29 April 2005

Is the Church Dying?


This is the dirty unasked question many of us in traditional churches don't want to ask ourselves. Over the years there have been various "fixes" for churches. Go back to the50's and you will find a whole series of books on bus ministry. Yes, the churches would send out buses to pick up Sunday School kids and bring them to church. There were whole programs with songs, etc. Then high church services, charismatic services, dialogue evangelism, seeker services and so on. But inspite of glowing references from so-called experts, how much good did it do?
When did the slide begin? In the book, the Culture of Disbelief, the author (whose name I forget) asserts that the slide began in the 19th Century. His theory is simple: the problem is that the church would constantly change. First it was against something and now it was for it. For example, the church was against Christmas trees and the celebration of Christmas, and now it was pushing it. People began to wonder, what would change next? What did the church believe in?
How should the church react to demands for change? It is all too easy to simply let the culture determine what they wanted and then are we the church? Are we the consumer driven church or are we the church motivated by the Gospel of Christ? The problem is that we are not even asking the right question. Programs do not save people, Christ working through His people is what reaches the world.
Some of you will give the "I'll do anything in my church to save a soul!" answer, but what about making a commitment to someone. Programs don't reach people, people reach people. What the programs of the past mentioned but soon lost, is the need for personal involvement with someone else. Will you take time -- yes, your precious time in this overstressed time -- to commit to another person. Take time to take Christ to them and not just the ritual fellowship during the Divine Service. So before you ask someone the "Kennedy Questions," get to know them, their needs and fears, get to know what is important to them. And then growth happens, happens to everyone and even the church itself. Doc Steve

27 April 2005

God saved you through faith as an act of kindness.
You had nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from God.
It's not the result of anything you've done, so no one can brag about it.
(Ephesians 2:8-9, GW)

Dear ones,

I thought I'd begin this SteveUpdate with these verses, because these updates are now sent to more than 60 people who make up a very diverse group.

Some of us have long walked with Christ. Some of us are just getting started on that walk. And others of us are seekers, looking for answers to difficult life issues. But we all share a concern for Steve, as he courageously battles Stage IV colon cancer. And I share a concern for each of you, so that I earnestly and honestly convey to you both the reality of our “new normal” with its many ups and downs, and the eternal reality of God’s Word and work in our lives. From the very beginning of these updates I’ve wanted to give each of you something of value for your own lives, and not just a few self-centered, “it’s-all-about-us” paragraphs.

A remark that I’ve heard from time-to-time goes something like this: “You must be so very ______________(fill-in-the-blank: holy, special, full of faith, etc.) to bear this burden as you do.”

Nonsense! A well-meaning remark, yes, and definitely a caring remark, but nonsense all the same.

Just because we are on this cancer journey . . . we ourselves are not special. We ourselves are not more holy. And we are definitely not better than anyone else.

We – like all of us – are saved sinners. And we’ve been saved not by anything we’ve done, or by who we are, or by whom we are erroneously perceived to be, but purely, simply, we are saved by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. It is God’s unearned gift to Steve, to Karl, to me – and to each of you.

And that’s how Steve & I can face the many ups and downs, joys and sorrows, hopes and uncertainties of this cancer journey. Not always successfully, because we are still human. (And we thank each of you for your love and understanding about that.) But with the assurance that there’s a power greater than us who is keeping us going. And that power is God’s work in us through Jesus Christ.

************************************************************
We continue on the good-day/bad-day rollercoaster.

The good days mean: no bad reactions so far from this new third concoction of chemo; Steve’s love for his family compelling him to fight hard to beat the disease; having the energy to give a husbandly kiss and embrace; laughter with friends; feeling good enough—not too tired—to attend a fundraiser for a pastor’s widow; celebrating a friend’s son’s 16th birthday; helping Mom move into her new apartment; seeing our nephews; seeing our son; enjoying some coneys on a Friday night; becoming mallrats for a precious hour; hearing Steve preach; vacation anticipation.

The bad days mean: Steve confined to the couch with a 10+ fatigue level; sudden onset of pain & discomfort; more morphine; feeling generally blah that can only be attributed to “the disease”; cancelled and postponed meetings; a growing caretaker role; a sense of “trending downward.”

With love and prayers,
Sandie

23 April 2005

Family: What is God's Will?

Your Family is a gift of God.
Our God considered the family -- husband, wife, children -- so important to humanity that He gave it to us in the Garden of Eden, that is, before the Fall into Sin. This is why our God made the 4th Commandment the one about the family, and it is the first one with a blessing attached to it. The family is not just for Christians and Jews -- those who hold to the Old Testament, but for all of humanity. And every family in the world needs to be protected and supported in light of the Word of God.
Take a look at the plague of divorce now sweeping our nation. The Bible gives reasons for divorce to protect the family, to protect children and adults. What is interesting are the reasons not given, reasons oh so common today. We don't get along. We don't meet each others needs any longer. Or my favorite one from rabbinacal traditions, for burnt food. Yes, we all can find reasons to do what we really want to do. Oh, yes, it seems for many people, that divinely given reasons simply do not count.
Violence in the home, adultery, sexual abuse are all causes for divorce. These sins -- yes, they are sins in the sight of God -- have already broken the marriage bond. The first step in solving the marriage problems in any family is repentance. Repentance is taking sin seriously and honestly.
The family must be protected at all times. For the sake of children, the aged and infirm, yes. For the sake of everyone in the family and outside of the family. For the sake of our society. Family is the heart and root of our society. It is time for the Christian to reject the common idea that marriage is simply a piece of paper, and so on. By the way, all the research shows that living together before marriage actually harms marriage. This is the information not mentioned on the evening news "health" or "family" segments on local TV for all to hear. Strong marriages are built on a biblical base,. Built on God's purpose for all of humankind given in the Garden. A marriage dedicated to life-long service to each other, a marriage built on love and dedication to each other, just like our God intended it to be before the Fall. This is for everyone in the world, not just for Christians or Jews, but for everyone. And so if your neighbor is a Muslim, a Wiccan (look it up) or a happy pagan, pray for their marriage, for their family, and their needs. That is the will of God in this situation. Doc Steve

15 April 2005

Worthwhile Websites

Everybody's has opinions about websites, which ones are interesting, and so on.

Christian news source : Christian Post www.christianpost.com

My denomination: The Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod. www.lcms.org

My university: Concordia, Ann Arbor. www.cuaa.edu

My seminary: Concordia, Fort Wayne. www.ctsfw.edu

an interesting site by the Nation of Islam: www.noi.org

An interesting international newswebsite by the BBC. www.bbc.co.uk

A pro-life, pro-family weblog. www.worldnetdaily.com

By the way, I can't guarantee anything on these sites, but I often find them interesting.

Doc Steve

13 April 2005

New Blog

It always interests me how much things change. At the course I am teaching at Concordia, AnnArbor, MI tonight, I used a DVD through my laptop computer. When I was a student in the same school back in 1974, the most we had was overhead projectors. Now I have a wireless network in my home.
The challenge for the Christian is that we have an eternal message but one that needs to be taught in new ways. No, technology is not a problem, but a means. Back in the 1930s there were those who wondered if radio was too "secular" to be a means of sharing the Gospel. When is technology a "god" in the sense that we put our fear and trust in it. Technology must be a servant of the errorless Word of God, not its master. Don't allow the means to be more important than the message. But use the technology, but do so with a sensitivity for those who find it frightening.
Please pray for your own Pastor. He feels the pressures of the society at large and pressures from his congregation. Pray that he will have the faith, wisdom and courage to do what is right.

Some of you have tried to post comments and were kicked out. I corrected the setting, so please respond.

10 April 2005

WELCOME TO THE INVASION

Odd title, isn't it. Not if you are a C.S. Lewis fan. One of C. S. Lewis' books described the Christian faith in terms of an invasion. Christ -- not the church -- is invading the Devil's territory. Right now we are landing here and there and there will be a big DDay -- that's the End.
What fascinates me about this idea is that it reminds us that the world is captive territory and that the Devil is the Enemy. Too often does the Church want to be 'nice' and 'acceptable' to the world around us. No, this doesn't mean that we forget the mission of taking Christ to the nations, for the mission is central. But it does remind us of the task and why the world seems so evil and disgusting.
Lutheran liturgies and theology like to talk about the world as a world of sin and death. Both are our enemies.
(1Co 15:53-58) This body that decays must be changed into a body that cannot decay. This mortal body must be changed into a body that will live forever. When this body that decays is changed into a body that cannot decay, and this mortal body is changed into a body that will live forever, then the teaching of Scripture will come true: "Death is turned into victory! Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?" Sin gives death its sting, and God's standards give sin its power. Thank God that he gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. So, then, brothers and sisters, don't let anyone move you off the foundation of your faith. Always excel in the work you do for the Lord. You know that the hard work you do for the Lord is not pointless.

Yes, we are in a war. But the victory is ours because of Christ. And only because of Christ -- Christ is the Victor already. Doc Steve