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In the Word

“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word.”

John 14:23

openBible1In the Name of the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Christian life is not lived in a vacuum.  It is not lived to oneself alone, nor is the Christian life the life of self-love.  It is a life lived of sacrificial love.  As our Lord loved us in Christ, so also do we love others (John 13:34; 1 John 4:7-11).  Yet, the love that we have toward others as God’s children does not begin with our love toward others.  We do not in anyway generate this kind of state of being towards our neighbor, nor can we.  Such love for others, freely given and unconditional, can only come from Him who Himself gives freely and unconditionally, “without any merit or worthiness in us.”

God loves you unconditionally, and gives freely to you all that you need in this life.  But even more than your physical needs, God provides you a Savior from sin, death, and the devil.  This Savior, none other than Jesus Christ, by His death has swallowed up your death, done away with your sin, and frees you from slavery to the devil.

Even though you had not first loved Him, God loved you, demonstrating that love in the death of His Son (Romans 5:8).  Now, because of His love, you love and seek to love others.  As He loves you unconditionally, so you also love others unconditionally.  As God loves you because you are His, so you also love others because God also loves them.

This love which we now have for others, coming as it does from God, first shows itself, however, immediately and continually in the love which we have towards God’s Word and the hearing of that Word.  Jesus Himself says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My Word” (John 14:23).  Thus will the Christian be in the Word, not only hearing it preached and gathering around Word and Sacrament.  The Christian will also be about studying that Word, for it is not man’s, but God’s, and “is spirit and life” (John 6:63).  Christians will also “test” what they hear, read, and see to ensure that it is according to truth of our Lord.  In this way, God will keep them (and us) a holy people for Himself, for it is through the Word that our Lord sanctifies and keeps us in the true faith.

Luther

(Referring to Galatians 1:15, “When God was pleased…”) “This is as though Paul were saying: ‘It is only the unspeakable kindness of God that He has not only spared me—a good-for-nothing, a criminal, a blasphemer, and a sacrilegious man—but that He has also given me the knowledge of salvation, His Spirit, Christ His Son, the apostolic office, and life eternal.’  Seeing us in similar sins, God has not only pardoned our wickedness and blasphemies out of His sheer mercy for the sake of Christ; but He has also showered us with His great blessings and spiritual gifts.  But many among us not only, as 2 Peter 1:9 says, ‘have forgotten that they were cleansed from their old sins’; but, opening a window to the devil again, they begin to loathe His Word, and many also pervert it and thus become the founders of new sects.  The last sate of such men is worse than the first.” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p71)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, do not leave us to ourselves and to our own selfish desires.  Uphold us by Your Holy Word, that we resist the devil and ever more love Your Word and love Your people.  Amen.

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Recent LCMS stats

2012-2013

 

The LCMS at a Glance

Category

2012

2013

Members
     Baptized

2,310,235

2,231,258

     Confirmed

1,782,673

1,731,050

Congregations

6,196

6,153

Clergy

9,420

     Serving a parish

5,404

5,734

Missionaries (FT/PT)

829

150/590

Educators

16,758

     Preschool-12

16,019

     CUS (FT/PT)

759/2,101

     Seminary (FT/PT)

59/30

Chaplains/Pastoral Counselors

675

623

Campus Ministries

242

248

Schools

     Preschools

1,295

1,376

     Elementary

923

871

     High Schools

102

88

     Colleges

10

10

     Seminaries

2

2

Each year, I receive a little card from the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod entitled, “The LCMS at a Glance.”  I’ve compared the 2012 card with the 2013.

Following is a very brief breakdown of some of the categories, numbers, and some thoughts.

1) Members, Congregations: The numbers in the categories of both Baptized and Confirmed have decreased.  This could be for any number of reasons.  However, attendance and membership in Christian congregations (at least in America), generally, are decreasing.  Fewer people today recognize their need for the Gospel.  It seems as if faithfulness to the Word is not the determining factor for numerical growth or decline. Though faithful congregations and pastors might be suffering losses, heretical congregations and pastors may be experiencing gains.  Yet, our Lord does say, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).

2) Clergy: The number of total clergy for 2013 is ominously missing, though the number of clergy serving a parish has increased from 2012.  This is encouraging, yet I wonder how many clergy are serving in district and synodical offices.  What might be helpful is to categorize the number of part-time and full-time pastors, too, as a growing number of clergy in the LCMS are becoming part-time pastors due to congregational circumstances.

3) Missionaries: The number of total missionaries has also decreased somewhat in 2013 from 2012.  What is not noted here are the changes which have taken place in the LCMS regarding full-time missionaries.  Currently, certain full-time international missionaries are in need of raising their own funds, before serving in their positions overseas.  These missionaries have, in some cases, resigned their call of the congregation to which they were serving, and then received a call from the LCMS Board for Missions to serve as missionaries.  Such circumstances place a great burden on clergy who desire to serve as missionaries, as many (most/all) have families to support, and they have to raise enough money even to begin serving.  At the same time, however, they and their families need support, too.  Interestingly, the numbers of converts to Christianity are much higher overseas (i.e. Africa, China) than in the United States, even where great persecution of Christians exist.

Scripture Alone!

ScriptureAlone-Peters

A Lutheran response to Joel Peter’s booklet,

“Scripture Alone?  21 Reasons to Reject Sola Scriptura”

 

Introduction

 

Sola Scriptura is one of the “solas” of the Reformation of the 16th  century.  It was not, and it is not, an obsolete teaching or doctrine.  Nor was it a novel invention of Luther.

Sola Scriptura remains today as one of the “solas” of Reformation churches the world over, not because it was a teaching of Dr. Martin Luther, but because it is the very teaching of Scripture itself.  Because this is so, it is necessary to properly distinguish what Sola Scriptura is from what it is not, especially in light of current attacks on said  doctrine.  The charge that Sola Scriptura is a “new creation” or that it has no basis in the church is not according to the text of Scripture itself.

In responding to the charges made by Joel Peters against Sola Scriptura in his little booklet entitled, Scripture Alone?  21 Reasons to Reject Sola Scriptura, I wish to clarify what is true from what is not.  I also wish to defend Sola Scriptura, not only from Roman Catholic misrepresentation, but also from other similar characterizations.

In the next section, I will define Sola Scriptura, as well as distinguish what is regarded authoritative in much of Protestantism and the Roman Catholic Church.  I use the term Protestantism, not in its historical sense, but in its general usage today, meaning non-Roman Catholic churches of the Western church (in distinction from the church of the East, the Orthodox).

Some might genuinely ask if such an apologetic in response to 21 Reasons To Reject Sola Scriptura is necessary.  I believe it is, not so much because everyone accepts Peters’ claims, but because a number of his claims against Sola Scriptura are accepted as true by many Roman Catholics, Protestants, and nonChristians alike.

When being humbled…

JesusBlessing1Luther: Therefore when you feel that you are being humbled, cast yourself at the feet of your heavenly Father and say: “O Lord, if Thou dealest with me in this manner, I shall bear it patiently, and I confess that I have deserved something more terrible. Therefore be merciful to me. If Thou dost not want me to be an heir, see to it that I remain a servant (Luke 15:19). Indeed, as the Canaanite woman says, I do not refuse to be a dog in Thy house so that I can at least eat the crumbs which chance to fall to the ground and otherwise are wasted (Matt. 15:27). Thou dost not owe me a thing by any right. Therefore I cling to Thy mercy.”

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