Sunday, October 31, 2010

Luther in his Smalcald Articles

Part III, Article XIII. How One is Justified before God, and of Good Works.

1] What I have hitherto and constantly taught concerning this I know not how to change in the least, namely, that by faith, as St. Peter says, we acquire a new and clean heart, and God will and does account us entirely righteous and holy for the sake of Christ, our Mediator. And although sin in the flesh has not yet been altogether removed or become dead, yet He will not punish or remember it.

2] And such faith, renewal, and forgiveness of sins is followed by good works. And what there is still sinful or imperfect also in them shall not be accounted as sin or defect, even [and that, too] for Christ's sake; but the entire man, both as to his person and his works, is to be called and to be righteous and holy from pure grace and mercy, shed upon us [unfolded] and spread over us in Christ. 3] Therefore we cannot boast of many merits and works, if they are viewed apart from grace and mercy, but as it is written, 1 Cor. 1:31: He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord, namely, that he has a gracious God. For thus all is well. 4] We say, besides, that if good works do not follow, faith is false and not true.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Public School Parents' Guide to Homeschool Parents

"We all know that there are a lot of misconceptions about homeschoolers, and, while most of those tend to be centered around the kids, there are a lot of misconceptions about homeschool moms (and dads), as
well. . .

THIS is great commentary on how non-homeschooling parents tend to view homeschooling parents.  And it does a fairly good job of cleaning up some of these misconceptions.  I happened upon this from the Barely Keeping Up blog.  Thanks for posting it!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Reformation Day and Halloween...

Well.... Reformation Day is nearly upon us.  The day is more commonly referred to as Hallowe'en.  On the surface,  they do not appear to have much in common, but the following blog post I happened upon that links the two in a fairly effectual manner.

Here is the post about Reformation Day and Hallowe'en on the Past Elder website.

Happy Reformation Day/ Hallowe'en!!!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Church and membership...

Here is a GREAT POST from Pastor Eric Brown at Confessional Gadfly.

I haven't been in Lutheran circles very long, but I personally haven't heard much rhetoric from the pastor or from other members of the congregation about how we need be more active.

This may be one of the biggest reasons why I left the evangelical church.  I heard this type of rhetoric, especially from the pastors, in a church I attended for a couple of years in the Raleigh area.  It was this guilt-laden talk that pushed me and my family out of the church for a couple of years altogether.  A person apparently couldn't do enough to please the 'machine,' so to speak.

What believers need to be reminded of and need to hear over and over is this:  Jesus didn't die on the cross for us to get crackin' and be active members!  He died for our sins.  He knew we were/ are sinful, and He came to serve us!

26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,  27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,  28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”   Matthew 20:26-28  (italics mine)

This is not say we aren't to do good works or not to serve those around us. Good works will certainly be fruit of His love and grace given to us!  Christ in us moves us to love others, show compassion, and engage in others' lives.  But many churches teach that good works are essential and necessary to maintain a relationship with God.  Many teach that we need active members if the church and the kingdom is to grow.  God ultimately is the builder of the kingdom, not us.  We are completely dependent on God.  Trust Jesus and His work on the cross!  You have been forgiven of your sin!  Believe!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Empire Strikes Back - Behind the Scenes

I found the following article on Vanity Fair with some snapshots behind the scenes from the movie, The Empire Strikes Back - the best movie sequel of all time, in my opinion.  These shots are really, really good:

and my personal favorite...

Search your feelings.  You know it to be true!

Enthusiasts and Visionaries...

Enthusiasts, per Luther, are those that do not base their doctrine and practice on the Scriptures, but claim that the Holy Spirit teaches the Church without the necessity of a scriptural norm.

The following quote is taken from the editor's note to Article VIII (Confession) of Luther's Smalcald Articles in The Reader's Edition of the Book of Concord:

Luther never intended to abolish private Confession and Absolution, only to do away with the errors and abuses that had come to be associated with it.  A particularly great abuse was the requirement for a complete enumeration of sins.  Luther insists on the biblical view of God's mercy and grace, which comes by the external, objective, and outward Word.
Radical reformers taught that people should seek God outside of His Word, looking instead to their inner feelings, thoughts, and other so-called spiritual experiences.  (Luther calls them enthusiasts or Schwarmer, a German word for the buzzing of bees).  Many make the same claims today!  This error is rooted deeply in all people as a result of the Fall.
From the article itself:

In issues relating to the spoken, outward Word, we must firmly hold that God grants His Spirit or grace to no one except through or with the preceding outward Word [Galatians 3:2, 5].  This protects us from the enthusiasts (i.e., souls who boast that they have the Spirit without and before the Word).  They judge Scripture or the spoken Word and explain and stretch it at their pleasure, as Munzer did.  Many still do this today, wanting to be sharp judges between the Spirit and the letter, and yet they do not know what they are saying [2 Corinthians 3:6].  Actually, the papacy too is nothing but sheer enthusiasm.  The pope boasts that all rights exist in the shrine of his heart.  Whatever he decides and commands within his church is from the Spirit and is right, even though it is above and contrary to Scripture and the spoken Word. 

All this is the old devil and old serpent, who also turned Adam and Eve into enthusiasts.  He led them away from God's outward Word to spiritualizing and self-pride.  And yet, he did through other outward words.  In the same way, our enthusiasts today condemn the outward Word.  Yet they themselves are not silent.  They fill the world with their babblings and writings, as if the Spirit could not come through the apostles' writings and spoken Word, but has to come through their writings and words.

This is a huge problem across the spectrum of the church today.  This mentality that whatever is on one's heart is paramount.  However, one's thoughts and feelings are completely subjective.  It sounds very spiritual to say that God speaks to us through various means such as our heart, through visions, through dreams, through encounters with people throughout the day, etc., but it is spiritually deadly to do so.  We can be so easily led astray by our emotions or random experiences.  Many of the people I hear who proclaim that we should listen to ours hearts tend to say things that exalt themselves.  They idolize their hearts, their thoughts, their own deeds.  It is as Luther penned:  Self-pride.  To know better than God's Word  that has already been proclaimed is pride.  Peter warns us:

1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.    2 Peter 2:1-3
A preacher who can stir emotions is considered filled with the Spirit while a sound expositor of Bible truth is considered dead and dry. Emotional enthusiasm becomes the standard by which all religious experience is measured. The Word of God is inconsequential.  The Holy Spirit abides within every born-again believer. He is the believer's Comforter and Teacher. Without question He utilizes the means of inward impressions to direct those within whom He abides. Never, however, does the Spirit of God work contrary to the written Word of God!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Luther's First Hymn...

Thanks to Chaplain Mike from the Internet Monk for a good post on Luther's hymn writing and spotlighting his first hymn, Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice.  I am appreciating the hymns we sing in the Lutheran service. Compared to the 7/11 type song (7 words repeated 11 times) and how it gets so monotonous, the hymns in the Lutheran Service Book that we sing are so rich and beautiful and seem to carry much more weight.

The first commenter from the Internet Monk blog asked a good question that I want to do some research on:

Question: Did Luther compose his hymns with the goal of
a) having them be broadly acceptable all churchgoers,
b) pushing his own theological agenda, or
c) same as b, but unconsciously?

He also asks:
I also wonder about the transition between this style of hymnody, and the Catholic liturgy which it replaced. Some PBS special explained that his songs were actually sung more as political anthems (or football club songs?), with a much faster tempo and more enthusiastic elocution than is customary for churches today.

If anyone has any information regarding this, please feel free to post any comments.

Lutheran Liturgy and the Divine Service

Liturgy may sound incredibly boring.  But give this post a read.  It may change your mind regarding liturgy and contemporary worship services.  First, a bit of scripture that may not appear to apply to this topic, but read further:
20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”    -Matthew 20:20-28

This may seem to be strange place to start when talking about a 'worship' service, or as Lutherans call it, the Divine Service.  The liturgy of the Divine Service is one of the things that drew me to the church we are attending now, but it was also one of the things that created a shock to my system at the same time.  It is something I have never been accustomed to.  After talking with the pastor, being in the service for a few weeks, and researching why Lutherans design the service the way it is done, it is making much more sense.

My wife and I have been meeting with the pastor on a weekly basis to talk about the church, our faith, and Lutheran theology.  This past Thursday we talked in some detail about each of the elements of the Divine Service that is followed each Sunday.  Something the pastor said in passing hit me like a brick.  He mentioned Matthew 20:28 - 'the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.'  As with what I hope all my other posts have been stressing, this points out that WE are beggars.  In need of God's mercy.  We have nothing to offer Him except our sin and trespasses.  This is truly paramount, in my opinion.

The following is taken from Lutheranism 101:
Though the Divine Service may simply be called a 'worship' service, these words Divine Service say much about the focus of the worship service and what happens.  This most important worship service for Lutherans is 'divine' in that it finds its source and origin in the triune God Himself:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Worship can be a troublesome word.  Who begins the act of worship? What or whom is being worshipped?  It is at this point where we can become confused and begin to think that God has come to be entertained by us, that somehow what we and do in the worship service makes us more worthy of God's free gift of love.  NOTHING (italics mine) in the worship service- not the candles, not the flowers, not the music, not the prayers, not the praise- makes us worthy of anything before God.  We do not appease God's wrath, nor do we earn His forgiveness by anything we do. Rather, it is "Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come" (1 Thess. 1:10).
The key to understanding the way Lutherans worship is realizing that God initiates a holy conversation:  He speaks first.  Only then do His people respond, not the other way around. . . Because of our sin, we cannot come to God; God must come to us.  This is what takes place in the Divine Service.  Through the Word and Sacraments, God speaks to His people.  He reminds us of our sinfulness and failure to love completely, and He then forgives us and assures us of the grace we have in Jesus Christ.  If worship begins with you or me, honestly it going to be terrible worship:  self-centered, egotistical, one huge "me-fest."  That may sound appealing, but in the long haul of life, such worship is boring, gasps for air, and is ultimately a dead end.

As I compare to the many other various worship services I have been a part of, it offers a distinct contrast.  How the focus is God entering our lives.  How we are dead in our trespasses and sins, and He offers us His life, His grace, and His mercy.  To reminisce on some of the types of worship services and songs I've sung in worship of God, and as I look back, many of the songs were sung, not in His name, but mine.  How much of it was really about me and how I can approach God and surrender my life, etc.  That is not the true state we are in.  I am in need of Savior.  I have nothing to offer an almighty God, other than my brokenness and sin.  He has truly come to serve me.  The Lutheran Divine Service is specifically designed to remind us of our need and to remind us that there is a Savior who enters into our lives and saves us.


For additional resources for Lutheran liturgy, you can

1) Go to

The German word Gottesdienst (literally, "God's service") may be defined as both "divine service" and "public worship." The first and fundamental definition has to do with God's sacramental service toward man in the preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments. The subordinate definition portrays man's sacrificial service toward God in the offering of hymns, prayers, etc. We propose that the historic Divine Service of the Western Christian Church is more than the cobwebs of antiquity. It is a theological treasure, which is most needed in today's Christian Church.

2) To view the structure of the Divine Service, here is a sample:  St. Peters LCMS Divine Service Setting 3 Sample

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Confessional Lutheranism...

For those who have been reading this blog, you may have noticed a trend.  That I am writing through a Lutheran lens.  Confessional Lutheranism is fairly new to me.  I have been doing a lot of reading and listening to various podcasts within Lutheran circles over the past 5 months or so.  I have been reading through Luther's Small Catechism, the Book of Concord (the Lutheran confessions), The Proper Distinction of Law and Gospel by CFW Walther, On Being a Theologian of the Cross by Gerhard Forde, and various confessional Lutheran blogs.  The podcasts I have been listening to are The God Whisperers (Pastors Bill Cwirla and Craig Donofrio), Issues, Etc. (Todd Wilken), and Fighting For The Faith (Chris Rosebrough).  All are really good resources. 

Me and my family have been attending an LCMS church (Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod), Our Savior Lutheran near downtown Raleigh, over the past couple of months.  My wife and I are really enjoying it!  There is a huge difference in what we are experiencing in a Lutheran service compared to the other types of church services we have attended throughout our lives up until now.  We have lived in evangelicalism pretty much all our lives.  There is certainly a culture shock, but so far, we have really enjoyed this change.  This change has been great.

There’s nothing more special, in my estimation, than God’s grace and mercy through Christ. Although I don’t deserve it, God has called me to faith by the Holy Spirit and calls me His beloved child! It’s such a comfort to me that although I am a sinner, in God’s eyes I am also a saint at the same time, because of Jesus’ redeeming work on the cross. The Lutheran emphasis on Word and Sacrament is powerful; daily my sins are forgiven and I am renewed. Through God’s Word and Sacraments I am empowered by the Holy Spirit to live as one of God’s children.

Two of the things I have discovered about the confessional Lutheran church that I love are:
1)  The ancient Christian liturgy, free from emotionalism, sentimentality, and sappiness.  Pop-evangelicalism is saturated with this stuff.  The sole purpose in many evangelical churches is to engage in one's subjective feelings and to scratch itching ears, so to speak.
2)  The emphasis on Christ's death and resurrection.  How He has done it all.  I am completely hopeless on my own in regards to my salvation AND sanctification.  If I could do any of it on my own, the cross was pointless and was a fool's errand.  The Good News:  It wasn't a fool's errand.

For those who read this blog, this Lutheran talk may sound completely strange.  But for me, it has truly been life giving.  That is not to say that now that I feeling I becoming Lutheran, that all others have it wrong.  Lutherans rule, Baptists drool.  Nothing like that at all.  It is in Christ that life is found.  Not Luther.  But I have found that confessional Lutheranism speaks to Christ and His work much more than any other evangelical church I have been a part of.

If anyone, who after reading any my meager writing, wants to know about Lutheranism, I have ordered two copies of a recently published book entitled Lutheranism 101.  One is for me to read and keep for reference.  But I bought a second one to hand out.  If anyone is interested at all, please leave a comment on this post.  I will pick randomly from anyone who posts with a question or comment regarding Lutheranism.  This is a weak attempt at trying to get a civil dialogue regarding Lutheranism, modern evangelicalism, and theology, in general.  I will make a decision regarding the winner of the book by this Sunday (October 9, 2010).  If anyone else is interested in this book, follow the link above.  Concordia Publishing currently has it on sale for $14.99 through October 31, 2010.  I have not read the book yet.  I am waiting for its delivery.  But every review I have read makes it out to be a good resource and reference for Lutheran history and theology.

Please feel free to comment on this post or any others I have written earlier.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Imagine a Church...

"Imagine a church that is both evangelical - proclaiming the free forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ - and sacramental, centering its spiritual life in the regenerating waters of baptism and the real presence of Christ in Holy Communion.

Imagine further a church that is strongly grounded on Scripture, but yet avoids the solipsism of individual interpretation in favor of a comprehensive, intellectually rigorous and imminently orthodox theological system.

Imagine a worship service that features both strong preaching and the historic liturgy. Imagine that this is a historical church with a rich spiritual tradition, but without legalism.

Imagine, in short, a church that has some of the best parts of Protestantism and the best parts of Catholicism. Finally, imagine that this church body is not some little made-up sect, but one of the largest bodies of Christians in the world.

Such a church might seem like what many Christians, disaffected by both the vacuity of liberal theology and the shallowness of American evangelicalism, are dreaming of. Such a church exists. It goes by the admittedly inadequate name 'Lutheran'."

As quoted by Dr. Gene Edward Veith