Saturday, August 4, 2012

Abide With Me; Fast Falls the Eventide

This has become one of my favorite hymns.  It is simply beautiful.  Normally thought of as evening hymn, this song goes well beyond that.  It speaks to life, to death, His resurrection, and our resurrection with Him.  In life and in death, He abides with us.   It is He that help of helpless.  He does not change.  Fast falls the eventide; the darkness deepens, however our Father abides with us. This is a hymn of tremendous comfort.

A great discussion with Pr. Todd Wilken and Dr. Arthur aired on Issues, Etc. recently, as they commented on the history and some of the theological implications of the hymn.  I highly recommend listening to it.

Abide With Me; Fast Falls the Eventide

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

-Henry Lyte

Lyte wrote the poem in 1847 and set it to music while he lay dying from tuberculosis; he died only three weeks after composing the hymn.

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
(Psalm 73:23-26 ESV)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Billboard Theology...

"Live for me. I died for you."

Wretched. Vile. Wrong.

This kind of guilt-trip Christianity is poisonous. It's poisonous because it teaches that God gave you Christ not out of His own Fatherly love, but because He just wanted your obedience. And it's poisonous because it teaches that what Jesus won on the cross was not your full salvation, but merely the opportunity to win salvation for yourself through your own works.

Leave it to the Evangelicals to combine the worst of Geneva and Rome in six words and to think that they're somehow doing the Lord's work in the process.

Thank God for Lutheranism. Thank God for faithful preaching and faithful preachers. Thank God for His Gospel. And thank God this billboard ain't it!

-Pr. Hans Fiene from a Facebook posting

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Prayer Service - Hope Lutheran Church - Aurora, CO

A sermon from Pr. Bryan Wolfmueller

John 10
'A God Who Bleeds'
Prayer Service
The Eve of Trinity Seven | Saturday, 21 July 2012

Dear Saints, 

The devil comes to kill and steal and destroy. He delights in every drop of blood split, in every tear, in every heart broken, family torn in two, every last breath. The devil loves death, he loves violence, he loves darkness; he loves this tragedy that has unfolded in our neighborhood this week. 

But he is never content. He kills, and he wants more. He destroys, and he wants more. The devil is not sitting back tonight, shaking the dust off his hands, content with the pain already inflicted, he wants more. He wants you wrapped up in the chains of the fear of death. He wants your mind and heart to be draped with despair. 

As the dust settles around in Aurora, the devil comes to you to tempt you, to tempt you to anger, to tempt you to fear, to tempt you to despair, perhaps worst of all, to tempt you with the idea that because you are suffering God has deserted you, has left you to yourself, that God is far away. 

“Where is God in all this? He must hate you, or worse, He must not care.” That, dear friends, is the devil's voice, the devil's temptation, and we've heard enough of that voice. 

We are gathered here this evening to hear the voice of Jesus, your Jesus, who is not a stranger to suffering. Listen, Jesus is not a stranger to suffering. You do not have a god who sits far off, who is distant, who sits on top of the mountain, or is beyond the clouds, who is looking the other way. No, you have Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the one who doesn't just watch over the sheep. He lays down His life for the sheep. He takes His life and His righteousness to the cross for you. You, dear friends, have a God who bleeds, who bleeds for you, who suffers with you, who hears of the death of His friends and weeps, weeps over death, and fights against death for you. Jesus stands under the devil's torment, under God's wrath, under the condemnation of the law, stands with you, stands in your place, and suffers for you. 

And if your Jesus suffers for you, then He will certainly suffer with you. When you suffer it does not mean that God is far away. He finds you in suffering; He saves you by suffering. When your friends and neighbors are suffering it does not mean that God has forsaken them or abandoned them. He can't. He loves them, He loves you too much. 

Jesus cries out from the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” so that you never would. He prays Psalm 22 so that you can pray Psalm 23, “Yeah though I walk through he valley of the shadow of death, Thou art with with.” It the shadow of death, He is with us. In the shadow of violence, He is with us. In the veil of tears, He is with. Ha cannot leave you ro forsake you, He has bound Himself to you, written His name on you with His blood, claimed you as His own and promised you life, His life, eternal life. 

Jesus is not far away. The One who died for you now lives for you, prays for you, helps you in time of trouble. He sends His Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to comfort you with His presence and His promises, His forgiveness. 

And it is His forgiveness, at last, that sets us free, even from the fear of violence, even from the fear of death. For in life and in death you are the Lord's, your life is His, and because for you to live is Christ, for you to die is gain. Amen.

And the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

+ + +
Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller
Hope Lutheran Church | Aurora, CO

Lex orandi, Lex Credendi

Our ideas of Christianity, our experience of God, and our personal theologies cannot transform our hearts.  They are consequences rather than causes.  Rather, it is the exquisitely particular, richly detailed, and dauntingly complex thing called the Christian tradition...that shapes us rightly and faithfully.  Christ shapes us by drawing us into conformity with His body.  Lex orandi, lex credendi:  the law of prayer is the law of belief. This great truism is a living truth only when we give a privileged place to apostolic loyalty and conservation.  For we must be shaped rather than shape if we are to bear in our bodies the marks of Jesus (see Gal. 6:17).

- R. R. Reno (In The Ruins of the Church)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bono - On God, Karma, and Grace...

The following is an excerpt from the book Bono:  In Conversation with Michka Assayas.  This bit of the interview has been retold on the internet ad nauseum, but I thought it would be good to pass along to the few that may not have read it before.  Bono may be a heretic to some, but I would be in agreement with those that say he is a sinner (just like me) who is extremely grateful that we can rely on Grace in Christ instead of Karma.  Good news, indeed.

Bono: My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don't let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is. God is love, and as much as I respond [sighs] in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that's my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now that's not so easy.
Assayas: What about the God of the Old Testament? He wasn't so "peace and love"?
Bono: There's nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is. I accept the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that's why they're so relatable. But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend. When you're a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.
Assayas: Speaking of bloody action movies, we were talking about South and Central America last time. The Jesuit priests arrived there with the gospel in one hand and a rifle in the other.
Bono: I know, I know. Religion can be the enemy of God. It's often what happens when God, like Elvis, has left the building. [laughs] A list of instructions where there was once conviction; dogma where once people just did it; a congregation led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit. Discipline replacing discipleship. Why are you chuckling?
Assayas: I was wondering if you said all of that to the Pope the day you met him.
Bono: Let's not get too hard on the Holy Roman Church here. The Church has its problems, but the older I get, the more comfort I find there. The physical experience of being in a crowd of largely humble people, heads bowed, murmuring prayers, stories told in stained-glass windows
Assayas: So you won't be critical.
Bono: No, I can be critical, especially on the topic of contraception. But when I meet someone like Sister Benedicta and see her work with AIDS orphans in Addis Ababa, or Sister Ann doing the same in Malawi, or Father Jack Fenukan and his group Concern all over Africa, when I meet priests and nuns tending to the sick and the poor and giving up much easier lives to do so, I surrender a little easier.
Assayas: But you met the man himself. Was it a great experience?
Bono: [W]e all knew why we were there. The Pontiff was about to make an important statement about the inhumanity and injustice of poor countries spending so much of their national income paying back old loans to rich countries. Serious business. He was fighting hard against his Parkinson's. It was clearly an act of will for him to be there. I was oddly moved by his humility, and then by the incredible speech he made, even if it was in whispers. During the preamble, he seemed to be staring at me. I wondered. Was it the fact that I was wearing my blue fly-shades? So I took them off in case I was causing some offense. When I was introduced to him, he was still staring at them. He kept looking at them in my hand, so I offered them to him as a gift in return for the rosary he had just given me.
Assayas: Didn't he put them on?
Bono: Not only did he put them on, he smiled the wickedest grin you could ever imagine. He was a comedian. His sense of humor was completely intact. Flashbulbs popped, and I thought: "Wow! The Drop the Debt campaign will have the Pope in my glasses on the front page of every newspaper."
Assayas: I don't remember seeing that photograph anywhere, though.
Bono: Nor did we. It seems his courtiers did not have the same sense of humor. Fair enough. I guess they could see the T-shirts.

Later in the conversation: 

Assayas: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?
Bono: Yes, I think that's normal. It's a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.
Assayas: I haven't heard you talk about that.
Bono: I really believe we've moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.
Assayas: Well, that doesn't make it clearer for me.
Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics; in physical laws every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that "as you reap, so you will sow" stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff.
Assayas: I'd be interested to hear that.
Bono: That's between me and God. But I'd be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I'd be in deep s---. It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity.
Assayas: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.
Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there's a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let's face it, you're not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That's the point. It should keep us humbled . It's not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.
Assayas: That's a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it's close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world's great thinkers. But Son of God, isn't that farfetched?
Bono: No, it's not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn't allow you that. He doesn't let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I'm not saying I'm a teacher, don't call me teacher. I'm not saying I'm a prophet. I'm saying: "I'm the Messiah." I'm saying: "I am God incarnate." And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You're a bit eccentric. We've had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don't mention the "M" word! Because, you know, we're gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you're expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he's gonna keep saying this. So what you're left with is: either Christ was who He said He was the Messiah or a complete nutcase. I mean, we're talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we've been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had "King of the Jews" on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I'm not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that's farfetched
Bono later says it all comes down to how we regard Jesus:
Bono: If only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s--- and everybody else's. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that's the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

What God finds lovely...

The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it.  The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it.

The second part [of the stated thesis] is clear and is accepted by all philosophers and theologians, for the object of love is its cause, assuming, according to Aristotle, that all power of the soul is passive and material and active only in receiving something. Thus it is also demonstrated that Aristotle's philosophy is contrary to theology since in all things it seeks those things which are its own and receives rather than gives something good. The first part is clear because the love of God which lives in man loves sinners, evil persons, fools, and weaklings in order to make them righteous, good, wise, and strong. Rather than seeking its own good, the love of God flows forth and bestows good. Therefore sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive: For this reason the love of man avoids sinners and evil persons. Thus Christ says:»For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners« (Matt. 9:13). This is the love of the cross, born of the cross, which turns in the direction where it does not find good which it may enjoy, but where it may confer good upon the bad and needy person. »It is more blessed to give than to receive« (Acts 20:35), says the Apostle. Hence Ps. 41:1 states, »Blessed is he who considers the poor,« for the intellect cannot by nature comprehend an object which does not exist, that is the poor and needy person, but only a thing which does exist, that is the true and good. Therefore it judges according to appearances, is a respecter of persons, and judges according to that which can be seen, etc.

(Thesis 28 of the Heidelberg Disputation) (italics for emphasis- mine)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Marriage Amendments, Sin, and Law & Gospel

Coming up this Tuesday in North Carolina, there is an item on the ballot to make an amendment to the state constitution that would outlaw same sex marriage.  Obviously, this has caused a stir.  Those from each side of the debate have lobbed 'hand grenades' to attempt to take out the other side throughout the debate.  Self-righteousness seems to reign at both ends of the spectrum.

As a Christian, I certainly have my views on the issues being debated.  And in this case, my views somewhat conflict.  Regardless of the specific vote itself, and how I may vote, I came across some blog posts from Mr. Tom Lemke at The Chi Files that I would like to recommend.  In them he discusses homosexuality, law and gospel, how we define people, and our sinful nature.  I would highly recommend reading these posts, and I would also recommend reading them in the order I list them.

1 - Real Law and Gospel > so-called "Natural Law"

2- What defines a person?

3- No, I am!

Mr. Lemke does a terrific job of reminding us Christians about Law (in its harshness) and Gospel (in its graciousness), taking a closer look at out how we ought to debate core beliefs in public discourse, our need for loving our neighbors, and also reminding us who the chief sinner is among us.  Namely you and me.

So again, regardless of whether you live in North Carolina and will be voting on this amendment (or how you may vote), these are some very good thoughts Mr. Lemke has discussed that are worth some time pondering.

Recognize that it is possible (nay, necessary) to understand that what defines a person is not, at root, their sinful actions, but their status as one created in the image of God to be looked upon with love, and treated with dignity.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified for the forgiveness of sins is for us and our sins every bit as much as it is for them and theirs. - Tom Lemke (What defines a person?)

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
(1 Timothy 1:15 ESV)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Election and Comfort...

 This article also affords a glorious testimony that the Church of God will exist and abide in opposition to all the gates of hell, and likewise teaches which is the true Church of God, lest we be offended by the great authority [and majestic appearance] of the false Church, Rom. 9:2425.
51] From this article also powerful admonitions and warnings are derived, as Luke 7:30: They rejected the counsel of God against themselves. Luke 14:24: I say unto you that none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper. Also Matt. 20:16: Many be called, but few chosen. Also Luke 8:818: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear, and: Take heed how ye hear. Thus the doctrine concerning this article can be employed profitably, comfortingly, and savingly [and can be transferred in many ways to our use].
52] But a distinction must be observed with especial care between that which is expressly revealed concerning it in God's Word, and what is not revealed. For, in addition to what has been revealed in Christ concerning this, of which we have hitherto spoken, God has still kept secret and concealed much concerning this mystery, and reserved it for His wisdom and knowledge alone, which we should not investigate, nor should we indulge our thoughts in this matter, nor draw conclusions, nor inquire curiously, but should adhere [entirely] to the revealed Word [of God]. This admonition is most urgently needed.
53] For our curiosity has always much more pleasure in concerning itself with these matters [with investigating those things which are hidden and abstruse] than with what God has revealed to us concerning this in His Word, because we cannot harmonize it, which, moreover, we have not been commanded to do [since certain things occur in this mystery so intricate and involved that we are not able by the penetration of our natural ability to harmonize them; but this has not been demanded of us by God].
54] Thus there is no doubt that God most exactly and certainly foresaw before the time of the world, and still knows, which of those that are called will believe or will not believe; also which of the converted will persevere [in faith] and which will not persevere; which will return after a fall [into grievous sins], and which will fall into obduracy [will perish in their sins]. So, too, the number, how many there are of these on either side, is beyond all doubt perfectly known to God. 55] However, since God has reserved this mystery for His wisdom, and has revealed nothing to us concerning it in His Word, much less commanded us to investigate it with our thoughts, but has earnestly discouraged us therefrom, Rom. 11:33ff , we should not reason in our thoughts, draw conclusions, nor inquire curiously into these matters, but should adhere to His revealed Word, to which He points us.

 Therefore, whoever would be saved should not trouble or harass himself with thoughts concerning the secret counsel of God, as to whether he also is elected and ordained to eternal life, with which miserable Satan usually attacks and annoys godly hearts. But they should hear Christ [and look upon Him as the Book of Life in which is written the eternal election], who is the Book of Life and of God's eternal election of all of God's children to eternal life: He testifies to all men without distinction that it is God's will that all men should come to Him who labor and are heavy laden with sin, in order that He may give them rest and save them, Matt. 11:28.
71] According to this doctrine of His they should abstain from their sins, repent, believe His promise, and entirely trust in Him; and since we cannot do this by ourselves, of our own powers, the Holy Ghost desires to work these things, namely, repentance and faith, in us through the Word and Sacraments. 72] And in order that we may attain this, persevere in it, and remain steadfast, we should implore God for His grace, which He has promised us in Holy Baptism, and, no doubt, He will impart it to us according to His promise, as He has said, Luke 11:11ff : If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him!

-Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord XI 50-54, 70-72

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Does God Have Plans to Prosper You?

Jeremiah 29:11, NIV – "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

I’ve heard this scripture quoted in numerous church services ranging from youth groups, to small groups, to larger church services. I’ve even seen it placarded all throughout people's homes,on trinkets, in church sanctuaries, foyers, etc. Point is: this verse is quite popular among American Christianity. It ranks up there with John 3:16.

Intentions are good: the desire is for this verse to be normative for everyone who is a Christian. On the surface, it sounds great. Unfortunately, what many Christians think it means is not necessarily so when read in context. The text is not normative at all. This statement was made in a particular time and place. It’s a promise to the exiles in Babylon, not to Christians for all time.

Let me give a brief description of the context of this verse. During the time of Jeremiah there were many false prophets saying that Babylon isn't going to take over and take them captive, and that God was going to deliver them immediately. Jeremiah calls the people out for their sin, calls out the false prophets, and tells the people that they are going to be captives in Babylon for 70 years. In the passage above you can see that he tells them to build houses, marry, have kids, etc. because they're going to be there for awhile. The promise of Jeremiah 29 is to tell the people that their descendants will be returned to Judah in 70 years, not those people in Jeremiah's presence, those at the present time. The text is a promise, just not directly for those whom received it but instead to their grandchildren. And, certainly not for Christians for all time.

So why am I making this such a big deal? Well, this idea of God prospering us in the here and now doesn't mesh with the history of the apostles and many other Christians throughout Church history. Men anointed to set the foundation of Christianity, in almost all cases, were martyred. So much for not harming them! And don’t let anyone tell you that “God wants you to be rich” using this verse—at least five other translations render the words “plans to prosper you” as “plans for welfare” or “plans for good”. “Prosperity”, in the sense used here, was about welfare, not money.

Another resource I would like to recommend is the following clip from Pastor Voddie Baucham. He does a very good job teaching from the text, describing a bit about what the text means, and what it doesn't.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Meaning of the Word, 'Is'

When Christ instituted the Lord's Supper, He said 'This is My body.'  Apparently, Christians believe most everything else Christ said and did from their reading of the Bible, except for that one thing.  Sure, God created the heavens and the earth with His word.  His Word states that Christ was resurrected.  Christ promised He will return to receive His bride, His Church.  Christ's Word raised Lazarus from the grave.  Christ's Word healed others that He came across.  Yeah... those things, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have done.  We believe those things, because God has proclaimed those things in the Bible.  The very book that Christians claim to be God-breathed and is inerrant.

Then why is it that the meaning of words change when it comes to this:

And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.  (Luke 22:14-23 ESV - bold italics mine)

Apparently, Christ didn't mean that, and what He really said was 'This is not My body, but just a metaphor, a mere symbol!'

Why does Christ all of sudden go symbolic or metaphoric?  He doesn't.  Words have meaning.  We, as readers, don't change the meanings of words because they need to fit our rational minds.  'Is' does mean 'is.'  If we truly trust God and His Word, and that we trust Him that He will do a good work, for He is just and merciful and holy; then why not trust His entire counsel.  Trust His Word in totality.  He is a trustworthy God, and He is faithful and true.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Second Commandment...

Some Lenten Catechesis--

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain.

According to Luther's Small Catechism:

What does this mean?--Answer.

We should fear and love God that we may not curse, swear, use witchcraft, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.

According to Luther's Large Catechism:

If, then, it be asked: How do you understand the Second Commandment, or what is meant by taking in vain, or misusing God's name? answer briefly thus: It is misusing God's name when we call upon the Lord God, no matter in what way, for purposes of falsehood or wrong of any kind. Therefore this commandment enjoins this much, that God's name must not be appealed to falsely, or taken upon the lips, while the heart knows well enough, or should know, differently; as among those who take oaths in court, where one side lies against the other.  For God's name cannot be misused worse than for the support of falsehood and deceit. Let this remain the exact German and simplest meaning of this commandment.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Have a pint and listen to some U2...

Take a moment and listen to some U2...

Breathe is written by U2 and is from the album No Line on the Horizon.

16th of June, nine-oh-five, door bell rings
Man at the door says if I want to stay alive a bit longer
There’s a few things I need you to know

Coming from a long line of
Traveling sales people on my mother’s side
I wasn’t gonna buy just anyone’s cockatoo
So why would I invite a complete stranger into my home
Would you

These days are better than that
These days are better than that

Every day I die again, and again I’m reborn
Every day I have to find the courage
To walk out into the street
With arms out
Got a love you can’t defeat
Neither down nor out
There’s nothing you have that I need
I can breathe
Breathe now

16th of June, Chinese stocks are going up
And I’m coming down with some new Asian virus
Ju Ju man, Ju Ju man
Doc says you’re fine, or dying
Nine-oh-nine, St. John Divine on the line, my pulse is fine
But I’m running down the road like loose electricity
While the band in my head plays a striptease

The roar that lies on the other side of silence
The forest fire that is fear so deny it

Walk out into the street
Sing your heart out
The people we meet
Will not be drowned out
There’s nothing you have that I need
I can breathe
Breathe now
Yeah, yeah

We are people borne of sound
The songs are in our eyes
Gonna wear them like a crown

Walk out, into the sunburst street
Sing your heart out, sing my heart out
I’ve found grace inside a sound
I found grace, it’s all that I found
And I can breathe
Breathe now 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

What 'orthodox' Christians believe...

What are some of the things 'orthodox' Christians believe?

Here's just a small list:

  • God created the heavens and the earth.
  • God sent a flood, destroyed the earth, but saved 8 persons and 2 of each kind of animal.
  • He sent various plagues upon Egypt in order to deliver His people from bondage.
  • He parted the Red Sea.
  • Elijah was carried into heaven.
  • Daniel was saved from the lions' den.
  • Jesus was born of the virgin, Mary.
  • Jesus healed the blind and the lame.
  • Jesus healed a leper.
  • Jesus turned water into wine.
  • Jesus walked on the water.
  • Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.
  • Jesus died, was buried, and then raised.

This is just a small list of the miraculous things God has done and that orthodox Christians believe and confess.

After mankind was deceived into thinking he could be like God and started trusting in himself rather than God, God then intervened to save man from his sin and rebellion and lack of faith in God.  All of these miracles listed and the many, many others found in the Bible point this out - that He did intervene with His creation.  The Bible is God's story of His creation, our rebellion, and His redemption of man through Christ's death and resurrection.

Sin, death, and the devil have held us captive, but God has worked throughout history to reveal Himself and His faithfulness, and to deliver us from sin, death, and the devil.  He has done so as His only begotten Son became incarnate, lived blamelessly, revealed to us the Father, sent us the Holy Spirit, and bled and died for the sins of the world, and was raised from the grave for His name's sake.

He is good.  He is powerful.  He is just.  He is merciful.  Based on what He has done and it being revealed to us, His Word is faithful and true.

How has God revealed Himself?  He is known through His creation, He has revealed Himself in the Son, and He has revealed Himself in Holy Scripture.  He and His Word are faithful and true.  He spoke- the heavens and the earth were created.  He spoke- He delivered His people from Egypt.  He spoke- Lazarus was raised from the dead.  He spoke- lame people walked, the blind began to see.  Nothing symbolic, right?  He spoke.  Results followed.  He is faithful and true.

When Christ instituted the Lord's Supper, what did He say?

And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.  (Luke 22:14-20 ESV)

And Paul writes to the Corinthians: 
Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
(1 Corinthians 10:14-17 ESV - italics mine)

Why do I write all of this?  It is good news!  We don't have to try to hear God's whispering in our hearts.  We don't have to get ourselves in some sort of mystical, meditative state to try to hear His voice.  He has spoken most assuredly in the Scriptures.  Christ is faithful and true.  His Word is faithful and true.

It cannot be stated any better than Luther has:

It is the Word, I say, that makes this a sacrament and distinguishes it from ordinary bread and wine, so that it is called and truly is Christ’s body and blood. For it is said, “Accedat verbum ad elementum et fit sacramentum,” that is, “When the Word is joined to the external element, it becomes a sacrament.” This saying of St. Augustine is so appropriate and well put that he could hardly have said anything better. The Word must make the element a sacrament; otherwise, it remains an ordinary element. ... It is true, indeed, that if you take the Word away from the elements or view them apart from the Word, you have nothing but ordinary bread and wine. But if the words remain, as is right and necessary, then by virtue of them the elements are truly the body and blood of Christ. For as Christ’s lips speak and say, so it is; he cannot lie or deceive. (Large Catechism V:10-11,14 [Martin Luther], The Book of Concord, edited by Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert [Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000], p. 468) -bold italics mine.

When participating in His supper the next time, and the pastor speaks Christ's words- 'Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you.  This do in remembrance of Me.  Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.  This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me- rest assured Christ's words are faithful and true.  We receive His good gift, guarantee, and pledge of His salvation.  He has poured out His precious blood, and He was broken for our salvation.  We receive these good gifts when we hear His Word faithfully proclaimed, and when we receive His promise in His Supper.

Taken 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.

Where is this written?
The holy Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and St. Paul, write thus:
Our Lord Jesus Christthe same night in which He was betrayedtook bread: and when He had given thanksHe brake itand gave it to His disciplesand saidTakeeat; this is My bodywhich is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.
After the same manner also He took the cupwhen He had suppedgave thanksand gave it to themsayingTakedrink ye all of it. This cup is the new testament in My bloodwhich is shed for you for the remission of sins. This do yeas oft as ye drink it,in remembrance of Me.

What is the benefit of such eating and drinking?
That is shown us in these words: Givenand shed for youfor the remission of sins; 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.

How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things?
It is not the eating and drinking, indeed, that does them, but the words which stand here, namely: Givenand shed for youfor the remission of sins. Which words are, beside the bodily eating and drinking, as the chief thing in the Sacrament; and he that believes these words has what they say and express, namely, the forgiveness of sins.

Whothenreceives such Sacrament worthily?
Fasting and bodily preparation is, indeed, a fine outward training; but he is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: Givenand shed for youfor the remission of sins.
But he that does not believe these words, or doubts, is unworthy and unfit; for the words For you require altogether believing hearts.