Saturday, September 24, 2011

Conscientious Objector

"God wants our conscience to be certain and sure that it is pleasing to Him. This cannot be done if the conscience is led by its own feelings, but only if it relies on the Word of God." - Martin Luther. It is the doctrine of bound conscience that drives all other doctrine within the ELCA. It is the tie that binds all the other errant teachings of this misguided denomination together. It is the linchpin that locks out the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, replacing it with secular, not heavenly ideals. For without this bound conscience, one could not lift up their own opinion above the will of our God. Without bound conscience the false gospel of affirmation falls like a house of cards. Without bound conscience the concept of universalism is proven to be a lie, perpetrated by those who simply want to abandon their responsibility to save souls. Without bound conscience sexual relations are a gift, granted by our Lord, consummated by one man and one woman within the confines of the Sacrament of Marriage. Once man has granted himself authority over of the word of God, it is easy to replace it with their modern sensibilities. It becomes effortless to reinterpret Scripture to satisfy the longings of a depraved humanity.

The leadership of the ELCA has replaced reason with the deliberate confusion of the intent of our God in order to appease those who want a God on their own terms. Hebrews 12:22-25, “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. 25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?” Those who decide it is incumbent upon themseves to disregard Scripture in order to be more welcoming, tolerant and accepting, turn away from the commands of our Lord and encourage the faithful to follow errant doctrine. Those that accept this bound conscience may well be placing their very salvation at risk.
1 john 2:3-6, “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” To accept the premise of bound conscience one must necessarily disobey God’s commands, either by deliberately choosing to disregard His will or by acquiescing to or ignoring those that choose to do so. To truly love the Lord we must want to please Him above all else. To truly please our Lord is to walk as He did and follow His teaching, not place our needs before His. We all have our failings and fall into sin all too regularly, but if we deliberately defy our God, how long will His patience last. As a follower of Christ, my conscience compels me to object to the intentional rejection of God’s word by placing man’s opinion above His will. From the Formula of Concord, “when under the title and pretext of external adiaphora (Adiaphora refers to matters not regarded as essential to faith, but nevertheless are permissible or allowed in church.) is such things are proposed as are in principle contrary to God's Word (although painted another color), these are not to be regarded as adiaphora, in which one is free to act as he will, but must be avoided as things prohibited by God.” The doctrine of bound conscience does not fall under the auspices of adiaphora, even though the leaders of the ELCA paint it as such. It must avoided, as are all things that are prohibited by our Lord.

This church, that so prides itself on its great diversity, always falls back on its “official” doctrine when the faithful call out to correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. What does their official doctrine say about allowing those who stray and teach a gospel other than the one our Lord taught? From the Epitome of the Formula of Concord, which is declared by the ELCA as further valid interpretations of the faith of the Church, “all doctrines are to be conformed, and what is, contrary thereto is to be rejected and condemned, as opposed to the unanimous declaration of our faith. In this way the distinction between the Holy Scriptures of the Old and of the New Testament and all other writings is preserved, and the Holy Scriptures alone remain the only judge, rule, and standard, according to which, as the only test-stone, all dogmas shall and must be discerned and judged, as to whether they are good or evil, right or wrong.” The doctrine of bound conscience is contrary to Scriptural intent and violates our Lord’s commands. And since one must necessarily invoke this bound conscience to accept other false gospels promoted and/or accepted by the leaders of the ELCA, it must be rejected and condemned.

1 Peter 3:14-16, “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” Continue to proclaim our Lord’s Gospel and to speak out to expose the heresies promoted by the leaders of the ELCA. Wear the slander that they speak against us as a badge of honor and continue to fight the good fight. There are far too many of our brothers and sisters that are too easily accepting these false doctrines.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Never, Ever Give Up!

The saying, never, ever give up always reminds me of the cartoon of a frog being eaten by a heron.  His legs are holding the beak open and his hands are around the bird’s neck, fighting valiantly to not become that bird’s next meal.  As Christians we are called to be vessels for our Lord.  We are to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.  We are also called to gently correct our brothers and sisters in Christ that fall into sinful behavior.  Those true to our Lord have discovered that one of His churches has strayed from the Gospel that He taught.  The leaders of the ELCA have taken the easy road that leads to the ruin of their membership.  Doctrine that is contrary to our Lord’s teachings has replaced sound Lutheran doctrine that has stood for centuries.  The primary mission of the ELCA has placed humankind’s experience, knowledge and tradition over the proclamation of the Gospel to the world.
Those of us that hear and yield to the Spirit and have challenged these false teachings are experiencing many hardships.  They are called troublemakers, zealots, and now the leaders of the ELCA accuse them of being misinformed or just plain liars.  We follow our constitutions and ask that our councils investigate the direction that the ELCA is heading.  Many of us are disheartened when our congregations refuse to listen, choosing to remain faithful to a church, not to our Lord and Savior.  2 Corinthians 4:1, “Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up.” We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up.  There is a veritable revival occurring within the Lutheran church.  More and more congregations are listening and discovering just what the ELCA is doing and voting to leave this errant denomination.  Many more individual Lutherans are standing up for our God, sometimes leaving congregations that they have called home for decades and have started new mission churches that preach sound Christian doctrine.
So, for those that are afraid to lose their church and the friendships they have made over the years, we are called to proclaim His word, but it is His will as to where our evangelizing ultimately takes us.  After all, it is not what we want that matters.  For every church united in upholding the authority of Scripture, there are those that don’t want to hear it.  For every church that votes to leave the ELCA, there are those that vote to stay.  We cannot be motivated by the end result, but our motivation is to do His will.  Our Lord will lead us to where He wants us to be.  The goal is to proclaim His word and that by the power of the Holy Spirit, those that hear will come to believe and/or return to the Lord.  We are merely soldiers for the Lord, to be used to give our God the glory.  Once we give up on those earthly things, we will better accept what is our Lord’s plan.  That plan may be to save your church, to lead you to leave and join another congregation true to the Lord, or take up the daunting task of starting a new mission church to proclaim His glory. 
Paul said to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”  So we will fight for our Lord and pray that those close to us will listen and discover that the ELCA is, in fact, leaving our Lord behind.  We will fight for our Lord no matter how difficult it is for us.  We will put on the armor of our faith and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and as Paul instructs in 2 Timothy 2:24-26, “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  25 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”
We need to be that good example for our Lord and no matter how much we would like to have the outcome that pleases us, it is more important to do our Lord’s work for His glory and be patient, waiting for His will to be done.  Hebrews 10:35-39, “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.  37 For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay.  38 But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.”  Do not lose heart and give up.  We are not one of those who shrink back and are destroyed.  We are those that believe and are saved and we will continue to proclaim His word until we can speak no more.  Amen.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Stop Making Sense

In 1984, the new wave rock band “Talking Heads” produced a movie/album entitled, “Stop Making Sense”.  It contains most of their greatest hits and remains one of my favorite classic rock CD’s.  Much of their music delved into rather mundane subjects, not usually associated with traditional rock and roll.  Their lead singer/songwriter David Byrne, a rather eclectic individual, did this intentionally so as not to fall into the category of normalcy.  He was, to say the least, unorthodox in not only his music, but in his lifestyle as well.  The presiding bishop of the ELCA, Mark Hanson, continues to forge ahead in the promotion of unorthodox doctrine.  Those that uphold the authority of Scripture and disagree with the direction that he is leading the ELCA, are told, in effect, to stop making sense.

In order to accept the errant doctrinal shifts that the ELCA is foisting upon its’ members, one would have to actually suspend belief.  In order to believe and accept these doctrinal shifts, one would have to read Scripture with eyes that do not see, ears that cannot hear, and a mind that does not understand.  How else could one read 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers not male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards not slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” Or Leviticus 18:22, “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” And somehow the leaders of the ELCA, after years of careful study, determine that homosexuality meets with God’s approval and same gender unions are appropriate to be blessed in ELCA churches that choose to do so.  Bishop Mark Hanson said, “The understanding we have of homosexuality today does not seem to be reflected at all in the context of the biblical writers. Therefore, Lutherans should consider more modern views on sexual orientation.” You really have to read between the lines in order to come up with this conclusion.
Bishop Hanson believes and promotes that “there is a “traditional approach” and a “contextual approach” in interpreting Scripture, both of which are valid and irreconcilable.”  Think about that statement for a moment.  What Hanson is stating is that all interpretations of Scripture, no matter how off base they may be, are considered valid by the ELCA.  Please ignore that ancient document behind the curtain!  Does Hanson actually think that we are living in the land of Oz and that he is the supreme wizard?  It is the churches’ responsibility to teach sound doctrine, not placate those that want to hear what their itching ears want to hear!  So, when some new enlightened and popular teacher, such as Rob Bell, writes a book questioning the existence of Hell, the leaders of the ELCA are all over it, embracing this “new thing” and proclaim that a loving God would never subject His children to an eternal existence apart from Him, no matter what. 

From the Christian Universalist Association; “Meanwhile, there has been a trend toward universalist beliefs in several other denominations and traditions that have not historically taught universal salvation. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is one of the best examples of this, because Martin Luther himself never embraced Universalism, but the ELCA today is one of the major Lutheran denominations and some of its ministers openly teach the salvation of all -- although this is not an official teaching of the church.

From the American Spectator, 08-17-2007, written by Lars Walker, a former employee of the ELCA, “The ELCA, like other "mainline" denominations, is effectively Universalist today. Universalists, after all, get invited to the nice parties and are almost never made fun of in movies. The ELCA still talks about the Cross, for the benefit of the rubes who actually sit in the pews and pay the bills, but the people in the upstairs offices mostly agree that there's really no such place as Hell. This reduces the Cross to a metaphor at best, an artifact which they'll quietly relegate to the attic once the old people have died off (leaving their money behind).”

Because Christ died for all humankind and God wants all His children to be saved, somehow the condition that one must believe, is relegated as unnecessary to obtain God’s grace and our salvation.  The leaders of the ELCA deride those that are traditional or “literalists” and accuse them of “placing God in a box” and who are we to decide who God is going to save.   I’m just a poor lay person who has not attended seminary, but as Lutherans we believe in “Sola Scriptura” or Scripture alone in all matters of faith, and when my Savior says that He is the way and the truth and the life and no one can come to the Father, except through Him, that is good enough for me. 

Official ELCA doctrine, (wink, wink, nod, nod) is cited whenever congregations question the direction of this misguided denomination.  It is not what is officially stated as ELCA doctrine, it is the fact that teaching a gospel other than what our Lord and Savior taught is not only tolerated, it is welcomed.  What those misguided leaders fail to realize is that Jesus called upon us to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  So, it is true that Jesus died for all and God wants to save all of His children, but one must have faith in the Risen Christ.  There is no other way.  And with the ELCA slashing the budget of mission to less than they spent in 1988, it would appear that the mission to bring His word to the world is no longer a priority.  Since Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are no longer under penalty of the law and by faith alone, we are saved.  Those that have not heard or do not believe continue to be at risk of eternal damnation.  The leaders of the ELCA call for their members to suspend belief and “stop making sense” as they lead them away from the path that our Lord has set before them.  Too many of our brothers and sisters are still unaware of the heresies promoted by the ELCA and think that the ELCA is on the proper path.  It is incumbent upon us to proclaim His truth and expose the errant doctrines of the ELCA so that those trapped within can have their spiritual hearts and minds opened.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Path of Least Repentance

I am a sinful human being that continually falls short of the glory of our Savior.  Without my Lord and Savior, I can accomplish nothing.  John 15:5-8, Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”   I so look forward to confessing my sinful behavior to my God and receiving the assurance that I am forgiven.  As much as I would like to behave in the manner that my Father in heaven demands, by myself, I always fail.  That my Savior took upon Himself all my sin and received the punishment I deserved is such a solemn relief.  I am liberated from the punishment of the Law by our Lord’s grace, simply because I have faith in the Risen Christ.  Because of that faith, I will still have a place in my Father’s house no matter how many times I fall from the path my Savior intends for me to follow.
For ELCA Lutherans repentance is optional.  Apparently, the concept of sin is such a negative connotation and those that stand accused of sinning may have their feelings hurt, so doctrine is enacted by a vote of imperfect human beings that believe that they have more wisdom than our Father in heaven.  Confession and absolution becomes an optional part of ELCA services and is allowed to be replaced by a “Celebration of Baptism”, because this is much more positive and loving.  Those portions of Scripture that show that our God is not only a God of love, but a God that is to be feared, are eliminated from the Revised Common Lectionary, because a loving God would never punish His children.  Hebrews 12:4-11, In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”  Parents that coddle their children and offer no direction or discipline often find that their children will be improperly equipped to survive in the real world.  God’s children are no different, except those that belong to ELCA congregations that choose to follow errant doctrine.
The leaders of the ELCA promote new doctrine that allows those that choose to remain in sin to invoke their “bound conscience” and use their human experience, tradition and knowledge to interpret Scripture to fit their fancy.  Those that uphold the authority of Scripture are allowed to disagree, but are called to not, as is written in 2 Timothy 4:2, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction.”  They are called on to respect that person’s interpretation, even if it is in obvious error.  This doctrine calls on the faithful to ignore our responsibility to reach out to save those in error and lead them back to the path of righteousness.
So, the choice remains, do we accept the authority of Scripture and truly believe that we are nothing without our Lord and Savior, or do we follow an errant church that diminishes the Word of God, rewrites Scripture to placate those that have no desire to repent of their sinful behavior, and calls on its’ members to refrain from sharing their faith by witnessing the true Gospel.  Unfortunately, the church that we grew up in our faith is no longer on the path that our Lord demands.  The leaders of the ELCA lead a rudderless ship that leads to the destruction of those that accept the errant doctrines that are overtaking its’ ministries.  Pray unceasingly that those true to our Lord and Savior choose to leave this errant denomination and join a church that accepts the authority of Scripture.