Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Fall is also a time of year that I like to watch movies. What movies are you hoping to catch in the theaters this fall? (The Bee Movie? American Gangster? Something else?) Do you have any recommendations of movies you have seen we should rent and watch? If you have any good movie ideas/thoughts pass them along in the comments section.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Stewardship & The Emerging Church

I was pointed to an interesting blog entry today and thought I would pass it along to you here. The author reflects on her visit to an emerging church congregation and the one that she's a part of. For those unfamiliar with the emerging church movement and over-simplified explanation would be it is anti-institutional approach to "doing church" for a generation of young adults just coming to age. In the midst of the authors reflection were thoughts about the struggle of this congregation to make their budget, a common struggle for an "institutional" church like ours. I love how she says, "we in our culture have this pernicious reality of being profoundly affluent while having a mentality of scarcity." We have a created a culture that pays $3 for a cup of coffee or $50 for concert tickets, but then complain we suggest that $1 a day will help eliminate our line of credit.

My friend Kelly Fryer writes about this as well in her blog, where she points out that this is a generation that has by and large invented the idea of voluntourism. So we have an emerging generation that goes on vacation to build Habit houses, as well as a retiring, Baby Boomer, generation doing the same. It also appears to me that we have these two generations in abundance here at CLC. It got me to thinking... We, as church leadership, need to show that we are making a difference. Where are we serving the community of Byron? Southeast Minnesota? As we make a difference people get involved. As people become involved and invested in the church they will hopefully grow in faith (assuming they get involved with things like Bible study and worship alongside their involvement in service). As people grow in faith they grow in their giving.

It's a theory... what do you think?


At Our Daily Bread today the author talked about it being one rivet being the cause of the Titanic sinking. From there she made the connection of what seems like "normal" parts being important in a ship to the importance of seemingly "normal" or "ordinary" parts of a congregation being important. What wonderful timing in light of Sunday being Reformation Sunday, Wednesday being Reformation Day, and the importance of the priesthood of all believers. Last night we watched the "Luther" movie that was out in 2003, and we got to see again the importance of allowing the "ordinary" people to have access to God. We all are important in God's eyes.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

We are not cisterns made for hoarding but rather channels made for sharing.

- Craig Sundbert

I was watching the "Today" show this morning and they had a report on remodeling your kitchen. It sounded like fun, but then I started listening to the report. It turns out it was tips for remodeling your kitchen for the sake of reselling your house. Not a bad thing in itself, but it struck me how focused on making money so many of the reports really are, how focused on money most of us are in this culture. I think that's why I got kind of excited when I came across the above quote this morning when I got to church. Our instincts are to hoard our money and our stuff, but what we have been granted is really ours for the sake of sharing with others. Now that sounds a little more refreshing to me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Revival 2

After writing about revival, I came across this blog post about Willow Creek Church. If you are unfamiliar with Willow Creek, they have been the model for large, outreach focused congregations for years. In evaluating their effectiveness they have discovered that by and large they have simply acculturated a shallow faith. They have done a good job of getting people to show up for things around their congregation, but it seems they have struggled to get people to be intentional about nurturing their faith outside of Sunday morning. It sounds like a common struggle of many congregations. It will be interesting to watch and see where they go with this new understanding. Read the entry here and tell me what you think.


One of the things I like about going for walks, or runs, is that it often clears my head and leads to a time of prayer. That happened to me last night. As I was communing with God I was struck by a word, "Revival." It's not one of those words that we Lutherans are often very comfortable with in our lives. We hear it and we think of Billy Graham or Steve Martin in "Leap of Faith" under a circus tent. It's just not our style.

I wonder why that is, though? A friend of mine used to be a pastor at a congregation just outside of Milwaukee and they had a revival every summer...and they're Lutheran. For me revival is being stirred up, touched by, the presence of God. Why wouldn't we want that? What if we all started praying for it? I bet we might begin to see some neat things happen.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


We are hitting some classic fall days. You know those days that were created for a sweatshirt and a pair of jeans. If you're like me you find that these kinds of days can be great for grabbing a blanket, a warm drink, and settling in with a good book. So here's my question for you, do you have any good book recommendations? If so click on the "comments" below and let me know... let all of us know.

Halloween is Coming

I have to confess, I'm having a very difficult time getting excited about Halloween. I've had numerous people this past fall asking if we are really going to have confirmation on Halloween. Why wouldn't we take advantage every opportunity possible to possibly grow in our faith? In fact, why don't we have more things like Bible study happening around this congregation?

Here is the other part that I'm struggling with when it comes to Halloween. How do the various activities lead people towards Christ? Yet how much time, money, and effort does the average person put towards this one particular day? It is festival, from where I'm looking at it, that encourages wearing masks, greed, and gluttony. On the other hand, as followers of Christ, I see us being called to being real, generous, and sharing Christ with others. What if we invested as much in the latter set of values as we do in the former?

Here is what I find kind of ironic. October 31 is Reformation Day, celebrating the Reformation and Luther's posting of the 95 thesis. One of the bottom lines of the Reformation (as I understand it) was placing Christ first. Maybe this next Wednesday we can place Christ first instead of all of the other worldly stuff we normally place first.

Monday, October 22, 2007


He said to them, "Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, "This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me ~Mark 7:6

One of the great things about literature, especially I see this with the Bible is that each time you read it you see or hear something different. Yesterday, for example, after a week of studying the readings for Sunday morning as our readers read from Genesis I heard it different. What really jumped out at me this time was that Jacob was changed after his encounter with God. Did you notice that his name was changed as well as leaving with a limp?

It got me to thinking about our church and our congregation. We have people filling up the pews, but are we seeing lives that are marked by change? Can other people see the change in your life because of your encounter with God? It seems to me that if you are a follower of Christ then people should see a difference in the way you live your life. Where does worship & prayer fall on your list of priorities? When it comes to finances do you spend first or share first? What is your reaction when you are offended, revenge or forgiveness? Do you think of yourself (or your family) first or others first? This is a challenge within the committees of our own congregation as we fret over finances well before we fret over ministry. Is not our call to ministry, our call to place others first, a top priority as followers of Christ?

You have had an encounter with God in your baptism. You have been changed, renamed "Child of God." Let the world see that change. I found what I think is an interesting devotion in "The Upper Room", I encourage you to click here and read it for yourself.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Determined & Bold

If there is one thing that our O.T. (Genesis 32:22-31) and N.T. (Luke 18:1-8) readings have in common for Sunday, it is that they are stories about bold & determined people. Okay, so there are probably a number of other things that they have in common, but this is what is striking me today. Jacob wrestles with God, of all people, all night long. To do that, I think, is either incredibly gutsy or incredibly dumb. The same could be said of the widow (who has no place in that society really, she would have been viewed as nothing) in the parable who continues to demand justice from the cold hearted judge. Now that I think about it, they have something else in common: they went to the right person, to the one who could ultimately do something and make a difference.

Thinking upon your life, are you single minded, determined, and bold like these characters? Are going to the right person? Are you willing to wrestle with God, or do you chose to wrestle with others? Do you boldly demand justice or do you settle for your lot in life and simply allow injustice to continue?... Whoever said the call to follow was easy?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Denny Crain

I was watching "Boston Legal" again last night. I think it is funny, ridiculous, and often thought provoking. Last night they took on Bullfighting! Oh yeah, they also took on "Gays in the military." I like that they are willing to take on these difficult, hot topic issues with what I see to be sensitivity and humor. I particular appreciate it during a week when the upcoming Old Testament reading has Jacob (soon to become Israel) wrestling with God. Are we willing to wrestle with the tough issues as a church? A congregation? When we do wrestle with the tough issues who are we wrestling with? Ourselves? A system? God?

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Fiery Sermon

Here is an e-mail that was forwarded to me recently... I liked it and hope you do as well.

A member of a certain church, who previously had been attending services regularly, stopped going. After a few weeks, the preacher decided to visit him.

It was a chilly evening. The preacher found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire. Guessing the reason for his preachers visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a comfortable chair near the fireplace and waited.

The preacher made himself at home but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the dance of the flames around the burning logs. After some minutes, the preacher took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone Then he sat back in his chair, still silent.

The host watched all this in quiet contemplation. As the one lone ember's flame flickered and diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and dead.

Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting. The preacher glanced at his watch and realized it was time to leave. He slowly stood up, picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow,once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.

As the preacher reached the door to leave, his host said with a tear running down his cheek, "Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I shall be back in church next Sunday."

We live in a world today, which tries to say too much with too little. Consequently, few listen. Sometimes the best sermons are the ones left unspoken.


We are back from vacation and mostly relaxed. I thought maybe I would start with sharing a cover of a song that was quite popular a few years ago.


I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior. ~Isaiah 43:11
How often do we hear from pastors and other church leaders that we are called to put God first? How often do we make reference to the first commandment? As I recall (and I very well may be wrong) Martin Luther spoke about this first commandment being the toughest and once that one falls the others all seem to fall as well. (My words, not his) There are a lot of different things that continue to tug at us trying to pull us away from time spent with God, trying to replace God as our top priority.

What sort of things are tugging at you? What are the other gods that you are battling? Is it money? Job? How about sports, that's a big one in this day and age. The big one, I think, is kids. Do you fall into the trap of "worshiping" your children? Who runs the house, you or your children? Who runs your house you or your checkbook? Who runs your life you or your calendar? Where does God fit into your life? Your schedule? Your finances? Your family?

As wonderful as some of these other things are in our lives, why don't you refer back to the opening verse from Isaiah... the "things" aren't going to save us... only God can do that.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Technically speaking our vacation starts somewhere around 4:30 today after my last meeting. However, truth be told, my brain has already left the building. (I know. I know. Some of you are wondering if it ever entered. Funny.) I tell you this because I find it hard this morning to find words that are even remotely inspirational. If anything strikes me later, I'll be sure to share. I also tell you this because it may be some time until I post again. However, for those who check this blog from time to time, know that I will return... and maybe, just maybe my brain will enter the building with me.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


My eyes are upon You, O God the Lord; in You I take refuge; do not leave my soul destitute. —Psalm 141:8

Isn't it interesting how different people see different things? When most of my friends see a golf course they begin to see where they would hit the ball and how tough the greens appear. I, on the other hand, see a golf course and I start thinking about where I would run a cross-country race. When many people walk into a new sanctuary they see the beautiful stained class or note how comfortable the pews appear. When I walk into a new sanctuary I picture how I would like to see worship use the space and where I would want to preach from. Then of course there is the classic seeing of the glass as half full or half empty.

I like this Psalm that says, "My eyes are upon You, O God the Lord..." How often do we look around surveying a scene (nature or people) and completely miss God in the picture? How often do we start to dream of our future (having kids, starting retirement, planning vacation, etc.) and not see God in the picture? I think it would be helpful to see God around us a little more often. Perhaps that can be our goal for today, to see God.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Baby Got Book

I don't remember if I've shared this before, but I came across this again today and it still makes me giggle. If you remember Sir-Mix-A-Lot, you'll probably enjoy it as well.

One Way

Jesus said . . . , “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” —John 14:6

I think this verse is both one of the most beautiful, grace filled verses and one of the most divisive verses we have in our scripture. On the one hand it can be used to suggest that you need to line up in a certain way to be saved. Often that means you need to look like Billy Graham, James Dobson, or some other well known conservative Christian. Now that might be the case, but I'm suspicious. Some want to use this verse to suggest that you must be a Christian to be saved, and that we have all of the right answers. Again, that might be right, but I think that's dangerous.

You see, when I look at this verse I don't see exclusivity, but inclusiveness. I don't see Jesus saying who is in and who is out. I see an opportunity for all to be saved, it's just that when it happens it's because of Jesus. I like to look at it this way. When I was in college we had an old two door beater of a car. At one point the passenger door couldn't be opened because of an issue with the window. Consequently you could only enter the door through the drivers side door. There was only one way to enter the car. Anybody was welcome to ride along with me, but they could only get in one way.

I think this verse is suggesting something similar. It doesn't say that Muslims, Jews, and others can't be saved. It doesn't say that you have to be a Christian to be saved. However, I do think it says that Jesus does the saving. Therefore I see that it is my job to love, to love my neighbor and to love my enemy, and it is Jesus' job to do the saving.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Best

I am admittedly a Minnesota Vikings fan. I am frustrated by "my" teams lack of success this fall. One of the criticism's of the team that has begun to increase is that their best player (Rookie Adrian Peterson) is not playing enough. If you want to win you need to play your best players. It makes me wonder if we are putting our best foot forward as a church, are we playing our best players? Often, I think, we end up "playing" those who have always played instead seeking out the best "player" for each position and plugging them in there. I think the church deserves better than that. I think God deserves better than that.