Anotes

Election Day Prayer Vigil

The sanctuary will be open for prayer (it normally is by the way) on Election Day.  To help with your prayers on Election Day, we have put together a resource with Scripture readings, a meditation on our vocation of citizen, and some suggested prayers.

 


Election Day Prayer Vigil

Suggested Order of Meditation:

Daily Prayer for Individuals and Families in Lutheran Service Book pg. 295-298

 

You may read the appointed readings for the day given in the red letters and/or read one or more of the suggested readings included below.  We encourage you to allow the readings to form your prayers.

 

Suggested Readings

 

Psalm 118:5–9 (ESV)

            5       Out of my distress I called on the LORD;

      the LORD answered me and set me free.

            6       The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.

      What can man do to me?

            7       The LORD is on my side as my helper;

      I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.

            8       It is better to take refuge in the LORD

      than to trust in man.

            9       It is better to take refuge in the LORD

      than to trust in princes.

 

 Romans 13:8–10 (ESV)

8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

 

 

Isaiah 9:6–7 (ESV)

             6       For to us a child is born,

      to us a son is given;

                  and the government shall be upon his shoulder,

      and his name shall be called

                  Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

      Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

            7       Of the increase of his government and of peace

      there will be no end,

                  on the throne of David and over his kingdom,

      to establish it and to uphold it

                  with justice and with righteousness

      from this time forth and forevermore.

                  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

 

Psalm 46:1–11 (ESV)

            1       God is our refuge and strength,

      a very present help in trouble.

            2       Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,

      though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

            3       though its waters roar and foam,

      though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

            4       There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

      the holy habitation of the Most High.

            5       God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;

      God will help her when morning dawns.

            6       The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;

      he utters his voice, the earth melts.

            7       The LORD of hosts is with us;

      the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

            8       Come, behold the works of the LORD,

      how he has brought desolations on the earth.

            9       He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;

      he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;

      he burns the chariots with fire.

            10       “Be still, and know that I am God.

      I will be exalted among the nations,

      I will be exalted in the earth!”

            11       The LORD of hosts is with us;

      the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Psalm 47:1–9 (ESV)

            1       Clap your hands, all peoples!

      Shout to God with loud songs of joy!

            2       For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared,

      a great king over all the earth.

            3       He subdued peoples under us,

      and nations under our feet.

            4       He chose our heritage for us,

      the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah

            5       God has gone up with a shout,

      the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.

            6       Sing praises to God, sing praises!

      Sing praises to our King, sing praises!

            7       For God is the King of all the earth;

      sing praises with a psalm!

            8       God reigns over the nations;

      God sits on his holy throne.

            9       The princes of the peoples gather

      as the people of the God of Abraham.

                  For the shields of the earth belong to God;

      he is highly exalted!

Eph 5:1–14 (ESV)

5 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light.

 

Psalm 1:1–6 (ESV)

The Way of the Righteous and the Wicked

1 Blessed is the man

      who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

                  nor stands in the way of sinners,

      nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

            2       but his delight is in the law of the LORD,

      and on his law he meditates day and night.

            3       He is like a tree

      planted by streams of water

                  that yields its fruit in its season,

      and its leaf does not wither.

                  In all that he does, he prospers.

            4       The wicked are not so,

      but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

            5       Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

      nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

            6       for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,

      but the way of the wicked will perish.

1 Peter 2:13–17 (ESV)

13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

1 Timothy 2:1–4 (ESV)

2 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

 

 

Reflection on the Christian in Society

I have just said that Christians, among themselves and by and for themselves, need no law or sword, since it is neither necessary nor useful for them. Since a true Christian lives and labors on earth not for himself alone but for his neighbor, he does by the very nature of his spirit even what he himself has no need of, but is needful and useful to his neighbor. Because the sword is most beneficial and necessary for the whole world in order to preserve peace, punish sin, and restrain the wicked, the Christian submits most willingly to the rule of the sword, pays his taxes, honors those in authority, serves, helps, and does all he can to assist the governing authority, that it may continue to function and be held in honor and fear. Although he has no need of these things for himself—to him they are not essential—nevertheless, he concerns himself about what is serviceable and of benefit to others, as Paul teaches in Ephesians 5[:21–6:9].

Just as he performs all other works of love which he himself does not need—he does not visit the sick in order that he himself may be made well, or feed others because he himself needs food—so he serves the governing authority not because he needs it but for the sake of others, that they may be protected and that the wicked may not become worse. He loses nothing by this; such service in no way harms him, yet it is of great benefit to the world. If he did not so serve he would be acting not as a Christian but even contrary to love; he would also be setting a bad example to others who in like manner would not submit to authority, even though they were not Christians. In this way, the gospel would be brought into disrepute, as though it taught insurrection and produced self-willed people unwilling to benefit or serve others, when in fact it makes a Christian the servant of all. Thus, in Matthew 17[:27] Christ paid the half-shekel tax that he might not offend them, although he had no need to do so.

 

-Martin Luther

 


Suggested Prayers

For good leaders

Lord God, as I pray for all who are in authority, I thank You especially for the form of government given us in our beloved country.  Give me the grace with my fellow citizens to value the officers and magistrates of our government as those sent by You.  Instill in me that respect and honor that is due them.  Lord, endow them with wisdom for their several duties, with a spirit of sacrifice for the common welfare, with mercy and justice, with uprightness and kindliness.  Correct the evils of selfishness, greed, a vain desire for honor, or abuse of power among us as well as in the other governments of the world.  Grant that the true purposes of government may prevail, safeguarding peace and prosperity, so that we may live soberly and uprightly in Your sight and have opportunity to tell of You and Your kingdom.  These petitions I direct to You because in Jesus I know You as my Father and Lord. Amen.

Lord, Grant that we may choose trustworthy leaders, contribute to wide decisions for the general welfare, and serve You faithfully in our generation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

 

For Peaceful Life Together

Heavenly Father, God of peace and harmony, You would have Your children on earth live together in peace and quietness.  Frustrate the plans of all evil men who would stir up violence and strife, spoil the weapons of those who delight in war and bloodshed, and according to Your will, end all wars in the world.  Lead us to confess the truth of Your Word that from the lusts of our own hearts come wars and fighting among us.  Help me by Your Word and Spirit to crucify my sinful flesh and to root out the evil that would lead to strife and discord, so that to the best of my ability, I may be at peace with my neighbor.  Mercifully hear my prayer and grant us peace in our days.  In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

For Comfort in Distress

Heavenly Father, I come to Your throne of mercy bowed down and wearied by the weight of suffering and disaster visited upon our country.  I beg You to protect this nation in our hour of need. I acknowledge my trespasses before You and do not deny either my own transgressions of Your holy Law or the sins of other citizens of my homeland.  We are laden with iniquity, but You call us to Your forgiveness, salvation, hope, and life.  Turn the hearts and minds of all to You, that they might find peace through the cleansing of Jesus’ blood.  Let me not be confounded or dismayed so that I, a child of Your grace, may courageously speak to this needy world of the hope that is within me.  Make me an instrument of Your peace in a world of conflict, a witness to the power of faith in a world lost in unbelief, and a bearer of the joy that overcomes the sorrow of a fallen world.  Grant to the leaders of this nation and all the nations of the world wise counsel, calm thinking, and unselfish aims.  Amid the tumult of disaster, build Your kingdom and turn even more souls to Yourself.  Because of Your grace, we are not altogether lost but find peace and forgiveness I You.  O Lord, give me the grace to seek You, trust You and confess You, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

For Guidance In Our Vocation As Voters

Lord God, You have called us, Your servants, to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown.  Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go but only that Your hand is leading us and Your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with Your most gracious favor, and further us with Your continual hope, that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in You we may glorify Your holy name and finally, by Your mercy, obtain eternal salvation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

 

For Blessings Upon Our Country and Neighbors

Almighty God, You have given us this good land as our heritage.  Grant that we remember Your generosity and constantly do Your will.  Bless our land with honest industry, truthful education, and an honorable way of life.  Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil course of action.  Grant that we, who came from many nations with many languages, may become a united people.  Support us in defending our liberties, and give those to whom we have entrusted the authority of government the spirit of wisdom, that there may be justice and peace in our land.  When times are prosperous, may our hearts be thankful, and in troubled times do not let our trust in You fail; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen

 

 

 

Prayers are from

Lutheran Service Book Concordia Publishing House: St Louis 2006

Lutheran Book of Prayer Concordia Publishing House: St. Louis 2005

question mark 4

Have Christians enabled the Rape Culture?

I am asking this question in light of the recent cases of rape involving student athletes.  My question doesn’t really have to do with the cases themselves for the most part, but that they served as a spring board for a conversation my wife and I had.

My dear wife, Julie, had been talking online with a group of her friends about the cases.  In the course of the topic it had come up about how to prevent rape.  If you Google “rape prevention” you will find some excellent hints and tips for women.  One of Julie’s friends asked, “question mark 4but what about for guys?”  When Julie first told me this I jumped to the reality of men being raped (which does happen); but, no, the question was how can guys prevent rape from happening to women.  Or in other words, they meant how not to rape.  I will admit when I first heard this my reaction was to be upset that they were treating all men as if they were rapists.  Outrage culture has made me rather sensitive and prone to seeing false accusations.  My wife was quick to say, “No, you’re a nice guy.  You were always careful to take me into account.”  Slightly mollified we were able to continue the conversation.  Yet, while I was pleased to hear my wife say she thinks “I am a nice guy.”  I still, though, did not feel like a nice guy.  And this is where I get to my question.  Have Christians enabled the Rape Culture?

I know myself.  The student athlete could have been me.  I have been in that place of being around a woman who was out of her mind drunk.  I will come back to this story later, but to put minds at ease I helped make sure she stayed safe. However, if things had been different my story could have been the student athlete’s story and it’s not because I had parents who failed to instill values and cared more about external prestige.  The reason I say it could have been me is because I learned good behavior from the school of thought of how far can I go before I sin.  This is the school of thought that says if you think it, it’s ok so long as you don’t do it.  It’s the school of thought that says you can run right up to the line and maybe put a toe across and still be a good person.  It’s the school of thought that dismisses locker-room talk as boys will be boys.  When we were taught sex-ed by the well-meaning school counselor it largely boiled down to this “how far can I go without having sex.”  Essentially, this is asking what can I get away with but still have my fun.  This is not a wise course.  In fact, in the depraved mind of sin sick people it quickly becomes “it’s not wrong if I don’t get caught.”  For most of us, it manifests itself in the snatching of a cookie from the jar when no one is looking, or speeding on the highway when the cop isn’t around.  Occasionally though, it results in a young man raping an incapacitated young woman and then running when he is caught.

We, Christians, have adopted that question, “How far can I go before I sin?”  I hear it all the time in the form of question like “Is it a sin if I ______?”  In Bible Studies it is not unusual to have a whole series of questions that are essentially an attempt to draw a logarithmic graph coming ever closer to zero without ever crossing over zero.  And so I wonder, have we Christians enabled rape culture by adopting this line of question?  To some extent, I think we have.  Please don’t hear me saying that we have condoned rape.  We do not.  I was taught, and I know that we still teach rape is wrong.  Rather, I think we haven’t done our part to stifle rape culture by adopting worldly thinking rather than Biblical thinking.  In doing so, I think we have in a sense enabled rape culture without meaning to do so.

So, biblically thinking, how should we be thinking.  Solomon, still the wisest man ever wrote:

Proverbs 7:1–27 (ESV) My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and call insight your intimate friend, to keep you from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words. For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness. And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart.  She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait. She seizes him and kisses him, …With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him.  All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.  And now, O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth.  Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.

Solomon uses this story teach wisdom in living life.  The seductress is the personification of foolishness and temptation.  And Solomon illustrates that when the you act foolishly you place yourself into temptation and temptation is incredibly powerful.  So, powerful in fact that we will gladly walk to our doom none the wiser.  So, Solomon’s advice is don’t even go down the road of temptation.  Rather than asking how far can I go down the road he says, don’t even turn down it.  Walk on the road to wisdom and embrace her.  Essentially, the passage is about the folly of our question “how far can I go before its wrong.”  Solomon makes it very clear the question is “which path is wise?” and the answer to the question is go down that path.

How can we apply this to the situation at hand and reverse our unintentional enabling of the rape culture?  We start asking which is the path of virtue. In other words, how can I love my neighbor.  When we read the explanations to the Ten Commandments we find that not only does Luther explain how we sin in regards to this commandment, but also how the commandment translates into the positive action of loving our neighbor and God.  Using the 5th commandment, “You shall not murder” we can see that hurting our neighbor goes against the commandment as thus is sin.  And at the same time, we can see that in 'The_Good_Samaritan'_by_David_Teniers_the_younger_after_Francesco_Bassanoaccordance with the commandment we should actually help our neighbor, defend our neighbor from harm and protect them.

We can begin to end our enabling of rape culture by teaching how to be good to my neighbor rather than how far can I go before I sin.  Essentially, we teach boys how not to be a rapist by teaching them how to love their female neighbors.  The ancient practice of chivalry was such an attempt.  And to some extent it could behoove us to adopt the idea of this code as the code good men live by.  I know it won’t be perfect, nothing we establish will.  However, it is worth pursuing an ideal that benefits our neighbor.  I said earlier that I was in a situation that if it played out different I could have been just like the swimmer from Stanford.  A female friend of mind decided to celebrate her birthday in the sadly stereotypical manner of going on a pub crawl and drinking until she is too plastered to walk straight.   Looking back, I’ll be honest, I wish I hadn’t gone a long with it.  Friends shouldn’t let friends drink in such a fashion.  I regret this part, but I don’t regret other parts.  My friend proceeded to get very drunk that night.  We stopped her when she tried proving she was sober and took her back to the dorm room that served as my group of friends communal living room.  There we spent the rest of the night holding her hair out of the toilet.  What didn’t happen was any of us taking advantage of her.  In my case, what held me back was the fact that I knew it would be wrong.  It would hurt her.  While I had been brought up with the question “how far can I go before I sin.”  I was also brought up with the idea that men protect those who can’t protect themselves.  She was in no position to protect herself, so I stuck around to make sure she was safe.

Christians, we need to emphasize in our teaching how can I love my neighbor not the idea of how far can I go before I sin.  We identify what is sin and temptation so that we can take the road that leads away from them.  And we do so not because it will save us, but because our neighbor needs us to go down that road.  Women, and men for that matter, need us to walk down the road that seeks to love our neighbor.  They need us to teach our children to be the one who sees the young lady passed out in alley and calls for help.  We need to teach our children that we sacrifice our time and our habits for the benefit for the other.  In days past a brother wouldn’t dream of letting his sister walk alone in the dark and I think we need to return to that.  We teach our sons and our daughters to follow the path of wisdom and not the path of folly and temptation.

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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.

Anotes

Keep Calm and Proclaim Law and Gospel

Last week the Supreme Court ruled to overturn laws concerning Same Sex Marriage by requiring all states to recognize the desires of those who wish to marry a person of the same gender. I know that some of my fellow Bible believing Christians view this as a huge blow. I have seen your posts and comments. I have seen emotions running from fear to anger to just plain shock. And so, I wish to offer this word of encouragement. Jesus has already overcome the world. By His death, sin, the devil, and this world have already been conquered. We are merely experiencing its death throws. And by the resurrection of Jesus, we have already been given new life and a hope in what is to come. Jesus has already gone to prepare our places so no matter what happens here we have nothing to fear. As Paul said nothing the world can bring against us can compare to the glories that await.

Brothers and sisters, if you are worried about what the Supreme Court ruling means for the church as she continues to confess the Biblical definition of marriage, turn to Scripture; join with your fellow Christians in fellowship and prayer. Find your peace at Christ’s table.   For our hope is in Jesus, not in nine judges.

Whatever you do, do not lash out.

Often, we humans turn our fear into anger and we begin to lash out. We respond with angry and sometimes vile words. I have already seen this happening with fellow Christians responding to those who favor the Supreme Court’s ruling. We need not be insulting to remain true to the confession of the Biblical faith. We can speak an unwavering truth without words we know that will hurt, words that hurt not for the truth they speak but the baggage they carry. The last thing we need is to make it easy for them to lump us together with Westboro Baptist. As I point out to the addicts I counsel, being honest doesn’t excuse being mean. We can maintain our confession that certain thoughts and activities are sins without resorting to being mean.

Instead follow the words of Rev. Matthew Harrison.

As faithful Christians, we shall continue to be obedient to just laws. We affirm the human rights of all individuals and the inherent and equal value of all people. We respect the divinely given dignity of all people, no matter their sexual preference. We recognize that, under the exacting and demanding laws of God, we are indeed sinners in thought, word and deed, just as are all (Romans 3:9ff.). We confess that the “blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all our sins” (1 John 1:7). We confess that God’s divine law of marriage and the entire Ten Commandments apply to all, and that so also the life-giving sacrifice of Christ on the cross is for all. It is a “righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Romans 3:22).

What does that mean?

We need to rethink our political strategy. I am the first to say the government’s job is to enforce morality. By this statement, I mean enforce the second table of the Ten Commandments which largely boils down to how we behave towards one another. However, for too long, many of us have thought we can build and maintain a “Christian” nation via our laws. We bought into a lie. We cannot have a Christian nation through laws. The Christian nation exists not in the form of earthly government, but in the Church united in the body of Christ. And, Christians only come about through the life changing work of the Gospel and the Gospel falls under the realm of the church not the realm of the government. And so, we need to rethink how we have been going about things politically speaking. Honestly speaking, we were never going to win the same sex marriage debate. Once the world learned God wasn’t about to go and open heaven’s flood gates on it, the world was going to do what the world wanted. Any attempt right now that we make to overturn the ruling is going to make us look like people trying to grab back the privilege we supposedly just lost. And in turn, make it easier to paint us as bigots. I think we can afford to take a long view right now. Other work needs to be done. We need to win the hearts of the people and it will not be easy.

 

We start by becoming a sympathetic figure. We do what we should have been doing all along. We treat people as nicely as we possibly can. Give people respect even when we do not think they deserve respect. We need to be overwhelmingly generous with our words and deeds. Centuries ago, the pagan Romans complained about how Christians were making them look bad because we were so generous. That’s a complaint we need to hear again. Think about it this way. It is easy to hate the faceless person whom you can label with an evil name. To quote the Blues Brothers, “Illinois Nazis, I hate Illinois Nazis.” Illinois Nazis are faceless. They are easy to hate, because really who likes Nazis. They are only known for getting in the way of what we want.  The same thing happens with the word “bigot.” In many ways “bigot” has become the new “Nazi.” Who likes a bigot? They are all haters. It is very easy to be labeled the bigot when you are the faceless entity who seems to be getting in the way of what people want. We cannot afford to be the faceless entity. We shouldn’t have been anyways. We should have been friend and neighbor. Therefore, we will need to do everything we can to be that friend and neighbor, without compromising our confession, so as to not be called the bigot. The bigot is easy to hate particularly in this world enthralled with the idea of reliving the Selma days. While on the other hand, the neighbor who lives next door and will give you the shirt off his back is really hard to hate. I’m not saying that being outrageously generous and kind is going to be a magic pill to turn people around. People will still be people and there will be those who scream bigot when they find out you do not support their pet sins whatever they may be. But, it is still harder to do so to someone you know personally and have experienced their generosity.

We cannot lose our confession or we will cease to be a help to our brother. We hold to the Law of God ourselves and repent of our failings while continuing to immerse ourselves in the Gospel. We will not survive if we cave in on our confession. And if that happens who will be there for our brothers and sisters when sin drives them to rock bottom and they are left with a broken life. So, we continue on confessing that which we have been given to confess – the revealed will of God given in Law and Gospel. We must hold fast just as the martyrs did in the face of Roman persecution.

We cannot lose our confession of the Law because without the Law the Gospel is empty words. We need the humbling words of God’s command. We need to see our sin for what it is. One, because we ourselves need to repent. Thus, we need to see ourselves for the broken people we are. If we compromise on the Law in the name of being liked and we only end up losing sight of who we are. And in the end we will reject the Gospel itself.  The other reason is because in seeing our own sin we will find it easier to see our neighbors as broken people in need of help.  It’s hard to feel high and mighty when the Law has chopped your legs off at your hair line.

At the same time, neither can we lose our confession of the Gospel. Without the Gospel all is lost. There is no hope and there certainly is no compassion. During these troubling times we are going to need the hope of our victorious resurrected Savior more than ever. And there are people, having been given over to their sins, who are going to need the life renewing gift of the Gospel.  And we can’t give them the Gospel if we do not have it ourselves.  If you have ever been on a plane and listened to the safety talk, you will have heard them say, “Put your mask on first then help the person next to you.”  The reason they tell you this is because if you don’t get that mask on you’re going to pass out and be no good to anybody.  Same principle applies here, if you don’t have the Gospel you have no hope to give.

 

In short, keep calm and proclaim the Law and Gospel

 

And now some questions to consider as we move forward

We may need to rethink our role in society.  There may be roles we as Christians can no longer take. This is nothing new for us Christians. A Christian could not engage in prostitution or filming pornography and remain true to the faith. Similarly, we may need to rethink taking positions where we would be involved in officiating or licensing immoral acts of any kind. We may even have to rethink being in the catering business, simply because a cake may not be worth the fight (I know there is some debate over whether or not this constitutes participation, it’s just an example). Honestly, these are thoughts we need to have regarding any job.  If you know they are going to ask you to do things that are against God’s Law, you shouldn’t take the job.

At the same time, we need to work on strengthening our sense of community as a church and limit our involvement outside the community. I am not advocating a complete withdrawal from the outside community a la the Amish. Rather, I am thinking we will need to limit how much we are influenced by the outside community. We still interact, but we treat outside worldviews with care and discernment. And so, we need to limit the outside world’s influence over our community.  The things in the outside community that are good should be acknowledged, but at the same time, we should limit the exposure our children have to the bad parts of the outside community. We may need to see to educating our children ourselves, either through parochial schools or home education. I am not sure how much longer we can safely rely on public schooling, as it is simply too prone to following the predominant culture and our kids need a better foundation before facing the false views of the world. We may also need to cut ourselves off from much of what passes for entertainment in our world, while at the same time encouraging high art amongst our more artistically inclined Christian community members. The things in the paragraph above are just possibilities, I do not have definitive answers on how our future interaction should look in detail.

In the days of Rome, our own predecessors in the faith also had to rethink their role in society. The Apostles counseled them through this process. Paul writes extensively on this idea. He encouraged slave owners to, if possible, free their brothers in Christ or, if not possible, to treat them as a free man. Christians ceased participating in things that linked them to the pagan religions such as eating meat sacrificed to idols and no longer participating in the municipal festivals to pagan deities. The ancient Christians created their own art, extended charity to the surrounding community, continued to serve in helpful vocations, and served the population as a whole. All the while, they maintained a degree of separation and accepted the consequences of the separation.

 

It is not an easy road we face. However, the One we follow down the road has already overcome it. We continue to be the church. We live, breathe and proclaim Law and Gospel.

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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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How Bad Theology Yields Bad Christian Art

I have to admit, the fastest way to get me to not watch a movie or read a book is to slap the words family friendly or even Christian on it.  Not because I have anything against Christian, obviously, but because 98% of the books, music, or movies with that label are just plain bad theologically and artistically.  Today, I came across an interesting article posing the question it may not be a question of talent but a question of bad theology.

Tony Woodlief at Image (an important journal on Christianity & the Arts) writes,

I’m convinced that bad art derives, like bad literary theory, from bad theology. To know God falsely is to write and paint and sculpt and cook and dance Him falsely. Perhaps it’s not poor artistic skill that yields bad Christian art, in other words, but poor Christianity.
Consider, for example, some common sins of the Christian writer:
Neat resolution: You can find it on the shelves of your local Christian bookstore: the wayward son comes to Christ, the villain is shamed, love (which deftly avoids pre-marital sex) blossoms, and the right people praise God in the end. Perhaps best of all, we learn Why This All Happened.
Many of us are familiar, likewise, with that tendency among some Christians to view life as a sitcom, with God steadily revealing how the troubles in our lives yield more good than ill.  . . .
Sometimes we suffer and often we fail, and there is no clear answer why, no cosmic math that redeems, in our broken hearts, this sadness. The worst Christian novels seem to forget Oswald Chambers’s insightful observation, which is that God promises deliverance in suffering, not deliverance from suffering. And so they lie about the world and about God and about the quiet, enduring faith of our brethren in anguish.
One-dimensional characters: In many Christian novels there are only three kinds of characters: the good, the evil, and the not-so-evil ones who are about to get themselves saved. And perhaps this saved/not saved dichotomy—more a product of American evangelicalism than Christian orthodoxy—accounts for the problem.
I think we might craft better characters if we accept that every one of us is journeying the path between heaven and hell, and losing his way, and rushing headlong one direction before abruptly changing course to dash in the other, and hearing rumors about what lies ahead, and hoping and dreading in his heart what lies each way, and grabbing hold of someone by the arm or by the hair and dragging, sometimes from love and sometimes from hate and sometimes from both.
Sentimentality: Like pornography, sentimentality corrupts the sight and the soul, because it is passion unearned. Whether it is Xerxes weeping at the morality of his unknown minions assembled at the Hellespont, or me being tempted to well up as the protagonist in Facing the Giants grips his Bible and whimpers in a glen, the rightful rejoinder is the same: you didn’t earn this emotion.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s warning against cheap grace comes to mind, a recognition that our redemption was bought with a price, as redemption always is. The writer who gives us sentimentality is akin to the painter Thomas Kinkade, who explicitly aims to paint the world without the Fall, which is not really the world at all, but a cheap, maudlin, knock-off of the world, a world without suffering and desperate faith and Christ Himself, which is not really a world worth painting, or writing about, or redeeming.
Cleanliness: I confess that the best way to deter me from watching a movie is to tell me it’s “wholesome.” This is because that word applied to art is a lie on its face, because insofar as art is stripped of the world’s sin and suffering it is not really whole at all.
This seems to be a failing—on the part of artist and consumer alike—in what my Orthodox friends call theosis, or walk, as my evangelical friends say. In short, if Christian novels and movies and blogs and speeches must be stripped of profanity and sensuality and critical questions, all for the sake of sparing us scandal, then we have to wonder what has happened that such a wide swath of Christendom has failed to graduate from milk to meat.
And if we remember that theology is the knowing of God, we have to ask in turn why so many Christians know God so weakly that they need such wholesomeness in order for their faith to be preserved.
This, finally, is what especially worries me, that bad Christian art is a problem of demand rather than supply. What if a reinvigorated Church were to embed genuine faith in the artist’s psyche and soul, such that he need no longer wear it on his sleeve, such that he bear to see and tell the world in its brokenness and beauty? Would Christian audiences embrace or despise the result?

HT: Gene Veith

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How About Some Good Christian Artwork or Literature?

I thought I would offer my own counterpoint and post some Christian works that I really like.

In no particular order

“The Year of the Warrior” by Lars Walker – Father Aillill is a character we can identify with,  he is real, he has flaws, I mean he out right lies about being a priest to save his skin when captured by Vikings.  It isn’t neat and it isn’t tidy, but it is a story worth telling with characters worth following.

“West Overseas” by Lars Walker  – This is the continuation of the saga of Father Aillill.

A Skeleton in God’s Closet – Dr Paul Maier –  This book kept me up at night.  Honestly, this is what “Da Vinci Code” should have been.  Again, a real character with real flaws and it is coupled with a gut wrenching thriller style story.  I couldn’t stop reading, mostly because I had to find out just how does he resolve the dilemma.

Lucas Cranach –  I could have tossed up Thomas Kincaid, I do like his paintings, but Cranach did more theologically themed paintings.

Koine – The Church Band – They don’t do any originals, but they have fantastic rearrangements.

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When World of Warcraft Meets Real-Life Relition

Maybe you have seen the videos from Worldview Everlasting that I link on Facebook. Pastor Fisk the hyperactive ADHD host of those videos has an alter ego. And it is his alter ego that results in this fantastic interview on WoW Insider.

Main character Peccator, troll restoration shaman
Guild
Server Sentinels (US)

15 Minutes of Fame: Let’s start out with some context for our conversation here. Tell us a little bit about your congregation and denomination.

The Rev. Fisk: My congregation is a member of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod, the second-largest Lutheran denomination in the United States, and the one known for being conservative about theology. We still believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God, and we require a “quia” or total commitment to the historic teachings of Christianity for all pastors.

Many people think Lutherans just follow Martin Luther. Luther was a brilliant and helpful man, and he was a catalyst for the conservative Reformation of the medieval catholic Church, but if Lutheranism is about a man, it about Jesus of Nazareth. The Reformation succeeded because by Scripture alone we can know that salvation is by grace alone received through faith alone because of the work of Jesus Christ alone. There’s a lot to unpack there, but that’s a good summary. My parish is a very small one — the kind of little church America used to be famous for…

To read more follow this link http://wow.joystiq.com/2010/09/21/15-minutes-of-fame-when-wow-meets-real-world-religion/