At the same time, I'm starting to have another thought race through my head too whenever I finish nowadays! "Boy, I sure wish I had read this book when I first began to explore what it means to be a Confessional Lutheran let alone to be a Lutheran in general!"
It's ridiculous to me how compelling and reassuring each and every one of these treasures are to me and I'm constantly underlining entire paragraphs, highlighting large sections, and writing notes to myself in the margins!
Then again, maybe it shouldn't be all that surprising.
After all, we Lutherans proclaim that ours is the one confession of Christianity out of them all that maintains "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3).
Case in point, I just finished reading a wonderful little book that every Lutheran should own as part of their library. Yeah, I know I say that about every book I review on this blog, but this is one of those tried-and-true resources that you can refer to again and again for yourself, your spouse, your kids, your grandkids, and maybe even for your co-worker and neighbor who starts asking you questions about why you're a Lutheran and why that's so different from any other denomination.
It's called "Why I Am A Lutheran: Jesus At The Center" and it's written by Daniel Preus and it contains these exceptional words on the inside cover of the book's dust jacket, which sets the stage quite nicely if you ask me!
"I am a Lutheran for the same reason I am a Christian. It is not by choice but by grace. The teachings of the Lutheran Church place Jesus at the center because the teachings of the Scriptures place Jesus at the center. No other confession demonstrates such fidelity to the truths of God's Word. No other confession so glorifies Christ by placing Him at the center of all it confesses and teaches. Being a Lutheran is truly all about Jesus."
It's such simple, straight-forward, and Christ-exulting words like that which makes this book worth every single penny. Plus, Luther's "Small Catechism" is also included in the back of the book too!
One of my favorite chapters is "A Matter of Mountains" where Preus discusses the importance of Mount Sinai (the Law), Mount Calvary (the Gospel), and Mount Zion (the present and future hope we believers collectively rejoice over due to Jesus Christ), because "if we never come to to Mount Calvary, we can never live on Mount Zion" (p. 61).
I also loved how he observed and wrote that so much of contemporary Christianity denies the Scriptural view of Sinai, Calvary, and Zion.
"These heresies not only elevate the ability of human beings vastly above what they are able to do -- namely, nothing -- but also rob God of His glory by minimizing or even eliminating the work of the Holy Spirit in the act of conversion. The Holy Spirit does not come to us in response to an act of our will. He is given to us as a gift of God's grace. We do not grasp the Holy Spirit. God gives us the Spirit." p. 67
For an ex-Evangelical like me, however, who is only recently coming to appreciate the "Means of Grace" (a.k.a. the preaching of God's Word; Baptism; Lord's Supper), I would have to say that Preus' explanation of the Lord's Sacraments is both edifying and thorough, but it's done in such a conversational way that you don't get lost in the weeds so-to-speak.
Take, for instance, this stunning excerpt on Holy Communion...
"Why did this woman so intensely desire to receive the Lord's Supper? Why would any person consider an apparently insignificant meal to be so precious? Why do millions of Christians each week come to the altar with joyful hearts as if they are partaking in a banquet rather than receiving a sip of wine and a wafer of bread? The answer to these questions is simple: In the Lord's Supper, we Christians receive our inheritance.
In this Sacrament, the Lord Jesus gives us His body and His blood for the forgiveness of our sins. Luther says in his Small Catechism: 'Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.' With His body and blood, Jesus gives to His church every spiritual blessing He came to give. Once again, at the center of the Sacrament is Jesus."
Once again, I have to say that this is what I've come to crave the most from Lutheran preaching and teaching -- Jesus, Jesus, and more Jesus! You'd think that Christians from any denomination would be focused on Christ, but I'm here to tell you that that's just not so these days.
A lot of people will give lip service to Jesus or tack on an "In Jesus' Name!" for goo measure at the end of a prayer or sermon, but there's just something about a book, a prayer, a sermon, a teaching when it exalts our Lord and Savior as it should that is instantly recognizable as being "something completely different" than anything else that's out there masquerading as the truth.
By the way, that part on the Lord's Supper was more the rule and not the exception in this book. Preus goes on like that for several pages about whatever it is he's truly to present from a decidedly Lutheran perspective, and I love that he did so for each of the Sacraments too.
All I know is that for a guy like me who is still a "Newtheran" and who has only a cursory exposure to all of our Confessional writings let alone what they have to say, this little book has helped to give me a firm foundation with Jesus Christ Himself serving as the "Rock" and the "chief cornerstone" of that foundation, and I couldn't be happier (1 Corinthians 10:4; Psalm 18:2; Psalm 118:22; Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6-7; Matthew 21:42).
Friends, this is precisely the kind of book you wish your church's small group would read, study, and discuss. It's just such a breath of fresh air and exactly what many of our churches need to read after allowing so many wolves in sheep's clothing to walk right in the front door and take up residence in our congregations. It really is so do yourself a favor and get your hands on a copy today, because you won't regret it.
In a Lutheran layman's terms, Daniel Preus' "Why I Am A Lutheran" reminds us why we go by that name, and it all has to do with God's grace and the fact that it's because Jesus is always at the center of anything and everything we preach, teach, and confess.
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism almost 2 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha!). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm experiencing and/or studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!