Wednesday, September 30, 2009


This is TELL: The Essential Lutheran Library. With thanks to Cyberbrethen, you see here what CPH is marketing as books every Lutheran needs to remain a faithful Lutheran. Left to right are pictured: The Lutheran Study Bible, Lutheran Service Book, The Small Catechism, Treasury of Daily Prayer, Lutheran Book of Prayer, Reading the Psalms with Luther, and the Lutheran Confessions. These books are essential to a Lutheran's library for these books simply and concisely explain the Scriptures so that a sinner may come to faith in Jesus Christ and remain in the faith.
Why is it so important to be a Lutheran and remain a Lutheran? A Lutheran believes in the Bible, possesses faith in Christ as Savior, and seeks to cling to Christ throughout his or her life. In a world which denies Christ, and in culture which raises experience and reason over and against Christ, these books will help you center your faith on Christ, the solid Rock and Redeemer.
Mom always taught me that you are what you eat. In Seminary I was taught that you are what YOU READ. If you want to remain a Lutheran, read Lutheran books. If you want to center your life in Christ, these books will assist you. For more information on TELL, go to These are books that every Lutheran, wait, I mean EVERY CHRISTIAN should read.

THE Lutheran Study Bible

THE Lutheran Study Bible ( not to be confused with Lutheran Study Bible published by Augsburg Fortress) is out and it is AN OUTSTANDING Bible. Well worth the investment. I am amazed at the information within this Bible. I heartily recommend EVERYONE to get this Bible, especially my son, Mark, who will find this Bible filled with so much information that he can't help but get an A in his religion classes at school.

Sermon: Two Kinds of Wisdom

JAMES 3: 13-4:10

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. [14] But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. [15] This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. [16] For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. [17] But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. [18] And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
[4:1] What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? [2] You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. [3] You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. [4] You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. [5] Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"? [6] But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." [7] Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. [8] Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. [9] Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. [10] Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

In the name of Jesus:

There is a story about a woman who had been trying for years to persuade her egotistical husband to change his ways. He was obsessed with being number one. He never stopped talking about being first in sales at the office. He proclaimed that he was first on the list for the next promotion. He had to be first in line to buy tickets for a game and also the first to hit the parking lot after the game.
One day this man's long-suffering wife watched with interest as he stepped on one of those fortune-telling scales. He dropped a coin in the slot and out came a little fortune-telling card that read: "You are a born leader, with superior intelligence, quick wit, and a charming manner. You have a magnetic personality and are attractive to the opposite sex."
"Read that," he said to his wife with a hint of gloating. She did, and then turned the card over and said: "It has your weight wrong too."
We live in a time when people are in love with themselves. In fact, it would be correct to say that many people are in love with anything and everything but God. These are harsh words to hear as Christians, but the writer of James tells us that there are two types of wisdom prevalent in this world. Two types of wisdom which are opposed to one another, two types of wisdom of which one is correct and the other is wrong, two types of wisdom, one of which deals with the truth and one revels in lies. As Christians we need to discern these two types of wisdom so that we might listen, believe, follow, and live according to the correct type of wisdom, namely, the wisdom of God.
James tells us that there ARE two types of wisdom. The first type of wisdom is not from God and not of God. It is a sinful, worldly wisdom which is characterized by lies, deceit, and arrogance. Listen to God’s Word through James: “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. [15] This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. [16] For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” We see this in our culture where the common conventional wisdom seeks out the glory of self and self satisfaction. It is evidenced in the worldly patterns of deception, hurtful words, selfishness, and other evil behaviors. The passions of the flesh manifest itself in relationships with others: quarrels, jealousy, coveting and sinful ambition where the individual places himself or herself above others. These passions of the flesh are sinful and can lead to death. Just look at Cain and Abel. In jealousy and envy Cain killed his brother Abel. He thought more of himself than he did of God, His Word, or his dear brother. So also, sin crouches at the door of your hearts. You are conceived and born in sin. You have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. You have been jealous, said hurtful words, and have been more interested in worldly things than the things of God. Even as the people of Israel were an adulterous people, in that they were unfaithful to God so also you have been unfaithful to God. You have coveted wealth and your own glory at the expense of God. You have sought to replace God’s ways with worldly ways. You have been more interested in worldly things than the things of God.
Today, pollsters are given time on media outlets, in order to show the snapshot of American opinion at that particular moment on a particular topic of interest. Pollsters ask opinions of people on elections, on policy, and on products. Pollsters such as Gallup and Barna have concluded that based on their research, America is NOT a Christian nation. Its people rely on a worldly wisdom rather than the wisdom of God.

America is simply a "nation of biblical illiterates." Only four in 10 Americans know that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. A majority of citizens cannot name the four Gospels of the New Testament. Only three in 10 teenagers know why Easter is celebrated. Two-thirds of Americans believe there are few, if any, absolute principles to direct human behavior. Religious illiteracy is on the increase. Many today rely on self, thinking that the individual is the center of the universe, that it is up to the individual to determine one’s own destiny, and that God is merely our helper.
Many Christians deny the existence of the Holy Spirit and Satan. One in five denies Jesus' physical resurrection and believes he was a sinner. Earlier surveys of mainline Protestants revealed that barely half of Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians believe in the devil, but 56 percent of Lutherans and 49 percent of Methodists believe in UFOs. One-third of Methodists and Presbyterians have faith in astrology. While nearly three-fourths of all Americans believe in hell, hardly any believe it to be their likely destination in eternity.
Former Secretary of Education William Bennett concludes that "We have become the kind of society that civilized countries used to send missionaries to."
This may seem harsh, but facts are facts. Americans have been so busy pursuing the American Dream of the good life than the pursuit of the Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ. Americans have been more willing to pursue a worldly wisdom apart from God rather than the wisdom that comes from God. The call of James today in our text, the call of God to you, is to repent. Repent, that is, turn from worldly wisdom and rely on the wisdom of God.
God’s wisdom is marked by humility. Not a false sense of humility, but a deep seated humility rooted in Jesus Christ. The wisdom of God is revealed in the humility of Jesus. Just listen to the Apostle Paul as he writes: “5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil 2:5-8).
Why did God’s Son humble Himself? Jesus humbled Himself in life and death so that your sins would be forgiven. Jesus paid the price for your forgiveness in His life, death, and resurrection, with the purpose of that you would be His own and live under Him in righteousness, innocence, and blessedness forever. To be God’s own means that you will be God’s child and live under and influenced by His wisdom. It means that you have been marked in Baptism as a child of God, so that Jesus is your Leader and Source of wisdom and life. It means that you live, not according to the fleshly desires or the desires of the world, but that you turn from sin and live for God.
This type of living is holy living, a living that is set apart for God. Jesus has set you apart, so that you can show the world the difference of being a child of God in Jesus Christ. The Christian faith we believe in and the Christian life we live is diametrically opposite to the lifestyle seen in the world today. Christianity is mocked and scorned. Christians are told to think for themselves. But Christians are captive to the cross and the Word of God! Note what Paul writes in I Corinthians: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. We preach Christ who is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
This power of God is given today in His Word, the Holy Scriptures. The Bible is God’s Word to us and for us. God’s Word is sharper than any sword, cutting the heart to expose sin so that the healing balm of God’s forgiveness in Christ can be applied. It is able to make us wise unto salvation; it is a lamp for our feet and a light for our paths.
Today people look for wisdom is the spectacular things which the world seemingly offers. Experience, emotion, persuasive speech is valued more highly than God’s word. But God reveals His wisdom and gives His gifts in the Word.
Our faith rests not in the wisdom of man but in the power of God revealed in Jesus Christ. Our wisdom is folly and foolishness to this world and the present age. Secular man does not and cannot understand this wisdom from God for their hearts are blinded by sin and unbelief. If the world could come to an understanding of the wisdom of God, Jesus would have never been crucified. God reveals His wisdom and imparts His wisdom by the power of His Spirit working in and through His Word. For: “ The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”
You have the mind of Christ so that you might show the love of Christ and His wisdom to a world lost in sin. God exhorts you: “that by your good conduct show Christ’s works in the meekness of wisdom. For His wisdom is pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. Christ has been given to you and lives in you so that your lives would be a harvest of righteousness giving glory to God.
Do not be deceived, my friends. The times we are living in are evil. The end is drawing near. God has warned us in His Word that these times would be coming, “when people will not endure sound teaching, and that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” This is of the devil, so resist these things.
God’s call is clear: Do not submit to the wisdom of the world. Submit yourself to God. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Seek God’s wisdom where it can be found, call upon Him while He is near. Seek first His wisdom and His kingdom. Humble yourself before the Lord, and He will then exalt you. Amen

Sermon for September 27, 2009

JAMES 5:16

“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

In the name of Jesus:

I have always wondered about this passage. Not that I have doubted God and His word, but these words have always been a mystery to me. The prayer of a righteous person has great power. Why is that? Prayer is powerful to be sure, but why? Where does prayer get its power? It is in the person, his righteousness, in the words that are used? What is it about the prayer of a righteous person?
Prayer has great power, but that power is not found in the person or in the person’s righteousness. What person has power to change things? I mean, to really change things? As the world teeters and totters in a recession, does any one person have the power to change things for the better? Can the power of words affect things in a positive manner? The simple answer is no. Just look around at all of the words that people have spoken since the recession began. No one word of a human being, nor series of words have changed things for the better. The recession is still with us.
Look also at the state of institutions affected by the recession. Businesses struggle to balance the books. People are affected by the decisions that are made. No one word or words can change the outcome. One doesn’t say cheer up and then one’s outlook is brightened. Words certainly mean things but simple words, said by humans, avail nothing.
This stark reality hits home in death. When a loved one dies, no words can bring that love one back to life. When death comes to someone’s door, the news and the reality hits hard. Words may comfort, but they do not change the reality of death.
So it is not the mere words of prayer that changes things. Power doesn’t rest in one’s ability with the English language. No matter how verbose a person is, things will not change for the better. Nor is it the righteousness of the person who prays. After all, who is really right with God because of his or her own works? Look at what the Bible says, that our righteousness is like filthy rags! There is no one righteous, not one! For all have sinned and fallen short of God’s expectations, each and everyone of us has sinned, and that which we earn because of our sin is death. Sin pays off in death. So it isn’t the righteousness of the person who prays that changed things, or is powerful. We are indeed powerless to change things! The power of prayer is not found in our words, our righteousness, our deeds, our works, or even our well meaning good intentions. So why is it, and how is it, that the prayer of a righteous man has great power?
The power of prayer lies not in anyone of us, but in God! For God so loved us that He sent the Righteous One in our place, in life, suffering, death, and resurrection. As Paul says wretched people that we are, who WiLL save us? Thanks be to God, God HAS saved us in His Son Jesus Christ. God was in Jesus Christ, reconciling the world to Him. Jesus was righteous in His life lived for us, in the payment of His life, offering Himself up unto death for us, and His offering was accepted before God in the resurrection. You and I have been bought with a price, not with silver or gold, as Luther says, but with the precious blood of Jesus, all so that we would be His own and live under Him in His kingdom, serving God with our lives in innocence and blessedness. The power of prayer doesn’t rest in who we are, but in who Jesus is. The power of prayer doesn’t rely on who we are, but on WHOSE we are.
You and I belong to God. For in the waters of Baptism God has washed away our sins. In our Baptismal waters God has given to you new life in Christ. You have been saved: “not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, [6] whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, [7] so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:5-7).
There is power in prayer because prayer turns away from self and to God. Luther put it well: we are beggars, all of us. Nothing in our hands we bring, simply to the cross we cling. And so we cling to God in Jesus Christ. We cling to Jesus for forgiveness, and He gives it. We cling to Jesus for hope, for our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. We cling to Jesus for the things we need in this life, and He gives us what we need for He is the Bread of Life. We cling to Jesus to lead and guide and so He does for He is our Good Shepherd. We cling to Jesus in the challenges and changes of life, and we find peace and stability for Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We cling to Jesus as we live our lives in the midst of sin and death, and He gives us eternal life for He is the Resurrection and the Life. We cling to Jesus for we are a lonely and despairing people without Him, and He promises to be with us always even unto death. Yes, we are beggars, really beggars, and in our prayers we beg God and He hears and answers us, because of The Righteous One, Jesus. We ask God in prayer and He answers, for our God is an ever present Help in time of trouble.
What is it that troubles you today? Know that God hears you in Christ. There is power in prayer because our God is powerful and able to save. He has saved us, and so we pray .

In Jesus’ Name,


Sermon for September 13, 2009

ISAIAH 56:7 b

“For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

In the name of Jesus:
Once there was a pastor who had a parrot. All the parrot would say was "Let’s pray, let’s pray." The pastor tried to teach him other things but to no avail. The pastor learned that one of his elders had a parrot. Now the elder’s parrot would only say: "Let’s kiss, let’s kiss." The pastor decided to invite the elder and his parrot over to his house. When the elder arrived the pastor put the parrots into the same cage to see what would happen. The elder’s parrot said, "Let’s kiss, let’s kiss." The pastor’s parrot said, "Thank you Lord, my prayers are answered."
You may have heard the saying: a family that prays together stays together. Why is this true? Well, as we draw closer to God in prayer, He draws us closer to Him. It isn’t magic, it is a reality. When people pray with the purpose that God intended, then God unites His people. Just look at the context of our Bible passage this morning. Isaiah preached to the exiles in Babylon that they could have hope, because God was going to do something spectacular. Now the people were in exile of their own choosing. God had chosen Israel to be His own people. They were brought to the Promised Land; King Solomon built a Temple where God would dwell and where God’s people would come to worship. Sadly, though, God’s people forgot about God. Their love of God grew cold and their interest in God’s Word waned. They lusted after the things other nations had, they wanted to be like everyone else, and had no interest in being the people of God that God desired them to be. Soon, the Temple worship was replaced by Baal worship and the worship of foreign gods, which were not real. God became fed up with the lack of devotion, so He allowed His people to be swallowed up in their own desires. Have it your way, God replied. If you want to live without Me, then your wishes will come true. The friends of Israel, the nations of Babylon and Assyrian, suddenly turned their backs on God’s people and sought their destruction. The people were taken as captive, the Temple destroyed, and the Promised Land became rubble.
Prophets such as Elijah, Elisha, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and others called the people to repent. Some of the prophets called for repentance even when the people were in the midst of forsaking God. Others preached repentance during the exile. Their message was simple and consistent: Turn from loving the world around them and turn in faith in God. Quit relying on anything and everything else and start relying again on God. Fear, love, and trust in God above anything and anyone else.
God showed mercy to His people. He forgave them. Oh, to be certain they were punished. There were consequences for their actions. But God had mercy in that at the right time in history, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, to suffer the consequences of sin by giving of Himself in life and in death. Christ came to do the will of the Father who sent Him, to live His live in perfect love and devotion to God’s will, to proclaim forgiveness to those who were in bondage to sin, and to defeat Satan on the cross of Calvary. Jesus was God in human flesh, the very Temple of God residing on earth, the Son of God interceding for sinners in life, death, and in His resurrection, offering forgiveness and life to all by believing in His Name. Jesus interceded for all in His high priestly prayer and on the cross through His words of forgiveness and accomplishment. God has in His Son Jesus Christ repaired and restored a relationship with Him. God wills that all be saved in Jesus Christ, in that He has put away all sins on account of Jesus. People from every tribe, race, language, and people are acceptable to God on account of Jesus’ intercessory life, death, and resurrection. Jesus has made His Church a people for Himself in the waters of Baptism. This congregation has, by God’s grace, become a House of Prayer for all who believe. This House is the Place where God speaks in His Word, the Place where God washes away sin in Baptism, and the Place where God feeds His people in His Supper. This is the Place where God dwells, where He comes in Word and Sacrament, and where all people may come to worship God, to give Him thanks and praise, and to pray for God’s grace and many blessings.
God unites in prayer because and answers prayer because of Jesus. Proud people who think that they do not need God’s help have no need to pray. Arrogant people who trust in their own efforts and works and not Christ’s see no reason to pray. Self sufficient people who rely on anything and everything but God will not pray. And so, God does not hear nor answer prayer, for their words are empty and their faith is hollow.
But God hears the person who prays in Christ. The Bible says that the prayer of a righteous person avails much before the Lord. Why is that? Simply put, the righteous person doesn’t trust in himself, or the things of the world. Righteous people are beggars, pure and simple. They place no faith in anything but Jesus.
Martin Luther said it well of our spiritual state. “We are beggars, all of us.” How true that is, particularly today as our economy has been in a recession. Economic times have not been easy, that is an understatement. Typically as Americans, we like to blame our troubles on whatever political party we don’t belong to. But to do so misses the point. Have you noticed that we are in a global recession? The problems we face others are facing around the world. This is not a problem that is unique to the citizens of the United States of America! People around the globe are being affected. The larger question, I believe, is to what end? What is God trying to tell us? What lesson is He trying to teach us? Have we not also been swallowed up in our own desires, because we have forsaken God?
Jesus talks a lot about money in His ministry. The Bible is replete with messages about finances and money. Money is a gift of God. It is the LOVE of money that is the root of all evil. Jesus says you can’t serve God and Money, you will either love the one or hate the other, and you can’t serve two masters. I don’t think that this is a coincidence that people are plagued with money problems today. People have been swallowed up in their own desires because they have not sought God and have thought that they have not needed God. Money and riches have replaced a fear, love, and trust in God!
We have fallen into the trap as well. We have sinned and God calls us to repent. Just as the people in Isaiah’s day had worshipped other gods, our gods have been our retirement accounts, our bank accounts, the stuff we have accumulating in the garage, we have trusted in wealth rather than God!
So on this Rally Day God’s message is simple. It always is simple, Jesus says if you have ears to hear, and then listen. Repent. Turn from the love of the world and return to God. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. He does not forsake His children, but forgives them in Christ. Receive His forgiveness. Live in that forgiveness! Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. The things of this present age are wasting away. Store up for yourself the treasure that Christ has and you will be blessed. You have nothing without Jesus. You are dust and will return to dust. All that you are and have depend on God’s blessings in Christ. Seek those blessings, pray for those blessings, receive and then share those blessings, for God’s house is a house of prayer, not a house of money! God’s purpose is that we rely not of self or money, but on Him. Let me repeat that to be clear: GOD WANTS YOU TO TRUST HIM COMPLETELY!
We begin our Fall Campaign in prayer. We are not parrots, rather we pray from a deprived heart and soul. We have nothing good within us. All we have is Jesus. And so we beg. We are beggars. We beg God for His mercy in Jesus. We beg God to forgive us. We beg God to feed us. We beg God to bless us. We beg God that His Word will take root and bear abundant fruit. We beg God that as we have been blessed, we too might be a blessing. The purpose of our prayer is to ask and seek the will of God. That His will be done, and so we pray, so we beg, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.