Monday, 24 November 2014

What does it mean to be confessional?

My son does this hilarious thing.  Standing with both his mom and I, he will ask one of us a question.

"Mom, can we go to the park?"

When he receives the affirmative answer "Yes, we can," he immediately turns to the other parent (the one not speaking) and repeats the joyful news.  "Daddy, we are going to the park."  (As though I wasn't there for the whole thing.)

At first, this seemed a little silly to me.  But then I realized that this is the purest and simplest way of communicating.  He knows I had heard the news.  But he wanted to speak it.  He wanted to tell me.  He wanted to share in this goodness with me - put it in the air himself - say the same thing that the authority had said. 

This is what is means to be confessional.  To say the same thing.  To confess the good news.  To know that one believes in the heart and confesses with the mouth.  To hear God speak His Word and immediately speak it back to Him.  Christians know that God knows His own Word.  But we want to speak it.  We want to tell Him.  We want to share in His good Word with Him.  Put it in the air from our lips - say the same thing as our gracious heavenly Father.  No, its not the park we get to go to - its His heavenly kingdom.  But we cannot hold back from sharing this good news.

There is another part to this idea. 

Those who are confessional gather and speak/believe the same thing as others in their confession.  They do not worship with those who speak differently than them - that would be like my son getting excited about going to the park with someone who kept saying "We are not going to the park."  It would never happen.  He would quickly find someone else who could excitedly repeat with him "Yeah!  We are going to the park."

What does this mean?

There is a pure and simple way to faith in God's Word - confessing it.  Uniting with those who confess it with you, and sharing it with those around you (whether they confess with you or not).  We are going to the park - the eternal kingdom of our heavenly Father.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Do good people go to heaven?

The most common religious teaching in the world is this very notion:

Good people go to heaven, bad people go to hell.

But good according to who?  According to you?  According to what society thinks is good in 21st century North America?  Who is the judge that determines good and bad?

The Final Judgment is coming.  There will be a Day of Reckoning when all will be laid bare, when the hearts and minds and actions of all people will be exposed and judged.  And we will not be the ones determining what is good and what is bad.  God will.  The One who made us.  The One who placed the notion of right and wrong in our conscience and continually torments it with us.  Because the truth is - we are evil - all of us - we have not been good and we know it - we have not done the right thing - we wrestle inside about it - wouldn't a good person simply do good naturally?  Why the struggle?  Why the effort?

So we twist the rules, the expectations.  We figure God will not destroy all of us.  As long as we appear better than most of humanity, then we figure God will award us over the rest. 

But this is not the judgment.  The Word of God has already made its verdict upon us all.  And the verdict is guilty. 

"None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands,
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.
Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.
The venom of asps is under their lips.
Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.
Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.
There is no fear of God before their eyes." (Romans 3:10-18)

We have so little fear for God's wrath that we fight against this verdict even though we know its true.  We know we don't understand.  We know we don't seek God unless it suits us.  We know we speak deception, that our mouth has uttered bitterness.  We know we get angry.  Yet we deny it all!

Good people go to heaven - but you are not one of them.

Yet this Judge is merciful.  He saw you in your guilt and took action to free you.  He sent His only Son into your flesh to suffer your verdict.  His Son, Jesus, was crucified in your place, taking your judgment upon Himself - that you might live.  Hear this.  Believe it, for He promises forgiveness, life and salvation to those who trust in Him.  You cannot earn this.  You do not deserve it.  Yet He gives it.  He did it for you.  He came from heaven so He could take you there.

There is only One who is Good.  Only One who goes to heaven - Jesus.  Yet you go too - in Him.  Trust in Him.  He is your life and your salvation.

Monday, 17 November 2014

What is Islam?

The events of the last couple of months have generated a lot of varied discussion on the religion of Islam.  But most of this attention and discussion has revealed that most people know very little about what it is about.

Lutheran Hour Ministries (Men's Network) put out a series of short videos a couple of years ago that help provide a basic look at the teachings and history of Islam.  Take a look by clicking the following link, you can pick and choose which videos you would like to view.

Monday, 3 November 2014

How do I keep the devil away?

It might be because you feel the pressure of temptation, or it might be because of something more intense, like you are being haunted.  But in either situation the same answer applies.

You don't keep the devil away - Jesus does.

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).  We are helpless against the Evil One.  We are powerless.  He will always overcome us if we try to defeat him on our own.  But that is why Christ comes.

Christ comes in His Word.  A Word He invites you to speak.  His Holy Name He invites you to speal.  His holy blood He invites you to invoke.  Spit God's Word at the devil.  Shout if you have to.  Say it outloud and believe every syllable.  Christ comes in His Word.

Christ comes in His holy washing.  If you are having trouble with evil thoughts, desires or temptations, dive in the cool waters of Baptism.  Remember the promise God made to you there and say it outloud.  The fiery darts of the Evil One must be extinguished by the wet promises of God in Baptism.  And if you are not baptized - GET BAPTIZED!  God wants to protect you with His holy washing, because Christ comes in His holy washing.

This may be a radical change of thinking for you.  You do not take on evil by yourself.  You don't even take on evil side by side with a teammate.  Jesus takes on evil in your place.  He takes it down by dying with it, crucifying it in His own body, ending its power against you.

And Jesus brings His protection - all the benefits of His death and resurrection - through His Word and Sacrament.  So when the devil comes around, speak God's Word, remember His promise made in baptism, trust all that He has said, for the devil cannot endure God's Word.