This is from the "How To Use This Book" section of the Reader's Edition of The Book of Concord and I just absolutely love it...


 
"For 425 years, the Book of Concord has united and guided Lutheran congregations, schools, pastors, and teachers. Yet today, many Lutherans are virtually unaware of its existence and use. As a result, when someone mentions the Book of Concord, one often hears, 'Aren't we just supposed to follow the Bible?' as though Christians do not use other publications based on the Bible (e.g., creeds, hymnals, catechisms, devotionals). One may even hear the Book of Concord compared to documents like the Book of Mormon, as though Lutherans were trying to add new texts to the Bible. ... Take note that the Book of Concord functions very much like the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, summarizing or clarifying what the Bible teaches on controversial topics. In particular, it thoroughly teaches God's love and forgiveness for all people based on Jesus' life, death, and resurrection -- reminding us that this is the chief teaching of the Christian faith."


This is most certainly true.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, spend some time familiarizing yourself with the Christian Book of Concord, especially if you've never heard of it before, because you will marvel at the harmony it has with Scripture.



NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 4 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with the Bible, our Confessions, and Lutheran doctrine in general (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can not only correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1), but repent of my sin and learn the truth myself. Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I will defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!


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I'm always on the look out for new Lutheran media that I can use to help myself to grow in the faith and that I can also share with all of you here.

Today, I came across a couple of lectures.

Dr. Thomas Winger, from Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, delivered the lecture, "What Is Salvation? Biblical Reflections On The Reformation" and "What Is Sanctification? Biblical Reflections On The Reformation" at the "Lutheran Golden Symposium" at Kobe Lutheran Theological Seminary, Japan, on May 6th, 2017, celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.


 
AUDIO: What Is Salvation? Biblical Reflections On The Reformation (Part 1) 
AUDIO: What Is Sanctification? Biblical Reflections On The Reformation (Part 2) 
NOTE: The present recordings (in English) come from a repeat of the lectures at the LCC East District Pastors' Conference on May 17th, 2017


Salvation and Sanctification -- two topics I often got confused before I was a Lutheran. That's why listening to these presentations are still so powerful for me.

You see, there was a time when I put my full faith and focus in Sanctification...my own sanctification that is. Not good. That sort of navel-gazing, of looking inward at at myself instead of outward and at Christ upon the cross for me, is what led me to despair as well as a completely distorted view of what it was to be a Christian.

In other words, I was putting more emphasis on Sanctification than I was on Salvation, and I never realized the error I was making either! At other times, I was all about Salvation, but never wanted to hear a thing about Sanctification! How ridiculous is that?

It's why I will keep taking every single opportunity I can to feed myself on studies like these two, and why I keep looking for opportunities to help others take a closer look at both doctrines and how they differ while also encouraging them to not throw out one at the expense of the other.

We live in a day-and-age when many Christians think that continuing to hear about Salvation is no longer something for them because they're already saved, or during a time when the Body of Christ insists on comparing themselves to each other and on measuring your faith by how much "crazy love" you have for Jesus and how "radical" you are in living your life for Christ.

So, that's why I think we would be wise to constantly remind ourselves of the key truths about Salvation and Sanctification so that we have a crystal clear understanding of what God's Word has to say about what they are and what they're not.

How might we easily and simply begin to think about such things?

In a Lutheran layman's terms, Jesus is your salvation and Jesus is your sanctification.

Always start and end there.



NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 4 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with the Bible, our Confessions, and Lutheran doctrine in general (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can not only correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1), but repent of my sin and learn the truth myself. Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I will defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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Unless I'm way off base with my basic translating skills (and have completely forgotten how to perform an accurate Google search!), I believe the English word "quote" (used as a noun as in "a quote") is translated to "zitat" in German.

That will help to explain the strange "Z" word listed in the title of this post. 

That being said, I'm always keeping my eyes and ears open for good quotes of a distinctly "Lutheran" flavor that encourage prayerful consideration and a deeper study of God's Word, His Sacraments, Christ's Church, and our Lutheran Confessions of "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3).

Plus, it certainly helps me personally in my on-going journey away from American Evangelicalism toward being a steadfast Confessional Lutheran.
Here's the latest...


 
"In Matthew's account of the Lord's Prayer, Jesus repeats the fifth petition ('forgive us our debts') immediately after teaching the prayer itself. He emphasizes the power and need for forgiveness above all: 'For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses' (Matthew 6:14-15). 
First, we Christians need forgiveness, for we daily sin much. Second, we Christians need to forgive others, for others, like us, also sin much. The church must be and remain the community of sinners, forgiven and forgiving. Those who are forgiven and know its tremendous power will also gladly forgive and do good to those who sin against them. 
There is no way for the church to live in love and harmony other than through and in the power of forgiveness. Congregations can become full of bickering factions, seeking their own way and through power politics enforcing their own will upon the community. This is not the will and way of our Savior, who calls on us to live in forgiveness with our neighbor, overlooking his weaknesses and in love covering a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). If we live in forgiveness, then the Lord's way will be made among us." 
-- Rev. Scott R. Murray from "Forgiven And Forgiving"


This is most certainly true.

And yet, I'm willing to bet some questions remain if you're anything like me.

For instance, the Bible tells us we are supposed to forgive those who sin against us, with the warning that if we don't forgive others God will not forgive us.

We also pray in the Lord's Prayer that God would forgive us as we forgive others.

So, what does it mean to forgive? How do I know if I have truly forgiven someone?


We do not place our trust in how truly we have forgiven someone as the basis for God’s forgiveness. God’s forgiveness is pure grace and depends on nothing in us or nothing we do. Our confidence lies with Christ alone. So the call to forgive is not a new law, rather it is the fruit of faith. When someone asks forgiveness faith does not ask, 'How will I truly forgive this person?' It simply says to the other, 'I forgive you.' But to withhold forgiveness is to deny that you are Christ’s. It is to deny that your brother or sister is one for whom Christ died. It is too walk in darkness, not in the light. To walk in such a way is to have your forgiveness withheld (See Matthew 18:23-35). It sounds like your conscience is not troubled by lack of desire to forgive, but how sincere your forgiveness must be. If your desire is for you to be reconciled with your brother or sister let that be enough. But in no way do you merit God’s forgiveness in forgiving another. 
Peace, Pastor Gary Hall www.stjohnsbridgeton.org


Furthermore, Rev. Jeffrey Ries adds, "When we fail to show mercy to others, we reveal that we have not truly received in faith God's forgiveness in Christ. In other words, true repentance always bears the fruit of a desire to forgive others."

In a Lutheran layman's terms, "Blessed are the merciful for they are shown mercy" (Matthew 5:7).



NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 4 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with the Bible, our Confessions, and Lutheran doctrine in general (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can not only correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1), but repent of my sin and learn the truth myself. Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I will defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!


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Growing up, Easter was always a special time for me and my family as it is for most.

Yes, we believed in God, and so we went to church each and every Easter Sunday, but that always took a back seat to time with the rest of our family and, of course, to the Easter Bunny and what he would bring us each year (not to mention his prowess for hiding our baskets in creative new ways too!).

That might seem strange to some, but this was quite normal not just within my immediate and extended family, but also with all of my friends and their families too.

In short, I don't think any of us really knew how important Holy Week was let alone the eternal significance of Easter Sunday.

There's another shameful truth to be told though. You see, for almost my entire life, I was a "C&E Christian" or what's commonly known as a "Christmas-And-Easter Christian" meaning I only went to church on Christmas and on Easter (with the occasional baptism, wedding, and/or funeral mixed in for good measure).

That reminded me of a Christmas day sermon -- yes, a Christmas day sermon -- I once read that was delivered by Rev. Charles Henrickson back in 2005 that I'd like to share on this Easter Sunday.


 
We Are Christmas-and-Easter Christians 
That term, “Christmas-and-Easter Christians,” or “C-E Christians” for short, is often used in a derogatory way to refer to people who only show up for church twice a year, on Christmas and Easter. I guess now they can’t even be bothered with showing up on Christmas. Today, though, I want to use “C-E Christians” in a positive sense: We are “Christmas-and-Easter Christians,” because for us, Christmas and Easter make all the difference in the world--and in the world to come. That is why we are here this morning. To celebrate Christmas. To celebrate Easter. 
“What?!” you say. “Christmas I can understand--this is December 25, after all. But how are we celebrating Easter? I thought that doesn’t come until March or April.” Well, hold on with that question. We’ll come back to it a little later. First let’s talk about why we’re here celebrating Christmas. 
Why are we here, when we could be home with our family, sitting by the Christmas tree, drinking hot cocoa and enjoying the presents we opened this morning? That does sound pretty appealing, doesn’t it? And there’s nothing wrong with doing those things, in their proper perspective. And that’s the key, isn’t it? Keeping things in their proper perspective. Cocoa is good, but there’s something better: the feast of the Lord’s Supper, here on this high festival. Presents are good, but there’s something better: the presence of Christ in the midst of his people, and receiving his gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. Christmas trees are good, but there is a tree that is more important: the life-giving tree of the cross. 
Family is good, very good indeed, and God wants us to love and spend quality time with our family. But sometimes what is good can become the enemy of what is best. “Whoever loves father or mother or son or daughter more than me,” Jesus says, “is not worthy of me.” Idolatry can be especially tempting when what is idolized is something good, like family. The problem comes when we place that good thing ahead of the one thing needful. 
So here we are, celebrating Christmas in church, assembled together with the big family God has placed us in, namely, the church. “Whoever hears God’s word and keeps it is my mother and brother and sister,” Jesus says. The Christian church is our family, and Christmas is one of our family celebrations. 
On Christmas we celebrate the coming of our brother, Jesus, in the flesh. Yes, that’s the miracle of Christmas, isn’t it? God became one of us. The eternal Son of God took on human flesh and bone. The big fancy word for this is the “Incarnation,” which means, “in the flesh.” “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” John writes. Now why is this such a big deal? Well, think about it for a moment, if your brain circuits don’t start to burn out on you as you contemplate this mystery: The eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the one who was with God in the beginning and through whom all things were made--at a certain point in time, in history, this only-begotten Son of the Father came in the flesh as a little baby, born of a woman. 
This is amazing! This is astonishing! This is a mystery almost too great for words--except that God has revealed it to us in the words of Holy Scripture. God wants us to know the importance of the Incarnation! Our salvation depends on this very thing: that the Son of God came in the flesh, at Christmas, as our brother! If that didn’t happen, we would be lost, forever! But it did happen, and now we are saved, forever! 
Only God could save us from the predicament we had gotten ourselves into. We had fallen into sin and could not get up. Sin works its corruption in our lives and kills us. And there is not one darn thing we could do about it to stop it. We are all, every one of us, too weak to overcome sin and death and judgment under God’s wrath. That’s our big problem, and we couldn’t solve it. 
Only God could, and he did. Only God is wise enough and strong enough to save us. But in order to do that, he had to become one of us. For the judgment we all deserve is death. And so Jesus took our place and died in our place, under that judgment, on the cross. That’s why he had to be our brother. He had to take on our flesh. He had to breathe our sin-poisoned air. He had to live the perfect life we all failed to live, to make his life the perfect sacrifice for our sins. And thus, Christmas. That’s why Christmas is such a big deal. That’s why we are here celebrating. 
But that then leads us to the second reason we’re here celebrating today. It’s Sunday! Sunday marks the victory of what Christ accomplished for us on the cross. Sunday is the day we celebrate the new life Christ won for us by his death. His death overcomes the grave, and Sunday is the day that became clear. Remember, it was very early on the first day of the week--that’s Sunday--that the women went out to the tomb. But him they did not find. The stone was rolled away. The tomb was empty. The angel told them, “He is not here. He is risen, just as he said.” Yes, Easter, the Resurrection--the Resurrection of Christ, and thus our resurrection signaled and guaranteed--this is what we celebrate every Sunday! Every Sunday is a little Easter! 
For almost 2,000 years now, the Christian church around the world has been meeting on the first day of the week, every week. We even call it, “the Lord’s Day,” because it was on this day that our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead, rose bodily, ushering in the new creation and giving us a sneak preview of what’s in store for us in the age to come. On the first day of the week, every week, the Christian church around the world gathers together in the presence of her Lord, to hear his Word and to receive his precious Body and Blood. That is why we are here today, my friends. It is the Lord’s Day, and we are the Lord’s people. And this is the Lord’s house, the place where we gather. 
So two reasons to celebrate today! It’s Christmas! And it’s Easter! The Son of God come in the flesh to be our Savior. And our Savior then risen from the dead, assuring us of our own resurrection. 
There it is: Christmas and Easter rolled into one! Two reasons to rejoice! Two reasons to be in church today! Instead of canceling church, we should be having church on steroids! 
So here we are in church today, “even though” it’s Christmas--and a Sunday, to boot. We may not be very “lifestyle-friendly,” but I can guarantee you, this is the most “life-friendly” place you could be! Jesus Christ literally is our life--our eternal life, our new life forever--and this is where he gives us that life as a gift. 
What a great day this is: Christmas and Easter combined! That’s why we can truly say: We are “Christmas-and-Easter Christians.”


Now you know why I felt it necessary to share an excerpt of a Christmas sermon on Easter morning.

This being my third year getting to celebrate Easter Sunday as a Confessional Lutheran, I find myself thinking about a lot of things -- the past, the present, the future.

More importantly, I find myself thinking about others too. I think about my atheist acquaintance from high school, my agnostic and apostate family members, and my Pastor who I'm sure must put himself under enormous pressure this time of year.

For my atheist acquaintance from high school, I'd say...


Ain't No Grave Gonna Hold This Body Down 
Standing over a grave is like standing over a black hole. It is dark. The deep soil brings coolness to the air which chills your feet. The depth of the grave brings a biting to your bones as the grave seems to draw all hope, joy, and optimism from you into itself. The dark cruel grave seems to chuckle in victory as the body of a loved one is lowered into its jaws. There the body will stay, held in the grasp of the grave’s claws. 
O grave, it appears that you have victory! 
O grave it appears that you have had the final word with many of our loved one. 
O grave, it also appears that you had victory on Good Friday, for you devoured up Jesus. 
“You took His lifeless body into your jaws. You captured God in the flesh. You brought the Creator so low that you stopped His breath, broke His heart, cut Him off from the light and the land of the living. You exacted a terrible price, the price of all the sins of all men, of the Law’s full stricture, upon the sinless and perfect Son of God, [Jesus Christ].”[1] 
Is this your victory though? Is this all you could do to the Christ? If this is your power and if this is your victory, why is the tomb empty? Why is the Christ not found among the dead? Why did Jesus rise to life? 
Hear us laugh at you o grave, for the angel of the Lord rolled away the stone to show us and the entire world that you are not as powerful as you might think. The stone was rolled away to show us that your threats of death are really a facade, for Christ escaped your jaws. Did you hear that grave, you could not keep the Christ contained. 
On Friday night it seemed that you were the one that was alive as you consumed the lifeless Son of God into your deep cavern. Today though we hear that the Christ has risen, which leads us to conclude that you are the one that is lifeless and dead, for Christ is alive and well, seated at the right hand of the Father. 
“Where is your victory, O grave? Show [us]. Where is your sting? What has happened to your power? Have you so soon forgotten how you made us cower? Don’t you claim to be the [common denominator of all of mankind] . . . Aren’t you the ruler of the battlefield and cancer ward, the constant threat against young mothers [with child]? . . . [Don’t you lean inward on us] every time we fall asleep, [quietly whispering to us] that you are the master and will take us when you [well please]? . . . Don’t you claim that you make our bodies fail, grow weak and old and contract diseases, that you make this living death a pure misery of pain, dying, and loneliness, while you strive at all times to take away our dignity?”[2] 
O grave, you may claim all of this, but we shake our heads at you in disgust. We chuckle with the laugh of victory at your overinflated self-assessments. We taunt you not once, but we taunt you a second time, for Christ our Lord and God has risen out of your so-called power. Do you not see o grave, He is not in your lair of death. He is not with you, but He is with us, His church—ALIVE. 
“And what of our deaths and caskets,” you may ask? 
O grave, do you not know that by Jesus’ three-day rest in the tomb that He made the burial places holy of all who believe in Him? O grave, do you not know that those who are baptized into Jesus were baptized with Him in death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life? O grave, you’ve got nothing on us, because we have been united to Jesus with Him in death and we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. 
O grave you will not get us. You will not keep us in your clinching jaws. It is true that at the end of our lives we are put six-feet under, but there in your midst, o grave, we will sleep with peace, for our places of burial are made holy by Jesus. We will sleep in your midst in peace until we are awakened to glory. Behold, o grave, we tell you a mystery, we shall all sleep when we are put six-feet under, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet we will burst forth from your midst with resurrected bodies, and we will see our Lord face to face. 
“And what of our sin,” you may ask? 
It is true that our sin puts us in a casket. Our sin unites us with you o grave; however, have you been so quick to forget about Good Friday? The Gospel puts us in Jesus’ grave and raises us anew daily, for Christ bled and died for us, accomplishing forgiveness, life, and salvation. O grave, I ask again, where is your victory? Where is your bite? Where are the fangs of your jaw? You have no answer o grave, for they are all gone, they are worthless, and they are nothing, for Jesus died and Jesus lives. In fact, since Jesus lives and you are nothing, this conversation need not continue. 
Baptized Saints, this Easter Morning, just in case the grave still attempts to speak its lies to you, hear now: 
Jesus Christ was crucified and was raised from the grave for you. This is your present reality. Do not be afraid of the grave today. 
Jesus Christ was crucified and was raised from the grave for you. This means that your sins have been truly paid for, that God’s wrath was appeased, that death is powerless, and that the devil is a defeated foe. 
Jesus Christ was crucified and was raised from the grave for you. This means that you have a living Savior and a victorious Savior; a living advocate. 
Jesus Christ was crucified and was raised from the grave for you. This means that your Christ trampled over death by death. No scheme of man and no power of evil could hold Him down.
Baptized Saints, “there is nothing in [the entire] world that you can be more sure of, than Jesus crucified for you, risen for you. [As they say,] “Ain’t no grave gonna hold this body down.”[3] 
Baptized Saints, “Jesus lives, and by His words and Spirit He puts His death and His life into you. You are baptized. ‘Your life is hid with Christ in God.’”[4] 
You are buried deeply in the wounds of Jesus; the Gospel has put you into Jesus’ grave, a grave that could not hold the Messiah down, but a grave that leads to the resurrection. 
The Lord is risen! 
The grave is empty! 
Because He lives, you live as well![5] 
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen. 
[1] David H. Peterson, Thy Kingdom Come: Lent and Easter Sermons (Fort Wayne, IN: Emmanuel Press, 2012), 152. 
[2] Ibid. 
[3] Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2004), 120. 
[4] Ibid. 
[5] The idea to personify ‘the grave’ comes from David Peterson’s Easter Sermon in his book, “Thy Kingdom Come.”


Death is the one certainty in life "for the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23) and so I will be praying that my atheist acquaintance receives the free gift of God.

For my agnostic and apostate family members, I'd say...


On The Third Day He Rose Again 
Holy week began this last Sunday. Once again you stand before the opportunity to live within the great drama of Easter. Of course, living within means more than decorating your house with various ornaments and eating traditional foods. Yes, it even means more than that you attend a few worship services. Here, to live within means a spiritual journey through time where your life is woven together with the children of Israel in Egypt, with the disciples in the upper room, with Judas in the temple, with Jesus in Gethsemane, with Peter in the high priest’s courtyard, Simon carrying the cross, with the Savior on the cross, with Mary and John at the foot of the cross, with Joseph of Arimathea at the shroud, the women at the empty grave, with the disciples on the road to Emmaus. 
This trip through time and space also extends beyond the limits of personality. It doesn’t merely mean that you should travel there to see and experience things like a tourist. Rather, it is more that you, your person and your life, are present and participate with the people whom God’s word puts before you. You are there amidst God’s enslaved children who are torn between the security in their monotonous and oppressed life and the call to break out on the great adventure home in freedom. You are among the disciples whom Jesus treats as family, whose feet he washes, whose hunger he feeds with his own self. You are among those who sleep, who fail, deny, and betray. You and your blood red sins are there beneath Jesus’ scourged skin, ripped by thorns and pierced by spikes and suffering the wrath of God’s judgment on the cross. Your tears blend with the tears of those who cry at the foot of the cross and tenderly shroud the Savior’s cold corpse. 
Now you can ask as Mary once did: How shall this happen? I am not so religious or spiritual that I can manage that much empathy. No, that is true. If it is up to you, then your Easter will be a superficial history. But the answer you receive is the same as that which Mary received: The Holy Spirit shall come upon you and power from on high shall overshadow you! The Holy Spirit dwells in God’s word and makes it a living and powerful word, a word that creates and moves across boundaries, transforms, binds together, and renews. 
These lines are written not so that you should increase your efforts, but that your expectations should grow. When you celebrate the divine service this Easter and use God’s word at home, then an awesome thing can happen to your life: the here and now can be woven together with that which happened then. But it is not only so that you can now be carried to the Easter back then, but the whole dynamic of Easter can now be present in your life and your reality today through the power of the Holy Spirit. 
Jesus can then grab hold of your rebellious will, despair, and unbelief with his pierced hands and take all of this with him into death. The Savior can shroud all of you in a robe made white as snow in his blood. Louder than the blood of Abel, it cries to heaven: “It is finished!” To you who sit alone and afflicted behind walls of fear, the hostile world’s most extreme front, Jesus comes to you and says, “It is I! Be not afraid!” 
And as he once took the hand of Thomas into his open side, so he invites you to plug the USB cable of your life into his heart, so that his life that is stronger than death, stronger than anything, will stream into you. It births you anew, and you come to know that you are justified before God in Jesus. You are never without God, and never without hope in the world. 
Easter, my friend, is not something that you should observe, but something the Lord causes to happen to you.


It's no about what we haven't done or even about what we have done. It's always about what Christ Jesus has done and what He continues to do for you and for me.

For my faithful Pastor (and others just like him all around the world within Christ's Church), I'd say...


Holy Week Preaching 
Holy week preaching is tough. There are two main difficulties: high expectations and well-mined, familiar texts. There is, depending on how you count, a single answer: Jesus.   
High Expectations and Unholy Pressure 
The people piously desire stirring preaching. This is the week that commemorates the most central and critical events of Our Lord’s life. The pastor has been wallowing in Lent for six weeks. He has been pointing and pointing and pointing to Good Friday and Easter. The Church gets decorated. There is a special breakfast and candy and music. This is the beating heart, to borrow Franzmann’s phrase, of all our hope. This is what the preacher is all about. 
Those expectations, pious though they might be, rarely help the fallen sinner who is called to preach. They seem to us like a set up for disappointment. How can we stand and deliver on such a great occasion? How will the people not felt let down by a dry, boring sermon? 
God is There Every Sunday 
There are two immediate answers to this. The first, I think comes from Nagel, and I believe it, because I have never known anyone to preach the Law more precisely or painfully than Nagel, with the possible peers being Korby, and Marquart. Nagel says, “God is there every Sunday. You should be worried about disappointing Him and stop trying to impress the people who show up on Easter.” That is exactly right. When we worry about disappointing our hearers, we really are worried about what they think of us. Nagel’s condemnation is spot on. We need to get over it and remember that it is God who has called us. We preach for Him. 
The People Expect to be Bored 
But, that is hardly the end of Nagel, or the full answer. And here is the Petersen Law: the people’s high expectations and hopes for Easter aren’t about your sermon. In fact, they expect, as usual, to be bored. I know this is harsh, but I don’t mean it quite as badly as it sounds. Yes, the people expect to be bored. But they are okay with that. They still want you to preach. No, they don’t want to be bored, but neither do they really mind it. You see, they like you and they’re on your side. You don’t have to provide a spiritual mountaintop for them or change the way they look at the world or even teach them anything. You just have to tell them again what they already know and love: that Jesus died for them and Jesus lives. That is it. So calm down. Let the organist have the glory. He can blow their socks off. You just preach the simplest message you can manage. 
Familiar Texts and Nothing New to Say 
Still, that is only half the problem. The other problem is that the texts not only are the texts well-known so that it seems as though there is simply nothing new to say, but by Palm Sunday you have already said it and said it and said it again anyway. These are the go to texts and events. It is one thing to step up and preach about the miracle in Cana or the healing of the blind man on the road out of Jericho and tie it to the cross, it is another to tie the cross to the cross. I can’t imagine the preacher who arrives at Palm Sunday without hating the sound of his own voice. It is a long road. 
The Love of the People 
We underestimate and devalue the love of the people. We are sick of ourselves but they love us. Synodical types like to preach the harsh, impossible law of “love your people” to us. I think they really don’t know that “love” is a command and accuses. They think, somehow, that “love” is Gospel, I suppose, because it is good. Bu the Law of God is always good and upholds only what is holy. Of course, “love” is Gospel if it is switched around to the passive. “Love your people” is law. It does not create love. It creates sin in fallen men. But “your people love you even though you are a dirt bag and don’t deserve it,” is pure Gospel. We need that Gospel. We need it, desperately, and maybe, we need it even more during Holy Week than we do the rest of the year. 
So here it is: Your people do love you. Maybe a few mistreat you. Maybe some have even slandered you. But they aren’t the majority. The people that come to the Services on Good Friday and Easter, including the people you haven’t seen since Christmas, they like you. They think you’re nice. They think you’re pious and good. They think you’re smart and know a lot about the Bible. They hardly come to Church at all, but they don’t realize it. They think they do. And even if you barely know them, they know you. You are their pastor and they love you. They really do. So, again, calm down. They like what you say even before you say it. 
The Comfort of Familiar 
It might be a hard on your ego and your secret desire to teach at the seminary, but consider what you expect from those you love. What do you want your mom to make for Christmas dinner? A new, experimental dish, or a turkey just like you remember it from your childhood? Do you expect your Grandpa to have new jokes? Or do you find comfort in everything being the same? The members aren’t your students looking to be instructed into the deepest mysteries of the faith. They are sheep coming to be fed and they like to be fed with their favorite foods. So, calm down, and keep it simple. Don’t try to be profound. Don’t try to save the world. Just preach the death and resurrection of Jesus. And they will love you for it. 
Charting a Course 
I hope that will take some pressure off. Still, the preacher does well to do some planning. Because even if the people love you and the task is simple, some art will be appreciated. I suggest that you chart the theme, at least, the titles of each of your Holy Week sermons. That will enable you to play them off one another and help so that you don’t feel that you have to get everything into each of them or that you’ve accidently gone and said everything in the first and have nothing left for the rest of the week. If you understand the how the sermons connect and progress, the chances of your hearers doing so also will increase. 

Godly wisdom for godly men who have been called to a high and noble service.

Finally, for myself, the wretched sinner who does not deserve God's grace and mercy, but who will gladly take it because I know I so desperately need it, I'd say to myself...


Christ Is Risen! He Is Risen, Indeed! Hallelujah! 
The Rev. Dr. Norman Nagel preached in an Easter sermon from 1981: ,,There is now nothing in all the world that you can be more sure of than Jesus crucified for you, risen for you" (Nagel 120). This statement is Good Friday and Easter Sunday in a nutshell. 
The Church doesn't need liberation theology, social gospel theology, name it and claim it theology, rolling on the floor laughing theology, slain in the spirit theology, your best life now theology, and any other pop, quasi-entertainment driven theology that seems so prevalent on the American airwaves. The Church and the world needs the Christ crucified and risen for you theology. 
Why? Because we have a problem with sin. Our 21st century society doesn't like that dirty word ,,sin". Sin makes us feel uncomfortable, shameful, and guilty. The plethora of 12 step theologies that overwhelm the culture often don't take sin seriously, and in fact would prefer to push sin into a small, dark corner to be forgotten about. 
Jesus suffering on the cross won't let us forget about our sinfulness. Christ crucified won't let us push sin into a forgotten corner. Good Friday places the spotlight squarely on sin. There it is! You see, this is the punishment for sin. This is where sin ultimately leads you: suffering and death. That God-man hanging on the cross is bearing our sin in His own body. He is suffering for us in order to redeem us. Jesus became sin and a curse who bore the full wrath of His heavenly Father. 
Christ crucified is true liberation, liberation from sin, death, and the devil. The empty tomb shows how helpless sin, death, and the devil now are. The resurrected Christ shows that He is the perfect sacrifice that has paid for all sin, once and for all. The resurrected Christ shows that death will be undone. The resurrected Christ shows that the devil is now defeated. 
Christ crucified and risen for us is the only gospel the Church and the world needs. Christians live under the theology of the cross, namely, that in this life we can expect to suffer because we have faith in Jesus. Our life will not be a bed of roses, but more often a couch of thorns. To be sure, God blesses us, but He also allows us to endure trials and tribulations in order to strenghten our faith in Christ. 
When Christ returns we will then live under the theology of glory. Christ will arrive in His full majesty. Our bodies will be raised up and reunited with our souls. The ravages of sin and death will no longer afflict us. Worldly suffering will no longer burden us. All discrimination will end. All poverty will end. All wars and violence will end. But this won't occur until the last day, that great and glorious day when we will experience Easter Sunday in all its heavenly glory. 
-- Nagel, Norman. Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel: From Valparaiso to St. Louis. Frederick W. Baue, Ed. Copyright © 2004 Concordia Publishing House.


All of this, yes, all of this demands a simple and straightforward, "This is most certainly true."

I'm forever grateful that I now know by the sheer grace of God that Easter is beyond the bunny, beyond the past, beyond the present, and even beyond the grave.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, Easter is about Christ's death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins for you, for me, for all mankind, and for all eternity!



NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 4 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with the Bible, our Confessions, and Lutheran doctrine in general (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can not only correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1), but repent of my sin and learn the truth myself. Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I will defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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A reflection for us all to prayerfully consider on this Good Friday...

"O Christ, Lamb of God, slain for the sin of the whole world, with penitent heart I come to Your cross, pleading for mercy and forgiveness. My sins -- and they are many -- have added to the burden of Your suffering and have nailed You to the accursed tree. For me You tasted the agony of the utter darkness that I might not perish, but have everlasting life. Have mercy upon me. 
O Christ, Lamb of God, embrace me with Your love, and forgive me all my sins. Your death brings healing to my soul, peace to my mind, cleansing to my heart. If You would mark iniquity, I could not come, for my hands are unclean, my lips are sullied, and my heart is blackened by sin. But beholding You bleeding, despised, forsaken, dying, pierced, I come to be cleansed and forgiven. 
O Christ, Lamb of God, grant that I may hate sin and wickedness more and more as I behold You in Your great agony. My grateful heart today finds hope in Your words, comfort in Your promises, and salvation in Your finished work on the cross, by which You have overcome sin, Satan, and death. O Lord, have mercy. O Christ, have mercy. O Lord, hear my prayer. Amen." 
-- A Prayer For Good Friday (Lutheran Book of Prayer)


In a Lutheran layman's terms, this is most certainly true.



NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 4 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with the Bible, our Confessions, and Lutheran doctrine in general (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can not only correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1), but repent of my sin and learn the truth myself. Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I will defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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A few brief thoughts regarding Baptism today...




Of course, this is in response to the all-too-common Evangelical practice of "Dedication" as opposed to baptizing babies, which is weird when you consider what the divinely inspired St. Peter wrote.


1 Peter 3:21 (ESV) Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ


Seems pretty straightforward to me.

And yet, we insist on getting the glory for ourselves by engaging in this "Dedication" practice, which shouts to the world, "I just saved myself by the decision for Christ that I'm making today!"

Now, I get that you might think that's a little too harsh, because Old Me would've responded to Current Me that way only a few years ago.

Here's the thing though...


 
On the one hand whether you are baptized as an infant or at 12 or at 30 or even 90 has no effect on the promise God gives in baptism. Yet, how one treats that promise is critical. If one tosses it aside and believes that baptism is his work and not God’s work he has trampled the promise underfoot. If one delays baptism because he believes that one must have achieved a certain intellectual capacity or character then again the promise is trampled underfoot. Salvation is a passive event on our part. Adam and Eve did nothing to earn God’s gracious response. God saved the Israelites while they stood passive in the face of the Egyptians. He even told them to be still and watch. God himself shut the door of the Ark to save Noah and his family. God is the actor in our salvation. He sees us as a dead corpse that must be given life. God’s sows salvation only where there is death. So, all praise, honor and glory goes to him alone. If you think you have some part in that, then you take glory away from Jesus, and his innocent, bitter sufferings and death for you. Baptism is a gracious act of God toward you. In it he saves you by joining you to Jesus on the cross and putting your sinful self to death, burying it with Jesus and raising you to new life with his resurrection. (Romans 6). On your own you have no will to die to yourself, but God does what you cannot do for yourself. 
-- Pastor Gary Hall

As Pr. Hall expresses in his response, to believe that Baptism is something that I do to show my dedication to God’s promise goes part and parcel with “accepting Jesus into my heart” and all other theology which require man to take some of the steps required to enter salvation. Is this view “faith-breaking”? We can’t quite say that, since faith comes from God alone. However, could not such a view eventually lead one to lose their faith and despair? (“How do I know my dedication and belief were enough? Perhaps I am not worthy of God after all.”). On the other hand, baptizing infants (or anyone of any age) is a manifestation of the Scriptural confession that it is not the sinner who invites Jesus in, but it is all Jesus from start to finish (“You did not choose me, but I chose you . . .” John 15:16) and the pastor doing the baptism is nothing more than a vessel being used by God for His purpose. When one comes to points of questioning the strength of their own will to believe in Christ and trust in Him fully, this theology allows us to confidently point them back to Christ and His promises alone (not back to their own acceptance of Jesus). “Yes, you are a sinner and you have failed God many times. But repent! For God is faithful and will not relent on His promise to you in Christ.” My accepting Jesus is irrelevant. God’s work on my behalf in Christ is everything; and is an unwavering source of comfort, especially in times when I myself might waver. 
-- Rev. Jeffrey E. Ries


This is most certainly true.

Yes, water saves! However, not merely water on its own...BUT WATER JOINED WITH THE HOLY WORD OF GOD!  Better yet, it's all about CHRIST FOR YOU and never You For Christ!

Baptism cleanses and raises us to new life. By God's grace and not our own well-meaning works, Baptism is a means of salvation through which the Holy Spirit produces faith (Ephesians 5:25-27).

We are forgiven and holy because of Christ. Yes, that forgiveness is applied to us in Baptism just as God says in His Word (and He does not lie!). Most importantly, the life we are given in Baptism was earned for us by Christ Himself.

Before I wrap this up, some final words in regards to my snarky title for this post.

I certainly do not mean to imply that anyone who has been "dedicated" instead of baptized is somehow not saved. That would be preposterous!

However, I definitely mean to get people thinking about what the Bible says rather plainly on this subject, and how it uses the word "baptism" and not "dedication" to communicate such simple yet profound truths to us.

I'll let Dr. Martin Luther help me out here...


Here a question occurs by which the devil through his sects, confuses the world, namely, Of Infant Baptism, whether children also believe, and are justly baptized. Concerning this we say briefly: Let the simple dismiss this question from their minds, and refer it to the learned. But if you wish to answer then answer thus: -- 
That the Baptism of infants is pleasing to Christ is sufficiently proved from His own work, namely, that God sanctifies many of them who have been thus baptized, and has given them the Holy Ghost; and that there are yet many even to-day in whom we perceive that they have the Holy Ghost both because of their doctrine and life; as it is also given to us by the grace of God that we can explain the Scriptures and come to the knowledge of Christ, which is impossible without the Holy Ghost. But if God did not accept the baptism of infants, He would not give the Holy Ghost nor any of His gifts to any of them; in short, during this long time unto this day no man upon earth could have been a Christian. Now, since God confirms Baptism by the gifts of His Holy Ghost as is plainly perceptible in some of the church fathers, as St. Bernard, Gerson, John Hus, and others, who were baptized in infancy, and since the holy Christian Church cannot perish until the end of the world, they must acknowledge that such infant baptism is pleasing to God. For He can never be opposed to Himself, or support falsehood and wickedness, or for its promotion impart His grace and Spirit. This is indeed the best and strongest proof for the simple-minded and unlearned. For they shall not take from us or overthrow this article: I believe a holy Christian Church, the communion of saints. 
Further, we say that we are not so much concerned to know whether the person baptized believes or not; for on that account Baptism does not become invalid; but everything depends upon the Word and command of God. This now is perhaps somewhat acute but it rests entirely upon what I have said, that Baptism is nothing else than water and the Word of God in and with each other, that is when the Word is added to the water, Baptism is valid, even though faith be wanting. For my faith does not make Baptism, but receives it. Now, Baptism does not become invalid even though it be wrongly received or employed; since it is not bound (as stated) to our faith, but to the Word.


Please read the rest of his writings on Baptism in the Large Catechism.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, Baptism saves, and we are commanded to be baptized, not dedicated, and to let God save us rather than attempting to do anything to save ourselves.



NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 4 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with the Bible, our Confessions, and Lutheran doctrine in general (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can not only correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1), but repent of my sin and learn the truth myself. Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I will defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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This is the next and final installment of my chapter-by-chapter review of Rev. Jonathan Fisk's Broken: 7 "Christian" Rules That Every Christian Ought To Break As Often As Possible  so if you missed the introductory piece, then please start there, and then follow that up with the other Chapter Reviews previously published in this series.


 
CHAPTER REVIEW: 'Broken' - 'Never #1 Educated Harlot (Mysticism)' 
CHAPTER REVIEW: 'Broken' - 'Never #2 The Cowardly Warrior (Moralism)' 
CHAPTER REVIEW: 'Broken' - 'Never #3 The Tyrant Scientist (Rationalism)'
CHAPTER REVIEW: 'Broken' - 'Never #4 The Party-Girl Church Lady (Prosperity)' 
CHAPTER REVIEW: 'Broken' - 'Never #5 The Prince of Salesmen (Pragmatism)'
CHAPTER REVIEW: 'Broken' - 'Never #6 Grandma Got Turned Into A Werewolf (Werechurch)'


It's been interesting for me to go back and reread one of the first distinctly Lutheran pieces of writing that I had ever put my hands on (even before getting my own copy of the Book of Concord, Small/Large Catechism, and Lutheran Study Bible) back when I fully embraced becoming a Confessional Lutheran.

I had forgotten just how life-altering and radical it was for me at the time to go from a sort of "American-Evangelical-Though-Self-Identifying-As-A-Non-Denominational-Spiritual-Island-Unto-Himself-Because-All-Denominations-Are-Bad" type of Christian to a Confessional Lutheran who was just starting to adhere to "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3), which is always Christ-centered and cross-focused, because it constantly proclaims Christ crucified for the sins of all mankind and nothing else.

For that reason, I've fallen in love with this book all over again and I hope that these meager Chapter Reviews will help to explain all the reasons why while also enticing you to pick up a copy for yourself as soon as possible.

Before we get to our next Chapter Review, however, let's quickly review Pastor Fisk's main purpose in writing this book.


"In this book, I will dissect this tactic of the thief. We will look at how the devil uses such good gifts from God as your heart, your mind, and your hands to try to trick you into placing your trust not in God but in yourself. We will explore the seven counterfeit 'Christian' rules he tries to play off as if they were authentic Christianity. We will expose these rules as patterns of thinking that try to break your faith in Christianity by creating doubt. We will call these philosophical systems what they are: lies. And then we will challenge those lies with the truth given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. The crow comes cawing, promising you freedom, but telling you that YOU must earn it. He promises you supernatural wisdom, but tells you that YOU must figure it out. He promises you comfort, but insists that YOU find it inside yourself. He tells you that you're just on the other side of glory, if only YOU can create it. He offers you the world, but he leaves you hanging on a cross all by yourself, fed up with it all and wondering in anger and frustration where Jesus is. He was supposed to make it all better. He does this the only way he can: he steals Jesus' words, and he uses YOU to do it. I am not going to let that happen." pp. 21-22


Like I said once before, that's quite refreshing in this day-and-age. It was incredibly refreshing when I first read it and it's incredibly refreshing to read it again now almost 4 years later.

Ok, but what about Chapter 7? What is the next lie that Satan uses against us so often?


VIDEO: Never #7 Seven Degrees Of You 
"Never follow a rule that doesn't like rules." 


So Chapter 7 introduces us to the seventh and final rule that every Christian ought to break as often as possible -- The Ever-Lie, or the belief that you find God yourself. The counterfeit "Christian" rule behind all other counterfeit "Christian" rules, then, is nothing more than worship of yourself.

This "Never #7" is that you "Never Follow A Rule In Order To Justify Yourself. Seriously."


Seems simple enough, doesn't it? And yet, what do we do?


Each of us has a desire to change the world, to make it be the way we think it should be. We each want to find deep inside ourselves the will and power to refuse to let life be any other way.  ... To this day, despite all the horrors it has brought on us, despite the sickness and the death, the pain and suffering, the enmity and deception, we humans continue to idolize self-reliance as if it were somehow our one chance to find the source of every blessing.
-- p. 231-232

To sum things up, Pastor Fisk later adds, "Its name and and its idol are the same: it is you; and your deception of you with false promises about you needs no other encouragement nor any other object of hope beyond the vacuous and willfully ignorant promise that somehow, someway, 'You can find God.'" (p. 195).

Personally, I found my re-reading of this particular chapter to be just what the Great Physician prescribed only a few days before Ash Wednesday. I found it to be quite convicting of the Old Adam withing and the Me, Myself, And I mentality that's always raging to exert full control over my heart and mind.

The rest of this chapter is pure spiritual gold, in my humble opinion! I mean, for a "Newtheran" like me when I read it for the first time (and, truthfully, even now when I read it again several years later), it is jam-packed with Biblical truths I had never encountered before.

From pointing out how Satan's scheme is the same as it was in the Garden of Eden ("Did God really say..."), to a brief discussion of the Doctrine of Vocation, to a reminder that we are simultaneously saints and sinners, these were entirely new concepts to my American Evangelical mind, but they were also a breath of fresh air too!

I learned that "The Ever-Lie" that "You Find God" is so pervasive in contemporary Christianity that "if we cannot confess that even all the best of our everything -- works, emotions, purposes, plans -- are all filthy rags, then it remains impossible for us to also believe God's own work and plan to save us from it" (page 241).

Why exactly? Well, "so long as you insist on justifying your own existence, it remains impossible for you to receive God's justification of you by grace alone" (page 241).

As usual, there is so much more I could say about this chapter, but that would ruin the fun of your discovering the truth for yourself and having an experience like I had. Just get the book! I've only been writing that repeatedly here so what are you waiting for?

In closing, here are some sobering thoughts from the book's final chapter that should serve as an appropriate exclamation point to this entire series...


The true value of a Christian is not what you do, but who you are in Jesus. 
The problem is the goodness we do is still sinful, and the goodness we need to receive can never come from us. It never has, and it never will, because it is the original goodness that comes from God alone. 
In the same way, the Christian life is not about trying to get close to God. The more you work to make yourself good for that purpose (which is ultimately for your own selfish sake and so not good at all!), the more you drive a wedge between yourself and the Creator, who never intended for you to be a source of goodness in the first place. 
The Christian life is the fact that you can't find God, but in words from and about Jesus, God has come close to you. Now, religion is not about doing but about being done to. Now you are freed to never need to find God, to never need to please God, to never need to explain yourself to God. In Jesus, God found you. 
In Jesus, God is already pleased with you. In Jesus' words, God explains yourself to you -- both your old self and your new, both killed and raised. In Jesus, God finds you, washes you, and feeds you with Himself. purging your sin but redeeming you. 
The object of Christian faith is not faith. That is to say, salvation by grace through faith is not salvation through faith in faith. The object of Christian faith is Jesus -- the person, work, and words of Jesus. 
Stop worrying about it so much and just enjoy it. When Christ sets you free, you are free indeed. No need to go trying to measure it in yourself. It is preached to you. 'It is finished!' Believe it! 
Sin will not go away. The Christian life is not the experience of victory. The broken rules we've studied in this book will not cease to tempt you, to deceive you, to hack and slash at your faith in this good news. But none of that can stop Jesus. He is the Christ, and you are His Christian, which means it is His work to regenerate you, to feed your faith, and to restore your sight so you see things for what they really are. This is faith, not to change the world, but to call a thing what it is and to believe that what it is has been made perfect in Jesus. 
Christianity isn't about what you can achieve right now. Christianity is about back then, the cross and the tomb. And it's about tomorrow (or whichever day it is that is coming very soon), when the reigning Lord will seal up the book of this age and open the Book of Life for the world to come. 
Believe it. Jesus is the rule every Christian must believe, not a law but a promise. All of the reasons you cannot find God in heart or hands or world or religion are because Jesus is the promise that God finds you. He's done it before, He's doing it right now, and He's going to keep it up forever. 
-- pp. 243-256


I hope you enjoyed this book review series that began way back in December 2015.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, please get your hands on this exceptional Christian book that you need to add to your own personal library right away if you haven't already.



NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 4 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with the Bible, our Confessions, and Lutheran doctrine in general (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can not only correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1), but repent of my sin and learn the truth myself. Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I will defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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