SERMON: Peter Gets It...Then Doesn't (Matthew 16:21-28)

We all know the story of how Peter denied Jesus three times (Mark 14).

In light of that, and because this week's sermons in our churches will be based off of Matthew 16:21-28 which also involves Peter, I thought I would share with you three separate sermons that beautifully proclaim Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 2:2; 1 John 2:2).

I don't mean to overwhelm you, but I do know that faithful sermons are, sadly, hard to come by throughout the LCMS Church today. So, perhaps you will find all three as edifying as I did this morning.


 
"Peter Gets The 'Who' But Not The 'How'" By Pastor Charles Henrickson

"A Pebble In The Savior’s Sandals" By Pastor Tony Sikora

Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost By Pastor James T. Batchelor


Of course, each one is worth reading from beginning to end, but here are some of my favorite excerpts.


"Last week, we heard that marvelous confession by Peter: 'You are the Christ, the Son of the God who lives.' You may recall that Jesus praised God the Father for revealing this special confession to Peter. Then Jesus sternly warned the disciples not to tell anyone about this confession. As we read the rest of the Gospel accounts, we learn that Jesus regularly told people to keep His identity to themselves. It almost seems as though Jesus did not want people to know that He was the promised Messiah or Christ. This particular instruction puzzles many people. Why wouldn’t Jesus want people to know His true identity? Why did He strongly warn people not to tell others about Him? Today, we hear the answer to that question. The disciples got the words right when they confessed that Jesus is the Christ, but they did not know what those words meant. If you read last week’s Gospel and this week’s Gospel together, you understand that right after Peter made this marvelous confession, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. Basically, Jesus had heard this great confession and now He wanted the disciples to understand what it means to be the Christ. It means suffering, death, and resurrection. It means taking your sin onto Himself and carrying it to the cross. Peter very ably demonstrated that the disciples did not get it. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, 'Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.' That word rebuke is just a fancy way of saying that Peter chewed Jesus out. Think about that for just a minute. Peter is the one whose mouth confessed that Jesus is the Almighty Son of the God who lives. Then, just five verses later, that same Peter is chewing out the Almighty Son of the God who lives ... the one through whom all things were created. It becomes very obvious that the title Christ means one thing to Jesus and something entirely different to Peter. Jesus lost little time in straightening out Peter’s theology. He turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.' There is a lot going on in this reply." 
*- Pastor James T. Batchelor 

"Peter wants life to be happy. You want life to be fun. And our culture has wholeheartedly bought into such a worldview. We want everything to be fun. We want school to be fun. We want homework to be fun. We want learning to be fun. We want to have fun jobs and fun marriages and families and fun parents making play with fun children. Want every aspect of our lives to be fun even church, even Jesus. We want fun Jesus not crucified Jesus. Fun becomes our idol and entertainment becomes our means of grace. This is why we chase after technology and bow before the video screens be they on our walls, in our pockets or hanging from the rafters of Christ’s church. These entertain us and provide us with the illusion that what we are doing is fun when in reality what we are doing is dying as we surrender our humanity, our dignity in order to gain the whole world apart from the cross. And when the illusion is made manifest, when the consequences of sin crash our party, when marriage begins to hurt, or children rebel, or cancer departs only after taking our loved one, or our job requires our sweat, or our education requires discipline, or we don’t seem to get much out of bible study, or worship seems same ole’ same ole, then we deny Christ and begin to appease Old Adam. Rather than repent and follow and obey the Savior we prefer to go another way. The chase is on again to find the fun wife, the fun husband, the fun family, the fun church, the fun life. Thus we chase and we hunt and we abandon our post and we surrender our vows and we hurt the ones we said we loved. We hurt the ones we promised never to hurt. We sin against each other while trying to please ourselves and avoid the burden of love toward our neighbor. Peter wanted a different Jesus, a different life, than the Father was giving him. So do we. And for that we must repent. For such things are of Satan. They are demonic. They are like pebbles in Jesus’ sandals; attempts to deter Him from Loving us with His whole heart by getting in His way. Peter rebuked Jesus for His self-sacrifice. So do we when we deny the cross He’s given us and seek to love ourselves and gain the whole world. We reject what it means to be Christ. We reject what it means to be Christian, disciples of the Christ. Jesus will not have such disciples. He’ll have none of that because any of that is not following Jesus but following the devil, or the devil who makes himself into some sort of fun Jesus. So Jesus calls Peter out. He calls you out. Jesus calls Peter, Satan. He calls you to repentance and tells you how its going to be if you’re going to be following Jesus. ... Here in the Lord’s house is the reality of our new world, where fallen creatures like us gather together around the body and blood of the Risen Christ. Here the Savior walks with us and talks with us and tells us we are His own, not in some emotional mystical manner but really and truly through His Word and His Sacrament. No, the liturgy is not necessarily fun, but we are not here to pursue the fun, we are here to receive life, the life of Christ and to have it as our own. This life comes to us through Word and water and bread and wine and liturgy and hymnody and the blessed conversation and consolation of the brethren. Here in this place we are not only made Christians through the word and sacraments but we are preserved as His Christians through the Word and Sacraments." 
*- Pastor Tony Sikora

"'Get behind me, Satan!' What a harsh rebuke to tell Peter, the disciple he had just commended so heartily. 'Get behind me, Satan!' Why, those are the very words Jesus had used on Satan himself, at the temptation in the wilderness. Satan had not wanted Jesus to carry through with his mission. So he tempted Jesus to take the easy way out, to achieve glory apart from suffering, apart from going to the cross. So Jesus told him, 'Get behind me, Satan!' And now Jesus uses those same words to rebuke Peter, for Peter, even without realizing it, is speaking the will of the devil, not the will of God. 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.' You see, Jesus will not be dissuaded from carrying out his mission, even if–even as–that mission takes him the way of the cross. Jesus came to do the will of his Father, who sent him. And that will is to redeem mankind from their sins–from our sins. And the only way to do that is for Jesus himself to bear the weight of our sin and guilt and shame. That’s the 'how' that Peter didn’t get. And let’s be honest here. We would not have gotten it, either. It doesn’t make sense to the natural man. We expect glory. We want glory and God’s approval. We don’t think things are bad enough between us and God–certainly not on our part–that it should require God’s own Son to die in our place. But that’s the reality of the situation. Things are that bad. We have no goodness in ourselves that will stand the test of God’s judgment. No, we have sinned, sinned against our Creator. We have not listened to his voice. Instead, we have gone off on our own, each one of us wanting to be our own god, making our own decisions about what’s right and wrong. That’s rebellion. That’s sin, the original sin, which lurks inside each one of us. And God’s judgment on sin is death–eternal death, separation from God for eternity. What’s the answer? What’s the remedy–if there is to be a remedy? The answer will have to come from God. We could not do it. We could not pile up enough good works to atone for our sin and thus avert our eternal death and damnation. But God can. God does. And that’s where Jesus comes in, both the 'who' and the 'how.' For it will take the Christ sent from heaven, it will take the Son of the living God, to do what you and I cannot do. Only Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, can accomplish our redemption and our deliverance. That’s the 'who.' And the 'how' is that he will do this precisely by his suffering and death. For by dying in our place, on the cross, Jesus pays the price for our transgression. His holy blood does indeed atone for the sins of mankind. God’s justice is satisfied. God’s great mercy is displayed, in its highest form. God so loved the world–he so loved you and me–that he gave his one and only Son, so that we would not perish eternally, but instead have everlasting life. And that, then, that is the 'what.'" 
*- Pastor Charles Henrickson


Please don't assume that I just pulled the best or most important parts of each sermon either. Besides, they carry so much more weight when you read them in context and as part of the entire sermon so please do it. If anything, my hope and prayer is that those carefully selected excerpts will merely prompt you to want to read the rest.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, Peter may have denied Jesus three times, but there's no denying the profound truth that we learn from another interaction he had with Jesus as recorded for us in Matthew 16:21-28, and as explained to us through these three exceptional sermons delivered by three truly called and ordained ministers of God's Word.

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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'Mass Mob': Coming Soon To A Church Near You!?!

The city of Buffalo, NY ("City of Good Neighbors") has given the nation many things.

We've given you the Chicken Wing, Niagara Falls, "Wide Right!" and "No Goal!" Now, it looks as though you have us to thank for what's being called the "Mass Mob" and I would just like to apologize on behalf of my city to all my Christian brothers and sisters out there who might experience this one day.

I feel like so many of us have already commented on the reasons why "Contemporary Worship" is a dangerous practice and trend within the Christian Church at large today.


Congregations should be about feeding His sheep and not about attracting goats or even wolves.

While the resulting "Worship Wars" are never something you like to see a congregation struggle with, it could be worse -- much, much worse, in fact!

Have you heard of the "Mass Mob" movement? For now, it appears to be only a Catholic thing, but how long before this ridiculous idea (fueled by the desire to be "relevant" and "relational") is practiced in your District or comes to your church?


 
'Mass Mob': Coming Soon To A Church Near You!?! 
(From the Buffalo Mass Mob website)

Did you ever wonder how you can help make a difference at some of Buffalo’s incredible historic and heritage churches? Buffalo Mass Mob has an easy answer! Inspired by the successful Buffalo Cash Mob and a Facebook Mass done at Saint Adalbert Basilica a couple of years ago, Buffalo Mass Mob will, in grassroots fashion, allow you to support and experience some of Buffalo’s wonderful churches in need of a boost. The concept is simple. The Buffalo Mass Mob picks a church and you come to Mass there. Our city is known for its incredible architecture. Part of this architectural mix are the many churches located throughout Buffalo. These houses of worship helped shape and define the city as we know it. It is Buffalo Mass Mob’s hope to help create more awareness and appreciation for sacred sites in Western New York through the simple act of experiencing them in their intended purpose and encourage people to attend Mass more at Buffalo’s historic churches. Four Buffalo Mass Mobs are in the books. The first was at Saint Adalbert Basilica on 11/02/2013, the second was on 01/12/2014 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the third was at Saint John Kanty Church on 03/23/2014 and the fourth was at All Saints Church on 06/01/2014. All four were a huge success! The fifth Buffalo Mass Mob will be 08/03/2014 at Saint Thomas Aquinas Church in South Buffalo. It is an easy way for you to support the wonderful churches we have here in Buffalo.


Lovely. Looks like we have my home city of Buffalo, NY to thank for this unfortunate trend that's garnering national attention.

Now, before I continue, I want to make one thing crystal clear. I don't mean to disparage the men (and woman) who are behind this concept so much as I want to criticize the catechesis (or lack thereof) that led to thinking something like this would be ok in the first place. To put it another way, by all accounts, the people behind the Mass Mob movement who I've heard on our local talk radio station sound like genuine, well-meaning Christians. However, as we've tried to point out on numerous occasions here, "good intentions" does not give anyone (including myself) a "free pass" when it comes to the things of God let alone Ecclesiology (a fancy schmancy word that means "The Doctrine of The Church").

But perhaps I'm being "too generous" as I'm trying to put the best construction on things. I mean, after all, the publicly stated intent of "mass mobbing" these churches is not to introduce people to God's Word and Sacraments. For starters, it's targeted toward people who are already Christians (Catholics).

Even so, should going to church be solely about "supporting" the "struggling" church where "struggling" can be a euphemism for "struggling financially" and/or "struggling with a lack of attendance" and, in that sense, only serve to perpetuate this notion that the church is a business, that the Pastor/Priest a CEO, and that the congregants are consumers?

How else do you explain the insistence on a secular solution as opposed to a spiritual one?

Worst of all? These are planned, organized, and orchestrated events, and yet, those involved respond as if God's approval is clearly with them even though His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is left out of the picture and process completely!

Don't believe me? Here's a description of one event in their own words...


"When Buffalo Mass Mob started this past year, we didn’t know what to expect or if it would even be a success at all. After three Mass Mobs, the results have left us feeling awestruck." 
MY OBSERVATION: Because church is "successful" only by the world's standards, right? In this case, "success" is determined by the number of people in the pews. Mysticism makes an appearance and graces us with her presence too since "the results have left us feeling awestruck" indeed.

"At the center of it all are the churches the Buffalo Mass Mob visits and you. Without you, the impact that Saint Adalbert Basilica, Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Saint John Kanty have felt through our first three would have never been possible. ... There is some anxiety involved because we worry about the numbers." 
MY OBSERVATION: Now we're getting to the heart of the problem with something like this! "At the center of it all" is Jesus -- errr, I mean YOU, and not Christ, because "without you" a church could never "grow" and/or "succeed" at all. Clearly, the motivation behind such a movement is not that one's neighbors in the local community would hear God's Word preached to them, or that existing Christians would continue to receive the forgiveness of sins that they so desperately need each and every week, but that it would generate as many of one's neighbors as possible to attend an event.

"Throughout the Mass, you could feel the energy of the people in attendance, the parishioners of church and the priests celebrating the Mass. There was the sense that everyone there was in awe of what was taking place." 
MY OBSERVATION: Whoa! I think this statement speaks for itself, but I can't be too hard on them since I know a lot of local LCMS Churches in my Eastern District who love to talk about the worship service like this each and every week, because they make it their mission to make the service as "entertaining," "emotional," and "uplifting" as possible.


Ultimately, the problem I have with such a movement is that it's doing things for the wrong reasons. How do I know that? Again, here's a description of these "Mass Mob" events as described in the media: "It’s the fourth time the group has gone to a church, to boost attendance and the help the church’s collection basket." Other media outlets have continued to shower the grassroots group with praise through such heretical headlines as "'Mass Mob' Breathes Life Into Catholic Church" too.

Notice what's missing? No mention of needing forgiveness of sins; no mention of needing to go to church to receive God's means of grace as delivered to us in His Word and Sacraments; and certainly no mention of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or needing our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, as the propitiation for our sins! Why should that matter to us? Well, for starters, because "Christ is the head of the church" (Ephesians 5:23).

It reminds me of something Pastor Eric Andersen once wrote...


An adolescent ecclesiology also yields a highly individualistic approach to Christianity. Though we believe in the "communion of saints", the wholesale rejection of history and tradition (whether intentional or not) leaves the Church impoverished. There is little consciousness today of our brothers and sisters in Christ in the pew right next to us, much less our connection to the saints throughout the ages. Many see church in terms of "what’s in it for me" and generally have little concept of how their presence or absence in church, bible class, Sunday school, etc., affects the faith of their neighbor. Liturgy and history remind us that the Church is bigger than ourselves. They guard against the perpetual adolescent desire for self expression and remind us that Christianity is about Christ and His gifts for us. They keep the Church focused on Her Lord rather than Herself. As St. John said, "I must decrease, but He must increase," (John 3:30). Additionally, those who have gone before us have struggled with many of the same problems we face today. The mask may be new, but it’s the same old sin hiding beneath. As Solomon said, "There is nothing new under the sun," (Ecclesiastes 1:9). If we are willing to listen to those who have gone before us, we may just learn something helpful for life today. The liturgy and history of the Church is a treasure filled with riches of wisdom, guidance, comfort, and communion. Those who have gone before us were sinners and erred at times, but this gives us even more reason to sit at their feet. We can learn from what they got right (by the grace of God) and from their errors. As the Apology to the Augsburg Confession (article XXI) teaches, we remember the saints so that we may 1) thank God for giving faithful servants to His Church; 2) have our faith strengthened as we see the mercy that God extended to His saints of old; 3) provide us with examples by which we may imitate both their faith and their holy living according to our calling in life.


That's really what this is, IMHO. It's an "adolescent ecclesiology" that misunderstands the true purpose of why the church exists in the first place let alone one that arrogantly replaces Christ as the head of His church with YOU and YOUR FELLOW PARISHIONERS as the head of His church.

Yes, I'm well aware of the fact that "so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11), but that does not give believers the license to be pragmatic when it comes to their beliefs and practices related to Christ's catholic ("little c" or "universal") church.

So what's the point of this piece? What am I driving at, you ask? Lest you conclude that this is just a "Catholic Hit Piece" from a self-professing Lutheran, I would like to confess that the LCMS is not immune to this kind of enthusiastic urge to "Do Church" differently than our grandfathers did.

That's why I'd like to wrap this up with one final commentary from Pastor Eric Andersen who I cited earlier.


The Anti-Church 
New ideas require new ways of speaking. Old terminology doesn’t cut it when it comes to modern conceptions of church, especially when those modern approaches represent a radical break from traditional ecclesiology. To be sure, it is helpful when this is recognized. There’s nothing worse than attending what you think is a confessional Lutheran church only to find out it’s more Baptist than Lutheran. There seems to be a trend among some Lutheran churches to drop “Lutheran” from their name (usually in the name of outreach). While I lament the decline of the Lutheran church, I’d rather a nominal Lutheran church not identify themselves as “Lutheran.” For these churches to make this identification is misleading and gives people the wrong idea as to what Lutheranism is really all about.

To the “missional” crowd, using the language of the confessions to describe the Church is the equivalent of putting new wine into old wineskins (Matthew 9:17). “Out with the old, in with the new.” New ways of speaking are needed to describe new understandings of the church (as are new creeds, liturgies, etc.). For the missionals to use traditional language and identify themselves with the traditional symbols is misleading. In this respect, it is actually helpful for those who promote a historic understandings of the church to use novel terms like “missional.”

Lucas Woodford traces the origin of the term “missional” back to 1998, which arose during a time when there was a desire to “stop, check our assumptions, and ask if there might be a different way of being the church.” [endnote 1] However, this new understanding of church is actually anti-church, quite the opposite of biblical ecclesiology.

For Lutherans, there is no better summary of biblical ecclesiology than Article VII of the Augsburg Confession, which says, “The Church is the congregation of saints in which the Gospel is purely taught and the Sacraments are correctly administered.” For the missionally-minded, such an understanding of church is too inwardly focused. The missional, according to Carl Raschke, are those who “must incessantly reach out to those who are beyond the fringes of established Christianity, and they must do so in a way that is integral rather than incidental to their mission and purpose.” [endnote 2] It is striking how different this conception of church is from AC VII. While AC VII emphasizes those who belong to Jesus (saints gathered around Word and Sacrament), the missional conception emphasizes those who do not.

In addition to needing new language to describe itself, the missional church is constantly looking for new ways of doing things. Time Anti-church that could have been spent on exegesis is instead spent writing new liturgies. Hymnals, which contain texts that cannot be manipulated, are replaced by screens, where the message is supposed to change. The body of Christ, in which each part plays a vital role and members are dependent on one another (1 Cor 12:21) is severed into several parts (“small groups”), which have little to no interaction with one another. Ironically, the focus on outreach is quickly lost, and the true mission of the missional church becomes one of reinvention, of coming up with new ways of expressing itself. The Gospel is replaced with the endless quest of coming up with the next big thing.

That the missional approach to church is anti-church can also be seen in their loss of the church’s marks, the purely preached Gospel and rightly administered sacraments. The distinction between Law and Gospel no longer plays a vital role in preaching or the liturgy, which is replaced with a desire to motivate or entertain. The proper administration of the sacraments is disregarded, which is particularly evident in the practice of open communion and the use of women in distributing the Sacrament. Anything that would hinder a total stranger to Christianity from fully participating or feeling immediately comfortable in the service is removed. The culture sets the agenda and the church begins practicing what William Willimon calls “promiscuous ministry–ministry with no internal, critical judgment about what care is worth giving.” [endnote 3] He continues, “We have become the victims of a culture of insatiable need. We live in a capitalist, consumptive culture where there is no purpose to our society other than ‘meeting our needs.’” [endnote 4]

The classic definition of church, as set forth in AC VII, is a truly “missional” definition (if we may risk identifying ourselves with such a term). For there, God is at work accomplishing His mission. Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given, who creates faith when and where it pleases God (AC V). In this Church, the Holy Spirit is at work calling, gathering, enlightening and sanctifying His people (SC, Creed, III). Replacing doctrine with emotional manipulation, compromising with the culture, and the latest strategies from TCN will not “grow the church”; they are anti-church. Only God gives growth, and He does it in the same way He always has.


I love that analysis of the current trends in Christianity today. It's a fitting commentary for a story about this Mass Mob stuff too. One of the Mass Mob's founders, Danielle Huber, was quoted as saying, "We need to be proactive to save these buildings."

She's not entirely off base in her assessment, but I like to believe God when He tells me that He is the one who grows His Church. That doesn't mean that the congregation should become apathetic, but that also doesn't mean that they should just assume that they are the ones who have the problem to determine whether a particular church stays open or closes its doors (a.k.a. "succeeds" or "fails" by the world's standards and using the world's language).

Besides, I'd rather invite my neighbors to church not to save our precious building made out of brick and stone, but in the hopes that the Word of God that they will hear preached to them will actually turn their attention to the "cornerstone" (Matthew 21:42; Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6) Who will save their souls instead.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, it breaks my heart to see this kind of thing becoming popular in Christian churches here in America (whether they're Lutheran or not).

Be sure to familiarize yourself with the truth about Contemporary Worship and the Worship Wars, because then you'll better understand why we need real worship in our churches.

One final thought. If this is the latest iteration of Internet "flash mobs," then I hate to see how the current Internet phenomenon known as the "ALS Ice Bucket Challenge" will be hijacked and used by "cool" and "relevant" churches across the country to supplant holy Baptisms.

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 8/30/14)

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): Last week, I introduced you to Lucy Lou -- the cross eyed cat -- who my wife and I met at a place called "Tabby Town" at the local mall while out on our date night last Friday night. Well, take a look at Lucy Lou's newest home and family because it certainly caught us by surprise!


8:30AM DOSE OF VITAMIN B (BEST OF THE BLOGS):
"What is a Confessional Lutheran? We’re familiar with 'conservatism.' In Christianity, it means those unwilling or unlikely to make hasty change, who are connected to their past, and who interpret the Bible assuming that it is God’s revealed, true Word. We officially reject those who call the Bible a human invention, or a mixture of the divine and the human. The word 'confessional' is not so commonly used. Normally, we think of a confession as an admission of guilt. 'Confess' has a root meaning of 'acknowledge together.' In matters of error, we state that we have, indeed, done what’s wrong — we 'fess up.' But confession also has positive application: It can be used to declare faith. Thus, 'Jesus Christ is Lord,' is a confession. Christians have always made such confessions. Lutherans emphasize the place of formalized confession of Scriptural teaching. We officially accept three of the early Creeds (statements of belief) of the Christian Church. These are the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds. Each of these is a summary of Christian, Biblical teaching (doctrine). During the time of the Reformation, in the mid-1500s, various interpretations of the Bible were being used by the parties involved. The reformers went to Scripture to assemble statements of faith which were topically arranged. For example, how many places in the Bible speak of Jesus’ return in judgment on the Last Day? A formal confession pulls all these references together into a unified article with which all can agree. Many confessions were produced. Six were drawn together with the Creeds into The Book of Concord (Agreement). All who claimed the title Lutheran (or 'Evangelical') were asked to subscribe to, or agree with, the Holy Scriptures as the source and norm of all Christian teaching and these confessions as being correct expositions of Scripture. Pastors, other church workers, and congregations of The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod are asked to do the same if they wish to join themselves to our body. Most Lutheran bodies demand some form of confessional subscription. Some insist that it be done absolutely without reservation, while others allow conditional subscription. For a discussion of the differences between the two (technically termed quia and quatenus), see Aardvark Alley’s entry, 'Who You Calling Quia?' Confession is finally and ultimately done in the lives of individual Christians. Our confession of faith involves all we say, think, or do. It includes our confession of sins, since this acknowledges our guilt before God. It involves doing everything in life under the cross of Christ, directed ourselves toward a heavenly end. Confession’s goal is to give all praise, honor, and glory to God." *- Pastor Walter Snyder


9:00AM DOSE OF VITAMIN C (CONFESSIONAL):
"Was Walther right? Walther believed that the Lutheran church had found its perennial theology in the Book of Concord. Was he right? Or are the Lutheran Confessions just a time-bound expression of a branch of the Christian church-a church whose provisional job is to heal the breach of the 16th century and be the agent for the visible unity of the whole church, as some 'Evangelical-Catholic' Lutherans have argued? One answer comes from the Bethel Confession of August 1933, whose chief authors were Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hermann Sasse. In response to the question 'What is Reformation?' the Bethel Confession replied: 'The Reformation is essentially a return to Holy Scripture, a bowing under Holy Scripture. In it, Martin Luther is the teacher of Holy Scrip­ture that is obedient to the word.' Those of us who have studied the Book of Concord for years know that Luther and the other Lutheran confessors did indeed bow to the authority of Scriptures. Luther and the confessors did not add to, remove, twist, tropologically modify, explain away, or evade the intent of any doctrine in the canonical Scriptures. Furthermore, Luther and the confessors faithfully observed the relationships between those doctrines and their relative em­phases in the Bible. The obedience of Luther and the Lutheran confessors to the Scriptures is perhaps the most repulsive thing about them to the modern man and woman. Because of their obedience to the Scriptures, modern man sees Luther and the Lutheran Confessions as medieval, not modern. This, at least, was the judgment of Adolf von Harnack. Whether medieval or modern, the Lutheran Confessions are the product of a 'conscience bound by Scripture,' to use Luther's battle-cry at Worms. If your conscience is bound by Scripture, like Luther, then you will agree that Walther was right to uphold the Book of Concord as the church's perennial theology." *- Martin R. Noland / Concordia Theological Quarterly / Volume 75:3-4 July-October 2011


9:30AM DOSE OF VITAMIN D (DOCTRINE): Galatians 1:6-10 (ESV) "6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. 10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." My Lutheran Study Bible says about this passage: "This Letter begins not with an expression of thanksgiving but with a stern warning against defection from the one true Gospel. Whoever falsifies the Gospel of Christ comes under God's curse. The Gospel, through which God calls us to be His own, proclaims God's grace in Christ. The Galatians were turning away from the Gospel through which God had called them (2 Thessalonians 2:14). To desert the Gospel of Jesus Christ that Paul preached is to abandon God Himself. The saving initiative always belongs to God alone. The opponents' 'gospel' did not modify but perverted the Word of truth (Ephesians 1:13) that the apostles proclaimed and taught. Christ's Gospel stands by itself, without parallel and exclusive of all other messages -- however cogent and attractive they may seem. The Good News of salvation comes from and points to Christ. Just as there is one Savior, so there is only one Gospel (Galatians 2:5; Galatians 2:14). May Your precious Word, O Lord, be taught in all truth and purity so that we may receive Your divine blessing. Amen."


10:00AM DOSE OF VITAMIN E (EVERYTHING ELSE):
"Is it just me or is it odd that we have to qualify Lutheran with Confessional? And evangelical would seem an odd qualifier as well. For what is a Lutheran but one who preaches and teaches in accord with the Book of Concord? If you are not preaching and teaching in accord with the Book of Concord how can you call yourself Lutheran? I guess that would make you a Cafeteria Lutheran, to borrow a term. Preaching and teaching according to your own fancy...I think St. Paul had something to say about that....'There will come a time when men will not put up with sound doctrine, but gather teachers to say what they want to hear.' And to think I sat down to post just that first question." *- Pastor Gary Hall


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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5 Types of Psalms

Did you know there are 5 types of Psalms? Me neither.

Here's Martin Luther's commentary on that fact in Reading The Psalms With Luther: The Psalter For Individual & Family Devotions With Introductions By Martin Luther...


 
The entire Psalter may be treated in a five-fold fashion, that is, we may divide it into five groups.

FIRST, some Psalms prophesy. They speak, for example, of Christ and the Church or what will happen to the saints. This class includes all the psalms that contain promises and warnings -- promises for the godly and warnings for the ungodly.

SECOND, there are psalms of instruction, which teach us what we should do and what we should avoid, in accordance with the Law of God. This class includes all the psalms that condemn human doctrines and praise the Word of God.

THIRD, there are psalms of comfort, which strengthen and comfort the saints in their troubles and sorrows but rebuke and terrify the tyrants. This class includes all the psalms that comfort, exhort, stimulate endurance, or rebuke the tyrants.

FOURTH, are the psalms of prayer, in which we call on God, praying in all kinds of distress. To this class belong all the psalms that lament or mourn or cry out against our foes.

FIFTH, are the psalms of thanks, in which God is praised and glorified for all His blessings and help. This class includes all the psalms that praise God for His works. These are the psalms of the first rank, and for their sake the Psalter was created; therefore it is called in Hebrew Sefer Tehillim, that is, a praise book or book of thanksgiving.

We should understand that the psalms, with all their verses, cannot always be classified so precisely and exactly into these groups. At times one psalm might contain two, three, or even all five classifications, so that one psalm may belong in all five divisions, with prophecy, instruction, comfort, prayer, and thanksgiving lying next to one another. However, it is the intention that the reader may understand that the Psalter deals with these five topics. The classifications are a help, so that we might more easily understand the Psalter, become adapted to it, and also be able to learn and keep it.


What a refreshing perspective particularly when I've been so used to reading the Psalms as a "To Do List" or as "A Prescription For Godly Living" -- which, in a sense, they certainly are -- except I was always removing Christ from the picture completely for some reason and making them all about me.

Now, please don't misunderstand me, as mentioned, it is sort of "A Prescription For Godly Living" as Luther's commentary clearly suggests, but not in the ways so commonly believed, taught, and confessed by many within contemporary Christianity today.

I like to think of it in the way that I heard Pastor Wolfmueller once describe it: For instance, any time we come across the word "righteousness" in the psalms, we need to immediately think of it from a Gospel perspective (as in believing and confessing what Christ did and does for us) and never from a moralistic, works righteousness perspective (as in what we have done and can do for ourselves) as so many often want to.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, I'm thrilled to have gotten my hands on this little book to help me start reading the psalms properly from now on.

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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ZITAT: 'A Little Bible'

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) 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 Lutheran quotes that encourage prayerful consideration and deeper study of God's Word, His Sacraments, Christ's Church, and the Lutheran confession of "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3). It helps me in my journey from American Evangelicalism to becoming a Confessional Lutheran (and not just a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only"). Here's the latest.




 
The Psalter ought to be a dear and beloved book, if only because it promises Christ's death and resurrection so clearly and depicts His kingdom and the condition and nature of all Christendom that we may call it a little Bible. Most beautifully and briefly it embraces everything in the entire Bible; it is made into a fine enchiridion, or handbook. Therefore it seems to me that the Holy Spirit wanted to take the trouble of compiling a short Bible and a book of examples of all Christendom or of all saints, with this purpose in mind that whoever could not read the whole Bible would here have practically an entire summary of it, comprised in one booklet. ... 
The Psalter is the book of all saints, and everyone, whatever his situation may be, finds psalms and words in it that fit his situation and apply to his case so exactly that it seems they were put in this way only for his sake. ... 
*- Martin Luther 
(Ewald M. Plass, What Luther Says, St. Louis: Concordia, 1959, #3167.)


Have you ever read the Book of Psalms?

So many of the Bible studies I've ever done or seen over the years that were based on the psalms were about ME with Christ as a mere afterthought or a means to an end. That's a problem, folks.

I once read that "the Old Testament psalms not only permit us to see Christ in them, they require it." According to one source,

Martin Luther loved the Psalter! It was his daily prayer book as a monk, the topic of his initial lectures as a professor, and an important part of his piety.


Through Luther's short introductions to the psalms, he gives us a glimpse into his theology and prayer life. Most importantly, he shows us that he truly understood the Psalter as a Christ centered book and shows how he prayed each psalm as a Christian prayer.

The Publisher of one book I remembered I have in my new library points out that Luther had a twofold approach to the psalms.

First, he classifies each as a psalm of prophecy, instruction, comfort, prayer, or thanks -- or some combination of the above. For Luther, he psalms carried their content beyond the original writer and original setting. They are words of prophecy, instruction, comfort, prayer, and thanks for us today. 
Second, Luther assigns each psalm to one of the Ten Commandments and to one of the petitions of the Lord's Prayer. He says that the psalms "belong to," "flow from," or even "are in" these petitions and Commandments. In actual practice, he related nearly all the psalms to the first three Commandments -- having one God, honoring His name, hearing His Word -- and to the first three petitions -- concerning God's name, His kingdom, and His will. The other Commandments and petitions merely fill out what these first three express. 
Luther discontinued this second classification scheme after Psalm 31. In a long comment at that point, he declares that the reader has seen enough examples to understand the insight that the psalmist and every Christian can find in the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer.


In addition, I love how the same Publisher also comments on Luther's humility and reverence for the Lord and His holy Word as he wanted to keep things in their proper perspective at all times.


If anyone is pleased with my poor assistance by these summaries, I ask the he not insert them into the Psalter between the psalms. I prefer to see the text stand alone by itself, unmixed with anything else. Some of these summaries are really brief commentary, and it would not be proper if, placed in the middle of the text, these summaries would loom larger than the psalms themselves. With this, may God bless you. Amen.


I think it's time I read the 'Little Bible' to better understand Christ for me.

Read properly, the Psalter is a Christ centered text where everything relates to Jesus Christ.

In a Lutheran Layman's terms, I'm excited to begin doing a daily devotion on the Little Bible using Reading The Psalms With Luther: The Psalter For Individual & Family Devotions With Introduction By Martin Luther as my teaching aide, because Luther's approach to the psalms is notable, particularly because it is so Christ centered as it should be.


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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Lutherandom Musings Along Memory Lane (Saturday 8/23/14)

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): So this is Lucy Lou -- the cross eyed cat -- who my wife and I met last night at Tabby Town while out on our date night!


8:30AM DOSE OF VITAMIN B (BEST OF THE BLOGS):
"Are You A Christ Follower Or Just A Believer?" That was the important question asked this week by Vanessa over at the Bible Beer & Babies blog. Yes, it's another MUST READ, because it hones in on an all-too-common trend in Christianity today. Here's a small taste: "There are two major issues which arise, both stemming from the notion that being called a Christian is no longer enough. What are our motives when using these labels of 'follower' and 'believer'? Perhaps we are trying to set ourselves apart from other Christians. Maybe we want to appear fresh, new, and appeal to a younger, hipper crowd. It’s possible we have given into the lie that there is a hierarchy within the church, as if to be a 'follower' makes one more Christian or a better Christian than one who is 'just a believer' or is 'just a Christian'. Yes, these terms are biblical, but this ranking of Christians is not. Remember the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) when Jesus illustrates how the last will be first – and so we see that lifelong Christians will be ranked no higher than the newly saved. We are all sinners in need of grace. We are each forgiven equally, and we earn no brownie points for what we do or don’t do, or how cool and hip we think we are." This look at labels is spot on Here's why: "Any following of Christ we do, is because He pushes us. Any belief in Christ we hold, is because He bestows it. Our faith – our following and our believing – is purely a gift, never deserved yet freely given to us by the Holy Spirit through His Word and Sacraments. So is it bad to use these labels? Not really, as long as we use them correctly." I don't want to give away the closing paragraphs so please check them out for yourself when you can.


9:00AM DOSE OF VITAMIN C (CONFESSIONAL):
"Thus in Smalcald Articles Part III, Article 8, Luther explodes the whole presumption that there is an inner movement in us, a little bit of free will waiting to be uncaged, set free to seek God. He does it with one of the most profound matters in our Lutheran Confessions. He exposes the root cause of troubled consciences. He does it by reasoning backwards from the cross as the solution to the question of the self and its willing. The only proper way to care for souls is not to reason according to the demands of the law, but by Christ crucified. Simply put, the original sin, not trusting God to be God for you, is a result of 'enthusiasm,' and the only way to expose it and end its activity is what we call 'the spoken, external Word.' (Trig. 495.3) The very Word of God who comes crashing in from the outside, like some great white whale erupting from the deep to wreck our dreams of finding the God-within-us, who was never there." Pastor Donavon Riley / Smalcald Articles Part III, Articles 4-15: The Problem of Enthusiasm 


9:30AM DOSE OF VITAMIN D (DOCTRINE): "'The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from or where it goes, so it is with those who are born of the Spirit,' the Lord Jesus said in His evening catechesis with the Pharisee Nicodemus on Holy Baptism. There is a union between the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is known by hearing with the ears. This is not an internalized activity. Even at the New Testament Pentecost in Jerusalem, the Spirit comes with the sound of a great rushing wind. But Jesus is quite clear that the Holy Spirit is not separate from the working or presence of the Father and the Son (cf. John 1:14). The sense here is hearing. The preaching and teaching of the Word of God is where the Holy Spirit is at work for us to be filled with Him in Christ. Consider these words of Jesus: John 15:26 – But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. John 16:13-15 – However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. The Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, is of one indivisible essence with the Father and the Son. The way the Holy Spirit is often spoken of in pop American Christianity and in liberal mainline Protestantism is that He is somehow separated, off on His own, only there to depart from what has gone before, to confuse or distract us from Jesus and the Gospel of salvation in His death and resurrection. But Jesus says just the opposite. The Spirit is the 'Spirit of truth.' And as St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14: 'For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.' If there is a new revelation or a claim of new revelation, the Spirit does not contradict Himself, especially not the Holy Scriptures. Whether it be a sincere Christian coming with a claim of a 'word of prophecy,' or a leadership-driven pastor claiming to have a binding 'vision for ministry' that is a new missional revelation of the Holy Spirit, we cannot separate the Holy Spirit from the Word of God (externum verbum). All teachers are bound to the canonical Scriptures to function within them as foundation and skin for the church.   'Vision casting' simply isn’t biblical and such leadership notions borrowed from the corporate world slathered in the candy-coating of charismatic verbiage. Vision casting certainly can’t be squared with the Lutheran Confessions that speak this way: In a word, enthusiasm inheres in Adam and his children from the beginning [from the first fall] to the end of the world, [its poison] having been implanted and infused into them by the old dragon, and is the origin, power [life], and strength of all heresy, especially of that of the Papacy and Mahomet. Therefore we ought and must constantly maintain this point, that God does not wish to deal with us otherwise than through the spoken Word and the Sacraments. It is the devil himself whatsoever is extolled as Spirit without the Word and Sacraments. [Smalcald Articles] This 'enthusiasm' is internalizing the source of divine revelation so that it is indistinguishable from one’s desires, imagination, sentiment, or will to power. Theologically it is the Old Adam claiming divine inspiration and dogmatically separating the Holy Spirit from the external Word. In Trinitarian terms such 'enthusiasm' (schwaermerei) divides the substance of the Trinity in theological assumptions, to borrow the language of the Athanasian Creed. The Holy Spirit calls us to faith 'by the Gospel' which is to say through the Word and Sacraments of Christ. The Holy Spirit is all about delivering to us Jesus in the means that Jesus provided and bringing to our remembrance the words of Jesus. To separate the Spirit from the Word in teaching and practice is to open the doors of the Church to a darkness and a spirit of darkness and deception that is, as we cited Luther above, 'the source, power, and strength of all heresy.' It is akin to the occult. The utterances of the Holy Spirit are not simply the echo of our own longings and spiritual self-expression. Here motives are not enough. So what is the answer in this, for those who want to be Spirit-filled as churches? First of all, the answer is not in what we’re often told. Those who claim to major in the Holy Spirit are at best confused. As in the Spirit’s work of sanctification, it doesn’t happen chiefly by talking about it. To be filled with the Holy Spirit individually and as a congregation is to be filled with Jesus. For that is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son in eternity but this is reflected also in how the Holy Spirit comes to us in the here and now in the means of grace. The Holy Spirit is sent in Jesus’ name, in the proclamation, in the catechesis, in the sacraments, to deliver all the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we receive in faith. The work of the Holy Spirit is not measured by a mood or feeling. That doesn’t mean feelings are bad, but they aren’t the measure of what’s true. God’s promise and history of faithfulness tells us what is most certainly true. To be a Spirit-filled Church, then, is to be a church that is abundantly rich in the Word and the Sacrament as they are taught and delivered, most especially in the Divine Service but also during the week in the study of Scripture, confession and absolution, and so on. To be a Spirit-filled Church the way the New Testament speaks of it is to be a clearly law and gospel preaching Church, a church that celebrates Holy Baptism, a church which offers confession and absolution regularly, and a church with a strong grasp of the Lord’s Supper as it is offered frequently. To be Spirit-filled is to see that these things cannot be on the side or merely occasional but as central and of the essence of the church. For these are also the marks of the church. He (the Holy Spirit is not 'it'), the Holy Spirit, works in them for faith. Don’t be fooled by what we’re often told is 'more-spiritual' or Spirit-filled. We do not engineer or use group dynamics or entertainment to direct the Spirit. The Holy Spirit creates faith when and where He pleases in those who hear the Gospel. To be sure, sometimes even 'conservative' churches could use a stronger focus on the true source of being Spirit-filled (see Revelation 3:20). The seventh letter in the book of Revelation to the church in Laodicea was written to a church that thought it was well-off and rich in itself, but was really putting the Lord’s Supper on the side. But they were missing so much. We think of times in our history in America when the Lord’s Supper was only offered once a month or four times a year in many places. The proclamation of the Spirit in the Scriptures leads us to rejoice in the full use of the Lord’s means of grace, especially the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood frequently, so that faith may be fed and the Church be made strong in this world. Jesus sends our Lord, the Holy Spirit, that He may deliver the forgiveness, life and salvation, that was obtained through the cross and resurrection of Jesus. This is what it means to be a Spirit-filled Church, rich in the Word and Sacraments, the means of the Spirit." Pastor Pastor John Frahm III


10:00AM DOSE OF VITAMIN E (EVERYTHING ELSE):
Just a few words about the whole "ALS Ice Bucket Challenge" meme. Sorry, but I guess I'm gonna have to be the one to bring up this controversial/delicate subject despite how "unloving" and "unpopular" some will say that I am for doing so. My dear friends, if you're a Christian and you've done or are thinking about doing the #ALSIceBucketChallenge, are you aware that your donation to the ALS Association is being used to fund Embryonic Stem Cell Research? Sadly, I fear that while so many Christians are very vocal about defending the sanctity of all human life both inside and outside the womb, they just do not realize this cold hard truth (pun intended) when they participated. Please tell others if you can so that they can be informed about what’s going on beyond the initial appearances of this wildly popular Social Media campaign. In short, Christians should try and find a different cause that truly respects the sanctity of human life, IMHO. Here’s a good write-up on this from a Catholic source. Also from the article: "Dumping a bucket of ice water over your head does not make you a hero. Posting about it on social media and challenging others to do the same certainly doesn’t either." How is any of that relevant to us Christians? Beware of practicing your righteousness before others (Matthew 6). Here's a brief Lutheran commentary on this subject along with a list of some excellent alternatives of other ALS charities that DO NOT conduct Embryonic Stem Cell Research that Christians can donate to. Wanted to keep everything on this subject in one place, which is why I'm posting another comment and some links here. The first? "Why I Cannot Accept The Ice-Bucket Challenge" The second? "The Top 6 Things You Need To Know About ALS Research" These will be the last 2 articles I share about this and I really hope that my family members, friends, and acquaintances will prayerfully consider the content. Grace and peace! Ultimately, "while I can’t donate to the ALS Association, I will certainly pray for those that suffer from this disease. I’ll also be on the lookout for a charity that doesn’t violate the sanctity of human life."


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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What Luther Says About...TEMPTATION

One very cool book I got for Christmas is titled What Luther Says: A Practical In-Home Anthology For The Active Christian compiled Ewald M. Plass.

Basically, it's a huge collection of all sorts of topics from A to Z and what Luther said or wrote about them, which is absolutely fantastic for me since I love good Christian quotes.

Perhaps this excerpt from the Foreword will excite you...


"Nothing like this anthology can be found anywhere in the English-speaking world. There have been one or two brief collections of Luther's most famous utterances. This present set, however, contains no less than 5,100 quotations on more than 200 subjects, from 'Absolution' to 'Zeal.'"

*- Martin H. Scharlemann Chairman, Committee For Scholarly Research


In addition, Plass wrote Introducing Martin Luther: "He Being Dead Yet Speaketh" as the Introduction and it contained these many gems...


"These people hold that in the course of history few men have more honestly and successfully set themselves to seek knowledge concerning the will and the ways of God, as Scripture reveals them, than did Martin Luther."

"Both friend and foe testify that Luther did exert an exceptionally strong influence upon all who met him. His was a personality so strongly marked that it was difficult to remain neutral toward him. Yet Luther's strength lay in what he said, not in what he was."

"A man may tell how far he has advanced in theology by the degree in which he is pleased by Luther's writings"
*- Martin Chemnitz (quoted in Krauth, The Conservative Reformation, p. 57)


"In subsequent generations the interest in Luther's writings was a veritable theological barometer which indicated the falling or rising interest in loyalty to Scripture. 'Back to Scripture' implied and involved, if it did not consciously call for, a return to Luther; for the two are often correlatives. The increased interest in the writings of Luther at the time of the revival of orthodoxy in the last century was, therefore, not a meaningless coincidence."

"Thousands have recognized in Luther the greatest witness of the truth since the day of the apostles and prophets"
*- C.F.W. Walther (quoted in F. Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, I, 290)


"It is true, Luther has been accused of being repetitious; and what seems to aggravate the charge is the fact that at times he himself makes it. Luther himself one day remarked concerning the doctrine of salvation by faith alone that a good song deserves to be heard more than once. So thought St. Paul (Philippians 3:1). But let us concede that at times Luther is repetitious to a fault. We hold that an investigation will reveal that the Reformer most frequently lapses into repeating himself when he treats of matters that are particular concern to him. Prominent in this group of topics were the sanctity of the Word, and salvation through faith in Christ alone. His repetitiousness at such times seems to have been largely the result of an intensity of conviction concerning which we may say that 'out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh' -- and the pen writeth."

"Martin Luther took no royalties; he neither asked for them nor received them. The fact of the matter is that he did not want them. He never wrote a book to make money on it. He took up his pen for the love of his God and His people; and he once said that the Savior had already repaid him a thousandfold for anything he might write."

"Probably to most people of his day Luther was, above all, the preacher of the Gospel, although he entered the lecture room before he ascended the pulpit."

"Martin Luther's supreme interest in life was to glorify the God of grace, whom he had finally found in Christ, and to lead men to His Word. We know of no man's writings that are more saturated with Scripture than those of this great champion of the Bible."

"The Reformer had no desire to impress anyone in or out of the pulpit with an air of professional dignity. There was nothing stiff or unctuous about the man. He was very human; and he could afford to be what he was. His character was great enough and his personality impressive enough to dispense with any artificial props. In consequence, a subtle humor now and then is at play in the discussion of the most serious matters, a humor that adds lightness but not levity to the subject."

"A voice and a pen -- this is all. But there is more power in this voice and this pen to shake and mould the world than in all the bulls of a pope or the armed strength of emperor and kings."
*- James Mackinnon in his Luther And The Reformation (III, 138)

"Luther never wrote anything merely to satisfy his scholarly urge, merely because his research in a field in which he was interested had discovered something of significance to the learned world. Luther held that God had revealed nothing merely to gratify the curiosity of man. He was sure that the Christian religion was, above all, practical and functional and that all the golden truths of Scripture were to be coined into conduct, were designed to make man not merely wiser but also better. A Christian's love is practical; it goes to work, and all the world becomes its beneficiary. These qualities made his writings not academic treatises but tracts for the times."

"Luther disavows everything and anything that does not square with Scripture. What is not Scriptural should not be considered Lutheran. In this respect therefore 'Lutheran' is in reality a personal and dated name for an impersonal and undated principle: unquestioning loyalty to Scripture as the Word of God."

"He wrote to direct men not to himself but to Christ in the Word."

"He meant, above all, to instruct and to inspire, to confirm and to comfort people in general; he addressed men as his fellow sinners rather than his fellow scholars. To Martin Luther learning was the means to an end, not an end in itself; it was the scaffolding, not the building."

"In his own days Luther expressed a complaint about Scripture study which is not out of place in our own times. He said that there was an unfortunate tendency to rush to commentaries before carefully studying Scripture itself and basing one's faith on its bare text without comment."

"We see, then, that Luther himself cautioned against a translation that is slavishly literal. But it is as necessary to avoid the other extreme, paraphrasing instead of translating."

"I am well aware of the fact that others might have handled the situation better than I did, but since they are holding their peace, I am doing it as well as I can. It is certainly better to have spoken on the subject, however inadequately, than to have remained silent altogether" *- Martin Luther (Weimar Edition 15, 49)

"'For the sake of my Lord Christ' is a fitting motto for the life and labors of Martin Luther. How the man learned to love Christ! How he glorified Him in his writings! He knew of no other God, wanted no other God, needed no other God. Indeed, 'there is no other God, He holds the field forever,' holds it forever also in the writings and in the theology of Luther. This intense love of the Reformer is infectious. Luther has a way of making you feel the nearness of God and filling you with the love of Christ. But this love is far from being a dreamy emotionalism that evaporates in rapturous phrases. It is decidedly virile; there is nothing morbidly maudlin or mystical about it. It makes me want to be something and do something 'for the sake of my Lord Christ.'"

"Truly, Luther's writings are never outdated; they are as modern as the love of God in Christ, which they glorify. 'He being dead yet speaketh.'"


I know that's a lot to digest (and we haven't even gotten to today's main quote from Luther yet!), but how great were those excerpts from that Introduction by Plass?

Anyway, now that the formalities are out of the way, please allow me quickly explain my intentions with lengthy and weekly posts like this one.

Simply put, I just thought it would be edifying and fun to share some of Luther's finest statements with all of you on a weekly basis.

Better yet, I also thought it would be a good way to help me to continue to learn Lutheran doctrine (a.k.a. orthodox Christianity) in the process.

So, here's today's offering for your enjoyment and prayerful consideration...



What Luther Says About...TEMPTATION

IN THE EXPLANATION of the Lord's Prayer for laymen, which Luther published in 1519, he says in his comments on the Sixth Petition that temptations are bound to come to all people.
 
4317 TEMPTATIONS ARE UNAVOIDABLE

No one may be exempt from temptation. But we can certainly defend ourselves and relieve all temptations by praying for and imploring the help of God. In the book on the old fathers (im Altvaterbuch) of the church we read that a young brother wanted to be rid of his evil thoughts. The old father said: Dear brother, you cannot prevent the birds from flying in the air over your head, but you can certainly prevent them from building a nest in your hair. Likewise, as St. Augustine says, we cannot prevent offenses and temptations from coming upon us; but by prayer and the invocation of divine assistance we may certainly defend ourselves and keep them from overcoming us.

(Weimar Edition 2, 124 -- Erlangen Edition 21, 222 -- Revised Halle or Walch Edition published at St. Louis 7, 813)


The comments by Plass that followed this quote and introduced the next one are worth noting...


TEN YEARS LATER, in his Large Catechism, the Doctor developed these thoughts at greater length in his exposition of the same petition.

4318 SUCH ASSAULTS ARE INEVITABLE -- BUT RESIST THEM!
 
This, then, is "leading us not into temptation": when God gives us the power and strength to resist, even though He does not take away or remove the temptation. As long as we live in the flesh and have the devil about us, no one can escape temptations and incitements to sin. It cannot be otherwise. We are bound to suffer temptations, in fact, to be deeply involved in them. But our prayer is that we do not fall into them and be entirely overwhelmed by them. There is, then, a great difference between feeling temptation and yielding to it, saying yes to it. We must all experience temptation, though not to the same degree; some people have more and stronger temptations than others. For instance, the young are tempted especially by the flesh; in later life people, the middle-aged and the old, are tempted by the world, while others, who are occupied with spiritual matters -- that is, strong Christians -- are tempted by the devil. But since this feeling is against our will and we would rather be rid of it, it can harm no one. If we did not feel it, it could not be called a temptation. But to consent to it is to give it the reigns and not to resist it and pray against it.

Therefore we Christians must be armed against temptation and must daily expect to be incessantly attacked. Therefore no one may go his way securely and heedlessly as if the devil were far from us. We must at all times expect and return his blows. For though I am now chaste, patient, kind, and firm in the faith, the devil may this very hour discharge such an arrow into my heart that I can scarcely stand. For he is the sort of enemy who never leaves off or grows weary. Accordingly, when one temptation is over, others and new ones always arise.
 
(Weimar Edition 30 I, 209 f -- Erlangen Edition 21, 125 f -- Revised Halle or Walch Edition published at St. Louis 10, 119 f).



In a Lutheran Layman's terms, forget about figuring out what a fox says!

Spend some time figuring out what Martin Luther said about various topics, because he will always point you to Jesus Christ, the Word of God, and the Lord's Sacraments.


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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