Here is a beautiful YouTube video of the reading of the Nicene Creed which dates back over a 1,000 years in the the Christian church. This recitation was done at Trinity Lutheran Church, Klein, TX during the March 4, 2012 church services by three members of Trinity as part of Lutheran Schools week. These three members, and students (former and present) are: Mr. Erich Klenk, 97 years old, confirmed in 1928, past Chairman of the congregation, charter member of the Men’s Club in 1946, and Trinity’s oldest member. Lyle Lovett, great grandson of Trinity founding father Adam Klein, confirmed in 1971, singer/songwriter, and winner of four Grammys. Erin Pali, class of 2016 and current 4th grade student of Miss Marilyn Peterson/ Erin’s Dad Brett also had Miss Petersen in 4th grade during his years at Trinity. This video was posted to YouTube by Pat Blake.
We all need to heed these very wise words from St. John Chrysostom. I know I sure need to work on this. Oh how often have I lashed out unthinkingly or said something that may be true, but not helpful.
If we speak in anger, we do it with passion and the “boldness” of those who are confident of their case. But if we speak with gentleness, this is boldness. Boldness is a success and anger is a failure. And success and failure can’t possibly go together. Therefore, if we want to have boldness, we must clear away our anger so that no once can attribute our words to it. No matter how sound your words may be, no matter how boldly you speak, how fairly you correct, or what not, you ruin everything when you speak with anger. Look at Stephen and how free his words to his persecutors were from passion. He didn’t abuse them but reminded them of the prophets’ words. In order to show you that it wasn’t done in anger, he prayed as he suffered evil from their hands, “Lay not to their charge this sin.” He was far from speaking those words in anger. No, he spoke out of grief and sorrow for their sakes.
I picked this story up from Ed Stezer, popular Souhern Baptist researcher and writer on all things church stats, outreach and church growth. This is from an article on the Church Leadership web site, written by Brian Orme, editor of Outreach magazine, ChurchLeaders.com and SermonCentral.com.
Read through the article, you’ll find it interesting.
I will whet your appetite by listing out the ten myths and then giving you a few sound bites to ponder.
There’s a lot of discussion that goes on about church growth: what causes it; how to generate it; prepare for it; launch it; build it; cultivate it and even, to some degree, manufacture it. Many of the discussions are helpful, but there are a number of subtle beliefs that still creep up that aren’t healthy. In fact, they’re downright superstitious and, at times, dangerous to the church.
I’ve collected these myths over many conversations, coffees and lunches with church leaders and I’d like to share them with you.
1. If You’re Not Growing, Something’s Wrong
2. The More You Grow, the Healthier You Are
3. Contemporary Music Will Save Your Church
4. Church Growth Can Be Manufactured
5. If Your Church Grows, Your Leader Is “Anointed”
6. If Your Church Doesn’t Grow, It’s a Problem with the Leader
7. Good Preaching Is the Answer to Growing Your Church
8. You Will Retain a Large Percentage of Your Visitors on Special Days
9. The More Programs You Offer, the More Your Church Will Grow
10. If You Build It, They Will Come
If growth and a bigger crowd is “always” the result of obedience then some of the OT prophets will have some serious explaining to do.
Just because your church has more people attending doesn’t mean your church is completely healthy. In fact, it might be cause to closely evaluate the message the crowd is hearing.
Changing your music and the feel of your worship gathering should have a reason bigger than, “We want to reach young people!” or, “We want to stay hip.” Contemporary music is not the salvation of the American church.
You can spend money and market an event and draw a crowd. That’s not hard if you have the resources.
Leading a large church doesn’t make you “anointed” by God and the flipside is true as well—leading a small church or ministry doesn’t mean you lack it.
The only problem is … it’s not always the leader. Sometimes it’s the members—or amember—spiritual warfare or even a season of transition.
Preaching is a core element of the church, but focusing on preaching alone—or trying to find a talented communicator—is not the answer to church growth. In fact, if you’re a really good preacher, you should probably have people leaving on a regular basis because making disciples is hard. Just ask Jesus about the crowds that left him.
Can God use these special days to reach people? For sure. Is it a solid growth strategy? Not alone.
More programs don’t typically equal church growth. In fact, sometimes church programs just keep us church-busy and hold us back from engaging our neighbors.
God never promised us a growing church if we just start to build it—faith and wisdom go hand in hand. Don’t buy into thisField-of-Dreams superstition.
We are hearing, reading and talking a lot about same-sex marriage these days, particularly in light of the fact that the President of the United States of America has made it known that he personally supports extending to homosexual persons the right to enter into legally binding and legally recognized marriages. I’m pretty much convinced that same-sex marriage is inevitable, and it is just a matter of time before it becomes legal, or “civil unions” that are akin to marriage. The question appears not to be “if” this will happen, but only “when.” I have heard some Christians, even those who oppose same-sex marriage, personally. give a verbal shrug about the issue, resigning themselves to the invetibaility of it. But, even if it is something that will become part of our culture and society, the Church must continue, vigorously, to oppose it. There are many reasons, of course and there are many and various opinions being expressed.
I do not however often hear observations that take into account how, and why, same-sex marriage represents a fundamental perversion of the relationship between Christ and His Church. To me, this is the most significant reason to oppose same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage does more simply than corrupt the divinely instituted state of marriage as the life long union of one man and one woman. Nowhere in Scripture are sexual relationships, of any kind, condoned outside this “one flesh” union, as Christ Himself refers to it (see Mt 19:3-9; Mk 10:2-12).
But why? Further revelation through the Apostle Paul clarifies this question, quite precisely: because marriage, ultimately, is intended to be a one-flesh union between man and woman that typifies, or pictures to the world, the relationship between Christ and His church. It is through the fruit of marriage, children, that God blesses the whole world and provides for Himself more people for the kingdom of Christ and His Church. It may truly be said that marriage is sacramental, of a sort: through physical and tangible relationships between men and women, in marriage, God is pouring out His gifts and blessings on the whole world.
Same-sex marriage represents a profoundly corrupt and evil distortion of the relationship between Christ and His Church. For it is precisely that relationship that Christian marriages are instituted and called upon to reflect: both within the marriage itself and as a witness to others around the Christian married couple. St. Paul speaks of this unique and special aspect of Christian marriage in his letter to the Ephesians, chapter five. Consider with me, very carefully, how Paul discusses the nature of human sexuality, and human sexual relationships, in these words:
Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things yhe wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water jwith the word, o that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, ecause we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Do you notice how St. Paul frames his words? “Be imitators of God” and concluded with the comment it is precisely in Christian marriage that we see this “imitation of God.” How so? Wives are to submit to their husbands, as the Church submits to Christ, and husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.
When a man and a man enter into a sexual relationship it represents both a perversion of God’s original Creation and the New Creation that is made ours through Christ as we are drawn into relationship with Him through the Church. The nature of homosexual acts themselves reflect the deep self-centered perversion of human sexuality that St. Paul condemns here in this text as “impure.” It represents a complete falling away from what was both created “in the beginning” as Christ asserts and what has been recreated by Christ Himself through the washing of water with the Word.
And so, as we consider same-sex marriage, let’s also consider the unique meaning of marriage for Christian people and how God intends marriage to be the public witness to the world of the relationship between Christ and His Church. Such a witness is both physically and spiritually impossible when homosexuals indulge in those things that “must not even be named, as is proper among the saints.”
For many years I’ve received the “Pastoral Ponderings” of Father Patrick Reardon, an Orthodox priest. I find them always thought-provoking. The one I received today struck me as particularly helpful. I thought I’d share it with you.
November 6, 2011
21st Sunday After Pentecost
Father Pat’s Pastoral Ponderings
Reading Paul’s list of the “gifts” the triumphant Christ confers on the Church (Ephesians 4:11), students of Holy Scripture may profitably compare it to the earlier list in 1 Corinthians. The differences are striking. Let us limit ourselves to two considerations: the content of the two lists and their contextual ascriptions in each case.
First, the content of the two lists: The earlier one, in 1 Corinthians, includes the ministries of Christians endowed with wise counsel, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, charismatic utterance, and the ability to interpret such utterance (12:8-10).
The details of that list—and Paul certainly did not regard it as exhaustive of the Spirit’s generosity—were determined by the immediate pastoral problems of the church at Corinth, chiefly the pretense of superior wisdom on the part of some of its members (cf. 3:18). Consequently, all the gifts listed were marked by a kind of “charismatic” flavor. The question of charism determined the context; they were gifts of “the same Spirit” (12:4,9,11).
In Ephesians 4, on the other hand, the listed gifts may be described as more—for want of a happier adjective—structural. Except for the prophets, the ministers mentioned in the later text seem to have an “official” standing in the Church: apostles, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. These vocations, which exercise and oversee the evangelical and teaching ministry, are determined by the Church’s structure, its very constitution. They are more “official” than “charismatic.” For this reason, even the prophets in this list should probably be understood as “those whom the Church recognizes as prophets.”
Second, the contextual ascription of the gifts: Paul began the earlier list by asserting, “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). In this text Paul initially ascribes the gifts to each of the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity.
Nonetheless, when he treats of the various ministries individually, the Apostle speaks only of the Holy Spirit (five times in 12:8-11).
This pneumatological ascription of the diverse gifts is consonant with Paul’s abiding concern in 1 Corinthians: the unity of believers in Christ. The integrity of the Corinthian church was threatened by all sorts of factions, not the least of which were occasioned by the sheer variety of the gifts. For this reason, Paul insisted that the Holy Spirit was the source of congregational unity, not disunion: “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one unto profit” (12:7).
With respect to the gifts listed in Ephesians 4, their ascription is both similar to, and different from, 1 Corinthians.
The similarity lies in an identical Trinitarian quality; just he did in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, Paul begins the list of the gifts in Ephesians 4 with the Persons of the Holy Trinity, speaking of “one Spirit . . . one Lord . . one God and Father (4:4-6).
Then, he narrows the ascription of the gifts, not to the Holy Spirit, but to the triumphant Christ: “to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (4:7). Whereas in 1 Corinthians 12 the accent was pneumatological, here it is entirely Christological: “He Himself gave some as apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (4:11). Indeed, Ephesians 4 does not again speak of the Holy Spirit in the context of the gifts.
Since both 1 Corinthians and Ephesians are concerned with the unity of the Church as the body of Christ—and the spiritual gifts serving that unity certainly come from both Christ and the Holy Spirit—why the shift of emphasis to Christology in the Epistle to the Ephesians?
It is related, I believe, to Paul’s new awareness of Christ as the “head” of the Church. Since we do not find this idea in his thought until the Captivity Epistles—Colossians and Ephesians—I have always believed that the Apostle adopted this image from his discussions with Luke during the period of his imprisonment at Caesarea (cf. Colossians 4:14). From his beloved physician, he learned a new medical discovery: the head is the governing part of the body, the ruling principle of its unified activity.
The gifts listed in Ephesians were given “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (4:12). Through them Christ governs the teaching and pastoring of His people. By reason of His Ascension the Lord not only reigns over the saints in heaven; He also rules over the saints on earth.
Pastor Weedon does a great job refuting a cherished myth among many Christians, unfortunately, too many Lutherans. tonight’s Bible Class. He writes:
We’re in Jeremiah, and did chapter 9 last night. Eleanor sometimes visits our class. She had the most disturbing comment to report this evening: some fellow Lutherans had actually said to her “I’m forgiven so it doesn’t matter what I do.”
THIS IS NOT LUTHERAN. This is purely devilish.
The first of the 95 must ever be remembered: When our Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to repent, he meant that the entire life of the Christian should be repentance.
Which is to say, the entire life of the Christian, powered by the forgiveness of God, is an ongoing war against the sin that remains in our flesh. There is no peace treaty with that sin because of forgiveness. The exact opposite.
You have a house infested with poisonous snakes and you make a treaty of peace with them? Heck no! You go after them with a vengeance each time one shows its ugly head. You do so in the joyful confidence that the final victory WILL be yours, not theirs!
It is absolutely true that this battle continues to our grave. The evil desires continue to pop up from our corrupted flesh and will. But the grace of the Holy Spirit is given us for this battle to wage on.
Do we do it perfectly? Of course not! We literally LIVE from the forgiveness of our sins. But because we do, we’re snake hunters. We watch for the wretches to show up and then we attack with a vengeance. We know they mean us death, and so we bring them to death. We most certainly do NOT feed them, coddle them, or excuse them with saying: “But I’m forgiven, so they can stay.”
I had always turned to the Apology’s repeated assertions about the impossibility of faith existing outside of repentance, but Pastor Curtis pointed out that the Smalcald Articles are even clearer. Read for yourself III:III:40, 43-45. Luther is utterly clear.
“In Christians, repentance continues until death. 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 own members (Romans 7:14-25) not by his own powers but by the gift of the Holy Spirit that follows the forgiveness of sins [Romans 8:1-17]. This gift daily cleanses and sweeps out the remaining sins and works to make a person truly pure and holy. . . . So it is necessary to know and to teach this: When holy people—still having and p 277 feeling original sin and daily repenting and striving against it—happen to fall into manifest sins (as David did into adultery, murder, and blasphemy [2 Samuel 11]), then faith and the Holy Spirit have left them. The Holy Spirit does not permit sin to have dominion, to gain the upper hand so it can be carried out, but represses and restrains it from doing what it wants [Psalm 51:11; Romans 6:14]. If sin does what it wants, the Holy Spirit and faith are not present. For St. John says, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning … and he cannot keep on sinning” [1 John 3:9]. And yet it is also true when St. John says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” [1:8].
Source: Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions, Edited by Paul Timothy McCain, 276-78 (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005).
Rant over. And thanks to Eleanor for bringing the matter up – for it surely is a wound that needs addressing on the body of Lutheranism.
Pastor Weedon offered these wise words on his blog site. I like how he turns the question on its ear.
In Bible Class last Sunday: can a person who denies a specific part of the Creed still be regarded as a Christian? I thought immediately of how the Methodists (at least, last time I checked) dropped “He descended into hell” from the Apostles’ Creed, and I said: Yes. Yes, but…
And the but is this: the Creeds hand over the faith as a whole body. Can you still live, if you chop off your hand or your leg? Yes, but living becomes that more difficult, and the danger of infection runs rife – zeroing in on the beating heart. Can a person be healed and learn to get along without some piece of the Creed’s confession of the faith? Yes, but if they suggest then that hopping around on a single foot is actually all one needs, and a whole body isn’t that important and they wish to stop chopping off our feet…well, you can see where I’m headed. Luther famously said: Lass das Sakrament ganz bleiben – let the Sacrament remain whole. Same for the Creeds that express the faith of the Holy Church. Let them remain whole. They hand over to us the faith of our fathers to us not in pieces, but in whole.
It becomes a deadly game to play: how much can I chop out and still remain alive? Rather we should ask: why settle for anything less than the fullness, the whole corpus of the faith, that the Creeds witness to and confess?
From Sasse’s pen:
“The message of the church of the forgiveness of sins for the sake of Christ is called the Gospel. “Be reconciled to God!” In this appeal, the Gospel calls us to faith in Christ. “He made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” [RSV 2 Corinthians 5:21] This and nothing else is the Gospel, as if an angel came from heaven and proclaimed it to us. Of course Jesus did not teach a theology of justification, but he did proclaim the justification of the sinner by grace, by faith [sola gratia, sola fide] by coming to sinners and forgiving their sins. The scribes understood this in what he said by claiming God’s majesty for Himself – “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” [Mark 2:7] – He was fully aware that in this way he was claiming divine omnipotence for Himself. It is simply impossible, as the Lord’s Supper by itself shows, that the Gospel of the coming kingdom can be separated from the forgiveness of sins. So it is, that what the great church historian Adolf von Harnack defined as the “Gospel” was not Gospel at all. When he said that, “Not the Son, but the Father alone belongs to the Gospel, as Jesus Himself proclaimed it,” he was wrong on two counts. First this claim is historically inaccurate. Secondly, even if the message about Jesus is at most a preliminary step to the Gospel, but not the Gospel itself, we have to deal with the clear witness of the New Testament (Mark 1:1). The witness about Christ as the Redeemer is of the very fiber of the Gospel. The Gospel for Harnack and liberal theology was not the witness about Jesus Christ and the redemption which could be accomplished in Him, but it was a religious message with an ethical core. And if I may be permitted to use an example from the English speaking world, it would be one of its pious prophets, Walter Rauschenbusch [1861-1918]. What he understands by “Social Gospel” has nothing to do with what the New Testament calls “Gospel.” Rauschenbush has twisted things around. If he really has extracted the principles for governing society from what he finds to be the mind of Jesus, then these principles would be more properly designated a social law and not a social Gospel.
Here we are confronted with the important question of the difference between the Law and the Gospel. Luther has something specific to say about the ability of properly dividing the one from the other: “We should know that this is the highest art in Christendom; and if this is not known, you can never be sure about who is a Christian or a heathen or a Jew; everything depends upon this distinction.” He makes it quite clear that not only was this distinction not known in the church at his time, even the fathers denied it. “In making the distinction between the Law and the Gospel some of the most excellent of men and even some of the best preachers come up short… they do not know how to preach correctly and want to turn Christ into another Moses, the Gospel into Law, the Word (Gospel) into works.” (Luther) By saying ‘you should’ the Law places God’s demand before us. It reveals to us God’s holiness and righteousness and man’s impotence and sin. It not only leads us to a recognition of our guilt, but lets us sink deeper and deeper into this guilt. It places before us God’s anger and judgment and leads us to that point of despair where we say ‘I must sink into hell.’ Quite in another direction the Gospel convinces us what God freely out of his mercy has done for us. It is the message of God’s Son who was given to death for us. It says that everyone who believes in Christ, everyone who trusts in the promise of God’s grace, will have the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. It is the incomprehensible message about the justification of the sinner. God is not gracious to us because we have improved our lives or because we have made moral progress. In fact we keep only a small part of his commandments. He is gracious only and solely because Christ died for us and because His righteousness has become our righteousness. On the last day salvation will not be given to those who have fulfilled the law, but to those who fed and gave drink and sheltered Christ in the least of their brothers (Matthew 25). They have no knowledge of what they have done (vv. 38-39). Everywhere in the preaching of Jesus it is clear that “the reward in heaven” is a completely unearned reward. At this point the Law and Gospel come to a parting of the ways. This distinction does not mean that one has nothing to do with the other. They are both God’s Word. Both belong to the Old as well as to the New Testament. The Gospel as the promise of the coming Redeemer is already present in the Old Testament. Similarly the Law does not cease to exist in the New Testament, although Christ is the end of the Law, that is, he is the end of the Law as a way of salvation.
Hermann Sasse, Law and Gospel, 1936
translated by D.P. Scaer
1. Your reaction when things fall apart.
Do you catch yourself saying, “God, why is this happening? I’ve done x, y, and z?” Do suffering, difficulty, and obstacles provoke “why?” questions predicated on your goodness or effort? You’ve been working so hard, reading your Bible, going to church, serving others . . . why would God let this happen to you now? If that’s your line of thinking, it reveals you believe God owes you. And that’s religion, not Christ-centered thinking.
2. Your reaction to others.
Do you compare yourself, bad or good, against others? Do you belittle, mock, condescend, even if just internally? Do you resent others’ successes? Do you celebrate others’ failures? Do you really wish people would get their act together, or do you really wish people knew Jesus? Are you frequently annoyed, put out, irritated, embarrassed, or inconvenienced by others? Is it about you, or others? If you, that’s religion, but not Christ-centeredness.
3. Your appraisal of Jesus.
Is he your greatest treasure? That’s the number one indicator of gospel-conformity. You may know right off the bat if this is true or not. For some, it’s true only sentimentally or religiously. You may think it’s true ultimately, but your time, talents, words, emotions, and bank account testify differently. These are all heart issues. Anybody can get the behavior right. The Pharisees certainly did, and most of them went to hell. But this isn’t even about looking Pharisaical or legalistic or churchy. There’s a lot of Christian hipsters out there in coffee shop churches who have no idea they’re just religious, not Christ-centered.
HT: Jared Wilson via Justin Taylor; ed. PTM
Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. We belong to none other than the Lord. This is our greatest comfort and joy: that we have as our Lord He to whom the Father has given all power in heaven and on earth and has placed all things in His hands. Who, then, could possibly do us harm? The devil may very well attack us with his murderous rage, but he will never snatch us from the Lord’s hand. For we who believe in Jesus Christ and live under His guardianship have also become lords ourselves over the devil, sin, death, etc. In order that such lordship might be ours, He was made man for our sake. He appealed to the Father on our behalf and so loves us in this way: He was condemned, offering Himself up for our sakes. With His precious blood He purchased us and washed us clean from sin. Still more He has placed in our hearts the Holy Spirit, the pledge of our inheritance and blessedness, making us kings and priests for God and joint heirs with Himself. This is most certainly true. — Martin Luther
He accepted your evil; will He not give you His good? Certainly He will. He promised His life to us; but what He has done is more unbelievable. He offered His own life to us, as if to say: ‘I invite you to My life where no one dies, where life is truly blessed, where food is not corrupted, where it refreshes and does not fail. Behold the place to which I invite you, to the abode of the angels, to the friendship of the Father and of the Holy Spirit, to the eternal banquet, to My companionship, finally, to Me Myself and to My life do I invite you. Do you not wish to believe that I will give you My life? Take My death as a pledge.’
— St. Augustine, Homily 231