Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
The current practice of many WELS churches regarding the frequency of Holy Communion is a mixed bag. On one side, a large group of churches continue to serve the Lord's Supper every other Sunday or even once a month. On the other, a growing group of men who are advocates of communing at every possible opportunity. A glance at the "Doctrinal Statements of the WELS" shows no mention of frequency, just a discussion on the moment of consecration. Indeed, along with the many facets of Holy Communion dealt with, it seems that frequency is not considered as much an issue, perhaps it should be.
I would do well to start with a discussion of the essence and purpose of the Lord's Supper.
On Essence: From Luther's small catechism
What is the Sacrament of the Altar?
It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, for us Christians to eat and to drink, instituted by Christ Himself.
On Purpose The following is borrowed from a paper written by Joel Fredrich, for WLS symposium 2003
"Jesus instituted the Supper in order to give us his body and blood and through them the forgiveness of sins for the strengthening of our faith. And “where there is forgiveness of sin, there is also life and salvation” (SC VI, 6). The Supper’s primary character is that it is a means of grace.
The blessings just mentioned are treasures we possess by faith even before we receive the Supper. By faith in the gospel we possess forgiveness, life, and salvation, and are united with our Savior in his entirety, God and man, soul, body, blood. But Jesus wanted us to receive these gifts also in this special way. He created a sacrament that is to be received by me individually (thus assuring me personally), bodily (thus reminding me that he saves the whole me, soul and body), and repeatedly (thus providing for sacramental reassurance and growth all my life)."
Perhaps many of the things said above are well-known, and perhaps taken for granted, but I do not think a discussion of the Lord's Supper should be started from the middle of the matter. Some other notes on the matter that should be noted.
- The Lord's Supper is something that Christ has instituted for us, it is not something we do for him.
- It is a Means of Grace, that is, it works and accomplishes the same as the Word and the Sacrament of Baptism
- The Means of Grace should not be ranked, they are equal in their efficacy and the reverence shown.
"The sacrament and the sermon belong together and it is always the sign of decay in a church if one is emphasized at the expense of the other" (Sasse "This is my body...")
- Whereas the Sacrament of Baptism creates faith and is for all men (Matthew 28:19) The Sacrament of the Altar is for those who already have faith.
- However the sacrament is not received on the basis of the merit of faith, the merit is the innocent life and death of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In Response to Infant Communion
Papers can be written on such things I will echo the statements of CFW Walther in "Pastoral Theology"
"Since according to God's Word everyone who wants to go to the Lord's Table should first examine himself and discern the Lord's body (1 Cor 11:28-29) the holy supper is not to be administered to children who are still incapable of doing so. It was an obvious misuse when it was rather generally done from the 3rd to 5th centuries, our of a misunderstanding of John 6:53 which was [incorrectly] understood at referring to receiving the Sacrament. "
He quotes Luther
" I cannot consider it right that the Bohemians give the same (the holy supper) to the children, even though I do not call them heretics because of it" (1523 letter to Hausmann)
And that is all I wish to say on that matter, for it is another topic, although it had been touched on briefly.
The Necessity of the Lord's Supper
From Christian Dogmatics (F. Pieper)
" The Lord's Supper is not a matter of choice, an adiaphoron but a divine ordinance that is to be observed in the church to the last day"
"Still there is not absolute necessity of the Lord's Supper because the remission of sins is not divided among the various means of Grace, but each one offers the full remission"
Our Lord's Words concerning the frequency of the Sacrament
"On what occasions and how often the Lord's Supper is to be received Scripture does not specifically state (emphasis mine). Diligent use of it, however, is not only indicated by the osachis (often) joined to the "This do in remembrance of me" but also follows from the essence and purpose of the Lord's Supper"
Ministry Word and Sacraments: An Enchiridion (Martin Chemnitz)
"Therefore you ask, how often would be enough to have been a guest of this supper? It is not for any man to give a specific answer to this with a number or any certain measure, other than as often as a trouble conscience feels and recognizes that it needs those benefits that are offered in the supper"
On Neglecting the Sacrament
From Luther's Large Catechism
"In conclusion, since we have now the true understanding and doctrine of the Sacrament, there is indeed need of some admonition and exhortation, that men may not let so great a treasure which is daily administered and distributed among Christians pass by unheeded, that is, that those who would be Christians make ready to receive this venerable Sacrament often"
On making the Gospel a law
I was asked to expound on my thoughts earlier about making a point of Gospel into a law. I would first differentiate between "rules concerning the sacrament" and "things essential to the sacrament", that is those things, when they are removed, the sacraments ceases to be a sacrament. Using Bread and Wine, for instance are things essential to the sacrament. As well, using the Words of Institution are essential, for without the Word the sacrament has no power.
Then on rules attached to the sacrament we must differentiate between rules instituted by God and rules created by man (as I had said, attaching law to a gospel). God speaks both to the frequency and the desire for the sacrament. There is to be understood also a need for a desire for the sacrament and a warning against neglecting it.
However, man should not arbitrarily attach his own rules on such things. Such as, number or measure (see: Chemnitz) as well as, type of wine, number of persons at the table, liturgical rites surrounding the supper, method in that one receives the elements(lips vs. hand/common vs. individual cup).
I believe the danger exists when combining "You must receive the sacrament as often as possible" and "You must offer the sacrament as often as possible" a arbitrary rule that sends Christians to the table out of fear rather than a sincere desire. I do not offer this opinion as an excuse but rather a very real admonition to those who would say that one "must" do things in respect to God's promises. Rather it is faith that brings us to the table and makes us ready.
Prior to the reformation and through the time of the Augsburg Confession churches offered "communion every Sunday and holy day, and, if any desire the sacrament, also on other days when it is given to such as ask for it." (AC XXIV)
Use of the sacraments declined because of the Thirty Year's War, Pietism, Rationalism, and in American Lutheranism, the relative distance between churches made weekly communing impossible. (For more information read "The Effects of the Age of Pietism on the Lutheran Church" Paul Prange, also "Communion Frequency in the Lutheran Confessions' Jay Webber)
I truly believe that a Christian should at all times desire the sacrament.
I sincerely believe that a Minister should at all times desire to distribute the sacrament.
I believe often communion is a command from God.
I believe that weekly communion is a fitting custom but is just that a custom, it is not commanded.
I believe that it is the status quo of our people to not receive the sacrament as often as they could.
I believe, as such, that is it proper that strict catechizing be done to show people the need, as well as the purpose of communing often.
I believe there are several logical, earthly reasons for communing less often (for both large and small congregations) however they pale to the spiritual benefit.
I believe there are several ways in which our communicants sinful nature could abuse communing for often, again I stress the importance of teaching.
I believe there is a groundswell at the lay level, as well as the students and faculty of our schools and our administration for more often communing and I am hopeful because of it.
I believe however, regardless of the groundswell, time must be taken and changes cannot happen suddenly.
I therefore reject any notion that calls into question the faith or confessionalism of those who do not commune more frequently, nor those who do not desire to offer communion more frequently. For, to call into question such things belies the efforts of man to usurp the place of God who judges the heart. I however, commend the desires of those who seek to maintain open communication on the subject: teaching, and admonishing one another as befits Christians. In such a way, we seek to glorify God in all things, and uplift one another in his presence.
In Nomine Jesu
Michael A. Schottey
November 28, 2007
Friday, November 16, 2007
By asking the LORD to open his lips, David showed how difficult it is to offer thanks to God. This is something God demands of us (Psalm 50:14). Talking about the LORD and thanking him publicly require an extreme amount of courage and strength because the devil is constantly trying to stop people from doing this. If we could see all of Satan's traps we would know why David prayed for the Spirit's strength and asked the LORD himself to open David's lips. He wanted to tell the devil, the world, kings, princes and everyone about the LORD.
Many things can keep our lips shut: the fear of danger, the hope of gaining something, or even the advice of friends. The devil uses these ways to stop us from offering thanks to God, as I have experienced in my life. And yet, at important times, when God's honor was threatened, God stood by me, and opened my mouth in spite of obstacles. The Spirit urges you on, just as Peter says, "We cannot stop talking about what we've seen and heard" (Acts 4:20) The Spirit prays to God for us with many groans (Romans 8:26). Then the LORD opens our lips to announce his praise.
Whenever Scripture talks about praising God publicly, its talking about something extremely dangerous. This is because announcing his praise is nothing other than opposing the devil, the world, our own corrupt flesh, and everything else. For how can you praise God without first declaring that the world is guilty and condemned?Anyone who condemns the world is asking to be hated and puts himself in a very dangerous situation.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
I believe marriage is a sacred act, instituted by God. (Gen 2:18) I believe Jesus blessed marriage with his presence at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1) I believe that marriage is not only a legal agreement, before the government...but a spiritual bond before God: "so they are no longer two, but one" (Mt 19:6). I believe the Lord commands, encourages, and sanctifies marriages for many reasons including but not necessarily limited to: Chasteness of life, Companionship, and Childbearing. In addition to those blessings, are the numerous blessings which come from Christian life in general and the ability to share in those blessings with your spouse. (1 Cor 7)
I believe that marriage begins with an intent and then an oath. The Marriage Rite in Christian Worship (The Hymnal of the WELS) states: "...marriage, which consists in your mutual consent, sincerely and freely given." This is then followed by the marriage promises and ring exchange.
I believe that marriage is a bond which God intended never to be broken. There are two permissible grounds for Divorce, adultery and desertion. (Mt 19:9) However, I believe that simply because they are permissible, they are not beneficial (1 Cor 6:12) I believe the Word of God himself when Christ states: "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard, but it was not this way from the beginning." (Matthew 19:8) Therefore I believe that even if there is unfaithfulness or desertion (physical or emotional), divorce is not the only option or the only possible result. Rather, I believe that while such things are allowed, love is commanded.
Love does not put its basis on the object of affection. I believe that, since I love as God has loved me, I am entirely unlovable. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) I believe that if Christ had based his love on my own merits, I would have been found lacking. Rather, love is subjective, it is an act that is sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and can be done only as a result of faith, it is a fruit of the Spirit. (Gal 5:22) Therefore, my love is not founded on the person I love, but rather on the Savior who loved me first. I love not because I choose to, but rather am compelled to by the Gospel. This I do entirely by God's grace, and could not have done so without my savior. (Romans 7:19)
Therefore, If I find that I am "not loving/ not in love with" a person, this is a fault that is inherent in me, not in the object, nor in marriage (an act sanctified by God).
I believe that the same God who created the earth also sustains it. In the same vein I believe that the same God who has blessed a marriage from its inception, can also sustain it as well. He has promised to do so and his promises are sure. (1 Cor 1:9)
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Brothers, our text for consideration today comes from Paul's letter to the Ephesians, chapter 2 verses 1-3. We read "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath."
Paul, in this letter, pulls no punches when delivering this harsh condemnation to the members of the church there. You might wonder as to what brought on such a stern message to the church in Ephesus. A look at the verses preceding points that out nicely. Chapter 1 Verse 20 states: "which [referring to God's mighty strength] he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms." Paul speaks in such harsh terms to the Ephesians because he is drawing a comparison, that is...What Christ is, they were not.
We are all aware that the Word of God is a vibrant and living thing. It speaks as much to us today as it once did to the Ephesians. Therefore it stands just as true that what Christ is...we are not. Listen carefully again to the words of Paul.
"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sin... Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath."
As this Word of God speaks to our hearts, it is not dulled in anyway. It describes us as totally dead, a state in which we cannot do anything to help ourselves. Where as Christ was empowered by God to be raised from the dead, we were the exact opposite, we were completely totally and utterly dead in our sins. And not only were we powerless to do anything pleasing to God, in fact we were diametrically opposed to God. Everything we did was in defiance of him. Instead of following God's laws, God's will, God's ways we followed our own will and ways. And what’s more, we followed the ways of this sinful world and the devil, whom Paul refers to as the "ruler of the kingdom of the air."
We can so often paint this picture of the human race, that God looked down and saw these cute little cuddly humans and decided to save them. Something innate in what God had created that he would love us so much. Paul is quick to paint another picture, a true picture. We were objects of wrath. When God looked at mankind and at its sin his anger burned against them. Against you and against me. Paul explains further in his letter to the Romans about this wrath. "But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed."
Unrepentance is exactly what we've been speaking about this whole time. A constant desire to disobey the will of our loving father, and rather follow the desires of our world and our sinful flesh. We all constantly have this at work in us. There is nothing in us worthy of love, worthy of compassion, worthy of forgiveness.
Yet we are loved, and we are forgiven.
Notice the wording of the verse again, "As for you, you WERE dead...in which you USED to live, when you FOLLOWED....All of us also LIVED among them AT ONE TIME....We WERE objects of wrath. As this verse can be used in one breath to convict the wicked of their sin, it can also be used to point out that we are no longer bound by that sin. This verse leads up to some of the sweetest and most beloved gospel in Ephesians 2:8 and 9 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, this not of ourselves it is the gift of God-- not by works so that no one can boast." The condition of sin is a condition under which we do not have to live any longer. We are free to follow the will of our God because we are no longer dead in our sin, because we died with Christ and were also raised up with him. Luther spoke of such things concerning also baptism...
"Baptism means that the old Adam in us should be drowned by daily contrition and repentance, and that all its evil deeds and desires be put to death. It also means that a new person should daily arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. "
Brothers, we often speak so eloquently about objective justification. We are quick to point out that Christ died for all sinners. We even tail off at the end of our sentences because we've heard and said them so many times. We forget all too often to absolve one another personally of the sins we commit daily. As if sin was just some utility bill that Christ paid for and we have nothing to do with. No, my brothers, as much as we confess that Christ's sacrifice was for the whole world, we must in the very next breath confess that is for you and for me, it is a personal gift.
From time eternal, each and every one of you was in the heart of your father. His omniscience was never once blinded. He knew what you, what mankind would become. He knew the awesome debt and the sacrifice that would be required to satisfy his own wrath. He knew there was nothing you would ever do to please him. He knew your days would be filled with temptation and disobedience and darkness. God thought of all that, saw your face, and said "Let there be Light." Thousands of years later on a cross on Mt. Calvary, God's very own son, the anointed one, Christ Jesus would look up to heaven, forsaken by his father for your sake, would see you and say, "It is finished." A short time later he would look out over those closest to him, yet you too were in his thoughts as he said. "And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age." That very same God, Jesus Christ is your good shepherd, he has borne you on his shoulders and is carrying you home to be with him forever, to a home he has prepared for you. Yes, my friends, let us always reflect this love, a love that has loved us so greatly, when we were not loveable. A love that has redeemed us when were were not worth redemption. A Love that loved us before the worlds were made. A love that will love us both now, and in time eternal.
With this love in mind, dear redeemed children of God, I leave you with the prayer and the wish that Paul left with the Romans "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen
We bow our heads in prayer:
Lord Jesus, by your precious blood, you redeemed me a lost and condemned creature, and called me to be your very own. You, O Lord, know all things. You know that I love you. You know that my renewed heart desires to serve you in righteousness and holiness, to cast aside the sin that so easily entangles me, and to run with perseverance the race set before me. I repent O Lord, that I have so often failed to do what you have asked me. So often I have refused to follow you, and rather chose to follow the paths of the devil the world and my own sinful flesh. In me there is no good thing. The good I would do, I do not; The evil that I would not, that I do. I am so wretched! Who will deliver me from this body of death. To you, my Savior and loving friend I flee: Uphold me by your willing spirit. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit with in me. Purge every evil desire and thought from my heart and mind, and fill me with a pure love for you and your will, a reflection of your love for me. Whether I live or die, may I be yours alone and forever, Amen.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Now, so as we said before. "Whosoever will be saved must above all else cling to the true Christian faith." So thats it, our sinful nature says. We must be better than everyone else. Or worse yet, we WELS members will be the only ones in heaven...everyone else is wrong and therefore won't be saved. Not so fast my friends. Jesus condemns that very attitude when he describes the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Was the Pharisee morally better? By the world's standards, certainly. Did the Pharisee know more about the law? Positive. Yet which was considered the more righteous before God? The man who humbly laid himself at the feet of his merciful Father and pleaded for his grace and favor.
We on earth live in the church militant, which is a far cry from our home in heaven which is described as the church triumphant. There will always be wars and rumors of wars, even in the Christian church within and between the varying denominations. Let us never speak about who is "better" or "best" But rather, preach Christ crucified. The Holy Spirit will not create false faith, and will not strengthen the unbelief of the apostate. Rather than focus on who is wrong or who is right, simply preach the Word in its truth and purity, and the light which guides our path will reveal himself, much more perfectly than we ever could.
"I believe in the Holy Christian Church, the communion of saints..."
We have a church that is much more important than the earthly church we are members of. We have the Holy Christian Church that spans across humanity wherever the Word is taught correctly and the sacraments rightly administered. It knows no denominations, and no schism. There, there is only unity...for there is One Lord, One Faith, and One Baptism.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Thursday, October 11, 2007
The special offering being planned will address the synod’s capital debt of $22.4 million. Currently, we are budgeting nearly $3 million to make payments on that debt. If the debt is retired, we will have $3 available for missions and ministry. If the debt is not retired in full, we will continue to budget whatever is necessary to make payments on it.
There are plans under discussion right now to consolidate and restructure that debt. This step will reduce our payments by about $500,000 per year and will pay the debt off in ten years (this assumes that we receive NOTHING in the special offering.) So that is the first step of “Plan B,” if one is needed. On the spending side, we will be looking at many other possible solutions, including increased efficiencies in the way that we do things, potential staffing reductions where possible. On the income side, we have already seen a number of very positive signs that the support for the synod’s work is increasing dramatically. Early reports of congregational mission offerings are very positive. Gifts from individuals are running well ahead of projections. And gifts for the debt offering are already coming in, even before we have begun organized debt reduction efforts.
In other words, even as we plan for the offering to be successful, alternatives are being considered and plans put into place. Those plans will develop and change as more information comes to us during the next several months.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Among well-intentioned sayings that creep in unwanted to the Christian faith is one particularly noxious one. It goes "Hate the sin, but love the sinner." I quick survey of Christians, even Lutherans, may turn up that many among the faithful believe this to be a Bible verse. A quick googling of the phrase turns up many Christian sites both for and against the phrase. The person to whom the quotation is ascribed? Ghandi. A decent human being for sure, but not the best Christian.
King David, a man after God's own heart, put it another way "But all sinners will be destroyed;
the future of the wicked will be cut off." (Psalm 37:38)
We are a squishy people. As a generality, and in specific, we do not handle God's holy and efficacious Word with the reverence it demands. We treat God's law as if it was a hot potato and we cast it aside as soon as it gets uncomfortable. Yes, it seems, some may dawdle a little longer and tempt the heat but sooner, rather than later, everyone gives up to the lack of comfort one finds in the mirror of the law.
Who are we to tell others that they're not good people? Its just not done! Its not right! God says to love everyone doesn't he? It certainly doesn't seem loving to tell other people they're wrong.
Revelation 3:19 "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline, So be earnest and repent"
We are no one to tell others that they are doing wrong. However God's law is a immutable rule that cannot and does not have room for love in it. Those who break the law are not to be shown love, the purpose of the law is to cut...and sharply. CFW Walther wrote that Law and Gospel are not properly distinguished when they are co-mingled. It is true that when we as humans try to blunt the law with "But it's ok, you're still saved" It only leads the listener only farther down the path of licentiousness which eventually leads to destruction. Unrepentant sin will always tear down and destroy faith.
Repentance is not saying you're sorry, it is not trying to be better, or even promising to do good. Repentance is not an act that we can even perform for ourselves. Sin will only lead to more sin, and God hates sin. Therefore, God through his holy Word and Sacraments works repentance in us. He turns our sinful hearts of stone and shows us a better way, a way that leads to him. Yes it is true to say that God hates sin and therefore God hates sinners. But it is just as true and so much more blessed to say God loves all people and desires that they be turned from their lives of sin to live with him forever.
Father, God of Grace, you knew us, Chose us, named us as your own,
Through eternal ages planning to redeem us in your son.
Praise the Father, God who loved us; ere creation was begun
We your creatures sinned against you, and our guilt was crimson-red.
Son of God, you came incarnate, Crushed the crafty serpent's head
Died our death, now live triumphant: Praise the Firstborn from the dead!
Counselor, you bring as promised from the Father and the Son
Righteousness fulfilled accomplished, Free forgiveness, Heaven won.
Praise the Spirit! He assures us Our salvation's work is done!
Lord your changeless Word has fed us, spanning time, transcending space.
Water, bread and wine sustained us, when the darkness hid your face.
Keep us with you, faithful Shepherd, by your saving Means of Grace.
Forward, lead us; Christ we follow, drawn by Word and promise true:
"To all nations, preach the gospel; I am evermore with you."
Keep us faithful, then Lord Jesus, Quickly Come! Make all things new!
Praise the Father, great Creator. Praise the Son, who took our place.
Praise the Spirit, sanctifier, God of free and faithful grace!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen!
"Ma'am, when you understand the Trinity, come back and tell me...and i'll excommunicate you on the spot" (Rev. David Sellnow )
No, we are not to understand everything completely, but we are not to say to the Word..."I do not understand you, you cannot be true." For when we reject any doctrine of Scripture we detract from the glory and majesty of God. We abuse the sacraments rather than honor them. We make Jesus out to be not who he says he is. And if Christ is not who he says he is, then he is not true man and true God and did not come to redeem the world. No, this cannot be! The Word of God is his Christ. It is to be revered and honored and not altered. Whosoever will be saved, must hold to this one true Christian faith.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Did you hear what he just said? Who could have been talking in that passage? Justification by works? Was the Roman Catholic Church around back then?
No friends and future colleagues, those words were spoken to us by our Messiah, Jesus. Those words are his. Those words are echoed from the Father.
As I may do often, as I am mused by different sources, I will piggyback my own thoughts to those of a chapel speaker, speech in Hebrew or Greek, or in this case symbolics class where we are currently learning about the Athanasian Creed. Which says:
(Et qui bona egerunt, ibunt in vitam aeternam; qui vero mala, in ignem aeternam.)
And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire. (Athanasian Creed-concordia triglota)
Sounds familiar huh? So what is this business about salvation through works. I thought we were saved by grace through faith. Yes you are!
But a judgment will always be rendered on the basis of evidence. What is the evidence of faith? Works. So often we, even as confessional Lutherans, make works to be the goal of our life here on earth.
GOOD WORKS ARE NOT THE GOAL OF OUR FAITH, BUT A NATURAL OUTCOME OF HAVING FAITH!
Faith in Christ saves. This is why when Christ looks on the last day he will see all of the fruits of your faith in full array. Meanwhile he will look to his left and see those who thought they had done good here on earth, but had done so without the blood of the lamb covering their offenses. We have the ability to please God only through the merits of his son Christ Jesus. Let us never give up doing so. Salvation is full and free for all believers, let us rejoice and praise him who won it for us.
More Athanasian Creed to come!
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Monday, October 1, 2007
I will commence posting. Lord's blessings to all.
If there is one thing that Christians lack in (although there are many), I would guess that it is prayer. It is so easy to confess, to know...but how often can we trust. We claim to believe in an all-powerful God, but we do not ask his help for the simplist of things. Prayer is not a trite matter, but we should not worry to pray for things that may be trite. If it is true we do everything with the Lord's help and protection, why do we not ask his help and direction in all things?
Praise be to God who does all things for our good, even without our prayer!
Friday, September 28, 2007
2 Timothy 2:22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
"Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus, who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, and being born in human likeness took on the very nature of a servant."
Let God be glorified in all our work.
A Personal request of mine: I got my first comment today! Thank you Rachel, my sister, a member of Crossroads (Lutheran) Christian Church in Chicago, IL. I've been there. As much maligning as it recieves because of its decision to not put Lutheran in its name, I have always been duly impressed as scripture was taught in its truth and purity even though Luther's name was not on the doorpost.
If we could, so I can get a better handle of who's reading the site, please comment on this message with just a "hey Mike" or something of the same. And please in the future leave little comments so I know that I'm not talking to myself over here.
All Moses wanted to do is see God. What is wrong with that? Cannot all of us say the same thing? Church father St Augustine wrote, "We were created that we may see God." I've used that quotation a number of times when I was asked, 'Why are we here?' Certainly it is not wrong for us to seek to be closer to God, and also to know him. But how and where do we know him?
A fine catechetical answer would be "In what he has created." And yes this is true. Through God's creation we can search God out, know his power, know his Glory. But in creation is also where everyone else looks to find out about their gods, the pagan gods or the god of science. Through God's creation we can know only a fraction of who God is. So where can we know him better?
Walk up the steps of a mountain. As with Peter, James, and John, we will see God on a mountain. As with Moses we will see him on a mountain. As with Elijah, God speaks to us on a mountain. Walk up the steps of Mount Calvary.
See Christ crucified. There in Christ you see all the fullness of God wrapped in all the fullness of man. You see his glory yes, but all the more important you see his grace, his love, poured out for you, poured out for me, poured out for the whole world. Psalm 98:2 says 'The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations.' We have a God who has revealed himself by hiding himself, and yes revealed himself all the more by dying and rising from the dead. In the personage of Christ we see God not as a fraction, as a part, but as a whole.
We will see the Glory of God in the world to come, but for now it is sufficient for us to see his cross. How glorious it is!
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Christ enabled us to keep the First, Second, and Third commandments. In this way, we came to trust and have faith in God as our Father. We began to praise him with a cheerful heart and regard his name as holy.
Where did all this kindness come from? We certainly didn't do anything to deserve it. None of our good works performed in obedience to God's laws earned it. Instead, it came from being enlightened by the Holy Spirit, being renewed by the Word of God, and having faith in Christ. Through these, we have received a new spirit that makes God's Word and God's laws a pleasure to obey. Now, we find joy in trusting God about everything else. We feel that we can do it. We have made a new beginning and have already learned the basics. The undeserved kindness that Christ has given us through faith makes the First Commandment a pleasure to obey.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
The Gospel turns everything the way human reason says it shouldn't be. Christians today are so hard on the apostles, pharisees, and other people of Jesus' day. We are no better. We have God's law, and his Gospel, we have the benefit of having the words "It is finished". We have Paul and the other Evangelists, and Epistle writers who explained things in ways that almost no one knew for thousands of years previously. Those people had shadows. We have completed fact.
Yet we do not trust. We do not want a God who has done it all for us. We want to do things for him. We want to convince ourselves that we can make ourselves better Christians; that we are better Christians than the person in the pew next door. We want to make our own faith stronger. We want to help the Holy Spirit, we want to do the work for him.
Praise be to God that in spite of all we want to do, he does it for us. For us he removes the stumbling block. Through faith, the confusion of the Gospel is made crystal clear. Christ died for you, he died for me. We have that completed fact. We have our justification completed on the cross and declared from an empty tomb. We have a savior who sits on high, mediates for us at the right hand of the Father. We have an almighty Lord who has us in his heart and is preparing a place for us.
Yes, we don't really get it. We will never get it all while we are still here in these shadows of a paradise to come. But we have a Shepherd who is calling us to himself. We have his voice.
In an age of anxiety, we still believe that peace comes from Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
In an age of confusion, we still believe that the Bible is the Word of God, inerrant and infallible.
In an age of doubt, we still believe that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
In an age of guilt, we still believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to remove the power of sin, death, and Satan from our lives.
In an age of fear, we still believe that Christ rose bodily from the dead to win for us eternal life.
In an age of self-centeredness, we still believe that God acts through the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion.
In an age of constant change, we still believe in the unchanging Holy Trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
"If you hold to my teaching, then you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
Rev Gregory Jackson, used with permission
Rather than stick with the same text, I thought I'd find similar alternate texts to deal with the next two parts. This devotion deals with the point Christ makes that the sheep of the Good Shepherd can distinguish his voice from other voices.
It is rather easy for Christians to point out glaring, blatant, non-Christian heresy but what about the finer points of Christian Doctrine? How are we to know what is wrong or what is right? Here Christ gives us comfort amongst the world's confusion. In John 10:5 Jesus says, "But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice."
This is not to reinforce the notion of 'once saved always saved' However it is the comfort that sheep who know the voice of the Good Shepherd will be able to distinguish other voices from his. This is not of our doing, but it is the power of the Holy Spirit who gives and strengthens our faith. As our faith is strengthened it has the ability to cut away the weeds that spring up around us. So that the seed sown on fertile ground will not be choked away by thorns.
This passage follows very shortly after our savior speaks about himself as the Good Shepherd. Christ here makes a few main points.
1) The sheep of the Good Shepherd know his voice, they follow him.
2) His sheep will not follow a stranger's voice because they do not know him.
3) Other sheep will not understand the voice of the Good Shepherd.
Our Shepherd certainly speaks to us (Hebrew 1:1-2). We have been given his holy Word. His voice can be stern. As a pet cowers at the convicting tone of voice of his owner, so too we, as the sheep of our shepherd know that we have sinned and are crushed as he scolds us with what we have done wrong.
But our shepherd lifts us up again. No matter how far we stray from him, we will always be in our savior's heart. Repentance is described as a complete change of attitude. As we wander aimlessly down life's path, seeking our own way. Our Shepherd comes and turns us back toward him, focused on his ways and his goals. How comforting it is to know that although we constantly try to turn away, our Shepherd puts us on his shoulders and carries us back to the fold.
I will post on the second point later.
~Upcoming later this week (Thursday and Friday) is the meeting of the Committee for Interchurch Relations (CICR) and the ELS Doctrinal Committee. These meetings happen every other year, and usually its not a big deal. This year however there is at least one serious matter to attend to.
A while back, two churches in the WELS were allowing women trained to visit shut ins to give communion to other women. This made just about everyone involved or that knew about it uncomfortable. The WELS put a permanent moratorium on this sort of thing and told all the churches that they shouldn't continue.
The ELS would like something stronger, a doctrinal statement saying why it is wrong. The WELS (and this author agrees) that it would be irresponsible to make a law out of something which is clearly not forbidden in the Bible. And you know what? From the expatriate ELS correspondence I still maintain, there are quite a few in the ELS who hold that position too.
Many prayers are needed as these men sort out these matters. The ELS is the only American church with which we are in fellowship. We are the only two confessional Lutheran churches left (in theory if not always in reality)
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
God considers human reason, morality, and even sunlight for that matter, to be dark and hazy compared to his Word. God's Word is flame that shines in the darkness. Through teaching, preaching, and the sacraments, its glow spreads. If we use this light, then God will no longer remain hidden from us.
When we're faced with disasters, when we're overwhelmed by darkness, when things seem so dark that we doubt that we are part of the church or pleasing to God, then we should learn to reach for the Bible. We shouldn't let people who fall away from the faith distract us. Instead, we should recognize that we live in a dark world. The only reason we can see at all is that the light of God's Word shines brightly (2 Peter 1:19)
Jesus said, 'whoever believes and is baptized will be saved (Mark 16:16). The light of these words is shining in our hearts. Even if the sun were shining brightly, it couldn't reveal this truth. Human reason by itself can't grasp it. Wherever the Bible sheds its light, no real danger exists. Without the Bible, we wouldn't know or understand anything.
Martin Luther-reprinted "Through Faith Alone" Concordia Publishing, St. Louis
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I plan wholeheartedly to do this blog as I attempt all things, all to the glory of God. Let his name be praised forever and ever.