Lutheran Spokesman

"…the Scriptures cannot be broken." John 10:35

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How Do We “See” the New Year?

Written by | January, 2012
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“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Hebrews 11:1

When a young child’s mother leaves the room, and he cannot see, hear, or smell her – she’s gone! Then the crying begins.

We console the child,“Mama will be back!”

But the child wants proof! “Where’s my mother? I want to see her now!”

Things don’t change much as we grow older, do they? Oh, we may think we are more sophisticated and have matured—and in the things of this world perhaps we have, for time does gain us experience.

But when it comes to spiritual matters–to matters of faith–we don’t mature simply because time has passed since we first became Christians.

Either our faith is growing in the Word of God or it is dying without it. Read More…

The Testimony Of Confidence

Written by | October, 2011
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“Treasuring Our Heritage of Truth” – Third of Three…

The divinely inspired letter to the Ephesians is all about the Church of Jesus Christ – of which we are members by the grace of God, redeemed and forgiven by the blood of Christ, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as the Head and chief Cornerstone. In Ephesians chapter 4 we are given the marvelous Master-plan for the edification (building up) of His Church. Read More…

Guard the Precious Deposit

Written by | July, 2011
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“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

When our young people are confirmed, they vow to hold to what they have been taught from the Bible. They promise to “suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it.” Recognizing this as a promise that can be kept only with divine help, they humbly answer, “I do so intend, with the help of God.” Read More…

The Amazing Power of God’s Word

Written by | July, 2011
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“By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” Hebrews 11:3

It is that time of year when we enjoy getting out in nature and looking at the beauty of God’s creation.

Family trips taken to national or state parks often become treasured memories. We recall the wondrous vistas from a mountain-top or even just a bluff, the grandeur of the vastness of the sea, the mysteries of a cave, or the beauty of canyon formations.

Even watching the sun set over a lake can call forth a confession of faith from the child of God who marvels at how God called all this forth with the power of His Word.

Of course, visits to publicly-run parks may also mean that we encounter the evolutionist’s view on the origins of the universe. What evolutionists see as a chance happening—that supposedly took place with countless millions of precisely accurate accidents occurring at the exactly necessary moments so that the world came into existence with all its wonders—we creationists see and know as the wonderful works of God!

The nature scenes which cause us to marvel as we make our way on our summer vacation trips are evidence of the majesty and power of God. With the power of His Word He called things as if they were—and indeed they were there in all their complexity, in all their beauty! Read More…

Pessimism or Realism?

Written by | March, 2011
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As witnesses to the love of God in Christ Jesus and as bearers of the Word of God — the substance of which is the message of that love — Christ-believers can be nothing but optimistic.

In keeping with the Lord’s commission, as well as based on His promise sure, the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC) declares its “single purpose to be a Christian church that proclaims the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible” (CLC Statement of Faith and Purpose, p. 5).

Surely our desire and prayer is that sinners who see their need will identify with and become part of our church family!

In connection with the great commission the Lord speaks of  “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:20).

The CLC takes this seriously. In our preaching and teaching we are bound to preach and teach all that is in Scripture, neither adding to it nor subtracting from it! How seriously a church takes the words of the Lord will determine how it carries out the great commission.

Taking the Savior’s commission seriously means that we preach law and gospel—the law in its unvarnished exposure of sin and condemnation on one hand, and on the other hand the glorious and unsurpassed message of forgiveness, justification, and eternal salvation through the atoning work of the Lord Jesus.

We will speak in love, bearing in mind the level of understanding of those to whom we speak. But we dare never speak less than the truth for fear that speaking it will cause people to walk away, as indeed many did because Jesus spoke the truth. The reaction of many to Jesus’ teaching was “This is a hard saying” (John 6:60), and many “went back and walked with Him no more” (v. 66).

Jesus sorrowed at their reaction, but the greater loss was not His. It was theirs. And so in our witnessing, we will likely suffer the same sorrow as our Lord did, for we will not tailor our preaching and teaching to appeal to human whim and desire to attract people to our church.

Surely our desire and prayer is that sinners who see their need will identify with and become part of our church family! However, as those who are committed to the whole counsel of God, our purpose is not to be driven by a desire to attract people to our church. The evidence is at hand that churches that see “attracting people” as their purpose ultimately give up preaching the whole counsel of God because the truth is not helpful to their purpose and understanding of “growing the church.” Such churches put their finger into the wind to determine what to teach. Rather than being teachers of God’s Word, they become advocates of societal whims and individual agendas! If that is a hard saying, so be it!

Only the Spirit Converts…

…churches that see… “attracting people” as their purpose ultimately give up preaching the whole counsel of God because the truth is not helpful to their purpose and understanding of  “growing the church.”

Nor is it our responsibility to convert people. We cannot do that. Only the Spirit of God converts the heart. Our responsibility is to preach the truth of which the gospel of our Lord is the “power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1: 16).

We are to preach the gospel, proclaim the truth, and trust that whether individuals join our membership or not, the Word of God will not return unto Him empty handed. He will add to His Church such as are being saved (Acts 2:47). Instead of fixating on visible results, the only question we should ask ourselves is whether or not we are faithful to the Lord in the exercise of our calling as well as faithful to His Word in what we are preaching.

Yes, we would like people to identify with us. However, as a confessional Lutheran church in a pseudo-religious world competing against the devil and “fun-and-games churches” or against those who bear the Lutheran name but have lost the Lutheran character, realistically it is not likely that we are going to see dramatic increases in our church body’s membership.

Some may see that judgment as pessimistic and defeatist. We prefer to see it as realism in a day when people with itching ears can easily find churches that will scratch their itch
(2 Timothy 4:3)!

We should be so busy studying the Word, teaching the Word, applying the Word — law and gospel — to the human condition and declaring the Word as our Lord has given it to us in the Scripture that we have no time to fret about “church growth.”

To Timothy Paul said, “Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4: 2).

As we continue to minister in these last days, let us do so with confidence. As we preach the whole truth of God’s blessed Word, He will bring to pass through our preaching what He wills. He will gather His elect. We have His promise. Furthermore, it is enough for us that He knows them that are His even though we don’t. Let us consider it a privilege to be bearers of His Word, through which He gathers His flock.

To the extent that we feel a desire to make our church attractive to “outsiders,” let it be the attraction of truth and steadfastness, together with a life that is adorned with righteousness and joy in the Lord. Let our teaching — as well as our faith active in good works — be a magnet that draws the attention of people yearning for what they have not yet found.

Let them see and hear that we have found Jesus (John 1:45-46) so that, as they ask of the hope that is in us, we may say, “Come and see.”

Proof Positive

Written by | February, 2011
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“Seeing is believing” we’ve heard people say.We know that believing is a matter of the heart. Faith is a gift of God that goes far beyond what our eyes are able to discern. That having been said, we have many incidents in Scripture which show us that the Lord does demonstrate that our faith is not fantasy. Throughout the ages He has given glimpses of His divine power in miracle upon miracle, thus underscoring the validity of His words.

Such is the incident before us today—the Transfiguration of Christ.

Jesus had already revealed Himself as the Messiah to His disciples in words and by many miracles. The disciples believed in Him. Now Jesus was to give a special demonstration of His power and majesty to validate the faith of Peter, James, and John.

The disciples saw Jesus, their constant companion for about three years, transfigured before them. His face and clothing began to shine with brilliance. As if that wasn’t enough, Moses and Elijah suddenly appeared and began a conversation with Jesus, speaking with Him of His coming death on the cross.

This surely was an underscoring of Jesus’ own claim—the exclamation point after Peter’s declaration: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”! (Matthew 16:16)

But let’s consider for a moment how sinful humans respond to divine revelations. There are probably as many responses as there are people. The Scriptures record how many people responded with puzzlement and others with stubbornness or hardness of heart.

Indeed, when sinful humans come in contact with the wholly divine, fear is inevitable. Peter’s response in our text is one example. When he saw the glory and majesty of Jesus’ divinity shining forth—along with the patriarchs Moses and Elijah—what was his response?

“Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’ – because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid” (Mark 9:5).

Awaiting Divine Instruction

Being at a loss for words does not stop some people from prattling on anyway. Peter was afraid and cast about in his own mind for a response to the wonderful revelation he had just witnessed of Christ’s divinity—and he babbled. His mind must have screamed out, “Say something!”

When confronted with situations we cannot understand, we too may be tempted to cast about for “something” to say or do! We may be tempted to make laws or rules (where God’s Word makes none); others may let commandments slide for convenience’ sake. In effect, we end up trying to build temples for our Lord of our own design, thinking this will be pleasing to our God.

Rather, these are moments to be still and await divine instruction.

Peter, James, and John heard the voice of God call from a cloud that overshadowed them, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Mark 9:7)

God directs us to His Son for our instructions. Jesus, the Word of God, is the source for our direction in life. Whether we are confused, misled, or “out of our minds” with fear, sticking to the directives of Holy Scripture is what will give us the peace that only God can give.

Long after the transfiguration, Peter through divine inspiration wrote as follows about the Transfiguration incident: “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty… And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed…”
(2 Peter 1:16-17).

What a blessing our God has given us — His ever true, ever reliable Word! The Lord has even given us confirmations of His Word through miracles, enabling us to “see” with the eyes of faith through the power of the Holy Spirit.

That’s something to believe in!

The “Salt” of Scripture

Written by | December, 2010
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“For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt. Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.” Mark 9:49-50

Christ the LordWhat an amazing gift it is to be able to learn more and more of the love and care that our God has for us sinful mortals! The way in which He sees to our reaching our heavenly home is nothing short of miraculous! Every single aspect of our salvation is so capably taken care of by Him!

This is certainly true when it comes to His care for us throughout our earthly pilgrimage. Not only does He bring us to faith but He also preserves us in it. As Luther explained the Third Petition: “(God’s) will is also done when He gives us strength and keeps us firm in His Word and in faith for as long as we live.”

This preservation in the faith is what Jesus is addressing in the Bible passages before us. And to aid our understanding, Jesus uses the picture of salt with its special properties. In days before refrigeration, you know, if a person wanted to keep food from spoiling, salt was used as a preservative.

The “salt” that God uses to “preserve” us is none other than His Word in Holy Scripture. In that Word we can read God’s many preserving promises. In the psalm David tells us, “Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O Lord; Let Your loving-kindness and Your truth continually preserve me” (Psalm 40:11). And the Apostle Paul agrees, saying, “The Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18).

“Salt is good,” Jesus says. When salt is used, it does exactly what it is supposed to do. The same is true of the “salt” of God’s Word. It too is good – even perfect, serving the exact purpose for which it was given. As the Lord says through the prophet, “My word… shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).

God Is At Work …In Our Lives…

Sometimes the Lord’s preserving work in us may seem more like destruction. “For everyone will be seasoned with fire,” says our text. The law of God “burns” as it convicts us of our sin and guilt. But God’s goal is always good, seeking to call us to repentance.

Another purpose may be that we bear more fruit, as Jesus says: “Every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2). Or God’s intent may be the strengthening of our faith, as Peter wrote: “…that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 1:7).

And what is the best way, the only way, we as God’s people can remember that God is at work in our lives, preserving us in the way He knows best both for our earthly and eternal well-being? It is for us to continue in His Word! To fail to make His “salt,” the Word, a part of our lives would be to reduce the holy influence or “flavor” that the “salt” of God’sWord—boththe “burning” of the law and the purifying, healing balm of the gospel – is intended to have in our lives.

As God by grace has preserved to us His Holy Word, may we ever use that Word faithfully. For in that way we will “have salt in ourselves” – being “kept by the power of God through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (1 Peter 1:5).

May God ever lead us to do with His Word as Moses encouraged the people of Israel to do when they entered the Promised Land: “You shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates…” (Deuteronomy 11:18-20).

Then with the “salt” of Holy Scripture in our hearts and on our lips (see Colossians 4:6), God will lead us to “have peace with one another” – a peace founded upon the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” which “will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

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