Monday, February 25, 2008

Don’t Talk to Strangers

Parents emphasize to their children, especially their younger children, “Don’t talk to strangers!”

Parents know that their children have not developed the capacity to differentiate between those who are friends and those who are friendly. Acting friendly is not always the mark of a trustworthy person. Often, in fact, the more friendly that a person acts, the more markedly untrustworthy the person is. Many people act very friendly in order to hide their real intentions.

Children need to be protected. The less informed that the child is, the more that the parents need to protect the child. Loving parents recognize the need to keep their children separate from those who appear to be friendly, but are really quite the opposite. Even the schools teach this warning.

Parents know that the world is evil and full of evil people. Some very innocent looking people are in reality a terrible threat to helpless children. So the parents close their home securely against those who are not first carefully investigated and judged to be friends of the family.

Oddly, those entrusted with the oversight of God’s beloved children often treat this matter in a very different way. Pastors and church leaders often act as though people who act friendly towards God’s Church do not need to be carefully investigated before giving them free access to the household.

Yet through the Scriptures the Lord speaks the strongest possible warnings against those who have not come in through the narrow door. The Lord warns that there are many who make themselves appear as sheep, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. Sometimes these wolves are even those who pretend to be the shepherds.

Near the end of his epistle to the church in Rome the Apostle Paul says:

Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you. Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. (Rom 16:16-18)

Does this not sound very much like the admonition that dear parents give to their dearly beloved children?


For a very long time, many years in fact, I have heard people ask questions about the differences between Concordia Seminary in Saint Louis and Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne. The questions were usually from pastors more than from lay people in former years, but more recently many concerned lay people have been asking the same questions.

The primary form of the question is: “Is the St. Louis Seminary more liberal than the Fort Wayne seminary?”

As an alumnus of the St. Louis seminary, I am very much aware that differences exist. As many people have observed over the years, the alumni of the two seminaries tend toward different actions in the parish setting. The biggest difference seems to be in manner or style, or perhaps attitude. At least this is what people generally observe.

But what is the real basis for the differences? Is it really a matter of one seminary being more or less liberal than the other? It is interesting to note that the question is usually phrased in this way rather than which one is more conservative (although in years past this was often the way it was phrased).

Sometimes the question is phrased as which seminary is more faithful to the Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions.

In reality, none of these questions really fit what is observed. Both seminaries as well as their staff and their graduates profess a quia subscription to the Lutheran Confessions. Both profess to adhere to the Holy Scriptures of God. Both profess to seek to prepare pastors for faithful service to the Word and to the Church in preaching the Gospel. Both profess to be urgently concerned for the salvation of lost souls. Both profess to embrace the historic Christian faith and the historic definition of the Church.

So then, why the perceived difference?

From my years of observing the difference I have concluded that it is a matter of how each seminary defines quia subscription to the Lutheran Confessions and how each defines faithfulness. What I will state below is a set of generalizations. Obviously exceptions exist.

Concordia Seminary — St. Louis, tends to subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions as true expositions of the Gospel because the LC-MS subscribes to them as such. Faithfulness tends to be understood as loyalty to the understanding of being LC-MS Lutheran Christians.

Concordia Theological Seminary — Ft. Wayne, tends to subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions as true expositions of the Gospel because the professors of the Ft. Wayne seminary (and certain professors in particular) subscribe to them as such. Faithfulness tends to be understood as loyalty to the understanding of being Concordia Theological Seminary LC-MS Lutheran Christians.

Both of these generalizations are over-simplified, but nevertheless they do fit as simple generalizations of what is observed. As these demonstrate, the two seminaries are not all that much different in that they both are absolutely dedicated to the preservation of the LC-MS and the promotion of Lutheranism as the best form of Christianity. Both seminaries claim to teach faithfully the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. Both seminaries claim to embrace the historic liturgy as important to the Church. Both seminaries ultimately define both true Lutheranism and true Christianity according to what is decided in LC-MS conventions. Both openly profess to be in true fellowship with each other and with all who are members of the LC-MS.

So why is this even a question? It is because people are concerned about what they see happening in the churches. They hear different things being stressed by different pastors and congregations. They see different practices among those who profess to be one in the faith. They even hear different applications of the Word from congregation to congregation. People are concerned because the Scriptures declare that the Church is one in doctrine and practice, and this is not what is observed in the churches. They read in the Lutheran Confessions a clear reiteration of the Scriptural declarations and promises that the true Church is the gathering of the believers to the pure Word and Sacraments, and then they hear their pastors and churches declare that this cannot exist. They see their pastors and churches practicing disunity in doctrine and especially in the practice of that doctrine while simultaneously pretending to be one in the faith.

People tend to find this to be very disturbing because it does not agree with what is declared by the Scriptures. Somehow it is hard to understand how practicing disunity is the same as being truly one in the Lord.

The fact is that those who claim that this is possible are absolutely correct in saying that purity of doctrine and practice will never happen, at least not among those who embrace disunity and unity as coexisting reality.

The Scriptures declare a better way, a true way, and its dependency is not upon one’s seminary nor even upon one’s church body loyalties.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


This is a new word for my vocabulary: pulchritude. For some time the mainstream media has applied the meaning of this word to a certain candidate of their preferred political party. But this candidate’s popularity seems to have faded and with this the mainstream media’s view of this candidate seems to have lost its pulchritude.

How much better when our perception of pulchritude has an everlasting basis that cannot fade away. For instance:

How pulchritudinous upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! (Isaiah 52:7)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

More thoughts on the Constitution Party

Some comments worthy of consideration are made regarding the Constitution Party and its platform at Thoughts on the Constitution Party and Biblical Principles at the Ballot Box.

The second link especially shares information, which if accurate, causes me to be discomforted regarding the party.

Nevertheless, the platform is worthy of examination and consideration. It certainly says some things that are truly worthy of acknowledgment.

Yet at the same time, caution is in order, as terminology, especially Biblical and Christian terms, are used quite loosely, as is common among so-called Christians today as well as throughout history.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Castro’s Resignation

I suppose that Castro’s resignation may be cause for rejoicing. Many have prayed for this day for many years. Some have even prayed for this man’s demise in the hope that his tyrannical dictatorship would come to an end. But how does one know that the one who follows him will be any better and not perhaps even worse?

But these perceptions are purely pragmatic. They certainly are not the thoughts of the pure in spirit who reflect the love of their God and Savior.

What does our God declare as His way?

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. (1 Timothy 2:8)

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:43-45)

What a strange God we Christians follow! How strange His ways are to the ways of the sinful human heart.
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. (Romans 12:19)

The Lord our God declares that He is the one and the only one to whom vengeance belongs, for He alone is just and holy. Yet from whom does He exact this vengeance? He stoops to become a man and takes the sin of the world into His own person and says, “I will repay!”

Such is the way of the Lord our God. His way is not our end but our beginning. His way is the way of reconciliation through peace that He has purchased by His own sacrifice.

And thus, having been reconciled to God in Christ, we are free to do unto others as He has first done unto us. We are free to turn the other cheek when we are struck in slander and mockery. We are free to forgive our enemies and even to pray for their health so that they may live to hear the beautiful message of the Gospel and receive from God the same full pardon that we have received.

We often cry out against those who do evil in this world. But how often do we look upon them with the new hearts that God has created within us so that we pray for them? How often do we pray for the abortionist and the liberal politician who empowers these pretend doctors? How often do we pray for those who are working to bring our nation to ruin?

Thanks be to God that He has established our prayer in which we do pray for all, opening with the words: “Our Father . . .” and continuing with “Thy kingdom come . . .” and then, “. . . as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Then also in the General prayer of the Church we are led by God through His beautiful liturgy to pray for all men and all rulers and even our enemies.

How truly good God is to give us such prayers whereby He leads us to pray what we would not pray of our own accord! How good God is to count these prayers as our own good will even though we often do not think of the words that we pray! How good God is to hear our prayers and to reply, “Well done, my blessed and beloved children!”

Constitution Party Platform

Click to the - Forging a Rebirth of Freedom

Have you ever examined the platform of the Constitution Party?

It is worth your consideration.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Striving for Goodness

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to try to be good? Have you noticed how hard it is to try to be faithful? Have you noticed how hard it is to try to believe?

There is a reason that striving for these things is so hard.

Luther’s explanation to the Introduction to the “Our Father” is truly a delightful help in this matter.

Our Father who art in heaven.

What does this mean?

God would by these words tenderly invite us to believe that He is our true Father, and that we are His true children, so that we may with all boldness and confidence ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.

This explanation is truly in keeping with what our Lord Jesus wants us to learn as we pray this prayer. This explanation brings true delight to the person who hears what the Spirit says in this prayer.

God wants us to know ourselves as He knows us. He wants us to know ourselves as His dear children.

If this is how we know ourselves, what will we expect from our dear Father? What will our lives demonstrate in this relationship that our Father has brought into being for us?

When Daddy gives instructions to His dear little children, does He give them instructions that are difficult to understand and difficult to perform?

Even with our earthly fathers we do not experience this. Certainly some of us have had unloving and tyrannical fathers. Yet even such a father does not ask a little toddler to climb up a ladder to repair the roof on the house.

Particularly where the father is a loving and caring father, the children know themselves as beloved children. They look to Daddy for their every need in life, especially in times of trouble. For example, if a little child is being chased by a stray dog, the child does not have to strive to know what to do. The child simply takes off running towards Daddy, screaming for help. No child in such a situation would first wonder what must be done to win Daddy’s favor. Such a reaction is only the response held toward a stranger.

The Lord our God is perfect in every way and He loves us with the perfect love of our Father who art in heaven. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever present. There is nothing that He cannot do for us, nothing that we need that He does not know, and noplace where He is not present for us. His mercy and goodness toward us are without limit.

Even our unwillingness to trust Him is something that He has taken care of for us. Trusting Him is not something that we must strive to do. Such striving is the opposite of faith. Faith is trusting Him, and this He brings to life in us by the power of the Gospel.

When He says “I love you,” He makes this what we know by washing us with water that is filled with His Word and completely wraps us in the person of Jesus. With the white robe of Jesus covering us, we know that God looks upon us with favor. For Jesus is His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. When He says that He is with us always, He calls us home to be gathered with Him in His family, to hear His gracious promises and to share in His Holy Communion and to eat and drink at His Supper of forgiveness and life, where He is truly present for us in His body and blood.

Yet even hearing and receiving all this, still we imagine that we must strive to be good and to find a way to be the children that He has already declared us to be. Of course, this is the way of the older children, who think too much about their own abilities. The little ones do not worry about such things, but simply hear the voice of their loving God and take comfort in knowing that His voice is the voice of Love itself.

This is why Jesus tells us that if we want to enter the kingdom of heaven that we must do so as little children, converted again, turned from our own thoughts and efforts, to the blessed Word through which God comes to us and makes Himself truly known to us.

The sum of faith is in realizing that faith is not about us and what we do as God’s children. Faith is about God and what He does for us as His children. When this is what we hear from God, the obedience of faith is the easiest thing in the world. When this is what we hear from God, what can possibly prevent the faith that causes us to trust Him and to follow Him?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Trying to Make Sense of Life

I seem to remember a time when my earthly life made more sense to me. It seems that I remember having more determined focus for my earthly activities.

As I grow to realize the reality that my life is hidden with Christ in God, hidden from earthly observation because my life is Christ who is seated at the right hand of God, things of this world make less and less sense to me and my part in the things of this world seems to become more and more foreign to me. (Colossians 3 & Philippians 3)

In Ecclesiastes Solomon put the life of a Christian into perspective, saying that all is concluded in hearing “God fear and the commandments guard, for this the whole man.” Fearing God is the sum of faith and not letting go of His commandments is the life of faith in His grace. For His commandments all direct us to the cross of Christ where He has fulfilled all things for us and we learn that through His means of grace our lives are made whole again.

This really is all for the Man. Whereas according to what can be observed in this world, even as Solomon taught, Vanity, Vanity is all that can be found. But in Christ, life makes sense again.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Valentine’s Day

While the accounts of St. Valentine are varied, they all teach us of love and affection that far exceed any mere emotion or infatuation.

Such is the love that is incorporated into those who are enjoined in marriage. Of course the supreme demonstration of this love is in the marriage of Christ and His bride, for whom He has given Himself, for whom He paid the supreme price.

I wish that my love could be compared to His. Nevertheless, the Lord has fulfilled my manhood through the gift of a bride who holds me with esteem as though I deserved it. While I could hope that she would willingly tolerate me and endure me, rather, she holds me with a love that reflects the love that God has given to her. While I could hope that she would find some small blessing in our marriage, she gives thanks to God that He has brought us together and bound us in the faith that we share. Moreover, as she subjects herself to me as her earthly head, the blessings are multiplied as I proclaim the immeasurable treasures of the Gospel and she responds by declaring this proclamation as what she is most thankful for in life.

How can I ever give sufficient thanks to God for such a wife? How can I ever love her sufficiently to honor rightly this amazing treasure? Thanks be to God that He declares me to be holy and worthy of love on the basis of the merits of Jesus, and my wife says to His gracious declaration, ❤ ❤ ❤ “Amen!” ❤ ❤ ❤

Monday, February 11, 2008

Life Stinks

Life Stinks! There have been times when I have heard these words come from my lips. There are many other ways that people say this as well, but the sentiment expressed is the same.

Yet this is a terrible lie! Life does not stink. Jesus is Life. He certainly does not stink.

So what am I really saying when I say “Life stinks!”? What am I really smelling when I say “Life stinks!”?

What I am smelling is my own corruption, my own rottenness. What stinks is my own Sin-Death decay. What stinks is my attitude. What stinks is my own inability to see the wonders of God at work in my life.

My sin is the cause of this blindness. My sin and the sin of the world is what fills the nostrils of my mind’s olfactory imagination with the stench of death and rottenness.

Realizing this causes me to repent of my statement. Realizing this causes me to turn from my stink to the sweet aroma of the sacrifice of Jesus by which my stench is taken from me and buried through Baptism. Realizing the falseness of my attitude leads me to confess my sin so that I may hear again and again the promise of God so that the sweet aroma of His holy absolution fills my heart, mind, and soul.

When God works this miracle within me, I stop and remember the sweet taste of the Supper of God’s Holy Communion, where my life is filled up with the life that is in Jesus, who is fed to me bodily to fill my very being with His goodness and life.

Ah! Now I say, “Life is Good! Amen!”