…. and he’s back! With.. The Problem of Suffering: A Father’s Hope & Phillipians

It’s interesting how life happens without even asking for our thoughts or opinions on the matter.

Since my last blog post I have taken up Homebrewing!  On an even more joyous yet mournful tone I have ushered into the church Triumphant 2 faithful members of Calvary.  Lastly, Lent started.  Sooooo… catch up!

With all the suffering that my people and myself have been facing I decided to purchase and read Greg P Schulz book on suffering.  If you didn’t know I have a four month daughter at home and so this man’s story of suffering had me in tears.  You know, I never cry…  I believe this is a book that EVERY Pastor has to read and have handy.  You need this role model on your shelf.

“God himself causes our suffering.  He is not the cause of sin, mind you, but He is the cause of our suffering.”

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
(Romans 8:18-25 ESV)

I had never seen the problem from this point of view.  I guess I cognitively could have told you that view was there but Schulz grabs you by the head and takes you there through God’s narrative God’s narrative intertwined with his story.

As I read Philippians for my devotions I heard this whole idea echoed throughout the letter!  Paul in his wanting to depart and be with Christ is found in our own echoes of God’s Word when we cry out to Him about the brokenness of the world and ourselves.  And yet later he continues to encourage and exhort us in his classic exclamation to Rejoice & Rejoice!

Next Month Colossians!

+soli Deo gloria+


February Devotions: Philippians

Stupid love?

“I love you man, but you’re CRAZY!”

9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,
10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

I miss Galatians but man is Philippians a great letter!

I have been constantly affirmed in my belief that you can NEVER read just a little Paul… you need to read all the context!

Love abound… With knowledge & discernment… Approve what is excellent… Be pure & blameless… Filled with the fruit of Righteousness… Through Jesus… God’s glory.

You can’t just love. You can’t just know. You will approve something.

We should daily pray this prayer, keep our eyes focused on THE day, and be confident that it all comes through Christ.

+soli Deo gloria+

January Devotions: Galatians

I am almost done with Galatians as January comes to a close… and I must confess that I have not done devotions everyday.  As a perfectionist that is hard for me to say…


There seems to be some hoopla in the LCMS about the Specific Ministries route at the Seminary.  It seems like there is actually a Biblical tradition for Pastor serving different groups of people based on their skill set.

On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised
(Galatians 2:7 ESV)

I haven’t fully worked out the implications of this connection nor have I had the time to fully think it through but in my devotions this morning it seemed to make sense.  Thoughts?

My final thought on Galatians is about doctrine and our understanding of the faith.  Paul says,

and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
(Galatians 2:9-10 ESV)

Fellowship.  Denominations.  The Gospel.  The grace given to us.

A question that has plagued me since I have become a Pastor is, “How much doctrine do you need to properly understand to be a member of the invisible church?”

I see some of the most doctrinally wise Pastors I have ever met… and their church is struggling.  I am following after a doctrinally lax Pastor… and under his pastorate the church flourished.  If doctrine is all about the blessed assurance that is ours in Christ then shouldn’t the most doctrinally correct church at least be growing if not growing the fastest!?!  I believe Lord, help my unbelief.

Now, I know we say it isn’t about numbers, but it is.  It is about bringing the Good New of Great joy to all people.

If you believe in double predestination… properly understood, in my humble opinion, as the doctrine that God doesn’t love everyone… are you going to hear Jesus say, “I don’t know you.”!?!?!?!

If the only unforgivable sin is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit… then is a misunderstanding of this doctrine or that doctrine the other unforgivable sin?

I know, I know, I know… Paul also says, in Galatians for crying out loud,

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.
(Galatians 5:2-4 ESV)

So…  I don’t know, I believe only God does.  Until then

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
(Philippians 3:12-16 ESV)

Philippians in February!

+soli Deo gloria+

January Devotions: Galatians


I though recently about all the member of my church who are not regular or semi-regular attenders.

“They need to be here!”

This thought went through my head over and over and over again.  I was seriously contemplating having council decide how many times a member had to attend each year to retain membership.  Evil.  Straight up. Evil.

I have repented and received the blessed news from Christ that my sins are forgiven.  Praise be to Christ!

In Galatians, Paul is adamant about man made laws and their effect upon Christ-people.  In Galatians the law is circumcision, and Paul goes so far as to say:

“Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.”

No laws.  No legalism.

Grace, Love, Christ, and Him Crucified.

+soli deo gloria+

Friends of the Law by: Edward Engelbrecht

This.  Book.  Is.  Amazing.

I can still remember being slightly foggy on the whole idea of Sanctification, good works, and the 3rd use of the law during my last year at the Seminary.  This book makes confusion about the 3rd use of the law practically impossible.  Mint!

Engelbrecht does an amazing job of putting Luther’s 3rd use of the law in context, yea imagine that… a Lutheran concerned about context!  Engelbrecht does a great job of succinctly illustrating for the reader how the Fathers talked about the Law.  He puts the Father’s thoughts in chronological order leading up to Luther and then shows how Luther built off what they had already laid down.  It is really quite simple & beautiful.

When he finally gets to Luther’s writings he makes a rather brilliant move.  He looks at ALL the different writings of Luther.  Engelbrecht doesn’t just look in the doctrinal writings of Luther but he also looks at Luther’s sermons.  He looked to Luther’s proclamation!  What a logical place to look.  Hmmmm, is Luther preaching 3rd use? Yes… but he doesn’t believe in it!?! Anyways, Engelbrecht also points out that these postils were actually some of the most widely used of all the writings of Luther.

As Engelbrecht critics other scholars he is fair but also willing to call a thing what it is.  I am not a researcher or professor but it seemed to me like these other researchers simply did a word search for “third use” and based their conclusions on those results.  Engelbrecht also took into account when Luther was “doing” the third use to his readers while not using the exact terminology, which also tended to fluctuate within Luther’s writings.

In my humble opinion, this book belongs in the library of every Lutheran Pastor.  This book is meant for PROCLAMATION.  Every. Sunday. 🙂

In his conclusion Engelbrecht states:

“God intends that the one He has declared righteous by grace through faith may enjoy freedom in his conscience and that the righteous man may, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, bear the fruit of the Spirit to the praise of God’s surpassing grace.  In view of this, Luther taught that God’s people may daily take up the commandments of God’s Law, sing them on the way to their work, and actually use them to the benefit of their neighbours.”

That. Is. Mint.

+soli deo gloria+

January Devotions: Galatians

One of the aspects of Scriptures that I have grown to fear and love is the very fact that they inspire both fear and love.  No where else can mankind find the Gospel than from the promises that lie in those sacred words.  Above and beyond all else Scripture proclaims the love of Christ as a free gift.

But fear?!?  At times I have found myself thinking, “I wish Paul hadn’t said it that way.”  Or something along the lines of, “What possible reason would the Holy Spirit have had for inspiring Paul to throw that in at the end?”  Am I questioning God?  Is this something a Christian does?

The funny thing is, I tell people at church that as a Christian we should love and trust all of God’s Word…  I felt like a hypocrite for a week or so and then it hit me on an idle Monday morning.  God’s Word is offending me.  This shows me my own sin.  When I realize that I am offended and see my sin, the Holy Spirit works repentance in my heart. There is no greater way to love God then to rejoice in repentance.  There is no greater joy for a fearful man than to know repentance is God’s work and not a burden resting on the shoulders of a sinner!  Repentance is God’s work for our salvation, at all times and in all His children.  He has made me His own.

I am glad to be offended!  Thank you Heavenly Father!

+soli deo gloria+

January Devotions: Galatians

This month I am reading the book of Galatians everyday.  In seminary I heard that Dr. Gibbs had everyone in his Matthew class read the Gospel numerous times before/during the class.

Here are a few things that jumped off the page at me this morning.

  1. In chapter 1, Paul doesn’t say that he persecuted Christians instead he says that he persecuted the “church of God”.  In such a individualistic society this corporate use by Paul almost sounds weird.  The reality is the church is one.  When one is persecuted the whole is persecuted.  
  2. Paul refers to his prior Judaism as the “traditions of my fathers”.  In this instance it is more about what he doesn’t say about his previous faith. Paul describes his previous faith as human traditions not God’s Promise.  I might be blowing this a little out of proportion but I don’t think so.  If you compare how he talks about the church, especially in the context of this issues in Galatia, “traditions of my fathers” sounds very hollow and suspect. Didn’t Luther say something about tradition vs. God’s Word?
  3. In chapter 2 Paul describes that actions of those who didn’t understand the Gospel against the church as “that they might bring us into slavery”.  I never thought about it this way BUT… all false doctrine, whether in practice or proclamation, is slavery.  The only way we receive the freedom of the Christ is when, as Paul says, “the truth of the Gospel is preserved”.  That means we are not held hostage externally by the traditions of the Roman church or internally by the doubts and uncertainty of decision theology.

+soli deo gloria+

Here we go!

I never would have thought that blogging would be something that I would ever find even slightly interesting or beneficial but I have been wrong before.  This year I am going to try it out and I will be focusing on 3 things.

  1. Books I am reading.  I am going to try and plow through that stack of books that I have been meaning to read for awhile now.
  2. My devotional life.  This year I have chosen a New Testament book for each month.  During that month I am join to read that book, beginning to end, every day.
  3. Pastoral Meanderings.  As a Pastor I am on a rollercoaster.  When my people rejoice I rejoice.  When my people suffer I suffer.

Here.  I.  Go.

+soli deo gloria+

What We Can’t Not Know – A Guide By: J. Budziszewski

Wow.  If you are looking for a book that will make your brain feel like you are looking at a Julian Beever sidewalk drawing this one will do just fine.  When I was on vicarage in the metropolis of Des Moines I started a young adults discussion group called “RE:ply to ALL”.  We started off by reading C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity.  This book is of the same “natural law” or “order of creation” approach to God… just on steroids.

Paul says in Romans 2, “For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”

The part of this book that I truly enjoyed the most is how he will preemptively shoot down, seemingly effortlessly, those who would try and deny the different aspects of natural law.  In fact he dedicates a whole section of the book to a type of Q & A section where he refutes every witty move those who would deny natural law make.  I felt like my brain was in a vice.

As a Pastor, that section of his book reminds me of my own efforts, week in and week out, to leave no escape for my hearers other than the blessed message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It also reminded me that no matter how frustrated I may get with culture and people who reject the Gospel I must pray for them, that the Holy Spirit would continue to work that they may be set free from the chains of sin.  Chains that their own minds know are there but all the while they pretend like they aren’t.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

+soli deo gloria+