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.

3 Easy Ways to Pray with Your Kids

Prayer is just one of those things we are supposed to know how to do. However, this is hardly the case for everyone. Sure, most of us probably have the main parts down: put your hands together, close your eyes and ask God for something. Yet, if you are wondering if there is more to it, you are right…

child-praying

My parents encouraged me to pray from an early age.  I think my childhood consisted of three main prayers:

  1. Prayers before eating
  2. Prayers at bedtime
  3. Prayers for a snow day, Legos, a fire engine and other essentials.

Today, I see kids start formulating simple prayers around 2 or 3 years old. Their prayers are obviously not complex but even simple prayers like, “Dear Jesus, thank you for this food” are learned. When the kids were just days old, we tried to pray simple prayers at bedtime and before meals.  I think this gets the kids in that habit, even before they know what is happening.  Here are three great ways/times to pray with your kids:


Pray before meals

This one is pretty simple, but we do it with a slight twist.  In our house, prayer responsibilities rotate by day (e.g. Owen prays every Friday).  That person is also responsible for clearing and cleaning the dishes that day. The rule is simple. When it is your day, you pick the prayer. The choices come down to three:

  • A prayer we have memorized as a family (see examples here).
  • A prayer they read from a book or prayer sheet (see link above)
  • A “special prayer” which just means they say a prayer from their own heart.

Pray at bedtime

This is much like meals, but at bedtime each child has their own prayer that they memorized. There are a couple examples below.  No, they don’t say it every night, but I think there is a sense of comfort in having a routine. Even today, when I feel overwhelmed, I often say my prayer from simpler days when I was a child.  Here are some example bedtime prayers:

Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask you to stay

Close by me forever and love me, I pray

Bless all the dear children in your tender care,

And take us to heaven to live with you there.

(Away in a Manger, verse 3)

or

Now I lay me down to sleep

I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

May angels watch me through the night

and wake me with the morning light

(traditional children’s prayer from the 18th century)

Prayer of Confession

I am guessing that your kids don’t need much help learning to ask God for things that they want, so I will just skip to one many families overlook: prayers of confession.  I aim to do this on Sunday evenings. This is not because my kids are so great that they only need to confess sins once a week! The routine is pretty simple. On Sunday evenings I talk to each of my kids before they go to bed (away from the other kids). Sometimes this is just in the hallway while the others are brushing their teeth. I ask three things:

  1. Are there any sins that you want to confess? If they can’t think of any, I ask something like, “Did you always listen in school this week?” or “Were you always kind to your sister/brother this week?”
  2. Are you sorry for these sins?
  3. Why should God forgive these sins? (Jesus died on the cross for all my sins and rose again on Easter).

Finally, I say, (and you can too) “I forgive you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” I make the sign of the cross, give them a hug and kiss, tell them I love them. That is it.

One final thought:

Yes, I know confessional prayers may sound just a bit over the top. And yes, it does become more difficult as the kids have grown older. However, I am consistently surprised how often there is something that is burdening their young consciences. I am also encouraged by the sense of relief they have to hear out loud that their sins are forgiven because of Jesus. Do my kids think I am little weird? Probably. Do they know that Jesus’ has paid for all their sins? Certainly.

Discussion: What prayers did you grow up with?

 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?

Lent is Not American

(By Pastor Jared Oldenburg, previously published in the March 2015 edition of the Forward in Christ Magazine)

For centuries fasting, self-denial, prayer, and repentance have characterized Lent. This stands in notable contrast to just about every other holiday in America.

NOT A SPENDING HOLIDAY

Most American holidays are marked by consumption, indulgence and a celebratory mood. For the Fourth of July we celebrate our freedom with grand cookouts and by blowing things up. We purchase Mother’s day gifts and go out to brunch. There are Halloween parties and candy to appease the kids who so adoringly offer the threatening ultimatum, “Trick or Treat.” We buy chocolates for our sweethearts, gifts for our fathers and even throw parties in honor of an Irish Christian missionary.

All of these, of course, are not even in the same realm as Christmas. During the winter holidays, as the report calls them, Americans spent roughly 600 billion dollars in 2014. If you are doing the math at home, that averages out to around $1,900 per person in the United States.

From a retail perspective, Lent is not even a “B-level” holiday. Lent doesn’t exist. According to the report, Lent falls way behind St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween and even the Super Bowl. (more…)

Restaurant Week & Friends

If you and your friends have never enjoyed Restaurant Week, it is about time you do.  Many of the most exclusive restaurants in Denver open their doors for a set price or $60 per couple. Being, well, ah…as frugal as I am, we made sure to go to one of the most expensive restaurants on the list-The Capital Grille. This is the real deal. It has perfect steaks, woodwork all over the place, delicious dessert, a wine list that a huge wine list, assistant waiters with matching jackets, hot after-dinner-towels, tiny crumb brushes for the table cloth. (I think the French term for this is Le Seriously?)

 On top of all of this, there is the wine corking ceremony.  If you are unfamiliar, here a basic run down from someone who has witnessed it all of twice: First, you order the wine (the most expensive bottle was something like $600 and the lowest bottle was $28). So not to embarrass myself, I selected something closer to the middle…$30.  Next, the waiter opens the bottle at the table. Then the waiter smells the bottle. Then he hands you the cork to smell, while he is putting a taste in your glass. Then you swirl it, give it another smell and finally test it. Then, if it is satisfactory, you give the OK for the pouring to continue. This seemed slightly over the top for our particular bottle of wine, but I was thankful Chris went through the trouble.   In the end, we felt special.

This is not a normal dinner for Aimee and me or the ten friends that joined us. Despite the surroundings and circumstances, I think one of the best things about having friends is that you only feel out of place for a minute. It is not long before you start to enjoy their company rather than notice what is happening around you.  I am not sure what heaven will be like with all the feasts that the Bible promises, but I know you will be with friends and the greatest of those will be Jesus. “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15

Houston, Prepare for Launch

Houston, Prepare for Launch

There are really about a thousand ways you can start a church. Some (in my opinion) are good and some, well, not so great.  To tip my hand a little, anything involving clowns, carnies or pyrotechnics is bad.  What follows is not some breakthrough model for church planting. What follows is simply an explanation of the approach we are taking to start Eternal Rock.

Before we get into too many details, some general church planting principles ought to be laid out.  First, it is generally good to start a church in the fall because many people are settling down into some routines after a busy/distracted summer.  Second, if you are going to write about planting your church, make sure you use exaggerated blog titles that make it sound like you are about to send something to Mars. Third, in this day and age, it makes some sense to get to know/serve a community first and launch second.

Alignment (July-December)

Up until this point, our primary goal has been to locate mission-minded WELS members who would like to help our effort.  It is not that we don’t care about the unchurched, but instead we figure we can best serve and reach the unchurched in the future if we strengthen our core group.  To help us align, we chose to go through the book Essential Church.  The book is not gospel truth, but it did provide some great points for discussion.  It looks like we have just over 20 adults who are committed to our efforts and excited to help make it happen.

Prelaunch I (January-May)

Starting in January, our primary goals will move towards the planning aspects of launching a church.  This will be divided up into two types of meetings: Launch and Planning.

Launch

During the Launch meeting, we will be sharing the Eternal Rock mission:  “Follow Jesus: Live Love.”   The first meeting will cover the mission of Jesus and in turn our mission as a church.  During successive monthly meetings, we will be explaining and expanding each of the parts.  For example, “Follow Jesus” would mean follow Jesus through worship and by studying His Word.  During the meetings, we will discuss/present what this will look like at our new church.   Anyone who may want to be involved is invited to these meetings. The first is January 16th at 4:00pm at the Castle Oaks Church (across from Nike) in the Castle Rock Outlet Mall.

Planning
If you think of the launch meetings as casting a vision for the new church, the planning meetings will focus on the business end of launching a church.  Couples and individuals will be encouraged to focus on either worship, outreach, education, or service as we get ready to have our first preview service in May.  If the Launch meetings focus on what it will look like, the planning meetings will focus on what it will take to make it happen.

Prelaunch II (May-August)

During this time we will be holding worship once each month.  The weeks between preview services will allow us time to follow-up on guests and make any necessary changes (location, timing, equipment, etc.).  This is also a time when we will start to emphasize outreach and service to the community.  Not only will we have something to invite people to (worship), but we will also be mobilized to do some things in the community.

Launch (September 2011)

Sometime after Labor Day we will launch our weekly services.  The idea is that by this service date and with the help of the preview services, we will have the location, signage, welcome, timing, equipment, etc, ready so we can focus our greatest efforts on reaching those who are far from God.