A Hike in the Mountains

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“From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work…”

All the quotes are from Psalm 104, ESV.

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“The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted…”

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“The high mountains are for the wild goats;
the rocks are a refuge for the rock badgers…”

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“O Lord, how manifold are your works!  In wisdom have you made them all…”

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“Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Praise the Lord!”

The pictures in this post were taken on the Ypsilon Lawn Lake Trail in the Rocky Mountains, at an elevation of about 9,200 feet.

The Scriptures are from Psalm 104 verses: 13, 16, 18, 24, & 35, ESV.

The Days of Old

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I consider the days of old,
the years long ago.

I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;
let me meditate in my heart.”

Then my spirit made a diligent search:

“Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”

Then I said, “I will appeal to this,
to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.

— Psalm 77:5-12, ESV.

Let us appeal “to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”  God has never forgotten us, and he never will forget.  From the beginning in Eden, the Church existed.  The Lord was with us then, he has been with us ever since, and he will always be with us.

He protects us with wonders and mighty deeds:  His promise, his incarnation, his life, his cross, his death, his resurrection, and his return will endure forever.  His mightiest deed is our salvation in him.

Prayers for the WELS 2013 Convention

WELS logoThe Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod 2013 convention is being held this week in New Ulm, Minnesota.  Please pray for our brothers in the faith.

One of the major issues for the convention is the need of a new Bible translation.  Earlier this year, President Schroeder shared his thoughts on the translation issue in a paper entitled: “My Thoughts on the Translation Issue.”  President Schroeder’s thoughts are well worth reading.

May the Lord bless this convention with wisdom, truth, and brotherly love.

Almighty God and Lord, grant the delegates in New Ulm Your presence.  Enlighten and guide them by Your Word that in all matters of deliberation they may always consider the best interests of Your Church.  Let Your Holy Spirit rule and direct their hearts that, in the spirit of Christian love, they may present and discuss matters truthfully and be kindly disposed toward one another, to the end that all they say and do may please You; in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

(The above indented prayer is a paraphrase of “To open a congregational meeting” from Lutheran Service Book, 307).

God’s Word Is Reality

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God does not need paint and canvas to create a beautiful sunset.  His canvas is the sky, His paints are the colors of the rainbow, and His brush is the wind.  Likewise, God does not need to make up stories.  His word is life, His characters are actual people, and His stories are reality.

When God speaks, if His words are not already true to reality, they make reality true to themselves.  For what God says is always true:  God said, “‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”  (Genesis 1:3).

Recently, I heard a Roman Catholic priest say in a sermon that the stories in the Bible before Moses were not historical because they contain a lot of myth.  He compared the story of Jacob wrestling with God to Greek mythology.  According to him the value of these stories is merely symbolic because they can help us to learn helpful tips for living, like the fact that Jacob was close to God.

However, the Old and New Testaments are not “cleverly invented stories” (2 Peter 1:16).  We know this because “no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation.  For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”  (2 Peter 1:20-21).  Because God’s word is always true, His Spirit does not inspire stories that purport to be true history, if they are not historical.  (John 17:17).

And now “we have the word of the prophets made more certain,” He is the word of truth made flesh, and His name is Jesus Christ.  (2 Peter 1:19, John 1:14).  According to Jesus, in the beginning of our history, God created two people (Adam and Eve) and they were one flesh.  (Matthew 19:4-6).  This shows that Jesus accepted Genesis as historical.  And following the lead of her Lord, the Church has also accepted the books of Moses as historical.  Calling Genesis a myth is a recent innovation.

One of the principles of sola Scriptura is that the Scriptures are clear and able to be understood.  That does not mean that the Scriptures do not contain unfathomable mysteries, but it does mean that in the Bible God has competently communicated His deep salvific truth.  (Luke 16:31).  (The more one knows about a true mystery (like the Trinity), the more fascinating and deep it becomes).

Because the Scriptures are able to be understood, and because Jesus promised to be with His Church to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20), that means that every generation of Christians since the time of Christ has been able to understand the Scriptures.  If those generations testify unanimously that they understood Genesis to be historical, then who are we to say it is myth?

Genesis was not written merely to share clever stories and spiritual truths.  It is real.  It is as real as the Lord’s Supper is the real Body and Blood of Christ.  These stories and sacraments not just symbols, but actual physical supernatural realities.  They are Christ given to us, and Christ is the truth.  (John 14:6-7).

Our God is almighty.  And an almighty God does not paint with canvas and brush and make-believe symbols, He paints with reality.

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Lutheran Satire Video: Baptism

“In [Noah’s Ark] only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God.  [Baptism] saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.”

— 1 Peter 3:20-22, NIV1984.  Emphasis added.

The water of The Great Deluge symbolizes baptism.  Therefore, baptism cannot be merely a symbol, because symbols represent higher and deeper realities.  If The Flood was real, then how much more real is Christian baptism which the water of The Flood symbolizes?  Baptism has a heavenly and an eternal reality.

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children …”

— Acts 2:38-39, NIV1984.

Click here to view more videos by The Lutheran Satire on YouTube.

Drawing Mohammed and Jesus

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In the Spring of 2010 A.D., numerous advocates of free speech in America started an internet movement called “Everybody Draw Mohammed.”  It began in response to American media giants like The New York Times, Viacom, and Comedy Central self-censoring images and news about Islam and Mohammed.  There were threats that certain Americans would end up like Theo van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker who was murdered for criticizing Islam/Mohammedanism.

The idea was that if all freedom loving folk would draw Mohammed, then they could not kill us all, or at least the threat level directed at specific individuals would diminish.  However, Islam’s goal is not just to stop us from drawing Mohammed.  Islam’s ultimate goal is to dominate the world both religiously and politically.  Islam is not just a religion, it is also a system of government based on a set of ideas that are not compatible with freedom of conscience.

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These pictures are of members of the Islamic Jihad in Palestine.  They are of the sort of fellows that would like to kill you for drawing a picture of Mohammed, or for being Christian, or for not being the right kind of Muslim.  Do you want to see an image of Mohammed?  Look.  Unfortunately, they are the face of Mohammed.

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There is another image of Mohammed: the word of Mohammed.

Mohammed says when they reject Allah’s word, then use the sword; (for example: fight the non-Muslims until they readily pay the protection tax.  Koran, Surah 9:29).  However, this is the word of man.  God’s word is powerful and does not need swords.  The true Prophet “Jesus commanded Peter, ‘Put your sword away!'”  (John 18:11).  Then later, Jesus told the pagan governor of Palestine:

“My kingdom is not of this world.  If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews.  But now my kingdom is from another place.”

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king.  In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

[John 18:36-37].

God’s word does not need swords.  Jesus is the true Prophet.  His followers conquered the pagan Roman Empire without the sword.  In fact, they did not even knock over the pagan idols.

In response to the radical “reforms” of Karlstadt who sought to destroy images, Martin Luther said:

Once, when Paul came to Athens (Acts 17 [:16–32]), a mighty city, he found in the temple many ancient altars, and he went from one to the other and looked at them all, but he did not kick down a single one of them with his foot.  Rather he stood up in the middle of the market place and said they were nothing but idolatrous things and begged the people to forsake them; yet he did not destroy one of them by force.  When the Word took hold of their hearts, they forsook them of their own accord, and in consequence the thing fell of itself…  For the Word created heaven and earth and all things [Psalm 33:6]; the Word must do this thing, and not we poor sinners.

In short, I will preach it, teach it, write it, but I will constrain no man by force, for faith must come freely without compulsion…  [God’s word] is almighty, and takes captive the hearts, and when the hearts are captured the work will fall of itself.

[Luther’s works, vol. 51: Sermons I.  III-78.  Philadelphia: Fortress Press.  (1999, c1959).  Emphasis added].

Nor did Paul resort to mere insult, but instead he reasoned with the pagans according even to their own poets.  (Acts 17:28).  (With freedom comes responsibility, and the purpose of free speech is to tell the truth.  Mere insult devoid of reason is an abuse, not a use of free speech).

God’s word created heaven and earth (Psalm 33:6), therefore, God’s word is also powerful enough to change the heart of sinful man.  True believers can trust God’s word alone.

Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”  (Luke 21:33).  Why did Jesus say this?  Because His words are Truth.  Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the true God, except through Jesus.  (John 14:6).

God does not need our services, but it is our privilege to speak His word; and His word does not lose its power simply because it is in our mouths.

Many Muslims are opposed to drawing any prophet (including Jesus) or any person or animal.  The Taliban believes that photographs are a sin.  (Religion Facts.com).  But if we stop making pictures or depicting Jesus or any prophet out of fear, we will have surrendered to the Jihad.  We will have become Mohammedans, because to act like a Mohammedan is to be a Mohammedan whether the motivation is faith or fear.

The true God wants to first change our hearts with His Word, but others are more concerned with immediate earthly results.  Have faith.  God’s word is our strength.  Jesus said,

“a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.  They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.”  [John 16:2-3].

Who is the true God and the true Prophet?  The true God has a different character than Allah and Mohammed; the natural man cannot understand Him.

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“He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”  (This was foretold by the prophet Isaiah 53:5, NKJV).  Jesus paid the consequences for the sins of the whole world.  Your sins have been paid for by Jesus, now treat your fellow man as Jesus has treated you.  Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the true God except through Jesus.  He is the one God.  (John 8:58, 14:6).

Photo credits: via PicApp.

Shepherds, Hear the Word of the Lord

Ezekiel 33:1-9:

When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not take warning and the sword comes and takes his life, his blood will be on his own head.  Since he heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning, his blood will be on his own head.  If he had taken warning, he would have saved himself.  But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.

Pastors and all those who see the truth, but do not speak a word of warning, will be accountable for the blood of the lost.  Paul said in Acts 20:22-31:

I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men.  For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.  Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.  Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.  I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.  Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.  So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

Paul’s warning applies to all congregations, all churches, and all synods.  Be on your guard!  Open your eyes!  Wake up!  Any group of believers that acts like it is immune from false doctrine is not holding to the above words of Scripture.  To the Scriptures!  Alarm!

Hear the word of the Lord:

Woe to the shepherds of Israel who take care of only themselves!  Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock.  You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured.  You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost.  You have ruled them harshly and brutally.  So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals.  My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill.  They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.  [Ezekiel 34:1-6].

When a pastor does not strengthen the weak or heal the sick or bind up the injured, it means that that shepherd does not administer the Gospel.  The sheep do not need a cowboy or a self-help shepherd who thinks it is his prerogative to live off the sheep and treat them like his chattel.  Because they did not hear the Gospel, and because they were driven instead of led, the flock has become spiritually scattered.  Instead of feeding at Calvary, they feed on every other high hill of false spirits and false doctrine.

The shepherds were lazy.  Not only did they not guide the flock with the true Law, they did not administer the healing balm of the Gospel.  They were too lazy to study the word of God, and too deceitful to even write their own sermons.

The unfaithful shepherds chased after false prophets, followed them to their conferences, sat at their feet, and lusted for their earthly success.  They said, “The wolves are successful:  We can learn from them, and ourselves become fat at the expense of the flock.”

Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:  As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:  This is what the Sovereign LORD says:  I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock.  [Ezekiel 34:7-10].

Repent!

In John 10:11-21, Jesus said:

I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep.  So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away.  Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.  The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.

If a shepherd is not willing to lay down his life for the sheep, or if he thinks the flock exists for his benefit; then he is not a good shepherd.  Instead, he is the hireling who runs away.  Or even worse, he is the wolf who, instead of living for the flock, lives off the flock.

Who said it would be easy to be a good shepherd?  How many heroes of faith lived to an old age and died in peace?  How many shepherds fought with wolves and came away unscathed?  (1 Corinthians 15:32).  Not very many.

They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword.  They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them.  They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.  [Hebrews 11:37-38].

“Remember the words I spoke to you:  ‘No servant is greater than his master.'”  (John 15:20).  “Father, forgive them …”  (Luke 23:34).  “Forgive us …”  (Luke 11:4).

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Notes:  Emphasis added to all quotes.

The Lutheran Study Bible, a First Look

The regular print edition of The Lutheran Study Bible is a beautifully bound book.  It is a big book, about the same size as the Treasury of Daily Prayer; however, the print is much smaller and the paper is thinner than the Treasury.  The print for the abundant notes below the Biblical text is especially small.

There are many beautiful illustrations.  The picture below depicts the baptism of Jesus at the beginning of the Book of Matthew.

This picture also shows how easy it is to see right through the thin paper, even two pages ahead.  The thinness of the paper, ink gloss, red lettering of Jesus’ words, and small print make the text difficult to read.  Also, extra care is needed when turning pages so as to avoid ripping or wrinkling the paper.

Even though the paper is thin, the content appears thick.  This book is billed as the first genuinely Lutheran study Bible in the English language, and that alone should earn it some praise.

However, the danger of any study bible is that the study notes and translation could cause the readers to read into the Biblical text what is in fact not there (eisegesis).  For example, the English Standard Version (ESV) translation of 1 Corinthians 11:8-10 & 14-16 from The Lutheran Study Bible says:

8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man.  9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.  10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels…

14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?  For her hair is given to her for a covering.  16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.

Here are the study notes for verses 14 & 15:

11:14 nature.  No Scripture passage teaches this, nor is Paul appealing to the created order.  Instead, as in v 13, he calls them to consider how things are in their culture.

11:15 covering.  Summarizes vv 9-12 and 14-15, pointing out that the practices of Roman culture regarding head coverings and gender distinction are in harmony with God’s will…

Paul discusses our creation and the created order, and appeals to “nature itself,” however, the notes conclude that Paul is actually writing only about Roman culture and not nature.  Over the last 90 years, many prominent American women cut their long hair, not just as a new style, but as an expression of liberation.  Is it possible that “nature itself” means nature and not just culture?

Has the Church always interpreted “nature itself” in verse 14 as culture?  Or is this an innovation?  Notice Jesus’ hair in the drawing above.  (We do not know how long Jesus’ hair was).  Samson had long hair, but he was a Nazirite from birth (see Numbers 6 and Judges 13).  Was a Nazarite’s long hair also a sign of authority on their head (i.e. their vow)?

In an interesting WELS Q & A regarding the translation of the Greek word gune in 1 Corinthians 11, the WELS answer expresses concern, not only with the ESV’s arbitrary translation of gune as both “woman” and “wife” in the same passages, but also by inference the LCMS’ theology regarding the roles of men and women.  (The NIV, KJV, and NKJV all use only the word “woman,” in 1 Corinthians 11, not “wife”).  The Lutheran Study Bible is billed as the first genuinely Lutheran study Bible, but it is also distinctly Missouri Synod Lutheran, and the Missouri Synod has women serving in positions of authority over men in some of its congregations (for example, as authoritative voters and congregational presidents).

Compared to the other highly anticipated and recently released books from Concordia Publishing House, this is the first that I’ve found difficult to read and recommend.  There is a larger print edition available.  In summary, this is a good book at first look, and the pictures are beautiful, but its theology and translation may be a bit off in places, and reading the regular print edition is hard on the eyes.

Isaiah 53:5-6

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.