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Archive for October, 2011

Grasp These Words or Die in Your Sins – The Significance of the Reformation

October 31st, 2011 1 comment

An excellent sermon for the Reformation of the Church, preached by Pastor Matthew Harrison, President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Categories: Uncategorized

Temptations Preachers Face

October 29th, 2011 23 comments

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the quality of the preaching in the pulpits of our church and I am growing increasingly concerned that we are moving further and further away from the unique strengths of Lutheran preaching as we have received it from generations previous to ours. I’m going to frame my concerns by referring to temptations preachers face. I’m coming at this, of course, from my perspective and convictions as a confessing, orthodox Lutheran, committed to the Sacred Scriptures, having vowed to preach and teach the Word of God in conformity with the Lutheran Confessions as contained in the Book of Concord. As you’ll see, this is no mere finger pointing exercise, this is also a chance for me to reflect on how these temptations impact me when I preach.

The Therapeutic Temptation
The “Therapeutic Temptation” is one that would have preachers use their sermons to give what amounts to little more than a pep talk, often in the context of cute, touching, emotional or an otherwise manipulative story, either real, or made up. I’m referring to the infamous, “There was once a little boy who…” or the, “There was a man who said/did…” These sermons will be marked by a preaching of Law that is soft and squidgy around the edges, it’s not a preaching of God’s holy, righteous wrath against sin and a warning against it and a rebuking of sin and sinners. It is Law preached in such a way that bad things, bad people or bad situations are lamented in doleful tones. It sounds often like this, “Isn’t it sad when….” or “Have you ever…..” and the tone is one of sounding “oh, so sorry about that” and “shouldn’t we all feel bad” about this problem. Then the sermon goes on to offer encouragement and support for getting out of our bad and negative feelings and circumstances. The Law is soft, the Gospel therefore comes across as antidote to feeling sad and bad. I face this temptation when I preach. I want so much to make people feel better, to feel good, to leave feeling positive. That can get in the way of good Law/Gospel preaching. I would say this is what I’m hearing more and more in pulpits. Law becomes simply lament. Gospel becomes simply encouragement and reassurance.

The Entertainment Temptation
Public speaking, once becomes fairly good at it, is a place where one’s personal ego can really get in the way of God’s Word. It is so tempting to get wrapped up in the moment and begin to feel a need to amuse, delight and entertain the listeners. Now, granted, the use of the classic art of rhetoric is important, but it is tempting for preachers to work very hard to elicit a laugh, a chuckle, to amuse, to entertain. They mistake audience reaction with effective preaching and they mistake emotionally manipulating the congregation with preaching God’s Word effectively. The problem with the entertainment temptation is that often the effort to entertain and elicit a positive emotional reaction from the congregation causes the preacher to neglect the doctrine in the text he is preaching on, to neglect, frankly, the Scriptures, and to spend an inordinate amount of time developing his story that he just knows will get the kind of response he is looking for. Public speaking is heady stuff. I have been tempted to go for the cheap line, the little quip, the comment I know will get chuckle and spend too much time on that, than on preaching God’s Word. And here again, in this context, Law is neglected, or ignored, because, after all, the Law is not “upbeat” it is not “entertaining.” It will not delight and amuse people to hear that they, by nature, are poor, miserable sinners who have nothing but wicked, evil deeds to offer to the holy and righteous God. And when the Law is neglected, the Gospel then loses the force of its power to convert and regeneration. In such a context, the Gospel is watered down to be part of an entertaining experience for the listeners.

The Hurry It Up Temptation
This is quite an insidious temptation that I think we all have fallen into, nearly totally. For many centuries, and even millennia, in the church’s history, sermons, where they were taken seriously, were thirty, forty or even sixty minutes long. The sermon was the opportunity for the pastor to preach and teach God’s Word carefully and thoroughly, from Sunday to Sunday, but then, and here I’m speaking only of my own church body, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, sermons that were forty-five minutes long, became only thirty minutes, then they dropped to twenty minutes, and now it is often the case that sermons now are only twelve, or ten or even eight minutes long. Simply put, these are no longer sermons, they have become rather formulaic quick devotional thoughts. There is not enough time carefully to delve into the text, and open it up to hearers. A text become more a pretext for the sharing of what becomes quite repetitive themes: some talk of something bad (Law), some talk of Jesus taking care of it all for us (Gospel) and then reference to the Sacrament. I’m tempted to do this when I know that there is a full service with communion. It is tempting to skip lightly over the text and instead use the short time I have to make a couple devotional points and then get on to the Sacrament. For all I love the Sacrament of the Altar and love that we are celebrating it more often, the Sacrament of the Altar must never become an excuse to make our sermons shorter and less substantial. We are the church of Word and Sacrament, not word AND SACRAMENT. I think that we are forgetting this.

The Grind My Axe Temptation
This temptation is characterized by a preacher managing to “find” in any Biblical text, a pretext for him to yet, once more, grind his axe on his hobby-horse issue, or subject, or theme, no matter what it might be. The hobby-horse might be quite correct and what the preacher says about it is quite true, but it is a temptation preachers face to turn nearly every sermon they give into an opportunity once more to repeat the same issues, over and over again. Perhaps he will be wanting to talk always about the liturgical practices in the parish, to turn every sermon into a little discourse on some point of church history, or to keep referring to some particular event or trend in society. Every sermon manages to include a reference to the issue that is really “bugging” the preacher and it comes out in his sermon. I am tempted to do this when I find myself wanting to warn people against the “feel good/health and wealth” prosperity preachers. I find that I can easily find myself bashing this error in every sermon. And while I’m perfectly correct in my warning, it is not appropriate for me to hijack every sermon on every Biblical text, to interject my own particular agenda. The lectionary is a good corrective, and if the preacher resolves actually to preach on the subjects, issues and topics that flow naturally from the lectionary readings, there is much less of a chance that the preacher will fall victim to the “Grind My Axe” temptation.

Do you have more temptations to add to this list?

Categories: pastoral ministry, Sermons

Want a copy of the Book of Concord, German, from 1739?

October 28th, 2011 5 comments

First “I’ll take it” either via e-mail, comment, or response to my Facebook post, gets it. $225, free shipping, USA addresses only.

Here are some pics.

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Fifteen Minutes That Changed the World: Thoughts on the Festival of the Reformation, October 31

October 27th, 2011 2 comments

2989215726_eabaa19992It is true that of all the church bodies which have left the papacy, it is precisely the Lutheran Church which is accused of retaining many papal abuses and of having been the least successful in cleansing itself. It is pointed out, for example, that in our church priestly clothing, church ornamentation, pictures, altar, crucifixes, candles, confession, the sign of the cross, and the like are still apparent. But, my friends, whoever regards these innocent things as vestiges of the papacy knows neither what the papacy is, nor what the Bible teaches. The very fact that the Lutheran Reformation was not aimed at indifferent adiaphora, but retained those things which were in harmony with God’s Word, shows that it was not a disorderly revolution, but a Biblical reformation.

— C. F. W. Walther

This poignant quote from Dr. C.F.W. Walther should be etched on the walls of every Lutheran Church, in some convenient location, so that we never forget that being Lutheran is simply being a Christian in the Western Catholic tradition, and, understood correctly, it is true that we Lutherans are “evangelical” catholics, nothing more, nor certainly nothing less.

Here, again, is my annual Reformation reprint of an article I wrote a number of years ago that has been well received. I routinely receive requests for a copy of it. Feel free to pass it along.

Fifteen Minutes that Changed the World Forever
A number of years ago, I attended a conference on the doctrine of justification in Wittenberg, Germany. There were pastors, presidents and bishops from Lutheran churches throughout Europe, Scandinavia, the Baltics, Eastern and Central Europe, Africa, and various countries in the land of the former Soviet Union. These servants of Christ know what it means to be distinctly Lutheran, often under extremely difficult and challenging circumstances. In many cases, they are walking through fiery trials suffering various forms of persecution for their commitment to Christ and His Word. It was humbling to be with them and discuss the chief article of the faith.

It was also quite a thrill to spend four days in Wittenberg and walk where Luther walked. On the last day of the conference I decided to time how long it would have taken Martin Luther to walk from the door of his Augustinian monastery to the Castle Church to post the ninety-five theses. Another LCMS pastor attending the conference, Bob Zagore, came with me and he counted the steps. Bob counted 2,000 steps. I counted fifteen minutes.As Luther left his monastery on October 31, 1517, turned left, and walked to the Castle Church on the west side of town, I doubt he had any idea just what he was setting motion. Four years later, Pope Leo’s representative, Aleander reported, “All of Germany is an uproar! Ninety-percent of the people are shouting, “Luther!” and the other ten percent—if they don’t care about Luther—at least have “Death to the Roman court!” as their slogan.” (Martin Brecht, Martin Luther The Road to Reformation, Fortress Press: 1:439).Father Martin, parish pastor, was outraged by the Roman system of indulgences and what it was doing to the precious souls he cared for at the city church of St. Mary as confessor and preacher. He was deeply angered when one after another member of his congregation told him about the indulgence that they had walked all day to buy from John Tetzel in the little town of Jütebog, just over the border of Electoral Saxony. They thought they had assurance of grace and comfort, for themselves, or for loved ones who had died. They clung to their indulgence receipt, instead of the crucified Lord. They believed that with their act of penance and contribution to the construction of St. Peter’s in Rome, God would smile on them and make things easier for them after their death.Luther could not remain silent. And so he spoke, and wrote, and preached, and taught, and debated. He posted his theses and he mailed a copy of them on the same day to the Archbishop of Mainz, protesting the indulgences that were being sold within his diocese. In so doing, Luther set an axe at the root of the Papal tree. Enormous sources of revenue were at stake. Papal and imperial politics were involved beyond what Luther fully realized. Luther said after the controversy was under way:

“I never wanted to fight, either with the strongest or the weakest. My single intention was to stay hidden in the corner. But now that I have been, as it were, grasped by the ear, and dragged into the public eye by a single debate placard, I believe that this has happened according to God’s will. . . . I will fear neither the strong nor the loud. . . neither will I despise weak or any other completely unlearned man. Then I would be a truly miserable Luther . . . if I would not fight entirely in the faith of the God who alone works in me.” [Brecht, 1:387]

The uproar caused by Luther’s “debate placard” caused him intense anguish, stress and strain. We catch a glimpse of his inner struggle in these words:

“My heart is so affected that I hope I have begun it in God’s name. But I am not so bold as to pass judgment on it and loudly proclaim that is surely must be so. I do not want to suffer God’s judgment for it. Instead, I crawl to His grace and hope that He has let it be started in His name. And, since I am a sinful man of flesh and blood, if something unclean has mingled with it, I hope He may graciously forgive me and not deal severely with me in His judgment.” [Brecht, 1:378].

The promise and power of the Word of God was Luther’s constant source of strength, hope and confidence. And so for us today. Luther acknowledged his failings, but pointed to the source of His strength, in words that should, and must, continue to fill the heart of all those who want to be, and remain, genuinely Lutheran, that is, who wish to be fully faithful to God’s Word.

“Let anyone who wants to, slander, curse and judge my person and my life—it is already forgiven him. But let no one expect grace or patience from me when he wants to make liars out of the Holy Spirit and my Lord Christ, whom I preach. I am not concerned about myself. I shall defend Christ’s word with a joyful heart and renewed courage, without regard to anyone. To this end God has given me a joyful and fearless spirit, which I trust they shall not harm in all eternity.” [Brecht: 1: 346].

How does the Lutheran Reformation fare in our day? There are those throughout the world who claim the name Lutheran but continue to barter away their Biblical Lutheran birthright through all manner of ecumenical compromises and agreements. What could not be forced on Luther and his courageous allies and defenders, even upon threat of death, is eagerly embraced by world federations and organizations that claim to be Lutheran. What a tragedy!

But what of our own lack of zeal and boldness when it comes to defending, upholding and boldly extending a clear Lutheran identity, which is nothing more or less than holding forth the truth and purity of the Word of God? Read more…

How to Pray the Lord’s Prayer with Greater Understanding: Get to Know Luther’s Explanation of It Even Better

October 26th, 2011 Comments off

I’m happy to tell you that the third volume in the commentary series on Luther’s catechisms is now available. The translation is extremely well done and these volumes are a delight to read. Dr. Albrecht Peters offers insights into the meaning of Luther’s comments in his Small and Large Catechisms, drawing from a nearly encyclopedic familiarity with Luther’s works. You will really enjoy digging into the information, which is written in a way, and translated in such a way, that the information is accessible to all: pastor and layman alike. You can order this volume now, from our web site, or by calling 800-325-3040. If you are a pastor, in any church body, makes no difference, or a rostered professional church worker in any church body, you will receive a 20% church worker discount when you buy this book.

Here’s a sample from the book you can download.

You might also like to know that the Peters commentary on the Creed is available also in Kindle format now, and the Lord’s Prayer soon will be as well.

By the way: I very, very…very…strongly recommend that everyone reading this go to CPH.ORG and set up an account there with us. Ordering our resources from our web site is the fastest and easiest way to place an order. The order literally goes instantaneously to our completely computer controlled order fulfillment system and right to the distribution center, we we are able to get nearly 100% of every order placed on a given day, into the mail stream, on that very day.

More details from our web site:

The German edition of Commentary on Luther’s Catechisms by Albrecht Peters has long been the gold standard of research on the catechetical texts of the great reformer. This translation makes the wealth of research available in English for both the researcher and the catechist. Separate volumes address the Decalogue, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Sacraments, and Confession with the Table of Duties, prayers, and the Marriage and Baptismal Booklets.
For Luther, God’s action in creation, redemption, sanctification, justification, and prayer are inseparably tied together with one another, and all true prayer finds the seed around which it can crystallize in the Lord’s Prayer. The reformer develops these central insights throughout his several different explanations of the Lord’s Prayer. This book shows what types of changes took place in Luther’s explanations before reaching the present form in the catechisms and provides the needed context of Luther’s interpretation within that of the Western tradition.
Other Books In This Series
What Others Are Saying
This definitive and comprehensive study of Luther’s catechetical writings places Luther’s catechisms in the full context of his broader theology and writings, as well as within the history of Christian catechesis and theology. It is an essential handbook for students of Luther and the Reformation and a valuable resource for those entrusted today with the ministry of catechesis according to these most durable products of Luther’s pastoral heart and pen.
Christopher Boyd Brown
Assistant Professor of Church History
Boston University
One of the most insightful interpreters of Luther and the theological tradition of the Lutheran Church in the latter half of the twentieth century, Peters places Luther’s texts before readers in the context of the reformer’s own time and of the catechetical tradition that he inherited, put to use, and transformed. Accessible to a broad audience, this volume will significantly enrich the teaching of all who use it to deepen their understanding of two of the most precious gems from Luther’s pen: the Small and Large Catechism.
Robert Kolb
Missions Professor of Systematic Theology and Director of the Institute
for Mission Studies
Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri
This English translation will contribute to the ongoing discussion concerning the content, purpose, and use of catechisms and instruction in the Christian faith, both in the Reformation era and today.
Mary Jane Haemig
Associate Professor of Church History
Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota
Categories: CPH Resources

German Film on Paul Gerhardt Now on YouTube!

October 26th, 2011 6 comments

I just received this from Pastor Mark Wangerin of Milwaukee. Many thanks Mark!

It is a German film on the life of Paul Gerhardt, but it is in English!

Take a Look at Concordia Cemetery and the Mausoleum of C.F.W. Walther

October 26th, 2011 3 comments

Note: This video is available in 1080 HD, and if you choose that resolution in which to view it, I recommend you let it load entirely, then hit play.

Shot with the iPhone 4S and processed with iMovie on a desktop Macintosh.

Categories: CFW Walther

Selective Patience . . .

October 25th, 2011 1 comment

Why is it that some pastors are so impatient with their church body, yet so patient with members of their own congregation? Here’s what I mean. I sometimes take a look at the parish statistics of some of those making the most strident demands for discipline in the Synod, and I notice that often the greater majority of the members in these pastors’ congregations are unfaithful in regular worship attendance. Apparently, therefore, these pastors are very patient in their dealings with the people in their congregation who are regularly sinning against the Third Commandment, and this has been the case for many years in their own congregation. Why then do they demand quick action from others in other situations beyond their congregation? It gives one furiously to think, no?

The situation reminds me of what Dr. Hermann Sasse said years ago. I think we forget this, to our detriment.

“The sect cannot wait, for it must have everything at once, for it has no future. The church can wait, for it does have a future. We Lutherans should think of that.” – Hermann Sasse

Categories: pastoral ministry

What Would the Missouri Synod’s President Do If He Had a Magic Wand?

October 25th, 2011 1 comment

This is the book Pastor Harrison is talking about, by the way, and I happen to know where you can get a copy of the best English translation/edition ever produced of Law and Gospel. Click on the picture below to get a copy:

Categories: CPH Resources

Happy Birthday, Dr. Walther – 200 Years Old Today

October 25th, 2011 Comments off

Walther born the son of a pastor in Langenchursdorf in the Kingdom of Saxony (part of modern-day Germany). In October 1829, he enrolled at the University of Leipzig to study theology. He had to take six months off from the university due to a nearly-fatal lung disease; during the time off he acquainted himself with the works of Martin Luther, and became convinced of their theological rectitude, especially in regards to his position on the confessional.

On January 15, 1837, he was ordained as a pastor in the town of Bräunsdorf, Saxony. However, he became increasingly at odds with the government of Saxony, whose interpretation of Lutheranism he saw as a deviation from the original vision of Luther. In November 1838 he joined with another Pastor of similar views, Martin Stephan from Dresden, and left Saxony for the United States, along with 800 other Saxon immigrants, to gain the freedom to practice his religious beliefs. The ship arrived January 5, 1839 in New Orleans, and most of the immigrants (including Walther) settled in the area of St. Louis. Stephan was initially the religious leader (and self-proclaimed bishop) of the new settlement, but he soon became embroiled in charges of corruption and sexual misconduct, and was expelled from the settlement, leaving Walther as the senior clergyman.

During this period there was considerable debate within the settlement over the proper role of the church in the New World: whether it was a new church, or remained within the German Lutheran hierarchy. Walther’s view that they could consider themselves a new church prevailed, and in May 1841 he became Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, a position he held until his death.

On April 26, 1847, the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod was founded. Walther served as its first president, a position he held from 1847 to 1850 and again from 1864 to 1878.

Several years earlier, on September 21, 1841, he had married Emilie Buenger; they would have six children.

During his forty years of involvement in the church, Walther held several positions, including president of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, (founded at Perry County, Missouri in 1838), founder of the St. Louis Lutheran Bible Society (1853), and founder and editor of several periodicals. He also wrote several important books on theology, including The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel.

Walther also vigorously resisted the influence of the major secular philosophies and movements of his day. Concerning Humanism, he wrote:

“It is an irrefutable fact that humanism has not only supplanted Christianity among a large part of the current population, it has also infected Christian theology in its very inner core, has poisoned and weakened it. We define humanism as the belief in a human ideal, a belief that man within himself has the ability to develop into a state of completeness and achieve happiness.” ["Slavery, Humanism and the Bible"]

He died in St. Louis on May 7, 1887, and was buried at Concordia Cemetery, where a mausoleum was later built in his honor.

Walther’s goal was to strive to be faithful to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. He was constantly aware that he was standing on the shoulders of the giants who had come before him. Those who oppose the Lutheran Church and reject its teachings, or are merely curious and interested in understanding it better, will often ask: “Where was the Lutheran Church before Martin Luther?” Here is the answer that C.F.W. Walther provides in his superb essay, “Concerning the Use of the Name Lutheran,” printed in serial form for the first several issues of his newspaper Der Lutheraner, that is, The Lutheran.

So long as there has been an orthodox church on earth, there has also been the Lutheran Church. She is (as strange as that sounds) as old as the world, for she has no other doctrine than the patriarchs, prophets and apostles had received from God and preached. Certainly the name Lutheran first arose 300 years ago, but not what is signified by the name. So as often, therefore, as the question is to put to us: ‘Where was the Lutheran church before Luther?’ it is so easy to answer: She was everywhere that there were Christians, who believed in JESUS Christ and his holy Word from their hearts, and would not let themselves be dissuaded from this faith, which alone saves, by any human institutions or who finally in their tribulation in death still also took their refuge in him.*

Walther’s point is simply that the name “Lutheran” is what we use to distinguish the faith and confession of the one, catholic, apostolic church, from all its other forms in erring churches. In a sense there is no such thing as a “Lutheran Church” but when pressed to make clear what it is that God’s Word teaches and proclaims, we therefore, to distinguish it from other options, refer to it as the Lutheran Church, but it is actually is nothing other than the good, old, faith once delivered to the saints.

* Source: CFW Walther, “Concerning the Name Lutheran” in Der Lutheraner, Sept. 23, 1844, (Vol. I, No. 2), p. 6. Translated by Joel Baseley.

How to Articulate a Christian Worldview in Four Easy Steps

October 24th, 2011 12 comments

 

What do you think of this from Kevin Deyoung? I think it is pretty good and useful. How would you modify or change it?

One God. We worship one, personal, knowable, holy God. There are not two gods or ten gods or ten million gods, only one. He has always been and will always be. He is not a product of our mind or imagination. He really exists and we can know him because he has spoken to us in his word.

Two kinds of being. We are not gods. God is not found in the trees or the wind or in us. He created the universe and cares for all that he has made, but he is distinct from his creation. The story of the world is not about being released from the illusion of our existence or discovering the god within. The story is about God, the people he made, and how the creatures can learn to delight in, trust in, and obey their Creator.

Three persons. The one God exists eternally in three persons. The Father is God. The Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, is God. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father and the Son, is also God. And yet these three—equal in glory, rank, and power—are three persons. The doctrine of the Trinity helps explain how there can be true unity and diversity in our world. It also shows that our God is a relational God.

For us. Something happened in history that changed the world. The Son of God came into the world as a man, perfectly obeyed his Father, fulfilled Israel’s purpose, succeeded where Adam failed, and began the process of reversing the curse. Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world. He rose again from the dead on the third day. By faith in him our sins can be forgiven and we can be assured of living forever with God and one day being raised from the dead like Christ.

Obviously, this doesn’t say everything that needs to be said about the Bible or Christianity. But I find it to be a helpful way to get a handle on some of the most important distinctives of a Christian worldview. Feel free to steal it and use it for yourself. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4.

 

Trinity 18: In Life, and Death, Christ Fulfills God’s Law

October 23rd, 2011 Comments off

We pray:

O God, because without You we are not able to please You, mercifully grant that Your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

We hear God’s Word:

Deuteronomy 10:12-21
1 Corinthians 1:(1-3) 4-9
Matthew 22:34-46

We Meditate on God’s Word

The Pharisees ask a Law question. Jesus asks a Gospel question. The Pharisees seek to test Jesus in His own words. Jesus seeks to “test” them in the saving reality of who He is as the Messiah (Matt. 22:34–46). The Law requires you to “fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul” and to “love the sojouner” (Deut. 10:12–21). Failure to keep the Law perfectly brings judgment. On the other hand, the Gospel brings the grace of God given by Jesus Christ, that you may be blameless in the day of His return (1 Cor. 1:1–9). Jesus is David’s Son yet David’s Lord, true God and true man. He is Love incarnate who fulfilled all the demands of God’s Law on our behalf, that we might be saved from the Law’s condemnation and sanctified in the Gospel’s forgiveness. Thereby we see that “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9).

Luther on Trinity 18

True love to God does not act in this way, but in the heart it thinks and with the lips says: Lord God, I am thy creature; do with me as thou wilt; it matters not to me. I am ever thine, that I know; and if thou desirest, I will die this very hour or suffer any great misfortune; I will cheerfully do so from my heart. I will not regard my life, honor and goods and all I have, higher and greater than thy will, which shall be my pleasure all my days. But you will never find a person who will constantly regulate himself according to this commandment; for the whole life you are living in the body, in the five senses, and whatever you do in your body, should all be so regulated as to be done to the glory of God, according to the regulations of this commandment, which saith, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind.” As if Christ said: If you love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, then nothing will be lacking; you shall experience it in your daily life, namely: when everything you do, whether you wake or sleep, whether you labor or stand idle, whether you eat or drink, is directed and done out of love to God from the heart. In like manner your mind and thoughts will also be directed wholly and entirely to God, so that you will approve of nothing you are not certain is pleasing to God. Yea, where are those who do this?

25. And this part where he says, “With all thy mind, argues powerfully against the writings and teachings of man, upon which he especially depends, and thinks thereby to obtain a merciful God and merit heaven. Such imagination of the human reason draws us in a wonderful manner from this commandment, so that we do not love God with all the mind; as has been done hitherto, and is still done at the present day. For these priests and monks think nothing else than that God is moved by the mass and by other human inventions; but he abhors it and does not desire it, as is said in Isaiah 29, 13: “In vain do they serve me, because they are teaching such doctrines which are only the commandments of men.” ‘Mat. 15, 8-9. The commandment here requires you to consider nothing good that is against God and against everything he has commanded or forbidden. It thus requires, you to give yourself wholly and entirely to him in all your life and conduct.

26. From this you can conclude, there is no human being who is not condemned, inasmuch as no one has kept this commandment, and God wants everyone to keep it. There we stand in the midst of fear and distress, unable to help ourselves, and the first knowledge of the law is, that we see our human nature is unable to keep the law; for it wants the heart, and if it is not done with the heart, it avails nothing before God. You may indeed do the works outwardly, but God is not thus satisfied, when they are not done from the heart, out of love; and this is never done except man is born anew through the Holy Spirit. Therefore God aims to accomplish through the law nothing more than that we should in this way be forced to acknowledge our inability, frailty and disease, and that with our best efforts we are unable to fulfil a letter of the law. When you realize this, the law has accomplished its work. This is what Paul means when he says in Romans 3, 20, “Through the law is the knowledge of sin.”

27. From this it appears clearly that we are all alike, and are one in the inner wickedness of the heart, which the law reveals, when we look into it rightly. Therefore we might well say, If one is good, then all are good. Therefore no one should accuse another. It is indeed true that in public and gross sins there sticks a deeper sin; but the heart is alike bad, unless it be renewed by the Holy Ghost. But what shall I do when I once recognize my sin? What does it profit me? It helps me very much, for when I have come thus far, I am not far from the kingdom; as Christ says to a scribe in Mark 12, 34, who also knew that the works of the law were nothing without love.

28. But what shall we do to get rid of our bad conscience? Here follows now the other part of this Gospel, namely, who Christ is and what we can expect of him. From him we must receive and secure freedom from a wicked conscience, or we shall remain in our sins eternally, because for this purpose is Christ made known and given by the Father, in order that he might deliver us from sin, death, from a wicked conscience, and from the law.

29. We have now heard what the law is, and how through the law we come to the knowledge of sin; but this is not enough, another has a work to do here, whose name is Christ Jesus; although the first, the law, must indeed remain; yea, it is necessary. For if I have no sense of my sins, I will never inquire for Christ; as the Pharisees and scribes do here, who thought they had done everything the law commanded and were ready to do yet more; but of Christ they knew nothing. Therefore, first of all, when the law is known and sin revealed through the law, it is then necessary that we know who Christ is; otherwise the knowledge of sin profits us nothing.

30. But the law is known, when I learn from it that I am condemned, and see that there is neither hope nor comfort anywhere for me, and I cannot even help myself, but must have another one to deliver me. Then it is time that I look around for him who can help, and he is Christ Jesus, who for this purpose became man, and became like unto us, in order that he might help us out of the mire into which we are fallen. He loved God with all his heart and his neighbor as himself, and submitted his will to the will of his Father, fulfilled the law in every respect; this I could not do and yet I was required to do it. Therefore, he accepts him; and that which he fulfilled in the law, he offers me. He freely gives me his life with all his works, so that I can appropriate them to myself as a possession that is my own and is bestowed upon me as a free gift. He delivers us from the law, for when the law says, Love God with all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself, or thou wilt be damned, then I say, I cannot do it. Then Christ says: Come to me, take me and cling to me by faith; then you shall be rid of the law.

31. Now this is accomplished in the following manner: Christ has through his death secured for us the Holy Spirit; and he fulfils the law in us, and not we. For that Spirit, whom God sends into your heart for the sake of his Son, makes an entirely new man out of you, who does with joy and love from the heart everything the law requires, which before would have been impossible for you to do. This new man despises the present life, and desires to die, rejoices in all adversity, and submits himself wholly and entirely to the will of God. Whatever God does with him, is well pleasing to him. This Spirit you cannot merit yourself, but Christ has secured and merited it. When I believe from the heart that Christ did this for me, I receive also the same Holy Spirit that makes me an entirely new man. Then everything God commands is sweet, lovely and agreeable, and I do everything he desires of me; not in my own strength, but by the strength of him that is in me, as Paul says in Philippians, 4, 13: “I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me.”

32. But you must take heed, that you do not undertake to secure this faith in Jesus Christ by your own works or power, or that you think lightly about this matter; for it is impossible for the natural man; but the Holy Spirit must do it. Therefore beware of the preachers of selfrighteousness, who simply blabber and say: We must do good works in order to be saved. But we say that faith alone is sufficient to this end. Our good works are for another purpose, namely, to prove our faith, as you have already frequently heard from me.

Bach Cantata BWV 138: Why Are You Troubled, My Heart?

1. Chor
Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn,
Vaters in Ewigkeit,
Aus seinem Herzn entsprossen,
Gleichwie geschrieben steht,
Er ist der Morgensterne,
Sein’ Glanz steckt er so ferne
Für andern Sternen klar.
(“Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn, verse 1)
1. Chorus
Lord Christ, only Son of God,
of the Father in eternity,
sprung forth out of His heart,
just as it is written,
He is the morning star,
His gaze extends far and wide
and is more brilliant than other stars.
2. Rezitativ A
O Wunderkraft der Liebe,
Wenn Gott an sein Geschöpfe denket,
Wenn sich die Herrlichkeit
Im letzten Teil der Zeit
Zur Erde senket;
O unbegreifliche, geheime Macht!
Es trägt ein auserwählter Leib
Den großen Gottessohn,
Den David schon
Im Geist als seinen Herrn verehrte,
Da dies gebenedeite Weib
In unverletzter Keuschheit bliebe.
O reiche Segenskraft! so sich auf uns ergossen,
Da er den Himmel auf, die Hölle zugeschlossen.
(“Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn, verse 2)
2. Recitative A
O wondrous power of love,
when God considers His creation,
when glory
in the final portion of time
sinks down to earth;
o unfathomable, mysterious power!
A chosen body bears
the great Son of God,
whom David already
honored in spirit as his Lord,
for this blessed woman
remained in unchanged purity.
O rich power of blessing! that is poured forth upon us,
since He has unlocked heaven and padlocked hell.
3. Arie T
Ach, ziehe die Seele mit Seilen der Liebe,
O Jesu, ach zeige dich kräftig in ihr!
Erleuchte sie, daß sie dich gläubig erkenne,
Gib, daß sie mit heiligen Flammen entbrenne,
Ach wirke ein gläubiges Dürsten nach dir!
3. Aria T
Ah, draw my soul with skeins of love,
o Jesus, manifest Yourself powerfully in it!
Illumine it, so that it may perceive You in faith,
grant that it burn with holy flame,
ah, create a thirst for You in faith!
4. Rezitativ S
Ach, führe mich, o Gott, zum rechten Wege,
Mich, der ich unerleuchtet bin,
Der ich nach meines Fleisches Sinn
So oft zu irren pflege;
Jedoch gehst du nur mir zur Seiten,
Willst du mich nur mit deinen Augen leiten,
So gehet meine Bahn
Gewiß zum Himmel an.
4. Recitative S
Ah, lead me, o God, to the right path,
I, who am unenlightened,
who according to the will of my flesh
so often am accustomed to err;
however, if You only walk by my side,
if only You will lead me with Your eyes,
then my course
will certainly run to heaven.
5. Arie B
Bald zur Rechten, bald zur Linken
Lenkte sich mein verirrter Schritt.
Gehe doch, mein Heiland, mit,
Laß mich in Gefahr nicht sinken,
Laß mich ja dein weises Führen
Bis zur Himmelspforte spüren!
5. Aria B
Soon to the right, soon to the left
my erring steps lean.
Yet go with me, my Savior,
do not let me sink into danger,
yes, let Your wise direction
follow the trail up to heaven’s gates!
6. Choral
Ertöt uns durch dein Güte,
Erweck uns durch dein Gnad!
Den alten Menschen kränke,
Daß der neu’ leben mag
Wohl hier auf dieser Erden,
Den Sinn und all Begehrden
Und G’danken hab’n zu dir.
(“Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn, verse 5)
6. Chorale
Kill us through your goodness,
wake us through your grace!
Sicken the old being,
so that the new may live
even here on this earth,
having his mind, all desires,
and thoughts for You.
“Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn,” Elisabeth Kreuziger 1524 (verses 1,2 5 – mov’ts. 1,2,6; source for others)

Exciting New Mission Program – Revolutionary!

October 21st, 2011 11 comments

“By the year 250, Christianity had spread to the limits of the known world. . . . The Church spread rapidly over a wide geographic area, increasing phenomenally in numbers . . . This work was done by ordinary Christians. We know of no missionary societies; we hear nothing of organized effort. Wherever Christians went doing their regular tasks, the pagan saw a different kind of individual and heard about ‘the Savior.’  … When the early Christians themselves recount how they learned of the Gospel, they usually confess that their faith was the result of casual contact with that “way of life.” . . . The work was not done by people who called themselves missionaries but by rank-and-file members. The least among men, even the unknown, are indeed the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

The Church from Age to Age, p. 13. Print edition. Kindle edition.

 

 

The Mystery and Wonder of God’s Creation

October 20th, 2011 1 comment

HT: Justin Taylor

iPhone 4S v. .50 BMG Incendiary Round

October 19th, 2011 3 comments

I have truly mixed feelings about this video….

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