Friday, May 25, 2007

Ok, I know I said I was on a break...

But this was just too great! From Augustine's Homily 7 on 1 John:
We shouldn't imagine God according to what we want to see. For then we would make God out to be some huge form or an immense expanse. His figure would extend in all directions like the light we see with our eyes. So either we would make God out to be as big as we could imagine or else picture Him as a benevolent old man. Don't imagine any of these things.

But imagine this if you want to see God: "God is love." What sort of face does love have? What shape does it take? What stature? What feet or hands? No one can say. And yet it has feet that carry people to church. It has hands that reach out to the poor. It has eyes that show us those in need. For it is said, "Blessed is the man who considereth the needy and the poor." Love also has ears which the Lord spoke about, saying, "He that hath ears to hear let him hear." These aren't separate parts of love, but bring complete understanding and sight to those who have it. Live in love, and love will live in you. Dwell, and you will be dwelt in.*

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Hiatus

Due to all the business of the next few days and the move and everything else, I will be taking at least a week break from blogging. When I return, I will continue the Wisdom Proverbs devotional series.

Pray for us and the move! We will see you in Michigan!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Moving Update

We have safely returned to St. Louis. Tomorrow, May 24, we are going to see if we can get a moving truck this weekend (Saturday or Sunday) and move up to Wayland on Monday. Things are moving fast, literally!

Please keep us in your prayers as we have a lot to do in a short time. After the move early next week, we have guests coming in from Texas and Wisconsin for the Ordination on Sunday. We will be going to Indiana on Friday to spend some time with these guests. Then, Sunday is the big day!

After the Ordination, we will be going back up to Michigan to prepare for the Installation and our new life.

Such excitement! A lot to be thankful for and a lot of opportunities for our faith to cling ever more tenaciously to our Heavenly Father.

Wisdom: Equalizer of Men

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. The rich and the poor meet together; the LORD is the maker of them all.
-Proverbs 22:1-2

Wealth and faith have always had a rocky relationship. For years the Church has proudly touted the cause of poverty. For many it was and is a means through which they could live out their faith. Self-inflicted poverty has become a way some have tried to earn their salvation. In more recent years, the heresy has arisen that if your faith is strong enough, you will be blessed with temporal health and wealth. Both of these ways have lead to a denial of the Gospel and have driven many to despair their salvation.

But this Proverb presents both ways. A good reputation, righteous living, and favor with God is more valuable than any riches. However, both the rich and the poor are made by God. And from God comes all good things.

True Wisdom is found in the balance of all things in Christ. If your wealth takes your eyes off of His atoning sacrifice, forsake it! If your poverty turns you from the comfort He has given, it is evil. If your wealth is recognized as one of God’s good gifts and is used for His glory and in thanksgiving it is a blessing. If your poverty is seen as a builder of faith and cheerfully borne as your cross, then it is a beautiful witness to the world.

In the end, both riches and poverty neither avail nor curse. It is God who is the Maker of all things. If you put your trust in the free gift of salvation won through the cross of Jesus Christ, you are blessed indeed.


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Wealth and poverty, blessing and bane, all things are given by You in Your divine Wisdom, Good Father. Giver of faith, work in us that faith which blesses You in all things, for we know that in all things You, who love us and sent Your Son to die for us, have promised to work for our good. Forgive us our faithlessness when we come across difficult times. Forgive us our forgetfulness when we encounter Your temporal blessings. Fill us with the joy of Your eternal blessings in Christ Jesus, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, ever One God, world without end.
Amen.
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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

What we have in common with foxes and birds...

"Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." (Matthew 8:20)

After a short, stressful and somewhat frustrating search, we have found a place to live in Michigan!

It's a very nice duplex in Wayland Michigan, about 15 minutes from the church in Middleville. We give thanks to God for His guidance and ask His forgiveness for our unfaithfulness and doubt of His loving-kindness.

Look out, Michigan! We're coming up next week!

Continue to be with us, Good Lord, as we move next week. May Your name be praised in and through us and may we do Your work joyfully in Middleville and Wayland. Amen.

Wisdom: From the LORD

No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the LORD.
-Proverbs 21:30

From where does wisdom come? The Lord. From where does understanding come? The Lord. From where does counsel come? The Lord.
There are certainly false forms of seeming wisdom, there are faulty and incomplete understandings, there are bad counsels. These we often think of as true wisdom. But that true Wisdom only comes from the Lord.

A good indicator of whether wisdom, understanding or counsel are true and good is to see what side it is on. If it is against the Lord, it is sheer foolishness. If it is for the Lord, it is truly wise.

Seek out true Wisdom. Receive right Understanding. Find good Counsel. It is in the Lord and given freely in Christ Jesus.

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Psalm 16
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you."
As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.
The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.
The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the LORD always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Amen.
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Monday, May 21, 2007

Wisdom: Pure Hearts

Who can say, "I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin"?
-Proverbs 20:9
The key to this Proverb is the subject of the verb. I cannot say that I have made my heart pure. If the responsibility is mine, then I will never be clean from my sin. But we can see in this Proverb a flip side. It’s like a rhetorical question, asked not to receive and answer, but to make the hearer think.

Who truly can say “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin”? If it is not me or you, is there anyone who can say this? Is there even one who is pure and sinless?

Yes, there is One who was without sin, One whose heart was pure. This One is Jesus Christ. We see in this Proverb a tension in question form: If I cannot say that I have made my heart pure, who can? If my heart is not pure, can I ever be clean from my sin?

We go back to the subject of the verb again. If you say that you have made your heart pure, then you deceive yourself and the truth is not in you. You will never be clean from your sin. If you cry out to the One who hears, if you seek your purity in and from Him, then you will be clean from all your sins.

And why is that? Why should Christ, who is holy and sinless turn to us and cleanse us from our sins? Because He loves us. God loves us and that is the sole reason that He sent His Son. It is “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
2 Corinthians 5:21

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Psalm 51:1-15

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
Amen.
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Sunday, May 20, 2007

More from Walther on the Ascension

"What a glorious work, rich in comfort and joy, is Christ's ascension for all who believe in Him! It turned everything that had previously bound our soul into our prisoner. By our nature, we are all prisoners and servants of sin so we must do what sin wants. But by Christ's ascension, sin is now our prisoner and it must do what we want. It can still tempt us, but even this must turn out for the best for us. For if there were no longer any temptations to sin, our faith would soon grow cold, prayer would become lukewarm, and the Word would be considered and studied lazily. Sin must serve to double our zeal against it and to grasp Christ and His grace all the more firmly so it may be said even of sin, 'For those who love God all things work together for good'"(Romans 8:28).

Wisdom: The Buck Stops Here

When a man's folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the LORD.
-Proverbs 19:3

We like to pass the buck, to lay the blame on others, to find a scapegoat. Ultimately, we will lay the blame at God’s feet. If He is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, then certainly He could have kept us from ruin. He could have done something and didn’t, so our sinful hearts say our self-inflicted ruin is not our fault, but His. This attitude is as old as our first parents, Adam and Eve.

The man said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate."
Genesis 3:12

See where the blame is placed, everywhere but where is belongs. And think about your own life. When bad things happen because of our own folly and sinfulness, who do we seek out to blame? It is against the LORD, the most Holy and perfect One, Maker of heaven and earth that we in our foolishness rage against.

We all do stupid and foolish things. Often times those things we do in folly bring about harsh and devastating consequences. And the whole time God is there. He is not there ruining us. He is there with His good gifts: forgiveness of sins, eternal life and salvation. He has set His King on Zion, on the holy hill. No matter how our hearts rage against Him, no matter how unfairly we blame Him, He still is there, the same yesterday, today and forever. Those who take refuge in His Wisdom that is Christ are blessed.

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Psalm 2
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his anointed, saying,
"Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us."
He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying,
"As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill."
I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."
Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
Amen.
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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Commencement Pictures

Before Commencement at Outback Steakhouse

My Diploma

Wisdom: The Body of Believers

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.
- Proverbs 18:1

Who doesn’t like a little alone time? Sometimes you just need to get away from it all, to have some peace and quiet. It’s important to take some time alone with your own thoughts. But can this good gift of solitary silence be misused? Can it become a dangerous idol that tears us away from the One True God?

In our culture and society there has always been a romantic view of the solitary figure. Americans like to think of themselves as self-sufficient islands anchored to the ever changing and developing surrounding culture. This attitude is especially true in Christianity.

You’ve heard the excuse, and maybe have even used it yourself. “I am closer to God when I’m out on my fishing boat.” “I’m closer to God when I’m working in my garden.” These are just a couple of a thousand different excuses that basically say the same thing: It’s just me and Jesus!

This same excuse is also used when people come up against the Biblical teaching of closed communion. The outrage is evident in people’s arguments. “How dare you tell me I can’t commune! This is something that is between me and Jesus!”

But, does Wisdom support that individual idealism? Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire…This is not rugged individualism but rather self-indulgent immaturity. This attitude flies in the face of the communion of saints. This attitude tears apart the body of Christ found in His Church. This attitude breaks out against all sound judgment.

Why is it wise to be in communion and fellowship with other believers? And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

There are certainly times in which solitary meditation on the Word of God and in prayer are helpful. However, our faith is NOT a private, individual matter. If we isolate ourselves from the Body of Believers we will soon perish. If we isolate ourselves from the congregation and the pastor, we will soon find ourselves swept away in the current of the self-centered, individualistic waters of destruction.

We who have been baptized in the waters in the name of the Holy Trinity have been gathered together by the Holy Spirit. It is in that gathering that we are strengthened with the Word and Sacraments, which assures us above and beyond what we can ever know on our own. That is, that we are forgiven of all of our sins in and through Jesus Christ.

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I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church he daily and abundantly forgives all my sins, and the sins of all believers, and on the last day he will raise me and all the dead and will grant eternal life to me and to all who believe in Christ. This is most certainly true.*
Amen.
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*Tappert, T. G. (2000, c1959).
The book of concord :
The confessions of the evangelical Lutheran church
(The Small Catechism: II, 6).
Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

It is finished

My seminary career is now at an end. I have a diploma and a Masters of Divinity now. Big day. Pictures later.
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We thank Thee, O God, Maker of heaven and earth, for Thy loving-kindness and guidance to bring workers into Thy vineyards. May the work Thou hast begun in the hearts and minds of those men receiving completion of their Seminary training not come back to Thee void, but rather, may it fulfill the purposes Thou hast ordained. For we take our comfort and place our hope in the assurance that whatever Thou ordainest is surely good. With great joy in our hearts we sing our praise and thanksgiving to Thee, most Omniscient Lord, that Thou hast ever been our Redeemer and Comfortor.
Lord, Have Mercy!
Christ, Have Mercy!
Lord, Have Mercy!
Amen and Amen.
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Friday, May 18, 2007

Theological Diploma Service

Today, May 18th, +AD+ 2007, Concordia Seminary celebrated with the Service of Praise for the Conferring of Theological Diplomas and Diplomas of Vocation in the Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus.
This evening at 7:00 pm, I will receive my diploma and Master of Divinity Degree. I have successfully completed my course work and will be a Pastor in a few weeks!!

Thanks to everyone for their prayers and support over the years. It has been a long four years, but God is so faithful in His guidance. He truly has been our Good Shepherd.

Wisdom: Love

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
-Proverbs 17:9

All married couples have struggled with this. Keeping records of sin and bringing them back to fight for them. Like a well-stocked arsenal, we pile up wrongdoing like ammunition and sin like semi-automatic weapons until we have a stored up enough to have an ultimate weapon of mass destruction.

When the time comes, we joyfully pull out these hateful weapons and fire away at the one we love.
Wife: “I really wish you would pick up after yourself a little bit. It would really make my life easier.” (a reasonable request)
Husband: “Well, if you wouldn’t harp on me so much maybe I would. Remember last week when you bit my head off when you thought I didn’t pick up the dry-cleaning? You are just so unreasonable!” (the shot heard round the world!)
And from this terrible start begins a war that will not end until someone is deeply wounded.

Wisdom says that whoever covers and offense seeks love. Wisdom goes farther than just telling us though. Wisdom shows us just how far love goes in covering offenses. The Wisdom and Power of God came to this world in the flesh, seeking love. Jesus taught love, but more importantly He lived love for us. In so doing, He not only covered our offenses, but “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12

Rather than simply keeping us close to Himself as friends, He has made us full children of the Heavenly Father.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
-1 Peter 4:8

-Because-

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
- John 13:35

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O God, You who are pure Love itself, You who humbled Yourself by putting on our flesh and blood to seek us out in love, fill us to overflowing with Your holy love, for in that most perfect love is true Wisdom. Fill us with Your love that we may work together in Your kingdom, to seek and do Your will, to share that love with a world that is full of hate and evil. May that beautiful and ever-present forgiveness, freely given through the sacrifice of Christ, cover up all of our offenses and motivate us to serve You in Your kingdom.
Amen.
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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ascension Evening Hymn of Praise

On Christ's ascension I now build
The hope of my ascension;
This hope alone has always stilled
All doubt and apprehension;
For where the Head is, there as well
I know His members are to dwell
When Christ will come and call them.
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Since Christ returned to claim His throne,
Great gifts for me obtaining,
My heart will rest in Him alone,
No others rest remaining;
For where my treasure went before,
There all my thoughts will ever soar
To still their deepest yearning.
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O grant, dear Lord, this grace to me,
Recalling Your ascension,
That I may serve You faithfully
In thanks for my redemption;
And then, when all my days will cease,
Let me depart in joy and peace
In answer to my pleading.*
* LSB 492

What does a Pastor do?

I was watching The Office season finale tonight and saw a commercial for a new movie called Knocked Up. The title is totally self-explanatory. It's about out-of-wedlock sex and childbirth. My first thought was, "How could I use this to scandalize my congregation to the world?"

But then I stopped. Is that what a pastor does? I have heard several sermons from Lutheran pastors that railed against the evils of the world. I'm not sure that this is the point of a pastor's ministry. If we only point out the sins of the world we are missing the point of the call. I have been called to a congregation. They know the evils of the world. What they do not always remember so well are the sins of the self. To jump on the Evangelical-Fundamentalist bandwagon of pointing out the sins of the world is to do a great disservice to those saints who need to hear the personal Law and the personal Gospel. The Law that comes to them directly and calls them what they are: sinners. The Gospel that comes to them in their sinful state and forgives their personal sins.

Yeah, a movie called Knocked Up is a bad sign of where our culture is headed, but to stand in the house of God and thank Him that we are not like those sinners is to fall into the most wily and deadly trap of Satan: to take our eyes off of Christ and Him crucified for US.

That is what a Pastor does, in my inexperienced, newbie position. A Pastor feeds the flock that he has been called to with the heavenly food of Word and Sacrament that our Good Shepherd has given us.

The Ascension of our Lord

On this Ascension Day, consider the comforting words of Dr. CFW Walther, Pastor and Confessor, in the CPH daily devotional God Grant It:

"When we consider Christ's ascension according to the clear witness of Holy Scripture, we find a certain foundation for a joyful faith. He has not removed Himself from His Church. Instead, He is now, as God and Man, extending His grace, help, and protection in all places. As Aaron wore on his breastplate the names of the tribes of Israel when he entered the Holy of Holies, so Christ, appearing as the true High Priest before God in heaven, wears the names of all believers on His heart. There, He prays without ceasing for His own, and He rules them, cares for them, and protects them so the gates of hell cannot overpower them."
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We thank Thee, Jesus, dearest Friend,
That Thou didst into heaven ascend.
O blessed Savior, bid us live
And strength to soul and body give.
Hallelujah! Amen.*
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* The Lutheran Hymnal 223:1

Wisdom: In Humility

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
-Proverbs 16:18

Before we got married and moved off to St. Louis, my pastor, a very wise man whom I look up to a lot, told me this Proverb. He was warning me against being to proud to seek help when I needed it.

This is a difficult thing, especially for men. This is not to bash men; it is simply to recognize how one of our strengths can become a very big weakness. It is good for a man to leave his mother and father and start a family with his wife. It is good for a man to provide for the needs of his wife and children. It is good for a man to be the head of his own household.

This is the place that God has given to man. It is one of leadership, one of provision and a special kind of care; it is both physical and spiritual. But, if it is done in a prideful way or with a haughty spirit that does not recognize from where this responsibility comes, it will doubtless fail.

This Proverb is especially important for pastors to consider. From the time I began my training at the seminary, through my fieldwork responsibilities, at my vicarage, in my preaching and teaching, I have been complimented and encouraged in numerous ways. I am thankful that God has, through the means of supportive saints in His Church, confirmed in my mind and heart the vocation that I have planned to undertake. But, if I lose sight of the purpose and ultimate goal of my calling, that is faithful Word and Sacrament ministry, if I take my eyes off of Jesus who is the Author and Perfector of my faith, I will certainly fall.

This is not only true in pastoral ministry, but in every vocation of God’s saints. If you are a mother or a father, keep your eyes on Jesus. If you are a manager or a leader, keep your eyes on Jesus. If you are a mailman, carpenter, accountant, trash man, CEO, or a burger flipper, keep you eyes on Jesus in all that you do.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23

If we take our eyes off of our Lord and focus them on ourselves, or even others, there is the warning that Pride is lurking on the path, beckoning to lead you off of the right way and one the way of destruction.

Wisdom is not interested in pride or making spirits haughty, true Wisdom, Divine Wisdom, humbles us with the realization that we are totally dependant on the loving-kindness and mercy of our God in Jesus Christ.

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Lord of all Wisdom, break down the high walls of our pride and the crumbling foundations of our haughty spirits that we may not fall into destruction, but walk in the counsels of Your Wisdom. In all our work, turn our eyes to Christ, that we may never forget the blessing of inheritance that He has won for us. Make us thankful for our total dependence on Your loving-kindness and Your merciful guidance, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Amen.
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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wisdom: In Soft Answers

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
-Proverbs 15:1


Ok, now if this isn’t the truest thing, if this isn’t Wisdom, then I don’t know what is! If you are a husband or a wife, if you are a child, if you are a parent, if you have any human relationships whatsoever, you know how true this Proverb is.

I cannot tell you how many times I have purposely used a harsh word with the intent of stirring up anger. If we are honest with ourselves, we all can think of times when we have purposely turned from the wisdom of a soft answer and turned toward the sinfulness of a harsh word. I confess that I have done this most often with the one person in this world who I love more than any other, my wife. There are times when we are having a “discussion” that gets a little heated. As things get hotter and hotter there comes a point when I know that I have two options—one is that of the soft answer that turns away wrath, the other is that of the harsh word which stirs up anger.

You could almost picture this as the little cartoon angel and devil on the shoulder. One is telling you to turn away wrath, the other is telling you to stir up anger. And admit that I sometimes gladly give in to the temptation to stir up anger.

This is the constant strain that all Christians find themselves living. The pull between sinner and saint. The devil uses this strain to try to tear us away from the love of God in Christ. He seduces us to stir up anger and then, after we have done it, he points a finger of blame and accuses us. It would be easy to doubt our own faith and salvation during these times. We are shown the truth of who we are: sinful. Instead of seeing that truth of our sinfulness in the glorious light of the Gospel, we grope in the darkness and shadow of the Law. It is certainly right to acknowledge our sins before God and man, to repent of them, but do not forget that in that acknowledgement and repentance there is ALWAYS forgiveness in Christ.

St. Paul knew this well. “Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Romans 7:16-25a

In his recognition of his own wretchedness, St. Paul gives thanks to God for the free forgiveness and righteousness given in Jesus Christ our Lord.

And this is the very essence of that oft-quoted Luther phrase: sin boldly.
“If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world."*

The next time you find yourself with the two choices; to turn away wrath or stir up anger, seek to turn away wrath. But give thanks to God that through Christ Jesus, all wrath has been turned away from us, even when we stir up anger.

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Psalm 34:1-3, 13-14, 22

I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad.

Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!

Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.

Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

The LORD redeems the life of his servants;

none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
Amen.
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*Luther, M. (1999, c1963).
Vol. 48: Luther's works, vol. 48 : Letters I
(J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.).
Luther's Works (Vol. 48, Page 281-282).
Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Wisdom: The Holy Gift of God

Fools mock at the guilt offering, but the upright enjoy acceptance.
-Proverbs 14:9

“I forgive you all your sins…”
Good Lutherans hear these blessed words every Sunday. Good Lutheran Pastors consider it a privilege and an honor to speak these words, indeed, I thank God for the day I will speak these words of peace at Good Shepherd for the first time.

But, for many, many American Christians these words are scandalous. For many people, hearing a clear word of forgiveness is uncomfortable. Have you ever told someone that you forgive them? You’d be surprised at the kinds of responses you might get. “Who do you think you are to forgive me?” “You think you’re better than me that you can forgive me?” “Who made you God Almighty? I don’t need your forgiveness!”

Do you hear the hint of mocking in these responses? It is the same foolishness of mocking a guilt offering. The guilt offering is just like the sin offering; there is one law for them. Leviticus 7:7

Why is it so foolish to mock the gift of forgiveness? Because to mock the gift of forgiveness says that you do not need that forgiveness. To say you do not need forgiveness is to say that you have not sinned.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1 John 1:8

The fool mocks the love and forgiveness of God in Christ. The upright, the wise take delight and enjoy the acceptance found in that complete and free forgiveness.

Wisdom does not mock the holy gifts of God. Wisdom knows the truth. Hear Wisdom, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” Galatians 6:7

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Blessed Lord God, may we ever enjoy Your total acceptance and forgiveness in Christ Jesus. Turn us from the foolish way of mockery and disdain for Your Holy Gifts, namely the Living Word and the Blessed Sacraments. We seek our wisdom and righteousness only from You, Holy God, for You are the only source of Truth and the only way to eternal life. Hear our prayers as we come before Your throne of grace in the name of Jesus Christ.
Amen.
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Monday, May 14, 2007

Wisdom: The Rod of Discipline

Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
-Proverbs 13:24

Boy did I hear this Proverb growing up! My parents may not have known much from the Scripture by memory, but they certainly knew this one. But is the sole purpose of this Proverb to endorse corporal punishment?

Some may be tempted to take the Proverbs as a whole as simply being a guide or instruction manuel for right living. But what is the sole purpose of all Scripture? Why do we have this and other Proverbs?

Certainly, as St. Paul says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” 2 Timothy 3:16

But, the main purpsose of all Scripture is to bear witness to Christ, as St. John says, “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:31

As Christ told the travellers on the Emmaus road, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:25-27

So, how does this Proverb bear witness about Christ? We clearly see that Christ, through His holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death, was not spared the rod. But Christ did not bear that punishment for His own sake. He bore that rod of discipline for us and has made us partakers in His sonship. Through His blood, we have become full sons and daughters of God Almighty.

And, perhaps it is a stretch, but have you ever thought of that rod as anything different? My parents, when they quoted this verse to me, had in mind a very particular “rod,” but could this rod of discipline be the same rod that brings us comfort? Could it be the rod of our Good Shepherd?

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Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Amen.
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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Wisdom: A Good Wife

An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.
-Proverbs 12:4
I met my wife, Lesa, in a college German class. She was shy, but very friendly. We slowly became friends. Time went on and I began to think often of her. We would run into each other after classes and around campus. I finally got up the nerve to call her, and after missing her several times, I finally arranged to go out with her. Now, there will be some disagreement about whether or not this was our first date. I say it was, she says we were still “just friends.”

We started dating seriously shortly after that first “date.” I loved being with her. I loved seeing her smile. I was falling in love with her. And what a great love it has been!

We dated about 2 months before we started talking about marriage. We were both in favor of it and eventually I got around to asking her officially. We were married about 15 months after our engagement and shortly thereafter we moved away from everything we had known in Indiana to make a life for ourselves in St. Louis.

To say an excellent wife is the crown of her husbanAd in no exaggeration. I could not have made it through the seminary without the constant and faithful support of this beautiful woman of God. She knows my weaknesses and my strengths. She knows when I need to be lifted up and when I need to be brought down to earth. She knows how to make me laugh and how to make me behave. She is the very picture and embodiment of love and grace.

I can sympathize with Luther’s feelings for his dear Katie.
“I wouldn’t give up my Katy for France or for Venice—first, because God gave her to me and gave me to her; second, because I have often observed that other women have more shortcomings than my Katy (although she, too, has some shortcomings, they are outweighed by many great virtues); and third, because she keeps faith in marriage, that is, fidelity and respect.”*

Wisdom teaches us to recognize and give thanks for those wonderful gifts that we so often take for granted. And how easy it is to take the good gifts of God for granted? It is always easier to focus our attention on the bad. But Wisdom is not foolish or ignorant. It realizes that life is not all rosy. There is the excellent wife, of course, but there is also the wife who brings shame. Wisdom calls a thing what it is. Wisdom calls our blessings blessings and our sins sin. Wisdom tells us the truth of our situation in all things and gives us the all-sufficient answer in Christ and Him Crucified.
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O Good Lord, I give You all thanks and praise for setting that most excellent crown of my dear wife Lesa on my head. You have strengthened me in my love and faith in You through her faithfulness and excellent character. And in this wonderful blessing of an excellent wife, You have shown me more clearly the depth and strength of Your love for me in Christ. Keep us ever faithful to each other as we grow in faithfulness towards You.
Amen.
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*Luther, M. (1999, c1967).
Vol. 54: Luther's works, vol. 54 : Table Talk
(J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.).
Luther's Works (Vol. 54, Page 7-8).
Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Wisdom: Not bought with riches

Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.
-Proverbs 11:4





Riches are great, everyone wants them. They are what make our country run and they are how people judge other people. Riches are a gift from God, they are a way that He provides us with our daily bread. But the Christian Church has not always and still do not look favorably on wealth and riches.

Certainly there are two things to take into consideration in this Proverb. It does not say that riches are bad. It does say that they will not profit us in the day of wrath.
And we certainly see this echoed in Scripture. As Israel, laden with riches, was fleeing Egypt they saw the riches of the Pharaoh pursuing them. They were certainly terrified at the fearsome chariots and gleaming spears and helmets of Pharaoh’s army. They may have thought for a moment that they could buy their safety with the gold given them by their Egyptian neighbors. But they saw the greatness of the Lord and sang this song:
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. (Psalm 20:7)

Christ warns us against putting our hope in earthly treasures:
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
(Matthew 6:19-21)

It is not having riches that is evil, it is putting our hope, our trust and our love in those riches. Wisdom teaches us that there is only one thing that can deliver us from death, that is righteousness. Where do we find our righteousness?

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith- 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8-11)

Wisdom teaches us from where our hope and salvation come-righteousness. And that righteousness is found in Christ alone.
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Psalm 4
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?
But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;
the LORD hears when I call to him.
Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds,
and be silent.
Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD.
There are many who say, "Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!"
You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
Amen.
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Friday, May 11, 2007

Wisdom: From Faithful Parents

The Holy Family
A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.
-Proverbs 10:1b

Mother’s Day is just around the corner. A time to show our Mothers how much we appreciate them for all they have done to nurture and care for us, to bring us up and see us on the path to adulthood, to teach us and model for us the faith.

For some, though, Mother’s Day is not a happy day. Some people are racked with guilt because they have totally forsaken their mothers. Some people are filled with grief and lonliness because they have lost their mothers. Some people are angry because they don’t have a mother worth giving thanks for.

The Proverbs present over and over again faithful parents who fulfill their duties of teaching and directing their children in the ways of the faith. Parents who faithfully teach their children, who model the life of a Christian, who bring their children to the waters of baptism and make sure they have received instruction for the proper reception of the Lord’s Supper have been faithful not only to their children but to their God and Savior. And perhaps the most beautiful example of a faithful mother is the Virgin Mother herself, Mary.

I know people, as I’m sure we all do, who have been trained in the way they should go by godly parents and have turned from the right path. I also know people who have been spiritually, if not also physically and emotionally, by their parents and have found the path through the faithful guidance of others.

This Mother’s Day, hear the words of Solomon, a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother. Give your Mom the best gift any faithful and godly Mother could ever want, wise living in Christ.

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God of our fathers and mothers, we give You all thanks and praise for lifting up faithful parents, especially our faithful mothers. Bless them with Your ever-present grace and comfort. Where they have fallen in their duties, give them the comfort of Your forgiveness in Christ. Where their children have fallen from the right path, speak peace to their hearts and guide their wandering children back. Turn our hearts to that most perfectly obedient Son, who endured the sorrows of all mothers and gave Himself up for the sins of all children. Hear us as we pray in His name.
Amen.
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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Wisdom: Eat and Drink

"Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!" To him who lacks sense she says, "Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight."
-Proverbs 9:4-6

You’ve gotten those letters before: Current Occupant, Resident, to the Homeowners at your address (which is hilarious when you are in an apartment!). They are meaningless and in our house don’t get a second glance. They go right to the trashcan.

Wisdom sends out and invitation that we might think of tossing. To: Whoever is simple. Boy, makes “Resident” sound pretty good, doesn’t it? The invitation gets even better. Eat and drink, leave your simple ways. Pretty vague isn’t it? What kind of bread is this, what kind of wine will make us leave our simple ways? According to “conventional wisdom” if you want to be a successful, vibrant, growing church, you won’t do anything that may offend. That has lead some churches to go so far as to totally throw out any discussion of sin. But this isn’t conventional wisdom talking, this is True Wisdom. True and Abiding Wisdom comes to us just was we are, simple, foolish, easily deceived, and tells us to turn from that and enter into life and insight.

So what does this Proverb mean for Lutherans? We are invited to eat and drink the bread and wine prepared by Holy Wisdom.

The Small Catechism asks:
What is the benefit of such eating and drinking?
Answer: We are told in the words “for you” and “for the forgiveness of sin.” By these words the forgiveness of sins [that is, we leave our simple ways], life [the same life spoken of in the Proverb, eternal life], and salvation [both in the sense that we turn from our simple ways and in the sense that we live and walk in our new lives in Christ] are given to us in the sacrament, for where there is forgiveness of sins, there are also life and salvation.

And again, Martin Luther says:
You may ask, “What does it mean to know Christ? Or, what does he bring us?” Answer: You learn to know Christ when you comprehend the words of the Apostle recorded in I Corinthians 1:30, “Christ was given to us by God to be our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.” You comprehend this fully when you realize that all your wisdom is damnable stupidity, your righteousness damnable unrighteousness, your purity damnable impurity, your redemption miserable damnation; and when you thus discover that before God and all creatures you are actually a feel, a sinner, an unclean and condemned man, and when you show not only with words but also with all your heart and your deeds that you are left with no other comfort and salvation than the fact that Christ is given you by God and that you believe in him and partake of him, whose righteousness alone can preserve you, as you appeal to it and rely on it. Such a faith is nothing else than the eating of this bread, as Christ says in John 6 [:32], “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.”*

This seemingly insignificant and impersonal invitation is not to be taken lightly. In it, Christ, the Wisdom and Power of God, invites us to follow Him, to be fed by Him, to be saved by Him, to live in Him. This is a great honor and blessing not to be taken lightly. Here the invitation of Wisdom! Eat and drink, live and walk in the ways of insight!

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O most Holy Wisdom, Christ our Savior, turn us from our damnable stupidity, our damnable unrighteousness, our damnable impurity, and or miserable damnation. Turn us instead to Your perfect Wisdom, Your perfect Righteousness, Your perfect Purity, and Your complete Salvation. May we ever heed Your gracious invitation to eat and drink of the good things You give us, Your own holy body and blood, that we may live and walk in insight.
Amen.
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*Luther, M. (1999, c1969).
Vol. 42: Luther's works, vol. 42 : Devotional Writings I
(J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.).
Luther's Works (Vol. 42, Page 58-59).
Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Wisdom: Calling Us

Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice?
-Proverbs 8:1Two questions. But what is the answer?
Does not God call? Does not Christ raise His voice?
Two questions. But what is the answer?

Jesus says: I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.
-John 8:18

Through God’s creation, His Holy Word, the life and work of Christ and the guidance and workings of the Holy Spirit, God has called all people. Through His Church, through the faithful preaching of His pastors, through the Sacraments, God has called all people.

Wisdom has called you, God has called you to ever-lasting life through Jesus Christ. He is not a God who is far away. He is a God who reaches out to you, personally and in love.
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Today Thy mercy calls us
To wash away our sin.
However great our trespass,
Whatever we have been,
However long from mercy
Our hearts have turned away,
Thy precious blood can cleanse us
And make us white today.
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Today Thy gate is open,
And all who enter in
Shall find a Father's welcome
And pardon for their sin.
The past shall be forgotten,
A present joy be given,
A future grace be promised,
A glorious crown in heaven.
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Today our Father calls us,
His Holy Spirit waits;
His blessed angels gather
Around the heavenly gates.
No question will be asked us
How often we have come;
Although we oft have wandered,
It is our Father's home.
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O all-embracing Mercy,0 ever-open Door,
What should we do without
TheeWhen heart and eye run o'er?
When all things seem against us,
To drive us to despair,
We know one gate is open,
One ear will hear our prayer.
Amen.*
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*Hymn #279 The Lutheran HymnalText
Author: Oswald Allen, 1861
Composer: Friedrich K. Anthes, 1847
Tune: "Anthes"

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Aardvark Alley: Who You Calling Quia?

I came across this self-proclaimed "golden nugget" and found it very interesting.

As I will be taking my ordination vows in a matter of weeks, I proudly declare that I am quia! You hear that all you Evangelical/Fundamental/Baptomethocosticals? I'm here and I'm QUIA!! What are you gonna do about it?

Aardvark Alley: Who You Calling Quia?

Wisdom: Practical

All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.
-Proverbs 7:22-23

Many of the Proverbs to this point have talked about the temptation of adultery and following the “forbidden woman.” Wisdom does not only work on the academic, philosophical, spiritual plain. Wisdom is also, if not predominately, practical. In married life, there are many temptations to be unfaithful. But to do so is to be a fool. These two verses from Proverbs 7 make an interesting comparison to the man who betrays the way of Wisdom to life in the life of lust and sel-f gratification. He is no longer a man, “all at once” he becomes like an animal: an ox, a stag, a bird. The foolishness of his path has lead him away from that Divine Wisdom, which is his only source of humanity and life.

He is not just an animal, but a doomed animal. The ox that is to be slaughtered, the stag that is pierced by the arrow, the bird in the snare. If you have ever been a part of butchering or hunting, you know that an animal that is being lead to the slaughter, or an animal who is peirced by an arrow or caught in a snare has no idea that its doom is imminent. The animal is totally ignorant of anything other than the desire to fulfill its needs. This is what the Proverb is telling us. You want to forsake the commandments of our Good Father? You want to follow after the prostitute and the forbidden woman? Then you want to throw away your life. Then you want to renounce your birthright as a human being. And not just any human being, but a human being who has been bought with the precious blood of Christ.

If you have found yourself like an ox or a stag or a bird that is ignorant of its own doom, turn to your Master. Leave your paths of iniquity and self-desire and turn to the path of life.

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Lord God, our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier, keep us from cruel and beastly ignorance and lead us ever in Your Holy Wisdom. We have been given the most beautiful gift of salvation and life in Christ, may we never squander that great blessing and high distinction. Hear us for the sake of Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, now and forever.
Amen.
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Monday, May 07, 2007

C. F. W. Walther, Doctor and Confessor

Today the Church gives thanks for the faithful witness and teaching of CFW Walther.
The following link gives some great information and devotional thoughts on our beloved Dr. Walther.
Aardvark Alley: C. F. W. Walther, Doctor and Confessor

Issues, Etc. also had an interesting piece on Dr. Walther yesterday. Download the audio here: KFUO WMA audio

To read some of Walter's wonderful Law/Gospel works, check out the daily devotional from CPH, God Grant It.

Wisdom: Bound to God in Christ

My son, keep your father's commandment, and forsake not your mother's teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you.
-Proverbs 6:20-22

Does this Proverb tell us it is enough to learn what our faith means? Is it good enough to know the right answers, or to have Bible passages and the Small Catechism memorized? If we think that is all that needs to be done we mistake the rest stop for the destination. It is important to know the right answers, it is important to commit jewels of God’s Word and the teaching of the Catechism to memory. But these things are only brief stops on the journey of faith.

Wisdom tells us to bind the commandments and teachings of the one true faith to our hearts. When you bind something there is a reason for it, usually to keep it connected or to keep it together. When we bind God’s Word to our hearts we are keeping it together with our hearts, so that every beat is a living reminder of God’s goodness and loving-kindness.

Wisdom tells us to tie God’s teaching around our neck, so that others may see them. We wear God’s Word around our neck like a precious and beautiful necklace. But it is also a sign of our servant hood to Him. In some ancient cultures slaves were forced to where a kind of collar around their neck. It was made of metal and fastened on them when still hot and then welded together so it would never come off. This was a sign to anyone who saw them that they were a slave. So we gladly wear the easy burden and beautiful Word around our necks—that anyone who sees us may know to whom we belong.

The foolish person may see this Proverb and think that he is unjustly bound to a hard and cruel master. It is not attractive in our society to be bound to anything other than our own depraved interests and desires. But those sinful desires do not seek our good. When you are bound to righteousness through Christ Jesus, you will be lead on the right paths, you will be guarded from eternal harm and danger, you will have an Advocate who talks with you and for you.

Wisdom knows this to be true. Holy Wisdom, Christ Himself, was bound for our sakes. He was so bound to the Father’s will that He endured the most severe physical and spiritual punishment and abandonment for us. This is our Wisdom, Christ Himself, the one who makes us wise for salvation unto eternal life.

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I bind unto myself today

The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same

The Three in One and One in Three.
I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spic├Ęd tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.*
Amen.
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* Portions of St Patrick's Breastplate

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Can you ask too much?

Last night I was watching an episode of the Simpson's. Bart and Lisa wanted to go to an amusement park, but Homer didn't want to take them. So, for the rest of the day, they barraged Homer with the same quesion over and over. "Can we go Dad? Can we go Dad? Can we go Dad?" Over and over they were relentless in their pursuit of getting Homer to take them. Finally, frustrated and ready to go to sleep, Homer explodes "If I take you will you stop asking me?" To which they joyfully reply "YEAH!"

This blitz approach to getting your way is well known to children. I did it when I was a kid, but mine ususally ended up with "If you ask me one more time, I won't take you anywhere!" I thought my Mom was bluffing the first time she employed this counter-attack, but, to my surprise and disappointment, I found she was very serious.

I have been praying a lot lately for the same things. Over and over again throughout the day I turn to God with the same requests. "Help us get everything done! Help us find housing! Help me get through these last few days of class! Help us find someone to take our apartment!" to name just a few of my numerous requests. I'm torn at times though. Will God respond to me like Homer? In anger and frustration, just trying to shut me up? (Their trip to the amusement park did NOT go well!) Will God respond like my Mom? "If you ask me one more time, you get NOTHING!"

My sinful nature and the old evil foe are constantly trying to get me to believe that God will get tired of me. "Why bother asking? God will do what He wants! You don't want to risk making Him mad, do you?" But these are lies. What is so great about Lutheran theology is its three-fold foundation of Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura. Faith alone, Grace alone, Scripture alone.

Our faith alone, which is a work of the Holy Spirit, tells us that God will not tire of our requests. He has reached out to us first. Had He not been calling us, we would not call to Him!

It is God's grace alone, shown on the cross of Jesus Christ, that gives us proof of that love of God. How could our prayers and requests not be pleasing to the God who gave His only begotten Son in love?

Finally, if these two things don't convince your troubled heart, if you don't "feel" your faith or God's grace in your life, He has given that sure witness to His love. Scripture alone stands outside of us and points us to the truth of our faith and God's grace.

See how Christ Himself instructs us about our persistence in prayer:
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, 'Give me justice against my adversary.' For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, 'Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.'" And the Lord said, "Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" (Luke 18:1-8)

And St. Paul tells us:
"do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (Eph. 1:6)

So I will continue to pray to my gracious Father in heaven. I will continue to trust His loving-kindness to hear my prayers. I will give thanks for the good work of the Holy Spirit in calling me to prayer. And I will ignore the foolishness of my own flesh, the world and Satan who tell me to give up.

Wisdom: Innocently Wise

For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it…and you say, "How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.”
For a man's ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponders all his paths.

-Proverbs 5:3-6, 12-14, 21

This Proverb gives important insight into the ways and means of the enemy, here presented as the “forbidden woman.” Everything said about this forbidden woman applies to our old evil foe, Satan. Certainly, it is not wise or healthy to give too much thought to Satan and his ways. There is a danger in that, he likes to be thought about, it gives him an opportunity to take hostage our thoughts and turn them from Christ. However, it is also unwise to be ignorant of him.

Christ tells His disciples in Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” In this Proverb, Christ, the wisdom and power of God, is instructing us so that we may be innocently wise of evil.

What does He say in this Proverb? The words and enticements of the forbidden woman appear to be sweet and even right. This is how she will trap you. Like a Venus Flytrap that offers some bit of sweet bait to attract its prey. Be on guard against this! Test all things against God’s Word. Take Esau as an example of what not to do. He traded everything for some bread and lentil stew. He took the sweet bait, thinking it was what he needed, thinking it would keep him alive, but in doing so he lost everything. This is how the forbidden woman works. She calls with lips dripping honey and smooth words, then, once the bait has been taken, she attacks. Once the words have been swallowed it becomes bitter. The sword cuts both ways.

We are also made innocently wise by the understanding that this forbidden woman does not even realize the danger of her own ways. She desires that you listen to her and come with her, but she herself does not know the end of her path. Satan is the same way. He wants us to follow after him, thinking he will somehow still win the victory. He is ignorant of his own doom. Christ does not do this. He has blazed a trail for us through life and death into eternal life. He is our Good Shepherd who will not lead His sheep astray. He knows His ways and has revealed them to us in Holy Scripture.

Christ teaches us the folly of the ways of wickedness in a clear and understandable way. He also sheds light onto the future of the man who follows the forbidden woman. The only future for such a man is regret, anxiety, fear and destruction. Why does our good Father reveal this to us? To teach us wisdom, to spare us the pain and heartache of turning from His ways. We can know from this Proverb that the ways of the forbidden woman end in ignorant death. The ways of the man who follows her ends in ignorant regret and ruin. We can also be certain from this Proverb that God knows all of our ways. In this Proverb, the only one who is not ignorant is God, and He desires to give us wisdom, so that we may be wise as serpents and innocent as doves in the midst of wolves.

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O Holy Wisdom of God, our blessed Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ, turn us from the ignorance and foolishness of the wicked and direct us in your knowledge and instruction on the paths of righteousness. Make us innocently wise in the face of the evil foe, that we may remain blameless before You. Hear us, Good Lord, as we come before You at Your bidding.

Amen.
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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Ordination Announcement

For all my readers:
I will be Ordained into the Holy Ministry on June 3rd, +AD+ 2007 at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Ft. Wayne Indiana at 3:00 pm. Any rostered LCMS clergy who would like to participate are asked to wear clerical collars, alb or cassock and surplice and red stole.

I will then be installed as the third pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Middleville Michigan on June 10th, +AD+ 2007 at 4:00 pm. Again, any clergy who would like to participate are asked to follow the same instructions above.

I have waited a long time for this and have done a lot to prepare myself to be a worthy candidate. Yet, all my preparation has been worthless had God not called me through the work of the Holy Spirit to serve His Church with faithful Word and Sacrament ministry. If you are not able to come to either service or participate, please pray for me and Good Shepherd as we enter into a partnership of faithful Gospel ministry.

Wisdom: The Narrow Path

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.

-Proverbs 4:25-27

There is a line from the first Lord of the Rings movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, in which Galadriel, the elf queen, tells Frodo, the ring bearer, that the mission he and his fellowship are on balances on the edge of a knife. She warns him that any straying from that mission, either to the right or the left, will not only end their mission, but effectively bring about the end of Middle Earth.

In her warning, the Lady Galadriel echoes the words of Christ to His followers.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” –Matthew 7:13-14

The life of a Christian is not easy, if it were easy we would have no need for God and the work of Christ. The gate is narrow. In fact, there is only one way to the gate of Eternal Life. Take your eyes off of Christ and you will fall. Keep your eyes fixed on Christ in faith, and He will keep you on the straight and narrow path.
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Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word;
Curb those who by deceit or sword
Would wrest the kingdom from Your Son
And bring to naught all He has done.

Lord Jesus Christ, Your power make known,
For You are Lord of lords alone;
Defend Your holy Church that we
May sing Your praise eternally.

O Comforter of priceless worth,
Send peace and unity on earth;
Support us in our final strife
And lead us out of death to life.*

Amen.
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*"Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word," LSB 655

Friday, May 04, 2007

Wisdom: From Our Father

My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.
-Proverbs 3:11-12

What on earth does this mean to Christians today? In my home congregation, the music director was fond of saying to the day school students “God’s gonna get ya!” when he saw them doing something wrong.

So, is this what the Proverb is saying? When you do bad things, God will cause bad things to happen to you? If that is the case, why do evil people seem to prosper? There is an important distinction to be made in the explanation of this Proverb. What is the difference between punishment and discipline? Between divine retribution and fatherly reproof? This is what the Proverb is presenting us with. There is a huge difference between the divine boogey man who is “gonna get ya” and the loving Father who desires to lead his beloved son in the ways of right living.

And this is where the Gospel is in theis Proverb. It would be easy to focus in on the Law. God will reprove, He will discipline according to His Holy Law. For those whom He loves, who have been called according to His purposes, there is no condemnation in that reproof. There is love abounding in that Fatherly discipline. We are children in whom our Father delights. We are children through Christ Jesus and His work for us on the cross. For this reason, we who are children, do not despise our dear Father for loving us. It is in His love for us that we find our love for Him. All good things, including Fatherly reproof and discipline, come from God.
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OUR FATHER, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever.
Amen.
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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Wisdom: Two Paths

Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech, who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness, who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil, men whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways.
-Proverbs 2:9-15

A common theme in Scripture depicts life as two paths: the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked. I have always found this interesting for two reasons: despite "conventional wisdom," that teaches there are many paths, all equal and all leading to the same place, the True Wisdom of God in Christ teaches that there are only two paths-righteous and wicked.
One is good, the other evil. One leads to the knowledge of God, the other leads to the perversion of wickedness. One leads to eternal life and salvation, the other to eternal damnation and death.
But these two paths are not equal. One is Truth, absolutely and completely, the other is all falsehood and lies. There are basically two religions on earth, that of Christ and that of man. Anything that points to the cross of Christ for the total and complete forgiveness of sins is right. Anything that points to what man must do or can do will only lead to bitter slavery and eventual death.

The other reason I find this imagery of the paths or ways of life interesting is that it implies that we who are on certain path will walk in a certain way. This speaks to how we live our lives. If we, through the grace and mercy of God in Christ, are on the path of righteousness, then we will "walk the walk," so to speak, in Christ. If we are following our own perverse plans on the way of the wicked, we will also "walk the walk" to our own damnation.
God not only provides the Way, the Truth and the Life, He prepares us to walk in the Way, to learn and be instructed in the Truth, and to live that new Life in Christ.
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-Psalm 1-

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Amen.
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