Lutheran Worship and Resources



Traditional Lutheran worship services, using The Lutheran Hymnal and the KJV.

Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

The Lutheran Library Publishing Ministry

Bethany Lutheran Worship on
Ustream - Sunday, 10 AM CDT.


Midweek Lenten - 7 PM Central Daylight.

Saved worship files and Greek lessons are at the live worship link.

email: greg.jackson.edlp@gmail.com,
which works asgregjacksonedlp@gmail.com too.

Luther's Sermons, Lenker Series
Book of Concord Selections
Martin Chemnitz Press Books

Norma A. Boeckler Author's Page

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson's Author's Page

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Sunday After Christmas




Justification by Faith, by Norma Boeckler

The Sunday after Christmas

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/bethany-lutheran-worship

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time


The Hymn # 85:1-8 From Heaven Above 4.55
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual
The Gospel
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #85:9-15 From Heaven Above 4.55

The Virgin Birth in Paul

The Hymn #657 Beautiful Savior 4.24
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #83 Hark! What Mean Those Holy Voices 4:40

KJV Galatians 4:1 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; 2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: 4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

KJV Luke 2:33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. 34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; 35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. 36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; 37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. 39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. 40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.

Sunday After Christmas
O almighty and everlasting God, mercifully direct our ways, that we may walk in Thy law, and be made to abound in good works: through Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

The Virgin Birth in Paul
Galatians 4:4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

Some would like to claim that the Virgin Birth of Christ is only taught in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, that Paul and John were both silent about this important doctrine.

Galatians 4:4 refutes the claim, as anyone can see. Ask a child to explain it, and there will be no trouble. “God sent forth His Son…” Paul wrote this with his own hand, instead of using a scribe. It was probably his first apostolic letter. We know from all his letters that the divinity of Christ was never an issue.

Therefore, the verse is abundantly clear. At the divinely appointed time (when the fullness of the time was come), God sent His only-begotten Son…

There are no specifics about how God sent His Son. The reason is clear enough. Paul was writing when hundreds of eye-witnesses of the Risen Christ were still teaching in the church, and Paul was one of them. These witnesses were all taught by Christ as well. The Virgin Birth was not in dispute among the churches in Galatia. Their problem was with the relationship between Law and Gospel. The Virgin Birth is not stated in those terms but it is assumed in the language of the verse.

The second part is equally important – “made of a woman, made under the law,” It could also be “born of a woman, born under the law.” This is an emphasis on His human nature, just as important as His divine nature.

One teaching against the Two Natures of Christ is that He was adopted by God. In other words, Jesus was an ordinary man adopted by God (at His baptism). That sort of excuse pleases the rationalists who do not like the divine nature of Christ and need to reduce it.

Equally significant is the Fourth Gospel’s great Logos hymn, proclaiming that this Man who was rejected by His own people was the very Creating Word of Genesis 1:1. Moreover, every single person who believes in Him becomes a child of God and inherits salvation through Him.

We do not know the exact time of John’s Gospel being written, but it is clearly a supplement to the first three Gospels. I have mentioned some interesting things about this Gospel before. The baptism of Jesus seems to be described but the actual event is not in John’s Gospel. The same is true of the Last Supper in John’s Gospel. But that Gospel seems so sacramental, including the flow of blood and water from the wound of Christ (seen by Lutherans as symbolic of the two sacraments). The dismay disappears when we see John’s Gospel as being additional commentary on what we already know from the other Gospels.

As many have noted, John 1 is even more exalted than the Virgin Birth. Nothing gives room for doubts about His divine and human natures united in His Person.

I see Paul’s emphasis on “born of a woman, born under the Law” as representing the reality of God becoming man, with more emphasis on His human nature. By that I mean the ancients were ready to believe in divinities (unlike us moderns) but had never heard of God becoming man. They could not have, because there was no such event as God truly becoming man. They had odd myths, well known to Paul’s audience. They knew about pagan gods who behaved and misbehaved just like humans, but few people believed in them anymore. They were taken as tales, not as historical events.

If Paul believed in the Virgin Birth, in the Two Natures, then he spoke of this in other passages.

In Romans, he wrote:

KJV Romans 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, 2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) 3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: 5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: 6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:

The same duality is expressed with different words – Jesus was born from David according to the flesh (born as all humans are) and declared the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead.

The Virgin Birth of Christ was not necessarily known among all people during His earthly ministry. The question many would have had was this – what happened after He was crucified? Death by crucifixion was not that unusual. What happened afterwards was unique. Jesus rose from the dead as the innocent (justified by the Spirit) Son of God. He was not guilty and declared innocent, but His entire Incarnate ministry declared as the righteous work of God.

Therefore, without repeating the phrasing of Matthew and Luke, Paul teaches the same doctrine with different words. In fact, after being exposed to the errors of Calvin and Zwingli about the Two Natures of Christ, this opening of Romans startled me with its clarity.

We take so much for granted when the words are familiar to us. But when someone tries to take them away, the revelation of God takes on new clarity, as if we never saw it before.

Thus the false teachers have two important roles appointed by God. First of all, the punish people who will not obey the First Table of the Law. Secondly, they help us appreciate the pure Word of God, something clearly explained in the Small and Large Catechisms of Luther.

The Third Commandment, Small Catechism
Thou shalt sanctify the holy-day.
What does this mean?--Answer.
We should fear and love God that we may not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it.
The Large Catechism

95] Since, therefore, so much depends upon God's Word that without it no holy day can be sanctified, we must know that God insists upon a strict observance of this commandment, and will punish all who despise His Word and are not willing to hear and learn it, especially at the time appointed for the purpose.
96] Therefore not only those sin against this commandment who grossly misuse and desecrate the holy day, as those who on account of their greed or frivolity neglect to hear God's Word or lie in taverns and are dead drunk like swine; but also that other crowd, who listen to God's Word as to any other trifle, and only from custom come to preaching, and go away again, and at the end of the year know as little of it as at the beginning. 97] For hitherto the opinion prevailed that you had properly hallowed Sunday when you had heard a mass or the Gospel read; but no one cared for God's Word, as also no one taught it. Now, while we have God's Word, we nevertheless do not correct the abuse; we suffer ourselves to be preached to and admonished, but we listen without seriousness and care.
98] Know, therefore, that you must be concerned not only about hearing, but also about learning and retaining it in memory, and do not think that it is optional with you or of no great importance, but that it is God's commandment, who will require of you how you have heard, learned, and honored His Word.
99] Likewise those fastidious spirits are to be reproved who, when they have heard a sermon or two, find it tedious and dull, thinking that they know all that well enough, and need no more instruction. For just that is the sin which has been hitherto reckoned among mortal sins, and is called ajkhdia, i.e., torpor or satiety, a malignant, dangerous plague with which the devil bewitches and deceives the hearts of many, that he may surprise us and secretly withdraw God's Word from us.
100] For let me tell you this, even though you know it perfectly and be already master in all things, still you are daily in the dominion of the devil, who ceases neither day nor night to steal unawares upon you, to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against the foregoing and all the commandments. Therefore you must always have God's Word in your heart, upon your lips, and in your ears. But where the heart is idle, and the Word does not sound, he breaks in and has done the damage before we are aware. 101] On the other hand, such is the efficacy of the Word, whenever it is seriously contemplated, heard, and used, that it is bound never to be without fruit, but always awakens new understanding, pleasure, and devoutness, and produces a pure heart and pure thoughts. For these words are not inoperative or dead, but creative, living words. 102] And even though no other interest or necessity impel us, yet this ought to urge every one thereunto, because thereby the devil is put to Right and driven away, and, besides, this commandment is fulfilled, and [this exercise in the Word] is more pleasing to God than any work of hypocrisy, however brilliant.
Meaning of the Virgin Birth
The divinity of Christ is not disputed or under attack among conservative Lutherans. We may under-emphasize or under-appreciate the human nature of Christ.

Paul Gerhardt expressed this most eloquently in his hymns. He lived in constant doctrine strife and great human suffering, losing his wife and all his children except one. In addition, he lost his pastoral position and had a very difficult life afterwards. One portrait of him says he was “sifted by Satan” a reference to Jesus’ prediction about Peter.

Sifting is an old art, forgotten by modern bakers. I used to love sifting flour at my father’s bakery, because it took out all the lumps and made it so fine, light, and silky. (Sugar developed a static charge when sifted. Powdered sugar fill the air with sugar smog.) Gerhardt was so thoroughly sifted that he gave us the finest hymns in Christianity.

Gerhardt was especially in touch with the need for comforting people through the Gospel, and he did this with an emphasis on the human nature of Christ.

"All My Heart This Night Rejoices"
by Paul Gerhardt, 1607-1676

1. All my heart this night rejoices
As I hear Far and near
Sweetest angel voices.
"Christ is born," their choirs are singing
Till the air Everywhere
Now with joy is ringing.
2. Forth today the Conqueror goeth,
Who the foe, Sin and woe,
Death and hell, o'erthroweth.
God is man, man to deliver;
His dear Son Now is one
With our blood forever.
3. Shall we still dread God's displeasure,
Who, to save, Freely gave
His most cherished Treasure?
To redeem us, He hath given
His own Son From the throne
Of His might in heaven.
4. Should He who Himself imparted
Aught withhold From the fold,
Leave us broken-hearted?
Should the Son of God not love us,
Who, to cheer Sufferers here,
Left His throne above us?
5. If our blessed Lord and Maker
Hated men, Would He then
Be of flesh partaker?
If He in our woe delighted,
Would He bear All the care
Of our race benighted?
6. He becomes the Lamb that taketh
Sin away And for aye
Full atonement maketh.
For our life His own He tenders
And our race, By His grace,
Meet for glory renders.
The Lutheran Hymnal
Hymn # 77
Text: Luke 2:11
Author: Paul Gerhardt, 1653
Translated by: Catherine Winkworth, 1858, alt.
Titled: "Froehlich soll mein Herze springen"
Composer: Johann Crueger, 1653
Tune: "Froehlich soll mein Herze"

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Service


Christmas Eve Service, 4 PM Central Time.


The Lost Sheep, by Norma Boeckler

Christmas Eve Service, 4 PM Central Time.




Christmas Readings and Hymns
Bethany Lutheran Church
Bella Vista, Arkansas
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Hymn 77:1-6 All My Heart This Night Rejoices 2.25

The First Gospel
Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

KJV Isaiah 40:1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. 2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins. 3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. 6 The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: 7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. 8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. 9 O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

The Place of Jesus’ Birth
KJV Micah 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

#102 O Come All Ye Faithful 1:7

KJV Isaiah 9:2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

Virgin Birth
KJV Isaiah 7:10 Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying, 11 Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. 12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD. 13 And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. 16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.

Incarnation
KJV Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

#109 While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks 1:35

KJV Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. 20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.


Sermon – God in the Flesh, The Incarnation, Immanuel (God With Us)

The birth of Christ is so much a part of the Scriptures that no one can separate the Incarnation from the rest of the Gospel and have anything left, except vague philosophy and charming stories.

The Virgin Birth of Christ begins at the start of all history. When Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise. They had been given a perfect world, one they would have no labor and no pain. In their sinfulness they wrecked what God’s grace had given them. And yet, God’s grace was revealed again. Although Adam and Eve would both pay for their sin by being mortal, suffering our human woes, and laboring for a living. But God showed His grace again by promising them the Savior.

The Gospel in the Old Testament is comprised of all the prophecies of the coming Messiah, the promises of peace, forgiveness, and salvation. God also revealed how the Messiah would be born, how He would die for the sins of the world.

But the Son of God is not absent in the Old Testament. Already in Genesis the Angel of the Lord is portrayed as God. Lutherans theologians have emphasized the Angel of the Lord being the Son of God before the Incarnation.

Angel of the Lord

The Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament is the Son of God before He was incarnate of the Virgin Mary.

How do we know that?

The Angel of the Lord is not just an angel. He is called God.

KJV Genesis 16:7 And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. 8 And he said, Hagar, Sarai's maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai. 9 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. 10 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. 11 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.

Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son. The Angel of the Lord clearly identified Himself as God:

KJV Genesis 22:11 And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. 12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

At the Jabbok River, Jacob wrestled with a man, who had the power to give him permanent limp.

KJV Genesis 32:30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.

This is God speaking:

KJV Genesis 22:15 And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, 16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:

The Angel of the Lord speaks from the burning bush, and the Angel is God.

KJV Exodus 3:2 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. 4 And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. 5 And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. 6 Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus identified Himself with the I AM of the Burning Bush:

KJV John 8:58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

This is only a slight look at the Son of God as the Angel of the Lord. When I teach this to New Testament students, they go into shock because they have never heard this. In fact, it was new to me until I read the orthodox theologians. In other words, there is so much Gospel in the Old Testament that no one can grasp the complexity.

All of this was done by God for man, not because of our merit, but because of His grace.

The ministry of the Savior began at Creation, as the Word of God, commanding the universe into being. This ministry continued with the Angel of the Lord and much more involving the Holy Trinity.

The Old Testament is centered on the Gospel of the coming Savior.

Noah was preached the Gospel:

KJV 2 Peter 2:5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;

Abraham believed in God and was justified by faith.

KJV Genesis 15:6 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

Moses preached the Gospel.

All the prophets were inspired by the Holy Spirit to warn people about wandering away from the Word, rebelling against the Word. But they also promised the Messiah, and in doing so, created faith by the work of the Spirit.

The prophet told Ahaz to ask for a miracle (a sign). Ahaz was too proud to ask for one, so the prophet said the king would get one anyway. This miracle was to be the ultimate miracle granted by God to man, and it came because of an evil king:

Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Skeptics have battled against this, hammer and tong. The Methodists changed their own founder’s hymn, away from the words “offspring of the Virgin’s womb.”
Imagine turning against the founder of the denomination – in their own hymnal. Next thing you know, they will take the denominational name off the hymnal, and magazine, too. (Their magazine failed, by the way.)

Apostates like to play with words and say, “That is used for young woman, so it only means – a young woman will conceive.” First of all the terms overlap, so that maiden necessarily implies innocence. Secondly, there is no miracle involved in a woman bearing children according to nature. Third, the Hebrew word means “virgin” and as Luther said, “I will give you $100 if you can prove otherwise.” The New Testament reflects this in Mary asking how she could possibly have a child.

Most instructive is the opposition, which has been shown in so many ways. The RSV (product of the National Council of Churches) removed “virgin” from its translation of Isaiah 7:14, in the 1950s. If it did not happen, why is it so important?

The Virgin Birth is important because it is the expression of the Two Natures (divine and human) and Jesus being God in the flesh.

KJV John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

The apostates cannot find the Virgin Birth in John, but John 1:14 clearly teaches it in another way. The Word became flesh, another phrase for the Virgin Birth.

By removing the Incarnation, the apostates exclude the Atonement and justification by faith. Faith no longer matters – only human philosophy and good works.

The birth of Jesus is humbling, because God shows His power in the midst of rejection, poverty, and weakness. Even today we are shocked at someone having a baby at home, but Jesus was born as an outcast in a stable, not in a palace or medical facility. Mary, as the most honored woman of history, had no one to care for her except her husband.

Surely the power of the age were looking in another direction for the Messiah they desired and feared. Herod was not a Jew, so he knew the prophecy about the Messiah coming when the throne passed to a non-Jew. He was afraid. The religious leaders looked for a great and mighty Messiah, but one more like a prince, ruler, king, military leader. So instead, the God revealed His Son through the angels to ordinary working men, to shepherds.

One child explained best of all why God revealed the Messiah as a baby in a manger (feeding trough), in a stable. “No one is afraid of a baby.” There are so many stories of people trembling in terror before a tyrant. Surely God in the flesh would be even more awe-inspiring. Yet God chose a time and place and form that drew people to His Gospel of forgiveness.


Luke’s Account
KJV Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

#646 Silent Night 4:38

Heavenly Host
Luke 2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

The Prayers and Benediction


#87 Joy to the World 1:20

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fourth Sunday in Advent





Christ is born, by Norma Boeckler


The Fourth Sunday in Advent

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/bethany-lutheran-worship

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time


The Hymn # 94 Hark, the Herald Angels        3.19   
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual        
The Gospel              
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #90 Come, Your Hearts        3.83

Confessions True and False

The Hymn # 103 – Luther    To Shepherds    3.82
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #95 Savior of the Nations    3.42

KJV Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. 5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. 6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

KJV John 1:19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? 20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. 21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. 22 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? 23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. 24 And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. 25 And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? 26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; 27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. 28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Fourth Sunday In Advent
Lord God, heavenly Father, it is meet and right that we should give thanks unto Thee, that Thou hast given us a more glorious baptism than that of John the Baptist, and hast therein promised us the remission of sins, the Holy Spirit, and everlasting life through Thy Son, Jesus Christ: Preserve us, we beseech Thee, in such faith in Thy grace and mercy, that we may never doubt Thy promise, but be comforted by the same in all temptations: and grant us Thy Holy Spirit that we may renounce sin, and ever continue in the righteousness bestowed upon us in baptism, until by Thy grace we obtain eternal salvation, through the same, Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

Confessions True and False

KJV John 1:19 And this is the record [literally – witness] of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? 20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.

The Gospel for today uses a verb which was also in the reading from Thursday. The verb is the base for our English word homiletics (preaching):

KJV 1 Timothy 3:16 And without controversy [GJ – literally – confessionally] great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifest in the flesh,
justified in the Spirit,
seen of angels,
preached unto the Gentiles,
believed on in the world,
received up into glory.

In the Gospel, John confessed and did not deny, but confessed…

KJV 1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession [confessed a good confession] before many witnesses.

KJV John 12:42 Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: 43 For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

The Gospel of John is the capstone of the four Gospels, written last, assuming knowledge of the other Gospels, drawing together those narratives, and adding essential revelations about the life and ministry of Christ.

People talk about witnessing to their faith, and this language usually comes from Evangelicals influenced by the law. For example, last night one of my Biblical students wrote about how she had to “earn her faith” and “earn salvation” and “be worthy” while I tried to gently teach her fruitfulness by abiding with the True Vine, not by law but by God’s grace and the Gospel.

One supposed Lutheran told me, “If I don’t witness, God will not let me grow spiritually.” That was entirely law-based, viewing witness as a law requirement encouraged by punishment from God! I tried to show that person how the Gospel naturally produces those opportunities, that God does not have a quota, punishing when the quota is not met.

A true witness, as the Gospel of John shows, is one where the truth is affirmed and falsehood is rejected.

We can see that in John the Baptist’s witness, testimony, or record. Our English word martyr is a transliteration of the Greek word for witness. The traditional meaning for martyr is “one who has died for the Christian faith.” There were many martyrs in the past and there are even more today, because the Christian faith is being persecuted with great violence in various parts of the world.

John the Baptist was a martyr, believing in Christ, executed for daring to oppose the ruler’s vengeful bride.

KJV Matthew 14:1 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus, 2 And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him. 3 For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife. 4 For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. 5 And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet. 6 But when Herod's birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod. 7 Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. 8 And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist's head in a charger. 9 And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath's sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her. 10 And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. 11 And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother. 12 And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus.

The form of a confession is clear in this Gospel lesson.

John rejected false labels – such as
1.    The Christ.
2.    Elijah
3.    The Messianic prophet (very much like the Messiah – there were various expectations during that time).

John denied being any of those three. Who are you then?

John 1:23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.

John’s answer came straight from the Scriptures, so they asked him about baptizing. Why did he do it?

John 1:26b I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; 27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. 28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.

We are inclined to think John had the easiest prophetic role of all, but Luther said otherwise. The Old Testament prophets spoke of someone to come. John had to point to an ordinary person, someone standing in their midst, and say, “This is the Christ.” When we speak of an event in the future, each person can imagine something different. If we say, “This is now happening,” people have all kinds of reasons to disagree.

A famous video shows one person saying, “The sky is failing in the financial markets. All the signs are there.” The panel of experts openly mocked him. One of them, Ben Stein, said a stock was so cheap it was like a free prize in Crackerjacks. Later he confessed, and did not deny, but confessed that he never saw it coming, that he made many foolish mistakes.

So the worst part of this witness is the present, when people can see the current events and draw opposing conclusions.

Anyone can picture this. There is a vast difference between saying, “This would be wrong,” in the future – and “This is wrong” in the midst of it happening.
A true confession of faith is marked by affirming the positive and rejecting what is false. That is exactly what John did. We know his true role from both parts of his confession. He denied three different expectations as applying to him. He then affirmed that he was fulfilling what Isaiah the Prophet wrote.

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness” is very significant in the New Testament.

KJV Isaiah 40:3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

It appears in all four Gospels. Since two Gospels normally agree about significant details, the agreement of all four shows us how important it was to record this fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3 and to quote the verse.

Many NT passages paraphrase or summarize Old Testament  verses. All four Gospels quote the verse itself.

Whenever doctrinal clarity is needed, the pure Word of God is the best resource to use.

Luther groups all heresies into three categories:
1.    Against the humanity of Christ.
2.    Against the divinity of Christ.
3.    Against justification by faith.

False teachers will make positive affirmations but they are opposed to anyone rejecting falsehood. Sometimes they do this in a not-so-subtle way, by saying “We have to stop bashing Christians” or “We should not be negative.”

Using John’s witness, what could we conclude from a positive statement alone? He was a voice crying in the wilderness, and he was also the Messiah.

Unionists are always false teachers, but they keep their unionism out front where it appears to be virtuous. They do not want to fight, but want to work with others. Spener began this among Lutherans. People did not wear Pietist tattoos or leave the Lutheran Church. They organized and anaesthetized everyone against the Lutheran Confessions. Unionism turned into Unitarianism and Universalism in only one generation at Halle University, the capital of Pietism, created to promote Pietism. Halle was the origin of many great charitable projects, but without the mooring of a sincere confession of faith, Halle became known for good works and no faith. Tholuck, a Universalist, was known as the last of the Old Guard Pietists, and he was already a goner. Before him, Knapp denied the Biblical witness to the Trinity, and Knapp was valued as a Protestant theologian on both sides of the Atlantic.

In matters of faith, it is easy to see where this leads.

Christ is present in Holy Communion. If this is not defined, those who favor “spiritual presence” only are happy, and so are those who defend the Real Presence. However, denying the Real Presence by omission is also a rejection of the Two Natures of Christ.

In practice, open communion means “We do not care what your confession of faith is. You may not even know what this sacrament means. But we cherish warm fuzzy feelings from doing this together.”

Missouri liberals and ELCA pioneers went to town on closed communion for decades. They could not commune at home with their fellow Unitarians? Yes, but they were offended, scandalized by sound doctrine.

To soothe the feelings of the apostates, Lutheran clergy came up with “close communion.” I had no idea this was a code word. I thought it was the same as “closed communion.” But it really means open communion which not really open, more like semi-demi-closed communion. Once ELCA clergy commune at a Missouri, WELS, or ELS church, everyone might as well, too. The Church Growthers love open communion because it makes them feel better about going to Fuller Seminary and Willow Creek for their theological education.

The Growthers advocated open communion (don’t ask, don’t tell version) and saw their missions shrink. Meanwhile, the Eastern Orthodox, who are very strict about this, saw their congregations grow with former Lutheran members. I am not championing Eastern Orthodoxy at all, but a clear confession—even when wrong—is more compelling than warm fuzzies.

No one is against prayer. Every world religion has prayer or meditation. If no one addresses the topic of prayer, everyone can be happy. But there is a world of difference between the Reformed concept of prayer and the Biblical teaching.

The Reformed reject the Means of Grace. They do not “downplay” the Means, as David Valleskey said in a publication, with the approval of his own seminary colleagues. The Reformed believe and teach that someone prays Jesus into his heart. They teach people to “complete the transaction.” God has done this for you – now you must do something – make a decision, ask Jesus into your heart.

The Reformed do not only reject the Means of Grace. They mock the Means of Grace. Their testimonies against the Biblical Means of Grace are endless. Naturally, they also reject the efficacy of the Word, which is foundational for all Biblical doctrine.

Because the Gospel Promises are always effective, God accomplishes what He wills through the Word. Denying that truth is equal to giving man a power supposedly lacking in God. That will always lead to apostasy from the faith. Man can create a certain aura of success, but the supposed blessings do not last. A dishonest confession of faith is more basic than common dishonesty. “All men are liars.” That is a truth of Scripture, not a prescription for success. If we do not subject ourselves to an honest confession, a dishonest profession will take us down the wrong path fast, as many current atheists know (who were once conservative Lutheran pastors).

Proof of the efficacy of the Word always follows a discussion of sound and false doctrine. Orthodoxy is accompanied by opposition, as Chytraeus said.

The Christmas Eve service will be at 4 PM 
Central Standard time on Thursday.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mid-Week Advent





Advent, December 17, 2009

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/bethany-lutheran-worship

Mid-Week Advent, Thursday, 7 PM Central

The Hymn # 558 All Praise to Thee 4.44
The Order of Vespers    p. 41
The Psalmody Psalm 100   p. 144
The First Lection   1 Timothy 3:16
The Second Lection           Luke 1:46ff
The Sermon Hymn #251 We All Believe  4.87 

Giving God Thanks
The Prayers and Lord’s Prayer   p. 44
The Collect for Peace    p. 45
The Benediction     p. 45
The Hymn # 70 Hosanna   4.55

KJV 1 Timothy 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was
manifest in the flesh,
justified in the Spirit,
seen of angels,
preached unto the Gentiles,
believed on in the world,
received up into glory.

KJV Luke 1:46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, 47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. 48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. 49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. 51 He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. 53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. 54 He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; 55 As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. 56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.


The Confession of Faith

KJV 1 Timothy 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was
1. manifest in the flesh,
2. justified in the Spirit,
3. seen of angels,
4. preached unto the Gentiles,
5. believed on in the world,
6. received up into glory.

I listed this one verse according to its parallel verb forms. This is poetic in its form and could be either one of the earliest creeds or hymns, or both. Many hymns are creeds and Luther turned a creed into a hymn (We All Believe in One True God).

It is good to look at a verse in its context.

The verse before says this:

KJV 1 Timothy 3:15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

Verse 15 has a personal touch, and I read verse 16 as reminding them of their confession of faith.

Verse 16 closes the chapter, meaning the later editors felt a new theme was starting. Paul did not write in chapters and verses.

The new chapter begins thus:

KJV 1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: 5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. 6 If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. 7 But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.

So sound doctrine (1 Timothy 3:16) is followed by contrasting false doctrine.

As a creed, confession of faith, or hymn, 1 Timothy 3:16 is a gem. So much is said in a few words.

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
Mystery is the clear indication that this is doctrine revealed by the Holy Spirit. Paul was taught directly by Christ and hinted at the great privileges given to him, accompanied by the cross. Doubtless they strengthened him during his many trials.

“God was” – We can speak of God and Christ, either one, because the fullness of the godhead dwelt in Him. Because of the Three-ness of One God, we emphasize a Person at certain times, two Persons at various times (often the Father-Son relationship), and the Holy Trinity at other times. This enrages the rationalists, who cannot accept what the Holy Spirit reveals as a mystery. They fling themselves at the doctrine of the Trinity to prove what they have already assumed, that this cannot be.

One Jehovah’s Witness said of Jesus praying to the Father, “How can God pray to God. I cannot understand that.” I said, “My dog can’t understand it either.” He said goodbye by saying the founder of Jonestown (Disciples of Christ) was a Lutheran. Needless to say, he left angry.

Jesus is God. That is our confession. In one phrase the doctrine of God in the flesh (the Incarnation) is taught – Manifest (seen) in the flesh.

“manifest in the flesh” – Both God and man. This informs the Virgin Birth (true man and true God) and His suffering on the cross for our sins (true man and true God). The Virgin Birth is a unique miracle, unlike anything else in history. Early heretics had trouble with Jesus being born of a woman, and heretics across time have either attacked His humanity or divinity. Modernists hate His divinity while earlier false teachers questioned the humanity of Christ. As Chemnitz showed so clearly, the Scriptures and confessors of the past have taught both as the union of both natures in the One Person of Christ. We see that throughout the Scriptures, often with one Nature emphasized over another (being thirsty – human, walking on water – divine).

“justified in the Spirit”

This is the phrase, I am sure, used by the Pietists to associate the resurrection of Christ with the world being “declared not guilty.” But this phrase applies to Christ, and we can see why. Jesus died as a traitor to Rome, a criminal. All men die because they are sinners and mortal. Confessing the truth of Christ includes His innocent, perfect, obedient life. Therefore, in raising Jesus from the dead, God the Father declared His righteous work (my Righteous Servant – Isaiah). He rose because of His innocence. And because He rose from death, we believe in our own eternal life because He won forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life for us.

“seen of angels” – appeared to angels

This emphasizes His glorious resurrection. In other places the human witnesses are listed, and the early Church knew them. The entire foundation of Christianity was based upon those who witnessed the risen Christ and heard Him teach the Word in His exalted state.

To this day, even some of the worst critics of Christianity admit to the reality of the resurrection – not that we need their witness. But it is interesting to see them squirm around this greatly-witnessed fact. Nevertheless, the sign of a true wolf in sheep’s clothing is one who dances around the issue and says it is “not important” or “not based on an empty grave, but the faith and hope of His disciples.”

preached unto the Gentiles (or nations, or pagans)

The imperial journalists were men who proclaimed news, such as “the emperor is arriving in a month.” Even in modern times, there were town criers who were enlisted to take the news to everyone. The word for these proclamations is the one we use for “preaching.” The proclamation of the Gospel of Christ to all people was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.

“believed on in the world,”

The power of the Word is proven in people believing. Fraud will last a few years, but the truth endures. How exciting it must have been to realize the Redeemer of the world had been among people that the early Christians knew personally. And they realized very quickly that this Gospel was spreading across the Roman Empire, hastened by persecution, and enabled by the greatest highway system of all time. (Do you think any given mile of highway today will be used in 2,000 years? 200 years? Roman roads are still being used today.)

“received up into glory”

The apostles were also eye-witnesses of the Ascension of Christ.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Third Sunday in Advent





Christ is born, by Norma Boeckler



The Third Sunday in Advent

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/bethany-lutheran-worship

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time


The Hymn # 8 Father Who the Light 2. 20
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual     
The Gospel              
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #76 A Great and Mighty Wonder 2.2  

Setting Pastors Free

The Hymn # 77:1-8 All My Heart  2.25
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn # 77:9-15 All My Heart  2.25

KJV 1 Corinthians 4:1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. 4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

KJV Matthew 11:2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, 3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? 4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: 5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. 7 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? 8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. 9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. 10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

Third Sunday In Advent
Lord God, heavenly Father, who didst suffer Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to become man, and to come into the world, that He might destroy the works of the devil, deliver us poor offenders from sin and death, and give us everlasting life: We beseech Thee so to rule and govern our hearts by Thy Holy Spirit, that we may seek no other refuge than His word, and thus avoid all offense to which, by nature, we are inclined, in order that we may always be found among the faithful followers of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, and by faith in Him obtain eternal salvation, through the same, Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.


Setting Pastors Free


KJV 1 Corinthians 4:1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

This is one of the great passages of the New Testament, so important that Paul’s words should be used to define all pastoral ministry. Most importantly, these two verses set pastors free to do their work.

The first verse uses a word common to justification – account. Let a man so account of us. Another translation for the general use of the word might be – to calculate or to reckon.

We stayed with a Canadian couple once. The elderly man fell down the basement steps. His wife found him unconscious with a head wound. He was fine, giving credit to his German skull. She kept going over what might have happened. He used the term – “Let’s not reckon.” We are always trying to figure things out, reckon, calculate.

My secular jobs do that. I am routinely audited for everything I do. The charts say things like this – Made weekly announcement, yes/no. Posted grades on time: yes/no. Posted syllabus on time: yes/no. These are called metrics, and they are commonplace today.

The Age of Apostasy is marked by the use of the wrong metrics. It is interesting to note that in days long past, ministers went to one community and stayed there for life. There was very little movement, except among Methodists, who had a strange tradition, called “connection,” where they were moved a lot.

Church executives, who do not see themselves as pastors and do not pay themselves as pastors, apply business metrics, the wrong metrics to the Christian ministry. That has been the downfall of many, and most pastors are oppressed by these false metrics.

The false metrics are numbers. How many are members, how many are attending each week, how fast is the church growing? Subtle ones are – how does the community view this church? How much esteem does this minister have in the eyes of his denomination? The apostates have declared to one and all, if the congregation is not growing, it is the minister’s fault. They have even more metrics. One sheet was sent to me. It was being used by WELS. It included such things as how the minister dressed. One circuit pastor threatened to leak it to me, for publication in Christian News. Soon after that he was pushed out of his congregation. That was years ago, when the Shrinkers were riding high.

These apostates are law-salesmen, as most readers or listeners  can tell. They have a law about everything, except themselves. They remain lawless. They do not care that their own metrics prove them to be worthless, expensive failures. Their answer is to silence and expel anyone who points this out. Not only that – they punish anyone who is aware of their apostasy, keeping many pastors away from any institutional influence while criminals, atheists, and dunderheads are promoted. As one Lutheran said, “When the dumbest person on campus is the college president, it is bad news.”

The Apostle had real opponents, whom we know through his letters to the Corinthians and the Galatians. For that reason, Paul defined the ministry more carefully for us. We see the Holy Spirit at work, turning evil into a blessing. The opponents were his cross to bear, but God used this cross to define the Christian Church and its ministry for the entire world.

1 Corinthians 4:1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.

Paul I saying – This is how to measure me as a pastor/apostle. But he also says this – “as a steward of the mysteries of God.” (He perhaps uses “us” to include all ministers.) A steward is an interesting term, often used of rulers who held the throne when a king was not yet mature enough to reign. These royal stewards had to care for a country that was not their own. In the New Testament, “steward” is used as a term for the manager who works for the owner.

A manager is obliged to work on behalf of the owner. For example, I have to deal with repairmen who work on a house that belongs to someone else. They know they can work out some details with me, but the real authority is elsewhere.

In business, middle managers do not last long. My university boss (immediate superior) changes every two years. I ran into one of the owners, a billionaire. There is quite a difference between being a manager and an owner.

“Mysteries of God” is a perfect term for the doctrines revealed to us through the Holy Spirit. They are not arrived at through logic or knowledge. There is some natural knowledge of God, which we can observe from Creation. However, the Holy Trinity is revealed by the Scriptures and defined by the Scriptures – nowhere else. The Bible rules over all books. No one has the freedom to re-define Christian doctrine, so the Real Presence is a mystery of God, not something to accept or reject. Clearly, when people begin rejecting one of the mysteries of God, they end their journal by rejecting everything. The cause is most likely a change in attitude toward the Word of God. As soon as they think, “This must be logical,” they are on their way out.

The trouble with logic is that it is man’s logic, which is often very weak, even by our own standards. People laugh at old predictions, such as, “We will never need more RAM in a computer than this – 1 meg.” (Bill Gates) Supposedly, one man thought aircraft had achieved the zenith of science when a man could stand up straight in the plane. This use of man’s logic has no end, once we start. How does someone submit prayer to logic? The Incarnation is clearly revealed in the Word of God, but if it were logical (on man’s part) wouldn’t every religion have the same doctrine?

Paul teaches us that there is only one way to measure the ministry –

2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

Managers have to carry out their duties as they are told by the owners. This verse clearly teaches that “success” is faithfulness, not numbers.

Anyone who uses another calculation is wrong. Strangely, many ministers point to examples of suffering, martyrdom, and working without apparent results as good examples. As long as these exemplars are in the past, the ministers mentioning them are happy. But they are not content to join their ranks.

The Old Adam in every minister wants comfort, approval, and security. It would not be “bearing the cross” if people welcomed hardship, disapproval, and insecurity. The trouble is that coveting sets in, and that leads to being unfaithful to the Word in order to generate success. That success may be advancement to a better, bigger congregation. It may be in attracting more people because nothing is expected of them. Willow Creek began in a movie theater with the leaders asking the community, “What do you want in a church?” They did whatever the people said, and so that principle of marketing worked for them. Can anyone imagine Paul asking the pagans what they wanted? It is too funny, yet those marketing experts quote Paul without blushing. I have seen it myself when I was at Willow Creek to observe and to eat at their food court.

The world’s largest church, they claim, is Paul Y. Cho’s in South Korea. He teaches the occult and ancestor worship. He was so bad that the Assemblies of God kicked him out. Is that being a faithful steward? And yet a WELS pastor I know brought a case of Cho books to one seminar and sold them to the participants.

3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. 4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.

This is an important verse, because it warns ministers against judging themselves. By the standards of the world, most ministers are failures. They get little esteem from the community. Their pay is average. Many or most are in declining congregations. Using Church Growth metrics, their younger members are a small slice of the congregation, the elderly are the majority. Their denominations are likewise in the same state of decline, if measuring younger members is the gold standard.

Paul would have judged himself a failure, because he started congregations in many places, and those congregations were in a state of upheaval. He could have said to himself, “You are not much of a minister, because your teaching does not stick very well.”

The term tent-maker comes from Paul, because he worked as a tent-maker to relieve the Corinthians from supporting him. One way to be made fun of today is to be a tent-maker like Paul. It’s much better to roll up to the Kiwanis Club in a new BMW, say the invocation, and drop by the country club for a snack. Then people will say, “Rev. Jim Bob is sumpun else. He could be a success in anything he wanted to do.”

As Paul teaches, God alone is the one Who judges. No individual can justify himself (an interesting and illuminating use of “justify” – to declare innocent).

5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

The only possibility from this lesson is to be faithful to the Word of God and bear whatever hardship comes with that fidelity. As I pointed out to a pastor-friend, the entire world is disgusted with infidelity. No one likes a traitor to his country. No one likes someone who promises one thing (to be faithful) to his wife and runs around on her. But people do like infidelity to the Word. It is popular because there are no divine obligations when the Word is corrupted. There are no Satanic temptations when someone is already enrolled in his legions.

Does anyone stop to wonder, “Why should I take lessons in being a Lutheran pastor from a non-Lutheran minister who will NOT put a cross on the church building and will NOT put one in the worship area?”

This lesson sets pastors free to preach and teach the true Word of God. We cannot even torment (or praise ourselves) with self-judgment. Only God can judge the results. But the Word of God assures us that His Word will bring His results, whatever they might be.

Luther put it this way – wherever the Gospel is preached,  death is conquered and new life begins. We live amid death (from unbelief) but the Gospel brings life.
There is no real life on earth without forgiveness, and the Gospel brings that forgiveness to us through the work of the Holy Spirit. There is no eternal life except for that forgiveness, earned by Christ on the cross, distributed to us by the Means of Grace, received only through faith.


Sound Doctrine

"Since now, in the sight of God and of all Christendom [the entire Church of Christ], we wish to testify to those now living and those who shall come after us that this declaration herewith presented concerning all the controverted articles aforementioned and explained, and no other, is our faith, doctrine, and confession, in which we are also willing, by God's grace, to appear with intrepid hearts before the judgment-seat of Jesus Christ, and give an account of it; and that we will neither privately nor publicly speak or write anything contrary to it, but, by the help of God's grace, intend to abide thereby: therefore, after mature deliberation, we have, in God's fear and with the invocation of His name, attached our signatures with our own hands."
Thorough Declaration, Of Other Factions and Sects, Formula of Concord, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 1103.

"'If there ever was a strictly conservative body, it surely is the Missouri Synod. Nevertheless, this growth!...It is a mark of the pastors and leaders of the Missouri Synod that they never, aye, never, tire of discussing doctrine on the basis of Scripture and the Confessions. That is one trait that may be called the spirit of Missouri. People who thus cling to doctrine and contend for its purity are of an entirely different nature from the superficial unionists who in the critical moment will declare five to be an even number. God will bless all who value His Word so highly.'"
(Dr. Lenski, Kirchenzeitung, May 20, 1922)
cited in W. A. Baepler, "Doctrine, True and False," The Abiding Word, ed., Theodore Laetsch, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1946, II, p. 515f.

"We should not consider the slightest error against the Word of God unimportant."
What Luther Says , An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, II, p. 637.


"Error and heresy must come into the world so that the elect may become approved and manifest. Their coming is in the best interests of Christians if they take the proper attitude toward it. St. Augustine, who certainly was sufficiently annoyed by wretched sectaries, says that when heresy and offense come, they produce much benefit in Christendom; for they cause Christians industriously to read Holy Scriptures and with diligence to pursue it and persevere in its study. Otherwise they might let it lie on the shelf, become very secure, and say: Why, God's Word and the text of Scripture are current and in our midst; it is not necessary for us to read Holy Scripture."

What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, II, p. 639.

“You cannot of a truth be for true doctrine without being unalterably opposed to false doctrine. There can be no 'positive theology' where the God-given negatives have been eliminated from the Decalog."
Norman A. Madson, Preaching to Preachers, Mankato: Lutheran Synod Book Company, 1952. Preface.

Thursday, December 10, 2009



I am the True Vine - you are the branches


Vespers, Mid-Week Advent Service, 2009

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/bethany-lutheran-worship

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 7 PM Central Time

The Hymn # 457 What a Friend 2.24
The Order of Vespers p. 41
The Psalmody Psalm 100 p. 144
The First Lection Romans 10:1-16
The Second Lection John 15:1-10
The Sermon Hymn # 552 Abide with Me 2.11

Abiding in Christ

The Prayers and Lord’s Prayer p. 44
The Collect for Peace p. 45
The Benediction p. 45
The Hymn #651 Be Still My Soul 2.17

KJV Romans 10:1 Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. 5 For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) 7 Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) 8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?

KJV John 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.

Abiding in Christ

Romans 10 is a clear, beautiful description of how people are justified by faith.

The first few verses are important, because the provide a stark contrast to the Gospel. The Jewish people are zealous but they want to establish their own righteousness, not God’s righteousness.

The righteousness of the Law condemns.

Romans 10:5 For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.

Either the Law is completely fulfilled, which is impossible for man, or it condemns the person trying to be justified by the Law.

The righteousness of God comes through faith:

6 But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) 7 Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) 8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;

For good reason, the Formula of Concord speaks of the righteousness of faith, which the Pietists have opposed so harshly that some people are afraid to speak of faith.

Many people are confused because they do not know this simple passage and its implications. Step by step, reverse-engineering what he just said, Paul explains the origin of the righteousness of faith.

First is the declaration of how one is saved:

9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

No works are demanded, and works are not mixed with the Gospel, as if man must make himself good in the eyes of God to receive the blessing of salvation.

How does this happen? So many rush around making these demands, oppressing people with the very Gospel that should free them, because the Gospel mixed with Law is worse in some respects than pure Law.

The steps for salvation are given in reverse order.

1. Whoever calls on the Name of the Lord shall be saved.
2. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? (Faith is the pre-requisite for calling on the Lord for salvation.)
3. Origin of faith - and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? (Faith comes from the preaching/hearing of the Gospel.)
4. Sermons come from where? - and how shall they hear without a preacher?
5. How do we find preachers? - 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

John 15 – The True Vine

The True Vine passage is especially pointed for those who are familiar with growing grapes, thorns, or bushes. Jesus’ sermon is both a warning and a comfort.

Grapes, roses, and bushes have this in common – they grow much better when the deadwood is pruned away. The productive branches are also pruned to make them more fruitful.

In fact, when we had mesquite trees, the biggest problem was that normal pruning made them grow even more productive, so the more they were pruned, the more they grew, even without being watered.

Roses also become dormant when left alone. The deadwood drains the energy of the plant. The flowers turn to seed, according to the Creator’s design, and stops producing flowers.

Peas, beans, and tomatoes will also flower and bear more when the fruit of the plant is picked. When we picked beans and peas, which were planted by the pounds, we had so many that we asked people to pick their own, and then we had even more.

This sermon answers two questions which the Pietists avoid.

One question is – What should believers do to become more fruitful in the Kingdom?

There is nothing about forming cell groups, conventicles, or committees. The answer is simple and basic – abide in Me and I will abide in you.

Pruning is justification: godly contrition and receiving forgiveness through faith.
The Holy Spirit daily forgives us our sins, because the Holy Spirit is always active through the Word, whether, heard, read, or remembered.

The second question is – What happens to others?

Many begin in the faith but become dead wood. They are pruned away to be gathered up in the Final Judgment.

6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

This five-step description fits those who never believe the Gospel and those who fall away from the faith. In our country, where there are so many churches and so much apostasy, it is more descriptive of those fallen away from the faith (apostates).

A survey of ELCA members shows that 30% of them of pro-life, believe in the Six-Day Creation, oppose evolution and abortion. Yet they remain with those who teach exactly the opposite. This can only erode the faith of millions because they seldom hear the truth, and they often hear ministers of all types attacking the Word of God.

Romans 1 is clear enough:

KJV Romans 1:24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

In John 15, Jesus is clear about how He blesses our lives, and this is all Gospel:

7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.

Our prayers will be answered if we abide in Christ, and we will be fruitful. Not only that, but we loved as deeply by Christ as He is by the Father.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Second Sunday in Advent




The Holy Trinity, by Norma Boeckler


The Second Sunday in Advent

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/bethany-lutheran-worship

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time


The Hymn # 58 – Gerhardt O Lord 4:49
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual Romans 15:4-13
The Gospel Luke 21:25-36
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #71 Watchman 4.9

My Words Will Not Pass Away

The Hymn # 304 An Awesome Mystery 4.6
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn # 647 O Little Town 4.13

Second Sunday In Advent
Lord God, heavenly Father, who by Thy Son hast revealed to us that heaven and earth shall pass away, that our bodies shall rise again, and that we all shall appear before the judgment seat: We beseech Thee, keep us by Thy Holy Spirit in Thy word; establish us in the true faith, graciously defend us from sin and preserve us in all temptations, that our hearts may not be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this life, but that we may ever watch and pray and, trusting fully in Thy grace, await with joy the glorious coming of Thy Son, and at last obtain eternal salvation, through Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

KJV Romans 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. 5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: 6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God. 8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: 9 And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. 10 And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. 11 And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. 12 And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust. 13 Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

KJV Luke 21:25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; 26 Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. 27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. 29 And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; 30 When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. 31 So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. 32 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. 33 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. 34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. 35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.

My Words Will Not Pass Away
This Gospel gives us both a warning and great comfort.

The warnings about the end times give many different clues but also tell us not to predict. Whenever crises stir up the world, people think about the end times.

When the papacy was bent on destroying the Lutherans, and faithful men were burned at the stake, leaders wondered if the end times had arrived. That was when Lutherans still called the pope the Antichrist instead of having his archbishop teach Lutherans about the Word of God (WLC, Milwaukee; similar examples in the ELS, LCMS).

Martin Chemnitz, in his Examination of the Council of Trent, referred to “the last days of an insane, old world.”

World war and weather catastrophes have made people wonder if the end times had finally arrived.

Jesus’ address in Mark 13 emphasizes not being fooled by pretenders when the end times threaten. Many people were fooled when the year 1000 AD came around, because they took the number from Revelation literally.

This passage has a different emphasis – the great terrors mean the Savior is returning:

Luke 21:25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;

We take for granted the serene calmness of the night skies. When the sun and the moon change, with world-wide political crises, and the oceans roaring – people will be terrified.

26 Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.

Once the normal state is changed, and our calm world disappears, the rest of the calamities can only be imagined. Although we can never predict, our emotions can easily focus on many types of disasters.

We accept the relative calm of the natural world as our due, seldom realizing how much this depends on God’s gracious will. All power lies within His hands, so whatever we see is the result of His governance.

Everything is perfectly balanced for life on earth to prosper. The sun’s warmth, the moon’s effect on the seas, and the atmosphere are all exactly right. One little example is the reflective surface of the moon. If it were normally reflective (like other satellites), it would be too bright and have an adverse effect on the cycle of life. So would a different gravitational pull. All these complications, working perfectly together, point to the God’s Creation and management, rather than evolution.

When everything was nearly perfect, before the Flood, man took the prosperity and ease of life as normal, and became utterly evil. We know that a Florida-like climate existed all over the planet, so all forms of life grew in abundance, but thankful hearts were rare. Rehwinkel’s The Flood is quite instructive about the pre-Flood era. Who knows what life-easing technology existed then, when people lived for centuries?

We live in a much tougher climate than the time before the Flood, but we Americans are blessed with a unique combination of resources, weather, and soil. Slight changes in weather patterns make people all too aware of how much we are harmed by the slightest variations.

We cannot even imagine what it means to have the great powers of heaven shaken.

27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

When Christ returns, as the Word reveals, no one will have any doubt about the truth of the Scriptures. Although Christianity takes a beating in the world press, it is world-wide and remains the largest religion of all, in spite of being preceded by other religions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism.

My understanding is that the pagan religions of the world are perversions and mockeries of the original true religion revealed to the Biblical patriarchs. (Evolutionists see polytheism starting first, followed by monotheism, with the best and final stage being an ethical atheism! That is like saying a rusty car, left alone, will become a shiny new car. I see the pagan religions as the rusty cars, sometimes barely recognizable.)

Philippians 2 will be fulfilled at the return of Christ:

KJV Philippians 2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Every knee will bow and everyone confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

The return of Christ will be a great terror for unbelievers, but a great comfort for believers:

28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption [GJ – release] draweth nigh.

Here is the same word for redemption (setting us free, release) - NKJ 1 Corinthians 1:30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God -- and righteousness and sanctification and redemption –

Christ is a terror to guilty unbelievers, but salvation to those justified by faith. The same epiphany will divide the world into believers and unbelievers, for final judgment. Eternal damnation will be the knowledge of God without His comfort, plus far more. Eternal salvation will mean reunion with all believers at the Throne of the Lamb.

This has been revealed to us so our hearts do not fail when the calamities come. Nothing is worse than being without hope, and this knowledge from the Holy Spirit gives us hope.

The Parable
29 And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; 30 When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. 31 So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.

This brief parable encourages us in our discernment. People know when a tree buds and begins to flower and fruit. This does not require secret knowledge. Even those who are oblivious to nature are aware of these signs of spring and summer. Likewise, when the global calamities come, it is a sign of hope, rather than despair, for believers. Even thought the time is delayed, the increase of catastrophes is enough to make us hopeful rather than frightened.

In the last week, Dubai declared it could not pay on its huge debt. Dubai is part of the oil-rich Emirates. They built the largest skyscraper in the world, a new train system with very few passengers, and incredible numbers of office buildings and residential buildings, all 50% empty. Many buildings have stopped, partially completed. That is just one snapshot of a worldwide debt and real estate catastrophe.

32 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. 33 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.

“This generation” has been used to justify the notion that the New Testament is wrong about the return of Christ, that this had to be patched up in other places. That would be true if “this generation” meant precisely what the skeptics want it to say. But 2 Peter says 1,000 years is like a day, and a day like 1,000 years to the Lord. So that means two days have elapsed, in the divine count, not 2000 years.

In history, we are still in the Roman era, one generation. All of the things we value come from the Roman Empire, and they filched the best from the Golden Age of Athens.

Egypt and Sumer were so long ago that they have little influence on our customs, our language, science, and arts. (“Walk like an Egyptian” is still popular at Mequon.) That was truly another age and we have very little left from that era.

In contrast, the Roman era continues. America was founded by men who read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a best-seller at the time. Our Founders were educated in Latin and studied Roman history. Hitler called his era the Third Reich, using Rome as the first. At the time of WWI, the ruler in German was the Kaiser (based on the word Caesar, one Roman name for rulers). In Russia, the ruler was called Czar, also based on “Caesar.” We have Czars in America, appointed by the president.

33 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.

Verse 33 is found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. As I mentioned many times before, since the Bible is so concise, every phrase means something important. Repeating the same phrase or verse is especially important.

Those who belittle the Word of God by replacing it with their words are fighting against one of most important revelations of the Bible. All of this stuff that people value so much will not last. Everything will pass away. Granite and marble monuments with brass plates will be gone. Nothing will last, except the Words of Christ.

Because the words of Christ will outlast heaven and earth, they should be valued accordingly. Yet we find the revealed Word of God bent and twisted to serve the carnal needs of man. One of the current fads is to say, “God told me…” That is another example of Enthusiasm. God has one revelation – the Scriptures. He has not given a license to people to make up whatever they want and call it a vision or revelation from God.

Luther’s Large Catechism:

91] For the Word of God is the sanctuary above all sanctuaries, yea, the only one which we Christians know and have. For though we had the bones of all the saints or all holy and consecrated garments upon a heap, still that would help us nothing; for all that is a dead thing which can sanctify nobody. But God's Word is the treasure which sanctifies everything, and by which even all the saints themselves were sanctified. At whatever hour, then, God's Word is taught, preached, heard, read or meditated upon, there the person, day, and work are sanctified thereby, not because of the external work, but because of the Word, which makes saints of us all. 92] Therefore I constantly say that all our life and work must be ordered according to God's Word, if it is to be God-pleasing or holy. Where this is done, this commandment is in force and being fulfilled.

100] For let me tell you this, even though you know it perfectly and be already master in all things, still you are daily in the dominion of the devil, who ceases neither day nor night to steal unawares upon you, to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against the foregoing and all the commandments. Therefore you must always have God's Word in your heart, upon your lips, and in your ears. But where the heart is idle, and the Word does not sound, he breaks in and has done the damage before we are aware. 101] On the other hand, such is the efficacy of the Word, whenever it is seriously contemplated, heard, and used, that it is bound never to be without fruit, but always awakens new understanding, pleasure, and devoutness, and produces a pure heart and pure thoughts. For these words are not inoperative or dead, but creative, living words. 102] And even though no other interest or necessity impel us, yet this ought to urge every one thereunto, because thereby the devil is put to Right and driven away, and, besides, this commandment is fulfilled, and [this exercise in the Word] is more pleasing to God than any work of hypocrisy, however brilliant.

Application
34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. 35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.

So many celebrities are eager to prove the validity of these words from Christ. These three verses are the practical application of this lesson. Dangers that make us unprepared for the coming of Christ include carousing, drunkenness, and being overwhelmed with the cares of this life.

A snare grabs wildlife (or human targets) suddenly and traps them. We have all seen movies where the hero is suddenly hoisted into a tree in a big net. The snare has found its target. When people are consumed with their material needs or with hedonism, they are also caught in the snare and unprepared for the return of Christ.

Watchfulness and prayer are necessary, that we remain with the True Vine and stay fruitful through the Gospel Promises so generously given to us.