Category Archives: The Gospel

There are NO Seekers in the Church

A couple of months ago I posted an article entitled “Do We Miss the Point of Worship?  Is it for Seekers and Evangelism?” I have been thinking about that article quite a bit lately in the context of the worship life of the church. Seekers are generally thought to be unchurched persons who have a desire for things spiritual.  They know there is something more, they are just trying to find it.  They are said to be seeking God, looking for Him.  We are told that our services need to be user friendly, non-threatining, not offensive, and accessible so that unchurched visitors — seekers — will not be turned off to our message and will return.  Listening to an Internet radio program the other day — Chris Rosebrough on Pirate Christian Radio —  the commentator observed that there are no seekers in the church.  As the basis for this statement, he referred to Paul’s letter to the Romans, Chapter 3:9-12:

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one; 
 no one understands; 
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”

Paul quotes Psalms 14 and 53 here, for the proposition that no one seeks for God, that we have all turned aside, becoming worthless, pursuing what pleases us.  This recognition that there is no one who seeks after God, therefore, has ancient authority as the Psalmists attest.  Paul says elsewhere in Ephesians that we are dead in our trespasses and sins. Read the rest of this entry

Christ in King Ahab of Israel — Sermon from Rev. Jonathan Fisk

I have become a sermon junkie of late, seeking out good preaching to fill in quiet times.  Preaching that tells us the whole story of God — the law and the Gospel — wrapped up in Christ.  A couple of week’s ago, my wife shared a sermon from Rev. Jonathan Fisk of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Springfield, Pennsylvania with me on 1 Kings 22.  This is an example of expository preaching on a particular text, preaching that is designed to draw out the meaning of particular passages of scripture and throw a clearer light on the meaning of the passage.

In this text, Ahab of the northern tribes of Israel meets with Jehoshophat, King of Judah to talk about joining forces to go to war with Syria to take back the land of Ramoth-gilead.  Before doing so, Jehoshophat tells Ahab to inquire of the Lord whether they should do this or not.  Ahab gathers his gaggle of prophets together, 400 of them, and they all support the king and his plan.  One prophet is left out, Michaiah, because he does not tell Ahab what he wants to hear.  This sets up an interaction between the false prophets of Ahab and the true prophet of God, Michaiah.  Michaiah tells Ahab that he will be killed in battle.  What makes this sermon so compelling is that it takes you where you do not expect.  Normally, you would think that the lesson to be learned here is listen to the Word of God and do what it says.  Ahab did not listen to God’s Word given through the prophet, he was killed in battle, and the northern tribes were thrown in disarray.  Ahab listened to false teachers who led him astray, therefore, beware of false teachers.  Not so fast.  Rev. Fisk takes the listener through the story straight to Christ and shows how Ahab — yes Ahab — and Micaiah prefigure or are types of Christ in this story.  The layers to Scripture are deeper than we can ever imagine.  Scripture is broader than we can conceive.  But it all, in the end, talks about that one thing needful, Jesus Christ.  Click the link below to listen to the Sermon, you will not be disappointed.

Pentecost 6 — 1 Kings 22

Lutheran Satire and Creative Evangelism Strategies — Mixed Martial Arts?

Pr. Hans Fienes has a great satire on creative evangelism and outreach ideas.  The MMA outreach activity has been done before.  There is a with MMA apparel called Jesus Didn’t Tap.  This stuff is out there just be aware.  Check out the Lutheran Satire video:

The Gospel is For Proclamation By YOU and ME

“Where Christ is not preached, there is no Holy Spirit to create, call, and gather the Christian church, apart from which no one can come to the Lord Christ.” Large Catechism II.45 (Kolb/Wengert, 436)

“Wherever there is God’s Word, no matter whether it is in Baptism, in Absolution, in the Sacrament [Lord’s Supper] there God Himself speaks to us. In the Absolution, He Himself absolves us from [our] sins. In the Sacrament or the Lord ’s Supper, Christ Himself feeds us with His body and blood. We thus have God’s Word in the church, indeed, in the home. Whenever the pastor speaks to us in the church or the father in the house, then God Himself speaks to us.” Luther, sermon on Luke 18:31-43 (1534). Quoted in J.T. Mueller, “Notes on Luther’s Conception of the Word of God as the Means of Grace” in CTM 20 (August 1949), 588.

“The Lutheran assertion that…preaching, in so far as it is Lutheran preaching, is God’s own speech to men, is very difficult to maintain in practice. Instead, it is very easy to slip into the idea that preaching is only speech about God. Such a slip, once made gradually alters the picture of God, so that he becomes the far-off deistic God who is remote from the preached word and is only spoken about as we speak about someone who is absent.”

Gustav Wingren, The Living Word: A Theological Study of Preaching and the Church (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 1960), 19.

“It is remarkable that during his sojourn in Corinth, Paul was day and night wrestling with the problem how to bring Christ into people’s heart and how to lay a solid foundation for their faith in Christ and their joy in Him. Jesus Christ was the marrow and substance of all his preaching, the golden thread that ran through all his sermons.” C.F.W. Walther, 39th Evening Lecture in Law and Gospel (CPH, 1929), 405.

Quotes taken from Faithful and Afire, Participant’s Guide, Rev. Dr. Peter Nafzger, www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=1161.

I am amazed at the excuses we make for not using words, more specifically, THE WORD, to proclaim the Gospel.  I have heard it said, “I do not know the Bible as well as others do.”  Or, “I am not a good speaker.”  Or, “Evangelism is not my ‘Spiritual gift.'”  Or, “I am not a preacher.”  Or, “We just need to model Christ, be a good example.”  The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:16, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!”  He also writes to the Romans:

“For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) or “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.  For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.  For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”  But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”  So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”  Romans 10:5-17, ESV.

This faith that we are given, this faith that we live is more than simple belief and trust.  That is what it is in its most basic form.  Yet this faith is more than simple belief and trust, it is living, breathing.  It is made alive by the very Word of Christ.  In us, it is like the mustard seed that, although it is the tiniest seed of the garden plants, grows to be the biggest.  Not because of any work or obedience on my part, but because of the working of the Word that quickens my soul.  So it is with the Word of God that is sown in us, it produces tremendous yields of fruit working in and through us.  It is the Word acting, working, producing yield beyond our wildest imaginations.

This Word is not just in our hearts so that we can be an example for others.  It is, as Paul says, in our mouth — your mouth, my mouth.  Ezekiel and St. John give us pictures of eating scrolls containing the Word of God, something that we can chew, taste, ingest, absorb.  But the Word is placed in our mouth, not simply for our own personal benefit, to nourish only me — the Gospel must be proclaimed.   It is the Word of faith that we proclaim.  We confess — that is we, publicly declare, praise, give thanks, declare, speak with another to a reasoned conclusion — with our mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord.  The Greek — and I am no scholar — always seems to have a deeper connotation than our English.  This confessing is more than simply saying I believe.  It is coming together with another person and speaking to them the Good News of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.  For if the Gospel is not spoken to another, they cannot hear, and so cannot receive the faith that comes from Christ.

But you say, I can lead a godly life and provide a Christ-like example for others.  They will know Jesus, by seeing the Jesus in me.  All I need to do is share the love of Jesus with others, and those who are speakers will do the rest.  God will take care of that.  We must, certainly, lead a godly life and be an example for others — our actions must show that we are followers of Christ.  A good tree bears fruit, while a bad tree bears no fruit or, even worse, bad fruit.  But our deeds MUST match our confession — there must be a profession of the faith we have been given.

Christ Himself tells us that we must proclaim Him before this world.  In Matthew 10, He speaks of persecution that will come to His followers.  He tells us that we will be called to bear witness of HIM before this world, its kings, princes, and rulers.  Our Lord tells us not to worry about what to say, that we will be given the words at that time.  If He promises to give us words to speak when we are called before great and mighty people, how much more so will He give us words to speak to the least of this world?  Do not be afraid, speak Christ!  Proclaim the Gospel!  A city on a hill cannot be hidden;  do not put the light of the Gospel under a bushel!  It is meant to be seen!  Christ issues a stern warning to those who would hide Him, when He has made Himself known to us:  “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 10:32-33, ESV.

Hide who you are, who Christ has called you to be, remove references to Scripture in your print materials, provide a different face than who you claim to be at your core, and you are hiding Christ.  You are, in effect, denying Him before men.  Whatever the reason — marketing decision, attempt to appeal to the world, self-preservation, not a good speaker, more of a behind the scenes person — there is a deception involved when dealing with others.  More importantly, there is a failure to trust in the God who comes to you in your Baptism, and in the very Word we are called to proclaim.  Just as you do not get the full import of God’s saving message by reading only bits and pieces, for the Gospel encompasses all of God’s story (you cannot have the Law without the Gospel), so too the Christian life is not complete without confessing Christ before men, sharing the Word verbally with others.  Moses was not a good speaker and God found a way to use him and his voice.  But what if he only led by example?  What if Moses never proclaimed the salvation of Israel before Pharaoh?  Better yet, what if Jesus said nothing?  No, the good news is always proclaimed before men by divine imperative.  God’s Word never returns to Him void, in spite of our attempts to circumvent His plan for us.

The next time you are tempted to make an excuse as to why YOU cannot share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others, why you can only be an example by sharing the love of Christ, remember our Savior’s parting words to us:  “I am with you always, even to the close of the age.”

Article from Concordia Theology » Reframing the Story: The End of the Emergent Conversation

Concordia Theology » Reframing the Story: The End of the Emergent Conversation.

      For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  Romans 1:16.
The is an absolutely fascinating and thorough review of the effects of post-modernism on the body of Christ and review of the the spiritual, but not religious movement in the church.  Carol Geisler does a terrific job of summarizing the theological underpinnings of the so-called “Emerging Church” movement in Christianity.  This is the movement that says historical Christianity, grandma and grandpa’s church, Cardinal John Henry Newman’s church, Pope Benedict’s church, Luther’s church, St. Augustine’s church, Christ’s church, is not for today’s modern, spiritual seeker.  I may have more on this article after having the opportunity to thoroughly digest it, but for now it has been re-published in its entirety below:

by Carol Geisler

Carol Geisler works at Lutheran Hour Ministries and the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations. A former teacher and principal, she earned the Ph.D. in historical theology from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.

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The emergent church movement is by no means a new conversation (the description preferred by its advocates) but the discussion continues to attract mainline denominations searching for practical ideas in ministry. Emergent interests such as social networks, personal stories, and “authentic” spiritual experiences are pursued to reach the unchurched or to encourage a generation of young Christians. Admiration between denominations and emergents is something of a one way street, however, as emergent advocates tend to regard the denominations (sometimes referred to as “tribes” or “villages”) with a certain amount of disdain. There are emergents from many tribes, including Baptists, Roman Catholics, and Lutherans, but emergent theologian Tony Jones comments, “In the end, the new definition of ‘Christian’ may not be what particular doctrines one believes or which flavor of church to which one belongs but whether (and how thoroughly) one is woven into the fabric of global Christianity.”[1] The language and practices discussed in the emergent conversation also attract listeners from the Missouri Synod tribe eager for new ideas in evangelism. Before Lutherans join whole-heartedly in the conversation they may want to consider the discussion’s general direction because it is not an open-ended dialogue. What do its leading voices have to say? What will the fabric of global Christianity look like when the conversation ends and the emergent reweaving is complete? Read the rest of this entry

May 21st Doomsday, Judgment Day or Duumbsday??

A great post on the Harold Camping May 21, doomsday prediction.  Thanks to Worldview Everlasting’s Rev. Jonathan Fisk for the tweet and video referral.  Pastor Tony Pittenger of Bethany Lutheran Church in Port Orchard Washington has analyzed Harold Camping’s doomsday claims, with links to Camping’s documents showing the basis for their claims.  Pittenger concludes with this admonition:

“Do not be deceived. Doomsday predictions make for better television than do Jesus’ own words about the end but only Jesus’ words are true. The baptized believers have done exactly what Peter said to do when he was asked about our sin, indeed they have done exactly what Jesus said to do just before He ascended into Heaven and again when Nicodemus asked Him about the Kingdom of God. IN CHRIST YOU ARE READY NO MATTER WHEN HE RETURNS.

Trust in that. Trust in Him. Live your life on May 21st as a Christian would live any other day God has given.”

Read the whole post here:  Field Reports.

Hey, Preacher Man, Give Me the Gospel

And in follow up to the last post, Eric & Polly Rapp have a song that fits the bill.  You can learn more about them at http://www.ericandpollyrapp.com.  I have to thank Todd Wilken at Issues, Etc. for the referral as it is used as bumper music on the show for sermon reviews.  This song was inspired by Issues, Etc., sermon reviews.

The words of the song speak for themselves, but, boy, do we need to hear more of this or what?  Rapp calls to the preacher to give us the Gospel and then tells why:  (1) it gives salvation to those who believe;  (2) it tells me I’m a sinner and Christ died for ME;  (3)  it is GOOD NEWS;  (4) it is the sacraments — His BODY and BLOOD;  (5) it sounds foolish, but is the Wisdom of God;  (6)  it leads to the gates of Heaven;  (7) it tells of the God-Man Christ who took the wrath of God upon Himself for you and me;  (8) if you are ashamed of Christ, He will be ashamed of you.  Don’t be ashamed of the Gospel — PREACH IT, but PREACH ALL OF IT!

Hey, Preacher Man

(© 2006 Eric Rapp. All rights reserved.)

After hearing one too many liberal sermons, Eric let loose with this passionate call to return to essential Christianity.

Hey, preacher man, give me the gospel.
It brings salvation to those who believe.
Hey, preacher man, give me the gospel.
Tell me I’m a sinner and Christ died for me.

I don’t want to know about what you did last week on your summer vacation.
What you saw, where you went, or how much it cost.
Instead won’t you tell me all the words that give me salvation.
How He lived and how He died for me on the cross.

Hey, preacher man, give me the gospel.
Give me the good news of God’s only Son.
Hey, preacher man, give me the gospel.
Give me His body, give me His blood.

I don’t want to hear about new ideas you learned while in seminary…
Higher critics like Marcus Borg or John Shelby Spong.
Please don’t invite those learned men to preach in our sanctuary.
They’re wise to men, but fools to God, and such fools are wrong.

Hey, preacher man, give me the gospel–
not with human wisdom, just tell it to me straight.
Hey, preacher man, give me the gospel.
Let me know I’m foolish. Lead me to the Gate.

I don’t want to hear an opinion piece on the news or political parties.
Democrat, Republican–to Him it’s all the same.
Please don’t tell me how I have to vote to earn the Father’s favor.
There’s nothing I can do for that ’cause Christ did everything.

Hey, preacher man, give me the gospel.
Tell me of the God-Man who bore all the blame.
Hey, preacher man, give me the gospel.
When you preach the gospel, you shouldn’t be ashamed.

Preach the Word to YOU and ME, not US

“We may fear the damning, accusing YOU. We may fail to hold this office firmly and preach it. But ask yourself, which sounds better to you? Christ forgives us? Or Christ forgives you? And which do you think makes a better impression on the YOUs of your congregations? The Law which accuses YOU makes the Gospel which saves YOU so much sweeter. Don’t confuse the 1st and 2nd persons. This isn’t about US or WE. It’s about YOU AND Y’ALL. The Gospel never sounded sweeter than when it’s preached to YOU, or shall I say, FOR YOU precisely because the Law was preached TO YOU. Indeed, AT YOU.”
From a Sermon preached by Rev. Dan Torkleson at the Southwest Wisconsin District’s Pastors’ Conference, May 11, 2011.

Read the full text Witness, Mercy, Life Together. «.

I need to hear from the Pastor in the pulpit that I AM a SINNER and that Jesus forgives ME.  All too often the words the Preacher lumps himself in with the rest of us sinners, defeating the purpose for which he is called.  Don’t soften the message of the Gospel by saying, “We’re all sinners.  Jesus died for us all.  Jesus forgives.  We’re all forgiven.  He lives and now we live in love and peace.”  While there is truth in those generalized statements, it sounds more like the old Coca Cola commercials — I’d like to teach (pause) the world to sing (pause) in perfect harmony….  And don’t just talk generically and generally about sins of greed, lust, and selfishness, to which we all can nod our collective assent, but hit the sins in the congregation, in the world around us.  That’s the song our Preachers need to sing.

If the law does not accuse me of wrongdoing, then I will not know my sin.  If the law does not condemn me, then I have nothing to repent of.  If the law does not tell of God’s anger and wrath, I will never know the import of Christ’s love for me.  Yes, we are all forgiven, but there is a reason the preacher is at the front of the congregation — he has been singled out and called by Christ to proclaim the very word of God to his flock.  He is different — no less a sinner than I am — called to carry out the apostolic function of preserving and defending and proclaiming the clear message of Christ until he comes in spite of what I or others in the congregation may want to hear.    For the very Word is placed into the Preacher’s mouth each time he stands to preach.  Get yourself out of the way preacher man and let Christ speak.