Sola Publishing News and Feedback [Teaching Category] http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/feed.html?category=3 News, devotions and feedback blog for Sola Publishing en-us True Faith http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/true-faith/a1745.html Wed, 02 Feb 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And he stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

Matthew 8:1–3, RSV

From Luther

This leper would not have been so bold as to come to the Lord and ask to be cleansed, if he had not trusted and expected with his whole heart that Christ would be kind and gracious, and would cleanse him. Because he was a leper, he had reason to be timid. Moreover the law forbids lepers to mingle with the people. Nevertheless he approaches, regardless of law and people, and of the purity and holiness of Christ.

Here behold the attitude of faith toward Christ: it sets before itself absolutely nothing but the pure goodness and free grace of Christ, without seeking and bringing any merit. Here it certainly cannot be said that the leper merited by his purity to approach Christ, to speak to him and to invoke his help. Nay, just because he feels his impurity and unworthiness, he approaches all the more and looks only upon the goodness of Christ. This is true faith, a living confidence in the goodness of God. The heart that does this has true faith; the heart that does it not has not true faith, as they do who do not keep in sight the goodness of God and that alone, but first look around for their own works, in order to be worthy of God’s grace and to merit it. These never make bold to call upon God earnestly or draw near to him.

This confidence of faith, or knowledge of the goodness of Christ, would never have originated in this leper by virtue of his own reason, if he had not first heard a good report about Christ, how kind, gracious and merciful he is, ready to help, comfort and counsel every one that comes to him. Such a report must undoubtedly have come to his ears, and from this fame he derived courage, and interpreted the report to his own advantage; he applied this goodness to his own need. His faith therefore did not grow out of his reason, but out of the report he heard of Christ, as Paul says: “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” This is the gospel that is the beginning, middle, and end of everything good and of all salvation.

Luther, Martin, and John Sander. 1915. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern.

Video with commentary

]]>
Run to Win http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/run-to-win/a1744.html Tue, 01 Feb 22 00:00:00 -0600

Photo: Tim Hipps, U.S. Army IMCOM Public Affairs

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; 27 but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 

1 Corinthians 9:23–27, RSV

From Luther

Paul here presents a forcible simile in the running of a race, or the strife for the prize. Many run without obtaining the object of their pursuit. But we should not run in vain. To follow Christ faithfully does not simply mean to run. We must run to some purpose. To believe that we are running in Christ’s course will not suffice; we must lay hold of eternal life. “He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”Running is hindered in two

ways. First, by insolence. When our faith is not exercised and we are indolent in good works, our progress is hindered and the prize is not attained. While men sleep the enemy sows tares. Secondly, when individuals pursue their aim at full speed, but are deluded by phantoms, they miss their aim and rush to ruin, or run up against fearful obstacles. Hence the race is hindered when a false goal is set up, or the true one removed.

The goal is removed when the Word of God is falsified and creations of the human mind are preached under the name of God’s Word. These things come about when we are not careful to keep the unity of the spirit, and when each one follows his own ideas because he prefers his own conceit. Paul calls love the unity of the spirit, and admonishes to keep the unity of the spirit in the bonds of peace.

He who in the Christian contest seeks his own glory and profit, who finds in the Word and Spirit of God occasion for his own praise and advantage, cannot expect to win. He is wholly entangled, and bound hand and foot. Under such conditions false and indolent Christians run indeed a merry race; but God’s Word and ways are merely a pretense, because they subserve their own interests and glory. They never make a serious attempt, nor do they ever hit the mark. So run, that ye may obtain

Luther, Martin, and John Sander. 1915. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern.

Video with commentary

]]>
Freely Given Gifts http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/freely-given-gifts/a1742.html Sun, 30 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

5 As he entered Caperna-um, a centurion came forward to him, beseeching him 6 and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.” 7 And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8 But the centurion answered him, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.

Matthew 8:5–10, RSV

From Luther

This saying of Christ has been discussed with solicitude, lest it should imply that Christ did not speak truly, or that the mother of God and the apostles were inferior to this centurion. Although I might say that Christ is speaking of the people of Israel, among whom he had preached and to whom he had come, and therefore his mother and his disciples were excluded, because they traveled with him and came with him to the people of Israel in his preaching, nevertheless I will abide by the words of the Lord and take them as they stand.

First, it is against no article of belief that this faith of the centurion was without a parallel among the apostles or the mother of God. When no article of faith openly contradicts the words of Christ, they are to be taken literally, are not to be adapted and bent by our interpretation, neither for the sake of any saint or angel, nor of God himself. For his Word is the truth above all saints and angels. Such interpretation and adaptation spring from a carnal mind to estimate the saints of God not according to God’s grace, but according to their person, and greatness, which is contrary to God, who estimates quite differently, according to his gifts alone. God frequently does through inferior saints what he does not do through great saints. He concealed himself from his mother, when he was twelve years old, and suffered her to be in ignorance and error. On Easter Sunday he showed himself to Mary Magdalene, before he showed himself to his mother and the apostles. He spoke to the Samaritan woman, and to the woman taken in adultery, more kindly than he spoke to his mother. When Peter fell and denied him, the thief on the cross stood firm in his faith.

By these and similar wonders he shows that he will not have his Spirit in his saints limited by us, and that we are not to judge according to the person. He wills to bestow his gifts freely, according to his pleasure, not to our opinion. The purpose of all this is to prevent men from being presumptuous toward others and from elevating one saint above another, thus creating divisions. All are to be equal in the grace of God, however unequal they are in gifts.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 43–44.

Video with commentary

]]>
Proud of the Gospel http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/proud-of-the-gospel/a1741.html Sat, 29 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

21 To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that! But whatever any one dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.

2 Corinthians 11:21–23, RSV

From Luther

Paul acknowledges that he had to become a fool, something for which he had no desire, by reason of the necessity laid upon him to praise himself. The false apostles, as false spirits habitually do, delivered great, fine, splendid speeches to the multitudes in their vainglorious attempt to raise themselves above Paul, and to make him and his doctrine contemptible and insignificant. Paul was little concerned that he should personally be lightly esteemed and the false apostles highly honored, but he could not bear to have the gospel perish in that way and his Corinthian converts seduced. Therefore he exerts himself to the utmost, at the risk of becoming a fool by his boasting. But in his strong spiritual wisdom, he glories in a masterly way, and skillfully puts to shame the boasts of the false apostles. He shows them that he can glory in the very things in which they glory, and even more. At the same time he declares himself a fool for glorying. He wears the foolscap, that those coarse fools might have a mirror to behold themselves. This is wisely making foolishness minister to the good of the neighbor and to the honor of the gospel. To the just, even folly is wisdom, just as all things are pure and holy unto him.

Paul deals the false apostles a strong blow when he shows them to be ignorant of the grounds in which a true Christian seeks his glory. He teaches them that a Christian glories in the things of which other men are ashamed — in the cross and in his sufferings. The main point of the lesson is that in a preacher or a teacher no vice is more injurious and venomous than vainglory. The ministry is ordained to have as its aim the glory of God and its promotion, and the ministers must, for God’s glory, suffer reproach and shame. The world will not endure the Word. For him who seeks his own honor in preaching, it is impossible to remain in the right path and preach the pure gospel. Consequently he avoids striving for God’s honor; he must preach what pleases the people, what brings honor to himself and magnifies his skill and wisdom.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 42–43.

Video with commentary

]]>
Favor the Lowly http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/favor-the-lowly/a1740.html Fri, 28 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited.

Romans 12:14–16, RSV

From Luther

Paul speaks of the temporal affairs of men, teaching mutual appreciation of one another’s calling and character, offices and works, and that none is to esteem himself better than another because of these. The shoemaker’s apprentice has the same Christ as the prince or the king; the woman, the same as the man. While there are various occupations and external distinctions among men, there is but one faith and one Spirit.

But this doctrine of Paul has long been dishonored. Princes, nobles, the rich and the powerful, reflect themselves in themselves, thinking they are the only men on earth. Even among their own ranks one aspires to be more exalted, more noble and upright, than another. Their notions and opinions are almost as diverse as the clouds of heaven. They are not of the same mind in external distinctions. One does not esteem another’s condition and occupation as significant and as honorable as his own. True, there must be the various earthly stations, characters and employments; but it is heathenish, unchristian and worldly for one to entertain the absurd idea that God regards a certain individual a better Christian than another upon the contemptible grounds of his temporal station, and not to perceive that in God’s sight these conditions make no difference. God treats men alike. He gives his Word and his Spirit to the lowly as well as to the high. “High things” have their place and they are not pernicious. But to “mind” them, to be absorbed in them with the whole heart, to be puffed up with conceit because of our relation to them, enjoying them to the disadvantage of the less favored—that is heathenish.

Where would the wealthy and the powerful be if there were no poor and humble? As the feet support the body, so the low support the high. The higher class, then, should conduct themselves toward the lowly as the body holds itself with relation to the feet; not “minding” or regarding their lofty station, but conforming to and recognizing with favor the station of the lowly. Christ conducted himself with humility. He did not deny his own exaltation, but neither was he haughty toward us by reason of it. He did not despise us, but stooped to our wretched condition and raised us by means of his own exalted condition.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 40–41.

Video with commentary

]]>
The Marriage Will http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/the-marriage-will/a1739.html Thu, 27 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

1 On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; 2 Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples.

John 2:1–2, RSV

From Luther

It is indeed a high honor paid to married life for Christ himself to attend this marriage, together with his mother and his disciples. His mother is present as the one arranging the wedding, the parties married being apparently her poor relatives or neighbors, and she being compelled to act as the bride’s mother; so, of course, it was nothing more than a wedding, and in no way a display.

The second honor is his giving good wine for the humble marriage by means of a great miracle, making himself the bride’s chief cup-bearer; it may be too that he had no money or jewel to give as a wedding present. He never did such honor to the life or doings of the Pharisees; for by this miracle he confirms marriage as the work and institution of God. No matter how common or how lowly it appears in the eyes of men, God none the less acknowledges his own work and loves it.

Since then marriage has the foundation and consolation that it is instituted by God and that God loves it, and that Christ himself so honors and comforts it, every one ought to prize and esteem it; the heart ought to be glad that it is surely the state which God loves, and cheerfully endure every burden in it, even though the burdens be ten times heavier than they are. For this reason there is so much care and unpleasantness in married life to the outward man, because everything that is God’s word and work, if it is to be blessed at all, must be distasteful, bitter and burdensome to the outward man.

Marriage is a state that cultivates and exercises faith in God and love to our neighbor by means of manifold cares, labors, unpleasantness, crosses and all kinds of adversities that are to follow everything that is God’s word and work.

Christ also shows that he is not displeased with a marriage feast, nor with the things which belong to a wedding, such as adornments, cheerfulness, eating and drinking, according to the usage and custom of the country. God is not concerned about such external things, if it be in moderation, and faith and love reign.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 39–40.

Video with commentary

]]>
Love Your Neighbor http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/love-your-neighbor/a1738.html Wed, 26 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?

Matthew 5:43–46, RSV

From Luther

You may say, shall evil go unpunished? What would be the result were all evil to be tolerated and covered up? Would it not encourage the wicked in their wickedness until life would not be safe to any one? It is truly the office of civil government and also of the father of every family to show anger against every evil, and to punish and restrain it. Every pastor and preacher, yes, every good Christian, is commissioned to admonish and censure when he sees a neighbor committing sin, just as one brother in a family should admonish another. But to be angry with evil and to inflict official punishment is a different thing from being filled with hatred and revenge, or holding ill will and be unforgiving.

Is it not inconsistent with the character of love to be angry and to reprove a neighbor when he is observed to sin; much rather love desires his improvement. Parents correct with a rod a disobedient and obstinate child, but do not cast it out and become enemies to it because of that disobedience. Their object is only to reform the child. So you may censure your brother when he sins, and manifest your displeasure and indignation, that he may perceive and confess his wrongdoing, but his obstinacy does not justify you in becoming his enemy, or in entertaining ill will toward him. He who truly loves will be distressed at a beloved neighbor wickedly trespassing against God and himself, but will not turn pale with hatred and revenge. True, when fervor and admonition fail to effect any reform, the sincere-hearted Christian must separate himself from his obstinate neighbor and regard him as a heathen; but he must not become his neighbor’s enemy, nor wish him evil.

Anger and censure prompted by sincere love are very different from the wrath, hatred and revengefulness of the world, which seeks only its own interests and is unwilling to tolerate any opposition to its pleasure. True love is moved to anger when a neighbor’s good demands it. Though not insensible to evil and not approving of it, it is yet able to tolerate, to forgive and cover all wrongs against itself, and it leaves untried no expedient that may make a neighbor better. Sincere love makes a distinction between the evil and the person; it is unfriendly to the former, but kind to the latter.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 38–39.

Video with commentary

]]>
Wheat and Weeds http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/wheat-and-weeds/a1737.html Tue, 25 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the householder came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ” 

Matthew 13:26–30, RSV

From Luther

We should not marvel nor be terrified if there spring up among us many different false teachings and false faiths. Satan is constantly among the children of God. These words teach us how we should conduct ourselves toward these heretics and false teachers. We are not to uproot nor destroy them. The servants who are able to distinguish the tares from the wheat must indeed be very spiritual, but even then he says publicly, “Let both grow together.” We have to do here with God’s Word alone; for in this matter he who errs to-day may find the truth to-morrow. Who knows when the Word of God may touch his heart? But if he be burned at the stake, or otherwise destroyed, it is assured that he can never find the truth; the Word of God is snatched from him and he must be lost, who otherwise might have been saved. Hence the Lord says, the wheat will also be uprooted if we weed out the tares, which is something awful in the eyes of God and never to be justified.

From this observe what furious and raging people we have been these many years, in that we desired to force others to believe; the Turks with the sword, heretics with fire, the Jews with death, and thus root out the tares by our own power, as if we were the ones who could reign over hearts and spirits, and make them pious and right, which God’s Word alone must do. By such murder we separate the people from the Word, so that it cannot possibly work upon them, and we thus bring with one stroke a double murder upon ourselves, in that we murder the body for time and the soul for eternity, and afterwards say we did God a service by our actions, and wish to merit something special in heaven.

Therefore this passage should in all reason terrify the grand inquisitors and murderers of the people, even where they are brazen-faced, and should have to deal with true heretics. But at present they burn the true saints and are themselves heretics. What is that but rooting up the wheat, and pretending to exterminate the tares, like insane people? But it is apparent that they are themselves tares and evil seed, having fallen from the faith and trusting in their works.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 36–37.

Video with commentary

]]>
Many Functions http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/many-functions/a1736.html Mon, 24 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

3 For by the grace given to me I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Romans 12:3–5, RSV

From Luther

This apt and beautiful simile clearly teaches the equality of all Christians; that one common faith should satisfy all; that gifts are not to be regarded as making one better, happier and more righteous than another, in the eyes of God. All the members perform certain functions of the body because they are members of it; and no member has its place through its own efforts or its own merits. It was born a member, before the exercise of office was possible. It acts by virtue of being a member; it does not become a member by virtue of its action. It derives its existence and all its powers from the body, regardless of its own exertions. The body, however, exercises its members as occasion requires. The eye has not attained its place because of its power of seeing—not because it has merited its office as an organ of sight for the body. In the very beginning it derived its very existence and its peculiar functions of sight from the body. It cannot therefore boast in the slightest degree that by its independent power of seeing it has deserved its place as an eye. It has the honor and right of its position solely through its birth, not because of any effort on its part.

Similarly, no Christian can boast that his own efforts have made him a member of Christ, with other Christians, in the common faith. Nor can he by any work constitute himself a Christian. He performs good works by virtue of having become a Christian, in the new birth, through faith, regardless of any merit of his own. It is evident, then, that good works do not make a Christian, but Christians bring forth good works. The fruit does not make the tree, but the tree produces the fruit. Effect does not produce cause, but cause produces effect. Now, if good works do not make a Christian, do not secure the grace of God and blot out our sins, they do not merit heaven. One cannot secure it by his works, but by being a member of Christ; an experience effected through faith in the Word of God. None but a Christian can enjoy heaven.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 35–36.

Video with commentary

]]>
Failure http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/failure/a1735.html Sun, 23 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; 43 and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the company they went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; 47 and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” 49 And he said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Luke 2:41–49, RSV

From Luther

All things belong to the Father. He gave us the creatures to use in our earthly life according to our best understanding. One thing he reserved for himself, which is called holy and God’s own, and which we are to receive from him in a special manner. This is his holy Word, through which he rules the hearts and consciences, and makes holy and saves us. Hence Christ is in his Father’s business, when he speaks to us through his Word and by means of it leads us to the Father.

He reproves his parents because they had erred and had sought him among earthly and human affairs, among friends and acquaintances. He will not permit himself to be found in anything outside of his Word. He does not wish to be worldly, nor in that which is worldly, but in that which is his Father’s, as he always manifested from his birth through his entire life. He was in the world, but he did not conform to the world. To Pilate he said: “My kingdom is not of this world.” He waits alone on that which is his Father’s, i. e., the Word. Faith has no other foundation to stand on. Hence, the wisdom, thoughts and hopes of the mother of Christ and of Joseph must fail while they were seeking him in other places. For they did not seek him as they ought, but as flesh and blood do, which always gropes after other comfort than that of the Word; for it always wants what it can see and feel, and acquire by meditation and reason.

God permits them to fail in order that they may learn that all comfort not based on the Word, but on flesh and blood, on men and all other creatures, must inevitably fail. Here everything must be abandoned: friends, acquaintances, the whole city of Jerusalem, and everything belonging to these and to men; for all this neither gives, nor aids comfort, until the Lord is sought in the temple, since he is in that which is his Father’s. There he can truly be found and the heart is made to rejoice, otherwise it would have to remain without the least comfort.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 34–35.

Video with commentary

]]>
Prophecy http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/prophecy/a1734.html Sat, 22 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who contributes, in liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. 

Romans 12:6–8, RSV

From Luther

Prophecy is of two kinds: one is the foretelling of future events, a gift or power possessed by all the prophets under the Old Testament dispensation, and by the apostles; the other is the explanation of the Scriptures. Now, the gospel being the last prophetic message to be delivered previous to the time of judgment, and to predict the events of that period, I presume Paul had reference here simply to that form of prophecy which is the explanation of the Scriptures. This form is common, ever prevails, and is profitable to Christians; the other form is rare. When he says prophecy must be according to the proportion of faith, it is plain enough that he does not refer to the foretelling of future events.

Paul does not attach so much importance to the prediction of future events. Such predictions, though they may gratify the curiosity of men concerning the fate of kings, princes and others of prominence in the world, are unnecessary prophecies under the New Testament dispensation. They neither teach the Christian faith, nor contribute to its strength. Hence this form of prophecy may be regarded among the least of God’s gifts. Nay, it sometimes proceeds from the devil. But the ability to explain the Scriptures is the noblest, the best prophetic gift. The Old Testament prophets derived their title to the name chiefly from leading the people of their day in the way of faith by explaining the divine Word. These things had much more to do with their title than the fact of their making occasional predictions concerning earthly kings and temporal affairs. The faith whereto their prophecies conformed is perpetual.

It is of much significance that Paul recognizes faith as the controlling judge and rule in all matters of doctrine and prophecy. To faith everything must bow. By faith must all doctrines be judged and held. You see whom Paul would make doctors of the Scriptures—men of faith and no others. These should be the judges of all doctrines. Faith is and must be lord over all teachers. Popes, councils and all the world, with their doctrines, must yield authority to the most insignificant Christian with faith, and his decision of their doctrines and laws is to be accepted. It is inconsistent to reject the judgment of him whom God himself teaches.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 33–34.

Video with commentary

]]>
Content with the Gospel http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/content-with-the-gospel/a1733.html Fri, 21 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man. 

Luke 2:50–52, RSV

From Luther

Some inquisitive people who are not satisfied with the information given in the Scriptures have desired to know what Christ did in his childhood, and have received their reward for their curiosity. Some fool or knave has fabricated a legendary book on the childhood of Christ, and has not been afraid to write down his lies and frauds, relating how Christ went to school and a great deal of absurd and blasphemous tomfoolery. Thus with his lies he jests at the expense of the Lord, whom all the angels adore and fear, and before whom all creatures tremble, so that this rascal would have deserved to have a millstone hanged about his neck and to have been sunk in the depths of the sea, because he did not esteem the Lord of all more than to make him an object of his buffoonery.

Christ never went to school, for no schools like ours existed at that time. He did not even have an elementary education. The Jews marveled, saying: “How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?” Yet they were astonished at his wisdom. They thought it strange that a layman and the son of a carpenter should have such great knowledge, having never studied. Therefore they were offended in him and thought that he must be possessed of an evil spirit. Let us then be satisfied with the narrative of the gospel, which tells us enough of his childhood. Luke writes that he “increased in wisdom and stature.” Later on he writes that he was subject to his parents. What else should he have related? He was brought up like other children, with the exception that, as some children excel others in ability, Christ was an extraordinary, clever child. Thus no more could be written concerning him than is recorded by Luke. The time for performing miracles had not yet come.

Some are perplexed by the words of Luke according to which Christ, although he was God, “increased in wisdom and stature.” We must understand the words of Luke as applying simply to the human nature of Christ, which was an instrument and temple of the Godhead. As he grew in stature his reason developed, and with the development of his reason he became stronger in the Spirit and filled with wisdom before God, in himself and before men.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 31–32.

Video with commentary

]]>
Love Is Not Vengeful http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/love-is-not-vengeful/a1732.html Thu, 20 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. Proverbs 10:12, RSV

From Luther

Where hatred and enmity dwell in the heart, they must inevitably stir up strife and bring misfortune. Animosity cannot restrain itself. It either bursts out in pernicious language, clandestinely uttered against the object of enmity, or it openly demeans itself in a manner indicating its ill will. Hence follow reveling, cursing, quarreling and fighting, and, when wholly unrestrained, cruelty and murder. Hatred has but one desire, namely, that every one be an enemy to his neighbor and speak the worst about him, and if he hears aught in his neighbor’s favor, he puts upon it the very worst construction with the result that the other is embittered and in turn comes to hate, curse and revile. Thus the fire burns until only discord and mischief can obtain.

On the other hand love is virtue pure and precious. It neither utters, nor thinks any evil of its neighbor. It rather covers sin; not one sin, nor two, but a “multitude of sins.” Love has no desire to reflect itself in a neighbor’s sins and maliciously rejoice in them. It conducts itself as having neither seen, nor heard them. If they cannot be overlooked, it readily forgives, and as far as possible mends matters. Where nothing else can be done, it endures the sins of a neighbor without stirring up strife and making a bad matter worse. Where people dwell together there will be mutual transgressions; it cannot be otherwise. No one will always do what is pleasing to others, and each is liable to commit open wrong. Since men must live together in their respective stations of life, he who would live peaceably must so control himself as to be able to bear with others, to overlook their imperfections, to cover their transgressions and thus avert further resulting evil.

Now if you would live as a Christian and enjoy peace in the world, you must make every effort to restrain your anger and not to give way to revenge. You must suppress these passions, subduing your hatred by love, and be able to overlook and bear, even though you have to suffer great pain and injustice. So doing you will develop a noble character fitted to accomplish much good through patience and humility, to allay and abolish enmity and strife, and thereby to reform and convert others.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 30–31.

Video with commentary

]]>
Worship for Christ's Sake http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/worship-for-christs-sake/a1731.html Wed, 19 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanu-el, of the tribe of Asher; she was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity, 37 and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. 

Luke 2:36–38, RSV

From Luther

Anna lived with a husband seven years, and at this time was a widow of eighty-four years. The number seven is commonly taken to signify our temporal life, because all time is measured by the seven days of the week, which is the first and best standard for the measurement of time. God first created days and appointed seven of them as a definite period of time. Of weeks were made months, and of months years, into which our whole life is divided. These seven years therefore signify the whole course of the temporal life and conduct of the saints of old.

Paul explains that a husband signifies the law. As a woman is bound to her husband while he liveth, so all are bound to the law who live under it. Now the law has been given to no people on earth except this Anna, the Jewish people, who were entrusted with the oracles of God. Therefore Anna, who lived seven years with her husband, signifies the people of Israel under the law, in their outward conduct and temporal life.

According to Luke the Holy Spirit shows that this saintly Anna, the holy people of old, was not simply under the law and a bond-servant; she also walked in the freedom of faith and the Spirit. This is signified by the many years of her widowhood, meaning the spiritual life of faith led by the saints of old. For the widowhood signifies freedom from the law. Thus the life under the law and the life of faith existed side by side. As to their souls, the believers of old were justified without the works of the law, alone by faith, and in this respect they were truly widows; but as to their bodies and external conduct, they were subject to the law. They did not believe that they were justified by works, but having been justified by faith, they kept the law voluntarily, cheerfully and to the glory of God. He who lives in this manner may also do the works of the law, for Christ and the apostles also have kept the law. These are the people who at the same time live seven years with a husband and about four score years without a husband, who at the same time are free from the law and yet under the law.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 29–30.

Video with commentary

]]>
Dealing with Trouble http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/dealing-with-trouble/a1730.html Tue, 18 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; 43 and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the company they went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him.

Luke 2:41–45, RSV

From Luther

Here you see what Mary experienced. Although she is the mother of a child in whom she might have gloried before all mothers, yet you perceive how God deprived her of all happiness. She had reason to fear that God was angry with her and would no longer have her to be the mother of his Son. Only those who have passed through similar experiences will understand what she suffered. Therefore we should apply this example to ourselves, for it was not recorded for her sake, but for our benefit. We should profit by her example and be prepared to bear our sorrow, should a like affliction of losing Christ befall us.

When God vouchsafes to us a strong faith and a firm trust in him, so that we are assured that he is our gracious God and we can depend upon him, then we are in paradise. But when God permits our hearts to be discouraged and we believe he takes from us Christ our Lord; when our conscience feels that we have lost him and amidst trembling and despair our confidence is gone, then we are truly in misery and distress. Even if we are not conscious of any special sin, yet in such a condition we tremble and doubt whether God still cares for us; just as Mary here doubts and knows not whether God still deems her worthy to be the mother of his Son. Only strong minds can endure such temptations, and there are not many people whom God tests to this degree.

God does this especially to guard his children against a twofold danger. First, being strong in their own mind and arrogant, they might ultimately depend upon themselves and believe they are able to accomplish everything in their own strength and become presumptuous and overconfident. Secondly, he wants to give us an example. For if we had no examples of saints who passed through the same experiences we should be unable to bear our trials and would imagine that we alone are thus afflicted. But when we see that Mary and other saints have also suffered we are comforted; for their example shows us that we should patiently wait until God strengthens us.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 27–28.

Video with commentary

]]>
The Offense of Faith http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/the-offense-of-faith/a1729.html Mon, 17 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him; 34 and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.” 

Luke 2:33–35, RSV

From Luther

Why does not Simeon say this to the father also? Because Jesus was her own child, and all that happened to him naturally happened also to her and caused her real pain. Simeon perhaps also addressed Mary alone for the reason that Joseph was not to live until the time of the suffering of Christ, which the mother would experience alone; and in addition to all this sorrow she was to be a poor and lonely widow, and Christ was to suffer as a poor orphan. Mary lived in all the three states of virginity, of matrimony, and of widowhood, the latter being the most pitiable, without any protection or aid. A virgin has her parents, a wife her husband, but the widow is alone.

Simeon declares that Christ is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel. Christ, however, is not the cause of the fall, but the presumption of the Jews is the cause. Christ came to be a light and Saviour of all the world, so that all might be justified and saved by faith in him. If this is to be brought about, all other righteousness in ourselves, sought outside of Christ with works, must be rejected. The Jews would not hear of this. Thus they take offense at faith, fall deeper into unbelief and become hardened in their own righteousness, so that they even persecuted with all their might all who believed. All who would be saved by their own righteousness do the same thing. They depend upon their works, and when faith in Christ is demanded they stumble and fall.

Christ had been promised only to the people of Israel by the prophets; and these had announced that many among that people would fall away on account of their self-righteousness. This is indeed a terrible example to us Gentiles, to whom nothing has been promised, but out of pure grace we have unexpectedly been brought into the Kingdom and have risen through Christ. The example of Israel’s fall should touch our hearts, that we may not also fall, or perhaps fall more grievously than the Jews and Turks, being seduced by Antichrist and bearing the name of Christ to the dishonor of God and to our own injury.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 26–27.

Video with commentary

]]>
Sober Judgment http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/sober-judgment/a1728.html Sun, 16 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

1 I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 3 For by the grace given to me I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him.

Romans 12:1–3, RSV

From Luther

We must be careful to follow neither the customs of the world nor our own reason or plausible theories. We must constantly subdue our disposition and control our will, not obeying the dictates of reason and desire. We are always to conduct ourselves in a manner unlike the way of the world. Thus we shall be daily changed or renewed in our minds. That is, we come each day to place greater value on the things condemned by the world. The mind of the world is altogether unlike the Christian’s mind. It not only continues unchanged and unrenewed in its old disposition, but is obdurate and extremely stubborn.

God’s will is ever good and perfect, ever gracious; but it is not at all times so regarded of men. Indeed, human reason imagines it to be evil, unfriendly, abominable, because what reason esteems highest, best and holiest, God’s will regards as nothing, as worthy of death. Therefore, Christian experience must come to the rescue and decide. It must feel and prove, must test and ascertain, whether he is prompted by a sincere and gracious will. He who perseveres and learns to know himself in this way will go forward in his experience, finding God’s will so gracious and pleasing that he would not exchange it for all the world’s wealth. He will discover that acceptance of God’s will affords him more happiness, even in poverty, disgrace and adversity, than is the lot of any worldling in the midst of earthly honors and pleasures. He will finally arrive at a degree of perfection making him inclined to exchange life for death, and with Paul to desire to depart that sin may no more live in him, and that the will of God may be done perfectly in himself in every relation. Paul, however, does not consider the Christian absolutely free from sin. Where transformation and renewal are necessary, something of the old and sinful nature ever remains. This is not imputed to Christians, because they daily endeavor to effect transformation and renovation.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 25–26.

Video with commentary

]]>
Appearances http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/appearances/a1727.html Sat, 15 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him; 34 and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.” 

Luke 2:33–35, RSV

From Luther

This blessing means nothing except that he wished them happiness and joy, honor and all prosperity. This blessing seems to be a useless and trivial matter, for people generally do this and wish each other all that is good. But to bless Christ and his parents is a great and exceptional deed, for the reason that Christ and our nature are entirely opposed to each other. Christ condemns all that the world elects, gives us the cross to bear and to suffer all evil, deprives the world of its pleasures, possessions and honors, and teaches that men deal in those things which are altogether foolish and sinful. Then they begin to blaspheme and persecute Christ and his disciples; the whole world is full of those who curse him and wish him all evil, disgrace and misfortune, and there are only a few who really bless him.

There are indeed some who praise him, because he does what they desire and leaves them as they are. When, however, he begins to be Christ to them and they are required to forsake their works and to let him alone dwell within them, they flee and blaspheme. There are also some who believe that, if they were to see the infant Christ with his mother before them, as did Simeon, they would also joyously bless him. But they would certainly stumble at his childhood, poverty and contemptible appearance. They prove it by disregarding, hating and persecuting such poverty and humble appearance in Christ’s members, although they might still find Christ, their head, among them daily. If they then shun the cross and hate its contemptible appearance, they would certainly do the same thing if they were to see him with their eyes. But Simeon was of a different mind. Outward appearance did not cause him to stumble, and therefore he does not bless Christ alone, but also his father and mother.

Thus, in blessing the child, Simeon as a preacher and lover of the cross and an enemy of the world, gives a remarkable example of exalting and honoring Christ, who was then despised, cursed and rejected in his own person. He is even now treated in the same manner in his members, who for his sake endure poverty, disgrace, death and ignominy; yet no one will come to their relief, receive and bless them.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 24–25.

Video with commentary

]]>
Acceptable Sacrifice http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/acceptable-sacrifice/a1726.html Fri, 14 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

2 Like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation; 3 for you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. 4 Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious; 5 and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:2–5, RSV

From Luther

The whole world regards the priest’s office—his service and his dignity—as representing the acme of nobility and exaltation; and so it truly is. If any one would be a priest and exalted before God, let him set about the work of offering up his body to God; in other words, let him be humble, let him be nothing in the eyes of the world.

I will let every man decide for himself the difference between the outward priesthood of dazzling character and the internal, spiritual priesthood. The first is confined to a very few individuals; the second Christians commonly share. One was ordained of men, independently of the Word of God; the other was established through the Word, irrespective of human devices. In that, the skin is besmeared with material oil; in this, the heart is internally anointed with the Holy Spirit. That applauds and extols its works; this proclaims and magnifies the grace of God, and his glory. In fact, the two priesthoods accord about as well as Christ and Barabbas, as light and darkness, as God and the world. The Christian priesthood will not admit of appointment. The priest is not made. He must be born a priest and inherit his office. I refer to the new birth—the birth of water and the spirit. Thus all Christians become priests, children of God and co-heirs with Christ the Most High Priest.

Men generally consider the title of priest glorious and honorable; but the duties and the sacrifices of the office are rarely acceptable. The Christian priesthood costs life, property, honor, friends and all worldly things; all this is to be endured, not for the profit of oneself, but for the benefit of his neighbor and for the honor and glory of God. For so Christ offered up his body. This priesthood is glorious. The suffering and work of Christ is to be viewed as grace bestowed on us, a blessing conferred, requiring the exercise of faith and our acceptance of the salvation offered; then also, as an example for us to follow. We are to offer up ourselves for our neighbor’s benefit and for the honor of God. He who so does is a Christian. This is what Peter calls offering sacrifices acceptable to God by Christ.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 22–23.

Video with commentary

]]>
Faith in His Word http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/faith-in-his-word/a1725.html Thu, 13 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; 30 for mine eyes have seen thy salvation 31 which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel.” 33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him

Luke 2:25–33, RSV

From Luther

What are the marvelous things spoken of him? They are the things of which Simeon had spoken immediately before, when in the temple he took the child Jesus upon his arms, saying: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” They marveled that this aged and holy man stood there before them in the temple, took the child in his arms and spoke of him so exultingly, calling him the light of the world, a Saviour of all nations, a glory of all the people of Israel.

It must indeed excite wonder that such things were proclaimed openly by Simeon in that public and sacred place with reference to that poor and insignificant child, whose mother was so humble and lowly and whose father Joseph was not wealthy. How could such a child be considered the Saviour of all men, the light of the Gentiles, and the glory and honor of all Israel? At present, after we have had so many proofs of Christ’s greatness, these words no longer seem so wonderful; but then, when nothing as yet was known of Jesus, they were indeed marvelous. Joseph and Mary believed them nevertheless, and on that very account they marveled. If they had not believed them, the words of Simeon would have appeared insignificant to them and not at all wonderful.

If Joseph and Mary had judged according to the outward appearances, they would have considered Christ no more than any other poor child. But they disregard the outward appearance and cling to the words of Simeon with a firm faith, therefore they marvel at his speech. Thus we must also disregard all the senses when contemplating the works of God, and only cling to his words, that our eyes and our senses may not offend us. The fact that they marveled at the words of Simeon is also to teach us that the Word of God is never preached in vain. The Word of God must produce results, even if there are only a few who believe it. There are always some who receive it with joy and admiration.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 21–22.

Video with commentary

]]>
Kept in Humble Faith http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/kept-in-humble-faith/a1723.html Tue, 11 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; 43 and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the company they went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; 47 and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” 49 And he said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. 
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man. 

Luke 2:41–52, RSV

From Luther

The holy Virgin was a real martyr for three days, and these days were harder for her than was the external pain of martyrdom to other saints. She had had such anxiety on her Son’s account that she could not have suffered any more bitter pain. For that is the greatest torture and woe, when the heart is attacked and tortured. That is only half-suffering when the body alone is afflicted, but when the heart is compelled to endure suffering, only great and noble spirits, with special grace and strength, are able to endure it. But why does God permit these afflictions to come upon his loved ones?

First, that he may guard his own against presumption; that great saints, who have received special grace and gifts from God, may not presume to depend upon themselves. For if they should at all times be strong in spirit and experience only joy and pleasure, they might finally fall into the fatal pride of the devil, which despises God and trusts in self. Thus God keeps them in humility, so that they do not become proud and carnally secure in regard to their faith and holiness, as Peter did, when he boasted his willingness to lay down his life for Christ.

Secondly, God permits his saints to suffer these trials as an example to others, to alarm the carnally secure and to comfort the timid and alarmed. The wicked and impenitent may learn from this how to amend their ways, keep themselves from sin, since they can see that God deals even with the saints in a way to produce anxiety. Such examples are intended to serve as a means of comfort to alarmed and anxious consciences, when they see that God has not only attacked them, but also the most exalted saints and permitted them to suffer the same trials and anxieties.

Thirdly, God does this that he may teach his saints to prepare themselves to find Christ and keep him. Mary and Joseph sought the child Jesus for three days without finding him either in Jerusalem or among their friends and acquaintances, until they came to the temple where he sat among the teachers and where the Scriptures and God’s Word are studied.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 18–19.

Video with commentary

]]>
Indebted to Love http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/indebted-to-love/a1721.html Sun, 09 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 

Romans 13:8, RSV

Legal obligations make us debtors to men, as, for example, when one individual has a claim upon another for debt. The duties and tribute, the obedience and honor we owe to political government are also of this legal character. Though personally these things are not essential to the Christian—they do not justify him or make him righteous—yet, because he must live here on earth, he is under obligation, so far as outward conduct is concerned, to put himself on a level with other men in these things, and generally help maintain temporal order and peace. Christ paid tribute money as a debt, notwithstanding he had told Peter he was under no obligation to do so.

Another obligation is love, when a Christian voluntarily makes himself a servant of all men. Paul says: “Though I was free from all men, I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.” This is not a requirement of human laws; no one who fails in this duty is censured or punished for neglect of the obligation to submit to and serve a fellow man. This fact is very apparent. Let one have wealth, and as long as he refrains from appropriating his neighbor’s goods, sullying his honor or injuring his person, he is, in the eyes of the law, righteous. Laws made for restraint of the outward conduct are directed only against evil works, which they prohibit and punish. Good works are left to voluntary performance. Civil law does not extort them by threats and punishments, but commends and rewards them, as does the Law of Moses.

Paul would teach Christians so to conduct themselves toward men and civil authority as to give no occasion for complaint. He would not have them fail to satisfy the claims of legal obligation, but rather to go beyond its requirements, making themselves debtors voluntarily to those who have no claim on them.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 16–17.

Video with commentary

]]>
Evidence of Faith http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/evidence-of-faith/a1720.html Sat, 08 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. 

Romans 13:8–10, RSV

From Luther

We must properly distinguish between faith and love. Faith deals with the heart and love with works. Faith removes our sins, renders us acceptable, justifies us. Being accepted and justified in person, we have love imparted to us by the Holy Spirit, and we delight in doing good. It is the nature of the law to attack our person and demand good works; and it will not cease its demands until it gains its purpose. We cannot do good works without the spirit of love. The law constrains us to know our imperfections, and to recognize the necessity of becoming altogether different individuals, so that we may satisfy the law. The law does not exact so much of the heart as it does of works; in fact, it demands nothing but works and ignores the heart. It causes the individual to see that he must become an entirely different person. But faith, when it comes, creates a nature capable of accomplishing the works which the law demands.

It cannot in every case be said that faith fulfils the law. It, however, prepares the way and enables us to fulfil its demands. The law constrains us—teaches us that we must be changed before we can accomplish its works; it makes us conscious of our inability to fulfil it. On the other hand, love and works do not change or justify us. Our love and our works are evidence of justification and of a change, since these are impossible until the individual is free from sin and made righteous.

This explanation is given to enable us to perceive the true nature of the law, of faith and of love; to ascribe to each its own mission; and rightly to understand the Scripture declarations in their harmonious relations, namely, that while faith justifies, it does not fulfil the law, and that while love does not justify, it does fulfil the law.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 15–16.

Video with commentary

]]>
The Twofold Effect of the Gospel http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/the-twofold-effect-of-the-gospel/a1719.html Fri, 07 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

1 Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. 

Isaiah 60:1, RSV

From Luther

We learn from our text what the gospel is, and what is its message. It is the coming of light, the rising of divine glory. It speaks only of divine glory, divine honor and fame. It exalts only the work of God—his goodness and grace toward us. It teaches the necessity of our receiving God’s work for us, his grace and goodness, even God himself, if we would secure salvation. The gospel produces in us a twofold effect. First, it rejects our natural reason, our human light. Had we within ourselves light instead of darkness, it would not be necessary for God to send the light to rise upon us. This text forcibly expels and severely condemns all natural wisdom, all human reason; these are absolute darkness, therefore it is necessary for the light to come. So we should guard against all human doctrines and the conceits of reason as darkness, rejected and condemned of God; we should awake and arise to behold this light, and follow it alone.

The gospel casts down all the glory and pride of our own works. We cannot draw comfort nor derive honor from them. If there were in us anything worthy of honor and glory, the divine honor and glory would rise in us to no purpose. Men may, it is true, have their own nature and their self-righteousness, and from these derive temporal honor, praise and glory before their fellows as though they were no sinners. But before God they are sinful, destitute of glory and unable to boast of possessing him and his blessings.

No one can be saved unless he have within himself the glory of God and be able to comfort himself solely with God and his blessings and to glory in these. So the gospel condemns all our efforts and exalts only the goodness and the grace of God, and therefore God himself. It permits us to console ourselves only with him and to glory in no other.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 14–15.

Video with commentary

]]>
To Know Christ http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/to-know-christ/a1718.html Thu, 06 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, 2 “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet: 6 ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.’ ” 

Matthew 2:1–6, RSV

From Luther

How these wise men could see in this star a sign that unmistakably signified a new-born king, I do not know. Perhaps they read in their histories and chronicles that aforetime the birth of other kings had been signified in the heavens by a star. They knew very well that the Jews were the chosen people of God, who were and had been especially favored of God above all other people. As this was such a beautiful star they likely thought that God had given this people a new king. Perhaps they knew all by divine revelation.

At first these wise men did not regard this king as God, but took him for a temporal king. They came to Jerusalem, the capital city, hoping to find him amid the splendor of the king’s palace. For the star, which they saw over the country of the Jews at their home in the east, must have disappeared as they did not see it on their journey until they proceeded from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. So they also worshiped him after the manner of those eastern countries and not as though they considered him God. They did not concern themselves about what this king would be in the future, or what would happen to him. They only ask where he is to be found.

But, my dear hearer, it does not matter much whether you know all about the arts of nature and the wisdom of the world. Be satisfied with what your experience and common sense teach you. It is enough for you to know that in the summer other work must be done than in the winter; that you know how to attend to your farm, stock, home and children. Beyond this think only how you may know Christ. He will teach you how you may know yourself, who you are, and what power lieth in you. Then you will know God and yourself, which the masters of the arts of nature and the wisdom of this world do not learn.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 13–14.

Video with commentary

]]>
The Rising of the Light http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/the-rising-of-the-light/a1717.html Wed, 05 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

1 Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. 2 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. 3 And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. (Isaiah 60:1–3, RSV)

From Luther

We have frequently spoken of the little word glory. It means honor, brightness, splendor. The gospel is simply a grand report, a message, having its origin in a glorious reality; it is not a mere empty proclamation. A glorious being is to be compared to a sun or a light. The sun is a fountain of light, and its luster is its glory, the diffusion, the distinction of that light.

The gospel is God’s glory and our light. It is our light in that it is the medium whereby his work is proclaimed, extolled, recognized and honored throughout the whole world. The gospel is not the actual brightness of the light, nor is it the light itself. It is the rising of the brightness, the approaching of the light. It is simply a manifestation of the light and brightness which existed from eternity. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” The light did not arise, nor was it openly manifested, except through the gospel. Therefore the gospel is an expression of divine brightness and glory.

It is called gospel—good message—because it reveals and proclaims divine blessings, divine glory, and divine honor or brightness. What is the brightness but the great and glorious riches of his goodness and grace poured out upon us? How has grace appeared? Through the preaching of the gospel. The light and the glory are God himself. Christ says, “I am the light.” It is plain that Isaiah is not here speaking of the rising of Christ in the sense of his coming birth. He refers to the rising of the gospel after Christ’s ascension. Through the gospel Christ is spiritually risen and glorified in the hearts of believers, bringing them salvation.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 12–13.

Video with commentary

]]>
Through Faith http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/through-faith/a1715.html Tue, 04 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

23 Now before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. 24 So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. 

Galatians 3:23–29, RSV

From Luther

He who is under the law and works unwillingly is a servant. But whosoever has faith and works cheerfully is a child; for he has received the Spirit of God through Christ. Now, the apostle names Christ, referring to the faith that believes and abides in Jesus Christ. No other faith is effective, no other faith is the right faith, let one believe in God as one will. Some there are, particularly among our modern high schoolmen, who say: Forgiveness of sins and justification depend altogether on the divine imputation of grace; God’s imputation is sufficient. He to whom God does not reckon sin, is justified; he to whom God reckons sin, is not justified.

Were their theory true the entire New Testament would be of no significance. Christ would have labored foolishly and to no purpose in suffering for sin. God would have unnecessarily wrought mere mockery and deception; for he might easily without Christ’s suffering have forgiven sins. Then, too, a faith other than faith in Christ might have justified and saved—a faith relying on God’s gracious mercy not to impute sin. In contrast to this deplorable theory and abominable error, it is the apostles practice to speak always of faith in Jesus Christ, and he makes mention of Jesus Christ with a frequency surprising to one unacquainted with the important doctrine of faith in him. Hence our learned university doctors no longer know Christ. They do not recognize the need of him and his benefits, nor understand the character of the gospel and the New Testament. They imagine Christ to be a mere Moses—a teacher who institutes laws and commandments showing how men may be righteous and lead a faultless life. Then they proceed with free will and the workings of human nature, designing thereby to fit themselves for grace, and basely storm heaven.

Let us guard against the hellish poison of this false doctrine and not lose Christ, the consoling Saviour. Grace is given us gratuitously—without cost to ourselves—and yet the gift to us did cost another much and was obtained with a priceless, an infinite treasure—the Son of God himself. It is supremely essential to possess him who has accomplished the purchase for us. Nor is it possible to obtain grace otherwise than through him.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 10–12.

Video with commentary

]]>
He Is Written http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/he-is-written/a1714.html Mon, 03 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

1 In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has obtained is more excellent than theirs. 5 For to what angel did God ever say, “Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee”? 

Hebrews 1:1–5, RSV

From Luther

These words are a quotation from the second Psalm. We see that the reference here is plainly to Christ, against whom the Jews raged with Pilate, Herod and the chief priests. To Christ God says, “Thou art my Son.” The Jews endeavor to evade this passage of the apostle. Unable to deny that the Psalm refers to a coming king and an anointed one, they assert that the allusion is to David, who was also a Christ. For they designate all kings “Messiahs” or “Christs,” that is, anointed ones. But their interpretation will not hold. David never inherited the heathen, nor did the kingdom extend to the uttermost parts of the earth, as recorded of the king mentioned in the Psalm. To no man is it anywhere said in the Scriptures, “Thou art my Son.”

Even when the Jews admit that the allusion of the Psalm is to the Messiah, they resort to two evasions. They maintain that he is yet to come, that Jesus Christ is not the Messiah; and that although called the son of God, he is not God. How shall we reply to them? In the first place we have the testimony of experience that Jesus is he of whom the Psalm speaks; in Christ the prophecy is fulfilled and has become history. He was persecuted by kings and rulers. They sought to destroy him and only brought derision upon themselves in the attempt. They were themselves destroyed, as the Psalm says. Throughout the world Christ is recognized as Lord. No king, before or since, has ruled or can rule in equal extent. The apostle’s reasoning, based on the fact that nowhere is it said to any angel, much less to any man, “Thou art my Son,” sufficiently proves that Christ is God. He must be particularly God’s Son, having a relation not shared by men and angels. That God does not include him among other sons but especially distinguishes him, indicates his superiority. He cannot be superior to angels without being true God, for angels are the highest order of beings. The apostle lays so much stress upon Scriptural authority that we are under no obligations to accept anything the Bible does not assert. Be certain you have full Scripture authority for all you accept. In all things not found in the Scriptures, ask as does the apostle here, “When did God ever assert it?”

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 9–10.

Video with commentary

]]>
The Gift of God http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/the-gift-of-god/a1713.html Sun, 02 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

1 And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God— 9 not because of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 

Ephesians 2:1-10, RSV

From Luther

God does not condemn or save any individual on account of his works. This is not the fault of our works, but of our nature. The person, nature and entire existence are corrupt in us because of Adam’s fall. Therefore no work can be good in us, until our nature and personal life is changed and renewed. The tree is not good, therefore the fruits are bad. No one can become righteous by works or laws; all works and efforts to become righteous and be saved are in vain as long as the nature and the person are not renewed. God will have us clearly understand that the fault lies entirely in the state of our nature, that its birth and origin are corrupt and sinful. This is original sin, or the sin of the nature, or the sin of the person, the real, chief sin. If this sin did not exist there would be no actual sin. This sin is not committed like other sins; but it exists, lives, and commits all other sins, it is the essential sin, that sins not for an hour or a season, but wherever the person is and as long as he lives.

God looks at this sin of the nature alone. This can be eradicated by no law, by no punishment; the grace of God alone, which makes the nature pure and new, must purge it away. The law only makes it manifest and teaches how to recognize it, but does not save from it; the law only restrains the hand or member, it cannot restrain the person and nature from being sinful. Just as little as it lies in one’s power to be born and to receive natural existence, so little does it lie in his power to be without sin or to escape from it. He who created us must take it away. Therefore he first gives the law, by which man recognizes this sin and thirsts for grace; then he also gives the gospel and saves him.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 8–9.

Video with commentary

]]>
The Mark of God http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/the-mark-of-god/a1712.html Sat, 01 Jan 22 00:00:00 -0600

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; 18 and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. 21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 

Luke 2:15–21, RSV

From Luther

Circumcision was an external mark of God’s people, by which they were distinguished from other nations. God has never left his people without a mark or a sign, by which the world may know where his people are to be found. The Jews were known by circumcision, that was their divine mark. Our mark is baptism and the body of Christ. Where there is baptism, there are Christians, be they where they will in the world.

All this is immeasurably above and contrary to reason. If Abraham had followed reason he would not have believed that it was God who demanded circumcision. To our (natural) eyes it is such a foolish thing that there can scarcely be anything more absurd. The Jews had to endure great infamy and disgrace on account of it. But such are all God’s works and commandments, in order that haughty reason, which would be clever and wise, may be put to shame, may surrender its self-conceit and submit to God, and believe that whatver he appoints is most useful, honorable and wise. Thus we have baptism in the New Testament in order that we should cling to it in faith and believe that we are thereby cleansed from sin and saved. So the works and words of God are contrary to reason, and this, in turn, is contrary to God and recoils at the signs that are spoken against. In all this God seeks to bring man’s reason into captivity and make it subject to divine truth.

It was customary to give the child its name in circumcision, as we see here and in the case of John the Baptist. His name is rightly called Jesus, that is, Saviour; “for he shall save his people from their sins.” This comes to pass through faith, so that the naming of children signifies that by faith they have a name and are known to God. We are called Christians from him, are God’s children and have the superabundant riches of his goodness, that our hearts may be free, joyous, peaceable and unterrified.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 7–8.

Video with commentary

]]>
Keeping the Commandments http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/keeping-the-commandments/a1473.html Fri, 28 Feb 20 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

Original painting by Carl von Weinberg

John 14:8-17

From the Reformer

…a true Christian says: “I believe in Jesus Christ my Lord and Saviour,” who gave himself for my sins, and is at God’s right hand, and intercedes for me; fall I into sin, as, alas! oftentimes I do, I am sorry for it; I rise again, and am an enemy unto sin. … But human strength and nature are not able to accomplish this true Christian faith without the Holy Spirit. It can do no more than take refuge in its own deserts.

But he that can say: “I am a child of God through Christ, who is my righteousness,” and despairs not, though he be deficient in good works, which always fail us, he believes rightly. But grace is so great that it amazes a human creature, and is very difficult to be believed. Insomuch that faith gives the honor to God, that he can and will perform what he promised, namely, to make sinners righteous (Rom 4), though `tis an exceeding hard matter to believe that God is merciful unto us for the sake of Christ.

—Martin Luther, Table Talk

Pulling It Together

Jesus laid a heavy burden upon his followers when he said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). How can they do this? They fail and fail and fail to keep his commandments; this is the curse of the law. At the end of the day therefore, if you really love him, staying true to God means coming home to him, regardless of one’s performance. Like the Prodigal who has been willful, believers must embrace their new nature, having faith that God in Christ forgives “the old man” (Col 3:9 KJV) and empowers them to try again. Continuing faith is the truest indication of the changed heart—the heart that tries again because it believes in a loving Father, a faithful Son, an empowering Spirit.

The sum of the commandments is to love God with one’s whole heart. Luther said this was impossible—that no one does this—and that is true, up to a point. Yet, when one fails to keep all the rest of the commandments, and then, returns to God, brokenhearted for his sin, he has kept the commandments. He has declared the love of a whole heart. “Here I am, Lord, a poor sinner. I have sinned but I dare to love you anyway. I can do no other because of your grace at work in my sick heart. I believe and will continue to believe and love you, despite my failings.” If you return to God in faith, you have kept the commandments.

More Reflections

The Sacraments is one of four books in the Sola Confirmation Series and serves as a simple and practical resource for teaching the biblical Word of God according to the traditional pattern of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. Each book in the series may be used as the basis for a “come as you are” small group Bible study, as a student book for home school or independent study programs, or as a classroom tool and homework resource as part of an existing confirmation program. 

Leader's Guide

]]>
Recovery http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/recovery/a1470.html Thu, 27 Feb 20 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

Original photo

John 14:3–6

From the Reformer

This Gospel text teaches exclusively of the Christian faith, and awakens that faith in us; just as John, throughout his whole Gospel, simply instructs us how to trust in Christ the Lord. This faith alone, when based upon the sure promises of God, must save us; as our text clearly explains. And in the light of it all, they must become fools who have taught us other ways to become godly. All that human ingenuity can devise, be it as holy and as luminous as it may, must tumble to the ground if man be saved in God’s way—in a way different from that which man himself plans. Man may forever do as he will, he can never enter heaven unless God takes the first step with his Word, which offers him divine grace and enlightens his heart so as to get upon the right way.

This right way, however, is the Lord Jesus Christ. Whoever desires to seek another way, as the great multitudes venture to do by means of their own works, has already missed the right way; for Paul says to the Galatians: “If righteousness is through the Law,” that is, through the works of the Law, “then Christ died for naught” (Gal 2:21). Therefore I say man must fall upon this Gospel and be broken to pieces and in deep consciousness lie prostrate, like a man that is powerless, unable to move hand or foot. He must only lie motionless and cry: Almighty God, merciful Father, now help me! I cannot help myself. Christ, my Lord, do help now, for with only my own effort all is lost! Thus, in the light of this cornerstone, which is Christ, everyone becomes as nothing; as Christ says of himself in Luke 20:17-18, when he asks the Pharisees and scribes: “What then is this that is written. The stone which the builders rejected, the same was made the head of the corner? Every one that falleth on that stone shall be ‘broken to pieces; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will scatter him as dust” (Psa 118:22). Therefore, we must either fall upon this stone, Christ, in all our inability and helplessness, rejecting our own merits, and be broken to pieces, or he will forever crush us by his severe sentence and judgment. It is better that we fall upon him than that he should fall upon us. For this reason the Lord says in this Gospel: “No man can come to me, except the Father that sent me draw him: and I will raise him up in the last day.”

—Martin Luther, Assorted Sermons, “On Faith, And Coming To Christ”

Pulling It Together

At first he would not admit he had a problem but then, he went to his father for help. He told him that he would have to do this on his own and that all he had to do was white-knuckle it. Then, after years of struggling to control his abuse of alcohol, the man hit bottom, breaking into emotional, financial, physical, and spiritual pieces. No matter how much he had tried, alcohol was a part of his life that controlled him as often as otherwise. He needed help outside himself.

It is a similar condition that plagues humanity. It is also addicted; its addiction is to sin. No matter how it tries to be good, it is bad. Like the alcoholic who is not always drunk, the “good” person’s life is touched by bouts and even binges of sin. Try as they might to be otherwise, all are sinners (Rom 3:23) and controlled by sin unless they seek assistance. The Father has a Way where you do not have to do it on your own, try harder, or just use more willpower. When the alcoholic walked through the door of his local AA meeting, he was on the road to recovery. When you walk through the Gate of God, the Father recovers you by his will—not yours, by his effort—not yours, by his grace—not by your goodness.

More Reflections

Pastor Kent Groethe's study of the Book of Acts, Acts - Old Places, New Facesfocuses on the life of the early church as a model for church life today. The message and power of the church today needs to be revitalized and renewed by the power of God's Spirit, just as it was in the early church.

Other books in the "Old Place, New Faces" series

]]>
Providential Pasture http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/providential-pasture/a1459.html Tue, 11 Feb 20 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

Psalm 23:1–6

From the Reformer

This psalm is neither intermingled with prayers, nor does it complain of miseries for the purpose of obtaining relief; but it contains simply a thanksgiving, from which it appears that it was composed when David had obtained peaceable possession of the kingdom, and lived in prosperity, and in the enjoyment of all he could desire. That he might not, therefore, in the time of his great prosperity, be like worldly men, who, when they seem to themselves to be fortunate, bury God in forgetfulness, and luxuriously plunge themselves into their pleasures, he delights himself in God, the author of all the blessings which he enjoyed. And he not only acknowledges that the state of tranquility in which he now lives, and his exemption from all inconveniences and troubles, is owing to the goodness of God; but he also trusts that through his providence he will continue happy even to the close of his life, and for this end that he may employ himself in his pure worship.

—John Calvin, Commentary on the Psalms

Pulling It Together

It made no difference to David the condition in which he found himself. Certainly he wished for comfort and gave God thanks for ease. Yet he seems to have learned to give God thanks regardless. With Paul, he could say that he had learned to be content in whatever state he found himself (Phil 4:11). God had so tempered his character that he could lie down in providential pastures; whether they were green or brown, God was there. If enemies were present, so was the Good Shepherd. If death was near, so was the Lord of eternity and so, his cup ran over with the blessing of God’s presence.

More Reflections

Reading and Discussion of Luther's Catechisms is a more challenging study series based on assigned readings from the Book of Concord and related Scripture texts. Each study is comprised of eight sessions, plus an optional introductory session, each presented in a question and discussion format. 

Leader's Guide

]]>
Hearing Christ Alone http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/hearing-christ-alone/a1448.html Thu, 30 Jan 20 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

Original photo by David Berkowitz

Luke 9:28-36

From the Reformer

After Christ complains that they have not received him [Jn 5:37], he speaks even more bitterly of their blindness. When he says that they have not heard or seen God, he speaks in a metaphor and means that they are utterly turned aside from the knowledge of God. For as men make themselves known by face and speech, so God speaks by the voice of his prophets, and puts on a visible form in the sacraments, so that he may be known by us according to our own measure. Anyone who does not know God through the living image he himself has given us shows that he only worships a God of his own fabrication. Therefore Paul says that they do not see the glory of God in the face of Christ, because a veil is thrown over their eyes (2Co 3:14).

—John Calvin, Commentaries

Pulling It Together

“When they became fully awake” must speak to a physical reality though it may hint at a spiritual one. It is clear that the three disciples had yet to full awaken spiritually since they seemed to credit all three who appeared in glory as equal. Peter gives the impression that he is about to create some sort of new religion: “Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” There is an almost sideshow air to the suggestion. Peter did not know what he was talking about and the Father was about to straighten him out. He meant for Peter and us all to understand that we are to listen to his Son. The lawgiver and the prophet departed and Jesus alone remained.

At the end of the day, we are meant to see Jesus and him alone. By “seeing” him alone, our Father means that we are to listen to and follow his Son, the Christ who has fulfilled the law and the prophets.

More Reflections

The kind of church we see in the New Testament is different from what most modern people imagine when they think of “going to church.” Experiencing Life Together is a 15-week house-church curriculum designed for pastors, lay leaders, and churches interested in getting a taste for what church in the home is really like. Whether referred to as a house-church, organic church, alternative church, or cell church, this material applies well to any group that wants to experience Christian worship in the context of a small group meeting within the homes of the participants.

]]>
The Struggle http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/the-struggle/a1444.html Tue, 28 Jan 20 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

John Wyclif (or Wycliffe) sending out his followers with hand-lettered New Testaments (original image)

Acts 10:34-43

From the Reformer

Be not youre herte afraied, ne drede it; ye bileuen in God, and bileue ye in me. In the hous of my fadir ben many dwellyngis; if ony thing lesse, Y hadde seid to you, for Y go to make redi to you a place. And if Y go, and make redi to you a place, eftsoones Y come, and Y schal take you to my silf, that where Y am, ye be. And whidur Y go, ye witen, and ye witen the weie. Thomas seith to hym, Lord, we witen not whidur thou goist, and hou moun we wite the weie? Jhesus seith to hym, Y am weie, treuthe, and lijf; no man cometh to the fadir, but bi me. If ye hadden knowe me, sotheli ye hadden knowe also my fadir; and aftirward ye schulen knowe hym, and ye han seyn hym. Filip seith to hym, Lord, schewe to vs the fadir, and it suffisith to vs.

—John Wyclif’s 14th century translation of John 14:1-8

Pulling It Together

Go ahead; try to read it again. Do not skim over it; read it aloud; struggle to pronounce the words and their meaning will come to you (especially of you have spent much time in the King James Bible, for it owes much to Wyclif’s text). Your struggle to understand the Medieval English of this 600-year old document is nothing compared to the struggle of Wyclif and his followers (the Lollards) to translate and publish it. It was a monumental effort in its day and met with disdain and reproach at nearly every turn. Wyclif and his followers must have known that not many of their hand-lettered copies of the New Testament would make it into the hands of the English people. Why? There were no machines, presses, duplicators, or copiers in the 14th century. Any copy had to be painstakingly reproduced by hand. So why did they work so hard and with such little thanks?

It may seem strange to modern churchgoers but, other than some history and moral lessons, the Bible was largely not taught in the churches of the 14th Century. The church was telling the people that salvation came through the church. John Wyclif, a post-medieval proto-reformer, read in the Bible that salvation comes through Christ alone. That Jesus is the way to God was kept from the eyes of the people, as though, if they did have one of Wyclif’s New Testaments, the John passage above had been smeared while the ink was still wet. Still, the passage was clear to those early proponents of reform in the church. They saw that salvation was not through the church and they wanted as many as could read to know (and share with others) that the gateway to God was through his Son alone.

More Reflections

Click for larger image

Of One Mind and Purpose is a six-session study examines the unique way in which the Bible describes being united in Christ. It explains how God’s Word can either divide people or bring them together in faith, showing how the relationship we have with one another in the Church comes through Christ alone.

Leader's Guide

]]>
Peace Restored http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/peace-restored/a1445.html Tue, 28 Jan 20 00:00:00 -0600 Click for online jigsaw.

• Index of posts

John 20:19-31

From the Reformer

The apostles themselves did not know every thing, even after they had received the Holy Ghost; yea, and sometimes they were weak in faith. When all Asia turned from St Paul, and some of his own disciples had departed from him, and many false spirits that were in high esteem set themselves against him, then with sorrow of heart he said: “I was with you in weakness, fear, and in much trembling.” And “We were troubled on every side; without were fightings, and within were fears.” Hereby it is evident that he was fain to comfort him, saying: “My grace is sufficient for thee, for my power is strong in weakness.”

This is to me, and to all true Christians, a comfortable doctrine; for I persuade myself also that I have faith, though it is but so so, and might well be better; yet I teach the faith to others, and know, that my teaching is right. Sometimes I commune thus with myself: Thou preachest indeed God’s Word; this office is committed to thee, and thou art called thereunto without thy seeking, which is not fruitless, for many thereby are reformed; but when I consider and behold my own weakness, that I eat, drink, sometimes am merry, yea, also, now and then am overtaken, being off my guard, then I begin to doubt and say: Ah! that we could but only believe.

Therefore, confident professors are troublesome and dangerous people; who, when they have but only looked on the outside of the Bible, or heard a few sermons, presently think they have the Holy Ghost, and understand and know all. But good and godly hearts are of another mind, and pray daily: “Lord, strengthen our faith.”

—Martin Luther, Table Talk, “Of Jesus Christ”

Pulling It Together: “I don’t believe it!” This is a common enough saying but in connection with the Lord’s promises, one is aghast that someone would doubt—especially one of the apostles. Yet Thomas doubted and is famous for it—and so do you. You sometimes think, How could God continue to forgive a sinner such as me?—one who accepted his forgiveness and yet, does that which requires it again. And again. You do doubt. Ah; you think there is a difference between Thomas and yourself; he doubted the very presence of the resurrected Master. So do you. You doubt the presence of One who would forgive the likes of you. Yet every time you believe, he is present to forgive. You see clearly enough in that moment to understand that he does indeed forgive, and not just that: he restores his peace in you.

More Reflections

The Small Cat series is a comprehensive way to teach the Catechism to all of your children. There is a workbook and leader's guide for each of grades one through six, along with other complimentary resources. 

Teacher's Guide

]]>
Momentous Trivialities http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/momentous-trivialities/a1408.html Thu, 12 Dec 19 00:00:00 -0600

Philippians 2:2-8

From the Reformer

The tractarian literature of the fourteenth century set forth the rights of man and the principles of common law in opposition to the pretensions of the papacy and the dogmatism of the scholastic systems. Lay writers made themselves heard as pioneers of thought, and a practical outlook upon the mission of the Church was cultivated. With unexampled audacity Dante assailed the lives of popes, putting some of St. Peter’s successors into the lowest rooms of hell.

The Reformatory councils of Pisa, Constance, and Basel turned Europe for nearly fifty years, 1409-1450, into a platform of ecclesiastical and religious discussion. Though they failed to provide a remedy for the disorders prevailing in the Church, they set an example of free debate, and gave the weight of their eminent constituency to the principle that not in a select group of hierarchs does supreme authority in the Church rest, but in the body of the Church.

The hopelessness of expecting any permanent reform from the papacy and the hierarchy was demonstrated in the last years of the period, 1460-1517, when ecclesiastical Rome offered a spectacle of moral corruption and spiritual fall which has been compared to the corrupt age of the Roman Empire.

The religious unrest and the passion for a better state of affairs found expression in Wyclif, Huss, and other leaders who, by their clear apprehension of truth and readiness to stand by their public utterances, even unto death, stood far above their own age and have shone in all the ages since.

—Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church

Pulling It Together

A video was aired on a popular television program, showing a pastor baptizing a young boy. The pastor’s style was to scoop a small amount of water into his hand and as with a shell to pour water three times onto the child’s head. When finished, as the pastor was saying a few words to the family and congregation, the boy stuck his hand into the bowl and with one hard shove, splashed water back onto the pastor. The pastor, taking it all in good humor, smiled and handed the child back to his family.

In the big picture of history, we may consider the faithful, little things we do today as trivial. Indeed, one may wonder if Wyclif, Huss, and Dante ever suspected that they would shine through the ages. What they did in their time is what we must do in our own: be faithful. It may not seem like much, to baptize a child, or pen a tiny tract, or put the needs of another ahead of your own. The Roman soldiers and Pilate likely thought that crucifying a rabbi was of no consequence. Yet, Jesus was faithful to his Father and “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” And the world was forever changed.

God may greatly impact the world by your faithfulness to him today—even if that faithfulness seems small to you.

More Reflections

The biblical focus in the five-session Moses and the Great Escape VBS book is found in the Old Testament book of Exodus. God has a grand plan for humankind—a plan he enacts through the Hebrew people. He created Moses to be instrumental in this plan.

Sola’s Versatile Budget Series is a simple and flexible educational Vacation Bible School curriculum designed especially for small churches, house churches, and mission congregations. The flexible format works well for groups with limited budgets, or in situations where the ages and number of students may vary from session to session. Unlike more elaborate and expensive VBS kits, this book is meant to serve as an “all-in-one” teacher’s resource. The worksheets and handouts it contains can be reproduced according to local needs. Each book in the Versatile Budget Series focuses on a particular character from the Bible, bringing together several stories on a common theme. Resources and ideas are provided for gathering time, music, activities, games, and refreshments — allowing just a few adult leaders to host a week of Vacation Bible School.

]]>
Convocation http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/convocation/a1393.html Fri, 22 Nov 19 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

Ezekiel 37:1–14

From the Reformer

In 1 Thessalonians 4:16, he connects together the voice of the archangel and the trump of God: As therefore a commander, with the sound of a trumpet, summons his army to battle, so Christ, by his far sounding proclamation, which will be heard throughout the whole world, will summon all the dead. Moses tells us, (Exo 19:16) what loud and terrible sounds were uttered on occasion of the promulgation of the law. Far different will be the commotion then, when not one people merely, but the whole world will be summoned to the tribunal of God. Nor will the living only be convoked, but even the dead will be called forth from their graves. Nay more, a commandment must be given to dry bones and dust that, resuming their former appearance and reunited to the spirit, they come forth straightway as living men into the presence of Christ.

—John Calvin, Commentary on Corinthians

Pulling It Together

C. S. Lewis reminds us, “The Church will outlive the universe” (The Weight of Glory). One day, when days are no longer counted, every member of the Body will be called together and joined with the Head of the Body who is Christ. “Everything that is joined to the immortal head will share his immortality.” People of the Spirit believe it to be so because the voice of God has said so and will perform it. Yet there is a coming together that should already be occurring for the Body of Christ. Therefore, people of the Spirit must already be willing to be called together. Why should they wait until eternity?

More Reflections

The Cross and the Crown is an eight session study in Lutheran Basics, using the word "sola" to get the big picture right: that salvation is all God's doing.

]]>
Let Us Confess http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/let-us-confess/a1391.html Thu, 21 Nov 19 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

Genesis 30:1-24; 1 John 1:1-10; John 9:1-17

From the Reformer

Moreover, the evil which remains in our flesh is like a spur which urges us on, with the result that we are angry with ourselves, condemn ourselves, and cry out with Paul (Rom. 7:24): “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this sin?” Lord, take away and crucify our flesh! Thus faith grows by reason of our failings, the seeds of which remain in our flesh.

—Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis

Pulling It Together

When reading the story of Jacob and his wives, one would have to conclude that they were not quite walking in full light. Yet, God answered these sinners’ prayers, as we see with Leah and the mandrakes, in order to accomplish his own purposes. Later, we see Dan and his brothers enter into acts of awful darkness. It is no wonder the disciples asked Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?”

Let us confess our own proclivity for sin. For, if we lie about our sinfulness, we are darker still. Though we sometimes stumble into the darkness of sin, it does not mean we do not walk in the light. If you walk in the broad sunlight today but sometimes step into shadow, it does not mean you walk in darkness, for in the next step, you emerge into the sunlight again. Walking in the light includes confessing to the darkness in you and being cleansed from sin.

Get back in step with your Savior and keep walking with him. In doing so, the mightiest work of God is displayed in you; his ultimate purpose is accomplished: you walk with him, in the fullness of his light.

Prayer: Forgive me, O Light of the World, for I am a poor sinner who wants to walk with you. Amen.

More Reflections

Retirement: The Good, the Bad, the Blessings is a nine-session study takes a look at the good, the bad, and the blessings of retirement, reflecting on biblical themes that speak to this season of life. For those who are in retirement, as well as those who are moving toward it, God continues to open up new possibilities and challenges, as we continue to follow Christ into the future. As in all things, God walks with us, promising that he will never forsake us.

Leader's Guide

]]>
The Heresy of the Modern Spirit http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/the-heresy-of-the-modern-spirit/a1389.html Thu, 21 Nov 19 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

Original image

Romans 4:13-25

From the Reformer

The verse in the 115th Psalm is masterly: “He shall bless them that fear the Lord, both small and great.” Here the Holy Spirit is a fierce thunderclap against the proud, boasting Jews and papists, who brag that they alone are God’s people, and will allow of none but of those that are of their church. But the Holy Ghost says: The poor condemned people are also God’s people, for God saved many of the Gentiles without the law and circumcision, as without popedom.

The Jews see not that Abraham was declared justified only through faith: Abraham believed God, and that was imputed unto him for righteousness. God with circumcision confirmed his covenant with this nation, but only for a certain time. True, the circumcision of the Jews, before Christ’s coming, had great majesty; but that they should affirm that without it none are God’s people, is utterly untenable. The Jews themselves, in their circumcision, were rejected of God.

—Martin Luther, Table Talk, “Of the Jews”

Pulling It Together

The great heresy today is one shared long ago by Pelagius. That Celtic theologian, fueled perhaps by an excessively strong Irish individualism, relied not on the sacrifice or resurrection of Jesus but, like those who still hold to the old law or newly penned “laws,” on his own ability to choose to be a good man. This is the heresy of the modern spirit. Those interested in spiritual things today are intrigued by what they can do to be good or powerful or wise. The Christian does not boast in such things. Followers of Christ put no hope in laws, rites, secret knowledge, or their own devotion. Their hope is not in what they do but in what has been done for them. This is precisely what the modern (or if you must, the post-modern—or the post-postmodern) spirit condemns. It is also this very thing that condemns the modern spirit. The hope of the Christian is not in the Christian; the hope of the Christian is in Christ.

More Reflections

Connections magazine is an emerging voice for confessional Lutheranism in North America, that features ministries and mission efforts, reliable, Biblically based content, stories of faith, and inspirational messages—all in a “coffee table quality” package.

]]>
Everything You Need http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/everything-you-need/a1390.html Thu, 21 Nov 19 00:00:00 -0600

• Photo  • Index of posts

Romans 5:1-5

From the Reformer

JOHN THE STEADFAST: Elector of Saxony 1525-32, brother of Frederick the Wise (q.v.); b. at Meissen (15 m. n.w. of Dresden) June 30, 1468; d. at Schweinitz (54 m. n.e. of Merseburg) Aug. 16, 1532. He received a scholarly education, was trained in the arts of knighthood, and is said to have distinguished himself in the struggle against the Turks. Luther’s writings soon won his heart, and he followed the development of the reformatory movement with ever increasing interest. It was he who, in the absence of the elector, omitted to publish the bull directed against Luther. In his letters to his brother he warmly recommended Luther and admonished the cautious elector to adopt more decidedly the reformer’s cause and to influence other princes in the same direction. His influence decided Frederick to protect Luther in the Wartburg. During the printing of his New Testament, Luther sent John the single sheets, and thenceforth he read the Bible daily.

—Philip Schaff, The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge

Pulling It Together: God does not leave you alone in your struggles to live up to being created in his image. He gave you his example, his Spirit, and his Word. Beyond this, he lends you friends who stand with you in the struggle. God does everything but stand for you. And where it counts most, he has done even that, standing as substitute for the life you owed him.

More Reflections

The Spiritual Realms is a nine-session Bible Study series on Heaven and Hell and places beyond this world. Specifically, the study looks at the many “place names” that are found throughout Scripture, referring to spiritual realms of existence that underlie and comprise the universe God created. This Bible Study series is a challenging one, in that it explores realities of existence beyond what we know and experience everyday.

The study not only addresses matters of life, death, heaven and hell, it steadfastly affirms that Jesus Christ is at the center of all these things. Our ultimate faith and hope rest in Christ’s death and resurrection for our sake. We live in faith by the biblical promise that: “God raised the Lord, and will also raise us up by his power” (1 Cor 6:14).

Leader's Guide

]]>
Curses http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/curses/a1387.html Wed, 20 Nov 19 00:00:00 -0600 Click for larger image

Original photo by mzsu

Genesis 3:14-21

From the Reformer

…only unbelief is called sin by Christ, as he says in John, chapter 16, “The Spirit will punish the world because of sin, because it does not believe in me.” Furthermore, before good or bad works happen, which are the good or bad fruits of the heart, there has to be present in the heart either faith or unbelief, the root, sap and chief power of all sin. That is why, in the Scriptures, unbelief is called the head of the serpent and of the ancient dragon which the offspring of the woman, i.e. Christ, must crush, as was promised to Adam (cf. Ge 3). Grace and gift differ in that grace actually denotes God’s kindness or favor which he has toward us and by which he is disposed to pour Christ and the Spirit with his gifts into us, as becomes clear from chapter 5, where Paul says, “Grace and gift are in Christ, etc.” The gifts and the Spirit increase daily in us, yet they are not complete, since evil desires and sins remain in us which war against the Spirit, as Paul says in chapter 7, and in Galatians, chapter 5. And Genesis, chapter 3, proclaims the enmity between the offspring of the woman and that of the serpent. But grace does do this much: that we are accounted completely just before God. God’s grace is not divided into bits and pieces, as are the gifts, but grace takes us up completely into God’s favor for the sake of Christ, our intercessor and mediator, so that the gifts may begin their work in us.

—Martin Luther, Preface to Romans

Pulling It Together

“I can’t stop sinning!” he complained to the pastor. “I keep asking God to help me but he doesn’t.” But God has indeed helped; his heel has crushed what we see as a still-powerful enemy. Long after the snake is dead the effects of his bite linger. One is delirious, doing things beyond their control, but slowly the poisonous effects wear off and some control of body and mind comes to the one bitten. Be reminded in your delirium that the serpent has been crushed. Sin has been destroyed.

More Reflections

The Basics of the Christian Faith is an edition of the catechism that is aimed at seekers, visitors, and those that may not come from a Lutheran background. It is recommended for use in outreach, as a visitor welcome gift, or in new member packets.

Use the Small Catechism as an outreach tool with a Customized 100-pack.

]]>
Our All and Everything http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/our-all-and-everything/a1338.html Fri, 06 Sep 19 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

Psalm 111:1-10

From the Reformer

On Redemption:

And in Jesus Christ, His 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, descended to Hell, on the third day rose again from the dead, ascended to Heaven and sat down at the right hand of God the Almighty Father. From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.

Q: What does this mean?

A: I believe that Jesus Christ is truly God, born of the Father in eternity and also truly man, born of the Virgin Mary. He is my Lord! He redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, bought and won me from all sins, death and the authority of the Devil. It did not cost Him gold or silver, but His holy, precious blood, His innocent body—His death! Because of this, I am His very own, will live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him righteously, innocently and blessedly forever, just as He is risen from death, lives and reigns forever. Yes, this is true.

—Martin Luther, The Small Catechism

Pulling It Together

You await nothing to be added to your life so that you might be saved. You owe nothing. You must do nothing. Nothing needs to be added to faith because nothing needs to be added to the one in whom we have faith. Good works? No. Penance? No. Get baptized again? No. Stop drinking, smoking, chewing, cussing, dancing, going to movies, reading popular fiction? No to all of these and more. 

There is no greater cause to come, no finer moment, no more wondrous event, no fuller teaching. Jesus is the One. He is the Only One. He has given you someone to live for, joy in the living, the wonder of history to remember, and the assurance of your hope in him. He has done all this in himself—and for you.

Not My Will, But Yours is a six-week study that explores the topic of the “free will” from a biblical perspective, looking at what Scripture has to say about the bondage of the human will, and how Jesus Christ has come to deliver us from ourselves.

Leader's Guide

]]>
Longsuffering http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/longsuffering/a1288.html Tue, 11 Jun 19 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

Original photo

Galatians 5:22-23

From the Reformer

Longsuffering is that quality which enables a person to bear adversity, injury, reproach, and makes them patient to wait for the improvement of those who have done him wrong. When the devil finds that he cannot overcome certain persons by force he tries to overcome them in the long run. He knows that we are weak and cannot stand anything long. Therefore he repeats his temptation time and again until he succeeds. To withstand his continued assaults we must be longsuffering and patiently wait for the devil to get tired of his game.

—Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians

Pulling It Together

He was sitting in line at the drive-through of a local hamburger restaurant, waiting three cars back. Suddenly, he backed up a few feet, almost hitting the car behind him, pulled out of the line, and roared out of the parking lot, blowing his horn and shouting inaudibly from behind his rolled-up windows.

You won’t find “shortsuffering” in the dictionary. Though you readily enough comprehend its meaning, it is not worth defining. This trait, which all possess, is without quality worth definition, perhaps because it is such an easy thing. Anyone can suffer for the short term. The Christian’s task, however, is to suffer long, to be patient, to wait through the night for the rising sun, to content oneself with the Lord’s thousand years as though it were but a day. This can be done easily enough when the long night and the longer life is spent with God.

More Reflections

Connections Magazine is a voice for confessional Lutheranism in North America, featuring ministries and mission efforts of the movement. It provides reliable, Biblically based content, stories of faith, and inspirational messages all in a “coffee table quality” package that delights its subscribers. Connections has a deep commitment to the evangelical nature of Lutheranism that responds with vigor to Christ’s great commission to go and make disciples. It also gives a public center to the effort to renew Lutheranism in North America in concert with Biblical authority and the teachings of the Lutheran Confessions.

]]>
Drawing a Crowd http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/drawing-a-crowd/a1286.html Sat, 25 May 19 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

Click Scripture graphic for larger image  • Original image

Acts 2:1-21

From the Reformer

…the Holy Ghost is sent forth into the hearts of the believers, as here stated, “God sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts.” This sending is accomplished by the preaching of the Gospel through which the Holy Spirit inspires us with fervor and light, with new judgment, new desires, and new motives. This happy innovation is not a derivative of reason or personal development, but solely the gift and operation of the Holy Ghost.

—Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (4:6)

Pulling It Together

It is curious that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit happened quite suddenly, even surprisingly, but at a point when the little Church was in one accord. This should not be viewed as a formula by which to control the Holy Spirit. Yet it is worth noticing that God chose to pour out his Spirit on the congregation when they were already acting like his people. It is also worth noticing that the outpouring drew even more souls to this commonality, this communion of saints. When the Holy Spirit falls upon us, he lifts up Christ and draws all manner of people (John 12:32)—seekers and mockers alike.

More Reflections

Connections Magazine is a voice for confessional Lutheranism in North America, featuring ministries and mission efforts of the movement. It provides reliable, Biblically based content, stories of faith, and inspirational messages all in a “coffee table quality” package that delights its subscribers. Connections has a deep commitment to the evangelical nature of Lutheranism that responds with vigor to Christ’s great commission to go and make disciples. It also gives a public center to the effort to renew Lutheranism in North America in concert with Biblical authority and the teachings of the Lutheran Confessions.

]]>
Credo http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/credo/a1278.html Mon, 20 May 19 00:00:00 -0500 Click for larger image

Acts 16:4b-15

From the Reformer

The Third Article: On Becoming Holy

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the community of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and an everlasting life. Amen.

Q. What does this mean?

A. I believe that I cannot come to my Lord Jesus Christ by my own intelligence or power. But the Holy Spirit called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as He calls, gathers together, enlightens and makes holy the whole Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus in the one, true faith. In this Church, He generously forgives each day every sin committed by me and by every believer. On the last day, He will raise me and all the dead from the grave. He will give eternal life to me and to all who believe in Christ.

—Martin Luther, The Small Catechism

Pulling It Together

Too often the Spirit is viewed as a tool or power. In fact, many believers refer to the Holy Spirit as an “it.” This is far from the truth. The Spirit is God. God is not to be manipulated nor can he be used. The Spirit dictates and you respond—not the other way round. He calls you, keeps you, comforts you, and completes you. People of the Spirit are only too happy to positively respond to him when he urges in whatever direction. This is nowhere more so than when he leads you to absolution, causing you to remember the words of Jesus: “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48).

More Reflections

Connections Magazine is a voice for confessional Lutheranism in North America, featuring ministries and mission efforts of the movement. It provides reliable, Biblically based content, stories of faith, and inspirational messages all in a “coffee table quality” package that delights its subscribers. Connections has a deep commitment to the evangelical nature of Lutheranism that responds with vigor to Christ’s great commission to go and make disciples. It also gives a public center to the effort to renew Lutheranism in North America in concert with Biblical authority and the teachings of the Lutheran Confessions.

]]>
Knock, Knock http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/knock-knock/a1266.html Thu, 02 May 19 00:00:00 -0500

Acts 11:1-18

From the Reformer

Heaven and earth, all the emperors, kings, and princes of the world, could not raise a fit dwelling-place for God; yet, in a weak human soul, that keeps his Word, he willingly resides. Isaiah calls heaven the Lord’s seat, and earth his footstool; he does not call them his dwelling-place; when we seek after God, we shall find him with them that keep his Word. Christ says: “If a man love me, he will keep my words, and my father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” Nothing could be simpler or clearer than these words of the Saviour… (Martin Luther, Table Talk)

Pulling It Together

“But I have always done it this way!” Nevertheless, now it is time to listen to how the Lord wants things done. The person who responds to his will is the one who answers the knock (Rev 3:20). God comes in to the heart-home of the person who listens, hears the knock, and opens the door to God’s way instead of keeping the door of his mind and heart locked.

Sometimes the knock is heard in a dream; very often it resounds when reading the Scripture, or even in hearing a sermon or from conversation during a Bible study. However it comes, when you hear the knock, open your door.

More Reflections

Connections Magazine is a voice for confessional Lutheranism in North America, featuring ministries and mission efforts of the movement. It provides reliable, biblically based content, stories of faith, and inspirational messages all in a “coffee table quality” package that delights its subscribers. Connections has a deep commitment to the evangelical nature of Lutheranism that responds with vigor to Christ’s great commission to go and make disciples. It also gives a public center to the effort to renew Lutheranism in North America in concert with Biblical authority and the teachings of the Lutheran Confessions.

]]>
The Small Catechism http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/the-small-catechism/a1219.html Wed, 27 Feb 19 00:00:00 -0600 Resources for Learning the Ten Commandments:

Click here for YouTube video (3:14) of the graphics below.

Click here to view video online. Right-click to download the video.

Click here for a PowerPoint presentation, suitable for memorization practice. 

Here is a collection of wallpaper graphics. Use them here to memorize the Ten Commandments. Or click each one to enlarge and save. Then right-click and save as your deskptop wallpaper. When you have memorized it, do the same thing with the next commandment. 

]]>
Let Go http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/let-go/a1214.html Thu, 21 Feb 19 00:00:00 -0600

Original photo by seriousfun 

Isaiah 43:16-21

From the Reformer

God delights in our temptations, and yet hates them; he delights in them when they drive us to prayer; he hates them when they drive us to despair. The Psalm says: “An humble and contrite heart is an acceptable sacrifice to God,” etc. Therefore, when it goes well with you, sing and praise God with a hymn: goes it evil, that is, does temptation come, then pray: “For the Lord has pleasure in those that fear him;” and that which follows is better: “and in them that hope in his goodness,” for God helps the lowly and humble, seeing he says: “Thinkest thou my hand is shortened that I cannot help?” He that feels himself weak in faith, let him always have a desire to be strong therein, for that is a nourishment which God relishes in us.

—Martin Luther, Table Talk

Pulling It Together

You are a sinner, besieged with temptation. The weight of it worries you. Perhaps, you wonder, it is not well with your soul. Let go of it; give it to God. Take a breath; calm down and pray. “Be still and know” that God is God. (Psa 46:10) “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him”…”In just a little while” you will see that he has carried the load all the while. (Psa 37:7, 10a) Have a little faith and the mountain will be lifted and thrown far away. God makes a way for you even in the most difficult situation. Even in the midst of what might cause despair, the person of faith may confidently proclaim that all is well; God is in control.

Come, Lord Jesus answers the many questions that arise when modern readers look into the book of Revelation. In this book readers will come to understand the first-century context in which Revelation was written—and readers will join the holy choir in looking forward to the fulfillment of God's plan, offering our own invitation: "Come, Lord Jesus."

]]>
A Fortune of Joy http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/a-fortune-of-joy/a1213.html Thu, 21 Feb 19 00:00:00 -0600

Original photo by Yousef T. Omar 

Psalm 126:1-6

From the Reformer

When he adds that they were glad, there is an implied antithesis between this fresh joy and the long continued sorrow with which they were afflicted in their captivity. He expressly declares that joy was restored to them, to enable them the better to estimate the dismal condition from which they had been extricated.

—John Calvin, Commentary on Psalms

Pulling It Together

The local bank began offering 5% interest on checking accounts. Many certificates of deposit do not offer that much. You would have to be crazy not to switch to a bank that offered such earning potential on a checking account. But God goes further still. He does far more than restore fortunes. At the bank you have a minimum deposit and monthly requirements. God starts with your nothing and makes it a fortune. Just so, like a stream through a desert, God gives you a fortune of joy.

The Sola Online Worship Resource (SOWeR) also includes bulletin templates. There are word processing templates for both communion and non-communion services. There are also templates for Sola, LBW, and Reclaim service settings. SOWeR is a lectionary-based web resource for Scripture lessons, lectionary inserts, children's bulletins, devotionals, text studies, prayers, hymn-planning, and much more! Join the hundreds of congregations who have discovered how simple, flexible, and useful SOWeR is for worship planning and sermon preparation. This brochure will answer more questions about SOWeR. Call 1-888-887-9840 to order a yearly subscription. 

]]>
Prudence http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/prudence/a1212.html Thu, 21 Feb 19 00:00:00 -0600

Psalm 32:1-11

From the Reformer

David, after enduring long and dreadful torments, when God was severely trying him, by showing him the tokens of his wrath, having at length obtained favor, applies this evidence of the divine goodness for his own benefit, and the benefit of the whole Church, that from it he may teach himself and them what constitutes the chief point of salvation. All men must necessarily be either in miserable torment, or, which is worse, forgetting themselves and God, must continue in deadly lethargy, until they are persuaded that God is reconciled towards them. Hence David here teaches us that the happiness of men consists only in the free forgiveness of sins, for nothing can be more terrible than to have God for our enemy; nor can he be gracious to us in any other way than by pardoning our transgressions.

—John Calvin, Commentary on Psalms

Pulling It Together

This Psalm is a maskil of David. Maskil is a Hebrew word meaning someone who is sensible or prudent. In other words, a maskil is a teachable person. When the word maskil introduces a Psalm, it is typically considered a song that teaches a particular lesson.

This Psalm then, calls people to be sensible by acknowledging their sin. God’s hand will be heavy upon them until they do. Therefore, prudence dictates repentance because the one who stubbornly clings to his wrong ways will never be happy. The only way to be truly happy is to confess and trust in God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Personalities of Faith is a ten-session Bible study for youth. The goal of the series is to encourage young people to commit themselves to follow Jesus in discipleship by becoming "personalities of faith." By showing biblical examples of people who have followed—or failed to follow—God's call, participants will be prepared to better follow the Lord in their own lives.

]]>
The Right Focus http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/the-right-focus/a1211.html Thu, 21 Feb 19 00:00:00 -0600

 Psalm 85:8-13

From the Reformer

13. The result of faith is that for such a great blessing, the forgiveness of sins because of Christ, we love God in return. Therefore, love for God is a fruit of faith.
14. This same faith causes us to be ashamed of having offended such a kind and generous father.
15. Therefore, it cause us to abhor our flesh with its evil desires.

—Philip Melancthon, Loci Communes Theologici

Pulling It Together

He was convinced that he was no good because he could not keep the commandments of God perfectly. He did well most days but then fell down sometimes. His mistake was that he focused on the falling. Focus on the Father instead of the fault and you will find you have his strength again and the fruits to match.

Holy Families! is an initiative of the North American Lutheran Church provided through a generous grant from the Thrivent Foundation, in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation (1517 AD to 2017 AD). Produced by Sola Publishing, this free, special initiative includes a number of Lutheran discipleship resources for families and congregations.

]]>
On the Run http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/on-the-run/a1210.html Thu, 21 Feb 19 00:00:00 -0600

Original photo from Wikipedia of a cave at Qumran similar to what David may have hidden within when hiding from Saul

Psalm 4:1–8

From the Reformer

It is uncertain at what time this psalm was composed. But from the tenor of it, it is conjectured, with probability, that David was then a fugitive and an exile. I therefore refer it to the time when he was persecuted by Saul. If, however, any person is disposed rather to understand it as referring to the time when he was compelled by the conspiracy of Absalom to secure his safety by flight, I will not greatly contend about the matter. But as, a little after, he uses an expression, namely, “How long?” (verse 3) which indicates that he had a lengthened struggle, the opinion which I have already brought forward is the more probable. For we know with what varied trials he was harassed, before he obtained complete deliverance, from the time when Saul began to be his enemy.

—John Calvin, Commentary on Psalms

Pulling It Together

David was called to be the king of Israel yet was consigned to the wilderness instead of a palace, running from the present king and the whole army. “But God promised!” It is a familiar lament in modern times. One wants what he cannot as yet have and is expected to find her contentment in God. If David, in his distress, was expected to find, and was able to know peace and safety in God alone, what is you struggle meant to accomplish? Let God put gladness in your heart despite your suffering. He intends to give you more than you imagine in spite of the struggle—and perhaps because of that struggle. “Put your trust in the LORD.”

Sola Publishing offers Liturgical Calendars that chart the Scripture readings for each Sunday in the Church Year, with each Sunday printed in the proper liturgical color for easy reference. Sola Publishing recommends the use of the Revised Common Lectionary as found in the Lutheran Service Book (LSB) published by Concordia Publishing House, and makes use of this lectionary in its own Sola Online Worship eResource (SOWeR) website. Order one for pastor, secretary,and sacristy. 

]]>
The Further Shore http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/the-further-shore/a1209.html Thu, 21 Feb 19 00:00:00 -0600

Original photo by Chelle

Psalm 51:1–12

From the Reformer

…vindicating them from the hand of Pharaoh and from cruel bondage, [our Lord] paved a way for them through the Red Sea, and drowned Pharaoh himself and their Egyptian foes, who were pressing close behind, and threatening them with destruction. For in this way also he promises us in baptism, and shows by a given sign that we are led by his might, and delivered from the captivity of Egypt, that is, from the bondage of sin, that our Pharaoh is drowned; in other words, the devil, although he ceases not to try and harass us. But as that Egyptian was not plunged into the depth of the sea, but cast out upon the shore, still alarmed the Israelites by the terror of his look, though he could not hurt them, so our enemy still threatens, shows his arms and is felt, but cannot conquer.

—John Calvin, Institutes

Pulling It Together

It is God himself who provides that further shore of salvation. Indeed, he is the shore. You must rise up and go! The way is perilous and frightening and you will be told many times you cannot do it and that you will certainly drown in the difficulties. Yet, if in your journey, you have already taken hold of that Shore, and rest in his peace and the fullness of his joy, the harassment seems diminished, the threats hollow, and defeat impossible.

The course is plotted and behold! The Captain himself is in the boat with you, steering you to himself—always present yet bringing you toward a fuller presence.

Connections Magazine is a voice for confessional Lutheranism in North America, featuring ministries and mission efforts of the movement. It provides reliable, Biblically based content, stories of faith, and inspirational messages all in a “coffee table quality” package that delights its subscribers. Connections has a deep commitment to the evangelical nature of Lutheranism that responds with vigor to Christ’s great commission to go and make disciples. It also gives a public center to the effort to renew Lutheranism in North America in concert with Biblical authority and the teachings of the Lutheran Confessions.

 

]]>
Glimpsing God http://www.solapublishing.com/news_feedback/glimpsing-god/a1208.html Thu, 21 Feb 19 00:00:00 -0600

Original photo by Keoni Cabral

Psalm 99:1-9

From the Reformer

We must think of no other God than Christ; that God which speaks not out of Christ’s mouth, is not God. God, in the Old Testament, bound himself to the throne of grace; there was the place where he would hear, so long as the policy and government of Moses stood and flourished. In like manner, he will still hear no man or human creature, but only through Christ. A number of the Jews ran to and fro burning incense, and offerings here and there, and seeking God in various places, not regarding the tabernacle, so it goes now; we seek God everywhere; but not seeking him in Christ, we find him nowhere.

—Martin Luther, Table Talk

Pulling It Together

You may worship him in Zion or by the pillar of the camp or at his footstool or on the holy mountain or on the Mercy Seat itself! Where one worships, God is worshiped for two reasons: firstly, because adoration is due him, but secondly, because worship causes one to glimpse God in his glory. Seeing God as he truly is, draws one closer to God. That has, after all, always been his goal—to have you at his side.

This is why we are disciples and followers of Christ. We to be always by his side, beholding his holy glory.

Does the way you worship and therefore see God draw you close or distance you from the side of God?

Learning About Confession - Teacher's Guide guides leaders in teaching the meaning of Confession and Forgiveness according Luther's guidance in the Small Catechism. The student book, Learning About Confession is recommended for the Sixth Grade Level. Each week focuses on a specific Bible story that illustrates the theme, with additional references from Scripture and Luther's Small Catechism - Children's Version. With a healthy balance of Law and Gospel, lessons emphasize the connection between repentance and forgiveness, and how the promise of God’s forgiveness changes our lives.

 

]]>