If you somehow missed it, Life Site News reported:
Two of the investigators (David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt) behind the undercover Planned Parenthood videos face up to 20 years in prison after a Houston grand jury decided on Monday (Jan. 25) not to charge Planned Parenthood with any wrongdoing – and, bizarrely, instead indicted them for offering to purchase human organs from the abortion provider as part of their investigation! (For more please see here)
The prophet Isaiah says, "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20)
So the Houston Grand Jury has declared good evil and evil good. The brave and heroic work of David and Sandra is being called evil, while the monstrous and abominable work of Planned Parenthood once again is called good. It really is that simple. Those who are murdering babies in the womb and even selling their body parts are free to continue their slaughter, while the brave people that sought to expose their wickedness have been indicted. The grand jury may have declared good evil and evil good, but God is not mocked. His is the only verdict that matters and He has spoken clearly on all of this.
Now this certainly shouldn't surprise us as this is the same court system that has been defending the murder of babies for years, but it should anger us. We've heard about abortion so much in the last 43 years that there is often the danger and temptation to grow weary in hearing about it. We must remain vigilant though. We must continue to speak the truth in a world that has gone mad. We must speak up on behalf of those little ones that can't speak for themselves and we must speak up on behalf of heroes like David and Sandra. We must speak out whenever and wherever we have an audience because the stakes are too high for God's people to be silent.
We also must act. We must do what we can to help and protect these children. As Luther says on the 5th Commandment in the Large Catechism: Secondly, under this commandment not only he is guilty who does evil to his neighbor, but he also who can do him good, prevent, resist evil, defend and save him, so that no bodily harm or hurt happen to him, and yet does not do it. If, therefore, you send away one that is naked when you could clothe him, you have caused him to freeze to death; if you see one suffer hunger and do not give him food, you have caused him to starve. So also, if you see any one innocently sentenced to death or in like distress, and do not save him, although you know ways and means to do so, you have killed him. And it will not avail you to make the pretext that you did not afford any help, counsel, or aid thereto, for you have withheld your love from him and deprived him of the benefit whereby his life would have been saved.
And we must pray. We must pray for all those involved in the abortion industry. Pray for an end to the slaughter. Pray for repentance: for the doctors, for those who have had abortions, for our own complicity and complacency in this culture of death. Pray that they would know that the blood of Jesus covers even the blood of slain babies. Pray for healing. Pray for perseverance in doing good. Pray for David and Sandra and all those fighting the good fight. For we know that God has commanded us to pray and promises to hear us.
So we pray, Come quickly, Lord Jesus and Lord, have mercy on us all.
This Sunday we begin our study of Ecclesiastes. As I've mentioned several times Ecclesiastes presents us with the same struggle so many around us have -- how do I find meaning in this life? How do I find contentment in this life?
This is Luther's introduction to the book. I encourage you to read it in preparation for this Sunday:
The summary and aim of this book, then, is as follows: Solomon wants to put us at peace and to give us a quiet mind in the everyday affairs and business of this life, so that we live contentedly in the present without care and yearning about the future and are, as Paul says, without care and anxiety (Phil. 4:6). It is useless to plague oneself with anxiety about the future. By a sort of continuing induction from particulars, Solomon concludes that the efforts and endeavors of men are vain and useless, so that he draws a universal conclusion from particulars and shows that the efforts of all men are vain. He denies (9:11) that bread is to the wise or the race to the swift or the battle to the strong. In fact, the wiser or holier or busier someone claims to be, the less he accomplishes, and his wisdom, his righteousness, and his work are useless. And so if none of these things nor anything else amounts to anything, it follows that everything is vain and useless.
But here at the very beginning it is necessary to eradicate the error and dangerous opinion held by many, that the author is speaking about a contempt for creatures, which Scripture by no means wants to be despised or condemned. For all things that God has made are very good and have been made for the use of man, as Paul says in very clear words in 1 Tim. 4:4–5: “Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving; for then it is consecrated by the Word of God and prayer.” Therefore it is foolish and wicked when many preachers inveigh against glory, power, social position, wealth, gold, fame, beauty, or women, thus openly condemning a creation of God. Government, or power, is a divine ordinance. Gold is good, and riches are conferred by God. A woman is a good thing, made to be a helper for man (cf. Gen. 2:18). For God has made all things to be good and to be useful for some human purpose.
What is being condemned in this book, therefore, is not the creatures but the depraved affection and desire of us men, who are not content with the creatures of God that we have and with their use but are always anxious and concerned to accumulate riches, honors, glory, and fame, as though we were going to live here forever; and meanwhile we become bored with the things that are present and continually yearn for other things, and then still others. For this is the height of vanity and misery, to cheat oneself of the use of present goods and vainly to be troubled about future ones. Such depraved affection and human striving, I say, is what Solomon is condemning in this book, not the creatures themselves. For about the attitude toward creatures he himself says below (5:18) that there is nothing better for any man than to find enjoyment and make life pleasant for himself, to eat and drink and enjoy his toil, etc. He would be contradicting himself completely if he were to condemn these things themselves rather than the abuse of these things, which comes solely from the affections.
Some foolish men have not understood this and have therefore taught absurd ideas about contempt for the world and flight from it, and they themselves have also done many absurd things. Thus in the Lives of the Fathers we read that there were some who did not even want to look at the sun (such men would deserve to have their eyes gouged out) and who for the sake of religion ate the filthiest of foods. The quality of such behavior is clear enough from what has already been said` The proper contempt of the world is not that of the man who lives in solitude away from human society, nor is the proper contempt of gold that of the man who throws it away or who abstains from money, as the Franciscans do, but that of the man who lives his life in the midst of these things and yet is not carried away by his affection for them. This is the first thing that should be considered by those who are about to read Solomon.
In the second place, this, too, should be diligently observed: in this book Solomon is speaking simply about the human race and is clearly confining himself within the limits of human nature. That is, he is speaking about the efforts, the endeavors, and the desires of man, about the counsels of man. Therefore we should not follow the imaginations of the interpreters who suppose that the knowledge of nature, the study of astronomy or of all of philosophy, is being condemned here and who teach that such things are to be despised as vain and useless speculations. For the benefits of these arts are many and great, as is plain to see every day. In addition, there is not only utility, but also great pleasure in investigating the nature of things. Holy Scripture also points to things to show their properties and powers; for example, in the psalm (Ps. 103:5), “Your youth is renewed like the eagle’s,” or (Deut. 32:11), “As an eagle provokes its young to fly,” or (Ps. 42:1), “As a hart longs for flowing streams,” or (Prov. 6:6), “Go to the ant, O sluggard.” The Scriptures are all so full of such metaphors and parables taken from the nature of things that if someone were to remove these things from the Holy Scriptures, he would also remove a great light.
Thus the subject or matter of this book is simply the human race, which is so foolish that it seeks and strives for many things by its efforts which it cannot attain or which, even if it does attain them, it does not enjoy but possesses to its sorrow and harm, as the fault not of the things themselves but of its own foolish affections. Julius Caesar was occupied with the effort to achieve the imperial power. How much danger and how much labor did this cost him? And when he had achieved it, he still was not satisfied. He still did not have what he wanted, but in the strenuous attempt to gain more he perished miserably. This is what happens in all human efforts. When things come flowing in, boredom soon takes over; if they do not flow in, there is an insatiable desire to have them, and there is no peace. This vice of the human spirit was seen by pagan writers. Thus Ovid says: “Whatever is permissible is unpleasant, but what is not permissible inflames us more violently. I run away from what follows me, and I follow what runs away from me.” Again: “No one lives content with his lot, and no one has learned to remain within his destiny.”4 This is the vanity of the human heart, that it is never content with the gifts of God that are present but rather thinks of them as negligible; it continually looks for others, and then still others, and is not satisfied until it achieves what it wishes, whereupon it despises what it has achieved and looks for something else.
To reiterate, the point and purpose of this book is to instruct us, so that with thanksgiving we may use the things that are present and the creatures of God that are generously given to us and conferred upon us by the blessing of God. This we are to do without anxiety about the things that are still in the future. The important thing is that we have a tranquil and quiet heart and a mind filled with joy, that is, that we be content with the Word and work of God. Thus in the verses that follow he exhorts us (9:7–9) to eat and drink and enjoy life with the wife of our youth; oil should not be lacking on our head, and our garments should always be white. This is in accord with the saying of Christ (Matt. 6:34): “The day’s own trouble is sufficient for the day”; and Paul says (Rom. 13:14): “Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” If a man were to follow this, he would have a peaceful and tranquil heart, and God would abundantly supply everything. But now a man tortures himself with a twofold evil, depriving himself of the use of things that are present and uselessly troubling himself with anxiety about things that are in the future; or if some use is made of things, it is only in bitterness. Cicero was a man of such eloquence that he could have been completely happy if he had known how to use his tranquillity. But that good man always wanted something bigger and vainly pressed his plans, and see how many good things he robbed himself of and what calamity and ruin he brought down upon himself! Therefore St. Augustine says aptly: “Thou hast commanded, Lord, that a man who is not content with what he has receive a restless heart as a punishment.”
But if someone compares the good things he has with the bad things he does not have, he will finally recognize what a treasure of good things he has. Someone who has sound and healthy eyes does not estimate this blessing of God very highly nor take pleasure in it. But if he is deprived of them, what a treasure he would be willing to give in exchange for them! That is how it goes with health and with everything else. If God were to give me the eloquence of Cicero, the power of Caesar, or the wisdom of Solomon, I would still not be satisfied. We are always looking for something that is lacking, and we despise what is present. When a man does not have a wife, he looks for one; when he has one, he becomes bored with her. We are just like quicksilver, which never remains still. Such is the inconstancy of the human heart, which does not deserve to enjoy a single blessing of God. In this book Solomon inveighs against this miserable state of human affections. He denounces the inconstancy and vanity of the human heart, which enjoys neither present nor future goods; it does not acknowledge or give thanks for the blessings it has received, and it vainly pursues the things it does not have. This is really being suspended between heaven and earth!
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 15: Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Last Words of David, 2 Samuel 23:1-7. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 15, pp. 7–11). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
This article has some great information and it should sound familiar since it is what we do here: How to Make Worship Kid-Friendly
From the article: Them: I like traditional worship, but I’ve got kids, so, you know…
Me: No, I don’t. What do you mean?
Them: Well…I’ve got to have them in contemporary worship.
Me: Oh. Why?
Them: (With increasing annoyance) Well…you know…they’re kids!
I must have had this conversation a thousand times. These are parents, who usually for the most honorable of reasons believe that they need to put their kids in contemporary worship. After all, it’s easy, it seems relevant, and it doesn’t ask for much in return.
The motivation may be pure, but the method is short-sighted, and the results can be disastrous.
I think in the haste to see their kids “connected” or “plugged in” to the church, it’s easy for parents to forget a few things about the purpose of corporate worship.
Also check out our What about My Children? section of this website.
Psalm 118 was Luther’s favorite Psalm. Luther praised this Psalm saying, “This is my own beloved psalm. Although the entire Psalter and all of Holy Scripture are dear to me as my only comfort and source of life, I fell in love with this psalm especially. Therefore I call it my own.” Luther loved this Psalm because it was a great helper to him; a great comfort in the midst of the trials and tribulations of this life. When no one could aid him, the Lord used this Psalm to bring the blessed Doctor peace: “When emperors and kings, the wise and the learned, and even saints could not aid me, this psalm proved a friend and helped me out of many great troubles. As a result, it is clearer to me than all the wealth, honor, and power of the pope, the Turk, and the emperor. I would be most unwilling to trade this psalm for all of it.” Clearly, the Reformer believed that this Psalm was invaluable when it came to pastoral care.
Regarding Psalm 118 Luther says, “This psalm is a general statement of thanksgiving for all the kindnesses God daily and unceasingly showers on all men, both good and evil.” Its relationship to thanksgiving relates the opening verses of this Psalm to the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer. In his Small Catechism Luther says that in the fourth petition means that, “God gives daily bread, even without our prayer, to all wicked men; but we pray in this petition that He would lead us to know it, and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.”
The opening verse of this Psalm teaches us what it means to give thanksgiving – both what the content of that thanksgiving is, and why this is important pastorally. Verse 1 is a declaration of general thanksgiving for all that the Lord has done for us. It is thanksgiving for all the good things Luther lists in his explanation of the First Article of the Creed. Verse 2 is a specific thanksgiving for temporal government and peace. Verse 3 is “a prayer of thanksgiving for a particular gift of God, namely, spiritual government, including priests, preachers, teachers, in short, the precious Word of God and the holy Christian Church.” Verse 4 is a prayer of thanksgiving for all genuine Christians.
What do these opening verses have to do with pastoral care? Since all Christians live as one who is at the same time sinner and saint, it is quite easy to become indifferent to the blessings of the Lord. This can be the case in good times and in bad. The Old Adam is blinded and cannot see that all that he has is from the Lord. It is arrogance that leads one to be indifferent towards the blessings that our Heavenly Father bestows upon us. Luther says, “If we human beings were not so blind and so smug and indifferent toward the blessings of God, there would not be a man on earth, no matter how wealthy, who would trade an empire or a kingdom for them; for he would surely be robbed in the deal.”
This attitude of indifference and arrogance leads us to doubt God’s goodness and mercy. This leads to worry, fear, and an ungodly striving after the things of this world. This is especially true in a culture marked by affluence. People come to expect these blessings as something that is owed to them. Slowly they become dull to how truly wonderful the daily blessings are – family, food, shelter, clothing, etc. These great gifts become so common that they become despised and no one thanks the Lord for them. This is no minor thing either. This is the work of the devil who is seeking to destroy happiness – and ultimately faith. Luther says regarding worry and indifference, “Instead, they hinder us in the happy and peaceful enjoyment of the common blessings, so that we can neither recognize them as such nor thank God for them. This is the work of the devil, who will not let us use or recognize the goodness of God and His abundant daily blessings, lest we enjoy too much happiness.”
The Christian must be reminded of these blessings daily. This is one of the reasons for daily praying the Lord’s Prayer, Luther’s morning and evening prayers, and the prayers for meal time. These prayers reorient our focus, directing the eyes of faith to the Giver of all good things. Through these prayers the word of promise concerning God’s fatherly care for us is set constantly before our eyes.
This is why Luther can say that verse 1 “serves to comfort us in all our misfortunes.” This comfort comes when one is deprived of some of these good things, these blessings. When this happens then our faith is tested. Regarding this point Luther says, “The good God permits such small evils to befall us merely in order to arouse us snorers from our deep sleep and to make us recognize, on the other hand, the incomparable and innumerable benefits we still have. He wants us to consider what would happen if He were to withdraw His goodness from us completely.”
When there are minor irritations we still ignore the multitude of blessings bestowed upon us, but when small evils and misfortunes befall us we are driven to prayer and to an acknowledgement of God’s good gifts. It is through these misfortunes that we come to see God as the fountain and source of all goodness. These misfortunes, viewed in light of God’s Holy Word, are put into their proper context. Thus we come to see God’s mercy as “His goodness in action.” As Luther says:
We also are to look at our misfortunes in no other way than that with them God gives us a light by which we may see and understand His goodness and kindness in countless other ways. Then we conclude that such small misfortunes are barely a drop of water on a big fire or a little spark in the ocean. Then we understand and love the words.
So then, these opening verses on thanksgiving can be utilized by the pastor in a variety of situations. They can be used with those who struggle with blindness and indifference to the blessings of God. They can be used with those who are in the midst of trials and tribulations as a source of comfort and solace. And they can be used with all Christians to teach them how to give thanksgiving and praise (that is to pray and worship rightly), for this good work is pleasing in God’s eyes:
“This very verse teaches us which sacrifice pleases God most. We cannot perform a greater or finer deed, or a nobler service to God, than to offer thanks, as He Himself tells us (Ps. 50:23): “He who brings thanks-giving as his sacrifice honors Me, and this is the way I show My salvation.” Such an offering pleases Him beyond all gifts, endowments, monasteries, or whatever. He says (Ps. 69:30–31): “I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify Him with thanksgiving.” This will please the Lord more than a bullock with horns and hooves.”
The proper teaching concerning thanksgiving, and the role it has in a believer’s life, cannot be ignored by the faithful pastor. To ignore this issue can allow bitterness, indifference, and pride to destroy faith.
 Luther, M. (1999). Vol. 14: Luther's works, vol. 14 : Selected Psalms III (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (45). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
 LW 14:45.
 This Psalm addresses a multitude of issues. These two were chosen because they appear to be the focus of the first 18 verses of the Psalm.
 LW 14: 47.
 See especially the Large Catechism. The explanation of the their echoes Luther’s insights on Psalm 118 very closely.
 LW 14:55.
 LW 14:48.
 See for example- Matt. 6:8ff; Phil. 4:6;1 John 1:15-17; 1 Peter 5:7 .
 It is quite interesting in this regard that while many will pray Luther’s prayer for blessing before a meal very few pray the prayer of thanksgiving afterwards. This could very well be a symptom of what is being discussed here, as well as part of the cure.
 LW 14: 50.
 Oratio, Meditatio, Tentatio
 LW 14:50.
 LW 14:51.
This is a fantastic article explaining why we use the liturgy. Enjoy!
Top 10 Reasons We Use The Liturgy
A snippet: In the church, it seems that indifference, ignorance, and preference comes from all sides, not just from the innovators on side but the conservatives on the other. Isn’t it true that too often, each perspective essentially sees the liturgy passively — as a peculiar set of preferences, and “just the way we do things at our church.” Both are wrong because neither really takes the time to get it. They take it for granted and essentially view the liturgy the same way but from different perspectives, failing to consider the confessional reasons why we in the church use the liturgy.
In 1947 Dorothy Sayers presented an important paper, "The Lost Tools of Learning." In it she critiqued the modern education system and called educators back to the classical approach to education. The main problem that afflicts modern education is that it does not teach children to think. The students learn subjects and facts, but they do not learn to think. As Dorothy Sayers so elegantly stated, "...they learn everything, except the art of learning." This is equivalent to teaching a child to play the piano by having them memorize a song or two, but not teaching them scales or how to read music. No one would say the child has learned to play the piano and neither should anyone think that a child is educated who does not know how to think.
Looking past the advent of modern education into the past there is found a foundation of education that has largely been neglected - the Trivium. The Trivium consists of Grammar, Dialectic (Logic), and Rhetoric. This already marks a stark contrast with modern education. These are not subjects as such, but rather the Trivium's goal is to give the student the tools of learning. Grammar is the stage that is primarily concerned with memorizing information - learning the vocabulary of a subject. It takes advantage of the child's ability to retain large amounts of information. They memorize a lot of rules and facts as the very foundation of their education. The next stage is the Dialectic stage. During this stage the student starts paying attention to cause and effect and how things are connected. That is they are beginning to understand the "Why" of the "What" they learned in the Grammar Stage and learning how to apply their knowledge to solve problems. Finally, there is the Rhetoric stage. This is where the students learn to take what they have learned and express it elegantly, both in writing and speaking.
When the Trivium is properly understood, then understanding the integration of subjects is much easier. If all subjects are understood within the framework of the Trivium then it is clear that every subject can be taught within these stages. Sayers goes through various subjects showing how the Trivium influences the teaching of them all. The Trivium itself integrates the subjects as the teacher sees that each subject is best taught through these stages. As this is done, the connection between the various subjects is also seen more clearly. As Sayers said, "The "subjects" supply material; but they are all to be regarded as mere grist for the mental mill to work ."
So that the students are taught in accordance with how God has made them to learn and in so doing they learn how to think as Christians, are taught to appreciate the good, the beautiful, and the wise, and are and are so equipped to better love and serve the neighbor.
When we have more of an Epiphany season the second Sunday's Gospel reading is the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11). It's a beautiful text and has a lot to teach us about who Christ is and what He thinks about marriage. In Walther's sermon on this text he says that Jesus' miracle reveals the glory of marriage in four ways:
1) First it reveals that marriage is a Holy Institution, instituted by God Himself before the Fall. This
means that it is not an invention of man and so it is not something that man can change. Marriage
is what God makes it, not how culture defines it.
2) Next it reveals that God preserves our marriages by His might and power. What a comforting
thought! We all know how difficult marriage is and yet God shows us here that He is the one who
preserves our marriages.
3) Related to that it reveals that God Himself provides for the needs of the institution. Not only does
God preserve our marriages, but He provides everything we need for them. It starts in the Divine
Service where the forgiveness we receive there flows into our homes and the rest of our week. He
provides the spiritual and physical needs of our marriages (see the First Article of the Creed and
Fourth Petition of the Lord's Prayer in the Small Catechism).
4) Finally, Walther says that God wants to reveal Himself to man in marriage – that marriage and
and the family a school of faith and love. In the home we speak God's Word to one another (both Law and Gospel) and learn to love and serve our neighbor.
Obviously much more could be said. I hope this meditation encourages you in your own marriage.
I came across two fantastic resources that could greatly help your family with catechizing your children and family devotions.
The first helps you create a family altar board. What's that? Check out the link to find out:
And the second shows you how to easily break down teaching and reviewing the Small Catechism throughout the Church Year:
I hope you are able to utilize both!
A place for Pastor Packer to post articles, links, and his own thoughts.