Reflections on 34 Years – Part 1:Prelude

Recently (June 17) I “celebrated” my 34th year of ordination into the office of the holy ministry. I write this with quotation marks as the day came and went with little fanfare from anyone, save my beloved wife. She read a short article that was posted on Facebook on some of the statistics related to pastors. The statistics were, shall we say, discouraging.

Now don’t misunderstand, my beloved was not trying to discourage me, but rather to remind the congregation that being a pastor is far from easy, and that many who begin the vocation do not end in it.

I can say that in reflecting on my 34 years I can relate to that article. Now don’t get me wrong, the years have been filled with great joy and amazing things. But they have also been filled with heartaches, questionings, struggles, and learning the hard, real world knowledge, that original sin is alive and well in all of us.

I began my pilgrimage in the ministry with the desire to serve back in high school. I had a good pastor who took time with me and who saw the importance of mission work by inviting those who served to the congregation to share of the work of the Lord in far off corners of the world. Somewhere in all that the Holy Spirit, working through the Word, led me to wave my hand in the air and like Isaiah cry out “Here am I! Send me!”

I began my formal studies after graduation in 1976 at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. At the time it was a college of the American Lutheran Church of which we were members. It was a very challenging first quarter to say the least. My very first religion class was taught by a man who only seemed interested in shredding anything I may have learned about Jesus (and anything else in the Bible). The ridicule of believing in the miraculous, the denial of blood atonement for sin, and physical resurrection, and anything that categorically denied the infallible and inerrant Scriptures left me shaken to the core. Here I was, a Freshman in college with no more formal instruction than junior high confirmation, having to defend in class that which I held true against what was an attack by the very Satan who kept screaming at me: “Did God really say?” and answering his own question with a resounding “No!”

Fortunately the Lord saw my plight and heard my plea. There were a number of like-minded students who took me under their arms and gave me reassurance in my faith. One in particular, a Senior, led me to look at the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, who had very recently gone through her own “Battle for the Bible” and did what no other major denomination going down the road of liberalism had done. They said “No!” to the direction they were going and were turned around again to the truth by the very Word that was being denied by her enemies within.

It was there that I found a home. I joined a Missouri Synod congregation in January, 1977 and transferred to Concordia College in Ann Arbor, Michigan at the start of the next academic year. But, alas, even there I found controversy in the form of the Charismatic movement.

While at Wartburg, the aforementioned group that took me under their wing were also Charismatic (the aforementioned Senior was not). So my arrival at Concordia saw me gravitating to them. After all, they believed the Bible to be true! But as I took more and more classes and met more and more people that first year, I began to realize that even these had missed the point. Thus my Junior and Senior year were spent defending the Scriptures from attack from the other direction, It was then that I realized that these two attacks were actually the same, with different clothes. One was a denial that the Word was truly God’s, the other that the Word, although God’s, was not truly enough.

Some have said my theological development was reactionary. I would say that it was forged in fire.

Following graduation in 1980 from Concordia College – Ann Arbor, I attended Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri for two quarters. Why only two quarters? Truth be told, I was directed to St. Louis by the faculty at Ann Arbor and others. As mentioned above, the LCMS had very recently gone through its “Battle for the Bible” that culminated in the famous 1974 “Walk-Out” from the seminary by a good portion of the faculty and student body. The rebuilding years at the seminary say many good professors arrive. But I was wanting a much stronger study in the area of systematic theology, and the strongest faculty in that area was located at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Thus, seeing the glow in the northeastern skies, I applied, was accepted, and began studies there in Spring quarter, 1981.

And yet again controversy raised up. It was during these years that men of solid theology and reputation were under attack by those who did not understand. Men like President Dr. Robert Preus, Rev. Dr. David Scaer, and others were under attack for stating things that I had always believed, was challenged in, and had overcome stronger than before. It is from men like David Scaer. Kurt Marquardt, Robert Preus and the faithful professors that I learned what it meant to be a real theologian of the cross as defined by Luther.

So, in Spring of 1984, after 8 years of formal preparation, I graduated from CTSFW. Yet my journey was only beginning. The Lord had laid His foundation in my heart and was now about to show me the meaning of tentatio (struggle in faith).

This is getting long. I will write more later in a separate blogs on the actual 34 years.

Peace.

Pastor Michael Barnes

Learn to Know Christ and Him Crucified

luther-preaching“Learn to know Christ and Him crucified.

“Learn to sing to Him, and say,

“Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your sin.

“You have taken upon yourself what is mine and given me what is yours.

“You have become what you were not so that I might become what I was not.”

  • Martin Luther

Rivers Home: Holy Washings of Lent

Peaceful_River

Traditional Ash Wednesday Service with Holy Communion

February 14, 2018 @ 7:00pm

This schedule is for the following five gatherings.

Fellowship Meals—6:00pm

Worship Services—7:00pm

Lenten Midweek 1 – The Rivers of Eden – February 21, 2018

Lenten Midweek 2 – River of Slaves – February 28, 20:18

Lenten Midweek 3 – Rivers of the Lord – March 7, 2017

Lenten Midweek 4 – Peace Like a River – March 14, 2018

Lenten Midweek 5 – Water of Life – March 21, 2018

Epiphany – Totally Awesome!!

There is a difference between Christmas and Epiphany. Other than the obvious (different seasons) and that Christmas is by far the greater known, for those who follow the Liturgical Calendar of the Church the differences are important and well worth our noting. Basically it comes down to this:

The theme of Christmas is “Emmanuel: God with Us”.
The theme of Epiphany is “This Man is God”.

Let’s take a brief look at the amazing Jesus revealed as God according to the various Gospel readings for each Sunday.
Epiphany Day itself (January 6) has as it’s Gospel reading the visit of the wise men from the East who have come to gift the incarnate God with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Each gift in its own way indicating that this child is God and King and that His death would be profoundly significant for the whole world.
The First Sunday after Epiphany recalls the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John. The voice of the Father declaring Jesus to be His beloved Son, the descent of the Holy Spirit anointing Him into the offices of prophet, high priest, and king in order to be the perfect and final fulfillment of them for us are amazing, marvelous, and show all that “this man is God”!
The Second Sunday after Epiphany recalls the announcement by John that Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. All the Old Testament remembrances of the lamb of sacrifice whose blood is shed for atonement of all sins, brings deliverance from death, and freedom from the evil one’s kingdom. This is all possible because “this man is God”!
The Third Sunday after Epiphany recalls the beginning of the Galilean Ministry of Jesus and the calling of the four fishermen to be His disciples. He preached the Good News and showed His authority as God by healing the sick, casting out demons, and bringing relief to the sufferings of the lame by making them whole. No only is the God/man anointed to His task for taking away the sin of the world, He proved it by removing the visible results of a fallen, sin-filled world. Here we find the reality and the foreshadowing of all that will be healed in our bodies on the last day. And all of this is real because “this man is God”!
The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany recalls the Beatitudes as proclaimed by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount. Is it Law? Is it Gospel? Yes! We see Jesus as the one who is blessed by God who stands in our place in all these things. He gains them for us because we cannot attain them. He gives us the blessedness that comes with them all. And He promises in the final beatitude the surety of the ultimate blessing in heaven for those who are persecuted and slandered because they belong to Him. He alone can do this because “this man is God”!
The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany recalls that Jesus makes us salt and light to the world, the change it and to illumine it. We are also reminded by Jesus that He did not come to abolish all the Old Testament laws, but to fulfill them! There is not one law of God in either the civic, ceremonial, or moral realm that have not been perfectly fulfilled by Him, for us! As breaking any of the law results in death, by His perfect obedience on behalf of all He fulfilled all. By His suffering and death on the cross the One who fulfilled all the law takes the guilt of those who could not, and becomes the perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And all this is real for us because “this man is God”!
The Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany recalls Jesus teaching, again in the Sermon on the Mount, about the depth of sin. He “re-instructs” the false impressions about sin given them by the Pharisees who made fulfilling the law realized in outward acts of piety. Jesus reminds us that sin has its origins in the heart, and it is there that our attention is drawn. Because no one can truly harness their hearts on that level, the need for Jesus is even more acute. Thus, we are set right about the law by the Lawgiver Himself, and we are forced to turn from our supposed goodness to the God/man who alone can cleanse us from even these, because alone “this man is God”!
The Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany recalls the instruction of Jesus about our relationship with one another concerning our attitude. Love is all over the place. How unlike anything that has been heard before from the laws (although the summation of the Law to love God and love neighbor as self is clearly found in the Old Testament, just… forgotten in terms of application). To what level of goodness are we commanded to be? Perfect!! But not based on the comparison with others, but as perfect as the Father!! Condemned again! But Jesus also shows us that He does perfectly what we are incapable of, for only the “man who is God” can do this, and He does it all out of perfect love for us.
The Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany recalls Jesus instructing us to having only one master, and that master is Him! When the world and its concerns (even personal concerns) are master there is nothing but despair. When Jesus is master we can cast all our worries and cares on Him. He takes care of and gives us what we need to see us through the worldly hard ache, knowing that all these are ultimately defeated enemies. In Him, “the man who is God”, we have hope, peace, joy, and love from above that we can then share with others.
The Transfiguration of Our Lord Sunday wraps up the Epiphany season and serves to translate us into the new season in the Church Liturgical Year, Ash Wednesday and Lent. As at the beginning of Epiphany and the Baptism of Jesus, we again are reminded that “this man is God” by the Father from heaven, and the enveloping cloud that reminds us the cloud of the wilderness wanderings, and on Sinai, and the dense smoke of incense in the Holy of Holies around the Ark of the Covenant. This “man who is God” now sets His face to Jerusalem to accomplish ALL for us on the cross.
The actual numbers of Sundays after the Epiphany varies from year to year because Epiphany is a fixed date and Easter is a movable date. Yet throughout each year the Visitation of the Wise Men, the Baptism, and the Transfiguration remain those anchor points that most clearly remind us of the overall theme: Yes! “This man is God!”

Pastor Barnes

Mobile Office Goes into the Community

Although it has been mobiling for some time now, on and off, the Mobile Office of Pastor Michael Barnes and St. Peter’s Lutheran Church is taking the next step. The locations and hours will be posted at least 24 hours in advance for your convenience!

  • Sometimes you want to just talk to a pastor, but outside the formal setting of the church building.
  • Sometimes you might have a question that has been crawling around in the back of your mind, or need to unload a burden of sin, and know that you will not be judged (or shunned) by the listener.
  • Sometimes you want someone who will pray for/with you about the things of life: troubles, thanksgivings, joys, etc.
  • Sometimes you just want to sit and enjoy company with another human being.
  • Wattch for location. Stop by. You are always welcome.

Aren’t Lutherans Just a Liberal Cult?

First, we would like to make it abundantly clear that there are those who call themselves Lutheran and attach that nomenclature to their buildings and publications, yet they have, sadly, wandered from the Word of Truth as revealed in the Scriptures. The congregations of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod are not counted among them. Rather….

As Lutherans:

We believe, teach, and confess that the only rule and norm according to which all teachings, together with ‹all› teachers, should be evaluated and judged [2 Timothy 3:15–17] are the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and New Testament alone. For it is written in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” St. Paul has written, “even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).

 

We believe that the meaning of any text of the Sacred Scriptures is arrived at on the basis of the Scriptural context in which the passage rests, and the Scripture as a whole. Interpretation is not understood on the basis of its own, isolated existence. [On the basis of such “proof texting” many heresies have arisen within the Church. Scripture interprets Scripture.]

We believe that the center of all Scriptural doctrine is Jesus Christ on the cross as the only atonement for the sins of all people of all times.

We believe that Genesis 1-11 is historic narrative; that God created out of nothing all that exists in six 24 hour days as is commonly understood in normal conversation, that there was a universal flood at the time of Noah and that this man and seven others were saved through the waters of the flood by God.

We believe Jesus when He declares that He is spoken of, and is found in, the writings of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms. To fully understand Jesus, we are directed to the Old Testament as well as the New.

 

We condemn all those who say that the Scriptures are simply the opinions of men from a former time.

We condemn those who, through deception, say that they acknowledge the inspiration of the Scriptures as the Word of God, yet understand it to be the same inspiration that poets, writers, and artists experience in their work.

We condemn those who, although saying that the Scripture is the Word of God, yet by deception mean that the Scriptures simply contain the Word of God, which the individual Christian is left to discover.

We condemn those who say that human reason is a necessary element in the understanding of the Sacred Scriptures, as human reason is tainted by the devil, the world, and the sinful flesh.

 

 

On social issues we are pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-family.

Why Do Lutherans Call Themselves Lutheran?

As Lutherans we honor the name and memory of Martin Luther, the 16th century monk who defied Pope and Empire for the sake of the Scriptural teaching of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. By the grace of Almighty God, Luther’s examination of the Scriptures freed the Church from the bondage of works righteousness and a theology of glory that made man the center of his own salvation. Lutherans maintain that Gospel in all aspects of their lives.

So why do we maintain the use of Luther’s name in defining who we are? Unlike a cult, which focuses on the man, Lutherans focus on what the man taught. Luther never wanted his name attached to anything of a movement. Rather, his desire was that the Church maintain the name Christian. Reform, not replacement, was his goal. Unfortunately his enemies would not let it drop.

With the resulting protestant splinter groups that came out of the original Reformation, the name eventually stuck, and has been used to identify those churches that still hold to the Scriptural teachings of justification. True Lutherans find their ultimate identity in Jesus Christ alone. To be Lutheran means to follow Jesus Christ.

Terrorism and the Two Kingdoms

It is a sad commentary on the condition of this world to say that terrorism is nothing new. In its latest manifestation we find Islamic Jihad, ISIS, ISIL, Islamic Brotherhood, and a host of other identifiers that all have the same goal, the elimination of Western culture and laws and Christian faith, and the establishment of a world-wide Caliphate governed by Sharia law. The means to accomplish these goal are threats, violence, terror, and bloodshed.

I am not here to give a history lesson, or to engage in political debate. I’ll leave that up to you in a different venue. Let’s just say that the means of their goals has been seen yet again, this time on the streets of Paris.

As we struggle to come to terms with such violence I am asked what should be the Church’s proper response. I can give the Lutheran viewpoint and you can take it from there.

We believe that God operates in this world through two kingdoms: the kingdom of the right and the kingdom of the left. The kingdom of the right is the kingdom of grace as seen in His Church. Christ rules over His church in love, guiding and directing her in the mission of bringing the good news of Jesus Christ and His free gift of salvation to the entire world. It is a kingdom in which He directs us to love even our enemies and to pray for them and their conversion. Christians are to be the quintessential speakers of peace and love in the world that flows from our understanding of the cross.

The kingdom of the left are the governmental forces of the world. God works through them to keep order in the world, to punish evildoers, and when needed, to wage just wars for the protection of all. It operates from the basis of the law of God that is written into the hearts of all people.

As government officials can also be true Christians, so also can true Christians operate within the governmental sphere, as both are from God and are therefore ultimately to His glory.

The Christian/Lutheran response to terrorism then is this: we pray for our enemies, for those who do evil and conspire against us and our most holy faith. We love our enemies, our hearts breaking at the demonic madness that enslaves them and praying for their conversion through the power of the Word made Flesh. As citizens we serve as we are called upon to serve for the protection not only of our personal families and friends, but also that of the nation, and yes, even at times the world. Love for humanity directs that protection.

In all this keep in mind that ultimately it is Christ who has the victory. His promises to us are trustworthy, and He has promised that He is returning to put an end of all our suffering in this life. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Pastor Barnes

Close Communion – How Dare We?

The issue of the Lord’s Supper can be a very emotional one, especially as it involves the question of who can and who cannot attend at any particular altar. For those who prefer the emotional route to theology, there is nothing here that will settle your mind and heart. I would simply ask that you approach this post with the desire to learn the “why” of the “close communion”.

I want to look at this briefly from three points from the Holy Scriptures.

First, when our Lord Christ says to His disciples, “Take eat, this is my body… Take drink, this is my blood” He is not doing so metaphorically, symbolically, or allegorically. He is speaking on the basis of the entire Old Testament that eating and drinking the sacrifices for sin and the establishment of covenant with God are necessary to gain the benefits of that sacrifice. Being the final sacrifice as the true Lamb of God (not metaphorically, symbolically, or allegorically a sacrifice), the benefits of what the sacrifice accomplishes comes to us through the eating and drinking of the flesh of sacrifice. (I don’t make this stuff up! Go search the Scriptures!)

Second, St. Paul, knowing this truth that the body and blood of Jesus are present and distributed to those gathered to receive, reminds us all in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 that to receive the elements of the Supper without recognition of the body and blood of Christ is guilty of sinning and brings harsh judgment on themselves. The pastor of a congregation is charged by the Lord to be stewards of the mysteries of Christ (and this would qualify as a mystery, I would think), As a result of this charge they are held accountable for the souls under their care as we see in Hebrews 13:17. A pastor knows his flock and so can vouch for them with confidence. A stranger he does not know, so for the protection of all, close communion.

Third, and related to the above, there is the obvious fact that there is division in the earthly church, and most all of the divisions relate back to Jesus and the cross. True unity of the church is possible in this world only through true unity of teaching. For example, how can one group say that Jesus was born of a clinical virgin, was fully God and fully man in one Christ, died as the Lamb of God on the cross to take away all sins, and physically rose from the dead after three days also claim to be in untiy of teaching with those groups who deny all of it? Two different teachings, two different Christs! As the communion is a demonstration of the oneness of faith and the avoidance of error (Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 10:17; 1 Corinthians 11:26; Romans 16:17) we are bound to make the confession and practice close communion for the very sake of the Gospel.

How dare we practice a close communion? A better question is: how dare we not?

Pastor Barnes