SERMON: 'Stay Awake' (Mark 13:24-37)

Today, we have a sermon from Pastor Lewis Polzin of  Boars In The Vineyard fame and Trinity Lutheran Church in Bemidji, Minnesota, a congregation of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) as found published on his A Pastoral Approach blog.



Sermon: Mark 13:24-37, November 30, 2014 
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. The text this morning is from the Gospel according to Mark, the 13th chapter:

 


“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

 

Thus far the text. 
My dear friends in Christ, 
Our lesson in Mark appears to pick up where we left off the last month in Matthew, darkness and the great day of the Lord. But, remember, my friends, Jesus Christ is light of the world, the light which no darkness can overcome. Should the sun go out and all the stars of the heavens, the light of Jesus Christ cannot be overcome. 
The admonition that we hear Scripture give us, stay awake, everyone here should consider for the Last Day, even our own last day upon this earth. If we do not, we will fall asleep, slumber, rest, without knowing that our day is coming, and there we shall suddenly realize that we have fallen away from Jesus and we are no longer His. So stay awake in Word and Sacrament. 
We continue to look to that Last Day, for it reminds us that every man will have to give an accounting to God. Either we shall make our case solely on Christ and His merits, as we do through those Sacraments, or we will make our case on our own merits. There are no other choices. 
This is why Jesus says to mark the fig tree. Mark any tree’s seasons. We read the seasons based upon its leaves and how it grows. We know that when we see the buds, spring is coming. When the leaves begin to turn, the winter is approaching. And so we know by looking at our world and its Christ that the end is coming soon. Our Lord will soon return. 
 How do we know? He has ascended into heaven. And in saying He ascended, what does it mean but that He had also descended to this earth once into our flesh, and that He will return to descend to be bodily with His creation once again? 
Our Jesus’ ascension tells us He is coming again. The earth trembles with anticipation, with wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes and famines will strike the nations. These are the beginnings of the birth pains. As with a woman in labor, when the contractions come, you don’t know when the child will arrive, but you know it’s coming. 
This is why Jesus says that no one knows the day or the hour but the Father. All is hidden from this world concerning that last day, except as it has been revealed by the Son. And what does He tell us? Stay awake. That’s what He gives to us. And so we hear His warning, and we take it as gift. 
After all, we do not know what this life entails for us, except that through Christ, through His Word, through His Baptism, through His Supper, He has made us to live forever. This life, with its trials and tribulations are but a momentary affliction as we await the day of Resurrection. We are mortal in this life, yes, we shall die unless Christ descends from the heavens first, but we are immortal as He is immortal for Christ is in us. And today, Christ will, in the very realest sense, be in us again as He comes to us in His body and blood. Without this, we should perish eternally. 
When the devil comes, and come he will, he will accuse us. He will come with a seemingly strengthened hand to accuse us and to punish us with the Law. But, let him accuse. Let him punish. Let him make good use of the evil he would commit against you. Make use of that punishment to let him fall into pride. If he strikes with disease, illness, sorrow, doubt, temptation, let those be his downfall as we scream, “I am baptized into Christ!” Sing with the hymn: Satan, hear this proclamation: I am baptized into Christ! Drop your ugly accusation; I am not so soon enticed. Now that to the font I’ve traveled, all your might has come unraveled, And, against your tyranny, God, my Lord, unites with me! 
All of life is ours, both good and evil. And because of the devil, and because of our sin, all is uncertain here. As good Saint Augustine says: “A child is conceived, perhaps it will be born, perhaps it will be an untimely birth. So it is uncertain: Perhaps he will grow up, perhaps he will not grow up; perhaps he will grow old, perhaps he will not grow old; perhaps he will be rich, perhaps poor; perhaps he will be distinguished, perhaps abased; perhaps he will have children, perhaps he will not; perhaps he will marry, perhaps not; and so on, whatever else among good things you may name. Now look too at the evils of life: Perhaps he will have sickness, perhaps he will have not; perhaps he will be stung by a serpent, perhaps not; perhaps he will be devoured by a wild beast, perhaps he will not.”  
These things are all uncertain. There is nothing in this sin-filled life but the word “perhaps.” As Benjamin Franklin said, “…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Death, taxes, and our Lord’s return. That is why He chides us to stay awake. Jesus knows we will be comfortable in the “perhaps.” Life seems so uncertain, so perhaps I won’t die. Or perhaps Jesus won’t return. But just as sure as April 15 rolls around, so, too, either of the two, death or Christ’s second coming, will happen. 
Let us not love this “perhaps.” Loving it is akin to loving the world and all its pleasures. There are good and pleasurable things in this world, things our Lord has given us to enjoy. But we do not love the “perhaps,” and we do not love sin. The lovers of this world are overcome, overwhelmed, and overtaken by the devil and his world. The world will fall, and the lovers of the world with it. 
But, our Lord Jesus Christ has overcome the world. And so if we are united to Christ in Word and Sacrament, we, too, are inheritors of His work, which means He has overcome the world for us. That is why Christ says to rejoice for He has overcome the world. 
And rejoice, then, we shall. For He is the one who was beaten and crucified. The creator of all things was mocked and crowned with a crown of pain and derision, not one of jewels and gold as He deserves. But, He who overcame this death overcame the world also. And He did this for us, us who are in Him, us who are in the world. 
Thus, we say to Him, have mercy upon me, a poor, miserable sinner. For we are poor, with nothing in our hands, and miserable, for we are pitiable, and sinners, for we do not do the will of God the Father. But, in saying this, in repenting of our sins, our Lord lavishes upon us the riches of His kingdom. He gives to us forgiveness. He gives to us the strengthening of faith. He gives to us His holy Word and Sacraments for all these things. 
We cling to God for He is the one who is like us, the one who made Himself man for our sake. Only those who stay awake in the Lord may cry out to Him for His mercy. All others fall asleep, and so do their voices. But to Christ we look, and to His cross we cling, and so we cry with the song of Moses, “The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.”  
This is what it means to stay awake, to watch for Christ to come again. There, in Word and Sacrament, we find we need fear no death, fear no devil, fear neither the works of the world. In God I trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man, or anything else, do to you when you are Christ’s? Nothing. And besides, it is only for a little while. As our Christ came once as a little child, He will come again with glory to judge the living and dead. And you, my friends, will live forever in Him, for you have been washed, you have been fed, and you have listened and stayed awake in Christ. In Jesus’ name, amen. 
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord! Amen.


For emphasis, here's what my Lutheran Study Bible has to say about this passage...


Jesus will return on the Last Day to judge all humanity, fulfilling OT prophecy and His own predictions. No one knows when the events Jesus prophesied will take place; therefore, Christians are to focus on the work He has given them (Matthew 9:38). Aug: "Let no one then search out for the last Day, when it is to be; but let us watch all by our good lives, lest the last day of any one of us find us unprepared" (NPNF 1 6:411). Rather than wasting time and energy trying to determine the exact year or day of Jesus' return, which God has not revealed, we should focus on bringing the Gospel to people who do not yet know Christ as Savior and Lord. Today, we need to focus on the calling we have as Christ's Church: Gospel proclamation (Matthew 28:18-20). God has created this time before the second appearing of Jesus so that we may come to faith and call others to faith and salvation. "Stay awake" or remain alert to proclaim the Gospel and practice the faith. Aug: "When it tells us to watch for the last day, every one should think of [this] as concerning his own last day; lest haply when you judge or think the last day of the world to be far distant, you slumber with respect to your own last day" (NPNF 1 6:411). Jesus exhorts us to vigilance and encourages us to use the available time wisely, proclaiming the Gospel for the salvation of others. Jesus promises to be with us always and has poured out on us His Holy Spirit for the work of evangelizing the nations. No one will enter the kingdom of God by works, nor will any mere religion save anyone. Because Jesus died and rose for us and because the Holy Spirit created and sustained saving faith in His people, we can be sure of our salvation no matter how fearsome the Last Day may be.


As an ex-Evangelical (and one whose primary focus was always the study of end times prophecy as opposed to Jesus Christ), I greatly appreciated a proper explanation of this popular passage from the Gospel of Mark.

In short, it completely takes your eyes off of the fallen, sinful world and puts them squarely on Christ, His Word, and the Sacraments instead (where they should be).

In a Lutheran layman's terms, it's simple -- stay awake!!!


NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little over a year ago. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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Gobble Up God's Grace: Let's Talk Turkey On This Thanksgiving Day...

Thanksgiving Day 2014.

Let's start with last year's commentary from Chad Bird who always seems to do a fantastic job of getting us to look at things a little differently than we probably have ever looked at them before (yes, even as Bible-believing Christians).


God Doesn't Celebrate Thanksgiving: A Turkey Day Reflection 
It seems a bit strange that many of us will stuff our mouths this week with a bird whose life preaches against us. For consider the turkeys, which neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Turkeys don’t worry, don’t horde, don’t complain. 
The eyes of all turkeys wait upon You, O Lord, for You give them their food in due season; You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. Yet here we are – our eyes waiting upon the next paycheck, waiting upon the next promotion, waiting upon Wall Street to rise and fall, waiting upon everything but You, O Lord. So before you swallow that bite of turkey, remember that you eat a creature that surpasses you in piety. Eat, yes, but season your turkey with the ashes of repentance as it preaches just how little your faith is, just how little you trust God, just how little you believe the Father is good to you. 
And if that isn’t enough to call you to repentance, think of how not only does an animal with the pea-sized brain show you how utterly sinful you are, even brainless flowers are closer to how God intends them to be than you are. For “consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Roses are red, violets are blue, colored by God, preaching to you. Preaching – that you might confess that, at heart, you really don’t believe God wants nothing but the best for you; that daily you doubt His goodness; and that when, push comes to shove, you fear, love, and trust in just about everything more than God. Heed those preaching flowers; heed, confess, and believe. 
Believe, O sinner, that the mercies of almighty God, our heavenly Father, are new unto us every morning; believe that though we have in no wise deserved His goodness, He abundantly provides for all our wants of body and soul. For He does, and He has, and He will. 
God doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. He has no one to thank for the earth is the Lord’s and all it contains. He receives nothing as gift. Rather, He is gift. He is Giver. God gives, we receive, and that is the sum of all reality.  
Without being asked, certainly without being pressured, He floods every individual, every city, every nation of this world with gifts beyond telling. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all this is within me, bless His holy Name,” for all that is within me is a gift. My body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses. Food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, family, and on and on it goes, ever millionth of a second a million gifts received. 
Do you doubt it? Do you think that He who has given you His own Son will now withhold anything from you that you need, that is good for you? He who delivered up His own Son to pay for your unbelief, will He do bad things to you now that He has made you a believer? He who found you when you sought Him not, who saved you when you wanted Him not, who embraced you when you fled from His arms, will He now roll you up in a ball and cast you away as unwanted garbage? No, a thousand times no, for He rejoices over you as a groom over His bride, He loves you as a father loves His child, He tenderly cares for you as a mother does her nursing infant. 
If God so cares for turkeys, and if your Father so beautifully clothes flowers, He will most certainly clothe you with the garments of salvation and cover you with the robe of righteousness. Indeed, He has. He has wrapped around your body and soul the coat of His Son. The robe of His faithful life and bloody death has been made your own. If Joseph had his coat of many colors, then you have the coat of only two colors – white for the purity of Jesus and red for His blood. And no jealous brothers will steal it from you. No Potiphar’s wife will rip it from you. He who hung naked on the cross for you will let no man or woman, no devil or false prophet, no temptation or trial, not even death with all its fury – none of them will remove from you the red and white coat of Jesus’ blood and righteousness, the robe that gives you access to the wedding feast of the King of kings. 
It is truly meet, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places gives thanks to the Father, but today we do so quite intentionally and nationally. We give thanks to the Father that He cares enough for us to use even a turkey and flowers to call us to repentance, to teach us faith, and to say once again, “Lo, I am with you always, and I love you always, and always and forever you are my beloved, my own, mine, all mine.” Yes, thanks be to God!


"So before you swallow that bite of turkey, remember that you eat a creature that surpasses you in piety. Eat, yes, but season your turkey with the ashes of repentance as it preaches just how little your faith is, just how little you trust God, just how little you believe the Father is good to you." Boy, I just love that! Don't you?

But why stop there? Let's look back at our entry from last year too.

As Pastor Charles Henrickson noted in a 2012 sermon...




The purpose of this holiday is for all Americans to gather in their churches and give thanks to God for his many blessings on our land. That’s the reason this holiday exists. Other things have latched themselves onto Thanksgiving -- football and Christmas shopping, for example -- so that by now the actual purpose of this day has gotten lost in the shuffle. But the reason we have the day off is to go to church and give thanks to God for how he has blessed our nation.

Besides giving thanks to God for how he has blessed us, we also gather to pray to God, that he would continue to bless our country and to amend it where it has gone astray. We pray for the people of our land, that our culture and our way of life would be more honorable and upright. We pray for our country's leaders, that they would govern well, in conformity with God's laws. There is much to pray for.

Thanksgiving and prayer, both. That's why we're here today.

Now some of you may be thinking: "Are you kidding me? Thank God for the mess our country has become? I mean, the economy is stuck in the mud. People are out of work. The national debt continues to skyrocket. We're told we're about to head over a fiscal cliff. Our culture continues to deteriorate. A significant portion of our population is OK with detestable things like abortion and homosexuality, which are abominations in God's sight. On top of that, some of the elections didn't go the way I wanted, and I'm still bummed out about that. And you’re telling me to give thanks!?!"

Well, yes, I am. In spite of all that is wrong with this country -- and believe me, I am well aware there is a lot wrong -- we still have much to be thankful for.


At this time of year, there are two primary texts from Scripture that always come to mind.




Psalm 100:1-5 (ESV) 1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! 2 Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! 3 Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! 5 For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

1 Timothy 2:1-7 (ESV) 1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

[emphasis mine]


Beautiful, aren't they?

One of the things I absolutely love about Psalm 100 is that it tells us that thanksgiving is not limited to God's chosen people, but that all creation is to praise Him. Nor is praise limited to singing, but includes joyfully serving Him (Psalm 100:2).

One of the things I love best about that passage from 1 Timothy 2 is how Paul uses four synonyms for prayer, each with a difference nuance. There are "supplications" offered for specific benefits or needs; "prayers" a common New Testament term denoting a wide array of petitions; "intercessions" or appeals for others made to God with boldness and childlike trust; "thanksgivings" or expressions of gratitude for mercies received.

Thanksgiving is a funny thing though, isn't it? I like the observation Pastor Shawn Stafford made in a sermon published at Steadfast Lutherans last year...




"Thanksgiving" is an unnatural activity. "Giving thanks" has to be taught and learned. Parents know that. One of the first things you teach children is to say "thank you" when they receive something. "Now what do you say?" you remind them. "Thank you." Saying "thank you" is a piece of good manners, a small but significant sign that we are higher than the animals. We say "thank you."


Thankfulness -- precisely the type of heart condition and mindset we need to be praying for, which comes not by own our efforts and self-will, but by the Root Himself that we are abiding in as believers (Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 11:10; Romans 15:12; Ephesians 5:4; Galatians 5:22-23).

Now, here are a few of my favorite Thanksgiving Day quotes that I've come across over the years...




"For the Glory of God and the Advancement of the Christian faith, and the honour of our King and Country."
*- The Mayflower Compact


"To All Ye Pilgrims: Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with sh and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience; now, I...do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and little ones, do gather...to listen to ye pastor, and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings."
*- William Bradford, Governor of Plymouth Colony


"This one is so simple that we miss it. Why aren't we more grateful? There are many answers to that question, but this one is central: we aren't grateful because we've never asked God to give us a grateful heart. By nature we are covetous, greedy, grasping and unhappy. Left to ourselves, we will be just like that rich fool. Generosity isn't our natural impulse. We aren't born giving; we're born getting. Gratitude is not the inborn language of the heart."
*- Ray Pritchard

I actually need to backtrack a little though, because I just remembered that there are several passages of Scripture that exhort us to always be thankful...





Psalms 68:19 (ESV) Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Selah

Hebrews 12:28 (ESV) Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us o er to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,

Colossians 2:6-7 (ESV) 6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Colossians 3:15 (ESV) And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Colossians 4:2 (ESV)
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (ESV) give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.


...just to name a few.

I know I referenced it earlier, but I thoroughly enjoyed Pastor Shawn Stafford's 2013 Thanksgiving Day sermon and was blessed mightily by it (I encourage you to read it too). It destroys the "Idol of Self" that we have all erected to varying degrees in our lives with the truth from the Word of God (Revelation 3:17).

Today is Thanksgiving Day. Remember, if you feel "poor" it's only because you want more in this life than you've been blessed with already. The problem today is that we're constantly told we need things we never really wanted in the first place, or that our lives are incomplete without them. The problem with these so-called "needs" is that there's never any satisfaction even when you meet them. That's because only Jesus Christ truly satisfies!

Yes, EVERY DAY should be a day of thanksgiving once you realize who Jesus is and what He has done for you. In that sense, Thanksgiving Day should be a day of confession, repentance, and renewal too.

Despite all the sins, through all the anxieties, arguments, disagreements, emotional distress, family issues, fear, heartache, sickness, unemployment, and the general ups-and-downs that are a part of life, He has BLESSED US RICHLY with His grace and mercies daily and continues to do so!

Be content. Be thankful. Thank God.

I heard someone say that "everyone lives in one of two tents -- contentment or discontentment" and thought that such a statement was (sadly) a perfect description of our culture today. Which "tent" do you spend most of your time living in?

Yes, times are tough, but this Thanksgiving Day let's all be thankful for our blessings that are both material and spiritual thanks be to Christ alone. Give thanks for the many blessings you have been given this past year.

What is there to be thankful for this Thanksgiving Day? I'll let Pastor Charles Henrickson answer that question for us.


You see, we were on the outs with God. Our sins had separated us from our Creator. Every one of us -- you and I and all the people who have ever lived -- each of us has broken God's law and come under his righteous judgment. On our own, we all would come under condemnation and the sentence of death.

But then Christ came. God is merciful. Christ came, the very Son of God, come in the flesh, true God and true man, sent to reconcile us back to God, to remove the barrier of our sin and to atone for it. This Christ did by his death on the cross. Think of Christ hanging there on that cross, suspended between heaven and earth, dying there in your place, for your sins. He is the mediator, the man in the middle, the one who makes peace in his body on the cross. Now risen and ascended into heaven, this same God-man Savior, Jesus Christ, now ever lives to intercede on our behalf. His holy blood pleads for us before the throne of grace.

Isn't this wonderful good news? It sure is! And God wants everyone to hear it.


Of course, those words merely underscore what the divinely inspired apostle Paul wrote for us in his epistle to Timothy.


1 Timothy 2:5-6 (ESV) 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.


Here's Pastor Shawn Stafford again with the exclamation point...


We live in a rapidly changing world. At the same time, we live in a perishing world. In this world of very few, if any constants, in which we know that we ourselves are perishing, is there anything we can depend on to stay the same? Thankfully, there is, God's enduring truth, His faithfulness. This truth is made known to us in God's Word. Jesus prayed, "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth." At the center of God's Word is Jesus Christ, the embodiment of the truth. He said of Himself, that He is "the way, the truth, and the life." He is the only way to the Father and the "Truth that sets us free."

By nature, we do not of ourselves know this truth or believe in it. We "cannot by [our] own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, [our] Lord, or come to Him." Yet God our Savior "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:3-4). How we come to know this truth? Through His Word and Sacrament, the Holy Spirit "calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith."

God will remain faithful to us, even when we doubt or falter in our faith. As the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, "If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself" (2 Timothy 2:13). We can rest securely, placing our trust in God’s enduring truth and faithfulness.

Thanksgiving is the result of right Christian thinking. Joy and gladness, thanksgiving and praise flow naturally from hearts and lips that know the Lord’s goodness. Let us come before Him with joyful songs and pray, "Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever" (Psalm 136:1).


So, take comfort, my dear friends! There is hope; hope in Jesus Christ! There is much to be thankful for indeed!

Finally, what's the antidote to a "bland thankfulness" at the dinner table today when asked "What are you thankful for?" instead of a response born of genuine humility and thankfulness to our Sovereign Lord?

As always, it's to simply proclaim the glorious truth of Christ crucified for all our sins.


"I am truly thankful that God bought me with the precious, priceless blood of His Son, the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!"


So, gobble up God's grace today and every day!

In a Lutheran Layman's terms, and from my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!



NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little over a year ago. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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Evangelizing The Evangelical: 'Give And It Will Be Given To You' (Luke 6:38)

As a former Evangelical, I wanted to start a new series called "Evangelizing The Evangelical" to help confess "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3) to those who believe the things that I once believed.

After all, the thought of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering from a lack of assurance due to a conscience that is never really comforted by their good works "In Jesus' Name!" let alone their own perceived "stage of sanctification" brings back far too many bad memories.

It makes me think about how I wish I would've been exposed to the Lutheran faith a lot earlier in life (the complete Lutheran confession of the faith and not some cheap imitation Lutheran-In-Name-Only substitute) and how that would've made all the difference given the Biblical, Christ-centered focus.

In other words, it would've been great to have been taught not just who Martin Luther was and what he did, but what makes being a Lutheran different from all the other confessions and denominations of the Christian faith so that I knew why it is we believe, teach, and confess what we believe, teach, and confess.

Without being anchored to anything historical and orthodox, I was left to drift off on my own toward what I thought was the "True Jesus Christ" and the related "True Christian Life" as portrayed by contemporary American Evangelicalism, but in reality was anything but (Matthew 15:14; Ephesians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:3-4).

So, that's a quick explanation about why this series was born. I can't think of a better entry for our next installment in such a series than to take a closer look at something Evangelicals completely misinterpret and burden hearts and minds with.


 
AUDIO: Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller Responding To Evangelical Proof Texts 
"Give And It Will Be Given To You" (Luke 6:38) 
Luke 6:38 (ESV) give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.



It's so sad how often this one single verse is so often used to justify the Televangelist's so-called "ministry" in support of a "Name It, Claim It" and "Word of Faith" false doctrine (a.k.a the perverted "Prosperity Gospel").

Plus, like the good Pastors have said, it turns God into Santa Claus and teaches that His good gifts for you are dependent on how "good" you are in your life as a "new creation in Christ" in response to Him now that you're living as a Christian.

The problem is that "Pop American Churchianity" has used this verse to also preach and teach that your own personal happiness is what's most important in life and that God desires for you to be happy at any cost and above all else.

The problem is that the only ones hearing the Gospel these days are the non-believers while the converted Christians hear nothing of the Gospel, but only the Law once they become baptized, saved believers in Christ Jesus.

As my Lutheran Study Bible notes...


We can never outgrow our good teacher, who by grace judged and declared us not guilty while we were yet dead in our sins. His grace in our lives -- measured, pressed, and shaken -- always runs over.


This is the true "better life" promised to us by the Gospel and marked more often by pain and suffering and not puppy dogs and ice cream.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, this is the kind of Bible study that I wish I had been exposed to some 10 years ago, because perhaps then I would've been able to avoid sailing the "Works Righteousness Waters of American Evangelicalism" for as long as I did (almost making a shipwreck of my faith; 1 Timothy 1:19) before I came to rest upon the "Saved By Grace Alone, Through Faith Alone, In Christ Alone Shores" of the catholic, historic, traditional Confessional Lutheran (a.k.a. orthodox Christian) faith.

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little over a year ago. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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Harrison: 'The Problems This Nation Faces Are Deep And Humanly Unsolvable'

Looking for an appropriate and truly "Christian" response to what's been going on in Ferguson, Missouri this week?

LCMS President, Rev. Matthew C. Harrison, released this official statement that I saw on his Facebook page today.



“From depths of woe I cry to thee.” All of us in St. Louis are in shock and dismay. The President of this great nation called for measured action by protestors. Many in the community responded with mayhem and destruction of businesses and property of people themselves totally committed to the community. We pray for the victims of this mess. We pray for the authorities caught in this struggle. We pray for the peaceful protestors. We condemn the senseless violence and its perpetrators. I feel as Martin Luther once felt in the peasant’s war: Outrage at the marauding thugs creating death and mayhem; and deep frustration with the princes for driving the peasants to such frustration. In the case of Ferguson, on one level it’s about a death and an officer; but it’s much more about what we all have allowed to become of this nation. 
The problems this nation faces are deep and humanly unsolvable. Hundreds of years of institutionalized and then unofficial racial discrimination mean trust is hard to come by, and when found is fleeting. The deterioration of urban families, civil structures and institutions, and lack of personal accountability and responsibility, render us all but hopeless. Our citizens view this matter almost strictly along racial lines. That’s a tragedy in itself. 
The answers to our challenges lay in a two realms: state and church. We have allowed the disintegration of civil society and morality (state), which most deeply affects areas of socio-economic challenge. We have created systems, which have debilitated and destroyed the family, schools, churches, the very institutions, which are the solution to the challenges. Government has discriminated against parochial schools in challenged areas, forcing hundreds of Lutheran schools alone to close, killing the source of good in neighborhood after neighborhood. We have allowed cities to rot. We have allowed whole communities to be plagued by vacant and dilapidated buildings, poor infrastructure, all inviting, multiplying and sustaining negative activity and miss-trust. We have failed to call each other to account. Our nation continues to play racial politics while lives are swallowed into an abyss of hopelessness. We have created systems, which profit from decay and incarceration, treating mere symptoms while spreading disease. Our nation has chosen through court decision and vote, radical unbridled sexual freedom and it has come at the expense of the most vulnerable. Having local police mirror the racial makeup of the communities they serve is good and necessary, but only treats a symptom. 
This nation is sick unto death. The church has the answer: Jesus Christ. Jesus is neither white, or black. Jesus is the eternal answer for Officer Wilson and Michael Brown, and for all of us. What a mess we’ve made in this nation of the greatest national gift of God in the history of the world. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy. 
*- Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison 
President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LC-MS)


This statement was even better than the one he issued back in August 2014 when this first gained national attention, IMHO.

Both demonstrate genuine and faithful pastoral leadership in a time of national crisis.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, and as another brother in Christ noted in another forum, it's a very well articulated statement with the very truth that Jesus Christ is the only answer.

Amen!


NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little over a year ago. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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My Dear Confessional Lutherans, Please Be Careful When Quoting Eugene Peterson In Response To The FiveTwo/Wiki14 Crowd

A humble word of caution to my Confessional Lutheran brethren (specifically, those who have taken to quoting Eugene Peterson in response to the false doctrine being spewed by the FiveTwo/Wiki14 folks that we highlighted just yesterday).

Here's what I wrote to one of them on Facebook recently in response to a widely circulated post that cited Peterson.


 
Let me start by admitting that I am a wretched sinner (Romans 7:24). I'm a sinner who has been wrong before. In fact, I have been so wrong when it comes to doctrine/theology many times in my short life! I'm not proud of that and have certainly repented for those sins. So, it's quite possible that I am completely wrong when it comes to what I'm about to write. If so, then please let me know since I am open to being corrected so that I can repent for my sinful belief, confession, and claims against another Christian. 
Today, I’m seeing a lot of the Confessional Lutheran acquaintances, friends, and Pastors I’m connected to here on Facebook and Twitter (who I greatly respect) referencing a quote by Eugene Peterson that’s, admittedly, an excellent response to the “FiveTwo/Wiki14” group, which we all know by now is one that's made up of our erring brothers and sisters. Yes, we should all rejoice whenever different denominations/confessions of "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3) can agree on matters of doctrine and practice and thus find true unity of faith (Ephesians 4). I'm down with that. 
However, I feel I would be a hypocrite of the worst kind if, after all we’ve said and written in recent days, I didn’t also warn you to please be very careful when it comes to Mr. Eugene Peterson. I get that I’m probably flirting with breaking the 8th Commandment and ignoring Matthew 18 here (at least, according to some), but what is a mere laymen like me to do? I mean, it’s not like I have Mr. Peterson on speed dial or anything. 
To reiterate, and just so that there’s absolutely no misunderstanding, it’s certainly an appropriate quote in regards to the FiveTwo/Wiki14 crowd, but a little disingenuous/hypocritical coming from a man who himself has also perverted God's Word when he wrote and published The Message (one man’s "paraphrase" as opposed to a "translation"), and then somehow seduced congregations -- across all denominations -- to use it as a Bible (if not their Bible of preference). 
In my humble opinion, Mr. Peterson is guilty of doing THE VERY SAME THINGS that we all saw our erring brothers and sisters doing in TX (brothers and sisters in Christ who we’re now calling to repent so they can be forgiven and restored), and we need to be very careful when it comes to positioning Peterson as some kind of "Biblical authority" in response to the current doctrinal crises within the LCMS or we risk losing credibility when it comes to this necessary debate within the LCMS. 
Again, as previously mentioned, it's definitely an appropriate quote in regards to the "FiveTwo/Wiki14" crowd. Still, I just want to urge a little caution here b/c we're all (rightfully) criticizing FiveTwo/Wiki14 for their "sacramental entrepreneurs" nonsense (as well as all the other cases where they've decided to make up new words, new phrases, and new definitions that don't appear anywhere in Scripture), and yet, Peterson himself has also played fast-and-loose with the text when he wrote his paraphrase of the Holy Bible published as The Message
Issues, Etc even featured a segment on this: http://issuesetc.org/2012/08/06/3-a-reviewcritique-of-eugene-petersons-bible-paraphrase-the-message-dr-andrew-steinmann-8612/  
Criticism of The Message aside, Peterson has also called U2 a "prophetic voice" and even came right out and said that U2's frontman, Bono, is like John The Baptist! In the foreword to Raewynne J. Whiteley and Beth Maynard’s "Get Up Off Your Knees, Preaching The U2 Catalog" Peterson wrote: "Is U2 a prophetic voice? I rather think so. And many of my friends think so. If they do not explicitly proclaim the Kingdom, they certainly prepare the way for that proclamation in much the same way that John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus ... Amos crafted poems, Jeremiah wept sermons, Isaiah alternately rebuked and comforted, Ezekiel did street theater. U2 writes songs and goes on tour, singing them." Now, I don't know about you, but that seems DANGEROUSLY CLOSE to this whole "sacramental entrepreneurship" mentality that we've all been criticizing for days now, and that's precisely why I just want to issue a little word of caution here, because I know how easy it is to give the appearance to others that because we're all liking and sharing a quote from Eugene Peterson (again, admittedly a good one in relation to the current controversy), then that must mean we agree with anything and everything he's ever believed, taught, and confessed himself...which is completely at odds with our Confessional Lutheran faith. 
So, not so much a "criticism" from me about the many Confessional Lutheran acquaintances, friends, and Pastors I’m connected to who likely may not even know any of this stuff about Mr. Peterson (people who I love dearly, and who I have been blessed by, and who I have learned a lot from, by the way!), and I'm sorry if this comes across that way b/c it’s not my intention at all. 
No, this is mainly intended to be a friendly reminder for us to be consistent in our "calling a spade a spade" and a friendly word of "caution" from an ex-Evangelical who's now a "Newtheran" or from someone who knows firsthand how someone like Eugene Peterson and something like The Message can potentially lead one to make "shipwreck of their faith" (1 Timothy 1:19) if one’s not careful and not rooted in the TRUE Word of God. 
I know what you fine, faithful folks are all about, but I also don’t want to be a hypocrite by not saying anything in this case, let alone allow anyone else to assume that you yourselves are hypocrites by perhaps making it seem like you tacitly approve of someone who did the very same things you’re criticizing, but you’re willing to ignore that only because a quote from him serves your purposes in rebuking others who are actually guilty of the very same thing. 
Ok I'm done now. Sorry, this was much longer than I anticipated. I hope this rant of mine was received in the very same spirit with which it was written ("truth in love" Ephesians 4:15). Grace and peace, my dear friends!


Is such a warning warranted? Well, I'll let you be the judge.


This post is a great quote from a Presbyterian pastor admired by many clergy and pastors around the world. Eugene Peterson is one of the best writers who comes at the that task from the perspective of a working pastor. You can read just about any of his books and learn something from them -- even though he is Presbyterian. Watching his literacy gifts at work reminds us that our Lord distributed his gifts not only to Lutherans. The quote definitely hits the target of the mega-church-growth-crowd, no matter what denomination. I don’t know how many of those folks are in the LCMS, but there are enough to make life miserable. I don’t think that we have had the mass "sell-out" in the LCMS to this way of thinking and "doing church" as is found in American Evangelicalism. 
*- Pastor Martin R. Noland


I don't mean to pick on Pastor Noland here (it's certainly not just him), but his words are a great example of what I'm talking about.

I agree with his entire response, but I'm concerned that there was absolutely no mention whatsoever of our need to be careful not to think that Eugene Peterson is a voice of orthodoxy that we should now turn to for advice on how to deal with the FiveTwo/Wiki14 shenanigans.

Yes, I also realize that it was made quite clear that Eugene Peterson is a Presbyterian, and that we all agree that a person can be saved even if you're not a Lutheran, but I worry that many Confessional Lutherans (primarily the more popular Confessional Lutheran Pastors who we've come to rely on for their steadfast discernment) are dropping the ball whenever they reference Peterson as an appropriate rebuttal in this circumstance with our erring brothers and sisters within the Synod.

Trust me, I've had in-depth conversations with others over the years and performed extensive research on the man, his ministry, and his beliefs, and I can tell you that Biblically sound quotes like this widely circulated one from Peterson are the exception, not the norm.

I'm sorry, but "this is most certainly true" and we must not run from it.

With that in mind, "here I stand" by my original assertion and warning -- Eugene Peterson’s The Message DOES NOT revere God’s Word enough to leave it alone, and DOES NOT acknowledge that the Word is the heart and mind of God Himself that we are supposed to leave alone and to believe, teach, and confess.

Instead, he often decides to play god himself and CHANGES and MISINTERPRETS things so dramatically to say whatever it is that he would rather it say.

How is that any different from what the FiveTwo/Wiki14 folks are doing when they create new definitions, words, phrases, and terminology with their "Sacramental Entrepreneurs" nonsense?

In a Lutheran layman's terms, it's not any different, which is why Eugene Peterson is guilty of doing the very same things we're all upset at the FiveTwo/Wiki14 folks for doing, and we must be consistent in our criticism and calls to repentance.


NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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