Thursday, January 29, 2009

More good stuff from Issues Etc.

Various seminaries teach various things about what sermons should contain. Issues Etc. has been airing a series examining the sermons within the Bible itself. The guestis Dr. Carl Fickenscher of Conordia Theological Seminary-Fort Wayne, IN. Here are the first two:

Monday, January 26, 2009

Book Review--The Word of Promise: The Gift of Psalms

The Word of Promise: The Gift of Psalms is a selection of fifty of the most popular Psalms with accompanying devotionals. The book includes a three CDs which contain audio recordings of thirty of the Psalms and devotionals read by famous actors. Jason Alexander, a.k.a. George Costanza, even makes his voice heard.

The Psalms have always played an important role in the liturgical life of the church. It was once a requirement for ministers to memorize all of the Psalms and they served as the earliest book of "hymns." The Psalms give expression to a wide range of human emotion and show that fear, joy, depression, and anger are normal parts of the Christian life. Hopefully this book will introduce some Christians who have only been exposed to happy-clappy, Jesus is my boyfriend, hymns and praise choruses to the richness of the Psalms.

The translation used is the NKJV, which is my favorite all-around translation. The readings were a mixed bag. How the Psalms should be read (at least in a non-liturgical setting) is highly subjective. In my opinion, there were a few good readings of the Psalms but none that were really outstanding. There were a number of truly horrible readings that made me cringe.

The accompanying devotionals were really very horrible. The Lamb of God tells us that all of Scripture is about the Lamb of God. There is no real distinction to be made between Messianic and non-Messianic Psalms. They are all Messianic Psalms. The devotionals (with one or two exceptions) were not centered upon Christ even when they accompanied what most evangelicals would call Messianic Psalms. The devotionals were centered around me and what I need to do--study the Bible, be ready for assignments from God, have an impact on the world, try my best, etc. The majority of the devotionals could have been written with little or no change if Jesus had never been born and died for us.

I found the audio recordings of the devotional recordings extremely irritating. They're all read by the same guy in the generic voice of a worship leader/minister who is always trying to sound very emotional and passionate about what he is saying. The recording also suffers from some editing errors. Some of the sentences in the devotionals repeat themselves even during some of the prayers. The constant references to chapters and verses of other Bible passages as well as the occasional references to abbreviations for other Bible translations were also irritating.

My advice is to not spend you money on this thing. Wait for someone to release a recording of the Psalms chanted in Byzantine or Gregorian style with Christ-centered and cross-focused accompanying devotionals. Or if you can't wait, dust off the Alexander Scourby.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Baptism of Lydia Hope-Marie

Today we brought Lydia Hope-Marie to be drowned in the waters of holy baptism. Luther's Revised baptismal form was used including the exorcism and anointing with oil. I bear no responsibility for the quality of the video.


This icon of the baptism of Christ was given to us as a gift from my pastor.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Our daughter

Lydia Hope-Marie was born at 6:06pm on Jan. 13th, 2009 8lbs 11oz and 22 inches long. Lord willing, she will be brought to the waters of Holy Baptism at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on January 25th. Thank you all for your prayers.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

To Lucy Barfield


I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand, a word you say, but I shall still be
your affectionate Godfather,

The above is the dedication from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It really got me thinking about my own interest in literature. I have become old enough that I enjoy reading fairy tales again.

It also got me thinking about Biblical literature. As a child, like most children, it was the Bible stories I enjoyed the most. As I grew, my interests started to change. In the fourth grade I remember being fascinated with the Apocalypse. I would just read it over and over again. I had no idea what it was talking about but the incomprehensibility fascinated me. As I struggled with depression in high school I became addicted to the Book of Ecclesiastes. I don't think I understood the book at all then but it was interesting to read the experiences of someone who also saw the futility of life. After I got married I became more and more interested in theology and wanted to read nothing but the letters of Paul. I wanted to construct a mental system in which everything fit together in a nice package. The Gospels were nice but I already knew them. Jesus died on a cross--everybody knows that. Why did I need to read it again?

Now, I'm sort of back where I started. I love the stories. I love the Gospels especially. I'm a little disappointed when I face long stretches in my Bible reading plan that take me away from the Gospel readings. The stories are simple enough for a child to understand and yet deep enough to explore for more than a lifetime and they do the most important thing. They tell us what the Lamb did! They're not just some abstract system--they tell us who the Lamb is.

The church is much older than me and smarter than me and figured this all out a long time before I did. They placed the Gospels first in the canonical order and have used chanting and singing and posture to draw attention to the Gospel reading during the service. The Gospels are the lens through which all of Scripture must be viewed. We must not switch the order. They provide the foundation for the rest of the New Testament. The Epistles can in many ways be viewed as a commentary on the Gospels.

The divisions that exist within Christendom have a plethora of causes but I think one of them is not reading the Scriptures properly as a historic Christian and confusing the order of the books.

Praise be to the Lamb who is the Gospel made flesh! Praise be to the Lamb who wrote the story and is the story!

Please for my wife and baby

For those who don't know me very well on a personal level, my wife is pregnant with a baby girl and has a c-section scheduled for January 16th. She has been in and out of the hospital--she has gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. Currently she has regular contractions anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes apart. We have gone through wonderful four hour stays at the hospital only to be told that she is not having "real" labor since her cervix hasn't been dilating. Her cervix never dilates. If we waited for it to dilate in order to have a baby we would probably have the baby some time next year. We lost twins earlier this year and so there are a whole lot of psychological stresses and fears as well. Please keep my wife in your prayers and pray that our not yet born baby Lydia will be healthy and brought safely to the waters of holy baptism.