Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Speaking Truth in Love | John T. Pless


"... Prior to the Second World War in 1938, Hermann Sasse (1895-1976) penned these words: 'Where man can no longer bear the truth, he cannot live without the lie' ...

In this wonderfully lucid little booklet [Union and Confession], Sasse goes on to contrast the truth with the lie. He notes that from the beginning the lie and the truth have done battle within the Church... The lie, Sasse said, takes on various forms. There is the pious lie, that hypocrisy with which man lies to himself, to others and even to God. The pious lie easily becomes the edifying lie. This is the lie that takes comfort in untruth. Sasse sees an example of the edifying lie embraced by medieval Christians when they trusted in the power of the saints, relying on the excess of their merit to further them in the struggle toward righteousness. The edifying lie was the lie unmasked and expelled by the Reformation.

Then there is the dogmatic lie, the assertion that we have come to greater doctrinal maturity and old teachings are to be changed for a more contemporary, relevant theology [a version of C.S. Lewis' "chronological snobbery"]. Finally there is, Sasse warned, the institutional lie when the churches embody the lie in their own life, instituting false teaching as normative.

The struggle between the truth and the lie is, of course, as old as our first parents' deception in Eden (see Gen. 3:1-19), but the battle emerges anew in every generation as the old serpent never tires of repeating his primal question, 'Did God really say?'

In our day, the questions are crafted as to the nature of truth itself, even as fundamental realities... We recognize the darkness of these gray and latter days to paraphrase the hymnist, but that does not lead us to despair, for the light of the Gospel shines the brightest over and against the hopelessness of this age..."

--Rev. John T. Pless is an assistant professor at the Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN.



Monday, January 13, 2014

THREE WISE GUYS: Justin Martyr | Super Inc. Cinema



No good story would be complete without them.

Green Lantern has the Guardians, Peter Parker has Uncle Ben, Superman has (data from) his Kryptonian father... In a fair amount of superhero mythology, there is an old man, an elder, a narrative character who seems to really know what is going on. They are able to understand under-lying issues and goals needed for the main hero to complete his task.

They are the sensei who the hero climbs the mountain to meet.

Often, in the hero's search for instruction, identity, and meaning, he finds himself pointed in a direction that he never could have found on his own.

Saint Walker is one such hero. With his world on the brink of destruction due to his dying sun, Walker goes to the sole place where hope may be found: The Mountain of the Promised Savior. From this mountain, a man has been prophesied to come and save Walker's planet.

In the journey up the mountain, Walker loses his father and his family. Everything that he has ever held dear had been lost to him. And, his planet may no longer be salvageable. Still, he continues his on his path:


As he reaches the peak of the mountain, Walker screams at God, cursing Him, begging him for a deliverer. His people need help, they need salvation, and a Savior was no where to be seen. The alien tears his book, his beliefs to shreds. How can he trust in an invisible God?

Then, God calls back to him. God answers him. Walker realizes his brokeness. Then, God shows him his own reflection. It was if He said, "You are the one whom I've sent."

Walker rushes back down from the mountains heights. He proclaims his beliefs, he shares his faith and trust in something bigger than himself. He spoke night and day "until someone listened." Eventually the whole world turned to him. They heard his gospel. They understood the scripture. And, they lived it.

Their faith had made the sun well. Instead of reaching its death, the sun grew young again. Just as the hearers of the word had been, the sun was reborn. There was hope that "all will be well." Without this hope, the Saint would realize he is nothing. With this hope, there is even life after death.

Justin Martyr had lived a similar life.

He had been a late disciple of Socrates and Plato (110-165 AD). He searched for instruction, identity, meaning, and guidance in his world. Both, for himself and for those around him.

As he reached his mountain top, knowing the love of wisdom with the best of them, he found it to be empty.

"He tells the professional philosophers [they are] on a throne... how false and hollow is all wisdom that is not meant for all humanity... He exposes the impotency of... philosophy" How good can the knowledge of the philosophers be if it cannot be shared with all of humanity??

 "What Plato was feeling after, he [Justin Martyr] found in Jesus of Nazareth."

"He climbed towards Christ."

What he had failed to find in his search for wisdom, he found in the Word of God.

He knew how personal and meaningful the "only true philosophy," Christianity, was. He saw that "after the conflicts and tests of ages, it is the only philosophy that lasts and lives and triumphs..."

It became his mission "to be a star in the West, leading its Wise Men to the cradle of Bethlehem."

He knew that he must proclaim his beliefs, defend his doctrine, and share his trust and faith in someone bigger than himself. He wrote and spoke every day. Growing up a Gentile, he hoped the whole world would turn to him, hear him, understand the Scripture, know the Gospel, and live it.

Their faith would make them well. Knowing sin, the people would hear him and gain salvation. They would be reborn in the hope of the Gospel. Without this hope, the Martyr would realize he is nothing. With this hope, there is even life after death.

This is how those old men, elders... magi, wise guys are born.

It is in this struggle, this experience, this purging of God that they begin to see... not with their own eyes but by faith. They may need a road to Damascus or a mountain-top revelation, but the outcome is still the same. They may see the world as intending their struggle for evil, but God had always intended it for good (Gen. 50:20).

Through these experiences, they become the beacon, the signal, the star proclaiming the truth to all who would hear... They are able to understand under-lying issues and goals needed for the Christian to live their task... to live the Word.

For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

... How are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? ... 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news! ...

Do not be sleeping  when those feet come to you.

Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Rm 10).

He is the Savior. The Deliverer. He completes us where we are lacking and finds us when we are lost. We are only alive if we live in Him. He is our Hope and our Trust. Our Redemption.

He works in our lives, He builds us up, He tests us, He strengthens us to witness His work.

He speaks so that we may be both hearers and doers of His Word.

You may one day find yourself on the other side of your struggles, living the life of the person who God has forged you to be, a bearer of good news, a witness and proclaimer of the Gospel... a narrative character.

But, that life may only be lived as a life in Jesus Christ.

Without Him there is no light to shine through the darkness.



***Check out more of Daniel Vang's music.
****The quotes about Justin Martyr are from the Introductory Note of the First Apology.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Forgiveness | Matthew Harrison


"'I didn't come to kill you." He was an imposing figure. He had an even more imposing reputation. But what he had been known for, well-earned to be sure, was not why I remember him.

He had become an ever more devout Missouri Synod Lutheran and regularly shared the good news of Jesus with, and invited to church, people who wouldn't have given him the time of day had he not been who he had been.

This former purveyor of intimidation had become an ambassador of reconciliation. this fact was all the more significant because it was not readily apparent. He was so unassuming, even with his rather imposing stature, that no one who hadn't come to know him would be aware of his past. Same man, same haunts, same circle of people--but for an ever-deepening, transformative joy of being justified in Christ.

Another man in a nearby community had sinned egregiously against my friend and his family. The former 'intimidator' went directly to the man in question, to his very doorstep in fact. The guilty party opened the door and began frantically to plead (with good reason), 'Don't kill me! Don't kill me!'

My friend responded, 'I didn't come to kill you. I came to forgive you.' He wasn't on a mission of retribution. He was on a mission of reconciliation... He hadn't come to exact justice. He had come as one justified sinner seeking the repentance of and reconciliation with another sinner.

The flesh relishes the thought of retribution.
The spirit rejoices in reconciliation.

The righteousness of Christ credited by faith is transformative. It reckons us what we are not and cannot be in and of ourselves--perfectly righteous with the righteousness of Jesus... we have been freely declared to be--righteous in Christ. Declared forgiven, we cannot but be forgiving... this righteousness was obtained fully by Christ's cross...

The benefits of Christ's death and resurrection are received, laid hold of, by faith. Faith simply lays hold of the gift, and even the faith, which receives the gift, is itself all gift... 'For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast' (Ephesians 2:8-9)...

[Although we have fallen short and caused the Spirit of the Lord to burn against us, and the wrath of God to stir up against us...] When we confront God, he [sees us as his own son, he provides us with His limitless love, mercy, and grace and] says to us, 'I didn't come to kill you. I came to forgive you.'"

--Pastor President Matthew C. Harrison

An exert from A Little book on Joy (pages 44-47) as quoted in this month's Lutheran Witness.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Song's Nativity | The Singer

In the beginning was
   the song of love.
Alone in empty nothingness
   and space
It sang itself through
   vaulted halls above
Reached gently out to
   touch the Father's face.

And all the tracklessness
   where worlds would be
Cried 'Father' through the
   aching void. Sound tore
The distant chasm, and eternity
Called back--'I love you Son--
   sing Troubadour.'

His melody fell upward
   into joy
And climbed its way
   in spangled rhapsody.
Earthmaker's infant stars
   adored his boy,
And blazed his name through
   every galaxy.

'Love,' sang the Spirit Son
   and mountains came.
More melody, and life
   began to grow.
He sang of light, and darkness
   fled in shame
Before a universe in
   embryo.

Then on the naked ground
   the Troubadour
Knelt down and firmly sang
   a stronger chord.
He scooped the earth dust
   in his hand
And worked the clay
   till he had molded man.

They laid him down beneath
   primeval trees
And waited there. They loved
   him while he slept
And both rejoiced as he began
   to breathe
A triumph etched in brutal
   nakedness.

'I am a Man!' the sun-crowned
   being sang.
He stood and brushed away the
   clinging sand.
He knew from where his very
   being sprang.
Wet clay still dripped from
   off the Singer's hands.

Earthmaker viewed the sculptured
   dignity
Of man, God-like and strident,
   President
Of everything that was,
   content to be
God's intimate and only earthen
   friend.

The three embraced in that
   primeval glen.
And then God walked away,
   his Singer too.
Hate came--discord--they
   never met again.

The new man aged and died
   and dying grew
A race of doubtful, death-owned
   sickly men.
And every child received the
   planet's scar
And wept for love to come and
   reign. And then
To heal hate-sickened life
   both wide and far.

'We're naked!' cried the
   new men in their shame.
   (they really were)
A race of piteous things
   who had no name.

They died absurdly whimpering
   for life.
They probed their sin for
   rationality.
Self murdered self in endless
   hopeless strife
And holiness slept with
   indecency.

All birth was but the prelude
   unto death
And every cradle swung above
   a grave.
The sun made weary trips from
   east to west,
Time found no shore, and
   culture screamed and raved.

The world, in peaceless orbits,
   sped along
And waited for the Singer and
   his song.

.......................................

The Father and his Troubadour
   sat down
Upon the outer rim of space.
   'And here,
My Singer,' said Earthmaker,
   'is the crown
Of all my endless skies--the
   green, brown sphere
Of all my hopes.' He reached
   and took the round
New planet down, and held it
   to his ear.

'They're crying, Troubadour,'
   he said, 'They cry
So hopelessly.' He gave the
   little ball
Unto his Son, who also held
   it by
His ear. 'Year after weary
   year they all
Keep crying. They seem born to
   weep then die.
Our new man taught them crying
   in the Fall.

'It is a peaceless globe.
   Some are sincere
In desperate desire to see
   her freed
Of her absurdity. But
   war is here.
Men die in conflict, bathed
   in blood and greed.'

Then with his nail he scraped
   the atmosphere
And both of them beheld the
   planet bleed.

Earthmaker set earth spinning
   on its way
And said, 'Give me your vast
   infinity
My son; I'll wrap it in a bit
   of clay.
Then enter Terra microscop-
   ically
to love the little souls who
   weep away
Their lives' 'I will,' I said,
   'set Terra free.'

And then I fell asleep and all
   awareness fled.
I felt my very being shrinking
   down.
My vastness ebbed away. In dwind-
   ling dread,
All size decayed. The universe
   around
Drew back. I woke upon a tiny
   bed
Of straw in one of Terra's
   smaller towns.

And now the great reduction
   has begun:
Earthmaker and his Troubadour
   are one.
And here's the new redeeming
   melody--
The only song that can set
   Terra free.

The Shrine of older days
   must be laid by.
Mankind must see Earthmaker
   left the sky,
And he is with us. They must
   concede that
I am he. They must believe the
   Song or die....

Calvin Miller's The Singer p.44-46, 108-110.

Suffering Hands | The Singer


"She looked down at the gentle,
suffering hand that held her own.
Somewhere in her swimming recol-
lection, she remembered the
same hand with infant fingers
that had clutched the ringlets of her
hair and reached to feel the
leathered face of Eastern Kings.
But he could not remember that."

--Calvin Miller's The Singer p.40

Super Inc. Cinema Log


video

Here is a quick go-to list for the cinematic superhero devotions.
CLICK HERE for other Super Inc. devotions.
Make sure to check out the Facebook group too!!









Series':

1. Romans & The Justice League

1.1 SUPERMEN
      Superman & Romans 8

1.2 THE REMNANT
      Martian Manhunter & Romans 9

1.3 THEIR OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS
      Batman Joker & Romans 10 (For more Batman, CLICK HERE)

1.4 SEVERITY AND KINDNESS
      Aquaman & Romans 11

1.5 BE TRANSFORMED
      Green Lantern & Romans 12

1.6 LOVE FULFILLS THE LAW
      Wonder Woman & Romans 13

1.7 STUMBLING
      Flash & Romans 14

1.8 BEAR THE WEAK
      Hawkman & Romans 15

1.9 INTRODUCTION
      Justice League & Romans 16 with summary

3. Advent Deliverer

3.1 A DELIVERER
      Darcy from Thor & Judges (Genesis-Joshua-Judges)

3.2 A DELIVERER CONTINUED
      Thor & Judges

3.3 THE DELIVERER
      Thor & Judges (Judges-Kings-Prophets-Christ Child)

CLICK HERE for more Advent Asgardians

4.Epiphany Three Wise Guys

      Light of the World

      Inspiration into Action

4.3 Martin Luther
      Life of Repentance

----Cinema Stand-Alones----

      Ghost Rider & Romans 7
      Halloween & Reformation Day

THE DELIVERER | Super Inc. Cinema


video

PREVIOUSLY:

Like Darcy must have felt in the scene above, the Israelites just got dumped on. They were left drenched, out in the rain, no longer the apple of their Creator's eye.

In the same way, we tend to find ourselves lacking. We turn away from God, never as committed or whole-heartedly following Him as we should be. Sin has its way with us far too often. Can He ever forgive us? This isn't the end...

As the scene continues, the rain lets up. It is no longer Darcy who is center screen, but the true female lead, the romantic interest, the heart of the god. We may realize that is actually who Israel has been this entire time: The heart of God.

Of course, He forgives her. He has longed for her, waited for her, and cared for her more than she could ever know...

NOW:

He is born.

The time of the Judges has come and gone, the people of Israel had lifted up kings who only led them into devastation... God's people had been separated, sold into slavery and ruin... Prophets had risen up, but there had been at least 400 years without a single voice... without any word from God...

Then, He returns.

The voice of John echoes through his disciples, "Are you the one..."

The song of The Prophet long ago has finally been answered, the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear. He has come to save you.

But, where has He been?!?

This whole time, the Lord has not sat idly by.

Again and again, he has been with us. The Angel of the Lord has guided us. His Spirit has led us. How often He would have gathered the children of humanity together as a hen gathers her brood, safely under her wings... yet, you would not.

He has been fighting our battles, staying our side, bearing arms and spilling blood. Yet, we persecute Him. The world refuses to see Him.

Even after the Eternal One had entered time, the man born of a virgin, lowly in a stable, heralded by angels and a crowd of shepherds, had quickly become invisible to the secular eye. If it were not so, the Christ child would not have been immediately followed and worshiped or even treated as a noble... He would have been slain... long before His ministry had even begun.

Even in this way, more of God's prophecies had come to pass.

Thirty years later, the fulfillment of His time comes. Christ Jesus allows the world to slay Him in order to rid us of our sin and give us His righteousness.

This had been His plan since the beginning.

He had always been the Master, Creator, and Father. He had always been our Comforter, Redeemer, and Guide. He has constantly cared for, provided for, and loved us.

Now, with His birth, we may finally put a face to The Groom.

The Maker of Fate has brought us together.