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The Trouble with Syncretism in a Syncretistic World

There has been a lot of discussion as of late about the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and what Scripture teaches about joining in joint worship services with other Christians who do not agree with us in all areas of Christian doctrine as well as with those who don’t even believe in the Triune God. This all first reared its ugly head after 9/11 when a pastor in the LCMS joined in a joint worship service. Mollie Hemingway wrote an article on that here.

Well, after the shootings in Connecticut, there was another service. And another LCMS pastor found himself caught up in controversy and the LCMS is in the middle of it. A few more posts have been made that do a great job of explaining things once again. First is Mark Surburg’s article on The Grief Ritual of American Civic Religion Then there is an article by Mollie Hemingway on Covering Opposition to Syncretism in a Syncretized WorldGive them both a read.

Finally, go to the LCMS President’s posting to read about how Matthew Harrison dealt with the issue in one of the more pastoral ways. Let me know what your thoughts are as well.

The First Commandment

Moses Receives the Tables of the Law

As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household

The First Commandment You shall have no other gods. What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

The First Commandment is the sum of all ten commandments. If we were able to keep the first of the commandments perfectly, everything else would fall into place. If we truly had no other gods and the one true God was the one and only, we wouldn’t misuse the name of the Lord our God, we would remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy, honor our father and mother, not murder, etc. To further understand this commandment, we’ll need to ask a few more questions.

The first question that comes up is, “What is a god?” Luther summarized the answer by saying, “Now, I say that whatever you set your heart on and put your trust in is truly your god.” So what is it that you trust in most? Where do you look for all good and where do you turn in times of trouble? What can you not live without? That, is your god. Whether it be someone you love, or your job, or that sporty new car that you got, whatever it is that you look to for comfort when troubled, relief when you are overwhelmed, protection when you are in danger, that is your god.

What if you find that your god is not the true God? Well, first off, you’re not alone. In fact we all have our little (or big) gods that we love to pull out. From Adam and Eve wanting to be like god, we’ve all received that same trait. So when you find yourself with other gods, repent. Remember, that’s what one of the purposes of the commandments are, to show us our sin so that we may repent of them. Then turn to the One true God and receive the gift of forgiveness that he wants to give you.


PrayNow for iPad and iPhone

Previously, I talked about the benefits of using Treasury of Daily Prayer (TDP) as a basis of your devotional life. But it can be difficult to use. Finding the correct day, flipping back and forth between services, readings, and the like can be a bit of a pain as well.


Several months ago I bought the Kindle version of TDP. My intent was to use the Kindle or the Kindle App on my iPad for daily devotions. This was even more awkward to use, since bookmarks are harder to use on those devices. So the Old Adam in me used this to make my daily devotions, well, not weekly, but certainly not daily.

Several weeks ago I purchased PrayNow from the iTunes App store. It cost $8.99, which is a bit steep, but I believe is well worth the money. It is easy to use and has many options that are helpful in using TDP. For example, it can integrate the daily readings with three services Matins, Vespers and Compline. No flipping back and forth between the assigned readings for the day and the service, it’s all integrated. It has a clean type and easy to read, even for these old eyes. Also you can easily find various prayers for most times and situations in life. You can also keep notes on each section of the readings.

So if you have an iPhone or iPad, give PrayNow a go. It takes away one more excuse your Old Adam for daily studying God’s Word.


Atheists and Hair Dryers

A friend from work pointed out an article on Fox News that talked of atheists using a hair dryer to “de-baptize” his fellow atheists. You can read the article here.

What I found interesting is this quote from Edwin Kagin, the one brandishing the hair dryer:

“I was baptized Catholic. I don’t remember any of it at all,” said 24-year-old Cambridge Boxterman. “According to my mother, I screamed like a banshee … so you can see that even as a young child I didn’t want to be baptized. It’s not fair. I was born atheist, and they were forcing me to become Catholic.”

What I found interesting is the last sentence. Even though he doesn’t remember any of it at all, Baptism made him a Christian according to his words. And that is in fact what Baptism does. It creates a new man through water and the Word. Kicking and screaming, we are brought into a new life, once dead we are now made alive through the working of the Spirit. It is only as he grew to adulthood that he rejected the grace he once received in Baptism.

Ironically, his son is evidently a pastor who is a protestant pastor who received “a personal revelation in Jesus Christ.”

My dad has always said that he loves it when an infant cries out when they are baptized. “It symbolizes how Satan leaves the child kicking and screaming as the Holy Spirit enters in.”

The Ten Commandments Introduction

Moses Receives the Ten Commandments from God

Luther’s Small Catechism is divided up into Six Chief Parts, The Ten Commandments, The Apostle’s Creed, The Lord’s Prayer, The Sacrament of Holy Baptism, Confession, and The Sacrament of the Altar (also known as the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, the Holy Eucharist among others). The next few posts will be discussing the first of these, The Ten Commandments.

Where Did the Ten Commandments Come From?

The Ten Commandments came from God Himself. They are His Laws and are not man made. They can be found in Holy Scripture in Deuteronomy 5:6-21 as well as Exodus 20:1-17. Here’s what they say from Deuteronomy:

“ ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “ ‘You shall have no other gods before me. “ ‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. “ ‘You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. “ ‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. “ ‘Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. “ ‘You shall not murder. “ ‘And you shall not commit adultery. “ ‘And you shall not steal. “ ‘And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. “ ‘And you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.’

The first thing that you may notice is that God did not number the Ten Commandments. The numbering of the commandments is man made, but not the laws themselves. As I go through the commandments, you may notice that the numbering I use is different than the way that you learned them. UPDATE–For more information on this, check out a brief explanation here.

What’s the Purpose of the Ten Commandments?

The Ten Commandments are the Law of God. They are to be kept completely and perfectly. That’s something that you and I simply have failed, and continue to fail to do. God’s Word says, “For there is no distinction: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:22-23). We simply cannot keep these commandments perfectly and as a result we are condemned.

So the purpose of the Ten Commandments is not to make ourselves more worthy to God. We can’t possibly do it. They are not to be used as Ten Steps to a Successful Life. Again, we will fail, and success will end in disaster. They are not the guidelines for WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?), for He has done all things perfectly, again, something we can’t do.

Are you beginning to see a trend? The Ten Commandments cannot save you. They will only condemn you. The Law of God is meant to kill, and it does a great job at it. The Law points at you and all your shortcomings and things that you have done wrong or failed to do right. It breaks you down so that you have no where to turn. It does this so that you do not rely on yourself for your salvation.

The purpose of the Ten commandments is to show you your sin. So as I go through the commandments, think about how you fail to keep these commandments. Not as a way to do better and earn your way to salvation, but in order to confess your sin. Then look to Jesus Christ, who has kept the Law perfectly for you. Look to His cross, where He suffered and died for your failures, paying the price that you deserve for your disobedience. In His resurrection, you have the assurance that His sacrifice on your behalf has been accepted by the Father. Through the faith that He gives, you have the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.

What is a Catechism?

This is how Wikipedia defines the term Catechism:

A catechism (pronounced /ˈkætəkɪzəm/; Ancient Greek: κατηχισμός from kata = “down” + echein = “to sound”, literally “to sound down” (into the ears), i.e. to indoctrinate) is a summary or exposition of doctrine, traditionally used in Christian religious teaching from New Testament times to the present. Catechisms are doctrinal manuals often in the form of questions followed by answers to be memorized, a format that has been used in non-religious or secular contexts as well.

The Lutheran church uses Luther’s Small Catechism as the basis for its instruction of both children and adults. It contains questions and answers that are meant to give the student (catechumen) answers about what it is that we believe, teach and confess. Its teachings (as are all of the Lutheran Confessions) are drawn from Holy Scripture. In short, the catechism is a book with questions and answers that proclaim the truths of Scripture that brings salvation. In that spirit, this series of posts will be posed as questions with answers.

If you have any questions, just ask. I will reply personally to you and may even post as a separate blog post in the future.

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