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Archive for May, 2011

Comments on Blogs: Different Schools of Thoughts

May 31st, 2011 8 comments

When it comes to blog comments, there are basically two schools of thought: open unmoderated comments, on the one hand, to moderated commenting, on the other. I recently experienced, once again, the down side of unmoderated comments. I was engaged in an ongoing conversation on a blog site about a post put up by a pastor. We were having a vigorous back and forth, but finally it kind of devolved into a convoluted mess due to the fact that the blog site where the post is featured allows anyone to post and say anything on any given topic. That’s one approach to dealing with comments on a blog site.

Unfortunately, I’ve never seen it work well, particularly in a linear comment format. It is far too easy to see any good conversation derailed into inane chatter about a host of issues that have nothing to do with the original blog post. And, in this case, this is precisely what happened, in addition to the comment count ballooning to nearly 500 comments, which bogged the entire site’s performance. I’d estimate that 70% of the comments on the post had very little, or nothing, to contribute to the point of the blog post to begin with. And, as is usually the case, with unmoderated comments, what ends up happening is that the same half-dozen people dominate all the conversation. In the case of this particular blog site, there is one person who feels what can only be described as a compulsion to chatter on incessantly about anything that happens to pop into her head. This is why I believe for productive conversations to take place on blog sites, or forums, there needs to be a good, solid comment policy in place to which people are held accountable.

The people who want to dominate conversation on your blog site won’t like it. The people who want to post little nasty-grams won’t like it. It’s always amusing to me that people who whine about their comments not being approved, assume that I have some kind of draconian policy by which I delete comments left and right. Truth be told, I would estimate that 98% of all comments submitted to my blog site get approved and posted. My blog comment policy has served me well, and I’ll share it here again for those who are into blogging. You might find it helpful. I have this posted under the “about this blog” link at the top of the site.

COMMENT POLICY: READ THIS CAREFULLY:
I don’t mean to sound harsh, but please understand that you have no “right” to make a comment on my blog. I welcome them. I appreciate them, and I thank you for them, but every once in a while along comes a particularly crabby person who demands that I post their comment. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. If you have a comment to share, feel free to post it. I do moderate comments and reserve the right to reject and/or edit comments, entirely at my discretion. I think of comments as letters to the editor of a newspaper: those that are signed, short, to the point, and make a positive and/or interesting contribution to the post’s topic are much more likely to be be approved. I highly discourage anonymous comments. If you have something to say, be willing to identify yourself and be held accountable for your remarks. If you are looking for a place to engage in extended debate, also known as “comment wars,” this blog won’t be your cup of tea, or coffee. I don’t apologize for the fact that I use comments on this blog to facilitate the purpose of the blog. Finally, if you don’t like my comment policy, I invite you to start your own blog and rant, rave, argue and otherwise pontificate to your heart’s content, just like I do here. That’s what’s fun about blogging!

 

Categories: Blogging

Remembering with Thanks, Honoring the Fallen

May 30th, 2011 Comments off

Categories: Uncategorized

Communion Without Baptism: A Perfectly Consistent Practice

May 28th, 2011 25 comments

David Virtue, who for years has been documenting errors and problems across the worldwide Anglican communion, had an interesting article on this growing trend, which I’ve also seen popping up in ELCA congregations as well. For that matter, in those congregations that do not practice a serious approach to closed communion, I think there is little to prevent this practice, de facto, from happening. Your thoughts? Here is Mr. Virtue’s article.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy on Communion without Baptism
Date 2011/5/25 8:50:00 | Topic: Exclusives

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy on Communion without Baptism

By David W. Virtue
www.virtueonline.org
May 25, 2011

[Holy Communion] It is unofficial of course. No one is supposed to know it is going on and it is certainly not approved by the canons of The Episcopal Church – but it is happening around the country. Communion is being offered to people who are not baptized. It is known as Communion Without Baptism (CWOB).

The most blatant case was at a House of Bishops meeting in 2001 presided over by then Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold. In Arrowhead in March of that year, bishops were forced to sit through lectures by a Jewish faculty member from Griswold’s alma mater in Massachusetts on how to lead the Christian church. The man was truly offensive, according to a bishop who wrote to VOL at that time. Later, following the lecture, then Bishop of Vermont, Adelia MacLeod, dragged the speaker to the altar rail for communion.

The bishop wrote, “Others, the sicker kind, had a sick need to make up with this offensive person and actually forced him to receive Holy Communion, one dragging him on either side, managing to violate his integrity and the integrity of his religion and ours. The perpetrators were women who did not care that he was clearly not in love and charity with his neighbor and who see the sacrament as nothing more than ‘hospitality’.”

There was no apology for his behavior, no apology for the violation of the sacrament and we went on, he wrote. My story on this and other behaviors of Frank Griswold “GRISWOLD AGONISTES” appears here: (http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=3367).

A decade later, CWOB is now more blatant than ever and publicly obvious. St. Mark’s in Washington, DC, describes itself on a billboard as The Church of the Open Communion – “wherever you are on your faith journey, whatever you believe or don’t believe, baptized or not, we welcome you to join us.” http://www.stmarks.net/who-we-are/about-us/about-st-marks/

Today with a nudge-nudge, wink-wink, liberal Episcopal parishes pay lip service to baptism as a pre requisite for taking Holy Communion. In The Episcopal Church, all baptized Christians-no matter age or denomination-are welcome to “receive communion. Episcopalians invite all baptized people to receive, not because we take the Eucharist lightly, but because we take our baptism so seriously. Visitors who are not baptized Christians are welcome to come forward during the Communion to receive a blessing from the presider. Nowhere is communion offered to an unbaptized person.

Episcopal Church Canon I.17.7 however, is unambiguous. It states: “No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church.”

But The Episcopal Church flouts canon law on a number of issues especially and including sexuality. CWOB is just one more issue where canon law and ecclesiastical polity have been tossed out the window.

In a video put out by the Episcopal Church, The Rev. Paul Lane of St. Paul’s, Chicago, says that “everyone is welcome to eat at this table…” no mention is made of baptism as a prerequisite for partaking of the Lord’s Supper.

The video mixes worship styles in a changing culture with strong emphasis on diverse contexts. “The community is gathered around the altar. Everyone is welcome to eat at God’s table…the table is wide open. [We] welcome everyone to the table without exception,” states Lane.

In reconfiguring the church to meet the growing diversity in the Chicago neighborhood, Lane determined the cross to be offensive. “The cross is non welcoming to non-Christians so it was put at the back of the church.”

St. Jude, Wantagh, NY, is also featured by The Episcopal Church as being a healthy Episcopal congregation under the rubric, “Transforming Churches, Changing the World”. The church bills itself as “a welcoming community of faith, embracing and serving all of God’s children regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, disability or socio-economic condition.” No distinctions of behavioral practice are mentioned.

A study released in 2005 by the Diocese of Northern California estimated that a majority of dioceses have congregations that practice CWOB. Of the church’s 110 dioceses, 48 responded to the Northern California survey. 24 reported they had parishes that practice CWOB while a seven dioceses were reported to “probably allow CWOB.”

The dumbing down of doctrine to make the church more acceptable to non-Christians might have short term gains. In the long run, however it will fail. The church is supposed to be a counter culture to the world’s values. TEC’s attempt to downplay its exclusive character will only make it indistinguishable from the world.

People who have not confessed Christ as personal Savior and Lord remain in bondage to sin and therefore, in the words of St. Paul, “anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.” (1 Cor. 11:29) – NIV

The Rt. Rev. Dr. John Rodgers in his new book Essential Truths for Christians, A Commentary on the 39 Articles wrote of Article 28 that “to participate in unbelief, or in any other unworthy manner, is to profane the sacrament, to dishonor God and to bring judgment upon oneself. Repentant faith is essential to a right use of the sacrament because the nature of Christ’s self-giving is personal and because the Lord’s Supper is for sinner who receive unmerited grace therein.

“Jesus speaks about the importance of humble, repentant faith in connection to worship. The Apostle Paul warns us that to profane the Sacrament will bring serious consequences. It is far better to judge oneself and partake of the sacrament only in a worthy manner, in repentance and faith, than to offend the Lord,” concluded Rodgers.

The Episcopal Church’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy will prove to be yet another nail in its coffin.

END

This article comes from VirtueOnline

http://www.virtueonline.org/portal

He who hesitates is lost…. Spring Sale Ends Next Tuesday: Act Now

May 27th, 2011 4 comments

I know, I know. You are tired of me nudging you to take advantage of the CPH Spring Sale. But, you can get some really terrific prices on so many resources: The Lutheran Study Bible, Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, Lutheranism 101 and many, many more. The sale ends next Tuesday and I can promise you that on Wednesday I’ll get messages saying, “Oh, we missed the sale, can we still get the sale price?” So….act now and don’t miss your chance to get great prices on great resources. You can look through the catalog by clicking this link. If you order at least $75 worth of things, from the Spring catalog, you will get free shipping. OK, this is my last warning, final call…..he who hesitates is lost. Act now. Seriously. I’m not making this up you know.

Why I Do Not Work in the CPH Design Department: First Look at the Concordia Triglotta Cover

May 26th, 2011 17 comments

I’m happy to tell you that work on reprinting the Concordia Triglotta is progressing nicely and I’ll keep you posted on more details as plans shape up. We’ve got the cover design finalized. I thought you would like to see the “before” and “after” shot of the cover. First, the design I submitted to the design department. Second, the design they returned. I think their design is a little better than mine, not much, but only a little. I think my design inspired our team to greatness. Do you agree?

My Design


 

The CPH Design Department’s Design



Cautions, Concerns and Opportunities with Small Groups in Lutheran Congregations

May 26th, 2011 25 comments

 

 

From time to time there erupts on the Internet some pretty heated conversations over the place and propriety of small groups in Lutheran congregations. Some would advocate an “all or nothing” approach to the issue, while others, including me, think there is a more nuanced approach that is more helpful. Some take the approach that either “small group ministry” is essential to the growth and well being of a congregation, or the position that under no circumstances can small groups ever be used appropriately in Lutheran congregations. When discussing these issues it is easy to let emotions get the best of better judgment when expressing points of view. I’ve seen this in others. I’ve seen this in myself. I think it is therefore important for us to understand precisely what we are talking about and lay out cautions, concerns and opportunities when it comes to the use of small group studies in Lutheran congregations.

Cautions

In the history of the Lutheran Church there arose a movement known as “Pietism,” which was a reaction against some legitimately bad practices that had arisen in the Lutheran Church by the late 17th century, but…as is usually, no make that, “always,” the case: Pietism was an over-reaction. Pietism wanted there to be a more personal understanding of the impact of salvation in our life and as a result, it did not work at recapturing a strong vibrant sense of the centrality of the Word and Sacrament for our assurance of God’s grace and mercy, but rather turned inward, on subjective emotional experiences. A key part of the Pietistic movement was creating little “conventicles” or “churches within the church.” What were these? These were small groups of people, usually led by laity, who set themselves up over against the local pastor and congregation and emphasized their meetings and their emotional prayers and singing of amazingly bad hymns, striving for emotional encounters with God’s grace. They ended up actually despising the Lord’s appointed means of grace and the office of the holy ministry. Today the legacy of this kind of thinking is seen when small groups in congregations become more important than the gathering of God’s people around the Word and Sacraments and when the “what does this mean to you?” approach to God’s Word takes a higher priority than a careful study of God’s Word under the careful supervision and leadership of the ordained pastor in the congregation. The “churches within the church” were set up to oppose the local congregation’s ministry and even to offer an alternative spiritual life and worship experience, as opposed to the Sunday morning Divine Service which came to be held in contempt and treated with disdain.

Concerns

The challenge with the use of small groups in Lutheran congregations today is found precisely in the fact that, sadly, small group “ministry” in some Lutheran congregations and movements, particularly those movements associated with the Church Growth Movement, have ended up replicating the same errors experienced in the history of the Lutheran Church during the age of Pietism. Challenges arise when small groups in a local congregation are lead by well meaning but unprepared laity who are allowed simply to pick and choose whatever materials they want to use in their small group. When a small group is not about studying God’s Word in the context of an orthodox, confessionally faithful curriculum, under the close, personal supervision of the parish pastor, it sets up a potentially very dangerous situation whereby small groups can spin off into a whole host of bad theology and bad practices. The focus of small groups can be turned toward subjective, emotional encounters and eyes can be taken off of Christ and His Word and put rather on the emotional experiences of small group members. When materials are used by small groups that come from non-Lutheran sources the concerns are only heightened. When small groups are allowed to take a place in the life of God’s people that only the Divine Service of Word and Sacrament must have, that is a deep concern. A significant concern, rightly raised, arises primarily with small groups that are not structured around study of God’s Word, but rather are structured more to be social experiences in the congregation that only lightly touch on some aspect of God’s Word. When a small group drifts free from a focused study around God’s Word there arises even more potential for abuses of small groups. When small groups are taught by a layman, that is, a layman is entrusted with the task of actually teaching the material, rather than leading the group through a pre-defined curriculum and discussion guide, there is where the problems come. There have been cases, unfortunately, where these kinds of unstructured small groups in Lutheran congregations have led to factionalism and very bad theology. For instance, an intrusion of the charismatic movement and other such false doctrine and practice. It is particularly harmful, wrong and dangerous when a Lutheran pastor simply permits a small group to be formed in his congregation and allows it to use whatever material it wants to use as the basis for their small group experience.  Another major concern arises when small groups are put forward in our congregations as the “be all and end all” of a congregation’s ministry. We can never allow ourselves to think that small groups are better than than the fellowship we have together, in and round and through, the preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments, which goes on in the Divine Service. Everything in a Lutheran congregation must flow from, and in return, flow back into, our regular gathering together around Word and Sacrament, where the one who hold the office of the ministry exercises that office publically in our midst through preaching and teaching the Word, and administering the Sacraments [their is no difference!] from the pulpit and from the altar.

Opportunities

In reaction to the cautions and concerns, here only briefly summarized, there are some today who believe that there should never be any small groups used in a Lutheran congregation. On the other hand, there are many who, like me, believe that an effective small group program can be used in a faithful Lutheran congregations, but it does require careful pastoral care and diligent teaching and supervision, and the use of orthodox, confessionally Lutheran materials in the small groups. What would this look like in a Lutheran congregation? Here is but one scenario: A pastor organizes a program of study of a book of the Bible, or organizes a comprehensive walk through a doctrinal topic, or series of topics, or the Lutheran Confessions. He identifies lay leaders in his congregation who can be entrusted with teaching responsibilities and he works closely with these men to train them and help them understand the content, the goals, the purpose and the objective of the curriculum that will be put into place in the congregation. The program meets in a large group format once a week, or whenever is deemed most appropriate. The pastor leads the large group session, teaching the major content of the week’s lesson. Laity then meet in small groups between sessions to go over the material and to explore and study the given week’s curriculum, with carefully prepared study questions and discussion guides. They do so in these groups with a lay leader appointed and taught carefully by the pastor. I see this as a helpful and workable way of using small groups in a Lutheran congregation. Now, having said this, I want to make it clear that I do not believe there is any essential need for small group Bible studies. I reject the idea that studying the Scriptures in a “small group” is somehow “better” in, any meaningful theological sense, than a large Bible study in the congregation.

Final Thoughts and Observations

Now, I recognize that there are those who still, for the sake of conscience, believe that there can never be, nor should ever be, any kind of small group program in a Lutheran congregation, for the reasons stated above. I do not agree with this position. I think there can be a responsible use of small groups in a congregation. My major concern is how much, and to what extent, the pastor serves as the chief teacher and how well he trains the lay small group facilitators that may be used, along with what materials are being used. Frankly, there would be no need for any “Bible classes” to begin were we to return to a strong doctrinal and exegetical sermon that lasts 45 minutes or more in our congregations, as was the norm throughout the entire history of the Christian Church, and particularly the Lutheran Church, until only the last thirty or forty years. Now I’ve seen way too many pastors preaching ten minute sermons in order to cram the service of the Lord’s Supper into a sixty minute window of time. How about that for a radical proposal?

Categories: Lutheranism

Come on Over and Join “The VDMA Shooting Society” — A New Facebook Group

May 25th, 2011 6 comments

I’d like to invite any Lutheran readers of this blog who enjoy the shooting sports, hunting, reloading, gun collecting, gunsmithing, etc. to come on over and join a new group in Facebook. “The VDMA Shooting Society” is a great place to talk firearms with fellow Lutherans. To join just click on this link and put in your request.

Categories: guns and ammo

The Best Seminary Commencement Speech I’ve Ever Heard

May 24th, 2011 2 comments

Over the years the commencement speeches given on the campuses of our two seminaries have been, often, abominations of desolation. They often remind me of what my former circuit counselor, Rev. Gary Arp, once told our circuit, “I was on vacation and when to church on Sunday at one of our LCMS congregations where I was. After the service, when I shook the pastor’s hand, I complimented him. I told him, “Pastor, you did not confuse or mix Law and Gospel, but unfortunately that was because there was no proper Law or Gospel in your sermon!” Ouch! Well, I was delighted to hear Pastor Matthew Harrison’s speech given at Concordia Theological Seminary at their commencement last Friday night. My mom received her Master of Arts in Deaconess Studies degree and I was watching the live stream of the proceedings over the Internet. Here is the speech that the graduating class heard.

Commencement Speech by the Rev. Matthew Harrison, D.D.
President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

I want to share with you—especially with the faculty of this august institution—the same words I just shared with the faculty of the St. Louis Seminary: you are the greatest Lutheran faculty on earth. And I want there to be absolutely no doubt that when I say that to one of the two faculties, I really mean it.

The Lord loves a commencement, make no mistake about it. A very long time ago the Lord ceased his eternal contemplation, put on his doctor’s cap, and commenced it all! Bereshith bara Elohim et hashamayim ve’et ha’arets. New Revised Harrison Translation: “At the commencement God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). In fact, the Bible is packed with teaching about commencements!

There is a “commencement Christology”: “At the commencement was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Or, “He [Christ] was at the commencement with God” (John 1:2).

Mark’s commencement Christology begins, like Elert’s Structure of Lutheranism, with the evangelische Ansatz: “The commencement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1).

Now, being a Synod bureaucrat, I could elaborate interminably on this commencement theology, but I am fully aware that Luther’s advice for preaching is even more applicable to a commencement address.

  1. Stand up!
  2. Speak up!
  3. Shut up!

And this address will be judged by number three, which Luther said was the most difficult. One verse from Scripture, however, does give me a bit of concern over this honorary doctorate: “An inheritance gained hastily in the commencement will not be blessed in the end” (Proverbs 20:21).

The most profound thing I’ve ever read on seminary education was written by a rather obscure, nineteenth-century, German Lutheran, August Vilmar:

Theology serves real life in this world and in eternity. Every glimpse the theologian pays past real life is false, an offense of the eye, a squint. Every step theology takes past real life is a misstep leading to falling and in the end infallibly to shattering in pieces when repeated. Theology shares what it has, totally and unabridged . . . All this because its content is for those who receive it, the breath of life, an indispensable nourishment, no different from air, and sunlight and bread, since none on earth can live who does not receive what proceeds from theology . . .

The need to receive, however consists in hunger and thirst for the Word of God, for the certainty of eternal life, of salvation. In theology should be given and received the Word of God, the certainty, the undoubted, unimpeachable certainty of eternal life, of salvation. [Christ!] Theology . . . instructs the coming generation toward becoming a generation of true shepherds, able and ready to gather the sheep, to go after, to seek and find them. It must educate shepherds for whom this never ending and arduous labor of shepherding, pasturing and seeking the sheep has become second nature, so that their hearts are grieved when they do not tend the entire flock . . . and this care is extinguished only with the last breath of life. [Vilmar, Theology of Facts Versus a Theology of Rhetoric]

Vilmar’s Theology of Facts is now commencing—now coming full circle in your lives.

The nearest thing to a commencement address I could find in Luther’s writings was a sermon on Matthew 28:19, preached at the occasion of the first ordination of a large number of candidates in Wittenberg.

Luther makes a point, which is the most powerful and comforting thing that could possibly be spoken to people just like you this day: “So that there would be no doubt that our Lord and Head is with us, He thus spoke a potent blessing over them and said, ‘Behold, I am with you’” (Referring to Mt. 28). And Luther goes on to describe precisely what the Lord’s promised presence blesses—the doling out of divine gold! Luther preached:

Preaching salvation to men does not stem from our power . . . We are merely an instrument and means, through which Christ is speaking . . . [This is] like a lord [who] places a gold coin in the hand of [his] servant so that [he give it] to a needy person. It does not belong to the servant, who is merely the hand that passes it on . . . He is the lord’s spoon, [his] hand.

We are the spoon; He gives drink through us; the food and drink are the Lord’s . . . Hence we conclude and say: Even if a parson is neither pious nor worthy to [be called] God’s son and servant—so too the servant, even if his hand is decrepit and scabby—nevertheless the golden coin, which the Lord is giving by means of his hand, is good, because it is the Lord’s own. This coin rightfully belongs to the Lord, [although] He gives by means of a scoundrel. . . .

For this reason [then] look to the gift and to [its] true giver, and not to the organ through which it is given, unless [the gift is given] by such a man who would not be giving what God has mandated, but would [instead] give you a penny in the place of a gold coin . . . [WA 41:454-459, translated by J. Mumme].

You, my dear graduates, have had a gold coin dropped into your scabby hands—Ph.D.s, S.T.M.s, M.Div.s, M.A.R.s, pastors and deaconesses1 You’ve been given the gold! Don’t dole out pennies! The gold?

Law: “Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord. Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces” (Jeremiah 23:28ff). Go for the gold! Not limp noodle preaching of an anemic word of pseudo law! Be a gold hammer, striking a gold anvil, producing a gold coin. Preach like the apostles! Speak the Law like the apostles: “You killed the Author of life . . .” (Acts 3:15).

Gospel: Christ’s conception, birth, life, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension! All of it yours through a blessed and happy exchange! Baptism (“Baptism now saves you”; 1 Peter 3:21)! Word of God (“living and active”; Heb. 4:12)! “Whosoever sins you forgive, they are forgiven . . .” (John 20:23); “He upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3)! Lord’s Supper (“Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins”)! Gold!

Theology for witness, mercy, and life together! Gold for preaching (“The Word does not return void”; Is. 55:11)! Gold for mercy (“And he had compassion on them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd”; Mark 6:34). Gold for life together! And as you commence this new chapter in your lives, you will find that those whom you serve will dish up this gold for you too . . . And without it, you will die.

Here’s a passage that is a particular admonishment to you this evening: “Let what you heard at the commencement abide in you. If what you heard at the commencement abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father” (1 John 2:24).

The Lord is commencing something with you today. You’ve got gold in your hand! And you also have what Luther called “a potent promise”—“And lo I am with you always . . .” (Mt. 28:20).

So let the commencement commence! “And I am sure of this, that he who commenced a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:3–6).

Matthew C. Harrison
May 20, 2011

Categories: Uncategorized

PrayNow: Updated and Better Than Ever

May 24th, 2011 5 comments

If you are not aware of this great resource, I highly encourage you to check out PrayNow, the comprehensive daily prayer app for the iPhone/iPad/iTouch, available from Apple’s iTune store. We released a significant update to it on May 17, and, in response to customer requests, we put in additional orders of daily prayer. So, now, in addition to Matins, Vespers and Compline, PrayNow offers you the choice to use the short orders of prayer for Morning, Noon, Early Evening and Close of the Day. It is only $8.99 and offers what is truly the finest and most comprehensive daily prayer app available. Android users can rejoice, for by this Fall we will have the Android version of PrayNow available.

Categories: CPH Resources

Doctrinal Bible Studies: You Want Them? We’ve Got Them!

May 23rd, 2011 1 comment

My colleague, Rev. Robert Baker, Senior Editor for Adult Bible Studies here at CPH recently answered a person who asked us what kind of substantial doctrinal studies do we offer. She expressed a concern that in her congregation the only adult study opportunities were pretty much lite and fluffy “How does this make you feel?” kind of stuff. Rev. Baker did a great job pointing her in the right direction and I thought you would appreciate his answer:

Dear Friends in Christ,

Thank you so much for contacting the Rev. Paul T. McCain about doctrinal Bible studies. As Paul suggested, Concordia Publishing House literally has hundreds of Bible studies in print, DVD, CD-ROM, and downloadable formats. Further, we are in the process of creating subscription-based, electronic formats that allow folks to assemble their own Bible studies using our vast Bible study library.

While you can view many these studies online here is a sampling of studies covering doctrinal topics:

The Lutheran Difference
This series contrasts Lutheran teaching, based on Scripture, with the teachings of other denominations, and is available as individual printed booklets (64 pp. each), downloadables, as a printed collection, on CD-ROM with PowerPoint, and now as a book!

LifeLight:
LifeLight is our premiere, in-depth Bible study series consisting of lectures, daily questions and answers, and a full-color magazine. This series covers nearly every book in the Bible as well as numerous doctrinal topics.

Lutheran Spirituality:
Explores a number of topics such as prayer, God’s Word, and vocation, with a clear emphasis on the Scriptures, the Lutheran Confessions, and the Lutheran hymnal for a genuine, Lutheran spirituality. Available as individual printed booklets (64 pp. each), downloadables, as a printed collection, on CD-ROM with PowerPoint, and now as a book!

Lutheran Confessions
This series, available in print (participant) and downloadable (leader), provides an in-depth look at the doctrines presented in the Lutheran Confessions as drawn from the Scriptures. Four books in this series.

Please let me know if I may be of further assistance.

May God bless you as you study His life-giving Word!

Sincerely yours in Christ,

 

 

 

 

Rev. Robert C. Baker, MDiv, MS

Categories: CPH Resources

Fourth Sunday After Easter: Cantate

May 22nd, 2011 Comments off

The Introit for the Day

Antiphon:
Oh, sing to the LORD a new song! Alle- | luia!*
His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations. Alle- | luia (Psalm 98:1-2)

Psalm:
His right hand and His | holy arm*
have gained Him the | victory.
He has remembered His | mercy*
and His faithfulness to the house of | Israel.
All the ends | of the earth*
have seen the salvation | of our God.
Shout joyfully to the LORD, | all the earth;*
break forth in song, rejoice, and sing | praises. (Psalm 98:1, 3-4)

The Lectionary for the Day

Isaiah 12:1–6
James 1:16–21
John 16:5–15

Lectionary Summary:

Jesus Promises to Send His Holy Spirit, the Helper

Though Jesus has departed from us visibly to the right hand of the Father who sent Him, yet this is to our advantage. For Jesus–who is Lord over all creation, who intercedes for us before the Father, who is preparing a place for us in heaven–has sent the Helper, the Spirit of Truth (John 16:5–15). “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” through Jesus Christ (James 1:17). The Holy Spirit helps us by taking what is Christ’s and declaring it to us. In the Word of truth, the Spirit works repentance and delivers to us the forgiveness of sins, the righteousness of Christ, and victory over the devil. For the ruler of this world is judged and defeated by the cross. Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we have been brought forth to new life in Him who is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. Confident of our resurrection with Christ we confess, “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid” (Is. 12:2).

The Collect for the Day

O God, You make the minds of Your faithful to be of one will. Grant that we may love what You have commanded and desire what You promise, that among the many changes of this world our hearts may be fixed where true joys are found; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Excerpts from a Sermon by Martin Luther for the Day

The nature and art of faith are here set forth: Faith neither feels nor gropes, nor do the things connected with it require a science; but it bestirs itself cheerfully to believe the things it neither feels nor can measure with all its powers inwardly or outwardly. Paul says in Rom 8,24: “Who hopeth for that which he seeth?” Therefore, the Lord aptly says: “And ye behold me no more.” As if he would say that this way of good works which he is traveling, will not be seen nor grasped by the senses, but it must be believed. Now follows the third and last part of our Gospel.

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Condemning Millennialism as False Doctrine: The Real Lesson in the Camping Prediction

May 21st, 2011 15 comments

 

“Where is the Promise of His Coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the Creation.” (2 Peter 3:4)

Harold Camping managed to attract a lot of media attention with his prediction that today the so-called “rapture” would happen today. Consequently, he has made it possible for non-believers to do what they have always done: scoff and laugh and poke fun. But Harold Camping has done far worse than merely confess what the Bible teaches: that Christ will return again on the last day, he has subjected the entire Christian church to scorn and ridicule because of fanciful predictions, which are all grounded in a common false teaching among many protestant evangelical Christians: believe in a literal millennial rule and reign of Christ. Such teachings, and teachers, and church bodies that tolerate in their midst the heretical view that there will be a literal reign of Christ, on earth for 1000 years, must be rebuked and rejected.

All these teachings subject the Church and all Christians to ridicule. When we suffer persecution, it must be persecution for the truth, not because of a nut making crazy predictions. But he is not alone. Look at the fortune raked in by the authors and publishers of the “Left Behind” books. Shame on any Christian who read those and “enjoyed” them. Shame on those church bodies and church leaders that teach a “millennium” and encourage others to do so.

It is interesting to me to see how silent churches that advance these teachings have been during Mr. Camping’s predictions. They are complicit with such predictions. Mr. Camping just happens to have taken matters further than they are willing to go, but for how long have we been bombarded by apocalyptic predictions, claiming the Book of Revelation is a “road map” to the end times and to fanciful and fanatical distortions of the text of Scripture. Far too many Christians have been willing to be caught up in spending to much time thinking and talking about the “End Times” that they truly have become “so heavenly minded, they are no earthly good.”

Holy Scripture explicitly warns against those who claim to know when the end of all things shall be. Our Lord says to be prepared for the end, much as one might prepare for a thief to come in the night. You make your preparations, you get ready, but you never know when He will return.

So, rather than chuckle and make fun and jokes, let us lament that Mr. Camping is simply taking what is latent in much of American protestantism to an extreme degree, but it is rotten fruit born of the rotten tree of millennialism. Repent therefore of any temptation you have felt to believe all this false teaching and nonsense and then, dear friend, turn to the Lord of the Ages who welcomes you into His eternal kingdom, in the hear and now, through the precious Gospel that gives you complete forgiveness and a home forever in heaven with all the saints and those who have gone before.

Will the World End on May 31? Maybe. Remain Calm, Don’t Panic. Here’s Why.

May 19th, 2011 8 comments

 

We’ve all been hearing about the predictions being made by Harold Camping, a serial liar and deceiver, who has pulled the same stunt before, announcing that the end of the world will occur on such-and-such a date. He’s doing it again. This time he says the rapture will take place on May 21 and then, this October, the world will finally end. He is a liar. He is a false prophet. He to be marked and avoided as such. But, how to respond to people whose attention has been caught by these predictions? I’d suggest simply offering them a basic, quick, summary of what the Bible teaches about the end of the world. The following is based on a pamphlet that the president of the Missouri Synod prepared over ten years ago, in response to the Y2K hysteria.

Will the world end on May 21?  

It is simply impossible to answer this question with either a definite “yes” or a definite “no.” During his earthly ministry, our Lord Jesus Christ was asked when the end of the world would be. His answer was very clear. He said, “Nobody knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matt. 24:36). The Bible repeatedly warns us about trying to set a date for the return of Christ (Mark 13:32-33; 1 Thess. 5:1-3; 2 Pet. 3:10). We are not to speculate when Jesus will return. Rather, we are to be ready at all times for His return (Matt. 24:33, 42-44; Luke 21:28; 1 Thess. 5:6).

What are the signs of the end times?

Every generation should expect Christ’s return as they see the signs of the end times. The most important sign of the end is the preaching of the Gospel to all nations (Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:10). The time between Christ’s birth and His return is the great missionary age-the time that God is calling all people to be saved. It is the time that was predicted by the Old Testament prophets (see Isa. 2:1-4; 42:6-7; 49:6; 52:10; Amos 9:11-12).

Other signs that the world will come to an end include wars, earthquakes, famines and widespread diseases. These are all indication of God’s divine judgment. The Bible describes these signs in many places (see for instance, Isa. 19:2; 2 Chron. 15:6; Matt. 24:6-8; Mark 13:7-8; Luke 21:9-11, 25-26; Joel 2:30-31). We are not to see every incident of natural disasters as a direct punishment from God (cf. Luke 13:1-5). The upheaval and troubles in the world of nature should always remind us that our present fallen world is under the curse of God on account of sin (Gen. 3:17; Rom. 8:19-22). These signs show us God’s wrath and are signals to us that all sinners need to repent (Luke 13:3, 5; Rev. 9:20-21; 16:9). Christians especially are urged by God in His Word to regard these signs as “birth pangs” of a new and better world to come (Rom. 8:22; Matt. 24:8; Rev. 21:1-4). Believers in Christ can take comfort in God’s promise to protect and preserve us even in the midst of suffering (Rev. 3:10; 7:3-4).

Jesus warned us that trouble would lie ahead for His people (Matt. 5:10-12; John 15:18-20; 16:33). Because the world will continue to oppose the Kingdom of God, Christians can expect to suffer persecution in a variety of forms throughout the time between Christ’s birth and His second coming. It is for this reason that God calls on us to endure to the end, and gives us the strength to do so (Matt. 24:9; Mark 13:9-13; Luke 21:12-19).

What will happen when Christ returns?

The Bible teaches that the following events will take place when Jesus returns:

  1. Christ will come visibly and all people will see Him
    (Acts 1:11; Matt. 24:27, 30; Luke 17:22-24; 21:27, 35; Mark 13:24-26; 14:62; Rev. 1:7).
  2. Christ will come in glory surrounded by His angels
    (Matt. 13:39-43, 49; 16:27; 24:30-31; 25:31; 2 Thess. 1:7; Rev. 19:11-14; Titus 2:13; Jude 14, 21; 1 Pet. 4:13; Zech. 14:3).
  3. When Christ returns, a bodily resurrection of all the dead will take place. Believers will be raised to salvation and unbelievers to damnation
    (John 5:27-29; 6:39-40, 44, 54; Rev. 20:11-15; 1 Cor. 15:12-57; Dan. 12:1-2).
  4. All believers, both the dead and the living, will be “caught up” to “meet the Lord in the air”
    (1 Thess. 4:13-17).
  5. Death will be destroyed
    (1 Cor. 15:26, 54-57; Rev. 20:14).
  6. When Christ returns, He will judge all people, both the living and the dead
    (Matt. 25:31-46; John 5:27; Acts 10:42; 17:31; Rom. 2:16; 2 Tim. 4:1, 8; Jude 14-15; Rev. 20:11-15).
  7. Believers will receive eternal salvation and unbelievers eternal damnation
    (Matt. 25:31-46; 1 Pet. 1:4-5, 7; 5:4; 1 John 3:2; Heb. 9:28; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Thess. 1:6-10).
  8. Satan and Antichrist will be destroyed
    (2 Thess. 2:8; Rev. 10:10).
  9. When Christ returns, a “new heavens and a new earth” will be created
    (2 Pet. 3:10-13).

Nowhere, however, do the Scriptures teach that at His return Christ will establish a this-worldly, political kingdom or “millennium.”

What is Millennialism?

Millennialism describes a variety of erroneous speculations about a supposed 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ, here on earth, during which there will be perfect peace and the complete victory of the church on earth. These views err in that they place too much emphasis on highly figurative language in certain portions of the Bible.

Dispensational Premillennialism divides God’s dealings with our world into seven distinct “dispensations.” From the age of innocence before the Fall, to the Millennial Kingdom, this theory holds that God is working through periods of history, culminating in a series of dramatic battles on earth, after which Christ will return in glory, destroy all His enemies, and establish a 1,000-year reign on earth of prosperity and peace, with worship centered around a rebuilt new temple in Jerusalem.

Historic Premillennialism is the view that the return of Christ will be a one-time event following a period of intense suffering and tribulation. Christians will be resurrected from the dead and those still living will join Christ who will destroy the Antichrist and Satan, and will begin a 1,000-year reign on earth. During this 1,000 years, there will be perfect tranquillity and peace. After the 1,000 years is over, Satan will be let loose for a little while and then the end will come in one last great battle. After that the judgment will begin, sending people either to heaven or hell for all eternity.

Postmillennialism is the theory that after a 1,000-year year period of peace and tranquillity, Christ will return, and the resurrection of all the dead will take place. Postmillennialists do not believe that the 1,000 years will be a literal 1,000 years, but it does claim that there will be a distinct period of peace and prosperity for the church before the return of Christ.

Amillennialism is the teaching that there will be no millennium of perfect peace on earth before, or after, Christ’s second coming. The Lutheran church, on the basis of the Bible, holds to this point of view. The Bible does not teach that there will be a definite 1,000-year period of time during which Christ will reign on earth visibly. Christ Himself said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36); furthermore, the Bible clearly teaches that we Christians are looking for “a new heaven and a new earth” (2 Pet. 3:13)-not an era of prosperity on the present earth.

What are Christians to be doing as the new millennium approaches?

God wants all people to come to believe and trust in His Son for their salvation and to lead holy lives in service to Him, eagerly awaiting with patience and perseverance His return on the last day (Rom. 13:12-14; Titus 2:1-13; 1 Pet. 1:13-15; 2 Pet. 3:11-12; 1 John 3:2-3; 1 Tim. 6:14; Matt. 25:14-30).

Our Lord says to us: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Matt. 24:42). This is a constant theme in Scripture. St. Paul writes, “So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled” (1 Thess. 5:6).

The Apostle Peter describes what Christians are to be doing: “In keeping with His promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (2 Pet. 3:13-14).

As the end of the world draws closer, each day the Lord gives us is one more day to serve Him and to be a part of the great effort to proclaim the Gospel. This is the great mission Christ has given His church: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). Our Lord promises to be with us until the end of the world (Matt. 28:20), as we continue to tell the good news about Jesus (Acts 8:35).

Finally, our Lord wants us to be watchful for His coming. We have the assurance that because of His death and resurrection for us, we have the full and free forgiveness of our sins. We may not know all the details about the end of the world, but we do not need to be anxious about them. Nor should we get all caught up in speculation about the end times. We live in the great period of the “now” and the “not yet.” We have salvation in Christ right now. But we do not yet have the final blessing of our salvation: life forever with the Lord in heaven.

Though we do not know when our Lord will return, we are able to look forward to His return with confident hope and joy (Rev. 22:20): ” ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

For further study

Much of the information contained in this pamphlet is based on the excellent study from The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations titled, The End Times: A Study on Eschatology and Millennialism [September 1989]. You may purchase a copy from Concordia Publishing House.

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The Magdeburg Conference: Good Oportunity to Study and Rejoice in the Lutheran Confessions

May 18th, 2011 Comments off

The city of Magdeburg, Germany received a new pastor: Martin Luther. By Luther’s preaching the Word of God, the city defected from Roman Catholicism and joined the cause of the Reformation. Emperor Charles V outlawed the town repeatedly. Even under siege, the city retained its independence. In the years to follow, Magdeburg gained a reputation as a stronghold of the Reformation and its furtherance, even being the first major city to publish Luther’s writings.
• The Magdeburg Conference has a simple goal: to find refuge in God’s Word and the Lutheran Confessions from the siege of false theology.
• During the Magdeburg Conference we will delve into and study the Augsburg Confession, one of the most basic Lutheran confessions of faith after the Small Catechism. (Each conference participant will receive a complimentary copy of the Augsburg Confession.)
• The spirit of Magdeburg lives on
• The Reformation lives on

The Lutheran Catechetical Society is hosting the Magdeburg Conference on Friday August 26th and Saturday August 27th at Christ Lutheran Church in Normal, IL. We will be studying the first 3 Articles of the Augsburg Confession: 1. Of God, 2. Of Original Sin, Of the Son of God. The Rev. Brian Saunders, District President of the Iowa East District, will be our presenter.

The cost of the conference is $35 for individuals and $55 for couples. This includes all sessions, a reception on Friday evening with address, a copy of the Augsburg Confession, and perhaps most importantly-German style lunch on Saturday. More details concerning accomodations and reception location will be forthcoming.

Who is this conference for? This conference is especially designed for clergy and laity to study the Lutheran Confessions together. We hope that it will inspire a love of the Lutheran Confessions and also give an example for pastors of how to teach our beloved heritage in our congregations. Pastors, please encourage you members to come with you to study the Augsburg Confession, especially men serving as elders.

Registration: You may register online at the Lutheran Catechetical Society’s Website.

Listen Online: You can also listen to an Issues, Etc interview with Pr. Chris Hull of Christ Lutheran Church about the the importance of the Lutheran Confessions, not just for the clergy, but for all Lutherans.

For additional information or questions:

Vendors/General questions- Contact Pr. Bryan Hopfensperger at revhopfensperger@gmail.com

Questions concerning location- Contact Pr. Chris Hull at luther1546@gmail.com

We look forward to seeing you at the Magdeburg Conference!

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The Ascension of Our Lord

May 17th, 2011 12 comments

On Christ’s ascension I now build
The hope of my ascension;
This hope alone has always stilled
All doubt and apprehension;
For where the head is, there as well
I know his members are to dwell
When Christ will come and call them.

Since Christ returned to claim his throne,
Great gifts for me obtaining,
My heart will rest in him alone,
No other rest remaining;
For where my treasure went before,
There all my thoughts will ever soar
To still their deepest yearning.

Oh, grant, dear Lord, this grace to me,
Recalling your ascension,
That I may serve you faithfully,
Adorning your redemption;
And then, when all my days will cease,
Let me depart in joy and peace
In answer to my pleading.

Here are some thoughts by Martin Chemnitz on what the Ascension of Our Lord means, and how we are to understand it. HT: Historic Lectionary/Sean Daenzer

From “The Two Natures in Christ.” Page numbers according to the 2007 CPH edition.

On the basis of Heb. 1:3 we speak of the right hand of the divine majesty, or the right hand of His power or strength (Luke 22:69), at which Christ is described as sitting here in time. Elsewhere in Scripture the right hand of God does not signify a member or part of God, nor merely a place of quiet and bliss, but it indicates the power and activity of God by which He drives back His enemies, is present with His own, hearkens to them with His grace, His blessing, His help, His liberation, His defense, His preservation, His salvation, as shown in His miracles and all His glorious divine works.

Christ according to His divine nature is the very right hand of God, for the Father does all His works of divine majesty and power through the Son. But the human nature of Christ clearly does not become the right hand of God here in time, for no commingling, conversion or equating of the natures takes place, but the unimpaired distinction of the natures remains even after the union, as we have previously shown.

However, the human nature lodges within Christ and sits at the right hand of God, because it has been personally united with the divine nature of the Logos, which is the very right hand of God. Now after He has laid aside His humiliation in the exaltation or glorification, it has been brought into the full and manifest use of the power of the right hand of God, so that now the right hand of the majesty and power which is in the person of the Logos shows itself and exercises, carries on, and accomplishes the activities of its divine power and majesty in, with, and through the assumed nature; and the assumed nature carries on the divine works of the right hand of God in the person of the Logos, with whom it has a communion like that of heated iron, which glows and gives heat by the power of the fire that is united with it, yet without commingling or equating.

Ch. 24 (p.322)

The expression “to sit” in this passage (Psalm 110:1; 1 Cor. 15:25) does not refer to the reclining position of the body or to the occupancy of a particular place, but to His power and to the glorious administration of His office of King, High Priest, and Messiah and to His dominion over all things. Scripture speaks in this way of Christ’s session at the right hand of God so that it may show clearly that also with respect to His human nature, according to which He was crucified, dead and raised again, Christ is placed at the right hand of the majesty and power of God.

The terms which are added in the description of this session, such as “in heaven,” “in the heavens,” “in the highest,” do not restrict the right hand of God to one place, nor do they imply that Christ according to His human nature is sitting at the right hand of God in only one place in heaven; but these expressions mean that the majesty and power are not created, earthly, or lowly, but rather that they are heavenly, lofty, and divine. For it is said of God Himself, who is limited to no one place: “Our God is in heaven, He does all things which He wishes.” (Psalm 115:3) etc. Ch. 24 (p.323)

See chapter 28 for a thorough catalogue of testimonies from the ancient fathers

Not the least part of the work of Christ as our Mediator and Savior is that as Head He is present with His members, gathering, ruling, defending, preserving, and saving His Church. For in all our afflictions and temptations—in the depraved infirmity of our nature, among the various offenses and the many pitfalls under the powerful tyranny and the rage of Satan, the world, and all the enemies of the church— our greatest and only comfort is our knowledge that Christ is present as our King, our High Priest, our Head, and the pastor of us who are His sheep in the midst of ravening wolves. He does not place the burdens of governing in His kingdom on the shoulders of others through delegated work, as the custom of our kings is, for the government is always on His shoulders (Is. 9:6), but when He Himself is present He cares for us, governs, defends, preserves, and saves us, as His peculiar people whom He has bought with His own blood. Ch. 30 (p.423)

We have, moreover, an express word and a specific promise instituted in a particular and definite way, ordained as a part of His will and testament by the Son of God Himself on the night in which He was betrayed, a promise which Christ ratified also after His ascension by sitting at the right hand of the Majesty in His glory in heaven, a promise which was repeated to Paul, a promise that He wills to be present with His body and blood in the observance of His Supper as it is celebrated in the gathering of the Church here on earth in accord with His institution. Ch. 30 (p.432) In the peculiar revelation of the divine will (the Supper), in the special promise attached to it, in the unique and earnest assertion, and thus in the testamentary arrangement or ordinance of the Son of God, the words state that Christ wills to be present in His Church with His Body and Blood, or according to His human nature, wherever His Supper is celebrated on earth. Through His assumed humanity, as through the organ which is akin to us, as the Fathers put it, He wills to bestow His benefits on us, to confirm and seal them, and thus to accomplish in the Church His work of giving us life, according to each nature, through His life-giving flesh. (p.434) [This is] a doctrine which is so full of consolation, that is, that the Son of God, our Mediator and Savior, according to the words of His testament wills to be present with His Church here on earth, which is fighting under the banner of the cross and struggling in this vale of tears. For He wishes to be present also in and with His assumed nature by which He is of the same substance with us, related to us, our Brother, our very flesh, according to which flesh He does not blush to call us His brothers and in which flesh He was tempted, so that He can share in our sufferings, according to which flesh Christ is our Head and we His members. And just as no one hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, so also Christ does to His Church, since we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bone (Eph. 5:29). Ch. 30 (p. 434-435)