Hymn Parade – Here I am to Worship

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Bible in 3-D

 Hymn – Here I am to Worship (Tim Hughes and Joel Engle, 2005)

 Why do we Worship?

John 4: 21-24 21Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qa9oCBTe5Qk

Light of the world, You stepped down into darkness,
Opened my eyes, let me see
Beauty that made this heart adore You,
Hope of a life spent with You.

So here I am to worship;
Here I am to bow down;
Here I am to say that
You’re my God.
And You’re altogether lovely,
Altogether worthy,
Altogether wonderful to me.

King of all days, oh, so highly exalted,
Glorious in heaven above,
Humbly You came
To the earth You created,
All for love’s sake became poor.

So here I am to worship;

Here I am to bow down;
Here I am to say that
You’re my God.
And You’re altogether lovely,
Altogether worthy,
Altogether wonderful to me.

Here I am to worship;
Here I am to bow down;
Here I am to say that
You’re my God.
And You’re altogether lovely,
Altogether worthy,
Altogether wonderful to me.

And I’ll never know
How much it cost
To see my sin
Upon that cross.

Refrain

“I’d been reading about the cross and thinking through Jesus’ amazing sacrifice,” Tim Hughes says he was reading about the cross and thinking of Jesus’ amazing sacrifice. of the lyrical theme.  “Sometimes when God meets with us we don’t quite know how to respond properly.  It’s often too much for us to take in.  Hopefully in a small way the chorus captures that: ‘Here I am to worship.  Here I am to bow down.  Here I am to say that you’re my God.  You’re altogether lovely, worthy, wonderful.'” 

“The main motivation behind the song was simply trying to capture a response to Jesus giving up his throne in Heaven to walk upon the earth and ultimately to die upon a cross,” he confirms.  “For me personally, it’s been very exciting and a real privilege to see how God has used the song.” https://www.crosswalk.com/church/worship/song-story-here-i-am-to-worship-1227531.html

Worship

Think of worship as a time when God speaks with us. Focus on Absolution (Forgiveness) instead of Confession, the meaning of God’s presence in the Creed, God speaking His Word through the Bible, God’s grace in Holy Communion, and God’s hug in the Benediction (“The Lord bless you and keep you.” The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance on you and give you peace.”) We worship the things we love. For some it is material things. For those of us who have faith, we love Jesus Christ! Worship is our response to God’s love and amazing grace.

Martin Luther explains the importance of worship:

“To gather with God’s people in united adoration of the Father is as necessary to the Christian life as prayer.”

“Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.”

“The God whom we worship is not a weak and incompetent God. He is able to beat back gigantic waves of opposition and to bring low prodigious mountains of evil. The ringing testimony of the Christian faith is that God is able.”

“The worship of God….should be free at table, in private rooms, downstairs, upstairs, at home, abroad, in all places, by all peoples, at all times.”

Worship (2)

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Jesus Heals the Blind Man

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Bible in 3-D

Jesus Heals the Blind Man

What do you see?

Luke 18:35-43  Jesus Heals the Blind Man

35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

39 Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. 42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.

christ-healing-the-blind-man-1560

The Miracle of Christ Healing the Blind Man by El Greco (1560)

Although Bartimaeus was born blind, blindness was a metaphor showing people had no faith. Isaiah and Paul speak of the unbelief of the people in Israel and Asia Minor as not seeing or understanding the revelation of the Messiah or Jesus Christ.

The life of a blind person was awful as the blind were forced to beg and frequently taken advantage of. Blindness, other than a natural condition associated with age, was mostly likely the result of infection from unsanitary conditions or trichinosis from pork.

Therefore, in this picture, El Greco demonstrated the great mercy of Christ in curing his blindness and filling him with the Holy Spirit. It is interesting that El Greco illustrates several people in his painting who appear to be oblivious to the miracle that is happening.

Martin Luther wrote that the book of the Acts of the Apostles is to emphasize the importance of how both Gentiles and Jews must be justified by faith without doing any merits or good works. The big picture of all the stories and events in Acts is how the Gospel or good news of the resurrection and salvation of Jesus Christ makes everything right for us. It is not about the faith of the apostles but it is about faith in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. We do not need to do anything else – just trust God!

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

 

Understanding the Debate within Churches Over Sexual Identity

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Bible in 3-D  

Understanding the Debate Within Churches Over Sexual Identity and Behavior

Why is there a Debate?

The purpose of this blog is to provide a perspective on the controversy over marriage and sexual behaviors in the institution of the “church.” Rather than taking a position, the intent of this article is to provide information on the affirmative and negative (status quo) side of the issue. Through discussion there should be an informed debate and understanding.

History of Debates

The church, as an institution, has had debates on theological and social issues over the centuries. The Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church divided in 1054 A.D. over the presence of statues, the date of Easter, and the authority of the Pope. The Protestant Reformation divided the Roman Catholic Church in 1517 over the authority of the Pope, forgiveness of sins, and the marriage of clergy. July 1519 marks the 500th year anniversary of the Leipzig Debate between Martin Luther and Johann Eck over the authority of God’s Word, the distinction between the law and the gospel, the errors of people and institutions, and the absolute forgiveness of sins by Jesus Christ. Andreas Karlstadt and Philipp Melanchton also contributed to the debate with Luther.

The house arrest of Galileo, Index of Prohibited Books, Inquisition, infallibility of the Pope, Scope’s Trial on the teaching of evolution in schools, contraception, population control, abortion, are examples of conflicts that have been debated by clergy and Christians. Some of these issues are still being debated within the church, society, and families.

The LGBT community represents almost 15% of the population in the United States, a significant minority with millions of American families accepting LGBT persons as family, neighbors, colleagues. In the decade of the 1920s following World War I, the gay community became more visible until the McCarthy Hearings in 1950. The 1969 Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village marked a turning point in the problems the LGBT community faced. Harvey Milk became the first openly gay politician who was elected to the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco in 1977. In the 1980s, the homosexual community was affected by the AIDS epidemic. This epidemic led to the identification of people seeking treatment and millions of others who died from AIDS. In 2003 Massachusetts became the first state to recognize gay marriage and today all 50 states (and the District of Columbia) recognize or perform same sex marriages in some capacity.

The Christian church has consistently taught that God knows us before we are born, is the creator of life, and calls people to faith in baptism. Many Christians understand marriage as either a sacrament or part of God’s plan and not necessarily the result of free will or a decision by two adults. It is similar to the “call” one receives to enter the holy ministry. The question of marriage and the amount of free will or foreknowledge by God is important to discuss.

The Church Proclaims God’s Grace

All are welcome

God’s timeless Word reveals His plan for humanity and His intentions for marriage and sexuality. God’s grace is for all who are baptized and believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Although churches may not approve or validated a same sex marriage, premarital sex, a change in gender from a birth certificate, prostitution, adultery, the church recognizes that the sinful nature of humanity impacts each of us. However, in Jesus Christ, we are forgiven and become a new creation.

Romans 3: 21-26: “But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood-to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished- 26he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

John 3: 16-17: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”

The Church Teaches God’s Love!

Galatians 5:14 “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

James 4:12 “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

Romans 13:8-10 “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.”

John 8:7-11 “When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

The Church Teaches That the Bible is the Inspired Word of God

Judaism and Christianity are “revealed religions” because they are based on God’s direct communication with His people on Earth through Abraham, Moses, prophets, and apostles.

The most explicit account of this is in Paul’s second letter to Timothy. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

When Jesus was with us on Earth, he unequivocally accepted the authority of Scripture and He applied it to every contemporary situation. When Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days after His baptism, he quoted the Bible in His encounters with Satan. He respected the faith of the Jews and corrected their unbelief.

Martin Luther spoke of the authority of the Bible at the Diet of Worms in 1521, “–unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason…I do not accept the authority of popes or councils, for they have contradicted each other…my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.” (Roland Bainton, Here I Stand)

When the church has been faced with challenges, as they were with the verse that the sun stood still, the creation of the world in seven days, the Great Flood, or the Virgin birth, the position has been that the translation is in error or the limitation of human understanding.

12 On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:

“Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.” 13 So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. 14 There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel! (Joshua: 10:12-14)

The Words of Scripture on Sexual Ethics

The verses below are not presented in an order of importance, except that I separated the verses in the Old Testament from the New Testament. They are provided only as information to explain the controversy or debate with some churches or between individuals. There is always the danger of citing a verse without offering the context in the Bible or the situation at the time.

The verses below are from the New Testament of the Bible:

Mark 10:6-9 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

 Romans 1:26-28 “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.”

 Hebrews 13:4 “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”

1 Timothy 1:8-11 “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.”

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

1 Corinthians 6:17-20 “But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

1 Corinthians 7:2 “But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.”

Jude 1:7-8 “In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. 8 In the very same way, on the strength of their dreams these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings.”

Matthew 19-6

The verses below are in the Old Testament of the Bible:

Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Genesis 2:24 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Leviticus 18:22 “‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.’”

Leviticus 20:13 “‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.’”

Perspective of Martin Luther

In the first five volumes of Luther’s collected works there are over one thousand explicit references to the verbal inspiration of Scripture! Martin Luther and John Calvin were very clear in their understanding that God is the author of the Bible and although it is written by people it is the inspired and revealed Word of God. Therefore, it is not appropriate to select or delete words, verses, or sections. The entire Bible must be accepted as the Word of God.

Martin Luther made no new claims concerning the nature of the Scripture. Luther writes “We must make a great difference between God’s Word and the word of man. A man’s word is a little sound, that flies in the air, and soon vanishes; but the Word of God is greater than heaven and earth, yea greater than death and hell, for it forms part of the power of God and endures everlastingly; we should therefore, diligently study God’s Word and assuredly believe that God Himself speaks to us.” (Martin Luther, 1848 “The Table Talk or Familiar Discourse of Martin Luther, tr. by W. Hazlitt”, 20)

Luther also wrote, “It is cursed unbelief and odious flesh which will not permit us to see and know that God speaks to us in Scripture and that it is God’s Word, but tells us that it is merely the word of Isaiah, Paul or some other man who has not created heaven and earth. (Robert Preus, “Luther: Word, Doctrine and Confession” Doctrine Is Life: Essays on Scripture. St. Louis: Concordia, 2006, 264)

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

 

 

On the Road: Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Bible in 3-D

 On the Road with Philip and the Ethiopian

 Do you have a spiritual appetite?

Acts 8:26-40  Philip and the Ethiopian 

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet.

29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” 30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants?
    For his life was taken from the earth.”

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?”

 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” 37 Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” The eunuch answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

Philip+Baptizes+the+Eunuch

Philip Baptizes the Ethiopian by Maerten Jacobz van Heemskerck (16th Century)

Rembrandt,_The_Baptism_of_the_Eunuch,_1626,_Museum_Catharijneconvent,_UtrechtThe Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch by Rembrandt (1626)

The Ethiopian eunuch might be considered as the personal assistant to the Queen of Ethiopia. Philip is one of the twelve apostles and was brought to faith by Jesus Christ (John 1:43). We do not know much about Philip but from the account of the miracle of feeding the 5,000 with a few loaves of bread and even less fish. Philip is described as reserved and practical and I find that I can identify with him. But God uses Philip in important ways by introducing people to him.

I recently went to a dinner party and when a couple learned my name, they asked me if I was the author of a blog on the Bible. I write but do not often talk to others about this blog. This is my understanding that God uses people like me to introduce faith to others.

The Book of Acts includes the story of many people came to faith in Jesus Christ as a result of talking with a Christian. The ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus was viral in the first century and talked about everywhere in the Roman Empire and with this account we see that it had spread as far south as Ethiopia. We know that Paul and Cornelius accepted Jesus Christ through an encounter with a believer.

We do not know if the Ethiopian was traveling to Jerusalem on business (likely) or if he came to worship in the temple. We know that he is familiar with the Book of Isaiah and searching for answers about life or God or both. He does not hesitate to be baptized. The story is one Martin Luther never preached on even though the baptism of the Ethiopian marks the beginning of the Christian Church in Ethiopia.

Life on this planet comes down to one thing – it is only through faith in Jesus Christ, without law and works, that we experience grace and are justified.

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

 

 

 

Hymn – Amazing Grace

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Bible in 3-D

Bible Verses That Influenced Hymns

Amazing Grace – John Newton (1779, England)

Why did John Newton remember the words of King David when faced with death in a storm in the Atlantic Ocean?

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound / That saved a wretch like me / I once was lost but now am found / Was blind, but now, I see.

Video: http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=090F9MNU

1 Chronicles 17: 7-27 God’s Promise to David (selected verses for Amazing Grace are in bold)

“Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name like the names of the greatest men on earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 10 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also subdue all your enemies.

“‘I declare to you that the Lord will build a house for you: 11 When your days are over and you go to be with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. 13 I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor. 14 I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever.’”

15 Nathan reported to David all the words of this entire revelation.

David’s Prayer – 16 Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said: “Who am I, Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 17 And as if this were not enough in your sight, my God, you have spoken about the future of the house of your servant. You, Lord God, have looked on me as though I were the most exalted of men.

18 “What more can David say to you for honoring your servant? For you know your servant, 19 Lord. For the sake of your servant and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made known all these great promises.

20 “There is no one like you, Lord, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. 21 And who is like your people Israel—the one nation on earth whose God went out to redeem a people for himself, and to make a name for yourself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? 22 You made your people Israel your very own forever, and you, Lord, have become their God.

23 “And now, Lord, let the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house be established forever. Do as you promised, 24 so that it will be established and that your name will be great forever. Then people will say, ‘The Lord Almighty, the God over Israel, is Israel’s God!’ And the house of your servant David will be established before you.

25 “You, my God, have revealed to your servant that you will build a house for him. So your servant has found courage to pray to you. 26 You, Lord, are God! You have promised these good things to your servant. 27 Now you have been pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, Lord, have blessed it, and it will be blessed forever.”

Amazing Grace

John Newton was taught the Bible at an early age by his mother. He lost his mother to tuberculosis at the age of 7 and was raised by his father, a merchant navy captain. By age 11, he was at sea and in his later teen years he was impressed into the British navy. He rebelled against the discipline of the British officers and was put in chains and discharged to a slave ship and eventually worked on a plantation of lemon trees on an island of the coast of west Africa.

He worked here for about two years until he was sold to the captain of another British merchant ship. While at sea the ship was overtaken by a storm and John Newton repented of his sins of rebellion as he remembered some of the passages in Proverbs he remembered from his mother.

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

The Boy Jesus in the Temple

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Bible in 3-D

The Boy Jesus in the Temple

Why is it easy to lose trust or faith in God quickly?

Luke 2: 41-52:   41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

49 Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

jesus-in-the-temple-william_holman_hunt

The Finding of the Savior in the Temple by William Holman Hunt (1854-60)

I learned there are few paintings of this important story in the Bible and that the few painted are from the 16th century, with the one by Albrecht Durer being one that is most viewed. This is one of the last paintings made and William Hunt traveled to the Holy Land to research the geography and culture.

In his Epiphany sermon in 1523, Luther took the opportunity to remind his congregation of the anguish and distress of a mother who does not know where her child is. It is easy to lose our trust and confidence in God when our fears control they way we think.

He paints the rabbis or doctors of the law in traditional clothing symbolizing the Establishment and those who resisted the new teachings of Jesus Christ. Perhaps the one man standing, who appears most engaged in the Socratic discussion is open to what the young Jesus is saying.

Hunt also shows Jesus as a human being without any suggestion with symbols or halos that He is “Christ, the Savior.” Jesus is pictured as obedient and his family appears dressed in ordinary clothing.

Luther’s words: “When God vouchsafes to us a strong faith and a firm trust in him, so that we are assured 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 that 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. For 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.

Our heart thinks in the time of trial thus: God has indeed given me a strong faith, but perhaps He will take it from me and will no longer want me as His child. Only strong minds can endure such temptations and there are not many people whom God tests to this degree. Yet we must be prepared, so that we may not despair if such trials should come upon us.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Hymn Parade – How Great is Our God!

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022
The Bible in 3-D

How Great is Our God by Chris Tomlin

How is the miracle of faith changing your life?

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpIcqoKOz2M 

The splendor of a King, clothed in majesty
Let all the Earth rejoice
All the Earth rejoice

He wraps himself in light
And darkness tries to hide
And trembles at His voice
Trembles at His voice

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God.

Age to age He stands
And time is in His hands
Beginning and the end

The Godhead Three in One
Father Spirit Son
The Lion and the Lamb
The Lion and the Lamb

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God.

Name above all names
Worthy of our praise
My heart will sing
How great is our God

You’re the name above all names
You are worthy of our praise
And my heart will sing
How great is our God

How Great is our God Tomlin

 Psalm 33:8“Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!”

Psalm 89:16“who exult in your name all the day and in your righteousness are exalted.”

Psalm 104:1“Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty,”

Psalm 119:73“Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.”

Isaiah 66:2“All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”

2 Chronicles 2:5“The temple I am going to build will be great, because our God is greater than all other gods.”

 

Martin Luther preached to a person’s heart rather than to a person’s intellect. God is great in our lives because faith changes us from a person of unbelief into a loving person filled with God’s grace and presence. This is so simple and yet we make it impossible to accept and understand. Read the excerpt below from Martin Luther’s sermon in 1523 on the ascension of Jesus to heaven based on the text in Mark 16:

“Thus, there is no need of your demanding good works of him who believes, for faith teaches him all that; and, being done in faith, all he does is well done and all are good and precious works, however insignificant they may seem. Faith is such a noble thing that it ennobles the whole man.”

Now, it is not possible for a man to live on earth and not have anything to do. Hence all such works as are done by faith are precious works….Hence, the statement of St. Paul to the Romans 14:23:Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” As though he would say, on the contrary: Whatsoever is of faith is all grace and righteousness; that is a foregone conclusion. Hence, there is no need of asking whether good works shall be done, for they come of themselves, unbidden. Such is also the sense of the Psalmist, Psalm 25:10: “All the paths of Jehovah are lovingkindness and truth.”  That is to say, when God works and creates faith in us, all that we do is lovingkindness, and all is truth; that is, all is done sincerely and not from hypocrisy. It follows, however, on the other hand, that all the ways of men are not lovingkindness but sheerest wrath not truth but mere sham and hypocrisy, because they spring from unbelief.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

What did Jesus say about Marriage and Divorce?

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Bible in 3-D

Jesus Teaches about Divorce

What does the Bible say about marriage and divorce?

Matthew 19: 1-12    When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

1200px-GuercinoAdultress1621Dulwich

Christ with the Woman Taken in Adultery by Guercino (1621)

Jesus was in the temple teaching when a group of scribes and Pharisees interrupted his session in an attempt to entrap him as a lawbreaker. They presented to Him a woman, accusing her of committing adultery, claiming she was caught in the very act. They ask Jesus whether the punishment for someone like her should be stoning, as stated in Mosaic Law. But when the woman’s accusers continue their challenge, he states that the one who is without sin is the one who should cast the first stone. Jesus asks the woman if anyone has condemned her. She answers that no one has condemned her. Jesus says that he, too, does not condemn her, and tells her to go and sin no more.

Divorce

Martin Luther said, “Matthew 19:9 is a blunt, clear, plain text.” The purpose of this blog is to engage the reader in thinking and discussion. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

People and religious institutions have diverse views on marriage, divorce and sexual behavior. Martin Luther regarded marriage and divorce as civil matters but recognized the importance of the blessing of the church and the power of forgiveness and faith within the home.

Most of the church teachers including Augustine, Tertullian, Ambrose, Aquinas, and Gregory the Great considered sexual expression with any passion to be a “sin” and not much different from adultery, while virginity and celibacy were highly honored. The culture before the Reformation understood marriage for the procreation of children.

A contribution of Martin Luther and the Reformation is the emphasis placed on the family, the enjoyment of sexual relations and love, the importance of public engagements and stating the marriage vows before God at the altar. Adultery and fornication were reasons for a divorce. Below are excerpts from Martin Luther’s writing in 1522 on marriage.

“Those who want to be Christians are not to be divorced, but each to retain his or her spouse, and bear and experience good and evil with the same, although he or she may be strange, peculiar and faulty; or, if there be a divorce, that the parties remain unmarried; and that it will not do to make a free thing out of marriage, as if it were in our power to do with it, changing and exchanging, as we please; but it is just as Jesus says: ” What God has joined together let not man put asunder.”

“Is there then no reason for which there may be separation and divorce between man and wife? Answer: Christ states here (Matthew 19:31-32) and in Matthew 19: 9, only this one, which is called adultery, and he quotes it from the law of Moses, which punishes adultery with death. Since now death alone dis­solves marriages and releases from the obligation, an adulterer is already divorced not by man but by God himself, and not only cut loose from his spouse, but from this life. For by adultery he has di­vorced himself from his wife, and has dissolved the marriage, which he has no right to do; and he has thereby made himself worthy of death, in such a way that he is already dead before God, although the judge does not take his life.”

“Because now God here divorces, the other party is fully released, so that he or she is not bound to keep the spouse that has proved unfaithful, however much he or she may desire it.”

“For we do not order or forbid this divorcing, but we ask the gov­ernment to act in this matter, and we submit to what the secular authorities ordain in regard to it. Yet, our advice would be to such as claim to be Christians, that it would be much better to exhort and urge both parties to remain together, and that the innocent party should become reconciled to the guilty (if humbled and re­formed) and exercise forgiveness in Christian love; unless no im­provement could be hoped for, or the guilty person who had been pardoned and restored to favor persisted in abusing this kindness, and still continued in leading a public, loose life, and took it for granted that one must continue to spare and forgive him. . . .”

“Here you should be guided by the words of St. Paul, I Corinthians 7 [:4-5], “The husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does; likewise the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does. Do not deprive each other, except by agreement,” etc. Notice that St. Paul forbids either party to deprive the other, for by the marriage vow each submits his body to the other in conjugal duty. When one resists the other and refuses the conjugal duty she is robbing the other of the body she had bestowed upon him. This is really contrary to marriage, and dissolves the marriage….”

Excerpts fromThe Estate of Marriage,’ written in 1522 in ‘Luther’s Works,’ Vol. 45, edited by Walter I. Brandt pg. 38-46

 

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

Jesus Talks with the Woman at the Well

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022
The Bible in 3-D  (Text, Image, Perspective)

 Jesus Talks with the Woman at the Well in Samaria

 Does God really know everything about us?

 John 4:1-26 and 39-42:  Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.

42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Guercino_-_Jesus_and_the_Samaritan_Woman_at_the_Well

Christ and the Woman of Samaria by Guercino (1640, Madrid)

The conversation between Christ and the woman of Samaria at the well is only recorded in the Gospel of Saint John. Christ, travelling to Galilee, reached the Samarian city of Sychar. While the disciples went ahead into the city to buy food, Christ sat down to rest by a fountain. A woman approached the well to draw water and Christ requested water to drink. Surprised, the woman questioned why a Jew was asking her for water, given that Samaritans and Jews had no dealings with each other. The woman, who had had five husbands and lived with a man (as Christ knew), began a conversation with Jesus about “living water.” Guercino’s (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri) painting depicts a moment in the conversation between Christ and the Samaritan woman. The story of Jesus and the woman from Samaria is one of the most popular paintings made for individuals in their homes in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Martin Luther makes reference to this story in his Commentary on Galatians.

“So then, have we nothing to do to obtain righteousness? No, nothing at all! For this righteousness comes by doing nothing, hearing nothing, knowing nothing, but rather in knowing and believing this only – that Christ has gone to the right hand of the Father, not to become our judge, but to become for us our wisdom, our righteousness, our holiness, our salvation!

Now God sees no sin in us. For in this heavenly righteousness, sin has no place. So now we may certainly think. “Although I still sin, I don’t despair, because Christ lives – who is both my righteousness and my eternal life.” In that righteousness I have no sin, no fear, no guilty conscience, no fear of death. I am indeed a sinner in this life of mine, and in my own righteousness, but I have another life, another righteousness above this life, which is in Christ, the Son of God, who knows no sin or death, but is eternal righteousness and eternal life. For if the truth of being justified by Christ alone (not by works) is lost, then all Christian truths are lost. On this truth the church is built and has its being.”

Many theologians use this story to explain baptism, inclusion, cultural assimilation, and the conversion of Gentiles to faith in Jesus Christ. My observation for your reflection is that Jesus knew everything about this woman’s personal life. For me, it is a comfort and even a blessing to know that Jesus Christ is a personal Savior who knows, understands, accepts, and forgives all of my imperfections, mistakes, and failures. He also knows my heart and silent thoughts, my greatest fears, and my aches and pain. As Martin Luther explicitly proclaimed above, “but I have another life, another righteousness above this life, which is in Christ, the Son of God, who knows no sin or death, but is eternal righteousness and eternal life.”

Please continue this conversation with another person.

hbitten@reverendluther.org

Jesus Teaches the Children

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Bible in 3-D 

Jesus Teaches the Children

How do we educate our soul?

 Matthew 19:14: Jesus said, Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Luke 18:15-16: 15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.:

George Hinke painted this in 1953, a few weeks before he died. He was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1883 and schooled in a classic style of painting.  Mr. Hinke came to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1923, where he worked at a printing shop. People are very familiar with his Norman Rockwell styled paintings of the images of Santa Claus.

Hincke-Jesus Teaches Children

Martin Luther explained his views of children and their relationship to Jesus and parents in his Table Talks as recorded by the young pastors he taught in his home. The home and church are places we gather for the education of our soul.

“From this truth there are two important principles of child-rearing that parents must bear in mind when setting themselves to the task of training their children. 

First, parents must remember that their children are depraved from birth. Children from birth have derived corruption from their original parent by the propagation of a vicious nature. Passed on to them according to their first birth is blindness of mind, horrible darkness, vanity and perverseness of judgment, wickedness, rebellion, stubbornness and impurity. That tiny infant who lies asleep in mother’s arms a picture of contentment and peace, that infant who so often fills mother’s and father’s heart with overwhelming love and emotion, that infant is a depraved sinner. It may be hard to believe. We may not want to believe it. But we as parents have passed along to our children our corruption. We must recognize and deal with the sin that is found in our children from infancy on.

The second truth Christian parents must keep in mind in training their children is their need for the cross of Jesus Christ. This does not mean, of course, that as parents we must attempt to convert our children. It does not mean that our children are without Christ until later in life. We certainly baptize our infant children with this assurance in mind, “… for as they (our children) are without their knowledge partakers of the condemnation in Adam, so are they again received unto grace in Christ.”

Parents, however, are called to instruct their children concerning their daily need for sorrow over sin and forgiveness in the cross of Christ. Children must be trained to bow in humility before God and confess their sins. They must be reminded constantly to seek for their righteousness not in themselves but in the cross of Christ alone. Likewise, children must be taught to walk in daily conversion before God, mortifying the old man of sin and putting on the new man in Christ. From infancy on, a child must be trained to hate sin and to live a life of thankfulness before God.”

That this was Martin Luther’s view of the training of children comes to light in the advice he gives parents concerning the method of training their children. Though Luther spends time on many different aspects of Christian pedagogy, we concentrate on only three of them.

In the first place, Luther presents instruction to parents, which we, who live in an age of prosperity and affluence, do well to heed. Parents must not spoil their children. Parents can do this in various ways. They can, when their children are young, ignore their wrongs (sins) and, instead of reprimanding or disciplining them, pass off what they do as minor or even cute. Luther spoke these appropriate words in a sermon on the fourth commandment.

The first destroyers of their own children are those who neglect them and knowingly permit them to grow up without the training and admonition of the Lord. Even if they do not harm them by a bad example, they still destroy them by yielding to them. They love them too much according to the flesh and pamper them saying: They are children, they do not understand what they are doing. And they are speaking the truth. But neither does a dog or a horse or a mule understand what it is doing. However, see how they learn to go, to come, to obey, to do and leave undone what they do not understand. … These parents will, therefore, bear the sins of their children because they make these sins their own.

A parent must never allow his children, no matter what their age, to do wrong and view it as mere ignorance of what is right.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Hincke-Santaclaus

George Hinke. Selection from his series on Santa Claus.