Sunday, August 26, 2012
As the Republicans’ national convention stands around the corner, media from across the political spectrum forecast the various groups which strategists are trying to reach. We live, after all, in a hyphenated society where candidates appeal to various socieoeconomic niches to attract their voting bloc. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan seek to capitalize on Catholics’ sensitivities in view of the mandate put forth earlier this year by HHS. The requirement that all private and even nonprofit organizations offer insurance coverage for birth control technology rubs against their prohibition against using such measures. Add to that dissension Pres. Obama’s endorsement of legalizing same sex marriage. “The Republicans have a chance for a different outcome,” Patrick Hobin of NEWSMAX MAGAZINE reports the NEW YORK TIMES as saying. Romney’s selection of Cardinal Timthy Dolan to deliver the convention’s closing prayer show he is committed to reaching out to Catholic voters. In 2008, Gallup reported that Pres. Obama won the Catholic vote by nine percentage points over Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Having Joe Biden, himself a Catholic as his running mate gave him an air of familiarity with their religious concerns. With Paul Ryan (R-WI) as his running mate, Mitt Romney plans to make even greater inroads. Hobin says, “Catholics make up about a quarter of the electorate and the Catholic vote is generally a bellwether that mirrors the general electorate.” ““We’re going to have outreach to Catholics in a coordinated, organized effort — state by state, diocese by diocese, parish by parish and pew by pew,”” the New York Times quotes Peter Flaherty, a senior adviser to the Romney campaign, as saying. Flaherty, who is Catholic, served as Romney’s liaison to the religious community when he was governor of Massachusetts. A recent Gallup poll shows Romney with a slight edge among Catholics. * Note: Information on the Gallup statics and the quotations from the New York Times come from Patrick Hoblin’s article for NEWSMAX, “GOP Makes Strong Push to Win Catholic Vote”. (August 25, 2012)
The readings for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost are Is. 29:11-19, Eph. 5:22-33, and Mark 7:1-13. Being right for being right’s sake is a show of self-righteousness. We are all guilty of it. As the Jews had their traditions that turned their ceremonies into idols, so we raise the rule of our own pet peeves or created social norms. But, Jesus has fulfill the standards and statutes of the Law. He has taken our violation against it on Himself on the cross for our salvation.
Thursday, August 23, 2012
I can remember how Mom's side of the family came together within hours for mutual support. My grandpa had a stroke and fell to the floor. Over the next few hours, we learn the doctor’s prognosis. Grandpa had three days to live. Now, I don’t know how your families handle tragedy or ways they share mutual consolation. But, Mom’s sisters and brothers along with dozens of cousins flock to the comfort of hymns, of memorized Scripture passages and prayers—both together and in our private devotions. Back in 1996 when Grandpa died, we didn’t congregate around the computer waiting for the next Facebook update on his condition. We didn’t look for the next email blast while we waited out the four days between his fall and his death. WE did what we always did when one of us suffered. We came together. Sure, conversations about politics and current happenings in our lives dictated much of those days. But, as the hours grew late and long and as we sat by Grandpa’s bedside we rallied to memorized hymns and Bible verses for encouragement. AT one point, my uncle blanked out on a verse he thought he knew. He asked for my help. I wracked my brains and sang the verse after the one he wanted. Ouch! I was glad to help bring consolation but, I didn’t sing the desired verse. Since then, I have made it a priority to memorize hymns, sometimes in full, sometimes bit by bit. Not that it’s a requirement, but the memorization of hymns does have its benefits. First, in times like I described, we can use hymns to soothe someone’s troubled conscience. Whether a relative suffers momentary loss or chronic anxiety, familiar hymns speak in pithy terms the Gospel’s free assurance. They proclaim peace in words that we ourselves may struggle to articulate. I think of times when someone has a favorite hymn. Whether we see them on their deathbed, during a regular pastoral visit, or just swinging by their house, we can bring them solace and cheer in words and phrases they know well. I’ve known family and friends who, upon hearing a hymn or part of the liturgy, sspoke or sang it with me and others. Secondly, memorizing hymns helps apply the Scriptures on which they are based to our daily lives. In the section on daily prayers, the Small Catechism encourages us to begin each day with “a hymn like that of the Ten Commandments….” Memorized, that hymn may aid us in our desire to dig into less familiar parts of the Bible which are chocked full of straight up Law and Gospel. In other words, hymns teach us simple words with which to unfold passages that seem intimidating. For me, LSB 462, stanza 2 explains Jesus parable of unbinding the “strong man,” which I had not grasped so well until hearing that hymn. Memorizing such words helps keep the Bible’s richness and depth in our hearts and minds. What did Paul and Silas do in Philippi’s maximum security prison? They sang hymns, probably from memory and received our Lord’s consolation based on His Word through them. So, when we have that moment at the work place or when the children scoot off to school, hymns can help us put that week’s readings from Church in our heads. They are nice way of keeping the Bible memorable in our increasingly busy lives. Thirdly, and similar to last point, hymns help explain in simple words a article of our Christian faith we may find difficult to understand. When I began learning about our Lord Jesus’ two natures—God and man in one Christ, hymns such as “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” taught me pithy ways of thinking on certain points of our Church’s creeds. AS I grew up, I learned the connection between Christmas and Christ’s cross from Scripure first and then through the hymn, “What Child Is This?” Memorizing these hymns helped me begin to retain the teachings and Bible verses pertinent to any topic of doctrine. I have to laugh and yet say with all seriousness that one of the most important things I learned in college and seminary was how to navigate the hymns and hymnals of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Now, I understand that memorizing anything may prove to be challenge for many of us. Memory work causes some Confirmation students and their parents to shake in their shoes. So, there’s no time limit or rapid pace to memorizing hymns for personal use. Take them one verse or a half verse at a time—while your working out, cutting the grass, or taking a few minutes’ relief down the hall and to the left. AS I write and work from home, I find myself memorizing and singing hymns between the projects that I do or as I walk about in my apartment. So, give memorization a try. For the word of Christ does dwell with us richly until the Word Himself comes to take us to heaven forever.
Note: I wrote the opening paragraph of this post on Facebook also this morning. The challenge in writing concise devotions is this: Even in 225 words, we tell two stories--ours according to the Law and Christ Jesus' salvation according to the Gospel. To neglect either is dangerous. Either the reader is left big-headed, thinking he can how-to it out of his own sin. Or, he is left in despair saying he's hopeless beyond rescue. Only in Christ Jesus' cross is that tension solved, proclaimed in clear words. Of course, writing devotions for a popular audience has several other components. One must be concise, not overwhelming the reader with more than one main point or central thought. Particularly with devotions centering on a reading from the Old Testament historical books or the Gospels, we do well to retell the main part of the narrative. Here again, we face two aspects of the craft that hold each other in tension. First, we desire to show the action, making description come alive. Second, we still, unmitigated, proclaim—tell—the narrative’s application to us and our salvation. WE are not called to moralize people into pleasing God by devotions or to scratch itching ears for the sake of pithy entertainment. If such is a byproduct of our labors, so be it. God grant it. But, the primary application of a text is clear—our sin, Christ’s rescue. For a further elaboration of resources for devotions and other Christian writing, listen to the segments on www.issuesetc.org related to teaching a Sunday school lesson. Usually, Pam Nielsen is Pastor Wilken’s guest for these half hour segments. Or, you can order the Growing IN Christ and Life Light curricula at Concordia Publishing House. www.cph.org (800) 325-3040
Yesterday, I attended a biweekly writers’ critique group in the Kansas City area. Now, critique groups help us find areas in our poetry, prose, devotions, etc. that need fine tuning. IN our particular groups, each person bring about six to eight copies of something he/she wishes to share. We have writers of all levels from the well-ublished professional to the aspiring hopeful taking up the craft. WE go around our table, each person reading whatever he/she has brought and receiving everyone’s constructive critism. Now, despite the fact that we are Christian oriented group, we mostly critique each others writing style—punctuation, grammar, syntx. Of course, our most experienced writers know what sells in the market, so they offer what’s hot and what’s as far trends go. After all, we who gather in the group come from a variety of denominational backgrounds. That’s why I like it. I’m a conservative Lutehran focused, by nature, on presenting and preserving Law and Gospel ritghtly divided in devotions, in feature aritcles, in stories. So, having folks raking me over the coals as far as illustrations, word choice, and listener-friendliness is my desire. And, our group thrives on hacking up the minutia. This fact came clearer to me the two times we met. I think of some of our newer were surprised at how edgy and biting we got with each other in our critiques. Okay, someone coming off the street my say, “Wow, those guys don’t like each other.” Yet, we do support each other through tough love, laughing, and good-hearted sarcasm in how we say things. No itching ears get scratched n our presence. WE pour mines of salt into each others’ wounds ands. So, it takes folks new to our group a bit of time to learn our of humor. Newer members learn very quickly not to take the sharpness of each others’ remarks too personally. Now, I’ve been going to this particular critique group for over four years. Every meeting begins with a bit of small talk, catching up on each others’ lives, and indulging in the food Panera Bread has to offer. Then, the pens, paper, fangs, and razors come out. (first two items being literal and the last two being figurative) Because of my personal aims in bringing work to the group, previously mentioned, I never bring selections or vignettes with which I am most satisfied. I present articles or devotions which have a lot of warts and need a lot of work. Other attendees look for more positive reinforcement. So, they bring their best writing in hopes that the group will like it enough to recommend their using it somewhere for someone’s immediate encouragement. So, what kind of things might you hear our or any writers’ critique group emphasize? In writing good fiction, read a lotand work on showing actions/thought/emotion rather than just telling about it. I can tell you, for instance, “The main character in a short story is a geek, a bean counter, and quite reclusive.” Okay? That description gives a wide range of images in people’s minds. Check out what happens if I write: “ Buck sat at his desk with his chin resting on his hand. He squinted and nodded at each calculator and chart pinned to his cubical wall. He dreaded the company’s financial report due date.” That shows you a scene, a picture, action. I have admitted to several of my fellow group members that, besides hymns and longer lyric verses, I just don’t get flash poetry. I understand that folks can write two or three lines of descriptive, bulleted thoughts…but the art of how they do it in a poetic style ricochets off the right side of my brain like a basketball bouncing off a backboard. AS I write, I face the day after critique group—a day of studying and writing, a day of sending other members a few additional comments via email. Folks’ remarks are fresh on my mind. I’ll take them with all seriousness and see what direction my upcoming articles take. For more information about writers’ critique groups in the Kansas City Area, visit www.hacwn.org under the “about us” link.
Saturday, August 18, 2012
August 19, 2012 The readings for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost are Josh. 24:1-2a, 14-18, Eph. 5:6-21, and John 6:51-69. Where else can we go?...Whom else can we serve…and still receive eternal life? No one. Only Jesus has given His very body and blood for us Christian to eat and to drink. Only Jesus tells us that these gifts are real, not just symbols or pictures. Only through Jesus does our heavenly Father turn us from the supposed gods which attract many followers to our Savior who has the words of eternal life.
Check out this perspective on Flridian reactions ot the Medicare question posed by both Presidential candidates. Is this typical of the U.S. population in general? If anything, this article show why the Romney-Ryan ticket does well to remain clear-speaking on its plans regarding medical insurance.
As complex and intimidating athe ObamaCare appears for many seniors, they need to understand in plain language the better alternative which the Romney-Ryan ticket provides.
Medicare Dominates Ryan Trip to Florida - Beth Reinhard - NationalJournal.com
As complex and intimidating athe ObamaCare appears for many seniors, they need to understand in plain language the better alternative which the Romney-Ryan ticket provides.
Medicare Dominates Ryan Trip to Florida - Beth Reinhard - NationalJournal.com
Why do we laud the benefits and virtues of our representative democracy here in the U.S.? Check out this video clip from Sen. Marco Rubio’s blog. (August 7, 2012) He shows first hand and first person. Conservatives, by our nature, do not wish to rest on our laurels. Rather, we consider freedom, democracy and God-given opportunity as a multi-faceted heritage to pass on to future generations. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhkZEYVW_Zs&feature=youtu.be
Friday, August 17, 2012
AS BEHOLD! YOUR KING COMES is in the production stage of publishing, I am currently working on its follow-up. FIX YOUR EYES ON JESUS is a devotional for Lent and Easter. In its daily readings from Scripture and devotions, I pray you will follow the way to the cross of Christ with encouraged and increased faith. Our Lord bids us to see Himself as our crucified and risen Savior. He is the Giver of the Gifts we have and with which we serve one another’s needs. FIX YOUR EYES ON JESUS, who saves us by His grace, through faith, from sin and death and devil.
The home stretch for the election season is almost here. The Democrats and Republicans are set for their national conventions. Speakers will promote the virtues of their party and their party’s nominee for President of these United States. Even in the last few days and hours, political news has jumped us into speculations. Mitt Romney chooses Paul Ryan as veep candidate. Top Obama aids approach Hillary Clinton with the offer of replacing Joe Biden on the Democrat ticket. Ryan accepted. Clinton declined. AS we engage in political discussions or serve in political activities ourselves, where does our Christian faith play a role? I saw several Facebook posts today on both sides of the spectrum. They claim that being a Christian by default means we will vote for one particular candidate over another. Our Lutheran Confessions and, indeed, Holy Scripture paints a completely different picture. The Augsburg Confession says this about governing authorities: “It is taught among us that all government in the world and all established rule and laws were instituted and ordained by God for the sake of good order, and that Christians may without sin occupy civil offices or serve as princes and judges, render decisions and pass judgments according to imperial and other existing laws, punish evildoers with the sword, engage in just wars, serve as soldiers, buy and sell, take required oaths, possess property, be married, etc…. “True perfection consists alone in proper fear of God and real faith in God, for the Gospel does not teach an outward and temporal but an inward and eternal mode of existence and righteousness of the heart. The Gospel does not overthrow civil authority, the state, and marriage but requires that all these be kept as true orders of God and that each according to his own calling, manifest Christian love and genuine good works in his station of life.” (THE BOOK OF CONCORD, Tapper ted., 37-38, AC XVI, 1-2, 4-5) Rom. 13 explains the basic role of government. In our representative democracy, we place people into the roles of President, Senators, Representatives, Governors, etc. by voting. So, when we go to the ballot box, campaign for a candidate, or accept a job with any level of government, we bring our God-given conscience with us replete with God’s Law in our hearts and minds (Rom. 2:15) and His forgiveness on our lips. (Matt. 6:14-15) We Christian have the freedom and joy (Gal. 5:1, 13, 22-25) to stand on those gifts of life, freedom, general welfare, and a competent defense that our Lord gives us. Yes, our Lord does work through citizens to fight on behalf of their country for just causes. At the same time, when we citizens, each or in groups, see elected officials infringing on the free expression and practice of our faith, we have reason to oppose such actions. (Acts 5:29) Government has no business telling private agencies, for example, that they must offer medical coverage for abortifacients or drugs which will speed along the end of someone’s life. Many conservative Christian church bodies, including the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Southern Baptist Convention opposed the HHS mandate that the Obama administration wished to impose—demanding all companies to offer coverage of contraceptives in their insurance plans. AS we approach November 6, we do well to know our Christian convictions grounded in Holy Scripture so that, according them, we cast our vote. After all, our Lord graciously gives us in His inerrant Word everything sufficient for our salvation through His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Therein, He guides us in our daily vocations to interpret the people around us, the events in which He places us, and the circumstances through which He guides us. IN voting, in court testimony, or as recipients of persecution, we tell of our Lord’s deeds before all rulers and authorities. (Matt. 10:20, Ps. 119:46) May our Lord direct our days and our deeds in His peace as we consider the direction our nation goes in the next few years.
Friday, August 10, 2012
We hear them during times of tragedy. We speculate over them when our minds get wandering. We use them to comfort each other at imes of death and loss. They are euphemisms about our life to come in heaven. We are well-meaning when saying that a love-one is “in a better place” or that “God has made another angel.” But, what lies behind these euphemisms? Even non-believers, even atheists speak in such ways to console themselves. I suppose that a motivation arises from reading the apostle Paul’s admission in Philippians 1:23. “I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” The distinction, though, comes to concreteness. The apostle Paul knew where his eternal life lie after his death. He wrote his letter to the Philippians mostlikely from a jail cell. AS shackles bit into his wrists, or at least bound him to one place, he dictated the epistle to a secretary—as he was carried along by the Holy Spirit. When we say that someone who dies goes to “a better place,” we speak in generalities. We speak from a human perspective in that the deceased no long feels weakness, pain, or unneeded sadness. The apostle John writes in Revelation 21:1-4 that heaven holds such blessing for us who trust in Jesus, our One and Only Savior from sin. The apostle Peter says that in Christ we hope and, though we do not yet see Him we love Him. And, the reality of eternal life gives us unmeasurable joy. (1 Peter 1:3-10) We Christians do not rest of merely on the things someone has doen or their glittery personality as signs of their post humus entry into heaven. We rest on the confession of faith that our brother or sister in Christ expressed. (Rom. 4:5, 4:16-17, 10:8-10) Our works follow faith—saving trust in God leaps forth in fervent love for people God Himself puts in our daily lives and vocations. (Phil. 2:12-13) I submit to you that we cannot console the firend or relative of an nonbeliever that he/she who has died is “in a better place.” They aren’t. They won’t be if, indeed, their trust was in something or someone else than Jesus Christ as Savior from sin. See Matt. 25:41ff) So, what message do we bring to someone who unbelieving relative or friend has died? It’s plain and simple. There’s no better time than at a funeral or memorial service to trumpet the hope of the resurrection from the dead. For we read in the Small Catechism that Christ “will reaise me and and all the dead and will eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.” Death—through sickness, tragedy, or “natural causes” becomes the perfect time to confess concreteness amid our condolences, not speculation. It amazes me, though, that amid well-intended statements of consolation, some really bad theology can rip forth from our mouths. Now, here, I’m not going to spend a lot of time tearing open my least favorite phrase, namely, that someone “passes away.” Scripture does not speak in these terms. Death is death. When a Christian dies, his/her soul goes to heaven to await our Lord’s return when He will restore all creation—including our physical bodies—to their innocent state, apart from sin. Judged by their lack of trust in Christ alone, the souls of unbelievers go to hell. (See Luke 16) To say that someone “passes away” puts a vagueness to death. WE don’t speak this way when someone dies in battle or is murdered or loses their life in a car crash. Again, I’m not doubting our well-intended hope to comfort the bereaved. I’m simply saying we need to choose wisely those statement with which we comfort and encourage the bereaved. We Christians have our faith founded and grounded in the concreteness of Chrsit Jesus. He didn’t just poof us into His kingdom or even give us the choice to “welcome Him into our hearts.” No, He created faith in our hearts through His Word. That’s why baptize infants. Faith is already there. And, in the case of adult “converts,” Baptism is still the seal and sign of faith’s creation. WE don’t just pass away when we die. No, in life or death, we Christian remain the Lord’s. (Rom. 14:7-9) Does that mean that we don’t become angels? That’s right. When we die, our souls wait in eager expectation for our Lord to restore our physical bodies when He comes again in His glory. We won’t be angels. We’ll be fully human, as He created us to be. Let’s take a look at a few verses from the Bible to this effect. First, Luke 24:36-43: “As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened andthought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling,he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.” Now, you may say, “Yeah, but that’s Jesus.” You’re right. It’s Jeuss. He is true God and true man, God the Son incarnate. He retained His human nature even when He ascended into heaven. We don’t see Him, but He promises to be with us always. (Matt. 28:20) He gives us His body and blood in His Supper. (1 Cor. 11:23-25) And, every eyes will see Him at His return. (Matt. 25:31ff, Zech. 12:10, Rev. 1:7-8) Secondly, let’s look at 1 Corinthians 15:20-23. “But in factChrist has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death,by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” Our Lord Jesus has gone ahead of us in being rasied from the dead. AS Rom. 6:9-10 says, He now no more can die because He once died once for all. The seed sown in the ground grows to be a fertile plant. But, it’s not something different in its substance than it was before. It’s just changed. So, also, our Lord will change our mortal bodies into immortal ones, our perishable, broken bodies into imperishable whole ones. In fact, Rom. 8:18-23 tells that the whole creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. So, when our Lord recreates all things into His new heaven and a new earth, He will make everything living to have its own body, even as we all have our own now. Thirdly, we look at Colossians 2:18-20. “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, andnot holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” Instead of regarding those who die as becoming angels or entering some “higher” existence, Holy Scripture urges us to avoid such fascinations. Angels are, themselves, created beingsj. Rev. 12 tells us that Satan took some of them from heaven when he was cast out. To ascribe angelic or divine qualities to someone who has died is nothing short of idolatry, no matter well-intended the condolence. Earlier, Col. 2 bids us not to pay attention to hollow, deceptive philosophies…mysths. For Christ who is our One and Only Savior from sins, death and hell truly assumed our human nature except without sin. Everything He experienced in His ministry here, He experienced bearing our feelings, emotions, hunger, thirst, etc. When He ascended, He didn’t just vaporize and go away. The cloud, says Acts 1, hid him from the appostles’ sight. The angels who appeared soon thereafter promised that Christ would return as He went away. WE take comfort in a real, risen Jesus who is both God and man in one Christ. He comfots us with the assurance that He goes to prepare a place for us. (John 14:1-6) That way, He can take us to be where He is. We will be fully human, as God first intended us to be when He first created the world and everything in it. Fourthly, we turn to Deuteronomy 18:13-15. “You shall be blameless before theLord your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this. “TheLord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—….I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.”” The practice of pagan nations which the Lord gave into Israel’s hands to conquer was to listen to “spirits” from the dead. We today call this informally or formally listening to séances. Now, to be sure, most of us know well that such a thing is pure idolatry. We can avoid the obvious divinations and spells and other tricks of our old evil foe, the devil. Yet, where do we have trouble during times of loss and tragedy? Someone may have told us that they “hear voices” from “the other side,” family members or people otherwise welcoming them to the life beyond this world. I am not doubting such occurrences. I’m only saying that we need to be careful. Only one voice is enough for us to hear—be it from the lips of our pastor, afriend, or fmailiy member. That is the voice proclaiming comfort and care from God’s word. We are confident that relatives and friends who die in the faith are with Christ and at peace. Yet, no where in Holy Scripture dos our Lord give us to listen to people who have preceded us into paradise. Now, you may wonder how Jesus was able ot hear the voice of His and our heavenly Father while HJe ministered visbly here. First, God the Father isn’t dead. Second of all, the fullness of the Deity dwelt in Christ bodily. (Col. 2:9) Thirdly, the Father spoke in ways that were, at times audible, at Jesus’ Baptism, on the Mount of Transfiguration, etc. Speaking of th eMOunt Of Transfiguration, that is where our Lord spoke with Moses and Elijah. (Mark 9:2-9) Elijah, as we remember from 2 Kings 2, did not die. God took Him in his body to heaven. Moses did die, but in this case, God permitted him to appear on the mountain’s peak. We are forbidden to go seeking out voices and visions in the twighlight—or any other tiem of our lives. WE do well to take comfort as Christians in the same thing Jesus told His disciples when they talked about the demons they cast out. “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10) Okay, then, with all this said, how then do we console, comfort, and encourage others during a time of grief and loss? We have looked at several assurances Holy Scripture delivers to us. Besides, these, Jesus gives us the manner of His emotional reaction at the tomb of Lazarus before reaising him back to life. (John 11:35) “Jesus wept.” Likewise, we too weep and grieve even as we hold onto the hope our Lord gives us. (1 Thes. 4:13-14) For Jesus is the resurrection and the life. And, He promises to raise up on the Last Day. (John 11:25, 6;40) AS we grieve with others, we sit often in the quiet, listening to them. WE may share a story or two of how our dead friend or relative touched our lives. I’ve been in funeral homes where a couple of my uncles broke a momentary silence with a quip about my grandpa’s occasional humor. Yet, the comfort our Lord Jesus gives us remains our consolation and help when we stand with others in times of tragedy, loss, and death. (2 Cor. 1:3-5, Heb. 13:20)
Thursday, August 9, 2012
WE still have several weeks to go before the Advent and Christmas seasons. Yet, it’s never to early to start thinking on what gifts we’ll get and what devotions we will read as we consider the birth of our One and Only Savior, Jesus Christ. BEHOLD, YOUR KING COMES is a new devotional I have written and am self-publishing for the Advent and Christmas seasons of the Church year. The title stems from our Lord’s rule of grace in saving us from our sins. And, as He creates our trust in Him, He engenders our fervent love for people he brings into our daily lives. AS God’s Word draws us each year to the manger, we worship God the Son incarnating His rule through His conception, birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and soon return.Behold, our King comes from on high to you and me in His Word and Sacraments for our eternal life. Zech. 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold,your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
AS I have begun blogging more frequently and on more diverse topics, I still maintain my desire that we who blog support the people/organizations that assist our theological understandings. Issues ETc. widgetbox_widget_iframe_0 is truly a repository of current, Christ-centered content to which I refer often when doing research. Listen to to Issues when you want (archived) www.issuesetc.org or online 3:00-5:00 CDT or, in the ST. Louis area) on KFUO, 850 AM live at the same time. You will undoubtedly enjoy checking out www.lutheranpublicradio.org for the Church's finest hymns throughout history as well.
Here are the readings we who follow the three year lectionary will have in Church this week, August 12, 2012. The readings for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost are 1 Kings 19:1-8, Eph. 4:17–5:2, and John 6:35-51. Jesus calls us to take Himself at His Word. He who fed the multitudes gives us Himself to trust and, in trusting, to have everlasting life. Jesus is the bread of life that came from heaven for the life of the world. For He gives us now in Holy Communion the same body that was broken and blood that was shed on Calvary for us.
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
On Monday, we witnessed a great feat, the confluence of engineering and science. The probe, Curiosity, landed on Mars. Now, “the red planet,” as many call Mars, has fascinated us for years. It’s the fourth most distant planet from the sun and has a similar atmosphere to which you and I breathe every day. Scientist and other speculators alike have entertained the possibility of life on Mars since before we started sending probes and satellites. Admittedly, we Christians have taken a popular defensive posture toward such possibilities. I suppose this is because the most outspoken advocates for space exploration fall into one of two categories. Some take a Dawinian vantage point. They think that were we to find some stage or sign of life, then we can predict the path of evolutionary development it might take. Other, often speculative paranormalists, like nighttime talkshow host George Noory, think that science will confirm what “they already know”—namely that intelligent in space already exists and that our government is simply concealing its interactions with it from us. The first atheistic strain tweeks many people’s fears. It says that, were life to be found, Darwin’s speculations might be right. We might be just random chance organisms. And, we might as well live it up, eat, sleep, and and kick the bucket. The second strain of speculation tries to fill in mysterious gaps where none really exist. In a way, they are trying rationalize the vast world and dismiss the uniqueness of the Creator whom we love and worship. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Noory, Art bell, and a host of other UFOlogists can martial in their corner. WE Christian do not need to fear our Curiosity. WE need not shrink back from scientific findings or exploration on “the red planet,” in our own world, or anywhere else. The same god who made us and all creatures, who fashions the moon and stars and world in which we live has creatged everything else in our vast universe. Like King David, when writing the Psalms, we see God’s handiwork everywhere. (Psalm 8: 1-3, Ps. 19:1-14, Ps. 104-1-30, and 148. When standing next to a gian telescope or at the foot of a mountain in Colorado, we may ask in wonderment, “What is man that you (Lord) are mindful of him?” Yet, we know that He who made us also redeemed us from our sins through the Son of Man made a little lower than the angels to die in our place. We whom God has created and redeemed study Holy Scripture, even those verses wherein our Lord gives us dominion over the world He has made, to take care of and subdue it. (Gen. 1:28-29) This includes not only things on the “third rock from the sun,” but other discoveries elsewhere. What if we did find some microbial bug or beast on planet Mars? Well, our Lord in providence created it to be found by us. It may hold the key to some helpful cure or a new element in the periodic table. So, more than our curiosity drives us to reach for the stars, or at least set a rover down on Mars. A With all this said, our Lord gives us our reason and sense and stil take care of them for our good and His glory. We still worship the Giver, not the gift. Through the writing of Moses, carried along by the Holy Spirit, we read of the grave consequences post-flood humanity suffered for feeding their own collective ego. They thought they had the solution to escaping a nother natural catastrophe like a flod. Never mind, God already promised Noah that He would not send another flood to blot out all life like the one of which we read in Genesis 6-8. AS our Lord preserves and protects us from all evil, so He upholds the science projects He permits us to perform in His universe. He doesn’t even grade us on them. We find ways of evaluating and criticizing our progress as we uncover samples of the vast creation. How, then, do we pray concerning the scientific advances and people who oversee them? Trustin g in our Savior from sin, we pray for those so called to explore the universe God has already fashioned with His own hand. We pray for scientists’ discernment as they discuss the reason and scope of their missions. After all, the whole earth and everything else is the Lord’s and every thing in it. He reveals it to us as He sees fit in caring for our bodies and life.
Monday, August 6, 2012
From the start I admit I borrowed the title for this post from Pastor Tim Stevens of Granger Community Church in Granger, Indiana. And, throughout this post, I quote from his article appearing in OUTREACH NEWSLETTER’s email from August 6…today. So, why go to church after all. Many of us who surf blogs and get our appetite whetted by information on apps live and die on the computer. We listen to talkshows, archived sermons, etc. on the computer. Yet, going to Church is much more than a sanctified info-dump or spiritual soak-up of helpful information. If we wanted that, we could find some book of practical. Thank God, His word is not just practical advice. It’s salvation from Christ alone to us. Now, Pastor Stevens voices his first reason of why to go to Church this way: Why Go to a Church Service When You Can Watch Online? ByTim Stevens “1. The church needs you. I’m not talking about the building or the organization. Rather, the people of God need what you can offer. Your physical presence, words of encouragement and acts of service—combined with what others bring—is what makes the people of God. When you “go to church” with missional eyes opened wide, you arrive early and stay late, you engage in conversations with other followers of Jesus, you look for people who need to be encouraged and you lean into “coincidental” conversations with people that God will bring along your path.” Notice that in his first explanation, he implies that we have something the Church needs. Without saying as much, Pastor Stevens seems to assume you have a kind-of-sort-of basic assumption of 1 Cor. 12 or Rom. 12 where the apostle Paul describes the of Christ in the terms of a hyman body. However, does the Church really need something each of us has? No. From Acts 17 we read Paul’s answer in saying God doesn’t need each of us as if He can work apart from our hands. Sure, the idea that the Church needs us may sound tantalizing, inviting warm, and fuzzy. It may make us feel good. It might give us a martyr complex if we get rejected by some clique or other. But, what is the Church in the first place? Instead of needing us, the Church is the body of Christ, marked by the gathering around our Lord’s preached Word and administered Sacramentsl—Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. (1 Cor. 11:23-26, 1 Cor. 12:13, etc. God gives His Church His Word to preach and teach so that we all confess His Name. (Rom. 10:8-d10 We need Christ’s own calling and sending a pastor to us to rightly preach His Word and administer His gifts. Rom. 10:14-17 The Church has the proclamation of unity. (Eph. 4:1-6) That way, we aren’t each believing what we want to or devising our own interpretation of Holy Scripture. So, in short, the Church does not need each of us to carry out its work. Rather, through the Church, our Lord draws us to Himself to give us the means of grace which we need. “2. It’s not just about spiritual food. If going to “church” once a week was just about gaining what you need spiritually to make it through another week, then tuning in online would be just fine. You could get what you need on Christian radio, reading books, studying the Bible or watching your favorite TV preacher. But the purpose of church is so much broader than that. It is about corporate worship, praying and studying the Bible together, serving one another and reaching out in mission together. This can’t be done in isolation.” We can be right on somethings for all the wrong reasons. Pastor Stevens is right in that we need to be to gether. WE need more tyhan just a “spiritual” message. Now, that’s where His conclusion ends in it being right. Even if we were to get our weekly fill of that something spiritual, we couldn’t get it on the internet or by a radio/TV preacher. Why? The Church doesn’t just give esteem- or how-to- based pointers. Trhoguh the Church, our Lord gives us all of Himself—His asbsolution after our public confession of sins, His Word conjoined with water for faith’s beginning in Holy Baptism. (Rom. 6:3-4, Gal. 3:26-27) Throguh the called servant of the Word’s hands, our Lord in public places on our lips His body and blood for our forgiveness. (1 Cor. 11:23-26) You can’t get any of that with your head on a pillow and the latest insight for your life dribbling into your ear. You can’t get that as you watch Mr. Smily Teeth lead a stadium full of folks in calling out: “I’ll never be the same.” In public, together, God draws us; we confess our unworthiness; He dispenses His grace to each of us; we thank and praise Him. AS far as our mutual love for each other as Christians goes, we speak in care, friendship, and concern the compassion that grows out of the faith our Lord grants us. Yet, Pastor Stevens presses his point:”3. You need the church. You need the “church” (those people who are followers of Jesus and gather together with your congregation) more than you think you do. There is so much in Scripture about the relational aspects of the church—love one another, be devoted to one another, encourage one another, instruct one another, greet one another—and these can’t be done as well in a virtual environment.” That’s true to a large extent. Yet, how do we get to such mutual love and concern? Stevens, here, wants to make the cause into the effect and the effect into the cause. Nobody comes to Christ unless Christ Himself draws him/her. We encourage each other not to give up meeting to together as some have. (Heb. 10:25) Yet, even there, our Lord draws us with a purified heart to hear and trust His Word. While Pastor Stevens approach our need for the community of the Church from a psychological point of view, Holy Scripture has primarily salvation to eternal life in mind. See also Eph. 4:14-16. Than answer the question: Who does the drawing or gathering of His people? It’s not us. It’s Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Now, whose point of view is Pastor Stevens taking in the following statement? “4. The church is a living organism. You remove your pancreas or esophagus or left arm, and it will cease to live outside your body. The New Testament knows nothing about a Christian who is not connected to a church. Your gifts, skills, ideas, service, leadership, resources, love—everything you have to offer—is a crucial part to a congregation thriving.” Nice try! But, again, this misses the point. Sure, we can offer our time, talent, and treasure in a local congregation, circuit, district, or synod. Yet, we can’t do that unless Christ engenders in us love for our neighbor as He directs our trust in Him and 2. Gives us someone’s need for which and for whom He already died. No matter what aspect of our life together arises, Jesus has already gone graciously when no one else has dared to go before….through the cross. Here’s another reason Pastor Stevens gives. He says: “5. Your presence matters more than you think. Many times we think we won’t be missed. I don’t vote on election day because it doesn’t really matter. I don’t show up for my kids basketball game because he won’t even notice. I commit to the work day, then stay home, because surely they have enough people. I stay home and watch the service online, because in a church with 5,000 people, who will even notice that I’m not there? But that is so short-sighted and inaccurate. You underestimate the significance of your presence when you think it doesn’t matter. You undervalue the power of the Spirit of God residing within you when you believe staying home is just as good as showing up. You possibly miss what God wants to do through you and for you when you stay home.” Okay, in response to this, we go back to the marks of the Church—people gathered around the Word preached rightly and the Sacraments administered according to Christ’s command. The Church isn’t going to miss my voice belting out th eTe Deum or “This Is The Feast” if I’m gone. One person’s questions during Bible can be picked up by another who offers just as relevant insights into the text of God’s Word. Even if we’re the one ot switch the air conditioning from upstairs to downstairs, someone else can step in if we’re not there. The point, made with exaggeration, is this: We don’t go to Church because, without us, it lacks something. The Church, as Paul explains in 1 Cor. 3 is no cult of personality. And, the time for celebrating the Lord’s Supper is no time for a center aisle shoving match (1 Cor. 11:17-22, 29-34) It’s not time ot swing wide the gate either for folks who don’t confess as we do. Rather, in drawing us: Our Lord gives us Himself free for the the trusting in Him. In love, we serve each others needs and proceed to our daily vocations between the Sundays. Now Pastor Stevens asks: “So, why provide online church services?” “• Because there are lonely, isolated people in the world, and it provides a bridge to them so they can eventually take a step into a community of faith.” It’s true. There are many lonely, isolated people in need of hearing God’s Word. Some may be fearful of a large (or small) corporate gathering of God’s people. Now, some “mission-minded” agents say what Pastor stevens say s is right. There’s a problem, though. The internet or radio broadcast is not just a “mission outpost.” It’s media by which the same preached Word reaches those who may feel in distress. The Church, in the hands of loving friends , a real, caring pastor, etc. brings someone who feels lonely honest friendship and consolation. Again, the Church is not just a change agent of spiritual info-dumping or a harbinger of the how-to. Rahter, as the members of Christ body receive all of our Lord in Word and Sacrament, so they in love desire that someone in distress receive all of Christ, in all His promises, too. “ • Because the Internet reaches billions of people all over the world, some who are not close enough to participate in a vibrant church.” Well, maybe, sometims. Yet, you and I do well to use broadcasts and podcasts for this reason after we have done our homework 1. With our home pastor who may know of a congregation near our temporary remote location and 2. By searching the internet to see if a faithful congregation is near where we will be. To this end, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and and Issues ETc. website have resources whereby you can find a congregation where you’l get the Word preached rightly and the Sacraments administered according ot Christ’s institution. “• Because there are times when you are out of town, on vacation or away at college and it gives you a link to stay connected to your church.” And, here I would actually agree with Pastor Stevens to a point. Yet, for the same reasons I mentioned above, we do well to find a local congregation where we go to school, travel for busness, or vacation. Then, we do well to speak with our pastor so they can affirm our congregation of choice. They may be able to call the pastor of the congregation where we intend to go so that he may know we are in good standing, especially with regard to receiving the Lord’s Supper. “• Because it serves as an easy invite tool for your friends who aren’t ready to step into a physical gathering, but they are hurting and need Jesus, and an online service can help you reach them.” That’s true, again to a point. Yet, see my comments under the first reason for having online services and sermons accessible to the public. In addition, though, I add two reasons First, having recorded and archived services helps peole go back later on in the week to hear again the message preached to them in person. Secondly, online/recorded services/sermons bring the comfort of God’s Word to people who are shut-ins or temporarily ill. They get to hear the same preaching as everyone else and, then, when their pastor comes for a visit, he brings the them Christ’s very body and blood in, with, and under bread and wine in Holy Communio. Worship as a corporate drawing together of Christ’s body does not begin with us. It starts with our Lord and ends with Him for our eternal life.
Sometimes other blogs say things in a way I would rather have stick. Such was case in my previous post. I simply left link for Cranach, the Blog of Veith because his post captured the story of Douglas's win in gym,nastics and the witness of faith to follow.