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Archive for November, 2016

The Word of God Must Have Free Course – How Is It Bound?

justified“According to Luther, the justification of a sinner before God for Christ’s sake is not only the principal doctrine of Christianity, but also the very essence of it. Furthermore, it is really the essence of the gospel itself and of all Christian faith, the Leitmotiv of the Christian life and the reason for all that exists. It is the only doctrine or message which can offer a poor sinner hope, salvation, and life and fellowship with God.”  That is what Robert Preus said and he was the preeminent scholar of Justification.

God sent Jesus to save sinners.  Recognizing our sin is vital.  We bind the word when we get wishy washy with the Law.  We really do act sometimes as if they are the 10 suggestions and we tend to use them more as guides, than as what they are – messengers of a hangman.  Without getting into the arguments about the uses of the Law, the primary task of the Law is to kill us.  We have to die before we can rise to new life in Christ.

In a world where there is no such thing as sin except calling someone a sinner, we can get to a point where we shy away from the Law in its severity and the Gospel is bound.  If Christ came to die for sinners and there is no sin the entire operation of  preaching is pointless.

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The Bound Word

bound-word

Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, unto Thy Church Thy Holy Spirit and the wisdom which cometh down from above, that Thy Word, as becomes it, may not be bound, but have free course and be preached to the joy and edifying of Christ’s holy people, that in steadfast faith we may serve Thee and in the confession of Thy name abide unto the end; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.  Amen.

There is something called serendipity.  It is that thing that happens when you hear a word you have never heard before in your life and then you hear several more times in a day.  It is thinking of someone you haven’t heard from for a a while and they call you “out of the blue”.

The Collect for the Church is also listed as one of the prayers for the 1st Sunday in Advent, the first Sunday of a New Church year.  Yesterday as we prayed it in church it struck me once again as an interesting prayer.  Today in some of the reading that I had set aside I found several old articles in which preachres talk about the way the word can be “bound”.

The prayer alludes to 2 Timothy 2 – 8Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David, as proclaimed by my gospel, 9for which I suffer to the extent of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained! 10For this reason I endure all things for the sake of the elect, so that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.…

If the Word of God cannot be bound or chained why do we pray that it won’t be bound or chained among us?  There are some interesting answers and questions we will think about because the answers impact mercy and mission.

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Sola Gratia – Grace Alone

sola-gratiaThe Augsburg Confession, one of the Lutheran confessions that mark what we believe, teach, and confess speak of grace as a state into which men are received because of Christ’s merits. Article V:4: ” . . . that God, not for our own
merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake.” Article XX: 9: “First, that our works cannot reconcile God or merit forgiveness of sins, grace, and justification, but that we obtain this only by faith, when we believc that we are received into favor for Christ’s sake, who alone has been set forth the Mediator and Propitiation . . . .” The Augsburg Confession speaks of “grace” as something obtained for Christ’s sake. Article XXVIII : 5 2 : “It is necessary that the chief article of thc Gospel be preserved, to wit, that we obtain grace freely by faith in Christ. and not for certain observances or acts of worship devised by men.”

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Faith Alone – What Does This Mean?

sola-fide-2I always get a bit nervous when someone has a major issue such as an illness and someone says “well they have a strong faith”.  I am not sure what that means but I fear it means that they have faith in their faith.  If that is true then there is a problem. There are folks all over the Bible that talk about faith in interesting terms.  One fellow says “Lord I believe, help my unbelief”, and the disciples themselves ask for an increase in faith.  For Luther faith alone means that we trust in God’s Word alone and not our ability to trust.

Here is an interesting perspective of what Sola Fide means from a non Lutheran.

“Luther’s sola fide does not mean that we rely on faith alone, but rather that we rely on the word of God alone. For that is what faith does: it relies on the truth of the word, not on itself. This contrast between faith looking at the truth and faith looking at itself is crucial to the very nature and logic of faith. Faith is the heart taking hold of the truth, not the heart taking hold of its faith. This  is true of every kind of belief. If I want to find out whether I believe that it is snowing
outside, I do not go looking into my heart to find out whether I truly believe this. I try to find out whether it is true that it is snowing outside; once I have found that out, I have then settled the question of whether I believe it. Likewise, once
I have realized that God was not lying to me when he baptized me, then I know enough about whether I believe.
that truth, the truth of my Baptism, when Christ who does not lie made a promise to me in particular.”  Phillip Carey, CTQ Vol 71:3/4, July/October 2007

The Sola Fide statement then is a statement about the truth of Christ’s word not the power of my faith.  Faith clings to the word of God, not to itself.  True faith is able to confess its own unbelief.  That is the great Christian divide.  Many folks have to spend a great deal of time thinking about what they believe and how strongly they believe it.  Lutherans clamp down on Christ and His word in Scripture.  He says that He loves us and has saved us and we believe it even if our own hearts condemn us.  It is God who justifies, who can condemn?  As Paul says “let God be God and every man a liar”.  So in sickness and health and trials and problems of conscience we do not trust in our faith whether it is strong or not but in the words of Christ, “I will never leave you or forsake you”.

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Reformation Sola’s – Sola Fide (faith alone)

sola-fide

There are three principles that came out of the Lutheran Reformation that Lutheran Christians hold dear.  They are Scripture alone, Grace Alone and Faith alone.  We trust in Scripture alone as our only source of doctrine and life.  We are saved by God’s grace alone and we receive it by faith alone.

Sola Fide, or Faith alone is a big deal for the following reasons.

“This doctrine confirms and maintains the Christian in humility and repentance, attributes to Christ’s work the power to save, grants to the penitent sinner assurance of salvation, is the sole source of his sanctification, enables him to understand the true Sacraments or means of grace, makes all believers members of the holy, universal Christian Church, removes from the Christian all false hopes concerning an illusory paradise on earth, shows him the abyss which exists between faith and unbelief, and finally is the guiding principle of Christian preaching.”  So said Pastor G. Wolff in a meeting of free churches in France and Belgium many years ago.

Two of the points are particularly interesting.  The concept of being saved by faith alone showing the abyss that exists between faith and unbelief is expressed everyday in our life together and is the reason for so much of the tension in our world.  That is obvious.  What is not so obvious is what faith does with those discrepancies.  The reaction should be a renewed sense of mission and mercy.

The other point is that faith alone is the guiding principle of preaching.  Preaching the Gospel is meant to engender faith, strengthen faith, and embolden faith to action.  That is what makes it so important.  It is also one of the reasons that many do not want to hear it.  See point one.

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Thanksgiving Service Tonight

wash

We are having our Thanksgiving service tonight at Drayton at 5:30 and Grafton at 7.  Come and give thanks.  Here is the Heritage Foundations explanation of why Washington’s proclamation of thanksgiving back in the day was so important.

In setting aside a day for Thanksgiving, Washington established a non-sectarian tone for these devotions and stressed political, moral, and intellectual blessings that make self-government possible, in addition to personal and national repentance. Although the First Amendment prevents Congress from establishing a religion or prohibiting its free exercise, Presidents, as well as Congress, have always recognized the American regard for sacred practices and beliefs. Thus, throughout American history, Presidents have offered non-sectarian prayers for the victory of the military and in the wake of catastrophes. Transcending passionate quarrels over the proper role of religion in politics, the Thanksgiving Proclamation reminds us how natural their relationship has been. While church and state are separate, religion and politics, in their American refinement, prop each other up.

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other trangressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go. Washington

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Reformation Solas – Scripture Alone

scripture-aloneAfter the signing of the Augsburg Confession in 1530, it seemed that the Lutheran theologians were in agreement on the doctrines of Scripture. Like everything that human beings touch, even the gains made in the Reformation began to fall apart. After the death of Luther in 1546, the unity of Lutheranism began to disintegrate into factions. This is the scene in which Jakob Andreae found himself in the mid- to late-sixteenth century.   He wrote these words to unify “second generation Lutherans” in the late 1570s.  It may be the best and shortest explanation of Sola Scriptura.  “We believe, teach, and confess that the only rule and guiding principle according to which all teachings and teachers are to be evaluated and judged are the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testaments alone…Other writings of ancient or contemporary teachers, whatever their names may be, shall not be regarded as equal to Holy Scripture, but all of them together shall be subjected to it.”

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Knight, Death and the Devil.

reuter

I mentioned in a sermon that many people feel that Albrecht Durer’s picture of this lone Knight harassed by the devil was adopted by many as an image of the Christian who can stand and fight and go on about their business as God’s people in circumstances beyond their control.  I had remembered the Knights horse as being in bad shape and looking like it might fall over.  That is not the case.

Evidently Hitler thought this was a stirring representation of Teutonic stalwartness and a great piece of art, but then he loved Wagner too.  It is a creepy picture whatever you view and it has many folks interpreting it in a very political way.

I still like this – “At the dawn of the Reformation Albrecht Durer painted his masterpiece of the knight who dares to defy death and devil. This may be said to be a symbol of Luther’s faith. This faith gave him not only a sense of security but also a sense of freedom: freedom from the Law and freedom to serve God and his fellow men.” Paul Bretscher CTM 1960

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Scarborough and Morning Joe and the Continuing Autopsy; Or the Ball Cap Tip Off.

ball-cap

Michael Moore came on Morning Joe and said that the folks around the table had made fun of and impugned the folks of middle America and they missed a huge story out there.  He said that he had heard a report that the largest expense of the Trump campaign was on ball caps and the folks on Morning Joe really yucked it up over that one. He apologetically excoriated members of the panel while not wanting to offend them because they are all like minded.  The rejoinder was if there is supposed to be a concern and knowledge of what happens in Wadena or Ardoch why is there not a reciprocal concern over what happens in the Hamptons or Manhattan?  After I mopped up the mess I made after spilling my Morning Joe I realized that these folks are really blindfolded by their own special brand of bigotry.  They don’t understand that we folks out here in the hinterlands that actually do wear ball caps even when we are not in the fancy seats at Yankee or Dodger games, get inundated everyday with their morality, attitudes, feelings, musings, rantings and panegyrics, usually over someone or something we think is pretty weird.  They obviously still don’t understand or want to understand folks like us, but we get to study and hear about folks like them in newspapers and on the TV and in music and movies.  We get to be lectured by them when we go to the theater or a movie and even in music until sometimes the only peace we have is to stand in our corn fields with our ball caps on and listen to the silence.  The folks in the hinterlands also thought about you in the silence of the voting booth.  You might want to put that in the algorithms you are dreaming up for polling, or as we say out here in flyover country – put that in your pipe and smoke it.

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Inner Strength to Be Humble

humility-chesterton

“In order for the United States to thrive in this new century, we need both a thriving realm of faith and a thriving realm of limited government which makes ample room for the practicing of that faith. Ours is a world where everyone seems to be shouting to be heard.  Christians should consider sharing with our beloved country and culture a voice of considered reflection worth listening to, rooted not in a tranquility that is wistful or sentimental, but rather in one that is exquisitely punctuated by a concision worth knowing. It is from such concision that springs an inner strength first surrendered to Christ Himself. That kind of serenity is achievable even amid the noise and haste and tumult of the contemporary world, which is always too much with us.  Those of us who bear the name of Christ owe our country the best that is in us. The taproot is humility, the opposite of pride. G. K. Chesterton wrote: “Humility is the mother of giants.  One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.” Does revealed religion consecrate a country like ours? Yes, I believe it does, and I believe it is the source of our vitality and our future.”  Timothy Goeglein, “Faith, Public Life and the Role of the Christian Citizen in this New Century”, For the Life of the World, February 2012 Volume 16 Number 1.

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