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What Luther Says

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!

"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.

"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

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!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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