Monday, April 20, 2009

Big Banking Deceptions

For anyone with an outstanding credit card balance, be certain to pay attention to all of the mail that arrives. The big credit card companies have been sending notifications that are designed to have the appearance of junk mail. These notices contain information about HUGE hikes in APRs that take effect usually within a few weeks. The hikes are automatic unless the card holder “opts out,” which is equal to closing the account for all normal usage. Some are requiring written letters of opting out. Others can be opted out of by telephone.

Do not discard mail without opening and reading carefully. Big and unpleasant surprises could result.

Remember that these envelopes are being designed with a very plain appearance that is easily mistaken for junk mail.

Some of the credit card banks are even changing the terms on balance transfer balances that were established with fixed rates until pay down. Yes! Read carefully, for these change in term notices are not only for the purchase rates and cash advance terms, not only for late payment terms, but even for previously promised rates on which no failure to pay is incurred. The rates are being raised even when the card holder has a good payment record and has not defaulted in any way whatsoever.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Some Interesting Fun Videos

Crazy Dutch Site: Don't click on anything, turn on the sound and -- just wait: . . .
Crazy Online Shopping.

Susan Boyle on Britain's Got Talent

Don’t try this at home. Don’t try this anywhere!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Life Seems Bleak and Dark and Drear

Life seems bleak and dark and drear,
Until we see that Christ is near.
He is with us through His blood,
In His body washed by the flood.
Him we see, who once were blind,
Goodness and mercy now we find.
He is good, mercy endures,
Darkness and dread He now cures.
We do see beyond the dread,
Life is risen from the dead.
We, too, live in Him who died,
Lord Jesus Christ, the crucified!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Each year I watch The Passion of the Christ at least once during Lent and often again in Advent. Each time, having seen it probably eight or more times, I think to myself that this time it will not move me quite as deeply as the last time. I imagine that the impact upon my being will likely be less this time. I think that I will not sob in the bowels of my being. Each time I am moved as deeply as the time before, if not even more deeply. Each time I think that I want to write regarding the effect that seeing the Lord's Passion has upon me. Then I check what I wrote the last time and find it to say exactly what I want to say this time.

To view the post, it is available here.

The fact that this pierces my soul equally deeply each time and perhaps even more deeply each time is a powerful reminder that to grow as a Christian is to become more and more deeply aware of my own sinfulness and unworthiness, while simultaneously growing in my awareness of the immeasurable depth of God's love to me in Christ Jesus.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Were You There

“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”

Thus go the lyrics of a Negro spiritual that many have come to accept as a song of remembrance of the Lord’s suffering and death. I never understood it. I always thought it was a silly song based upon emotionalism. Even though I do not remember my pastors ever addressing this issue, even though they permitted this song to be sung in the divine service, even as a child I was uncomfortable with what I perceived as the focus of the song.

I’ve tried researching it, and what information I have found seems to confirm that the focus is awry. As a child I always heard a sense of blaming in the song. I always heard a sense of “Oh, how terrible that they would do this to the Lord Jesus!” From what I have been able to determine, this is at least a part of what is meant in this song, but more to the point is the expression of thinking of oneself as persecuted and abused and looking to what was done to Jesus in a “poor me, poor us” kind of relationship. It seems to be in the line of “misery loves company” sort of perspective with a bit of “Oh how I love Jesus” mixed in.

The lyrics of the song as it is included in the LC-MS hymnal, Lutheran Worship, can be viewed here. The tune can be heard and three stanzas viewed here. Some information regarding the origins of the “spirituals” is available here and here. Other sources are available as well.

As I reflected upon this song this season of Lent and in the entrance into the season of Easter, I thought about the answer to the question, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” The answer is, “Yes! I was most certainly there.”

I did not nail Jesus to the tree. I did not beat him or spit upon Him. I did not lay Him in the tomb. I did not stand there crying, either. But I was there. For Jesus took my complete identity as Sinner. He took my name of condemnation and disgrace. He took my guilt and shame. He took my punishment. He cried out in my place of feeling as forsaken by God. Oh yes! I was truly there.

I have been crucified with Jesus through Baptism. In the person of Jesus, I was crucified, dead and buried. And again in connection with Baptism I rose again the Third Day unto new life in Christ. I now walk in the newness of that life that is in Him. I partake of His body and blood and am renewed in Him regularly.

What appears to be the basic premise of this song is weak and shallow at best. Nevertheless, with the right understanding, the question is one worthy of answering with the answer that God Himself proclaims in the divine liturgy. The answer is not one of “Oh, how sad that this was done to Jesus and how sad that I must suffer many things in this world.” but of “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.” (Rev 5:12) And again, “Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” (Rev 5:13)


Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Rest of Good Friday

Today is the rest or Sabbath of Good Friday. On the cross Jesus purchased for us our Sabbath from sin, death, and the power of the devil. Tomorrow we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord, whereby God rose from the dead in His body to assure us that He has never abandoned mankind and never shall.

Has God ever abandoned anyone? This question is answered in the Good Friday sermon, “My God, My God, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?”.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Palm Sunday: Entrance to Holy Week

Palmarum - Palm Sunday is the entrance into Holy Week. With the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem He set into play the events that would finalize the salvation for which He was born into the world as a man. The Lord Jesus was received on this day by the multitudes as the Promised One, the Messiah or Christ, the Anointed of the Lord. Yet very few understood what this meant.

The Lord Jesus most assuredly knew. It was for this reason that He took on human flesh and a human spirit. As the eternal Son of God, the Logos, the King of Glory, He came to Jerusalem on an ass, a lowly beast of burden.

After the Sunday service, we always reflect upon the pericopal readings, the liturgy, the hymns, and the sermon. After preaching the sermon I realized more fully the point of the Epistle reading and the point of Palm Sunday. St. Paul declares that the saints are to be united by the mind of Christ which is the mind of God.

And what is the mind or the way of thinking of God? He is the King of Glory who according to His very being serves. God is a servant King. From the beginning, He is a servant. Everything in the accounts of creation shows us this. God is love. He acts in love. He created the cosmos for the sake of humans. He created humans and placed us over the entire creation to enjoy all that He had created.

The mind of God is the way of providing for His beloved children whom He created in His own image. From the beginning He established all things for our sake. Knowing what would be and the choices that we would make, He established our redemption even as He created us and the world for us.

Palm Sunday is the entrance into knowing the mind of God. By His entrance into His Holy city He publicly displayed His mind toward us. He came lowly and riding on an ass, the foal of an ass. He came not to be served, but to serve and to give Himself as a ransom for many.

When He speaks of our service to Him, what does He require? His definition of service to Him is that we hear His loving voice and live in accord with the good life that He has established for us. His definition of service to Him is that we receive from Him in faith the good things that He gives for us. In other words, His definition of our service to Him is that we acknowledge His loving and fatherly desire to serve us and to receive His loving service in His love together. Service to God is simply acknowledging Him as our loving God who establishes His Holy Communion for us to enjoy together with Him and one another.

Sunday’s sermon is Philippians 2:5-11 — “This Mind Be In You”.

Sound of Music - Central Station Antwerp (Belguim)

Here is an example of the power of music to move people in their hearts, minds, spirits, and bodies.

This is a tiny example of the power of music and singing. Even though this is a silly little song, it demonstrates how much people enjoy music and the grandeur of singing.

It puzzles me that some people hear of the fact that among the many things foretold to us regarding the new life that is prepared for the saints in heaven that some people imagine that singing praises to God will be boring. Yet in this video one can clearly observe that singing is a joyful experience that is even more powerfully and overwhelmingly joyous when done in unison by all who are present.

The singing in heaven will not be silly. It will be a continuation of the joy that has begun in God’s Holy Communion of the Saints who know and live in the peace that surpasses all understanding. Just imagine what it will be like when Michael or Gabriel sound forth with the voice of an archangel. Imagine when all of the heavenly host join in. Imagine how this will resonate. Imagine how this will move the saints.

Now also imagine what life will be like when no one will ever hear said of one’s own voice, “That was terrible!” What will it be like when no one ever again fears being rejected by others? What will it be like when the sounds of music move one in the heart so as to want to hug and kiss the nearest person, and such reactions will be counted as normal so that no one ever anticipates having such a display of love to be rejected? What will it be like when every emotional response is pure and without sin so that the true freedom of a life of pure love is all that is ever experienced?

Will this not be cause for singing? Will this not be cause for singing forth with all of one’s being the praises of God and the Lamb who from eternity have established this for the saints? Could there be any more natural response?

These two sites explain who was behind this Sound of Music treat at the Antwerp Central Station:

Centraal Station Antwerpen - Op zoek naar Maria
Antwerp central station dances to The Sound of Music

Dolphin Bubbles

Here is a fascinating video. A dear friend sent the link this week.

How long have these fascinating creatures been doing this? The Sea World staff’s comments indicate that they do not know for certain. But some intriguing observations can be made:

These animals have long been known for their intelligence and their natural affinity toward man. Even in the wild they have long been known for approaching people and seeking human attention with little playful acts and performances. Like certain other animals, these seem to carry a stronger connection to Genesis 1:26-28 and Genesis 2:18-20.

These dolphins are in a unique setting. Here they have continual contact with humans. They have the luxury of having all of their food provided for them so that they have endless time for play and discovery. Through the glass they observe the reaction of humans to their play and they receive attention and praise, which with their amplified hearing abilities they enjoy even through the glass. The video shows that they frequently look to the window to observe the humans’ reactions.

I continue to be amazed at the various ways that little remnants of the original plan of the Lord appear in the animal kingdom and certain displays of submission and even willing submission to humans, even to the point of magnificent loyalty. Sea World is a fascinating example, with not only dolphins, but orcas, seals, walruses, and penguins. Perhaps the example that most amazes me is the relationship of domesticated elephants. That such a monstrously large animal can be domesticated to be led by even small children leaves me awestruck.

In these things I see miracles that are connected to the very genesis of the world and glimpses of the glory of heaven that those who are in Christ shall everlastingly enjoy.

Dolphin Bubbles Link

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Blood Donor News

The American Red Cross sends out e-news letters to their blood donors with updated information about local needs for blood donations. In the latest news letter the following is stated:

Who Can Receive My Blood?

At the Red Cross, we are often asked who can receive which blood types. This chart helps answer that question. Find your blood type in the left column. The blood drops to the right of it show which blood types can receive your blood. For example, if you are type AB+, then you can only give to other people with AB+ blood, but you can receive blood from all blood types. If you are O- you can give blood to people with any blood type, but you can only receive blood from people with O- blood.

Right Type

Blood typing is very important. When it comes to emergency situations, most people are given O- blood since people of all blood types can receive O- blood. Because of this, type O blood is in high demand and often in short supply. While O- is the universal donor for red blood cell products, AB- is the universal donor for plasma-containing products, including platelets.

In order to have the most blood available, we encourage people to do the "Right Type" of donation for their blood type to best fulfill the needs of hospital patients. People with O+, O-, B+ and B- blood should do a regular whole blood donation or a double red cell donation. Blood shortages often occur in these blood types. People with AB+, AB-, A+ and A- blood are encouraged to donate platelets.

When we make the best donation possible for our blood type, it helps ensure that the most compatible blood product is available for patients in need. The next time you make a donation, ask the staff more about what donation type is right for you!

You can learn more about blood donation needs and the role of the American Red Cross at Blood is Needed and Blood Facts.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Gospel Star

The headline of this article from today’s Wichita Eagle more or less puts things into perspective.

The on-line version changes the headline.

For those who don’t get it, try reading any of the four Gospel accounts to discover who the star of the Gospel is. To make it easy, three of the four accounts declare the matter in the first sentence:

Matthew 1:1

Mark 1:1

John 1:1

But then, I suppose the contemporaneity of these accounts may escape the awareness of "Gospel Stars" and their fans.