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Monthly Archives: June 2009

Unpretentious and unreflective

Something I wrote a while back:

What shall we do that we might work the works of God? – that we might be saved? In a word, to be new before God, we must forget what we “do”, and as Lutheran theologian Norman Nagel says, “be willing to be nothing but given to.” For we must become like little children and be born from above, not below. Just as the completely unpretentious and unreflective infant freely receives his parent’s love and kindness, spontaneously erupting with smiles and squeals of acceptance, so it must be with us. Only in this way, through receptive trust alone, do we return to the Source of forgiveness, life and salvation. God has reconciled the world to Himself in Christ. He has done it all. Be reconciled to God! When you, broken in your sin, hear the comforting Word that Christ has forgiven you, cling to that Word and do not delay in coming to the feast.

This is the work of God, that you believe on Him whom He has sent.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

Just in time

Corrie ten Boom was a Christian who lived in Holland during the Nazi occupation. She and her family helped hide Jews in their home and were involved in a movement that saved many people. Her story is told in “The Hiding Place”, which she authored.

In this book she talks about how a small baby in her neighborhood had died. This passage shows how her father comforted his upset daughter:

I burst into tears, “I need you!” I sobbed. “You can’t die! You can’t!” “Corrie,” he began gently. “When you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?” “Why, just before we get on the train.” “Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need – just in time.”

Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

Entrusted to God via mom and dad

“We certainly can say that the first commandment “You shall have no other gods”, wherein God says ‘Trust Me’, is behind all of the commandments. Whenever anyone keeps those commandments they are trusting God. But the fourth commandment is even more intimately connected with that first commandment because according to Scripture our fathers and mothers stand in God’s place. And so when we are honoring them and obeying them and trusting them, and entrusting ourselves to them and receiving their care, we are actually honoring and obeying and entrusting ourselves to God in whose place our parents stand.”

–Rev. Peter Bender, “The Commandment: Honor Your Father & Your Mother”, on Issues ETC, June 5th, 2009

Link to show: http://www.issuesetc.org/podcast/245060509H2S2.mp3

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

Babies in Church (part IV): miraculous, ordinary, conversational experience

Luther said that prayer, meditation, and suffering made the theologian.  19th century American Lutheran C.F.W. Walther said that the art of discerning Law and Gospel can only be learned in the school of experience.  And yet, Lutherans today, wary of Pietism, still tend to downplay experience.  After all, a husband may begin to see his wife in an idealized fashion, forming an image of her to suit his own desires (and removed from his true, everyday concrete interactions with her).  In like fashion, the Christian’s experience with God (and hence His Church) may fall prey to vain imaginings.  Not only this, but when we speak of experience, it does us well to emphasize that the Word of God testifies to an “incarnational” event that did not occur “in a corner” (Acts 26) – only for the enlightened ones – but in a very public way, available to men everywhere (see Acts 17). 

And yet.

Although the Word of God is the foundation of the Church’s faith (in that faith comes by hearing the Word) Lutheran theology and worship necessarily *presume* experience, as the justified / regenerated aim to think God’s thoughts after Him.  We simply can not deny that true Christian believers are those who really do seek spiritual experiences, at least understood in the sense that we desire to confess the following words as our own: “let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me” (Jeremiah 9). 

The Church’s goal then is really the “experience” of conversation with God Himself:  We want to know what He has to say to us about who He is, who we are, who those are around us, what we have done, what He has done, and how we ought to live accordingly.  Strong feeling may or may not accompany us as we learn such things, usually in very ordinary and unspectacular ways (I think the great stories of miracles in the Bible are literally “highlights” rather than any map of the “normal Christian Life”).

Of course, infants will always be impressed (and “impressed upon”) by things we consider ordinary and unspectacular. 

God’s simple children just want to connect with the True and Living God through His precious words to His people – and again, this involves constantly referring back to the Scriptures recognized, treasured and kept by the Apostolic Church (while not ignoring [failing to be interested in, give time to] the experiences of Fathers, Councils and Popes as important testimonies and witnesses to those Scriptures).  If what we are experiencing does not find testimony with those sure witnesses, it is certainly suspect and to be treated with caution, if not to be outright rejected (depending on the nature of the experience).  For it is ultimately God’s revelation to us, and not our experiences per se, that is the firm foundation of our faith.  Though again, let us remember: “remaining within the Word of God” – or with the Holy Spirit – is itself an “experience” – although usually a very ordinary one.  

Certain kinds of “religious experiences” that go beyond this are not part of the “normal Christian life”/experience – or even one that only the mature obtain – but something, like miracles, that we may seek (at certain appropriate times), but never demand – meaning that if we don’t have them or they don’t pan out the way we want, we somehow justified in thinking that God does not love us, exists, etc.  In general, when it comes to these things, it is far more likely God would have us “get over ourselves” and “grow up” by simply hearing and believing His words like a child – so that we may impart His life to those around us (see Philippians 2).

In the reconciliation effected by Jesus Christ, the lost sheep are given “peace with God” (Romans 5:1) – or in other words: true safety, security, surety, assurance, confidence, certainty, and hope in, with, and through Him.  We “fear and tremble” primarily when, in working out God’s universal salvation, we more fully recognize that God really does entrust to us the carrying and communication of this priceless treasure to our neighbor for whom He bled and died.

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2009 in Uncategorized

 
 
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