Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Gospel-Driven Life

Quoting Dr. Mike Horton, co-host of The White Horse Inn, on his October 26, 2009 appearance on Issues, Etc.:

Every one of us is going to have to give an account of our lives. We are going to be judged by works. Now the question is, whether we are going to cling to Christ and His works, or whether we are going to say “You know, I’m going to be my own lawyer here. I’m going to argue in my own defense. I’m gonna go ahead and wear those filthy rags to the courtroom.” The news on judgment day has already been delivered to those who have faith in Christ - we’ve already heard the verdict. Not only that we’re not guilty, but that we are perfectly holy, righteous, and acceptable in God’s sight because Jesus Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. There is therefore now, no condemnation, for those who are in Christ Jesus.

photo credit: jpc101

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Recoiling at the Thought

Quoting from Dr. Glenn E. Heubel's paper "A Forgotten Paradigm: The Theology of the Cross":

No theologian of the cross expects outward success to be a necessary fruit of his faithful labors in the Word. He knows very well that the outward results may well have been just the opposite. He knows that the Spirit works faith when and where He wills in those who hear the Gospel" (Augsburg Confession, Article V). The humble theologian of the cross knows how foolish it is to compare one ministry of the Word with [another], as if the results depended upon the preachers (2 Cor. 10:12), and he recoils at the thought of being regarded as faithful simply because he has impressive stats. In fact, outward success may cause a faithful pastor to do a soul searching evaluation of his ministry! He may well ask himself such questions as: Am I watering down or compromising the Word in order to be liked? Am I calling all people to repentance or am I preaching a cheap grace? Am I dealing with the specific sins of my people or am I dealing with the world's sin or only with sin in general? Am I preaching the whole counsel of God's Word or am I evading difficult doctrines which may cause me problems? Am I holding high the cross of Jesus Christ or am I "caressing the devil"? Outward success is unusual for those who preach the cross of Christ.

photo credit: jdbradley

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Golden Thread

Quoting from Rev. Rolf Preus's paper "Luther Revisited: The Doctrine of Justification Is Still the Issue":
The doctrine of church fellowship is not a matter of submitting to rules determined by the democratic processes of the synod to which we belong. It is a matter of confessing the pure gospel by which we sinners are saved from hell. The unionistic spirit is utterly incompatible with the Christian gospel. It holds the righteousness of Christ in contempt. We condemn religious unionism because we love the gospel of justification by faith alone. Why do Lutheran pastors promote participation in the Promise Keepers or similar organizations? Because they don't have enough rules on how to apply the doctrine of church fellowship? Of course not. They do it because they don't value the righteousness of Christ. If they did, they would teach their members to mark and avoid such gatherings.

Find a preacher who preaches Christ, His person, His work, His atonement, His righteousness reckoned to us, the forgiveness of sins, all within the context of preaching the law without any compromise, and you'll find someone opposed to religious unionism. The same faith which receives the righteousness of Jesus with which God clothes us is the faith which rejects the unionistic spirit of doctrinal indifference. The reason a Lutheran marks and avoids false doctrine and refuses to worship with those who don't is not because he has been sufficiently indoctrinated in his church's rules. Rather, it's a simple matter of love and hate. If you hate something, you don't express fellowship with it. If you love the pure teaching by which God has saved you, you hate the false teaching which can damn you.

And it is just this love for the gospel of justification that will find in every other article of Christian teaching the same golden thread of the righteousness of the God-man which covers us and renders us fit to enter into eternal life. Nothing is worth teaching, preaching, defending, or confessing, except for the sake of this truth which glorifies God as it reveals his mercy to poor, lost, undeserving sinners like you and me and thus saves us eternally.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Reviews of the 2010 LCMS National Youth Gathering

It’s nice that the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) thinks it’s important enough to minister to the youth of our Synod that we have the National Youth Gathering (NYG) every three years. There’s a lot of good things offered at the Gathering, but yet there were things this year that strayed from the teaching of Christ. The average congregant doesn’t know that there are theological problems with the NYG, and, given the chance, might not recognize those problems. We did not send our son to the NYG because of these problems, though he had the opportunity to attend. Instead, he taught Vacation Bible School to the First Nations people of central British Columbia. I don’t want my son being taught even a little generic Evangelical moralism or being taught that the Holy Spirit works through the rhythmic banging of a drum while in the care of the LCMS.

It’s not unreasonable to assume that those in charge of the NYG would see to it that proper doctrine is taught at this event in all of its venues, as Scripture tells us to do, yet that’s not always the case. Who is responsible for determining if our children are being properly taught? Ultimately, it is we, the parents. For those of you who might not recognize all of the error being taught and are concerned about the spiritual well-being of your kids, assembled below are blog posts, a podcast, and a video which review some of the problems at the 2010 NYG. As an alternative to the NYG I would suggest Higher Things, a Recognized Service Organization of the LCMS which will properly catechize your children, offering yearly events and much more.

Timotheos, who is one of the authors of the blog Balaam’s Ass, offers a decent summary in his comment on a speaker at one of the mass events:

But the worst of it was that when she talked about her daughter being in heaven, she said it was because she had given her life to the Lord. (Could it be that Baptist worship leads to a Baptist theology of conversion? Just asking.) Frankly, that’s simply not true. Her daughter is not in heaven because she gave her life to the Lord; she is in heaven because Jesus gave His life for her. That’s not just semantics; it’s the difference between heaven and hell, comfort and despair, life and death. It matters how we talk, and if we do not recognize how foreign the thought of “giving our life to Jesus” is to ”grace alone,” then we have ceased to be Lutheran. And that’s fine–if you don’t want to be Lutheran. But how is it acceptable for a Lutheran woman, married to a Lutheran pastor, to say things like that to teenagers who have friends who believe that salvation happens exactly how she worded it? It matters how we talk, because, ultimately, we will think and believe the same as what we say. Ask a liturgical scholar how many times the liturgy changed before the doctrine. It’s not my personal bias, it’s a fact.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

Lutheran Piety?

A mighty fortress is our God!

photo credit: A-Wix

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Church Growth and Persecution: Like Two Peas in a Pod

“The enmity of the world in his [St. Paul’s] estimation augurs well for the success and growth of the Church, which fares best in times of persecution.”

The following quote comes from Luther’s Commentary on Galatians, Chapter 5, verse 11, gleaned from Project Wittenberg:

VERSE 11. And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offense of the cross ceased.

In his great desire to recall the Galatians, Paul draws himself into the argument. He says: "Because I refuse to recognize circumcision as a factor in our salvation, I have brought upon myself the hatred and persecution of my whole nation. If I were to acknowledge circumcision the Jews would cease to persecute me; in fact they would love and praise me. But because I preach the Gospel of Christ and the righteousness of faith I must suffer persecution. The false apostles know how to avoid the Cross and the deadly hatred of the Jewish nation. They preach circumcision and thus retain the favor of the Jews. If they had their way they would ignore all differences in doctrine and preserve unity at all cost. But their unionistic dreams cannot be realized without loss to the pure doctrine of the Cross. It would be too bad if the offense of the Cross were to cease." To the Corinthians he expressed the same conviction: "Christ sent me. . .to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect." (I Cor. 1:17.)

Here someone may be tempted to call the Christians crazy. Deliberately to court danger by preaching and confessing the truth, and thus to bring upon ourselves the hatred and enmity of the whole world, is this not madness? But Paul does not mind the enmity of the world. It made him all the bolder to confess Christ. The enmity of the world in his estimation augurs well for the success and growth of the Church, which fares best in times of persecution. When the offense of the Cross ceases, when the rage of the enemies of the Cross abates, when everything is quiet, it is a sign that the devil is the door-keeper of the Church and that the pure doctrine of God's Word has been lost.

photo credit: Dayna McIsaac

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Evangelism the Lutheran Way

Quoting from Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller's article "A Lutheran Theology of Evangelism, Some Theses," posted on the Hope Lutheran Church website:

..."Evangelism Training" will be nothing more than continued study and meditation on the proper distinction between law and Gospel.

...the central act of Evangelism is not asking the unbeliever to come to Jesus, but rather, in the name of Jesus, forgiving their sins. Evangelism is the Church speaking the Absolution to the World.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What, not How

I love the note for Article X of the Augsburg Confession in A Reader's Edition of the Book of Concord. It pretty much says it all:

Note: By the time the Augsburg Confession was written, deep divisions had arisen among the various reformers concerning the Lord’s Supper. The Lutherans were very careful to distance themselves from those who reject that the body and blood of Christ are in fact truly present in His Supper and distributed to all those who eat and drink. Transubstantiation, consubstantiation, or any other human speculation asks the wrong question: how is Christ present? Lutheranism has no theory or philosophical explanation of how Christ is present. Rather, Lutherans insist on answering the what of the Lord’s Supper. We believe, teach, and confess that of the bread, Christ said, “This is My body,” and of the wine, “This is My blood.” These are given and shed “for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:26–28). We reject any teaching that is contrary to our Lord’s Word.

Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. 2005 (Edited by Paul Timothy McCain) (35). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Are You Fully Devoted?

It seems that you won’t be taken seriously as a congregation any more unless you have a mission statement – the Holy Spirit can’t possibly act without your mission statement. I bumped into this one not long ago on an LCMS church’s website:

Our mission statement is: Sharing God’s Hope by doing whatever it takes for God to transform people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

For the sake of the parishioners of this particular congregation, I sure hope that none of them are my neighbors, or their gonna be in for a miserable experience. I can assure you that no matter what they do, up to and including “whatever it takes,” I’m never going to be a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ. I’m a poor miserable sinner, and until I’m dead, my status will remain a poor miserable sinner. I’ve discovered that the “miserable sinner” in me always gets in the way of the “fully devoted” idea. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’m too enthused about the whole “fully devoted” program – that sure sounds like a two-tiered Christianity to me, an idea with zero Biblical support. I must report that I’ll always remain, this side of heaven, in the “fully forgiven sinner” category. But that’s something I can deal with, because I know I already have eternal life, since Christ’s atoning work on the cross is in the bank and I’m declared righteous even while in my current “miserable sinner” state.

While we’re on the topic, are they really going to do whatever it takes? Will they lie to make sure you’re transformed, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Will they try flirty fishing? Or will it just be puppets in the Divine Service? And who’s doing the transformation, them or God? It seems like it’s a little of both.

The other thought that comes to mind is the fully devoted Christ follower might be devoted to environmentalism and social justice, following the politically correct Jesus rather than the Jesus who is prophet, priest, and king. This confusion is what makes mission statements a dicey proposition. You can bet they were well-intentioned when they wrote their statement, yet it falls well short of a suitable Lutheran ideal. A little like testimonials, the mission statement often turns the words inward on the Christian rather than focusing on the redemption found at the cross.

I’ll close this post out with Paul’s mission statement. While not as succinct as the one above, it still seems like a decent roadmap to follow:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 ESV

Or if that's too long for you, Acts 2:42 works nicely as well:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

photo credit: Cowtools

Friday, September 17, 2010

Stuck On You!

Last month we took the Friday morning rail to Seattle just for the fun of it, a 47 minute ride, and walked around in downtown Seattle. Here's the results:

The train, called the Sounder, at the Puyallup station.

Zach (in green) pondering relativity as another train speeds past on the southbound track.

What Wilken would wear.

Inside the Seattle Public Library. Definitely worth a visit, but you need to be adventuresome to discover all that this library has to offer.

Do you think the SPL has "Orange Chair Videos" like the LCMS convention's "Red Chair Videos?"

Zach downloading knowledge.

Paige and Cheryl figuring out where we're goin' next.

But wait! Click on "Continue Reading >>" to continue the odyssey to Seattle's fabulous gum wall.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Opening Old Wounds – A Shocking, Frank, Unrepentant Admission Revisited

I was sitting at my keyboard minding my own business yesterday when I received an email from Facebook which contained the following:

Frank Gillespie commented on your post.

Frank wrote:
"I can't remember, is that a picture of my two Ablaze! bracelets or did you get two of your own?"

Frank is referring to yesterday’s post in which I posted a photo of two Ablaze! bracelets. I find this whole conversation offensive. It’s like rubbing salt into an open wound. What’s all the hubbub about? It harkens back to a post I made a long while ago on The Wittenberg Trail. Frank just can’t seem to drop it. Here’s a copy of the original post:

Frank, at Putting Out the Fire, yesterday made an unbelievable admission. Now don’t get me wrong. Frank is a perfectly respectable guy. He even spends his free time as a volunteer fireman. But you’ve got to draw the line somewhere. Here is what Frank has admitted to, broken down into three parts for ease of reading:

1) He actually owns an Ablaze!® bracelet.
2) He admits to wearing it.
3) He even mentions the time and place where he wore said bracelet.

The Horror! The Horror!

My question to you, fellow Wittenberg Trail travelers, is this:

Where do you where your Ablaze!® bracelet?

Of course, I was spring loaded to comment thusly regarding Frank’s Facebook barb:

No pietist sits behind this keyboard Frank - those are your own Ablaze! bracelets, straight from your shocking, frank, unrepentant admission!

For the rest of you pietists out there, I just checked the Ablaze! Movement Resource Exchange Bulletin Board. You can still get your own Ablaze! bracelet here, but remember to order at least two, because the page advises to “carry extras to give someone who asks about it, allowing you to share the message of Jesus Christ & Ablaze (Luke 24:32).” Nothing oozes Gospel like a bracelet that says “ABLAZE! TM” on one side and “” on the other. Don't leave home without it!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Outreach Gone Awry?

The Northwest District’s Northwest Passage reported on the Blessing of the Animals at Portland’s Zion Lutheran Church last May. As part of this outreach experience, you could bring in your favorite dog, cat, parakeet, or boa constrictor, and have them blessed (leash or cage required). As the announcement in the church’s newsletter said, “We know what a blessing the pets are to us; now it’s time for us to ask God’s blessing for them!”

This seems a bit on the gimmicky side to me, sort of like an Ablaze! bracelet. Not really befitting of Christ’s Church. Plus, the Vulcan utterance “Live long and prosper” seems to work just fine for our dog - dogs respond to signing commands more readily anyway.

If you really want to have a day of blessing for something practical, my first choice would be a day of blessing for my fleet of PCs, not my pet. I've had way more problems with computers than I've ever had with my dog. What do you think?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I Shall Not Die

"I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD."

Psalms 118:17 ESV

Monday, September 13, 2010

With a Little Help from My Friends

Life wouldn’t be nearly as pleasurable if we didn’t have friends with which to joke around, to share our joys and sorrows, and of course, to discuss theology. With that in mind, here’s a few highlights for me. This is only a representative sampling. If your name isn’t on the list but should be, rest assured I haven’t forgotten you.


• to pastors who faithfully deliver Word and Sacrament, in spite of the world’s enticements to look elsewhere.

• to Pastor Tom Chryst, who holds the singular distinction of being the first person to post something I’d written.

• to you for reading.

• to the Cantankerous Curmudgeon for his counsel.

• to Kari Anderson for all her hard work.

• to Todd, Jeff, and Craig.

• to our friends who watch Fox News into the wee hours of the morning with us and still get up early and make chocolate chip pancakes.

• to Jim Pierce, for answering multiple computer questions and patiently awaiting my arrival while I’m stuck in traffic.

• to my biking friend who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and keeps me entertained with random text messages on aviation.

• to Rev. Charles Mueller and Rev. Mark Louderback for enthralling us with their captivating quest to perfect the art of the große Lüge.

• to Pastor Thomas Messer for his willingness to stay up late.

• to Frank, for his always-vigilant volunteer fireman status.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17 ESV

photo credit: __Olga__

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Ah, that Feels Good!

What feels good? Life with something other than an Ablaze! logo.

As reported yesterday by Dr. Al Collver on his blog The ABC3s of Miscellany:

Today, at the LCMS Board and Commission Orientation, "Witness, Mercy, and Life Together" was presented as a way to describe the work of the Synod using Biblical categories and themes. Witness, Mercy, and Life Together is the English phrase chosen for the Greek words Martyría, Diakonía, and Koinōnía. These activities describe the work of the church and are centered on the cross of Jesus. Martyría describes the witness, proclamation work (missions) of the church. Diakonía describes the church's work as a servant of mercy to those in need (human care). Koinōnía describes the church's life together with all its accompanying activities such as worship, schools, seminaries, church relations, et al.

I look forward to many more days of refreshment as we explore together as a synod God's gifts of martyría, diakonía, and koinōnía.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Future GQ Cover Models?

Who's the two dudes? One is our son Zach and the other is our other son Nodoka. You didn't know we had two sons? We didn't either until two weeks ago, when we decided to "adopt" a foreign exchange student for the year. Nodaka is from Ogawa Town, Saitama, Japan, which is about an hour by train to the north of Tokyo. He's a junior in high school and is attending the same Lutheran high school that Zach attends.

Nodoka is rapidly adjusting to his new home and culture. We're corrupting him with American food - there's not that much rice in the Diekmann diet, but we do eat a fair amount of fish. He wasn't too impressed though with the oatmeal I made him for breakfast yesterday. We are cosmopolitan enough to have chopsticks in the house. I offered them to Nodoka but he declined.

He likes music, and brought his electric guitar with him, but fortunately not the amp. Actually, he plays it very well. He also plays varying degrees of trombone, trumpet, saxophone, keyboard, flute, drums, and who knows what else. With Zach on his tenor sax and Nodoka on bass guitar, we've got the beginnings of a pretty solid jazz band. He says he wants to be on the baseball team at school too. He hasn't played in a couple of years, and says he can throw hard but doesn't have any control.

Like most of the Japanese people, Nodoka says he isn't Christian or any other religion, but he's happy to go to church with us. He does a great job singing the hymns - he can sight read the music and does a pretty good job with pronunciation. And since God's Word is powerful, I'm hopeful that the Word will work on his heart and we'll be sending a missionary back to Japan in June. We're excited to have Nodoka. Stop by and say "hi."

Last Friday we went to a Mariners game in Seattle. Here's a few of the pics.

We sat about a dozen rows up by the right field foul pole. I chose those seats because that's Area 51. (For you non-Mariners, Ichiro's number is #51, and since he plays right field, they call it Area 51. As Nodoka says "Ichiro is Japanese hero.")

After having a look at this, I'm not that enthused about eating cod.

Nodoka at the gum wall thinking "I'd look really good on that bike." (More on the gum wall next week.)

Two young men looking to the future.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Building a Bigger Pipeline

If you're a Thrivent member and you recently received a mailing regarding Choice Dollars, might I suggest directing those funds to Issues, Etc.? Just select Lutheran Public Radio as your preferred organization and you're all set. These are monies which Thrivent donates, not money that comes out of your own pocket, and you can set it up so that they route your selection into the Lutheran Public Radio pipeline on a recurring basis! An easy way to ensure that Christ-centered cross-focused talk radio continues to thrive. Of course, they're still taking direct donations as well. Send that big fat check to

Lutheran Public Radio
P.O. Box 912
Collinsville, IL 62234

photo credit: David C. Foster

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Oh Give Thanks Unto the Lord

Now is always a good time to give thanks:

Of David. I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased. All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth, and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD. For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Psalms 138:1-8 ESV

I give thanks on this day for all of my Christian friends, brothers and sisters in Christ joined together by water and blood.

I give thanks for God’s wondrous creation that sustains our bodies and expounds His glory. I give thanks for curiosity and joy, for art and music. I give thanks for my God-given vocations, through which I can serve my neighbor. I give thanks for the opportunity God has given me to serve the Gospel through this blog.

I give thanks for you.

Oh give thanks unto the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever.

photo credit: Timothy K. Hamilton

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

More of the Same

Around the beginning of the year the LCMS Northwest District's Northwest Passage newsletter had a plug for their media library, so I stopped by and had a look. What I found was more than a little disconcerting, with offerings in the library from Beth Moore, and 23 of 24 of Rob Bell's Nooma series DVD's. At the same time in February that I was emailing District President Diefenthaler about the mysticism and enthusiasm running rampant in the prayer practices of the Southeastern District I also emailed Northwest District President Paul Linnemann about the Nooma videos.

I sent emails to President Linnemann in February and March of this year and received no response. After that I called the District office in April and left President Linnemann a message; shortly thereafter he emailed me back. I wasn't surprised that he related that he was incredibly busy, especially since having just been elected to his position. He stated that he was interested in the resources which the District makes available to its congregations, and was going to delegate the investigation of this issue to someone he trusted. I figure five months is a reasonable length of time to review a single series of videos and make a decision, yet the videos remain on the library list. I assume this fell through the cracks. I'd have to say though, if I were the District President and somebody came to me pointing out a resource that they thought taught false doctrine, I wouldn't be able to scramble over my desk fast enough to find the librarian and the webmaster and remove the offending materials until they were properly reviewed.

In an effort to get the word out to those who are being exposed to Pastor Bell's false teaching, I'm offering to you the same thing I wrote to District President Linnemann, minus the pleasantries at the front and back ends of the email. There are 24 videos in the Nooma series, each around 12-15 minutes long. I watched every one of them online, most on YouTube. Email me if you'd like exact references and I'll dig them up for you. Here's what I told President Linnemann:

Rob Bell is one of the leading lights in the Emerging Church and is Pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan. He a very influential guy, especially among younger postmodern types, and if you watch any of the Nooma videos you’ll see why. (I watched all of the videos, which are also available on the internet.) He really has an amazing ability to teach, being very personable and engaging, using metaphors that are first rate. He’s got a great personality – I enjoy his wry sense of humor. Unfortunately, it’s the “what” of what he’s teaching that is of concern.

Pastor Bell uses many of the same terms we would use - sin, love, truth, forgiveness, but he has redefined them. You can see this right away when you look at the “soundbite” on the home page of

Jesus lived with the awareness that God is doing something, right here, right now, and anybody can be a part of it. He encouraged his listeners to search, to question, to wrestle with the implications of what he was saying and doing. He inspired, challenged, provoked, comforted, and invited people to be open to God’s work in this world. Wherever he went, whatever he did, Jesus started discussions about what matters most, because for Jesus, God is always inviting us to open our eyes and join in.

It never gets any better than that. For Pastor Bell, Jesus is all about now, a savior sent to show us a better way to live. “What matters most” to Pastor Bell isn’t justification, it’s life in the here and now. For him, there is no original sin. Sin is failing to help out the “least of these,” or walking around angry: “He created you to be free from anger and revenge.” Without original sin, there’s no need for a suffering Savior. Instead, we’re in need of a little tweaking here and there, but basically we’re all good:

“Faith in Jesus is important, but what about Jesus faith in us?”

“God loves everybody. “

“Nothing can separate you from the love of God. May your whole life be a response to the fact that you’ve always been loved.”

“May you believe in God, but may you come to see that God believes in you. May you have faith in Jesus, but may you come to see that Jesus has faith, and you can be.…”

And since we’re all loved by God and all we need is a little behavior modification, everyone is saved:

“The divine breath is flowing through you, and the person next to you. There’s a holiness in the people around you.”

“A person doesn’t have to agree with this for it already to be true.”

“This isn’t a statement about one religion being better than all the other religions.”

And since we’re obviously saved, there’s no room for hell in Pastor Bell’s theology. There is room for mysticism however:

“Still small voice. God was in the silence.”

“Maybe the healing and guidance [not forgiveness] we desperately need is not going to come from one more meeting or therapy session or sermon or self-help book but from simply listening for the voice of God.”

“When Jesus prayed He’s tapping into this divine creative energy that made everything.”

“Prayer is tapping into the same energy that formed the universe.”

There’s also room for the popular assignment of female characteristics to God:

“This is a feminine image for God.”

“God is a Spirit. God is in essence beyond male and female. There is a feminine dimension to God.”

Pastor Bell preaches a social gospel and liberation theology:

“Jesus has identified Himself with an injustice larger than himself. There’s something divine about his anger because some things are worth getting angry about. Which is more disturbing? A God who gets angry or a God who can see exploitation and abuse and injustice and not get angry. War, violence, somebody using their strength to take advantage of the weakness of another. God is love and when a human is abused, mistreated, dehumanized, there is going to be divine anger. The kind that identifies with anybody that is being mistreated or harmed.”

“There’s so many people with basic needs like food and shelter and clothing, and we have the resources to help them.”

“Our lives are either more and more about us, more stuff, more unsatisfying consumption, or we’re on a different path, and this is why Jesus talked so much about serving.”

The above quotes are representative of what he’s teaching. In the interest of time, I didn’t reference which film each quote came from, and they may not be completely word-for-word accurate since I haven’t double checked them. If you’d like to quote any of them, let me know and I can verify them and provide the proper reference. I’ve also read Pastor Bell’s book Velvet Elvis, and his teachings there are consistent with his teachings in Nooma, it’s not something I’m reading into the videos. He preaches a social gospel that is devoid of the true Gospel. It’s about works apart from the grace of God procured for us by Jesus’ death and resurrection. There’s no sin, no hell, and no need for a Savior, only a world that needs to be fixed up, and we’re here to do it.

From this sampling, it’s obvious that what Pastor Bell is teaching is inimical to the Gospel. It appeals to the old Adam’s desire to be in control of his own destiny via the works superhighway. Sometimes this is readily apparent and at other times it’s subtle. There are spots where he relates things well and preaches bits and pieces of articles of faith that you might think are orthodox if taken out of context, but within the scheme of the whole Nooma series, it is heterodox teaching and not suitable for consumption. If anyone catechized by Pastor Bell is saved, I’d think it’s because of felicitous inconsistency. Therefore, I’m hopeful that you will remove the Nooma series from the library. Its potential for spiritual harm is great.

Let me know what you think, and thanks for your time.

That pretty well sums up Rob Bell and his Nooma series. You can draw your own conclusions on why this type of material would be on a District website. From where I type, it seems like an undiscerning flaunting of "relevant" but false teaching at the expense of the truth.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Gospel According to Starbucks?

I wonder if Starbucks has a cup with the true Gospel on it?

photo credit: Colin Purrington

Friday, September 3, 2010

Noteworthy Business Cards

I was digging through a drawer and came across a few business cards that I thought you might be interested in.

A card that might seem a little out of place in Nebraska, but not in Seattle.

The back side of the same card.

The card of a former patient of mine.

One of my friends owns this bar.

A patient gave me this one while I was a resident at Denver General Hospital in, you guessed it, Denver. I used to make frequent trips to the emergency room to piece people back together again, DG being the big trauma hospital in Denver. There was a book published about the emergency room there. The title: The Knife and Gun Club. That was no exaggeration. For years after I left that hospital, any time I smelled alcohol, I was immediately reminded of the smell of blood as well. Too many sleepless nights treating gunshot wounds, car accident "victims," and people who had their faces rearranged by their buddies. The fun part was doing forensics on the customers down in the morgue - those patients held still much better than their drunk counterparts up in the ER.

We met Lloyd while on the beach at Brown's Point in Tacoma. He was salmon fishing and we were goofing off. I like his homemade card. The motorcycle dude was made with a rubber stamp and the "Lloyd" was added with a typewriter. The only other thing on the card was his phone number, which I omitted for privacy purposes.

If you ever need a book on apologetics or especially cults, Rich is the guy to call. They rent a house that's filled with books on every cult imaginable. By filled, I don't mean a few shelves here and there - I mean there's mostly no furniture other than some tables and shelves and a desk and everything else is books stacked floor to ceiling, every room, including the basement. You can just barely walk through the place. I don't know how Rich finds anything, but he seems to know right where everything is. Some day I need to go back and take a few photos. It's the only way you'd believe it.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Getting Used to the New Pic

As you may or may not have noticed, yesterday was the first day of the changing of the guard at the International Center of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. You should get used to the new pic (which I swiped off the President’s page of the LCMS website – I feel reasonably certain our new President won’t come after me).

I like the ‘stache on that “mug.” Kind of irreverent for the second day of our new President, Matthew C. Harrison, isn’t it? Let it be known, as the two or three of you who read this blog regularly I’m sure have already figured out, that I only make fun of those people whom I admire and am friends with. I guess you should be thankful if I don’t know you.

So now that I’m in this jovial mood, I’ll go ahead and continue my train of thought. Another person deserving a little “attention” is Dr. Albert B. Collver III. I knew Dr. Collver’s title when he was still at the now-defunct LCMS World Relief and Human Care, but now that he’s got some fancy new title I can’t remember what it is – hang on, I’ll look it up. O.K. I’m back. It’s a good thing I looked, because it’s really two titles: “Dr. Albert B. Collver III, Director of Church Relations and Assistant to the President.” I wonder if he gets double pay since he’s got two titles? If he doesn’t get double pay, maybe we can start a petition. It could be the first petition of President Harrison’s young presidency.

On his blog The ABC3s of Miscellany, Dr. Collver has a few pics of the move into the new digs at the International Center, including photos of President Harrison, 1st Vice-President Herb Mueller, Mrs. Barbara Below, Assistant to the President, Rev. Jon Vieker, Senior Assistant to the President, and himself. I’d have to say that President Harrison has a lot of books, VP Mueller is looking pretty sharp, and Barb Below’s desk is way too small.

If you’re unfamiliar with Dr. Collver, he’s been on Issues, Etc. a couple of times in the past year, including an appearance discussing the Haitian relief efforts and an excellent interview on the relationship between the ordination of women and the ordination of homosexuals.

I’m looking forward to the days ahead as this group of humble people serve the LCMS.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Luther on Leadership

Quoting Dr. Martin Luther:

I cannot guide myself, and yet would fain guide the world! Many a time I have made fine articles and rules, and brought them to our Lord God to guide Him. But the good God has let me see in the end how all my mastering has come to nothing.

Elizabeth Charles, Watchwords for the Warfare of Life. From Dr. Martin Luther (New York: M. W. Dodd, 1869) 156.