On My Shelf

I think it’s some sort of law that pastors have to like books. Or something like that.

Well, law or no, I like books. And on my shelf in my office are some books that are special, interesting, or just mean something to me for different reasons.

This book is one of them. It’s an English Language Lutheran hymnal, the Evangelical Lutheran Hymn-Book, published by Concordia Publishing House in 1927. It’s neat just as a hymnal. There are no written musical staffs; the book only contains the lyrics of the hymns, liturgies, psalms, etc. Some of the hymns are interesting for the English translation that is used for them, which sound strange to our “modern” ears.

But the best part of this hymnal for me is the fact that it was my grandmother’s. Imprinted in faded letters on the front cover is the name: Lillie R. A. Steffenhagen. My grandmother (Grandma Walters as I used to call her) was given this hymnal as a gift on her confirmation. The reason I know this is a lengthy inscription written by her sponsors on one of the opening pages of the book. It’s beautiful, and I’ll reproduce it here:

Dear Lillie: —

This Hymnal is presented to you in remembrance of your confirmation from your sponsors for diligent use.

“You have professed a good profession before many witnesses.” and, now, dear Lillie, “hold that fast which thous hast that no man take thy crown.” Yes, “be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life,” says the Lord, Rev.2,10.

Your Sponsors,

Mr. Emil Burfeind


Mrs. Henry Ahrens

West Florence, Minn.

July 30, 1933.

My grandmother received her crown of life nearly thirty years ago, and it is always moving to me to see this hymnal that was given to her. What a blessing to have the faith passed down to the next generation, who in turn is entrusted to teach the next. I’m thankful for my grandmother, and though I knew her only a short time, God used her to bless me now and forever.


You Must Become Sick

I’ve been reading the new “readers’ edition” of C.F.W. Walther’s “Law and Gospel.” This book has always been excellent, and this new edition finally makes it more readable and usable in English. I highly recommend it.

I just had to share a particularly choice quote that I came across while reading this morning.

If you wish to believe in Christ, you must first become sick, for Christ is a doctor only for those who are sick. You must first be a lost and condemned sinner, for He came to seek and to save that which is lost. First you must be a lost sheep, for He is the Good Shepherd who goes in search of lost sheep.

~C.F.W. Walther “Law & Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible,” p. 104,  CPH, 2010.

Clip the Wings of Wisdom

By Faith AloneI use several different devotional books at different times (besides reading the actual Bible) for my daily devotion. One book that I keep coming back to is By Faith Alone, a daily devotional book taken from the writings of Martin Luther. Each reading is only one small page, but they’re packed with great stuff. Luther definitely knew how to make Scripture come alive and apply it to our lives of faith. I highly recommend the book.

Today’s reading was especially good. Enjoy!

Jesus responded, ‘Stop criticizing me! People cannot come to me unless the Father who sent me brings them to me. I will bring these people back to life on the last day.’  John 6:43-44

When Jesus said, “Stop criticizing me,” he wanted to curb human wisdom or reason. We should also clip the wings of human reason when it comes to Christian doctrine. God’s Word isn’t the kind of teaching you can grasp with reason. It doesn’t reach the human heart that way. The more educated and the more sharpened a person’s reasoning ability, the less he understands. Christian teaching doesn’t appeal to reason. That’s why our reason complains about it. I don’t want to take my salvation out of my own hands and throw away all my good works in order to achieve eternal life. I don’t want to place my hands and set my feet on someone outside of myself, someone who was so silly and foolish as to let himself be crucified. How am I supposed to believe that Jesus is my Savior? Reason cannot grasp this. We must take every thought captive so that it’s obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Jesus is saying, “Stop complaining that I claim to be the bread of heaven. You want to understand this on your own. You want to be smarter than I am when you ask, ‘Don’t we know his mother and father?’ But when I tell you how the Father has drawn you to me, it can’t be understood by your reason. When you hear about how the Father draws you, reason draws you in a different direction. Whoever wants to understand these words must close his eyes, shut the gates of reason, and let himself become like a blind person.” This is what God wants. Whoever refuses to be led by God, but wants instead to be lead by reason, will be irritated by the message of Jesus and will continually complain about it.

By Faith Alone, Martin Luther, reading for September 10th