Monday, April 25, 2011

Creation or Creator?

Earth Day originated in Wisconsin, the brain child of then US Senator Gaylord Nelson, in 1970. This “holiday” is considered by some as the birth of the environmental movement. In 2011 the 41st anniversary of Earth Day coincided with Good Friday. Not to worry, the leaders of the ELCA have approved a Good Friday substitute service that will satisfy our environmental sensibilities. The Tenebrae service is reserved for the most somber of occasions, the day that our Savior gave His life for us so that we may live. “A Tenebrae for the Earth” is an optional worship service for use during the Lenten season. This service was developed by the Women of the ELCA in 2009. First of all a globe is placed at the center of the altar, apparently giving it equality with our Savior. James 4:4, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” Don’t worry about this and other troublesome passages of Scripture that warn us to be in the world, but not of the world, this service places the earth where the ELCA believes is at its’ rightful place. Since Bishop Hanson is on President Obama's task force on faith and community, perhaps that is why our President offered an official notice acknowledging Earth Day, but was mute on Easter, the most important event to Christians. Some excerpts from this service include;

• During this time of solemn reflection, we will ponder the passion of our Lord as joined to the ongoing passion of creation. The format of this “worship” service follows the pattern of a traditional Tenebrae service, where a series of seven reflections are each followed by a diminishment of the light. The seven reflections used will lift up the ongoing suffering of the Body of Christ on Earth – both within God’s people and God’s created world. As we acknowledge and ponder the passion of the Earth, the passion of God’s creation, let us look deeply into our hearts and prayerfully ask ourselves:

• In what ways do we deny (like Peter) that we even ARE followers of Christ, when we look away from or deny the degradation of creation, which God so loves? In what ways do we continue to add to the wounds and suffering of Christ, in the ways we treat one another and this precious Earth? How are we, through our action or inaction, contributing to the degradation of God’s beloved creation?

• The Passion of the Earth: “Seven Degradations of Creation” include the degradation of the land, global toxification, degradation of the oceans, extinction of species, degradation of fresh water, global climate change & air pollution, and human social & cultural degradation.** Mud is placed on the globe and one light is extinguished after each petition.

• A series of prayers of sorrow about how we are destroying the earth complete with petitions such as; We pray for the resolve to change our habits and for the courage to speak out for public policies that will ensure cleaner water, air, and soil. (It really would be something if they asked us to speak out for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.) Further petitions accuse humankind of disgracefully misusing creation.

Although we are charged as stewards of this world, this service accuses humankind of cruelty to God’s creation simply by living on this planet. If only our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ held as high an honor to this misguided denomination as saving the planet, I wonder how many souls could be saved and brought to Christ? If only Jesus was as important as social justice to the leaders of the ELCA. What is particularly troubling is that so many fall prey to these false gospels. 2 Peter 2:18-21, “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. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. 20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.” Even though the leadership of the ELCA is well aware of what our Lord commands, it would appear that the things of this world are more of a priority for them. One must fill their heart with the Truth that is our Lord and Savior before going out to try and save the world. Save enough souls and there will be many more good stewards of God’s creation. Only then will you be properly prepared to work for true justice in this world.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Real Thing

Sometimes lost in our disagreements within God’s church are the things that really matter. We argue about doctrine, but often fail to realize that we are justified by our faith in the Risen Christ, alone. Not by our works and not because we cling to sound doctrine. But, sound Christian doctrine does matter, and it matters greatly. When we are marked by our Lord as His, we no longer are dead within our sin. We are a new creation. We turn away from the flesh and reach for the Spirit. In our efforts to please the One we love, we endeavor to obey His commands. We fill our lives with all the things that bring us closer to our Savior. Even though we are no longer under the law, we obey out of our love for Him who took our sins to the cross, suffered and died so that we may live. Whatever your sin, it does not matter to our Lord, who forgives us if we only ask for His forgiveness. Jesus said, Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Some would cite this as a reason to allow those who fall into sin, to continue in sin because we are also sinners, no better than they, with no authority to offer correction. On the contrary, if a brother or sister falls into sin, it is our responsibility as a child of God to encourage that person back to the narrow path.

This is why it is so disturbing to those true to the Lord when they see a church fall away from Him, enamored with the things of this world. Our Lord and Savior hung on that cross, bearing the sins of all humanity for all time. He sacrificed Himself, suffering a horrible, excruciating death, receiving the punishment that we so justly deserve. And part of that punishment entailed God totally withdrawing from Jesus, leaving Him utterly alone, having to endure the awful burden of the past, present and future sins of the entire world. He offered Himself for us, each and every one of us. His blood bought us our salvation. Try to understand the suffering our Savior endured for us. Pilate had Jesus scourged as part of his punishment. A scourge was a cat of nine tails whip with wide metal hooks that actually tore out pieces of flesh with every lash. Every sin we commit caused those pieces of flesh to be torn out of our Savior. And death by crucifixion was slow and extremely painful. One had to hold up their entire body weight to keep from suffocating, then when totally exhausted, their own body weight would cause them to suffocate. And Jesus had to hold up His weight with limbs that were nailed to the cross. All this because he loved each and every one of us, with only one string attached, that we believe.

But, out of this terrible suffering came something so wonderful, so amazing that the world has been changed forever. Jesus defeated the powers of death and rose from the dead, paving the way for us to also defeat death. Once we believe, we are no longer under penalty of death. This world too shall pass away, but when we leave this world, something so very special awaits us. Our Lord and Savior promised in John 14:1-4, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” The way to our Father’s house is through faith in the Risen Christ. When we believe. we are born again and become a new creation. When we believe we die to this world and begin our new life as a child of Christ. Nothing is the same. We live differently than we did before. We live to please our God.

John 14:23-24, Jesus said “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” As Christians, we love our Lord above all else. We follow what He has taught. We joyfully obey God’s law. We look forward to our new life with our Lord. Jesus Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Divide and Conquer

In the science of computers, divide and conquer is an important process used in problem solving. This method breaks down a problem into two or more sub-problems of the same type, until these become simple enough to be solved directly. The solutions to the sub-problems are then combined to give an answer to the original problem. In politics and society, it is a combination of strategies that are used to gain or maintain power. Most effective is the strategy of breaking up opposition that organizes into groups. This will limit, reduce or eliminate any power that they may have gained. Apparently, the leaders of the ELCA have been doing their homework. ELCA congregations that have discovered that the leadership of the ELCA is engaged in an effort to minimize or eliminate classic Lutheran teaching, have found that their path to engage in prayerful discernment is being obstructed by their synod bishops, and in some cases, other ELCA pastors that are sympathetic to the ELCA’s direction.

Some of the tactics that the leadership of the ELCA are using is not unlike the union thug-like behavior witnessed in Wisconsin over the bill to limit public union collective bargaining privileges. Apparently the descent into the dark ages by invoking “Inquisition” tactics needed an upgrade. Non-members that support the ELCA have been showing up during congregational meetings. Pastors from other ELCA congregations are contacting members of other congregations that are discussing the doctrinal shifts of the ELCA, attempting to cause dissention. Synod bishops are attempting to force their way into the pulpit to preach pro-ELCA sermons while relegating the presiding pastors to assistants. Congregants that question the actions of the ELCA and are vigilant in their efforts to inform others are called before their respective pastors and church councils and cited as persistent trouble makers. Many who respond to news items about churches that are in discussion or have decided to vote about their affiliation with the ELCA are filled with derisive comments from those that support the ELCA, whether or not they are members of that congregation. Pastors in congregations that are in the discernment process are chastised and threatened by synod bishops. And the ELCA would have you believe that they are doing God’s work!

Titus 1:15-16, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. 16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” We are to love our God with all our hearts, with all our minds, with all our strength and with all our soul. And secondly, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Does the leadership of the ELCA show love to those that question their quest to redefine Lutheranism by placing man in authority of Scripture? Isn’t it just better to agree to disagree and part ways amicably? Apparently not. So many congregations are leaving or redirecting benevolence, it is putting quite a large dent in the revenue stream of the ELCA. And without your donations, how will they be able to issue all their social statements and offer support for Palestine, led by the terrorist organization Hamas, that has a stated goal to eradicate Israel and kill every Jew. Even though the leadership of the ELCA disparages and minimizes those traditional Lutherans that believe in the authority of Scripture, they do love your financial contributions. For the love of money is the root of all evil and the leaders of the ELCA do nothing to persuade us otherwise.

1 John 2:9-11, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.” The leaders of the ELCA guide their membership into darkness. The leaders of the ELCA cry for unity in their religion of acceptance, tolerance and diversity, while they disregard the Truth that is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. For, if the leaders of the ELCA truly followed the teachings of Christ, they would not conspire to destroy those that are true to our God.  Those that accept the authority of Scripture want only for the ELCA to return to God.  Pray unceasingly for the Spirit to open the hearts and minds of the leaders of the ELCA so that they abandon their foray into apostasy and return to the Lord. There are far too many of our brothers and sisters in Christ that are lost within the ELCA, truly believing that they are following the proper path.

Monday, April 11, 2011

What Does God Require?

One of my favorite contemporary praise hymns, "The Heart of Worship", acknowledges our failure to attain that which our Lord requires. The refrain declares, “I’ll bring you more than a song, for a song is not what you have required. You search much deeper within, through the ways things appear, you’re looking into my heart….I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made, when it’s all about you, it’s all about you Jesus.” Our faith is all about Jesus. For without His death and resurrection our faith is meaningless. 1 Corinthians 15:14-17, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” When we accept Christ as Savior and Lord, we are made new. Our lives are indelibly altered. We are no longer content to please only ourselves, we want above all else to please our Lord. It is when we continue in our selfish ways and fail to place Him first in our lives that trouble befalls us. We are sinful, selfish creatures that continually fail our Lord and the reason we fall short of God’s expectations, is that we continually place our needs ahead of our Lord.

Our God requires that we worship Him above all else, that we hold Him above our possessions, our identities, our family, and above even ourselves. Our God is a jealous God and when we place the things of this world over Him we do not worship Him, we worship ourselves. Taken from one of the Books excluded from the revised common lectionary; Nahum 1:2-3, “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies. 3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished.” What of those that see their sexual identities as all important, so important that their identity as LGBTQ takes precedence over our God? What of those misguided churches that betray our God’s law and accept what He has prohibited? Scripture is clear in these matters. When we have the audacity to challenge our God’s law and to place our own opinions above His, we commit the gravest of all sins. We place ourselves, our possessions and our identities as our god. We indeed worship ourselves. 2 Corinthians 5:9-10, “So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

We will all be called to testify and stand ready to accept the just reward or punishment for our deeds. 2 Peter 2:4, 9-10, “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; 9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. 10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority.” The leadership of the ELCA apparently despises the authority of Scripture, since they falsely proclaim that God is telling them a "new thing", and rewrite God’s law to satisfy their worldly desires. This "new thing" that places love of self over love of our Lord is simply a recipe for disaster. Since the ELCA began promoting love of the secular world, concentrating on social justice instead of the Gospel of Christ, over 1 million have fled this misguided denomination to join churches that place our Lord first in their ministries. The tsumani of congregations leaving continues as the leadership of the ELCA complains that we must remain in fellowship, since our diversity makes us stronger.  When diversity and the things of this world are favored over our Lord's will, it is time to walk away.  We must make certain that the Truth is proclaimed, so that those deceived by these false teachings will have their hearts and minds opened and find their way to the path that our Savior is leading.

Monday, April 4, 2011

You Can't Have it Both Ways

You can’t profess your morality in one particular way and then disregard those beliefs when you don’t want to apply them is a particular situation. To do so would be hypocritical. When one has a set of values that they espouse, those values should hold true, in all circumstances. We cannot abandon our core beliefs if the situation changes or if it is inconvenient for us. If a vegetarian has chosen to forgo the consumption of meat in his or her diet, with the exception that he or she likes to eat bacon, that person is not a true vegetarian. You can’t profess to be strict with your children, yet allow your child to do whatever they please. You can’t be a good example for others when your failings are all too apparent. You can’t say one thing and mean another. Matthew 6:24, Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.“

The ELCA continues to serve two masters. On one hand the ELCA’s Confession of Faith states that this church confesses the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior and the Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe. That Jesus Christ is the Word of God incarnate, through whom everything was made and through whose life, death, and resurrection God fashions a new creation. That the proclamation of God's message to us as both Law and Gospel is the Word of God, revealing judgment and mercy through word and deed, beginning with the Word in creation, continuing in the history of Israel, and centering in all its fullness in the person and work of Jesus Christ. That the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the written Word of God, inspired by God's Spirit and speaking through their authors, they record and announce God's revelation centering in Jesus Christ. Through them God's Spirit speaks to us to create and sustain Christian faith and fellowship for service in the world. They accept all three creeds and all the confessional writings of the Book of Concord. All is in order in the ELCA, or is it?

But wait, they also accept the doctrine of “bound conscience” which allows one to have their own interpretation of Scripture, as long as they truly believe in their hearts, placing them in authority of Scripture and thereby relegating God’s word to a lesser standing than their own experience and tradition. Others are called to respect their interpretation, even if it is in obvious error. The gospel of affirmation is also acceptable to the ELCA, accepting the belief that God will affirm us within our sin with no need to ask for forgiveness. Universal salvation, the belief that everyone is going to be saved, regardless of faith, is also accepted by the ELCA. Congregations may engage in goddess worship and still maintain their “good standing” with the ELCA. The Lutheran Magazine, the ELCA’s official publication in an April 2008 feature article on Easter, questioned the deity of Jesus Christ and cast doubt upon the Resurrection. Other Essays, published on the ELCA’s website at the Digging Deeper section, since removed for clarification, also casted doubt upon the Virgin Birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The ELCA revels in its’ diversity of opinion and beliefs. Nothing is out of bounds for this misguided denomination.

What is it going to be then? Do we take the ELCA at their word that their confession of faith is placed ahead of their social agenda and drive to be diverse and all accepting, or have they fallen in love with one doctrine while hating the other? Or do the leaders and scholars of the ELCA say one thing, but really believe something else?  Unfortunately for the ELCA there are absolutes in this world. No matter how hard you try or how much you want it to be different, when you add two plus two, the answer will always be four. It would certainly be nice if we could follow any old whim and believe whatever we wanted. But, that is not what our Lord has asked of us. God has given us a number of absolutes and no matter how hard the leaders and scholars of the ELCA proclaim that He is now telling us “something new”, these truths remain. John 3:16-18, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” So, for a church to accept doctrine that denies that faith in the Risen Christ is not necessary to gain our salvation, to accept sinful behavior specifically prohibited by God’s word and to accept those that practice their faith contrary to their stated confession of faith, is not a church at all. For if the absolutes that our Father has placed before us do not matter to this church, this church should not matter to anyone who professes their faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Our Christian family that remains trapped within the ELCA is another matter. We must be diligent in our prayers that more will be rescued from this wayward denomination so that no more fall prey to these false teachings. The salvation of too many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are at risk to simply walk away.