God

Frost’s Two Paths

dog

Each day, your life wraps around you like a warm bed. It becomes cozy and secure like a soft mattress beneath your slumbering body. There are times when it might be a little uncomfortable. The mattress might be lumpy. But each day, the blanket of life lulls you back under its warmth. Occasionally, you open your eyes and look outside the window. It seems sunny. It seems like it would be warm. But can it really be more comfortable outside than in your bed? Is it really better than being under your blanket? Could that really be? So you stay.

And that is ok. Your body needs rest. Your life needs rest and contentment. These are truly blessings of God. However, occasionally, you just cannot shake that feeling that there is something more appealing out that window. You, now, have a decision. Does your contentment outweigh whatever might be drawing you out from the comfort of the blanket of life? Is there something bigger in store for you? Is it worth chancing your feet on the cold floor to find out?

Lord God, You have called you servants to ventures of which we cannot se the ending by paths yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go but only that Your hand is leading us and Your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

There are numerous times in our lives when we are faced with Frost’s proverbial two paths. One looks well-traveled and comfortable. The other looks cold and unknown. You know what one holds. The other is a crap-shoot. There are times when it is perfectly feasible to take the comfortable path. God’s good gifts of contentment and satisfaction await. The daring move is not always the right move.

However, when the same unknown path is set before you and you just cannot turn away, have the courage to take it knowing that God is right beside you. Sometimes the daring move is the right move. It will be painful. It will be scary. It will be uncertain. But during those times, your good Lord is supporting you with His love, and leading you with His hand. Sometimes the path that is least traveled does make all the difference in our lives. However, the love and care of our God traveled the path to the cross for you. So, if you are so inclined, throw off the blanket. Venture onto the cold floor. Do something. See what God has planned.

The Anatomy of an Argument: You Don’t Have to Be a Jerk

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect… (1 Peter 3:14-15).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes in The Cost of Discipleship:

Asceticism means voluntary suffering; it is passio activa rather than passiva, and it is just there that the danger lies. There is always an danger that in our asceticism we shall be tempted to imitate the sufferings of Christ. This is a pious but godless ambition, for beneath it there always lurks the notion that it is possible for us to step into Christ’s shoes and suffer as he did and kill the Old Adam. We are then presuming to undertake that bitter work of eternal redemption which Christ himself wrought for us. The motive of asceticism was more limited – to equip us for better service and deeper humiliation. But it can only do that so long as it takes the suffering of Christ as its basis; if not, it degenerates into a dreadful parody of the Lord’s own passion. Our whole motive now becomes a desire for ostentation. We want other people to see our achievements and to be put to shame. Our asceticism has now become the way to salvation. Such publicity give it the reward it seeks.

My father has always been a very straightforward person. One never has to ask for my father to reveal what is on his mind. He is always ready with a pithy saying, an apt illustration or personal story to draw people to his point of view. He has always enjoyed spirited debates. He often gets a little boisterous in his passion for the topic at hand. However, there is one instance that sticks in my mind more than all of the other times when I saw him in action. It was not my fathers proliferation of words or quotations or stories that makes it stand out in my remembrance. It was his gentleness… his respect amidst an undying fervor that showed itself on a Saturday morning.

A certain religious group came and knocked on our door and wished to speak to my father. My father graciously invited them in and offered the two young men a cup of freshly brewed coffee. He invited the gentlemen to sit in the living room and my father joined them. My father stated very simply that he was a Christian. He told the young gentlemen that he would give them fifteen minutes to talk to him about their faith. In turn, he asked that they would give him five minutes to talk to them about his faith.

BRIEF EXCURSIS ON MY FATHER: My father was not raised with any religious upbringing.  He was not baptized until he was 30. I was 6 at the time. It was an enormously impressionable event in my life as I saw, for the first time, a male presence in my life admit that religion (even more, the church) was important. From that point, he never looked back. He became a self-taught, theologically astute lay-person. I would put his theological acumen as high as some pastors that I have met. This is not a knock on our pastoral training, but a testament to my father’s passion for study.

So my father sat and listened.

For the whole fifteen minutes. He set his watch. He was silent for the whole fifteen minutes. For those that know my father, you know what a feat of self-denial that is. Love ya’, Pops! 😉

When his watch went off, the young gentlemen got up as if they were going to leave. My father, kindly, reminded them of their bargain. He reset his watch for 5 minutes. He patiently walked through the Scriptures showing the vast differences in the opposing views of Jesus. He showed them the Gospel in a way that I wish I would have recorded. It was succinct. It was elegant. It was the Word of God… for those young gentlemen. The timer went off. My father thanked them for their time. The gentlemen, obviously a little taken aback by the whole visit, thanked my father for their coffee and left.

Later, I asked my father how he could stay so calm? Why didn’t he argue with them? Why didn’t he tear their arguments limb from limb like I had seen him do to other opponents so many times before? He looked at me and said, “Son, sometimes you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” I was confused and must have looked the part also because he added, “Even when you are right, it doesn’t give you the right to be a jerk about it.” My father saw that these gentlemen had a view of Jesus and God that would lead to their eternal damnation. In that moment, I saw my father have the will of God… “that all would be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” My father did not want to get in the way of that. He was less and Christ was more.

CAVEAT: I am not arguing against orthodox doctrine and practice. I know there are times when we need to defend the faith and our practices as they are defined by our doctrine. Please don’t play that card.

I worry that many do not take the idea of winning our brother over to heart. We concern ourselves with winning against our brother. I worry that we long for our asceticism and ostentation. I worry that we forget the will of God. I worry that we forget that Paul became all things for all people. I worry that we forget Paul tailored his proclamation for the hearers so that he might be effective in his first article gifts. He never watered his theology down but he began in different places for different people. I worry that Christendom (and the LCMS as a microcosm of Christianity) has lost the ability to dialogue. We have lost the ability to be quiet for 15 minutes before we launch the heresy hand grenades and blow everyone up. We look like jerks… and not just to the ignorant, not just to outsiders, not just to the world, but we look like jerks to others within our own ranks. Even if we are right, it doesn’t give us the right to be jerks about it.

What if we started to actually listen to one another instead formulating our arguments while the other person is finishing? What if we stopped trying to use buzzwords, and we just tried to give Jesus? What if we saw the proclamation of the church as something that led people to the altar where Christ gives us His body and blood? What if we saw the altar as something that sends us out into the world of vocation?

So, if any of my brethren in Christ and in ministry have deigned to read my humble opines, please let me know what you think. Maybe we can begin to change the way we do things. Not that we all need to be “liturgical”. Not that we all need to be “progressive”. I do not care much for buzzwords. Not that we all have to be cookie-cutter copies. But we don’t need to be jerks about it either. Hope this makes sense.

What say you?

Manic Mondays: Can You Trust Your Thoughts?

So I am working on a massive post for later this week. Until then, here is something that I found to get you thinking.

C.S. Lewis on Reasoning to Atheism

‎”Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

—C.S. Lewis
The Case for Christianity, p. 32.

 

Wednesdays with Luther: Psalm 46

Psalm 46

The 46th psalm is a psalm of thanks, sung by the people of Israel because of the mighty deeds of God. He had protected and saved the city of Jerusalem, in which was His dwelling, against all the rage and the fury of all the kings and the nations and preserved their peace against all warfare and weapons. And, in the manner of the Scriptures, the psalm calls the character of the city a little stream that shall not run dry, as opposed to the great rivers, seas, and oceans of the heathen – their great kingdoms, principalities, and domains – that shall dry up and disappear.

We, on the other hand, sing this psalm… to praise God for being with us. He miraculously preserves His Word and Christendom against the gates of hell, against the rage of the devil, the rebellious spirits, the world, the flesh, sin, death. Our little spring of water is also a living fountain, while their puddles, pools, and ponds become foul, malodorous, and dry.

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Prayer


Thanks be to You, our Father, for all the mercy and truth that You have shown to us these many years. Grant Your Word to dwell with us continually, defend Your Church against all her enemies, keep us in Your grace, and preserve for us temporal and eternal peace through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Excerpt taken from Reading the Psalms with Luther: The Psalter for Individual and Family Devotions with Introductions by Martin Luther(St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2007), 114-115.

Wednesdays with Luther: The Companionship of a Christian Community

Along with refreshing my mind in 19th and 20th century philosophy, I have also been reading a lot about the theology of community in the Christian life. In so doing, I ran across this great excerpt from Martin Luther as recorded by John Schlaginhaufen in volume 54 of Luther’s Works.

Not Solitude but Social Intercourse Advised
Between January 8 and March 23, 1532

The papists and Anabaptists teach: If you wish to know Christ, try to be alone, don’t associate with men, become a separatist. This is plainly diabolical advice which is in conflict with the first and second table [of the Decalogue]. The first table requires faith and fear [of God]. According to the second commandment, this is to be preached and publicly praised before men and is to be discussed among men. One must not flee into a corner. So the second table teaches that one must do good to one’s neighbor. We ought not isolate ourselves but enter into companionship with our neighbor. Likewise it [this notion] is in conflict with marriage, economic life, and political existence and is contrary to the life of Christ, who didn’t choose solitude. Christ’s life was very turbulent, for people were always moving about him. He was never alone, except when he prayed. Away with those who say, ‘Be glad to be alone and your heart will be pure’.

Excerpt taken from
Luther’s Works, ed. Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54, Table Talk, (Philadelphia, Fortress Press, 1967), 140-141.