Saturday, October 31, 2009

Reformation Day 2009

492 years ago today nails driven into the wooden doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, brought the Church back to the nails driven into Christ’s cross nearly 1,500 years earlier. I thank God for Dr. Martin Luther and all of the other great reformers in the life of the Church, who restored the one doctrine of the Church Universal, so that we all might live in Christ’s Gospel promise, free from the terror of the Law.

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Colossians 2:9-15 ESV

photo credit: paula moya

Friday, October 30, 2009

Luther’s Te Deum

Martin Luther considered the Te Deum to be one of the most important creeds of the Church, eclipsed only by the Apostles’ Creed and the Athanasian Creed.

The introduction in Luther’s Works has this to say of his Te Deum:

But here as elsewhere Luther proved more original and creative than any of his predecessors. Instead of clinging slavishly to the expressions of the Latin text, he recast the substance of the original in the new mold of a rimed chant for the people. Luther also recast the music. Doubtlessly the syllabic simplification of a florid Latin chant is Luther’s own work, and the bold steps of the strongly Phrygian melody give almost more forceful expression to the archaic grandeur of the ancient canticle than the original plain-chant melody.

Here is the text of Luther’s Te Deum, written some time around 1529:

Lord God, thy praise we sing: Lord God, our thanks we bring.
Father in eternity: all the world worships thee.
Angels and all heav’nly host: of thy glory loudly boast.
Both cherubim and seraphim: sing ever with loud voice this hymn:
Holy art thou, our God: holy art thou, our God,
Holy art thou, our God, the Lord of Sabaoth.

Thy god-like might and lordship go: wide over heav’n and earth below.
The twelve apostles join in song: with the dear prophets’ goodly throng.
The martyrs’ noble army raise: their voice to thee in hymns of praise.
All Christendom with one accord: exalt and praise their common Lord.
Thee, God Father in heaven’s throne: and thine only begotten Son,
Also the Holy Paraclete: we ever laud with praises meet.

O King of Glory, thee we own: thou art the Father’s only Son.
Thou didst not spurn the virgin’s womb: to save mankind from sin and doom.
Thou on the might of death didst tread: and Christians all to heav’n hast led.
Thou sittest at thy Father’s right: equal to him in pow’r and might.
To earth thou shalt return again: in majesty to judge all men.

Now come, Lord, to thy servants’ aid: who by thy blood thine own were made.
Let us in heaven have our dole: and with the holy e’er be whole.
Thy folk, Lord Jesus Christ, advance: and bless thine own inheritance.
Them watch and ward, Lord, ev’ry day: eternally them raise, we pray.
Daily, Lord God, we honor thee: and praise thy name continually.
Vouchsafe, O Lord, we humbly pray: to keep us safe from sin this day.
O Lord, have mercy on us all: have mercy on us when we call.
Let shine on us, O God, thy face: our only hope is in thy grace.
Our trust, O Lord, is all in thee: O let us ne’er confounded be.

Martin Luther, Luther's Works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan and Helmut Lehmann. vol. 53, Liturgy and Hymns, CD-ROM (Saint Louis: CPH, 1999).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fill 'Er Up with Law Please

Feeling like your missional gas tank is on “E?” Head on over to, where your tank can be filled by "lcms mission leaders" with a little Gospel and a lot of Law. Complete with inspirational quotes from Rick Warren and Perry Noble. If you aren’t familiar with Purpose-Driven Pastor Perry Noble, please watch the video below, but make sure you’re sitting down first.

Frequent readers of this blog know that I often quote the work of others. Who you quote really belies who it is that you trust, and what you believe. I quote people that understand the proper distinction between Law and Gospel, that faithfully preach the Gospel. When you put quotes of Pastor Rick Warren up, it makes one wonder what it is you believe. Pastor Warren hopelessly confuses Law and Gospel, and preaches a salvation that is based on your own actions. It makes me think, from the quotes of Warren and Noble on the Ablaze Fuel blog, that the posters don’t espouse Lutheran theology. If they did, they’d avoid these types of preachers, not cling to their every word.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Blue Ribbon Danger

Pastor Tim Rossow points out today on The Brothers of John the Steadfast website that the LCMS Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance proposals were based on the guidance of non-Lutheran consultants. He remarks:

The proposals to remake our synod are based on the advice of non-Lutheran consultants, one of whom is religion and cultural pluralist David Roozen. Cultural pluralism and its cousin multiculturalism are sociological approaches to understanding human behavior which promote a diversity of viewpoints (truth systems) and reject the idea that there is one foundational truth.

As far as I can tell the content of pages 16 -19 of the Final Report have never been seen before. I was studying this document with my elders Monday night and was surprised to learn that this non-Lutheran consultant had great amounts of input into the process even before the original proposals were written. Every member of every LCMS congregation needs to know that synod money and time was spent on hiring consultants who do not understand nor subscribe to the truth of the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions and that their ideology is at the heart of the proposals.
I recommend you read Pastor Rossow's entire post. It is rather sobering.

My thoughts on the use of consultants to shape the future of the LCMS, which I made on the BJS site:

We shouldn’t be surprised that these proposals were engineered by a non-Christian consultant. It is the modus operandi of the current administration. This is in keeping with the “I’m not a theologian” mindset. If you claim you’re not a theologian, it gives you license to ignore theology and use the ways of the world to do what is right in your own eyes. Ablaze! was initially suggested by consultants as a fund raising operation. Transforming Churches Networks is based on the “theology” of non-Lutheran experts, with the predictable result that it doesn’t point to Christ and His Gospel, but rather to the Law, which cannot save. We seem to be in love with consultants. What happened to the simple words of the Bible to drive what we do? The Bible has become too meager and bare, tossed aside for the glamour, and exorbitant price tag, of today’s politically correct mareketeers and consultants. You get what you pay for. When you hire non-Lutheran and/or non-Christian consultants, you will get non-Lutheran and/or non-Christian results. We, as a Synod, have sworn before God to stand on our Confession, the same Confession professed by the Apostles. It’s time that the LCMS and its Confession were reunited. I suggest we elect someone to lead the LCMS who takes our Confession seriously, someone who understands the theology, yes, the doctrine of Christ, that should undergird all that we do and say as we walk together. I still want to be a Lutheran. How about you?

photo credit: teotwawki

Quotable Blog Quotes #10

Quotable Quotes From Around the Blogosphere

Pastor Rick Stuckwisch

“It is because the Lord Himself, who has become the flesh and blood of Rahab and of us all, has suffered the divine judgment and destruction of Jericho, wholly dedicated to His God and Father. He is the new and greater Joshua, the great High Priest, the Ram whose horn is mercy and compassion, whose blood poured out is the New Covenant of forgiveness. He dies the death demanded by the Law, that we might live by the grace of the Gospel. Neither the gates of Hades nor the walls of Jericho can prevail against His shout of victory; nor against the confession of faith in His Cross. Thus are we consecrated as vessels for the sanctuary of God, precious and valuable to Him. For He has brought us out of Egypt and through the Jordan into Canaan; out of Jericho into the courts of His new Jerusalem; out of our own little hole in the wall, to become a living stone in His holy Temple. All of our adultery and worse is forgiven, and we are spared, freely granted to live by the mercies of God in the midst of His people, Israel.”

And Pastor Stuckwisch again:

“The goal of evangelism is the worship of the Holy Trinity.

Not the other way around.”

Natalie Baughman Whan on her Facebook page:

“In Holy Communion, God reverses what happened so long ago. In the Garden, our earthly parents were given a promise – “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Gen. 2:17) – God’s Word, attached to ordinary and earthly means. They ate in disobedience and died. The fruit of the tree in the garden was barred by a command of the law, whereas the fruit of the cross is an invitation to the Gospel that grants forgiveness and life eternal for those who eat in faith. Our Heavenly Father has given us this promise - His Word again is attached to ordinary and earthly means. When we eat and drink and receive in faith, salvation is ours.”

Laughing Martin
I. M. Abaldy II

“Pastors are not called and sent to be salesmen of salvation, public relations consultants for Christ, or corporate builders of His Church. Christ does not need or want that—thank you very much. Salvation is not for sale. Christ’s image doesn’t need sprucing or spicing up. The Holy Spirit is a capable builder of Christ’s Church.”

Monday, October 26, 2009

BRTFSSG Revisited

The final report of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance is now out, and can be found on the LCMS website here.

photo credit: babblingdweeb

Time for an LCMS Safety Pause

Every once in a while when I’m at work I take what I call a “safety pause.” We might be taxiing out getting ready for takeoff and things just don’t seem right. There’s a nagging feeling that we’re forgetting something or there’s just too much of a rush going on. Those are the times when it’s most likely that you’ve missed something that could influence the safety of the flight – it’s time to take a safety pause. Stop the jet, set the parking brake, and analyze what’s going on. Review your plan, confirm that you’ve completed the appropriate checklists, and step back and take a broad look at what’s happening inside and outside the jet to make sure you’re good to go. In much the same way, the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod needs to take a safety pause.

When you look around the Synod, one of the things you’ll notice is how much of our focus is now on mission. Everywhere you turn we’re talking about mission. Millions of dollars are being spent on programs such as Ablaze! for the sake of mission. Congregational governing structures are being reshaped for the sake of mission. A mission focus is certainly a good thing when it’s balanced with an appropriate diet of Law and Gospel, something which arguably isn’t happening. One of the ironies here is that with all the talk of mission, our mission work in the world through the use of missionaries is steadily declining. From 1968 through 2004 our number of clergy and non-clergy missionaries has dropped a whopping 79% (LCMS statistics courtesy of Pastor James Tino on his blog The Mission Phoenix).

In 2009 the LCMS has a total of 123 missionaries in the field. This number includes 37 spouses with missionary solemn appointments and 9 missionaries from international partner churches. One way to see how we’re doing is to see how that number stacks up against other Lutherans. I emailed the Church of the Lutheran Brethren (CLB) to ascertain how many missionaries they have in the field. The CLB is a small synod in the U.S. and Canada that places an emphasis on missionary work. They have a total of 123 congregations, and a total of 46 missionaries in the field. That’s a pretty big number for such a small synod. For the LCMS to match their number of missionaries in terms of missionaries per congregation, the LCMS should have 2,460 missionaries, not the 123 we actually have. That’s a stunningly abysmal number of missionaries.

Setting the LCMS parking brake, it seems that things have gone awry. Talk of “mission” is at an all time high, but our synodical membership and work abroad are in steady decline. Have we lost the “edge?” Are we all “talk” and no “do?” A quickie drive-by Gospel presentation (when it’s the Law an unrepentant sinner really needs to hear) a la Ablaze!, or a church who’s all about questionable billboards or novel approaches used to attract the “seeker” are the fast food of our time, lacking the meat and potatoes of solid Gospel sustenance.

Missionary work is hard work. It doesn’t promise to put up big numbers. Maybe that’s why we’ve lost interest in sending pastors and teachers to the four corners of the earth to preach the Gospel to those who otherwise may never hear it. We’re more interested in reading about the latest evangelical method on church growth than in reading about the Baptism of a handful of natives on the dirt floor of a grass hut on the opposite side of the globe. Maybe we need to keep the parking brake set for a while in the LCMS, until we’ve got the Synod pointed in the right direction. While the brake is set, we can refile our flight plan so that it is solidly on the Biblical mission route – to Baptize and teach. And while we’re at it, we can get those missionaries back off the shelf and send them out to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?" (Romans 10:14 ESV)

photo credit: gbaku

Friday, October 23, 2009


Anybody up for a little Friday night hymn-fest?

photo credit: Max Sparber

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What Makes Bad Hymns Bad?

Quoting Pastor Richard Stuckwisch, on his September 28 appearance on Issues, Etc., discussing the historic hymns of the Church:

If a hymn is ambiguous, that is to say if it’s unclear what it’s saying, or if it’s saying anything, why use the Church’s time to sing it? Maybe, you know, if it’s a song that’s fun to sing, okay, then maybe people can sing it in the car, or at home, the way they listen to the radio, but if it’s gonna function as a hymn it needs to say something and it needs to say it in such a way that it has clarity and integrity and actually is pointing people to Christ and to the Gospel. If a hymn doesn’t do that, it really isn’t a good hymn. There are hymns that say things that are true, hymns that even say things that come right out of the Bible but are not good hymns because they’re not properly dividing the Law and the Gospel. So they’re focusing on the Law in such a way that the Gospel is not heard, or they’re focusing on the Law in such a way that people are pointed not to Christ but to themselves, or they seek to praise God in a way that actually ends up focusing on the singer rather than on the Savior. These are just some examples, but those kinds of characteristics are part of what makes bad hymns bad hymns.

Listen to the whole program:

photo credit: Leo Reynolds

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

“In God We Trust”

Facebook has an application which sends out messages on a regular basis called “In God We Trust.” It's tag line is "Receive the Words of Divine Wisdom to inspire you to greatness, to strength, to passion for life. GOD wants You to Know!" Here’s what I found when I checked out the last three messages on a friend’s page:

Monday’s message: “The quickest way to find love is to give love. If you want it too badly, you will not find it. The most secure way to keep love is to give it space and care to grow. If you hold it too tightly, you will lose it.” That would mean “love” is dependent on us. Their statement disagrees with what the Bible says: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10 ESV).

Ironically, there was no message on Sunday.

Saturday’s message: “You keep wanting to know how things will play out, keep asking to see the future. God doesn’t give anyone the power to know the future, because life becomes maddeningly boring when you know everything upfront. So, instead of struggling, enjoy the uncertainty – to be alive means to not know” (emphasis added).

Here’s what the Bible says about being alive: “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14 ESV).

Friday’s message: “You're chasing in the wrong field. What you are looking for is inside of you, not 'out there'. Take a few days off to become quiet and look within, and you will find it.” The Bible says in Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV): “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Notice the Bible shows us what we find when we look within – sin. It is Jesus to whom we should look. Where can Jesus be found? In the pages of Scripture, in the Word heard preached each Sunday by faithful pastors, and in the Sacraments.

What these messages teach us is to put our trust in ourselves. IN ME WE TRUST. This is essentially secular humanism. It is antithetical to what God says in His Word. All of the above Bible verses point to Jesus. They show us our sin and our need for a Savior. It is in Him that we live and move and have our being. It is through Him that all people are forgiven, and it is only through Him and what He continues to do in or lives that we can truly love. His life, His death, His resurrection – for us. Taking the “In God We Trust” messages to heart turns one into a Christless Christian, which, of course, isn’t a Christian at all.

photo credit: stallio

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Formula for Christian Living

A quote from Dr. Harold Senkbeil's book Dying to Live:

The truth is, all of the New Testament’s imperatives are based on its indicatives. In other words, everything God demands of His children He first gives His children. Everything God wants us to do He has already done in His Son, and He continues to work in us in and through Jesus Christ. He is not a departed hero gone off to heaven to watch how well we’re doing here on earth without Him. He is present here and now with His church in those sacred mysteries we call the Word and the Sacraments. There’s a link between the life Christians lead and their living Lord. And that link is Baptism.

People keep looking for the key to a dynamic Christian life, some magic formula to bring zest to dull, half-hearted commitment. Unfortunately, most of the formulas suggested tend to be do-it-yourself projects. A do-it-yourself approach to the Christian life is doomed from the start. Reform a sinner and you get a reformed sinner. Discipline a sinner and you get a disciplined sinner. Educate a sinner and you get an educated sinner. In every case you still have the same sinner you started out with.

No, the Old Adam will not be tamed or reformed or disciplined or educated. He can only be killed. And this is just what God does; in Holy Baptism we are put to death and buried. But since it is the death and burial of Jesus, it makes all the difference in the world. His death and burial brings with it resurrection and new life. By Holy Baptism the Triune God crucifies our Old Adam, buries our sin, raises us as a new creation, and clothes us in Jesus Christ–thus giving us a whole new life to live. This is the authentic formula for Christian living!

Harold L. Senkbeil, Dying to Live: The Power of Forgiveness (St. Louis: CPH, 1994) 79.

photo credit: Lawrence OP

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What Does the Christian Life Consist Of?

Quoting Dr. Martin Luther:
Christian life a growing confidence in God and a diminishing confidence in oneself.
Ewald M. Plass, compiler, What Luther Says: A Practical In-Home Anthology for the Active Christian, (St. Louis: CPH, 1959) §629, 213.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Trumpet Will Sound

"Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 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."

1 Corinthians 15:49-58 ESV

photo credit: benefit of hindsight

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dr. Nestingen on the ELCA

During the September 23 Issues Etc. program, Pastor Todd Wilken asked Dr. James Nestingen, Professor Emeritus of the ELCA’s Luther Seminary, a rather pointed question:

Has the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, at least in this action [dropping the ban on openly gay clergy and approving of gay marriage], forfeited, properly, the name “Christian Church?”

Dr. Nestingen’s response:

Oh, it’s, of course. I mean, God did not call us to be judges of the Word. He called us to be proclaimers. He didn’t call us to vote on whether or not we consider His sexual limitations viable or desirable. I mean, He said, He did not say “Here are the ten options,” or “the ten values waiting for clarification.” I mean all of this stuff is just clear as the nose on your face, and the pathetic thing, of course, the ruefulness in my laughter, and the pain in my laughter is the people I belong to have betrayed their heritage. This is not a church any more, it’s a joke, it’s a religious pretense, you know, a pious fraud, as if another one is needed.

Listen to the whole show:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Great Numbers Do Not Make the Church

Dr. Ron M. Garwood quoting Luther, in his essay "The Nature of the Church With Reference To Its Structure," presented to the Wyoming District Convention this year:
Great numbers do not make the church…We must look to the Word alone and judge on the basis of that. For only those who embrace the Word are the ones who will be as immovable forever as Mount Zion, even though they are few in number and very contemptible in the eyes of the world…The church is a daughter, born of the Word;… Therefore whoever loses the Word and instead eagerly looks to influential persons ceases to be the church and lapses into blindness; neither numbers nor power will do him any good. Those who keep the Word, as did Noah and his family, are the church, even though they be very few in number....