Friday, September 28, 2012

Oh Say Can He Sing!

I'm told that the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod's very own Pastor Peter Bender, pastor at Peace Lutheran Church in Sussex, Wisconsin, will be singing the national anthem at the October 1 Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field. If you're not headed to the game on that day, you might still be able to catch it, either on MLB.TV, or you may be able to listen on the radio if you live in the right spot (it won't be streaming).

For details on how Pastor Bender was picked for this singular honor, read Fred H. Keller's August 29 Bald Facts column.

photo credit: wallyg

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sublime Monotony

Quoting Hermann Sasse, from section III, We Confess the Church, of the We Confess Anthology:
"We are witnesses to all that He did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree; but God raised Him on the third day and made Him manifest; not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead" (Acts 10, 39-41). It was always the same message, repeated with sublime monotony by the apostles, who were eyewitnesses, and then after their death by those to whom the apostolic proclamation was committed. The church of all times lives from the doctrine of the apostles.
But does it really? Must not the church adjust its message to the contemporary situation? The reproach of not moving with the times was heard in Germany through the 18th and 19th centuries from those who held a naive faith in progress. Why go on preaching the same as Peter did in the Acts of the Apostles? How many theologians, indeed whole churches, finally had enough! They did not continue in the apostles' doctrine. They preached something else. Forty years ago they preached sermons on Goethe and Schiller. They preached the current view of the world, although most world views are lucky if they last as long as 30 years. And the churches did not become fuller, but emptier. And rightly so. For since 1848 any member of German society could read in the newspaper every morning as he drank his coffee what the latest and only acceptable world view is. For this I do not need to go to church. But where the church continued in the apostles' doctrine, there the congregation remained.
To the world it is inexplicable that the church lives on, always preaching the same old thing. In fact, it is because the same old thing goes on being preached, the apostles' doctrine, that the church goes on living. This is because the apostles' doctrine is the everlasting Word of God to all men, to all nations, to all times. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, "who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven ... and was made man." He "was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification" [Rom. 4:25]. He "is seated at the right hand of the Father ... and His kingdom shall have no end." The apostolic doctrine witnesses to the Word of God become flesh. In this witness, in the simple words of the apostles, in the straight­forward words preached in the church, Christ, the eternal Word, is Himself present. Therefore the church lives from the apostolic doctrine.
Hermann Sasse, We Confess Anthology, Trans. Norman Nagel (St. Louis: CPH, 1999) 132.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Don’t Miss It! The Lutheran Concerns Association Annual Conference Is Coming Up

Monday, January 21, 2013 marks the date for the Lutheran Concerns Association Annual Conference in Fort Wayne, Indiana, followed the rest of the week by Concordia Theological Seminary’s annual Symposia. This year’s LCA speakers are a top notch group. Rev. Dr. Peter Scaer has an early morning Bible Study, and Rev. Dr. Bill Weinrich will begin with an opening devotion. Walter Dissen and Indiana District President Rev. Daniel May will welcome the attendees. Synod President Emeritus Rev. Dr. Robert Kuhn and Rev. Dr. Tim Rossow will tag team on Issues and Overtures, and hot button Synod issues and the local parish, respectively. Rev. Peter Bender will be speaking on pastoral care and admission to the Lord’s Supper, a particularly relevant topic given the varying positions in our Synod. Attorney Scott Meyer will discuss religious liberty, another highly relevant topic. Rev. Dr. Martin Noland will give a presentation titled “Missionals vs. Confessionals & Other Issues at the 2013 LCMS Convention,” and CTS professor Rev. Dr. Richard Nuffer will offer a presentation titled “SMP: Aerobatic Acronym.”

This is a great opportunity to hear top notch speakers in a relatively intimate setting, including sharing a word or two over lunch. If you’re not familiar with the Lutheran Concerns Association, their website is here. You can read the current issue of their newsletter, The Lutheran Clarion, here, which contains a registration form for the Conference. Older Clarions are available here.

A photo from last year's panel discussion

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Get Those Nominations In

The deadline to nominate people for officer, board, and commission positions to be elected at the LCMS 2013 National Convention is drawing nigh - October 20 to be exact. Positions to be filled include Secretary of the Synod, LCMS Board of Directors, Concordia Historical Institute Board of Governors, Concordia University System Board of Directors, Concordia Publishing House Board of Directors, LCEF Board of Directors, LCMS Foundation Board of Trustees, Commission on Theology and Church Relations, Seminary Boards of Regents, and College/University Boards of Regents.  You can view the details for these positions here. Qualifications desired can be viewed here.  The nominating form is available here.

photo credit: KClvey

Monday, September 24, 2012

Quotable Blog Quotes #18

 Quotable Quotes From Around the Blogosphere

BBC News Europe
Spanish fresco restoration botched by amateur

The woman, in her 80s, was reportedly upset at the way the fresco had deteriorated and took it on herself to "restore" the image. BBC Europe correspondent Christian Fraser says the delicate brush strokes of Elias Garcia Martinez have been buried under a haphazard splattering of paint. The once-dignified portrait now resembles a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic, he says.

Brothers of John the Steadfast
Pastor Tim Rossow
Is the Lectio Divina a Practice to Be Encouraged?

The very notion of mistaking honest and edifying theological critique in this post and on this string for slander, is exhibit A of the need for such critique. It is the woosification of society and also church culture that has people being offended by the mere exchange of ideas. This woosification is a product of the psychologizing and sociologizing of culture and theology.

Confessing Moments
Pastor Michael Schmidt
Such a time as this – Esther 4:14

The Lion’s Club can hold a picnic, only the Church can baptize. The Boy Scouts can serve a meal, only the Church can offer the body and blood of Jesus. The city council can organize a community clean-up day, only the Church can forgive sins. So at future conventions, do not tell me about the work that anyone can do; rather tell me about the work that only the Church can do. Encourage me, refresh me, build me up with the news of baptisms, confirmations, Law and Gospel preaching, sins forgiven, and the Lord’s Supper administered.

Confessional Gadfly
Pastor Eric Brown
The Law, Finding Fault, and Self Service

Proclaiming the Law is never self serving. At least proclaiming it properly isn't. Well, what do I mean by that? When one speaks the Law to another person, one is laying them bare, is killing them. The Law kills. It slays the Old Adam -- it kills what needs to be killed but it still kills. But that killing is done in order that the Holy Spirit may make alive again through a word of the Gospel proclaimed as soon as the Law has done it's work. Using the Law is always to be a service to the neighbor, to be about their good, their benefit. It *is* to be an act of love. And as an act of love, the follow through of the Gospel and Comfort will be second nature -- but if there is no love, it will just be hanging, dangling law.

Gottesdienst Online
Pastor Larry Beane
Goldilocks, George Carlin, and the Middle of the Road

Moreover, the argument that "smells and bells" and "happy clappy" are two sides of the same coin is a false analogy, and nowhere near a valid approach to liturgy. It is a convenient way to appeal to the center, to the majority that are somewhere in the middle, to those who (for whatever reason) are not interested in pursuing a richer ceremonial and liturgical life in the parish as has been the trend among our synod as a whole for decades. Liturgy is normative in our Lutheran confessions. Going without the liturgy is un-Lutheran and antithetical to our confession. On the other hand, being "high church" is consistent within our tradition as articulated in the Book of Concord. To lump the two together in a box and label them both un-Lutheran is just plain wrong.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Just Sayin'

From the Useless Slang Department:

One of my favorites: “It is what it is.”

Well yes, I suppose that’s true. Isn’t everything what it is? One generally doesn't come across anything that truly isn’t what it is, or is what it isn’t. So when I hear someone say “It is what it is,” my reaction is usually something akin to “My, you’ve got a tremendous grasp of the obvious.” The possible exception to this helpful maxim is if you’re a cult member, in which case suspension of disbelief often makes things what they aren’t, at least for you.

My favorite though is “Just sayin'.” This one is tremendously useful:

“Your dog is really ugly. Just sayin'.”

“Your church stinks. Just sayin'.”

It’s as though tacking “Just sayin'” onto the end of your observation gives you license to forgo social pleasantries and be brutally tactless. Kinda like having a few drinks makes boorish behavior perfectly acceptable.

Just sayin'.

photo credit: Adam Awad

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Case of the Incredibly Expanding Sin

"Small sins become great when they are regarded as small. "

C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, (St. Louis: CPH, 1986) 332.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Clashing Theology: The Willow Creek Association and Lutheranism

A quote of Pastor Todd Wilken discussing the Willow Creek Association and Lutheran churches who join the association, from an Issues, Etc. segment on May 3, 2011:
Like it or not, it’s a theological association. They’re going to be presuppositions behind everything that’s taught at a leadership seminar, or going or using Willow Creek materials about the nature of the Church, the nature of the pastoral office, what is Baptism, what is the Lord’s Supper. That all goes to the question “How are Christians made?” Are they made by the artful persuasion of the mind and eventually a decision that the unbeliever makes to accept Jesus into his heart? That’s the Willow Creek model. Read Bill Hybels many books. Or, is this entirely the work of the Holy Spirit working through, as Jesus says, through Baptism, and the teaching of God’s Word. Two completely different views. Is there a conflict here? Obviously. A Lutheran pastor who says “We can consistently be Lutheran and a member of the Willow Creek Association as a congregation is either fooling himself, or, worse yet, being dishonest.
A list of LCMS congregations that belong to the Willow Creek Association can be found here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Smoky Mountain Bible Institute: Scientific Disciplines Through a Biblical Worldview

It’s hard to read anything, even Christian literature, that doesn’t frame such things as geology or biology in terms of an old earth time frame and millions of years, which usually equates to evolution. The Bible, on the other hand, says something different, that God created the earth and the heavens in six days. It can be hard to reconcile the two when we’re awash in a world that views everything through a naturalistic lens. If you’re interested in reconciling the sciences with a Biblical worldview that is still true to science, you might want to try the Smoky Mountain Bible Institute.

The Smoky Mountain Bible Institute is an online series of “classes” which walks you through the various disciplines of science, such as biology, astronomy, archaeology, anthropology, and dating methods, and explains how all of these disciplines can be used to explain God’s Creation from a Biblical perspective. Pastor Robert Portier began the Institute last year as an offshoot of a series of articles he had written.

If you don’t have a scientific background, or are grappling with how science and Christianity can be harmonized using today’s branches of science, this may be the place for you. Each post, which comes out more-or-less monthly, will walk you through an area of science, explaining how that particular discipline can be used in a proper Christian worldview to explain the world around us. The lessons are written so that they are easily understood by the average layman, and are quite helpful in demonstrating the truths found in the Bible while remaining true to the scientific evidence. The first lesson begins here; scroll to the post at the bottom of the page to being your adventure.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Eschatological Irony

There are “unchurched” who will be saved and “Christ followers” who will not.

"And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life."
1 John 5:11-13 ESV

photo credit: Brett Jordan

Friday, September 14, 2012

Decision Theology?

I took this photo while I was on a run in Newark, New Jersey. The "TRY JESUS" motif of this Baptist church wouldn't quite work on the front of a Lutheran church.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Obligated to Profess

Quoting from Thesis III of C.F.W. Walther's presentation to the 15th Western District Convention in 1870:

Matt. 10:32-33: “Therefore, he who confesses Me publicly, him will I confess before My Father in heaven. But one who denies Me publicly, him will I also deny before My Father in heaven.” This too is a main passage to prove that one should stick to the right, i.e., the true visible church; not because—as the papists wrongly say—one is a Christian and saved only in the church, but because one is obligated to profess. And this is necessary not for God’s sake, but for the sake of ourselves and of the fellow-redeemed world. For it is God’s will that all people should be saved through the Gospel. But the Christians should preach it to and profess it before the world, not as though they all should or must be public servants of the church, but in such a way and in order that they will stick to the true visible church, hear the pure Gospel in it, and with it profess the same and defend [it] against opposition. In this way the church is a saving leaven in the world.

C.F.W. Walther, Essays for the Church, Vol. 1 (St. Louis: Concordia, 1992) 209.

photo credit: soylentgreen23

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Remember When... Things Were Actually Printed?...

...and the Issues, Etc. Journal looked like this...

...instead of like this?

You can sign up for the free Issues, Etc. Journal here, and download past issues here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What Does Homophobic Mean?

ho•mo•pho•bic (hom′ə fō′bik), adj., n.   –Usage. This term is usually used with disparaging intent and perceived as insulting.
adj., n.  1 : Disparaging. a derisive term used by the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender (LGBT) community or persons sympathetic to their cause to label someone with whom they disagree, often for the purpose of political gain.  2 : unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals  and homosexuality.

photo credit: SS&SS

Monday, September 10, 2012

All that for Six Dollars

Cheryl and I went out for lunch, and since we were right next to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, I decided to saunter on in like a cowboy bellying up to the bar and check out their books. I’d picked out a couple, and was about ready to head out, when the lady putting more books on the shelf told me that today you could buy an entire grocery bag full of books for $6.00. Never say that to a bibliophile. The gauntlet had been thrown down, the die cast. An hour later I had a bag so full the plastic was starting to tear on one corner.

I bought, for $6.00 mind you, 21 books. I bought kids books (for somebody’s kids, certainly not our own), history books, and everything in between. I bought three of Tolkien’s books, even though we’ve already got them all. I figure one of the kids will eventually take our original set, and I haven’t read them yet. I bought a junior high level book with beautiful illustrations titled Stories from Herodotus, discarded by the St. Louise School in Bellevue, Washington. (Who reads history books anymore?) Another called Linda Carlton’s Ocean Flight, by Edith Lavell – so old the copyright date is in Roman numerals (MCMXXXI). Don't we all love a good aviation book after all? You’re a Good Sport, Charlie Brown, written by Charles Schulz, and more than twice as old as our son Zach, or our daughter Paige too! Also Herman Wouk’s War and Remembrance, and Dinesh D’Souza’s apologetics book What’s So Great About Christianity (which doesn’t have a question mark at the end of it). It wasn’t until I got home that I discovered that this obviously never read book has D’Souza’s autograph inside. Apparently the original owner wasn’t all that impressed. Three Dr. Seuss books (we’ve already got all three), and one book illustrated by P. D. Eastman. Eastman wrote and illustrated one of the best books of all time, Go, Dog. Go! A bunch of others too, and finally, a book that any of you out there who watched Captain Kangaroo on the tube (no, the TV, not YouTube), will immediately recognize, Stone Soup, by Marcia Brown (who won the Caldecott Medal three times, among other honors). I couldn’t pass that one up. Once again, it was a discarded library book. Very sad. All in all, a successful outing for a hunting expedition that was totally unplanned. That’s why I always carry spare ammo and my rifle in the gun rack in the back window of the pickup.

On a related note, if you’re looking for a good book store in the Seattle area, try the Southcenter Goodwill, just south of the Southcenter Shopping Mall, at 1174 Andover Park W. in Tukwila. They’ve got a highly organized selection of books, all in good or better condition. The fiction books are even alphabetized by author. You can’t go wrong.

Stay confessional, my friends.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Google Does Star Trek

For you Trekkies out there, be sure to Google something today.  They're celebrating The Original Series' 46th anniversary.  Live long and prosper.

For those of you who need a little brushing up on your Star Trek history, here's a clip that will add a little context for that next-to-last graphic:

You can watch all of The Original Series videos here.

At Work in Maui

Here's a few photos I took on a couple of trips to Maui. Always a good bet for sunshine and relaxation.

A gorgeous flower floating on a pond at the hotel.

The volcanic cinder cone I hiked up. You can see the orange trail snaking up the side.

There was nobody golfing on this course, which was right on the water.

The view of the island of Lānaʻi off in the distance.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Christian's Most Effective Consolation

Quoting from a sermon of Dr. Martin Luther preached in his home on Maundy Thursday in 1534:
    But the Sacrament of the Holy Supper was instituted not merely that by its observance Christ might be honored; for He can truthfully say: “I need not thy praise, I am the Son of God, whether thou glorifies me or not;” but also and especially for the reason that we stand in need of such a Testament and Supper, and that we might be benefited by it. Listen to the words with which He gives the bread: “Take, eat, this is my body, which is given for you,” and with which, soon after, He gives the cup: “Drink ye all of it; this cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you, for the remission of sins.”
    This declaration is the Christian’s most effective consolation; for he who really believes that Christ gave His body for him, and that He shed His blood for the remission of sins, cannot despair, no matter what sin, the world and the devil may say. He knows that this treasure wherewith his sins have been cancelled is far greater than all his iniquities.
This quote is taken from the inaugural edition of Logia in 1992, in an article titled “Two Sermons on the Holy Supper.” They in turn were quoting from the house postils, in this case from Sermons on the Gospels for the Sundays and Principal Festivals of the Church Year by Martin Luther, translated by E. Schmid and edited by M. Loy (Rock Island, Illinois: Augustana Book Company, 1871).

Truth in Antithesis

Quoting from Adolf Köberle's book The Quest for Holiness:
The Gospel must be protected as carefully against legalism as against antinomianism. An active pride is as dangerous for faith as the laziness that shirks every task. The merit-seeking efforts of a penitential suppression of the desires of the flesh can harden the heart as effectively as the desires of the flesh that are unrestrained. The battle against dead works is just as important as that against dead faith. If justification is continually exposed to the misunderstandings and dangers of quietism, so sanctification is endangered by the abyss of self-righteousness. A super-ethical, predestinarian monergism is as questionable as the moralizing of the Christian religion by Kant and Ritschl. A transformation of the world through sanctification, that would become a boundless union with general culture, is just as much to be avoided as a separation through justification that would lead to a world flight. Daily renewal of the baptismal covenant is indispensable for a life of faith, but the following devotion to the performance of God’s will is no less necessary. Justification robs all conduct of its appearance of holiness, sanctification guards men against sinning against grace. The promise of forgiveness gives the basis of action, direction and power to all conduct; the Christianity of action prevents “pure doctrine” from becoming mere talk. Each statement is only true in its antithesis, in the answer given by the other.

Adolf Köberle, The Quest for Holiness: A Biblical, Historical, and Systematic Investigation, Trans. John C. Mattes (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2004) 254.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Remember When... Lutherans Read Lutheran Authors?

Remember when virtually all of our pastors read these books...

...instead of these books?

Fortunately, we're slowly moving back to our confessional heritage, and Concordia Publishing House is helping to lead the charge with books like these:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Notice the Difference?

From the Bible:

Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

From the Book of Mormon:

2 Nephi 25:23

For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Christian First; Lutheran Second?

I recently read a blog post by a Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod pastor who thinks it’s better to emphasize your identity as a Christian while downplaying your Lutheran identity. He claims that if we’re so concerned with being ‘lutheran’ [sic], it can keep us from focusing on our true identity in Christ. He’s hardly the first Lutheran to say something similar.

Lutheran doctrine is the doctrine of Christ, that was taught by the apostles and Jesus Himself. The wonderful theology that Lutheranism offers, justification, the Sacraments, the Theology of the Cross, and vocation, to name a few, all find their basis in Christ. To somehow downplay this is to downplay the Truth. Lutherans throughout the centuries have been excited to share their Lutheran faith with others. Entire books have been written by Lutherans who winsomely proclaimed what it means to be a Lutheran.

The reformers strove to demonstrate that Lutheran doctrine was the same as that taught from the beginning of Christianity. In the Augustana, they say “Our churches do not dissent from any article of the faith held by the Church catholic” (AC, Part II, 1), what the Formula of Concord calls “the simple, unchangeable, permanent truth” (SD, RN, 20). Johann Gerhard, in his four volume Confessio Catholica proved the catholicity of Lutheran doctrine, showing its presence in every age of the Church. To call yourself a Lutheran is to call yourself an orthodox, catholic, Christian, one who confesses the doctrine of Christ as the Church has done through every age.

Prof. W. H. T. Dau had this to say:
As long as there has been an orthodox Church on earth, so long there has been a Lutheran Church. It sounds strange, but it is true, the Lutheran Church is as old as the world; for it has no other doctrine than that which the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles received from God, and proclaimed. The name Lutheran, indeed, did not come into existence until three hundred years ago, but not the matter which that name signifies. Accordingly, the question, Where was the Lutheran Church before Luther? is easily answered, thus: The Lutheran Church was wherever there still were Christians who with all their heart believed in Jesus Christ and His Holy Word, and would not surrender this alone-saving faith of theirs in favor of human ordinances, or who made this Church their final refuge in the hour of death. (Four Hundred Years: Commemorative Essay On the Reformation, p.313)
Louis Wessel stated:
God will permit the extinction of Lutheranism as little as that of His Word and Christ’s evangel. The human or historic title may perish, -- though we doubt even that, -- but Lutheranism as a principle of religion is imperishable. (Theological Quarterly, Jan. 1917, p. 311)
Our true identity in Christ will never be found without understanding the person and work of Jesus Christ, something only Lutherans fully confess. Jesus took on a human nature. He became flesh and dwelt among us. The God who created heaven and earth becomes a part of it. An ordinary virgin becomes the mother of God, and God is born in a manger. He eats with sinners, is tempted, draws in the dirt, weeps. Ultimately, God dies on a cross, all to serve us in humility. It doesn’t sound very glorious does it? Jesus ascends to heaven, and while seated at the right hand of God, is still man as well as God. Yet he remains a part of His Creation. He is still present. He comes to us in His Word, spoken not by angels, but by sinful men. He comes to us in the unremarkable waters of Baptism, accompanied by His Word. On the Lord’s Day, we eat His very body and blood, the same body crucified on the cross from which blood and water flowed. These earthly things, when combined with His Word, grant us forgiveness and new life in Christ. These earthy elements are the way in which God has chosen to reveal Himself to us. They are His means of grace. The Lutheran understanding of these things define identity in Christ. Without them, your identity in Christ becomes nothing more than a veiled theology of glory, and your life becomes an unending focus on yourself and your works and your feelings and your obedience, instead of a focus primarily on Christ’s sacramental invitation and promise of the forgiveness of sins.

Maybe it’s popular in today’s era of inclusivity and diversity to downplay your Lutheran identity, but it’s sure not historical, or Scriptural. Christian first and Lutheran first – they’re one and the same.

photo credit: Martin Gommel