Catechetics: Peer Review

printing-history-gutenberg-pressAs I neared completion on the first draft of Catechetics, I sent out a request for peer reviewers. That was 3 1/2 years ago. So, let’s just say the last half of the book didn’t move along at a blistering pace. Good thing I’ve still got that day job…

Well, I’m now ready, so today I sent out an email to see if there is still interest in volunteering. Apparently, the average lifespan of a web page is 100 days. That means that my initial request was almost 10 lifetimes ago, in web years.

Knowing that makes me feel a little bit late to my own party.

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Next Project?

I’ve been hinting that, once I get my current book projects to reviewers, I have another project waiting in the wings. I’m super mega excited about it. We’ll have to see if others are as well.

As I’ve mentioned, I rescanned the early 20th century book Life of Luther, by CPH. I updated the text, ever so slightly, and included all the engraving plates. But the engraving plates are from a larger work: The Life of Luther in 48 Historical Engravings.

The engravings are all by Gustav Koenig, and they come with brief explanations. (Usually about a page or two.) Originally printed in 1856, I’ve been looking for a copy for quite some time. I finally got one. Original binding. It’s beautiful (but as I learned today, very very fragile – oops!)

I have been wanting to put together a coffee table book version. 48 engravings of the life of Luther, with brief explanations. Hopefully, it would be a summer project (ready for Reformation 500 in the fall, if things go well. If not, then, 501 is an even bigger number!)

I told myself I wouldn’t do anything until I get my current books to their various reviewers. Work continues apace on those projects. (Which is to say, slow, but steady). But I had to take a moment and let you see what I’ve got my hands on. So, here are two pictures – the cover of the book (isn’t it beautiful!) and an engraving of Luther at the foot of the cross. I’m still working out the details. I will need to purchase some equipment to even begin this one. So it might end up being a kickstarter – all or nothing! That’s unusual for me. In the past I’ve just put it out there and seen whether people are interested. But this would be a significant investment of time and funds to even get started. So, I need to know people are interested. Stay tuned. There should be more details as we approach Lent/Easter.

Oh, right. The pictures:



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Moving On

After three abortive attempts at a final edit, I have finished my final edit of “Catechetics: Fixing Confirmation”. Now I just have to enter them before I lose the manuscript…

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Publishing Update. And a Bleg

printing-history-gutenberg-pressTechnically, I’m currently working on three different books.

Catechetics: Fixing Confirmation is coming along nicely. I’m finishing up the final round of major edits from my end, and then I will be sending it out to reviewers. So here is my bleg:

WANTED: Reviewers for a theology book.

REQUIREMENTS: Eye for detail, knowledge of publishing conventions (footnotes, etc.), familiarity with Lutheran theology, and ability to volunteer the necessary time.

In return, I can offer a credit in the acknowledgements, and a free copy of the book. Not much, I know. But you do get to see this before anyone else does. Qualified applicants who would like to contribute to the cause of promoting and teaching Lutheran Theology would be appreciated. Please leave a comment if you can help.

Evolution: A Defense Against has come back from review, and is awaiting revisions. Once I finish my corrections to Catechetics and get it out for review, I’ll be working on those. After that, it’s ready for proofreading, and then final formatting/publishing.

God willing, both of these projects will be finished by the end of the year. But then, I say that every year.

The third project is easier. Relatively speaking. I’m wrapping up work on Teach These Things: Second Corrected Edition. There were a number of typos in the first edition, and a couple of minor fixes that were needed to the text. These are done, as far as I am aware. I’ve been hoping for months that I would have a chance to review it and get it online. But that just hasn’t happened. And proofreading is just not my thing – I am terrible at it. So, I’ve asked a pastor who has more of an eagle I than I do to take a look at it. Hopefully, that will be completed soon, and the second edition will go live before Lent.

And don’t worry – those who purchased the e-version will get a free upgrade.

After that, I’ve got a few more projects in the pipeline. But I need to move these forward before those can happen. So, stay tuned. There should be news in the coming months…

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Self Publishing

2017-01-12-17-35-32-748898965People often ask me what it’s like to self publish. (Disclaimer: No one has actually asked me these things. But they might someday, and I’m ready). They want to know if writing and self-publishing might be right for them. Is it rewarding? Is it profitable?
Recently, I sold a few books. There was a small royalty. To celebrate, I bought a book I’d been eyeing for a long time. That cost twice as much as the royalty. If that sounds like something you’d like to do, then I recommend becoming an author, and looking into various self-publishing platforms.
Because that’s pretty much what self-publishing is.

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Life of Luther – Discounted for Reformation 500!

movie Luther 1953 posterA few years back, I scanned, reformatted, gently updated, and published Gustav Just’s classic biography of Luther. Now, I’m happy to announce that, for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it’s available for only $4. ($2.17  for the downloadable PDF version.) Why did I go through the trouble of reformatting a hundred year old biography of the reformer? First, because it’s no longer in print.

Second, because modern scholarship hasn’t  added much to our understanding of who Luther is, or what he accomplished for the church. Modern biographies have more footnotes. Sources of information are meticulously documented. Often-times they try to present a balanced approach to the Reformer.

But on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, perhaps we should listen to what out fathers had to say about him. The Epistle reading for Reformation Day in TLH is from Revelation 14. John sees, the angel with the pure and everlasting Gospel. Some of us believe that this is not just a generic statement of churchliness, but is a specific prophecy that Luther would restore the Gospel to the church. For us, the important thing about studying Luther is not (as the 1999 Luther movie would have us believe) that Luther was a caring and feeling guy, who was possibly also a little bit crazy – but mostly in a good way. The important thing is that the Gospel was almost entirely lost, and Luther recovered it. He did so against threats of death, constant ill health, and a system of church government specifically designed to prevent a small monk in backwater Germany from doing exactly what he did.

That is to say, we want to teach our people about Luther the Reformer. Or, as J.M. Reu calls him “The Reformator”. (Calling him “Reformer” lumps him in with men like Calvin and Zwingli. And the truth is, Luther preached the truth and they didn’t.) In my mind, recent biographies, as good as they may be, tend to present a more balanced Luther. Don’t get me wrong. They recognize him as the great Reformer. But the simple fact is, I want a biography that understands that luther was not just the Reformer. He was the one, the only, the Reformator – the angel with the pure and everlasting Gospel, who restored the Gospel to the One, Holy, Christian, and Apostolic church, and in doing so, took down mighty Babylon.

I don’t need the latest research, or the most up-to-date footnotes to get that. What I want – and especially as I teach my people – is a biography written by someone who drank deeply of Luther’s theology. Who knows how precious it is, who believes that Luther was a gift God gave to the church to bring back the Word of God, and save us from ourselves.

CPH published such a biography in 1905. And it was, in my mind, a tremendous theological look at Luther’s impact and importance in the church. It was short, (only 116 pages), but thorough enough for a book club or bible study. It covers Luther’s life, as well as the events leading up to, and after his life. It is very pro-Luther. Not because of some parochial interest. But because Luther taught the pure Gospel, against all the threats of the church’s entire magisterium. Luther did it not for personal glory. But because he knew that the true head of the church was not the pointed-hat, gold-encrusted leadership in Rome. He knew that the true head of the church was Jesus. He preached, and lived that.

And Gustav Just’s biography gives us *that* Luther.

After a friend asked about a reasonably priced, well written, biography for laity I went in and lowered the price. It’s only $4 for the paperback. (Sadly, the S&H is a bit high.) You can order copies for an entire bible class or book-club without breaking the bank.

And here’s an extra tip. My friend was a bit put off by the S&H, and figured if he waited a few days or weeks, Lulu might have a sale. So, he left the items in his basket and closed the browser. Within an hour, he got a note telling him that if he came back and finished the order, he could save 25%. Your mileage may vary, but it’s worth a try.

Here’s the link for ordering the Book: Life of Luther Book. And Life of Luther, the PDF. Order today, and enjoy teaching your people about Luther, who stood steadfast against false doctrine, and gave the church back her most precious gift: The Word of God.

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Sermon for Circumcision and Naming of Jesus

Last night the world counted down to the New Year. Today is New Year’s day. The world starts their new year at the start of the New Month. The church starts the new year at the beginning of Advent. While the world talks of resolutions – nothing more than wishful thinking about self-improvement projects – the church gathers to hear more about the first days of Jesus.

Which gives us the shortest Gospel reading of the year. We are 8 days after the birth of Jesus. The Law of Moses commanded that on the 8th day every male child be circumcised. So, that’s the reading. And the Gospel account just tells us – yes, it happened. Jesus was subject to the Law, and he followed it. It also says that he was officially given his name on this day. One short verse is all we get. But, there’s really a lot there. The entire Old Testament is pre-supposed in this one verse. The entire New Testament is in view.

The covenant of Circumcision predates Moses. God made the covenant with Abraham. It was the way that God would mark his people. Not just an inward mark. An outward one. It would be clear that the descendants of Abraham were a people called out from among the nations of the earth. And it’s absurd. The world look son it, and laughs. The Greeks thought it was madness. The Human Body was to them perfection. Their statues – some still exist – are beautiful representations of the human form. The Jews would mark that form in a way that they could not understand. We hear of tribes that tattoo or pierce as part of the coming-of-age rituals. The Jews marked 8 days after birth. It was not the sign of adulthood – it was the mark of entrance into the people of God. And through this strange thing, the people were marked as God’s people. They were given forgiveness of sins. Not because of the outward show. But because of faith, that looked to the promise.

In the Old Testament reading – another short one – we have the Benediction. It’s the words spoken at the end of the Divine Service. But then the next verse is added. “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” God’s name is put on the people. They are marked as his, and he places his name on them. That is what it means to be blessed by God. Not to have great flocks and herds. Not great wealth or power. But to have the name of God placed on you. And that’s done where the word is spoken. God’s word is effective to do what it promises. The priest in the old testament, the pastor in the new – speaks the word of God over the people, and God’s name is placed on them.

That’s why it’s so significant that Jesus says we are baptized in the NAME of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Because in that water and word, the Name of God is placed on you. And you are marked. As part of that service we say, “Receive the sign of the Holy Cross, both upon the forehead and upon the heart, to MARK YOU AS ONE REDEEMED by Christ the crucified.

You are marked as God’s own. His name is placed on you. Circumcision points to Baptism. Because in Baptism you are marked as God’s own. Paul talks about being circumcised – not in the flesh, but your heart. It’s really just talking about the repentance from that comes from hearing the word. “Rend your hearts and not your garments.” “The sacrifices of God are a broken and a contrite heart.” “I desire mercy, not sacrifice”. It’s not the outward mark. It’s the inward sign of faith. The outward ritual gives an object for faith. But it is not the salvation itself. It gives what God has promised, as by faith we grab hold of the promise.

And as part of that promise, Jesus is given his name. Not just any name. Jesus was given this name by the angel even before he was conceived. Even before that. Jesus means Savior. He was the one who would follow Moses, and bring us into the kingdom of God.

“J” is a recent letter. It gets added to replace “I” when “I” is used as a consonant. In Greek, that letter has the sound of “Y”. So, not Jesus – as we say in English – Yesus. And in Hebrew, the ending changes. Not an S. An A. Yesus becomes Yashua. And when we switch over to modern letters I pronounced as Y to J, we get Joshua. The Hebrew Joshua and the Greek Jesus mean the same thing – Savior.

But there was a Joshua in the Old Testament. He was one of the faithful spies who went into the land of Canaan at Moses command. One of two Israelites who were adult but did not die in the 40 years of wandering. Even Moses himself was not allowed into the promised Land. Moses anointed Joshua as his successor. And Joshua would lead the people into the promised land.

So now, 1500 years later, the baby is named Jesus – Joshua. The one who would fulfill the work of Moses. Who would go beyond that work, and bring us into the kingdom of God. Who would give us the promise of forgiveness that the Law could not give.

Jesus is named long before he is born. Because the word – Joshua, Jesus – it means to save. And he is the Savior. The one who, by his death, brings you life.

And today we celebrate Jesus the Savior placing himself under the law. Fulfilling that Law for you – not just the law of circumcision, but the Law of God written on man’s heart at the creation, that we are to Love the Lord our God with all our heart, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. The Law that, by your sin, you have broken, and so deserve nothing but temporal and eternal punishment. The law that, by placing himself under it, by fulfilling it perfectly, Jesus kept for you, and so earned you salvation.

Already today we celebrate Jesus fulfilling the will of His Father – fulfilling the Law on your behalf. Shedding his blood for you. So that you would have life. So that the name of God would be put on you in Baptism. So that you would be his people.

Thanks be to God.

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