Summer is almost over. I can't believe it. My kids have all started school again. David is going to college at Indiana University Kokomo for the year. He hopes to go to Butler next year, but he will have to keep his grades up so he can get a scholarship. Pat hopes to finish high school mid-term so he can go to basic training in January. He is joining the Army Reserves in the Quartermaster field. I give him a hard time about not going into the National Guard, but secretly I am very proud of him. He wants to go to college out of state, so the Reserves works better for him. Hanna is in fourth grade. I'm glad that I will never have all three of them in college at the same time.
The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter for me. I have been working various jobs over the Summer. I started at Edy's Ice Cream loading pallets in the freezer. That was a good, hard job that got me in pretty good shape, but it didn't pay very well. Then I got a job working for the Logistics section of my National Guard Headquarters unit in Lafayette. The pay was a lot better, but it kept me away from home all week. I'll be doing that job for another two weeks until School starts in September. Then I have two more quarters until I graduate. I've applied for a part time job at Mancino's Pizza and Grinders for the school year.
Now for some opinions. The Democratic party needs to implode as soon as possible. It is not that I am such a die-hard Republican, it is just that they have defined their entire party line on hating everything that President Bush does, even if it is good. What a bunch of losers. Find something to actually be for, and then be for it. Unfortunately, the Republican party seems to be the one on the verge of imploding, as so many of the candidates have believed the liberal media lies that no one likes Bush anymore, so they are trying to distance themselves from anything he is for these days, even if he is right. It seems to me that both parties are gutless these days. They are for whatever their polls tell them the people want them to be for. Our so-called leaders need to get a back-bone. "Lead, follow, or get out of the way!"
Iraq: Obviously I've been there and I have some very strong feelings about the matter. I hate to see soldiers dying there. However, if we pulled them all out and brought them home today, all those who have died to date would have died for nothing. The insurgents would take over the country in less than a year, and all those who are currently enjoying the freedoms we have begun to give to them would hate us for it. If we think we are hated in the Arab world for fighting this war in Iraq, we haven't seen anything compared to how they would hate us if we just pulled out and went home now. When I was there I saw a long line of very happy children walking to school with brand new backpacks full of new books, going to school for the first time in their lives. We built their school, bought their books, and made it safe for them to go there, and they knew it. As our convoy drove by they were waving and shouting to us, showing us their backpacks and jumping for joy. To those children, the future of Iraq, American Soldiers are heroes. Just because our stupid media would have you believe they were better off living in filth and poverty under Hussein than they are today, don't buy it. They are lying to you. Yes, there are those in Iraq who do not want us there, they want to return to the tyranny they had before. They are men who love power and using that power for their own good while holding others down. They are men of violence and hatred. They are not freedom fighters, because they are not fighting for freedom, they are fighting for tyranny and terrorism. They fear freedom, because they cannot control people who are free. The American and Coalition Soldiers and the Iraqi Militia are the only freedom fighters in Iraq today.
Last but not least, Faith. When are Christians going to figure out that God is not impressed by how many times they tell Him how much they love Him and how wonderful they think He is. He knows just how little we love Him, and He forgives us anyway, and instead of just singing over and over again how wonderful we think He is, lets tell people just why He is so wonderful. He is wonderful because we are self-centered, sinful, backbiting and ungrateful children, and yet He still loved us enough to become one of us and to die for us so that we could be reconciled to Him. There is a so-called "Christian" radio station on our campus that plays so much egocentric blither-blather that I hesitate to let my daughter listen to it. They call it the "safe radio station". What is so safe about letting my kids listen to pagan doctrine dressed up in supposedly Christian language?
Just the other day I found myself talking with a man who had grown up in the Lutheran Church who was slipping away. He had started going to a "Lutheran" church that had a very strong local mission and was very involved with modern praise style worship. He told me that he kept getting dissatisfied with each church he had gone to. One church split because some of the people wanted to let the pastor go because he was not a very dynamic speaker, while the rest felt that was not an appropriate reason to let a pastor go (hurray for them!). Once the church split, he quit going to either, and went to yet another church with a strong local outreach mission and a praise band that he really enjoyed, and they also had a dynamic preacher who preached sermons that made them feel good about going to church. However, he had recently been getting discouraged at that church because although he and his family were very involved, they had begun to notice that there were a lot of others who did not seem to be "pulling their weight." I began to talk to him about what Church is really about, that it is not about what we do for God, but about the wonderful thing He has done for us, that He has forgiven us all our sins. I explained to him that the purpose for going to church was to receive Christ in His Word and Sacraments, and that even if the sermon was boring and the hymns were not sung well, as long as Christ was given to them in Word and Sacrament that they got everything they needed from going to Church.
At first he was a bit perplexed by this concept. He thought that sermons should teach us things we can do to live a more God pleasing life and that worship was about letting God know just how much we liked Him. I explained to him that as long as the focus of worship was on what we were doing for God, there would always be divisions in the church. Each person would be able to see how much more they thought they were doing than others were. Feelings would be hurt. Factions would form. But, when worship is focused on what God has done for us, the field is leveled. We are all poor, lost, miserable sinners who have been forgiven, reconciled, and who are being sanctified in Christ. His eyes were opened and his catechism class started coming back to him. He said that he could see the point, because in all the churches he had gone to where he was getting disappointed, it was because of thinking that he was doing more for God than others were, and that these kinds of feelings had caused all the splits and divisions in the churches.
However, he still seemed to be convinced that sermons should be "how-to" lessons on being good Christians. I talked to him about how sanctification, just like justification, was by faith. God's Word is creative. He is the only being who could command light to exist. If His Word can bring the universe into existence, it can also create faith and good works in those who hear it and believe it. As long as we believe that sanctification is something that we do for God, then we will get proud of how well we are doing, or depressed at how poorly we are doing. But sanctification is something that God creates in us through His Word and Sacraments. Each time He speaks His Word of righteousness about us, we become more of what He says we are. This is not just a New Testament idea. In the Old Testament we have mistranslated the 10 Commandments. In Hebrew they are not commands, they are statements of fact. God starts out by explaining who He is, He is the God who saved them from bondage. Then He goes on to explain who they are; they are His People who have no other Gods, who keep the Sabbath day holy, who do not use His name in vain, who obey their fathers and mothers etc. My Hebrew grammar book explained away the fact that these sentences are not written using the language of commands by saying that they were a special type of command, a religious or cultic command. Hogwash! They are God's creative Word, describing who His people are, and making them that way as the very words are spoken by His mouth. That is sanctification. It is a work of God that we can either receive by faith, or reject, choosing either self-righteousness or lawlessness.
At least one song I have heard on the "Christian" radio station seems to have it right. "It's not about who I am, it's about what He's done. It's not about what I do, it's about who He is." Amen.