In Christ God’s power was made perfect in weakness.
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
The Brothers of John the Steadfast held their fifth annual conference on Friday and Saturday, February 15 & 16, 2013 A.D. at Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL. Bethany recently installed some new stained glass windows. The window above depicts some of the church buildings in which Bethany has called home.
On Friday, Pastor Fisk spoke about being raised Lutheran, but not staying Lutheran, and the challenges we face in passing on the faith to future generations.
One of the goals of the Brothers of John the Steadfast is to use new media to pass on the faith. Pastor Fisk exemplifies that approach in his video podcast, Worldview Everlasting. Pastor Fisk’s presentation can be viewed on YouTube by clicking here.
God’s word causes us to understood, is without error, and inspires love. One of the best aspects of a Brothers of John the Steadfast conference is the fellowship of brothers in Christ. Scott Diekmann wrote about the fellowship of this year’s conference in a post entitled: “Joy.”
On Saturday afternoon, Pastor James May spoke about Lutherans in Africa. Pastor May said the best way to make disciples was by preaching and teaching the word of God. He said that Islamic missionaries were teaching their faith, while many Christian missionaries gave out T-shirts. We should never neglect people’s physical needs, but we should not pretend that helping other people physically is the same thing as teaching the gospel. The Church Growth Movement does not work in America or Africa.
One story that stood out was of a mother who wanted her babies to be baptized, but could not afford the baptismal fees charged by the Roman Catholic priests. The fee for a baptism was $15, but $15 was two weeks wages in that part of Africa, and she had twins. She was trying to find a priest who would bless her babies for free, when she discovered Pastor May. Pastor May explained that he was not a priest, but that baptism was not so much about becoming a member of the Roman Catholic Church, as it was about becoming united to Christ. The gospel is freedom, so Pastor May baptized her babies for free. Her children later died, and she was comforted by their baptism. She believed that baptism united her children with Christ and saved them because God so said. (Romans 6:3-5).
The video above is of President Harrison of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LC-MS). Today, he joined Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist and Jewish leaders to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Oversight and Government Reform Committee regarding these issues. (Reporter, the official newspaper of the LC-MS).
First, the Obama Administration sought to force all employers to pay for contraception & abortion drugs. Then they “compromised,” and basically said they would give citizens of faith a year to change their beliefs. Then they promised a future “accommodation” which was nothing more than an accounting gimmick. An accounting gimmick is just another way to deceive. Unfortunately, these issues are fraught with deception.
Even the very words we speak are under assault. One of my law school professors explained the difference between contraception and birth-control in this way: Contraception means against conception. In other words, contraception stops conception. Birth-control means to stop a birth. That is exactly what many birth-control pills do: they deliver drugs that hinder conception, and they cause the death of children already conceived.
The very term “emergency contraception” is a deception, because these drugs were designed to kill a child after he has been conceived. These drugs are not used to stop conception, but rather to stop a live birth.
Furthermore, pregnancy is a condition, it is not a disease. All children are a blessing from God. Why must that even be said? Why? Because such undeniable truths are under constant assault. Human dignity is under assault. Human life is under assault. Truth is under assault.
The Enemy of truth is trying to embed deception and delusion into our very language and thought patterns. However, Christians need to think and speak clearly.
May the Creator of heaven and earth bless the testimony of our religious leaders in Washington D.C. as they speak for freedom and the truth of the dignity of all human life.
Yesterday, the head of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), President Mark Schroeder said:
Recently the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that it will require all health care plans, including those provided by religious organizations, to include coverage for contraceptives, abortive drugs, and medical procedures that are contrary to the doctrinal positions of many Christian churches and denominations. This action is a clear and unprecedented threat to the religious liberty guaranteed to all citizens by the First Amendment. No religious organization should be required by the government to support or facilitate activities which are in clear violation of its principles and beliefs.
The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod clearly understands and teaches that Jesus has directed his followers to ‘give to Caesar what is Caesar’s’ (Mark 12:17) … [However, we] “also confess and affirm that if the government directs us to do something in clear violation of the will of God, ‘we must obey God rather than men’ (Acts 5:29).
The Brothers of John the Steadfast held their fourth annual conference on Friday and Saturday, February 10 & 11, 2012 A.D. at Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL. Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller, a co-host of Table Talk Radio, spoke on Saturday, February 11.
Pastor Wolfmueller mentioned three attacks of the devil against the Church: First, he convinces us that theology is boring. This causes us to chase around after frivolous entertainments instead of living in the truly exciting word of God. Second, the devil convinces us that because good theology is difficult, we should avoid it for easier pursuits. Third, the devil puffs us up with our own self-importance so that we are afraid to be wrong or make mistakes.
Pastor Wolfmueller emphasized that Christ’s name matters, not ours. We do not need to feel ashamed if we are wrong or make a theological mistake, because repentance and turning to Christ is all part of growing in grace. If we are afraid of making theological mistakes, then we will not talk about theology at all. However, God wants us to discuss his word, and let it dwell in us richly, not just as private individuals, but also as a Congregation of all believers.
A portion of Pastor Wolfmueller’s presentation is featured below:
There was a small problem with the electronic speakers at Bethany Lutheran being slightly out of synch, which explains the echo in the video above.
Friday’s inclement weather caused me to miss most of Pastor Fisk’s presentation. Pastor Fisk is best known for his video podcast Worldview Everlasting. Please check it out.
One of the highlights of every BJS conference has been the outstanding liturgical music led by Cantor Phillip Magness of Liturgy Solutions. This year was no exception, and one of the Divine Services was done mostly a cappella.
Pictured below are what appear to be horns in the back of Bethany Lutheran. I took the picture while standing under them looking up toward the ceiling.
The other highlights of every conference so far have been the delicious food and generous hospitality of Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL. This year was no different.
Pictured above are conference attendees arriving in the nave for Pastor Scheer’s presentation after lunch on Saturday.
Pastor Joshua Scheer stated that theology is supposed to be the habitus for all Christians, including laymen, and that layman should love their pastors enough to hold them accountable.
Speaking about the internet, Pastor Scheer said that today’s Christians face a temptation to become a sort of gnostic internet community based on mere knowledge and information sharing. However, while internet communities and relationships can provide good support and resources, they cannot fully reflect the theology of our Lord’s incarnation as a real physically present person. Therefore, all Christians (including pastors) should have a real physically present pastor, who stands in the place of our incarnate Lord, and delivers real physical gifts in word and sacrament.
Also according to Pastor Scheer, our primary goal should not be to save our synod, but rather to save our Confession (of Christ).
Pictured above: Brothers meet under the cross, before returning to their earthly homes.
For additional information about the conference, check out Stand Firm. For additional pictures from past conferences, click here.
The Brothers of John the Steadfast (BJS) are a group of Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) pastors and laymen who fight against heresy, including the “Church Growth Movement” and its methodologies, by working to promote the Lutheran Confessions, the historic liturgy, new Lutheran media, and by equipping husbands to be spiritual heads and strong voices “of leadership in their local congregations.” (BJS website description).
The Brothers of John the Steadfast held their third annual international conference on Friday and Saturday, February 11 & 12, 2011 at Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, Illinios. The featured speaker at Friday’s banquet was the newly elected President of the LCMS, Pastor Mathew Harrison.
The theme of the conference was the current threefold emphasis of the LCMS: “Witness, Mercy, and Life Together.”
Pastor Harrison is well liked, and received a standing ovation before he even spoke.
Mr. Fisher, Pastor Jonathan Fisk, and Pastor Charles Henrickson wait in line before the banquet.
The banquet was catered, and for dessert we were served flaming cherries jubilee.
During the banquet, I sat next to an LCMS pastor. When he learned that I was WELS (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod), he told me he recently communed at a WELS congregation, but that most WELS pastors will not commune you if you are not in fellowship with the WELS. (I assumed he communed under a misunderstanding). The WELS practices closed communion. He, being an LCMS pastor on the other hand, practiced open communion because the Lord’s Supper is forgiveness, and he does not withhold the Lord’s Supper/forgiveness from anyone. On Judgment Day, he did not want to have to inform Jesus that he withheld the Lord’s Supper from anyone for not being a Missouri Synod member, because Jesus would ask him, “What is the Missouri Synod?”
I said this was my third BJS conference, and I have never communed at a conference. I asked somewhat rhetorically, “Isn’t closed communion also the rule in the LCMS?” He said, “I don’t know. Well, it’s probably the rule here” (at Bethany Lutheran in Naperville).
This amicable conversation was interesting to me because if the WELS does not start enforcing the practical aspects of our doctrine, then it will not be long before we also have malpracticing pastors who openly flout our doctrine, and then claim ignorance while they put eternal souls in danger. (1 Corinthians 11:29). Unfortunately for the WELS, that day may have already arrived.
It is good to remember that Jesus did not say, “Trust the WELS” or “Trust the LCMS” or “Trust whatever pastor you just happen to have,” but rather he said, “Watch and pray.” (Matthew 26:41).
On Saturday morning, Cantor Phillip Magness spoke about Christian witness.
Later, Timothy Hetzner, the President of Lutheran Church Charities, spoke about Christian mercy. According to Mr. Hetzner, at the time of Christ, the common cup was associated only with marriage. The only time the Jews drank from the common cup was for marriage. The symbolism is that the Church is the Bride of Christ.
Pastor Jonathan Fisk delivered the sermon at the Divine Service on Saturday, February 12, 2011 A.D. In the pictures above and below, Pastor Fisk is on the left. Pastor Fisk is best known for hosting the video blog Worldview Everlasting.
Pastor Fisk and company stand under the cross of Christ.
The third emphasis of the conference was “Life Together.” Christian life together involves communion. Unfortunately, within Confessional Lutheranism there are divisions, and not all self-identified “Confessional Lutherans” can commune together.
However, in the January 2011 edition of Forward in Christ, Paul T. Prange hinted that in the near future there may be free conferences between certain members of the WELS and the LCMS. (“One in faith?” Page 32). A free conference is a place to discuss doctrine “outside the framework of fellowship” for the purpose of determining whether there is fellowship: in other words, whether there is complete agreement about everything Christ commanded us. (Matthew 28:20).
In the Garden of Gethsemene, Jesus prayed that all believers would be brought to perfect unity. (John 17:21). Just as Jesus prayed to His Father: “Thy will be done,” so also we must pray: Lord Jesus, may Thy will be done.
Click here for additional pictures from the 2011 conference.
According to The Brothers of John the Steadfast blog, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) President Matthew Harrison will be the keynote speaker at their third annual conference at Bethany Lutheran in Naperville, Illinois. “President Harrison will be speaking at the banquet on Friday evening,” February 11, 2011 A.D.
The speakers, music, and liturgy at the first two annual conferences were outstanding. Attending these conferences was a blessing because they provided good Confessional Lutheran resources from and camaraderie with those who are attempting to be intentionally Lutheran. One of the goals of The Brothers of John the Steadfast is the promotion of genuine Confessional Lutheran theology and also new Lutheran media such as the Issues, Etc. radio program.
Here are links to articles about the first two annual conferences:
The speakers from February 2010 are pictured from left to right: Pastor Todd Wilken (the host of Issues, Etc.), Journalist Molly Z. Hemingway (a writer for Get Religion), and Klemet Preus, the author of the popular book: The Fire and the Staff: Lutheran Theology in Practice.
The WoW Insider has an interesting interview with Lutheran pastor Jonathan Fisk, pastor of St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Springfield, Pennsylvania regarding the popular online video game World of Warcraft. Pastor Fisk also has an interesting program on YouTube called Worldview Everlasting where he teaches Lutheran doctrine in a new style using some of the internet’s new emerging media. Pastor Fisk’s vocation in the video game, World of Warcraft, is not to teach Lutheran doctrine; but in commenting on religious discussions that do take place within the game Rev. Fisk said:
You know the old saying about “religion and politics.” That’s sort of been the … unspoken rule. We don’t talk about Obama and we don’t talk about God. But sometimes it happens.
There was this amazing conversation we had one night on Vent when someone made an offhand remark about “zombie Jesus” … And I laughed and said something like, “No, Jesus isn’t undead. Jesus is risen.” It was fun. Everyone was honest, asking questions and not getting all quiet and offended like happens so often.
But it’s kind of sad, really. Our age of tolerance is a two-edged sword. Everyone is so afraid of offending everyone else (because everyone is always so offended) that it’s almost like there’s this giant lid on meaningful conversations. We can talk about the weather or loot, but we keep a tight seal on the deeper things of life.
But knowing that that’s our culture, and really caring about my guildies , I try to respect that. I know the image of Christianity is that of a bunch of hypocritical, self-righteous jerks. So I try not to be that. But I don’t think commandeering Vent conversations will get me very far. The Bible teaches that life is full of vocations, places you stand in order to do the right thing. When I play WoW, my vocation is friend and WoW player, not preacher. Christianity teaches me to do what’s before me to the best of my abilities, to honestly care about my guildmates, respect them and hold them up. If and when those relationships grow, and if and when they find themselves needing to reckon with the implications of their lives, their wrongdoings and death, they’ll know where to find me. I’ll be more than happy to “preach.” :)
In this interview, Pastor Fisk also addressed some of the differences between “radical Christianity” and genuine Lutheranism. This “radicalism” or “enthusiasm” is currently predominant in American Christianity.
The media only tends to show that edge of conservative Christianity that is very legalistic. There’s a vast number of Protestant traditions that we Lutherans used to call “radicals.” Their theology is very about about “yourself” and how good or holy you are. They say they believe the Bible, but they think it’s a rulebook for life rather than the Revelation of who God is in Jesus.
It’s funny, because for all their talk about not sinning, it’s what the Bible says about sin that they don’t really believe. Sin is not firstly something you do. It’s a corruption of our hearts, our nature. It’s that corruption that is the reason we die, the reason there is war and hate and disease and suffering. But that “radical” edge of Christianity that gets all the press thinks it can overcome this sin just by following the right rules and trying really hard. But that kind of spirituality is always falling short of itself. It tries to get you to be good for inherently selfish reasons, and then you end up just looking like a hypocrite. That’s the “fundamentalism” that makes the news as “Christianity,” so that’s what most people think Christianity is.
This radicalism has made serious inroads into many Lutheran congregations. The next time we are in church, we should listen carefully to the “Words of Sin & Grace” (which often takes the place of the “Confession & Absolution”). Do we still confess that “we are by nature sinful and unclean”? (Emphasis added). Or do we confess only specific misdeeds of the past week such as a failure to help the Church grow because we did not tell more people about Jesus? Does the pastor then sermonize that the solution to these sins is something we accomplish by our own doing, for example, by being “loud” and “intentional” in our witness? Or is the solution the cross of Christ? (1 Corinthians 2:1-5). Carefully observing these practices can be one way to help see how far this “radical” & false theology has infiltrated into once Lutheran congregations.
Total depravity is a fundamental Christian doctrine. (Genesis 6:5, 8:21, & Psalm 51:5). A failure to confess and deal with original sin is a simultaneous failure to confess this important truth.
The WoW Insider interview with Pastor Fisk is long & interesting, and one can read the entire article by clicking here. I especially appreciated the fact that the Holy Spirit gave Pastor Fisk a large and diverse audience to hear this:
Many people think Lutherans just follow Martin Luther. Luther was a brilliant and helpful man, and he was a catalyst for the conservative Reformation of the medieval catholic Church, but if Lutheranism is about a man, it’s about Jesus of Nazareth. The Reformation succeeded because by Scripture alone we can know that salvation is by grace alone received through faith alone because of the work of Jesus Christ alone. There’s a lot to unpack there, but that’s a good summary.
The newly installed president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), Matthew C. Harrison, had an excellent article in The Lutheran Witness entitled “Beginning with Repentance.” However, everything that Pastor Harrison said applies to all Lutherans and Christians in America. Too many of us are focused on what will make earthly congregations grow, when what we need to focus on is repentance.
The greatest eras in the history of the Church have all begun with repentance. Those times when the Gospel of free forgiveness by faith in Jesus Christ has shone brightest … have all begun with the preaching of repentance.
It’s hardly a coincidence that John the Baptizer’s first recorded words were, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matt. 3:2). It’s no accident that the first words out of Jesus’ mouth when He began His public ministry were likewise, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matt. 4:17). And note that the text says, “from that time [forward] Jesus began to preach” repentance.
Jesus, the greatest preacher ever, was throughout His ministry a preacher of repentance. After Jesus’ death and resurrection … Peter repented and was restored following his own miserable defection and denial. And then Peter and the rest of the apostles burst upon the world with a glorious preaching of repentance. At Pentecost, Peter preached the thunder of the Law: “‘This Jesus whom you crucified, God has made both Lord and Christ.’ Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’” Peter responded with the sweet comfort of the Gospel: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:36–38).
The Reformation began the same way. The very first words of Luther’s Ninety-five Theses declare: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ says ‘Repent,’ he wills that the entire life of the Christian be one of repentance.” The Reformation began with a divine call to repentance—with a confession of sin and a rejection of the delusion that human activity can in any way, whole or in part, bring about salvation or divine favor.
Why have we lacked missionary zeal? Why have we been so divided? Why have we failed to love each other? … Why has our preaching so often lacked urgency and biblical depth? Are we preacher therapists, or are we prophets of God with a clear message of Law and Gospel? Are we still the Church that preaches Jesus’ own message of repentance?
Pastor Harrison then reminded his flock that they have no right to be smug. All Confessional Lutherans in America should take this reminder to heart. We have a tremendous gift, a tremendous wealth of blessing; but too often we take God’s grace for granted. We imagine that it is within our power to hold on to God’s grace & truth, and that God’s grace & truth cannot be lost. However, the prophet David cried out to God: “Do not cast me from your presence, or take your Holy Spirit from me.” (Psalm 51:11). Also,
Luther reminded the Germans of his day that the precious Gospel can be and has, in fact, been lost by whole nations…
The good news is that the Lord delights in having mercy upon sinners, just like us. In fact, “Christ dwells only in sinners” (Luther). That means that Christ dwells only in a Church made up of sinners—people and pastors just like us. If we won’t be sinners (Repent!), we shall have no Savior…
May the Lord grant us repentance, all of us, that the Gospel not pass from us and that we poor sinners … might be His own tool to preach repentance, forgiveness, and faith in His name …
A call to repentance is the proper way to begin a Christian ministry. Click here to read the entire text of Pastor Harrison’s excellent article.
The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod 2010 convention is being held in Houston, Texas from Friday, July 9 to Saturday, July 17. Please pray for our brothers in the faith.
Almighty God and Lord, grant the delegates in Houston Your presence. Enlighten and guide them by Your Word that in all matters of deliberation they may always consider the best interests of Your Church. Let Your Holy Spirit rule and direct their hearts that, in the spirit of Christian love, they may present and discuss matters truthfully and be kindly disposed toward one another, to the end that all they say and do may please You; in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Here are some links to follow the happenings at the convention: