He is risen!
He is risen!
In Christ God’s power was made perfect in weakness.
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
— Ephesians 3:14-21, NKJV.
This is my favorite picture from the Reformation: it is of Martin Luther using the word of God to point to Christ crucified. This is the goal of all Christian reformation: to direct and redirect men to Christ.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified… My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
—1 Corinthians 2:2-5 (NIV-1984).
All congregations on earth are always in need of constant reformation. However, some don’t know it.
For more information on the above painting by Lucas Cranach (the elder), check out this post entitled “Cranach in the Study” by Pastor Caauwe.
Christian strength comes from God though faith, and is expressed in the unity of love for other Christians. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed for unity among all Christians:
I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
—John 17:20-23 (NIV-1984).
Love is unity. The three persons of the Trinity have perfect love and perfect unity. Jesus wants also for Christians to have perfect love and perfect unity. However, the Enemy, Satan, does not want this. Satan attacks our faith and our unity.
I am in the process of reading an excellent book by John W. Kleinig entitled, Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today. This book is full of not only excellent theology, but also discusses applications of that theology, in other words: works. (Faith shows itself by what it does. (James 2:18)). One example is a section that discusses the unity of faith. Says Kleinig:
In the front door attack he [Satan] tries to break into the conscience by attacking our faith in Christ; in the back door attack he attempts to gain a secret foothold by attacking our love for our fellow Christians, our brothers and sisters in Christ.
This is how it works! Satan gets another Christian to sin against us in deed or word. It pleases Satan if a person with spiritual significance or authority, such as a parent, pastor, spouse, or leader in the Church sins against us. Their spiritual status, their office, magnifies their offense and intensifies the damage that it does. This is a kind of ritual abuse, the misuse of holy things against us. After the offense has occurred, Satan gets us to brood over it, like a stuck track or a video loop, repeatedly and obsessively in our minds, with ever greater emphasis on the gravity and injustice of it. As we process the offense and its effect on us, Satan gradually distorts our remembrance and our assessment of it. He uses this offense to encourage us to bring our mental accusations against the offender in the court of our minds. There he presides over the proceedings as we hold a secret trial in which we both prosecute and pass judgment on the wrongdoer. The more we brood on the offense, the angrier we get against the offender. We remember all the other offenses that we have suffered from that person and all the other people that have ever hurt us. And that fuels our anger and desire for justice. We maintain that we are in the right; we are justified in our judgment of them. We hold the moral high ground against them. Then before we know it, anger leads to bitterness and resentment. This, in turn, leads to outrage, hatred, and lust for revenge. And so we end up stewing in our own poison. When we begin to hate those whom we should love, Satan has us where he wants us. Once hatred sets in, he can slowly and patiently dislodge us from the Church and from Christ.
—Page 234. Emphasis added.
God says through His apostle (1 John 3:14-15): “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.”
An effective lie always contains much truth. Satan is an effective liar, so he effectively uses the truth of sin among Christians to attack us.
Hatred is spiritual suicide. It marks the end of eternal life, the new life that we have in Christ. Anger is seductive because it makes us feel justified in hating those who have hurt us. We are right, and they are wrong. We are right in hating them and taking revenge on them because they are our enemies. The revenge that we take is subtle and hidden. We don’t usually attack them physically or verbally, but emotionally and spiritually. We write them off and give them the cold shoulder. We reject them in our hearts, dissociate ourselves from them, and treat them as if they were dead for us. That, says John, is spiritual murder. Sadly, by cutting ourselves from our brothers and sisters in Christ, we cut ourselves off from Christ as well. The upshot of that is withdrawal from the family of God and increasing isolation in the darkness of hatred. That is a kind of spiritual suicide, for hatred opens up a secret place for Satan in our hearts.
In Ephesians 4:25-27, Paul urges Christians to learn how to use their anger constructively. If we let the sun go down on our anger and go to sleep angry, we give the devil a “foothold” in our hearts, home, and congregation. Through anger Satan works on us unawares at night, magnifying the offense and distorting our perception of it. We then carry our hurt over to the new day. The longer it lasts, the worse it gets.
This attack from behind is far more common than we realize. It wreaks havoc in the lives of Christians and many Christian communities. It is potent in its impact and destructive in its effects. Yet, God does not stop Satan from using it in the lives of His people. Like the frontal attack, it is a risky tactic because it can so easily backfire on the evil one. In fact, God uses it to destroy our self-righteousness and to build up the Church as a community of grace, a society of forgiven and forgiving sinners. As our anger and desire for justice expose the spiritual fallout from the bad things that others have done to us, we learn, by God’s grace, to face what has happened, seek healing from the damage that has been done, and forgive as we ourselves have been forgiven.
—Pages 235-236. Emphasis added.
The glory that the Father gave the Son is the glory of the cross. Jesus prayed, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:22-23).
Maybe these clouds are too dark. Sometimes life seems like it will be darker than we will be able to handle.
This storm of whirling air blew in on Thursday. At some point, all human life and human organizations experience severe turbulence. These storms and sufferings in life are caused by sin.
Pride goes before a great fall because pride is unaware of the relentless corruption of sin. (Proverbs 16:18-20). We live in a world of make-believe where we often delude ourselves into thinking everything, even that which is evil, is good. However, it is better to know and repent of sin, than through pride to be deceived and think that all is well, when all is far from well. When a delusional blind man falls, he falls hard.
Jesus says, build on the rock so that when the storms of life come, we will stand the test. (Matthew 7:24-27). By building on the rock, he means that we should meditate on his word and receive his sacraments, so that they go down deep within us. (Psalm 1:2-3). The Lord’s word enlightens and enlivens, it changes who we are; and when we are changed, how we live is also changed.
The enemy is like a stealthy and anxious tiger. His keen eyes burn with fear and hate, and he seeks to devour us. (1 Peter 5:8). Satan has asked to have us so that he might sift us all like wheat, but the Lord Jesus prays for us so that our faith will not fail. (Luke 22:31-32). The Good Shepherd reaches out his hand, and we are saved. (Matthew 14:30-31).
The tiger is one of the few animals that will attack when it is afraid. In part, this is what makes tigers so dangerous. But even the tiger runs from the Good Shepherd.
Not every flower can adorn the Lord’s house on Easter Sunday, and not all Christians are able to celebrate Easter Sunday in a visible church. While every Christian benefits from our Lord’s resurrection, many Christians around the world are suffering persecution and isolation. Even in America some are excluded from fellowship in a visible church, and thus are not able to commune with the rest of the believers during Holy Week.
Nonetheless, even in the darkest of times, the death and resurrection of Christ is not just an idea, it is a deed. Jesus did that deed. It is factually true whether we are able to celebrate his resurrection, or not. When life is dark, and our faith seems to waiver, God’s Word eternally says: this is true, it was done in deed.
Heaven is our home because he is risen. He is risen indeed!
Posted in politics, religion, WELS, tagged Christian Church, Christian freedom, freedom, freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, Jesus, liberty, theology of the cross, Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod on April 5, 2011 | 3 Comments »
When an elected official declares himself beyond criticism, and demands that his handling of public matters be kept confidential, and then threatens to accuse those who criticize him of violating the Law; then that elected official has become a tyrant. Elected officials are supposed to be servants, not overlords; and therefore, their job performances are supposed to be subject to review and even criticism by the electorate.
Luther, in the Large Catechism, teaches us to put the best construction on everything, while still telling the truth. He also teaches that we must honor not only our mothers and fathers, but also all those in authority over us.
However, would it really be a violation of those commandments to honestly critique the job performance of Wisconsin Governor Walker? Would it be a violation to criticize the foreign policy of President Obama? Would it be a violation to truthfully report on, and strongly disagree publicly with Obama’s intervention in Libya? His handling of the war in Afghanistan? His position on abortion?
Are we allowed to say: “Obama has been doing his job incompetently”? Do Lutherans really teach that that is inherently a violation of the Fourth and Eighth Commandments?
For now, in the United States, our elected officials do not threaten to accuse citizens of violating the law simply for reporting and criticizing. In fact, public officials have even less protection from criticism of their job performance than private citizens. This is because they are elected public officials, and therefore the electorate is entitled to engage in vigorous public job performance reviews.
Do not employers get to review employee job performance?
Jesus said to his disciples:
You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
— Matthew 20:25-28, NIV1984.
The Apostles are among the greatest of men in the Christian Church, and yet their Servant told them to not lord it over others.
Therefore, the elected officials in the WELS are not beyond criticism. And the elected officials in the WELS have no authority to demand that others remain silent about their inept handling of public matters. All elected officials must be answerable and accountable to those they serve. (Galatians 2:11-14).
The rights and principles of freedom were given by God to all people, including Christians. All people have the right to speak truthfully about the public matters affecting their lives, including Christians. Even more, when the gospel is at stake, all servants of the Lord must speak publicly. (Jeremiah 20:9, Galatians 2:14 & 1 Timothy 5:20).
The elected officials in the WELS need to be open and transparent about their positions and actions (or lack thereof) regarding public matters. Or they must publicly explain why such public matters should be handled privately. It is not a valid excuse to say: “Handling these matters privately makes our job easier because we do not like our job performances to be subjected to criticism.” Those who refuse to be criticized should not hold elected office. Those who refuse to serve, should not hold the office of servant.
“As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately,” and said, please tell us “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus answered:
There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains…
Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time…
Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door…
As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away…
Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come… So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
— Matthew 24 (NIV1984).
In every great disaster that befalls mankind, we almost always say: “We did not expect this.” So watch and pray. Please help and pray for the physical and spiritual welfare of the people of Japan and of all people everywhere.
The wind blows snow over snow. This is the first video I took of this scene. I tried to take a better video after this one, but my fingers refused. I do not know what the wind chill was, but the real temperature was about four degrees. My new G12 camera has some good microphones, but even they could not muffle the amount of wind coming at them. It was cold. Behind the wind on the microphone, one can hear the snow drifting.
Now for a warming fire: This is a video of the cross-country ski shelter warming fire at Lapham Peak State Park in Wisconsin. Because it is a public area, the video’s sound recorded some guys talking.
A still photograph does not move. These videos are like still photographs because they have one subject, however, they are also moving or “living” pictures. Photographs in the fictional world of Harry Potter moved with life. God willing, someday in the future of the real world, most images will have a sort of movement with recorded “life” in them.
Heaven is also a real place and a real future. I wonder if in heaven we will be able to see the life of Christ in such a manner: as if we could look back in time to see all he did: in a real, present, living, and moving way. For example, even though Christ was risen with a glorified body free of all defect, somehow he still showed the disciples the marks of his crucifixion. He carries the physical memory of that awe filling event, his glorious redemption of sinners, in his real body. As we fix our eyes on the glorified Christ, we still see him crucified because his real body is not just alive in a glorified way, he is a moving image of life itself. (Hebrews 12:2, John 1:4-5, Colossians 2:9).
Our eternal life comes from his bodily death and bodily resurrection. His is the same body and life, physically present for us, and given to us in his holy Supper. His Supper is a communion in his real body. (1 Corinthians 10:16). And this is the same body we will eat in heaven. (Matthew 26:29).
If our earthly lives are on similar moving display within our own bodies resurrected in Christ, we will never forget or cease to be grateful for the forgiveness of sins we receive in Christ. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Christ has died. Christ has risen! Christ will come again!
Happy Transfiguration Sunday.
We are free in matters that are below us. For example, we can choose the color of our socks or to help our neighbor. However, we are not free in matters that are above us because they are beyond our abilities. For example, life and faith are above us, and can only be gifts from God.
Martin Luther considered his work “The Bondage of the Will” to be one of his best. It was written in response to Erasmus who asserted the freedom of man’s will in spiritual matters. Said Luther:
Before man is created and is a man, he neither does nor attempts to do anything toward becoming a creature, and after he is created he neither does nor attempts to do anything toward remaining a creature, but both of these things are done by the sole will of the omnipotent power and goodness of God, who creates and preserves us without our help; but he does not work in us without us, because it is for this he has created and preserved us, that he might work in us and we might cooperate with him, whether outside his Kingdom through his general omnipotence, or inside his Kingdom by the special virtue of his Spirit.
In just the same way … before man is changed into a new creature of the Kingdom of the Spirit, he does nothing and attempts nothing to prepare himself for this renewal and this Kingdom, and when he has been recreated he does nothing and attempts nothing toward remaining in this Kingdom, but the Spirit alone does both of these things in us, recreating us without us and preserving us without our help in our recreated state, as also James says: “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of his power, that we might be a beginning of his creature” [James 1:18]—speaking of the renewed creature.
But he does not work without us, because it is for this very thing he has recreated and preserves us, that he might work in us and we might cooperate with him. Thus it is through us he preaches, shows mercy to the poor, comforts the afflicted. But what is attributed to free choice in all this? Or rather, what is there left for it but nothing? And really nothing!
— Luther’s Works, Vol. 33, page 243.
Faith is above us, therefore, faith “is the gift of God.” No one can boast because faith is not by works, choices, or cooperation. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone, and this (faith & grace) is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8-9). Through His Word of promise, God alone gives faith and God alone preserves faith.
On the other hand, the good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do are below us. (Ephesians 2:10). That is where we cooperate with God. As Luther says, God “preaches, shows mercy to the poor,” and “comforts the afflicted” through us. Because of God we do these works willingly. (Philippians 2:13).
God works through us to do His work here in this world. His Word from above creates in us new life and new impulses so that we willingly do His good will. It is God alone who gives us life and faith and makes us clean and holy so that according to his will we willingly do the good works that are below us. (Philippians 2:13). And in heaven we will be rewarded for those good works. (Ephesians 6:8).
But the good that comes from above is a pure gift. (James 1:17-18). Faith, from beginning to end, is a miracle from God: a working of His divine power to raise the dead to spiritual life. Faith is not partly God’s work and then partly our work any more than life itself is partly God’s work and partly our work. Yes, we live, but the life we live is the life God gives.
Likewise, we believe, but faith is God’s gift of trust and spiritual life. The Word of promise creates faith. “When we believe, our hearts are brought to life by the Holy Spirit through Christ’s Word.” (Apology of the Augsburg Confession XIIA (V). Repentance, 44-46).
A living tree produces fruit. Life comes from God, and the life in the tree gives life to the fruit. The fruit does not give life to the tree. Those who resist the Holy Spirit and refuse to produce fruit, may lose life. (Luke 13:7). But God alone makes alive and preserves life, and it is because of His life in us (faith) that we produce the fruit of life (good works and choices). Even though we can willingly do the good works below us that God has prepared for us to do, the life and faith that comes from above is God’s work alone. (John 6:29, 15:16).
After conversion, can a Christian perfect faith by choosing to believe? No. True faith by definition is founded on only Christ, and not at all on our will, choices, or decisions. (Matthew 16:17 and 1 Corinthians 3:11). Christ alone is “the author and perfecter of our faith,” therefore, we must “fix our eyes on Jesus” and not on our choices. (Hebrews 2:12). Christ makes faith secure. “On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.” (CW, 382). Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6). Like life itself, faith, from beginning to end, is a gift that comes from above. (Ephesians 2:8-9). Therefore, we should diligently pray, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5).