The Word is so completely above criticism that there is not one iota of a mistake in the Law and in the divine promises. Therefore we are to yield to no sect; nor are we to yield in any point of Scripture, however much men clamor and slander, saying that we are violating love by adhering so strictly to the words; for the beginning of all love is that the "right scepter" remain. If this cannot be obtained in any other way, then love and anything even greater, if that exists, must be broken, so that only the word may remain pure. If this purity of the Word and this "right scepter" stand, I shall be glad to bear in love the manners and mistakes of my brother. (W 40 II, 531 f – E op ex 18, 187 – SL 5, 398)
Friday, November 28, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Arthur A. Just Jr., Heaven on Earth: The Gifts of Christ in the Divine Service, (St. Louis: CPH, 2008) 116.Time is a part of our lives that we seldom think or talk about, except when we complain that we do not have enough of it. Few people think of time as holy or as a gift of God, but time is sacred, a trust from God to live in His creation with joy and contentment. Time is marked by Christians in a special way in their liturgical life because Christ entered time. By His presence in the creation to make all things new He changed our reckoning of time forever. From the beginning, early Christians lived with clarity about how, through Christ’s resurrection, eternity now bore in upon our finite time. They lived in that tension between a life lived toward the end time within time itself, that tension between the now and the not yet. By their accounting of days and weeks and years, Christians gave meaning to time. Their timekeeping proceeded from Jewish timekeeping and also proclaimed that now all was fulfilled in Christ.
Liturgical time allows the Church to proclaim time’s sacred character as Christ-centered. Through Sunday as the day of worship and rhythms of the Church Year, the Church teaches how our days and weeks and years are shaped and formed by the reality that Jesus entered our time and space. This rhythm shows us how we are to truly live in God’s gift of time as temporal beings baptized into Christ’s eternal life. The structure of time says as much about us as a people as anything else we do or say as Christians.
photo credit: ToniVC
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Furthermore, when Christ commands His apostles to proclaim His Word and to carry on His work, we hear and see Him Himself, and thus also God the Father; for they publish and proclaim no other Word than that which they heard from His lips, and they point solely to Him. Thus the process goes on; the Word is handed down to us through the agency of true bishops, pastors, and preachers, who received it from the apostles.... Thus the apostles and pastors are nothing but channels through which Christ leads and transmits His Gospel from the Father to us. Therefore wherever you hear the Gospel properly taught or see a person baptized, wherever you see someone administer or receive the Sacrament, or wherever you witness someone absolving another, there you may say without hesitation: ‘Today I beheld God’s Word and work. Yes, I saw and heard God Himself preaching and baptizing’. To be sure, the tongue, the voice, the hands, etc, are those of a human being, but the Word and the ministry are really those of the Divine Majesty Himself. Hence it must be viewed and believed as though God’s own voice were resounding from heaven and as though we were seeing Him administering Baptism or the Sacrament with His own hands. (LW 24, 66, 67)Quoted from Women Pastors?: The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective. Ed. Matthew C. Harrison and John T. Pless. (St. Louis: CPH, 2008) 219.
photo credit: Vicki & Chuck Rogers
Friday, November 21, 2008
Justification is a legal term in which God declares us innocent and thus saved, even though we are guilty. He does this by ignoring our own sin which rightly damns us, and imputing to us Christ’s righteousness. The Bishop of Rome and the Catholic Church, on the other hand, have always required our own works be added to the salvific formula. While they say that salvation begins with grace, it isn’t completed by grace.
The Council of Trent, which ended in 1563, codified Roman Catholic Church doctrine, and it remains the basis for their beliefs. The sixth session of the Council of Trent, discussing justification, states:
CANON XI.-If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema.
CANON XII.-If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ's sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema.
CANON XX.-If any one saith, that the man who is justified and how perfect soever, is not bound to observe the commandments of God and of the Church, but only to believe; as if indeed the Gospel were a bare and absolute promise of eternal life, without the condition of observing the commandments ; let him be anathema.
CANON XXI.-If any one saith, that Christ Jesus was given of God to men, as a redeemer in whom to trust, and not also as a legislator whom to obey; let him be anathema.
CANON XXXII.-If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.
Trent’s statements on justification remain their official doctrine, which their current Catechism verifies in paragraph 2010,
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Take the Test:
Instructions: Read through the list. Write down the abbreviations you know on a piece of paper. Then compare your answers with the correct answers by clicking on "Read More... ." Add up the number of correct answers, and see how you rank. When finished with the test, post answers on refrigerator door for future reference. For extra credit, leave me a list of your abbreviations.
Your score indicates:
If you got less than six right: Ignorance is bliss
6-19: A seasoned layperson
20-33: Church worker
34-40: What have you been readin’?
Above 40: You’re a synodocrat
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
MY DEAR FRIENDS: –
During the last quarter of the eighteenth century, Rationalism rushed in upon the so-called Protestant Church with the force of a spring-tide. In the lecture halls of universities it was held up as a new and great light to young theologians, who afterwards preached it to the common people as true Christianity – Christianity purified. Thus Rationalism gradually became the dominant type of religion. The inevitable consequence was that the conviction that it is not a matter of indifference whether a person is a Lutheran or a Reformed or a Catholic vanished completely. The small remnant of sincere Christians who still believed and confessed with their mouths that the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God, that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God, that man is justified before God by faith in Christ alone, – these few Christians extended to each other the right hand of brotherly fellowship, like persons saved from a great shipwreck, who, having seen most of their fellow-passengers go down to a watery grave, now embrace each other with tears of joy though they had been perfect strangers before. In this state of affairs the thought had to arise in all hearts that the time had come for putting an end to the abominable church quarrels (that is what doctrinal controversies were called) and to let down the bars that divided the churches from one another. Especially the confessions, it was held, must be removed, because, like toll-gates along a highway, they hindered progress, and to sum up, a great universal union of the churches, at least of the Protestant churches, must at last be instituted.
But, lo! what happened? [sic] In the year 1817, when this plan was to be executed, Claus Harms, in whom there was still some Lutheran blood flowing, wrote ninety-five theses against Rationalism and the union of churches, which he intended as a counterpart to the Ninety-five Theses of Luther. In these theses he said to the advocates of church union: “You purpose to make the poor handmaid, the Lutheran Church, rich by a marriage. Do not perform the act over Luther’s grave. Life will come into his bones, and then – woe to you!” This glorious prediction was fulfilled. When the union of churches was actually put into effect in Prussia, multitudes of Lutherans suddenly awoke from their spiritual sleep, remembered that they belonged to the Lutheran Church, and declared that they would never forsake the faith of their fathers. In fact, they chose to see themselves evicted from their homes, imprisoned, and expatriated rather than consent to a union of truth with error, of the Word of God with man’s word, of the true Church with a false Church.
The first two of Pastor Harms’ 95 Theses read
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Tracking the Spirit has some very positive attributes. First and most obvious, its ultimate goal is to share the Gospel with those people who don’t know Christ as their Savior. It should be commended for exploring other ways to start a church besides “the way we’ve always done it.” It’s also designed to minimize the cost of a “traditional” church startup, and be more nimble in doing so. Its emphasis on the relational sharing of the Gospel is a good one, as long as vocation is emphasized. At the same time, it has negatives associated with it, which are described below.
The first sentence of the introduction states that TTS is not “all about us.” Having read Pastor Rick Warren’s book The Purpose-Driven Life, this comment is worrisome. Pastor Warren stated at the beginning of his book that “it’s not about you.” He then proceeded to spend 319 pages talking about and glorifying “you,” and cajoling “you” with the third use of the Law. If it’s so obvious that TTS isn’t about “us,” why point it out? This defense of the “obvious” is reminiscent of Senator Bumper’s comments at President Clinton’s impeachment trial, when he said "When you hear somebody say, 'This is not about money' – it's about money. And when you hear somebody say, ‘This is not about sex’ – it's about sex.” And when you hear someone say “It’s not about us,” it’s about us.
So is it about “us,” or “you,” or not? Consider the beginning of the pastor’s article:
What is our “Business” as a church?
“What business are you in?” Have we thought about that? Ponder the Great Commission and your personal obedience to it. What am I doing, not only to BE a disciple, but to MAKE disciples?
The article moves on to relate how LCMS membership is paralleling the decline of the general “churched” population in the United States, calling the LCMS “part of that unhealthy picture.” At this point we need to take a time out, because this statement makes an erroneous assumption. To equate the size of the Church with the health of the Church is a theology of glory. God grows His Church as he sees fit. His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways. To quote the 2001 LCMS report of the Church Growth Study Committee (titled “For the Sake of Christ’s Commission”), “As at Pentecost, God built His church with dramatic increase in numbers through the proclamation of the cross; so in the days of Noah, Elijah, and Jeremiah, He built His church in times of decreasing numbers (1 Pet. 3:17–22).” A more appropriate posture concerning “numbers” would be that of the Lutheran pastor, who when asked how many people were in his parish, replied “As many as the Lord has given us.”
The author describes “Tracking the Spirit” as “a movement within our district to empower churches to improve their health and to grow, implementing the two foundational factors mentioned above – SMALL GROUPS (outreach based) and CHURCH PLANTING.” According to TTS, these two factors are foundational, and “what makes for healthy churches.” This thought is completely foreign to Scripture and our Confession. Healthy churches are “made” through the power of the Word, preached, joined with water, given and shed, in which unworthy sinners are declared righteous through the substitutionary death and resurrection of their Savior Jesus Christ. It’s not about us and what we’re doing - it’s about Jesus Christ and what He is doing to daily recreate us in the waters of Baptism, in His body and blood, and in the hearing of His Word. Here’s how the Solid Declaration puts it:
Out of His immense goodness and mercy, God provides for the public preaching of His divine eternal Law and His wonderful plan for our redemption, that of the holy, only saving Gospel of His eternal Son, our only Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. By this preaching He gathers an eternal Church for Himself from the human race and works in people’s hearts true repentance, knowledge of sins, and true faith in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. By this means, and in no other way (i.e., through His holy Word, when people hear it preached or read it, and through the holy Sacraments when they are used according to His Word), God desires to call people to eternal salvation. He desires to draw them to Himself and convert, regenerate, and sanctify them. SD II, 50.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Let others determine for themselves what they have learned in scholastic theology. As to myself, I know and confess that I have learned nothing in it but ignorance of sin, righteousness, Baptism, and all of Christian life. Nor did I learn what the power of God, the work of God, the grace of God, the righteousness of God, faith, hope, and love are. I not only learned nothing (which could be tolerated), but I learned only what I had to unlearn again because all was contrary to Holy Writ. I should be surprised if others were more fortunate in their learning. If there are such, I frankly congratulate them. As for me, I lost Christ there; in Paul I have now found Him again. (W 2, 414 - E op var arg 3, 262 - SL 18, 840)Quoted from What Luther Says (St Louis: CPH, 1959) 1366.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
I used to think the main motivation for Christian living was a thankful heart. Because of what Jesus did for me on His cross, I was supposed to thank Him by living a holy life. Of course it’s true that the depth of Christ’s saving love ought to move our heart to thanks and our lives to His service. We love, writes St. John, because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). But this love is more than skin deep. The love which prompts us to thankful service to others is not our own. It is the very love of Christ Himself, continually extended and dispensed to us in the proclamation of His Word and the administration of His Sacraments. Every deed of kindness, each work of love which Jesus Christ does, using us as His instruments. St. Paul describes it this way: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20).Harold L. Senkbeil, Dying to Live: The Power of Forgiveness (St. Louis: CPH, 1994) 162.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
G. A. Pritchard, Willow Creek Seeker Services: Evaluating a New Way of Doing Church (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996).
"The point behind this history? I did not want to write this book. I did not come to the study of Willow creek with a strong motivation to defend or attack Willow Creek. Although I am an evangelical, I did not come to my study of Willow Creek primarily as an advocate or critic, but as a researcher. This may have been my greatest advantage. My lack of an agenda has helped me describe the church more fairly." (p. 15)
...making the gospel relevant can easily compromise it. The unintended consequences of this approach are that Hybels incorporates large chunks of the American psychological worldview into his basic teaching and teaches that fulfillment is a consequence of the Christian life. There is a lack of critical evaluation to Willow Creek’s approach to relevance. This felt-need approach to relevance ultimately distorts their Christianity.
A more biblical approach to the current American fixation with fulfillment is to call it the idolatry that it is. Jesus does not guarantee that to follow him will make one fulfilled. In fact, at several points, the direct opposite is communicated: "I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you" (John 15:19); "I did not come to bring peace but a sword" (Matt. 10:34); "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also" (John 15:20). The temptation to say that Christianity will meet all one’s felt needs and provide fulfillment is not true to biblical Christianity. (p. 200)
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Its Time: LCMS Unity and Mission
Monday, November 10, 2008
So, what is a confessional Lutheran and what does that mean?
A Confessional Lutheran is someone who believes the Creeds and articles of faith contained in the Book of Concord, because they accurately reflect the doctrine contained in the Scriptures.
A Confessional Lutheran is someone who believes in the inerrancy, inspiration, sufficiency, and efficacy of Scripture, believing it is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.
A Confessional Lutheran is someone who believes that in Christ's body and blood offered in Communion, and in the water of Baptism, there is forgiveness of sins.
A Confessional Lutheran is someone who stands on the mighty solas of the Reformation.
A Confessional Lutheran is someone who confesses those same beliefs by sharing them with others and teaching them to their family.
A Confessional Lutheran is someone who believes that our Confession is worth defending, because it is Christ’s honor that is at stake.
A Confessional Lutheran is someone who renounces secret and shameful ways, avoiding deception and distortion of God’s Word, instead setting forth the truth plainly for all to see.
What are you willing to confess, and what are you willing to suffer for the face of the Gospel? Christ has won everything for you in His death and resurrection. God forgives your sins for Jesus' sake. You need not be afraid of men and what they may do to you. For you died in the font. Confess the faith, and don't be afraid.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
The Church does not consist of people in power or ecclesiastical or secular dignity, because many princes and archbishops and others of lower rank have been found to have apostatized from the faith. Therefore, the Church consists of those persons in whom there is a true knowledge and confession of faith and truth.
In the LCMS today Confessional pastors are occasionally harassed for standing up for our Confession, sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes in more serious ways. With this persecution going on, it is appropriate to explore the "state of confession" and what a proper response to persecution should be.
Pastor Collver defines the time of confession (in casu confessionis) as a time of persecution. He goes on to explore in casu confessionis within the context of Formula of Concord Article X, and the Epitome, and determines that "although persecution could be defined rather broadly, the Formula of Concord clearly has in mind persecution by the government."
Here is a portion of his conclusion, one which might be disputed by some, and one which is worthy of discussion:
The Formula of Concord, Article X, does indeed describe a case for confession in the midst of persecution by the state. It seems that the confessors had in mind a rather limited scope. The struggles of the church over against the state in German lands and in particular with the Nazi regime brought about the expansion of a questionable concept to include a protest against the state for political and ethical reasons, rather than, strictly speaking, theological reasons. Bonhoeffer had in mind a corporate confession of protest. Karl Barth morphed Bonhoeffer’s corporate protest into an individual protest. Barth altered the direction by putting the church in a position to dictate to the state in accord with Reformed theology. The churches of the Synodical Conference completely removed the left-hand kingdom from the equation, instead applying the term to an intra-church conflict. This last application is perhaps further a field from what the Formula of Concord described than even Karl Barth’s version.
In light of the foregoing, a status confessionis protest against a church body does not seem to be a tenable option to those who take the Lutheran Confessions seriously. A better way is that of Dr. Luther and countless other saints who gave a good and faithful confession in the place and situation the Lord called them to do so. The faithful confession was made until it could not be tolerated by those who opposed the truth any longer. This is the key. How does one know when a church body is unreformable? A church body is unreformable when the true confession is no longer tolerated. By this, we do not mean to indicate merely a lapse in the practice of the true confession, but the snuffing out of the voice of the true confession. As long as the Gospel is confessed in truth and purity, there is the opportunity to hear the Gospel’s call. When the true confession is silenced definitively and permanently from a place either by force or by the power of the sword, that is, by the abuse of the left-hand kingdom, or through institutional and ecclesiastical measures, then there is no hope of reform.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
In March of this year Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller posted these comments on his Wittenberg Trail blog. I've been carrying his list of not-critical events in my head ever since, waiting for the day when I would repost them, and that day is today. Rejoice with me, with Pastor Wolfmueller, and with all the Saints past and present in these not-critical events:
It has been synodically mandated and convention approved that, being Ablaze!(r), we are all supposed to be critical-eventing. I, on the other hand, have had a blessed year full of not-critical events.
Today I baptized a twelve-year-old girl, the granddaughter of a member of my congregation who is in hospice. She renounced the devil and all his ways, confessed the name of Jesus, and as we knelt together over the living room table, she was born-again in the waters of Holy Baptism. This was not a critical event.
Two weeks ago a dear saint, fighting with all her faith, broke through her depression, left her house for the first time in months, and drove to church. She was welcomed with joy, and welcomes the Lord's Word with joy. This was not a critical event.
A few days ago my wife and I learned, joy of joys, that we are expecting our fourth child. This was not a critical event. In eight months, if the Lord answers our prayers, our newborn baby will be marked with the cross and reborn in baptism. This will not be a critical event.
Last year I buried nine of the Lord's dear people. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, we committed their bodies to the earth in the great hope of the resurrection of all flesh. With prayers and hymns and Scripture and sermon the Lord's people found solace that the same resurrection is for them. These were not critical events.
In the past few months my daughter lost a tooth, my son wore his first tie and learned the Lord's prayer, my baby said, “Dada.” These were not critical events.A year ago I preached in the Lutheran Church of Serowe, Botswana, Africa, first in English, and then a sermon that was translated into Tshwana. We ate and drank the Lord's Body and Blood together. We traveled to the edge of the Kalahari and celebrated the Divine Service in a mud hut with families ravaged by AIDS. These were not critical events.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Quotable Quotes From Christian Radio
Pastor Klemet Preus
Host Todd Wilken:
Is it a two way street? Will false practice produce false teaching in time?Pastor Klemet Preus:
Oh, yes it will if people accept it, and practice becomes part of you so that you accept it uncritically, and people ultimately will accept the false doctrine which stands behind a poor practice. And that’s what’s tragic about many Lutheran ministers. I think they have doctrine in their hearts and their heads, they just don’t seem to understand that if they engage in false practices they’ll undermine their own doctrine. The Church is one generation away from losing its vibrancy and possibly even losing its soul.
Pastor Todd Wilken
I had Mexican for lunch today, okay. And Mexican can sometimes do a number on you. There’s a burning in the bosom! I don’t know if it’s Mexican or if it’s the Holy Spirit. Can I feel the Spirit working?
Pastor Todd Wilken
Jesus didn’t come to show us the way, He came to be the way, in a perfect life, His death and His resurrection, to be the way of salvation for every sinner on earth, every person, man, woman, and child.
Web Extra Open Mics: David Strand’s Q & A
Pastor Todd Wilken
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.
Dr. Rod Rosenbladt discussing the first sola of the reformation, Christ alone.
Host Todd Wilken:
What is this kind of not Christ alone but kind of the Christ-less or the cross-less preaching? What is it doing? What will it produce?
Well I think in the end it produces atheists. It just takes a while to come to fruition. I think some of these stadiums that are filled with thousands, I just hope I’m wrong here, but when it can’t make good on the happy happy promises, “become a Christian and your life will get better,” I thing the next chapter to that is “I tried it,” and they become immune to the real thing. They thought they tried it, and it didn’t work, or it didn’t pan out.