'Fellowship' At Any Cost? Where Is Jesus!?!

A Facebook friend asked the following question this morning...


LMW: Is it possible for the congregational community to become an idol? Our congregation has begun a study on the Book of Acts and the emphasis is on the example of community building done by the Apostles. The question earlier on, on worship becoming an idol, got me wondering.


Now, you might think that such a question is "absurd" or "ridiculous" even, but here's how another person responded...


EH: I'm worrying about this same thing, because the congregation I belong to is starting this congregational journey towards being more one body in Christ but all of a sudden I see less cross-focus and more people-focus...it saddens me greatly.


Precisely. Naturally, that excellent question (and the equally good responses) got me thinking.

See, the problem with the current emphasis on "community" and "fellowship" at any cost is that it ultimately produces a Christ-less Christianity that leads us to ask -- "Where Is Jesus!?!"

Of course, proponents of a "Fellowship At Any Cost!" church and ministry will tell you that Jesus is right where He said He'd always be, and that He's definitely a part of any of their organized fellowship experiences (Matthew 18:20 ESV "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them").

I'm not disputing the truthfulness of God's Word, but I am going to challenge this widely accepted notion that Matthew 18:20 applies to any and all types of "fellowship" as proponents would have us believe.

I guess it all comes down to our definition of fellowship and what we believe Jesus meant when He said "for where two or three are gathered in my name" because I'm not so sure He meant that anything-and-everything we do under the guise of "fellowship" today will qualify.

Simply because those taking part in such acts of "fellowship" are self-professing Christians, and especially if those same self-professing Christians are merely getting together to do something fun for themselves with each other rather than serving one another, serving their neighbor, and/or coming together to discuss His Word and Sacraments let's say, then I'm not comfortable agreeing and giving Fellowship At Any Cost proponents a free pass.

As always, we need to look at that often cited verse IN IT'S PROPER CONTEXT and not cherry pick it from the Scripture to mean what we want it to mean; to give a blessing to any activity we could possibly come up with as long as we're careful to call it an opportunity for "fellowship" as well.

In that sense, tacking on the "fellowship" tag to all of our church's social activities and events is sort of the same thing as tacking on the "In Jesus' Name" phrase at the end of a prayer or a sermon to give the appearance that what was just said is Biblically sound and perfectly consistent with our Confessions.

I propose that this sort of shift in ecclessiology (a.k.a the doctrines pertaining to the Christian Church and her purpose) is causing many to "have made shipwreck of their faith" (1 Timothy 1:19) perhaps without them even realizing it.

Let's face it, anything-and-everything that leads us to a "cross-less" Christianity is a bad thing, and likewise, anything-and-everything that leads us to place the emphasis and focus on someone or something other than our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, no matter how noble our intentions, is also a bad thing.

Here's my reply to the original poster's very important question...


 
Oh, I say Y-E-S for sure, IMHO! I think you can tell when this has happened once you notice the congregation elevating "fellowship" over-and-above everything else as though "fellowship" itself was a sacrament. The strange part is that a congregation's idea/use of "fellowship" most often deviates wildly from what the Bible describes as being "fellowship" or unity around the Word and Sacraments (Acts 2:42). Today, "fellowship" is simply anything-and-everything that promotes "deeper" and "stronger" bonds of "community/relationships" within a local church. So, that's why a church can and will host so many activities and events throughout the year and always describe them as "a great opportunity for fellowship!" even though washing people's cars and going bowling together will not include any believing, teaching, or confessing of "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3) whatsoever between parishioners let alone between the members of the church and the non-believing members of the local community.


What do you think though?

Let's take another look at Acts 2:42, which is the key verse central to this entire discussion.


Acts 2:42 (ESV) And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.


My dear friends, "the apostles' teaching" is simply "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3), and "the breaking of the bread" is simply the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.


Although we do not object if some interpret these passages as referring to the Sacrament, it does not make sense that only one part of the Sacrament was given. According to the ordinary usage of language, naming one part also means the other. 
[Apology of the Augsburg Confession XXII 7]


In short, the "they" mentioned in Acts are the Christians, and we are explicitly told that "the fellowship" they engaged in was the conscious pursuit of unity in doctrine and practice.

Plain and simple really, isn't it?

However, today's Christians would rather live a "spirit-filled" life fueled by friendships and feelings of the warm-and-fuzzy kind, but they do so at the expense of doctrine.

Look, I'm all for fellowship of the saints...as long as it's the kind of fellowship described in the Bible. Otherwise, all we're doing is opening ourselves up to false teachers and the false teachings they bring with them, and we all know (or should) that God's Word is overflowing with warnings to be on guard against such people and their perverted professions of faith.

Actually, come to think of it, my Bible study on Matthew 16 from this morning speaks directly to this important point. Matthew 16:1-12 is where Jesus Himself warns about the Pharisees' false teaching.

Please consider my comments on this passage of the text and how it relates to this discussion about the danger of the congregational community becoming an idol.


I look at Matthew 16 and see the stark contrast between "Those Who Do Not Confess Christ" and "Those Who Confess Christ" and how both are directly connected to the importance of what's being believed, taught, and confessed as God's truth. As the notes in my Lutheran Study Bible summarizes for us: "Too often, like the disciples, earthly needs and worries distract us. Jesus makes it clear that one thing is necessary: a focus on His teaching (Luke 10-38-42). When we abide in the Word of Jesus, we will know the truth (John 8:31-32). Lord Jesus, help me to hear Your Word and gladly keep it. Amen." Why is this so important, especially in connection with today's reading from Matthew 16? Galatians 5:9 gives us the clear answer when it says "a little leaven leavens the whole lump." Finally, I never heard it interpreted/taught this way before becoming a Lutheran, but Matthew 16:18's mention of "the gates of hell" is a figure of speech, meaning what causes a person to enter hell (Psalm 9:13; Psalm 107:18). Bede wrote: "The gates of Hell are wicked doctrines, which seduce men and bring them to Hell." Clearly, there is great emphasis placed upon guarding against false teaching and focusing on Christ's teaching in this chapter.


I'm not sure if I have it completely right when it comes to this topic of "fellowship" within Christ's Church, at large, today. However, I think this from Pastor Peters and his Pastoral Meanderings blog is a more proper (a.k.a. Biblical) way for us to begin thinking about our use of the term "fellowship" as opposed to the way in which we want to prefer to use it as though it were always tied to fun and pleasurable experiences.


We are called into the fellowship of His sufferings... I do not recall where I read that line but I jotted it down on a post it and now I can hardly turn away from its words. We are called into the fellowship of His sufferings. Who we were, who we are, and who we shall be all flow from His suffering. Our very identity as the children of God and the Church of Jesus Christ are rooted in His suffering. The blest tie that binds is no inward feeling or warmth but this fellowship of His sufferings. 
It was our suffering that drew us to God. The Lord said of His captive and enslaved people, "I know their sufferings..." Suffering is the language of love we learn from God. Jesus walked among the suffering and not only heard their pain but made it His own. In compassion He responded -- comforting, healing, and even raising the dead. It is suffering that binds us to Him. What is it that St. Paul says: "For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort." 2 Cor. 1:5-7 We are called into the fellowship of His sufferings and such is the condition of knowing the power of His resurrection. "...that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death..." Philip. 3:10 No less than St. Peter concurs and raises the stakes by making our sharing in Christ's sufferings the privilege of the faithful: "But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed." 1 Peter 4:13


We should think of the fellowship we have with Christ -- first and foremost -- rather than the fellowship we have with each other.

Please don't misunderstand me either. I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't care for one another or refrain from loving our neighbor. How absurd that would be! I'm merely suggesting that I think we too often think of fellowship in terms of being something that we can only have with other believers as opposed to something that we most certainly have with Christ through His death and resurrection on our behalf.

Isn't that just like fallen, sinful man to think of himself and others like him first without giving a single thought to the Person who purchased him with His own blood (Romans 3:11; Acts 20:28; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14).

So what of "true fellowship" then? And does such a thing even exist? Here's Hermann Sasse in his This is My Body: Luther’s Contention For The Real Presence In The Sacrament of The Altar and what he had to say about it...


Here lies the basic reason why church fellowship has been altar-fellowship, and vice versa, ever since New Testament times. The oldest traces of Christian liturgy in the new Testament prove that even at the time of the apostles the ‘holy kiss’, the kiss of brotherly love (agape) and peace (pax), was given at the beginning of the Eucharist (in the Eastern church it is still given before the Credo) or the Communion (in the Latin church). Whenever we find the exhortation in the New Testament: ‘Greet one another with a holy kiss’ (1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; Rom. 16:16; 1 Thess. 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14), this indicates that the reading of an apostolic epistle (otherwise, a sermon) was followed by the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The greetings attached to such passages testify to the fellowship that tied the local church to churches elsewhere and to the entire ‘brotherhood throughout the world’ (1 Peter 5:9). Thus, Holy Communion becomes the great Sacrament of the true unity of the Church. To believe in the Real Presence implies belief in the communion of saints as a reality existing within the Church. 
[Source]


That is true fellowship, true unity, my friends.


My concern is that this "Fellowship At Any Cost!" mentality that is sweeping throughout our churches today will only lead us to let our guard down against the false teachers and their false teachings they bring into the church with them.

The result? We open the front doors to our church, let the wolves walk right in, and invite everyone to come and pet them. Never good and never a happy ending.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, promoting fellowship at any cost will only lead us to do so at the expense of Word and Sacrament ministry.

Worse, it could very well lead to promulgating church fellowship with unspecified entities (a.k.a. other denominations) that do not necessarily hold to an orthodox understanding of the Gospel.

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. 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 not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. 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 we 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). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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SERMON: It's Always About The Cross of Christ -- Even When It's Not 'Holy Cross Day' (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)

I may have mentioned this before, but one of the things I really love about being a Confessional Lutheran is how our church actually has an actual "Church Calendar" that we follow year-after-year.

So, that means that I have been exposed to so many feasts and festivals that I never knew existed let alone exposed to some rich history and tradition pertaining to our shared and cherished faith; history and tradition whose sole purpose is to exalt Christ and preach Christ crucified to a world dead in its sins (1 Corinthians 9:16).

Take, for instance, the fact that today is the day we commemorate what's called "Holy Cross Day" that actually dates all the way back to AD 335!


 
You’ll notice that the color of our paraments today is red–in other words, something different from the ordinary green that we use in the non-festival half of the church year. This means that we’re observing a special festival today, one that happens to fall on a Sunday this year. And this festival is called Holy Cross Day. What is Holy Cross Day, you ask? Well, let me tell you the background of this observance. Back in the early 300s, the Roman Emperor Constantine became a Christian. Then in the year 326, his mother, Helena, made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and there she discovered what was believed to be the true cross of Christ. So they began to build a church on the site of that discovery, and, nine years later, it was dedicated–the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem. It’s still there, by the way; I’ve been there. So it came to be that on September 14, in the year 335, the holy cross itself was brought outside the church for the people to see. At least that’s how the story goes. And that seems to be the origin of Holy Cross Day. And this festival continues to be observed on this date among churches all around the world. Now whether or not St. Helena discovered the actual cross of Christ is really beside the point. The main point of this festival, as it is observed among us now, is to emphasize the central importance of the cross of Jesus Christ for our salvation and in our preaching and teaching. That’s what we are doing here today on this Holy Cross Day. And so our theme this morning: “But We Preach Christ Crucified.” “But we preach Christ crucified”: These words come from our Epistle for today, from 1 Corinthians 1, particularly this verse, where St. Paul writes: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 
*- Pastor Charles Henrickson

*******************************************************

During the reign of Constantine the Great, the first Roman Emperor to profess the Christian faith, his mother Helena went to Israel, hoping to find the places especially significant to Christians. Having located, close together, what she believed to be the sites of the Crucifixion and of the Burial (at locations that many modern archaeologists think may be correct), she then had built over them the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which was dedicated on 13 September 335. On the next day, the purported section of the cross was brought outside the church for others to view. Thus began a day for recognizing the cross of Christ in a festal atmosphere that would be inappropriate on Good Friday. It stands as a symbol of triumph, as a sign of Christ's victory over death, and a reminder of His promise, "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. (John 12:32)" The day is known by different names in various parts of Christendom. The Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholic Churches know it as "Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross" while the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church calls it the "Triumph of the Cross." Most other liturgical churches simply call it "Holy Cross Day."  
*- Aardvark Alley


Now that we've done a little history lesson, let's turn our focus to the foundation of our faith -- Jesus' work upon the cross for you and me.


1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (ESV) 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.


Yes, John 3:16 and Ephesians 2:8-9 are absolutely foundational to our faith as well (as is the rest of holy Scripture), but I particular like this passage from 1 Corinthians 1 since it speaks to the spirit of the age in which we live.

Of course, God's Word is relevant regardless of the place or the time period that fallen, sinful humanity finds itself in, but I find this portion of the text to be a powerful rebuttal to the post-modern, politically correct crowd that make up the "Liberal Progressive" wing of contemporary Christianity.

On second thought, I suppose it's also the perfect rebuttal to those who always want to talk about "Unity At Any And All Costs!" over, above, and at the expense of unity around doctrine and our confessions that point us back to that doctrine (Ephesians 4; Jude 1:3).

Our sermons (yes, "sermon" with an "s" -- as in "more than one sermon") for today underscore the importance of this Biblical text. The first is from way back in 2011 delivered by Pastor Tom Chryst (or the same Pastor we referenced in last week's Sunday Sermon Series post) at his Preachrblog. The second is from no stranger to the A Lutheran Layman blog, and none other than, Pastor Tony Sikora.


“Preaching Foolishness”  
“That's the stupidest thing I ever heard!” Anyone ever said that to you, or about something you happen to believe? Is there anything more insulting or disquieting than to have someone question one of the major tenets of your faith – or to suggest that the whole thing is rubbish? 
And don't think it doesn't happen. For many of the doctrines of the Christian faith are disturbing to those who don't believe them. Sure there are the live-and-let-live types. But to those who take the time to understand what Christianity actually teaches – they are often angered or offended. And they'll sometimes tell you how foolish they think you are to believe it. 
But this isn't a sermon about them. This is a sermon for us. What does it do to us when someone tells us our faith is stupid? That we are fools? Does even a part of us believe it? 
We are tempted, not just by such attacks. We are tempted even by our own minds, to place our reason before faith, our own ideas and thoughts before the word of God. And when we do, we usually come to the wrong conclusion. 
Luther called reason the “Devil's bride” and the “Greatest enemy of the faith”. One quote attributed to Luther reads, “Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and … know nothing but the word of God” He also said, "All the articles of our Christian faith, which God has revealed to us in His Word, are in presence of reason sheerly impossible, absurd, and false." 
So Dr. Luther agrees with St. Paul, that the message of the cross is foolishness, a scandal, utterly unreasonable. 
But. To us who are being saved.... a different story. To us who are being saved, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. Still, there's this conflict within us... 
Sin often seems so reasonable. Just a little cheating here won't hurt. A little lying there and no one will know. I'll get rid of this inconvenience and I'll ignore that word of God – it's just not practical. God's ways don't make sense to us. Wouldn't it be better to do it my way? 
I know God said, “don't eat from that tree”. But it looks so good and I want to be wise. God said, “Honor thy Father and Mother”, but they just don't know what it's like to be a teenager. God said, “do not give up meeting together”, but I could really use a day off this weekend. God said, “pray for your enemies”, but I really hate that guy! God said, “love your neighbor”, but that person doesn't seem worth it... and on and on... 
But in reality sin is entirely unreasonable. How many times do we do what's wrong even though we know better. Even though we know we'll get caught, we'll pay the consequences one way or another. Even though we know that sin brings death, and pain, and punishment. And yet we go and sin – for some inexplicable reason. 
Reason, human, corrupted, sinful reason, must bow to the foolishness of God. What we think, and what we think we know, must always come after what God says is true. Even if it seems unreasonable. 
And thank God for such foolishness. What kind of foolish God would do what he does? Come down from heaven, be born a human. Be mocked. Suffer. Die. Forgive sinners. Love people who hate him. Do it all for people who do everything but his will. Jesus is either the biggest fool who ever lived, or his foolishness is bigger and better than we can imagine. 
Paul says God uses the weak things of this world to shame the strong. There's no one stronger in this world than Satan himself. And there's nothing weaker than dying in humility on a cross. And there it is. The foolishness of God. The cross. 
So we preach Christ Crucified. It's the only way. It's the only wisdom for us foolish sinners. It's the only power for those of us weakened even to death. Jesus dies, for you and me, for all. The Lord of life dies to bring life. The All-Powerful God submits to petty and unjust human punishments, the judge of all, the king of all, submits to cowardly Pilate. 
And in a fit of further foolishness, God turns things upside down again – bringing Jesus from death to life. Back from the dead. Who would ever have thought? What worldly wisdom could have predicted? But no, it's against all reason and wisdom and common sense. But it is by such foolishness that we are saved. In fact without the resurrection, our faith is in vain, as Paul says. 
So the next time someone calls you a fool for believing in Jesus, you might agree. But remember that God's foolishness is wiser than man's wisdom. The next time sin seems reasonable to you, repent! And in your weakness turn to the only strength we have – the weakness and foolishness of Christ. We preach Christ Crucified.. for you! The power and wisdom of God are in him, for you.


Awesome, wasn't it?

Now, I know that this entry is already running long, and that we're all pressed for time today as it is, but if my humble task is to provide all of you with some excellent examples of faithful preaching on a specific set of Bible verses, then I just can't stop there so please bear with me for just a little longer.


A Foolish, Silly, Stupid Little Word Really Does Save You  
Beloved in the Lord, 
Words Really Do Hurt 
Some of my favorite TV commercials are those Gieco commercials. Those commercials tell me things I didn’t know before. Not only can I save 15% on car insurance but I’ve also learned that owls are not that wise, pinnochio is a bad motivational speaker, Old McDonald was a really bad speller, and Words really do hurt. 
That last one gets me every time. The cowboy is riding off into the sunset and across the screen reads “The End” as the Cowboy literally rides into the letter E and is knocked off of his horse. Words really can hurt you. But unlike the other factoids Geico shares with us in their commercials, everyone really does already know that. 
Words really can hurt you. We’ve heard them and we’ve said them, we’ve felt them. Words have power. And too often that power is used wrongly. “I hate you!” screams the teenager to her parents. “I wish you were never born” replies the parent. “I don’t love you anymore” says the man to his wife. Or “I’ve found someone else” says the wife to her husband. Words have power and that power can be, has been, used to hate. 
But Words can hurt without malice. “You have cancer.” “Your daughter was in a car accident.” “Your son was injured in battle” These are words no person wants to hear but in our fallen world too many hear every day. Words really can hurt you. Words like these, whether born of hatred or brokenness strike the heart with the reality of our world and our life. And as these words pierce through to our soul we are led to search for a revelation from God, a word, a sign, an intervention, anything that can help us understand, help us through, help us move on. Thus God gives us the Word of the cross. 
Actions Not Words?  
But the Word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. The Word of the cross is folly, silly, even stupid to those who don’t believe. After all, what good can a Word about a Jewish man dying on a tree do for me today? How can words like these save my marriage or bring my dad home? How can words so old heal my heart? And it’s not just “how can words in general do any good?” but more importantly it’s how can these Words do me any good. These words don’t make sense. These words talk about suffering and death. And resurrection? Whoever heard of such a thing? No one comes back from the dead. Dead means dead and nothing can change that. 
Thinking ourselves wise, we foolishly think that we don’t need words. What we need is actions. “Actions speak louder than words.” Because actions got us into this mess we think actions should be able to get us out. In our wisdom we think actions are more powerful than words. We suppose that actions get things done. Actions do things, change things, exert power. We see that in our everyday lives. We feel it for better or for worse. And in our wisdom we think God should do the same, act the same. 
And so we often hear “Deeds not creeds.” We apply the world’s wisdom to spirituality. If our actions caused this mess – which we have to admit, they did. Sin came into the world through one man and through one man all sinned and therefore all die. Yeah, our actions in Adam then and in us today did it and we know it. We feel it. We hear about it. So, if our actions did it, and if our actions are doing it, then what God wants is for us to change our actions! Stop doing it. Start making it better. That makes sense doesn’t it? Stop sinning and be nice. Just be nice to each other. 
But in our wisdom we have become fools. We have become fools because we think ourselves too big and that our actions can make things better. And we think God is too small that He should use words to change the world. We think that if He doesn’t do great and mighty and magnificent and magnanimous and awesome deeds for us to see and feel, then He really isn’t doing anything special. He really isn’t doing anything worth our attention. He really isn’t doing anything good for us. That’s why so many stumble and chase after the wrong sorts of spiritualities. So many want to see and to feel rather than hear and believe. To them, seeing is believing and hearing is boring. 
Through The Foolishness of Preaching 
The Lord does not call you see and feel. He calls you to listen. “The Word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Jews seeks after signs and wonders. They want to see why they should believe in Jesus. Greeks seek after wisdom because they want everything to make sense. Sometimes you want signs. Sometimes you want to make sense of things. Sometimes you want to see. Sometimes you want to understand. But God gives us the Word of the Cross. Through preaching God changes things. Preaching the Word of the Cross changes things, changes people, changes you if you believe it. This Word of the cross is the Word made flesh for you. This Word of the Cross is the Word who dwelt among us. He came to His own but His own preferred signs and wonders. He came unto the world, but the world wanted to be bigger than God. And so His own rejected Him and the Gentiles crucified Him. The Word of the Cross is God crucified. This fleshly Word, this crucified Word, this Word who suffered under Pontius Pilate was crucified dead and buried, is God’s Word for you to receive today, tomorrow, and forevermore. This Word offered Himself for your actions, your hatred, your hurts, your sin, and your death. This Word is a mighty Word, so mighty that even in weakness, even in death, He forgives. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” 
It is not a mighty deed which the Lord gives for us to see and to experience and to feel in order for us to have it as our own, in order to make it “real” for us. No! The Lord gives us His Word, the Word made flesh. The Word crucified. The Word dead and buried. The Word resurrected on the third day. Through the preaching of this Word to the nations God gives His Heart into the ears of the peoples. Through this Word this morning God is giving His Heart into your ears this morning. I know, its sounds crazy. It sounds ridiculous. It doesn’t make sense that God would do such a thing, suffer the way Jesus did, and then rise on the third day. It doesn’t make sense that Words like these have the power to save, forgive, renew, and resurrect. But this is the Word God has given. And through this Word the wisdom of the world is undone. Through this word the mouths of debaters are stopped up. Through this Word of the cross the one who would accuse you is silenced forever. 
Words Work God’s Actions 
Without the Word of the Cross Christianity ceases to exist. No matter how pious the actions of her members, without the Word of the Cross there is no faith. Faith in Christ is borne out of the preaching of the Word of the cross. “Faith comes from hearing and hearing the message of Christ.” Faith does not come from doing. Forgiveness of sins is not earned. Salvation is not a work for us to accomplish. Therefore the Word of the cross is not only central but foundational for anyone who would be called Christian. The Word of the cross is not only central but foundational for you. God wants all men, women, and children, to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth as revealed in His Word. God wants you and your families to be saved through the power of His Word. How do I know this? I hear about it in God’s Word. How do I know God means me? The Word of the cross is actually preached to me. The Bible says, “God so loved the World that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish have everlasting life." I’m part of this world. You’re part of this World. Therefore God means me and God means you. There is no one left out. No one God doesn’t want to save. In hearing the Word of the Cross I am hearing God Himself tell me of His great love for me and all people. In hearing the Word of the Cross I am hearing of the great length to which God Himself went in order to win my salvation. I am hearing what was necessary for God to forgive me of my sins, defeat my death, and assure me of the resurrection of my body on the last day. In the Word of the Cross I am hearing God’s heart for me. I am hearing powerful words, words that do things for me, words that do things to me, Holy Words that change things, Holy Words that change me. 
The Word of The Cross Really Does God’s Things 
Beloved in the Lord, we already know that words really can hurt. We don’t have to ride off into the sunset only to hit our heads in the end. Words really do have power. The word of the cross has power. And this power is not manifested in hate but is the manifestation of God’s love for you. His Word really does holy things for you and to you. And His Word is here for you this morning. Through the Word of the cross those hurtful words we’ve felt and spoken are forgiven. Through the Word the Lord God is able to share Himself with you, wash you of your sins, comfort you in your hurts, strengthen you in your trials, encourage you when you’re down, and give you hope when the brokenness of this world imposes on us. Through the Word of the cross the love of God is proclaimed. Therefore beloved, lift high the cross! Take this word to heart. Believe it for yourself and allow the love of God to be ring out in your life through your actions. Hear the Word. Believe the Word. Receive the Word, and then speak the Word! The Word of the cross is the power of God and the wisdom of God for you and for the world. AMEN! 
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!


Again, I know this is all a lot to digest, but for those of us who don't have a church home right now (and not by choice) or who are coming to the realization that it's finally time to leave their church for a more faithful and orthodox one, this is what makes the Internet and Christian Blogosphere such a blessing.

Take the time to read through both sermons S-L-O-W-L-Y with your Bible open and next to you. I can assure you that this is the kind of Christ-centered preaching that we all should be hearing on a weekly basis, but so often don't.

It's just as Pastor Charles Henrickson pointed out in a sermon of his own today...


Not everybody wants to hear the message of Christ crucified. They’d rather hear something else instead. The word of the cross is not very appealing to them. But, Paul insists, even though other messages might be more popular, we will continue to preach Christ crucified. 
Is this relevant for us today? Oh, you bet it is! We live in a time and in a culture where it is a great challenge to remain true to the word of the cross, to remain faithful in preaching Christ crucified. Such preaching is not very popular at all. No, we live in a day and age when most people would much rather hear something else. Preach Christ crucified as the heart and core and center of your sermons, and it’s very possible your church will be small and struggling when it comes to attendance and offerings. Preach a different message, how-to sermons–well, don’t even call them “sermons,” that sounds too churchy–preach how to live a more successful, happy life, and your numbers will increase. That’s what people want these days, and you’ve got to keep the customers satisfied, if you want to have a successful megachurch. 
What do Americans demand? What do they seek? Americans demand practicality. Americans seek entertainment. Americans seek advice for achieving their goal of a happier life now. Americans seek excitement and bright shiny things that will hold their attention. Jokes and stories, sentimental stories, principles for successful living and self-improvement–that’s the ticket! And so that’s what their preachers give them. Not Christ crucified, not the word of the cross, but those other things. St. Paul predicted this, you know, in 2 Timothy 4: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” 
So there is pressure on preachers today to tell people what they want to hear, rather than to stay true to what God would have us preach. Pastors can even feel the pressure from their own church members. “Pastor, it sounds so depressing, all this ‘dying for our sins’ stuff. Can’t you preach something more uplifting?” Well, I can’t think of anything more truly uplifting than the message of the Son of Man being lifted up on the cross, which forgives our sins and lifts us up to heaven. “Pastor, can’t you lay off the cross and sin and grace, and instead tell more funny stories? That’s what people want these days. That will grow our church and increase our offerings! And you know what that means, don’t you?” Yeah, it means I will have forsaken my calling, robbed Christ of his glory, and robbed people of the comfort they need. And so, like St. Paul, we will resist the culture and stick to preaching Christ crucified. 
Why is the word of the cross so offensive? Because it goes against our grain to have to admit that we need the Son of God dying on a cross to put us right with God. We don’t think we’re that bad that we need such a solution. We’d rather do it ourselves–if indeed we even think we need saving. But we do. The truth is, each one of us, you and I–we all have sinned and fall short of what God would have us be. This sinful nature, and the actual sins that we commit–these condemn us death. And death would be our lot, death under God’s judgment, if not for the cross. We need more than we can muster on our own. 
We need Jesus, the Savior sent from heaven and lifted up on the cross. There he died, the innocent for the guilty, shedding his holy blood on that holy cross. This was God’s hidden wisdom, his great plan to redeem sinful mankind, but in a way that looks weak and powerless. The Son of God, suffering in shame and silence, taking the punishment that you and I deserve. 
And that is why Paul says so strongly, “But we preach Christ crucified.” Why does he insist on this? Is he being obstinate? No, rather, it’s about salvation–your salvation.


In a Lutheran layman's terms, on this Holy Cross Day -- and each and every day, in fact -- we will not be ashamed of the cross.


NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. 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 not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. 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 we 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). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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Lutherandom Musings Along Memory Lane (Saturday 9/13/14)

Remember when Saturday mornings used to be so much fun when you were a kid?

For me, I'd usually stay up as late as I could the night before (after what I thought was such a "hard" and "long" week at school), and then sleep in as late as I wanted to on Saturday morning.

The best part? Whether Dad would make us breakfast or not (his French Toast!), the even better part of my Saturday mornings growing up was plopping myself down in front of our TV to watch cartoon after cartoon! You know, the kind that were only on once-a-week and not available in an instant through YouTube and/or Netflix?

I thought about that recently and decided it might be cool to come up with a new weekly tradition of sorts for us adults to enjoy each and every Saturday morning now that we're all grown up (ok, at least some of us more than others anyway). I mean, isn't it time for us to look forward to Saturday mornings again?

Besides, it will be good for us to recall that childlike faith in fun and laughter if only for a few moments each week. You'll remember that laughter was for Luther a sign of divine grace and also an antidote against the devil too.

From the very beginning, humor had been a theological topic for Martin Luther, embracing the dramatic scope of his whole world view. He himself explained: "When I was unable to chase away the devil with serious words of with the Scripture, I often expelled him with pranks." And so this unique concept is born! Ok, so it's really not all that "cool" or "original" or "fun" to be sure, but it will be our new tradition here, and I'll try to make it worthwhile too. So who's with me then?

Please keep in mind, it won't be flashy, and it will hardly grab and hold your attention like a classic episode of the Care Bears, G.I. Joe, Thundercats, or Voltron would, but these "Lutherandom Musings Along Memory Lane" should satisfy the Confessional Lutheran's appetite for a balanced breakfast that includes your VDMA Vitamins like Vitamin A (Amusement), Vitamin B (Best of the Blogs), Vitamin C (Confessional), Vitamin D (Doctrine), and Vitamin E (Everything Else).

Each Saturday morning, God willing, I'll do my best to share some of the things I remember coming across in my unpredictable journey through Cyberspace during the week (hence, the "Along Memory Lane" part). Of course, this is also where the things you send me via email (if any) will show up too.

Ok, enough with all the commercials! Let's get the show started already, shall we?




8:00AM DOSE OF VITAMIN A (AMUSEMENT): Here's what I think about the President's comments during Wednesday night's speech about ISIS/ISIL. This is what happens when you worship at the Altar of Political Correctness.


8:30AM DOSE OF VITAMIN B (BEST OF THE BLOGS):
Rev. Eric J. Brown recently asked the question "Who's Afraid of The Big Bad Gospel?" and it is definitely on point! He writes: "The parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector always gives me a bit of mixed emotions. On the one hand, it is my favorite of the parables. It is the 'Lutheran' Parable - it is Lutheranism in a nutshell. It is 'Salvation Unto Us Has Come' in parable form. It's the first one I remember learning in Lutheran Day School - the simplest and most basic point of the Christian faith - we are forgiven by God on account of grace, not our works. But on the other hand, it depresses me. Why? Because I see just how harshly it cuts across the grain of the church today (really, pretty much the church in all times, but hey, I live today). The parable is such strong Gospel, but the problem is, we've become afraid of the Gospel. We have to add caveats. We want to add on extra stuff to keep us safe from the end - this man went down to his house justified. But where were his obvious fruits of repentance!? But where was his progress in sanctification!? But how could the priest REALLY know he was sorry for his sins!? But did he stop being a tax collector!? But did he increase his giving to a tithe level!? We are so afraid of the Gospel. We are afraid of who might 'accidentally' hear it when they aren't 'supposed' to. We want to see actions, we want to have something tangible to judge and compare (and line up our contempt) with...and the parable doesn't keep going - it doesn't leave us any latch to continue to judge or compare. It just says that the tax collector is forgiven. And the dude with all the works - he isn't. The Gospel terrifies the Old Man because it leaves nothing for man, for the hearer to do. It doesn't revolve around the hearer, it is not curved in upon man. It simply forgives, freely, without any merit or worthiness in the one receiving. And the Old Control Freak that would rather be God Himself is terrified of that. But now, today - today is the day and age of the Old Adam. The Liar has convinced us that in the face of the moral decline of society and the cultural abandonment of Christianity and the (re-)rise of militant Islam, the Gospel just won't cut it anymore. We NEED to know who is good and who is bad and who is doing the stuff they are supposed to be doing - we need to know the villains of the piece...and the Gospel just gets rid of villains. Shoot, it makes us love our enemies. It makes us love those people destroying America, and possibly even ending up with them forgiven and with us for all eternity. Eternity with a tax collector? Surely you jest! So let us thank God that we are not like all these crazy forces around us and talk about how we are growing and maturing and see all that we do, and did we not do great things in your name, Lord? This man went down to his house justified rather than the other one. God be merciful to me, the sinner!"


9:00AM DOSE OF VITAMIN C (CONFESSIONAL):
Pastor Donavon Riley on Article V of the Augsburg Confession: "Article V of the Augsburg Confession states: 'To obtain such faith God instituted the office of preaching, giving the Gospel and the sacraments' (German). That means, no more prophets who have the Spirit fall on them one day so they can go out and bring about repentance, no more temple sacrifice and Levitical priesthood, and no more covenant signs like circumcision. All these 'means' have now become 'old' on account of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Instead, the office of preaching offers something entirely 'new' in the form of a public service where God gives his Word and sacraments to sinners as through means (German) or instruments (Latin). Thus, the Augsburg Confession understands ministry as an instrument, – not a 'co-redeemer' – a holy instrument played by the Holy Spirit. God institutes this office of preaching by sending his Son, who is the living Word, to be a preacher: preaching forgiveness, cross, and resurrection. Jesus then gives his words to those he calls, authorizing them to preach what he preached, and so the preacher becomes the preached. That is, 'we preach Christ and him crucified.' Through these preachers, preaching the two words of law and the Gospel 'he gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when he wills, in those who hear the gospel.' Equally as important for this confession, then, is the assertion that the Holy Spirit never speaks a word apart from or in addition to Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God lets the letter of law kill, and then gives life. Through the office of preaching alone the Spirit does this. The office of preaching is therefore the fulcrum of the universe, 'not on account of our own merits but on account of Christ, [who] justifies those who believe that they are received into grace on account of Christ.' (Latin). An important matter must now be addressed because here, at this point, the old Adam will attempt to assert himself and make the office anecdotal, but killing and making alive is never the preacher’s job as a personal responsibility. Killing and making alive is what the Holy Spirit is doing with the preacher who is God’s instrument. Therefore, Article V continues, condemned are the Anabaptists and others (German and Latin) 'who think that the Holy Spirit comes to human beings without the external Word through their own preparations and works' (Latin). That the Holy Spirit works in this particular way, apart from 'their own preparations and works,' through preaching, has greatly disturbed this old world and its normal religions. Why?" For the answer to that question, you can CLICK HERE.


9:30AM DOSE OF VITAMIN D (DOCTRINE): 1 Timothy 6:2-10 (ESV) "2 Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved. Teach and urge these things. 3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs." My Lutheran Study Bible says about this passage: "Worthless matters only serve to distract souls from the sound words and teaching (1 Timothy 6:3). The universal and timeless truth of 1 Timothy 6:7 is recognized by those possessing godliness with contentment (1 Timothy 6:6), but ignored by those who are ambitious only for earthly gain (1 Timothy 6:5). The necessities of life come from God (1 Timothy 6:8). The temptation for riches acts as a trap (1 Timothy 6:9). Money itself is not inherently evil, but the love of it is. Rather than being content with what we have, we by nature covet the things we do not have. Those who covet often see money as a wonderful solution to all of life's problems. But those who love money are in grave danger; they risk losing their faith in Christ. Our Savior has blessed us with the riches of his priceless salvation. Nothing can separate us from His love. As He tenderly cares for us through His Word of promise, we are able to enjoy lives of godliness with contentment. All that we can take with us when we leave this world is the life and immortality that Jesus has given us through faith -- and that is more than enough! Give us grace, dear Lord, rightly to regard the wealth we call our own, that it might not be a curse in our lives but a blessing. Amen."


10:00AM DOSE OF VITAMIN E (EVERYTHING ELSE):
Here's Martin Luther on solitude and depression from his Table Talk: "More and graver sins are committed in solitude than in the society of one’s fellow men. The devil deceived Eve in paradise when she was alone. Murder, robbery, theft, fornication, and adultery are committed in solitude, for solitude provides the devil with occasion and opportunity. On the other hand, a person who is with others and in the society of his fellow men is either ashamed to commit a crime or does not have the occasion and opportunity to do so. Christ promised, 'Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.' Christ was alone when the devil tempted him. David was alone and idle when he slipped into adultery and murder. I too have discovered that I am never so likely to fall into sins as when I am by myself. God created man for society and not for solitude. This may be supported by the argument that he created two sexes, male and female. Likewise God founded the Christian church, the communion of saints, and instituted the sacraments, preaching, and consolations in the church. Solitude produces depression. When we are alone the worst and saddest things come to mind. We reflect in detail upon all sorts of evils. And if we have encountered adversity in our lives, we dwell upon it as much as possible, magnify it, think that no one is so unhappy as we are, and imagine the worst possible consequences. In short, when we are alone, we think of one thing after another, we leap to conclusions, and we interpret everything in the worst possible light. On the other hand, we imagine that other people are very happy, and it distresses us that things go well with them and evil with us."


Sorry, but that's all I have for you this week.


In a Lutheran Layman's terms, you've been fed a balanced spiritual diet this morning so I hope you're full and wide awake and ready to face the day.


Grace and peace to you and yours!

NOTE: NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. 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 not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a Lutheran-In-Name-Only at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that perhaps wouldn't be too big a deal for us Lutherans. 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 we 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). Finally, please know that any time we engage in interpreting a specific portion of Scripture exegetically, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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Evangelizing The Evangelical: The Divine Liturgy Explained

As a former Evangelical, I wanted to start a new series called "Evangelizing The Evangelical" to help confess "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3) to those who believe the things that I once believed.

After all, the thought of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering from a lack of assurance due to a conscience that is never really comforted by their good works "In Jesus' Name!" let alone their own perceived "stage of sanctification" brings back far too many bad memories.

It makes me think about how I wish I would've been exposed to the Lutheran faith a lot earlier in life (the complete Lutheran confession of the faith and not some Lutheran-In-Name-Only substitute) and how that would've made all the difference given the Biblical, Christ-centered focus. In other words, it would've been great to have been taught not just who Martin Luther was and what he did, but what makes being a Lutheran different from all the other confessions and denominations of the Christian faith.

Without being anchored to anything historical and orthodox, I was left to drift off on my own toward what I thought was the "True Jesus Christ" as portrayed by contemporary American Evangelicalism, but in reality was anything but (Matthew 15:14; Ephesians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:3-4).

So, that's a quick explanation about why this series was born. I can't think of a better entry for our next installment of such a series than to take a closer look at something Evangelicals downplay if not completely ignore.



 
What Is The Divine Liturgy And Why Is It Important? 
It has been mentioned several times that Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL has in its pew racks a laminated 9″x14″ (7″ wide folded) pamphlet that describes the Divine Service. This is useful for visitors or those unfamiliar with the liturgical service. It’s been seen by many at BJS conferences held at the church over the past several years. The Brothers of John the Steadfast has worked with Bethany to make this available to other churches. We’ve spent some time working on this document to make it as clear as possible for people unfamiliar with our services. The first version available for public distribution is found below. We would appreciate everyone at least reviewing it, and leaving any comments that would help readers understand it be posted below. 
*CLICK HERE TO READ THE PAMPHLET THAT GIVES A BRIEF BUT COMPREHENSIVE BIBLICAL EXPLANATION OF THE DIVINE LITURGY*



If you're still a little unsure as to why the Liturgy is important and how it denotes a clear difference between Evangelicals and Lutherans, then please set aside 60 minutes to watch and listen to this video lecture.

It features Pastor William Weedon, LCMS Director of Worship/International Center Chaplain, from an interview he gave to Ad Crucem Live, and it's specifically designed to introduce Evangelicals to the historic Divine Liturgy.


Introducing American Evangelicals To The Historic Liturgy 

 
After watching that, why in the world would we ever want to do away with the "Traditional Worship Service" and replace it with a "Contemporary Worship Service" instead? That's why I'm desperately seeking a faithful LCMS Church nearby for me and my family to attend as soon as possible.

Below is the link to the 24-part series that Pastor Weedon did on the Historic Liturgy for Issues, Etc. where he explains each and every single part of the Liturgy.


Issues, Etc.: Historic Liturgy Series With Pastor Will Weedon

 
I need to say one more thing here. A proper understanding that the Divine Liturgy wasn't just something "symbolic" that we did as a matter of tradition to "prove our love" and/or "show our obedience" to God was absolutely essential in helping me to see the errors in the things I had believed, taught, and confessed for so long.

The shift in thinking from "ME For Christ" to "CHRIST For Me" wasn't easy (and I still battle my "Old Evangelical Adam" from time-to-time), but it was a welcomed relief.

What I love most about the Divine Liturgy is that it keeps the focus where it belongs -- on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Not only that, but a proper understanding of the Biblical foundation for practicing the Divine Liturgy is what also helped me to finally realize the importance of going to church regularly to receive God's gifts for me, which I so desperately need after a long week stained by sin.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, this is the kind of Bible study that I wish I had been exposed to some 10 years ago, because perhaps then I would've been able to avoid sailing the "Works Righteousness Waters of American Evangelicalism" for as long as I did (almost making a shipwreck of my faith; 1 Timothy 1:19) before I came to rest upon the "Saved By Grace Alone, Through Faith Alone, In Christ Alone Shores" of the catholic, historic, traditional Confessional Lutheran faith.

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. 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 not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. 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 we 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). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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9/11 Through Martin Luther's Eyes: 'No Wars For The Sake of Religion'

Today marks 13 years since that dreadful morning on September 11th, 2001.

We all know exactly what we were doing and precisely where we were when our world changed forever as though it happened only yesterday.

As with most things related to any kind of retrospective on 9/11, including how our lives are still affected by the events of that sunny September morning even to this very day (as evidenced by last night's speech by the President of the United States), we're constantly fed the political perspective and perhaps rarely ever stop to consider the spiritual perspective.

As Christians, we know the reality of the situation though.


Ephesians 6:12 (ESV) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.


Behind earthly opponents stand demonic forces.

In the modern world, the spiritual dimension if often overlooked or ignored completely.

We view our problems -- and try to solve them -- in purely human terms too.

Take war, for instance. Is war ever justified? What is the proper Biblical view of war and those who take part in it? Can you be a soldier fighting in a war and still be a Christian?

I know that those are questions that have been asked and debated long before I was here and they are questions that will continue to be asked and debated long after I publish this piece too.

Still, I've always found it so strange that there is so much heated disagreement about this subject when God's Word seems pretty clear on the matter.


Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (ESV) 1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7 a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.


The Byrds
were right to remind us of God's Word, which says there's a time for everything...yes, even war.

With that in mind, and in remembrance of 9/11, today I'd like to share with you 13 different things (1 for each year since September 11th, 2001) that Martin Luther wrote about war from a Christian perspective and for the Christian.

Luther had a a remarkable ability to write profound truths (derived from holy Scripture, of course) so simply that anyone could understand what he was saying. I hope today's series of statements from him will provide comfort to your conscience.

In What Luther Says compiled by Ewald M. Plass, Plass writes...


IN LUTHER'S DAY there were those who questioned the right of waging war of any kind. In 1526 the Reformer ventilated this question in his little writing entitled Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved.


So, we see the same battle being waged within Christendom and the conscience back then as we do today. That should, hopefully, bring us some measure of comfort as we continue (Ecclesiastes 1:9).


 
9/11 THROUGH MARTIN LUTHER'S EYES: 
'NO WARS FOR THE SAKE OF RELIGION' 
4611 NO WARS FOR THE SAKE OF RELIGION 
ABOVE ALL, no man should fight for the Gospel with a sword of steel. Though deeply religious, Luther was strongly opposed to crusades, as appears, for instance, from his writing on war against the Turks (published April 1529). 
This urging and hounding with which hitherto the emperor and princes have been urged to fight against the Turks should stop. As the head of Christendom, as the guardian of the church and the protector of the faith, the emperor has been called upon to extirpate the faith of the Turk; and men have based their urging and exhorting on the wickedness and vice of the Turks. But this should not be done; for the emperor is not the head of Christendom, nor is he the guardian of the Gospel or the faith. The church and the faith must have a Protector who is different from emperor and kings. As a rule, these are the worst enemies of Christendom and of the faith, as the Second Psalm (v.2) and the church everywhere complain. Moreover, by this urging and exhorting they only make matters worse and incense God the more because thereby they trespass on His honor and work and would ascribe these to men. This is idolatry and blasphemy. Besides, if the emperor is to extirpate unbelievers and non-Christians, he would have to begin with the pope, the bishops, and clerics. Maybe he would have to spare neither himself nor us. ... The sword of the emperor has nothing to do with the faith; it pertains to the bodily, worldly affairs. Let it be wielded THERE. God will become angry with us if we confuse and confound His order; He will turn about and confound us by all sorts of calamities, as is written: "With the froward Thou wilt show Thyself froward" (Psalm 18:26).


Controversial? Politically incorrect? Irrelevant? What do you think?

I know that in our post-modern age our knee-jerk reaction is to respond to any talk of a so-called "just war" with protest and scorn.

However, I encourage you to continue reading through this series of quotes today instead of just taking one or two of them in a vacuum, because they will have an order to them as Luther makes his case Biblically.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, hatred and death are found everywhere, and war does not last forever, nor does peace (Ecclesiastes 3:8). True peace is found only in the Lord, our Prince of Peace and Savior, Jesus Christ (Isaiah 9:6) who overcame sin and death for us, for you (Romans 6:23; John 3:16; Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10; Hebrews 2:17).

What do I mean by that, you ask?

Here is what the Gospel is all about and why we consider it "Good News" too...


Human beings have not kept the law of God but have transgressed it. Their corrupted human nature, thoughts, words, and deeds battle against the law. For this reason they are subject to God's wrath, to death and all temporal afflictions, and to the punishment of the fires of hell. As a result, the Gospel, in its strict sense, teaches what people should believe, namely, that they receive from God the forgiveness of sins; that is, that the Son of God, our Lord Christ, has taken upon Himself the curse of the law and borne it, atoned and paid for all our sins; that through Him alone we are restored to God's grace, obtain the forgiveness of sins through faith and are delivered from death and all the punishments of our sins and are saved eternally. . . . It is good news, joyous news, that God does not want to punish sin but to forgive it for Christ's sake.


That, my friends, is what's really important to take away from this series today.

Remember, God is crystal clear in His Word...


Romans 3:23 (ESV) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 


Romans 6:23 (ESV) For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Hebrews 9:27 (ESV) And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,


2 Peter 3:9 (ESV) The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

John 3:16 (ESV) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 14:6 (ESV) Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.



NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. 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 not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. 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 we 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). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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9/11 Through Martin Luther's Eyes: 'Blessed Are The Peacemakers'

Today marks 13 years since that dreadful morning on September 11th, 2001.

We all know exactly what we were doing and precisely where we were when our world changed forever as though it happened only yesterday.

As with most things related to any kind of retrospective on 9/11, including how our lives are still affected by the events of that sunny September morning even to this very day (as evidenced by last night's speech by the President of the United States), we're constantly fed the political perspective and perhaps rarely ever stop to consider the spiritual perspective.

As Christians, we know the reality of the situation though.


Ephesians 6:12 (ESV) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.


Behind earthly opponents stand demonic forces.

In the modern world, the spiritual dimension if often overlooked or ignored completely.

We view our problems -- and try to solve them -- in purely human terms too.

Take war, for instance. Is war ever justified? What is the proper Biblical view of war and those who take part in it? Can you be a soldier fighting in a war and still be a Christian?

I know that those are questions that have been asked and debated long before I was here and they are questions that will continue to be asked and debated long after I publish this piece too.

Still, I've always found it so strange that there is so much heated disagreement about this subject when God's Word seems pretty clear on the matter.


Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (ESV) 1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7 a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.


The Byrds
were right to remind us of God's Word, which says there's a time for everything...yes, even war.

With that in mind, and in remembrance of 9/11, today I'd like to share with you 13 different things (1 for each year since September 11th, 2001) that Martin Luther wrote about war from a Christian perspective and for the Christian.

Luther had a a remarkable ability to write profound truths (derived from holy Scripture, of course) so simply that anyone could understand what he was saying. I hope today's series of statements from him will provide comfort to your conscience.

In What Luther Says compiled by Ewald M. Plass, Plass writes...


IN LUTHER'S DAY there were those who questioned the right of waging war of any kind. In 1526 the Reformer ventilated this question in his little writing entitled Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved.


So, we see the same battle being waged within Christendom and the conscience back then as we do today. That should, hopefully, bring us some measure of comfort as we continue (Ecclesiastes 1:9).


 
9/11 THROUGH MARTIN LUTHER'S EYES: 
'BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS' 
4610 BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS 
IN HIS EXPOSITION of Matthew 5:9 (1532) Luther speaks of the conciliatory attitude a ruler, especially one who is Christian, should cultivate in this area. 
To start a war you need more than a just cause. As we have said, this does not prohibit the waging of war; for here Christ has no intention to take away anything from the government and its official authority but is only teaching individuals who want to lead a Christian life. Still it is not right for a prince to make up his mind to go to war against his neighbor, even though, I say, he has a just cause and his neighbor is in the wrong. The command is: "Blessed are the peacemakers." Therefore anyone who claims to be a Christian and a child of God not only does not start war or unrest, but he also gives help and counsel on the side of peace wherever he can, even though there may have been a just and adequate cause for going to war. It is sad enough if one has tried everything and nothing helps, and then it is necessary to defend oneself, to protect one's land and people. Therefore not "Christians" but "children of the devil" draw and unsheathe their sword on account of one word.


Controversial? Politically incorrect? Irrelevant? What do you think?

I know that in our post-modern age our knee-jerk reaction is to respond to any talk of a so-called "just war" with protest and scorn.

However, I encourage you to continue reading through this series of quotes today instead of just taking one or two of them in a vacuum, because they will have an order to them as Luther makes his case Biblically.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, hatred and death are found everywhere, and war does not last forever, nor does peace (Ecclesiastes 3:8). True peace is found only in the Lord, our Prince of Peace and Savior, Jesus Christ (Isaiah 9:6) who overcame sin and death for us, for you (Romans 6:23; John 3:16; Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10; Hebrews 2:17).

What do I mean by that, you ask?

Here is what the Gospel is all about and why we consider it "Good News" too...


Human beings have not kept the law of God but have transgressed it. Their corrupted human nature, thoughts, words, and deeds battle against the law. For this reason they are subject to God's wrath, to death and all temporal afflictions, and to the punishment of the fires of hell. As a result, the Gospel, in its strict sense, teaches what people should believe, namely, that they receive from God the forgiveness of sins; that is, that the Son of God, our Lord Christ, has taken upon Himself the curse of the law and borne it, atoned and paid for all our sins; that through Him alone we are restored to God's grace, obtain the forgiveness of sins through faith and are delivered from death and all the punishments of our sins and are saved eternally. . . . It is good news, joyous news, that God does not want to punish sin but to forgive it for Christ's sake.


That, my friends, is what's really important to take away from this series today.

Remember, God is crystal clear in His Word...


Romans 3:23 (ESV) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 


Romans 6:23 (ESV) For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Hebrews 9:27 (ESV) And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,


2 Peter 3:9 (ESV) The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

John 3:16 (ESV) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 14:6 (ESV) Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.



NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. 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 not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. 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 we 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). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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