Luther and Reformation 500!

Engraving of Roman Catholic Priest posting “Letter of Filial Correction” when the pope was guilty of propogating heresy.

I’ve written about this book before. I love it so much I scanned, lightly edited, and republished it (for the first time in almost 100 years.) It’s Gustav Just’s biography of Martin Luther. It’s actually available as an e-book on Google books for free. But the paperback is available on Lulu for only $5. (And with the code BOOKSHIP17 you can get reduced price/free shipping!) Why is it such a great biography?

Lutherans believe that Luther was the angel prophesied in the book of Revelation, the one with the pure and everlasting Gospel. The popes had corrupted the church with merits, prayers to saints, and private masses. Luther recognized that the church was not about raising money off the backs of sinners (Tetzel et al.), but about giving them the forgiveness won by Jesus.

Nowadays it is popular to deconstruct heroes, to try and understand the deep psychological problems that lie beneath their diminished achievements. This biography is in the old mold – it considers Luther to be God’s chosen instrument to restore the church (which he was).

It also places Luther in the broader context of church history. But it isn’t just a collection of names and dates. Church history is the history of bringing Jesus to the world. The entire biography is written with that Gospel-centered understanding. Heroes are those who advance the cause of the Gospel. Villains are those who fight against it.

It isn’t the most sophisticated biography out there. It doesn’t deal in fine distinctions. But it will give you the background of Luther as the one who saved the church from sinful human pride. He went back to the word of Jesus, and held fast to that Word against all opposition – whether from the Pope in Rome, the Emperor, or even his old colleague Carlstadt. In everything he looked to what God had to say to us. And in everything, the church looks at the Word of God and the promise of Jesus Christ.

That’s the sort of Luther Biography that’s especially helpful this year as we celebrate Reformation 500. A quick look at how the church carries the Gospel into the world, and how Luther (against all odds) reformed the church to refocus it on that precious Gospel.

It’s available through Lulu, and it’s only $5. Order now, and you should receive it in time for Reformation 500! 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Not Just an Internal Problem

Every so often on Facebook or in response to a blog post, someone will ask, “Why are you publicizing the church’s problems? This is in house and should be kept in house.” The same thing is often said by those who abuse their spouse and children. Yes, I am going there, and I do think they are comparable.

The idea (in both cases) comes from the mistaken impression that our sin only affects us. It doesn’t. And the perfect illustration of why I’m right happened to me yesterday.

As you may have heard, the Saint Louis Seminary Journal published an article by John Jurchen of Concordia University, Nebraska. This is the same Concordia University Nebraska whose president Brian Friedrich (along with then-District President Russell Sommerfeld) insisted from the floor of the synod convention that all CUNE teaching was in keeping with Scripture and the Confessions. The article by Dr. Jurchen encouraged Lutherans to believe that death occurred before sin, “Day” actually means “Millions of years”, and evolution is true. These are all damnable heresies, not to be tolerated in the church of God.

Yesterday, I was talking to one of the citizens of my local community. They are faithful members of a Baptist church. Their daughter is seriously considering attending CUNE – to study biology. I assured them that people from other churches are very kindly received at our Concordias. She would likely really enjoy her time there.

But. There was a danger. If she attended our local public University, of course all biology classes would be taught from a secular materialist perspective – There is no God, Earth is Billions of years old, Evolution is true, etc. Attending a Concordia – which officially teaches the biblical doctrine of creation in six days at the command of God – might make her relax and assume everything she will be taught is actually true.

I warned her, (and I only know this to be true specifically about Concordia University in Seward Nebraska) that her daughter would be taught theistic evolution in her classes. And they would teach her that this position is faithful to Holy Scripture. This is a pile of dung, and it stinketh unto the heavens. More seriously, it is lie of Satan and will drag souls into hell. She must be prepared for such garbage if she is to attend CUNE.

That’s what I told this kind Christian woman last night. A woman who is not a member of the LCMS, who is not a Lutheran of any sort, who (until three days ago) had no vested interest in anything that happens in my church. But who, if she was not warned, could have had her daughter fall away from the faith at a supposedly “safe” conservative Christian college.

And that is why I write and post on social media regarding these matters. For the most part, my writings are not read by non-Lutherans. My friends list is more than 80% Lutheran. My blog stats would embarrass even a hermit on Mars. But I know a few people regularly read what I write: other pastors, interested laymen, and members of my parish. Every so often, what I write strikes a cord, and it spreads beyond my inner circle. That’s great, but not necessary. My job is not to be popular. It is to be faithful.

And if there is false teaching in my church, I will use every means of shouting “Wolf in the Fold!” I will use every tool at my disposal to protect the sheep entrusted to me: Sermons, bible classes, blog posts, and even facebook rants. Because that is what I am called to do. That’s the difference between a faithful shepherd and a hireling who is only interested in his bank account and pension. Those who worry about “what effect it will have on the church’s reputation” if we expose false teachers in the church, while not removing them, are generally in the latter category, not the first. It may not make me popular with the powers that be in the hierarchy of my church’s structure. One of them suggested to me a few days ago that I “stop being offensive.” It is sad that I offend him. But The One I try to please is… well, to borrow a phrase, let’s just say that He’s “above their pay grade.”

 

If you liked this blog post, you would really love reading this biography of Martin Luther. It treats Luther as the “Angel with the clear and everlasting Gospel” of Revelation 12. Great for Reformation 500!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Sermon for Michael Mass

I had two requests to post this sermon. I think it may have more examples/illustrations than any other sermon of mine for quite a while. But it seemed to work. So here it is.

A common way of interpreting Matthew 18 – our Gospel reading today – is that, if we want to enter the kingdom of God, we need to follow the example of little children. Such an interpretation then spends a great deal of time talking about what little children are like. In many cases, the descriptions have very little to do with actual children. “Innocence. Filled with wonder. Humble.” It’s an idealized description – not a realistic one.

Sometimes, you will hear that we must trust like a child trusts. Children just trust that mom or dad will provide for them. They have no choice. We need to be like that – we need to trust that God will save us. And this is, strictly speaking true. But that is not what Jesus is saying.

First, Jesus isn’t talking about a precocious 10 year old, or even a tender 3 or 4 year old. Jesus is talking about an infant. Unless you become like an infant, you can not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus says a similar thing in John 3: Unless you are born again (of water and the spirit) you can not enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of flesh is flesh. That which is born of spirit is spirit.”

In John 3, it is a clear reference to Baptism. Jesus isn’t telling Nicodemus to be physically born again, He is saying that Baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is necessary for salvation. In that washing of water and the word we are given a new birth in the Holy Spirit. We are crucified with Jesus and raised up again to a new life in him. And if we would be saved, we must be like a little infant at the font – we must be born of God. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

We have met the enemy, and he is us

*Sigh*

Here we go again. I was contacted last week about an article in the Concordia Journal. In a joint issue with Concordia University, Seward Nebraska, there is an article about creation. In it, the author – a science professor at CUNE – attempts to bring together science and religion. I use that phrase advisedly, because “Bringing together science and religion” almost always means rejecting the plain meaning of Holy Scripture in a vain attempt to make the secular materialists hate us less. Or, to put it another way, “But mommy, the big kids on the playground are mean to me!” It is nothing more than a craven attempt to be popular with the culture around us. It does not fool the world. And it makes us look like fools to those who might have listened, if we had stuck to our guns. At a certain point, we need to put on our big boy pants, and “git er done”. At least then, people will see that we have the integrity of our convictions.

As you may have noticed, I don’t have a lot of patience on this topic. To be clear, I am very patient with members of the church that struggle with these issues. The world is very alluring. And the arguments are well crafted to draw in the unaware. For such people, I am patient to the end of time, and will gladly explain, repeatedly if necessary, in a simple way, the importance of the Word of God.

But.

I have zero patience with teachers in the church that teach things they know to be false. The occasional mistake is one thing. But constantly chasing after the approbation of the world, constantly demeaning the integrity of the Word of God by those who should know better just makes me angry. There is scriptural precedent for such anger. When looking at the people, Jesus was filled with compassion, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. When Jesus saw the leaders of the people selling literal sheep in the temple, it was time to make whips and flip tables.

I won’t link to the article in question, but it suggests a compromise position on evolution, one that is neither faithful to the scriptures, nor acceptable to today’s evolutionary community. It has the appearance of splitting the baby. But, as any scholar of Holy Scripture can tell you (so, don’t look to find it in this issue of Concordia Journal) the point of that story is that Solomon did NOT split the baby in half. Here it is:

God created the world. But he took millions of years to do it.

No really. That’s it. God set up creation, nudged it every few million years, but let it go about developing naturally. The word for this is : Theistic Evolution. And it is a threat to the faith as much as secular evolution is. In a forthcoming book (Evolution: A Defense Against) I explain why this fails as theology. At a later point, I explain why this view is not acceptable to evolutionists. My concern today is the former point, and that is what I address in the this brief snippet from the book (For the latter, stay tuned – I am working very hard to have it ready by Christmas.):

But first, a few words about evolution and the church. There are those who think that evolution can be safely imported into the church, as “Theistic evolution.” The Roman Catholic Church takes this view. The problem is that evolution as evolution destroys the teaching of justification. The Lutheran church has claimed since the reformation that justification is the doctrine on which the church stands or falls. Not all Christian churches have agreed with this assessment. But there is little disagreement among Christians that the work of Christ is central to the Christian church. And while Lutherans may frame the discussion in terms of justification, if theistic evolution is accepted, it destroys the work of Christ.

Evolution requires millions of years. The objection of the church is not the years themselves. Ultimately, while I believe that the earth was created in six days, I do not think it would destroy our salvation if the earth was created in six million (or six billion) years. Scripture does not teach that it was, but if God wanted to, he could certainly have taken his time, and scripture would reflect that.

For those who try to align evolution with scripture, the problem is not the timeframe. Theistic evolution teaches that during those “millions of years” evolution is occurring. And evolution requires death. The less fit die; the more fit survive. Scripture is clear. “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned ” (Romans 5) Death exists because of sin, and for no other reason. Sin happens after the creation is finished. If there is death before Adam and Eve commit the first sin in the garden, then death must be a part of the creation. If this were true, then God created death; death is good. But if death is a part of the created order itself, then death is not a consequence of sin. Which means that, when Jesus died to take away sin, He could not also take away death. Death is only taken away by Jesus death if it is a result – and only a result – of sin. If death comes into the world any other way, then Jesus death may take away sin, but it can not take away death. This is a problem. The death of Jesus is our life. He is our resurrection. Saint Paul explains it eloquently:

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:13-19, ESV)

 

If you want to learn more about what scripture teaches, I recommend Luther’s Large Catechism. And for understanding the Large Catechism, I recommend “What Every Christian Must Know: Outlines of Luther’s Large Catechism.” It’s perfect for a Bible Class, New Member Class, or for personal study. It’s cheap, it’s helpful, and it’s available NOW at Amazon.

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Commentary on “A Filial Correction”

Engraving of Roman Catholic Priest posting “Letter of Filial Correction” when the pope was guilty of propogating heresy.

This past weekend, a group of Romanist priests wrote a letter of correction to the Pope. In it, they said (I’m summarizing) that the pope treats marriage badly, and that the pope is acting too much like Martin Luther. To be clear, they did not say he was himself a heretic, only that he was allowing or propagating heresy because of his failure to speak clearly about the Word of God.

So, now I’m sitting here, pondering if the irony would have been greater if their document was in the form of 95 short statements. And they released it on October 31. By nailing it to the door of a church.

I am pretty sure that if there was a Nobel Prize for irony, they would get it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sermon for Trinity 15

According to yet another false prophet, the world was supposed to end yesterday. It didn’t. Here we still are. Our Lord didn’t return. No one knows the day or hour. Of course, the false prophet will most likely come back in a few months with some new date – Oh, I made a mistake in my calculations. Now I’ve got it right… And, people will believe him again, because it’s easier to believe a lie than the truth. We don’t know when our Lord returns. He doesn’t want us to go into the desert, stand on top of a mountain, and wait for the last trumpet. That’s not seeking after the kingdom of God. When Jesus says seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, he doesn’t mean go into a secret place, and never come back out. He means, we are to love and trust the Lord God, and we are to love and serve our neighbor. That is the work God gives us to do in this world. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Alien Worship

While teaching catechesis yesterday, I realized something. I have heard of people getting “burned out” on worship. It’s actually not an uncommon occurrence in churches that worship according to the American Evangelical style. I’ve heard of it happening in Baptist churches, and in various baptistic churches (non-denom, etc.) I’ve even heard of it happening in Lutheran churches that have traded the birthright of Lutheran worship forms for the pottage of weekly reader contemporvant worship. But I’ve never heard of it happening in Lutheran churches that are actually Lutheran.

Oh, people do leave the church. They may come to despise the substance of Lutheran Worship (For that is what the proponents of “style” actually do). They may reject the doctrine behind it. They may decide that Jesus was not being serious when he said to baptize “all nations” or that he was only kidding when he said “this is my body.” There are many reasons for leaving the Lutheran church – Satan is always at work in our midst. And I have seen Lutherans get burned out on “church” – in the sense of the committees, and boards, and meetings, and activities, and, and, and… But I have never, in almost 25 years as a laymen and 20 years as a pastor, heard of someone getting burned out on the Divine Service itself.

And yet, it happens with startling frequency among the Arminian churches. And today while I was teaching the catechumens, I realized why. Because if we are worshiping according to a baptistic understanding, worship is primarily something we do to please God. We are fulfilling our obligation to serve him. We are fulfilling the great commission. We are, we are, we are. Which is to say, we are worshiping in the way of the Law.  Worship is what we are doing. And, such worship is exhausting. I’ve been to services in Baptistic style Lutheran Churches. I’ve been to services in Baptist churches. And the worship of such churches is exhausting. Firstly, because you have to stay so focused on whatever new thing is being presented that you can never lose yourself in the word and promises of Christ, and in the comfort of the Gospel.

But mostly, such worship is exhausting because there is no rest given. Jesus is never presented as the one who takes your burden. And even when it’s mentioned that Jesus carries our burdens, then the burden is placed on you to give the burden up to him. You need to do that so he can take it. You must turn it over to him. You must decide. You must. I’ve heard sermons that wore me out – not because of their length, but because there was no rest offered for a weary soul. If I only did this, and trusted more, and worked harder. If I, then God can… But the focus was always on me. And I left not only without comfort, but tired. Physically, emotionally, spiritually tired.

And such weariness made me almost angry at God. Where was the promised rest for my soul? Where was the green pasture to lie down in? Certainly not in the church. That was a spiritual aerobics class. Let’s go! One more! One more! One more!

Truly Lutheran worship (Page 15/184) let’s God do the work. “God wishes us to believe Him and receive His gifts, and this He declares to be true worship.” That is so freeing; it does not exhaust; it refreshes.

Oh, the pure word of God certainly offends the old Adam. And Satan stokes that, whispering all manner of lies in our ears. “Not friendly…” “Inward looking…” “Out of date….” “Boring…” Any lie to push us away.  But I’ve been to other services. I’ve talked to people who attend them regularly. And I’ve seen a lot of cases of people just getting burned out on worship. Because they are worshiping under the Law. The Law is God’s Alien work. That means it is an alien worship. And it is all work. Constant pressure to perform.

We can’t live that way. God doesn’t want us to live that way, and he certainly does not want that sort of worship. He wants to be the balm for our wounded soul. He wants to give us rest. Of course, the most important thing about the Divine Service is that forgiveness, life, and salvation are given through the Words. But the restfulness of the Divine Service is also a wonderful gift. That is the comfort of the Gospel. And the Divine Service, that is, the Historic Liturgy, offers it in a way that is unparalleled.

If you are burned out on church, try a Lutheran service. You will find rest for your soul, as God intended.

 

If you liked this, you will love the devotional nature of Luther’s writings. And with What Every Christian Must Know: Outlines of Luther’s Large Catechism, you can dive right in and enjoy the rest that comes from God’s Promises.

If you’re a pastor, take a look at “Teach These Things: Catechesis for the Lutheran Parish“. It offers a liturgical and prayerful approach to teaching scripture and the Small Catechism.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment