Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Tree Of Life

It’s no secret for anyone who reads my drivel on a regular basis that I love the great old hymns of the historic church. There is really something to be said for hymns that stood the test of time (and with time a good bit of theological scrutiny) and made it into the hymnals which we use today.

I am sometimes wrongly accused, usually by my evangelical brothers in the faith, of not recognizing that hymns are being written and sung today that meet the same standards as the old Greek and Latin hymns I love so much. This is simply an incorrect assumption. There are indeed great hymns being written today and I can say with certainty that more great hymns that confess or proclaim Jesus will be written as long as our Lord tarries.

One of the hymns that I believe will stand the test of time is Pastor Steven Starke’s “The Tree of Life” which was reviewed on Issues, Etc. last week. Pastor Starke’s hymn wonderfully takes us from the Tree of Life to man’s fall (in chapter 3 of Genesis) by Adam’s sin of eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and then to God’s plan of salvation for his disobedient children through another tree; Christ’s cross at Calvary. Just as man’s story starts with Tree of life; Starke ends the hymn with an eschatological look forward to eternity. Starke ends the hymn with us looking to eat once more of the Tree of Life in God’s presence as He intended (Rev 2:7 and 22:2).

This beautiful hymn’s walks us through the biblical story of man’s fall and God’s salvation by Grace in the work and person of Jesus as good as any solid Bible study. This great new hymn can be found on page 561 of the Lutheran Service Book.
Here’s the text of the Tree of Life;

1. The tree of life with ev'ry good
In Eden's holy orchard stood,
And of its fruit so pure and sweet
God let the man and women eat.
Yet in this garden also grew
Another tree, of which they knew;
Its lovely limbs with fruit adorned
Against whose eating God had warned.

2. The stillness of that sacred grove
Was broken, as the serpent strove
With tempting voice Eve to beguile
And Adam too by sin defile.
O day of sadness when the breath
Of fear and darkness, doubt and death,
Its awful poison first displayed
Within the world so newly made.

3. What mercy God showed to our race,
A plan of rescue by His grace:
In sending One from woman's seed,
The One to fill our greatest need--
For on tree uplifted high
His only Son for sin would die,
Would drink the cup of scorn and dread
To crush the ancient serpent's head!

4. Now from that tree of Jesus' shame
Flows life eternal in His name;
For all who trust and will believe,
Salvation's living fruit receive.
And of its fruit so pure and sweet
The Lord invites the world to eat,
To find within this cross of wood
The tree of life with ev'ry good.

And here is the segment of Issues, Etc. with Pastor Steven Starke discussing the same:

Friday, June 26, 2009

Time Out Episode 19

Dan over at Necessary Roughness has the newest Time Out; Time Out Episode 19 posted.

The Scripture reading for this episode is the second chapter of Colossians and the hymn is “Salvation Unto Us Has Come.” found on page 555 in the Lutheran Service Book.

Dan is joined in this edition of Time Out by organist Bruce Ahlich from Trinity Lutheran Church in Traverse City, MI.

Be sure to stop by, say howdy, and thank Dan for doing such a great job on Time Out Episode 19!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Big Barda Ain’t Got Nothing On Me

It’s our anniversary tomorrow and the missus and I will celebrate one more year together. Another year has passed by and it’s clear to me that I love my missus even more than Big Barda loves Scott Free aka Mr. Miracle. How much does Barda love Scott? Let’s take a quick look at a panel from Mr. Miracle #7:

“We’ll go down that old shark’s mouth together!!”

“Then I’ll beat her to death from the inside!!”

Isn’t that just the most romantic thing you’ve ever heard? Well, that’s just an inkling of how much I loves the missus. Rather than ever being separated from my missus I’d jump into that old shark’s mouth even if the lord of Apokolips, Darksied, placed a legion of parademons in the shark’s belly beforehand. Let’s see Barda top that, an old shark and a legion of parademons. Heh, I’d like to see her top that.

Yep, I love the chick that much.

Happy anniversary missus!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Uh Oh, Anybody have my Father-In-Law’s Number?

Oh man, we’re out of town this weekend and my missus just realized that she forgot to write down her dad’s unlisted number so she can give him a call on Sunday.

Anybody in the lone star state have my father-in-law’s phone number?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Time Out Episode 18

Dan over at Necessary Roughness has the newest Time Out; Time Out Episode 18 posted. The Scripture reading for this episode is the tenth chapter of Hebrews and the hymn is “From Depths of Woe I Cry To Thee.” found on page 607 in the Lutheran Service Book.

Dan is joined in this edition of Time Out by organist Bruce Ahlich from Trinity Lutheran Church in Traverse City, MI.

Dan comments on the hymn: “I have never heard 607 sung in Divine Service. I think the title scares people. The five stanzas are a cool framing of Law and Gospel, the first two being Law and the last three Gospel. Walther would be pleased.

Be sure to stop by, say howdy, and thank Dan for doing such a great job on Time Out Episode 18!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Time Out Episode 17

Dan over at Necessary Roughness has the newest Time Out; Time Out Episode 17 posted. The Scripture reading for this episode is John 1:1-34 and the hymn is “Creator Spirit, By Whose Aid” found on page 500 in the Lutheran Service Book.

Dan is joined in this edition of Time Out by organist Bruce Ahlich from Trinity Lutheran Church in Traverse City, MI.

Be sure to stop by, say howdy, and thank Dan for doing such a great job on Time Out Episode 17 !

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Today’s Quote Of The Day

So, I was in my Sunday school class for the high school youth this past weekend and here’s how the conversation went down:

Youth #1: Mr. Gillespie, are we going to have Bible study tonight?

Me: Well, as I’m not the chair or even on the Board of Youth (our terms only go for two years although as anybody who reads this blog knows I’ve been very active with teaching the ragamuffins for going on eight years now and plan on continuing to do so) this year so it’s not up to me when or whether our, eh, your Sunday night Bible studies are run or even continued.

Youth #1: They had better keep doing them, we love ‘em!

And next came today’s quote of the day from our declared atheist who always attends our Sunday night study;

DA: Yeah, they better continue it or I’ll teach it myself!

For just a moment the room was dead quite as the teacher was grinning ear to ear barely able to contain himself.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Time Out Episode 16

Dan over at Necessary Roughness has the newest Time Out; Time Out Episode 16 posted. The Scripture reading for this episode is Romans chapter 3 and the hymn is “Come Holy Ghost Creator Blest” found on page 498 in the Lutheran Service Book.

Dan is joined in this edition of Time Out by organist Bruce Ahlich from Trinity Lutheran Church in Traverse City, MI.

Be sure to stop by, say howdy, and thank Dan for doing such a great job on Time Out Episode 16 !

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Evangelism As An Idol

I had a “conversation” recently with someone who believes that our beloved synod’s favorite evangelism program, eh, movement; Ablaze! is the best thing since sliced bread. I, as is no big secret ‘round here, completely disagree.

I put conversations in quotes above because there is rarely anything remotely resembling a conversation when debating Ablaze! from either a Scriptural or a confessional standpoint with those whose views differ from mine . I’m always up for a good debate and really do enjoy a dialogue with people that disagree with me. That being said, I just can’t accept a synod website, when that website conflicts with Scripture or takes Scripture completely out of context, as a legitimate debating point. Madison Avenue marketing campaigns will always be trumped by Scripture. If even that simple point can not be agreed upon, let’s just be honest and just call it a day because the discussion is going to go nowhere pleasant for either of us.

What I’ve seen by the precious few who will debate a slack jawed yokel like myself (and for reasons I can’t explain, there really too few who are debate anything at all concerning true evangelism) is almost a willingness to make an evangelism program the equivalent of a golden calf that is to bowed down to. Allow me to elaborate;

The Ablaze! program did not hide Easter eggs for the kids in the neighborhood.

The Ablaze! program did not invite people to your Easter breakfast.

The Ablaze! program did not shake your visitors hands in your church lobby.

The Ablaze! program did not work in the local food pantry.

The Ablaze! program did not talk to people at the bus stop or in the airport about Jesus.

The Ablaze! program did not, I repeat, did not bring anyone to faith.

I see very little difference between ascribing the receiving of faith by the Holy Spirit to a program developed by consultants and the bowing down to a golden calf by the people of Israel when Moses was still on Sinai in Exodus 32. Likewise, it is an error of similar magnitude to dance around that same golden calf to the drum beat of our own good works. Extol Ablaze! all you like but the focus is almost never on the faith in Christ which is the only thing that makes a good work good.

To take credit for your own works as being good or attributing the bringing of those who would hear their Shepherds voice to faith is nothing more than the fashioning of an idol from the gold colored metal of an evangelism program.

The old confessors understood this when they defended the historic catholic faith against the papacy and the Roman system of works righteousness that had developed through the middle ages before the Emperor Charles V at Augsburg when they confessed in AC V how faith is received and how and where we find Jesus;

That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ's sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ's sake.

They condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the Holy Ghost comes to men without the external Word, through their own preparations and works.

Golden calves take many forms but the one thing that every idol has in common is taking credit from the work of our Lord and making it our own. When Ablaze! is always running (the subject of) the verbs, no matter how well intentioned it may be, our beloved synod’s shiny evangelism program is nothing more than an idol to be condemned.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Live By The Sword…

Like so many unborn babies he killed in their mother’s wombs, Dr. George Tiller was himself killed in a place where he should not have feared for his life, the lobby of his church. In the place where poor miserable sinners should only hear the peace that passes all understanding, the Gospel of Jesus and His cross, they heard gunfire.

Tiller ran the Women's Health Care Services clinic, a very high-profile abortion clinic in Wichita, KS and was one of the few doctors in the country that still performed late-term abortions. Dr. Tiller never shied away from reporters asking for him to defend what he called a moral decision to provide a choice for women. He was very proud of his work and didn’t consider killing babies a violation of either his Hippocratic Oath or God’s Law.

What Dr. Tiller’s murderer did was wrong. A Christian is a citizen of two kingdoms and bound to laws of both. As a Christian we are called by God to obey the laws of our country. Murder is unlawful and needs to be both condemned and punished as the state is given the authority to do.

In addition, how we treat our enemies and folks we just plain don’t like is laid out in Romans 12:17-21;

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord. On the contrary:
"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

Moreover, what Tiller’s murderer did is dangerously harmful to those who profess to be Christian. In an age where harassment of Christians and the values they hold dear seem to be in vogue and when the Homeland Security Department can publically and unapologetically state that those who are prolife are potential domestic terrorists, this murder’s actions is likely to have farther reaching implications than just the death of one abortionist.

Tiller’s murder might have thought that his vigilantism an appropriate end for one who killed so many of those who could not defend themselves but it’s likely that that unlawful sword that he swung will be used a weapon itself against the faithful and those who would defend the unborn.