Lutheran Central's blog

Fire and passion

Fire and passion or complacent and in neutral? In many ways and in many countries Lutherans have sacrificed, shared and planted the good news of real life connected to a real loving Jesus, all around the world. But now we are cutting worldwide mission budgets and growing our local churches in America smaller and smaller by the day. I don't think the problem is that we need a lot more fire alarm devices in our churches.

I am not sure if members are aware of these events, puzzled about the significance of these events or they are unsure about how to approach the issues? The poll section on this site reveals that few members or pastors believe our current church leaders are heading the right direction. They don't think we are in neutral - they think we are in reverse! Most people I communicate with have not lost their appetite for or apptitude for sharing the good news. So where is the problem? Are we ready to send up some flares and look for solutions. I hope so! Its critical and so worthwhile. It may require some sacrifice. Look at Luther's struggles when he asked questions. Asking the tough questions is never easy. But riding the miserable road to decline is not easy either! Let's start with questions and sending up a few flares!

The Global Table

Easter evening brought some quiet and allowed me to check on the statistics for LutherCentral over the past months. I was humbled and honored to see the steady growth in the number of visitors every month. March was the highest ever in terms of unique visitors to the site.

But even more humbling and important was the number of visitors from all around the world. It made me pause when I saw of all the different Lutherans and kinds of Lutherans from the various countries who came to visit. Thanks to web tracking, the statistics pages show visitors from each country and which pages they visit.  No doubt each person, regardless of their country, came looking for specific Lutheran resources or connections. The realities of a kind of common Lutheran community — across national boundaries, spanning different cultures, and between rich and poor looking to find and share resources is awesome. How do we share resources together in ways that respect our differences yet bring tangible effects and closer connections?

The readings from the Last Supper where Christ shared His love freely and without reservation gives me a clue. The disciples around the table were not all that cooperative to each other or even to their Lord! Yet they were all invited, all shown love. And all except one went out and invited others to feast on Christ's love. We do share a common faith, which unites us and asks us to love one another as He did. Thanks be to God that we can all sit at His table regardless of national origin.

Churches that sit on thier duff

Churches that sit on their duff

The church which sits and waits -- hoping the world will notice it -- is destined to disappear. There are simply too many voices, choices and options in our society. No doubt many people in your church's neighborhood probably don't even know what happens at your church -- even if they drive past it every day. And if they see your members just sitting, they may not be impressed either:)

The rallying cry comes straight from Jesus: "Go out in the highways and the byways, and compel them to come in" (Luke 14:23). Hard to do, with today's busy, media overwhelmed, preoccupied adults. LutheranCentral wants to help your congregation spark ideas what Lutherans are trying in their communities. Tell us what works for you too. We invite you to take a peek at some of these ideas: Evangelism Idea Center One woman remarked, "I use them every day - they are wonderful!"

 

Lent, cracking open hard hearts

Lent, cracking open hard hearts


An elderly Lutheran, was asked what he was giving up for Lent. He replied with painful eyes, 'Are you kidding? Give up? Half of the things I used to be able to do, I can't do anymore. I ache, I have a hard time sleeping. I've given up more than enough. I'd like to start getting back."

As early as the 450 AD, Christians began observing a time of preparation before the Easter celebration. The Lenten season began on Ash Wednesday and lasts for 40 days. The forty days of Lent are symboloic of the 40 day fast of Jesus in the wilderness after his baptism (Matthew 4:2, Luke 4:1-2) and Moses' 40 day fast on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:28). It is a time of simplicity and preparation.  

A hungry stomach from fasting, a mind engaged in prayer, a hand extended to help another - these are all intended as tools and preparation  in opening our hearts. The heart is like a 'tough mature black walnut' to crack. Think of this and allow Christ's tender love to ooze in through those cracks.  

"I think of Psalm 51:17 'A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.' Not only will God not despise a broken heart, but as Psalm 34 puts it, 'the Lord is close to the broken hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.'

The gentleman in our opening illustration who feels broken possibly can skip fasting and look longingly to our Lord on the cross who understands his human struggles and pains. For the rest of us, lets fast, pray, and sacrifice for others as we remember how much Jesus gave up for us - not just fasting in the wilderness but the excruciating pain leading to death for our sins. May this preparation properly prepare us to savor the joy of the resurrection.

A seat at the table

The world summit in Davos, Switzerand just finished. It is by invitation only to the individuals who occupy the world's seats of power and wealth. In past conferences participants were quick to brag they solved the worlds problems or at least properly discussed the major ones.

This year was different. There was little aggreement. They discussed joblessness, the economy and the bank bailouts. The jobless were not invited - nor were those who lost their pensions or who suffered mutual funds which lost 50% because of unethical or carless leaders, some of whom were at the summit.

Jesus was a little different. He spoke with those who were hurting directly. He even cried with those who lost a love one. He fed the hungry. When he set the arrangement for the last supper he even provided a space for Judas. He could have went to summits with Herods and Pharisees. He chose not to!

Summits are not bad! But summits without a voice and seat for those who are hurting and directly affected will probably never solve problems! In our churches and synods, who are we inviting to our summits?

Perhaps a self-assessment is in order. When people think of church leaders meetings, what do they most often think of? How can we hold our meetings where the thief on the cross has a voice .......or is at least considered?  Let's not limit the seats at our tables or meetings. In fact, lets do our best to set a table for all to experince Jesus.

A prayer for Haiti

Lord of mercy, we cry, pray, sympathize, and want to help our bothers and sisters in Haiti. Our prayer goes out first for the victims and survivors. Our compassion goes to all who suffer there, whatever their profession or creed.

In the aftermath of one of the most terrible tragedies that any of us can remember, we are comforted by the knowledge that you who knows when a sparrow falls to the ground also knew and loved each of those who died.

Prevent us from judging this event as a heavenly punishment. Keep us from a  certain self righteousness that tempts us to feel like maybe we were possibly intentionaly spared.

We especially pray that Lutheran and Christian relief workers can point survivors to your Bible, finding there the stories and witness of hope told by those who lived through beatings, imprisonment, famines, floods, and disasters to your glory.  May all who cry and mourn hear the promises of the gospel.

Lord, we have no words to answer the "why" which we feel deep inside, after such an event - no wisdom to explain away many unexplainable areas of life.

For those of us who can help, move us to gerousity. For those who are bringing aid, and those who await news, strengthen and encourage them we pray.

Into your pierced hands, Jesus, we bring the burdens of Haiti that only you can handle. For all you do and are doing, seen and unseen, gracious Lord, we give you thanks. AMEN

Evangelization or epiphanization?

Evangelization or epiphanization? The term evangelism seems to get a bad rap. Would it not be better to say we want to epiphanize our comunity? That was a question Pastor asked this morning during the sermon.

Jan 3 marked the beginning of Epiphany this year. In Western Christianity the discovery of Jesus by the 3 wise men is the focus. Essentially its like a light being turned on so we can see. Its new eye glasses for those in the world with poor eyes who have not yet seen Jesus. The Encarta World English Dictionary lists the following meanings

  • sudden realization: a sudden intuitive leap of understanding, especially through an ordinary but striking occurrence
  • appearance of god: the supposed manifestation of a divine being

The more I think about it Epiphany is a beautiful word. Its about light on our path when we stumble in the dark, its about Jesus showing up with love and compassion. Lets spend the season of Epiphany (until Feb 14) epiphanizing.

Need some ideas on how some Lutherans are trying to turn the light of Christ on in their communities? The outreach ideas link for all current and past featured ideas and links is: Evangelism resources

 

 

 


Imagine the angels singing a message to you

Imagine you were a shepard and angels came to sing a message to you.

"I bring you good news that will bring great Joy to all people". (Luke 2:10)

What is this good news that will bring joy to all people? The good news is: "The Savior - yes, the Messiah, the Lord - has been born tonight in Bethlehem." (Luke 2: 11)

This good news of the Savior, the Messiah, makes my joy a sure thing. There aren't many sure things in life. However because of Jesus, joy is no longer "occasional".  Quite frankly, there are some days that don't go very well. Sometimes I get bad news about my health, job or finances. But the kind of joy the Bible tells us about depends on Jesus alone! Joy is not an emotion. It is a person whose name is Jesus.

The Bible promises that joy is my strength, my fruit and my salvation. This good news is worth repeating again and again and again. I invite you to join us today in repeating to everyone you know and love and meet – "The Christchild's birthday is here!" Let's worship this week singing with gusto: "Joy to the world! The Savior reigns. Let men their songs employ. While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy, repeat, repeat, the sounding joy."

LutheranCentral wishes you and your family a joy filled Christmas and New Year.

All religions are the same

"All religions are the same"?

Often we hear the phrase "all religions are the same". If you are even remotely tempted to believe this, see the the news article Hindu Sacrifice of 250,000 Animals Begins

LutheranCentral links to Christian Headlines - News from Secular & Christian Sources This is only one of several pages that features down to earth, engaging news about Christian and religious events. For other interesting news pages go to Lutheran/Christian News Services

It is hard for me to imagine the mass slaughter and decapitation of over 10,000 water buffalo, just to show appease the Hindu goddess of power - Gadhimai. And what other 240,000 animals they will kill during this celebration? Chandan Dev Chaudhary, a Hindu priest, said he was pleased with the festival's high turnout this year. He insisted tradition had to be kept. "The goddess needs blood," he said. "Then that person can make his wishes come true."

What can we as Lutherans do to bring more of our brothers and sisters around the world the good news that Christ's blood has already paid for them in full?

Evangelical Wrestling

Evangelical Wrestling

When browsing LutheranCentral's category entitled Statistics, Research and Opinion, you'll find some well known names like George Barna. But recently we have rather enjoyed linking to Pew Research Center - a comprehensive fact and trend reporting center & Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life 

We found it fascinating that Pew, in their 'Religious Landsdcape ' section, classifies and reports US Lutherans in two very different categories.

  • "Evangelical Protestants"
  • and one major Lutheran group as simply 'mainline Protestant'.

It made me think. Whats the difference?

If Pew Research, as non-Lutherans, see this distinction perhaps we should take a look. After all, we can learn something from how outsiders see things (what did we learn from the wise men's perspective on Jesus?)

  • What would you say is an evangelical Lutheran?
  • What does it mean to be 'evangelical'?

 

Bible phones

We have added a new link to the Bible Seach and Study Tools section  The new link is to the company that distributes Bibles programs for your phone. Here the link:  Laridian Bible Software.  You can choose the version you want plus commentaries devotions and Bible studies. The price starts at about $50.00 for the bronze package that includes best-selling Bible translations (NIV, TNIV, etc.) with classic commentaries, dictionaries and devotionals. It's everything you need for everyday Bible reading and study. I have used them and am impressed at their service and ease of use.

They keep your purchase info online so if you have to change phones you can download a new copy without having to pay again.

We don't get a cent from them! Its just a tip to keep you closer to Scripture. 

Social networking

One of the principles in social networking is that when people are better connected, they are more individually and collectively productive, cohesive, and resilient. Scripture uses words like "all parts of one body" 1 Cor 12:12 and "carry each others burdens" - Galatians 6:2.  Being a follower of Christ doesn't just mean having our own spiritual burden lifted from our shoulders by Christ. It means actively seeking out those who need help, and shouldering their burdens with them. Service, empathy and connection to non-members is a critical part of the Christian faith. Agree or ????

The million $$$ question for Lutherans will be 'can we connect outside our present network'? Image courtesy of Google

 

Why are you facebooking with her?

One of the more interesting developments in the field of social sciences is the new science of social networks. This is the growing body of knowledge and practice about how organizations, communities, regions, industries, markets and peers behave as networks of collaboration, learning, and influence. Of course this practice not new. Who did Jesus collaborate with? Which communities and people did He dialogue with? Did he use only 'traditional' communication tools? What did the Jews, or even the disciples, think when Jesus 'facebooked'  Mary Magdalene or the Samaritan woman' outside the network?

 

Welcome to LutheranCentral's blog

Welcome to LutheranCentral's blog. Our stated goal is "connecting Lutherans" We could try to connect, 1 by 1. Or we could try to develop connections through the various Lutheran synods,  districts and departments. Unfortunately 'hierarchies' (churches not excluded) often have agenda's that tend build formal or informal walls. Synodical walls are not evil - they just are not helpful if ones goal is to connect wider than the one synod.

My second time on the "great wall". Nice to celebrate the folly of building costly walls that become useless!

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