Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!


Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Does a Hymnal Affect (and Effect) Fellowship?

Perhaps before this question is answered, the question of the correlation of doctrine and practice must be answered. Some would suggest that doctrine and practice, that style and substance, that faith and life can be separated, but can they or do they go together hand in hand? Timothy Maschke in his book Gathered Guests suggests that these two things, doctrine and practice, style and substance, faith and life or whatever classification and name you give them, do go together as he writes, “About the middle of the twentieth century, a new interest in liturgy arose throughout Christendom. Liturgical movements flourished among Catholics, Lutherans, and Episcopalians, as well as among several nonliturgical denominations. Many of these movements quickly recognized the close ties between worship and doctrine. Believing that worship could move groups together, the ecumenically-minded leaders in some denominations were especially cognizant of the impact that worship forms could have on the church”1 (Emphasis added).

So, if we do believe that doctrine and practice go together, then how does this or does this affect fellowship? Again, the evidence is quite clear. When church bodies worship using the same hymnal, it draws them together, because the hymnal, their worship practice, informs and educates their doctrine, what it is that they believe and if they begin believing the same things, then what is to keep them from joining together?

Evidence of this joining because of using the same hymn book is clear. Again, going back to Maschke and his writing in Gathered Guests, when church bodies used the same hymnal, “As a result of these efforts, the Service Book and Hymnal of the Lutheran Church in America was produced in 1958. As expected, joint worship practices led to corporate mergers among several Lutheran groups. Of the eight Lutheran bodies that had worked on this hymnal project, four formed the ALC and the other four became the LCA.”2 And more evidence is clear as he continues, “In 1977, the LCMS rejected the proposed Lutheran Book of Worship on theological grounds, though church politics were also involved as an underlying cause of the rejection. The ALC and the LCA, along with the new AELC (a group that broke away from the LCMS shortly before this hymnal was rejected), adopted Lutheran Book of Worship. Ten years later, in 1988, these three Lutheran bodies formed the ELCA.”2

So, if using the same hymnal can bring churches together, what can “disowning” a hymnal do to a denomination? Might we ask this question concerning the disunity of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Might we trace this disunity to the giving up our hymnal? The hymnal adopted and in use in the LCMS in 1982 was the hymnal Lutheran Worship, a hymnal which was an edit of the joint hymnal, Lutheran Book of Worship and a hymnal which was designed to include much variety in worship. It was during this time that some in the LCMS were buying into the paradigm of the principles of the so called church growth movement, a movement using social principles for growing congregations. This movement strived to separate doctrine and practice and suggested that by following certain social principles a congregation could grow. As congregations “threw out” the hymnal and began adapting and adopting various worship “forms,” it became more and more apparent that these congregations did not look like, sound like, or in some cases even care to emulate what it means to be Lutheran.

Might it be that one of the greatest factors in the doctrinal disunity of the LCMS is the lack of uniformity in our divine service practice which should flow out of our theology so that those that are practicing something other than Lutheran services are indeed not Lutheran, but rather are of the nature of their worship practice?

For years in the LCMS, a person could attend a worship service in any LCMS congregation around the country and know they were in an LCMS church, but not so today. To put it in socio-economic terms, if a person were to walk into a Walmart anywhere in the USA or a Target, or Sears, etc., they would know they were in a Walmart, or a Target or a Sears. The corporate philosophy of each store is demonstrated in its running of the store, its design, layout, etc.

At the 2006 Texas District convention, it was stated, and this is a paraphrase, if everyone in our synod purchased and used the new hymnal, Lutheran Service Book, this usage would go along way in bringing our synod back together. Indeed, we practice what we preach and when we all practice something different it is because we believe something different, but when we practice a uniformity of practices, it is because we do believe the same and this similar belief system is what brings us together in fellowship.

1 Gathered Guests, A Guide to Worship in the Lutheran Church, Timothy H. Maschke, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO, ©2003, p. 97.

2 Ibid., p. 97-98.

3 Ibid., p. 98.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Starting a New Trend

I no longer want to be considered a Caucasian. I am not from Asia nor Caucas. I do not want to be considered a “white” person as actually the melanoma in my skin gives me more a beige color. I know there is a lot of German ancestry in my blood and some other nationalities, but I do not consider these to be what identify me. So, in order to fall into the politically correct and tolerant category, please label me as a “Texan-American.”

Why all the fuss? We live in a world that makes a lot of this thing we label as “race.” The fact of the matter is that all humans in the world can be traced back to one woman, so even the evolutionists say. Which is interesting because some of the greatest damage done to our world concerning races was by the evolutionists who believed that the different races (suggested by skin color) were people groups who evolved at different rates. Since all humans are of like ancestry perhaps we would do well to change our language to speak in terms of cultures instead of races. And instead of speaking in terms of skin color we can remind ourselves that skin color only amounts to various amounts of melanoma in ones skin.

And we might also add to this discussion the problem with the “dash” in the hyphenating of words we consider one’s race. To add something to one being an American, such as an African-American, or a German-American, or a Texan-American, does more to divide than to unite. Notice that the little “dash” is either a minus sign or a division sign, of sorts. I suggest it is a division sign because the cry for unity in diversity is a misnomer. To unify anything is the exact opposite of dividing anything and the word diversity has the word divide right at the start. When we celebrate diversity we are celebrating division. Remember the cliche, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Remember the adage that America is a melting pot. Now certainly that does not mean that we do not or cannot celebrate the various cultures of our ancestors, but it does mean that these rituals are less important than what unifies us. And what unifies us is our Creator God and the similar DNA He created in each of us. Just my two cents!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Numbered with the Saints - May 16, 2010 - 7th Sunday of Easter - Text: Acts 1:12-26

Last Thursday a relatively minor celebration went unnoticed, or at least I would imagine that not too many of us celebrated. Last Thursday marked the fortieth day following Jesus’ resurrection which was Ascension Day. I have always contended that the reason Ascension Day gets short shrift is because it is not a sellable holiday. What can you sell to celebrate Ascension Day? Presents, eggs, rabbits, and candy have all been used up, so what is left? A rising Jesus doll? So, Ascension Day goes rather unnoticed.

Ascension Day marks Jesus ascending to the place from which He descended in order to be our substitute, to pay the price for our sins so that we have forgiveness, life and salvation. In another ten days since last Thursday, which will be next Sunday, we will celebrate the sending of the Holy Spirit as Jesus promised before He ascended, and that will be the day we mark as Pentecost. So, today we are left with that Sunday between Ascension Day and Pentecost Sunday.

Although today is an “in between” Sunday, our text for this morning is no less important. Our text begins by listing of the disciples, verse twelve, “12Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (v. 12-14).

Notice that our list of the Apostles is made up of only eleven men. Jesus chose twelve Apostles and in the Revelation to Saint John we understand the importance of the twelve Apostles, so another apostle is needed to take the place of Judas and make the number twelve.

Luke also makes note of the importance of the women and the other disciples. And here we distinguished the other disciples, those who were simply followers of Jesus, because we are included as disciples today. These women and other disciples are distinguished from the twelve apostles who were chosen, set apart and given an extra measure of gifts, which is what the word apostle means, set apart for a purpose. Luke helps us to understand that in Jesus’ eyes there are no second class citizens, but we are all equal in God’s eyes. We are all equally condemned sinners and by His grace, all equally forgiven saints.

Jesus has ascended and now the disciples and Apostle’s wait for Jesus’ promise of sending the Holy Spirit to be fulfilled, in ten days, which we will celebrate next Sunday, Pentecost Sunday. Our text continues with Peter’s Sermon as they wait, picking up at verse fifteen, “15In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16‘Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.’ 18(Now this man bought a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20‘For it is written in the Book of Psalms, ‘“May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’”; and ‘“Let another take his office’” (v. 15-20).

Peter interprets these Old Testament passages as speaking of the events which they have witnessed, namely that of Judas betraying Jesus and the use of the betrayal money to purchase a field for the burial of those without a place to be buried. It is fascinating that Peter and the Apostles were rather oblivious to understanding the fulfillment of the Scriptures while Jesus was alive and with them, but following Jesus resurrection, and as we will see next week following the sending of the Holy Spirit, the Lord opens their minds and hearts to complete understanding.

Peter understands the need for completeness, for having the complete number of Apostles, that is the importance of having twelve Apostles and we see this as we heard in our reading from Revelation this morning. Certainly the twelve Apostles relates to the twelve tribes of Israel and the importance of the complete number of all the believers of the Old and New Testament, thus it was important to replace Judas. (It was the total number of believers of the Old Testament, represented by the twelve tribes of Israel, times the total number of believers in the New Testament, represented by the twelve Apostles, times the number of completion, [1000] or 12 x 12 x 1000 or 144,000 which is the total number of believers in heaven, or as John also describes in Revelation, a vast number of people that no one can count (Rev. 7:9).)

Concerning Judas, Peter helps us understand that Judas was called an apostle. Perhaps in the life of Judas we have a warning for our own lives. Just as Judas was called by Jesus Himself to be an Apostle, yet, he strayed, he denied, he refused and rejected Jesus and His gifts and blessings, forgiveness, faith, life and salvation, so too in our own lives, as our Lord calls us to and gives us faith through His Word as well as through the waters of Holy Baptism, perhaps we might be careful in our own lives to not stray, to not deny, refuse and reject Jesus and His gifts and blessings, faith, forgiveness and life.

Notice that in speaking about Judas, Peter does not judge Judas, but simply states the facts, the obvious. Judas was an Apostle, counted with the other eleven Apostles, but he turned aside to go to his own place.

Our text continues with the Selection of a replacement for Judas, picking up at verse twenty-one, “‘21So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.’ 23And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24And they prayed and said, ‘You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.’ 26And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (v. 21-26).

The criteria for the replacement of Judas was simple, with only two important points to be met; first, he must have “accompanied us during all the time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us.” Certainly we can see the importance of an Apostle having been with, listened to and known Jesus.

The second point of criteria was that he must have been an eye witness of Jesus’ resurrection. Again, certainly we can understand that one of the original apostles must be a person who was an eye witness of the resurrection to which he is to attest.

With these two criteria, only two names were presented as to having fulfilled and met these criteria; Joseph called Barsabbas, also called Justus and Matthias. We are not told a lot about these two men, except that they fulfilled the condition for being elected. And interestingly enough, after Mathias is chosen, by the casting of the lot, we do not hear any more about him in Scripture either.

Anyway, the selection of the candidate was done by the casting of the lot, which may have been simply a role of a dice or a drawing of a bead of one color over another. The importance of the casting of the lot was that God would guide the selection which would determine which candidate would be chosen. We might well compare this casting of a die and depending on God’s guidance to what happens in a voter’s meeting when a congregation is calling a pastor; prayers are said and God guides the voting of the man for the office. And as we said, the lot fell to Matthias.

So, what does this mean? How do we apply this message to our lives today? First and foremost we understand that it is who God provides us with a church and a part of that provision is that He provides us with a pastor. Now, certainly, we understand that our pastor is a human being, a sinner like we all are, not perfect, but he is the man God has called through the congregation and he is the man who has been given the authority and the task to preach the Gospel, administer the sacraments, and forgive and retain sins. Because he has been called by God, through the congregation, this calling means that, unless our pastor is not preaching the Gospel, administering the sacraments, forgiving and retaining sins, and preaching heresy, for us to profane and speak out against our pastor is tantamount to speaking out against and profaning God.

Concerning the call into the office of Holy Minister; we rightly understand, as we see lived out in our text, that men do not call themselves into the Office of Holy Ministry. Matthias did not call himself to be an Apostle. It is God who calls men into the office of Holy Ministry and He calls through the congregation. This call into the office of the Holy Ministry, by God, through the congregation reminds us that this is not our church, but this is God’s church. As members of this congregation we realize that God has called us to faith and given us the privilege to be His people in this place, to bear witness of His grace and love and to serve Him through our serving others in this place.

Notice, how, as always, it goes back to the fact that God is the prime mover. God gives. He gives life, at conception. He gives faith, through the means of His Word and Holy Baptism. He gives vocation, that is that we are priests in the priesthood of all believers and so we are to serve others as priests, offering our lives as living sacrifices so that others might see the faith that is in our heart and give glory to God and in our serving others, we are serving God. And God has called some men into the Office of Holy Ministry.

God’s purpose for our vocation is that we might serve Him by serving others. God’s purpose for our vocation is that our lives might be blessed as we are a blessing to others. God’s purpose for the Office of Holy Ministry is to provide the means of grace, the means through which He gives faith, forgiveness and life so that we are numbered with the saints.

As I have been telling you for the last number of weeks, God loves you so much. We see God’s love in His Word especially as He shows us how He cares for His people and in the same way He cares for us. God has so much that He has given to you and so much more that He wants to give to you. And so, I continue to pray for you and encourage you, receive the gifts. Be where the gifts are distributed and be given the gifts, faith, forgiveness and life so that the Lord may have His way with you, and so that ultimately your life may say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tolerance and Getting Along

I want to begin by asking you to be tolerant of my good behavior this morning. I would like to ask that you be tolerant of what I pray will be good theology, good law and good gospel. Now, doesn’t that sound rather absurd? We do not need to ask for people to be tolerant of our good behavior. When someone is asking us to be tolerant of their behavior it is because they are going to do something that is not good, meet, right and salutary. So, usually we are asked something like this, “will you be tolerant of my homosexual behavior/lifestyle?” “Will you please be tolerant of my drug abuse, spouse abuse . . . etc.?” “Will you be tolerant of my misuse of law and gospel and lousy theology?” And you get the idea. Let that float around in your mind for a minute.

In the first Epistle to the Corinthians, Paul is writing because there is a problem. Perhaps the problem is that they are not being tolerant enough of one another? I wonder what their problem might have sounded like in one of our district or synodical conventions today? We are following church growth principles. We are following the principles of Rick Warren. We are following the principles of Bill Hybels. We follow the principles of Joel Osteen, he will bring out the champion in us. We are following the principles of the Fuller Institute. We are following the principles of Kent Hunter. We are following the synod guidelines. We are following Luther. And you know it will happen, someone will get up and say, “Why can’t we just get along?”

“Why can’t we just get along?” That is code for, “Why can’t everyone agree with me?” Of course my response is, “If you will agree with me then we can get along.”

The problem is, we cannot all get along. We are sinners. We are conceived and born in sin. Every inclination of our heart is evil all the time. And, of course Satan knows this and uses this to his greatest advantage pushing and pulling us against one another, tempting us with this or that false teaching, heresy and easy way to “success.”

As a pastor I know that, unfortunately, not all the laity actually realize what the pastor is called to do. Perhaps some people confuse what we do as members of the congregation; anything that needs to be done at times, taking out the trash, fixing the copy machine and so on, we confuse this with our calling to preach the Gospel, administer the sacraments and forgive and retain sins. God calls us to be faithful and to faithfully carry out our calling. No where in Scripture does God indicate that He expects anything from Pastors or from Christians except faithfulness. And actually, the only place Scripture speaks about success has to do with a military campaign and the success is not a human success but is God’s success.

God calls us to be faithful and He knows that even that simple expectation is difficult for us because of our nature. Paul says he was glad he did not baptize anyone (and then he begins remembering the ones he did baptize), but his point is this that he was called by God to preach the Gospel, to preach Christ, to preach Christ crucified, what folly.

Everyone knows that the winner is the one who defeats and comes out on top in the end. The Super Bowl is coming on Sunday and we believe the winner will be the greatest team (when we know the Cowboys are the best, did I say that out loud, sorry). Perhaps the winner will be the best team, at least for a few months until it starts over next season, but his point is, this idea is a human idea.

Paul, and for that matter I, pray all good pastors preach Christ crucified. I believe what some people fail to understand is that we will understand how great is God’s grace and forgiveness only as we understand what miserably, awful sinners we really are. If we follow the tolerant schemes of the world, then we think we are not so bad and perhaps Jesus only had to die a little for me. Not much grace there. Perhaps we can believe in ourselves and the champion in us will come out so that really, we won’t need Jesus at all. No grace there.

One little sin condemns to eternal death. Let alone the fact that we are great sinners indeed. Have you ever thought about it. Suppose we only sinned 3 times a day, when the actual figure is more like 30. So, 3 or 30 times 365 days in a year equals 1000, or 10,000 sins in a year, times how old we are. No, we are not pretty good people. We are rotten, miserable sinners. And God is not tolerant of sin, thus, God is not tolerant of us. The price for sin was set, eternal spiritual death and that price had to be paid. We cannot get along with God because our sin has separated us from Him. There is only one way and that way is not the easy way, that way is the hard way, the death way, the cross way, the Jesus way. There was no quick fix. There was no tolerance. There was no getting along. There was no success, except that Jesus was successful, after all, He did defeat Satan, sin and death, completely. No matter how you look at it, there is only one way and that way is Jesus. And it’s not me and Jesus, it’s just Jesus. Me and Jesus takes way from Jesus. Me and Jesus puts me in the drivers seat. It’s just Jesus. Jesus lived perfectly, obeying all God’s laws perfectly for me, because I cannot. Jesus fulfilled all God’s promises perfectly for me. Jesus saved me because I cannot save myself. It’s just Jesus and even then, Jesus pours out everything on us. He graciously gives us His good gifts and blessings. He graciously pours out His bounty on us giving us gifts upon gifts, the whole lot of His gifts and a whole lot more. With Jesus, we have no need for anything more! Amen.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

More on Don’t Be Offended

It seems to me that the world, or at least here in the United States, we have come to make a lot of taking offense. Sure, we like to give offense at times, but more often than not we like to take offense. And I am sure by simply writing this someone will be offended.

In our tolerant world it seems so easy to take offense, but is that the best or right thing to do? Are there times that maybe we should resist such offense?

Perhaps if we took a look at some different world views maybe we could understand this offensiveness and maybe even overcome some of our being offended.

There is the world view of tolerance and there is the world view of intolerance. In the world view of tolerance, what is espoused is that one in this world view is tolerant of all people, of all “races,” creeds, colors, religions and so on. Then there is the world view of intolerance. This world view is espoused by those who believe that there are certain people, beliefs, and views that should not be tolerated, for one reason or another.

Unfortunately, although we may espouse either of these world views, it seems that we do not always stay in our own world view. Sometimes we get out of our world view and, for convenience sake, we step into the world view of our opponent. We do this when we get offended because our world view is being questioned.

An example if this is the whole idea of tolerance. In one world view intolerance is acceptable, at least at certain times. For those who hold the world view of intolerance there are absolutes and there is an ultimate authority, in other words truth is truth and everyone is responsible for their own thoughts, words and actions. The world view of intolerance believes there are things, actions, words, and deeds that are right and some that are wrong and it is okay, even meet, right and salutary to correct those who do wrong.

And then there are those who live in the world view of tolerance, or at least espouse to live in this world view. However, an observation might be substantiated that suggests that when someone from the world view of tolerance is corrected by someone from the world view of intolerance, then that person may step out of their world view and become intolerant of the other person. Which is a nice way of saying that they are not living up to their world view. If one camps in the world view of tolerance and is correct that one should accept such correction with the same amount of tolerance. They may not like the correction or abide by the correction, but certainly according to their world view they should be accepting of such correction.

Again, perhaps an example might help. One living in the world of tolerance stepping out of their world view into the world view of intolerance might say something like, “I hate people who are prejudice.” Thus, becoming prejudice themselves. Or they might say something like, “There are absolutely no absolutes.” Thus, negating what they actually believe. It is amazing how often this happens in our world today.

Try in not being offended.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

On Giving and Taking Offense

“I am offended by that, what you said.” How often do we hear about people being offended in our world today, especially in our secular and political world, along with our religious world. And, very often following such offense is legal action, law suit or the like. It is almost as if some people are looking for some reason to take offense, even when no offense is intended.

“I did not mean to offend you, sorry.” Personally, I do not try to offend other people, most of the time. Sure, I have to admit, perhaps there are some times I try to be offensive, but more often than not, I try not giving offense. And I cannot help it when someone else takes offense even when none is given.

I think what makes people who attempt to offend more angry than anything is when someone does not take offense. I know that people have tried to offend me, but because I refuse to take offense, they get offended and even more angry. Again, while I try not to give offense, I also try not taking offense.

So, if you are offended, before going and taking the speck out of your brother’s eye, try taking the log out of you own eye. And, if you have not intended to give offense, remember that you are in good company as with Jesus, many people took offense at Him, though He never gave any.

Finally, always remember, with the Lord, there is forgiveness. And we forgive as we have been forgiven. We love as He first loved us.