Friday, September 30, 2005

A Purpose Driven Miracle revisited...

In light of Ashley Smith's more truthful version of what happened in her apartment with accused killer, Brian Nichols, I dug up this post. I don't have a problem with the fact that she was a meth addict and gave him meth, since that is what meth addicts do. I'm not even concerned that she lied and spun her story to make herself look better. She was obviously ashamed of her meth addiction and was covering up. I'm sure I'd do the same thing, if I were in her same situation. Ashley Smith is a sinner in need of a savior and so am I.

My concern with this whole story remains the same. The way that many Evangelicals and their press outlets took ahold of this story to promote Rick Warren's book is what concerns me. On Fox News one morning shortly after the capture and Ashley's revelation, Scott Bolinder, Exec. VP and Publisher for Zondervan was asked to comment on the Ashley Smith story. I was rubbed the wrong way by his comments. Steve Doocy commented, "How fortunate for her that this is the book she was reading. What passage was she reading?" Bolinder responded that she was reading Chapter 33. Already their conversation had the distinct tone of people dicussing Bible passages. Bolinder went on to make this statement:

"This is what happens when you read this book. First, people understand their purpose for living...your relationship with God. He (God) helps you
to understand your purpose. Second, this book gives you a new lens into other people's lives. You begin to understand that they were created with a purpose in mind."

Bolinder went on to say that this miracle had rocketed Warren's book from 79th place to 2nd place on a bestsellers' list. Today, Zondervan is still spinning this story. Starting with a June 15, 2005 press release, Smith's upcoming book was announced:

The woman who convinced a suspected courtroom killer to surrender during a seven-hour hostage ordeal at her suburban apartment is writing a memoir.

Ashley Smith's "Unlikely Angel" will be co-published this fall by the Zondervan and William Morrow divisions of HarperCollins. Zondervan is also the publisher for Rick Warren's million-selling "The Purpose-Driven Life," from which Smith says she read passages to courthouse shooting suspect Brian Nichols

Today, on the Zondervan website, this book is proudly featured with no reference to her meth addiction:

Ashley Smith, author of Unlikely Angel: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Hostage Hero, is finishing her interview on Good Morning America Friday. See it here.

On Wed. Ashley was on Oprah.

Unlikely Angel is the inspirational story of Ashley Smith, who was taken hostage by suspected Atlanta courthouse killer Brian Nichols. "This past March millions of people were captivated by the grace and courage Ashley exemplified as she convinced Brian Nichols to surrender peacefully after reading to him from The Purpose-Driven Life," notes Scott Bolinder, Executive VP & Publisher, Zondervan. "We're honored to partner with William Morrow to bring Ashley's remarkable story of faith, redemption, and hope to the public."

Read the chapter Ashley shared with her captor: Chapter 33 (PDF)

Look for Unlikely Angel in bookstores now.

And follow Ashley as she continues her national tour with appearances on the following: ABC's 20/20, Sept. 30; CBS's The Early Show and CNN's Larry King Live on Oct. 5; CNN's American Morning and FOXNews's Hannity & Colmes on Oct. 4; and The View on Oct. 17.

Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life, will join Ashley on Larry King Live.

Ashley Smith's recent revelation, albeit with no apparent consequences, is just further illustration of the shallowness of the "we want to experience God" nature of the modern Evangelical movement. Meth is a natural choice for "experiencing God" and so is Rick Warren's book. Ashley Smith was, to quote a favorite blog-keeper of mine, Tim the Enchanter, very poorly catechized.

cat·e·chism (kt-kzm) noun

A book giving a brief summary of the basic principles of Christianity in question-and-answer form.

[French catechisme, from Old French, from Late Latin catchismus, from Late Greek katkhismos, from katkhizein, to teach by word of mouth. See catechize.]

We fellow humans are living in a fallen world, far from the paradise and eternal life that God had intended for us. We need to understand that fact and to know that God has provided us a Savior. We do not need to "feel" and "experience" God. No wonder so many people get hooked on meth, which supposedly is known for people thinking that God is speaking to them. God did not provide us Rick Warren and A Purpose Driven Life for our salvation; He gave us His Word and His Son. Anything, including books or meth, that pulls us away from that truth is from the author of lies.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Lutheran Carnival VII

Well done and well worth the wait this week! Brian, of Nonpareil, hosts the Lutheran Carnival VII. Be sure to visit Nonpareil and view each of the submissions.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Examining the teachings of Ted Haggard...

The Issues, Etc. interview by Pastor Wilken of Ted Haggard, President of the National Association of Evangelicals and pastor of the 12,000 member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, CO, was repeated on 9/13/05 with added commentary and listener call-ins.

Rebroadcast with commentary - part I and part II

Original broadcast from 9/12/05

My first impression following the interview was: Unbelievable! Right off the bat, he eliminated Lutherans from his definition of evangelical because of their stance on one's ability to ask Jesus into one's heart. This was no surprise to me actually because I had spent much time studying the National Association of Evangelicals website a few months back for another writing project.

The one good thing he said was that in his pastoring of 11,000 souls in Colorado, only about 30 had asked him for a doctrinal statement. He went on to say that this is not good and that it is a strong indicator that people today choose their church by how it makes them feel and not on its teachings. He rightly said that this practice leaves people open to heresy. I don't know how then, he reconciles that critique of the majority of his parishioners with the fact that he doesn't feel the need to teach doctrine to them.

Here is a brief list of the many comments Ted Haggard makes. I am writing word for word. I am not making a judgment; I think his words should stand on their own. Scripture does tell us to examine teachings and so I do.

*Definition of an Evangelical: 1. Believes the Bible is the word of God; 2. Believes that Jesus is the son of God; and 3. Believes that you must be born again.

*Core beliefs of an Evangelical: 1. Who is Jesus; 2. What is the Bible; and 3. Do you have to have a personal encounter with God in order to be in a close relationship with Him.

*The Evangelical church is very broad and covers all varieties from Benny Hinn to R.C. Sproul.

*Strengths of Evangelicalism: It is a core belief that people live and die for. Evangelicals are the salt and light of the earth. Evangelicals are the ones who seriously study scripture. Evangelicals are a strong core for the betterment of mankind and for the kingdom of God to be demonstrated on earth so that people have hope and joy. Evangelicals do many of the good works on earth.

*Weaknesses of Evangelicalism: There aren't many, since Jesus is the head of the Evangelical Church and he is a good administrator. One weakness is that we are more fragmented and disorganized than we need to be because of our diversity, but that is also our strength - diversity.

*Is the "evangel" missing in Evangelicalism? : No! Evangelicalism has lots of clear information on how to become born again.

*Does a Christian need to ask forgiveness each day? No! A mature Christian should not be sinning on a daily basis, so may not need to ask for forgiveness on a daily basis.

Ted Haggard has much to say about how true Christians should be sinning less and less as they mature. He openly ridiculed families who, as part of family prayer or table grace, ask for forgiveness for unknown sins. Please listen to the rebroadcast. Pastor Wilken really does an excellent job with this interview!

For the record:
An Evangelical is one who proclaims the good news that God, through undeserved grace sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die in your place so that you can come to heaven.

[Middle English evaungel, from Late Latin vangelium, from Greek euangelion, good news, from euangelos, bringing good news : eu-, eu- + angelos, messenger.]

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Praying for Worthy Woman...

I have just learned this morning that confessional Lutheran woman, blog-keeper and wheelchair user, Lisa aka Worthy Woman, lives just north of Houston, TX. She stopped posting yesterday afternoon around 3:30 pm. I can only assume that she has evacuated. She's got lots of friends and family and they had been keeping a close eye on the weather, so I will assume the best for her. However, these must be scary days, if not downright inconvenient, for anyone living in the south!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Lutheran Carnival VII

Lutheran student extraordinaire, Brian Braatz at Non Pareil, is hosting the next Lutheran Carnival. Read on...Brian Braatz

Beckfest: ...for the very purpose of strengthening and increasing our faith.

There's a great conversation thread going on at Beckfest: ...for the very purpose of strengthening and increasing our faith.

Parents discuss communion age for their children. So far, Mutti Beck, Devona and I have expressed our thoughts; Bob Waters and my own pastor, Matthew Brooks, have provided pastoral insight.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Romans 14:5-9: To whom do we belong?

One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. Romans 14:5-9

"So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord." One of my pastors, Matthew Brooks preached a sermon, The Beauty of Belonging, based on this scripture from the book of Romans. Pastor Brooks reminded us that our children belong to the Lord and asked us to reflect on what we will do with our children this year. It was poignant for him to ask this question of his flock considering that he had buried his infant son, taken by sickness unexpectedly, just days earlier. He certainly takes joy in the fact that his son was never really their own and belonged to His heavenly father. The Brooks' deeply treasured and enjoyed their days with their young son, but they also mourn the loss of the days on this earth that they wouldn't be spending with him. I took Pastor Brooks' challenge to heart; it is a topic that has been on my mind since the day I became a mother: What should I do with my kids?

That question presents a seeming contrast. On one hand, scripture instructs parents to train their children in the way they should go and promises that they will not depart from those ways when they are older. On the other hand, scripture reminds me that children belong to the Lord. In my Evangelical days, I was taught in no uncertain terms that my children's salvation was in my own hands. As a Lutheran, I am taught that God works faith through His proclaimed Word like the unrelenting waters of a hurricane flood. I am to continually point my children ever to the Word for their conviction and salvation.

What should I do with my kids? I desire for my kids to recognize their sinful state, learn the JOY of their salvation, grow strong in the faith that is Christ Jesus and live contented and meaninful lives. My husband and I bring them to the Word and surround them with the Word, provide catechism at home, school and church, love and pray for them. Yet, far too often, I become discouraged. They sin and I become discouraged; we, as parents, sin and I despair. Satan then uses that discouragement and despair to pull us away from the Word, as I start to use my reason to determine that my childrn actually need me to explain to them how awful they are. As if God needs my help in explaining that to them! Quickly, reliably and lovingly, God restores my faith and trust in Him as the owner of us all. We belong to Him. In many ways, I am my children's sister in Christ, as much as their earthly mother. I, too, am a sinner in need of a Savior. My job as their sister in Christ is to herd them back to the Word, in that loving and enticing way that only a parent knows how to do.

In his preface to the Larger Catechism, Luther discussed my very attempts and failures. He also reassures me that even he still needed to study every day. He wrote:

But for myself I say this: I am also a doctor and preacher, yea, as learned and experienced as all those may be who have such presumption and security; yet I do as a child who is being taught the Catechism, and every morning, and whenever I have time, I read and say, word for word, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Psalms, etc. And I must still read and study daily, and yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the Catechism, and am glad so to remain.

In his sermon prefacing the Large Catechism, Luther begins:

This sermon is designed and undertaken that it might be an instruction for children and the simple-minded. Hence of old it was called in Greek catechism, i.e., instruction for children, what every Christian must needs know, so that he who does not know this could not be numbered with the Christians nor be admitted to any Sacrament, just as a mechanic who does not understand the rules and customs of his trade is expelled and considered incapable. Therefore we must have the young learn the parts which belong to the Catechism or instruction for children well and fluently and diligently exercise themselves in them and keep them occupied with them.

Therefore it is the duty of every father of a family to question and examine his children and servants at least once a week and to ascertain what they know of it, or are learning and, if they do not know it, to keep them faithfully at it. For I well remember the time, indeed, even now it is a daily occurrence that one finds rude, old persons who knew nothing and still know nothing of these things, and who, nevertheless, go to Baptism and the Lord's Supper, and use everything belonging to Christians, notwithstanding that those who come to the Lord's Supper ought to know more and have a fuller understanding of all Christian doctrine than children and new scholars. However, for the common people we are satisfied with the three parts, which have remained in Christendom from of old, though little of it has been taught and treated correctly until both young and old who are called and wish to be Christians, are well trained in them and familiar with them.
Luther goes on to list the things that a parent should be sure to instruct to his children, at the bare minimum: the Ten Commandments, the Creed and the Lord's Prayer. Luther's Small and Large Catechism are tools that every part should use! You can read them online and/or order a copy for your home.

I once wrote to my pastor regarding parenting advice and he responded with the following:

Blessings in Him who was the perfect child and through whom we have access to the perfect parent - our heavenly Father - Jesus!

What does the Bible say about parenting? Your first and primary responsibility is wrapped up with the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20. Before we give our children anything else, it's bringing them to the Means of Grace, the Gospel in Word and Sacrament, and the working of the Holy Spirit.

The very best thing I ever did for my 5 children was bring them to the waters of Baptism. Honestly, I could give them the best of the whole world, but everything, everything pales in comparison to bringing them to Jesus and Jesus to them. "What does a man gain if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul..." Jesus says (Mt 16:26).

The sole of parenting is really attached to the soul. I believe that governs everything. How will this effect the eternal soul? is a good question always to ask. That governs setting definite expectations and consequences, communication - use of Law and Gospel,marital example, Christian example, etc., etc.

In Rev. 14:13 it mentions that we will rest from our labors and our "works" will follow us when we go to heaven. What can we take with us from this earth - PEOPLE, especially the ones the Lord's entrusted to us in our homes.

Thanks to excellent teaching from my pastors, I am able to find strength in parenting teens. I am able to say to my kids each day:

I am a sinner. You are, too. Together we are hopeless and will keep sinning for the rest of our lives. We belong to God, but are separated from him by our sin. We are bound for hell because we can't enter heaven unless we are perfect. However, God still loves me and you. He desires to spend eternity with Him in heaven. In an incredible and unfathomable act of love and grace, he gave us His son, Jesus Christ, as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. We have been saved! Rejoice! We can now enter heaven! Share this good news with others!

Living Among Mysteries: God is Telling You to Loan Me a Book and Take a Potty Break

I wish I had learned this twenty+ years ago; it would have saved me and others many years of confusion, despair and impedance (is that a word?). . Living Among Mysteries: God is Telling You to Loan Me a Book and Take a Potty Break

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Living Among Mysteries: The Given Life

Not long after becoming a confessional Lutheran, I started to search for other people like me. I suppose that is just human nature. That search goes on and I have found another very interesting person who keep a blog entitled Living Among Mysteries. It is written by a recent Lutheran convert, Jeremy . Stories like Jeremy's are the reason that blog-keeping appealed to me and fueled my search for more stories like mine. Jeremy writes:

So why another blog when ten zillion are already out there? I'll be honest: it's mostly for my benefit. I plan to float ideas and ask for feedback because the way I learn is by interaction with other people. Writing (warning: I'm not too good at it) is my self-test for understanding. I don't believe I understand something until I can explain it to others. I also have an inordinate love of books and reading. I plan on passing on some recommendations along with thoughts inspired by my reading. Though I'm no scholar, I have an interest in Lutheran theology. I'm also a wannabe agrarian. My first post will be the story of Rachel's and my conversion from fundamentalist Pentecostalism to Augsburg Evangelicalism (hat tip to Here We Stand), aka Lutheranism. Hope you enjoy.

In a later post he writes of his conversion:

My wife and I were both raised in independent Pentecostal Holiness churches (henceforward PHC). The first order of business must be to explain what those churches believe since they have no formal confessions. First, they are classical Pentecostals, i.e., they are not charismatic or Word-Faith. They believe they have remained true to the Azusa Street revival at the turn of the 20th century without falling into the excesses of much of the rest of Pentecostalism. They believe in the Baptism of the Holy Ghost as a second (or, possibly, third) work of grace, the evidence of which is speaking in an unlearned, “unknown” tongue. This speaking in tongues, which ought to be the regular experience of those baptized in the Holy Ghost, is a completely unconscious experience uncontrolled and uninitiated by the speaker. They believe in nine gifts of the Spirit as enumerated in 1 Corinthians 12-14 that remain in operation today. They believe healing is a part of the atonement and is the right of every believer, though they deny that God is obligated to heal as many Word-Faith teachers believe. Their worship services are, theoretically, without a set order. The worship is spontaneous and exuberant. The Holy Ghost may “fall” on one or more worshipers and a “move of God” may take place. This means that the rest of the service may be occupied with worshipers dancing, running the aisles, praying, speaking in tongues, being “slain in the Spirit,” etc. There may be no preaching in these services. In fact, it is very often said that “the service was so wonderful that the preacher didn’t even get to preach.” They are firmly within the revivalist tradition with all of its concomitant practices such as altar calls. They are also independent churches, i.e., they have no denominational affiliation. There is a Pentecostal Holiness denomination out there, but they are not connected in any way to the group I am describing.

Secondly, they are the “Holiness People.” In fact, many of them refer to themselves primarily as Holiness rather than Pentecostal. This is due in part to many PHC’s belief in a second, definite experience of sanctification a la Wesleyanism. Mainly, though, the name Holiness refers to their belief in “standards.” These are very specific rules of dress and behavior. Let me name a few: women should have long, uncut hair; men should have short hair; women should wear dresses or skirts only and they must be at least knee length; no shorts; no sleeveless shirts; no makeup; no jewelry, including wedding rings; no television or movies; no secular or contemporary Christian music. The list could go on. There are variations in strictness between churches but the list would be pretty standard. Furthermore, they did not believe these were optional rules but God’s own requirements and to violate them was to sin. There is some question among them whether those who do not know about these rules can be saved but folks like me are almost certainly out.

So know you have an idea of what the PHC is like. Until my mid-twenties (I am now 28) I enthusiastically believed all of it. My wife and I were well respected and some believed we had a bright future among the PHC. I was editor and main contributor of a newsletter and sometime adult Sunday School teacher. A few even thought I should enter the ministry. We were quite happy where we were, but my voracious reading and curiosity is what did me in. Actually the internet was also a key factor since it introduced me to people I would have never known otherwise.
Be sure to read on: Living Among Mysteries: The Given Life

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Issues, Etc. inteviews Ted Haggard

I listened today to Pastor Wilken interview Ted Haggard on Issues, Etc. Unbelievable! Right off the bat, he eliminates Lutherans from his definition of evangelical because of their stance on one's ability to ask Jesus into one's heart. If I had nothing better to do, I would make a list of every false statement he makes. My list would be very long, but I don't want to give the man any more attention. Here is my short list:

  • The Willow Creek movement was God speaking to his people
  • Os Guiness is a prophet naming things of which some are guilty
One good thing he said was that in his pastoring of 11,000 souls in Colorado, only about 30 had asked him for a doctrinal statement. He went on to say that this is not good and that it is a strong indicator that people today choose their church by how it makes them feel and not on its teachings. He rightly said that this practice leaves people open to heresy.

McCain: Today is Holy Cross Day

Check out Pastor Paul McCain's post on Holy Cross Day, if only to view the beautiful painting. He writes:

Today is Holy Cross Day. The day in the church year set aside to reflect and ponder the most essential truth and reality, not just of the Christian faith, which it is of course, but all of life, all things in heaven and on earth, both visible and invisible: the reality of the Most Holy Cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let’s focus our hearts and minds on this day with our reading from 1 Corinthians 1:18-25.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

ELS President's Newsletter: September 2005 - the calling of one of our pastors

President John A. Molstad's newsletter for September 2005 can be found here. It contains the sad and wonderful news of the call and acceptance for one of our beloved pastors, David M. Russow. The newsletter states:

With the acceptance of the home mission call by Rev. David Russow and with the recent purchase of land, the Board for Home Missions is eager to move forward with its exploratory work in the area of Rogers/Otsego, MN. If you know of any names of people interested in worship services in the NW Minneapolis metro area, please contact Pastor Russow.

As I said, this is sad news and yet wonderful news. Our congregation is sad to bid him farewell, but excited for the plans. King of Grace is close enough to this new congregation that some in our church may follow Pastor Russow there to help. Until the new congregation is established, Pastor Russow and his family will stay on as members. Although he lost him as his confirmation teacher, my son gets the added benefit of having Pastor Russow and his wife as his Sunday School teachers. I've never seen an 8th grader happy to go to Sunday School before!

Book review: Luther, the Reformer

Luther, the Reformer, by James M. Kittelson, is a book on my reading list. Northwestern Publishing House says:

A powerful and readable life story of the great reformer. This single-volume biography has become a standard resource for those who wish to delve into the depths of the REformer without drowning in a sea of scholarly concerns.

My pastor, David Russow, writes:

Of the many books about the Reformer, this is one of the best! It reads in an understandable, engaging, friendly, and flowing manner. The only drawback for some might be the Latin terms that appear now and then; but they are explained. This book would be a great gift for those who appreciate the message and the man, and for those who would benefit from learning about both!

From Wels

WELS news release • September 7, 2005
WELS assessment team in Baton Rouge

A WELS assessment team has arrived in Baton Rouge, La., to meet with local WELS congregations to determine the needs of its members and how best to utilize the donations and volunteers that have come through WELS Kingdom Workers.

The assessment team consisting of WELS President Karl Gurgel, Media Communications Director Steve Zambo, WELS Kingdom Workers administrator Pastor Richard Warnecke, Pastor Phil Schuppman from WELS Committee on Relief, and Builders for Christ volunteer Ed Nelson, will be in Louisiana through Thursday and will be reporting their findings through daily Imprint blogs on the WELS Web site. Due to the unknown communication conditions of the area, most of the blog postings will be available in audio (Mp3) format and can be downloaded to your computer or portable listening device.

In addition to the assessment team, WELS schools are currently working to do what they can to help survivors of the hurricane. Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, Wis., is currently working with the Red Cross to provide WLC students as tutors and homework assistants to children who will be housed at Wisconsin State Fair Park.

Luther Preparatory School in Watertown, Wis., has been working with the Red Cross to offer temporary housing for families left homeless by hurricane Katrina. Four to six families are able to be housed at LPS should the need arise. LPS President Mark Schroeder also reports, “LPS has also been in contact with our WELS pastors in the south. We have offered to enroll any high school age student who is now unable to attend school because of the devastation in the south. We understand that families left displaced by the hurricane may not want to send a child away to school at such a time, but we wanted to make the offer for those who might need such an option.”

Manitowoc Lutheran High School in Manitowoc, Wis., is currently offering free tuition, room, and board to any high school aged student affected by the hurricane as well. Principal Dennis Steinbrenner reported that at least ten MLHS families have already offered to open their homes to displaced students and says the school will take as many students as possible.

Continue to visit the WELS Web site,, for the most up-to-date information on the aftermath of Katrina.

What can you do to help?
Donate money for disaster relief to the area. Checks should be made payable to WELS Committee on Relief and sent to WELS, 2929 N Mayfair Rd, Milwaukee WI 53222. Donations can also be made online at These donations can be made either by credit card or electronic fund transfer. Please select Gift Designation "Committee on Relief." If you are a member of Thrivent, please visit to obtain the form for matching gifts or call WELS Ministry of Christian Giving at 800-827-5482 for assistance.

Will Thrivent match gifts donated to the Committee on Relief?
Yes. Through the Individual Member Response, gifts that Thrivent Financial for Lutheran members make to the WELS Committee on Relief will be supplemented $1 for every $2 given, up to $300 per member (e.g., if a member gives $600 to a relief organization, Thrivent Financial will provide that organization with an additional $300.) A Thrivent Financial Hurricane Katrina Response Form must accompany the member’s gift. Go to the Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Web site,, for more information or to download the form.

Where can I get more information?
The homepage of the WELS Web site,, has links to more information.

For further information:
• Questions about volunteering: WELS Kingdom Workers, 1-800-466-9357;

How to Contribute:

By Telephone:

If people wish to call and provide their information over the phone you may reach Pastor Roth's staff at 1-800-827-5482 between 8 and 4:30 Central Time.

By Mail:
Committee on Relief
2929 N Mayfair Road
Milwaukee WI 53222

On the web:
On our web site we also serve people by accepting Electronic Fund Transfer, Electronic Check, American Express, Discover, Visa, and Master Card.

Weedon's Blog: Questions for the Day

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt Van Rijn, 1662
Oil on canvas
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

Introducing Weedon's Blog, written by Pastor William Weedon. I found his blog through his Vicar Lehmann, aka Chaz. His recent post: Questions for the Day, helps me in my quest to answer my question, "Is God Angry?". My pondering of this question leads to why God is angry, how he still loves us and what he did to gather us back to Him. The true gospel message is NOT what I can do to reconcile myself back to God, but the OVERWHELMINGLY good news that God loves me so much that He provided atonement for my sins. It is He who reconciles us to Him, never the other way around. That little key bit of information is how to determine whether the message my pastor preaches is true or false.

2 Corinthians 5: 11-21: The Ministry of Reconciliation
11Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21God made him who had no sin to be sin[a] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Pastor Weedon writes:

Did the cross *change* God's disposition toward us or *manifest* His disposition toward us? Think of the difference it makes.

Did our Savior die to reconcile God to us or to reconcile us to God? What does 2 Cor. 5 actually say in that regard?

Is the problem that God was our our enemy or that we were HIS enemies?"

Read on for a learned discussion of this topic. Thank you also to Vicar Charles Lehmann for linking to Pastor Weedon's blog. He also has a good post on this topic.

Vicar Lehmann writes:

Luther always understood the "righteousness of God." But before he was given to understand the Gospel, he understood it only in the way of the Law. That God is righteous was terrifying to him, because Luther was a sinner! How can a sinner stand before the righteous God? But then Luther came to understand Romans 1:17.

He wrote, "Then I finally came to understand what God's righteousness was, that the righteousness of God does not mean I must be righteous like God is or He will damn me forever, but when I finally understood that the righteousness of God means that God does the righteous thing for me - because His Son has paid my debt already, He now pardons me from all my guilt and declares me innocent and not guilty."

Chaz, you are blessed to be in such a congregation; furthermore, any soul pastored by you will hear God's Word and our joyous gospel proclaimed rightly.

Thanks to all pastors (and vicars) for taking the time to bolster the saints through the blogosphere.

More on God's anger/God's love can be found here.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Is God angry?

Following up on the children's Bible discussion, I've had these thoughts...

Regarding the concept of God being angry at sin and the undeserved gospel of grace, that certainly played a big part in my eventual desparation of American Evangelicalism. I could sense God's wrath and knew of his wrath through his Word; my knowledge of my sin nature rose above me like a towering giant and I knew I would never be good enough for God (let alone my fellow Christians). I had certainly heard part of the gospel, but since it was always tied in with my requirements, it was never really "good news". Simultaneously, my old ELCA mega-church was rapidly changing to reformed teachings and I couldn't stay any longer. The summer I spent meeting with a confessional lutheran pastor and going over what the Bible truly teaches about God, sin and salvation was life-altering and faith-saving.

The problem I am having as the parent of teenagers is how to help them realize their sin nature in typical teen behavior without driving them away from me. I fall back easily on the evangelical-God-playing model by thinking it is my job to make them aware every time they sin and to make them believe. I've got one who is very aware, but one who appears not make the connection between being sinful and being forgiven. I keep bringing them to the Word and fight myself off in trusting the Holy Spirit's presence in proclaiming God's Word. God save my children from me (said with tongue in cheek)!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Beggars All: American Evangelicalism: Always Winter and Never Christmas?

This is why I missed Tim the Enchanter!

FALSTAFF: 'Fore God, you have here a goodly dwelling and a rich.

SHALLOW: Barren, barren, barren; beggars all, beggars all!

King Henry IV, Part II

We certainly don't want a barren place here at Beggars All, and so, to also quote Samwise Gamgee, "Well, I'm back!"

Read on:Beggars All: American Evangelicalism: Always Winter and Never Christmas?

Love and Blunder on finding a children's Bible

Devona at Love and Blunder blog posts about finding a children's Bible that accurately reflects what scripture says. She writes:

The book that we have now says, "God was not angry with Adam and Eve, He was disappointed." That's a flat out LIE! I was so surprised to see that. God didn't say, "Aw shucks, they can't live in my cool garden anymore. That's so disappointing. I took a lot of care making it." No God said, "Now you will surely die." That sounds pretty angry to me.
Read on: Love and Blunder

Be sure to read through the great comments to her post.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

One Salient Oversight: FBI investigates "Evangelical child killers"

I'd better just tell you upfront that this is a joke. Neil uses humor to creatively and effectively illustrate a point. Neil writes:

"The FBI is investigating the leaders of a controversial new Christian Fundamentalist group that has been encouraging Evangelical Christians to kill their own children.

Although no charges have been laid yet, at least 52 parents from Christian churches throughout America are being questioned.

Known as the "Child salvation" movement, it is based on the understanding that children are without sin, and are automatically granted entry into heaven when they die." Read on: One Salient Oversight: FBI investigates "Evangelical child killers"

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Hurricane Katrina - some ways to help

The situation in New Orleans is growing more horrendous as the hours and days go by. I assume I'm like most people who are still in the denial phase, just barely starting to realize how bad the situation truly is. In my narrow little world, corpses do not EVER rot on the street...not in America. Gangs with guns don't roam the streets...not in America. Of course, my narrow little world has only existed for 44 years during a relatively calm and properous time in America. I have much to learn.

I honestly don't know what to think or do next, especially up here in the north. I will contribute money next paycheck, I will pray, I will read and feature stories, like those found in the collection of Lutheran posts on Lutheran Carnival Special Edition: Hurricane Katrina.

From the ELS website and President Molstad:

Information for ELS members about hurricane relief donations

Our prayers ascend to the heavenly Father on behalf of all who are suffering in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The Gospel of Christ ultimately is the real help and hope for all who encounter suffering, and we ask that God would use this epic tragedy to work soul-saving results in his kingdom.

There are several WELS congregations in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, including a congregation in the city of New Orleans. The WELS Committee of Relief has already begun its efforts to help people in the affected areas. Below you will find the WELS press release regarding this work.

If members in our synod wish to contribute financially to the relief efforts, they may direct their gifts to: ELS Hurricane Relief, 6 Browns Court, Mankato, MN 56001. We will then transmit the funds collectively to the WELS Committee on Relief.


On Aug. 30, the Committee on Relief, WELS Kingdom Workers, the South Atlantic District Hurricane Relief Committee, South Atlantic District President John Guse, and pastors whose congregations were affected by Hurricane Katrina participated in a conference call to discuss an action plan in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The main items that were discussed follow:

A small First Response Team from the South Atlantic District is planning to arrive in the Mobile, Ala., area with a supply trailer around Sept. 1. The main objectives of this first team are to assess immediate needs of affected congregations and set up local contact people and access to relief funds. This emergency response team will offer assistant to the pastor and members of Saving Grace in Mobile. Accompanying the team is a supply trailer stocked with generators, chainsaws, cell phones, tarps, cash, etc. to aid in any way possible. The team will also assess the needs of the pastor, congregation, and community in Mobile. If possible, they will attempt to reach Abita Springs and assess the damage there as well. Continued relief efforts will be organized in cooperation with WELS Kingdom Workers. Eventually a similar team will be sent to New Orleans once travel becomes safe.

Damage from the storm is extensive and severe. While assessments need to be made, it is likely that there will be substantial work for able and willing volunteers. In order to maintain a productive and organized effort, individuals and groups wishing to volunteer should contact either WELS Kingdom Workers or South Atlantic District Hurricane Relief Committee members Nathan Nolte or Joshua Kesting. It is essential that volunteer efforts be well coordinated and planned so that they can provide the most benefit instead of adding to logistical problems.

After the First Response Team has reported the initial assessment, Pastor Richard Warnecke from WELS Kingdom Workers and possibly Pastor Phil Schupmann from the Committee on Relief will arrive to offer further assistance and organization. Once they have organized a local team, they will form a ministry plan for the next weeks and months. This local team will have access to WELS Committee on Relief funds and will disperse funds as they see fit to aid those in the congregation and community.

WELS Committee on Relief has authorized the release of $100,000 for immediate aid. Part of these funds will be sent to an account already in place in South Florida to be dispersed as needed and a new account will be set up closer to the area affected by the storm.

We praise God for the way he moves our brothers and sisters to give generously in times of need. At this time, it is impossible to identify what specific material items would be most beneficial to the relief effort. Until more assessment can take place, monetary donations will provide the most useful assistance. Individuals and congregations are encouraged to send donations to the WELS Committee on Relief.

Thankfully, Pastor Dave Sternhagen of Crown of Life in New Orleans was able to join us on the phone call. He is safely waiting in Memphis to return to New Orleans. He anticipates a wait of a week or more. He has heard from some of his members but not all. Pastor Joe Dietrich of Trinity in Abita Springs has not been contacted. Telephone, power and cell service are all out in the area. Pastor Bill Greenlee of Cross of Glory in Baton Rouge was spared major damage and still has power and phones. He will be attempting to drive into Abita Springs to locate Joe. Harmon Lewis reports loss of power, phones, fence, shingles and siding but he and his family are safe. All the members he has contacted are likewise safe.

We ask for the prayers of all, first for the victims of this disaster but also for those who will be working to serve the victims of this disaster. The Lord bless our humble efforts and turn even this terrible event to work for good in the lives of those who love him.

Humbly submitted,
Pastor Joshua Kesting
Principal Nathan Nolte

Thrivent matching gifts
Through the Individual Member Response, gifts that Thrivent Financial for Lutheran members make to the WELS Committee on Relief will be supplemented $1 for every $2 given, up to $300 per member (e.g., if a member gives $600 to a relief organization, Thrivent Financial will provide that organization with an additional $300.) A Thrivent Financial Hurricane Katrina Response Form must accompany the member’s gift. Go to the Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Web site for more information or to download the form.

Wels Relief
The Committee on Relief works as a humanitarian aid fund, considering requests for disaster assistance. A non-budgetary committee, relief efforts are accomplished solely through monetary gifts. Current disasters are detailed on the expanded site. To donate, please click below ---- The Committee lends help to many areas through our world missionaries. More about disasters can be read on the easy-to-navigate expanded web page. The expanded site contains photos and news stories relating to recent disasters.

Established as a response following the 2nd World War, Committee on Relief members - appointed by the synod president - customarily serve six-year terms. In addition to these four men, a system has been established with pastors of the conferences. While actively promoting the Committee, they also inform the Committee of relief needs following local disasters.
Again, anyone wishing to donate to the WELS Committee on Relief, may do so online through the Committee on Relief’s web site. Those who prefer to give information by phone are asked to call between 8:00 and 4:30 (Central time). The number for such gifts is 1-800-827-5482


Saturday, September 03, 2005

The masks God wears

All our work in the field, in the garden, in the city, in the home, in struggle, in government--to what does it all amount before God except child's play, by means of which God is pleased to give his gifts in the field, at home, and everywhere? These are the masks of our Lord God, behind which he wants to be hidden and to do all things. --Martin Luther, "Exposition of Psalm 147" from Masks of God blog

Our pastor and his wife recently buried their young son. During his four short months on this earth, struggling to overcome a heart defect, his parents kept on online journal. One entry, made on a more hopeful day, struck me deeply:

We are so thankful to see God working and to see Him hiding Himself behind the vocations of cardiologist, neurologist, anesthetologist, surgeon and nurse. Doctor is one of the masks God wears.
This young pastor also wears a mask of God, and his wife as well. Even in their deep and utter grief, though they were both emotionally and physically near exhaustion from the death of their sweet firstborn son, God's love could be seen beaming through in their eyes, their smiles and their touch. They were not spiritually exhausted; they were reaching out to all of us, hugging everyone and reminding us of the joy of salvation that sweet Hugh has now obtained through Jesus' death on the cross.

I had never seen a pastor at the funeral of one of his own. I had never been at the funeral of a baby nor a child. Now, I don't base my faith on what my eyes have seen and I can't believe in God just because of how my pastor and his wife gave clear account for the joy that is in their hearts; but seeing them doing so confirmed what I already knew to be true through the witness of the Holy Spirit. God has provided a clear and joyous salvation from this fallen creation - where little boys are born with heart defects- through the atoning sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ, who was raised from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God. He has prepared a place for all who believe this is true. As if that wern't good enough, God has also sent his Holy Spirit to plant the seed of faith in the hearts of all who are washed in the waters of Holy Baptism and to grow and strengthen the faith of all who hear His Word preached and partake of Holy Communion. My pastor taught me this and he didn't run from it when his own little son died. Pastor and wife are one of the masks God wears.

During this last week, I have struggled fruitlessly on my own to defeat the evil plot of a computer programmer who has used his God-given talents for understanding numbers and computer programming to trick people, steal their money and corrupt minds and souls. He or she is faceless and nameless to me, but not to God. He is wasting his talent and rejecting God's urging to come to Him. Just when I was ready to give up, I was led by my ISP provider to a young man who also has great God-given talents for understanding the same things as his evil counterpart. He uses those talents to continually learn more about viruses and trojans and hackers. He freely gives his time for no pay to companies in exchange for learning more. To date, he has spent three hours straight on his phone dime, doing the work of a entry-level computer support person while also searching for an elusive hidden trojan virus. Sure, he is compensated in others ways and hopes to one day invent a little device to clean your machine in five minutes! But, he's got a long way to go and on his way he has helped countless numbers of people rid their machines of trouble and get back to work. Computer programmer,"geek", forensic network specialist are also masks God wears.

Pastor Snyder recently posted about the new Lutheran Carnival and the confessional Lutheran blogosphere: Ask the Pastor: Lutheran Carnival III and Beyond. He wrote:

"Lutherans are among those rare few who realize that even when we talk of “ships and sails and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings,” we also are talking theology. While I’m pretty sure that there will be plenty of theologizing from blogging pastors I’d be interested not only in lay theological perspectives about jobs, careers, marriage, and other vocational areas, but also reading some of the “daily grind.” Many of the bloggers I read, including Love and Blunder, Kiihnworld, and Pastor Steve Billings let me see much of their hearts and their theology through windows opened into the “ordinary” in their lives."
Yes, pastor mentioned me in his last sentence and it really touched my heart, but that is NOT why I am mentioning his post. Blogs have been taking a bad rap lately, especially among out own. That deeply saddens me because writer/blog-keeper is also a very honorable vocation. I began writing not thinking that anyone would ever read. I wrote to make sense of my life and faith. About two months after starting my blog, I did a random search for confessional lutheran blog, thinking I would find nothing. With great surprise and delight I clicked on The Random Thoughts of a Confessional Lutheran and my world changed. From that blog, I discovered so many others, Confessing Evangelical and Bunnie Diehl were among the firsts and are still my favorites, although I've met so many more fellow saints since then. For the first time in months I realized that I wasn't alone in coming to the Lutheran confessions. Now how else would I have found other confessional Lutherans to strengthen my faith - mutual consolation of the saints, as the wise Wildboar once wrote.

Writing about my very ordinary life through the lens of my faith in God has helped me to be able to be able to more easily give account for the joy that God placed in my heart. And I'm not talking about blogging, I'm talking about my everyday REAL life. Writing about my faith is helping me to be open about my faith to others. I used to save my "Christian comments" for fellow Christians; now I can more easily leave God in His rightful and natural place in the world and include Him in my conversations with people. I attribute my ability to account for the joy to God; His Holy Spirit has planted it in my heart. I do believe that He also expects me to find and know good preaching, so that I learn more and practice saying and writing it down.

To you, dear reader, and to all the established, burgeoning or just-learning writers who decide to keep a blog, I thank you. Blog-keepers also wear a mask of God. I can't possibly begin to name those of you that have blessed my faith and my life, but I will try: Pastor Snyder, Rob and Devona, John, Bunnie, Scottius Maximus, Daniel, Elle, Dan, Glen, Bob, David, Jason, Floyd, Mutti, Brian and Matt, Pastor Steigemeyer, Chris W., Prof. Chris, Terrie, Vicar Lehmann, Michael and Timotheos, Pastor Brandos, Pastor McCain, Rev. Klages, Ron and Erica, Twylah, Josh S., Wildboar (wherever you are), Suzi and Tim, Monergon and Theophorus, Worthy Woman, Rick, Michael S., Rev. Chryst, Minister2B, Maria, Webcritter and Mr. Critter, and the many others that I've probably missed (probably because you don't have an RSS feed. If your name isn't here, email me and I'll ADD it! I've thanked you before and I'll thank you again for sharing your life and vocation through your blogs. It is a blessing to me. God be with you today and always!