Monday, February 15, 2016

Should Lutherans Consider Themselves "Born Again"?

Fun Fact: Many of the key New Testament passages about Baptism are found in a chapter three: Matthew 3:13-17, Galatians 3:27, Titus 3:5, 1 Peter 3:21, and John 3:3-5.

Recently one of our young people, a confirmed Lutheran, was asked by a well-meaning Christian to share when and how she had been born again.  Through no fault of her own, she wasn't quite sure how to respond.

Lutherans hear the term "born again," but it's not used very much in our tradition.  What does it mean - "born again"?  Many fine Christians use the expression to describe the experience and even the moment they found salvation in Christ and made a decision to believe and trust in Him.  I myself have heard many beautiful accounts of people becoming Christians.

The idea of being born again comes from the Bible and is found most famously in John 3.  "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).

So should Lutherans consider themselves "born again"?  The answer, you might be surprised, is yes.  But more needs to be said.

Based on John 3:5 (note the mention of water) as well as other passages such as Titus 3:5 ("the washing of rebirth"), Lutherans believe that Baptism is when, where, and how they are born again.  Another word for "born again" is "rebirth" or "new birth."  That's why immediately after baptizing a person the pastor says, "The almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given you the new birth of water and of the Spirit and has forgiven you all your sins, strengthen you with His grace to life everlasting."

One of our hymns, sometimes sung at an infant Baptism, rightly uses the term "born again":

Here we bring a child of nature;
Home we take a new-born creature,
Now God's precious son or daughter,
Born again by Word and water.

When I'm asked, I try to share in a gentle, humble way that I was born again on April 13, 1969 - the day of my Baptism.  I know that it's not always the answer other Christians are looking for, but that's okay.  I can love, encourage, and be encouraged by them just the same.

Monday, February 8, 2016


"When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name...'" (Luke 11:2).

The Lord's Prayer is not the most words - just the right ones.  In explaining the Lord's Prayer, Luther wrote: "The fewer the words, the better the prayer; the more the words, the poorer the prayer."

Matthew and Luke record the Lord's Prayer.  The version with which we are familiar is the one from Matthew.  It has a total of 70 words.  But understood theologically, each word should be counted twice, for a total of 140.

This is because when we pray the Lord's Prayer, we are speaking to God.  That much is clear.  But something else is happening too.  He is speaking to us.  Call it "doublespeak" - but of a good kind!  (Not the kind used by advertisers when, for example, they say: "Free with the purchase of....")

Every word of the Lord's Prayer is a Word from God to us through Jesus.  Yes, we are speaking to Him.  But underneath that, and over top of it, God is telling us who He is (Our Father), who we are (His children), what to ask, and what to expect.  And so the petitions of the Lord's Prayer are also promises.  God is promising in the Lord's Prayer to take care of us, forgive us, help us to forgive others, and at last deliver us from all evil.

We tend to think of prayer as our doing, our part.  True enough.  But in the Lord's Prayer, God is doing His part: revealing His heart.

Pray the Lord's Prayer, and in the same moment hear the Lord speaking to you!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Other Holy Trinity

", hope, and love" (1 Cor. 13:13).

Christians who are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit know also another holy trinity: faith, hope, and love.

The two trinities live in much the same way.  We know from the Bible and theology that the Father "begets" the Son, and that the Holy Spirit "proceeds" from the Father and the Son.  So too, faith begets hope, and love proceeds from faith and hope.  Paul put them in exactly the right order, because where there is faith, there is hope, and where there are faith and hope, there is love.

Father, Son, and Spirit are the Three Persons of the One God.  Faith, hope, and love are the three virtues of the one Christian heart.

Faith, hope, and love are given to us by God.  Is it any wonder then that they have a trinitarian character?  Yes, it is full of wonder!

Now remember your Baptism, the Holy Trinity, and the other holy trinity too.  Nothing more is needed.