Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father's Day: Whose Day Is It?

Whose day is it?

Father's Day. I see the words, hear the words, digest the words, and the day is not for me. I mean, it should be and I must admit that it really is. I am, after all, a father. And a father of eight to boot! So, there it is. I really am a dad, so it's true: I qualify. I know, however, that come Sunday the 17th, I still won't be feelin' it. "Why?" you ask? For two reasons: 1) When I hear "Father," I think of our Heavenly Father; and 2) For almost 46 years (up through late June of 2011), the celebration here on earth was about celebrating my dad. And to be honest, I think there is a third reason as well. Whenever I do consider myself, this is not for me to get, but for me to give...give thanks that I even get to be a dad! Father's day is really a taking-inventory-day to praise God! I get to raise my children with my beautiful wife and we get to be a part of the amazing lives of these kids. Father's Day is about others. On this day, I get to give thanks for these amazing others.

I think the sequence above is the right one: celebrate the Heavenly Father, rejoice over YOUR dad, and praise God for the ones that make you a dad: your wife and your children. This is easily a day about others!

Yes, it is indeed, first-of-all, the day of and for our Heaven Father! No, this isn't trying to be hyper-holy. Someone might object, "No offense to the LORD, but isn't every day already about Him?! Come on loosen up!" But it's all true! The Scriptures say, "In him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28)." And -- on top of that -- as you well know, we pray to our Heavenly Father every day! We pray, "Our Father who art in heaven." What does this mean? Luther taught: "With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father." What glorious words! The Almighty God, Maker of heaven and earth is our true Father and we are His true children...His dear children. This is how we get to approach the throne of grace. This is the confidence we may have before God...true and dear children get to ask with boldness, with confidence, and with power...because they know beyond all doubt that they are loved by their Father. We know this to be true because our true Father gave up His Son Jesus to save us! He loves us more than we can say, He loves us more than we can imagine! How can we not think of our Heavenly Father on Father's Day? It is His day and for us who belong to Jesus, this makes us glad!

Secondly, I feel as though I will never be able to see it as my was always my dad's day. And this made me happy. When I was a little boy, I did something very stupid. I was playing "cowboy" and, in my imagination, I was out in the hot desert. I found a stream and from that stream I drank some water just like Gideon's chosen warriors. The only problem with my make-believe was that the stream was the water running along the curb in the front yard. That water made me terribly ill. The doctor called it scarlet fever. But this wasn't the important part. What I remember was that in the middle of the night I was being carried by my father. He got the town doctor to meet us at his office on main street of our little town. I can still feel myself in my dad's strong arms, carrying me into the doctor's office. It was serious. I almost died. But I was safe. I didn't have a care in the world. My dad was there. This is the reason Father's Day was always about him. On another occasion we were hiking in the mountains. The trail narrowed and, sure enough, I tripped while on that trail and went tumbling down the side of the mountain. My dad leaped down the steep grade and somehow got in front of me as I fell uncontrollably. Again, he saved my life. Of course, I was safe. I was with my dad. For over four decades, the day was always about him.

Finally, when I have been more-or-less forced to make it somewhat about me, I've had little trouble making it more about others still. I would have never become a father apart from my wife, the amazing mother of my children. Even when it's Father's Day, it's Mother's Day (again!). And that's more than fine. They all like her better anyway! But she's good about putting the spotlight back on me. When the light comes, however, it is only there by-virtue of these children that make me a dad! These eight...they are so different, every one of them. But what would my life be without them?! The ones that are easier, give me extra joy; the ones that are harder, bless me with stronger faith...all of them, teach me how to live in love...all of them love me! Unbelievable! And yet it's true! They are truly gifts from the LORD!

Father's Day...whose day is it really? It is truly MY is my day as a father to give thanks and praise to our Heavenly Father; it is my day to remember my amazing father (who I miss so much); and it is my day to give thanks for my wife and my's a great's all about them...and that makes it a great day for me!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Depression, Suicide and Despair

To Those Loved By God,

And that saluation, fyi, is beyond a shadow of a doubt to you, for God so loved the world (Jn 3:16)! You're included. God loves you, yes, even you! Experts warn of a suicide contagion, but the Scriptures have always warned of a great threat (Jesus taught): "[The devil] was a murderer from the beginning." We suffer and perish, because we don't take God at His Word. The devil does not only attack Christians. He attacks all, because he desires that we would all be cut off from the gifts of God. His mission is to destroy.

But how does he do it? I've always been struck by this Word in 1st John and this particular verse right after St. John admonishes us straight up not to love the world (1st John 2:15):

"For everything in the world -- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life -- comes not from the Father but from the world (1st John 2:16)."

When we go along with the delusional evil that all there is in life is our ambitious pursuits and pleasure, we come up dry. In fact, we come up worse than dry, because our souls are more weighed down than ever before. The pursuit of wrong things, can make us even more desperate.

We've been reminded recently about how desperate things can be with the suicides of American fashion designer Kate Spade and CNN's Anthony Bourdain. We are in shock when we hear of these things...these people had so much.

Kirsten Powers of USA Today wrote on June 9th (

"In an interview this year, the comedian and actor Jim Carrey talked about 'getting to the place where you have everything everybody has ever desired and realizing you are still unhappy. And that you can still be unhappy is a shock when you have accomplished everything you ever dreamed of and more.'"

"If only we get that big raise, or a new house or have children we will finally be happy. But we won't. In fact, as Carrey points out, in many ways achieving all your goals provides the opposite of fulfillment: It lays bare the truth that there is nothing you can purchase, possess or acheive that will make you feel fulfilled over the long term."

And yet the father of lies specializes in this deception.

All the while, there is the LORD giving us His Word...letting us in to salvation and peace.

But it is easy to miss out on the LORD's resources and His offering of healing. My book Faith That Sees Through The Culture was partially inspired by dualities, paradoxes, both-and concepts, at the same time experiences. These are important to be aware of. If we are not, then sometimes we can easily feel like we are losing our minds.

For example, can Christians feel despair? Yes.

2nd Corinthians 1:8: "We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself."

Are Christians also given relief from despair? Yes.

2nd Corinthians 4:8: "We are hard presssed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair."

How does the LORD help us in our despair? How does the LORD help us when every other pursuit in life comes up short?

1. First, by allowing us to cry to Him. He is not the God waiting for us to get our acts together so that we are impressive in our spiritual life and worthy to grab His attention (if only we had Jedi-like status with the cosmos). No, our God invites us to call upon Him in the day of trouble (Psalm 50:15). And if we are wise, we would realize that this is every day! In this way, we truly learn to pray...we pray because we need it, because God commands it, and because God gives rich promises. The Lord's Prayer is the model prayer, but if you'd like to expand a little then use:

a. Luther's garland of four strands:

(1) Instruction: take a Scripture like Matthew 11:28 and recite it and meditate upon it.
(2) Thanksgiving: Use that Scripture as a launching pad for thanking and praising God.
(3) Confession: Confess to God whatever flows out of this meditation.
(4) Petition: Then pray freely and ask the LORD for whatever you need as you seek His will.


b. Use a Scripture-based version of Lectio Divina:

(1) Requis (rest): use an image of Christ (like a crucifix or a favorite artwork of the LORD) and see it in your mind's eye as you breath, relax, get comfortable, be aware of your body and environment. Take your time and give yourself a chance to feel as though you're less restless and more focused.
(2) Lectio (read): read and recite a Scripture (like Matt. 11:28) seven times. Go slowly and really think about the words.
(3) Meditatio (meditate [upon God's Word]): review the Scripture AGAIN another seven times, but this time highlighting key words and concepts (e.g. for example, Jesus bids you to "come" to Him! what a wonderful invitation!).
(4) Oratio (pray): pray based upon the Word you've been interacting with.
(5) Contemplatio: think back and absorb what you have just experienced in the Word of Christ.
Note: don't make this about mysticism. God's Word has intended meaning. Choose Scriptures in which the intended meaning of God's Word is clear. Make this about knowing the Word of the LORD better, filling yourself with it! For example, Psalm 23:1: Since the LORD is your Shepherd, He will give you everything you need for your body and life!

2. Second, He invites us to find Jesus in one another, among those who confess His Holy Name. These are our true brothers and sisters in Christ. In such relationships we find true friends. We have butchered the concept of friend in our culture. What does the word mean to the world anymore? But a true friend sticks closer than a brother (Prov 18:24). He gives the friend with whom we may practice James 5:16; one with whom we may mutually confess our sins and share God's absolution.

Such a friend can ask, "How are you?" And to such a friend, you can say (if you need to), "Not good!" or "Crappy!" or "Depressed!" These friends we need. Darkness loses its power when brought into the confession is powerful for this purpose.

3. Third, the Holy Sacrament. Christians say they believe the Holy Bible to be the very Word of God. It is true. It is powerful. And yet in spite of all that the LORD says about His Holy Sacrament -- the LORD's SUPPER -- we often neglect it! Shame on us! Let us rather repent from this neglect. Let us hunger and thirst for it. It is the medicine of immortality as St. Ignatius called it (A.D. 110, Letter to the Ephesians 20)! Let us receive this sacred medicine!

I mentioned above that the two despairs partially inspired my book, but more basically I was inspired by the need for people to receive the gospel presented in a simple and unencombered way. I am eager for people to know for example the many spectacular facets of the diamond of God's Good News in Christ. This gospel rescues from sin, death, and the attacks of the devil. The facets that many folks just don't know about like atonement, reconciliation, redemption, propitiation, expiation, and justification are beautiful and invaluable...these give life through the Word of Christ and they shine light upon our darkness whenever we are in despair and whenever we are under attack.

We must hear it loud and clear, with love and compassion, and in power: you are never alone, the LORD is with you!

Please help me spread the word about Faith That Sees Through The Culture:

Amazon is selling it for $14.99

Kindle Edition at Amazon is $14.24

Concordia Publishing House (CPH) has a special going on right now: $11.24

Soli Deo gloria!

Rev. Dr. Alfonso O. Espinosa

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Faith That Sees Through The Culture has been released!

I saw my book for the first time today at the LC-MS Kansas District Convention in Topeka, KS. The release date was originally June 13th, but today -- June 7th -- I was signing copies! Praise God!