Thursday, December 20, 2007

An interview with a Pastor...

Last Saturday Pastor Gary was interviewed by Matthew Bronson, who besides having a show from 9am to 1pm on Saturdays is the General Manager of AM 920 WMEL. He Sent me a clip of the video portion of the show and we thought everyone would like to see it.

Comments please. Be nice! :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

GraceNotes from all over...

I've been looking around the internet, getting back in a "Tear down the High Places" state of mind due to some recent events (both personal and global). I'm finding it both amazing and disheartening that people so easily fall from the grace of God. Matthew Murray seems to have had quite a problem with Pentacostalism, and like many of the issues and stories I've alluded to in a few broadcasts, he allegedly posted of some issues not unlike those I've witnessed in Pentacostalism...

The author describes going with his mother to a conference at New Life. The poster said he “got into a debate” with two prayer team staff members, who monitored him then tracked down his mother and “told her a story that went something along the lines of I ‘wasn’t walking with the lord and could be planning violence.’”

If I had a dime for every time I heard I wasn't "walking with the Lord" because of something I had done in church, I could buy and sell Paul Crouch, Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland Combined. I can't say for sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if there is a dirth of Gospel preaching at New Life Church.

Speaking of Brother Copeland, here's a report from last march I hadn't seen, but am not surprised about at all...

On the Episcopal Church and it's woes, I ran into this report on Trinity Episcopal church in Vero Beach, who may split with the National Episcopal Church...

The Episcopal Church nationally has a "culture the Holy Spirit cannot honor," Rev. Lorne Coyle said. "It is losing members."

Dennis Lindberg, a 14 year old Jehovah's witness and suffering from Lukemia, Died after refusing a transfusion that would have saved his life. What's different about this one than any other story you've heard like this before? His Parents wanted him to get the transfusions, but a judge deemed the boy was old enough to understand that refusing the treatment "could amount to a death sentence".

I'm still reading "The Everlasting Angel and the Mountain of Fire". I need a breath of fresh air and happily this does the trick. See everyone on the Radio this Sunday!

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Angel of the Lord Revealed

9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!"
"Here I am," he replied.

12 "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." (NIV)

Abraham's readiness to sacrifice his son Isaac is depicted in this painting by Jacob Jordaens. Abraham violently brings down the knife, intending to strike the killing blow, when he suddenly is stopped by the mysterious Angel of the Lord. The Angel of the Lord not only tells Abraham not to lay a hand on the boy, but provides for him the alternative sacrifice of the ram caught by his horns in the thicket.

Who is this Angel of the Lord? In our most recent episode of Radical Grace/The Lutheran Difference, Matt Pancake, Bob MacLellan, Troy Curtis, and myself spend the first half-hour interviewing Rev. Peter Kurowski, author of the new book, The Everlasting Angel and the Mountains of Fire. This is a fictional and theological retelling of the appearances of the Angel of the Lord to Abraham and to Jacob, and is filled with fascinating insights.

Interviewing an author on our show was a first for us, and we hope once you've listened to the interview you'll agree that Peter Kurowski will one day, perhaps soon, be the newest top-selling author in Christian fiction. But there was another first for us in this episode, and I feel I ought to bring it up.

We offered Pastor Kurowski's book as a thank you gift to anyone sending a donation to support the show in the amount of $50 or more. Up to this point, we've not come out and asked for your support. But we realize many people now to look to this ministry to deliver a fresh perspective on theological questions, while showcasing what the difference is and why it matters. Some of you not only enjoy listening for your own benefit, but you also share the podcasts as a way of witnessing to others. Thank you. That's exactly what we'd hoped would happen.

We extend to you also the invitation to become a partner with us by helping support the show. More information will be coming about ways you can help, but in the meantime, making a one-time donation of $50 or more would be a real blessing. And for your support, whether you're supporting us from Spain or Australia, or here in the States in Phoenix or Kalamazoo or St. Louis, we will also rush a book to you. It's a great book, and it's a great way for us to show our appreciation.

You can make a donation check payable to Risen Savior Lutheran Church, put "Radical Grace" in the memo line and mail it to:

Risen Savior Lutheran Church
2220 Port Malabar Blvd., NE
Palm Bay, FL 32905

More great episodes are going to start coming even more frequently. Keep listening!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Where did the host go wrong?

Our very first live broadcast is in the can, it's up to listen to... And the host (yours truly) made a gaff at the beginning. It's not a slip of the tongue, or a stumble over words. I forgot something important.

Leave a comment and say what you think I did wrong.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


What connects with listeners? What will entice them to listen long enough to really consider the message? How should one express the Gospel so it comes across as both: astonishing and penetrating, exhilarating and disturbing?

These are the kinds of questions we at The Lutheran Difference ask ourselves. We ask for two reasons: 1. It would be satisfying to finally understand why one episode takes off and another lags behind, why one becomes an overnight hit, and another starts slow and mostly stays slow. And then, 2. If it ever became obvious to us what recipe always guaranteed a great show, we’d strive to hit the same marks every time.

A few of you out there have sent us private emails letting us know what you think, and we’ve responded to all the emails sent so far. If you’re one of those who’ve taken the time to dialog with us a bit, then you know we’re still trying to figure many of the basics. Nevertheless, despite the fact that we’re still in the beginning stages of this podcast ministry, as of today over 2700 shows have been downloaded. We think that’s pretty good, considering most folks didn’t become aware of the show until September. (Yes, there’s a few who’ve been listening since mid-July, and you know who you are. God bless you.)

So far, all this has merely been a preface, setting up for what I really want to say: IMHO, the episode that just went up, episode 12, is going to be the topical episode that quickly becomes the most important and most popular show in the archives. Our topic is very personal, because when you touch on a person’s salvation and assurance and doubts, you’re getting very personal. The title of the show is in the form of a question: Am I really a Christian?

Am I really a Christian? How can I know for sure I’m saved? Or how can I help my brother in Christ get past his doubts? These are not hypothetical or theoretical questions. These are questions that many people agonize over. Any answer that merely tries to explain salvation in abstract terms is not going to help anyone move from doubt to faith that finds joy in the Lord, the Rock of our salvation.

Who will this episode help? Everyone. Because so often the way to get past a confusing question is not to search for answers, but to reconsider whether the right question is even being asked in the first place. In other words, so often we can be a tremendous help by simply reframing the question. Just as a part of our minds are prone to read the Scriptures through lenses colored with legalism, so also we wrestle with questions which (unthinkingly) have assumed a confusion of Law and Gospel from the beginning. If the way a question is being considered is predicated on confusing Law and Gospel, we do a great service by reframing the question so it now properly distinguishes them.

Doing the episode and reflecting on it, we also believe we can now answer our original question, What connects with listeners? A message connects when it addresses an important question that touches on the heart as well as the mind.

Hope you enjoy the episode, and even more, we hope you get the opportunity to help someone who is stuck in some doubts.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Responding to Reformation Day Concerns

I was still all giddy with the festive joy of my Reformation Day celebrations, when I read the recent post by Michael Spencer (a.k.a., the InternetMonk) attempting to let some air out of my balloon. You can read his post at his blog here.

Needless to say, I nearly spilled my beer when I scanned his list of bullet points. Here was a blogger I respect seemingly offering to repent of his earlier view that the Reformation was a good thing.

If you’d like a quick refresher on what the Reformation was basically about, listen to our latest episode, entitled the “Reformation Day Special”. In it, Matt and Richard and I try to review some of the background of the Reformation and offer our perspectives on why the Lutheran Reformation still matters today. So that’s my plug for the show.

Now the iMonk is someone I take seriously. I admire his stated commitments to the Gospel of transforming grace, AND the historic confessions of the Church. So when he characterizes (in the end) the significance of our Reformation Day as primarily celebrating division within Christianity, I have to stop and evaluate what he’s saying. I’ve never found him to just be venting bombastic rhetoric, so every son of the Reformation should give what he’s written some consideration.

He begins with two very important insights:

-I no longer believe the Reformation, as it’s commonly described by Protestants, is the distinct event we’ve made it out to be.
-I no longer believe Luther ever intended to slay the Catholic Church and establish the wonder of contemporary Protestantism.

Emphatic “Amens” register deep agreement with both statements. The Reformation was not a single, orchestrated event or series of events. It wasn’t even exactly a movement within the Church, although that certainly comes closer in my view.

Before it ever became a movement, however, it was a confession of faith. Believers heard the Word of God, as if hearing it fresh, and the Holy Spirit moved them to confess before men what they believed in their hearts.

The thing about confessions of faith is, they evoke differing responses in the hearers; some realize upon hearing it they want to confess to the same faith, perhaps even using the same words; others are put off by it and want the confessor to either stop confessing with his mouth, or alter his confession.

A good example of this is the New Testament confession, “Jesus Christ is Lord,” which is found in Philippians, chapter 2. Do you believe it? Do you want to confess it before men? Everything rides on which of the two responses I mentioned above are evoked in you by those words. When Jesus asked his disciples (Mt. 16), “Who do men say that I am?” he got back a short list of answers, reflecting the buzz about Jesus that he generated as he went from town to town. Of course the follow-up question he asked was not to gain information but to set up a vital moment of confession: “What about you? Who do you say that I am?”

Martin Luther, called by the Holy Spirit to be a child of God through Holy Baptism, was sincerely trying to live out his Christian faith, which included a compulsion to confess his Savior, Jesus. In doing so, he was taking his responsibilities as a Catholic seriously.

Martin Luther, called by the Holy Spirit to be a doctor of theology for the whole Church through his appointment to the theological faculty at Wittenberg, was compelled to use his learning and God-given talents to help the Church clarify and correct its confession. In doing so, he was taking his responsibilities as a called doctor of the Church seriously.

Others learned from him, both from his teaching, and from his example. Many in that time period recognized Luther as their “leader,” even though he was not leading from a pre-established agenda.

In a sense, it’s not fair to imagine Luther even leading with a clear idea of where the movement was headed. He certainly did not plan to set up an alternative Church. In fact, during the early years of the Reformation, he repeatedly implored the pope to call an ecumenical council, revealing that Luther still dared to hope a council under the leadership of a Gospel-confessing pope might be able to set the Church aright.

-I am becoming increasingly sure that many things in the typical Reformation story are probably mythological, or most nearly so.
-I’m especially convinced that a lot of the typical “Luther story” is probably historically inaccurate. Not necessarily untrue, but plenty of mythology in the mix.

If the references to “mythological” and “mythology” are meant to suggest that a bunch of pious tall tales are all intermixed with historically accurate reporting, I say that’s possible, but then the burden of proof should be on the one making the claim. I wonder what made-up Luther stories he might be thinking of.

On the other hand, if “mythology” is just shorthand for saying the events and motives and politics were cleaned up or simplified to fit, after the fact, a commonly accepted interpretation of the Reformation’s significance, then I’ll buy it. That’s what people do when they look back to explain what and why things happened. This is what I think Michael means, because he doesn’t leave “historically inaccurate” to stand on its own, but adds that the stories are “Not necessarily untrue.”

-I do not believe true Christianity was restored or rediscovered in the Reformation.

Precisely. I wasn’t as though the Christian Church had ceased to exist sometime between the Second Century and 1517. I think it is valid to say a truer and clearer way to confess the Christian message was laid out through the labors of the reformers.

-I believe that a lot of Protestants say sola scriptura when they mean solo scriptura or nuda scriptura or something I don’t believe at all.
-I now believe that tradition is a very good word.

All right, the Monk is correctly drawing a distinction between the Reformation principle of letting Scripture alone be the source of the Church’s teaching and authority, and the modern idea that interpreters of Scripture should not rely on any sources outside the Bible to aid or guide them in interpreting Scripture for the Church. In other words, it’s a regular Fundamentalist assumption that not only should our teachings be grounded in the Biblical revelation, but nothing else could possibly matter except the Bible. To look to Creeds or decisions of councils for aid in interpreting the text of Scripture is forbidden, as it might lead to “papist” errors of elevating Tradition to the same authoritative status as Scripture.

Let me put an even finer point on it. “Protestants,” in general probably don’t mean this, but self-described Fundamentalists are suspicious of tradition to the point where they seem to really want to operate as if they’re the first ones ever called on to interpret God’s Word. They alone approach the text with Bible-believing, miracle-claiming, faith that is totally uncolored by the age they’re living in. Yeah, right.

Now, is that what God is calling any of us to do? Is He wanting us to pretend we’re the first ones to arrive on the scene with the smarts and background to objectively study His Word and get His meaning right, quite unclouded by any poisonous tradition? Or isn’t it true that, while the Church can never claim ownership of the Scriptures, the inspired Law and Gospel are part of the Church’s stewardship? And however highly we may think of ourselves, we must admit we’re not the first stewards to take seriously the responsibility for getting the Word right.

-I believe we ought to grieve the division of Christianity and the continuing division of Protestantism.

Grieve? Because we all aren’t in communion with the bishop of Rome, who still today persists in teaching false doctrine? Because we, against the liberal teachings of the most mainline denominations, insist on confessing the historical reality of the Virgin Birth and the Bodily Resurrection? Because in our churches we take the focus off of man, and man’s works, and put the focus clearly on Christ the Crucified and his completed work on the cross? Could anyone really grieve that these things should cause divisions? Paul wrote the Galatian Christians, asking, “Who has bewitched you?” Can anyone hold it is better to be bewitched for the sake of so-called unity, than to have the spell worn off?

-I no longer believe the theology of the Reformers was the pinnacle of evangelicalism or is the standard by which Biblical truth itself is judged.
-I can see huge omissions from the work of the reformers, such as a theology of cross-cultural missions and much more.

Hmmm. I struggle with what to make of these statements. I recognize what the evangel is, the Good News. I don’t recognize “evangelicalism” as a well-defined anything, so I don’t worry about what represents its pinnacle. Evangelicalism doesn’t seem to be solidly built on any particular confession of faith, which is why Evangelical churches seemingly can adopt whatever “Statement of Faith” suits their fancy, and then drop it and move on to the next one just as quickly. I’ll be first in line to agree that Biblical truth judges us, not the other way around. But the reformers confessed things, in their writing and in their speakings, which can then be evaluated as to how well they agree with the revealed truths of Scripture. Does a particular reformer say what the Scriptures say? Of course this is not to suggest such an evaluation is easy. But where (among the reformers) the teachings diverge, I think we need to go to the Scriptures to wrestle honestly with interpretations and which ones may have slipped into (or bordered on) error.

Of course, omissions are not in the same category as errors.

-I want to understand how Catholic and EO Christians understand Protestantism, and I want to do so with a sense of humility.
-I don’t believe in ecumenism at any cost, but I can no longer imagine being a Christian without a commitment to ecumenism on some level.

Fine. Start by understanding that in the RC and EO communions they’re trying to answer definitively questions almost no Protestants are even asking. Questions like: How do I know the fellowship of “my” group is even a church in the first place? How can I know whether for sure it is part of the one, true Church founded by Jesus? Hah! I’d like to hear American Evangelicals offer coherent answers to those questions. (Aw, nuts! My sense of irony dislocated my sense of humility just then.)

Also, any one with a commitment to ecumenism should watch it that it doesn’t get elevated above the commitment to confess what you know to be true, based on the most reasonable interpretation of Holy Scripture. I confess “one, holy, catholic and Apostolic Church,” but I firstly confess “Jesus Christ is Lord,” and that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting men’s sins against them.” (2 Cor 5:19)

-There are many sins associated with Protestantism that I need to admit and repent of.

I promise you I’m not ridiculing anyone whom the Spirit has put under a conviction of sin, but it just so happens this statement speaks volumes about why there’s a certain Protestant anxiety driving them to want to make a kind of peace with Rome. American Evangelicalism, it seems to me, understands the idea of repentance in almost identical terms with RC theology. No, there’s no system of penance, but if most Evangelicals were asked to describe what sincere repentance is like, I’m sure their descriptions would sound nothing like a Lutheran description, and quite a bit like a good Catholic one. The subject of repentance would be a good one for me to blog on at a later date.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Episode #8 now available...

Episode 8, answering common objections to unconditional grace that people give from the Epistle of James, is up and running. I always had a problem, not with this particular passage where James says "You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone", but rather with the tendency of people to take this and run as hard as they can to their own works. I figured that James couldn't possibly be in opposition to Paul because they both agree with the statement, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness".

Listen to the show, and listen close to the end. I think you all will be pleasantly surprised. Keep in mind, the only reason the show is shorter this week is because the actual discussion of James chapter 2 was shorter than usual. Next week we'll be back to a longer format.

Monday, September 24, 2007

We're Back!!!

We've posted our newest episode. It's been over a month since our last episode, and I'd like to thank everyone who has kept us (an me) in their prayers.

In this week's show Pastor Gary and I sat down for a multiparter about the common objections to unconditional grace. I remember back a few years ago, before I became a Lutheran, hearing a four part show on the doctrine of Justification by the White Horse Inn, and friends... I must have listened to that thing a million times. I kept having to catch myself saying, "wait, they didn't just say what I think they just said, did they?" I objected to the unconditional nature of grace myself, and I know how difficult it is for people to accept it because of the difficulty I had. It's been a long time coming, and to honest, I still catch myself believing I have to meet some kind of conditions before God will be good to me today.

Keep listening... Things only get more startling as time goes by.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

On August 21st...

August 21st, 2007, I recieved a call from my youngest brother that my dad had passed away. The show has been on hiatus because of that. I had to go home for the funeral. I want to appologize to everyone for not being on top of things this past week. I should have been busy scheduling the next taping, but instead I've been moping around.

My dad wouldn't have wanted me to mope around, but it's been hard. May God have mercy on everyone who are broken hearted and experiencing pain from the loss of loved ones through Jesus Christ.

This is a link to the video tribute for him.

Click here

Friday, August 17, 2007

God Grants What He Commands

"Command what You will, and then grant what You command."

Or just as often this famous quoute from St. Augustine's Confessons is cited in reversed order: "Grant what You command, and command what You will." Either way, St. Augustine is imploring God's grace in this little prayer. He recognizes two things we also ought to keep in mind.

First, God is God and His will is supreme. He can, and does, command whatever He wills, whatever pleases Him, whatever is right. He does not submit to our wills, although His love for His creatures is reflected in His will. Calvinists are especially fond of referring to His "sovereign" will, and my only reservation is to guard against the idea that "sovereign" here implies anything arbitrary in God's will. No, God's will is congruent and consistent with His own holy nature. He does not will anything that is contrary to His love or justice or purity.

So what does He will for us? He wills us to be righteous, and therein lies the problem. God demands we be right in what we say and do and think. He wills us not merely to act righteous, but to be righteous. But humans are fallen creatures. We are not simply fallible or prone to mistakes. Nor do we merely have trouble keeping God's commands. On our own, we are sinners bent on being our own gods. The corrupt human nature cannot conform itself to God's will, and cannot do any works that are truly, entirely good. This is why, apart from Christ, we are condemned.

But in Christ, we are saved, forgiven, reborn, and made righteous. In Christ, who is our righteousness, we have the clearest revelation of how God can command what He will, can insist His creatures be righteous, and yet, turn around and give to us what He commands. As far as righteousness, He imputes to us, through faith, the righteousness of Christ. Then He pours out on us His Holy Spirit, who begins by converting our wills so that we do want to submit to His will.

Wherever God's grace is at work, His Spirit is actively granting to us as a pure gift, what His sovereign will is perfectly right in commanding of us. First to last, it's God at work within us, doing in us what we cannot do ourselves. Next we'll look at why this teaching caused some in the Church to greatly criticize Augustine over this remark.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Radical Grace...

Some thoughts as I've finished up this week's show. We have a God who's ultimate intent towards us has never changed, even after the fall of Adam. Even though we've fallen and strayed, going out own way whatever that might be, God's grace is still the same as it was in the beginning. God doesn't change... we are the one's that change, or rather, need changing desparately.

In fact, the I'm thinking more and more that the message of the Gospel is so radical that not only do we confuse it with law every single day of our lives, but it's impossible that man could have made it up. We have tremendous imaginations, but we don't have the ability to truely understand it, much less make it up. As I listened to this week's show and did the editing and fine tuning, I heard a message that's increasingly more and more radical. We're probably going to over use that word as time goes by, but it really is startling.

Also, check out the instumental I arranged of "Just as I am". Don't ask how I found time to do it, I'm guessing right now it's a gift from God.

Enjoy the show!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

And then there were four...

We made our first deadline ever this week by posting a show before Sunday. We now have fans on iTunes and the statistics show that they showed up to download the newest show.

To everyone who downloaded episode 2, you made it our biggest show so far with nearly 250 downloads, and that's before we've even tried to get this out there. I've done very little in the way of promoting this, just experimenting around with the various means used to distribute a podcast, but we picked up some listeners just by linking to it here and there... I haven't even attached this to our church website yet!!

Either way, I think all of us are hooked on this. Check out the link to a special forum, "Ask the Pastor" that appears just above the blog link. We're actively seeking topics or questions to answer, and any question is, if you so choose, strictly in confidence.

Thanks again to everyone!


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Greetings and Welcome to another post...

Hello everyone. Welcome to the blog for The Lutheran Difference.

Alright, so what's the Lutheran Difference all about? I'm sitting here and asking myself how we got where we are and for the life of me, I can't remember how we started down this road. What I can say is this...

It was a radio program that led me to the Lutheran Faith. There are several that I listened to, most notably the shows on, the official radio station of the Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod. It was also Pastor Tom Baker, host of the show Law and Gospel on KFUO that suggested that every church should have a radio show of some kind.

So I can tell you why we did this, but the how escapes me. We wanted our show to be about the Lutheran Faith, be available to everyone beginning with the congregation, other congregations in the LCMS churches in Central Florida, and the surrounding area. We also wanted the show to be topical about what is going on around our area and include other church bodies in the discussions. Eventually, we'd like to see this make it on local radio as a call in show!

Imagine us band of yayhoos with a live call in show. God willing, we will.

In the meantime, take a look around, subscribe to the show in iTunes or RSS, or click on ask the pastor on the home page to ask any question you'd like or to suggest topics for the show.