Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Seize Those Teaching Moments

Every Christian is equipped to teach and encourage their brothers and sisters in the faith by the power of the Holy Spirit. We should eagerly seek out and seize these teaching moments to lift up our neighbors and serve them. In particular, it is the duty of the whole church to care, guide, and nurture our young confirmands as they grow as disciples of Christ. Do not treat them as an irritation and do not ignore them because of their age. It is quite easy to reenforce sound doctrine. If you pay attention, you will be shocked how easy this is! It always surprises me how the Holy Spirit takes over when you open up and seek to help these little ones see Jesus. These situations do not have to be forced or fabricated at all. The course of any conversation between two Christians will eventually turn to Christ.

Here is a small example on a fairly difficult topic.

Confirmand: "Hey, wow, I didn't know that you were in the Army. Are you in the Army?"
Soldier: "Yes."
Confirmand: "Really? Isn't that scary?"
Soldier: "I don't think so."
Confirmand: "Have you gone to Iraq?"
Soldier: "Not yet."
Confirmand: "Do you want to go?"
Soldier: "Yes. That's why I joined. To go and serve."
Confirmand: "....and you aren't nervous or scared."
Soldier: "No. What should I be afraid of?"
Confirmand: "Like, snakes and guns."
Soldier: "Aren't there snakes and guns here, too?"
Confirmand: "...but you could die."
Soldier: "Yes. That could happen."
Confirmand: "Sorry. I didn't mean to make the nervous worse."
Soldier: "Don't worry. You didn't. You haven't said anything that I have no already thought about."
Confirmand: "I guess we could die here, too. Like just walking down the street."
Soldier: "That is true, but it is a rare thing around here."
Confirmand: "So you really aren't scared?"
Soldier: "Of death? No. I have no reason to be afraid."
Confirmand: "..."
Soldier: "Let me ask you a question, [Confirmand]. As a Christian, what is there for me to fear about death?"
Confirmand: "Nothing."
Soldier: "Correct. With faith in Christ, death does not need to terrify us. 'To live is Christ--faith and service, and to die is gain--heaven.' We have no reason to fear death. It has no power over us. We live according to God's will and His timing. We live by faith until the Father calls us home."
Confirmand: "That's right."
Soldier: "..."
Confirmand: "....I would still be scared though."
Soldier: "And that is perfectly okay. Emotions of fear and caution can be a healthy thing. It keeps you safe and protects you. But fear should not control your life. And not everyone is called to be a Soldier. But all Christians are called to serve. We call it your 'vocation'."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Evolution of America's Dynastic System

Here is a thought that is having our founding fathers spin in their graves as we speak:

1980... Vice President: George H. W. Bush
[1981... my birth year]
1984... Vice President: George H. W. Bush
1988... President: George H. W. Bush
[1990... the 2008 first time voters are born]
1992... President: William J. Clinton
1996... President: William J. Clinton
[1991... I become a legal voter]
2000... President: George W. Bush [The son of a previous president]
2004... President: George W. Bush [The son of a previous president]
2008... Democrat Presidential Canidate: Hilary R. Clinton [The wife of a previous president]

Scary Thought: There are people who can legally vote this year who have been ruled by executives from only two immediate families. For my entire life, there has always been a "Bush" or "Clinton" in the #1 or #2 slot. Politics aside, if Hilary is elected to even just one term, we will have had Bush-Clinton Presidential regimes for 24 consecutive years... nearly a quarter century (move over Castro, we're catching up!)

Did we really leave our kings and queens behind? Do we now just give them the tacit okay to assume their throne?

Are there no other qualified individuals in this vast and great country? Really?

I am shocked that this does not come up in converstation more often. Orwell was right: we are all sheep.

Quote Question

I found a quote that is attributed to St Basil. It seems relatively popular, but no one sites the source of this quote other than "-St. Basil". In trying to find the source for it, I have found several different versions of the quote. Here is the version that seems to be the most common:

"As the pilot of a vessel is tried in the storm, the soldier in battle, and the hero in adversity; so is the Christian tried in temptation."

1. Is this an actual St. Basil quote?
2. What is the source?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Remember Who We Are Dealing With

Justice does not negotiate with evil. She is not interested in polite diplomacy with mass murderers. They have nothing to discuss. She does not call the enemies of international peace "friend" nor invite them into her home for dinner parties. She does not pretend that she has anything in common with evil.

She also does not run from evil. As she has for generations, Justice will not stand idly by and permit evil to triumph over the innocent. She seeks out evil and crushes it. Justice brings evil to account for its actions. With unshakable resolve, Justice ensures that good men and women can live in peace with their children. She is the mortal enemy of despots, terrorists, murders, and thugs. The oppressed from every corner of the globe tearfully embrace her.

Al-Qaeda has been and continues to be pure evil. Their agenda continues to be written in blood. Now, they are kidnapping mentally handicapped women and using them as boobytraps to blow up innocent civilians in market places. I am disgusted and enraged.

Justice demands that this organization be stopped. The depth of their depravity knows no limit.

Lenten Sonnet #2

What fidelity do we possess?
With hearts so swayed by daily passions,
To a man we thirst, we burn, transgress.
Not a man e'er deserves compassion.
We claim to love and profess our heart,
But our blackened souls bring us to lie.
Our dark minds spell doom from the very start;
And seek e'er more pleasing things before we die.
Thou, O Christ, stand ever faithful and true,
And for our betrayal You offer grace.
Our God of mercy forgives anew;
From the harlot the Groom will not hide His face.
A bride, now cleansed by water with the Word,
The church is presented to her King and Lord.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Who is the "real" conservative?

The "real" conservative is the one that actually conserves the historic view of the American political process and strongly opposes all parties as President Washington did. All others are too "liberal" in my book. I would hazard to guess that our First President would barely recognize this political system. It is a tragic loss.

What is worse, this current political season is marred on all sides by what President Washington called, "a spirit of revenge." In no other election, have I witnessed such blind, retarded sheepery. It is enough to make a true patriot weep. Any group or party whose primary focus is anything other than unity, sacrifice, and fidelity for the whole nation is an enemy of our founding principles. I quote our esteemed founding father:

The unity of Government, which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquillity at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty, which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee, that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the Palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion, that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the Independence and Liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts, of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.


Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the constitution, alterations, which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown. In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of governments, as of other human institutions; that experience is the surest standard, by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution of a country; that facility in changes, upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion, exposes to perpetual change, from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion; and remember, especially, that, for the efficient management of our common interests, in a country so extensive as ours, a government of as much vigor as is consistent with the perfect security of liberty is indispensable. Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian. It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property.

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.
Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion, that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the Government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of Liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in Governments of a Monarchical cast, Patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in Governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And, there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution, in those intrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositories, and constituting each the Guardian of the Public Weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way, which the constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for, though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield.

Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who, that is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric ?

Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.

-Excerpts from George Washington's Fairwell Address to the Citizens of the United States - September 17, 1796 (look it up and read it in its entirity)

Shame. Shame on us all for being so foolish, lazy, and ignorant.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Lenten Sonnet #1

The works I wish all come to naught
While the fleshly lusts do sway my heart.
My high principles so oft forgot
As expedience rules each selfish part.
God's Law makes me toil and feign to rise,
But there is no constancy in man's estate
For despite my deeds and desperate tries
I ne'er shake the aims of a reprobate.
'Tis proved my loathsome self shall not relent,
But I worry not e'en though temptation flails
And Hell assails 'til human will is spent.
When virtue fails Grace peers past my vain travails.
In the self no more, but by Thy Cross I live.
Prostrate I sob, "Dear Lord, Sweet Christ, forgive!"

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Before Christ's Church had "worship wars"...

...She was embroiled in "food fights", "circumcison conflicts", and "day debates". Sinful man loves to quibble over adiaphora and he will stomp all over the Ten Commandments to do it. With about 2,000 years to calm down over these three ancient divisions, most of us can see how silly it all was. What will the Christians of 4008 AD say about this essential arguement we are having today about what style of music a Christian should exclusively use to worship God?

With the modern hot topic of the "worship wars" in mind, read the following passage of Romans 12 & 13. Look at the instructions on how to resolve this conflict over the cleanliness of some kinds of food and the observence of certain holy days. What can we apply to our current situation about the appropriateness of some kinds of music? What do they have in common?

Quite alot if you ask me. After all, nothing goes together to make a good time like holy days, music, food and............circumcision. You get the idea.

Romans 12

1 As for(A) the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 (B) One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and(C) let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 (D) Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master[a] that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

5 (E) One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike.(F) Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since(G) he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For(H) none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then,(I) whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ(J) died and lived again, that he might be Lord both(K) of the dead and of the living.

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For(L) we will all stand before(M) the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, (N) "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess[b] to God."

12 So then(O) each of us will give an account of himself to God.

13 (P) Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide(Q) never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus (R) that nothing is unclean in itself,(S) but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, (T) you are no longer walking in love.(U) By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 (V) So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 (W) For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but (X) of righteousness and (Y) peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18Whoever thus serves Christ is (Z) acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us (AA) pursue what makes for peace and for (AB) mutual upbuilding.

20 (AC) Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God.(AD) Everything is indeed clean, but (AE) it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 (AF) It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. [c] 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God.(AG) Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Romans 15

1(A) We who are strong (B) have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 (C) Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For (D) Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, (E) "The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me." 4 For (F) whatever was written in former days was written for our (G) instruction, that through endurance and through (H) the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you (I) to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify (J) the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

CCM: Art Imitating Life

Contemporary Christian Music is a valuable resource for the LCMS in the days of the post-modern world.

How is that?

Contemporary Christian Music is valuable to us because it serves as an indicator of the health of the laity in the church. Unlike hymns, the vast majority of Contemporary Christian songs are not written by theologeans, pastors, and doctors of theology. For the most part, they are written by ordinary people. A songwriter will typically put at least three things into his music: (1) what he knows, (2) what he feels, (3) what he believes.

You can learn alot about people by listening to the music that they create and listen to. It is a valuable daignostic and psychological tool. Contemporary Christian Music is the voice of modern American Christianity. If you do not like what you are hearing, your problem is not with the composition, but the composers. The composers are your neighbors. They are your peers. What are you doing to improve their doctrinal understanding?

Many will say that CCM is devoid of doctrinal content. They will be the first to discourage its use on these grounds. Not so fast. The question is: Why is it devoid of doctrinal content?

Many will say that CCM is anthropocentric. They complain that it does not talk about Christ enough. It is all about the singer and how he feels. Not so fast. The question is: Why is it so self-centered and selfish?

Many will say that CCM contains heresy and doctrinal error. They complain that the music is full of unbiblical themes and questionable analogies. Not so fast. The question is: Why is it filled with error?

Contemporary Chrsitian Music is the canary in the mineshaft of the modern church. It is an indicator of the maturity and doctrinal understanding of the modern Christian layman. CCM is not sweeping away Christians into error and mediocrity. It is the other way around. In those places where you find strong Christians with a firm grasp of doctrine, you find quality contemporary music. The scarcity of this quality contemporary music should alarm the church.

If there is a deficiency in the musical style, I say that the problem does not lie in the medium that communicates it, but in the artists that conceive it and the audiences that support it. Strong Christians do not compose weak music. What does a significant sample of modern Christian music say about modern Christians? What do we do about the problems that we see?

Do we throw out this art form that we judge to be deficient? Or do we help those who have an imperfect understanding of what the faith is about? The music is just a symptom. The people are the issue. Instead of degrading their admirable efforts, we should be helping them to hone their craft and improve the value of their art. The solution is not a worship war about musical taste. The answer is not closing ourselves off from these people and allowing them to wallow in their ignorance and shallow doctrine. It is a teaching opportunity that we have been largely overlooking for nearly four decades.

The effective solution is found in a constant stream of loving support to our weaker brothers and sisters. It does not take the form of a harsh debate, but a long process of exposure, mentoring, and catechesis. Doctrinal truth is not won by logical arguement. It is received by revelation through the preaching and teaching of God's Holy Word.

When one matures theologically and spiritually, the music improves automatically. When one comes to enjoy the solid food of deep theology, the Holy Spirit takes away the desire for anything less. We must address this problem at its source. That is the only approach that consistantly works. The Body of Christ is enclusive and supportive.

The deficiencies in Contemporary Christian Music say alot about where the church is at and what she has become. It says a great deal about those of us who have let the problem of doctrinal ignorance become as big as it is. These specks of ignorance that exist in the eyes of our neighbors expose the planks of neglect in our own eyes.