Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Thoughts from Laache

Thoughts from Laache from his Ash Wednesday devotion (#120) from "Book of Family Prayer."
...Then God gave us His Son as Savior. He became the Shepherd of the miserable flock and took the punishment of our misdeeds on Himself. All the host of hell and all the arrows of death came upon Him. He was called to account for all the sin of the world. He, He was served notice and He paid the debt, and we, we are free. How the Lamb of God then was shorn! See Him under the scourge! See Him on the way to Golgotha! See Him on the cross! But He goes to death with perfect patience. He did not stray. He was wounded for our transgressions. As His life is free of guilt, His suffering is quiet and holy. He lives and suffers perfectly obedient to the death of the cross.
   Then He became the spiritual Father of a renewed human race. The Branch of Jesse's rod is cut down and replanted, and we are grafted into Him. Christ dies and lives again. We are baptized into death with Him and live with Him. So His Israel is a countless number. Misdeeds are atoned for, sins are put away, and eternal righteousness has come. Whoever believes is a member of Christ's Body and lives a new, holy life in Him. 
   Give us Your Holy Spirit's grace, that we may heartily believe in You, Lord Jesus, receive Your holy life in our heart, and no longer come under the devil's power. When we go astray, lead us right back and keep us with you forever. Amen.

Jesu Juva,
Soli Deo Gloria

The Pattern Of Conversion

...The pattern of conversion is repeated every Sunday in the Confession and Absolution and in the pastor's sermon, which is always a proclamation of Law and Gospel. Luther went even further. He said that we should be broken by the Law and animated by the Gospel every day: "The old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts," he ways in the catechism, explaining the significance of Baptism; whereupon "a new man should daily come forth and arise, who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever."... 
--Gene Veith, "The Spirituality of the Cross"

LLC Wednesdays #14: Part 2 of Luther's Large Catechism, The Apostles's Creed, Article 1

9 I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.
10 This shows and sets forth most briefly what is God the Father’s essence, will, activity, and work. The Ten Commandments have taught that we are to have not more than one God [Deuteronomy 6:4]. So it might be asked, “What kind of a person is God? What does He do? How can we praise, or show and describe Him, that He may be known?” Now, that is taught in this and in the following article. So the Creed is nothing other than the answer and confession of Christians arranged with respect to the First Commandment. 11 It is as if you were to ask a little child, “My dear, what sort of a God do you have? What do you know about Him?” The child could say, “This is my God: first, the Father, who has created heaven and earth. Besides this One only, I regard nothing else as God. For there is no one else who could create heaven and earth.”
12 But for the learned and those who are somewhat advanced, these three articles may all be expanded and divided into as many parts as there are words. But now for young scholars let it suffice to make the most necessary points, as we have said, that this article refers to the Creation. We emphasize the words “Creator of heaven and earth.” 13 But what is the force of this, or what do you mean by these words, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth?” Answer: “This is what I mean and believe, that I am God’s creature [2 Corinthians 5:17]. I mean that He has given and constantly preserves [Psalm 36:6] for me my body, soul, and life, my members great and small, all my senses, reason, and understanding, and so on. He gives me food and drink, clothing and support, wife and children, domestic servants, house and home, and more. 14 Besides, He causes all created things to serve for the uses and necessities of life. These include the sun, moon, and stars in the heavens, day and night, air, fire, water, earth, and whatever it bears and produces. They include birds and fish, beasts, grain, and all kinds of produce [Psalm 104]. 15 They also include whatever else there is for bodily and temporal goods, like good government, peace, and security.” 16 So we learn from this article that none of us owns for himself, nor can preserve, his life nor anything that is here listed or can be listed. This is true no matter how small and unimportant a thing it might be. For all is included in the word Creator.
17 Further, we also confess that God the Father has not only given us all that we have and see before our eyes, but He daily preserves and defends us against all evil and misfortune [Psalm 5:11]. He directs all sorts of danger and disaster away from us. We confess that He does all this out of pure love and goodness, without our merit, as a kind Father. He cares for us so that no evil falls upon us. 18 But to speak more about this belongs in the other two parts of this article, where we say, “Father Almighty.”
19 Now, all that we have, and whatever else is in heaven and upon the earth, is daily given, preserved, and kept for us by God. Therefore, it is clearly suggested and concluded that it is our duty to love, praise, and thank Him for these things without ceasing [1 Thessalonians 5:17–18]. In short, we should serve Him with all these things, as He demands and has taught in the Ten Commandments.
20 We could say much here, if we were to wander, about how few people believe this article. For we all pass over it, hear it, and say it. Yet we do not see or consider what the words teach us. 21 For if we believed this teaching with the heart, we would also act according to it [James 2:14]. We would not strut about proudly, act defiantly, and boast as though we had life, riches, power, honor, and such, of ourselves [James 4:13–16]. We would not act as though others must fear and serve us, as is the practice of the wretched, perverse world. The world is drowned in blindness and abuses all the good things and God’s gifts only for its own pride, greed, lust, and luxury. It never once thinks about God, so as to thank Him or acknowledge Him as Lord and Creator.
22 This article ought to humble and terrify us all, if we believed it. For we sin daily [Hebrews 3:12–13] with eyes, ears, hands, body and soul, money and possessions, and with everything we have. This is especially true of those who fight against God’s Word. Yet Christians have this advantage: they acknowledge that they are duty bound to serve God for all these things and to be obedient to Him.
23 We ought, therefore, daily to recite this article. We ought to impress it upon our mind and remember it by all that meets our eyes and by all good that falls to us. Wherever we escape from disaster or danger, we ought to remember that it is God who gives and does all these things. In these escapes we sense and see His fatherly heart and His surpassing love toward us [Exodus 34:6]. In this way the heart would be warmed and kindled to be thankful, and to use all such good things to honor and praise God.
24 We have most briefly presented the meaning of this article. This is how much is necessary at first for the most simple to learn about what we have, what we receive from God, and what we owe in return. This is a most excellent knowledge but a far greater treasure. For here we see how the Father has given Himself to us, together with all creatures, and has most richly provided for us in this life. We see that He has overwhelmed us with unspeakable, eternal treasures by His Son and the Holy Spirit, as we shall hear [Colossians 2:2].
Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions. Edited by Paul Timothy McCain. St. Louis, MO : Concordia Publishing House, 2005, S. 399

Jesu Juva,
Soli Deo Gloria

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Remember, What We Say Has Meaning

It's a sad day when someone loses a loved one. Friends and family come together to console and comfort each other. Many times we offer words of comfort and encouragement to those who have suffered a loss. I think many times we feel compelled to say something because it seems the appropriate thing to do. We feel for and with them and want to help. However, the words we say, to those who are grieving, have meaning. We would do well to remember that. Some of the words I've heard offered to people seem like a good thing to say until we look at their meaning and implications. An example of such words that I've heard used countless times before, spoken usually to a family who has lost a child, go along the lines of "We're so sorry. Billy died before his time."

Admittedly, at first glance, this appears to be an appropriate thing to say. When we consider "the norm", parents are usually the ones who depart this life first. For the most part this does seem to be the "normal" progression of things. Of course it's sad when a child dies and a parent doesn't have the opportunity to see that child grow and learn. It's unfortunate when a parent is unable to see what becomes of their child as they reach adulthood and make a life of their own. It's frustrating to not know if that child would have become a competent athlete, accomplished musician, farmer, doctor, or public leader. As a result, we want to console those who are grieving.

But what do our words mean? Are our words helpful and beneficial? If we use the example of "We're so sorry. Billy died before his time" and consider it from a Biblical viewpoint, we see that better words should be chosen to share with those who are grieving. There are at least three false implications in regards to God that can easily be used by Satan to attack those who are grieving by bringing them doubt about our Holy God.

The first thing about the statement "Billy died before his time" is that it denies God's omniscience, His ability to know everything; past, present, and future. The statement implies that God did not know that Billy would die. The implication screams at those who are mourning, "If God would have only known, He could have done something about it."

A second thing about the statement "Billy died before his time" is that it denies God's omni-presence, His ability to be everywhere all at once. The statement implies that God was unable to be there when Billy died. The implication screams at those who are mourning, "If God could have only been there, He could have done something about it."

A third thing about the statement "Billy died before his time" is that it denies God's omnipotence, His ability to be all-powerful. The statement implies that God was unable to do anything about Billy's death. The implication screams at those who are mourning, "God just wasn't able to save your son. It was out of His control."

To say "Billy died before his time" is to say that God wasn't there, He didn't know about it and even if He did He would have been helpless to do anything about it. These are not words we would want to share with anyone who is mourning the loss of a loved one. In fact, they would do more harm than good. Satan would love for us to use these words so that he might bring doubt by whispering in the ears of those mourning, "This God can't help you and He must not love you. If He was unable to save your son, what good is He? Could this powerless God that you believe in even truly save you from damnation?" These are not words of comfort that we would want to share.

What then would be better options in a time of mourning? Better words to share with someone could be as simple as "My condolences" "I'm sorry for you loss" or "We'll be praying for you". Depending on your level of friendship with those who are mourning you can offer a meaningful nod, a gentle squeeze of a shoulder or even a hug. We don't always have to use words to communicate comfort. When we do, however, we should want to be mindful of what we're saying. We don't want our words to be twisted by the evil one, causing more pain and even doubt's about God for those who are mourning. We want them to cling to Christ, for He clings to them through His saving blood.

Jesu Juva,
Soli Deo Gloria

Where has "Faith, Family, Life" been the past two months?

"What happened to the daily blog posts Leif?"  Well, my son happened. It is my pleasure to announce the birth and baptism of my son.

Garrick Miller Matthew Halvorson
Birthday: January 3rd, 2012
Time: 8:02 am
Weight: 8lbs 14oz
Length: 20 1/4 inches
Baptized into Christ on January 22, 2012 at Sidney Lutheran Brethren Church
Sponsors: Matt and Serenity Richard

Hymn Monday - "Lord, 'Tis Not That I Did Choose Thee"

Today's Hymn, "Lord, 'Tis Not That I Did Choose Thee" (#573) is from the "Lutheran Service Book" (c) 2006 Concordia Publishing House.

Lord, 'tis not that I did choose Thee; That, I know, could never be;
For this heart would still refuse Thee Had Thy grace not chosen me.
Thou has from the sin that stained me Washed and cleansed and set me free
And unto this end ordained me, That I ever live to Thee

It was grace in Christ that called me, Taught my darkened heart and mind;
Else the world had yet enthralled me, to thy heav'nly glories blind.
Now I worship none above Thee; For Thy grace alone I thirst,
Knowing well that, if I love Thee, Thou, O Lord, didst love me first.

Praise the God of all creation; Praise the Father's boundless love.
Praise the Lamb, our expiation, Priest and King enthroned above.
Praise the Spirit of salvation, Him by whome our spirits live.
Undivided adoration To the great Jehovah give.

Jesu Juva,
Soli Deo Gloria

First Sunday in Lent Readings

Genesis 22:1-18 
English Standard Version (ESV) 

The Sacrifice of Isaac
 22 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” 6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. 9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” 15 And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed,because you have obeyed my voice.”

James 1:12-18 
English Standard Version (ESV)

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

Mark 1:9-15 
English Standard Version (ESV) 

The Baptism of Jesus

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

The Temptation of Jesus
12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.

Jesus Begins His Ministry
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”