Wednesday, January 30, 2008


The season of Lent is coming up quick. One of the things we traditionally emphasize during this season is prayer. Below is one of my favorite prayers I've seen in movies. It's a little crass, but I think it is an interesting picture of prayer. What do your prayers look like?

Who are you praying to? What does prayer mean to you?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Good, but...

"You are wonderfully, beautifully, and joyfully made." We want to hear these words. We need to hear these words. They are also very true. We live in a time of relatively fragile egos (at least mine is), and we want and need to hear that we are special creations of God... and that is exactly what you are.

The problem that I think we've run into a bit here is that after our egos have been stroked so much to make us feel good so that we can function at such a high level we lose perspective of the reality of the greater picture. We forget that we need God. Did you take notice of what Jesus said about John the Baptizer? Jesus essentially said that John was the greatest man to have walked the earth. (A pretty high compliment if you ask me.) However, Jesus didn't stop there he added that dreaded "but"... he is still lower than the lowest being in the heaven. John was really, really good, but...

You are wonderful. You are special. You are a complete joy in the eyes of God. But... you still need God. You are who you are because one greater than you created you that way.

Monday, January 28, 2008

An Inspiration

I came across an article about a woman that is a member of my parents congregation in St. Paul. She is quite the inspiration. She is 103 and full of more life than many people half her age. Take a look at the article here.


We are at war. Probably not a big news flash. Although, I would like to point out that I'm not talking about Iraq, Afghanistan, terror, or even drugs. Yes, we do have military troops fighting on all of these fronts. However, I'm talking about a spiritual war. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Ephesians, "We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against . . . spiritual hosts of wickedness." There is a spiritual battle being raged as we speak, and we are at risk.

I suppose this is kind of an "odd" topic for a Lutheran to be writing about. Usually these kinds of things are saved for folks we want to call "Holy Rollers" or even Pentecostals. The problem is I believe this spiritual war effects us as well. Essentially, I believe, every struggle we face in the church comes down to a spiritual matter.

When we struggle with conflict in our midst, it's often because of a spiritual matter. You see conflict isn't necessarily bad, it can actually help us grow if "done" properly. When spiritual inmaturity creeps in then it becomes ugly and people can get hurt beyond repair.

When we struggle with finances in the church, it's probably not about money at all. It's actually a spiritual issue. Take our congregation here. We just passed a budget of about $400,000 and it felt like a stretch to many people. We stepped forward in faith and passed it, which is a good thing. However, if you take the average income around town and take figure a Biblical tithe of 10% we would have a budget of over $2.8 million. If there is a struggle financially it is a spiritual matter.

When we struggle with finding enough volunteers, it's a spiritual matter. What's the most common thing we hear? "I just don't have enough time" or "I'm so overbooked." Why is that? What is driving your priorities? Is the culture, peer pressure, etc. driving you or are you planning your schedule based on your call to ministry.

Now here's what I think is really tough, this spiritual battle is not usually a real in your face sort of battle. It is filled with all kinds of subtleties. One of the best things I have ever read on this is "The Screw Tape Letters" by C.S. Lewis. He paints a picture of the devil and his cohorts working on us in simple and subtle ways so that we don't recognize it until it is too late. We see it all the time, don't we? It starts with helping out things like your kids basketball team, which leads you to get involved in several other things, which eventually leads you to having no time for helping out with the ministry around the church. Or maybe it happens for you with your finances where you buy something little, then something else, you buy a gas trimmer for the lawn instead of the shears, and before you know you don't have money left over to give to support the ministry that's happening around you.

We are at war. Keep fighting. PRAY! And I pray that when all is said and done you can say, as the Apostle Paul said, that you have fought the good fight!

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Healthy living has been on my mind lately. Our insurance has asked us to take a wellness survey. One of the things that came out of that was that I'm overweight. I knew that, but it's easy to ignore. I look around at our American culture and I feel like I'm doing pretty good (Where do they find these people for "The Biggest Loser" anyway?).

At the health club we belong to they have been promoting healthy weight loss recently. Just this past week they put out a display showing proper portion size. Those are no where near normal portions in our house. If others are larger than me, are they eating even larger portions than we are at home?

Then I read Jesus' words in Luke 4 when he says, "Man shall not live by bread alone." That's when it struck me. Are we doing things backwards? We're told to eat in moderation, in small doses, but it seems we eat our meals with heaping helpings. Yet when it comes to the bread of life we are not going to gain weight no matter how much we consume, we will only find benefits. Yet when it comes to the bread of life it seems we do consume it in moderation, in as small of portions as possible to sustain life.

I know, I know, I'm probably exaggerating here. However, sometimes I think you need to exaggerate to make a point. I do think there is some truth to this notion. We need to spend less time consuming Wonder Bread and more time consuming the Bread of Life. It seems to me that can only improve our lives, our health.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Marketing Mess

A member of our congregation passed along an article to me recently about a rabbi employing some marketing and business strategy. It was interesting to me. It was interesting because this idea of marketing makes so many people in the church squeamish. Interesting that I think the article opened up an option because it came from someone outside of us (a Jewish Rabbi). So it got me to thinking some about marketing and the church.

In fact, it led me to a conversation with a friend of mine and she helped open my eyes a little further. As we exchanged e-mails I expressed my curiosity about church people's hesitation for marketing especially in light of last weeks readings in worship that were rife with words like, "testify." Aren't testimonies by and large the back bone of marketing?

"I got this and look at how my life has changed!"
"It was spellbinding!"
"Look at what we've got. You need it."

It struck me as well that this discussion was coming in the middle of Epiphany, that in large part is about pointing towards Jesus. In a crude sort of way, I suppose, we are actually called to advertise for Jesus, to promote God.

That's where my friend helped take me another step by pointing out that: "Maybe the problem is that we don't believe people need or want what we've 'got.'...And maybe that's because WE don't believe what we've 'got.'" I fear that just might be the crux of the problem, either we don't know or don't believe what we've "got"... I mean REALLY know it.

That makes me kind of sad because we have been given absolutely THE GREATEST gift imaginable. I pray that God would become profoundly real in your life... to the point that you will want to shout it from the mountain tops!

What On Earth?

"What on earth are you doing?" Were you ever asked that as a kid? Do you ever ask that of your kids? Does it sound at all familiar? I sounds familiar to me, no matter how I say it I can't help but heart it accusingly. I hear it and I feel guilty. Odds are I'm doing something wrong. I suppose that's why it struck me when I read this in a devotion last week, and then the author twisted it slightly and wondered, what if God were asking that question?

As followers of Christ we are examples of Christ to those whom we encounter. What kind of example are you? How is your life pointing towards Christ?

I know that I am not perfect, but I am forgiven. So I think that is how we can live as examples of Christ in our lives. We don't have to be perfect, but we can live forgiven lives. Be real. Be authentic. Be forgiven.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Side By Side

I read a devotion that asked an interesting question about our relationship with God. Is your relationship with God side by side rather than face to face?

One of the things I've found curious over the years is how it has come to be that going out to movies is a group activity? You sit all in a row in a dark room and stare at the screen, yet if you've ever gone to a movie alone you know that it feels weird to do so. There are a number of things you could do side by side with a person, but not get to know the person. How many people do you work along side with on a daily basis, but don't really know?

Side by side isn't a bad thing, it's just not as personal. To come face to face with a person is so much more personal. To be face to face you need to look in each others eyes. To be face face you are "forced" to interact with one another.

So where are you in your relationship with God? Are you standing side to side or sitting face to face?

Thursday, January 03, 2008


Today's devotion from Our Daily Bread was pretty good today, I thought. If you didn't read it check it out here. The author talked about making New Year's resolutions. How often do we break them? Yet their commitments, often, to make changes that will be improvements in our life. So why not keep making them throughout the year?

It reminded me of Luther's call to daily repentance, daily returning to our baptism and drowning to sin. Funny (not funny ha-ha, but more of a funny sad) how sin keeps creeping into our lives. We repent and before we know it, there it is again. I guess Paul knew what he was talking about when he said that he kept doing the things he didn't want to do, but the things he wanted to do he found himself not doing. I don't know about you, but that has a bit of a familiar ring to me.