Thursday, July 29, 2010

proving the bible

Sometimes we get anxious about sharing our faith with people because we think we have to know everything about the Bible or that we have to prove that the Bible is true. The fact of the matter is, we don’t have to worry about that, because you really can’t prove that the Bible is true anyway!
You can’t prove that the Bible is true, but you can tell people the message of the Bible, and that can truly change their life. The life-changing message of God’s Law and Gospel in Jesus Christ is what people need to hear, so that is what we need to focus on.
We can’t logically reason some one into the faith, so we don’t need to start by trying to prove that the Bible is true. Think about it – we don’t believe in Jesus because we believe in the Bible. We believe in the Bible because we believe in Jesus! I’m not saved by my belief that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, I’m saved by my belief in Jesus!

So don’t start your outreach to someone by trying to prove the Bible – start by simply sharing the message of the Gospel that is found in the Bible.

“Let me tell you a story – a story about a people who were deeply flawed, and desperately in need of salvation, and a God who loved them and sent someone to save them.”

Monday, July 26, 2010

the hidden god

Does it sometimes seem to you as if God is hidden? Well, you're not alone. Many people, including some of the greatest theologians in history, have struggled with this question. The Latin phrase is "deus absconditus".
Martin Luther speaks of this hiddenness of God in his Heidelberg Disputation of 1518. He says that God is hidden in suffering and in the cross, and can only be known through the proclamation of the crucified Christ. As fallen creatures we can't really understand or comprehend the hidden God, but we can know and believe in the revealed God, the God-Man, Jesus Christ. 
So yes, God has in a sense hidden Himself from our sight. But He has done so in order to be found where and when He desires to be found, though the church's proclamation of the Gospel in Word and Sacrament.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

your church may not be a church...

Your church may not be a church if....

- You never hear the word "sin" there.

- You hear the word "sin," but only briefly or redefined as "mistakes."

- You can't remember when you last heard the name of Jesus in a message.

- The Easter Sunday message isn't about the resurrection but "new opportunities" in your life.

- On the other sundays, the message is about how great you are.

- There are more videos than prayers.

- People don't sing during "worship," but watch.

- The pastors' chief responsibilities are things foreign to Scripture.

- There is more money budgeted for advertising than for mission.

- Most of the groups are oriented around sports or leisure, not study or service.

- You always feel comfortable there.

(from the gospel driven church)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

invisible things

(Rich Mullins was one of my favorite singer-songwriters before he died in a car accident in 1997. He was an authentic Christian, a great musician, and a true poet. I recently found some articles he wrote for Release Magazine in the 1990's. Here is one entitled "Invisible Things" ....)
And there are invisible things. Like the light behind the earth that casts a shadow of it, a shadow we call night ... like the sap that runs with some wildness of life in the veins of trees that we see as dead ... like the impulse behind the act ... like the silence inaudible behind the noise...
Like all the beyond - too great to be fit into the lenses of our high-powered telescopes and microscopes, as close to us as the ocean is to fish, too present to be discovered (or even discoverable), a thing of which we are a part and apart from which we cannot be ourselves - invisible things...

Things cut off from our senses like Eden was barred from our first ancestors - guarded, hedged in and away, things of the Spirit - angels, the will of God, God Himself, His Kingdom (the place where His Spirit lives and reigns), love ... things we dream of and imagine that we remember, things we parrot and kill in that parroting - things we yearn for and curse and deny and yearn for again in spite of ourselves - as if a part of our true selves belonged to a true world and not the one our lesser selves have settled in and surrendered to ... or would surrender to if not for the persistence of those invisible things...

Those things that the visible world hang from, point to, cannot quite reach, cannot quite escape. And just when our smug, agnostic loneliness settles into some comfortable, almost manageable despair, something that goes "bump" in the night or "whir" in our hearts sweeps us up out of the numbness and into that longing, that anger, that unquenchable hope that we would just as well live without, if only life was possible without it...

If only life was not part of those invisible things - winds moving leaves, temperatures that we can measure, that affect the world, pasts, futures ... invisible things.

He is the image of the invisible God. He is incomprehensible to our western minds - as He was to eastern ones. He came from that beyond that no human mind as visited. When we try to squeeze Him into our systems of thought, He vanishes - He slips through our grasp and then reappears and (in so many words) says, "No man takes My life from Me. No man forces his will on Me. I am not yours to handle and cheapen. You are Mine to love and make holy."

In Him the fullness of the Godhead dwells. In Him all things are held together. In Him we see what love is - that it originates in God and is energized by Him.

And so, we thank God for all we see. For beauty and for the miracle of sight, for music and wonder of hearing, for warmth and the sense of touch. But we thank Him more for Christ, without whom we would be deaf, insensitive and blind to the invisible things, and there are ... invisible things...

(Rich Mullins, Release Magazine article, November 1994)

Sunday, July 18, 2010


I've been sweating alot lately. Mowing the grass in 100 degree heat will do that to you. I've gone through several shirts and multiple bottles of water. I'm hoping my wife will still speak to me after doing all of my laundry. Anyway, all of this heat, humidity, and sweating has gotten me thinking....
Did Jesus have to deal with this? I mean after all, He did live in the hot, dry land of Palestine. Maybe they don't have the humidity we do here, but it still must have been hot, especially since they had to wear robes around everywhere. 
Well, whether he sweat much or not in His first 30 years of life is not really of much consequence. But what IS important is the sweating He underwent on our behalf during the last few hours of His earthly life, while He was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest and crucifixion. Luke writes in His Gospel that Jesus “being in anguish, prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” 
Though many have written this detail off as merely symbolic, there is solid scientific evidence that shows this is a real possibility. Although rare, this medical condition is well-known, and there have been cases of it. The clinical term is “hematohidrosis.” Around the sweat glands there are multiple blood vessels. Under pressure or great stress the vessels constrict, and then as the anxiety passes the blood vessels dilate and rupture. The blood goes into the sweat glands and is pushed to the surface - coming out as droplets of blood mixed with sweat.

We know Jesus had the weight of the world on His shoulders at that time. The pressure and stress He was experiencing had to be unbelievable. As olives from the trees in the Garden of Gethsemane were pressed to make olive oil, Jesus was being pressed and crushed for us and for our salvation, and it came out as blood mixed with sweat. He was whipped and beaten for us in our place, and then went on to die on the cross the next day for our sins and the sins of all the world.

You know, now that I think about it, maybe my excessive sweating is not that big of a deal after all.

Friday, July 16, 2010

a "god's eye view"

James Dive, an Australian artist, has recreated scenes from the Bible such as the parting of the Red Sea to show what they would have looked like from space. The 'God's eye view' re-enacts moments including Noah's Ark in the floods and Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden as seen from a satellite. Dive spent more than three months painstakingly researching the Biblical locations on Google Earth, and then combined them on a computer with 3D models of elements from the religious text.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

election address

(election address from new LCMS President Matt Harrison)

If one member suffers, all suffer together. If one rejoices, all rejoice together. Right now there are many rejoicing and there are many suffering. Luther says when you’re walking along and you strike your little toe on a chair or a table, a table leg, what happens is the whole body bends over, the face grimaces and grabs that little toe. And there’s no use saying “that’s just a little toe,” because the whole body suffers.
This I realize is a tumultuous change in the life of our Synod. I wish to thank President Kieschnick for his heart for evangelism, and his deep desire to move this Synod forward. Many are suffering, and it will be very challenging times to work together.
I wish to inform you that you have kept your perfect record of electing sinners as presidents of the Missouri Synod.  I guarantee you I will sin and fail. I will fall short. I will sin against you. I wish also to say, that right now I forgive all who have in any way have sinned against me or anybody else, and plead your forgiveness for anything that I said or did that offended you. I beg of you your prayers, I beg of you your daily prayers and intercession. These are challenging times. I promise you that I will be as straight with you as I possibly can, to the best of my ability, guided by the Spirit of God. I pledge to you that I will not coerce you. I will do my best by the Word of Christ to lead with a generous Gospel of Jesus Christ, which forgives us all of our sins, and motivates us to love and care for our neighbor in mercy and compassion. And I will work as hard as I possibly can for unity around the clear and compelling Word of God and nothing else.

I’m so impressed by you at this convention, how you have borne with one another, been patient, asked for forgiveness. This is the greatest privilege and honor of one’s life to stand before this body in this fashion. I could never imagine it. And I pray the Lord will bless you in the days to come to work for unity and love and compassion, that the Gospel of Christ may go forth from all of us, in every single place, everywhere around the world, that many may know, many many more may know, the Gospel of Jesus for eternal life. The Lord be with you. “And also with you.”

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

the octopus oracle

Eight Armed Oracle Predicts Harrison Victory
By Daniel Bourke-Bourke

(RSNS) Paul, an octopus in Oberhausen, Germany, gained international notoriety by amazing fans with his correct World Cup picks. The magnificent mollusk accurately predicted the outcome of all of Germany’s matches by choosing between two mouthwatering mussels, one for Germany and one for its opponent.
Paul is now attempting to soothsay outside the world of sport, and is making a foray into the ecclesial realm. On Tuesday, July 13, in Houston, Texas, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod will meet in a plenary session to decide who will be the president of that church body. But if Paul’s track record for picking winners is any indication, the outcome won’t be surprising. The tentacled football forecaster thinks that the Rev. Matt Harrison will beat the incumbent, the Rev. Dr. Jerry Kieschnick, in what could be the Synod’s closest election ever. At the Oberhausen-based aquarium, Paul wasted no time devouring the mussel that was held inside a container bearing a picture of Harrison’s bespeckled and mustachioed visage.

An unconfirmed rumor stated that the eight-armed oracle has been involved in church politics once before when Paul allegedly predicted that Cardinal Ratzinger would be the next Pontiff. Versions of the story have Paul choosing between 90 different princes of the church, a departure from his usual practice of deciding between only two contenders.

It is unknown whether Paul the octopus will be given the opportunity to predict the winner in upcoming Anglican or Presbyterian leadership races.

Monday, July 12, 2010

langes in tulsa

the lange clan gather in tulsa for the fourth of july  (notice the dog to person ratio)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

there is a hill ...

There is a hill just north of San Diego CA that overlooks the pacific ocean, and towers over the other hills in the area. It is not only taller than the surrounding hills, it also towers over them in meaning and significance as well. For at the top of Mount Soledad is a memorial to war veterans, and at the very peak is a large white cross, brightly shining for all to see.

Mt. Soledad is a sacred place for most people in the San Diego area, but there are some, including the ACLU and others, that have tried for years to have the cross taken down. Fortunately, all of their efforts have come up short so far, and the white cross still stands as a beacon of hope for all. These groups may get their wish someday, but taking down that cross from Mt. Soledad won't change the reality of truth upon which it stands, and the power that it represents.

For amid all the changes we see around us here in the United States of America, the message of the cross is one thing that will never change. The message of God's Grace and Mercy, Forgiveness and Salvation, Hope and Peace, True Freedom and Liberty for all in Jesus Christ.

As I stood atop Mt. Soledad last week, I thought about some other important hills in our story as Christians in America.

I'm reminded of the important hills in our nation's history.

There is a hill just outside of Boston that played a crucial role in our nations's independence. It was the site of one of the most famous battles of the Revolutionary War - The Battle of Bunker Hill. Although the British thought they won the battle by taking Bunker Hill, they suffered many more casualties than the Americans, and it became a turning point in the war. As word of the battle reached General George Washington, who was on his way to Boston as the new commander of the continental army, it gave him hope that his army might prevail in the conflict.

I'm reminded of the great mountains in the Old Testament.
Mt. Moriah ... Mt. Sinai ... Mt. Zion ..

I'm reminded of the hills that play an important part of my own story as a Christian in America.

There is a hill in Northern Germany, overlooking the Teotoburger Forest, upon which stands Hermann's Denkmal, (or Hermann's Memorial) a memorial to a battle that took place there in the year 9 A.D.

It is where an alliance of Germanic tribes led by Arminius (or "Hermann"), fought back three Roman legions, and kept their lands of Germania free from Roman rule. This was an important victory because it kept the Romans from taking over the rest of Europe at that time. They never did get past the Rhine River.
It is reported that upon hearing of the defeat, Emperor Caesar Augustus back in Rome was so shaken by the news that he stood butting his head against the walls of his palace shouting - Give me back my legions! Give me back my legions! From that time on, Arminius or Hermann, became known as Hermann the Liberator.

This memorial can be seen from miles away, and is within walking distance from our relatives farm in Germany. I visited this site when I was 10 years old, not knowing of course of the great significance for Western Civilization, and for me personally. You see, this is not only Germany's story or America's story, the story of freedom and liberty is your story and my story.

For these German ancestors of ours would later be freed from the shackles of the Roman Church by the hands of another liberator named Martin Luther at the time of the Reformation in the 1500's. These same people would leave Germany in the 1800's because of religious persecution, and sail to America in the hopes of freedom and a brighter future for their families. These same people would travel across the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, to New Orleans, come up the Mississippi River, land in St. Louis, find work, buy land and finally settle in Perry County, in southeast Missouri. This is where, in 1839, they built the first German Lutheran church and school and seminary. This is where it all began for us in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod here in America. We who gather here today in freedom and liberty on this 4th of July, stand as a testimony to their faithfulness, diligence, and perseverance.

And the message we proclaim today is the same message they preached back then.
Forgiveness of Sins, Eternal Life, and Everlasting Salvation, True Freedom and Liberty by God's Grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

There is a hill outside of Jerusalem that overlooks the surrounding Judean wilderness.
Although it is not the tallest hill in the area, it towers above all others in meaning and significance. It is the most important hill in the history of the world. Mt. Calvary, the hill upon which Jesus Christ our Savior died on the cross for the sins of all the world.

And though Satan and his minions thought they had won the battle on that dark and dreary Friday afternoon, Jesus won the war for us by rising form the dead 3 days later on Easter Sunday.

There is a hill with a church built on top that is is at the highest point in a small town in America. It is filled with people God brought together to be His people in that place at that time for a specific mission and purpose - to proclaim the Good News Of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

That's who we are. We're part of the divine drama, the great salvation story of our God, the story of God's great rescue mission to bring freedom and liberty to people in slavery and darkness. We are the church on the hill,  the light of the world,  a candle in the dark, a star in the night.

Matthew 5 - You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Thursday, July 1, 2010