To Let Go What Is Taken From Us

Dear Christian, consider what may be taken from you in your earthly life:

  • Your health
  • Privileges like driving
  • Possessing property of various kinds
  • Gathering with others
  • Your civil freedoms. Some of these are enumerated in the Bill of Rights and overlap with possessing property and gathering
  • Others?

Why are such things taken away from us from time to time? Consider this:

If we would be Christians, therefore, we must surely expect and count on having the devil with all his angels and the world as our enemies [Matthew 25:41; Revelations 12:9]. They will bring every possible misfortune and grief upon us. For where God’s Word is preached, accepted, or believed and produces fruit, there the holy cross cannot be missing [Acts 14:22]. And let no one think that he shall have peace [Matthew 10:34]. He must risk whatever he has upon earth — possessions, honor, house and estate, wife and children, body and life. Now, this hurts our flesh and the old Adam [Ephesians 4:22]. The test is to be steadfast and to suffer with patience [James 5:7-8] in whatever way we are assaulted, and to let go whatever is taken from us [1 Peter 2:20-21]. (LC III 65-66)

Quoted in Has American Christianity Failed? by Bryan Wolfmueller. Concordia Publishing House 2016, p. 204.

Should Christians consider it to be special persecution when we are forbidden from receiving the divine gifts of our Lord? This question deserves some consideration and discussion. To wit, are the preached word or the sacraments things that we should simply “let go” when they are taken from us? Can we expect the authorities who are trying to save earthly lives during a pandemic to share or even understand the Biblical Christian perspective on the divine gifts of our Lord? Must persecution always appear to be malicious?

Would it be naive to think that there are no influential people in the world today who are eager to use exceptional circumstances to harm our Lord’s Church by preventing her from receiving the things that sustain her very existence? Would it be naive to think that such people cannot do so in a way that appears friendly and reasonable to the world around us?

The quote above was written by Dr. Martin Luther. The book where the quote was found is teaching in this section about prayer. At the very least, active and continuous prayer must be part of the Church’s response.

Idols Can Be Microscopic

What’s worse: a giant threat like global thermonuclear war or a tiny threat like a virus?

To borrow words from a popular movie from 1980, “Size matters not.” Whether your body is destroyed in a huge explosion or slowly by an infection, you still wind up dead. Either is fearsome.

The first commandment says, “You shall have no other gods before me.” This means, “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.”

When we fear, love, or trust something or someone else in God’s place, we have made him/her/it into an idol. That’s idolatry. Idolatry literally means “the worship of an idol.” Notice that what a person does in the heart is considered to be worship.

For those who object to this, consider Matthew 5:20-21 and 27-28. Jesus makes it clear: what you do in the heart can be enough to condemn you. It’s no surprise, then, that we may break the first commandment using nothing but our hearts. Cars are made in factories. Idols are made in the human heart.

Can something as good as love can be the instrument of idolatry? Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote, “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Probably so in context, but Tennyson wasn’t considering what the object of love may be. If the love in question is a disordered love, demoting God to second place, it becomes idolatry. Then ’tis better not to have loved at all. By idolatrous love, a person will lose everything forever.

“We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” The holy proverb says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Proverbs 9:10, ESV) This “fear” is not terror such as the expectation of some great evil. Instead, it acknowledges that God has absolute power and authority over us, no matter what we may think or do about it. If we fear something or someone else to the point where God’s power and authority are diminished in our eyes, then we have created an idol. This is a serious problem. It’s the most serious problem, together with a disordered love or trust.

Consider trust. We are so reliant upon the traditional five senses that we can hardly imagine anything worse than losing them. We trust what we can see and hear, and we are in terror of threats we don’t see, whether they are real or not. It’s no wonder that in a time when we are threatened by a new infectious disease, the populace puts its trust in medical science. Medicine is supposed to be the apex of human achievement, based on solid observation and some brilliant intuition. Trust isn’t evil, just as love and fear are not evil. But when the heart trusts in something other than God to the degree that it casts in doubt what He has said, then it is a disordered trust. It is idolatry. That’s always the most serious kind of problem, even more serious than sickness, death, or pandemics of sickness and death.

En garde!

The currents in which we swim today are filled with disordered fear, love, and trust. How can a child of God guard against idolatry? The answer is divine wisdom. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” (Psalm 111:10, ESV) The point here isn’t to fear God in an abstract way. Notice that it says, “Those who practice it.” Godly fear in the heart extends into a practice involving not only the heart, but the mind and the body. We have seen this in action when a Christian bows the head or clasps the hands in prayer. We have seen it in outward ceremony like the sign of the cross, kneeling, bowing, etc. We have also seen it in acts of love between neighbors, the fulfillment of the earthly duties to which God has called us. A godly fear of the Lord must be put into practice. Without practice, our fear of God cannot remain genuine or correctly ordered. It becomes idolatry.

Unless God comes to us in a special, saving way, we are lost to Him. The only worship left to us would be idolatry. We could never rise above it, and we would perish as idol worshippers. It should go without saying that our idols cannot help us forever.

God comes to us by taking a disguise and invading the world of sinners. He could come in open power, but then He wouldn’t make a connection to those who are lost in idolatry. We would be destroyed. So instead, He hides himself under the appearance of other things, so that His Spirit works unseen. The prime example of hiding His power was the life of Jesus Christ from conception to death. Despite the miracles He performed, the prophecies He fulfilled, and the clear authority with which He taught, plenty of people took Him as a mere man. Another example is the word that God sent into the world through the mouth of His prophets and apostles. Plenty of people have taken it as no different than the claims of false religions.

But Jesus is more than a man, and God’s word is more than the thoughts of mortal man. So through the life and death of Jesus, God redeemed all who were fallen away from Him, and through His word He calls us to faith with the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s ultimately through that word and faith that we are protected from idolatry.

Particularity

Here is where we encounter another objection. It started when the individual sinner first heard that God in heaven loves him. “Why would He do that?” We are already overawed by things like the size of the universe in which we live. It seems presumptuous to believe that God cares specifically about me. I could almost believe that He cares about all people, but I am a particular person.

The objection goes on. We read that God told the children of Israel how to worship Him using a Tabernacle with particular furnishings, rites, and ceremonies. We wonder, “Why would God care so much about all those little details?” And then we encounter the practices of the Church after Christ with the rites and ceremonies of Baptism and the Holy Supper. The question arises again, and becomes even more subtle: “God already knows if I believe, so why does He care whether I partake of these things?” Maybe we could believe that God cares about what’s in our hearts, but not so much about what happens to our bodies. Our bodies are very personal, and our sensations particular to ourselves.

All of this means we didn’t really believe or fully understand God when He said, “I, the LORD your God am a jealous God.” He wants you for himself to such a degree that He gave his life for you. He does not do things by half. He did it all. It should be no wonder that He also wants all of you to be involved with your connection to Him.

We may feel unworthy. It’s because we are. But he doesn’t measure your worth the same way. You are redeemed by the blood of Christ, and He did not hesitate to turn that blood into food for both your body and your soul. In this way He makes you worthy of His great gifts by connecting you to the sacrifice that He paid to redeem you.

This also explains why God considered all those details in the Old Testament to be important. They all are about Jesus. They teach the same faith that He taught. The Tabernacle with its sacrifices and holy food taught about the sacrifice of Jesus and the food He provides for us today. God connected the children of Israel to himself through the outward ceremonies and ritual that they performed, choosing those things because they were the connection to Jesus. Now we have a connection to Jesus, which is established and maintained in particular ways.

There has always been a desire to spiritualize the faith, to assume the only things that matter are within my heart. This is wrong. We can easily suppose that this assumption was behind the presumptuous actions of Nadab and Abihu. (See Leviticus 10:1-2.) Their creativity in the outward ceremonies of worship ended when God killed them. He explained very briefly, “Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.” (Leviticus 10:3, ESV) Nadab and Abihu failed to sanctify God in their presumption. To sanctify Him is to sanctify His word and so to keep the first commandment. If God says, “This is how I want you to draw near to me,” then we have to conclude that it matters. It matters even when He has chosen particular outward ceremonies.

What about people these days who presume to draw near to God without paying attention to what He says they should do? We don’t hear about people being killed like Nadab and Abihu. But that was a special case because the Tabernacle was the one place on the face of the Earth where God revealed His glory. It has been fulfilled in Jesus, who came into the world in human flesh and hid His glory so that sinners might repent and be saved rather than be destroyed in His presence. These days, we do well to remember that outside of the worship God has prescribed, there can be no certainty that He receives us, hears our prayers, or works among us. Our certainty is only in Christ and His particular outward gifts of grace.

What of those who spiritualize the faith to such a degree that they are content to disregard all outward forms of worship? Here belong those who think of themselves as Christians, but hardly ever darken the threshhold of a Christian congregation. There is no certainty that they are Christians. In fact, the evidence points the other way, and Christians should not expect them to understand or appreciate the importance of what God says. Their own concerns and sensibilities have already been judged to be more important in their lives. They have received their reward. May God be merciful and bring them to repentance.

God’s ways are particular, objective, outward, and certain. All other ways lead to destruction.

Pandemic Considerations

The heathen world is concerned about death and suffering. From a perspective that lacks Jesus, there is nothing more important. That’s why the world considers draconian, even tyrannical measures to be justified if the threat is urgent enough. “People will die!” is considered a strong argument against any opposition.

But a Christian realizes that people are already dying and nothing will stop that. Moreover, there’s something worse than death: the eternal judgment of God against sin. This is a hazard for us all, especially for those without Jesus. Yet Christians need to remember that their connection to Jesus depends on Him coming to us. That happens in the ways that He has provided and in no other way.

His Word is written in millions of printed Bibles and in other publications. It’s recorded across the world in both audio and video. It has efficacy wherever it is found. But it is God’s will that we receive it in particular ways. Should we presume to spiritualize what God has provided and say that the Church will be just fine if she voluntarily relinquishes the gifts that God has provided for her sustenance?

Ask a grade school teacher about the differences between learning in the classroom versus remote learning at home. Experts are now trying to figure out what the damage will be to the overall education of students who have difficulty connecting online. But schooling and worship are different activities: different aims, different results, and different mandates. Remote schooling is possible to a degree. But remote worship is questionable. And while students will still remain students even when there are impediments to learning, the Church can cease being the Church when deprived of her Lord and his gifts.

For most of society, social distancing is a nuisance. It’s harmful to the economy. But if it becomes something that prevents Christians from receiving the blessings of Jesus’ real (not virtual) presence, social distancing is an existential threat to Christians per se and to Christian congregations. That would make the cure far worse than the disease.

Truth and Life

Religion is on the mind of many people around the world. It has always been. Religious problems are connected with practical problems like terrorism, stewardship of natural resources, and the role of government.

Religious belief forms the core of who we are. Some think they are doing fine without religion, but it always turns out that they still believe and trust in certain things. Those things may be reason, progress, humanity, science, or something else. Martin Luther observed, “A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the whole heart.” Even an atheist trusts in something, or else why does he look both ways before crossing the street? He may not call it “God,” but even by any other name, it still gives meaning and order to his daily life. In effect, it’s his god. That’s the meaning behind the remark, “God does not believe in atheists.”

Religion and history are intertwined with one another, but there are many people who don’t have time to think about either one. For a few, the daily necessities like food, shelter, and clothing take all of their attention. But is that so for most people? We do some things by our own choice and make them a convenient excuse for not thinking about religion and history. Why would we do that? Do those topics make you uncomfortable? Inadequate? Angry? Depressed? Afraid? The best way to deal with that is to learn more.

All religions are historical in some sense, but that usually doesn’t make them compelling enough to give them your time. Most are historical in the sense that people at some point in history have believed them and accomplished things in their name. Most are also historical in that a prophet or teacher founded the religion at a certain time. These things are usually easy to check up on, but they don’t help us to see which religions may be true and which may be false.

Religions also claim things that can’t be verified, because no witnesses or testimony exists about them. Reincarnation is one example. Another is a prophecy of some event still in our future. If these kinds of things are all you know about the many religions of the world, it’s no wonder if you’d rather not give them your precious time.

But there is one religion that is historical in a different sense. This one depends on history. It depends on a thoroughly-witnessed event that took place at a certain place in a certain time. If that highly unusual event could be disproven, this religion would die instantly. But if it really happened, then it will influence everyone, forever.

Each of the four Gospels in the New Testament describes the death of Jesus in detail, and each also describes his resurrection. For an event taking place thousands of years ago, the evidence is excellent, mostly written within a generation of the event itself. It has also found support in archaeology and writings outside the Bible. By the standards used in a present-day court of law, the most reasonable conclusion is that Jesus not only lived and died, but also rose to life again. This is the event that the whole Christian faith relies upon. Without it, there is no Christianity.

It’s easy to claim that Jesus did not rise, but the evidence shows that He did. There are “Bible experts” who love to contradict it, but when the New Testament is considered alongside similar ancient writings, the question becomes a matter you can see for yourself. Did Julius Caesar and Cicero exist? The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is even better. If you haven’t considered it, you should. Then, you need to ask yourself what difference it makes to you. If you accept the evidence, you’ll need to consider many other things in light of it. There are churches and Christians who take these things seriously, ready to help you with that.

What’s Wrong with Gay Marriage?

This is not a rhetorical question, though you, dear reader, may have thought it was when you first saw the title. For anyone who needs a reminder, a rhetorical question doesn’t expect an answer. It’s a question stated for the purpose of making a point. This question deserves an answer. And there is an answer. Whether or not the answer is popular has no bearing upon whether or not it is true.

It amazes me that this question must be answered at all, because only a decade ago the answer seemed to be obvious. But one of the long trends in contemporary western civilization has been postmodernism, based on the belief that any question like this doesn’t have a single right answer. Instead, every individual person’s opinion is supposed to be equally valid and right. If that were true, civilization would be doomed to a brief existence.

What is it anyway?

We must begin with a clear understanding of the term “gay marriage.” It’s not an easy thing to define, since many passionate contributors want to help their own side win the political debate by framing it with their own vocabulary. I will try to be fair, but in the interest of full disclosure: my worldview is based upon what the Bible actually says, from beginning to end.

“Gay marriage” is shorthand among some for a legal blessing upon civilly-sanctioned domestic relationships between two people of the same sex, which give them the same legal rights that so-called “traditional marriage” gives to couples of complementary sex.

Continue reading

The Five God-given Purposes of Marriage

  1. To establish a household of faith
  2. To provide a way for a man and a woman to love each other
  3. To provide a legitimate and God-pleasing outlet for sexual desire
  4. To provide for the procreation and nurturing of children
  5. To provide for the mutual care of husband and wife in the commonwealth of goods

These are fleshed out in many different places. A good reference is the Small Catechism and Explanation. As listed above, these items are found in an excellent booklet we have at church called Second Thoughts about Living Together. This booklet provides a deeper explanation about marriage, and as its title says, a number of considerations for Christians against a practice in our culture that undermines this glorious gift from God.

The Division and Order of the Ten Commandments

Here’s a question I’ve seen several times over the years, and it’s come up again recently more than once. It could be alarming or deeply troubling to some, so it’s probably worth a short explanation.

First, remember that Christian churches observe traditions of all kinds, and once a tradition is in place, it tends to stay. Traditions are a connection to the past. Those who consider the past to be important consider it important to retain traditions, too. For Lutherans, the only good reason to break with tradition is when the tradition somehow works against the gospel.

When Martin Luther wrote the Small Catechism and Large Catechism in 1528-1529, the Ten Commandments were ordered according to a prevalent tradition tracing back to Bishop Augustine of Hippo, who lived about A.D. 400. He was one of the most influential church fathers in the western, Latin-speaking part of the Church. It was not the only way the Ten Commandments had been ordered, but it made sense, served the gospel, and was well known and accepted. That ordering runs like this (in my own summary form to avoid quibbling about the wording):

  1. Have no other gods.
  2. Use God’s name rightly.
  3. Keep the Sabbath day holy.
  4. Honor your parents.
  5. Honor the sanctity of life.
  6. Honor marriage.
  7. Honor the property of others.
  8. Uphold the reputation of others.
  9. Don’t covet another’s estate.
  10. Don’t covet another’s living human or animal associates.

Luther also included a conclusion in the Small Catechism, which he took from the biblical text that explains the first commandment: “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…”

The Lutheran Reformation was a conservative reformation. That is, Lutheran reformers sought to reform the faith and practice they had received from antiquity, retaining what was acceptable in the light of scripture, and changing only what was unacceptable. Subsequent reformers like Ulrich Zwingli followed a different approach. Generally, they were convinced that nothing in the papist Roman church was salvageable: neither any of the doctrine, nor any of the practice. Lutherans therefore refer to their work as the “radical reformation.” Their approach is reflected in the way they divided and numbered the Ten Commandments: whatever Rome was doing had to be changed. Here’s the division they used.

  1. Have no other gods.
  2. Don’t make graven images.
  3. Use God’s name rightly.
  4. Keep the Sabbath day holy.
  5. Honor your parents.
  6. Honor the sanctity of life.
  7. Honor marriage.
  8. Honor the property of others.
  9. Uphold the reputation of others.
  10. Don’t covet anything.

Easton’s Bible Dictionary (1897) says that the ordering used by the non-Lutheran Protestants comes from the Greek church father Origen, so it would represent a point of minor disagreement between Origen and Augustine, who was born 100 years after Origen died. (They were both Africans, but from different regions.) The Eastern Orthodox churches today (Greek Orthodox, etc.) seem to follow the same division of the commandments, which makes sense, since Origen had greater influence on eastern traditions.

Augustine explained his reasoning for his particular numbering scheme in a work called “Questions on Exodus,” where this was question number 71. I may be able to find an acceptable translation of it for inclusion in the comments of this post later on.

Which ordering is right? Which is wrong? Well, neither. They are both acceptable traditions, as long as they don’t change the substance of the commandments. In fact, Jewish numbering of the commandments begins with this one, Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Yet despite these differences, each tradition still numbers ten commandments, probably because of Exodus 34:28, Deuteronomy 4:13, and Deuteronomy 10:4.

Far more important than the division of these commandments is their content. That’s where the Small Catechism of Dr. Luther really shines. The Hebrew text of the commandments has no inspired numbering, and everyone is using it in one way or another. But Luther’s explanation makes the correct and best use of it: to prepare the student for receiving the eternal blessings of Jesus Christ through the forgiveness of sins. Meanwhile, the commandments also instruct the Christian in righteousness, but the main purpose is always Christ, as Galatians 3:24 says, “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”

By explaining each commandment with the words “We should fear and love God [so that we…],” Luther shows how the Ten Commandments are a summary of God’s moral law, which goes much deeper than most people realize. One might say that his explanation sees the Ten Commandments through the lens of the cross. They are included first in the Catechism because they prepare the student for hearing, understanding, and believing the Gospel, which is summarized in the very next part of the Catechism: the Apostles’ Creed.

Some Thoughts on the Creation Debate

On Tuesday of this week, we had a group of people here at Bethany to watch the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye about whether biblical creation is a valid scientific model of origins. Here are some thoughts about what we saw:

  • Both Ken Ham and Bill Nye ended the debate with the same position in which they started the debate. Ham is a creationist and Nye is an evolutionist.

  • Ken Ham is willing to call both evolutionists and creationists “scientists” in the same sense, but Bill Nye is reluctant to call creationists “scientists,” convinced by his own reason that anyone who believes in creation is incapable of scientific research or engineering, and that unless children learn to be evolutionists, America will fall behind other nations in scientific development.

  • Ken Ham notes a distinction between observational science and a historic kind of science. In observational science, it is possible to apply the scientific method, make predictions, test hypotheses, and make practical applications. Anyone can participate equally in observational science, whether they are creationists or evolutionists. When looking at pre-historic origins, however, everyone is limited to formulating theoretical models from the same evidence, but no conclusive tests can be made to verify whether one model is more likely true than another. The only source of better information would be the witness of someone who was actually present through that prehistoric time. Ken Ham therefore relies upon the information provided by God in the Bible.

  • Bill Nye denies the distinction made by Ken Ham, and denies that the Bible is credible, on the basis of what his own reason tells him. For example, “Miracles are impossible. The Bible describes miracles, therefore the Bible is false.” Bill Nye’s worldview supporting his use of reason is known as naturalism or materialism, and is believed by many people.

  • There are things in Bill Nye’s model of origins that he does not understand or know, like “What existed before the Big Bang?” Ken Ham knows some of those things from the revelation of God (who has always existed) in the Bible.

  • From his description and use of it, Bill Nye does not seem to know much about the Bible, its origin, its transmission, or its contents. His view of science and his naturalistic worldview would dissuade him from learning about it. On the other hand, Ken Ham knows a lot about the scientific theories at the heart of Bill Nye’s worldview. The creationist scientists mentioned by Ken Ham are also highly accomplished in their scientific fields.

  • Bill Nye repeatedly referred to the time of the Flood as 4,000 years ago, but that only seems accurate on his usual scale of millions of years. Abraham (Genesis 12) lived 4,000 years ago, and that was several long generations after the Flood. Furthermore, Ken Ham referred to adding up the lifespans of the generations before the Flood to arrive at the total age of the Earth, but the chapters describing those lifespans are not necessarily written for the purpose of giving a mathematical sum. While the numbers of years are certainly correct there, we know that other writers of biblical genealogies have skipped generations, in order to fulfil another purpose. For example, see Matthew 1:17. The purpose of the pre-Flood genealogy of Noah was to record the names of those faithful patriarchs who passed their faith on to future generations within their own family. So the numbers thrown around during the debate as a supposed biblical age of the Earth, or the time since the Flood, were not necessarily accurate. However, the error in those numbers would be in thousands of years, not millions.

We saw an excellent illustration of Hebrews 11:3, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” Ken Ham knows this, but only because he believes what the Bible says. Bill Nye cannot know this, because he rejects what the Bible says. Jesus described a similar problem when He explained to His disciples why He was teaching in parables (Luke 8:10), “that ‘Seeing they may not see, And hearing they may not understand.'” St. Paul also described this in Romans 1:20-21, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Christians cannot convince someone like Bill Nye that the Bible is true by simply making an argument or debate with him. That was not Ken Ham’s purpose. Rather, the only way someone can know the true origin of the world is to believe what God says. This faith is completely a gift of God, which He provides through the message of the Gospel. Now, all of us who care about Bill Nye and the truth have the task of praying that God would use the Gospel message to work a conversion in his heart. Ken Ham spoke that message more than once during the debate, and it’s also available to Bill Nye in many other places. God intervened in the life of Saul of Tarsus, who persecuted the Church terribly, turning him into the man we know as St. Paul. God can also convert Bill Nye, or any other non-Christian evolutionist.

We should also pray that God would correct and strengthen the faith of those Christians who are tempted to disbelieve the Bible because of the worldly pressure exerted by people like Bill Nye. There are Christian evolutionists in the world, but their Christian faith is constantly under attack within their own hearts by the naturalistic, materialistic worldview of evolution.

Finally, we should imitate our merciful God as we show love to our neighbors, many of whom are confused and misled by teachings like evolution. Since the public school system is unable to allow creationism equal footing with evolution, it would be a good thing for us to teach as many children as possible to understand the world in a biblical way. That’s one of the strong reasons why it would be a wonderful thing if God were to bless Bethany with a Christian day school.

Matins for Everyone

One of the Bible classes planned for this Fall is on Lutheran liturgy, including services like Matins, which belongs to the Prayer Offices. Unlike the Divine Service, Matins is meant to be used on any day, even every day when it’s possible. It may seem strange for a congregation to gather at church every morning, but Matins doesn’t require that. The Prayer Offices like Matins are very adaptable, and can easily be used at home, or wherever you may be in the morning.

Certainly, the interests of the perishing world don’t include a daily break to pray, hear God’s Word, and join with fellow Christians, much less several breaks in the same day. But as Christians, we can remind ourselves of the deep mercy of God that He shows us day in and day out, all based upon the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the guilt of the whole world. He has not made it mandatory for us to stop now and then for worship. He’s made it possible, and He’s incorporated us by faith into the great body of worshipping saints in both heaven and earth. So why not re-center your mornings with a little Matins?

To help make it easier for us all to use Matins whenever we have the opportunity, I’ve put together a simple worship folder on a single sheet of folded paper that includes most of what’s found in the Hymnary on page 109 and following. The difference is that this booklet shows you which parts you should omit when you are using Matins in a less formal setting. It will still help to have your Bible handy, or even a Hymnary (especially if you want to sing something). The booklets will be available at each church, or upon request.

We will use a very simplified order of Matins for the Sunday School opening at Bethany for both children and adults this year. The whole thing should take 10 minutes, at the most.

You can view the booklet in a PDF reader by downloading it from this web site. If you print the two pages back-to-back, in the right orientation, you will have the whole thing on your own!

Classes Coming Up

I’ve planned some classes for our churches through the coming school year, and many of them are ready to go right now. We’ve been following the curriculum from Northwestern Publishing House called Getting Into God’s Word for a couple of years now. We’ve seen units on Bible Study Skills , the Psalms, Old Testament Proclaimers, and Major Prophets, as well as the Messianic (New Testament) Age and the book of Revelation. That’s a lot! It’s about half of the whole curriculum. So we’re going to take a break for a little while, for a change of pace.

On the last Sunday in August, Concordia will begin watching the DVD presentation on “Engaging Others with Jesus,” including a potluck lunch. The same presentation will be studied at Bethany on Sundays, beginning on September 8. There will be time for discussion of each segment. The presentation covers the same sessions that were attended by Pastor, Rich and Kathy Kahler, and Coby and Patty Bailey at the Circuit 12 Evangelism Workshop back in May. It was an edifying and inspiring conference, and should be enjoyable and beneficial for any of our members.

At Bethany, our midweek class will begin on Tuesday, September 3 at 7 PM. We’ll start with a 3-part series on the subject of evangelism, with the focus on Jesus. The titles are “Christ for Us,” “Christ through Us,” and “Christ in Us.” Pastor Jacobsen adapted this series from one written this year by Pastor Aaron Hamilton in Utah.

Sunday classes at Bethany will switch back to a study of the biblical teachings in the Large Catechism on October 20. Meanwhile, the midweek class will resume after a short break on October 15 with a new 6-part series written by Pastor Jacobsen on Lutheran worship. This will expand upon the DVD class we have used in the past by Dr. Arthur Just entitled Liturgy, as we consider the history and spiritual foundation of the Lutheran worship practices found not only at church, but also in the home.

On November 26, the Bethany mid-week class will immediately embark upon a 4-part series covering the intertestamental period, the span of about 400 years between the last book written in the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament period described in Matthew and Luke. We will pull most of our information from the books of the Apocrypha entitled I and II Maccabees. All our Bible classes will take a break for Christmas.

After the Christmas season, on January 7, Bethany’s mid-week class will start a 6-part series based upon the synod convention essay from last June. The essay is called “Engaging Families with Jesus,” and our class is called “Engaging Jesus at Home.” We will apply some of the things we will have learned from our previous class on Lutheran worship.

In the penitential season of Lent, we will have another 6-part series on Christian Meditation. There is much for us all to learn about this practice, and it shouldn’t be surprising if we come away with a new appreciation for God’s Word, and the comfort of the Gospel.

Finally, we will return to the Getting Into God’s Word series on April 22, the Tuesday following Easter, with a 7-part series on the book of Ephesians.

Throughout this time, our calendar also includes a Confessing Jesus class at Bethany, to be held with a light lunch right after church on Sunday. Unlike last year, the schedule this year calls for holding the class every other week, instead of every week. We will pick that up where we left off, in the 4th article of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession. After that we will return to the Formula of Concord at the end of the book.

All of the classes mentioned above are open to all of our members and our guests, including confirmed youth. If our youth have another interest, please speak to Pastor Jacobsen so that we can arrange a class that will serve their need. The Mary Martha Circle at Bethany will meet monthly, with part of the meeting devoted to a study aimed at spiritual growth. We will have an opportunity to read through and discuss a newly-translated and published biography of Katherine Luther, the wife of Martin Luther. There is a series of related studies prepared and ready to go, together with a reading schedule. Any ladies who may wish to begin reading now can obtain a copy of the book from Pastor.

If the members of Concordia would like to have any of these classes offered in Hood River or Klickitat, it can be arranged. An average attendance of at least three people would be helpful. Of course, any Concordia members are also welcome at the classes to be held at Bethany.

I hope you’re looking forward to the coming season of Bible studies as much as I am!

–Pastor Jacobsen

False Religion Pretending to be Science

In a time when there is supposedly a high wall separating church and state, government and religion, this article from American Thinker points out that it’s not true of every faith. In fact, this false religion of Scientism is already well connected with American civil religion, which is another serious matter for Christians in our society.

In other words, many of our politicians are surrendering themselves to scientism. Scientism is not science. It is an ideology that is often confused with science. It is, rather, an abuse of the scientific method and scientific authority.

Scientism can also be classified as a religion. It is a religion with many denominations: Darwinism, environmentalism, feminism, hedonism, humanism, Marxism, socialism, and so on. How many Americans now find their fulfillment and purpose in these movements? They celebrate Earth Day and Darwin Day. They boldly assert, “Science is my Savior.”

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