Happy Easter…He is Risen!

What!? Easter was last Sunday.  Yes it was.  And it’s this Sunday also…and the next, and the next, and the next Sunday, too.

Not only is it every Sunday…it is every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday , Thursday, Friday, and Saturday also. The Lord raises us to new life in Himself every single day in our Christian life. We have a share in the eternal Easter of our Lord…each and every moment.

Personally, I need to be reminded of that fact, constantly. For when I’m in the battle, getting the stuffing kicked out of me, it’s quite often easy to forget just who I really am, an adopted son of the living God.

So thanks for the opprotunity to tell you this good news once again. I did want to remind you, but I needed to hear it again myself, also.

 Happy Easter my Brothers and Sisters, sons and daughters of the living God!

    – Steve

‘Brother Martin Speaks…’

Martin Luther said of the Anabaptists of his day:

They view baptism the way a cow looks at a new gate.”

 They cannot imagine anything that  is beyond their His Blood Shed and Body Broken for Me!own nose. (I threw that last part in)

Martin Luther didn’t think too highly of those that would deny us the assurance that the good Lord Himself was trying to give us.

 Look at the way we are. One could surmise that it is precisely because of that old Adam and Eve who still lives within us, that our Lord instituted the sacraments. He knew exactly where we would want to go if left to our own devices.

Take a look at any mega-church (although the phenomenon can be seen anywhere…Lutheran churches not withstanding). That’s where we go when left to our own devices. Bigger, bigger, better, better, more entertainment, more of me, more of my “doing”, more of my comfort zone. The constant need to prove my worth, if not to God, then to others and to myself.

“This is my body…this is my blood…broken and shed for you.”

That is the only worthiness that I need. He alone is worthy. He gives His worthiness to me, totally apart from anything that I can do, say, think, or feel.

This is where I return to when I feel unworthy, day after day (I return to my baptism as Luther said). I return to the Lord’s supper. It is there that I am accepted. It is there that I am forgiven. It is there that I am declared worthy. It is there where the last will and testament is read, and lo and behold…I am included! It is there that I recieve a full share of the inheritance.

We also recieve these gifts in the preaching and teaching of His Word, and in the words of Christian encouragement spoken between the brethren.

But the sacraments are something tangible. Something that we can actually see, feel, touch, smell, and taste.

These things, along with God’s Word of Promise (we mustn’t forget that!) are not rabbit’s feet that we rub like some superstitious pagans. These things carry God’s Promises when we excercise faith in that  “what God promises to do, He will do.”

So I say, break down the ‘gates of your own making’, and imagine that God can, and will act for you, not because of you and your worthiness, but rather in spite of you and your worthiness. Believe that He can not only live inside your heart, but that accompanied by His Word, He can also be present in the life giving waters of baptism, and in the life giving bread and wine of communion. 

In His Holy, Loving, and Forgiving Name, Jesus Christ our Lord.

             – Steve M.

‘Law vs. Gospel’…’Death vs. Life’

  We believe that it is through the gospel of the forgiveness of sins that Jesus’ power is made manifest in the lives of the believer, and not the ‘Law’.  And, we believe, as St. Paul said in 2nd Corinthians, that “the law which came carved on tablets of stone (the 10 Commandments) is the dispensation (or ministry) of death”, and that “the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

And the good Pharisee in the pew says, “So what? That has nothing to do with what I’m talking about. I’m not talking about keeping the 10 Commandments, but rather adhering to Biblical Principles.” 

As my Father used to say, “six of one, or a half dozen of the other.”  ‘Law’ is law…is law…is law. Any demand that existence places upon you to be the person you ought to be…is ‘law’. Any demand is …’law’.

Anytime you look to rules, or principles for living to become a better  Christian, you have just become a law keeper.

We, as Christians, “live in the Spirit of God, the new covenant, the fragrance of life to life”, as Paul says. “The aroma of Christ.”

The law has it’s purpose, so we don’t just jettison the law. The law’s purpose, apart from the practicality of keeping us all sufficiently hemmed in so that chaos won’t reign upon the earth (God’s gift to us),  but the law’s theological purpose is to give us godly grief that we might know our deficiency in being what God demands of us. This godly grief produces death to the self. Repentance can then occur (by God’s grace) and lead us to Christ and His Gospel of forgiveness.

So the law, used in a way as to make us better (principles for living), will not make us better (in the long run), but only worse, for the law just exposes our inability to keep it. And the law must be kept…perfectly, at all times, in all places. When the law is not kept in our lives, a price will be paid. The law must be kept.

The law kills, but the Spirit gives life.

The law is written upon our hearts. We inherently know what we ought be doing. But because of sin we inherently won’t do it out of a pure heart with no self motivations. That is why the scripture in Isaiah 64:6 says that “all our righteous deeds are filthy rags.”

Dead yet? I hope so. If not, we’ll pour more of the law on you later. You’ll get plenty of the law in the course of your day today, hopefully that will be enough to kill you off (at least temporarily) so that Christ can lead you to repentance and give you His new life.

You can no more adhere to the law to be all that you can be,  than I can. You have failed miserably in thought, word, and deed. In what you have done, and even more than that, what you haven’t done that you should’ve done.

But, be of good cheer for Jesus Christ has forgiven all of that. You have recieved a pardon! That death… was your death!  But that resurrection…that was your resurrection!      Easter!     For you!

When this life is over (and it goes by quickly), you will be welcomed into the Kingdom with a full share of all that God has to offer. The joy in Heaven will be unimaginable. No more pain, no more tears. The wedding feast that will put to shame the spread that any cruiseship could ever lay out.

All this He has done for you out of the kindness of His Fatherly heart, with nothing required of you other than faith. And this faith is also a gift that He gives to you. (so there is really nothing at all that you have to do) 

He gives you faith in His Word of Promise. He gives you faith in your baptism. He gives you faith in His Supper (Holy Communion). He acts… for you.

Why else in heaven’s name would they call it “the good news” ?

It is good news! There couldn’t possibly be any better news!

That’s the gospel.

               – Steve Martin

‘Break out the ol’ Hammer and Anvil’…

It ‘s Easter Monday.

So now that we have been totally freed from sin by the Son of the Living God, who’s been raised for our justification, let’s start forging new chains that we may once again be enslaved by “what we do”.

One day of freedom is enough!

The first thing we’ll need are some well meaning preachers that haven’t got a clue as to what Jesus has just accomplished for us all, and a batch of ‘Biblical Principles’…otherwise known as… ‘the Law’.

Since we have subjectivized the gospel message and made it dependent on some sort of action that we take, or that we pray, or that we will, we must now get on with the project of showing our seriousness.

And since our seriousness is what’s at stake here we might as well dispense with the actions that God has decided to take to give to us a measure of His seriousness, namely the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. Actions on His part that give us the assurance that He wants us to have, apart from anything that we do.  We’ll just slide the sacraments over to our side of the ledger and relegate them to a virtual meaningless act of our faithfulness and a sign of our worthless commitment. Now we can get rid of that Altar and replace it with a nifty drum kit, and a Jumbo Tron.

So let us all start hammering and heating our metal!  Let us again, create the shackles of our seriousness and tie them to the chains of our faithfulness, that we might be able to prove to those around us and ourselves that we are worthy of the name of ‘Christian’!  And then we’ll let the preacher lock us all together with passages right out of the Bible! Now we can all march in lockstep, progressing, climbing, further and further up towards greater spirituality and fruitfulness.

Friend… are you sure that you are doing enough?   Your life isn’t really bearing very much fruit, is it? And you dare call yourself a Christian? Couldn’t you try a little bit harder?

Of course you can..of course you will! (won’t you?)

Now that’s the spirit! (which spirit?)

         – Steve

‘You Can’t Handle the Truth!’

You are forgiven. Completely forgiven. There’s nothing left for you to do.

The war is over.

Because of Christ’s work for you, in His faithfulness to the Father, and in His suffering and death upon that cross, ALL your wicked sins are forgiven.

No “if’s”, no “and’s”, and no…”yeah but’s”. You don’t have to add anything.

You couldn’t add anything even if you wanted to.

You are forgiven.  Because Jesus’ wants it that way.

That’s the Truth…with a capital ‘T’ and that rhymes with ‘He’ , because He has done it.  For you and to you.

Can you handle it?  This Truth of the forgiveness of sins for Jesus’ sake?  ( Not one  single “yeah but” ?)

I told you, all you old Adams and Eves out there…you can’t handle the Truth!

      A Blessed Easter to you all!

               – Steve

‘A Proper Diagnosis’…

xmas2005 PICT1047A startling medical discovery was made 52 years ago today by Doctor Swami Jenkins Ali  MD, of Hemet, California.

I would never have known of this debilitating degenerative condition, otherwise known as LMD, had it not been for some old medical journals that were piled up in the corner of my garage.

Doctor Ali wrote about his findings, the result of 36 years of intensive physiological and physcological lab work on 11 individuals from Barstow, CA.

These men (all but 2), were commonly referred to as “the Barstow 9“.

The Barstow 9 were studied at length, in isolation for a period of 3 weeks in an old abandoned fertilizer storage shed somewhere in the Mojave Desert. The exact location is still classified as Top Secret and is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act of 1976.

According to the Journal of Chiropractic and Toenail Health (March 27th issue, 1955) LMD or Lazy Man’s Disorder, was deemed to be a real, degenerative condition that affects 2 in 3 males over 8 years of age.

I read further, and what I found shocked me.

Here are some of Dr. Swami Jenkins Ali’s findings :

Most of the Barstow 9 (except the two gals) would not readily get up in the morning and get to their appointed tasks without some sort of grumbling. All of the “B 9” males were oblivious to the needs of others around them. They all exhibited a desire to flop on the couch and watch football, and then re-runs of football and war movies until it was time to go to bed.

None of the “B 9” would actually prepare the food that was placed in close proximity to them, but rather waited for the two women to do it (very interesting).

Every one of the “B-9” refused to go near a bucket of paint and a brush even though it was made clear that if they did not paint the shed where they resided that they would all be subject to torture and death.  (the two women painted the shed)

I dropped the magazine in horror. This is what I had. I was a victim of LMD!

I gave the article to my wife to read and she agreed with me 100%.

I am now in the process (at least I will be when I get around to it) of trying to learn how to live with my LMD.  Thanks to Dr. Swami J. Ali,  I finally am aware that it is not my fault.

I have a disease. 

I do not want to accept the fact that I have it. I do not want to join a support group.  I have learned that beer exacerbates the symptoms (but it tastes good), and there is no known cure for the disorder.

I  know what it is to be a victim. My heart goes out to all you other guys out there with LMD. I will be praying for you (if I can get around to it).

             – Steve 

PBS Irish Music Specials…

 

 

I am half Irish. Today that is more than good enough.

 

I recently watched a PBS television special from Dublin, Ireland of a group of talented Irish singers and musicians. The venue for the performance was inside a beautiful old cathedral. It made for quite an a emotional and dramatic setting.

I couldn’t help but think if this was not the best thing that was being heard from inside this church. I wondered if the beautiful sounds that were being produced at this performance were to be the only beautiful sounds that were to come from inside those old and hallowed walls. I couldn’t help but wonder if the sweet sound of the gospel was still being heard inside that beautiful building. Or not. 

We know that in Europe, the Christian faith has taken a real beating since World War II.  Secularism has taken over as the dominant belief system for the natives of most European countries and Islam has come on strong since the advent of  immigration from Pakistan, Africa, and the near and middle East.

I don’t know for sure what is happening inside that church on Sunday, but I pray that the forgiveness of sins for Jesus’ sake is being heard there. I pray that however many (if it’s even still being used for worship) worshipors are sitting in those pews that the words “you are forgiven, Christ died for you“, are still being heard. I pray that His sacraments (baptism and holy communion) are still given there.  I pray that it is not just a concert hall or a museum for tourists that enjoy great architecture. 

So, on this fun day to celebrate our Irishness, given by the Lord, or just borrowed for the day, we hope and pray that the sweetest words that were ever uttered, “Father, forgive them” , will one day echo throughout the churches, not only in Ireland, but once again in Europe and all over the world!

May the true, loving, spirit of St. Patrick, the great missionary to Ireland, be rekindled on this day in your heart and mine.

               Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

                                       – Steve
Oh those Martins!