Need Your Help to Answer a Question: What is the “Love of Christ?”

This post was originally written June 7, 2011.  In light of the LCMS debate taken public (intentionally or not) over unionism and syncretism, that well worn phrase “All You Need is Love” has cropped up again:  “Share the Love of Christ,”  “You’re not being very loving Confessionals!”  “They will know we are Christian by our Love.”  I think it is time again to pose the question — this time it is directed squarely at those throwing this phrase around so cavalierly and loosely on the issue of syncretistic worship — What is this “Love of Christ” of which you speak?  Here is the rest of the post occasioned on the hearing of a sermon preached at the wedding of that famous royal couple across the pond:

Driving home from Louisville, Kentucky this past weekend, I was listening to a Sermon Review over at Issues, Etc.  It was the sermon given by Bishop Chartres on the occasion of the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton last month.  As I was driving on I-65 south in Bowling Green Kentucky, a couple of things that struck me in the sermon.  In particular they can be found in the following excerpts:

The spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this: the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed. In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.

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As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden. We are all incomplete: we all need the love which is secure, rather than oppressive. We need mutual forgiveness in order to thrive.

As we move towards our partner in love, following the example of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is quickened within us and can increasingly fill our lives with light. This leads on to a family life which offers the best conditions in which the next generation can receive and exchange those gifts which can overcome fear and division and incubate the coming world of the Spirit, whose fruits are love and joy and peace.

Reading between the lines, one can make out the shadow of the Trinity in this sermon — God so loving this world that He sent His only Son into it…  to be our example….  the Holy Spirit being made alive by the power of the love in our relationships with one another, with marriage being the most powerful of these relationships — like two magnets being drawn together creating a magnetic field.  Christ is mentioned in this sermon, but we do not need Him.  Instead, we move into our relationships toward others in love — using as our template the love Christ modeled for us.   Continue reading “Need Your Help to Answer a Question: What is the “Love of Christ?””

Is Jesus calling you?

For those of you who read the Jesus calling devotionals, I have a question for you: Did you realize that Sarah Young the author receives messages from God through a “practice of waiting on God to receive and record his messages?” In essence Ms. Young waits and listens for the voice of God, writes down what she hears Him say, and passes the message along to all of her reading audience as messages that she received personally from Jesus or God. That is the description given to Jesus calling, the blockbuster series by Sarah Young, in the latest catalog for Christianbook.com.

Now Jesus calling is being marketed to children and teenagers. Maybe we ought to look at this phenomenon with a little more discernment.

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Luther on How to Break and Keep The 10 Commandments — Help for TableTalkRadio.org Fans

Those of you who follow the boys over at Table Talk Radio ought to be familiar with one of their most interesting segments, the 10 Commandments in the news.  For those of you who are initiated with the provocateurs of Lutheran doctrine and hilarity, Table Talk Radio is the first of its kind:  a Lutheran game show.  Revs. Bryan Wolfmueller and Evan Goeglein teach Lutheran doctrine through relevant, fun, and always interesting games.  There is Table Talk Jeopardy, Which Ladder, Bumper Sticker Theology, Facebook Status Theology, the ultra popular and spot on Praise Song Cruncher, the Iron Preacher, and many, many, many more.

One of the staples of the show is a game called 10 Commandments in the news.  In it, the Revs. select a news story, Continue reading “Luther on How to Break and Keep The 10 Commandments — Help for TableTalkRadio.org Fans”

Modern Youth Ministry a ’50-Year Failed Experiment,’ Say Pastors, Christian News

There is a panic in some parts of the church over the mass exodus of young people.  20s and 30s are one of the hottest demographics, and niche market churches are targeting them to bring them back into the flock.  Sparing no expense and pulling out all the stops, church plants are springing in every color, shape, form and fashion designed to lure this demographic back into to the kingdom.  It has spawned a whole new epoch of churches — house churches, biker churches, churches targeting only men.  But maybe the kids have good reason for leaving.  Maybe youth ministry as it has been conceived, marketed, packaged, and sold to churches, youth ministers, and DCE’s over the last half century has actually failed them.  That is what a new documentary suggests, according to the Christian Post:

A group of pastors and former youth ministry leaders suggest that today’s youth ministries should be disbanded, calling the common practice of separating congregations by age for worship and Bible study “unbiblical.”

The church leaders state their case in the documentary film, “Divided: Is Age-Segregated Ministry Multiplying or Dividing the Church?”

The film is produced by the National Center for Family Integrated Churches in association with LeClerc Brothers Motion Pictures. The producers released the documentary earlier this month online, and have made it available for free until Sept. 15.

Before we pursue every new fad or experimental church method or model, before we throw more programs and gimmicks at our young people, maybe we need to take a long hard look at why they are leaving the church. Continue reading “Modern Youth Ministry a ’50-Year Failed Experiment,’ Say Pastors, Christian News”

Jesus: The Power of God, the Weakness of God; The Wisdom of God and the Foolishness of God

God in His infinite Wisdom leaves the real work of salvation, conversion, and otherwise leading people to Christ to the Holy Spirit who brings people to Christ so that He can mark them, raise them, and present them to the Father.  He exercises all power and authority in the church for it is He who possesses it (Matt. 28:16-20), not I and not you.  If it were up to me and me alone to be responsible for the conversion of another person, for leading another person out of the wilderness and into the promised land, I would most certainly leave people in the wilderness.  Moses did.  He did not lead Israel across the Jordan, and he is most certainly greater than I.  No, it was and is Christ our Lord and Savior who led His children into the promised land and still leads His children out of the wilderness.  My work falls short, is never completed.  Yet Jesus is the original author of my faith, and finisher of it both in belief and deed.  Thanks be to God that it is so, that He continues His mission, the work that the Father sent Him into this world to do!  Because Jesus was, is, and continues to be active in this world, we can ask, rhetorically with Luther, “Who can ever thank God enough for His mercy?”

May you ever cherish and treasure this thought. Christ is made a servant of sin, yea, a bearer of sin, and the lowliest and most despised person. He destroys all sin by Himself and says: “I came not to be served but to serve” (Matt. 20:28). There is no greater bondage than that of sin; and there is no greater service than that displayed by the Son of God, who becomes the servant of all, no matter how poor, wretched, or despised they may be, and bears their sins. It would be spectacular and amazing, prompting all the world to open ears and eyes, mouth and nose in uncomprehending wonderment, if some king’s son were to appear in a beggar’s home to nurse him in his illness, wash off his filth, and do everything else the beggar would have to do. Would this not be profound humility? Any spectator or any beneficiary of this honor would feel impelled to admit that he had seen or experienced something unusual and extraordinary, something magnificent. But what is a king or an emperor compared with the Son of God? Furthermore, what is a beggar’s filth or stench compared with the filth of sin which is ours by nature, stinking a hundred thousand times worse and looking infinitely more repulsive to God than any foul matter found in a hospital? And yet the love of the Son of God for us is of such magnitude that the greater the filth and stench of our sins, the more He befriends us, the more He cleanses us, relieving us of all our misery and of the burden of all our sins and placing them upon His own back. All the holiness of the monks stinks in comparison with this service of Christ, the fact that the beloved Lamb, the great Man, yes, the Son of the Exalted Majesty, descends from heaven to serve me.

Such benefactions of God might well provoke us to love and to laud God and to celebrate this service in song and sermon and speech. It should also induce us to die willingly and to remain cheerful in all suffering. For how amazing it is that the Son of God becomes my  servant, that He humbles Himself so, that He cumbers Himself with my misery and sin, yes, with the sin and the death of the entire world! He says to me: “You are no longer a sinner, but I am. I am your substitute. You have not sinned, but I have. The entire world is in sin. However, you are not in sin; but I am. All your sins are to rest on Me and not on you.” No one can comprehend this. In yonder life our eyes will feast forever on this love of God. And who would not gladly die for Christ’s sake? The Son of Man performs the basest and filthiest work. He does not don some beggar’s torn garment or old trousers, nor does He wash us as a mother washes a child; but He bears our sin, death, and hell, our misery of body and soul. Whenever the devil declares: “You are a sinner!” Christ interposes: “I will reverse the order; I will be a sinner, and you are to go scotfree.” Who can thank our God enough for this mercy?”

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 22 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (Jn 1:29). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House (1999).

Absolutely Stunning Restoration of Orthodox Church in Russia

English: Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Mosc...
Image via Wikipedia

The Orthodox really know how to dress up a church. The Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow is a tribute to persevering in the faith and how God preserves His church throughout time. This cathedral was recently restored to the 360 degree beauty you see in the panoramic photos at the website linked here:  http://www.360pano.eu/xxc/     Thanks to Pr. Peters’ for the post at Pastoral Meanderings for posting this one.

Absolutely Stunning! Gotta see. . .

HT to Saint Austin Review:the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. It’s a spectacular presentation that moves in a 360 degree perspective around this holy space, in full color.The original cathedral was blown up by the Bolsheviks. Stalin planned to erect the world’s tallest building on the site, and a statue of Lenin was supposed to perch on the top of it. But difficulties with water seepage and other problems prevented the monstrosity from ever being completed.

What is Faith?

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

I ran across this gem in Sunday’s readings from the Treasury of Daily Prayer from Concordia Publishing House.  It is a quote from Martin Luther’s Introduction to the Book of Romans.  Here Luther describes in as beautiful and as straightforward a manner what FAITH is.  We tend to think of faith simply as belief or intellectual assent to divine truth.  It is often described as something within us that is part of our nature, something we inherently possess.  And yet that could not be farther from the truth of the matter.

Faith is not the human notion and dream that some people call faith. When they see that no improvement of life and no good works follow—although they can hear and say much about faith—they fall into the error of saying, “Faith is not enough; one must do works in order to be righteous and be saved.” This is due to the fact that when they hear the gospel, they get busy and by their own powers create an idea in their heart which says, “I believe”; they take this then to be a true faith. But, as it is a human figment and idea that never reaches the depths of the heart, nothing comes of it either, and no improvement follows.

Faith, however, is a divine work in us which changes us and makes us to be born anew of God, John 1[:12–13]. Continue reading “What is Faith?”