Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Veggie Tales and Morality vs. Christianity

Love this quote:

"The gospel is not about making bad people moral, but about making dead people alive."

Click here to read the blog post -- "How to raise a pagan kid in a Christian home" (NOTE: Please also read the author's note at the beginning of the post about the use of the word "pagan" -- it's important for those who are going to speak about spiritual / religious matters that we use words accurately.)

Okay, one more quote from the post because it's so good and I'm worried you won't go read the post itself: 

 "Do you teach your kids "be good because the Bible tells you to" or do you teach your kids that they will never be good without Christ’s offer of grace? There is a huge difference. One leads to moralism; the other leads to brokenness. One leads to self-righteousness; the other leads to a life that realizes that Christ is everything and that nothing else matters. "

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cool Christianity

This is a lengthy read that requires some careful thought, but I think the author makes an excellent point.  Faith that looks radical but is really built on a foundation of cultural coolness is not going to last through the hard times, and is probably not much about Jesus at all.  My friend Curt passed this along -- well worth reading!

Friday, November 22, 2013


Read an interesting blog post where the author shares comments from non-Christians all over the U.S. who were asked what they would like Christians to know.  It's a little depressing, but important for Christians to hear.  I don't agree with all these posts (duh) but I'm impressed (not in a good way) by the common theme in so many -- "Christians don't listen to me, they just want to impose their agenda on me."  If we're called to love our neighbors, it's important to listen to them, to show more interest in them than we do in imposing our will on them.

I firmly believe that Jesus is the core and center of God's plan for all creation, including all humanity. Or to quote the book of Acts, "there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved."  I think, though, that too often Christians are guilty of being less interested in saving people than we are in saving ourselves by making converts.  We're not good at being aware of who we are and how we come across.  (This is one of the many things I appreciated about Donald Miller's book, Blue Like Jazz, which I highly recommend.)

Here's the blog post.  I encourage you to read it!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Parents Night

For Confirmation at Central we've started having an almost-monthly "Parents Night" when, you guessed it, parents come to be with their 9th & 10th grade confirmands for the evening.  It starts with some killer music played REALLY loud.  Parents tend to sit in the back of the sanctuary.  Then announcements -- last night it was a few details about upcoming stuff in December plus a promo for the Honduras mission trip next summer.  All this happens with middle schoolers and 11th & 12th graders in the room.  Then everyone else is dismissed and I get to talk with parents and confirmands.

I love this format.  I love to talk with parents and students about a topic that is (or should be) of interest to both of them.  So a month ago we talked about how to raise kids in a post-Christian world. Last night we talked about how to prepare your son or daughter for college.  After I get about 25 minutes to talk with them together, the confirmands and their Journey Group leaders head out for 10-15 minutes of discussion, and I get that time with the parents alone.

I love this format because my hope is that we can open doors for some faith conversation in homes.  I know that if parents are willing to talk about these things with their kids, it's likely to have a huge impact on everyone involved.

Last night we talked about how to deal with biblical truth, basically anticipating the Freshman Biology class in which a six-day creation is going to be nailed to the wall.  If all a student has experienced for faith formation is Sunday School stories of Adam & Eve, a biology prof's withering sarcasm can shred their faith and convince them that Darwinian evolutionary theory disproves the Bible.  (Actually, you're far more likely to encounter a Christian in the Biology Department on most campuses than you are in, say, the Philosophy Department.)

So we looked at options.  Last night we laid out four options of how you can view the Bible:

Option 1
Hide our heads in the sand, believe what we believe and that’s the end of it.  When we encounter hard questions, try not to think about it.

Option 2
Make the Bible our source not only for religion, but also for science and history.  At the same time, find as much evidence as possible to say that science can’t be trusted.

Option 3
Say that the Bible is a book full of inaccuracies and fables, but today we know better.  Trust science to teach us the real truth.

Option 4

Figure out what God is saying through the Bible to its original audience, then apply it to ourselves.

As you might expect, I am an advocate for #4.  All too often families operate, intentionally or not, in Option 1 or Option 2, neither of which will get you through college with your faith intact.  Option 3 is what most college campuses default to, and what most college graduates end up believing by the end of school.  Option 3 is our culture's overwhelming belief about truth.  

Option 4 is tricky because you need to acknowledge that the Bible isn't written directly to you (though I certainly believe that when your read it the Spirit of God informs and enlightens your reading, and may use the text to speak directly to you).  You have to do a little work to understand its original context.  You have to make the leap to apply the text. 

It's work, but it's worth it.  Which option do you use most of the time?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Two ways to give to the Philippines

I hope you've been watching coverage of the recent typhoon in the Philippines.  When our Alpha team from Central visited the Central Philippines in March 2012, we grew to know and love so many people there.  The areas we visited are less affected than some of the islands to the north and east, but there are still huge needs in these local areas.  

My friend Ronald, a pastor on the southern part of the island of Panay, emailed me about the devastation there.  Panay is getting very little press coverage because the damage on islands to the east like Leyte and Cebu is so much greater.  But Ronald says this:  

"Here in Panay we have around 70 dead and 12 missing and 100+ wounded and around more than 100,000 people are homeless ... The Iloilo Pastors have an emergency meeting about the disaster and how can we help.  We decided to appeal to all church members in the city donate used clothing, can foods, noodles, utensils, medicines, mosquito nets, rice, biscuits, mineral water, slippers, coffee and others. Unfortunately, we will send relief goods in Panay island only ... because in our own Panay island the needs are so enormous.  If any possibility that some of our friends there can donate anything for the victims of Panay we would appreciate it." 

If you want to donate to this dedicated group of pastors and churches, we'll be sending funds next week to Ronald.  I have personally worked with Ronald for more than ten years and I know that he is absolutely honest in managing money that is donated for various causes.  To donate to the concerns on Panay, visit Central Lutheran Church's website, click on "GIVE" and follow the instructions.  Be sure to designate your gift "Philippines" and we'll see to that it gets to Ronald and the churches there next week.

A member of our church has connections to an American family living and working on the island of Cebu, one of the hardest hit areas.  They are in position to funnel these donations directly to some of the hardest hit parts of Cebu.  This family says:
Please consider donating – and be assured that every single dollar we receive will go directly to families here in the Philippines. Relief efforts continue but people need help NOW. Our family has volunteered our time and we will continue to do so, but what we need most right now is to put funds directly into the hands of these people so they can start the rebuilding process. 
Every single dollar helps! Even if you can only donate $ is $1 more than what they had before. Most of these families live on less than $5 a day. With the cost of a (modest) new home priced at $1500, it will take years for these people to get back on their feet. Think of the difference you can make! 
Please, please consider donating. The people of the Philippines – the people we have come to know and love – will thank you.

To donate to their efforts, visit their webpage here.

Jesus said: 
"I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me." (Matthew 25:35-36)

Thanks for being generous!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


We have guests at Central these days.  Five delegates from our partner churches in Njombe, Tanzania are here for a week.  They have been seeing all kinds of places and things and activities, plus they have been participating in the life of our church as much as possible.

Yesterday we got to hear a presentation on the work we're doing together in their parishes, and then we got to hear some of their perspectives on what they've been experiencing.  One question they asked us is, how have you learned to be so welcoming, so hospitable?

A couple of our church members took a stab at answering.  One talked about learning together from God's word, being in relationship with others within our church, and how that has shaped and formed us.  The other talked about the relationship we have developed with the Tanzanians over the last twelve years and how that moves us to want to welcome them.

Isaac, the leader of the Tanzanians, said, yes, it is all about relationships-- and I have been in your homes, in your pastorates, and I have seen how you have learned by digging into God's word together that you are to be in relationship with each other and to care for each other.  It is that care that we feel extending beyond your groups to welcome us!

One of the side benefits of investing in pastorates that are rooted in God's word and digging deep into relationship with one another.