.  I mean, how can they ever really know that they've accomplished that?  Think about it.  What does it mean to be a "follower of Jesus," to move on from being a mere "believer in Jesus"?  I thought we were "followers of Jesus" when we regularly go to the place where Jesus IS; the place where He speaks to us His Holy Word and fills us with His Holy Body and Blood.  But, according to this "message," to be a "follower of Jesus" means to go out and BE Jesus to others.  Talk about a completely impossible task!  We cannot BE Jesus.  Um, that's kinda the point of His whole coming down from heaven to become incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary.  He came to live the perfect life we can't live; to fulfill the Holy Law in our place, and to take all of our failures, all of our sins, upon Himself and pay the full price for them all with His Holy and Precious Blood on the cross.  If we could BE Jesus, He would not have had to come to BE US!

But, hey, after watching this "worship service" and listening to the "message," at least the whole "coffeehouse mission" makes a little more sense.  When the idea is being fostered that we need to get out there and BE Jesus to others, and the Divine Service where Jesus IS Present for us is de-emphasized, then, yeah, open a coffeehouse.  And when people ask you why you're at the coffeehouse instead of in Church, just tell them that you are BEING Jesus to them.  And, heck, why stop at a coffeehouse?  Why not open a bar, or a dance club, or even a strip club?  People like those places, too, you know.  Am I being silly?  Maybe.  But, no sillier than those who believe that a coffeehouse is a "mission" of the Church, worthy of funding with District dollars.  That's more than silly.  As I said above, that's just plain sad.      

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Backyard Brawl

We're just a couple of days away from the "Backyard Brawl" here in Michigan, which, of course, refers to the annual showdown between MSU and that other Big Ten team from our state.  Both teams enter the "Brawl" this year undefeated, the first time that has been the case since 1999, and Sparty looks to best their rivals for the third year in a row, something they have not accomplished since 1965-67. 

After last week's solid victory over then #11 Wisconsin, Sparty was shown some love in the polls, leaping over the other team from our state that struggled to squeak out a victory over Indiana.  Sparty moved up to #17 in the AP, with the other team at #18, and Sparty is #16 in the Coaches' Poll, while the other team is #17.  Nevertheless, since the game will be played in the other team's so-called "big house," Sparty is a 4.5 point underdog, according to odds-makers.  That's okay.  We Spartans love being the underdog! 

MSU coach Mark Dantonio, who suffered a mild heart attack a few weeks back after the Notre Dame victory, will be back with the team this week.  He'll probably coach from the press box, but he'll be there calling the shots.  You simply can't keep him away from this game, which is always the biggest on the schedule for Sparty.

I'm sure it is rather clear by now, but I really can't stand that other team from our state.  I often say that if Al Qaeda had a football team and they were playing that other team from our state, I'd be rooting for Al Qaeda.  I don't know why people laugh when I say that.  I don't see the humor in it at all.  Really, not at all.  I also have never understood how anyone could be a fan of either team from our state, but root on the other team when they're not playing each other.  That simply does not compute.  There is no middle ground here.  You are either for Sparty or the rich, snobbish, arrogant team from Ann Arbor.  Period.  Of course, it's no surprise that the vast majority of those who do the "I'm a fan of this team, but root for the other team from our state when they're not playing each other" thing are not Spartan fans.  We know what faithfulness and loyalty mean, after all.
And so, as I anticipate the game, I am reminded of a few of my fondest sports memories (think of the song, "These are a few of my favorite things" as you view what appears below):

One of the greatest moments of my life, right up there with my marriage to Lisa and my children being born!

The "Hail Mary" from QB Kordell Stewart which won the game for Colorado - Still remember the amazing feeling I had when I watched this!

Maybe my favorite sports memory of all time!  I'm sure it needs no further description! :)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Purchase Hymnals . . .

for our Lutheran brothers and sisters in Africa.  Some of you asked me to re-post the information.  Here it is:

To purchase hymnals ($20/hymnal), send a check to:
Bethany Lutheran Church
7500 State Road
Parma, OH 44134-6102
(Indicate "For Lutherans in Africa Hymnal" on your check)

You can read the original post about this here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Valiant Effort!

The Americans put forth a valiant effort this morning, but fell a 1/2 point shy of retaining the Ryder Cup  (Final:  Europe 14 1/2  USA 13 1/2).  Heading into the singles' matches today, they were three points back, so they had a tough road to hoe.  But, they had so many opportunities not only to make up that ground, but to put the Europeans away.  Cink had a golden opportunity to gain a full point, but missed a makeable putt to halve his match, and Furyk was in the perfect position to steal a half point from Donald, but chunked his 124-yard, middle-of-the-fairway, approach shot into the front bunker.  If either of those guys come through, the Americans retain the Cup.  But, even with those early missed opportunities, the Americans still had a chance.  Rookie Ricky Fowler completed an unbelievable comeback by sinking a curvy 15-footer on 18 to halve his match (he was 3 down with 3 to play).  That meant that it came down to the last match, which saw America's Hunter Mahan down 1 to Europe's Graeme McDowell with 3 to play.  All Mahan had to do was win one of the last three holes and America would have retained the cup.  But, it wasn't meant to be.  McDowell (pictured celebrating above) sunk a lengthy birdie putt on 16 to go 2 up with 2 to play, and finished it off on 17 when Mahan succumbed to the pressure and left his drive into the par-3 short, and then duffed his chip to dash all hope.  It was painful to watch.  But, hey, as I said, it was a valiant effort.  And it was one of the most exciting Ryder Cups in history.  Rarely does it come down to the final match, as it did today.  And, at least the big boys showed up today.  Woods and Mickelson both won easily and decisively.  Woods went 9-under in the 15 holes he played in his match.

So, disappointed that the Americans couldn't pull it off, but, as a golf fan, happy for such an exciting Ryder Cup.  Enjoy it while it lasts Europe, 'cause we'll be taking that back from you at Medinah in a couple of years! 

Reformation Week on Issues, Etc.

Good News . . .

for Lutheranism in Finland!  Check it out over at Father Hollywood's blog (be sure to click on the links he provides for more news and pics). 

Lutheranism 101

A dear parishioner, Yvonne, brought her copy of "Lutheranism 101" with her to Church this morning and I got to review it during fellowship time (my copy hasn't arrived yet; hopefully Monday).  I really love this new resource and look forward to using it in a variety of catechetical situations.  I think it will be just perfect for Adult Confirmation classes and refresher courses for long-time Lutherans.  Oh, and I just love the feel of the book - it's a little smaller than I thought it would be, which makes it light and easy to handle.  Kudos to CPH for yet another gem!

A few pics of me reviewing the book (I know, I know - just like one of those "confessional guys"; always have their heads in books . . . blah, blah, blah :)


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Our Lutheran Brothers and Sisters in Africa . . .

singing, "Christ, the Life of All the Living" (LSB 420).  Simply awesome!  Thanks to missionary Pr. James May for sharing.  Learn more about the mission, and how you can support it, here.

The Godfather Returns

Little Abby, who was baptized last week, got to meet her godfather, Dave, for the first time today.  Dave has been working out of state for the past few months, but returned home a few days ago.  Here are a few pics of Abby with her mommy and daddy (Meggers and Chris) and her godparents (Carol and Dave) and her pastor (that'd be me).  Oh, and below the pics is a video of the theme music from "The Godfather," which some of us were humming around Dave this morning after Church (posted especially for those of you who amazingly didn't know what we were humming - I mean, really, come on!  It's "The Godfather," for crying out loud! :).

Abby is waving, "Hi," in this one! :)

Sparty Moves to 5-0!

With Coach D re-hospitalized due to a blood clot found in his leg, Sparty had a huge challenge put before them yesterday as they faced #11 Wisconsin.  But, they passed that test with flying colors.  Overcoming three early turnovers which led to 10 Wisconsin points, the Spartans still managed to outgain the Badgers and take a 20-10 lead into halftime.  Then, after Wisconsin made the score 20-17 in the 3rd quarter, MSU drove the ball down the field with relative ease only to get stuffed on a 4th-and-goal inside the 1-yard line.  That could have changed the momentum in the game, but Sparty's defense came through, forcing a three and out and giving the offense good field position and a chance to redeem themselves.  They did, marching down the field again and scoring the touchdown they failed to score a few minutes prior, giving them a ten point lead again at 27-17.  After the Badgers scored early in the fourth to pull to within three again at 27-24, the Spartans put together a terrific drive, taking nearly eight minutes off of the clock, before they were faced with another 4th-and-goal inside the 1-yard line.  I love that they went for it (after getting the okay via a text message from Coach D, of course), and that they had the confidence to run the play they did, which was a play-action pass from Cousins to Cunningham for the TD, which put the game away.  Final score:  MSU 34  WIS 24. 

It was a solid victory over a very good Wisconsin team, one in which the Spartans dominated every stat, except turnovers.  If they can play with the same controlled emotion next week in the Big House, I like their chances to make it three in a row over the other team from our state, whose name we don't mention 'round these parts.  That team squeaked past Indiana yesterday, 42-35, also moving to 5-0 (but, that team and Indiana were both 1-7 in Big Ten play last year - just sayin').  I'm sure that team's Heisman hopeful, QB Robinson, will make some plays next week, but if they plan on allowing him to carry the full load (as they've done for their first five games), I think they're in for some major disappointment.  The game is already being billed as "The Player vs. The Team."  I'll take "The Team" over "The Player" any day of the week.  Of course, this is college football we're talking about, so anything could happen.  That team could blow the Spartans out, or the Spartans could blow them out, or it could turn out to be the usual close, grinding, tough game we have witnessed for the past several years in this rivalry of rivalries.  We'll see.  Whatever the case, I am thrilled with how my Spartans have responded to adversity early in this season.  They are playing at a high level.  The defense has fixed a few early problems and the offense and special teams are running on all cylinders.  If they can keep it up, this could be a dream season for those of us who "bleed Green."  But, as Coach D would remind his players, "one game at a time."  All attention on that other team from the state.

Go Green!  Go White!