Tuesday, November 13, 2012

One Last Flight

Dear Friends,

When I began this blog, like Saint Jude, “although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” That battle will go on from now to the eschaton when the final trumpet will make its wonderful and fearsome clarion call. For now, it’s time for me to stow my pen and inkwell, so that I can devote more time to my other vocations, plus relax a little. But before I go, I’d like to take one last precious moment to sit with you and share a brief thought or two.

Scripture commands us to contend for the faith. It isn’t optional. We are to watch our doctrine and teaching closely, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom. At times, even when we succeed in doing so with gentleness and respect, we will be viewed as unloving, and insulted and persecuted because of it. That’s okay; we are blessed in the midst of tribulation, and know that the real battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil. We will fearlessly make known the mystery of the Gospel. "I believed, and so I spoke." Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

I look forward to hearing from you in the future. You’ll likely see me on line from time to time, and perhaps the occasional article written here or there will remind you that I haven’t flown off the edge of the map. Hopefully we’ll be able to break bread with one another at some point, and if not, we will certainly do so at the great banquet feast on high, both the one in eternity and the one we share every Sunday at the Lord’s Table. In the mean time, stay confessional my friends. Thanks for reading, and remember to stand firm!

Your eternal debtor in Christ,

Scott Diekmann

+ In Nomine Jesu +

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be
with your spirit, brothers.

Galatians 6:18

Monday, November 12, 2012

My Testimony

I was “down on my luck,” to put it in the vernacular. Conceived with no hope in the world.

One July morning I rolled out of bed, ate breakfast, got dressed, and went down to the local church. There, a bald-headed man with a white robe and a green scarf hanging from his neck poured cold water on my head three times, saying, “Scott Lynn, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” At that moment, my life changed. I would never be the same.

The man, it turns out, was my Lutheran pastor. But it wasn’t really just Pastor Koenig, it was Jesus Himself pouring His Holy Spirit into me, saving me, even though I didn’t do anything to deserve this wonderful thing that had just happened. You see, it seemed just like any other bath, but my parents, along with Pastor Koenig and other people, taught me what else happened. They taught me what Jesus promised me that day in my Baptism. And even though I was just a baby and couldn’t understand it all, I still trusted His promises – the Holy Spirit put that trust in my heart. They call that faith.

Jesus’ Word, working through that cold water, washed away my sin. And He put His name on me! This washing with water buried me with Him in His death, and, just as He was raised, raises me to new life in Him. He promises me that even though I will die, on the last day He will raise me up and I will live with Him forever. So now, every day when I roll out of bed, I remember the promises Jesus made to me that sunny July day. My sins are forgiven, and I am saved, because I am a Baptized child of God.

Quite an awesome thing, this Baptism.

And that’s my testimony.

photo credit: missbeckyfay

Friday, November 9, 2012

Don’t Be that Guy

After Dr. Martin Luther posted his 95 theses to the Castle Church door in 1517, he not only garnered the attention of those in Wittenberg, but also the attention of the whole world, and specifically the Pope. In 1518, Dr. Luther was summoned before Cardinal Cajetan in Augsburg to explain himself. While Luther was expecting a hearing before a panel of neutral judges, such was not the case. Cajetan’s papal instructions were singularly straight-forward – there was to be no disputation, only Luther’s recantation. While Luther was hoping for the best, he fully realized that this might be a one-way trip to being burned at the stake as a heretic.

Luther, being Luther, stood up to Cardinal Cajetan and would not recant. He refused to violate his conscience, knowing that his teachings were based solely on the Word of God. At the conclusion of Luther’s three-day audience with the papal legate, and before leaving Augsburg, he wrote two somewhat conciliatory letters to Cajetan explaining his position, but Luther never received a response from the fully irritated Cajetan. Luther also wrote an appeal to Pope Leo X, which he wanted Cardinal Cajetan to carry back to Rome, in which he accused the Cardinal of being biased. Luther asked one of his traveling partners, fellow monk Leonhard Beier, to hand deliver his appeal to Cajetan. Beier, having his wits about him, was petrified. He delegated the task to a notary, who chickened out as well, promptly sticking Luther’s appeal onto the Cathedral door, perhaps a medieval foreshadowing of the modern day Post-It. Not exactly a thorough demonstration of backbone. Don’t be that guy!

Like the simple instructions which the pope issued Cardinal Cajetan, our Lord issues us simple instructions as well:
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9).
We need never be afraid, no matter whom or what confronts us. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

photo credit: katrinalopez

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Are Lutherans Weak On Sanctification?

“You can only say you’re weak on sanctification if you view sanctification as your work.” 

A quote from Pastor Bill Cwirla on episode 185 of The God Whisperers, discussing Thesis 21 of Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation. Put it into context by listening to the whole thing here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Steaming Plate of BJS

It's all over the airwaves, but in case you missed it, the next Brothers of John the Steadfast National Conference is February 15 and 16, 2013 at Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, Illinois (which is a suburb of Chicago).  It promises to be a good one.  The theme for this conference is "Lutherans!"  Making presentations will be the Rev. James May, Director of Lutherans in Africa, who will speak on their efforts in Africa, Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller, co-host of the radio show Table Talk Radio, speaking on his escape from evangelicalism into Lutheranism, and Rev. Jonathan Fisk of Worldview Everlasting, discussing the quest for pure Lutheranism in the LCMS today.

Rumor has it that Pastor Wolfmueller is also going to do a stand-up comedy routine.  It might be worth attending the conference just for this unique opportunity.  Just think, you could say "I was there when Pastor Wolfmueller got his start."  Or, alternately, you could say, "I was there for the cleanup after Pastor Wolfmueller crashed and burned."  Think of the possibilities!  Plus, as an added bonus, BJS is going to have a sign up sheet for those who would like to attend the Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller School of Hilarity.

As always, there will be a Divine Service, plenty of food, and the world-renowned no-pietists-allowed parties.  Speaking from personal experience, I can say that it will be worth the trip.  For more information visit the Brothers of John the Steadfast website.  Hopefully, I'll see you there.

photo credit: Balthus Van Tassel

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Piety Gone Wild

A quote of Lutheran theologian Dr. Valentin Ernst Loescher, describing pietism in the eighteenth century.  The quote comes from Pastor Brent Kulman's article "Oscar Feucht's Everyone a Minister: Pietismus Redivivus" in the Reformation 1999 issue of Logia.  The pietism that Dr. Loescher describes hasn't gone away. Try substituting the word "vision" or "mission" for the word "piety" and its derivatives - does that substitution reflect where some Lutherans are at today?
It is an evil in the church that arises in the context of the pursuit of piety. That is, it is a searching, striving, and demanding of piety that is ill-conceived and established in a sinful way. It creates an antithesis between (1) piety and its pursuit and (2) revealed truth and its pursuit. Moreover, it causes truth to be dependent on piety. Pietism completely absorbs truth into itself and so it nullifies the truth. By all this the church of Christ is thrown into confusion and a raft of other unholy things find their way into it. The evil of Pietism is among us as long as the pursuit of piety stirs up and sustains a conflict and sets up an antithesis between itself and even one important point of religion. It is among us as long as a person believes and teaches that piety must be pursued more strenuously than orthodoxy and given preferential treatment. Furthermore, it can come to the point that the truth and form of theology (namely the Word of God), the office of preacher, justification, matrimony, the church, and other matters are all put into a dependent relationship to piety, in which case the evil shows itself more forcefully and more clearly. Finally, it can come to the point where people think that wherever piety is not found in the form and to the degree hoped for, then no Word of God, no activity of the Holy Spirit, no light of grace, no office of teaching, no matrimony, no church can exist. Then Pietism has fully matured and come out into the open.
Though Christ's Church is at all times beset by Satan to the point where one might throw up their arms in despair at the false doctrine that always lurks, yet, like Luther, I remain hopeful: "I entertain no sorry picture of our Church, but rather that of the Church flourishing through pure and uncorrupted teaching and one increasing with excellent ministers from day to day."1 May God grant us faithful pastors who will encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

1. The Luther quote comes from Roland H. Bainton's book Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther.  Download a copy for free here.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Nausea and Sin Go Together

Back in another lifetime I was a resident at Denver General Hospital, the main trauma center for the Denver metro area. I spent many a night in the emergency room reading x-rays and putting people back together again. There was the guy who had his face rearranged by a baseball bat. All he could say in broken English was “My name is Juan, and I’m from the East Side.” I didn’t even know Denver had an East Side. Then there was the guy from whose maxillary sinus we removed a bullet, along with the lateral wall of his sinus. His “accident” occurred outside a bar called “Taste Denver.” And there was also the guy on whom I extracted most of his lower front teeth, along with all of the surrounding bone. I had the luxury of working on him in a dental chair, which was a lot easier than trying to operate on a gurney. There were two downsides though, one, he kept bleeding onto the floor because I had nobody assisting me (guess who got to clean it up), and two, he was handcuffed to the chair. Good thing there wasn’t a fire.

What do this trio of “victims” have in common? In each case, they were drunk as well. Alcohol and accidents go together like Nike and running. It’s hard to get one without the other when you work at DG – especially on the weekends. (I’m not telling you this as an anti-alcohol rant – your Christian liberty certainly includes the luxury of an adult beverage.) For years, long after I’d left DG, whenever I’d get a whiff of alcohol I’d immediately feel slightly nauseous. The recurring experience of getting called to the ER in the middle of the night, working for 32 straight hours in a sleep-deprived state, and the constant flow of drunk accident victims reeking of alcohol and blood took its toll. It got to be repulsive after a while. This nauseous feeling is the same way we should feel when we sin.

The prophet Isaiah saw the Lord in His temple and exclaimed "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips…” (Isaiah 6:5). He knew he was a sinner, and that the Lord cannot tolerate sin. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:29, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” Dr. Martin Luther advises:
We should actually fear that we have sinned where we have not sinned, and we should be perfected by a hatred of sin and a love of God so great that we fear the sins which we commit unconsciously, nay, that we fear as sin what is not sin. (What Luther Says; §4208, 1310-11.)
Sin separates us from God. Isaiah warns the Israelites:
But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness (Isaiah 59:2-3 ESV).
The whole world is defiled by blood. Yet God, in what seems to the world to be the most preposterous and ironic way, cleanses us with blood, the blood of His Son shed on the cross. What repulses also saves those who trust in Him.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).
Luther explains it well:
The Law lays my sins on me, but God takes them from me and lays them on this Lamb. There they lie well, better than on me. And God means to say: I see that sin weighs heavily on you and that you would have to break down under the heavy burden; but I will relieve you of it, take the sin from your back… and out of pure grace lay it on the shoulders of this Lamb…. Let this picture be precious to you. It makes Christ a Servant of sins, yea, a Bearer of sins, the lowliest, the most despised of men, who Himself destroys all sin and says: I am come to serve others, not to let Myself be served (Matt. 20:28). (What Luther Says; §4225, 1315.)
Our sin should repulse us like the comingling of blood and alcohol that once repulsed me. Yet  we can rejoice. Christ died for us, for you – the righteous for the unrighteous, and our sin is made white as snow by the blood of the Lamb.

photo credit: mharrsch

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Last of the Seattle Summer

Here's a few pics of the beautiful Seattle summer.  It's the last we'll see of sunny days for a while, as the leaves begin to fall, along with the rain. Click on the photos for a larger view.

Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island.

The Experience Music Project.

Who you lookin' at?

Pike Place Market.

The Space Needle peeking out.

Chambers Bay Golf Course, home of the 2015 U.S. Open.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

All Saints Day 2012

Quoting Dr. Martin Luther, preaching on the text of John 20:11-18, delivered on April 21, 1530:
We are all saints, and cursed is he who does not want to call himself a saint. You are far saintlier than your names - Hans or Kunz - indicate. However, you do owe this not to yourself but to the will of God, who would be your Father. To call yourself a saint is, therefore, no presumption but an act of gratitude and a confession of God's blessings. He who does not consider Baptism and God's Word,
which you have in your heart, holy, blasphemes God very greatly. Since, then, God sanctifies you in Baptism and adorns you with His holy Word, you must surely be holy by grace. Only beware of the ambition to make yourself holy by your own works and then to step before God and teach Him holiness too. He will cast you into hell as a blasphemer. He wants to sanctify you and will have no directions about sanctification from you. Be sure to give this some thought. You may call yourself rich when you have many thousand gulden, and you lie shamefully if you say: Oh, I am a poor beggar! Far greater is the wrong you commit by not wanting to call yourself holy as a result of the holiness which God has made your own. Therefore you may well say: To be sure, according to my first birth, I belong to the devil; but according to the new birth, I, sanctified by God's Word and work, am a sinner no more; now I am in heaven. Now you may glory greatly in the possession of a seat in heaven beside St. Peter. Be bold to do this. You still have much to learn about this matter. So do I - until I drop into my grave.

Ewald M. Plass, compiler, What Luther Says: A Practical In-Home Anthology for the Active Christian, (St. Louis: CPH, 1959) §3979, 1247.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Reformation Day 2012

A hymn of the reformer Dr. Martin Luther, written in 1524:

O Lord, look down from heav'n, behold,
And let Thy pity waken;
How few are we within Thy fold,
Thy saints by men forsaken!
True faith is quenched on ev'ry hand,
Men suffer not Thy Word to stand;
Dark times have us o'ertaken.

With fraud which they themselves invent
Thy truth they have confounded;
Their hearts are not with one consent
On Thy pure doctrine grounded.
While they parade with outward show,
They lead the people to and fro,
In error's maze astounded.

May God root out all heresy
And of false teachers rid us
Who proudly say: "Now where is he
That shall our speech forbid us?
By right or might we shall prevail;
What we determine cannot fail;
We own no lord and master."

Therefore saith God: "I must arise,
The poor My help are needing;
To Me ascend My people's cries,
And I have heard their pleading.
For them My saving Word shall fight
And fearlessly and sharply smite,
The poor with might defending.

As silver tried by fire is pure
From all adulteration,
So through God's Word shall men endure
Each trial and temptation.
Its light beams brighter through the cross,
And, purified from human dross,
It shines through every nation.

Defend Thy truth, O God, and stay
This evil generation;
And from the error of its way
Keep Thine own congregation.
The wicked everywhere abound
And would Thy little flock confound;
But Thou art our Salvation.