Read With Me

This summer I will be reading through the Lutheran Confessions, and I wonder if there is anyone out there who would like to read with me. Several years ago I came across a schedule for reading the Book of Concord during the summer (May 30–September 6). I like doing it in the summer because my schedule is a little lighter, and it seems better to read this in longer sections, rather than to spread it out over the whole year (using the schedule included in the Reader’s Edition).

I will be using the CPH Reader’s Edition (Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions) again. This has become my standard English version which I use.  If you don’t have a copy of the Book of Concord, get one. Read the paragraph below to explain why. It is currently on sale for $20 at If you have a different version (Triglot, Tappert, Kolb/Wengert), there is an older version of the summer schedule here. If you don’t want to buy a book, you can read it on the internet right here, or purchase an electronic version here. You might also consider the pocket edition if you want to keep reading while on vacation and not have to lug a big book around.

Are you interested in reading with me? If so, I’d like to hear from you. Perhaps we can even discuss a few topics as we go through it. I’ll warn you that the schedule is pretty ambitious. This is the third time I’ve attempted this schedule and I’ve never yet finished on September 6th. But maybe if I had a few reading partners, you can help me stay on track. You can download the schedule through this link.

This is not just a book for pastors and church “professionals” or “academics.” In fact, it is important to realize that the people most directly responsible for the Lutheran Confessions were laymen, not pastors and theologians. At tremendous personal risk to their own lives, their property, and their profession, laymen boldly stepped before the emperor and the pope’s representatives. They asserted that these Confessions were their own. They did not back down or compromise. For this reason, it is unfortunate that down through the years the Book of Concord has come to be regarded more as a book for pastors and professional theologians.

Tucked into the middle of this book is the most widely used of all the Lutheran Confessions: Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. Luther wrote this document not simply as a resource for the church and school, but, first and foremost, for the head of the household. Luther intended this little book to be used by laypeople, daily, to help them remain anchored to the solid teachings of God’s holy Word, the Bible. So keep this important fact in mind: The Book of Concord exists because of the faith and conviction of laypeople, who risked their very lives in order to have these Confessions produced, published, and distributed. The Book of Concord is a book for all Christians, church workers and laypeople alike.

Christians who want to be true and faithful to the teachings of the Bible return, again and again, to this book. In these confessions of faith they find agreement, unity, and harmony in the truths of God’s Word. (from the General Introduction to the Book of Concord)

So dust off those Concord Books and we’ll get started in just a few days!

Baseball Books Church Year Ministry School Worship

What I’ve been up to

I’ve been pretty silent here lately, so I thought I’d give you a quick rundown on what has been keeping me busy.

Lent and Easter
Yes, this is perhaps the busiest time of the year. People will make comments to me about how busy I must be, with all the extra services. And this year we even added a service on Good Friday—five unique services from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday. But I’m never exactly sure how to respond. Yes, I’m busy. And it is a struggle to get ready for all the services, especially when they come so quickly, and especially when other issues inevitably come up during holy week. But I really don’t want anyone to think that I would rather be doing anything else.

For all of the busy-ness and the craziness, there is simply no time of year I love more than holy week, and especially the feast of the resurrection. It can be such a temptation to get through Good Friday, and sort of coast through Easter. But, no. The festival service on Easter is the most important of all, the highest festival in the entire year. This year I preached on the historic epistle for Easter Sunday, 1 Corinthians 5:6-8. What a joy to keep the festival, and for it all to culminate in the feast that is the Lord’s Supper, a foretaste of the feast already enjoyed by the saints in heaven.

Here the true Paschal Lamb we see,
Whom God so freely gave us;
He died on the accursed tree—
So strong his love—to save us.
See, his blood now marks our door;
Faith points to it; death passes o’er,
And Satan cannot harm us. Hallelujah!

So let us keep the Festival
to which the Lord invites us;
Christ is himself the Lord of all,
The sun that warms and lights us.
Now his grace to us imparts
Eternal sunshine to our hearts.
The night of sin is ended. Hallelujah! (CW 161, st. 3,4)

School Planning & Accreditation
We are busy planning and preparing for the next school, and even beyond. In January we began the process of a school self-study for accreditation. But we’re also gearing up for next year by getting all of our enrollment materials in place. This week we’re distributing fliers throughout the area. We’ve already delivered 2,000 to surrounding homes, and we’ll be getting more out as soon as they’re printed. El Paso is a growing city, with lots of young military families. Accreditation is an important part of serving these families, partly because Ft. Bliss requires school to be accredited in order to be recommended on post, and also because military families move so often that we want to make sure our students records easily transfer to the schools nationwide, even worldwide, where our students end up.

I’m trying my hand at desert gardening this summer. The kids and I have planted tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and melons. We’ll see how things grow here. We definitely have plenty of sun. It should be a fun little experiment. and if we get some food out of it, great.

Last month Sara’s sister Liz arrived in El Paso. She is an Army nurse and will be stationed at William Beaumont Army Medical Center for the next two years. She will be staying with us until she finds a place of her own. We’re not really in any hurry for that to happen, however; it’s nice to have her here. And it will be a real blessing to have family within a few miles instead of a few hundred miles (or thousand).

It’s baseball season again, and I’ve again been enjoying the MLB AtBat app on my phone. As much as I wish I could be in Minnesota to actually see outdoor Major League Baseball in Minnesota this summer, being able to listen to the games on my phone is better than nothing.

I’m still trying to make my way through my “to read” stack of books. However, I just can’t resist adding more books to the pile. If you want to, you can watch what I’m reading on the web site GoodReads.

I’m looking forward to reading through the Lutheran Confessions in the Book of Concord again this summer. I try to do that every other year. I’ll write more on that in the next couple weeks.

Coming Up
Right now I’m especially gearing up for our Ascension service. I’ve always had a service on Ascension wherever I’ve been, even though they’re not always well attended. This year we’ve invited our area congregations to join us and with our combined efforts hope to have a service fitting for this high festival. It seems that every year I appreciate the significance of Jesus’ ascension even more.

Next week I’ll be heading to Flagstaff Arizona for pastor’s conference. In a few week, we’ll have confirmation here. And just after that school will be out for another year. Wow, it’s gone by fast.

Books Study


I’ve been reading Martin Chemnitz’ Examination of the Council of Trent. It’s a four volume analysis of the 16th Century council which solidified Roman Catholic doctrine and condemned Lutheran doctrine following the Reformation.

I had to laugh when in the section I was reading today, Chemnitz says that there is plenty more to say about the issue at hand, and he would say more, “if I were not afraid of prolixity” (Vol. 1, p. 595). I laughed (after looking up the word) because this work is already so comprehensive and thorough, that I can’t even imagine what it could say. But Chemnitz could go on and on.

I am completely impressed by the scholarship of these giants. I have another set of books that Chemnitz contributed to, which is a series of text studies based on a harmony of the gospels put together by Chemnitz, Johann Gerhard, and Polycarp Leyser. The books I have were printed in the 1860s. They cover the Gospels for the historic church year. Some of these studies are as long as 75 pages. Talk about serious exegesis!

So, on the one hand, it’s kind of funny for Chemnitz to talk about sparing words for the sake of brevity. He is anything but brief. And sometimes it’s hard to wade through pages and pages that cover every single aspect of a particular topic. But on the other hand, I admire their use of words. I feel as though even our best scholars today couldn’t come close to their understanding and depth of scholarship. Yet it makes me want to read more, study harder, and think more clearly about the things I study. I may not be able to produce the kind of work that these men created. I struggle to complete each sermon, and I have to push to be able to get a few words onto a blog every once in a while. But if nothing else, a little more careful study will give me a better grasp of the center of all this study—Christ Jesus. And that’s good enough for me.


2009 Reading List

Here is a list of books that I have read in 2009. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get the order correct. There’s also the chance that I’ve missed something, because I didn’t keep a running list during the year.

  1. The Lord’s Prayer (Martin Chemnitz)
  2. On Being A Theologian of the Cross (Gerhard Forde)
  3. Family Life Series from NPH
  4. Why I Am A Lutheran  (Daniel Preus)
  5. “Out of the Depths” Devotion Series (Richard Lauersdorf)
  6. The Theology of the Cross (Daniel Deutschlander)
  7. Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions
  8. Prepared to Answer: Telling the Greatest Story Ever Told (Mark Paustian)
  9. More Prepared to Answer: Telling the Greatest Story Ever Told (Mark Paustian)
  10. The Shepherd’s Assistants: A Handbook for Church Elders or Deacons (Arthur Clement)
  11. The Seven Laws of Teaching (John Milton Gregory)
  12. God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life (Gene Edward Vieth)
  13. Luther on Vocation (Gustav Wingren)
  14. Getting Things Done (David Allen)

I would have to say that the best book I read this year (besides, the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions), was Deutschlander’s book on the Theology of the Cross. The runner-up would have to be Vieth’s book on Vocation. If anyone is interested in what I thought about any of the above books, leave a comment or send me an email.

I still have a tall stack of books I am planning to read. Hopefully I’ll chip away at that pile during 2010. Right now I’m working on finishing up the first volume of Martin Chemnitz’ Examination of the Council of Trent. I know that somewhere in the stack is actually a couple of fiction books. It’s been a while. If anyone wants to follow what I’m reading, I’ve started keeping track on a web site called Goodreads. Or share what you’ve been reading by leaving a comment or signing up for Goodreads yourself.

Books Seelsorge

Pastoral Companions

I have mentioned previously that there are two books upon which I rely heavily. They are the Christian Worship: Pastor’s Companion and the Lutheran Service Book: Pastoral Care Companion. Their titles suggest their purpose. These books are meant to go with a pastor as he ministers to his flock, especially the work he does outside the church building. These books regularly go with me to sick and shut-in calls, to home visits with members, outdoor weddings (I’ve had one), and any number of other occasions. Both of the volumes contain prayers, rites, scripture texts, and hymns for all these occasions and more.

You might ask the question, then: why two books? Especially if they basically contain the same material, and have the same purpose? Actually, I usually only carry one of them with me at a time. But i have found that each of the volumes has certain advantages over the other one in different areas.

The CW volume is, in many ways, more valuable because it is a companion volume to our synod’s hymnal. The language is the same as that in our hymnal. It uses the NIV for the Scripture sections. Many of the rites are the same as that in our hymnal. For my regular shut-in visits, I use a mini-booklet that includes a printout of the mini-service that we use to adorn the celebration of the sacrament with someone who is homebound. I would say that in general, this book is my default choice. It has a good selection of rites that would be useful outside of church. It has a good number of prayers, scripture texts, and hymns.

The weakness of the CW volume is found in some of the real strengths of the LSB Companion, by comparison. Here are a few:

  • Pastor’s Prayers of Preparation: There are 11 pages of prayers specifically for the pastor as he prepares to function as Seelsorger in various situations. The CW version also has pastor’s prayers, but they are less specific.There is a Daily Prayer based on the Lord’s Prayer, a couple prayers by Aquinas, and several others, but all of them are much more general than I’m looking for. The LSB version has prayers for preparing for specific pastoral acts, which I find quite useful.
  • Resources for Pastoral Care: This is the largest section of the book, and the section I find the most valuable. It lists resources—psalms, prayers, readings—by the particular situation in which a pastor might find himself and those whom he wishes to serve. It pretty much has every situation you can think of. And some you wouldn’t have, but you would be glad for this book if it ever came up. The CW book has many of these same resources, but they’re spread out in different sections. There is a rite for ministry to the sick and homebound. There is a section for devotions, which are not terribly useful. There is a section for prayers by situation. Then there is the scripture reading section, and the hymn section. If I’m visiting someone who is sick, the CW Companion is not that useful to me. If I already know what I’m going to read with them, and have to dig around for it, I might as well just use my Bible (which I often have anyway). When visiting the sick, the layout of the LSB Companion is much more useful to make use of the resources that are there, and all of the resources for a particular situation are all in one place. This is especially useful when the situation isn’t exactly what you thought it was. Perhaps you call on someone who is sick, but you find that they are really struggling with depression or even despair. Most pastors can probably think on their feet well enough to adjust their conversation and guidance from the Word of God, but it may also be useful to have some help. The LSB Companion is, in my opinion, better designed for this kind of help.
  • Texts in German and Spanish: This strikes me as the kind of thing that is useful in a situation which you weren’t expecting. And while I can function pretty well in German, I would be unable to speak much more than a few memorized hymns and prayers. And my Spanish has a long ways to go at this point. But I can imagine  a few situations where having just a few texts at hand (Lord’s Prayer, Creed, Benediction, etc) in these languages could come in handy.

One of the downsides to the LSB volume is that, like other CPH publications, it uses the ESV. I’ll save an evaluation of the ESV for another time, but the fact is that I have grown so accustomed to the NIV that I struggle to make good use of the ESV sections. Many of the rites are usable, but not those which I use in conjunction with the hymnal. There are hymn stanzas in the companion, but the translation is different often enough to make it awkward.

So what do I do? Lately, I’ve been keeping both books close at hand. In general, I take my CW companion on all regular shut-in calls or any situations when I know what I’m dealing with. But for sick and hospital calls, I like the flexibility of the LSB resources. I feel like I’ll have better luck finding what I’m looking for if I need to quickly thumb through the book to find a good prayer for this or that.

Another way I have used it is to prepare for my calls. I’ll use the LSB book to look up the situation I think I’m dealing with and use that to form my devotions and prayers. In that case, I might not even bring it along. But I probably will, just in case. I’ll probably keep both volumes close at hand, and use each for its advantages.

What I would really love is to have one book which was the best of both worlds (or books). My best chance of that will probably have to at least wait until 2023, when the next WELS hymnal is scheduled to be published. Hopefully we won’t have to wait 11 years after the hymnal this time. (CW was published in 1993, the Pastor’s Companion in 2004.) But I am also hopeful that some of these content and organizational benefits and advantages of the LSB Pastoral Care Companion might somehow be incorporated into a new companion.



One of the reasons excuses for the infrequency of my blog posts recently is that when I am home in the evening (especially after the kids are in bed), I have been trying to get some reading done. Actually, I've been pushing hard to read through a number of books for several months now. You might have noticed that I have a running list on the blog (right column, "Recent Reading") of the last ten books that I have read. In a way, keeping that list has kept me going. All of those books were read in the last six months. Many of the books have links to Amazon where you can buy them. If I thought the book was really good, it might have made it to my "Recommended Books" list (also on the right column).

But another thing is that I have a stack of books in my study at church that I intend to read, and there are some really good books in the "queue" but I'm forcing myself to read them in the order that added them. The other motivating factor is that the queue is growing faster than I can read. I got several books as Christmas gifts, and it might be May before I get to them. We'll see.

New Book from NPH

Thanks to Pastor Jeremiah Gumm for tipping me off to the fact that Professor Daniel Deutschlander's book on the Theology of the Cross is now available from Northwestern Publishing House. I knew that the book was scheduled to be released in January, but I didn't expect to see it before January.

I asked Prof. Deutschlander last June if this book would be geared more for pastors or for laypeople, and he said that it was somewhere in between. I guess that is why they put it into the Impact Series. I would say for sure that (at least) this is a must-read for all Lutheran pastors. In fact, there is a special section in the book that specifically addresses the crosses that pastors address at different stages of their ministries. There is also a section that deals with crosses that Christians bear at various stages of life. So the book is not just for pastors. In fact, there's a great section in the book that will be very helpful, I believe, to parents or teachers of teenagers. 

I've read several books on the Theology of the Cross. Just in the last few weeks, I re-read The Spirituality of the Cross, which is an excellent overview of the Lutheran faith, including the theology of the cross. Every Lutheran should read this book. Right now I am reading Gerhard Forde's book "On Being a Theologian of the Cross" about Luther's Heidelberg Disputation. 

But I think that Deutschlander does something different than these excellent works. It's really a book of Christian doctrine that sees the cross at the center of it all. You'll have to read it for yourself. I have been fortunate enough to have a glimpse of some of the book, but I'll be sure to give you a fuller review when I have a copy in hand and I can give the whole thing a good read-through.

The Theology of the Cross: Reflections on His Cross and Ours by Daniel M. Deutschlander

A book on Christian doctrine that reminds readers that all biblical doctrine relates to Scripture's central teaching that God sent his Son to save lost sinners. The Old and New Testaments make it clear that our salvation is found in the cross of Christ. However, there is a seeming paradox between the theology of the cross and the theology of glory. Sinful people tend to overlook the cross and its demands and, instead, focus on the glory that they think they should now enjoy because they call themselves Christians. This is a matter of urgent concern. Deutschlander helps us to see Christ's cross as our cross. He reminds us that our good works have no value for our salvation. Yet good works are valuable as fruits of faith done out of gratitude to God for his gift of salvation. It deepens our understanding and appreciation for God's gift of life in Christ. It warns us of Satan's efforts to turn us from Christ to ourselves. It comforts us with the assurance that the cross of Christ leads to heavenly glory. Softcover, Size is 5 3/8" x 8.5" inches, 292 Pages. Published 2008.
Catalog Item Number: OL-150746
Price: $17.99


A Tale of Two Books © 1956 CPH

I just finished a book called Spiritual Power for Your congregation: A guide to lay activity in the church. It was published in 1956. I have had it on my shelf since 1999, but had never read it so I thought I should. It wasn't sure what to expect, but it was actually quite good. It is certainly dated, so some of the book's advice is no longer as useful as it might have been in the 50's.

But here's the really interesting thing. Reading through this book made me think of another book on my shelf that I didn't think would be that good. It is a book on preaching called "Preaching with Power." But again, I found that it was actually a very good book. In fact, I've read it a couple times now. So I checked the date on the preaching book and noticed that it was also published in 1956 by Concordia Publishing House.

Both of these books are out of print. If you go to the link for the first one, you can actually find some used copies, but the preaching book is gone. 

A couple things impressed me about these books. First, it's always interesting to see how little things change over time. Over the course of 50 years many things change, but more often the church is really struggling with the same things as ever. In both of these books the authors described current attitudes in our churches, our families, and our societies. They described our culture and society, and the affect that they have on our work as Christian congregations and preachers. And I thought to myself more than once, "He could be writing this today."

The other thing that impressed me is that both authors relied heavily on the power of the gospel to be the power in preaching and in a congregation. Preaching with power is preaching that is the Word of God. The preacher doesn't need to add something to make his preaching more powerful. Preaching with power is proclaiming the power of God through the Word of God, no more, no less. Lay activity in the church makes a congregation powerful when members are hearing the Word of God in their homes, when they are studying it with others in Bible Class/Sunday School, and especially when they are gathering around Word and Sacrament in the Divine Service.