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Archive for February 5th, 2014

I am not doing well weathering the weather obsession.  By this mean, I don’t mean people who enjoy meteorology.  I mean the endless lead stories on the weather.  For the past two weeks, every opening story on The Today Show has basically been, “It’s Winter! It’s Snowing! It’s Really Cold in Chicago, New York, Buffalo!”  This is news?! I grew up in the Midwest, tell me something I don’t know, that is, tell me some actual news.  I think the brutality of the carnage in Syria is of a bit greater importance that any  “brutal” snowstorm that causes, God forbid, flight delays.  Our perspectives are so askew.  For what its worth, I have noticed this weather obsession for years.  Why?  Why are we so obsessed with the weather?

A heavy quote from The Revolt of the Masses by Spanish philosopher,  Prof. Joel Ortega y Gasset:

“…we live in a time when man believes himself fabulously capable of creation, but he does not know what to create. Lord of all things, he is not lord of himself.”

Isn’t that the truth? The second phrase of the last statement is part of the basic message of the Bible.  And so is the first half and  Ortega y Gasset might have stated that tongue in cheek.  We think we are “lord of all things” and this is why the weather just ticks us off:  we can’t control it.  This is our false belief system as we think we are the creator.   It galls the petty dictator, man that the weather gets the best of  him;  but for Christians, the Old Adam, who thinks he is “lord of all things”, that petty idol, has been gladly dethroned.

Cast every idol from its throne,
For God is God, and he alone:
To God all praise and glory!                                                                              (hymn #452, Lutheran Worship)

Yet, remember that dictators, even petty ones, thinking they are “lord of all things” are quite  capable of great horror and brutality. In the Lord we can sing and pray with the Psalmist, God is the Lord of all things, including the weather, including us that He bought with His blood:

Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you great sea creatures and all deeps,
8 fire and hail, snow and mist,
    stormy wind fulfilling his word! (Psalm 148: 7-8)

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In my last posting, Faith:  A Family Affair I commented on the daily lection for that day from Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy.  The daily readings from 2 Timothy concluded 1 February 2014.   The focus of Paul’s second epistle to Timothy centers on the Word of God, the Scriptures  as the Apostle encourages Timothy to, “…follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”  (1: 13) The “sound words” (literally “healthy words”, “clean words”) are the Scriptures.  God’s Word is clean (cf.Psalm 19:8-10).  His Word in Holy Baptism, over which He has placed His Name, cleanses (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:10-12 ).   

The Apostle begins his  epistle by gently reminding his brother pastor that Timothy was taught the faith from his mother and grandmother, and further he was ordained a pastor to preach and teach the Word of God “in and out of season”, when it is favorable or not:  see 2 Timothy 4:1-3.  In another word of encouragement, the Apostle Paul wrote Timothy, again reminding him of the faith which was kindled by the Scriptures:

3: 14 But as for you,continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Immediately after the verses above, the Apostle writes the concise statement of the origin and purpose of the Scriptures in the life of pastors and people in the Body of Christ, His Church:

3: 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God 

The more usual translation of “breathed out” is “inspired”.  Lutheran Pastor and Professor, Dr. Paul Kretzmann, in his Popular Commentary (1924) describes the verse from 2 Timothy as both witness to veracity of the Scripture and to the correct way of understanding “inspired/God breathed”:

What the apostle has stated concerning the Holy Scriptures, of the power of God in them, of their glorious purpose and blessing, he now summarizes in a powerful sentence, which is a strong bulwark for the inspiration of the Old Testament. He writes: All Scripture, inspired by God, is also profitable. The term used by the apostle is so general that it seems to include not only the books of the Old Testament, as in use in the Jewish Church, but also the writings then being penned by inspiration of God, the gospels and the letters of the various apostles and evangelists. At any rate, there can be no doubt that the so-called Old Testament canon is the inspired Word of God. St. Paul writes that Scripture was inspired by God, not in the manner of a mechanical transmission, but in such a way that God breathed His holy Gospel, His Word, into the minds of the writers, incidentally making use of their intellect, of their mental ability and equipment, in producing a series of books which plainly show the peculiarities of the writers, and yet are, word for word, the product of God Himself.

Please note that both the Muslims, who say that an angel dictated word for word the Koran to Mohammed (dictation theory),  and the Mormons both believe in  a “mechanical transmission” of their false works-righteous, false doctrinal books, even to the point that Joseph Smith said it was literally mechanical: “golden-plates” and “crystals” to see them aright!  Natural man, without Gospel, only invent more works-righteous religions. There is nothing mysterious about that at all, Look at me!  How I saved me!    The Scriptures lead us continually to Jesus Christ, the mystery of His love seeking the lost, kindling faith. The “peculiarities of the writers” show us the way the Lord found them in their lives.  A shepherd, David, writes the Shepherd Psalm, Psalm 23.  The priest in the Temple, Isaiah, is cleansed in the Temple to preaching the cleansing Word of God.  The murderer of Christians, Saul, is called to preach Christ and Him crucified thus making Christians and so in Christ, eternal life, not eternal death.  Each of their differences are read in their writings, yet all preach and teach the one Word of God.

Please note purpose of Scripture as Paul continued,

and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete,equipped for every good work.

Reproof and correction is hardly part of too many pastors’ and congregations’ understanding of Scripture and the life in Christ Jesus.  We are supposed to be continually “affirmed”.  No one says “no” and we don’t want to be the Church of “no”, in other words, we don’t want to teach God’s Law.  The word “heresy” is from the Greek which literally means “choice”.   “All Scripture…”, Law and Promise, and not just the parts we like.  Scripture is teaching the Lord’s sound doctrine of Law and  Promise.  Scripture is for teaching Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.  Scripture for reproof and for correction, showing us where we have strayed and missed the mark, to warn us, Woe! and Whoa!  The Lord’s salvation is at stake!  Scripture is for training in righteousness, the alien righteousness given us by grace through Jesus Christ that we are His, that His alien righteousness, foreign to sin and the Old Adam, have a home here  and now for every good work,the fruit of faith which is love.  And all of this, teaching, reproof, correction, training is the Lord’s package deal in His written Word.  

Paul addresses and false doctrine in this letter.  Paul gives a necessary concrete example of false doctrine in their day in time, in the Epistle:

But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. 19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” (chapter 2)

“…their talk will spread like gangrene.”  Gangrene is a powerful image of death spreading because of false doctrine.  If the resurrection has already happened, then one is sinless, and so sin won’t affect a resurrected body, so have fun.  Scary, isn’t it?  It just leads, “…into more and more ungodliness”.   The denial of the historicity of Scripture is a cottage industry in academia and has been for over  a century. Just look at the way the Scriptures have been put into a paper shredder by modern Biblical scholars, as in there is no bodily resurrection, beginning with Jesus Christ.  If there is no Resurrection, there is no judgment and no salvation, so go for the all the gusto today. Yes, we can see it all around in us the culture but I think it began in churches where the devil does his best work.

C. S. Lewis’ fantasy allegory, The Great Divorce is about a bus ride from Hell to heaven for the inhabitants of the former to meet the celestial people of Heaven.  In one conversation, two former priests in the Anglican Church, who were friends meet.  Dick, from heaven and his friend, the bishop in hell.  The ‘bishop’ speaks first:

Ah, Dick, I shall never forget some of our talks. I expect you’ve changed your views a bit since then. You became rather narrow-minded towards the end of your life: but no doubt you’ve broadened out again.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, it’s obvious by now, isn’t it, that you weren’t quite right. Why, my dear boy, you were coming to believe in a literal Heaven and Hell!”

“But wasn’t I right?”

“Oh, in a spiritual sense, to be sure. I still believe in them in that way. I am still, my dear boy, looking for the Kingdom. But nothing superstitious or mythological. . . .”

“Excuse me. Where do you imagine you’ve been?”

“Ah, I see. You mean that the grey town with its continual hope of morning (we must all live by hope, must we not?), with its field for indefinite progress, is, in a sense, Heaven, if only we have eyes to see it? That is a beautiful idea.”

“I didn’t mean that at all. Is it possible you don’t know where you’ve been?”

“Now that you mention it, I don’t think we ever do give it a name. What do you call it?”

“We call it Hell.”

“There is no need to be profane, my dear boy. I may not be very orthodox, in your sense of that word, but I do feel that these matters ought to be discussed simply, and seriously, and reverently.”

“Discuss Hell reverently? I meant what I said. You have been in Hell: though if you don’t go back you may call it Purgatory.”

“Go on, my dear boy, go on. That is so like you. No doubt you’ll tell me why, on your view, I was sent there. I’m not angry.”

“But don’t you know? You went there because you are an apostate.”

“Are you serious, Dick?”

“Perfectly.”

“This is worse than I expected. Do you really think people are penalised for their honest opinions? Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that those opinions were mistaken.”

“Do you really think there are no sins of intellect?”

“There are indeed, Dick. There is hidebound prejudice, and intellectual dishonesty, and timidity, and stagnation. But honest opinions fearlessly followed-they are not sins.”

“I know we used to talk that way. I did it too until the end of my life when I became what you call narrow. It all turns on what are honest opinions.”

“Mine certainly were. They were not only honest but heroic. I asserted them fearlessly. When the doctrine of the Resurrection ceased to commend itself to the critical faculties which God had given me, I openly rejected it. I preached my famous sermon. I defied the whole chapter. I took every risk.”

“What risk? What was at all likely to come of it except what actually came-popularity, sales for your books, invitations, and finally a bishopric?”

Paul is writing also about “sins of the intellect”.  He warns about the incessant quarreling about words, i.e. see the endless threads of endless blogs. “Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. ” 2 Timothy 2: 14  I am more and more convinced that hell is an endless  thread of an endless blogging, just as the bishop wanted to continue the endless dialogue about doctrine only to deny it.  “Before God, who searches hearts and minds, he was to remind the ministers of their duty. They should exclude, as altogether useless and unprofitable, the custom of striving with words, of quarreling endlessly, 1 Timothy 1:5-7 ; Titus 3:9” (Kretzmann).  The Lord does not want us revolving  around ourselves, but go to Him, His Word, His Grace, His Mercy, for in Him our sin is forgiven and our lives quickened.  Remembering what the Word says:

8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering,bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11 The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—

for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2)

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