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Archive for July, 2012

Daily Luther: A Christian Only Has One Foot in the Grave.

July 26th, 2012 1 comment

A Christian has already been thrust into death by the very fact that he became a Christian. Wherever he may be, he occupies himself with this hourly. He expects death any moment so long as he sojourns here, because devil, world, and his own flesh give him no rest. However, he enjoys the advantage of already being out of the grave with his right leg. Moreover, he has a mighty helper who holds out His hand to him, namely, His Lord Christ; He has left the grave entirely a long time ago, and now He takes the Christian by the hand and pulls him more than halfway out of the grave; only the left foot remains in it. For his sin is already remitted and expunged, God’s wrath and hell are extinguished, and he already lives fully in and with Christ with regard to his best part, which is the soul, as he partakes of eternal life. Therefore death can no longer hold him or harm him. Only the remnant, the old skin, flesh and blood, must still decay before it, too, can be renewed and follow the soul. As for the rest, we have already penetrated all the way into life, since Christ and my soul are no longer in death.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 28: 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Corinthians 15, Lectures on 1 Timothy, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, 1 Co 15:26–27 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).

The Great Garum Debate

July 25th, 2012 Comments off

If you are into this kind of thing, like I am, you will enjoy this article about the scholarly debate over the question: “Was kosher garum available in Pompei?”

Read this for more details. 

Categories: Archeology

The Festival of James the Elder

July 25th, 2012 Comments off

We Pray

O gracious God, Your servant and apostle James was the first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the name of Jesus Christ. Pour out upon the leaders of Your Church that spirit of self-denying service that they may forsake all false and passing allurements and follow Christ alone, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

About James the Elder

St. James and his brother John, sons of Zebedee and Salome were fishermen in the Sea of Galilee who were called with Peter and his brother Andrew to follow Jesus. In the Gospel lists of Jesus’ disciples, James is listed following Pete rand preceding John. Together, these three appear as leaders of the Twelve. Because James precede3s JUohn, it is reasoned that James is the elder of the brothers. The Bok of Acts recor4ds that James was beheaded by Herod Agrippa I, probably between AD 42 and 44 (Acts 12:1-2). Thus James is the first of the Twelve to die a martyr.

O Lord, for James we praise You, who fell to Herod’s sword; He drank the cup of suffering and thus fulfilled Your word. Lord, curb our vain impatience for glory and for fame, equip us for such sufferings as glorify your name. Amen.

More about James the Elder

(Hebrew Yakob; Septuagint Iakob; N.T. Greek Iakobos; a favourite name among the later Jews).

The son of Zebedee and Salome (Cf. Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40; 16:1). Zahn asserts that Salome was the daughter of a priest. James is styled “the Greater” to distinguish him from the Apostle James “the Less”, who was probably shorter of stature. We know nothing of St. James’s early life. He was the brother of John, the beloved disciple, and probably the elder of the two.

Read more…

Daily Luther: Dead Without Christ, No Boasting Allowed!

July 25th, 2012 Comments off

I cannot boast that my holiness and merits persuaded Christ to reveal Himself to me, to accept me in grace, and to appoint me an apostle. No, I would have remained just such dead, rejected fruit like the others who remained in their Judaism. But if I was to become good fruit and fit for life, I had to be born in Christ through Baptism, being brought to this and reared and trained by the Gospel.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 28: 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Corinthians 15, Lectures on 1 Timothy, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, 1 Co 15:8–11 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).

Lessons from Aurora — Microsoft Word Copy

July 24th, 2012 Comments off

I’ve received quite a number of request for my piece on the Aurora shootings. Here is a copy of the article as it is being published by The LCMS, in WORD format:

McCain Piece on Aurora–Connect

Categories: Uncategorized

$8.88 for 88 Hours! Great Music Sale Going on Now

July 24th, 2012 Comments off

Daily Luther: You Must Wear This Armor!

July 24th, 2012 1 comment

If I am not properly clad in my armor, such thoughts come to me, and I stand in danger of losing Christ and the Gospel. If I am to stand my ground, I must constantly adhere to Scripture. How, then, will a person fare who is without Scripture and proceeds equipped with nothing but reason? For what might I believe regarding this article, which teaches that another life follows the present one, if I were to listen to reason when it comes gushing along with its notions and says: “What becomes of him whom the ravens devour or of him who remains in the water and is eaten by the fish and is completely consumed? Where do the people remain who are burned to ashes, who crumble into dust, who are scattered over the whole earth and vanish? Yes, what becomes of every person who is buried in the ground and is consumed by worms?” I may entertain similar thoughts with regard to all the other articles of faith if I follow my reason, also those which seem very insignificant. I might, for instance, ask concerning the Virgin Mary how it was possible for her to become pregnant without a man, etc. But this is the rule: These articles of faith which we preach are not based on human reason and understanding, but on Scripture; it follows that they must not be sought anywhere but in Scripture or explained otherwise than with Scripture.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 28: 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Corinthians 15, Lectures on 1 Timothy, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, 1 Co 15:3–7 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).

Depraved Indifference: Thoughts on the Aurora Murders

July 23rd, 2012 30 comments

Lessons from Aurora

In the American legal system, there is a phrase used to identify a certain mindset that leads to horrendous crimes.  That phrase is “depraved indifference to human life.”

Here is the way the criminal justice system understands “depraved indifference”:

To constitute depraved indifference, the defendant’s conduct must be so wanton, so deficient in a moral sense of concern, so lacking in regard for the life or lives of others, and so blameworthy as to warrant the same criminal liability as that which the law imposes upon a person who intentionally causes a crime.  Depraved indifference focuses on the risk created by the defendant’s conduct, not the injuries actually resulting.  The other term used for depraved indifference is “depraved heart.”

Think about this for a moment with me.  Even if a person does not actually commit a physical crime, he can be guilty of it owing to “depraved indifference” as a person who has a “depraved heart.”

As I reflect on the Aurora, Colo., massacre, that phrase keeps repeating itself in my mind.  What led an otherwise apparently smart and successful young man to stockpile thousands of rounds of ammunition for a variety of weapons, rig his apartment to explode in a fireball, and then enter a theater and kill and wound so many?  Depraved indifference to human life, that’s what.  We will hear raging debates about gun control and “if only” there had been the right rule, or regulation, or control in place, this would not have happened.  And to that I simply say, “Maybe, maybe not, but I highly doubt it.”*  Why?  Because the issue here is the young man’s depraved indifference to human life.  The acting out on that impulse was where the crime originated.

As people reel in horror and shock from this incident, everyone wants to try to put his finger precisely on what caused this young man to “go crazy.”  Surely, he must be crazy.  He has to be out of his mind.  He is suffering from mental illness.  He is not normal.  He is not like you and me.  No, he is something other than we are.  That explains it, doesn’t it?  Or does it?  Viewed from God’s point of view, which is, in the end, the only view that truly matters, it is not quite that easy.  After all, the Bible tells us that we are all born dead, not alive. We are dead in our trespasses and sin (Col. 2:13).  We come into this world as enemies of God and hostile toward God and everything He stands for (Romans 8:7).  We come into this world not merely with depraved indifference toward God, and with a depraved heart, but with active hostility to God’s perfect will for us and for His creation.  There is not a “spark” of goodness in us as we are born.  We are evil, continually, from our youth, as we learn from Genesis 6:5.  People are not “naturally good” … no, we are all natural born killers.  Shocking?  Yes, it is.  We all suffer, in various degrees, from “depraved indifference to human life.”

That indifference took on a spectacularly horrifying form in the movie theater shooting, but there is in each one of us a little “killer” just waiting to get out.  And he gets out in thoughts, words and deeds.  He gets out and does harm to our loved ones, friends and neighbors when we think the cruel thought; speak the hurtful word; fail to speak well of and defend our neighbor; and fall short of supporting and defending our neighbor, helping him to protect and improve his property, business, good reputation, or life.  Keep in mind we live in a nation where tens of thousands of people are murdered, legally and with impunity, before they even have a chance to see the light of day as newborns.  Yes, that Old Adam, as we call our fallen nature, is a natural born killer.  Depraved indifference?  You bet.  It takes different forms and shapes and is expressed in a variety of ways in our life, but depraved indifference it is, in one way or the other.

Which then makes it all the more remarkable that God actually sent His Son into the very same human flesh which suffers from this horrible condition (John 1:14).  The One who never had, and never will, commit any sin, was sent among sinful men and women to live the lives they cannot live, to provide the sacrifice for sin they could never provide, and He did it all for the sake of Love.  God is love.  God is light.  God is the holy One.  God is merciful.  God is the life-creator and the life-giver and the life-restorer.  Christ Jesus came among us and was born under the Law, to redeem us from the condemnation of the Law (Gal 4:4).

God is passionately concerned for the salvation of each one of us.  He is the complete opposite of “depraved indifference” when it comes to His Creation.  While we cannot ultimately, to our own satisfaction, explain precisely why the world is a place where horrible things happen, we can at least recognize that within each of us we see signs of depraved indifference to our neighbor’s needs and suffering.

We are led to repent of our sin, of our depraved indifference, and turn in great sorrow to the God of all comfort and seek the mercy He so freely gives.  As our society struggles to come to terms with yet another gross outburst of sin, let’s not be caught up in the thinking that would have us isolate this young man and simply regard him as a freak, an oddity, somebody less than human.  In fact, he is fully human and simply gave expression to the sinful nature each of us struggles with every day of our lives.  Do you remember the answer Jesus gave when people were trying to get an explanation for a manmade tragedy, a tower falling on people and killing them, and why innocent people were killed by soldiers? (Luke 13:3).  Jesus said simply, “Unless you repent, you likewise will perish.”  Not exactly the kind of explanation we would want, but…the only one we receive, the only one we need to hear, and the only one we must act on, today. Repent.

This event should drive each of us to our knees in repentant prayer and pleading to God for His mercy.  We pray for all those suffering from this seemingly “senseless” act of depraved indifference.  We pray for God’s peace and comfort for all concerned, and that He would use this occasion as an opportunity to turn hearts to Him.  We pray that God would use this incident to humble us all once more and help us to see how we are indeed poor, miserable sinners, and then once more turn to the Cross where the Lord of Glory died, apparently a senseless, tragic, violent death, in a manner that was an expression of depraved indifference to His holy, innocent life.

For it is there, on the Cross, that the blood that cleanses you from all your sin was shed, and three days later, the Lord rose in victory, shattering the shackles of sin, death and hell which grip you tightly.  Christ is your Savior.  Christ is your Redeemer.  Cling alone to Him, for He has taken firm hold of you.  You were buried with Christ, by baptism, into death in order that, just as Jesus was raised from the death, through the glory of His Father, so you have a new life, now, and for eternity to come (Romans 6:1-2).  You now live in the confident hope that Christ alone gives, and you reach out in love and service to all whom the Lord puts in your lives. May God grant it, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

 

Rev. Paul T. McCain

Publisher

Concordia Publishing House

 

*Please see remarks on gun control in the comment following the article. I did not want to allow that issue to overshadow the point of my editorial.

Daily Luther: Look Nowhere Else But to the Scriptures!

July 23rd, 2012 Comments off

There is no other enduring way of preserving our doctrine and our faith than the physical or written Word, poured into letters and preached orally; for here we find it stated clearly: “Scripture! Scripture!” But Scripture is not all spirit, about which they drivel, saying that the Spirit alone must do it and that Scripture is a dead letter which cannot impart life. But the fact of the matter is that, although the letter by itself does not impart life, yet it must be present, and it must be heard or received. And the Holy Spirit must work through this in the heart, and the heart must be preserved in the faith through and in the Word against the devil and every trial. Otherwise, where this is surrendered, Christ and the Spirit will soon be lost. Therefore do not boast so much of the Spirit if you do not have the revealed external Word; for this is surely not a good spirit but the vile devil from hell. The Holy Spirit, as you know, has deposited His wisdom and counsel and all mysteries into the Word and revealed these in Scripture, so that no one can excuse himself. Nor must anyone seek or search for something else or learn or acquire something better or more sublime than what Scripture teaches of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, our Savior, who died and rose for us.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 28: 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Corinthians 15, Lectures on 1 Timothy, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, 1 Co 15:3–7 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).

Shotgun Shooting Fun … the Benelli M4 in Action

July 22nd, 2012 Comments off

Categories: Shooting Sports

Daily Luther: How to Fight the Daily Battle of Faith

July 22nd, 2012 1 comment

Although I feel my sin and cannot have as confident and cheerful a heart as I should like, still I must permit the Word to have sway and say accordingly: “I am lord over sin, and I don’t want to know of any sin.” “Indeed,” you will say, “let your own conscience say that; it feels and experiences something far different.” That is surely true; if things followed the rule of feeling, I would surely be lost. But the Word must be valid over and beyond all of the world’s feeling and mine. It must remain true no matter how insignificant it may appear and how feebly it may be believed by me; for we all see and experience the fact that sin condemns us straightway and consigns us to hell, that death consumes us and all the world, and that no one can escape it. And you venture to speak to me of life and of righteousness, of which I cannot behold as much as a small spark! To be sure, that must be but a feeble life. Yes, indeed, but a feeble life by reason of our faith. But no matter how feeble it is, as long as the Word and a small spark of faith remain in the heart, it shall develop into a fire of life which fills heaven and earth and quenches both death and every other misfortune like a little drop of water. And the feeble faith shall tear these asunder so that neither death nor sin will be seen or felt any longer. However, to adhere to faith in the face of seeing and feeling calls for an arduous battle.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 28: 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Corinthians 15, Lectures on 1 Timothy, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, 1 Co 15:1–2 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).

Daily Luther: How to Know the Mighty Power of God

July 21st, 2012 Comments off

We must learn to know the power and might of God in this same Word, namely, that we are saved thereby and solely by it resist the devil’s power and all errors. For to believe firmly that I am a Christian, a child of God, and that I am saved, when I feel sin and a bad conscience; to believe that I will live eternally, endowed with a beautiful, glorious body, although I lie under the sod—that requires a divine and heavenly power and a wisdom which is not governed by any feeling or perceiving, but which can look beyond that, convinced that this is not human prattle or phantasy but that it is the Word of God, “who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 28: 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Corinthians 15, Lectures on 1 Timothy, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, 1 Co 15:1–2 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).

Encouragement for Discouraged Pastors: The Example of Elijah

July 20th, 2012 10 comments

114971-004-14DF7164Over the weekend a friend noted he is observing the anniversary of his ordination and said that he wishes he felt just as optimistic and idealistic as he did on the day he was ordained. I offered a couple of platitudes and words of encouragement, but felt I didn’t do the situation justice. I know I did not. Then today in the Treasury of Daily Prayer I noted that we are commemorating the prophet Elijah. And I immediately thought of my friend, who, like many pastors—no make that, most—no, scratch that—make that all pastors—feels discouraged, pessimistic, cynical and disheartened, from time to time. Pastors, you know what I’m talking about. But not only pastors, all Christians feel these things.

If anyone tells a pastor that he will simply always be the model of optimism, never down-in-the-dumps, and never feeling worn out, exhausted, and as if the whole world is against him, well, they obviously have never met our friend, Elijah. Here was a man who had a direct and personal encounter with the living God, receiving more personal attention from God, in a miraculous manner, than most any human being, before or since. He was a great worker of miracles. Surely, with such a calling, such an “ordination,” if you will, Elijah would never after be discouraged, disheartened or cast down in spirit. But, of course, he was.

Here was a man who was now in fear for his life, chased after by a wicked queen whom he had disrespected with his preaching. [God's Word has a way of doing that, you know, no matter how kindly we speak it]. He went up against angry prophets of Baal. He was stuck in the wilderness. He was on the point of starvation. So discouraged was Elijah that he basically said, “Lord, I give up. I’ve had it. There is no more point in going on. Nobody listens to me. Nobody listens to you. There are no more people left worth preaching to. Lord, just let me die. Please. Let me die.” Then Elijah gets angry, “Listen, Lord, I’ve done everything you’ve told me to do. I keep preaching to these ungrateful, unfaithful people. They don’t change. I’m sick and tired of them. I’m sick and tired of the mission and the ministry you’ve given me. What more do you want me to do? They don’t listen to me. They don’t listen to you. I’ve had it Lord!”

And it was at this very moment that Lord revealed Himself again to Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-12), through the still small voice which assured Elijah of several realities: (1) The Lord is in charge, not Elijah; (2) There are faithful men and women left; (3) Elijah’s job is not to “fix” everything, but to keep on being faithful to his calling: teach, preach and never give up! The Lord speaks to Elijah and comforts him. And he does the same for us all in the still small voice that we hear today when we receive the Word of Christ in the Gospel. It is not going to split mountains, we won’t be comforted that way. It’s not going to come in an “earthquake” experience. No, the Lord’s still small voice comes to us today, as it came to Elijah, assuring and comforting, strengthening and equipping. “Listen, Pastor, the ministry is mine, not your’s. I’ve given you a part of it, for a while. I’ve called you to this task. It is my Word you are preaching and teaching and speaking. You teach. You preach. You encourage. Then, leave results in my hand. You know what I’ve already told you in my Word. It never returns to me without having accomplished the task for which I have sent it, through you.”

I love the line where the Lord finds Elijah hiding out in the cave and says, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:13). Is perhaps the Lord asking you the same question? “What are you doing here?” Consider this. What are you doing focused on the negatives in your life? What are you doing fearful and trembling in a cave of your own choosing, perhaps your own making? The Lord let Elijah have a time out and then sent put Elijah back on his feet and sent him back out, assuring Elijah of his faithfulness and mercy. And the Lord does the same for you. He speaks to you still in the still small voice of the good news of Christ: “Remember, I’ve called you. I’ve put my name on you in Baptism. I’ve forgiven all your sins. Every single one. Even those you are ashamed to speak aloud. I know them. I forgive them.” The Lord feeds us, not with ravens, but with the feeding by which we receive the Bread of Life, the very same body and blood given and shed on the cross, is put into our mouths by our Lord. Good words put into our ears. Good water splashed on us. Good food given.

This message applies, of course, to all Christians when they face struggles and difficulties in life. But those who are not pastors, who are reading this, would you please make it a point of offering a word of encouragement to your pastor? Send him a hand written note. Tell him what his ministry means to you and your family. Assure your pastor you are praying for him, and then actually do it: pray for him. The Lord will use you to offer encouragement to your pastor.

Survey Says 1 in 5 Americans Admit to No Religious Affiliation

July 20th, 2012 1 comment

A recent survey indicates that those who are willing to admit they have no religious affiliation is at the highest level ever recorded: 19%. You’ll notice how carefully I worded that. If we were to add to that number people who are unwilling to admit it, and then add to the number people who say they have some sort of religious affiliation but never attend church, or only rarely attend, that percentage would go much, much higher. I suspect it would be around 65-70%.

Here is a link to the whole story, and to the survey.

Categories: Culture, Current Affairs

Commemoration of the Prophet Elijah

July 20th, 2012 Comments off

We pray:

Lord God, heavenly Father, through the prophet Elijah, You continued the prophetic pattern of teaching Your people the true faith and demonstrating through miracles your presence in creation to heal it is its brokenness. Grant that Your Church may see in Your Son, our Lord Christ, the final end-times prophet whose teaching and miracles continue in Your Church, through the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

The prophet Elijah, whose name means, “My God is Yahweh [the Lord],” prophesied in the northern kingdom of Israel, mostly during the reign of Ahab (874–853 B.C.).

Ahab, under the influence of his pagan wife Jezebel, had encouraged the worship of Baal throughout his kingdom, even as Jezebel sought to get rid of the worship of Yahweh. Elijah was called by God to denounce this idolatry and to call the people of Israel back to the worship Yahweh as the only true God (as he did in 1 Kings 18:20-40).

Elijah was a rugged and imposing figure, living in the wilderness and dressing in a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt (2 Kings 1:8). He was a prophet mighty in word and deed. Many miracles were done through Elijah, including the raising of the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24), and the effecting of a long drought in Israel (1 Kings 17:1).

At the end of his ministry, he was taken up into heaven as Elisha, his successor, looked on (2 Kings 2:11). Later on the prophet Malachi proclaimed that Elijah would return before the coming of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5-6), a prophecy that was fulfilled in the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist (Matthew 11:14).

Source.