Luther on Psalm 118

Psalm 118:5 Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. … You must never doubt that God is aware of your distress and hears your prayer. You must not pray haphazardly or simply shout into the wind. Then you would mock and tempt God. It would be better not to pray at all, than to pray like the priests and monks. It is important that you learn to praise also this point in this verse: “The Lord answered me and set me free.” The psalmist declares that he prayed and cried out, and that he was certainly heard. If the devil puts it into your head that you lack the holiness, piety, and worthiness of David and for this reason cannot be sure that God will hear you, make the sign of the cross, and say to yourself: “Let those be pious and worthy who will! I know for a certainty that I am a creature of the same God who made David. And David, regardless of his holiness, has no better or greater God than I have.” There is only one God, of saint and sinner, worthy and unworthy, great and small. Regardless of the inequalities among us, He is the one and equal God of us all, who wants to be honored, called on, and prayed to by all. (“Psalm 118,” Luther’s Works, Vol. 14 [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1958], pp. 58,61)


Take Heed How You Hear

I haven’t had time to post an update in a while as school has been really busy. I’m currently working on an exegesis of Jeremiah 34, essentially I’m looking at each word, clause, phrase and even sounds in order to fully analyze the text. It’s a long process and will take most of the semester to complete.

I’m also working on two papers, one dealing with the Belgic Confession, and the second will be somewhere in the realm of Christian philosophy. I haven’t chosen a topic for either one yet, though I think I will compare the confession of Beza with Article 37 of the BC.

Yesterday I participated in my second public speaking class. It was a good learning experience for me. Our assignment was to write and present a 3-5 minute introduction for a speech, sermon, bible study, etc., using what we had learned in class the week before.

The first attempt I had my laptop open to my speech as I presented, it didn’t go so well. The instructor had me try a second time without notes and it was way better. It felt much more natural and I had better eye contact and gestures.
Here’s my speech:

You’re the engineer of a train. There are 36 people on board. At the first stop, 10 get off and 2 get on. At the next stop, no one gets off, but 5 get on. At the third stop, 4 get off and 2 get on. Now for the question: What is the name of the engineer?

You might be thinking, ‘Well that’s not a fair question!’ But you do know the name of the engineer, it’s you.

“Take Heed How You Listen” (Luke 8:18)
yes, you, take heed how you Listen

What does this mean? How does someone take heed how they listen? It would make sense to say pay attention to what you hear, or examine what you hear.

Instead he said pay attention to how you Listen.

This means we aren’t simply to listen. We have to examine and pay attention to the way we are listening! When it comes to sitting in church we need to make sure our first thought isn’t “Oh, no, this guy again.”
Or, “Sigh I’ve heard this a thousand times.”

Here we are told not only to consider carefully what sermons or speakers we listen to, but how we listen to them. The challenge we all face is not to sit in the pew judging the messenger, but to instead focus on what is being said.

As one preacher said, “Take heed how you hear! Hear with spiritual ears, not just the ears on your head. And hear with an honest and good heart, not a deceptive and evil heart.” (Piper, p. 12).

Rufinus on the Crucifixion

The Apostle Paul teaches us that we ought to have “the eyes of our understanding enlightened” “that we may understand what is the height and breadth and depth.” “The height and breadth and depth” is a description of the Cross, of which that part which is fixed in the earth he calls the depth, the height that which is erected upon the earth and reaches upward, the breadth that which is spread out to the right hand and to the left. Since, therefore, there are so many kinds of death by which it is given to men to depart this life, why does the Apostle wish us to have our understanding enlightened so as to know the reason why, of all of them, the Cross was chosen in preference for the death of the Savior.

We must know, then, that Cross was a triumph. It was a signal trophy. A triumph is a token of victory over an enemy. Since then Christ, when He came, brought three kingdoms at once into subjection under His sway (for this He signifies when he says, “That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth”), and conquered all of these by His death, a death was sought answerable to the mystery, so that being lifted up in the air, and subduing the powers of the air, He might make a display of His victory over these supernatural and celestial powers.

Moreover the holy Prophet says that “all the day long He stretched out His hands” to the people on the earth, that He might both make protestation to unbelievers and invite believers: finally, by that part which is sunk under the earth, He signified His bringing into subjection to Himself the kingdoms of the nether world.

– Rufinus, A Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed, Sage Library, ECF 3.3. pp. 1127-1128

The Gift of Life

“He who shall preserve the life bestowed upon him, and give thanks to Him Who imparted it, shall receive also length of days forever and ever. But he who shall reject it, and prove himself ungrateful to his Maker, inasmuch as he has been created, and has not recognized Him Who bestowed the gift upon him, deprives himself of the privilege of continuance forever and ever. And, for this reason, the Lord declared to those who showed themselves ungrateful towards Him: ‘If you have not been faithful in that which is little, who will give you that which is great?’ (cf. Lk. 16:11) indicating that those who, in this brief temporal life, have shown themselves ungrateful to Him Who bestowed it, shall justly not receive from Him length of days forever and ever.”

— St. Irenaeus, The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 1

Man’s Maker was Made Man

Man’s maker was made man,
that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast;
that the Bread might hunger,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired on its journey;
that the Truth might be accused of false witness,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.
– Augustine of Hippo (Sermons 191.1)

That bitter root, indwelling sin!

By John Newton:

The righteous are said to be scarcely saved, not with respect to the certainty of the event, for the purpose of God in their favor cannot be disappointed—but in respect of their own apprehensions, and the great difficulties they are brought through! But when, after a long experience of their own deceitful hearts, after repeated proofs of their weakness, willfulness, ingratitude, and insensibility, they find that none of these things can separate them from the love of Jesus—He becomes more and more precious to their souls. They love much, because much has been forgiven them. They dare not, they will not ascribe anything to themselves—but are glad to acknowledge, that they must have perished (humanly speaking) a thousand times over, if Jesus had not been their Savior, their shepherd, and their shield. When they were wandering—he brought them back; when fallen—he raised them; when wounded—he healed them; when fainting—he revived them! By him, out of weakness—they have been made strong! He has taught their hands to war, and covered their heads in the day of battle. In a word, some of the clearest proofs they have had of his excellence, have been occasioned by the humiliating proofs they have had of their own vileness. They would not have known so much of him—if they had not known so much of themselves!

Further, a spirit of humiliation, which is both the strength and beauty of our profession, is greatly promoted by our feeling, as well as reading, that when we would do good, evil is present with us. A broken and contrite spirit is pleasing to the Lord—he has promised to dwell with those who have it. Experience shows, that the exercise of all our graces, is in proportion to the humbling sense we have of the depravity of our nature.

That we are so totally depraved, is a truth which no one ever truly learned by being only taught it. Indeed, if we could receive, and habitually maintain, a right judgment of ourselves, by what is plainly declared in Scripture, it would probably save us many a mournful hour! But experience is the Lord’s school, and those who are taught by him usually learn that they have no wisdom—by the mistakes they make; and that they have no strength—by the slips and falls they meet with. Every day draws forth some new corruption, which before was little observed, or at least discovers it in a stronger light than before. Thus by degrees, they are weaned from leaning to any supposed wisdom, power, or goodness in themselves! They feel the truth of our Lord’s words, “without me—you can do nothing;” and the necessity of crying with David, “O lead me and guide me!”

John Newton, April 1772