Thursday, September 30, 2010

Not Left Behind

I am glad that I do not have to worry that I am not holy enough and therefore might be "left behind" when Jesus returns. Jesus reigns now in the church and the one time when He returns He will judge the living and the dead, make all things new, take me to Himself. He is my righteousness, not any moral acts I do. Even the believing is a gift, nothing that I contribute.

And because of him [God] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1Corinthians 1:30-31

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:16

The "Left Behind" theology, aka "Dispensational Pre-millenialism", is a relatively new way of looking at end times. It began in the 1800's, and it robs Jesus Christ of His central place as the Redeemer of fallen man, and instead shifts the emphasis to man being ready enough to be raptured away before the tribulation, as well as looking to current events and the re-establishment of the temple in Jerusalem as a means to predict Christ's coming. Lutherans historically have held to the "a-millennial" position, that Christ is now reigning in His church, and will come back once for judgement, then make all things new, as I mentioned above.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! Revelation 22:20

How We are this Fall

I have been meaning to take a nice photo of our school books, or take a photo of the kids doing their schoolwork. It hasn't happened, and if I keep waiting it won't happen. So, encouraged by my friend's listing of random thoughts, I will give you a not-so-polished update.

First, the fall weather is beautiful, and there are so many things to do! There always seems to be a fair or festival around here.

John and Lindsay started in homeschool choir at the seminary, which meets weekly on the day we go into town to shop at the seminary. After choir, Elise has her organ lesson. The associate kantor from the seminary teaches choir and Elise's organ lessons.

John and Lindsay are back to their piano lessons on a weekly basis, which are going well. Elise plays the piano on her own, and I am trying to get myself organized to continue teaching Bethany (we did a little piano last year). Someone always wants on the piano, which is a good thing!

It is fun for me to see how the kids have all matured since the last school year. Elise (10th grade) is in geometry this year, so the end is in sight since she has already taken Algebra 1 and 2! Not sure what the next step will be for math for her, since she does not want to take calculus and I do not think I should teach that anyway (I did take it in college, which was a painful experience that required hiring a tutor). John is in 6th grade (middle school!); Lindsay is in 4th. Bethany is in first grade; since school has been a part of the family since she was born, transitioning her into more book work hasn't been difficult.

I am currently reading the kids the Little House books. We are on These Happy Golden Years. Reading to the kids is one of my favorite parts of the day!

Stan is of course busy with his classes. He has Greek Readings, Liturgics II, Pauline Epistles, Catechetics, and Lutheranism since 1965. He was invited to preach at a friend's church on October 17, and will preach at Zion on Reformation day. I am looking forward to hearing his next sermon.

We miss our friends who moved away from the seminary, but have enjoyed meeting several new families. I have 2 "little seminary sisters" who also homeschool their children; we have had fun getting together and letting the kids play. Speaking of moving away, if Stan's classes go as planned, we will be receiving our vicarage assingment in less than 220 days! We do not know where we will be assigned until the day the seminary formally announces it. Somewhat nerve-racking, but we are in God's hands and I am excited to find out what the next step will be.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Civil War Days

Discussing the various bugle calls and drum rolls used. Four soldiers slept in that small tent.

This weekend we attended Civil War Days in Angola, IN with a fellow homeschool family. My friend lent us our outfits, and even made the dresses that Elise and I wore.
There were many authentic reenactments. I learned that a soapstone (which is a stone cut into the shape of a cutting board) was used not only as a cutting board, but also as a knife sharpener, bed warmer, and seat warmer for cold buggy rides.
Saturday night we attended the dance, which I think is more fun than any homecoming dance I attended in high school. Young and old dancing together to the fiddler, mixing as they follow the directions of the caller. And no, I didn't take any pictures-I would rather dance! I also enjoyed looking at the gorgeous hoopskirt evening gowns. It was like being at a prom from150 years ago. I am definitely hooked on old-fashioned dances.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Bondage of the Will and Election

This is a 20 minute Issues, Etc. program that is well worth listening to if you are interested in Luther’s famous book, The Bondage of the Will. It discusses the context in which it was written, as well as touching on the key points made in his book. It also goes into the Lutheran view on predestination versus the Calvinist view of double predestination.

The basic assertion Luther made in this book was that man is in bondage spiritually, and has no volition or even ability to trust in God or become pleasing to Him. Our small catechism sums it up well:

I believe that I can not by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him: but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. (Luther’s Small Catechism, The Creed, The Third Article).

Ephesians 2:1 (emphasis mine) says “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked.” A dead man can not save himself, or decide to ask someone to save him. Verse 4 says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved-…” God clearly gets the credit for salvation. However, one might begin to reason, that if this is so, and a person can not “decide for Christ”, then is the opposite true? If God chooses people to be saved, does God pick out some people not to be saved? This is known as “double predestination”. Yet Jesus places the blame elsewhere for man’s damnation in Matthew 23:37 (emphasis mine): “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” Again, in 1 Timothy 1:19 (emphasis mine) Paul tells Timothy to hold “faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith.” Man’s sinful nature clearly gets the credit for damnation, for God “has no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God, so turn and live.” (Ezekel 18:32). Here, one might argue that God is telling the people to turn, so isn’t that that “doing something” to help God out? But Scripture interprets Scripture, and since it is clear that it is “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, “ (Eph 2:9 emphasis mine), we see that even the turning that God told the people to do was, and is, a gift of grace. So He gets the credit for salvation, and man’s sinful nature gets the credit for sin and damnation. Intellectually satisfying? No. Biblically consistent? Yes. God tells us what we need to know in His Word. We are not to go beyond the revealed Word of God and speculate on the why’s and how’s that He has not told us. Why some reject and some receive remains a mystery. Jesus “came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God… (John 1:11). What does God desire? To give us the gift of saving faith, for He has paid for everyone’s sins, by the death of His Son, who is “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2 emphasis mine).”

Back to our small catechism, which explains that the Holy Spirit points to this work of Christ by calling by the gospel. It is a great comfort to believers when it goes on to say that:

In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.

In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.

On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.

This is most certainly true.

If you are interested in reading our synod’s doctrinal statement on election, you’ll find it here.

Issues, Etc. may be offering a series on The Bondage of the Will; if so, I will try to post links to the shows.

Note: Not sure if my link to the radio show is working, so here is the link to the show archive. Scroll down to Tuesday, September 14, and you can listen there.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Quote of the Day

“Good works do not make a good man, but a good
man does good works; evil works do not make a wicked man,
but a wicked man does evil works. Consequently it is always
necessary that the substance or person himself must be good
before there can be any good works, and that good works
follow and proceed from the good person, as Christ says ‘A good
tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit’
(Matt. 7:18). It is clear that the fruits do not bear the tree and
that the tree does not grow on the fruits, also on the contrary,
the trees bear the fruits and the fruits are grown on the trees.”

Martin Luther, “The Freedom of a Christian” (1520).

The very heart of the gospel is at stake with the interpretation of Matthew 7:18. It is Christ, and Christ alone makes us "good" and He sanctifies our works. Any working to prove that one is a Christian is works-righteousness. Good works certainly have to be in the life of a Christian, but they are a result of Christ's salvation, not a striving to prove that one is a Christian.

What does EVERY false doctrine distort? The Gospel of Jesus Christ. That He, and He alone, saves us and produces fruit in our lives is what is always compromised when doctrine becomes distorted. It is by His Gospel alone that we are saved.