Jan 14, 2011

Readers forgive me...

it has been a very long time since my last post. For whatever reason, I feel I'm ready to re-enter the virtual world and contribute something of redeeming value, or not; you be the judge.

Stay tuned faithful readers. I may actually post more than once a year :)

Life update:
  • Family is awesome and doing great (thanks for asking)
  • Beginning my 3rd year of seminary and vicarage at Grace Lutheran (1/2 way there!)
  • Junior my cat is still grossly obese, in case you were wondering
  • Still working as an engineer for a defense contractor to put food on the table
  • Still live in the hood of Kensington (what up, K-town!)
  • Still pining for the Northwest; some day I'm gonna leave you SoCal.

Jul 1, 2009


Great blogpost from Ed Stetzer (Baptist mission guru) on thriving small churches. He points out how the church has created a "celebrity ministry" culture through conferences touting rock star pastors. He uses the phrase "ministry pornography" and I about fell out of my chair laughing when I read this, but it is so true.

Check-it out for yoursef: Small Churches can Thrive.

Jun 30, 2009

Primer on the Justification Situation

Most readers of this blog are probably aware of the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) and the debate over the old Lutheran doctrine of Justification versus the NPP verson. Proponents of each side have drawn their lines in the metaphorical sand by publishing books ad nauseum. Two of the more popular presenters have been Baptist pastor John Piper and Anglican bishop N.T. Wright. Piper came out swinging first with his book, The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright, which recieved accolades from both sides for honestly engaging the good bishop to accurately represent his views. Wright has recently responded with his book, Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision, which I have yet to read since it was just recently released stateside.

Christianity Today has recently published a helpful primer on the two positions to help those who are tired of sloshing through the mire of the debate. You can open the PDF, here.

While I have benefitted from studying both Piper and Wright, especially Wright's books on Jesus and the Resurrection, I do not think Piper is the best representative of the old Lutheran position on justification. For that I would turn to an actual Lutheran exegete, Stephen Westerholm's Perspectives Old and New: The "Lutheran" Paul and his Critics, which is par excellence on Paul's understanding of the law.

Jun 25, 2009

Presentation of the Augsburg Confession

On this day in 1530, the Augsburg Confession was read aloud to Emperor Charles V, German Princes, and other nobles of the free cities at the diet of Augsburg. Composed by Philip Melancthon in consultation with Martin Luther, it represented the first confessional document of the Reformation that describes what the early reformers believed, taught and confessed.

Today it still stands as the foundational document representing the best in Lutheranism. I thank God for the gift of these men and women who struggled to hold fast to the Biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ alone - for they stood alone by faith, especially those princes who sided with Luther. They were men and women of Biblical conviction, which is something the church is sorely in need of today, especially that claim allegiance to the tradition of Augustana.
Sorry for the intermittent posting of late. I've been travelling up to Christ College every night in Irvine, CA for classes (Sys Theology I and Reformation History); I get home around 11am and then get up for work at 6am, so while it has been exhausting, I have been writing/studying some pretty cool subjects and enjoying my professors and classmates.
Stay tuned as I have a couple lengthier papers of substance that I'll be posting in the coming weeks, and God willing, two of them will be published later this year or early next.
I'd encourage you all to pick-up a Book of Concord and read the Augsburg Confession - yes - even you Calvinists! Calvin himself agreed with it and the first draft of his Institutes (1536) reflects its tenor. For an online read, check-out: Book of Concord.

Jun 10, 2009

Pentecost Sermon - One Foundation? Acts 2:1-21

Here's a link to the PDF of the sermon I delivered on Pentecost Sunday. We still do not have a recording device, which is unfortunate, because after looking at the written manuscript I am seeing how much more free I am in the pulpit to ad-lib and take diversions. Additionally, the paper just doesn't convey the power and emotion of the human voice. Oh well. Enjoy. Maybe you can get something out of it.

One Foundation? Acts 2:1-21

May 21, 2009

Thoughts on Mystery

Last night I led our mid-week Evening Prayer service, filling in for my pastor who was proctoring a final at USD. This is my favorite service in the Lutheran Service Book, musically speaking. The music is joyful and the words, which are largely taken from the Psalms, are pregnant with meaning as the sun is setting. Typically, the service ends with Communion when the pastor is there, but when I lead it is only a prayer service.

There is, however, a section in the litugy that allows for a homily or catechetical reflection, so I took opportunity to ad-lib a devotional on the nature of mystery. We are about to celelbrate/remember Christ's ascension this Sunday. We follow the church calendar and so these key events in the life of Christ and the church are brought to our attention year after year. For some, these events become boring and routine. But for me personally, the significant events of Scripture never seem to lose their luster.

Here's the deal. In any other story, knowing the end before you start a book, movie, or program would ruin it. The mystery would be lost. The tension would give way because you know how it's all going to end. My mother and oldest daughter watch all the reality shows like American Idol and Dancing with the Stars. These shows are not my thing, but I will often fast-forward the recordings on the DVR to the end just to see who won or was kicked off. I realize this takes all the supposed fun out of the show, but I don't really care about these shows so it does't matter much. But heilgeschichte (salvation history) is never boring nor less mysterious despite knowing how it all is going to pan out. We know as the creed states that Jesus is coming back to "judge the living and the dead." So where's the mystery, you ask?

On the cross, Jesus took upon himself our judgment. We gave him what is ours - sin and death - and he gave us what is rightfully his - righteousness and life. I know this. I trust my very soul in faith to this "marvelous exchange," as Luther called it. But it is nonetheless an incredible mystery. Why would God do such a thing? This peace passes my understanding and keeps me continually refreshed, renewed, and interested in this on-going story. I guess we could simply call this hope.

But think about the ascension and the kind of emotional roller coaster it must have been for the disciples. He's dead! He's alive! He's giving some incredible Bible studies, come listen! What? You're going away? Already? Imagine the admixture of loss, sadness, joy, confusion, and...hope.

What benefit do we recieve from Christ's ascension? The expanded edition of Luther's small catechism speaks of the benefits as it relates to Christ's Triplex Mundi (three-fold office):

1. As a Prophet, Christ sends the Holy Spirit and empowers/equips pastors and teachers to bring His life giving Word.

2. As our High Priest, Christ intercedes at the right hand of the Father for us (1 John 2:1)

3. As our Heavenly King, he sits enthroned on high making his enemies his footstool. In other words, we share in his victory over the powers of sin, the devil, and death. O death, where is thy sting?
May the richness and flavor of this beatiful story never lose its savor. Amen

May 18, 2009

My First Baptism...

I had the extreme privilege of baptizing Ava Grace Soto into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit yesterday. This was my first baptism and it was an honor bestowed on me by both the parents and my pastor, since vicars do not normally preside over baptisms. The older I get the more resolved I am in the way Lutherans treat the sacraments. The objective nature of knowing God's word/promise attached to the waters of baptism brings great comfort of knowing I am not saved by my doing or particular feelings for any given day.

A lot of my friends (and readers) are not Lutheran, and often confused by what seems like a Roman Catholic view of the sacraments. One of my favorite NT theologians, A. Andrew Das, delivered an excellent paper a while back on Baptism in the NT that I think would help my non-Lutheran friends grasp where we are coming from on this doctrine. It is a bit long as it attempts to sweep through the entire NT on the subject but completely worthwhile, in my opinion (especially his sections on Acts). Here is the link.