Category: Uncategorized

What about Proposition 106-The Right to Die?

Physician-assisted suicide is not an easy topic.  However, it is on our ballot this November election, so we need to consider it from the perspective of the Bible

Biblically, the passages are clear against suicide. God reminds us that our times are in his hands (Psalm 31:15). Or, the fifth commandment, “You shall not murder” (this includes taking one’s own life). Besides this command, we have various other passages that command us to take care of the body God has given us.  “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”  (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  Even the prayer of Hannah makes it clear that, “The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up” (1 Samuel 2:6). Nowhere in the entire Bible is suicide condoned, much less encouraged.

So what is the problem? 
We have hearts.  Most of us have family or friends who have had to face cancer. We have compassion, we have empathy, and we have a desire to support them in their fight. However, the terminal aspect of certain cancers is unnerving.  Kim Kuo said it well, “Yet certainly people of faith have unique questions to ask about terminal illness. Namely, are we willing to surrender to our Creator the specifics of how and when we die? How much do we actually trust him with our final days?”

Regardless of our trust in the Lord, it is hard to see someone we love suffer. About a week ago I saw the aftermath of a deer/car crash. The deer, however, was not dead. As I drove by, with officers standing guard, the deer was struggling and it certainly appeared that there was severe damage to his hind legs, such that he could not stand. The deer, with his majestic set of antlers, was still truly beautiful. For some reason, that made his inevitable death harder for me.  As I drove by, I could only guess the outcome of this accident. The deer was killed. I doubt many of us would argue against the necessity of killing a severely wounded wild animal. I also doubt many of us would take a friend to task when it comes time to “put down” their dear family pet.  Should the same principles of compassion and mercy apply to people?

Why is it any different for people?
First, people are not animals. We were not created as just another animal. Genesis sets the tone as God took special care with the creation of men and women. It is only of us, that God declared that he would make us in his image, so image of God he created us. This care goes beyond his image. Each of us is created with soul and the soul was paid for with the blood of God’s own Son.  That in itself makes us and the one life we have on this earth valuable.

Second, we are not promised in this life that God will remove all our troubles. In fact, in this sin-filled world, it is just the opposite. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”  (John 16:33).  So what it comes down to is not if we will face troubles, but how we face these inevitable trials.

Can good come from the terrible?

As believers we see this from two angles.  Is there spiritual good and is there earthly good? It is easy to spot earthly good from bad situations. A mother starts MADD or money is raised to help awareness.  Spiritual good is not as tangible.  We can think of the suffering of our Savior. No father would want his son to go through what Jesus did, yet God, who was able to stop it, did not. Why? he allowed him to suffer to attain the greatest good imaginable for us. In the end, it was Jesus’ suffering that pointed to his glory.  Still, even on this earth we can see good come from the terrible.

  • Lauren Hill, who lived her final days facing terminal cancer and raised awareness and 1.5 million dollars towards finding a cure.
  • Our own member Tracy, who faced cancer with dignity, brought her family together and had a chance to express her own faith to her boys.
  • My former member in Washington, Lisa, whose 5+ battle with cancer inspired hundreds.
  • Maybe you someday.

The truth is we were not made to die. Since Adam and Eve our world is no longer perfect. With sin, came death and it all of its consequences.  Death is terrible and certain deaths are worse than others. Terminal illness has to be among the most frustrating for the participant and observer.  There is pain, migraines, nausea, chemo, anxiety, drug side effects, changed personality. Yet even in this situation, we are not called to be God. God is and God gives us promises.  The Bible tells us that God will be with us, that we can cry out to God, that God hears our prayers. The Bible reminds us our death is just a doorway to a life with God in heaven. Death is just difficult. We can’t understand why, but we can trust in our Savior who suffered more than we will ever have to…for the greatest good…for us.

Call Received

Call Received 
This past week I received a “call” to Resurrection and Life Lutheran Church in Rochester, Minnesota. While many of you may know exactly what this means, there are still others who may be a little bit confused. Let me help clear up some of that confusion.
What is a call? While God entrusts every Christian with the call to share their faith with the world, there’s also a special role in sharing the Gospel called the “public ministry.” These are people who have been “called” by the Holy Spirit through a congregation to share the Gospel and the Means of Grace in a public way, on behalf of and in the name of other Christians. When the Bible gives examples of public ministers, it uses words like, deacon, evangelist, apostle, prophet, teacher (Ephesians 4:11). Today, titles for public ministers that you may be familiar with are pastor, teacher, staff minister, etc. As a church prayerfully “calls” someone into this public ministry, we believe that it is as if the Lord Himself is acting through the church.
                  Public ministers need to be called by the church. But how? The Bible doesn’t give Christians the prescribed way to call a public minister. When calling Mathias to replace Judas, the disciples drew lots (like an ancient “picking straws”) to settle on Mathias. They believed that through prayer the Lord would guide the outcome of the lots. Today, there are many different ways or methods used in the Christian world to call ministers. In the Catholic Church, a public minister is told to leave their current congregations and to serve at a new one. In other places, pastors seek out a “call.” They may even apply or interview for a pastoral or teacher position. In our church body, the WELS, the pastor doesn’t seek out the call. In other words, our pastors do not actively seek out or apply for jobs at other churches. Instead, the church issues a call to a candidate who may have the qualifications and gifts for a particular position and congregation.
                  When a pastor receives a call, like I have, in reality he is holding two calls. The Lord, through God’s people, has called you to the church you are currently serving and to the church that has issued the new call. It is our practice then that a pastor will prayerfully consider both calls and decide which congregation he can best serve. There are many things that a pastor should consider when deliberating a call (we will talk more about this April 24th) There’s not enough room to go into all of them. But just a few…it is important for a pastor to think about which situation he feels that he can best serve the Kingdom with the gifts that God has given him. It can also be important to listen to comments from the members of the congregations, comments of other pastors and others who know him well. It’s also important for a pastor to listen and discuss these things with his family, because he has important responsibilities as a husband and father.
While the process varies from pastor to pastor. Here is what you can expect during the coming weeks as I deliberate and come to a decision.
  • April 13-call received to serve in Minnesota
  • April 14-announce call to Eternal Rock staff and Leadership Council
  • April 15-announcee call to the congregation via the eLetter
  • April 17-23-contemplate where Eternal Rock is at as a church and see how I fit into that future.
  • April 24-special 9:00am Bible Class/Discussion about this particular call. I would be giving my thoughts about where we are at as a church, how you and I fit into that future and answering any questions about the call process, etc. At this point, I would be looking for some feedback.
  • May 1-anticipated decision.

 How do I pick a Bible?

PICKING A BIBLE

If you feel a bit overwhelmed about picking a Bible, you are not alone. There are literally hundreds of Bibles on the market. There are study Bibles, reference Bibles, cross-reference Bibles, application Bibles, teen Bibles….

Stack-of-BiblesOn the good side, publishers are trying to reach the needs of the millions of Bible readers. On the pessimistic side, since the Bible is the number one selling book of all time, publishers are attempting to capitalize on people seeking to know Jesus. So how do you wade through the oceans of Bible options?

NOT ALL BIBLES ARE THE SAME

I wish I could just recommend a single Bible and that would be the end of the post. However, that would be a bit simplistic. Different Bibles have different uses. (You can skip to the bottom to get my recommendations.)

PARAPHRASE VS. TRANSLATION

Before we go any further,  I should note that not all versions of the Bibles are not the same. Maybe you have noticed this already. Bibles basically break down into two categories: translations and paraphrases. Translations are versions of the Bible that seek to give the reader the closest version to the original Greek and Hebrew text. Examples include:

  • King James Version (KJV) this is the one with the thee’s and thou’s.
  • New International Version (NIV) this is the most popular translation in the USA and the one we read in church most of the time.
  • English Standard Version (ESV) this is good translation, but the wording feels strange at times to me.

The Second category includes paraphrases. Obviously, to have a version of the Bible called a “paraphrase” does not sound very good. However, the point of the paraphrase is to help the reader understand what the Bible means by conveying the idea of the text rather than a word-for-word rendering. Basically, this means an individual is doing some of the interpretation of the text for you.  This is good and bad. The good is that it is often easier to understand. The bad is that you could be missing something from the original.

For example, I am sure you recognize this line from Shakespeare,”O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?” A paraphrase may instead say something like, “Where are you, Romeo?”  Both phrases mean basically the same thing, but one is more understandable.  I have both paraphrases and translations in my Bible collection. The two most popular paraphrases include:

  • The Message-this is popular and makes the Bible sound like contemporary writing. I enjoy reading a passage or two from the message (especially the Epistle letters like 1 Corinthians), but I prefer not to read it in larger chunks.
  • The New Living Translation-(NLT) This version is closer to a translation and makes reading the Bible a little easier.

 RECOMMENDATIONS according to how you will may use them

  • Mobile-AcroBible NIV-I know there are free versions, but I like the AcroBible because I don’t need a WiFi/Data connection to read. You can find a link to the various device versions here. 
  • General Reading and Study-NIV 2011 or NIV 1984 Study Bible with notes by CPH. The choice of which NIV Bible you chose comes down to preference.  I have Bibles that range in size from pocket size to a few different study Bibles.
  • Audio BibleInspired By…The Bible Experience. This version has a variety of performers. It is hardly perfect, but it is pretty easy to listen to and uses the Today’s NIV version.  The link is to the New Testament.  Generally, I have trouble staying focused to just the audio.  I prefer to listen and follow along in the Bible.

Honorable Mention:

  • Bibliotheca Project-As of this writing, I have mine on preorder and can’t wait to use it for my morning reading!
  • Archaeological Study Bible-This version has interesting notes, but way too big to transport.
  • The Story-This is an abridged version of the Bible in chronological order. It was designed to be about the length of a novel, so it is only about 300 pages or so.  It also has nice transitions that let you know what happened in between the Bible sections.  They have books for kids, teens and adults.

QUESTION? -What is your favorite Bible?

Church can be like a Chili Cook-off

This past Sunday at our mission meeting we studied the concept of a structurally simple church. Basically, A simple church has the end goal in mind and has sequential steps in place to make that end goal happen. In a church the goals can vary, but essentially they include a member who worships God, is growing in faith and fellowship with other believers and is living their faith through witness and service. That is a lot to cover! Since we also had a chili cook-off, I think it might be possible to illustrate the basic concept of a simple church by comparing it to a chili cook-off. Obviously, this is a stretch, but the goal of a chili cook-off is much simpler so it is easier to illustrate

To start, you must have your end goal in mind. For our cook-off, the goal was for everyone to enjoy a variety of chili and ultimately pick the best chili. The most important aspects of the cook-off are people enjoying themselves and, of course, chili.

Simple structure needs to be put in its place. Rarely is structure the most important part of an event. In this case, structure is not as important as either enjoyment or chili, but a simple structure was important because it helped everyone to have a good time and it helped us enjoy the chili. I will try to explain how below.

Clarity—without clarity, we would be in trouble. What if people did not know what the event was, what to bring, how to vote, or even where it was being held? It may sound rudimentary, but in our cook-off scenario, the invitation made the process clear. Every family was to bring chili to my house and a winner was going to be chosen at the event.

Movement-is the concept of sequential steps in a process that help people move toward the end goal. In a church, if your goal were to have people growing in their faith, it would be helpful if you had logical steps. For example, you may expect a member to move from a Bible Basics class, to a membership class, to a small group or Sunday Bible class and maybe ultimately help lead one of these classes. If new member does not know these steps or does them out of order, you are going to run into frustration.

I will not get into all the details, but to have a successful cook-off there is a certain beneficial order to the process: Cooking, bringing, set-up, tasting, voting, declaring.

Focus–the commitment to abandon those areas that fall outside the simple ministry process. In our case, there was no pumpkin carving, Luther seal coloring, or even requests to bring desserts. Why? Although these could have been fun, the end goal was clear and these other items would have simply confused the process. This is the most difficult part of a simple structure because everyone needs to be on the same page—seeing the same end goal.

If we as a group can put this much thought into the structure of a chili cook-off, is there any reason we would not put in exponentially more time and thought into the structure we use to make disciples through God’s Word? The answer to that question seems pretty simple.