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We 'Will Recognize Them By Their Fruits' (Not Their Decor)

[NOTE: The original title of this piece was "Pastor Fisk Is Into The Occult And Tarot Cards!?!" and by my poor decision to run with that I inadvertently created a headache for Pastor Fisk! I'm truly sorry that my selfish desire to vent caused any problems for you and yours as that was certainly not my intention and I also apologize to any of his parishioners or regular viewers whose heart skipped a beat when they first saw that title. In hindsight, I should've put the comments I made at the end right here at the beginning as a disclaimer of sorts: "Don't worry about the title, my WEtv friends -- it's not true! You'll understand why it says that after you've had a chance to read this. After you do, I could REALLY use some much needed godly counsel from you on this one. As a 'Newtheran' I'm not sure how to respond any more -- if I even should at all at this point. Of course, the 'Old Adam' wants to pick up the 'sword of the Spirit' and continue to do battle, the 'Saint' wants to 'save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh' (Jude 1:23), but the rest of me is growing weary b/c I don't know what else I could possibly do or say that I haven't already over the course of the past year and in recent days. Prayer is all that's left it seems (which is everything, of course!), but is it 'wrong' of me to pass on meeting w/him yet again? Finally, please feel free to correct me so I can repent if I was wrong to share this let alone write it in the first place due to the 8th Commandment and all. (By the way, I hope you'll all forgive me for linking to my own blog, but feel free to remove this if that's against the rules here). Thanks in advance for your time and help. Grace and peace!" Pastor Fisk personally asked me to change the title to avoid giving the wrong impression about him and I was glad to oblige. Here's what I wrote in response on Facebook: "It's clear after reading the comments here that I was wrong to have expressed my concerns and frustrations online in this manner let alone in such a long-winded blog. Obviously, I have much to learn myself and just b/c online communities like this one are the only places I can find other Confessional Lutherans doesn't excuse the fact that there is a 'right way' and a 'wrong way' for me to sound off on things like this. FWIW, I'm truly sorry that my selfish desire to vent caused problems for you and yours today, Pastor Jonathan Fisk, since that certainly wasn't my intention. I also apologize to any of your parishioners or regular viewers who are reading this and whose heart skipped a beat when they first saw that title (or who are still confused by the whole thing if not looking to use it as ammunition against you and your ministry). I'm incredibly embarrassed, redheads like me blush easily, and it won't happen again. In hindsight, it was wrong, I was wrong, I am sorry, and I hope you all can forgive me. Grace and peace."]

What does a Confessional "Newtheran" like me do when he tries to help a lifelong Lutheran (one who readily admits that he's more a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" despite belonging to the LCMS Church for 20+ years) understand what we are supposed to believe, teach, and confess about Baptism, and yet, that lifelong Lutheran-In-Name-Only turns around a few days later and responds to all of the Bible references, quotes from the Book of Concord, and Worldview Everlasting videos I've shared with him on the subject by ignoring the subject of Baptism completely while wanting to debate and discuss the fact that he believes that Pastor Fisk is into the Occult and Tarot Cards!?!

My dear friends, I could use your advice and certainly your prayers right now. I really don't know how much more of this I can take! Thankfully, I know I don't have to go through it all alone or by my own strength.

Matthew 11:29-30 (ESV) 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Yes, I realize that Jesus was talking about the Law, our sins, His plan of salvation, and inviting us to not live under the heavy yoke of the Law, but to receive the yoke of the Gospel, which guarantees true rest in those verses rather than just giving us a prescription for getting through the "ups-and-downs" of our daily lives, but I still take immense comfort from those words.

Not surprisingly, they speak to this entire situation I find myself in right now since this lifelong Lutheran-In-Name-Only insists on a Law-based, "Works Righteousness" approach to salvation where, just like the Pharisees, he continues to find fault in the messengers as opposed to the message of the Gospel itself.

That's why I could really use some pastoral counsel and some godly advice from all of you on how to respond in this case (that's if I should even respond to him at all at this point, because I'm not sure what else I could say and share that I haven't already).

I realize that even though I'm not "naming names" here that I'm still probably flirting with breaking the 8th Commandment (if I haven't broken it already) and I certainly don't want to do that.

At the same time, who can I turn to in a situation like this as a new Confessional Lutheran? I can't go to my Pastor and I don't have another flesh-and-blood Confessional Lutheran to talk to in the area since there aren't any in my church!

You'll recall the heartbreaking and shocking account of what took place a few nights ago between me and another dear brother in Christ; a lifelong Lutheran who revealed that he is more just a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" by his own admission about what he believes and what he doesn't believe is true.

You'll recall that the 2-hour long conversation we had at a local coffee shop ended when I was flat out told that there isn't a single person in the congregation who feels the same way that I do (not even him!) and that "if you and your family aren't being fed what you need, then I guess it is best for you to find a new church."

Finally, you'll recall that 24-hours after that heart-to-heart discussion I received a text message from this same individual who seemed to be wrestling with the truth a bit (at least, I hoped that's what it was) and it left me hoping and praying that perhaps this was going to be the time that his eyes and ears were finally opened to the truth.

"Thanks very much again for last night. I read over your material you gave me last night. I really been focusing on baptism and being saved. Luther is very clear about it! Still struggling with it. I know you pray for me in that. Talk to you soon brother."

To reiterate, I must caution that he's done this very same thing before (reaching out to me within 24 hours of us talking and making it seem like he does agree with what I was trying to point out and that he wants to repent, only to go right back to to believing, teaching, and confessing the same errors a day later only for them to get worse and for him to go farther off the rails a month or two later!). If I'm going to try to "put the best construction on things" though, then this could certainly be promising.

So, naturally, I went into the weekend hoping that this is a good sign that the Word of God shared with him that night was going to bear the fruits of repentance, forgiveness, and faith (Isaiah 55:11)!

I even followed up by responding to that text by letting him know that I'd be sending him an email that had a couple of videos that would clearly help to explain the Lutheran position on Baptism, Salvation, and the whole Thief On The Cross business too.

Here's what I sent to him via email (my first time introducing this lifelong Lutheran who's only a little older than me to Pastor Jonathan Fisk and Worldview Everlasting) with the words "VIDEOS: Lutheran Belief, Teaching, And Confession About Baptism/Salvation" in the subject line...

This LCMS Pastor talks fast and throws a lot at you so you might have to watch these videos a few times (I certainly did! I even paused them along the way and went back too to make sure I understood it!). The key questions asked and answered in these 2 videos are all the ones we discussed last night...
"Does Baptism Save You?" 
"Is Baptism Necessary For Salvation?" 
"Can People Be Saved Apart From Baptism?" 
"What About The Thief On The Cross?" 
"Jesus OR Baptism? Jesus = Baptism? Which Is Correct?" 
"What About Infant Baptism?"
VIDEO: Why I Hate Religion But Jesus Loves Me Anyway 
VIDEO: Holy Shark Boxing 
Hope that helps some more, especially given your text from earlier today. 
Grace And Peace, Jeff

That was this past Friday. Today's the following Tuesday (or just 4 days later).

I woke up to find this reply from him in my inbox...

Checked out those videos today. Respectfully- it'd be good to talk rather than type :) You know me. But he's fast, concise and can keep attention. Also, full of sarcasm somewhat self centered and can be caustic if someone isn't agreeing with his points or style- this can get in the way. But I can easily look past that to take out the good information. Also- google "three swords" and see what comes up. I was curious because it was very clear in both backgrounds he used. The possible underlying messages can be confusing and misleading. When would you like to get together?

And with that, I'm now feeling even more dejected, hopeless, and rejected.

First, not a single word about THE BIBLICAL/CONFESSIONAL CONTENT which is the main issue here! The ONLY reason why he would prefer "to talk rather than type" is because he still doesn't agree with what was taught about what we Lutherans believe, teach, and confess about Baptism.

Plus, he gave himself away when he decided to avoid the substance of our disagreements the other night, but went ahead and attacked the messenger (Pastor Fisk) likely because he knows he can't argue with the message.

Don't get me wrong, this is not (and never) about "winning an argument" either. I'm just so frustrated that the very thing that I recently escaped is destroying (has already destroyed?) my church from within like a cancer and no one else seems to see it or, if they do, they don't care enough to do anything to stop it like commit to being Lutheran again.

Oh, by the way, that part at the end about googling "Three Swords" and "the possible underlying messages" that "can be confusing and misleading" was nothing but a shot at Yours Truly since, if you go back to the piece I wrote about our conversation a few days ago, you'll recall that I brought up to him the fact that I was concerned about how (on two separate occasions within the past year alone) our church has (1) introduced a Sunday sermon recording on our church's Facebook page with a Buddhist quote and (2) partnered with a non-Lutheran though Proud-To-Be-Buddhist so-called "non-religious" disaster relief organization for a mission trip.

At the time, I unsuccessfully tried to make the point that we needed to be careful about that sort of thing because it could give the wrong impression to people that we tacitly approve of such beliefs, teachings, and confessions ("syncretism" and "unionism" anyone!?!).

Obviously, that fell on deaf ears too and he was merely reaching for something (anything!) to throw back at me I guess in an attempt to "prove" that I was somehow being a hypocrite since I was guilty of doing the exact same thing that our church did when they put the Gospel side-by-side with Buddhist beliefs.

One small problem. Ok, it's one BIG problem with that accusation actually.

Those are 3 Japanese Samurai Swords (or 3 Japanese Katana Blades) in the background of Pastor Fisk's videos I shared with him -- not pictures of the "Three of Swords" Tarot Card!!!

Don't believe me?

Yep, that settles it! Pastor Fisk is into the occult, witchcraft, and tarot cards -- and he's not even trying to hide it from us either! Someone get on the phone and call President Harrison immediately so he can rebuke Pastor Fisk.

Gimme a break! I'm sorry to be so "snarky" myself, but this is why the Lutheran Church is in trouble. We are collectively suffering from spiritual amnesia to the point where we currently have an identity crisis and can't even remember that it was a faithful and fierce resistance to false doctrine (thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit) that led to the creation of the Lutheran Church in the first place.

Nowadays, doctrinal debates of any kind -- including those about what we claim to believe, teach, and confess about Baptism -- are completely "off limits" simply because no one has the stomach to engage in what should matter most to us since "Fellowship" and "Relationship" have both reached a sacramental status. And we're surprised how the "Five Two/Wiki14" crowd could ever exist within the walls of our own Synod? Doesn't seem like that far of a stretch now, does it?

Even if this person had been right in pointing out that Pastor Fisk had a giant poster of the "Three of Swords" Tarot Card in the background, would that somehow excuse this person's encouragement and support of our church's decision to proclaim the Gospel by using a Buddhist quote to do so or their decision to partner with a "non-religious" though obviously Buddhist organization all in the name of Jesus Christ?

No, absolutely not!
Two wrongs wouldn't make a right. but...come to think of it...we're in "The Age of The Common Core Math Curriculum" so anything goes I suppose.

Geesh! To even make that inference and suggestion about Pastor Fisk and Worldview Everlasting is absolutely ridiculous and stunning, IMHO. Furthermore, I would like to know from him what it was that Pastor Fisk said in any of those two videos that wasn't Biblical or consistent with our Confessions.

I mean, just because he may have said them in a manner and a tone that you don't personally like or prefer does not make what he said "untrue" or "un-Biblical," does it?

See, unfortunately, this is the same tactic I've encountered from day one in the LCMS-Eastern District. Each and every time I've approached anyone at my church or from within the Eastern District about a legitimate concern, I've made sure that I take my time (sometimes I've taken days, weeks, and/or months!) to first examine myself (Matthew 7:1-6) and then I put together all the Scriptural and Confessional references to support where I'm coming from to help make my case.

Each and every time, without fail, I haven't had a single person respond to any of those Biblical and/or Confessional points. Instead, the continue as if nothing was ever said, and it always becomes about me or the people (a.k.a. our Church Fathers and Pastors) that I'm citing. What they fail to understand is that it's not (and never) about me! It's about Jesus Christ, His Word, His Sacraments, and His Church!

"Ad hominem attack" anyone? Interesting how the evidence of "sola scriptura" in both of Pastor Fisk's videos was completely ignored though, huh?

How can I attempt to have a serious conversation about a very serious subject when the other person simply refuses to stay on point and keep the focus on the main issues (i.e., Lutheran beliefs, teachings, confessions about things like Baptism, Salvation, Missions, Syncretism, Unionism, etc.) preferring instead for us to "get lost in the weeds" by talking about things that have no basis in truth?

Should I even attempt to do that again when this has happened repeatedly over the course of the past year? I mean, at what point do Mark 6:11, Matthew 10:14, and Luke 9:5 have to be applied in this case? After all, he told me at the end of our conversation that he didn't want our church to change since he didn't agree with me at all, and that it was probably best if me and my family just found another church to attend.

Plus, please keep in mind that it wasn't like those Worldview Everlasting videos were the very first things I followed up with and sent to him after our conversation. I sent some 22 "Lutheran Basics" one-sheets from Pastor Matt Richard's website first...not a single word was said about any of them either.

Perhaps we need to learn how to crawl before we can walk and run here. So, that being said, maybe we shouldn't have attempted a serious discussion about Baptism until we both agreed that what one believes, teaches, and confesses about Baptism as self-professing Lutherans is important, first.

In other words, maybe we should agree that doctrine matters (that "doctrine is heaven") first before we attempted to address specific doctrines like Baptism.

With that in mind, here's another video from Pastor Fisk (minus the supposedly distracting "occultic" and "tarot-like" swords in the background) titled "I Don't Care About Doctrine! Just Give Me Love!" that I hope will help us get on the same page before we can turn the page and spend some more time seriously discussing Baptism.

Yeah, that just about sums up my feelings regarding this whole sad state of affairs.

By the way, I should probably clarify something and cut a potential accusation off at the pass.

Please note that I'm well aware of what 1 Corinthians 1 warns us when it comes to divisions in Christ's Church.

1 Corinthians 1:10-17 (ESV) 10 I appeal to you, brothers,a by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

I wanted to briefly mention that for two reasons.

For starters, yes, it's true I admire and respect what Pastor Fisk and the fine folks have done and continue to do with Worldview Everlasting and the book BROKEN, because those writings and videos were instrumental in helping me to see the error of my ways (the sin of believing, teaching, and confessing falsely) so that I could repent of them.

I know that loyalty to a particular teacher (in this case, Pastor Fisk) would be misplaced and wrong since he is merely a messenger and a servant of God's Word -- and I'm pretty sure that Pastor Fisk himself would agree.

I mention that because I don't want to give the impression that I'm elevating one of Christ's humble servants into Christ's place.

As my Lutheran Study Bible comments on this passage of the text...

(1 Corinthians 1:10-17) Divisions in the Church are a denial of the one Baptism into Christ, who was crucified for all. His faithful servants preach the Gospel and are not to become objects of unhealthy devotion. The triune God alone is the object of our faith and hope. Grant us such faithful ministers, dear Lord, who baptize and preach in Your name and authority. Amen.

My point is that I truly believe that Pastor Fisk is one of those faithful ministers, but now it seems that my decision to share just a couple of videos "starring" him has somehow become a distraction to this erring brother.

That's quite ironic too, because this same individual is our church's biggest proponent of things like "Contemporary Worship," "Liturgical Dance," and "Every Member A Minister" -- all which make YOU the focus and "star" of worship and mission. Ugh.

In addition, I can only hope and pray that should this passage ever come up in our discussions that he will not seize upon the opportunity to take and twist the meaning of Paul's words when he said "...for Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel..." (1 Corinthians 1:17) in order to support his point that Baptism isn't as important as I think it is. Ugh.

Friends, please don't misunderstand me either, because I'm by no means perfect at all, and I must take my share of the blame whenever I'm unable to overlook another brother's sins (1 Peter 4:8) like I've been guilty of from time-to-time with this particular person.

While that's true, how can I just sit quietly when false doctrine is being spewed over and over again as though it were Gospel truth (or when it's treated as "no big deal" because "God is powerful enough to accomplish His will even if there's false doctrine being taught")?

How can I remain silent when I have gone to this brother in love more than once privately to show him his sins, reminding him of the forgiveness and grace that's available to him if he'll just repent, and yet, he continues to choose to go his own way?

What motivates me is a genuine concern for Christ's Church, a genuine concern for my brother who is caught in sin, and a genuine concern for those who are under his leadership and teaching, and it's fueled by the knowledge that I was once like him and almost contributed to shipwrecking my faith as well as the faith of others (1 Timothy 1:19) despite my best intentions. I learned the hard way that sincerity and good intentions does not guarantee a good handle of Gospel truths.

That's why when this kind of apathy and false doctrine is coming from a layman who is responsible for teaching Religion Class to students at the Lutheran Day School where my kids, niece, nephew, and friend's children all attend, you better believe I'm going to continue to say something (I just need to know how).

At the end of the day, I just want to make the God-honoring decision WITHOUT it becoming another wrestling match between the two of us.

Ephesians 5:11 (ESV) Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

1 Corinthians 11:18-19 (ESV) 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.

1 Timothy 1:18 (ESV) This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,

1 Timothy 6:12 (ESV) Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

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.

Galatians 2:4-5 (ESV) 4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery—5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

Romans 16:17 (ESV) I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.

Titus 3:10-11 (ESV) 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

Can't argue with any of that, but pointing out these passages of the Law to him will be akin to breaking the 11th Commandment of "Thou Shall Not Offend" and I won't even get the chance to offer him the passages that are pure Gospel.

How would you respond if you were in my shoes and repentance was absent in each and every situation for an entire year now with things only getting worse by the day?

Doctrine does matter -- it matters a whole lot -- and we demonstrate our love for God, His Word, and His people by our desire for understanding and upholding pure doctrine (Jude 1:3).

The Word of God is clear. Our Confessions are clear. If we're both Lutherans, then we should be able to reach agreement quickly on what both say about these things.

My concern, however, is that he just wants to get together to argue some more and to make himself feel better by "proving" to himself that one of the Lutheran Pastors I cited to him as a credible and trustworthy source is into the Occult and Tarot Cards from his perspective. Ugh.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, I so desperately want us to reach "the unity of faith" (Ephesians 4:13) and know that it is a work that can only be accomplished by the Lord, but what should I do now (if anything) if every time I try to speak "the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15) it's met with complete and continued ignorance and insults?

Lord, please forgive me, but I don't know if I have the patience or the time for any of these games with him anymore (Matthew 7:6), but I will continue to trust You, Your Word, Your Sacraments and not myself.

Please help me to continue to give a firm, faithful confession and to deliver it with grace, love, and prayer.

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!

About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

1 comment

  1. Don't worry about the title, my WEtv friends -- it's not true! You'll understand why it says that after you've had a chance to read this. After you do, I could REALLY use some much needed godly counsel from you on this one. As a "Newtheran" I'm not sure how to respond any more -- if I even should at all at this point. Of course, the "Old Adam" wants to pick up the "sword of the Spirit" and continue to do battle, the "Saint" wants to "save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh" (Jude 1:23), but the rest of me is growing weary b/c I don't know what else I could possibly do or say that I haven't already over the course of the past year and in recent days. Prayer is all that's left it seems (which is everything, of course!), but is it "wrong" of me to pass on meeting w/him yet again? Finally, please feel free to correct me so I can repent if I was wrong to share this let alone write it in the first place due to the 8th Commandment and all. (By the way, I hope you'll all forgive me for linking to my own blog, but feel free to remove this if that's against the rules here). Thanks in advance for your time and help. Grace and peace!


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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