Friday, January 30, 2009

The Word versus the Mission

In Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, and Luke 4:1-13, the temptation of the Lord Jesus is recorded. Matthew and Luke record three particular parts of His temptation, three direct attacks by the devil.

In the first, the devil appealed to the ego of Jesus, that is, His awareness of His being, His identity. “If/since a son you are of God, say that these stones bread should become.” The devil appealed to the fact that by His identity Jesus was the Word by which all things exist. Surely He should have no reason to be hungry when by merely speaking it the bread would come forth from the stones.

But Jesus had been led into the desert to be hungry and to endure our temptations. He went out to prove not Himself, but rather, what His identity means for mankind. He is mankind’s bread of life. He is mankind’s sufficiency.

The devil has used this same temptation in the churches, and they largely have turned to their own identities for their confidence rather than the identity of the Lord Jesus. They have turned their hearts to the earthly and fleshly provisions rather than counting “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” to be their source of life and hope and peace and joy and sustenance.

In the second approach the devil appealed to the act of believing and trusting God’s promises. Surely Jesus would not deny what the prophets had written. Surely Jesus would want to demonstrate that what was written about Him is true. Surely it must be meet, right, and salutary to step forward in faith and show the world the faithfulness of God’s promises recorded in the Holy Scriptures.

But Jesus was not born to act according to His own determination. He came to fulfill that which was already planned from eternity. He came to do the Father’s will. God is His Father and He was sent to the world by the Father. Even though He and the Father are one, even though He is the Word by which all that God does is made to be, nevertheless, “Again it is written, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”

Again the devil has effectively tempted the churches with this same temptation, and largely the churches have chosen to decide what God would have them to do in His name. They have set forth to build God’s Church for Him and have tempted the Lord their God. Rather than walking in the way that He has prepared and declared, they have chosen to make improvements by choosing what mighty things to do in His name.

Finally the devil held before the Lord Jesus the mission that He had come to the world to accomplish. The devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and all the glory or people of them. According to the devil’s offer, Jesus would increase the numbers of those who were brought into the Church. In fact, the devil promised that all of the kingdoms and all of the people would come to Jesus by this one simple alteration.

But Jesus did not come to alter anything. He came to restore what had been altered. He came to restore people to worship the Lord their God purely and solely. He did not come to establish a church that included everyone according to various ways of worship. He came to reestablish the one true worship of God in the unity of God’s Word.

Again, the devil has presented this same offer to the churches, and largely they have chosen to make the worship alterations that appeal to the masses. Their alterations have worked, for now the churches have become one with all of the kingdoms and they share in the glory of those kingdoms.

The devil has been quite happy to let the churches keep their identities as Christians. In fact, they basically all identify with each other, even allowing that they each have “enough of the Gospel” to be called Church.

The devil has been quite happy to let the churches keep their Scriptures. In fact they have the Scriptures in more translations than can be easily counted. And they each hold to the Scriptures according to their own interpretations and applications. Yet they all speak of the Scriptures as the basis for faith, and nevertheless they never agree on what that faith really is. Or do they?

Finally, the devil has been delighted to allow and even to encourage the churches to become more and more mission minded. He has encouraged them to focus their energies on making disciples of all nations. And the churches have made this their primary focus. All else can be set aside if necessary, so long as they are continuing in pursuing the fulfillment of the mission.

The Lord Jesus, on the other hand, never took His eyes off of the way of the cross.

It certainly presents an interesting contrast when one considers the Mission of the Word versus the Word of the Mission.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Love & Like: Agape & Philos

In a comment to a post at Cyberstones, Loneliness Met and Overcome, an anonymous commentator asked:

This is probably a stupid question, but does God really LIKE us. I know He loves us, but does He really enjoy us as you say? As you say, like a mother coos and ahhs over a baby?

This is a wonderful question. The answer is YES. But God’s Yeses and Amens are always found in Christ Jesus.

To understand this more fully, it is helpful to examine the difference between Love and Like: Agape and Philos. There is a genuine difference. The Scriptures teach us concerning both, and explain the difference.

After the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, after He had fulfilled all righteousness by His suffering, death, and burial, after Peter had denied Jesus with cursing, the time was both right and necessary for the distinction between Agape and Philos to be made clear to Peter. In John 21:15-19 it is recorded.

     So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
     He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
     He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
     Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

Most people, reading from the English translations, do not realize that both agape and philos are used in this conversation. Moreover, the two are powerfully contrasted to one another, even though they are connected.

In this conversation which is actually more than a conversation, the Lord Jesus confronts Peter with what is lacking in Peter so as to fill him up with what was needed both for Simon, the struggling sinner/saint, and for Peter, the apostle of the Lord.

With the first two questions the Lord Jesus asks Simon, son of Jonas, whether he has agape toward Jesus. Both times he responded saying Yes, but qualifying it as philos. With the third question the Lord Jesus asked Simon, son of Jonas, whether he had philos toward Him. With this question Simon, son of Jonas, was crushed. Weeping he cried out that he did have philos.

But the Lord Jesus did not stop with this. Three times in response to the philos of Simon, son of Jonas, Jesus gave command to Peter, the apostle, regarding what agape would work in him and through Him. Jesus extends this with the assurance of verses 18-19, where He foretells just how far this agape will carry him.

Apparently Peter still struggled with what was explained to him as verse 20-21 says, “Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?” Then in verse 22, “Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.”

Peter was still thinking philos. The Lord Jesus redirected him to agape.

St. John, in referring to himself in this part of his Gospel account, referred to himself as the disciple whom Jesus agaped. The others saw philos, but John records agape.

The fact is that both are correct. Jesus did display philos toward John, and the rest of the disciples as well, but John rightly demonstrates that this recognition of the Lord’s philos can only rightly be known in connection with His agape.

Agape is of God. He IS agape. God has agape for all the world, so that He sent His only begotten Son into the world so that through Him the world might be saved. This agape has been declared from eternity and all the world has been redeemed in this agape through the atoning sacrifice of Christ crucified. This agape is poured into those who are baptized into Christ Jesus with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. With the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, God’s agape dwells in the person and rules over the person, converting that person and making a saint of that person. It is in connection with this washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit and the restoration to God’s Holy Communion of agape that we also experience His philos.

Yes, God truly has philos toward those whom He has sanctified. For in Christ, we are made to be truly likable again. In Christ, all that is unlovely is taken away. In Christ the image of God is restored to us and He truly likes us according to the new Adam living in us. Yes, God is pleased with His saints. He speaks of this in many places. And His saints respond with His agape and then also with their own philos.

Agape is of God. As we walk in His agape we show His agape. We show agape because of what God has worked and continues to work in us. But we also show philos because of what we feel towards God as His beloved children. Agape is God at work. Philos is our emotional response to His agape and also to His philos. For God does show us His philos as well.

This is shown by the observations of those who commented on the philos of Jesus concerning Lazarus in John 11:3 & 36, and on John’s reference to himself in John 20:2. But in Revelation 3:19 Jesus Himself declares His philos toward those whom He rebukes and chastens/disciplines.

This is especially pertinent in connection with the anonymous commentator’s further question:

Let me explain what I mean by, "does God really LIKE us". There is a difference between like and love. For instance, I know my dad loved us and he was a great provider, although I don't think he really LIKED being around us much. Of course we know that our Lord loves us and died for us. But does he really think we are smart, funny and like us as you say? I guess I have been taught more to fear God and not upset Him.

Jesus says that those whom He likes he also rebukes and chastens.

The Lord Jesus also teaches us to begin our prayers, saying, “Our Father, who art in heaven.”

Luther’s explanation of this is truly and marvelously in keeping with what God declares concerning the communion that He calls us into.

God would thereby [with this little introduction] tenderly urge us to believe that He is our true Father, and that we are His true children, so that we may ask Him confidently with all assurance, as dear children ask their dear father.

Does God like us? Does God like you?

Ask yourself whether or not you have been baptized. Ask yourself whether or not God’s promises are true. Ask yourself whether or not you are truly in God’s Holy Communion and not a false communion where His Supper is mimicked but not actually partaken.

If indeed you are truly a disciple of Christ, as He says in John 8:31-32, John 13:34-35, and John 15:8, truly God likes you. After all, who does not like perfection? He has made His saints to be perfect in connection with His Son. God truly likes what He makes of His children. He truly likes those whom He has converted from sinners to saints. God is truly pleased with the works that He works in and through His children.

This is not because of the choices that we make for ourselves or the works that we seek to do by our own strength. No, those are corrupt and rotting choices and works. Even we don’t like them when we examine them honestly. But what God makes of us and works in us and through us truly pleases Him, even as when we catch glimpses of it we, too, are pleased. And yes, we do see these things as St. John writes, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” (1 John 3:14) Yes, God works His love in us so that we look to one another with that same love, and thereby we are pleased with one another and like one another, too. And God likes what He sees being worked in us, too. He draws near to us and shows us that He both loves and likes us.

This is why it is necessary that we mark and avoid false brethren and false communions. For how can we know God’s love and pleasure toward us when we mingle with what He has declared that He hates and dislikes? No, His good pleasure is ours to observe when we abide in His words and love as He has said.

The Great American Bailout

A Fly in the Ointment

A fly in the ointment is a well known and commonly used phrase. It goes all the way back to the wisdom of Solomon.

     Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.
     A wise man's heart is at his right hand; but a fool's heart at his left.
     Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to every one that he is a fool.
(Ecclesiastes 10:1-3)

The following video begins with a foolish premise. The premise is a lie that makes a fool of anyone embracing it.

     The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good.
     God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
(Psalm 53:1-3)

Here is the video:

The same author, by the pseudonym yourgodisimaginary, made this video:

Yourgodisimaginary clearly has an agenda behind these videos. This agenda is most certainly the basis for the 44 US Presidents: Quotes From George Washington To Barack Obama video. This agenda is demonstrated in the very first quotation, which is falsely attributed to President George Washington and is quoted in a manner that misrepresents the quotation. The video claims that George Washington said:
The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.

This is only part of the actual quotation. It is lifted out of context and presented contrary to the intention of the statement. Moreover, President Washington did not make the statement.

This partial statement is lifted out of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary. The statement is found in Article 11, which reads:

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

The treaty was signed by Joel Barlow on behalf of the United States and President John Adams presented it to the Senate to be considered and ratified by the Senate. An image of the actual document can be viewed here and a transcription can be viewed here .

The intention of Article 11 is clearly to state that the United States was not founded on the same principles as the nation of Islam and that the religious warmongering of the European nations in the name of religion was not the way of the United States of America. The intention of this article is to make known to the signers of the treaty that the United States of America does not make war a means of promoting the Christian religion. The United States wanted it to be known that its connection to the Christian religion was not as had been previously observed by the Mussulmen.

David Barton of WallBuilders gives a more thorough treatment of this matter in an article at Treaty of Tripoli.

Returning to the issue of the agenda of the first video, President Washington is falsely attributed with this misquoted statement to present a false premise that carries through the entire video. From what I have been able to determine, the rest of the quotations are correctly attributed and quoted. However, by setting the false premise at the beginning, the later quotes from Presidents Taft, Clinton, and newly elected President Obama are given the false appearance of being in accord with the moorings of the nation and of the Constitution.

The goal of the video is to affirm the notion that whatever good will come in the cosmos will come by the actions of human beings. This is in direct contradiction to the bold statements of the Declaration of Independence and the founding fathers.

This video has been linked to by various bloggers who seemed to have used it thinking that it affirmed the principles upon which this nation was founded, or at least that it decried the Obamanation. The truth is, however, that the video only embraces certain portions of the nation’s foundation.

The video begins with a lie as the capstone over the selected elements of truth that it enshrouds and overshadows. This is an example of the importance of checking sources of quotations. Anytime that such sources are not supplied, one should question the validity of the quotations and not accept them unquestioningly.

The audio/visual medium is very powerful. What is both heard and seen is perceived as true according to the mind’s natural perception and interpretation of what is perceived.

A person does well always to be on guard.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Conversion of Saint Paul

Acts 9:1-22, what an exciting text from Holy Scripture! Sunday was the festival of The Conversion of Saint Paul. It is the first time that I remember having occasion to preach a sermon on this text, Acts 9:1-22 — “For He Is a Chosen Vessel unto Me”.

A couple of excerpts include:

     Who would expect that such a miracle could happen? Who would even begin to imagine that a heart that was so violently set against the Lord Jesus and His Church would be converted to be a powerful vessel for God’s use in carrying the Gospel to the world? Yet this is what the Lord Jesus declares to Ananias. . .

     . . . No one in the world saw this coming. No one in the Church expected this. No one even imagined such a thing. Yet this is the way of the Lord our God. And this is not only the way with Saul, the devoted Pharisee, but also with you and me. . .

I generally read the sermon for myself again at various times during the week. Sometimes I listen to it again. Listening seems to have a different impact than reading. Somehow the spoken Word seems to penetrate differently. Moreover, I can listen while doing some mundane task at the desk and still hear the Word preached again. Even though I am the preacher, I benefit from hearing again. (Plus it allows me to hear areas where I can grow in my preaching.)

I also read and listen to other pastors’ sermons. Thankfully there are still a few pastors who actually preach the Gospel, and it is wonderful to hear and read them.

With the Internet has come the possibility of sharing far and wide in ways never before possible. Truly it is a heavenly blessing when a pastor preaches the pure Gospel and makes those sermons available for others. For all of us who depend upon the Gospel, it is a powerful blessing. Can anyone ever really get enough? Not in this lifetime! From what was revealed to St. John and recorded as the final book of the Bible, we will continue to rejoice in hearing it also in heaven.

Hearty Bread

This latest loaf of bread turned out wonderfully.

Lately we’ve been including a cup of fresh cranberries. For some reason this loaf turned out especially well, and sweet, too.

The ingredients for this loaf are:
2 cups of water
3 cups of freshly ground whole wheat flour
(ground in a VitaMix)
2 cups of bread flour (white)
2 T dried milk
3 T sugar
2 T butter
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp salt
2 tsp yeast
1 cup cranberries
1 cup raisins
half cup walnuts
half cup almonds

One slice of this bread makes for a hearty breakfast.

In the Name of Jesus: continued

      Four posts below I presented In the Name of Jesus as a commentary regarding the ever growing tendency among pastors to experience what they have called “boredom with preaching.” My post is given as a counter to this mindset, intended as an encouragement to remember Who the true preacher is and what this means for everyone connected to this preaching.

      My comments have been misunderstood by some and mocked and ridiculed by others. My heart aches to observe this. Nevertheless, I cannot imagine any believer in Christ being bored with preaching, most especially those entrusted with the Public Office of Preaching. Below I wish to continue explaining what preaching is, for everyone who has been called to be a vessel of the Lord and especially for the called and ordained preacher.

      Consider what the preaching of the Gospel really is and how it encompasses and pervades the life the one who preaches, especially the one who preaches according to the public office of preaching.

      The pastor/teacher is one who regularly prepares to stand before the people of God and to preach in the name of Christ. He is one who is driven first to study the Scriptures and to wrestle with the Lord his God and to continue in this until the Word speaks to his own heart and soul. Then, in the joy of what has been proclaimed to himself he arises before the congregation to which he is called to serve this Word. He leads them in the invocation of the Word, to call upon this Word to be present with power, even as has been promised. He turns to see the faces of those who have been gathered by this Word in the expectation of being converted again to the repentance by which life is restored through the forgiveness that this called servant has been entrusted to deliver. All eyes and hearts intently turn to this man to receive from him the One in whom all hope resides. All who are gathered fully expect this miracle to be performed in the name of Jesus. During this gathering to the Word the pastor steps into the appointed place for preaching and preaches the blessed Word that has been given to him. As he preaches what he has written with his hand, he also hears with his ears and knows that the grace, mercy, and peace of the Lord that he again receives for himself is being poured out to all who have gathered. His own heart melts and is restored. He also sees the responses of the faces of those to whom the Lord is coming through his preaching. He knows that God is at work in the hearts and minds and souls of those to whom he preaches. He directs them to the Holy Communion of the Lord and then he first receives for himself and then distributes to all the rest, the body of unity and the blood of forgiveness and life and renewal. Finally, all sing Simeon’s marvelous Amen to what the Lord has done for them, and the pastor again places the name of blessing upon the congregation.

      This same pastor later goes to the hospital to visit the hospitalized. Every person in the room turns and breathes a sigh of relief. He approaches the bedside and administers Christ to the dear brother or sister and to all who receive Him.

      This same pastor goes to those who are homebound. Their countenance lights up. Their eyes glow with the joy that has been restored to their hearts. They receive the absolution. They receive a brief word of exposition of the Gospel. They receive the body and blood of their Lord. They give thanks to God for sending His servant to carry to them what they cannot congregate to receive otherwise. They thank their dear pastor for coming.

      The hospital chaplain calls. He says that a man had a heart attack while driving his car and has been brought to the hospital. His family is with him. He is unconscious and in bad condition. He has not been a church goer but at some point attended a Lutheran church. The chaplain asks that the pastor come and be with the family. Upon arrival the room becomes quiet and the pastor begins pouring out the blessed Gospel for everyone present, praying for the unconscious man, proclaiming the Law and the Gospel to him and his family. Subsequent visits are made. The man dies and the family requests the pastor to preside over the funeral. Again the questions of the Law are addressed and the promise of the Gospel is proclaimed. The question is left open as to whether the man heard and believed, but the faith is proclaimed for those who are grieving and the confidence of God’s mercy is extended for those who hear that day.

      The sheriff’s department calls. “We have a man in custody who is on suicide watch. He is very upset. He is angry and afraid. Can you come?” The man’s life is being destroyed. He is facing terrible charges. He is angry at his wife. He is angry at society. He is angry at God. He is afraid. The pastor is not concerned about the charges. The pastor is concerned about the man’s excommunication from God’s Holy Communion. He listens. He responds. He listens. He speaks to the man’s sinfulness, not merely his sins, but his poor miserable condition on account of being a sinner. He speaks to the man’s hopelessness. He speaks strong and hard words to the man. He simultaneously speaks of the love of God in Christ. He speaks of the forgiveness that Christ won by suffering the full burden of the man’s sinfulness and actual sins as well as the sinfulness and sin of the world. The man is broken and weeps. The man hears the absolution. The man goes to face his trial and is found guilty and goes to prison. The man rejoices in the grace of God in Christ all the days of his imprisonment and all the days of his life.

      A woman under treatment by a psychiatrist for depression has been turned into a drug addict by the psychiatrist. She has adulterous affairs in search of a sense of identity and for reasons she does not even know. She calls the pastor. She hears the Gospel but is not willing to let go of her false faith. She calls for the pastor many times. Each time she hears again and again the Lord speaking to her, confronting her in her desperation, calling her to repent and receive His gracious help, and calling her to a life of freedom in His grace, mercy, and peace.

      A man comes to the pastor. He feels worthless and without hope. He is afraid that he could take his own life. The pastor listens. The man tells of abuse in his childhood. He asks why these things happened. The pastor directs the man to the Lord Jesus. The man hears of God’s great love displayed in the gift of His Son. He hears the great cost that God paid for his redemption. He hears of the great worth that God counts toward him. The pastor goes with the man to his home. They continue talking. The pastor shows him simple things that he can do in his life, things that he counted as insurmountable. The pastor helps him with some of his chores, showing him that he is not unable to do them. The man wonders how to get past the hurts that he has toward those who have hurt him over the years. The pastor again brings the man to his baptism and the cleansing of his soul and the regeneration to the new life that is his in Christ. He invites the man to remember the proclamation of the Lord’s death in the Holy Supper. He assures the man of his forgiveness. The man’s hurts begin to fade and to be obliterated by the love and mercy of God that is received in the blood of Christ. The injurious things that others have done and continue to do seem to lose their significance as he turns from them to the confidence and forgiveness that is in Christ’s Holy Communion. Before long God’s forgiveness is all that he knows and that forgiveness overflows to cover the wrongs of those who have injured him so deeply. Soon he no longer wonders about how to get over the hurts and how to forgive, because those things are no longer brought up in his remembrance of those people. He begins to see that this is what God has done for him through Christ.

      On and on the opportunities pour forth to the pastor. In every instance he preaches the Word. In season and out of season he preaches the Word. People come to him and he goes to people. He stands before the congregation and he goes out from the congregation to those beyond the regular gathering. He stands in the power of the Gospel. He stands in the name of Jesus. He touches peoples hearts. He reaches into their souls and takes hold of the ugly, dirty, dark, filthy crap that pervades their souls and holds it before their eyes and shows them that because of Jesus none of these things have any power over them. He pierces the hard, rocky mountains of doubt and fear and desperation and depression and guilt and condemnation and drives in the dynamite of the Gospel and breaks to pieces the mountains and casts them into the sea of forgiveness and life and salvation. From the pulpit, from the altar, and in private visitation, the pastor does away with sin and sets people free. In all these things the pastor rejoices, knowing that the freedom that he preaches to others is his for his own life and his to give.

      This is the life of the preacher of the Gospel. This is the preaching of the Gospel.

      What part of this is boring? I truly do not understand how any preacher of the Gospel can call this anything but exciting! What could be more exciting? Where does the preaching of this Gospel leave room for anything besides humble rejoicing and thanksgiving in the peace of God that surpasses all understanding?

Sunday, January 25, 2009


This is a cute video. After viewing it, click on the Mystery Link below for the fuller and correct context of the mystery.

Mystery Link

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Faith & VALUES

In the Wichita Eagle Saturday Edition, each week a section entitled Faith & VALUES is featured.

In this section all of the religions are included and placed on an equal par. Many faith representatives are featured.

Inside the section additional multiple choice faith related articles are included. Lately, the back page of the Faith & VALUES section features an article on pets. The last two pages of the inside portion of this section have the Comics with “Dear Abby”, “MY ANSWER/BILLY GRAHAM”, and “Horoscope” sandwiched between the columns of comics.

Does this amalgamation of topics and interests mean anything? Does it reflect upon the views of the paper and its editors and other staff? Does it reflect upon what is perceived as society’s approach to faith and values?

What about the churches and various religious groups? When they advertise in this same amalgamation of faith and values and when they participate together in voluntarily being represented in this amalgamation, what does this say of these churches and groups?

This most certainly says something. This most certainly is perceived in some way or other, in both awareness and unawareness, by those who receive the paper and see this amalgamation.

So what is being presented and what is perceived?

Curious questions, hey? Perhaps even comical.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Amazing Striped Icebergs

This was forwarded by E-mail. I am duplicating the format from the original sender. The dark blue font represents what was sent originally by someone named Eunice.

The photographs are quite magnificent.

Amazing striped icebergs...
Icebergs in the Antarctic area
sometimes have stripes,
formed by layers of snow
that react to different conditions.
Blue stripes are often created
when a crevice in the ice sheet
fills up with meltwater and freezes
so quickly that no bubbles form.
When an iceberg falls into the sea,
a layer of salty seawater
can freeze to the underside.
If this is rich in algae,
it can form a green stripe.
Brown, black and yellow lines
are caused by sediment,
picked up when the ice sheet grinds
downhill towards the sea.

Antarctica Frozen Wave Pixs - Nature is amazing!

The water froze
the instant the wave broke through the ice.
That's what it is like in Antarctica
where it is the coldest weather
in decades.
Water freezes the instant
it comes in contact with the air.
The temperature of the water is
already some degrees below freezing.

Just look at how the wave froze
in mid-air!!!

Now, that is cold!!!

Having the Internet means
that we get to see something
that we never imagined!
Pass it on for others to enjoy!

These are truly amazing photographs.

They cry out with the glory of God’s power, calling all souls to acknowledge Him and to recognize the absolute dependence that we all have upon Him. They speak to our fallen condition, calling us to count our days rightly, humbly confessing our need for the regeneration unto life that is in Christ Jesus, and administered through His means of grace, to live trusting in His grace.

At Striped Iceberg Photographs the Hoax-Slayer reports that the E-mail’s information is flawed regarding the formation of the waves. The report says that the photos are all real and that the information regarding formation of the striped ice is accurate, but that the “waves” have another explanation. This explanation appears to be somewhat lacking as well, but does help to explain the blue ice in the “wave.”

Nevertheless, the photos are spectacular records of the magnitude of God’s creation and His mighty and gracious hand at work. Of course, those who are often called “scientists” explain these away as natural phenomena. Yet their science (knowledge) is based upon deductive speculation, and is as absolute as those who make the speculations based upon their extremely limited collective observations and subsequent conclusions (which change frequently).

The truth, the basis of genuine knowledge (science), does not change. It stays the same yesterday, today, and forever. There is only one Truth, and He has declared what was and is and shall be. Those who look to and believe the Truth, don’t change their stories. They also find that the declarations recorded by Moses thousands of years ago, still bear up today, and bear witness to the Truth that never changes.

Anyway, I continue to stand awestruck at the amazing things that I see God working in the cosmos. Anyone that prefers to stand in awe of what the science of modern man presumes will have many opportunities to stand in awe of new explanations in the days to come. Have fun while it lasts!

Friday, January 16, 2009

In the Name of Jesus

      I have read and heard of a mindset among pastors that disturbs me greatly. This mindset is not new, although I have observed it frequently of recent date, especially during the build up to the Season of Christmas this past year. Yet I have heard it prior to this as well. Two blog entries especially addressed this,
What to Do When You’re Bored with Preaching and On Pastors and Christmas.

      This disturbs me greatly. I wanted to comment earlier, but I considered the timing to be poor. So I waited until now when the anguish described especially in the second blog posting will likely have subsided somewhat.

      But the comments of "bored with preaching" and "burned out" disturb me. In "On Pastors and Christmas" the pastors indicated that this is a recurring thing for them. I asked my wife whether she could ever remember me being burned out with preaching. She could not remember such a time either.

      It disturbs me to hear of this. I have heard about it throughout my life and especially after becoming a pastor myself. Yet it is a foreign thing to me. I understand the what but I do not understand the why or the how.

      It especially disturbs me that these comments come from pastors who are truly good preachers. This is not a comment so much on their delivery or enthusiasm as it is upon the content of their preaching.

      So if their content is solid and generally rich with God’s gracious Word of the Gospel, why do they speak of being bored with preaching and burned out with preaching? Why do they speak of being envious of pastors who get excited about Christmas? Why would the one pastor say: “All I can say is I know no way out of it and I always find myself in the same hole”? Why would another pastor say: “This year really just felt like a lot of work”?

      I don’t relate to these things, but I think that I understand what is happening for those who speak this way. I think that they actually answer themselves with some of their comments. Here are a few quotes that may be helpful:

      First, the closing comments on the blog on Pastors and Christmas:

      Finally, there is the continued spectre for the preacher of coming up with something new on the most familiar of all biblical texts. It is hard work, and I’m not always successful at it.
      The result of all this is that I find myself more stressed out than usual, behind, tired, crabby, and generally not very full of Christmas cheer. I am short and cross with my family. I don’t have patience to deal with all of the very real problems that arise in my congregation. At the very time when I need to be on my “A game” as a pastor, I feel like I am barely passing muster.
      So what do you do when you are strung out as a pastor? Inquiring minds want to know.

      Then from one of the comments:

      I always fantasize about getting everything in order and having luxuriously long amounts of time to ponder texts and the fathers and Luther and ancient hymns and really produce awesome sermons.

      There is no question that writing sermons is hard work. But that is not the cause of being bored with preaching or with being burned out. The busyness of the pastor’s life and work is not the cause either. No, the real reason lies in the comments quoted above.

      The real reason is that pastors can easily forget the motive and joy and basis of preaching. Pastors can forget what it really means to be a preacher of the Gospel. They can forget who the REAL preacher is.

      This is what these comments actually display.

      Where does God’s call to be a preacher ever command that something new is to be come up with from the familiar texts? It is the same message. The text has been preserved by God so that the message is the same forever.

      But I have faced this dilemma myself. I see the text, and sometimes I have preached on it many times, and I begin to say to myself, “What am I to do with this text?”

      This is the mindset that leads to becoming bored with preaching. From this question God calls the preacher to repent. The preacher has already been told what to do with the text. He is to receive it and to proclaim what he himself has received.

      The question that the preacher is to ask is this: “What does this text say?” And then, to ask: Lord, what are You saying and what do You want to say to me?”

      The pastor is not to come up with a message from the text. He is to preach God’s message from the text. This actually makes the task harder. For the truly hard part is learning to stay out of the Lord’s way and to listen to what He has to say.

      Actually this is not hard, it is Impossible! But with God, all things are possible. And when the pastor wrestles with God until God wins, the pastor wins, too.

      For this is the joy of preaching. The pastor only gives what he himself has first received. When the pastor is seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, then the freshness of the text comes forth on its own. For then it is not just a text to which the pastor is going forth as if into a dark and grungy coal mine, but it is the inspired written record of the revelation of God and His grace, mercy, and peace in Christ Jesus. Then it is God the Holy Spirit’s inspired record of the words of God by which the Word speaks to the pastor so that the pastor may then share these joyous treasures with those who have ordained him as their shepherd under Christ.

      The writer of the blog post said: “The result of all this is that I find myself more stressed out than usual, behind, tired, crabby, and generally not very full of Christmas cheer.”

      This statement really says it all. For the Church does not gather to hear or receive Christmas cheer. This is not the language of the communion of the saints. This is the language of the world. No. The Church gathers to receive the Christ Mass and the Christmas Gospel. They come to hear and to receive Jesus! Thankfully, even though the pastor may forget this, the liturgy delivers just what the Church really needs. When the pastor remembers, then he likewise receives what God promises and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding fills his heart and the true joy of God’s mercy and grace overflows.

      The author of the blog post also said: “At the very time when I need to be on my “A game” as a pastor, I feel like I am barely passing muster.” The first commentator said similarly: “I always fantasize about getting everything in order and having luxuriously long amounts of time to ponder texts and the fathers and Luther and ancient hymns and really produce awesome sermons.”

      If any pastor ever has a day where he has his “A game as a pastor” or actually passes muster as a pastor, please make a video recording of it so that the rest of us can see what one looks like!

      Truly the first commentator chose wisely in saying that this is to fantasize.

      Sadly, this is a destructive fantasy, for it directs the pastor’s heart in exactly the wrong direction. It is no wonder that pastors experience burn out with preaching when their ministry is based upon such fantasies.

      It is not really my desire for this to sound so harsh, but it is harsh in reality. It steals away the very joy that preaching is ordained to supply, first to the preacher and then to his hearers.

      Dear pastors, you do not need to write and preach amazing sermons. St. Paul actually preaches against such sermons saying that they empty the cross of its power. No, what we need to preach is the glory of the cross of Christ. We need to preach it first and foremost for ourselves, so that those who come to hear it actually overhear what we preach to and for ourselves.

      Sermon study and preparation truly is a time of struggle. Wrestling with God is serious business. Yet when the outline finally comes together for me so that all that remains is to put the words to it, I am so overwhelmed with the Gospel that I have heard and received that my heart drives me to go to my wife and embrace her. God’s love is too powerful and wonderful to keep to myself. I simply have no choice but to find my wife and embrace her in the love that fills me. Then I return with a joyous heart to complete the final two hours of sermon preparation.

      (If I had no wife to hug, I suppose that I’d have to call someone on the phone, or perhaps I would pull out a hymn to sing or recite a psalm or sing the Nunc Dimittis.)

      When this is what God works through sermon preparation, how can I speak of being bored or burned out? For any pastor who finds himself telling himself that he is bored or burned out, all that you really need is to stand back and remember whose Word you are called to preach. Then you will remember the great privilege and blessing of preaching. Then it will not seem like a laborious obligation, but a cause for rejoicing. The preaching office is Christ’s office, who Himself counted it a joy to suffer and die on the cross to provide this office with its power. This powerful office that opens the very gates of heaven to you and to all whom it rules over has been entrusted to you, dear pastors! Whenever you imagine that your office is boring or that you have become burned out, remember this! Remember what it really means to be a preacher of the Gospel!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Warning! Warning!

Warning! Warning!

How often the message is one of warning!

Is it even possible to preach good news apart from bad news?

In this current age, the time from the fall into sin, the good news is that the bad news has been dealt with according to God’s grace. But this good news always follows the bad news. The bad news is all around. The evidence is everywhere.

Yet it seems that we sinful humans turn a blind eye and a deaf ear until we experience the impact of the news in our own lives. Then we want to hear the good news and we cry out for the good news.

But the good news is that the bad news has been dealt with and conquered. The good news is that everything in the world is bad, but that God has provided a house of refuge. Before anyone can come to the house of refuge, that person must first be converted to the belief that the house of refuge is truly necessary. That person must be warned that refuge can be found only in this house.

Sadly, most people refuse to hear this warning. They do not want to hear that all other places and all other houses are really places of destruction. And so the preachers of warning become weary.

     Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay. (Jeremiah 20:9)

Ezekiel was told that as a priest of the Lord,

     When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
     Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.
(Ezekiel 3:18-19)

Thus the warning must be told. Life and salvation depend upon it. The warning precedes the good news.


"Grace Brings Hope"

      This is the title of an audio sermon at Messiah Lutheran Church.

      In this sermon are included some statements that help to demonstrate why the Church continues to become more and more confused regarding the Gospel. In this sermon, the Gospel is preached about but it is not actually preached. Jesus Christ as Savior and God’s “amazing grace” is preached about, but it is not truly preached.

      What do I mean and why is this important?

      The sermon opens with an illustration based upon the Devil’s Yard Sale. The devil is having a yard sale with many tools lying around to be sold. But one tool is especially worn and used and expensive. This tool is explained by the devil to be his most effective at bringing down his victims. It is labeled: Discouragement.

      From this illustration the connection is made regarding that God’s amazing grace brings hope.

Today is another time for you and I to rejoice, that God’s Amazing Grace brings hope, it brings us hope in our Savior Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the babe born in Bethlehem.

      Then this paragraph is proclaimed:

One of the things that we also need to remember as we talk about God’s amazing grace . . . is that God’s grace brings us also forgiveness, just as we saw a moment ago for Olivia, that God through the water of Holy Baptism, His grace touched her and brought her forgiveness.

      Did you hear what was said?

. . . that God’s grace brings us ALSO forgiveness.

      This is the dilemma. Without even realizing it, today’s preachers are preaching that Forgiveness is One of the important blessings of God’s grace. Forgiveness is important, too!

      This is highlighted a bit further on in the sermon:

When we recognize our sinfulness, then God’s grace is so much more sweet, as it fills our hearts and lives.

      Someone should have stood up and cried out, saying, “Warning! Warning!”

      The devil’s most effective tool is not discouragement. His most effective tool is the Lie, most especially the subtle lie that makes a seemingly small modification to the truth.

      God’s grace does not bring us ALSO forgiveness, but it is the granting of forgiveness. Forgiveness IS what God’s grace imparts. As Luther so beautifully teaches regarding the benefits of eating and drinking at the Lord’s Table:

That is shown us in these words: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sin; namely, that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.

      The abundance of life is the result of the forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness is the source of the life that flows from God’s grace.

      A pastor can easily slip into forgetting this as many distractions pop up in a congregation, as is illustrated in the definition of grace that was given on the overhead screen:


      “The merciful kindness of God which He uses to turn us to believe in Christ and by which He keeps, and increases us in Christian faith and moves us to live our lives for Jesus.”

      At first this sounds like the truth. At first this sounds like a true definition of grace.

      But there is one small thing not included in this definition. FORGIVENESS!

      Look carefully. This definition is not about grace whatsoever. This so-called grace is not about God’s gift of forgiveness, but about a call to good works. God’s grace is redefined not as what God does for us in the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross, but as a nagging toward a more devoted life of good works.

      This trap is so subtle that one hates even to chastize the pastor for not noticing. Yet life and salvation depend upon the warning that allows for one to hear and acknowledge that forgiveness is the good news by which life and salvation are graced to us.

      The paragraph that follows this definition is very sad once one becomes aware that this is a completely false definition of grace.

I mean, we should be talking about God’s amazing grace in ever aspect of our lives on a regular basis. We should be using this word with all of its richness, as we rejoice in Jesus Christ, as we give thanks to Him, and as we declare the message of the angels on the first Christmas night, that good news that is for all people.

      Well, OK. So what IS this good news? What is this amazing message?

      FORGIVENESS! “In the city of David is born to you a Savior.” A Savior from what? From sickness? From bankruptcy? From discouragement? From SIN and the condemnation of SIN!

      Next on the overhead screen is offered a prayer that was given by Chaplain Peter Marshall on the Senate floor:

God of our fathers and our God give us the faith to believe in the ultimate triumph of righteousness. We pray for the bi-focals of faith that see the despair and the need of the hour, but also see further on, the patience of our God working out His plan in the world He has made.

      After making much to do about this prayer calling for God’s Amazing Grace, a prayer that again never mentions forgiveness nor even the name of Jesus, next this is said:

God is immutable, which is a fancy way of saying God cannot change who He is. God is love. God is grace, and in His unchangeable nature we find hope and security.

      Based upon the previous definition of Grace, God never stops giving us the chance to try harder. He keeps encouraging us to live for Jesus.

      A bit later a story is told about how at a pastors’ meeting, President Sommerfeld, the district president, shares a story over the lunchtime discussions regarding the impact of the economy on the Church.

History has shown, and especially right here in Nebraska, He said, that even in the worst economic times, even going back to the Great Depression in the 1930's and he said it was during then that when businesses were laying off and stopping future growth, kind of like what we are having today, he said that it was during htat time that the Lutheran Home was built. . .

      Other edifices and sanctuaries also were said to have been built during these hard times and this was posited as God’s economy for His people.

      Then Isaiah 42:6-7 is put up on the screen and read.

I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

      This passage is quoted as speaking about the people of the congregation. While this can be applied indirectly to the people of God and even the local congregation, in Luke 4 the Lord Jesus says that this passage is speaking directly about Him and His ministry.

      If this were not preceded by so much other drastically misrepresented doctrine, this would be a rather small matter. But the concluding paragraph of the sermon shows that this is not a small misunderstanding at all, but is the very focus of the sermon.

What I really take from this is that God says, “I want you to get excited about it. I want you to know His amazing grace in a personal, very real way. I want you to be filled with hope and I want you to go from here and face the things that you have to face, keeping your Bifocals on and looking at what’s going on in the world around you, yet expecting that God’s Word will always prevail. And I want you to tell somebody about it. I want you to share that good news of great joy, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

      This is not at all what was prophesied by Isaiah. The pastor says that what he really takes from Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the freedom, that is, the FORGIVENESS, that God accomplished in the suffering and death of Jesus is that this is about the congregation and what the congregation is going to do for the world and for themselves in the world.

      Warning! Warning!

      A person does get tired of shouting this continually. Yet according to this God who bestows His salvation by grace through faith in the merits of Jesus Christ, it continues to be necessary.

      Beware People! For your own sake, for the sake of your families, for the sake of the congregations, and for the sake of your pastors, beware and call out with the warning. Perhaps at least a few will hear.

      Do keep in mind that the warning is not the primary object. The warning is meant to prepare the way of the good news that by God’s grace forgiveness is granted for Jesus’ sake. With forgiveness comes life, salvation, and all the blessings of God's grace. But forgiveness is the foundation, not merely something to sweeten the pot.

The Juxtaposition of Christ’s Divinity and Humanity

     In a discussion and debate regarding the claims of the Athanasian Creed, especially regarding the juxtaposition of Christ’s divinity and humanity, I was delighted to read Luther’s commentary on Psalm 122:5.

     The Scriptures plainly teach this as a mystery, a mystery that is often terribly misunderstood as struggling Christians attempt to make sense of what is beyond our capacity fully to understand or explain. Scriptural declarations of the Christ, especially such as Colossians 2:9 and 1 Corinthians 15:28, can seem to contradict the Athanasian Creeds explanation of the juxtaposition of the divine and human natures of the Son.

     Luther’s commentary is really quite a delight to read, and so I post it below.

     5. Because there seats have sat in judgment, seats over the house of David. A most beautiful verse and most beautifully expressing the characteristic of the church militant, if only I could achieve it in explanation. But be active in us, Lord, and we shall dare to try it. This at any rate is a difference between the church militant and the church triumphant other than what was said earlier, that there are seats in it and that they are manifest (that is, the powers and principalities of bishops, priests, etc.) but the sitter Himself, namely, Christ, does not appear and is hidden through faith and in faith, and yet He sits and is present, yes, extremely present, in them, since they are His seats. Therefore He in Himself does not physically preside over the church and His people, but His representatives, the priests, do. They sit and govern and rule over the people physically, as is clear. But lest they regard themselves as being lords and that it is their own possession, He humbles them and calls them “seats” and not “sitters,” as if to say: “Although you may be sitting, ruling, governing, and presiding, you are not sitters, kings, princes, and presiders over this people, but representatives and seats, on which sits the true King, Sitter, Prince, and Presider Himself. In the future however, when He will have put away every principality and power and will sit alone as king forever, you will not be seats, that you may sit, but you will be seats that you may stand, and He alone will sit. But now, since because of faith you are seats, you also have seats, namely, the subordinated people, on whom you sit in the stead and place of the Lord; but He sits on you. Yet when He Himself will enter upon your seat, you will give place, and you yourselves will also be one seat with those who are now seats for you because of Him who sits on you and subjects them to you. But as by this word He humbled and struck fear into the superiors, when He reminded them of the Sitter and called them seats rather than sitters, so that they might know that they have a superior, Christ, as they are themselves the superiors of others; even so He certainly and in a like manner also struck fear and reverence and obedience toward the prelates in the subordinates, that they might know that they are the seats of Christ. Therefore they ought to be humbled out of a sincere heart as before Christ sitting upon His throne, not because of the seat, but because of the seat of Christ, who without doubt sits there invisibly. As the ancient figure has it in the mercy seat, where the seat of God was, and yet He was there invisibly, so also now He sits in His church, which is His seat.
     Hence the corollary follows that since the church has a manifold order, there are always superiors when compared with their inferiors, who are sitters on the latter, and the latter are the seats of the former, but when compared with their superiors, they are themselves the seats of those who sit on them. But Christ is in them all. And, indeed, in this verse only the status of the superiors is expressed. For the seats are not sitting ones, except those who have inferiors on whom they sit and a superior or superiors who sit on them. Unless even the lowest are perhaps called sitting seats, because they do not rule over people but over their own subdued flesh. This is the tropology of all that has been said before.
     Thus with these things that have been said, look at the church, and you will see that it has without doubt been thus arranged in orders and ranks, as this verse has described. I say, the church militant. It will be otherwise with the church triumphant. Now see that it expresses another beautiful mark of a peaceful king. For to sit means to be peaceful and at rest. Therefore it is not the seat of a king of peace, unless he be at rest and peaceable in the conscience. But also the subordinates ought to exhibit to their own superiors, when they sit on them in peace, what they themselves exhibit to Christ their sitter. Otherwise, how will the seats sit and not rather everything be carried on riotously and rashly? But this will come to be if they are purely and humbly obedient and subject to them. In order that they might do this, let them contemplate and look upon the sitter, Christ, rather than the seat itself. For if they are seats, a sitter will certainly also be there, and this seat will not be vacant, although He who sits is not seen. Therefore let us fear and be reverent and humble before these seats as before Christ.
     But the words “in judgment” were not spoken for nothing. For power has been given to the priests not for capturing riches, honors, and pleasures, but for the purpose of exercising judgment. Every order and position of the church has been established and founded in righteousness, but only the position of power is “in judgment.” For it is its business to prohibit evil, note errors, drive out heresies, remove offenses and offer correction, and exercise discipline. For the power exists because of the insubordination of the wicked. For if we were all good and perfect, we would be saved and needed only to be saved, but not judged and condemned. Now, because we are evil, or at any rate mixed, there has to be a power which judges, accuses, and reproves. For an equal does not suffer reproof from an equal, as is clear, but the subordinate from the superior, and the weak from the stronger. It is not so in righteousness and wisdom, where without power an equal can instruct and justify an equal, yes, an inferior a superior. Therefore this David does not with a light thrust strike the brow of Goliath, that is, the extremely hard brow of the body of Babylonians, who are the heretics, with this stony word. Why are the heretics unwilling to be subject to the bishops and priests of the church? They say: “Because they do not sit in righteousness and holiness, for they are ungodly and evil, but we want to regard ourselves as holy and righteous.” To them we reply: “It is enough that they sit in judgment, that they forbid your error and heresy and those of others (since they will not be more fully described here), that they may sit in peace and be peaceable subordinates. But you break off the yoke, you abhor the judgment, and you boast of much righteousness. As if the righteousness of the subordinates were anything, unless they would obediently bear the judgment of the superior, although the judgment of a superior should be enough, as far as the church is concerned, even without righteousness. For righteousness is humble obedience alone. Therefore judgment pertains to superiors, righteousness to inferiors. For no one is righteous unless he is obedient. But a superior is not held to obey, and therefore he is not held to be righteous with respect to an inferior. But the inferior is held to obey, and consequently he will be righteous. You, then, want to establish righteousness in the superior and judgment in the inferior, namely, that they obey you, and not you them. Therefore, if they are unrighteous, they are so to their own superior. What is that to you? You be subject and permit yourself to be ruled in judgment. Because they are unrighteous and disobedient to their superior, Christ, should you then also become unrighteous by not obeying your superior? Therefore the true difference between righteousness and judgment is this, that righteousness pertains to the inferior, or to the extent that he is inferior, because it is humility, obedience, and a resigned subjection of one’s own will to the superior, while judgment pertains to the superior, or to the extent that he is a superior, because it is execution of the Law and chastisement of the wicked and presiding over inferiors. Hence also the apostle says, Rom. 6:7, that he who is dead to sin is justified. And the spirit is righteous when the flesh is judged by it and made subject to all obedience, so that nothing is left to the will and its desires. But the reason why I said ‘to the extent that he is superior and inferior’ is that the middle prelates, as are all except Christ, are at the same time superiors and inferiors. Therefore it is not for inferiors to demand righteousness of the superiors, because this means snatching their judgment to oneself. For it is for the latter to demand righteousness of the inferiors. And it is for these to accept judgment and to obey them, whereby the correction of the evil comes about in peace. Obedience removes every evil peaceably and allows the ruling one to be peaceable. Humility does the same, for it is nothing else but obedience and complete righteousness. For it depends totally on another’s judgment, it has nothing of its own will or opinion, but abases all its own and prefers and magnifies what is another’s, the superior’s.”
     Thereupon, after Goliath lies down, struck by the cast of the stone, he now cuts off the head, when he says “over the house of David.” For indeed, also the heretics preside over, and are subject to, each other, and the seats sit there in judgment. There is righteousness, obedience, and humility also among them, but it is lying. For they sit not over the house of David, but over the house of Bethaven, that is, of an idol. They have erected the synagog of Satan for themselves. Therefore, where their seats sit, Satan rules in those very seats, in the house of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylonia. But the house of David is the church of Christ, persevering in the true succession, as of old the figure was in the kingdom of David. Hear, then, heretic, the counsel of this prophet who says: Pray for the things that are for the peace of Jerusalem; and abundance for those who love thee. Let peace be in thy strength, and abundance in thy towers. This peace none but the heretic disturbs, who fights against the church without cause, for this is not of those who love the church, but those who hate her. This does not mean that Christ has two churches. One is His dove (Song of Sol. 6:8). And though there are many seats, they are all over the house of David, which is only one. But the church militant is called the house of David because of Christ’s humanity. For Christ now rules insofar as He is man and by faith in His humanity, which He has from David. But in the future He will turn this house over to God the Father, and He Himself will also be subject to Him who has subjected all things to Himself (1 Cor. 15:28), and it will be the house of God and the kingdom of God, so that then not only Christ as man may be in us, but also Christ as God may be in us. Therefore we now have Him only in part, because we are in the kingdom of His humanity, which is a part of Christ. But then the whole Christ will be clearly in us without the wrapping of humanity. Not that He is not God in us now, but that He is in us wrapped and incarnated in humanity. But then He will be revealed as He is (1 John 3:2). Now we know in part, but then even as also I am known (1 Cor. 13:12). Not that He will get rid of the humanity, but that He will clearly show also His divinity hidden there, which we now see confusedly and in the riddle of His humanity. And so meanwhile we are the house of David, and the seats sit. Not only that, however, but they also stand. For it belongs to seats that they stand. But they stand by comparing them with a superior, and they sit by comparing them with inferiors. Therefore, to show them that they preside and are subject at the same time, he said that they sit and also that they are seats. They stand by obedience and humility, and so they are righteous; they sit by power and authority, and so they are judges, whom we must obey and before whom we must humble ourselves, that we may be righteous. And so “righteousness and judgment are the establishment of his throne,” Ps. 97:2.
     “Judgment” is thus established to control evil. But there are no evils except self-will and private opinion. And these two need a superior power if they are to be removed and forbidden and subdued. Hence it is necessary for seats to sit in judgment, namely, for the condemnation of self-will and private opinion. Accordingly it does not matter what, what kind, how much is commanded, be it fitting or unfitting, useful or useless (as long as it is not against God), but as in the case of boys, these things must be done by not judging and estimating. Those who first consider a work that is commanded as to its reasonableness and usefulness, forgetting that God does not require the work, but the subjection and obedience of the will and opinion, want to stand in judgment themselves, that is, they want to obey and rule at the same time, those foolish and disobedient people.
     And therefore in Ps. 119 (what is to be noted very particularly) there is so frequent a prayer concerning commandments and law, for he is not praying to do such great or such fine things, but he is praying only for obedience to the Law and for the knowledge of obedience, so that the eye is rather directed not to the work to be done but to the obedience which the Law requires.

+ + +
Luther, Martin: Pelikan, Jaroslav Jan (Hrsg.) ; Oswald, Hilton C. (Hrsg.) ; Lehmann, Helmut T. (Hrsg.): Luther's Works, Vol. 11 : First Lectures on the Psalms II: Psalms 76-126. Saint Louis : Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1976 (Luther's Works 11), S. 11:544

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mail Fraud Hoax

This is a picture of a piece of mail fraudulently sent to my address (address has been removed).

The fraud is repeated in the letter as is illustrated in the picture below.

This letter sets forth a deliberate lie that is intended to prey upon people who are hurting emotionally. This is fraud of a most frightful kind. It seeks to prey upon people who are hurting and confused.

I never contacted this company expressing any interest in learning more about depression. I have, however, spoken outrightly and have written about the fraudulent promotion of this and other emotional and mental conditions.

This promotion packet demonstrates some very important factors in this fraud.

Notice especially the warning about Suicidality and Antidepressant Drugs. The language in this warning is very clever, but nevertheless, it still is very revealing of the nature of this promotion.

First, they invented a non-word. Rather than using the proper language of “suicidal tendencies” or “suicidal instabilities”, they invented a non-word that gives the false impression of concreteness and legitimacy to the notion that this should be of concern to the reader. Fabricating a noun from the adjective changes the perception of the reader. In other words, these drug use promoters are playing mind games with their audience.

Read the warning carefully. Although it is very carefully crafted to leave the opposite impression, it says that use of their drug is likely to cause you to develop suicidal thoughts and tendencies. The likelihood of this drug causing a person to feel suicidal is so severe that it has not been approved for children under 18.

This is devilishly crafty. This is crafted in such a way as to leave a person who has wondered about depression and very likely also has at some time or other experienced some fear of suicidal instability, to feel afraid so as to be more anxious and to begin imagining even more emotional fracturing.

Their booklet continues the fostering of doubt and anxiety. See the cover picture below.

This is devilish indeed.

What about this scene contains anything that would suggest depression.

Answer: Absolutely nothing!

Observing these two ladies no one would even begin to think of depression. Normalcy is what this picture presents. Friendship and caring and happiness are what this scene should illustrate.

And that is the devilish nature of the use of this scene, when it has the title:

can affect
many areas
of your life.

Like a gloomy cloud the purple box looms over the ladies in an otherwise bright and enjoyable setting. Purple, a color associated with gloom and depression is set above the otherwise normal setting, pervading the life of these ladies without their awareness.

This truly is fiendishly clever use of color and life settings.

Open the booklet and this is what is displayed on the first pages:

Again, a fiendishly deceptive presentation of a lady going about her normal routine, in a bright and happy setting, accomplishing good things for herself and her family, selecting good and healthy produce for her family, but looming in the background is the need for medication to make this possible. The lady is smiling and appearing content. The implication? This is made possible only by using this prescription medication.

Throughout the booklet, women are especially featured. Can you guess why? Women normally have a very broad range of emotions. Did you catch the key word? Normally.

Yes, it is NORMAL to experience a broad range of emotions and emotional fluctuation. This is especially true for women. But men, too, normally experience a broad range of emotional experiences.

And if you have not yet jumped this far, yes, this includes normal experiences of Depression!

Depression is a coping mechanism. It is normal for people to experience depression.

But the promoters of drug use understand that their readers need help in realizing that such normal things should not be counted as normal. See page 7 below.

This is clever. This devilish manipulation of words is common today. Read carefully the first two sentences.

Use the phrase “Science has shown” and credibility is immediately assumed.

Nevertheless, this is an outright lie. And these marketers know that this is a lie.

The proper term is clinical depression, but even this is a slippery term. By saying that depression is serious medical illness these frauds place every single human being in the state of needing treatment for depression, for every single human being experiences depression, even deep depression at some point.

Just read carefully and observe the rest of the slippery language that is used: “many patients may benefit,” “While no one knows for sure what causes depression, many experts believe it may occur when chemicals become out of balance.”

Lies on top of lies mixed with elements of truth.

The Holy Scriptures teach what causes depression. St. Paul directly declares the cure. Yet “science” declares that no one knows for sure. Yet many experts BELIEVE that chemical imbalances in the brain cause it.

True science declares the exact opposite. Depression and other emotional fluctuations, especially dramatic fluctuations and ongoing strong emotions cause chemical imbalances, not only in the brain but throughout the body. Hormonal fluctuations also cause imbalances not only of chemicals but also of emotions. This is normal.

It also is normal for stress (more properly called anxiety or worry) to cause chemical changes and imbalances. This includes changes in blood pressure and cholesterol levels (after all cholesterol is the base from which hormones are made in the body). Anger, which when internalized and allowed to smolder, often accompanied by fears and anxieties, is the root of depression. When this is permitted to go on for too long, in is natural for the body to attempt to compensate and to attempt to correct the chemicals. This is why artificially tampering with the levels always requires continual monitoring and adjustments to the prescriptions.

But the marketers of drug use don’t want people to realize this. Rather, they provide this sample voucher.

Notice the order of information presented on this voucher card.

First, take this voucher and the information provided to your health care professional and ask about treatment options, including this drug.

This already presumes the necessity of treatment. Any person responding to this will already be thinking that treatment will likely be needed. No diagnosis has even been given, except by these marketers! Yet the patient will be already conditioned to think that some form of treatment is necessary.

Plus, it is presented as being free. This makes it easy. This makes it enticing.

These marketers know that health care providers are terrified of law suites. Telling a person that this drug is not necessary is legally dangerous when the person is already talking about being in need of help. Moreover, the patient has been contemplating all of the various “signs” of depression. This helpful little booklet outlines them on page 13.

What adult could not fit into this list, especially after thinking about it long enough?

Then, since family and friends may help one to get a grip on reality, it may be better to talk to professionals who earn their living convincing people that they need psychiatric and psychological help. So included is a list of people who make a lot of money in promoting use of drugs.

Oh, and the fact that you don’t remember expressing interest in this should not discourage you. After all, difficulty concentrating is one of the symptoms.