Why is it my wife is always right…?

My wife is reading the book Forgotten God:  Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, by Francis Chan with Danae Yankoski.  In it, the author discusses the lack of attention to the Holy Spirit by Evangelical preachers and churches.  There was one quote, in particular, that she read to me and caught my attention.  And it was on the second page of the book.

From the Introduction:

“The benchmark of success in church services has become more about attendance than the movement of the Holy Spirit.  The ‘entertainment’ model of church was largely adopted in the 1980s and ‘90s, and while it alleviated some of our boredom for a couple of hours a week, it filled our churches with self-focused consumers rather than self-sacrificing servants attuned to the Holy Spirit.”

I may have to borrow this book from her when she’s finished.  Consumers…that’s a word to think about the next time you’re in church.  And that’s not referring to the consumption of the Lord’s Supper, or taking in the Gospel of Christ.

I find this quote especially intriguing after reading a post over at Gottesdienst Online, entitled “Bait and Switch.”  The link in the post is something to take a look at, if you listened to Contemporary Christian Music in the ’80s and 90’s.

Quote of the Week

The quote of the week comes from the interview by Issues, Etc. on January 14, 2011, of Dr. Dan Gard of Concordia Theological Seminary-Ft. Wayne, IN, a military chaplain.

“God called me as a pastor.  My job, regardless of whether I’m in uniform or out of uniform, is to proclaim the Gospel to any human being that will listen to me.  I’ll go to hell itself to proclaim Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.”

Now THAT’S dedication to the Mission!

Gospel of the Week – July 24th

Matthew 13:44-52 – Jesus tells four parables to the disciples.  He’s building them to be the Apostles (yeah, I know, they sound like a rock band…), and teach others about the kingdom of heaven.  This is the importance of the summer season in the church year (aka “The *insert number here* Sunday after Trinity”).  It’s when we look to the coming Christ and the End of Days, when Christ returns.  Advent to Easter is the life of Christ and Easter back to Advent is the Works and Teaching of Christ in the Lectionary (the list of assigned readings for the year).  It’s why every Sunday is another parable or lesson of Jesus.  We’re learning about Him while we wait.  During this time of year, the words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom come,” mean all the more.  We wait in patience, working through the Gospel lectionary for the year, preparing for the return of Christ.

And, to be honest, I like the Gospel lessons this way.  If you read through the middle of Matthew, it’s story after lesson after parable after story after…you get the idea.  This way, we can stop and consider the Words of Christ each week.  We can meditate on the Gospel reading.  Seven days is almost enough time to work through the meaning, to let the lesson wash over us and as we begin to dry and settle in, we get doused again with another Gospel reading!  How wonderful it is!  And then we get another parable to think about for the next seven days!  Praise the Lord!

Casey Anthony: Seeking justice or vengeance?

The two most vilified words in the America today are Casey Anthony.  They spark rage, frustration, shock, horror.  And why not?  They have become synonymous with the tragic death of a little child, probably just like the one Jesus placed on His knee as He taught those around Him about the Kingdom of Heaven.  Many people believe that Ms. Anthony was the murderer, if not at least a cause in her daughter’s death.  People look at her and believe that SHE should die, just like that little girl.  One woman in Texas even followed another woman who looked like Casey Anthony and crashed into her car, injuring the look-alike.  We exclaim that justice should be done, and “an eye for an eye,” and cry foul when the ends do not meet our expectations.  We want JUSTICE, we say!

Is that true, though?  Do we seek justice for Caylee, and punishment for the accused?  Is justice even the right world for it?  Justice is the “adminstration of what is just” from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.  It is the result of the actions of a judge.  And who is the judge for Casey Anthony?  Are we?

Vengeance, on the other hand, is “punishment inflicted in retaliation for an injury or offense” (same source).  Which one sounds more like us?

What has Casey Anthony done to us?  Has she inflicted an injury to us?  Or do we just find her offensive?  Maybe that is it.  We see the death of a child as an offense because it is so close to us.  We all have children like Caylee in our lives.  Little ones who are our sons or daughters, nephews, nieces, or children of our friends or family.  We seek an outlet for our anger and we point to the one who SHOULD HAVE CARED FOR THE CHILD!  That much is true.  However, we are not the judges of Casey Anthony.  And our anger is not just.  It is a sin.  We have sinned against Casey Anthony when we call for her head and spit venom on her.

Romans 14:10, “Why do you pass judgment on your brother?  Or you, why do you despise your brother?  For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.”

And two chapters earlier, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'”

Let God be the judge of man, and Casey Anthony.  He knows what is in her heart.  And if she seeks the forgiveness of the Lord for her sins, whatever they may be, He will grant it to her.  And He will grant the same to you, even when you sin in anger against your neighbor.  Pull out Luther’s Small Catechism and read the Fifth and Ninth Commandments and their meanings.  Seek the Lord and the forgiveness He brings in the Gospel.  Remember that it applies to all, no matter the sin or the stain.  Thanks be to God.

Contemporary Christian Music is Trash…?

So, my wife and I have been going back and forth for a while now about contemporary Christian music. She really likes it and has a number of artists she follows. I still listen to my copy of “Jesus Freak” by D C Talk and haven’t moved past it. She tells me that I am really missing out on some great music, and I say it sounds too much like every artist is trying to write the next big worship song.

We’re both right. There is some great music out there today. She just introduced me to a new song by Sidewalk Prophets called “You Love Me Anyway.”. What a great song!

Yet, too many churches put this music into worship, thinking that it will make them hip and relevant and enjoyable. They use music to entertain and bring people in, when they’ve forgotten that the true purpose of music in the service is to teach about and give praise to God. When the song is about us and not the Lord and what he has done, then it misses the point of the service. Sunday morning worship is the time in which God gives to us all of the things we need and desire from Him: forgiveness and the strengthening of our faith through Word and Sacrament.

Too many times the purpose of contemporary Christian music is to build up our emotions and uplift our earthly spirits. That’s a blessed and much needed thing throughout the week. When I’m feeling down or I need to get the blood going, I like to use music because of it’s cathartic nature. But I can’t rely on those emotions to get me through the crisis of faith when it arises. And they certainly don’t give me the faith I need, because that faith comes from Scripture directly, not the personalized, me-centered pop music of today’s Christian artists. “Faith comes by hearing” as Paul says in Romans; and he means the actual, true, inerrant Word of God.

So, I agree, the answer to the title of this post is, “No, contemporary Christian music is not trash. Shame on me for implying so.” But keep it out of worship and let it do the job it was meant to do (which is sell records…or in today’s world, downloads for iTunes). Sunday morning music must, as the old spiritual says, “Give me Jesus!”

Gospel of the Week – July 17th

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 – The Parable of the Weeds

It’s about patience, plain and simple.  Learning to wait for God’s time while here on earth, even among the weeds (those of the evil one).  They will live among those of the Lord, unable to be told apart.  But the Lord will, at the end of days, separate the weeds from the wheat, and the weeds will be burned in the fire for all eternity.  Yes, that’s right, it’s hell.  And those of the Lord will be gathered together afterwards.  It’s pretty straightforward, but important to recognize the warning in the text.  Satan has sown evil ones among the children of God, be wary of those who may seem like the good, but do not bear fruit.  However, be not quick to judge.  That is the purview of Christ.  He will be the judge of the weeds, who will be bound together and burned in the fire.  It is not our concern to find the weeds.  Instead, we are to grow and prepare for the harvest.  The Lutheran Study Bible notation for v. 24-30 is informative.  Also, read 2 Peter 3:8-15.  It gives great insight into the patience of the Lord.

And, as always, there’s Pastor Fisk’s Greek Tuesday for the Gospel lesson of the week.

Quote of the Week

Using “Quote of the Day” last week was a little misleading, or a least inaccurate, as not every day has a quote on this blog.  So, instead, on with the “Quote of the Week”:

This quote is an interesting thought I ran across in Pieper.  There’s been quite a bit of discussion as of late about confirmation at my church, and I think Pieper has a quote which certainly brings perspective to the matter.

“We must beware of supplanting Baptism with confirmation.  There is a trend in our day, also among Lutherans, to exalt confirmation at the expense of Baptism.  Dr. Walther (Pastorale, p.266) issues this caution:  ‘The pastor must guard against representing confirmation as  a complement or supplement of Baptism received in infancy, as though, e.g., the confirmand now for the first time makes the confession and pledge given by his sponsors his own.  Rather the rite of confirmation should primarily serve vividly to recall to the confirmands, as well as to the entire confgregation present, the glory of their Baptism, received in infancy.  To invest confirmation with a sacramental character is one of the aberrations so prevalent today, particularly among those who want to be regarded, above others, as strictly Lutheran and churchly.'”  – F. Pieper – Christian Dogmatics:  Volume III

Wait…confirmation isn’t a sacrament?!  :0)

Would the DCE like to weight in?