Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Transforming Churches Network: Part 4, Taking the Plunge

This entire series may be downloaded in Word or pdf format.

The Consultation weekend is when the Mission Revitalization Process really gets rolling. While there are some preliminary steps, once your congregation has decided to invite the Transforming Congregation Network (TCN) into their midst, this is the defining event. It is described as “an intervention designed to lead to systemic change.”

Briefly, the consultation begins on Friday afternoon when the pastor and staff are interviewed by a group of “trained consultants” and a “Focus Group” is held. On Saturday the congregational leaders are interviewed, further analysis is conducted, and training on “healthy congregations” and other topics occurs. On Saturday evening the lead consultant (a pastor) and his team write the consultation report. Sunday morning, the pastor of the congregation preaches about his “vision,” followed that afternoon by a “Town Meeting” in which the results of the consultation report are presented to the congregation.

After the consultation, the pastor initiates a 4-6 week “season of repentance, forgiveness and renewal,” consisting of “teaching, prayer, and fasting, leading up to a Congregational day of repentance and renewal. The purpose for the Day of Prayer and Repentance is to offer prayers of confession for this congregation’s apathy toward those people that God misses most.”

At the end of the 4-6 weeks, the congregation decides on whether they will commit to the prescriptions of the TCN Consultation Report. Once the congregation agrees, it is on its way to permanent assimilation into the Church Growth Movement (CGM) paradigm. It’s an all or nothing proposition, because they must agree to comply with all of the prescriptions of the consultation. What the congregation may or may not know, is that the pastor has already signed a covenant before the consultation ever took place in which he commits to the transformation process. (Consultants and members of the future Board of Directors of your church must also sign a covenant. What happened to the days when a Christian just let his “Yes” be “Yes” and his “No” be “No,” as Jesus commands in Matthew 5:37?) The covenant begins: “It is my intent to fully and actively participate in the Transforming Congregations Network (TCN). As a member of TCN, I commit to the following activities....” Among other things, the pastor promises to start a Learning Community with the church leaders, bring the church leaders to TCN training events, initiate a “prayer team” to pray for the Pastors’ Learning Community and the Leader Learning Community, begin Groups Ablaze! in the congregation, and begin TRIAD strategy. In other words, the congregation is already on its way to becoming a TCN “customer” whether they know it or not.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Transforming Churches Network: Part 3, Eliminating Regressive Attitudes

This entire series may be downloaded in Word or pdf format.

The base assumption that drives the Transforming Churches Network (TCN) and the revitalization “process” is that a church that is not growing is an “unhealthy” church:
It has been estimated that 80% of the congregations of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod are plateaued or declining in Sunday worship attendance. While a great deal of excellent ministry occurs in many of these congregations, the lack of growth is a constant concern. Typically such congregations are preoccupied with issues of institutional survival which is counterproductive to outreach. By making the needs of unbelieving people and the lifestyle outreach of church members the focus of the ministry, many of the regressive attitudes and disabling circumstances so prevalent in the institution will give way to hope, new life and new members (cached online reference).
Dan Southerland, another Church Growth Movement (CGM) expert, states “According to recent studies, 80 percent of churches in North America are plateaued or in decline” (Transitioning: Leading Your Church Through Change, p. 13). This 80% figure seems to have become something of an urban legend, perfect for maintaining the heightened sense of urgency required to facilitate the CGM paradigm shift.

TCN asks: “How will we know when a congregation has been transformed? Well, when it is regularly and consistently making new disciples, and it renews it members so that they’re making new disciples by the power of the Holy Spirit” (quoted from TCN video).  Do these quotes from TCN materials sound like the work of the Holy Spirit to you?
Congregational consultations, quality research on what the Holy Spirit is doing, developing leadership skills, stump speeches, strategies, bench marks, scorecards and time logs, extensive statistical research, accountability, pilot projects field testing materials, and using the pulpit to cast vision and to create a sense of urgency.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Transforming Churches Network: Part 2, It’s All About Commitment

This entire series may be downloaded in Word or pdf format.

Last time we took a look at the origins of the Mission Revitalization program and the Transforming Churches Network (TCN), discovering their underpinnings to be an admixture of Church Growth Movement (CGM) ideas from non-Lutheran and business world sources. Today we’ll take an initial look at how those CGM ideas affect practice.

To gain a sense of the CGM influence, one need look no further than the promotional video “A DVD Overview of the TCN Process” on the old TCN website. It contains a series of interviews of mostly “new disciples” who have this to say:
I spent quite a bit of time addicted to methamphetamines, and now that I have been going, man, it’s just, like I said it’s a hundred and eighty degree difference. It’s like a switch. Like I was, I don’t know, a boy, now I’m way more of a man and I’ve grown much stronger in God.

It wasn’t truly until I gave myself. You know, I can remember the day that I truly truly meant ‘I’m giving it to you.’ You know, ‘I’m giving to you Jesus.’ I needed that arm to reach out and hold me.

Being baptized and saved, that’s just what it means, being baptized and saved. Washing your sins away, opening your heart up to Jesus, and really just, you know, taking that great great change to make you feel better because I know that now that I’m committing my life to Christ, and I know that when I die that I’m going to heaven.

We’re both recovering from meth addiction... Our life has just totally made a complete turnaround. We’re actually reaching out to other people now, inviting them to church, because we love it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Transforming Churches Network: Part 1, A Non-Native Invasion

This entire series may be downloaded in Word or pdf format.

You may have heard of the invasive plant species called kudzu, which has taken over the south. Originally imported from Asia and used extensively to control soil erosion, this non-native vine grows rapidly, overwhelming native plant species. It kills trees, covers abandoned buildings, and collapses power lines. Indigenous animals lose their food supplies, resulting in starvation. This foreign plant, which was meant to be a helpful aid, has instead become a complete disaster.

There’s a similar invasion that is quietly going on in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS), with congruent catastrophic results - the name of this non-native “species” that is currently invading the LCMS is the Mission Revitalization Process.

The Mission Revitalization program is an outgrowth of Ablaze!, and was begun by LCMS World Missions through its Revitalization Task Force. Its goal is to “revitalize” at least 2,000 LCMS congregations by 2017. 1/3 of its budget comes from the LCMS World Mission budget, a portion comes from other LCMS sources such as Fan into Flame and participating districts, with the remaining funds coming from private contributions. The Transforming Churches Network (TCN) (formerly known as the Transforming Congregations Network) operates the Mission Revitalization program. While the developers of TCN should be praised for their desire to “grow” the Church, their methods fall short of the Scriptural mark.

The voluntary transformation process begins when a team of trained consultants visit your congregation for a weekend, and develop five “prescriptions” which are designed to revitalize the congregation. These prescriptions include turning your congregation from an alleged inward focus to a missiological outward focus using “vision,” leadership development, and an Accountable Leadership Model. The Accountable Leadership Model remodels your church bylaws, turning the pastor into the CEO, complete with a (usually) three-person Board of Directors, and turning the parishioners into the ministers of the congregation. Does any of this sound vaguely familiar? It should, because it’s at the heart of Church Growth Movement (CGM) thinking.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hope Y'all Come Back Now, Hear?

Starting next week, I'll have a series of posts on the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod's mission revitalization process, also know as the Transforming Churches Network. I hope you'll tune in - there's a lot to talk about.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Seeking the Honor of Him Who Sent Me

Quoting Dr. Martin Luther:

No minister and no Christian can personally humble himself enough and be on his guard against the shameful devil of conceit....

Yet honor must be sought too; for where God’s Word and honor are concerned, a preacher and a Christian should certainly raise his head and be appropriately proud and haughty.... Then we should not take the matter lightly or be humble. The wretched devil take the humility which departs from the Word of God!

However, the adversaries construe this positiveness as a quest for honor on our part....

But when others say I am ambitious and proud, they lie; for I am seeking the honor of Him who sent me, since the Word is not my word, but God’s. If the Word I am preaching were mine, I would curse my honor. But it is God’s Word. Therefore we begin our prayer: "Hallowed be Thy name," and we are proud and haughty.

In this instance we are not to humble ourselves for the sake of people. If our doctrine does not please emperors, kings, princes, and doctors; if they expect me as a Christian or preacher to make concessions and yield in doctrine and show myself humbly submissive in the matter, then I must say: Dear pope, dear emperor, and whoever else you may be, kiss my foot! I have not invented this Word, nor have I written it. Use your spectacles, and open Scripture. There you will find it so written. From this I shall in no point whatever depart, but you must remain pupils of this Book and obey it or forever go to the devil. (W 47, 404 – E 44, 269 f – SL 7, 1082 f)

Quoted from What Luther Says (St Louis: CPH, 1959) 1370.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Opportunity #1

You've heard about the survey on Synodical restructuring taken by the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synodical Structure and Governance (BRTFSSG) at the District Conventions.

Eric Ramer, Stephen R. Johnson, Ken Meier, and Robert Rodefeld have now duplicated the survey, which you can take online. I assume they will pass the results on to the Synod. You can let your voice be heard here.

Opportunity #2

If you are uninformed about the proposals from the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synodical Structure and Governance, the Lutheran Catechetical Society is offering the Rev. Dr. Ken Schurb's examination on DVD. This 1 hour, 13 min. presentation was given at the Feb. 9, 2009 Lutheran Catechetical Society gathering in El Paso, IL. Copies are available for $20 (which includes Priority Mail shipping) by visiting The Lutheran Catechetical Society's website or by sending a check or money order to:

The Lutheran Catechetical Society
c/o Trinity Lutheran Church
202 W. Lincoln St.
PO Box 268
Roanoke, IL 61561

Opportunity #3

A request from Pastor Paul McCain:

The Treasury of Daily Prayer has been a big hit and just this morning I was telling a group of people, "People who have it and use it, love it. But when I say 'love it' that is an understatement."

Here is my request.

Would you please send me, in a 100 words or less, your personal reaction to the Treasury of Daily Prayer? And would you have your friends who are using it, or members of your congregation, also send me those comments? Feel free to post this request to your blog, web site, e-mail groups, Facebook pages, etc.

Please invite them to send their reply/response to:

Please ask the person making the comment to provide their name and location. Many thanks.

Submission of comments is done with the understanding that we may quote them for marketing and promotional purposes.

I'm looking specifically for comments about how the Treasury of Daily Prayer has helped, changed, improved, enhanced, revolutionized (?), your life of prayer and meditation on God's Word and the same for anyone else willing to share a thought/comment.

Many thanks,


photo credit: The Shifted Librarian

Monday, April 20, 2009

Is the LCMS an Orthodox Church Body?

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. Romans 16:17 ESV

Quoting Dr. Francis Pieper:

With regard to the orthodox character of a church body note well: (1) A church body is orthodox only if the true doctrine, as we have it in the Augsburg Confession and the other Lutheran Symbols, is actually taught in its pulpits and its publications and not merely “officially” professed as its faith. Not the “official” doctrine, but the actual teaching determines the character of a church body, because Christ enjoins that all things whatsoever He has commanded His disciples should actually be taught and not merely acknowledged in an “official document” as the correct doctrine. It is patent that faith in Christ will be created and preserved through the pure Gospel only when that Gospel is really proclaimed. (2) A church body does not forfeit its orthodox character by reason of the casual intrusion of false doctrine. The thing which the Apostle Paul told the elders of Ephesus: “Also of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30), came true not only in the Apostolic Church, but also in the Church of the Reformation and will occur in the Church to the Last Day. a church body loses its orthodoxy only when it no longer applies Rom. 16:17, hence does not combat and eventually remove the false doctrine, but tolerates it without reproof and thus actually grants it equal right with the truth.

Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, Vol. III (St. Louis: Concordia, 1950) 423.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Backwards Blog Post

Ever write your blog posts backwards? Well this is one of those. I liked the photo so much I had to come up with a way to work it into a post, so here goes. Something about simul justus et peccator perhaps? No, something I don’t need to look up to make sure I spelled it correctly. Romans 7 maybe? Nah, I’ll leave that one to the pericopes. Ah, I’ve got it:

Once in a while if I’m hanging out with the kids and we see or read about someone who’s involved in some minor catastrophe, I’ll jokingly say that the guardian angel of the person involved must have been out having a smoke. Which is exactly what the photo depicts, a guardian angel whose person was involved in a catastrophe of some sort because the angel was smoking on the job instead of paying attention. I'm not going to judge though - although she looks a little young to be a guardian angel. (You were right Sandra. I guess tatoos are O.K.)

So what’s the moral of the story?: Guardian angels should never smoke while on the job.

Alternate moral of the story: Blog writers should never write blog posts backwards.

Which moral do you like best? (This is an inclusive, participative, artsy, blog post, sorta like an Emerging Church blog post would be, hence, we’ll use a communal dialectic to create a suitable interpretation - that’s right, thesis, antithesis, synthesis.)

Have a great weekend.

photo credit: TreMichLan

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Be Thoroughly Tested

Luther on Isaiah 28:16:

...Christ is a tested stone, that is, distressed and afflicted, or He is a testing stone, that is, a stone by whose shape all other stones are tested, so that we may be conformed to the image of the Son of God (Rom. 8:29). As Christ was polished, hewn, and squared by the promise, by death and the cross, so we, in His image, should become well polished by such suffering and such a cross. Therefore it behooves all the godly to be thoroughly tested by cross and persecution. For this reason the flesh which shrinks from the cross remains unpolished in its desires and unsuited to this stone.
Martin Luther, Luther's Works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan and Helmut Lehmann. vol. 16, CD-ROM (Saint Louis: CPH, 1999).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

No More Mauve?

I received one "Memo" from the Chairman of the LCMS Board of Directors and one from the Office of the President via snail mail a while back (both were in regard to the possible sale of KFUO-FM). The official letterhead (scanned and posted above) had the usual LCMS cross affixed to it, but it wasn't the usual mauve color - it was brown!

Is this the death knell of mauve? Lutheran Lucciola is probably jumping up and down by now. But I doubt it's the end of mauve. More likely, with the ongoing budget crisis in the LCMS, only Ablaze!-dedicated printers are maintained on a daily basis. The particular printer that these memos were printed on likely was running low on the correct color combination of ink. But there's always hope.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

More on Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi

Cantor Phillip Magness has a great article at The Brother's of John the Steadfast website reviewing a "blended" Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod Divine Service that he attended. If you've ever listened to Issues, Etc., you're probably familiar with Pastor Wilken's "sermon diagnostic," which teaches how to analyze a sermon to see if it contains an appropriate Law and Gospel message.

Cantor Phil's review of this particular church service analyzes the service in a way similar to a sermon diagnostic, nicely illustrating via examples from the service the Latin phrase lex orandi, lex credendi, or "how they pray does confess what they believe," as he puts it. If you're a little hazy on the concept, please read his article, which teaches well the importance of the structure of a worship service, and how what you do in that service reflects what you believe.

Knowing how to analyze a church service is an art that we should all learn and practice - without which, it is easy to fall prey to false doctrine. Teaching doesn't just occur in Sunday School, it occurs in the worship service as well, and not just during the sermon. All aspects of a worship service teach, and if they aren't all teaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified, but instead some blend of "what you need to do," it's probably time to move on.

Here's a paragraph from Cantor Magness's article, titled "Not Your Grandfathers’ Church – A Visit to Another Not-So-Steadfast Church":

The front-loading of the prayers in this service was illustrative of a theological emphasis on sanctification that came through loud and clear in the sermon, in which sanctification did not flow from our justification (i.e. the Gospel), but rather was a ‘purpose-driven’ exhortation to follow the “life lessons” offered to the hearers in God’s Word. Similarly, the prayers of the faithful to live according to God’s love were not offered after the reading and preaching of God’s Word (as is done in the Divine Service and in the daily offices), but came before the reading and preaching. This seems to be a natural order of service for Third Use of the Law orientation: rather than hearing the Gospel and then asking the Lord to grant us His good and gracious will according to the mercy He gives us through the forgiveness of sins, this order of service gathers people into the Lord’s presence where they then ask for His guidance and blessing and receive instruction on how they are to get their needs met. This is a big burden to place upon the people. No wonder they need to pray first!

photo credit: StarrGazr

Monday, April 13, 2009

Walther on Synod Polity

Quoting C.F.W. Walther from John C. Wohlrabe, Jr.’s essay “The Americanization of Walther’s Doctrine of the Church.”

I must confess that I have a kind of horror of a real representative constitution. I do not find it in Holy Scripture. Now, it is true that we Christians may exercise our liberty as regards our constitution, but I cannot rid myself of this opinion: The more freedom a church government in a free state like ours affords, the more efficient it will be, provided that the Word is preached in all its power in the congregations. On the other hand, everything coercive that does not flow immediately from the Word easily causes opposition by refusal to comply and lays the foundation for frequent separations. Hitherto I have not viewed a synodical organization as a concentration of ecclesiastical power. I thought that it was only to exhibit the ecclesiastical union of the separate congregations, unite its resources and forces in a war upon the oncoming ruin in doctrine and life, and for carrying on operations for the common welfare of the church, for preserving and advancing unity in faith and love, for aiming by way of commendation for the greatest uniformity possible...I was not of the opinion that all matters pertaining to the internal administration of individual congregations should be subject to the disposing and judicial power of the synod.

Wohlrabe, Jr., John C. “The Americanization of Walther’s Doctrine of the Church.” Concordia Theological Quarterly 52.1 (1988): 1-27.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

He is Risen!

Easter Sunday 2009

Psalms 118:15-29 ESV

15 Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous: "The right hand of the LORD does valiantly,
16 the right hand of the LORD exalts, the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!"
17 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD.
18 The LORD has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death.
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.
20 This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it.
21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
23 This is the LORD's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success!
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.
27 The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar!
28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you.
29 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
graphic credit: Donut_Diva

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Vindicate Me, O God

Holy Saturday 2009

Psalm 43 ESV

Psa 43:1 Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me!
Psa 43:2 For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
Psa 43:3 Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
Psa 43:4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.
Psa 43:5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

Friday, April 10, 2009

You Lay Me in the Dust of Death

Good Friday 2009

Psalms 22:1-31 ESV

1 To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
3 Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
8 "He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!"
9 Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother's breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother's womb you have been my God.
11 Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help.
12 Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.
16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet--
17 I can count all my bones-- they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.
19 But you, O LORD, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog!
21 Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD! May your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.
28 For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.
29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30 Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Be Not Far from Me

Maundy Thursday 2009

Psalms 38:1-22 ESV

1 A Psalm of David, for the memorial offering. O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath!
2 For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me.
3 There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin.
4 For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.
5 My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness,
6 I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all the day I go about mourning.
7 For my sides are filled with burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh.
8 I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart.
9 O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes--it also has gone from me.
11 My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague, and my nearest kin stand far off.
12 Those who seek my life lay their snares; those who seek my hurt speak of ruin and meditate treachery all day long.
13 But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear, like a mute man who does not open his mouth.
14 I have become like a man who does not hear, and in whose mouth are no rebukes.
15 But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
16 For I said, "Only let them not rejoice over me, who boast against me when my foot slips!"
17 For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever before me.
18 I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin.
19 But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty, and many are those who hate me wrongfully.
20 Those who render me evil for good accuse me because I follow after good.
21 Do not forsake me, O LORD! O my God, be not far from me!
22 Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Not Pride and Arrogance, but Fear

Pastor Matt Harrison translated a great quote of Pastor Pfotenhauer, who would later become the Synod President, on the 50th anniversary of the Synod. The quote is as appropriate today as it was then - perhaps more so. I'd encourage you to read the whole quote at Pastor Harrison's blog, Mercy Journeys With Pastor Harrison. Here's a portion:

...So then, our Synod also in its jubilee year should be concerned that it not forfeit the glorious gifts of grace: pure doctrine, the pleasure of God, the governance of the Holy Spirit, the inheritance of the saints in the light, and suffer a great fall. Woe to us, if in this year we look at our greatness as in a mirror and cast a disparaging glance at those to whom not so much has been given! Woe to us, if we would proudly say, “We stand and grow, we blossom and prosper! Who will hinder us?" No, my brothers, our jubilee first demands of us not pride and arrogance, but fear.

The Root of the Conflict

--The cross alone is our theology.

Quoting from Dr. Steven Hein's paper "Tentatio":

Affliction and suffering are greatest in matters of conscience that challenge Christ's Word of Grace - either that we have it or that we need it. When we become Christians, we become temples of the Holy Spirit and by faith we are joined to Christ. But it is the Unholy Spirit who takes up residence in the conscience as its Master. The mirror is the Devil's tool. He would either keep it ever from you or ever before you. Self-righteousness or despair is a game he will always win; either because you can do what conscience dictates or because you can't. The Master of the conscience would make grace either unnecessary or unavailable.

The human conscience is the Devil's lethal playground. Tie your religiosity to matters of the heart, conscience and what can be experienced from within and you are flirting with spiritual disaster. This is the Hound of Hell's home turf. It is not the allures of the flesh with which Satan launches his greatest assaults, it is in the conscience where he is most devastating. With the Law written on the heart, Satan works from the inside. With Christ it is the opposite. He works from the outside through the Sacred Things. Let your conscience be your guide - the cheerful song of Jimeny Cricket and polite civil religion - is Satan's victory either by self-righteous smugness, or bottomless, dark despair. The Law written on the human heart and sweet reason - with or without smug human pride - will damn us all. Theologians and servants of the Word need to take note: the post-modern demand for internal religious experience as the only criterion for spiritual relevance (that has many obliging churches - some called Lutheran - growing and multiplying like rabbits) will lead the naive seeker into a tentatio that is wicked and deadly.

The root of the conflict with the Devil and all tentatio is the Gospel. Luther confessed to a friend in correspondence: The Prince of Demons himself has taken up combat against me; so powerfully and adeptly does he handle the Scriptures that my scriptural knowledge does not suffice if I do not rely on the alien Word. The Devil, in Luther's view, is more adept with the Word of God than he was. Notice, here the brute authority of Scripture is of no use. The Bible has the words that will damn us all and the devil knows just what they are and how to apply them. But, maintained Luther, the Devil is overcome by the alien Word. Where the Gospel has free course, there the Devil is surely most present and active...yet overcome. The sacred things of the Gospel - Baptism and the Supper - bring God's favor and our alien righteousness. Here he is present in the midst of our turmoil with visible, tangible props making it possible for us to resist the Devil with the promises of Christ. Infant Baptism performs the Joyful Exchange for the empty handed and the ignorant. Together with the proclaimed Gospel and the Supper - here is where God may be found...for us. These are the Gateways to Heaven where we meet not the omnipotence of God, but his graciousness - not a mighty display of his power, but a generous display of his saving gifts. Fellowship with the gracious God is from the heart, but always at the same time, extra nos in his appointed means.

Hein, Steven A., "Tentatio," Lutheran Theological Review, 10 (1997-98), 29-47.

Hein, Steven A., “Tentatio,” Logia (Eastertide, 2001), 33-41.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Speaking of Resurrections...

...The Rt. Rev. Jack Bauer is back. Some people believed him to have been killed in action, oh ye of little faith. Check him out at AC 24.

Crux Sola Est Nostra Theologia

--The cross alone is our theology.

Quoting from Dr. Steven Hein's paper "Tentatio":

...Luther called this helplessness and hopelessness, Anfechtung. Anfechtung is a profound anguish. It is an assault upon us by the world, the flesh and the Devil that can often reduce us to a state of doubt about who and what we are in Christ. It tempts us to despair of God's promises, it challenges our confidence and it puts our faith to the test.

Yet as Luther also recognized, this is a holy Anfechtung, an instrument of the gracious God, and part and parcel of living in the cross of Christ. God is the one behind our Anfechtung and he uses it to crucify our fleshly complacency and self-confidence. And then he uses it to send us running back the other way to the security and confidence of the Word of promise that is given to faith. From faith, we see the righteousness of Christ that is ours; and from faith, hope is renewed in the coming glory of the Kingdom. With faith's vision made ever new in the Gospel promise - again and again - faith is strengthened, the New Creation is renewed and the call of the Christian's vocation is revitalized. Here is the central heartbeat of Christian living. The experience of life in the old world that produces a holy anguish from the Devil's tentatio [tribulation and suffering], and the transforming power of faith fed by the Gospel. In tension - tacking back and forth between them -Luther believed this to be a common inheritance for all Christians baptized into the cross of Christ.
Hein, Steven A., "Tentatio," Lutheran Theological Review, 10 (1997-98), 29-47.

Hein, Steven A., “Tentatio,” Logia (Eastertide, 2001), 33-41.

photo credit: Glen's Pics 2

Friday, April 3, 2009

In You Our Fathers Trusted

To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

Psalm 22:1-5 ESV

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Take a Time Out

Looking for a break from stress and strain? Take a Time Out, a Time Out with Dan at Necessary Roughness. Dan is a long-time Lutheran Blogger who’s been producing his own Biblical refreshment in the form of eight to ten minute long recordings that consist of a reading from the Bible, the Book of Concord, or a historical Church Father, plus Christian hymns.

Dan’s latest Time Out consists of a reading of Hebrews 9:11-28 and the hymn “Jesus, Grant That Balm and Healing,” with Dan on the vocals and accompanist Deaconess Sara Lemon of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Oakmont, PA on the pipe organ. Time Outs are a great way to relax and meditate on God’s Word both spoken and sung. If you’re in the mood, you can request your favorite verse or hymn, and also contribute music or voice.

You can find Time Outs on Dan’s website, Necessary Roughness, and also on iTunes. You can subscribe for free on iTunes – do a search for “Dan at Necessary Roughness” and it’ll come right up. Time Outs are now migrating to radio as well, since they’ll be appearing on Pirate Christian Radio. Take a Time Out – you’ll be glad you did.