Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Mirror

You wake up after a restful nights sleep. One of the first things you invariably do is take a look in the mirror. You generally don't look like you did when you laid down for the night as your ruffled hair and sleepy eyes testify. Martin Luther uses the analogy of the mirror when talking about the ten commandments and how they show that we all fall short of the glory and righteousness of God. It shows us our sin.

God's Law is so important - in fact crucial - in showing us our need for the cross of Jesus Christ and his payment for our sins. When witnessing it is so important to present the Law, for otherwise the Gospel is a cure for an illness most don't even know they have. "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18). Presenting the law makes the Gospel necessary, truly showing the love of the Father.

The ten commandments can be a simple way of imparting God's Law to unbelievers. Most think they are a good person. Go ahead, ask ten of your unbelieving friends if they think they are good (unfortunately your saved friends may give the same answer). Nine out of ten will likely say they are good. Go through the commandments with them, show them the measure isn't whether or not they are good when compared to fellow man, it is whether or not they are good according to God's standards, the moral Law, embodied in the ten commandments.

God will judge them on that last day - will they be guilty? A just judge would find a criminal guilty, and God IS just, and will provide justice through punishment in hell. Eternity in hell is a just punishment for crimes made against an infinite God. The Good News is that He provided a way for all to have their sentence fulfilled - the ability to come to him washed clean in the saving blood of His son Jesus Christ. Each person has to come to this realization that they have sinned against a just and holy God. They can exercise their free will by asking God to save them from the wrath to come, repenting of sin and trusting in Jesus as their only savior, the only one provided by the Father. The Holy Spirit will work faith in them, and they will receive salvation.

Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the biggest sinner of all?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Has anyone seen that good work I left laying around?

I was out other night at the Contented Cow with a few of my brothers, taking the opportunity to get together and talk about our favorite subject, the Word. There is always a topic that seems to stick around afterwards, and this was no exception. This night it was good works. And sheep. And goats. Ouch.

For example, when was the last time you helped the poor? Frankly I can't remember the last time I have done so. Sure I have been to a big city in days past and given cash to someone on the street. But is getting held up at a stop light and giving a buck to some guy that 'washes' your windshield helping the poor? Throwing a few coins in a guitar case? The fact is I don't even know if they were actually poor or not. For all I know they went home to a warm house and full meal. I sure hope they did, but the the point is that we can't do good deeds - we don't even know what the real effect of our actions will be. Giving a few bucks to someone may buy them a bottle of something, or it could buy a hot meal - we often don't know.

Works that spring from true faith always work as the Lord intends - the ultimate outcome is that they will be good and we may never even be aware that we are doing them. For Matthew writes in his gospel "Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?" (Matt 25:37) This goes hand in hand with the passage in James' epistle "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." (James 2:26) These passages tell us that if we are saved God will produce good works in us, for these are truly the only 'good' works, those works that are done through us but from the Lord.

There is much talk these days about community service, and at work we are getting mauled with our latest United Way campaign. Sometimes I wonder if our productivity at this time of year doesn't plummet with all the activities surrounding this. But that is a topic for another day. Those that contribute are they sheep - or goats? Side by side they can do the same things, though one is thrown in the fire and the other justified by the faith that produces these same works. Thus it isn't the deed but the source that makes the work good. Trust in the Lord - for He is good.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Unity or Bust!

I have heard much about unity over the past few years at my church. It started when we where trying to call a new pastor. We had been without one for almost three years and things where getting desparate - or so it seemed - but God had everything in control. Our congregation was unable to decide on a pastor to call, and there was a great deal of wrangling, causing our district president to come down and give a talk on unity.

But is unity really a worthy goal of the church? Of course it is - if it is unity in the Word. As Ephesians 4:13-16 says: until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God - I would pose that this is the only way true unity can be found, that unity discovered in the true faith and knowledge of God. Otherwise we are indeed tossed about by the world, our church is invaded by it, and the world smothers the ability to proclaim the gospel, because we are focused inwards. If we are focused inwards, we are not reaching out to those perishing. If we are not reaching out to the lost, we are not doing the very wonderful thing that Christ commanded us to do.

Unity that is only brought about by the compromise of God's Word spells disaster. The winds of unity, wrought by human cunning, and apart from God's Word serves the wrong master.

So unity for unity's sake is no unity at all. But unity in the Word puts your foundation on the Rock. And the world has no weapon that can weaken that.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Little Blessings

The Lord never fails to shower us with his blessings. Sometimes these blessings are hard to see, sometimes they are everywhere you look. Today was one of those everywhere you look days, at least once I arrived home from work. I walked in the door and my children greeted me with glad tidings, and my oldest son Ben wanted me to go out and play badminton with him. Did I mention that I was really tired and the couch was calling? The couch could wait, my son couldn't. Besides it was a beautiful crisp Minnesota fall day - how could I say no? My other three children came along excitedly once they caught wind of the badminton match. What fun!

The sun was illuminating the woods behind where we were playing, making for a nice view. The dogs were chasing each other, wanting the same piece of rawhide, having a grand time. What a perfect day. My thoughts of the couch receeded with the energy from the kids infecting me, and we had a great time playing.

We wrapped up the day with our normal Evening Prayers and a Bible reading, which is a fitting close to any day. The Lord blesses us richly. He gives us everything.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Church in Crisis

Is our church in crisis? It would seem so, with the continual and neverending assault of evangelical influences. We are part Lutheran, part evangelical, part hymn, part contemporary candy bar Christianish song, part litergy, part praise worship. It would seem that things are coming apart at the seams. We are organ, we are guitar and bass, choir and praise team.

Then our pastor speaks, the Litergy is spoken by Christ through the pastor, responded to by the congregation. The sermon is full of Law, it is full of Gospel. A baptism took place last Sunday, and the Lord’s Supper. In the words of C.F.W. Walther, “[the true church] can definitely be recognized, namely, by the marks of the pure preaching of God’s Word and the administration of the sacraments according to Christ’s institution”. God blesses us at our church, through his spoken Word, and the gracious gifts of his sacraments.

We can only continue to press forward supporting our pastor, who, through faithful teaching, will bring these influences to heel at the foot of Christ, if it is His will. Our Savior’s grace is the only way faithful preaching and teaching will continue at any church. Just as He has preserved his Word for over 2000 years, he will continue to preserve his true, invisible church.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Fine Line

There is always a fine line we tread in life. Work. Family. God. We all know who must come first, but do any of us really put God first? As Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians, we are to “pray without ceasing”. Even a liberal interpretation of this verse shows us that we should at the very least pray often and consistantly, thanking the Lord for all things. Fruits. We are to produce fruits as evidence of faith. Growth in holiness. Peter shows us that virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, and kindness are all necessary evidences of faith “For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.” Make your call and election sure! Do these things and you will never stumble he goes on to say.

A fine line we must walk my friend. A fine line indeed. The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is a wonderful and precious gift from God. Look at yourself in the mirror. Do you see these things? We all see these things to varying degrees, but we also see that there is still the taint of sin in our lives. The mirror of the Law shows all - if you are willing to look into it. Examine yourself! Are you growing in holiness? Is sanctification a fancy word that has no meaning in your Christian walk? The Holy Spirit is sent by the Father to dwell within us should we be saved. He will produce fruit. Are you producing?