Digging In The Dirt

Love covers a multitude of sins. - Post by meohmy on BoldomaticSome call it “Call Out Culture.” Some call it “Cancel Culture.” Whatever one may call it, our modern culture seems to enjoy digging up, listening to, and wallowing in, the dirt of people’s lives. Most of our modern news cycle is nothing more than that. Dirt, (or sometimes not really dirt), dug up, spun, reported, and analyzed for a public that loves to hear it.

A lot of today’s dirt has actually proven not to be dirt, but rather righteousness, or at least some “nothingburger,” spun and broadcasted in the most negative and sinister ways so as to look like dirt. Examine it under the microscope, however,…

Nevertheless, there will be real dirt too. But the advantage of being a Bible-believing Christian is that we already knew this. Or at least we should have.

If we believe at all in the Bible’s teaching of original sin, then why are we at all surprised to find out there is dirt? This may sound a little cynical, but I truly don’t think this is very far off the Bible’s teaching on the matter. The Bible teaches there is sin. There is dirt. A reminder that when we hear some? Well…DUH!

Maybe we’re too prone to idealize certain people, suggesting there couldn’t possibly be any dirt there. We talk a lot about “good people,” (a favorite compliment of our current president no less). Does the Bible say this? That there is a “good person” (in the conversational sense)? Well, humans are the crown of God’s creation and part of its goodness to be sure. BUT, humans are also sinful and fallen. How disappointing it is when someone we think is a “good person” shows us their sinful side. SCANDAL!

Anger & ContemptChristians should know better than to be so scandalized as we often are by sin. When we are, WE become the scandal, the stumbling block, to our own faith and the faith of others. When we get all offended by someone’s behavior, it’s the scandal of it that often causes us not to deal with our brother directly but start talking about it to others, getting others on our side, magnifying sin and trying to increase our innocence. Yes, We Christians do this and the world would be right not to be terribly convinced of Christianity for it.

In our world today, if you sinned 20 years ago, 20 days ago, 20 minutes ago, you can’t be who you are today, this hour, this minute. And if we Christians buy into that thinking, well, we may as well give up. The Lord may have removed sins as far as the east is from the west from us (Ps. 103:12), but we often think we don’t have to from the other person. The other person needs to suffer for what they have done.

But what if YOU are that other person? Then you would wonder why you aren’t forgiven. The dirt is yours. Christ cleans it up in the forgiveness of sins, but if the other person will not, we suffer for it anyway. Maybe it’s a matter of what goes around comes around.

If you will not forgive your brother, your heavenly Father won’t forgive you. (Matt. 6).

If we Christians practice what we preach, then we will forgive. If we practice what we preach, we will bring concerns about someone to that person and not broadcast it to everybody but. If we practice what we preach, we will seek to have peace with all our brothers and sisters. Why does the Church look so sickly these days? Here you have the answer. Too much dirt, not enough forgiveness.

Surprised by the dirt in your life and in others? Don’t be! Repent! Seek God’s grace for yourselves. Extend it for others. We have a better message. When we live it, we show the world a better Way.

Sincerely,

Prairiepastor

You Can Always Pray

Major Cruise Ports to Close as Dorian to Become a HurricaneHurricane Dorian is still moving up the Florida coast some 135 miles off of it…deciding if it wants to be a problem or not.

So I will pray that it goes out and plays with the fish, rather than with the people of Florida and parts of Georgia.

Yes. I will pray. I will pray as I did for the victims of Sandy Hook, the synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh and San Diegp, the recent shootings.

I will pray because “the prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16b).

I learned this lesson in a way I did not expect. My senior year in HS, we had several classmates die. When one, whom I always liked, died in a car accident, I went and talked to my wind ensemble director. I told him how troubled I was over the death. (My father had died in a car accident some 15 months earlier). I wanted to do something to help the family. My teacher, (not a Lutheran, but DEFINITELY a Christian), said I could always pray for them. The reasoning was: When you think you can’t do anything to help someone, you can always still pray for them.

And this in a public school!

That lesson is both correct and one that has always stayed with me. Those who knock Christians for praying for those suffering in those awful news stories because, well, it seems like we can’t do a whole lot more, are probably not doing nearly as much as the Christian who prays.

And so I pray. For those in the wake of Dorian, for those in Odessa, for those still suffering over the recent shootings, I pray. Please don’t hear this as me glorifying myself. I feel it’s the best thing I can do. Everything that’s out of my control, well, I can still pray for it.

All I ask is that you pray with me. And don’t let other tell you it’s a waste of time. The Bible says otherwise.

Please pray for all these things.

Be Careful What You Shout For

https://i0.wp.com/bringapen.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Be-Careful-What-You-Pray-For.jpg?resize=800%2C521The old saying, in its least religious form, was “Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.” Among Christians you hear it said this way: “Be careful what you pray for, you just might get it.”

But in our increasingly polarized situation, the new adage might be: “Be careful what you shout for, you just might convince others never to give it to you.” Or, indeed, to take it away from you.

The past few days have been breathtaking in their importance for the abortion debate. Tough new laws restricting abortion in Georgia, Alabama, Missouri. (The WI State Assembly also passed one this week, although our new governor has pledged to veto it). All of this after what had to be, arguably, the worst media month in the history of the pro-choice movement. As positions polarize and as the anti-lifers continue to dig in their heels, the behavior and the opinions have gotten down right scandalous. A PAAlyssa Milano’s Sex Strike to Protest Wave of Anti ... state politician doxxing teenage girls and harassing older women who were praying for the end of abortion outside a PP Clinic in Philadelphia, Hollywood stars calling for “sex strikes” against their own sympathetic boyfriends on the grounds of protecting women’s rights, and the list goes on…

I’ve never been a big fan of shouting a position. Protest may indeed be a human right under the 1st Amendment, but that doesn’t mean it’s always effective. I suspect a factor in whether or not protest is successful is the volume with which it is carried out. Shouting loudly might work once, maybe even twice, but when it’s all you know how to do, don’t be surprised when you yourself become a victim of the “Chicken Little Effect.”

The “volume” I mean here is not restricted to taking it to 11 on the amplifier. Volume is whatever it takes to get someone’s attention. Here is where my old adage comes into play. Be careful what you shout for. Your shouting may indeed be making up a lot of minds. Your extremism, though, is not making those minds up the way you want them to be made.

I don’t think it coincidental that after such loud and extreme behavior so many states took the actions they did. I’ll admit it. If I was an AL legislator (or governor), the doxxing of those girls in Philly would have put my efforts into hyperdrive. Call it the political version of Newton’s Third Law of Motion. Or as Gabby Johnson famously put it in “Blazing Saddles,” “Ain’t no hornswagglin’ cricker cracker…” You get the idea.

Or, as it is in parenting a child, you don’t give the loudest child what they want and thus reward their volume. If newer, more restrictive, abortion laws look more and more sane by the day, it’s only because the media is giving all the time to the shouters. The shouters and their media cohorts are doing a FANTASTIC job of making the case for us.

TherListen to The Vanishing American Adult - Audiobook ...e’s much to be said for why children need to be trained not to shout, run off at the mouth, or seek attention through inappropriate behavior. It seems like almost an entire generation has not learned the lesson. That does not mean that we are any more likely to continue to give them what they want just because they know how to scream. “Chicken Little” applies to all people regardless of their generation and upbringing.

Maybe after we send them to their rooms, we can put the whole thing to bed. Wouldn’t that be grand? What would we say about all that shouting then?

PrairiePastor

Ashes to Ashes and Dust to Dust: Why Lutherans Receive Ashes on Ash Wednesday

Not all things “catholic” are “Catholic.”

Life Through Lutheran Lenses

Many non-Lutherans wonder why their Lutheran friends or family members wear ashes on their forehead at the beginning of Lent. Are they showing off? Are they trying to stand out? Is it some weird secret church ritual? What does it mean? Should I get them too?

There are three reasons why Lutherans go to church to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday. First, the ashes remind people of their sinfulness. Second, the ashes remind people of their mortality. Third, the ashes remind people that they have been redeemed. Let’s unpack this a bit.

Since ancient times, God’s people have used ashes as a sign of humble repentance (e.g. Jonah 3:5-9; Job 42:6; Daniel 9:3: Matthew 11:21; Luke 10:13). This tradition was carried on by the early church and remains an important tradition today. When one willingly goes up to a pastor and receives ashes on his/her forehead, they are admitting that…

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#THEBETTERMESSAGE      Coming in Lent!

Heb. 6  Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation.

In a world full of seemingly as many opinions, philosophies, religions, social constructs, and overall “positions” as there are people, one thing is making itself more clear to me by the day:

We Christians have the better message.

Let me state that again. We Christians have THE better message.

If that is true, you may wonder, why not just call it “the best message?” I’ll give a two-part answer to that. The word “best” seems to close off all discussion of the other options out there. It invites us simply not to consider them. The word “better” keeps all the other failed ideas out there in the discussion better so that we can see why the Bible’s message is THE better one. We should want to engage all other failed ideas out there if we believe ours is better.

The other part of my answer to the question, though, is that the word “better” is the term of preference for the preacher in the book of Hebrews. Hebrews is not a letter; it is a sermon. It is a sermon about Christ. But the goal of the sermon is to help his Jewish Christian hearers to understand that in Jesus, they have the better message, the one better than all others. The word “better” appears no less than 14 times in the book of Hebrews (an average of slightly more than once a chapter). Peter, in his two epistles, uses the term in a similar manner twice as well. The early church made it their point to preach the Gospel as better than all other options.

At present, I am working with the Board of Elders and the PPC to craft a vision for the next few years here at St. John’s around the theme: #thebettermessage. I even created this hashtag on Twitter a couple of years ago. Now the idea is, however, to make it the focusing principle of the work we do here. We have been given this better message. Now what are we going to do with it?

We will start casting this vision in Lent. The theme of our midweek series is #thebettermessage. We will be exploring the powerful way the Preacher to the Hebrews comforts his hearers with this better message and gives them strength to demonstrate to others that they have a better outlook and worldview and that the world can have this better message too!

I hope you will join us on Wednesday evenings this Lent. There’s Good News, the better message, for you! Don’t miss this opportunity to have your faith strengthened in the better message!

Sincerely, Pastor T.

Silence Is Golden

I’m not a doer of New Year’s Resolutions. I stopped around ten years ago. Like many people, most of my resolutions did not make it out of January intact. It dawned on me about ten years ago that our Lutheran, Biblical teaching explains exactly why this failure happens to most of us. The Law is limited in its ability to motivate. A successful change often only happens because of a change in the heart…and that requires both Law and Gospel.

The exercise of self-examination–the sort we often do at New Year’s–is a good thing, however. For me, this is a good time of the year to take stock and renew. I think most of us see it that way.

I have moved over to what I think of as 3 or 4 “themes” in my life I wish to concentrate on. The first one is usually the most important one and impacts the others quite often. My first priority theme for 2019 is “silence is golden.”

This is not a commitment to not talking! Although I do hope this theme means that when I talk I do so more positively and constructively. This theme isn’t as much about what comes out of my mouth as it is about what goes into my ears.

There is too much noise in our world today. All the noise is easy enough to see when one turns on the television. Recently, in a public place, I was subjected to a television tuned in to the day’s episode of TMZ, the entertainment show. It looked as bad as a 24/7 news channel in that its staff were busy arguing. About what? Brad Pitt’s new hairstyle? There may be too much arguing and noise on the news channels, but I will contend that a good old political argument still has more value than what I was seeing and hearing.

It doesn’t improve when you move over to social media. Our exhaustion with social media continues to grow for the same reasons. It may be in text form, but the noise is still very much there.

What should we fill our ears with? The apostle Paul leads the way. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ (Rom. 10:17). The word of Christ never ceases to astound me. One, because Jesus never seems to waste a word in His speaking. Two, because He understood the value of silence. At the manger, at the crowd who wanted to stone the adulterous woman (John 8:1-11), and on the cross, Jesus is silent. (He is in many other places as well). He doesn’t argue or fill our ears with more noise. The noise is always trying to force us. Jesus’ silence and His powerful Word economy only invites us. His words fill the ears not with noise, but with the beautiful Good News, the most important thing we need to hear.

For me this theme will bring other good things. It will bring less time in front of screens, perusing social media, or idly listening to anything other than the Word…and probably music. It will also mean, God-willing, more peace, joy, and hope. We are not better for all our media saturation. We are better for hearing the Word of Christ.

I share this with you in case you are looking for more of what only the Word of Christ brings. My prayer for you is that you will have a 2019 of greater peace and joy. I hope you find it in the silence and in the Word of Christ.

Sincerely, Pastor T.