Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Christ Mass Hymn

“Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful”

Oh, come, all ye faithful, triumphantly sing;
Come, see in the manger our Savior and King
To Bethlehem hasten with joyful accord;
Oh, come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

True Son of the Father, He comes from the skies;
To be born of a virgin He doth not despise.
To Bethlehem hasten with joyful accord;
Oh, come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

Hark, hark, to the angels all singing in heaven,
"To God in the highest all glory be given!"
To Bethlehem hasten with joyful accord;
Oh, come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

To Thee, then, O Jesus, this day of Thy birth
Be glory and honor through heaven and earth,
True Godhead incarnate, omnipotent Word!
Oh, come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!




Sermons for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are available here.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Winter Blues and Pains

With winter comes cold and with cold comes many other complications. Ice and snow often accompany the winter weather and some folk have to deal with it. Yet most folk today are not accustomed to the rigors of shoveling deep snow and such efforts often carry a big price. Even walking in cold weather can bring considerable discomfort.

The cold tends to make muscles tense up and then they often bunch up in tight knots. These can cause pain throughout the body. When the muscles tense up through the shoulders and neck, a person can have terrible headaches caused by this tension, headaches that feel like they start somewhere in the back, shoulders, or neck and migrate up the back of the skull and shoot out through the eyes.

Several things can be of help.

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Moist heat can be of tremendous help. The best that we have found
is a rice pack that can be heated in the microwave. A simple hand towel can be folded in half, preferably lengthwise, so that the edges can be sewn. Then the resulting bag can be filled with rice to the desired fullness, and the remaining edge can be sewn. It is usually best not to over fill the towel, as the fuller the bag is filled the stiffer and harder it becomes. Some flexibility is preferred. The rice bag can then be heated and then applied to the stiff and aching muscles. Depending on the amount of rice filling the bag, heating on high for a period ranging from four to six minutes works well. (For filling your hot pack, use the rice straight out of the bag from the store. DRY. Do not add water or precook. Simply use the rice as purchased from the store. The moist heat is produced from the moisture in the air.)



Be careful not to overheat in the microwave, for the rice will scorch. Also, it is possible to burn oneself if the bag is too hot.

As an alternative a damp washcloth can be wrapped with a towel and then heated. This method is more tricky. One must be very careful not to burn one’s skin.

Of course, a hot bath or shower is another relaxing method. Also, soaking in Epson salts can help.


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Massaging the muscles also can be of great benefit. Massaging the scalp and temple areas, even gentle massaging of the eyes can bring relief. Often knotted areas in the neck, shoulder, and back can be gently massaged away. Massaging is not a quick process. It usually takes ten to fifteen minutes or more. Sometimes gently massaging the more intense areas for a few minutes, resting a few minutes, and then massaging a few more minutes can give a relax time for the muscles. Also, the area where the pain is felt may not be the area where the muscles are most tense. Sometimes the areas with the most tension may be several inches away from the area where the strain seems to be.

Stretching exercises can help relieve the muscle tension as well.


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A quarter teaspoon of Turmeric, the yellow spice in mustard, can help to relieve many headaches and helps with muscles sometimes, too.

Oil of oregano helps with inflamation.

Used in conjunction with Bromelain, an enzyme extracted from pineapple, relief from sinus and bronchial symptoms can often be obtained. If the persistent hacking of bronchial drainage is ever a problem, this combination can be a very effective remedy. Bromelain alone is also very effective.


A saline sinus rinse is also very helpful. The usual mix is one eighth teaspoon of salt with one eighth teaspoon of baking soda in eight ounces of water. The saline rinse can be placed in the palm or a tablespoon and snuffed through each nostril. Be sure to do this over the sink. Most drug stores and pharmacies also sell a nasal rinse kit with premixed packets and a nasal squirt bottle.


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With the nervous tension and the tendency to eat too quickly or too much during the feasting season, keep the Turmeric available for headaches and for heartburn. In many cases, a quarter teaspoon of turmeric will bring quick relief for either a headache or for heartburn. It is inexpensive and has no negative side effects.

Oops! Almost forgot Ginger as a relief from upset stomach and nausea.


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A blessed Christmas to you.

Let It Snow

Earlier we had some freezing rain. Then about three inches of snow covered the icy mix. With this downfall the city had at least four trucks plow our street.

Saturday we had eight inches of snow fall, with drifts up to four feet deep. People were getting stuck in the streets and especially at intersections when they had to stop in the deep snow. Even four-wheel drive trucks were getting stuck. Yet we still have not seen even a single snow plow or salt truck and few were seen even on the major roadways.

Go figure.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Regarding Online Sermons

I have noticed that many who offer online sermons, only offer audio. I find myself wondering what is actually preferred by those who download sermons. Is the preference for audio formats, for textual formats, or for both?


My offering for this Third Week in Advent is:
Matthew 11:2-10 — “Or Another Do We Look Toward.”

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Lutheran Carnival LXV

Since it is something of a tradition with the Lutheran Carnival to make mention of a little known Lutheran, I am including mention of the Reverend Fred W. Heumann. Even though he is my grandfather, my information is lacking.

Pastor Heumann was part of a farming family and at a very tender age was put onto a train and sent into the pre-seminary training and then to the seminary. I’m not certain of the date of his ordination, but I have sermons that he preached as early as 1908. He began as a circuit rider in Michigan and later became the pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Alpena. This congregation grew to over a thousand members and had eight grades of school, which he taught as well. In the early days of his ministry he rode the circuit by horseback on his not so reliable horse, Dick. Dick was often sick and required much veterinary attention. When Henry Ford began producing the Model T, Pastor Heumann took him up on his offer to be among the first owners. Mr. Ford offered to give a rebate if he sold a certain number of cars, which was reportedly a great help. The car was so reliable that Pastor Heumann reported that Henry Ford got him out of the debt that Dick incurred.

In those days some preachers, including Pastor Heumann, preached in German and in English. They also were markedly based in Lutheran rejoicing in the doctrine of Justification by Grace through Faith. The distinctions of Law and Gospel were clear, as were the distinctions between the true faith and the doctrines and practices of other groups.

Pastor Heumann served as a pastor in the Lutheran Church all of his life, celebrating the sixty-fifth anniversary of his ordination several years before his death. As a pastor, husband, and father, he faced many challenges and struggles. Perhaps those are best saved for some other time.


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The first of the Carnival submissions is Lord's Supper Words of Institution Video by jWinters. This video is an extraordinary presentation of the Lord’s words of institution— a delight to watch for anyone who treasures and relies upon the Holy Communion. It has potential for use for generating discussion in Bible classes and other catechetical settings. It also makes a rather nice devotional as the saints move through the season of Advent in preparation for Christ Mass.


A third party submission, a bit less weighty but nevertheless enjoyable and theologically oriented toward the season of Advent, was made for the Presbytera at Pistol Packin' Presbytera, who has hung up her Jesse Tree for Advent and is featuring a new tree ornament for each day leading up to Christmas. Start at History of Our Jesse Tree and then check her blog for each new day's post.


Dan at Necessary Roughness points out in He’s In the Crèche, Isn’t He? the inconsistency of insisting on the use of blank (Christless) crosses while people insist on a baby Jesus present in nativity scenes.

Dan also submitted Pastor Charles Lehmann’s release of an open letter to those affected by the Colorado Springs church shootings. This letter, Letter to Youth with a Mission Denver, written by Pastor Lehmann and Pastor Patrick, bears a resemblance to Simeon’s words to Mary when she and Joseph brought the Lord Jesus to the temple for the sacrifice of consecration of the firstborn and the purification. It is a very compassionate and Gospel filled letter of the true hope and peace that the faith of Christmas gives, even in the face of deep hurt and loss.


Another very appropriate Advent theme is presented by St. James the Hoosier as he explains why “Everything I need to know about Life in Christ, I learned in the Divine Service .”


At Heart, Mind, Soul, and Strength Weekend Fisher offers a look at Dietrich Bonhoeffer's comments on winning the culture war and applies them to the current discussion of the release of The Golden Compass. The post for this discussion is Bonhoeffer on the culture war.


In somewhat similar manner, Mike Baker at BOLL: The Lutheran AAR Center presents My Vocation, My Life, and My Death. This is a truly beautiful explanation of the contrast between a Christian’s and a worldling’s view of vocation, which also becomes manifest in the Christian’s life and death. If this is not a proper reflection upon the repentance that is the proper preaching of the season of Advent, what is?


Following in a similar train, Jim at The Third Moment offers some very timely insight with A Few Thoughts about Romney's College-Station Speech . It is a delight to see that someone has taken the time to give a true and accurate response to the self-chosen ignorance of the American media and political pundits on this very serious matter. It may not have the usual Advent focus, but it certainly is a matter of important concern for true Christians who are clinging for dear life to the pure Gospel in these latter days.


If you have never visited Fighting For the Faith, you may find this to be of interest regarding various issues of the day. The podcast on Rick Warren's Gospel of Works - November 29, 2007 is especially timely.


Of course, for additional Advent information, we can always rely upon Aardvark Alley for seasonal information about various saints days and other aspects of the Church Year.


For some reason there were some problems in the forwarding of Carnival submissions. If you sent a submission that somehow did not get included, please let me know and I’ll add yours to the Sixty-fifth edition of the Lutheran Carnival.


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God’s peace to all in Christ Jesus.



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Friday, December 07, 2007

Christ Crucified or Christ Believed

Christ Crucified or Christ Believed?

This may seem like an odd question, but it is a very important question. Most people do not even realize that the two Christs are not the same. It is for this reason that so many different doctrines are taught by so many denominations, all claiming to be preaching Jesus and Grace and Faith.

So what is the difference between the preaching of Christ Crucified and Christ Believed? The difference is the one from whom faith originates and flows.

Beginning in reverse, beginning with the preaching of Christ Believed, the emphasis is on the statement, “I believe” or “We believe.” Naturally, such language must be utilized, for where true faith exists, the person and group will speak what is believed. This is not the issue.

The issue is in the “WHY” of the statement.

Most people if asked why they believe will answer that they choose to believe. They may say that they decided to follow Jesus or that they invited Jesus into their hearts or that they chose to commit their lives to Jesus or to give their hearts to Jesus or any similar sounding actions of choice or decision on their part. In most cases they give acknowledgment to the statements of Scripture such as Ephesians 2:8-10 where the apostles keep to the words of Christ in teaching that faith is a gift of God and not a work of the individual, but then they immediately turn from these clear declarations of the Holy Spirit and insist that they themselves must do something to produce this faith. “I have to believe, don’t I?” “I have to choose, don’t I?”

Such rationalizations are contrary to the doctrine of the Scriptures. These rationalizations are like saying that after a lawnmower engine has been started that it must continue running. The lawnmower engine does not choose to begin running and it does not choose to stop running. Something may go wrong that makes the engine unable to continue. It may run out of fuel and therefore cease running. But it does not stop by its own volition and it does not start by its own volition.

Now, since a lawnmower engine is not a living thing, the Lord Jesus and His apostles did not use lifeless objects in teaching this. Rather, Jesus used the activity of conception and birth (generation) as the example. A baby is not conceived by its own volition. It does not choose to grow and develop. It does not obtain nutrients for itself nor even choose which available nutrients to utilize while in the womb. It does not choose the time of parturition. It does not pull itself into the world from the womb. After the baby is born, it does not care for itself or nurture itself. As the baby grows it is taught, by example and with words, what it needs and where to find its needs supplied.

The Lord Jesus said that no one can even see or perceive the kingdom of God unless that person is regenerated. When Nicodemus did not understand, Jesus added that unless a person is generated of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. He also said that just as people can hear the sound of the wind but cannot know where it comes from or where it goes, so the person regenerated to faith by the Holy Spirit recognizes the results but cannot explain them.

Yet when people apply their own rationalizations to the work of the Holy Spirit in the Gift of Faith, they often presume to have chosen to believe or to have decided to believe. This is why in John 1:12-13 the apostle plainly teaches that this is not how it happens. He makes this absolute declaration right at the beginning of his account of the Gospel so that as people would read and hear it that this would be ever present in their minds. He says that those who receive Jesus do so by the authority or power that God gave to them (that is, the Gospel, as St. Paul says in Romans 1:16) and that this regeneration of faith is not the result of bloodlines (who one’s ancestors are) and not the result of the will of the flesh (free will) and not the result of the will of a man (husband or father) but from God they are generated. Then in verse 14 he reveals again who this God is, just as he previously declared in verse 1 and following.

Yet even upon reading and hearing this, people tend to go forward with the rest of the Gospel and take from it that they must somehow believe for themselves and choose to follow Jesus.

The preaching and confession of this choice is the exact opposite of the preaching of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The preaching and confession of the Christ who saves by means of a person choosing or deciding to believe is the opposite of the preaching and confession of the Christ who says that He saves by means of water and the Spirit.

Thus the preachers of choice and decision turn a deaf ear to the Scriptures that teach the Christ who saves by water and the Spirit and who says that those who eat His flesh and drink His blood have everlasting life. In direct defiance of the words of Christ they teach that these clear words concerning the Sacraments do not mean what they say but must be interpreted symbolically to represent what people must do for themselves and that these Sacraments do not do what the words say that they do, but rather people must use them to choose yet again to be committed to Jesus by their own reason and strength.

But the preaching of Christ Crucified is the preaching of a Christ who not only gave Himself on the Cross to accomplish our salvation objectively, but who continues to be present to accomplish our salvation subjectively. The preaching of Christ Crucified is the preaching of the Christ who says that He does not leave us as orphans but comes to us even now as those whom He has redeemed and reconciled to God. He promises that our salvation does not depend upon what we choose to believe, but rather upon what He does for us as a true Savior. He does not demand that we muster the strength to believe in Him, but rather supplies means by which His saints may be gathered unto Him to receive Him even as the first two did in the garden of Eden and as the disciples did during His ministry among the Jews. He gives to His Church on earth means by which He supplies all that we need both for faith and for continuing in that faith. Through the pure and unadulterated preaching of the Gospel and the pure administration of the Sacraments, He does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Rather than demanding that we generate the will to believe in a Jesus that we cannot see, He shows Himself present with us through these means.

This is why the preaching of Christ Crucified is such a stumbling block for those who seek to follow Christ by believing in Him. The means of grace do not require anything from us. They truly are means of grace. To any person seeking to follow Christ by means of one’s own faith, to any person believing that faith is a requirement rather than a true gift, the kingdom of God cannot be perceived. And so people seek to pray harder and to believe more firmly and to be better witnesses. They speak of knowing that God is with them because of their prayers and their faith and their other works of proof of believing. But Christ says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

The preaching of Christ Crucified is the preaching of the Christ who gave Himself, once and for all, in order that we may feast upon Him with Thanksgiving and live in His grace, mercy, and peace. He has prepared the way through the water unto life and He has prepared the table for the feast. Such as receive Christ through these eagerly say with John “And from the fullness of Him we all have received, even grace for grace.”

From the fullness of HIM we have all received. Not from the fullness of our faith nor from the fullness of our efforts nor from the fullness of our commitment nor from the fullness of our service, but from the fullness of Him we have all received. This is the preaching of Christ Crucified rather than the preaching of Christ Believed.

This is why the Church dare not gather with those who preach anything other than Jesus Christ and Him Crucified. There is only one Christ who gives grace for grace.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:8-10)

Truly, verse ten is often misapplied. The good works unto which we have been created in Christ Jesus are HIS good works, not ours. He has taken our works, which cannot ever be counted as good, and has given us His works. He calls us unto Himself to partake of His good works in order that we may walk or live in them. This is the pure preaching of the Gospel and the pure administration of His means of grace.

Why should anyone ever choose to believe anything else when what we need to believe, God gives freely by grace?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Christmas

Christ Mass. What really is the focus of this coming celebration? During this season of Advent, for what are we preparing?

We are preparing to receive the birth of the one who is given the name of Jesus, which is, Yahweh Saves. So as we look to the advent of Jesus, we look to the coming of the one whose name is Our Salvation. We look to the coming of our birth or our generation back into the Image of God. Truly this is a rebirth or regeneration for us.

Is Christmas a celebration of a birthday? It most certainly is, our birthday. It is the celebration of the coming of salvation through the one born King of the Jews.

After His birth in Bethlehem, His birth was announced to shepherds in the fields by the hosts of heaven. “Unto you this day is born in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Upon hearing this news the shepherds responded with desire to go and see this great thing that had been told to them and upon finding The Lord Saves just as the angels had told them, they in turn told everyone they could find. They worshiped the Lord for what had been revealed to them. Some time later, wise men came from afar, having seen the Savior’s star in the east. They came asking for the one born King of the Jews in order that they might worship Him. They did not come to sing “Happy Birthday” but to worship the King born to the Jews. This was not even their king. He was born King of the Jews. They did not celebrate the birth of other kings, only this King. They came to worship God. They came to receive and worship the one who is their Salvation, their Life.

Eventually many other people of the world were told of this great miracle of the gift of Salvation wrapped up in swaddling clothes. They were told that they, too, were included among those who were liberated from their ignorance so that they might know the meaning of life. They were instructed regarding the means by which the Savior is born to us also today, through water, bread, and wine. So these men, also made wise through the preached Word, came bearing in their arms their children to be flooded with God’s grace in Christ, and then came to worship Jesus in the purest form, as He is found wrapped in bread and wine, just as He promised and His apostles instructed.

Thus, in time, a special day was set aside and named Christ Mass, to celebrate the birth of the Church of the New Testament in Christ’s blood. Those who had been born through water and the Word wanted to be certain that on this day they would be gathered into the Lord’s remembrance so that they would never forget that He does not forget. He comes to His Church as oft as they do this, but they appointed a special day that proclaims this by the very name of the day. Christmas!



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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Beware of Free Offers

My wife recently learned to be very careful regarding “Free Offers” in e-mails. This is true even when the company or organization is one with whom you have previously done business.

This could happen with any company or organization, but in this case it was NewsMax.com.

We have a subscription to the Blaylock Wellness Report through NewsMax, which serves as the subscription handler. My wife signed up for this subscription using her credit card.

In November she received an e-mail from NewsMax that had a clickable link reading “Get It Free! Click Here Now.”

When she clicked on the link it took her to a NewsMax web site where a free radio was offered with signing up for the NewsMax newsletter. She exited the web site without doing anything further and then deleted the e-mail.

Two weeks later a package arrives with the radio and a notice that her credit card had been billed $ 29.95 for the radio and $ 5.95 for shipping!

When I called them they claimed that she approved the purchase by clicking on the “One-click” offer button. They also claimed that the e-mail had a notice at the bottom indicating that clicking on the link would authorize the credit card use.

No such notice is anywhere in the retrieved e-mail.

So Beware! Even organizations that you think are trustworthy are doing things like this.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Smiling & Happiness

Some interesting observations on the genuineness of smiles are reported by Dr. Gupta at Smile, and the World Smiles With You, Right?. According to Dr. Gupta, there are physical markers that betray the smile if it is not genuine.

Whether or not it is true that the world will smile with you when you smile, a merry heart does affect you in many ways, even as the Scriptures declare:

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine:
but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
(Proverbs 17:22)


Even when a smile is not what a person feels like producing, turning to those things that God gives that gladden the heart does change how a person feels. Then, with a merry heart, the life that God gives is perceived for the goodness that is in connection with the God who gives it.

This is why Thanksgiving and Christmas tend to be welcomed often even by those who reject God, for even though they refuse the giver, His gifts nevertheless make His goodness manifest, even in hearts that are cold and gray through disbelief. How much more so for those who have had their hearts turned to the Source of all goodness!

James 1:17

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The First USA Thanksgiving Proclamation

The day is October 3, 1789. The Constitution of the United States of America has been ratified. The excitement and jubilation of this event moved the members of both houses of Congress to take action. By the power of Congress, in accord with the intentions of the newly ratified Constitution, they established “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer” on Thursday, the 26th of November, and requested it to be proclaimed by President George Washington.

Among the many places on the internet that his proclamation is available, two such sites are: Encyclopedia Smithsonian: Thanksgiving in North America: From Local Harvests to National Holiday and Rediscovering George Washington . Multimedia: First National Day of Thanksgiving. It is also quoted at Lutheran Carnival LXIII – Thanksgiving Edition.

It certainly seems appropriate to provide it also here as we prepare yet again for a National Day of Thanksgiving this year.

Transcription of George Washington's Proclamation:



By the President of the United States of America--

A Proclamation



Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor--and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their Joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be--That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions--to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us--and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go. Washington






These events give cause for wondering whether the houses of Congress, the President, the Supreme Court, and the people of the nation realized that they were in violation of the Constitution that they wrote, ratified, and celebrated. How amazing it is that some 170+ years later the Supreme Court would rule that such prayers and calls for prayer are unconstitutional.

Perhaps a closer review of President Washington’s proclamation will explain the difference in understanding and interpretation of the intent of the Constitution.

Then, of course, those who know the true meaning of Thanksgiving don’t need a decree from Congress or a Presidential proclamation anyway. Moreover, no decision of the Supreme Court of the United States of America will overturn what lives in their hearts nor will it keep them from fulfilling it in their lives.

Nevertheless, it is a wondrous thing to have this example laid before us by the first members of Congress and the first President to govern by the Constitution that has been handed down to us from that time. That in itself is a cause for marvel and to give thanks.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving

“I am sooooo thankful.”

Yesterday I heard a lady on the radio, a college athletics coach, announce that as she and her team traveled that one of the planned activities is to list at least 50 things for which they are thankful.


Other people often say “Count your blessings.”

What do these generic statements of thankfulness mean?

The thing that is curiously missing from these statements is “thankful to whom”?

Both the religious and the irreligious make these statements of thankfulness. What does this mean?

One observation would be that even those who say that they do not believe in a divine being and especially not in the Lord, still realize in their innermost being that the good things that they enjoy cannot be attributed solely to their own accomplishments. Some things even the most determinedly self-reliant still cannot take credit for according to their own efforts. Thus the rather spontaneous statement, “I am sooooo thankful.”

For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another; In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel. (Romans 2:14-16)


Is this general sense of thankfulness among people of all races and religiosity really evidence that the Lord has built into our being a natural knowledge of His divine presence and providence?

One time that this seems to be an irresistible response is in the case of an unexplainable and “miraculous” rescue from danger or a “medical miracle.” Even doctors who imagine that healing is something that they make happen, ordinarily giving credit only to the science and procedures of medical expertise, will let slip the words, “I have no explanation for your recovery. It’s a miracle.” And of course, the person and/or family respond, “I am sooooo thankful.”

So what does this mean for you? Do you really know why you give thanks? Do you really know the one to whom your thanksgiving is directed?

Psalm 136

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Validation of the Truth

The Truth cannot be validated, for the Truth is that which validates.

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A statement is valid because it is true, but the truth is not validated by the statement.

If a discovery is of that which is true, then the discovery is validated by the truth.
If one’s understanding is true, then it is a valid understanding.
A fact is only a fact if it is true.


The Truth stands, regardless of whether or not anyone acknowledges the Truth. The Truth Is. All things, visible and invisible, in the cosmos and in heaven exist by the declaration of the Truth.

The Truth can be ignored, for a time. The Truth can be covered over, for a time. Yet in time the Truth ultimately reveals what is true. The words and works of the Truth are the standard by which all things are confirmed.

The Truth does not change. The Truth is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Thus the validation of the Truth is the Truth’s own possession. The validation of the Truth is provided by the Truth from the Truth, not for the Truth by those acknowledging what the Truth already is.

Faith, if it is true faith, acknowledges the Truth and exists in connection with the Truth. True faith cannot in any way deny the Truth. Any denial of the Truth, in any part, is a complete denial of the Truth. For the Truth is always true, or else it is not the Truth. True faith, when confronted with what is not true alongside the Truth, always turns to the Truth. This is the nature of true faith, because this is the way of the Truth. True faith and the Truth cannot be separated, for the Truth is the producer of true faith.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Jonah: Preacher of the Gospel

Jonah is a book of the Gospel of God’s grace in Christ Jesus. Yet often Jonah is counted as a preacher only of the Law, and not of the Gospel. The Gospel is easily seen in the Lord’s dealings with Jonah, and even in His gracious desire that the people of Nineveh should repent and be spared the destruction that they were bringing upon themselves. But Jonah’s message is seldom understood for what it was.

And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. (Jonah 3:4)

The key word in this proclamation is the word: YET.

By this word the Lord was declaring through His sent servant of the Word that patience was being extended to the people of doom. The Lord was making it known that Sin would be dealt with fully. Yet forty days were being given before the consequences of Sin would come. The Lord was waiting patiently. He sent Jonah and waited until Jonah’s arrival to begin the countdown. On the first day Jonah began to preach, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.”

The people and the king of Nineveh heard this “Yet” loudly and clearly. They already knew of the gracious nature of the Lord. The Gospel had been preached to them and among them in the past. This declaration of YET was received as an urgent call to repentance and faith, an urgent call to receive God’s salvation in Christ.

St. Peter reiterates this, saying,

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Pet 3:9)

The fact that the Lord ordains preachers to preach the Law is in itself a statement of grace. For there is only one reason for the Lord to speak the condemnation of the Law, and that reason is that people should hear and repent and believe the Gospel. The Law is not declared to convince people to live better lives. The Law is not given to urge people to try harder. The Law is the Lord’s proclamation of His extreme patience, patience in withholding the consequences that sinners have chosen for themselves, patience in reaching out to a rebellious people with the urgency of a Father’s love for His wayward children. The Lord’s desire in proclaiming the Law is that people would hear the great “Yet” of the Father’s love and to be turned in faith to the life that He gives in connection with the gift of Jesus.

Jonah knew this, and in his hateful prejudice tried to thwart God’s grace. Jonah was prejudiced toward the people of Nineveh because he counted their sinfulness and their unbelief to be worse than his own. He was not willing that the Law and Gospel should be applied to all equally. The Lord could have sent someone else, but then the Lord’s “Yet” would not have been heard by Jonah as applying also to him.

Certainly this stands as an everlasting message to all Christians, and especially to those whom the Lord ordains to be servants of the Word.

Evolution versus DNA

Evolution versus DNA seems like an appropriate theme for describing what the science (knowledge) of man says versus the openly declared true science of the cosmos.

Dr. Veith’s web log post, DNA as Language, with a link to a Washington Post Article, How Science Is Rewriting the Book on Genes, stimulated my mind and soul to remember some fascinating aspects of the genetic code and to recognize the bigger picture written into the code that “man’s science” refuses to see or to know.

Two things struck me about this article.

First, the reminder of the language of DNA consisting of 3 letter words. It never struck me until today that the original human language also uses 3 letters for the roots of its words. Hebrew, the language of Adam (given by the Lord) has the number 3 as its base. Imagine that! The Trinity is demonstrated in the language of God to Man (Adam), the language that continued as the only human language until Babel. But not only is 3 the basis of the audible human language, but of the language of creation, DNA! And this appears never to vary. Always 3, exactly THREE!

Amazing!

The second thing that struck me in this article is the continual reference to evolution as the creator or builder or designer of language and of all that is necessary for life. This article demonstrates the deliberate denial of the Creator, the self-chosen stupidity of mankind, that St. Paul declares in Romans 1.

Evolutionists are living in a state of denial, like drug addicts or dysfunctional family members. They substitute a god of their own making for the One whom all of creation declares.

If only they would hear the Proverb:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Prov 1:7)

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Authoritative Nature of the Office

In the first year of serving as a pastor, I served a congregation in which a very cute little girl was a member with her family. She was full of energy and excitement. She was very outgoing and friendly and talkative.

One day as she came bouncing into the room, I exclaimed, “Here comes Bashful!”

Some time later it was reported to me that on another occasion a person made the comment, “Boy! She isn’t bashful at all!”

Hearing this she immediately responded, “Oh yes I am! Pasture said so!”

Interesting how she was not able to distinguish between the safe pasture and the pastor or the pasturing one. But to those who acknowledge the pastor as the one who speaks for God, the pastor’s word is to be believed, even when he is teasing or making a joke.

Another time, when going to visit with a family, a little girl answered my knock on the door and turned from the doorway, running through the house exclaiming, “Jesus is here! Jesus is here!”

To me this has long manifested the great seriousness with which I must always treat the office that the Lord has ordained me to serve. Every word that I speak and every action that I do is observed by those who know that I am an ordained servant of the Word. There is never a time that the office stops being Christ’s office, and there is never a time that I am not an ambassador of Christ.

Christ’s little ones, regardless of age and size, are always listening and watching. Every word and every action has impact. A careless word or a careless action can have everlasting impact.

How much more so must I treat the “official acts” of the office! What pastor can afford to be careless in sermon preparation? Every word is received as from the Lord. And what of the administration of the Word in the Sacrament? Surely this is as serious and important as anything can ever be!

Yet such seemingly overbearing responsibility is not a burden, but a joy. For with the responsibility is great reward, for with the preaching office is also the immeasurable power of salvation. God uses His office and the men who fill it to proclaim the good news of the Gospel of Christ crucified. Through His office and through the men who fill it, God baptizes His little ones back into His kingdom of grace and life and maintains His Holy Communion for the safety of His dear children on earth, keeping them safe in His mercy and love all the days of their lives and even forevermore. Truly this is serious cause for rejoicing always, and again I say: Rejoice!

What People REALLY Think

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

He That Is in You

This is a short story. It may appear to be fictional, but it is a true story. However, it is not the story of one specific event, but of all such events demonstrated in this one little story.


+++

James and John are two very ordinary men who meet through a set of very ordinary circumstances.

James is a man struggling to be free. He has been drinking abusively for many years. His life is one of fear, fear of losing all that he holds dear. Because of his fear he drinks. He often wishes that he was never born. Yet he looks for hope in the world. He once was married, well, actually more than once. But now he lives with a woman and one of his grown children.

John is a businessman, at least he has a business. It is a small business. He is a handyman. He does not advertize his business, but from the first job that he did, word has spread. He works very hard. He always gives people more than they bargained for in the bid that was approved. Doing things part way just is not John’s way.

One day James sees John at work and stops to inquire further. He explains that he has little money but needs to have some work done on his trailer home. He shares about his dreams of building up his property and living happily. He tells a tiny bit about the setbacks that he has faced in life. He tells about some of the disappointments that he has experienced. Then he asks whether John can work on his trailer, asking how much it would cost to repair the steps to the entrance and to repair the lighting. John says that he needs to see the job before giving a price.

James explains again his sad situation and says that he only has a hundred dollars to spare. John explains that this would not even cover the full expenses, let alone pay for his labor. But James pleas with him to help him. He assures John that he only needs to have a few boards replaced on the steps and that only minor wiring needs to be done on the lighting. So John agrees to come later that afternoon.

John finishes his work late that afternoon and cleans the area and loads his tools and equipment. Then he drives to the lumber yard to buy some supplies. On the way a lady with a cell phone in one hand and cigarette in her mouth and a cup of coffee in the other hand swerves from her lane and cuts him off with her car.

“Argh!” John exclaims. “How on earth is she steering? Thank God we did not have an accident! What is wrong with people? Oh well.”

As he comes near to the parking space, another man pulls through from the other side and parks in John’s space, forcing John to lock up his brakes. “Argh! What is wrong with you? You selfish jerk!” These words fly from John’s mouth before he even realizes how angry he is. Realizing his anger he tells himself, “Calm down, John. Calm down. Getting angry isn’t going to help. Just drive to the other side and use that space.”

John backs up the truck, drives around to the other side, and just before he gets to the space, a lady with two children in the car whips into the space in front of him. “Calm down, John. Calm down.” John gasps as he drives around again, this time parking out, way out from the store.

Finally John begins his way to James’ home, having purchased the supplies that he expects to need to do the repairs. Unfortunately the directions that James wrote down left out a few names of streets and had the turns reversed on occasion. John tried calling the number that James gave him, but no one answered. But John kept searching till he found the correct place.

By now the sun is very low in the sky. The grass is tall and the weeds are taller, except for the large bare spots in the lawn. John makes his way to the front steps and finds that the steps are metal steps that have completely rusted through. “Oh boy!” John thinks. “This is going to take much more time and materials, but I think that I have enough to make a new set of steps.”

John presses the doorbell. It does not work. He knocks on the door. No answer. He knocks again and again. He knocks on the window, again and again. Finally James’ girlfriend comes to the door. She explains that James went to the store for cigarettes.

Finally James returns with a case of beer and a carton of cigarettes. “Oh great,” John thinks, “He can afford beer and cigarettes, but he can’t afford to pay me. Oh well. I’d better get started.”

Now it is dark. John asks where he can plug in his lights so that he can work. James says, “What, can’t you come back tomorrow?”

“No, I can’t come back tomorrow! I have other work to do and I’m trying to do you favor.” John’s frustration is growing.

“OK! OK! Go ahead then! The plug is under the steps.”

John sets up and constructs a new set of steps. He was right, he had just enough materials in the truck to accomplish the job. The steps are complete. A very sturdy set of steps, constructed of pressure treated two-bys and four-bys. John made a sturdy set of hand rails, too, something the previous steps lacked.

John knocks on the door. James’ daughter answers. “Where’s James?” John inquires.

“Oh, he and Sherrie went to bed.”

“What? What do you mean they went to bed? Tell him to get out here and turn off the breaker so that I can work on the lights!” John exclaims.

Kerrie, James’ daughter, continues, “I don’t think that they want to be disturbed.”

The veins in John’s forehead felt like they would burst. “Fine!” he shouts, “I’m outahere!” as he begins to pick up his tools.

Moments later James flies out the door, descending upon his newly constructed steps. “Where do you think you’re going you . . ., you haven’t finished.”

“Oh yes I have!” John shouted. “You lied to me and I’m outa here.”

“You calling me a liar? Well I’m not paying you a . . . thing. Not one . . . penny! You haven’t finished your work!”

“I’m not charging you anything. I’m just leaving. You lied to me about the steps. You lied about the conditions and the amount of the work. You lied about helping me. You lied about the lights. I rebuilt your entire steps and now I’m out of here!”

James gets right in John’s face, “You called me a liar! You . . .!” Many curses and names spew from James with great volume and anger.

John repeats with vehemence, “You lied to me. I’m out of here!’

James picks up a hammer and begins waving it with profuse cursing and screams, “You can’t call me a liar. I’ll kill you!”

John spins and flies at James, grabbing him by the skin of his chest and throws him to the ground with a single move, while flashing down upon him like a lightning bolt. John’s fist is raised to the point of full force, the same fist that earlier demolished a two by six to make it fit in the trash can. This silhouette remained motionless for what seemed like an eternity, with John’s sweat dripping from his face and falling in James’ eyes. Sherrie and Kerrie stand frozen in the doorway like a pair of ice statues.

“I can’t. I can’t,” John softly mutters, slowing rising from James’ trembling torso. “I can’t. I’m leaving now. The steps are complete. I’m not charging you anything. I just want to leave in peace. You’ll have to get someone else to fix your lights. I just want to leave in peace.”

James slinks off, back into the house, where Sherrie hands him a beer and a cigarette, saying, “Ah Baby, Baby. It’s alright.”

Kerrie quietly slips out the door and comes cautiously to John. “I thought he was dead. I thought that he finally picked a fight with the wrong man.”

“I’m sorry,” John says, “It was wrong for me to become so angry. I’m sorry for frightening you.”

“I thought he was dead. You looked like the devil himself. And he certainly deserves it. I thought that you were going to kill him.”

“I can’t. It’s not in me. I’m sorry for the way that I reacted.”

“What do you mean it’s not in you? I don’t understand.”

“You see, Jesus lives in me. Jesus is love. I can’t hurt someone that I love.”

“You mean that you love James?”

“Yes. I love everyone. Jesus loves everyone, and He is my life. Jesus loves me. He loves James. I love James, too. That’s why I need to leave. Here is the name of someone who can fix your lights. I’m sorry for the way that I acted. Please forgive me.”

“What? Forgive you?”

“I’m sorry for the horrible way that I acted. I’m sorry for frightening you. Good night. God bless you.”

John never saw or heard from James again. But from time to time he remembers James and prays for him, in addition to the usual prayers of the Church and of the Our Father. When he remembers that night, He gives thanks to God for keeping him from following through with the unrighteous anger of his heart and for the forgiveness that is poured out freely in the Sacrament. He often remembers the promises of John 16:33 and 1 John 4:3-4:

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.


. . . and . . .

And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.


+++


Monday, November 05, 2007

God’s Word

How can we know when we are truly hearing God’s Word?

What is God’s Word?

St. John writes:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

What is God’s Word? God’s Word is Jesus. When God wants us to know Him, He sends Jesus. When God wants us to receive His love and forgiveness and mercy, He sends Jesus.

When God created the world, He spoke it into existence and it was.

Jesus says:

And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God. (Revelation 3:14)

Jesus is the one through whom all things exist. He is the beginning of the creation of God. He is father time. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. He is.

Of this one the Father says, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.”

When the Spirit speaks to the churches, He directs us to Jesus to hear Him and His words.

Jesus is our God and Savior. He is our light and our life. He is the Gospel. He is our everything. End of story!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Faithful and True Witness

Evangelism programs abound! Training for being good witnesses is promulgated throughout the many that gather claiming to be of Christ. Many people exert great efforts to become good witnesses.

Yet the Scriptures direct us to a different understanding:

And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God. (Revelation 3:14)

The angel of the church of the Laodiceans is the pastor. To this pastor the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning of the creation of God, the one who was in the beginning and through whom all of creation came to be, declares that He alone is the faithful and true witness.

St. Paul writes to the churches in Galatia:

For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. (Galatians 2:19-21)

What these Scriptures teach us is that going forth as witnesses unto the Lord and His grace is not so much a matter of a special activity of witnessing, but rather primarily a matter of vocation. Being good witnesses is not a specific activity, but an identity placed upon us by the faithful and true witness.

When parents bring their newborn children to be baptized, this is the life of witness to which they are called. When they furthermore make certain that the body and blood of the Lord is received by their entire family regularly in the one true body of Christ where they may eat and drink together truly as one, this is the life of witness to which they are called. In these ways, as St. Paul declares concerning the true gathering where the Sacrament of the Altar is administered and received rightly discerning the Lord’s body, we do proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.

When people truly trust that Jesus comes to His Church with mercy and grace, pouring out forgiveness and life with which His little ones are nourished and preserved everlastingly, when this is their complete dependence, then they are changed people and this dependence shows in their lives. Truly is it no longer they that live but Christ living in them. When this is the life of the one professing to be a Christian, it shows.

This is the witness that the world cannot help but notice and stand in awe. This is what causes people to wonder what makes these people different. This is what moves outsiders to approach and ask for an answer to the hope that such Christians have. And when the Christian is living in true communion with and depending upon the means of grace for one’s life, that person is fully prepared to give answer for the reason of the hope that is counted as life itself. That person points to the preaching of Christ crucified and the gracious outpouring of everlasting blessings in the Sacrament.

Sadly this is not what is commonly taught in the churches of our day. Being a witness unto Christ is the easiest thing in the world, so easy in fact, that it really requires no effort at all. Being a witness unto the grace of God in Christ is as easy as hearing the words: “I baptize you into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” and responding by continuing in this pronouncement by evermore gathering to the Holy Communion of the Saints to receive the holy absolution and the body and blood of Jesus.

When this is the witness that Christians give, they truly are witnesses of the one who is the faithful and true witness, who declares, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)

Do you want to be an effective and powerful witness unto the Lord Jesus and the salvation that He has won for us all? If so, then examine your life so that you hunger and thirst for the body and blood of your Savior. Examine yourself to be certain that you and your family are gathering in a congregation where there is no adulteration of the things of Christ. This is your life. This is your witness. Is it a true witness or is it in some way mingled with things other than what Christ has commanded for His Church? When the communion in the bread and the cup is your life, then your witness will be the one who is faithful and true, and everyone will know it. If when you open your mouth concerning Jesus, it is opened first to receive Him, then He is what will be proclaimed when you open it to speak to others, too.



Friday, November 02, 2007

Ablaze!

Wow! The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, my former church body, continues to break my heart.

Once again the “Harvest News” has been delivered to my mailbox, featuring, of course, the latest and greatest LC-MS scheme, Ablaze!

The new pride of the LC-MS is represented by this logo:



Why does this break my heart?

From the Harvest News that was mailed to me I will quote the following excerpt from the front page:

*****

“I believe,” said Rev. Dr. Robert Roegner, the executive director of LCMS world mission, before the 2007 Synod Convention, “that Ablaze! has put us on the doorstep to the most exciting days in the history of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.”

Butch Almstedt, the chairman of the Board for Mission Services, said it this way at the same event, “Ablaze! is about challenging our LCMS members—especially, but not exclusively the laity, to be passionate about witnessing to lost souls for Christ. It is about building more worshiping communities, more congregations, whereby the lost and saints can come and be edified by Word and Sacrament. It is about building up the roster of missionaries—ordained and non-ordained—who are sent by our Synod into mission fields at home and abroad. And, it is about helping our sister and partner churches outside the United States build up their ministries for outreach. Ablaze! is about fulfilling God’s Word to witness one’s faith and to disciple the nations, that many more may have life in Jesus Christ.”

Since 2004, thousands have stepped forward to join the movement. Thirty-two of 35 districts have registered as “Ablaze! partners”—those supporting the three main goals of Ablaze!: reaching 100 million with the Gospel; planting 2,000 new ministries in North America; and revitalizing the mission of 2,000 existing congregations. Also, 591 congregations have declared themselves to be “Ablaze! partners,” and approximately 1,000 congregations have downloaded the Ablaze! logo from the Web and told us that they are doing something around Ablaze! including worship services, Bible studies, concerts, and prayer vigils.

*****

So what is the problem? Why is this disturbing and disappointing?

The problem is that the Word of God and the blessed Sacraments are being treated as something to be promoted rather than as the means by which God administers His grace and blessings. The Gospel is being treated like a product to be marketed, not as the power of God unto salvation by which God accomplishes all that is good and holy for those who stand helpless by their own efforts.

The foundation and focus of this Ablaze! movement is summarized by this banner from the Ablaze! web page.



It’s about people! And you may ask: “What is wrong with that?”

The Gospel is not about people and what people do and how to gather more people into the Church.

The Gospel is Jesus! The Gospel is not merely about Jesus. The Gospel IS Jesus. Jesus is what is missing from the picture and from the movement.

The entire Ablaze! program is based upon the works of men and the programs of an organization. Because of this, the entire issue of the Fall 2007, Vol. 7, No. 4 “Harvest News” is about the Ablaze! program and the Ablaze! movement.

This movement has migrated so far from the right understanding of the Church that Chairman Almstedt’s statement to the convention was, “It is about building more worshiping communities, more congregations, whereby the lost and saints can come and be edified by Word and Sacrament.”

How differently the seventh article of the Augsburg Confession describes the Church:

It is also taught among us that one holy Christian church will be and remain forever. This is the assembly of all believers among whom the Gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel....


The Augsburg Confession keeps with the Scriptures in defining the Church as the assembly of all believers who gather to the pure Gospel and Sacraments. The LC-MS and the Ablaze! movement calls the Church the building of worshiping communities whereby both the lost (unbelievers) and the saints (believers) can come and be mutually edified.

How can the lost be part of the Church? How can the lost be edified apart from being converted by the Holy Spirit to become believers? How can the lost partake of the Sacraments for their edification when the Sacraments can be received to their benefit only by faith? How can the Word and the Sacraments be administered purely when this is the understanding that is being stated?

This is what breaks my heart!

The true faith by which the absolute and unfailing confidence of God’s grace in Christ Jesus is received, is being buried under a pile of hyperbolic emotionalism. People are being directed to a movement rather than to the means of grace. The result is that people are relying more and more upon themselves and their own energies and their own faith than upon the Lord Jesus. Jesus is talked about and promoted like some kind of celebrity athlete who should be imitated and promoted and to have money thrown at him.

This is not the Gospel. The Gospel is the gift of Jesus for the salvation of the world, given in the pure administration of the Word and the Sacraments. God has given Baptism for the regeneration of sinners, to make them members of His kingdom who live by grace through faith. In Baptism God comes and washes away the sinner in the flood and preserves the child of faith unto everlasting life in His holiness, also called sanctification. He also has provided the Holy Supper by which He feeds His newborn saints and keeps them strong through the communion with the unity of the body of Christ and in the continual forgiveness of the blood of their Savior.

What breaks my heart is that among the thousands of my former brethren in the LC-MS, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is being mingled with many things that at best distract from His saving merits, and at worst pull a veil over them. Dear people who are gathering with the expectation of receiving good things from God, are eating and drinking judgment upon themselves. They continue to say to themselves, “Look at what we are doing in the name of the Lord!” when the Lord would have them hear from Him, “Receive what I have done and continue to do for you!”

How can people receive God’s good gifts when they are so busy trying to be the givers themselves? How can people beg from God His mercy, when they think that they are the merciful? How can they give what they forget to obtain first for themselves?

At the last day all things shall be set Ablaze!, and all that will survive the fire is the work that Christ has done in us and for us. So what works should the Church be proclaiming and trusting? By whose works does the Church exist and flourish?



Marriage and the Gospel

In Ephesians 5 the Apostle Paul speaks of marriage as the mystery of Christ and His Church. Then he says that husbands and wives each should live in this holy mystery concerning each other.

In Genesis we encounter the first two marriages, Christ and His Church, and then Adam and Ishshah. In the first marriage Christ gives Himself to and for His bride. He forms her from the earth and brings her into existence to live in His love. She turns from Him, and He calls her back and speaks words of grace to her.

In Genesis 3:20 Adam, having heard the word of promise that Christ spoke concerning His bride, that the Seed would be born to conquer Satan, the head of the serpent, having observed Christ’s love for His Church Adam then turns to the one he had named Ishshah, which means of man, and gives her the new name of Heva, Eve, which means Life.

How interesting! When confronted with the Law the man blamed his wife. When observing Christ in His dealings with His Church through the Gospel, the man turns and blesses his wife, even giving her the name of blessing. The result was peace for man and wife and they went forth trusting in God’s grace together.

Many books have been written regarding how to have a happy marriage. Yet the Holy Spirit speaks through Moses and St. Paul revealing in a few words the true foundation for a happy and blessed marriage. When the husband honors his God-given role as head of house so as to bless his wife in the name of the Lord and when the wife honors her God-given role as partner with her husband in this blessing of God’s Holy Communion, truly the marriage is blessed.

Reformation

October 31, 1517 is counted throughout the world as Reformation Day. It stands in stark contrast to the worldly celebration of Halloween. On this day, Dr. Martin Luther stood against the world and against the world’s religions and called for all the world and especially those who count themselves as Christians to repent. He challenged the ways of mankind and urged that the Word of God is the basis for true faith rather than ceremony or tradition or human attempts at righteousness. He especially urged people to abandon the false worship that focused in various ways upon buying God’s favor with money, devotion, penance, or other works. He urged all people to be reformed in their hearts and souls so that they trusted in God’s mercy and grace in Christ Jesus. The reformation that he sought was a simple return to the God of grace, mercy, and peace.

Today there is much buzz about needing new reformation. I believe that Luther would object to this terminology. The need is not for a new reformation today any more than such a need for a new reformation existed in Luther’s day. Luther did not urge a new reformation, but urged a return to the true reformation, the reformation that the Lord God has been working even from eternity, and pronounced already in Genesis 3.

Throughout history there have been many reformations akin to the one that is attributed to Luther. The first is recorded in Genesis 3:20 when after hearing the Lord’s declaration of the Gospel Adam turns to his wife and gives her a new name, Eve, which means Life. Other little reformations include each time that the Lord raised up a new judge to turn Israel from their idolatry back to the unadulterated worship ordained through Moses. Several kings also enacted little reformations, such as Hezekiah and even Manasseh. Yet none of these were lasting reformations, neither were they complete.

The people from Adam to John the baptizer waited for the day of the reformation. Today we look back upon it and also forward to it. For in Christ God did reform mankind. The image of God was restored to mankind in the body of Jesus, born of Mary. Mankind was truly reformed.

This reformation is applied to us today as the Holy Spirit comes to us through the Word in the water of Baptism and rejoins us to Christ crucified. This reformation is renewed in us each and every time that we come to the Holy Table to receive the body and blood of our Lord. The fullness of this reformation will be realized when Christ returns in the fullness of His glory to take us once and for all from this world of confusion and unbelief, to abide with Him in the everlasting joy of the removal of all that is sinful and evil. Then the reformation shall be complete in time even as God has already declared it from eternity.

Until then, reformation is the continual life of the Church. Reformation is the work that God works among us as we gather to Him in His means of grace. Where these are administered purely, the blessed reformation continues. Where these are adulterated and where this adulteration is tolerated, God’s grace does not prevail, but rather, people focus upon many other things.

For those who are thinking that a new reformation is needed today, I would suggest that you are correct if you are speaking of the reformation that we each need to encounter anew each and every day. The reformation that is needed is the one that Adam experienced and that many years later Luther also experienced. That reformation is the repentance that the Holy Spirit works through the Gospel so that we are set free from our dependence upon all things that lead us into temptation. The Holy Spirit always leads us to the means of grace, where we receive Jesus, our God and Savior. In Him we are truly reformed again and again, and even forevermore.

A final and very important point to remember is that when we speak of the need for reformation we are not speaking of this need for other people, but for us. This is why the Lord Jesus reminds us of our need to remove the log from our own eyes first. We, ourselves, need to return to the pure Gospel and the pure Sacraments, where God washes us with holy water that cleanses to our very souls and covers us with the blood of purification and life from the inside out, removing our log so that we may see clearly the reformation that God alone can work for us, and does work for us and among us through the means through which He has promised.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Trick or Treat

To most people Halloween is just an excuse to enjoy children.

In our household we have wrestled with the issue of whether or not to give candy at Halloween. We despise the demonic associations of this tradition, but have found that since most do not even realize what they are partaking in, without a clear explanation we would only give offense.

So on the occasions that we are home on October 31, we have candy available to give out to those who come to our house. Last year no one came. This year we had a steady flow of children of various ages.

Does it hurt to show kindness to those who come to our house, even when they come on account of observance of a tradition that has questionable or even demonic roots and ties?

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. (Gal 6:9-10)


For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. (1 Pet 2:15-16)


In the faces of those who come to our door crying “Trick or Treat,” we see the joy of receiving kindness from a stranger. While this is not a direct witness to the love of our Savior, it is nevertheless an overflow of the love with which He has filled us.

It really is not much different than when the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormon missionaries and any other stranger come to our door with a false understanding of what is good and true or with some worldly thing to sell. I always show kindness to them all, inviting them into the house to sit and to share what they have to say or sell and offering them the Gospel of our Lord Jesus in the fullest measure that they are willing to hear it.

After all, rejection is not the witness of the Christian, but rather a kindly invitation to receive the grace and mercy of God in Christ Jesus. It is hard to imagine when showing kindness and love to a stranger should be counted as wrong, especially by the one who gave Himself as a ransom for His enemies.


God Hates Fags

What a sad, horribly sad, focus for a group that claims to gather in the name of Jesus!

On the opening page of their web site, the Westboro Baptist Church has the following graphic:


with the title for the page: "Warning Page."

The picture serves as a link to their home page, which is entitled, "God Hates Fags."

St. John instructs the Church that "God is Love."

Why then would this group seek "God Hates" as their primary focus?

Good question. Perhaps the answer is found in their understanding of salvation and their interpretation of John 3:16. They say:

JESUS CHRIST DIED ONLY FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16.

They quote the Lord Jesus as saying that the Son was given because God LOVED the WORLD, and then twist His gracious words to say that He did not die for that same world in love for the world.

"Jesus Christ Died Only for Those Who Believe." This is not what the Scriptures teach. The Scriptures do teach, however, that not everyone for whom Jesus died will receive the benefits of His sacrificial death that He offered in love for all. The very next verses of Holy Scripture say that those who deny and therefore do not believe God's love come to earth in the body of Jesus stand condemned by their own refusal to believe what God has demonstrated in unmistakable means. The gift is a real gift. He has been given for all. But most will never receive Jesus as God's gift, but will seek to substitute their own version and understanding of Jesus, whose name means, "The Lord saves."

The problem for the poor people of Westboro Baptist Church is that they do not know the God of love. Since they do not know Him, they cannot serve Him with a witness to His love. Their gospel is not "good news" but "bad news" for all. Their message to the world is "God Hates." Their answer to God's hatred is that people had better choose to be the kind of people that God is capable of loving.

The God who reveals Himself through the Holy Scriptures declares Himself to be the God who has loved the world from eternity, loving the world so much that He sent His only begotten Son on behalf of this lost world. This God does not declare that people must give up their sinfulness and become holy in order to receive His love. Rather, this God pours out His love freely through the preaching of Christ crucified, and applies this love to sinners in the waters of Baptism and in the bread and wine of His Holy Communion. This love is Jesus and the holiness of God. Those who receive Jesus through these ordained means of salvation are declared to be righteous and holy for Jesus' sake. As they live in this declaration of the righteousness and holiness of Jesus, they discover that God truly has made them to be His holy children once again. Far from being a choice on their part, this is the power of the Gospel at work in them.

Sadly, Westboro Baptist Church is not alone in missing this all important understanding. If only all the churches that claim to be in Christ would administer the pure Word and Sacraments for the benefit of all. If only all the churches would lead people to Jesus, who comes to us freely and graciously in the means of grace. Then people would not look to means of their own imaginations and would be guarded by the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, guarded and kept safe in Christ Jesus.

God has provided the means by which we may know Him as our God of love. If we want to find the answers to our shortcomings, they are supplied for us in His means of grace. Through these means God gives us Jesus, and in Him all of God’s promises are “Yes” and “Amen.” (2 Cor. 1:20)

As our Lord Jesus assures us in John 3:17,

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

Is this not the message that God would have us proclaim? Is this not what people at funerals need to hear?

Repentance is not a turning from what is wrong to what is right. Repentance is the change of heart and mind and soul that the Holy Spirit works in the sinner through the means of grace, so that rather than seeking to be right in one’s own understanding and by one’s own efforts, the person trusts that God is right and that His righteousness is what is needed, the righteousness that Christ purchased for us with His own holy life, and pours out freely in Baptism and in the Cup of the New Testament in His blood.

We all become excited when we receive news of a great bargain, but what bargain can compare to what God offers freely through His means of grace, even Jesus Christ? And who can do better for oneself, than what God has already accomplished from eternity for us all?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Blessed Worship Experience

Which of the following statements best summarizes what you take with you from gathering for worship?


+ This surely is a friendly congregation.

+ That music is really inspiring and uplifting.

+ We surely have a wonderful church body.

+ Our church body is in big trouble.

+ Pastor surely is a funny and friendly man.

+ I surely need to clean up my life!

+ Pastor surely is a wonderful preacher.

+ Why is there so much fighting in our congregation?

+ What do we have to do to have peace?

+ There surely is a lot of work to do.

+ Why can't the rest of the world be like us?

+ Now we are entering the mission field.

+ Boy am I ever fired up about evangelism! Let's go conquer the world and win souls for Christ!

+ Why does everything have to be so rigid and negative?

+ Wow, I'd better get busy! I did not realize that God expected so much from me!

+ God surely is good and gracious. He really does love me. He provides the means of grace through which He reconciles me to Himself and to His Church in Christ Jesus!

+ Argh! That was lousy coffee! And why do they always get the same kinds of donuts?

+ Wow! Pastor finally got us out on time!

+ I like the other service better.

+ Wow! Something for everybody!



Friday, October 19, 2007


The lesser of two EVILS

Surely you have heard this phrase applied to something or other: “Well, we have to choose the lesser of two evils.”

Do people who say this ever actually stop to think about what they are saying?

With the acceptance of this mentality, what are people saying that they have accepted?

This is always, ALWAYS the way with compromise.

Is this ever really a choice for those who hunger and thirst after righteousness?

Good God!

Good God, I hate war!

I truly hate war and everything about it. I have seen many war movies, and my reaction is always the same. I appreciate the bravery and valor of those who fight for the good of others, paying with their lives for freedom and justice. But I hate war. War movies tear me up.

“We Were Soldiers” rips my guts out. This movie like no other leaves me bawling. War is evil. There is absolutely no excuse for war. War is beyond any question the work of the devil. Saint James writes:

From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

Yes, the devil began warring against God and all that is good. He tempted mankind to break fellowship with God and to look for goodness and pleasure elsewhere. All evil is the result of the absence of God, the absence of God in people’s hearts and minds.

This is why war proves to me the absolute and unfaltering goodness of God.

Strange as this may sound, it is true. When I consider the absolute evil of war, I know the absolute goodness of God.

War shows what man is like apart from being in communion with God. This is the condition of the human heart without the counsel of the Holy Spirit. All manner of evil is perpetrated on this account. Yet for all of his efforts, man has not been able to destroy himself nor the world that God created for him. God is good and His mercy endures forever. Man cannot extinguish God’s goodness. God’s goodness is absolute and never failing.

St. James continues, saying:

Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?

But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

The proud resist God and God resists their evil intentions. Wars and rumors of wars will surely come, but God gives grace to the humble, so that they may stand firm in His Holy Communion, from which the devil must flee. Where God rules, the devil flees. He cannot stand in the holiness of God. Evil as he is, the devil cannot bear to see himself revealed by God’s goodness. So when a person draws near to God in His Holy Communion, he stands unmoved against the devil’s attacks and the devil flees, while the saint is brought closer into God’s Holy Communion.

Such is the nature of God. Such is His goodness that it overcomes all things and restores peace and wholeness to the soul.

The ultimate war was started long ago by one of God’s ministering angels. He had been given great power and honor, to use to God’s glory and to the benefit of mankind. But instead this holy angel broke away from God’s Holy Communion and lost all hope for restoration to God’s goodness. This one has been at war with God and Man ever since. His war works in our flesh and is manifested in our evil actions. But God has given His Holy Church on earth, where He baptizes us into Christ Jesus and keeps us steadfast in His grace, mercy, and peace. All who stand upon the rock of this confession stand upon the One who not only resisted the devil, but conquered him and sent him away powerless. God Himself went to war on our behalf, a war of love versus hate and good versus evil. Love has triumphed and God gives His love freely to all who will receive Him.

Yes, war convinces me of the absolute goodness of God.




Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Our Struggles with Prayer

This post is the first in a series of three that I am posting consecutively. I have wanted to write on this issue for some time. Today, reading a wonderful post entitled A Mystical View of Prayer, I offered the following response which I include here as the first of this three post series:

+++

Dear friends,

Prayer truly is an issue with which we struggle. What does it really mean to pray? What is the real purpose of prayer? Why does God command it?

The disciples asked these questions, and the Lord Jesus gave them the Our Father. When we examine our prayer given to us by the Lord Himself, (we often call it the Lord’s prayer, but it is OUR prayer), when we examine this prayer we learn what prayer really is. When in doubt, we should pray this prayer. Luther also suggested the Psalms and hymns and the Creed and the Commandments. If we spent our time with these, we would not have time for challenging the validity or purpose of prayer.

But we don’t and then we do challenge. We don’t trust God, and so we challenge His faithfulness. Then we spend our time pondering prayer rather than praying.

Nevertheless, some pondering is itself Prayer. True prayer leads us to hear God. True prayer is submitting to the Holy Spirit who leads us to the Scriptures which tell us of Christ, who is the glory and image of God.

God commands prayer because we need it. WE need it. God knows what we need. In fact, He has answered our prayers from eternity. He does not need for us to pray in order to know our needs. He does not need for us to pray in order to hear us. As St. Paul explains, the Holy Spirit searches our hearts and prays for us even when we don’t know what to pray.

Prayer is to answer OUR need to hear God, not to answer a need on God’s part to know us. We need to hear that He hears us. So He commands us to pray, even though He already knows what we will pray. Prayer is for US. We NEED to pray.

St. James speaks of the effective prayer of a righteous man and then holds up Elijah’s prayer for drought and then for rain as the example. But when we examine Elijah’s prayer, we learn that the Lord told His servant of the Word exactly what to pray and exactly when to pray it. Then both Elijah and the Church and then also the world saw the faithfulness of God. God commanded Elijah to pray God to withhold the rain so that the people would learn to know the one on whom they depend. Then He commanded Elijah to pray God to send the rain to show the people that God is indeed the one who sends His rain on both the just and the unjust. God answered the prayers that He commanded His servant to pray.

Intercessory prayer is the same way. God already knows what He will do for our neighbor. In fact, He has already provided for our neighbor, in part, by commanding us to love and pray for our neighbor and for our enemy. Yet as the Our Father teaches us, when we pray for neighbor and enemy, we are really praying to our mutual Father on behalf of us all. When we pray for neighbor, we also pray for us. What we learn is that God wants us to love neighbor as He loves all the world. Then we do not hoard our possessions, especially our most precious possession, the Gospel. Then also, we do not abuse the Gospel by making ourselves lords over it and the Church. Then we view the Church not as our church, but Christ’s Church. Then we are more concerned about forgiveness than we are about being right. Then we rely solely upon the purity of the Word and Sacraments rather than our own attempts at doing what is right. Then we direct others to leave anyplace where the Word and Sacraments are mingled with worldly things, and we do whatever is necessary to make the means of grace the sole purpose of the Church.

This is the purpose of prayer. Reliance upon God and His means of grace. Examine the Our Father and see if this is not what Jesus teaches His disciples of all time.

The reason that prayer ends in questions of doubt is because we think that prayer is about what we do rather than what God does for us and among us through the pure administration of the means of grace. And so we remain in church bodies where prayer is mingled with idolatry and the Sacraments are perverted into the works of men. Then we wonder why we don’t understand. We ask God why we don’t see the purity that He promised.

Thanks be to God that He does not deal with us according to our folly, but continues to come to us and command us to pray.

When in doubt, pray the Our Father. Pray it until He leads you to various Scriptures and the Creed and the Commandments and faithful Hymns and Psalms. Guess where you’ll find yourself: on your knees at His altar communing with the Holy Trinity and with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven and all the saints of all times and places. This is where all your doubts and all your questions are answered.