Mark Galli on Church Marketing

“When the church starts marketing itself or the gospel, something odd is taking place.  It subtly turns the free gift of grace into a transaction.  It harnesses the unpredictable God and shackles him to a transaction.  It suggests that the church is offering people some benefit they can consume.  At the same time, it inadvertently suggests that the church somehow receives a benefit in return–more warm bodies at its services, for one.  When you market a church, the assumptions of the marketplace–that it’s all about an exchange of value for goods and services–begin to pervade the church… Continue reading


Michael Horton on the Church

“Minimally, the church is…, that place–wherever it is in the world–where Jesus Christ is faithfully heard as God’s ‘Yes,’ generating the ‘Amen’ of faith to the ends of the earth.”

Michael Horton “People and Place: a Covenant Ecclesiology

Luther on Receiving the Holy Spirit

Came across this wonderful quote while writing a sermon today.  Speaking on Galatians 3:2 Luther proclaims:

“It seems unlikely that the Holy Spirit is received only by believing what we hear and that there is nothing required of us but rather we must set aside all our works and give ourselves only to hearing the Gospel.  The human heart does not understand or believe that such a great treasure–namely, the Holy Spirit–is given only by believing what we hear.  We reason that forgiveness of sins, deliverance from death, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, righteousness, and everlasting life are great things, and therefore we must do something that is great if we want to obtain these inestimable benefits…  So when our reason hears that we can do nothing to obtain the forgiveness of sins but must only hear the Word of God, it immediately cries out ‘Rubbish! You are making the forgiveness of sins too unimportant a matter…’  We must learn that forgiveness of sins, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are given to us freely, simply by believing what we hear preached, despite our horrible sins.  We must not think about the greatness of what is given, nor about how unworthy we are of it; rather, we must think how it pleases God to give us this unutterable gift freely.”

Martin Luther “Commentary on Galatians

Steven Paulson’s Bold Words

“Lutheranism is the history of a departure from Luther, but this is not a decline or decadence from a golden age…, instead it is a bald fear of the Gospel that lies at its core.  The same charges that were made of Paul resurfaced among the Lutherans: ‘Shall we sin the more that grace may abound?’ ‘Is the law to no avail?’ ‘Do I do nothing?’  Luther’s kind of preaching is a nuclear reactor–so much energy produced from so small a core–and yet the fear always hovers among those who are nearest that the thing will implode and destroy life rather than generate it.”

-Steven Paulson “Lutheran Theology

More Zahl

Sorry I’ve been on a Zahl kick the past two posts.  I tend to gravitate towards his writings when I’m having a tough time and this week was one of those…

“Why do religious people have a hard time with grace?  People come to faith during times of great trouble.  Even if they grew up in church or had a religious experience as a teenager, they usually come to faith during a period of trouble.  A specific problem in life leads them to question or to look at God in a new way…  A time of trouble leads them toward the grace of God.  But right after they receive this grace they get punished with the law again.  The church punishes them with the law.  Here lies the problem an unburied one. Continue reading

Paul Zahl’s “One-Way Love”

“One-way love is… irrational because it reaches out to the specifically undeserving person.  This is the beating heart of it.  Grace is directed toward what Scripture calls the ‘ungodly’ (Rom. 5:6).  Not just the lonely, not just the sick and disconsolate, but the ‘perpetrators,’ the murders and abusers, the people who cross the line.  God has a heart–his one-way love–for sinners.  This is the problem with Christianity.  This piece of logical and ethical incongruity and inappropriateness is the problem with Christianity…  It is also the New Testament account of grace: God’s one-way love is a love that acts independent of all response to it yet at the same time elicits a response…  When grace comes in, when it rewrites the script, when its light shines in the basement of the house that is ourselves, unbuilt to God, grace demolishes and creates.  It does what it promises.”

Man, I miss having this guy as my professor…

Paul Zahl “Grace in Practice

Gerhard Forde on the Spirit

“The Spirit is precisely unleashed upon us in the properly preached gospel, the Word of the crucified and risen one, which sets us free.  It is simply not… a ‘free-floating’ and occasional ‘force’ which may or may not visit this person or that one.  All such ‘free-floating’ spirits detached from the gospel were [in the reformation] highly suspect and deemed likely only to bind to the law in one subtle way or another.  The Spirit is detached from the Trinity.  So Luther, in outspoken fashion, could simply declare in the Smalcald Articles that ‘whatever is attributed to the Spirit apart from the Word and sacraments is of the devil?’  Why the devil?  Because the devil too is spirit, of course, but he also the enemy, the accuser, the spirit of slavery…  What is at stake is always the gospel.  Spirit detached from preached Word of the gospel and sacraments can be devastating.  There is, after all, more than one spirit; and we are admonished to test them lest we fall prey to the wrong ones.”

Gehard Forde’s Lutheran response to the Pentecostal view of sanctification found in “Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification.”