Saturday, September 13, 2014

For You

Jesus died. That's history.
Jesus died for our sins. That's doctrine.
Jesus died for ME. That's the Gospel.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

No Favorites

I received a very good piece of advice from the recently retired Kantor Resch when I was at seminary. He said, "do not talk about or take into account favorites." Favorite hymns, favorite liturgies, favorite anything. Do everything in the Church based on the Word and the Word alone.

This avoids a lot of potential problems. Whenever anyone asks "why don't we sing my favorite hymn?" I simply respond: I do not pick hymns because of likes or dislikes, but because of the Word. The hymns that best fit the readings and theme of the day is what we sing. (Note: Sometimes there are hymns that fit well and sometimes not, but that is the goal! To have all that is spoken and sung unite in a common confession of the Word that day.)

This is also true for our liturgy. I have some folks whose favorite liturgy is Divine Service 3, some like Divine Service 4, and my organists absolutely hate Divine Service 2! (They tell me it is the most difficult to play.) Fine. We do them all over the course of a year, rotating seasonally. Why? Well, I recognize there is benefit in using only one liturgy and getting to know it well, but I also want my people exposed to as much of the hymnal and liturgies as possible. That way, when they travel or move to another place and attend another church, they will feel at home with whatever liturgy the church is using that day. They've done it and know it. That is a great benefit.

Do I have favorite hymns? Sure I do! But I won't tell you what they are. (I have too many anyway!) But I do not pick my favorites, or anyone else's, just because they are favorites. All in service of the Word and the Word alone.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Best Laid Plans . . .

We're back from vacation and back from dropping my son off at college. He is attending Western New England University in Springfield, MA.

We had everything planned out. Since I would be in Florida for my Board of Trustees meetings, my wife would drive him up to Hartford, CT on Thursday and stay over for the night there. I would fly up from FL first thing Friday morning. They would then pick me up at the airport and we would drive up to the school and settle my son in - maybe even returning on Friday night. Easy, right?

Well . . . except that our van broke down. About 30 minutes south of the Hartford airport. So around dinner time on Thursday, I am on the phone with my wife trying to figure out what to do. But here's the good news: they broke down in Southington, CT which is where the parents of one of my members lives! So AAA towed the van and my family was able to stay with my member's parents for the night. Good so far.

In the morning (while I was in the air) my wife found out that the water pump had failed. (Which it shouldn't have, since it was not all that old, but that's another story.) That's a big, labor-intensive repair, so my wife rented a van, loaded my son's stuff from our van, then drove to the airport to pick me up. That delayed us a bit, but we made it to the University around noon - just enough time to move my son into his room and then for my wife and I to dash off to a parents' meeting.

My son's dorm, Windham Hall.

After our meeting, my son had a meeting and a bunch of other things to attend to, so we went off to get him a cell phone. (Yes, he still didn't have one of his own!) I had found one with a very customizable plan at WalMart, so we went there. Got back to campus after purchasing the phone but it wouldn't activate. Spent a bunch of time on my phone with their less-than-helpful customer service, who then finally told me I should take the phone back and get another. Sigh. So back off to WalMart, return, get an exchange, but this phone wouldn't activate either! Different reason, but same problem. So back on the phone with their less-than-helpful customer service, who after a bunch of time told me to take the phone back and get another! Really? Okay, I've learned. So back to WalMart, return, but NO exchange this time for this piece of junk! Found another phone, a little more expensive plan, but they activated it for me so at least I got a phone for my son!

Now it getting close to 9 pm. Say our good-byes and head back to CT so we return the rental van in the morning and get our car. Not cheap. But now the van is running well with a new water pump and timing belt (since you always replace them together, there's so much labor involved). Got home about 6 pm Saturday.

Youngest Peasant child, with the Golden Bear, mascot of WNE.

All-in-all, a very tiring and frustrating few days! But our son is there and settled in. I really think this school was a good fit for him, so I look forward to hearing from him how things work out.

Oh, and by the way, do NOT purchase the LG Pulse Virgin Mobile Custom phone from WalMart. They are junk. You will just wind up returning them.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014

Some VBS Pictures

My daughter Sarah is our official VBS photog, and she took some pretty goods pictures! Here are a few . . .

Singing together.

I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him CRUCIFIED.

A little outdoor fun.

A little indoor fun.

Pastor and his "brother" Creed the Awesome!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Life and Death

This is VBS week for us. I don't have any pictures to post yet, but the week has been going well. A couple of hiccups - I won't get into them here. But while it is always a busy and tiring week for me, it is also always a good week. I enjoy teaching the kids and they soak it up and are always disappointed when the week ends. We are using the Higher Things VBS curriculum "Crucified." I highly recommend it to you. It isn't filled with lots of flashy stuff - just the Word. Jesus' death to give us life. Nothing better than that.

Last night I was on my way out to Bible Study and our street was filled with police cars. Not sure what was going on, but they were at our neighbor's house across the street and diagonal from us. I stood a watched for a moment and heard my neighbor cry out a few things. My guess from what he said: I think his wife committed suicide yesterday. I hadn't met this neighbor yet, but my heart went out to him, he was in such agony. If I am right, his wife died and he felt like he had died. His wife died, I don't know why. Maybe this life was too painful or hopeless for her. The police were still there when I got home from the study, still taking pictures and investigating. Procedure, I guess. But today in VBS I get to teach the kids about the resurrection of Jesus and the promise of life. I get to teach our hope and victory over death. Boy do we need it.

Finally, my vacation is coming up! About a week and a half away now. We are going up to Michigan for my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary. It will be a little shorter than usual, but it will still be good to get away and leave the computer and internet and schedule behind, and just relax a bit.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Calvinistic View of Prayer?

Have you ever heard someone say: "Why pray? God doesn't change, so we can't change His mind, so why pray for things? God already knows what He's going to do."

Bummer. Wonder why people don't pray more?

But it seems to me this is kind of a "calvinistic" way of looking at prayer in that it is quite like the doctrine of double predestination: God elected some to salvation and some to damnation. There's nothing you can do about it.

The problem with both of these things is that they begin with God in eternity. They start with the hidden God that we do not know and can only speculate about. And that's always going to lead us down the wrong path and into wrong and destructive teaching, as shown above.

The Lutheran way of things is to start with God as He has revealed Himself to us. We do not start by trying to figure out God in eternity, but with God in His Word, God as He has given Himself to us, God in Christ Jesus. And with that starting point, we find quite a different picture of God! For example, Moses prays for the people of Israel. A LOT. They're constantly grumbling and complaining against Moses and against God. But Moses prays for them and we read: "And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people" (Exodus 32:14).

How do we understand this? If we start with the calvinistic precondition, we will say: Well, God knew He wouldn't do it - He just wanted Moses to pray. Really? How about instead: Moses' prayer made a difference! But, how can an unchangeable God change His mind? I don't know. He hasn't told us that. But how He has revealed Himself to us is as a God who listens to and answers our prayers, and that our prayers make a difference. So I will pray!

Jesus prays, too. If it is pointless to pray, why does Jesus do so? Or how about the story in Mark 9 when Jesus comes down from His transfiguration and there is a demon the disciples could not drive out. What does Jesus say? When the disciples ask Him afterward: "Why could we not cast it out?" He said to them, "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer" (Mark 9:28-29). Or how about the passage in James (5:16-18) which reads:
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
So let's stop the "crypto-calvinistic" view of prayer that has crept in among us, and stick to the Lutheran view. This is how God has revealed Himself to us. I will not try to figure out how it can be so, but will trust and believe . . . and pray.