Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Very Heart of the Evangelical System

Quoting Charles Porterfield Krauth, from his book The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology:
...All theology, without exception, has had views of the atonement which were lower or higher, as its views of the Lord’s Supper were low or high. Men have talked and written as if the doctrine of our Church, on this point, were a stupid blunder, forced upon it by the self-will and obstinacy of one man. The truth is, that this doctrine, clearly revealed in the New Testament, clearly confessed by the early Church, lies at the very heart of the Evangelical system – Christ is the centre of the system, and in the Supper is the centre of Christ’s revelation of Himself. The glory and mystery of the incarnation combine there as they combine nowhere else. Communion with Christ is that by which we live, and the Supper is “the Communion.” Had Luther abandoned this vital doctrine, the Evangelical Protestant Church would have abandoned him. He did not make this doctrine – next in its immeasurable importance to that of justification by faith, with which it indissolubly coheres – the doctrine made him. The doctrine of the Lord’s Supper is the most vital and practical in the whole range of the profoundest Christian life – the doctrine which, beyond all others, conditions and vitalizes that life, for in it the character of faith is determined, invigorated, and purified as it is nowhere else. It is not only a fundamental doctrine, but is among the most fundamental of fundamentals.
    We know what we have written. We know, that to take our Savior at His word here, to receive the teachings of the New Testament in their obvious intent, is to incur with the current religionism a reproach little less bitter than if we had taken up arms against the holiest truths of our faith. We are willing to endure it. Our fathers were willing to shed their blood for the truth, and shall we refuse to incur a little obloquy? The fact that we bear the name of a Church which stood firm when rationalizing tendencies directed themselves with all their fury against this doctrine of the Word of God, increases our responsibility. When, at a later and sadder period, she yielded to subtlety what she had maintained successfully against force, and let here doctrine fall, she fell with it. When God lifted her from the dust, he lifted her banner with it, and on that banner, as before, the star of a pure Eucharistic faith shone out amid the lurid clouds of her new warfare, and there it shall shine forever. Our Saviour has spoken; His Church has spoken. His testimony is explicit, as is hers. The Lutheran Church has suffered more for her adherence to this doctrine than from all other causes, but the doctrine itself repays her for all her suffering. To her it is a very small thing that she should be judged of man’s judgment; but there is one judgment she will not, she dare not hazard, the judgment of her God, which they eat and drink to themselves who will not discern the Lord’s body in the Supper of the Lord.

Charles Porterfield Krauth, The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology, (St. Louis: CPH, 2007) 655-56.

You can purchase a copy of The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology from Concordia Publishing House, or download a free copy from the Internet Archive.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Biblical Archaelogy the Easy Way

Would you like to check out archaeological finds that corroborate the historical text of the Bible, without having to "read a book" to do it?  You might like Mike Caba's site Bible and Archaeology - Online Museum.  Mr. Caba is the Dean of Faculty at Kiln's College in Bend, Oregon, and has put together a very nice site which portrays 50 of the most notable archaeological finds related to the Bible.  Each artifact has a short vignette complete with a photograph and a description of its significance.  You can visit the site here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Every Lutheran Sermon Is an Evangelism Sermon

This is a quote from a blog post by Rev. Dr. Norbert C. Oesch titled “Fishing or Pleasure Boating.” The quote comes from the PLI [Pastoral Leadership Institute] Leadership Blog. This particular post was directed to pastors who don’t spend enough of their time fishing for men:
Fishing, actually getting the line in the water, is not a take it or leave it proposition in the Lord’s Kingdom. It is what we are to do. Just like farmers are to farm and pilots are to fly, Christians are to fish. “Come, follow me; I will make you fishers of men.”

Try out an exercise. Look over your calendar for the past two months. Figure out just how many hours you actually had your line in the water (you can count preaching evangelism sermons and teaching people how to fish).
I thought all sermons were evangelism sermons, at least all sermons that actually contain Law and Gospel. “And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” The primary place for evangelism is the pulpit. It is here that God sends his designated representatives to preach His Word, and it is His Word that has the power to raise souls from the depths of sin to the mercy seat of God. No other explanation will do.

Monday, May 28, 2012

This Just In: One Catholic in Forty Is a Criminal

Okay. I stretched the truth a little. First off, the study from which these figures come wasn’t done by The Barna Group, so we might as well throw them out just because. After all, what Christian doesn’t base everything they do on what George Barna says. Second, the report is from 1873 – in England and Wales. Other than that, it should be accurate, since it comes from a Parliamentary report (unless you factor in that it’s taken out of a Jehovah’s Witness book, and they have a history of problems with factual reporting, both didactic and prophetic).

The report is taken from the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society’s book Studies in the Scriptures, Series III: Thy Kingdom Come, p. 163, copyright 1908. The Watchtower, which is the official name of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, takes a rather dim view of any religion other than their own, collectively calling all other religions “Babylon the Great.” They take an especial dislike for what they call “Christendom,” which the rest of us call Christ’s Church, and have a real antipathy for the Catholic Church, not because of any doctrinal differentiation from other denominations, but because they’re a more recognizable target.
Click on the graphic to enlarge

The three paragraphs immediately preceding the report read:
    How strong the expression, “She is become the habitation of demons, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.” How true it is, that the most execrable of society seek and wear the garb of Christian profession and ceremonialism, in some of the various quarters (sects) of Babylon. Every impure principle and doctrine, somehow and somewhere, finds representation in her. And she is a “cage” which holds securely not only the Lord’s meek and gentle doves, but also many unclean and hateful birds. Of all the defaulters, and deceivers of men and of women, how many are professedly members of Christ’s Church! and how many even use their profession as a cloak under which to forward evil schemes! It is well known that a majority of even the most brutal criminals executed die in the Roman Catholic communion.
    Babylon has contained both the best and the worst, both the cream and the dregs, of the population of the civilized world. The cream is the small class of truly consecrated ones, sadly mixed up with the great mass of mere professors and the filthy, criminal dregs; but under favorable conditions the cream class will be separated in the present harvest, preparatory to being glorified.
    As an illustration of the proportion of the unclean and hateful birds, in and out of Babylon, note the following official report of the condition of society in a quarter of the wheat field where “Orthodoxy” has for centuries boasted of the fine quality and purity of its wheat and the fewness of its tares, and where “The Church,” so called, has been associated with the government in making the laws and in ruling the people.”
What can we glean from this study? Well, for one thing, only 1 in 20,000 “infidels” are criminals, whereas 1 in 40 Catholics is a criminal. I guess it’s a tough group over in England and Wales. Perhaps Barna can do a follow-up study to see if the Watchtower has managed to clean things up since 1908. The other thing that can be seen is the lengths to which the Watchtower will go to stuff straw men that can then be easily knocked down, all at the expense of the truth, a principle which they follow to this day.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Good Wife's Guide

A few years back one of the women in the neighborhood jokingly emailed a copy of this article to some of the neighbors, which reportedly is a fake.  It certainly doesn't fit the vocation of housewife on all counts, but at any rate, it's funny.  My favorite: "Don't complain if he's late home for dinner or even stays out all night.  Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day."  I haven't quite gotten the nerve to try this one out on my wife yet.  I think it might lead to another trite old-fashioned picture, the one of the frying pan bouncing off the side of my noggin with a "clank" sound.

Click on the graphic to enlarge

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What Is the Sign of Authority for Ministers Today?

Quoting from an article written by the joint Departments of Systematic Theology of Concordia Seminary and Concordia Theological Seminary titled “The Office of the Holy Ministry” in the July 2007 Concordia Journal:
..."Call and ordination” are essential for conduct of the ministry. Ministers do things in the place of Christ. They forgive and retain sins. They judge doctrine. They administer the signs of God’s favor. They warn and admonish against sin and error. They exclude and include particular persons. In all these things they stand over against others, and so the question follows naturally: “By what right? On whose authority?” When Moses went to Pharaoh, he had his staff. When Elijah stood off against the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, he could call down fire from the heavens. When Jesus was challenged for a sign, He gave them the sign of Jonah. These indicated their God-given authority. What is the sign of authority for ministers today? It is their call and ordination, which assure that they act by divine right and on the authority of Christ. This truth makes such ideas as “lay ministers” invitations for difficulties and troubles to ministers whose authority is doubtful and to laypersons whose assurance of God’s grace may be questioned.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Adiaphora: The Fig Leaf of the Old Adam

In a May 10 Issues, Etc. segment, Pastor Wil Weedon, Director of Worship for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, began a multi-show discussion of the historic liturgy. This was a great segment. Here's a taste, where Pastor Weedon explains adiaphora, which he calls "the fig leaf of the old Adam":

You can listen to the whole segment here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

An Executive Pastor Position: The Kiss of Death

A graphical depiction of the job description for the Executive Pastor.

We were working on the “job description” for our Associate Pastor at church (ugh), and somebody dredged up the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod document titled “LCMS Job Descriptions: Clergy” on the LCMS website. Oddly, while there’s a job description for Pastor, Executive Pastor, Senior Pastor, Senior Pastor (2), Pastor of Visitation, Pastor of Education Ministries, Pastor—Adult Education and Mission, Pastor of Membership Development, Pastor of Evangelism, Pastor of Mission Outreach, Pastor of Adult Ministries (Discipleship), Pastor of Family Ministries, Pastor of College Ministries, Pastor of Single Adults, and Pastor of Senior Adults, there’s no Associate Pastor job description. There are a couple of other notable things about these job descriptions.

Every pastor’s position should first include the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments, which isn’t the way the job descriptions are set up. This should be at the forefront of every position, because this is what it is to be a pastor. Everything else in the Right Hand Kingdom flows from these twin descriptors. Just because you happen to be the Pastor of Membership Development doesn’t mean that you skip the sacramental basis of our theology. The closest most of these positions come is a boilerplate duty of “Assist in worship and preach at the request of the pastor” somewhere down the list.

The Senior Pastor job description, overall, is well written, at least as far as the primary duties and responsibilities are concerned. However, additionally, the Senior Pastor
  1. Provides vision for the congregation and all its entities as it seeks to provide dynamic ministry for the members of the congregation, the community and the world.
  2. Supervises all staff members, called and contracted, in their work and ministry so that there is unity and consensus centered on the vision for the congregation.
  3. Works with the congregation officers to build unity around a common vision for the congregation….
Apparently, we sometimes forget that the Holy Spirit comes through the Word and Sacraments, not through the Senior Pastor’s vision and dynamism. Vision isn’t a new means of grace. And I don’t know about you, but personally, I’d prefer that unity and consensus be built around doctrine, not the Senior Pastor’s vision. CAUTION: Three sarcastic sentences coming up. Since the Senior Pastor is the only pastor required to have vision, perhaps this is why they generally get paid more. It takes years of experience to develop vision, and certainly couldn’t be expected from some noob straight out of seminary – after all, this is a skill that comes with practice, not a spiritual gift. Too bad for you congregations out there who only have a younger sole pastor.

And now we come to the kiss of death, the position that no confessional pastor wants – the Executive Pastor position. This is the spot in the lineup that, if followed to the prescriptive letter, equates to the Chief Pilot position in an airline. Like the Chief Pilot, who sits behind a desk and pushes paper all day long rather than fly airplanes, the Executive Pastor is tasked with building “solid staff relations” and “taking primary responsibility for the preparation and policy management” rather than retaining and forgiving sins. Of the nineteen primary duties and responsibilities of the Executive Pastor, the only one that would absolutely require a pastor is number 15, where “preach at the request of the senior pastor” certainly sounds like it ought to demand a pastor, and even there, I’ve seen elders totally butcher an “emergency” sermon of their own making a time or two.

If your church is large enough to require an “Executive Pastor,” it’s also large enough to hire a business manager. Maybe putting a person whose real call is to be an undershepherd of Christ into a position that primarily utilizes the skills of someone whose station is in the Kingdom of the Left isn’t the best way to utilize a called and ordained servant of the Word in a congregation.

Considering the broad sweep of these job descriptions, it seems like we’ve lost our ability to speak and think in churchly terms and categories. In many ways, it sounds like these things came off the drawing board of Human Resources, not the papyrus of Holy Scripture. When, like the Specific Ministry Pastor program, we begin to chop pastors up into little program pieces, “you do this and he does that,” we lose sight of the bigger picture of Augsburg Confession Article V,
1 So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. 2 Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given [John 20:22]. He works faith, when and where it pleases God [John 3:8], in those who hear the good news that God justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake. 3 This happens not through our own merits, but for Christ’s sake.
4 Our churches condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that through their own preparations and works the Holy Spirit comes to them without the external Word.
It’s Time to crack open that Book of Concord.

HT: Wordle

graphic credit: UNLV Libraries Digital Collections

Monday, May 21, 2012

Same-Sex Marriage: Like Hiding Behind a Fig Leaf

Dr. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was the guest on a May 11 Issues, Etc. talk radio show segment discussing President Obama’s recent announcement of his personal support for same-sex marriage. Dr. Mohler pointed out that the gay rights movement wants not just the legalization of same-sex marriage, but the normalization of same-sex marriage, and that marriage is a huge instrumentality to get to that normalization. I agree with Dr. Mohler, and suggest that there is a further motivation of the gay rights movement beyond the normalization of same-sex marriage. I suggest that what the gay rights movement ultimately seeks is a free pass for their sinful behavior. By normalizing same-sex marriage, homosexuals will gain the appearance of legitimacy, which will be a way for at least some of them to assuage their conscience, while others, their rage.

Homosexuality is clearly condemned as sin in Romans 1: “…And the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error“ (v. 27 ESV). Of course, Scripture doesn’t stop there – it condemns all unrighteousness – that includes every sin, whether it’s that little white lie on your taxes or failing to help your neighbor when you should have done so. This is the function of the Law – to point out how we have fallen short of God’s demand of perfect obedience. The Gospel, on the other hand, tells of God’s grace. Through trust in Christ’s atoning work on the cross, our sins are forgiven, even though that grace is unmerited. In today’s climate, a lot of people view this sort of talk as bigoted. They may not recognize that for many Christians, their concern is for the spiritual well-being of another person, and not motivated by a mean-spirited quest against anyone not “just-like-me.” Christians should not be afraid to engage homosexuals and share with them Law and Gospel as appropriate. We should not shy away because our actions might be perceived as politically incorrect, but instead, always speak the truth in love  The Law must be proclaimed where needed, otherwise people will see no need for the Gospel, and continue in a life of idolatry. (I should point out that while arguing in the public square, one should use arguments which point out the harmful effects homosexuality has on society rather than using arguments based on Scripture, since not all people recognize Scripture as an authority. I wouldn’t be making this argument if I were appearing on Good Morning America.)

And though Romans 1:18-32 specifically discusses the condemnation of those who reject Christ, believers still need to take notice, because all sin is condemned by God, and Christians too are sinners. While Christians are covered with Christ’s righteousness and thus forgiven, that doesn’t mean that a Christian who is a homosexual can continue to act out on their homosexual desires, any more than an adulterer could do the same: “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (Heb. 10:26-27). Where willful sin continues, the Holy Spirit is driven out.

Even if same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land, that doesn’t make it right. It will still be a sin, just as visiting a brothel in Las Vegas is a sin, even though it’s legal. Legitimizing same-sex marriage is a lot like Adam and Eve hiding behind the trees in the Garden of Eden after they sinned. The only person you’re fooling is yourself if you think you can hide your sin against God behind a tree or a fig leaf. The good news is that Christ has come to set all of us sinners free from sin. God-given faith breaks Satan’s hold on our sin-filled lives as we are turned in repentance to a new life in Christ. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith.'" Romans 1:16-17 ESV

photo credit: See-ming Lee

Friday, May 18, 2012

Contemporvant Worship

ht: Christine Blackerby Pack

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Christian and Suicide

Quoting from Pastor Todd Pepperkorn's book I Trust When Dark My Road: A Lutheran View of Depression:
    Could this happen to you? Believe it. Anyone is susceptible to events like mine. Satan revels in them. As with Saul, Judas, and so many others, Satan can use any external force to drive us to despair. Martin Luther once wrote:
Since the devil is not only a liar, but also a murderer [John 8:44], he constantly seeks our life. He wreaks his vengeance whenever he can afflict our bodies with misfortune and harm. Therefore, it happens that he often breaks men’s necks or drives them to insanity, drowns some, and moves many to commit suicide and to many other terrible disasters [e.g., Mark 9:17-22].
     This is so true, and a disease of the mind is the perfect ground for Satan to plant his sick weeks of unbelief.
    Is it a sin to consider such thoughts as suicide? This is one of the many questions of guilt that trouble the clinically depressed. Self-death is a sin, but it is only a sin. Jesus died for all our sins, even suicide or worse. We are often placed in impossible situations, where we sin if we do, and sin if we don’t. Even if external forces (extended illness, loss of work, etc.) put us in such a situation, sin is still sin. But more importantly, Jesus’ forgiveness is still forgiveness.
    Christ came to take our death. We really died in the font, not when our body is laid to rest. This means that no matter what terrible thoughts you harbor in your soul, in the midst of your despair, Christ is there. You may not be able to see him, feel Him, our touch Him, but He is there. You are washed in Baptism; you are cleansed in His name. You are His holy child, beloved in His sight. Yes, you suffer. It is painful. But suffer as the redeemed. For you will come out whole and undefiled in the end.

You can download a free copy of I Trust When Dark My Road here.  You can read online about the book and Pastor Pepperkorn's thoughts here.

Todd A. Pepperkorn, I Trust When Dark My Road: A Lutheran View of Depression, (St. Louis: LCMS World Relief and Human Care, 2009) 82-83.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Quotable Blog Quotes #17

Quotable Quotes From Around the Blogosphere

Brothers of John the Steadfast
Pastor Tim Rossow
Micro Koinonia Project Part II – Defining the Problem

Secondly, we have a pastorate these days that lacks guts. It is still to this day a gut check for me every time I need to rebuke a couple living together before marriage or having to close the altar to someone. I am sure it was not easy for Paul to rebuke Peter (Galatians 1-2). It takes conviction, courage and strength to pastor a parish and sadly, many of our clergy do not have those traits.

Confessional Gadfly
Pastor Eric J. Brown
Bakers or Cake Decorators

I do find it entertaining that I am often called an antinomian, that I am looked down upon and told that I don't encourage enough works in my sermons, that I don't preach enough sanctification (sigh: as though you "preach" sanctification... you proclaim God's Word, both Law and Gospel, and the Holy Spirit will use it as He wills).

Gottesdienst Online
Pastor Rick Stuckwisch
Do This

The third specific thing that I do want my colleagues to do is really nothing more nor less than what our Lord Jesus Christ has given us Christians to do, namely, to eat and to drink His Body and His Blood. That seems so simple, and so obvious, and yet it isn't followed when it comes to the reliquae. Questions concerning what to do with the consecrated elements that remain at the conclusion of the distribution — which is to speak of the Body and Blood of Christ, as He Himself has declared, also concerning this bread and wine — are easily answered with the same Verba: "Take, eat." "Drink." Either immediately at the Altar, before concluding the Divine Service with the Post-Communion, or as soon after the Service as reasonable possible. For Luther and his followers in the 16th-century, the Sacrament extended from the consecration to the consumption of all the consecrated elements.

Gottesdienst Online
Pastor Rick Stuckwisch
The Baptism and Chalice of Christ

...True theology is not overly clever, unique or peculiar, but consistent with the teaching and confession of the Church catholic. There is always the danger that what seems very clear to one or another of us, may have more to do with our own imperfect perceptions than with the sure and certain Word of Christ. Thus, we do not stand alone in our reading and preaching of the Scriptures, but we abide within the House that our wise Lord Jesus Christ has built upon the Rock. Attempting to stand upon the Rock outside of that House will only get us swept away by the storms of life that rage against us.

Meditations of My Heart
Pastor Philip Hoppe
The Child who Cries in Church Dies in Church

Many young moms and dad worry about bringing their infants to church because despite their best efforts, the child may break out into loud cries. And when this practical fear is combined with the satanic lie that infants can not really benefit for being in church anyways, often young parents and their infants remain willfully away for a time from Christ and his Church. And sadly, those willful choices often become permanent habits for parent and child alike. An all the while Satan chuckles as how he can use one or two disapproving looks in the pews combined with a simple misunderstanding to remove people from Christ and his Church. When this happens, his work seems all too easy.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Evolved or Designed?

While running along the lava cliffs of the Kona seashore, I came across this chunk of lava.  Like most people, you probably concluded that the smaller white rocks were not randomly washed up onto the lava, but rather that they were arranged by someone.  It looks like some beachcomber was trying to spell something.

Now if you happened to discover a mousetrap  gathering dust under the water heater at work, again you'd understand that the mousetrap was designed. It couldn't have randomly come together, or evolved over time, since if any piece of the trap were missing, none of it would work.

Now head back into the lab to have a look at that cell you were taking a peek at under your electron microscope.  You'll certainly see plenty of these inside the cell - mitochondria, which are the cell's power plants.  According to popular thought, while we assume the white rocks on the lava and the dusty mousetrap were designed, the mitochondrion is just an act of nature.  The mitochondrion evolved over millions of years in little tiny steps.  Yet like the mousetrap, this complex power plant couldn't evolve, because there's too many biochemical steps and substeps that would have to come together at the same time for this marvel to be functional. If any particular sequence in the process is missing, there's no functionality, hence no power and no reason for it to continue to evolve.  The mousetrap, and the  mitochondrion, and the cell, had a creator. In the case of the mousetrap, it was created by the Victor Company.  They've been designing mousetraps since 1890.  In the case of the mitochondrion and the cell, they've been around since the first week of Creation, when the Triune God spoke them into existence.  Despite the unspoken rule that any theory is more viable than one that leads to the miraculous, the deeper science digs, the more miraculous the findings become.  Yet God's invisible attributes have always been known because of the things He has created.

Psalm 139:14  "I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well."

photo credits: mousetrap- Randy Cox / mitochondrion- K. R. Porter

Monday, May 14, 2012

The District Convention: This Seems Vaguely Familiar

A guide to your district convention, by Pastor Hans Fiene. Is there an element of truth here, or is it 100% truth?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Prayer of a Housemother

O God Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Thou giver of all blessing and consolation, behold me, whom Thou hast placed in the estate of holy wedlock and made me the mother of this family, with the eyes of Thy mercy. Vouchsafe unto Thy handmaiden Thy grace, that I may love Thee above all things, seek Thee, and ever be diligent in Thy service. And grant that next to Thee I may honor, fear, and love my husband, and obey him with patience and kindness, in pure and modest conduct, in piety and humility well pleasing to Thee, and that the hidden life of my heart be constantly adorned with a meek and gentle disposition and every virtue, even as in former times the consecrated women, who trusted in God and continued in subjection to their husbands. Enable me to train my children and servants with meekness, to the honor and glory of Thy holy name. Give grace, that they follow me with gentleness, and grant, that I with my husband and family may satisfy the wants of this life in good health and according to Thy divine will. Protect us from harm and from enemies. Enable us so to use this world that we be not hindered in our salvation, but in all things seek Thee, O Lord, and endeavor to be well-favored in Thy sight. May we not despise the cross neither murmur against it, but bear it in patience, and thus remain in Thy keeping unto the end. May we as servants of God bring forth abundant fruitage, live holy lives in this world, and attain to the everlasting inheritance in the world to come.

John Habermann, Morning and Evening Prayers for All Days of the Week, Trans. Emil H. Rausch, (Fairbanks: Project Gutenberg, 2011) eBook edition, location 663.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Giving Walther a Run for His Money

Everyone knows that C.F.W. Walther, the first president of what would become the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, was quite the specimen of a man from an "esthetic" standpoint.  But he wasn't alone. His legacy as studliest bishop might be challenged by Bishop Joseph Long.  Bishop Long, here pictured in a photo from 1869 (on the right - Walther is on the left), was the third Bishop of the Evangelical Association, which would ultimately become the United Methodist Church.  It's amazing that the Methodists have kept this under wraps for so long.  Maybe they could parlay Bishop Long's photo into a marketing tool to help with their sagging membership numbers.  Who wouldn't want sideburns like that after all.

Photo of Long from Roy's World

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Commitment to the Lutheran Confession: An Act of Spiritual Liberty

Quoting from Peter Brunner’s article titled “Commitment To The Lutheran Confession” in the December, 1969 issue of The Springfielder:
…What does commitment to the Lutheran confession mean for the inner life of the Lutheran Churches themselves? I shall recall once more what commitment to the Lutheran confession does not mean: it is not a sacrificium intellectus, it is not a servile submitting to a doctrinal law as under the rod of a tyrannical driver, it is not a legalistic handling of a letter of the law, nor a formal-legalistic act without importance for the content of doctrine and proclamation. Rather commitment to the Lutheran confession is a gift which cannot be forced on one who has not already received if from elsewhere. Commitment to the Lutheran confession is a gift of the Holy Ghost which no man has at his disposal on his own. Commitment to the Lutheran confession is the pneumatic insight into the harmony between that Gospel that emanates from the Scriptures as living Word and those confessional statements of our fathers. Commitment to the Lutheran confession is an act of spiritual liberty for which only the Gospel heard in the Spirit can free us.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Slave’s Purpose-Driven List of 'Encouragement'

On page 307 of Pastor Rick Warren’s book The Purpose-Driven Life, Pastor Warren advises
I strongly urge you to gather a small group of friends and form a Purpose-Driven Life Reading Group to review these chapters on a weekly basis. Discuss the implications and the applications of each chapter.
I never did get around to following his advice, mainly because I felt what Pastor Warren had to say was predominantly Law, that when distilled down to its essence, amounted to false doctrine. I did, however, keep pretty close tabs on the implications and applications as I went along, writing them all down on a piece of paper. Here’s the list (with page references), which if followed, will certainly lead you away from Christ and to a life of slavery, all the while preening in front of a mirror.  Relying on this sort of advice places you under the burden of the Law, instead of the freedom of the Gospel: "My burden is easy and my yoke is light."
Three insights into your purpose (20)
Five of the most common things that can drive your life (27)
Five great benefits of living a purpose-driven life (30)
Two critical questions God will ask us (34)
The two choices offered by eternity (37)
Two kinds of people (37)
Three metaphors that teach us God’s view of life (42)
The two creations of God that fail to bring glory to Him (54)
Five purposes for your life (55)
Five acts of worship that make God smile (70)
Three problems that could have caused Noah to doubt (71)
Three barriers that block our total surrender to God (78)
Six secrets of friendship with God (87)
Four characteristics of the kind of worship that pleases God (100)
Nine ways people draw near to God (103)
Five things God’s people will inherit in eternity (119)
Three important truths learned through fellowship (124)
Three reasons to make love your top priority (124)
Six reasons why you need a church family (133)
Your five deepest needs (136)
Four differences between real and fake fellowship (139)
Five steps to cultivate real fellowship and community in your small group (146)
Nine characteristics of biblical fellowship (151)
Seven biblical steps to restoring relationships (154)
Six ways to ensure unity (161)
Four things that instantly happen when I judge another believer (164)
A simple three-step process for conflict resolution (165)
Three responsibilities in becoming like Christ (175)
Three things God uses to mold us (176)
Two parts to changing your thoughts to think like Jesus (182)
Three activities included in abiding in God’s Word (186)
Five ways to be transformed with the truth through the Bible (188)
The four-step process followed by temptation (203)
Three specific steps you need to overcome temptation (204)
Four biblical keys to defeating temptations (209)
Several reasons it takes so long to change and grow up (219)
Several ways to cooperate with God in the process of spiritual maturity (221)
Five of the factors that God gives you to use for His glory (235)
Two signs you are serving God from your heart (238)
Six kinds of experiences from your past to examine to determine your shape (246)
Two reasons you should never compare your shape, ministry, or results of your ministry with anyone else (253)
Five attitudes real servants serve God with (265)
Four steps needed to allow God to work through our weaknesses (273)
Several reasons why your mission is so important (282)
Four parts to your life message (289)
Four parts to your testimony (291)
Four ways to think like a world-class Christian (299)
Four important activities for purpose-driven living (306)
Three basic issues in life many people struggle with (312)
Five parts of your Life Purpose Statement (313)
Life’s five greatest questions (314)

Rick Warren, The Purpose-Driven Life, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

You Only Imagine that It Hurts

Mark Twain, in his book Christian Science, begins with a recounting of a minor accident and the subsequent “healing” of his injuries at the hands of a Christian Scientist and a horse doctor. He doesn’t seem to put a whole lot of stock in the Christian Science approach, other than believing that much of what ails a person is psychosomatic, and can thus be healed by treating only your head. Here is an abbreviated version of his story:
This last summer, when I was on my way back to Vienna from the Appetite- Cure in the mountains, I fell over a cliff in the twilight, and broke some arms and legs and one thing or another….
He continues:
There was a village a mile away, and a horse doctor lived there, but there was no surgeon. It seemed a bad outlook; mine was distinctly a surgery case. Then it was remembered that a lady from Boston was summering in that village, and she was a Christian Science doctor and could cure anything. So she was sent for. It was night by this time, and she could not conveniently come, but sent word that it was no matter, there was no hurry, she would give me "absent treatment" now, and come in the morning; meantime she begged me to make myself tranquil and comfortable and remember that there was nothing the matter with me. I thought there must be some mistake.

"Did you tell her I walked off a cliff seventy-five feet high?"


"And struck a boulder at the bottom and bounced?"


"And struck another one and bounced again?"


"And struck another one and bounced yet again?"


"And broke the boulders?"


"That accounts for it; she is thinking of the boulders. Why didn't you tell her I got hurt, too?"

"I did. I told her what you told me to tell her: that you were now but an incoherent series of compound fractures extending from your scalp-lock to your heels, and that the comminuted projections caused you to look like a hat-rack."

"And it was after this that she wished me to remember that there was nothing the matter with me?"

"Those were her words."

"I do not understand it. I believe she has not diagnosed the case with sufficient care. Did she look like a person who was theorizing, or did she look like one who has fallen off precipices herself and brings to the aid of abstract science the confirmations of personal experience?"

“…Does she seem to be in full and functionable possession of her intellectual plant, such as it is?"
Welcome to the world of Christian Science Mr. Twain. As Mrs. Fulton shows up to treat Mark Twain, among other things, she tows the Christian Science line, stating
"One does not feel," she explained; "there is no such thing as feeling: therefore, to speak of a non-existent thing as existent is a contradiction. Matter has no existence; nothing exists but mind; the mind cannot feel pain, it can only imagine it."

"But if it hurts, just the same--"

"It doesn't. A thing which is unreal cannot exercise the functions of reality. Pain is unreal; hence, pain cannot hurt."

In making a sweeping gesture to indicate the act of shooing the illusion of pain out of the mind, she raked her hand on a pin in her dress, said "Ouch!" and went tranquilly on with her talk. "You should never allow yourself to speak of how you feel, nor permit others to ask you how you are feeling; you should never concede that you are ill, nor permit others to talk about disease or pain or death or similar nonexistences in your presence. Such talk only encourages the mind to continue its empty imaginings." Just at that point the Stuben-madchen trod on the cat's tail, and the cat let fly a frenzy of cat-profanity. I asked, with caution:

Monday, May 7, 2012

Leaving with a Full Bag

On the April 19 Table Talk Radio show, Pastors Goeglein and Wolfmueller ran a song through the praise song cruncher by Matt Redman titled “The Heart of Worship.” I thought I’d add my two cents worth as well. For the sake of discussion, pasted below are the lyrics (without the repetition), as well as a quote from which explains how this song came to be.

When the music fades
And all is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that's of worth
That will bless your heart

I'll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the ways things appear
You're looking into my heart

I'm coming back to the heart of worship
And it's all about You
All about You, Jesus
I'm sorry Lord for the thing I've made it
When it's all about You
It's all about You Jesus

King of endless worth
No one could express
How much You deserve
Though I'm weak and poor
All I have is Yours
Every single breath
The song dates back to the late 1990s, born from a period of apathy within Matt’s home church, Soul Survivor, in Watford, England. Despite the country’s overall contribution to the current worship revival, Redman’s congregation was struggling to find meaning in its musical outpouring at the time.

“There was a dynamic missing, so the pastor did a pretty brave thing,” he recalls. “He decided to get rid of the sound system and band for a season, and we gathered together with just our voices. His point was that we’d lost our way in worship, and the way to get back to the heart would be to strip everything away.”

Reminding his church family to be producers in worship, not just consumers, the pastor, Mike Pilavachi, asked, “When you come through the doors on a Sunday, what are you bringing as your offering to God?”

Matt says the question initially led to some embarrassing silence, but eventually people broke into a cappella songs and heartfelt prayers, encountering God in a fresh way.

“Before long, we reintroduced the musicians and sound system, as we’d gained a new perspective that worship is all about Jesus, and He commands a response in the depths of our souls no matter what the circumstance and setting. ‘The Heart of Worship’ simply describes what occurred.”
There’s certainly some good things to be said for this song and its genesis. The thought of taking a look at what’s happening in your worship service is always a great idea. Their conclusion that “worship is all about Jesus” is rock solid. Pastor Pilvachi’s question to his church family, “When you come through the doors on a Sunday, what are you bringing as your offering to God?” truly is a profound question. He’s right, in a sense, that we are to be both “producers” and “consumers” in worship. God gives to us His Word of promise in all sorts of ways in the Divine Service, and we respond in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. But looking at what’s being said up above, I’m not quite sure they’re totally on the right track.

The lyrics say “Longing just to bring something that's of worth….” Maybe he’s getting the cart before the horse. Luther talked about showing up with an empty bag, not a full bag. Worship always begins with God giving to us. Psalm 51:14 says “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.” Before we can sing, our sorrowful hearts must be forgiven. Where there is no repentance and forgiveness, there can be no true worship. And our response to God? Even that is a gift from God through the Holy Spirit, as verse 15 illustrates: “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.” As Article V 189 of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession explains, “we can offer nothing to God unless we have first been reconciled and born again. This passage, too, brings the greatest comfort, as the chief worship of the Gospel is to desire to receive the forgiveness of sins, grace, and righteousness.”

This congregation’s doubts about their worship practices illustrate their misunderstanding of what worship is all about. If your worship is primarily something you do, something active rather than passive, you’ll never know if you’re doing enough, or doing it right. You’ll be searching your own heart rather than the Scriptures. When worship becomes primarily something that God does, we can rest in His promises, certain that we’re forgiven and righteous in His sight. Consider Hebrews 10:19-25:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
We can approach God in full confidence. He has forgiven us. He who promises is faithful! This assurance releases us from any burden of sin and self-consciousness, free to worship Him in spirit and truth. We no longer have to worry about whether or not our sacrifices are worthy. Christ makes them worthy. Then, we can pray, praise, and give thanks, glorifying God and leaving the nave with a full bag with which to serve our neighbor.

So sing away good Christians! Sing with joy in your heart! He is risen, He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

photo credit: Bill Gracey

Friday, May 4, 2012

Something's Askew

Do some of these convention resolutions seem a little bit off?

photo credit: Hakan Dahlstrom

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What Is the Trinity All About?

Quoting Pastor Todd Wilken from his article in the Winter 2010 Issues, Etc. Journal titled “The Theology of Jesus”:
    Philosophically, it is dangerous to assign God a raisons d'ĂȘtre, a reason for being. However, if we can suspend our philosophical misgivings and ask, “What is God’s reason for being?” the answer is found there at the Cross, in the dying breath of Jesus.
    The death of Jesus for sinners is what the Trinity is all about. The Cross is not the Trinity’s avocation, hobby or emergency plan. There isn’t a box hanging on the wall in heaven with a Cross in it, and a sign reading, “In case of sin, break glass.” The Cross is the Triune God’s overarching purpose from before the foundation of the world. If we could be so bold to say such a thing about God, the Cross is why God is, and why He does what He does.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Like It or Not, the Gloves Are Off: ULC v. MNS BOD

The bell has rung for the next round in the sparring match between University Lutheran Chapel (ULC) and the Minnesota South District, in which the District is selling the ULC chapel out from under the students and members of ULC. This round may be a bit different though. Pastor David Kind and University Lutheran Chapel are suing the Minnesota South Board of Directors. Pastor Kind’s reasonably stated apologia can be read here. The actual complaint against the District can be read here. You can make a monetary contribution to help defend ULC here.

photo credit: KWDesigns

Slapping Concrete in Haiti

Last January our daughter and a group of kids from Luther Memorial Chapel University Student Center in Shorewood, Wisconsin made the trek down to Haiti to build homes for the Lutheran Village in Jacmel. Here’s a few photos from the trip, taken by Paige Diekmann, Rachel Ploetz, and Minte Rosalyn. Click on the photo for a larger view.

The view from the road.

Kids being kids.
Paul Gehlbach signing to the deaf kids.
Paige demonstrating the proper technique.
Minte and Brennick go airborne.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

NPR: Christians Are Meanies!

Those mean old Christians. They’re vilifying a female pastor for quiting her pastorship in Florida and announcing she’s an atheist. Or at least that’s the story painted by NPR in a report aired yesterday, “the first in a series of stories on losing faith.”

Pastor Teresa MacBain knew for a long while that she was an atheist yet continued in her preaching role, until one day she could do it no longer. She was tired of living a lie, and headed to the American Atheists’ Convention in Maryland and declared to those assembled that she’s an atheist. For doing so, I give her credit. She was honest, and voted her conscience. I can’t say she had a real firm grasp of the Christian articles of faith however, considering her comments, which reflect more of a straw man than the Gospel:
For years, MacBain set her concerns aside. But when she became a United Methodist pastor nine years ago, she started asking sharper questions. She thought they'd make her faith stronger.

"In reality," she says, "as I worked through them, I found that religion had so many holes in it, that I just progressed through stages where I couldn't believe it."

The questions haunted her: Is Jesus the only way to God? Would a loving God torment people for eternity? Is there any evidence of God at all? And one day, she crossed a line.
Naturally, her congregation dismissed her, and according to the the story, they didn’t treat her very kindly in the process. It’s not too surprising that she received hate mail and scorn. It is, however, the wrong reaction. A better reaction would be to give her credit for standing up and admitting she was an atheist, and sending her on her way while telling her you’ll pray for her. There’s a lot of congregations out there that would have done just that.

The report continues as Teresa announces to the convention attendees that she is a pastor and an atheist:
Hundreds of people jump to their feet. They hoot and clap for more than a minute. MacBain then apologizes to them for being, as she put it, "a hater."

"I was the one on the right track, and you were the ones that were going to burn in hell," she says. "And I'm happy to say as I stand before you right now, I'm going to burn with you."
Such is the media’s personification of Christianity in much of what is broadcast throughout the width of the electromagnetic spectrum. There’s a whole lot of misrepresentation going on. Not all Christians are “haters.” The only favorable light shed on Christians were the comments made by her husband, although he will hardly be viewed as an unbiased source, who was quoted as saying:
"I believe in God," says her husband, Ray. "And to be honest, I pray for her every night, I got friends praying for her."

But he says he adores his wife and defends her right to disbelieve. "That's why I spent 23 years in the Army. That's why I'm still a police officer. We have freedom of speech and freedom of thought. And God never forced anybody to believe, so who am I to step up?"
Perhaps NPR could have Mr. MacBain write religion pieces from now on. What gets aired might be a little more balanced. Until then, I suspect the vilification of Christians and the glorification of unbelief will continue.