When there’s something strange in your neighborhood…if there’s something weird and it don’t look good…
God has always followed this custom of giving a visible sign, a person, place, or spot, where He could certainly be found. For if we are not bound and held by a physical, external sign, every one of us will seek God wherever he pleases. For this reason the holy Prophets wrote much of the Tabernacle, the dwelling place and tent where He willed to be present. Thus God has always done. In a like manner He has built us Christians a temple where He would dwell, namely, the spoken Word, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, which also are perceptible things. But our false prophets, factious spirits, and ‘enthusiasts’ despise it and cast it aside, as though it were worthless, and say: Truly, I will sit and wait until a flying Spirit and revelation comes to me from heaven. But beware of that! Of course, we know well that water, bread, and wine do not save us. But what do you say to this, that in the Lord’s Supper there is not mere bread and wine, and so in Baptism not just simple water, but God promises that He will be in Baptism and it shall cleanse and wash us of our sins? And in the Lord’s Supper the body and blood of the Lord Christ is given us under the bread and wine. Will you here willfully despise God and His sign and view and regard the water in Baptism like water flowing in the Elbe or you cook with? Will you regard the Word of the Gospel as on a level with the word or remarks of peasants at a fair or in taverns? God has said: When the Word of Christ is preached, I am in your mouth, and I go with the Word through your ears into your heart. So, then, we have a sure sign and know that when the Gospel is preached, God is present, there He would be found by us; at that place, then, I have a perceptible sign by which I can perceive God’s presence and find Him. And so He also is in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, for He has bound Himself to be there. If I, however, go on a pilgrimage to St. James or to Grimmetal, enter a cloister, or seek God at other places, I shall not find Him. When now those factious spirits preach on this wise: Just as monasticism, invocation of saints, masses, and pilgrimages are nothing, so, too, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are nothing, that does not fit together by a long shot. For there is a big difference, whether God appoints and institutes something or men institute it. Truly, you should believe God’s ordinances and institutions, hold them sacred and highly regard them. In like manner He gave Moses commandment: Bring them into the Land, that is, appoint and designate a certain place, so that whoever cannot in person worship Me there, at least turn his body toward it and face in that direction and pray. Thus I also have God at a certain place, namely, here in the Word and Sacraments, so that though one be at Rome, or wherever he may be, if he turns his face toward Word and Sacrament and worships, he there finds our Lord God; and though it were in a straw that He willed to be found, there we should then seek and honor Him.” (St. L. III: 924 f.)
OK, this is really, really cool stuff and gives you a great sense of just how large and impressive ancient Rome was. Check this web site out.
God will not have us rely on anything else, or trust with our heart in anything that is not Christ in His Word, no matter how sacred and full of Spirit it may be. Faith has no other foundation on which it can endure …. We must seek Christ in that which is the Father’s, that is, we must simply and solely cleave to the Word of the Gospel, which shows and reveals Christ aright to us. If you would effectively comfort others and yourself, then learn in this and other spiritual temptations to say with Christ: Why are you running to and fro, tormenting yourself with fearful and distressed thoughts, as though God had no more grace for you and as though Christ were not to be found, and refuse to be satisfied unless you find Him in yourself and feel holy and without sin? That will get you nowhere; it is all toil and labor lost. Don’t you know that Christ is minded to be present and to be found nowhere but in that which is His Father’s and not in that which you or all men are or have? The fault does not lie with Christ and His grace; He indeed is and remains unlost and can always be found; the fault lies in you, that you do not seek Him right, namely, where He is to be sought, because you are judging according to your feelings and expect to seize Him with your thoughts. But you must come here, where there is neither yours nor any man’s, but God’s business and rule, namely, where His Word is. There you will meet Him and hear and see neither wrath nor displeasure, as you fear, but only grace and cordial love toward you. … But it means a struggle for the heart to get there and take hold of this; first it must crash and experience that all our notions of seeking Christ are futile and in vain and that in the end there is no other choice than to turn away from oneself and all other human consolation and trust only in His Word.” (St. L. XI:452 ff.)
Found this great blog post over at Intrepid Lutherans, by Pastor Spencer, passing it along here.
While such efforts are understandable, and certainly permissible in our system of government, it begs the question of whether or not the State should be in the business of regulating marriage in the first place, and if it should, to what extent it is empowered by God to do so.
You must be sober and vigilant in order that the body may become fit but thereby the devil is not yet vanquished; more than the outward training of the body against sin is needed. The real sword is this, that you are strong and firm in the faith. If with your heart you take hold of the Word of God and cling to it in faith, the devil cannot win, but must flee. If you can say: ‘This my God hath said; on this I take my stand,’ you will see that he slinks away, and with him will depart the sluggishness, the evil desires, anger, miserliness, melancholy, and doubt. But the devil is sly; he will not have you put your trust in the Word and reaches out to wrest it out of your hand; if he can make you lazy, so that your body becomes unfit and filled with knavish desires, he will soon wrest the sword out of your hand. He thus had his way with Eve; she had God’s Word, and if she had clung to it, she would not have fallen. But when the devil saw that she held the Word so loosely, he tore it out of her heart, so that she let go of it; and thus he had won. (2 Cor. 11:3; Gen. 3:4, 13.) Thus St. Peter has sufficiently instructed us how we are to fight the devil. Running to and fro will not do, nor any work that you might perform; what is needed is that you cling to the Word by faith. When he comes and would drive you into despondency because of your sin, just take hold of the Word of God which promises forgiveness of sins and take that to heart, then he will soon have to leave off.” (St. L. IX:1108, on 1 Pet. 5:9.)
Examples like this are recounted to us for the purpose of teaching and consolation, and for the strengthening of our faith, in order that we may consider the immeasurable mercy of God, who has saved not only the righteous—namely, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—but also the unrighteous—namely, Judah, Tamar, Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, who were outstanding sinners. Consequently, no one should be presumptuous about his own righteousness or wisdom, and no one should despair on account of his sins.Therefore in the Holy Scriptures the most beautiful examples of the fathers—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—are celebrated. These men were lights, so to speak, of the whole world and of the church of God. They were like stars, the sun, the dawn; they were perfect in faith, hope, and love. But at the same time outstanding and horrible sinners are described. They were as evil and foul as the former were righteous. Reuben’s wickedness toward his father is just as great in its way as Abraham’s righteousness is great in its way. In this way the righteousness of the foremost saints and the sin of the most evil men are set before us, who have come from one strain and from the same blood. This is the preaching of repentance and faith or of the forgiveness of sins, lest anyone be presumptuous because of his own righteousness and lest those who have fallen despair. For the errors of Judah and also of the other fathers, yes, their enormous failings, are related. And in this manner souls disturbed because of the consciousness of sin must be buoyed up: “Do not despair, for God orders you to have confidence and to believe His promise; and He can also justify, sanctify, and save you, just as He has saved others. He is the same God who humbles the proud and exalts the humble (cf. Luke 1:52). But He does not want us to rely on our own righteousness or to despair in our sins; He wants us to trust in His mercy.” Accordingly, the church of God has great need of these examples. For what would become of us? What hope would be left for us if Peter had not denied Christ and all the apostles had not taken offense at Him, and if Moses, Aaron, and David had not fallen? Therefore God wanted to console sinners with these examples and to say: “If you have fallen, return; for the door of mercy is open to you. You, who are conscious of no sin, do not be presumptuous; but both of you should trust in My grace and mercy.
Martin Luther, vol. 7, Luther’s Works, Vol. 7 : Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 38-44, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works, Ge 38:5 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).
I’ve always had a keen fascination with World War II due to the fact that I had relatives fighting on both sides: American and German. My uncle was a combat medic who had his leg blown off during the Battle of the Bulge and my Grandfather’s brother flew in the Luftwaffe. As part of my interest, one of my hobbies is collecting period military firearms. The US Army did a series of training films on the “rifle that won the war” the M1 Garand. I collected the videos available and worked on enhancing the video and audio quality as best I can. Here’s the YouTube playlist where you can watch them all:
You must be sober and vigilant in order that the body may become fit but thereby the devil is not yet vanquished; more than the outward training of the body against sin is needed. The real sword is this, that you are strong and firm in the faith. If with your heart you take hold of the Word of God and cling to it in faith, the devil cannot win, but must flee. If you can say: ‘This my God hath said; on this I take my stand,’ you will see that he slinks away, and with him will depart the sluggishness, the evil desires, anger, miserliness, melancholy, and doubt. But the devil is sly; he will not have you put your trust in the Word and reaches out to wrest it out of your hand; if he can make you lazy, so that your body becomes unfit and filled with knavish desires, he will soon wrest the sword out of your hand. He thus had his way with Eve; she had God’s Word, and if she had clung to it, she would not have fallen. But when the devil saw that she held the Word so loosely, he tore it out of her heart, so that she let go of it; and thus he had won. (2 Cor. 11:3; Gen. 3:4, 13.) Thus St. Peter has sufficiently instructed us how we are to fight the devil. Running to and fro will not do, nor any work that you might perform; what is needed is that you cling to the Word by faith. When he comes and would drive you into despondency because of your sin, just take hold of the Word of God which promises forgiveness of sins and take that to heart, then he will soon have to leave off. (St. L. IX:1108, on 1 Pet. 5:9.)
“Faith is a divine work in us that changes us and regenerates us of God (John 1:13) and puts to death the old Adam and makes us entirely different men in heart, spirit, mind, and all powers and brings with it the Holy Ghost. Oh, it is a living, busy, active, powerful thing that we have in faith so that it is impossible for it not to do good without ceasing. Nor does it ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has wrought them and is always engaged in doing them …. Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain that a man would die a thousand times for it. And this trust and knowledge of divine grace renders joyful, fearless, and cheerful towards God and all creatures, which [joy or cheerfulness] the Holy Ghost works through faith. And on account of this, man becomes ready and cheerful, without coercion, to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, and to suffer everything for love and praise to God, who has conferred this grace on him, so that it is impossible to separate works from faith, yea, just as impossible as it is for heat and light to be separated from fire.” (St. L. XIV:99 f. Trigl. 941, F. C., Sol. Decl., IV, 10 ff.)
I ask all those who are not in the office of parish pastor to read this. Pause. Read it again and then, if you are so inclined, to get down on your knees before your Almighty God and ask Him to bless and keep your pastor faithful. HT: Musings of a Country Preacher blog for this excellent post.
Among the many issues that I have heard our Synod President address, the lack of good preaching hits closest to home for many pastors. At least, it does for me. Despite years of preaching, I find that I am only beginning to understand the challenges a preacher faces. It will take many more lifetimes to find the solution to those challenges.
Pastor Harrison’s comment, however, reveals a challenge and burden that goes an entirely different direction, but is worth examining. His complaint is that too often, pastors preach a generic law. A symptom of this, he says, is the constant talk of we: “We sin,” “We need forgiveness, etc.” Instead, he says, the pastor is to speak the Word of God to the people. That is: “You sin,” “you need forgiveness,” etc. An excellent point, to be sure. This brings me to the burden of the Holy Ministry. Pastors speak the Word of God to their people. When they are doing it right, they are bringing both the law and Gospel to them. That is, “You are a sinner. God forgives you.”
But even more than just saying, “God forgives you”, the pastor stands in Christ’s stead and says, ‘’I forgive you.” He does this in Holy Absolution to be sure, but he also does it in his preaching. He does it as he administers the sacrament. It is what the pastor does. But what is missing from this is the “For me.” The pastor can not continually give forgiveness, without at some point receiving it. Or, put another way, the pastor has no pastor. Pastors are somewhat on their own. In the average parish, the pastor serves alone at altar and pulpit. Monthly pastor’s conferences are not the same thing. There is no “Here is my pastor” for the pastor. It is the burden of the office.
This is not intended as a complaint. Just as observation. How do pastors deal with this? In this age of easily printed books and electronic gadgetry, there are any number of devotional works a pastor can use to help himself. There are apps for that. There are all sorts of things. I read a great deal. I study and write. I make sure the sermons apply to me too. And yet…
If I were giving advice to a young pastor, fresh out of the seminary, it would be this: Find a Father Confessor. We can debate endlessly about whether pastors should go to their circuit visitor or district president for confession, or whether they should find someone else. But do whatever it takes to find someone to whom you can confess and from whom you can receive the absolution. You need it. You need to be told that your sins are damnable, and that you are forgiven those very sins. And you need to hear it from a mouth not your own. Not a rotation of pastors who serve as preacher at pastor’s conferences. You need to hear from A mouth. Someone who knows your sin, and forgives you anyway, just as you do for your people. (Do not pick your best friend. The relationship between pastor and penitent is different. As a penitent, it will change your relationship to your friend.) Find someone and do it.
It is the best defense (next to the Lord’s Prayer) against the attacks of Satan.
Oh, yes, and pray the Lord’s Prayer, as well. Pray it often.
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The Ascension of Jesus Christ a Sure Foundation of Our Faith
C. F. W. Walther
(Translated by Rev. Donald E. Heck)
Oh Jesus, how glorious is your name in all the earth! For our redemption you not only descended into the lowest places of the earth, but also ascended with divine majesty over the heaven of heavens. As you did not come into this world poor and miserable for your sake, so you also did not leave it in glory and honor for your sake; as you did not struggle for yourself, so you were also not victorious for yourself but for us whose sins you bore and whose righteousness you became.
That is why you still make known your great deeds to men; that is why you have again today given us the great grace of being able to gather and hear of your victory.
Gracious, universal, and glorious Savior, let not today’s preaching of your glory be in vain. Let everyone know that he shares in your being received into heaven and seated at the right hand of the Father.
Oh Lord Jesus, all of us are already victorious with you because you are our head and the Lord of our salvation. Drive away our unbelief which supposes that your ascension does not concern us. Give us that faith, which says not only when you hung on the cross but also how that you sit on your throne. You are mine! Hear us, King of heaven and King of sinners for your own sake. Amen.
In the Ascended Christ, dear hearers.
We are gathered here before God to commemorate a great, precious, and glorious fact. Today we celebrate the coronation of our King of grace, Jesus Christ. I mean the festival of the glorious ascension.
It would be reasonable that today everyone who knows that he is baptized into this great Lord and Savior should joyfully enter and leave the house of the Lord. Yes, it should be reasonable, because we find the believers of the Old Covenant happily praising God when they merely foresaw this day in the spirit. David cries out, “O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph. God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises unto our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing ye praises with understanding. God reigneth over the heathen; God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness.” (Psalm 47:1,5-8). The author of the 68th Psalm also rejoices and says, “The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels; the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place. Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive; thou hast received gifts for men, yes, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them. Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah. He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto God the Lord belong the issues from death. Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth; O sing praises unto the Lord; Selah; to him that rideth upon the heavens of heavens. Ascribe ye strength unto God; his excellency is over Israel and his strength is in the clouds. Blessed be God.” (Psalm 68:17-20,32,33a,34,35c).
The papists and Anabaptists teach: If you wish to know Christ, try to be alone, don’t associate with men, become a separatist. This is plainly diabolical advice which is in conflict with the first and second table [of the Decalogue]. The first table requires faith and fear [of God]. According to the second commandment, this is to be preached and publicly praised before men and is to be discussed among men. One must not flee into a corner. So the second table teaches that one must do good to one’s neighbor. We ought not isolate ourselves but enter into companionship with our neighbor. Likewise it [this notion] is in conflict with marriage, economic life, and political existence and is contrary to the life of Christ, who didn’t choose solitude. Christ’s life was very turbulent, for people were always moving about him. He was never alone, except when he prayed. Away with those who say, ‘Be glad to be alone and your heart will be pure’.
Luther’s Works, Table Talks, 54:140-141
A couple of years ago, Dr. Norman Nagel was being interviewed by Issues, Etc. on the Ascension of Our Lord. As many of you may know, Dr. Nagel, a beloved Lutheran seminary professor, suffered a stroke some time ago. It certainly has not affected his wonderful ability to so beautiful explain and proclaim the Gospel of our Lord. I urge you to listen to Dr. Nagel’s interview.