Tuesday 11 February 2020

Hip-Hop Artist "Flame" Becomes Lutheran - Check out the lyrics!

No, I'm not a big fan of rap.  But you can't help admire the lyrics of this song by artist "Flame" entitled "Good Works."  Check out the story about him in the link below.

"Good Works"
Man I love how Luther emphasized that God doesn't need our good works
But our neighbor does
I mean that's so weighty when you think about it because all our good deeds
Our sanctification, our skill-sets, our responsibilities, and various roles
Are for the benefit of those around us
Our families, society, our neighbor, right?
But what makes us right with God, Paul says, is our faith
That's how we are made righteous
And how we remain righteous, in Christ
But when you blur those lines
And start looking at your sanctification for assurance
That you're right with God
A bunch of problems arise
First off, we end up filled with discouragement
From constantly missing the mark
We can also end up filled with self-doubt
From constantly applying subjective and arbitrary measures
To assess our level of sanctification
In order to determine whether or not we are justified
Or on the flip side
We could be filled with self-righteousness
As a result of fulfilling some criteria we created
And then in turn
Cast judgement on others who don't check our specific boxes
This is a common experience
Especially among Calvinists
Because it flows from functionally placing sanctification above justification
This stems from the fact that, in general, for Calvinists
There is a primary emphasis on God with obedience to the law
Which perpetuates this inward focus
Luther on the other hand
Places the perfect work of God in justification
Over the incomplete process of sanctification
We are to look Extra Nos, or outside of ourselves
Towards the righteousness of faith
Which is our justification for assurance
This is where we find identity, stability, objectivity, and security
Luther is committed to justification truly being Sola Fide
Meaning by faith alone
His primary emphasis is on serving your neighbor through your vocation
This emphasis helps to maintain the clear distinction
Between our identity being found in our righteousness of faith
Which we receive from God, aka passive righteousness
Versus our performance or our active righteousness
Which is righteousness we live out for the benefit of our neighbor
As Christians, we should see both kinds of righteousness
But the different purposes
We should guard our good works becoming the basis for our righteousness before God
And we should guard against our righteousness of faith
Being used to eliminate the need for good works
Our good works have value here on earth, Coram Mundo
But it does not justify us before God, Coram Deo
It is vital that we keep these separate

Monday 20 January 2020

The Bride of Christ

When God made Adam a bride, He put him into a deep sleep, and while he slept God took one of his ribs and made it into a woman.  He brought her to Adam and Adam said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh, she shall be called Woman for she was taken out of Man."  Finally, Adam was not alone, but had someone to help him make new life.  And so Adam and Eve were made in God's image in that like God they could make new life together.

The surprising thing is that God made the second Adam His bride in the same way.

Jesus, the second Adam, the new humanity, was also put into a deep sleep by God.  He was crucified, and while dead, and to be sure He was dead, the soldier pierced His side with a spear in the very same place where Adam's rib once was.  From that very place on Jesus poured forth two things: water and blood.  And the Bible teaches that through this water and blood Christ makes His bride, the Church.  

The water poured out of Christ and into the baptismal font where new Christians are born into the Church.  And the blood poured out of Christ into the chalice where Christians are fed and nourished in the Church.

In and through these God-given means we are brought to Jesus where He exclaims over us, "This at last is bone of My bones, and flesh of My flesh."  In Christ the image of God has returned to humanity.  We are not alone, but God is with us.  He is the groom, and in and through us He creates new life.  Thanks be to God that He wants to be so united to us, He would join Himself to us in our full humanity, and join us to Him in His divinity.

Friday 9 August 2019

The Walking Liturgy

It was time for a hospital call.  I was sitting in my car in front of the building.  I put on my clerical collar and asked the Lord to accomplish His work through me, even overcoming all my weakness as a pastor.  And then He reminded me of something that is true for every Christian – collar or not – pastor or not – “You are my chosen servant.  I am always using you, whether you realize it or not.  You are a walking liturgy.”

Hunh.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I left the car and approached the hospital.  “You are a walking liturgy,” came the echo in my mind.  There were people coming down the other side of the sidewalk, and I found myself praying, “Remind them Father.  Remind them of Your grace.  Make my presence a reminder of Your gracious message to everyone who sees me.”  I noticed my attention was different than normal.  I cared about the people who passed me.  I looked them in the eye.  I greeted them with my presence.  Grace started and ended my perspective with each of them.  I received a lot of smiles.  Many more headnods.  And a certain number of verbal greetings.  I understood I was there on behalf of the Lord, and that I was there for whomever the walking liturgy brought me beside.

This is true because I’m baptized.  It’s true for every baptized believer.  St. Peter says believers are a holy priesthood who offer spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5).  St. Paul says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

The liturgy doesn’t end on Sunday morning.  It doesn’t end with the Benediction.  It continues in your life as you carry it out with your body wherever you go.  This is the liturgical life.  A life that flows in and out of the Divine Service on Sunday, but that carries that eternal kingdom into all the places you are.  

It is happening whether you realize it or not, so why not pay attention to it?  Why not remember it?  Why not benefit from it?  Enjoy it?  The Christian life, the life of faith, is one of growing with the Lord on this walk.  He is always ready to remind you this is what He is doing through you.  Always ready to hear your prayer.  Always ready to tell you, “You are a walking liturgy,” because His Son has created this new kingdom for you by His own blood.  It is a kingdom of grace, rooted in His Word and Sacrament, growing out into every waking moment in which you live and move and have your being.  This is what it means to be part of the holy priesthood.  You are His, and He gives you to others.

Father in heaven, don't let me forget Your promises.  Hold them before me all the time.  Give me Your Spirit that I may give attention to what You are carrying out through me.  Help me remember Your faithfulness in Christ and see those around me as You do.  Always bring me back to Your Word and Sacrament for rest.  In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Tuesday 30 April 2019

Life is all about filters... functioning ones

We bought a fish tank.  You know the story.  The kids wanted to go to the pet store on the way home from the supermarket - and they'd behaved so well...  So off we went - certain - that we would never buy anything.

Hours later we left the store with a fish tank.  Did we know anything about keeping fish?  No.  Did we know anything about how to maintain an aquarium?  No.

It wasn't until we got the tank home and started looking into what we would need that the reality of what we had done weighed upon us.  Creating a healthy habitat for fish is all about the FILTER.  But not the kind of filter you have on your furnace.  Not the kind of filter you have in your BRITA for drinking water, although both of these are also used.  No.  The important filter a fish tank needs is its biological filter.

The biological filter are the beneficial bacteria living in the tank that process the harmful things that are toxic to fish.  Just like the beneficial bacteria we now know live in our gut and help with all sorts of things in our bodies.  It takes six weeks to start to develop these bacteria!

Then it dawned on me.  If this is true for our bodies, and its true for fish tanks - surely this is happening everywhere in living things.  I learned about marshes and how they filter river systems so that lakes don't get ruined (think Manitoba).  I learned about engines and how they require multiple filters to keep running.  I thought about Google and how one of the biggest problems we having so much information available to us is that we are having a hard time filtering.  Social Media needs more filters.  Filters, filters, filters.

The same is true for your soul.  Your soul needs a functioning filter.  Not a biological filter, a spiritual filter.  That filter is God's Word and your faith in it.  It processes reality for you.  It helps remove all the harmful things that are toxic to your soul and keep you alive.  Without it the endless amount of information that goes into your eyes and ears everyday will overwhelm you and carry you away.  God's Word is a living filter too!  It benefits you, and it benefits those around you - like in a fish tank.  It's critical for you to admit it - I need a filter, and I don't know how to make it on my own.  But take heart, that's your heavenly Father's job.

He sent His Son Jesus to be the filter of Sin and Death.  To absorb it all into His flesh.  To force everything in reality to be funnelled through Him and His death on the cross.  Everything harmful to you.  Christ is your filter.  He forgives you of all your sin.  And He shapes your eyes to see reality as He does.  He overcomes your death.  And He fills you with His eternal life.  He is your filter of body and soul.  Make Him your filter, and you will never lack what you need for life.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, use Your Son to cleanse me of all things toxic.  By His holy blood purify my soul.  Shape my view to be Your own.  Help me to process reality according to Your Word alone.  Make me a benefit to those around me.  Filter the thoughts of my mind that they might be pure and holy and beneficial to me.  Filter the movements of my heart that it might want what You want.  Filter my mouth that the only things I say glorify You.  And hold me safe in Jesus forever.  In His Name I pray, Amen.

Tuesday 30 October 2018

The Two Facets of Love

A little girl had parents who gave her everything she wanted.  They didn't want to pressure her or limit her, so they rarely said "No."  They left her to set her own boundaries.  Even, left her alone during tantrums.  As the behaviour got worse, they retreated even more, not wanting to come down on her - until one day that girl - the one who had been given everything, and had been told "I love you" incessantly when upset - finally concluded "My parents don't love me."


Love is expressed with a "No" and a "Yes."  It separates and it unifies, always for good.  But this little girl was disintegrating.  Her parents had provided no order to her life, because they didn't want to stifle her, but in so doing let her break into pieces and float away.  She would never have asked for this order - though some might say her bad behaviour was her way of calling for it - but she definitely needed it.  Love is a balance of "No" and "Yes."

Reality was created this way.  God created everything in Genesis 1 by unifying and separating - defining by gathering together, and distinguishing by setting boundaries.  Heaven and earth.  Land and sea.  Body and Soul.  Adam and Eve.  Creation was an ordered blend of separate things able to come together for life to thrive and flourish.

But there's more, this balance of "No" and "Yes" is also the way we humans understand what we experience.  There is no way for your eye/mind to process the near infinite amount of information that comes to you day by day.  You are actively engaged in this process of "No" and "Yes" in deciding what to pay attention to, categorizing what you are looking at, in forming the details you will remember in your memory, in understanding, experiencing and interpreting reality.  Humanity is created in the image of God.  And we, like Him, continue this process all the time, everyday.

Imagine if you, like that little girl, had one of these two - the "No" or the "Yes" - shutdown in your experience of the world.  You would look in the face of your mother, or wife, or child - and you wouldn't see their eyes.  You wouldn't know where to look, because you wouldn't be able to distinguish between their hair and their eyes and their skin.  All the boundaries would be mixed up and confused.  You wouldn't know if you should look at a single pore, or at them as a flat part of everything behind them.  You would immediately conclude, "My Creator doesn't love me, because this is chaos."

Your heavenly Father does love you.  Every part of your experience is ordered in this way.  From the least significant to the most significant.  From your bodily needs to your spiritual needs.  God separates and He unifies.  He gives and He takes.  He orders and He creates.  And all of it for you.  And though we mix it up.  Though much of what we do and say, mixes it all up - Christ was sent down from above.

In Christ, He has united heaven and earth - God and Man in One person - suspended on a tree with its roots in the earth and its branches in the heavens.  He has united you and Him.  Every syllable of His Word does the same, and provides you the pattern of reality for your life.  You are forgiven in Christ.  As a parent, you can balance the "No" and the "Yes" for your children.  As a husband or wife, you can balance the "No" and the "Yes" for your spouse.  As a son or daughter, you can balance the "No" and the "Yes" for your parents.

And in such a perfect, beautiful creation - as His wonderfully made child - you can say to your Father in heaven - "You are amazing.  You really do love me in Christ.  Keep me eternally in Him.  And make me part of your everlasting pattern."  In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Stand or Not?

There I was sitting in a room with a group of adults.  Various conversations were happening, when all of a sudden "O Canada" came blaring into the room through the speaker.

I rose to my feet, came to attention as I was taught (and ordered) to do in the Navy.  And as I settled into place, I noticed that some of the other adults had stood, but some had not.  Certainly had these adults been in front of children or had they found themselves in a more formal setting - they would have stood.  But in that room - with that group of adults - they did not.

I don't tell you this story to reinforce the practice that Canadians should stand for their national anthem.  This isn't about what ought to be done.  I'm focused on the way it created a division in the room that day.

Whether you like it or not there are certain things upon which you must take a stand - but when you take your stand, there will be others who will not stand with you.  Reality is built this way.  As truly as heaven is different from earth, standing is different from not standing - yet we are forced into situations when we MUST choose.

If we stand - we are divided from those who don't stand.

If we don't stand - we are divided from those who do stand.  It is going to happen.

So the ultimate question is: for what will you take your stand?

Christ took His stand for you.  He lay it all on the line - that you might be forgiven and live.  But the way He did this is so incredibly important.

He united heaven and earth.  The standers and the sitters.  He came down from heaven, entered into our situation, and made Himself the One place where all may be One.  Christ - the greatest sinner - yet also the Lord of heaven.  He didn't sit on His throne and oppose us.  He joined us - to Him - and promises to carry us up to His throne on high.

Now, you are here - living day by day in a reality where you are forced to take a stand.  Will you stand with Him?  Stand up for Him?  Or will you stay seated because you aren't sitting in a pew at a church?  Will you stand for Him at work, at home, in public?  Or will you run from Him when He needs you (like the disciples)?

The truth is - you will do both.  But you know He will always stand for you - you know you can return to Him, kneel before Him - and ask Him to strengthen your legs to take that stand for Him.  And forgive you for when you don't.  Make me stronger Lord - don't let me be a coward anymore - but strengthen my faith in You and Your eternal joining of heaven and earth.  Use me to hold You out before those in need, that You may join them to this new humanity You are creating.  In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Monday 4 June 2018

Coffee and Weeds

I stood there, coffee in hand, nozzle in the other, watering my grass.  The water sprinkled out over the green sprouts.  I relaxed into the moment as the sun sparkled off the mist and the morning breeze pleasantly played with the leaves in the trees.

Then it struck me.

Here I am watering my grass, hoping for it to grow and have the best life possible.  But even as I do it - I am watering the weeds as well.  I don't want the weeds, but as I water my grass - I am giving those weeds exactly what they need to grow and thrive too.

"Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 3:18)

The Christian desires to grow in faith - that is, grow in trusting in that grace revealed in Christ, and in knowing more and more about how all-encompassing that grace is.  But there is a problem.  The weeds are growing too.  Sin.  False desires.  False faiths.  And much like my lawn, there is nothing I can do about.

Oh - but wait - there is this guy I can call.  He comes with a truck and sprays my lawn and the weeds go away.  Likewise with my soul - there is this guy I can call.  I pray to Him.  I pour out my concerns to Him, and He comes along with His bloody hose and forgives all my sins.  He feeds my soul His promises.  He enters into my yard with His grace and clears the weeds away - so that I might marvel anew and grow in Him.

Pray to the Lord.  Ask Him to make you grow in His grace.  Ask Him to clear the weeds away with that same grace.  Ask Him to make the lawn of your soul a beautiful green carpet of perfect grass - one ready to host any hurting other person and show them the same grace He has shown you.

We don't deserve a weed-free soul, but Christ gives us one anyway.  We don't deserve to have Him hear our prayers and come running to help us, but He does it anyway.  That's grace.  God's riches at Christ's expense.  All of it - For You.