Saturday, January 29, 2011

65th Wedding Anniversary

We recently had the privilege of celebrating my grandparents' 65th wedding anniversary. I am so blessed to still have them in such good health and spirits. Grandma still has her wedding dress, which she put on for the happy occasion. Happy Anniversary, Grandpa and Grandma!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Good News for the New Year

Commitments, resolutions, goals. Is that all we have to look forward to in the New Year? Perhaps you have been asked the big question by a well-meaning Christian (maybe even a pastor):

"Have you fully committed your life to Jesus Christ?"

Whether you have or haven't, I can answer the question for you:


None of us have, can, or ever will (See Ephesians 2, Romans 3:23)

But here is the good news:

Jesus Christ has committed himself fully to you, by keeping God's law for you, dying on the cross to pay for your sins, and giving you His Word and Sacraments to sustain you. He longs to impart His grace to each of us, and it is not conditional on us. Romans 6 talks about Baptism, and encourages us to rely on it as the time when we were baptized into His death, and raised to walk in newness of life. Verse 17 says that when Christ gives a person a new heart that trusts in Him, He also commits us to His teaching! Note that He is doing the committing, not us. We are the receivers of His grace through His Word in baptism. We are comforted on an ongoing basis by His commitment to our forgiveness, and freed from the treadmill of looking to our works for comfort. This in turn frees us to do good works on behalf of our neighbor, not on behalf of on our own supposed moral progress, which always falls short. He has done it all! That is something that we can rejoice in during 2011, and all eternity.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Scewtape Letters

One of the books that I have recently read is The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Although it is quite an in-depth book, it I found it very intriguing and definitely recommend it. Basically, the book is about a senior devil, Screwtape, who is corresponding via letter with his nephew, Wormwood. The purpose of Screwtape's letters is to instruct Wormwood on how to make the young devil's patient lose his salvation and ultimately end up in hell. Screwtape is extremely wise in the ways of tempting, and his suggested plots are sharp and diabolical. What creeped me out the most was that some of Screwtape's plots were ones that do not have the appearance of being evil. Take this excerpt from Chapter 4 for instance (emphasis mine):

"Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by the action of their own wills. When they meant to ask Him for charity, let them, instead, start trying to manufacture charitable feelings for themselves and not notice that this is what they are doing."

The above paragraph reminds me of the many problems people experience today. Many modern Christian mentalities encourage the focus on yourself: what you think about yourself, what you need to do to get salvation, how you should become a better Christian. Here is another excerpt from Chapter 9 (emphasis mine):

"Let him [Wormwood's patient] assume that the first ardours of his conversion might have been expected to last, and ought to have lasted, forever, and that his present dryness is an equally permanent condition...It all depends on whether your man can be tempted to despair, or...can be assured that all is well. The former type is getting rare among humans. If your patient should happen to belong to it...keep him out of the way of experienced Christians (an easy task nowadays)."

The two main things that may result if a person gives in to temptation are either despair (feeling pounded by the Law) or pride (feeling that he is a better Christian than others, which can happen as a result of no or not enough Law being taught.) Either way is hazardous and can lead to the loss of salvation. This is why the Law and Gospel must be properly distinguished and taught.
While devils exist and do, indeed, tempt us, we need fear not, because we know that Jesus has triumphed over all and forgives us all our sins.

Though devils all the world should fill,
All eager to devour us,
We tremble not, we fear no ill;
They shall not overpow'r us.
This world's prince may still
Scowl fierce as he will,
He can harm us none.
He's judged; the deed is done;
One little word can fell him.
-A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, LSB 656, vs. 3