Saturday, May 26, 2007

Living the Christian Life

Lately I have become very much aware of the tremendous efforts that most people exert in seeking to know how to be “good Christians.” In pursuit of being good, people seem to spend nearly inexhaustible measures of energy seeking to gain an understanding of how to live a holy life.

If you are among those who find themselves ceaselessly asking questions like, “OK, I’m a Christian, now what?” then this subject will be of interest to you.

What is required of a person who seeks to live the Christian life?

Let’s approach this question from the perspective of everyday life. What is required of a person who seeks to live the Human life? Let’s consider the requirements.

1. The person must be conceived.
2. The person must be carried through the full gestational term.
3. The person must be delivered alive into breathable air.
4. The person must evacuate the amniotic fluid that has been breathed previously so as to begin breathing air.
5. The person must be fed, nurtured, protected, and taught to eat, drink, and live safely.
6. The person must continue to breathe, eat, drink, and live safely.

Sounds simple enough. Yet people often forget what was done for them in requirements 1-5 and therefore forget that the knowledge of #6 was received as a gift. Then they try to reinvent and redevise #6. Instead of simply continuing in the way that has been provided freely, they often seek alternative ways of living, ways that end in trouble, sickness, and even death.

Christians come into being in the same way. Jesus told Nicodemus that a person enters the kingdom of God through the rebirth or regeneration by water and the Spirit (John 3). In John 1:13 we are told that those who become children of God are “born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” It is the same as with #s 1-5 above with a few modifications. The children of God are conceived not by blood, but by water and the Spirit through Baptism and the preaching of the Gospel. Like with the gestation of the person in the womb, the life of faith is generated and maintained not by any decision of the one who is conceived, but by the will of God. The child of God is surrounded not by amniotic fluid, but by the water and the Spirit, the Word of God in Baptism. Coming out of the water the newborn child of God begins to breathe the air, that is, the Spirit-given Word that the child is surrounded by in the Church. Additionally, the newborn child of God is given the food of life for the soul, the body and blood of forgiveness and faith. The child of God is instructed or catechized regarding the necessity of continuing to breathe the pure air of the Gospel and to eat and to drink, so that when the child of God has reached a reasonable age the child knows to continue with this way.

This newborn child of God receives continual nurture and care from God’s bride, the child’s holy mother, the Church. In the Church the child of God is surrounded by the love of God and grows to know this love in all areas of life. All the ways of love are demonstrated in the nurture and care received from God the Father through Mother Church. As God’s love is observed, the child walks in the way of this love.

This is called: Living the Christian Life.

Simple enough? It is so simple that only the littlest ones truly understand it, as Jesus demonstrated when He held up a nursing baby as the example of what we all must be through faith. The less that we rely upon our own reason and strength, looking more and more to the Lord as our sufficiency, the better we understand the Christian Life.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

A Definition of Evangelism

It seems that Christians are continually seeking a definition of Evangelism so that they can package it and sell it. It seems that Christians keep looking for better and more effective ways to communicate the Gospel so as to save the world.

With this in mind I thought that I would offer the most concise definition that I know. Ponder on this one for a while.

Evangelism is the communication of Life.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Conventions and the Abomination of Desolation

And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)

Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.
(Matt 24:14-18)

I have noticed a considerable amount of hubbub being generated by those who are preparing for synodical convention. This I have noticed from various blogs and e-mails of pastors who are members of the LC-MS. I have read mentions of the size of the synodical workbook. It sounds as though it is bigger and carries more weight than the Bible! For years I have heard and read plans by conservatives and confessionals as well as the broad spectrum to the left of these, regarding the means by which they hope to save the synod or to reform the synod. All of these involve legal machinations in convention or even through courts of law.

With this I have come to wonder about the applicability of our Lord’s warning in Matthew 24. Are these things signs that should be noted with concern?

As I observed these things, it caused me to realize that I could no longer pretend to be a part of them. Many people think that I chose to leave the LC-MS. The reality is that I finally allowed myself to be honest with myself so that I admitted that I was not really a part of the LC-MS.

On the matter of conventions and the many machinations of a synodical body, a question has surfaced that will not allow itself to be submerged or buried.

What do these conventions and various machinations demonstrate regarding church bodies that are created and maintained by these inventions and works of men?

The Lord declares that He creates and maintains His Church by means of the pure administration of His Word and Sacraments.

Those who write constitutions and bylaws and present resolutions in convention and boards and committees and commissions and seek to create and maintain the Church through these, what do they thereby demonstrate regarding their confidence in the means by which the Lord declares His Church to be created and preserved? When a church is created and ruled by means of constitutions and bylaws and amendments and resolutions and Roberts Rules of Order, who really creates and maintains the church? Whose marks does such a church bear. Whose image does such a church reflect?

When this is what is observed standing in the holy place, is this to be counted as signs of God’s gracious activity or as an abomination of desolation? Are the churches that are ruled in this manner places of unity in the Gospel of God’s mercy in Christ, or are they places from which the Lord Jesus warns that we should flee into the mountains to avoid the destruction that is coming upon them? Should we turn back to get what is in the house or to gather our clothes? Should we stay until those who are busy gathering the household items and their clothes are ready to flee with us? Should we try one more set of resolutions in convention just to be sure that what we see is really as bad as we know it to be? Or should we submit to the goading of the Holy Spirit, and having fled to the safety of the mountains ourselves, pull out our binoculars and keep watch for those who eventually stumble along the mountain paths, running to them to help them and to tend their wounds?

What does the Lord Jesus say?

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Psalm 133 and the Beauty of Unity

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.

Isn’t this a marvelous picture from the Holy Scriptures that declare the very Word of God? Truly unity is the life that God promises those who trust in Christ.

Moreover, the promise is that where the Holy Office of the Ministry is intact and the means of grace are administered purely (the reference to Aaron and the oil of anointment into the priestly office), that such unity will be the state of those who receive the life that God gives through faith.

It is so simple that it seems beyond belief. Yet that is what God promises. It is not by means of what we must do, but rather, by means of what God does through His Holy Office.

It just doesn’t get any better than this!

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Perfect Church

Have you ever heard a person say, “Well, you’ll never find the perfect church”?

It is almost certain that you have heard this statement, since it is almost universally held to be true in our day and age. Yet this is not what was held to be true in the Church of days gone by, even in more recent years. It has slowly become more and more the accepted belief and more recently has nearly conquered the Church.

Is this a true statement? Is this in keeping with the doctrine of the Scriptures and the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church?

For more on this, please visit The Perfect Church.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Prayers for the Nation

As we approach the appointed National Day of Prayer, it seems salutary to offer a few of Luther’s prayers. The prayers offered below can be found in Luther’s Prayers, published by Augsburg Fortress. This delightful little book of prayers by Dr. Luther has been reprinted in a paperback edition. The least expensive source appears to be to purchase it online at Luther’s Prayers. It really is a wonderful prayer book, including instructions on effective prayer.

I share with you below a sampling for this day of prayer for home and nation.

Page 48

(On the Fourth Commandment)

I thank you, my bountiful and gracious Creator, in behalf of myself and all the world. In this commandment you have established and secured the reproduction and the preservation of the human race, in home and nation. Without these two institutions the world could not endure for one year, for without earthly rulers there is no peace. Where there is no peace there can be no home. Where there is no home, the protecting care of father and mother will completely stop, and children will not be properly born and raised. In this commandment you do support and protect both home and nation and do require obedience on the part of children and citizens. You also provide that this must be done; and where it is not done, you will not permit us to go unpunished. If it were otherwise, children would long ago have broken up the home through disobedience, and citizens by their rebellion would have destroyed the nation, for they far outnumber parents and rulers. Therefore this protection is a blessing beyond words. Amen.

Page 49

I pray to you in behalf of myself and all the world, grant your grace, and richly pour your blessing upon the home and the state. Help us from now on to obey our rulers, to resist the devil, and to refuse to follow as he tempts us to disobey and to fight. Enable us buy our deeds to improve our homes and nation and to preserve peace for your praise and glory, for our own benefit, and for furthering everything that is good. Grant that we may acknowledge these gifts and give you thanks for them. Amen.

Also give parents, employers, and rulers the wisdom and understanding to provide well and to rule peaceably. Guard them against tyranny, rage, and anger, and guard them from these wrongs. Help them to honor your word and not persecute or injure anyone. For where these principles are not put into practice, the devil is in charge, and his rule is wicked and destructive. Amen.

Page 84

Dear God, give us peaceful hearts and a right courage in the confusion and strife against the devil. And so may we not only endure and finally triumph, but also have peace in the midst of the struggle. May we praise and thank you and not complain or become impatient against your divine will. Let peace win the victory in our hearts, that we may never through impatience initiate anything against you, our God, and our fellow men. May we remain quiet and peaceable toward God and man, both inwardly and outwardly, until the final and eternal peace shall come. Amen.

Page 99-102

Dear Lord, graciously protect the crops in the fields. Cleanse the air; give refreshing rain and favorable weather that there may be a good harvest. Preserve the fruits from being polluted, so that man and beast which eat and drink them may be protected from epidemic, fever, and other diseases. If you permit the forces of evil to contaminate the air and its fruits, the corn and the wine, then men must eat and drink sickness and death with their own food. Therefore, dear God, bless your gifts so that they may be wholesome and delightful to us. May we not use them to injure the soul or to increase sin, intemperance, and idleness. From these come unchastity, adultery, cursing, swearing, murder, war, and all misery. But give us grace to use your gifts to the saving of our souls and to the betterment of our lives. Thus may the fruits of the earth serve to maintain and improve the health of both body and soul. Amen.

O Lord, come to me and use my bread, silver, and gold. How very well they are spent if I spend them in your service. Amen.

Dear God, why should I be anxious and worry about my body and its food? How do you raise up the grain on the field and all the fruits? The world with all its wisdom and power is not able to make a stalk, a tiny leaf, or flower. In you I have a Lord who can multiply one loaf as much as he pleases, without the aid of a farmer, a miller, or a baker. As you do this day by day, why should I worry whether you can or will supply my bodily needs!

Dear Lord, I know that you own even more and have more in storage, than you have given away. In you I shall not want. If need be, the heavens indeed would pour down a supply for our need. You will never fail me. You make me rich. If I have you, I have all I want. Amen.

Almighty and everlasting God, we pray in the name of your dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. First, send a spiritual kingdom and a blessed gospel ministry. Give us devout and faithful preachers who communicate the wealth of your divine word in truth and clarity. Graciously guard us against divisions and heresies. Do not focus on our ingratitude, by which we have long deserved that you take your word away from us. Do not punish us as severely as we deserve. Rather let harm come to us, but do not deprive us of your precious word. Again we ask you to give us thankful hearts that we may love your holy word, prize it highly, hear it reverently, and improve our lives accordingly. And so may we not only understand your word rightly but also meet its demands by our deeds. May we live in accordance with it and day by day increase in good works. Thereby may your name be hallowed, your kingdom come, and your will be done. Amen.

May we commend to you all who rule and have authority throughout all Christendom. Enlighten their hearts by your word and your Holy Spirit, so that your word and glory may be upheld by them and not hindered. And so may we lead a quiet and peaceable life among them by being godly and honest. Amen.

Also give our ruler success over enemies. Remember your grace and mercy and preserve us from falling into the hands of any tyrant. Also guard our ruler against the devil and evil doctrine. Amen.

We pray especially for the government under whose care and protection you have called us. Bless it with success and prosperity. May the word of God, decency, and all honesty be advanced; may all of the offense of which there is so much be prevented; and may the common welfare be properly and peaceably provided. Make us obedient and devout. Amen.

Dear God, I know that my prayer spoken in the name of your dear Son, Jesus Christ, is indeed pleasing to you. It will most surely be heard. Amen. Amen.

Luther's Prayers copyright (c) 1967 Augsburg Publishing House. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of Augsburg Fortress.

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