It's been interesting for me to go back and reread one of the first distinctly Lutheran pieces of writing that I had ever put my hands on (even before getting my own copy of the Book of Concord and Small/Large Catechism) back when I fully embraced becoming a Confessional Lutheran.
I had forgotten just how life-altering and radical it was for me at the time to go from a sort of Evangelical-Though-Self-Identifying-Non-Denominational-Spiritual-Island type of Christian to a Confessional Lutheran who was truly starting to adhere to "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3).
For that reason, I've fallen in love with this book all over again and I hope that these Chapter Reviews will hep to explain all the reasons why.
Before we get to our next Chapter Review, however, let's quickly review Pastor Fisk's main purpose in writing this book.
"In this book, I will dissect this tactic of the thief. We will look at how the devil uses such good gifts from God as your heart, your mind, and your hands to try to trick you into placing your trust not in God but in yourself. We will explore the seven counterfeit 'Christian' rules he tries to play off as if they were authentic Christianity. We will expose these rules as patterns of thinking that try to break your faith in Christianity by creating doubt. We will call these philosophical systems what they are: lies. And then we will challenge those lies with the truth given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. The crow comes cawing, promising you freedom, but telling you that YOU must earn it. He promises you supernatural wisdom, but tells you that YOU must figure it out. He promises you comfort, but insists that YOU find it inside yourself. He tells you that you're just on the other side of glory, if only YOU can create it. He offers you the world, but he leaves you hanging on a cross all by yourself, fed up with it all and wondering in anger and frustration where Jesus is. He was supposed to make it all better. He does this the only way he can: he steals Jesus' words, and he uses YOU to do it. I am not going to let that happen." pp. 21-22
Like I said once before, that's quite refreshing.
Ok, but what about Chapter 4? What is the next lie that Satan uses against us so often?
"Never #4: Never follow a rule because it benefits you now (and if it mentions 'abundance,' run screaming from the room)."
So Chapter 4 introduces us to the third rule that every Christian ought to break as often as possible -- Prosperity, or the incorrect belief that the way God feels about you is measured by how good your life is right now.
In short, Prosperity is nothing more than the worship of health, wealth, and wellness.
At this point, I'm guessing that anyone reading this (regardless of the denomination you're currently affiliated with) will sit up and take notice of the fact that this is likely to be a chapter that will address a far too common problem within contemporary Christianity since it's going to deal with the "Health, Wealth, And Happiness!" crowd of Christians of the "Name-It-And-Claim-It" or "Kingdom Blessings Here And Now!" variety.
Surprisingly, this chapter begins with Pastor Fisk's own personal testimony and the eyebrow raising words, "I was high, and I was at church" (p. 110). Wow, right? But don't worry, he only spends a couple of pages talking about his life experience, and that's only to properly set the stage for what this chapter's going to be about, and it's not to somehow glorify his past sins or use them as a sort of "badge of honor" like a lot of Christians today do (I used to tell people back in my Evangelical days, "I was such an awful sinner that you wouldn't want to shake my hand let a lone be in the same room as me if you had known the full extent of my sins!" as if that somehow made me appear more pious to them or somehow added more credibility to this whole Christianity thing).
It's funny reading some of the notes I wrote back then in the margins too, because they reveal my mindset at the time too and how I was so cautious and suspect of this "new Lutheran faith" knowing what I had just come out of.
For instance, Pastor Fisk wrote about his first time going to "a little conservative Calvinistic church plant that met in a rented Masonic lodge" (p. 111) and I underlined the words "a rented Masonic lodge" and wrote next to them "Uh-oh! Keep an eye on this!" due to the "Christian Conspiracy Theorist" background I had come from.
Looking back, it's funny, but it wasn't so funny at the time.
This particular chapter is quite revealing though in that it makes some excellent observations about being a Christian in America today.
Specifically, it begins by talking about the relationship between "Ozymandias" and "Life In America" as we know it to be at this moment in time.
Pastor Fisk does a great job of identifying the problem: It's a "Me, Myself, And I" kind of world where "Right Now!" rules our reality.
Of course, this beautifully goes hand-in-hand with "the lie that you can find your best life NOW, which is to say, you can find God IN THIS WORLD" (p. 118).
Without ruining it for you, I loved the section on Prosperity's "Middle Name" and what he writes about Prosperity's "promise" and its obvious contradiction with what is revealed to us in Galatians 1:3-5 is equally profound.
The sad reality?
"So it is that, today, across all denominations and borders, a vast majority of American churches are driven not by sinful beggars in need, but by spiritually stuffed consumers who are looking for one more way to capitalize their already near perfect lives by taking a lazy bite out of Christianity." page 121
I would say that if you have any family members or friends who love false teachers like Joel Osteen et al, then all you need to do is have them read this one chapter, because it completely obliterates the absurd notions so often heard from that groups lips week-after-week.
I have so much underlined in this chapter (and for good reason too!), but that makes it very difficult to pick-and-choose the parts I want to share with you here.
Here's another powerful excerpt from the "Dancing With The Devil" section...
"It should never be a surprise to Christians when we see the unbaptized chasing after the wind and trying to grasp oil in their hands. What other hope do the children of this age have than to get as much out of this life as possible? If you're as likely to die tomorrow as to live, why not eat, drink, and be merry? If you're to eat, drink, and be merry, why not eat and drink the best you possibly can? See Amos 6:4-6. But what should surprise us -- what should UPSET and VEX us -- is to see a vast majority of American 'Christian' churches preaching this same utopian quest as if an abundance of wealth in this life was the central message of Jesus and His Scriptures. Even the best secular PR agents in the world couldn't honestly spin that kind of message out of the man who taught His disciples that friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4)." page 122
Amen! Laodicea anyone?
The rest of this chapter is pure gold too, because it includes everything from a section titled "How To Know If You're A Heretic" to in-depth analyses of the "Church Growth Movement" as well as the never-ending "Worship Wars" debate ("Traditional" vs. "Contemporary").
I simply must end my write-up of this chapter with an except found near the end of it though...
"All of our experiences, all of our studies, all of our sociology and strategy, every new or old measure and excitement, every single thing in this world cannot bring an unbeliever to Christ. ONLY CHRIST CAN BRING A MAN TO CHRIST, and Christ has SPOKEN about how He plans to do that (Colossians 2:11-12). Do you want to find God now? Do you want to know how He feels about you now? Do you want an answer untouched by the sands of time and undiminished by our greedy attempts to build heaven out of this halfway hell? The believe His words: I baptize you (1 Peter 3:21). Take, eat. Take, drink. I am here (1 Corinthians 10:16). I am the Word made flesh (John 6:55). I am the source of living water (John 4:10). I am the bread from heaven (John 6:51). I am your root, your portal, your rebirth (John 15:1; 10:9; 11:25). THAT is how God feels about you. Buried and raised with Jesus, where He has said you are buried and raised with Him, the Father now believes you ARE Jesus. Better, He PROMISES it (Galatians 4:28). Even though the entire world is ranting and raving that right now you sure don't look like God's Son, that you are weak, flawed, mortal, and broken, against all of these fanatical lies God your Father has lifted up the cross of Jesus. There this world is inverted on its cursed, decaying head. There death is life. There weakness is strength. There affliction is prosperity. ... You cannot find God in this world. In this world, Jesus sends His Word to FIND YOU." pages 142-143
In a Lutheran layman's terms, please stick around for more on this exceptional Christian book; a book that you need to add to your own personal library right away if you haven't already.
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, Corporate Recruiter, 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 a little more than 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 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!