Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Are You in the Right Church?

Click below to take a quick quiz and find out which of 24
denominations is right for you. Interesting results!!

Click Here: Check out Christian Denomination Selector

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

St. Andrew, November 30

On Thursday, November 30th, the Church celebrates the festival of St. Andrew. He was not one of the prominent disciples, and yet, his faithfulness and dedication to Jesus, and his desire to bring others to Jesus is to be imitated. During the Wednesday nights of Advent, I am doing a thematic on the "Saints of God." This Wednesday night's sermon will be on St. Andrew.

The prayer listed for the festival of St. Andrew leads us to Jesus, "Almighty God, by whose grace the blessed apostle Saint Andrew obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ, grant us also to follow him in heart and life; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever."

Victory Over Death!

On Sunday, I traveled to Delafield, Wisconsin, to be present at a graveside service on Monday for a former member of St. John's, Craig Peters. He and his wife were currently living in Kansas, where his wife was finishing her residency program. Craig passed away suddenly at the age of 48. He leaves behind a wife, Beth, and two boys, Will and Daniel. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Peters family at their time of loss. But, certainly as believers in Christ, we do not mourn without hope.

St. Paul had the Peters family in mind, and all of us when he wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4, starting at verse 13, "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words."

May God, again, bless the Peters family as they deal with this change in their lives.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Now Thank We All Our God!

TLH # 36

1. Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices, who wondrous things hath done, in whom His world rejoices; who from our mother's arms hath blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love and still is ours today.

2. Oh, may this bounteous God through all our life be near us, with ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us and keep us in His grace and guide us when perplexed and free us from all ills in this world and the next!

3. All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given, the Son, and Him who reigns with them in highest heaven: The one eternal God, whom earth and heaven adore! For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore. Amen.

Also, the text listed in TLH is Ecclesiasticus 50:22-24 (Apocrypha), "Now therefore bless ye the God of all, which only doeth wondrous things everywhere, which exalteth our days to His mercy. He grant us joyfulness of heart, and that peace may be in our days in Israel forever: that he would confirm his mercy with us, and deliver us at his time!"

Again, I say Amen.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Advent Devotions

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"So, how is it that you have favor with God? How is it that heaven is truly and most assuredly yours? How is it that you can stand holy and righteous before God the Father? How can all this be? Jesus! Jesus is the Righteous One who stands before God the Father for you. Jesus is the Righteous One, whose coming in the Flesh you now anticipate during this Advent season.” (Advent Reflection - December 4, 2006)

For three years, Higher Things has provided free Gospel Reflections for youth and congregations for each day of the season of Advent. Families have gathered around the table, lit advent candles, sang hymns, read the Scriptures, and had devotions together. Moms have forwarded emails to their college students to spread the Word: Jesus is coming! His Advent is near!This year, we invite you to prepare again for the Lord's Coming with our latest Advent Reflections written by the Rev. Daniel Feusse. Pastor Feusse is pastor at Concordia Lutheran Church in Clearwater, Nebraska. You can email him at

The booklet of Advent Reflections is available for free in pdf-format for download here:

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A Blessed and Happy Advent Preparation to you and your family! INI.-- Rev. George F. Borghardt III Assistant/Youth PastorSt. Mark Lutheran Church Conroe, TX

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Recommended Reading List

Gentlemen and women,

God's blessings. I am wanting to compile a list of books that all Lutheran pastors should not only have on their bookshelf but should have read and have knowledge of. I was wondering if you might do me a quick favor. Besides the Bible, the BOC, and all of Rick Warren's books (:-) can you give me 10-15 books or more, if you like, that you think are mandatory for all Lutheran pastors to read. If you might help me out on this, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks much.

In Christ,

Sh. Haugen

Go Buckeyes!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Built on the Rock the Church doth Stand!

TLH # 467

1. Built on the Rock the Church doth stand, even when steeples are falling; crumbled have spires in every land, bells still are chiming and calling, calling the young and old to rest, but above all the soul distrest, longing for rest everlasting.

2. Surely in temples made with hands, God, the most High, is not dwelling; high above earth His temple stands, all earthly temples excelling. Yet He whom heavens cannot contain chose to abode on earth with men, built in our bodies His temple.

3. We are God's house of living stones, builded for His Habitation; He through baptismal grace us own heirs of His wondrous salvation. Were we but two His name to tell, yet He would deign with us to dwell, with all His grace and His favor.

4. Now we may gather with our King e'en in the lowliest dwelling; praises to Him we there may bring, His wondrous mercy forthtelling. Jesus His grace to us accords; Spirit and life are all His words; His truth doth hallow the temple.

5. Still we our earthly temples rear that we may herald His praises; they are the homes where He draws near and little children embraces. Beautiful things in them are said; God there with us His covenant made, making us heirs of His kingdom.

6. Here stands the font before our eyes telling how God did receive us; th' altar recalls Christ's sacrifice and what His table doth give us; here sounds the Word that doth proclaim Christ yesterday, today, the same, yea, and for aye our Redeemer.

7. Grant, then, O God, where'er men roam, that, when the church bells are ringing, many in saving faith may come where Christ His message is bringing; "I know Mine own, mine own know Me; Ye, not the world, My face shall see. My peace I leave with you." Amen.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Be Still, My Soul!

TLH #651

1. Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side; bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; leave to thy God to order and provide; in every change He faithful will remain. Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

2. Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake to guide the future as He hath the past. Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake; all now mysterious shall be bright at last. Be still, my soul; the waves and wind still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

3. Be still, my soul, tho' dearest friends depart and all is darkened in the vale of tears; Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart, who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears. Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay from His own fullness all He takes away.

4. Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on when we shall be forever with the Lord, when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone, sorrow forget, love's purest joys restored. Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past, all safe and blessed we shall meet at last. Amen.

A Goddess Rosary! Lord have mercy!

I invite you to check this out. It is creepy. They use a "Goddess rosary." They try to combine elements of radical feminism with the Christian faith. The name of the church is "Her Church." It is located in San Francisco and it is also known as Ebenezer Lutheran Church. Their site can be accessed at:

Their video can be accessed at:

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Greatest Job on Earth!

I am writing this blog as a tribute to my boys. They are such a wonderful blessing. I love them more than words can truly say. I know this is an over-used cliche, but I will use it anyway. If you would have told me ten years ago that I would have four boys, I would have either laughed hysterically or cried uncontrollably. But, now, as I look at them when they are sleeping or glance at them when they are doing something else, all I can say is Lord have mercy. They are growing up too fast and I want them to stay put. I know that this is not how it works, but I want to enjoy them every second. The world that they will face is so different than the world I faced. The evil that they will have to endure is mind-boggling. And yet, I know and trust that God will take care of them. He has a plan and a future for them. This I know and believe. So, boys, thank you. Thank you for putting up with my busy schedule and my inability, at times, to be a good father. I want you to know that being a father is the greatest job on earth!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Holy God We Praise Thy Name!

TLH # 250

1. Holy God, we praise Thy name; Lord of all, we bow before Thee. All on earth Thy scepter claim, all in heav'n above adore Thee. Infinite Thy vast domain, everlasting is Thy reign.

2. Hark the glad celestial hymn angels choirs above are raising; cherubim and seraphim, in unceasing chorus praising, fill the heav'ns with sweet accord: holy, holy, holy Lord.

3. Lo, the' apostles' holy train join Thy sacred name to hallow; prophets swell the glad refrain, and the white robed martyrs follow, and from morn to set of sun Thro' the Church the song goes on.

4. Holy Father, holy Son, Holy Spirit, three we name Thee; though in essence only one, undivided God we claim Thee and, adorning, bend the knee while we own the mystery. Amen.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Duct Tape or Nails!

This story was shared with me. It was entitled, Duct Tape or Nails.

A man dies and goes to heaven. Of course, St. Peter meets him at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter says, 'Here's how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you've done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in.' 'Okay," the man says, 'I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart' 'That's wonderful,' says St.Peter , 'that's worth three points!""Three points?" he says. "Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service." "Terrific!" says St.Peter . "That's certainly worth a point.""One point!?!!" "I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans." "Fantastic, that's good for two more points," he says. "Two points!?!! "Exasperated, the man cries. "At this rate the only way I'll get into heaven is by the grace of God" "Bingo, 100 points! Come on in!" We often try to fix problems with WD-40 and duct tape. God did it with nails. "

This story is a variation of one that has been passed around for awhile. As good of a goal as it is to stress the grace of God and the death of Christ, this story has one major flaw. We contribute nothing toward our salvation. It is not as if we contribute a small portion toward salvation and God contributes the rest. We are dead in trespasses and sins and God raises us up, breathes life into us, gives us faith, and brings us to heaven when it is time. We do nothing. That is the grace of God.

What God Ordains Is Always Good!

Hymn 521, TLH

1. What God ordains is always good; His will abideth holy, as He directs my life for me, I follow meek and lowly. My God indeed in every need doth well know how to shield me; to Him, then, I will yield me.

2. What God ordains is always good. He never will deceive me; He leads me in His own right way, and never will He leave me. I take content what He hath sent; His hand that sends me sadness will turn my tears to gladness.

3. What God ordains is always good. His loving thought attends me; No poison can be in the cup that my Physician sends me. My God is true; each morn anew I'll trust His grace unending, my life to Him commending.

4. What God ordains is always good. He is my Friend and Father; He suffers naught to do me harm, though many storms may gather. Now I may know both joy and woe, some day I shall see clearly that He hath loved me dearly.

5. What God ordains is always good. Though I the cup am drinking which savors now of bitterness, I take it without shrinking. For after grief God grants relief, my heart with comfort filling and all my sorrow stilling.

6. What God ordains is always good. This truth remains unshaken. Though sorrow, need or death be mine, I shall not be forsaken. I fear no harm, for with His arm He shall embrace and shield me; so to my God I yield me.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Jesus Christ, My Pride and Glory!

The Lutheran hymnal #408, by Johann Olearius

Jesus Christ, my Pride and Glory, He, the true and living Light,
strengthens me with glorious might. Christ, revealed in sacred story, whom I now as Lord confess, teaches me true holiness.

Let me live to praise Thee ever, Jesus, Thou my heart's delight, Thou who leadest me aright. Let me cling to Thee forever, all the fleshly lusts deny, and the devil's host defy.

Grant me, Lord, Thy Holy Spirit that in all I follow Him, lest the light of faith grow dim. Let me ever trust Thy merit, let Thy blessing me attend, from all evil me defend.

From all pain and imperfection, gracious Lord, deliver me, Heaven's glory let me see. Keep me under Thy direction that the grace Thou gavest me I may praise eternally. Amen.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Former President Barry's Letter on Gambling

Promised Gain Comes With Great Pain
A Statement from The Office of the President The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod 1333 South Kirkwood Road St. Louis, Missouri 63122 United States of America

A number of weeks ago, my office received correspondence from one of our nation's congressmen that contained very sobering information about gambling. We need to be clear that it is not possible, on the basis of God's Word, to say that each and every instance of gambling is sinful. It is true however that every act of gambling does present a tremendous opportunity for temptation. What is clear is that legalized gambling is increasing in popularity across our nation. It rests on the promise of gain but comes at the cost of considerable pain to our society.
The National Gambling Impact Study Commission released a report, following a two year study of gambling in America. It reveals some very troubling facts about gambling's impact on the poor and those who become addicted to gambling. The findings were alarming enough for a majority of the commission to call for a "pause" or moratorium on further gambling expansion in America to give time to dig deeper into its effects.
Americans now wager about $600 billion a year, which is more than is spent on groceries! In 1992, it was $329 billion a year. In 1974, it was just $17 billion. That is a staggering increase of 3,500 percent over 25 years! And the gambling commission noted in its report that "with little stretch of the imagination, it is conceivable that, some day, gambling enterprises may be franchised and, at least, in parts of the country, become as common as fast food outlets are today." Gambling today is not simply harmless family entertainment, as advertising for commercial and state-sponsored gambling seems to indicate. Millions of people have become addicted to gambling and have brought untold suffering on themselves and their families.
We now know some very real and troubling facts about gambling and addiction. According to the gambling commission report: "in 1997 . . . the Harvard Medical School Division on Addictions . . . estimated at that time that there were 7.5 million American adult problem and pathological gamblers and 7.9 million American adolescent problem and pathological gambles."
That is more than 1.5 million people having difficulty with gambling and more than half of them are children. This means that our nation's youth is disproportionately impacted by gambling. Or, to put it another way, there are currently more adult and adolescent problem and pathological gamblers in America than people residing in New York City. There are six times as many adolescent problem or pathological gamblers in America than men and women actively serving in our combined armed forces—the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.
The statistics do not tell the whole story. According to the report, the impact of human suffering is truly immeasurable. For example, in "Atlantic City, the Commission heard about a 16-year-old boy who attempted suicide after losing $6,000 on a lottery." Many children are hurt, even if they themselves do not have a gambling problem. Quite often they are the victims of addicted parents or guardians. "The Commission heard testimony of numerous cases in which parents or a caretaker locked children in cars for an extended period of time while they gambled. In at least two cases, the children died."
When it comes to the poor and gambling, the commission found that "the education category with the highest per capita spending includes those who did not complete high school. . . . College graduates have the lowest. With respect to household income. . . those with incomes less than $50,000 spend more than others, and the lower-income categories have the highest per capita spending." Legalized gambling victimizes the poor and preys on our society's weakest members. It entices those who are the most desperate with the offer of a way to achieve wealth and prosperity. It tempts those who are at the most vulnerable point, and this is truly disturbing. A nation such as ours cannot, and must not, put the interest of industrialized gambling above the need and concern that we must have for the poor. Surely, it is not in the best interest of our nation to do so.
The commission reported "a further criticism is that, in pursuit of revenues, some lotteries have employed overly aggressive and even deceptive advertising and other marketing methods. Lottery advertising has advanced in recent years from simple public-service-announcement-type ads to sophisticated marketing tools. Critics charge that they are intentionally misleading, especially regarding such matters as the minuscule odds of winning the various jackpots. (As an agency of government, lotteries are not subject to federal "Truth in advertising" standards). State-sponsored lotteries are perhaps the most harmful because they project an image legitimizing gambling and ultimately help nurture a gambling culture among our children—the next generation of gamblers."
We would simply ask that all church workers of our Synod, and our congregation's lay leaders, consider how best to communicate the profoundly harmful impact that state-sponsored and legalized gambling is having on our nation and on our communities. The problems associated with gambling will only grow worse as gambling continues to gain a foothold in our communities and becomes more commonplace across our nation. We Lutherans know that it is our duty to avoid stealing, but in so doing also to do whatever we can to help our neighbor to improve and protect his property and business. Gambling is one area where, as Christian citizens, we can work to improve a situation so harmful to the poor and to families devastated by a family member caught up in a gambling addiction.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Reformation Continues!

Today, we honor and give thanks to God for Martin Luther and the Reformation that he began over 489 years ago. We honor the man who had the courage and bravery to stand up in the face of extreme opposition and conflict. He was not afraid to let his voice be heard. He was willing to die for the faith that he knew to be true. He knew that Jesus Christ was his Savior from sin- that He died on the cross, rose again, ascended into heaven and will come again to judge the quick and the dead. Studying the Word of God with great diligence and thoroughness allowed him to see the errors of his Church. Believing his beloved church to be in error broke his heart and yet he could not stand idly by and do nothing. “Here I Stand! I can do no other! So, help me God! Amen.” These are words of strength and power- not his own strength, but the strength of God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. These words ring loudly down to us as we sit here this morning.
As we look at the Lutheran Church today, we wonder what Luther would say? What would he reform today if given the chance? Does the church even need to be reformed today? What are the errors that need to be dealt with and what needs to be done away with in our church? This morning, I want to give you a kind of a unique sermon. Presidents give a state of the union speech. Governors give a state of the state speech. Mayors even give a state of the city address. Today, I give a state of the church sermon. This sermon may appear to be more scholarly or more like a paper than many of my sermons, but hopefully, you will understand what I am trying to say. May God bless both my words and the hearing of those words this morning!
Let me start of by asking you: how many Lutherans do you think there are worldwide? Well, according to Wikipedia, my favorite source for info, says there are 82.6 million people who call themselves Lutheran worldwide. That number-82.6 million make up about 4 percent of the people who call themselves Christian in the world- 2 billion worldwide. A little closer to home: we are part of the Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod. There are 2.5 million in our Synod, making us the 8th largest Christian denomination in the USA.
Even though we are not the biggest Christian denomination in the US or the world, we need to be thankful for what God has done for the Lutheran Church and specifically for our church here at St. John over the years. Many mainline denominations are declining at a very rapid pace. Many beautiful churches in downtown areas and in small towns have had to close their doors. Over the last several years, the Missouri Synod has not grown as we would have liked, and maybe our own church has not grown as much as may have liked, but we are remaining steadfast and solid. That is a testament to the fact that God has been with our church in the midst of some very trying times. Our own church, St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church of Berea, Ohio, with its principle office in Strongsville, as our constitution calls us, has been in service to God for 116 years- something to be truly thankful to God for. How many companies that existed in the 1890’s are still in existence today? Or how many companies that are in existence today, will exist in the year 2122? Probably, not all that many! The point is we need worry about the state of our church. As we continue to be faithful to God and His Word, He will bless our church and Lutheranism. God is in control! I believe that we have a very bright future!
With that said, it is also fair to say that the Lutheran Church today would not be easily recognized by Martin Luther. What goes on in various Lutheran churches across the world and across the USA would make Luther’s head spin. Despite what the media wants us to believe, all of Lutheranism is not united. Far from it! What has contributed to the demise of the Lutheranism today is not a simple matter. Let me share with you a couple of movements that are affecting our Lutheran church today. Hopefully, by doing so, we can see the danger that we are in!
What has contributed to the state of the Lutheran church today, first of all, I will call the “ecumenical movement.” This movement began roughly 100 years ago, at the Edinburgh Missionary Conference in 1910. With very good intentions, this movement believes in the importance of bringing all denominations back together again. It believes that all the denominations in our world today are a tragedy. However, to come together, this movement does something totally and completely “un-Lutheran.” It downplays, or in some cases, completely rejects the importance of doctrine and theology. It stresses unity of faith in Jesus above all else. Their motto is, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials diversity and in all things charity.” You may have heard of that phrase.
The debate comes up for us as Lutherans, with just what those essentials are and is it right, ethical, Biblical to join with other churches that have such drastic differences? Unfortunately, the “essentials” are very few things. Basically, faith in Christ, a belief in the Trinity: God as Father, Son and Spirit, some form of sacraments, and a desire to spread the Gospel and that is about it.
This “ecumenical movement” has caused our sister Synod- the ELCA- to declare altar and pulpit fellowship with non-Lutheran denominations, something unthinkable just a few years ago. Again, what a church actually teaches is secondary to the desire to join together, to have unity, even if what the two groups teach is miles apart.
This movement has deeply affected the state of the Lutheran Church. The conventional wisdom of so many in our world today says that there is not all that much that really separates the churches. Why shouldn’t we join together with other denominations? Luther would turn over in his grave if he knew that Lutheran churches today have joined with non-Lutheran churches despite significant differences in teaching. He risked his life because of those doctrinal differences. What right do we have in our enlightened times to ignore the differences? None whatsoever! Doctrine matters and it is unthinkable that doctrine is being ignored for the sake of unity!
Another movement that is affecting the state of the Lutheran Church today is the “non-denominational movement.” This movement began with a man by the name of Charles Finney in the 19th century, in a town not too far from us, Oberlin. Finney, a lawyer turned evangelist, began what was called, “revivalism” or the “Second Great Awakening.” He toured the country and large numbers of people left other Christian denominations and followed him. He believed deeply in the importance of joining together American culture with Christian belief, so that there was not a difference between what went on in the world with what goes on in the church. That is, he attempted to bring the church and the world together in his teaching and practice. He, also, stressed enthusiasm in the faith- that is the church should be about entertainment, excitement and feeling good. In doing so, he stressed the importance of making a “decision for Christ.” Finney led to other great revivalist preachers such as Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, and today Rick Warren. This movement continues all over the country and is present right in our back yard.
What is wrong with the Non-denominational movement? Is it not a good thing that these churches are bringing in large numbers of people and converting them to Jesus? Well, yes, it is a good thing that they want to tell others about Jesus. We have a lot in common with these churches. But, what we don’t have in common is not insignificant. In fact, it is of utmost importance. Just as false teaching existed in the Catholic Churches of Luther’s day, so does false teaching exist in these large mega-churches. What a church teaches in all areas of theology matters.
And here’s the kicker. Because we saw many of these non-denominational churches growing, and we wanted to grow ourselves, we attempted to imitate what they were doing, especially in worship style. However, by doing so, we changed who we are and our doctrine also changed!
These two movements, “the ecumenical movement” and the “non-denominational movement” have affected our Lutheran Church in so many ways. Today, Lutherans allow for diversity in worship styles that was never there before. Our communion practices differ. We don’t see eye-to-eye when it comes to the role of women in the church, to our doctrine of the office of the pastor, in how we relate to other churches, to our teaching on the End times, to our teaching on good works, just to name of a few. The bottom line is that these two movements, among many others have watered-down our Lutheran teaching. For those whose heritage comes from Martin Luther, it is a shame and a tragedy to reject what has been handed down to us.
But other than just pointing out what is wrong with our Lutheran Church today, it is also my humble goal to give us some helpful direction on what can be done. Like I said before, I believe that we have a bright future. As I have said, we have a lot to be thankful for when it comes to our Lutheran church. As we are faithful, God will bless our church. And I believe from the bottom of my heart that there is a place for conservative, confessional Lutheranism in our world today and especially in our area.
What we need to do is know what our church teaches and boldly confess that truth. We need to diligently study our Lutheran doctrine ourselves, so that we can teach it to our children. We need to appreciate the desire for sound teaching. We need to see doctrine, as something that is vitally important and is relevant to our lives. How we understand who God is, how we understand what sin is, how we understand who Jesus is, how we understand what Jesus has done for us, or what Baptism is, or what Holy Communion is. All of these things affect us in our lives. We are a church body that believes in the importance of a solid and clear confession of faith, not watered down, not changed, not altered, not softened, not politically correct or changed to make people feel good about themselves. We care deeply about honoring God’s name among us so that we can give a clear and consistent confession to the world. May God help us to do just that!
Today is the celebration of the Reformation. What Luther was willing to die for was the teaching and preaching of God’s most Holy Word based on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. For us, it should be no different. I conclude with a quote from one of my favorite books, “The Fire and the Staff.” Pastor Klemet Preus proclaims, “The church needs to set her sights high and expect what God expects. He expects neither numerical growth in every situation nor glorious reports of how well we are doing. He expects faithfulness to the pure doctrine and the Sacraments. This faithfulness will always involve proclaiming justification by grace for Christ’s sake, teaching Luther’s catechism, and teaching the theology of the cross. Faithfulness is compromised when anyone, is indifferent to doctrine or actually suggests that doctrine is harmful. Our “success” ought to be measured by the cross. Wherever true doctrine is valued and taught, the truth of the Gospel burns itself into the lives of people. Christ’s church can light the fire only by teaching purely.” I add one final comment. When this happens, dear friends in Christ, the state of our church is good.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

All Saints Day

Psalm 116:15 reminds us, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." There is nothing quite like All Saints Day. For me, it is a chance to truly give thanks to God for all the blessings of being united to Christ. In Christ, we are united with the heavenly chorus, the invisible church, the church triumphant. Every time we gather together in the Divine Service, we are worshipping with the heavenly saints. As we receive the body and blood of our Savior Jesus Christ on this side of eternity, we are joining with those on the other. When my oldest son goes up to communion now, he talks under his breath to those who are in heaven. May God bless your celebration of All Saints and let us remember, Hebrews 12, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted." Lord have mercy!