Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Authority of Scripture

There has been much discussion of the interpretation of various parts of Scripture, especially those in the Old Testament. Much of God’s law for the Israelites is contained therein and can be a bit confusing when applied to today. In fact, many believe and teach that the Bible, especially the Old Testament, was meant for those living in that time and is not always pertinent to today. Jesus, Himself, taught in a manner that contradicted a number of Old Testament laws. But, what Jesus, the only Son of God, light from light, true God from true God, of one being with the Father, taught, will supersede any of those laws from the Old Testament. So, what Jesus our Lord taught in the New Testament, is God’s Law for us. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, inspired the original authors of the Old Testament, and He used His authority to amend His laws for us.

While the Old Testament speaks more of intolerance to those that are unbelievers (gentiles) or sinners, Jesus took a different tact. He consorted with sinners because those were the very persons that needed to be saved and set on the proper path. He did not seek out those that were healthy, physically or spiritually. Jesus sought those afflicted so that He could heal them. While Jesus loved the sinner, He did not tolerate the sin. In John 8, after the Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman caught in the act of adultery, Jesus said in verse 10, after no one would cast the first stone and all accusers had left, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? 11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

In John 16:12-15, Jesus told the Apostles, "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of Truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you." In these verses, Jesus tells the Apostles that He, through the Holy Spirit, will lead them in their testimonies. This statement confirms the writings of the Apostles as the Word of God.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God’s people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Clearly, all Scripture is inspired by God. In these verses, Paul is referring to the Old Testament since the New Testament was not yet complete. Although mortal man did indeed physically write the Bible, God worked through those men to put into words, exactly what He wanted. The Scriptures are not just stories written by mortal man, but through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit are authored by God Himself. As such, Scripture is infallible and without error, because they were inspired by the Holy Spirit and are an authoritative expression of His will and truth.

In this letter to Timothy, Paul explains the role of the Word of God and how it was inspired by God. The Scriptures are God's directions for us, a way to teach us what He wants us to believe and practice. They are also given to warn us of and how to correct false doctrine. The Word of God not only shows us the proper path, but informs us when we are wrong and directs us how to correct ourselves. God's Word teaches us, warns us, and corrects us in order to lead us to righteousness. Using God's Word to lead us in our daily lives helps to equip us to do God's good work. This is the authority of Scripture for us.

Following Jesus’ example, we must be tolerant of and love our fellow sinners, but it is our responsibility to help guide them to leave their life of sin. We must not accept those sins, since doing so will lead those in sin and all who accept or ignore that sin, to ruin. James 5:20 “Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the way of error will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” The leaders of the ELCA are leading our brothers and sisters in Christ to a false gospel. Should we remain with the ELCA and not only love the sinner but also ignore and accept the sin? If we remain as faithful witnesses, how do we help direct the ELCA back to the true Gospel? Eternity is a long time and as long as this false gospel prospers, and we fail to act in accordance with Scripture, many more souls will be at risk than just those at SOTH.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What Happens Next?

Now that we have approved our new constitutional amendments, all is well with the world and we will finally be safe from the clutches of the ELCA after the ratification vote on the 31st, right? Well, for the short term, SOTH should be protected from the resolutions passed by the ELCA National Assembly last August. The new standards for clergy and congregations will become ELCA policy in April. This will bring changes to the model constitution of the ELCA, changes that SOTH will eventually be required to incorporate into our constitution as long as we remain an ELCA congregation.

So, while Pastor remains at SOTH, our constitutional amendments should cover us for the near future, but we should not become complacent.
If Pastor would leave SOTH, we could very well become a test case for discrimination should we exercise our "bound conscience", in accepting only pastoral candidates that abide by the 1990 ELCA standards for human sexuality. While our "bound conscience" would be acceptable to the ELCA, it may not be acceptble to the secular world. Invoking our "bound conscience" and rejecting a pastoral candidate that was not in conformity with the ELCA's 1990 standards, could open SOTH to a discrimination complaint. By having a constitution that conflicts with the ELCA's model, the liability likely will fall on SOTH, and not the ELCA. So, while we are covered for now, there are still many questions to be answered down the road.

Lutheran Core believes that the ELCA will likely ignore most constitutional amendments. Lutheran Core's constitutional recommendations have been posted on their website for all to see since shortly after the ELCA assembly, so the ELCA will not be surprised when they receive ours. Thinking that everything is ok if the ELCA doesn't pitch a fit or line veto our constitution is naive at best. We need to wait for the assembly actions to be put into place and look at any other changes that may be made to the model constitution. When we discover what new amendments are to be made to all ELCA constitutions, we will have a better idea of the direction we need to take.

What about leaving the ELCA. Remember, Lutheran Core and Augustana District, LCMC are still in the developmental stage. Joining one of these bodies while remaining in the ELCA is a possibility. If we chose to leave now, we would become an independant entity, without the safety net that is provided by a synodical structure. We really won't know if or when those organizations will be ready to provide a place for us, at least not until later this summer or perhaps, next year. So we must be patient, prayerful, and carefully discern where God is going to lead us. God answers our prayers, but not always as we would want or desire. Remember, we pray that His will be done, not ours. Time will tell and we need to remember that this is not a sprint, but it is more like a marathon, so we need not be in a hurry just yet.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Where is God leading SOTH?

The original purpose of this blog was to use it as a venue to say our good byes to our family at SOTH and inform everyone of the reasons why we would no longer be worshipping with you. I, myself have had quite a transformation spiritually, under Pastor's tutelage. For years I had attended church relatively regularly, but spent very little time in God's word outside of church services. I know this frustrated Sandy, who continued to pray for and encourage me. Pastor reached out to a number of our members to help prepare them to become leaders of the church. Pastor must have seen something in me that I didn't, but I agreed to attend the leadership bible study group. Spending time reading and meditating on Scripture has really opened my eyes as to what the Lord expects of his people. Having Pastor as a mentor to help us understand God's word more clearly has truly been a blessing.

When Jodi, Pastor and I attended the ELCA Greater Milwaukee Synod Assembly as delegates in 2008, I couldn't believe what was happening. It started out as one would expect with a gathering of fellow Lutherans, but deteriorated rapidly. First, the opening worship service was conducted without confession and absolution. This made the service seem empty for me, a sinner that needs to confess my sins to God and hear that He has forgiven me. Later, when discussing the various proposed resolutions, I found out first hand that the primary focus for our synod was one of social justice, not bringing people to Christ. When I went to speak in opposition to a resolution that would have had our synod advocating in direct opposition to the rule of law in our country, I was looked upon as an outcast. Other delegates were offended that I would speak out to oppose our synod disregarding the laws of the land. Votes were cast on the various resolutions and on most of them our 3 votes were the only ones in opposition. Again, my eyes were opened and I seriously began to question our affiliation with a synod that conducts God's business in this fashion.

Shortly after the Assembly, Pastor shared a DVD with a number of members about LCMC. This was offered up as a possible alternative to our affiliation with the ELCA. The train to leave the ELCA began at this point with a small grassroots discussion of the LCMC. All was quiet for a while, until August of 2009, when the ELCA national assembly passed a number of resolutions. Bound conscience was not even on our radar screens. At one of our leadership meetings with Pastor we discussed the ramifications of bound conscience. It was quite enlightening. In one fell swoop, the ELCA had voted to allow anyone to pick and chose which parts of Scripture were valid, if only what they truly believed was contrary to what the Bible said.

So, many of the new leaders that Pastor was instructing began to communicate with one another and question what the ELCA was doing and that we needed to be at the forefront of discussion. This brought us to the Labor Day meeting that, although put together on short notice, attracted over 50 congregants that stayed at a meeting that lasted well over 2 hours. Many questions were asked and many were very troubled as to the direction of the ELCA. Pastor asked for volunteers to attend the Lutheran Core Convocation in Indianapolis, IN at the end of September. Sandy and I attended the convocation with Pastor Jay.

Shortly after attending the Lutheran Core Convocation, Pastor set up, what became known as the "Synodical relations task force", with Sandy and I as co-chairs. Other members included 2 council members and 3 other congregants. We were to gather facts and report back to the council. First order of business was to update our constitution, incorporate and later file as an independent tax exempt entity. This needed to be completed immediately, and be presented to the congregation so it would be possible to ratify the new constitution at the annual meeting. It was important to attend to this prior to the ELCA incorporating the new resolutions in April/May 2010.

The task force continued to gather information. Sandy and I attended the initial organizational meeting of the Augustana District of LCMC in Minneapolis, MN in November and a Lutheran Core organizational district meeting in Lebanon, WI in November. Reports were prepared and shared with the other task force members.

This blog will continue to be an important venue for discussion and source of information as SOTH prayerfully considers where God is leading us. Any opinions, for or against leaving the ELCA are welcomed. As we try to discern God's plan for SOTH, we need to keep the lines of communication open. We can differ on our opinions of the ELCA without losing sight of the path that God has set before us. We need to look to the future and not lose sight of where God needs us to be today and tomorrow.

We will need to continue to pray for the ELCA, that God will open their hearts and minds so they reconsider the path that they are taking and the consequences that path will have on those congregations that continue to belong to the ELCA.

We ask this in Jesus' name.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

So, Why Haven't We Left SOTH Yet?

Even though Sandy and I felt that the Lord was leading us away from SOTH, we felt obligated to be present and available for any questions at the constitutional amendment proposal question and answer sessions, special, and annual meetings. During these Q & A sessions something unexpected happened. A door that had been previously closed had begun to reopen, ever so slightly. The path to an alternative to the ELCA had again become an option.

In the December 27th meeting, we discovered that, although the possibility of affiliating with a synod other than the ELCA existed, no equitable alternative was forthcoming. Pastor said that the current alternatives seemed to be populated by bickering factions and that being part of one of these negative organizations was just not acceptable. Pastor also said he felt called to be a faithful witness within the ELCA.

Then on January 3rd, it was recommended that SOTH continue researching the current alternatives of Lutheran Core and LCMC, since both are in the early stages of creating more structured, synod type organizations. Pastor also agreed that SOTH could consider joining one of these organizations, while remaining in the ELCA and allowing him to remain a rostered ELCA pastor. SOTH currently belongs to the Willow Creek Association, which is a conservative group of churches that are well grounded in Scripture. Sometimes the Holy Spirit moves in ways that are inexplicable. Because a valid opportunity is open again to assist SOTH to move forward and search for a synod that truly embraces the Gospel, we realize that the Lord does have a plan for us at SOTH, at the very least for us to help lead in this regard.

I plan to maintain this blog and post information regarding the progress of the synodical relations task force and to additionally pass on information about Lutheran Core, LCMC and any other alternatives to the ELCA. Please add your comments to the blog so as to keep the lines of communication open and to encourage others to participate and share their thoughts and concerns.

Most of all, I want to emphasize how important it is that we have a quorum present to vote on the constitutional amendments on January 17th. Without a quorum, we will be forced to postpone voting on the amendments until January of 2011. This could mean that SOTH may not be able to protect itself from the ELCA's new policies. The ELCA will put into force the resolutions that were passed in August 2009, and it will likely become more difficult to change our constitution to reflect SOTH's beliefs. Make certain that you plan on attending after the 10:30 service that day and bring at least one other voting member with you. The ratification vote for the constitution is at the annual meeting on January 31st. Please plan on attending this important meeting. Email reminders will be sent to all SOTH members on our mailing list.

For those of you were not able to attend the Q & A sessions, the following is a brief recap.

Regarding the constitution, a few clerical typos were found and corrected and the council will attend to those at their January 12th meeting. If ratified, we will be in a holding pattern waiting for the ELCA Greater Milwaukee Synod's review and reaction to the amendments.

A number of questions were posed regarding the ELCA. Pastor said that he cannot see himself personally leaving the ELCA in 2010. SOTH could consider affiliations with LCMC or Lutheran Core while Pastor remains rostered in the ELCA. It was recommended that SOTH continue to investigate alternatives to ELCA and that the Synodical Relations Committee increase in size and scope. More emphasis will be placed on informing the congregation and formulating a plan of action. We learned that currently, SOTH uses very little literature from the ELCA. All Sunday School and confirmation materials are either obtained from other sources or compiled by staff. SOTH is listed in the phone book as Lutheran, our affiliation with the ELCA is not on our sign and although it is stated on our website, it is not on our home page. It appears that those attending the meeting all agreed that Pastor teaches the true Gospel and that the ELCA promotes a false doctrine, and that the ELCA's position is unacceptable, or at least very troubling for many congregants. Comments were made that there is a stigma attached to belonging to the ELCA and that members of SOTH are considered guilty by association.

Beginning in February, Pastor, members of the task force, and council will meet with SOTH small groups for more Q & A sessions, looking to ascertain the pulse of the congregation. More informational meetings will be scheduled. I would encourage all members of SOTH to attend.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Why Leave the ELCA part II

I have read many opinions as to why it makes sense to stay the course in the ELCA and try to make a difference. Explanations to stay include, being a faithful witness within the ELCA, hoping to be part of a revival of the ELCA, and to reach out to bear the cross for those lost in the ELCA.

Well, here are a host of reasons to consider leaving the ELCA.

1. The ELCA expected to lose as many as 1 million of their 5 million membership when they passed their far reaching social agenda in August. If more congregations than expected remain, they will have given the ELCA confirmation that they are on the right path and will only accelerate their implementation of more social justice agendas.

2. The continuation of the ELCA in its present form will allow more pastors to be trained in the false gospel and allow them to reach more congregations, putting more Christians at risk.

3. If a greater number of congregations prepare to leave, perhaps the ELCA will reconsider their path. If these actions fail to elicit a proper response from the ELCA, then the congregations that leave will not be at risk of the false doctrine that has overtaken the ELCA. Galations 1:9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

4. As more Christians reject the false gospel and prepare to leave the ELCA more will encouraged to do the same. There is strength in numbers and although it is a difficult task to leave the ELCA, a more vibrant reform movement will bring more Lutherans to the true Gospel.

5. More congregations leaving to join reform movements such as Lutheran Core or LCMC will bring more offerings to be used to support missions that may lose the support of the ELCA, due to their strong rebuke of the actions of the ELCA assembly in August.

6. 2 Peter 2:18 "For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error." This verse teaches us that false doctrines may use words that sound impressive, but in reality have nothing to offer and that the purveyors of false doctrine will prey on new converts, who have not yet had a chance to develop spiritual resistance. This is how the ELCA uses their broad ranging social justice agenda to draw people in, but have no desire to lead them to the true Gospel of Christ.

7. Bound conscience is a foot in the door to place man's corrupt opinions and desires above Scripture. Bound conscience is not just a slippery slope toward placing man's law above God's law, it is a full fledged race to make the modern, enlightened man his own god.

8. Making confession of sin and absolution optional and replacing it with a celebration of baptism. 1 John 1:8-10 "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we ask for forgiveness, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive us all our sins. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives." That Jesus took all of our sins to the cross and died so that we may live is not optional in our faith. Without His death and resurrection, we may as well belong to a social club if we intend to remain in the ELCA.

This is how the ELCA is perverting the Lutheran Church. Put the social justice agenda first and foremost with God running a distant third. The ELCA is in the process of eliminating all sin by simply passing resolutions setting aside Scripture. The ELCA is highjacking the Lutheran Church and leading it to ruin. Those that have tried to save the ELCA have been shoved to the side of the road while it is full speed ahead with a liberal, left wing social agenda with no regard to the saving of the souls of its members. We must shun this false doctrine. We must leave the ELCA behind and pray that all true believers follow and form a new synod to teach the true Gospel.

Titus 1:11-14 "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorius appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good." Even as we leave, we need to keep our brothers and sisters that remain in the ELCA in our prayers. It is imperative that we continue to support them in prayer and that God gives them the strength to cling to the true Gospel.