Sunday, December 13, 2009

Not Enough Time to Preach Forgiveness

I stumbled upon this quote while flipping through the channels on TV. It was the closing comment of a sermon given by John Hagee.

"Now, I could preach for an hour and a half about forgiveness, but I won't because my time is up."
-John Hagee


...................................sigh. There are no words.....

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

...Never Saw This Before

"Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "we may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, 'you shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die."

But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate."
-Genesis 3:1-6 [ESV]

See that crafty serpent and how carefully he lays the ground work for his tempting deception?

Before he tempts Eve to commit sin, the Devil lies to undermine God's Law and disarms it of all threats. All matter of evil is allowed to come from this self-affirming delusion: the foolish idea that "you will not surely die."

Make no mistake. This is a blasphemous, murderous lie. Scripture clearly teaches that the wages of sin is death. [Romans 6:23]

Wretched, disobedient man that I am! How often do I do the serpent's work for him? How often do I pave the way for temptation within my own heart by removing the threat of just punishment from my mind?

How often do I form these satanic words in my mind or even speak them on my lips so that I may build up enough self-confidence to indulge in my own desires without fear of divine judgement?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Mission Complete

Saddam (left) and me (right).


Mission Complete. This deployment is over. I am back in the United States.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Not the Same


Islam and Christianity are not the same. Today it is trendy to blur the distinctions between the two.
The teachings are not the same. Allah is not the same as God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The description of humanity is not the same. The way a person is justified before God is not the same.
The way that God interacts with man is not the same.
It might be helpful to present a clear comparison for those Christians who are flirting with universalist tendencies just because this particular false religion happens to be monotheistic in flavor. I present two similar stories that I have found to reveal the striking difference between the one, true faith of Christianity and the religion of Islam.
Story 1 - Hadith
Imran ibn Husain, a companion of Muhammad and a Narrator of Hadith, reported that a woman from Juhiana came to Muhammad and confessed that she had become pregnant because of adultery. She said, "I am pregnant as a result of zina (extramarital sex)." Muhammad said, "Go back, and come to me after the birth of the child."
After giving birth, the woman came back to Muhammad, saying, "Please purify me now." Next, Muhammad said, "Go and suckle your child, and come after the period of suckling is over." She came after the period of weaning and brought a piece of bread with her. She fed the child the piece of bread and said, "Oh, Allah's Apostle, the child has been weaned."
At that Muhammad pronounced judgement about her and she was stoned to death.
Story 2 - John 8:2-11
Early in the morning [Jesus] came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law of Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?" This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.
And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord."
And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Indifference

Indifference is a prevelant and nearly undefeatable foe. It is also a seductive temptation.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My Satire and (hopefully false!) Prediction

We were talking about the excesses of commercialized, market-driven worship fads this evening. After everything I've personally seen and had the misfortune of hearing about, there remains one thing that a church has not done (to my knowledge). Should this happen, I would have to say that I would be surprised, shocked, and disappointed.

Anything short of this satirical prediction no longer phases me.

Let me know when a church...

...follows in the footsteps of major league ball parks and discovers that they can get a much larger worship center if they get a big sponsor to pay for the structure in exchange for naming rights. Examples could include:

1. Minute Maid® Temple
2. Pepsi Cola® Community Church
3. Our Lady of Hanes® Her Way™
4. Christ Is Our Nike® Tabernacle (I'm seeing a really nice logo with a cross and a swoosh)

...I will admit that these are probably unlikely--at least initially. We'll have to build up to Minute Maid® Temple. It is probably more likely that they will find pious companies to do business with before they do open business with the world. We will probably see one of the following first:

1. Christ's Church for Light and Inspiration (CCLI™)
2. First Lutheran Church and Free Methodist Credit Union
3. Christianity Today® Community Church

I hope I haven't just triggered any search committees or capital campaigns.

Is There A Spiritual Gift More Agonizing than Discernment?

I am starting to wonder if Job is the archetype of suffering... or was it Jeremiah? I'm not even really that good at discernment and the small bit of it that I have does nothing but assault my senses on a regular basis. In the case of most worship services, ignorance is truly bliss.

Discernment basically prevents you from having any fun at all in the popular church services of your day. It also causes you to be the wet blanket of the faithful that takes every lofty opinion and crushes it in the hands of its originator with pesky things like Scripture passages and plain reason. It makes you sound like Chris Rosebrough.

It's not something you get to turn off either. It causes you to appear ill in your pew (chair, theater seat, etc) and it forces you to involuntarily make disapproving faces when everyone else is waving their hands and blubbering with joy. It causes you to spend a great deal of time praying for patience and causes all of your friends to spend all their free time praying that your pessimism would be mercifully removed from your cold, spiritually-dead heart.

It causes you to say obnoxious things like, "I don't know why you liked that sermon so much. It turned me back to myself to fix my own problems. Where was Christ? Where was the atonement for sin on the cross? Where was the imputed righteousness and grace?"

This last Sunday I experienced a service that I am now calling "Heresy Week". This may seem harsh, but it is the best construction that I have been able to find thus far. My previous names for it were not so charitable.

We had a praise song that explicitly promoted the synergistic errors of Arminianism ("when you and I embrace surrender, when you and I choose to believe, then you and I will see...") This is no surprise since they announced the upcoming "revival" that they will be holding.

We had another praise song that was written by a trio of anti-trinitarian modalists (Phillips, Craig & Dean). I had a discussion about this before the service with one of the musicians. His comments proved that he is on the fence about the whole "a Christian has to espouse the Trinitarian dogma" thing. To add another twist to the knife, he is a self-identified Lutheran.

There was a baptism planned for the service, but there was a baptismal font malfunction. Can you imagine the headache of executing a full immersion baptism in a middle eastern desert during combat operations? Not fun. Everyone bemoaned that the baptism couldn't take place. I grabbed a 1 Liter bottle of drinking water and said, "Here let's use this, it's room temp. It worked in 100 A.D. Problem solved." ...the problem was not solved apparently. Anabaptists. Sheesh. :P

What is so ironic about this situation is that just a day prior everyone was gathered and talking about how "cool" it would be to do a baptism by water balloon. My solution was just as "cool" as that, but without the wacky party atmosphere. I was still shot down. My mode just wasn't relevant enough (even if it was practical, scriptural, apostolic, and feasible given our predicament.) As an aside: Someone got the tank to work (their irreverent phrase not mine), so the ceremonial ordinance could take place as scheduled.

But my personal favorite was when the preacher declared that God had to come down and become man so that He could understand what we were going through. It was so cumbersome in delivery that the conclusion that was inadvertently created was: "Is God's omniscience so limited that He could not understand the plight of His creation prior to the incarnation?"

There were other issues with the service, but--to be honest--I engaged my doctrinal autopilot after these were dropped in my lap. I only vaguely remember other things that made me wince and do not care to enumerate them ever again. Needless to say, people have stopped asking me what I thought of the service whenever we head out the door.

Yup. I'm a nit-picky jerk.



P.S. ...now that I look at that Chris Tomlin song, I'm starting to think that it's leaning more towards Pelagian heresy rather than Ariminian heresy. I say this because the song clearly places the Holy Spirit's calling and operation after "when you and I choose to believe". Only then "you and I will see who we were meant to be." It's confused because verse 2 seems to be a little more orthodox in its presentation... nevermind. I'm just going to drop it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Thank You, Dr. Freude

A Freudian slip occurred at a memorialist version of the Lord's Supper. As the chaplain fumbled through the words of institution, he accidentally said:

"And our Lord took the juice after supper..."

You could tell by the look on his face that he was deeply embarrassed when he caught the error.

He tried to recover by making some vague reference to the fruit of the vine, but my grin of vindication was already too pronounced to hide. His slip had illustrated just how far from those words of institution his heterodox practice had taken him. There he stood with a plastic shot glass filled with grape juice that was nothing more than a shot glass full of grape juice. Was this really what Christ had instituted when he said "This is my body... this is my blood..."?

No. Because Christ did not take "the juice after supper..." That's just something that some people are doing in recent years as a novel bad practice. It stands against scripture's clear language and teaching. It isn't juice. It is "the cup of blessing" which truly is a "participation (koinonia) in the blood of Christ." [1 Cor 10:6].

Friday, July 31, 2009

Going Back... to the Future?

In reading some church history, I was struck by how current this historical record sounds. This is an account by a church historian about the events that lead up to the Great Persecution under Emperor Diocletian. It is an interesting commentary on the church of the early 4th century. As one who witnessed and endured the persecution, it is profound to hear who the author blames for the arrival of this dark time in the church history. In his estimation, the church brought the persecution upon itself.

Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. Read this excerpt and marvel at the modern parallels. I sure did.

---------------------------------------------

How great, how unique were the honor, and liberty too, which before the persecution of my time were granted by all men, Greeks and non-Greeks alike, to the message given through Christ to the world, of the reverence for the God of the universe! It is beyond my ability to describe it as it deserves. Witness the goodwill so often shown by potentates to our people; they even put into their hands the government of the provinces, releasing them from the agonizing question of sacrificing, in view of the friendliness with which they regarded their teaching. What need I say about those in the imperial palaces and about the supreme rulers? Did they not permit the members of their households - consorts, children, and servants - to embrace boldly before their eyes the divine message and way of life, hardly minding even if they boasted of the liberty granted to the Faith? Did they not hold them in special esteem, and favor them more than their fellow servants? I might instance the famous Dorotheus, the most devoted and loyal of their servants, and on the account much more honored than the holders of offices and governorships. With him I couple the celebrated Gorgonius, and all who because of God's word were held in the same honor as these two.

And what approbation the rulers in every church unmistakably won from all procurators and governors! How could one describe those mass meetings, the enormous gatherings in every city, and the remarkable congregations in places of worship? No longer satisfied with the old buildings, they raised from the foundations in all the cities churches spacious in plan. These things went forward with the times and expanded at a daily increasing rate, so that no envy stopped them nor could any evil spirit bewitch them or check them by means of human schemes, as long as the divine and heavenly hand sheltered and protected its own people, as being worthy.

But increasing freedom transformed our character to arrogance and sloth; we began envying and abusing each other, cutting other own throats, as occasion offered, with weapons of sharp-edged words; rulers hurled themselves at rulers and laymen waged party fights against laymen, and unspeakable hypocrisy and dissimulation were carried to the limit of wickedness. At last, while the gatherings were still crowded, divine judgement, with its wonted mercy, gently and gradually began to order things its own way, and with the Christians in the army the persecution began.

But alas! realizing nothing, we made not the slightest effort to render the Deity kindly and propitious; and as if we had been a lot of atheists, we imagined that our doings went unnoticed and unregarded, and went from wickedness to wickedness. Those of us who were supposed to be pastors cast off the restraining influence of the fear of God and quarrelled heatedly with each other, engaged solely in frantically demanding the despotic power they coveted.

Then, then it was that in accordance with the words of Jeremiah, the Lord in His anger covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud, and cast down from Heaven the glory of Israel; He remembered not the footstool of His feet in the day of His anger, but the Lord also drowned in the sea all beauty of Israel, and broke down all his fences. So also, as foretold in the Psalms, He overthrew the covenant of His bondservant and profaned the ground (through the destruction of the churches) his sanctuary and broke down all his fences; He made his strongholds cowardice. All that passed by the way despoiled the multitudes of the people; moreover, he became a reproach to his neighbors. For He exalted the right hand of his enemies, and turned back the aid of his sword and did not assist him in the war. But He also cut him off from cleansing and threw down his throne to the ground, and shortened the days of his time, and finally covered him with shame.

-Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, c. 236 - c. 339
from "The History of the Church" Book VIII

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Here We Go Again...

This Sunday is the last one. After that, the only competent and orthodox protestant chaplain we have is returning home. I'm happy for him and his unit... but the future of our small, liturgical service remains uncertain. Because the rest of the chaplaincy seems unwilling to support us, the laity will continue the services without them. I'm having Ash Wednesday flashbacks!

The laity-driven service will start on Trinity 9. I have elected to follow the LSB one-year lectionary (because if I'm still here in Iraq to use the three year lectionary we are going to have problems!) I submit the rough draft of my meditation for your review and critique. If I am about to speak elloquent error or tangled truth, let it be caught and corrected now.

Trinity 8 - "Scripture is God's Wolf Repellant"
Psalm: Psalm 26
Readings: Jer 23:16-29; Acts 20:27-38; Matt 7:15-23

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,There is no mistaking what God’s Word tells us today. In the book of Jeremiah, we are warned against the false prophets who run about and claim to speak the words of the Lord but were not sent by God and do not carry His message. In the book of Acts, we hear St. Paul warning the church against the savage wolves that will carry on the false prophet tradition.

The Holy Gospel says the same. Jesus warns against the wolves that come in a sheep’s clothing; that is of the false prophets who come dressed as men of God. Even the Psalm for today speaks on this topic when David declares, “I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites.”We who are saints of God are now faced with a daunting task. We must be able to tell the difference between a fellow sheep and a wolf who looks like a sheep. What are we to do in a world where the sheep suits are so expertly made that the wolves look more like sheep than the sheep actually do? It is all so confusing.

The temptation is to assume that we should look at a Christian’s works for clarity. After all, Christ told us in the Gospel today that figs do not come from thistles and healthy trees do not bear bad fruit. But not so fast. Just verses later we see that the wolves are busy prophesying, casting out demons, and doing great works in the name of God. After all these seemingly good things that they point to, what will Christ say to them on the last day? “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

So works can be deceiving. It is true, the wolves talk a great game here on earth. They look the part. You hear a common phrase today. Many who claim to speak for God will say, “I am going to tell you something that the Lord has lain on my heart,” or as Jeremiah puts it, “I have dreamed, I have dreamed!” It seems that everyone who speaks in any church these days, wolf and sheep alike, is eager to make the same claim of divine inspiration. And what do these people say? Many different things. So many things that it seems that no two prophets can agree on what God is telling us. How can this be?

Over this useless babble the wise Christian quotes Jeremiah 17:9 which says: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, who can understand it?” There is no dispute that all prophets have something on their heart and in their dreams. We must ask the question: “Is the message that they are proclaiming rotten fruit or good fruit?” Or more directly: “Does their message come from the sick, confused heart of man or from the pure and authoritative Word of God?”

We would like to think that man has evolved past the silly superstitions of the ancient times, but the absurd paganism recorded in the Bible has given way to a slicker form of the same idolatry. The heathen priests of old are now replaced by the exact same packaged, consumer-friendly religion peddlers that plagued Israel and the early church centuries before us. The world today is as lost and confused as it ever was.

We have given up Baal and Apollo for the generic spiritualism and therapeutic sentimentality of the modern age. We prefer soft, manmade religions that are practical and self-affirming. We want a god that is like an unassuming old uncle who hangs out with us and will bail us out of trouble. The kind of guy who never asks any tough questions, never imposes his own will, and is up for just about anything. We want a useful religion that is like a vending machine so that we can put the right stuff into it, push the right buttons, get what we need, and go on our way feeling encouraged, self-assured, and satisfied.

We want a god that serves us and a faith that suits our needs. We design it in our own minds, borrow foolish notions from the world when it suits us, and proceed to shape our religion to suit us so that we can have a god that we can love easily, worship endlessly, follow naturally, and promote recklessly. This is sin. It is a violation of the First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods.” In this case, the god is us because we have made ourselves lords over God. Our will is in place of His will; our interpretation in place of His interpretation; our truth in place of His truth.

Make no mistake, dear friends, these created idols that we have made are no different than the graven images of old. And if you believe that the false gods and false notions of the world have not crept into every corner of the church, then you are not seeing clearly.The wolves are in the sheep pen just as much today as they were in the days of Jeremiah, Jesus, and Paul. They are strategically prowling in their wool disguises so that they can separate the sheep from the Shepherd. They know that if they can get the Christian to wander away from Christ then the Christian will be easily devoured by the pretty errors that they peddle… errors that are harmful to faith and injurious to eternal life.What are we sheep to do? How are we to grow in the knowledge of the truth with so many lies, assumptions, and errors?

At the top of the first page of your bulletin for today, there is a quote from St. Jerome. He says, “Ignorance of Scripture is Ignorance of Christ.” This ancient father of the church echoes the very thing that Christ told the false prophets. Christ said to the Pharasees, “The Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life."

It’s not enough to know your Bible. It’s not enough to study so that you can quote Scripture and apply it however you wish. Even the Pharisees could do that and yet they were without grace. They stood condemned in their sin.

You must come to know Scripture the way that God, Himself, tells us how we should know it: through Christ-colored lenses so that the Bible points us to Jesus so that we may have life… eternal life.

So essential is this proper understanding of the Christ-centered message that is found in scripture that St. Jerome, over a thousand years before Martin Luther and Myles Coverdale, devoted himself to the translation of the Greek and Hebrew texts into the Latin so that the people of his day could have the scriptures in their native language… so that they could be shown Christ and have life in Him.

Scripture is not just some mere guidebook. It is not just a divine self help program that the Holy Spirit has preserved for 2,000 years so that you can be equipped to improve your personal situation here on earth. The truth is that a dead corpse cannot improve its situation. Apart from Christ, that is what we are: fallen, damned corpses. We know from Scripture that, since the Fall of Adam, all of mankind remains hopelessly dead in their trespasses. We are not merely weakened by our sinfulness. We are not simply injured by sin. We are dead because of it: both now and eternally. Apart from Christ we can do nothing. Nothing.

It is the Word of God that breathes life into our dead and sinful souls. It is this breath of new life that is the essence of faith. It is through this holy revelation that the Holy Spirit brings Christ to us. It is not just a rational, intellectual argument that causes our minds to think on a better way through a few good examples and stories. It is not just an ecstatic, emotional experience that motivates our hearts to start being godly through its poetry and prose. It is the supernatural revelation of God that gives us life by uniting us with Jesus Christ by faith.

The Word of the Lord calls out to you as you lie in the grave of your sin. It shouts in a loud voice, “Lazarus! Come out!”The proclaimed Word of the Lord brings Christ to us, not just once in our lives and then it is of little value, but the Gospel works constantly as this alien faith invades our sinful flesh, repeatedly breathes life into our broken bodies, and holds us captive to every word that comes from the mouth of God. This is the declared purpose of God’s Word and the pages are obsessed with it. Scripture does not just speak about Christ occasionally as an important topic, but it testifies constantly and consistently so that Christ and His saving work on the cross for the forgiveness of our sin is the intent, theme, and message from Genesis to Revelation, chapter by chapter, foundation to rafters.This is the only message that saves you from hell.

When you understand this truth rightly, the light of the cross and the empty grave casts a brilliant illumination upon this book and the darkness of the false prophets is immediately cast aside. The distractions are exposed. The sheep suits of the wolves are torn off and the truth is understood at last. It is this pious truth that the Apostle Paul understood and confessed. With the Christ-centered faith given by the Holy Spirit, Paul boldly declared to the church in Corinth these words: “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

Christ is still Lord of the church. The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord. He remains the firm foundation upon which the house of our faith is built. Upon this rock, that is upon Christ the Son of the Living God, your faith will stand against the rages of Satan. Safe from the storm, you are protected from the false prophets who deceive themselves as much as they deceive those who listen to them. You stand forgiven before God because of Christ through the gift of faith. As the houses that are built upon things other than Christ are washed away, you remain secure in the one true faith that is revealed to us through scripture.

So let the false prophets weave their cleaver deceptions. Let them do their best to distract us from our focus on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let Satan whisper his wicked lies as he attempts to pervert or obscure and Gospel as best he can with seemingly good and practical things. You are not moved. You are not washed away by the tide. You have God’s Holy Word in your hands, in your ears, written upon your hearts, and spoken on your lips.

You understand the one and only purpose of the Church: to proclaim Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins so that sinners are reconciled to God by grace and granted eternal life through faith. The Holy Spirit has drawn us to the feet of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through word and sacrament.

This adoption into new life began for you in your baptism. By daily repentance, meditation on His word, and reception of grace through the Lord’s Supper, our life in Him is deepened and renewed as we wait for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. As we rest in the presence of this mighty Shepherd and listen to His loving voice, we need not fear any wolf or snare.

Last Modified: August 1, 2009

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Have You Seen This Man?

I am having so much trouble finding Jesus in the programs of the local chaplaincy that I am seriously considering posting WANTED posters with Christ's face on them. I wonder if such a tactic would give me any leads on where I can find this man.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Contemporary Song that Exposes the Ancient, Gospel-less Horror in the Seeker Movement.

The doctrine in this song is so bad and misleading that I cannot bring myself to comment on it at this time. I will dissect it after I have recovered. When you read it, I am sure you will understand....


"If We Are The Body" By Casting Crowns

It's crowded in worship today
As she slips in
Trying to fade into the faces
The girls' teasing laughter is carrying farther than they know
Farther than they know

CHORUS
But if we are the Body
Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the Body
Why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?
There is a way

A traveler is far away from home
He sheds his coat
And quietly sinks into the back row
The weight of their judgmental glances tells him that his chances
Are better out on the road

CHORUS
But if we are the Body
Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the Body?
Why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?

BRIDGE
Jesus paid much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come
And we are the Body of Christ

CHORUS (2x)
If we are the body
Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?
Jesus is the way

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Predestination and Logic

The teachings on Free Well that come out of Arminianism and Calvinism are both built on the foundation of a common logical fallacy. The informal fallacy of false dilemma is where two concepts are presented as a mutually exclusive choice where no other options exists. This is an especially foolish assumption when trying to guess the unknowable operation of an omnipotent and omniscient God.

In other words, this fallacy presents the choice of either A or B... but ignores the possibility of an option C, D, E, F, etc. An absurd example of such a fallacy would be: "If you are an animal, you are either a dog or a cat." Such a statement is illogical because an animal could be a horse, cow, or any number of other creatures.

The Arminian/Calvinist debate over eternal election which rages is built on this kind of false dilemma. They want to force you into using your limited human reason to choose either option A or option B. Both of these options have been carefully crafted and argued by the flawed source that is the human intellect. At the same time, infallible Holy Scripture clearly makes both options unsupportable. It is okay to say that there could be an unknown "option C" regarding our eternal election that is beyond our human understanding. In the end, we must stand on only what Scripture reveals and not what we can try to figure out with our limited capabilities and knowledge. Everything beyond the clear testimony of Scripture is just guess work.

...of course a Calvinist has already told me that this position is a "cop out". :P

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Evangelism without Evangel

I am stealing this fantastic quote from an anabaptist layman who is teaching a pretty good Bible study over here:

"Evangelism is the most misunderstood word in Christianity. It no longer means what it used to mean. Evangelism means to tell the Evangel: the Good News. Evangelism that does not specifically state the whole Good News properly is just recruitment."

I am going to start making this distinction. It's helpful to call a spade a spade.

Monday, June 22, 2009

+ In Memoriam +

It is around this time of year that our family remembers the solid Christian witness that was given to us by the sainted Grandma Baker. I will never forget her final instructions that she spoke to me before she went to be with Our Lord:

"Love your family, love everybody, and count your blessings. And do that every day."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

God's Prosperity for You is Found in Holy Absolution

You hear alot these days about the two "P"s in church: "Prosperity" and "Purpose". There are books, churches, and movements founded on unlocking some kind of divine formula for prosperity. The entire purpose of the church these days is to show you how to purposefully search for your purpose so that you will prosper.

You have to wonder though, when we get past all these mortal speakers, hucksters, and mystics for a second... what does God's Word actually say about true prosperity? What does divine prosperity actually look like? Where does one find God's prosperity?

God's prosperity for you is found at the center of holy absolution. The forgiveness of your sin which is apprehended by faith in Jesus Christ is the pearl of great price. Cast aside everything to lay hold of this unique treasure. What other thing could be found that is of equal value? There is nothing else but this promise: Come and hear Christ's word of forgiveness spoken specifically to you.

"Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy." -Proverbs 28:13 [ESV]

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Slap in the Face

How often do we, as Christians, gather for worship... and then do nothing less but reenact the Fall of Man in the name of God?

Tricky Devil, you come into the garden that is Lord's House and you convince us to lay aside the clear Word of God. You tempt us to do that which God has forbidden, upset the order that He has established for the church, and seek the worldly self-gratification that comes with trying to make ourselves wise.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

That's Why They Call it a Desert

Yesterday it was over 110° F. (This reading was based off of a thermometer that was in the shade!)

This morning it was 90° F at 08:30 a.m.

...and it is only the end of May.

Oh, this summer is going to be brutal. :P

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

An Evolution Joke

A little girl asked her mother, "How did the human race appear?"

The mother answered, "God made Adam and Eve and they had children and so was all mankind made."

Two days later the girl asked her father the same question. The father answered, "Many years ago there were monkeys from which the human race evolved."

The confused girl returned to her mother and said, "Mom how is it possible that you told me the human race was created by God, and Dad said they developed from monkeys?"

The mother answered, "Well, dear, it is very simple: I told you about my side of the family and your father told you about his."

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day Made Real

Lest you allow Memorial Day to pass without a proper recollection of those who have given the supreme sacrifice for you, this worn-out deployed buck sergeant is here to remind you of how personal war is. It's not statistics and politics. It's people. It's people who are not coming back alive.

This memorial day, I offer special respect and honor to

Army Staff Sergeant Brandon L. Wallace

Brandon was age 27 and was from St. Louis, Mo. He was assigned to the 1451st Transportation Company, 13th Support Command, Iraq. He died on April 14, 2007 in Fallujah, Iraq when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated near his vehicle.

Read and weep for the fallen and his family:

------------

The Associated Press

FESTUS, Mo. — A 27-year-old who was scheduled to come home from Iraq in two weeks was killed by a roadside bomb in Fallujah, his family said this weekend.

Army Staff Sgt. Brandon Wallace, who had been reactivated from the Individual Ready Reserve and had been deployed since May, was killed April 14, his family said.

He was preparing to come home and marry an Army specialist he had met and proposed to in Iraq.

His father, Rickey Wallace, said his son already had served his active-duty contract for three years in Germany and Kosovo.

“In Brandon’s mind, he thought he was basically done,” Rickey Wallace said. “He was shocked that they called him back.”

Brandon Wallace graduated from Crystal City High School in 1998. He had been taking classes at the police academy in St. Charles when he was reactivated.

Rickey Wallace urged his son to ask if he could graduate from the academy before being deployed, and the Army agreed.

Robin Wallace said she took some comfort in hearing her son had died instantly.

Wallace’s parents told the Web site for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, www.stltoday.com, that they will meet their son’s fiancee for the first time next week when she brings their son’s body home.

------------

Do you feel that ache in your gut, the burning in your eyes, and the agony over the senseless loss for this family? How about the air that escaped when you read the last sentence of that horrible article? Hold on to that furiously mournful feeling.

That's Memorial Day.


Sergeant Brandon L. Wallace was not the only casualty from that roadside bomb. Also killed was

Sergeant Joshua A. Schmit.

Read more about some of our honored dead here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Explosives, Prayer, Psalm 77, Ascension, and Faith

On Ascension Day this year, I found myself staring at two unidentified pieces of ordinance. I was laying on my stomach looking for something when I discovered them less than a meter away from my face. They were not supposed to be there and I did not expect to find them. It could have made for a very bad day because they had been violently disturbed moments before I saw them. I am being intentionally vague, but I am sure that you get the idea.

They turned out to be inert ("not dangerous" for you civilians). They could have just as easily been live rounds or some kind of improvised explosive device. I was fairly certain that they were just inert when I saw them, but you really want to be more than "fairly certain" in that kind of situation. Looking back, there was that split second before my army training kicked in where I thought about being "blown to kingdom come". I have to chuckle at the irony of thinking of that phrase on that particular day in the church year.

I guess a Christian who is also a Soldier at war thinks about the heavenly kingdom alot... regardless of his duties or situation. It is always in the back of his mind that the only constant about war is that it can be incredibly indiscriminate and random. My Ascension Day experience was like that: random. Why me? Why inert? The mind can spin rather easily about such questions.

I think that alot of the stress comes from the powerlessness of these kinds of random situations (which happen just as often--if not more often--back in the States.) It seems more intense here because it is compounded by the isolation of being away from home, from the church, and from her gifts. The combination can be a real test of faith and endurance.

Lots of things start to dip: sleep, energy, cognitive function, and even prayer. It is really easy for peaceful meditations on God's Word to turn into fits of frustration and exhaustion. The devil pounces on this opportunity and throws your wretched sinfulness in your face. It can be a real battle. You start to really understand the psalmist when he says:

I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints.

You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I consider the days of old,
the years long ago.
I said, "Let me remember my song in the night;
let me meditate in my heart."
Then my spirit made a diligent search:
"Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?"

Boy can I relate! Here I will interrupt the psalmist to speak about Christ. In the Creed we confess that, at the conclusion of His saving work on earth, Christ ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Christ spoke this very truth on the night of His arrest.

This doctrine was affirmed by the Apostle Peter at Pentecost when he preached, "This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, "'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.'" [Acts 2:32-35]

It is there at the Father's right hand that the glorified Christ intercedes on our behalf as our Mediator and Great High Priest. It is because of Christ, Our King and Deliverer, that we have reason to rejoice. By recounting His marvelous deeds, this bleak psalm turns in verse 10 and brightens for us at this point where the psalmist recalls the God who delivered Israel out of the land of Egypt. Pay close attention to a familiar, creedal term used in the first phrase in this transition from despair and frustration to hope and faith. It is hard to miss the Christological imagery here.

Then I said, "I will appeal to this,
to the years of the right hand of the Most High."
I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph.

When the waters saw you, O God,
when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
indeed, the deep trembled.
The clouds poured out water;
the skies gave forth thunder;
your arrows flashed on every side.
The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
your lightnings lighted up the world;
the earth trembled and shook.
Your way was through the sea,
your path through the great waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.
You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Amen and Amen.

In the dark, isolated times we turn by faith to the one who sits at the right hand of the Most High and remember the deeds of the Lord. These deeds of deliverance and of salvation. We look to Jesus Christ... incarnate, crucified, buried, resurrected, and now ascended.

Infanticide is Sin. Christians Rebuke Sin. We Do Not Honor It.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Classic Joke

Why did Beethoven get rid of his chickens?

They kept saying "Bach, bach, bach"

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Deepest Wounds and Scars

Blank

"This does not mean that you [Soldiers] are war mongers. On the contrary, the Soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers: 'Only the dead have seen the end of war.'"

-Gen Douglas MacArthur



Almighty God, You alone can establish lasting peace. Forgive our sins, we implore You, and deliver us from the hands of our enemies that we, being strengthened by Your defense, may be preserved from all danger and glorify You for the restoration of tranquility in our land; through the merits of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior. (228)

Sola Scriptura

I come from a heavily Roman Catholic part of the country. I also live in a part of the country that is consumed with Marian devotion... to the point that even the Roman Catholic church has had to correct and reprimand members of the laity.

So I wanted to hear it from the horse's mouth (unfortunate choice of words, I know). What does the Roman Catholic church officially say about the Blessed Virgin? How far does this "devotion" thing really go?

I am reading "True Devotion to Mary" by St. Louis De Montfort. This book has the endorsement of several Popes. John Paul II called reading it a "decisive turning-point" in his life. I haven't even answered my original question yet, but reading this has taught me one fundamental thing about Roman Catholicism. (Something that I already knew more or less, but it is always nice to get some validation.)

The lesson I take from this book:

I now understand why it is taught by the Roman church that only the Roman Catholic Church can interpret Scripture properly. Why? Because, in many areas relating to newer doctrines, it is impossible to read the same thing that they read and draw the their same conclusions. When one uses grammatical context and stays within the confines of the information that is available in the text, you cannot see what they see, believe what they believe, or teach what they teach. Their interpretations are so wide and allegorical that it is impossible to follow their philosophy without being told (by them) how to think.

The authority of church Tradition has become so important to the Roman theological system that it cannot stand without it. Without the authority to formulate external doctrines and fabricate new teachings, there can be no distinctively Roman church. More often than not, the only reasonable answer that this mother can say to quell the questions of her children is the ill-advised, "because I said so."

New light has been shed upon the frustrations of the Lutheran Fathers as they waded through this quagmire of Aristotelian scholarship and romantic conjecture.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Self Awareness and Presumption

I barely know myself; why is it that I presume that I can know so much about my neighbor?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

When I Say We Had a Sandstorm...

...I mean a SANDSTORM!

One morning, not too long ago, we looked up and saw... this dwarfing everything (note the tiny buildings and vehicles at the bottom of the photo to get the scale):



...and in under an hour, we were surrounded by this:


...and it remained like that for the rest of the day before it started to clear up.

...but it was days before we saw any blue in the sky.


The pictures do not do it justice.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Prayer Request

Because the purpose of "the news" these days is to engage in gossip, place blame, and fill you with irrational, glued-to-the-television fear (rather than inform you about the world in which you live), it would be virtually impossible for you to know about this event that is of true significance.

Iraq has been going through a troublesome drought since last year. As the dust storms north of Baghdad grow in severity and frequency, there is increasing concern about the crop harvest this year. Please keep this nation's security and stability in your prayers and pray for the farmers who are facing this true threat to their livelihoods.

...not because we are invested in their future over here... not because you want your political party to be right... but just because they are people and they need God's blessings if they are to eat and live in peace in the coming months.


O God, most merciful Father, without Your care and preservation all things wither and die. Open the windows of heaven and send bountiful rain on us to revive and renew the land. Graciously hear our prayer that we may praise and glorify Your name forever and ever; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. (236)

O God, from whom come all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works, give to us, Your servants, that peace which the world cannot give that our hearts may be set to obey Your commandments and also that we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may live in peace and quietness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (410)

May 7th - C.F.W. Walther, Pastor and Theologian

Walther on the Office of the Ministry:

"O, glorious office! No matter how sick a person may be in his soul, the Gospel can heal him. No matter how deeply ca person has fallen into the corruption of sin, the Gospel can pull him out. No matter how troubled, frightened, and afflicted a person may be, the Gospel can comfort him. Whatever the condition in which a person finds himself, even if he is convinced that he must perish because of it, the preachers can confidently oppose him, saying: 'No, as certainly as God lives, He does not want the death of any sinner. You shall not perish; instead, you shall be saved. Turn to Jesus, who can evermore save all who come to God through Him.' And if one who lies near death calls out: 'God, what have I done? Woe to me! Now it is too late! I am lost!' the preachers should call to him: 'No, no, it is not too late! Commit your departing soul to Jesus. You too shall still be with Him in paradise today.' O, glorious, high office, too high for the angels! May we always hold it in high regard, not looking at the person who bears it and despising his weakness, but looking instead at the Institutor of this office and His exuberant goodness. Let us turn to Him in faith so we can experience the blessings of which the preachers have spoken and, through them, be gathered together one day into the barns of heaven as a completely ripe sheaf."

-C.F.W. Walther
from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, pg 212

Friday, May 1, 2009

Two Roads... but Only One Truth!

There are two roads that claim to lead to all truth.

The first road--the wide and beautiful road--is the false teaching that ultimately says, "Man serves god." This well-traveled avenue was constructed by Satan and his demons using lies for stone and human arrogance for mortar. Along this road you can find every kind of man-made religion imaginable. These teachings of men come in all kinds of varieties. Every belief on this road comes from the invention of man. They have all kinds of philosophies that build on the simple idea that "Man serves god". There are lots of churches on this road, too. They are right next to mosques, temples, prayer circles, and the homes of various spiritual gurus. Crosses and 'Christian' bumper stickers abound on this road. If you are an atheist, you can even go to the false religion that says "Man serves god... and god is you!"

The buildings may look different and may seem to offer all kinds of various teachings and trappings, but if you look at the foundations of those buildings you will find that they all sit along the same road where Man must work. This is the road of failure and disappointment because (as you have already figured out by the example of your own life) the fact is that Man cannot work. He is never good enough, never true enough, never perfect enough to reach an infinite truth or please an infinite being.

You can foolishly pick whatever you like, but it is all built on the same, demonic road... the road that leads to destruction. This is the road to eternal torment and isolation in hell; not because the people on it failed to believe in what they were doing, not because they failed to try their best, but because this is simply not the way to reach God.

That is why our loving God did not build this road. That is why man, in his sinful pride and rebellion, had to construct it for himself at the behest of God's sworn enemy, Satan, who is the father of lies. He designed this road in the Garden of Eden and whispered its plans into the ears of Adam and Eve. This road serves a secret purpose. It does the exact opposite of what it promises. It promises truth but serves lies. It promises life but ends in death. It promises heaven but earns you hell. It promises to find the divine but reveals the devil. It promises hope but curses you with dispair and torment.

The second road--the narrow and difficult road--is the only true teaching. This divine Word says, "God serves man." This is the only teaching that comes from the very mouth of God and is demonstrated on the cross of Christ. This road does not merely claim to lead to God. It literally comes out from God and leads straight to you so that you can be picked up and brought to where God is.

The second road is not like the first road where you sojurn and wander to find God, but never succeed. It is quite the opposite. It is a road of collection where God comes and gets you and brings you back home by merciful grace. This road returns to Eden where God and man walked together in fellowship and where man did not toil because his every need was provided for by his loving Creator. Now, outside of Eden, our God the Father works through Word and Sacrament where the true religion exists in a system in which God constantly lifts up man, refreshes him, and brings him to everlasting life by faith alone in God the Son, Jesus Christ.

In this one and true faith, God also serves man through his fellow man as God the Holy Spirit fills us with faith, brings us to the righteousness of faith, and by faith performs true good works in us that bless our neighbor. This is the road that leads to eternal life in Christ Jesus which follows in the shadow of the cross where God draws poor sinners to Himself. This is the way to life everlasting.

There is no middle road.

...Another Interesting Statistic

According to the Associated Press, 16 people have died worldwide from the Swine Flu "pandemic". (That's another thing... if you are getting reports of 150+ deaths out of Mexico, that number has been debunked by the World Health Organization. Good science has reduced that statistic from a very low number to an even lower number.)

Evidence suggests that 150 people die every year from concussions sustained by having a coconut fall out of a tree and hit them on the head.

We still have 134 deaths to go before this reaches the level of the "coconut concussion crisis".

Cutting Through Bad Journalism and Irrational Fear with Simple Numbers

Number of US residents who die each year from flu-related symptoms or complications from flu:
36,000 people

Statistical daily mortality rate for the common flu:
98.6 people each day every day

Statistical hourly mortality rate for the common flu:
4.1 people each hour every hour... day after day with no news panic

Number of US residents who have died since the Swine Flu "pandemic":
0 people

Percentage of US residents who have caught the Swine Flu and are still alive:
100%

Total US population:
303,824,640

Total reported cases of Swine Flu in the US:
114

Percentage of US residents who have caught this normally nonfatal illness:
0.0000375%

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Question for Today

I observe our synod's practice of closed communion. There are no church services where I am at that could be considered Lutheran let alone a service in which we have altar fellowship. So there comes an interesting topic that has created the question for today:

"Is the adoration of the Lord's Supper appropriate during the eucharistic celebrations of other church bodies?"

I have my own opinion on this one, but I thought it might make for some intersting discussion.

Consider Adding this Priceless Devotional Resource

I'm out here pretty much on my own theologically. I knew this before I got here so I came prepared. I brought my library of books. I have by Book of Concord, my LSB, and my Brotherhood Prayerbook. I have paper Bibles and Biblegateway. I have Portals of Prayer and "God Grant It". Thanks to CPH's military shipping, I have collections from Chemnitz, Gerhard, and Walther. I also picked up several CD sets of Lutheran hymns and a couple Bach CDs as well. On my computer, I have put together a nice electronic collection of papers, devotional works, and ancient texts. I have downloads of Table Talk Radio, Fighting for the Faith, and Issues, Etc. I have the Lutheran blogosphere. I have... a ton of stuff.

All of these things are at my disposal and they are all really nice to have, but there is one resource that has proven itself to be of the most value. Second only to the daily lectionary, it is fast becoming the devotional tool that I recommend ahead of all others.

Add some good sermons! Invite the great preachers of our synod to your private devotions and sit at their feet for a few minutes each day.

By my estimation, there is nothing as helpful to a layman's daily devotional time as the liberal use of quality audio sermons. There is just no substitute for good Lutheran preaching and the only thing better than hearing God's Word preached rightly is hearing it preached rightly over and over again by several different pastors on a daily basis.

Give it a try. Download about 40 good audio sermons and crank through at least 7 to 10 a week and see what I am talking about. They are also great for travel on the MP3 player or in the car.

Here are the Pastors that I am following right now:

Pastor Peterson at Redeemer Lutheran - Fort Wayne, IN
Pastor Douthwaithe at St. Athanasius Lutheran - Vienna, VA
Pastor Wolfmueller at Hope Lutheran - Aurora, CO
Pastor Parks at University Hills Lutheran - Denver, CO
Pastor Cwirla at Holy Trinity Lutheran - Hacienda Hights, CA
Pastor Stuckwisch at Emmaus Evangelical Lutheran - South Bend, IN

I am always on the prowl for LCMS congregations that are so dedicated to the preaching of the gospel that they take the time to post their pastor's audio sermons on the websites for download. As a deployed Soldier with no LCMS chaplain, this has been a priceless resource! If you know of any other than the ones that I have listed, please let me know. Thanks!

P.S. - Check out Pr. Wolfmueller's "Exceeding Righteousness" sermon dated June 29, 2008 and Pr. Peterson's "Judica 2008" sermon. Listen to them back to back. Ouch! My inner Pharisee is still reeling!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Some Highlights and Random Thoughts

I have been gone for a couple weeks. I went on back home for some R&R leave from my deployment. I resolved not to blog during this time for obvious reasons. Here are just a few random thoughts and highlights to get back up to speed:

1. Thanks be to God for making it possible for me to return home for Holy Week! I got to hear Law and Gospel properly distinguished. I sat in rapt attention as I heard entire chapters of Holy Scripture being publicly read in service. I almost forgot how much I missed the Lutheran hymns and rich liturgy. Above all, I had my first opportunity to receive the Holy Eucharist since Christmas! What a rich blessing!

2. You don't appreciate how important having a strong church family and proper pastoral care is until you no longer have it.

3. I have institued quite a few changes in the way that I do business. The issues in my left wrist are becoming greatly improved. (No, Dan, I will never resort to Twitter.)

4. I have to brag on my wife. We were talking about an ancient theological dispute among early Lutherans. As we were talking about it, I mentioned that Martin Luther had voiced his opinion on the matter. I was about to tell her what Luther had said, but she interrupted me and said, "...but, before you continue, I have to ask: is this opinion of his supported by Scripture?"

Apparently her discernment detector is working just fine without me. =P

5. I have come to realize that a shocking majority of people waste most of their time looking at the macro-perspective. They worry about things they cannot change, debate issues that they are not in any position to influence, and exert maximum effort in the areas of their lives where they will get the least benefit. And then they spend the remaining time and energy complaining. I will develop this thought better in the coming days.

6. The Soldiers of the US Military constitute a largely untapped mission field for the church that is not being properly addressed. Case in point: When I was returning from leave, I was in a room with over 300 Soldiers. A chaplain gave a short welcome brief as we were processing back into theater. At the end of his presentation, he asked how many of us went to church during leave (which was the week before and after Easter). I counted only eight hands to include my own.

7. I ordered my copy of the Treasury of Daily Prayer and it is in the mail. If the sandstorms will cooperate, I might get it before the end of the month. I can hardly wait.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Ridley Scott and a Common Assumption of Marketing

Ridley Scott is a renowned director who is known for deep, thought-provoking film. He made an interesting quote about having to deal with the marketing side of film. Here Mr. Scott hits the nail on the head: when you over-market an idea, you essentially kill everything that is smart, true, and beautiful about it in order to make it universally appealing.

Why does this quote apply to the church? Because we live in an age where many people are so blinded and foolish that secular business comments like this can actually be used to critique the temple money-changers who are trying to incorporate the mystical Body of Christ so that it can be reinvented, reimagined, and presented like a mundane product.

Ridley Scott on Marketing's thought process:

"If you got it don't be afraid of being intelligent, right? You can't allow for the lowest common denominator. If they don't get it, too bad. Because sometimes the danger is that Marketing generally does believe that, if you come across as too intelligent, people won't go."

-Ridley Scott, The Director's Commentary for The Kingdom of Heaven: Director's Cut.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Christ: The Proper Subject of a Sermon

The Presbyterian Chaplain used this story in his homily today. He said that he thought of me (the "token Lutheran" in his liturgical service) when he decided to include it in the sermon outline. I decided to pass it along:

According to a story told by Dr. Albert Ouder...

King Charles XII of Sweeden, in 1716, visited the small seaport town of Ystad. He arrived unexpectedly at St. Mary's Lutheran Church for worship. When the pastor heard that the king was at the service he decided to put aside his prepared text and take this opportunity to praise King Charles for his leadership of the country. (How relevant of him! :P )

The king greeted the pastor after the service and left Ystad. A short time later the church received a large gift from the king. The pastor and the congregation opened the massive crate to find a life-sized crucifix. Attached to the cross was a note from the king. It gave the following command:

"Let this crucifix hang on the pillar opposite the pulpit,
so that all who shall stand there will be reminded of their proper subject."


I think that this is a great idea. Would that more churches adopt the mindset and architectural wisdom of King Charles XII!
Crux sola est nostra theologia.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Movie Quote

"A law can go too far. It can go too far; I ask myself, 'Would Jesus do it thusly?' There is so much done in Christendom of which Christ would be incapable."

-A Bishop, Kingdom of Heaven: Director's Cut

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Diagnosis

The diagnosis from the CASH is a volar ganglion cyst and the early onset of carple tunnel syndrome.

Your prayers have been answered: BOLL will now feature shorter posts since this author now has only one typing hand. =P

I'll have to work on my brevity. Doctor's orders.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Get Thee Behind Me Satan!

ATTENTION LCMS PASTORS!

In case you don't know already, William Young's book "The Shack" contains false doctrine and rank heresy. Not just a false doctrine or a rank heresy, but a veritable Baskin Robins with 31 Flavors of Error!

Let's put aside the blasphemous portrayal of God the Father as a cheap rip-off of the black woman from the Matrix for a second...

It denies the penal substitution of Christ's atonement as does its author. I would also point out that the author of this book is on record as denying the existance of a physical hell (but rather a "spiritual reality" that is "not seperation".) In the same interview, he said that the fire in reference to the "Lake of Fire" seems more like a "process of working out the stuff in our lives that actually damages us and damages relationships and damages people."

There is also alot of the Pelegian-family of errors in the book. In the book, God says: "In Jesus, I have forgiven all humans for their sins against me, but only some choose relationship." -The Shack, pg 225

There is also the error of Universalism in the book. I quote The Shack again: "Jesus said, 'Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptist or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don't vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions. I have followers who were murderers and many who were self-righteous. Some are bankers and bookies, Americans and Iraqis, Jews and Palestinians. I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my beloved.'" -The Shack, pg 182

In addition to that, it puts post-modern political jargon in Christ's mouth and presents neo-liberalism as something that Jesus promotes. This comes as no surprise since this fictional work comes from the pen of one of the gurus of the emerging church movement.

For a good review of the problems with this book, go here.

I only bring this up because there is at least one LCMS church that says it has "The Shack" out in the their fellowship hall for people to read. I am sure there are others. Yes... you guessed it, it's in my home district of Texas. Thanks guys... again. :(

I am not going to drop names and embarrass anyone at this point, but I think that I should point out how foolish it is to make heretical texts available to Christians without explaining the problems with it. It's even worse when you leave it out for your visitors to pick up. We share the good news about Jesus and not the doctrine of demons or the propoganda of political ideologues.

Kyrie Eleison!

Another deMotivational Poster

hehe... oh man! These things never get old!

Heads up all you snake-oil salesmen who call yourselves church planters:


Appearantly this guy is one of those "self feeders" that the hawaiian shirt sect always talks about. His fork is clearly purpose-driven.


My Torrid Love Affair Here in the Combat Zone

...with coffee, silly! =P

There is a coffee shop chain here in the combat zone. They are called Green Beans Coffee. You can find them back in the States, but they are on military bases. I would compare them to a military contract version of Starbucks, but they hate it when you do that.

Green Beans is a great coffee shop. They live up to their motto: "Honor First, Coffee Second" by donating proceeds from all their sales to charities that help the families of fallen Soldiers. Contrary to what people tell you about military contractors alot of them are the good guys.

Maybe I am biased because I am a 24 hour coffee drinker. My pot back in the States brews all day until its time to go home. I've made cups of coffee only minutes before bed time. I'm also a big fan of bold, dark roasts (Have you ever tried Starbucks' blend called Sumatra? Good stuff!) The closer it is to actually chewing on the beans the better it is. If I don't have a coffee cup in hand, people ask me if there is something wrong with me.

It all started back when I was a kid in the Boy Scouts. I was made the Senior Patrol Leader which made me the top kid before you got to the adult leadership. This meant alot of late nights and early mornings. One of the adult leaders introduced me to camp coffee because he got tired of listening to me complain before sunrise. I've never been able to put the stuff down since.

So Green Beans and I make a perfect team. I love dark coffee and they have the legendary MOAC. The MOAC is a coffee so epic that it has taken on mythological proportions among service members. Most people are too fearful to even try it. Fair-weather coffee drinkers don't have the stomach for it. Yes, my friends, MOAC separates the sissy from the caffeine addict... the crypto-Tory, royalty-toasting tea-sipper from a true American patriot! :P

What exactly is a MOAC you may ask?

Simple: M.O.A.C. is the Mother Of All Coffees. Even the name gives me the hyperactive jitters. Opening the lid to a MOAC is like rubbing your face in a full coffee tin. How strong is this thing? Well, let me save you the trip to over here by explaining what's in it. Make yourself a homemade MOAC and give it a try... if you're not a sissy.

Take a 24oz cup (the guys at Green Beans call it a "Quad". You have single, double, triple, quad sizes.) Okay... now get ready:

Brew up four (4) shots of espresso (if you are manly, make them doubles).
Pour those four (4) espresso shots into your cup.
Brew up a 12oz cup of dark roast coffee.
Pour that into the cup with the four (4) espresso shots.
If it's darker than a Hershey bar, you've done it right.
Serve it to your victim... errr customer.

Ah, good times. I love this thing. It'll be one of the little pleasures that I miss about being deployed.

Oh... and I drink it black!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Some of the Best of Krauth

As a fun exercise, I went over to Pastor Weedon's blog and typed "Krauth" in the search box. Now, all in one place ladies and gentlemen, here are some of the highlights from the quotes Pr. Weedon has posted:

"She [the Church] should lead men, not to the least faith, the least holiness which makes salvation possible, but to the very highest - she should not encourage the religion whose root is a selfish fear of hell, a selfish craving for heaven, but she should plant that religion to which pure truth is dear for its own sake, which longs for the fullest illumination, which desires not the easy road, but the sure one." -- C. P. Krauth, The Conservative Reformation, p. 191

"It is not charity to bear with others because the differences between us are trifling; it is charity to bear with them although the differences are great. Charity does not cover error; because error is the daughter of sin, and charity is the daughter of God. Charity covers errorists so far as she may without palliating their errors, for the errorist, as a man, is God's child." -- C. P. Krauth, The Conservative Reformation, p. 143

"A Church which contends for nothing has either lost the truth, or has ceased to love it." -- C. P. Krauth, The Conservative Reformation, p. 1147

"The sin is really in the condition of the will. The sin done is but phenomenal to the real sin." -- C. P. Krauth, The Conservative Reformation, p. 453

"It is vastly more important, then, to know what the Reformation retained than what it overthrew; for the overthrow of error, though often an indispensable prerequisite to the establishment of truth, is not truth itself; it may clear the foundation, simply to substitute one error for another, perhaps a greater for a less." -- C. P. Krauth, The Conservative Reformation, p. 202

"The private opinions of individuals, however influential, can in no sense establish or remove one word of the Creed of the Church. Any man who, on any pretense, gives ecclesiastical authority to private opinions, is robbing the Church of her freedom. She is to be held responsible for no doctrines which she has not officially declared to be her own." -- C. P. Krauth, The Conservative Reformation, p. 265

"It is a great mistake to suppose that our Evangelical Protestant Church is bound by consistency to hold a view simply because Luther held it. Her faith is not brought to the touchstone of Luther's private opinion, but his private opinion is to be tested by her confessed faith, when the question is, What is genuinely Lutheran?" -- C. P. Krauth, The Conservative Reformation, p. 265

"Man offers to God; this is sacrifice. God gives back to man; this is sacrament. The oblation, or thing offered, supplies both sacrifice and sacrament, but with this difference, that under the Old Dispensation, God received part and man received part; under the New, God receives all and gives back all: Jesus Christ, in His own divine person, makes that complete which was narrowed under the Old Covenant by the necessarily limitations of mere matter." -- C. P. Krauth, The Conservative Reformation, p. 591

"Rights, in themselves, give nothing, and cannot change the nature of things. The right to gather, gathers nothing; and if, under this right, the man gathers wood, hay, stubble, neither the right nor its exercise makes them into gold, silver, and precious stones. The Church will not put any violence upon him who chooses to gather what will not endure the fire; but she will not accept them as jewels, nor permit her children to be cheated by them. The right of private judgment and the right of Church discipline are co-ordinate and harmonious rights, essential to the prevention and abuse of the other. To uphold either intelligently is to uphold both. In maintaining, therefore, as Protestants, the right and duty of men, in the exercise of private judgment, to form their own convictions, unfettered by civil penalties in the State, or by inquisitorial powers in the Church, we maintain, also, the right and duty of the Church to shield herself from corruption in doctrine by setting forth the truth in Confession, by faithfully combating heresy, by personal warning to those that err, and, finally, with the contumacious, by rejecting them from her communion, till, through grace, they are led to see and renounce the falsehood, for which they claimed the name of truth." -- C. P. Krauth, The Conservative Reformation, p. 175

"Death is so tenaciously allied to sin that only God can separate them." -- C. P. Krauth, The Conservative Reformation, p. 411

"God's own appointments limit us, but do not limit Him." -- C.P. Krauth, The Conservative Reformation, p. 431

"There is no power in man, in his reason or in his will, none in education, none in the whole store of the visible, or the intellectual, or moral world, which can repair this fatal defect [having no true love, faith, or fear of God], and render him God's reverent, loving, and trusting child." -- Krauth, The Conservative Reformation, p. 390

"A regenerate man is always justified, a justified man is always regenerated; and unless a man be both, he is neither." -- Krauth, The Conservation Reformation, p. 419

"We do not interpret God's word by the Creed, neither do we interpret the Creed by God's Word, but interpreting both independently, by the laws of language, and finding that they teach one and the same truth, we heartily acknowledge the Confession as a true exhibition of the faith of the Rule - a true witness to the one, pure, and unchanging faith of the Christian Church, and freely make it our own Confession, as truly as if it had been now first uttered by our lips, or had first gone forth from our hands." -- Krauth, The Conservative Reformation, p. 169

"The faith of the Church now is identical with what it was in the Apostolic time, but the relation of identity does not preclude growth - it only excludes changes of identity. That faith must always be its essential self - whether as a babe receiving milk, or as a man enjoying strong meat. In a word, the advances are wrought, not by change in the Church's faith, but by the perpetual activity of that faith, a faith which because it is incapable of change itself, assimilates more and more to it the consciousness of the Church, her system of doctrine, her language, and her life." -- Krauth, The Conservative Reformation, p. 270

"The mightiest weapon which the Reformation employed against Rome was, not Rome's errors, but Rome's truths. It professed to make no new discoveries, to find no unheard-of interpretations but taking the Scriptures in that very sense to which the greatest of her writers had assented, uncovering the law and the gospel of God which she retained, applying them as her most distinguished and most honored teachers had applied them, though she made them of none effect by her traditions, the Reformation took into its heart the life-stream of sixteen centuries, and came forth in the stature and strength of a Christianity, grown from infancy in the primitive ages, to the ripened manhood of that maturer period. There was no fear of truth, simply because Rome held it, and no disposition to embrace error, because it might be employed with advantage to Rome's injury.... They allowed no authority but the Word of God, but they listened respectfully to the witness of believers of all time." --Krauth, The Conservative Reformation, p. 203

Great Krauth Quote

"It is a curious fact in denominational history, that as, an ordinary rule, the more large, catholic, and churchly the title of a sect, the smaller, narrower, and more sectarian is the body that bears it."
-Charles Porterfield Krauth, The Conservative Reformation, pg 115

Rhetorical Question: What sounds larger and more catholic and churchly than the titles flaunted by the "non-denominational" sects?

Thanks for NOTHING Microsoft Instant Messenger!

I have been called a Windows kool-aid drinker. So when I tell you to STAY AWAY from the new MSN Live Messenger 2009 for as long as possible, please realize how horrible it must be in order to drive me to warn you about it. I just installed it 10 minutes ago and I already hate it more than any other application that Microsoft has ever made.

I regret clicking "Okay" for the install.

Everything that was good and pure about the previous version was cut from it. Everything that was frustrating about the previous version was expanded and made more difficult to use.

Above all things is the new 5 second cap on all audio files that are used for notifications. If you want to use your own file for alerts, emails, etc... it can be no longer than 5 seconds.

Lame.

I used to use this feature to help me memorize stuff. I would get audio (sometimes a minute long) of something I wanted to memorize and tag it for my incoming emails. Whenever I got a new email notification, I would stop what I was doing and recite it with the audio. It was very helpful.

Well no more. Microsoft decided to pull a Mac and destroy all true creative capability for the user. Thanks for nothing. In your own way, MSN Messenger, you have contributed another pebble to the avalanche that is the "short attention span" problem in modern culture. Shame.

There is one glimmer of silver in this dung heap of a program: you can now IM people from other services. While this is a nice feature, it is long over due and is certainly not ground-breaking. Other IM services still do it better than this attempt.

MSN Live Messenger 2009: Making instant text communication cumbersome and useless... one unsuspecting user at a time.

-P.S.: Give me my longer alert file size back!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What Rap and Hip-Hop Could Be

Let's take a break from theology for a minute to talk about the poverty of modern culture. There are two aspects of this. The first is the selfishness that is pervasive and the attitude that says: "I'm doing this because I can... and I can do anything!" The second is the massive loss of true art in modern culture. Everything is so dumbed down, sanitized, and simplistic.

Check out this odd song. Both of my observations converge here. Not only are the ideas expressed in it way outside of normal popular music... this group actually uses old poetry principles like enjambment, unequal repetition, and onomatopoeia in the lyrics of their songs. Now if only they could get past the profanity in other songs we'd be set. Watch the subtle the transition of thought is as it slips from pride to narcissism... and from narcissism to arrogance... and then to tyranny!

I'll be happy to comment on my opinion of the views expressed by the author of "Handlebars", but for now I leave it to you, the reader, to analyze without further comment:


"Handlebars"
By The Flobots

I can ride my bike with no handlebars... No handlebars, no handlebars
I can ride my bike with no handlebars... No handlebars, no handlebars

Look at me! Look at me!
Hands in the air like it's good to be
Alive, and I'm a famous rapper
Even when the paths're all crookedy.
I can show you how to do-si-do.
I can show you how to scratch a record.
I can take apart the remote control,
And I can almost put it back together.

I can tie a knot in a cherry stem.
I can tell you about Leif Ericson.
I know all the words to "De Colores",
And "I'm Proud to be an American"
Me and my friend saw a platypus.
Me and my friend made a comic book;
And guess how long it took.
I can do anything that I want cuz, look:

I can keep rhythm with no metronome... No metronome, no metronome
And I can see your face on the telephone... On the telephone, on the telephone

Look at me! Look at me!
Just called to say that it's good to be
Alive in such a small world
I'm all curled up with a book to read.
I can make money open up a thrift store.
I can make a living off a magazine.
I can design an engine sixty-four
Miles to a gallon of gasoline.
I can make new antibiotics.
I can make computers survive aquatic
Conditions. I know how to run a business,
And I can make you wanna buy a product.
Movers shakers and producers;
Me and my friends understand the future.
I see the strings that control the system.
I can do anything with no resistance.

'Cause I can lead a nation with a microphone... With a microphone, with a microphone
And I can split the atoms of a molecule... Of a molecule, of a molecule

Look at me! Look at me!
Driving and I won't stop!
And it feels so good to be
Alive and on top!
My reach is global.
My tower secure.
My cause is noble.
My power is pure.
I can hand out a million vaccinations
Or let'em all die from exasperation.
Have'em all healed of their lacerations
Or have'em all killed by assassination!
I can make anybody go to prison
Just because I don't like'em, and
I can do anything with no permission;
I have it all under my command.

Because I can guide a missile by satellite... By satellite! By satellite!
And I can hit a target through a telescope... Through a telescope! Through a telescope!

And I can end the planet in a holocaust! In a holocaust! In a holocaust!
In a holocaust!
In a holocaust!
In a holocaust!

I can ride my bike with no handlebars... No handlebars, no handlebars
I can ride my bike with no handlebars... No handlebars, no handlebars

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The [Low, Low] Cost of Discipleship

Lord have mercy!

If there was ever a passage of Scripture that more preachers have done violence to through poor exegesis it has got to be Mark 8:31-38. (Okay... maybe aside from Matt 28:16-20... and, come to think of it also Matt 26:26-28... ...You know what? I'm just going to stop and move on with my original point.)

Mark 8:31-38. Never have I been subjected to more lukewarm, soft-peddled legalism in all my life! ARGH!

It is beyond me how anyone can hold a straight face as they preach this passage to support a purpose-driven theology of glory. God has a great plan for you, alright. You are called to die to self. You are called carry your cross to the place where you are made dead to the flesh and alive to Christ. Doesn't that sound like a ton of fun? Isn't that as cuddly as a bag full of kittens and rainbows? Doesn't that sound like the quick road to happiness and purpose? *smacks forehead*

So what's the answer? Well, certainly don't tell the people the truth about their calling. Don't nail them to the cross with the full weight of this passage and then bring them to life with total sufficiency of Christ's atonement for all sinners... heavens no! That's not pro-individual. That's not post-modern. That's not anthropocentric enough for us. We don't like the idea of us being total failures and Christ being a total savior. We don't want to be helpless like infants. We don't want a savior. We want an enabler... a divine life coach.

I have an idea: let's just invent our own exegetical damage control and soften the blow of Christ's words for the modern ear. Let's deprive our people of the benifit of the rebuke that Peter was given and tell them it will be okay if they just keep trying really really hard. Let's encourage them to keep deceiving themselves into thinking that every minor deviation from their original life plan is actually the hidden hand of God. Better yet, let's point them to those moments rather than to their baptism, the Lord's Supper, and the confession of sins. Let's put a veil on over Moses' face and pretend that we've got this "Christian" thing nailed down solid. *smacks forehead again*

Lord, when will You free us of this mediocre spirituality that is masquerading as deep, Biblical truth? When will You reject the message of these false teachers and return the wayward church to the sound doctrine of Christ crucified for the souls of men? How long must we languish, O Lord? How long?