Archive for June, 2019

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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This Thursday is July 4, the day we are to remember and celebrate our freedom from a tyrannical colonial master, the beginning of our nation and the continuing struggle for freedom.  Galatians 5: 1 has a particular relevance, therefore, as we think about freedom.  For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

The man who looms over the Old Testament is Moses.  The 5 books of Moses culminate in the LORD freeing His people Israel from the house of bondage to go the land of promise which is the land of freedom. The land of freedom is the land of what we call political freedom. As Zechariah sang in Luke 1, the LORD remembered…:

“…the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
74     that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75     in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

This political freedom in the land of freedom was so that Israel would know spiritual freedom that it was not by their works, how well they kept the Law,  how high and mighty they were, that the LORD freed them but only by His grace and mercy did He free them, keep with them, guide them. Time and time again, they went from the Lord in His mercy and grace and pursued other gods who are not gods, so they could indulge in the slavery of the flesh. The land of promise became the land of bondage, worse than Egypt.

So many of our forebears came to these shores for freedom of religion which is freedom for religion, specifically Christian religion.  Freedom for religion, Christian or not, has been under attack as never before by the locusts of political correctness and immorality.  I think that the fountainhead of political freedom is spiritual freedom. Political freedom, and especially, spiritual freedom, can be used for freedom of the flesh, as Luther commented on our Sermon Text:

This can be discerned today in all classes of society, both high and low. They all boast of being evangelicals and boast of Christian freedom. Meanwhile, however, they give in to their desires and turn to greed, sexual desire, pride, envy, etc. No one performs his duty faithfully; no one serves another by love. This misbehavior often makes me so impatient that I would want such “swine that trample pearls underfoot” (Matt. 7:6) still to be under the tyranny of the pope. For it is impossible for this people of Gomorrah to be ruled by the Gospel of peace.

There are three freedoms:  political freedom, the freedom of the flesh and spiritual freedom. Freedom of the flesh turns out to be not so free but enslaving. And if we say we have no sin we are just deceiving ourselves.  As churches and presidential candidates promote lawlessness and sexual immorality and murder in the womb, deceiving themselves and others, still the wrath of God,  “…is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”

In the Epistle lesson, Paul turns his attention to us: For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Freedom of flesh is readily known:

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 

Spiritual freedom is freedom from sin, death and the power of the devil.  The Law of God is used by God to externally restrain our sinfulness in society and Church.  The Lord Jesus especially taught that the Lord’s prime use of the Law is show us our sin even in our thoughts, in our very body and soul so that we know we need the Savior.  The Law shows us the universal yoke of slavery. The Gospel gives us the universal yoke of freedom in Christ. The Law makes us captive and imprisoned under the Law.  What the Law could not do, God did by sending His Son into our flesh and bear our sin.

 Freed from sin, how can we still walk in them?  This is the reason the Apostle encourages us to walk in the Spirit and not submit to the yoke of slavery again.  So we just have to buckle down now and really try to be free?  Then we are on our own again.  There are two yokes:  the yoke of slavery and bondage…and the yoke of Christ:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

We are told in the Gospel lesson that Jesus set His face toward Jerusalem. He was adamant to die and to rise for us and our salvation.  We can not be like Lot’s wife to turn back to our Sodoms and Gomorrahs.  The Lord frees us from them so we can serve our neighbors in love, as freed slaves of righteousness in Christ. We encourage to stand fast in Christ’s freedom, Paul Kretzmann:

But since it is such a great blessing, a blessing, moreover, which men are ever endeavoring to take from us by every form of persecution, therefore it is necessary that we stand firm and unmovable lest someone ensnare us by enticing and plausible arguments and bring us into subjection again under the yoke of the Law.

It was my Dad who taught me years ago that a pastor’s stole is also called a “yoke” as in Matthew 11, For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. A pastor bears not the yoke of the Law but the yoke of Christ, of the promises, all the promises of God are fulfilled in Jesus Christ who is the fulfillment of the Law and the prophets.  But not to do as I want, for anything beginning with “I” can ever lead to eternal life, but as Christ shows us what to do:  serve our neighbor in love.  Now in this Spirit-ual freedom the Church and her Christians are fruitful.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

We are in step with the Spirit staying with, standing fast and going with the yoke of Christ, as He said, “learn from me”.  His are the words of eternal life. It’s a life of learning, continuing education.   

Now as we say No to the devil and all his empty promises and say Yes to the Yes of the Lord in our Baptisms to walk in our Baptism, we will not be applauded by the world. We be vilified.

The Lord through His prophet Elijah won a great victory over the false gods of Baal which had been allowed by King Ahab who was encouraged to do so by his pagan wife Jezebel. Now she’s out to kill him.

 “Just when the Gospel is making headway among Gentiles”, the heresy of keeping God’s law to save oneself in the churches in Galatia arose to “drive Paul to distraction. Why do the church’s enemies have to pick a fight just when things get rolling?  They answer: they DON’T.  The Church does, that is the Church true to the Word. Jesus does come bring peace but a sword…which will cause social conflict, following her Lord, the church likewise provokes the hostility, hatred and resentment of the world at every turn. “This is not the result of some flaw in the church’s ministry, but the opposite.”  When the Church is faithful announcing God’s wrath and judgment, it’s universal yoke of slavery, and freedom in the crucified and risen Christ, the universal yoke of freedom,  the cosmic rulers will be enraged.  But we can not meet rage with rage as the Lord told the disciples when they wanted the Samaritans to be destroyed. The Lord wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.  When the Church truly preaches the Gospel of salvation in Christ alone, “we cannot help but start a fight”[i]. Elijah can be seen as a type of the Church sent again by her Lord to His tasks of bringing the Gospel to the least, the last and the lost.

The yoke of slavery, the flesh or the yoke of Christ, of freedom… Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

[i] Quotes  from 1 and 2 Kings:  Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible by Peter Leithart

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Meme of the Day

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, text that says '"Heaven is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark. Stephen Hawking "Atheism is a fairy story for those afraid of the light." -John Lennox'

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Remember and rejoice that Peter and Paul, and all Christian martyrs, unlike the Islamic variety, do not try to take people with them in death, but ever preached and taught, the Way to heaven, in faith, not to kill the infidel, but that the infidel come to faith and live eternally in Jesus Christ.

Concordia and Koinonia

Appointed Scripture Readings:  Acts 15: 1-21   Psalm 46   Galatians 2: 1-10  St. Matthew 16: 13-19

About this Feast Day and St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles:   The festival of St. Peter and St. Paul is probably the oldest of the saints’ observances (dating from about the middle of the third century). An early tradition held that these two pillars of the New Testament Church were martyred on the same day in Rome during the persecution under Nero. In addition to this joint commemoration of their deaths, both apostles are commemorated separately: Peter on January 18 for his confession of Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 16:13-16) and Paul on January 25 for his conversion (Acts 9:1-19).

The confession of St. Peter did not arise in the imagination of Peter’s heart but was revealed to him by the Father. The reason this confession is important is seen in Jesus’…

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Quote of the Day

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From Dr. Luther’s Commentary on Galatians 5: 13; Part of the Epistle reading for the Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year C, Proper B

If grace or faith is not preached, no one is saved; for faith alone justifies and saves. On the other hand, if faith is preached, as it must be preached, the majority of men understand the teaching about faith in a fleshly way and transform the freedom of the spirit into the freedom of the flesh. This can be discerned today in all classes of society, both high and low. They all boast of being evangelicals and boast of Christian freedom. Meanwhile, however, they give in to their desires and turn to greed, sexual desire, pride, envy, etc. No one performs his duty faithfully; no one serves another by love. This misbehavior often makes me so impatient that I would want such “swine that trample pearls underfoot” (Matt. 7:6) still to be under the tyranny of the pope. For it is impossible for this people of Gomorrah to be ruled by the Gospel of peace. (emphasis added)

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From Dr. Luther’s Commentary on Galatians 5: 1; Part of the Epistle reading for the Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year C, Proper B

“…there is the freedom of the flesh, which is chiefly prevalent in the world. Those who have this obey neither God nor the laws but do what they please. This is the freedom which the rabble pursues today; so do the fanatical spirits, who want to be free in their opinions and actions, in order that they may teach and do with impunity what they imagine to be right. This is a demonic freedom, by which the devil sets the wicked free to sin against God and men. We are not dealing with this here although it is the most widespread and is the only goal and objective of the entire world. Nor are we dealing with political freedom. No, we are dealing with another kind, which the devil hates and attacks most bitterly.

This is the freedom with which Christ has set us free, not from some human slavery or tyrannical authority but from the eternal wrath of God. Where? In the conscience. This is where our freedom comes to a halt; it goes no further. For Christ has set us free, not for a political freedom or a freedom of the flesh but for a theological or spiritual freedom, that is, to make our conscience free and joyful, unafraid of the wrath to come (Matt. 3:7). This is the most genuine freedom; it is immeasurable. When the other kinds of freedom — political freedom and the freedom of the flesh — are compared with the greatness and the glory of this kind of freedom, they hardly to one little drop.”

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Issues, Etc.

Dr. Allan Carlson, What Happened in the 1960s?

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