What do you think about this?

I don’t think you’ll need to listen to very much here to get the idea.

If you went to a public recreation area with your family and someone stood above you, reading from the Bible, would you like it?

Do you think this is good stewardship of God’s Word…or poor stewardship of God’s Word?

I got this off of youtube and the title and subtitles are all original to the video (I did not add anything).

‘Life and Liturgy’ by Alden Swan

I am picking up where I left off  a couple of weeks ago, talking about liturgical worship.   If you recall, I’ve gone through the entire Luthera n liturgy from the old “Red” 1958 Service Book and Hymnal, interspersed with a few other posts dealing with aspects of liturgical worship.  For those who may stumble across this post who haven’t read the whole thread, I was raised Lutheran, but have spent the last 30+ years in various non-liturgical churches, mainly in Vineyard churches, which are about as loose as you can get.  I began visiting Lutheran and Episcopalian churches over a year ago, and since last December I have regularly attended a large Episcopal Church.

I like it.  After years of “grab bag” worship, coming back to liturgy has been a Godsend, literally.  It has probably saved my spiritual life from near death – or at least a starved, tortured existence.  It’s not the mood, or the great music (St. Paul’s excels musically, which certainly doesn’t hurt).  Here are a few reasons why liturgical worship means so much to me:

Truth:  I’ve written on this before, but I realized some time ago that I was starving for truth; in most evangelical churches (using the term in its popular, narrow sense), truth is pretty much up for grabs.  You can object, but it’s true.  Week after week goes by singing worship songs that are often vague, existential and which focus on personal experience rather than on truth.  The Bible is read only as part of the pastor’s sermon, and it’s often doled out in fragments, often taken out of context, and often misused.  The Pastor’s point of view takes precedent over the plain truth of Scripture. No creeds are read; often, I wouldn’t know what a church believes just be attending on a Sunday morning.

With liturgical churches, all these issues are resolved.  You can’t possibly walk out of church not knowing who Jesus is. You may have other questions (which is good), but you’ll have the basics.

Intentionality: Nothing in a liturgical church is haphazard.  In fact, you’ve got nearly 2000 years of thought and intentionality behind what you’re doing, and it’s doctrinally rooted in history.  And, you’re not alone; you know that you are agreeing – in recitation of creeds, praying the Lord’s Prayer, and celebrating the Lord’s Supper – with Christians throughout space and time.  Liturgy has a very solid feel to it, as it should.

Interactive Theater: The liturgy is participatory, interactive theater.  The priest, pastor or rector are not anyone but people filling a certain role.  The pastors are for the most part interchangeable; they may change, but the liturgy remains the same.  The people as well participate, reenacting the Gospel story every Sunday.

I liken it to the old “Rocky Horror” events where people would come in costume and say the lines along with the movie.  You can go sit and watch the professionals do church for you, or you can choose to join in.  That’s really what the liturgy is – it’s a chance to join in, in acting out the Gospel.

Incarnational Theology: The liturgy – especially the Lord’s Supper (aka communion, or Eucharist) – is empty without an incarnational theology. Perhaps that’s why so many evangelicals (again, using the term narrowly) think of it as ritualistic or the recitation of empty words.  Incarnational theology is essentially non-dualistic; that is, God is really present. As NT Wright has written, the worship service is a place where heaven intersects earth in a very real way. The valley of dry bones becomes the body when church gathers, and communion is more than just a memorial.  We don’t wait “for God to show up,” we just know that we experience the Real Presence.

Another aspect of liturgy is that the church’s theology, too, is rooted in history and anchored in the liturgy. The church is not blown too and fro from Sunday to Sunday as the pastor gets a new revelation.  This certainly won’t keep the pastor from throwing in random stuff in his sermons, but at least in liturgical settings, the sermon is positionally subservient to the Scriptures.

Humility: Humility is built in the liturgy, especially in Lutheran versions.  Church is first and foremost the gathering of saved sinners.  We celebrate the Eucharist because we need it.   The liturgy reduces everyone to their status as sinners, and then raises them up.

Today’s sermon was particularly interesting, using the text from Acts 10 where God tells Peter that nothing is unclean if God has declared it clean.  The Jewish Christians had forgotten that they were not the host of the banquet, but were merely guests as well, and God has every right to invite whoever he wants. The reminder to us was that we, too, are guests. This sums up the liturgical attitude well, I think.

Corporate: The liturgy acknowledges the existence of the Church Universal, and the corporate nature of the local body.  The fact that people stand, sit and kneel together and recite prayers together acknowledges in practice what we believe theologically.  The “do your own thing” worship totally contradicts the concept of corporate worship.

It’s Out of This World: High-church worship has an obvious other-worldliness to it, with the vestments, music, and ritual.  I personally am tired of going to churches where people don’t even bother to comb their hair.  I expect Heaven to look different than the mall… why shouldn’t church look different, too?

The Eye of the Storm: Lately I’ve come to think of Sunday as the true eye of the storm; it is not retreating from the storm, but taking refuge in the one and only safe place to be renewed and refreshed, to be sent back out.

In the evangelical world, it is common to ask things like, “how was church today,” and in the typical evangelical church context, the question makes sense. However, when I’m asked that now, it strikes me as quite odd, for “church” is no longer about anything that changes from week to week.  Church is always good, because the liturgy is good; that doesn’t change.  The sermon or music could be “off,” but that doesn’t impact “church.”  It’s always good.  (I will make an exception, as I’ve visited churches who play around with the liturgy to try to make it more contemporary or “relevant.”)

I am not saying that liturgical worship is the only way to worship God; that would be ridiculous. However, if I were to correct the defects and gaps that I see in many chuches, I would add in many of the elements which have been a part of Christian worship for hundreds and hundreds of years.  I suspect the inclusion of a few of these elments could revitalize the evangelical church.

                                                                                      – Alden Swan

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How do you feel about the use of liturgy in a worship service?

Check out Alden’s blog at  http://aldenswan.com/

‘It just blows my mind’

Pastors who hate the church. Pastors who are in love with the culture. Pastors who just seem to choke on the name of “Jesus”.  Pastors who will side with atheists and Muslims and Hindus and New Agers and  whate vers, over and above the Living Lord, Jesus the Christ.

It blows my mind.

They are in love with being liked. They want to be liked so badly that they will throw their Lord overboard in a heartbeat rather than appear to be intolerant to the enemies of the cross.  That’s right.  These folks are enemies of the cross. They deny the Living God His due and these lovie-dovie, tolerant  pastors would much rather side with the enemies of the cross, than their Lord Jesus Christ.

The Bible says that these men, and or women, are going to be held to a higher standard. They ought know better. But they insist on making war on God and the Church out of some warped sense of altruism.

This is not to confuse righteous criticism of the church or bad doctrine, or acts or behaviors unbecoming of Christians or the church. There is certainly a place for that kind of corrective criticism. Rather,  I am speaking of pastors who have a strong antipathy toward the church and of the exclusivity of our Lord Jesus Christ against a culture who would not have Him.

To these pastors I would say (and am saying), “pick a side”.

If you love this idea that Christians are bad who proclaim Christ as the only Way, and you think so higly of the other “religions” and Christ denying cultures…then go to them. Be one of them. Join them. The Church has enough problems without you trying to destroy the One thing that the Church is built upon, the person of Jesus Christ, and Him alone.

It just blows my mind.

‘ Stealing ‘

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Is it alright to break the Commandment if we have enough people that agree on it?

Is it really breaking the Commandment to begin with?

“Daddy, Why Are There Tornados?”

This is something that really struck me the other day that I offer as food for thought.  Let me say in brief that I’m a scientist, that’s m y education, experience and background.  I say that mainly to explain that my own mind is deeply entrenched with that way of thinking (that should make some sense later).  All the time our reason in its fallen capacity is battling the Word of God, especially when reason is offended by it (i.e. it goes against, above or beyond reason).  E.g. the Trinity, the incarnation of God, the God-man, the real presence, etc…  But I’ve been discovering another arena particular to us “modern” men and women, scientist and laymen alike and it relates to the following simultaneously; eschatology, end times, last things, signs, science, nature, laws of physics, the fall, etc…  Hopefully I can communicate this in a fairly decent way.

 

We are homeschoolers and as such teach our children.  My background and education is in the hard sciences so I gravitate there.  When my very young children ask a question like, “why are there tornados, earthquakes, clouds, why is the sun ‘dying’ and other stars” or some other phenomena, I give them a “HOW” science answer, “warm air and cold air…tectonic activity where two bodies of rock…etc…  This is our, modern man not just scientist, view of life is it not?  Right down to the very “laws of physics” to whatever degree we’ve each learned and understand them.  And so we “build this paradigm” of life we call “nature” and by extension “natural”, the “way things are” and we build upon it.  This is of course the basis for old earth and evolutionary thinking when it’s all boiled down to its foundations.

 

This also coincided on another issue concerning health and death.  We have a tendency, for example, to say that a smoker died of lung cancer because he/she smoked.  The cause of death was cigarettes.  But I told my wife, “That’s utterly false.  Cigarettes did NOT kill him, they were a MEANS of death not the CAUSE.  Here we show ourselves to be the truest of idolaters in modern society.  Do you suppose AT ALL that man X would have not ever died AND NOT died the very hour he died even if by lung cancer?  If we could go back and time and play a little Christmas Carol time intervention by preventing Man X from ever smoking…do you suppose he would not die by some other MEANS and die on that exact day, hour and second?  Did not Jesus explicitly say you cannot add one single hour to your life!  Let’s say Man X was prevented by our Jules Vernes intervention from smoking and then gets hit in a car accident on that day and dies…would we not accuse him of “if had only not been there he’d be alive”…thus saith the theology of glory in ALL forms.”  Here, as I hope to spell out below is again how wrong we tend to view the real NATURE of things, the fallen world in which we live that is passing and that it is NOT; “this is just nature, natural and the way things are”.

 

The other day I was reading some teachings on basically the second coming of Christ and all the scriptural information therein, this was of course of Luther’s position and the historic church all the way back (just for reference).  At one point the theologian was speaking of Christ’s answer to “when will these things be” and Jesus sets forth signs not to “date setting” but signs all encompassing of the certainty of it happening.  Some of the signs are social (wars and rumors of wars) and some more of the “natural” kind (earthquakes in various places).  He identified or expanded the thought a bit to tornados, hurricanes, tsunamis, etc…  Well that stunned my reason and my faith began to over-ride.  It donned on me, THAT’S IT!

 

First, these things are not “natural phenomena” because the fallen cosmos is not “natural” as we measure, suppose and build our “model of life”.  It is not the way it is suppose to be, but a GREAT catastrophe, the fall, has happened.  I told my wife, “we view all that we see as phenomena as “natural” and build our view of “why things are” upon this, even modern Christians do so in so many ways it’s hardly noticeable.  We are so use to being in the fall, like a frog in slowly boiling water, we don’t even sense it anymore, so dull we are.  Even right down to what we call the basic “laws of physics”, like entropy, we just assume, ‘that’s the way it is’ and go on.  But that’s not the way it is, entropy is not a law of physics but a part of the fall and so are all phenomena.  It is perhaps accurately named “the law of physics OF THE FALL” but not “the law of physics”.  It’s so big we don’t see it, like a house being crushed, the ant only sees a crack in the floor or a tile hit the ground thinking, ‘this is just the way it is’.  But in reality ANY phenomena, be it disasters like earth quakes, tornados, lightening or other things such as health and death that issue forth the judged destruction in some manner, even leading to deaths, is part of the fall…the JUDGED world ALREADY.”  Jesus is God and is viewing this from God’s perspective and describing to the disciples these signs as we are all too easily theologians of glory and frogs forgetting we are being boiled.

 

Second, no such particular phenomena, like Katrina, is judgment in particular to those in whom it strikes in particular such that someone on the outside would say, “See God is judging New Orleans” (evangelical theology of glory on this event), nor, “See God is judging the US” (Islam’s theology of glory on this event).  It is JUDGMENT with a capital “J”, on the fallen world which is, as Jesus says, signs of the impending judgment for all, damnation to the unbelievers and eternal life to the believers in Christ alone.  All should look at it whether affected by it directly or indirectly and notice, “this is part and parcel with the judgment upon this world and in REALITY the signs as a part of that fallen world as judged, passing and will give way to final destruction at the return of the King, Christ, and the new heavens and earth”.  To the damned eternal death and to the blessed eternal life, these signs, ALL OF THEM, ALL we call “natural phenomena” driven by the fundamental engines of entropy are signs of the REAL REALITY dawning and to come, not a natural phenomena of “just the way things are”, which is really denial cloaked in science!  E.g. 2 When an unbelieving scientist learns of entropy and plays with equations and literature describing it, it ought to not be a “cool, that’s science”, but a sign of the real reality – the devil, death and hell are coming for unbelievers.  It ought to terrorize him/her.  When the believing scientist does the same thing he/she ought to “look up” and realize his/her redemption is at hand for he/she will not fall with this final destruction being in Christ.

 

I suppose the summary of this might go like this:  My child comes up to me during storm season and asks, “Daddy why are there tornados”.  I could and would give the “how” of the answer.  But as a Christian I must really answer their question, since they too are baptized into the name of God and are His children first and foremost.  I MUST answer the “WHY” of the question…because these are ultimately signs of the fallen world being judged, under the groanings awaiting the revelation of sons of God and our daily CERTAIN EXPECTATION that Christ’s return is near at hand any second now! 

 

Thus, the overriding thing Jesus was doing in telling the disciples what the signs would be are the signs of the general chaos and falling apart of this world, from the most local phenomena to the most outer reaches of the universe to the very laws of science – is that all these things we call “natural” are not natural, but SCREAM daily judgment for the unbelievers and your Lord is returning for the believers.  It’s not as if Jesus says, “Oh here is a natural phenomena that I will procure for a sign”, no but that being dull to it we must be told, “Remember the cosmos FELL with you, its decaying and destructing, THESE are the signs that I’m coming again.  You are NOT to see like a little ant in a destructing house the micro local phenomena around you that “this is nature lets explain it”.  Rather, you are to  see in entropy and other phenomena that all is indeed fallen and passing away, I came as promised and thus, I am coming to judge both the quick and the dead again as promised”.  Terror to the unbeliever, extreme hope and certain expectation to the believer.

 

As a scientist we observe phenomena and “build a world understanding” that is ultimately a paradigm of a house of cards.  We can construct a false system that in essence “works and explains” things, but as to truth it is utterly false; like the old pre-Newtonian explanation of the movement of planets – it worked, was pragmatically correct but utterly false.

 

“Daddy why are there tornados?”  Answer:  “Assurance that Jesus is coming again for us and we have eternal life in His name”.  Now many might react to that and laugh and scoff saying, “That’s not the cause of tornados”, looking for the natural “how” explanation of science as if that explains it (the physics of the fallen world as it were).  But is that too not a sign of the nearness and certitude of the return of Christ, scoffers who will say, “Where is His coming, things are as they’ve always been since our generations have fallen asleep”, and thus explain the dying destructing cosmos in their own superstitious and fantastical dreamy way.

                                                                                  – Larry Hughes

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Your thoughts are appreciated.  

5 short audio devotionals on Galatians

The following short audio messagaes were delivered by Pastor Patrick Thurmer of Living Faith Church, Cape Coral, Florida.

  Yellow Gospel  delivered 1/12/09 at New Mission Systems International  

I’ll Do It Myself!   delivered 1/13/09 at New Mission Systems International  

Legalism  delivered 1/14/09 at New Mission Systems International  

Decision?  delivered 1/15/09 at New Mission Systems International  

Assurance in Christ   delivered 1/16/09 at New Mission Systems International  

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Feel free to leave any comments on the devotionals.
Thank you.

 

 

‘Nothing?’

From ‘The Mast’  the monthly publication of Lutheran Church of the Master, Corona del Mar, CA 

 In John 15 our Lord Jesus Christ has said, “I am the vine, you are the brances. Apart from me you can do nothing.”

Hold that thought.

We are a culture of movers and shakers. We are told constantly that we must make it happen…whatever ‘it’ may be.

This kind of hard- driving individualism is what built this country…and many others. We are not alone in our dedication and hard work and self-reliance.

Then Jesus speaks the words that began this article.   ‘Nothing?’  Does He really mean ‘nothing?’  Well, yes.   And that brings us to Pentecost.

When Jesus appeared to His disciples, following the resurrection, Luke tells us that he said this; “And behold, I am sending forth with the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with the power from on high.”

“Stay in the city”, he said.  Or, if we may state what was, perhaps our Lord’s intention, ‘Don’t even think of leaving here until you have received power from on high.’

This is a hard word to hear for many within the church who run with the hard chargers on the ladder of success and self-reliance.  No, we can do nothing.  Salvation is God’s doing – alone.  He is the One who empowers, through Word and Sacrament, calling, gathering and enlightening His people into faith.

The work of the Church is not a self-help enterprise depending upon our self-generated efforts to bring about ‘success’.  The work of the Church is God’s work being done through us…and frequently through the weakest and, to all appearances, the least effective of us.

Luther put it this way,

‘Did we in our own strength confide our striving would be losing.  Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing.’

Without Him we can do nothing.

With Him, everything is done already.  Thanks be to God!

                                       – Pastor Mark Anderson

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For me, this has been a “hard word”.   Although, the longer I am in Christ, the more I realize the fact of it.
How about you?