Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Quote for the Day: Charles H. Spurgeon

"Never play at preaching, nor beat about the bush; get at it, and always mean business."
-Charles H. Spurgeon

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Loose Cannons & the OHM

This morning during a Bible class on Acts 11, my pastor mentioned that the first century church had to deal with 'loose cannons' -- those who traveled around the country preaching a variety of doctrines. One person subsequently asked him how the Office of Holy Ministry protects God's people from the 'loose cannons' of our own day. Here is his answer:
Bible Class Soundbite:
"Loose Cannons" (7.5 minutes)

Note the size of the rope in the above picture that holds that cannon in place, guarding against the danger of hundreds of pounds rolling or even tumbling toward sailors while at sea. The expression 'loose cannon' intrigued me, so I looked it up online:
"...an irresponsible and reckless individual whose behaviour (either intended or unintended) endangers the group he or she belongs to. The term originates in the Age of Sail, and wooden men-of-war. When a storm began, all cannons had to be securely fastened and tied in place; otherwise, they would roll uncontrollably around the deck, causing havoc. A loose cannon, weighing hundreds of kilograms, would crush anything and anyone in its path, and possibly even break a hole in the hull, thus endangering the seaworthiness of the whole ship..." -Wikipedia.org
There have always been loose cannons among God's people, folks like Korah, who also had to be 'tied down' by God, in a rather frightful way:
"Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, 'You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the LORD's assembly?' When Moses heard this, he fell on his face. [...] The ground that was under them split open; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah with their possessions. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. " (Numbers 16:1-4, 31-33)
The Reformation saw the likes of Korah in folks like Thomas Münzer, and sadly, there are also many today who rise up against the called and ordained servants of the Lord in the Office of Holy Ministry, even in Lutheran churches, and say the very same things. Without being called and ordained, they rise up in rebellion. At times, Korah really does sound like a baby-boomer.

So if folks like Korah might be called loose cannons, what would those ropes be in the 'ship' of Christ's Church?

As a Lutheran laymen with a family that I very much want protected from being rolled over by 500 pound cannons, I look first to Article 14 of the Augsburg Confession: "Of Ecclesiastical Order they teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called."

Martin Chemnitz also adds:
It is true that all Christians have a general call to proclaim the Gospel of God, Romans 10:9, to speak the Word of God among themselves, Eph. 5:19; to admonish each other from the Word of God, Col. 3:16; to reprove, Eph. 5:11 [and] to comfort, 1 Th. 4:18. And family heads are enjoined [to do] this with the special command that they give their households the instruction of the Lord. Eph 6:4. But the public ministry of the Word and of the Sacraments in the church is not entrusted to all Christians in general, as we have already shown, 1 Co 12:28; Eph 4:12. For a special or particular call is required for this, Ro 10:15. [p. 29, Ministry, Word, and Sacraments: An Enchiridion]
The rope which holds cannons in place that might otherwise damage or even sink a church is indeed found in Article 14; this rope firmly secures hundreds of pounds of enthusiast cannon, as we believe, teach, and confess its truth.

In these dark days, how cool is that God not only told us where we would find His spirit (in the external Word and Sacrament), but he also points us to this divinely appointed office through which we may confidently receive them!

May God continue to protect my family, your family, and all of us from latter-day Korahs, Thomas Münzers, or in other words, the innumerable loose cannons of our day!


Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Plug for My Pastor's Podcast

I have just recently resurrected Law and Gospel at Zion, my pastor's sermon podcast, and we presently only have seven subscribers. I received some kind feedback from one subscriber, Pastor Fleming up at Our Savior in Grand Rapids, who mentioned while passing through Hillsdale that he has greatly appreciated listening to Pastor James' sermons.

If you are looking for some good sermons to listen to as a supplement to your normal Word intake, I would strongly recommend subscribing. Also, if you are one of the four unknown subscribers (Erich and I are two), it would be fun to know who you are!

Here is a link with feed and subscription info.

And here is a random picture (click for larger view) of Pastor James enjoying one of Erich's hamburgers with Mark, the world's tallest historian, looking on:


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Another Pearl from Pr. Weedon...

Posted on Weedon's Blog:

Hymn on St. James' Day

O Lord, for James, we praise You,

Who fell to Herod's sword;
He drank the cup of suff'ring
And thus fulfilled Your word.
Lord, curb our vain impatience
For glory and for fame,
Equip us for such suff'rings
As glorify Your name.
LSB 518:21

Young Pastors Need Special Encouragement

St. James the Hoosier (Pr. Jim Roemke) writes:
Confessional pastors need to unite in hospitality and brotherly love toward new pastors. With one of the biggest classes between the seminaries in years, this is a perfect opportunity to reach out to an impressionable and scarred group of tomorrow's pastors.
Here's a post on this from his blog:

That ol' sinful nature

As a new and young pastor I often do not "feel" like I'm really a pastor. I worried about this a lot before ordination. How could I possibly minister to my "elders" with God's Law and His Gospel? Would my congregation take me seriously?

Now that I am out here, I have found the most amazing reversal of my expectations. My beloved parish has no problem accepting me and has always shown the utmost respect for the Office and for me. What is really surprising is other pastors. I feel so out of place whenever there is a gathering of pastors. Some don't speak to me at all (a few have actually ignored me when I spoke to them!) Some are a bit condescending. Some act suspicious of the "new guy." But, overall, most don't seem to want to take any time at all to even acknowledge me.

I have to say, that ol' sinful nature really gets hurt by this. I want to be accepted by my older brothers. I really want to just sit down and talk with them openly and honestly. Don't get me wrong, there are a couple around me who have been just great.

To other newbies, has this been your experience? Am I overreacting? Is this unusual? Is there something wrong with me?

Check out the comments as well.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pastors, Finish the Race!

The below two YouTube videos are from the Academy Award winner for best film of 1982, Chariots of Fire, and if you haven't seen it yet, you ought to. Based upon a true story, the film has a scene (included in the first video below) in which the Prince of Wales is trying to pressure Eric Liddell (pictured right), a strict Scottish Presbyterian, to run in the Olympic Games on a Sunday, which was against his convictions.

After he continues to refuse to run on Sunday, to compromise his convictions, one member of the British Athletic Committee admits that they had attempted to separate Erich Liddell the runner from Erich Liddel the Christian, and since Liddell was a thoroughly integrated man of Christian conviction, it was not only wrong, but futile:
He did have us beaten, and thank God he did! The lad, as you call him, is a true man of principle and a true athlete. His speed is only an extension of his life, his force. We sought to sever his running from himself.
The United Kingdom could not have the runner without the Christian, as Liddell's running was a mere extension of his Christian faith.

But I wonder how much 'conflict resolution' in churches today looks the same as the meeting (in the first video) below, for I am afraid that much of such 'counseling' in the secular world is based upon the proposition that all conflicts can be resolve because of an implicit acceptance of some type of egalitarianism rooted in relativism. I pray that such thinking has not made its way into the Church!

Romans 12 has much good counsel that can guide our behavior toward those with whom we disagree, but regarding liberal 'conflict resolution' techniques, verse 18 is directly applicable:
"If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men!"
If possible are the two key words here. There will be times when pastors will find themselves up against the wall and must, by God's grace, stand fast to their Confession. Do not compromise! Most good pastors are certainly willing to compromise in adiaphora, but any attempts by groups or individuals to manipulate or pressure God's ministers into compromising their biblical convictions regarding the ministry of Word and Sacrament ought to be publicly exposed as evil and opposed by all of God's people.

Dear pastors, please stand firm and true in the ministry to which Christ has called you -- for our sake and the sake of our children and grandchildren!

Please finish the race!

"I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

-2 Timothy 4:1-7

Monday, July 23, 2007

Hey, Preacherman James!

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or at least Weird Al Yankovic seems to thinks so.

I hope that this is alright with Eric and Polly Rapp, but they now have their first cover band out here in the south-central part of the state. Some of Tim and Erich's kiddos, who call themselves 'Lutheran Chicks', have adopted and sang the Rapps' "Hey, Preacherman" to our own beloved pastor, Roger James.

Here is an mp3 and here are the lyrics:
Hey, Pastor James!

Hey, Pastor James, you give us the Gospel,
It brings salvation to those who believe!
Hey, Pastor James, you give us the Gospel,
You tell us were sinners and Christ died for me!

We want to know what you did last week on your summer vacation,
What you saw and where you went and who you visited!
But wait to tell us after the words that give salvation,
How He lived and how He died for me on the cross!

Hey, Pastor James, you give us the Gospel,
You give us the Good News of God's Only Son!
Hey, Pastor James, you give us the Gospel,
You give us His Body and give us His blood!

We love to see you in the front teaching Bible classes,
You answer all our questions and help us understand!
Standing up to read aloud and adjusting your eyeglasses,
That troublesome Revelation's no longer a mystery!

Hey, Pastor James, you give us the Gospel,
Not with human wisdom, you tell it to us straight!
Hey, Pastor James, you give us the Gospel,
You let us know we're foolish and lead us to the gate!

We're always looking forward to the next youth activity,
Now that Catechism's over, this is all we have!
We always have some question for 'Ask the Pastor Night',
You're ready with an answer and the answer is always right!

Hey, Pastor James, you give us the Gospel,
You tell us of Jesus who bore all the blame!
Hey, Pastor James, you give us the Gospel,
When you preach the Gospel, you never are ashamed!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Spiritual Care for Pastors

I found the link to this organization on the LCMS Word Relief and Human Care website. Here's how they describe their mission:

The primary purpose of this organization shall be to provide ongoing spiritual care opportunities for Lutheran pastors. Participants will be refreshed and equipped as a result of their participation in a program of soul care grounded in Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. The Center provides a safe environment for clergy to reflect on their own spiritual health and offers a program carefully crafted to help them review and enhance their professional competencies and skills. Doxology strengthens pastors so they can more faithfully pastor others.

Program Objectives:

The program curriculum:

  1. Provides resources, insights, teaching, admonition, encouragement, new tools and strategies needed to move beyond “survival functioning in pastoral ministry” to joyful service in the pastoral life and calling.
  2. Provides opportunities for immediate and ongoing care to nurture and encourage pastors whose personal lives may have been burdened by stress and isolation or wounded by sin, depression, conflict, fear, or hopelessness.
  3. Yields critical insights to enhance the pedagogy of spiritual care and counsel.
  4. Benefits from team casuistry and the experience of fellow pastors enrolled in this renewal experience.

Pastors participating in DOXOLOGY will:

  1. Prize and embrace their identity as called and ordained servants of God.
  2. Explore the art of spiritual care and enhance their skills as physicians of the soul so as to help those entrusted to their care to find health and healing in God through His gracious Word and Sacraments.
  3. Choose to benefit from individual spiritual care and personal counsel for restoration by Christ’s healing and peace.
  4. Establish and maintain meaningful professional relationships with peers through personal interaction.
  5. Return to their parish renewed, strengthened, and equipped in their vocation to preach, teach, and administer God’s Holy sacraments faithfully.

Also check out their Resources page. Looks like great stuff!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Who Ever Thought it Would be Cool to Hang Out with the Ordained?

First a quick comment: Pastor Weedon must be the favorite pastor of the HTOOHM clan. If one of us isn't mentioning him in a post, there are probably some emails flying around between us. Once again it is Will Weedon's fault that something is written in the Lutheran Blogosphere.

I returned from the fatherland and was catching up on my Issues Etc. listening and I got around to listening to the Pastor Weedon sermon on the July 9th episode (http://www.kfuoam.org/mp3/Issues7/Issues_Etc_Jul_09a.mp3).

After I listened to it, I shot Pastor Weedon an email complimenting him on the sermon.

I have a dream, and that dream is to hit the Lotto and start the Lutheran version of EWTN and I wrote Pastor Weedon that he has to take on the Father Corapi role (see this post on TUL for a further explanation: http://theunknownlutheran.blogspot.com/2007/03/yes-i-do-watch-ewtn.html)

So the correspondence starts about the mutual bad habit of EWTN watching and I started rambling on about the show "Life on the Rock"

Is Fr. Mark (Note: I was wrong as you can see by the picture - Will, please comment on Fr. Francis) the one that hosts "Life on the Rock"? You ever watch that show? Priests and Friars playing basketball hanging out with the "youth" on the big comfy couch - the "Friar-Cam". Between 18 and 20, I hung out in the rectory of an RC parish in Detroit - I was at Wayne State during the days and working midnights and when I couldn't sleep I hung out there with some friends. The priest was really cool and would just sit around and talk to us and tell about cool stuff like exorcisms. "Life on the Rock" kind of reminds me of that.... I almost converted to the church of papacy at the time, but Fr. left for another parish and the next priest wasn't so nice.

The point is that "Life on the Rock" is absolutely the cheesiest show featuring the ordained ever, but I miss this kind of experience. I miss hanging out at the church and talking freely with the ordained.

Ironically - all of the other young men hanging out with me when I was that age did not have their own father present in their lives. Our fathers were either drunk, or on to new families, or recent immigrants that didn't quite assimilate into american life. I think that is what made the hours of hanging out there special. I remember one day in which I was very tired - I hadn't slept for a few days and Fr. told me to pray more and it would help me sleep. He cared. He let us hang out. He had something interesting to say. That's what fathers do.

Every once and a while, I hang out with my own pastor, but in reality he isn't there to be my pal or the father figure I never had. A lot of care needs to be taken in such relationships, because the truth is that I am sin sick and it is his job to give me the medicine I need. Sometimes, I don't like the taste of that medicine - but without it, I only have death to look forward to. The guy I like to drink a few beers with, may need to hold me down and give me a strong dose of the Law.

The moral of my rambling is this: Basketball playing clergy, reality TV show clergy, drinking some beers with your pastor, the hippest guy in the room is wearing a black shirt with a white collar - it is awesome to have someone ordained to call your friend or father figure, but the bottom line is that he is not there to fill your need for any human relationship. He is there to bring you Jesus.

Well, this explains a few things...

Heh, heh.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Urbanus Rhegius: Preaching the Reformation

Pastor Weedon writes:

"In the 16th century, this little volume [Ministry, Word, and Sacraments: An Enchiridion by Martin Chemnitz] was published with another one in a single binding. The other was Urbanus Rhegius' Formulae quaedem caute - translated for us into English as Preaching the Reformation by Scott Hendrix.

It showed the pastors how to speak with caution on a wide range of topics - from the Mass to the Saints to Repentance to Good Works. It was the primarily homiletical textbook of the era. It would be great for our pastors and laity to not only be familiar with Chemnitz' little handbook, but also with Rhegius'.

From the intro:
For years now, with great distress, I have seen in many parts of Germany how often laity have been seriously offended by that confused, inept, and imprudent way of speaking when certain thoughtless know-it-alls, with an inflated estimation of their own knowledge, take no notice of what they say, how they say it, or to whom they are speaking. I will give a few examples of these offensive formulations that corrupt the minds of the laity and drive many away from the Gospel...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ordination: Ears, Thumbs, and Toes

I am currently reading the Old Testament from beginning to end, and I have run into a curious ceremony that I did some research on in order to try to make sense of it. It is first mentioned in Exodus in the ordination of Aaron and then repeated in Leviticus, which is where I am now.
Exodus 29:20: Then shalt thou kill the ram, and take of his blood, and put it upon the tip of the right ear of Aaron, and upon the tip of the right ear of his sons, and upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about.

Leviticus 8:23: And he slew it; and Moses took of the blood of it, and put it upon the tip of Aaron's right ear, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot.
From a Jewish website I obtained this interesting historical reference in which Philo comments on the significance of this ordination ceremony for the priests:
“The fully consecrated [for the priesthood] must be pure in words and actions and in his whole life; for words are judged by hearing, the hand is the symbol of action, and the foot of the pilgrimage of life” (Philo, On the Life of Moses, 2:150, as quoted in The Torah: A Modern Commentary, ed. W. Gunther Plaut, p. 804).
This reminds me of the qualifications for the office of holy ministry, especially those given in 1 Timothy 3. But there is a further reference to this strange ceremony later in Leviticus which has nothing to do with ordination. This third reference is what sent me to studying. It is part of the cleansing of Lepers:
Leviticus 14:14: And the priest shall take some of the blood of the trespass offering, and the priest shall put it upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot.
Of course, the question that hit me when I got to this verse is, why is this strange "ordination ceremony" applied to lepers? Here I believe we are drawn to the fuller meaning of this strange ceremony as it applies to Christ. The leper signifies the sinner. Here we are looking simply at the action of the blood of atonement as an Old Testament means of grace. I believe the blood is applied to the very tips of these extremities (both to lepers and to Aaron) showing that the cleansing brought by the blood of Christ extends over the entire Christian - that it is all inclusive and sufficient.

But why not bathe them, head to toe, in the blood of the sacrifice? Or how about just applying the blood to the leprosy? I believe the application only to the tips of these extremities represents the forensic nature of justification as an imputation - that is, a declaration of righteousness. And, of course, the declaration of God accomplishes what it says: the entire sinner is covered, and cleansed, by the atonement. Think of the response of Jesus to Peter when he says "not just my feet, but my hands and head also!" He whom the cleansing and sanctifying power of Jesus in His redemption has touched is altogether clean and holy in the sight of God.

Applying this back to the consecration for the OHM, we see that it is Christ's all-inclusive atoning sacrifice that sanctifies the pastor in the same way in which he then serves in his calling to apply the all-inclusive/sufficient means of grace to us lepers (sinners) as well - passing on what he has received, just as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4:
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures...
And here we see true apostolic succession - the passing on of the pure doctrine of grace from man to man.

Thanks be to God!

The Emperor's New Clothes: Talking About Our Problems

I just left some long-winded comments at my 'Secret Ballots' post. Rather than afflict our main page, I just provide you with its introduction:
My questioning the practice of secret ballots has had me thinking about how Christians interact with each other or fail to interact with each other due to our frailty and sin. Secret ballots seem like a small, petty issue, but I am really considering what it means for a congregation to walk in the Light together. I am now even noticing what I am calling 'biblical openness' in Martin Chemnitz!

I am very glad that the comments to this post have clarified things, not only to this blog's readers but also in my own mind. Yes, I can now see the need for exceptions: Because of the hardness of the hearts of those whom Solar calls 'political' and also for the sake of the innocent who might suffer at their hands, we should sometimes permit secret ballots on a conditional basis; but from the beginning it has not been this way, to paraphrase Matthew 19:8.

I continue to think that in so many of our relations with one another, we are hiding behind unbiblical fig leaves, and though due to our frailty they are sometimes necessary, we need to acknowledge that from the beginning it has not been this way...
Read the rest here.

I welcome your comments.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Chemnitz's Little Book & the Voice of the Shepherd

Here is something that I read today that, I think, applies to what Erich wrote about hearing the Voice of the Shepherd and also a post over at Cyberstones.

Interesting enough, I also think that it relates to what I have been writing about the Light of Christ and what I am calling 'biblical openness'; notice how Chemnitz says that everyone should know what questions will be asked during the biannual examinations of pastors, and what is most interesting is that he says that the laity should also know what is included in these exams of pastors,
"according to which also the hearers might judge whether their pastors follow the true voice of Christ, the only Chief Shepherd, or if they speak with the voice of a stranger, Jn. 10:3-5."

Really great stuff:
And since God instituted the ministry for this reason and used it to this end, that the Body of Christ, that is, His church might be built, and ever grow, unto the identifying of itself, Eph 4:16, they that are in the ministry must, with all concern, diligence, and faithfulness, be God’s colaborers, plant, and water, 1 Co 3:6-9, that the Word of God might dwell among us richly in all wisdom, CL 3:16, and all manner or tares of false, erroneous doctrine be rooted up and kept away from these churches by the grace of God, Mt 15:1-13; Acts 20:28-31.

For that reason and in view of this it is decreed in the Christian church order of our illustrious prince and ruler, Lord Julius, duke of Brunswick and Lüneburg, that the examinations be held not only when someone is to be accepted and received into the church ministry, but that the superintendents twice a year examine the pastors assigned to their supervision, so that it might at one and the same time be an indoctrination and instruction regarding the basis and true meaning of the pure doctrine, and how less-learned pastors might arrange their studies, guard against false doctrine, and set the doctrine before their hearer in plain and simple terms, so that through such examinations the whole church, both preachers and hearers, might be edified under divine blessing with great profit and benefit.

But in order that equality might be preserved in the examinations and the less-learned be able the better to prepare themselves for them, it was resolved in the church consistory, with the gracious previous form of examination --- like that in the consistory --- used with those who are to be ordained and received into the church ministry be published in written for, so that the superintendents might be able to follow it in the annual visitations.

...also it [this little book] is written in German so that the laity might read and know what is discussed in examinations and what is the model in the chief heads of salutary doctrine, according to which also the hearers might judge whether their pastors follow the true voice of Christ, the only Chief Shepherd, or if they speak with the voice of a stranger, Jn. 10:3-5.

-Martin Chemnitz in Ministry, Word, and Sacramanets: An Enchiridian. Trans. Luther Poellot. St. Louis: CPH, 1981. Pages 16-17.
How this sounds long ago in a galaxy far, far away! How truly blessed are those Christians who have pastors that would heartily welcome such examinations!


Monday, July 16, 2007

Eric & Polly!

On Weedon's Blog:
wm cwirla said...
"The MI couple rocks!"
Of course, we already knew that!

Thomas á Kempis Weighes In...

Often I comment on a post and then realize it has become a post of its own. Here is one such comment:

I think it is a very healthy thing to pretend that all private discussions are public, thinking "what if my mother (pastor, friends, family, neighbor, etc.) were listening?"

I'm reminded of many stories I've heard (and even experienced first-hand) of people being greatly hurt by hearing conversations that occurred when the speakers didn't know that others really were listening.

All our words and even our private thoughts are heard by our Father in Heaven. That in itself should be enough to temper all our doings.

With that in mind, listen to Thomas á Kempis, in The
Imitation of Christ:
The Tenth Chapter

Avoiding Idle Talk

SHUN the gossip of men as much as possible, for discussion of worldly affairs, even though sincere, is a great distraction inasmuch as we are quickly ensnared and captivated by vanity.

Many a time I wish that I had held my peace and had not associated with men. Why, indeed, do we converse and gossip among ourselves when we so seldom part without a troubled conscience? We do so because we seek comfort from one another's conversation and wish to ease the mind wearied by diverse thoughts. Hence, we talk and think quite fondly of things we like very much or of things we dislike intensely. But, sad to say, we often talk vainly and to no purpose; for this external pleasure effectively bars inward and divine consolation.

Therefore we must watch and pray lest time pass idly.

When the right and opportune moment comes for speaking, say something that will edify.

Bad habits and indifference to spiritual progress do much to remove the guard from the tongue. Devout conversation on spiritual matters, on the contrary, is a great aid to spiritual progress, especially when persons of the same mind and spirit associate together in God.
And again, listen to this:
Chapter 9

On Obedience and Discipline

It is an excellent thing to live under obedience to a superior, and not to be one's own master. It is much safer to obey than to rule. Many live under obedience more of necessity than of love and such people are often discontented and complaining. They will never attain freedom of mind unless they submit with their whole heart for the love of God. Go where you please, but nowhere will you find rest except in humble obedience under the rule of a superior. Preference for other places and desire for change have unsettled many.

Everyone gladly does whatever he most likes, and likes best those who think as he does; but if God is to dwell among us we must sometimes yield our own opinion for the sake of peace. Who is so wise that he knows all things? So do not place too much reliance on the rightness of your own view but be ready to consider the views of others. If your opinion is sound, and you forego it for the love of God and follow that of another, you will win great merit. I have often heard that is safer to accept advice than to give it. It may even come about that each of two opinions is good; but to refuse to come to an agreement with others when reason or occasion demand it is a sign of pride and obstinacy.
Thomas á Kempis' last name was Hämerken, "Little Hammer." I consider him a big hammer, because his writings convict me of so much that is sinful within me. For that reason I find it beneficial to read him.

Sean: More Thoughts on Children's Sermons

Our resident hot Lutheran posted some more good thoughts on children's sermons that might add some additional clarity to our discussion at Eric's post.

Here is his Hot Lutheran on Hot Lutheran Action post in its entirety:

Childrens' Sermons and Regular Sermons

The childrens' sermon comes from a philosophy that would say "we must target and minister to groups individually and specially if we are to be effective or if we are to do the will of God". The Church, rather, ministers as Christ instituted it: Word and Sacrament ministry, which is targeted at everyone and is effective on everyone. It is not subjective to various groups, but objective for all groups. We all have the same problem: we are sinners.

It's ironic, but in the attempt to make someone feel included, doing "special" things for "special" people actually makes them and everyone else excluded.

To tell someone "pay attention, this part of the service is especially for you" also inherently says "the rest of the service is not especially for you".

The liturgy IS for children. Hymns ARE for children. The lection IS for children. The sermon [proper] IS for children. The prayers ARE for children. The confession & absolution IS for children. Baptism IS for children. As is evident by numerous debates in Church history, the Supper IS also to be for children, even if the details of how we are to practice that belief are not agreed upon.

The point is that the WHOLE service is for the WHOLE congregation.

Let us not tell the children what they will not like, what they will not understand, what they will not appreciate, or what they will not benefit from. I have little doubt that children frequently learn more, understand more, appreciate more, and practice more than their elder brothers and sisters in Christ, who lack an excuse for their inability to pay attention. *cue Luther rant about dogs and the insolent German people*

One pastor was thinking out loud one day to me about struggling with a coming service. It was pentecost (therefore a longer service), confirmation, a Divine Service, and there were many announcements to make also. In order to keep the service under an hour [sic], "cuts" needed to be made. This pastor considered out loud how "Well, I certainly can't cut communion, and I don't want to skip these special liturgical elements that I have decided to use... and I won't cut the children's sermon." In the end, the ingredients [double sic] he chose to cut were parts of the ordinary, propers, hymn stanzas, and prayers.

Instead of cutting "special" things meant to target specific people, perhaps it would be better to keep more of the objective and primary parts of the service. PERHAPS, if anything is to be cut down, it should be the sermon. Many pastors seem to think (and indeed say) that the reason people come or don't come to Church is the sermon. I am not so sure that the sermon is the most important part of the service. Certainly, as they say, no one goes to the parking lot singing the pastor's sermon.... Even if you have heard a dissapointing, long and boring, or confusing sermon, you still have everything else: God's Word in the lectionary, liturgy, and hymnody. His Word of forgiveness pronounced by the pastor. His precious life-giving Body and Blood put in your very mouth.

Liturgy and hymns are concise. Nothing is more concise than the sacraments (all three, if you will). Peter's sermon on Pentecost was certainly concise, and definetely effective.
As a related plug, I would strongly recommend Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance by Os Guinness. Sean's points on doing things special, in addition to making me think of the Dana Carvey's Church Lady, also made me think of what Os Guinness said in this fine little book: By attempting to be so very relevant, the church has become completely irrelevant. You can listen to his 2004 Issues, Etc. interview on this book HERE.

And here, of course, is the very finest example of 'cultural relevance' in Christian worship services -- compliments of the Simpsons:

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Praying for One's Pastors and Leaders

It appears that LCMS Synodical President Kieschnick was re-elected.

When I was in the LCMS, I bashed him as often as I could.

I am in my second year of being in the WELS and to be brutally frank - I have continued to bash him.

I'm done now. We all need to be done now. We should pray for him and pray that he does well and leads in a way that is true to the Scriptures and the Confessions. And in the spririt of this blog I put out the call for less Kieschnick bashing and more praying. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't speak the truth in love and even cut with the Law - but the club we confessionals have been using ain't working folks. We need to pray. We need to pray that in the course of the next three years his eyes are opened and that a return to Lutheran orthodoxy rises up amongst all of us.

However, this is no reason we cannot think ahead is there?

Rev. Matt Harrison.

The LCMS has a real talent in this man. Street cred as the leader of LCMS Human Care and more important the man can preach- I mean an honest to goodness Lutheran sermon that Walther would be proud of!!!

Be patient. Three years isn't that long.

Who knows - my WELS exile may be over by then.

More on Apostolicity and the OHM

Pr. Weedon suggested Sasse's very fine essay on the whole notion of apostolic succession in the We Confess series published by CPH. I've finished reading it again, and will here give my own brief summary of his arguments.

Sasse begins by pointing out that there are three aspects of "apostolicity" to debate: apostolicitas originis, successionis, doctrinae.

Then he argues that all churches claim apostolicity of origin, pointing out that:
"Whether any church has its origin in the church of the New Testament or not is simply a matter of faith."
Ultimately this is a question of apostolicity of doctrine, because:
"The answer has to do with whether I consider the doctrine of my church to be apostolic."
Next he destroys the idea that any particular apostolicity of succession can be demonstrated, giving a cursory history of the attempts to create lists and the different purposes those lists were created for. He also quotes the Didache (15:1) which gives advice to congregations in case there are no wandering apostles, prophets, or teachers among them: "Elect therefore for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord..."

This alone shows that the emphasis on an unbroken succession of consecration of bishops is a relatively modern construct. Rather, what has always been debated in the church is apostolicity of doctrine.

Sasse spends some time on sola Scriptura in which he acknowledges that Paul speaks of the receiving and passing on of a tradition (1 Cor. 11:23 and 15:3):
In the New Testament we do have tradition in the sense of the message of the Gospel, or some particular message, being faithfully kept and handed on (1 Tim. 6:29), without addition or subtraction (Rev. 22:18-19). This "tradition," however, whether it be the oral proclamation of the apostles or whether it was already written down, has nothing to do with a tradition which was later placed in opposition to Scripture. The apostolic witness cannot be divided into what was preached and what was written down. these are one and the same. The authentic doctrinal tradition of the church in the sense of the New Testament is never anything else that the living transmission of this witness in preaching and instruction. It can never be an independent source of revelation. Authentic apostolic succession, then, is always and only the succession of doctrine. It may be known by its identity with the witness of the apostles in the New Testament. In this way, the content of what is proclaimed by any and every church is to be weighed.

There is indeed also a succession of teachers who have faithfully proclaimed the apostolic message. But who these surely are only God knows, just as He alone "knows those who are His," who are truly His church [2 Tim 2:19].
And here is where what I wrote in the post below becomes the first principle from which I know that our pastor has apostolicity:
The question of whether or not a pastor is a valid pastor is answered rightly only by whether or not he preaches the true Gospel. The Augsburg Confession states that the "Church" is found where the Word is preached in its purity and the Sacraments are rightly administered. How do we define pure Word and Sacrament? - that taught and practiced according to the one pure fount and source of God's revelation: SCRIPTURE, interpreted according to the central doctrine of Christianity that separates us from ALL other religions.

What is that central doctrine? That THE ONE TRUE GOD is the God who saved me ALL BY HIMSELF, with no help from me or anybody else. All my sins are imputed to Christ, and all His righteousness is imputed to me. That's the only God I can have faith in! The One with pure monergistic grace - something ALL the other "Christian" denominations deny.

Lutheranism alone teaches the pure monergistic grace of God in Christ Jesus. This is what sets us apart from all others. How do I know the voice of the Shepherd? When I hear Him tell me my sins are forgiven - unconditionally. Anyone who claims to speak the Word of the Shepherd yet preaches a synergistic salvation is a false shepherd. All Roman Catholic priests preach a synergistic salvation. Therefore they are false shepherds - not members of the apostolic succession. The Apostle Paul preached salvation by faith alone, "and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Secret Ballots and the OHM

"The mask you wear before men will do you no good before Him. He wants to see you as you are, He wants to be gracious to you... He wants to love you."
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together
Does your congregation or church body allow secret ballots in its meetings, assemblies, or conventions?

Do you think that this practice is biblical?

It deeply concerns me when brothers and sisters in Christ demand secret ballots, for I have never heard of a single good reason for the practice, and frankly, they seem completely counter to biblical Christianity and dangerous to the health of a congregation.

Let me explain.

The whole democratization of American Christianity puzzles me. Lutheran churches have adopted practices like voters' assemblies and congregational meetings, and the way such meetings are sometimes run, with secret ballots, seems to be clear evidence of, and I hate to use this term, a dysfunctional church.

The fact that Christians are sometimes unwilling to publicly say what they think and submit it to God's Word for brotherly discussion, evaluation, and if necessary, correction, -- this is counter to the Christian faith and fellowship and is a very dangerous practice in the life of a congregation.

Here are some initial reasons for this assertion:

1. Perhaps those who want secret ballots are afraid of being mistreated or ridiculed for having certain opinions. In this case, those with differing views might need to change or even repent. Even if we are right, we are called to correct our brothers and sisters "in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:1-5, NASB)

Secrecy can foster an 'Us vs. Them' mentality among brothers and sisters in Christ and allow both fear and suspicion to undermine genuine fellowship. Secret ballots allow Christians to continue in fear and suspicion of each other.

2. Perhaps Christians want secret ballots because they cannot explain their opinions in the light of God's Word and are therefore, at best, basing their votes upon subjective feelings. Or graver still, maybe they know that what they are voting for is not in accord with God's Word. Such situations are, of course, not good for the congregation or the voters themselves, for such voters who wish to affect the life of a congregation behind the curtain of secrecy are merely being "tossed about by every wind of doctrine" and their unbiblical voices are affecting the life of the congregation without the possibility of correction that openness provides. This is very dangerous situation, for decisions about Christ's Church are made out of emotion or sin, rather than out faith in God and His Word. (Ephesians 4:14-16, NASB)

3. Perhaps those who want their votes to be secret just don't like the pastor because he faithfully preaches and teaches God's Word in undiluted Law and Gospel. If this is the case, then I would even say that such opposition to the Office of Holy Ministry is demonic in nature and needs to be brought to the Light and then seriously and tenaciously opposed by God's people. Such voters need to be brought to repentance, and the use of secret ballots in this case is endangering their souls.

4. Perhaps there is some hidden, unbiblical agenda, coordinated in political conventicles. It is no secret that people bring the political ways of this world into Christ's Church, and this is also a dangerous situation that must be rooted out by God's people, for Jesus said, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life!" (John 8:12, NASB)
Every public matter in the life of a church should be brought forth and dealt with openly under the Light of God's Word. Satan is, as Samwise Gamgee called Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, a slinker, and as we learned from Screwtape, the Father of Lies thrives upon secrecy. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that members of a congregation stand together under Holy Scripture and its faithful exposition in the Office of Holy Ministry. We must expose the slinker for what he is, even as he attempts to work his mischief through secrecy in the midst of a congregation.

The Father of Lies wants to hold God's people in the bondage of false belief. We know that this is certainly true, so out of Christian love and concern for those who wish secret ballots, we must reject such secrecy and ask for a biblical openness. But Christians should not seek such openness for political purposes, but rather, out of a desire for true Christian fellowship. The Gospel of Christ calls believers to openness and honesty in our relationships with God and with each other, so that we might enjoy peace and true fellowship of the Spirit through God's Word.

Christians are called to walk in the light, and because of the grace of God in Jesus Christ, we can, indeed, take off our masks and bring everything out into the light where it can be approved, corrected, healed, or forgiven.

In his Small Catechism, Martin Luther explains that in the sixth petition of the Lord's Prayer, we are instructed to pray "that God would guard and keep us, so that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us, nor seduce us into misbelief, despair, and other great shame and vice." Misbelief or false belief is, indeed, a grave sin to which we are constantly tempted; and it is a sin of which we must repent. Tragically, however, secret ballots help us keep this sin hidden, where correction cannot take place through biblical catehesis or where the healing power of Christ's blood cannot be applied through Holy Absolution. And as Dietrich Bonhoeffer so astutely observed in Life Together, "He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone." Therefore, Christian charity for our brothers and sisters demands that we reject the continued practice of secrecy.

Indeed, secret ballots seem to fly in the face of both the nature of Christ (especially in the Gospel of John with its emphasis on light and darkness) and the biblical doctrine of Christian fellowship, through which we are called to 'walk in the Light'. Secret ballots can be used as masks that enable us to avoid the Light of our Lord, so that we do not have to explain our decisions, enter into fruitful dialogue with our brothers and sisters in Christ, or submit ourselves to the Light of God's Word and the Office of Holy Ministry. Secret ballots are one disturbing symptom of sickness in the life of a congregation, one tactic of the enemy's gorilla warfare of darkness against the Light of God's Word.

Today the 63rd Convention of my church body, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, commences at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas. The word synod means 'walking together', but how can we join arms in our journey together if we hide them behind our backs in fear and suspicion? Or how can we possibly obey God's command:
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3, NASB)
How is Christian fellowship in the 'unity of the Spirit' under God's Word even possible when we have moved from an open, biblical "Here we stand" approach to witness and fellowship, to a political, individualist "Here I... it's none of your business!"

In conclusion, I would suggest that the continued worldly secrecy in relations between brothers and sisters in Christ is clear evidence that our churches have imbibed political ways of relating to each other that are based upon ungodly concepts of power and individualism, rather than upon a biblical understanding of Christian fellowship that teaches us to bear one another's burdens and speak the truth of God's Word to each other in love.

This widespread infection of political and individualist thinking needs to be marked and rejected by pastors, boards of elders, and church councils for the sake of Christ and His Church. We must not be "conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we would may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:2).

Pax Christi.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Issues, Etc. Soundbite: 'I get nothing out of my pastor's worship services!'

The Rev. William Weedon, pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel, Illinois, during an April 18, 2004 interview on KFUO's Issues, Etc., recalls one circuit counselor's very wise, pastoral response to a lady's impassioned complaint about the office of holy ministry in her church.

Interview Sound Bite:
"I just get nothing out of my pastor's worship services!" (2:29)

Entire Interview:
Myths About Worship - Hour 1
Myths About Worship - Hour 2

The Beichtspiegel and the OHM

Here is a beichtspiegel (confessional mirror) written by Dr. Ken Korby [clicking on the link will download the pdf version]. For those who are not familiar with what a "beichtspiegel" is, it is used as an aid in preparing for confession and absolution. This brief one by Korby would be easy to print off for members of the congregation to use. It is formated as a single sheet to be folded in half. There is also an excellent beichtspiegel printed in the back of the Brotherhood Prayer Book [BPB]. It's too bad one was not included in the LSB. I mention the beichtspiegel here on this blog with special reference to the following questions.

Third Commandment:
  • Do I spend time complaining about the worship, the pastor or other people?
  • Have I destroyed the blessing of the divine service for myself and others with frivolous criticism?
Fourth Commandment:
  • Has the fear and love of God shaped my honor and obedience to parents and others in authority?
  • Have I trusted God to bless me and make my life good when I submit to the authority of parents and those over me, or have I been angry with them, rebelling, fighting against them because I was afraid I was not getting what I had a right to get?
  • Have I been insolent, sullen and disrespectful to my parents, teachers, employers or other authorities over me?
  • Have I been on good behavior when they are present and mocking them when they are absent?
  • Have I given honor and respect to the pastoral office?
  • Have I helped those who carry responsibilities in governing? Do I pray for parents, leaders of the nations, schools and church? Do I grumble about work given me to do?
  • Have I helped make it easier for those who carry responsibilities for governing?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Is My Pastor Valid and Due the Honor of the OHM

I saw this article earlier today. The Pope's Words are hogwash. Basically the Pope (the "Antichrist" according to our Lutheran Confessions) is saying that if your pastor didn't have hands laid upon him by someone in direct succession (all having hands laid upon them) from the apostles, your pastor is not valid and you do not have the means of grace. Of course this is nothing new to Roman Catholic dogma.

It's as if the pastoral ministry is something that is only valid if you have the direct validation of a member of the club who had it from a member of the club who had it from a member of the club. Have all members of the club been good judges of whether or not someone should be allowed to join the club? I think not! Ordination is necessary, but apostolic succession is not. And "ordination" is not the laying on of hands. The laying on of hands is simply a tradition. You could lay your feet on someone and achieve the same thing.

The question of whether or not a pastor is a valid pastor is answered rightly only by whether or not he preaches the true Gospel. The Augsburg Confession states that the "Church" is found where the Word is preached in its purity and the Sacraments are rightly administered. How do we define pure Word and Sacrament? - that taught and practiced according to the one pure fount and source of God's revelation: SCRIPTURE, interpreted according to the central doctrine of Christianity that separates us from ALL other religions.

What is that central doctrine? That THE ONE TRUE GOD is the God who saved me ALL BY HIMSELF, with no help from me or anybody else. All my sins are imputed to Christ, and all His righteousness is imputed to me. That's the only God I can have faith in! The One with pure monergistic grace - something ALL the other "Christian" denominations deny.

Lutheranism alone teaches the pure monergistic grace of God in Christ Jesus. This is what sets us apart from all others. How do I know the voice of the Shepherd? When I hear Him tell me my sins are forgiven - unconditionally. Anyone who claims to speak the Word of the Shepherd yet preaches a synergistic salvation is a false shepherd. All Roman Catholic priests preach a synergistic salvation. Therefore they are false shepherds - not members of the apostolic succession. The Apostle Paul preached salvation by faith alone, "and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God."

This question of whether or not Lutherans have the office of holy ministry must be addressed more adequately by us. It's at the heart of the questions many who are tempted to Rome or Constantinople are struggling with. All arguments regarding this ends up being circular in some respect, whether from the Roman, Eastern, or Lutheran perspective. But we need to do a better job of articulating our position.

I really hope that Pr. Bender might consider switching the topic of next year's CCA symposium to the OHM. If the participants do as good a job with the OHM topic as they did on this year's topic of the church, the result will be a tremendous blessing to us all.

Follow-up post here.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Screwtape and the Office of Holy Ministry

Almost immediately after Pastor Thomas Zimmerman of Concordia Theological Seminary preached at our church last week about a very discouraged Elijah, as described in 1 Kings 19, I came into possession of a very strange letter written by someone called Screwtape to a junior devil by the name of Wormwood.

Perhaps this intercepted letter might provide us some helpful intelligence on how the devil attempts to discourage pastors, much like Elijah was tempted after his big day at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:20-46).

And so, I pass this odd correspondence along to you for your consideration:
My dear Wormwood:

I am beginning to suspect that you do not realize the significance of your present assignment, for he has been set apart by the Enemy for a particularly dangerous purpose, and his case, therefore, demands our special attention.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of paying particular attention to those vermin, like your present patient, that the Enemy foolishly chooses as His miserable instruments, those called 'pastors' within His ranks, for they continue to do so much regretable damage to our glorious cause. It really is quite aggravating, for after all, it is only the Enemy's unfair advantage over us that makes these ridiculous specimens so dangerous in His hands.

And all the Enemy does is smile down at them, as they stumble through their ridiculous duties, parroting whatever He tells them. I will not even mention the absurd way that He carries on about those detestable multitudes that are lost to us through these loathsome servants of His. And then there are the ridiculous, repugnant ways that He uses these pastors, first that abhorrent Voice and then -- and this is almost too revolting to mention -- that water, bread, and wine, which are somehow joined with that, again, that infuriating Voice! Oh, Wormwood, to be undone by that which is so common, illogical, and unspiritual, all the while with that irritating smile beaming down upon them all. One would think that the Enemy actually likes the miserable creatures.

Do not suppose that the Enemy's very different smiles and infuriating laughter that He directs at us mean that this ridiculous magic show is merely a bad joke, for we must consider the grave results that it has rendered against us for nearly 2,000 years. We can be certain that Our Father Below, a true spirit of spirits, would never bear the indignity of working with either these ridiculous creatures who have, like dogs, collars around their necks, or the very vulgar matter that they distribute with their grubby little hands. Such matters can infuriate even the most experienced of tempters.

Such continued indignities certainly demand our redoubled efforts, Wormwood, so let me point out a few fundamental tactics that have proved useful with these vile creatures. These are tricks of our own that have worked particularly well for apprentice tempters like yourself, simple techniques that we initially tried with that crude showoff Elijah, who unfortunately eluded us after that regrettable setback at Mount Carmel. We have now employed these same tactics in other cases with great success for centuries, thus rendering many of these set-apart servants of the Enemy completely useless to Him, and consequently, delivering innumerably more of these two-footed beasts safely into the eager hands of Our Father Below:
“Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.’" (1 Kings 19:1-2)

First and foremost, Wormwood, you must avoid frontal assaults. You must work in secret, preferably behind the facade of the thoroughly amusing piousness that so many of our people in the Enemy's camp wear with pride. Try to find some domineering wives and hen-pecked husbands, like the Ahab and Jezebel that even now, our master continues to relish below. There are thousands of these useful specimens within the Enemy's camp, and if you really wish to truly enjoy your patient, then by all means find yourself such a couple with an abundance of that most helpful and amusing of our virtues: niceness. Even I smile to think of the deeds done for Our Father Below in the name of the Enemy.

“And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree...” (1 Kings 19:3-4a)

Secondly, isolate the scoundrels. By all means, keep your patient away from other Christians, especially those who are also set apart by the Enemy as stewards of his box of tricks. Keep him far from all those in the Enemy's camp who might ask him questions that would make your patient begin to think about what they call 'truth'. Remember how the Enemy asked that showoff at Carmel such unfortunate questions: "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

You must also remember that Light and the lucidity that the Enemy's mere whispers can bring to your patient must be continually guarded against. Keep your patient alone and focused on the difficulties that surround him, and by all means, get him to believe that such debilitating solitude is a part of his calling.

Keep those who would hinder or even undo our work by, as the Enemy puts it, 'loving' your patient, far, far from him. Secret ballots in voters' assemblies, backroom elder meetings, late-night phone calls 'out of concern', or nasty petitions drawn up in conventicles -- all of these things can and should be utilized, for they all help to isolate your patient 'for his own good' and for the supposed good of the Enemy's camp. In short, keep your patient and his charges in dark confusion or chaos. And Wormwood, it is so very delicious to get the little beasts to actually think that they are being 'bold' or 'compassionate' or 'prudent' in doing these things! Keeping everyone in the dark like this while feeding their little egos will further our cause in countless ways and increase your own amusement immeasurably!

But by all means, beware of the Light that comes whenever the Enemy gets his little beasts to think and discuss all matters openly and in submission to his infuriating Voice, for then, Wormwood, all is lost. This situation should be your greatest fear, for the Light that the Enemy then brings to bear upon our purposes can foil all of our best efforts! Therefore, isolate, isolate, isolate!

"He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, ‘Arise, eat.’ Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again." (1 Kings 19:4)

You must also learn to use your patient's fatigue. Be sure to work on him when he is most weary, perhaps on Mondays or after particularly nasty church council or congregational meetings. Our near success with that showoff at Mount Carmel illustrates how effectively fatigue can be used against the Enemy's servants; it is at these times that you will most often succeed in getting your patient to dwell upon himself and his present difficulties, rather than that Hedonist who called him, who is likely to simply offer the beast good food and sound sleep. Above all, Wormwood, use your patient's fatigue and troubles to keep his mind in turmoil and away from that other Mountain that we dare not even mention. Timing is everything, so be sure to move against your patient when he is most weak and tired.

"And he requested for himself that he might die, and said, 'It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers!'" (1 Kings 19:4b)

Finally, you must utilize this isolation and fatigue to accomplish that most important, and frankly, most deliciously satisfying accomplishment of all: False belief! You will find that in your patient's times of loneliness and weakness, that he will believe just about anything. Even I smile as I fondly recall how we got that showoff at Carmel to whine about not being better than his fathers. As long as you can point your patient to himself and his troubles, instead of that other Mount that we do not name, then you will most likely succeed with him.
Now let me give you one final warning. As we saw after Mount Carmel, all of our best efforts can fail with one whisper of the Enemy. The show off! Therefore, we can never rest. Never assume that your patient is safely won, for even our best of servants, like that miserable traitor Saul, is evidence enough of the Enemy's unfair advantage over us. He is always so undignified, so unethical, and so scandalously unspiritual! Remember: secrecy, isolation, fatigue, and false belief!

I need not mention what penalties will undoubtedly await you, if any future incompetence allows your patient to once again escape into that disgusting Light, that which even Our Father Below dare not look upon.

Your affectionate uncle,