Posts tagged ‘Augustine’

Election Day 2020

Credit: Ketut Subiyanto / Pexels.com

Election Day is one day away. And what an election season it’s been. In what has become a quadrennial ritual, campaigns have been waged, accusations have been leveled, statements that have very loose associations with the truth have been uttered, and our nation has become even more divided over politics than it already was.

It can be difficult for Christians to navigate through what feels like an exponentially increasing number of political landmines all around us. So, as we head into another Election Day fraught with fights and frights, let me remind you of two things.

First, Christians live as dual citizens. In his famous fifth-century work The City of God, the church father Augustine spoke of how Christians belong both to the City of Man and the City of God. Sadly, the City of Man is deeply disordered because of sin. Those who care only for the City of Man often gladly and unrepentantly operate in ways that involve much deception and transgression. Thus, though we may be among the City of Man, we cannot be in league with the City of Man. Our first, highest, and final allegiance must be to the City of God. This does not mean that we run away from the world, but it does mean that, in many ways, we refuse to operate like the world.

Second, the City of Man matters. For all its brokenness, God can still use what happens in the City of Man for His glory and the world’s good. This understanding of the City of Man was key to the success of the apostle Paul’s ministry. Paul, for instance, was not afraid to appeal to his Roman citizenship in the City of Man to protect himself from being mobbed (Acts 22:22-29). He also seems to have preferred his Roman name Paul to his Jewish name Saul. This is why, in the many letters he wrote to churches in the ancient world, he introduced himself as Paul rather than Saul, though he retained both names throughout his life (cf. Acts 13:9).

Why would this apostle prefer introducing himself using a pagan-sounding Roman name instead of his more traditional Jewish name? Because he fashioned himself as an apostle to people who were pagans in the City of Man – people who did not yet believe in the God of Israel and the Messiah He sent in Jesus. “I am an apostle to the Gentiles,” who were pagans, he wrote, and “I take pride in my ministry” (Romans 11:13). His Roman name – and his status as a Roman citizen – helped him reach pagan Roman citizens he may have not otherwise been able to reach with the gospel.

Some Christians can too often be tempted to leverage the resources of the City of Man primarily to win against others – political enemies, cultural contraries, and socioeconomic opposites. Paul, however, leveraged his citizenship – a gift bestowed on him by the City of Man – and his Roman name to win over people. He used what he gained from the City of Man to point people to the City of God.

In a recent article in National Review, Kevin Williamson wisely cautioned his readers: “There’s more to citizenship than voting, and partisanship is not patriotism.” Sometimes, I think we can be tempted to fall into the trap of believing the sum of our citizenship in the City of Man is winning an election through partisanship and voting. But being a good citizen in the City of Man goes so much further than that. Like Paul, may we use our citizenship in the City of Man not only to protect and further our interests, but to love and reach others.

That’s something we can all choose to do on Election Day – no matter who we vote for.

November 2, 2020 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Baseball Scandals and Echo Chambers

It’s the biggest shakeup Major League Baseball has faced since the steroid scandal of the 90s. The Astros coming up with an elaborate system to steal opposing teams’ pitching signs got them all the way to the World Series, but it cost them their reputation and has left their franchise in shambles. Commissioner Rob Manfred’s comments strike me as especially insightful as their scheme continues to unravel:

The culture of the baseball operations department, manifesting itself in the way its employees are treated, its relations with other Clubs, and its relations with the media and external stakeholders, has been very problematic. At least in my view, the baseball operations department’s insular culture – one that valued and rewarded results over other considerations, combined with a staff of individuals who often lacked direction or sufficient oversight, led, at least in part, to…an environment that allowed the conduct described in this report to have occurred.

Mr. Manfred’s point is critical. Not only can people justify their own questionable actions, they can justify each other’s if the payoff feels high enough. This can create an echo chamber where, if one were to look from the outside in at what was happening, the problems would be obvious, but, from the inside, the compromises seem merely logical and at worst paltry. The Astros February 13 press conference, which was long on excuses and finger pointing and short on apologies, demonstrated just how easy it can be to convince ourselves of our own rightness even when everyone around us is shouting, “Wrong!”

The apostle John once wrote: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). The plural pronouns here are important. Not only can one person deceive him or her self about his or her personal sin, we can, together, John says, deceive ourselves about our corporate sin. This is why one of the fundamental assertions of Christianity is that we need someone outside of ourselves to tell us the truth about ourselves.

Theologians will speak of how salvation works extra nos – Latin for “outside ourselves.” We do not – indeed, we cannot – save ourselves. Christ must come in from the outside and do the work of salvation for us. The inverse of this is another Latin phrase, this one conceptualized by the church father Augustine: incurvitas in se, which means, “turned in on oneself.” This is the essential nature of sin. Sin draws us further and further into ourselves – our excuses, our half-truths, and our pathetic justifications. Christianity beckons us to turn from ourselves and toward Christ.

The crisis with the Astros Club does not just point to a problem with baseball, but to a larger broken condition in humanity. The question we must ask ourselves is this: where are we tempted to look to ourselves, rather than to Christ, to deal with our sin? When are we tempted to conceal, instead of to confess, where we have done wrong? The more we rely on ourselves to fix ourselves, the more damage we do to ourselves.

So, unlike the Astros, let’s not believe our own press. Instead let us press in to the One who is God’s Son.

February 24, 2020 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Colorado’s Pot Problem

Marijuana Leaf 1It’s really difficult to legalize something and discourage its use all at the same time. That’s what Colorado lawmakers are learning. In a state where marijuana is legal, lawmakers are faced with a dilemma: how do they uphold and support the legality of recreational marijuana use among adults while speaking out against its use among teens? Kristen Wyatt, in an article published in The Washington Post, outlines their strategy:

Marijuana isn’t evil, but teens aren’t ready for it: That’s the theme of a new effort by Colorado to educate youths about the newly legal drug.

Colorado launched a rebranding effort Thursday that seeks to keep people under 21 away from pot. The “What’s Next” campaign aims to send the message that marijuana can keep youths from achieving their full potential.

The campaign shows kids being active and reminds them that their brains aren’t fully developed until they’re 25. The ads say that pot use can make it harder for them to pass a test, land a job, or pass the exam for a driver’s license.[1]

Marijuana may be legal in Colorado, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for you – at least according to the public service ads produced for the “What’s Next” campaign:

One ad shows a teen girl working out on a basketball court and the tag line, “Don’t let marijuana get in the way of ambition.” Another ad shows a boy rocking out on a drum set with the tag line, “Don’t let marijuana get in the way of passion.”

Colorado’s anxiety over the teen use of a drug that, for adults, is legal presents us with an interesting ethical conundrum. Marijuana, except in very limited cases when prescribed by a physician, is demonstrably dangerous and, in many instances, is downright deadly. But, then again, cigarette smoking is irrefutably linked to cancer, alcohol consumption impairs a person’s ability to operate a vehicle and, over the years, can also cause liver damage, and the foods we eat on a daily basis are sometimes less than nutritionally sound. Yet, these things are legal nationwide. So is it really logically responsible, or politically feasible, to support the outlawing of recreational marijuana use in Colorado?

On the one hand, we need to recognize that the moral imperative to be responsible for what we take into our bodies is impossible to legislate comprehensively. Human wisdom must play a roll. For instance, having a glass of wine with supper, which has the potential of decreasing a person’s chance of developing heart disease, is very different from guzzling a case of beer on the beach. Or, as Morgan Spurlock learned, an occasional trip to McDonald’s with the kids for a Happy Meal and a toy is very different from eating only Super Sized meals from the Golden Arches for breakfast, lunch, and supper. Even a taste of what may soon be a legal Cuban cigar is very different from a person who smokes a pack of Camels a day. Calling people to moderation in everything, as Aristotle taught in his Doctrine of the Mean,[2] is much more helpful – and, I would add, much more practical and realistic – than trying to safeguard against all potential abuses of these things by dint of legislation and regulation.

On the other hand, it is a logical error to suppose that just because legislation and regulation can’t solve every issue that affects the care of the body means that it can’t be helpful in any issue that affects the safety of a person. This is, after all, the whole reason for the existence of the Food and Drug Administration, which works tirelessly to ensure that the food we eat for meals and the medicines we take for illnesses are safe. But marijuana is not safe, which is, perhaps, why, even though it’s legal in Colorado, it’s still outlawed federally.

When I am prescribed a drug for an illness, if the list of the drug’s side effects is lengthy while its benefits are minimal, I become leery of taking it and will further consult with my physician over it. There is no doubt that the problems with marijuana far outpace its benefits.  Indeed, aside from acute medical cases, marijuana’s benefits can really only be defined in social terms. Marijuana is good for partying. And that’s about it.

It is this that leads us back to Colorado’s curious campaign to discourage teen marijuana use. The social capital associated with having, sharing, and using marijuana is deeply enticing to teenagers. After all, teenagers – at least many of them – love to party. So when Colorado makes marijuana as accessible as alcohol, does the state really think a slick public service campaign will stem the tide of teens using what is not only a dangerous drug in and of itself, but an addictive gateway drug that often leads to more serious substance abuse?

Moderation is good for many things, as Aristotle teaches. But in this instance, a little wisdom from Augustine may be in order as well. Augustine, though also a supporter of moderation, reminds us that, sometimes, complete abstinence is preferable to even perfect moderation.[3] When it comes to marijuana, we need learn how to choose between the options of abstinence and moderation wisely.

Something tells me Colorado chose poorly.

_______________________________________

[1] Kristen Wyatt, “Colorado rebrands anti-pot campaign for kids,” The Washington Post (8.20.2015).

[2] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1106a26-b28.

[3] Augustine, Of the Good of Marriage 25.

August 31, 2015 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Tackling Temptation

"The Temptation of Christ" by Ary Scheffer (1854)

Whether or not you or a loved one has struggled with alcoholism, the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous have become nearly ubiquitously helpful to millions who struggle with an addiction, habit, or hurt.  What I find so interesting about the Twelve Steps is that Step One is essentially an explication of the Christian doctrine of human depravity: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.”  Of course, one could insert a whole array of different sins in place of the word “alcohol.”  “We admitted we were powerless over lust – that our lives had become unmanageable.”  “We admitted we were powerless over greed – that our lives had become unmanageable.”  “We admitted we were powerless over self-righteousness – that our lives had become unmanageable.”

This past weekend in worship and ABC, we talked about the trials of temptation.  Satan is a “tempter,” the Bible reminds us (Matthew 4:3), and wants nothing more than to drag us into sin.  And, just as with any other banal allurement or enticement, under our own power, we are helpless to resist Satan’s taunting temptations.  As AA would remind us, “We admitted we were powerless over temptation – that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Sadly, human depravity in the face of sinful temptation is born out again and again in the Scriptures.  When Cain is tempted to murder his brother Abel, God warns Cain, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7).  But Cain does not master his sin.  He falls to temptation and kills his brother, Abel.  When Israel is led out of their slavery in Egypt and God ushers them into a place of prosperity, God warns the people:  “When your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 8:13-14).  God’s warning against forgetting Him proves to be eerily prophetic: “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God” (Judges 3:7).  The allurements and enticements of this world are too overwhelming and overburdening for any human to face and defeat.

Augustine described powerlessness of humans against temptation and transgression using the Latin phrase, non posse non pecarre, meaning, we are “not able not to sin.”  Blessedly, however, Jesus has the remedy for the dourness of our depravity.  For He stands up under temptation on our behalf.  In our text for this past weekend from Matthew 4:1-11, we read how Jesus takes His stand against the devil’s temptations not once, not twice, but three times.  Jesus then takes this victory over temptation and gives it to us by means of His death on the cross.  The preacher of Hebrews explains: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).  Because Jesus stood up under temptation, we have the mercy and grace that we need to help us in our time of temptation.  For without God’s mercy and grace, we are powerless to resist the allurements and enticements of this world.

So when you are tempted, look not to your own strength, will, or fortitude, but to the cross.  For on the cross Christ encounters a final temptation from a crowd of jeerers: “Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God” (Matthew 27:40)!  Interestingly, this phrase – “If you are the Son of God – is the same phrase Satan uses to tempt Jesus in the desert in Matthew 4 (cf. Matthew 4:3, 6).  But as with Satan, Christ resists this temptation too.  He does not come down from the cross.  Instead, He dies to achieve victory over sin.  And so on that cross, our victory over temptation is secured.  Praise be to God!

Want to learn more? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

January 23, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – God’s Immutable Provision

An old spiritual says:

I don’t know about tomorrow;
I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to gray.
I don’t worry o’er the future,
For I know what Jesus said.
And today I’ll walk beside Him,
For He knows what lies ahead.[1]

These words are simple, but powerfully true.  And, I would add, they are also sorely needed in our world.

We live in a world full of uncertainty.  The stock market can swing several hundred points in a day.  A single poll can crown a new frontrunner in our current presidential race.  Tragedy can strike in an instant.  It’s impossible to know what tomorrow will bring.  That’s why I love the words of this spiritual:  “Today I’ll walk beside Him, for He knows what lies ahead.”  Jesus, the song says, knows with certainty what lies ahead in an uncertain world.  The chorus continues:

Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand,
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.

We cannot even manage to predict the weather of tomorrow, much less control the events of tomorrow.  But Christ can do both.  Tomorrow is held by Christ.

In ABC this past weekend, we kicked off a two-week mini-series titled “More Blessed” where we are taking a look at faithful stewardship.  The Bible calls us to steward our resources faithfully by stewarding them generously.  The Psalmist puts it succinctly when he says, “The righteous give generously” (Psalm 37:21).  However, I know that in such a shaky world, sometimes the call to give generously can be a daunting one.  After all, the specter of being generous with our resources only to watch them evaporate in the calamity of a terrible tomorrow is unsettling.  This is why so many people prefer to keep what they have while they still have it!

Contrary to the world’s call to keep what you have while you still have it, Christians are called to be givers and sharers.  And we can be givers and sharers – and feel at peace about it – thanks to the doctrine of God’s immutability.  For with the rock-solid assurance God’s changeless character, we can trust Him to provide for our needs, even as He has done in the past (cf. Luke 11:3).  This frees us up to fearlessly share with others that which God already has provided us.  For more good gifts are sure to come from His hand.

The church father Augustine connected the doctrine of God’s immutability to the doctrine of God’s omniscience:

God does not pass from this to that by transition of thought, but beholds all things with absolute unchangeableness; so that of those things which emerge in time, the future, indeed, are not yet, and the present are now, and the past no longer are; but all of these are by Him comprehended in His stable and eternal presence.[2]

Augustine’s argument concerning God’s immutability and omniscience is an important one.  Because God, Augustine argues, knows all – past, present, and future – nothing catches God off-guard.  Thus, God responds to the tragedies, trials, and terrors of this world not spastically or sporadically, but intentionally and wisely because He is already thoroughly familiar with them, even before they happen.  We can therefore trust God with our futures and be assured that He will carry us through by “His stable and eternal presence.”

Augustine’s words are a great comfort to me.  For if God knows all, then he knows all that I need.  And He will surely provide for what I need in His changeless, steady, stable, and immutable way.  For nothing – none of my needs, tragedies, or trials – catches my God off guard.

The final verse of that old spiritual goes:

I don’t know about tomorrow,
It may bring me poverty.
But the One who feeds the sparrow
Is the One who stands by me.

This is the precious promise of God’s immutable provision.  I hope you steward your resources like you believe it.

Want to learn more? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!


[1] “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow,” http://www.hymnlyrics.org/newlyrics_i/i_know_who_holds_tomorrow.php

[2] Augustine, City of God, 11.21, http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/120111.htm

October 17, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Adult Bible Class – God in the Gap

What is hell?  Is it a real place?  Do real people go there?  Find out in this Adult Bible Class from Concordia Lutheran Church.

April 13, 2011 at 11:10 am Leave a comment

Weekend Extra – “Departing ____ Peace”

As a pastor, I have had the weighty responsibility, but also the profound privilege, of counseling with many people who are near death.  Over the course of these conversations, I have noticed some themes have emerged.  Many of the terminally ill are scared of death, which, at least in my opinion, is completely understandable.  Others are worried about organizing their affairs before they pass away.  One theme that always emerges from these conversations is a wish for a peaceful death.  “I hope I die in my sleep,” some say.  “I hope I have friends and family with me,” others say.  No one wants to die in fear or alone.  People want to die peacefully.

This desire to die peacefully is nothing new.  Indeed, in our reading from this past weekend from Luke 2, we are introduced to an old man named Simeon who himself is near death.  Knowing this, Simeon gives thanks to the Lord that He is “letting His servant depart in peace” (Luke 2:29).  Simeon believes, even as his prayer indicates, that his death will be a peaceful one.  But why does Simeon believe such a thing?  How does Simeon know whether his death will peaceful or agonizing?

Luke explains why Simeon believes he will die peacefully:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation.” (Luke 2:25-30)

Simeon believes he will die peacefully because he has seen and held the One who is “the consolation of Israel” (verse 25) and “the Lord’s Christ” (verse 26).  Because he has held the One who is peace (cf. Ephesians 2:14), Simeon believes that he will depart in peace.

Notably, when Simeon thanks the Lord for allowing him to depart “in peace,” the Greek word for the preposition “in” is en. This preposition is one of the most versatile in the Greek language.  One Greek-English lexicon translates this single preposition as “in,” “at,” “near,” “before,” “for,” “with,” and “among,” among many others.  In other words, this preposition is a catchall preposition.  Indeed, Simeon’s words could nearly be translated, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart *INSERT PREPOSITION HERE* peace!”

This catchall preposition en reveals a profound truth of the peace that Christ gives us.  For Christ’s peace makes us at peace with God (2 Peter 2:14), near God in faith (Hebrews 10:22), before God as His justified people (Luke 18:14), for God in love (1 John 5:3), with God unto eternity (Revelation 21:3), and among God as we serve His people (Matthew 25:40).  There is no preposition that the peace of Christ cannot cover!  And this makes Christ’s peace a profound peace.

What peace do you need?  Do you need peace with your past?  Do you need peace at work?  Do you need peace for an upcoming decision?  Then pray with Simeon, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart *INSERT PREPOSITION HERE* peace!”  For the peace of Christ covers whatever preposition you might have in this life – or even in the next.  What a precious peace is the peace of Christ!  As Augustine says, “Peace shall be your gold. Peace shall be your silver. Peace shall be you lands. Peace shall be your life, your God Peace” (Augustine NPNF1 8:94)!

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from this weekend’s message!

December 27, 2010 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Lots on the Last Day

This weekend in worship and ABC, we talked about God’s Kingdom and its final and full arrival on the Last Day when Jesus will return to, as we confess in the Apostles’ Creed, “judge the living and the dead.”  This Last Day is the subject of endless conversation and speculation.  Indeed, visions of a gloomy apocalypse are frequently advanced in books and movies packed with foreboding buzzwords like “tribulation” and “antichrist” and “plagues” and “rapture” and “millennium.”  Because there is so much discussion concerning the return of Christ – and so many different theories concerning the precise nature of His second coming – I thought it might be helpful, in this week’s blog, to survey some of these theories and then, to best of my ability, offer a more biblical picture of the end of days.

When it comes to Christ’s second coming, most interpretations of the nature of His coming center around this passage from John’s Revelation:

And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.  He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. (Revelation 20:1-3)

The question that has been the subject of much debate is, “What does it mean that an angel, perhaps representing Jesus, comes and binds Satan for a thousand years?”  Four main answers have been given.

The Answer of Historic Millennialism
Historic Millennialism teaches that Christ will visibly return, raise the believing dead from their graves, and set up an earthly kingdom and reign for a thousand years.  This will be a time of perfect peace and prosperity.  After this, Christ will loose Satan for a small time to make his final assault against the redeemed before our Lord finally casts him into hell for eternity.

The Answer of Postmillennialism
Postmillennialism teaches that the “thousand years” of Revelation 20:3 is not to be taken literally.  Rather, it represents a time of ever increasing peace and prosperity on this earth, with more and more people becoming Christians, reaching its climax in Christ’s visible second advent.

The Answer of Dispensational Premillennialism
Dispensational Premillennialism takes different forms, but in its most popular expression it envisions a “secret return” of Christ where believers are raptured into heaven.  Following this rapture, the Antichrist arrives on the scene and a seven year period of tribulation ensues.  The Antichrist allies himself with, and then breaks his alliance with, the Jews, persecuting them fiercely.  Following this seven year tribulation, Christ visibly returns, sets up a perfect millennial kingdom, and then, at the end of a thousand years, releases Satan for a short time to wreak havoc on humanity until he is finally cast into the Abyss and Christ judges the living and the dead.

The Answer of Amillennialism
Like Postmillennialism, Amillennialism sees the “thousand years” of Revelation 20:3 as symbolic, referring to the time of Christ’s Church when the gospel is preached and eternal destinies are changed.  However, Satan still works in this world and Satan’s work will become more pronounced shortly before Christ’s second coming.

I would humbly suggest that, out of the above accounts concerning the end of days, the answer of Amillennialism fits best with the biblical data.  I say this for several reasons:

  • Following two World Wars in the previous century and terrorist threats and attacks in our own century, most people do not believe the world is slowly becoming better and safer or more Christian.  Postmillenialism does not make sense of the world around us.

  • Dispensational Premillennialism is both a relatively new theory, being promoted on a widespread basis by John Nelson Darby in the 1830’s, and speaks of a secret return of Christ in a rapture, a theory nowhere promoted in Scripture.  Indeed, according to the Bible, Darby’s so-called “rapture” will be quite visible and quite audible: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).  This hardly sounds like a secret rapture to me.

  • Historic Millennialism has much to it to commend, but does not account for the highly symbolic nature of apocalyptic literature, and specifically the symbolic use of the number “one thousand,” and it essentially promotes a two-fold return of Christ:  first at the beginning of the millennium and then again when He judges the living and the dead at the end of time.  These events are elsewhere pictured as one episode (e.g., Matthew 25:31-46).

  • Amillennialism recognizes that in the Bible, the number “one thousand” is regularly used in symbolic terms to express completeness (e.g., Exodus 20:6, Deuteronomy 1:11, Psalm 50:10, 84:10, 90:4, Isaiah 60:22, 2 Peter 3:8).  Thus, the millennium of Revelation 20:3 expresses the complete time of Christ’s Church on earth.

  • Amillennialism accounts for the fact that Christ’s second coming, the resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment are portrayed by the Bible one event, not as separate events separated by a thousand years (e.g., John 6:44, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, Matthew 25:31-46).

  • Amillennialism, unlike Dispensational Premillennialism, has a long and distinguished history in the Church, being promoted by the likes of Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Calvin.

On balance, it seems as if a simple return of Christ to judge the living and the dead at the end of days is to be preferred to the more complicated end times schemas of Historic Millennialism, Postmillennialism, and Dispensational Premillennialism.  Christ’s second return of Christ need not be complex and, for the Christian, it need not be frightening.  For Christ’s coming means our salvation, as the preacher of Hebrews reminds us:  “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him” (Hebrews 9:28).  Come, Lord Jesus!

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

November 8, 2010 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Being Interrupted: A Lesson from Augustine

I am most definitely a “Type A” personality.  I like to plan, organize, and execute – preferably in a deliberate, linear, and flawless manner.  Yet, as anyone who has walked this earth for more than a second knows, life does not always proceed in a deliberate and linear manner.  And it certainly does not proceed flawlessly!  Interruptions, accidents, and personal catastrophes make life an adventure in which you never know what the next chapter will bring.

Perhaps it is my penchant for planning that makes me appreciate so much this quote from Augustine (pictured above):

But I am annoyed because of the demands that are thrust on me…arriving unannounced, from here, there, and everywhere.  They interrupt and hold up all other things that we have so neatly lined up in order.  They never seem to stop. (Peter Robert Lamont Brown, Augustine of Hippo:  A Biography, 468)

I can honestly say that I know how Augustine feels.  For when I get things “neatly lined up in order” and am then “interrupted,” I get “annoyed.”

But should I get annoyed?  I suppose a little bit of a human annoyance is inevitable.  And yet, I can’t help but remember the attitude of my Lord when He got interrupted:

Then Jesus took His disciples with Him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed Him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing. (Luke 9:10-11)

Jesus desires to withdraw His disciples to get a little bit of rest and relaxation with His disciples.  But then, He gets interrupted.  Crowds, eager to hear Him teach and have their ills healed, follow Him so that He cannot get a moment’s rest.  They arrive “unannounced from here, there, and everywhere.”  They interrupt Him.

How does Jesus respond to this crowd’s insensitive interruption?  He welcomes them (cf. verse 11).  The Greek word for “welcomed” is apadechomai, meaning, “to accept,” or “to receive.”  Interestingly, this word is sometimes used to describe the forgiveness of sins (e.g. Genesis 50:17 LXX).  Thus, Jesus welcomes the crowd, and in His welcome, there is forgiveness.  And this too is our hope:  That in Christ, we are welcomed in spite of sin because we are forgiven of our sin.

Augustine pens his candid admission of being annoyed by interruptions as he is trying to write his greatest work, The City of God. And so it is understandable that, while working on such a weighty tome, he would be annoyed by the delays.  After all, his task is vital!  But so are his interruptions.  For a man named Vincentius Victor is interrupting Augustine, questioning him on his view of man’s soul.  And a man’s soul is a big deal – not only as the subject of theological debate, but in the eyes of God.  And so, Augustine takes a break from his work on The City of God to answer Victor.

Like Jesus, do we welcome those who interrupt us?  Yes, what we are working on at the time may be important, but the interruption may be just as important.  Moreover, how do we respond to interruptions?  With annoyance in our hearts or with the welcoming spirit of our Lord?  Although interruptions are bound to annoy us, especially if you’re a “Type A” personality like me, it is worth it to see some interruptions not simply as glitches in your plans, but as divine appointments for your soul.  So welcome an interruption today!  After all, the interruption may just be the most important – and even the best – part of your day.

October 27, 2010 at 10:52 am 1 comment

For Women Only (But Men Can – And Probably Should – Read Too)

I have recently taken note of a trend which troubles me.  In many a conversation, I have met with a husband and a wife in crisis.  Their marriage is usually on the rocks, barely hanging by a thread, and steadily heading – if not speeding – down the road to divorce.  Although marriage trouble is almost always the product of both parties sinning against one another, I have noticed that, in these situations, the husband often lacks the fortitude to faithfully lead his marriage and his family according to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  His interest in the things of God is weak if not non-existent.  Indeed, it is often the woman who seeks biblical answers to important questions while the man is interested only in satisfying his own fleeting desires and infatuations.

To be fair, there are many men out there who are faithful, Godly leaders of their homes.  I praise God for these men.  But I want to speak for a moment to the women, for I know there are many, who are in relationships where the man does not dependably steward his mantle as the head of the household.

Through probably apocryphal, St. Francis of Assisi is quoted as saying, “Preach the gospel always, if necessary, use words.”  Certainly this maxim cannot be used to excuse us from clearly and cogently proclaiming the gospel, for Holy Scripture mandates just such a proclamation, but sometimes, a quiet witness to the gospel is a faithful one.  Indeed, this is precisely Peter’s argument to wives when he writes:  “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives” (1 Peter 3:1-2).  As the apostle pens these words, he is addressing a group of women whose beliefs do not match those of their husbands, probably because they have converted to Christianity while their husbands have not.  Peter recommends holy living as a way to witness to these men who refuse to be the spiritual leaders of their households.

It is important to note that Peter’s direction radically contradicts the standard thinking of the first century.  For a woman to defy her husband’s sensibilities was considered an affront to his masculinity.  If the husband lived as a pagan, the wife was to live as a pagan too.  The first century Roman historian Plutarch explains:

A wife ought not to make friends on her own, but to enjoy her husband’s friends in common with him.  The gods are the first and most important friends.  Therefore it is becoming for a wife to worship and know only the gods that her husband believes in, and to shut the front door tight upon all peculiar rituals and outlandish superstitions [such as Christianity].  (Moralia 140D)

According to Plutarch, a wife is to believe only what her husband believes.  Thus, if a husband worships at the altar of football or lust or alcohol or crassness, the wife is to worship there as well.  Put Peter directs ladies differently.  A wife’s first and foremost responsibility is to the Lord, even when her husband refuses to honor and worship the true God.

Ladies, I know it is hard witnesses to men who do not know or care for the Lord.  And yet, there is hope!  For Peter’s guidance concerning a quiet witness to unfaithful husbands actually works!  Perhaps most famously, it worked with the father of St. Augustine.  Augustine writes of his mother:

When she had arrived at a marriageable age, she was given to a husband whom she served as her lord. And she busied herself to gain him to God, preaching God unto him by her behavior…For she waited for God’s mercy upon him, that by believing in Him, he might become chaste…Finally, her own husband, now towards the end of his earthly existence, did she gain over unto the Lord. (Augustine, Confessions, IX:19,22)

This woman’s dear faith proved persuasive to her husband…and to her son as well.  Indeed, her faith proved so persuasive that she raised one of the greatest theologians ever to serve the Christian Church.

Ladies, even in difficult circumstances, continue to serve your Lord faithfully.  Lead by your behavior if your husband will not lead according to his responsibility.  Know that I am praying for you.  Gentlemen, if you have fallen short in spiritually leading your household, repent and ask forgiveness from your family.  Then teach and live the faith.  Know that I am praying for you as well.  For there is nothing more important, heavy, and joyous than to teach and live out than the gospel of Jesus Christ!

July 15, 2010 at 8:39 am Leave a comment


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