Saturday, October 31, 2009

Reformation Day

We observed this festival last Sunday, but today is Reformation Day. From the Treasury of Daily Prayer:
On October 31, 1517, an Augustinian monk posted ninety-five statements for discussion on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Dr. Martin Luther hoped that posting his theses would bring about an academic debate regarding repentance, the sale of indulgences, and other matters of concern within the Roman Catholic Church. However, Rome eventually excommunicated Luther, judging him to be a heretic. Luther's reforms, centered on the teaching that a believer is justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, sparked religious reforms no only in the German states but also in many European countries. In 1667, Elector John George II of Saxony standardized the custom of observing Luther's October 31 posting of the Ninety-five Theses.
Thank God for faithful servants like Martin Luther, through whom the Lord preserves His Church. And so we pray:
Almighty and gracious Lord, pour out Your Holy Spirit on Your faithful people. Keep us steadfast in Your grace and truth, protect and deliver us in times of temptation, defend us against all enemies, and grant to Your Church Your saving peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, October 30, 2009

1,000 Visitors

Sometime between this afternoon and tomorrow morning, this here blog will reach a milestone: 1,000 visitors. I'm humbled by other blogs that boast hundreds of thousands of visitors, or even millions. But I'm further humbled to know that there are faithful readers that visit regularly--and it is my prayer that as you visit, you have Jesus Christ and His love for you revealed to you.

I'm always curious to know who is reading, so please, do me a little favor. Click on the Comments tab below, and just sound off. First name and location would be just grate.

Thank you for reading this blog, and God bless!

Daily Devotional Thought--From the Confessions (The Eighth Commandment)

Friday's series on the Ten Commandments takes us today to the Eighth Commandment.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

What is the Eighth Commandment?
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.

A very helpful summary from Concordia: A Reader's Edition of the Book of Concord:
This commandment was given to protect one's name and reputation. Communicating in ways that do not uphold our neighbor's name and reputation break this commandment. The greatest violators are false preachers who, by their false doctrine, speak ill of God and His name. If we are aware of something negative about our neighbor, but have no authority to act, we should remain silent and not speak of it. However, when the proper authorities call upon us to speak to the matter, we will do so honestly. Also, if we are aware of something that requires the attention of public authorities, we will share it with them. Luther clearly states that civil magistrates, pastors, and parents must act upon hearing of something requiring their attention. Luther carefully distinguishes between secret sins and open, public sins. Secret sins should not be made public. However, when the error is open we have every right, even the duty, to speak publicly about it and to testify against the person involved. Speaking publicly about another person's public error or sin is not bearing false witness, nor it is a violation of Matthew 18. Luther concludes that putting "the best construction on everything" is a fine and noble virtue.

It may be helpful for us to think of the Eighth Commandment much in the same way we do of the Second Commandment. While the Second serves to protect the name and reputation of Almighty God, the Eighth serves to protect the name and reputation of our fellow man.

So, have you sinned against the Eighth Commandment? Ask yourself these questions:
  • Do I speak the truth or have I lied in any way? Have I told the truth in court or in school before authorities or before my parents when I knew the truth?
  • Do I gossip or take pleasure in talking about the faults and mistakes of others?
  • Do I uphold and defend the name and reputation of others?
  • Have I judged others without being duly authorized to do so?
  • Have I gladly and willingly found ways to explain in the best possible way the words or actions of those who hurt me?
  • Have I defended my neighbor when things said about my neighbor have made others think badly of him or her?
  • Have I flattered others, o put on a front to make them think of me differently from what is true?
  • Have I slanted stories to my benefit or deceived others by withholding some elements of their story?
  • Have I been faithful in keeping the secrets of another's heart entrusted to me in confidence?

Undoubtedly, the Eighth Commandment will reveal your need for a Savior, for that is the Law's work. But rest assured, your Lord would not have you be separated from Him, but places new words on your lips that confess Jesus is Lord. And in Him, there is forgiveness, life and salvation. Amen.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Happy Baptismal Birthday, Naomi Lynn!

Three years ago today, on Reformation Sunday, our little Naomi Lynn was Baptized into Christ, and became a member of His body, the Church, a fellow heir of eternal life! Tonight we will light your candle and remember that Jesus is the light no darkness can overcome, and in Him you are the light of the world!

Happy 3rd Baptismal Birthday, Naomi Lynn!

Daily Devotional Thought--From the New Testament (The Rich Young Man)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Today's New Testament reading is a familiar one to many of us, and yet it continues to cause us to pause.

Matthew 19:16-24:
16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?" 17 And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments." 18 He said to him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 20 The young man said to him, "All these I have kept. What do I still lack?" 21 Jesus said to him, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God."

The young rich man thought that he had kept the law of God, and as a result, he wanted to be saved by the Law--not by Jesus. If the young rich man were righteous, he would have had no problem leaving his wealth to follow Jesus, for this is the 1st Commandment. But because he denied His Lord, Jesus turned him over to the law, and the young rich man went away sorrowful.

I'm reminded of St. Paul's words to the Galatians:

"For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them (3:10)."

"You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace (5:4)."

The young rich man went away sorrowful, but so did the Lord, for he knew that no man would be justified by law.

Let us not make the same mistake. Let us not cling to the fleeting things of this world, but let us "fix our eyes, the author and perfecter of our faith" (Heb. 12:2). Amen.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Reformation Sermon

Click here for a video of Sunday's service and sermon based on Romans 3:19-28. The sermon begins at 26:00.

Commemoration of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles

Today the church commemorates St. Simon and St. Jude. From the Treasury of Daily Prayer:
In the lists of the twelve apostles (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16; Acts 1:13), the tenth and eleventh places are occupied by Simon the Zealot (or "Cananaean") and by Jude (or "Judas," not Iscariot bot "of James"), who was apparently known also as Thaddaeus. According to early Christian tradition, Simon and Jude journeyed together as missionaries to Persia, where they were martyred. It is likely for this reason, at least in part, that these two apostles are commemorated on the same day. Simon is not mentioned in the New Testament apart from the lists of the twelve apostles. Thus he is remembered and honored for the sake of his office, and thereby stands before us--in eternity, as in his life an ministry on earth--in the name and stead of Christ Jesus, our Lord. We give thanks to God for calling and sending Simon, along with Jude and all of the apostles, to preach and teach the Holy Gospel, to proclaim repentance and forgiveness, and to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (John 4:1-2; Matthew 10; 28:16-20; Luke 24:46-49).
And so we pray:
Almighty God, You chose Your servants Simon and Jude to be numbered among the glorious company of the apostles. As they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so may we with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Daily Devotional Thought--From the Old Testament

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Deuteronomy 30:1-3:
And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, and return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you.

To be gathered by the LORD, the people of God need to hear a word of Law, whether Moses is the one through whom it is delivered, or your pastor, or your parent, or your brother or sister in Christ. The Law of God is put forth for a purpose, a saving purpose--always.

To be sure, it must first put to death the Old Adam, that sinful flesh, that wages war with the new man in Christ. It must confront the conscience that has grown comfortable with its sin, reminding the child of God of the stark realities that await a life lived in unrepentant sin and outright opposition to God's Law and His holy will. And yet, this killing of the sinful flesh must happen for an even greater purpose, a saving purpose--always.

The Father doesn't take delight in disciplining His children, and yet, he does so to prepare them for the life ahead.

Yes, as it was for the children of Israel, so it is for those who are heirs of Abraham by faith in Christ Jesus. We must be made to see our sin, to flee from unrighteousness, and to turn from our ways--for this is repentance. The Law of God is a necessary Word that must be proclaimed, because it does a necessary work--it reveals your need for a savior--Jesus Christ.

Gospel reductionism seeks to do away with the Law of God, but in the end, it does away with Christ. For what need to the righteous have of a savior? But as God used Moses to speak a harsh word to the children of Israel, so too, He speaks a harsh word to His children today, so that repentance is produced, and the faith that clings to Christ alone is sustained.

Only with this faith can the psalmist say, "I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight" (Psalm 119: 174).

The Law of God is good indeed, for it points us to the cross of Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Daily Devotional Thought--From the Psalms

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The assigned Psalm for today is Psalm 20:


May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble!
May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary
and give you support from Zion!
3 May he remember all your offerings
and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! Selah
4 May he grant you your heart's desire
and fulfill all your plans!
5 May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May the LORD fulfill all your petitions!
6 Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand.
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
8 They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright.
9 O LORD, save the king!
May he answer us when we call.

From Reading the Psalms with Luther:
The 20th psalm is a psalm of prayer. It prays specifically for emperors, kings, princes, governors, and all those who sit in any seat of authority. The psalm prays that God would grant them grace to rule peacefully and well, giving them good fortune and victory over their enemies. For wherever good earthly order is established by the reason and power of governors and princes, people do not earnestly and heartily pray for them. So that people might pray for them, the psalm declares that only the greatest fool, totally blind, would presume to rule land and people out of his own head. This psalm belongs in the Second Commandment, as do all the psalms of prayer, in which one call on God's name. Psalm 20 is in the Third Petition (of the Lord's Prayer), that God's will and not the devil's might be done.

What a fitting psalm indeed for our situation today.

And so we pray:
Thanks be unto You, O God, King of kings, because You have granted a good and a free government to our land. What You have given graciously preserve to us and our children. And grant that the civil liberty that we enjoy may remind us to seek that spiritual and everlasting freedom which is found alone in the kingdom of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Paul Gerhardt Hymns

Check out this link to see a current project restoring Paul Gerhardt's hymns for use in the church today: Click Here.

Commemoration of Philipp Nicolai, Johann Heermann, and Paul Gerhardt, Hymnwriters

Today the church commemorates three beloved hymnwriters.

From the Treasury:
Philipp Nicolai (1556-1608) was a pastor in Germany during the Great Plague, which took the lives of thirteen hundred of his parishioners during a six-month period. In addition to his heroic pastoral ministry during that time of stress and sorrow, he wrote the texts for "Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying" and "O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright," known, respectively, as the king and queen of Lutheran chorales. Johann Heermann (1585-1647), also a German pastor, suffered from poor health as well as from the ravages of the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648). His hymn texts are noted for their tenderness and depth of feeling. Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676) was another Lutheran pastor who endured the horrors of the Thirty Years' War. By 1668, he had lost his pastoral position in Berlin (for refusing to compromise his Lutheran convictions) and endured the death of four of his five children and his wife. He nevertheless managed to write 133 hymns, all of which reflect his firm faith. Along with Martin Luther, he is regarded as one of Lutheranism's finest hymnwriters.

A prayer in their honor:
Almighty God, the apostle Paul taught us to praise You in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. We thank You this day for those who have given to Your Church great hymns, especially Your servants Philipp Nicolai, Johann Heermann, and Paul Gerhardt. May Your Church never lack hymnwriters who through their words and music give You praise. Fill us with the desire to praise and thank You for Your great goodness; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Daily Devotional Thought--For the Family

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The pressure to seek your own desires comes not only from within, but is also encouraged by the prevailing self-centeredness of society. "Look out for number #1." "What have you done for me lately?" "Are my needs being met?"

The family doesn't stand a chance when one is curved inward (in curvates se), and focused on one's self.

But listen to the words of Jesus' high priestly prayer in John 17:
"I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me."

When our minds remain focused on the good of ourselves, rather than the good of the whole, a family ceases to be one, but becomes fractured and is essentially a number of individual components--not functioning as one.

Jesus' outward focus on the good of the other (the entire world), binds Christians together through faith into one body. At the pastor's conference I attended last week in Lubbock, Dr. David Ludwig spoke about "The Power of We." Because of the love of Christ dwelling within us, we do not have to remain curved inward. We can arise each morning, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and kill the desire to seek our own interest. We are able to fight against the "power of me," and seek the good of the we--the family. When this happens, the Christian family begins to function as one body, and the love of Christ is made known.

Resist the me, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, seek the good of the we. Amen.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Daily Devotional Thought--From the Confessions (The Seventh Commandment)

Our Friday series on the Ten Commandments brings us this week to the Seventh Commandment.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

What is the Seventh Commandment?
You shall not steal.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbor's money or possessions, or get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his possessions and income.

Concordia: A Reader's Edition of the Book of Concord summarizes Luther's Large Catechism well:

Stealing is not only physically robbing another's possessions, but it is also taking advantage of other people. Luther was very concerned about unjust business practices. His comments particularly challenge us today, since we live in a culture built on a free-market economy and generally agree that any price charged to people is morally acceptable. On the other hand, Luther points out how working people also steal from their employers by not giving a full day's work for a full day's pay. Though written over 475 years ago, Luther's comments on the Seventh Commandment are amazingly relevant and timely, and they point out the biblical distinction between the two kingdoms. For example, toward the end of the discussion, Luther wisely notes that the duty of the Church is to reprove sin and teach the Word of God. It is the duty of governing authorities to restrain lawlessness. The Church, as a spiritual institution, does not order society or enact societal laws; this is solely the duty of the government (p. 384).

Luther summarizes his thoughts in the Large Catechism with these words:
Therefore, let everyone know his duty, at the risk of God's displeasure: he must do no harm to his neighbor nor deprive him of profit nor commit any act of unfaithfulness or hatred in any bargain or trade. But he must also faithfully preserve his property for him, secure and promote his advantage (LC, I, 233).

Clearly, the Seventh Commandment forces the Christian to look toward the good of others, sometimes the most difficult thing to do.

So, how do you know if you have sinned against the Seventh Commandment? Begin by asking yourself these questions:

  • Have I gotten anything in a dishonest way?
  • Have I made illegal copies of any printed material, audio or video tapes, or computer programs?
  • Do I faithfully attend to the responsibilities of my vocation(s)? Have I been lazy at work, doing poor work in school or at my job, or working hard only when the teacher or boss is around?
  • Do I take care of what I haven, pay what I owe, return what I borrow, and respect other people's property?
  • Do I given generously, or am I selfish, stingy and greedy with my time and money? Have I been stingy in paying my workers?

What do you do now? It's simple. Confess. And receive the forgiveness that is yours in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Daily Devotional Thought--From the New Testament

Acts 17:10-15:
10The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Thank God there are still Christians like the Bereans today.
Pastors give thanks for them on good days, but bemoan them on days when the flesh gets the best of us.
But Berean Christians are necessary for the church to maintain a proper confession of faith.
You may have a response similar to one of these:
  • "But Pastor, I don't want to be a pest."
  • "But Pastor, who am I to question you?"

To the first, I would remind you of St. Paul admonition to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15ff). That is to say, if you have a question about something your pastor is teaching or preaching, go to him in humility and with respect. Assume that he misspoke, or that you misunderstood, or that he just didn't communicate as clearly as he had hoped. In other words, assume the best. And in most cases, you will find your pastor to be glad you asked--at least someone was listening!!

To the second, I our reading from Acts reminds us of a faithful group of Christians who carried out their collective office as the Priesthood of All Believers, searching the scriptures and delighting in the Word of God (Psalm 1, John 10, etc.). A church full of people who are taught well, and are able to discern the truth from error, will be a church whose pastors are forced to study so that they in fact do deliver the goods--Preaching Christ Crucified and delivering the Word of God in its truth and purity.

The church that is made up of Christians like the Bereans is a church where pastors and people are abiding in the Word of Christ together, are having Christ revealed to them, and therefore, know the freedom of the Gospel.

We we all be so bold as to pray for brothers and sisters in the faith who will hold us accountable to the sacred Word of God. Amen.

Monday, October 19, 2009

In Lubbock at Pastor's Conference--Daily Devotions Return Thursday.

My flight departed San Antonio at 6:30 a.m. and will arrive in Lubbock around 9:45 a.m. I will be attending the Texas District Pastor's Conference. The topic for the conference is the pastor's role in pre-marriage counseling. One of the presenters is Dr. Salminen, formerly a professor at Concordia Seminary. I'm looking forward to learning from him again, and expect his presentation to be helpful.

Daily Devotional Thoughts from me will resume on Thursday. Until then, use your Portals of Prayer, the Congregation at Prayer, or check out any of the links to other pastor's cites on the left.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Thank You Dr. Reed Lessing!!

Dr. Reed Lessing taught me Hebrew, and then I had him for Hebrew readings and Hermeneutics. And this was all in my first year at the seminary. He didn't know then, and I guess he probably still doesn't know, but he set an example for me in devotional life, and dedication to the study of holy Scripture, that I strive to follow still today. Shortly before leaving for my vicarage year, I took a summer course with him called Preaching the Old Testament, and again I learned from his instruction and example that my future ministry would depend on my own time in the Word of God. And so it began...
Some time early on during my vicarage year, I began spending time in the Hebrew of the Old Testament, as well as the Greek of the New Testament. Following Dr. Lessing's pattern, I began with Genesis 1, and Matthew 1. I would take 5,6,7 verses a day, or whatever my schedule would allow. And sometimes my schedule didn't allow any.

After returning to the seminary for my final year, coursework made it difficult to continue this pattern, but still, I made some progress--slowly.

Now in the parish, some days are more difficult than others to find time to spend with the Hebrew and Greek...but still, I pursue it. Some time last year I completed my translation of the Gospel of Matthew, and am now in chapter 9 of Mark.

But today...what began some four years translation of the book of COMPLETE!

I write this post for two reasons:

  1. So that Dr. Lessing, and the many more teachers that I and other pastors have had in our pastoral formation, would know that the Lord uses their service to shape us and mold us. You work is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58)!
  2. So that other pastors in the parish might be encouraged to spend time in the languages. Schedules are difficult, I know. But you will make progress, little by little. Your skills with the language will improve over time. But most importantly, you will be fed by the Good Shepherd through His Word so that you can also feed the sheep entrusted to your care as you serve the flock of faith.

Dr. Reed Lessing, THANK YOU! This ongoing study is dedicated to you.

The Essential Lutheran Library (Finally!)

With the arrival of The Lutheran Study Bible on Wednesday afternoon, The Essential Lutheran Library is complete in my study. Doesn't it look pretty! CPH is now selling this as a bundle, in three editions: Standard ($129.99); Premium ($199.99); and Ultimate ($229.99). I've written about TELL before; you can read that post here. Here is CPH's description of the product:
Since the days of the Reformation, certain key books have been a part of the life of Lutherans: the Bible, the hymnal, the Catechism. In addition, Lutherans have treasured prayer books and the Book of Concord as essential texts to keep their eyes fixed on Christ. The books in The Essential Lutheran Library will serve to give shape and definition to the faith and life of every Lutheran Christian.

There is another edition of TELL that CPH isn't selling...yet. It the Pastor's Edition and it contains the Pastoral Care Companion, a most helpful little book that I take with me on hospital visits, when I bring the Lord's Supper to our shut ins, and on so many other occasions. Along with the Agenda, which provides the rites for Holy Matrimony, Funerals, Confirmations, etc, the Pastor's Edition of TELL would be a wonderful gift for any man thinking of heading off to the seminary to become a pastor. And by the way, it looks pretty good in my study as well! Here's to you, CPH, for the fine service you are providing to the Church!

Daily Devotional Thought--From the Confessions (The Sixth Commandment)

Friday's Ten Commandment series brings us today to the Sixth Commandment.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

What is the Sixth Commandment?
You shall not commit adultery.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.

Here is a helpful summary found in Concordia: A Reader's Edition of the Book of Concord:
Luther had been married for almost four years when he wrote the Large Catechism. His former life as a monk makes his comments on the Sixth Commandment all the more interesting and powerful. Luther keenly discerns that chastity is not a matter of vowing to live a celibate life, but of honoring God and one's spouse with one's whole being: thoughts, words, and actions. Marriage should be cherished and honored as a divine estate. God created this institution before all others and blessed it above all the rest; and since He brings children into the world through it, He provides all other estates for its support and benefit. Luther condemns forced celibacy with the Roman Church, but recognizes that God does exempt some from married life, either because they are unsuited to it or because they possess the supernatural gift of chastity. The Sixth Commandment releases those who have taken a vow of chastity but who have not been given this supernatural gifts. For Luther, God intended marriage not only to prevent sin, but also as a means by which husbands and wives love and cherish each other. Marriage is a precious good work far superior to the contrived spiritual estates of monks and nuns.

But the Sixth Commandment applies more broadly than just to husbands and wives. Chastity is for the teenager, the single college student, and the widow, just as it is for the husband and the wife.

When the gifts of God are used in their proper place, they remain God's gifts. In this case, the gift is our human sexuality. Satan would have us use God's gifts in places never dreamed of by the giver of the gift--God himself. This is how Satan distorts God's good gifts, and in turn, destroys human life.

A curb tells me where it is good to drive my car. But if I decided that I knew better than the curb, bad things would happen. If I drove on the side walk, or in my neighbors lawn, the results would destroy. So it is with the gift of human sexuality, regardless of our age.

So how do you know if you've sinned against the Sixth Commandment? Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Have I used for my own pleasure my ears to hear stories or incite cravings of the body for one who is not my spouse, or my mouth to speak such words and stories?
  • Have I indulged my eyes with longing for my sexual satisfaction from a man or a woman who is not my spouse?
  • Have I dishonored marriage by ridicule, divorce, or neglecting to encourage others to be faithful to their spouses in the fear of God?
  • Have I had sexual intercourse with a man or woman who is not my spouse?
  • Have I dishonored my spouse by neglecting to care for my spouse's body, mind, feelings, and needs, withdrawing faithfulness from my spouse?
  • Have I failed to trust God to bless us in our marriage, even in times of trouble?
  • Have I neglected to pray for my spouse, to attend the Divine Service together, and to live in the fear and love of God in times of sexual temptation?
  • Have I engaged in homosexual thoughts, words, or deeds, or given support to homosexual activity?

These questions will, by the Spirit of God, reveal to us where the Old Adam remains, and where our sinful flesh rages on. But it will also point us to Christ, our Bridegroom, who loves his bride, the church, unconditionally, and gives his own righteousness so that you and I may wear the white dress of righteousness ourselves. The Law will show us our sin, but it will point us to our Savior, and in this way, The Law of God is ALWAYS good! Amen.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Daily Devotional Thought--From the New Testament (Trusting Christ Instead of People)

(From Faith Alone, daily devotions from Martin Luther)

But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. (John 2:24)

No one understands how difficult it was when I first realized that I had to believe and teach an idea that was contrary to the teachings of the church fathers. This was especially shocking to me when many outstanding, reasonable, and educated people shared their views. The church fathers include many holy people, such as Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine. Despite that, my dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ must be worth more to me than all the holy people on earth--yes, even more than all the angels in heaven. When I read Augustine's books and discovered that he also had been in error, I was greatly troubled. Whenever this happens, it's very difficult for me to calm my own heart and differ with people who are so greatly respected.

But I dare not accept something just because a respected person says it. A person can be holy and God-fearing and still be in error. That's why I don't want to rely on people. As this passage says, the Lord Christ didn't rely on people either. Furthermore, in the book of Matthew, Jesus earnestly warns us to beware of false prophets, who will come and not only claim to be Christians, but also "perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible" (24:24).

Rather than trusting the church fathers and their writings, we should crawl under the wings of our mother hen, the Lord Christ, and look to him alone. The heavenly Father said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" (Matthew 17:5). God wants us to listen to Christ alone.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Happy Anniversary, Pastor DeVries

We celebrated the 25th Anniversary of Pastor DeVries' installation as Pastor of Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church during our services on Sunday--and what a celebration it was--but the actual date is October 14, which is today.

So today, again, we say "thank you" to the Lord for 25 years of His gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation in Christ Jesus being bestowed on the flock of faith at Mt. Calvary through the dedicated and faithful ministry of Rev. K. T. DeVries. Congratulations, Pastor DeVries, and thanks be to God!

Here are a few pictures of the celebration:

Those who served during the festival service (from left to right): Josh Zammit, D.C.E. gave the Children's Sermon; Millard "Butch" Watson our Lay Minister read the Old Testament and Epistle readings; Pastor DeVries received the Word for a change, and then delivered the Benediction; Pastor Richard Mittwede (a son of the congregation and now Associate Pastor at King of King, Round Rock) delivered a wonderful sermon for the occasion; Pastor Truwe (that's me) served as the liturgist; and Pastor Emeritus, James Haupt read the Holy Gospel.
This is the plaque given to Pastor DeVries:
The Fellowship Committee served a wonderful meal for the occasion. Mt. Calvary loves to eat. Thanks to Joe and Cheri Short for all their work in preparing the meal!
Pastor DeVries and his wife Cathy go through the line.

A portion of the 240+ that were served!Mt. Calvary member Robyn White made a special cake in honor of the occasion.Pastor DeVries and Cathy find out from President Bill Greinke that the congregation is sending them on a trip to ROME! This was a complete surprise to just about everyone in the room. Grandma Cathy enjoys her first grandson, Nathan. Is this the next Pastor DeVries? Only time will tell!

Daily Devotional Thought--From the New Testament (Who is Our Mother?)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

In today's New Testament, Jesus speaks seemingly confounding words:

While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother" (Matthew 12:46-50).

How can Jesus' mother, not be his mother? She gave birth to him, she fed him, she raised him. How is anyone but Mary, the mother of Jesus?

How can your mother not by your mother? She gave birth to you, she fed and nourished you, she raised you. How is anyone but your mother, your mother?

Because, you see, it is in the Church that you received the new birth by water and the Spirit (John 3:5). It is in the Church that you are fed and nourished with the Bread of Life (John 6). It is in the Church that you are raised to know your Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:11; Matthew 28:19-20).

Just as you have an earthly father and a heavenly Father, you have an earthly mother, but you also have a mother given to you from above, and this mother is the Church. For it is through her that the children of God are fed with His gifts.

A mother's boy for life. May we all be fed and nourished by our mother, the Church. Amen.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Daily Devotional Thought--From the Old Testament (All Sheep Are God's Sheep)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

As we celebrated our Lord's shepherding the flock of faith here at Mt. Calvary for 25 years through the faithful and dedicated ministry of Pastor DeVries, we read from Ezekiel 34:

Consider these words:

"For thus says the LORD God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.

I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong i will destroy. I will feed them in justice."

Sheep are prone to wander. Our own children, or spouse and many of our other neighbors, as sheep of the flock of faith, are prone to wander. And because you are also a sheep, you know all too well how easily this wandering occurs.

Our schedules keep us from reading or studying God's Word, or speaking with our heavenly Father in prayer. Our sinful flesh is lazy and doesn't want to spend time in God's Word, or more likely, doesn't like when the Word reveals this Old Adam who is still swimming through the flooding waters of Baptism.

We wander from the comfort of God's Word and His Sacraments, but because He is the Good Shepherd, because His heart burns with compassion for you, His sheep, because He has laid down His life and poured out His blood to be able to call you His sheep, He runs after you to fold you and all his wandering sheep back into the fold--back to the green pastures, where your cup runneth over.

Your wandering children, spouse, neighbor, and yes, even your wandering nature is gathered together because All of the sheep are God's Sheep--and the Good Shepherd seeks the lost, and brings back those who wander and stray.

Rescued by the Good Shepherd. Amen.

Monday, October 12, 2009

No Daily Devotional Thought--Dentist and a bit of flooding

Sorry, no devotional thought for today (my day off). I had a dentist appointment to begin replacing my bridge that I swallowed last week (don't ask). And just before I left for the office the neighbor let us know that water was flowing into the street from our back yard. After checking it out, the water is coming from the neighbor behind us, but our back yard is indeed a swamp land, and the water is creeping up our foundation. Just put the kids down for naps...and the list of things to do awaits.

Devotions resume tomorrow!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Daily Devotional Thought--From the Confessions (The Fifth Commandment)

Our Friday series on The Ten Commandments brings us this week to the 5th Commandment.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

What is the 5th Commandment?
You shall not murder.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.

There is a wonderful summary of this commandment in Concordia: A Reader's Edition of the Book of Concord:

Luther distinguishes between spiritual and civil government and authority, which we commonly refer to as the doctrine of the two kingdoms. God takes care of us in the Church through the ministry of Word and Sacrament, the means of grace. In our homes He cares for us through our pastors. In the world, he cares for us by means of civil government. God gives to the civil government the authority to punish criminals and, when necessary, to execute them. The spiritual meaning of this commandment is that we are not to "kill" our neighbor in our hearts, with our thoughts, with our words, or with our hands. No one has the right, on his or her own authority, to murder another person. Only God may take a human life, and He entrusts this authority to civil rulers. So Christians can in good conscience wage war and punish and execute criminals under rightful government authority. Luther goes on to explain that we break the Fifth Commandment not only be acting against it, but also when we fail to protect our neighbor. To explain this commandment, Luther relies on the Sermon on the Mount, particularly Matthew 5:46-47 (p. 378-379).

A good summary paragraph from the Large Catechism reads as follows:

Therefore, it is God's ultimate purpose that we let harm come to no one, but show him all good and love. As we have said, this commandment is especially directed toward those who are our enemies. For to do good to our friend is an ordinary heathen virtue, as Christ says in Matthew 5:46 (LC, I, 193).

So how do you know if you've sinned against the Fifth Commandment? Begin by asking yourself these questions:

  • Have I unjustly taken the life of anyone, born or unborn?
  • Have I injured my neighbor with violent actions, hitting and debating my neighbor, spoken debasing and insulting words, using foul or dirty words to describe my neighbor, or murdered him with thoughts of anger or contempt, and hatred?
  • Do I hold grudges or harbor resentment?
  • Am I abusive (in word or deed) toward my spouse, children, or anyone else?
  • Have I ignored the plight of the helpless or been callous toward genuine need?
  • Do I abuse my body with neglect of health care, excess of food, drink, tobacco or drugs?

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Daily Devotional Thought--From the New Testament (Shake off the Dust)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

When Jesus sends out the twelves, He gave them these instructions (among others):
"As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town" (Matthew 10:12-14).
When is the Gospel a burden?
When we believe that it is our task to prepare the heart of another. But Jesus didn't give that responsibility to those He sent out on His behalf.
Their task was simple: bear witness to the good news that they had received in Christ Jesus.
Nothing more. Nothing less.
And if anyone did not receive them, or their words, there were others who needed to hear that good news. "Shake the dust off from your feet" and go on to another.
There are many today who will not receive the Word, no matter how clearly it is communicated, no matter how convincing an argument is presented. But that is not your burden.
Carry out your priestly vocation and pray for him or her. Pray that the Word you have shared, sharper than any double-edged sword (Heb. 4:12), will settle in and at some point produce the fruit of repentance and faith.
But in the mean time, move on to another, for Christ desires all men to be saved (2 Tim. 2:3).
May it be according to His will. Amen.

Monday, October 05, 2009

No Daily Devotional Thought (Monday -- Wednesday)

Jamie and I are headed to Comfort, TX, to celebrate our 7th Anniversary. We will be staying at the Haven River Inn, where full-time church workers receive two nights free lodging each year. This is made possible through the support of The Lamb's Tale Ministries. Naomi and Micah will be staying Pastor and Connie Barz. We are grateful for their loving care of our wonderful children while we enjoy two nights away.

Because even a brief vacation is to be...well...a vacation. I will not be posting Daily Devotional Thoughts Monday through Wednesday of this week. I will resume posting on Thursday morning.

That does not mean, however, that you have to go without. Check out these links and find a daily devotion that suits you.

For some serious meat:

From Lutheran Hour Ministries:

For a New Lutheran Quote of the Day, an Old Lutheran Quote of the Day, and a Patristic Quote of the Day, as well as other pastoral musings:

For a wealth of devotional material to use in your home:
Check out the Congregation at Prayer, published every Sunday in Mt. Calvary's bulletin.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Happy Anniversary, Jamie!

Seven years ago today, Jamie and I were united in Holy Matrimony. It was a beautiful fall day in Wisconsin, with our dearest family and friends in attendance. I'm surrounded by numerous examples of faithfulness here at Mt. Calvary, couples who have celebrated many more years than we, but today, I give thanks for the seven years that God has blessed us with.

Those of you who were there, enjoy the memories! The rest of you, here is a quick glimpse of the day.

Jamie and her family:
The BEAUTIFUL bride!
The groom with his family:
The groom is ready to go:
It's game day!
Here comes the bride.The moment I've been waiting for.Mr. and Mrs. Gregory TruweAt last!The wedding party.Let the games begin!Who's driving this thing?The Village People showed up. Well of course, the reception was at Village Bowl.

Mt. Calvary Pictorial Directory

To all members of Mt. Calvary. It's been five years since our last pictorial directory. We want YOU to be a part of a new and updated family directory. In a congregation that has three services on a Sunday, a directory is a valuable resource to have in the home: to look up a picture of someone you are praying for, to find out who you will be serving with on a board or committee, or to find out the names of that nice couple you've been sitting next to for a few weeks and have been too embarrassed to ask.

We need you to make our new family directory complete. Help us put faces with names. We have chosen Lifetouch to help us connect our members and tell our story. Just click this image and follow the instruction to sign up for your FREE photography session.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Mt. Calvary Member Gets Home Makeover

Mt. Calvary member, Norene Karger, was recently selected to be the recipient of a home makeover. What a gift!

Great Day San Antonio, the morning show for KENS Channel 5, has a program called Mi Casa Makeover. Norene's son, Tom, had submitted an application for his mother's home to be considered, and, well, it was not only considered, it was selected. Watch a video of the KENS crew surprising Norene with the good news here.

On Friday morning at 9:00 Great Day San Antonio did a live feed from Norene's front yard as they kicked off her home makeover. Pastor DeVries and I were able to attend, and a few other members who live near by were also there.

Norene has lived in her home for over 40 years, the last 20+ by herself after she was widowed. She has done her best to keep up the home, but that can be a daunting task for even an able-bodied strong man. Thanks be to God, Norene will be receiving new siding, a new roof, new counter tops, a new sink, a walk-in shower to replace her tub and sliding doors, and the list goes on. But, Norene is a bit nervous.

You see, while ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, completes their work in only a week, while the family is sent away to an exotic vacation. Norene's home makeover will take a bit longer to accomplish--three months to be exact. During that time, Norene will have to pack up all her belongings, and move to an apartment for three months. Thankfully, the apartment is in the neighborhood so she will be able to continue her daily walks with Ruby, her neighbor, and her other community activities. But the most difficult part for Norene is that, "They won't even let me see the house until it's finished." Which means that she'll have to find a new route to walk!

I hope you will join me, and the Mt. Calvary family, in giving thanks for this tremendous gift from God, which will undoubtedly help her in many ways. I pray that the LORD would keep the workers safe, and comfort Norene during her displacement with his gracious presence. If you are curious, you can check out additional videos of the kickoff show here. The first 8 videos describe the work that will be done on Norene's home.

Congratulations, Norene! We want to see pictures when you're settle back into your home.