Musings of a Recovering Lutheran: August 2010
O LORD, God of my salvation,
         I have cried out day and night before You.
Let my prayer come before You;
         Incline Your ear to my cry. 

Psalm 88:1-2 (NKJV)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Today's verse

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.


Psalm 51:10-12 (NLT)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Today's verse

I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

Galatians 1:11-12 (NIV)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

An experiment

I have decided to enable comments for this blog. For now all comments will be moderated, which means that it may be a while before you see it posted.

Note: I have created a "dummy" follower called Withhold Name. I will use this account from time to time to check my blog settings.

Today's verse

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land where there is no water.


Psalm 63:1 (NIV)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Witnesses to the faith: Sonja Olsen and Abby Johnson

Sonja Olsen is a sidewalk counselor for the Brazos Valley Coalition for Life. Abby Johnson is a former director of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas, who now works to save the lives of the unborn. I have videos of their stories on the sidebar to the right.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
Before you were born I sanctified you;
I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”


Jeremiah 1:5 (NKJV)



Please pray for Sonja and Abby.

Formation of the North American Lutheran Church (NALC)



The North American Lutheran Church has been established.

When the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) voted in August of 2009 to establish church ceremonies blessing homosexual marriage and to ordain non-celibate gays and lesbians, many Lutherans (including my wife and I) were upset. We had in effect been handed a unilateral divorce decree by the leadership of the ELCA. It is impossible to be faithful to the clear teachings of the Gospel against sexual immorality and remain in the ELCA.

But it was not just the ELCA's tragic decision of last August that prompted the formation of a new denomination. The NALC is a response to a wide variety of non-Christian practices and beliefs that are now the primary focus of the ELCA's leadership. As the ELCA drifted away from the God of Abraham in favor of a new god of secular political activism, there was a cry by Lutherans within the ELCA for a church that remained faithful. The NALC is an effort to be that church.

Please pray for the leadership of the NALC in their enormously difficult task. Please continue to pray for the repentance of the leadership of the ELCA, that they may come to reject their new false god of politics and rediscover the Gospel.

Disclaimer: my wife and I are presently attending a church that is associated with the Southern Baptists (how we ended up there is a long story). So in a sense we no longer have a dog in this fight. But any efforts by Christians to re-establish the supremacy of Scriptures in the face of falsehood needs our prayers and support.

Today's verse

Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end.

Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.

Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.

Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.


Psalm 119:33-36 (NIV)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sweet P's: The beginning of a new semester



Lord, in these final days before the start of a new semester, I ask for Your blessing. I thank you for the opportunity to teach. Bless all of the students, my colleagues, the school staff and administration.

Open the minds of my students so that they may receive the knowledge they will need. Protect them from accidents, sickness and violence. I thank you for their families who have nurtured and supported them. Help me to always remember that each of my students is a son, daughter, niece, nephew, or grandchild of someone. Please give me the patience and wisdom to deal with each student.

Amen.

Today's verse

Then Samuel said to all the people of Israel, “If you are really serious about wanting to return to the Lord, get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtoreth. Determine to obey only the Lord; then he will rescue you from the Philistines.” So the Israelites got rid of their images of Baal and Ashtoreth and worshiped only the Lord.

1 Samuel 7:3-4 (NLT)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Today's verse

"Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

Joshua 24:14-15 (NIV)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Today's verse

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Ephesians 5:25-33 (NIV)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Courage

This post at Tea with Tiffany is about the sexual abuse of children. Be warned: you will not be able to read it and come away unchanged.

Please pray for all victims of sexual violence everywhere.

It's not just about homosexuality...

......it's about the subordination of Biblical authority in the church to secular political pressure (hat-tip: Rev. Paul McCain at Cyberbrethren).



Some of the comments at Rev. McCain's site complained about the heavy-handed sarcasm employed in the video, and I agree with them. Nevertheless, the video is a good one since it reveals the incredibly weak reasoning that went into the ELCA radical decision of last August to bless gay/lesbian "marriages" and ordain non-celibate homosexuals.

Today's verse

The hand of the LORD came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” So I answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.”

Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD.”’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.

Also He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.”’” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.


Ezekiel 37:1-10 (NKJV)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Today's verse

Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.


Psalm 95:1-2 (NIV)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Today's verse

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.

Ephesians 5:8-13 (NKJV)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bible translation in Tanzania

The Bible Society is translating the Bible into the Kikagulu language.

It is rare to find someone in Tanzania who does not speak Kiswahili (the national language). Nevertheless, such individuals do exist. The Bible Society does God's work in spreading the Gospel by translating into the languages people can understand.

The widespread use of Kiswalili in Tanzania is the result of efforts by Tanzania's first President, the late Julius K. Nyerere.

Please pray for Bible translators everywhere.

Today's verse

Hear my cry, O God;
Attend to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.


Psalm 61:1-2 (NKJV)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Witnesses to the faith: North Korea

North Korea has executed three leaders of the underground church and jailed 20 other Christians, reports a news agency focused on Asia.

Please pray for Christians in North Korea.

Sweet P's: A prayer for Tanzania



Almighty and gracious Heavenly Father, we lift up before You the people of Tanzania. We ask that you bless them and protect them during this election year. Bless all of the candidates running for office and their families. Give them the wisdom and courage to govern in the ways that are pleasing to You. Protect the people from violence and unrest, and help them to remember that they should put their hope and trust in You and not the princes of this world.

Father, we ask a blessing upon the Christians who live on the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, and who are suffering persecution because of their faith in You. Protect them and defend them from suffering, yet let it be according to Your will. Turn the hearts of those who are persecuting them away from this evil and towards You. Let these Christians who suffer for Your sake be an inspiration to other Christians, and a light to those who do not yet know You.

Amen.

Today's verse

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

Colossians 2:8 (NIV)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Witness to the faith: Peter Masanja

Peter Masanja, a Christian leader, has been jailed in Zanzibar. It is ironic that in the US there is a heated debate about building a mosque at the Ground Zero site in New York City. Meanwhile, the mere rumor that a Christian church may be built in a predominantly Muslim area caused the arrest of Peter Masanja.

Please pray for all Christians in Tanzania.

Today's verse

Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.


And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”


Luke 17:11-19 (NKJV)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Today's verse

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

1 Peter 5:6-7 (NKJV)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Today's verse

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."

Mark 6:30-1 (NIV)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Today's verse

Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth — a stranger, not your own lips.

Proverbs 27:2 (NLT)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

"Cool" Christianity?

Brett McCracken wrote this interesting article about the dangers of making Christianity seem "hip" and trendy to attract younger worshippers. (Hat tip: Rev. Paul McCain at Cyberbrethren)

I have no problem with making Christian worship services more agreeable to the congregation. Truth be told, personally I find many traditional hymns downright dreadful. Some Christian worship services seem to be more like funerals rather than celebrations.

But I do draw the line at discarding the Gospel to suit culture or politics.

There seems to be a variety of lurid possibilities out there. In addition to the politically-correct goddess worship of "Herchurch", one can also find a pastor who describe sexual techniques in the pulpit. If that is not "edgy" enough for the would-be Christian, there is another pastor whose life was chronicled 24/7 via Webcam.

But all this poliicking and voyeurism raises three important questions. At what point does the church morph an episode of The Jerry Springer Show? How long will these thrill-seekers hang around if there is no new "cutting-edge" material to keep enticing them every week? And it it really showing inexperienced Christian converts Christian love when they are being deceived by a false version of Christianity?

Here is now Mr. McCracken sees it:

If the evangelical Christian leadership thinks that "cool Christianity" is a sustainable path forward, they are severely mistaken. As a twentysomething, I can say with confidence that when it comes to church, we don't want cool as much as we want real.

If we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it's easy or trendy or popular. It's because Jesus himself is appealing, and what he says rings true. It's because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched—and we want an alternative. It's not because we want more of the same.


Indeed. As Jesus Himself said:

I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice."

John 10:1-5 (NIV)

Today's verse

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Witnesses to the faith: Grace Ministries International missionaries

GMI missionaries support a vocational school, development center, and medical care to residents of Rukwa Valley in Tanzania.

Please pray for the GMI missionaries and the people of the Rukwa Valley.

Sweet P's - A prayer for schools



Lord, we thank You for the beauty of Your creation. We thank You for the beautiful world that You have given to us for our home.

Lord, we ask a special blessing upon those who will soon be returning to school. We ask that You bless students as they travel to and from school. Open their minds and heart to receive useful knowledge. Protect them from harm while they are away from home.

Lord, we ask for You to bless the teachers who will soon begin their work. Give them the patience and good health. We also ask that You bless their families.

Lord, we also ask You to to bless school administrators and school board trustees. We thank You for their gift of leadership. Help guide and protect those whom You have placed in authority over us.

Lord, we also ask for a blessing upon all who serve in schools. We thank You for volunteers and members of the community who agree to serve the faculty and staff of our schools.

Lord, we ask all this and so much more in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Today's verse

Then He said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.”

Luke 13:18-19 (NKJV)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Job bowled over by God's creation

God is not a remote god that winds up the Universe and then lets it run by itself while He attends to more important matters. God is head-over-heels in love with His creation, and constantly involves Himself with it.

In Job 38 God challenges Job with a series of questions about His creation, and demands that Job answer His questions:

1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said: 
2 "Who is this that darkens my counsel
with words without knowledge?

3 Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.

4 "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.

5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?

6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone-

7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?

8 "Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,

9 when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,

10 when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,

11 when I said, 'This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt'?

12 "Have you ever given orders to the morning,
or shown the dawn its place,

13 that it might take the earth by the edges
and shake the wicked out of it?

14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
its features stand out like those of a garment.

15 The wicked are denied their light,
and their upraised arm is broken.

16 "Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
or walked in the recesses of the deep?

17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
Have you seen the gates of the shadow of death?

18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all this.

19 "What is the way to the abode of light?
And where does darkness reside?

20 Can you take them to their places?
Do you know the paths to their dwellings?

21 Surely you know, for you were already born!
You have lived so many years!

22 "Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
or seen the storehouses of the hail,

23 which I reserve for times of trouble,
for days of war and battle?

24 What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed,
or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?

25 Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
and a path for the thunderstorm,

26 to water a land where no man lives,
a desert with no one in it,

27 to satisfy a desolate wasteland
and make it sprout with grass?

28 Does the rain have a father?
Who fathers the drops of dew?

29 From whose womb comes the ice?
Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens

30 when the waters become hard as stone,
when the surface of the deep is frozen?

31 "Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades?
Can you loose the cords of Orion?

32 Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons
or lead out the Bear with its cubs?

33 Do you know the laws of the heavens?
Can you set up God's dominion over the earth?

34 "Can you raise your voice to the clouds
and cover yourself with a flood of water?

35 Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
Do they report to you, 'Here we are'?

36 Who endowed the heart with wisdom
or gave understanding to the mind?

37 Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?
Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens

38 when the dust becomes hard
and the clods of earth stick together?


Job 38:1-38 (NIV)



God then ask Job about his knowledge of various living things. Notice that Job is eventually moved to humbleness by the beauty and majesty of God's creation.

I am like Job in this respect: when things seem their darkest, contemplation of the magnificent beauty and order of God's creation can lift my spirits.

This week, as school begins and summer turns to autumn, spend some time contemplating the beauty of God's creation.

Today's verse

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.


Romans 12:1-13 (NIV)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Witnesses to the faith: Sudan

World Gospel Mission will distribute a quarter of a million Bibles in southern Sudan next year.

Remember that mere possession of a Bible in Muslim-dominated areas of the world can be deadly. Please pray for the Christians engaged in this project, and for the people who will receive these Bibles.

News: Tanzania

Christians in Zanzibar prevented from building a church by government officials, Muslims.

Tanzania was formed in 1964 when the mainland (at the time called Tanganyika) was merged with the islands (Zanzibar and Pemba being the largest). The article contains a good short summary of the tensions between the mostly Christian mainland and the mostly Islamic islands.

I know from experience that the government officials in the islands are largely under the influence of fundamentalist Muslims, who often have veto power over law enforcement. During the holy month of Ramadan, radical Muslims have been known to drag non-Muslims from their homes for eating while Muslims are fasting. Churches have been attacked, and Christians have been beaten with no response from the police. Religious freedom, which is supposed to be a right of all Tanzanians, is largely unknown in the islands.

Please pray for all Christians living in the shadow of persecution.

Update on Fathima Rifqa Bary

Fathima Rifqa Bary is now 18 and is no longer in the custody of the state of Ohio.

Today's verse

Once again Jesus began teaching by the lakeshore. A very large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat in the boat while all the people remained on the shore. He taught them by telling many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:

“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died. Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” Then he said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”


Mark 4:1-9 (NLT)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Interview with Rodney Stark

This is an interesting article about the decline of liberal American Protestantism.

(Hat-tip: Rev. Paul McCain)

Witness to the faith: Fathima Rifqa Bary

Fathima Rifqa Bary, a Muslim teenager who converted to Christianity, turns 18 years old today. She had been fighting a protracted legal battle to avoid being returned to her parent's custody against her will.

Rifqa Bary said she feared she would be killed by members of her family after she became a Christian. Given the case of Amina and Sarah Said, and the death of Aasiya Hassan, her concerns are not unwarranted.

Fathima also is suffering uterine cancer, and still faces a complicated legal situation because of her immigration status. Please pray for her and all other Christians fleeing persecution and death.

Marvel at God's creation

Slideshow of the planet Mars.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?

Psalm 8: 3-4 (NIV)

Exchanging religions

Usually I avoid publications like the Washington Post and the New York Times. The bias in their news reporting is rather obvious (the science and technology articles tend to be particularly inaccurate), and reflects a secular progressive worldview that I do not share. Under the American Constitution they are free to write whatever they wish, and I am free to get my information from more accurate sources.

However, this Post article caught my eye: Julia Roberts is Hindu: Is America ready for a Hindu sweetheart?

Aside from a bit of artistic license in the article's title - just how does an actress go about becoming "America's Sweetheart", anyway? - the premise of the article is that American Christians would be scandalized if they knew that Roberts is a Hindu.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth Tenety (the writer of the article) seems to be suffering from a bit of cultural amnesia. Robert's co-star in the wildly-popular movie Pretty Woman was heartthrob Richard Gere. Gere is a Buddhist, a fact that has been known for a long time and does not seemed to have injured his career.

There were two interesting passages in the article. The first is:

[Julia] Roberts' seek-and-ye-shall-find spirituality is actually quite reflective of American religious practice: 44 percent of Americans currently identify with a different religious tradition than the one in which they were raised.


The second is:

Aseem Shukla, On Faith Panelist and co-founder of the Hindu-American Foundation, pointed in a recent post to the examples of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley (both converts to Christianity --Jindal from Hinduism, Haley from Sikhism) as evidence that association with Dharma traditions is a public liability.


There seems to be a contradiction here. Tenety celebrates "seek-and-ye-shall-find spirituality" as a good thing. Yet she portrays the decision by Governor Jindal and gubenitorial candidate Nikky Haley to become Christianity as calculated political moves to avoid prejudice. In doing so she unconsciously echos the widely-held belief in the secular media that Christianity is some sort of political tool instead of a set of religious beliefs.

This prejudice is not confined to journalists in the secular media. In a separate Post article Shukla go so far as to suggest that Haley converted to Christianity for political reasons, although in fact she became a Christian long before she ran for office.

Perhaps both Tenety and Shukla should consider an alternative explanation: Haley and Jindal converted to Christianity because they believe it to be true. Is that so improbable?

Today's verse

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

James 1:27 (NLT)

Monday, August 09, 2010

News: Iran

Reports say Iran's Baha'i leaders "sentenced".

Please pray for Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm.

Today's verse

Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him,and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding?



Isaiah 40:13-4 (NIV)

Sunday, August 08, 2010

News: Indonesia

Radical groups that promote violence in the name of religion should be suspended or disbanded, say young Indonesian Muslims attending a conference on pluralism.

Please pray for the people of Indonesia.

News: Lutheran churches in Tanzania

Tanzanian Lutheran Churches continue to see growth.

Witnesses to the faith: UK

Hate laws target UK Christians.

Please pray for Christians in the UK.

Heard on the radio

On the way to church this morning, my wife and I heard this Bible verse on the radio:

God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:17 (NLT)

Today's verse

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
Give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations.


Psalm 100 (NIV)

Saturday, August 07, 2010

A story of faith

Read the remarkable story of Tracy Davis, who is walking the Continental divide alone as an act of faith.

Please pray for Tracy Davis and his family.

(The website for Inspire Women mentioned in the story is here.)

Quote

Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.

Gilbert K. Chesterton



(hat tip: Rev. Paul McCain)

Martyrs: Afghanistan

Ten members of a Christian medical team were slaughtered in Afghanistan by Taliban forces.

Please pray for the families of those who were slain.

Clergy involved in sham marraiges

Two clergymen suspended in East London sham marriage probe

The charge is that Reverend Brian Shipsides and the Reverend Elwon John were part of a conspiracy to help several Nigerians evade British immigration laws by performing fake marriages.

The artcle brought back some unpleasant memories. My wife is a legal immigrant from Tanzania. It is deeply distressing to us that there are members of the clergy willing to use their positions to help break US immigration laws through such contrivances as "sanctuary churches" and sham marriages.

The ELCA is a denomination prides itself on supporting illegal aliens in the US and in calling for "immigration reform". Yet when my wife and I requested help in obtaining a visa for my wife (we had just been married in her home country of Tanzania and were struggling mightily with the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam) the ELCA ignored our requests for assistance. As one fellow ELCA missionary put it, if my wife had been an illegal alien from Latin America the ELCA would have fallen over itself to help us. But because she was a legal immigrant, the ELCA could not have cared less, even though we were their missionaries.

Time has caused most of my anger to dissipate, although probably it will never go away entirely. But the fact remains that the ELCA is less a Christian church than a radical secular political party run for the benefit of the greedy few. The ELCA cares most about political causes. People, not so much.

Arabic edition of New International Version Bible

New Arabic NIV Study Bible awaits printing

Please pray for all Christians in Islamic countries.

Today's verse

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling.


Psalm 46 1-3 (NKJV)

Friday, August 06, 2010

Honor killings in America

This evening Fox News plans to air a story about the honor killings of Amina and Sarah Said.

The secular press, government, and many Christian leaders are afraid to speak out, and even deny that this might be going on. Yet this is not the first time this issue has arisen in America.

Prayers and healing

This is not news to many Christians, but it is nice to see the secular press taking notice.

Pray without ceasing, Christian brothers and sisters.

Sweet P's

(There is an interesting meme over at Tea With Tiffany, which I urge you to check out.)



Almighty and gracious Heavenly Father,

I thank you, Lord of Life, for the many blessings that You have given me. I thank You for my beautiful wife, who is the rock of my life. I thank You for our son, who who is our pride and joy.

I thank You for the chance to be a teacher. I thank You for my students who have taught me so much. I thank you for my wonderful colleagues.

I thank You for the many friends and family in my life. I thank You for the chance to serve you in the countries of Tanzania and America.

Lord of Life, I place my fears and concerns in Your care. Help me to remember that Your burden is easy, and Your yoke is light.

Lord of Life, we thank You for the many faithful witnesses to Your Truth. I especially thank You for Tiffany and her Sweet P's project, and I ask that You bless her family and the works of her hands.

Almighty God, these are troubling times. For all Christians everywhere I ask that You send an army of Your angels to surround, protect and comfort them. Bless those who do Your work, comfort those who mourn, strengthen those who doubt, and guide those who are earnestly seeking You.

Almighty God, the Church is in turmoil and filled with pain. I ask that You change the hearts of those who have used their official positions in the Church to exploit or steal, and that You comfort those who have been hurt by those leaders. I ask that You remove from power the false teachers and prophets who preach their own truth instead of Your Truth.

Gracious Father, I pray for the political leaders of America and other nations. I ask that you bless US President Barack Obama and his family, the Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and his family, and the Members of the Parliament of Tanzania.

Above all, help me to remember that it is Your will, and not mine, that must be the center of my life.

Amen

Leave God out of it

Over at RealClearPolitics.com, Tom Bevan has a plea: politicians should stop using God.

Amen to that! Maybe it is time for Christians to give up the notion that God wants prayer in public schools, or supports campaign finance reform, or supports immigration reform, or supports universal health care, or opposes the Iraq War, or wants the Ten Commandments displayed in public buildings, or opposes/supports tax cuts, or a host of other narrow partisan issues. Too many Christians have tried to forcibly enlist God on their side in political arguments (I am looking at you, Jim Wallis and Pat Robertson!).

Are you listening ELCA?

Salvation and the malfunctioning car

Pastor Chicana and Global Partners missionary Jim Pickett wind up stranded in Pemba, Mozambique hours from their destination - and help to lead a Mozambique man and his wife to Christ.

Who says God does not work in mysterious ways? He spoke to Moses through a burning bush, and He used a broken-down car to help spread His word.

Please pray for Pastor Chicana, Jim Pickett and his family, and the husband and wife that became our new brother and sister in Christ.

Today's verse

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

Proverbs 16:25 (NIV)

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Science and the Bible: Goliath's home

Archaeologists Uncover Goliath's Hometown

Witnesses to the faith: India

Christians in India are under constant threat of attack, as this assault on St. Emmanuel Church shows.

Please pray for Christians in India.

Witnesses to the faith: Iraq

Iraq is a deadly place for Christians, as the kidnapping of Iraqi businessman Yonan Daniel Mammo demonstrates.

Please pray for Iraqi Christians.

Don't judge us; we'll judge you

This is an odd article:

Tebow's devotion to faith divides Broncos fans

Key quote:

It's Tebow's eagerness to share his Christian values and beliefs that really irks [Michelle Olson].

"That's why I hate him," she said.


The title of the article is what I found unusual. Ms. Olson's anti-Tebow comments are the only ones the author of the article saw fit to print (the rest of the people quoted were quite positive). A few of the remarks in the newspaper's comments section are nuclear-hot in their hatred of Tebow's Christian faith. One would this they were talking about Michael Vick or O.J. Simpson instead of someone who has never broken the law.

Tim Tebow's parents were missionaries. Tim and his mother participated in a highly successful ad run during this year's Super Bowl:



I suspect that at least part of Ms. Olson's wrath is because of this pro-life ad. One of her comments recorded in the article was, "It's my personal opinion that if you don't have a uterus, you don't have a right to express an opinion about abortion." Interesting. Does that mean that if you are not a perpetrator or victim of (say) child abuse you cannot express an opinion on the subject?

There is an irony in watch the world denounce Christianity as being "intolerant", yet remain oblivious to their own displays of intolerance against Christians like Tim Tebow. By all means hold Christians accountable when they do not live up to what they profess. But the world is also subject to the same treatment for failing to live up to its own standards. That is the problem with "judging" - it is a double-edged sword. Too many Christians and opponents of Christianity relish the role of Pharisee and have enjoyed the judging-someone-else part, but object when the tables are turned. The attitude of the world towards Christians seems to be Don't judge us; we'll judge you instead.

I have a problems with the modern-day use of the word "judge". Is speaking out against evil "judging"? No more than saying two plus two equals four. When Christians know about evil in their own ranks (such as criminal activity or false doctrines) they have a special duty to speak out. "Judge not, lest ye be judged" should never be used as some sort of theological Get Out of Jail Free card.

Perhaps this Bible verse sums up the situation best:

And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

Mark 13:13 (NKJV)

Today's verse

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

Matthew 7:24-7 (NIV)

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Witness to the faith: Julea Ward

Julea Ward, a graduate student studying counseling at Eastern Michigan University, was dismissed from the program for refusing to renounce her Christian beliefs on homosexuality.

At public universities the US is slowly moving towards a religious litmus test for admission and graduation. Students like Julea who do not adhere to state-approved religious beliefs will be punished. It is ironic that many of the same individuls who denounce the tactics of Senator Joe McCarthy are either silent in cases like this, or actively support this type of persecution.

Please pray for Christians everywhere who are the victims of state-sponsored persecution.

Interview: Ayaan Hirsi Ali

This is an interesting interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. But what I found particularly fascinating was her call for Christians to try to convert Muslims living in the West:

Next to every mosque, build a Christian centre, an enlightenment centre, a feminist centre. There are tons of websites, financed with Saudi money, promoting Wahabism. We need to set up our own websites—Christian, feminist, humanist—trying to target the same people, saying, we have an alternative moral framework to Islam. We have better ideas.


Hirsi Ali is a self-professed atheist, so it is odd that she would be calling for Christians to proselytize to Muslims. She believes that the West is at war with Islam, and that non-Muslims need to fight Islamic ideas with other ideas.

There is some truth to what she says. Contrary to what many multiculturalists would like to believe, Islam is a imperialistic religion that is radically intolerant of opposing points of view. Isolated cases aside, Muslims living in predominantly Christian nations do not face (even remotely) the same level of persecution and abuse that Christians face living in predominantly Muslim countries. Some sort of opposition can and should be mounted.

But converting Muslims to escape the excesses of the Islamic faith is a barren goal. Christians should proselytize to Muslims (and non-Muslims) because everyone need to hear the Gospel and decide for themselves about Jesus.

Witnesses to the faith: Indonesia

Muslim Protestors Surround Worshipers in Bekasi, Indonesia

Please pray for the Christians of Batak Christian Protestant Church.

Some changes

I have added labels for each post. This will help me when I need to refer to something I have written previously.

(UPDATE: 4:00PM) I have changed the title of this blog. The new title Musings of a Recovering Lutheran is a more accurate description of what this blog is all about.

Global South gaining in influence

A study done by Oxford Analytica shows that Christian leaders from Africa, Asia, and Latin America are gaining influence in Catholic and Protestant churches.

This should surprise no one, since churches from the Global South are on the front lines (literally) of the conflict between Christianity and other religions. In many parts of the world to be a Christian is to make yourself a target for persecution, torture and death. Contrast that situation with many Western denominations, which have become lazy and complacent in the freedoms unimaginable to many Christians worldwide. Some Western denominations like the ELCA and the Episcopal Church USA are essentially post-Christian, concerned primarily with secular political redemption rather than the Kingdom of God.

The news is not all good, however. Some Christian leaders from the Global South are deeply involved in the heresy of "liberation theology". For the most part, liberation theology is a thuggish variation of the social gospel that is still popular in dying mainline Protestant denominations. The difference between the social gospel and liberation theology is that the latter is unquestionably more bloodthirsty in persecuting "enemies of the people" than the former.

For better or worse, the center of gravity of Christianity seems to be shifting away from America and Europe and towards Africa, Asia, and Latin America. It is not out of the question that one day the Global South will be sending missionaries to the unbelieving West. Given the growing unbelief in many mainline Protestant denominations this will probably happen sooner rather than later.

Today's verse

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV)

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Witness to the faith: Jennifer Keeton

Jennifer Keeton, a graduate student who has been studying for a master's degree in school counseling at Augusta State University, was ordered by the school to change her Christian beliefs concerning homosexuality or face dismissal.

Pray for Jennifer and other college students in the US who face persecution for their faith.

Update on Dr. Kenneth Howell

The University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana has relented and will allow Dr. Kenneth Howell to teach on Catholicism. Dr. Howell, a popular teacher, was fired for expressing the views of the Catholic Church in a class about Catholicism.

This case was truly bizarre. It made as much sense as firing a physics professor for talking about General Relativity, or a history professor for mentioning the Civil War. Likely the humiliating publicity caused the university to back down.

Make no mistake about it: at many public universities the long knives are out for Christians and any who would defend them. The princes of this world are jealous of their power.

Today's verse

He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.

Proverbs 25:28 (KJV)

Monday, August 02, 2010

The limits of social science

This article by Jim Manzi is only indirectly related to Christianity. But it is a sobering reminder of the limits of the social sciences.

It is good to remember that when sweeping programs that will modify human behavior and create some sort of "Great Society" are proposed. Too many theologians think that creating Heaven on Earth is something that God has outsourced to humanity.

Of course we are to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and clothe the naked. But we cannot create the Kingdom of God ourselves or usher it in by force. We can only proclaim its inevitable coming.

Today's verse

Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.

Proverbs 25:25 (NIV)

"How long, O' Lord....

...will this blog go on?"

This blog was meant to be an on-line diary in which I could express my grief and frustration with the apostasy of the ELCA. It was also a chance to write about spiritual issues that I found important and/or interesting.

But it will not go on forever. Like any diary, it will never be finished, only abandoned.

It is my prayer that other Lutherans who are distressed over the ELCA's destructive course and who have stumbled upon this blog will find comfort in the knowledge that they are not alone.

So how long will this blog go on?

It is clear that (barring complete black disaster) the ELCA prefers to glory in its error rather than be ashamed and repent. I and many others could write and plead and nag and beg forever, but until the leadership of the ELCA starts to feel shame and remorse they will not listen. So using this blog as a kind of conscience to prod the ELCA is not an option.

The answer is this: I will blog until I am tired of it, or until I see that it is causing more harm than good.

Two notes:

  1. I do not have comments on this blog, and probably never will. Part of this is because I do not have time to properly moderate comments, but also because I have seen other blogs overrun with comments like "Why do you hate gays and lesbians so much?" or "Hate is not a family value" or other passive-aggressive nonsense. Gays and lesbians are like adulterers, alcoholics (I am one), drug addicts, prostitutes, tax collectors, the rich, the poor, the old, the young, Republicans and Democrats, men and women - sinners in need of a Savior, not magistrates empowered by secular politics or popular culture to judge God and run His Church for Him.


  2. I am experimenting with the design of this blog, and have not found one that I like yet. So if things change suddenly and without warning, do not be surprised.


Pray for the whole Body of Christ. Pray for the leadership of the ELCA, that they repent. Pray for faithful Christians who have chosen to remain in the ELCA. Pray for faithful Christians who have chosen to leave the ELCA. Pray for the efforts to form a new confessional Lutheran denomination that will serve as a refuge for Christians fleeing the apostasy of the ELCA and its obsession with secular politics.

Atheists, agnostics, and blow-dryers

This is just plain weird:

Atheists conduct de-baptisms using blow-dryers.

I am a lapsed atheist, and in reading the above story I have come to realize just how far modern-day atheism has fallen.

Once upon a time atheism and agnosticism could boast of top-notch intellectuals in its midst like Thomas Edison, Sigmund Freud, Pierre Curie, Bertrand Russell, Friedrich August von Hayek, and Karl Popper. Now they are stuck with Edwin Kagin and his blow-dryer performing "de-baptisms".

There is no small amount of irony in watching an atheist - who supposedly does not believe in God and who abhors superstitious rituals - performing a superstitious ritual wearing a monk's robe trying to counteract the effects of another superstitious ritual done on behalf of a God he does not believe exists. If I were still an atheist I would suspect that Kagin (whose son is a Christian minister) is some sort of Christianist plant designed to make non-believers look like idiots.

There is an interesting list of non-believers here. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the list (some of it appears to be wishful thinking), but it seems generally accurate. But if you look at the list, you will notice something curious. Atheism's "A-list" of top notch intellectuals decreases as it gets closer to our time, and is replaced by mostly artists and entertainers like Gene Roddenberry (the creator of Star Trek) and Barry White (a singer). The much vaunted intellectual superiority that non-believers are supposed to have compared to theists seems to be gone.

(Some may wonder why I did not include the famous author Richard Dawkins. The reason is simple: I have concluded that Dawkins is not an atheist, or even an agnostic. He quite clearly believes in God, and he hates Him with every particle of his being. No one would write book after book obsessing over something he claims is not real. Nazis may hate Jews, but we would never say that Nazis do not believe Jews exist. The same goes for Dawkins. In fact, sometimes I wonder if he ever thinks about anything other than God.)

Before I lost my faith in atheism I believed that the Universe could be explained in purely materialistic terms. It was reading C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters that awakened my intellect, and after reading Miracles I had lost my atheism for good. In other words, my spiritual journey has its genesis (no pun intended) in science.

At any rate, it is hard to believe that "de-baptisms" are going to catch on. Consider this quote from the article:

As Cambridge [Boxterman] completed her de-baptism, she expressed no qualms about how it might be perceived. "Sometimes you've got to have shock value," she said. "There's some times where you just have to shock people into getting attention and from there, they ask questions... And maybe they learn a bit."


Indeed, although they probably won't learn what Ms. Boxterman and Kagin are hoping for. The problems with shock jocks is that their shelf life tends to be very short. Given the undeniable hatred expressed towards Christians in many Muslim countries (which can lead to imprisonment, rape and murder), Kagin's blow-dryer shtick is about as edgy as a cotton ball.

In a popular culture that seems to be in a competition to blaspheme Jesus, Kagin does not strike me as a major contender. Nor do I believe that popular culture is a major threat to Christianity. Perhaps I am too optimistic, but I do not believe Hollywood does not have has the influence they would like to think they have. The real threat to Christianity does not come from those who are doing little more than scrawling dirty words on the bathroom wall and giggling (think Comedy Central).

If you want to know what I consider to be the real threats to Christianity, then here they are: complacency and hypocrisy by Christians; those claiming to be Christians who want to modify Christian doctrines to satisfy secular political or cultural groups (ex: the ELCA and gays/lesbians); and government and educational authorities who demand obedience to the State and the official gods of the State.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Today's verse

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)