Month: January 2018

The Last Enemy

Death is the final enemy. But if it is… why do we pretend it’s not there?

I remember Mike.* He was my first death. Pastors can say things like that; other than doctors, soldiers, and funeral workers, we probably see death the most. And Mike… he was my first. The doctors declared him brain dead, and after a fairly lengthy time, the oldest son decided to pull the plug. The son came, signed the papers, and then fled. He would not stay.

I sat in the room as the machines beeped around Mike. I was there with his younger son and a family friend. A CD player plunked out a version of “I am Jesus’ Little Lamb.”

And Mike awoke in heaven.

I didn’t get to see that. I saw a younger son in great grief. I saw a family friend in pain. But I saw them there, in their pain, admitting it.

But the older son? I don’t think I ever saw him again, not even at the funeral. (more…)

I don’t get it.

The Art fell to earth and landed in a sixth-grader’s lunchbox. And that’s when the adventure began.

Or at least, that’s what I’ve been reading this week. I volunteered to read a book to my oldest son’s classroom, and the teacher allowed my suggestion of What Came from the Stars. If you don’t know it, it’s well worth your time. A great fantasy story that has really engaged the kids in that classroom. (It doesn’t hurt that the longer I read, the less time they have for math.)

It’s been fun going in every day. It’s part of my long-term strategy to simply be known and hopefully building relationships within the school, so if and when something happens and a family needs a pastor, they’re already connected with one. I’ve been praying that God uses me to connect with people in the school, and to then be able to share the Gospel with them.

But that’s a different post for a different day.

When my boy got home from school, I asked if his classmates enjoyed the time I spent reading. His response was not what I expected: “Of course they liked you! It’s what people do!”

I asked for clarification. What?

People like you, Dad! They always like you!”

I… what? (more…)

Review: Gory Deaths

Not-So-Nice Bible Stories: Gory Deaths
by Jonathon Schkade; Illustrated by Gleisson Cipriano

Ever notice that not everyone dies nice and pretty in the Bible? There’s some pretty gruesome deaths. This book takes the reader through nineteen of the most painful ways to die illustrated in Scripture, and then explains why each was included in our Holy Book. Throughout, readers are pointed to Law, to Gospel, and every time, to Christ.

This book is fantastic fun. Every chapter begins with a good retelling of the biblical account of the person in question, backing up to give all the background. Sidebars bring up other questions or biblical parallels with references to go digging deeper. Each chapter ends with a section entitled “Why is this in the Bible?” tying each story to the big story of the Bible: Jesus come to save sinners. After that there’s always “Bonus Features” that will take one aspect of the story and show other places in history that kind of thing showed up. For instance, the chapter on the stoning of Stephen includes a bonus feature of how other early Christians were martyred.

If you’re looking for a great survey of Bible history for someone who doesn’t like “boring parts,” this would be a great book to give. It’s engaging and speaks everyday language incredibly well. (more…)

A Prayer for One Dear to Me

Oh my dear, dear lady. What has been done to you? I remember your smile. I remember your laugh. I remember your trust, your faith, your reliance on Jesus. You are a chosen woman, brought out and faithful for so many, many years.

Your smile has curdled to bitterness. I see your hurt. I do. I see your frustration. The wages of sin may be death, but before that we are reminded of what is coming in so many little deaths. And just like we deny death when we grieve, we want to deny all these little deaths. The death of independence. The death of depending on self. And when we deny that… we clutch what we can to ourselves.

And I see that in you. I see that pain. That fear. And I weep with you.

But I weep for even more a reason. (more…)

Review: The Lay of the Lord

The Lay of the Lord

by Christopher Yokel

The true story of Jesus’s life remains an epic full of emotion, unexpected twists and turns, and tragedy and triumph. Sometimes its familiarity makes us forget, though. Christopher Yokel recasts the gospels as an epic poem, recapturing our wonder at what Jesus has done. Beginning with the announcement of John’s impending birth to Zechariah and ending Easter evening, the book walks with Jesus and leads us to gasp again at the story we have known for so long.

This book has power. I would not give it to a newbie Christian or someone who isn’t Christian unless they were the type of person who likes looking deeper and looking up allusions. It is filled with poetic shadows and illustrations and mentions that I understood, but would fly over the head of someone not familiar with the history of salvation. Scapegoats? Moriah? Fig trees? (more…)

His name is Doug.

It’s about eleven in the evening. I just got home. My wife is not very happy with me. The last thing I texted her was that the tow truck had just pulled up. That was over an hour ago. I should have been home at least half an hour ago. She thought I drove off a cliff on my way home.

Well, I didn’t.

The tow truck pulled up. Guy hopped out and took a look at the van. Pronounced it dead. Hooked it up for the tow to the shop. Thankfully due to the kindness of some others, I’d been able to get home and get my sedan earlier. The rest of the family was safe at home. Then it was just waiting around for the truck to arrive. And now, here he was! Didn’t talk much as he looked at the van. Reminded me a lot of my brother-in-law, in fact, in mannerisms and such. Got the van up onto the bed of the truck.

And then we started talking. And talking. And talking. About an hour of talking as we stood in the frigid parking lot and people left the bars on either end of the strip mall. (more…)

Review: How you are Changing (Girls’ Edition)

How You Are Changing: A Guide for the Christian Family: Girls Ages 9-11
By someone. No author listed.

Girls change a lot during puberty, and it’s probably good to prepare them for it. This book aims to be read by parents and daughters either shortly before or during the opening stages of adolescence, explaining what is about to happen to them. It aims to guide using God’s Word, showing girls that their worth is not based on what they do, but based on Jesus’s love for them. It also explains that sex is a good thing, designed to bless husbands and wives in marriage.

So! A few weeks ago I reviewed the boys’ version of this book. The girls’ edition finally arrived in the mail! Silly backorder! Now, I gave the boys’ book a positive review. Is the girls’ any different? (more…)

Sometimes Ministry is Hard

Today, for the good of my ministry… I played video games. It was terrible.

I’m going to be marrying a couple soon. The man in particular doesn’t have any friends that live anywhere nearby. So I decided to do a “bachelor party” for him. There’s a bar not far from here where, if you buy a drink, you have access to a bunch of stand-up arcade games for free. I figured it would be a fun afternoon. I invited him and a member of the church he’s somewhat close with, and the three of us were off.

And you know what? It was fun. Just a good, relaxing time. My treat all the way, so they didn’t have to worry about money. We ended up playing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game and beating it. (It’s pretty easy to do, especially when you don’t have to keep feeding it quarters.)

There was a lot of laughter, and in the end, hopefully some growth in relationship. I think so, at least. (more…)

Alone in a Church

“Why is it people I scarcely know know how to talk to me better than anyone at my church?”

She asked me that. She’s a young adult trying to connect at her home congregation. (Yes, I asked her permission to quote her, anonymously.) Her perception is that no one in her home congregation cares about her, nor do they care about their surrounding community. They insist on doing things the way they have always been, without any further examination. They don’t reach out, especially if it means breaking out of a very narrow comfort zone. And for her and her needs? A lot of shrugging. Connecting with her? Whatever.

She just came back from a conference where she vaguely knew… two people, I think. And she connected with them more and better than people she’s known her whole life at her congregation.

This is a problem. (more…)

Review: Teaching the Faith at Home

Teaching the Faith at Home: What Does This Mean? How Is This Done?
By David L. Rueter

Something has gone wrong with confirmation in the Lutheran church. Children treat the day of their confirmation as a graduation rite, and parents don’t seem to be helping. What happened? Is it these crazy kids and they just need to deal with it? Is it the parents? Is something wrong with our instruction methods? In this book, David Rueter takes a look at the goals of confirmation and asks if there’s a better way to attain those goals. In the first half of the book, he explains what catechesis is and why it must become a life-long process and not a two-year class. In the second half of the book, he addresses especially parents, walking through the Small Catechism and explaining how parents can teach it well at home through several different ages. In the end, Rueter urges parents to teach their children the faith, be good examples, and use the church to help children dig even deeper into God’s Word.

Short review: Pastors should read this, and then urge parents to read it as well.

Longer review: (more…)