Archive for July, 2009

We’ve Won the Lottery: Now What?

July 31st, 2009 2 comments

This is a great article by Mark Galli who makes a radical proposal to American Evangelicals: stop working so hard to make God happy and start to focus more on what has made God happy. Hint: It’s all about Jesus! Great read. Check it out.

How Important is Your Congregation’s Web Site?

July 30th, 2009 Comments off

Here is an interesting article reporting on a survey of congregations and their web sites. Food for thought  in the July Issue of Christian Computing magazine, which you can read here:

Categories: Internet Resource

“I was hooked” – Praise for the Concordia Commentary series

July 30th, 2009 Comments off

I love it when folks beyond our Lutheran Church notice the kinds of resources that Concordia Publishing House is producing. Here was a nice blog post I just noticed by Ray Van Neste, a contributor to Preaching Magazine, and a professor and pastor. He just discovered the Concordia Commentary series and says he is now “hooked.” He wrote this on his blog:

I try to stay fairly well aware of commentaries and commentary series with my work at the Ryan Center for Biblical Studies and in writing an annual survey of Bible reference works for Preaching Magazine. However, I have recently realized that I had entirely missed a significant series. As part of the work for this fall’s article for Preaching Magazine, I have been perusing Reed Lessing’s volume on Amos in the Concordia Commentary. When I read the series description I was hooked. Here is the description:

Concordia Commentary: A Theological Exposition of Sacred Scripture is written to enable pastors and teachers of the Word to proclaim the Gospel with greater insight, clarity, and faithfulness to the divine intent of the biblical text. This landmark work will cover all the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments, interpreting Scripture as a harmonious unity centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Every passage bears witness to the Good News that God has reconciled the world to Himself through our Lord’s life, death, and resurrection.

The commentary fully affirms the divine inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of Scripture as it emphasizes “that which promotes Christ” in each pericope. Authors are sensitive to the rich treasury of language, imagery, and themes found throughout Scripture, including such dialectics as Law and Gospel, sin and grace, death and new life, folly and wisdom, this fallen world and the new creation in Christ. Careful attention is given to the original Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. Further light is shed on the text from archaeology, history, and extrabiblical literature. Finally, Scripture’s message is applied to the ongoing life of the church in terms of ministry, worship, proclamation of the Word, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, confession of the faith—all in joyful anticipation of the life of the world to come.

Close attention to original languages, Christo-centric reading, and an eye toward the life of the church. And that description is so well written! Of course writing a series description and fulfilling it can be two different things, but this Amos volume seems to accomplish the goals.

I have only seen one volume, but this is now certainly a series I will look for.

Categories: CPH Resources

They Would Not Think of Doing This to the Quran

July 30th, 2009 1 comment

Christians outraged after Bible defaced at Scottish art exhibit

By Trevor Grundy
Edinburgh, 30 July (ENI)–Organizers of an exhibition in Glasgow which encouraged society’s marginalised to write comments in the margins of a Bible have now placed the sacred book behind a transparent screen to prevent offensive messages being written on it.

The exhibition, “Made in God’s Image”, at the city’s Gallery of Modern Art opened on 25 June and is scheduled to end on 22 August.

On show, as part of series of exhibitions focusing on human rights, was a Bible and a container of pens and a notice saying: “If you feel you have been excluded from the Bible, please write your way back into it.”

Comments written in the margins of the sacred text included, “f…k the Bible”, “Jesus is a bisexual”, “This is all sexist pish”, “I am bi[sexual], female and proud. I want no God who is disappointed in this.”

The controversy over the exhibit came days after the release of a report by Durham University which found that knowledge of the Bible is in decline in Britain, with fewer than one in 20 people able to name all Ten Commandments and youngsters viewing the Holy Book as “old fashioned”.

“It is the first recognition of something which we all knew in our gut,” said the Rev. Brian D. Brown, a visiting fellow at St John’s College in Durham University. “We knew it was there but we weren’t exactly willing to face it,” he was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency

In Glasgow, a group of about 100 Christians gathered outside the art gallery on 28 July to protest against the exhibition. After the protests, organizers placed the Bible in a transparent container so it can be seen, but not touched.

Visitors are now given pieces of blank paper where they can register their names, their feelings about religion and the Bible and their comments.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported an unnamed advisor to Pope Benedict XVI as describing the project as “disgusting and offensive”, and saying, “They would not think of doing it to the Quran.”

The exhibit was meant to enable people who feel marginalised by society and the churches to express themselves, said artist Jane Clarke, a minister of the Metropolitan Community Church, which caters mainly for the spiritual needs of gay men and lesbian women.

“I am saddened that some people have chosen to write offensive messages,” she said in a statement. “Writing our names in the margins of a Bible was to show how we have been marginalised by many Christian churches, and also our desire to be included in God’s love.”

Two artists, Anthony Schrag and David Malone, created the exhibition in association with organizations representing Gay Christians and Muslims. Schrag, the gallery’s artist in residence, was born in Zimbabwe but was brought up in the Middle East and Canada. [484 words]
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Categories: Culture

Audio Interview about J. S. Bach

July 29th, 2009 Comments off

I did an interview about Bach on Issues Etc. yesterday. You can give it a listen here. Please forgive my singing, to make a point. My first “on air” singing debut.

Categories: Bach

Muslims in SE Asia Don’t Want Christians Using the Word Allah

July 28th, 2009 1 comment

So, some Christians think that “Allah” is a perfectly fine name for Christians to use for “God” when speaking to Muslims. Well, seems some Muslims don’t take too kindly to this. Here is a fascinating story from Christianity Today on this.

Agnes Monica is the Miley Cyrus of Southeast Asia. The Indonesian teen singer’s face is ubiquitous. Her performances are packed out. But in Selangor, Malaysia, no one is allowed to play her song “Allah Peduli” (“God Cares”). Monica is a Christian, and Malaysian law bans non-Muslims from referring to God as Allah.

The ban on “God Cares” is one application of state laws widely opposed by the island nation’s Christians and other non-Muslims. Few question whether Allah is the God of the Bible—to Malaysian Christians, Allah is simply the word for God.

The decades-old state laws have gained recent prominence through The Herald, the national Catholic newspaper. Beginning in 1998, Malaysia’s Ministry of Home Affairs has sent letters to editor and priest Lawrence Andrew asking him to cease using Allah in the paper’s Malay edition. In 2007, the government threatened to ban the newspaper. Thus began a long legal battle, with government representatives issuing conflicting orders and the paper suing to both publish in Malay and continue its use of the theonym.

The newspaper acquired a printing permit for 2009. But on May 28, the church lost its suit to legally use Allah. A high court hearing that began July 7 should resolve the newspaper’s legal status.

Perhaps in anticipation of another unfavorable ruling, the Indonesian organization Yayasan Lentera Bangsa has published a new translation of the Bible in Indonesian. Allah does not appear in the Kitab Suci Indonesian Literal Translation (KS-ILT). Instead, the publishers transliterated Hebrew terms (such as Elohim) and substituted some less-common Indonesian names for God.

“Coincident with the forbidding of the use of Allah by non-Muslims in Malaysia, we think it is the time for us to release ourselves from the dilemma,” said editor Jahja Iskandar.

Mainstream churches, however, have been hostile to the KS-ILT. Neither the Bible Society of Indonesia nor that of Malaysia has approved the translation. The National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) of Malaysia issued a statement “strongly opposing” the translation. “We continue to maintain the right to use Allah as it has been so used for over 300 years in Malaysia,” the group said.

Evangelical observers support NECF’s move. “Theologically and missiologically, Allah is a very appropriate way [for Southeast Asian Christians] to refer to God,” said Ajith Fernando, national director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka.

Christians and Muslims sometimes misunderstand Allah to be purely Islamic. Instead, it is the Arabic word for God and a close semantic relative of the Hebrew El.

Christians have used the word for centuries, and the conflict is not new. A Wycliffe translator who has been in the region for several years said this debate began when the first Bible was published in Malay, using Allah, in 1985.

The Herald’s leadership and the NECF see the debate as a matter of freedom rather than linguistics. They are concerned that the law marginalizes non-Muslims, who make up almost half of Malaysia’s population.

Andrew says the crackdown on his newspaper indicates “the country is moving away from the multireligious and multiethnic composition that negotiated independence from the British to a domination of one race over all.”

In addition to the linguistic and human rights aspects of the debate, Malaysian Christians must also keep missiology in mind.

An Allah-free translation into a Malay language can be done correctly, but it would be confusing, said the Wycliffe translator. Importing a word for God instead of using the most accessible local term often causes people to think of God himself as a foreign import.

“My opinion is that using Allah in Indonesia is strategic, if the point is to have people understand who Christ is,” said the translator, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The negative impact of not using it is that it would make it harder for a Muslim to pick up a Bible.”

On the other hand, the controversy itself may make Allah a less appropriate term, said Fernando. “We want to make the Muslims our friends. We are not there to defeat them in a battle or an argument. We want them to come to Christ,” he said. “This is the practical reality we have to bow down to, although theologically it may be unnecessary.”

Should Christians in Malaysia stop calling God Allah? If so, Fernando said, it would be for reasons other than accurate translation. “The only advantage is to avoid outrage,” he said. “I can’t see any other advantage.”
• Susan Wunderink


Categories: Islam

Correcting a Common Misperception of Lutheranism: Good Works and the Christian

July 27th, 2009 1 comment

mistakePastor Weedon posted a thoroughly clear and correct blog post today, clearing up a very common misperception about Lutheranism. Preach it, Brother Weedon! From Weedon’s Blog

Some former Lutherans persist in slandering our faith by saying that it is spiritually damaging – pointing especially to the teaching that we are simultaneously just and sinner. Thus, to their way of thinking, Lutherans teach that one may intentionally and willfully persist in sin and rejoice in forgiveness. But this is a complete falsification of our teaching.

Lutherans state unequivocally:

Nor indeed is this faith idle knowledge, nor can it coexist with mortal sin. Ap. IV.115

For through one’s entire life, repentance contends with the sin remaining in the flesh. Paul testifies that he wars with the law in his members, not by his own powers, but by the gift of the Holy Spirit that follows the forgiveness of sins. This gift daily cleanses and sweeps out the remaining sins and works to make a person truly pure and holy…The Holy Spirit does not permit sin to have dominion, to gain the upper hand so that it is carried out, but represses and restrains it from doing what it wants. If sin does what it wants, the Holy Spirit and faith are not present. SA III, 3, 40, 44.

The person who dares to say “God loves to forgive; I love to sin; what a deal!” is no Lutheran and no Christian.

What simul justus et peccator is rather seeking to confess is that to be a Christian is to be in a life-long struggle against the flesh and its lusts. You will never advance to a point where the struggle is ended. It goes on to the very end. The fact of the struggle doesn’t mean one isn’t a Christian (the absence of the struggle does!). As St. Paul wrote of himself to the Romans: “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh, for I have the desire to do what it right, but not the ability to carry it out.” (7:18)

Such is the sad experience of every Christian: we can and do make progress in following our Savior, and yet we find that there is inside of us a wretched fountain of corruption that continues to pollute us. It drives us to the joy of grace. The joy of simul justus et peccator is that we are not condemned before God for this fountain of corruption in our flesh; we fight it with every weapon of the Spirit and resist it to the grave, and we rejoice that it will finally be extinguished and removed from us on the day of our death, when our Baptism into Christ is completed, and we put off this body of death. When we are resurrected, this fountain of corruption will not be resurrected within us. And for that all glory to God!

To confess simul justus et peccator is thus the exact opposite of saying “don’t worry; do what you want; you’re forgiven.” It’s rather saying: “Since you are forgiven, you have the Spirit to fight tooth and nail to the bitter end against this sin which inheres in your flesh and to be assured as you battle that you will win the final victory if only you remain under the forgiving blood of the Lamb of God.”

Such a teaching is anything but spiritually damaging; it is in fact the only comfort and source of peace you can find when confronted with the ongoing wretched flood of filth from the flesh. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Categories: Lutheranism

Update on The Lutheran Study Bible

July 24th, 2009 2 comments
012030Here’s an update on the progress of The Lutheran Study Bible:

(1) We received and reviewed the covers for both regular and larger print editions. They will come in black and burgundy, with a gold embroidered “The Lutheran Study Bible” name on the outside. They have sturdy handles and definitely offer a nice, sturdy canvas to protect your TLSB, room for pens and note paper, etc. in the inside. They will be offered as accessories you can order. Look for them on the sign up sheets coming to your church soon.

(2) We received the leather cover proofs from the printer, with gold foil, to take a gander at.

(3) The Bible is printing right now. The regular edition is printed, is being assembled, stitched, thumb index notches being cut on those copies. The larger print edition is on press now too.

(4) NOTE: These are not wimpy little bibles. The regular print edition weighs 4.5 pounds, the larger print edition weighs 7.1 pounds! Be prepared. You may want to start doing some weight training now, or buy two larger prints, and using the cover with the handle, you can get a good physical and spiritual exercise thing going.

(5) Orders continue to pour in: WORD TO THE WISE: Since we are shipping TLSB out in a “first come, first served” manner, please, get your order in now to make sure you get your Bible in the first print run.

(6) The promo kit is dropping in the mail first week of August, so you should have it by mid-August, that is: it is going to 20,000 congregations in the USA and Canada.

(7) Finally, there are over 1,000 people following The Lutheran Study Bible’s Twitter Feed. Give it a follow:

That’s it for now.

Ten Commandments of Social Networking

July 22nd, 2009 2 comments

This appeared in Publisher’s Weekly online edition, and was aimed most directly at authors of religious publications, or editors, etc. but….you might find something in here that rings a bell, or strikes a chord, or resonates….pick your musical metaphor! I read it and wondered, “Would people really want me to post to my blog four or five times…every day?” And, “I do not follow everyone who follows me on Twitter, is that bad?” Give it a read and share your thoughts here, if you like. Or not. Either way, an interesting piece. Here is the link to it:

Categories: Social Networking

Trouble in the Antiochian Orthdox Church?

July 19th, 2009 Comments off

OutlookThere have been a relatively small handful of LCMS pastors who have, very publicly, swum the Bosporus to join Eastern Orthoxy. A number of these converts have chosen the Antiochian Orthodox Church, for a variety of reasons, but I suspect one reason above all, even if they would not admit it, is the AOC’s eagerness to receive converts from other church’s clergy and lay membership rolls and make priests out of non-Orthodox clergy at a speed that would make a Baptist Bible college blush. It is a well known fact that the AOC has been very aggresive in pursuing members from other churches, clergy and lay members alike.

As part of the reasons cited for leaving, we heard former LCMS extolling the virtues of the Antiochian Orthodox Church, in what can only be described as starry-eyed naivete, even while they were severely criticizing their own church body, turning a blind-eye to what many of us warned them was no bed of roses in the AOC. Now however the simmering tensions and problems in the AOC have erupted into what now is even getting the attention of the media, never a good thing, to be sure.  Here is the story.

This is a tragedy for Christians in this church, and I hope and pray that those who were misled to think they were entering into some sort of ecclesiastical promised land are not so disheartened by all this mess that they leave the Church. We pray that Satan will not have his way with those who are discouraged by these events.

Categories: Eastern Orthodoxy

The Prayer of Prayers: The Lord’s Prayer

July 17th, 2009 Comments off

There is no finer prayer for Christians to pray than the prayer Christ Himself has taught us. It has the command, example and promise of the Lord Himself, unlike any other prayer. So, when a friend, or a relative, asks you how to pray, give them the Lord’s Prayer. The Large Catechism puts matters very well, about the real and original “Jesus prayer,” our Lord’s Prayer, which He has given to us:

We should be moved and drawn to prayer. . . God expects us and He Himself arranges the words and form of prayer for us. He places them on our lips for how and what we should pray [Psalm 51:15], so that we may see how heartily He pities us in our distress [Psalm 4:1], and we may never doubt that such prayer is pleasing to Him and shall certainly be answered. 23 This ‹the Lord’s Prayer› is a great advantage indeed over all other prayers that we might compose ourselves. For in our own prayers the conscience would ever be in doubt and say, “I have prayed, but who knows if it pleases Him or whether I have hit upon the right proportions and form?” Therefore, there is no nobler prayer to be found upon earth than the Lord’s Prayer. We pray it daily [Matthew 6:11], because it has this excellent testimony, that God loves to hear it. We ought not to surrender this for all the riches of the world. 24 The Lord’s Prayer has also been prescribed so that we should see and consider the distress that ought to drive and compel us to pray without ceasing [1 Thessalonians 5:17]. For whoever would pray must have something to present, state, and name, which he desires. If he does not, it cannot be called a prayer.

1,000+ and climbing: Followers of The Lutheran Study Bible’s Tweets!

July 16th, 2009 Comments off

Picture 2Don’t think there is anything good about Twitter, twittering, following tweets, etc.? I understand, I used to think so myself. But….then I realized that, for me, the best part of Twitter was the micro-blogging aspect of it. It is a quick way to get fast updates on sports, weather, news…and there are also some good substantial content delivery via Twitter. Case in point? The Lutheran Study Bible’s Twitter feed. Each morning, at 7:00 a.m. Central Daylight Time, a “tweet” is sent out, a very short message, a quote from The Lutheran Study Bible’s notes. Sometimes it’s a a word of encouragement, or inspiration, or information, or a prayer. Just a daily little message. A nice way to start the day. If you want to follow, come on over to and sign up for Twitter and follow, you are all set. And yes, I know, some of you will send a comment declaring how stupid and a big waste of time Twitter is. I understand. I used to do that too.

Categories: Social Networking

US Episcopal Church votes to lift ban on consecrating gay bishops

July 15th, 2009 3 comments

US Episcopal Church votes to lift ban on consecrating gay bishops
Ecumenical News International
Daily News Service
15 July 2009

By Daniel Burke

Anaheim , California, 15 July (ENI/RNS)–The U.S. Episcopal Church on 14 July overwhelmingly voted to lift a three-year-old moratorium on consecrating gay and lesbian bishops, despite warnings that the ban was necessary to preserve unity in the wider Anglican Communion.

A large majority of Episcopal bishops, priests and lay delegates gathered here for the church’s triennial General Convention asserted that “God has called and may call” gays and lesbians in lifelong committed relationships “to any ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church.”

More than 70 percent of lay and clergy delegates in the church’s House of Deputies approved lifting the moratorium on 14 July; the church’s House of Bishops had approved it the day before by a 2-to-1 margin.

While the resolution clears the way for gay and lesbian bishops, it does not mandate that dioceses must consider them, nor does it guarantee that, if elected, they will receive the necessary ratification votes to serve.

“This is a day to rejoice for the Church – no, let me be more specific, this is a day to rejoice in the Episcopal Church, which once again has stood for the full inclusion of all,” openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire wrote on his blog.

Robinson also wrote that bishops who voted to lift the ban “will pay a price for opening their hearts, much as gay and lesbian people in this Church have paid a price for their exclusion. I applaud them for their courage and will stand with them in the consequences of their vote.”

Also late on 14 July, Episcopal bishops debated a resolution that would begin the development of liturgical rites to bless same-sex unions, and enable bishops in states where gay marriage is legal to change marriage rites in the Book of Common Prayer to be gender neutral.

The resolution, if passed by the bishops, would also need the approval of lay and clergy delegates before it could become church law. Robinson’s consecration in 2003 caused a furore in the 77 million-member Anglican Communion, which counts the 2.1 million-member Episcopal Church as its U.S. branch. Many Anglicans, particularly in the Global South where their numbers are growing rapidly, say homosexuality is sinful and unbiblical.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of Anglicans worldwide, warned in mid-2008 at a meeting of more than 600 bishops from around the world that the communion would be in “grave peril” should the moratorium on gay bishops be lifted.

Addressing the General Convention as it opened last week, Williams said, “Along with many in the communion, I hope and pray that there won’t be decisions in the coming days that will push us further apart.”

Since Robinson’s election in 2003, every key intra-Anglican body – from leading archbishops to international councils – has warned the Episcopal Church not to consecrate or elect any more gay bishops.

Already, several archbishops, particularly those in the Global South, have severed ties with the Episcopal Church over its gay-friendly policies. In the U.S., four dioceses opposed to those policies and dozens of parishes have seceded from the denomination and formed the rival Anglican Church in North America.

The Anglican Communion Institute, a think tank, said that “The Episcopal Church is already out of communion with the majority of the world’s Anglicans,” and predicted that more dioceses would leave the church.

Bishop Henry Parsley of Alabama, who voted against lifting the moratorium, said, “I long for us to be an inclusive church, but not a polarised church,” according to Episcopal Life, the denomination’s official news outlet. “We need to be part of the larger Anglican Communion in what we do in this matter.”

Urging fellow delegates to reject the resolution, Zack Brown, a lay youth delegate, said, “Please don’t vote in a way that makes more conservatives feel the way I do now: like I’m the only one left.”

The resolution on gay bishops also encourages Episcopalians to “participate to the fullest extent possible” in the Anglican Communion, and reminds the global church that the Episcopal Church contributed more than US$660 000 – almost one-third of the budget – to funding the communion’s bureaucracy in 2007.

While some Episcopalians argue that their church never enacted an official moratorium on gay bishops, it voted at its last meeting, in 2006, to urge dioceses to “exercise restraint” by not electing bishops “whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will
lead to further strains on communion”.

No gay bishops have been elected since that resolution was passed at the urging of the church’s then-newly elected Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, though several dioceses have considered gay and lesbian candidates. Jefferts Schori voted on 13 July to lift the moratorium.

The Rev. Susan Russell, president of the pro-gay Episcopal group Integrity USA, said the resolution “was another step in the Episcopal Church’s `coming out’ process — and it sends a strong `come and see’ message to anyone looking for a faith community where God’s inclusive love is not just proclaimed but practiced.” [855 words]

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The Lutheran Study Bible Introductory and Promo Videos

July 14th, 2009 3 comments

Here are the five introductory videos and the promotional video for The Lutheran Study Bible. Feel free to pull the embed code from YouTube and post to your blog sites, web sites, etc.

Introductory Videos

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Promotional Video

Reactions/Responses to The Lutheran Study Bible

July 14th, 2009 1 comment

We are starting to receive responses to the review copy of The Lutheran Study Bible we sent out to a number of folks to take a look at. Here are the first few:

“Without a doubt The Lutheran Study Bible is the most significant Study Bible ever produced in the Lutheran tradition. Moreover, it is one of the most thorough Study Bibles that has been published in any faith, and it will certainly benefit other like-minded individuals in the Protestant tradition. I know of no other concise resource that provides a purely distinct Lutheran interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. It is with the highest level of confidence that I commend The Lutheran Study Bible.”

David W. Jones, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Christian Ethics
Coordinator of Th.M. and Thesis Studies
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, North Carolina

“Both lay and clergy alike will make good use of the copious study notes, maps, charts, cross-references, and articles included in The Lutheran Study Bible. I appreciate the attention paid to the writings of the church fathers, which preserve this important part of our heritage. This is an excellent study Bible following in the tradition of the Weimar Bible, the study Bible of 17th century Lutheranism. It will be a valuable addition to every personal Library.”

Rev. Gaylin R. Schmeling, President
Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary
Mankato, MN

“A study Bible by Lutherans for Lutherans without neglecting our connection to the larger church! Employing the best current biblical scholarship The Lutheran Study Bible provides links between the scriptural bases for the teachings central to the faith and our confessional heritage that will help Lutherans more clearly articulate why we believe what we believe. I particularly appreciate the emphasis on the centrality of Scripture in faith formation within the context of a Christian Congregation.”

Rev. Dr. John G. Brunner, President Emeritus
Eastern District, The  Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod