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But it begins.

from “A Walk into the Valley”, the last sermon of Rev. Erdmann Frenk, pastor of St. Peter Luth. Church, Joliet, IL from 1932 (?) to 1970.

“Now David, who presumably is the author of Psalm 23 says that God, as our Good Shepherd, is with us at all times and is concerned about the welfare of our total being.  And because this is so, we have nothing to fear.  Even when we must enter that phase of life, that terminal of life, which traditionally is unnerving and terrifying, even there we have nothing to fear if the Lord is our Shepherd, indeed.

He uses the imagery of sheep entering a dark valley, halting, hesitating, doubly cautious.  He applies this to man and man’s descent into the valley of death.

This descent begins at the top.  It may be your kitchen, your bedroom, your workshop, your club, your automobile.  It begins in places where you have been hundreds of times before.  But it begins.

And it usually begins suddenly, unexpectedly.  I know from personal experience.  You just don’t know when the summons comes.  There are often no advance physical symptoms for the advancing storm.

When I use the word, “suddenly”, I do not want to imply that there was insufficient time for preparation for this descent.   But often they were neglected opportunities.  And never do we recognize and regret this neglect more than when we are called upon to being this descent.

Now this descent is disturbing and bewildering to say the least.  No one really faces death calmly.  Do not mistake the bold front.  Behind the mask of calmness there is remorse, regret, suppressed fear.  Jude in his book depicts the death of Moses in terms of conflict and struggle and I believe that this applies to every one of us.

Certainly this applies to me.  I was scared when I found it increasingly difficult to breathe and feared that the last choking breath might come at any time.  I feared the physical pains.  I agonized at the thought of leaving my family behind.  The burden of work in this congregation at the busiest time of the church year, and who would and could do it, lay heavily on mhy heart.  I thought of the hospital bill.  I thought of being confined for many months.  I was suspicious of every pain and shot.  I thought of facing God and judgment.  And oh, the joy of waking up from every nap or sleep knowing that I was still alive.  Beginning the descent into the valley was not an easy one.  It was not easy for me. I am sure it is not easy for others.”

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Morning Prayer: Tuesday

July 31, 2012 9 comments

“Awake, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will give Thee light.”

28. Morning Blessing: Tuesday (Marburger Gesangbuch)

from Evangelische-Lutherischer Gebets-Schatz

Lord Jesus Christ, only Savior of the World!  I lift up my heart, strength, and mind to You, and thank you once again that You have kept me safe and sound against the craft and power of the evil foe.  Lord Jesus Christ, my prized possession and my inheritance, my salvation is in Your hands, and I know no other helper either in heaven or earth besides You alone.  Therefore I pray You, for the sake of  Your inexpressible torment, anguish, and most disgraceful, most bitter death, which You, dearest Lord Jesus Christ, suffered out of great love for me, a poor sinner: be gracious and merciful to me.  Bless and relieve, guard and preserve me from sin and every evil during this time of toil and misery on earth, until You graciously summon me to everlasting joy and blessing, for the sake of Your most holy name.  Amen.

Prayer for a New Life after receiving the Holy Supper

327.  Prayer after Receiving the Holy Supper: About New Obedience (Riegisches Gebetbuch)

Ev. Luth. Gebets-Schatz

Gracious God and Father, You have forgiven all my sins out of mercy and received me into grace for the sake of Christ, Your beloved Son.  I have also promised, with all my heart, to be serious about improving my way of living and to become more pious.  Oh Lord and God, a person’s doings are not within his power—how he walks and orders his way—and also the thoughts of a man’s heart are evil all the days of his life.  But you can guide him and lead him in Your fear, as it pleases You.  So I pray You: give me a new heart, that I would become an enemy of sin from the bottom of my heart.  Let the fear of You sanctify me ,that I live a different and more pious life in holiness and righteousness, pleasing to You.  Don’t allow me to forget Your grace and promises, and help that I may fight earnestly against my flesh and blood and all evil desire, and not fall again into new sin and vice.  Before me stand life and death (Deut. 30:19); please let me choose life, and run zealously after the prize, that I may lay hold of it and not disqualify myself (1 Corinthians 9: 24-27).  Teach me to do according to Your good pleasure, so that I live righteously and godly in this world and wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:12-13).  Amen. 

Genealogy of Words

English: Wolves chasing an elk

English: Wolves chasing an elk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like the sound of the word “wolves”.  It’s an unsettling sounding word.  But notice this:

 

How much does “wolves” sound like “wool”?  Quite a bit.  If you pay attention in English, there are strange affinities between words.  “Wolves” or “Wolf” are very close to a prominent feature of the animal they are frequently portrayed as eating.

 

I’m not saying this is a unique thought or a new idea.  It’s just kind of new to me.  Not really even new, it’s an old idea that only recently I started to think about.

 

Why is the highest part of a human being–“soul”–the same sound as the lowest part of a human being–“sole”–or the same as “only”?

The critical theory that I sort of learned in college said that we construct the world with words…we construct reality with words.  And there is some truth to that, right?  At least we construct the way we perceive reality; and we help to construct the way others perceive it by means of words.  Even if we didn’t originate a phrase or a way of thinking, by repeating it we contribute to a way of seeing the world.

But if you believe that God created with His Word, it makes you wonder what you are looking at when you see the way words have developed or evolved.

8th Sunday after Trinity: The Wolves and Your David

July 29, 2012 7 comments

8th Sunday after Trinity

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 7:15-23

July 29, 2012

“Recognizing the Wolves and Your David”

 

Beloved flock of Jesus:

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

I’ve never seen a wolf catch a sheep.  I’ve never seen a sheep slaughtered either.  But I killed a bluegill a couple of weeks ago.  And even though it was tasty, I felt a little sorry for it.  See, that fish really wanted to live.  It put all its strength into trying to flop out of my hand and get back into the water, even though it couldn’t breathe.  But it was at my mercy.  And I didn’t give it mercy.  I cut it apart and cooked and ate it.

Well, that’s the way the world is, and meat is tasty.  No sense feeling bad about it, especially when God gave human beings permission to kill and eat animals after the flood, in Gen. 9. 

But it is useful today for us to try to imagine what it would be like to be the fish dragged out of the water by a hook in its mouth, or to be a lamb in the jaws of a wolf, or in the hands of a slaughterer.

Because Jesus tells you today: You are the sheep.  You are the prey.  The wolves that come to devour you won’t stop to think about your pain because they are starving.

If you are really a sheep, that’s bad news. It’s not like you can fight the wolves.  You can’t outrun them.  You definitely can’t outsmart them.  You’re like the fish hanging on the end of my fishing line.  All your flopping around will accomplish nothing.

There’s only one hope for sheep who are marked out for slaughter by wolves.  Their only hope is that they have a shepherd who will protect them, who says to the wolf—“These sheep are mine, so you won’t be eating them.”

If they have that kind of a shepherd, then the sheep can run to his voice.  Then they will be safe.

Thanks be to God!  You do have that kind of a shepherd in Your Lord Jesus Christ!

In the Bible, when David was about to plant a rock from a sling into the skull of the giant Goliath, he tells a story about his days as a shepherd.  When he is asked how he thinks he will defeat this warrior when he is just a kid, David says, “When I was alone in the hills with my father’s sheep, I fought a bear and a lion and killed them.  And this godless Philistine isn’t tougher than them.”

Where did David get the boldness to fight a giant, a bear, a lion?  He believed that almighty God would fight for him.  But what is more amazing is that he would be willing to take that risk for sheep.  That was David’s preparation for becoming the King of Israel.  For Him to shepherd God’s people would be just like that—risking his life to save a flock of  sheep that didn’t know its right hand from its left. 

You have a greater and more perfect David.  Your shepherd is the Son of David, the King of the Jews, Jesus Christ.  He fights heroic battles, trusting in the Lord, risking His life to save—His father’s sheep. 

It’s Jesus, the shepherd, who warns His sheep today: Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Jesus’ warnings to the sheep are not just talk.  This is the voice of Your God, but also of the David who loves you and defends you.  He says: Beware! 

He doesn’t say, “There are fierce wolves coming, but forget about it.  Take a nap.  I’ll handle everything.”  He says “Beware!” 

These wolves don’t come looking like wolves.  If they did, you’d run! 

Instead they come looking like sheep, that is to say, like Christians…They come saying, “Lord, Lord!”  Doing miracles, maybe!  Casting out demons, maybe!  Doing great works in Christ’s name. 

They don’t come looking like Satanists, but like Christian teachers or pastors.  They come with smooth words to Christians who have been carrying the cross and they preach a Christianity that looks like it will be easier than the way of Jesus.  And they say, “See, this is actually what the Lord taught.  What you believed before is not God’s Word.  Or at least it isn’t the whole truth.  You were missing something.”

Now how can you defend yourself against wolves that dress themselves like sheep—against false prophets who dress themselves up in the Name of Jesus and claim His Word?  How can you recognize them and flee?

Here is the answer: Jesus’ Word unmasks the false prophets and calls You to Jesus and to safety.

[1. Does Jesus really want false prophets exposed and recognized?

2.  How false prophets are recognized.

3.  Jesus’ word calls you to Himself, His true flock, and to safety.]

 

  1. 1.         Does Jesus really want false prophets exposed and recognized?

Yes.  He says so clearly in this verse.

 

He does not want us to befriend false teachers and false teaching, much less support them.

False teaching comes from the devil.  False teachers do the work of the devil.

 

The devil destroys with false teaching.  He tempts us away from Christ to put our trust in something else. 

Romans 16:17 : Watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.  For such people do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve.

By “the doctrine you have been taught” Paul means the pure doctrine that was taught by the apostles, not that you should necessarily stay with the religion you grew up with.

 False teachers are not those who make small mistakes, but they profane the name of God.  So to support or give aid or play down the differences between true doctrine and false is to participate in profaning God’s name.

 Catechism: 2nd commandment, 1st petition of the Lord’s Prayer.

 

You tell me: is it a minor matter to preach and teach something different from God’s Word, as long as the teaching is a minor thing?

 

Is there anything that God says that is “minor”?  “Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same…”  Matt 5…not one jot or tittle can pass from the law until all is fulfilled.

 

Christians—pastors and the royal priesthood—are to test teachers and teachings and avoid false teachers.

 Refusing to do this profanes Christ’s name and endangers the church.

 

When congregations refuse to distinguish between true and false doctrine, true and false teachers, true and false fellowships, they do not confess Jesus. 

 

When pastors fail to preach against false doctrine and even name false teachers, they dishonor Jesus, profane His name, and do not guard the sheep

I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.  Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.  Acts 20.27-28

We profane God’s name whenever we are embarrassed of His Word, or refuse to distinguish between His word and the devil’s word, when we do not confess Him before the world.

  1. 2.        How to recognize false prophets.

 The false prophets who would destroy your soul are known by their fruits. 

 

But Jesus doesn’t say—does the fruit look good?  He says: Look at the tree!

 

Good trees bear good fruit, bad trees bad.  Bad trees don’t ever bear good fruit, and good trees don’t ever bear bad.

 

 

What is a good tree?

Teachers are likened to trees. 

 

With fruit trees, we have some experience, so we know—apple trees have good fruit.  Crabapple trees—not good fruit. 

 

With teaching, it’s not exactly like that.  It can’t be discerned with the senses or the emotions or the brain.

 

Example of Eve—the fruit looked good, desirable for wisdom.

 

That is what Satan does—turns eyes from the Word to our own experience, feeling, thought.

 

We must shut our eyes and listen to the Word only.

You will know a tree by its fruit because every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire.

Yet we don’t see false teachers thrown into the fire.

Whoever believes in [Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe in Him is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of his one and only Son. (John 3)

 

Whoever, whatever, does not confess Jesus only is condemned already.  You judge a bad tree in this way: this teacher does not hold to Christ alone.  He does not give praise to Jesus alone.

 

When John said “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance,” who can keep that word?  When you look at the list of the fruits of the Spirit, don’t you come up not doing too well?

Good trees are defined by the word of the Lord.

The word of justification.  You are just, not because you have kept the law, but because Christ has fulfilled the law for you; God credits this faith as righteousness.

In baptism.  You are washed and clothed with the righteousness of Jesus and named with the name of God.  The washing with water by the word was God’s promise that Christ’s death for sinners cleanses you.

God’s word prescribes the works.

False teachers create all kinds of works apart from the ten commandments to do.  They may say, “Faith in Jesus alone,” but really they mean something else. 

 

The good work of having the experience of choosing Jesus—if you can’t say you’ve had that experience, then you’re not saved.

 

But usually they don’t say “Faith in Jesus alone.”  They say, “Changed life.”

 

They reject Christ’s works—Baptism, the Word—in favor of their own.

The spirit of Antichrist.  Jesus warns of the wolves because the spirit of antichrist is at work in the church…the devil sends false preachers in order to turn the church into the mockery of the bride of Jesus.  Any teacher who denies the Gospel is influenced by the Spirit of Antichrist.  The Spirit of Antichrist finds its full embodiment in the papacy, which claims to be the authority over the whole church by God’s command, and thus “takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming that he is God.”

Does not confess Jesus.

 

Joel Osteen.  (Is Osteen’s preaching really about Jesus’ death on the cross for your sins?  Is that even in his sermons most times?  Osteen’s doctrine is not about Christ.  It is about you and changing your thinking.  He does not confess Christ’s coming in the flesh—his gospel is about something other than Christ coming in the flesh.)

 

Papacy.  (Christ alone is not your righteousness; you are righteous before God by faith and your regenerated heart and good works.  And since Scripture is not clear, you must depend on the authority of the true church to defend you from wolves.  Thus the pope becomes your god; Christ’s word is determined by the authority of the church and the pope, instead of Christ’s word judging the fidelity of congregations and pastors.

 

3.Jesus Your David, reveals Himself to you and calls you to safety in His Word.

 

Your David who fights against the wolf—he doesn’t choose the easy path. He goes the way the Father wants him to go regardless of the consequences. 

 

You don’t get to go an easy path either.  You go in this way—faith in Jesus, love to your neighbor where God has called you to serve.

            It’s easier to escape into holy stuff that we make up.

 

            To follow Jesus is to lose everything.  You can’t escape that.

 

            Not, “Lord, lord,” and then you create your own destiny.  You receive it all.  Your sins are forgiven, not because you feel it, but because of the Word, baptism.

            You are a husband or wife, not because you feel like it, but because the Word says so. 

            It is pleasing to God because the word says so, because you are a good tree, not because you feel like it.

            You are pleasing to God not because you’ve accomplished your dreams, but because God says you are pleasing to Him in Christ.

 

But you’re safe: see how Jesus has gone before you and finished it.

 

And if you’re afraid and faltering, don’t think that you will make it because you follow him anything like perfectly; you’re saved because of Him.  You just do what he’s called you to do go where he’s called you to go; but when you fail you live by faith.  And when you don’t want to do it, you live by faith.

This is where Jesus is; here in the word and sacraments,

 

In your bodies,

 

With you in your daily life.

 

The wolves lead you away from Jesus to your own works, to your damnation.

 

Jesus leads you to death and resurrection.

 

Amen.

 

The peace of God, which passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

“I Must also Step into the Open…for the Sake of God’s Name”

July 28, 2012 2 comments

Franz Pieper, Professor, President of Missouri Synod, author of “Christian Dogmatics”

Franz Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, vol 1.  (p. 433-434)

 

The entire Scriptures are in reality nothing else than an elaboration of God’s name (“ein ausgebreiteter Name Gottes”).  By denying that Scripture is God’s Word, men reject the only principle or source from which they can derive an understanding of God’s name.  This fact prompted Luther to remind us again and again that only the true Scripture doctrine honors God’s name and builds his Church, while false doctrine, springing from the heart of men, profanes God’s name and destroys His Church.  In his commentary on Ex. 20:7 Luther says of the Second Commandment: “In this Commandment the name of God is used correctly when the Word of God is rightly preached and rightly believed.  And, again, God’s name is blasphemed when preachers under the cloak of God’s Word and name mislead the people.”  (St. L. III: 1074.)  For this reason faithful preachers are a blessing, while false teachers are a curse to their country and to the world.  Of course, in teaching God’s Word in its truth and purity, teachers run the risk of incurring opposition.  Luther points to this: “The greatest and most difficult part of this Commandment is to defend this name against those who not only misuse it in spiritual matters, but also spread it [their false definition of God’s name] among menIt is not enough that I praise the divine name in prosperity and call upon it in adversity for myself and my own heart.  I must also step into the open and for the sake of God’s honor and name incur the enmity of all men according to Christ’s word: ‘Ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake’ (Matt. 10:22).  Here we must provoke to anger even father, mother, and our best friends….Here we must bear the charge of resisting the spiritual and civil government and of being disobedient.  Here we must incense the learned, the saints, the wealthy, the mighty, and all who count for something in the world.  That is what it means to be ‘God’s friend and all the world’s enemy.’ Though this is primarily the duty of preachers, every Christian is in duty bound to do this as time and occasion demand.  When a person accepts God’s Word, the Gospel, he must by all means keep in mind that he is running the risk of losing all his goods, home, real estate, business, farm, wife, children, father, mother, yes, his very life.  Should danger and misfortune overtake him, he can bear it more readily, realizing from the outset that matters would take this course.  Here such passages apply as Matt. 10:24: ‘The disciple is not above his master.’” (St. L. III: 1078 ff.)

How Pastors Allow the Sheep in their Congregation to be Torn Apart by Wolves

July 28, 2012 6 comments

Franz Pieper, Professor, President of Missouri Synod, author of “Christian Dogmatics”

  Again, only he is a fit minister of the Church who is able to refute false teachers.  That is listed as one of the necessary qualifications of an elder or bishop: “Holding fast the faithful Word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers…whose mouths must be stopped” (Titus 1:9-11).  The popular demand that the public teacher refrain from polemics is not supported by Scripture.  Scripture admonishes pastors to “avoid foolish questions and genealogies and contentions about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain” (Titus 3:9).  Nor dare we engage in polemics from carnal motives, in carnal zeal.  “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh” (2 Cor. 10:3).  It is also to be noted that in Titus 1:9 the words “able by sound doctrine to exhort” precede “able to convince the gainsayer.”  That means that the clear presentation of the true doctrine must come before the refutation of the false doctrine.  The hearers will thus be in a position to see that the polemics are justified and will be able to make the condemnation of the false doctrine their own.  And they will hardly suspect the teachers of being contentious and unjust.  Scripture thus warns us against false polemics.  But the demand that polemical theology be excluded from Christian theology is contrary to Scripture.  The duty of refuting false doctrine and rebuking false teachers is laid upon the teachers of the  Church in Titus 1.9-11 and many other passages fo Scripture….

Walther does not go too far when he writes: “A man may proclaim the pure doctrine, but if he does not condemn and refute the opposing false doctrine, does not warn against the wolves in sheep’s clothing, the false prophets, and unmask them, he is not a faithful steward of God’s mysteries, not a faithful shepherd of the sheep entrusted to him, not a faithful watchman on the walls of zion, but as the word of God says, an unfaithful servant, a dumb dog, a traitor.  The terrible consequences of the minister’s failure to use the elenchus are before our eyes—many souls lost and the Church deeply hurt.  Polemics are absolutely needed.  Not only because a doctrine is more fully comprehended in the light of its antithesis, but mainly because the errorists so craftily mask their error behind a show of truth that the simple Christians, if not forewarned, are despite their love of the truth only too easily deceived.  The pastor cannot wash his hands in innocence, pleading that he has always preached the full truth, if he did not at the same time warn against the error and, when necessary, identify it by naming the errorist; if his sheep, either while he is still serving or after he had to leave them for another field, become the prey of the ravening wolves in sheep’s clothing, he is guilty of their blood.”  (Walther, Pastorale, p. 82)

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