Official Publication of the LMS-USA
Volume 15, Number 1
In this Issue:
A Bible Study for the Season of Lent
by Spiros Zodhiates
based on Matthew 7:24-29 and Luke 6:47-49
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT WAS INTENDED TO BUILD CHARACTER, AND THE FIRST THING ANY BUILDING NEEDS IS A GOOD, SOLID FOUNDATION (1 Cor. 3:10–15). EVERYONE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE BASE HE OR SHE SELECTS.
In this parable, two bases are presented: “rock” (from pétra v. 24) and “sand” (from ámmos v. 26). Two kinds of builders are also here: the “wise” (from phrónimos, prudent) builder selects the rock; and the “foolish” (from morós, silly, stupid, from which we obtain the English word “moron”; v. 26) builder selects sand, probably because it is much easier to build on than rock.
Notice that the adjective phrónimos, is not the better-known word for wise, which is sophós. The difference is significant here. Sophía usually refers to spiritual wisdom (James 3:17).
Phrónimos could also be translated “prudent.” In modern as well as in Hellenistic Greek, the New Testament noun phren means “brake,” something that curbs or restrains. In modern Greek, the term is used for the brakes of a car. Some prudence remains in humans by virtue of creation apart from redemption.
(For a detailed study comparing natural prudence with divinely given wisdom, see Zodhiates, How to Manage Money, on Luke 16:1–13, and The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament.)
The wisdom of God in Christ, which complements natural prudence, is one benefit of salvation and is part of the regeneration of the mind. That this wisdom is enhanced prudence is evident from Paul’s vivid use of two complex Greek terms: one in 2 Timothy 1:7: “sound mind” (from sophronismós from soos [n.f.], sound, and phren, moral brake), and the other in Titus 2:8: “healthy logic” (from hugies from which we derive our English word “hygiene” and from lógos, rational speech, logic)—both gifts to believers from the regenerating Spirit of God.
In this parable, “hears” (from akoúo) is detached from “does” (from poiéo). Some people hear and do, and others hear and do not do. The reference is clearly associated with physical hearing, not the hearing of the Spirit, which involves obedience.
Concerning the one who hears and does, Christ said, “I will liken [from homoióo, to compare with] him unto a wise [phrónimos] man which built his house upon a rock (v. 24).”
Prudent people plan for inclement weather. Whereas some prudent persons would never build their physical houses on sand, they build their spiritual houses on sandy foundations. Like the rich farmer in Luke 12 they fail to consider the imminence of death, ignoring the one who said, “This night thy soul shall be required of thee” (Luke 12:20).
The foundation is the most important part of a building. After the storm passed, the prudent man “had founded [tethemelíoto, the pluperfect tense of themelióo, to lay a solid foundation] the house upon a rock.”
Paul told us that the only foundation we can build on successfully is Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:11, cf. Matt. 16:18). Accordingly, faith, in Hebrews 11:1, is defined by the author as the “substance [hupóstasis, that which stands below] of things hoped for.” Because Christ is the foundation or the substance of faith, believers can have parresía, bold confidence, especially in proclaiming their foundation to an unbelieving world (Acts 2:29; 28:31; 2 Cor. 7:4; Eph. 3:12; Phil. 1:20; Heb. 3:6; 10:35).
The man described as “foolish” (morós), by contrast, takes an irrational risk.
Though in modern Greek the word morós is used for “baby,” the New Testament consistently attaches the term to adults who willfully (i.e., consciously) and irresponsibly ignore God’s commands. Christ’s address to the scribes and Pharisees, for example, “Ye fools [moroí from mo rós] and blind” (Matt. 23:17, 19), is a condemnation of their rebellion, not pity toward their immaturity. Adults know that what they are doing is wrong but do it anyway.
Judgment comes on the fool and his possessions: “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”
The fool sins, and his house is judged—presumably with him in it. While the teaching is applicable to individuals, Jesus no doubt anticipated the fall of the “house of Jerusalem” under the headship of religious leaders who corporately rejected their Messiah (note that Jerusalem’s house is the subject in Matt. 23:37-39).
In principle, this house “is [morally] desolate [aphíetai, the present tense of aphíemi, to abandon]” the instant Christ spoke these words. Historically, however, it collapsed in A.D. 70.
When Jesus completed all these sayings, the crowd “was being astonished” (exeplessonto, the imperfect passive of ekplesso, to strike with amazement).
Everyone was struck not only by His “doctrine” (from didache, teaching) but also by His “authority” (from exousía, physical and moral power; v. 29), which contrasted with the manner in which the scribes taught. Now that we have the full Word of God and the Spirit of Christ indwelling us, we, too, can preach or teach the Word of God with authority. As Paul noted, this will make a remarkable difference:
“Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake” (1 Thess. 1:4, 5).
Dr. Zodhiates is president emeritus of AMG International and publisher emeritus of Pulpit Helps.
Reprinted from Pulpit Helps, January 2008, published by AMG Publishers, Chattanooga, TN.
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Devotional Thoughts From Paul's Letter to the Ephesians
But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved. Eph. 2:4-5
These verses contain three enormously important words that give us a look into the heart and mind of our God. Paul can speak of a momentous change in our situation. Why? "Because of his [God's] great love for us." The Greek term for love used here is not the word that speaks of friendship between two people - people who see endearing qualities in each other and on that basis like each other. Instead, it speaks of a love and affection that is totally one way. It all comes from God. Nothing in man the sinner, the God-hater, the spiritual corpse, drew God to him. Love resided only in the heart of God.
The second great term describing our Savior-God is "mercy." Paul speaks of him as "God, who is rich in mercy." Mercy is a positive quality that certainly has much in common with love but it is also somewhat different. Mercy is the attitude in the mind and heart of God that moves him to take pity on us when he sees our lost and wretched state. Mercy prompts him to action.
And what did God's love and mercy prompt him to do? We were rightly the objects of divine wrath, "but because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions."
Paul has already told us about the incomparably great power God used to raise Christ from the dead. But that use of God's power in raising Christ has far-reaching implications also for the whole human race. Raising Christ from physical death signaled the completion of Christ's saving work and sealed our redemption. It made possible our resurrection from spiritual death.
When Paul says, "God . . . made us alive with Christ," he is referring to the miracle of conversion. When we could not lift a finger to help ourselves, God through Word and sacrament worked faith in our hearts, creating life where formerly there had been none. In this way he "made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions."
God's love and mercy in action, converting and making spiritually dead people alive, is such a marvelous and amazing thing that Paul spontaneously exclaims, "it is by grace you have been saved." Together with love and mercy, "grace" is the third term that requires our attention. . . .
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." Eph. 2:8-9
. . . Paul now gives center stage to the concept of grace. Like love and mercy, "grace" is a term that gives us a glimpse into the heart and mind of God. The essential aspect of God's grace is that it speaks of a quality in God that makes him willing - yes, even eager - to give us undeserving sinners great and precious gifts. Substitute "undeserved gift" for the term "grace" and you catch the sense of what Paul is telling the Ephesians: "It is an undeserved gift that through faith you have been saved, for God gave you saving faith as a gift."
By definition, faith is trust and confidence that takes God at his word. But recall that both Jews and Gentiles - which is to say, all people - are by nature dead in transgressions and sins. They can't bring themselves to faith; they can't decide to trust God's promises and accept Christ as their Savior. Paul nails this important truth down with three unmistakably clear statements. He tells the Ephesians their conversion is (1) not from themselves, (2) the gift of God, (3) not by works. With two negatives and a positive Paul leaves absolutely no doubt that the sinner's conversion is God's doing, not man's. As a result, "no one can boast" as though he had done something to save himself or that his works in any way contributed to his salvation.
Salvation is by grace, an undeserved gift freely given by God without the contribution of any human works.
A life of good works is, however, what God has in mind for every Christian. It is a part of that creative, life-giving process that God set in motion when in his kindness he called us to faith in his Son. Paul indicates the place of works when he says,
For we are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph. 2:10
With our new God-given spiritual life, we are indeed able to respond to God's will. We are able, albeit imperfectly, to do what God wants. It is not that we have to but, rather, that we want to do God's will. The good works that flow from faith are simply an opportunity to show our appreciation for all that God in Christ has done for us. It would be hard to improve on the apostle John's concise analysis: "We love [God] because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19).
But even the good deeds we do are no basis for boasting. They're really not our own doing: we're simply being given the opportunity to do good things, "which God prepared in advance for us to do."
Paul has certainly made his point: Our salvation is totally and completely the gift of a gracious God. We did nothing, and we have no grounds for boasting.
The Peoples Bible, Galatians/Ephesians by Armin Panning ©Northwestern Publishing House, Milwaukee, WI. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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Pastor Luther Baugham Receives Doctor of Divinity Degree
Pastor Luther Kyle Baugham calls the recent bestowal of the Doctor of Divinity degree upon him from Amherst Theological Seminary, “Quite an honor and very humbling”. Although it was a “surprise” and he still does not know why he was chosen, his fellow pastors in the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod can think of more than one reason that Luther truly deserves such an honor. Pastor Luther, by his tireless ministry, is an inspiration to us all since his ordination into our body in July of 2001. Amherst Seminary with it headquarters in Madison Heights, Va. near Charlottesville, cites Dr. Luther’s efforts in establishing a ‘distance learning school’ at Deerfield Correctional Center one of the two prisons where Chaplain Luther has served in the Virginia Prison System for the last several years. It is unique to Virginia and doubtless too many other states’ systems of correction!
Eight students and then twelve began their training in theological studies with two years work accomplishing one year’s credit. But already two have earned their Master’s of Theology degree with one, the Rev. Robert Dull, receiving his Doctors of Divinity and going on to be ordained and licensed nearly two years ago. (This included their Bachelors work as well!) Twelve additional men have entered the program.
This is just one small story of the inspiring hope that Chaplain Luther has brought to the many inmates in ways that have touched so many on both sides of the fence, for bars to Luther are no barrier to learning and spiritual growth. He seems to have cherished most his ministry to death row inmates, an area of service that many find it all but impossible to maintain.
Nor do Luther’s health problems limit him entirely. Presently semi-retired and working on 25% lung capacity which makes him unable to deliver his carefully written sermons, ‘Preacher’ Luther continues to write out his gems for a lay preacher to deliver at Trinity Lutheran Church in Urbanna, Virginia, which he has served for over ten years. To date he is well over six months ahead of schedule in his sermon production.
We therefore salute, the Rev. Doctor Chaplain Luther Kyle Baugham, certainly one who exemplifies the dedication and ‘heart’ of a Pastor, a Teacher of Theology and a Preacher of the Gospel.
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Editor's note: In the May 2006 issue of Table Talk Rev. Luther Baugham shared concerning his call to sharing the Gospel of Christ as a chaplain in the Virginia State prison system. The following is a reprint of that article.
The Great Commission Within The Prison
By Rev. Luther Baugham
St. Matthew gives us the "GREAT COMMISSION" in Matthew 28:19-20; "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." And in Hebrews 13:3 St. Paul tells us, "Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners."
Most people look at the "Great Commission," mandated by our Lord, as implying that it is the duty of all Christians to be missionaries and to spread the knowledge of Christ to certain countries. But Scripture clearly says to "all nations" meaning all people on this earth.
It has often been said that the greatest missionary field is right in our back yards. You may ask where? They are the prisons located throughout this great country of ours. They are the men and women often referred to as, "THE LOST SOCIETY."
Over the past 9 years, I have served as a prison chaplain in 3 of Virginia's prisons, including Deerfield Correctional Center where I am the staff chaplain, spending some 30-40 hours a week with approximately 490 men of different faiths. That number will increase to approximately 1200 men the end of this year or the first of next year.
Those men are a big and important part of my life, and my ministry. It is a joy and humbling experience to minister to those men. What better place is there to take the Great Commission? Let me share with you some of the exciting things that go on behind those walls.
Each of the 12 different religious groups meet once a week for their services. We have Bible studies in each of the 7 buildings nightly. In addition we have a four-year Bible college in the prison for men to further their Christian education; plus a four-year Seminary that graduated 2 men with a Masters in Sacred Theology and 3 men with a Bachelor of Sacred Theology. All five of these men have been licensed and ordained by Amherst Theological Seminary as pastors, and are now serving in the Christian Church within the prison.
In addition to the above we have anywhere between 2 and 4 revivals a year, plus 5 to 6 outside Christian groups to come in with different religious programs. (All programs are open to all inmates no matter what their religious belief or affiliation may be.)
Two years ago we averaged approximately 50 men a Sunday attending Christian Services, (not including the Catholics). By making one small change in the time of service (from night to morning) and by the inmates inviting other inmates to attend, we now average approximately 90-100 inmates per Sunday Service. This does not include the other religious groups or the Bible studies.
Let me give you some shocking statistics:
Including all religious groups and Bible studies (not including the Bible College or Seminary), we average about 58% of the general population attending some type of religious service.
Considering the highest income an inmate can make per hour is $.47, we have a monthly offering of approximately $350.00 to $400.00. The offering is used to purchase different type of cards, i.e. Birthday, Easter, Thinking of you, etc. in addition to other materials.
The Christians and Catholics receive Communion once a month. I give Communion to 2 Lutheran inmates at another prison monthly.
On an average, we have about 15 baptisms per year. Each person being baptized must go through a week of religious instructions.
On any average Sunday, we have anywhere between 2 and 4 men giving their life to Christ.
If you would consider an average congregation of about the same number of people attending service as you have inmates, I think you would have to agree that the prison population has a better average of participation in all areas.
Now I would like to share with you some of my personal experiences while serving as a prison chaplain.
While serving at another Virginia prison, one of my jobs was to minister to the inmate at Death House. Death House is where an inmate comes about 3 days before he is executed. One inmate stands out above all others. Having spent 3 days with that inmate I got to learn a great deal about his spiritual walk in life.
One day I asked him why he took the electric chair over the gurney where the inmate is strapped with arms extended out before he is given the lethal injection. His answer to me was: "Chaplain, no man is worthy to die on the cross the way our Savior did. He died for the sins of all mankind, past, present and future. I am dying for the man I killed. His last words to me were 'Chaplain I will see you in heaven.'"
A comment was made by someone, "Now come on chaplain, you know better than that." My reply was "You and I don't know what was in the heart of that man before he died. Remember the thief on the cross and what our Lord told him, 'Today you will be with me in paradise.'" Yes, I don't think but I know I will see that man again in heaven.
Another case was when a young man was being released and came by my office to say good-bye. "Chaplain, I want to thank you for the time you have spent with me telling me about Christ and his love and forgiveness. As you know, I have given my life to Christ."
A few months passed and one day I got a call from that inmate telling me that he was married to a wonderful Christian girl and that they were very active in the church. I could go on and on about such things as this.
Introducing an inmate to salvation not only fulfills the "Great Commission," but it enhances his successful return to society as well. I have witnessed that the return rate of a Christian inmate to prison is much lower than that of those never introduced to the saving power of Jesus Christ.
However, do you realize that one of the hardest things for an inmate to do is to find a church that will accept him especially if he was involved in a sex crime?
Yes, my friends, the Great Commission is working within the walls of our prisons. For that, I thank God for the men and women who have dedicated their lives spending time behind the prison walls ministering to the so called "THE LOST SOCIETY" of our nation.
Yes, The Great Commission is working very well behind the walls of our prisons. The question I would like to leave with you: "Is the great commission working in your church?
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Editor's Note: Besides Pastor Luther Baugham, the LMS has several men in chaplaincy ministry. Pastor Baugham works in the prison system, others work in hospitals, with police and fire firefighters. The following article gives us some insight into ministry a little different than that of the pastoring of a church. However love for Christ and the Gospel and love for those in need is clearly at the center of the Christian minstry where ever that ministry takes place.
You Care! You Understand!
By Rev. Dr. Richard C. Eyer
Used by permission of Concordia Theological Seminary, For the Life of the World Magazine, 2007
Recently I sat with a friend in his living room listening to him talk about the sudden and unexpected death of his wife the night before. She had left the room to get ready for bed when he heard her collapse on the floor upstairs. He climbed the stairs quickly and knelt at her side as she cried out, “Al, I’m dying!” In panic he blurted out, “You’re not dying,” and ran to call 911. Within minutes of the paramedics arrival she was pronounced dead. As I listened he spoke and wept intermittently, and I tried to empty myself of my own thoughts in order to focus on his grief. He had been a good friend for 15 years and I felt deeply for his sorrow. How could any man bear the death of his wife whom he loved so dearly? How could I if I were in his place?
I have worked hard as a pastor, learning how to allow myself to feel the pain and helplessness of others in their moment of need for support. I am convinced it is the starting place for pastoral care before any offer of prayer or sacrament ought to be made. Compassion is a skill to be learned if we have the willingness to learn it. Some people are naturally compassionate and show it unemotionally through generosity of spirit and doing things to be helpful. Pastors, however, need to learn to feel the sufferer’s helplessness in suffering and allow it to become their own feeling for the moment. They need to understand that this identification with the sufferer’s helplessness is the way to communicate God’s compassion for the suffering. Jesus demonstrated this when He sat on the hillside overlooking Jerusalem and wept for the city. In His own helplessness to save them, even in their rejection of Him, He had compassion for them.
When the sufferer experiences your willingness to enter into his suffering the response is usually something such as, “You care! You understand!” The pastor can then help the sufferer recognize his pastoral caring as God’s caring for the sufferer as simply as saying, “God cares for you.” Then conversation that follows can build upon the suffering of Christ on the cross as the evidence of God’s caring and desire to embrace the sufferer with forgiveness and hope.
During my 20 years as a hospital chaplain, I had to face up to my own sometimes unwillingness of the moment to bear the burden of another patient as I listened endlessly to patients as they poured out their hearts to me every day. Periodically, during the years of chaplaincy someone would ask me, “How are you able to do that all day, day after day?” What sustained me more than anything was being cared for by God through worship and my early morning devotions in which I could keep putting the suffering of others back on Christ’s hands and move on with open hands to receive the next sufferer. Admittedly, I had to hand some of the same people back to God over and over again until I could let go of them, but letting people go into the arms of Christ is what pastoral care is all about.
This was especially painful when a patient died. I often thought of myself as walking up to the door of heaven with them as they leaned on my arm, holding the door for them as they stepped inside, then being denied entrance myself into the joy of God’s presence and having to turn away alone. Of course, I am glad to be alive, but there is a part of me that is eager to be with the Lord most fully.
The worst thing a pastor can do is to substitute his lack of empathy with verbalized theological truths that ring clear and true, but come across cold and lacking in compassion. The two are not mutually exclusive and neither theology nor personal caring ought to be divorced from pastoral care. All pastors have days when they have all they can do to deal with burdens they bear without looking for more sufferers. It sometimes takes an effort to allow oneself to feel what others feel and by doing so enter into the suffering of others. Most of us feel some empathy for others at times, but we learn early in life to bury our capacity for empathy in some deep, secret place within us when the suffering of others becomes too much for us. There is nothing wrong with either allowing empathy to surface or with burying it, depending upon circumstances. But it is important for a pastor to be willing to feel the suffering of others as Jesus did when He wept at Lazarus’ death. This bearing of our grief and suffering is why God became man in Jesus Christ. Christ’s suffering and death are taken on to end them for all eternity and to enable us to live with hope and peace in the midst of our sufferings in this life.
The task of pastoral care is not to bring an end to people’s suffering but to help them find Christ in the midst of it. Unfortunately, every other spirituality around us today aims at escape from suffering. Meditative techniques, whether spiritual or secular, aim at finding peace in one’s inner being by blocking out the suffering. But it is in the midst of suffering that God chooses to reveal Himself to us. As Walter Brueggemann says, “. . . the cross places suffering at the heart of God’s character and at the heart of meaningful, faithful human life.”1 The pastor helps parishioners find Christ in their suffering as an extension of God’s self-revelation through Christ’s suffering on the cross. This theology of the cross, as Luther identified it in the Scriptures, is the heart of pastoral care whether administering the Lord’s Supper or listening to an old man in his living room talking about the sudden death of his wife.
There is a triumphalism in the American spirit that has carried over into the churches that causes us to turn our eyes away from suffering. In turning away from suffering we fail to see Christ at work in the midst of it. Luther went so far as to say, “God can be found only in suffering and the cross.” Triumphalism seeks to rid the Christian of his suffering in this life by the strength of his own faith. Luther called this a theology of glory. Blind to Christ’s self-revelation in suffering they do not see the victory of the cross on Good Friday. Good Friday and Easter cannot be separated from each other. Good Friday is the victory and Easter is its celebration. Looking for God elsewhere than the cross is a theology of glory built on the strengths of men (even the strength of their faith) and not on the strength of God found in Christ’s weakness on the cross. The humiliation and willing weakness of Christ is heard from the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Patients can identify with this forsakenness, but because of it they can find hope and peace in the midst of suffering because of the victory of Christ on the cross. Our peace in this life is found not in the absence of suffering but in the midst of it. That is where Christ finds us. There, in the midst of suffering we can say to God, “You care. You understand! Thanks be to God!”
1 Walter Brueggemann. Editor p. ix, A Theology of the Cross by Charles B. Cousar, Fortress Press 1990.
The Rev. Dr. Richard C. Eyer is the Director Emeritus of Concordia Bioethics Institute at Concordia University–Wisconsin, Mequon, Wisconsin.
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Announcing - The LMS-USA Annual Conference and Convention
June 21-22, 2008
St. Matthew Lutheran Church
Look for details on the program and lodging in the May issue of Table Talk
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The LMS-USA is a Biblical, Confessional, Evangelical, Liturgical, Congregational
expression of the universal (catholic) orthodox Church on earth. It is a
'Forum by Subscription.' As a 'Forum' the intent is that there will be an
ongoing discussion of theological issues and concerns among clergy and lay
alike. The LMS-USA meets annually for a Theological Conference and this
publication, besides carrying news of the Ministerium and Synod, functions
also as a vehicle for this continuing dialogue.
For information or to make comment contact:
2837 East New York St.,
Indianapolis, IN 46201
P. O. Box 31
Chetek, WI 54728
email - email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
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