Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Who's Pulling?

It's summer and that often brings me to longing again for the summer I spent in Minocqua, WI. That was an awesome summer. I preached at three different campgrounds on Sunday morning and most of the rest of the week was spent reading by the lakeside or water skiing. What more could a person ask for, really? That summer I skied a lot, and helped a number of people learn how to ski. One of the key pieces of advice was always, let the boat do the work and pull you up.

Isn't that good advice for life as well?

God is my helper. —Psalm 54:4

Do you ever hit those rough patches of life and find yourself just fighting to pull yourself up? What if, instead of trying to pull yourself up, you let God do the work and pull you up? What might that look like? What kind of difference might that make?

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Last night I attended dinner and worship at Our Savior's Lutheran in Rochester. While sitting around dinner we talked to three different families that were touched by death this past week. It was a tough week around there this past week. There was a glimpse of darkness as we spoke of these deaths. At the same time these were some people of great faith, so there was also a feeling and a sense of hope. Isn't it amazing how faith can sustain us in our moments of darkness?

I might be a little strange, but I love the lament psalms. I just like what I would call their gritty grasp of reality. They voice their complaints and hurts to God, but it seems they always come around to praising God. When it gets down to it what else do we need besides God? They have incredible points of complex reality like in Psalm 42 when it's believed David was writing in the darkness of his life, "The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me—a prayer to the God of my life"

When darkness strikes your life and it feels like night, know that God's song is with you... a prayer when you have no words.

Have to?

Yesterday, I wrote about "doing" faith and I think it is important to live out our faith. However, I feel compelled to clarify something. After attending Camp Victory this past summer I've heard a few different students share things like, "I have to ask God to be a part of my life." Really? Did God leave you some time after your baptism and now God needs an invitation to return? That's not how I understand God to operate.

I think places like Camp Victory are doing some great ministry. I just have some concerns with their theology and how it differs from our Lutheran understanding. When you get into what we call "decision theology" I think we begin a step toward a dangerous theology. When we say things like, "You have to ask God into your life" that is putting the power of salvation into the hands of humans. That is to say that salvation is dependent on the act of humans. Our Lutheran theology teaches us that it is God alone that does the saving, primarily through that one gracious act some 2,000 years ago.

My concern then is that when I write things about "doing" faith it gets similarly misconstrued. It becomes easy to start thinking I have to do these things, with an unspoken reason for salvation. We don't live out our faith and serve others as part of a requirement to gain salvation because that puts us right back in the trap of being in control of our salvation. Instead we live out our faith and serve others as a response to our salvation, because God has given us this gracious gift despite ourselves.

These are, in many ways, subtle differences in understanding faith and theology. However, I also believe they are important differences. They are why I am proud to claim a Lutheran heritage and understanding of theology (even if I don't totally understand all of theology... it's complicated).

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


The devotional I read today was based on James 1, where the author encourages us to "do" the faith. You've heard people talking about and asking things like, "You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?" I think that's one of the great beauties of going on these mission trips with youth, you get to see the youth living out their faith. They are "doing" their faith, and it is amazing to watch. It's even more fun because often they struggle to try and articulate their faith, they just don't feel even slightly comfortable with the words. Sometimes they don't even recognize the faith that lies within them. Then we send them out to serve and you can't help but see their faith hanging out on their sleeve as they simply live it.

So how are you "doing" faith today? How are you living out your faith? Or is it just something that sounds good in theory and is left for discussions on Sunday morning in the sanctuary?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

On Our Way Again

Sadly, Dawn is still not back from New York yet, but I'm sure she'll be happy to be in her own bed tomorrow night. It just won't be soon enough to cross paths. We leave early tomorrow morning with seven amazing Jr. High students for Rapid City, SD. Please do keep all of us in your prayers this week... and I'll be back here sometime after we return.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


The devotion I read today was about our human tendency to focus on the material things of this world. In fact, our obsession with wealth in this society could easily be a sickness we called "affluenza", and in fact, I do believe some have started calling our condition just that. As I prepare to leave on Sunday for Rapid City with our Jr. High youth for another mission trip, and with our last one still fresh in my mind, I realize one of the real gifts of these trips is that they remind us of this condition, of how we focus on the material things of the world. It's funny how we do that, even though we really do know that they just don't matter in the long term... At least in terms of spiritual matters and salvation, which seem a bit more important... I think.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Seeing is Believing

We've all heard the phrase, "Seeing is believing." Perhaps we've uttered before, "I'll believe that when I see it." We like to have visual proof in our lives, don't we? I think it's true when it comes to our faith as well. In those times of questioning or wonder we think things like, "If only I could get a 'clear' sign from God." I know I've prayed for a direct phone call or e-mail from God so that I would know what God desired of me.

I wonder, though, if God did give us a "clear" sign, would we recognize it? How many people witnessed Jesus feed 5,000 people or heal a leper and still didn't believe? Would you believe it? I would like to think I would, but I wonder if that is reality or just wishful thinking.

Yesterday, we buried one of the saints of our congregation. Harold was a witness to God's love, peace, patience, and grace. In many ways how God worked through his life was a "clear" sign of God's presence in our lives. Did it help to build up our faith? It did mine. Maybe seeing is believing...

Monday, July 09, 2007

Different Somehow

Dawn left for New York City yesterday morning. She is going there with her church on a high school mission trip, like we went on to West Virginia. It's only been a day, but things are different somehow around the house without her.

At the end of last week a beloved member of our congregation, Harold, died. It's only been a couple of days, but things are different somehow around church without him and his smile that could warm even the coldest of rooms.

I know both of them are currently in God's hands, but it sure doesn't change the fact that things just don't feel "right" and that I miss them dearly. I trust the reunions will be wonderful.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


Well, I'm back from our Sr. High Mission Trip to Logan, WV. It was a busy week of serving that left me exhausted and with a lovely case of poison ivy (or something similar). So it hit me when the devotion from Our Daily Bead was the story about Mary and Martha.

Here we had spent an entire week working and serving. Then I read the devotion that starts with the story of the mayor of a small town who decided not to mow his lawn any longer because there were more important things. I think that can be the danger when we enter into service ministry, we get caught up in doing and lose site of the reason for serving. I think we did a job of keeping a balance of things last week. We served, but we also sat at the feet of Jesus.

I think that mayor had a point that there are more important things in life than mowing the lawn. I don't think I'm ready to go that far, I'll still tend to our lawn, but first I'll try and remember to sit at the feet of Jesus.