Saturday, December 12, 2015

On His side is pure grace and mercy...

A relative sent me this quote from Martin Luther's sermon for the first Sunday in Advent, 1522.

What could be more reassuring, more comforting, more important, more hopeful than hearing the preacher teach and preach Christ crucified for sinners? 

Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller? 
He cometh, cometh unto thee. Yea, verily, thou goest not to Him, neither dost thou fetch Him. He is too high for thee, and too far away. All thy wealth and wit, thy toil and labour, will not bring thee near Him, lest thou pride thyself that thy merit and worthiness have brought Him unto thee. Dear friend, all thy merit and worthiness are smitten down, and there is on thy side nothing but sheer undeserving and unworthiness, and on his side is pure grace and mercy, Here come together man in his poverty and the Lord's unsearchable riches.
Therefore learn here from the Gospel what happens when God begins to build us into the likeness of Him and what is the beginning of saintliness. There is no beginning than that thy king comesunto thee, and begins the work in thee. Thou dost not seek Him, He seeks after thee; thou dost not find Him, He finds thee; thy faith comes of Him, not of thyself; and where He does not come, thou must stay outside and where there is no Gospel, there is no God, but sheer sin and destruction.
Therefore ask thou not where to begin a godly life; there is no beginning but where this king comes and is preached.    - Martin Luther

Monday, December 7, 2015

What Does the Name "Lutheran" Mean?

Reverend Christopher Maronde wrote an excellent article on that explains what it means to be Lutheran.  The fifth excerpt is my favorite. There is nothing more important than confessing, teaching and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 
Christ alone. Grace alone. Scripture alone. Faith alone.

Here are a few excerpts:
  • We are uncomfortable with labels. We refused to be pigeonholed; we abhor being placed into any category. Labels are simplistic, we say, they are too broad or too narrow, they exclude or include. We want people to take us as individuals. But what if a label has meaning, what if it can be tied to something specific and concrete.
  • What does the label ‘Lutheran’ mean? This is a different question than, ‘What do those who call themselves Lutherans believe?’ We are not looking at what those who claim this name mean by it, we are trying to define what the label actually means. Its meaning is simple: The name Lutheran refers to a person, congregation, or church body who unconditionally holds to the teachings contained within the Book of Concord, first published in 1580.
  • A Lutheran is not someone who worships Martin Luther; a Lutheran is not someone who subscribes to every word that flowed from Luther’s pen.
  • What makes a Lutheran a Lutheran?  Not the name on the church sign, not the Luther’s rose on the wall, not hot-dishes and jello salads, but the doctrine, the teaching. If it is the doctrine of the Book of Concord, then it is Lutheran; if not, then the label is misleading not only you, but the one who wears it.
  • For this label means that the Gospel is confessed, that Christ is confessed. This label proclaims what the Book of Concord proclaims: it’s all about Jesus, Christ alone given to us by God’s grace alone, revealed by the Scriptures alone, all received by faith alone.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent and Christmas Devotions

Brothers of John the Steadfast has published an Advent and Christmas devotional booklet based on the hymns of Paul Gerhardt. Here is a description of the booklet from Brothers of John the Steadfast's web page:
This Advent and Christmas devotional was written by the pastors at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It is focused on the Advent and Christmas hymns of Paul Gerhardt as they are found in LSB and TLH. Each day goes through a stanza of the hymn, a supporting Scripture passage, a short devotional thought, and then a brief prayer. It is designed to be used as a part of your household’s normal devotional or “family altar” time.

Download the devotional for your Advent devotions.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The deception of good words and fair speeches

Romans 16: 17-20
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad, therefore, on your behalf; but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you! Amen.”
The following explication of this text is from The Popular Commentary of the Bible by Dr. Paul Kretzmann: 
This warning comes into the postscript in the nature of an after-thought. Very likely the congregation at Rome had not yet been troubled, but Paul feels it necessary to warn his Christians against a danger which might strike them at any time. It is not the open enemies of the Christian Church that work the greatest harm, but the false teachers that call themselves after the name of Christ and purport to believe in, and to teach, the Bible, and who, by insidious propaganda, subvert the foundations of sound teaching. 
St. Paul, therefore, warns the believers at Rome and the Christians of all times against such people as teach a doctrine at variance with the plain truths as he has proclaimed them. He begs them, as Christian brethren, most earnestly to mark them, literally, to keep their eye on them, to be on the constant lookout for them, that cause factions and scandals contrary to the doctrine which they had learned, which had been preached in Rome all these years, and to turn away from these false teachers. 
The apostle may have had in mind such opponents and disturbers of the peace as had attempted to hinder the course of the Gospel in Antioch, in Galatia, and in Achaia. Such men would undoubtedly try to enter into the congregation at Rome also and to spread their false teaching. But Paul distinctly tells the Roman Christians and the true believers of all times that they are not only to reject the false doctrine, but also to avoid the false teachers of every kind and degree. It is the express will of God that Christians and Christian organizations with sound Biblical basis must separate themselves, and remain separate, from all denominations in which false doctrine and false teachers are permitted. All unionism, which attempts to unite truth and falsehood in the same church organization, is clearly condemned in this passage. Cp. 2 Thess. 3, 6; Titus 3, 10; 1 Cor. 5, 11; 2 John 10.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What, then, can daunt my spirit?

While the title of this post is short on clever, it's eternally long on comfort.  Simon Dach, the author, referenced my favorite passage from Romans 8:38 - 39. There is no greater comfort than knowing that nothing can sever us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Art by Edward Riojas
Although I have not yet penned the message for my first chapel for the upcoming school year, I do know this will be one of the hymns we sing because of the temporal and eternal comfort it offers in Christ our Lord and Savior.

Through Jesus' Blood and Merit
Hymn 746 in the Lutheran Service Book

Through Jesus' blood and merit
I am at peace with God.
What, then, can daunt my spirit,
However dark my road?
My courage shall not fail me,
For God is on my side;
Though hell itself assail me,
Its rage I may deride.

There's nothing that can sever From this great love of God;
No want, no pain whatever,
No famine, peril, flood.
Though thousand foes surround me,
For slaughter mark His sheep,
They never shall confound me,
The vict'ry I shall reap.

For neither life's temptation
Nor death's most trying hour
Nor angels of high station
Nor any other pow'r,
Nor things that now are present
Nor things that are to come
Nor height, however pleasant,
Nor darkest depths of gloom

Nor any creature ever
Shall from the love of God
This ransomed sinner sever;
For in my Savior's blood
This love has its foundation;
God hears my faithful prayer
And long before creation
Named me His child and heir.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Is knowledge a mountain stream or a pump-filled ditch?

Motivating, nurturing and leading students to discover and understand the difference between these two attitudes concerning knowledge is every teacher’s arduous, yet worthy, goal.

“The difference between the pupil who works for himself and the one who works only when he is driven is too obvious to need explanation. The one is a free agent, the other is a machine. The former is attracted by his work, and, prompted by his interest, he works on until he meets some overwhelming difficulty or reaches the end of his task. The latter moves only when he is urged. He sees what is shown him, he hears what he is told, advances when his teacher leads, and stops just where and when the teacher stops. The one moves by his own activities, and the other by borrowed impulse. The former is a mountain stream fed by living springs, the latter a ditch filled from a pump worked by another’s hands.” –Dr. Milton Gregory, The Seven Laws of Teaching

Monday, June 8, 2015

Luther on card-playing, singing, dancing and... reading

Replace "card-playing, singing and dancing" with travel soccer, baseball and gaming, and Luther's concerns still abound.  
I wonder if the parents who spend the time, energy and money on getting li'l Franklin to his U-8 weekend soccer tournament in AcresonAcresofSoccerFields, Ohio, spend the same amount of time, energy and money on li'l Franklin's access to books, stories and human laps on which he can sit and listen to more books and stories.

"If we take so much time and trouble to teach children card-playing, singing, and dancing, why do we not take as much time to teach them reading and other disciplines while they are young and have the time, and are apt and eager to learn? For my part if I had children and could manage it, I would have them study not only languages and history, but also singing and music together with the whole of mathematics.  For what is all this but mere child’s play? The ancient Greeks trained their children in these disciplines; yet they grew up to be people of wondrous ability, subsequently fit for everything. How I regret now that I did not read more poets and historians, and that no one taught me them! Instead, I was obliged to read at great cost, toil, and detriment to myself, that devil's dung, the philosophers and sophists, from which I have all I can do to purge myself."   - Luther

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Gospel Trifecta

So American Pharoah won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.  In order to complete the prestigious Triple Crown, American Pharoah must now win the Belmont Stakes. 

For my last chapel of the year I arranged a Gospel trifecta around the truth that our sins are forever removed through Christ's atoning sacrifice.

The text
I John 2:1  "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."

The hymn
1st and 2nd graders from St. Peter, Macomb sang: "The King of Love my Shepherd Is"
The King of love my shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am his
And he is mine forever.

In death’s dark vale I fear no ill
With thee, dear Lord, beside me,
Thy rod and staff my comfort still,
Thy cross before to guide me.

The chapel's closing quote
“So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: 'I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!' ”  - Martin Luther