Sunday, August 28, 2011

Heaven on Earth

Many eastern religions attempt to create a heaven on earth.  Hinduism has reincarnation as a main focus.  Buddhism teaches that life exists within itself, that there is no inherent meaning to life, other than to be happy and not suffer.  The one thing that ties many of these religions together is the worship of the self, since they do not believe that there is a God.  One of the reasons that a heaven on earth is necessary is that salvation is not a part of these religions.  There is no Savior to stand in to receive the just punishment so rightly deserved, so one’s behavior on this earth must be exemplary.  Many of these eastern religions have no expectation of life after death, so improving the world we live in must substitute for that heavenly aspiration.  The leaders and scholars of the ELCA also promote that we must create a heaven on earth.  They abandon their responsibility to bring the lost to Jesus while they engage in a headlong rush to lift up the goal of social justice over the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The false gospel of affirmation that the ELCA embraces has no need for a Savior, since eternal life with our Father is a foregone conclusion.
As Christians, faith in the Risen Christ is the only requirement necessary to be granted salvation.  For ELCA Lutherans, it is entirely up to you whether or not you believe or how you want to believe.  For ELCA Lutherans, new doctrines allow the individual to believe as they wish, because God so loves us that we all are going to heaven regardless of faith, chosen religion or non-belief.   Jesus Christ, true God from true God, of one with the Father said in John 3:16-21, 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. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”  The leaders of the ELCA again convict themselves by choosing to disregard our Lord’s command, hide their lies in the darkness, all the while encouraging their membership to accept a false gospel that sounds so very appealing.  Those appealing words lead their members away from the Lord.  Overemphazing the love of neighbor over our love of the Lord places their membership at risk.  After all, we are called to love our neighbor as our Lord and Savior loved us.  Romans 15:7, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”  And by very definition, our neighbor is anyone who happens to live on this earth, regardless of any differences among us.
Why is the ELCA so preoccupied with the things of this world and so driven to in their quest to create some kind of Utopia here on earth?  Why is the crusade for social justice the overriding element of their mission?  As the leadership of the ELCA continues to drive a wedge between themselves and our Lord, earthly preoccupations take precedence over their true calling to save the lost.  Would it not be more appropriate to teach those that have not heard the true Gospel of Jesus Christ rather than to dilute our faith in an effort to placate those that only want to believe on their own terms?   Once one truly surrenders to our Lord, we and our sinful desires are no longer important.  For certain, all who surrender continue to sin again and again, but if we truly desire to become Christ like, we will endeavor to place our needs secondary to our Lord’s will.  In 1 Corinthians 10:23-24, the Apostle Paul wrote about a believer’s freedom, “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. 24 Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.”   If social justice is to truly prevail in this world, we must fill our hearts with the true love of Christ, striving to follow His law and the fulfillment of His will  2 Corinthians 3:4-6, Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. 5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.  6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”   Share the Good News of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and work to bring all who have not heard to Him.  Only when all come to Christ will we even approach anything remotely resembling a heaven on earth.  Our great reward is an eternity with our Father in heaven.  Whatever it is that we accomplish in this world, it is done to give glory to our God.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Nobody's Perfect

Make a mistake or fall short of someone’s expectations and you may find yourself using the phrase; ”Well, nobody’s perfect.”  As a fallen, sinful humanity, we should be using this phrase often.  Only one human being in all history was perfect, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, true man and true God, being one with the Father.  None of us, even on our best of days, even approaches the perfection of our Lord.  Psalm 19:11-17, The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8 The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.  9 The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous.  10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.  11 By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” 
Amy Grant penned a song, Perfect People that broaches this subject.  From the lyrics of this song: “There's no such thing as perfect people. There's no such thing as a perfect life. So come as you are, broken and scarred. Lift up your heart and be amazed and be changed by a perfect God. Suddenly it's like a weight is lifted when you hear the words that you are loved. He knows where you are and where you've been and you never have to go there again.  So, be changed by a perfect God who lived and died to give new life to heal our imperfections.  So look up and see love and let grace be enough.”  The real message in this song is that God is perfect and we need to be changed by a perfect God once we give ourselves to Him. 
So much of this new and modern Christian theology really looks to change God, not the believer.  This new theology seeks to remake God in humankind’s image and has the audacity to place conditions upon God.   When we place conditions upon the Lord, we do not truly love Him, but still place the love of self ahead of our God.  This is where the leaders and scholars of the ELCA fail our Lord and lead their membership away from Him.  Consider the misguided new doctrine that preaches that all are saved, or what is commonly called universal salvation.  Now this particular belief is not part of the official doctrine of the ELCA, but is becoming increasingly involved in mainstream discussions.  That all are saved regardless of belief is extremely appalling.   That a church would even consider that faith in the Risen Christ is optional is pure apostasy. 
Other “new things” that God is supposedly telling the leaders of the ELCA revolve around the mistaken assumption that since God is perfect, everything he has created is also perfect.  Those created by a perfect God are assumed that any proclivity that drives their being is considered good by the Lord, because He created them that way.  One needs only to look around the world and realize that humankind is inherently evil, not good, and certainly not perfect.  Using the doctrine of bound conscience to justify homosexuality can also be used to justify any aberrant behavior that one may be involved.  People afflicted with mental diseases that trigger behaviors that are unacceptable to God and society were also made that way by a perfect God.  Should we also institute doctrine to make those behaviors acceptable to the church?  Not being as enlightened as the Biblical scholars and leaders of the ELCA, the answer is quite clear.
Our Lord is perfect, we are flawed.  We need to look to our perfect God for guidance and the best place to find that knowledge is in the Bible.  His word is made clear for us.  Those that preach the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ, without the secular political correctness that permeates the ELCA, will allow those that listen to hear His word, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, they may come to know the Lord and understand the path He desires us to follow.  When we place our Lord’s will before our own, only then will even approach the perfection that He intends for His children.  Colossians 1:21-23, 28-29 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.  28 We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. 29 To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.”  Fill yourself with His spirit and love.  Place our Lord first and foremost in your lives.  Let God’s spirit flow like a river through you, a vessel that lives to serve and adore Him that gave His life so that you may live forever.  Amen.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sweet Surrender

To fall in love is to give oneself completely to that person. That person becomes central to your world, your very reason to live. We feel that we are not worthy of that person’s love and we fall all over ourselves to make certain that we meet that person’s every need. We will do whatever it is that is necessary to make our lover complete. We put aside our own desires to try to anticipate the wants and needs of our lover. We surrender completely to our lover. The term “sweet surrender” is usually applied to the absolute submission of a bride to her husband and husband to his new wife on their wedding night. As lovers of Christ, we are called to surrender ourselves to His will. We are called to follow our Savior’s lead and endeavor to become “Christ like”. Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-20, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” While the Gospel frees us from the penalty of the law, we are still called to not only obey God’s law, but the church is charged to promote the truth of God’s word, not promoting that God is now saying a "new thing" in order to placate worldly desires.

The new doctrines promoted by the leaders and scholars of the ELCA surrender not to our Lord, but to the proclivities of the flesh. Bound conscience allows one to choose their own interpretation of Scripture and directs those that disagree to respect that interpretation, not to gently correct, rebuke, or encourage those that are in obvious error. This doctrine places human opinion and experience above the authority of Scripture. There are those that place conditions upon God, that their chosen lifestyle must be affirmed by His church in order that they feel welcome. In order to more politically correct the leaders of the ELCA brush God’s law aside and proclaim that He is now telling them a new thing, and by a vote of imperfect and sinful humans, God’s law is amended. Galatians 3:23-25, “Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.” So, where does this “new thing” lead those that accept this doctrine? If the law leads us to Christ, where does deliberately disobeying His law lead? It is clear that this “new thing” is of man and not of God and those that accept this errant doctrine are sure to fall away from Him.
Bishop Mark Hanson naively supports Palestine when their leadership, Hamas, has the stated intent to eliminate Israel, God’s chosen, from the face of the earth. Psalm 14:4-6, “Will evildoers never learn—those who devour my people as men eat bread and who do not call on the Lord? 5 There they are, overwhelmed with dread, for God is present in the company of the righteous. 6 You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the Lordis their refuge.” The leadership of the ELCA continues to support immorality and disparage our Lord’s word while promoting “new”doctrine that disregards His word. Human depravity is rampant and the leaders of the ELCA are preoccupied with the things of this world, or political correctness, instead of performing the tasks our Lord has placed before His church. All humankind has the opportunity to gain the knowledge of God if they so choose. The leadership of the ELCA has chosen to deliberately neglect those opportunities and allow those in sin to remain apart from God. That the leadership of the ELCA would choose to promote the welfare of Palestine while promoting actions against Israel is unconscionable and contrary to God’s will.
The leaders of the ELCA provide insurance to their employees that subsidizes abortion procedures, tacitly authorizing the murder of unborn children. In Matthew 5:21, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago,‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” What is troubling is that the leadership of the ELCA does not understand or simply chooses to ignore the contradiction of that policy. Continue to pray for those trapped within the ELCA. Pray that their leadership opens their minds, eyes and hearts and choose to surrender their lives back to the Lord. Pray that one day the leadership of the ELCA will uphold their responsibility to their membership. Far too many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are at risk to simply walk away.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Praises after the Storm

On Sunday, May 22, 2011 at approximately 5:30PM a category 5 tornado, the product of the convergence of three massive storm systems, touched down in Joplin, Missouri.  The wind speed of the tornado was over 300 MPH as it touched down, then decreased to about 220 MPH as it slowly moved through the heart of the city.  Tornados typically travel at ground speeds of 25-50 MPH.  This storm crawled at 10 MPH, literally destroying everything in its path.  The tornado carved a path of destruction one mile wide and more than 5 miles long through the heart of Joplin.  Tornado touchdowns always leave wreckage in their path.  This storm absolutely leveled the city, leaving it looking more like Hiroshima or Nagasaki at the end of WWII.  Piles of rubble where homes once stood, trees twisted into shards of wood, still rooted in the ground.  No words can appropriately describe the devastation to this community.   1 Peter 1:6-9,In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”   More than 150 of our brothers and sisters in Christ perished on that day.  Many more are still hospitalized and the death toll is expected to continue to rise.  But, the spirit of so many of those affected by this tragedy still remains fixed upon our Lord.
So many are thankful for the blessings received from the Lord, even in the midst of so much destruction.  Even though over 9000 homes were completely destroyed and many more damaged extensively, there are so many  thankful to have survived and have loved ones that survived this calamity.  As we drove through the devastation that was once Joplin, we observed signs spray painted on the foundations of homes, often the only part of the house left standing.  “Thank you Jesus for sparing us.”   “Thank you Lord, we survived.”  “I love you Jesus.”  “Thank you to all the volunteers.”   We observed the pouring out of God’s love by the numerous volunteers that came to Joplin to help in the cleanup and rebuilding.  I was approached numerous times by residents of Joplin that stopped and thanked us for coming to help and how much we were appreciated.  The 16 Wisconsinites from Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church that partnered with the 24 Missourians from Lee’s Summit Methodist Church were accepted and welcomed in true Christian love.  The Holy Spirit is alive and well in Joplin, Missouri.  The Holy Spirit is alive and well in the over 50,000 volunteers that descended upon Joplin in the aftermath of this terrible tragedy.  The Holy Spirit is alive and well when God’s children can continue to praise Him, even after experiencing great personal loss.
Romans 8:16-21, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”  Joplin will be rebuilt.  The Holy Spirit fills those who have endured great loss.  Praises to our Lord continue to radiate from Joplin in spite of the toll from the storm.  Do not forget our brothers and sisters in Joplin.  Continue to pray for them and contribute what you can to help them rebuild.  Everything we are, everything we have is a gift from God and we should share what we can with our brothers and sisters.  Praise be to God!