Thursday, March 29, 2007

26 Days, 23 Hours, 48 Minutes

Till call day at the writing of this post! I have absolutely NO idea where the Lord of the Church will send me to work in His vineyard. As of this afternoon, Dr. David Peter, director of Placement, informed the class that between the two seminaries there were still approximately 20 candidates in need of a call.
Pray for all the candidates, the churches they will serve, the directors of Placement at both seminaries and the District Presidents involved in the process.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Idol Worshipping

I may be overreacting, but it troubles me when I see all the talk about "idol-worshipping" in American Idol. I know, it's just a singing contest, but when a tween girl is interviewed on the Today show in a segment called "Idol Worshipper," it gives me pause. Are we becoming comfortable with idol worship? Do we even laugh or think it funny to use this title in such a clever way? Have we lost or are we losing the seriousness of that accusation?

Beside the fact that I loathe the show in general, I just think its a bit dangerous to celebrate idol worship.
The Quigmans by Buddy Hickerson, March 27, 2007

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Lenten Devotional

I wrote the following devotional and prayer for the inter-seminary Lenten devotional project.
Genesis 32:22 The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. 24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, "Let me go, for the day has broken." But Jacob said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." 27 And he said to him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob." 28 Then he said, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed." 29 Then Jacob asked him, "Please tell me your name." But he said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, "For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered." 31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob's hip on the sinew of the thigh.

“I will not let you go until you bless me.” Seems like a strange thing to ask a man who is trying to kick your butt. However, this is the main concern of Jacob. He had a thing for being blessed. The frist time he received a blessing by dishonesty and a strange disguise. This time, he would earn his blessing! But, did he know just what he was getting into? This man whom he had wrestled with was no man at all. This realization hit Jacob hard as his hip popped out of joint. He knew that he had seen the face of the Lord, that he had dared to wrestle with God, that he had been spared what should have been an immidiate death. And the only consequences he had to show for it was a limp and a name change: a reminder for generations to come.
This limp was a constant reminder to Jacob, along with his new monicer, that he had wrestled with God. And there, hanging on the cross, a sign of that contining struggle. A struggle that began with our first parents, a struggle that formed a nation, a struggle that ended with a bruised heel and a crushed head. A struggle that would set us free. Not through our own struggle or work, but through the tender mercy of our Lord. Our flesh, the same flesh that Adam had and the same flesh of Israel, still tries in vain to wrestle with God, unaware that its day is done, that is has been washed away like so much filth in our baptism. It is Christ who took it down to the depths. It is Christ who has set us free. Through His struggle and sacrifice on the cross, our lives have been delivered. We have truly seen God face to face! Come now, let us fix our eyes on this Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, that our lives may be delivered!
+ + +
How we would continue to struggle against Your grace, O Lord of mercy, and yet for us You have opened the floodgates of Your love. Give us penitent and contrite hearts, that we may find rest from this struggling. Fix our eyes on our suffering Savior, that our lives may be delivered through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit.


I have posted comics from Dave Coverly's Speed Bump on here before. This one is great and I pray I always say "TGIS!"

I Got a New Look!

So, I finally changed. I wanted to wait until after Ordination-new vocation, new blog look- but I also wanted to add some stuff and this was the easiest way I knew of to do that.

Good, Bad or Different?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
-2 Corinthians 5:17

Christians, along with the rest of humanity, are under the delusion that people, things, churches, worship styles, etc., can be broken up into two main groups: good and bad.

How often do we think of our own actions and lives as Christians as either being good or bad? How often to we think of the actions and lives as others as either being good or bad? Now, in truth, there most certainly are things that can be determined and rightly judged from the rule and norm of Scripture as being either good or bad, but can a Christian be good or bad when compared with other Christians or non-Christians?

I would argue that a Christian is neither good or bad in comparison to the world at large. A Christian is something wholly other. A Christian is DIFFERENT. Not different in the way that has come to be embraced by the secular religion of tolerance and blind, vehement inclusionism. Christians are different in that we are not wholly good or wholly bad. We are both and neither, we are totally different from anything else on this earth. We are different creatures in Christ. We live in Christ and have our identity in Him alone. And in losing our identity in His cross and the Holy Waters, we find our true identity in His glorious Resurrection.

Elohim Creating Adam by William Blake

How can this mystery, this holy wonder be perceived as anything but different, even more than different…other-worldly? We truly are new creatures in Christ, even while the old creature clings to us. This is a DIFFERENT thing. This is the beauty of the one true faith. This is life in Christ!

For All You Readers out there

You like to read books? You like to talk about them? Are you a pastor who has a wife or a pastor's wife? You will love this blog put out by the most beautiful blogger in the blogosphere. My wife loves to read and has decided to start blogging about the books she reads. She has some interesting conversation starters over there. Check it out! (And if you are a pastor's wife, I know she would love to get to know you better, seeing as how she will be one in a few months!)

Monday, March 19, 2007

It bears repeating...

One of my first blog posts corrected the erroneous and heretical definition of the beloved and cherished word "Hoosier." As I am a proud Hoosier (having graduated from Indiana University), and as I hope to be returned to that land of milk and corn again, I think it wise to point any readers or "seekers" to the original blog post

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Lady Law

In the last post, Luther presents a dialogue between the believer and “Lady Law.” I have been thinking more about this interesting personification of the Law and the believer’s interaction with the Law. Luther had some more to say about our relationship with the “empress” and Christ’s relationship to this “cruel and powerful tyrant.”

So, any thoughts out there about what Luther has to say to “Lady Law”? Or even what Christ has to say to the accursed Lady? Is Luther to hard on this empress?

Also, as mentioned before, I love when Luther provides these dialogues. It reminds me of Satan before God in the book of Job.

If, then, you want to divide the Word of truth rightly (2 Tim. 2:15), you must distinguish the promise from the Law as far as possible, both in your attitude and in your whole life. It is not without purpose that Paul urged this argument so diligently; for he saw that in the church this evil would arise, namely, that the Word of God would be confused, which means that the promise would be mixed with the Law and in this way be completely lost. For when the promise is mixed up with the Law, it becomes Law pure and simple. For this reason you should accustom yourself to distinguish the Law from the promise even in time, so that when the Law comes and accuses your conscience, you say: “Lady Law, you are not coming on time; you are coming too late. Look back four hundred and thirty years; if these were rolled back, you could come. But you are coming too late and tardily; for you have been preceded for four hundred and thirty years by the promise, to which I agree and in which I gently rest. Therefore you have nothing to do with me; I do not hear you. Now I am living after Abraham the believer; or rather, I am living after the revelation of Christ, who has abrogated and abolished you.” Thus let Christ always be set forth to the heart as a kind of summary of all the arguments in support of faith and against the righteousness of the flesh, the Law, works, and merits.*

This was truly a remarkable duel, when the Law, a creature, came into conflict with the Creator, exceeding its every jurisdiction to vex the Son of God with the same tyranny with which it vexed us, the sons of wrath (Eph. 2:3). Because the Law has sinned so horribly and wickedly against its God, it is summoned to court and accused. Here Christ says: “Lady Law, you empress, you cruel and powerful tyrant over the whole human race, what did I commit that you accused, intimidated, and condemned Me in My innocence?” Here the Law, which once condemned and killed all men, has nothing with which to defend or cleanse itself. Therefore it is condemned and killed in turn, so that it loses its jurisdiction not only over Christ—whom it attacked and killed without any right anyway—but also over all who believe in Him. Here Christ says (Matt. 11:28): “Come to Me, all who labor under the yoke of the Law. I could have overcome the Law by My supreme authority, without any injury to Me; for I am the Lord of the Law, and therefore it has no jurisdiction over Me. But for the sake of you, who were under the Law, I assumed your flesh and subjected Myself to the Law. That is, beyond the call of duty I went down into the same imprisonment, tyranny, and slavery of the Law under which you were serving as captives. I permitted the Law to lord it over Me, its Lord, to terrify Me, to subject Me to sin, death, and the wrath of God—none of which it had any right to do. Therefore I have conquered the Law by a double claim:9 first, as the Son of God, the Lord of the Law; secondly, in your person, which is tantamount to your having conquered the Law yourselves.”**

*Luther, M. (1999, c1963). Vol. 26: Luther's works, vol. 26 : Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (Ga 3:18). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Some Things I LOVE about Luther:

He is so pastoral, he has a great way of presenting theology in a simple and clear way, and, who could not love his “dialogues” with the soul?

Just as I’m finishing up my seminary training and may be tempted to think that I have somehow grasped theology, Luther’s words bring me back to reality in my morning devotions.

Grace is present when your heart is restored by the promise of God’s free mercy. Then your heart can say with the author of Psalm 42, [here’s one of those great dialogues!] “O my soul, why are you so troubled and restless? Do you see only the law, sin, terror, sadness, despair, death, hell, and the devil? Aren’t grace, forgiveness of sins, righteousness, comfort, joy, peace, life, heaven, Christ, and God also present? Stop being troubled, my soul. What are the law, sin, and everything evil compared to them? Trust God. He didn’t spare His own Son but offered him up to death on a cross for your sins.”
So when you are frightened by the law, you can say, “Lady Law, you are not the only thing, and you are not everything. Besides you there is something even greater and better, specifically, grace, faith, and blessing. They don’t accuse, frighten, or condemn me. They comfort me, tell me to expect the best, and assure me of my certain victory and salvation in Christ. So there’s no reason for me to despair.”

[And now, the exhortation to me in my last quarter and to all pastors who may be tempted to think they have a grasp on things!]

Whoever truly understands this can be called a theologian. Certain leaders who are always boasting about the Spirit believe that they understand living by faith extremely well. I, however, and others like me know that we scarcely possess the fundamentals. We are diligent students in the school where the art of faith is taught. No matter who well it’s taught, as long as we remain in these sinful bodies, we will never finish learning.*

Lord, may I ever be a willing and humble student of your grace in Jesus Christ!

*From Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional, James C. Galvin, General Editor. Zondervan, 2005.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Beauty of God's Saints

I am re-reading The Confessions of St. Augustine for a very interesting class, Devotional Classics. We are learning how to read spiritual autobiographies in a devotional way. As I was reading book 10 of The Confessions a simple, but often repeated phrase jumped out at me.

"Give what you command, and then command whatever you will."

Our dear brother and the beautiful saint of God in Christ wrote these words over and over again as he examined the sins of his senses. What a beautiful portrait this is of the beggar before his merciful master!

I find in so many areas I drop the ball. I am not able, even with the best of intentions and the most sincere desire to do well for God, to lead even a remotely righteous life. But, with Augustine I call on my dear Father in heaven to give what He commands and then, with a joyful heart, having received God's good gifts in Christ Jesus, I am prepared to receive whatever command He will give.

"...for I am a sinful man; yet I will tell out the greatness of your name nonetheless; and may he who has overcome the world intercede for my sins, and count me among the frailer members of his body, because [gulp!] your eyes rest upon my imperfections [!] and in your book everyone will find a place."

The beauty of God's Saints!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Two Little Cardinals

The following is a short story I wrote. It's primary audience is children, however I think there is a lot of deeper meanings that many adults may have to dig for. This is essentially a parable of the Christ. I would greatly appreciate any feedback, thoughts, suggestions or questions.

Once there were two little cardinals. They were happy birds who were very excited about building a nest together. They found a tree that looked very nice. It had thick, sturdy branches, big, green leaves and rough, brown bark. The two little cardinals were just certain this would be a good place to build their first nest.

They started gathering twigs and strings for their nest, but no sooner than they had placed the first little twig for their nest, that mean old North Wind blew it away! He blew every twig for their nest away. The two little cardinals tried another branch of the tree, but the mean old North Wind found them there too! The two little cardinals could not build a nest in this tree! It was much too windy for them. With much sadness, they flew out of the tree and into the mean old North wind.

The mean old North Wind chased them away to another tree. And what a tree it was! It was bigger than the old tree. It had thicker and sturdier branches. It had bigger and greener leaves. It had rougher and darker bark. It even had bright red berries with little yellow spots! This tree would be perfect! This tree would be the best place to build their first nest!

They went right to work at building their nest. They worked so hard that they became very hungry. The two little cardinals decided it was time for a snack! So, they plucked a few of the bright red berries with little yellow spots and ate them. But no sooner than they took their first little nibble, those bright red berries with the little yellow spots made their tummies hurt! They spit them out right away. These were not good berries, they were poisonous! The two little cardinals could not build their first nest here! The berries would make their little chicks very sick! With much sadness, they flew out of the tree and back into the mean old North Wind.

This time that mean old North Wind blew them to tree full of other birds. The two little cardinals were happy about this! They would have a lot of friends in this new tree. But when they tried to build their nest in the new tree full of other birds, they could not! The other birds would not let them into the tree! They were very mean birds and flew in big circles around the tree to keep other birds out. These other birds were no friends. They were mean and scary! The two little cardinals knew that this would not be a good place to build their first nest. With much sadness, they flew away from the tree and back into the mean old North Wind.

That mean old North Wind blew the two little cardinals all over the world. The two little cardinals could never find a spot where he could not reach them. One day, as they were flying away from the mean old North Wind, they found an old, gnarled, ugly tree on the top of a stony hill. This was the last tree in the world. But would it be a good place to build their first nest? It did not have any leaves. The wood was grey and weathered. The bark was thin and peeling off in places. There were just a few twisted branches. The top of the tree was all thorny and at the bottom of the tree there was a pile of white bones! This tree was scary, but it was the only place left for the two little cardinals. They found a little knothole in one of the twisted branches of the tree and started building their nest. This was the perfect place for their first nest! Deep down in the knot hole, the mean old North Wind could not reach them. He howled and howled in anger, but he could never blow them out of the cozy little knothole. The two little cardinals lived in this Gnarled Old Tree for a long time and were very happy in the little knothole.

One day the mean old North Wind did a terrible thing. He got all the other birds from the tree and together they pushed on the Old Gnarled Tree. The other birds pecked at the Gnarled Old Tree while the mean old North Wind blew with all his might. He blew so hard that he even blew to sun out of the sky! The two little cardinals knew that they were safe down in their little knothole, but they were afraid! The other birds pecked and pecked at the Gnarled Old Tree. They pecked so hard that they made a big hole in the side of the Gnarled Old Tree. And all the while the mean old North Wind blew harder and harder.

After a long time the Gnarled Old Tree started to sway. Finally, with a great snap and a tremendous quaking that shook the whole world, the Gnarled Old Tree was uprooted! The old pile of bones was broken up and the rocky hill was no more! But the two little cardinals were still safe in their little knot hole.

But, what kind of a tree would this be for building their first nest in? The Gnarled Old Tree was lying flat on the ground. The two little cardinals were so sad that they cried great big, salty tears. With much sadness, they flew out of their little knot hole, out of the twisted branch of the Gnarled Old Tree and into the mean old North Wind.

They flew and flew for three days without resting. There were no trees left for them to build their first nest in. They were so sad and exhausted that they finally decided that it would be better to stay with their Gnarled Old Tree than to never have any place to stay at all.

But, when the two little cardinals flew back to their beloved Gnarled Old Tree, it was not there! There was a tall, straight, strong tree standing where the Gnarled Old Tree had stood. This Strong Tree was covered in bright green leaves that glimmered like emeralds. And instead of a thorny top, it was covered in big, white blossoms that smelled like sweet honey. Instead of a pile of scary bones at the bottom, this Strong Tree had a wonderfully clear fountain that gurgled with pure water. Instead of standing on a rocky hill, this Strong Tree stood in the middle of a field of the most lovely, golden wheat the two little cardinals had ever seen. This Strong Tree was also covered in fruit. The fruit was bright red and had the sweetest juice the two little cardinals had ever tasted. Not at all like the red berries with little yellow spots. And this Strong Tree was filled with other birds, but not like the mean birds that had pecked a hole in the side of the Gnarled Old Tree. These birds were friends! They loved the two little cardinals and invited them in to make their home in the Strong Tree.

This Strong Tree would really be the perfect tree for the two little cardinals. It had all they needed! Delicious fruit and wheat to eat and the purest water to bathe in and drink. Oh, this Strong Tree would be a good place to raise their chicks, but the two little cardinals still missed the Gnarled Old Tree, with the little knot hole that kept them safe from the mean old North Wind. They told their new friends about how great the Gnarled Old Tree was. The other birds started laughing! They told the two little cardinals that this Strong Tree was the same as the Gnarled Old Tree! It had the same little knot holes and even the hole in the side that the mean birds made. The two little cardinals could not believe this was the same tree, but there, in a branch that used to be twisted, was their knothole with their nest!

What joy filled the hearts of the two little cardinals! Finally, they had a place to build their first nest and raise their chicks. The most perfect place for their first nest! In the safe little knothole where the mean old North Wind could not reach them.

That mean old North Wind came back from time to time. He tried his hardest to shake the Strong Tree, but it never swayed. Sometimes the other birds would fly away in fear when the mean old North Wind blew, but not the two little cardinals. They knew that nothing could reach them in their little knothole. And they lived, safe and sound, in that little knothole, and they raised many chicks in their first little nest and they loved the Strong Tree and it loved them!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

"Oh, you're a seminary student..."

My wife and I are taking advantage of the lessened responsibilities of 4th year seminary field work to visit many LCMS congregations in the St. Louis area. It has been a very eye-opening experience for us both.

One thing that I am learning is NOT to tell people if I possibly can that I am a seminary student. It is amazing how attitudes change in this "mission-driven-seeker-obsessed" church culture we live in. When people, both laity and clergy, think I am just some "seeker" trying on their church for size they roll out the red carpet. As soon as it is discovered that I am an itinerant seminary student it's like "Ah, who cares, he doesn't need to be treated with any friendliness."

Now, granted, this is not across the board. Some churches are nice and welcoming regardless of the possible pay-back they could get from me. However, it has been awkward and at times downright disheartening to be treated like a second-class citizen because I am already a LCMS Christian.

Any thoughts? Or am I just being too sensitive?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Beauty of the Theology of the Cross

Icon of St. Basil the Great

I urge you to stand firm, even if the blow is a heavy one. Don’t fall under the weight of your grief. Don’t lose heart. Be perfectly assured ofthis: although we cannot understand why God ordained such troubles, the One who is wise and who loves us arranged them for us. We must accept them no matter how hard they are to endure. God knows that He is appointing what is best for each person. He knows why the terms of life that He fixes for us are unequal.*
(Homily 3 on the Hexaemeron)

Certainly words of a theologian of the cross if ever I heard them. Thanks be to God for His enduring Word and Truth, revealed to us many and various ways by the prophets of old but now in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son.
Basil (c. 330-379) was born into the family that included Gregory of Nyssa. He received an excellent rhetorical education and later became a powerful influence on the church in Caesarea in Cappodocia. At school, he became good friends with Gregory of Nazianzen and later taught rhetoric in Athens. Influenced by his sister Macrina, he became a monk and started a monestery at his family residence. Later in life Basil became a presbyter and finally the bishop in the church of Caeserea. Despite the persecution of Emperor Valens, he remained steadfastly loyal to his Lord. His greatest works include the Hexaemeron, a series of lectures on the beginning chapters of Genesis, and a treatise entitled On the Holy Spirit.
* From Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers, p. 60 & 370.

Religious Fanatics

“Each of us carries in our heart a horrible religious fanatic. We would like to be able to do something so spectacular that we could brag, ‘Look what I’ve done! With all my prayers and good works, I’ve done enough for God today that I can feel at peace.’…Consciences are delicate. We need to guard them against the sin of arrogance. So we can’t be overconfident. We who confess Christ should always walk in fear and grow in faith. We should realize that we all carry in our hearts a horrible religious fanatic, who will destroy our faith with foolish delusions of good works.”

“The Holy Spirit provides us with a way to counter this godless delusion. We need to hold tightly to what we have received through the grace of God. God’s approval doesn’t come to us by what we do. Rather, it comes through the holiness of Christ, who suffered for us and rose again from the dead.”*


I am always impressed by the pastoral and loving nature of Martin Luther’s writings. This reading accompanied my morning prayers and was a humbling reminder that my works gain nothing. I am only made right by the holy and perfect works of Christ, my Savior, whose passion we as a Church focus our attention on this Lenten season.

The accompanying picture is by Juan de Flandes of the Temptation of Christ (c. 1500). Interesting, I found, was the dress of the Tempter, monk’s habit and rosary in hand, a true “religious fanatic.” Doesn’t that old evil foe also come to us in that way, in seeming religious humility and fanaticism? As if to say, “I too would offer up to God the sweetest works. Join me in a few Hail Mary’s. Our, if you're Lutheran, why not pray Luther's Morning Prayer with me, or better yet, let us rejoice in our work of the Lord's Prayer.”

Lord Jesus, our Suffering Servant, have mercy on us who turn away from Your holy word and instead put our hope, trust and joy in that which is filthy rags. Keep us in humility to serve You in purity and righteousness, that the great gift of Your Passion may not be removed from us, but engraved in our hearts. For Yours truly are the perfect and holy merits that make us righteous before the Heavenly Father.

*From Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional, ed. James C. Galvin. Zondervan 2005.