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."