Monday, March 27, 2006

So Close and Yet So Far!

I recently received a very interesting book about the Passover. It is a Jewish catechetical book, called, "Pesach". Here are a few of the pages in the book. Sorry, no pictures!

"Daddy, what are we looking for?"
"We are searching for Chometz, so that there won't be any crumbs left. You see David, the bread and all the other Chometz we have found, we now burn."

"Mommy, what does Pesach mean?"
"Pesach means Passover. Hashem passed over the homes of our fathers in Egypt and saved their first-born sons, while those of the Egyptians died."

"Mommy, what are you doing?"
"Children, I am making Charoses, which is a mixture of chopped nuts, sliced apple, cinnamon, and wine. It reminds us of the mortar, and the clay from which our fathers had to make bricks while they were slaves in Egypt."

"Now children, this as you see, is the Zeroa. It reminds us of the lamb which was the Korban Pesach."

"Daddy, why do we drink four cups of wine at the Seder?"
"Hashem used four different words as to how He would free our people from Egypt."

"Yes, Children, let us hope that next year we will be in Yerusholayim"

How close to and yet how far from Jesus! So many things that point to the death of Christ! So many things that point to what God has done and is doing in Jesus Christ. May God embolden us to reach out to Jews in our midst. May we all meet in the heavenly Yerusholayim!

Pastor Haugen

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Porn Generation

Jenny and I took the boys out to eat the other night. We sat down at our table and looked forward to a nice dinner. At one point, I glanced at the people sitting next to us. There were probably eight or so at their table. In their group was a little girl, oh, maybe 8 or 9, possibly 10. What particularly struck me was the clothes that she was wearing or better yet, the clothes she was not wearing. She had on a shirt worn by many teenagers and those wanting to be teenagers. It showed the entirety of her back and most of her stomach as well. Should we be surprised by the problems that we are facing in our country right now?

I came across a book entitled, The Porn Generation. It is not a book I necessarily recommend for all people; but, if you want to know the honest truth about what is going on today, it is a must read. The book, written by Ben Shapiro, is subtitled, “How Social Liberalism is Corrupting our Future.” Mr. Shapiro, born in 1984, is a student at Harvard University. In his book, he chronicles the downward spiral of our society, as it relates to our sexual morals. He starts off his book by saying, “I am a member of a lost generation. We have lost our values. We have lost our faith. And we lost ourselves. As societal standards and traditional values have declined, and the crassest elements of sexual deviancy and pornography have taken over the public square, it is the youngest Americans who have paid the price. Never in our country’s history has a generation been so empowered, so wealthy, so privileged- and yet so empty... Over the latter half of the twentieth century, the forces of moral relativism, radical feminism... have gradually destroyed the foundation of our own greatness. Instead of adopting stronger moral standards, our society has embraced the lure of personal fulfillment. In a world where all values are equal, where everything is a simply a matter of choice, narcissism (self-obsession) rules the day. Our culture has bred hollow young men, obsessed with self-gratification. Young women are told to act like sex objects and enjoy it... The mainstream acceptance of pornography has become a social fact... We have replaced faith and family with a warped image of sex and self-satisfaction that ridicules the concept of purity and mangles the most sacred ideals of matrimony. Traditional authority figures- parents, community leaders, even God have been discarded. The new authority figures are... members of a coarsened pop culture... sex ed instructors, university professors, advertisers, Hollywood actors, MTV “artists” and assorted celebrities who act as the new elders of a church of corrupt, shallow and materialistic humanism.... Our new god is Tolerance of all behavior, our new credo “live and let live.”

But my job as your pastor is not just to point out what is wrong. My job is to try to make a difference. What can we do to make a difference? Honestly, it seems like too big of a problem. But what I do know is that we must do something. We can’t just sit around and let our country go down the path that it is going. Since I have been here, I have been praying that God would provide some areas that we can a difference in our community. Are the issues mentioned above a problem in Strongsville and Berea? Are they a problem in your family? Are they a problem with your friends and neighbors? I am sure that all of us would have to say: Yes. If they are, let us try to do something about it.

In order to make a difference, to stem the tide, we need your help. We need everyone on the same page. Where will it lead? I don’t know. But, to start, we need to pray for God’s guidance. We need to continue to talk about the issues with our family, with our friends and with our neighbors. We could offer classes or support groups for the community. In the near future, I plan to write letters to local editors and pursue other ways to get the word out. There are many other things that we could do. If you have an idea, let me know.

Just what are we sticking up for? It is very basic. They are 3 things. 1) We want to put sexuality back where it should be. Sex is a beautiful thing and it is reserved and belongs only to those who are married. Tolerance of immortality can not be accepted. We must take a stand against adultery and premarital relations. Couples must not live together until they are married. Teenagers must wait until they are married to enjoy the blessings of marriage. Abstinence is the only option.2) Also, for those who have been caught up in the porn generation, we must also offer the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. There is hope for all, even those who have ruined their own lives and the lives of others. 3) We want to provide support, guidance and helpful suggestions for people of all ages to take a stand against immortality. This is a message that our community and our world, desperately needs to hear.

Will we change the world? No. But, with God’s help, I believe that we can make a difference in our local community.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Should We Stay or Should We Go- Installment # 1?

Should we stay or should we go? That is the question. Should we leave the Missouri-Synod or should we stay and attempt to turn things around? After about 6 months at my first parish in Hood River, I was ready to leave. I was fed up and held out little hope for our Synod. Today, I am not so sure that we can't win the battle. Yes, our Synod is in trouble. Yes, our Lutheran identity is in serious jeopardy. Yes, it will be along hall. Yes, it would be easier to start over. But, I believe that in time, things will turn around. Many questions have to be answered. Do we still want a synod? Is a synod still even a possibility today? Would local synods be better? As time permits, I hope to answer these and other questions. Feel free to leave your opinion. For now, I leave you with this: Our Synod is very sick, but there is a cure- the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "Be faithful unto death, I will give you the crown of life."

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Maker of Heaven and Earth!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Get Busy Living and Get Busy Dying!

Blessed Lenten tide. While at the "Logical" Seminary in Fort Wayne, I had Professor Donald Deffner (may his soul rest in peace) for a Christian Education course. While not agreeing with him on some issues, I did appreciate his interest in finding Christian themes in movies, music and entertainment. In fact, I drive my wife crazy finding Christ in everything I see. So much of what poses as entertainment today is horrible. Down-right evil, really. Occasionally, something that comes down the pike isn't half-bad. One such movie that has many themes that coincide with the Christian faith is Shawshank Redemption. The movie is full of vulgar language that would make a sailor blush; but, if one looks past that to the deeper meaning, it can point us to the cross. At one point in the movie, the main character Andy says to his friend Red. "It comes down to a choice really. Get busy living or get busy dying." For us, as we take up our cross and follow Christ, we do both really. In Christ, we get busy dying and get busy living in the waters of Holy Baptism. May we be brought to the cross and see there our Savior who died for us and for our salvation.