Monday, November 30, 2009

On Earth Peace Among Men

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."
Luke 2:13,14

How many times will this Biblical passage be spoken this Advent season by children around the world reenacting the marvelous birth of Our Savior? However, how many will understand what is meant by this wonderful hymn of the Incarnation?

Heaven and earth are proclaimed to be united in this glorious peace which came in the Christ child's birth! It had already been angelically announced that the reason for this marvelous display before these shepherds is that "a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (verse 11) has been born! This implies that there needs to be salvation from something and someone to achieve it. Peace necessarily implies there has been conflict, war, between two parties. We know that this conflict or war is sin which separates men from a Holy God and Jesus is this Christ born to achieve this peace. This peace is not anything close to what the world uses the word for as Jesus confesses in John 14:27. This peace is beyond comprehension by normal humans (Philippians 4:7) and is only understood when the human soul and mind is liberated by the Holy Spirit to understand that this is the reconciliation or peace won by this one born in Bethlehem (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)whose very name Jesus sets Him apart to save us from our sins.

When the angelic choir sings that God is "pleased with men" it would be more appropriate to translate it: "on earth peace among men of his favor." This correctly proclaims that not all humans will accept this Savior from sin but many will reject Him (2:34-35). But to those who receive the news of salvation in faith, they truly have God's peace and favor resting upon them! His perfect life, death and resurrection is for all humans who are sinful (2:10-11). Only those however enlightened by the Spirit of God to receive it depart this life and body in His peace as Simeon declares(2:29).

Once again this magnificent angelic declaration of God's marvelous work of salvation in Christ is offered to all people through His pastors, His ambassadors, who continue in the entreaty of Paul this Holiday Season: "we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled (be at peace) with God."
2 Corinthians 5:20

Monday, November 23, 2009

Who Gives Us the Bountiful Harvest?

They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved. They spoke against God saying, "Can God spread a table in the wilderness?" Psalm 78:18,19

The Psalmist recalls all of Israel's salvation history to put God's people's current situation in perspective. God had miraculously brought them out of bondage from slavery in Egypt only to have them start grumbling about the food and other things on their way to the Promised Land. They responded with ingratitude and lack of faith and trust in His goodness and therefore put Him to the test.

The church who is God's people today have been brought miraculously out of bondage to sin through the Passover Lamb, Jesus. We are being led through the wilderness of this sinful and hostile land to the true Promised Land of heaven itself. Do we continually show our gratitude and faith and trust in God's continuing love and providential care for us? Are we aware of just who provides us this time of year with the turkey, pumpkins and other wonders from the bountiful harvest He provides? Even more so, does He not continue to spread an amazing spiritual bounty before us every week as we meet with Him in worship together. As Jesus put it so well quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."

We Christians do not then just pause once a year to give thanks, but live a life of thanks. For God has opened our eyes to see His goodness all around us, and especially in our beloved Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him with the Father and Holy Spirit, be thanks and praise and glory forever. Amen. Blessed Thanksgiving in Christ!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

We're All Invited to THE Wedding Banquet

And when one of those who were reclining at the table with Jesus heard this, he said to Him, "Blessed is everyone who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!" But He said to him, "A certain man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, 'Come; for everything is ready now.' "But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, "I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.' And another one said, ' I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.' "And another one said, 'I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.' "And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, 'Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.' And the slave said, 'Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.' "And the master said to the slave, 'Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.'"
Luke 14:15-24

Don't you just love Wedding Banquets! I do, most of them, that is. Especially do I love those held locally at a historic Motel where they perform the most magnificent serving of the food to the Head Table. It is a fun time of rejoicing around the best of food, drink and friends. Oh, to have an invitation and accept to these Wedding Banquets.

Jesus invited through his pastors everyone to His Wedding Banquet, the culmination of His marriage to the Bride, the Holy Christian Church. Everyone is invited, since the only qualification is to be a card carrying sinner, and everyone meets this requirement. Who would decline such a wonderful and gracious invitation? But the snag, you see, is that many will not admit their sin and decline the invitation. Oh, they have excuses that sound contemporary and important, don't they: business, real estate, family.

The Jews who first heard this story considered all those not Jews to be unclean and thus not part of God's people. Read here: He should never hang out with them, nor invite them to anything! Thanks be to God that His thoughts and ways are not like ours as Isaiah 55 attests! When Jesus heard this he got angry and thus sends His servants of the Word to the Gentiles as well.

The poor, miserable, blind and lame refer primarily to those who are the opposite of these Jewish Pharisees and scribes who arrogantly and incorrectly think they are fine with God by their actions. These outcasts know they are not and so look for redemption somewhere else other than themselves and find it in Jesus: The Groom, who loved them and gave Himself for their sins on the cross.

The Master of the Wedding Banquet in heaven will continue to fill it with these poor, miserable sinners who trust in Jesus' blood to clothe them for the Banquet in His righteousness and purity. And it will be full! Not one will be missing! Alleluia!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Faithful Confessor of the Faith: Martin Chemnitz

So everyone who confesses me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven

Matthew 10:32

November 9th, Lutherans throughout the world celebrate and give thanks for the life and faithful confession of Martin Chemnitz (1522-86). He is called "the Second Martin" because likely without him we would not remember Martin Luther. After Luther's death in 1546, the Lutherans became divided in their understanding of many doctrines and argued what Luther would or would not have taught, confessed and practiced. Chemnitz was a leader in bringing about reconciliation of this and uniting the Lutherans in the composition and signing of The Formula of Concord (1577). He was a prolific author including classics on the two natures of Christ and the Lord's Supper and many of his books have been translated into English by the late Dr. J.A.O. Preus. Chemnitz's monumental response to the Council of Trent (Examination of the Council of Trent, 4 volumes) shows his confession to be solely upon the Holy Scripture.

Thus, we thank God for this amazing Christian and churchman who provides us today with a wonderful model for unity: seek unity based on the Bible alone, not settling for common denominators or unified diversity or other unbiblical models. As well he provides us encouragement to seek to confess with our mouths, lives and church practice only what has been given to us in God's Word.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Romans 1:16

Why would anyone be ashamed of the gospel? Well, for starters it is offensive. It is the scandal of particularity, as it has been aptly called. It speaks of a powerful force which has come to destroy the offense of human sin before a sinless God. The Apostle Paul who wrote this verse inspired by the Holy Spirit knew of such scandalous offense. In Corinth he experienced Greeks who shrugged off the Good News because to them it was foolishness (1 Cor. 1:23). And to Jews it was no less offensive. Even the great Apostle Peter was offended by it, at least for a period. He rebuked Jesus for proclaiming it to Him, as his words reflect: "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you." (Matthew 16:21-23) As Paul summarizes all this so well in 1 Cor. 1:22-24: For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God."

When Paul speaks of the gospel's power, the Greek word here and in 1 Cor. 1:24 is "dynamos," where we get our word "dynamite." The gospel is the explosive Word of God which is able to blast away the hardness of human souls who would naturally resist all attempts to be persuaded to believe it, as Paul argues with Biblical evidence in Romans 3:9-18. It overcomes such resistance and creates faith in its Good News which is "salvation." This means there is a radical deliverance from a desperate situation, estrangement from God and His care, love and protection. It creates a new creation, a believer and determines the whole, eternal future.

So, this gospel cannot be distorted, dumbed down or modified (see Galatians 1). Because it is the power of God to save everyone, it must be purely proclaimed, taught, confessed, believed and live. It must be at the heart and center of our worship and our faith, and all that the church does. For it is salvation, to everyone who believes! Blast away our resistance and rebellion and give us hearts to treasure its power, comfort, peace and salvation unto eternal life! Amen!