Tuesday, November 30, 2010

FW: Daily Divine Service Book: A Lutheran Daily Missal, by Pr. H. R. Curtis

For your consideration…


Feed: Steadfast Lutherans
Posted on: Tuesday, November 30, 2010 4:06 PM
Author: Norm Fisher
Subject: Daily Divine Service Book: A Lutheran Daily Missal, by Pr. H. R. Curtis


For the first time in English, a complete Lutheran daily missal is available for purchase. Edited by Rev. H. R. Curtis, the 728 page volume contains the ordinary of the Common Service, extensive rubrics for a reverent celebration, and full propers for every day of the year (Sundays, Feasts, Ember Days, Weekdays of Lent, and all the saints in the Loehe and LSB calendars).

The book is especially well suited for communion shut-in calls: for the first time a pastor can conduct the entire service from just one book!

Daily Divine Service Book can be purchased in either hardcover or paperback at the links below. The book is being sold at 10% off until Christmas and using the code cyber305 will garner an additional 25% off.

Paperback or Hardcover editions are available from Lulu. Discount coupons are available here, or you can use coupon code HOLIDAYREADS for a discount.

Here's a link to a post about it.

The best way to conceive of this book is to think of it as the Missal that accompanies The Brotherhood Prayer Book as Breviary.

Pastor William Weedon

From the Preface:

At no time is [the lack of a Lutheran daily missal] more frustrating for Pastors than during the shut-in communion call. Shall I lug my altar book and lectionary along with me? Can I figure a method of marking my Bible so that I can find my way to the Introit and Gospel reading? But then what about the Collect?

Daily Divine Service Book grew out of such struggles in my own ministry. It is a daily book due to another frustration I encountered with the lectionaries and altar books available to Lutherans: the paucity of propers available for the sanctoral calendar. Should a Pastor wish to observe the day of St. Augustine, for example, at a midweek Divine Service – what propers would he use? Though Augustine is a favored saint among Lutherans and appears in many of the Lutheran sanctoral calendars, one is hard pressed to find actual propers for a Divine Service. In this volume you will find propers not only for Sundays and festivals, but for everyday of the year. . . .

This book will not replace the hymnal, agenda, altar book, and lectionary your parish uses. Rather, it is meant to be used alongside your current collection of worship resources. Furthermore, Daily Divine Service Book is not tied to any one Lutheran synod or hymnal. You may use this volume alongside TLH, CW, LW, LBW, or LSB and their respective altar books, agenda, and lectionaries to good effect. You may indeed find it more convenient to use Daily Divine Service Book during the actual service – and will almost certainly begin taking this book, and this book alone, with you on your shut-in communion visits.

Pr. H. R. Curtis
Trinity Lutheran Church, Worden, IL
Zion Lutheran Church, Carpenter, IL

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FW: LCMS President’s Office New Blog Site



Feed: Cyberbrethren Lutheran Blog Feed
Posted on: Tuesday, November 30, 2010 3:12 PM
Author: Paul T. McCain
Subject: LCMS President's Office New Blog Site


You'll want to follow the new blog site that launched today: Witness, Mercy, Life Together.

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Resources Received: New and Notable!

Brown, A. Philip II, Bryan W. Smith, Richard J. Goodrich, Albert L. Lukaszewski. A Reader's Hebrew and Greek Bible (A Reader's Hebrew Bible and A Reader's Greek New Testament in One Volume). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010 (2008, 2007). 574 + 1672  Pages (plus maps). European Leather. $74.99. www.zondervan.com (P)

LHP Review: Danger, Danger!

Labberton, Mark. The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor: Seeing Others Through the Eyes of Jesus. Downers Grove: IVP, 2010. 236 Pages. (Pre-Release Galley reviewed.) Hardcover. $20.00. http://www.ivpress.com/ (LHP)

The topic of human injustice and oppression is a perennial problem making it a worthy topic for Christian thought and examination. Mark Labberton provides a good entree into the subject in The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor. On every page, the reader is challenged to demonstrate and give the love of God in Christ to one’s neighbor. Labberton follows the consistent example of Jesus in encouraging Christians to see people as human beings created in the image of God rather than a nuisance, inconvenience, or problem to be avoided. The call to love people of the world in real, tangible ways is simply a basic, though imperfectly practiced, conviction of the Christian faith that is rooted solidly in the Biblical witness. The author argues persuasively that showing love is not simply a matter of doing a few good deeds from time to time, but rather a new heart that is being transformed by the love and grace of Jesus, to enter into the life of Christ Himself by faith and obedience.         

The transformation of Christian hearts that Labberton envisions is described provocatively in a three-fold manner: how we perceive, name, and interact with people in the world. Though each is described in separate chapters, they are intertwined and play upon each other. Injustice and oppression, which the author rightly acknowledges grow out of sinful human hearts, are allowed to flourish because people do not see their fellow human beings as being created in God’s image, do not honorably name them for who they are, nor act toward them in a way that reflects their status as unique and special individuals. If, for example, a person is seen as a commodity to be used and exploited, that person will be named appropriately to match their perceived status (i.e., slave, ugly, expendable, and so forth). Consequently that person will be treated and acted upon accordingly (i.e., forced into slavery; sexually, economically, or socially exploited, etc.).

One very helpful feature of this book is the “Reflection” sections scattered throughout the chapters. Penetrating questions are presented that are intended to help the reader evaluate how they see, name, and act regarding people they encounter via direct, personal contact, news media, church and charitable programs, etc. The questions are offered not as a means of inducing guilt but rather to train hearts and minds that are redeemed by Christ to reflect the love of Jesus in the world. If a reader is looking for a “how to” approach to being more compassionate and just, then this is not the book for you. Labberton is aiming at a deeper, more profound change in human hearts that produces a virtuous character and habitual inclination to act more justly and compassionately.     

If there is one area of weakness in the book, it is an overreliance on the number of anecdotal stories. Every story serves the intended purpose in the book: to help put flesh and blood on the need to see, name, and act rightly toward all people but especially for the oppressed. This is a minor criticism and does not detract from the valuable service the book provides.

 The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor is a very worthwhile book. There are many valuable and memorable gems scattered throughout its pages. The author’s insight of how the simple, yet often taken-for-granted, response of “you’re welcome” is being replaced with “no problem” is absolutely priceless and worth the price of the book. That simple observation encapsulates how people see, name, and treat one another. In many ways this book is an easy read, but if read well, the impact will be profound both upon the reader and those who receive their love in acts of justice, mercy, and compassion. 

The Rev. Kenneth Mars is Pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church, Kimball, Nebraska and Immanuel Lutheran Church, Burns, Wyoming, Secretary of the Wyoming District of the LCMS, and a regular contributing reviewer to QBR

FW: Get the Hymnal for Just $20!

A great deal on a great hymnal…


From: Concordia Publishing House [mailto:webservant=cph.org@mail28.us2.mcsv.net] On Behalf Of Concordia Publishing House
Sent: Tuesday, November 30, 2010 12:07 PM
To: revpaulcain@gmail.com
Subject: Get the Hymnal for Just $20!


November 30, 2010

Introduce Lutheran Service Book as an In-Home Resource

Since its introduction in 2006, Lutheran Service Book has sold over one million copies. Most of those copies are in congregations around the nation; now, Concordia Publishing House wants to put a copy of the hymnal in every home.

If someone you know doesn’t see the value of using the hymnal in the home, check out this guide for introducing Lutheran Service Book as a prayer book. You may help them see just how helpful the hymnal can be in situations outside of the church’s walls.

Learn more about the Hymnal in Every Home campaign by visiting cph.org/hymnal.


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Look Inside


Lutheran Service Book: Pew Edition 
Item #: 031170WEB


Sale Price:$20.00

Order Now

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FW: Good Luck Finding an Organist



Feed: Pastoral Meanderings
Posted on: Tuesday, November 30, 2010 7:22 AM
Author: noreply@blogger.com (Pastor Peters)
Subject: Good Luck Finding an Organist


For fully one third of the history of Christendom, the pipe organ has led the praises of God's people as they assemble to sing hymns, chant the liturgy, and hear the choir.  In the last fifty years or so the pipe organ has been supplemented by electronic substitutes of varying quality but which still require the same basic skills of the organist.  Now, it seems, many organs have gone silent due to a lack of people skilled to play them.  Well, actually, it is a lack of skilled people who are willing to put in the hours for what has become a low paying and high maintenance job.

This subject is personal to me.  I served as organist in my home parish (14 rank Estey tracker), in college, substituted in several parishes, played every Sunday at one service on vicarage, and still fire up the pipe organ from time to time (mostly for my own enjoyment).  In addition, I have been instrumental in obtaining a new organ (pipe or pipe electronic) in every parish I have served -- from vicarage through this present congregation.  So when I read a report on the tough times faced by congregations in search of an organist, I read every word.

The ABC News story begins in Oakland, Nebraska, not far from my home town.  The organ at the First United Methodist Church in this largely Swedish community has not been played since their 80 year old organist "retired" almost one year ago.  The story moves to Redeemer Lutheran Church, St. Clair Shores, Michigan, and a seminary classmate reports that this 400 member church is scheduling substitutes because they cannot find a permanent replacement for their last organist.

In our own case, we went through a similar journey.  We had two organists when I arrived but both of them left (following their military spouses) leaving us without an organist for quite some time.  We eventually found a temporary part-time organist for one service and depended upon pianists for the rest of the services.  We advertised and advertised without success.  After purchasing a used grand piano from a piano performance student at the local college, we got our first "permanent" organist -- though he had never played the organ before but was a gifted and quick learner.  When college was coming to an end, we advertised up the hilt for our part-time position and had a few applicants.  Nearly all were really looking for a full-time position which we were not capable of (at the time).  The applicant whom we hired turned out to be the perfect match and his interest and enthusiasm have multiplied our music program and helped us acquire two pipe organs (one, 65 ranks for the sanctuary, and another 12 ranks for the chapel).  But I still fear for the long term future.

The cause of this organist crisis is not primarily due to the growing number of churches using a praise band, as some would like to say.  We have a large number of organists but only 1% of all the positions are full-time and the pay is abysmal.  Both part-time and full-time organists face a big job description and responsibility in the worship service for what ends up being minimum wage or less.  Too many congregations are trying to be cheap in an area where you get what you pay for and you go begging when that pay is sub-standard.  I, for one, believe that the most important budget line in the congregation's spending plan is the section that covers worship -- staff, benefits, music, maintenance, and supplies.  Worship is the heart from which all other aspects of the congregation's life and work flow.  If that heart is well cared for and strong, the rest of the congregation's life and work will probably be strong.  If that is weak, the whole rest of who the congregation is and what that congregation does will surely suffer.

This is not about organists.  This is about putting our money where our mouth is.  We say worship is the most important activity, the central focus of our Christian lives as individuals and our life together as the people of God.  Why is it that we are so unwilling to pay a living wage to those who are key leaders in the worship services -- specifically the organist, parish musician, choir director, or cantor?  I actually heard of one demented Pastor who, in his search to make the parish financially viable, decided to make the organist position an hourly position -- with the clock commencing at the time the organist began playing and ending with the final note of Sunday morning (or other service) was sounded.  It would be like paying this Pastor for the time in pulpit but refusing to consider sermon prep part of his official duties.  What is wrong with us sometimes?

It is certainly true that there are less pianists out there as a potential pool of organists.  It is certainly true that some congregations are giving up organ for "keyboard" and the praise band.  It is certainly true that many congregations are financially hard pressed on all fronts.  I am not denying this.  But if our priorities are centered upon the worship service, some of these factors might fade away in our struggle to find someone to lead God's people in praise from the organ bench.  Why not offer to pay for organ lessons for a piano student (youth, teenager, or adult)?  Why not check the salary and expectations and make sure you are not asking for the impossible when employing an organist?  Why not consider job sharing and adjusting the service times to allow those congregations with one Sunday service to share and therefore provide adequate compensation for some organist who would need only one part-time job to make it a go?

Lastly, and then I will get off my soapbox, the organ is uniquely qualified to lead congregational song.  We do not have well trained singers in the pew and so they need certain and solid melody to encourage their singing.  The piano, being an acoustic instrument, does not hold the sound and emphasize melody in the same way an organ does.  Praise bands are great if you want people to listen to music but they are generally ill equipped to lead hymns (and most of the time they simply serve as back up to the lead solo singers -- generally female -- who sing center stage where the focus is on them and less on the song).  The organ can be a solo instrument and some organists act as if it is all about them and their sound,  but they are few in comparison to the total number of organists.  Think about the role of music within the Lutheran Divine Service tradition, the high place of hymns and sung liturgy, and the theological underpinnings of music within the liturgy -- we can either gripe about it or do something about it to make sure that the people hear the sound that calls them to sing the praise of Him who called us from darkness into His marvelous light...  Try going a few weeks without any music at all and you may begin to realize what you are missing. . .

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Monday, November 29, 2010

FW: When Christ is not in your windshield but in your rear view mirror...

See God in Christ…


Feed: Pastoral Meanderings
Posted on: Monday, November 29, 2010 6:46 AM
Author: noreply@blogger.com (Pastor Peters)
Subject: When Christ is not in your windshield but in your rear view mirror...


I ran this a very long time ago but since Narnia 3 The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is coming, I thought it might be time for a re-working of an old thought...  Watch 10 December 2010...

When the second film of C. S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia came out, the screenwriter suggested the meaning of the film as what happens when people "lose faith, when you don't see Aslan in your windshield and he's in your rear view mirror..."

Obviously he was being vague about something that Lewis was specific – Aslan may mean many things to many people but to his author Aslan is the God who redeems His people by His death and resurrection – Jesus Christ.

In the movie all the people save one little girl have stopped seeing Aslan.  Aslan moved from the windshield to the rear view mirror.  In real life many cry out where is God and many have stopped seeing God in their daily lives.  For them, God is no longer in their windshield but only a past whose image resides in the rear view mirror – in the yesterday that is already gone.

Some have described this movie as being dark – not so much the mysterious and glorious triumph of good over evil as the first movie was.  But that is exactly the point.  When God is no longer on our windshield but consigned to the rear view mirror, life is dark.  Where is hope and goodness without God in the picture?  What do we read in the news or hear on TV – it is a story of growing improvement or is it the story of ever present and deeper failure?  Sin is, after all, the one doctrine that needs no Scripture to prove.  It is eminently verifiable by seeing and listening to what is around you (and in you).

That is why Scripture uses the word repent – literally to turn around.  Life is a daily cycle of repenting – of turning around so that God moves back from the rear view mirror into the windshield.  It is the theme of Prince Caspian and it is the theme of Christian life.  It is not an easy turn around but a great battle for our hearts and minds.

Life in Christ is that daily act of repentance by which we die to sin and rise to new life in Christ by turning around, returning from where we have strayed, and being restored from our falls.  And one of the simplest ways to describe it is just what the screenwriter said... it is what happens when people "lose faith, when you don't keen Aslan in your windshield and he's in your rear view mirror..."

I seldom meet an atheist (the Pew Study of American's beliefs found that more than half of self-described atheists believe in God!).  But I meet a great number of folks who no longer see God, who no longer expect God, and who no longer look for God to be part of their lives.  These are folks for whom God has become a memory.  He resides no longer on their windshields but in their rear view mirrors.  He played a role in who they were or where they came from but no longer shapes who they are or where they are going.  To them we say what we must daily say to ourselves... "Come back... repent... turn around..."

C. S. Lewis is an author who aptly describes our modern predicament and who gives us the answer we need: No matter how far we stray, there is only one way back.  Christ is that way, repentance is that path, and the Spirit is the power to bring it all together.  He works through the Word and Sacraments (and even through people like you and me when we speak that Word).  Thank the Lord that He is not content to be a memory but insists upon being our present and future. 

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FW: New Lutheran Quote of the Day

Short, sweet, and true…


Feed: Weedon's Blog
Posted on: Monday, November 29, 2010 6:59 AM
Author: wweedon@gmail.com (William Weedon)
Subject: New Lutheran Quote of the Day


Ours is not to explain, but to worship. -- Dr. Norman Nagel, CTM, Sept. 1956, No. 9, p. 701.


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Sunday, November 28, 2010

FW: The Reformation is Not About “Different Opinions” but Different Gospels!

A Reformation sermon…


Feed: CyberBrethren-A Lutheran Blog
Posted on: Sunday, November 28, 2010 4:58 AM
Author: ptmccain
Subject: The Reformation is Not About "Different Opinions" but Different Gospels!


A great sermon for Reformation Day, by Pastor Larry Peters, preached on October 31, 2010

Not so long ago I had a conversation with a Christian who wondered about those Lutherans, especially their educational programs.  I told him about us and related about Sunday school and Bible study, but he did not seem interested.  Then I talked about catechism class and confirmation and it was catechism class that caught his interest.  He saw it as an indoctrination (negative idea) in which we told kids the answers when we should have been equipping them to think for themselves and choose their own answers to life's big questions.  I responded that catechism was indeed indoctrination – not to the teachings of men but the embrace of God's Word and the teaching that alone imparts forgiveness, life and salvation.

This man saw the truth of God's Word as many truths, taught by many different denominations, and the Christian's purpose to find the version of truth that fits you.  We all find temptation to see matters of faith as less about truth than about interpretation – as if God's Word were sufficiently vague to make it impossible to know whose take on that Word is genuine and true.  We all find certain attraction that we get to decide what Scripture says and what is truth.

I am here today to tell you that this is baloney.  The different ways people read God's Word are not merely variations on a theme but radically different Gospels.  The Reformation of Luther is not about competing interpretations but about the one Gospel which is true and others which are false.  If you read St. Paul's letters, you hear him warn the people against departing from the truth that He delivered to them.  He was not offering one version of the truth but the only truth that saves — the truth of Jesus Christ. We face exactly the same challenge today.

Christianity is not the domain of differing but equally true ideas about God.  Christianity is not some umbrella religion of many different truths that all claim to be right.  Christianity is about the one, true Gospel that has the power to forgive, save, and give eternal life.  The other gospels are false gospels that are powerless to do anything for you.  Luther's battle was not with a pope or a council but with a false gospel which had robbed the Church of the Word that does what it says, delivers what it promises, and bestows what it speaks.

Lutheran identity is not rooted in an opinion of a man named Luther but in the rediscovery of this one true Gospel at a time when it had long been hidden and distorted by false teachings that deprived it of its power to do what that Gospel promises to do – to forgive our sins, redeem us from death, and impart to us eternal salvation.  Lutherans do not proclaim a Lutheran Gospel but the one, true, unchanging Gospel that St. Paul insists is the only truth at all.  What is this truth?  The article on which the Church stands or falls is justification – how are we saved.

We are saved by grace as the free gift of God in Christ Jesus and not by our works.  The truth is that much of what you hear on TV and the popular books hawked as Christian today is nothing less than a religion of works.  If you are good enough, you get happiness, health, and wealth today and if you are not, you have to fix what is wrong so that God can give you these things.  This is not the Gospel of the cross, of sin and forgiveness, of death and life.

We are saved through faith – not a faith which is the fruit of our reason or intellect or the warm fuzzy of our feelings but the faith that only the Holy Spirit can plant in us, working through the Word and Sacraments, so that we might grasp hold of the cross and trust in Jesus Christ alone.  This faith is not about your decision but about God's declaration, not about knowledge or understanding but about trust.

We are saved in Christ – not as one of many messengers whom God has sent whose names may be Moroni or Mohammed but as the one and only Son of God, incarnate by the Virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit, who suffered as the innocent for the guilty, died a death that was ours to die and rose to impart to us the life none of us could accomplish for ourselves.  Jesus, Jesus, only Jesus – not a teacher or mentor or role model but the Savior whom the prophets promised, who kept the commandments for us, and who alone has the power to cloth us in righteousness and holiness.  Without this Jesus, the whole Christian religion falls apart and there is nothing left to hold on to or hope in.

It is not that we Lutherans have an exclusive claim to this truth – we do not.  But apart from this exclusive truth, there are no Christians.  We gladly affirm those who came before us and those who may not bear the name Lutheran but who confess this saving truth.  Yet we also warn that apart from this saving truth, there is no truth that saves, no hope for life over death, and no good but the fleeting pleasure of the moment.
Lutherans confess that this Gospel is the message of Scripture and no other.  It is this message that is confessed from Genesis to Revelation.  It is this Gospel of Jesus Christ, this Gospel of the cross and empty tomb, and this Gospel of forgiveness, life and salvation that is the one message of the Bible.  Scripture cradles the Christ of the manger and cross and empty tomb and without Him its words speak nothing to us.

This is the truth that saves – it is not a consolation for the bad things you have to endure in this life but the hope that sustains you today because by baptism and faith you confess the eternal tomorrow Jesus prepare for you. This is the Word that sets us free from sin, free from fear, and free from the impossible task of being good enough to fix what is wrong with you.

What is the Lutheran difference?  In reality, there is none.  In our confessions, Lutherans hold in trust the one, true, saving Gospel which is the promise for all but which is always under assault.  We are not Lutherans to be different but Lutherans to be faithful to this one saving Gospel.  We celebrate the Reformation history because this Gospel could not be silenced, because of the faithful who confessed before the world the faithful truth that still sets us free.  We call ourselves Lutheran only because of this heritage of faithfulness and we pledge to do nothing less than faithfully raise up this Gospel and this Christ in our own time.
In our Lutheran Confessions is not our interpretation of the Bible but embodied for all the one truth that belongs to all in Christ.  This is the ecumenical truth that alone reforms and unites and saves.  We exist as Lutherans for the sake of this one authentic truth in Jesus Christ, to proclaim it to the world and to live it out within the community of God's Word and sacraments.  The truth that endures forever!
Robert Capon wrote of this truth in vivid terms in his book From Noon to Three: "The reformation was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellarful of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two hundred proof grace — of bottle after bottle of pure distillate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly.  The word of the gospel — after all those centuries of trying to lift yourself into heaven by worrying about the perfection of your bootstraps — suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home before they started…Grace has to be drunk straight boys: no water, no ice, and certainly no ginger ale; neither goodness, nor badness, nor the flowers that bloom in the spring of super spirituality could be allowed to enter into the case."

God help us to stand for this truth today with courage and confidence, to drink deeply of his sweet grace, not to dilute it in any way, nor to allow it ever again to be cast aside in favor of something which is powerless to reach into the abyss of our sin and death with forgiveness and life.  This is what the Reformation is about.  Then and now.  Amen.

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Closing Volume 4 and Issue 4.4, Opening Volume 5 and Issue 5.1

This post will mark the last entry in QBR 4.4, Angels' Tide,
and the opening entry in Christmastide, QBR 5.1

Interested in the new full-size 2011 Church Year Calendar from CPH?
Click below:

Saturday, November 27, 2010

FW: “O Wisdom, Come” (Advent sermon series on the O Antiphons, by Pr. Charles Henrickson)

One of seven sermons…

Feed: Steadfast Lutherans
Posted on: Saturday, November 27, 2010 9:19 PM
Author: Charles Henrickson
Subject: "O Wisdom, Come" (Advent sermon series on the O Antiphons, by Pr. Charles Henrickson)

This is the first in an Advent sermon series on "The Seven Great 'O' Antiphons."
"O Wisdom, Come" (Proverbs 8:12-31; Colossians 1:15-20, 28; 2:2-3; John 1:1-5, 9)
The Advent hymn we just sang, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," goes back about 900 years, to the 12th century. But the texts on which this hymn is based go back a few centuries before that, even–maybe 1200 years ago or more. They are known as the Great "O" Antiphons, and you can see them printed there on the facing page in your hymnal (LSB 357).
What is an antiphon, you ask? An antiphon is a little framing verse that is sung before and after a canticle or a psalm. These O Antiphons were chanted before and after the Magnificat at Vespers during Advent. There are seven of them, and historically they were used over the last seven days before Christmas Eve Day, in other words, from December 17 through December 23. We're going to use them before then, over our seven Advent services beginning today, the four Sunday Divine Services and our three Wednesday Vespers. This will give us a continuing theme running through our observance of Advent this year: "The Seven Great 'O' Antiphons."
Now look at the structure of these seven antiphons. Each one consists of three parts. First there is an address to Christ, using the vocative "O" and a biblical title to address him: "O Wisdom": "O Adonai"; "O Root of Jesse"; "O Key of David"; "O Dayspring"; "O King of the nations": and "O Emmanuel." Now of course these O Antiphons originally were in Latin, which was the universal language of the church for most of Christian history. And so you can see the Latin titles on your bulletin insert, in order: "Sapientia"; "Adonai"; "Radix Jesse"; "Clavis David"; "Oriens"; "Rex Gentium"; and "Emmanuel."
So the first part of each antiphon is the address of "O" and a title. The second part is a description of something about Christ that fits the title–for example, for "O Dayspring," the words, "splendor of light everlasting," amplifying that particular term. The third part of the antiphon, then, is a petition, a prayer to Christ, asking him to "Come" and do thus and such, whatever it is, in order to help us.
"Oh, well, now all that's pretty interesting, Pastor," you might say. "I learned something new today." But friends, these O Antiphons are not merely some dusty artifacts from the distant past that you can know something about, in a detached sort of way. No, these are prayers you can use! For they address the living Christ, who still comes to help his people. Through these O Antiphons, we learn to know him more fully and to call upon him in faith.

So with that by way of introduction, let us all pray together the first O Antiphon, which you see printed, either in your hymnal or on your insert, the one addressing Christ as Wisdom: "O Wisdom, proceeding from the mouth of the Most High, pervading and permeating all creation, mightily ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence."

What are we doing addressing Christ as "Wisdom"? I thought wisdom was an abstract concept. Well, that's part of the intriguing background of this title, and it's a bit controversial to apply it to Christ. Earlier we read that section of Proverbs 8 wherein Wisdom calls out and speaks. "I, wisdom, dwell with prudence," it begins. This seems to be just a poetic personification of wisdom, as though an abstract concept–a virtue, let's call it–could speak.
A little later, though, Wisdom says: "The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth." Now Wisdom seems to have been around from eternity, to have been with the Lord from before the beginning. "When he established the heavens, I was there," Wisdom declares, and then adds, "when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master workman." So now Wisdom appears to have played an active part in the creation of the universe, working side by side with God.
But as I say, this identifying of the Proverbs 8 "Wisdom" with the person of Christ has not been without controversy. Some have taken this part about "The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work" to mean "The Lord 'created' me at the beginning of his work." Heretics old and new have used this passage to claim that Christ was some sort of created being, not on the same par with God–somewhat higher than the angels, perhaps, but not equal with God, not true God.
So the church, while embracing the identification of Christ with Wisdom, has had to reject the heretical claim that Christ is merely a created being and not true God. Thus the language of the Nicene Creed: "begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made"–this last part, "by whom all things were made," referring to Christ as actively involved in the work of creation.
And so if Proverbs 8 is properly understood, we can see how this title of "Wisdom" came to be associated with Christ. Because it fits well with what we know about Christ from other parts of Scripture. As it says of Christ in Colossians 1: "For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together."
It is this idea of Christ as the divine Wisdom that holds all things together, that holds the whole universe together, that we find also at the beginning of John's gospel, in the opening verses of chapter 1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made."
Here the Greek term Logos, translated "the Word," is being used in much the same way as the term Wisdom: Christ as the one who was with God in the beginning, who is true God in his substance, who was active in the work of creation, and who gives order and meaning to all things. The eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, is the divine source of wisdom and order in creation, who gives meaning to it all.
This, then, is how we are speaking of Christ, and to Christ, in this first O Antiphon: as "Wisdom, proceeding from the mouth of the Most High, pervading and permeating all creation, mightily ordering all things." This is the one whom we are anticipating at Christmas, this is he who is coming.
And so now we can see how much we need him! Because we see a distinct lack of order and wisdom in our world, don't we? Here is why we need Jesus so much! How disorderly and out of whack everything is! Even the natural world does not work as it should: natural disasters, too much rain, not enough rain, tsunamis and earthquakes and catastrophes of all kinds. Our bodies are breaking down, wearing out, diseased and dying. This is not how creation is supposed to work.
And then there's the lack of wisdom in how people live. Foolish and downright stupid, people behave. Living on credit. Living for pleasure. Living in sin. Substance abuses of all sorts–marijuana and meth, too much liquor and too many calories–foolish, what people do to their bodies. And their minds and souls, filling them with trash, too.
But what about me? What about you? Haven't we lacked wisdom in how we live? I'm sure you can think of some examples in your own life. I know I can. Godly wisdom shows up in the fruit of our life, and the converse of that is true, too. Folly bears its bitter fruit. Wisdom is what we need in order to live as God designed us to live, in accord with his good order.
Here is where Christ comes in. He comes into our world as Wisdom in the flesh. He shows us the right way in which to walk. And he not only shows us and tells us, he does something about it! He walks the way of the cross for us, in order to bear the cost for our folly. Think of it: The Lord of creation comes as a little baby at Christmas, in order to suffer and die for his wayward creatures! Amazing and wonderful, beyond measure! As Paul says in 1 Corinthians: "We preach Christ crucified . . . Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. . . . Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption." Yes, Christ crucified, God's wisdom, now risen from the dead, and he will come again in glory to restore this fallen creation and set everything right at last.
And in the meantime, Christ our Lord gives his Spirit to his Christians and enables us and shows us how to live in wisdom. And so the prayer of our antiphon: "Come and teach us the way of prudence." Do you lack wisdom in your life? Do you want wisdom in your life, good, sound judgment for how to live the way your Creator knows best for you to live? Then seek Christ. Learn of him. Hear his word. Listen to his teaching. Rejoice in his grace. Discover what love and forgiveness are from him, in the community of his church.
"O Wisdom, Come!" Today we begin our Advent journey through the Great "O" Antiphons. And the first one is a beautiful prayer for our Lord Jesus Christ to come and teach us his ways: "O Wisdom, proceeding from the mouth of the Most High, pervading and permeating all creation, mightily ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence."

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

FW: Singing the Psalms: the ‘Wee Free’

Of interest due to a recent review book, The Book of Psalms for Worship, mentioned below…


Feed: Evangel
Posted on: Wednesday, November 24, 2010 9:01 AM
Author: David T. Koyzis
Subject: Singing the Psalms: the 'Wee Free'


Like the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, the Free Church of Scotland has historically allowed only unaccompanied singing of Psalms in the liturgy. However, its synodical assembly has now decided, by a narrow majority, to permit extrabiblical hymns and instruments in worship for those congregations desiring it. Given that the assembly was divided on the issue, many are unhappy with the decision — with one minister considering leaving the "Wee Free" for another Reformed denomination — thereby incurring the scorn of at least one member of the press. The Free Church's statement can be found here.

Incidentally, I have just been lent a copy of the RPCNA's new Book of Psalms for Worship, which replaces the Book of Psalms for Singing. I have not yet had a chance to look at it carefully, but at first glance I see that it is strictly limited to the 150 canonical Psalms, excluding other biblical material, such as the Decalogue, the Song of Hannah and the three Lukan canticles.

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Pulpit Review: A Notable Commentary Series and Commentator

Steinmann, Andrew E. Proverbs (Concordia Commentary). St. Louis, Concordia, 2009. 719 Pages. Cloth. $42.99. http://www.cph.org/ (P)

It seems that commentaries on Scripture are a dime-a-dozen. Visit any major publishing house and they have their own series. Once sets are completed, some are sold complete at a discount. Other sets have hard-to-find essential volumes. Commenting on Scripture is nothing new. In the last centuries, even non-Christians have written their own commentaries!

A commentary is only as good as the commentator. Good publishers know this. No, not everyone is qualified from an academic perspective. Nor is every academic qualified based on how clearly they write. In addition, daring to comment on Divine Scripture takes a unique qualification: faith.

Faith helps over come the so-called "ivory tower syndrome. Faith in Christ for salvation is something that some conservative Christians have never seen in an academic "pontificator," hence the widespread distrust of scholarship, academia, what I once heard called "monk books," and especially commentaries.

The Concordia Commentary series confesses Christ clearly. Commentators demonstrate high scholarship informed by faith and communicated winsomely.

Concordia Commentary: A Theological Exposition of Sacred Scripture is written to enable pastors and teachers of the Word to proclaim the Gospel with greater insight, clarity, and faithfulness to the divine intent of the biblical text.

This landmark work will cover all the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments, interpreting Scripture as a harmonious unity centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Every passage bears witness to the Good News that God has reconciled the world to Himself through our Lord's life, death, and resurrection.
The commentary fully affirms the divine inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of Scripture as it emphasizes "that which promotes Christ" in each pericope.

Authors are sensitive to the rich treasury of language, imagery, and themes found throughout Scripture, including such dialectics as Law and Gospel, sin and grace, death and new life, folly and wisdom, this fallen world and the new creation in Christ. Careful attention is given to the original Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. Further light is shed on the text from archaeology, history, and extrabiblical literature. Finally, Scripture's message is applied to the ongoing life of the church in terms of ministry, worship, proclamation of the Word, Baptism, the Lord's Supper, confession of the faith—all in joyful anticipation of the life of the world to come. (publisher's website, emphasis added)
Andrew E. Steinmann, author of Daniel in the Concordia Commentary series, succeeds with his Proverbs commentary where so many fall short: he shows a structure for the Proverbs instead of describing the book as a mere collection of disparate wisdom sayings (493ff, et al).

"Wisdom comes from God to protect you" (88). So says the headline before 2:1-15. It's not that God wants to spoil our "fun." He wants to protect us from the devil, the world, and even ourselves when it comes to sin.

"The Fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge" (1:7, 51, 27, et al, cf. "faith"). "We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things" (Small Catechism).

This commentary expounds Proverbs as an Old Testament Wisdom book that reveals Jesus Christ, who is the agent of creation and the wisdom of God incarnate. Proverbs inculcates God's wisdom through didactic sayings that teach prudence and discretion for the life of faith, which is contrasted to the ways of the world. This commentary explains both the larger features of the book and the individual proverbs that comprise this treasury of divine wisdom. (publisher's website)
Studying a commentary that so clearly and deeply uses and explains the original Hebrew (or Greek) is a great blessing and a guard against sectarianism and heresy (like that of Arius, 228-9).

What of the relationship between Law and Gospel in Proverbs? "In Proverbs sayings that apply the Law are far more frequent than sayings that bring the comfort of the Gospel. Yet the Gospel predominates in this book, for the sole source of its comfort for those who have fallen short of God's expectations is the Good News of God's forgiveness and free salvation. The Gospel is what empowers them to live as God's forgiven and reconciled people and therefore to grow in wisdom and righteous living" (42, cf. 56, 61ff, et al).

The following deserve your special attention:
  • Note how the book of Proverbs "grew" (19, 493ff)
  • See "The Spectrum of Advice" (37)
  • What are the differences between the MT and LXX in Proverbs? (47)
  • Wisdom as "path" (255ff)5
  • Wisdom for rulers (especially just after an election (361ff)
  • A footnote connecting 18:22 to Song 5:1, an insight to share in (pre)marital counseling (396)
  • Background for the "inwardly digest" prayer of LSB 308 and TLH 14 (456)
  • Learn a better way to translate my Confirmation verse, 22:6, " Consecrate a child according to the way he should go, and even when he becomes old, he will not turn from it" (436, 437-8, 441-3)
  • Luther on Proverbs: 499ff
  • Chiasm (26:1-12, 524)
  • A Christian view of alcohol (622-624)
  • 31:1-31, "An Acrostic Poem about a Godly Wife," 627-645
Steinmann's commentary on Proverbs will better equip the pastor to preach and teach the deeper structure and meaning of this book of wisdom to the praise and glory of Jesus Christ.

With Ezra and Nehemiah, commentator Steinmann clearly decodes the confusing post-exilic world of God's Old Testament people.

God raised up Ezra and Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem and prepare for the Messiah. Their books show how God works in His people and in Jesus Christ, who accomplished out salvation through His perfect life, atoning death, and glorious resurrection. (publisher's website)
Ezra and Nehemiah are quite often neglected and misunderstood (cf. xvii). This commentary volume is an attempt to overcome that negligence and ignorance. Christ is at the heart of the sacrifices (81, Leviticus, see also 87, Ezekiel 21-48, 189-98). The books belong together in the same commentary due to the subject matter, and more importantly, questions with regard to authorship, date, and structure.

Modern readers are often surprised at how important a wall was for protection, sovereignty, and pure worship. We live in days when "a thin blue line" protects us domestically and military strength abroad is not enough to defend our porous borders from numerous external threats. Perhaps current events will teach us again how "good fences make good neighbors." Nehemiah and the people had to wait a long time to legally rebuild the wall. And that was a necessary step to protect the rebuilt temple, which also had to wait for legal permission for reconstruction.

"....the gathering to read the Teaching of Moses and the diligence of the Levites to ensure that the people understood it (Neh 8:7-8) were part of preserving Israel's hope in the Messiah. They were also necessary steps to be taken before the wall was dedicated" (507). Here the commentator shows a proper focus of this Old Testament book on Christ, as well as answering scholarly theories about Nehemiah 8-9 being allegedly "out of sequence."

And now the "lightning round." Answer the following with the help of Dr. Steinmann:
  • Who wrote Ezra and Nehemiah? (2-12)
  • Are they one book or two? (12-21)
  • How would you explain the interrelation of Persian Kings, Jewish High Priests, and the content of Ezra and Nehemiah? (Words failed me. I need the chart on 66-67. Even Luther fell short: 149, 474)
  • Was the Ark of the Covenant available to be placed into the rebuilt temple? (No, 214)
  • Why does Ezra 9-10 spend so much time on exogamy (marrying outside one's group) and what is the true meaning behind its prohibition and the true theme of these chapters? (319ff)
  • When was the "Reformation" in Nehemiah? (Chapter 13, 478ff)
This commentary volume is unique in providing resources I had not seen elsewhere. Steinmann, based on the work of Tzafrir, reconstructs who built which sections of Jerusalem's wall under Nehemiah (425). I had no idea that Luther's German Bible was so influential in changing the chapter division point between Nehemiah 3 and 4, influencing subsequent English Bibles (442-3).

This gifted commentator is a prolific author, evidenced by his CPH biography below, but also by his extensive personal Bibliography contributions (Ezra and Nehemiah, xlviii). I would love to hear a presentation in person. Perhaps Andrew E Steinmann would be interested in a trip to Wyoming for an exegetical workshop...  

We at QBR are very grateful for Concordia Commentary and eagerly look forward to Ecclesiastes, Isaiah 40-55, and Matthew 11:2-20:34.

Andrew Steinmann holds a B.S. from the University of Cincinnati, an M. Div. from Concordia Theological Seminary (Ft. Wayne) and a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies from the University of Michigan. He has served as pastor of St. John Lutheran Church, Fraser, Michigan (1981–86); taught at Concordia College, Ann Arbor (1986–91); served as editor at God’s Word to the Nations Bible Society (1991–94); served as staff pastor at Lutheran Home, Westlake, Ohio (1995–2000); and taught at Ashland University and Seminary (1996–2000). He is currently Professor of Theology and Hebrew at Concordia University Chicago, where he has served since 2000. Dr. Steinmann has published articles and essays in national and international journals including Bibliotheca Sacra, Concordia Journal, Concordia Pulpit Resources, Concordia Theological Quarterly, Hebrew Studies, Journal of Biblical Literature, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Logia: A Journal of Lutheran Theology, Lutheran Education, The Michigan Academician, Review of Biblical Literature, Revue de Qumran, TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism, Vetus Testamentum and several reference works. He is the author of seven books including The Oracles of God: The Old Testament Canon (Concordia, 1999), Fundamental Biblical Aramaic (Concordia, 2004 with Andrew Bartelt’s Fundamental Biblical Hebrew), Is God Listening?: Making Prayer a Part of Your Life (Concordia, 2004), Proverbs in the Concordia Commentary series (forthcoming), and Daniel in the Concordia Commentary series (forthcoming). He is co-author with Andrew Bartelt of Workbook and Supplementary Exercises for Fundamental Biblical Hebrew and Fundamental Biblical Aramaic (Concordia, 2006). Dr. Steinmann is also contributing editor to the textbook Called to Be God’s People: An Introduction to the Old Testament (Wipf and Stock, 2006), as well as a consultant for The Lutheran Study Bible (publisher's website).

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

FW: An excellent read

This insight is very true of many "evangelical" books that we review…


Feed: Confessional Gadfly
Posted on: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 4:19 PM
Author: Rev. Eric J Brown
Subject: An excellent read


I would highly recommend that everyone read Pastor Mason Beecroft's Article in the Last Issue of the Issues, Etc Journal. It tells of his move from random American pap to the Missouri Synod.

Of particular note and love to me was this:

"One thing I heard often in evangelicalism was the full weight of the Law. In evangelical circles, the Gospel is mostly assumed. The proclamation of Christ and Him Crucified for the forgiveness of sins and salvation is reserved for non-believers, sinners who have not yet made a decision for Jesus. Now when a person has walked down the aisle, raised their hand, or signed the card, then they are "saved."
Once saved, then you are always saved. The emphasis of the Christian life is then one of obedience. The evangelical congregation is exhorted, commanded, manipulated and instructed toward more prayer, more giving, more faith, more love, and more holiness. The sermon is intended to convict people and direct them to greater piety. Well, as a student required to attend chapel four days a week and local church on Sunday, I heard on a weekly basis some 15-20 things I should be doing as a good Christian. This constant preaching of the Law results in either self- righteousness or self-loathing, both problematic to true faith. The self-righteous, in their delusional mind, suppose they are fairly good at keeping God's demands, at least better than most. Thus, there is little need for Christ. This was not my problem. Instead, I was burdened by the weight of my sins and my inability to be faithful. No matter how hard I tried, I could not meet the expectations of God's Law or those rules, regulations, and principles preached from the pulpit. So when I finally kneeled for confession and absolution in a Lutheran Divine Service, I was struck by the proclamation that my sins were forgiven for the sake of Jesus Christ. I was comforted to hear the Gospel applied to me."

It is not about rules, it is not about works, it is not about increasing piety - it must always be about bring sinners the Gospel (and if they don't know they are sinners, well, afflict the comforted, but only so that they might receive the true comfort of the Gospel).

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Pulpit Review: On the Apocrypha

Voicu, Sever J., editor. Thomas C. Oden, General Editor. Apocrypha (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Old Testament XV). Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2010. 547 Pages. Cloth. $40.00. http://www.ivpress.com/ (P) 

This last volume of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture offers commentary from the early church fathers on the deuterocanonical books of the Bible, with insights that will be of great benefit to preachers and teachers alike. Readers will find some ancient authors translated into English here for the first time. Throughout they will gain insight and encouragement in the life of faith as seen through ancient pastoral eyes.
Download an essay by J. Robert Wright on the significance of the art used on the covers of the Ancient Christian Commentaries (http://www.ivpress.com/title/exc/1470-art.pdf, publisher's website).
"Deuterocanonical" means "second canon." 

Apocrypha" means "hidden."

Yet, these are not the kind of texts that get attention on the various secular media shows on cable or PBS. An inordinate amount of time is spent discussing other hidden texts denied by a "threatened" or "devious" Church. (Please note the media bias and my own sarcasm...)

The Gospel according to Judas? Irenaus knew of it and that it was Gnostic junk attempting to hijack Christianity. 

The Nag Hammadi Library? Let's just say it was buried for a GOOD reason.

In contrast, very little respect is paid canonical Bible texts. The apocrypha are lost in the shuffle.

Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant groups have their own different lists. Luther included the Apocrypha in his German Bible translation because they were good to read even if they weren't Scripture. Anglicans kept the Apocrypha in liturgical use. The apocryphal books were translated as part of the KJV, but were excluded from English-language mission field editions due to cost. That set a precedent. So, when the German LCMS made the transition to English, the Apocrypha, included in CPH Bibles in German, disappeared in English. We note that Oxford has an ESV now available with the Apocrypha. CPH will have a Lutheran edition of just the Apocrypha available soon.

What of this volume of ancient commentaries on these apocryphal books?

Some critique is in order. I would recommend a new subtitle to the editor for the quote from the Letters of Fulgentius of Ruspe (68-69). "Christians always die at a mature age" is not merely misleading, but contrary to what this father actually said: The Christian who has lived in the fear of God, at whatever age he dies...Wisdom, rather, is a person's gray hair..." I wish to offer gentle correction to Severus of Antioch regarding his discomfort with the physical (89); the Marian tendencies (and his unnecessarily complicated thoughts, 196); and the author of Sirach himself for his lack of clarity (putting the best construction on it) or outright works-righteousness (which may be closer to the truth) when he writes, "Almsgiving atones for sin" (Sirach 3:30, 198). And I would be remiss if I did not mention the influence of 2 Maccabees 12:43-45 on the false dogmatic invention of purgatory (xxvii).

Apocryphal books with patristic commentary in this volume are:
  • Tobit
  • Wisdom of Solomon
  • Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach
  • Baruch
  • The Letter of Jeremiah
  • The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men
  • Susanna
  • Bel and the Dragon
Texts are the familiar Revised Standard Version, recognizable to both users of the New Revised Standard Version as well as the English Standard Version.

Understand Proverbs as wisdom literature before wading into the Wisdom of Solomon. In the meantime, Augustine is a good guide (47ff). "God loves no one so much as the one who lives with wisdom--but the Lord gives the wisdom!" (103)

Consider Sirach as a commentator on Christians who forget their past:
Do not slight the discourse of the sages, but busy yourself with their maxims; because from them you will gain instruction and learn how to serve great men. Do not disregard the discourse of the aged, for they themselves learned from their fathers; because from them you will gain understanding and learn how to give an answer in time of need. (8:8-9, 218)

Other benefits of this volume also include the most extensive list of "Biographical Sketches" (485ff) and "Timeline of Writers of the Patristic Period" (508ff) of all of the volumes of Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture.

Get a better understanding of the Apocrypha from an ancient perspective with the Apocrypha volume of Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture!

In closing, note that the Fathers sometimes speak by their silence. Commentaries on Judith, the Greek additions to Esther, 1, 2, 3, and 4, Maccabees, 1 and 2 Esdras, and the Prayer of Manasseh are rare or non-existent, while commentary on the inspired texts of the Old Testament and New Testament is plentiful. While the early fathers may not have always understood justification in line with the clear Bible witness, they did allow other apocryphal, pseudepigraphal, Gnostic, or silly texts to speak for themselves. 

We at QBR are curious to see the electronic edition of the ACCS set for LOGOS 4. We would encourage you to consider three other IVP Academic series: Ancient Christian Texts, Ancient Christian Doctrine, and Reformation Commentary on Scripture (http://www.ivpress.com/academic/). We have reviewed some ACT and ACD volumes and hope to see more soon!

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.