Tuesday, August 31, 2010

1 Kings 16.29-17.24, 2 Corinthians 9.1-15 - Lectionary for 8/31/10

Today's readings are 1 Kings 16.29-17.24 and 2 Corinthians 9.1-15.

Our reading today introduces us to Elijah. He has proclaimed that the Lord is sending a drought on the land. In doing this he has proclaimed a death penalty to many people, maybe even to himself.

How do we view the difficult events of the Bible? How do we view the circumstances the people are in? For that matter, how do we view difficult circumstances of our modern times? It's all too easy to look at Elijah and his encounter with the widow in a shallow manner. But I wonder how many of us have ever been in the situation that she is in? How many of us know what it is to be a widow with a young child, no means of financial support, and a famine in the land? How many of us are actually a meal away from death by starvation.  Of course, it would be highly unlikely that anyone reading this blog post is in that situation. People in those circumstances don't generally have the luxury or energy to sit in front of a computer and read something.

We see here an actual person who is in actual desperate straits. She has one meal left. The fact that she can speak so frankly of dying indicates that they were not eating well to begin with. This was not someone whose larder was empty and who needed to wait a few days before food stamps came. This was not our typical homeless person who is out of food and living on cigarettes for a few days. This is someone who has nothing. There is nobody to help her. Nobody has anything to share with her. Their sharing with her will hasten their death, she dare not ask. There are no social services. There is no Christian mission which will give her a bowl of institutional soup and a piece of bread  She really has nothing, no resources except God's visitation.

Maybe we can't understand what she felt when God's prophet took care of the food situation. I hope we can't. But maybe we can grow in our understanding of how we had no resources to deal with sin. We have no resources of our own to deal with death. Our Lord however has shown that he has all the resources to deal with our sin and death. He has given himself for us so that when we gather with him and eat with him, we receive life and salvation. We are no longer eating our last and lying down to die. We rather eat our last and stand up to live in Christ.

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com

Monday, August 30, 2010

1 Kings 12.20-13.5, 33-34, 2 Corinthians 8.1-24 - Lectionary for 8/30/10

Today's readings are 1 Kings 12.20-13.5, 33-34 and 2 Corinthians 8.1-24.

In the history of the kingdom of Israel there is perhaps no more sorrowful period than the one we read about today. We see that two sons of the kingdom have both claimed the right of rule. They are determined to protect themselves and their kingdom. Their desire is not to determine what is right and what is wrong. Their desire is rather to guard their power.

Maybe our efforts to consolidate our power and guard our own interests will never be as radical as those of Jeroboam.  I hope they are not. Yet we all ultimately have those very same desires. To what lengths are we willing to go? Are we willing to urge people to stay loyal to us? Very likely, and there isn't anything wrong with that provided we have right on our side. Are we willing to harm those who would depart? Maybe not physically, but we should think about how we would treat those who weaken our position. How would we talk about them? Would we prefer their rights to our own? Would we put the best construction on what they say or do? How about going to the length of modifying people's worship in order to serve our own interests? Are we not rather to modify people's worship to bring it more in line with what God has approved, the way in which the Lord has said he will be present with and for his people? But Jeroboam is setting up his own worship. In effect he says that what God has decreed and what people have done for generations doesn't matter any more. Jeroboam and his interests are above God and his interests.

Jeroboam went down in history being referred to as "Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin." May we not be that way. May we rather be remembered as people who urged others to true worship as revealed by the living God.

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hebrews 13.1-17 - Sermon for 8/29/10

Join with me in prayer.

Lord God, heavenly Father, let us see you clearly as we look into the light of your Word today. Conform us to your image in which you created us. Give us eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to follow you. Grant us your forgiveness and mercy as we see we daily sin greatly against you. Remind us that you are with us, through Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

These are hard words, the words of the apostle to the scattered believing Hebrews. There's so much here we will have to content ourselves with just the first six verses in our reading today.  Let's first repeat the words given to us. (Hebrews 13.1-6, ESV)

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." So we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?"

Sometimes when we look at the Word of God we benefit from asking the same question the doctor asks. You all know the question the doctor asks, right? "How are we doing today?" I remember going to see a surgeon once, when I was suffering from a hernia that needed surgery. He didn't ask the question in the plural, but it was still an annoying question. How am I doing? Well, if everything were fine I wouldn't be here seeing you, would I? I don't think I answered that rudely. It isn't a good idea to speak rudely to someone who is going to hold your comfort, even your life, in his hands, however briefly. It also isn't a good idea to speak rudely to someone you are hoping will give you a discount on an expensive operation. Yet in our setting today, we are bold to ask the same question, knowing that the same kind of answer is forthcoming. How are we doing? Let's look specifically at some of these commands God gives us through His apostle and see how we are doing.

What of brotherly love? Do we love one another as our brothers and sisters? No, I don't mean as fallen people love their brothers and sisters. I've seen enough people, children and adults alike, needling their brothers and sisters, to know that isn't the kind of brotherly love our passage is talking about. Are we really willing to lay down our lives and preserve the well being of our brothers and sisters in Christ? Do we prefer others in the body of Christ to ourselves? How are we doing? Maybe we do pretty well sometimes. I think we do fairly well sometimes. But what do we find our brother Jesus doing? We find him who had no sin becoming sin for us so we might live. We find him humbling himself to be servant of all. Yes, let brotherly love continue. But may we find it to be that brotherly love found in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

How about hospitality to strangers? For that matter, how about hospitality to people we know? Do we open our homes and our lives, providing for the needs of those who have come into our lives? Do we have a concern for others that compels us to welcome them, warts and all, so as to nourish them, cleanse them, give them rest, and send them away in better condition than they were when they came to us? Again, let us look to Jesus, who was born into this world, born like one of us, though a stranger to humanity and the sorrows of this sinful world. He who knew no sin has come to visit us. Not content with visiting us, he has taken what we through our sin were destroying and has given it to us for life and godliness. He has taken our sorrows and replaced them with his joy. He has taken our death upon himself and has given us life. He daily loads us with all blessings. He himself has promised that he will bring us to our heavenly rest. He has taken all our sorrows upon himself and is giving us eternal rejoicing and fulfillment in the presence of God the Father. How are we doing? Not so well. How is Jesus doing? There's the question we need to be asking.

What about those in prison? Have you ever been in prison? Our American jails these days are pretty humane. Prisoners get food, drink, clothing, and basic medical care. Compared to freedom for some people in the world that isn't too bad. Yet at the end of the day, a prisoner is not free. There's confinement, isolation. A prisoner upon release is stigmatized. He gets to live with that sentence for the rest of his life. He will have trouble getting a job due to suspicions based on his former life. He will spend a long time, possibly the rest of his life, wondering if he will be arrested and imprisoned again. But there's a worse prison, one that we have all been in. We have all been captive to sin, a bondage which leaves scars that will never heal in this life. It's tempting to go into detail about the kind of bondage that various sins will create. It's tempting to talk about the kind of scars we can bear, the skeletons in the closet, the thoughts that haunt us. Yet I'm going to let every one of us look at that picture individually. We all have it. It's nothing to put on display. Yes, we have all done time in a really serious prison, a spiritual prison that has everyone on death row, a spiritual prison that keeps us all in solitary confinement. Though we seem to be free people, there are invisible bars and gates, invisible guards, invisible parole officers who are waiting to catch us and condemn our guilty consciences. But we turn to our Lord Jesus, who has broken the bondage of sin. He has set us free from this prison, though we don't seem to receive that freedom very easily. He has condemned our spiritual jailer to eternal punishment. He has torn down the prison house of death, of hell, of the grave. He himself is the firstfruits of the resurrection. Jesus Christ has put an end to that imprisonment, delivering all who believe him him.

What about when we are treated badly? Notice in verse three that we remember "those who are mistreated" not because we are mistreated ourselves, but because we "also are in the body."  Without a doubt, in this fallen world, we receive mistreatment. It's just difficult, plain and simple. We often say that you have to be able to take it if you can dish it out. But then again we see that we have to take it even if we aren't dishing it out. This world is full of suffering. Our lives will continue for the rest of our days, and we will eat our bread by the sweat of our brows. We will labor and toil and the earth will give us thorns and thistles. What hope is there for this situation in Jesus? We have great hope in Jesus, for we see that he came to suffer on our behalf. He came to subject himself to the ravages of sin, shame, poverty, humiliation. In his final act of humiliation, Jesus, the innocent one who never sinned against anyone, the one who had no reason for suffering or death, gave himself into the hands of sinful men and died the death of a heinous criminal, suffering terribly. Our Lord understands mistreatment. Our Lord understands our suffering. Our Lord has suffered in ways that none of us will ever suffer, in that he never needed to suffer. He chose to bear that for our sakes. How is our Lord doing? Or rather, what is our Lord doing? He is doing all manner of things on our behalf.

One of the questions I typically ask married people when I engage in pastoral visitation is how their marriages are doing. It's a bold question, but it's one I have to ask. It's my job. Yes, I've heard all sorts of answers, many of which would not be appropriate to repeat. Sometimes those answers require some follow-up questions. Actually, they probably all do. This came home to me one day when I asked that question, just that way. "How's your marriage?" I received the wife's answer, "Our marriage is pretty all right. Not too bad." The husband looked sheepish and didn't respond immediately. So I asked the wife what she meant by that. Yes, I know, it's a daring question. But it was my job. The wife responded that she thought their marriage was a good marriage but that she probably didn't care for her husband deep down as well as she ought to. She fell short in loving him more than she loved herself. She knew his preferences but didn't think she always cared that much about them. I turned to the husband and asked him if they had a pretty all right marriage or if it was getting pretty bad. He said he had to disagree with his wife. If anyone was not doing well, it was he. He didn't love his wife as Christ loved the Church. He didn't think he was giving himself for her like he should. I encouraged them to keep trying to love one another as they knew they should and to keep forgiving one another as they did. I wish all our marriages would be "pretty all right, not too bad." May our marriages be a picture of Christ and the Church, as we see in Ephesians chapter 5. May those of us who are husbands love our wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for her good. May those of you who are wives honor and respect your husbands, giving yourself to joyfully following his lead. Again, we don't do too well. Our Lord does it all perfectly.

How do we do with contentment? How's our concern for money and possessions? In a world with a large population of $2 per day farmers and business people, we live in a nation where my family of three is at the poverty line with an annual income of $18,310. That's $352.12 a week. I admit that I'm very glad to be significantly above that poverty line. Yet if someone suggested that I could have additional income I know I could figure out what to do with it. There's plenty I'd like to have. Once in a while I fill out online satisfaction surveys from Wal-Mart. One of the questions is whether you'd like to have enough money that you didn't have to shop there. This strikes me as a crazy question. Of course I'd like to have more money. It doesn't mean I'd change my shopping locations, but I'd certainly not mind having more money. And we are all that way. But are we driven by it? Do we want to earn more, be more successful in our businesses, just manage to drive up profits a little bit more? Are we the people who would be satisfied if we just made another $100, no matter how much we are now making? Or are we content with what we have?

Let me remind you what we have. Jesus has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." God is our helper. By faith in Christ we are the very righteousness of God. We have an eternal home. We have a hope that this world cannot give. We have all the riches of God in Christ. We are heirs to the eternal kingdom. We have been adopted as sons of God. And we want another two percent pay increase? Yes, the money is pretty useful here. But whether we have earthly riches or not, we have true riches in Jesus Christ our savior.

How are we doing? No, strike that question. How is Jesus doing? He's doing just fine. And he promises he is really here with us. He promises that he will never leave us. He promises that no matter the circumstances of our lives he will not forsake us. No matter how bad our lack of brotherly love has been, he has loved us. No matter how many people we have turned away from our door, he has welcomed us into his kingdom. No matter the prison we have been locked up in, he has set us free. No matter how many problems we have had in our marriages and families, he has adopted us into his family, called us his pure bride. No matter how much or how little we have managed to amass on earth, he has given us heavenly riches. Yes, "the Lord is my helper, I will not fear, what can man do to me?"

Let us pray.

Lord, we rejoice in you today. You have done all things well. You have drawn us to you by your grace and mercy. You have given us all the riches of your presence. Let us receive that presence with joy, in the unity of the true confession of the faith, looking eagerly to your soon return.  Amen.

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Formation of the American Lutheran Church by Fred W. Meuser

Meuser, Fred W. The Formation of the American Lutheran Church. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock reprint, originally issued 1958 by Augsburg Fortress.

I was given this book at the annual convention of the AALC in 2010. The book will be used in a course I am taking late in 2010 but I decided to read it ahead since I tend to have trouble assimilating history texts. Meuser's writing is engaging and his scholarship is impressive.  He originally prepared the manuscript as a doctoral dissertation and the depth of research shows clearly. Meuser traces the formation of the American Lutheran Church of 1930 from the history of theological discussion among various different groups of Lutherans in the United States. He details the hindrances to unification as well as the incentives. At the end of the book, Meuser does talk a bit about the developments from 1930 which led to the formation of The American Lutheran Church (notice the definite article is in the name). I wish I could say I enjoyed the reading. I frankly did not.  I find that when there are too many different groups being discussed at once I lose my bearings quite easily. This happened again and again. Hopefully when I read the book for a class I will keep an adequate map of characters and organizations to sort them out better.  The scope of the book is enormous. Fitting so many people and organizations into so few pages must have been a daunting task. I would recommend the book for someone interested in the development of Lutheranism outside the Missouri Synod, though. Meuser brought many ideas to light that I had never seen before in discussions I had engaged in with Lutherans.

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com

1 Kings 11.1-26, 2 Corinthians 6.1-18 - Lectionary for 8/28/10

Today's readings are 1 Kings 11.1-26 and 2 Corinthians 6.1-18.

Solomon has turned away from God. the Lord, therefore, appears to Solomon a third time, reminding him of the covenant of God. Because Solomon has broken the covenant God made with him, God is going to allow Solomon's kingdom to be taken from him. Yet look at God's mercy here. He could simply remove the kingdom from Solomon and cast his king out. What's more, God had no obligation to warn Solomon. He doesn't appear to most people in this way even once in their lives. But God came to Solomon and warned him one last time. In bringing judgment, furthermore, God did not remove the entire kingdom from Solomon, but left one house of Israel with him.

How does our Lord punish sin? He takes it seriously. There is no doubt about that. Yet in God's wrath his mercy and grace are shown. How did God punish Solomon's breaking of God's covenant? He did so by breaking the covenant himself and not being as severe as the covenant stated. He did so by graciously leaving Solomon with something.

In these last days God has visited the world in his righteous wrath for sin. He has poured out that anger on Jesus Christ, his only son, who is fully God and fully man, thus able to atone for sin as our sufficient substitute. God has exercised his vengeance upon himself rather than upon us who justly deserve God's penalty for sin.

Yes, God is the merciful God who does not treat us as our sins deserve.

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com

Friday, August 27, 2010

1 Kings 9.1-9, 10.1-13, 1 Corinthians 5.1-21 - Lectionary for 8/27/10

Today's readings are 1 Kings 9.1-9, 10.1-13 and 1 Corinthians 5.1-21.

In 1 Kings 9.1-9, God says something very interesting to Solomon. He restates the covenant he made with David but he is very clear that if Solomon departs from the ways of the Lord he will cause the downfall of Israel. They will cease to be a great nation.

Is this salvation by works? Is it a warning not to depart from living by faith? It seems it is the latter. Here's why. God has promised to bless all nations through Abraham's offspring. He has never changed that blessing. Yet he can and will take it away from the nation of Israel to be that blessing if Israel does not hold fast to God's commands.

God has blessed all nations through the offspring of Abraham, through Jesus, the third person of the Trinity. He has not forgotten his promise. God did, however, cast off the power and respect of the Davidic kingdom from Israel as the nation splintered after the time of Solomon.

Our Lord is able to bless the world through his own means, in his own timing, with or without a mighty ethnic group to support that blessing. And in these last days he has done it through Jesus Christ his only son. By belief in the name of Jesus there is salvation. By the hope of the resurrection we have a living hope, not a dying hope. By the Word of God comes faith, that which we need. God has indeed blessed his people, even though his nation departed from him.

Let us similarly take warning. Have we received God's blessing? Let us not depart from faith and depend on works. Let us not mistake God's sovereign grace in our lives. Let us cling to our Lord by faith.

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com

Thursday, August 26, 2010

1 Kings 8.22-30, 46-63, 2 Corinthians 4.1-18 - Lectonary for 8/26/10

Today's readings are 1 Kings 8.22-30, 46-63 and 2 Corinthians 4.1-18.

We continue today with the dedication of the temple of Solomon. Yesterday's devotional was probably overly long. Today's may be overly short.

Look how Solomon has dedicated the temple and then sees that it is too humble a place for the almighty God. He is humbled that God would come and reveal his presence in this humble temple. Likewise, we are humbled that God would come to visit us in the person of Jesus, taking on humble humanity, and that of a person who was not wealthy and powerful.

Look how Solomon sees the temple as the place of forgiveness.  This is what all those sacrifices are about. People sin and they bring something to God. They bring death, the death of animals who are dying in the place of the people that deserved to die. This is God's rule, not mine. It is his idea. For sin we reap death. But it is permitted that one should die for another. This brings forgiveness. Yet the death of the animal on our behalf was only temporary. Jesus, true God and true man, without sin, was able to die on our behalf once for all. God's presence is the place of terror of sin and forgiveness from sin.

See how Solomon was able to pronounce forgiveness and blessing on the people. God speaks through his servants, proclaiming that forgiveness.  It is not something the people earn. It is something that is proclaimed of them in the name of God. Let us always remember that forgiveness comes from outside ourselves.

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

1 Kings 7.51-8.21, 2 Corinthians 3.1-18 - Lectionary for 8/25/10

Today's readings are 1 Kings 7.51-8.21 and 2 Corinthians 3.1-18.

Solomon built quite the temple for the presence of God. His acts, about which we read today in 1 Kings 7 and 8, raise a few important questions. Some of those questions I can answer. Some I can't. Let's look at one that I can answer and one I can't today.

Why did Solomon make such lavish expenditures? Wouldn't that money and those sacrificial animals have been put to better use feeding and clothing the poor? We often see arguments like this today, especially surrounding church building programs, purchases of furnishings for a church building, even when talking about investing a significant portion of a congregation's budget providing a pastor with a wage that might be considered comfortable by the society at large. Shouldn't we dedicate all our resources to ministries of mercy? Shouldn't we deprive ourselves and prefer others? I've heard this referred to often as a "wartime" mentality. I think much of that teaching currently comes from John Piper, though I don't know exactly. I know the people I've mostly heard talking about it are big fans of him and his style of Calvinism.

Here's a counter-question. Does celebration of the God of the Universe deserve all the resources we can provide? Does the owner of the cattle of a  thousand hills get a few cattle for his celebration, where he uses them as means of pouring out forgiveness and grace upon his people? Is it appropriate to celebrate the riches of life in Christ in a building that looks as purposely like an emergency relief shed as possible? No, celebration of the Lord and what he has done is a very serious matter and is worthy of serious dedication of resources. Yes, we want to give generously, provide relief, feed the hungry, clothe the poor, shelter the homeless. But in our worship we are busy recognizing that God himself, the one who in the person of Jesus Christ was hungry, poor, and homeless, has come to visit us and will again visit us as he brings us to be with him in glory. This is one serious celebration.

Now a question I can't answer. What's all this talk about God's presence being in Jerusalem? I thought he was present everywhere. We use the term "omnipresent" to describe the Lord. And it's an appropriate term. Yet in the Bible we often see places described as having the particular presence of God. This is my non-answer which might serve as an answer. Yes, God's presence is in Jerusalem, just as it is in Jericho, Joplin, and all the other towns with letters in their names. But God has revealed himself specifically and for specific purposes in different means, at different times, in different places. God's very real presence for his people is where he says it will be and is available when he says it will be available. Therefore, in the New Testament, it seems that the Lord has said his presence is there for his people in baptism and teaching from Scripture (Matthew 28) and in communion (1 Corinthians 11). Is he present in all creation? Is God present in the shade tree outside my window? Yes, he is present there, as he is everywhere. But it is not there that he is working forgiveness and reconciliation of sinners to himself. We look for God's presence for us where he has promised it will be for us.

That's enough for today!

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

1 Kings 5.1-18, 2 Corinthians 1.23-2.17 - Lectionary for 8/24/10

Today's readings are 1 Kings 5.1-18 and 2 Corinthians 1.23-2.17.

Solomon is becoming more entrenched in his reign. God is giving him peace and prosperity. He is gaining respect as a world leader. But something else is happening in today's reading from 1 Kings 5. See that Solomon is changing Jerusalem and the royal estates from following the patterns of labor and rest, sowing, cultivating, reaping, and dormancy that it has followed for time out of mind to an economy driven by commodities and staffed by labor which seems more like it belongs in a factory than in a farmhouse. Solomon is engaging in a modernization and industrialization project which is going to end Israelite culture as they know it. This is exactly what God predicted through Samuel when the people were asking for a king.

A king may be a good thing. A strong central government can do some things that a less centralized government simply can't. There are some distinct efficiency gains. But there are some serious costs as well.

What do we see our governments coming to? How can we see them in God's economy? What are they doing well and what are they doing poorly? What brings help and what brings harm? It's nothing new.

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com

Monday, August 23, 2010

1 Kings 3.1-15, 2 Corinthians 1.1-22 - Lectionary for 8/23/10

Today's readings are 1 Kings 3.1-15 and 2 Corinthians 1.1-22.

In 1 Kings 3 we see yet another example of God giving a king that gift which the king didn't request. We saw it earlier when David said he would like to build a temple for God and instead God built a royal house for David. Now Solomon asks for wisdom and God promises him riches and honor also.

This is a pattern that plays throughout the whole Bible. We can arrogantly demand what we want when we want it to bring ourselves honor and glory. We can cling to riches claiming that they are ours by right. Remember Nabal? On the other hand, we can plead for mercy before the Lord, we can humble ourselves and put down our own desires. We can ask that the Lord will do his will and that he will bring his reign on this earth as it is in heaven. We can see what the Lord wishes to do rather than telling him what we want him to do.

Do we look to the Lord in expectation that he will do according to his good pleasure? Or do we look to the Lord wanting him to do our good pleasure? May the Lord grant it to be the former, not the latter.

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com

Saturday, August 21, 2010

1 Kings 2.1-27, 1 Corinthians 13.1-13 - Lectionary for 8/22/10

Today's readings are 1 Kings 2.1-27 and 1 Corinthians 13.1-13.

As we read in 1 Kings today we see David's reign end and Solomon's reign begin. This transition takes on a very negative tone, as David instructs Solomon to do away with David's enemies, then Solomon, offended by his brother Adonijah, has him put to death. I wonder if we see a common theme emerging here? It seems that our fallen human nature craves power and revenge. We want to have things our way. We want things on our own timetable. We don't want to allow any rivals to our power or glory. When we are challenged, if it is left entirely up to us, we tend to respond as forcefully as may be needed to get our own way.

Thankfully the Lord has not given many of us the kind of power David or Solomon had. Thankfully the Lord forms familial bonds for most of us, at least hindering us from harming our close relatives. Thankfully we are restrained by civil laws and by community standards. Without those restraining factors we might find ourselves acting quite differently than we do. We might just act on those dark impulses we have. We might do whatever it takes to get what we want when we want it.

Of course, what we want is a very complicated situation. For instance, I both want to eat everything that seems tasty and to remain healthy. My desires are in conflict with one another. I have to balance them. I tend toward the eating side, but really I do exercise self-control, at least sometimes. The parents of small children really do want to sleep at night. What do they normally do when the small children are hungry and crying in the middle of the night? They put down their desires for sleep and fulfill their desire that their children will be well fed and comfortable. The list could go on and on. We have desires that conflict with one another. The Lord has put us into situations that help us control our fulfillment of those desires, for his glory and the good of our neighbors. And sometimes we exercise that control.

Are we going to do it right? One look at Romans chapter 7 ought to point out to us that we don't. Yet we also see there that our Lord is abundant in mercy. He uses means, including those conflicting desires, to bring us to repentance and change our desires to those which are pleasing to him.

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com

Isaiah 66.18-23 - Sermon for 8/22/10

Let us pray.

Our Lord, guard our hearts and minds. We look at Your word and see that we live in a world of turmoil. We see warnings against departing from the faith. We see a picture of the world which scares us. We see our sin and our failure. Yes, Lord, guard our hearts. Let us also see in your word the fulfillment of all the Law, Jesus Christ. Let us see you in your glory. Let us see your majesty. Let us hear your call to us. Comfort our hearts and make us walk in your ways. This we pray through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Experience tells us that our lives will have their share of troubles. Actually, most of us think that our own lives have more than their share of troubles. We'd rather some of the troubles went to someone else once in a while. The Scripture also tells us that our lives will have trials of various types. We live in a world full of struggles. Unemployment, economic difficulties, illness, marital strife, the difficult co-worker, that teacher who doesn't give you a break, times of uncertainty, pastors leaving, wondering if your house will sell, wondering if you can find a place to live, there are lots of possibilities. And in some parts of our world there are more serious struggles as well. Maybe you know of someone who is in a country where being a Christian is illegal. Maybe you know of someone who faces persecution for his faith, where Christians don't live very long, or where they routinely end up unemployed, discredited, stripped of their property and family. Yes, there are places where it's downright dangerous to be a believer.

This fallen world is chock-full of trouble. And that kind of trouble is not at all foreign to the Scriptures. During the time of the prophet Isaiah, though the people of Israel were living in a prosperous time, they still had enemies around them. They still had uncertainty. Every year they had to wonder if their harvest would be sufficient to bring them through the hungry gap. Every month they wondered if there would be enough rainfall to keep adequate water supplies. Who knows what plagues of locusts, what marauders from the north or south, what kind of drought or flood might hit them. And Isaiah wasn't always being very comforting, either. He'd call the people to repentance. He'd tell them about God's coming judgment on unbelief. He'd point out that they were all guilty. He'd talk about the hardships the people faced every day and remind them that they were only doing as well as they were because of God's mercy.

It sounds strikingly similar to what we see today. Many of us know the threat of a layoff all too well. We wonder what might be happening when the boss calls us into the office. We look at the newspaper wondering if we'll see that we no longer have a job. We hesitate to go to the doctor for fear of what he might notice. We wonder what happened to our children when they don't show up at home on time. We fear what might come in the mail. The phone rings and we wonder whether it would be a good idea to pick it up.

How did this happen?  It sounds very much like we've had the Law preached at us until we are all gun shy. It sounds like we understand that we are in a precarious position. It sounds like we are fully expecting the doom and gloom prophecies to come true. So what are we to do? How can we dig our way out of this situation? What will we do?

I come to you today bringing very good news. That good news is that we cannot do anything at all. What? Do you mean we're stuck like this? Woe and misery and agony on me! There's nothing I can do about my situation? And you call that good news?  Yes, indeed, I do call it good news, in fact, the very best news we could ever hear. We are utterly powerless to stop the evil that assaults us. We are utterly powerless to change the health of our sick relatives. We are utterly helpless to keep the economy from tanking and leaving us without jobs. We are utterly helpless to sell our house. We are utterly helpless to avoid a drought, a famine, a plague. No matter how hard we try, we will become old and die. No matter how hard we try, other people will sin against us. We can't do a thing to prevent it. This is a fallen world. It's beyond us to change the world that much.

That doesn't sound much like good news? Well, here's the actual good part. We read it in our passage from Isaiah 66. We can't change it. But the Lord, who is utterly able to change the world, has already planned it. He already knows our situation. He is gathering all nations and tongues, and he is doing it in the person of Jesus Christ. When the time was fulfilled, he says in Galatians, Jesus came. He came according to divine plan. He came to atone for our sin. He came to reconcile the world to God. He came to show the glory of the Father. He came to bring grace and truth. And he accomplished just what he came for. He has revealed the glory of God. He serves as a sign to the world, just like we read in our passage today.

What is Jesus continuing to do as he fulfills this prophecy? He has taken his people and sent them around the world. He has revealed himself to people who have not heard of him, who have not seen his glory. He has declared his glory through his faithful servants. Jesus Christ has drawn people to himself. As he said, if he is lifted up on the cross he will draw all men to himself. And this he has done, as he has given his people grace upon grace, as he has created belief in the hearts of his followers. He has taken us and made us living sacrifices, acceptable and pleasing offerings to our Lord.
He has taken some and set them apart as his special servants, the priests and Levites in the Christian Church being those people who enable the rest of the believers in worship. He has gathered his people in worship before his throne.  In Christ we have full access to the Father. We have been brought in to worship before our Lord. This is our great good news.

So before we despair, let us remember, one and all, that our future is not in our hands. Our future is not something we can manage. It is in the hands of our Lord and Savior, who has already managed our future by purchasing our salvation, by cleansing us from sin, by forgiving us and preparing us a heavenly home. No, we should never despair. Our Lord is gathering us from all nations and tongues. We are perfectly safe in his hands. Blessed be the name of the Lord our deliverer.

Let us rise and pray.

Our Lord, thank you for working out your will, the salvation of your people, in your perfect life, your death on our behalf, and in your resurrection as the firstfruits of the resurrection. Grant us a confidence that you are able to accomplish your will in all things, through Christ Jesus. Amen.


Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com

How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart

Fee, Gordon D. & Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982.

I pulled this book off my shelf while looking for resources to teach my teenage daughter some hermeneutics. I last looked at it in 1988. There's been a lot of water under the bridge since then. Fee and Stuart set out to write a basic introduction to biblical interpretation which is accessible to anyone. In this, they largely succeed. Yet there are several reasons I'm not going to use it with my daughter. First and foremost is the approach they seem to take to the Scriptures. While Fee and Stuart are excellent biblical scholars, they tend to approach interpretation of the Bible as if it exists in a vacuum, where other literature and the tools of literary interpretation don't exist. This seems to be as a first slippery slope toward treating the Scripture as immune to the type of analysis we would apply to other literature. I don't think that is appropriate. It's something I try to guard against.  Another reason I am staying clear of this text with my daughter is that Fee and Stuart seem to adhere to a sort of baptistic decision theology, a bias which shows in their almost offhand dismissal of any views which would take issue with that stance. While I will not hold their theological standpoint against them, I do think they should consider other points of view and interpretations seriously in a work of serious scholarship. For someone with no other literary training and no other good means for gaining familiarity with the general themes and interpretive processes typically used in different portions of Scripture, the book would doubtless be useful. But why not use a good study Bible with its wealth of introductory material? That is going to give the reader more tools than he will find in this volume. 

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com

1 Kings 1.1-4, 15-35, 1 Corinthians 12.14-31 - Lectionary for 8/21/10

Today's readings are 1 Kings 1.1-4, 15-35 and 1 Corinthians 12.14-31.

Today we see signs of confusion in the royal household of Israel. David, the old and enfeebled king, has made it clear to some that Solomon was to succeed him. However, Adonijah, an older son of David, has asserted himself as the king. We will see that this conflict between David's children leads to severe turmoil within the nation.

What we do or do not do as leaders has an influence on many other people. Our clarity of instructions, our effective delegation of authority, our clear statement and follow-through of our philosophy and desires is valuable in ways we can't begin to imagine. Granted, most of us are not in a position to spark off a civil war by accident. Yet most of us are in the position to cause confusion and disorder on some level.

What is our calling as leaders of our homes and families? What is our calling as people who have certain responsibilities in the work place? What is our calling as citizens in a well-ordered society? How do we do our work in civic organizations and in neighborly relationships within our community? How we care for our responsibilities has an influence on many people around us, both those we know and those we don't know.

In all things, we are reminded that God is not a God of confusion, but a God of order. What we do in worship is, according to 1 Corinthians 14, to be done decently and in order. But doing things decently and in order does not end there. We carry ourselves in the same way wherever we are, whatever we are doing. In this way we reflect the character of the Lord who has created us in His image. In this way we redeem our time and our relationships, knowing the Lord Jesus who has redeemed our life.

What if, like David, we find out our inadequacy has set up a situation that will be harmful? May the Lord grant us repentance and forgiveness, then give us the courage to do what we can to repair the damage we have inflicted.

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com

Friday, August 20, 2010

2 Samuel 12.1-25, 1 Corinthians 12.1-13 - Lectionary for 8/20/10

Today's readings are 2 Samuel 12.1-25 and 1 Corinthians 12.1-13.

In 2 Samuel 12 we have Nathan's famous confrontation with David. He comes to David with the story of a rich man who took a poor man's beloved pet lamb to feed a guest. When David is indignant, Nathan points out that David is the rich man who took a poor man's wife, then followed it up by taking the poor man's life. David is moved to repentance. Of course, all the repentance in the world will not reverse David's actions. Repentance is not a deed-eraser. It does nothing to reverse the adulterous act. It does nothing to reverse the pregnancy. It does nothing to restore Uriah to life. Yet it does bring forgiveness. Maybe it brings change in future behavior as well. At least we can hope so.

What we see in this passage that is perhaps more hopeful is that God's stated will, his will to make of Israel a great and prosperous nation, his will to bless the house of David, is moving right along. He takes his people, failings and all, and turns their situations to bring him glory.

Does this give me license to sin? Not at all. Why should I presume upon God's blessing? Why should I put myself and others in a situation that brings them trouble? Remember, repentance is not a sin eraser. But at the same time, when I do sin, I can take confidence that my Lord is able to use my hurtful deeds in some way. He is able to bring his blessing even to those who have been hurt. And he is able to accomplish his plan despite my foolishness.

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com

Thursday, August 19, 2010

2 Samuel 11.1-27, 1 Corinthians 11.17-34 - Lectionary for 8/19/10

Today's readings are 2 Samuel 11.1-27 and 1 Corinthians 11.17-34.

In 2 Samuel 11 we see David entering into sin by taking the wife of Uriah the Hittite in adultery and then arranging for Uriah's death when he could not make it appear that the child of the adultery was Uriah's child. It's easy to criticize a lot of people involved in the situation. But rather than do that, I'd like to look at the kind of thought processes that go on when we enter into sin.

First, let's make it quite clear, in all probability Bathsheba was engaging in a ceremonial washing and was up on her rooftop like any person would be in the early evening. This was not an example of her taking a bath or exposing herself to the king. Housetops were preferred places for catching cooling breezes in the evening, favored by all sorts of people. David did not go onto his rooftop to engage in girl-watching, either. Again, this seems to have been a chance encounter.

What do we do when we have a chance encounter with something that tempts us to sin? Of course, we normally walk away from it and are fine. But when we start dwelling on the opportunity, when we start carrying the possibilities around, pondering them, cherishing them, we are much more likely to pursue them.

What happens next? It is not at all uncommon that we start manufacturing ways to conceal the sin, explain it away, or both. This is exactly what David did. Yet it resulted in his creating a set of circumstances that were harmful, not only to Uriah, but to Bathsheba and many of the people in the army with Uriah. He, after all, was not the only man to fall on the battlefield. He was not the only person with a family.

When we fall prey to temptation we don't always end up creating such a tangled web as David did. That's a good thing. But it's also a bad thing. The fact that I can enter into sin, minimize the consequences, and go my merry way means I tend not to be brought to true repentance. I don't see my sin as truly evil before a righteous God. I have won the battle for my own way. I have set a precedent that allows me to harden my heart toward God and toward others. I have made it easier to enter into the same sin or others again and again.

One of the traditional lines in a confession and absolution says, "I am heartily sorry for my sin." May we keep that "heartily" and not substitute "hardly."

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

2 Samuel 7.18-29, 1 Corinthians 10.23-11.16 - Lectionary for 8/18/10

Today's readings are 2 Samuel 7.18-29 and 1 Corinthians 10.23-11.16.

In 2 Samuel 7 David is rightly overwhelmed by what God has promised him. After all, David just wanted to build a house for the presence of God. But look what God has promised! God is going to build his people as an everlasting house for his presence. He is going to prosper his people. He is going to establish them.

What a wonderful temple of the Lord we see in the Church, where every believer is built into the walls of God's temple. We are also compared to a body in which the Lord has every member serving him in its appropriate manner. This is a body that works in unity. All the separate parts end up working as one great whole.

As we read today and as we go through our other daily affairs, let us remember the Lord is using us, our personalities, our occupations, our interactions, to proclaim his name and presence to our world. May we rejoice in the calling our Lord has given us.

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Rage against God by Peter Hitchens

Hitchens, Peter. The Rage against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.

This book entered our library thanks to Issues, Etc. producer Jeff Schwarz.  When we were visiting the IE studios in June, they were having a book giveaway.  Apparently they thought we should have more things in our hands when we left, so they gave us a copy of this book.  As we left the studio and braved the rush hour traffic around St. Louis, we listened to an interview with the author.  Peter Hitchens, brother of the militant atheist Christopher Hitchens, discusses how the watered-down cultural substitute for Christianity which he was raised on proved unsatisfactory.  He talks about his journey through atheism and his observations of the bankruptcy of the atheist philosophy.  Hitchens spent some time in Russia around 1990 and paints a striking picture of the despair which held that great country in its grip.  He warns that when we use cultural tools at our disposal to rob the Christian faith of its distinctive tone we endanger our culture in the very same way.  Hitchens boldly and yet gently asks the questions that we should all ask ourselves when we look to our culture and how it will appear to future generations.

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogger.com

2 Samuel 7.1-17, 1 Corinthians 9.24-10.22 - Lectionary for 8/17/10

Today's readings are 2 Samuel 7.1-17 and 1 Corinthians 9.24-10.22.

It's striking to see the way God comes and establishes his covenant with David. David was upset that while he himself had a palace God's tabernacle seemed much less imposing, less permanent. It didn't seem fair to him. So David desired to build a temple for God, something more similar to his own palace.
What did God do? Aside from prohibiting David from building him a temple, God established an everlasting covenant with David. Consider again the kind of promises God gives to David in this passage. He is pouring out blessing after blessing.
This is indicative of the nature of our Lord. We are dying in sin. He sends us not only temporal relief but eternal relief. We are apprehensive about eternity, thinking about our temporal sorrows. he gives us a promise of eternal joy which we cannot fully imagine. We are troubled with sickness. He promises us an inheritance where there will be no suffering or pain of any sort. We worry about having enough to eat. God invites us to an everlasting banquet.
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com

Monday, August 16, 2010

1 Samuel 6.1-19, 1 Corinthians 9.1-23 - Lectionary for 8/16/10

Today's readings are 1 Samuel 6.1-19 and 1 Corinthians 9.1-23.

The presence of the living God is a frightening thing. Recall how when the ark was taken into the hands of the Philistines God showed that he was perfectly capable of watching out for himself. Now, en route to Jerusalem, Uzzah's rash action in trying to protect God from harm is used as an example to all of us. God needs no protection. He asks no protection. He is not the one who is protected. He is, on the contrary, the protector himself. He has appointed means to approach him. Those who approach outside of those means are taking God's law into their own hands, which is never a good thing to do.
How do we approach God? In these last days, this Christian era, we come to God in Christ by faith, believing that in fact Jesus has already taken care of all our sin, all that makes us unacceptable to God. We can come boldly before the throne of God in prayer by faith in Jesus. We can receive forgiveness in the name of Jesus as it is promised. We are baptized into the name of God, claimed as his possessions, again, realizing by faith that we are God's possessions. We approach God as we believe that the Scripture is profitable and has spoken to us, revealing the nature and character of our Lord.
Notice, finally, that the ark is being brought into Jerusalem. Here we see a sign of the God who is present with and for his people. Likewise, Jesus was called "Emmanuel" meaning "God with us." He has visited us with blessing and salvation. Let us give thanks to our Lord.

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Luke 12.49-53 - Sermon for 8/15/10

Let us pray.

Lord, guard our hearts, guard our minds, guard my lips. May we be faithful to you. Even as you distinguish between right and wrong, between belief and unbelief, may the divisions come from you, not from us. Give us wisdom and discretion as we look into your word today.

One of the watchwords of our society is unity. We are in the midst of a huge ecumenical movement, where people holding to all sorts of different belief systems try to find their commonalities. We see statements like, "doctrine divides, service unites." We have international commissions trying to figure out what all Christians hold in common. We have groups trying to see if there are some things held in common by all different religions, to see how Christians and Buddhists can get along together. We have prayer services where Christians, Muslims, Jews and Hindus all get together and try to lead one another in prayer. We have people asking why we can't just all get along together. The new brand of "tolerance" means embracing, no, celebrating people's beliefs even though they are directly contradictory to mine.

What are we to do? Isn't Jesus the one who has broken down the wall of separation between man and God? Aren't we called to be one in Him as He is in the Father? Are we right to apply that to the rest of the world? Aren't there people who genuinely believe in their Eastern religion? Aren't there sincere atheists? Isn't there a basic brotherhood of man? After all, we were all created in the image of God, right?

Maybe I've pressed long enough on this idea. We've all heard it. And deep down there is something attractive about it. We'd like to think people of very different backgrounds can get along together. We'd like to think there are some common human values for us to hold. And by and large we do see some of that. Really, as we confess that fallen humans are depraved, at the same time we see that there are people who are not believers in Christ and who are kind, compassionate, caring, generous, honest - just like I pray that believers in Christ will be. I can buy a cup of lemonade from the little girl selling it and not worry that she has laced it with rat poison. My unbelieving neighbor is not a threat to me, even if he wants to borrow my lawn mower. And the Islamic guy who gave me help when I called the computer help desk? He told me what I needed to know. Yes, there is some commonality, and it's good.  But it doesn't give us a complete picture of our world. It is a one-sided picture. Just like looking at a coin from only one side may not show you all about the coin, looking at our world through that lens doesn't give us a complete picture.

What did Jesus say about his mission? Let's read it again.
Luke 12 49-53 (ESV) "I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three.53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."

Jesus' mission is not entirely a smooth reconciliation of everyone with everyone else. On one level Jesus has come in judgment. He is making a distinction between belief and unbelief. He is making a distinction between righteousness and sin. He will allow that distinction to show up even in family relationships. And the difference between belief and unbelief is a difference that can wrench apart our households. It can create enmity. It can cause as much strife as it does peace.

What is this divisive message? Here's the divisive message of Christ as we confess it in the Apostles' Creed.

"And [I believe] in Jesus Christ, [the Father's] only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead."

Did you ever think about how divisive that is? Let's look at some of these divisive claims of the Gospel that we've just heard.

First, Jesus is the only son of the Father. We have just set ourselves apart from every other world religion. Even those who believe in one God will never confess a triune God. But Christians boldly proclaim just that.

We also contend that Jesus is our Lord. He is not just a theoretical savior. He is not just someone who was a good moral teacher. He is not someone who is as much a Lord as you make him. He is the Lord. there is none like him. And when the Lord is with us, when he reveals himself to us, when he tells us to go in his name and to baptize and teach we do it. He is our Lord. That's divisive. Our society doesn't like it. But it is what Jesus has given us.

Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary. His very birth was supernatural. He was not an illegitimate child who realized his god-consciousness. He was not someone like the rest of us. Yet with his human mother he was completely like us, only without sin. Christians confess that Jesus is completely God and completely human, two natures, unconfused, dwelling in one person. We confess Jesus' divinity and sinless nature makes him able to be a righteous sacrifice. We confess that Jesus' full humanity makes his death on our behalf valid, for he is one like we are. This is divisive. But it is what Jesus has given us.

Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate. He was crucified. He really died. He was really buried. Wait a minute! God died?? Who are you trying to kid?? But that's exactly what the Scriptures relate. Jesus was betrayed. He was convicted in a hasty trial by Pontius Pilate, a real Roman governor who is attested in history as being the governor at the time of Jesus' death. He was put to a criminal's death, fulfilling biblical prophecies. He died. The centurion who was in charge of certifying death, who knew what dead looked like, attested to it. He was dead. Jesus was put in a real tomb, in a real place. Other religions don't know what to do with this. Either Jesus is God and can't die or Jesus must not be God. But we confess that Jesus is the living God who dies in our place. And we confess that he really did it. This is divisive. But it is what Jesus has given us.

We confess that Jesus descended into hell. In modern days this is contested. The biblical evidence seems a little weaker for it. Yet throughout historical Christianity we have confessed that Jesus proclaimed his victory to the underworld. We have several biblical passages that document it. We don't know why it was such an important topic to the early Church, but it was. And we can have confidence that our Lord showed his victory to those who are held captive in death. This is divisive. But it is what Jesus has given us.

We confess a real bodily resurrection and ascension of our Lord. He is not just a disembodied spirit. He rose, was seen by people, was touched by people, ate with people. We believe in a bodily resurrection. Though people of many religions try to escape from the body, we confess that we look forward to a bodily resurrection of all people, of believers to eternal reward and of unbelievers to eternal condemnation. Our world doesn't like this. It is divisive. But it is what Jesus gives us.

We confess that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father - the place of authority, the place of giving counsel, the place of trust. This affirms Jesus on an equal footing with the Father. And when we confess that Jesus will come to exercise judgment we confess him to be the one who holds the right to judge. This is also divisive. But it is what the Lord has given us.

The power of the Gospel is for salvation, yes. Jesus died to atone for your sins and for my sins. He died for the sins of the world. And he is able to take them all away. This, in a nutshell, is that divisive thing the Lord has given us. Why does it bring division? Because belief in Jesus' finished work applies that forgiveness to us but rejection of the Gospel brings condemnation. We can't have one without the other. We have to keep both sides on the coin or it is no more a coin. We have to proclaim both deliverance and judgment or we proclaim neither.

Does this unify? Does it not rather divide? It is a message which brings joy to those who believe but angers those who do not believe. It is a message which divides us and can tear us to shreds. The Gospel is at once the most powerful unifier in the world and the most divisive claim we could possibly make.  And while Jesus does not desire that anyone should perish, while his desire is that everyone should come to repentance and receive his forgiveness, he will ultimately let us reject him if that is our determination. He will ultimately let us tear our lives and our families, our very society apart as we deny the life he lived and the death he died on our behalf.

This is a sobering message. There's so much Gospel - more than the world can hold. Yet at the same time we tend to reject that Gospel, which was given for us.  Let it not be! Let us trust in the Lord, not in ourselves. Let us look to Jesus for the forgiveness he has purchased on our behalf. Let us hold firm to this doctrine of Jesus' atonement for our sins. Let us use doctrine to unite, not to divide. And let us be united in the exclusive claims of Christ, that it is only through faith in his name that we can stand before the Father. Yes, this is divisive. It is not what our society wants. But it is what our Lord has given us. It is biblical. It is our one hope.

Are we for him? Are we against him? What is our confession going to be?

Let us rise and pray.

Our Lord, we confess publicly that you are the Lord of all creation. You alone have granted forgiveness from sin. You alone are the judge of all people. You alone have determined what is sin and what is righteousness. You have demonstrated what that righteousness is. And you alone can apply your righteousness to our lives through faith in you name. Grant us that we may ever believe this Gospel, that we may be united in you, that we may be one in you as you are in the Father. Through Jesus Christ our Lord we pray, amen.

We now join in confessing our common faith in the words of the Apostles' Creed.


Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com