Thursday, December 28, 2006

Cyberbrethren New Year's Resolution

From Pastor Paul McCain at Cyberbrethren ~

Greetings Cyberbrethren:

My friend, Pastor William Weedon, posted a very useful New Year's
resolution. I'm going to join him, with God's help. Will you join me?

1. Read the daily Scripture readings assigned in LSB for morning and
evening (pp. 299-304).
2. Pray the daily Psalms assigned in the Psalter Chart (p. 304).
3. Read the assigned section of the Book of Concord for Monday-Friday
for each of the 52 weeks of the year

(Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions - note: they are presented in
chronological order of their writing)

I offer this as a suggestion because I think it would be utterly
achievable for anyone - even the busiest. The easiest way to
accomplish the above would be to pray Matins and Vespers daily (using
the assigned Psalms and Scripture readings) and to read sometime
during the course of the day (maybe before, at, or after lunch?) the
page or two assigned from the Book of Concord. What strength would
come to us from such an immersion in the psalter, such a reading
through the Word, and such a review of the Church's Symbols!

Anyone willing to take up the challenge?

It's a marshmallow world that we live in...

We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup.

~Buddy the Elf

For the few readers I have left, I've been thinking lately about why I haven't posted to Be Strong in the Grace for a while. Have I quit attending my fantastic church? Nope. Has my church changed and I've become disillusioned? Nope. Have I allowed the careless comments and accusations of others to bother me and make me second guess any thoughts of blog posts? Yep.

I haven't quite figured out how to express my thoughts, until receiving an email today from a well-know email newsletter. It contains quotes which accurately describe my reasons for leaving evangelicalism, as well as my reasons for not posting lately.

Here are some really bad quotes, which strongly remind me of why I ended up leaving evangelicalism:

The church "cannot afford to waste time on incessant internal
purification at the expense of the lost in the world."
--Jerry Kieschnick, synodical president

"We have not the luxury of time and energy spent on incessant
internal purification at the expense of the eternal destiny of the
souls of men and women for whom Christ died, but who know not His
name and have accepted not His saving grace."
--Jerry Kieschnick, synodical president

"My concern is that we can spend so much time in incessant internal
purification that we do so at the expense of the eternal destiny of
people who are dying every minute."
--Jerry Kieschnick, synodical president

"People, this is NOT a game. Our incessant internal purification at
the expense of the eternal destiny of the souls of men and women for
whom Christ died must stop!"
--Jerry Kieschnick, synodical president

Here are some inspirational, though difficult to swallow, quotes:

"Many say, 'Instead of disputing over doctrine so much, we should
much rather be concerned with souls and with leading them to
Christ.' But all who speak in this way do not really know what they
are saying or what they are doing. As foolish as it would be to
scold a farmer for being concerned about sowing good seed and to
demand of him simply to be concerned about a good harvest, so foolish
it is to scold those who are concerned first and foremost with the
doctrine, and to demand of them that they should rather seek to
rescue souls. For just as the farmer who wants a good crop must
first of all be concerned about good seed, so the church must above
all be concerned about right doctrine if it would save souls."
--C. F. W. Walther, synodical president
"Our Common Task--The Saving of Souls," 1872

Whether our Synod gains friends or makes enemies, wins honor or
invites disgrace, grows or declines in numbers, brings peace or
incites enmity, all this must be unimportant to us--just so our Synod
may keep the jewel of purity of doctrine and knowledge. However,
should our Synod ever grow indifferent toward purity of doctrine,
through ingratitude forget this prize, or betray or barter it away to
the false church, then let our church body perish and the name
"Missourian" decay in disgrace.
--C. F. W. Walther, synodical president
First Sermon Delivered at the Opening of Synod, 1 Corinthians 1:4, 5

Oh my dear friends of the Lutheran faith, confession, and conflict,
do not be misled when today those are everywhere accused of
lovelessness who still do not give up the battle for pure doctrine in
our Church. . . . Oh my dear friends, let us indeed sorrow and lament
over this: that false teachers constantly assail the pure doctrine
in our Church and thus are at fault for the conflict and strife in
the Church. However, let us never lament but rather extol and praise
God that he always awakens men who fight against those false
teachers, for, I repeat, this pertains to "the common
salvation." . . . This conflict is one commanded us by God and is
therefore certainly one blessed in time and in eternity. . . . Oh,
therefore, let us never listen to those who praise and extol the
conflict of the Reformation for the pure Gospel but want to know
nothing of a similar conflict in our days.
--C. F. W. Walther, synodical president
"Why Dare and Can We Never Give Up the Church's Struggle for the Pure
Doctrine?" 1876

I am embarrassed to admit that it took me over 20 years of evangelicalism before I had the maturity to start asking some questions. Too many Christians who maintain any of the following as a reason for dismissing doctrine and practice in their own church are living in their own marshmallow world:
" is all about Jesus, just give me Jesus, what does it matter if we are all Christians, I just believe in the Bible, I don't accept human creeds...".

In a perfect world, not only would I live at Santa's workshop with an all-candy and cocoa diet (watch Elf), there would also be no synods...only one perfect church. Seems I'm going to have to learn to live with the fact that not only is there no perfect synod, but I will also have to remain vigilant. I must accept the fact that others will criticize me and that I will sometimes need to criticize others. I will also have accept the fact that I must eat good meats, whole grains, salads, fruits and vegetables, with only the occasional candy cane and cup of cocoa.

In short, I need to toughen up for 2007.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Lutheran Carnival XXXVI

Lutheran Carnival XXXVI is now up at The Markel Family. Thank you to them for hosting it, and thank you to all who contibuted. The next carnival will be hosted by What Did Jesus Do. Posts are due by November 17th, with the Carnival up on November 19th. Hosts are still needed for December. If you are willing, email Random Dan at daniel Dot sellers At gmail Dot com.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Crying Need of Our Beloved Conference

The Reverend Professor Norman A. Madson

Excerpt from his address to the 75th Anniversary of the Synodical Conference held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 10, 1948

Fellow redeemed, grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Though it be not the same text with which the beloved Walther greeted our sainted fathers when our Synodical Conference first convened in this very city three-score and sixteen years ago, we have no other aim nor holier desire than had that fearless confessor of the faith, when he is his ex corde prayer pleaded with the Father: "Forsake us not, but grant us now and evermore, as oft as we foregather, Thy gracious presence, and sustain us, for without Thee we can do nothing but err, sin and destroy Thy work."

Well might we have chosen the selfsame text: "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and then that hear thee, 1 Timothy 4:16, stressing, as he did, the fact that "the holy apostle does not say: "Take heed unto the chief doctrines,' but: "Take heed unto the doctrine,' - everything which is taught in God's word." But while the text be different, the tenor of our anniversary address will be the same. In fact, were we not to stress the absolute need of purity of doctrine, all doctrines, and the unequivocal acceptance of the same within our brotherhood, our very existence as a Synodical Conference would no longer be justified. For our founding fathers made that clear, from the very day of its inception, that the Conference desired to retain unsullied and inviolate as its highest good and most precious pearl, doctrine pure, as found in God's verbally inspired word and our treasured Confessions based thereon. And they pledged one another their sacred word of honor that they would fight shoulder to shoulder in contending for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints, be their enemy "Rationalism, Unionism, Indifferentism, or Sentimentalism."

This will involve us in stark realism, to be sure. But there is no higher realism that of our Christian religion. It must ever be frank as it is fearless. It has little room for diplomatic double-talk as it s Founder had patience with the hypocritical church leaders of His day. And we would most certainly violate a rule of all true Lutheran preaching, were we to address you as though nothing had happened during these three quarters of a century to disturb our sacred alliance.

We must as Lutheran Christians face facts, no matter how unpleasant the task may become. For God wants us to be honest with Him, with ourselves, as well as with our fellowmen. Wishful thinking and unsubstantiated claims are not going to solve our problem any more than will the delusion that salvation may be had by believing a lie. It is as true today as it was on yon day when Paul first penned it: "We can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth." 2 Corinthians 13:8.

What then is our problem? In brief, it is this: Shall we continue in the paths our fathers trod, calling all manner of Unionism a sin, which robs the inviolate word of its majesty and saving grace, leaving ultimately all who practice it in the Slough of Despond? Or shall ours be a new course? Have we erred in marking and avoiding those who are indifferent to the love of pure doctrine, and who have placed in its stead a would-be love of men which is as shallow as it is powerless to save? Are we guilty of "spiritual standpatism" when we refuse to go forward at men's behest, or is there such a thing as pleasing God by refusing to go up hence if God's gracious presence go not with us? Well, our text gives the answer. It is on the basis of this more sure word of prophecy and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit that we shall briefly discuss:

The Crying Need of Our Beloved Conference

1. First of all, it needs to realize anew, in these days of rampant Unionism, that not all forward movement means progress.

There are times when "they also serve who only stand and wait." And what is the occasion for their waiting? Isaiah answers: "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." Isaiah 40:31. There is a man-made busyness which is as far removed from the youthful Nazarene's being about His Father's business as utter frustration is removed from Jehovah's quiet command, "Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10

Now, we can sympathize with those who are anxious to stave off the threats of a mighty Assyria by making alliances with that bruised reed Egypt, even as our hearts went our is commiseration for a Chamberlain at Munich. But the policy of appeasement with those who have , to begin with, broken faith with God is as futile as it is wicked. To lean upon such a bruised reed will be as sure to pierce the hand today as in the days of an Hezekiah.

There is a feverish anxiety among pseudo-Lutherans to join hands with all who bear the Lutheran name, regardless of what their attitude toward doctrine may be, which borders on ecclesiastical hysteria. In order to make an impact on a distraught and jittery world, an imposing "Lutheran World Federation" was set up in Lund, Sweden, last year which was to be the mightiest voice which has been heard since the days of Martin Luther. But what was it which sounded forth from Anders Nygren's committee on doctrine at that Lund assembly?

"The Gospel is so exceedingly rich that no one section of the Church can claim to have fully and exhaustively comprehended all its wealth. One church has grasped more of it, another less. One has penetrated to the heart of it, while another has remained more on the circumference. One has grasped one aspect and another another. In this respect the churches can learn from each other and help each other to reach a simpler, richer and deeper understanding of the Gospel."

At first blush that may seem to be a most humble confession. But let us analyze it. If no church can claim to have fully and exhaustively comprehended all of the Gospel, where does that leave Paul, who declares to the Ephesian elders that he had "not shunned to declare unto them all the counsel of God"? Acts 20:27 It would not leave him in the Ananias Club, would it not? And since the various churches are to render reciprocal help in arriving at a simpler, richer and deeper understanding of the Gospel, can y you tell me how one who is still out in the periphery is going to help the person who already is at the heart and center of the Gospel to a deeper understanding of it? If no one can lay claim to having all of the Gospel, how then could Paul pronounce his "anathema sit" upon anyone who preached unto the Galatians? Supposed that the other person proclaimed that bit of the Gospel which Paul had failed to preach, since he could not, according to Nygren, possibly have all of it, should he then have as his reward for his labors: "Let him be accursed"? Galatians 1:8.

But there is more to that doctrinal statement at Lund which had as its superscription: Confessing the Truth in a confused World." "Christ's Church on earth is divided into a multiplicity of separate churches. The reason for this is not to be found simply in the superabundant riches of the Gospel, but also in human sin. " That is the first time we have ever heard the Gospel of Christ blamed, in part at least, for the disunity of the Church.

But the Lundsians go on:

"Consequently, the prayer of our Lord, 'Ut omnes unum sint' (that they all may be one), constitutes a call to repentance for all churches, that puts them under a vital obligation to strive for the realization of unity."

You will here note that they fail, as the Unionist is wont to do, to quote the complete utterance of our Lord in this matter. He does not merely say, "Ut omnes unum sint," but immediately adds: "Sicut tu Pater in me, et ego in te" (even as Thou Father, in me, and I in Thee). We must not make Christ out to be a Unionist. His desire and prayer is, that there may be perfect unity, as that which existed between Him and the Father.

And as for repentance, are we to repent of the fact that we have (as have our true fathers in Christ before us) claimed that we did have the full truth of the Gospel? There are many sins which all of us shall have to repent of, yes, every day of our life. But God forbid that we should have to offer the fifth petition after we have been obedient to the apostolic admonition: "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God." 1 Peter 4:11

But then comes the closing statement of that Lundensian paragraph:

"No church, however, must let itself be led by its concern for unity to surrender anything of the truth that has been entrusted to it."

If the Lund theologians had taken that statement seriously they would not be wending their way to that Babel of clerical confusion convening at Amsterdam this very month. They would then, rather than chant the modernist's battle-cry, "Vorwarts nach Amsterdam," take to heart Jeremiah's serious admonition: "Stand ye in the ways, and see," praying with Eberhard Fischer in one of your treasured German hymns:

"Bewahr' vor Ketzerei, vor Menschenlehr' and Dunkel!
Lehr' uns nach deiner Art im Tempel, nicht im Winkel!
Behut' vor Aergernis, vor Spaltung, die uns trennt;
Erhalte rein und ganz dein Wort and Sakrament!"

Which might be rendered freely:

"Guard us from heresy,
Hypocrisy e'er shunning,
Teach us to speak as Christ,
Who spurned all human cunning.
O keep us from offense,
Which falsehood e'er has sent,
Preserve unto us pure
Thy word and sacrament!"

Points two and three to follow.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

From the Confessional Worldview Seminar...

Thursday, October 19th 10:28pm

I just got home from the seminar. I snuck out early, after cleaning the kitchen, to try to get to bed early...but ended up watching the end of game 7 of the Mets vs the Cardinals. Oh well!

Tonight, I listened to Prof. Lyle W. Lange speak on what is the Confessional Lutheran Worldview. Here are the main points he covered tonight:

We live in a global society with a multitude of worldviews: religious (Christian, Pseudo-Christian, Non-Christian), political, cultural, philosophical and ethical.

There is no one universal worldview held by all who call themselves Christian.

  • Confessional Lutheran - focuses on Christ and His saving work; emphasizes importance of properly using law and gospel, stresses the importance of the means of grace; teaches scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone.
  • Liberal Lutheran - has adopted the higher-critical approach to the Bible; pays lip service to the Lutheran Confessions; more concerned with outward union than with doctrinal unity.
  • Roman Catholic - stresses the authority of the church to establish doctrine; focuses on seven sacraments to assist people to work out their own salvation; rejects the three solas of scripture and Confessional Lutheranism.
  • Orthodox - ultimate goal is deification of man; places authority of the church over authority of the Bible.
  • Calvinistic - focuses on the sovereignity of God; teaches Bible is a manual for holy living to glorify God; teaches there is no doctrine of Scripture which is unreasonable; TULIP.
  • Arminian/Wesleyan - teaches prevenient grace; focuses on holiness of living; Wesley's four fundamental theological priniciples: universal salvation, free salvation, full salvation and sure salvation; teaches the second grace sets one on the road to perfection.


  • Holiness/Pentecostal - emphasizes holiness of living; teaches that the second grace gives instantaneous perfection, after which a person may expect the third blessing of speaking in tongues and performing miracles.
  • Fundamentalism - reaction to 20th century Liberalism; goal was to preserve the fundamentals of Christianity; teaches that America is God's chosen nation; seeks to get the state to enforce Christian values.
  • Evangelicalism - rooted in 17th century Pietism, 18th century Methodism and 19th century Revivalism. Focuses on law over gospel. Means of grace are mere commands Christ said we should do.
How are we to judge the many different worldview we encounter? Can any human come up with a standard to judge by? No. Only God can give us the standard. The Bible is God's revelation to us, not human speculation about God (2 Pet 1:21). The Bible deals with humanity's greatest need - the need for redemption (Rom 3:23). The Bible transcends age, time and culture (1 Pet 1:25). Jesus says he is the only way to heaven and that the Bible is God's errorless Word (John 14:6 and 17:17) The Bible is the guiding norm and the Lutheran Confessions are the guided norm. The Lutheran Confessions accurately reflect what the Bible teaches, they agree with God's Word and guide our worldview.

What is a biblical Christian (Confessional Lutheran) worldview?

  • Centered on Jesus Christ and His redemptive work and grounded in scripture.

A biblical Christian worldview can be known only though the proper use of the law and the gospel.

  • The law is that divine doctrine of Scripture which tells us how we are to be (perfect), what we are to do and not to do, that we haven't met the standard God demands and that we deserve to be punished for our disobedience.
  • The gospel is that divine doctrine of Scripture which tells us what God has done for our salvation (what has already been done), what God does for our salvation now, and what God will do for us after this life.
There are major differences between the law and the gospel:

Revelation: the law is known to all people by nature and the gospel is known only by revelation from God.
Message: the law tells what God commands us to do and the gospel tells us what God has done for our salvation through Jesus Christ.
The way in which promises are made: all the promises of the law are conditional and all the promises of the gospel are unconditional.
Purpose: The purpose of the law is to convict sinners of their guilt before God and the purpose of the gospel is to give sinners the forgiveness won for them by Christ.
Effect: The law will produce terrors of conscience when it does its work and the gospel will produce faith, love, peace, joy and hope.
Ability to do what is asked: The law drives and condemns; it does not ever motivate to do what is asked. The gospel gives us the desire and ability to do what is asked of us (believe, be baptized, take and eat, rejoice).
For whom each is intended: The law is to be preached to secure sinners (Gal. 5:21) and the gospel is to be proclaimed to sinners (Mt 9:2)

Part II tomorrow morning...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Confessional Worldview Seminar is coming soon!

To help everyone get registered in time, the deadline has been extended to Friday, October 13th. Although moving the seminar to Minneapolis from the deep Wisconsin woods and shortening the seminar from a week to 2 1/2 days seemed like REALLY GREAT IDEAS, the result has been a DECREASE :( in registration rather than the expected INCREASE :). We are sure that this is a temporary blip on the screen and so the registration deadline has been extended.

If you have been thinking that you really should attend the 2006 Confessional Worldview Seminar, YOU ARE CORRECT. Where else, for such a low price, can hear, learn from and nosh with six of the best Confessional Lutheran minds in modern times? The worldview seminar is a "free" conference which means that all Lutheran synods and any Christian can meet and discuss the state of confessional Lutheran Christian practice today.

Listen to KKMS for new ads that have been purchased for the seminar. Also, plans are underway to have Craig Parton make a guest radio appearance again. I will post the link when it is official.

If there is anything that is keeping you from attending this event, please do not hestitate to contact me or Pastor Brooks. We will do whatever we can to help you attend (no, we probably won't pay for your airfare, but we'll do just about anything else.) A sitter at a low cost? A free cup of Starbucks espresso each morning? Transportation while in town? A place to stay because a hotel is just out of the question...even the very affordable, but clean Red Roof Inn? Ask! Please come!

Friday, September 29, 2006

News on the Confessional Worldview Seminar

Exciting News! The registration deadline for the 2006 Confessional Worldview Seminar has been extended to October 12th. Also, listen for radio ads on KKMS 980. You can register online here.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Lutheran Carnival XXXIII


a poem by Longfellow, thanks to Norman Teigen

I bear the Scales, where hang in equipoise

The night and day; and when unto my lips

I put my trumpet, with its stress and noise

Fly the white clouds like tattered sails of ships;

The tree-top lash the air with sounding whips;

Southward the clamorous sea-fowl wing their flight;

The hedges are all red with haws and hips.

The Hunter's Moon reigns empress of the night.

September has always been my favorite month. It is the month of my birthday, which mostly likely caused me to rejoice when I was younger. Nowadays, I cringe at the actual number of my birthdays, but I still love September. Why? Falling leaves, the start of school, cool nights and shortening days, the first chance to put on a sweater since spring, chrysanthemums, my big red sugar maple tree, squirrels busily burying their nuts. What isn't there to like about September? Of course, I haven't asked any 9/11 survivors if they love September. Nor my dear sister-in-law who just lost her mother on 9/11, just nine days after her own birthday. Nor the family who just lost their ten year old daughter in the Rogers tornado. But for now, I love September. And I love blogs!

One of my favorite ELS blogger, Norman Teigen, wrapped up his series on his take of the history of the ELS. His thoughts are his own, of course, but he has experienced life in the ELS from a unique viewpoint - both by family ties and by the events of his generation. See parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI. Norman Teigen is one of my favorite people. Not only is he a fellow church member, but he's also an interesting person. I love his blog! He takes the vocation of blog-keeping even more seriously than I do (at least he posts every day). He and my hubby talk after church until my kids have to pull dad away, out of the building and toward the car. Norman and Rob ususally talk about sports: Iowa v. Minnesota, the Vikings, the Twins. Talking to people after church is one of my favorite things about church and Norman is a good person to talk to.

Onto the rest of the bloggers that I haven't yet had the pleasure of meeting in person. Everyone's favorite aardvark has a blog, Aardvark Alley . The ol' Aard playfully invoked the noted author's greatest work in providing a title for Dante Alighieri: Classic Comedian. His commemorative post touches upon Dante's importance both in the Church and for Western liturature and summarizes most of his important works, including the three volumes of the Divine Comedy. Cyprian of Carthage, Bishop and Martyr, is certainly a lesser-known hero of the early Christian Church. Because of that, Aardvark Alley tries to show his influence on Christian theology and practice as well as noting some areas where Saint Cyprian's teachings were not followed by the majority of orthodox Christendom.

A dear friend of the Aardvark, Pastor Snyder, of Ask the Pastor , gets a wide variety of questions but this was a first. A man wanted to know, Can a Christian Be a Comic Book Author? Pastor Snyder responds by talking about truth revealed in fiction as he leads his readers to examine how they could live out the Faith in this and other vocations. A serious topic that Christians often ignore rather than face is the Imprecatory Psalms. Ask the Pastor confronts these harsh songs of the Old Testament through Praying Evil upon Our Enemies. Pastor Snyder says that there are proper times, ways, and attitudes for Christians to join voices in these requests for divine vengeance. However, he also reminds us that the full harshness of God's curse fell squarely upon His Son in order to save sinful, accursed mankind.

GHP's recent Luther Library review of Caitlin Flanagan's To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife touches upon several of the book's strengths and shortcomings. While sincerely recommending this work, he also comments on some of the weaknesses he perceives and also gently inserts a bit of his own thinking without letting it get in the way of encouraging others to read it for themselves.

After a very blessed experience at the Image of God Conference, the Rebellious Pastor's Wife contemplates a topic not addressed there in her post, One Thing Missing. Another blogging pastor's wife, Kelly of Kelly's Blog, contributes two related posts, Youth - not a "tribe apart" , a contemplation of being a youth leader, her own experiences with youth group hopping and where strong cetechesis fits into the picture, and More Youth Thoughts While Cruising the Cemetery, thoughts on the nature of youth groups spurred by a wander through the town cemetery.

Ritewinger at Theocon discusses, in Seeds of the Sower, the lack of Law in the "Sinner's Prayer" and in crusade conversion.

Everyone's favorite British blog-keeper, John H. of Confessing Evangelical cites, in Run away! Run away!, a superb post by Internet Monk, Michael Spencer, as well as a stirring quotation from CH Spurgeon, each reinforcing the message that adultery is a Really Bad Idea - one which should be obvious, but which, sadly, bears frequent repetition. John H. also offers, A Dangerous Element. Continuing John H's tendency to post non-Lutherans saying very Lutheran-sounding things, here is a glorious quotation from Martyn Lloyd-Jones on how true Gospel preaching will always be accused of antinomianism.

Resident referree of the Confessional Lutheran blogosphere, Dan at Necessary Roughness points us to his developing series on the Divine Service. He's got seven posts in the series already! One of my favorite blog-keeping Lutheran moms, Mutti Beck of Beckfest, has begun a series entitled Hymn I Love. She has begun with Salvation Has Come Unto Us.

It has been a pleasure to edit this 33rd issue of the Lutheran Carnival. Thanks to all those who submitted posts or allowed me to borrow posts. If you weren't in this issue, please consider joining in next time.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Craig Parton to be guest on KKMS 980AM this Saturday!

Fantastic news!!! Attorney Craig Parton and Christian apologist extraordinaire is going to appear as a guest on Minneapolis station KKMS 980 AM this Saturday morning (09/9/06) from 11:30am to 1pm. He will answer questoins while promoting the 2006 Confessional Worldview Seminar being held at King of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Golden Valley, October 19 - 21, 2006.
KKMS 980AM has online streaming. The call-in number is: 651-289-4499

KKMS is also the local home for Pastor Todd Wilken's outstanding program, Issues, Etc , heard Sunday nights at 9pm locally.

Please spread this exciting news!

Who's Craig Parton? Mr. Craig Parton, Esq. is a trial lawyer and managing partner of the oldest law firm in the Western United States--Price, Postel and Parma of Santa Barbara, California. Upon graduation from college, he spent seven years on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ, the last four of which were spent as national lecturer for Crusade. Mr. Parton traveled to over 100 universities and colleges across the country defending the Christian faith through lectures and debates. He received his Master’s degree in Christian Apologetics under Dr. John Warwick Montgomery at the Simon Greenleaf School of Law, an institution devoted to the integration of Christian faith and legal reasoning. Craig Parton is also the United States Director of the International Academy of Apologetics, Evangelism and Human Rights in Strasbourg, France ( His latest book is entitled “The Defense Never Rests: A Lawyer’s Quest for the Gospel.” He has published articles in both law reviews and in theological journals, including Modern Reformation, Logia–A Journal of Lutheran Theology, and the Global Journal of Classical Theology.

Check out these great links:

* Coming Home: An Interview with Craig Parton

* Luther Lite and Reformation Schmooze By Craig Parton

* The Defense Never Rests: A Lawyer's Quest for the Gospel by Craig A. Parton

* From Arrowhead to Augsburg: Bill Bright in the Light of the Lutheran Confessions by Craig A. Parton

Monday, September 04, 2006

ELS President's Newsletter: September 2006

Check out the ELS President's Newsletter for September 2006. The upcoming Confessional Worldview Seminar, being hosted by my church this October, gets a nice plug (although I'm not sure about the usage of the word, "free" since we are charging a fee of $95.00 for 2 1/2 days of outstanding presenters, delicious meals and three nights of Tabletalk. Presenters of the caliber we have obtained have mortgages to pay, too!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Registration for the 2006 Confessional Worldview Seminar

Registration has begun for the 2006 Confessional Worldview Seminar! Check it out at the official seminar blog:

Lots of good information has been posted at the blog:
Feel free to ask me any question. I can email you the brochure, church bulletin or the presenters vitae and abstracts. We are expecting a huge turnout (we already have registrations without an official registration form), so register early. If you are a frequenter of this blog, I will personally shake your hands. No, I'm not a speaker (we're sticking with real theologians - the kind with diplomas), but I will be there helping and coordinating.

If there is enough interest, we will design a meeting just for us!

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Masks of God

The other day I picked up a photo on my pastor's desk. It was of his first son, Hugh, taken just hours before he died last August. Although Hugh's skin tone and the tubes attached to his little body indicated a sick child, the sparkle in his eyes and the smile on his face were full of life and expressed delight and joy.

I was struck by the contrast in the photo: dying child full of life. How could that be? I know if it had been a photo of me as I lay dying, I would have made sure to look sick in the photo! Hugh hadn't learned that trick yet. He was still reveling in the joy of life...of a life soon to change.

I think there is a lesson in that photo. I need to find some scripture to go along with it. God put life into the child and gave him a soul. Baptism brought his soul into faith in Christ. Disease, born of a sinful earth, robbed Hugh of his earthly body, but not the life God gave him.

In honor of the one-year anniversary of Hugh Brooks' arrival at heaven's gate, I am posting something I wrote after attending his funeral. Up to that point in my life, I had never been to the funeral of a pastor's children nor had ever been to the funeral of a child. Here are my reflections of that day...

Masks of God

orginally posted in August of 2005

All our work in the field, in the garden, in the city, in the home, in struggle, in government--to what does it all amount before God except child's play, by means of which God is pleased to give his gifts in the field, at home, and everywhere? These are the masks of our Lord God, behind which he wants to be hidden and to do all things. --Martin Luther, "Exposition of Psalm 147" from Masks of God blog

Our pastor and his wife recently buried their young son. During his four short months on this earth, struggling to overcome a heart defect, his parents kept on online journal. One entry, made on a more hopeful day, struck me deeply:

We are so thankful to see God working and to see Him hiding Himself behind the vocations of cardiologist, neurologist, anesthetologist, surgeon and nurse. Doctor is one of the masks God wears.
This young pastor also wears a mask of God, and his wife as well. Even in their deep and utter grief, though they were both emotionally and physically near exhaustion from the death of their sweet firstborn son, God's love could be seen beaming through in their eyes, their smiles and their touch. They were not spiritually exhausted; they were reaching out to all of us, hugging everyone and reminding us of the joy of salvation that sweet Hugh has now obtained through Jesus' death on the cross.

I had never seen a pastor at the funeral of one of his own. I had never been at the funeral of a baby nor a child. Now, I don't base my faith on what my eyes have seen and I can't believe in God just because of how my pastor and his wife gave clear account for the joy that is in their hearts; but seeing them doing so confirmed what I already knew to be true through the witness of the Holy Spirit. God has provided a clear and joyous salvation from this fallen creation - where little boys are born with heart defects- through the atoning sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ, who was raised from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God. He has prepared a place for all who believe this is true. As if that wern't good enough, God has also sent his Holy Spirit to plant the seed of faith in the hearts of all who are washed in the waters of Holy Baptism and to grow and strengthen the faith of all who hear His Word preached and partake of Holy Communion. My pastor taught me this and he didn't run from it when his own little son died. Pastor and wife are one of the masks God wears.

During this last week, I have struggled fruitlessly on my own to defeat the evil plot of a computer programmer who has used his God-given talents for understanding numbers and computer programming to trick people, steal their money and corrupt minds and souls. He or she is faceless and nameless to me, but not to God. He is wasting his talent and rejecting God's urging to come to Him.

Just when I was ready to give up, I was led by my ISP provider to a young man who also has great God-given talents for understanding the same things as his evil counterpart. He uses those talents to continually learn more about viruses and trojans and hackers. He freely gives his time for no pay to companies in exchange for learning more.

To date, he has spent three hours straight on his phone dime, doing the work of a entry-level computer support person while also searching for an elusive hidden trojan virus. Sure, he is compensated in others ways and hopes to one day invent a little device to clean your machine in five minutes! But, he's got a long way to go and on his way he has helped countless numbers of people rid their machines of trouble and get back to work. Computer programmer,"geek", forensic network specialist are also masks God wears.

Pastor Snyder recently posted about the new Lutheran Carnival and the confessional Lutheran blogosphere: Ask the Pastor: Lutheran Carnival III and Beyond. He wrote:

"Lutherans are among those rare few who realize that even when we talk of “ships and sails and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings,” we also are talking theology. While I’m pretty sure that there will be plenty of theologizing from blogging pastors I’d be interested not only in lay theological perspectives about jobs, careers, marriage, and other vocational areas, but also reading some of the “daily grind.” Many of the bloggers I read, including Love and Blunder, Kiihnworld, and Pastor Steve Billings let me see much of their hearts and their theology through windows opened into the “ordinary” in their lives."
Yes, Pastor Snyder mentioned me in his last sentence and it really touched my heart, but that is NOT why I am mentioning his post. Blogs have been taking a bad rap lately, especially among our own. That deeply saddens me because blog-keeper is also a very honorable vocation. I began writing not thinking that anyone would ever read. I wrote to make sense of my life and faith.

About two months after starting my blog, I did a random search for confessional lutheran blog, thinking I would find nothing. With great surprise and delight I clicked on The Random Thoughts of a Confessional Lutheran and my world changed. From that blog, I discovered so many others, Confessing Evangelical and Bunnie Diehl were among the firsts and are still my favorites, although I've met so many more fellow saints since then. For the first time in months I realized that I wasn't alone in coming to the Lutheran confessions. Now how else would I have found other confessional Lutherans to strengthen my faith - mutual consolation of the saints, as the wise Wildboar once wrote.

Writing about my very ordinary life through the lens of my faith in God has helped me to be able to be able to more easily give account for the joy that God placed in my heart. And I'm not talking about blogging, I'm talking about my everyday REAL life. Writing about my faith is helping me to be open about my faith to others. I used to save my "Christian comments" for fellow Christians; now I can more easily leave God in His rightful and natural place in the world and include Him in my conversations with people. I attribute my ability to account for the joy to God; His Holy Spirit has planted it in my heart. I do believe that He also expects me to find and know good preaching, so that I learn more and practice saying and writing it down.

To you, dear reader, and to all the established, burgeoning or just-learning writers who decide to keep a blog, I thank you. Blog-keepers also wear a mask of God. I can't possibly begin to name those of you that have blessed my faith and my life, but I will try: Pastor Snyder, Rob and Devona, John, Bunnie, Scottius Maximus, Daniel, Elle, Dan, Glen, Bob, David, Jason, Floyd, Mutti, Brian and Matt, Pastor Steigemeyer, Chris W., Prof. Chris, Terrie, Vicar Lehmann, Michael and Timotheos, Pastor Brandos, Pastor McCain, Rev. Klages, Ron and Erica, Twylah, Josh S., Wildboar (wherever you are), Suzi and Tim, Monergon and Theophorus, Worthy Woman, Rick, Michael S., Rev. Chryst, Minister2B, Maria, Webcritter and Mr. Critter, and the many others that I've probably missed (probably because you don't have an RSS feed. If your name isn't here, email me and I'll ADD it! I've thanked you before and I'll thank you again for sharing your life and vocation through your blogs. It is a blessing to me. God be with you today and always!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Contempory Praise and Worship Music: A call to arms or a chance to teach?

My Drama:

An ugly shadow has reared its head outside the door of my castle...of my refuge and the place I hope to live out my days on this fallen earth. The knights of the roundtable of my castle are merely discussing whether or not to let the shadow in the door, but I know that harm has already come if such a thing is being discussed.

The shadow is a chameleon known to convince Christians that it is really an innocuous and pleasant diversion...a "modern" version of the same. The shadow disguises itself as light and calls to people. It tricks them into thinking that more people will come if it is used. It has been described as the smell of sulphur by one respected man. It has also been called the "stick of dynamite in the deconstruction of evangelicalism" by another. Yet another voice urges,

"...rather than spring into the usual defensive posture, what we really ought to do is become leaders in the area of sanctification. We need to take the initiative- not just showing the truth of Lutheran teaching, but also its great practicality, to say nothing of its evangelical heart! Out of love for our Lord and his church, it's high time we put our rich heritage into action."

I know I've irritated some by claiming this would never happen in my refuge. Those of you who were irritated may now rejoice that I was wrong. Or you can help. Pray for my castle. Submit links to aid in the educational opportunity. Or just consider this a fun guessing game and take a stab at my riddle. What is the shadow whispering at the door of my refuge and my castle?

An Explanation

This is fun! I can't remember the last time I had several comments. Of course, now that I've confused my own fellow church member, Norman, I probably should explain.

As a post-evangelical, I admit I have an adverse reaction to Contemporary Praise and Worship music. My faith once depended on it, or so I thought, as part of an overall Christian lifestyle. When my foundation of sand began to quickly fall apart a few short years ago, I started to notice the lack of doctrinal soundness in many of the P&W choruses. Yet it's influence on me was so great that the very first thing I asked my pastor-to-be on my first visit to him was borderline insane:

"If I become a confessional Lutheran, can I still listen to the local Christian radio station?

To this day, I don't know how he didn't burst into laughter. Instead he replied that I would find the station on in his home from time to time. With that major concern out of the way, I was able to go on with the minor matter of adult catechism. During that wonderful summer of learning, I was able to leave behind my dependence on contemporary praise and worship music. I learned that faith is given to me by God and sustained by God alone through His Word.

The first time I worshiped as a prospective member at my new church, I was underwhelmed by the music offered to me. My thought went something like, "How will I be able to tolerate this for the rest of my life?" No wonder I thought that, considering that I was used to clapping, drums, singers raising their hands and waving, etc. Over the course of a few weeks, the rich scripturally based liturgy and the timelessly-true hymns of praise and worship taught me and my family. I soon fell in love with the rich heritage of worship and song that confessional Lutherans have passed on from generation to generation dating back to ancient days. Not surprisingly, I am one of the more enthusiastic defenders of traditional liturgical worship.

So, when the idea of a modern modern liturgy or a few contemporary praise songs harmlessly added to a weeknight service gets brought up by a few very well-meaning members, I hit the panic button. Don't they understand the harm that music can bring? Or is it just me? Am I just being unreasonable based on my own past mistakes of how faith is created and sustained? Will my objections cause harm to the faith of those who ask the question of why not? How do I communicate my concerns without insulting or offending? These are my questions.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Uneasy, but secure and happy

Photo found on Google from an open Flickr account by a man named Paul
"So how does it feel to always be helpless and hopeless without the Cross of Christ? Very uneasy because it makes you always dependent on Christ, there is none of you that you can bring on God's table...Uneasy? Maybe, but secure and happy."
~ L.P. Cruz

L.P. Cruz of Extra Nos has just described, in The Basis, the monumental mindset change that God worked in me a couple of years ago. And yet, how wonderfully ironic is it that the uneasy feeling drives you to the cross? Driven not so much out of fear as much as joy and thankfulness for the one who now saves you!

His account is the one "universal" truth I've seen written about by all who ascribe to Luther's story of spiritual conversion. We all have that same story of God convicting us of our sin while simultaneously showing us the fantastic news that we are saved, all through work not of our own. We suddenly realize that that is the gospel: to be in debt and saved all in one swoop. Accomplished through the proclamation of God's Word and not through any action of our own. Even the very seed of faith is planted by God himself. No man can boast that he chose God or chose his own salvation in Christ. It is not possible.

This post really encouraged me this morning!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Holiness and sinfulness, coexisting together, though not peacefully

I love it when I read a post about total depravity and a post about holiness and see total harmony. For confessional Lutherans, any blog post on holiness will draw attacks reminding the blogger of our sinful nature and vice versa. I had to laugh when John at Confessing Evangelical added this disclaimer to the bottom of his recent post on holines, A Chappo's Guide to Holiness:

Note: For anyone tempted to make rude comments about a Lutheran blog posting on holiness (shock! horror!), do please go away first and read Article 6 of the Augsburg Confession (though also do read Articles 4 and 5 - especially Article 5 for any Sydney Anglicans that might read this. Craig excepted - he already knows this stuff.

For anyone tempted to make rude comments about this Lutheran daring to post on the subject of holiness: fair point.

Just last week I was tempted to write about Theology Geek's post, Where Theology meets Life, on sinful nature and actually decided not to write it because I didn't feel like combatting reminders of commands of holiness. Jason writes, "Calvinists and Lutherans have a basic doctrine that I don't believe is held by any other major world religion. That doctrine is total depravity. The "total" doesn't mean that humanity is as evil as it can be at all times like some silly comic book villain. It means that we are corrupted from head to toe. Though we can do good deeds for each other, they are generally for our own self-interest. It also means that we are born this way. We aren't born perfect with a morally clean slate and are turned bad through our environments, instead we are born corrupt with a natural tendancy towards selfishness. " Read on...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

ELS Convention update: Pastor John Moldstad has been re-elected!

Note: In the middle row of this photo the man with the white hair and beard is Pastor Kincaid Smith, author of "What's Going On Among the Lutherans", and his son-in-law(and our newest pastor), Pastor Rodney Flohrs, is sitting to his right.

Photos are from the Mankato Free Press website.
Click here to read a general article about the convention.

In honor of the re-election of Pastor John Moldstad, Jr. as President of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, I am re-posting the service and sermon highlights from his visit to the 25th Anniversary of King of Grace School in Golden Valley, Minnesota. It was also the the 17th Sunday after Pentecost. The opening hymn was My Soul, Now Praise Your Maker (paraphrase of Psalm 103).

It was a very special service to me; using a children's choir for the service gave testament to why the school exists. To hear their voices sing out the scritural truths they are taught each day was very moving. It was then that I realized why we teach things, even difficult concepts, to our children: they CAN learn them and they are able to repeat it back to us.

Pastor Moldstad's sermon was based on Timothy 2. It was upon hearing this sermon that I decided to create a blog to keep my religion posts and that very day I named it Be Strong in the Grace. I will write to Pastor Moldstad and see if he kept his sermon notes from that day. It would be great to post it here!

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.

Rest of the service...

Pastor: O Lord, open my lips.
Congregation: (sung) And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.
Pastor: Make haste, O God, to deliver me.
Congregation: (sung) Make haste to help me, O Lord. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. As it was is the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: forevermore. Amen. Alleluia!

Pastor: O come, let us worship the Lord.

Hymn of Praise: Sing Joyful Praise! (based on Psalm 117)

The Epistle: 1 Timothy 1:12-17

Anthem: The First Song of Isaiah (Isaiah 12:2-6)

The Gospel: Luke 15:1-10

Hymn: I Pray Thee, Dear Lord Jesus

Theme: Be Strong in the Grace
Text: 2 Timothy 2:1
By: Reverend John Moldstad, Jr.
President of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod

Offering: On Eagle's Wings

Offeratory Prayer: On My Heart Imprint Thine Image (sung)
On my heart imprint thine image
Blessed Jesus, King of grace
That life's riches, care and pleasures,
Have no pow'r Thee to efface.
This the superscription be:
Jesus, crucified for me,
Is my life, my hope's foundation,
And my glory and salvation. Amen.

Canticle: Te Deum Laudamus

Pastor: You are God; we praise You. You are the Lord; we acclaim You. You are the eternal Father; all creation worships You.

Congregation: (sung)
From all that dwell below the skies
Let the Creator's praise arise;
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Let the Redeemer's name be sung
Through ev'ry land, by ev'ry tongue.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Pastor: To you all angels, all the powers of heaven, cherubim and seraphim, sing in endless praise: Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might; heaven and earth are full of Your glory.

Congregation: (sung)

I would like to thank all who keep the Evangelical Lutheran Synod in their prayers. She needs God's blessings, as do all synods and church bodies.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

"Mom, why aren't you yelling at me?" - the beauty of private confession and absolution

Luther writes in the Large Catechism:

"Christ himself has entrusted absolution to his Christian church and commanded us to absolve one another from sins. So if there is a heart that feels its sin and desires consolation, it has here a sure refuge when it hears in God's Word that through a fellow human being, God absolves a person from sin."

My teenager blew it the other day. In a very big way. One of those bad moves that come back to haunt now and then for years. Typical teenage stunt, maybe, but not acceptable. For better and for worse, the parent of the offended party called to yell at the both of us! Gotta love those phone calls, late at night, right in the middle of a sleepover.

Sleepover was over! I drove everyone home at 11pm. On the way back home, a simple question was asked by my teenager: "Mom, why aren't you yelling at me?" The simple truth was that this wasn't one of those "Mom is freaking out!" times. No, this time I knew my child would be answering to friends, classmates and others for weeks (or maybe a couple of years). What good would screaming do? I could see that my child was very sorry, very ashamed and very worried about the consequences.

Another reason I wasn't yelling was that I sensed a real opportunity to proclaim the gospel. The sin had been sudden and emotion-based. At the realization of the pain caused to another, hopelessness was setting in. We are all tempted by such things and how, if we do not cling to the cross daily, hourly, minute-by-minute, we will eventually fall to our sin nature from time to time. I cannot be the judge of anyone's heart, but it seemed to me that my child was seeing sin nature clearly and with great fear.

Do you know someone who is just so darn happy to go to church each Sunday? Chances are that person is so thankful because of the knowledge of their sin nature, the certainty of eternal punishment for sin and their thankfulness that God provided substitution for their death because of sin. It is not the "perfect" appearing people who are so thankful for their salvation, but the sinners.

I shared that God had provided for our family a pastor and that he could lead anyone in private confession and absolution. My child's face brightened! I had expected a resounding, "No!", but instead the opportunity born of scripture was welcomed. The next evening, we headed to church for a short reconcilliation with the involved parties, mediated by our pastor, and then I waited in the lobby while my child received something I've never received before: private confession and absolution. The peace in my child's heart afterward was self-evident. Here is the suggested script for this act of love through Jesus...

The following order from Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal may be used when someone seeks the ministry of a pastor or other fellow Christian to make personal confession.


In the name of our God, to whom all hearts are open and from whom no secrets are hidden. Amen.

Minister and Penitent:

O Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy, and in your faithfulness, come to my relief. Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you. Answer me quickly, O Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I life up my soul Teach me to do your will, for you are my God.


Almightly God, merciful Father, I, a troubled and repentant sinner, confess that I have sinned against you in my thoughts, my words and my actions. I have not loved you with my whole heart. I have not loved others as I should. I am distressed by the sins that trouble me and am deeply sorry for them. (here the penitent may confess specific sins)


Jesus says to his people, "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven." His death paid for the guilt of your sins and the sins of the whole world. Do you believe this?


Yes, I believe.


Because of the promise of our Savior Jesus, I forgive you all your sins. Be assured that you are a dear child of God and an heir of eternal life.

Minister and Penitent:

O Lord, my God, I called to you for help, and you answered me. I thank you for the love you have shown me in Jesus Christ, my Savior. Through him you have rescued me from the guilt of my sin and given me the peace of forgiveness. Help me fight against temptation, correct whatever wrongs I can, and serve you and those around me with love and good works. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.


Go in peace. The Lord be with you.

Monday, May 15, 2006

2006 Confessional Worldview Seminar: exciting news expected this week

I learned at church yesterday that the 2006 Confessional Worldview Seminar is still slated to happen this year! More exciting than that is the main speaker who is expected to sign on-board this week.

Start making your plans: October in Minneapolis. Very cool! Stay tuned!

Friday, May 05, 2006

A gift for my son's first communion

DaVinci's Last Supper

Recently, the confessional Lutheran blogosphere has been debating the value of pastor-led confirmation programs. There have been side arguments of the appropriate age of confirmands and the usefulness of confirming all kids at the same time. These arguments have intrigued, yet irritated me. Probably because our household has been steeped in confirmation for the past three years.

For the past month or two, I've been busy preparing for our son's confirmation. We cleaned our house out and up, remodeled the bathroom, and prepared to feed a crowd of 40. We enjoyed very warm fellowship with family and friends, several of whom drove a couple of hundred miles to join us. For my son's part, he spent the past two years memorizing verses and doctrine. Two Sundays ago, he sat in front of the congregation with his 21 classmates and answered questions from our pastor. He was declared ready to become a member of our church. Last Sunday, he donned the white gown, red carnation and kneeled at the altar. He attested that he'd like to become a member, stated the reason for the joy that is in his heart and was received into our congregation with a blessing. This coming Sunday, a very special but much more subdued event will take place. My son will join the rest of his family at the communion rail.

As a communicant member of our congregation, my son will partake in the Lord's Supper, drinking the blood and eating the body of Christ as Christ himself commanded. He will then receive the forgiveness and strengthening given to him by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This opportunity for forgiveness and strengthening means more to me than the actual confirmation service.

Being 14 years old seems to be difficult for all kids and as a parent there is only so much I can do to help. Our pastor has encouraged us to proclaim God's Word to him, faithfully bring him to God's house to hear the Word preached and to not neglect our responsibilties as parents. There are many times in the past year or so that I have wished that my son could partake of the Lord's Supper. However, as parents we are not called to commune our own children and it is our synod's tradition for the first communion to happen after the confirmation of the child. So, this Sunday will be a particularly joyous day.

Truth be told, the preparation began three years ago when we switched Lutheran synods to give our children (and ourselves) a formal Christian catechism. Our former church had abandoned any formal catechism years ago, based on parents' complaints that their children were bored. The program was replaced with "Wednesday Night Live!". How sad for those kids. The year we left was the first year they confirmed a class of kids who had never had formal instruction in Luther's Small Catechism. Our timing was purposeful. Both our children, along with ourselves, had two years of rigorous Christian education taught by our pastor. While we still remain sinners, I am confident that the truth has been taught and that future decisions and behavior are much more likely to be based on scripture.

My son recently asked me if he gets a gift for his first communion. I think that his sincere, but immature question was a pretty clear illustration of why we wait until after puberty to confirm and commune our kids. Lots of kids younger than 14 are very smart and can answer catechism questions with the best of adults, but do they really understand how doctrine applies to their own lives? I happen to agree with our synod's practice of waiting until an age when most kids can understand difficult concepts at an adult level.

I also believe that, in general, confirmation should be taught by the pastor. Parents should be learning along with the confirmands, but it is the pastor who is the most educated in the many areas of Christian teachings. Also, I think that since our pastor is the one called to shepherd the congregation, he should take the lead in seeing that scripture is taught by parents to the children. Confirmation is one good way to accomplish this. Will all parents comply? No, but it will be very clear to the pastor which families are in need of loving counsel, exhortation and/or instruction. In a perfect world, each father would teach these things to his children. I hope that happens in many families. However, in many families the leadership of the pastor is needed. In our family, making the move to a confessional Lutheran church right as our children were entering confirmation ages demanded that my husband and I needed to have instruction alongside our children. I'm not going to waste valuable time feeling guilty that my husband didn't instruct our children himself. We have become a well-catechized family.

And about my son's request for a gift for his first communion - I was able to remind him that he would be receiving a far better gift than any human could ever give him. To receive the body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, by His own command, is to receive forgiveness of sins and strengthening of faith. What a gift! My son's answer was, "I already know that, Mom." Of course he does!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Random Musings: I'm all for purity, but...

Random Musings features a post, I'm all for purity, but..., on Father/Daughter Purity Balls, a trend that I missed out on and (thankfully) so has my own 16 year old daughter.

Rebecca writes:
Surely those of us with Biblical standards concerning sexual morality want to teach these standards to our children. We want them, boys and girls, to present their bodies as living sacrifices to God, and to live lives of physical, mental, and spiritual purity. We do not want them to regard sexuality as something to be exploited, as something that is less than the beautiful thing that God intended it to be.

But, well-meaning as the "Father-Daughter Purity Ball" movement may seem to be, it just doesn't sit right with me. In fact, to put it mildly, it seems disturbing.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Lutheran Carnival XXII

Peter 2: 1-3 (NIV)

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

My temporary American Idol insanity too often keeps me from reading blogs of substance, like Dr. Veith's Cranach blog or the latest Lutheran Carnival (let alone submitting posts to it). On Monday of this week, Dr. Veith wrote:

"I hope you had a happy Quasimodogeniti yesterday. I couldn't find any Quasimodogeniti cards at the Hallmark store, nor did I do any Quasimodogeniti shopping. Sorry--I just love that word, which refers to the first Sunday after Easter. It's not named after the Hunchback of Notre Dame; rather, that unfortunate fellow was named after the day. Nor is it a holiday, as such. The word comes from the first words in the Introit that begins the service in the classic liturgy for that day. In Latin, they are "Quasi modo geniti," which in English comes to "Like new born." The entire sentence is "Like newborn babes desire the pure milk of the Word." Like much of the liturgy, it's words from the Bible, in this case 1 Peter 2:2. That's good advice for the whole year. We need to turn this into a bona fide holiday. I suppose we could observe Quasimodogeniti by drinking milk. We could get the Wisconsin Dairy Council to help promote it. But for the true meaning of the day, we should also do some serious Bible reading." ~Dr. Gene Edward Veith, Jr.

Consider this an appropriate introduction to the most recent edition of the Lutheran Carnival, which I have also neglected during the American Idol season. There are some new faces in this 22nd edition of the carnival and a nice tie-in to Quasimodogeniti. Pastor Snyder at Ask the Pastor is the host and he opens the carnival with this:

Quasimodogeniti, the Second Sunday of Easter’s “week of weeks” brings the twenty-second installment of the Lutheran Carnival to light. Pastor David Petersen provides a quick summary of “Hunchback Sunday” at CyberStones (and don’t forget to read the comment cum literary critique).
The antiphon of today’s introit comes from 1 Peter 2:2-3. “Like newborn babes,” saith the King James Version, upon which many of us were nourished in our youth — that certainly provides a carnival theme with promise. Yet what if some readers aren’t thrilled with babies? Or, if they’ve been drinking the “pure spiritual milk,” perhaps they’re ready for some meat (see Hebrews 5:12-14) — or not (see 1 Corinthians 3:1-3).

Well, I then thought, since this is Carnival-22, how about a Joseph Heller theme, reminiscent of his classic novel Catch-22? I gave it some thought, but decided to pass. Certainly Heller understood paradox and irony, two major literary types used in Holy Scripture. However, Catch-22 never comes to a resolution. Certainly our ongoing celebration of Easter provides ample reminder that Christ provided complete resolution of our alienation from God in His suffering, death, and glorious resurrection.

Finally, I decided to fall back on the Lutheran Carnival’s regular feature, the introduction to relatively unknown Lutherans. Therefore, I’d like to take a moment to tell you about a child born upon the Ides of March in the Year of Our Lord 1992. Read on...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Putting Out The Fire: "We only believe in the Bible"

In a post over at Putting Out the Fire, Frank posts We only believe in the Bible. Frank writes:

Here’s an example of how playing a guessing game as to what a particular church’s confession is has personally affected me: I wouldn’t commune at a church in my hometown because the pastor reworded the Nicene Creed. Why is this a big deal you ask? This pastor had so butchered the creed that I no longer tell if this church, which I had visited many times in the past and communed there as well, shared the same confession of faith. And since I didn’t hear said pastor preach Christ crucified in his sermon, it was as if I was in a church that just liked to make it up as they go. There are no words for how angry I was when I left after the service. I was not fed by either Word or Sacrament in the very place that I know I should’ve been fed. Was I making too big of a deal out of a little matter? No I was not! In his epistle to the Romans 10:9,10 St. Paul wrote “That if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” This is why people like me cling to the confessions, because it ensures we are all on the same sheet of music. If you like your music to be of the Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant variety that’s fine, just don’t interrupt my Bach Chorale and tell me we’re listening to the same thing!

In a related post, which Frank used to bolster his point, Pastor Stiegemeyer writes, in Doctrine vs. God's Word:

It matters WHAT you believe, friends. You can't just say, "I love Jesus." Nearly everyone says that from Mormons to Muslims. "Who do men say I am?" WHO is Jesus? WHAT did he do?

If you say that God is not going to judge you according to your doctrine, be careful because it sounds like you are suggesting that your relationship to God is not related to what you believe.

According to St. Paul... (read on)
~ Pastor Stiegemeyer

In my experience, too many evangelicals and fundamentalists do not understand how their ancient Christian forefathers fought false teachings and developed creeds from those battles. Someone who has as their creed, "Just give me Jesus!" or "We only believe in the Bible." might as well be carrying a banner into the future for all the false teachings of the past centuries. At the very least, that person is holding open the door to false teachings in their family's lifetime and for his or her great-grandchildren. Everyone has a creed, spoken or not, written or not. In my youth, I thought it drudgery to state one of the creeds in church; now I see it as hope for the future members of my church.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Beggars All: America's Lowest-Common-Denominator Christianity

Tim the Enchanter over at Beggars All posts on the latest embarrassing study on Christians in America. Once again in this age of "Just give me Jesus!" and as-you-like-it worship, it is CLEARLY ILLUSTRATED why our faith forefathers went to all the time and trouble to develop the various creeds. Satan has used false teachings and neglect of teaching to attempt to harm God's children and draw them away from their father. Next time you are in church and your eyes and ears begin to gloss over at the reading of one of the creeds, close your eyes and imagine yourself chanting the summary of your beliefs all with the millions of Christians throughout the ages. If your church rejects any creeds, ask yourself who is happier about that : you, God or Satan?

Most Americans don't believe they will experience a resurrection of their bodies when they die, putting them at odds with a core teaching of Christianity.

The findings of a new Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll surprised and dismayed some of the nation's top theologians since it seems to put Americans in conflict with both the Nicene Creed and the Apostles' Creed, ancient statements of faith meant to unify Christian belief.

The Nicene Creed, adopted in 325 at the First Council of Nicea under Roman Emperor Constantine, concludes with the famous words: "We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen."

Similarly, the Apostles' Creed professes a belief in "the resurrection of the body." Read on...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Last Supper

When he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me," 1 Corinthians 11:24,25.