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Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Ninety-Five Theses

Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.

In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1.Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.

2.This word cannot be understood to mean sacramental penance, i.e., confession and satisfaction, which is administered by the priests.

3.Yet it means not inward repentance only; nay, there is no inward repentance which does not outwardly work divers mortifications of the flesh.

4.The penalty [of sin], therefore, continues so long as hatred of self continues; for this is the true inward repentance, and continues until our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

On October 31, 1517, Dr. Matin Luther posted these sentances and 91 more on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg. Germany. His call for a formal debate of these theses was never answered and today the document is largely unknown. But it set off a chain of events which eventually came to be known as the Reformation.

To continue reading the other 91, click here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween: To Celebrate or Not to Celebrate

Rev. William Cwirla has a well-balanced and thoughtful article on this subject in the most recent Lutheran Witness. I quote just a bit here:
Love of neighbor and concern for his or her salvation will give us pause for a few questions. What will your neighbor, your family, your children, your brother or sister in Christ think of your Halloween celebration? Will it help or hinder their faith in Jesus? Does your Halloween fun witness to the victory and freedom of Jesus’ death and resurrection, or does it lift up the powers of darkness and death? Does it draw undo attention to the dark and demonic, or does it poke fun at those things that already stand defeated? Are you able to talk frankly about the reality of death and the devil with your children and tell them of the victory of Jesus?

Freedom in Christ is always tempered by love for your neighbor. You are completely free in Jesus to serve your neighbor in love (Rom. 14:1–23).
The whole article is worth reading.  Dancing on the Devil's Grave, by Rev. William Cwirla.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Reading the Holy Scripture

TRUTH, not eloquence, is to be sought in reading the Holy Scriptures; and every part must be read in the spirit in which it was written. For in the Scriptures we ought to seek profit rather than polished diction.

Likewise we ought to read simple and devout books as willingly as learned and profound ones. We ought not to be swayed by the authority of the writer, whether he be a great literary light or an insignificant person, but by the love of simple truth. We ought not to ask who is speaking, but mark what is said. Men pass away, but the truth of the Lord remains forever. God speaks to us in many ways without regard for persons.

Our curiosity often impedes our reading of the Scriptures, when we wish to understand and mull over what we ought simply to read and pass by.

If you would profit from it, therefore, read with humility, simplicity, and faith, and never seek a reputation for being learned. Seek willingly and listen attentively to the words of the saints; do not be displeased with the sayings of the ancients, for they were not made without purpose.

Thomas á Kempis - Imitation of Christ

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

When Fads Turn to Fixtures...

"Fads still receive scrutiny; fixtures remain largely unquestioned.  The following are ten fixtures that I find particularly harmful not just to evangelicalism but to evangelism..."

Joe Carter looks at the fads of yesterday which have become fixtures in the modern christian mindset and continue to negatively influence popular christian thought.

1. Making Converts
2. The Sinner's Prayer
3. "Do you know Jesus as your personal savior?"
4. Dispensationalism
5. Testimonies
6. The Altar Call
7. Witnessing
8. "I just wanna" prayers
9. Church Growth Movement
10. Chick Tracts

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

CrossTalk: LIfe in the Midst of Death

These days of lengthening darkness and falling leaves, especially in northern latitudes, have a deep impact on our emotions. Many, these days cannot help but think on matters of life and death. If this describes you, rejoice with me that Jesus has not left us alone in our reflections. Rather, He gives us good news that is both simple and clear to help us through every dark day.

Let’s consider just one event that happened early in Jesus’ ministry. “He went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.” (Lk. 7:11-12) A young boy has died. The natural order is reversed and the mother is forced to bury her own son. Here is a jarring reminder that death knows no boundaries.

Young people tend to live life as though death is too far off to consider seriously. But so do adults. When our youth flies away, we attempt to reclaim it by exercise, diet and medicine. Adults and youth tell themselves the same lie. We each feel we can somehow control death. We are both wrong.

The fact is that you have absolutely no mastery over death. Neither the strength of youth, nor caution, nor religion, nor any amount of worry can add a single hour to your life (Lk. 12:25). Death is your master and tyrant. Media vita in morte sumus. “In the midst of life we are in death.”

So, the best thing to ask God is: “teach us to number our days aright that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Ps. 90:12) It is a gift to know our mortality — a gift of God. Jesus lovingly answers your prayers for wisdom by surrounding you with reminders: wars, deadly accidents, funerals, falling leaves and waning sunlight. He even gives you illnesses and injuries to be reminders.

Take them to heart. Make the most of them. For they give you a heart of wisdom. They teach you to quit thinking that you can control death.

Then, look again at what Jesus did when He encountered death. “He came and touched the open coffin: and they that carried the boy stood still. And He said, ‘Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.’ And he that was dead sat up.” (Lk. 7:14-15) A touch of Jesus’ hand, a word from Jesus’ mouth and death is utterly undone.

Our entire human experience teaches us: “In the midst of life we are in death.” But now Christ declares something utterly new: “Even in the midst of death, I Am your life! You need not fear death when I am near.”

Just as there is nothing that you can do to stay alive—no amount of precaution or exercise or healthy diet or earthly medicine—so there is nothing that death can do to take away the Life that Christ gives. No disease, no threat, no violence can undo Christ’s work. When you are in Christ’s life, death becomes nothing but a Halloween ghost—a mist that dissolves at the wave of Jesus’ hand.

So take to heart the lessons of the fall. You have no mastery over death. But Jesus does. Attend to His voice in the Church’s preaching (Lk. 10:16). Avail yourself to His life-giving touch in the Font and at the Altar. Fear death no more. Rejoice in Jesus’ life-giving touch and voice.

Prudence in Action

DO NOT yield to every impulse and suggestion but consider things carefully and patiently in the light of God's will. For very often, sad to say, we are so weak that we believe and speak evil of others rather than good. Perfect men, however, do not readily believe every talebearer, because they know that human frailty is prone to evil and is likely to appear in speech.

Not to act rashly or to cling obstinately to one's opinion, not to believe everything people say or to spread abroad the gossip one has heard, is great wisdom.

Take counsel with a wise and conscientious man. Seek the advice of your betters in preference to following your own inclinations.

A good life makes a man wise according to God and gives him experience in many things, for the more humble he is and the more subject to God, the wiser and the more at peace he will be in all things.

Thomas à Kempis - Imitation of Christ

The Fundamentals of the Christian Religion

from Blaise Pascal - Pensees

556.... Men blaspheme what they do not know. The Christian religion consists in two points. It is of equal concern to men to know them, and it is equally dangerous to be ignorant of them. And it is equally of God's mercy that He has given indications of both.

...they take occasion to revile the Christian religion, because they misunderstand it. They imagine that it consists simply in the worship of a God considered as great, powerful, and eternal; which is strictly deism, almost as far removed from the Christian religion as atheism, which is its exact opposite. And thence they conclude that this religion is not true, because they do not see that all things concur to the establishment of this point, that God does not manifest Himself to men with all the evidence which He could show.

But let them conclude what they will against deism, they will conclude nothing against the Christian religion, which properly consists in the mystery of the Redeemer, who, uniting in Himself the two natures, human and divine, has redeemed men from the corruption of sin in order to reconcile them in His divine person to God.

The Christian religion, then, teaches men these two truths; that there is a God whom men can know, and that there is a corruption in their nature which renders them unworthy of Him. It is equally important to men to know both these points; and it is equally dangerous for man to know God without knowing his own wretchedness, and to know his own wretchedness without knowing the Redeemer who can free him from it. The knowledge of only one of these points gives rise either to the pride of philosophers, who have known God, and not their own wretchedness, or to the despair of atheists, who know their own wretchedness, but not the Redeemer.

...All who seek God without Jesus Christ, and who rest in nature, either find no light to satisfy them, or come to form for themselves a means of knowing God and serving Him without a mediator. Thereby they fall either into atheism, or into deism, two things which the Christian religion abhors almost equally.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Having a Humble Opinion of Self

EVERY man naturally desires knowledge; but what good is knowledge without fear of God? Indeed a humble rustic who serves God is better than a proud intellectual who neglects his soul to study the course of the stars. He who knows himself well becomes mean in his own eyes and is not happy when praised by men.

If I knew all things in the world and had not charity, what would it profit me before God Who will judge me by my deeds?

Shun too great a desire for knowledge, for in it there is much fretting and delusion. Intellectuals like to appear learned and to be called wise. Yet there are many things the knowledge of which does little or no good to the soul, and he who concerns himself about other things than those which lead to salvation is very unwise.

Many words do not satisfy the soul; but a good life eases the mind and a clean conscience inspires great trust in God.

The more you know and the better you understand, the more severely will you be judged, unless your life is also the more holy. Do not be proud, therefore, because of your learning or skill. Rather, fear because of the talent given you. If you think you know many things and understand them well enough, realize at the same time that there is much you do not know. Hence, do not affect wisdom, but admit your ignorance. Why prefer yourself to anyone else when many are more learned, more cultured than you?

If you wish to learn and appreciate something worth while, then love to be unknown and considered as nothing. Truly to know and despise self is the best and most perfect counsel. To think of oneself as nothing, and always to think well and highly of others is the best and most perfect wisdom. Wherefore, if you see another sin openly or commit a serious crime, do not consider yourself better, for you do not know how long you can remain in good estate. All men are frail, but you must admit that none is more frail than yourself.

Thomas à Kempis - The Imitation of Christ

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Imitating Christ and Despising All Vanities on Earth

"HE WHO follows Me, walks not in darkness," says the Lord. By these words of Christ we are advised to imitate His life and habits, if we wish to be truly enlightened and free from all blindness of heart. Let our chief effort, therefore, be to study the life of Jesus Christ.

The teaching of Christ is more excellent than all the advice of the saints, and he who has His spirit will find in it a hidden manna. Now, there are many who hear the Gospel often but care little for it because they have not the spirit of Christ. Yet whoever wishes to understand fully the words of Christ must try to pattern his whole life on that of Christ.

What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God? Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone.

This is the greatest wisdom -- to seek the kingdom of heaven through contempt of the world. It is vanity, therefore, to seek and trust in riches that perish. It is vanity also to court honor and to be puffed up with pride. It is vanity to follow the lusts of the body and to desire things for which severe punishment later must come. It is vanity to wish for long life and to care little about a well-spent life. It is vanity to be concerned with the present only and not to make provision for things to come. It is vanity to love what passes quickly and not to look ahead where eternal joy abides.

Often recall the proverb: "The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor the ear filled with hearing." Try, moreover, to turn your heart from the love of things visible and bring yourself to things invisible. For they who follow their own evil passions stain their consciences and lose the grace of God.

Thomas à Kempis - The Imitation of Christ