Monday, September 29, 2008

Pardon the Political Interruption

Liberals, be they Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Independents, or some other sort of tin-foil-hat-wearing goofballs are not operating with a Lutheran “world view”, shall we say?  By liberal, we mean those who seek to improve the attitudes of others through legislation and the threat of force.  For example, some believe that it is more “neighborly” or more “patriotic” on the part of selfish wealthy Americans to send more money in taxes to the government.  Forcing them to do so will not in fact make those people any more “neighborly” or “patriotic”.  It might make them more intent on finding creative ways to avoid paying taxes.  The root problems of greed and selfishness are not solved through legislation.  For a source more authoritative than a blog, please see St. Paul on this thought.  Actually, those root problems could be exacerbated by penalizing those who tend to be the ones hiring more workers and giving more money charitably, making them less apt to be neighborly to those around them in need what with the government promising to use their new tax gains to take care of the poor and needy, even those poor and needy individuals who make more cash per year than a half-dozen WELS pastors combined.  Yes, we should all give up and get on the gravy train that will soon be stopping in our respective small towns…well, at least those small towns that are accepting of abortion, socialism, and the mushy superficiality of the American generic religion of spirituality and not those which cling to their God and have guns at the ready for the first toaster-bearing bureaucrat who comes into sight.
We have heard the Ron Paul complainers who want to send a message to the Republican party this fall.  Guess what?  The party doesn’t care.  Ron Paul has some good points but is no Messiah either.  He’s lost.  Get over it.  Move on. 
Usually at this point we hear some high-pitched squealing about there being no lesser of two evils.  Kingdom of the left, folks!  Many times reason must decide between two evils.  You choose the lesser.  Use your God-given mental faculties to deal with the reality of the situation.  Whining about someone who is no longer in the race is unproductive loser talk.  (Hey, I understand.  I wanted the Law&Order guy.)
You say your state is bluer than Papa Smurf after accidentally whacking himself in the shins with a crowbar?  And your vote won’t matter anyway, so you’re going to throw it away on someone who is either not running or doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in Hades?  Not so fast, my disgruntled friend!  Even Illinois has closer polling numbers than would have been expected, so every vote has worth.  (A question for Illinoisans:  Does polling data in your state reflect the views of deceased likely voters, or do they only come out and make their voices heard on Election Day?)
Interruption ended.  Go in peace.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

For Literate Lutherans

For this reason we will now explain further from God's Word how (a) a person is converted to God; (b) how and through what means (namely, through the oral Word and the holy Sacraments) the Holy Spirit wants to be effective in us, to work and bestow in our hearts true repentance, faith, and new spiritual power and the ability to do good; and (c) how we should respond to these means and use them.

It is not God's will that anyone should be damned, but that all people should be converted to Him and be saved eternally (2 Peter 3:9).

Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. (Ezekiel 33:11)

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Out of His immense goodness and mercy, God provides for the public preaching of His divine eternal Law and His wonderful plan for our redemption, that of the holy, only saving Gospel of His eternal Son, our only Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.  By this preaching He gathers an eternal Church for Himself from the human race and works in people's hearts true repentance, knowledge of sins, and true faith in God's Son, Jesus Christ.  By this means, and in no other way (i.e., through His holy Word, when people hear it preached or read it, and through the holy Sacraments when they are used according to His Word), God desires to call people to eternal salvation.  He desires to draw them to Himself and convert, regenerate, and sanctify them.

 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:21)

(Peter) will tell you what you must do. (Acts 10:6)

So faith comes from the preaching (der Predigt) and preaching through the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17 Luther).

Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth...I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word. (John 17:17-20)

The eternal Father calls down from heaven about His dear Son and about all who preach repentance and forgiveness of sins in His name, "Listen to Him" (Matthew 17:5).

All who want to be saved ought to listen to this preaching.  For the preaching and hearing of God's Word are the Holy Spirit's instruments.  By, with, and through these instruments the Spirit desires to work effectively, to convert people to God, and to work in them both to will and to do (Philippians 2:13).

A person can hear and read this Word outwardly, even though he is not yet converted to God and regenerate.  As said above, a person even since the fall has a free will to a certain extent in these outward things.  So he can go to church and listen or not listen to the sermon.

God works through this means (i.e., the preaching and hearing of His Word).  He breaks our hearts (Jeremiah 4:3-4) and draws us to Him (John 6:44).  Through the preaching of the Law, a person comes to know his sins and God's wrath.  He experiences in his heart true terrors, contrition, and sorrow.  Through the preaching of, and reflection on, the Holy Gospel about the gracious forgiveness of sins in Christ, a spark of faith is kindled in him.  This faith accepts the forgiveness of sins for Christ's sake and comforts itself with the Gospel promise.  So the Holy Spirit (who does all this) is sent into the heart (Galatians 4:6).

The preacher's planting and watering and the hearer's running and hearing woud both be in vain and no conversion would follow it if the power and effectiveness of the Holy Spirit were not added (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).  The Spirit enlightens and converts hearts through the Word preached and heard.  So people believe this Word and agree with it.  Neither preacher nor hearer is to doubt this grace and effectiveness of the Holy Spirit.  They should be certain that when God's Word is preached purely and truly, according to God's command and will, and people listen attentively and seriously and meditate on it, God is certainly present with His grace.  He grants, as has been said, what otherwise a person can neither accept nor give by his own powers.  For we should not and cannot always judge from feeling about the presence, work, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, as to how and when they are experienced in the heart.  They are often covered and happen in great weakness.  Therefore, we should be certain about and agree with the promise that God's Word preached and heard is truly an office and work of the Holy Spirit.  He is certainly effective and works in our hearts by them (2 Corinthians 2:14-17; 3:5-6).

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Nice Cooperation in Externals

From the LCMS, WELS, and ELS:

Children Making Music” is a new DVD that highlights music as a gift from God that can enrich life in the church and beyond. The video will be distributed in late August to all WELS churches, schools, and early childhood centers across the country. The DVD was developed by a committee of leaders and musicians from three Lutheran church bodies: The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS). 
"Children Making Music" creators expect the new DVD to strike a chord with a variety of viewers.  The 30-minute video is divided into three segments, with portions aimed at children, parents, and pastors and educators. 
 Rev. Paul Grime, who initiated the DVD project, hopes congregations will play the video at board meetings and Bible classes, for parent teacher associations and Sunday school students. “If the DVD is shown in just half our congregations and schools, and if it provides the needed encouragement to only a couple of students in each of those institutions, that would ultimately mean several thousand additional musicians who might one day be leading our congregations in song,” said Grime.

As congregations scramble to find trained musicians, this is a good and useful work. (sincerely)

Now, let's ponder how this "fellowshiping" could give the Boy Scouts a toehold... (sarcastically)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Isaiah on Ablaze!

The mighty man will become tinder and his work a spark; both will burn together, with no one to quench the fire.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Short-term Missionary Position

We have noticed something odd going on in the Lutheran Church – Misery Synod. (Shocking, no?) People will sign up to “win” or pay out of their own pocket for short-term missionary trips. (Hey, who wouldn’t want a nice ego-boosting vacation in a third-world country?)

Some of the literature leads one to do a little head-scratching. These trips are in theory to create life-long relationships with those in the foreign country being served. While this is an admirable goal, it seems a bit farfetched, since the short-term mission trips can be as short as two days.

One wonders how this must look to the “natives”. A new suburban housewife with nicely manicured nails curing her white guilt by showing up for a two-week stint as a mild to moderately theologically adept “missionary” might start the locals to wondering who the Church is there to serve. Is their poverty-stricken, disease-riddled community on the receiving end of Christian charity or the giving end?

Although LCMS world missions claims this is a “win” all around, how do the missionaries really feel about it? Imagine if new folks showed up to “help” you at work for anywhere from two days to six months, then were replaced by others similarly inexperienced. How helpful would that really be? (As anyone who has to regularly interact with short-term temps can tell you, it’s a crap shoot at best.)

While these trips may play well back home (glossy pics of the short-term missionary gals are far easier to look at than ones of some chubby clergypersons) and get others to open their checkbooks and support the ongoing mission work, the temptation is there to put the focus on us and our wonderful works of charity. (Yes, yes, I am a world missionary. I won an all-expense paid trip for two weeks to Panama from the LWML.) Perhaps instead of paying for yourself to get in the way of the “long-term” missionaries for a few days, you could send them cash directly and allow them to do what they are trained to do. Yes, by sending prayers and money, you are involved in the mission of the Church, without the goofiness of being “transformed” into a “more active and excited participant in God’s mission” which is a load of flaming enthusiasm (in the religious sense) and should be avoided as such.