Archive for the category “1517 Legacy Articles”

“The Saddest Words Ever Spoken to a Sinner” and “Forgive Us Our Good Works”

Dear Friends,

This past week I had two articles appear on different websites that you might find of interest. One is “The Saddest Words Ever Spoken to a Sinner” on Christ Hold Fast and the other is “Forgive Us Our Good Words” on 1517 Legacy. Here is an intro to both of them, along with a link where you can read the rest of the article. Both websites are full of great, Christ-centered material. I encourage you to explore both of them. Thanks and, as always, God bless all of you who are such great encouragement to me as I continue to write about the grace of our Lord Jesus.

“The Saddest Words Ever Spoken to a Sinner”

Jesus said it would have been better for this man not to have been born. Shocking words, sad words. But they are not the saddest words in Scripture.

This man, Judas, said to the religious leaders that, for a pocketful of coins, he would betray his rabbi. Loveless words, sad words. But still they are not the saddest words in Scripture.

The saddest words in Scripture were not spoken by Jesus, nor by Judas Iscariot. Men who were entrusted with the holy things of God spoke them—priests who were called to offer sacrifices for sins, to teach people of Yahweh’s laws and his love. Yet when a conscience-stricken man stood before them and confessed, they told him that his sin was his own responsibility. Judas confessed, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood,” (Matt 27:4). And they replied with the saddest words ever spoken to a sinner, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And Judas saw to it himself, alright, by walking away, slipping a noose over his head, and ending his life….  Click here to continue reading

“Forgive Us Our Good Works”

If you want to be popular, get good at preaching against the world. It will win you friends. It will curry favor with the pious. I’m not talking around peccadillos; focus on mega-sins. The more popular they are in contemporary culture, the better. Good people like fist-pounding on the pulpit about the bad things that bad people do in this bad world of ours. It makes them feel better about themselves. It makes them seem more religious. And the more their religious souls are stroked, the better a preacher you’ll seem to them. Jesus himself might have had the Pharisees clapping if He’d have railed against the traitorous, money-hungry tax collectors instead of joining them for supper. What got Him in hot water was preaching against righteousness.

Preaching against righteousness is dangerous. Folks not only find it ludicrous; it’s a slap in their face. Such preaching is a frontal attack upon what everyone assumes is true. You sound as crazy as a man who refers to a beauty contest winner as a dog ugly tramp. Nobody in his right mind does that.

But somebody in his right theology does… Click here to continue reading

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What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

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Safe Preaching and the Prophylactic Gospel

About once a month, I have the privilege of contributing an article to the website 1517 Legacy. Here is the piece for this month, in which I dive into the story of Jonah, who is the best biblical example of “Safe Preaching and the Prophylactic Gospel.” There is a link at the end where you can read the remainder of the article. Thanks for taking the time to check it out! 

Jonah wanted nothing more than to be a safe preacher. His Lord could get carried away with love at times. He let it get the best of him. Jonah recognized this, and it pained him to see God act so shamefully. The prophet certainly knew better than to let God act that way toward such a hellhole as Nineveh. How embarrassing that would be. So when it came time to preach to this ancient Sin City, he played it safe and slipped a prophylactic over the Gospel. He showed God how to be a better, more responsible Father, one who is protective of his forgiveness. Or, at least, he went out of his way trying—quite literally. He went out of the way that the Lord had sent him. God said, “Go to Nineveh,” so Jonah hopped a ship bound for Tarshish.

Fast forward through the stormy sea, the man overboard, the three days stomached in a fish. Finally, arm-twisted into the pulpit, Jonah did preach. And, lo and behold, these sinners heeded the divine word. They fell all over themselves repenting. In what is one of the most comical scenes in the Bible, they even forced their animals to fast and clothed their cows in sackcloth! True to his word, God relented. He forgave them. The city of sinners became the abode of the absolved.

And Jonah? He was fit to be tied….. (to read the rest of the article, click here to visit the 1517 Legacy website)

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
You may also “like” my Facebook writings page

christ alone cover

What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

Scuba Diving for Sins and Learning Theology in the Devil’s Classroom

I had two articles published this week on different websites that might be of interest to you: “Scuba Diving for Sins” on Higher Things and “Learning Theology in the Devil’s Classroom” on 1517 Legacy. Here’s an intro to both of them, along with a link that will take you to the full article. Thank you!

“Scuba Diving for Sins”

He suspected it was an ambush. The sweet-sounding invitation to come over and join her on Tuesday afternoon. The smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies wafting through the air. The glass of cold milk sweating on the table. “Have a seat,” she smiled. He did. Polite small talk. He thanked her and ate a cookie. Drank half the glass of milk. Wiped his mouth with the perfectly folded napkin.

“So, you wanted to talk?”

She did. Not about the unseasonably warm weather or her grandchildren’s new puppy. Other things weighed heavy on her mind. She was concerned, she said. There were things he needed to know. Things about someone in the church.

“Oh,” he said.

“Yes,” she said.

Because he just needed to be aware of a bit of this person’s history. You know, since he was the new pastor and everything.

“Oh,” he said.

“Yes,” she said.

He took another bite of cookie. She cleared her throat and began, “Well, Pastor, there’s a person in this congregation who…”

“These are good cookies,” he said.

She was good at what she did. She concealed her frustration. Just an ever so slight tightening of the lips. “Well, thank you,” she said. “So, as I was saying, there’s a person who…”

But again he spoke. “Before you begin, can I ask you something?”

There was that tightening of the lips again. “I suppose, if you must.”

“Are you about to tell me about someone else’s sin? Because if you are, I need you to do something for me first.”

“And what exactly might that be?”

“First, tell me three of your deepest, darkest sins-you know, the ones you’ve been hiding from the world for years, the ones you don’t want anyone to find out about.”

“I can’t do that! Anyway, that’s no one’s business but my own.”

He picked up another cookie. Met her eyes. Chewed and swallowed. Finished off the milk. “So, what I hear you saying is that you are perfectly willing to confess someone else’s sins, but not your own?”

A long silence followed. Finally, she said, “Have I told you about my grandchildren’s new puppy?”

Everyone would rather hear evil than good about his neighbor, says Luther in the Large Catechism. And not only hear, but like the lady in this story, they’d rather speak evil than good about their neighbor as well.

It’s like this: When people hear that God has cast all our sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19), there are always some who put on scuba gear. Click here to read the full article…

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“Learning Theology in the Devil’s Classroom”

He was a dwarf of a man with coke bottle glasses, but when he told us boys about the Israelites walking dry-shod through the Red Sea, or Jacob rolling in the dirt with the angel, it was like he morphed into a giant Moses. With him, we were right there in the thick of things. He was my first Sunday School teacher. He was good. And he taught me about God. But he wasn’t my best teacher.

He exuded energy and excitement as he marched into the classroom, chalk in hand, to whiten the boards with declensions in Greek or paradigms in Latin. He ushered Rome and Athens into our classroom. Soon we were reading Paul in Paul’s original tongue. He was my language teacher in college. He was good. And he taught me about God. But he wasn’t my best teacher.

And along came more. Seminary profs who led us through the labyrinths of ancient heresies and dined with us on the rich cuisine of prophetic oracles. Jewish teachers in my graduate years who showed me how to swim in the deep waters of the Talmud and rabbinic lore. All of them were good. And they taught me about God. But they weren’t my best teachers.

My best teacher, the instructor who taught me more theology than any other, has been the devil. Click here to read the full article…

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
You may also “like” my Facebook writings page

christ alone cover

What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

The Sermon Written on the Bottom of Your Pastor’s Feet

I have the privilege of contributing a monthly article to the website 1517 Legacy, which is “committed to informing you about and providing the finest in books and teaching materials dedicated to fueling a new Reformation.” Here is my latest blog post for them, in which I give a new perspective on why Jesus traveled around so much, as well as what it means when the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of those who brings good news.” You can find the article by clicking here.

To read any of the four Gospels you almost need a GPS. It’s hard to keep up with where Jesus is at any moment in time. First He’s a toddler in David’s hometown, then He’s growing up in Pharaoh’s old stomping grounds. Then a few years later, He’s taking a circuitous route back to the family village of Nazareth. And after John baptizes him, He’s the ramblin’ Rabbi. Into the wilderness, back to Galilee, to Capernaum, into the country of the Gadarenes, round about Jerusalem. Our Lord is here and there and seemingly everywhere. “Jesus was going about all the cities and all the villages,” (Matthew 9:35). The soles of the holy feet of God traverse the soil of the holy land of promise.

Why so much walking? Why didn’t Jesus simply set up shop at a popular crossroads village or, better yet, the capital city? Let people come to Him. After all, folks were always searching Him out so they were sure to find Him. Part of the answer to that question is suggested way back in the life of Abraham. And the answer gets us to the heart of God’s mission of love, the goal of the ministry, and why the feet of Jesus’ messengers are so beautiful.

Shortly after we’re introduced to Abraham, the patriarch of Israel, he travels to Egypt because of famine in Canaan, gets into trouble with Pharaoh, the Lord sends plagues upon the regal house, and Abraham exits Egypt laden with that land’s spoils. Sound familiar? It should. What happened to Abraham was a mini-exodus; he was blazing the trail that his descendants would take in their own exodus. When Abraham arrives back in the promised land, God tells him to look north, south, east, and west. “All the land which you see, I will give it to you and your descendants,” the Lord says (Gen 13:15). Then he tells Abraham to take a hike: “Arise, walk about the land through its width and breadth; for I will give it to you,” (Gen 13:17).

Go ahead, pull out your red pen and underline that last verse. It’s key.

A custom in the ancient world—attested, for example, in Egyptian, Hittite, and Nuzi cultures—was to claim ownership of land by the symbolic act of walking upon it. The soles of your feet wrote your signature upon the soil. We see this same language elsewhere in the Scriptures, such as when God tells Israel, “Every place on which the sole of your foot shall tread shall be yours,” (Deut 11:24). God repeats the same promise to Joshua (Joshua 1:3). That’s also the reason behind the strange practice, recorded in Ruth, of exchanging ownership of property by the former owner handing his sandal to the new owner (Ruth 4:7). The shoes that had walked upon the land embody the land. To swap sandals is to exchange the land.

Thus, when God tells Abraham to traverse the length and breadth of the holy land, he’s telling the patriarch to claim it as his own. This is more than a walk, even more than a pilgrimage; it is God’s way of using human feet to demonstrate that here, in this place, on this land, he is establishing his kingdom on earth for the benefit of his chosen people. How beautiful are the feet of Abraham, for they bring the good news that this land is God’s land, where they will be his people and he will be their God.

Now let’s get back to Jesus, who never seems to sit still. Just like Abraham, Jesus also made a trip to Egypt early in His story. He had to flee when Herod was thirsty for His young blood. Later our Lord returned. He had His own mini-exodus, for He was following in the footsteps of Abraham and Israel, reliving and redeeming their lives. And just like Abraham took that symbolic journey around the holy land to claim God’s gift of holy soil as his own, so Jesus began to do the same.

Wherever our Lord walked, he was doing more than teaching and healing. He was establishing the kingdom of God. Every place on which the sole of Jesus’s feet trod, he was saying, “This is mine.” The kingdom of God, you see, is not merely a spiritual kingdom, as if physical space has nothing to do with it. We are creatures of the soil. We are rooted to the very ground from which our first father came. Thus Christ claims real dirt as His own, for real sinners reside on real soil. Wherever Christ traveled to proclaim His Father’s word, He was writing His signature upon that soil. North, south, east, and west in the holy land He traveled, everywhere pressing into that dirt the imprint of His beautiful feet that bring the Good News of salvation.

I’ve always thought it odd that Isaiah says, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news,” (52:7). Why the feet instead of the lips or the mouth or the tongue of him who brings good news? I think we find the answer in the life of Abraham, and the life of the Seed in whom Abraham believed. These beautiful feet belong to messengers, Isaiah says, who bring the good news that says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” In other words, these feet announce a kingdom, where God reigns over His people in grace and mercy. The mouth preaches, to be sure, but so do the feet. The feet say, “God has sent me to claim this place as His own, these people as His own, as those sinners among whom Christ reigns in peace.”

Luther once said that the church is a mouth-house, for there God’s Word is proclaimed. The church is also a foot-house, for there God claims this place for His kingdom, as the dirt upon which He announces peace to the world. How beautiful are the feet of God’s servants—no matter if they’re wearing cowboy boots or wingtips or sandals—for with those feet the Lord writes His own name into the soil of the sanctuary. The Father says, “This is the holy land. Right here is my kingdom. In this place my Son is King. These people, the sons of Abraham, the brothers and sister of Jesus, will be my people and I will be their God.”

With His own feet Christ once walked in the Garden to seek out fearful, naked sinners. There He made them a promise, that with His own heel He would smash the head of the serpent who had deceived them. With that heel, He did just that when He destroyed death by His own death upon the cross, and suffered His heel to be injected with the venom from the fangs of hell. Those feet—spiked by nails, struck by fangs—rose again to stand upon the earth in victory. And still they stand. Those at the foot of Jesus stand within the feet of His messengers who announce that we are forgiven, we are restored, we are remade in the image and likeness of Christ.

The next time you’re in church, as you watch your pastor walk into the sanctuary, step to the baptismal font, step up into the pulpit, and walk up to feed you with the body and blood of Jesus—take a moment to thank God for those feet. They are beautiful, for they are God’s way of claiming this place as His own and you as His own.

One of the most grace-filled, comforting, eloquent sermons you’ll ever hear is written on the bottom of your pastor’s feet.

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
You may also “like” my Facebook writings page

christ alone coverWhat we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

The Night We Defeated God

About once a month, I write an article for the website 1517 Legacy. Here is the beginning of my latest post for them: “The Night We Defeated God.” It is the story of Jacob wrestling with God. But it is about a greater story of a greater fight in which God is defeated that He might win us. 

I want a ringside seat at this fight. So close I can feel the spray of their sweat. It’s not every day you get to see man go toe-to-toe with God. Fight it out. Roll in the dirt. Batter and bruise and body-slam each other. But today’s that day. Finally, we get to see what God is really made of. Finally, he leaves his throne for our gutter. This is the chance we’ve all been waiting for.

Oh, yes, I’ve got a dog in this fight. His name’s Jacob. He’s not my first choice. I don’t care for Jacob. Never have. He’s got too much of me in him. He’s a liar and a cheat. He’s a coward and a user. All the men in the world who could have been the patriarch of the Old Testament church and this loser winds up on top. Married to two gals with a couple more co-wives on the side he employs as baby-makers. His family so fractured it’s the stuff of reality TV. On the outs with his twin brother for years. Here’s a man who seems to embody all my own sins. Not exactly hero material. But beggars can’t be choosers.

That God ever agreed to this fight seems the height of foolishness to me. Why come down from heaven? Why meet Jacob under cover of darkness, on the banks of this river, and wrestle with him through the small hours of the night? It’s not like He had to. He takes it upon Himself. He shows up, dressed in our skin, and picks a fight with the patriarch. You’ve got to wonder: does He have something up His sleeve?

I love the raw fury of the fight. I’ve poured everything I am into that man Jacob. All my own lying and cheating and cowardice. All my own anger and frustration and fears. All the fractures of my family. All my loneliness and hatred of life and feelings of worthlessness. All the stuff about me that I hate. It’s all in Jacob now. I am him and he is me…

Read the full article by clicking here.

I’m One of Those Lukewarm Christians

The following post appeared yesterday on 1517 Legacy, a website “committed to informing you about and providing the finest in books and teaching materials dedicated to fueling a new Reformation.” Here is the introduction, as well as the link which will take you to the remainder of the article. As always, thank you for taking the time to read my writings! I pray they are a blessing to all of you. Chad

I’m the spiritual equivalent of the guy who packs a King Size Snickers bar and a Dr. Pepper in his gym bag. I may hit the holy treadmill for a while, but my mind keeps wandering to the sugar high awaiting me. I want to be better, I try to be better. I say all the right prayers, speak all the right confessions, sing all the right songs, but all the while my lips are moving, it’s as if my heart is mumbling only half the words. Like the Christians at the church at Laodicea, who were neither hot nor cold, I’m always afraid God is ready to spit me out of his mouth (Rev 3:15-16).

I’m just not a very good Christian.

Case in point: on Sunday mornings, when I confess my sins, I say that “I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them.” But those adverbs are like two accusing fingers pointed at my less-than-heartily-sorry, less-than-sincerely-repentant heart. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not merely going through the motions. I am indeed sorry and I do repent. The problem is that there’s still part of me—the old me, the recalcitrant Adam—that clings to excuses and savors the sweet memory of ex-sins. If my heart were hooked up to a lie detector, I’d be in trouble, for my motives for confession are a motley crew.

The same goes for my love of the Lord. There’s a hymn we sing at my church: “Lord, Thee I Love With All My Heart.” It’s a killer hymn, powerful and beautifully true. But every time we sing it I feel the need to alter the words. If I were to sing a fully honest version, it would go something like this:

Lord, Thee I love with half my heart.
The world has claimed the other part.
I pray Thy name be hallowed, Lord,
But want my name to be adored.
Thy kingdom come, Thy reign extend,
And rain on me wealth without end.
Thy will be done, my lips shall pray
And curse when I don’t get my way.
I thank Thee for my daily bread,
But cakes and steaks I crave instead.
My million sins forgive, forget,
While I collect a one-cent debt.
From tempting evils keep us free
Unless I find they pleasure me.
Lord, Thee I love with half my heart.
The world has claimed the other part.

Here’s the question: Where does that leave me? Or, if you found yourself nodding your head, where does that leave us?

To continue reading, click here.

christ alone coverWhat we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

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