Here are just a few thoughts I had on a couple books I recently finished reading. I recommend both of them.

[amazon-product align=”right” alink=”0000FF” bordercolor=”000000″ height=”240″ tracking_id=”ashessto-20″]0801013186[/amazon-product]In Christless Christianity, Dr. Michael Horton examines the trend within American churches to replace the Gospel of Jesus Christ with something else. While this is rampant in much of what is called American Evangelicalism, Horton shows that it is a disease to which all churches are susceptible and which has infected nearly all branches of Christianity. It’s most dramatic in the realm of the Joel Osteen’s and Mark Driscoll’s of the religious scene. But what made me pause and shudder throughout the book is how much of the philosophy and theory has made its way into the ministry plans of even Lutheran pastors. These Lutherans wouldn’t subscribe to their theology per se, but they seem to be following right along in so many other respects. And I have observed that where Lutherans model their ministry after the same Evangelicals who have replaced the Gospel with a moralistic, therapeutic deism, they invariably tend to start talking and preaching like them. They don’t seem to know the difference between real law and real gospel. I just cannot, for the life of me, understand why a Lutheran pastor would ever even want to resemble that at all. I do not get it. This is an excellent book for gaining an understanding of what’s going on within the American church, and to recognize it when your pastor starts talking less and less like a Lutheran and more and more like—well, something else.

[amazon-product align=”right” alink=”0000FF” bordercolor=”000000″ height=”240″ tracking_id=”ashessto-20″]1613270011[/amazon-product]In He Remembers the Barren, Katie Shuermann writes about the struggle of women who are unable to bear children. The book is mainly aimed at guiding these women to find their fulfillment more in their Jesus than in their womb. It is a must-read for any woman who bears this burden. But I would recommend it also to their families, their pastors, their fellow church members. It is instructive for understanding the kind of loving care that these dear women need within their families and congregations, and gives some thoughtful insight into the uniqueness of the cross which Jesus lays before them.

Virtual Organist

If your church…
…struggles to find an organist to play for services
…uses MIDI or Hymnsoft for services, but would appreciate something better
…needs to find a way to give organists a Sunday off
…wishes for a well-trained church organist to help lead the congregation’s song,

I highly recommend you check out The Virtual Organist service from Church Music Solutions. This Sunday we used this service to accompany our service for the first time, and I am very pleased with how it went. I won’t describe the whole thing here; just go to their web site and take a look. Contact them and ask them to send you a demo unit so that you can see and hear for yourself 1) how easy it is and 2) how good it sounds.

I will still say that in most situations I would prefer to have a real, live (even mediocre) organist on the bench each Sunday. And I still feel strongly that we need to work hard to recruit and encourage kids to become good church organists. But I am fairly confident to agree that in many situations, this is the next best thing.

Lutheran Public Radio – Music for the World

I’ve been listening to this whenever I can. Check it out!

The reformer Martin Luther had this to say about the Holy Spirit, God’s Word and music:

The Holy Ghost himself honors music as an instrument for his proper work when in the Holy Scriptures he asserts that through her gifts were instilled in the prophets, namely, the inclination to all virtues, as can be seen in Elisha (2 Kings 3:15)…The gift of language combined with the gift of song was only given to man to let him know that he should praise God with both word and music, namely, by proclaiming the Word of God through music and by providing sweet melodies with words.

The Holy Spirit is working through God’s word put to music on Lutheran Public Radio, Sacred Music for the World. You’ll hear hymns like “Thy Strong Word,” “The Church’s One Foundation, ” “Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart,” “God’s Own Child I Gladly Say It,” “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less” and more.

You can listen to sacred music 24/7 at Lutheran Public Radio. You can also listen on mobile devices like an iPhone or iPad or any Android phone.