“You will be hated by all…”

Startup Stock PhotosA friend of mine once told me a story about his trips to the coffee house to sit, read, and, on occasion, discuss Christianity.  My friend didn’t go to debate, he was there because it was a comfortable place with nice chairs and room to spread out his books for study.  The coffee house wasn’t a big chain with green aprons, but a locally-owned place with good crowds and a great vibe.  He loved the place and got to know a few of the regulars.  Everyone got along for the most part, and he had some lively debates.
That is, until one night, when another patron pulled him aside and told him to be careful.  My friend and the patron had grown close, and the patron wanted to look out for him.  There were grumblings among some of the others that my friend needed to “watch out.”  This was, effectively, a threat.
Christians, more often than not, are not the instigators of another person’s feelings.  We don’t cause someone to become angry at us, or to hate us, or to think we’re being judgmental.  Often, the quiet Christian is harassed solely because they exist in the same space as the other person or people and are, well, being Christian.
“If I don’t cause the reaction, why does it happen?  Are these people just hateful individuals?” Not at all. Instead, those responses are internal to that person.  The feelings inside them well up and are driven out at the Christian, making them the target of all of the feelings.
So, then, one will ask, “What are the source of these feelings?  These are not people that normally live lives of anger.”  How can it be that seemingly passive or accepting people (read “tolerant”) become so vicious?
In the end, the answer is fairly simple for the Christian to understand, and folly to all others.  They have the Law written on their hearts, as we all do.  The very sight of Christians and Christian signs and symbols wrenches on their hearts and minds, and injects a feeling of guilt that bounces off of their hardened hearts and becomes hate as it leaves their lips.  They don’t hate you, though, but rather they hate Christ and all that He is.  They cannot stomach the thought of their sins, their breaking of the moral code of God, and they live in fear of the judgment that is theirs because of their sin.  They are not even aware of it.
And the worst part of this reaction is that we do the same things to God.  We, in our sinful lives, hate God.  Our stomachs turn and our sinful hearts turn away.  We strive to run from God as fast as we can.
“But, how can that be?” you say.  “I go to church, read my Bible and pray, and I believe.  How can I hate God?”  The key difference between the believer and the unbeliever is faith.  We have faith, given by the Holy Spirit through the power of God’s Word.  Because of that faith, the Holy Spirit turns us towards God and His Son Jesus Christ, and we are saved!  By the power outside of ourselves, we are made right before God.  We are because, as Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
That’s the blessing of God’s power and the comfort of His merciful gift in Christ Jesus.  We are able to live freely in our faith, and able to complete the works of God for the world around us.
The unbeliever doesn’t have that comfort.  They don’t have the faith that saves them from the wretched guilt that eats their insides.  Without the Word of God, they are not even able to give it a name.  They just know that they hate that cross you wear, the Bible you carry, the worship music you listen to, or the book about your faith that you read.  They cannot understand because they do not have the language that we receive in our faith.
We live in a world that doesn’t understand us.  It doesn’t know Christ inherently.  God is only revealed to us by God’s Word.  This is why we must continue to speak it to the world.  Whenever we can, whether it is the quiet lunch conversation with the grieving co-worker, the smiling message of gratefulness and thanks to the grocery store clerk, or the words of forgiveness and strength to our friends and family, we can speak the Word of God and the comfort that comes in Christ Jesus our Lord through our words and actions.
Maybe, next time the person who sees you at the coffee house will, instead of shouting at you, ask about the Bible you are reading.

Deliberate Practice and the Art of Family

Geoff Colvin, in Talent is Overrated, talks about how “deliberate practice” is the method in which one can go from being good or acceptable to great in their field, whether it is sports, art, entertainment, or even business. The elite performers spend hours training and studying at their craft, which is the key to building neural pathways in the brain that allow them to perform at the highest levels. The brain, as it repeats the exercises and study, increases the protective sheath around the neurons, and speeds up those pathways so that they become more resilent and faster. This “deliberate practice” doesn’t just consist of repetition of the skills in which these individuals have already achieved high levels, but is an intentional focus on the areas that still require improvement. They go out and work on those areas over and over again in order to build themselves up.  

Colvin also, in his book, talks about “domain knowledge” as another way that individuals continue to grow to become the top in their field. Reqular study and understanding of the “How” and the “Why” in their field becomes another key element to their success. The best in any field is a “subject matter expert” at what they do. That experience gives them depth and insight beyond the rest, and allows them view the landscape to see what is coming next.  

There is a story of the how Wayne Gretzky’s father trained his young son to nearly see into the future. He would put Wayne onto the ice and have him follow the puck around as he made long passes. Wayne’s father would sling the puck off of the boards around the ice rink and make Wayne chase it until his lungs burned and his legs ached. The key to this practice, however, wasn’t to build speed; speed was a by-product. Wayne wouldn’t just follow the puck, he would go to where the puck would be in the future and catch it on the fly. Wayne looked ahead to see where the puck was going, and went there. He studied how the puck would bounce and became a subject matter expert, using deliberate practice to master his field.

Thinking about this, how are you committing to “deliberate practice” in your life? Are you spending time studying your job, or your favorite pastimes? Do you practice the skills that you have not yet mastered in order to attain that mastery? Each and every time you sit down to learn, what can you do to make sure that you’re improving?

These concepts, however, do not just limit themselves to business, physical endeavors, or the arts. Family requires “deliberate practice” as well. Spending time with your spouse, your children, and the others closest to you in your life can be another form of “deliberate practice.” Family isn’t easy, it isn’t quick, and NO ONE is an expert at it Day One. We learn about each other. We grow together. We have to constantly work on the areas that have fault and failure. For, without that work, we never learn how to overcome the struggles that inevitably are a part of life. Consistent, intentional, and focused “practice” is the key.  

Take time to work on the areas of your marriage or relationship that seem hard. If you struggle with engaging consistently throughout the day, make it a point to do three kind, selfless acts for that someone in your life in the morning, during the day, and in the evening. If you find that you have a hard time expressing yourself and your feelings, send three text messages throughout the day and let that other person know how much your care about them. Then, after a week, take one of those times and say it to them directly, face-to-face. Yes, it’s going to be hard; that’s why it’s called DELIBERATE practice. You’ll have to work at it to become great.  

Spend time and build the “domain knowledge” of that other person. Over coffee, or dinner, or while sitting together in the car, ask questions about their thoughts and mindsets on things. Work to understand how they think. Pray for them and with them. Become a “subject matter expert” on them. By connected with them on a deeper level, you will not only build your relationship, you’ll actually change your brain! You will find that they become your area of focused expertise. And that’s a skill you’ll never want to give up.

The Very Stones…

563007_380173768681380_299594056739352_1195707_1022789384_n  I’ve been a musician almost my entire life. From singing in the children’s choirs at church and school and Sunday School, to attempting to learn and play guitar and banjo, to my time singing in the collegiate touring chamber group, I’ve enjoyed making and listening to excellent music. In that time also, I’ve spent much of it writing and reading, another of my favorite pastimes. So it should come as no surprise that I like to sing hymns from the hymnal. It’s a collection of wonderful, descriptive texts set to fulfilling music. I sing them to my children. I belt them out from the pew in church. I like to sit quietly and contemplate the words and the Scriptures behind the music.

One of the hymns that grabbed my attention earlier this year was “No Tramp of Soldiers’ Marching Feet,” LSB 444. It’s a particular passage in the second verse that I found myself especially proud to sing. “Or else the very stones would cry/‘Behold, behold your King!’”

This is, of course, a Holy Week hymn, set to be used during Palm Sunday, as we hear of our Lord’s Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem. The hymn’s text is from Luke 19:36-40, where Jesus’, as He rides on a colt into the city, is admonished by the Pharisees to have the people stop praising Him. The crowds had, as Jesus passed by, thrown down their cloaks, waved palm branches, and shouted, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” These were the same praises sung at the other bookend of His earthly life, as the heavenly hosts told the shepherds of His birth. Jesus knew, as we do now, that these crowds could not, would not, be silent. They had seen the Savior, the one spoken of by Simeon in the temple, when Jesus first traveled to Jerusalem as an infant. Here He is again, on His way to back Jerusalem, to the temple even, but this time, instead of a sacrifice by His parents for cleansing at His birth, He would be the sacrifice for the cleansing of all through our own rebirths by water and the Spirit.

It’s no wonder, then, that Jesus tells the Pharisees, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” And His words were proven true less than a week later. For you see, after that entry in triumph to the earthly city of Jerusalem, it was Christ’s eternal triumph over death and sin that caused those stones to cry out, to declare the majesty of the Son of God. Matthew 27:47b, “And the earth shook, and the rocks split.” The earth could not keep silent at the victory of Jesus and the crushing of the head of the serpent. And still, there was to be one final demonstrative act by the earth, as the stone was rolled away, and the great maw of the earth, the tomb entrance, was laid open as a mouth shouting out the resurrection of our Lord and the Last Words of Christ,

“It is finished!”


The Researchers are Coming to Get You!

An article from the Life Issues Institute’s website (http://www.lifeissues.org/cloningstemcell/article.html) entitled “I’m Pro-Life and Oppose Embryonic Stem Cell Research” by J.C. Willke, M.D. describes in depth the growth pattern and process for a “fertilized egg” to the later stages of a fetus’ development.  The quote he made that stands out to me the most defines, I think, the discussion of when life begins.  “The biologic fact is that from day one, inside and then outside of the uterus, this is one continuous, uninterrupted period of growth and development.”  Effectively, he is saying that life begins when the mother and the father literally come together and form a living creature, even if it starts as a single-celled organism.

Using embryonic stem cells for research is like finding out that we can take required, vital organs out of a living, active person and use them to test ways to make our lives better.  I am not referring to the taking organs from people who are already dead, or have donated their bodies to science.  I’m talking about “researchers” walking into classrooms, or businesses, or libraries, or grocery stores and grabbing your teacher, or your boss, or even you, and cutting us open to find parts to use to treat others.  This is ESCR.  It is taking life from living creatures for “research.”

If we assume that the life of a single-celled version of a human being is not worthy of the same protection we give animals from product testing, we will reach a point where taking people who are less “important” or “productive” for testing will become a reality.  Life is precious and a gift, no matter how old or many-celled it is.


Good Stuff Found Online

Sometimes I come across things on the web that require reposting.  This is one of those things.  Enjoy.

The humble, profound thing called preaching

 Speaking is the most human thing we can do. Lowly and normal and profound all at the same time. We can email or string video images together on You Tube but speech makes us human. Despite the circus claims of scientists and charlatans, animals such as chimps or dolphins cannot talk. Only humans, made in the image of the Triune God, the God who speaks, do that.

Which means there is hope for the sermon. If the Word became flesh, if God created with His voice, if humans are at their most human when talking, the sermon can never fully wither away. For we crave such face to face talk. The more we retreat to lonely computer stations and darkened dens, the more empty we feel. Our ears are hungry.
The human voice, aligned to the truth of ancient, Biblical, credal patterns of speech, is not an outdated mode of some sort of generic “communication,” it is itself a Christian message. To talk Christ, to proclaim, to “evangelize” in the original sense of the word, is itself a radical Christian message.When a pastor steps into the pulpit and addresses people with his voice, he is not simply imparting information that might be imparted in multiple other ways, he is showing people how to be human and how to be Christian.

The church, in holding onto the sermon, is not engaging in blind preservation and refusing to change in response to the new realities of the digital age. She is holding onto a bit of what it means to be made in the image of God, to truly be a person. We were made to speak and to listen. The Gospel is not bare information, it is a living proclamation that, in its declaration and reception, restores us to our true humanity.

From here.

The President and the Layman

I’m going to reprint here, word for word, a post from Steadfastlutherans.org.  It is a letter from a layman to former LCMS President Kieschnick about his blog post regarding Newtown.  I believe this it is a summary of our position at DearChristianFriends.com and an adequate response to the words of President Kieschnick.

A Layman’s Response to President Emeritus Kieschnick’s Position on Newtown, by Pr. Rossow

February 25th, 2013Post by 

LCMS President Emeritus Kieschnick had some interesting comments on the Newtown incident  in his Perspectives column. Curtis Christiansen, the Head Elder from Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (Lincoln Nebraska; Pastor Clint Poppe) took exception to many things President Kieschnick said and sent him the following letter.

The letter was written exclusively by Mr. Christiansen. The first his pastor heard of it was when he was copied on it. We have held on to it for several days to assure that President Kieschnick would have received it in the mail before seeing it here. (He probably doesn’t read Steadfast anyway. It is a common cry among district presidents and synod officials that they don’t have time to read the blogs. If only it was because they were too busy visiting their parishes and holding them to our stated synodical standards such as Article VI. B of the Synod Constitution on unionism and syncretism.)

It is a popularly held opinion that the strong LCMS laity of the 1970′s saved the synod in convention from the liberal, higher critical theology of the seminary professors. I believe it is true. My father was one of them. Mr. Christiansen’s letter to President Kieschnick suggests there is at least one laymen in the 2010′s who is equipped and courageous enough to rescue the synod once again. If you are a like-minded layman you may want to drop a comment on this post and show Mr. Christiansen your support. For that matter, Pastors are welcome to join in the edification as well.

Dear Pastor Kieschnick,

Recently you responded on your blog to the events in Newtown, Connecticut and the media’s response to events within our Synod.  In that article you stated “For them the image of our church becomes one of isolationism, sectarianism, and legalism.”     As a Christian by faith in Jesus Christ and a Lutheran Christian in doctrine and practice, I would have to answer your statement with a “YES”

Yes we are isolationist.  We believe that God has chosen us from the foundation of the earth, that he has called us out of darkness to his eternal light.  We believe in the words of St. Peter that we are “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellences  of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” ( I Peter 2:9) .  So yes we are isolationists as those separated unto God.

We are isolationists, as said by St. Paul “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.  For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?  Or what fellowship has light with darkness?  What accord has Christ with Belial?  Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?  What agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For we are the temple of the living God: as God said I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.  Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” (2Corinthinans 6: 14 – 7:1)   So, yes, we are isolationists, as a temple of the living God.  Isolated in Christ, who as the light of the world, has isolated us from darkness, that we be the salt and light of the world.

Yes we are legalists.  We believe that the law curbs sin, shows us our sin, and is a guide in righteousness.  With the Psalmist we believe “The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts; their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law.  It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.  The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.”(Psalm 119:69-72).  Yes we are legalists for we believe we are to have no other Gods before Him.

Yes we are sectarian.  For we believe we are one body, as the apostle Paul taught us; “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22). So I guess we are sectarians as well.

What was saddening to me upon reading your article was what you implied with your statement; for it seems that you were implying that we are Monastics, Aesthetics, and Pharisees.  As a Christian by faith in Jesus Christ and a Lutheran in doctrine and practice, I would have to answer your implications with a “NO”.

No, we are not monastics.  We do not hide out in monasteries.  We serve God in our vocations as parent or children, as employee or employer, as citizen, as church member, to whatever vocation God has called us, we serve Him.   In our synod we bring comfort to the hurting through our World Relief Mission, through our Lutheran Laymen League and Lutheran Women in Mission.  And we do all this as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, as the mask of God bringing the mercies of God to a troubled and hurting world.

No neither are we aesthetics.  We do not hold back from the world because we are afraid that it might defile us.  We understand the apostle Paul when he teaches us; “Therefore, let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.  These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.  Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.  If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations – “Do not handle, Do not taste, …… according to human precepts and teachings?  These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2: 16-23).  So No we are not ascetics.

No, nor are we are Pharisees.  We do not believe we are better than others, rather we have the humility of Christ to teach us as the apostle Paul said;  “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8).  We do not seek public displays of our righteousness as Christ says of the Pharisees, “Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.” (Luke 11:43).  Nor do we elevate bylaws and ecclesiastical supervision over the Word of God as Christ says of the Pharisees, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.  These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”  (Matthew 23: 23)

Pastor Kieschnick, I have been a Christian for many years now and have learned that Christianity involves more than just telling people that Jesus loves them.  When we say publically, NO to things like adultery, abortion, and homosexuality we are doing this out of love for our neighbor.  For we know that these things are sin and death.  As the apostle Paul says, “You were dead in your trespasses and sin.” (Ephesians 2).  We do not say NO because we are pursuing righteousness through keeping the law, for we believe Christ is our righteousness, but rather out of love for our fellow man.  Even though these sins are the things of death; out of love for our neighbor, we proclaim another death, not a death in sin, but a death that unites us with Christ as Romans 6 teaches; “for all  of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death.  We were buried with Him in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the Glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. “

But I also know that when we say  NO (either individually as a Christian or corporately as a church body)  to things like adultery, abortion, homosexuality and even syncretic worship, we will be reviled by the public and other religious bodies, as unloving, uncaring, and intolerant.  But as a Christian, we understand these things.  For our Lord has instructed us; “If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own, but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:18-19).  But with both the apostle Paul and apostle Peter we consider it a joy to share in Christ’s sufferings, that we may also rejoice in His second coming.

Yes, Pastor Kieschnick, Elijah did pray in the presence of hundreds of prophets of false gods.  In fact Elijah said there were exactly 450 prophets of Baal.  And here is what Elijah prayed, “And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.  Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”  Then the fire of Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.  And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is Go.” And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.” (1 Kings 18:36-40).

And, yes, Paul preached in synagogues and taught in the presence of people who rejected Jesus; and, what did he say “….And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, “I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.”  Therefore he says also in another psalm, “You will not let your Holy One see corruption.”  For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption.  Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.  Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about; “Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.”  (Acts 13:34-41)

When a pastor is invited to pray at an interfaith worship, are you saying they should pray as Elijah and preach as Paul?

With the upcoming synodical convention in a few months, I assume many will see the recent media attention and public outcry, as an opportunity for political expediency.  It provides an opportunity to question some in our synod, to promote tension and discord.  Our convention will probably be filled with overtures on unionism and syncretism, there will be calls for investigations, there will be outrage and disgust, new bylaws will need to be adopted, new administrators will need to be elected, and all these trappings of political intrigue will swirl through our convention.

But before we as a church body get sidetracked with all this business of unionism, syncretism, and try to answer all these questions of legalism, isolationism, and sectarianism; I recommend our church body ask a much simpler question of itself.  Are we going to serve God or mammon?  For too long our church body has been deceiving ourselves into thinking we can do both.  We have been too worried about whether other denominations accept us, whether society considers us relevant or outdated or isolationists or sectarians, we have worried about how many members we have and how big of a synod we are or are not, how fast we are or are not growing, about lack of money, about how we can dress up ourselves so that we are inviting, entertaining, and attractive.  But our savior instructs us that we cannot love both God and mammon, for ultimately we end up hating one and loving the other.  And, so, if we decide we want to serve mammon let’s do it whole heartedly.  Let’s join the Lutheran World Federation and the Ecumenical Council of Churches.  Let’s pray to Allah or the great spirit.  Let’s bless each other in the name of the feminine trinity and let’s sanction abortion, marry homosexuals, and allow everyone to the communion rail.  Let’s draw the masses in with our entertainment and take as much money as they will give us.  For surely this will increase our wealth, our status, our relevance.

And if we decide we want to serve God, let’s just softly and simply say NO, I’m sorry but I can’t  do that ,  I must obey God rather than  men.

Peace be with you.


Curtis Christiansen

Forgive the infant as Christ forgives you…

This evening my wife and I brought our new, infant son to church for Divine Service. We sat through the worship service, hearing God’s Word and receiving His gifts. When it came time for the Lord’s Supper, I carried my son to the Table and knelt at the rail with my wife and older boy. The pastor came down the line, passing out the bread and blessing the children. At my older son he said, “May God keep you in your baptismal grace.” At my newborn he stopped, looked down and forgave my 11-day-old of his sins by saying, “I forgive you your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Interestingly enough, he thought it appropriate and necessary to forgive a newborn of his sins. And he was right. In Romans the need for salvation is apparent.

“As it is written:
‘None is righteous, no , not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
-Romans 3:10-12

We cannot save ourselves. We are not righteous, not a single one of us. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” says Romans 3:23. How then can even the child who is new to life outside the womb be saved? Through Christ Himself! The next verse in Romans 3 tells the sweet Gospel: “And are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

The pastor granted to my child forgiveness by his Office, the Office instituted by Christ and given the power of forgiveness of sins. John 20:23, “If you forgive the sin of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

My wife and I made the decision to bring our child to the Table to be forgiven. He has not yet been received into Christ’s Church through baptism, so we know that the pastor, in his Office, can and did grant our son the forgiveness of Christ. And for that I am truly grateful. Thank you, Pastor.