Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Bunnie Diehl: The Voice in the Wilderness

Read this passage below and then click on this link to read a sermon entitled "The Voice in the Wilderness". Thanks to Bunnie Diehl for sharing this sermon.

John the Baptist Denies Being the Christ

Now this was John's testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.[a]”

They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”

He said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

He answered, “No.”

Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ ”[b]

Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

"I baptize with[c] water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Footnotes:
John 1:20 Or Messiah. “The Christ” (Greek) and “the Messiah” (Hebrew) both mean “the Anointed One”; also in verse 25.
John 1:23 Isaiah 40:3
John 1:26 Or in; also in verses 31 and 33

John 1:19-28 (New International Version)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by
International Bible Society

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Piper pipes in on "What is an Evangelical?"

Glen Piper adds three excellent posts to the current hashing of Michael Horton's article "What is an Evangelical" and the several blogs discussing it right now. Great posts, Glen!

What is an Evangelical?
...the fact that they’ve co-opted the word “evangelical” is a pet peeve of mine. As “evangel” means “good news,” then “evangelical” means (roughly/loosely) “person of the good news.” In fact, “Evangelical” was a favorite descriptor of Luther & the Reformation fathers. This is why you will see so many older Lutheran congregations with the word “Evangelical” in their formal names. The co-opting of the word by the Methobapticostals is a relatively recent phenomena, and one that is quite sad & frustrating for true, orthodox, Evanglicals. Read on...

There is no such thing as dead orthodoxy
In a recent comment thread over at Love & Blunder, someone made a comment about the danger of “dead orthodoxy.” This bothered me, and after a little bit of pondering/thought, I figured out why. There’s no such thing as “dead” orthodoxy. Orthodox, in the theological context, means “right teaching” — how could “right teaching” be dead? Read on...

Christians and Shame
Ok, a bunch of recent postings in the blogosphere have coalesced in my mind, and are about to emerge…
In some previous postings, I’ve referenced recent entries by Theresa (
Be Strong in the Grace) and Rob (Love & Blunder) that dealt with the question of “What is an “Evangelical?” These two blogs were, in turn, influenced by discussions over at Beggars All. These three blogs (six bloggers total, I believe…) share a common shared history within the Reformed/Arminian morass that is contemporary American “Evangelicalism” (aka: “Methobapticostalism"). Read on...

Love and Blunder on "What is an Evangelical?"

Be sure to check out the respectful and loving discourse on sacraments and Michael Horton's article, "What is an Evangelical?" at Love and Blunder

Monday, December 20, 2004

Fernando Ortega on baptism/KTIS radio and my faith

One of my favorite singer/songwriters, Fernando Ortega, writes in his online journal about baptism - a timely post for those of us pondering baptism and what it means. He begins, "Yesterday (Dec. 16) was Beethoven's birthday. He was baptized the very next day on Dec. 17th. That's pretty quick by any standards. That's a pretty telling statement right there." If baptism the day after a birth is deemed pretty quick, I think it indicates a view that God is not capable to create faith in the heart of an infant through baptism. Yet Fernando obviously recognizes that it is important to be baptized, "I have been baptized 3 times...Presbyterian... Pentecostal...(and)... Baptist... Whatever the case, I feel very covered in that regard." How is it that he feels covered now? He seems to be implying, in an unstated way, that baptism accomplishes something (covers), yet that covering does not apply to infants and young children.

Still, I think that Fernando Ortega is one of the most gifted writers and musicians of my time. I have 2 or 3 of his CD's. He sings from Baptist theology, as do many of my pre-Lutheran Christian artists. I live in Minnesota and have listened to KTIS my entire adult life. KTIS is operated by Northwestern College, a well-known Baptist college. All their favorite artists seem to be Baptist, so it is not surprising that my exposure to Christian music is from the Baptist tradition. I don't even listen to KTIS anymore for my own sanity, but artists like Fernando Ortega and Sara Groves will always be my favorites.

So great was KTIS' influence in my faith life that I nearly continued straight on Golden Valley Road to Oak Grove Baptist Church rather than turn right onto Douglas Drive to King of Grace Lutheran Church one morning two springs ago when I was really lost without a church home and searching for truth. One of the KTIS morning announcers is a pastor there and often spoke lovingly of his church. However, I knew the Baptist teaching on baptism and I knew I couldn't live with that, so I continued on to King of Grace. One of my first questions to Pastor Ekhoff was "If I become a confessional Lutheran, will I be allowed to listen to KTIS anymore?" Can you picture the utter confusion and conflicting teachings swirling around in my brain and my soul that I would ask such a ridiculou question??? I mean, did I think that spies would be deployed to listen to the new recruits' music choices? I'm sure he paused to stifle his laughter and then he softly said "You would find it on in my house." He did go on to add that it is important to recognize the teachings behind songs, but that there is nothing wrong with enjoying some contmeporary Christian music.

After several months of refusing to listen to CCM, I can now listen to my old favorites. One of my favorite hymns sung by Fernando Ortega is Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent (click on Albums, Storm and then on the song to hear a 30 second bit). This hymn was recently featured by Twylah at Lutheran in a Tipi blog and mentioned again by John at Confessing Evangelical. Here is a review of my favorite album, Storm, on ChristianityToday.com,

Descended from a distinguished line of New Mexican artisans, Fernando places a high priority on artistic excellence. His God-given talent as a master storyteller, gifted vocalist, and worship leader has earned him two Dove Awards and numerous #1 singles. In Storm, he once again weaves poetic lyrics with heartfelt melodies to create a unique tapestry of reflection, adoration, and praise. Beginning with "Traveler," Fernando takes you on a musical odyssey, sweeping you to the heights of worship on the wings of "Our Great God," and then leading you to the center of your soul with "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent." The Celtic overtones of the instrumental "Cristina's Dream" will draw you into a contemplative world, while "This Time Next Year" explores the landscape of family life. His beautiful duet with Amy Grant on "Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy" brings past and present together in a contemporary rendition of a timeless hymn. Observing that "sometimes you have to know the storm to really know the light," Fernando offers you illuminating guidance through the tempests of life so you can behold the radiance of God."

I highly recommend the Storm album! He also has a very fun and creative website, FernadoOrtega.com.


Sunday, December 19, 2004

Baptism as a Grace Imperative

Daniel over at Random Thoughts of a Confessional Lutheran blog writes on Grace Imperatives.

"Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are also grace imperatives. Christ himself commands both sacraments to us. It takes faith, however, to grasp these commands. Since faith is also a gift of God, we are now in the situation needing a gift in order to embrace other gifts that God promises. God gives us gifts so He can give us more gifts. That is where grace is primary in this whole scheme. Grace is given so we may trust the commands of God so that more grace can be given."

I will never, never forget the shock, awe, overwhelming guilt and overflowing thankfulness I experienced the morning my husband and I were taught this in our Bible Information Class. Tears welled up in my eyes as I realized that I had been rejecting Christ's commands. I turned to my husband and asked for his forgiveness. You see, he had tried to convince me to baptize our children for years, along with his once-LCMS mother, but I proudly defended myself and proclaimed that I was giving my children the gift of being able to decide to be Christians themselves. There was no turning back for us at that point. I think we became confessional Lutherans right then and there.

For the hundredth time...Required reading for readers of this blog: The Miracle of Holy Baptism by John H. at Confessing Evangelical. I think Grace Imperatives will also become required reading! Good job, Daniel. Thanks for teaching us this important concept.

What is an EVANGELICAL and is my anger justified?

Rob of Beggars All blog has an excellent post on Michael Horton's article, "What is an evangelical?". I've had that article linked on this blog for several months, but I am glad of the reminder to re-read it. This topic has been on my mind frequently since becoming a confessional lutheran two years ago. I used to emphasize the word "evangelical" whenever someone would ask me about my faith, ex. "I'm an EVANGELICAL Christian." Then I would quickly add, "We are attending a Lutheran church right now because God has called us to be a witness there. "Other "EVANGELICAL" Christians knew just what I meant, because many believe that one is not a legitimate Christian unless one has "accepted Jesus Christ as personal savior". Or as Horton puts it, "And as for "Grace Alone," most evangelicals today believe that something--free will, a decision, a prayer, a walk down an aisle, a second blessing, something we do for God that will give us the confidence that we are in His favor. Doctrines like election, justification, and regeneration are hardly ever discussed because they paint the picture of a humanity that is helpless and that cannot even cooperate with God in the matter of salvation. If we are to be saved, it is God and God alone who must do it."

Although Horton's article was written nearly fifteen years, his words are still timely. In fact, it would seem to me that the situation has gotten worse. Horton wrote in 1992, "Since "The Year of the Evangelical," corresponding to our nation's Bicentennial in 1976, the term (in North America, at least) has come to identify those who highlight a particular brand of politics, a moralistic and often legalistic approach to life, and a sort of ersatz, "corny" style of evangelism." Horton goes on to help us understand what the term "evangelical" actually means and why it is important to know what it means.

He ends his article with an observation that I have often made since converting to confessional Lutheranism - Why am I so angry and is it OK to be angry? When turning to the confessional Lutheran tradition, I was angry and feeling very lost. I felt betrayed by pastors and churches I had trusted. (For any new readers, I have already written extensively on my experiences. Just dig around in the archives.) I also felt abandoned by my current church; it was leaving Lutheran traditions behind so quickly that I was basically forced to leave or lose my soul. "Many people wonder why "Reformation" folks appear angry. Nobody wants to be around angry people--and I certainly don't want to be known as an "angry" person." says Horton. I remind myself of that every single time I sit down to write something in this blog.

I've often mentioned that the reason I began this online journal was to try to put my story onto paper (the electronic kind) and sort things out. My new church has helped me to learn that, first and foremost, I'm a sinner and I've been a sinner my whole life. That explains a lot of my mistakes...duh! Secondly, although I was blessed with parents who brought me to the saving waters of baptism and brought me to hear God's word preached and taught, my spiritual education was lacking other areas. So, the fact that I was never perfect to start with and that I was lacking in my spiritual education left me quite open for devasting mistakes in actions and judgements. Thankfully, God is still in control and is still quite able to teach and guide sinners like me. So, I've been able to move from being an angry person to being able to blame myself and move on. If anyone in my past who had spiritual authority over me has taught me things that were false, God will deal with them. He won't need my help.

Still, the anger creeps in once in a while. Just recently, I heard a first hand account of a Catholic high-school exchange student from Central America. She lived with an "EVANGELICAL" family for several weeks and she had some amazing things to say. Her host family regularly "witnessed" to her and told her that she would not go to heaven unless she had accepted Jesus Christ as her personal savior. They regularly showed her "Christian" videos and talked with her afterwards about "becoming born-again." She was told that her Catholic Bible was not a real bible and gave her a different one. She was so relieved when I encouraged her with the reminder that she became born-again when she was baptized. She was surprised to hear that I had been an "EVANGELICAL" Christian for twenty years, but had become Lutheran two years ago. We had many good talks about how God is able to work faith in infants through baptism and how she was already saved. We discussed Holy Communion, too. I was also able to discuss Mary's role with her and she did tell me that in her country, worship of Mary was not as big of a thing as it is in Mexico. Through my talks with her about God, baptism and the nature of faith, I had no doubt that God's Holy Spirit was already working in her heart. I plan to encourage her in her faith through email. Is my anger at the ridiculous actions of these self-proclaimed "EVANGELICALS" justified? Have I been angry, yet not sinned? I think so.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Journeys of Paul

Thanks, again, to Blinn for the link to The Journeys of Paul.

"Explore the world of the Apostle Paul. Sites are listed in the order that they appear in Acts. Some major cities also include a "tour" option so that you can get a closer look at the places in which Paul worked."


Visit the Cities of Revelations

Thanks to Blinn for the link to this excellent reference tool.

The Cities of Revelation web page is a tour of the seven cities of the book of Revelation.

"Revelation was first written for Christians living in seven cities in Asia Minor, in what today is the country of Turkey. The book was penned by a Christian named John, who had visions on the island of Patmos near the end of the first century A.D. Although many readers assume that Revelation contains coded predictions of the future, John first wrote to help Christians deal with matters of faith and life in the cities in which they lived. Knowing about these cities can help make Revelation's message more vivid, just as learning about life in Corinth, Philippi, and other places helps make Paul's letters come alive. This tour of the seven cities is designed to open the door into the world that was first addressed by Revelation's visions.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

This week's required reading: Christ is the Word; He became flesh and dwelt among us.

Rob Brazier, of Love and Blunder blog, writes about the incarnation of Christ. This is a great Christmas post! He writes that "the most fundamental difference between the doctrine of my modern evangelical upbringing and my current understanding as a confessional Lutheran is the incarnation of Christ. What I was misunderstanding for many years: Christ is the Word, He became flesh, and dwelt among us."

Excerpt:

"Confusion about Christ's incarnation leads to confusion about faith itself. Because of such an incomplete understanding of who Christ is, where He is, and what He does, I was often confused about the nature of faith. Rather than a gift given from God, I saw faith as something I had to work to get more of. When I didn't feel like I was successful, I questioned whether I was even a Christian."Until recently, I had no idea what "faith comes by hearing" really meant. Whenever my conscience was assailed, I was told to turn inward, to my shifting perception of my faith, rather than to the objective reality of Christ's work on the cross, and his real presence in the preached word, communion, and baptism."

This is my story! I sometimes feel selfish to be glad to find others who suffered through poor and incomplete Christian teachings. Yet, we made it through to write about it all, didn't we. And in enough time not to mess up our own kids! (Although a good Christian man just reminded me that we will find other ways to mess up our kids- thanks, Andy, for bringing me back down to reality.)

Listen to Rob's advice. Read it aloud to someone:

"Sit still in church, listen to the words the pastor speaks, and you can almost hear God breathing. When the pastor pronounces us forgiven, we are hearing in his voice the voice of the Word, the Son of God who laid the foundations of the world, spun the stars into the sky, drew up high mountains from the low ground, and onto the desert spilled the waters of the seas. In that place, Christ is closer than any lover, He is putting Himself into us and us into Himself."

After the confession and absolution, one of our pastors says "We have approached God. Now God approaches you with His Word." He proclaims this with a huge smile on his face and joy in his voice. It gets me every time. Each Sunday, that chill goes down my spine with the realization that God is still speaking to us, right there in our Bibles. Open and read.

Theology Geek - new posts

Be sure to check out the new posts at Theology Geek!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Little Olivia becomes my sister in Christ

I won't try to add anything to this beautiful post by Olivia's mom, and fellow sister in Christ, Devona on the baptism of Olivia this past Sunday. Folks, you either believe that God has the power to save through baptism or you don't. It's really very simple.

Then, Pastor poured the water over Olivia's head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Olivia woke up, and I got nervous that this was when she screams at the top of her lungs. Nope, not our little sinner. She just smiled sleepily, and went back to sleep. She just wanted to be sure she didn't miss the moment

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

What's a Christian to do about Sermon Lite preaching?

Jason at Theology Geek blog shares his experience in making the switch to a confessional Lutheran church. He also shares some of his doubts, which is a very honest thing to do.

The Lutherans have a wonderful theology and heritage that I am very thankful for. Furthermore, I know that even if the sermon is poor one week, I will still be able to confess my sins, receive absolution, and hear the gospel. Not to mention, I can get my fill of good theology from Luther and from others. However, what my mind keeps coming to is what about the theology that is given from the pulpit? Is it going to be watered-down? Is it going to be constrained by the boundaries of political correctness, and seeker-sensitivity?

I know Jason would never hear anything watered-down from the pulpit of my church, God-willing, but maybe I won't always live near a church with three really great pastors. Jason is on the right track when he reminds himself that, at a confessional Lutheran church, he will always be able to confess his sins, receive absolution and hear the gospel proclaimed.

Monday, December 06, 2004

If I won't boycot Target, then how then shall I live?

I may be beating a dead horse here (repeating a topic too much), but I have been moved by reading fellow bloggers pleas for others to boycott Target. Since I've gone on record as not supportive of the Salvation Army, I have been forced to ask myself: "OK, then how will you help others this Christmas and in the future?" That little voice is my conscience and I am trying to answer it. Here is what I've found so far...

I John 3: 16 - 20: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

Martin Luther on The Outward Man and The Inner Man.

This post will be a work in progress.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Re-educating Theresa

It has been such a enlightening, strengthening journey to move from seeing God in one way to experiencing God in a much fuller way. That is how I describe my transformation from a self-described ecumenical "lutheran" evangelical to a confessional Lutheran. My transformation took place during the time when my daughter attended a confessional Lutheran grade school for her 7th and 8th grade years. In looking for a parochial school for her, I had closely examined the doctrine of this particular church/school. I told myself that I didn't want to get part way through the year and discover that they had some odd belief that I couldn't tolerate. I read through each statement of belief and couldn't find anything I disagreed with. In hindsight, I don't see how I was fully reading each statement. I don't think I had ever read through doctrinal statements with such careful attention and understanding (as limited as that may be) as I do now. Now, each and every word means something and I pay attention.

In the first year (7th grade), we remained at our old church. (I already written extensively about that here.) My daugher took a religion class and religion was interspersed throughout her entire learning day. She had a well-educated and opinionated teacher and sometimes my daughter would come home repeating statements her teacher had made that day. Some of his statements (about ecumenicalism, the ELCA, communion practices, nature of salvation, etc) struck a nerve with me and I would tell me daughter that if he really knew US he wouldn't say such a thing. Concurrently, I would study his claims with the bible and other resources. I became a great fan of the Wels Q&A site and read nearly every post every made to that section.

In the meantime, I was becoming painfully aware of the doctrinal problems (or lack of consistent and/or scriptural doctrine!) in my own church, upset by changes in the confirmation program and disgusted with a social justice worker/female pastor who refuses to pray for our troops and leaders at all. We left that church in June of 2003 and began attending the church which ran my daughter's school. My husband and I took the Bible Information Class over the summer- our pastors met with us in a private class and really took time to teach and explain what the Bible says on each doctrinal point.

By the fall, my daughter was allowed to joined the confirmation class and be on track to be confirmed that spring. I was likely the only parent who got so excited to study each lesson with her confirmand! I also soaked up each religion lesson she was assigned in school. I was asked to teach Sunday School, but refused until I could learn and absorb more instruction. I attend as many Bible studies as our family's schedule allows (I hope that doesn't sound like pride. I'm such a sinner in need of solid training that I get excited for any learning opportunity.)

Now, a year later, my son has started confirmation, as well as 7th grade at the school, and I get to learn things again with him. Praise God that I have this opportunity to learn with my kids; I hope that all parents use their kids' confirmation programs to re-learn (or learn) the solid biblical truths taught there. We all need to be able to read, understand and repeat to others the beliefs of our churches.

Yet again, I've found a article that puts into words the thoughts moving around in my head. Rick Ritchie, at Old Solar ezine, writes about his advice to a friend making the switch to confessional Lutheranism in Get a New Grid:

"You've been learning a lot of Reformation doctrine lately. But it seems to me you are hanging Reformation doctrines onto the grid of your old theology. I think it's time to throw out your old grid and get a new one.” I said this once to a co-worker at a Christian bookstore where theological conversation was common. My friend's background was in the holiness churches, but he had been studying Reformation doctrines and listening to the White Horse Inn radio broadcast and attending theology lectures. His study had moved him to embrace several doctrines at odds with his tradition. Sometime after I made my statement and he had joined a church more in line with his new beliefs, he said that I had given him the most helpful advice anyone ever gave him on that journey. Continue reading Rick's article...

I am adding Rick's article to this blog in hopes that it will be a resource for others making a similar journey. As my favorite morning radio host says, "Get wisdom. Get understanding. Guard her and she will serve you well."

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Introducing Theology Geek blog

Today, I stumbled upon Theology Geek blog by Jason S. Evans. Actually, I believe that somebody... I think Daniel of Random Confessions blog, introduced him a while back on his blog as well, but I can't find that post. Anyway, I checked out Jason's blog because of this comment posted to Here We Stand's post by Chris Williams on How To Get People to Care...?

I am just coming into Lutheranism from being a reformed Baptist. My previous church actually grew tremendously when theology started being taught from the pulpit and on Wednesday nights. I think a lot of people want more out of church than a country club, but most churches are so "purpose driven", all they get is bland country-club Christianity. I think if the pastor or someone in the congregation is a good Bible teacher, then some of deeper things should be explored. There's nothing wrong with studying a book on systematic theology or the Book of Concord with your congregation. At least the congregation will know that this stuff is important, and not just the irrelevant thoughts of a bunch of old dead guys.

I am always interested, intrigued and encouraged when I find other recent coverts to true Lutheranism from "generic evangelicalism" and I try to highlight them on this blog as an encouragement for others. I am still reading through his blog and will continue this holiday weekend (when I'm not at the rink for son's big hockey tournament!).

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Two great posts on the power of God's Holy Word


The Proclaimed and Present Word by John of Confessing Evangelical

The confessional Lutheran church taught me this: When the Word is invoked, Christ is truly present. We have more than a symbol of Christ, we have Him in truth. Until very recently in my faith life, I never fully understood the power of God. His power has literally silenced me. I am finally safe resting in His arms. I no longer try to help or manipulate God by my actions. The day I stopped "trying" to be a good Christian, He started to work through me. I have seen seven family members come to Christ in less than two years, after twenty years of my pathetic attempts to "be a good witness" to them.Truly excellent posts, Rob and John. Thanks for teaching me. I am very thankful.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Introducing Beggars All blog

There is yet another confessional lutheran blog in the blogosphere. Please check out Beggars All. It is written by three men, Rob, Mike, Karl. They explain their joint blogging purpose:

1. The name of this blog is "Beggars All", which is an allusion to the last words of Martin Luther: "Wir sind Bettler, das ist war!" ("We are beggars all. That is true.") In what ways can you and I say, with Luther, "That is true!"

2. Then let's outline our own strange experiences with American Evangelicalism. Why have we both been made, by God's grace, Evangelical refugees?

Please read My Father's Day by Rob. It is a very touching story of father and son. (warning: strong kleenex/crying at work alert!). Mike writes an interesting commentary on the Navigators and his experiences with them. Also read, Does the Church have a Sanctuary?. I think Karl must manage the commentaries.

Beggars All was recently highlighted in Bunnie Diehl's blog, as an Ablaze story of the week, and prompted numerous comments by her readers.


Thursday, November 18, 2004

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi

This new blog, Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, will be my new morning devotions for a while

It bills itself as daily meditations on the sanctoral calendar and lectionary as found in the Lutheran Service Book. The writer describes himself as Contra Mundum.

I am nothing but a simple Lutheran seminarian and vicar. Join me on my pilgrimage through the daily lectionary. May the Holy Spirit stengthen our faith as we meditate upon His Holy Word.

I highly recommend this blog, if not for the outstanding artwork alone.

I've noticed lots of interesting rants in the Confessional Lutheran blogosphere regarding the Emergent Church concept, so as follow-up reading, check out "Why the Lutheran Church is a liturgical church." and the discussion on same at John's Confessing Evangelical blog (see his post, "The Medium, the message and the Divine Service.") Also interesting reads are Rob's latest posts on the emerging church concept on Love and Blunder blog: Church: The rules have changed; Emerging E*CA; and An Emerging Question.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Holy Communion or Ice Hockey?

Yesterday, ice hockey won out over holy communion. Yes, ice hockey won out because, unlike my church, my son will get kicked off his team for not showing up to games unless we come up with a really good excuse...like a funeral in Canada - and we already used that one last Thursday. Actually, my church offers a Monday night service for those of us who came up with really great excuses for missing church on Sunday. OK, I'm not one of those people with a really great excuse, but our pastors really make it clear to us that worshipping on Monday night, on occasion, or any other day or night, is a choice. It is not commanded to worship at 10:45am on Sunday mornings. Still, I show up 99% of the time at that very hour.

The only problem I have with evening church is that I FALL ASLEEP! I don't want to, but during the sermon I really fight sleepiness. I don't think God did mean for us to worship at night or he would have given us a different internal body clock. At 7pm, my body is starting to wind down and if I sit down for very long, even in church, I get very sleepy. Still, I'm very thankful that my church offers me the opportunity to strenghten my faith through corporate confession, absolution and holy communion. Praise God for this opportunity tonight. I'll just have to order a double espresso at Caribou beforehand.

What Confessional Lutherans believe about Holy Communion (or why I jump at the chance to take holy communion):
According to Christ's Word and institution, His body and blood are truly present, distributed and received in the Lord's Supper, under the forms of bread and wine. This Supper is intended for Christians who know and adhere to theteachings of God's Word, who are able to examine themselves on the basis of that Word,and who repent of their sins and look to Christ alone for forgiveness. The body and blood of Christ are offered and received in this Sacrament for the remission of sins and for the strengthening of faith. The forgiveness of sins which is offered by God through the Means of Grace can be rejected by an unbelieving heart, but it is received for salvation by all who believe in Christ.
Also,

Lutherans believe and teach that in the other Sacrament, Holy Communion, the Lord Jesus Christ, according to How own plain Word, gives us His body and blood for the remission of sins; that the Lutheran belief, call the 'Real Presence', does not imply, either by transubstantiation or consubstantiation, any king of change in the visible elements, that the bread remains bread and the wine remains wine, but by virtue of Jesus word of institution, this bread is the Body and this wine is His blood; that all who eat and drink at the Lord's Table receive His body and blood in and with the bread and wine, those who believe to the strengthening of their faith, those who reject to their condemnation; and that this Sacrament ought therefore to be withheld from those who are unable to examine themselves in the Christian faith.

References: Matthew 26: 26-28; Mark 14: 24; 1Corinthians 11: 24-25; 1Corinthians 11: 26-28; Matthew 7: 6; 1 Corinthians 11: 29.

Borrowed from the ELCE and ELS websites, and Confessing Evangelical.




Monday, November 08, 2004

Be Strong in the Grace

This passage is the cornerstone of this blog.

Timothy 2

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs--he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this. Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God's word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

Here is a trustworthy saying:

If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.
If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness." In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Letter (and post) of repentance

A little while ago on Kiihnworld, I wrote with disgust about two Episcopal priests who were involved openly in the Druid religion. There was a lot of buzz in various religious blogs and I got lots of hits from this post. I felt a little proud to be involved in a very small way in exposing a travesty. I must confess that I underestimated God’s power to continue to work in the life of someone who had received faith through the holy waters of baptism. I confess that I doubted that this man would even care what God thought of his activities. I was so wrong; God has power to work in the heart of this man and He did! The saving waters of baptism are the one thing I withheld from my children and that is the one main thing I repented when I became a confessional Lutheran Christian. I had doubted God’s power to create faith in an infant, even when the Bible clearly says the Holy Spirit does this. I repent that I have once again doubted God's power in saving an individual and working faith through him. I suppose I am jaded from years of seeing myself and others doubt God and make wrong choices, but that is no excuse. I ask Reverand William Melnyk to forgive me when I chastised him openly, but forgot to pray for him. Obviously, he had others praying for him who knew his faith and loved him.

A Letter of Repentance from The Rev. William Melnyk


November 4, 2004


This morning, the IRD received a copy of the following letter of repentance sent from Rev. William Melnyk to his bishop. We are grateful for his humble and direct letter. We hope that the leaders of the Episcopal Church’s Office of Women’s Ministries will likewise repent of that office’s promotion of neo-paganism. We also hope that this direct act of recantation of wrong and reaffirmation of the historic faith of the Church will serve as a model for other Episcopal leaders who have been called to express regret for their actions in the context of “the repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation enjoined on us by Christ” (Windsor Report, paragraph 134).

To the IRD, I have today sent this letter to my Bishop. My wife [The Rev. Glyn Lorraine Ruppe-Melnyk] has sent a similar letter:

Dear Bishop,

Recently it has been brought to light by several agencies and individuals that I have been involved in work with Druid organizations in the United States and England, exploring the relationships between Christian and pre-Christian Druid spirituality and theology. These individuals and agencies have presented you with pages of documentation of my activities from the internet. You and I have discussed this material, and you have pointed out to me that it is the opinion of the church that my involvement, writings, and activities go beyond the bounds expected of a Christian and a Christian priest.

I affirm to you with all my heart it was never my intention to engage in such error, but only to help others who had lost connection to the Church to find a way to reconnect. I also thought that there was much in our early British heritage that could help those of us in the Church to broaden our understanding of Anglican tradition.

I was wrong. I repent of and recant without qualification anything and everything I may have said or done which is found to be in conflict with the Baptismal Covenant, and the historical Creeds of the Church. With God as my witness, I reaffirm my belief in the historical creeds of the Church, and the Baptismal Covenant, and reaffirm to you my faith, as expressed in that covenant. I am resigning my membership in the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, as a sign of my repentance.

I have been a follower of Jesus Christ since my Baptism in 1947, and a faithful Deacon and Priest of the Church, with the exception of the error admitted above, since 1981. It is my desire to continue as such, and I ask for the mercy of the Church, and of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sincerely,

The Rev. W. William Melnyk

I now take pains to publicly affirm this statement, and to thank the contributors to the various Anglican weblogs for bringing this to my attention and helping me to see the truth.


Here is a link to Titus 1:9 which posts this same letter and has an interesting bunch of running comments from the readers. I don't know if I will post on this again because it seems that there is a strong conservative element within the Episcopal church and they are handling it themselves.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Speaking the truth in love...

Since discovering the confessional Lutheran approach to faith in Christ, so many of my lingering questions have been answered. Not all my questions, but a lot of them.

Questions that have been answered

Why don't I become a more perfect Christian the longer I am a Christian? When is my child old enough or ready enough to be baptized? Or, how do I know I am really a good enough Christian to enter heaven? Why do the children of really great Christian parents totally reject Christianity? Why do I need to listen to CCM to keep myself emotionally connected to God? Why do seemingly solid, years-strong Christians fall the hardest into sin? Why is so and so an alcoholic or drug addict when s/he has been a Christian for so many years? Why don't I speak in tongues? Why do people get cancer and die? Why is a child killed in a car accident? What is a sacrament? How could Holy Baptism create faith in an infant? How can Holy Communion strengthen my faith? I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture...

I tell you the truth that it took 22 years for me to find a church that had the answers to these questions.

Have I discovered a secret sect? Have I joined an isolationist cult? No! I just finally found a church that teaches I am a sinner living in a sinful world, permanently separated from God and incapable of saving myself. My church tells me that God loves me so much that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die in my place, so that I could live forever in heaven with Him. I could go on and on, but I think you've heard this story....

Boy: Will you be my nasty girl? Girl: I can't because my God is an awesome God!

Rob, of Love and Blunder, has an excellent commentary on a recent article posted at Associated Baptist Press. The article is entitled Speakers predict sermons will change in next wave of postmodern worship. Seems like lots of my evangelical readers have been blessed with rock-solid churches, but that was not my experience. Many of the mega-churches seem to be throwing out Jesus and the Word and replacing it with logic and reasoning, mixed in with emotion-based entertainment; this change is found in worship and in the education programs of the church, such as confirmation and Sunday school.

If this post's title doesn't make sense, read the related posts below. If you are in a rush, I will just summarize those posts by saying that the world we and our kids face today is tough and they need to know more than trendy songs. Our God is an Awesome God is a catchy tune, but does it prepare us for facing sin and temptation on a daily basis? Maybe. But, knowing "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral." would be more a little more useful when a teen is pressuring another teen for sex. We all need to be well-trained in God's Word, since that is how He speaks to us today. My church just added a year to the formal confirmation training, which along with fun events and singing, involves scripture memorization and thorough three-year study of God's Holy Word and Luther's Small Catechism. (Don't be thrown off by the study of Luther's Small Catechism; it is a thorough summary of the Christian faith and is useful for instructing new and young Christians.) The program is taught by our pastors and includes lots of discussion and pratical application. Our pastors even utilize all the senses to help the kids stay awake and interested. But it is often boring, just as any in-depth training can be at times. We parents encourage our kids and remind them of how important and useful their confirmation program is. We study the lessons together and relearn it ourselves.

My daughter recently learned the Latin word, confirmare. I was struck by its meaning: to strengthen, to declare, to make firm. That is what we do in confirmation: strengthen our kids and then they declare that they want to continue as adult Christian members of the church, then the pastor introduces them as such. The three years of hard work pays off and we all celebrate the end of their childhood training and the beginning of lifelong learning of scriptures.

Related posts:
Lack of doctrine among U.S. teens
Redefining Confirmation
Confirmation Follow-up


Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Do you love me?

Thanks to Glen, I am posting this little quiz. Since I am introducing Glen to you through this quiz, I think it would be fair to say that this quiz is not representative of the offerings of his confessional lutheran blog. I have chosen his post,Context Matters, as my favorite.

Click “Comment” on this post and do this:

1. Tell me one thing you love (like is fine, too) about me and/or my blog. I realize that most of us actually don't "know" each other, so don't let this question trip you up.

2. Tell me two things you love about yourself. This one I’m particularly interested in, so make it good. I mean it. No self-deprecation allowed!

3. Do this in your blog so I can return the favor - and if you’ve already done it, tell me so, so that I can go back and give you some love.

4. Consider just randomly telling people why (and that) you love them. Spread some real compliments.

I like this last point. I hope to visit all my links this month and tell the person what I like about their blog. We should all encourage each other to keep up the good work.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Why you should vote...

My totally awesome church sent this great message to me in our November newsletter which I received today...

"The Apostle Paul has very firm instruction for us in the matter of government: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgement on themselves, " Romans 13:1,2".

"Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor," Romans 13:7"

"It is our responsibility to respect, honor and participate in the election process. Prayerfully vote your conscience on November 2nd. On November 3rd, as you learn who won and who lost, remember that God is in charge. His will be done regardless of what man may design, but He does act through His people."


Also...

"The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse where he pleases. Proverbs 21:1"

And...

"The LORD is still in control! He will use, guide and direct, even if it appears bad to us, for the sake of precious souls and for the spread of His holy and saving Gospel. It has always been that way and will always remain that way until the kingdom of the left hand (earthly rule as Luther called it) bows to the Kingdom of the right hand (Jesus' rule made visible at the end of time). Then there will be no need for earthly kingdoms - heaven will be our home."

Finally...

"So, exercise your right and responsibility and vote your heart. Then at the end of November, gather on Thanksgiving Day and give thanks - no matter who is elected - that we are so blessed in our wide and free and happy land where the LORD is still in control of our greatest blessings!"





Thursday, October 28, 2004

More on Holy Baptism...

Please check out the interesting article on the miracle of holy baptism at Confessing Evangelical's blog.
 
Before joining our confessional lutheran church, I had struggled with the purpose of baptism for 20 years!  Since my own weak christian training didn't teach me that we are powerless to choose faith apart from the holy spirit and that Jesus commanded baptism of all people without mention of age, I hesitated to baptize my own children.   I rationalized that even though I was baptised, my own faith didn't mature until I was 20 years old.  My wish for mature faith for my children led me to the wrong conclusion that I should have my children wait for baptism until they made their own profession of faith.  Thankfully, I did not neglect teaching them God's word and soon I realized that they were Christians through the power of God's Word.  Then it became a game of "Well, when are they old enough to be baptized?".  Obviously, that method never gives an answer because children are still children and their faith will never seem mature for years to come.  At what point can any of us say about ourselves or our children that faith is now mature and the person is ready for baptism? 
 
In those twenty years (before and after having children) of church searching, NO pastor (ELCA, independent, Baptist, Evan. Free, Assemblies of God, Methodist, Covenant, CMA, LCMS) ever told me what the bible truly says about baptism.  In fact, pastors in each of these denominations told me to continue to wait until my children were ready, that baptism was merely symbolic.  I could go into more detail, but I don't wish to insult anyone.  During our bible information class with the pastor of our new church, I was overwhelmed with my enormous sense of guilt at keeping my children from holy baptism.  I even disregarded my husband's and parents' plea to baptize them.  I did repent of my sin and asked my husband's forgiveness, but I still can't believe how misguided I was.  My kids are baptized and I don't dwell on it at all.  I 'm just thank that my whole family is now getting a thorough christian education, as well as a complete worship experience and solid biblical teaching each Sunday.  Yet another reason I love my church!!!

Holy Baptism

Question:

There are other Scriptures pertaining to baptism . . . Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38 and others. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. How can infants or small children hear to understand the word of God? Little children are in essence very very gullible. If you tell them that the sky is orange they think the color of the sky is orange. The next minute if you tell them the sky is purple, they believe that also. There is a matter of "age of accountability." There aren't any scriptures to support any one in the New Testament baptizing infants or small children. Granted, children learn and excel at different rates, but how can an infant learn anything as important as they are sinful? How can an infant or small child sin to the point of needing remission of those sins? Things relating to God and the church are so extremely important and should not be altered (Revelation 22:18-19).

Answer:

Allow me to agree wholeheartedly with your very last point. All that God has related to us in the Scriptures is so precious to us that we dare not either add or subtract to it! It is his saving Word, inspired precisely as we have it from him, so that our souls are brought to Christ and nourished with Christ until we are reunited with Christ in glory forever. Why would we want to add or subtract from that?

But may I humbly suggest for your consideration that it may not be we who are adding to Scripture, but you are who are subtracting from it?

I don't know all the inner workings of the mind and understanding of infants. Even those who have devoted their lives to such study cannot give us conclusive answers to the mystery of the human mind and understanding. Do you fully understand that so well that you can tell me what God can or cannot do in the heart of an infant?

Repentance and faith are accomplished by the work of the Spirit through God's law and gospel. Faith, as it is clearly portrayed in Scripture, is 100% a gift of God so that the fact that we are "in Christ" is completely his choosing, not ours (John 15:16; Ephesians 2:8,9; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31). Why, then, cannot the Spirit work such gifts of repentance and faith in infant hearts through the message of Christ even though I cannot explain the exact "how" of it? Might the words of the Lord himself to Abraham fit here, "Is anything too hard for the LORD?" (Genesis 18:14)?

Or consider this, how can you fault us for baptizing people of all ages when our Lord Jesus, in giving us the gift of baptism, told us to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them . . ." (Matthew 28:19)? Is it we who take his words at face value that have some explaining to do? Those who have some explaining to do are those who would limit his words when he does not. Where in Scripture is there a clear command not to baptize infants when in instituting baptism Jesus speaks very broadly? Surely the burden of proof does not rest on those who do baptize infants -- but those who do not.

What is more, I can't find a single reference to an "age of accountability" in all of Scripture. I understand that there is such a thing in Scripture as an "age of discretion" when people come to fully understand their actions. But long before anyone reaches the "age of discretion" they are already accountable for the sinful state into which they were born. King David admits that he was a sinner accountable to God already when he was conceived, let alone from the time he was born (Psalm 51:5). The apostle Paul mentions in Ephesians 2:3 that "we were by nature objects of wrath." We don't become sinners suddenly when we gain discernment about our rebellion from God. We are born rebels who sin against our God long before we are aware that we are doing so. Sin remains sin whether I am conscious and aware of it or not. Why else would King David pray that God would forgive his "hidden faults" of which he was not even discerning (Psalm 19:12)? All of us were born as sinners and rebels against God (Romans 8:7) and are therefore "by nature objects of wrath." Tiny children have every bit as much a need for the forgiveness of Christ as any of us. Thank God his grace in Jesus is rich and free and is offered to all through the gospel in Word and sacraments!

Also, your comments about the gullibility of small children is certainly true, but that is merely a rational argument -- not a scriptural one. That argument does not prove that they are somehow therefore unfit to be brought to faith in their Lord Jesus Christ.

Allow me to finish with a summary. We believe that all people by nature are born sinful and are accountable for that before God from the first moment they exist. We believe a new birth through repentance and faith -- necessary for salvation -- is worked by the Holy Spirit through God's message of law and gospel. We believe that repentance and faith are not works which man accomplishes, but that which God works in our hearts by his power. God alone gets 100% of the credit lest sinful man find even the smallest reason to boast (or to fear that we have not done our little part correctly!). We believe that faith is worked through hearing the gospel of Christ, whether that is heard in the preached Word or in the "visible Word" of earthly element joined to the Word of God. We also believe that Jesus' command to baptize -- one way he reaches out with the saving grace of his gospel -- is so wide and broad that we recognize that anyone from all nations can receive baptism.

I will let God sort through the "how" of the exact way he accomplishes all this in the human heart -- young or old. He doesn't ask me to be able to "explain" or "understand" how all this can be. Since nothing is impossible with him, I can just rest secure in the power of his grace and mercy in the gospel. Unless a clear prohibition from Scripture can be produced, we will continue to take Jesus at his Word. May I be so bold as to urge you to do the same?

From the WELS Q & A site: Holy Baptism

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Theology of the Cross vs. Theology of Glory

My church's Wednesday study group focused tonight on the theology of the cross compared to the theology of glory. I took lots of notes and am working on a good post. The chart used by John H. of Confessing Evangelical was featured in the handout! It originally came from Don Matzat, I believe. Anyway, as I was scribbling notes and looking at the descriptions in the bible of people practicing the theology of glory, I started to wonder about Unitarians and their rejection of Jesus as God because God would just never lower himself to come to earth, become a lowly human and die for our sins. I need to re-read my grandfather's book, "Why I am a Unitarian". In that sad book, my grandfather (not the one who just died in the Lord, but my other one who died in 1988) had penciled in numerous comments about how God would never lower himself to come to earth as a human and die for us. I've kept that book turned around in my bookshelf for years. I really don't want my kids to find it, but I just can't throw it out. It stands as a testament to someone who, while baptized and raised as a Christian, came to doubt God's love. He died an awful, painful cancerous death as an old man and no one knows if he ever repented on his death bed. He was not at peace at all. He fought it to the bitter end, my father told me. That, ultimately, is where the theology of glory leads. Please don't post my comments about my grandfather on your blog...just let this stay here. It's too sad and personal, but definitely worth sharing.

Defending Close Communion

Here is an article on the practice of Close Communion by John H. of Confessing Evangelical.

Uniqueness of the Lutheran Reformation

I have recently found this article and am adding it to this site in hopes that it will be a resource for others. John H. of Confessing Evangelical is the author of the post.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Busy reading books...

I picked up two books last Wednesday night and have been busy reading them, rather than blogging and posting. What books am I reading? They are books that have been recommended to me by other confessional Lutherans.

Spirituality of the Cross by Gene Edward Veith.

Wow! I knew this book would be good, because it has been so consistently recommended by nearly every confessional Lutheran I talk to. But I didn't expect it to become my new favorite book. Up until now, my recommended "you've got to read it" book was The Defense Never Rests: A Lawyer's Quest for the Gospel by Craig A. Parton. It still is, but now I've got two books to recommend.

What I love about this book is that it is yet another good story of a faith journey that leads a Christian to Jessus and the cross. I am selfish and I love to hear that someone else had my same experience in finding a church. This is also a book that compels you to make a list of all the people you know who could relate to his story: new-agers, liberal Christians, etc. I've only read about 1/4 of the book, so this review is a work in progress. If you haven't yet read this book, join me! If you've already read it, please let me know what you thought. What other of Veith's books are "must reads"?

The other book I'm reading is Why I Am a Lutheran: Jesus at the Center by Daniel Preus. Not as a profound a read, but many good nuggets in this book. This book is going on my Christmas gift-giving list for a few family members.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Irresponsible voting advice to Christians

Looks like Mark Noll, professor of Christian thought at Wheaton College, didn't read Pastor Johnathan Micheel's article answering the question, href="http://www.stpetermodesto.org/slate/oct2004.pdf">Is God a Democrat or Republican? Mark Noll has announced to his fellow evangelical Christians that he will not vote for president in, Why I won't be voting for president.
As has been the case for the past few presidential elections, on Election Day I will almost certainly cast my vote once again for none of the above. Here is why:
Seven issues seem to me to be paramount at the national level: race, the value of life, taxes, trade, medicine, religious freedom and the international rule of law. In my mind, each of these issues has a strong moral dimension. My position on each is related to how I understand the traditional Christian faith that grounds my existence. Yet neither of the major parties is making a serious effort to consider this particular combination of concerns or even anything remotely resembling it.

Read on for details of his seven issues.


In his conclusion, he justifies his reasons for giving up on America. His God apparently is not very powerful and does not know what is going on in America.
I have arrived at these seven political convictions as a result of my Christian faith. Yet each can be advanced in terms of the public good without reliance on a particular faith. Of course, I may be mistaken either in what traditional Christianity should mean politically for an American citizen in the early 21st century or in how best to argue for these positions with reasoning not demanding a commitment to traditional Christianity. But as long as I hold these positions, I am a citizen without a political home.


Contrast Mark Noll's depressing victim mentality with the advice of confessional lutheran pastor Johnathan Micheel's admonition to Christians:

Is God a Democrat or a Republican? The question is flawed. It implies that God needs to figure out who the best candidate or party is and then give his support to one side or the other. But this is not the case. Rather, it’s our responsibility to listen to the Lord (through His written word), make sure we’re on his side, and then cast our vote.
But this is complicated. No candidate is perfect. No political party has a platform that perfectly conforms to the Word of God. So what can a person do?


Remember that God is above and beyond all political parties. Throughout the history of the
world he has used both the godly and the godless to do his work. No matter who is
elected, God will continue to work all things out for the good of his church. As we participate in our government by casting our votes, let’s remember that he is ultimately in control.


Thanks for Davie D. for alerting me to this article.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

This explains a lot!!!

I spent ten years in churches that were either Assemblies of God, valued many pentecostal practices or had influential former AoG congregants. I was very interested to read this list of similarities and differences between confessional lutheranism and pentecostalism. In light of my "conversion" to confessional lutheran practices, some of the differences brings back confusing or painful memories. How does a normal teenage girl from the 70's go from being Lutheran to baptist to pentecostal? It took me my own kids spirtual education that I realized how sadly under-educated in my own Christian faith I was when I entered adulthood. I rejoice that my own kids are, even now, more trained and will mostly likely make better choices than their mom.

The following is a WELS pastor's response to a question about the differences between the Assemblies of God church and confessional lutheran beliefs. In my own confessional lutheran church, the good points of any denomination are always emphasized and we are encouraged to view non-confessional lutherans as fellow christians. So, in true christian love, the Wisconsin Lutheran Synod (WELS)pastor begins his answer be emphasizing the areas we agree on.
The Assemblies of God are fundamentalists who believe in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Holy Scriptures. They confess the doctrine of the Trinity and the Deity of Christ along with his virgin birth, substitutionary work on the cross, his bodily resurrection from the dead and his exaltation to the right hand of God.
They teach that faith is a condition of salvation rather than teaching that faith is the way God has chosen for us to receive salvation. The implication is that an unconverted, sinful human being must "decide" for Christ. The Wisconsin Synod teaches that people by nature are dead in their transgressions and sin and therefore have no ability to decide of Christ (Ephesians 2:1, 5). We do not choose Christ, rather he chose us (John 15:16) We believe that human beings are purely passive in conversion.

They teach that baptism and Holy Communion are ordinances whereby Christians declare to the world that they have died with Christ and share in the divine nature. They do not believe that the sacraments are means of grace through which the Holy Spirit works to create or strengthen faith. They deny the Real Presence in the Lord's Supper. They insist that the only legitimate way to perform baptism is by immersion. That is undoubtedly why the congregation in your community goes down to the lake to baptize. The Wisconsin Synod teaches that baptism and the Lord's Supper are means of grace through which the Holy Spirit works to create or strengthen faith (Titus 3:4-7, John 3:5-6, 1 Peter 3:21, Matthew 26:26-28). We believe that Christ's true body and blood are truly present in the Lord's Supper (Matthew 26:26-28, 1 Corinthians 11:23-29). The Bible does not madate the mode of baptism. The water in baptism can be applied in the name of the Triune God by sprinkling, pouring, immersion or submersion.

The Assemblies of God are premillennialist. They believe that Christ will return and reign physically, visibly, and politcally for 1,000 years on earth. The Wisconsin Synod rejects the teaching that Jesus will return to establish a political reign here on earth (John 19:36, Romans 14:17, Colossians 1:13-14).

They are a perfectionist church body. According to the official web site of the Assemblies of God, they believe that "by the power of the Holy Ghost we are able to obey the command: 'Be ye holy, for I am holy.'" Holiness/perfectionist church bodies often seem to make rules where God hasn't and to call things sinful which God has not forbidden. The Wisconsin Synod teaches that although we will strive for Christian perfection, we will not attain it in this life (Romans 7:14-25, Philippians 3:12). We are careful not to call things sinful which God has not called sinful (1 Corinthians 10:23-33, Romans 14:1-23).

The Assemblies of God believe that every believer is entitled to "baptism in the Holy Spirit" (an experience separate from water baptism) with the inital evidence of speaking in tongues. They also practice faith healing. They teach that such "divine healing is an integral part of the gospel. Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement, and is the privilege of all believers." The Wisconsin Synod does not teach a "baptism in the Holy Spirit" separate from and subsequent to water baptism. We do not see speaking in tongues and faith healing as normative for Christians today.

Is God a Democrat or Republican?

This is posted on both of my blogs today, Kiihnworld and Be Strong in the Grace. It is an example of why it is contrived and artificial to separate faith from politics.

I found this very interesting piece today. I think you will enjoy it. It certainly helped me to keep things in perspective. It was written by Pastor Johnathan Micheel of St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church in Modesto, CA.

Is God a Democrat or Republican?

People sometimes ask that question during an election year. There's Democrat, Republican, Reform, Green, Libertarian and all the rest. There's President Bush, Senator Kerry, Ralph Nader, plus all the candidates who don't get much press. And so, as we're bombarded with information about political parties and candidates, we might well wonder, "Whom would God vote for?" "Is God a Republican or Democrat?"
Read more...


Pastor Micheel ends with this advice:

1. Listen to the Lord. Learn some key issues involved in the elections and propositions. Find out if the Lord addresses any of those issues in the Bible. (Your pastors can help with this.)

2. Learn also this important fact:
there are issues about which God does not speak directly in the Bible; he lets us make decisions about these issues using our Christian freedom and our sanctified common sense.

3. Listen to the candidates and learn about the issues on the ballot. Go beyond TV sound bites and partisan ads and learn as much as you can about whom and what you’ll be voting for.

4. Well-informed and guided by God’s Word, cast your vote on November 2.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

What the ELS believes

The Bible says, "For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." For this reason, the member congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod confess the following points of Scriptural doctrine:

We believe that the only true God is the Triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God is One in three Persons.

We believe that God has revealed Himself to people not only in creation, and through our conscience, but especially through the Bible. The Scriptures alone offer and deliver to us the way of salvation.

We believe that both the Old and New Testaments, in their original form, were given by inspiration of God. The Holy Scriptures are without error. The Word of God is truth.

We believe that God created the world and all that is in it in six days.

We believe that Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, but lost that righteousness in the Fall-not only for themselves, but for all mankind.

We believe that, in order to rescue fallen mankind, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ into the world, clothed in human flesh, true God and true man in one Person. By the righteousness of Jesus and by His suffering and death and resurrection, the entire world has been redeemed.

We believe that the entire world was declared to be righteous in Christ when he rose from the dead. It is by faith alone that this righteousness of Christ becomes the personal possession of the sinner.

We believe that God has established certain means of grace by which he announces and gives the forgiveness of sins, and the sure hope of everlasting life. These means are the Gospel, as found in the Word of God, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper: These means of grace are God Himself in actions saving lost souls.

We believe that man's conversion to faith in Christ is solely and alone the work of God the Holy Spirit.

We believe that good works are necessary fruits of faith in the life of the Christian, but do not earn eternal life for the sinner.

We believe that there is one, holy, Christian Church on earth which consists of all who believe in Christ as their Savior. The church may be found wherever the Word of God and the Sacraments are being used properly.

We believe that only qualified men are to be ordained into the office of the public ministry. The work of this ministry is to preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments.

We believe that all believers are ministers before God, having certain gifts which are to be used for the church. However, we also believe that God has given certain principles to guide us, and at times restrict us, in the use of our gifts.

We believe that on the Last Day, Christ will return to judge all people. All who have died will be raised. Those who believe will be with Him in heaven, while those who have rejected Him will be in hell.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Luther on faith and works : The Outward Man

Lo! my God, without merit on my part, of His pure and free mercy, has given to me, an unworthy, condemned, and contemptible creature all the riches of justification and salvation in Christ, so that I no longer am in want of anything, except of faith to believe that this is so. For such a Father, then, who has overwhelmed me with these inestimable riches of His, why should I not freely, cheerfully, and with my whole heart, and from voluntary zeal, do all that I know will be pleasing to Him and acceptable in His sight?

- Martin Luther


Thus a Christian, like Christ his Head, being full and in abundance through his faith, ought to be content with this form of God, obtained by faith; except that, as I have said, he ought to increase this faith till it be perfected. For this faith is his life, justification, and salvation, preserving his person itself and making it pleasing to God, and bestowing on him all that Christ has, as I have said above, and as Paul affirms: "The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God" (Gal. ii. 20). Though he is thus free from all works, yet he ought to empty himself of this liberty, take on him the form of a servant, be made in the likeness of men, be found in fashion as a man, serve, help, and in every way act towards his neighbour as he sees that God through Christ has acted and is acting towards him. All this he should do freely, and with regard to nothing but the good pleasure of God, and he should reason thus:--

"Lo! my God, without merit on my part, of His pure and free mercy, has given to me, an unworthy, condemned, and contemptible creature all the riches of justification and salvation in Christ, so that I no longer am in want of anything, except of faith to believe that this is so. For such a Father, then, who has overwhelmed me with these inestimable riches of His, why should I not freely, cheerfully, and with my whole heart, and from voluntary zeal, do all that I know will be pleasing to Him and acceptable in His sight? I will therefore give myself as a sort of Christ, to my neighbour, as Christ has given Himself to me; and will do nothing in this life except what I see will be needful, advantageous, and wholesome for my neighbour, since by faith I abound in all good things in Christ."

Thus from faith flow forth love and joy in the Lord, and from love a cheerful, willing, free spirit, disposed to serve our neighbour voluntarily, without taking any account of gratitude or ingratitude, praise or blame, gain or loss. Its object is not to lay men under obligations, nor does it distinguish between friends and enemies, or look to gratitude or ingratitude, but most freely and willingly spends itself and its goods, whether it loses them through ingratitude, or gains goodwill. For thus did its Father, distributing all things to all men abundantly and freely, making His sun to rise upon the just and the unjust. Thus, too, the child does and endures nothing except from the free joy with which it delights through Christ in God, the Giver of such great gifts.

Luther on faith and works: The Inner Man

One thing, and one alone, is necessary for life, justification, and Christian liberty; and that is the most holy word of God, the Gospel of Christ.
-Martin Luther



We first approach the subject of the inward man, that we may see by what means a man becomes justified, free, and a true Christian; that is, a spiritual, new, and inward man. It is certain that absolutely none among outward things, under whatever name they may be reckoned, has any influence in producing Christian righteousness or liberty, nor, on the other hand, unrighteousness or slavery. This can be shown by an easy argument.

What can it profit the soul that the body should be in good condition, free, and full of life; that it should eat, drink, and act according to its pleasure; when even the most impious slaves of every kind of vice are prosperous in these matters? Again, what harm can ill-health, bondage, hunger, thirst, or any other outward evil, do to the soul, when even the most pious of men and the freest in the purity of their conscience, are harassed by these things? Neither of these states of things has to do with the liberty or the slavery of the soul.

And so it will profit nothing that the body should be adorned with sacred vestments, or dwell in holy places, or be occupied in sacred offices, or pray, fast, and abstain from certain meats, or do whatever works can be done through the body and in the body. Something widely different will be necessary for the justification and liberty of the soul, since the things I have spoken of can be done by any impious person, and only hypocrites are produced by devotion to these things. On the other hand, it will not at all injure the soul that the body should be clothed in profane raiment, should dwell in profane places, should eat and drink in the ordinary fashion, should not pray aloud, and should leave undone all the things above mentioned, which may be done by hypocrites.

And, to cast everything aside, even speculation, meditations, and whatever things can be performed by the exertions of the soul itself, are of no profit. One thing, and one alone, is necessary for life, justification, and Christian liberty; and that is the most holy word of God, the Gospel of Christ, as He says, "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in Me shall not die eternally" (John xi. 25), and also, "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John viii. 36), and, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. iv. 4).

The Grace of Baptism

From Confessing Evangelical, John H. writes about the miracle of his son's upcoming baptism...

"Here's what will - God willing - be happening to Matthew on Sunday morning. As the water is poured onto him by Christ's minister declaring Christ's Words, Matthew will:

become a disciple of Jesus Christ;

be born again of water and the Spirit;

have his sins forgiven and washed away;

be baptized into Christ, into His death and resurrection;

become a new creation;

put on Christ;

be cleansed and sanctified by the washing of water with the word; and

be saved by the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

In a word, he will be saved. Quite a day!"

Related articles:

Baptism Thoughts

Doubting your baptism? By John H.

Believer's Baptism article by Pastor Joel Brandos and great dialogue in the replies

I am baptised. by John H.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Can we agree that scripture is God-breathed?

"Yes, the Bible is God-breathed, but it was written by men and not God himself. Over the years,the writers may have made little mistakes here and there that didn't affect the main points."

Gee, guess what denomination teaches this lovely concept? Someone very close to me made this irritating statement yesterday. Thankfully, I was able to keep my composure long enough to recommend that the person sit down with a pastor who could explain why that statement, if true, would nullify Christianity.

My God is more powerful than that. If He could create the world, send us a Savior, etc...then He certainly can keep a writer from messing up what He intended to say.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Hymns I love to hear and sing - Jerusalem

I was recently pondering why I enjoy hearing and singing traditional hymns. Even back when I considered myself a combination of an Evangelical and Lutheran Christian, I still had a great appreciation for old hymns. I believe that is one reason why it was easy for me to make the switch to a Confessional Lutheran church; I was so weary of singing "campfire" songs in place of hymns during services. I had already "been there, done that" with the idea that such songs stir up personal emotions or satisfy my soul. Although some hymns do bring tears to my eyes or move me to emotion, the feelings come from grand worship of God and not from myself.

One of my favorite hymns is more of a favorite tune, since the original words aren't scriptural at all, but are more of a story. I first heard the hymn, Jerusalem, in the movie Chariots of Fire. Most of you know that movie is the story of a Scottish missionary to China. I think the movie opens and closes with the popular English hymn, Jerusalem. I still remember the music and the impact it had on me - the huge organ strains and the clear high voices of the children. It furthered my interest in old songs of faith.

When I attended the Urbana Missions conference in 1982, the music director for Billy Graham gave a lecture on the appreciation of old hymns, even those from hundreds of years ago. Considering the direction of the Baptist spin-off churches today and their avoidance of any traditional hymns, this was ironic instruction. He led us through Crown Him with Many Crowns and other old favorites. He had us (us being thousands of students from around the country and world seated in a large stadium) speak the hymn as he explained the deep meaning of each line. He gave us background each hymn writer, so that we could see the author as a fellow Christian who just happened to live during a different period of time. I never sang an old hymn in the same way again. To this day, when I sing a hymn I am confronted with the knowledge that a person who loves God wrote that hymn, maybe even during a time of deep spiritual crisis. Also, the older a hymn, the more time-tested the scriptural validity of the words.

You won't find the hymn, Jerusalem, in my church's hymnal, but I did get to enjoy it once again during Ronald Reagan's funeral last Friday. According to Nationmaster.com, the music was written by Charles H. H. Parry in 1916 and the original lyrics were a poem, "And did those feet in ancient time", written by William Blake in 1804. The poem was based on a combination of old English folklore that Jesus visited ancient England as a teenager with Joseph of Arimathea, and on the bible verse "The hills were full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha." 2 Kings 6:17. Nationmaster.com says, This is considered to be one of England's most popular patriotic songs. It is variously associated (thereby holding a somewhat unique position) with English and British nationalism, anti-modernism, post-modernism, socialist ideals, and Christianity. Jerusalem is the official anthem of the British Women's Institute, and historically was used by the National Union of Suffrage Societies. The poem was inspired by the old legend that Jesus, whilst still a young man, accompanied Joseph of Arimathea to Glastonbury via the nearby Roman port. Blake's biographers tell us that he believed in this legend." While I don't believe that Jesus did visit England, the sentiment is appreciable.


Jerusalem

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.


While researching this hymn, I found a very moving account of a man's visit to England at the recent turn of the century:

MILLENNIUM
New Year’s Eve, like most late January days in northern England, was cold and overcast. I said that I wasn’t going to get caught up in the Millennium hype but when noon rolled around, there I was in front of the TV set watching the year 2,000 begin on an island in the south Pacific where it was warm and dry.
In our little corner of the world, St. James C of E Church in the village was going to have a Watchnight service at 11:15 and then there was going to be a bonfire in the village. Not exactly the river of fire on the Thames but it seemed a lot more appropriate to end the second Christian millennium than crowded together with a few million people I had never met before.
The service was crowded and started with a hymn I had not sung in years but have always loved. “Oh God, our help in ages past/ Our hope for years to come./ Our shelter from the stormy blast,/ and our eternal home.” It seemed most appropriate.
The Vicar led the service but there was no sermon. Several prayers were read, starting with St. Patrick from the 5th Century and ending with Natalie Webb, a nine year-old from the end of the 20th. Many hymns were sung.
At the end of the service we filed out of the chapel and were given torches for the half-mile long walk to the common where the bonfire would be. The line of torches was irregular but formed a clear path through the Victorian village. There is little doubt that they might have been surprised by the tarmac on the road or the one street light in town, but I’m confident that one of Queen Victoria’s subjects would have quickly understood and joined the procession.
At midnight the bonfire was lit and rather than with a huge commotion, the new millennium came to this corner of Yorkshire with people knotted in small groups, speaking in low voices. While the bonfire burned the groups moved back and forth, between the dark and cold of the night and the light and warmth of the fire. Lights danced on the people, and faces changed from bright celebration to shadowed contemplation. It was hard know if the emotions of the people or the light of the fire caused the changes.
The bonfire burned out and we headed home with two tired girls that we carried inside the house.
In the five months since that night, there have been a few lingering images: the gentleman next to me at church who had obviously indulged in the New Year’s spirits before coming to the service; the mud of the path onto the common; the embracing warmth of the whisky I drank from a flask to toast the new millennium; and those scattered torches moving silently through the village.
There is one thing that has remained very clear. It was more of a feeling than a sight or sound. As the sermon ended we sang one last hymn, Jerusalem, a song many would like to see named the English national anthem. As we sang the words I was suddenly overcome by the enormity of standing on the cusp of the third Christian millennium. Here in England one feels the weight of the centuries all around. Singing that song, a feeling crept into the core of me and I knew that thousands years of history were physically present that night.
This journal entry, written by Vic McInnis, can be found at: http://standrewssociety.tripod.com/vic-052300.htm


Wow, I'm not the only person to be so moved by the music and lyrics of this hymn. Here are the words to the more modern and scriptural version written by Horatio Bonar in 1858. This is the version sung at Ronald Reagan's funeral last Friday morning -

O love of God, how strong and true,
Eternal and yet ever new;
Uncomprehended and unbought,
Beyond all knowledge and all thought;
O love of God, how deep and great,
Far deeper than man's deepest hate;
Self-fed, self-kindled like the light,
Changeless, eternal, infinite.

O heavenly love, how precious still,
In days of weariness and ill,
In nights of pain and helplessness,
To heal, to comfort and to bless!
O wide-embracing, wondrous love!
We read you in the sky above,
We read you in the earth below,
In seas that swell and streams that flow.

We read you best in Him who came
To bear for us the cross of shame;
Sent by the Father from on high,
Our life to live, our death to die.
We read Your power to bless and save,
Even in the darkness of the grave;
Still more in resurrection light
We read the fullness of Your might.

O love of God, our shield and stray
Through all the perils of our way!
Eternal love, in you we rest
Forever safe, forever blest.
We will exalt you, God and King,
And we will ever praise your name;
We will extol you every day,
And evermore your praise proclaim.