Saturday, December 16, 2006
I also had the opportunity to help produce and sing in a choral presentation of selections from Handel's Messiah. I also started co-teaching an evening marriage enrichment class.
By God's grace, we made it through very well. I need to update the Lutheran carnival to read include a reference that I mistakenly deleted. I just have to go back and find a reference to the site, which is giving me some problems right now.
No snow yet. It's been unseasonably warm. But word is there's a cold air mass currently over China of its heading our way and once again severe winter will begin in earnest! The kids are really ready for the snow. Today they were sledding down a hill on the grass.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
I'm a little early, but Sunday is a work day for me and Monday is quite busy. (Especially with singing in a choir that will be presenting The Messiah next Saturday!)
We leap into the carnival with two excellent entries by Kelly Klages. The first, at Kelly's Blog, shows two pages of Lutheran and Reformation themed Stamps. (Make sure to click on the images as they open into very high resolution photos showing great detail!) Kelly especially points out "the illuminated cover page from Luther's German Bible, an Olaus Petri stamp from Sweden, and some Papua New Guinea stamps."
Kelly's second entry, at Confessional Lutheran Ecclesiastical Art Resources (CLEAR), contains an engaging discussion on the devotional use of prayer beads. Perhaps tactile, physical devotional aids would enrich your devotional life!
Orycteropus Afer invites us for a stroll along Aardvark Alley. Clement of Rome "is remembered for establishing the pattern of apostolic authority that governed the Christian Church during the first and second centuries." Check out his biography to learn more about how the Apostolic era found expression in later church history.
Recalling more recent history, the Aardvark looks back at Thanksgiving 2006 looking at godless thankfulness and noting an inconsistency between celebrating family and holding pro-Abortion views.
Enquiring spirits want to know! And Ask The Pastor supplies the knowlede. A dedicated Christian who regularly tithes based on salary wants to know if a Christian should tithe from profits gained from selling a house and business. Read the answer for an insightful response!
A second question at Ask The Pastor continues an engaging look at Who Speaks Christ's Forgiveness?
Finally, Random Intolerance has a couple of entries. The first deals with a topic on everyone's mind: Winter Weather. Why is it that meteorologists have such a hard time with the white fluffy stuff?
And the last entry for this edition of the Lutheran Carnival: Elle showcases the diversity of Thanksgiving meals partaken at a zoo.
Friday, November 24, 2006
To answer the consideration of deadlines and timezones, I'm happy to keep the deadline as normal. (Everyone'll just be a day late from my perspective!) I'll have plenty of time to pull it together.
Timezones are always an issue for us. It's hard to call family. Emails from the states always come in overnight. Business calls to the states necessitate a late night or early morning. And then the flights to and from the states are always a challenge. (Modern travel is still a challenge! Getting home is a 24 hour ordeal. Many people opt to stay the night in Tokyo after the flight, but I always like to get home as soon as possible!)
Here's a sample of what it takes to get here: leave Las Vegas at 10am, leave San Jose at 1PM, arrive Tokyo 5PM the next day, get on Narita Express to Tokyo station at 6PM, get on Shinkansen to Misawa at 8PM, arrive Misawa at 11:30PM, walk in the door at midnight. So the local time goes from 10am to midnight the next day. Actual time passage ends up being about a 24 hour trip. (My fear is that I'll fall asleep on the train and miss my stop!)
It's a fun trip though. I always try to get on a 777 as they have a TV in every seat. (I do have the video IPod in the event I get an old school 747.) The frequent flyer miles add up quickly! And I do enjoy riding on the Shinkansen (bullet train).
It's a very small town here, but most Japanese know of it due to the Miss Veedol (see earlier post). It's a great town with a lot of building happening. We've seen a lot of transformation over the last 18 months.
We're now getting ready for the snow. Last winter we had 158 inches. (The nearby mountains often get 30 FEET!) The temperature keeps dropping. It's only a matter of time! Snow shovels, etc. stand at the ready...
Right now, I'm toying with a theme based on the opening line of a very popular book: "It's not about you." My thesis is: "It's all about you." Consider Matthew 18:12 or Luke 12:5-7 or even Matthew 13:44 (I think a strong case can be made for the man in the parable representing God and the treasure representing us--I mean, if the man represents us and the field is the Kingdom of God, what can we sell to buy the Kingdom? I know the price God paid for me!) There are several other passages along this line.
Now, we do have our sinful flesh and desire with which to contend -- let me be very clear: it's not about your sinful lusts! But it is about you!
I believe this is a very important distinction!
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Halloween in Japan is a lot of fun. It takes me back to when I was a kid. It is still very much a social holiday here. We bought about $100 worth of candy and it was gone in 45 minutes. There were times when our sidewalk was completely jammed with kids.
It's really neat to hear the little Japanese children saying, very carefully, trick-or-treat and thank you. It's also a lot of fun to see the costumes that they come up with. There was no way I could keep count of how many children came to our house that night.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Lately, I've heard a lot of people speaking negatively about the whole concept of denominations. For example, I overheard someone saying that if Christians could just come together apart from their denominations we'd have unity in a minute.
I guess the more I reflect upon it, the more I disagree with that sentiment; and that's not just because I'm a pastor. Consider for a moment what we would have without denominations. We would have a bunch of people: each with their own opinions, their own interpretations, and no accountability. We'd have, in short, pandemonium. (Even greater than what already exsists!)
We would have no ability to create consensus with such a group. That is, unless they wanted to come together to the lowest common denominator. And even then agreement would be impossible.
Also, I consider the phenomenon of many nondenominational churches. What ends up happening is that a nondenominational church realizes that it's very difficult to stand all by itself. It ends up finding other like-minded congregations or even an organization that is like-minded. Upon finding these like-minded cohorts they seek to strike an agreement to willingly walk together in ministry. They might even pull together their resources in order to more efficiently train pastors and send missionaries. Sounds an awful lot like a Synod.
I believe that denominations are the key to future unity in the Christian church. Representatives from denominations may come together to talk about theological agreement/disagreement. These representatives would be speaking on behalf of many Christians. Even that situation can be chaotic, but is certainly a whole lot better than bringing thousands and thousands of Christians together to all speak at once.
Denominations give accountability to their members and pastors. Without such accountability, it is very easy for people to be led far astray from the gospel. (Of course it's still possible for people to be led astray within a denomination. It's just that people have a recourse against a false teacher within a denomination.)
While I long for unity in the Christian church, I don't believe denominations are stumbling blocks to it.
Today in Bible class, one of the students made a comment that was simply enlightening about the topic of predestination. She said that she perceived that people run into problems with the topic of predestination when they try to treat it as a means of grace.
I really appreciated her comment because it was a concise explanation of what I was explaining to the class: that predestination is never treated apart from Christ.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Most of us are familiar with Charles Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis flight across the Atlantic. But how many of us are familiar with the Miss Veedol flight from Japan to America across the Pacific?
Miss Veedol was the first plane to fly nonstop across the Pacific Ocean. The flight took place on October 5, 1931. It went from Misawa to Washington. The flight lasted about 41 hours and puts the current 11 hours needed for the trip into perspective!
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Another tool that I think is going to be very helpful in reading blogs is the new Sony Ereader. It utilizes a new technology called Eink. It is supposedly like reading on a page. One of the things I really like about it is that it will sync up with blogs. I'm hoping that having blogs in a more portable and readable form will allow me more opportunities to follow blogs.
We have a rainy day here in northern Japan. We were planning to go to the zoo down in Morioka. But due to the poor weather we decided to stay closer to home. So we are going to check out the Misawa aerospace and science Museum. I'll have a note or two on how that goes.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
This new version works almost perfectly right out of the box. I spent about 10 minutes training it. In fact, I'd say it makes fewer mistakes with the voice recognition than I make typing.
So I'm really hoping that this is can I help my blogging get off the ground in a better way. Typing is so laborious to me that I don't often update my blog because it becomes more of a chore. But being able to dictate my blog, I think I'll be able to update it more often because it's much easier.
I believe that I will be updating my blog much more frequently now. I've just discovered a whole slew of Lutheran blogs. It was like uncovering a treasure trove. One of my favorite nexus of Lutheran blogs is one called Lutheran carnival you can find it here: Lutheran Carnival
Until next time God bless and keep you.
Pastor Matt and he
Saturday, October 07, 2006
I am preaching tomorrow so it's prompted me to get out some readings and analyze and apply.
The readings chosen for tomorrow are:
Jeremiah 11:18-20 -- innocent prophet being "set up" by his enemies
James 3:16-4:6 -- jealousy causes quarrels
Mark 9:30-37 -- who's the greatest?
The immediate illustration that comes to mind is the movie "The Caine Mutiny". The story had all the elements present in these readings: plotting, lying, and jealousy.
In "The Caine Mutiny" the captain made several mistakes. Then, in the midst of a typhoon, the Executive officer challenges and relieves the captain from command.
Later, in the court martial, the Executive officer's defense attorney was able to prove that the captain was incompetent. At the celebration party, the attorney upbraids the Executive officer and others. Even though the captain made several mistakes and may even have been legally incompentent--at one point the captain asked the officers for help and they refused to help him.
That, said the attorney, put the blame of failure in command on the officers, not the captain.
The christian should anticipate the needs of others. If we see someone having trouble we should lend them aid--even before they need it. And we needn't even receive praise for their assistance. We should never relish the fall of another.
Sometimes offensive behavior and plotting is obvious, sometimes it is subtle, but it is always wrong--regardless of motivation.
Monday, March 06, 2006
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
I'll also be considering Psalm 22:22-30
The theme that immediately jumps out from the Gospel is that of sacrifice. My initial study will revolve around the concept of sacrifice.
I think of Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego in the book of Daniel. The were prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. They refused to worship the king. Even when threatened with death, they refused to compromise.
Certainly anyone would understand a decision to compromise in such circumstances! They could have worshipped the king with their mouths only. Their hearts would have been far from worshipping the king. Anyone who knew them would have known that their worship of the king was insincere and they would've avoided the death penalty with such empty words.
But their faith encouraged them to make a foolish decision. They refused to bend. They refused to compromise.
The king was so furious that he had the oven fired twice as hot as normal before throwing in Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego. It was so hot the guards throwing them in were killed by the heat outside the oven!
God miraculously saved them. Inside the fire was an additional person--an angel. And God preserved them from the flames.
The temptation to compromise our faith comes in many forms. What is the tempation in your life?
Next I'll look at the value of faith as evidenced by Abraham. For faith is the answer to the tempation to compromise!
Thursday, February 23, 2006
The sermon this week will focus on the Transfiguration of Jesus. His Transfiguration was a key event in tying together the Old and New Testaments. The presence of Moses and Elijah along with Jesus and the disciples is significant!
I'll be exploring that significance in the days ahead.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
This week we covered the topic of Hope and touched on suicide issues. Next week I've planned a show on friendship. We talk a lot about the Wingman concept. Chaplains use the word "friend". We all need friends! The music this Tuesday at 1500 will celebrate friendship.
I've even been able to plan the following week: parents and children. I've gotten most of the music for this but it has been the hardest so far. If you know of any tunes from the 70s, 80s, or 90s that covers this topic, let me know!
My sermon for Sunday is also underway! The topic for the sermon will be "Strength", as in the Lord will lift us as on wings of an Eagle! The Father strengthened Christ in His time of need, we too can expect to receive strength in our times of need.
An illustration of this: a young girl was going to take the plane to her grandmothers. This was in the day when we still used paper tickets. In the days and weeks before her journey she kept pestering her father to give her the ticket so she could hold on to it and know her journey was guaranteed. Her father kept replying that he would keep the ticket in safe-keeping until the moment she needed it.
That is how it often is with our strength--God gives it to us as we need it! We are all capable of far more than we realize. It's been said a hero is a normal person in extraordinary circumstances. When we have the need for strength, the Lord will deliver us!
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. The world only takes. Human beings are truly only dust in the wind in terms of the history of the world. Even the greatest civilizations of the past have been forgotten. Ours too will be forgotten and others rise up in its place (unless the Lord comes first!)
The Kingdom of God is eternal. It will never end and all who invest in it will be richly rewarded!
It is like the extravagent spender--he may look wealthy and happy, but he's living hand to mouth--spending income as he gets it, even going into debt to keep up the lifestyle. When it ends, it ends abruptly and he finds himself destitute.
Others live frugally, appearing to be somewhat poor even as they wisely save for the future. One day their investments mature and they live in wealth until the end of their days.
It's like the fable of the ant and the grasshopper. Here's a link to the fable if you've forgotten it! http://www.civprod.com/storylady/stories/AesopFables.htm
The Kingdom of God works similarly--some choose to reject God and live according to the desires of the flesh. (Billy Joel--"I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.") We can even be jealous of them in the shine of their youth as we watch them having fun, doing what they want. But the harvest they reap from this lifestyle is certainly not to be envied!
Instead, the people who have lived by restraint gain wisdom and become respected and sought after for their teaching. They become the rock, the shelter in the storm sharing the strength of God who has kept them strong all the years.
Certainly salvation may come to both types of people through the grace of God in Christ Jesus--but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord! I'd rather know the full joy of walking in will of God than the empty satisfaction of gorging my stomach!
Saturday, January 14, 2006
God has invested great power in the invidual Christian and even greater power in the Christian community known as the church. Individually and collectively, Christians have the power to forgive sins, the power to pray, the power to witness, the power to be the light on the hill, the power to be the salt of the earth, the power to be Children of the Lord Most High.
With that power comes responsibility. We must work to bring people to salvation. We must be good ambassadors for our Father and King. We must be the one's who take the high road even when it's not popular. We are witnesses! Let us tap into the great power, for then we will find the ability to share in the responsibility!
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
In the spring the tree grows quickly and puts out buds and new life all around. This is equal to times of joy and vigor in the life of faith.
In the summer the tree settles down to full leafy green beauty. This is the equivalent of the more mature Christian settling down to learn the depth of God's Word.
In the late summer the tree bears fruit. This is seen in the Christian life as the mature Chrsitian bearing the fruits of the spirit.
In the fall the tree is clothed in a glorious colorful display. In the Christian life this is the time of acknowledgement for service done in the church.
In the winter, the tree appears to be dead and not growing. In the Christian life this is the "Dark Night of the Soul". It can feel like faith is gone and God no longer hears prayer. But have no fear, life remains deep within and the roots still carry nutrients! And Spring is around the corner!
Christian growth is not constant at all! We need to rejoice at every stage of the way and not become prideful nor frightful!
Saturday, January 07, 2006
If the person being baptized is being baptized based on his or her worthiness, then what is baptism? What benefit is baptism?
Now, if the work in baptism is done by God, then a person is made worthy in baptism. Baptism is a way that God reaches into a person's life and brings grace and favor into that person's life.
Baptism clearly belongs to God. He made the promise attached to baptism. He instituted baptism. God does the work in baptism.
This is a comfort because our relationship with God does not depend upon our strength of faith, strength of character or stength of anything in us. And that's a good thing because we're all sinners and we are weak. If our relationship with God depended upon anything from within us, that relationship would soon fail.
Instead, our relationship with God depends upon His strength. Our relationship with God depends entirely upon God. He gives us our faith, He gives us our strength, He gives us our Salvation. This is a comforting thought, in the darkness of our weakness we will always see the light of His strength!
Sunday, January 01, 2006
What if the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz had repented? Of course she didn't and we see the other preferred end of evil characters: death and destruction. She remained hard hearted and it led to her destruction. Consider the end of the Wizard of Oz had she repented like Vader!
We also have what I would consider the opposite of repentance in the Incredible Hulk. He changes from a mild mannered gentleman into a raging hulk of a monster! That too is a complete change in thinking and acting but in the wrong way!
Repentance means coming to terms with your past. Hard heartedness means continued denial of reality and leads to bitterness and indeed destruction. I think Vader is the better path over the Wicked Witch!
It is up to each Christian to throw off the fetters of hard heartedeness and repent! For then we shall find forgiveness and be truly free!