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Ernest Gordon (31 May 1916 – 16 January 2002) was the former Presbyterian dean of the chapel at Princeton University. Gordon spent three years in a Japanese prisoner of war (POW) camp during the Second World War. He chronicled his experiences on the Death Railway in his book Through the Valley of the Kwai. In this excerpt from his book, the Allied POWs were on a Japanese prison train in desperate conditions.  Prior to this, in a prison camp with unrelenting brutality by their captors, a spiritual revival spread through that camp.  Christ had changed these prisoners. Now in this prison train, they come to a stop.  At this stop, there were trainloads of Japanese wounded, “…on their own and without medical care”:

They were in a shocking state. I have never seen men filthier. Uniforms were encrusted with mud, blood, and excrement. Their wounds, sorely inflamed and full of pus, crawled with maggots. The maggots, however, in eating the putrefying flesh, probably prevented gangrene.

It was apparent why the Japanese were so cruel to their prisoners. If they didn’t care a tinker’s dam for their own, why should they care for us?

The wounded men looked at us forlornly as they sat with their heads resting against the carriages, waiting for death. They had been discarded as expendable, the refuse of war. These were the enemy. They were more cowed and defeated than we had ever been.

Without a word most of the officers in my section unbuckled their packs, took out part of their ration and a rag or two, and, with water canteens in their hands, went over to the Japanese train.

Our guards tried to prevent us, bawling, “No goodka! No goodka!” But we ignored them and knelt down by the enemy to give water and food, to clean and bind up their wounds. Grateful cries of “Aragatto!” (“Thank you!” ) followed us when we left.

An Allied officer from another section of the train had been taking it all in.

“What bloody fools you are!” he said to me.

“Have you never heard the story of the man who was going from Jerusalem to Jericho?” I asked him. He gave me a blank look, so I continued,

“He was attacked by thugs, stripped of everything, and left to die. Along came a priest who passed him by. Then came a lawyer, a man of high principles; he passed by as well. Next came a Samaritan, a half-caste, a heretic, an enemy. But he didn’t pass by; he stopped. Kneeling down, he poured some wine through the unconscious man’s lips, cleaned and dressed his wounds, then took him to an inn where he had him cared for at his own expense.”

“But that’s different!” the officer protested angrily. “That’s in the Bible. These are the swine who have starved us and beaten us. These are our enemies.”

“Who is mine enemy?” I demanded. “Isn’t he my neighbor? God makes neighbors; we make enemies. That is where we excel. Mine enemy may be anyone who threatens my privileges —or my security—or my person—as well as those poor wretches who know no better. If they don’t, we, at least, should. Whether we like it or not we are the ones who make the enemy and lose the neighbor. Mine enemy is my neighbor!”

He gave me a scornful glance and, turning his back, left me to my fulminations against society.

I regarded my comrades with wonder. Eighteen months ago they would have joined readily in the destruction of our captors had they fallen into their hands. Now these same officers were dressing the enemy’s wounds.

We had experienced a moment of grace, there in those blood-stained railway cars. God had broken through the barriers of our prejudice and had given us the will to obey His command, “Thou shalt love.”…

God, in finding us, had enabled us to find our brother.

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[When someone is worried or sad,] he ought to think about Christ. You should say to him, “Christ lives. You have been baptized. God is not a God of sadness, death, and so forth, but the devil is. Christ is a God of joy, and so the Scriptures often say that we should rejoice, be glad, and so forth. This is Christ. Because you have a gracious God, he won’t take you by the throat.” (AE 54:96) [“Table Talk,” Luther’s Works Vol. 54, p. 96]

This Luther quote is the basis of a good article in Gene Edward Veith’s site, Cranach: The Blog of Veith. The article is entitled, “Christ is a God of Joy” and can be found here.

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“The great art and power of faith consist in seeing that which is not seen and in not seeing that is nonetheless felt, aye, which oppresses and depresses a person; just as unbelief sees only what it feels and does not at all like to cling to that which it does not feel.” (Martin Luther, as quoted in The Treasury of Daily Prayer (CPH)

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“…the preaching and hearing of God’s Word are the Holy Spirit’s instruments. By, with, and through these instruments the Spirit desires to work effectively, to convert people to God, and to work in them both to will and to do [Philippians 2:13]…

God works through this means (i.e., the preaching and hearing of His Word). He breaks our hearts [Jeremiah 4:3—4] and draws us to Him [John 6:44]. Through the preaching of the Law, a person comes to know his sins and God’s wrath. He experiences in his heart true terrors, contrition, and sorrow. Through the preaching of, and reflection on, the Holy Gospel about the gracious forgiveness of sins in Christ, a spark of faith is kindled in him. This faith accepts the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake and comforts itself with the Gospel promise. So, the Holy Spirit (who does all this) is sent into the heart [Galatians 4:6].

…no conversion would follow [this preaching and teaching] if the power and effectiveness of the Holy Spirit were not added [1 Corinthians 3:6—7]. The Spirit enlightens and converts hearts through the Word preached and heard. So, people believe this Word and agree with it. Neither preacher nor hearer is to doubt this grace and effectiveness of the Holy Spirit. They should be certain that when God’s Word is preached purely and truly, according to God’s command and will, and people listen attentively and seriously and meditate on it, God is certainly present with His grace. He grants, as has been said, what otherwise a person can neither accept nor give by his own powers. For we should not and cannot always judge from feeling about the presence, work, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, as to how and when they are experienced in the heart. They are often covered and happen in great weakness. Therefore, we should be certain about and agree with the promise that God’s Word preached and heard is truly an office and work of the Holy Spirit. He is certainly effective and works in our hearts by them (2 Corinthians 2:14—17; 3:5—6).

From Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord (Concordia Publishing House), Solid Declaration II 52, 54-56, as cited in The Treasury of Daily Prayer (CPH)/emphasis added

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Concordia and Koinonia


We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

At the end of the Declaration is this rousing paragraph and note that twice God is invoked:

“We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and…

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Independence Day

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My wife and I were married thirty-two years ago on July 4th. The pastor said it was our Interdependence Day. In marriage and in the life of the Church in Christ, the realities of “independence”, “dependence” and “interdependence” are crucial.

In Christ, we are made independent, freed by His all-atoning Sacrifice upon the Cross, free from sin, death and the power of the devil. Galatians 5: 5 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. The American Revolutionary War was bloody to make sure our political freedom. The Father sent His own beloved Son to shed His blood upon the cross for sinners. We are freed from the Law, to live under His grace alone.

The Apostle warns a little later, though, in Galatians 5: 1For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh... Independence is not doing anything anything, “I damn well feel like doing”–I think our cliches and sayings tell us a lot about ourselves–but it shows we are also dependent, upon our Lord and His mercy and grace on account of Christ, to stay free. It is true: the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. The Lord watches out for us and watches over us as husband and wife do for each other. We are dependent upon our Lord for our daily bread in this world, and even more, the Bread of life for our eternal life in Christ.

We are not horizontally alone in this world as Christ baptized us into His Body, the Church and so the Apostle finished Galatians 5: 13: 1For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. We are interdependent on each other. Galatians 6: Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. True Christian marriage and the Church is interdependent, yet depending on our Lord and every Word proceeding from His mouth, and made independent from the false ways of the world, only a husband and a wife come together and children are conceived and born.

Independent, dependent and interdependent describes the reality of our lives hid in Christ.

In my first installment citing and commenting on a 1752 Sermon by Rev. William Stith on the “The Sinfulness and pernicious Nature of Gaming (gambling)”, I pointed out that he organized his sermon under several topics regarding the sinfulness of gambling:

“…we therein sin against our Neighbor, against our Country, against our Families, against ourselves, and against GOD. And therefore, in the Prosecution of this Discourse, I beg Leave to make some Observations on each of those Heads.”

The first installment was on gambling as sin against “our Neighbor”.  In this posting, we look at the Reverend’s second topic that gambling is sin against our Country. This is timely because this week is the 4th of July. For the full introduction, please read the first posting on this topic.

At the beginning of the second topic, Reverend Stith preached:

But as in Gambling we thus sin against our Neighbor. So, II. ARE we guilty of a very heinous Sin against our Country. And this plainly follows from what has been urged under the former Head (sin against our Neighbor). For if Gaming has a natural and direct Tendency, to sap the Honesty, and to corrupt the Morals of a People, then Gaming is undoubtedly a most grievous Offence against every Country, where it is practiced. For moral Virtue and Honesty is the grand Fountain of public Honor and Felicity; as the Vice and Wickedness of a Nation are the certain Forerunners and Cause of it’s Disgrace and destruction: According to that excellent Remark of the Wiseman:  Righteousness exalteth a Nation, buy Sin is a Reproach to any People. Prov. xiv. 34.

Gambling redirects our God given time, talents and treasure from that which is useful (labor, industry, employment, education) to that which is useless, that is, gambling.  Our time, talent and treasure are thus diverted from the building up of our country, that is our neighbors. I maintain that today we do not see our country aright as they did in prior centuries. Some even hate their own country as racist, etc.  Rev. Stith seems to have seen Country in terms of our fellow Countrymen.  This vision is a correct Biblical understanding in terms of the second table of the Law. The Reverend does not use the neutral terms I employed, “diversion” and “redirect”, but he called it what it is: stealing:    

…what possible Advantage can accrue to a Country from the Practice of Gaming? What useful Art is promoted? What Manufactures are carried on? Or what Addition is there made by it to the public Stock and Wealth of a People? None certainly. For the Whole of Gambling is only to shift the Property and Specie (money), which hath been acquired to a Country and brought in by the honest Laborer’s Industry, from one to another, and oftentimes from the worthy to the most unworthy Members of the Society. And Arts and Manufactures are so far from being advanced by it, that it is the greatest Obstruction imaginable to them, by drawing off those Hands to the Ways of Idleness and Knavery, which by GOD and their Station in Life, are designed for Labor, which ought by all the Reason in the World to be so employed.  So that to call them off from their necessary Employments, in truth to ROB their Country of the Profit, and Advantage of their Labors, and even to run counter to God’s Providence. (emphasis added)

As stewards/managers of the time, talents, and treasure, gambling robs our country, and our fellow countrymen of needed income for building infrastructure, small businesses, and education.  In sports betting alone this is the amount spent:

Under-the-table NFL and college football wagers top $95 billion each year, according to the ESPN sports network. Overall, up to $150 billion is wagered illegally on sports every year in the United States, according to the American Gaming Association, a trade group. Source

As 2019 Democrat candidates propose using our tax dollars to pay for free college, how about instead states illegalizing all gambling so that we and our fellow countrymen will have more money in our pockets to invest, spend and charitably give, and pay off student loans?  Government should crack down on all illegal gambling. Oh, you say that government can use the taxes from legalized gambling for societal needs like education?  Can we really trust government spending other people’s money to be good stewards of our money? The track record is not good. The state lotteries, we were told, will be used for education (Is that factually true?) but we are only educating ourselves in the sinful and pernicious nature of gambling.   

We can’t trust ourselves when so many legal and yet immoral avenues for spending our money are open to us, such as gambling, and with it now, marijuana usage and even the call for legalized prostitution.  This is a point that the Rev. Stith made about trusting ourselves and I have emphasized the key phrase:

For when Mankind can be so far gulled (duped) and deceived in their Hopes, as to promise themselves more Profit from one Hour’s Play, than from a Year’s Labor, human Nature will be apt to be too indulgent to itself, and joyfully to embrace the Scheme of much Money and little Trouble. And thus are they induced to quit their several useful Callings and Professions, and to gad about from Place to Place, in Pursuit of these wild Hopes and imaginary Riches.

In the 18th century, and for the centuries before to the 20th century, Americans, based upon Christianity, had a view of man that included original sin and fallen human nature. We are prone to sin and we have government because “men are not angels”(Thomas Paine). Now we think we are pretty good. Really? What has been the result? The 20th century. Man does not naturally turn to do good and if given more opportunities to waste time, talents and treasures, will continue to do so. This is surely the reason gambling has been so long illegal.  The physical, emotional and spiritual price tag on gambling is too high.  We are too indulgent to our selves as self-idolatry is rampant.  Gambling is legalized theft and our countrymen are engaged in thievery, with legal and ‘moral’ sanction, and the well being of our Country is daily robbed.

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