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We can use Arch Books coordinated with the Lectionary to engage young children in the Divine Service. We can reap other significant benefits at the same time.

We have a problem with young children in the service. They are a handful. They can be a distraction. Often our tactic is to use distraction to keep them from being a distraction to us. We distract their attention to activities that merely keep them busy and quiet. Worse, we separate them out of the congregation.

We cannot keep their attention for the whole service. We don’t keep the attention of adults for the whole service. The attention of adults wanders.

But have we tried to draw their attention to the service instead of to distractions? Have we tried at traction rather than dis traction?

Have we gone after what we could get? If we stand a chance of gaining only 5 minutes of engagement during the service, getting that much would be headway. It is a toe hold, a beginning, the first steps that can become a walk. The Word of God is living and active. The Word does not return void. The Word does stuff. The Holy Spirit has the power and the desire use just 5 minutes in the Word.

During Lent our congregation, Trinity Lutheran Church in Sidney, Montana, gave away to young children copies of the Arch Book, From Adam to Easter . On Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, we gave them copies of the Arch Book, The Easter Surprise .

As parents and grandparents were reading these books to young children during Lent and Holy Week, that prepared children to recognize something they would hear during the Divine Service. When children hear something they know, they perk up for those moments.

The correspondence between those two Arch Books and the Lectionary texts that were read on those Sundays was somewhat loose. What would happen, though, if we tightened that up? What if we had a table of the 125 Arch Books that listed the texts each one covers? What if we added a second column that related the texts covered by each Arch Book with where those texts are in the Lectionary? What could we do then?

We could give away to all the children of our congregation this Sunday the Arch Book that covers one of the Lectionary texts for next Sunday. Parents could read that Arch Book to their children during the coming week, and then on that following Sunday, during the Divine Service, their children would hear something they know.

If we can bother ourselves for the moments it takes to distract our children to a coloring page or some other disengagement from the service, we could bother ourselves for the moment it would take to alert our children that a text about to be read is from this week’s Arch Book.

  • We gain a few moments of engagement in the Divine Service.
  • We train them that engagement, not distraction, is their goal.
  • We connect the home with the church.
  • We connect the parents with the Pastor.
  • We orient the home and parents as primary, and the church and Pastor as supporting the home and parents.
  • We make it embarrassingly easy for fathers to be spiritual leaders.
  • We condition fathers for later, for them to teach the Catechism in the home.

By giving away Arch Books, we preach, but we are not preachy in its negative connotation. We preach that fathers and mothers should teach the faith in the home, and we make it easy.

You know how kids are fastened to that DVD screen in the back seat of an SUV watching a kids’ movie. I have seen that same fastened attention to adults reading Arch Books to them. During Lent I had the experience of grandchildren spontaneously jumping up into my lap when they saw that I had brought an Arch Book to their house and had sat down on a couch to read it to them.

Arch Books are more interactive than a kids’ DVD. The children can and do interrupt to ask questions, to interject reactions to the story, to look at each other to see the reactions of their brothers and sisters, and to ask that we turn back a page and re-check something that happened earlier in the story. A DVD just plays on, but a book has pages that let you and the children control the reading on the basis of engagement.

So, as Christian Education Director of our congregation, after Easter, I set out to make a list of the Arch Books and the texts they cover. Soon it struck me. Most of this work already must have been done by the publisher. So I wrote to Dr. Bruce Kintz, CEO of Concordia Publishing House, and sure enough, he promptly had someone send me an Excel spread sheet with many of the blanks filled in showing which texts are covered by which Arch Books. The majority already were filled in. There still were an appreciable number that needed to be filled in, but CPH gave me a running start.

After finishing that listing, add one more fact and then, I have a dream.

Here is that one more fact. CPH has “ The Family Arch Book Club Subscription Program .” In this program, a family can join the club and receive 80 of the best-selling and newest Arch Books. This is a 2-year subscription of 8 quarterly shipments of 10 books in each shipment. Children receive a total of 80 Arch Books to help them learn Bible stories. The commitment of subscribing earns a family a 25% discount on the price of the books. That brings the price down to $1.87 per book. That is cheap. That provides a lot of bang for the buck. Let’s not kid ourselves that we don’t throw away a lot more than $1.87 on things that stand practically no chance of doing our children as much good as an Arch Book can do.

Here is my dream. Suppose we correlate 40 of the Arch Books to Sundays according to the Lectionary. Suppose we have 15 young children who should have Arch Books each Sunday ahead of the correlated Sundays. Imagine a “Lectionary Arch Book Club Subscription Program.” The congregation subscribes for two years to 15 copies of the 40 Arch Books. CPH has just one address and one shipment for the equivalent of 15 Family Arch Book Club subscriptions. But, these are coordinated to the Lectionary, and begin engaging young children for precious moments with the Word during the Divine Service. These subscriptions connect home and parents with church and Pastor.

Sure, it is easy to become too euphoric over the possibilities, but it is also too easy to dismiss the gains if the program succeeds only fractionally in its aims. Even fractional gains are that, gains, and important ones.

Get a father in the swing of reading Arch Books – which are so short, simple, illustrated, and engaging that they easily can do it – to their children, and then it will become easy for both him and the children to graduate to Bible story resources like, A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories , One Hundred Bible Stories , or The Story Bible .

As a feasibility study, I developed the Arch Books to Lectionary Table (Historic 1-Year Lectionary) . Download it by clicking here . I wanted to see whether Arch Books correlated to enough Sundays and Festivals of the year to make this idea seem feasible enough to be worth trying. This is a Version 1.0 effort. I am confident it has errors, and there is another list of more Arch Books that, when I get a look at them in hardcopy, also might fit into the table. But Version 1.0 convinces me, there are more than enough to establish plausibility for the proposal.

Even if CPH does not develop such a program itself, I doubt they would turn down your congregation’s order for 10 to 30 copies of 40 Arch Books for the year.

Let’s get in there and give it a try!

 

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LCMS_corporate_seal Continuing from our last post, these questions are a compilation of the most frequently asked questions addressed to the LCMS Presidential candidates on the Synod’s Facebook page. The purpose of these posts is to build awareness of the candidates, stimulate thought, and generate a helpful discussion. You’re encouraged to comment.

 

Question Four:

Please describe for us your daily devotional habit.

Harrison:

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Believe me, the LCMS brings one to his knees! Jesus prayed (Matt. 26:36). He invites us to pray (Matt. 11:28). Years ago I built a kneeler. Every morning it “grabs” me first thing. For years I have prayed the Psalms daily. I have also kept lists of those for whom I pray. In do­ing this, I’m constantly reminded of all the answers God has provided. After prayers I try to read one page of the Hebrew Old Testament and a chapter of my Greek New Testament. Words fail to express how these have kept me sane and joyous in Christ.

Maier:

Each day begins and ends with the common confession of sin, “I, a poor miserable sinner … ” and ends rejoicing in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus for the world, which assures me of my forgiveness. Daily Scripture readings are enhanced with the Treasury of Daily Prayer (CPH). I strive to include prayer in my daily decisions and conversations and also pray/praise during frequent travel by listening to Christian books, the Scriptures, speakers and sacred classical music as well as Christian contemporary music. I am also blessed by the spiritual insights of, and prayer with, my wife.

Meyer:

I normally awake about 4:30 and with a cup of coffee and in solitude have my quiet time before God. Over the decades I’ve used various devotional resources along with the Bible. Space here is limited, but the introduction to my daily devotional, Timely Reflections , Pages 17–23, presents a much deeper understanding of my spiritual being.

Scott’s comment: Telling us to go read his book isn’t particularly helpful.

 

Question Five:

Currently we have about 375 ordained men who are, for various reasons, on candidate or non-candidate status. What specific things do you believe the Synod should do both to guide and assist these men, recognizing that every case has its unique elements?

Harrison:

“Forgive” (Matt. 6:14f.). “Love one another” (John 15:12). Each case is unique. Pastors, congregations and district presidents have failed in various situations. We started “Soldiers of the Cross” under my leadership at LCMS World Relief. We’ve given a million dollars in three years, largely to pastors without calls. We are conversing with pastors to find additional solutions. Seminaries are working to ensure pastors are prepared. Congregations need the same attention. I support part-time (or non-paid calls in some cases) to move pastors back into pastoral work. It is vital that we reach out to such clergy and their families, lest they be alienated from the Church (Phil. 2:4; Eph. 4:32).

Scott’s comment: Harrison is the only candidate who mentions that congregations also need attention. It’s not just a pastor problem. Many times we laymen are at fault as well. I hope there’s also a behind-the-scenes effort to work with ecclesiastical supervisors who may also be part of the problem.

Maier:

I couldn’t agree more with the last phrase of the question, “that every case has its unique elements.” Therefore, it behooves each district president — uniquely blessed, God-fearing, wise men — to continue to pray for and know each of these ordained men and their particular situations in order to serve and assist them. Then, where and when possible, they can include them on appropriate call lists within their districts or recommend them for a call or placement elsewhere. The Michigan District’s Sowers Fund and the Synod’s Soldiers of the Cross ministry continue to be invaluable assets in helping these men.

Meyer:

One objective of our Synod is to “provide protection for congregations, pastors, teachers, and other church workers in the performance of their official duties and maintenance of their rights.” It’s sad when an ordained man is not happily serving in a congregation that returns love for him and respect for the office, but for various reasons it happens. I will work with the respective district president and the Coun­cil of Presidents to improve this situation, as we seek to use all the gifts God gave in men who speak the Word about Christ (Eph. 4:8).

Scott’s comment: On my first read of his comment, I thought he was saying it’s the pastors “fault;” I don’t think that’s what he’s saying, but the wording in his second sentence is somewhat ambiguous.

 

Question Six:

As a Synod we struggle at times to walk together in the unity of our confession, even as every individual sinner/saint struggles to walk with the Lord in faith. In light of this, what specific things could be done to build on and more clearly express our baptismal unity in Christ and foster a climate of mutual encouragement among laypeople, pastors and district/Synod leaders?

Harrison:

“Do not grow weary!” (Heb. 12:3). The Synod has been calm the past six years, despite challenging issues, and not by acci­dent. I believed we were drifting doctrin­ally and have done what I can to keep us on the path of biblical and Lutheran ortho­doxy. The long-standing teachings of the Missouri Synod are correct; I was elected to uphold them and have done my best to do so. The LCMS is most at peace when manifesting its biblical and confessional teaching and engaging the world. There is more theological dialogue going on among us today than in decades, also in the COP. The Koinonia Project is slowly bearing fruit (Heb. 12:1ff.).

Scott’s comment: The Koinonia Project may be bearing fruit, but the fruit gets to the supermarket shelves most laymen won’t know a thing about it, and they certainly won’t be slicing it up to put on their pancakes every morning.

Maier:

This is the result of Satan trying to divide and conquer. We need to repent at the foot of the cross and acknowledge that spiritual warfare requires (1) spiritual weapons — the Word, prayer and the rest of the Christian panoply (Ephesians 6), and (2) a singular goal to focus the “troops”: “What an influence it will be on our dear congregations and their pastors and on their relationship toward one another if all acknowledge the saving of souls as the end and aim of our joint work!” — C.F.W. Walther, the Synodical Conference (translator, Rev. Terry Cripe, Ohio District President).

Meyer:

The Corinthian congregation had far greater disunity than today’s LCMS. St. Paul (1) taught them, (2) acknowledged that some of the Corinthians were “strong” in their theological knowledge and others “weak,” but said, (3) “I will show you a still more excellent way”(1 Cor. 12:31). That’s the way of love, especially for those with whom we disagree. Our disunity is guaranteed to continue unless Jesus is the sole and explicit reason for our life together. “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ” (11:1). The Body of Christ will be my constant theme.

Scott’s comment: The Beatle’s song “All You Need is Love” comes to mind.

 

Your comments below are solicited!

Editor’s Note: The LCMS Presidential Election is set for June 11-14, 2016 through an online voting system. If you were a delegate to your district convention you should have already received a notice from LCMS Secretary Hartwig about that. If you would like to know more, click here .

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LCMS President Matthew Harrison speaks regarding the LCMS 4-06A Task Force and licensed lay deacons leading up to the Synod's convention this July.



You can view the other presentations from this conference by visiting Gottesdienst’s YouTube channel.
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Grappling: The Two Tables of the Law (The Ten Commandments)

  Posted:May 25, 2016 By Worldview Everlasting (Worldview Everlasting)

https://youtu.be/hZ5ppvYIbS0

There are two tables of the Law. We continue introducing the Ten Commandments with this discussion of is, and the danger of making “love” an abstraction, rather than a summary, of the law.

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Words for everyman. . .

  Posted:May 25, 2016 By Pastor Peters (Pastoral Meanderings)
“In the whole Bible there are perhaps no words that everybody, everywhere, can identify with more fully than the ones St. Paul wrote to the Roman church: ‘I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do’ (7: 19)."  So wrote Christian author Frederick Buechner.  But, of course, it is a statement of the obvious.

Whether Christian or not, whether acquainted with Scripture or not, we know the conflict within us between the obvious good that we should and the obvious evil we should not.  In typical form, we know the wrong we are to avoid and with glint in the eye and sinful joy of fallen heart, we go for the wrong anyway.  In much the same way, we know the pure and righteous that we should but so often we simply cannot bring ourselves to do it -- much less desire it.

It has been said the sin, especially original since no one has to teach us how to sin, is the one doctrine no one needs the Scripture to prove.  Open your newspaper, check out the headlines on Twitter, listen to the news on TV or radio.  We cringe at the evils that come from those who seem so little different from us.  We grow weary of the ever constant litany of terrible and shocking things that people do to others (especially those whom they supposedly love most dearly).  But then we look into the mirror and we know the shameful thoughts of our hearts and the bitter words that should never have been spoken and the gleeful delight we have taken in our clever dance with darkness.  Then on some level we understand.

I do not worry about those who wrestle with this conflict between the good we should and the evil we should not.  But I do worry and fear for those in whom there is no conflict -- only the emptiness of a mind and heart adrift without anchor in conscience and the voice of God to act as a rudder to direct the person.  As unsatisfying as it is to live within the tension of St. Paul, it is the creative tension in which God is at work.  Perhaps that is what Scripture means when it says the heart has been hardened or God has given the sinner over to his unrighteousness -- there is no tension, no conscience to reign on our sin parade, and no voice of God directing us to know evil and to know good.  Strange it is that the fruit of sin's rebellion in the Garden is the terrible knowledge that none of us wanted to know -- how we long to know only goodness, righteousness, and peace but instead we know their dark opposites.

It would be an awful place to end were it not for the full context of St. Paul's words. . .
[15] For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. [16] Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. [17] So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. [18] For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. [19] For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. [20] Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

    [21] So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. [22] For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, [23] but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. [24] Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? [25] Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.   Romans 7:15-25 ESV
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LCMS_corporate_seal Editor’s Note:  The LCMS Presidential Election is set for June 11-14, 2016 through an online voting system.  If you were a delegate to your district convention you should have already received a notice from LCMS Secretary Hartwig about that.  If you would like to know more, click here .

Most people know little about the Synod President, less about District Presidents, and nothing about Seminary Presidents. With that in mind, nine questions posed to the three men running for Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod President shed a little light on Presidential options for LCMS voters. These questions are a compilation of the most frequently asked questions addressed to the candidates on the Synod’s Facebook page as mentioned by Reporter online in a post titled “Nominees for president answer Facebook followers’ questions.” The hyperlinks below take you to each candidate’s responses, which also contain their bio and a personal statement. The candidates are Synod President Matthew C. Harrison , Michigan District President David P.E. Maier, and Concordia Seminary President Dale A. Meyer .

We’ll take a look at three of the candidates’ answers per day, along with a minimal set of my own comments. It appears that the candidates were limited in the length of their responses by the editor, creating truncated answers in some cases, which might actually be better for some people in our meme-enculturated society. The purpose of these posts is to build awareness of the candidates, stimulate thought, and generate a helpful discussion. You’re encouraged to comment. Here we go:

 

 

Question One:

What would you do both to encourage and strengthen Lutheran parochial schools, Lutheran educators, the Concordia University System and the like?

Harrison:

“Hold fast the confession” (Heb. 10:23). Our schools are our crown jewels and a big reason we are younger than all mainline Protestant denominations. They give us a strong health plan and growing numbers in the plan. They are our strongest evan­gelism tool. “Seek the lost” (Luke 19:10). Keys: strong Gospel witness, intentional outreach, connection to the congregation, academic excellence via accreditation. The next generation of administrators is a priority! Our universities are strong but must be stronger. There can be no compro­mise with our anti-Christian culture. “But if salt has lost its saltiness …” (Matt. 5:13). Oppose any government intrusion that compromises biblical truth! Our university task force and presidents composed a ten-point Lutheran identity statement, and all have signed on.

Scott’s comments: Accreditation doesn’t necessarily indicate academic excellence the way a Lutheran would look at it. Accreditation requires the University to jump through a series of hoops which generally have no relationship to Christ’s Kingdom, and may indeed be contrary to it. Also, different and multiple accrediting agencies are involved in the different Concordias, which makes for a cornucopia of differing requirements. We can all sign on to President Harrison’s opposition to the anti-Christian culture and government intrusion, but it is a tall order to actually put it into practice. To my knowledge, the issue of Social Justice Warriors pushing for a politically correct agenda in our Concordias has received very little attention. This is an area that requires much more proactive development by the Concordia University System. The Concordia University System is working hard to improve our Concordias. The Lutheran identity statement is a good step, but it’s likely that every Concordia will claim that they already meet all ten guidelines, meaning there will be little actual change in “behavior” based on one statement and their own recognizance.

Maier:

The numerous communication outlets of Synod, speaking opportunities and discussions within meetings would be utilized to recognize the unique, invaluable ministry of our Lutheran educators, parochial schools and the Concordia University System. We share the Gospel and its transforming power! Next to Gospel proclamation and prayer perhaps our greatest blessing for influencing the world for Christ is through the students, faculty and staff of our day cares, preschools, elementary and high schools and especially through our Concordia universities. Promoting educational excellence and relevance, as well as encouraging God-honoring compensation for teachers would be emphasized … and upheld in daily prayer.

Meyer:

Each college, university and seminary has its own board of regents who, under our bylaws, are responsible for their respective institution. High schools, grade schools and preschools belong to their congre­gations or association. The president has to respect those whom the church has charged with governance of these schools. As a graduate of Lutheran schools and for 11 years the president of one of our key institutions, I know the complexities of private higher education today. Adminis­trators will know me as an understanding colleague and advocate.

Scott’s comment: Did he answer the question?

 

Question Two:

What specific things would you recommend that the Synod do to address the student loan debt of her church workers?

Scott’s comment: There’s no easy answer here. I don’t think it’s so preposterous to think that the Synod could pay for seminary tuition, but without a paradigm shift in current thinking, it’ll never happen.

Harrison:

“Pray the Lord of the harvest send workers” (Matt. 9:38). I recently gathered leaders from the seminaries, Concordia Plans, LCMS Foundation, LCEF and the Lutheran Federal Credit Union. We identi­fied facts and trends. Most students are not heavily in debt. A third are deeply chal­lenged, especially couples that borrowed heavily for undergraduate education. Sems are great at raising money and providing scholarships. Some districts provide great assistance, others far less. Concordias must monitor the debt of pre-sem students. There are debt limits in place for sem entrance. Endowments should be expand­ed significantly. Over the past triennium, Synod has provided $10 million to the sems. God help us to do more (1 Tim. 5:18; Gal. 6:6; Heb. 10:24).

Maier:

I would encourage all students at our universities and seminaries to go through a financial management program like Financial Peace University. Learning to manage our finances responsibly is critical. The Michigan District’s capital campaigns “The Future Is Now” and “Here We Stand” have given, and continue to give, significant financial aid to students going into full-time church work in our universities and seminaries. Synod should encourage such campaigns in all districts and the “Adopt a Student” program in congregations. LCEF’s Education Repayment Loan Program ( http://lcef.org/loans/education_min.cfm ) is an amazing blessing that should also be emphasized and utilized.

Meyer:

The St. Louis seminary has taken the issue of student debt very seriously and has worked very diligently to significantly reduce out-of-pocket tuition costs for our M.Div. students. Part of the solution is to make the needs known to the people of the LCMS, part of it is sound stewardship on the part of the seminary and part of it is working directly with students on their own financial planning and stewardship. My encouragement will be to develop a “culture of stewardship” wherein we all practice, “Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.”

 

Question Three:

In the context of our walking together as Synod, what is the best way to address the concerns of many that we have individuals who are publicly preaching, teaching and administering the Sacraments without being recognized by the church as pastors?

Scott’s comment: This seems to be a “loaded question,” inferring that Licensed Lay Deacons should be ordained.

Harrison:

“I appeal to you, brothers … that there be no divisions among you” (1 Cor. 1:10). The 2013 convention asked me to appoint a task force to (1) Provide flexibility so that 200+ parishes served by Licensed Lay Deacons will still be; and (2) Get us in line with the Bible (Rom. 10:14f.) and Confessions (AC XIV), such that men who are preaching and administering the Sacraments regularly are called and ordained. I refuse to pit mission against doctrine or laity against clergy. They should be colloquized as SMP pastors (1 Tim. 5:17). No parishes need close. CTCR and seminaries support this proposal.

Scott’s comments:

Who’s going to pay for these men to be colloquized?

Maier:

Licensed Lay Deacons (to whom the question refers, I believe) are generally worker-priests, under or uncompensated, serve under the supervision of an ordained pastor, often assisting pastors at their home congregation’s request. Highly trained, educated and certified annually, those they minister to frequently have no other recourse for Word and Sacrament ministry. I am thankful for their hard work, labor of love, allowing themselves to be used by God in surprising ways. Remembering Paul’s words, “I planted, Apollos watered,” (1 Cor. 3:6) and Jesus’ words to His disciples in Mark 9:40, “for whoever is not against us is for us,” is helpful.

Scott’s comment: What about this ?

Meyer:

Those who are “publicly preaching, teach­ing and administering the Sacraments without being recognized by the church as pastors” are not being independent and unmindful of the whole church but acting according to [a] 1989 Synod convention resolution. This issue is indeed troubling the church and can be resolved in a uni­fying or divisive way. Either side can get a majority to impose its position on those who disagree or both sides together can patiently but persistently work toward a resolution that most will embrace. “Seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11).

Scott’s comment: We should seek a resolution that our confessions will embrace, not one that most people will embrace. Truth supersedes majority vote.

 

That’s it for today.  Have a fructiferous discussion.

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1. Reverence in Worship – Pr. David Petersen, 5/24/16

  Posted:May 24, 2016 By Issues Etc. (Issues Etc)
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schurb Dr. Ken Schurb of Zion
Lutheran-Moberly, MO

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decision page When you publish your writings on the internet, you must be prepared to be criticized. I mean, it’s not like anyone asked me to do this, I just enjoy it. Writing is also a good way for me to work through questions and ideas. If others can benefit from my mental exercises, so much the better. The internet can, however, be a brutal place. Thankfully, as a hateful jerk, my interactions with others in my personal life have more than prepared me to weather, and also to defend myself against, people with whom I don’t agree. This approach to life, while satisfying in the individual moments, generally tends to feed into the whole “hateful jerk” paradigm and causes one’s total life experience to be, over the long term, rather disagreeable. The police academy, however, taught me a valuable life lesson. I try to live according to it every day since I learned it, and apply the principle in every situation. Doing so has proved to smooth things out, so to speak, and by a great deal. I pass that lesson along to you all now: If it feels good, don’t say it.

I mention this here because internet comments make it not so easy to keep the proverbial mouth shut. On the advice of a friend, I have generally made it a practice to simply ignore comments on my writing. This practice has made life a lot more enjoyable. Ignorance is, after all, bliss. Once in a while, however, there comes along a comment which simply must be addressed because, to let it go without response might give the wrong impression to other readers, and perhaps lead them to think that I have no appropriate rebuttal. It’s like when the guy on the traffic stop refuses to give you his driver’s license because he read online someplace that he didn’t have to (FYI – in Illinois it is a class A misdemeanor to refuse to hand over your license to a police officer on a traffic stop), and now he is going to show you that he knows his rights. A traffic cop can’t let this go. There is an appropriate response to the driver’s erroneous assertion. He needs to be educated so that he won’t cause himself further trouble and embarrassment in the future. And, this is one of the few times where we’re allowed to say the thing that makes the other person angry but feels so good.

I recently received the following comment on my article, “Why I Quit the Gideons.” After reading it, I knew that I had to open my mouth. I’ll present the entire comment to be digested, and then address it in smaller pieces:

It’s the heart that matters. The bible [sic] may not mention anything about asking Jesus into your heart but so what. Do you really think that Jesus cares if we do? I’m sure He does care and probably with a smile on His face. As His children we should never be afraid to ask. Many of us don’t receive because we don’t ask. So why make such a big religious issue out of it. It’s these silly arguments that divide us and that prevent many from coming to Christ. Why don’t we celebrate and discuss the things we do agree on. For all the other things, let’s simply ask for God’s wisdom and agree to disagree if necessary.

I certainly think that we Christians should celebrate the issues on which we agree. I don’t advocate fruitless arguments. And, of course, God instructs us in the book of James to pray for wisdom and promises that he will answer our prayer (James 1:5).

The general message seems to be 1) so what if people want to believe that they are asking Jesus into their heart? and 2) lets all just get along. If I am getting this wrong, Hans Bischof, I apologize. It is not my intention to create a straw man to tear down. This is how I understand your comment. If I am mistaken, I apologize.

Holy Scripture teaches that we take no part in our conversion and salvation. We are dead in trespasses and sins. I won’t dwell on this too much here; if anyone is interested in reading more about our spiritual state, let him go to the original article. Sufficient for our discussion here are these three passages of St. Paul:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins   in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.   But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.   For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,   not a result of works, so that no one may boast.   For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them…The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned… Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.   Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,   who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (Ephesians 2:1-9; 1 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 3:4-6).

That being said, no, it’s not all about the heart, if we are talking about a person’s salvation, unless you mean that the heart is the problem. Scripture is clear about the state of a person’s heart. It says a man’s heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9). Consequently, our heart (that is, our will) is the thing which needs to be converted, and would not turn to Jesus on its own. We also can’t submit our will – “give our heart” – to Jesus. Why, to paraphrase Bo Giertz [1], would he want such a wretched thing in the first place? The Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, describes it this way:

This is certainly true: in genuine conversion a change, new emotion, and movement in the intellect, will, and heart must take place. The heart must perceive sin, dread God’s wrath, turn from sin, and see and accept the promise of grace in Christ, have good spiritual thoughts, have a Christian purpose and diligence, and fight against the flesh. Where none of these happen or are present, there is no true conversion. But the question is about the effective cause. Who works this in us? How does a person have this? How does he get it? Therefore, this teaching informs us that, since the natural powers of mankind cannot do anything or help toward it, God out of His infinite goodness and mercy, comes first to us. He causes His Holy Gospel to be preached. The Holy Spirit desires to work and accomplish this conversion and renewal in us. Through preaching and meditation on His Word God kindles faith and other godly virtues in us. They are the Holy Spirit’s gifts and works alone (FC SD II 70-71).

So, in conversion, God makes willing people out of unwilling people, by the power, working, and drawing of the Holy Spirit, by means of His word. We play no part until after conversion. After such conversion, in the daily exercise of repentance, a person’s regenerate will is not idle, but also cooperates in all the Holy Sprit’s works that He does through us [2] (McCain, et al. 2005).

As for the statement, “The bible [sic] may not mention anything about asking Jesus into your heart but so what?” I say, that is the whole point. Not only does the Bible not mention that we should ask Jesus into our heart, it teaches that we are incapable of doing so. How can we, who call ourselves Christians, be so flippant as to dismiss Holy Scripture in this matter? Such cavalier treatment of God’s Word is a sin for which we must repent.

As I wrote in the original Gideons article, the problem with the idea of decision theology is that it puts the decision in man’s hands rather than God’s. It gives people the false idea that their own work of making that decision is what saved them, rather than Christ’s holy, precious blood, and His innocent suffering and death. To call rebutting this false teaching with what the Scripture teaches about how God has saved us through the person and work of Jesus Christ a “silly argument” that divides and hinders people from coming to Christ is simply untrue. We are not supposed to simply agree to disagree and have some kind of false unity. Christians in general and pastors specifically are to teach sound doctrine and to rebuke false teachers. St. Paul instructs Timothy and Titus to do this in his letters to them. In fact, St. Paul says that the man who teaches contrary to sound doctrine is the one who is guilty of being “puffed up” and craving controversy, not the one who answers him:

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive…If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness,   he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions,   and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain…He [the pastor] must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it (Romans 16:17-18; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; Titus 1:9).

The fundamental misunderstanding betrayed by this position is one of who, in God’s saving work, does the verbs. If mankind is the actor in conversion, by doing the work of making a decision, or anything else, then salvation depends on man. If this is the case, a man must be convinced, and in many cases manipulated, to commit an act of will and declare himself for Christ. I understand how we can be seduced to believe such a thing. It seems logical. As logical and reasonable as this may seem, however, Scripture says otherwise. To maintain this Pelagianism is to take Christ’s work away from him.

If, however, God is the one who does the verbs – who chooses, who converts, who saves, who declares righteous – we can have tremendous comfort. We should marvel at how God deals with us. As I wrote in a previous article, not only has he redeemed us by His grace, through faith alone in Christ, He has given us his external word, by which we can be certain of God’s promises of forgiveness and eternal life, even when we feel the weight of our sin, and do not feel “saved.” That can sustain and comfort us when our bosoms cease to burn, our inner illumination goes dim, and we remember what kind of rotten sinners we are, undeserving of God’s favor. In those times we can look to God’s external word; whether in Scriptures, in the preaching of a faithful pastor, or in the Lord’s Supper or remembrance of our Baptism, and have assurance that though we are sinners, God has forgiven us for Christ’s sake, and is faithful[3].

Works Cited

Giertz, Bo. The Hammer of God. Minneapolis: Augsburg Books, 2005.

Klotz, Joseph D. “The External Word.” The Hodgkins Lutheran. December 4, 2014. http://hodgkinslutheran.blogspot.com/2014/12/the-external-word.html (accessed April 24, 2016).

McCain, Paul Timothy, Robert Cleveland Baker, Gene Edward Veith, and  Edward Andrew Engelbrecht, . Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. Translated by William Hermann Theodore Dau and Gerhard Friedrich Bente. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005.

End Notes

[1] Giertz, Bo. The Hammer of God. Minneapolis: Augsburg Books, 2005. See pages 122-123 for the exchange between Fridfeldt and his superior regarding “giving your heart to Jesus.” The passage can be found online here: http://gnesiolutheran.com/giertz-on-giving-jesus-your-heart/

[2] FC SD II 88

[3] Klotz, Joseph D. “The External Word.” The Hodgkins Lutheran. December 4, 2014. http://hodgkinslutheran.blogspot.com/2014/12/the-external-word.html

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The Fix: O Foolish Protestantism! (Galatians 1)

  Posted:May 24, 2016 By Worldview Everlasting (Worldview Everlasting)

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Matter matters. . .

  Posted:May 24, 2016 By Pastor Peters (Pastoral Meanderings)






I was reading Fr. Hunwicke , always a hoot, and he described a visit to the country and to a medieval chapel still in use as an Anglican parish.  He was given a tour and the guide told him how this church building was inconveniently placed.  Fr. Hunwicke mentioned that perhaps this building should have been sold to the Roman Catholics (who had purchased a much later formerly Anglican building near the heart of the town).  But the guide responded in horror that such would have been unthinkable.  This was the building that had history, it had stood for close to a thousand years, and it would be unthinkable to let this go for the sake of expediency.






That story got me thinking.  On the one hand I was struck by the illogical character of it all.  Why not sell the building inconveniently located and keep the newer building that fits the modern need of location, location, location (oh, and yes, parking!)?  We would do that here in the US in a minute.  We are not so attached to buildings and, unlike Britain and Europe, we routinely tear down perfectly good structures and build rather flimsy replacements because we think they fit our need better (and we thoroughly expect others after us to do the same thing).  We build for the moment and not for the future (except when we think the future is some stark and cold thing and then we construct monuments to the future that people will surely tear down -- not because they are unusable but because they are ugly!).

For people today matter does not matter -- feeling does.  It is the way that the spiritual but not religious mentality has captured our thinking and taught us that spirit matters but form and structure do not matter.  This is but another form of gnosticism and an unChristian conflict between spirit and matter.  Christianity is a religion in which matter does matter.  God made all things good, very good, and created man in His own image and likeness.  God did not favor spirit over flesh or flesh over spirit but saw them together as bearing the mark of His goodness.  Christianity is incarnational -- ours is the God who does not disdain matter but comes in flesh for us and for our salvation.  We are told from Scripture that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, that He took on the vocation of Joseph, His guardian, that He ate and drank and satisfied the hungry and thirsting, and that He honored sacred place with His worship and prayer.  This is not accidental or incidental.

In Fr. Hunwicke's story, there is a lot of Christian sense -- a church was solemnly anointed and consecrated and for, perhaps, a millennium has been a place where prayer has been valid and generations have been christened and churched, married and buried, in which the community has had its centre ... and such things do matter. Ours is an incarnational religion, in which places are sacred. Matter matters.

This is not some quaint story about some quaint old building.  It is a lesson.  We are too often tempted to believe that matter is important to science but not to faith, that science in the domain of the concrete and real and faith the arena of the spiritual and what is believed (but cannot be proved or experienced).  We would be wrong.  God created us with a vocation within matter, a calling to exercise dominion over His creation which He calls good, to be fruitful and multiply and fill it.  When sin stole this vocation from us and left us booted from Eden into a world which was in competition with us and must be worked, we did not relinquish that vocation Instead it became hard labor for us, without the delight of God in it all, it was a duty rendered in obligation to the Law.  Christ came not to release us from this vocation and calling but to enable us to reconnect to our identity and purpose and to equip us with the will and desire again to glorify God in the realm of the concrete.

Ceremony and ritual are not things completely indifferent but take on the character of belief, confession, and instruction.  The sacred space of the church is not simply rendered important when we are there doing our sacred duties but as a space consecrated and set apart for God's use and purpose, His glory and work.  God comes to us not in the ethereal but in the concrete of Word, water, bread, and wine.  We kneel and genuflect, stand and sit, bow and cross ourselves -- not to satisfy rule or demand but as outward sign and posture of worship, adoration, prayer, praise, humility, and solemnity.  We are too quick to tell our people that it does not matter -- that matter does not matter, that what you do does not matter, that worship practices do not matter... that only sincerity and feeling matter.  Yet feelings, as important and good as they are, and even sincerity as motive, can be more subjective and shallow than the concrete.  God does not merely live in our spirits.  He has redeemed us body and soul.  Matter matters.  It is good to be reminded of this every now and then.
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Who is Jesus?

  Posted:May 24, 2016 By Pastor Peters (Pastoral Meanderings)


Sermon for the Holy Trinity, preached on Sunday, May 22, 2016, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.

         Last Sunday marked the end of the first half of the church year and today we begin the second half.   We go from focusing on the events in Jesus’ life: His birth, death on the cross, resurrection from the dead, and ascension into heaven, to focusing on His teachings.   We do this today by directing our attention to the great mystery of the Trinity, one God in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.   We worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, and this God is revealed to us in Jesus Christ.
          Jesus is one with the Father, the Creator of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.   He’s the pre-incarnate Wisdom of the Father, and before the Father ever said, “Let there be light,” Jesus was.
          In our Gospel reading, the Jews questioned Jesus’ identity.   They said He was a Samaritan, a man with a corrupted heritage, and they were certain He had a demon because He spoke the Gospel saying, “If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death” (Jn 8:51) .   The Jews couldn’t believe this claim because the greatest of the greatest, the most faithful Jews of history died.   All the prophets died, and even their father Abraham died.   Jesus responded by saying, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day.   He saw it and was glad” (Jn 8:56) .   Once Jesus said this, the Jews definitely knew Jesus was possessed because there’s no way Jesus could have seen Abraham.   But Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (Jn 8:58).   Hearing this, the Jews heard enough and they picked up stones to throw at Jesus because they considered His words blasphemous.   Jesus just identified Himself as God, the great “I am” who spoke to Moses from the burning bush (Ex 3:14).   By saying “I am,” Jesus identified Himself as God, one with the Father.
John also testifies to Christ’s oneness with the Father in the beginning of his Gospel.   In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.   He was in the beginning with God.   All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made” (Jn 1:1-3).   Jesus, the pre-incarnate Word was, and is, one with the Creator Father who brought all of life into existence.     
The Old Testament reading from Proverbs (8:1-4, 22-31) puts it another way.   With poetic language, wisdom is personified, and this Wisdom is none other than the pre-incarnate Christ, the only-begotten Son of the Father.   In our reading, He proclaims His presence at the beginning, when the heavens were established and the foundations were laid.   He stood next to the Father like a master workman, a builder, and He daily rejoiced before the Father.   He rejoiced in the inhabited world and His delight was the children of man.
          Just take a moment and think about that.   The delight of the pre-incarnate Wisdom, the delight of the “I am,” the delight of the Son of God is the lowly creature man.   It wasn’t the beauty of the flowers, the strength of the beasts, or even the wonders of heaven, but it was man.   We are Christ’s delight, He finds joy in us, in you.   In all of creation, you’re the most precious thing to Him, and that’s why the Son of God became man, to be your Redeemer.  
          Every Sunday we confess it together, whether it’s with the words of the Nicene or Apostles’ Creed, or with the Athanasian Creed that we say today, we confess the incarnation of God’s Son.   Born of the Virgin Mary, Jesus is fully God and fully man.   Christ humbled Himself and was born in the likeness of men.   This likeness wasn’t a similarity, but a sameness.   He was the same as you in every way.   He was flesh and bone, He hungered and thirst, He suffered physically and He felt the full range of emotions that you do: happiness and joy, sadness and mourning.   Jesus become man and was like you in every way, except one...He was without sin.  
          Christ was perfect.   He followed all the 10 Commandments, He obeyed the Father’s will.   He was born without original sin having been conceived by the Holy Spirit.   Jesus was sinless and the only man to walk this earth who was so, and He had to be, so that He could die on the cross and atone for all our sin.
          If Christ wasn’t fully man, He couldn’t have died on the cross, and if He wasn’t fully God, His sacrifice would be useless.   But because He’s 100% God and 100% man His death saves you from sin.   He paid the penalty for it.   Christ is your Redeemer, your Lord who frees you from death, and He gives you new life.   He promised this to you when He said “If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death” (Jn 8:51).  
          This word is the word of the Gospel, the Good News of salvation in Christ alone.   This word is life changing, it’s life giving, but it’s also a word that’s counter-intuitive.   It goes against common thinking.   It’s a word that we can’t keep on our own.   So, Jesus has given us the Helper, the Holy Spirit, our Sanctifier.  
          Before Jesus ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, He told His disciples that He would send them the promise of the Father (Lk 24:49).   He did this on Pentecost, and having received the Spirit, the disciples were enabled to proclaim the Word of Jesus in different languages.   We heard Peter’s Pentecost sermon in our second reading today (Acts 2:14a, 22-36).   With the help of the Holy Spirit, Peter boldly preached Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension to the people of Jerusalem, and the Holy Spirit worked through this preaching, and He created faith within 3,000 souls that day.
          In the same way, the Spirit creates faith in you.   Through the hearing of God’s Word, He gives you trust in that Word, trust in Christ Jesus your Savior.   We confessed this truth together last week when we said, “The Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”   The Helper gives you faith and keeps you in it.   Through the continual hearing of Scripture, through the continual eating and drinking of Christ’s true body and blood, the Spirit strengthens your faith, enabling you to confess who Jesus is, enabling you to call Him Lord, and enabling you to keep His Word.  
          The mystery of the Trinity is difficult for us to understand.   Our rational finite minds are incapable of fully grasping it.   We can’t explain how our one God is Triune; and yet, He is.   This is the truth, and we have faith in this truth because the Spirit has given us this faith.   This faith confesses the one God in Three Persons.   This faith confesses who Jesus is: the only-begotten Son of God, and our Savior from sin and death.   And this faith confesses and looks forward to the everlasting life that Christ has promised us.   In Jesus’ name...Amen.
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Fickenscher Dr. Carl Fickenscher of
Concordia Theological
Seminary-Ft. Wayne, IN


Concordia Theological Seminary-Fort Wayne

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