200 Proof TuneIn Radio

Monday, October 5, 2015

Does Supporting Planned Parenthood Equal Supporting Women's Health?

Every now and again, I come across a young person who gives me hope for the future.  Molly Buffington is and has been one of those people.  She is a Sophomore at Alabama and when we were both in California, she was one of my top 10 all time favorite parishioners.
This is something that Molly has written in response to the mindless support of Planned Parenthood.  I think that it's excellent!

Does Supporting Planned Parenthood Equal Supporting Women's Health?  

By Molly Buffington



I believe in women’s rights. I believe in women’s access to healthcare. I believe in defunding Planned Parenthood.
If these seemingly contradictory statements shock you, I would like to gently suggest that you have been heinously misinformed about the nature of Planned Parenthood and the services the group provides. They have done an excellent job at crafting their public image; because of this, many have reached the wholly incorrect conclusion that if you are pro-woman, you must be pro-abortion and pro-Planned Parenthood.
“Ah,” you say. “But you forget that Planned Parenthood provides services other than abortions for women.” While many tout the agency as the nation’s largest provider of women's healthcare services, this is a misleading statement. Yes, Planned Parenthood far surpasses community health centers for the number of abortions performed, considering community health centers do not perform abortions. However, in every other area of women’s health – number of facilities, number of patients served, Pap smears – community health centers exceed Planned Parenthood by leaps and bounds. Most striking is the fact that Planned Parenthood does not have a single licensed mammography clinic in the entire United States. Thus the claim that Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of women’s healthcare requires an extremely narrow definition of women’s health care. No rational person would say abortions are the only healthcare services a woman needs.  It is hard for me to believe that the focus of women’s healthcare should be interrupting a woman’s biological ability to bear children, rather than saving her from an early and painful death.
The recent controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood has been a series of videos released by the Center for Medical Progress discussing the collection of aborted fetal cadavers for scientific use. I begin with this highly sanitized explanation, but the truth is far from this euphemistic description. The videos contain casual and graphic language from Planned Parenthood employees and researchers, which will be discussed, so take this as your viewer discretion warning.
Planned Parenthood doctors are altering the abortion procedure in order to deliver fully intact fetuses. They then cut out livers, brains, anything researchers have requested. Many in the pro-choice camp have claimed that a fetus is not a baby; if that is true, then it must be very difficult for Planned Parenthood to harvest baby eyes from these non-baby entities. The doctors and technicians treat the bodies deplorably, cracking jokes and playing around with a dead human body.
While perhaps this callous treatment is deeply wrong, some argue that using aborted fetuses for scientific research is commendable, as it can go to cure terrible diseases like multiple sclerosis. Thus the highly effective propaganda machine of Planned Parenthood strikes again. First of all, Planned Parenthood is not donating fetal corpses and organs out of the goodness of their hearts, but rather they are doing so because the distributors promise a profit. They are not just taking enough payment to cover the cost of storage and shipment; the office and its employees make very good money harvesting a fetus’ organs. Making a profit from selling fetal cadavers to science his is illegal, as is altering abortion procedures in order to protect the baby’s organs – what an ironic turn of events. And when the aborted infant’s organs reach one of these researchers, this is how they use his or her brain to better our society:

“…cells were extracted from second-trimester human fetuses (18–22 weeks gestation age) obtained at abortion. The forebrain ventricular/subventricular zones were dissected from the brain, the samples chilled on ice, minced and dissociated…
In both cases, to generate mice chimeric for hGPCs, we transplanted newborn mouse pups with hGPCs isolated from second-trimester fetal human brain tissue… cells were then delivered to the test mice using a five site intracerebral injection protocol that targeted the corpus callosum and cerebellar peduncle… Each mouse was transplanted with 300,000 GPCs delivered at five forebrain sites…”

“A Competitive Advantage by Neonatally Engrafted Human Glial Progenitors Yields Mice Whose Brains Are Chimeric for Human Glia,” 2014

The technical jargon may be overwhelming to the average reader, so in layman’s terms scientists are injecting babies’ brain cells into mice. Tell me, does that strike you as an experiment of Dr. Salk or Dr. Frankenstein?
Furthermore, the astute reader likely noted the age of the aborted babies who apparently volunteered to donate their brains to science: second trimester. And if you have read the news recently, you may remember a woman gave birth to a 24-week old baby while on a cruise ship, and the baby has survived. While her son was about two weeks too old to fit into the age group of this experiment, the point is that our medicine has come so far that a woman can give birth to a baby four months early and it can live. In 2011 a baby was born in Germany at 21 weeks – within the age of the babies killed and dissected for the above experiment – and survived. The babies used in this study could have survived outside of the womb.

My point in sharing these stories is a simple one. Healthcare is defined as “the maintenance and improvement of physical and mental health, especially through the provision of medical services.” Using this definition, how can we truly say that supporting Planned Parenthood is supporting women’s healthcare? I doubt the women who say they stand with Planned Parenthood are aware that this agency underserves the female population, mutilates their biological offspring, and sells their sons and daughters’ harvested organs to scientists so they can play around with human-mouse hybrids. Before you stand with Planned Parenthood, take a seat and do some reading on their version of women’s healthcare. No woman should be treated so terribly, be she the mother or the fetus.



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Thursday, June 25, 2015

You’re Not Fit For the Ministry!

I'm not fit for the ministry? YOU'RE NOT FIT FOR THE MINISTRY!

I remember some years ago - there I was, in Seminary sitting in a class that was dealing with the Holy Ministry and coming to the realization “HOLY CRAP, I AM NOT FIT FOR THE MINISTRY!  I’M HOSED!”

Why would I say that?  Because I read this…

            “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer (Pastor), he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer (Pastor) must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”  (1 Timothy 3:1-7 ESV)

Well, I could maybe muster up one or two of these things at a time, but when I consider the state of my heart, I am out of luck. 

Above Reproach?  Really? Reproach – disapproval or rebuke.  Very few people have approved of me and my life.  Heck, I know my own thoughts and deeds, NOT EVEN I APPROVE! 

Husband of one wife, whew, not married to multiple wives, so I thought that I had that one down… except that lust!  What’s up with that?  I am an adulterer in my heart, which God knows and sees!  HOSED AGAIN!

Sober minded, well, I am not a big drinker, but I sure am a goofball!   Dang, even if I’m not drunk, my mind isn’t of the most sober and serious sort.  Man!  I can’t catch a break!

Self-Controlled – Fugetaboutit! I am an emotional, flailing maniac, given to emotions and impulsive thinking.  I often speak before I think, I am overweight and I love to eat what is not good for me.  I am not self-controlled. 

Respectable?  Next!  I am a disaster!

Hospitable, on some days one might call me hospitable. 

Able to teach?  Yeah, I do okay teaching, when I am not too lazy to prepare and study for a class.  Sadly, there are too many other things going on to actually do this on most days.

Not a Drunkard.  Finally, I am not a very big drinker in general.  Wow, I have one! 

Then we get to this one – “not violent, but gentle.”  I LOVED to play rugby to tackle my opponent - hard!  I love a good scrum where people are about to die from the sheer pressure being exerted on them, the clash of eight men on each side smashing into one another and pushing with all their might against the other side.  I love to watch boxing and UFC, I love to shoot guns and watch anything that goes BOOM!  Heck, I just sometimes love shouting “BOOM!” for no good reason! I’m not the most peaceful person. 

Not Quarrelsome – HA! I’m Italian!  Arguing is more than an art, it is a way of life!   

Not a lover of money.  I tend to be generous by nature, but my dream job has always been to be a “retired billionaire.”  I like money, I have a little, I would like more. 

Need I go on?   I’m not fit for the ministry by the definition given in 1Timothy 3, neither are you. 

One of the things that has made me truly sad is seeing those in the office of the ministry who believe that they are fit for the office of the Holy Ministry, gloat and prance around at the failings of others.   They smugly state that not only is this man or that man not fit for the ministry, and everything that he has ever written or may write in the future is null and void.  It seems that according to some, anyone who has fallen into disgrace no longer has anything of value to offer and is now incapable of declaring the love and mercies of Christ.    

So here it is, the book of Psalms… all the parts by David – null, he committed adultery and had a guy rubbed out.   Pauline epistles, well he was a guy who persecuted the church, but at least he didn’t commit adultery (at least as far as we know), so maybe murderers are okay, but not adulterers.  Judges… yeah, those guys were messed up.  Abraham, passed off his wife to another man not just once, but twice!  His nick name should have been “Huggy Bear” (see Starsky and Hutch if you didn’t get that).  Of course in a modern context, being a gossip who rejoices in seeing someone with more status than you fall is also perfectly acceptable.  So in all reality, not cheating on your wife or embezzling from the church seems to be the true qualification for the ministry. 

Now, before anyone starts carrying on about how I am saying that adultery or theft is not a big deal and that pastors who do it should not step down from the ministry, IT IS, AND THEY SHOULD… at least for a time.  This is not to say that there is no grace for them nor is it to say that there is no hope that one day, they may be restored, if it is the Lord’s will. 

“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

“So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
(Luke 15:1-7 ESV)

Can we not rejoice when one repents?  Must there be gloating and pontificating?  Can’t we just sit with Job in silence and mourn the sin that has wrecked the whole world?  Can’t we lament our sin along with the sin of others?   Can’t we just speak of the grace and mercies of Christ with one another, especially when they are hurting so deeply?  Would you not ask for the same if you were in such a spot? 

We who confess our sins to be what they are, are they not to be met with the Grace of Christ in even greater measure?  I thought that is what “ministers of the Gospel” are called to do, forgive sins.  Then again, they aren’t fit for the ministry either for in and of ourselves, no one is. 

I think that Martin Luther seemed to approach the office with the proper attitude of fear and humility.  One of his “Sacristy Prayers” reads:
“Lord God, You have appointed me as a Bishop and Pastor in Your Church, but
you see how unsuited I am to meet so great and difficult a task. If I had
lacked Your help, I would have ruined everything long ago. Therefore, I
call upon You: I wish to devote my mouth and my heart to you; I shall
teach the people. I myself will learn and ponder diligently upon You Word.
Use me as Your instrument -- but do not forsake me, for if ever I should
be on my own, I would easily wreck it all.”


It is called “the Holy Ministry” because it is Christ’s for He alone is Holy and He alone is worthy.  Let us all confess our sins and even more confess our Savior. 

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

He has cast down the mighty and lifted the lowly.


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Friday, June 5, 2015

Casting Stones in the Name of Jesus


“The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”(John 8:3-11 ESV)

This passage of Scripture is often misquoted and misunderstood by believers and unbelievers alike.  Many believe that this is a case of Jesus excusing sins, as if the adultery isn’t a problem, which it isn’t THE problem, it is a sinful expression of THE problem. 

I have a few friends who have been driven from the pastorate, some at their own hands and some at the hands of others.  Either way, they are wounded, judged and cast out.  Sometimes, if the church (especially the clergy) still stoned people, these guys would be dragged out to the edge of a seminary and we would throw rocks at them until they stop moving.  The outrage, especially over sexual sins leads people into a frenzy of judgment, especially those who don’t have many facts.  

From time to time, grace is extended to these men and their families, but

all too often, they are left disenfranchised, judged and condemned to wander the world of earthly purgatory, wondering if they will every be forgiven, truly forgiven by the church.  Many have received absolution from a pastor, they know that Christ has forgiven them, yet they stand condemned, constantly reminded of their sins, constantly judged by fellow sinners who themselves need to seek forgiveness for their lack of forgiveness.   Some in the church tell us that they need to continue to suffer so that they will be good and sorry for their sins.  I have actually witnessed a single mother be wounded by those who say that she is sinning against her child by raising the kid alone and that the child is an ongoing punishment for her sin.  

Now, how do we stand in judgment of other absolved sinners?  Yes, there are always “those people” out there, but with our dark hearts, we are “those people.”  Yes, our sins may be more socially acceptable, sins like gluttony, gossip, lust, covetousness, hate, not availing ourselves of worship and God’s Word as often as we could, stealing time, if not tangible things from work, it goes on and on.  
I have said it before and so I say it again, mind your own sanctification.  You cannot look into the heart of your neighbor and judge their repentance; you can only do that with yourself.  If you find that you are repentant enough, look again, because you have no idea how dark your own soul is.  


I wrote earlier that the adultery, theft, gossip, etc… is not the real problem.  The problem is sin, and in any sin, the real problem is that we have the wrong god, we are the god.  All sin is a first commandment issue, “You shall have no gods before me.”  The Hebrew is better than the English on this as it says, “No gods to my face.”  When we have any gods, especially the god of self, we are smashing it in the true God’s face.  


Next time you hear of some pastor, or layman doing something sinful, stop and ask, “am I really better?  Am I really in a place to cast stones?”  If you are a Christian, a real Christian, you will pray for that person, that they may confess and be absolved.  Then we are called to rejoice for the lost lamb has been found in the arms of the Good Shepherd and we welcome him or her back into our smelly old sheepfold.

Of course Jesus does forgive you, but if you have committed a crime, the Government may not be so gracious. 


We who are sinners, who know that there is nothing good about us apart from the grace and mercy of Christ, should look inward at our own sin, at our own need for mercy.  We need to come and confess OUR OWN sins and not those of others.   We need to, each and everyone take the blame from what we have done and left undone, for our hate and anger against others, for our putting ourselves first – always.  We confess that we don’t love our neighbors as ourselves, we don’t love God with our whole heart, we are NOT heartily sorry for our sins, but we are HARDLY sorry for them.  We all justly deserve hell and damnation. 
As for pastors who “fall from grace,” I understand that some public sins are scandalous and they should step down from ministry, at least for a while.  Some public sins do exclude people from holding certain offices, but I like to think that they, in time may actually be able to be restored.  The Scriptures are full of sinful people who serve God.  There was even an Apostle who actively persecuted the church.  GASP!
All sin is deadly serious and should be understood that way, but Christ took the death of our sins and exchanged it for His life and righteousness. 
 
Sheep that from the fold did stray
No true shepherd e’er forsaketh:
Weary souls that lost their way
Christ the Shepherd, gently taketh
In His arms that they may live 
Jesus sinners doth receive.

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Monday, May 25, 2015

WHAT IS THE CHURCH IF NOT AN OUTHOUSE?


There have been many models, ideas and ideals of what a church is.

To some, the church is a playhouse.  It is a place to go to be entertained, it is where there is a touching show.  The Pastor and his staff are the cast and crew, complete with a band in the pit (or often front and center).  We hear and see sights and sounds that move and manipulate us with the skill of a Broadway Theater.  To their credit, often times the show delivers some pretty amazing stuff week after week. Our hearts soar, we laugh, we cry, we fall in love all over again… unfortunately, it isn’t usually with the right Jesus with whom we fall in love.  

The Jesus who lived a humble life of service and perfection (because we never could), who died in the stead of sinners, who rose from the dead and ascended into heaven isn’t often spoken of in these places,  instead, we find a Jesus of moral principles, who says, “you’re good enough, smart enough and dog gone it, people like you!”  This is the Jesus who, if you do certain things, in the right way, will give you money, beauty, health and all sorts of other ridiculous things that He never did in the Bible. 

 To others, the church is a Hospital.  It is a place where those who are merely sick in their sins and trespasses go to receive medicine to become better people, better keepers of the law.  Here we receive the Law in small pills that we can easily digest.  Here, we also receive principles for better living.  If you put a filter on your Internet, then you will be okay with God, then He will like you again.  

The problem with the church as a Hospital idea is that we are not fully dead in our sins and trespasses (Eph 2:1), we are just ill and we need more law pills to help us.  Yet, the law always and only kills, it mortifies the flesh, it is designed to drive us to our knees because no one will ever be saved by the law (Rom 3:20).

To others, the church is a Hospice.  A hospice is a place for those who are dying and for whom there is no hope.  Medicine has failed and soon, they will meet their maker.  

This is a place where life is precious, every breath and every beat of the heart is a precious gift from God.  In a Hospice, people despair of their abilities to get up and to press forward, it is one second, one minute, one hour and one day at a time.  This is the sort of place where God is at work taking people into His death and for those who are found in Christ, there is a new dawn, soon to be revealed. 

The Hospice is a fine model for the church, yet much like in a hospice, there are bedpans, adult diapers and wallowing in filth, I can’t help but to put forth another paradigm for the church.

The church is not a place for the clean and pristine, but a place for the lowly, the broken and the dirty people. Whether they be paupers or billionaires, they are one and all dirty people who are full of filth and uncleanness.  They are not a sweet fragrance in the nose of God by their very nature.  Yet the church is God’s House, where He takes the things that are not and declares them to be the things that are.  In the House of God, through His Word, we are spoken righteous.  We are here emptied of ourselves and our sins, we are wiped clean and sent away forgiven, redeemed. 

So I propose that while the church is a Hospice, it is also an Outhouse.  It is a place where sinners come, divest themselves of their crap and find a source of great relief for their smelly and broken ways. 

The church is also an outhouse because sinners use and abuse it, much like the porta-potties at a county fair, these too are places where if you’re not careful, other people’s filth may well slosh onto you. 

So we find sinners in the house of God and here is the place where the devil loves to throw his yellow snowballs, using the very people of God as his tools. 

Come to the Lord's House, prepared to be relieved, prepared to be emptied of your filth, but also, be well aware that there are those in the outhouse who are there for the wrong reasons and will pee on the seat without a second thought. 

The House of the Lord is for sinners, that’s why you’re invited.




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Monday, April 27, 2015

The Well Done Gospel



“In Jesus, God has put up a "Gone Fishing" sign on the religion shop. He has done the whole job in Jesus once and for all and simply invited us to believe it - to trust the bizarre, unprovable proposition that in him, every last person on earth is already home free without a single religious exertion: no fasting till your knees fold, no prayers you have to get right or else, no standing on your head with your right thumb in your left ear and reciting the correct creed - no nothing. . . . The entire show has been set to rights in the Mystery of Christ - even though nobody can see a single improvement. Yes, it's crazy. And yes, it's wild, and outrageous, and vulgar. And any God who would do such a thing is a God who has no taste. And worst of all, it doesn't sell worth beans. But it is good news - the only permanently good news there is - and therefore I find it absolutely captivating."
- Robert Ferrar Capon



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Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Glorious Downward Spiral of Grace



We usually associate downward spiral with something negative, a downward spiral into addiction, illness, death.  Yet this is the trajectory of grace, a downward trajectory.

Why downward? Because Christ descended into our fallen mortal existence.  Through the fall of mankind (and yes, we participated and participate in it daily), we lost that fellowship that we had in the perfect love and companionship with God.  We no longer walk with Him in the garden, but we have been cast out, cast down into a world of pain, suffering and death.

Yet in the aftermath of the fall, God made a promise that from Eve would come one who would crush the head of the serpent.  Not just the head of satan, but He also would destroy sin and the consequences of sin, our last enemy, death.  So at the right time, in the fullness of time, Jesus, the Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity took on the flesh of man as the Son of Adam (and Eve) through the Virgin Mary and descended into our existence.  Into our sinful, fallen lives.

There, limiting His own Divinity, God in Christ Jesus, lived perfection in our presence and in our stead.  Here, He descended into our world and our lives.  Through the crucifixion, our Hero, our God allowed Himself to be lowered into our graves, into the death of our sins.  Yet even as He was lowered for us, He also ascended for us as He conquered death, and not for Himself, but for you and for me.

We are not lifted up, but Christ comes down to man.  This is the direction of Grace and this is the direction of God's gifts, downward.  Downward to The Cross, downward to the grave, downward into our sin.

So also we recognize that in true Christian Worship, we are not directed to lift ourselves up to heaven, but instead, through the work of the Holy Spirit, God comes down to man.

God reaches down to man in His Word, in His words of forgiveness and mercy, through absolution, in His Holy Supper, in the Waters of Holy Baptism, down to sinful man as man could never in a billion lifetimes even begin to ascend to the perfection of God.

Martin Luther says in his Heidelberg Disputation, "It is certain that man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the grace of Christ."  He lifts us up, our works, efforts and merits are nothing more than us holding our own filth in His face. When we think that we have something to offer God, we are saying that we can help Him to save us.

The Direction of your worship reflects the direction of your salvation.  Always God reaching down to sinners, who on bent knees acknowledge their wretchedness.

In those low places, where there are the lowly, the fallen, the wretched, there Christ enters our existence and extends His mercy through His Word, His Sacraments and His Bride, the church.

Our sacrifices avail us nothing, but Christ's atonement has won us everything.



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Thursday, April 23, 2015

"Gift Given, Gift Received"


“Receive it as gift.”  I hear Dr. Norman Nagel speak it into my mind’s ear (if there is such a thing). 

This is the essence of the Theology of the Cross, “Receive it as gift.”  Forgiveness, mercy, salvation, sanctification… “receive it as gift.” 

St. Paul speaks this way in Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)   The gifts - grace and faith, pure gift. 


Gifts are not earned, we call that “pay” but gifts run the way of grace, which is God’s unmerited favor for sinners.  The gift given is Christ Jesus Himself, who is the gift and the gift giver.  He is the one who gave us His righteousness and who takes away our sins, as gift. 

If one insists that he or she must “give one’s heart to Jesus,” then they are not receiving salvation as gift, but as barter.  “If I give my heart to Jesus and turn away from my sin, then I will have salvation.” 
Where is the gift in that?  There is no gift in that as we are somehow either bartering for salvation or trying to earn salvation.  Instead, we who are dead in our sins and trespasses have the Great Physician visit our rotten, corrupted souls and give life to them.  He regenerates the dead and brings life where there was only death, and this He does as a free and amazing gift.  There are no works required to have this gift, it is all free, it is gift. 

Sadly enough, like all gifts, this one too can be rejected, it can remain unopened and it can be thrown away.  Yet Christ in His long suffering way continues to give His gift of life freely, without reservation, without any quid pro quo, no exchanges, no bartering, it is all gift.  When we see that salvation comes to us as a gift, we see that it does not originate with us, but with God. 

Now when we look to Scripture, we start to see Christ’s gifts all over the place -  
In Holy Baptism, here we find the Word of God attached to the baptismal waters, as God works salvation in sinners, washing away our sin, laying us into Christ’s grave and raising us to eternal life.   We find that Christ is present in the Lord’s Supper where He joins Himself to the bread and wine through His Word and is there with His meal of mercy for sinners.  We find Him in the voice of the pastor who proclaims God’s Word to us, speaking Biblical absolution into our ear holes.  All gift, all Christ, none of our works. 

When we start to see God’s gifts more and more, we find them in even more unlikely places.  Sometimes we find God’s gifts through adversity, which creates maturity.  There are times when God will allow us to suffer in order that we might receive the gift of being purged of any notions of our own worth and or virtue before the perfection of God.  There are times when God will also rescue us from our bad decisions.

Like children who think that hot fudge sundaes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, would be awesome, we want those things that are appealing to us.  We tell God what we want, but God being a Good Father, will not leave us to our own devices.  We rage and bellow because that job, car, house, spouse, boy or girlfriend, and so forth that we wanted doesn’t become ours.  We blame God for keeping us from happiness, only to find out sometime later how God protected us from our stupid desires. 
We find that those things that we don’t have were a “good miss.” 

For all of the things in life, things received as blessing and things perceived as a curse, we can certainly “receive it as gift.” for us!

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Rest for Your Soul

“The conscience, our own anxiety, and all slaves of law bid us go the way of obedience to the very end in order to find peace with God.  But the way of obedience has no end.  It lies endlessly before you, bringing continually severer demands and constantly growing indebtedness…  But now Christ is the end of the law; the road ends at his feet, and here his righteousness is offered to everyone who believes.  It is to that place, to Jesus only, that God has wanted to drive you with all your unrest and anguish of soul.”

Bo Giertz - Hammer of God

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

My SCREAMING Brain

Sometimes it’s dangerous for me to be alone in a quiet environment.  Maybe that’s why I am always whistling or singing some hymn, Sinatra, Mel Torme, Louis Prima, Dean Martin... because it distracts my conscience from the stupid guilt. 

Maybe I’m unique, but I don’t think so.  I have what I call “A Screaming Brain.”   When it is quiet and I am not distracted with radio, music, a book, TV, Facebook, blogging etc., my brain starts to revisit the stupid sins of my past.  I think about the people that I have hurt, intentionally or not, the guy’s head that I stepped on playing rugby, the stupid things that have come out of my mouth, so many sinful and shameful things that visit me in the quiet hours.  So many of these things from my youth that if I saw a 16 year old kid do today, I would laugh and say, “well, what do you expect from a 16 year old?”  Yet, for some reason, when it applies to 16 year old me, I feel so embarrassed.

Martin Luther spoke of his “Screaming Brain” in this way…
“When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: “I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it?  Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One who suffered and made a satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where he is, there I shall be also.”     -  Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel



Often times, I am reminded that that Screaming Brain is simply one third of the “unholy trinity” of the world, my sinful self and the devil at work trying to drive me inward, into my sinful heart, into despair and shame instead of allowing me to focus on Jesus Christ and His finished work FOR ME!  It tries to drag me from the absolved life of a baptized child of God and is nothing less than the devil and my old Adam trying to make me doubt that when Jesus said, “it is finished,” that it really IS FINISHED!  MY SINS ARE FORGIVEN!  Sins past, present, future, all assigned to Christ who bore all of my sins from the cross and gives me (and you) all of His perfect righteousness. 

If you have a “Screaming Brain” of your own, I have the same good news as Luther had for you.  You are redeemed in Christ, He has paid for your sins and the sins of the whole world.  For those who are baptized, you have been baptized into Christ and clothed with His righteousness (Gal.3). 


For those of you who don’t have a screaming brain, I am somewhat envious of you, but also somewhat worried for you, but that’s a whole other blog post.  



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Friday, April 10, 2015

Death and Resurrection

The whole of the Christian Faith is caught up in these two things, death and resurrection.  



From June 2013 at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, Pasadena, Ca.


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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Christ's Grace Or Libertinism?

You cannot out sin God’s grace! 

This is one of the most liberating statements in Christendom, but also perceived by many as the most dangerous.  It isn’t bone-crushing law that makes the church angry, it is the completely free Gospel that will make the faithful round up the pitchforks and torches. 

The problem is that the law that they hear isn’t bone-crushing enough and isn't “FOR THEM.”  When the law is proclaimed in all of its severity, it is often perceived as the law for “those people.” 
“Those homosexuals are an abomination.” 
“Those drug addicts and alcoholics are evil to the core.” 
“Those rioters in Ferguson are the dirty, violent, mindless villains of our generation.” 

One of the reasons that most people in the church are not completely thrilled with this announcement of the dangerous, radical, 200 Proof, no holds barred Gospel -  is that they don’t understand how utterly rotten and needful of it they are.  When we come to grips, even a little with our utter sinfulness and incapacity to do even the least good work without Christ doing it in our stead and through us, we will never lay hold of the amazing sweetness of God’s grace in Christ Jesus. 

Through the perfect life, atoning sacrifice and glorious resurrection of Jesus, the sins of the world were answered for and consumed in our Savior.  The sins of the whole world, from Adam to the last man standing, all consumed.  This is the radicality of the Gospel, that every sin, ever, is forgiven… for sinners.  But what of those who have conned themselves into believing that they are no longer sinners?  They have neutered the law enough in their hearing that they think that they are actually doing it.  

The “for you-ness” of the Gospel cannot exist unless there are sinners that need God’s grace, for you, for them, for all.  The truth “Of  You-ness” of the law turns sinners upside down and empties them of their false notions of their goodness.  God empties us of ourselves, our sinful selves, the law destroys, it kills and IT KILLS YOU! The Peccator (sinner) in you is being destroyed and yet, it keeps popping up over and over again.  The sinner will not be done away with finally until our bodies stop breathing on this earth.  

To go even further, the gift of Law and Gospel comes in the waters of Holy Baptism and shoves the old Adam even further under the death of the water.  Our God is not in the death business, but the life business.  He does not leave death alone without a resurrection, so He raises us to a new life, one lived as a justified saint.   The Word of God and some tap water is an amazing thing when our God is at work. 

Back to the idea of not being able to out sin God’s grace.  This statement horrifies the sinner who justifies him/herself, because it is heard as a license to sin (but mostly for "those people" to sin). If you can’t out sin God’s grace, then you’re saying that people can do whatever they please.  This is libertine license in their minds, and it is this way because they haven’t been emptied of themselves, of their false notions of their own goodness.   To one who hears it like this, it sounds like it is okay to coddle and pamper our pet sins and God is just hunky-dory with it.   

To the one who confesses his / her sin and confesses that there is nothing good in or about anyone aside from Christ, the saying that we cannot out sin God’s grace is nothing less than a proclamation of the superlative nature of God’s infinite, amazing, forgiveness of sins that we have in Christ Jesus. 

The self-righteous says, YOU CAN’T SAY THAT!  It tells those people that
they don’t have to change!   The broken sinner simply bows their head lower in reverence to their God and says, AMEN! Thanks be to God for His more than infinite mercy for our infinite sin.

You cannot out sin God’s grace, do you hear this statement as Libertine license or as Holy Absolution?

Thanks be to God that He blesses us and redeems us, even in the midst of our sin. 

St. Paul says it this way…
            “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
            What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life”
 - Romans 5:18 - 6:4 ESV

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Monday, April 6, 2015

Because


A break for a little levity



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