Month: March 2019

Review: Appreciate Science and Love the Bible

5 Things You Can Do to Appreciate Science and Love the Bible
by Charles St. Onge

Science and the Bible don’t seem to play nice, do they? If you love the Bible, do you need to give up science? Do you need to be suspicious of anyone with an engineering degree? Do you need to check your brain at the door? Thankfully, no! This little book (about 90 pages) tackles what science and the Bible have to do with each other in an engaging and Scripture-filled way.

Short review: Yes. You need this book in your library. (more…)

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Apparently it’s time to be stupid again.

Depression 4

Photo by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash

It started about the time I went to bed, as it usually does.

My brain decided to glom onto a problem. Now, it is a real problem: How to teach the youth of the congregation about Jesus in a way that draws them to Christ. Many of the things we’ve attempted to do – both traditional and not – simply haven’t worked well. Right now we’ve got a glut of children reaching sixth grade in the next school year, and that means it’s time to start confirmation.

And my brain decided last night was a good time to start really working on how to teach them. My preference would be to have the parents teach at home, while once a month I gather everyone to do a good review and test to make sure everyone’s actually learning everything. But if the parents aren’t teaching their kids now, how could I expect them to do it next year?

Gather all the children together once a week? Unlikely. As it is now, many of the children can’t make it to church weekly because parents or children are “too busy.”

Do I journey to all the homes once a week, as I did the year previous? Possible, but with that many children, I’d have to drop some other duty.

And my brain whirled round and round. The parents are going to be angry. They’ll say that it doesn’t matter what we teach the kids. They’ll ask why I’m changing things. Why can’t we do it the way we’ve always done it? Why do we need to teach them anything at all?

I want you to understand: The problem my brain decided to pick at is a valid problem to consider. The goal is a good one: How to help our children grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ.

The problem was that my brain would not let go of the problem. I could not release the jaws of my mind to allow me to sleep, to rest. No, there was no rest at all. And the imagined scenarios got more and more outlandish, and all of them ended with the church bursting into flames one way or another. And my stress level kept on going up and up.

This is a bad sign. It’s the kind of thing my depression does when it’s deciding to bodyslam me. (more…)

Review: David

David: Israel’s Shepherd King
by John C. Ibisch

David is seventeen years old. He’s finally free to watch the sheep on his own. He practices with his sling and asks, “Where do I fit in? What’s God’s plan for my life?” He takes up his lyre and begins singing. And so begins John Ibisch’s summary of King David’s life, a summary that focuses on David’s faith-life and how that affects his actions and path to kingship.

This is another of the God’s People series that I’ve reviewed before, and like the others, this slim book does a stellar job connecting the narrative of David’s life with Law and Gospel. (more…)

Sometimes God lets you see…

God gave a promise. So often it’s hard to see. So often it’s impossible to see. He says that “All things work for the good of those that love him.” It’s right there in Romans 8:28.

Yeah, right.

What good can come of that? How will this work for my good? How is it possible?

But sometimes.

Sometimes.

Sometimes he lets you see.

This week my wife is gone. She needs to be staying with her mom to help after a surgery. Nothing serious, but mom needs the help. So off my wife went with our youngest child, leaving me with the three others. This isn’t a problem; the kids are all in school so hopefully I can cram the bulk of my time “out of the office” during the school day. The few appointments that have to happen in the evening I am able to take them along with – an evening Bible study, for instance. They can amuse themselves in a different room of the church. (more…)

Review: Joyfully Aging

Joyfully Aging: A Christian’s Guide
by Richard Bimler

Everyone ages. Everyone. You can’t prevent it. So instead of dreading it or becoming bitter, how about thanking God for old age? In Joyfully Aging, Richard Bimler uses a mix of humorous anecdotes and Scriptural encouragement to help us learn how to age with grace.

Half of this book is fluff tangentially connected with what it surrounds. The rest is solid Law and Gospel application to those on the older side of life. The fluff would make a Lutheran congregation smile loudly – harmless humor. The Law and Gospel, though, is perfect. The mix seems to be perfect for Bimler’s intended audience, too, at least in my experience. If you handed just Law and Gospel, you could lose a lot of people. It would be too deep, or be regarded as too deep. But he doesn’t forget why he’s here, either; he makes sure that in the end the book really points to Jesus. It’s not just fluff! (more…)

…Dust to Dust

Ash Wednesday 2

Photo by Ahna Ziegler on Unsplash

And so it begins.

Tonight was Ash Wednesday. Tonight we confessed the depth of our sin: That yes, God was right to declare to us, “From dust you were formed, and to dust you shall return.” That we have sinned by our fault, by our own grievous fault.

Tonight for the first time in this congregation we used ashes. Monday I burned last year’s palms from Palm Sunday. I ground the ashes as finely as I was able. I mixed them with olive oil.

For over a month I had explained that putting on ashes was not a “Catholic” thing. It was a Christian thing. I asked their opinion. “Well, I’m not interested – but if you want to, go for it, pastor” was the response of some. Others were hesitant. “It sounds interesting. I think I want to try it, but I don’t know.” A few were very adamant. “I want to do this!”

And tonight it finally came together. I explained, again, at the beginning of the service: Putting on ashes was an outside sign of inner repentance. Of sorrow over my own sin. Of a recognition of the wages of my sin: Death. I explained that this was fully optional; putting on ashes did not make someone a mature Christian, and sitting out did not make someone a mature Christian. It was sign that could show inner reality. (more…)

Review: Sex & the New You (boys 12-14)

Sex & the New You (Boys ages 12-14)
by Richard Bimler

So kids talk about sex. They need a place they can get not only factual answers, but also answers from God’s Word. Sex & the New You is part of a series from Concordia Publishing House that addresses sex education from a Confessional Lutheran Standpoint, written for various ages. This particular edition has a lot about dating, pornography, friendships, and relating with parents, along with basic differences between the sexes and how children develop into adults. Throughout, a stress is put on Law and Gospel, laying out what God says is right, and how Jesus won us forgiveness. The book emphasizes that the child’s identity is safe in Christ, so they don’t need approval from peers to feel good about themselves.

Last year I reviewed the previous volumes in this series, How You Are Changing. I gave it a pretty positive review. This book continues the series in mostly the same fashion, and I appreciate that. It’s still something that’s pretty good to use with my own son.

Except. (more…)

When Ministry and Geekery Collide

Glasses

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

And so my goddaughter sent me an email a few weeks ago, and I’ve been thinking on it ever since. My goddaughter is one of the neatest young women around. Last year for her birthday she requested that I write some devotions for pastor’s kids. So that’s what I did. This year, she has a similar request:

She wants a book of devotions for fangirls.

See, she loves all things Doctor Who and Harry Potter and Star Wars and many other things geeky. And she loves Jesus even more. And she wants to know what connects the two, if anything.

So… she’s asked me to write. (more…)