The Rev. Herbert Huhnerkoch
2005 Synod Convention Essay
Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105)
“You will know the truth and the truth will make you mad” proclaims Atlanta’s “Mouth of the South”, Neal Boortz, as he begins his daily radio political talk show, calling himself the “high priest of the church of the painful truth.”
“And the truth will set you free,” screams defense attorney Jim Carrey jubilantly in the movie Liar, Liar, when he discovers that he can actually win a case by telling the truth! It was a liberating experience forced on him when his little boy’s birthday wish came true, that his dad had to tell the truth for an entire day.
“The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable,” quipped the 20th President of the United States, James A. Garfield.
Here we have three references to John 8:32, and not a one gives us a clue to the actual source or the real meaning of the passage, namely that the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ is what sets us free from slavery to sin, Satan, death and hell. Consider this: of the 11,400 hits on a “google” search for the phrase “the truth will set you free” over half have nothing to do with the gospel of Christ. They deal with everything from awareness of homeland security issues, to facing the truth about software glitches, to achieving psychological health.
Gary Baumler wrote in The People’s Bible:
We see the words on libraries and as college mottoes. We hear them on the lips of intellectual and political leaders. But we don’t hear whose Word reveals the truth that sets us free. We don’t hear whose disciples have that truth and the freedom that comes with it. We don’t hear about Jesus.1
What a strange disconnect there seems to be today between the number of Bibles available and the existence of actual Bible knowledge. It would be hard to imagine any time since the fall into sin, when the word of God has been more available to more people than it is at this very moment. It is spoken and printed almost everywhere. It appears on VHS and DVD, on audio tapes and CDs, and in digital format. It is disseminated in 2,233 languages2, and in the case of some languages like English in numerous versions. Still, the average person today may know as little about the actual content of the Bible as at any time in history.
“Nine out of ten adults own a Bible. Most adults read the Bible during the year and a huge majority claims they know all of the basic teachings of the Bible. How, then, can most people say Satan does not exist, that the Holy Spirit is merely a symbol, that eternal peace with God can be earned through good works, and that truth can only be understood through the lens of reason and experience? How can a plurality of our citizens contend that Jesus committed sins and that the Bible, Koran and Book of Mormon all teach the same truths?”3 wonders George Barna of Barna Research.
- 18% – Every day
- 18% – 3–6/week
- 37% – 1–2/week
- 23% – Never
Partly the answer lies in this, that even among those who claim to hold to the Christian faith, there is not much Bible reading happening. The majority of all professing Christians read the Bible once or twice a week, or not at all. Only 18% of all Christians say they read the Word every day, while another 18% read the Bible between three and six days a week, 37% read it once or twice a week, and 23% say they do not read the Bible at all.4
Among younger Christians the problem is even worse. “Bible reading levels are about 33% less among twentysomethings than among older adults. Overall, only 30% of twentysomethings have read the Bible in the past week, compared to 37% of those in their 30s; 44% of fortysomethings; 47% of adults in their 50s; and 55% of those age 60 and above.”5
Pollster George Gallup comments: “We revere the Bible, but we don’t read it.”6
Although surveys may not always paint a true picture, the occasional blank stare I see when I ask a teen, or even an adult for that matter, to give a few details of a well-known Bible story, seems to confirm the findings. Either the Bible is not being widely read, or isn’t registering, or both. This is sad, because God’s Word is a great treasure. Imagine, it is the only book on earth authored by God. It is designed to bring great happiness to mankind. It is a treasure that was eagerly mined by the hungry Christians of Berea. NIV Acts 17:11 They received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Yet, apparently today it is a treasure largely ignored.
Our convention theme brings with it the hope that somehow the people in our circles will be more like the Bereans. Perhaps among us we can fan into flame the kind of love for the word of God, which was evidenced in the Scripture among the first Christians in Jerusalem. No one commanded them to “devote themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42) They were compelled from within by their Spirit-given love for Christ to continue in the Word. Perhaps we can actually get back the kind of enthusiasm there was on the streets of Germany when Luther’s German Bible first became available and was snatched up so quickly that another printing needed to be done almost immediately. Perhaps we can urge and help each other to use more of the vast amount of leisure time available today to meditate on the Scripture. Perhaps we can help our young people remember more Scripture by sitting down to remember it with them. Let’s take seriously Jesus’ gentle reminder to “abide in my Word.” Let’s see God’s Word as our wonderful, secure home, where our Christian life is lived and from which we go out into the world to live in true freedom.
There are great Scriptural images which encourage us to remain in the Word. Psalm 1:3 pictures Christians as people planted near an endless supply of water: “He is like a tree planted by streams of water.” John 15:5 paints the image of Christians being like branches connected to the Word: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
Two verses from John’s Gospel will be our focus for this essay. In them Jesus speaks of our ongoing connection to his Word. I offer you here five English versions:
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (New King James Version)
Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (New American Bible)
Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (New Revised Standard Version)
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (New International Version)
To the Jews who believed in him Jesus said: “If you make my word your home you will indeed be my disciples; you will come to know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (The New Jerusalem Bible)
All these passages remind us that God, who first attached us to his Word by giving birth to our Christian faith through it, wants us to remain attached to this divine source of our Christian faith and life. We cooperate in this ongoing attachment by making Spirit-empowered choices each day to settle down in or take up residence in the word of Christ. As we abide in the Word, we will remain painfully aware of the truth about ourselves, that the law condemns us and shows us how enslaved to sin, Satan, death and hell we truly are by nature. This truth will make us mad! Nevertheless, the same Word will always be the source of new vitality as the gospel reassures us that Jesus’ perfect life for us and his death as our Substitute for sin has set us free from every enemy. Who would not want this kind of ongoing, liberating experience?
There is so much which could be said about how God gave us his Word through the apostles and prophets by “verbal inspiration,” how he preserved his Word to us through the ages, and how he saw to it that it would be available in our language. However, this will not be the focus of this essay. Instead, we will dwell on the beauty and effectiveness of the word of God in our lives. We will see how it first gave birth to our Christian life through baptism and why it is such a marvelous permanent residence. We will see that faithful use of the Word brings us to know the Lord better every day as we experience him as our dear Savior and friend. We will learn how the faithful use of the Scripture liberates us from all our enemies, so that we can live a life of service in the kingdom of Christ.
“Abide in My Word”
(Be at Home in My Word)
Part I. It’s the home where our Christian faith was born
“If you abide in My word…”
It is obvious that we need to get somewhere before we can stay there. When Jesus says, “Abide in my word,” he clearly intimates that we first arrived there. The word of God is our home because it was the birthplace of our Christian faith and life. NIV 1 Peter 1:23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
The Apostle John records how some people were reborn into the Christian faith that very day, when Jesus spoke his Word to them. NIVJohn 8:30 Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him. They may not have been aware that his Word was so powerful. They could have mistakenly thought that they had chosen to believe in him, as do synergists still today, who believe they must “decide for Jesus.” They may not have realized the unique role of the Holy Spirit, who used the Scripture, the word of Christ, as the means to produce their rebirth into the Christian faith. They may not have been aware how totally dead in sin and “homeless” they were by nature. Thus, Jesus set out to teach them, and us.
He taught them that they were even worse than homeless by nature. They were on the run from God, getting farther away from him every day. They did not want to live anywhere near God, nor would God have accepted them as they were. They were slaves to Satan who was their Lord (the devil). They were slaves to the majority opinion of the sinners around them (the world). They were slaves to their own sinful appetites (the flesh). They were slaves to a way of life handed down to them from their forefathers (original sin) [1 Peter 1:18]. They were enslaved to sinful life on the dark and shameful streets of godlessness (actual sin). They were slaves to a life that was going nowhere except to a permanent cell in hell.
We can see how desperate spiritual homelessness is by observing those who did not come to believe in Jesus that day. They resented that Jesus called them slaves. They said, NIVJohn 8:33 “We have never been slaves of anyone.” They were wrong about this. They ignored past slavery in Egypt and Babylon and present slavery to Rome. Even worse, they ignored Jesus’ warning that they were slaves to Satan and sin and its horrible consequences. NIVJohn 8:34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”
From this we see that the first great function of God’s Word is to cause us to come to grips with our desperate spiritual homelessness. God’s law is designed to make us face the facts about ourselves. It makes us realize we are wandering the dark streets of sin and moves us to cry out for help. NIVRomans 3:20 Through the law we become conscious of sin. Then, when our situation seems most desperate, help arrives in the person of Jesus Christ. Through the good news of the gospel, God gives us new birth into the Christian faith and gives us his Word as our new home. Luther writes:
The word of God has this character that it is made known and comes when man is most desperate over everything, when he thinks that nothing is less likely to happen than what the word of God says most certainly will happen… These also finally receive it in such a way that all human boasting vanishes and nothing is credited to our own strength and energies, but all to God alone.7
The uterus and womb of God is the divine Word, by which we are fashioned and born… Therefore we must strive with a single heart that we abide in the Word. The Lord will reject no one, however weak, if only we cling to the Word, the womb of God. Thus, then, we must believe in our weakness that we are born in the womb of God, who will care for us with supreme devotion and will never reject us.8
Thus, it is clear that the solution to spiritual homelessness is Christ, who comes to us through his Word. NIVRomans 10:17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. The word of God is the only birthplace of faith. There is no other womb. It is not the Koran, Book of Mormon, or some other book or teaching by which Christian faith comes. Nor does rebirth occur without any means, as our Lutheran Confessions correctly say:
It is good to extol the ministry of the Word with every possible kind of praise in opposition to the fanatics who dream that the Holy Spirit does not come through the Word but because of their own preparations. They sit in a dark corner doing and saying nothing, but only waiting for illumination, as the enthusiasts taught formerly and the Anabaptists teach now.9
The enthusiasts of our day condemn the external Word, yet they do not remain silent but fill the world with their chattering and scribbling, as if the Spirit could not come through the Scriptures or the spoken word of the apostles but must come through their own writings and words. Why do they not stop preaching and writing until the Spirit himself comes to the people without and before their writings since they boast that the Spirit came upon them without the testimony of the Scriptures?10
And Luther writes, “Outside his Word and without his Word we know of no Christ, much less of Christ’s teaching. For the ‘Christ’ who pretends to bring his teaching without his Word is the abominable devil out of hell, who uses Christ’s holy name and under it is peddling his infernal venom.”11
Thus, faith comes and is sustained through the word of God. For this reason the apostles and prophets always directed people to the life-giving word of God and to nothing else. “It has been suggested that if Peter had been a Schwärmer, or an enthusiast, he would have spent the rest of his life talking about the wonderful experience and that good feeling which he had up there on the mount [of Transfiguration]. Instead he directs his reader to the external Word which he describes as ‘more sure.’”12
When Jesus tells us to “abide in my word,” then, it is clear that he is reminding us that the Word is the birthplace of our Christian faith and it is the only place where that faith can continue to live. Shall we now abandon the very Word that regenerated us? No! We are to take up residence in the home in which we were born.
In the movie The Trip to Bountiful an elderly woman Carrie Watts was living the twilight of her life trapped in an apartment in 1940’s Houston, Texas, with her controlling daughter-in-law and hen-pecked son. Her fondest wish—just once before she died—was to revisit Bountiful, the small Texas town of her youth, which she still referred to as “home.” The trouble was her son, Ludie, was too concerned for her health to allow her to travel alone and her petty daughter-in-law, Jessie Mae, insisted they didn’t have money to squander on bus tickets. After Carrie had failed in many previous escape attempts, which coincided with the arrival of her monthly Social Security check, she finally succeeded in getting as far as the Bountiful police station. There worried Ludie caught up with her and reluctantly agreed to take her the rest of the way to her childhood home. She enjoyed being back, but honestly home was not what she remembered from her youth. The house was abandoned. The windows were gone. The paint had weathered away. The place was uninhabitable.
Most of us would have the Carrie Watts’ experience if we tried to go back to recapture life in our childhood home. We could not really find that life again. The saying “You can’t go home again” would come true. We would be disappointed by all the changes. The people we remembered would not be the people we would find. Our favorite spots would have been torn down or remodeled. Businesses we once frequented would be full of total strangers.
But such is not our experience as we return each day to the word of God, our spiritual birthplace. We are not disappointed at all by going home. When we “take up residence in the Word” we have a home that never fails us. We will never want to leave behind the home, which gave us our spiritual rebirth. In fact, it is the home in which all our spiritual ancestors were also born and lived. Adam and Eve were reborn spiritually and lived in the Word. So did Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.13 So did Ruth and Rebekah. So did the Apostles and Prophets. So did the church fathers. So did Luther. So did Koren, Ottesen, and Preus. So do we. God’s Word is always the same, wonderful home. It always welcomes us with doors wide open. It will never lose this attractiveness. NIV Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Let us, then, appreciate this wonderful home in the Word as our special home and never think poorly of it!
I can still recall an experience from my vicar year, while I was in Mexico learning Spanish. I was on a long, overnight bus ride to the U.S. border to renew my tourist card. The sun was coming up as we were crossing the mesquite-dotted countryside near Saltillo. I could see women out in the cool morning air, sweeping dirt off the dirt landings in front of their homes. This was after they had swept the dirt off their dirt floors. It did not matter that their floors and landings were just dirt. These were their homes. They loved them and cared for them.
The word of God is no shack with a dirt floor. It is the mansion of our rebirth in Christ. The Lord wants us to love it. As we shall see, it is a home like no other.
Part II. It’s the perfect home for our discipleship to thrive
… you are My disciples indeed …
“Dream homes” usually remain just that—dreams—because they are unaffordable or nonexistent. Perhaps you picture your dream home on a beach somewhere in Florida or in the mountains of Colorado or on a lake in the north woods. What if someone were willing to give you your dream home at no cost to you? There it was waiting for you, everything you had hoped for—beauty, conveniences, plush furnishings, grandeur, a great view, and lots of space for family and friends! Would you accept it? I think you would move in, in a flash!
How many of us realize that the word of God is our perfectly satisfying dream home? The Lord has given it to us for our entire Christian life on earth. There is no other home that offers greater security, is more solidly built, or provides a more refreshing and relaxing atmosphere than the word of the Lord. There is no other home to which we can so easily invite friends, family or strangers than the dream home of God’s Word. It is so grand and spacious that no one is turned away by a “no vacancy” sign. If only we would think of the word of God in this way, it would be our dearest dwelling place in life and death. NIVPsalm 91:1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
Let’s consider some of the great qualities of our Scriptural home.
A. A home with the perfect, and sure foundation
The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
She is His new creation By water and the Word.
From heav’n he came and sought her To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her, And for her life He died.
(TLH 473, v1; ELH 486, v1)
Every home is only as good as its foundation. A home must rest on well-compacted soil with a sufficiently deep footing. In some places, this is not easy to accomplish. In central Florida it is difficult to establish a good foundation, because the soil is so sandy. Occasionally cavities develop in the limestone lying deep beneath the sand, leaving a “sink hole” which swallows whatever rests on it. It soon becomes clear that a good and solid foundation is indispensable to the structure of a reliable home.
If we appreciate the solid foundation of the homes in which we live, even more will we appreciate how the Scripture and the Savior whom it proclaims are the solid foundation for our Christian faith and life. NIVEphesians 2:19,20 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Scriptures), with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. NIVMatthew 7:24,25 Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.<sup> NIV1 Corinthians 3:11 “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” The one who builds life on Jesus and the Word has a sure foundation.
Too many today ignorantly continue to build their lives on shaky foundations, just as the people were doing whom Jesus was addressing in John 8. Some of these people were relying on the unstable foundation of their ancestry. NIVJohn 8:33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants.” Is there any kind of solid ground to be found by building on family connections? Certainly not! In the history of our Evangelical Lutheran Synod there have been many great Christians, who laid a foundation for the work we are doing today. We remember the big three pictured on the cover of the 1993 Yearbook commemorating the 75th anniversary of our synod—Koren, Preus, and Ottesen. We celebrate their steadfastness, but we cannot simply build on their reputation. We must in our generation continue to build solidly on Christ and the Scripture.
Too much of the visible church today is building on a foundation of inferior material. In some cases it is trying to build on Scripture, yes, but also on tradition and the proclamations of mere human leaders. In other cases it is mixing the foundation mortar partly of Scripture and partly of what makes sense to reason, thereby effectively destroying the Scriptural foundation. “Neither the Papists (Roman Catholics) nor the Enthusiasts (Reformed) really base their doctrine and practice on the Scriptures, but both claim that the Holy Spirit teaches the church without the necessity of a scriptural norm.”14 In some popular churches today, experience and personal revelation are considered more valuable than Scripture. However, whenever something else is added to the foundation of faith besides Scripture, the building is insecure. Luther wrote:
We cannot learn enough about this Cornerstone, Christ. I, Martin Luther, am constantly working on this foundation. Once the foundation has been firmly laid, the superstructure will be very easy to build. The Enthusiasts and would-be-wise want to build the tower and put a roof on before the foundation has been laid. I wanted to attach a tile or two myself, but where is the foundation? 15
When life is founded firmly on Christ, the rest of life’s structure has a greater hope of having lasting integrity. Think of the home in which you live. When the foundation is good, the walls don’t crack. The walls can be attached firmly to the base so that they go nowhere when the wind blows. The roof in turn can be connected firmly to the structure so that it resists the wind and rain.
The storm comes, the waters rise, the winds howl, the hail and the rain ‘sweep away the refuge of lies,’ and the dwellers in these frail and foundationless houses are hurrying in wild confusion from one peak to another, before the steadily rising tide. But he that builds on that Foundation (Christ and the Word) ‘shall not make haste,’ as Isaiah has it; shall not need to hurry to shift his quarters before the flood overtakes him, shall look out serene upon all the hurtling fury of the wild storm, and the rise of the sullen waters.16
If you will not build on the sure Foundation, do not wonder if the rotten one gives way. If you will not lean on the strong Stay, complain not when the weak one crumbles to dust beneath your feet.17
Foundations are not very beautiful. They remain out of sight in the earth under our homes. Yet they are the most important single element of the structure of our homes. So also is the word of God to our Christian faith and life. It is the invisible yet single most important element of a secure and sustained Christian faith. But the foundation is not the only important and perfect element of our dream home.
B. A home with solid and secure walls
Abide, our only safety, Thy people’s sure defense;
No power can withstand Thee Divine Omnipotence!
(ELH 579, v5)
Solid concrete block and steel-reinforced walls were very important last year for those who endured category 4 hurricane winds. There is today many a resident of a southern state who is grateful that building codes were beefed up after the experience of Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
We Christians are grateful that God’s Word is such a secure structure for the church militant. In every constitution governing our congregations, one of the first articles reads something like this, “This congregation accepts and confesses all the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments as the verbally inspired and inerrant word of God and submits to this Word as the only infallible authority in all matters of faith and life.” These words are to be upheld in our teaching and practice. It is clear that the Scripture, because it is the word of God, sets the standards for everything we believe, teach and confess, and is the only reliable standard for building our Christian faith, confession and life. Within the sure word of God we have every reason to live securely. NIVProverbs 14:26 He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.
Contrast this certainty to the following assessment of current thinking:
Almost everyone in the United States believes that truth exists. However, a large majority of both adults and teenagers, Christian and non-Christian, contends that there is no absolute moral truth. More than two out of three adults and more than four out of five teenagers argue that truth is always relative to the individual and the circumstances. While most of these people describe themselves as followers of Christ and say that the Bible is accurate in all of its teachings, they nevertheless believe that truth is based on feelings, experience or emotion.18
Are we going to join those who think this way, or will we continue to be faithful to the Scripture? This is a critical question for us. Too often lip service to the veracity of the Scriptures is accompanied by a feeling that certain unpopular teachings of the Scripture can be ignored, downplayed, or reconfigured to fit our thinking. Let us remember, it was the failure of Adam and Eve to trust one simple command of the Lord which brought about the demise of the entire human race.
If we are careful home buyers, we will not simply buy a home because it looks good on the outside. We will be concerned about the kind of construction employed underneath the surface of the beautiful paint. It would be pretty terrifying to have bought a home on appearances, only to discover that the wall structure was actually composed of cardboard.
In spiritual things too, anyone who builds life with insecure material, human opinion for example, will never be safe. But whoever builds life with the perfect word of God will live in safety. NIVIsaiah 32:18 My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.
C. A home with an endless power supply
It fills the soul with sweet delight The heart with living faith empow’rs;
It sets our wand’ring footsteps right, Displays Thy love, and kindles ours.
(ELH 231, v3)
Homes today are really terrific with their connections to the internet, cable TV, cell towers, standard phone service and electric power. Who would ever want to go back to living in the “good old days” of kerosene lamps and wood stoves?
The self-contained power supply of the home called God’s Word is even more terrific. NIVActs 19:20 The word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. NIVHebrews 4:12 The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. It is God the Holy Spirit who so empowers the word of God, that it has the miraculous ability to overcome the absolute darkness of unbelief.
Even as the gospel has creative power in itself to make me a believer and to inscribe the law of God upon my heart, so it also has divine power to sustain me in that new life of faith, yea, even unto the end.19
Being at home in the Word is truly an opportunity to be plugged into power. It is power that on the one hand condemns and destroys. NIVRomans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. NIVJeremiah 23:29 “Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” Just as the electrical outlets in our homes are dangerous to little fingers and careless homeowners, so the law in the word of God has the power to terrify and destroy—eternally.
But the real power of the Word is not to destroy, but to save. In the word of God we plug into the gospel. NIVRomans 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. The word of God has the power to create disciples of Jesus and keep them alive. NIVMatthew 28:18–20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” NIVHebrews 1:3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.
Hearing and handling the Word is always good and useful. For although the Word does not always strike home, our heart nonetheless remembers what it has heard and perhaps in an hour and at a time when we need it will begin really to understand it and feel its power and comfort. In like manner, embers which have lain under the ashes for a while will start burning again and give fire when one stirs them up and blows on them. Therefore the Word should not be considered powerless. One should not think that it has been preached in vain. Neither should another word be sought in case fruit does not appear immediately.20
D. A home with an abundant supply of food and water
Lord, Thy words are waters living where I quench my thirsty need;
Lord, Thy words are bread life-giving, On Thy words my soul doth feed.
Lord, Thy words shall be my light through death’s vale and dreary night;
Yea, they are my sword prevailing and my cup of joy unfailing.
(TLH 296, v3; ELH 230, v3)
The recent case of withholding feeding and hydration from Terri Schiavo certainly underscores how vital is a constant supply of water and food to our physical wellbeing. Constant nourishment is also critical for our spiritual wellbeing.
When I was first in the ministry in Miami, I was making door-to-door visits to homes around the church and was invited into the home of a middle-aged couple. We sat and talked for a while. In the course of the conversation it became apparent that they had not worshiped God for a long time, even though they still claimed to be Christians. I asked them how long it had been since they had been in church or read their Bible. They thought for a moment and then estimated that it had been 22 years. I then remarked how marvelous it was that they were still Christians after so long a time without the nourishment of the Word, because certainly if they had stopped going to the refrigerator 22 years earlier, they would have been lying in their caskets already for more than 21 years.
It is not surprising that the Scripture is called food and water for our faith. After all, faith is a living thing. It is nurtured and sustained by spiritual food, which is found nowhere but in Word and Sacrament. NIVIsaiah 55:1,2 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare” NIVJoel 3:18 In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the LORD’s house and will water the valley of acacias. NIVPsalm 36:8,9 They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. 9 For with you is the fountain of life.
There is a diversity of souls on earth and each has its own need and requirement. Yet the word of God satisfies the needs of all and of each individually. If the food of all kings who ever lived and who ever will live were gathered in one heap, it could not in the least be compared with the smallest word of God. Therefore Christ in the gospel likens this to a marriage feast, etc. [Matthew 22:1–10], and Isaiah to a costly, choice, and magnificent banquet [Isaiah 25:6].21
Many of us derive great pleasure from eating. We don’t just eat to live. We live to eat! The many potluck dinners and picnics we enjoy in our congregations testify to our love for good food. God made our bodies to crave nourishing food which sustains us through life. This desire for food is good, since without enough food or water we would die.
Our Christian faith is also a living thing. It craves to be fed with spiritual food and drink. NIV1 Peter 2:2,3 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. If we are not hungry for the word of God, something is wrong. Let’s spend a lot of time in the kitchen in this great home of God’s Word. Let’s raid the refrigerator full of spiritual food. Our Christian faith loves spiritual potlucks, feasting on the many truths of God’s Word.
E. A home with a restful and refreshing environment
“Come unto me, ye weary, And I will give you rest.”
O blessed voice of Jesus, Which comes to hearts oppressed!
It tells of benediction, Of pardon, grace, and peace,
Of joy that hath no ending, Of love which cannot cease.
(TLH 276, v1; ELH 413, v1)
A home is such a wonderful place. What is the question we hear from the back seat as we head home from a long road trip? “Are we home yet?” “Home” is a comfortable and familiar place—a place where we can raid the refrigerator, sleep in a comfortable bed, settle into our favorite easy chair, use our own computer, stroll through our own back yard, play with our children and channel surf at will. It is not surprising to see the little sign “Home Sweet Home” at the entrance to many a house.
No matter how many problems we may have had growing up, still we have fond memories of our childhood home. We recall the safe feeling we had knowing that mom and dad were in the house. We felt secure and cozy as we were tucked into bed beneath warm covers on a cold winter night when the wind was howling outside.
The Scripture is “home sweet home” for our Christian faith. It is a comfortable, relaxing place for the child of God. Jesus said, NIVMatthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” The word of the living God is a place to find rest and as time goes by we find more and more comfort in it. NIVPsalm 85:8 I will listen to what God the LORD will say; he promises peace to his people, his saints. NIVPsalm 4:8 I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. NIVActs 10:36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.
Because the word of God brings such rest and refreshment to us, the place where we hear and learn it becomes a restful place by association. We want our churches to be restful places for God’s people. Even if there is a lot going on and we have many duties to perform at church, we must never come to see our church as a tiring place to go. It is a great concern when people get so tired out doing “church work” that they begin to skip worship. This is not good. We will want to say with the Psalmist, NIV Psalm 84:1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty!
A great home is a place of rest and refreshment. The word of God is all of this and more.
F. A home with lots of room for family, friends and strangers
Oh, make Thy Church, dear Savior, A lamp of burnished gold
To bear before the nations Thy true light as of old!
Oh, teach, Thy wand’ring pilgrims By this their path to trace
Till, clouds and darkness ended, They see Thee face to face!
(TLH 294, v4; ELH 171, v3)
Is it not true that one of the greatest joys of home is when it is the place the family gathers? This is why we so love our church home too, or ought to. It is the place where our dear brothers and sisters in Christ gather. It is so wonderful to be around family and enjoy the word of the Lord together.
Jesus alludes to this family experience, when he says in NIVJohn 8:35 “Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.” We are indeed all children of God through faith in Jesus Christ and therefore not slaves, but children who feel at home in the Word.
Some parents prefer that their children feel free to bring their friends home to socialize, rather than run around with them out there somewhere. These parents help make this happen by making their children’s friends feel welcome in their home. I conducted a graveside service recently for a woman whose children remembered with special fondness how their mom used to sit at the table with their high school friends, drink a Coke with them, and converse about anything and everything. They loved her, because she showed love and concern for them.
The word of God is a home like this. God our Father wants us to invite our family, friends, and strangers to enjoy the home with us. It welcomes all in the hope that they will repent and trust in Jesus as their Savior. There is plenty of space to accommodate the whole world in the home of the Word and still have excess capacity.
That God’s Word is such a spacious home reassures our synod this year that it is good to continue our world mission outreach to South America and Europe and even look to expand mission work to India and South Korea and perhaps eventually into China. The love of God for all people reminds us to reach out to the people of many cultures and ethnic groups in and around our own communities in America. The family of God is composed of many blood-bought souls from around the world. John wrote in the final book of Scripture, NIVRevelation 7:9,10 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
G. A home built with unchanging standards
O word of God Incarnate, O Wisdom from on high,
O Truth unchanged, unchanging, O Light of our dark sky—
We praise Thee for the radiance That from the hallowed page,
A lantern to our footsteps, Shines on from age to age.
(TLH 294, v1; ELH 171, v1)
The General Electric “Carousel of Progress” at Disneyworld’s Magic Kingdom is beginning to show its age. My wife and I rode it twice last year. It broke down for a few minutes each time. It is clearly suffering the ravages of time. Strange, isn’t it, that a ride designed to show change over time, is wearing out.
What a great concept Walt Disney had many years ago, though, when he decided to seat his guests in a theater revolving around a stationary center stage, so that they could move through four stages in an American family’s life—1900, 1920, 1940 and 2000 (originally 1980, but time has moved on). It is noteworthy that not only the home appliances and furnishings change dramatically, but the family members’ values also. Women go from doing laborious housekeeping chores in 1900 to working outside the home in 2000. All family members have much more leisure time. In the fourth scene, even grandma is playing video games.
In such a rapidly changing world it is especially sad to see many human relationships not lasting. Although neighborhoods with row after row of homes look really nice on the outside, on the inside too many families are disintegrating, leaving scores of victimized and traumatized children in their wake.
When asked the basis on which they form their moral choices, nearly half of all adults (44%) cited their desire to do whatever will bring them the most pleasing or satisfying results. Roughly one-sixth of the adult public (17%) bases its moral decisions on what they believe will make other people happy or minimize interpersonal conflict. The same percentage (17%) credits the values they were taught by their family as the dominant influence on their moral considerations. About one out of four adults (24%) lean primarily upon religious principles and teaching or Bible content when making moral decisions.22
The results of this study caused George Barna to remark:
Americans are correct in suggesting that the moral state of the country is in decline, but they may be looking in the wrong place to find the genesis of the problem. Almost half of the population—47%—holds a non-biblical moral view on at least four of the eight core behaviors we tested, suggesting that perhaps the moral problems of the nation are not always attributable to other people but often relate to our own attitudes and actions.23
In the midst of all this change, much of it not positive, there is hope in the unchanging and liberating truth of the word of Christ. NIVPsalm 90:1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.
God never changes. NIVJames 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. NIVHebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Just like the God who gave it, the word of the Lord does not change either. The law of God still demands perfection. The wonderful gospel still offers full and free forgiveness through faith in Christ. NIVNumbers 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?
On Saturday, June 25, 2005, we will be celebrating the 475th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession. Why do we celebrate the anniversary of such an ancient document? It’s because the Augsburg Confession is still true and timely! It is because the truths confessed in 1530 are none other than the doctrines of the unchanging word of God, the truths we still confess. As we listen to the introduction to the Augsburg Confession as first presented to Emperor Charles V, we can hear our own voices:
In dutiful obedience to Your Imperial Majesty, we offer and present a confession of our pastors’ and preachers’ teaching and of our own faith, setting forth how and in what manner, on the basis of the Holy Scriptures, these things are preached, taught, communicated, and embraced in our lands, principalities, dominions, cities and territories.24
We see truths in the Augsburg Confession that we still hold dear. We still confess the Triune God, original sin, Jesus as true God and true man, justification by faith alone, the holy ministry, the Christian life, one holy Christian Church, the Word and Sacraments as the Means of Grace, good works as the fruit of faith, and Christ’s return to judge. We still reject the errors condemned in the document. If the Lord waits another 475 years or more before returning in judgment, the Augsburg Confession will still be right up to date, because God’s Word does not change.
H. A home built to last forever
Some of the new building materials available to homeowners today are designed to last longer than ever before. They are made to last longer than their inhabitants. Of course, neither a home nor its inhabitants last forever on the earth.
There are no U-haul trailers behind hearses. We can never take our earthly homes with us into eternity. However, we can and will take with us the word of God, which has been our home throughout life. The word of God will outlast every attempt to destroy it. “The word of God abides forever. No amount of raging, blustering, blasphemy, or cursing will change this.”25 NIV1 Peter 1:24,25 All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, 25 but the word of the Lord stands forever.”
There have been many attempts through the years on the part of Christ’s enemies to tear down the dream home of God’s Word. None of the efforts has succeeded, nor will they.
Christ’s gospel prospered most where it was least tolerated. For when the hour struck, the tyrants perished, and the Word carried the day. Jerusalem and Rome serve to illustrate that. And also today, where princes and bishops oppose the gospel most vehemently, there it must take root and flourish most.26
We have seen that the word of God is the perfect home for us disciples to grow in faith and thrive in our discipleship. It is a strong, secure, nourishing and restful place. It is a home we love to share. It never changes and it lasts forever.
God’s Word is our great heritage And shall be ours forever;
To spread its light from age to age Shall be our chief endeavor.
Through life it guides our way, In death it is our stay.
Lord, grant, while worlds endure, We keep its teachings pure
Throughout all generations.
(TLH 283; ELH 583)
Part III. It’s the home where we grow in knowledge of the truth
… And you shall know the truth …
Being at home in the word of God is never just a case of using the Word, but using it properly. Jesus said, “If you abide in my Word, you are really my disciples and you will know the truth.” The word of God has a single saving purpose. It exists to create disciples of Jesus and sustain them through saving knowledge of the truth. NIV2 Timothy 3:15 From infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Using the word of God well means finding Jesus in it and, by doing so, finding our salvation. NKJ John 5:39 “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” We will want to study the Word always looking for Jesus and asking ourselves, “Where is Jesus in the verses I am reading and where is his promise of salvation?” In fact, it is extremely important to focus on the good news of forgiveness, because it is possible to study the Bible intently and yet not be saved.
While studying in the Holy Lands, a seminary professor… met a man who claimed to have memorized the Old Testament—in Hebrew! Needless to say, the astonished professor asked for a demonstration. A few days later they sat together in the man’s home.
“Where shall we begin?” asked the man.
“Psalm 1,” replied my professor, who was an avid student of the psalms.
Beginning with Psalm 1:1, the man began to recite from memory, while my professor followed along in his Hebrew Bible. For two hours the man continued word for word without a mistake as the professor sat in stunned silence. When the demonstration was over, my professor discovered something even more astonishing about the man—he was an atheist! Here was someone who knew the Scriptures better than most Christians ever will, and yet he didn’t even believe in God.27
Even though the Bible can be used without the proper outcome, we will not want to be afraid to use the Scriptures often. We grow in personal, saving knowledge of Christ only through our use of the Word—in worship, Bible Study, Christian education, devotional life, and personal Bible reading. None of these are distinct ventures. They are all facets of the one great endeavor to… NIV2 Peter 3:18 grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let’s find a wonderful home in the Word.
A. Growing through worship around the Word
For many Christians one hour of worship each week is their only time at home in the Word. The rest of the time they are on the road, as it were, not returning home again for days. For far too many Christians, there is not even one hour a week in worship. Perhaps there is one hour per month, or less. In our Evangelical Lutheran Synod, for example, only 46% of baptized members actually gather in our congregations to worship God each week.28 (The number does not even account for a certain number of visitors each week.) Similar numbers would certainly exist in the congregations of our sister synod, the Wisconsin Synod. According to a survey by George Barna, those percentages are pretty much true across all denominations:
From the mid-eighties to the mid-nineties, church attendance was on a roller coaster ride. In 1986, 42% of adults attended a church service during a typical week in January. Attendance rose steadily, reaching a peak of 49% in 1991, before beginning a very slow but steady descent back to 43% in January, 2004.29
Apparently, a typical Bible-belt church may do a little better than others. However, since its worship services often tend to focus on experience, testimony, personal revelation and other more subjective activities rather than on God’s Word as the means of grace, we might properly wonder how effectively they really keep people at home in the Word.
The real challenge facing our congregations may not be getting large crowds to church on Sunday mornings, but getting them there for the right reason. Do the people love the word of God so much that they want to hear it and grow in their Christian faith? Luther’s simple explanation to the Third Commandment is still the best summary of what we will want our attitude toward worship to be. “We should fear and love God, so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold is sacred and gladly hear and learn it.”
Worship is of supreme importance. It is the key to the rest of our Christian life. When our worship habits are healthy, we tend to manage our resources more diligently. We tend to love the Word and take a firmer confessional stand on its unchanging truth when we worship often. General spiritual health and wellbeing are directly proportional to worship attendance. After all, “Satan’s greatest victories do not lie in getting unbelievers to heap vice upon vice, but in lulling believers into taking God’s Word lightly.”30
This (the third) commandment is violated not only by those who grossly misuse and desecrate the holy day, like those who in their greed or frivolity neglect to hear God’s Word or lie around in taverns dead drunk like swine, but also by that multitude of others who listen to God’s Word as they would to any other entertainment, who only from force of habit go to hear preaching and depart again with as little knowledge of the Word at the end of the year as at the beginning.31
Since Christ has fulfilled God’s law for us, setting us free from the curse of the law, we are not bound by any hard-and-fast rule to keep a particular Sabbath day. In his sermon “How Christians Should Regard Moses” Luther wrote:
Isaiah says in the last chapter, “When the Savior comes, then such will be the time, one sabbath after the other, one month after the other,” [Isaiah 66:23] etc. This is as though he were trying to say, “It will be the sabbath every day, and the people will be such that they make no distinction between days. For in the New Testament the sabbath is annihilated as regards the crude external observance, for every day is a holy day,” etc.32
Luther wrote also in the Large Catechism: “We keep holy days so that people may have time and opportunity, which otherwise would not be available, to participate in public worship, that is, that they may assemble to hear and discuss God’s Word and then praise God with song and prayer.”33 Yes, the Lord still wants us to establish times for worship, so that we may come together regularly for our spiritual strengthening. NIVHebrews 10:24,25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. At the 1989 synod convention Pastor Gaylin Schmeling reminded us, “The life-giving Word, which creates faith in us, also strengthens faith and preserves us in that faith. Through the Word, the Holy Spirit is given in all His fullness with all His many gifts. Here the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation are offered and bestowed.”34
Of course, our old sinful nature will have none of this. It does not desire to build anything on the word of God. It battles within us to get us to move away from Christ. It wants to live anywhere but in the Scripture. Our sinful nature wants to build on the best of human intelligence. It keeps on complaining just as did the people to whom Jesus was speaking, “I have never been a slave to anyone.” It sees any attempt to build on Scripture as the equivalent to being put into prison.
It is our new nature in Christ that loves the word of God. It loves the beauty of the mansion of God’s Word. It loves nothing more than the certainty of that sure foundation of the Apostles and Prophets with Jesus Christ himself as the chief cornerstone. It loves the flawless construction of all the teachings of the Bible, each being an important part of the unit. It loves to be refreshed by the Water and Bread of Life. It loves the lasting security and assurance of eternal life in Christ. The new nature of the child of God simply loves the Word and wants to abide in it.
The truth is, then, that we can say what we will about the word of God and what a wonderful home it is, but if we fail to spend time there, it is evidence that our Christian faith is dangerously weak and in need of an immediate feeding.
Remember, then, that you must be concerned not only about hearing the Word but also about learning and retaining it. Do not regard it as an optional or unimportant matter. It is the commandment of God, and he will require of you an accounting of how you have heard and learned and honored his Word.35
B. Growing through Bible Study—Public and Private
There are so many great opportunities for Bible study these days that we would do well to search out and make use of as much of this study material as we can. Our own synod will soon provide a Bible study on the book of Hebrews to be used synod-wide. It will only be helpful if it is actually used.
For many years the WELS synod magazine Forward in Christ has offered Bible study as a regular feature. These days it is in the form of a brief interactive study. I recall those days in the old Northwestern Lutheran it was called “Mining the Treasures of God’s Word”36 and was excellent as well. Our own Lutheran Sentinel has had recent series of studies on Isaiah and the Psalms.
1988 – 20%
1993 – 21%
1998 – 26%
2003 – 27%
Of course, the greatest opportunity for Bible study remains in the local congregation on Sunday morning or during the week. Growing percentages of our members are seeing the value in this kind of corporate Bible study. A quick review of the Synod Reports shows that from 1988 to 2003 the number of people in Bible class as a percentage of the number who worship on a Sunday has gone from 20% in 1988 to 27% in 2003. (1988, 20%; 1993, 21%; 1998, 26%; 2003, 27%) The improvement is good, but the actual percentage is still very low, with only slightly better than one in four benefiting from both Bible class and worship. It would certainly be great to get that number up to 30%, 50%, and even beyond. The sooner the better.
Keep in mind, too, that only 46% of our members are in worship on a given Sunday and it is 25% of those 46% who are in Bible class. This means that overall only 11–12% of all our adult members are in Bible class any week. It should not surprise us that there will be Scriptural ignorance and corresponding weakness in the Christian faith and life of those who do not study the Word. Nor will it surprise us that almost inevitably the one person in ten who is in Bible class is also among the most active in the life of the congregation and most vividly displays the fruit of the Christian faith in daily life!
We see, then, this cycle in the Christian’s life. Those who immerse themselves in the word of the Lord grow in grace and demonstrate their increased faith through works of Christian service. Those who grow in grace and demonstrate their increased faith through works of Christian service immerse themselves in the word of the Lord even more.
It is the intention of Paul that we should be rich in the word of God (1 Corinthians 1:5), because our adversary, the devil, prowls around (1 Peter 5:8). Therefore it is not only pleasing to God but also necessary for us that we abide in the word of God, and we have no other weapons (Ephesians 6:10–17). Lest we become lazy, then, we want to devote ourselves to our food, and while we have the light, we want to give attention to the light; because the time will come when we would be glad to study if we could.37
C. Growing through Christian Education
According to Pastor Ted Aaberg in his history of the Norwegian Synod (A City Set on a Hill), our forefathers in the old Norwegian Synod had greater success establishing institutions of higher learning than elementary schools. In 1861 they founded Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. Afterward, in 1876 a seminary was founded in Madison, Wisconsin. Academies (more or less high schools) sprang up and flourished in many places. All of these were important institutions where “young people, with their Christian training, became a source of spiritual strength in home and church.”38 He goes on to say:
Parochial schools flourished from the beginning, but they were not of the kind established, for example, by the Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Synod, which covered the whole field of education. The Synod’s parochial schools generally were conducted alongside public school, with the children attending both schools, public and parochial during the year… the Christian Day School never really “caught on” in the Norwegian Synod, due largely, no doubt, to the mistaken notion among many Norwegians that such a school was not quite “American.”39
Nonetheless, a noble goal of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod was and is to help parents teach their children the wonders of God by providing for solid Christian education.
Today, after 88 years of the ELS, we are continuing to put money behind our effort to encourage our congregations to begin preschool or elementary education. Congregations can receive financial assistance through the Board for Education and Youth for startup costs. The annual proceeds of the “His Truth for Our Youth” fund make available up to $50,000 to a new school over a period of years. At this convention, we are hearing about the progress of the new “Lutheran Schools Initiative” (Lutheran Schools of America). LSI (LSA) is an effort to assist congregations with more than just the startup costs. Both programs are designed to help more congregations establish schools for their children — children who will then be more at home in the word of God.
Although the circumstances were not quite the same in the 16th century, Luther strongly encouraged Christian schools:
Now I have preached and written a great deal urging that good schools should be established in the cities in order that we might produce educated men and women, whence good Christian pastors and preachers might come forth so that the word of God might continue to flourish richly. But people take such an indifferent attitude toward the matter, pretending that it might cost them their whole livelihood and temporal possessions, that I fear the time will come when schoolmasters, pastors, and preachers alike will have to quit, let the word go, and turn to a trade or some other means of stilling the pangs of hunger; just as the Levites had to abandon the worship of God to till the fields, as Nehemiah writes [Nehemiah 13:10].40
Often congregations may be reluctant to begin Lutheran schools or preschools because they perceive them to be too costly. But there is a great cost in not having Lutheran schools too. The cost is just measured differently. Not having a school may leave an entire generation less prepared to face the tempter in a world where he has far too many cohorts already. Not having Lutheran schools may mean having adult members not as well-trained as they otherwise may have been. Not having a school deprives many Christians of the opportunity to witness what great sponges for the word of God children truly are when given the daily opportunity to learn.
In our schools children absorb the wonders of their Creator as they see him in their math, science, English, and geography classes. They soak up the good news that Jesus loves them and gave himself for them. They absorb and then recount Bible stories with such ease and beauty that church members, parents and grandparents often need sponges to soak up their tears of joy and amazement.
Christian education for children in schools operated by our congregations is a fantastic way to keep them abiding at home with their Lord and his Word, so that they come to know with conviction the truth about the Savior who loves them.41
D. Growing through private and family devotion
It is good that people are being encouraged to have family or private devotions. It is good that each year our synod’s Board for Education and Youth produces Advent and Lenten devotions for the family. It is good that our sister synod the WELS continues to publish Meditations. It is good that there are daily devotions online at the WELS website. It is good that God has moved faithful Christians, past and present, to use their talents to write many other fine devotional books, some of which are listed in Appendix A of this essay.
The real value of these devotional books is that they keep us in the Scripture on a regular basis and help us apply it to our lives. Our private devotions are often the place where we learn to pray to the Lord from the heart—our half of a wonderful conversation with God. He speaks to us in his Word. We speak to him in our prayers. Devotions clearly improve our listening life and our prayer life.
A strong, private, devotional life is important even for our pastors, or perhaps especially for our pastors. We might think that since they work with the word of God so much in their daily preparation for sermons and Bible class they do not need to think too much about their personal devotional life. Wrong! As pastors prepare classes and sermons, counsel the sick and dying, and stay abreast of the challenges facing God’s people daily, they will find themselves frustrated and emptied of strength, unless they spend time with their Lord in Scripture and lay before him their fervent prayers for themselves and their flock.
It is sometimes said of certain carpenters that while they give attention to the carpentry needs of others, the carpentry needs in their own home are the last to be tended to, that they readily take care of the carpentry needs of others, and thus let their own house fall into disrepair. God forbid that a similar thing should be the case as far as the devotional life of pastors is concerned… If (pastors) do not tend to their own devotional life, they themselves suffer spiritually on account thereof, and what is more, their congregations will suffer.42
For all of us—pastors, teachers and laity—living at home in the Word, in many respects begins or ends in the home. Pastor Luther Vangen made these remarks to the synod convention in 1966.…
Educating for eternity begins in the home. Here is where we first learn the only wisdom and knowledge which really matters for time and eternity. Here we first learn to utter the name of Jesus…. In the home we first learn to pray to our Triune God. In the home we first learn that God’s law is an “absolute” according to which every member of the family strives to live and please God. In the home we first learn a Christian outlook on life…. In the home we first learn a Christian sense of values and begin to understand which things in life come first and are most important. Here we first learn to treasure and love God’s Word and to gladly hear and learn it.
All these things we learn first in the home—in a Christian home, that is. For in a home that is not Christian we might just as easily learn to curse and swear from hearing father and mother… In such a home we might first be filled with a materialistic outlook on life… that the really important things in life are having a good time, getting on in the world, money, and all the things that money can buy. We might also learn that church and Sunday School are a sort of burden that comes with each Sunday. … We might never learn to know what alone really matters for time and eternity, that is, we might never learn to know the way that leads to life.43
E. Growing through personal Bible reading and prayer
When a certain son left for his freshman year at Duke University, his parents gave him a Bible, assuring him it would be a great help. Later, as he began sending them letters asking for money, they would write back telling him to read his Bible, citing chapter and verse. He would reply that he was reading the Bible—but he still needed money. When he came home for a semester break, his parents told him they knew he had not been reading his Bible. How? They had tucked $10 and $20 bills by the verses they had cited in their letters.44
Charles Spurgeon presumably said, “A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone whose life isn’t!”
In the Scripture we learn that in the first days of the Christian church following Pentecost, no one needed to tell the new believers that it was time for them to engage in Bible reading and worship. NIVActs 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Later Paul encountered the Bereans who were more faithful than the Thessalonians for they studied the Scripture daily, to see whether what Paul had said was true (Acts 17:11). It is when spiritual coldness and apathy begin to make inroads into Christendom that Bible reading and worship begin to deteriorate in quality and quantity. The Apostles warned Christians about the dangers of neglect of the Word. (Hebrews 2:1–3; 5:12–14; Revelation 2 & 3)
Concerning the letters of princes it is stated in a proverb that they should be read three times; but surely the letters of God…should be read seven times three, yes, seventy times seven or, to say even more, countless times. For they are divine wisdom, which cannot be grasped immediately at the first glance. If someone reads them superficially like familiar and easy material, he deceives himself.45
So read the Word, and don’t get tired of it, for satiety, getting tired of the Word is about the worst thing that can happen. It’s more dangerous than the troublesome heretics.46
I am glad to have warned you against satiety and surfeit; for if any danger threatens our doctrine, it comes from this vice. Although heretics and sects work much harm, they nevertheless force us to search the Holy Scriptures diligently. But this pest, satiety for the Word, is born in us, and its danger is the greater the less we are able to note it. When we begin to snore and to be secure and surfeited, Satan is sure of victory.47
Our fathers came to America with the love of truth enshrined in their hearts and the beloved Bible in their hands. Faced with the tremendous and consuming task of building a church of the pure Word and of wresting a living from the wilderness, they yet found time to transform their mean (lowly) dwellings into veritable houses of God with daily Bible reading and prayer. Does the same love for God and for His precious Word still move us Christians to diligent observance of family devotion? Are we worthy successors of our fathers? Let each one answer this question for himself.48
Theodore Laetsch also analyzes the reasons people give for not reading the Bible at home. Why is the Bible a forgotten book even in many Lutheran homes?49
- There is no time. “Such an excuse is convenient, comfortable, but it is neither valid nor truthful.” Is there time for eating and drinking?
- There are parents who never developed the habit, and therefore do not pass it on to their children.
- There is “unfamiliarity with the content and divine power of the Bible.”
- There is a loathing of Scripture, resulting from coercion during childhood, real or imagined, which turned them off to Bible reading.
- There is a sense of being unable to read the Bible.
- There is indifference.
Bible reading plans have become very popular in recent years. Appendix B lists an unusual source of such plans for the person who likes to use cyberspace. There are certainly many other plans available that may fit our tastes.
Part IV. It’s the home which gives perfect freedom
… and the truth shall make you free.”
A. Freedom from all the enemies which assailed us
It is never any fun for people to head to the “big house” because of their crimes. In prison they don’t have freedom anymore. Instead, every moment of life is dictated by the warden and watched over by the prison guards.
Contrast that to our lives in our wonderful homes in our fabulously free country. We get up in the morning and we are free to walk outside, read our Bible, get our breakfast, check on the children, watch TV, do exercises, go to church, or almost anything our heart desires. Our homes are living evidence of our freedoms.
Without Christ as our Savior we live in the “big house” of sin, Satan, death and hell. NIVPsalm 107:10–12 Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains, 11 for they had rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High. 12 So he subjected them to bitter labor; they stumbled, and there was no one to help. NIVGalatians 3:23 Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. In John’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us that we remain slaves to sin unless and until, by faith in Christ, we are set free.
In the People’s Bible on the book of Proverbs, Roland Cap Ehlke, makes the following comment about Proverbs 21:16:
(NIVProverbs 21:16 A man who strays from the path of understanding comes to rest in the company of the dead.) We might drive our car off the road and get stuck in a ditch. We could even have a serious or fatal accident. Straying from God’s road is much more serious. The devil might tempt us to think that rejecting the Bible is the road to a full and free life. The fact is that the disobedient man gets the opposite of what he expects. Instead of freedom of movement, he “comes to rest.” Instead of fuller life, he ends up “in the company of the dead.” This is not just physical death but spiritual death and unless repented of, eternal death.50
Imprisonment is particularly terrible when it enslaves a person who once tasted freedom. In our day and age, so many people are being enticed into Reformed51 churches, which appear to offer freedom in Christ, but instead focus on the law of God rather than the gospel. Imprisoned are those who want to free themselves by works of the law, rather than trust the simple gospel.
“Do something,” said the devil to Eve, “if you want to be free from the ignorance in which a jealous God wants to keep you by forbidding you to eat from a tree whose fruit can make you wise.” “Do something,” said the medieval theologian, “if you want to be free from the dominion and the consequences of sin.” “Take a vow of celibacy, if you want to be free from the evils of sex and a vow of poverty to set yourself free from the love of money which is the root of all evil.”
And the modern theologian still operates with the same principle. “Do something.” he says, or she says, “if you want to be free from male domination.” “Do something, if you want to be free to sit at any lunch counter or in the front of the bus.” “Do something if you want to be free from pollution and the threat of nuclear war.”
Or, if you can’t do something yourself, pass another law that will force others to do something. Pass a law to make the rich set the poor free from poverty with their tax dollars. Pass a law that will free men from the effects of pollution.52
But the law never sets free. It only enslaves. The gospel alone sets free from all our enemies—sin, Satan, death and hell. The word of God liberates us because every passage of the Scripture leads us to Jesus our Savior. NIVIsaiah 61:1,2. The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God.
In love, God is encouraging and urging us to abide in his Word, for he knows that we will so easily become enslaved again to that which on the surface may sound good, but which strips us of our freedom in Christ. Many popular churches today seem to offer such liberating experiences. Yet, where there is no emphasis on the gospel, the “freedom” offered is really not freedom at all, but only a renewed slavery to principles of this world. NIVColossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. “Where legalism—no matter what form it takes or how trifling it may seem—lifts its head, the gospel in Word and sacrament is endangered.”53
To such (Reformed) theology… our people are being subjected by broadcast and telecast by press and by publication. How can this influence be counteracted? The answer does not rest in a resort to gimmickry in the pulpit or in an effort to out-huckster the huckster with a halo. The answer comes in three words: preach the gospel.
As never before, this is the time to preach and teach the gospel, to drive it with the Spirit’s power deep into the hearts and lives of the people. This is the time to shun like the plague any presentation in pulpit or classroom or office of a conditioned gospel that needs the work of man before it can amount to anything. This is the time to avoid studiously any motivation for the life of faith that is not born and bred in the gospel. This is the time for sola gratia, as it is also the time for grace for all. Neither Reformed Calvinism, that wars with the latter, nor Arminianism, that clashes with the former, dare be allowed to influence our people and to undermine their faith.54
We might add that this is also the time for sola Scriptura. There is such safety and refreshment in the word of God, such joy in Christ, that it is inconceivable that we would not come day by day to enjoy even more this very special home. For in the Word not only are we set free from every enemy, but set free to serve Christ.
B. Freedom to serve Christ in everything we say and do
There is a sign on a window in my neighborhood: “Freedom is never free.” The freedom we enjoy in America today, has cost many people their lives. Pastor Bill McMurdie of our ELS recalled an incident at the Battle of the Bulge:
I asked (PFC) Ison one day how come he was in our outfit, since married men with three children did not have to be in the infantry. He said he was a coal miner from West Virginia, and where he came from, freedom and the United States of America were very important… (later, during the battle) Suddenly I looked to my right and saw bullet after bullet hitting Ison… It was the most tragic sight I had ever seen… For me, PFC Robert Ison still lies beside that tree in Germany, a husband and a father who had indeed given his life so his children and the rest of us could live in freedom.55
Freedom from all our terrible spiritual enemies is what we enjoy in Christ. This freedom also came at a great price. It cost our dear friend, Jesus, his life. He shed his precious blood for the sins of the world—for our sins.
Christ set us free from our enemies, but not just to live as we please. We are free to serve him who rescued us from our sin. NIVGalatians 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. NIV Romans 6:18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
There is great danger in spiritual freedom. There is the danger of apathy. There is the danger of not remembering the price of freedom. There is the danger of abusing freedom, using it for our own selfish gain. The Apostle Paul reminds us not to misuse the freedom we have in Christ. NIVGalatians 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.
It is far too easy to believe that the “truth has set us free” not to worship God, not to have family devotions, not to read our Bibles, not to bring our offerings to the Lord, not to think about the lost in distant lands, not to concern ourselves with sound doctrine, and not to commit ourselves to Christian education for all ages. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We have been set free from our spiritual enemies not to ignore Jesus, but to live in him. We are set free to enjoy the home he gave us in the word of God. We are free to live within its secure walls, to raid its refrigerator of nourishment and refreshment, to plug into its awesome power to transform our thinking and our very lives, and to lie down and rest in it. We are free to go out to the highways and byways and beckon all to come in and enjoy the same home. We are free to pool our resources in the cause of Christian education at all levels. We are free to bring our offerings to support the work of the ministry at home and abroad. We are free to pray for the success of the Word.
Yes, we are free to abide in the Word, to truly be Jesus’ disciples, and to know the truth of God’s word in our experience, as we live in freedom in our “dream home.”
Someday the temporary homes in which we live here on earth will cease to exist. We will die and our souls will go to be with the Lord, while our bodies reside temporarily in cemeteries instead of homes. We dare not live here on earth as though we are permanent residents in it. God makes very clear in his Word that we are but strangers and foreigners here. NIV Hebrews 11:13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.
Even though we are aliens and strangers as far as life on this earth is concerned, we are permanent residents in the word of the living God. Because the word of the Lord endures forever, what we build on that Word, lasts forever too. So, today Jesus tells us that if we are to be his disciples, we are to “abide” or “remain in” or “reside in” his Word.
Only if you continue in My Word are you truly My disciples. It is not sufficient to begin to believe; no, it is necessary to continue and to persevere in adherence to the Word…. Stand fast. Do not flee. Do not retreat. If you have begun to believe, persevere in it.56
“If you make my word your home you will indeed be my disciples; you will come to know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (New Jerusalem Bible). There may be many others who thoughtlessly continue to misquote the final words of this verse and apply them to all sorts of wrong ideas about freedom. Let others do what they will! By the grace of God these words will always mean something very special to us—an invitation from our Savior to abide in his special, saving Word as the home where our Christian faith was born and is sustained, as the home where we live as disciples and grow in saving knowledge, and the home where we experience true freedom from all our enemies.
And so, my dear Christians, get to it, get to it, and let my exposition and that of all the doctors be no more than a scaffold, an aid for the construction of the true building, so that we may ourselves grasp and taste the pure and simple word of God and abide by it; for there alone God dwells in Zion. Amen.57
¡A Dios solamente sea la gloria!
Devotional life publications
Bartels, Mark (ed.). Cling to the Cross. ELS Board for Education and Youth.
Braun, John A. (ed.) His Word, Our Delight. Milwaukee WI: NPH, 1995.
Braun, John A. Up to Jerusalem. Milwaukee WI: NPH, 1997.
Kremer, Kenneth. At Home with the Psalms. Oshkosh WI: Kremer Publishing, 2001.
Laache, Nils Jakob. Book of Family Prayer. (Translated by Mark DeGarmeaux) Mankato MN: Lutheran Synod Book Company, 2000.
Lauersdorf, Richard. As Luther Taught the Word of Truth. Milwaukee WI: NPH, 2002.
Lauersdorf, Richard, God’s Children Never Die (Devotions for those facing death), Milwaukee WI: NPH, 2003.
Lauersdorf, Richard. Help Me, Lord. (Preparing for a loved one’s death). Milwaukee WI: NPH, 2003.
Lauersdorf, Richard, With Tears in Our Eyes (Grieving the death of a loved one), Milwaukee WI: NPH, 2003.
Lauersdorf, Richard, When Jesus is There (Help to endure sorrows). Milwaukee WI: NPH, 2003.
Lauersdorf, Richard. Together with Jesus. (Devotions for a year). Milwaukee WI: NPH, 2003.
Lindblom, Ines. Letters from Ines. Milwaukee WI: NPH, 2003.
Luther, Martin. A Simple Way to Pray. (Translated by C.J Trapp). Milwaukee WI: NPH, 1983.
Moldstad, Joslyn Wiechmann. At Home with Jesus. Milwaukee WI: NPH, 1992.
Paustian, Henry. Listen! God is Speaking to You! Milwaukee WI: NPH, 1992.
Schmeling, Gaylin. God’s Gift to You. (Devotions on the Lord’s Supper), Milwaukee WI: NPH, 2001.
Senkbeil, Harold. Where in the World is God? Milwaukee WI: NPH, 1999.
Senkbeil, Harold. Triumph at the Cross. Milwaukee WI: NPH, 1999.
Tacke, Rachel. Blessings by the Handful. (Devotions for women). Milwaukee WI: NPH, 2003.
Various authors. Little Visits (Devotional Series for parents and children), St. Louis MO: Concordia Publishing House.
Online Bible Reading Plans
I typed “Bible Reading Plans” into Google one day and got 191,000 sites. Granted, some of the ones down the list are probably not too viable, nor did I have the chance to check the details on very many. But here is a little sampling of what is available “free.”
- bibleplan.org. You may actually not only follow a Bible reading plan, but do your reading on the internet by going to bibleplan.org. The title on their home page is our verse for today: “If you continue in my word … you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” –Jesus (John 8:31–32 RSV)
Bibleplan.org has various Bible reading plans which then link to gospelcom.net where you can read the Scripture or make further choices about any of the 15 English translations or other languages you want (including Norsk, Spanish, Italian, German, French, Portuguese). So for the computer freak, you can pause right where you are, go to cyberspace, go to the site, click on the day’s reading, and do your devotion for the day.
Look at the 13 plans available to you!
- Whole Bible in a year
- Old Testament in a year
- New Testament in a year
- Old Testament in 2 years
- Words of Jesus 4 times a year
- Whole Bible Chronologically in a year
- Whole Bible Chronologically in a year #2
- New Testament Letters 3 times in a year
- New Testament and Proverbs twice, Psalms once in a year
- New Testament and Psalms twice, rest of Bible once in a year
- Proverbs in a month
- Gospels in a month
- Psalms in a month
This site is by far and away the most extensive plan and seems easiest to use, when you want to work right at your computer.
- Bible-reading.com has a reading plan, which also links to the actual reading and plays music in the background. (The music is annoying in some instances, although, thankfully, you have the choice to turn it off).
- Heartlight.org has several plans to choose from which can be downloaded in pdf format. You can go “Straight through the Bible in one year”, do “Different Topics”, read “Old and New Testament Each Day”, cover “The Story of the Bible” (a chronologically arranged reading) and/or read “New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs in one year.”
- Navpress.com offers two Bible reading plans which are downloadable in pdf format: The “Book-at-a-Time Bible Reading Plan” has readings from two locations in Scripture each day, an Old or New Testament book and wisdom literature. Their other plan “Original Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan” has reading from four locations each day — Old Testament, Gospel, Epistle, and Wisdom literature. There are a couple “free days” each month, which allow you to skip Sunday, for example. With either plan you can jump in any time.
- Dynamicapps.org allows you to follow an onscreen reading plan.
- Christianity.com has three Bible reading plans — a chronological Bible plan, Bible chart with daily Old and New Testament readings, and a Weekly Bible reading plan. These plans will print out in Windows Word. You would actually read from a printed Bible of your choice.
- Verseoftheday.com offers three plans — straight through the Bible, both Old and New Testament each day, and a different subject each day of the week. The subject plan has links for reading online.
- fruitsofthevine.com allows you to sign up for various Bible reading plans and the reading for the day is emailed to you free of charge. They have the 1, 2 and 3 year plans for reading the entire Bible plus plans for just the Old or New Testament.
- Allaboutgod.com has several Bible reading plans — a) the chronological plan (events in the order they occurred), b) historical plan (in the order of when the books were written), c) Old and New Testaments combined, d) beginning to the end, e) the yearly plan, and f) the blended plan by which several of the plans may be used together. The site links to the Scripture either for reading or listening (MP3). Available in audio form are the King James Version, New Living Translation, and the Spanish Reina Valera Version 1960. Available to be read online are the New Living Translation, New King James Version, New American Standard Bible, Revised Standard Version, Noah Webster Version, Robert Young Literal Translation (1898), the Hebrew Old Testament, the Latin Vulgate and a couple of others.
- wels.net our sister synod’s website has a Three-year-plan for reading the Scripture which generates an Excel spreadsheet that you may print out and follow. Follow the dropdown lists from “Faith ->Bible -> Read the Bible -> Three Year Plan.” Click on “Three Year Plan” and from there you can access the spreadsheet.
In addition to the reading plan you may get outlines and helps for each Book of the Bible.
- learnaboutJesus.com, our ELS evangelism website, does not have any Bible reading plans or links to online Scripture, but offers other material helpful for doing Bible reading and an online Bible Information Class.
1 Baumler, Gary. The People’s Bible, “The Gospel of John,” Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Publishing House, 1997, p. 129.
3 Barna, George. “Seven Paradoxes Regarding America’s Faith, Contradictions Regarding Religious Beliefs,” December 17, 2002.
4 Barna, George. “The Bible,” December 2004 (webpage).
5 Barna, George. “Twentysomethings Struggle to Find Their Place in Christian Churches, Other Signs of Struggle,” September 24, 2003.
6 Gallup, George. http://www.irfi.org/articles/articles_51_100/bible_reading_declines.htm
7 Luther, M. (1999, c1975). Vol. 18: Luther’s works, vol. 18: Minor Prophets I: Hosea-Malachi (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (Hag 1:1). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, p. 369.
8 Luther, M. (1999, c1972). Vol. 17: Luther’s works, vol. 17: Lectures on Isaiah: Chapters 40-66 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (Is 46:4). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
9 Tappert, T. G. (2000, c1959). The Book of Concord: Apology of the Augsburg Confession: XIII, 13. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, p. 212.
10 Tappert, T. G. (2000, c1959). The Book of Concord: Smalcald Articles: 3, VIII, 5-6). Philadelphia: Fortress Press, p. 312.
11 Luther, M. “Warning to the people of Frankfurt on the Main,” Luther’s Works, St. Louis ed., XVII, p. 2015.
12 Petersen, Wilhelm W. (2004). Seminary Graduation 1988, A Brief Legacy, p. 28.
13 It is clear that none of the patriarchs had the written Word, which God began to give through Moses. Nonetheless, they trusted in the Savior through God’s Word and promise handed down orally. The protevangelium (first Gospel) of Genesis 3:15 and the subsequent promise to Abraham that all nations would be blessed through his offspring were well-known.
14 Preus, Robert D. “Luther: Word, Doctrine and Confession,” Concordia Theological Quarterly, Concordia Theological Seminary: Ft. Wayne IN, vol 60:3, July 1996, p. 177.
15 Luther, M. (1999, c1972). Vol. 17: Luther’s works, vol. 17: Lectures on Isaiah: Chapters 40-66 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (Is 60:20). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
16 Maclaren, Alexander DD. Exposition of the Holy Scriptures, St. John Chapters I-XIV, p. 336.
17 Ibid., pp. 337-338.
18 Barna, George. “Seven Paradoxes Regarding America’s Faith, Deceptions Regarding Truth,” December 17, 2002.
19 Madson, Norman A. “The Power of the Word,” The Lutheran Synod Quarterly, Vol. XXII, Number 3, September 1982, p. 52.
20 Luther, M. Weimar Edition 21,469 as quoted in Ewald Plass, What Luther Says, Vol. III, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, p. 1486, 4803.
21 Luther, M. (1999, c1969). Vol. 42: Luther’s works, vol. 42: Devotional Writings I (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (Vol. 42, Page 56). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
22 Barna, George. “Practical Outcomes Replace Biblical Principles as Moral Standard,” September 10, 2001.
23 Ibid, same web page.
24 Tappert, T. G. (2000, c1959). The Book of Concord: Augsburg Confession, Preface; Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (The Confession of Faith: 1, 7-8). Philadelphia: Fortress Press, p.25.
25 Luther, M. (1999, c1958). Vol. 14: Luther’s works, vol. 14: Selected Psalms III (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (Ps 118:15). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, p. 78.
26 Luther, M. (1999, c1974). Vol. 19: Luther’s works, vol. 19: Minor Prophets II: Jonah and Habakkuk (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (Hab 2:19-3:17). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
27 Kuhatschek, Jack. Taking The Guesswork Out of Applying The Bible, IVP, 1991, p. 16 at bible.org
28 Report of the 87th Annual Convention of the ELS, 2004, statistics sheet.
29 Barna, George, Church Attendance, Barna Research Institute website. www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=Topic&TopicID=10
30 Peters, Thomas C. Cherish the Word – Reflections on Luther’s Spirituality. Concordia Publishing House: St. Louis. 2000. p. 62.
31 Tappert, T. G. (2000, c1959). The Book of Concord: The Large Catechism: 1, 96-97. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, p. 378.
32 Luther, M. (1999, c1960). Vol. 35: Luther’s works, vol. 35: Word and Sacrament I (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (Vol. 35, Page 165-166). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
33 Tappert, T. G. (2000, c1959). The Book of Concord: The Large Catechism: 1, 84. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, p. 376.
34 Schmeling, Rev. Gaylin, “God’s Gift to You: The Means of Grace,” Essay to the 1989 Synod Convention, 1989 Synod Report, p. 48.
35 Tappert, T. G. (2000, c1959). The Book of Concord: The Large Catechism: 1, 98. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, p. 378.
36 It was called “Mining the Treasures of God’s Word” until Harold E. Wicke stepped aside as editor in February 1982. As one might expect, James P. Schaefer changed the appearance of the magazine (adding four color in May of 1982) and changing the name of the Bible study section to “Studies in God’s Word.”
37 Luther, M. (1999, c1973). Vol. 28: Luther’s works, vol. 28: 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Corinthians 15, Lectures on 1 Timothy (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (1 Ti 1:1). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
38 Aaberg, Theodore A., A City Set on a Hill, Board of Publications of the ELS: Mankato MN, 1968, p. 10.
39 Ibid., p.10.
40 Luther, M. (1999, c1962). Vol. 45: Luther’s works, vol. 45: The Christian in Society II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (Vol. 45, Page 318). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
41 I do not mean to diminish the blessings of home schooling. For those Christian parents who have the time, ability and inclination to dedicate themselves to this labor of love day in and day out, I have only the highest praise and encouragement.
42 Bartels, Harry. “The Devotional Life of the Pastor in the Light of the Third Commandment,” Lutheran Synod Quarterly, Mankato:Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary, Vol XXX, Number 3, September 1990, p. 48.
43 Vangen, Rev. Luther. “Educating for Eternity,” ELS Synod Report, 1966, pp. 36-37.
44 Spach, John T. Reader’s Digest, reported at bible.org
45 Luther, M. (1999, c1961). Vol. 3: Luther’s works, vol. 3: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 15-20 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (Ge 17:7). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
46 Kuster, A.V. “Luther and the Word of God,” Lutheran Synod Quarterly, Mankato, Minnesota, Vol. 27, Number 3, September 1987, p 23.
47 Plass. Ewald. What Luther Says. Vol. III, Item 4807, p. 1487. (St. Louis IV, 1751)
48 Laetsch, Theodore, D.D. The Abiding Word, volume 1, Concordia Publishing House, 1947, p., 88.
49 Ibid., pp. 90-91.
50 Ehlke, Roland Cap, The People’s Bible, “Proverbs,” Northwestern Publishing House: Milwaukee, WI, 1992, p. 206.
51 I am using the term Reformed loosely, in a wide sense. Many of the groups referred to are actually Arminian (Decision Theology) in their teaching.
52 Becker, Dr. Siegbert W., Christian Liberty, Essay at the forty‑seventh biennial convention of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, New Ulm, Minnesota, August 1‑6, 1983, p.4.
53 Frederich, p.5.
54 Frederich, p.6.
55 McMurdie, Rev. William. Hey, Mac! This is Serious Business! A Guy Could Get Killed!, Gig Harbor WA: Red Apple Publishing (current publisher, Cameron MO: American Home School Publishing), 2002, pp. 73 & 78.
56 Luther, M. (1999, c1959). Vol. 23: Luther’s works, vol. 23: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 6-8 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (Jn 8:39). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
57 Luther, M. (1999, c1974). Vol. 52: Luther’s works, vol. 52: Sermons II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (Vol. 52, Page 286). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
Bartels, Harry. “The Devotional Life of the Pastor in the Light of the Third Commandment,” Lutheran Synod Quarterly, Mankato MN: Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary, Vol. XXX, Number 3, September 1990.
Baumler, Gary. The People’s Bible, “The Gospel of John,” Milwaukee WI: Northwestern Publishing House, 1997.
Becker, Dr. Siegbert W., Christian Liberty, Essay at the forty‑seventh biennial convention of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, New Ulm MN, August 1–6, 1983.
Frederich, Edward C. “The Influence of Reformed Theology on Our People in Regard to Word and Sacrament.” Minnesota District Pastors’ Conference. Bloomington MN. April 21, 1993.
Keller, Brian. Bible: God’s Inspired, Inerrant Word. Milwaukee WI: Northwestern Publishing House, 2003.
Kuhatschek, Jack. Taking The Guesswork Out of Applying The Bible, IVP, 1991, at bible.org.
Luther, Martin. Luther’s Works. Philadelphia PA: Fortress Press, 1994.
Madson, Norman A. “The Power of the Word,” The Lutheran Synod Quarterly, Vol. XXII, Number 3. Mankato MN. September 1982.
McMurdie, William. Hey, Mac! This is Serious Business! A Guy Could Get Killed, Gig Harbor WA: Red Apple Publishing (current publisher, Cameron MO: American Home School Publishing), 2002.
Morris, Leon. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. The Gospel According to St. John. Grand Rapids MI: Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971.
Peters, Thomas C. Cherish the Word – Reflections on Luther’s Spirituality. St. Louis MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2000.
Pink, Arthur. Exposition of the Gospel of John. Volume II. Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1945
Preus, Robert D., “Luther: Word, Doctrine and Confession,” Concordia Theological Quarterly, Concordia Theological Seminary: Ft. Wayne IN, vol 60:3, July 1996.
Schmeling, Gaylin. “God’s Gift to You: The Means of Grace,” ELS Synod Report. 1989.
Sahlstrom, Greg. “God’s Reliable Word: Our Passport to Knowing God,” Foundations of Faith (Adult Instruction Material), Chapter 1, 2005.
Vangen, Luther. “Educating for Eternity,” ELS Synod Report, 1966.