Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Cure For You Which Saves Your Eternal Life!

The other day a fellow chatter on Facebook objected strongly about my having a Crucifix on my profile picture on Facebook. He cited the second command from God:

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
(Exodus 20:4-6 ESV)

This certainly is a clear warning regarding any type of representation of God and his work being made by man. Continuing in the command we see that it is the bowing down and worshiping this image, statue, picture or other item which is prohibited. Not the display or possession of such an article.

Here we see Our Lord making use of an article to save the life of his wayward Israel:
And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.”
(Numbers 21:8 ESV)

Here is Our Lord directing the man through which he gave his commandments to  erect a pole with the representation of a serpent on it. This was to counteract the venomous bite of the serpents. Obviously from this instance and all the instructions regarding the Temple furnishings Our Lord has no problems with having an image concerning his work. 

Compare this to the Lamb of God on the cross who located himself there to cure the bite of a different serpent. It is indeed comparing the lesser to the greater. The serpent was to save temporal life. The creature used by our Adversary to rob us of eternal life. Which is loathsome to look at by many people. Whom we willingly believed rather than Our Lord. 

Compare this serpent  with the Lamb who saves our eternal life. He never has anything but the best intentions for us. He is still cast aside as a loathsome person for he dared to forgive miserable sinners. Quite a shot to the head of pride. But oh what wondrous love is this?

What has all this to do with a crucifix:

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Burdens removed from you!

I heard a minister once describe being unable to release the guilt from previous and confessed sin as unbelief and one is still carrying the guilt for them like a burden. The above quote from Augustus Toplady, although sounding very pious, hints at doing just that.

This is not at all the Christian message.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

(1 John 1:9 ESV)

The passage written by John is the Christian message. Away with the notion that one is more holy by mulling over past sins. They are holy only because of the innocent sufferings and death of Our Lord Jesus. Faith in him is what justifies us before our Holy Father in Heaven. 

Today we are still justified sinners. Today we will face temptations and falling short. One gets all wrapped up on last year's sins care is not taken for today. Are the sins too great for Our Crucified Lord to cover? If they are, and we must bear them, we have no hope for today.

"My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! 
My sin, not in part but the whole, 
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, 
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!"*

You are Baptized into Christ. You are redeemed and forgiven!
Trust this good news and live in its peace. Amen. †

*It Is Well With My Soul
Horatio G. Spafford, 1873

Monday, September 21, 2015

Bodied and Blooded Together.

One bread, one body,
one Lord of all,
one cup of blessing which we bless.
And we, though many,
throughout the earth,
we are one body in this one Lord.

-John Michael Talbot

The song lyrics posted really hit home during Distribution of the Eucharist. It is another amazing benefit of the gift we have in the Supper of Our Lord. It is based upon the following passage:

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
(1 Corinthians 10:14-17 ESV)

This is fantastic! When receiving the Body and Blood of Our Lord we not only have an intimate connection with him but also with those joining us. This also unifies us with other Christians around the world. And in a Real sense due to the Real Presence of Christ we have union with those who have gone before.

Here is a wonderful chorus to sing prior to the Supper:

Let the vineyards be fruitful Lord
And fill to the brim our cup of blessing
Gather the harvest from the seeds that were sown
That we maybe filled with the Bread of Life
Gather the hopes and dreams of all
Unite them with the prayers we offer
Grace our table with your Presence
And give us a foretaste of the feast to come.

This declares the Supper is indeed the work of Our Lord for us. Rather than having it as our obedience, which would accomplish nothing, it is his firm and tangible gift to us. It is his victory on the cross that makes this gift so powerful. It is the Resurrected and Ascended Jesus we are receiving. This is a joyous feast. Not a funeral meal at which to be sad. Rather have tears of joy than of sadness. Your sins are forgiven!

Trust this good news, his promise, and live in  peace and certainty. †

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Gift of The True and Living God's Image. For You.

When speaking with some of my brothers and sisters in Christ the subject of Crucifixes, pictures of Jesus, a dove representing the Holy Spirit, etc. presents itself. This is even said to those of us who believe Christ's Real Presence in the Supper of his Body and Blood. This statement in the Decalogue springs to mind:

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

(Exodus 20:4-6 ESV)

What happens here happens in many cases when it comes to Scripture. People will stop at the first part of it then formulate the idea from it. But that is not the entire story is it. One should always read at least the rest of the statement before reaching a conclusion. It is referring to the worship of an image rather then forbidden all art and such in congregation houses and homes.

“You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.

(Exodus 25:17-22 ESV)

In the design of the furnishing to be included in the Temple the above item was to be included. Very intricate in detail. And he promised to locate himself there to speak with those serving him in the Temple. If Our Lord prohibited any images or artwork in worship places he would never have included this in the Temple.

Even more important in Holy Communion Jesus has promised his Presence in the bread and wine. So the charge of idolatry is wrong in this belief as well. Of the bread he said "this is my Body. Of the cup he said "this is my Blood of the new covenant. Firm statements that are to be believed not just shunted aside because we cannot comprehend them.

So how are we to understand this command about images if not the total prohibition? It is to have God describe himself to us. Rather than forever mulling over who God is and how he goes on being God he describes himself in all the detail we can ever hope to fathom. We would imagine a Holy God as One who would look upon a sinner as disgusting and would destroy him. If we were God we would take care of that sinner in short order. And of course God must be like we are. 

Rather than that horrible image he loves the sinner, had himself pinned to a Cross bearing the sinner's sin and Resurrected for the sinner thereby Justifying him. In a word he has balanced the books for us. And this is done for each and every sinner that has been on earth, Every sinner on the earth today. And every sinner who will ever be on earth.

How are we to comprehend such a God as this? We will never comprehend him. Rather trust in his work. And live in the peace it gives. †

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Gift of God Himself to Us.

How quickly we will find ourselves fearing, loving and trusting in an idol. No. Not necessarily a false deity but something with which we concern ourselves to supply our needs. This we have found to be true the times we were forced out of the work force due to economic conditions and health challenges. This still occurs as we face uncertain future as far as health as well as finances are concerned. This is all quite repulsive when we consider all those things in which we are trusting are gifts from Our Heavenly Father.

And do to this we have this gift from Our Heavenly Father:

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before me."

(Exodus 20:2-3 ESV)

This was originally given to Our Lord's people after he brought them out of bondage to once again love, serve and worship him. During their captivity exposure to false deities in all forms from the Nile river to insects were their experience. Our Lord wanted them to be reminded that he is the True and Living Creator of all things and he wanted them to not be enslaved to the false ones who could not help them.

One is embraced by the thought: "What has this to do with me? I live in my choice of house, I work a job that I chose. I even got my own retirement savings account for when I am too old to work. By living in the United States I have the ability to also choose my leaders. I am not in slavery to any false god."

Those are indeed good things. They can make life comfortable and give us freedom to serve our neighbors which a slave would never posses. However, we never want to sacrifice the good and wonderful gift Our Lord gives us by giving himself to us. The false idols we create are in constant need of our sacrifices to them. Our True and Living Lord sacrificed himself for us to reconcile us to himself the God and Father of all.

In Holy Baptism he places his name on us and by being a Baptized child of God we can have certainty.

In Confession and Holy Absolution he once again confirms to us his forgiveness of all our sin in spite of who we are, what we have done or left undone.

In Holy Communion, by his institution and promise, he unites himself to us by feeding us his True and Living Body and Blood.

Through his Sacrifice we are set free from our idols and have Our Creator as his gift to us. 

Trust this good news and live in its peace. Amen. †

Friday, July 17, 2015

God's Own Child I Gladly Say It.

"In the name of the Father the † Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen"

Very little gives me as much profound joy as to hear this statement at the start of a worship service. Also it is a privilege to invoke the name of God before and after prayer and Scripture reading. During times of testing, sadness and when the adversary bothers it is a very useful tool. What
makes this such a wonderful practice? Paul
points this out here:

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

(Romans 8:15-17 ESV)

In Baptism God placed his name on us. Just as adopting parents
give a family name to there adopted child. We are truly children
of the Most High. The Creator of all things seen and unseen. Jesus
is our brother and we join him as being heirs. What a wonderful
position to consider when facing trials and troubles that everyone
faces in this life. We need not fear what will happen to us.

Death, you cannot end my gladness:
I am baptized into Christ!
When I die, I leave all sadness
To inherit paradise!
Though I lie in dust and ashes
Faith's assurance brightly flashes:
Baptism has the strength divine
To make life immortal mine. 

This is a quote from the hymn titled "God's Own Child I Gladly Say It." This is sung many times in worship when a Baptism takes place. All the promises belong to the person(s) being Baptized. And they belong to us who were Baptized many years previously. It is the gift which keeps on giving.

How is it that water can do such power things? It is due to it not being mere water. Nor is it being the location of the water. It is not the faith of the minister who is applying the water and invoking the name of God. It is water connected with the institution and promise of Our Lord Jesus:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

(Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

Rather than thinking you are being punished when you are facing the most difficult situations such as loss of friends, family, employment, health, etc. Having been Baptized into Christ you have full certainty that he has you in his Crucified and Resurrected arms to carry you through these times. He understands your suffering like no one else is able to understand. And he is there at the end of life to welcome you into his eternal home. He has got you! "In the name of the Father, the † Son and the Holy Spirit." Amen.

That Sinner Over There.

 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

(Luke 18:10-13 ESV)

"God hates the sin but loves the sinner."

The above statement is constantly contradicted by some Believers in Jesus. Although it is treated as a cliche' and to excuse sinners of guilt one must be careful in contradicting it. It is a common misconception that a Believer in Jesus has somehow became a better person than his or her unbelieving neighbor. How does one explain easily besetting sin if this is the case.

This is a return to the Roman Catholic Doctrine of Infused Grace. 

Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. "Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.*

This teaching understands Grace as a spiritual steroid which will enlighten the mind and strengthen the will to do good and avoid evil. This is treating the Christian life as if the Reformation never happened. One can almost come away with the idea that one needs Jesus less and less as time goes on.

Grace in its proper understanding is the attitude God has where he is willing, and through the Sacrifice of Jesus, look upon a sinner as his holy child and co heir with Jesus. As a loving child of Our Heavenly Father we certainly will seek to battle sin in our lives and seek to please him. However, we will fail miserably because we are not any better than the run of the mill unbeliever who is trying to live life as a good citizen, spouse, parent, etc.

Infused Grace is not Good News. The previous mentioned idea that over time one does not need Jesus as much as time goes on may lead to impenitence and ultimate casting aside of the faith. Also it may lead one living in doubt to the place where one may also fall into impenitence and reject the faith.

Rather than to fall victim to this fiction we must boldly confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. The good news is that Our Father is overjoyed at forgiving us our sin and cleansing us from all unrighteousness for the sake of the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus. Trust this good news and live in its peace. Amen. †

*Council of Trent (1547): DS 1528.