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


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.