Thursday, October 28, 2004

195 Faith with Works and Abortion

“If, for example, I was a powerful Senator married to a billionaire who was "not in favor of abortion", but I thought it wrong to work directly against abortion in the legal arena, I might do some or all of the following things:

Work to fund pregnancy crisis centers that provide non-abortion counseling

Work to ease adoption restrictions and promote awareness of the adoption option

Work to encourage strong marriages

Work to encourage abstinence in young people not ready for childbearing

Generously contribute to pregnancy centers

Generously contribute to non-profit adoption agencies

Generously contribute to social welfare organizations working with young mothers”

Let’s Try Freedom

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

194 Kill the twerps before they can populate the planet with poor people

I noticed a warm, heartfelt letter on morality in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, from Maurice Bluestein, Department of Mechanical Engineering Technology, at IU-PU, in Indianapolis.

“A willingness to pay for abortions does not mean promoting abortion; providing money so that a poor person can have an abortion, which is legal, so as to prevent yet another youth from growing up in poverty, is moral. Engaging in stem cell research [i.e. cloning] is moral.”

This is the basis for much of “pro-choice” morality. Greed disguised as compassion.

193 Day of Jewish Learning

October 31 is Lishmah, a day of learning. "Lishmah means "for its own sake," a traditional concept that celebrates learning for the sheer love of learning. As the Talmud teaches: "Torah [which is studied] for its own sake (lishmah) is a Torah of lovingkindness. Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace." Check out this site to learn about registration and topics. Seen at Esther's blog.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

192 Cha-Ching. The Social Costs of Gambling--who's holding up the research?

Maura Casey writes: "Drawing upon my background – three years working full time in the field of addictions and a graduate degree in journalism and public affairs – I was fully confident that with enough reporting I would be able to come up with a figure on how much gambling addiction costs.

I was absolutely wrong. After six months of crisscrossing the country, interviewing 150 people and reading every study I could get my hands on, I realized I could not, and never would, be able to come up with an inarguable figure on how much gambling costs society."

Read the whole essay and how government agencies can price out other addictions but no one has totaled the social costs of gambling at Gambling Watch Global.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

191 Clear the Clutter for Christ

For 34 years we lived in a lovely, two-story home on a beautiful street. This house had no basement and no attic, and very few closets; the two car garage was so tidy (thanks to my husband) we had room for two cars. We added closets to the house and did not allow clutter, not even in the garage. I made regular contributions to various clothing and household goods drives by the Kidney Foundation and Lutheran Social Services. Now we live in a condo that has basement storage, walls with built-in book shelves, a larger garage and an attic over the garage. Yes, now we are developing a clutter problem.

That happens to churches too. Stuff. It's the golden calf of the modern church. Here's an item from Builder's Newsletter on how to improve your physical worship space for under $1,000:

"You can improve your worship space without spending a lot of money. Consider these ways to get a lot of impact with a little investment:

• Update Lighting Fixtures

• Focus Light on the Primary Symbols

Clean Out the Clutter

• Remove Extraneous Furnishing

• Remove Seldom Used Seating

• Take Up the Carpet

• Vest for the Liturgical and Natural Season "
Builder's Newsletter

Earlier in the year our congregation focused on the best seller, The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. It was a sermon series, our SALT groups used it, our women's groups used it, the adult Sunday School used it and individuals used it. During the course of the study (several months), huge banners with the themes from Warren's book began to appear, hanging from the ceiling in the narthex/fellowship hall. They didn't mix well with the flags of nations and mission posters from an earlier theme and the seasonal decorations that various ministries put up. But they all are still there, fighting for the eye and mind of the members and visitors on their way to worship on Sunday, small groups meetings during the week, or weddings and funerals. They have become very bad, monotonous wallpaper. No one even notices or reads them now--except first timers, and I doubt that they find them spiritual. But this sort of mindless clutter is an ugly and common fact of almost every Protestant church in which I've ever worshipped.

The gallery space we use for art shows is littered with posters and signage for Sunday School. When the choir gives a concert, posters are plastered everywhere--even inside bathroom stalls and over mirrors in the ladies room. Although we have numerous bulletin boards, the ministry that oversees that decorates them, so there is no place for other ministries to post their information that week or month. There is a constant "real estate" battle, and if you hang your announcement in the wrong place, someone will take it down. Last week I stopped at a bulletin board that had four identical posters announcing an event--all for an event the previous week. Thus, the posters and memos start appearing on the walls, where the tape pulls off the paint or leaves a residue. The glass doors are considered just additional billboard space.

Today a member came up to me after church and told me how much she enjoys looking at the oil painting of the sheep beneath a large tree in a meadow, painted by local artist, Debbi VerHulst. It is hanging on a brick wall as you enter the sanctuary. It is peaceful and scriptural. And no one has hung a poster on the wall to compete with it.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

190 The Florida Supremes, at it again

TAMPA, Fla.(AP) The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday declined a request from Gov. Jeb Bush to reconsider its decision striking down a state law designed to save the life of a severely brain-damaged woman at the center of a bitter right-to-die dispute. (AP Oct. 21, 2004)

Wouldn't that be A BITTER RIGHT-TO-LIVE DISPUTE? Mrs. Schiavo is not dying. Florida court summary page

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

189 A message for libertine Republicans

A traditional Republican [John Mark Reynolds] has a message for the Andrew Sullivans of the Republican party, the libertines:

“What about the future? Television, made by aging vets of the sexual revolution, has deceived you about what the young want. Your fantasy that the young are with you is part of your cultural blind spot. How many kids, on average, do your friends have? One or two? Millions of kids are home schooled. How many do you know? Many Mexican kids are being educated today in California schools. How many support partial birth abortion and unnatural marriages? Give me Saint Joseph's Sunday School and you can have the Women's Studies Program at State U. . . . Check out the average number of kids per household in your demographic groups. The future is ours.

Here is the good news. We may not be libertines, but we have a strong libertarian streak. We want to make government smaller, more compassionate, and we believe in a culture of life. We will let you do what you want in the privacy of your home as long as you don't defraud our kids or ask for our blessing. If you can get over forcing your sexual views on the rest of us, allow us to protect babies, and move on to other things, we will have much common cause.”

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

188 Family feuds, Christian style

There's some interesting stuff to read over at Midwest Conservative Journal (US Anglican) and Relapsed Catholic (Canadian). I link to Revealer on my blogroll, but generally it is anti-conservative Christian. Occasionally the links are pretty good, though. In the articles it features, Bush really takes a beating for his faith. Probably because they can't figure Kerry's out. LaShawn Barber, also on my blogroll, tracks all kinds of Christian and faith stories, and will smack the Black church upside the head when needed.

187 The vigil with a dying parent

“I've been here at home with the big guys while Jan and the little guys have been down in Orting with her Dad all week so that she can spend as much time as possible just loving on her Mom before the end. She told me it's like when her Mom used to hold babies who were teething. They couldn't understand what was happening and you couldn't explain it to them, but you could still hold them and love them. Her Mom did it for her. Now she's doing it for her Mom.” Mark Shea, Catholic and Enjoying it

Monday, October 18, 2004

186 Does it pay to be honest?

Of course it does, but sometimes the results aren't what you would expect. When the clerk at the supermarket handed me change for a twenty instead of a ten, I said, "I think I gave you a ten."

I expected her to check her bill tray--clerks are taught to put bills in certain slots, so there should have been a ten in the twenty slot if I were correct.

No. That's not how it is done at that store. First she gave me a dirty look. Told me she can't open the drawer. With a long line waiting behind me, she calls a supervisor on the loud speaker and reports it. Then she pulled out the locked drawer, took it to the office, and got a new drawer. She told me to go to the office where it would be counted.

I waited at the office while the employee chatted with an elderly gentleman, and then waited for her to count and balance the drawer. It checked out perfect. I was wrong, the clerk was right.

Later I realized I hadn't "broken" the twenty I'd put in my purse the day before because I hadn't shopped anywhere else. But I was still right to ask.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

185 The Family Reunion

The maples and ash and sycamores along Mountview Avenue in our old neighborhood were glorious this morning--every imaginable color on the trees, except maybe blue, and even it is a component of green. It had been raining; the clouds cleared and the sun broke through causing each leaf to wear diamonds. I was listening to a Christian radio a.m. station I’d never heard before, and the song was about a family reunion in heaven.

It occurred to me that when we get to heaven we’ll be seeing the richness and diversity of God’s family, the bride of Christ, the blessed, the chosen, the saved by his blood, holy children of God. Beautiful and different like those trees.

Every Sunday at the coffee shop Frank, the Catholic, suggests I need to get to the one true church. Catholics will be surprised in heaven to see us Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians. Confessional Lutherans will be speechless to see other Lutherans who’ve never opened the Book of Concord, and Anabaptists will be amazed to see others who have gathers on their prayer bonnets instead of pleats. King James Only fundamentalists who believe you couldn’t possibly find God’s Word in the RSV or Message will wonder why on earth they made such a fuss.

Yes, we’ll be in for a few surprises at the reunion, won’t we?

Friday, October 15, 2004

184 Gnat in my cabernet

There are Christians who spend time writing and debating whether Noah went out and found all the insects and parasites, or if they just hitchhiked into the ark on the animals, food supplies and wood materials.

I think Noah had bigger fish to fry than worrying about snails, spiders, slugs and gnats.** Insects are among God's most resourceful creatures. They know enough to come in out of the rain, which is more than some people I know.

Tonight at dinner there was a gnat floating in my cabernet. I lifted him/her out with my little finger and wiped him on my napkin. He was drunk, but stable, and flew away.

**Yes, I know these are not all insects--I just like the alliteration.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

183 Kerry's faith walk

I was doing the mail run for church this morning listening to Glenn Beck do an impersonation of Kerry talking about the Bible and his faith. It was so hysterical I thought I'd have to pull over. Beck may be a Mormon, but he sure knows hypocrisy and puffery when he hears it.

Monday, October 11, 2004

182 The hand in your wallet

A few years back the national United Way had some bad publicity. I don’t know if that’s why the local campaign name was changed, but it is now “Community Charitable Drive.” However, good deed dollars need to be carefully distributed, especially if you live on a pension. I don’t want to contribute to ACLU, NARAL, Stonewall Columbus, or some of the green, “earth-friendly” education groups of which there are many overlapping on the list.

Americans are very generous. The letter I received from the Campaign says that the IRS recognizes some 819,000 charities. However, you need to know the political and social goals of the hand that’s reaching for your wallet. Look at your church budget--it has many reliable Christian social action groups and missionaries. Let the non-Christians support United Way--they won‘t be helping your church meet its budget!

181 Writing for the Church

WRITING FOR THE CHURCH WORKSHOP is an intensive one-week experience designed to help participants develop creative writing and editing skills according to a website advertising it for the summer of 2005. Writers and editors from Concordia Publishing House and Lutheran Hour will be the faculty. Topics featured at the website include the writing of religion lesson materials for all levels and agencies of Christian education; feature articles; devotional literature; family and children’s literature; writing to reach the post-modern mind and heart; types of writing. Included in the plan are self and instructor critiques and peer "helping circles" to improve writing. Before the workshop, reading a recommended text on writing with accompanying writing exercises is required.

The workshop is in St. Paul, July 17-23, 2005. Details on cost and number of students accepted are at the site.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

180 The new Lutheran pastor

A woman on a bike and the South Beach diet stopped at my yard sale. We chatted about 15 minutes (she's here at Lakeside for the week-end with a group of women friends). She bought a hard cover gardening book (I have a brown thumb) and two hand carved Asian figurines. She only wanted one of them, but I encouraged her not to separate the couple, who had never been separated, at least in the 30 years since we bought them.

She said she's lost 35 pounds. Also opined that she needed to simplify her life and start getting rid of "things." That's what I had in mind, too (which is why I was glad to see her stop).

Then a woman with a baby in a stroller stopped and bought the little 4 drawer dresser for $10.00. It turns out her husband is the new pastor of St. John Lutheran over in Marblehead, one of my husband's clients. She said he is a very good preacher. So when he stopped by with the $10, the dog, and the other baby, we talked a bit. I told him I liked a good gospel sermon. He agreed. As he walked away I said, "And the liturgy. Do you have liturgy?" "Oh yes," he replied. "It reminds me that it isn't about me."

So we decided to attend St. John's tomorrow and drive home a little later than planned.

179 At the church website

At you see under Resources:

The popularity of the Internet presents new challenges as well as new opportunities for Christians. We suggest you take a moment to read and reflect on Norma Bruce's article, Christians and The Internet.

Friday, October 08, 2004

178 New on the blogroll

To counteract some of the bloggrumps on my blogroll, I'm adding Lutheran in a Tipi. Stop by her page and take a look. She likes poetry and lovely photographs.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

177 Lutherans for Life

At the church library last week I picked up a copy of LifeDate; a quarterly journal of life issue news and commentary from National Lutherans for Life. The mission statement: Lutherans For Life believes that the Church is compelled by God’s Word to speak and act on behalf of those who are vulnerable and defenseless. The crisis of our times is the repudiation of Biblical truth manifested in the wanton destruction of innocent human life through legalized abortion-on-demand and the growing threat to the lives of others through legalized assisted suicide and euthanasia. Therefore, as Lutherans For Life, we will strive to give witness, from a Biblical perspective, to the Church and society on these and other related issues such as chastity, post abortion healing, and family living.

It is beautiful in content and format--20 pages, good clear graphics, text boxes for small items, and news and articles about abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research, and other bio-medical ethical issues important to Christians. There is a wonderful section on inexpensive publications you can purchase for your church, group or personal reading, such as:

  • Implmenting a Pro-Life Theology in a Lutheran Congregation
  • Marriage, a statement by Lutherans for Life
  • Defending the Right to Choose/Know the Facts
  • Cloning; understanding the basics

This issue (Fall 2004) has an excellent article on end of life treatment with the conclusion:

The certain and guaranteed hope you have in Jesus' victory over death gives you hope in living life! You can face death with hope because you know it is the door to life. You can face living and dying with hope because you know the true souce of human worth and dignity. You can face and make difficult decisions in hope because you know God is present and at work. Nothing can separate you from His love. Nothing can diminish your hope in Him.

You can read LifeDate on line in a pdf format, however, you can subscribe to the paper copy free, read it, and then put it in your church library, or pass it along. God's economy for paper.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

176 Another kind of wealth

“Once a citizen of the nursing home nation, you no longer operate on a money economy. At Fair Acres [nursing home] the rich are those who can get to the dining room under their own steam, use the toilet by themselves, and can still speak and be understood. My mother arrived there with little of that capital.

Nevertheless, her fellow residents envied her wealth of daily family visits. My father never flagged in his faithfulness. During the five years my mother lived at Fair Acres, he missed spending mornings with her only about a dozen times, most during illnesses of his own. I relieved him in the afternoon. My mother's cousin also visited her twice a week, and a busy sister-in-law often came on Thursdays.”

The Visit, by Virginia Stern Owens, Christianity Today, September 2004

Sunday, October 03, 2004

175 First Sunday Worship

[Interrupting my hunt for what the various denominations point to as the Gospel, I want to say a few words about how wonderful and inspiring our morning worship was today.]

Pastor Jeff preached a good sermon about the problems Christians have with materialism, specifically consumer debt, and he under girded it with the Gospel. He is a dynamic and lively speaker, and no one would ever fall asleep with Jeff in the pulpit. Jesus talked more about wealth than any other topic, he said. “Debt enslaves, Jesus frees us for service,” is a paraphrase. The root cause of “debt disease” is putting material things in place of God, and the cure is to let Jesus forgive and heal. The steps he suggested were, 1) confess the sin of materialism to God, 2) admit it to another person so you have accountability, and 3) get help from a financial counselor.

My standard for a good worship service is, 1) clear exposition of the Gospel, 2) use of the liturgy, and 3) some hint that the congregation knows what is going on out there in the world around us, especially beyond the city limits of our suburb. There have been Sundays when I’ve heard none of the three, or two out of the three, but today and last Sunday, we had three out of three.

If there are a few gaps in the Gospel, the liturgy fills that in with the words of Confession and Forgiveness, and this was Communion Sunday so we had the Canticle “This is the Feast,” always a lovely addition, the Words of Institution and Lord’s Prayer, and the Canticles, “Lamb of God” and “Thank the Lord.” It was the first time I’d heard Jeff sing, and he has a lovely voice.

Pastors, Preachers, Lay Leaders: No matter how good the sermon, if it doesn’t include a clear exposition of how Jesus paid the price for our sins and we are forgiven because of what he did, not because of our feeble efforts to do good works, how he suffered, died, and rose again. . . well, you’ve just brought everyone together for coffee hour and singing.

The theme of our church magazine this month is also about debt. You can read that at

Saturday, October 02, 2004

174 The Presbyterians and the Westminster Confession

Chapter 8, Christ the Mediator

I. It pleased God, in his eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only-begotten Son, to be the Mediator between God and men, the prophet, priest, and king; the head and Savior of the Church, the heir or all things, and judge of the world; unto whom he did, from all eternity, give a people to be his seed, and to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified. . .

IV. This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake, which, that he might discharge, he was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfill it; endured most grievous torments immediately in his soul, and most painful sufferings in his body; was crucified and died; was buried, and remained under the power of death, yet saw no corruption. On the third day he arose from the dead, with the same body in which he suffered; with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father, making intercession; and shall return to judge men and angels, at the end of the world.

V. The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, which he through the eternal Spirit once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of his Father; and purchased not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto him.

VI. Although the work of redemption was not actually wrought by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefits thereof were communicated into the elect, in all ages successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices wherein he was revealed, and signified to be the seed of the woman, which should bruise the serpant's head, and the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world, being yesterday and today the same and for ever.

VII. Christ, in the work of mediation, acteth according to both natures; by each nature doing that which is proper to itself; yet by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes, in Scripture, attributed to the person denominated by the other nature.

VIII. To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same; making intercession for them, and revealing unto them, in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation; effectually persuading them by his Spirit to believe and obey; and governing their hearts by his Word and Spirit; overcoming all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdom, in such manner and ways as are most consonant to his wonderful and unsearchable dispensation.

173 The Gospel according to the Methodists

"The Methodist Articles of Religion" Discipline of 1808

There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body or parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the maker and preserver of all things, both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity-the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

The Son, who is the Word of the Father, the very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father, took man's nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin; so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one person, never to be divided; whereof is one Christ, very God and very Man, who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men.

Christ did truly rise again from the dead, and took again his body, with all things appertaining to the perfection of man's nature, wherewith he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth until he return to judge all men at the last day.

The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty, and glory with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God.

Friday, October 01, 2004

172 The Gospel according to the Mennonites

There is nothing in Christian literature more uplifting and inspiring than the pure and simple Gospel. Different Christian traditions may quibble on details, but agree on the basics. The following is from the Mennonite Tradition.

We believe and confess further, that when the time of the promise, for which all the pious forefathers had so much longed and waited, had come and was fulfilled, this previously promised Messiah, Redeemer, and Savior, proceeded from God, was sent, and, according to the prediction of the prophets, and the testimony of the evangelists, came into the world, yea, into the flesh, was made manifest, and the Word, Himself became flesh and man; that He was conceived in the virgin Mary, who was espoused to a man named Joseph, of the house of David; and that she brought Him forth as her first-born son, at Bethlehem, wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger. John 4:25; 16:28; 1 Timothy 3:16; John 1:14; Matthew 1:23; Luke 2:7.

We confess and believe also, that this is the same whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting, without beginning of days, or end of life; of whom it is testified that He Himself is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the first and the last; that He is the same, and no other, who was foreordained, promised, sent, and came into the world; who is God's only, first and own Son; who was before John the Baptist, before Abraham, before the world; yea, who was David's Lord, and the God of the whole world, the first-born of every creature; who was brought into the world, and for whom a body was prepared, which He yielded up as a sacrifice and offering, for a sweet savor unto God, yea, for the consolation, redemption, and salvation of all mankind. John 3:16; Hebrews 1:6; Romans 8:32; John 1:30; Matthew 22:43; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 10:5.

But as to how and in what manner this precious body was prepared, and how the Word became flesh, and He Himself man, in regard to this we content ourselves with the statement pertaining to this matter which the worthy evangelists have left us in their accounts, according to which we confess with all the saints, that He is the Son of the living God, in whom alone consist all our hope, consolation, redemption, and salvation, which we neither may nor must seek in any other. Luke 1:31, 32; John 20:31; Matthew 16:16.

We furthermore believe and confess with the Scriptures, that, when He had finished His course, and accomplished the work for which He was sent and came into the world, He was, according to the providence of God, delivered into the hands of the unrighteous; suffered under the judge, Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead, was buried, and on the third day, rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven; and that He sits on the right hand of God the Majesty on high, whence He will come again to judge the quick and the dead. Luke 22:53; 23:1; 24:6, 7, 51.

And that thus the Son of God died, and tasted death and shed His precious blood for all men; and that He thereby bruised the serpent's head, destroyed the works of the devil, annulled the handwriting and obtained forgiveness of sins for all mankind; thus becoming the cause of eternal salvation for all those who, from Adam unto the end of the world, each in his time, believe in, and obey Him. Genesis 3:15; 1 John 3:8; Colossians 2:14; Romans 5:18.
Dordrecht Confession. Canadian Mennonite Encyclopedia