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Archive for October, 2014

Reformation Enemies

1 John 4

From Luther’s  Sermon on Matthew 11:2-10

But it must be observed that Christ says: “The Gospel is preached to none but to the poor only, thus without doubt intending it to be a message for the poor only. For it has always been preached unto the whole world, as Christ says, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to the whole creation,” Mark 16, 15. Surely these poor are not the beggars and the bodily poor, but the spiritually poor, namely, those who do not covet and love earthly goods; yes, rather those poor, broken-hearted ones who in the agony of their conscience seek and desire help and consolation so ardently that they covet neither riches nor honor. Nothing will be of help to them, unless they have a merciful God. Here is true spiritual weakness. They are those for whom such a message is intended, and in their hearts they are delighted with it. They feel that they have been delivered from hell and death. Therefore, though the Gospel is heard by all the world, yet it is not accepted but by the poor only. Moreover, it is to be preached and proclaimed to all the world, that it is a message only for the poor, and that the rich men can not receive it. Whosoever would receive it must first become poor, as Christ says, Math. 9,13, that he came not to call the righteous but only sinners, although he called all the world. But his calling was such that he desired to be accepted only by sinners, and all he called should become sinners. This they resented. In like manner all should become poor who heard the Gospel, that they might be worthy of the Gospel; but this they also resented. Therefore the Gospel remained only for the poor. Thus God’s grace was also preached before all the world to the humble, in order that all might become humble, but they would not be humble. Hence you see who are the greatest enemies of the Gospel, namely, the work-righteous saints, who are self-conceited, as has been said before. For the Gospel has not the least in common with them. They want to be rich in works, but the Gospel wills that they are to become poor. They will not yield, neither can the Gospel yield, as it is the unchangeable word of God. Thus they and the Gospel clash, one with another, as Christ says, “And he that falleth on this stone shall be broken to pieces; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will scatter him as dust.” Math. 21, 44. Again, they condemn the Gospel as being error and heresy; and we observe it comes to pass daily, as it has from the beginning of the world, that between the Gospel and the work- righteous saints there is no peace, no good will and no reconciliation. But meanwhile Christ must suffer himself to be crucified anew, for he and those that are his must place themselves, as it were, into this vise, namely, between the Gospel and the work-righteous saints, and thus be pressed and crushed like the wheat between the upper and nether millstones. But the lower stone is the quiet, peaceable and immovable Gospel, while the upper stone is the works and their masters, who are ranting and raging.

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What was the point of the Reformation?

Luther Joke

The Reformation was ultimately about the return of the central doctrine of the Christian faith; that God justifies (declares righteous, forgiven and not guilty) sinners for the sake of Christ, apart from any works of the Law.  Sadly, the default position of human beings is that they have to earn salvation or do something.  If they don’t think that they believe that there is a spark of goodness in them that Jesus died to fan into flame.  It is a  really anti-scriptural and sad when the witness of our life and the witness of the Bible is that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”.  The Reformation brought about the separation between churches that “confess” the central doctrine and those that do not.

Today it is difficult to get people to see what the churches task is because many have come to see religion as a moralistic enterprise and Jesus as life coach and a means of having your “best life now”.  Rather than seeing Jesus as Savior, he is a moral example.  His job is build your self esteem which the Bible says we have an overabundance of in the first place.  Anyway I can yammer about this all I want but here another persons view…………………………


I’ve come to realize at the tender age of 47 that sometimes church doesn’t work.

What I mean is what the church is here to do, spread the Gospel, doesn’t seem to be on the agenda much of the time.

Of course, what I understand by the word Gospel (the message of Christianity) is that it is, at the least, good news. The news I hear promulgated by the various churches out there seems to break down to a laundry list of stuff for us to do.

Jesus had a word for teachers who ‘multiply tasks and don’t lift a finger to help’. It was one of many versions of ‘Go to Hell’. Unless Christianity is about rescue from above and a hope beyond this war-torn, weary world, then it is not bearing witness for the one whom it claims to represent.

When the Church preaches and teaches something else, it isn’t working. When it misses the great reversal, the perfect sacrifice that surpasses all sacrifice for all sins and transgressions for all time, the ultimate buy-back, when God took the burden of all the evil in the world upon Himself to redeem the world for Himself, the Church is broken.

When the Church misses God invading at various points in the history of man–specifically ancient Israel–finally showing up in person as Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrificial Lamb, it really misses.

When the Church doesn’t understand that, at the heart of Jesus’ message of the advancing kingdom is the crucified King who is leading captivity, pain, loss, death and the devil captive and giving gifts to men, it misses everything.

When it doesn’t see the face of God in the stories that Jesus told and the way He lived His life while on earth and the joy He had… and has… of finding and rescuing the lost, the least, the lowest… even the dead, the Church is not doing it’s job.

When the church doesn’t see and promote the joyous, raucous party in the midst of the sadness of this despairing world and see beyond it to the world to come where that wonderful party never ends, how can it call itself the bearer of the gifts of God?

When the churches’ preaching doesn’t call us to despair of our so-called ‘good works’ and our paltry attempts at sanctifying ourselves, bringing us, even at our best, as sinners to the foot of the cross, it does less than nothing.

When the church takes from us the gifts of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, either by sophistry, neglect, absence or modification, it denies its Lord.

I’m not saying that salvation is promised anywhere else. It’s just sad to me when the church sells its birthright so cheaply for programmatic drivel and a devil-devised message of ‘my best life now’.

Lord, have mercy on your broken church and the broken people who look to it instead of You for rescue.

Steve Byrnes is a member of First Lutheran Church in Lake Elsinore, California. He is a graduate of Christ College Irvine (now contained within Concordia University Irvine), majoring in English Literature, and Westminster Seminary in Escondido, where he took a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies.


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What Would Reformation Look Like Today?

Lutheran REfpormation

I have being saying for a while that our trouble as a church, at least the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is that we still preach Law and Gospel and we still proclaim that Christ is the Savior.  Hard to get attention when we preach a Savior from Sin and Sin has pretty much been defined, educated, politicized, and corrected away.  In fact the only real sin left is to call someone a sinner.

Young people have a strange understanding of religious faith as “a positive good, but one with little influence over their decision-making. For this generation, religious faith (and in particular Christianity given its prevalence in the American context) points to a banal sense of God’s desire for us to be nice to one another and pursue personal happiness.”

  1. A god exists who created and orders the world and watches over life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God is not involved in my life except when I need God to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.1

Luther’s Reformation started with a quest for a  merciful God.  Luther’s consciousness of sin was so severe that it almost destroyed him (which the consciousness of sin is actually meant to do).  It is the consciousness of sin that leads folks to the Gospel of a forgiveness won by Christ’s sacrificial death and glorious resurrection.

A Reformation today has to overcome above all else #’s 2 and  3.  A quick look at Jesus sermon on the Mount will disabuse most people of a desire to be a Christian.  At the other end of the spectrum is what we are seeing around the world with young people leaving home and family to be not nice, not good and not fair to others and whose sole goal in life is to force others to obey their God.

1.Kenda Creasy Dean, Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church (New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 14


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Protector of the Church

angel mikeSt. Michael the archangel was always considered the protector of the church.  We Lutherans have no problem with that,  Here is an article taken from CPH, Treasury of Daily prayer that I urge you all to get.

The name of the archangel St. Michael means “Who is like God?” Michael is mentioned in the Book of Daniel (12:1), as well as in Jude (v. 9) and Revelation (12:7). Daniel portrays Michael as the angelic helper of Israel who leads the battle against evil. In Revelation, Michael and his angels fight and defeat Satan and his angels, driving them from heaven. Their victory is through Christ’s own victory over Satan in His death and resurrection, a victory announced by the voice in heaven: “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come.” (Rev. 12:10) Michael is often associated with Gabriel and Raphael, the archangels who surround the throne of God. Tradition names Michael as the patron and protector of the Church, especially as the protector of Christians at the hour of death. On or near September 29th each year, the Church gives thanks to God for His protection of His angels, and for their faithful service in announcing and defending the Holy Gospel, forever pointing us to Jesus Christ and His Word. (Adapted from CPH’s Treasury of Daily Prayer)

The problem is there is always someone out there who thinks that they can protect the church and there is always someone out there who is ready to let them try.  Back in the day there were political fights to get named the defender of the church, or protector of the church.  Luther had thoughts……………………….

“We would be in a fine predicament if the Christian church had no other protector that some worldly prince. No prince is sure of his own life for the space of even one hour. Therefore Luther considered the idea of defender of the Faith and utterly stupid perversion of the truth. He said:, here you can see how poor mortal, future victim of worms, like the emperor, who is not sure of his life or even one moment, glorifies himself as the true protector of the Christian faith. Scripture says that the Christian faith as a rock, too solid to be overthrown by the might of the devil, by death and all powers, that this faith is a divine power (Romans 1:16).  Such a power should be protected by a child of death who can be put to death by any kind of disease? Help us God, the world is crazy… Well, soon we shall have a king or prince will protect Christ and then somebody else will protect the Holy Ghost, and then of course, the holy Trinity and Christ and faith will be in fine shape!”.

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Time to Build the Church

growing the church‘It is not we who build [the church]. Christ builds the church. No man builds the church but Christ alone. Whoever is minded to build the church is surely well on theway to destroying it; for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess- he builds. We must proclaim ‘ he builds. We must pray to him ‘ that he may build.

We do not know his plan. We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times, which by human standards are times of collapse, are for Him the great times of construction. It may be that the times, which from a human point of view are great times for the church are times when it is being pulled down.

It is a great comfort, which Christ gives to his church; you confess, preach, bear witness to me and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my province. Do what is given to you to do WELL and you have done enough. But do it well. Pay no heed to views and opinions. Don’t always be calculating what will happen. Don’t always be on the lookout for another refuge! Church, stay a church! But church, confess, confess, confess! Christ alone is your Lord; from his grade alone can you live as you are. Christ builds.’ (Dietrich Bonhoeffer.)












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Jesus Came Into the World to Comfort.

be of good cheer

The Great Reformer was a pastor and a son too.  We tend to forget that.

In his work as a Pastor to try and console the grieving or the dying Luther made a remarkable statement that Jesus ‘became incarnate to comfort’.   When his Mother is dying Luther wrote her……
You know the real basis and foundation of your salvation, on which you must rest your confidence in this and all troubles, namely Jesus Christ. . . . He says, ‘Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.’ If he has overcome the world, surely he has overcome the prince of this world with all his power. And what is his power but death? . . . But now that death and sin are overcome, we may joyfully and cheerfully listen to the sweet words, ‘Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.’ . . . He is the Conqueror, the true Hero, who in these words, ‘Be of good cheer,’ gives me the benefit of his victory. I shall cling to him. To these words and comfort I shall hold fast.1

1To Mrs John Luther, May 20, 1531: Letters, 33-36 (34) (WA Br 6.103-104).

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Doing Grief.

doing grief

Luther had a friend named John Reineck whose wife died and Luther wrote this……

How should we conduct ourselves in such a situation? God has so ordered and limited our life here that we may learn and exercise the knowledge of his very good will so that we may test and discover whether we love and esteem his will more than ourselves and everything that he had given us to have and love on earth. And although the inscrutable goodness of the divine will is hidden (as is God himself) from the old Adam as something so great and profound that man finds no pleasure in it, but only grief and lamentation, we nevertheless have his holy and sure Word which reveals to us this hidden will of his and gladdens the heart of the believer.1

Another author says that what is interesting here is that Luther doesn’t ask the question, “what should we believe?”, but how should we act when we grieve?

There is that implicit acknowledgement that those suffering acute loss are tempted to change how they behave in their grief. There is an acknowledgement that we feel that God is against us in such a situation: he speaks of ‘the inscrutable goodness of the divine will [being] hidden (as is God himself)’. Naturally, there is no pleasure in it, ‘only grief and lamentation’. A little later he says that ‘the old Adam is reluctant and unwilling to act like Job’—and Luther evidently has in mind Job’s patience.
But, again, we find that Luther’s encouragement to the bereaved Reineck is to set his mind and heart on that which he has retained, rather than on that which he has lost. He encourages him to rest in the ‘holy and sure Word’ of God, hoping that this will gladden his heart, that he might ‘find more pleasure in God’s grace and Fatherly will than you will have pain from your loss’. Luther knows, from experience, that it is often in the Word that we find God’s fatherly grace—not in the circumstances of suffering.2

1.  To John Reineck, April 18, 1536: Letters, 69-70 (WA Br 7.399-400).

2.  Micheal Parsons “Luther’s Insights into Grief: His Pastoral Letters”.

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Faith and Grief.

hopeLuther underlines the significance of faith in situations of suffering. Genuine faith, in the midst of the terrible situation, is able to discern reality from non-reality; the spiritual from the merely physical; the eternal from the temporal. It does not deny the situation; but it sees it through a different lens. Faith focuses on God and takes hold of Christ. Luther encourages sufferers to realize Christ’s identification with them. He looks to the resurrection, at which time those who have been taken will be recovered because Jesus Christ has overcome death once and for all. In the meantime, faith trusts God the Father and is encouraged to look at what has been retained, not so much on what (or who) has been lost. Faith enables the struggling Christian to be further transformed into the image of Christ.

Luther’s Insights into Grief: His Pastoral Letters
Michael Parsons

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Good Grief part 2

good morning

I have over the last year or so started to go back and read Luther and also what others say about Luther.  I have a hard time expressing how Luther and Paul as you read and study them over take you with their intuitive knowledge of the human situation and the divine intervention into the situation.  Luther is not only a theologian, he could have been a pshychiatrist, a social worker.  He was a marvelous writer and preacher.  Luther also had tact believe it or not.  Some of the things that Luther says make me blush and I am not easily “blushable” but he also gets the nuances of dealing with hurting people.  When dealing with someone who is grieving, writing a letter could be a disaster of great proportion.  We are told that face to face is always better when consoling, and yet Luther’s letters seem to be extremely effective and helpful.  There are a lot of people who study Luther and what he says, especially his advice on grieving.  One of them suggests several persistent themes in the reformer’s pastoral letters:
 God, who knows better than we do, has taken the loved one;
 God created us as feeling, loving creatures, who will naturally grieve over loss;
 God, Christ and the Word are the best consolers;
 A faithful death is better than a miserable life;
 There is a need for moderation in grief.1

1 Neil Leroux, Martin Luther as Comforter. Writings on Death (Leiden: Brill, 2007), 183-84, 188.

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Good Grief

charlie brown


I was meeting with several people this week and for whatever reason, maybe it’s the Fall season and the melancholia that comes with it that get us all in the mood but all the discussions turned to loss.  Loss of loved ones and friends and  acquaintances and the life changes that take place very quickly as we get older.  One Pastor friend of mine said that these losses are something that we have to process through our callings even as we seek to be comforters ourselves.  Martin Luther was no stranger to grief and he has some interesting things to say about it..  It is very practical stuff.  This is from a letter that he wrote to a man named Bartholomew von Staremberg, in 1524.  He had lost his wife and Luther writes……..


Let me remind you of what Job says: ‘The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; as it seemed good to the Lord, so hath he done.’ You should sing the same song to a dear and faithful God who gave you a dear and faithful wife and has now taken her away. She was his before he gave her; she was his after he had given her; and she is still his . . . now that he has taken her away. Although it hurts us when he takes his own from us, his good will should be a greater comfort to us than all his gifts, for God is immeasurably better than all his gifts. . . . Although we cannot perceive God’s will as well as we can perceive a wife, we can apprehend his will by faith. Accordingly you should cheerfully give God what is his and accept this just exchange . . . whereby instead of a dear, tender wife you have a dear, tender will of God—and, what is more, God himself. How blessed and rich we would be if we could engage in such an exchange with God! We could do so, in fact, if we knew how to, for God confronts us with the opportunity daily, but we cannot ask him.

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