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Augustine quote on grace and freedom. | Christian theology quotes, Grace  quotes, Historical quotes

O Lord God, the light of the minds that know You, the life of souls that love You, and the strength of the hearts that serve You, give us strength to follow the example of Your servant Augustine of Hippo, so that knowing You we may truly love You and loving You we may fully serve You–for to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

About Augustine of Hippo, Pastor and Theologian:

Augustine was one of the greatest of the Latin Church Fathers and a significant influence in the formation of Western Christianity, including Lutheranism. Born in AD 354 in North Africa, Augustine’s early life was distinguished by exceptional advancement as a teacher of rhetoric. In his book Confessions he describes his life before his conversion to Christianity, when he was drawn into the moral laxity of the day and fathered an illegitimate son. Through the devotion of his sainted mother, Monica, and the preaching of Ambrose, bishop of Milan (AD 339-97), Augustine was converted to the Christian faith. During the great Pelagian controversies of the fifth century, Augustine emphasized the unilateral grace of God in the salvation of mankind. Bishop and theologian at Hippo in North Africa from AD 395 until his death in AD 430, Augustine was a man of great intelligence, a fierce defender of the orthodox faith, and a prolific writer. In addition to Confessions, Augustine’s book City of God had a great impact upon the Church throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer,Concordia Publishing House)

A reflection: Augustine fought rigorously against a heresy call Pelagianism.  It was name after Augustine’s contemporary bishop, Pelagius.  Pelagius taught that man had a will that was pretty good and could cooperate with God in salvation. Augustine, based upon the Bible, said the opposite that man is in bondage to sin and cannot free himself and this bondage is from birth, that is, original sin. The Bible says sin is death and the dead can not cooperate so well in salvation till the Savior comes…now there is much to teach here, but for this reflection a quote from Augustine of Hippo: A Biography by Peter Brown: in contrast to Pelagius, that what concerned Augustine was not ‘planning human nature, but how to heal it” (from one of the Saint’s writings).

Planning human nature is the stuff of community organizers, do-gooders, socialists, communists, positive thinkers, etc. and ad nauseam. In fact we are in the midst of a concerted effort to plan human nature through critical race theory, social justice, and resurgent communism.  Planning human nature is the basis of totalitarianism, and it is forced and fascist, both left and right.  The goal of the Lord is to heal human nature.  Government, social policies, social planners and the elite ‘omni-competent’ will only create tyranny. No one ever became good by an act of government or erstwhile do gooder. Even Christian planning for human nature have resulted in failed communities from the Puritans in New England and worse: Jim Jones. Our constitution makes an important point about civil government: “for a more perfect union” is the right goal. Note, a MORE perfect union, not a PERFECT union and latter is the stuff of utopian planners for thousand years. 

Augustine knew human nature and through God’s Word of Law he knew his own human nature:  he liked to sin but the Savior who came to earth claimed Augustine by His Word.  Government nor the best laid plans of mice and men, can heal the heart, nor the mind, nor the spirit. Christ has and can.

You can read more about St. Augustine here.

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Saint Monica — Saint Monica's Episcopal Church

About Monica, Mother of Augustine: A  native of North Africa, Monica (AD 333-387) was the devoted mother of St. Augustine. Throughout her life, she sought the spiritual welfare of her children, especially that of her brilliant son Augustine. Widowed at a young age, she devoted herself to her family, praying many years for Augustine’s conversion. When Augustine left North Africa to go to Italy, she followed him to Rome and then to Milan. There she had the joy of witnessing her son’s conversion to the Christian faith. Weakened by her travels, Monica died at Ostia, Italy, on the journey she had hoped would take her back to her native Africa. On some Church Year calendars, Monica is remembered on May 4. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing  House)

From The Confessions of Augustine of Hippo:

(Monica) was brought up in modesty and sobriety. She was made by You obedient to her parents rather than by them to You. When she reached marriageable age, she was given to a man and served him as lord. She tried to win him for You, speaking to him of You by her virtues through which You made her beautiful, so that her husband loved, respected and admired her. She bore with his infidelities and never had a quarrel with her husband on this account. For she looked forward to Your mercy coming upon him, in hope that, as he came to believe in You, he might become chaste….

Another gift with which You endowed at good servant of Yours, in whose womb You created me, my God, my mercy (Ps. 58:18), was that whenever she could, she reconciled dissident and quarrelling people. She showed herself so great a peacemaker that when she heard from both sides many bitter things, Monica would never reveal to one anything about the other unless it might help to reconcile them….

At the end, when her husband had reached the end of his life in time, she succeeded in gaining him for You. After he was a baptized believer, she had no cause to complain of his behavior, which she had tolerated in one not yet a believer. She was also a servant of Your servants: any of them who knew her found much to praise in her, held her in honor, and loved her, for they felt Your presence in her heart, witnessed by the fruits of her holy way of life. She had “testimony to her good works” (1 Timothy 5:10). She had brought up her children, enduring travail as often as she saw them wandering away from You. Lastly, Lord—by Your gift You allow me to speak for Your servants, for before her falling asleep we were bound together in community in You after receiving the grace of Baptism—she exercised care for everybody as if they were all her own children. She served all as if she was a daughter to all of us. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing  House)

Reflection:  Monica’s husband was an adulterer.   She stayed with him.  She was faithful. She probably took literally the Epistle reading:   Ephesians 5:21-23.   She wanted her husband to be her head…but in Christ Jesus.  She is not the model in our day of the liberated woman!  Thank, God.  Her strength was her Lord and she prayed for the conversion of both her husband and their son.  I am not saying that a wife in an abusive marriage should stay. By no means! Monica was not physically abused.  She was, though, spiritually and emotionally hurt by her feckless husband and faithless son.  She persisted in prayer for them.  They were far from the Church and her Lord.  We read and listen to the reports about our children leaving the Church under the banner “spiritual not religious”.  And with that, not wanting children or families.  I wonder how I went wrong as a parent.  What did Monica do?  She prayed in faith to the Lord.   We pray for our children to return to You, O Lord.  Deepen our devotion to bring others, even our own family, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord…We look to You for our forgiveness. Monica is the saint to remind us of prayer.  Her husband and son were baptized.  Maybe our prayers won’t be answered in our life time. 

Monica’s son became one of the most important theologians and pastors whose writings influenced one young monk in the Order of St. Augustine:  Martin Luther.   Augustine’s feast day is tomorrow. Freedom in Christ is praying for someone who may not even want our prayers. 

P.S. and FWIW:  I think a day like this one should be for the Church to serve as Christian Mothers’ Day.

Collect of the Day:

O Lord, You strengthened Your patient servant Monica through spiritual discipline to persevere in offering her love, her prayers, and her tears for the conversion of her husband and of Augustine, their son. Deepen our devotion to bring others, even our own family, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, who with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and forever.

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A New Religion!

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One of the many cultural quagmires are the shelves at the grocery check out lanes for the impulse buy. And behold! Ms. Aniston owns her life and has her own rules for life it seems! We can be enlightened by her rules for the magazine’s price! EVERYONE has their own rules, MY LIFE! Isn’t this one major reason for the chaos today? This magazine headline is similar to , “My body, my choice!” as a terrible slogan used to justify abortion (but not being used to justify NOT being vaccinated…it does not compute). If everyone has their own rules, we do a lot of bumping into each, verbally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. No law. Lawlessness except my rules. Now it seems though that the rich like Ms. Aniston can literally afford to make her own rules as she has the  money to make it happen. Even if we have a whole lot less cash at hand, we also act as if it is MY rules, as I want to RULE.  

This is not a new religion as it is as old as Adam.  When Eve and Adam bought the devil’s lie they could be like God, and then they started establishing their own rules.  But “my” life, however successful, fails many times a day. For instance, I cannot rule out what I am thinking:  hatred, lust, greed and the like, then the words can fly and so can actions.

First:  Moses has been called the giver of the law.  Jennifer Aniston might be prettier than Moses, but she is no law giver. If we do not have a common, civil law, at least (and we do by the way), then anything goes.  Look what happened in the summer of 2020 with all the riots and the police told to stand down. The loss from the chaos is affecting so many cities to this day. “My” rules…

Second:  if this self-rule rules keep going on, someone will step in to give ORDER and it will be political tyranny:  fascism, left or right is still fascism.

Third:  we need God’s Law to show us where we are amiss and the way to love our neighbor.  Then we begin to discover I tend toward the chaos of self-rule because I’m not too good at it. Finally, being a sinner at heart, the rule turns out to be enslavement to the flesh.  Yet God sent His Son into the midst of the chaos for those in rebellion to pay rebellion’s price by dying to atone and forgive.  Seek the Kingdom of God, that is, the Lord’s rule for His rule is by grace.

Tell of our Redeemer’s grace, Who, to save our human race And to pay rebellion’s price,Gave Himself as sacrifice

Tell of God the Spirit giv’n/Now to guide us on to heav’n/Strong and holy, just and true, Working both to will and do.

Enter, mighty Word, the field; Ripe the promise of its yield But the reapers, oh, how few/For the work there is to do

Lutheran Service Book, #830

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Should some lust or sharp temptation

Fascinate my sinful mind,

Draw me to Your cross and passion,

And new courage I shall find.

Or should Satan press me hard,

Let me then be on my guard,

Saying, “Christ for me was wounded,”

That the Tempter flee confounded

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Lutheran News Link

Latvian Lutherans vote to seek membership in the ILC, Posted on 16 August 2021 by Mathew Block

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Almighty God, heavenly Father, through the patriarch Isaac You preserved the seed of the Messiah and brought forth the new creation.  Continue to preserve the Church as the Israel of God as she manifests the glory of Your holy Name by continuing to worship Your Son, the child of Mary;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

About Isaac:  Isaac, the long promised and awaited son of Abraham and Sarah, was born when his father was 100 and his mother 91. The announcement of his birth brought both joy and laughter to his aged parents (so the name “Isaac,” which means “laughter”). As a young man, Isaac accompanied his father to Mount Moriah, where Abraham, in obedience to God’s command, prepared to sacrifice him as a burnt offering. But God intervened, sparing Isaac’s life and providing a ram as a substitute offering (Gen. 22:1–14), and thus pointing to the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ for the sins of the world. Isaac was given in marriage to Rebekah (24:15), and they had twin sons, Esau and Jacob (25:19–26). In his old age Isaac, blind and feeble, wanted to give his blessing and chief inheritance to his favorite—and eldest—son, Esau. But through deception Rebekah had Jacob receive them instead, resulting in years of family enmity. Isaac died at the age of 180 and was buried by his sons, who by then had become reconciled, in the family burial cave of Machpelah (35:28–29). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  The enduring legacy of the Lord’s Word to the prophets is that His Word is given through marriage(s) and families, culminating in a Holy Family in Bethlehem.  These families do have their moments!  As when Rebekah schemes to have her favorite son Jacob receive Isaac’s blessing.  Funny how the Lord works things out but after all it was the Lord who named the son of the promise to Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Laughter (Genesis 17:19)  Just think: Father and Mother calling to their son, “Dinner time, Laughter”.

One of the single longest chapters in Genesis is chapter 24 and it is all about the way the Lord arranged the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah.  It is a moving love story. The main character is Abraham’s unnamed servant who acts as the Lord’s matchmaker.  We are told he prayed as the chapter proceeds. This is significant because this is the first time in Genesis when someone else, besides Abraham, prays to the Lord of Abraham!     It is  easy to gloss over, but important. The servant’s prayer is for a wife for Isaac as the Lord wills for His creation.  This long chapter is about marriage between man and woman and through marriage and family, His will of creation continues and so does redemption:  the Son of Mary, the step-son of Joseph.Truly, Abraham is the father of faith. And faith comes by the promises of God fulfilled finally and fully in Jesus Christ, the promise fulfilled. The Lord fulfilled His promise to Abraham and Sarah in their son Isaac, and then in Isaac and Rebekah’s son, Jacob and unto us the Son is born, unto us the Child is given (cf. Isaiah 9: 6).  Jesus Christ is the laughter of God overcoming sin and death as He is risen.  

Today marriage is under assault as no other time but this is just the outworn post-enlightenment understanding of the so-called “new morality” of the ’60s, which is really the old immorality dressed up to look hot.  It’s hot…hotter than hell.  As C. S. Lewis wrote, you can no more make a new value than you can a new primary color.  Luther said it well, “All heretics have denigrated matrimony and have sought for and begun some newfangled and bizarre way of life.”  (Luther’s Sermon on John 2: 1—11, 1533, Luther’s House Postils, vol. 1)  The commemoration of Isaac is another good day to remember that before the Fall, the Lord gave us marriage and family and it is still part of His good creation and in Christ, creation itself is renewed waiting for the new heavens and the new earth in the marriage feast of the Lamb (see Revelation 19:9) .

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“While fallen human nature exults the proud, the arrogant, the conceited, and we even teach people how to be more so as we encourage them to be more self-confident and self-assertive, the Lord exalts the humble and opposes the proud (Luke 1:52; James 4:6, 10; 1 Peter 3:8).” (Pr. Rickert)

Luther: “Note that she does not say men will speak all manner of good of her, praise her virtues, exalt her virginity or her humility, or sing of what she has done.  But for this one thing alone, that God regarded her, men will call her blessed.”

“…one of the main reasons for Mary’s “rejection” by many “modern” Christians:  she can hardly be construed as the symbol of that ‘liberation’ which stresses the absolute ‘right’ of man to dispose of his life and of his body in a manner which he himself chooses, to a ‘self-fulfillment’ which he himself determines.”-Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Eastern Orthodox Theologian

“The first part of the Article  treats of the Sublime Articles Concerning the Divine Majesty, as…That the Son became man in this manner, that He was conceived, without the cooperation of man, by the Holy Ghost, and was born of the pure, holy Virgin Mary.” (The Book of Concord, the Smalcald Articles)

“Our Confession approves honors to the saints. For here a threefold honor is to be approved. The first is thanksgiving. For we ought to give thanks to God because He has shown examples of mercy; because He has shown that He wishes to save men; because He has given teachers or other gifts to the Church. And these gifts, as they are the greatest, should be amplified, and the saints themselves should be praised, who have faithfully used these gifts, just as Christ praises faithful business-men, Matt. 25:2123. The second service is the strengthening of our faith; when we see the denial forgiven Peter, we also are encouraged to believe the more that grace truly superabounds over sin, Rom. 5:20. The third honor is the imitation, first, of faith, then of the other virtues, which everyone should imitate according to his calling.” (The Book of Concord, The Apology of the Augsburg Confession)

“Granting that the blessed Mary prays for the Church, does she receive souls in death, does she conquer death [the great power of Satan], does she make alive? What does Christ do if the blessed Mary does these things? Although she is most worthy of the most ample honors, nevertheless she does not wish to be made equal to Christ, but rather wishes us to consider and follow her example [the example of her faith and her humility].” (The Book of Concord, Invocation of the Saints)

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One thing the Kingdom of God is absolutely not like: the Magic Kingdom ala Disney, maybe it is the happiest place on earth but at a steep price. It’s not cheap, ask any parents taking their families there. The Kingdom of God and His reign is not the “happiest place on earth”.  The Lord’s reign has hard edges: His Law and the Cross of His glory as He shed blood for sinners to atone for our sins.  His rule can have the hard edge of martyrdom to serve and proclaim His Gospel.  His Kingdom, His rule of which He taught in the 40 days leading up the Ascension, may not be happy but there is the joy of being loved and at peace on account of Jesus Christ. There is more joy in God’s reign, His Kingdom over one sinner who repents than 99 in the happiest place on earth. And the magic kingdom seems to promote the denial of natural and Biblical marriage. Remember: “magic” also has dark overtones. The Lord’s kingdom comes at the steepest price, the price of the blood of the Lamb and so by His grace we freely enter His reign and His reign frees us. The price has been paid. Christians don’t wear Mickey Mouse ears to hear and be happy but our own ears to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His forgiveness and learn and grow in the Lord in faith and love.

Our Lord’s ascension is man’s exaltation.  As much as we exalt ourselves, at the expense of others, we do so to distance ourselves from others. He is exalted to be close to us all to lift us up by His Word and Sacraments. He is exalted to be near to us, Emmanuel, God with us, “This is My Body” “This is My Blood”, His Word in our ears then our hearts. His exaltation is His humiliation and in that humiliation His love and mercy for Israel and the whole human race is poured out through His life and crucifixion and resurrection.  He humiliated Himself to bring us close to His bosom and He ascended and is exalted to be close to us all. How high is heaven?  Very far away for the proud and self-exalted. But near for the lowly, for those who pray by looking up to Him Who came down for us all. And His kingdom is as close as any faithful church.

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St. Lawrence

Gracious Lord, in every age You have sent men and women who have given their lives for the message of  Your Gospel and all the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ.  Inspire us with the memory of those martyrs for the Gospel, like Your servant Lawrence, whose faithfulness led them to the way of the cross, and give us courage to bear full witness with our lives to Your Son’s victory over sin and death, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

About St. Lawrence:

Early in the third century A.D., Laurence, most likely born in Spain, made his way to Rome. There he was appointed chief of the seven deacons and was given the responsibility to manage church property and finances. The emperor at the time, who thought that the church had valuable things worth confiscating, ordered Laurence to produce the “treasures of the church.” Laurence brought before the emperor the poor whose lives had been touched by Christian charity. He was then jailed and eventually executed in the year 258 by being roasted on a gridiron. His martyrdom left a deep impression on the young church. Almost immediately, the date of His death, August 10, became a permanent fixture on the early commemorative calendar of the Church.(LCMS)

Reflection:. St. Lawrence knew that the treasures of Christ’s grace are poured out for the  poor, the lame, the orphans and the widows, for all who hunger and thirst for righteousness, that is, the poor in spirit.   In the midst of Watergate in the 70s, Bob Woodward was told by his informant, “to follow the money”.  All of the world follows the money.  Lawrence did not “follow the money”: he followed His Lord and yours.  As a steward of Jesus Christ, His deacon, Lawrence well maintained earthly treasure, but gold does not make the Church, only the blood of Christ remakes us into His Church, members of His Body. St. Lawrence followed the Blood of our Lord which is for all, rich and poor.

When the Church and her Christians think the true treasures of the church are in the offering plates/big budgets  or our “creative ministries” or our programs, and not the Cross and Sacraments, Scripture and Service in His love, then,

“…we are in danger of losing the things that make the Church in favor of those who claim to make the Church.  Church leaders only gain legitimacy when they are the delivery point of the divine gifts.” (Pr. Murray, A Year with the Church Fathers, CPH)  

Lawrence and many others so delivered the divine gifts and worldly gifts and were delivered up as martyrs and their witness heartens us.

The Roman Empire, that is, the world, only wanted the Church’s earthly treasure but finally the world wants to empty the Church of her divine treasure:  The Scriptures, the Sacraments, redeemed men and women, prayer, education, worship and the like…her people.  The world only wants to to be worshiped as the end and be all, and hates other claimants to its false worship.

Recently, on a front door of a church purporting to be Lutheran, a note reading: “Right now, LOVE looks like an empty building”. This congregation is part of a denomination that denies the marriage of man and woman alone and the inerrant Scripture, denies there is only male and female, accepts abortion, and sides with socialism and Marxism.  In their misguided zeal to protect themselves at all costs from covid, they think they are loving their neighbor by not having church. (And having a service can be done with the use of accepted health procedures.) I pray it continues to be empty! But ‘love’ can never look like an empty church building. For centuries, heretics have sincerely and secretly emptied the Church of her treasure by denying the Word of God, Law and Promise.  I think there are believers in this congregation and this is a cause of sadness and prayer.  Love never looks empty.  The world wants to empty the Church and too many denominations have been willing accomplices in pillaging the Church of her divine treasure by denying the inerrant Truth.  Lord, help us. And there may come a time, like for St. Lawrence that  the powers that be will come for us because we share both spiritual and material treasure and won’t give it up to the government/state and idolatrous ideologies. In Christ may we always give our witness as did St. Lawrence.

The Roman Emperor executed by grilling Lawrence alive and maybe many others without batting an eye.  Just think of the depth of depravity of sin! Animals do not kill each other for ideology or sport or enjoyment, but man does.  When the Church is driven out by a government, eventually the State becomes god and will not tolerate the one true God, but Lawrence served the poor in Jesus Christ.  We remember Lawrence but not the tyrant who had him murdered.  I have known Lawrences but I have never met anyone named Valerian or Nero, maybe someone would name their dog ‘Nero”. We remember what the Lord said to Saul on the road to Damascus:  “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.(Acts 9: 4-5) 

Let us pray…May God turn the hearts of all who are abusing, raping, terrorizing, and killing our brothers and sisters throughout the world. May God bring to true repentance all who have denied true doctrine. May God bring them to faith in Christ, who has put away their murderous sins and won every gemstone of His Father’s love for them and us. May God fill our enemies with the Holy Spirit, that they may put down their swords and pick up the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God and  share the treasure of Christ’s kingdom with those whom they once sought to destroy.  Amen.

Jesus, priceless treasure, 
source of purest pleasure, 
friend most sure and true: 
long my heart was burning, 
fainting much and yearning, 
thirsting, Lord, for you. 
Yours I am, O spotless Lamb, 
so will I let nothing hide you, 
seek no joy beside you!

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