Steve Harvey Gets It Wrong Again – Don’t Jump

harveyMaybe some of you have seen the video below.  If has been going around on the internet in a viral fashion (almost 50 millions views). No, not the one where Harvey mistakenly crowns the wrong gal the beauty pageant queen, but the one where he “preaches” at the Family Feud audience.  This is the one is which the audience becomes his congregation after the main cameras are turned off.  You can watch the whole clip embedded below if you want to see what I am talking about.

You Gotta Jump To Be SuccessfulAfter I tape an episode at Family Feud I spend a few more minutes with the audience. I talk about jumping.

Posted by Steve Harvey on Wednesday, January 13, 2016

But the basic idea is this:  If you want to be successful, you have to jump.  Basically if you want to want money, fame, or lots of stuff, you have to take chances.  God has given you a gift to use that will gain that life for if you just take chances.

This speech is a prepackaged meal of gospel prosperity with a side of the American Dream.  For those not familiar with the term, the Prosperity Gospel is a plague that seems to be contagious in two seemingly very different communities in our day, the poor black community and the middle to upper class white community.  It is the idea that God wants you to be successful in terms of wealth, health, and lifestyle.  If you follow God closely enough and “jump” at the right times, you will be rich, fit, and happy.  In one community, the preacher is playing off the people’s desperation and in  the other the people’s aspirations.  In either case they are selling the prospect of a better life wrapped up in a loosely tied bow of religious jargon.  The problem is that it simply  what they are selling is not what God is offering to humanity.    He offers eternal salvation through His Son rather than fifteen minutes of fame.

My advice to you is the same I would give you if I saw you standing on the  edge of a tall cliff.  “Don’t jump.”  Well, at least don’t jump if you believe that jumping is the key to happiness and purpose in life.  I am not against taking an occasion risk personally and certainly, we at times must suspend the constraints of our reason to follow Christ.  But in general, purpose in life is found living right where you are standing.  Discontentment is not the sign that you are supposed to be doing something more manifestly amazing but instead is the result of not recognizing the value of what you have been given to do already.

 

Most Americans my age have been filled with delusions of grandeur from the time we were young.  We all think that if we do our best, we will be famous at least in one sphere or another. Every kid is little league is taught to dream of the World Series.  Every writer wants to see their name on the NYT Best Seller list.  Every cook with a few knife skills thinks they deserve their own show.  And all of this assumes that somehow fame and success will mean fulfillment in life.  Ask Solomon about that assumption.

I write this post to suggest that to really find purpose in life, look where you are standing before jumping somewhere else.  Be a loving Father.  Be an obedient daughter.  Be a great boss at work.  Be a concerned citizen.  Be a treasured employee.  Pastor your congregation. Raise your children.  Do your job with integrity.  In these simple and, yes, someday mundane activities is our real purpose in life.  There first and foremost do we love God and our neighbors.  These are the vocations God has given to us unquestionably.   If God desires a bigger stage for any of us, He will carry us there also.  But we should not grow weary of doing good right where we stand.

Inspirational speeches are being confused for prophetic speech in our day.   Most people would rather watch a Ted Talk than listen to a faithfully crafted sermon.  Steve Harvey in the video shows he has learned the skills so many preachers use to manipulate a crowd into a glorious frenzy.  But just because you mention God does not mean you have really spoken for Him.  Don’t jump.  Bloom where you have been planted.  For God has planted you there with purpose.

 

Posted by Philip Hoppe on January 20th, 2016 under News Clippings, Theology and PracticeTags: , , , , ,  • 1 Comment

Well Worn Seats – A Defense of Having “Your Seat” at Church

pewIt is something that will get a chuckle out of most regular church goers. To what do I refer?  I speak of the the idea that many church regulars have “their spot” or “their seat” in the pew each Sunday.  Cartoons and drawn (like the one to the left)  and anecdotes are told about the times when a guest happened to sit in someone’s seat before the “rightful owner” could get there.  It is suggested that such an occurrence has the power to disrupt everything going on that day.

Some will even suggest that such a tendency is a sure sign that a church is just not all that friendly.  They will suggest that churches that truly want to grow will try to change this tendency in their church.  Truly hospitable churches will make sure every seat is open to whoever wants it.   

But I would like to make the case of why having your own seat in the church is a great thing.  Just this last Advent,  a women who was busy with all sorts of things she was helping with in the community came into the building just before our midweek service began.  This is what she said, “I wasn’t going to come tonight because I had so much to do, but then I was driving by church, knew it was just about time for service, and thought, ‘I am going to go in, sit down in my place, listen and rest.'”

Each person in their own home has their favorite place to sit or recline.  They often are not truly at rest at their home until their derriere finds its way to that hallowed place.  There can the concerns of the rest of the life be left behind for a time.

Why should church be any different?  In one feels at home at church, that is an awesome thing.  If they have come to understand that true rest occurs there, that is Spirit-wrought wisdom.  And if they have a place at Church that makes them recognize that they are right where they belong, that should be lauded and not maligned.  If they are at home where Jesus makes His home, let us rejoice.

Oh, of course if someone demands someone move in order that they can have their seat back, that would be poor hospitality to strangers and worthy of a brotherly rebuke, but really how often does that happen? Far more often, a person claims their seat because it is just where they belong, just where they can find the rest they need, just where Jesus comes and meets them.  And that is a good thing without question.

Posted by Philip Hoppe on January 18th, 2016 under Theology and PracticeTags: , , ,  • No Comments

Islam vs. Radical Islam –The Bigger Picture

riThere is a constant effort to build a rhetorical chasm between Islam and Radical Islam in our world.  Many would have you believe that there is no connection between the terror toting Muslims and their holy texts or religious heritage.  Such a claim is spurious as best.  Without making a extensive case here, let’s leave it at this: You can certainly find verses in the Koran and anecdotes from the history of Mohammed’s life to support such an approach to Islam.  It is at the very least one reasonable interpretation of their sacred text and the historical record of their faith.

By why do those seeking to make the gap between Islam and Radical Islam so large care so much?  What stake do they have in protecting Islam since most of them are not Muslims?  It could be argued that they simply seek to protect peace-loving Muslims from false accusations or persecution.  And no doubt, there is something to be said for this.  But I think there is something more here.

Our world wants to divide all those who practice religion into two camps, radical and moderate.   In their eyes, the distinction between the two may have many facets but none more important than the ones brought forth by these questions: Does the believer feel compelled to share their beliefs with others? Do they believe their beliefs to be universally true for all people?  Moderate believers keep their beliefs to themselves and practice their faith privately.  Radical believers are compelled to share their beliefs even publicly.

Our modern world is quite fine with people holding any personal belief so long as they do not believe it must be held as true by anyone else. Postmodernism loves plurality of belief.

Many Christians are actively participating in building the rhetorical chasm between moderate and radical elements of the Islamic faith.  And no doubt there is a great difference between the two that must be recognized, especially in some public debates. 

But we need to take a step back to see the wider narrative that is being sold.  It is this:  radical believers (defined by the world) are bad and need to be destroyed.  Moderate believers should be allowed to go on their way as long as their way never crosses someone else’s way.

We may rejoice when this logic is applied to Muslims, feeling ourselves both hounds of justice against the radicals and peacefully tolerant doves towards the moderates.

But we must know this.  Many in our world feel the same way about us Christians.  Moderate Christians willing to put aside the practices the current culture has deemed outdated or uncivilized are welcomed.  Radical Christians who insist that we must hold true to the faith once confessed by the apostles and handed down to us by the Church are looked at as extreme.  And ultimately they will insist that such Christians be silenced.  They will say that such extreme beliefs can only lead to violence pointing back to Islam to make their case.

True religion is not moderate.  It is in one sense radical by its very nature.  A religious person who lets go of tenets of their faith easily is not true adherent of that religion.  And so, the real question is this:  What does the religion we are talking about truly confess?  Are the most radically committed followers of a religion bringing forth good or evil?

So be careful today when you try to make the case that the radical Muslims are not to be viewed as valid representatives of their religion. For next, the same measure will be placed upon you.  You will be dismissed as not a true Christian.  The only adherents of religion allowed to speak will be those who have departed from the heritage of their historic faiths.  And that will be to the world’s detriment.

Posted by Philip Hoppe on December 8th, 2015 under Theology and PracticeTags: , , ,  • No Comments

A World Without Homes

bh2All of the scary movies have been put away.  The ghoulish costumes will soon be up for sale on eBay. The buildings recently haunted have returned to their normal states.  But that does not mean that everything scary has gone away.  As we know, reality is often much more frightening than the fantasies we revel in each October.  Listen to these words preached in 1937,

“Where is the Christian to be found who is not interested in the welfare of his home and family?  For the home and the family is of divine origin, a divine institution, and the Christian home is one of the most important institutions on earth. It’s existence, it’s welfare, it’s problems are matters of vital concern to the church, to human society, to us as individuals, to our country and to the world at large. Just imagine a world without homes."

Those last words are haunting to me.  Imagine a world without homes.  That is not an exercise that I would want to engage in for very long.  A world without homes is indeed a terrifying idea.  And yet it not something that requires much of a leap from reality for all too many people.  For many people the idea of home is not one that brings relief, but stress, anxiety, and sometimes fear.  Many people already within their own personal world know nothing of the comfort the word home has generally delivered throughout the ages.  And it continues to get worse.

As Christian people, we should well know that there is but one way to restore something good and holy that has become broken and unclean.  And that is to let the Holy One, Jesus, touch it.  We read in 1 Timothy 4:4-5, “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.”  Each of us must admit that to one extent or another our homes are not what the should be.  And that means each of us needs to allow God to make holy our homes by bathing them in the Word of God and prayer. 

To this end, my friend Pastor Dan Galchutt and I have started up a website called LivingPlanted.com.  It offers free resources aimed at helping you live out the Christian life at home.  I hope you might check it out and share it with others.  Also, you can connect to our effort by liking our facebook page.

I know this might sound odd.  But I am more concerned these days with with our members are doing in their homes than I am about what we do at Church.  That is not because Church is unimportant.  Our gathering to Jesus on Sunday is the key event of each week for us as God’s people.  But I feel like we have longstanding habits for our time at Church that are good and pleasing to the Lord.  I am worried that the same can not be said always for our homes. 

I do not want to imagine a world without homes.  I do not want to live is a world where Christian homes are not the place of refuge God intends them to be.  I do not want to live in a world where prayer and the Word cannot find a place in the homes of God’s people.  Let me leave you with another portion of that sermon preached so many years ago,

“Let your…church mean more to you than a mere place for you worship a short hour during divine service.  Permit its teachings to reflect in your homes and in your family life and you will never regret it for then you have the assurance of God’s blessing resting upon your home."

Posted by Philip Hoppe on November 2nd, 2015 under Theology and PracticeTags: , , , ,  • 1 Comment

Forever at Concordia Seminary

cslThe Gottesdienst blog today has a post in which it seeks to expose the worship practices occurring at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.  Those that know me who tell you that I am one who uses the liturgy and hymnody of the Church each week with joy.  I am one who understands quite clearly the concern about churches of our confession leaving behind those treasures for something very shallow and at times toxic to pure theology.

But on the whole all of the outrage over the video that Concordia Seminary posted seems quite overdone, at least from the small amount of information offered on the Gottesdienst post.  It is nothing more than red meat thrown out to the confessional lions.  No doubt the hit count will be high.  But will anything else be accomplished?

Although it is not specifically mentioned in the post referenced, the real outrage on Facebook about this video is that it is an example of contemporary worship occurring at one of our seminaries.  For many, this is enough to explode.  Pulling a guitar out of the case will set them off. They react to the instrumentation and the presentation right away.  It must be wrong because it must be wrong.  Some have not ever progressed beyond, “Organ good.  Guitar Bad” in their thinking about corporate worship. 

Another complaint is that this is simply copycatting evangelicals who do not share our confession.  That may well be.  But we must apply that consistently.  We should ask in every case if our similarity to these other confessions shows forth an underlying lack of understanding of our own confession, but we cannot just say that because something looks like what is being done in a heterodox church, it is necessarily heterodox.

The next critique is of Chris Tomlin himself.  And no doubt, he holds to a  heterodox confession of faith.  But does that mean that we cannot use anything he or others of a heterodox confession might produce?  If so, we will need to start tearing pages out of our hymnals.  We have hymns from many who held to heterodox confession in their lifetime (and I am not just talking about Twila Paris).

The next critique is the song itself.  There is more than a bit of irony in critiquing this song which was inspired by Psalm 136 about having too much repetition.  If that is the charge, Psalm 136 must go as well.  Look it up.  While I will agree that the song is fairly shallow in theology, I do not see anything that is heterodox especially when used in a liturgical context.  For those who insist every song must explicitly reference Jesus, we must then say that the Psalter is no longer suitable for Christian worship either.  This song also is very God-centered which is rare for CCM songs.  It speaks much more about God than the worshiper, laudably so.

Others have questioned the musical skill of those performing.  I am not trained enough to make a definitive statement about this other than to say that many of our churches use the liturgy and hymnody and yet do not have musicians of the highest quality.  To my untrained ear, the talent was not superb but it was not distractingly bad either.

Listen if Concordia, my alma mater is regularly throwing away the liturgy for some order of service meant solely to entertain, I am outraged also.  If the hymnody of the church is being throw away for the latest CCM iTunes playlist, I am outraged also.  But I do not know this to be the case and have seen no real evidence that it is.

If a song of praise is included once and a while and it is performed using instrumentation other than the organ, I am not outraged.  So long as the song is not teaching something false, I am not outraged.  Songs that foster meditation on one or two characteristics of God are not evil.  If that is all we get in worship as is the case in some churches. including our own, there is an issue. But if such songs are included in the context of liturgy and hymnody that is more didactic in nature, it is not inherently bad and may well be good.

I like red meat on my plate.  But not on my Facebook feed.  It only serves to make it harder to foster deep conversation, scriptural reflection, and confessional discussion about the true nature of Christian worship. When something like this video is put forth as an atrocious occurrence, we will have no chance to speak about things that are truly atrocious going on in the Church.

Posted by Philip Hoppe on October 20th, 2015 under Theology and PracticeTags: , , , , ,  • 5 Comments

5 Lies in 2 minutes from Nicki Minaj’s “Pastor”

lydiaAfter shaking her posterior for millons on the way up to accept an award for her utterly licentious video “Anaconda” and before cursing at the host of the show, Nicki took time to thank her pastor.  How nice.  She thanked Pastor Lydia.  Embedded below is a two minute video featuring Pastor Lydia Sloley talking about her newest book, “Supernatural Woman.” 

 

Thanks to video editing she is able to spew no less that five lies in about two minutes.  Let go through them quickly:

1.  She wrote her book “so women can get the results they are looking for from the Word of God”

Like Moon Men, I suppose.  Who knew the Scriptures were a tool to get what we wanted if only we have some supernatural (scholars read “gnostic”) understanding of how to force blessings out of them.

2. “You are a supernatural woman.  You serve a supernatural God.  you will get supernatural results.”

Notice who goes first.  Back to that later.  This of course all forgets the very non-supernatural way God almost always works, like through people, words, water, bread, and wine.  Who needs the cross when you can have supernatural results like feathered headdresses and a backside the Lord surely did not create.  

3.  “You can read the same Scripture and the Lord will give you a different revelation based on your current needs.”

Like you might read First Peter where is says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” and God might reveal to you that see through dresses and gyrations on stage might work okay also.  Calling another woman a female dog might be revealed as a manifestation of inner beauty.

4. “This book teaches you how to move the hand of God through obedience.”

Lucky for Minaj, the obedience usually mentioned most in these churches is sowing an offering in order to be blessed financially.  It is sort of the spiritual equivalent of Powerball.  And I suppose writing a check is about the easiest thing for her to do at this point.  No doubt Nicki actually believes her fame wrought from overt sexuality and foul talk comes from God due to people like this pastor.  Obedience cannot manipulate God into action.  Thankfully it is grace that moves the hand of God.

5.  “I give God the glory.”

Sure, that is why the book is called “Supernatural Woman.”

Why did I write this post?  Will a lot of Nicki Minaj fans read it?  I doubt it. But I wrote it because we need to realize that so many people are listening to so much crap that is being peddled in the name of Christ by false prophets.  We must return to the Word in order that we might be tricked into thinking that Jesus died just to make us famous and gain us awards.  We must return to the Cross and rejoice that Christ’s obedience has granted us forgiveness and life.

You may not fall for such obvious lies as these.  But all of us must know the Word well in order that we might not be swayed by every wind of doctrine.

Posted by Philip Hoppe on August 31st, 2015 under News Clippings, Theology and PracticeTags: , , , ,  • No Comments

#LoveSins

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If by love, we mean simply that affectionate feeling we have towards the things we desire or fancy or trust in, then love does not always win.  Many times #LoveSins.

 

The obese man loves everything about food and so he fills his mouth celebrating victories and swallowing defeats to make everything sweeter.  The sports fan loves his team and so he invests large amounts of money into following that team so that everyone knows he is the Superfan.  The teenage boy loves his first true love and so he agrees with her false statement to make sure she does not leave.

The college boy loves being part of the in crowd and so he uses the Lord’s name as if it is were any other word to make sure no one tags him as overly religious.  The elderly lady loves to be right and so she ends her statements, “God as my witness” to give credence to her slight deceptions. 

The busy dad loves to fish and so he heads out early Sunday morning to make sure he is on the water when the fish are biting.  The young couple loves never being challenged and so they decide to just worship at home to make sure they have things just the way they like it.  The young man loves being viewed as spiritual and so he posts to Facebook about how church is not necessary so that all his friend will view him as so modern and wise.

The teenage child loves his independence and so she lies to her parents to gain that independence for the evening.  The middle-aged woman loves her money and so she hides part of her income from the IRS to keep a few extra bucks. The convicted felon loves his freedom and so he burrows through the wall to find the outside world he misses so much.

The career focused young man loves his dream of upward mobility and so he tells his girlfriend she must abort the child to assure that his five year plan goes on without a hitch.  The old women loves the dignity she has enjoyed and so she tells the doctor to proceed with the lethal injection to make sure no ever sees her at less than her best   The drunk man loves his reputation as a tough guy and so he takes a swing at his fellow drunk to feel that he still is just as virile as he once was.

The married man loves sexual pleasure and so he tells he wife to go to bed to make sure he can watch that show and do that thing.  The couple loves the idea of how marriage felt that first year and so they divorce to find it again with someone else.  The man loves feeling wanted and so he moves in with his new girlfriend to keep the good feelings flowing.

The treasure hunter loves the antique piece the elderly woman has and so he pays the posted price fully aware that it is worth so much more to make sure it ends up in his home.  The young child loves how the toy lights up when the button is pushed and so he places it in his pocket to make sure he can play with it at night in his room.  The new employee loves the pens at work and so he takes a few home to celebrate his new work.

The bully loves feeling powerful and so she spreads lies about the kids at school to ensure that she is feared.  The middle aged women loves knowing everything that is going on in town and so she develops a network of informants to make sure every comes to her if they want to know something.  The family member loves their own and so they take the stand and tell a few white lies to make sure their beloved walks.

The young man loves firearms and so they spend countless hours figuring out how to obtain that high power assault weapon to be able to say he owns one.  The middle-aged women loves fashion and so she obsesses about how to get that designer bag to finally feel good about her wardrobe.  The career woman loves the thought of being the boss and so she stabs a few people in the back to make sure she gets up the ladder more quickly than they do.

Adam and Eve loved the thought of being like God.  They ate the apple.  Jonah loved being the only chosen one.  He hated those in Nineveh.  Saul loved the Law. He persecuted Jesus. You and I love things that lead us into great sin and vice.

#LoveSins

Only God’s love always wins.  Only it always works good.  Only it has pure motives.  Only His love shown to us in Jesus can help us who so often are led into sin by the things we love.  Only the Cross and Tomb can rightly be captioned #lovewins.  When it comes to us, more often than not, #LoveSins.  When it comes to God, #LoveWins.  Thanks be to Him for His love.

Posted by Philip Hoppe on June 30th, 2015 under News Clippings, Theology and PracticeTags: , , , , , ,  • 1 Comment

The Future Tense of Funerals

ftAt funerals, there is a lot of talk about the past.  “Do you remember the time Dad took us to the lake?” “Bob just loved to create beauty with his scroll saw.”  “I just wish we had a chance to talk about that day and what was said.”

At funerals, there is often a lot of talk about the present as well.  “Steve is in a better place.”  “June looks nice, doesn’t she?”  “Ralph is finally at rest.”

At funerals, not nearly enough is said about the future.  “Aunt Jenny will rise again.”  “This is not Clarence’s final resting place.”  “Jesus will come again with the sound of a trumpet.”

And truth be told, talk about the past is engaging but tends to only reveal the cavernous  hole created by death.  Talk about the present tends to a be bunch of clichés strung together like popcorn on a string.  They help us escape the immediate discomfort of standing next to a dead body but do little more.

Only talking in the future tense ultimately brings real comfort.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

Yes, our Lord encourages us as his people to use words in the future tense at funerals.  He tell us that that is where we find hope.  He points us forward to the day when Jesus will make all things new.

We can talk about the past.  It may bring a smile to the face.  We can talk about the present.  It may get us through the day.  But only the future tense will do if we want hope that can sustain us through the days remaining until the trumpet sounds.  Encourage one another with these words.

Posted by Philip Hoppe on June 16th, 2015 under Theology and PracticeTags: , , , , ,  • No Comments

What Closed Communion Is and What It is Not

ccA man walks into church on a day when the Lord’s Supper will be served.  He says to the usher handing out communion cards, “You know.  I have been really good this week.  I should get two cards.” 

This actually happened in my brother pastor’s congregation.  It is a shocking level of arrogance on so many levels.  And yet, I should not be so shocked I suppose.  For surely many view the way LCMS Lutherans have agreed to practice communion together as nothing more than a way of ensuring only people good enough get to come forward for the meal.

Our visitors surely think that is what we are doing.  Since there is not enough time to truly explain our practice or our beliefs in the three minutes before service, all they know  that others, presumably the good people, will go forward while they sit in the pew and feel like everyone else is staring at them.

And sadly, it is probably how many who are going forward think as well.   They think, “I went to years of midweek and confirmation classes to get to go to this.”  “I have been an LCMS member my whole life, that is why I get to go.” “I am a member in good standing in a LCMS congregation.”  Some laity police the altar themselves in order to make sure no bad person gets up there.

But here in the truth, closed communion is not a way of making sure only the good people get to the altar.  Much to the contrary, it is the way of seeking to assure that only those who know how bad they are come into Jesus’ presence to find forgiveness and life. 

Yes, when you declare for communion, sign that card, or put your name in the register, you are not declaring that you are good enough to come forward but are confessing that you are painfully aware that you are the sick and are in need of the Physician.  This is not like getting into the nightclub because you are perfectly dressed.  It is instead like signing in at the doctor’s office in your tattered pajamas because you do not have the strength to change out of them.

Closed communion assures that only those who confess that they are not well come up to the rail. After all, Jesus only eats with sinners.  He eats with us sinners because He knows we need Him desperately.  Only those aware of their sin and seeking the forgiveness and life offered by Jesus in his body and blood should come forward. 

We come forward singing, “So who am I, That I should live and He should die. Under the rod? My God, my God, Why have You not forsaken me? O taste and see the Lord is free.”

In order to assure that only the bad come forward, we ask that people study with us the very basics of our faith before communing.  We ask the to ponder the Commandments, Creed, and Lord’s Prayer.  We ask them to marvel at the gifts of Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper.  We are not asking them to jump through hoops or prove how good they are.  Instead we are making sure that they with us are willing to confess how bad we are and how good God is to us.

We ask them to do this so that we can say with confidence that the people gathered at the altar have all confessed publicly that they are sinners who wish to dine with Jesus and believe He is present in this meal in His very body and blood giving forgiveness and life.

Closed communion does not insure that the only the good come forward.  In fact, that guy at my brother pastor’s congregation, if he was serious, should have been told that this meal was not for him.  Closed communion makes sure that only the bad come forward.  And when they do, they meet Jesus in his body and blood offering just the medicine they need.

We must make this clear to visitors, to our own members, and most importantly to ourselves lest pride rob us of the chance to dine with the One who sits down with sinners to eat.

Posted by Philip Hoppe on May 28th, 2015 under Theology and Practice • 9 Comments

How to Make Law Preaching Specific and Varied

keep-calm-preach-law-and-gospelWow, that title almost puts me to sleep.  Hopefully someone actually clicks on such a sleepy title.

Christian preachers should do two things in every sermon.  They should seek to convict their hearers of sin.  Secondly, they should proclaim Jesus’ work as the only answer for such sin.  The first task Lutherans usually call “preaching the Law.”  The latter we call “preaching the Gospel.”

Both tasks are of great importance.  For if the Law is not preached, the Gospel will be disregarded by the hearers who are left to think they do not really need Jesus all that much.  And if only Law is preached, the people will leave in despair instead of joy, which is not God’s intention for His Word.

I believe that the preaching of the Law must be specific and varied.  What do I mean by that?  Well first, our task is not simply to tell our people that they are sinful, although we do that as well.  But our task is to expose specific sins, particularly sins that our hearers are not already aware of in their own lives.  And that means that we must not only speak, for instance, about greed generally but show how greed manifests its ugly head in everyday life.  We might mention how as workers we are almost never content with our wages.  Or we could mention how owners can gather all the profits of a company to themselves while leaving their workers impoverished and think of themselves not as sinners but good capitalists.  We must be specific because sin occurs in specificity.

But besides being specific, the Law should also be varied.  If someone preaches every week about husbands looking at internet pornography, the congregation might rightly begin to wonder why this topic comes up so frequently in their Pastor’s sermons.  No, every corner of life should be explored.

But how does one on a weekly basis make sure their Law preaching is both specific and varied?  Well I think it is quite simple.  Martin Luther writes that in preparing to confess sins one should “Consider your place in life according to the Ten Commandments.” (Small Catechism)  In other words, especially if specific sins to confess do not pop right to mind, let one or more of the Commandments search through one or more of your vocations.  So a Christian might ask, “How have I kept the Third Commandment as a father?  Have I made sure my family is in worship?  How has I kept the four commandment as a citizen of the United States in regard to that president I can not stand? Have I obeyed as I must?”

The same is true for preaching.  Law preaching becomes specific and varied when the preacher considers his hearer’s place in life according to the Ten Commandments.  I would suggest specifically that he let the Table of Duties and the Ten Commandments meet and see what Law is crafted.

One could even literally write down the various vocations mentioned in the Table of Duties (Pastor, master, wife, children, etc) on one stack of cards and the Ten Commandments on another stack of cards.  Then he could then at random pick one card from each pile and come up with a Law application.  This week I will mention how children ought to live sexually pure lives.  Then next week I will talk about the pastor’s responsibility to guard people reputations through not revealing sins confessed to them, and so on.

In this way, the examples are just as specific as real life and yet the preacher does not get stuck constantly riding one hobby horse or another.  And all of this leads to the end that all sins might be exposed, repented of, and find their end in Jesus.  To Him be the Glory.

Posted by Philip Hoppe on April 16th, 2015 under Theology and PracticeTags: , , , ,  • No Comments