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Family Worship

What does family worship look like?

I thought I would share what my family does.  But before I do, I want to stress that what you are about to read is something that we grew into.   We did NOT start out this way.   It has grown over the course of several years.  So, what I hope is to give you an example of something that you can grow into using in your own family.  For those of you who are not members of OSLC-Joliet, we have kids ranging from 4-9, so it does work with the younger set.

Every evening just before bed we sit down all together.  And we follow this order of service.

  • Say Invocation – “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” making the sign of the cross
  • Sing from Sing the Faith – Luther’s Small Catechism set to music- we usually sing about 3 songs one is the newest the other two are review songs.  We have a schedule drawn up.
  • Read the account for the day from The Story Bible
  • Ask the kids the questions that accompany each account.
  • Say the prayer that accompanies the account.
  • Say the “Learn by Heart Verse” from Congregation at Prayer and Repeat twice.
  • Review older “Learn by Heart Verses”  we also have a schedule set up for reviewing the verses.
  • Say the Catechism for the week from Congregation at Prayer
  • Sing a hymn from My First Hymnal – we do try to go by the church year.
  • Prayer time – Everybody has a chance to offer different petitions and depending on if the petition is a request or thanksgiving the rest of us will respond “Lord, hear our prayer” or “We thank you, Lord.”  As a note, if you are just starting you may need to prompt your kids by asking if there is something that they are thankful for or that worries them.  And it is OK to be thankful for something we adults may think as inconsequential.  All good things should be received in thankfulness.
  • Lord’s Prayer
  • Luther’s Evening Prayer – Luther’s Small Catechism under Daily Prayers
  • Benedicamus – L: We bless the Lord F: Thanks be to God

Depending on the length of songs and how distracted the kids are a particular evening it takes about 15-20 minutes to do the whole service.  I tell you though it is worth the time and effort.  And if you are thinking “That’s great but you’re a pastor,”  it doesn’t take a pastor to do.  What it requires is patience and a willingness to grow.  I also want to note we do plan at some point to switch from using The Story Bible to using a regular Bible translation once our youngest is a little older and can follow along better.

A good way to start is this

  • Invocation while making the sign of the cross
  • Scripture reading – possibilities are the daily Bible Reading from Congregation at Prayer or a reading from The Story Bible
  • Lord’s Prayer

From here you can grow.  And at the same time, you don’t have to follow what we do.  I am sharing what we do as an example.  You can also follow the Order of Meditation on the Congregation at Prayer.  You can use the order of Family Prayer found in the Lutheran Service Book or Treasury of Daily Prayer.  I will attest that what we are doing works.  Our kids are picking up the hymns, verses and catechism rather quickly this way and their familiarity with the Bible is becoming rather astounding for kids so young.

Links to the resources I mentioned in the post

My First Hymnal

The Story Bible

Sing the Faith and CD

Treasury of Daily Prayer

Congregation at Prayer

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Tricked by the Devil

The problem with evil is that it seems so good. Evil is not like the old westerns where you could tell who the bad guy was by the color of his hat. Nor is evil like the vile demons of horror movies with looks that not even a mother could love. No, evil wears the cleverest disguise. Evil looks good. As it is written, Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor 12:14). The now sainted Dr. Louis Brighton put it a little more colorfully. “Satan isn’t some little ugly fellow in a red suit with a pointy tail, he is a beautiful blond in a red negligee lying on satin sheets.” So just as Satan disguises himself, so does he disguise his evil and his messengers as Paul notes, “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2 Co 11:14–15).

Evil isn’t dark, shadowy and scary. It’s bright, cheery and sounds good. In fact, more often than not it is simply a twisting of something that is good. Satan isn’t really all that original. He’s not good at coming up with his own material, but he excels at making twisted parodies of that which is good. For example, a way that he can snare a Christian is to trick us with the idea of doing things that please our Heavenly Father, because we naturally want to do things that please God because they are good to do and helpful to the people around us. So, Satan takes those God-pleasing actions and he twists them into something evil. Usually, Satan warps them into away to build up ourselves and turn them into a means of self-worship – just look at what happened to the church in Corinth, they twisted all sorts of God pleasing things into status symbols (1 Corinthians 14). He also likes to trick us into abandoning the mind-boggling generosity of our Father in His gracious gift giving by leading us to believe that God is somebody we have to buy off.

I recently read a devotion that takes thankfulness, which is good, and turns into a means to manipulate God for His favor which is absolutely horrible. One, we could no more manipulate God than we could suddenly learn to breathe water. Two and worse, it leaves us in a place of uncertainty. If God giving me joy is based on me being thankful, how can I be sure of being thankful enough? You can’t. The devotion at hand doesn’t even offer you some external evidence of material blessing ala Joel Osteen. I guess not being like Osteen could be a point in favor, but leaving us hanging with no way to know for sure of God’s blessing is a just as horrible place to be as his pointing us to our material blessings as evidence of God’s disposition towards us. And in fact, what the devotional does is quite contrary to what God has done. Even though God has made it clear we cannot judge our state before Him by our circumstances – He has promised that because of His faithfulness we can have assurance that He is there for us to forgive our sins – bless us – in the gifts of His Word, Baptism, and Communion (John 20:22, Romans 6:3-5, Matt 26:26-28.) The devotional, doesn’t take you there. It just leaves you hanging – “Am I blessed or not? I can’t tell.”  And so, Satan takes being thankful and sends us into a nasty tailspin of always seeking to be more thankful so that you can be blessed and then wondering if you were thankful enough because you can’t be sure. And thus, Satan tricks us away from Jesus and the assurance of the free gift and moves us towards ourselves and the work that we do leaving us in the pit of doubt or self-deception.

Sadly, what I describe above is from the incredibly popular devotional called Jesus Calling. Notice in the picture to the side, that she openly states: “in this transaction: you give me thanks …and I give you Joy.” Essentially, she is saying if you pay Him, God will give you a service as if He were the person at the counter of your local fast food joint. That’s not how it works. jesus speaksThankfulness is not an act of obedience. Thankfulness is the natural reaction of gratitude one who has received a wondrous gift that is offered freely and not from obligation. More often than not thankfulness is expressed in the equally natural result of God’s redeeming work, our new obedience. Yet, even here we do not benefit from our new obedience. And our new obedience isn’t even for God, it’s for the benefit of our neighbor. Which means, we cannot confuse it with a system of payment as is portrayed in this devotion.

When we are thankful to God we aren’t paying a bill; we are overflowing with the gifts He gave us. Take for example Psalm 89, which Mrs. Young quotes. We will look at the context immediately surrounding her quote.

                Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
                         steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.
                Blessed are the people who know the festal shout,
                           who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face,
                who exult in your name all the day
                           and in your righteousness are exalted.

(Ps 89:14–16) ESV (Please note she uses the NIV which is different from all the major translations)
The way Hebrew Poetry works is that it generally uses thoughts in parallel that play off of each other usually negating or building upon one another.  That means in order to understand the verse you need to look at its paralleling thoughts. In this case verse 14 and 16. Our question is who are the blessed? Verse 16 tells us. They are the ones who have been exalted in God’s righteousness. They are righteous because as verse 14 tells us, “God’s steadfast love and faithfulness” goes before Him. The people are blessed or in a joyful state because they have been made righteous through God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. In other words, they are joyful because they have been redeemed through the gracious work of Jesus on the cross. They are not given joy because God gave rendered a service on payment the joy came first.

The other verses do not fair much better.  Ephesians 5:20 is in the midst of several exhortations on our treatment of our neighbors.  It unpacks what I pointed out earlier, that our thankfulness benefits the people around us.  It also involves proclaiming the great work that God has done in saving us – that is the heart of the Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Eph 5:19).   Psalm 118, is worse.  Here the Gospel is clearly overlooked.  Without going into too much technical detail, I will say the verse “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” is a bookend verse.  The last verse of 118 is the exact same words.  This a signal to the reader.  The main point is in the middle of the psalm and that central point is going to inform our understanding of the bookends.  So, our main point is going to be centered around verse 14-16 roughly speaking.

The LORD is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.
15  Glad songs of salvation
are in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the LORD does valiantly,
16  the right hand of the LORD exalts,
the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!”

Once again, it becomes clear that thankfulness is a response.  Even more if you read further on you will find that this is a prophetic psalm about Jesus “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Ps 118:22).  With the way the verse is used in the devotion we are turned away from the intended meaning of Jesus towards ourselves.  We are taken away from the glorious news that God works out my salvation freely because He is gracious and delivered into the hands of a bill collector who fixes our credit rating only because we paid him something.

Mrs. Young took a part of Scripture and removed it from its context. In doing so she changed its meaning. Did she intend to change the meaning? I don’t know, I want to assume the best. However, we still must take seriously the verse means the exact opposite as the devotion would have you to believe. Sadly, such a thing is very common. And it would seem that Mrs. Young has fallen for one of Satan’s more common tricks. As Rev. Jonathan Fisk notes “One of the sneakiest tricks of the devil is to quote God’s words, but to not quite quote *all* of them.” That’s what has happened here. Part of God’s words were quoted and so it looked like what she wrote is correct, but reading God’s word in the context of the rest of His words makes it clear the words mean something different than Mrs. Young implies. The more I hear of this book, the more that I think that it is Satan’s words in his well-used disguise – a messenger of light. I really do not know Sarah Young so I will not comment on her personally, but I am pretty sure she has not been hearing Jesus as she once claimed. (you can read more about her “hearing Jesus” at 10 Serious Problems with Jesus Calling).

So what does this mean to you who have been reading Jesus Calling? Satan has taken advantage of your good desires.  You’re not the first person Satan’s tricked. In fact, welcome to the club. He’s tricked pretty much everybody including yours truly. I bought into a few of Satan’s lies myself. I can sympathize and so could a few other far more notable figure such as Peter, Paul and Martin Luther. Each of us has bought into a lie of Satan’s, more importantly the light of Jesus’ truth shined forth, breaking the lie and renewed us in the life giving Gospel of Jesus. You were looking for something good that spoke to your situation and Satan tricked you with something that appeared to do so. It is not too late for you. Now that Satan’s trick has been exposed, it’s time to admit you were tricked. Set the book aside, preferably in the recycling bin. And once again, hear Jesus’ real words of great Joy in the pronouncement of Absolution – “I forgive you of all your sins.” If learning these things about a book you held dear has shaken you up, I invite you to come and talk. I’ll commiserate with you. I’ll even offer Jesus’ words of great joy and comfort for free in Holy Absolution (That is assuming you are one of my parishioners reading this article; if not talk to your own pastor. I am sure he’d be happy to help you.) We can even explore devotionals that really do what Jesus Calling only claimed to do – give you true comfort.

 

Update – I wish to quickly address if the above is an isolated incident.  As much as one would hope that maybe she had a bad entry this is not the case.  Young does, what I address,  throughout the entire book.  For a more comprehensive review of Jesus Calling please listen to this podcast on Just and Sinner by Pr. Jordan Cooper and his wife Lisa Cooper.

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Passing on the Christian Worldview: The Ten Commandments – God’s Leatherman

I can remember years ago when the Leatherman multi-tool was introduced. It was the Swiss Army knife for DIY’ers. EverythingLeatherman you could think of was included in this pair of very useful set of pliers.     I’m pretty sure you could find a set that included a kitchen sink. The Leatherman was the ultimate tool for every wannabe MacGyver – you know the 80’s TV hero who could build a nuclear reactor out of a stick of bubble gum, duct tape, a couple of paper clips and some dish soap. Soon after they came out my wife and I bought one of the smaller versions to give as Christmas presents for all the men in our families. Well, all but one. Me. I was pretty jealous of my own gift. It was at that moment I once again ran into God’s Leatherman, the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments have multiple uses. They are a curb, a mirror, and a guide. We sometimes refer to this three-fold nature as the three uses of the Law. What happens is the Holy Spirit makes use of the Laws to accomplish three things – to curb our behavior, to show us our sins, and to teach the believer God’s will. In the case of my jealousy regarding the Leatherman tools, I ran into the mirror. I didn’t break it but it sure broke me. So, what does this mean for us in forming our Worldview?

Bumper bowling

bumperHave you ever seen the bumpers they put in the bowling alleys when kids are bowling? Years ago it was a length of hollow tubing that they put out when requested. Now they have high tech risers that can be raised and lowered. Either way they serve one purpose, they keep the ball rolling down the lane so that you aren’t always missing everything. The Ten Commandments do the same sort of thing. They keep us bouncing down the lane so that life isn’t complete chaos. If you think things are bad now, imagine if the Law wasn’t throwing the brakes on our behavior. As much as the bumpers keep most bowling balls rolling down the lane there are those that land over the bumper. The same thing happens with the Law which is where the next use comes in.

Mirror, mirror on the wall who is the fairest of all?

It’s not Snow White. She may be fairer than the evil queen, but she is still is ugly as sin in this mirror. The Law as mirror is much like the painting in the book The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. It shows us who we truly are. In the book, Dorian Gray is a fantastically handsome man who commissions a special painting of himself. The painting is bewitched so that he will always remain handsome while the painting takes on the scars of his evil. So that when Gray finally looks at the painting, he dies upon seeing how ugly he truly is. The Law as mirror does the same thing to us. It kills us by showing us who we truly are in excruciatingly accurate detail.

Guide

The Law also teaches us. It tells us what the God pleasing course of action is. Often we overlook this use because the answer isn’t flashy and sometimes it’s painful. But none the less, the Law is the epitome of God’s will for what we are to do. And so, it should be the first place we turn when considering any action or thought.

In regards to all these uses Luther’s Small Catechism is extremely helpful. Luther did a great deal of the leg work needed to fully understand the impact of each of the Ten Commandments. Essentially, Luther summarized the Sermon on the Mount in order to write the explanations for each of these commandments. He also drew from other Biblical passages, but the Sermon on the Mount already is a commentary on the Ten Commandments and so makes a great source to summarize. But at the same time there are explanations to the commandments in the Epistles (letters) and in the Old Testament and Luther does include those sources.   And not only that they were written to make it easy for us to memorize. All in all, it makes the Small Catechism a great go to source for a quick overview of the commandments and their implications. Thus making them most excellent for daily use.

Forming our thoughts

As we immerse ourselves into the commandments on a daily basis they begin to form our thoughts. What happens is now that which is written our hearts is given a voice. That voice in turn speaks up as we taken the world around us.

Now, do not mistake this idea with the Hollywood advice of “follow your heart.” Hollywood’s advice is some wishy washy mush that could just well turn out to be indigestion. Whereas the Ten Commandments are an unchanging constant. They are not subject to the whims of the moment or the tyranny of pragmatism. They are an unwavering line that speak the truth in all times and places. As part of the CrossRoad Life Recovery program, we talk about the Ten Commandments and their role in our life. One, of the things we mention in the First Step materials is that the Ten Commandments provide an objective measure by which we can test and figure out a life situation. When people build a house what do they use to measure the lumber? Do theyPotters-Clay use their individual hands? Or do they use a tape measure? They use a tape measure because it is a constant size whereas each person’s hand is a different size. If they used their hands the house would be an unmitigated disaster. This is the difference between following your heart and the Ten Commandments forming your thoughts.   Our hearts are different, worse they are not to be trusted because of the old heart who loves sin that keeps hanging around, and so following our hearts would be total anarchy. While on the other hand we have the Ten Commandments which are the same no matter who is involved.

As the Ten Commandments are forming our thoughts they will also keep us honest. The Ten Commandments let us know when we messed up. I have told this story before, there was this one guy who really wanted to do better at helping other people. So, he started watching for moments that he could be a help to someone. One day a situation straight out of romantic comedy occurred as he was walking into the grocery store a lady was coming out carrying her bags. One of the bags ripped sending canned good all over the parking lot. He helped her retrieve her things. And as he was walking away he thought “I sure hope someone saw me help her.” He tried to do right by one of the commandments and broke another. He realized what happened and admitted to his breaking the commandment. But, this illustrates what I am referring to in the commandments keeping us honest.

Guiding our actions

When something becomes ingrained in our thinking it affects our actions. For example, I had been bringing up the issue of speeding in context of the Fourth Commandment as governmental authority rests in this commandment. Speeding is a sin as it flaunts what our God given authorities have said. Now here I am, a guy with a semi controlled lead foot saying this. After a few times of bringing it up I realized, “I need to listen to my own sermon.” So, I made it a goal to drive the speed limit. Thoughts affected my actions. As Christians, this is what we want the Ten Commandments to do for us. We want them to affect our actions because these are things God wants us to do. In dealing with our old self, and his foolish love of sin and death it will take a great deal of training and a great deal of killing with the Gospel. Using my example of not speeding. I am not perfect in my attempts. There are still places where speeding is an overwhelming temptation. So, I am still in need of confessing my sin and being forgiven. I am not sure I will ever outgrow it in this area either. But at the same time, I as a Christian need to strive to do that speed limit because it is the law made by our God given authorities, but also my neighbor needs me to be safe on the road. So, even as I confess and I am set free in Jesus’ forgiveness, I am practicing the art of having a light touch on the gas pedal. Why? Because those Ten Commandments are in the back of my head saying this is the right thing to do and guiding my actions.

The Ten Commandments play an important role in the Christian’s life. They are well worth the effort to ingrain into your thought. Read them and the meanings every day (it helps us understand their full scope). Pray that God instructs you through His word of Law. And admit your failure to follow His Law. Just do not stop there. We need what comes next or we will drive ourselves into despair. What comes next is the Good News that kills the sinner and raise to life the Child of God.

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Passing on a Christian Worldview: Beginning with the end in mind

If you want to accomplish anything you need to have a goal. Our goal is straightforward, to instill a Christian worldview. Ok, we have a simple goal.  However, do we understand our goal.  If we want to succeed, we first need to understand.  So, without further ado here is what our goal entails.

What is a Christian Worldview?

A Christian worldview is simply one that sees everything through the lens of the cross of Jesus. This may seem to be a narrow view on first glance and in a sense it is as it will exclude various views, ideas and paradigms. On the other hand, it is a view that allows us to take in the world and understand it. Through the cross we can see the core issue, we can understand God’s relationship with creation, and our place in it.

It answers the big question

What is wrong with the world?

You don’t get to the cross without a problem. The cross is pretty plain about the problem. Sin. Paul makes it pretty clear when he writes,

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come…Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:12–21 (ESV)

Seeing life through the cross we begin to see how sin has affected all of creation in a general sense and a specific sense. Obesity is a great example. In the general sense we can see that sin has affected our bodies in such a way that they cannot metabolize food to its fullest and at the same time prior to the fall it is hard to imagine such a thing would be a problem. And at the same time, we can see obesity is largely due to our own sinful overindulgence. Without sin we would not feel the need to overindulge. We would have perfect contentment with just the right amount of food with perfect nutrition. Sin is the reason bad thing happen. It sounds simplistic, it even sounds overly black and white. But without sin there would be no shades of grey. The cross, helps us to see the reality of sin and its place as the root of suffering.

It remedies the wrong.

Ultimately, the cross is about redemption. It is the loving act of the gracious Creator of all things that restores His creation. Through the death of Jesus the sins of the world is atoned. From this we can understand the fundamental question of humanity of “what is the problem and how is it fixed?” The cross tells us that sin is what is to ultimately blame for all suffering. And it tells us how the problem is fixed. Namely, God takes on human nature, lives perfectly, takes on sin, dies, and rises again. The act of God redeeming the world answers those immediate questions but like a rock thrown into a still pond its importance radiates outwards.

Ripples in the pond

Like ripples radiated out from the stone’s landing point, the Gospel’s effect radiates out in our lives. As the Gospel restores us in Christ it naturally effects other parts of our lives. It creates the desire to have God pleasing lives. It affects how we view things such reason and revelation. The Gospel changes our relationship with others – a whole host of things are changed. A great example of the effect of the Gospel has on our view of the world can be seen in the recent bookletIn Christ All Things Hold Together by the LCMS Committee on Theology and Church Relations. The booklet is a summarized view of how the cross affects our view of science and how a Christian can work in the realm of science. Working through that dynamic it cannot help but touch on how the cross affects our whole view of the world and how we understand it.

We are at home in the paradox

As a pastor I frequently get questions that boils down to which is the right answer that is asked in an either or format. Frequently, my answer is “both,” because even as the answers appear to be completely opposite they are both true. When you have two apparent opposites that are equally true you have a paradox. The cross establishes a paradox. Because of the work on the Cross, we Christians exist in the paradox of being both justified and sinner. The work of the cross did not remove us from the world so we still deal with the effect of sin and yet, we are also no longer a part of this world but of the renewed world to come. How this can be is a paradox. We can only confess both to be true. It is when we try to reconcile the paradox we get ourselves into trouble. For example, those who claim Christians cease to sin and so you can not be a Christian if you still have sin in your life. It is true a Christian in Jesus is without sin. However, it is not true that we stop sinning (Rm 7:13-25). Both are true. Both cannot co-exist or at least should not and yet, they do. Hence, our lives being a paradox.

Our ultimate goal

In this post, I have given an extremely basic overview of what a Christian worldview looks like.  I will draw out some more details in following posts, but please realize because of its all encompassing scope there is a great deal more that can be said.  However, now that we do have a basic understanding of what the Christian Worldview looks like we can begin to explore how we pass on the Worldview. We will start covering the “how” in my next article.

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Manger

For the past 28 years, I have had the privilege of putting up the Manger scene every November and taking it down every January.  (Sometimes, when it was 5 below zero, or raining or snowing cats and dogs the ‘privilege’ part was a little questionable!)  I took-over from my friend and elder-partner, Bob Weber – now home with the Saints in Heaven. Someday, someone will take-over for me.  (You may consider that a request for help!)

Once, when we put up the Manger, I lost my wedding ring and we searched the straw for hours, trying to find it, but to no avail.  Miracle of all miracles, when we took it down in January, with 12 inches of snow on the ground, we found my ring!  God is Good!  But, where else would you expect to see a miracle, if not at the Manger of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

When we see that manger, it is a reminder of 2 important truths.  It Reminds us that THE BIBLE’S ACCOUNT OF JESUS BIRTH IS LITERAL AND RELIABLE and that CHRIST WILL LIVE WHERE ROOM IS MADE FOR HIM.    Here in the manger is visible proof that God does keep his promises, that God  loves each of us and all the world.  God is faithful and loving!  1 John 4:10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, Descend to us we pray!
Cast out our sin and enter in; Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels and great glad tidings tell;
Oh, come to us, Abide with us, Our Lord Immanuel!

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Scouting

When I was a teenager, I was in the Boy Scouts.  My dad was the scoutmaster of our Church-sponsored Troop – Troop 150 in Mishawaka, Indiana.  My appreciation of nature; and accumulated outdoor skills were developed and nurtured during those 8 years as a Scout.  I learned to swim during that time, and – as a result of that training – saved a little boy from drowning once.  I earned lots of ‘merit badges’ for practical things I still use today.  Over those teenage years, I achieved the rank of ‘Life’ scout – falling short of my goal of ‘Eagle’ scout because of entry into college.

Parents, I would encourage all of you to consider Scouting for your sons and daughters.  The values learned through scouting last a lifetime – learning accountability, self-reliance, teamwork and discipline are all good character attributes for any of us.  Adults, I would encourage all of you to consider participating in Scouting as adult leaders.  Hours of sacrifice to be sure; but the rewards are worth the effort.  I was there, first-hand, to see what it meant for teenage boys to develop a close relationship with my dad, their Scoutmaster.

In a way, I can picture the relationship between Jesus and his disciples much like scouting, in the sense that this group of men were being molded by Jesus for a mission of service and outreach in the world, in much the same way that Scouting leaders teach young people to become responsible citizens.   Proverbs 22 says  ‘Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.’  While we think of this verse in terms of Bible-based training, our kids should be associated with role models and leaders and peers outside the home and church that exemplify the best in Christian behavior.  (Scout Promise)  On my honor I will do my best To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.)

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Bullseye

Did you ever do target practice before?  Shooting at something with a gun?  My Aunt Sherri (2 years older than me) used to have a b-b gun when we were kids, and we’d target-practice all the time.  As a teenager at Boy Scout Camp, they had a shooting range with 22 caliber rifle targets.  My brother used to get in trouble there, because not only couldn’t he hit the bullseye; he couldn’t hit the target!  He’d accidently shoot the clothespins holding the target and the instructor would think he was doing it on purpose.  My brother was a lousy shot!

What’s a bullseye?  Everybody knows it’s the center of the target – the spot you aim for. As Christians, we have a bullseye too.  Our bullseye – our center – what we aim for – is Christ; to be more Christ-like; to have an intimate relationship with Christ – to make Christ the ‘center’ of our life.   If we want to be in the center of God’s will, we need to be in the center of His Word.  

Did you know the Bible has a ‘literal’ center – a bullseye, if-you-will?  The shortest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 117; the longest is Psalm 119.  The ‘literal’ center of the Bible – Psalm 118.  There are 594 chapters before and after Psalm 118.  Add 594 + 594 and you get 1188.  What is the center verse in the Bible – the ‘bullseye’?  Psalm 118:8.  What does that verse say?  ‘It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.’  We spend so much of our life hitting the clothespins and falling short of the bullseye.   It’s time to refocus, re-aim and seek the bullseye – Our Lord, Jesus Christ!  Remember, when things get tough, our relationship with God doesn’t get us around trouble, it get’s us through it!

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Books Every Home Library Should Include

All of these books are great, but since budgets are a necessary evil when it comes to buying books, I arranged them in descending order of importance.

Home Library
Books Every Home Library Should Include

A good study Bible – personally I recommend the Lutheran Study Bible – the articles and notes are second to none, the only way to get better notes is to buy a commentary series like The People’s Bible Commentary Series or the Concordia Commentary Series (both are excellent choices).

Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions-A Readers Edition of the Book of Concord – This is the collection of our agreed upon confession. There are some parts people may find familiar such as Luther’s Small Catechism, but there is so much more to us than the Catechism. Luther’s Small Catechism was only meant to be the start, here in the full collection of the confessions you will find the confession of faith which has stood the test of time.  You can’t find a better explanation of Scripture, plus like a study bible there are notes to help you understand more difficult passages.

Treasury of Daily Prayer –  The best devotional ever written.  Each day you will read a Psalm, a passage from the Old Testament, a passage from the New Testament, and a writing by various authors on the theme of the passages.  Plus, it has daily prayers, the daily offices (devotional times based on time of day).

Law and Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible – This is the pivotal work of Rev. C.F.W. Walther, where he explains the importance of rightly understanding and dividing the two central themes of the Bible – Law and Gospel.  This particular edition has a lot of helps and notes to aid people in understanding the book and more importantly understanding Scripture itself.

Lutheran Book of Prayer – The name kind of says it all.  This book is a collection of prayers.  In it you will find prayers for each day of the week during a month’s time.  There are prayers for special occasions, times of trouble, of preparation, and many others.  This is a good tool if you are at lost for words, want to pray but don’t know how, or even if you are unsure of what to pray for.

Reading the Psalms with Luther– One of the classes Luther taught as a professor was the book of Psalms.  In this book he introduces each Psalm and guides you through reading the ancient song book of the church.

Lutheran Service Book – Every home should have a copy of the hymnal.  In this book is a collection of songs that have been passed on for centuries connecting us with the Christians who went on before us.  Plus it has excellent resources for personal devotions.  I can imagine somebody saying why would I have a hymnal at home?  So, I will share a story that comes from my families history.  My mother when she was about 11 lived in Turkey when her father was stationed at the U.S. Embassy there.  During this time a violent insurrection began that involved fighting in the city they lived.  Locked in their apartment afraid to go out, my mom and her family comforted themselves by sing hymns.

The Lutheran Difference – This book will help you understand what sets us apart from other denominations, helping you to understand our distinctive teachings.  It will help you understand why we never really fit into the nice neat categories sociologists like to use