Archive for the ‘sanctification’ Category

Connected to Christ in Advent

Advent is upon us! In this season, we look back on all Christ did when He came veiled in flesh. We also look forward to when He will come again in His resurrected body with nail-pierced hands. In this year of social-distancing and social unrest, we remember that regardless of circumstance we are connected because of Christ and the life He freely gave for us.

The work of Christ connects us to Him and also to all other Christians. What an encouragement that is. During these times when we feel disconnected and are physically distanced, the reminder that we are connected to Christ is especially sweet.

Connected in Christ through Jesse’s Family Tree

Isaiah speaks of a branch that will bear fruit. That branch is Christ. Isaiah 11:1 says: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.”

The verse from Isaiah says that from the stump and roots of Jesse’s family tree a new branch will be born, will grow, and will bear much fruit. We are a part of this new growth. We may not share genetic familiarity with Jesse, Abraham, or King David. Because of Christ, we have been grafted into the new growth that finds its roots in the families of these people who came before. We are connected to Abraham, King David, and the people with whom we share church pews not because of genetic familiarity or social proximity but because of Christ.

The book of John talks about Christ being the vine and us the branches that grow directly from the branch. We are a part of this new growth. In Christ, we are grafted into this family. Christ is the vine that holds us all together. We abide in him and we are all connected to Christ and connected to one another. (John 15:4-5)
The Bible speaks in different ways about us being connected. What remains the same is the centrality of Christ. He is what binds us together. He binds us together in Baptism, regardless of the distance. We are connected as heirs in Christ and together we cry out to our heavenly Father. And while we are apart, He is growing us as individuals and as a body of believers.

Connected in Christ through Baptism.

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. . . .”
But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.
But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12: 12-14; 18; 24-27)

We are all baptized into the same faith because of the work of Christ. We are all a part of the same body. God has put this body of believers together. Nothing, not even death, can permanently separate us from Christ and our fellow believers.

Connected in Christ regardless of distance.

“For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.” (Colossians 2:1-5)

We are physically distanced yet not completely removed from one another because we are connected in Christ. This is not the first time Christians have felt the discomfort of distance. There is distance and it is painful yet we are still connected. We are knit together by the love of Christ and we look forward to when we can gather together again. Even though Paul has not seen these people face to face he is still encouraging them in their faith. Both Paul and we can do this because our assurance is not in our ability to connect with another but in the hold Christ has on us all.

Connected in Christ as family.

Our family bonds may be strained because we cannot travel, yet because of Christ, all of us as believers are family. We are forever connected and all at once we are crying out to the same Father. We can cry out to him “Abba! Father!” During this time of social distancing and separation, we can remember that we are children of God. We are all crying out at the same time for the same things even when we are apart. We can pray the Lord’s prayer and know others are praying the same words. We can recite the creeds and know that others are declaring those same words.

Connected in Christ and given gifts.

“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:4-7; 15-16)

We may be physically distant from one another, yet the Word of Christ is not taken from us. We can still speak the truth in love to one another. It may not be in the church narthex. It may be via letter instead. Rest assured that Christ is still at work in our lives making the body grow. He is still using each one of us. His gifts to us are still there. He is still using them. He is still building the body in love. He is growing us each as individuals and also as a Church body.

Connected through Christ

During this time when our usual ways of connecting may not be possible, we can know that we are connected because of Christ. The physical disconnection is there and it is painful. There may be a disconnection because of death, sickness, or general unrest. Thankfully our hope is not in our own life, health, or peace. Our hope is found in the life of Christ and the peace he gives.

This Advent, as with all of the Advent seasons that have come before, we look forward to when Christ will come back for us. He will raise His people from the dead, and our relationships with each other will be fully restored. We will, all together, look at the nail pierced hands of Christ in awe. I’m looking forward to that, as we all are.

~ taken from the CPH blog by Katie Koplin

statechurch

For what seems an eternity, one of the ongoing accusations leveled by secularists against Christians and the Church was that Christians kept their heads in the clouds. Believers have been told they have been too heavenly minded to be any earthly good, that they needed to be where the action really was, directing their energies to down-to-earth, pragmatic deeds.

So it is with some astonishment that the faithful see Governor John Carney of Delaware, along with other state governors such as California’s Gavin Newsom, order church leaders and congregants to keep their nonessential heads in the tech cloud. Carney’s recommendation? “Do your best to practice your faith virtually.“

No matter how virtuous or sentimental their motives, the almost complete capitulation of priests and pastors to banishment by government leaders like Carney has been astonishing. Few have meaningfully protested the exile of the Church into the cloud. In fact, nearly all churches voluntarily have closed their sanctuaries and ascended into cyberspace.

The nearly universal retreat into the cloud meant that the Church accepted social distancing more severe than the six feet enforced by grocery stores. It meant church leaders distanced themselves from their congregations altogether, consigning their flocks to a cyber-environment that is COVID-19 free but certainly not free from the virus of political correctness enforced the church of Big Tech minders.

Basically, the Church acceded to a definition of itself as non-essential, thus relegating itself to the status of any other business or institution. By beating a retreat into the cloud, the Church shrank itself into the tech matrix, subjecting itself to the arbitrary touch of a fingertip or click of a mouse, becoming just another one of the gods inhabiting the cloud above Mt. Tech Olympus.

But what is just as important as the ascension of the Church into the cloud is the fact that state governments, now fortified by SCOTUS [Supreme Court of the United States], will expect churches to continue to follow severe restrictions set up during and after the total shutdown. Churches will be expected to follow regulatory requirements for reopening that amount to the equivalent of a “fundamental transformation” of the churches.

Government leaders, now heartened by the swing decision of Chief Justice John Roberts, will continue to commandeer the way church is done by altering the liturgy, the habits, and the ways and means of worship as surely as if an altar devoted to Zeus were placed in the sanctuaries and congregants were forced to bow down and offer incense to the god.

Delaware is but one example of the establishment of the new state churches. As of May 18, Delaware’s governor issued his state church initiatives, including the new liturgical practices conforming to COVID correctness:

Attendance is limited to a maximum of 30% of occupancy.

Social distancing of 6 feet or more is required (except for members of the same household).

The length of the service can be no longer than one hour.

Individuals age 13 and up are required to wear a cloth face covering.

Services are limited to one day per week.

Gathering times must be staggered to permit cleaning before the next service.

Churches are asked to establish a system for staggering the arrival of worshippers.

Older citizens are advised not to attend at all.

When have we seen similar draconian restrictions on the Church? It may help to review the Bolsheviks’ responses to the Orthodox church that formed Russia’s spiritual life from 988 A.D. on.

Robert Conquest, the author of Harvest of Sorrow, relates that Lenin’s letter of November 1913 to Maxim Gorky stated the party position quite flatly:

Every religious idea, every idea of God, is unutterable vileness … of the most dangerous kind, contagion of the most abominable kind. Millions of sins, filthy deeds, acts of violence and physical contagions … are far less dangerous than the subtle, spiritual idea of God decked out in the smartest ideological costumes. Every defense or justification of God, even the most refined, the best intentioned, is a justification of reaction.

In other words, the Russian Orthodox Church itself was considered a pathogen within society. Churches were regarded as ideologically germ-ridden places to be sanitized by correct thinking.

Lenin went on to say it was best to start the eradication of the church by giving “an impression of toleration with control, humiliation of the churches rather than with overt suppression.”

In sum, church activity was to be reduced to the performance of services alone. Russians were to practice their faith by ritual only, much as Governor Carney advises when he suggests Christians should learn to practice their faith “virtually.”

The exile of the churches into virtual reality provides an opportunity for some self-examination.

Perhaps the COVID-19 crisis will encourage church leaders to think about how and what happens when sanctuaries are vacated, and seven devils loosed by the State enter as the shutdown is somewhat lifted.

They might wish to reflect about what to do when the State wishes to cleanse the church of “diseased” doctrines — to think about what to do when the Church’s beliefs are declared hate speech pathogens.

Just as importantly, leaders also might think about how the flock has been deprived of community and thus of corporate worship and corporate prayer. They may wish to meditate on the sacramental aspect of the community of the saints.

For many if not most churches, the celebration of Holy Communion is when the body and blood of Christ are offered as essential spiritual food pastors and priests are required to dispense. But the shepherds of the flock almost universally have quit offering spiritual wine and bread, leaving their sheep to fend for themselves.

In short, within a space of weeks, Americans have seen the entirety of American Christendom shut down and the overnight ascension of what is essentially a secularist state church. The initially nascent state church has now been more firmly established by SCOTUS’s decision to allow state control of churches for reasons of “health.”

When any government even temporarily takes over the churches for any reason, it has essentially shattered the autonomy of the Church, making it subservient to the State. The Church under orders from the State is then subject to forcible conformance to State dogma.

The state that dictates when and where and how and to whom the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is administered is the state that has taken over the church and substituted its own sacraments. The state that dictates the how, when, and where of the baptism of children is the state that has created its own church. The state that decides when, where, and how many of the faithful can listen to the preaching of the Word or how many can assemble to pray together is the state that also dictates what is to be preached and prayed. The state that insists that worshipers wear and sing through face masks is the state that determines the way virtues of the state churches are signified. The state that ranks the Church of God to be an institution equal to bars, restaurants, and public schools is the state that will disregard the unique status of the Church and its constitutional rights.

As the directives from the state begin to strangle the Church, the latter is faced with a choice it probably should have made at the beginning of the state takeover. Pastors and priests must make the decision to open their churches to worship services and to continue the churches’ ministries as they were before the coronavirus coup. They must remember what the Church is and obey God rather than the State.

For if they do not, it’s predictable that the almighty State will squeeze the churches harder, requiring total conformity to the State that certainly seems ready to hijack the Church’s mission, to vitiate its standing in constitutional law, to appropriate its wealth, and to take over its institutions by force if necessary.

It’s time for all believers, leaders, and congregants alike, to remember the words of St. Ambrose:  “Not only for every idle word must man give an account, but for every idle silence.”

By Fay Voshell

Fay Voshell holds a M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, where she was awarded the Charles Hodge Prize for excellence in systematic theology. She is a frequent contributor to American Thinker and other online publications.

ussa-flag

 

Our situation is dire. We stand at the precipice, just as the Christian Russians did before the Bolshevik [revolution] annihilation.

We must mentally, physically, and spiritually prepare ourselves to stand up. We need thousands, and then tens of thousands, to gather together in public to defend our right to live. We must be non-violent, but we have to be physically present. We must come out of the shadows to risk everything before we are so oppressed that we have nothing left to defend, including our dignity.

Some people will be doxed, but the idea of doxing 10,000 is laughable, and pointless, and if 10,000 are doxed, there are places of comfort and support. Furthermore, 10,000 can turn into 100,000 and more. All people, of every color, fighting for God-given unalienable human rights must prepare themselves for suffering – temporary suffering for the greater good and to avoid WAR.

It is time to move to areas where we can gather together in communities. It is time to move and congregate in small groups that are willing to lead and organize. It is time to accept that they are coming for your job, and your property, and your reputation, and ALL of your rights: speech, arms, assembly, faith, and life.

You have to stand up to people who would do this to you. Because, if they would do this, they will take your life as soon as they have the power to do so. They rule us by intimidation and financial oppression. These people do not have real power against the group. They can censor and imprison individuals, and they do this to control and oppress the greater population. They know they cannot overtake the majority or even a significant minority of the majority.

But how are we to stand up? How are we to overcome our fears of financial insecurity, losing things we have or not getting things we want, imprisonment, social rejection, what we will eat, what we will wear, and where will we live? We worry we will risk all and our people won’t back us up. We know we lack power; we are demoralized. How are we to fight when we can’t keep our own marriages and families together? When parents and children are addicted to drugs, nicotine, alcohol, sugar, pornography, Hollywood filth, professional sports, gaming, and casual sex?

We have no common morality, no cohesive group, and have become such rugged individualists that we can’t get along with anyone. So we retreat, and atomize and withdraw further. Emotions rule us, we are soft in every way that we should be hardened. We are weak and prone to despondency and confusion. We don’t know where we came from or where we are going.

We accepted views of the world that have no meaning. Each of us has our own religion and therefore we are all atheists. We have abandoned discipline and discomfort, reading for television, fasting for gluttony, purity for lust, sacrifice for carnal pleasure, and we constantly do the same things, like alcoholics drinking the poison we know is killing us.

We inherently know what is good, right, and pure. We know these things. We know we are called to stand up for right, we know gratuitous sex, violence, vulgarity, and materialism are evil. We know what they bring, we know what drugs bring, drinking too much, we all know these things. What we lack is power.

Like the alcoholic, we are powerless over the type of evil that rapes and murders children, literally traffics children for sexual deviancy and political power (e.g. Epstein). Evil that uses the manipulation and emotional appeal of Hollywood to turn lies into truth and evil into good.

Evil that promotes and defends the murder of innocents in dozens of countries for the propagation of a truly racist state. An evil that facilitates countless wars in the name of lies, every form of degeneracy – a people who rule the world by deceit. They hide the genocide of women and children in America, South Africa, and Palestine. They conceal the greatest atrocities ever perpetrated in the history of the world during the Bolshevik takeover of Russia.

We cannot fight fire with fire, we cannot learn their tactics and turn their methods against them. We cannot defeat this kind of evil. We cannot become these people; it wouldn’t be worth it. It would be better to die than to be like them.

The alcoholic that recovers literally dies to himself. As a matter of survival, he admits that it has utterly beat him and that his only hope is to surrender to this truth. He then becomes willing to believe in a power greater than himself that has all power, and from this, a new man rises out of the ashes of the old, like a phoenix. He develops a new paradigm completely. He replaces drunkenness with sobriety, hopelessness with faith, changes every aspect of his life, and his outlook, and his actions and becomes a man that has Power.

This is our only hope. From the early Greek philosophers who understood eternal truth, the ultimate goal of transcendence, beauty for the sake of beauty and absolute morality, not dependent on relativity. They were Christians before Christ and they led the way for our pagan ancestors to accept the coming of the Logos.

This in turn led the way to more than two millennia of Western Christian order and beauty. This world has never seen power like the power of Christendom. It was only when that common faith, morality, and unity turned its eyes and its hopes toward the one and only God of the universe, that we were able to create real and lasting beauty on earth.

This beauty was created by the kind of fearlessness only people of real faith can have. Societies were created that strove to protect the innocent, and the weak, and the family, and the citizen. We all know the battles of the Christians, we all know the stories of the Martyrs, the fearlessness of the faithful.

The enemies of the Logos have deceived you. They will tell you anything you want to hear, to turn you away from that Power. They will tell you Christ is your enemy all the while they plot to kill him again and again in the hearts of our people just as they did at the Cross. You cannot deny there is none they hate as they HATE the Christ.

And without our faith, The Family of the Trinity, The balance of the paradox of absolute right and wrong with total redemption, fierce power with compassion, death with Resurrection, there is no purpose to your love. You don’t matter if there is no God. Only the cold and the ruthless of this natural fallen world you worship will prevail, and only they should prevail in that reality. In that view, the world is dead and meaningless, and only the strong deserve to live because there is no reality, no good, no God, everything is relative.

In the real world where nature and laws of nature are fallen by our weakness and restored by Our God, everything transcendent matters and everything physical matters because of the Incarnate God. And good wins, and water is purified, and death is conquered, drug addicts cleaned up, families reconciled, people unified under a common banner.

When Power is recognized as belonging only to the one true Trinitarian God of our fathers, and worship is removed from every satanic and evil thing they mesmerize us with, that is when we rise fearlessly from the ashes. We will throw off our self-imposed chains of weakness, despair, and addiction. We will march into battle like our forebears with Holy things, and Holy banners, and they will tremble at the power. And then if you die, you are martyred, and you die with no bondage, having lived in good health, internal peace, with intact families and dignity.

“Anyone who is capable of speaking the truth but remains silent, will be heavily judged by God, especially in this case, where the faith and the very foundation of the entire church of the Orthodox is in danger. To remain silent under these circumstances is to betray these, and the appropriate witness belongs to those that reproach (stand up for the faith).”

— St. Basil the Great

How long have we watched dissidents get canceled? How many years will we tell ourselves, we don’t have anything to contribute? That it’s better to keep your job and donate to the braver ones, only to sit on your money and quietly hide, never finding the courage to do the right thing.

If you are working and making money and honestly contributing significant amounts to truth tellers, keep doing it. But if you are going to live your whole life with dreams of valor that will never be realized, prepare for sacrifice. Ready yourself mentally, physically, spiritually, to give up all that you are holding onto. None of it will save you or add a cubit to you. And if you lack power, find the faith in the God that even the kings of our fathers worshiped.

~ by Rebecca Dillingham (edited)

Truth warrior, Jesus follower, wife, boy mom, and lifelong learner. Apologetics practitioner for Orthodox Christianity, the Southern tradition, homeschooling, and freedom. Recovering feminist-socialist-atheist, graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and retired mainstream journalist turned domesticated belle and rabble-rousing rhetorician. In my day-to-day life, I’m “Rebecca Dillingham” to most folks, “Mom” to my boys, “Baby” to my husband, “Becky” to my parents, “Beck-Nut” to my nieces and nephews, and my patron saint name “Ilia” to my parish. But here, I’m a dissident mama who’s adept at triggering leftists, so I’m going to bang as loudly as I can.

Just click on the picture!

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Neighbor

There are famous words from the Torah Portion Kedushim (Holy) that not only Jesus, but many Jewish sages before and after Him, considered to be the kernel of the all Jewish teaching, “Love your neighbor as yourself”. These words from Leviticus 19 are quoted in all the Synoptic Gospels. However, only in the Gospel of Luke 10:29-37, is the famous parable of the Good Samaritan where the question, “Who is my neighbor?” is addressed. What was so shocking in Jesus’ interpretation of one’s neighbor?

The Continuity

The episode opens with a “lawyer” asking Jesus how to inherit eternal life. Jesus responds with a question: “What is written in the law?” The lawyer quotes verses from the Torah known to all Jews of his time— Deut.6:5 and Lev.19:18. These verses had already been combined in Jewish thought and had indeed been considered to be the foundation of the whole Torah; so by this point we observe only continuity between the covenants.

The 3rd Man

The dialogue continues, however, and the famous parable follows; a man was attacked and left for dead and both a Priest and a Levite passed him by. There is a shocking aspect that may escape a non-Jewish reader – every Jew belongs to one of three groups; Priests, descended from Aaron; Levites, descended from Levi; and Israelites, descended from the other children of Jacob. Therefore, after the Priest and Levite, a first-century Jew would have expected mention of the third group—an Israelite.

The Challenge

However, the third person is not an Israelite but a Samaritan, the enemy of the Jews. Moreover, the fact that this Samaritan proves to be a neighbor, while the Priest and the Levite fail, directly challenges the contemporary Jewish interpretation of the word “neighbor”. Thus, not only continuity, but also the innovation of [our Lord in] the New Testament, is evident here.

by Julia Bloom – Israel Biblical Studies

 

p. s. We should think of these things concerning our world today.

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The first half of 2020 has often caught me off guard. As I watch events unfold I have felt anxiety, distress, confusion, loneliness, and even anger. The solid ground under my American way of life is shaking. Justice and truth seem like injured soldiers limping away into the darkness. And yet…it is well with my soul.

The beautiful and deeply loved hymn, It Is Well With My Soul (or Peace Like a River), was written by Horatio Spafford in 1873. He was a wealthy attorney, businessman, husband, and father of five children, but multiple tragedies struck; first in the loss of his young son and the loss of his business in the great Chicago fire of 1871, then in the sinking of the SS Ville du Havre in 1873 where he lost all four daughters to the sea. Spafford learned of this great loss by telegraph from his wife with the barren words,  “Saved alone.”

In the midst of great emotional pain, our Lord raised up faith and hope in this man of sorrows and enabled him to pen a song that comforts and encourages us today. God has not promised us a life free of fears, sorrow, or loss; but He has promised to bring us comfort in all circumstances, a deep deposit of comfort and compassion that we can lavish on others in times of trouble.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Receive God’s great love and comfort to sustain you in 2020, and don’t hesitate to give His comfort away. May it be well with your soul today!

by Sue DeSha

Jesus

Ezekiel 37:1-14 (CJB)

 “With the hand of the LORD upon me, The LORD carried me out by His Spirit and set me down in the middle of the valley, and it was full of bones. He had me pass by all around them—there were so many bones lying in the valley, and they were so dry! He asked me, “Human being, can these bones live?” I answered, “LORD GOD! Only you know that!” Then He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones! Say to them, ‘Dry bones! Hear what the LORD has to say! To these bones the LORD GOD says, “I will make breath enter you, and you will live. I will attach ligaments to you, make flesh grow on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you. You will live, and you will know that I am the LORD.” “So I prophesied as ordered; and while I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound; it was the bones coming together, each bone in its proper place. As I watched, ligaments grew on them, flesh appeared, and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them. Next He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath! Prophesy, human being! Say to the breath that the LORD GOD says, ‘Come from the four winds, breath; and breathe on these slain, so that they can live.’ ” So I prophesied as ordered, and the breath came into them, and they were alive! They stood up on their feet, a huge army! Then He said to me, “Human being! These bones are the whole house of Israel; and they are saying, ‘Our bones have dried up, our hope is gone, and we are completely cut off.’ Therefore prophesy; say to them that the LORD GOD says, ‘My people! I will open your graves and make you get up out of your graves, and I will bring you into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD—when I have opened your graves and made you get up out of your graves, my people! I will put my Spirit in you; and you will be alive. Then I will place you in your own land; and you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken, and that I have done it,’ says the LORD.”

How can this story be true for us? Ezekiel was a prophet to God’s people, Israel, who had been taken into exile by Babylonians after the destruction of Jerusalem.

This is a story about Israel’s despair at their captivity. What is despair? Despair is a state in which all hope is lost or absent. Depression leads to despair. Have you ever felt that way? I have. I can truly say, we are all hopeless without God. What despair means, is that a person is willing to be absorbed with themselves and at the same time have a defiant attitude toward God. Sometimes, even resent God!

Sometimes, we get to the point where our own self-perception is one of total hopelessness. We do not look outside of ourselves to God. Sometimes, we cannot understand the consequences of our own behavior and wonder why we suffer from those consequences. We become despairing of our own weaknesses. That is how the people of Israel felt.

Three years ago a funeral director told me that within several months he dealt with a handful of funerals that were related to suicide. Suicide is the result of total despair. Is that any way to live? Sometimes we ask, “what is life, anyway?” It is not simply a physical life; but, it is a life that God gives us, it is an emotional and spiritual life, which includes love, joy, peace, hurt, pain, suffering, sickness, and even death.

It’s interesting that God would call a man to preach God’s Word, and then ask him to speak over lifeless dry bones. It seemed pointless. However, what the preacher discovers is the promise from God, that He will perform the impossible—and bring the dry bones back to life.

In Germany, I was trained as a lifeguard for our community pool at 5th General Hospital. I was certified as an American Red Cross lifesaver. I had the skills to resuscitate those who stop breathing. However, with the breath of God, resuscitation comes quickly and gives life powerfully.

Ezekiel’s vision alludes to God’s creative work in Genesis; how God creates, and how God re-creates. There is a very important and fundamental lesson to be taken from Ezekiel’s vision: when the Spirit is present, God’s people are enabled to live. This is the only basis for the hope given to a despairing person, community, church, or people like the nation of Israel.

How do you know the Holy Spirit is in your life? How do you know the Holy Spirit is present in our church? We get the answer from this passage in Ezekiel.

It is God’s promise to give the dry bones (His people) new hearts and a new spirit. It is the magnitude of a miracle; it is how God is mighty to save! When God saves us, it is indeed a miracle, a miracle of His mercy and grace.

The bones Ezekiel sees are “very dry,” emphasizing the fact that there is no life in them whatsoever. The chance that they will ever live again on their own is zero. Then, God asks the preacher, “will these bones live?” The preacher says to himself, “looking at their current state, um, no.” However, the preacher has learned never to presume on God’s power and intentions. So, he answers, “O Lord GOD, you know.”

God wanted the preacher and the people to know that it is His Word alone that brings life. God wants us to know, that in the most hopeless of situations—even in a valley full of death—God’s Word is powerful to bring resurrection life.

What is the resurrection? What is new life? It is the same as when God spoke the creation into existence, the same as Jesus calling Lazarus out of the tomb with only a word, the same as Ezekiel preaching to the dry bones, God’s Word always gives life. God promises to give us life! It is that our confidence is in God alone, in any situation, even in our darkest struggles.

The supreme Word from God, the Gospel message itself, tells us not what we must do to earn life, but what God has done, in Jesus Christ, to give us life. Jesus said, “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, until it overflows]. John 10:10

There is always hope that God will bring restoration and renewal to our lives. Whether it is a long struggle with sin, or broken relationships, hard affliction, trials, temptations, or even illness, life’s circumstances can often blind us to God’s life-giving power.

The vision of the dry bones, however, is a promise to us and should remind us that our God will truly give life and purpose to everything that seems hopelessly dead. Remember John’s Gospel, where Jesus declares to Martha: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”  John 11:25-26.

Beloved, do you believe this?

Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ! Amen.

 

Copyright © 2020 Gary DeSha

FogOfFear

You can see it far off, looming on the horizon, a thick fog menacing off the coast and swirling in the distance. You know the signs. You’ve been here many times before, but you’ve learned to carry on.  At first, you kind of ignore it, you are aware it’s there. You don’t want to work yourself up, so you busy yourself with things in the hope that the winds will change, and the fog is driven out to sea. The winds rarely change.

In time it approaches, subtle and quiet, caressing its way—almost seducing its way back into your life. Your defense mechanism hasn’t worked, and you can’t keep up the charade. At first, it’s manageable. “This isn’t so bad,” you think, “I can handle this.” Before you know it, the fog is all around you, the thick blur is everywhere, and the familiar comforts are gone. In the fog, sounds are distant echoes, faces are veiled shapes, and the familiar becomes strange; you know it all too well. Feeling alienated and overwhelmed—unable to trust yourself, in the fog of anxiety you give up. You lose yourself in an existential madness. You have a panic attack.

For the anxious and disquieted, fog is a good metaphor.  In fog we lose our bearings, we lose our vision to see reality, and we feel isolated and alone. Sometimes anxiety comes out of nowhere. Anxiety is an existential crisis because it alienates us from reality. That is why a panic attack has a deep sense of dread about it. In a panic, we feel that we are captivated by new truths and new realities.

Have you ever had the experience of waking up from a nightmare only to be troubled by it later in the day? Something about the nightmare hangs around. It is as if the nightmare was exposing something about the real world that you can’t quite shake. Usually, in a short time, this sensation falls away, lost amidst the distractions of waking up. The nightmare, with all its teeth, is not actually real. That’s what anxiety is like, a brooding, lingering sense of unease that turns into real terror. However, unlike the nightmare, it doesn’t go away.

Panic appears to be a revelation—a disclosure about how things really are. Just as fog can make the familiar, strange—and therefore disorient us, unhinging us from the moorings that give us stability and comfort. Anxiety exposes what we take for granted by giving us a new kind of vision, a new story we tell ourselves about who we are, what we can handle, and what is real. Anxiety is a story that is always negative, always fatal, always self-harming, weak and victimizing.

What if this story is true? What if the fog is the way things really are, and the sunlight is just a mirage? What if the nightmare is real and the waking-world is false? It can be tempting to go there, but let’s not go there because nothing good can come from it. Instead, let’s be honest about anxiety and see what that does. The Psalmist says to trust the Lord like a weaned child.

Anxiety is dreadful, it affects our quality of life. Anxiety is debilitating. That doesn’t mean it is true. This is the key point I want to focus on today. The question we must return to in our anxious, fog-laden crisis is always: Is this true? It’s not.

Anxiety is not prophesy. Anxious people live as if it is. Anxiety makes predictions: “I’m going to fail”, “I can’t handle it”, “This will never work.” Anxiety makes judgments: “I’m a failure at being a Christian,” “I’m too weak,” “I’m a bad Christian.”  We need to ask, “Is this true?” Who gets to speak into your life and tell you who you are? Who gets to name and talk about you? Who gets to identify the central essence of what it is to be you? Anxiety wants to.

Does your anxiety have the right to name you, inform you, identify you, claim knowledge of who you are? No. It does not. Anxiety is not God. Anxiety is predominately demonic, because, “Perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18) and Christ says, “Don’t be afraid” (Mark 5:36). Fear is dangerous to our faith not because it exposes that our faith is weak, but because it tempts us to worship false gods. The danger of fear is that it blinds us from the truth, the truth that God loves us. That love—the love of God as seen in Jesus, in God’s giving of His Son for His glory should speak into our fear and counteract it. God may not always shield you from the terrors of anxiety, but his Word is always more powerful and can counteract any untruth.

That is what anxiety always is: false beliefs. “I can’t handle this.” False. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). “I’m too weak!” Maybe so! “But we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4). “I’m a failure at being a Christian.” False! “For it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13). “I’m a bad Christian.” Wrong! “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). By asking, “Is this feeling or thought true?” Is this God? We have two options; we can trust our hearts and experiences, or we trust the God who IS truth.

Essentially, what it means to live the Christian life is to live it trusting God’s words of truth. God’s words are powerful and creative, and unlike human words, God’s words do what they say. God’s words create faith when they are heard. They grant strength when we are weak. God’s words of truth counteract the negative and lying untruths of anxiety.

In the fog of anxiety, even though we feel alone, alienated, isolated, weak and near death; the feelings are real, however, the thoughts behind the feelings are not true.  We have a God who is with us always. God never abandons us as orphans, He walks with us through death-valleys, and His strength is sufficient for our weaknesses. These are all His promises. They are all true. The anxious person may have doubts and that’s OK. However, to press in through the fear and not allow it to harm us, we are to hold fast to Christ’s word and promises. I should know. I’ve experienced the fog of deep, dark panic attacks. Then, when I’m reminded of God’s promises, I feel better. Why? Because I ask myself, “Is this anxious thought true?” No, it’s not. It’s false.  I’m taken outside myself by words that give forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. God’s words are true. He who calmed the storm with His words can calm my jittery nerves with the same words. The storms of my life are just as vulnerable to the King’s command of peace as that ancient storm was to Jesus Christ.

Out there, in the world today, in our city, our State, and our Country, there is a lot to be concerned about. War or peace. Democrat or Republican. Famine. Pestilence. The Coronavirus. Influenza A or B. The economy. Life or death. All of these things may strike fear into your hearts. However, Jesus says in John 14:1, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.”

Therefore, hear God’s Word of truth for you today from Philippians 4:7, “Then God’s peace, passing all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus.”

Brothers and sisters, God’s peace be with you. Take heart! Don’t take what the world gives, but take what Jesus Christ gives. His peace. It’s eternal peace. That peace which passes all our understanding.

This is most certainly true.

~ taken from Bruce Hillman

 

ObJust

Posted on The Brothers of John the Steadfast webpage

What is justification?

For Lutherans, the central teaching of the Bible is justification by faith apart from the works of the law. The classic expression of this doctrine is found in Article IV of the Augsburg Confession, “Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for  Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins.  This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.” Lutheran theologians often speak of justification as having two aspects, objective and subjective. Objective justification is “God’s verdict of ‘not guilty’ upon the world for the sake of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.” Subjective justification means that the benefits of God’s verdict of ‘not guilty’ become yours through faith.

What is the basis of Objective Justification?

Jesus has redeemed all people. John the Baptist declared, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) This statement, which we sing in the “Agnus Dei,” declares Jesus to be “objective justification personified.” 1  Paul also wrote to Timothy, that Jesus “gave himself as a ransom for all men” (1 Timothy 2:6).

Where is Objective Justification taught in the Bible?

  • 2 Corinthians 5:19: God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. “The only possible antecedent of ‘their’ in that sentence is ‘the world,’ and the world certainly includes all men.”2
  • Romans 4:25: He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. “To refer to the words: Who was raised again for our justification,” to the so-called subjective justification, which takes place by faith, not only weakens the force of the words, but also violates the context.”3
  • Romans 3:22-24: There is no difference, for, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. The key word here is “all.” All have sinned and all those sinners are justified- there is no difference. “All have sinned. The verb ‘justified’ has the same subject, ‘all.”4
  • Romans 5:18: Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. “By raising [Christ] from the dead, [God] absolved Him from our sins which had been imputed to Him, and therefore He also absolved us in Him, that Christ’s resurrection might thus be the case and the proof and the completion of our justification.”5  “Because in Christ’s resurrection we are acquitted of our sins, so that they can no longer condemn us before the judgment of God.” 6

Do the Lutheran Confessions teach Objective Justification?

While the term “objective justification” does not appear in the Lutheran Confessions, the teaching of objective justification may be found there. The Apology of the Augsburg Confession teaches that a refusal to believe that our sins are forgiven by God is to call God a liar. “And what else is the refusal to assent to absolution but charging God with falsehood? If the heart doubts, it regards those things which God promises as uncertain and of no account. Accordingly, in 1 John 5, 10 it is written: He that believeth not God hath made Him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son.” (Apology XII:62) “Therefore, if any one be not confident that he is forgiven, he denies that God has sworn what is true, than which a more horrible blasphemy cannot be imagined.” (Apology XII: 94) The Large Catechism teaches us that our sins are forgiven prior to our acceptance of such forgiveness. “Therefore there is here again great need to call upon God and to pray: Dear Father, forgive us our trespasses. Not as though He did not forgive sin without and even before our prayer (for He has given us the Gospel, in which is pure forgiveness before we prayed or ever thought about it). But this is to the intent that we may recognize and accept such forgiveness.” (LC III:88) The Formula of Concord declares, “That the human race is truly redeemed and reconciled with God through Christ, who, by His faultless obedience, suffering, and death, has merited for us the righteousness which avails before God, and eternal life.” (FC SD XI: 15).

How are Objective and Subjective Justification connected?

Objective justification is the basis for subjective justification. “An essential prerequisite of justification by faith, or of subjective justification, is the objective justification (the reconciliation) of all mankind.” 7  “If God had not in His heart justified the whole world because of Christ’s vicarious satisfaction, and if this justification were not offered , there could not be a justification by faith.” 8 “The relationship of objective justification to the other so-called justification can expressed in this way, that in the latter the appropriation of the former occurs.” 9 “Only those who believe the gospel are justified subjectively. But faith always has an object and that object is Christ Jesus and the objective justification He achieved.” 10

ELS Pastor Ron Pederson warns, “Both objective and subjective justification need to be taught together. If you leave one or the other out no one will be saved.” 11  His warning echoes that of former WELS President Carl Mischke, “A word of caution may, however, be in place. It may be well to remind ourselves not to divide ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ justification as if they were two totally different things which can be treated in isolation from one another. They are rather two sides of the same coin, and there can be no ‘saints’ or salvation without faith. To teach otherwise would indeed be universalism.” 12

What are the dangers of denying Objective Justification?

Denying objective justification may lead to falling into the error of limited atonement, that Jesus paid only for the sins of believers. “Not all men, indeed believe this glorious fact, wherefore, they do not become partakers of the righteousness which Christ earned for them and which God gives them in the gospel. But it is nothing else than Calvinism to deny, as so many still do, that God has in Christ ‘reconciled the world unto himself’ (2 Cor 5:19), atoned ‘for the sins of the whole world’ (1 John 2:2) and thus justified all men.” 13

Denying objective justification can turn faith into a human work. “All those who deny the objective justification (the objective reconciliation) will, if they be consistent, also deny that subjective justification is brought about by faith; they will have to regard faith as a complement of Christ’s merit- a human achievement.” 14

Denying objective justification makes faith a cause of justification. “It is not strange that those who emphasize man’s faith at the expense of the objective validity of Christ’s Gospel and His work of justification should go astray in the doctrines of Conversion and Election, so as to give man’s faith there also an entirely unscriptural importance.” 15

Denying objective justification diminishes the glory of the Gospel: “the ‘objective justification’ of all men is denied by many within the Lutheran churches and neglected by still more, so that the full light of the Gospel does not shine forth in their teaching and preaching.”16

1 Ronald Pederson, “Objective Justification,” Lutheran Synod Quarterly, Vol. 52, Nos. 2-3 (June-September 2012), p. 163.
2 Siegbert Becker, “Objective Justification,” Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly, Winter 1986:4.
3 Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, II:321
4 Richard D. Balge, “Justification- a Brief Study.” Essay delivered at the Wisconsin Association of Lutheran Educators, Wisconsin Lutheran college, Oct. 26, 1984, 1.
5 Johann Gerhard, Annotations in epist. Ad romanos, Jena ed. 1666, p. 156
6 Johann Gerhard, Disputationes theologicae, Jena, 1655, XX, p. 1450
7 Pieper II: 508.
8 Ibid.
9 Ph. D. Burk, Rechtfertigung und Versicherung, p. 41
10 Pederson 166
11 Ibid.
12 C.H. Mischke, The President’s Newsletter WELS, June 1982.
13 George Lillegard, “Doctrinal Controversies of the Norwegian Synod,” Grace for Grace, Lutheran Synod Book Company, 1943, p. 149.
14 Pieper II: 508
15 Lillegard, Grace for Grace, p. 151.
16 Ibid.

 

~ thank you Shawn!

Pastor Gary DeSha

Transform

Christ Lutheran Church is in the process of a modern transformation! By the time this newsletter reaches you, we will have celebrated and re-dedicated Christ Lutheran Church to worship, the ministry of the Gospel, missions, the discipleship of believers, and the correct administration of the Sacraments – all to the glory of God. God has blessed this congregation with many blessings. What I hear God telling us is that we must submit ourselves to the transformation of the Holy Spirit. How are we transformed?

We are told in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that, “all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.”

“For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn within a large family.” Romans 8:29

Our transformation enables us to be of service to God in bringing the Good News of the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation to a lost and dying world. A recent Pew Research Center study has identified some interesting facts:

  1. Atheists, agnostics, Jews, and Mormons score higher in religious knowledge and outperform Protestant Christians on questions about the core teachings and history of Christianity.
  2. Those identifying themselves as “Christian” shrunk from 78% to 70% – a drop of 8% points in just seven years. Meanwhile, those calling themselves atheist, non-religious, or simply unaffiliated rose from 16% to almost 23%.
  3. Almost 60% of our youth leave their churches as young adults – many joining the growing number of the so-called “nones,” those who profess no adherence to any faith whatsoever.

What can we at Christ Lutheran Church do? We must do what we believe, teach and confess!

  1. To preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, period. Nothing added to it, or taken away from it.
  2. To preach and teach the Law of God, period. Nothing added to it, or taken away from it.
  3. To preach and teach repentance from sin and faith toward God through Jesus Christ alone.
  4. To preach and teach belief in the inerrancy, infallibility, inspiration and authority of God’s Word (the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments) – the Bible.
  5. To teach her followers of Jesus Christ, their family and children what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and why it matters.
  6. To teach followers of Jesus Christ what the Christian faith is and that it is important to know and understand what they believe, and why.
  7. To preach and teach about the Person and work of the Holy Spirit, i.e., being filled with the Holy Spirit, and the continuation of the gifts (manifestations) of the Holy Spirit; the gifts God gives for the equipping and building up of the Body of Christ.
  8. To preach and teach how God has arranged the Body of Christ (the local church); how He has defined its leadership; and how the Body of Christ (the local church) should function in the power of the Holy Spirit.
  9. To support her members by assembling together for worship, ministry, and fellowship. We are exhorted in God’s Word to always assemble for worship, because it is the evidence that we care, love, and work for one another and our community.

“And let us keep paying attention to one another, in order to spur each other on to love and good deeds, not neglecting our own congregational meetings, as some have made a practice of doing, but, rather, encouraging each other. And let us do this all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25

At Christ Lutheran Church we must seek to do just that. Let us make the necessary commitment to transformation. It is time to take a sound biblical stand for God, Jesus Christ, the Gospel, and His Church. Let us come together, from ashes to renewal. Join us, help us, fellowship with us, support us. Soli Deo Gloria!

Pastor Gary