'Christian Yoga' Takes A Punch To The 'Core'

I first wrote about Yoga from a Christian perspective back in 2008.

My article back then opened with these words, which are still relevant today I'm afraid...


"There seems to be a growing trend these days involving un-Biblical practices such as mysticism and eastern practices being introduced into local churches under the guise of Christian self-awareness and spiritual healing. Worse is the fact that many so-called Christians are beginning to fall for these blasphemous and dangerous teachings with open arms and in record numbers. These spiritual growth programs have grown in popularity because they give so freely what so many people seek from their religion and faith in the 21st century -- a feel good, seeker sensitive message and experience. I hate to ruin the party, but there is absolutely nothing 'Christian' about these teachings."


The term "Yoga" (from the Sanskrit word "yuj," which means "yoke" or "to unite," as in "uniting the body, mind and spirit") was first used in Hindu texts in the 5th Century BC so that's long before Jesus Christ.

Yoga originated in Hinduism, and remains a large part of some Hindu practices today. However, things have changed in the last few thousand years, and most Yoga currently practiced in America is said to "only slightly resemble" the original practice.

Some proponents will even argue that most of what we call Yoga in the West today is not truly Yoga at all -- it is only "Asana," the physical postures, and "Pranayama," the breathing exercises (as if that's somehow supposed to make the practices ok for us Christians).

Ok, but can Christians safely do Yoga? Or, is it simply too dangerous and not worth the risk?Those are questions we should feel comfortable asking and then discussing together. Unfortunately, it's not something that people want to think about though.

How many times have you heard the rebuttal from family members, friends, and/or co-workers?


"What's the big deal? It's just a form of exercise! Besides, even if it is an 'ancient spiritual practice' tied directly to Hinduism and Buddhism (and other Eastern religions), it's not like I actually believe in any of that myself, so why all the fuss?


Trust me, there's good reason for the fuss, my friend.

Every now and then I find it helpful to try to refocus our attention upon some key truths regarding some popular fads and trends. Today is one of those days.

Is there such a thing as "Christian Yoga" as it's been called? I intended that to be a rhetorical question, but just in case you’re new here (or new to the subject entirely), I would like to refer you to the latest investigative study published earlier today.



 
The Dark Side Of Meditation And Mindfulness: Treatment Can Trigger Mania, Depression And Psychosis, New Book Claims 
Meditation and mindfulness is promoted by celebrities including Gwyneth Paltrow and Russell Brand, who boast of its power to help people put stress out of their minds and live for the moment. But the treatment can itself trigger mania, depression, hallucinations and psychosis, psychological studies in the UK and US have found. The practice is part of a growing movement based on ancient Eastern traditions of meditation. However, 60 percent of people who had been on a meditation retreat had suffered at least one negative side effect, including panic, depression and confusion, a study in the US found. 
And one in 14 of them suffered "profoundly adverse effects", according to Miguel Farias, head of the brain, belief and behaviour research group at Coventry University and Catherine Wikholm, a researcher in clinical psychology at the University of Surrey. The shortage of rigorous statistical studies into the negative effects of meditation was a "scandal", Dr Farias told The Times. He said: "The assumption of the majority of both TM [transcendental meditation] and mindfulness researchers is that meditation can only do one good. This shows a rather narrow-minded view. How can a technique that allows you to look within and change your perception or reality of yourself be without potential adverse effects? The answer is that it can’t, and all meditation studies should assess not only positive but negative effects."


Of course, when they refer to "meditation" and "mindfulness" they're referring to the kind associated with Yoga (and even what's called "Kundalini" within the Christian Church) as opposed to the kind of "meditatio" that Martin Luther encouraged.

Supporters of Yoga will often point out that meditation is referenced throughout Scripture -- Jesus did it, David did it, and the Lord exhorted Joshua to do it (Joshua 1:8). The claim they try to make is that meditation is as integral to Christianity as it is to Hinduism.

Be very careful. Here is where the deception starts to show itself. Meditative practices in Yoga encourage the person meditation to focus on themselves. Was Jesus Himself really that self-centered whenever He meditated and prayed? No, of course not! He was always focused on His Father's will and Word!

As Lutherans, we proclaim to believe, teach, and confess that our justification is entirely from outside of ourselves and that Jesus does all the verbs. What are we confessing we truly believe when we focus all of our energies inward and upon ourselves in an attempt to "become one with God and all of His creation" as practitioners of Yoga do?

It's nothing but navel-gazing all the time, isn't it? Not good. Not good at all.

Let me see if I can break things down for us even further to demonstrate why Christians should not be engaged in practicing Yoga.


"There is nothing wrong with stretching, exercising, or regulating one’s stress through breathing. But when the tenets of yoga are included, it’s by definition a worship act to spirit beings other than the God of the Bible. By way of analogy, there is nothing inherently wrong with intimacy, sex, and pleasure. But when the tenets of adultery are included, it’s a sinfully idolatrous worship act. A faithful Christian can no more say they are practicing yoga for Jesus than they can say they are committing adultery for Jesus."

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"In the words of Martin Luther, Lutherans confess that 'God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them.' Lutherans understand the Bible to teach that human beings as whole persons -- body, mind and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23) -- are the handiwork of their Creator (Psalm 139) and the objects of His love and care (Psalm 145:8-16). With gratitude to God, Christians look upon their mind and body as a precious gift entrusted to them for the maintenance and promotion of good health and personal well-being—for glory to Him and service to the neighbor. Accordingly, programs of physical exercise and health -- promoting mental pursuits, especially in view of the stress and tensions of modern life -- are to be affirmed and encouraged."

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"Giving sound teaching on yoga is important because there is increasing adoption of yoga by our culture, with over 15.8 million people practicing yoga and nearly every store you go into selling all kinds of yoga products. It’s gone mainstream. As such, Christians are also adopting it as a healthy aspect of exercise and lifestyle -- complete with things like 'Holy Yoga,' which is an oxymoron. Saying yoga can be Christian because you do it for Jesus is a bit like going into a mosque, going through the worship practices, and then saying you’re not a Muslim because you’re doing it for Jesus. They don’t mix."

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

"When looking at the acceptance of yoga in the Christian church, I find that there are two issues at hand: (1) People simply don’t understand what yoga is, its roots, and its tenants; or (2) People think that they can engage in yoga because it’s just stretching, while ignoring the religious aspects of the practice of yoga."

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"Christians may think that Yoga is a purely physical and mental discipline for the purposes of bodily health and relaxation. However, they need to be keenly aware of the fact that yoga has its roots in, and is integrally related to, Eastern philosophical systems (especially Hinduism) that conflict with Christianity. And especially since Yoga is very often taught and practiced for the express purpose of offering spiritual enlightenment and growth, Christians need to exercise extreme caution. They need to recognize the dangers of accepting a given practice as necessarily good merely because they think 'it works' (pragmatism). Christians should avoid Yoga classes that integrate religious assumptions such as those highlighted above, holding firmly to what God’s Word teaches regarding these elements."

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

"As one woman who identified herself as a mainline Protestant said in an article about my comments a year ago, 'Here we go again with fear-based, black-and-white thinking. It's not fair to say yoga is demonic. In fact, I find it insulting. There are many ways to grow spiritually.' To this I would reply, 'No. There are not many ways to grow spiritually. There is one way, which is through the power of the Holy Spirit provided through Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross, as part of God the Father’s plan for salvation.' Comments like this woman’s are the exact reason why it’s important to explore what yoga really is and what it teaches, and to understand that the spiritual elements of yoga make their way into our life and culture in ways we don’t necessarily see overtly."

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"Christians, in whom God’s Holy Spirit dwells, are commanded to avoid the mixture of Biblical truth with pagan beliefs (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)."

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"Jesus taught that the only path to life and salvation is through faith in Him (John 14:6; Acts 4:14; 1 Timothy 2:5)."

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"The true God -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- created the heavens and earth, preserving and ruling over all things. He is separate from and above the creation (transcendent), not one with it or identical to it as some force or power (Genesis 1-2; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:10- 12; Isaiah 42:5; etc.)."

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"Human beings by nature are spiritually blind, dead, and enemies of God because of the fall into sin -- not innately good (Genesis 3; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 2:1; Romans 8:7)."

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"'For by grace you have been saved through faith [in Jesus Christ]. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works [human effort]...' (Ephesians 2:8-9)."

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"The historic purpose behind yoga, therefore, is to achieve union with the Hindu concept of God. This is the purpose behind virtually all of the Eastern varieties of yoga, including those we encounter in the West. This does not mean it is the purpose of every practitioner of yoga, for many people clearly are not practicing it for spiritual reasons but merely to enhance their physical appearance, ability, or health. However, as I’ll show, it’s nearly impossible to practice yoga and divorce it from its spiritual elements. This is a sentiment that is not just mine but also shared by prominent Hindu academics such as Professor Aseem Shukla, who wrote in The Washington Post: 'Why is yoga severed in America's collective consciousness from Hinduism? Yoga, meditation, ayurvedic natural healing, self-realization—they are today's syntax for New Age, Eastern, mystical, even Buddhist, but nary an appreciation of their Hindu origins. It is not surprising, then, that Hindu schoolchildren complain that Hinduism is conflated only with caste, cows, exoticism and polytheism—the salutary contributions and philosophical underpinnings lost and ignored. The severance of yoga from Hinduism disenfranchises millions of Hindu Americans from their spiritual heritage and a legacy in which they can take pride. Hinduism, as a faith tradition, stands at this pass a victim of overt intellectual property theft, absence of trademark protections and the facile complicity of generations of Hindu yogis, gurus, swamis and others that offered up a religion's spiritual wealth at the altar of crass commercialism.'"

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"Basically, what Singleton is saying is that despite the arguments that yoga is just stretching, there is no historical evidence that this is the case—quite the contrary. The history of yoga is overwhelmingly spiritual in practice and the postures of yoga are only one aspect of yoga, and they are part of a broader system aimed at union with God and attaining enlightenment. It is important to note that the exercise/stretching/posturing element of yoga only represents one of the eight limbs of yoga viewed as a whole. As Elliot Miller describes: 'The eight limbs of yoga involve strict moral, physical, and mental disciplines. They are (1) moral restraint, (2) religious observance, (3) postures (asanas), (4) breath control (pranayama), (5) sense withdrawal, (6) concentration, (7) meditative absorption, and (8) enlightenment (samadhi). A consideration of the limbs quickly reveals that yoga is a demanding autosoteric (salvation based on self-effort) system, similar to original Theravada Buddhism with its eightfold path, which historically preceded Patanjali’s yoga system and probably influenced it.'"

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"The purpose of these exercises—both physical and mental—was to attain a state of 'pure consciousness...where the practitioner begins to lose the distinction between subject [self] and object [whatever one is focused on]' in order to feel at one with the universe or God. The ultimate goal of the entire practice of yoga is 'samadhi,' which is direct and ultimate knowledge. The first seven limbs of yoga were meant to result in the eighth limb -- samadhi -- 'which is defined as direct knowledge, free from the distortions of the imagination,' completely free from the constraints of the material world. In this way, yoga is a religious practice that advocates oneism (or monism). Oneism is a pagan and idolatrous practice that claims there is no distinction between the creation and the Creator -- and can even be a denial of a Creator altogether. The material form of oneism is atheism, and the spiritual form of oneism is often called New Age, New Spirituality, or Integrative Spirituality, which are categorically committed to pantheism or panentheism."

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"According to spiritual oneism, the universe is a living organism with a spiritual force present within everything. Thus, everything is interconnected by the life force or the world soul. This life force manifests as spiritual beings (Christians realize these are demons) that manipulate the course of world events. These spirits can be influenced to serve people by using the ancient magical arts. Humans possess divine power unlimited by any deity. Consciousness can be altered through the practice of rite and ritual. Magic is the manipulation of objects, substances, spirit entities, and minds, including humans and demons, by word (rituals like yoga, incantations like om, curses, spells, etc.) and objects (charms, amulets, crystals, herbs, potions, wands, candles, etc.). Visually, you can think of this in terms of one circle in which everything is contained and interconnected as one. Through various rites and rituals -- such as yoga -- the reality of the universe and consciousness can be manipulated, it is said."

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"Oneism -- and by association, yoga -- is antithetical to Christianity in a number of ways. It states that: (1) There is no distinction between Creator and creation. Romans 1:25 calls this paganism and idolatry: 'They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.'; (2) There is not a focus on looking out to Jesus Christ for salvation, but rather in to self for enlightenment and peace; (3) There is no distinction between good and evil since all is one, which leads to cultural pluralism and the denial of truth; (4) There is no distinction between humans and creation since all is one, thereby lessening the value of human life (which was created in the image of God); (5) There is no distinction between religions as all spiritualities are one, resulting in a vague spirituality and people saying, 'There are many ways to grow spiritually,' 'all religions are the same,' or 'I don’t have a religion. I’m just spiritual.'"

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"Spiritual enlightenment or knowledge comes only through Jesus Christ (John 1:19), Who sends the Holy Spirit into the hearts of those who believe in Jesus (John 14)."

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"Whether they know it or not, Christians who engage in yoga are participating in a religious expression that is antithetical to Christianity. The result is often an unguarded spirit that is susceptible to the many lies of Satan and a slow, almost unperceivable degradation of faith and Christian truth in one’s life. The act itself is a worship act. Subsequently, it cannot be done in a way that is not spiritual. Romans 12:1 is clear that what we do with our bodies is worshipful toward the God of the Bible or something or someone else: 'Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.'"

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"According to Miller, 'Kundalini yoga deliberately attempts to arouse and raise the kundalini, believed to be Shakti or creative divine energy, which sleeps at the base of the spine like a serpent, coiled in three and one-half circles.' Through control of the respiratory system, Kundalini yoga teaches that people can tap into this energy within and harness it, thereby controlling their entire body. Not surprisingly, this system of yoga is also associated with visualization—the belief that you can manifest reality by imagining what you want. Kundalini yoga is on the rise in our culture in a materialistic form with such teachings as The Secret, which asserts that you can manifest your desires by simply visualizing them. In this way, people are given almost God-like power to create their own reality and rule sovereignly over their lives and futures."

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"Humans are born and die once before the final judgment of God comes (Hebrews 9:27)."

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"Christian Yoga? As stated earlier, there is a growing movement of Christians who are engaging in 'Holy Yoga,' claiming that you can practice yoga and be a Christian as long as you divorce the practice of yoga from the teachings of yoga. As I’ve explained in this post, yoga is a religious philosophy that is in direct opposition to Christianity. Thus, in its true form, yoga cannot be simply received by any Christian in good conscious. To do so would be to reject the truths of Scripture and thus Jesus himself. Thinking through whether a Christian can redeem yoga becomes murky. As I alluded to earlier, going to a yoga studio to practice yoga as a Christian is a bit like going into a mosque to practice Islam as a Christian. They don’t go together. Complicating the issue even more is that, as explained above, yoga is often not overt in its teachings but rather weaves them through seemingly harmless practices such as stretching. Without a discerning spirit, one can find oneself naively participating in spiritual activities that are not Christian. My advice is to not attempt to redeem yoga properly understood, as it is a system of belief that is unchristian, against Scripture, and thus demonic in nature. You cannot redeem such a thing."

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"Salvation and liberation come to a person only through faith in Jesus Christ, who is proclaimed in the good news of the Gospel (Romans 1:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; Titus 2:11)."

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"So, in conclusion, Christians must reject yoga, as defined here. I’d also go so far as to say you should reject the term 'yoga,' as it is impossible to divorce it from its historical and spiritual context without much explanation and linguistic gymnastics. Instead, feel free in Christian liberty to stretch however you’d like, participate in exercise, calm your nerves through breathing, and even contemplate the Scriptures in silence. But do so in a way that does not identify with yoga and non-Christian mysticism. Do not seek to negate your mind, but rather renew your mind with the Word of God. Do not seek to empty yourself, but rather be filled with the Holy Spirit. Do not seek to turn into yourself for enlightenment, but rather look out to the God of the Bible. Do not seek to become one with the universe, but rather be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ."

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"Exercise is a gift of God for us to take care of the bodies that he created for his glory. It’s good and important to exercise. But we should never, in our desire to be in shape and be healthy, adopt systems antithetical to Christianity because they make us feel good or have bodily value. Rather, let’s first stay true to God and his Word and work out our bodies to his glory by his values handed down to us through Scripture."

[Various Christian Sources Used From The Internet To Compile This Section]


Wow! I know that's a lot to digest and to process, but this is serious stuff and I just want to try to provide you all with a comprehensive and definitive source on this subject if I can.

Hopefully, that should be more than enough to discourage any God-fearing, Bible-believing Christian from playing around with any kind of "exercise" that requires you to relax yourself through various breathing exercises and mantras you repeat until you "free" or "open" your mind to become a "god" and "Master of Your Own Domain" they'll say, and yet, millions of people (yes, many of them self-professing Christians!) see absolutely nothing wrong with it at all.

I would caution you to please prayerfully consider what it is you're opening up your mind up to, because it's usually left up to each individual to decide, and I would assert that it's nothing but dark, demonic, evil spiritual influences. It's opening the door and inviting them right in. I think a study like the one I just shared above should help to support such a claim too or at least get you to think twice about doing Yoga the next time around.

Still, I know there will be many Christians reading this who will tell me I'm completely nuts. I have one dear family member in particular who I know feels that way. Some might even go so far as to say that there's no such thing as a spiritual realm that contains demonic, Satanically-inspired entities bent on damaging and destroying us.

If that's you, then I would like to kindly ask you to go back and read your Bible please (2 Corinthians 11:14-15; 1 Peter 5:8).

So, this notion that we can somehow "Christianize" a demonic and pagan practice is both naive and dangerous. The term "Christian Yoga" is an oxymoron, referring to a non-Christian religious practice hidden beneath a deceptive veneer of Christian terminology.

No devout Buddhist, Hindu, or Christian would use such disingenuous terminology. Unfortunately, many Christian churches are unknowingly welcoming this Trojan Horse into their midst.

I wasn't the one who came up with that analogy, but calling it a "Trojan Horse" is a perfect description I think. Of course, none of this is that much of a surprise to us, is it?

For years, other faithful Christians have dedicated themselves to exposing the truth about this spiritual poison that has been masquerading itself as being "no big deal because it's just exercise anyway!" and have received ridicule for even suggesting such a possibility.

Looks like they were right all along. I'm glad that there's now some hard medical and scientific evidence from non-religious sources to perhaps sway the skeptics who completely shut down whenever people like us try to discuss the topic from a distinctly Christian perspective.

At the end of the day, however, only the Holy Spirit working through the Gospel and the Lord's Sacraments can help to open the eyes and ears, hearts and minds, of our dear brothers and sisters in Christ who are succumbing to this Satanic deception.

If, after everything that was just presented, you still feel that I'm getting all worked up over nothing (or know someone who feels that way themselves), then please prayerfully consider this additional statement on the dangers of Yoga from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS)...


Q: I'm interested in Yoga and the practice of meditation (meditation meaning the quieting of the mind to allow the "voice of God" to enter). Is there anything in the church guidelines that discourages or forbids these practices? 
A: Let us share briefly an LCMS perspective on the practice of Yoga (of which, of course, there are several forms – e.g., Karma, Bhakti, Juana, Raja). While the initial stages of Yoga may be focused on physical exercises involved, Yoga has its roots in Hinduism and the philosophical aspects of Yoga are integral to it -- something that becomes more apparent in more advanced stages. In Hinduism, Yoga is a means of striving for personal salvation, the ultimate goal being the human soul's union with "the world soul." 
In contrast to assumptions intrinsic to Yoga, Christianity teaches on the basis of the Holy Scriptures that salvation becomes the personal possession of an individual through faith alone in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of the world (Ephesians 2:8-8). And, spiritual enlightenment comes not through external bodily discipline, activities of the mind, or union with a divine "soul," but through the working of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those who hear the Word of God and receive the Sacraments (Lord's Supper, Baptism). Jesus promised, "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid" (John 14:25-27). 
In summary, from our theological perspective, techniques of relaxation and/or exercise (mental as well as physical) are not, of course, problematic in and of themselves. But it is the religious aspects of a practice such as Yoga that raises concerns for Christians. 
[Source]


Not so "harmless" after all,is it?

Christians have no business associating themselves with anything having to do with practices that have their roots in Eastern Religions. That's the long and short of it.

What's more important? Exercise or eternity? That's another one of those rhetorical questions that I hope we all know the answer to. So then why take that kind of risk with your soul just for the sake of your body and mind, which should already be captive to Christ anyway (2 Corinthians 10:5; 1 Peter 1:13)?


Colossians 3:1-4 (ESV) 1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.


Bottom line? We need to ask one simple question that has one simple answer.

Should Christians stay away from Yoga because of its demonic roots? Yes, absolutely.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, I wholeheartedly agree with what many other Christians before me have concluded when they quipped that so-called "Christian Yoga" is quite a stretch indeed.



NOTE: I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or a Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this note, I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little over a year ago. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with 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 Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because 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). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries. I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a dude's diary in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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What Luther Says About...LAW AND GOSPEL

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...LAW AND GOSPEL

Plass: LUTHER offers another illustration of this matter in his exposition of Galatians 3:19, in 1531 (ed. 1538).
 

2288 THE LAW IS BLASTING LIGHTNING; THE GOSPEL, WARMING SUN

At Mount Sinai the thundering, the lightning, the dense clouds, the mountain smoking and flaming, and all that terrible display did not exhilarate or enliven the Children of Israel. Rather it filled them with terror, almost frightened the life out of them, and showed how unable they were, with all their purity and holiness, to endure the presence of God speaking to them out of the cloud. So the Law, in its proper use, does nothing but reveal sin, engender wrath, accuse, fill with terror, and almost lead minds to despair. This is the proper use of the Law; here it ends, nor should it go any farther.
 
Conversely, the Gospel is a light that enlivens, revives, comforts, and raises up fearful minds; for it shows that God is gracious to sinners and to the unworthy for Christ's sake if only they believe that they are delivered from the curse through His death, that is, from sin and death everlasting, and that through His death the blessing is given them, that is, grace, the remission of sins, righteousness, and life everlasting. By distinguishing the Law from the Gospel in this way, we give to both their proper use and office.

(Weimar Edition 40 I, 486 -- Erlangen Edition Gal. 2, 68 f -- Revised Halle or Walch Edition published at St. Louis 9, 414 f)


Forget about figuring out what a fox says!

In a Lutheran layman's terms, spend some time figuring out what Martin Luther said about various topics, because he will always point you back to Jesus Christ, the Word of God, and the Lord's Sacraments.



NOTE: I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or a Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this note, I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little over a year ago. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with 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 Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because 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). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries. I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a dude's diary in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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'Our Daily Bread' And 'Fair Wages'

I've been an Executive Recruiter (a.k.a. a "Headhunter") for 11 years now.

I've managed the entire recruiting process from start to finish, from candidate search to candidate hire (which can take several months in some cases), and have recruited everything from the Entry Level Professional right out of college with no experience to the established, 20-year veteran VP of Sales who earns $500,000+ per year, and have done so for various companies across numerous industries throughout the country.

I mention this only to demonstrate that I know a thing or two about the Employment Industry including the way in which companies tend to operate when it comes to how they prefer to treat their employees, which I would argue is way more important than how they treat their customers.

I also mention it to express the fact that I've heard and seen it all in the sense that each organization usually has a drastically different philosophy on what needs to be done to attract, hire, and then retain the best talent available in the marketplace.

Rarely, did I ever work with true blue Christian companies and professionals. Occasionally, yes, but that hasn't been the norm. Besides, one's faith isn't something that comes up in conversation during the hiring process (or should for obvious legal reasons when you're the one with the authority to hire and fire at will) unless it is essential to performing the job functions of the position that needs to be filled.

Believe it or not, all that being said, I have had the privilege of working for not one, but two, distinctly Christian organizations in my 13-year career right here in Buffalo, NY. In fact, I currently work with other Christians for a Christian President/CEO of a national Gourmet Chocolate Manufacturer where we open each morning's team meeting with prayer and where you will find that all the Chocolate Melters on the premises are named after different people mentioned in the Bible.

So, naturally, the day-to-day routine is much different when you work for a Christian company...at least, it should be somewhat noticeably different.
Now, that's not to say that working for a Christian employer doesn't come with its own unique set of challenges. Quite the contrary! For starters, you have to deal with multiple brands of "Christianity" under the same roof rather than just "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3).

I'm a Confessional Lutheran, but the other people on the Senior Management Team who sit at the same table as me are of the Catholic, Non-Denominational, Presbyterian, Spiritual-But-Not-Religious, and Word-of-Faith/Name-It-Claim-It/Pentecostal variety.

It certainly makes for some...interesting...morning prayers and discussions throughout the day.

People (other Christians in the American workforce) like to think that it would be absolutely fantastic working for a Christian boss. I certainly used to think that way. That's not to say that it doesn't have it's benefits. It does. I like watching my boss working to navigate his way through the secular public arena as a man of faith. I have to be careful though.

My dear friends, we need to remember that they're still sinners just like you and me. They're human beings, not Business Owners In Christ's Place, and so that means that they will still let you down, and yes, perhaps even upset you from time-to-time.

One of the major challenges I've experienced at both the Christian organization I used to work at and the one I work at right now is the tendency for the Senior Managers (who are all Christian men) to think that "Being A Christian Businessman" means that you cannot "Be A Man!" let alone "Be A Businessman!" when you're expected to.

What I mean to say is that such a position demands that you make some difficult if not also unpopular decisions from time-to-time. So, if an employee refuses to do their job (not "has a tough time learning how to do their job properly" but "they simply refuse to do their job because they're lazy") -- even after repeated attempts to address the situation and to correct the unwanted behavior by talking to the individual -- then Senior Management here seems to misapply the instructions Jesus gave to us in Luke 17:3-4 to such a person who is clearly not repentant!

To put it another way, sadly, most Christian Businessmen that I know are afraid to do the right thing and make the right (but often difficult) decisions when it comes to other people on their staff. It's like they don't have a backbone or spine in their entire bodies! It's almost like they're the "Peter Pans" we highlighted a few months back.

Of course, Luke 17:3-4 is important in light of the repentant person, but how in the world does such a command apply to the person that just doesn't care if they're reprimanded by management to the point where it seems like they're just trying to get themselves fired?

How is the "loving" thing to do as a Christian boss to continue to let them leave work unfinished to the point where it directly impacts what other employees can or can't do in order to get their own job done each day?

How is the "loving" thing to do as a Christian boss to continue to allow them to come into work late each morning and leave early each afternoon when everyone else is held to a higher standard and written up if they don't conform to the simple guideline of working the Shift and hours you're scheduled to work?

How is the "loving" thing to do as a Christian boss to continue to let them do things that others would get written up for, but they seem to always get a free pass?

I'm getting a little sidetracked here, but I think you get my point.

Working for a Christian company is not automatically "better" than working for a non-Christian company if you're a Christian yourself. It's just not. In that sense, it's very similar to what we've been repeating week-after-week about how just because a Christian is very sincere does not excuse them when it comes to being sincerely wrong about God's Word and the Gospel.

At this point, I'd like to quickly address another major trend I'm starting to see (and also experiencing myself right now) with Christian businesses. Unfortunately, it's not a "good" trend either I'm afraid.

Christianity Today published an article titled "Why 'Overpaying' Workers Makes Biblical And Business Sense" that I thought was going to be the typical "Capitalism vs. Socialism" sort of piece that tends to pit Conservative Christians against their more liberal counterparts. Boy was I wrong!

Plus, after taking the time to read it, I began thinking that this is a conversation that we Christians definitely need to be having now more than ever.

Let me start by asking a simple question. Who reading this humble little blog of mine isn't living from paycheck-to-paycheck right now? For the vast majority of us, that's just our current financial situation due to the current state of the US economy.

So, whether a person has a "good paying job" or simply makes the "Median Average Income" is immaterial these days it seems.

Furthermore, it seems like whether a person is the sole income provider for their family or if both spouses work to bring home a paycheck doesn't matter anymore either! You could be the most frugal people on the planet, and yet, it's still nearly impossible to eliminate debt and make ends meet even if you're living responsibly with what God has seen fit to give you in His providence.

Ah, see, that's where this discussion becomes a little tricky!

I don't think any of us would suggest that we should just complain-and-moan all the time about how "life's so unfair!" and how unhappy we are that we're not getting paid what we feel we deserve.

"Deserve." There's a loaded word, huh?

I mean, what do any of us really "deserve" other than what the good Lord has already promised to give us in the form of His one and only Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ as well as "our daily bread" too?

Does this mean we should never aspire to land a career that would allow us to make more money? Does that mean that dreaming for a promotion or a new job is wrong? Does it mean that we should feel guilty when we feel hurt that we weren't given the raise we were promised?

Hopefully, we're all on the same page when it comes to a proper understanding of Law and Gospel as well as a proper understanding of what is sinful and what isn't.

It only becomes a "sin" when we start to break the Commandments in regards to this topic. For instance, it's sinful to worship the Almighty Dollar over the Almighty Himself. It's sinful to put your faith, security, and trust in money (and those who seem to have the power to give it to you) as opposed to putting your faith, security, and trust in the Lord (Psalm 118:8). It's sinful to rage with envy, greed, and jealousy in response to what others have that you don't or in response to what you somehow believe is "rightfully yours" even.

But is expecting "fair wages" from your employer a sin?


 
Why 'Overpaying' Workers Makes Biblical And Business Sense 
EXCERPT: "Neither Herb Kelleher at Southwest, nor Jim Sinegal at Costco, ever thought that capitalism meant paying workers the smallest amount possible. They are way too smart for that. So is Dan Price."


That is truly the most powerful point made in the entire commentary.

Nowadays, I see a disturbing trend within Christian owned and operated businesses regardless of the industry they're in.

It's this subtly deceiving mentality that says...


"We don't pay you the kind of salary and wages that you might get if you worked in the same position for another company, because we're not like any other company! We're a Christian company run by Christians who employ other Christians and so the atmosphere here is totally different than anywhere else even though other places might pay you more in both the short- and long-term. What that means is that everyone here views this more as a 'calling' as opposed to a 'job' or just a 'paycheck' even. As a Christian, you understand the difference, right? As a Christian, you understand the importance of a calling, right?"


Ok, that's fine and good, I certainly believe in the "Doctrine of Vocation" too, especially as a Confessional Lutheran, but don't hide behind that proclamation and use it as a negotiating tool to guilt trip your dedicated, hard-working employees into accepting less-than-the-market-rate and less than they're worth (i.e., much less than their experience and track record of success warrants).

At the same time, I get the flip side of the argument too. Some who object to the Gravity Payments story where CEO Dan Price elected to give everyone (including himself!) the same $70,000 annual salary will invariably say that such a move also isn't fair.

Why should the "inexperienced" and "unqualified" get paid the same rate as someone with twice as much experience let alone a whole list of major accomplishments to their credit? That's a fair and legitimate point and it's why I'm not making my piece about such a practice.

Instead, I simply want to call attention to this growing issue I'm seeing (and experiencing myself) regarding dedicated, faithful, hard-working employees not getting paid a salary that's commensurate with their unique qualifications particularly when they were made promises by Senior Management when they were first hired, and all because they're guilt-tripped into believing that they're somehow "less of a Christian" if they don't get on the bus and play along under the guise of a "calling" as opposed to a "career."  

Look, it's not like this is anything new either. This type of thing has been happening to workers since the very beginning and it will continue to happen probably throughout the rest of my professional life and far beyond.

Still, I just think it's despicable for Christian companies to hide behind the "It's A Calling, Not Just A Job!" banner all the time. When profits continue to skyrocket, and the company has its most successful year in its 30-year history, and the projections for next year based on actual Purchase Orders show that 2016 will be even better than 2015, and you can't make good on your promises to your employees (promises that were made in order to get people to accept a job offer in the first place), then it's shameful and dare I say sinful too.

The closing words from that Christianity Today article are worth repeating...


"Neither Herb Kelleher at Southwest, nor Jim Sinegal at Costco, ever thought that capitalism meant paying workers the smallest amount possible. They are way too smart for that. So is Dan Price."


It's really that simple, isn't it? I'd like to think so.

Please don't reply with something like, "Yeah, well, stop complaining about not getting paid what you want! You should be happy you have a job at all in this economy! Some people don't and can't find one and would gladly take your position!"

If anyone's sensitive to the plight of the average American Worker these days it's a guy like me who is on the front lines in the "War For Talent" day-in-and-day-out. I get it and I've heard some terrible horror stories too that has made my heart break for some people.

Let's remember though that even the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 4:4 "Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due."

Again, there's nothing wrong with a Christian wanting to earn a higher salary. The fact that I have to write that merely proves the point I'm trying to make about how we have collectively bought the lie that we're the sinful ones for wanting more out of our careers when the sin is what's being done to us in the name of "calling" and "vocation" (never mind that those who hide behind that and try to use it to their advantage don't seem to have the slightest clue about a proper Biblical understanding of what any of that even means Biblically speaking!).

I wake up and pray for the grace to face each day the same as the one before...


"The prince should think: Christ has served me and made everything to follow him; therefore, I should also serve my neighbor, protect him and everything that belongs to him. That is why God has given me this office, and I have it that I might serve him. That would be a good prince and ruler. When a prince sees his neighbor oppressed, he should think: That concerns me! I must protect and shield my neighbor. ... The same is true for shoemaker, tailor, scribe, or reader. If he is a Christian tailor, he will say: I make these clothes because God has bidden me do so, so that I can earn a living, so that I can help and serve my neighbor. When a Christian does not serve the other, God is not present; that is not Christian living." 
*- Martin Luther


I guess what I want to emphasize is that we need to be very careful not to inadvertently reject "a certain kind of contemporary piety only to embrace a contemporary managerial vision of work" because both cases miss the mark of a proper teaching on vocation (and, therefore, miss the mark of Luther's teaching on vocation).

This is such a delicate subject though, because whenever someone like me brings this up for serious thought and for prayerful consideration it's a subject that's often met with derision.

Let's keep it real -- I run the risk of coming off sounding grossly sinful myself.

Is my criticism, whether warranted or not, evidence of a "grumbling" spirit (Philippians 2:14; 1 Peter 4:9) perhaps? After all, what does the Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions say about all of this?


SMALL CATECHISM 
The Fourth Petition 
"Give us this day our daily bread." 
What does this mean? Answer: God gives daily bread, even without our prayer, to all wicked men; but we pray in this petition that He would lead us to know it, and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving. 
What is meant by daily bread? Answer: Everything that belongs to the support and wants of the body, such as meat, drink, clothing, shoes, house, homestead, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful magistrates good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.

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

LARGE CATECHISM 
The Fourth Petition 
76] Let this be a very brief explanation and sketch, showing how far this petition extends through all conditions on earth. Of this any one might indeed make a long prayer, and with many words enumerate all the things that are included therein, as that we pray God to give us food and drink, clothing, house, and home, and health of body; also that He cause the grain and fruits of the field to grow and mature well; furthermore, that He help us at home towards good housekeeping, that He give and preserve to us a godly wife, children, and servants, that He cause our work, trade, or whatever we are engaged in to prosper and succeed, favor us with faithful neighbors and good friends, etc.


Yes, I realize that anything and everything I have comes from the Lord Himself.

That being said, I should focus on what He's given me at this time rather than on what He has purposed to withhold from me.

Thankfully, I found an excellent sermon from Rev. Gregory J. Schultz (who I just learned was born and raised here in Western New York just like me!) that has helped me to keep the proper perspective in this case.


“Whatever Is Right” 
Matthew 20:1-16 (2/1/15) 
Matthew 20:7 He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.”

In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. 
What is the difference between the first and the last laborers in the vineyard? Some would say that it is simply a matter of greed and jealousy, that the first workers did not get what they thought they deserved in comparison to the others. This is the greed that shows itself in all of us at the first hint that we are being treated unfairly in financial matters, the jealousy that creates in us a knee-jerk reaction against a tax cut for anyone making more money than we do. But that’s not the real difference in today’s text. It goes deeper than that. 
The first laborers had an agreement, a contract with the landowner to work for a denarius, which was the going rate for a day’s work. This was a fair day’s wage for a good day’s labor. The other laborers, however, had no such agreement or contract. Rather, the landowner simply said, “Go into the vineyard, and whatever is right, I will give you.”  
Now if that was you, would you have gone to work for this landowner? Would you work for him not knowing what your wage would be, if all you had to go on was His promise to do what was right? Well, that all depends, doesn’t it, on what kind of person you think him to be: is he miserly or generous, is he a man of good character or bad? It depends on whether or not you trust him. For if you did not trust the landowner, you probably would not go into his vineyard. If you did trust him, you would go. 
That, ultimately, is the difference between the first and the last in this parable. The first were dealing with the landowner on the basis of a contract; the last were dealing with him on the basis of trust in his goodness. The first wanted to deal with him on what they considered to be fair; they wanted things on their terms only. The last dealt with him on the basis of what he considered to be good and right; they were happy to receive whatever they got. 
The owner of the vineyard in this parable is, of course, God the Father. By His Word and Spirit He sends out the call of the Gospel to come into His vineyard, which is the church, and for His people to be about the things pertaining to His Son. Some come into the church from the first moments of their life, baptized as infants, remaining faithful their entire lives. Others are converted as adults. And some people are not brought to faith in Christ the Savior until their lives are almost over. 
But here’s the deal: God gives the same thing to all at the end of the day: full forgiveness of sins, deliverance from death and the devil, everlasting life with Him in heaven. He doesn’t do this because He is unfair; He does it because He is generous and loving and merciful. He pours out His gifts on His people abundantly and lavishly. For the reward at the end of the day is given not based on our work but on the work of His Son, who lived and died and was raised again for us. 
The problem arises when some in the vineyard of the church begin to think that their length of time and service deserves some special reward; they want God to work on the merit system. But this is a problem for two reasons. First, it destroys the relationship of love that God wishes to have with His people. For love has nothing whatsoever to do with what is owed or deserved. Real love is a freely-given gift with no strings attached. As soon as we start wanting to deal with God on the basis of what He owes us, it is no longer a relationship of love, but in the end one of manipulation, where we try to get God to do what we want by pulling the right strings. We put in the good works, like a coin into the slot, and out pops the blessing. To treat God like that is to treat Him as nothing more than a puppet or a cosmic gumball machine. 
Furthermore, if we want God to deal with us on the basis of what is fair, then we put ourselves in terrible danger. If we demand to get what we deserve, we had better be careful, because those who want the merit system with God have no idea what they’re asking for. 
You want fair wages? Fine; then here’s what the Scriptures say: “The wages of sin is death.” Those who go to hell are really only getting what they asked for, namely, the just and fair payment for their sins. In their unbelief the damned will bitterly disagree with God’s judgment and spend all of eternity growing angrier and angrier with Him whom they consider to be unfair. 
Do you find yourself considering God to be unfair because of your situation in life or because of something that has happened to you? Is your personal religion like a contract with God, a system of rewards for your good deeds? Do you negotiate with God in your prayers? You know how this works: “I’ll do this for You, God, if You’ll do this for me.” If that’s the way you deal with God, then you are behaving like the first laborers in this parable, and you must repent. Turn away from ranking yourself above others; turn away from your own works, and turn to the works of Christ. Believe that it is only and entirely through Him that you receive any blessing at all from the Father. Trust in Christ alone to save you from death and hell. 
That, dear friends, is the difference between the first and the last; it is the difference between unbelief and faith. Unbelievers seek a God who is fair, and when they find Him, they want nothing to do with Him. Believers seek a God who is merciful and gracious, and when He finds them, they love Him. Believers know that it is only by grace that they are even in the vineyard, no matter how long they’ve been there. They consider it a privilege and an honor to be able to contribute to the health and the growth of the vineyard. They are not jealous of the newcomer or of the one converted in his dying days, but rather they rejoice that the same mercy that saved them has also saved another. 
Even a faithful lifelong Christian recognizes that, of himself, he deserves nothing, and that it is only because of Jesus that he has any forgiveness at all. As St. Paul writes in Romans 6:23, “The free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” And again in Ephesians 2:8-9, “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” 
Remember, the landowner said, “Go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.” The word “right” in the Greek can also be translated “righteous.” “Whatever is righteous I will give you.” That puts a little different perspective on that phrase, doesn’t it? God is not simply saying, “I will give you whatever is fair,” but, “I will give to you according to My righteous plan of grace. I will give to you what My righteous Son Jesus won for you.” Or most simply, “I will give you My righteousness.” It is written in Romans 3, “You are declared righteous freely by God’s grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”  
Do you trust the owner of the vineyard to give you what is right? Do you rely on your own righteousness, or do you seek His righteousness which He gives as a free gift in Christ? Do you believe that He will be good to you at the end of the day? Faith says, “I trust You, O Lord, to give whatever is right, for I know You to be One who is 'gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.'
It is as we prayed to God in the Introit, “For You will save the humble people, but will bring down haughty looks.” Or as Jesus said, “The last will be first, and the first last.” For this is His way. 
He who is the first and the greatest is the One who humbled Himself to be the last of all on the holy cross. He was treated unfairly so that you would be treated graciously. He Himself was the one who did the work in the vineyard that brings you the generous reward at the end of the day. 
Indeed then, Jesus Christ is the true Laborer in the vineyard. See how the work was all done before you were even brought to the faith. You need to add nothing, for Jesus said, “It is finished.” Only receive and cling, by God-given faith, to His mercy and grace. Lay hold of the denarius Christ earned for you, the forgiveness and life and salvation which He gives to you in His words and His Supper. Come in penitent faith to His table to receive the rich blessing He gives with His body and blood – not because it’s fair, not because it’s owed, and not because you deserve it; but simply because it is His good pleasure to be generous and loving toward you. 
In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit.


That was a beautifully faithful and Christ-centered reminder for all of us (myself included). Maybe I've been getting too caught up in the cares of this world to notice that I've been drifting away from what is true about my Lord and all His gifts for me both material and spiritual.


At the same time, let's continue to pray that Christian Business Owners will be cognizant of how they're misusing our shared and cherished faith to coerce their staff to accept lower pay.

I'm reminded of Jesus' words in Luke 10:7 regarding a laborer being deserving of his wages. Yes, I realize He was talking about the seventy-two He sent out to spread the Gospel, but the principle is still the same, isn't it?


Interestingly enough, take a look at this report on faculty salaries at Lutheran institutions and compare and contrast that with this write-up about the true financial costs of becoming a Lutheran Pastor in the LCMS today and another piece on a Pastor's salary. Just throwing that out there in light of our focus.

In my humble opinion, I don't see anything that prevents Christian companies from paying so-called "fair wages" to their workers. They could easily pay people fair salaries in a fashion that rewards performance in order to be able to attract, motivate, and retain the best employees. They could easily define "fair" as "fair pay based upon the role within the organization, striving to

pay at or within 10 percent of the market value for the job held and the incumbents' performance in the position" if they wanted to. Who would argue with that?

The Bible speaks a great deal on the subject of work and paying/being paid well. Bottom line? God is not a fan of taking advantage of other people and reserves severe penalty for those who do (Jeremiah 22:13).

Let's not lose sight of what's really important though. Let's pray that we remain cross-eyed even in the midst of zero balances in our Checking and Savings Accounts and hurt feelings after our Christian boss just treated us like he was some greedy, pagan mogul.

Friends, we must balance this talk between a right understanding of "our daily bread" and what that means in relation to the topic of "fair wages" if we're ever going to obtain a Biblical business sense as Christian Professionals.

In the final analysis, it's not about us at all, but about Jesus Christ Who unfairly received the fair wages for our own sinful works upon His own brutally crucified body (Romans 6:23), and all so that "you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God" and so "the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life" (Romans 6:22).

This is our eternal reward, which is greater than the greatest salary we could ever hope to receive here on earth in this life.

Do your work and give thanks to the Lord for the "daily bread" He graciously provides you and love your neighbor as you "do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17-23).

On those days when you feel hurt, wronged, and as if everything in your life at the moment is unfair, cry out to the Lord in prayer, repent, and remind yourself of how hurt, wronged Christ was when He took your punishment in your place.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, don't let the world dictate what we classify as being "unfair" when the Word of God tells us all we need to know about how one Man's unfair wages despite His perfect, sinless life earned us all the greatest payment we could ever hope to receive all and by doing nothing on our own to get it!

That's a position complete with eternal benefits that we should all be grateful for.



NOTE: I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or a Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this note, I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little over a year ago. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with 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 Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because 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). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries. I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a dude's diary in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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Can We Lutherans Promise To Stop Promoting 'Promise Keepers' From Now On?

Hot off the presses is this exciting news from my "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" LCMS church...


The Promise Keepers event scheduled for June 19-20 in Pittsburgh is rapidly approaching. We have heard from only a few that were interested, and need to make plans if there are men that definitely want to go. Cost is $79 for registration, plus travel expenses. If anyone has questions or know they would like to attend, please contact NAME or myself very soon. Thanks, NAME


Thankfully, "only a few" have expressed an interest at this point so I suppose that's a little reassuring.

Still, this is the kind of announcement that always deeply concerns me whether it's about an upcoming group trip to some conference or the next bestseller that everyone wants to study in small groups.

See, each and every time I see my dear brothers and sisters in Christ embracing and promoting popular Evangelical and non-Lutheran nonsense like "Promise Keepers" I can't help but to think of God's Word that says...


Hosea 4:6 (ESV) My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.


How can I not think of them in this case?

Ok, so what's so bad about the wildly popular "Promise Keepers" events, you ask?

Here's an excellent answer from Issues, Etc. featuring similar responses from a Lutheran, a Baptist, and a Reformed Christian...


"What Think Ye of The Promise Keepers?" 
Lutheran Seminary Professor Robert Newton, Baptist Pastor John Armstrong, and Reformed Theologian Kim Riddlebarger respond to the question.

Robert Newton: 
Law and Gospel are not always properly distinguished. While certain leaders do state clearly that a Christian's ability to "keep promises" rests not in themselves but in the Gospel of God, others, unfortunately, seem to view God's "promise keeping" for us not principally as the Gospel in which we live, but as Law, the model for us to emulate. 
The Gospel is also presented as essentially the starting place, rather than the staying place, for Christian growth. Author Geoff Gorsuch, for example, declares, "The cross is not the end of a search; it is the beginning of an adventure! To come to belief in God through the cross of Jesus Christ is only an introduction to all that men were intended to be." He goes on to explain the steps that lead on from the cross. "Too many groups. . . never get to exhortation . . . covenants and accountability. They never enter into the struggle for moral excellence together. The never really worship!" 
Gorsuch's desire that men be exhorted to live as Christians and that they strive together for moral excellence is appropriate and commendable. But exhortations, making promises, and being accountable do not themselves bring about Christian growth. Sooner or later we break our promises. The only promises that sustain the journey are those made by God in His son - unconditional love and forgiveness. 
Knowing Christ crucified is not merely where we begin our adventure; it is the adventure. 
God's commandments seem to be viewed by some in Promise Keepers as not only a guide or Christian growth, but a means for it, too . . . Scripture teaches, however, that transformation and motivation are effected solely by the Gospel. 
The Lutheran Witness, November 1995.

John Armstrong: 
Bill McCartney, the man who arguably came up with the Promise Keepers vision, has been a friend of mine for the past 15 years. During his days in Michigan we used to meet together two or three times a year. I used to do chapel services for his football team. When the Promise Keepers movement began in 1990 or '91, and began to get publicity, I watched it closely. It wasn't surprising to me, because it had been the growing vision of Bill to do something like this since the early 80's. 
The theological foundation upon which a movement that purports to be faithful to Scripture in its requirements for leadership for men in their homes and in society has to be evaluated by Scripture. This is not claimed to be a secular therapy movement for men of all religions who just want help to be better men. It claims to be a movement that is distinctly faithful to Christ. Although they say they are not a church, they are carrying on certain functions that are commissioned by Christ to the church and to minister of the Gospel. That's where a part of the confusion comes in. If Promises Keepers took the general position of simply being helpful to men with no religious overtones, and provide a social function to help people, that would be one thing. But they claim to be deeply committed to Christ. The first promise is that "a Promise Keeper is committed to honoring Jesus Christ through worship, prayer, and obedience to God's Word in the power of the Spirit." The movement is distinctly claiming to be a movement in the name of Christ, and thus in the name of truth, His Word. You must discern the movement on the basis of its own claims. It claims to be a movement that seeks to honor Jesus Christ, so we must seek to discover whether it does so on the basis of the Word of God. 
The whole idea of "promise keeping" raises some questions with me because it is used in the language of covenant. When you make a promise to a covenant, such as marriage, to break that covenant is a most serious offense. These men are engaging in covenantal language, perhaps unwittingly, and they are being led to make promises which at best are vaguely general.

Kim Riddlebarger: 
What people must understand, coming at Promise Keepers from a confessional, Protestant perspective, I am bound as a minister of the Gospel in the Christian Reformed Church to evaluate all movements in the light of Scripture, and as Scripture is summarized through the confessions of my church. Therefore, I am going to have theological problems with Promise Keepers. I must make a clear distinction between the good that the movement accomplishes and what is being taught, or what is the ideology that underlies the Promise Keepers. 
Promise Keepers claims to be a Christian movement, but in the movement, ethics have completely superseded theology. The movement is based upon an ancient heresy, Pelagianism, that argues that if God commands us to do something in Scripture, we have the ability to do it. Ought implies can. If something ought to be done, it means it can be done, because you have the ability to do it. If Scripture commands us to do something, does that mean we can do it? Promise Keepers assumes "yes" while the Bible clearly tells us that God's Law is a revelation of his will and shows us our need for a Savior. 
I grew up a dispensationalist Evangelical where it was argued that we were in the age of grace and no longer under the age of law. Some famous dispensational writer would say, "since we are not under law, this was the Old Testament, now we are under grace." That raises the question: What do we do about ethics and morals? The answer, "Let's live by principles of grace." These "principles of grace" basically became Evangelical "house rules" or new laws. The Seven Promises are a mixture of things in Scripture and things that are kind of the Evangelical house rules. These now supersede the Ten Commandments. Evangelicals do not understand the Law/Gospel distinction. 
Those of us who are "confessional Christians," in that we subscribe to confessional statements such as the unaltered Augsburg Confession or the Westminster Confessions, have a problem with the Promise Keepers. Evangelicals look at us as if we have three eyes, because our confessions define our "house rules" They define them as the Law of God. Our inability to keep the Law of God or the Christian "house rules," which are a revelation of the will of God, shows us that we must have a Savior who, not only can pay for the guilt of our sin every time we break the Law of God, but who can keep the Law of God so that his Law-keeping can be reckoned or imputed to me to cover my Law-breaking.


I hope that helps you to better understand why we Lutherans (any Christian, for that matter) should be concerned about the type of message promoted by Promise Keepers.

As one Christian wrote back in 2008...


Promise Keepers and other ecumenical organizations are calling for the breaking down of denominational barriers. At the Promise Keepers Clergy Conference in Atlanta in February 1996, the more than 39,000 pastors attending were urged to commit themselves to the “Atlanta Covenant.” One of the points of this seven-part document urged pastors to reach beyond racial and DENOMINATIONAL barriers. Former football coach Bill McCartney, who came out of retirement in August 2008 to lead Promise Keepers again, made the following statement at this meeting: “Contention between denominations has gone on long enough. If the church ever stood together, Almighty God would have his way.” 
This ecumenical thinking apparently sounds good to this itching-ear generation (2 Timothy 4:4-6), but it ignores the wretchedly apostate condition of a great many of the denominations. 
Modernism has permeated the mainline denominations. Any call, therefore, to breach denominational barriers today, is a call to yoke together truth with error and is an open denial of the biblical doctrine of separation.


Obviously, such a proclamation by Promise Keepers is a problem, isn't it?

Quoting from Rev. Rolf Preus's paper "Luther Revisited: The Doctrine of Justification Is Still The Issue" is this gem that also speaks of the dangers inherent in such a group and their gatherings...


"The doctrine of church fellowship is not a matter of submitting to rules determined by the democratic processes of the synod to which we belong. It is a matter of confessing the pure gospel by which we sinners are saved from hell. The unionistic spirit is utterly incompatible with the Christian gospel. It holds the righteousness of Christ in contempt. We condemn religious unionism because we love the gospel of justification by faith alone. Why do Lutheran pastors promote participation in the Promise Keepers or similar organizations? Because they don't have enough rules on how to apply the doctrine of church fellowship? Of course not. They do it because they don't value the righteousness of Christ. If they did, they would teach their members to mark and avoid such gatherings. Find a preacher who preaches Christ, His person, His work, His atonement, His righteousness reckoned to us, the forgiveness of sins, all within the context of preaching the law without any compromise, and you'll find someone opposed to religious unionism. The same faith which receives the righteousness of Jesus with which God clothes us is the faith which rejects the unionistic spirit of doctrinal indifference. The reason a Lutheran marks and avoids false doctrine and refuses to worship with those who don't is not because he has been sufficiently indoctrinated in his church's rules. Rather, it's a simple matter of love and hate. If you hate something, you don't express fellowship with it. If you love the pure teaching by which God has saved you, you hate the false teaching which can damn you. And it is just this love for the gospel of justification that will find in every other article of Christian teaching the same golden thread of the righteousness of the God-man which covers us and renders us fit to enter into eternal life. Nothing is worth teaching, preaching, defending, or confessing, except for the sake of this truth which glorifies God as it reveals his mercy to poor, lost, undeserving sinners like you and me and thus saves us eternally."


The emphases in bold are all my own. The Word of God is clear though and needs no help from me on this topic.


Romans 16:17-18 (ESV) 17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.


My Lutheran Study Bible says about this passage...


"Paul warns against those who cause divisions and promises God will overcome them. Those who advocate a false Gospel are to be avoided entirely. Unlike Paul, false teachers snare hearers with false praise (1 Corinthians 2:1-5; 1 Thessalonians 2:3-6). Unnamed people divided the Church from within, probably along Jew/Gentile lines. No false teaching is acceptable for God's Church, whether it contradicts the Law or the Gospel. As in Galatians, believers are to reject any false teachings and refuse to associate with those who advocate them. Some have applied this to any and every different teaching, but here it refers specifically to issues that strike at the heart of the Gospel. Heavenly Father, guard and protect Your Church from all who would corrupt Your precious Gospel. As we await the final consummation of our salvation, may our obedience to Your will be 'known to all' around us. Amen."


At the end of the day, there's actually an eye-opening study in contrasts here if were only willing to look and then prayerfully consider it.

The upcoming Promise Keepers event mentioned in my church's email is going to be held on June 19th-June 20th for $79/person. Wouldn't you much rather prefer to attend a distinctly Lutheran conference on the very same days instead, especially if you call yourself a Lutheran?

Sure, it's a little more expensive than attending Promise Keepers, but you'll be fed some truly Christ-centered, cross-focused messages from some real Pastors (Lutheran ones too!).


The 2015 Issues, Etc. "Making The Case" Conference 


I guess your preference will depend on your desire to have Christ truly at the center of the conference or if you want Him to be more of a "Co-Pilot" Who helps you to achieve your "promises" in this life.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, can we Lutherans just promise to stop promoting Promise Keepers from now on?



NOTE: I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or a Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this note, I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little over a year ago. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with 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 Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because 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). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries. I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a dude's diary in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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