The Harder I Try, the Worse I Do


I don’t know if other people can relate to this, but it seems like the harder I try to live a God-pleasing life, the harder I try to avoid sin, the more of a sinner I become. The more I strive to curb my thoughts and actions, the more unholy my thoughts and actions seem to become.

This seems to be the case especially during the Season of Lent. It is the season of fasting, and yet I hunger more for food and drink than ever before. It is the season of increased devotion to Christ, and yet at no other time of the year do I feel less motivated to pray. It is the season of repentance and casting off dead works of the flesh, and yet it almost seems as though my fleshly desires become more active than they do at any other time of the year. Which leads me to conclude that perhaps, Lent is really bad for me. Or really good, depending on which way you look at it.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Be Careful What You Wish For…


We’ve all heard the expression, “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” I think the same rule can be applied to prayer.

Many years ago, before I was a pastor, before I was married with children, I prayed that the Lord would teach me the Theology of the Cross. It was during my later college years and into my first couple years of seminary that I frequently found myself uttering this prayer. I knew that it was something I needed to learn. I knew it was something that was important. I had read much in books and journal articles about Luther’s Theologia Crucis, and I wanted to know it. To learn it. So I truly and honestly prayed that God would teach it to me.

Sometimes I wish that I had not been so fervent in this prayer. Because what I didn’t realize at the time was that one cannot learn the Theology of the Cross from books alone. It was not merely his reading of books that taught Luther to look at life through suffering and the cross, but his own experience of the cross in his life. His own suffering, terrors, and trials, his internal struggles and battles–these, finally, are what taught Luther the theology of the cross.

Suffice to say that God has answered my prayer, over and over again. In many and various ways, He has schooled me in the theology of the cross, but it has not been a free education. The tuition has been costly. I confess that I have not always borne well the crosses that God has laid on me. And for this I repent. But there is only one way to get the juice out of a fruit and that is to squeeze the hell out of it. So, I suppose the fruit that God has squeezed out of me is that my fervent prayer has now become, “Come, Lord, quickly.”

What makes the trials and afflictions of life bearable is the fact one day they will come to an end. One day, God will deliver us all from this vale of tears and sorrow, and take us to himself in heaven. And the pain and misery that was endured in this life will not be remembered any more. The thoughts that daily plague my mind will finally cease, and there will be unending joy. This is what gives me comfort in difficult times. God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Christ suffered, and then He rose. Sorrow gave way to joy. Come, Lord, quickly.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Keys are Given to the Church, But Administered only by those Legitimately Called

I appreciated these words of Martin Chemnitz in which he explains Luther’s teaching that Christ has given the keys of the kingdom of heaven to the Church:

Against these tyrannical opinions Luther taught from the Word of God that Christ has given and committed the keys, that is, the ministry of the Word and of the sacraments, to the whole church, not however in such a way that everyone might usurp and appropriate this ministry to himself by his own will and personal rashness, without a legitimate call, but that, after the immediate calling ceased, God sends ministers of the Word and of the sacraments through the call and choosing of the church, if it is done according to the command of His Word, so that the highest power of the Word and of the sacraments is with God; then, that the ministry belongs to the church, so that God calls, chooses, and sends ministers through it. Thirdly, then, it is with those who are legitimately chosen and called by God through the church, therefore with the ministers to whom the use or administration of the ministry of the Word and the sacraments has been committed.

It is interesting to me that Chemnitz equates the office of the keys and the ministry of the Word and the sacraments with those words, “that is.” So often they are spoken of as though they are something different. Chemnitz speaks of no “public” vs. “private” administration, as in, “Pastors are called to exercise the keys publicly, but all Christians use them privately in their vocations.” The ministry of the Word and sacraments is carried out only by those who are legitimately called through the Church. And yet, Chemnitz affirms (as do our Confessions) that the keys have been given to the whole Church. He speaks not of an individual possession, but a collective possession. The keys belong to the whole Church, through which God calls and chooses ministers to use and administer.

Chemnitz further explains:

With this distinction, which is true and plain, Luther meant to restrain the arrogance of the priests who were puffed up by the opinion that they alone possessed all power with respect to the Word and sacraments, so that the sacraments were valid on account of the imprinting on them some kind of character from ordination…This is also the reason why they wanted to quote and condemn certain mutilated and falsified words from that disputation of Luther’s in this canon. (Examination of the Council of Trent, vol. 2, pp. 96-97.)

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Reminiscere – Matthew 15:21-28

If only more people prayed like Jacob: After wrestling with God from dusk till dawn, he says: “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Jacob refuses to let go of God until he receives a blessing. He holds God to his promises. And he would do that throughout his life. He holds God’s Word and promise in front of his face, and says, “This is what you said. This is what you promised. And you cannot be unfaithful to your promises. You cannot deny your own Word. You cannot lie.”

It sounds presumptuous. But it is actually what faith does. It is like your kids when you promise to do something with them. They don’t let you forget it. A whole month or a year could go by. And still they will say to you: “But you said. You promised.” They don’t easily forget the promises of their fathers, and neither should we forget the promises of God.

Continue reading

Posted in Sacraments, Sermons | 3 Comments

Choirs and Faith-Formation


Last Saturday we were privileged to have the “Singing Saints” from Saint Paul Lutheran High School in Concordia, MO sing at Immanuel. It was a wonderful experience. The concert itself was very good, and people were amazed that they sang everything from memory. We enjoyed hosting choir director Bill Gasau and his wife, Linda, and two of the girls from the choir at the parsonage. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Now, if I can just get the Seminary Kantorei to come!

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized

No longer “in a Relationship” with Facebook, Just Friends

When I broke things off with Facebook a few weeks ago, it was necessary. Our lives had just become too intertwined. Since then, I have spent more time reading and studying and my mind hasn’t been nearly as distracted as it was before. Now that we have had some time apart, I’ve decided that we can at least be friends. Being friends with Facebook has its benefits, I have to admit. But it is not good to spend too much time together. There’s just too much drama! Relationships shouldn’t have to be that hard anyway, right? So, I’m no longer going to pretend that I don’t know Facebook. But there is no way I am getting sucked back into a relationship again!

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

St. Augustine on the merit of Priests

I found this quote by Augustine (De consecratione, dist. 2, ch. Utrum) as I was reading the Examination by Martin Chemnitz today (vol. 2, p. 82). It is both convicting and comforting at the same time.

“Nothing more is effected by a good priest, nothing less by a bad one, because it is effected not through the merit of the one who consecrates, but through the word of its Creator and by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

I realize that Augustine is speaking about the validity or efficacy of the Eucharistic consecration, but I think that his words apply to all aspects of the Ministry of the Word. His words convict me for all the times that I believed that my skill, personality, or winsomeness added anything to the Ministry of the Word. But they also comfort me for they remind me that the efficacy of the Word is not diminished by my shortcomings (unless, of course, I was proclaiming and teaching falsely–then the efficacy of the Word would be diminished because it was not being truthfully proclaimed).

Posted in Uncategorized