Monday, September 29, 2008

Look Who’s Been Moonlighting!

News Flash:

Most of us have read the great answers that Rev. Walter Snyder, the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Emma, MO, has written on his Ask the Pastor blog, and appreciate all the work he’s done on his Xrysostom website. He’s been around for years answering the questions we can’t quite seem to figure out on our own.

And now, for the rest of the story.

I was commenting to one of my friends how I enjoyed listening to Pastor Borghardt on Higher Things Radio. His sometimes zany and excitable voice reminds me a bit of Dr. Demento, the comedic voice from the radio past who still airs on a few stations. (For those of you who don't remember Dr. Demento, his is a rather light-hearted comedy, not dark like the name might imply.) What I could not have known, at least until I visited the Dr. Demento website, is that Dr. Demento is actually Pastor Walt Snyder. I know. I couldn’t believe it either. He’s been moonlighting all these years.

It seems impossible. But think about it. They both excel in their respective spheres. Dr. Demento excels in delivering wacky comedy and fine music in his comedic discipline, and Rev. Snyder excels in delivering the Word of the Lord in his pastoral discipline. Plus Pastor Snyder already has another well known alias, Orycteropus Afer. So what’s one more vocation? Pastor, Xrysostom, Aardvark, and now Dr. Demento. I know what you’re thinking. Their voices don’t sound quite the same. But anybody can disguise their voice. If you’re still not buying this, here’s the irrefutable proof. You can disguise your voice, but you can’t disguise your looks. I present to you “Dr. Demento” on the left and Rev. Snyder on the right.

I told you so! They both carry an air of wisdom and sophistication don’t they? Same greying beard. Same dapper dress. Same wire-frame glasses. If you look on Fox, the big “BREAKING NEWS” should be sliding past on the bottom of your television screen right now. The next time you bump into Pastor Snyder, you’ll look at him in a whole new light. You might even ask him to autograph that worn cassette tape of The Dr. Demento Show that you pirated off the radio with your Panasonic a few decades back. And be sure to thank him for all the laughs. Who would have known?

Until next time, this is Correspondent Scott Diekmann signing off.

Send Your Kids to Higher Things

Higher Things logo

Are you concerned about what your kids and the kids in your congregation are encountering when they go to church-sponsored regional and national youth events? Are you tired of events that are more about entertainment and merging with the culture than about being set apart from it? Are you concerned that they will be negatively influenced by things like yoga, mysticism, and an emphasis on “experience” rather than God’s gifts found in Word and Sacrament? Are you seeing your children’s Lutheran beliefs gradually ebb away in favor of a people-pleasing emphasis on what they’re doing rather than on what Christ has done for them? If you are, then I suggest you check out Higher Things.

Higher Things is an organization dedicated to assisting parents, congregations, and pastors in cultivating and promoting a Lutheran identity among high school and college youth through conferences, retreats, publications, radio, and the internet. They offer national gatherings as well as weekend retreats, a network of Lutheran campus ministries, a quarterly magazine, Higher Things Radio, and a first-rate internet site offering blogs, forums, daily devotions, and other areas.

There are several things which distinguish Higher Things from many run-of-the-mill youth organizations and events. First, the LCMS pastors and laypersons that spearhead Higher Things work hard to instill in the kids a Lutheran identity. This is done by thorough teaching without the fluff. They do not dumb the message down, but rather strive to meet the kids at their level and challenge them in the things that make our Lutheran beliefs truly “higher things.” Secondly, to quote the video (which you can view below), “our youth are serious about worship, demonstrating a proper reverence of God, a devout appreciation for liturgical forms of worship, and a desire to receive God’s gifts of life, forgiveness, and salvation.” Third, this is not a one time event. The kids stay involved throughout the year via the magazine, personal contacts they develop, campus ministries, Higher Things Radio, events, and a highly interactive website. And of course, there are plenty of recreational and social opportunities as well. All of these combine to make Higher Things an organization that will impact your child and the kids in your congregation in ways that will benefit them spiritually for the rest of their lives.

I hope you'll visit the Higher Things website and watch the following video. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Saturday, September 27, 2008

As You Pray, So You Believe

The Latin phrase lex orandi, lex credendi, means the law of prayer is the law of belief. A loose translation would be "How you worship is how you believe." This little phrase has tremendous application in the life of the Church. It behooves us as Christians to continuously be vigilant of our practice, lest it corrupt our belief.

Pastor Rick Stuckwisch has an excellent post on lex orandi, lex credendi on his blog thinking-out-loud, in which he explores the history of the phrase, and its significance for the Church.

Here is Pastor Stuckwisch's conclusion:

This original definitiion of the "lex orandi" is instructive. It begins with the understanding that the Church's practice of prayer is not a self-authenticating enterprise. Faithful praying takes its stand upon, and take its cues from, the Word and promises of God. Which is not to say that every rubric, rite and ceremony must have an explicit command. That we should pray "for all men" and "without ceasing" requires a good ordering of life and practice, which need not be the same at all times and in all places. As preaching properly divides the Word of truth, proclaiming the Law and the Gospel in many and various ways, so does faithful praying proceed according to various patterns of sound words. Yet, faithful preaching and praying alike derive their authority from the Holy Scriptures, from the doctrine of the blessed Apostles. Nothing dare undermine, contradict, or compete with that regula fidei (the rule of faith). But the Church, in the freedom of the Gospel, regulates her practice according to and in harmony with the Lord's "lex orandi," in order that her faith in Him may be rightly and clearly confessed. In this way, the Church's liturgical practice establishes an orthodox "lex credendi."

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Lutheran Manifesto

If you haven't had opportunity to read through Pastor Frederic Baue's "A Lutheran Manifesto" at The Brothers of John the Steadfast site I hope you'll check it out. I've included his cover letter below to give you an idea of what the Manifesto is about. Please give a read. You can post comments there and/or affix your name to the document. Here is the cover letter:

Dear Reader,

Greetings to you and blessings through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

You have before you a document entitled, "A Lutheran Manifesto." Let me say a word about it by way of introduction.

I the undersigned am the sole author. I take complete responsibility for its contents. I have called it a "manifesto" in that its purpose is to exhort the reader to action. The manifesto contains twelve theses, each derived from the Articles of the Augsburg Confession. There are twenty-eight articles in the Augsburg Confession, but as a number of these address the same subject, I have combined them thematically.

What I am trying to achieve here is to view the current confessional crisis in the Lutheran church through the lenses of the Augsburg Confession.

The crisis is this: many Lutheran pastors, teachers, laymen, and congregations have not fulfilled their vow to be faithful to the Lutheran Confessions. They uphold the Bible, but waver on the Confessions.

I want to show that the Augsburg Confession, written in 1530, is still relevant. It still is valid. It still speaks to the issues and conflicts we are faced with today.

News Flash: Purple Palace Defined

This just in. For those of you who aren't quite sure what the term "Purple Palace" means, it's now got an official definition in the Urban Dictionary.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For

Six months ago yesterday Issues, Etc.™ was canceled. A lot has happened since then, but a bad taste still lingers when reflecting on that event. No amount of Listerine seems to eliminate the flavor entirely. Of course, the happy ending to this story has already been written with the resurrected Issues.

To mark the occasion, Todd Wilken and Jeff Schwarz released a Web Extra Open Mics edition which reviewed the entire document titled "An ‘Issues, Etc.’ Q&A." This document by the Board for Communication Services and its Director David Strand came out shortly after the cancellation. They dissect the entire document line by line and comment on areas where the answers in this document may be less than accurate – perhaps a lot less than accurate.

Their rationale for revisiting the cancellation was summed up by Pastor Wilken at the end of the segment:

This is telling the truth. And the need to respond to half truth with full truth and to falsehood with the truth period. That’s all this is. Jeff and I have both happily moved on. More happy than you know. But the need to correct the record with the truth, no matter how happy we are to be free from LCMS, Inc., and out from the mismanagement of KFUO, no matter how happy we are, the need remains to correct the record with the truth. The truth needs to be told. And it’s really that simple.

In a lighter moment, Todd, quoting from the document, comments that
They should post this on the wall at the International Center: "People who work for an organization facing financial difficulty realize that continued employment in such circumstances can be precarious." They should post that as a sign on the front door of the International Center.
In a not-so-light moment Jeff relates

...the Synodocrats that couldn’t stand our show. And believe me, we have people over there too. We were frequently criticized by executive directors and high level employees routinely at LCMS, Inc. It was a thorn in their side.

This Web Extra is one I’d encourage you to listen to. It really probes the depths of the Issues, Etc.™ cancellation, and sheds light where it needs to be shed, sometimes painting a bleak picture of the looming corporate cloud than hangs over the craggy heights of the LCMS.

Ironically, the next to last paragraph of David Strand’s document closes with this comment: "One hopes this voice can continue to be heard through other communication channels." It looks like they got their wish. But it’s unlikely that it’s turned out for them exactly like they envisioned it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Guess Who Said It

Name the person who said this:

However, even believing theologians of the modern type are frequently too timid to use technical terms that are fully warranted by Biblical and ecclesiastical usage, because they are afraid that these terms might prove offensive to their audience. They are averse to speaking of hereditary sin in their sermons or of the wrath of God against sinners, of the blindness of natural man, of spiritual death, in which all men are merged by nature. They do not like to speak of the devil going about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, because that would make them unpopular with their hearers. They are disinclined to speak of the everlasting fire of hell, of eternal torment and damnation; they prefer to speak of these matters to their hearers in terms that do not seem so strange, faulty, and offensive to them, employing phrases that are more in harmony with “the religious sentiment of an enlightened people.”

Now, there is no doubt that these men wish to convert people by using such false terms. They believe that they can convert men by concealing things from them or by presenting matters in a manner that is pleasing to men as they are by nature. They are like sorry physicians who do not like to prescribe a bitter medicine to delicate patients, or if they do prescribe it, they add so much sugar to it that the patient does not taste the bitter medicine, with the result that the effect is spoiled. Accordingly, preachers who do not clearly and plainly proclaim the Gospel, which is offensive to the world, are not faithful in the discharge of their ministry and inflict great injury on men’s souls. Instead of advancing Christians in the knowledge of the pure doctrine, they allow them to grope in the dark, nurse false imaginations in them, and speed them on in their false and dangerous path.
Click on "Read More..." below to find out the answer.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Don't Get Fooled Again

The August 28th Issues, Etc.™ show included an interview with Dr. Ken Schurb, pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Moberly, MO. The topic was the recent Synodical restructuring proposals of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Synod Structure and Governance, which I previously mentioned here and here. This is most definitely a show which never would have gotten past the “network executive censors” back in the day of the “old” IE. We can thank those same censors for now providing us, albeit indirectly, with the ability to enjoy shows such as this one that are free of executive interference. Here are a few highlights from Todd Wilken’s interview of Dr. Schurb.

Dr. Schurb:
...the structure is going to make a difference in how the Gospel is proclaimed, even maybe how the Gospel is understood. ...the Church is a passive receiver, first of all, of the grace and gifts of Christ - forgiveness, life, and salvation, as He delivers them in Word and Sacrament. And then the Church responds to God by telling the good news... How you think of the Church as the receiver of God’s gifts and as the agent for God’s activity in the world can’t help but how you reflect on that Gospel message and I don’t think that matters of structure need necessarily be entirely neutral. In theory they could be, but I don’t think these matters of structure are entirely [theologically] neutral as regards all that.
Discussing the distinction between the Synod working in behalf of congregations to do what we couldn’t do individually, such as missions to foreign lands or operation of the seminaries, and the Synod working in support of the congregation, directly providing help to congregations in areas such as Christian education, stewardship, evangelism, and youth ministry, Dr. Schurb had this to say:

It’s a critical distinction as you look at this set of proposals, because this set of proposals is very heavy on the service in support of congregations. In fact, by sort of shear weight in the number of mentions and things like that, this is the thing that seemingly this task force has been most concerned with, and therefore relatively less concerned with the more traditional service in behalf of congregations, and not mentioned a great deal, although it’s not absent here, is the original purpose for the foundation of the Synod, which is the conservation of the unity of the true faith.
On the concept of giving more votes to larger congregations:

Now again, there is a theological rational, if not a theologically binding command from the Lord, to structure this way [an equal number of votes per congregation], and that is no congregation has more or less of Christ than any other. Where His Word is proclaimed, where His Sacraments are administered, there is the Church and there is Christ in His forgiving fullness, and no church has more or less of Him than another, be it 50 members, 500 members, 5,000 members, whatever you may have. This now is a fundamental change in the way congregations are represented, and I wonder if it’s not a fundamental change in the way the Synod is conceived.

...My question is, If you’ve got a system in place that does have some theological rhyme or reason, if you move away from it, what does that say about your commitment to that theological rhyme and reason, and, what kind of new theological spin might there be to the new system that you are putting into place?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Stand Up

If you’re a blogger who wants to contend for the faith, put your name and your email address on your blog. Even if you’re going by a pseudonym, an email address is helpful. There've been times when I wanted to contact someone after reading their blog, but no email address was furnished.

I might have been able to add a comment, but oftentimes that’s not all that viable an alternative. People don’t necessarily want to carry on a one-sided conversation that the whole world can see.

You might be worried about spam. I’ve got my email address on both my blogs and on my website. I don’t get that much spam. It’s worth a little inconvenience for the sake of the Gospel. On the apologetics website that I own,, I’ve taken the radical step of having my home phone number on the “Contacts” page. Yes, I occasionally get a crank phone call because of it, usually from an unhappy Jehovah’s Witness. More often it’s from a sincere person looking for help. There’s even an occasional "thank you" email.

So stand up and be heard. Make yourself available. You’ve got the shield of faith in one hand and the sword of the Spirit in the other. You need fear no spam.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Connecting People

Awaiting me in the thick stack of mail was a letter from the ADA Foundation. On the exterior of the back flap of the envelope were two lines which I copied:

Those phrases seemed familiar. I hopped on the internet and found similar phrases on a Lutheran church website that I’d seen before, which said “CONNECTING people” and “SHARINGlife.”

The ADA Foundation is a philanthropic and charitable organization sponsored by the American Dental Association. They provide grants for research and education, assist the needy in accessing dental care, and provide charitable assistance. Interestingly, their catchphrase, “CONNECTING PEOPLE. CHANGING LIVES.,” is nearly indistinguishable from the slogans on the home page of this church and on those of other church websites.

The home page also states they are “all about reaching people with God's grace to transform our local community into passionate followers of Jesus Christ.” Is that what God’s grace is all about? Making people passionate followers of Jesus Christ? No.

Jesus came to redeem fallen sinners who are enemies of God. He didn’t come to make them passionate followers, He came to forgive their sins. God’s alien work, to convict us of our sin, is done by the preaching of the Law. If the preaching of the Law is never carried out, God’s proper work, the forgiveness of our sins accomplished through the preaching of the Gospel, will never be heard. God’s work is thwarted.

Another Lutheran church on the web used the exact same phrases on one of its pages as did the ADA Foundation. Their page closes with a parishioner’s comment: “The connection is working, if we work at it, because we are all worth it.”

When the Church becomes like the world, it can offer nothing other than what the world can offer, some form of self-help. It becomes indistinguishable from a corporate benevolent society, offering connections, happiness, vision, changed lives, and Starbucks. It becomes indistinguishable from the slogan on the back of the envelope. The Church can only be the Church as she continues to clearly proclaim God’s wrath through the Law, followed by the redemptive work of Christ in the proclamation of the Gospel. If you want to talk about “connecting people,” connect them to the perfect life, death, and resurrection, worked out for us on a cross by Jesus Christ our risen Lord.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Shack: An Encounter With God?

The Shack, written by William P. Young, is currently the nation’s #4 best selling book according to USA Today. It is a fictional work about a man named Mac, whose daughter is kidnapped and murdered, and follows him as he journeys through the psychological aftermath of the loss of his daughter. Mac eventually has a weekend encounter with God in a shack in the wilderness. It is this encounter that has caused such excitement in the real world.

One comment by David Gregory on The Shack promotional website reflects how many people have reacted to The Shack:

An exceptional piece of writing that ushers you directly into the heart and nature of God in the midst of agonizing human suffering. This amazing story will challenge you to consider the person and the plan of God in more expansive terms than you may have ever dreamed.

The question is, is the portrayal of God in The Shack an accurate one? Quite a few Christian apologists out there, and a number of Lutherans, say "no." For an in depth review of The Shack from a Lutheran perspective, please check out Jim Pierce’s review of The Shack on his blog Confessional’s Bytes.

Friday, September 12, 2008

"The Only Effective Instrument"

"The church depends upon the faithful use of this Word both for gathering people into its fold, and for edifying them in the Gospel of Christ. Other means for the accomplishing of these purposes may seem more popular. But nothing can take the place of the Bible, inasmuch as it alone presents the Lord Jesus and is empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is the only effective instrument in reaching and regenerating human souls." (A. A. Zinck, What a Church Member Should Know [Philadelphia: United Lutheran Publication House, 1937], p. 20)

Quoted from Pastor David Jay Webber's Lutheran Theology Web Site.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Something To Get Excited About

There’s a new Lutheran theology blog in town called, appropriately enough, Lutheran Theology.

Its contributors include LCMS pastors Graham B. Glover, Piotr Malysz, Dr. John Paul Salay, and Luke Zimmerman, and Anglicans Rev. Dr. Jonathan Trigg and Bryce P. Wandrey. Their blog is described as “A Forum to Discuss the Theology of the Sixteenth Century German Reformation and Its Descendants.”

Offered here are frequent quotes from Luther and other Lutheran theologians, quotes and discussions from Lutheran theological journals, book reviews, and various other topics. The posts are all short and informative without taking up your whole day to keep up.

If you enjoy stimulating quotes and discussions on Lutheran theology (and who doesn’t), you’ll appreciate this blog. Note in the comments that Pastor McCain points out that Bryce Wandrey is a defector from the Lutheran church to the Anglican church, which I didn't note in my initial post. One Anglican, okay. Two, hmmm.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Check This Out!

Check out Chris Rosebrough's new ride, on display at Extreme Theology:

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Eroding Christian Freedom?

HandcuffsBelow are four quotes, taken from three different eras, past, present, and proposed future, that represent the attitude of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod towards its member congregations. As you can see, our proposed future is one of possible servitude if left unchecked. Now is the time to speak out. A freedom lost is not so easily regained. Don't let your freedom in Christ to be taken away, or we'll be "walking together" in handcuffs and leg irons.

...according to the constitution under which our Synodical union exists, we have merely the power to advise one another, that we have only the power of the Word, and of convincing. According to our constitution we have no right to formulate decrees, to pass laws and regulations, and to make a judicial decision, to which our congregations would have to submit unconditionally in any matter involving the imposing of something upon them. Our constitution by no means makes us a consistory, by no means a supreme court of our congregations. It rather grants them the most perfect liberty in everything, excepting nothing but the Word of God, faith, and charity. According to our constitution we are not above our congregations, but in them and at their side.


Article VII, 1. of the current LCMS Constitution:

In its relationship to its members the Synod is not an ecclesiastical government exercising legislative or coercive powers, and with respect to the individual congregation’s right of self-government it is but an advisory body. Accordingly, no resolution of the Synod imposing anything upon the individual congregation is of binding force if it is not in accordance with the Word of God or if it appears to be inexpedient as far as the condition of a congregation is concerned.
Bylaw 1.7.2 of the current LCMS Constitution:

The Synod expects every member congregation of the Synod to respect its resolutions and to consider them of binding force if they are in accordance with the Word of God and if they appear applicable as far as the condition of the congregation is concerned. The Synod, being an advisory body, recognizes the right of a congregation to be the judge of the applicability of the resolution to its local condition. However, in exercising such judgment, a congregation must not act arbitrarily, but in accordance with the principles of Christian love and charity.


The change proposed by the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance in its “Walking Together: The LCMS Future” document:

The task force proposal clarifies and affirms that the Synod expects every member congregation of the Synod to respect its resolutions and to consider them of binding force on the assumption that they are in accordance with the Word of God and that they are applicable to the condition of the congregation.

Dumb and Dumber - Directed Panspermia

Photo of spiral galaxy
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. This statement is a given for Christians and a stumbling block for those who are blinded by the god of this world. As Paul points out in Romans 1:20, God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Those who refuse to acknowledge their Creator must work very hard to formulate alternate explanations for their world view. Philosophers, physicists, and astronomers scratch their heads while attempting to postulate viable constructions for a God-less beginning to our universe. Their theories are often couched in scientific sounding auras of plausibility as they come up with explanations such as an infinite number of universes, or quantum tunneling.

Moving along the plausibility spectrum from dumb to dumber, one encounters the essence of dumber, directed panspermia. This theory, first proposed by Dr. Francis Crick and Dr. Leslie Orgel in 1973, suggests that the seeds of life were spread throughout the universe by an intelligent alien race - maybe a bit like the Star Wars equivalent of Noah’s Ark. Never mind that they have absolutely no evidence for such a theory.

Richard Dawkins, the famed British ethologist, evolutionary biologist, and atheist, is one of those who posits the directed panspermia theory as one counter to creationism and intelligent design. Ironically, isn’t he arguing in favor of intelligent design by suggesting that life on earth was started by an intelligent alien race? And while this theory answers the question of how life developed on earth, doesn’t it just postpone the obvious question? How was life started on the alien’s planet? There has to be a first cause.

Yet there is a more elegant explanation as to how our planet and life on it were started, an explanation which involves evidence and truth. On the first day the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters, God spoke, and through His Word all things were created. As Isaiah 45:12 proclaims, “I made the earth and created man on it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host.” And the full reflection of that truth is the revelation of the incarnate God, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. As John testifies in the first chapter of his Gospel, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Monday, September 8, 2008

LCMS Inc.: We R In Control

By now you’ve undoubtedly heard of the document that came out of the theological convocation last month in St. Louis, prepared by the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synodical Structure and Governance, called “Walking Together - The LCMS Future.” This document is the result of the “brainstorming” begun by the BRTFSSG regarding the restructuring of our Synod, and serves as a basis for future discussions. It’s a sort of “wish list.” I’ll leave it to you to speculate from whose wishes the suggestions were garnered.

There have been many blogs commenting on various aspects of “Walking Together.” The one with the most detail of those I’ve seen is Pastor Hall’s at his blog This Side of the Pulpit. I’ve also got a few comments of my own, so here goes.

First, a couple of “goods.”

I like the cross “logo” outlined by the “leaves” at the beginning of the document, although it makes me wonder if it isn’t Synod’s attempt to follow the world by looking environmentally friendly, or “green.” It reminds me a lot of Emergent Village’s “FRIEND OF emergent village” logo (you can get your own here if you’d like). The likeness seems appropriate since the LCMS is in the process of being subsumed by the Emerging Church anyway, with the recurring invasion of Emerging Church leaders like Dan Kimball and Leonard Sweet at LCMS functions. The definition of subsume is “to take up into a more inclusive classification,” and what could be more inclusive than the Emerging Church, considering their “chastened hermeneutic?”

I also liked their suggestion on page 6 to change “the name of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod to better reflect who we are today.”

A great idea. No offense to the good people of the Show-Me State, but not that many people identify with Missouri. I think we should get away from the geographical reference, but wouldn’t it be great if we could keep the LCMS letters? Of course, that means coming up with something different for the “M.” Since the goal is “to better reflect who we are today,” if we use an “M,” then there is one obvious hands-down choice, some form of the word mission. “Mission Synod” sounds a bit awkward. “Missional Synod” is an improvement, but if we’re really honest about who we are today, then it’s got to be Lutheran Church-Missiolatry Synod (or Missiolatrous Synod). That really says it all. Which leads to my next point.

Enough with the joking around. I want to know what happened to the Church gathered around Word and Sacrament? I guess that ended at the top of page two with the passing mention of “the Synod’s theological principles.” Congregations are now “primary mission centers.” This entire document is geared and directed towards only one thing, mission. It oozes mission. It sweats mission. It reeks of mission. We should be missional, but that’s not the only thing Christ’s Church is about. A few quotes as examples are in order:

In order to advance Christ’s mission...

As we together participate in Christ’s mission...

...for congregations to walk together in God’s mission... that they could better support and encourage the mission.

...the key issue becomes how the national Synod can best serve congregations so as to enhance their mission and do for us all what we cannot do–or do as well–by ourselves.

The whole document reflects the continuing abandonment of justification by grace through faith in the upper echelons of our Synod in favor of the Great Commission. We’re so mission-happy that we can see nothing else. This “target fixation” results in a flawed document which begins with a false premise. They state that “faced with ministry challenges in an ever-changing world, congregations are looking for encouragement, support, and resources.” I haven’t noticed anyone beating down the doors of the International Center pleading for more mission encouragement, support, and resources, at least not from my congregation. With the Ablaze!® “movement” attempting to seat itself in every pew in the Synod, and consuming huge portions of the Synodical budget, what further resources could we want? I was hoping for a few less resources.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Even the "Unchurched" Aren't Color Blind

Now Frank over at Putting Out the Fire has really gone and done it. The Studebaker was great, but this time he's gone too far. Again. First the Ablaze!® bracelet, now this. I'm all for reaching the unchurched, but not in a MAUVE 1979 El Camino. Don't get me wrong, I love the El Camino, just not in MAUVE, or whatever the LCMS color actually is.

It seems that the volunteer fireman may have temporarily overlooked his vocation. I thought the trend was to put out the mauve, not reignite it!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Pastor Matt Harrison Engages the Blogosphere

Pastor Matt Harrison has started his own blog titled Mercy Journeys With Pastor Harrison. He blogs from a perspective unique to most of us, since he travels around the world as Executive Director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care.

Aside from the intriguing photo that adorns the top of his blog home page (a smaller version of which I stole and pasted above), Pastor Harrison offers posts on such topics as his visits to the ravaged areas in the post-Gustav aftermath, and reveals his caring pastoral attitude by posting about the Lord’s servants who minister to others in need.

His last two posts are quotations of letters written by LCMS presidents written in the last half of the 19th century, which he personally translated from the original German.

President Pfotenhauer had this to say to his church workers in 1894:

Now he who is a faithful steward has rich consolation, also under the greatest difficulties. He can be certain that his God is pleased, and that is truly sweeter and more precious than all the glory of this world. God does not regard the glorious gifts and great results of his workers. He only and solely has regard for their faithfulness. He regards faithful preachers and teachers as everything. Christ himself calls out: "How great a thing it is to be a faithful and wise steward!"[Matthew 24:45] He allows nothing to happen to them aside from his tenderness and forbearing. If you make a mistake out of weakness, he does not break his staff over you, as indeed brothers in the office here and there do. He consoles you, stands you up and turns all things for good. While God in the Holy Scriptures speaks terrible words and curses against foolish and unfaithful servants, there is no harsh word spoken against his true servants, even though they have fallen into error.

I’m glad to see Pastor Harrison joining the blogosphere, and hope you’ll check him out.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

John Frederick's Good Confession

The words of Elector John Frederick the Magnanimous of Saxony, written to Emperor Charles V, while the emperor was holding Elector John in prison and threatening him with his life for refusing to accept the erroneous Augsburg Interim:

I cannot refrain from informing Your Majesty that since the days of my youth I have been instructed and taught by the servants of God’s Word, and by diligently searching the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures I have also learned to know, and (this I testify as in the sight of God) unswervingly to adhere in my conscience to this, that the articles composing the Augsburg Confession, and whatever is connected therewith, are the correct, true, Christian, pure doctrine, confirmed by, and founded in, the writings of the holy prophets and apostles, and of the teachers who followed in their footsteps, in such a manner that no substantial objection can be raised against it....Since now in my conscience I am firmly persuaded of this, I owe this gratefulness and obedience to God, who has shown me such unspeakable grace, that, as I desire to obtain eternal salvation and escape eternal damnation, I do not fall away from the truth of His almighty will which His Word has revealed to me, and which I know to be the truth. For such is the comforting and also the terrible word of God: ‘Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven.’ If I should acknowledge and adopt the Interim as Christian and godly, I would have to condemn and deny against my own conscience, knowingly and maliciously, the Augsburg Confession, and whatever I have heretofore held and believed concerning the Gospel of Christ, and approve with my mouth what I regard in my heart and conscience as altogether contrary to the holy and divine Scriptures. This, O my God in heaven, would indeed be misusing and cruelly blaspheming Thy holy name,...for which I would have to pay all too dearly with my soul. For this is truly the sin against the Holy Ghost concerning which Christ says that it shall never be forgiven, neither in this nor in the world to come, i.e., in eternity.

Quoted from F. Bente, Historical Introductions to the Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, CPH, 2005) 224-225.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

More Precious Than Jewels

Proverbs chapter 31 says that an excellent wife is more precious than jewels. How true. Today my wife Cheryl and I celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, a milestone in which I truly rejoice.

I’m blessed to have a wife that is caring, selfless, and most importantly, Christian. She really is the personification of Proverbs 31. Proverbs 12:4 states that an excellent wife is the crown of her husband. “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD” (Proverbs 18:22).

I hope you’ll all take the time to reflect on the blessings you and your spouse share in Christ.


Ephesians 5:25-33:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Proverbs 31:10-31:

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: "Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all." Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.

Emotions and Praise Worship

There’s no doubt that attending a contemporary “praise” worship service can be an emotional experience. The music and lyrics often lead to an emotional “high,” but to what end? It seems that in some churches, the musical goal is to manipulate your feelings, the thought being that those “feelings” are a barometer for your faith and the work of the Spirit. The more “uplifted” you feel, the more spiritual you are and the more “successful” the service was. Personally, I’ve found that I really do have an emotional response to the lyrics in these services, but that response isn’t what you might expect. Rather than feelings of rejoicing and joy, some of the time my response is one of frustration during praise services. What’s going on? Am I a praise worship washout?

To answer the above question, take a look at this line from a typical praise song ("Famous One," by Chris Tomlin): “With every breath I'm praising You.” It’s a nice thought. But unless you’re referring to the Spirit’s intercession on our behalf, this particular thought is patently false. I’ve yet to discover the day where I’ve consciously praised God with every breath I took. More often, I was worrying about finances, or thinking about changing the oil in the car, rather than praising God. I remember one of my friends commenting that he couldn’t even sit through the church service without his mind wandering – he couldn’t even properly praise God while he was sitting there in God’s house. The song line is based on an impossible premise. It’s a song line not about God and His goodness, but about me and my goodness, and in that category, we all fail.

Putting this into theological terms the line “With every breath I'm praising You” is a statement of Law. It’s talking about what I should do. The church service, and especially the sermon, should have Law in it. One of the purposes of the Law is as a mirror to show us our sin. But in the song, this line sounds more like a pharisee bragging about how he can keep the Law, rather than a poor miserable sinner despairing of his or her own condition and inability to keep the Law.

With only Law presented as in this song, a person will either become a Pharisee who’s proud of what he’s accomplished, or a sorrowful sinner afraid of God’s wrath. Neither situation leads to salvation. Without the presentation of the Gospel, a contrite sinner will be left in despair, which is where this song leaves you.

The purpose of a good hymn should not be to lead you to an emotional experience, but to lead you to Christ. The Holy Spirit comes to us only through Word and Sacrament, not through our own emotions. The measure of spiritual “success” is not based on what you “feel,” but rather on whether you trust in the objective, external promises of the Gospel – only there is found forgiveness, life, and salvation, offered by the outstretched arms of a crucified and risen Lord.

I cannot get through the second line of verse seven of "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" without shedding a tear when I sing it (He lives, and I shall conquer death), but that emotion is a response to the sure and certain work accomplished not by me, but by my Savior Jesus Christ, in whom I continue to sing. God’s blessings as you too sing His praises through His good and perfect work graciously poured out on us by His Spirit.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Sasse on the Ordination of Women

Quoting from Lutheran theologian Hermann Sasse's essay Ordination of Women?:

Not every question can be settled by means of a friendly discussion. It is necessary to remember this in an age which has a superstitious belief in dialog as the infallible means of settling everything. There are questions raised by the devil to destroy the Church of Christ. To achieve this he may use as his mouth piece not only ambitious professors of theology, his favorite tools, but also simple, pious souls. Why women cannot be ordained is one of these questions.
Quoted from Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective, edited by Matthew C. Harrison and John T. Pless (St. Louis: CPH, 2008) 265-266.