February 2008

Why I like it: I love the introspection and the brokeness of his lyrics; Ryan Adams takes his listeners down a journey of his inner struggles and frailties, and leaves us with a cold glimpse at tragic beauty. Though I have no idea whether Ryan is Christian or not, in the end, he outlines the human condition so well when sings, “I’m fractured from the fall, and I wanna go home…It takes two when it used to take only one…”. Indeed, on some of the darkest times in my life this has been my confession and petition, that I am a broken creature, and I’m ready to go home to my Lord.

What gets under my skin on this album: I’m only dissapointed in one song, “Halloween Head”, and that is because of his unfortunate use of swear words to illustrate his point. They are absolutely frivolous, providing no sustenance to the song. With that said, the album has too many redeeming qualities to ignore it.

What you’ll notice in these two songs:

1. Sobering lyrics
2. A folk/Americana sound that borders on blue grass/country.
3. A beautiful use of a pedal steel guitar.

Final thoughts: Take a chance, and let me know what you think. Go to iTunes and preview each song, listen to the two songs on here, and then make your decision.


“I Taught Myself How to Grow Old”


When Wounded Sore, the Stricken Heart by Cecil Alexander

When wounded sore, the stricken heart
Lies bleeding and unbound,
One only hand, a pierced hand,
Can salve the sinner’s wound.

When sorrow swells the laden breast,
And tears of anguish flow,
One only heart, a broken heart,
Can feel the sinner’s woe.

When penitential grief has wept
O’er some foul dark spot,
One only stream, a stream of blood,
Can wash away the blot.

‘Tis Jesus’ blood that washes white,
His hand that brings relief,
His heart that’s touched with all our joys,
And feels for all our grief.

Lift up Thy bleeding hand, O Lord,
Unseal that cleansing tide;
We have no shelter from our sin
But in Thy wounded side.

Bill Buckley, the founder of National Review and arguably one of the most influential political thinkers of 20th century passed away last evening while working in his study. He was 82.

If you consider yourself a political conservative, you owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Buckley. His magazine, National Review, mounted the intellectual defense of conservatism at a time when it had few if any defenders.

He was a prolific writer, known for his wit and his command of the English language. He was a great thinker, but I think this is my favorite column. Written in 1981, it is an ode to one of his great loves: peanut butter.

Automated killer robots seem to be on the horizon.

Where is the Connor family when we need them!

Let me know if you see any naked Arnold Schwarzeneggers showing up in the news.

I once had a crazy idea to write a “Gospel Tract” concerning Baptism in view of Mark 16:16, but by the time I finished the essay I thought it looked more like a manifesto than a tract to pass out to people, so I really didn’t know what to do with it….until now. After reading over it, it seems to fit perfectly for a Lutheran blog. So I thought I’d give it try here, please feel free to glance over it or read it thoroughly, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Jesus washes His disciples feet, and perhaps this is the best image we have of baptism.

Many Christians like to make the notion of a “believer’s baptism”. I like to think that there are only two ways of understanding Baptism, through the Law (which no man can be justified by) or through the Gospel (which is God coming to us on behalf of His great mercy and not on condition of ourselves). You must never despise Baptism by thinking of it as something we do for God. Scripture is very clear that the Law came through Moses, and Grace and Truth came through Christ (John 1). How would Baptism then look to those still under the Law? Those still under the torment of the Law see Baptism as a “personal commitment”, a mere “act of obedience”, or “an outward sign of what has inwardly happened”. The problem with this notion, is that you are building your baptism upon your faith, and you are robbing yourself of all the joy Baptism offers. Do you understand that all sin is rooted in unbelief? So how can you be sure that your Baptism really is a sign of what has already happened inward? Do you always honor your parents? No. Have you coveted? Yes. Do you still Gossip, bear false testimony, etc? Scripture says that if anyone hates his brother, he is a murderer, have you still hatred? How then can you assert that there is a “believer’s baptism” when it is now clear that you still suffer from unbelief? Now you may say, “Because I believe in Christ”, but as we’ve just discovered, you still sin and that is unbelief. So as can be seen, if you are resting your salvation on any inward accomplishments, you are on sinking sand, and are suffering from what is called “faith in faith”; that one thinks he is saved because one believes. So instead of Christ receiving all “glory, laud, and honor”, your shifty faith receives the crown that only Christ deserves to wear.

Now here is where the blessings of Gospel Baptism come in. In Gospel Baptism, it is God coming down to you through the Water with the Word. In this Baptism, God is making all of the promises, God is bringing you into His family, and it is God who is clothing you in Christ. In spite of what you say, Holy Scripture is VERY clear (Gal 3:26-27; Rom 6; Tit 3:4-6; Eph 5:26-27; 1 Cor 10:1-4; 1 Cor 12:13; Col 2:9-12; John 3; Mark 16:16; Matthew 28:19) about the purpose and benefits of Baptism. And there is more, Baptism is objective and solid, an outward Truth that changes you inward and sets you on a firm place to stand. So you may respond in kind and say, well you are just as sinful as I am, how can you be sure that you are saved? I know I’m saved, because I’ve been baptized into Christ, I have His robe of Righteousness, all the benefits He won for me through the Cross, His resurrection, and His active obedience have all been applied to me through this most salutary gift. I am truly, deeply, and honestly His because He CLAIMED Me, He called Me, He chose me, and He WASHED me in His blood despite that I was once His enemy. What a merciful and gracious God (Rom 11: 34-36) we have!

Isn’t it ironic that the very text you use to prove us wrong (Mark 16:16) is the same text we use to strengthen our weak faith? For those who trust in Christ and have been baptized will not perish but have everlasting life (Mark 16:16). Are you seeing the beauty yet of our Most Merciful God? Perhaps now you can see the completeness of our salvation, it is truly grace upon grace! No longer do I have to look inward in myself to see if I have faith or if I’m bearing fruit, instead, I can look to outward promises that are secure because God made them. So when the devil comes to you and says, “I saw you just now, you little liar, how can you say you are a Christian?” You don’t have to debate, or despair, but instead say, “Get you gone Satan, for I have been clothed in Christ through Baptism, I have His robe of righteousness, and His blood was shed for me. If you have an issue, go take it up with my Mediator.” Praise God for the mystery of Baptism! To paraphrase Dr. Luther: Some pray for gifts of tongue, others pray for prophecy, but I pray that I may have a greater understanding of my Baptism; what it is to be washed by Christ and made new. Friend, that is my prayer for you today as you read this message, may you no longer seek after high and lofty wisdom, but instead, may you be content to rest in the “foolish” things of God which bring shame upon the wise (1 Cor 1:27).

“Let us love and sing and wonder
Let us praise the Savior’s name
He has hushed the law’s loud thunder
He has quenched Mount Sinai’s flame
He has washed us with His blood
He has washed us with His blood
He has washed us with His blood
He has brought us nigh to God.”

– John Newton

Unto him that hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

This is probably a mistake as a blog post, but this question has been posed to me in a variety of different ways lately. Accordingly, I figured I would just throw it out there. I could just as easily ask whether it matters if you are Catholic, Baptist, Episcopalian, or Methodist. Essentially, what we are asking is whether doctrine (or teaching) of a particular denomination makes any difference. Aren’t we all Christians?

I must admit that I am sympathetic to the urge to gloss over our differences for the sake of unity. It certainly makes things easier. People don’t get offended. Tempers are held in check. Everything seems to be just hunky dory when we can get past our differences. OK, I am starting to sound like a certain Presidential candidate whose name rhymes with “Osama.”

Aren’t there some things that just cannot be “glossed over?”

But, it seems that there are little things that we disagree on that just don’t mean that much. As long as we get the big picture correct, those little things should not matter too much right?

Who gets to decide what the little things are? My list of little things may be (is probably) different from yours.

So, we need a standard to judge the things that matter from the things that don’t. Where would that standard come from?

Well, as luck would have it. We have one. We can find it in the Bible – God’s Word. If we let the Bible be our guide to separate the little stuff from the big stuff, then we take ourselves, our biases, our opinions, out of the dispute.

So, the question becomes whether your doctrine lines up with what the Bible teaches.

Now, to be sure, I am not the first person to think of this. Indeed, I am sure there are some non-Lutherans out there reading this blog saying, “Yes, my doctrine does line up with what the Bible teaches!”

All I can say, is good for you! Let’s keep talking. Let’s keep checking our doctrines and teachings with the Bible to make sure we are doing what God’s Word tells us we should be doing. God is glorified when we do that. I believe God will bless those earnest dialogues and searches through His scripture.

What we cannot do is sweep our disputes under the rug. We cannot simply decide that they don’t matter. Doing so does not glorify God. It opens the door for Satan to poison our faith with heresy and error.

So, brothers and sisters in Christ, study up on your faith. Don’t be satisfied with the fact that you were simply born into this faith. Wrestle with it. Think about it. But, always, always, always, go to the Word. God’s Word is the final standard. God’s Word is all that matters.

We sang this hymn in church today. This is for me the perfect prayer:

Just as I am, without one plea
But that thy blood was shed for me
And that thou bidd’st me come to thee
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just a I am; thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
Now to be thine, yea, thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

The hymn was written in 1835 by Charlotte Eliot and became the “altar call” hymn for Billy Graham throughout his ministry. I have always thought it would be a wonderful song for the FINAL altar call. This is the hymn I will be singing on the way to Heaven.

Singing it with an organ with a congregation is wonderful, but Johnny Cash’s haunting version is my favorite. It is available from iTunes and it is on my iPod.

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