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Timeless truth in a changing world

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Witness

Obsessed with Death

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A visitor to church might have wondered what was going on yesterday. All Saints Sunday is somewhat of an unusual one, as we remember with joy the deaths of those saints who have gone before us. In churches around the world, we took time to list the names of church members who have died within the past year. We even sing in gory detail about the deaths of the saints of old:

They have come from tribulation And have washed their robes in blood,
Washed them in the blood of Jesus; Tried they were, and firm they stood.
Mocked, imprisoned, stoned, tormented, Sawn asunder, slain with sword…
(TLH 471, v 3)

A glorious band, the chosen few, On whom the Spirit came,
Twelve valiant saints—their hope they knew And mocked the cross and flame.
They met the tyrant’s brandished steel, The lion’s gory mane;
They bowed their necks their death to feel—Who follows in their train?
(LSB 661, v 3)

Nice thing to be singing about with the kids, isn’t it? Being stoned, sawn in half, eaten by lions, burned to death, beheaded… Yep. Nothing to see here, folks. Just an ordinary church service, singing about various ways to die. What is it about Christians, that we’re so obsessed with death?

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Sand on the Seashore

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Last week we went to the beach for a couple days. The kids had a wonderful time splashing in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, jumping into the waves, finding seashells, and of course, playing in the sand. They dug holes, made sandcastles, and even had “sandball” fights. They had a blast. But afterward, the sand was everywhere. Despite my best efforts to rinse our bathing suits, shake out our towels, and beat the sand out of the floor mats of the van, we still managed to escape with a fair amount of sand. It was as if a fine layer of sand had settled over everything. When I washed our towels and bathing suits at home, there was so much sand on the bottom of the washing machine afterward that it took two damp paper towels to collect it all. It’s still all over the floor of the van. It’s probably in our suitcases too, so that when we open them next time we go on a trip it’ll be there to remind us of the beach. It’s like we just can’t get rid of this stuff.

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Where is God, Anyhow?

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It was a confounding problem. It was dinnertime, there were over 5000 hungry people, and they were in a desolate location with little to no food immediately available. So the disciples naturally urged Jesus to send everyone away to fend for themselves. They looked to Him to make things right, and He did. But not at all in the way they were expecting. He told them calmly, “You give them something to eat.” Um, Jesus? All we have here is five loaves and two fish. That won’t even feed the 13 of us. Still, Jesus meant what He said. He directed everyone to sit down on the grass, blessed the food, and had the disciples distribute it to everyone there. Incredibly, everyone was fed, and there were 12 baskets of leftovers. Way to go, Jesus! And clearly, yes, He deserves all the glory for the miracle. But there’s something we’re missing if we stop there—the role the disciples played.

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Who Do You Think Jesus Is?

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Who do you think Jesus is?

The question was addressed to my sixth grader in an email from a friend and classmate. “Mom, what should I write?” he asked me. Half a dozen responses popped into my head, but I bit my tongue. “What do you think you should write?” I asked instead. I wanted to see what he would come up with on his own. After all, it’s a fairly basic question for a Christian; one that any of us could be asked at any time. So how would you answer?

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Everything that Hinders

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I’m going through something of a mid-life crisis right now. Oh, don’t worry—I’m not running off to buy a cherry-red convertible. I wouldn’t be able to fit all my kids in it anyhow. Nor am I scheduling a facelift quite yet. It’s more of what you might call a time of reflection. Not long ago I attended the funeral of a woman who was twice my age. That was sobering. What if half of my life is already over? Am I living to my fullest potential? Then I thought about my kids. One of them only has four years left at home. Am I teaching him the skills he needs to be a responsible adult? Have I instilled strong morals? a strong work ethic? Have I equipped him to be a faithful witness to a world hostile to the Christian faith? Have I been a faithful witness? Has my life been fruitful and productive? Or have I been selfish with my time?

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How Luther Went Viral

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By all rights, the Ninety-Five Theses really oughtn’t to have had the impact they did. Martin Luther was a relatively unknown professor doing a completely ordinary thing for someone in the academic world of his day. There was nothing unique about him nailing these statements to the door of the local church in Wittenberg. He wasn’t looking to start a reformation. He was merely hoping to spark a bit of public debate among his colleagues regarding the practice of indulgences. Yet within a few short months, the Ninety-Five Theses had been reprinted in Nuremberg, Leipzig, and Basel. While the originals were printed in Latin, Nuremberg also reportedly published a German translation of his theses, which was unprecedented. Copies were being widely distributed and read by not only intellectuals, but also commoners. The higher-ups were taking notice of this small-town professor, realizing something had to be done about him before he rallied more people to his cause. He quickly became a household name. Put in today’s terminology, Luther went viral.

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Deadlines

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I’m convinced that little to nothing would get done in this world without deadlines. Houses would rarely get cleaned if guests weren’t stopping by, school projects wouldn’t be completed without a due date, and books wouldn’t get published without a deadline from the printer. I don’t know what it is about the human psyche, but we tend not to act until we know our time is limited. I may have a coupon for three months, but it’s not until the day before it expires that I get serious about redeeming it. I can get the hymns for a Sunday service on Tuesday, but it’s a pretty safe bet I won’t even look at them until Saturday night. I can steam mop the entire house in about an hour, but if the kids are in school, I will inevitably drag the chore out to last all day until I’m racing to finish in the final minutes before I have to leave to pick them up. And even though I have all week to write a blog post for Monday, I rarely ever work on it before Sunday afternoon. If I have time to waste, I’ll procrastinate with the best of them. When faced with a deadline, however, it’s time to get serious.

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Demons who Confess Christ

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I don’t know about you, but I’ve never met anyone suffering from demon possession. Yet a quick reading of the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, or Luke will show you numerous instances of Jesus driving out a demon from a person who is possessed. It seems to have been a common ailment back then. But even more intriguing is this fact: the demons know who Jesus is, and they confess Him as the Son of God.

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Why I Want My Kids to Fight

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(Author’s note: I originally wrote this article for the website Raising Godly Children, where it was published on March 19,2017. To read the article in its entirety, click the link here.)

My seventh grade son has a unique set of friends. A few “kind of” believe in a generic god out there, a few flat out don’t believe in God at all, a few aren’t sure what they believe, and then there’s my son. He’s grown up in the church, attended parochial schools until 5th grade, goes regularly to Sunday School, midweek (church) school, and confirmation class, and hears Bible stories and devotions at home as well. And thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit, he believes those biblical accounts. He has faith in Jesus and isn’t afraid to say so, even when all his friends are arguing against him. And argue they do. Religion is a regular topic of discussion at their lunch table. Yet despite the wide variety of views among them, they have a close bond and manage to stay friends even after a lively discussion. And to be honest, I couldn’t be happier that he’s fighting in school, because it’s already preparing him for life as an adult. (Continue reading.)

Photo is Fighting by Frederic C81

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