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Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ…

Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me

Galatians 1:1-2

The word Gospel comes from the Greek word, euangelion.  A literal translation reads, good-message; good news-Gospel.  This word is used to mean many things today, but its technical and proper meaning is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, sins forgiven on account of Jesus’ death on the cross.  The Gospel of our Lord means that God’s wrath and condemnation because of your sin is no more towards you—all because of Jesus.

The Gospel is the declaration and pronouncement that your sins, in Christ, are forgiven.  Therefore, Holy Baptism, Absolution, and the Sacrament of the Altar are Gospel, because by these means, God gives you forgiveness.

These very gifts, indeed, the Gospel itself, as defined here, is opposed to the ways of the world, for Gospel is free gift.  We want to earn—we want to do.  But the way of the Gospel, the way of our Lord, is the way of giving, giving to those who don’t deserve, who don’t do, who don’t earn, and who don’t merit.

This is why we have such a tough time with the Gospel.  We’re conditionally oriented.  I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.  This is not the way of our Lord.  God’s love in Jesus Christ is unconditional.  This is why God’s grace is amazing.  His love for you extends beyond your ‘what-ifs’ and ‘have-dones.’

Those who desire God to be conditional toward them because of how hard they try, what they do, etc. will certainly have that desire fulfilled.  They will get what they deserve—hell and eternal judgment.  But those who seek Christ and believe in Him for their salvation, gladly taking what God freely gives, even His Holy Word, these will find God’s unconditional love to be their salvation, their hope, and their joy.  They will not get what they deserve.  They will inherit eternal life.  Amen.

Luther

The Gospel is a doctrine that teaches something far more sublime than the wisdom, righteousness, and religion of the world.  It leaves these things at their proper level and commends them as good creatures of God.  But the world prefers these creatures to the Creator.  Finally, through them it wants to abolish sin, to be delivered from death, and to merit eternal life.  This the Gospel condemns.  But the world cannot bear the condemnation of that which it regards as best.  Therefore it charges the Gospel with being seditious and erroneous doctrine that subverts commonwealths, principalities, kingdoms, empires, and religions;  it accuses the Gospel of sinning against God and Caesar, of abrogating laws, of subverting morality, and of granting men the license to do with impunity whatever they please.  With righteous zeal, therefore, and with the appearance of high service to God (John 16:2), the world persecutes this doctrine and despises its teachers and followers as the greatest plague there can be on earth. (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p13)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me not take for granted your unconditional love for a sinner such as I.  I have not kept your word.  I have neglected your commandments and done what is according to my will, not yours.  Forgive me for assuming that your favor towards me is founded on me and not on Christ.  Lead me to a right understanding and faith in the Gospel, Your Gospel, Your Son Jesus Christ.  And help me so to live.  Amen.

Luke 14:1-14, “Dining with Jesus”

Moved by the Holy Spirit, the writer of Proverbs wrote, The highway of the upright is to depart from evil; He who keeps his way preserves his soul. Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, Than to divide the spoil with the proud. He who heeds the word wisely will find good, And whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he (Proverbs 16:17-20).

True humility is a rare bird. It is on the endangered species list in our day. Many people talk about it and admire it, but few actually practice it.

Lk14.1-14, Pentecost 14, 2010C.pdf

The South Wisconsin District & Rev. Mark Jeske of Time of Grace

In the South Wisconsin District (SWD) of the LCMS, I’ve observed disturbing changes within this district (and within the LCMS as a whole), changes which further move us away from our foundational moorings.

For the past several years, I’ve noticed a growing number of conferences and retreats where Rev. Mark Jeske of Time of Grace ministries located in Milwaukee, airing on the net (http://www.timeofgrace.org/index.php), on the radio, and on TV, is one of the speakers.  The SWD endorses him, as his ‘ministry’ is also now an Recognized Service Organization (RSO) of the LCMS

(http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=15614), airing even on the LCMS’ radio station from St. Louis, KFUO.

What’s interesting, as others have noted (i.e. http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=6919), is that Jeske is:

1)      of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS)

2)      not an LCMS pastor

3)      Promotes the unscriptural ‘principles’ and doctrine of the church growth movement (CGM) (For further study on these, see http://www.ctsfw.net/media/pdfs/huebelcgm.pdf as a starter)

LCMS and WELS are not in fellowship.  Joint ministries here are in the least confusing to members and nonmembers of both church bodies.  Joint ministries here are also conflicting, esp. because the Church Growth Movement so advocated by Jeske is in conflict with our doctrine, and also the official teaching of WELS.

A genuine concern for doctrine asks the question ‘why’?  Since CGM teaches what is contrary to Scripture, why is such teaching given air on the LCMS station KFUO, advocated by at least one district (the SWD), and even now an RSO of the LCMS?

The answer may be because the LCMS as a whole has forgotten the concern of God’s people—faithfulness to the His Word, rather than seeking after acceptance by the world and its ways.  But faithfulness calls for obedience to the Lord’s Word and avoidance of those who teach otherwise:

Note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple (Romans 16:17-18)

May the Lord keep the LCMS and her members watchful, observant, and bold in the face of false doctrine and opposition, even with those within her own body!

Challenges in the church and her pastors

The following is from  a recent Memorial Moments (http://www.mlchouston.org/memorialmoments/mm_archive.html).   Food for thought, and reason for repentance.

Martyrs of the Devil

Friday in Pentecost 11

13 August 2010Friday in Pentecost 11

Pastors are dropping out of the ministry of the church and choosing secular vocations at an accelerating rate. Why? On 7 August, the New York Times ran an op-ed piece entitled “Congregations Gone Wild,” and I don’t think the author, G. Jeffrey MacDonald, meant it in a good way . He pointed out that Christian congregations are increasingly demanding that their pastors dumb down the message, preaching merely to entertain or to make their congregants feel good. He recounted his own experience, when as a parish pastor about ten years ago the advisory committee of his congregation told him to keep his sermons to 10 minutes, tell funny stories, and leave people feeling great about themselves.

Lots of congregations are making similar demands on their pastors these days. The problem is that these demands run completely counter to the prophetic role to which the Bible calls our pastors. The Lord called on the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel and said, “So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me” (Ez 33:7). Sometimes the warning the pastors give rubs the people who hear it the wrong way. They don’t appreciate having their wickedness pointed out to them. Some years ago, I conducted a funeral for a young mother in my congregation who had died quite suddenly. I preached about her sin and the great grace of God given to her in Christ Jesus, who forgave her sins and called her to everlasting life with Him. Many of the young professional people in that funeral service were angry because I called their friend or colleague a sinner. Her husband came to me afterward and recounted this to me saying: “Way to go, Pastor, you preached what I wanted you to preach and what we all needed to hear.” I could not ignore death and sin because its results were so obvious in the casket that stood in the middle of church. Many people went away from the service that day profoundly angry, but angry because what I said about this young woman was also attributable to them; they were sinners and they too would die.

Increasingly, this inconvenient truth is being denied, rejected, dimmed, muted, and finally rejected. Instead we desire to be entertained. MacDonald rightly pointed out that “churchgoers increasingly want pastors to soothe and entertain them. It’s apparent in the theater-style seating and giant projection screens in churches.” Pastors are increasingly presented with the dilemma of reducing the sharpness of their preaching, such as calling people to repentance, or to look upon the cross for their salvation, so that if they do not they will be looking for other work. They have become entertainers or dispensers of soothing spiritual Kool-Aid; the mind-numbing soma of the modern religious institution. And the excuse is: “It gets people in the church who wouldn’t be here otherwise.” But the problem is that if the message has become unbiblical is it really the church of which Christ says the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, or has it become merely a smarmy religious club?

If our pastors are dancing to the devil’s tune, they will have to dance rather hard, like those old fashioned dance contests that awarded the prize to the last couple left standing. It becomes a double whammy; those who must dance for their dinner will never be able to stop and then they will continue to dance for their father forever. Let Christ do everything by preaching His gospel. It is so much easier. And it actually works too.

Martin Luther

“The workers of the Law are very rightly called ‘martyrs of the devil,’ if I may use the common expression, because they procure hell by greater labor and trouble than that by which the martyrs of Christ gain heaven. They are worn out by a double contrition: while they are in this life, performing many great works, they torture themselves uselessly; and when they die, they receive eternal damnation and punishment as their reward. Thus they are most miserable martyrs both in the present life and in the future life, and their slavery is eternal.
“It is not so with believers, who have afflictions only in this life, while they have peace in Christ, because they believe that He has defeated the world. Therefore we must stand fast in the freedom Christ has acquired for us by His death, and we must be diligently on our guard not to be enticed once more into a yoke of slavery. This is what is happening today to the fanatical spirits: falling away from faith and freedom, they have condemned themselves here in time to slavery, and in eternity they will again be oppressed by slavery. The majority and greater part of the papists have today degenerated into nothing better than Epicureans, who, as they are accustomed, use the liberty of the flesh and sing securely: ‘Eat, drink, and play, for after death there is no pleasure.’ But truly they are slaves of the devil,who holds them captive to his will. Therefore the eternal slavery of hell awaits them.”

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.

Prayer

Dear Lord Jesus, give us pastors with the courage to preach Your Word, that we might not fall into self-satisfied complacence. Keep us steadfast in the Word that we might not become martyrs of the devil, but remain the free children of Your kingdom. Amen

Does Being Lutheran Still Matter?

In short, the answer is a resounding YES! Read the PDF to learn more. Confessional Lutheranism DOES mean something–more than something–confessional Lutherans confess Christ in their teaching (doctrine) and by their practice.

DoesBeingLutheranStillMatter.pdf

Comment on an advertisement for the movie “The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry”

An advertisement for the movie, “The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry” reads, “There have already been hundreds of decisions for Christ as a direct result of watching this movie.”  This could actually be a sad commentary on the movie.  I haven’t seen the movie, but such an ad is reason for caution.

That phrase, “decision for Christ,” carries the baggage of a false theology of conversion.  It advances the belief that we ourselves can “make a decision.”  Though few might believe this, the phrase itself cannot but lead to such conclusions.

The Bible says that “All have sinned” (Romans 3:23) and that there are none righteous, “no, not one” (Romans 3:10).  The Psalmist states, “There is none who does good” (Psalm 14:1).  Isaiah writes, “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6).

Since the Fall of Adam and Eve in the garden, just as recorded in the book of Genesis, man is unable to “decide” for God or for Christ.  Since the fall, man doesn’t have the “free will” that so many dream he has.  The sinner in his inherited sinful state hates God and doesn’t “fear, love, and trust” in Him above all things.

The only remedy for such a predicament is not “making a decision,” but Christ Himself, who through His Word creates faith in the heart (Romans 10:17).

Instead of “making a decision for Christ,” rather hear His Word preached, and there you will hear God’s goodness and kindness towards you in Christ—sins forgiven.

Comment on a message from Brad Bright

In the mail the other day, I received a packet of information for general ministry items (books, signs, church supplies, etc.).  Included in this packet was a card advertising a message from Brad Bright, president of Bright Media and son of Dr. Bill Bright (Founder, Campus Crusade For Christ).  The card also had a picture of Brad Bright’s book entitled, Becoming An Agent of Real Change: God Is The Issue.

The message on the card included the following:

The only way to change culture is to change society’s view of God.

These words especially drew my attention.  In essence, Brad advocates changing the culture by changing the society’s view of God.  Such a dream is idealistic, however, because God’s kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).  In fact, WE don’t change society’s view on anything.  It is the Lord, through His Word, who softens and changes hearts, calling to repentance and faith.

The Church, God’s people, simply proclaim the Good News of sins forgiven in Christ.  They “rightly divide the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) and “let the chips fall where they might.”  It is God who “gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).

Does the Church have a responsibility to society?  Yes, but not to change it.  Rather, she, the Church, is to confess the truth, to call sin—sin, and to preach the Gospel.  The rest is in God’s hands.

The Church is also to be compassionate and merciful, not to change society, but simply because that’s what she does, out of love for neighbor.  Such is what the Father is toward us—in Christ.

Society and the citizens within it need help.  Plain and simple.  We, as God’s people, don’t change anything.  We are to be God’s people, a light with lamps burning (Matthew 5;16), not drawing attention to ourselves, but to Christ.

The reality is that culture won’t change even if society’s view of God changes.  Until Christ returns, the consequences and effects of sin remain.  And especially does the Christian struggle with these, living under the cross.  Christ didn’t come “to change” culture.  He came to save sinners.  He did that by shedding His blood on the cross.  The church doesn’t save anyone.  She is called to speak the truth.  And it is through that word proclaimed, which is not her own, that sinners come to faith, believe the Gospel and become heirs of eternal life.  And it is by that same Word by which Christians remain and “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

CPH Sells Millionth Hymnal, Launches Sale

The following ad received in an e-mail from CPH about Lutheran Service Book (LSB) is worth considering.

In the Lutheran Church, it has been said, the three devotional books are:

1. The Bible

2. The Catechism

3. The Hymnal

Full of resources for personal and family devotions, as well as for Sunday morning, evening, etc., LSB is worthy the cost.  The hymns found therein confess Christ, and plenteous devotional material (i.e. prayers-collects, reading ‘calendars’, the small catechism, etc.) assist in the personal piety of the Christian, that he/she be continually in prayer and hope in God.  Here is the ad:

h2hbanner.jpg

September 1, 2010

“Hymnal in Every Home” Campaign Launches to Celebrate the Sale of the 1,000,000th Copy of Lutheran Service Book

Since its release in August 2006, Lutheran Service Book has been enthusiastically received, so much so that Concordia Publishing House is pleased to announce that the 1,000,000th copy of the Missouri Synod’s hymnal has been sold. Over 80% of the congregations in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod are now using Lutheran Service Book and never before has a hymnal been so quickly and universally adopted by Missouri Synod congregations.

As part of the original project plans, the LCMS Commission on Worship envisioned that Lutheran Service Book would not only be found in congregational pew racks, but in Lutheran homes, as an essential part of every Lutheran’s devotional life. To help realize this goal, Concordia Publishing House is launching the “Hymnal in Every Home” campaign, and offering Lutheran Service Book at a special price of $20 for the pew edition and $30 for the gift edition.

Learn more about the campaign by visiting cph.org/hymnal.

Product ImageLook Inside

Product Image

Lutheran Service Book:
Pew Edition
031170WEBPrice:$23.00

Sale Price: $20.00

Order Now

Lutheran Service Book:
Gift Edition
031171WEB

Price:$40.00

Sale Price: $30.00

Order Now

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