Lutherandom Musings Along Memory Lane (Saturday 8/30/14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



8:00AM DOSE OF VITAMIN A (AMUSEMENT): Last week, I introduced you to Lucy Lou -- the cross eyed cat -- who my wife and I met at a place called "Tabby Town" at the local mall while out on our date night last Friday night. Well, take a look at Lucy Lou's newest home and family because it certainly caught us by surprise!


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


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


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


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


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


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


Grace and peace to you and yours!

NOTE: NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a Lutheran-In-Name-Only at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that perhaps wouldn't be too big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in interpreting a specific portion of Scripture exegetically, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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5 Types of Psalms

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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ZITAT: 'A Little Bible'

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

That will help to explain the strange "Z" word listed in the title of this post. That being said, I'm always keeping my eyes and ears open for good Lutheran quotes that encourage prayerful consideration and deeper study of God's Word, His Sacraments, Christ's Church, and the Lutheran confession of "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3). It helps me in my journey from American Evangelicalism to becoming a Confessional Lutheran (and not just a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only"). Here's the latest.




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


Have you ever read the Book of Psalms?

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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


NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a Lutheran-In-Name-Only at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that perhaps wouldn't be too big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in interpreting a specific portion of Scripture exegetically, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




8:00AM DOSE OF VITAMIN A (AMUSEMENT): So this is Lucy Lou -- the cross eyed cat -- who my wife and I met last night at Tabby Town while out on our date night!


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


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


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


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


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


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


Grace and peace to you and yours!

NOTE: NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a Lutheran-In-Name-Only at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that perhaps wouldn't be too big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in interpreting a specific portion of Scripture exegetically, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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What Luther Says About...TEMPTATION

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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



What Luther Says About...TEMPTATION

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

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

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


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


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

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

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



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

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


NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a Lutheran-In-Name-Only at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that perhaps wouldn't be too big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in interpreting a specific portion of Scripture exegetically, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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'Let's Not Just Criticize, But Catechize' (Is That Too Much To Ask?)

Anyone who has spent even just a few minutes working their way through the Archive of this blog will know the challenges and frustration I've faced this past year as a new Confessional Lutheran who has had to come to grips with the fact that the local LCMS Church that I belong to would rather be an Evangelical or Non-Denominational church as opposed to a Lutheran one.

Sadly, I'm afraid that the only thing distinctly Lutheran about our church is the church sign out front, and it pains me that the congregation seems to exhibit all the telltale signs of spiritual amnesia, of having an identity crisis, especially when a newbie like me comes busting in wanting to know all about our Confessions, the Book of Concord, the Liturgy, etc. only to have members (and Pastors!) who have been there for 30+ years look at me like I'm speaking in tongues.

"Why do you want to read and study such things? Their time has passed. They're no longer relevant. Besides, we need to 'be the church' if we're ever going to grow and win people for Christ! Focus on showing love and not so much on doctrine all the time, ok?"


Yeah, ok.

That pretty much sums up the general responses and sentiments that I've received from others.

Plus, in the rare occasions when I've been able to get some brothers and sisters to actually listen to my legitimate concerns backed by Scripture and our Confessions, I'm told not to worry about it since diversity in doctrinal differences is actually a good thing for us, and when that doesn't work, I'm told I just don't understand what I'm reading, saying, and/or talking about (as Shakespeare himself should remind me!).

Still, despite these unfortunate series of events during the past year, I have continued to try and give others the benefit of the doubt as I would want them to give me, and have focused on trying to put the best construction on all things.

I mean, after all, I myself was deceived for so long and only within the past year was brought to that realization by the sheer grace of the Lord. That's why I always want to be careful when writing posts like this.

However, writing posts like this must be done. Our brethren need to know that there are those within their church who truly love them more than just giving them the usual "I'll Keep You In My Prayers" lip service. The LCMS Church needs to know that there are faithful from within the laity who have had enough of this nonsense in the name of Christ.

More importantly, everyone needs to know that we Confessional types desire our church leaders and Pastors to give us the full Gospel instead of some watered-down version fueled by the latest gimmicks and trends.

I think even more urgent than that is our desire to have trained professionals -- called and ordained ministers of God's Word -- actually oversee what's going on in the church they've been called to serve and to truly know what's being promoted to the masses as "Biblical truth" because far too often it's this whole "Every Member A Minister" mentality that's running wild and causing more harm than good despite anyone's best intentions.

Case in point, our church, like many others today, has a Facebook Page. Each week, the recorded sermon is shared online, and the individual who does that for us also introduces it with a brief quote (often a quote from the Pastor's sermon if not the Bible passage that the sermon is about).

Well, a few weeks ago, I was upset to find this for the world to see...

 
Now, in case you can't quite make it out from the screenshot of my church's Facebook Page above, here's the quote that absolutely upset me: "The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings." *- Masanobu Fukuoka


My dear friends, while I certainly wanted to give whomever it was that chose this quote to introduce the sermon the benefit of the doubt (I had no idea who was doing this for us each week), I also wanted to express my serious concerns since such a statement by such an author is the complete antithesis to what we Lutherans believe, teach, and confess.

This only serves to underscore my previous concerns from this past year.

So, I took it upon myself to write the following response right there on Facebook...

Forgive me, but with all due respect (Ephesians 4:15), can I ask why this quote was chosen to serve as an introduction to this good sermon we heard from Pastor Belasic last week about the Parable of the Sower let alone how it's even remotely consistent with our shared and cherished Christian faith and our Lutheran Confessions? I mean, the whole point is that we can never be "perfect" (much less should our perfection be the ultimate goal in this life as if it's something we can achieve on our own apart from God; Simul Justus et Peccator), which is why we are so grateful that Christ lived a perfect life on our behalf, that we have our Baptism, the Word, and the Lord's Supper (all works of God, not works of man), and that His righteousness is imputed to us through our faith in what He did upon the cross for you and for me to atone for our sins, correct? In addition, Fukuoka is a well-known Zen Buddhist, who clearly wrote this quote from the Buddhist perspective that we can achieve perfection in this life through our good works. Dearly beloved, I can't think of anything more contrary to the Gospel (and to this particular Parable) than that. Fukuoka also wrote the popular book "Mu 1: The God Revolution" that delves deeply into his Buddhist beliefs -- nothing Christian about that work at all either. Some might think I'm overreacting here (maybe I am, especially if all of this info about Fukuoka was unknown by those who decided to reference him), but please know that I'm only bringing this up out of a genuine, heartfelt concern that our inclusion of a quote by a well-known Buddhist, even if it's a quote about farming/planting that, on the surface, seems to correlate to this important Parable, it may truly give the wrong impression that we tacitly approve of (and perhaps even agree with) the Buddhist faith or parts of it since it's introducing a Christian sermon. It's rather ironic too given what this Parable is all about. Regardless, I pray that my words here today will be seen as nothing more than the words of one concerned family member looking out for other family members, and as the words of one who's merely concerned about the truth and our spiritual health as a congregation with Christ as the Head of His Church (Ephesians 4-5). Lord knows I've been wrong like this myself in the past and I have thanked Him for the people He used to point out my errors so that I can repent and learn from them. As brothers and sisters in Christ who share fellowship around the Word and Sacraments, we are to reject as "false" anything and everything that is contrary to "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3). Why? "Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?" (1 Corinthians 5:6). My dear friends, again, I sincerely hope that these comments were received in the same spirit with which they were written -- in gentleness, humility, love, and repentance. Grace and peace!


Roughly 24-48 hours later my wife received a phone call while I was at work from the Chairman of the Church Board/Council. In short, he was calling to ask her to please tell me that he and a handful of others were thankful that I wrote what I wrote because they agreed with me. In fact, even our Interim Pastor was appreciative since he had no idea.

Apparently, the whole situation was discussed the night before at a Church Board meeting that was attended by our Eastern District President, Pastor Chris Wicher, who no doubt had to recall the first time I brought similar concerns to his immediate attention a few months ago over another separate issue.

Yet, in the very next breath, he then proceeded to tell my wife that they wanted to know if I would like to be nominated to serve as the "Endowment Fund Manager" for the Church/School Boards.

Typical. Maybe it's the cynic in me, or maybe I'm just sick-and-tired of expressing a heartfelt concern like this that truly impacts my beloved brothers and sisters spiritually only to have it fall on deaf ears, but the problem is A LACK OF CATECHESIS AND INSTRUCTION IN OUR LOCAL CHURCH -- not that we have a vacancy on the Church/School Board!

Maybe I'm overreacting a little here, but it just feels like they're trying to "silence me" by offering me a "position" on the Church/School Board in a role which I know absolutely nothing about.

Why in the world would my willingness to comment on spiritual matters within our local church in a public forum like Facebook somehow indicate to them that I would be good at managing the same church's finances and money? Maybe it's a not-so-subtle message that they view me as the congregation's Judas (John 13:29), because they feel betrayed that I'm not on board with the collective "vision" of the church, and my outspokenness is only "hurting" their efforts.

No, I don't really believe that there was some sort of conspiracy to send me that message intentionally, but I can appreciate the sheer irony.  

Before you cast judgment on whether or not I'm "overreacting" here, I would kindly ask that you consider the following. This is the email I received from all the parties involved. It was sent the night before my wife received that phone call and I never saw it until after she received the phone call because I was so busy with work.

Hi Jeff! Wanted to let you know we talked about the post on the Trinity facebook page at our council meeting tonight and how to rectify that situation. Give us a day or two at most to get that taken care of as there are a few people who will be involved in this process. I know you talked with NAME WITHHELD today as he had mentioned. This is simply (not to minimize the possibly damage it could effectively cause) a case where a member was trying to do something good and made a mistake. In the process we're trying as best as possible to preserve the relationship with that individual so please pray for that- that Satan doesn't work his way more into this than he already has. Again, please give us the two days in understanding to take care of this. We will start on this in the morning. As always- I appreciate your concern as well as insight! ~NAME WITHHELD


Ok, fair enough. Glad to see that it's being taken seriously and I agree 100% that it's a very delicate situation that needs to be handled properly.

These were my immediate responses to that email...

NAME WITHHELD, 
Good morning, my friend. Sorry for the delayed response, but I just saw your email. It looks like you may have called last night too (although I haven't been able to access that message yet b/c we don't use that number much anymore; my work number is 716-XXX-XXXX if you need to get ahold of me, or need me to respond quickly after leaving a message at some point today). In addition, Lindsay just told me she talked to NAME WITHHELD within the last hour or two since he called to talk to her about it and give her a quick update on what has been going on in the past 24-48 hours. 
Obviously, we had no idea that it became a point of discussion during yesterday's meeting nor intended for it to become any kind of "controversy" within the church despite the serious nature. I also had no idea who I was addressing (who was responsible for originally posting that quote) and still don't, which is why I tried to write it as a general message (a friendly reminder of sorts) for all of us at Trinity to prayerfully consider (myself and my family included). I also agree with you that, whoever it was, I'm sure they were likely only trying to be helpful. For now, our Small Catechism's teaching on the 8th Commandment is a fitting guide and reminder that we should all put the best construction on this sensitive situation so that God's grace may prevail. 
Truth is, while I'm glad that this is being taken seriously, and that it's generating a positive discussion within our church family regarding the importance of our shared confession of faith, we're still a family of believers, and the individual behind that post is not to blame if they've never been taught anything different, right? That's why I agree with you 100% that grace must abound in this situation! Yes, let's address it, let's make sure that person knows why that quote is dangerous, and let's take the necessary steps to ensure it doesn't happen again, but let's not attack/destroy/shun the person for making what could've been an honest mistake on their part, especially if it's determined they didn't know any better (I have no way of knowing that though without knowing them and their motivation, which is why I will certainly give them the benefit of the doubt here). Better yet, let's not just criticize but catechize since it's only proper instruction about what we Lutherans believe and why we Lutherans believe it that is always the best defense against such things happening again in the future. 
Grace And Peace, 
Jeff


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

NAME WITHHELD, 
I just reread your email and noticed something. You stated in your email that NAME WITHHELD mentioned that he and I spoke. Actually, I never spoke to NAME WITHHELD myself -- let alone anyone directly about this -- so I'm not sure why he would've said that last night. I'm not trying to make a difficult situation worse, but I don't want you and everyone else to believe an outright lie (or that I somehow wanted to do more than share my sincere comments on Facebook in response to that quote in the hopes of getting us all to think about some things) because that would be rather hypocritical of me, wouldn't it? Maybe he meant that he planned to talk to me about it at some point today (???). In any event, I just thought you should know that. Grace And Peace, Jeff


Would you believe that the 3 parties involved in this situation (Church Board/Council President, Church Leader, Interim Pastor) NEVER responded to me about any of this after I wrote the above emails? That was a full month ago.

I did receive a voicemail from the Church Board/Council President though. It had nothing to do with the this situation and addressing the root problems that led to this situation occurring in the first place though. It did have everything to do with, "Jeff, we need an answer from you ASAP about whether or not you'd like to be nominated to serve as the Endowment Fund Manager like we discussed..."

"Like we discussed" you say? You mean, that one time you called my wife and communicated the message to her and haven't said a single word about any of it to me at all since? You mean, that's a more pressing need than better, careful, and more Biblical instruction within our church?

Sorry to sound so "snarky" and to air my grievances here in a public forum like this, but we have much bigger concerns as a church body than a vacancy on our Church Board/Council, IMHO, and it saddens me that my repeated efforts to gently and lovingly bring them to everyone's attention always seems to fall on deaf ears.

At least the person responsible for the poorly chosen Buddhist quote that introduced the sermon wrote an email to me to apologize. For what it's worth, this was my first and only interaction with this individual in all the time that we've attended the same church together.

Jeff, first and foremost, I appreciate your faith and willingness to speak out regarding your perspective to the quote used for the heading of the July 13th sermon. In reading your comment, I made the decision to remove the quotation that was used as well as the comments to start anew. Often with sermon postings, I will use a passage from the gospel to use as the heading, but occasionally I try to also use quotations to try to mix things up. As you had stated, I was indeed ignorant to the background of the source of the quotation and I meant nothing against the doctrine of the Church. My goal was to find a quotation regarding the "farming" of humans, as the gospel refers to each of us as a seed. In terms of "perfection" I had meant for that to be taken as the goal of each human life -- to live life as Christ did in perfection -- not to imply it was a possibility of our own. However, in light of the information provided, I do apologize if you were offended by the quotation and hope you find the resolution satisfactory. Please do not hesitate to message if you find any other conflicts or issues and I will certainly try to be more careful in regard to content.


Ok, again, I promise that I'm REALLY trying to put the best construction on this whole sordid mess, and maybe I'm just being a jerk who's "nitpicking" now, but to write "I appreciate YOUR faith" (I thought we all shared the same confession of the faith?; Jude 1:3) and "regarding YOUR perspective" (as if sharing the facts about the author cited in comparison to what God's Word actually says is MY SOLE OPINION?). Plus, is trying "to mix things up" when introducing a sermon ever a good idea?

If you think I'm being "too harsh" here particularly when it appears as though this brother issued a Mea culpa, then I would ask you to consider his closing statement in which he seems to contradict himself.

In terms of "perfection" I had meant for that to be taken as the goal of each human life -- to live life as Christ did in perfection -- not to imply it was a possibility of our own.


So we can "live life as Christ did in perfection" or we can't? Which is it because I'm confused and it sounds like you are too.

Sorry, but this is Exhibit A of why we must focus on better and more Biblical instruction in our church ASAP to prevent this kind of un-Scriptural thinking (this brother in Christ has attended this church for 20+ years!).

Look, I know we're all sinners and we're all prone to let each other down from time-to-time, but this is a pattern of behavior dating back a full year now and nothing seems to be changing at all. It concerns me. Why doesn't it seem to concern anyone else?

At this point, all I can do is continue to pray about things.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, I don't want to just criticize, but want to encourage those I look to within my church as called and ordained ministers of God's Word and Sacraments to catechize me and the rest of us in the Lutheran faith since that's the best line of defense.

Is that too much to ask?

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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Dog Days of Summer Series: Churchy Gimmicks -- Has The Church Sold Its Soul To Consumerism?

In the well-known words of Will "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" Smith:

"Summer, summer, summertime / Time to sit back and unwind" 


Summer. Perhaps this is as good a time as any to begin clearing out my Inbox which contains hundreds of emails dating back to 2012, and to share with you the Christian gems that I come across (or at least those items that could generate some good, thoughtful discussion here). 


I read that the "Dog Days of Summer" is the name for the most sultry period of Summer (from about July 3rd to August 11th). Yes, we're already beyond August 11th, but we can't have just one single entry in what's being called a "series," now can we? No!

So, we're going to continue with our next installment in what we're calling our "Dog Days of Summer Series" for as long as it takes to get that Inbox down to 0 emails. In case you've missed any of the previous entries, this should help you catch up petty quickly...

Does Singing In Church Matter?



One important note. Obviously, I don't want to ever encourage a lackadaisical approach to Bible study and prayerful consideration, but since I'm likely to overwhelm you with one post after another (posts that are also automatically fed to the Lutheran Layman Twitter feed), I'm going to be creating a lot of "noise" as they say, which means I'm going to at least try not to to go too deep with the analysis of the content in this series. I'm gonna try.


Instead, I think I prefer to merely reference an item, maybe make a quick comment and observation or two, and then allow for all of you to chime in with your thoughts in the hopes of getting a friendly discussion going so I can learn more about the Lutheran perspective on things myself. So, whether you ultimately decide to go deeper with the subject on your own and in your own time this Summer is entirely up to you, my friends.

As always, please "test everything" (1 Thessalonians 5:21), always respond to whatever it is that you find here like the Bereans would (Acts 17:11), be sure to exercise discernment, and do let me know if you think my old "Evangelical Adam" is trying to reassert himself here.




DOG DAYS OF SUMMER SERIES:
CHURCHY GIMMICKS -- HAS THE CHURCH SOLD ITS SOUL TO CONSUMERISM?
 
I know, that seems like a rhetorical question, right? I mean, anyone who has listened to just one episode of Fighting For The Faith with Chris Rosebrough knows what a circus contemporary Christianity has made church out to be. 
Sure, that's true of most Evangelical, Non-Denominational, Mega-Church types, but what about he Lutheran Church at large? What about the LCMS, specifically? 
I hate to break it to you, but no church institution is free from the temptation to pander to the pagans and far too often it's "churchy gimmicks" and good old fashioned "American Consumerism" that somehow becomes their greatest marketing ploy (and the congregation's greatest nightmare whether the congregants realize it at first or not). 
Take my local LCMS Church, for instance. 
One typical Sunday morning, I was appalled to learn that the Divine Service was going to be replaced that week by the "Worship Service" performed -- yes, I said "performed" -- by the Youth Group! 
Now, keep in mind that this Youth Group is anything but "youthful" since it's made up of college bound high schoolers as well as young adults over the age of 21, but the point is that these are "spiritual babes" not Theologians or season Pastors. 
This particular Sunday they were dressed as though this was some kind of a stage play. Worse, several people who were dressed in black (I think they were supposed to represent "sin") began to enter the sanctuary and actually climb over the open spaces in the pews from the back of the church all the way to the front while the classic James Bond Theme blared over the speakers in the background. Yes, that actually happened. 
I'm not sure who thought this would be a good idea, or if people thought this might actually draw the non-believers to church that morning, but one thing's for sure...I FOUND IT TO BE TERRIBLY OFFENSIVE LET ALONE A POOR DECISION TO FEED ME THAT JUVENILE GARBAGE INSTEAD OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF MY LORD AND SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST, WHO WAS CRUCIFIED, WHO DIED, WHO WAS BURIED, AND RESURRECTED FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF MY SINS! 
In any event, I share that story with you only to point out that no church and body of believers is immune from this sort of thing. 
That's why I found a recent issue of something called Credo Magazine that was sitting in my inbox from April rather enlightening.


Churchy Gimmicks: Has The Church Sold Its Soul To Consumerism? 
The Evangelical church in the twenty-first century has in many ways absorbed the consumeristic mentality that is so prevalent in the culture. Churches approach worship as if they were selling a product and the attendee were the consumer. Since the product is up for sale, churches must show that their product is more entertaining than anything else the world has to offer. Therefore, churchy gimmicks are the name of the game. Whatever keeps people coming back for more takes first priority and becomes the controlling principle for all things church-related. The preaching must be relevant, the music must entertain, and church events must keep people on the edge of their seat. If the church doesn’t sell itself, then it will be out of business. 
In this issue of Credo Magazine we hope to pour an ice-cold bucket of water in the face of the church. No longer can we turn to the culture to decide what the church should be and do. God, his gospel, and his bride are not products to be sold. And those who walk through the church doors on Sunday morning are not customers to entertain. Such an approach makes man the center and treats the church like a business. In contrast, our aim in this issue is to draw church-goers and church leaders back to Scripture, which we believe should be our final authority and guide for worship. In doing so, we must recover the ordinary means of grace that God uses to equip the saints and transform us into the image of Christ.

Now, please keep in mind that Credo Magazine is a non-Lutheran and an Evangelical source, but their criticism is something we should be able to agree with rather easily. 
My favorite part is right at the beginning of one of the featured articles. T. David Gordon is Professor of Religion And Greek at Grove City College and the author of Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped The Messengers (P&R) and Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote The Hymnal (P&R)
In this interview, Matthew Barrett, Executive Editor of Credo Magazine, asks Gordon a handful of questions about what the church looks like when it absorbs a consumeristic mentality. Check out this classic response from Gordon...


I do not have any sociological or empirical data on how common bad preaching is; I have only 50-plus years of experience in a variety of religious contexts. From that experience, I can only observe that American Evangelical Christianity, perhaps more than any other form of Christianity, is almost entirely blind to the culture that has produced it, and therefore conforms to that culture and its sensibilities more than any other form of Christianity. So yes, if our culture is characterized by entertainment, then our religion is also characterized by entertainment. (The best book on this topic may be Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, especially chapter seven, “Shuffle Off to Bethlehem.”) If our culture is characterized by marketing, then yes, our churches are characterized by marketing. I honestly do not understand why Evangelical Christians even bother to attend church at all; they find nothing there that they would not find everywhere in the culture anyway, so why bother? I would rather attend my own funeral than attend a typical Evangelical “worship” service, emceed by some grinning, blow-dried, story-telling “pastor” who acts as though the fallen world has never wounded him or anyone else, who is entirely unaquainted with “the Man of Sorrows, aquainted with grief.” I don’t wish such people any ill; I just wish they would go away.

See, this is just one of the many reasons why I was drawn back to the Lutheran Church -- the Divine Service and the Liturgy -- but I'll expand upon that a little later this week in another post.  
For now, I'm curious to see what the rest of you think about some of the content in this edition of Credo Magazine, especially as you read it from a Lutheran perspective. 


So, what do you think? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the Comments Section below.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, yes, sadly, the Christian Church At Large is still suffering from a "Consumerism" mentality as Pastors are now viewed as CEOs, churches as businesses, and congregants as consumers who must be sold something.


NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!


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