God’s Love Defies Human Comprehension! Merry CHRISTmas!

God’s love defies human comprehension. Who of us can grasp that God loves His depraved and disobedient human creation so much that He assumes flesh and blood in order to bring about restoration and reconciliation between Himself and humanity? And yet, that is the mysterious and miraculous message of Christmas! God becomes a man so that He can rescue His people from the curse of sin and death. The writer to the Hebrews states, “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14-15) Such wondrous love leaves me speechless! Such boundless love moves me to join the angelic chorus in song as we worship our loving God!

I cannot think of a better way to wish you a Merry Christmas than to invite you to sing (or listen to) the majestic hymn, “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” sung by a gathering of Lutheran youth. I have included the words of this glorious hymn below.

“Of the Father’s Love Begotten” by Aurelius C. Prudentius, 413, cento. Translated by John. M. Neale, 1818-1866 and Henry W. Baker, 1821-1977 (Lutheran Service Book 384)

Of the Father’s love begotten
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the Source, the Ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see
Evermore and evermore.

Oh, that birth forever blessed
When the Virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bore the Savior of our race,
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face
Evermore and evermore.

This is He whom Heaven-taught singers
Sang of old with one accord;
Whom the Scriptures of the prophets
Promised in their faithful word.
Now He shines, the Long-expected;
Let creation praise its Lord
Evermore and evermore.

O ye heights of heaven, adore Him;
Angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him
And extol our God and King.
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert ring
Evermore and evermore.

Christ, to Thee, with God the Father,
And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee
Hymn and chant and high thanksgiving
And unending praises be,
Honor, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory
Evermore and evermore.

Posted in Christ Child, Christian church, Christmas, Forgiveness, God, Grace, Holy Trinity, Incarnation, Jesus Christ, Messiah, missio Dei, Salvation, Saviour | Comments Off on God’s Love Defies Human Comprehension! Merry CHRISTmas!

A Manual to Help You Birth a New Community of Faith

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Office of National Mission is investing significant energy and effort in working with our districts to assist in their church planting efforts.

Church planting can be accomplished through mother congregations, sponsoring circuits, or planting networks that may simply need support to get things started. Partnerships are also formed between struggling congregations in the inner city or rural areas and healthy congregations who wish to help them restart.

Mission Field: USA is the flexible framework for technical support, training, equipping and organizing church planting in multiple settings and contexts.

You can download a copy of Mission Field: USA: A Resource of Church Planting.  A Resource for Church Planting is a theological and practical manual for mission work, and it provides a foundation for what it means to be a Lutheran congregation. This manual also offers a step-by-step approach from forming a core group to becoming a fully established congregation in the LCMS.

Posted in Church Planting, Church revitalization, Discipleship, Evangelism, Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, Lutheran Missiology, Missional, Missional Communities, Missionary, Priesthood of all Believers, Rural evangelism, Small Town Evangelism, Urban Outreach | Comments Off on A Manual to Help You Birth a New Community of Faith

Sign Up for the Prayer Challenge and Get the Free Pocket Prayers eBook by Max Lucado

Do you want to know the keys to moving from a prayer wimp to a prayer warrior? Would you like to pray more? Better? Stronger? With more fire, faith, and fervency?

Join Max Lucado and thousands of others around the world, praying every day for four weeks! The Before Amen Prayer Challenge is simple: 4 minutes praying every day, for 4 weeks, and it will change your life forever.

When you sign up you’ll receive the FREE eBook, Pocket Prayers: 40 Simple Prayers That Bring Peace and Rest by Max and Andrea Lucado.

Posted in Discipleship, Prayer | Comments Off on Sign Up for the Prayer Challenge and Get the Free Pocket Prayers eBook by Max Lucado

Merry Christmas — “Time for an Outreach Upgrade” by Rev. Scott Gress

Scott Gress writes,

Last week I tweeted, “What can you do to upgrade your Christmas service plans to more intentionally engage members and love visitors so more grow closer to Jesus?”

You only get one chance to make a first impression. Perhaps for a few more years, unchurched people will come to a Christmas Eve services, especially if they are brought by your members!

So what can you do? You already are trying your best to have a nice service. But chances are you are overlooking something. So the encouragement is to get pastors and people to look at the following content and make a decision about each point.

First how can you identify new and especially local people? Leaving it to the pastor’s memory isn’t going to be good enough, even if you have a small church. Multiple ways to catch people’s contact information is the best strategy.

To read the rest of the article, click on: Upgrade.

Scott Gress is called by Lutheran Counseling Services and partners with the FL-GA District of the Lutheran Church as an independent contractor. He specializes in Leadership Training, Consulting, Coaching and Coach Training. Contact Scott to continue the conversation or experience a free sample coaching session. 561-542-4472, scottgress@me.com or scottgress.com.

Posted in Christian church, Christmas, Christmas Evangelism, Evangelism | Comments Off on Merry Christmas — “Time for an Outreach Upgrade” by Rev. Scott Gress

“Finding Meaning in Suffering” by Stephanie Gray

Stephanie Gray posted an article on her blog (Dec. 7, 2016) that addresses the issue of assisted suicide which was written into law in Canada earlier in 2016. Gray notes that one of the criteria that qualifies a person for assisted suicide is that the person “have a grievous and irremediable medical condition” which is defined, in part, as an “illness, disease or disability or … state of decline [that] causes them enduring physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable to them and that cannot be relieved under conditions that they consider acceptable.”

Gray writes,

Everyone suffers at some point or another, but most do not select suicide. So to suffer so much that one chooses death over life is to suffer to the point of despair. Rather than assisting with a despairing person’s suicide, we ought to instead consider the insight of psychiatrist and Holocaust-survivor Dr. Viktor Frankl. In this interview he talks about the following mathematical equation his observations and lived experiences caused him to create:

D = S – M

He explains it as follows: Despair equals Suffering without Meaning. Some people get cancer. Others get hurt in car accidents. These are very real cases of suffering—not to be minimized. But whether someone despairs in light of these experiences is in direct proportion to whether they find meaning in the situation or not.

Gray continues,

While we cannot necessarily escape suffering, we can escape despair, and we can escape it in direct proportion to the meaning we allow ourselves to find in a situation. In other words, when circumstances prevent us from eliminating suffering, perspective allows us to add meaning, and that, in turn, helps alleviate the suffering itself.

This can happen in profound ways. Dr. Frankl told a story about a man who was electrocuted and all four of his limbs had to be amputated. That patient wrote, “Before this terrible accident I was bored, always bored, and always drunk. And since my accident I know what it means to be happy.”

This is proof that happiness is not determined by physical wellbeing but by an attitude of the mind. So if someone is struggling in this area and requests assisted suicide, it’s our job—not to facilitate their despair—but to facilitate their search for meaning.

If a Holocaust survivor, amputee, and quadriplegics can do this, why can’t we all?

To read the entire article, please click on: Meaning in Suffering.

Posted in Assisted suicide, Euthanasia, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, Physician Assisted Suicide, Prolife | 2 Comments

THRED: A New Era in Outreach

Greg Koenig introduces a new digital outreach initiative by Lutheran Hour Ministries called “THRED” In an article that appeared in The Lutheran Layman (November/December 2016 pages 3-7, Greg writes,

According to recent studies of trends in religion and spirituality, the traditional trails on which people are led to faith and church are growing narrower. Fewer families are active in a church; fewer parents are teaching the faith to their children; fewer people acknowledge the Bible as a reliable source of information and guidance for living. Unchurched people have fewer friends who are involved in a church.

So how can mission-minded Christians share the Good News about Jesus if the people we want to reach aren’t on or near those traditional trails of faith? Answer: Blaze new trails.

Author and speaker Jeff Bethke encourages the same thing. “Our Gospel message doesn’t change – but our methods can,” he says. “Go where the eyeballs are.”

Where are the “eyeballs”? Online. Koenig observes that people often turn first to Google as they search for information on any number of other subjects and therefore, it’s online that we can connect with unchurched people and begin a dialogue with them. Quoting Andrew Fitzgerald, LHM’s new director of the digital outreach project, Koenig writes, “Our research also tells us that … ‘Millennials’ …  are wary of anything that smacks of our traditional idea of church – or organized religion in general.  But quite a few are open to just discovering what the Bible says – and particularly what Jesus said and did in the gospel accounts. So the words and message of Jesus are central to this outreach project.”

If you would like to learn more about this project, visit: THRED.org. (Although there is no content on the site yet) or click on the link above and read the complete article in The Lutheran Layman.

Posted in Digital Communication, Evangelism, Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, Lutheran Church -- Canada, Lutheran Hour Ministries, Lutheran Laymen's League, Missional, Missionary, Social Networking, Witness | Comments Off on THRED: A New Era in Outreach

Worship Services for People Unable to Attend Local Sunday Service

Many people are unable to attend local Sunday services for any number of reasons, but Lutheran pastors and laity in Indiana have developed “worship for shut-ins” which is offered on a weekly basis online. Each telecast offers a new program, which includes Scripture readings, a sermon and musical selections. In order to learn more about Worship for Shut-Ins or to watch a service, visit:
www.worshipforshutins.org

Posted in Discipleship, Lutheran, Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, Worship | Comments Off on Worship Services for People Unable to Attend Local Sunday Service

Bound Up By Indecision? Five Guiding Principles

Rev. Scott Gress writes,
bound-up

You always have a choice. Always.

Sometimes we might not like our choices. Sometimes we might not see any options. Yet the truth is that there is always a choice. What is needed is some sharp thinking to cut through the ropes that have bound you up in indecision. So what brings about that sharp thinking?

Usually they are questions that we need to ask ourselves and evaluate our situation. The trouble is that when we are in the tightening grip of the ropes that bind us we feel like we are getting weaker and weaker. We seem to be running out of oxygen and we just have too little strength. So we swallow hard and often times settle or give in to what we’ve always done or what we instinctively know is not the best thing. But how do we address that?
Here are four questions that you can ask yourself so that you can cut free from the ropes that are strangling you in indecision.

To continue reading, click on: Indecision.

Scott Gress is called by Lutheran Counseling Services and partners with the FL-GA District of the Lutheran Church as an independent contractor. He specializes in Leadership Training, Consulting, Coaching and Coach Training. Contact Scott to continue the conversation or experience a free sample coaching session. 561-542-4472, scottgress@me.com or scottgress.com.

Posted in Discipleship, Leadership, Missional Leadership | Comments Off on Bound Up By Indecision? Five Guiding Principles

Multi-Ethnic Symposium 2017

Multicultural Concordia Seminary (St. Louis) annual Multiethnic Symposium brings together Lutherans and mission leaders of various ethnicities from across the country for workshops, discussions and worship. The symposium explores how the church should engage in ethnic ministry and what it means — and what it will take — to become a truly multiethnic church.

In celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the 2017 Multiethnic Symposium will examine the various ways in which the Reformation message has spanned time and place. Participants will examine ways to turn socio-linguistic, institutional and theological barriers into stepping stones to bring the pure Gospel to people across the world.

Keynote: Dr. Enoch Wan, research professor of intercultural studies and director of the Intercultural Studies Program at Western Seminary in Portland, Ore.

Wan will lead participants in a historical review of the paradigm shift of Martin Luther that occurred 500 years ago and offer a proposal for the Lutheran church bodies in North America in the 21st century based on the global trends.

Plenary and sectional speakers from throughout The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod will share mission perspectives on how the wide-ranging effect of the Reformation impacted their respective fields of ministry.

You can register by clicking here: Symposium.

Posted in Discipleship, Exponential, Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, Lutheran Missiology, Missional, Multicultural ministry | Comments Off on Multi-Ethnic Symposium 2017

Journey from Unbelief to Faith — A Video Bible Study Series produced by Lutheran Hour Ministries

journey_bblstudythumbHosted by Rev. Dr. John Nunes, this four-session Bible study, Journey from Unbelief to Faith, offers the viewpoints of four people who have made a remarkable journey. Theirs has been a pilgrimage from the outer edges of unbelief and apathy to a place where today Jesus Christ commands their heartfelt devotion. The road to faith was not easy for them, and many were the times when abandoning it seemed the preferred route to travel. Still, the persistence of the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives brought about a different outcome, with an eternal transformation.

Consider their lives. With an upbringing marred by violence and abuse from her belligerent, alcoholic father, one woman’s journey was set in motion by a record album. For one young man, an allegiance to evolutionary theory and science trumped any idea of the spiritual at work in his life, until he grasped the nature of faith. For an Orthodox Jew it was a lengthy apprenticeship-in the back row of a Christian church-that became for him a brand new kind of life. Finally, for a New Age stargazer, a woman deep into Eastern religions who charted other people’s futures by astrology, it was an attempt to get Christianity out of her system that eventually won her over.

As with all Men’s NetWork Bible studies, The Journey from Unbelief to Faith has an in-depth discussion guide that focuses on each session’s topic, gives relevant Scripture references, offers pointed questions to promote thought and participant interaction, and contains numerous Internet links so users can explore session subjects online.

The Journey from Unbelief to Faith – Promo from Lutheran Hour Ministries on Vimeo.

Posted in atheism, Bible study, Christian Apologetics, Christian church, Discipleship, Evangelism, Faith, Lutheran Hour Ministries, Lutheran Laymen's League, Missional, Missionary, Priesthood of all Believers, Salvation, Saviour, The Lutheran Hour, Witness, Word of God | Comments Off on Journey from Unbelief to Faith — A Video Bible Study Series produced by Lutheran Hour Ministries