The Sum of Christian Preaching

Some pastors do not know how to preach the Gospel.  They have confused motivational speaking and music with the power of God’s word.  So here is a brief summary of what the preaching of the Gospel is.

The sum of the preaching of the Gospel is this:

•  to convict of sin;

•  to offer for Christ’s sake the forgiveness of sins and righteousness, the Holy Spirit, and eternal life;

•  and that as reborn people we should do good works.

So Christ includes the sum of the Gospel when He says, “Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations” (Luke 24:47).

Book of Concord: “Apology of the Augsburg Confession,”
Article XIIA (V). Repentance, 29.

This is why Paul resolved to know nothing in Church “except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”  The Gospel was not preached “in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that … faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”  (1 Corinthians 2:2-5, ESV).

Fantasy and Reason in Writing

The Death You DeserveMy younger brother, Jonathan, recently wrote a novel called The Death You Deserve, and it is continuing to receive very positive reviews and ratings both on Amazon.com and Goodreads.  It is available on Amazon.com, and if you like medieval style fantasy mixed with gritty realism, I encourage you to check it out.

I am writing a novel as well, and am pleased with how it has worked out, so far.  My story is set approximately 40,000 years in the future, and is a science fiction and fantasy type story.  The current title is “Tuin.”

The vocation of a novelist is first and foremost to entertain, so I hope to complete a fun and adventurous story with well drawn characters.  But I also hope to reflect the truth of the world from a Confessional Lutheran Christian perspective.  God willing the completed work will be reasonably okay.

J.R.R. Tolkien said that creative fantasy was derivative in the sense that we take real things that we know and rearrange them, and that the clearer the reason, the better the fantasy.  We were created in the image of a Creator, so we create with what we have been given.

Said Tolkien, “Fantasy is a natural human activity.  It certainly does not destroy or even insult Reason; and it does not either blunt the appetite for, nor obscure the perception of, scientific verity.  On the contrary.  The keener and the clearer is the reason, the better fantasy will it make.”  (54).†

“For creative Fantasy is founded upon the hard recognition that things are so in the world as it appears under the sun; on a recognition of fact, but not a slavery to it.”  (55).†

In defense of myth and fairy stories Tolkien wrote:

“Dear Sir,” I said — “Although now long estranged,
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not de-throned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned:
Man, Sub-creator, the refracted Light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sowed the seed of dragons — ’twas our right
(used or misused).  That right has not decayed:
we make still by the law in which we’re made.”

— page 54.†

“Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.”  (55).†


“Leaf by Niggle” is a short story  that I recommend all artists to read.  It can be found at the end of J.R.R. Tolkien’s book, Tree and Leaf.


†  J.R.R. Tolkien, Tree and Leaf, First American Edition, 1965 A.D., page numbers cited above.

Snow White Trees

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We haven’t had much snow around here this Winter, and that put a big crimp in my Winter photography plans.  The pictures in this post are actually from last Autumn before Thanksgiving 2014.  They were taken at Rib Mountain near Wausau, Wisconsin.

I was passing through Wausau on a business trip, and planned to stop at Rib Mountain for the sunset.  Unfortunately, the end of daylight-saving-time threw off my calculations, and I arrived after dark.  It was still beautiful, but I didn’t have a powerful enough flash to light up entire trees.

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If I stood far enough away to capture the entire evergreen tree above, then the flash was too weak.  So I got close, and captured half the tree.  Oh well.  I did want to post something wintery before the season ended.

March might be good for at least one big beautiful storm yet, but we’ll see.  Whether you enjoy the snow or no, may the Lord be with you.

A BJS Selfie

When Pastor Wilken took this picture, I was thinking, “Why is he taking a picture of the front of the church at the start of his presentation?”  Then later I saw his Facebook post with the picture.  It was a Brothers of John the Steadfast selfie.

One of the goals of the Brothers of John the Steadfast is to use new media to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Does a selfie count as new media?

Kudos if you can find me in the photo.

Click here to see other photographs from the 2015 Brothers of John the Steadfast conference.

Pictures from the 2015 BJS Conference

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The Brothers Of John the Steadfast held their annual conference in Naperville, Illinois on February 20 & 21, 2015 A.D.  It was an excellent conference with a lot of insightful presentations, good food, entertainment, and enjoyable fellowship.

The Brothers of John the Steadfast is a group of mostly LCMS (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod) laymen and pastors dedicated to promoting Confessional Lutheranism.

The conference was held at Bethany Lutheran Church and School.

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The theme of the 2015 conference was, “When Heterodoxy Hits Home.”

All the pictures in this post are from that conference.

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The first session was with Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller.  His topic was: “The Obligation and Temptation of Dealing with False Teaching.”

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One of the challenges of taking photos at this conference was the new candle holders that Bethany had installed down the center isle.  I tried to incorporate them into the photos as best as I could.

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Audio presentations from the 2015 Conference can be found on the Brothers of John the Steadfast website.  Video of the conference can be found at this link: on the BJS website.

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Bethany Lutheran’s unique stained glass windows can be seen in the background.

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This stained glass window depicts God’s gift of Woman to Man.   (God was depicted in the window above this one, and was the source of the yellow rays of light that blessed our original parents).

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Pastor Rossow introduced the next speaker.  Pastor Rossow was an excellent and gracious host.

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The second speaker on Friday was Pastor Clint Poppe of the ACELC.

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The topic of Pastor Poppe’s presentation was, “The Barking Dog Approach.”

Dinner followed, and then there was the evening prayer.

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In commemoration of the martyrdom of Saint Polycarp, the liturgical color for the evening prayer was red.

On Friday evening, the Brothers of John the Steadfast gathered in private homes for the “No Pietists Allowed” parties.  Then the next morning on Saturday was the “Manly Man’s Breakfast” at Bethany.

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On Saturday morning, Pastor Joshua Scheer introduced the Reverend Larry Beane.

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Pastor Beane’s presentation was entitled, “Doctrine And/Or Practice?”  During his presentation, he maintained that the entire Book of Concord was descriptive.

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Pastor Hans Fiene was the second speaker on Saturday.  Pastor Fiene is the creator of The Lutheran Satire.  He spoke about when satire is appropriate to use in defense of the faith.

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The last speaker was Pastor Todd Wilken from Issues, Etc.  Pastor Wilken spoke about our need for perspective, patience, and perseverance.

Please go to the Brothers of John the Steadfast website, and check out all the audio presentations from the 2015 conference.  Or check out the videos of the conference by clicking here.

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The Lord blesses his people when we gather to hear, discuss, and ponder his word and Sacrament.

Thank you to all who were involved in making this an enjoyable conference.

Thank you.

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Additional Pictures

Click here for additional pictures from the 2015 BJS Conference.

Click here for additional pictures from all the previous BJS Conferences (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, & 2013).

God’s blessing to you.

Remember Their Names

Martyrs1aBelow are the names of the twenty-one Christian men martyred for bearing the name of Christ.  They were Coptic Christians originally from Egypt, but were murdered in Libya.

Thousands of Christians are being murdered across Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, but these men garnered some attention because they were featured in an Islamic State video.  In the video as their heads were being sawed off some could be heard to say, “Lord Jesus Christ.”

They were martyred for Christ.  They were murdered for being Christian.  May we remember them in prayer.  May we remember their names, the same names that on earlier days were spoken: as they were baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Milad Makeen Zaky

Abanub Ayad Atiya

Maged Solaiman Shehata

Yusuf Shukry Yunan

Kirollos Shokry Fawzy

Bishoy Astafanus Kamel

Somaily Astafanus Kamel

Malak Ibrahim Sinweet

Tawadros Yusuf Tawadros

Worker from Awr Village
(name unknown at this time)

Mina Fayez Aziz

Hany Abdelmesih Salib

Bishoy Adel Khalaf

Samuel Alham Wilson

Girgis Milad Sinweet

Ezat Bishri Naseef

Loqa Nagaty

Gaber Munir Adly

Esam Badir Samir

Malak Farag Abram

Sameh Salah Faruq

Jesus remembers their baptisms, and he remembers yours.  He will not forget.  (Mark 16:16).

The man crucified next to Jesus said, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  And Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  (Luke 23:42-43, ESV).

Kyrie eleison!

Coptic Christians immerse their babies in baptism.

Additional Resources:

What is Lent? A Video

The above video was produced by Concordia Publishing House.  The song the children sang in the video is “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.”

O sacred Head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns, Thine only crown.
O sacred Head, what glory,
What bliss, till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I joy to call Thee mine.

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered
Was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression,
But Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior!
‘Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor,
And grant to me Thy grace.

My Shepherd, now receive me;
My Guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me,
O Source of gifts divine.
Thy lips have often fed me
With words of truth and love;
Thy Spirit oft hath led me
To heavenly joys above.

— “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” LSB 450:1, 3-4.

The original wording of this hymn is attributed to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.

May you have a blessed Lent.

Obama’s Terrorism Blind Spot

254EF51800000578-0-image-m-24_1423520104864The Islamic State burned a man alive in a cage, then at the National Day of Prayer, President Obama told American Christians to get off their high horses.  Said Obama, “People committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

Muhammadans murdered people at a kosher deli in Paris.  In response, President Obama called it random violence.

The Islamic State kidnapped 21 Christians, took them in another country, and beheaded them along the Mediterranean Sea.  In the same video, they also threatened to spill the blood of every single Christian in the world.

What should our response be?  Should we get off our high horse, and not judge?  Are all Americans and Christians just a bunch of hypocrites because of the Spanish Inquisition?

Thanks for the history lesson, but no thanks, Mr. President.  Christians, especially, know that we are not perfect.  Our own sin and the universality of sin is an integral part of our theology.  But we strive against our sin, we strive to do better, and we strive against evil in this world.

However, how can we strive against evil until after we have identified what is evil?  And how can we defeat evil if we do not know what is causing it?  What is motivating the terrorists?  What is causing this world wide convulsion of evil?  Obama seems to think this is just unmotivated random violence, in other words, it is just violence for its own sake.  He says, Islam is not the motivation.

But the terrorists disagree.  They say they are justified by the teaching of Islam.  And they are often very specific about just what teachings of Islam justify their behavior.  Should they be believed?  I do not know, but the fact is that their arguments are convincing Muhammadans around the world.

Therefore, we need to have a real discussion about Islam.  These boilerplate bromides from our leaders about how all religions are peaceful is not a debate or even a discussion.  Such bromides are just stupid.  The Aztecs sacrificed hundreds-of-thousands of people to their gods by cutting out their still beating hearts, and then rolling the bloody human bodies down their pyramids.  Is that a religion of peace?  By the way, that religious violence no longer takes place because Christians got on their literal high horses, and put an end to it.

How about the worship of Kali?  Was or is that a religion of peace?  (The Guardian).

These terrorists are trying to start a world war, and every day their movement gets bigger and more violent.  Why is this happening?

Obama’s blind spot is that he does not understand what motivates the terrorists.  But if he wants to effectively lead against this evil, he first needs to know what is causing it.  What are we striving against?  What is the threat we are facing?  Is it world war and global jihad?  Or is it just some unmotivated random violence?

Further Valuable Reading:

Photographic Interlude

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There hasn’t been much snow around here this Winter, so in the absence of snowy pictures, I thought I’d post a picture from last Autumn.

The above picture is of the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains.  The water is Mills Lake, and the mountain between the trees is probably Pagoda Mountain (13,497 ft).  I was at an estimated elevation of about 10,000 feet above sea level when I took the picture.

A Song of Ascents:

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

— Psalm 121:1-2, 7-8, ESV.

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The above picture is of the stream leading into Mills Lake.

May God bless you.

A Readers’ Favorite Review

My brother, Jonathan, recently wrote a book called The Death You Deserve, and it has received very positive reviews.

Jonathan posted one of the reviews from Readers’ Favorite on his book’s Facebook page.  That Facebook post is embedded below.  (To read the entire review, just click the “see more” link within the embedded Facebook post).

The Death You Deserve is available now on Amazon.com.

God’s blessings to you.