Merry Christmas and Auf Wiederlesen!

An early Merry Christmas to all of you. This will be my last post until after the new year. I’ll be spending time with the family until Monday, when we will all load in the car and drive, drive, drive to Tennessee to see my in-laws. I’m looking forward to being offline for the next ten days. I may go through Skyrim withdrawal, but that might not be a bad thing either.

I have mixed feelings about being gone next week. We have a number of folks here having surgery and going through some heavy trials, and part of me wants to be around or available. But I want and need to see my in-laws who are having health issues, and Marjorie’s uncle who is ailing with MS. I commend them all to God’s care, where they already are.

Peace,

Christopher Hall

National Lutheran Pastor’s Wives Day

Ok. Actually the commemoration of Katherina Von Bora, the wife of Martin Luther. Legend has it she was the author of the “What does this mean?” portions of the catechism, as Martin would ask himself that aloud, and Katie told him. Like a good pastor’s wife, full of wisdom.

They would also write and direct children’s Christmas programs for their kids at home, since that sort of thing didn’t happen at church.

Give thanks for Katherina today, and also say a special prayer for your Pastor (or Priest’s) wife. They bear much for the kingdom, sometimes more than their husbands do.

Christianity, Culture, and Cult

I wish we could get back to recognizing that a culture has a cult–a worship. Cultus is the worship of a people, and the cult produces a culture. We see this most clearly in the Muslim Countries and in the “Old Countries” of the Mediterranean and Russia. The religion of the people influences their dress, their diet, their music, their art and dancing, architecture and all those expressions which we in the West have isolated to a “secular culture.”

I put that in quotation marks, because its impossible for their to be secular culture. Humans are religious beings and worship. And if you doubt that, then ask yourself, “What influences and directs our music, dancing, architecture and art in the West?” Humanism, by and large. Humanism is the faith that drives our culture.

Christian artists must recognize this before they can create culture according to their culture. They must be formed and directed by the cultus first. What happens more often is that Christian artists (musicians–I’m talking to you) mimick the other culture, and perhaps the cultus as well.

Practice Makes Better. All the Time.

We’ve heard the story before: the brain has two halves, and the right side is the “creative” side, the left the “analytic” side. And people are either right or left brain dominant.

It’s a myth. There are some localized brain functions, but modern science is proving again and again that the entire brain is used; the brain is a system, a whole. This post explains it well.

Reality is, you use what you need to, and practice makes better. Humans are good at two things: adapting and making routines. Yes, they are contradictory, but it’s true. We are wonderful at changing, but also very prone to habitual actions, thoughts and so forth.

In other words, don’t make the excuse that you are right-brained and “cannot understand” math. Or that you are analytic and have no eye for art. Better, say you don’t like such-and-such. Or you don’t use that ability much and are out of practice. If you wish you were better, then practice it.

Discussion Questions, a la Walker Percy, but not as Good as His

But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’
And he answered and said, ‘I will, sir’; and he did not go.
And he came to the second and said the same thing. But he answered and said, ‘I will not’; yet he afterward regretted it and went.
“Which of the two did the will of his father?”
They said, “The latter.”
Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax-gatherers and harlots will get into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax-gatherers and harlots did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him. 
(Mat 21:28-32 NAS)

Which is better: to intend and desire to do the right thing and fail to do it, or to do the right thing begrudgingly?

Which is better: to please people with lying lips or to eventually make things right?

Which is better: the willing heart or the working hands?

Then why is it we seem to be more disappointed when a child does his chores bitterly than when he joyfully agrees, and then “forgets”?

Read Lost in the Cosmos

Death of Death

Christ has destroyed the power of death and opened the Kingdom of Heaven.

Right?

So what does this mean? Death is something that can be destroyed, and the Kingdom of Heaven was not open before. Where did people go when they died prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection? Was Moses in Heaven? What gives?

Sometimes you hear the answer that they were in “heaven” already because they believed that the Messiah would come eventually. They had faith in the future Messiah, so they were saved and in heaven. This is probably the most common answer I hear.

But that is not how Scripture talks. In the Old Testament all people went to Sheol, the realm of the dead. David, Job, the Patriarchs, all entered Sheol. In the New Testament the Greek word used for Sheol is Hades. Still the realm of the dead.

This is exactly what Jesus is talking about in the story of the Rich man and Good Lazarus. The rich man enters Hades…and Lazarus is at Abraham’s side or bosom. But this is still Hades. There is a gulf between the place of the righteous and the place of the unrighteous in Hades, but it is still death, Sheol, prison, Hades.

When Christ died, He descended into hades and preached to the spirits in prison/sheol/hades. This is the power he broke, this is the place He emptied. Sheol/Hades has no power over the human race anymore. So with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, He has opened the prison gates of hades and welcomes all into His eternal presence. We do not die any more. We do not descend to death(hades/sheol) any more.

In the time to come, Christ will return and raise all. Those who lack repentance and reject the grace and mercy of God will be cast away from Him. Those who receive His mercy and grace in repentance will spend eternity with God.

Let’s reclaim this biblical, patristic, faithful understanding of Death and Christ’s victory over it.

A Generation Gone

I find it sad when I meet the children of faithful members and I ask them where they live and they say, “Oh, I live here in Enid.” Then I find out they are going to a church of another denomination.

As a parent I know that we only have so much influence on our children. But I look at my congregation and see an entire generation missing from our pews. Seriously. There are exceptions, to be sure. But I wonder what happened then, and what happens now, and what I can do as a parent and pastor to prevent that in the future.

Any ideas?