Mrs. Rebekah Curtis on Issues, Etc. discusses How Girls Dress with Pr. Todd Wilken (mp3, 26:00, 10.5 MB, 2008-Sep-22)

See also Mrs. Curtis' article, "Hey Good Lookin'," in the Summer 2008 issue of Higher Things Magazine:

A girl's wardrobe can explain a lot about her. (I mean, Kathy Luder wears ladybug necklaces. What does that say?) So how should a Christian young lady dress? Can she wear a mini-skirt or does she have to wear a dress the size of a tent? If you're interested in maintaining your modesty, Mrs. Curtis is here to help.



Criteria for Discerning the Usefulness of Praise Songs

Determining the truth of what someone is saying is impossible if the person isn't actually saying anything. This is the great difficulty of assessing praise songs commonly used in the church. The nature of modern praise songs makes them difficult to make them useful judgments regarding their fitness for use in the church's worship. Often the songs are written in sentence fragments, thought and phrases rather than a regular sentence with an subject, verb and object. Simple questions are often unanswerable: “Who is this talking about?” “What does this mean?” “What is the relationship between one phrase and another?”

When I was a child we would play a game on the 4th of July. Some smarty would take a tub of Vaseline and slather up a watermelon and toss it into the swimming pool. Dozens of kids would try to get it out of the water. Any time you thought you had a hold of the melon it would squirt out of your arms. This is something of the difficulty in making a clear judgment about such ambiguous lyrics. (Of course this ambiguity is a big part of the problem.)

What is needed, then, is an objective method of judging the usefulness of a praise song for edifying the Lord's church and bringing the comfort of the forgiveness of sins.

Pr. Bryan Wolfmueller, Hope Lutheran Church, Aurora, Co. discusses Lutheran Evangelism with Pr. Todd Wilken (mp3, 26:32, 10.4 MB, 2009-Jun-23)

Pr. Wolfmueller is author of the article A Lutheran Theology of Evangelism, and co-host of the program, Table Talk Radio.


Pr. Wilken: "Is it possible to care more about evangelism than the evangel?"

Pr. Wolfmueller: "I think that distinction, right there, is just precisely outlining the difference between a pastor and a church bureaucrat, or maybe a Christian and a church bureaucrat. For one of the Lord's Christians, the thing, the theological blood that beats through our heart is the evangel, the good news that Jesus lived and died on the cross for our sins, that He rose again for our justification, and that even now He stands before the Father pleading our case, on our behalf, that this good news, that everything that God has done for us, this is what makes a Christian.

"If you start to care more about spreading that news or getting that news out there, and you care about that more than the news itself, then I really think you've finally become a church bureaucrat and what you're interested in is organizing people or aligning people to be busy about the news of telling the Gospel but you never actually get around to telling the Gospel itself, to speaking the forgiveness of sins."


UPDATED! Pastor William Weedon was recently interviewed by Pastor Todd Wilken on the Historic Liturgy (24 Parts):

  1. Part 1: Introduction (mp3, 57:20, 23 MB, 2012-May-10)

  2. Part 2: Confession (mp3, 57:19, 22.9 MB, 2012-May-25)

  3. Part 3: Absolution (mp3, 57:20, 22.9 MB, 2012-May-31)

  4. Part 4: Introit and Gloria Patri (mp3, 57:20, 22.9 MB, 2012-Jul-12)

  5. Part 5: Kyrie (mp3, 57:21, 22.9 MB, 2012-Jul-19)

  6. Part 6: Gloria (mp3, 57:16, 22.9 MB, 2012-Jul-26)

  7. Part 7: Worthy Is Christ (mp3, 57:20, 52.8 MB (128 kbps), 2012-Aug-02)

  8. Part 8: The Salutation and The Collect (mp3, 57:20, 23.4 MB, 2012-Aug-09)

  9. Part 9: The Readings and the Old Testament Reading (mp3, 58:20, 23.4 MB, 2012-Aug-16)

  10. Part 10: The Gradual and the Alleluia (mp3, 58:20, 23.3 MB, 2012-Aug-23)

  11. Part 11: The Epistle and the Gospel (mp3, 58:20, 23.3 MB, 2012-Sep-20)

  12. Part 12: The Creed (mp3, 58:20, 23.3 MB, 2012-Sep-27)

  13. Part 13: The Sermon Hymn and Hymns in the Divine Service (mp3, 58:20, 23.3 MB, 2012-Oct-04)

  14. Part 14: The Sermon (mp3, 58:19, 23.3 MB, 2012-Oct-11)

  15. Part 15: The Intercessions and Prayers (mp3, 57:20, 23.4 MB, 2012-Nov-15)

  16. Part 16: The Offertory and Offering (mp3, 57:20, 23.4 MB, 2012-Nov-23)

  17. Part 17: The Preface and Proper Preface (mp3, 57:20, 23.4 MB, 2012-Nov-29)

  18. Part 18: The Sanctus (mp3, 58:51, 23.5 MB, 2012-Dec-06)

  19. Part 19: The Our Father and the Verba (mp3, 1:11:20, 29 MB, 2012-Dec-13)

  20. Part 20: The Pax Domini and the Agnus Dei (mp3, 57:19, 23.1 MB, 2013-Jan-10)

  21. Part 21: The Distribution and the Distribution Hymns (mp3, 57:19, 23.1 MB, 2013-Jan-31)

  22. Part 22: The Nunc Dimittus and Post Communion Collects (mp3, 57:20, 23.1 MB, 2013-Feb-07)

  23. Part 23: The Benediction (mp3, 57:20, 23.1 MB, 2013-Feb-28)

  24. Part 24: Conclusion (mp3, 57:30, 23.2 MB, 2013-Mar-07)

Pr William Weedon, St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Hamel, Ill., discusses the Historic Liturgy with Pr Todd Wilken (10-part series):

  1. What is the Historic Liturgy? (mp3, 53:47, 25 MB, 2003-Jun-10)

  2. Preparatory Service: Invocation, Confession and Absolution (mp3, 53:49, 25 MB, 2003-Jun-17)

  3. Word Service: Introit, Kyrie, Gloria, Salutation and Collect (mp3, 54:14, 31 MB, 2003-Jul-17)

  4. Word Service: Scripture Readings - Old Testament, Epistle, Holy Gospel (mp3, 53:44, 31 MB, 2003-Jul-22)

  5. Word Service: Creed, Hymn of the Day, Sermon/Homily (mp3, 53:44, 37 MB, 2003-Aug-05)

  6. Word Service: Prayer of the Church, Offertory, Offering (mp3, 53:39, 37 MB, 2003-Aug-19)

  7. Sacrament Service: Preface, Proper Preface, Sanctus (mp3, 53:43, 31 MB, 2003-Aug-26)

  8. Sacrament Service: Lord's Prayer, Verba, Pax (mp3, 53:45, 31 MB, 2003-Sep-02)

  9. Sacrament Service: Agnus Dei, Distribution, Nunc Dimittis (mp3, 53:43, 31 MB, 2003-Sep-09)

  10. Sacrament Service: Thanksgiving, Salutation, Benedicamus, Benediction (mp3, 53:43, 31 MB, 2003-Sep-16)

Issues, Etc., Classics (before June 30, 2008) originated at KFUO-AM in St. Louis, and were broadcast on other stations around the country. Phone number and address mentioned are no longer valid.

Dr Steven Hein, Concordia Institute for Christian Studies, Monument, Co., discusses the Attributes of God with Pr. Todd Wilken (mp3, 54:47, 21.9 MB, 2008-Nov-26)


Pr. Wilken: "Are you worshiping the true God?

(I)f your preacher doesn't get you to the cross every Sunday,
he hasn't gotten you to the true God.
He's gotten you to a reasonable facsimile,
but not the true God.

If he doesn't get you to the suffering, the bleeding, the dying of Jesus Christ for you at the cross,
(he) may have said many true things about God,
but God has not revealed Himself to you, yet.

This is why whether you are preaching or praying or singing on Sunday morning,
when you go to worship God,
make sure it's the true God
and not just your preacher's reasonable facsimile
or a god of your own invention.

Make sure it is Christ and Him crucified, raised from the dead, for you and for your salvation."

Pastors' Roundtable on The First Article of the Creed - God the Father, with host Pr. Todd Wilken and guests (mp3, 54:30, 22 MB, 2009-Aug-13)

Pr. Timothy Mueller, St. John Lutheran Church, New Minden, Ill. and St. Luke Lutheran Church, Covington, lll,
Pr. Steve Sommerer, Messiah Lutheran Church, Carlyle, Ill., and
Pr. Charles Lehmann, St. John Lutheran Church, Accident, Md.

Excerpt on Theistic Evolution:

Pr. Timothy Mueller: "If evolutionary teaching is true, and theistic evolution that things came into being by this billions of year process directed by God somehow, then God is the author and the source of evil and death. But the Scriptures tell a radically different story that God created everything good, and it is man's sin that plunged the world into such trouble and misery that we have. And Christ is the Redeemer of man and in Him all creation will be redeemed."

Pastors' Roundtable on The Second Article of the Creed - God the Son, with host Pr. Todd Wilken and guests (mp3, 54:30, 22 MB, 2009-Aug-20)

Pr. Dan Kistler, Our Savior Lutheran Church, Pacifica, Calif.,
Pr. Warren Woerth, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Arnold, Mo., and
Pr. Mark Nebel, St. John Lutheran Church, Red Bud, Ill.

Pastors' Roundtable on The Third Article of the Creed - God the Holy Spirit, with host Pr. Todd Wilken and guests (mp3, 54:30, 22 MB, 2009-Aug-27)

Pr. Rob Jarvis, Zion Lutheran Church, Morris, Minn.
Pr. Greg Schultz, St. Peter Lutheran Church, Campbell Hill, Ill., and
Pr. Paul Hemenway, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Collinsville, Ill.

printable (29.5 MB)

Issues, Etc. Journal, Summer 2017

More than a decade ago I wrote “A Listeners Guide to the Pulpit.” At the time, my goal was simple: I wanted to help the average Christian sitting in the pew to tell the difference between good preaching and bad preaching. I dealt with the most egregious forms of bad preaching I could think of, and I thought I had covered it all. I hadn’t. Since then I have become aware of other kinds of bad preaching, some of which I had engaged in myself. To fill in the gaps and confess to my own bad preaching, I offer this update of the original essay. 

Most of the preachers were dynamic, engaging, interesting and even entertaining... 
Most of their sermons were terrible.

How hard could it be? You go to church. The preacher preaches. You sit and listen. Easy, right?

But how do you tell the difference between a good sermon and a bad sermon? What makes good preaching good, and bad preaching bad?

For several years Issues, Etc. has been doing on–air sermon reviews. We’ve reviewed the sermons of Joel Osteen, D. James Kennedy, T.D. Jakes, Robert Schuller, Joyce Meyer, and many less well–known preachers. We’ve reviewed the sermons of Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, and others. Most of these preachers were speaking to packed auditoriums and to worldwide television audiences. Most of the preachers were dynamic, engaging, interesting, and even entertaining. Most of the preachers are considered the best of the best preachers in the world.

Most of their sermons were terrible.

I don’t make this judgment based on my own subjective tastes or my own personal standard. I make this judgment based on the objective difference between good preaching and bad preaching.

Is there an objective standard for good preaching? Yes. It is a standard every Christian should know and use every time they hear a sermon. Every Christian needs to know the difference between a good sermon and a bad sermon.

God’s Two Teachings

St. Paul writes to the young preacher Timothy, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15). Paul says that God’s Word of truth must be handled with care. To rightly divide God’s Word is the preacher’s first and most important task. Nineteenth–century theologian, C.F.W. Walther describes what Paul means in his famous treatise, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel:

The doctrinal contents of the entire Holy Scriptures, both of the Old and the New Testament, are made up of two doctrines differing fundamentally from each other; viz.[namely], the Law and the Gospel … Only he is an orthodox teacher who not only presents all the articles of faith in accordance with Scripture, but also rightly distinguished from each other the Law and the Gospel. (C.F.W. Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1928, pp. 6, 30

Walther was simply following the leader of the sixteenth-century reformer Martin Luther. Luther explained this critical distinction between God’s Law and God’s Gospel and the danger of ignoring it:

It is therefore a matter of utmost necessity that these two kinds of God’s Word be well and properly distinguished. Where this is not done, neither the Law nor the Gospel can be understood, and the consciences of men must perish with blindness and error. The Law has its goal fixed beyond which it cannot go or accomplish anything, namely, until the point is reached where Christ comes in. It must terrify the impenitent with threats of the wrath and displeasure of God. Likewise the Gospel has its peculiar function and task, viz. [namely], to proclaim forgiveness of sin to sorrowing souls. These two may not be commingled, nor the one substituted for the other, without a falsification of doctrine. For while the Law and the Gospel are indeed equally God’s Word, they are not the same doctrine. (Martin Luther, “Sermon on the Distinction Between the Law and the Gospel,” Luther’s Works, St. L. Ed. IX, p. 799.)

Through His Law, God shows us His will. Through His Law, God tells us what He requires and what He forbids. Through His Law, God demands perfect obedience in thought, word and deed. Through His Law, God shows us that we have not done what He requires and have done what He forbids. Through His Law, God says, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind... You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37, 39). Through His Law, God calls anything short of perfect obedience sin.

Through His Gospel, God tells us what He has done in Jesus Christ to save those who have broken His Law. Through His Gospel, God shows us that Jesus has done everything He required of us by His Law. Through His Gospel, God shows us that Jesus has been punished under the Law in our place. Through His Gospel, God answers the perfect demands of His Law with the perfect, sinless death and resurrection of Jesus. The Gospel says, “What the Law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us” (Rom. 8:3–4).Through His Gospel, God answers the requirements of His Law with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus for us. Through His Gospel, God makes no demands whatsoever. There is only the free gift of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.

What does this have to do with difference between a good sermon and a bad sermon? Everything. The essential difference between a good sermon and a bad sermon is whether or not the preacher rightly divides and applies God's Law and God’s Gospel. A good sermon must show sinners their sin and show sinners their Savior. Again Luther writes:

This difference between the Law and the Gospel is the height of knowledge in Christendom. Every person and all persons who assume or glory in the name of Christian should know and be able to state this difference. If this ability is lacking, one cannot tell a Christian from a heathen or a Jew; of such supreme importance is this differentiation. This is why St. Paul so strongly insists on a clean–cut and proper differentiating of these two doctrines. (Martin Luther, Sermon on Galatians, 1532.)

So these two, Law and Gospel, must always go together in every sermon. They must be carefully divided in every sermon. God's Law must show us our sin, and God's Gospel must silence the Law’s accusations against us with the perfect life, death and resurrection of Jesus for us.

This is not to say that a good sermon will ONLY do this. Good preaching, according to Paul, does many things: It rebukes, reproves, admonishes, corrects, comforts, encourages, trains and teaches (Rom. 15:14; 1 Cor. 10:11; Col. 1:28; 3:16; 2 Tim. 2:4; 3:16; Titus 1:9). But whatever else good preaching does, it must above all rightly condemn us on account of our sin and declare us innocent on account of Jesus. 

That was a Good Sermon?

"Translations, and I don't downgrade them, translations are, at best, the first-ranked commentaries. An English translation, Spanish, Japanese, German, or whatever, whoever made the translation, it tells us what he thinks the original Hebrew and Greek say. Well, as Luther said, 'That's not good enough for a pastor to work from a commentary, a translation. He must work from the original Hebrew and Greek.' And, Luther said this also, now take this with the love, 'If you don't preach from the Hebrew or Greek in the pulpit but from a translation, your people should not let you get into the pulpit to preach.'"

-- Dr. Louis Brighton, Concordia Seminary, Revelation (video mp4, 44 MB, 22m59s)